062. Overwhelmed - Life update

I'm completely overwhelmed. 
The amount on my to-do list continues to grow, without the luxury of finding any more hours during the day.

I chose this life, I cherish it, but I have a tendency to stretch myself too thin with all the projects I want to work on. I love more than anything the feeling of spreading inspiration and helping other artists in pursuit of their dreams. Some of my projects benefit others more than me, and while I wish I could continue them all, I have bills to pay and I have to be realistic. 

Why am I sharing all this? Aren't I supposed to make it seem like I'm a super successful artist and streamer?

Well if you've read any of my other advice to artists, you know that I talk candidly and open about the truth of being a full time artist. It's not all glamorous.

Success is relative. To me, freedom and daily happiness is success. I get by financially, sometimes just barely. 
I have absolutely no social life, outside of the internet/social media. I choose to use all my free time to work on all these projects (studies, daily blog, patreon paintalongs, tutorials, etc), and since I focus on sharing positivity and lots of cool projects, it creates a public image that is often misleading.

It's so easy to get lost in the haze of anxiety and stress, and drift along until it's too late and all hope of progress is lost, but if I want to continue to be successful, I need to see things clearly, and make a new game plan.
Being a full time artist means constantly evaluating your personal goals and how to reach them based on your existing circumstance.

I'm only human, and I can't do it all. This is me, admitting defeat. 

New Game Plan:

  • This blog will no longer be a Daily Blog, but rather a "frequent post blog" - with no specified amount of posts per week, but hopefully one per week. I'm proud that I published something every day for the last 61 days, but in that time I've discovered how much planning, time, and work goes into making interesting content every.single.day. Lesson learned. I've lost time and momentum on other important projects - projects that pay the bills, and it's no longer a viable option to keep daily posts going.
    Even though I admit defeat in this project, I think in the end it will be better for all.

  • Work on reducing my debt. I still have over $70,000 in student loans to pay off. It's a huge monthly burden, around $650 flies out the window each month, so it's time to take bigger steps in reducing that.
    Eventually, when I'm no longer weighed down by this burden, I will be able to dedicate more time to my passion of helping others.

  • Continue streaming full time and all the streaming projects - like monthly Paintalongs

  • Try to make at least one new tutorial each week and publish to YouTube. Until now, I've been using this blog to inspire others and post tutorials and helpful topics. I'll still do that, but I want to get better at making video content.

  • Continue to privately work on my Wanderer story. In only 2 months of writing every day, I have already noticed a difference in my ability to write. One of the goals of doing a daily blog was to be more comfortable writing. I can proudly say that is now true! Not that I'm a GOOD writer, but at least I'm able to get the words out, and go from there! Success!

  • After summer 2017, I should have my UK visa situation handled, and I'll be on my way to settling in the UK. That stability will help me in making longer-term plans :)

Thanks to everyone who has been reading these posts, who have encouraged me, and I hope to continue to provide fun and helpful content for a long time to come! Check back each Friday for new content! I may post more often than that, but I'll definitely make sure to post for the weekend readers.

038. On Originality

They say there are no original ideas left.

Everything thought of and created is an evolution of something that was already thought of or created.

So as artists, how are we meant to make an impression in an already impressed world?

Our art is only limited to what we can imagine. Our technique and skill will catch up with practice, so focusing on building our internal library and expanding our minds becomes critical.

Never stop looking.

Look at other art. 
Look at buildings.
Look at clouds.
Look at animals and people and cars and inventions and sex and fire and everything you can.

As someone interested in not only landscape/environment art, but fantasy concepts, I am constantly seeking more visual stimuli. Movies, anime, books, art. Everything I can get my "hands" on.

Abstract experiments. Acrylic on canvas.

I have a story inside me. I doubt it's original. But the way I tell it will be. 
We each have a unique voice. Our words and art pass through our internal filters which are products of our experiences.

So go experience.

 

With many thousands of years of human lives lived, and now over 7 billion people on the planet, it may seem daunting to be original.

And maybe you'll never be completely original. 

And maybe that's OK.

Instead of obsessing over that, focus on what inspires you to create. Have experiences.
Live.
Create. Never stop creating. Share your unique voice, in whatever way feels right to you.
Find your bliss, and create things that are truly meaningful to you.

Along the way, you may just do something original.

030. Having a Life Plan and How to Ignore It

January is coming to an end, and it reminds me of my New Year's Resolutions. It's only (or already) been one month, so where am I at with my goals? Where are you at with yours?

At the beginning of the year, I set out on a quest to find balance within the emotional, daunting, confusing and often turbulent waters of being self-employed.

Sadly this required doing something I hate. Getting a full understanding of my money situation (what comes in vs. what goes out). I would like to point out that I'm an artist first, and a business person last. I'm trying to fix this balance but it will definitely take time.

I recently came across this concept of "Your Life in Weeks."
(more info here: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/life-weeks.html)

To my horror, I realized I'm over 25% through with my life (if I'm lucky and live to be 90).

After taking a few deep breaths, I decided to look at it a different way (I do in fact have a morbid fascination with this topic). Here's me, in calendar form:

The green zone represents time I've lived, that I can never change or get back.

Rather than let the weight of this reality crush me or make me spiral into a panic and feel rushed to accomplish all my hopes and dreams TODAY... I stopped and looked at the facts.

Most of that green area was childhood, adolescence, schooling, and figuring out who I was as a person.

I'm now living the life I always dreamed of. I know who I am and what I want. And I'm only 31.

OK, whew. Got that out of the way. Now I can focus on making a PLAN!

I am the type of person who get's really excited by making detailed plans, and then forgets about them.
My goals are always in the back of my mind, but I rarely stick to a strict plan to achieve them.
I make things up as I go, live in the moment, and follow my instincts.
The pleasure I get from making the plan is akin to drinking a wonderful glass of wine. Feels good in the moment, but it never lasts.

