I love to look at Flickr and tumblr. My contacts there are wonderfully talented, and if I knew them well enough, I’d never stop telling them how their artwork is a constant source of inspiration for me. I learn from them and their art, and I’m grateful.
Most of the time.
I say that because, while I’m usually inspired, sometimes I’m just plain jealous:
“Ooohhh, look at those paint layers! I wish I could create something so subtle.”
“Now, why didn’t I think of that color combination?”
“Sigh. It will be years before I can draw that well… ”
Have you ever wondered if social media was invented just so you’d know how much better everyone else is? Have you ever logged off Facebook because you just couldn’t take seeing yet another photo of someone else’s beautiful kids in a stunning vacation setting?
You know what I mean.
It’s enough to make you throw your art journal and pencils in a deep desk drawer, lock it, and toss the key. Or almost enough, anyway.
Although I get discouraged, I keep drawing, collaging, and painting anyway. And then I go back to Flickr or tumblr to post it all.
Oh, no… Do you think I create envy in anyone when I post my journal pages online?
Nah. No way.
I just finished page five of my journal for The Sketchbook Project 2014. But I have no idea what I’ll do on page six, or seven, or the front cover.
And while I have a working title–Petal and Stem–I’m not yet sure how I’ll letter that.
Hmm… I have a lot of art to do!
In case you are wondering, this is not how I usually work. In fact, for each of my three previous submissions for The Sketchbook Project, I had every page carefully planned. I had already decided on a title and had a cover design all worked out for each one before I ever put pencil to paper.
If that seems a bit strict–or even forced–let me assure you that it wasn’t. The ideas for those previous books simply arrived in my mind fully formed. It just happened.
But this time, it didn’t happen. I waited a few weeks, and still, nothing. I started to worry that if I didn’t find inspiration soon, I’d run out of time. What to do?
I decided to just start drawing. And here I am, at page five! I am trusting that the book this journal wants to be will reveal itself page by page. I hope inspiration will come at some point, but maybe it won’t.
And I am ok with that, which is surprising. I’m used to being in control! But it feels good to let go, too, and try trusting the process.
Late last year, I signed up (with about 5000 other people) for The Sketchbook Project Limited Edition. The idea was that one page from each sketchbook submitted would be included in a book to be released in December. (This book would be instead of the sketchbooks traveling, as they usually do.)
Sure enough, in December I received the book that I had pre-ordered, and after several passes through it, I finally found an image of one of my pages. (Hey, it had been a few months, so it took a while for me to recognize it!)
I’ve wanted to post a picture from the book–which is still available from Art House Co-op (http://shop.brooklynartlibrary.com/)–for ages now. Today, I finally got around to it. There I am!
For more images from the book, check out my Flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laura_rivera/sets/72157628121505564/
And I signed up for the Sketchbook Project 2014, too. Maybe you should! Check it out! http://www.sketchbookproject.com/sketchbookproject
The other day I listened to a friend vent. And that’s ok–isn’t that what friends are for?
Heaven knows–I’ve had many friends who have let me whine and cry and yell and complain about my life. They’ve listened to me, and then did me an even greater favor: they forgot all about it.
They knew that those fears, anxieties, crazy thoughts, and self-doubts needed to be let out for one big reason: those thoughts weren’t me. My situation wasn’t me. They knew that “letting it all out” was the best way for me to leave it all behind.
When we’re possessed by our bad thoughts, we can fall into the trap of thinking that since our mind created them, they must be part of us. But they aren’t. We can’t let them hijack our mind and soul.
We need to get free of those demons, and find friends that will help us do that.
They say that an element of being strong and certain is making decisions from your core–the center of who you are–your understanding of who you are and what is right.
It is what I try to remember when I am faced with tough choices and when everyone seems to have their own opinion of what I should do.
Decisions that seem complex are really not that complicated when you strip them down to their essentials. What is best for you isn’t so hard to figure out when you know what is fundamentally right.
Who am I? At the center, all questions are really this one, single, core question.
There is growing scientific evidence that, “…when in a good mood, people become more intuitive and more creative…”
I read this in “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman, and immediately my mind rebelled. After all, the assumption that an artist must be tortured is so well accepted that it has become a stereotype. It’s as if, in our minds, suffering is a requirement to being great. And looking at the lives of Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolfe, Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Plath, and Frida Kahlo, I have a hard time imagining any of them ever being in a good mood.
Still, science is science, and there are lots of experiments that support Kahneman’s statement.
So what gives?
I’m not sure. I am not a psychologist and I’m only a wanna-be artist, and the only story I know–really know–is my own. Yes, I draw and paint when I am sad and troubled. If I am upset, making art soothes me. I get lost in the process and my brain gets quiet. I slip away to a peaceful place and when I come back, I often find that I am ready and able to face my problems with new insight.
I also draw and paint when I am happy, excited, and feel full of potential. At those times, making art is energetic–I try something new, I take a risk, and the results might be something great or complete trash.
But I guess the question really is: At which of those times am I creative? And the only answer I can honestly give is that I am creative at both times. In fact, I make art both when I feel creative and when I don’t. If suffering isn’t a requirement for being an artist, then feeling creative isn’t a requirement for making art.
And while I realize that a good mood might oil the wheels of the mind, making it run smoothly to creative, new ideas and thoughts, I also know that the very act of creating can create that good mood.
Can science explain that?
The kind of artist I want to be isn’t afraid to try a new technique or style.
The artist I want to be remembers that inspiration is everywhere–and, more importantly, remembers to look for it.
The artist I want to be doesn’t blow her weekly gas and groceries budget at the art supply store.
She’s an artist who knows her strengths and weaknesses. (And most of the time, she’s ok with them.)
She doesn’t save the good paints and papers for herself, but shares them with her sons when they show interest, because there is always more where that came from.
(But not the watercolor brush that cost $23 and was worth every penny. Hands off!)
The artist I want to be will always wonder what really happened with Artemesia Gentileschi (don’t you?) while admiring her brave Judiths.
And she will be silly sometimes, serious sometimes, and will smile a lot.
And also will continue (for this week, anyway) to recommend “Exit Through the Gift Shop” to anyone who will listen.
The artist I want to be is humble, grateful, and determined; and thanks God every day for art that can touch the heart and make us better versions of ourselves.
But meanwhile, the artist I am is having fun. I hope you are, too!