Posts Tagged ‘artist’

Stepping through and past stuck-ness.

I remember taking Intro to Drawing in college. I went to a college with a block plan, which meant I took one class intensively for three and a half weeks. That meant my mornings were filled with instruction and demonstrations, and I spent my afternoons and evenings doing homework.

At some point in the middle of the course, as we were working on drawing boxes with dimensions, shading, and foreshortening, I began to feel stuck. I wasn’t the only one; the professor commented that many of us seemed stuck within the technique. We weren’t necessarily having fun. I know that I was focused on getting it “right,” and there wasn’t a lot of joy in it.

So my professor gave us a creative assignment, to draw whatever we liked, to draw without a subject, be abstract, whatever we needed to be. For me, it had the effect of shaking off the previous weight and allowing me learn the techniques while being a little less attached to the final result, and most of all, enjoying the process of working with the materials, such as ink and charcoal.

Sometimes, as I continue to deepen my practice of Nia and learn how to teach, I get caught in getting in wanting to be accurate, precise. I’ll get some feedback, I’ll think about it, I’ll take it into my movements. And maybe, as I practice, my movements will become more precise. But sometimes in this process, I lose the sense of pleasure in my movement. And since White Belt Principle #1 in Nia is the Joy of Movement, and Nia is something I genuinely enjoy, this feels problematic and counterproductive. During these times, I feel stuck in a similar way that I did in my college drawing class — in short, creatively stymied.

The other night, I went searching through emails from Nia Headquarters, trying to find a specific phrase that another teacher had referenced. Instead, I found this, a section from a newsletter written by Debbie Rosas, co-founder of Nia:

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know this – feeling overwhelmed comes from believing that you have to perform a certain way and at a certain time….Learning Nia has never been about performing. It is about connecting, relationships, joy, meaning, purpose, health, and well-being. And about saying what you sense and know. The result of doing Nia has always been the gift of self-healing and conditioning.

“I’m here to tell you: I don’t care if you miss the music cue or you cue between the three and the six. It is okay if you can’t do all the moves perfectly. It is okay if you can’t find the beat. What is not okay is if you deny what you know and don’t know. That keeps you down and stops you from getting where you want to go and be…”

I read this and felt relieved almost instantly. Yes, it’s important that I continue to learn and improve. It is absolutely essential that I continue to play, be creative, and enjoy what I do. Yesterday, I danced through a routine and focused only on finding and sharing what I sense. I gave myself permission to Free Dance through parts of it, too.  Afterward, I felt both more grounded and more joyful. It was good reminder for myself that I don’t have to tackle a bunch of approaches at once; one or two at a time can be more than enough, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to look a certain way.

And some more encouragement for me: Today, I talked to a studio owner about teaching Nia there, and I’m planning to teach a series (likely in April!) to try it out. So here’s to taking steps towards what I want to do.



Craft fairs and sensory self-care

This year, I have started to sell my art and jewelry.  I’ve been learning how to market myself online and build up my Etsy shop.  As of Saturday, I’ve also been a vendor in four craft fairs.

The holiday season is prime time for craft fairs, and I am aware of artists and crafters doing them regularly.  It’s now the season where they’re likely to make the most money because more people are shopping for gifts.

I quickly realized that doing one craft fair a month is enough for me.  Even – and perhaps especially in – a busy season.  I have to take my sensory issues into consideration.  Sitting at my table at a craft fair requires me to constantly be “on” and ready to greet anyone at a second’s notice.  I often find walking around a craft fair for too long to be overwhelming – there are so many colors, trinkets, items that my senses are soon confused, if not overloaded.  It also takes a lot of energy to be there.  It takes a lot of energy to prepare.  And it takes time to recover:  I try to leave the day after a craft fair completely free, and I’m sometimes more tired for a few days afterward.

This time, for a craft fair at a local high school,  I put less effort into preparation.  I used my energy as sparingly as possible beforehand and saved more of it for the actual event.  I made sure I had enough products, and I spent time the afternoon and evening before gathering my things together.  The knowledge I’ve gained from the past few craft fairs helped me know what I needed to bring and how to organize it.  I even got to bed at a decent hour.

Saturday’s fair went well – I sold 9 items (8 of them from people I don’t know) and was pleased with my table display.  A friend came and joined me for most of it – she says she enjoys being at fairs and having her there helped me feel more calm and centered.

Saturday night, I was prepared for the feeling of exhaustion and sensory overload.  I ate dinner and then noticed that my thoughts were rapidly becoming incoherent, and I allowed them to go there.   I was in bed before 9 and asleep shortly after.  I slept around 10 hours, which is unusual for me.  I was tired yesterday, particularly in the morning, and I did my best to keep my stimulation level low.  Today, I’ve felt sensitive and sleepy at moments.  I’m doing more conscious sensory self-care, and giving myself more space to feel how feel.

I’ve had several moments where I’ve been like,  But why can’t I do more fairs?  How can other artists do so many?  Then I give myself a gentle reminder:  This is me and this is my experience.  My needs may be different from those other artists.  I’m glad that I made it out there this Saturday and have another fair scheduled for December. 

Now that I’ve given myself credit, I think I’m going to go take a nap.

Emily McDowell Studio: blending humor and compassion

Note:  this is not a promotion.  I just love this artist’s work.  If it inspires you to purchase something, then great.  If not, I hope you enjoy this post anyway.

I first became aware of Emily McDowell through reading about her cards, specifically this one:

there is nobody..

