Hello, 2017! My solo art show

Today I had my first ever solo art show! It was really fun – I was super nervous about whether anybody would show up, but people did! Not tons, obviously, but the fact that people I didn’t even know came was really exciting. I got to meet new people and see my friends, and get a nice ego boost from all the people complimenting me on my artwork. Here are some photos from the show.

You may recognize some of these paintings from previous shows and from last year! I also spun up a few new pieces for this show. Overall I had 10 paintings. Hanging them was so annoying – I had never hung my own artwork on a hanging system, and there are entire articles dedicated to how to hang paintings on these types of systems. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy!

Here’s a small gathering from about halfway through the reception. People trickled in and out in a steady stream – from the start to the finish there was always a fun group of people.

It was definitely a success in my eyes. I’ve never been so proud to be the center of attention (usually I really hate it!). I felt like a real artist – more than one person asked for contact information and whether I had a mailing list. We had good food, the wine was flowing, and so much good company! I’m so proud and happy that I had the bravery to follow through with this and just DO IT.

Now that this show is over I want to spend a lot of time just getting back to art and drawing and painting. I’m looking forward to getting back to experimenting with art and filling up sketchbooks. I feel like I’m going through a bit of an art block, and the only way to get through it is to just make art. I also have a bunch of really exciting projects coming up, and I’m excited to tell you guys about them soon!

How is 2017 been for you so far? Anything exciting happening?

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Goodbye, 2016

You were a heck of a year.

Let’s just concentrate on the good, though, shall we?

Well, one year ago I started to seriously dedicate myself to my art – drawing every day, filling up sketchbooks, painting more paintings… Here’s what I accomplished!

  • 8 and a half paintings using acrylic – either acrylic on canvas or acrylic on wood panel
  • ~50 watercolor paintings
  • 2 sketchbooks completely filled, 2 giant sketchbooks halfway done, and one more started
  • 3 gallery shows with another one coming up
  • Landed my very first solo show by invitation
  • My first vending experience!
  • Making real money off my art

And the entire time I kept thinking I should be doing more! But looking back, it seems like a real accomplishment. I set out to Become An Artist and I feel more confident now saying I am one. I feel really proud of what I’ve done last year.

Other accomplishments and notable events!

  • I got engaged! Everyone assumed it would never happen but lo and behold!
  • I read somewhere around 40 books – definitely below average for me, but hey, nothing to sneeze at either
  • I biked about 650 miles
  • I started to learn how to dance
  • I worked several awesome design freelance projects, including my first branding project
  • I traveled to New Orleans, Austin, and Rincon, Puerto Rico
  • I built a ton of furniture

I set some goals for 2017, mostly around art. I want to spend the first part of the year focusing on more learning, doing lots of anatomy, plein air, and master studies. I have my first solo art show coming up starting in the first week of January – I’ll be showing 8 or 9 paintings in a small show titled “Death and Technicolor.” Landing a solo show this early in my career feels surreal – I’ve been crazy busy prepping artworks, finally signing and titling them, and just preparing myself for what’s to come. Then, after winter is over, I’d like to participate in a few more vending experiences or shows, but not too many – I got so swept up in this stuff during the fall that I barely had any time to actually make art. I’d really love to just spend time playing around in between shows and actually having the time to create some new pieces. Tenuous goals include finally opening up an online shop, starting a webcomic, making a zine, and making a video game. We’ll see what happens!

I know these are turbulent times, but I think it’s really important to find whatever grounds you, and then hold on to it. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you can turn to it as a comforting thing. For me, art is my comfort and the thing I fall back on when everything feels like a big black hole of despair. And while it’d be really nice to be able to Change The World Through Art, I’m also okay with it just being a safety fallback for myself. I hope that whatever happens in 2017, we all discover, rediscover, or keep up with the things that make us happy in the midst of it all. Don’t ever lose sight of what you have for yourself, and don’t ever feel guilty about comforting yourself when everything feels like it needs your attention more.

Anyway, happy new year, everyone. May 2017 bring surprises, joy, comfort, and peace.

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Art career mistakes I’ve made so far

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I’m still new to the Art World (though not new to making art!) – I still have no idea what I’m doing a lot of the time. I know I have a burning passion to create and to share those creations with others, but beyond that, everything from marketing to confidence has been full of stumbling blocks. I thought I’d share the mistakes I’ve made so far over the years when it comes to art and design!

Thinking an art career could never happen because I didn’t go to art school

Yes, when I say it it seems obvious, but it’s really not. The perception from outside is that either you are an artist already and so therefore allowed to have a career in art, or you “can’t draw” and so therefore there’s no hope for you. I have been drawing all my life, but it never occurred to me that I don’t need art credentials to do art. There have been a lot of posts from various people (much smarter and more talented than I!) with lots of completely different thoughts and opinions on whether you should go to school for art, but I believe more and more that if you already have a degree and are deciding on whether to go back to get an art degree, it’s just not necessary. If you’re deciding on a degree to choose because you’re about to go to college, then you may want to consider an art degree if you want to do art or design for a living – but to go back to school just for an art degree? Not necessary. Just make art.

Thinking a work has to be perfect before I can share it or even do it

Ah yes, the perfectionist dilemma. “How can I even do art without it being perfect???” It’s ridiculous to spell it out and yet I went for my entire life believing that the only art worth doing was perfect art, and so I held myself back on doing much of anything. Luckily, my NEED to create overwrote that enough of the time that I finally managed to break through it. Doing art is like doing anything else – practice makes perfect. How on earth can you improve if you never practice? We have this perception that art takes Magical Talent that either you have or you don’t, but just like any other skill, you can build up with conscientious practice.

More than just doing art, share your art! Putting your art out there and asking for polite critiques is extremely helpful! It can help you see things that you hadn’t seen before. My mom is both my biggest ally and my biggest critic – I can always count on her to encourage me and point out things she doesn’t like. Even if you don’t want to ask for critiques, put your art out there anyway. It will get you used to talking about your art, which is huge.

Believing that exposure will come if you’re good enough

And, the corollary: “Nobody is looking at my stuff, therefore it’s bad.” It’s so hard to remind myself that this isn’t true! Even if I post on instagram and only get a few likes, that has nothing to do with whether it’s good or not. The only person you should ever be comparing yourself to is YOU. Is your work getting better? Are you challenging yourself? Are you learning? Then that’s what matters.

The myth of “if you build it they will come” isn’t particularly true in this day and age. Audiences take time and effort to build, no matter how good your work is. You need to be giving exposure to your art and meeting people and talking about it, or else no one will even know it exists. Your biggest fans could be out there, unaware that your art exists. The most important thing is you figure out what works for you, whether it’s blogging or Facebook or your local art fairs. Keep putting yourself out there and engaging with others, and you will find what you’re looking for. And speaking of that…

Staying holed up in my studio all the time

This is a biggie for me. I’m introverted by nature and it’s so easy to be inside all day, creating art and design, and then wondering why I don’t know any other artists! I have been trying to slowly develop the habit of reaching out to people, or engaging with THEIR art as well. Another good idea is to take classes or attending meetups. It doesn’t work if you stay inside all day and just post on Instagram and don’t engage with anyone else. Comment on people’s posts, say hi to people you admire, ask for feedback, and also just go outside! It’s the perfect opportunity to get inspiration, take photographs, and just take a break.

Not believing in myself

This is THE biggest hurdle to my art growth, for sure. A combination of Imposter Syndrome and perfectionism has contributed to just being paralyzed with fear when it comes to art. I’ve slowly gotten over the hurdle by just powering through, a technique which is highly effective and really underrated. It’s tough though! But powering through and doing it anyway leads to small successes, which then contributes to my confidence. Even failures contribute to confidence, because really, what’s the worst that can happen? Trying and failing really IS better than not trying at all.

Raise yourself up, raise others up. That’s the motto I live by with my art now. Hopefully this helps anyone thinking about starting a new hobby doing anything!

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My first art market

And yeah I had some stickers in the art fair back in June, but this is the first time I’ve set up a space of my own, had real wares that I’m vending, and actually am doing this for real for the first time. I also designed the website and all the branding, which you can see here.

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Here’s my space all set up! It’s in an old medical clinic that moved out and has been abandoned for over a year, so it’s a little surreal walking around – but very fun to see how everyone has set up their little rooms! Mine is the smallest one of them all, because I am cheap and broke, haha.

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I painted the backs of jackets so you can walk around like a cool biker person. I wish I had gotten a better photo of the bottom one, because it sold within the first hour of the mall opening! Crazy, right? I added a geometric pattern with black washi tape to liven up the space a bit.

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The main area. Ignore all the tools, we were still setting up! My original paintings are on the wall to the left, then I have prints, handbound books, cards, and stickers. My stickers were selling a fair amount – I’m sure some people will pocket a few because they’re so small, but ah well. That’s the way it goes sometimes – and honestly I’d rather people have the stickers if they want them! I made big stickers, small stickers, and Make Your Own Graveyard stickers!