She has a sense of humor with a bite of truth to it.   I find her inspiring because her messages don’t sugar-coat things, and if they seem to in the beginning, they often will point out how blatant the sugar-coating is in the end.
you can do it!

I laughed so hard when I saw this tote bag, which should make sense to any cat lover.

I love cats

A meercat birthday card!
meercat birthday

I really appreciate her empathy cards, which have messages geared towards serious illness and loss.  They don’t have the typical sympathetic messages of “Get Well Soon” or “Sorry for your loss.”  These empathy cards can be both warm and honest, and may also bring humor to times when laughter often seems out of the question.

Deciding to live again: Art and Self Connection

Art has been a touchstone for me throughout my life. However, when I’m busy, sad, overwhelmed or depressed, I often forget to do art.

When I’m depressed, it’s extremely important for me to remember to create something – it distracts me, it soothes me, it helps me express myself and work through things.

I did expressive arts therapy sessions for a year (2013-2014), and those sessions always felt like tasty treats where I had the freedom to move, play, and create.  Those sessions were a saving grace in the winter and spring of 2014 where I often felt like depression and despair were slowly suffocating me. Later, while in the hospital, most days included a session of art-making.  Sometimes there would be a theme but mostly we had the freedom use the plethora of materials in the classroom.  It felt so good to have the space to create art just for myself.
I made this in one of the art sessions while I was in the psychiatric hospital in Spring 2014.

I made this in one of the art sessions while I was in the psychiatric hospital in Spring 2014.

I had flurry of inspiration and creativity the week I visited my dad in mid-June, but when I returned to stay in late June, everything caught up with me:  sadness, exhaustion, the many hours I had spent trying to maintain energy I really didn’t have.   I didn’t start making things again until after I took a wire wrapping class in the fall.  At that point, I spent hours playing with and strengthening my fledgling wire wrapping abilities, which up to that point had been mostly intuitive.  I returned to painting in the late fall, and got interested in a type of printmaking – monoprinting  with a Gelli printing plate, which is similar to printing with a gelatin plate, only this plate is made to last.

“Starstruck” – a print I made using a Gelli Printing Plate.

I remember a day this past winter where I was anxious and spent the day making a chain out of wire, piece by piece.  The process soothed me.  I remember days where I would make prints for at least an hour, excited to see what each would become, and this lifted my spirits.  Making mixed media collages gave me purpose on days where I felt discouraged and lost.  Working with gemstones and creating meaningful jewelry added to my growing sense of hope.  I remembered how much joy art brought me as a child, and brought that energy and enthusiasm into my creative time.

A custom piece I made for a friend

A custom piece I made for a friend

I now have an Etsy shop and am building up my art business.  My financial rewards have been small so far.  At the end of the day, I know that no matter how much money I make or whatever else I do, I am an artist.  When I lose track of that, it’s easier to lose sight of myself and what I need. Doing art helps me bring myself back into focus.  In the past year, art has been an essential part of my healing, self-expression, and creating a life I want to live.  My emotional, mental, and spiritual rewards from my artistic practice have been well-worth the journey.

Friday link roundup 9/4

"Southwestern Heart" - painting/print in acrylic., 2015.

“Southwestern Heart” – painting/print in acrylic., 2015.

On what emotions might inspire creativity.

On the power of play and ways to re-discover it.

On valuing failure rather than perfection, and teaching students what they can learn from it.

From Alternet:  A selection of poems about Relationships, Desire, Loss…and More.

Brené Brown’s new book, Rising Strong.  is about falling and failing, and the process of rising again.  She says “It is an act of compassion to love yourself” through it all.  More here.

In 1917, the tallest mountain in North America was officially dubbed “Mt. McKinley.”  The native Alaskans have always called it Denali, which means “The Great One” in Athabaskan.  There have been multiple efforts and disputes for years to officially restore the name.  Now, Obama has issued a presidential order to restore the name Denali to the mountain on a federal level. Also, there have been different kinds of responses to this on Twitter and elsewhere, as reported here.

Friday link roundup 8/28

A photographer captures the world’s oldest trees.

A man writes about male body image issues.

On the state of mental illness and treatment in China.

There have been discussions online lately about what “White Feminism” means and how a more intersectional (across lines of race, class, and gender) feminist perspective is needed.  Here’s an explanation from Everyday Feminism.  Here’s an article about a young actress’ Instagram post on that issue.

An open letter to newly-diagnosed adults with sensory processing disorder.  This really resonated with me, especially this line: “The power is in the cognitive shift from I am a disaster to I am unique, from I can’t handle anything to I can handle many things a certain way.”  

On what it means to be an artist.

Friday link roundup 8/21

My three affirmation sticker set, now up on Etsy at!  I had fun making them - they definitely brightened up my day.

My three affirmation sticker set, now up on my Etsy shop at!  I had fun making them – and I still smile every time I see them.  

I’ve seen movies – like She’s All That – where the unconventional and quirky female artist gets a makeover. How about someone looking conventional and getting a different kind of makeover?  From Unearthed Comics:  A Makeover for the Soul.

Our natural sleep patterns looked different than 7-9 hours a night.

A village in Kenya where only women and children live.

From Everyday Feminism:  6 Common Forms of Ableism.

From Salon:  On approaches to working with people on the autism spectrum.  Hint:  it has a lot to do with acknowledging and addressing sensory stimuli.

From Buzzfeed:  Graphs for Introverts.  I identified with many of these.