After I got set up I added a few of my friend’s leather midori notebook covers! He’s a fantastic leather artist, and I wanted to help him out by having some of his art in my space! They’re a cheerful orange, and I hope he sells a lot of them.

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The one laying down is a watercolor notebook! Honestly I want to start making my own watercolor notebooks! I even make my own bookcloth and everything. Binding books is VERY soothing for me. I love doing it.

And at the front of the shop, I created a sign and we printed it out and hung it up!

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It was AMAZING to see my design work in real life. I’ve been running myself so ragged with this art mall – with making art, and doing all the design, and not to mention my day job on top of it all! It felt SO good and SO validating to see that sign hung and ready to go. I need to take a better photo at some point, but it’s so hard with the glare, since it faces south!

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Um. Needless to say, I was very happy to see the sign and have everything FINALLY finally come together!

What have you been up to lately? Any accomplishments, big or small? I’m always so hard on myself, I want to take some time to step back and really breathe and celebrate this! It’s open! I’m doing my first artist market! It feels awesome!

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Finding my motivation again

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been making all that much art lately.

In January I made an unspoken (even to myself) resolution that I would draw every day. I’ve always, ALWAYS wanted to be an artist, but from a very young age never thought it was possible. And I mean young. While other eight year olds still held onto their dreams of being astronauts or fire chiefs or artists, I quickly discarded my dream of being an artist and moved on to my much more realistic, more practical dream of being… an engineer. And like many of us, I started making websites when I was 12, and loved the act of creating and making pixel art and beautiful graphics so much that I went to college and majored in… computer science!

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Cute animal break! Here’s my adorable albino hedgehog, Mabel!

So yeah, not very good at actually embracing that artistic side. I think many of us wash out because of society’s expectations of us, and as women it’s hard to push past the idea that you’re supposed to be creative but only in “crafts”, never in the arts or corporate world (trust me, the art and design worlds are just as sexist as everywhere else), and also battling with impostor syndrome, and also I’ve just come to the realization that artists and designers are all just VERY good at pretending like they are perfectly creative and fine and nothing is wrong.

And I re-started this blog so I could provide a new and different perspective for people who are struggling with their creativity and how to make it work. So I’m going to tell you what’s going on with me even if it’s not the happiest (not sad, either! it just is).

So yeah, I haven’t been making all that much art. I’ve done a few big paintings and work for a gallery show that’s going on right now, that I want to share very soon. And I’ve been freelance designing. But I haven’t been drawing every day. And my new job isn’t a design job, it’s a day job to enable my art and design.

And I think it’s so important to talk about that, because I’m struggling with it too. I think there are problems with the tech industry that nobody’s talking about in terms of generalizing and specializing and switching careers and all sorts of junk, but I won’t talk about that right now. What I want to talk about is that I’ve been beating myself up for a long time for having a day job instead of quitting my job and devoting my life to my art.

See, everyone I know who is An Artist with a capital A or A Designer does it for a living. And everyone I read about does it for a living too. There’s an unspoken implication that if you don’t do it for a living, you’re not a Real Artist or Real Designer or Real Writer or Real Web Developer or whatever else. The implication is that if you’re not doing it for a living, you’re clearly not good enough. I thought I was past that mentality and yet I’m realizing I’m just not. I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking that I’m almost 30 and still not a designer or artist, and time is running out for me.

In between all these pep talks and “you can be anything if you just dream it!” and “everyone is creative!”, nobody’s talking about the fact that there ARE creative gatekeepers and there ARE people who shut you down and it DOES affect you, no matter how much you wish it wouldn’t. And I’m going to tell you, through my own insecurities and doubts, that you’re not crazy, it does happen, it makes you feel like crap and want to give up, but the world still needs what you have anyway. I’ve seen how incredibly talented and amazing everyone is who has commented on this blog – every single one of you. And maybe you’re more confident than me and don’t need a pep talk! But here’s one anyway.

So yeah, I’m re-finding my motivation, and putting energy into blogging and doing stuff on the side and my art and making this all work, while having a day job, instead of spending all my time and energy beating myself up over the fact that I don’t have “design” or “art” or “creative” in my job title.

I want to hear from you guys – do you ever have these kinds of doubts about your creativity? Have you pushed through it? Let’s have a conversation!

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