But in facing the truth, now I know some things. I know for the next 18 years I need to make monthly student loan payments (If I continue paying the minimum amount). I know that each spring I need to pay exorbitant amount of self-employment taxes. And I estimate I have about 48 years left to live.

Other that that, I'm FREE, right!? 
Well not quite. I also have to pay rent, utilities, buy food...
Ok so I'm stuck in the system.

We live in a money-driven society. We need money to live.

That is a depressing thought for someone who simply wants to create beautiful art, spread joy, and see the the wonders of nature.

So it comes down to choice.

I CHOOSE to be part of the system (the alternative is sell everything I own, be homeless, declare bankruptcy and start over).
I CHOOSE make art, try to spread joy and inspiration, and help people when I can.
I CHOOSE to focus on the positive. 

I'll keep my Life Calendar in the back of my mind as I go, but I will focus on those blank squares. There is so much potential..so much possibility in the unknown. 

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. - John Lennon

What's your plan?

028. Climbing the Mountain

Man, what a week. I was hit with several bits of news that have really thrown me off my game.

Last week it was confirmed that my Visa process (to remain in the UK) will cost nearly $2,000 by the end of it all. POW!
On Monday my boyfriend found out his company is downsizing his position at the end of February. POW!
Yesterday I found out I'll be owing nearly $4,000 in self-employment taxes for 2016. POW!

How do we stay on our path when it suddenly seems impassible, or worse yet - the path completely disappears?
There are actually so many unknowns right now that I honestly don't know where I'll be living in 6 months. How's that for a jolt of panic?

We all get knocked down from time to time, and have to build up our strength to rise again. Put in perspective within the world, our problems are often minute. But to us, they are seemingly daunting, or impossible to overcome. 

Perspective.

The most difficult times of my life have led to massive personal growth - though at the time I thought my life was ending. I thought that there's no way I'm going to get through this [insert trauma].
Yet we humans are resilient beings, and despite the most difficult task, it is in our nature to overcome and continue on.

There's a difference between living and thriving.

I thrive when I am not worried about money,* but rather how can I make the most awesome art and inspire others and spread joy? In turn those things lead to more awesome art, inspiration, and joy. Increased sales, and more comfortable financial "cushion." A wonderful cycle.
But throw in the worry of money and I am suddenly on my knees, staring up at the insurmountable summit, worried and distraught about everything. This is not conducive to making wonderful art, nor inspiring others, nor spreading joy.

*I am happy living "paycheck to paycheck" and that's been my way of life for as long as I can remember. I've never been rich. Having only one or two months of "oh shit" savings - as in my bills are covered if I don't make any money - is normal.

I've talked about this a little in previous posts, but the 9-5 job is not something I'm willing to do in order to live a more comfortable life (more money). 

I live frugally in order to live my dream. Traveling has been my biggest expense in the last two years, but I make sure I save up for that - not use any of my "oh shit" reserves.

In times like this when I'm suddenly hit with a huge dose of reality (that we live in a money-driven world), my only solace is knowing that for the last two years, and especially 2016, I was living the dream. I've tasted it. I will keep living it for as long as possible. 

In the meantime, I must tighten my belt, work even harder, and get creative. The internet has made it possible for artists to make a living without ever showing work in a gallery. Sure, I wish I could show my work in a gallery, and maybe some day I will. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
For now, it's onward and upward. Even if my path is foggy, I can see the peak, and I'll get there eventually.
I've learned that when I send good things out into the universe, good things return. Sometimes they are cloaked, and their true value isn't revealed right away. But hope is a powerful thing. 

024. Honest Writing

Today I'm taking a breather from offering any heavy content and I'm just going to write about something meaningful to me.

California, 2016

I wish that more artists would write honestly about their artistic journeys. There often seems to be a sense of guarding information in a lot of art communities. I understand the competitiveness in some scenarios. However I think that sharing information, being transparent about the struggles, and talking openly about a career doesn’t make it any less successful.

There is so much posturing in the art world (behave in a way that is intended to impress or mislead).

Perhaps in part, it comes from a desire to validate artistry as a career in a very commercial driven world. I get that. But there is so much we can learn from each other, so much value and growth to be found when we share our journeys. The REAL journeys.

As far back as I can remember, I've tried to live as modestly and honestly as possible. I think a lot of people can say the same, because it is generally a good way to live.

I've always been highly self-aware, and in being so, I scrutinize every minor thought and emotion that passes through me. If it doesn't carry me down a path of remaining humble, I reject it. In retrospect I can see how this has shaped my life and relationships. I tend to be very submissive, striving to help others find happiness. As an introvert, I've always preferred observation rather than interaction. This lifestyle is very conducive to introspection and reflection.

Even as I write this, I feel a sense of pretentiousness for talking about myself. It’s not a good feeling. But I have a purpose. I started this blog to force myself to write, and better express myself. Even if one person reading this blog feels inspired, I’ll feel successful.

Throughout my life, I’ve always sought out successful, inspiring, humble people who I could learn from. In 2008 I was lucky enough to meet a woman who has, over the years, become my life “mentor.” We met when I took her class in college (she was my teacher). After graduating, she became my boss. Over the years we developed a close bond and I can always turn to her for guidance. We live VERY different lives, but at our cores we are very similar. We are like family.

(She is actually the person who first sparked my interest in visiting Scotland! Her and her husband have visited Scotland annually for over 20 years, and she would often share images and stories of her travels with me. Now, I call it home.)

I also do what a lot of people do, and “follow” dozens of talented artists online, watching their work progress over the years, watching how they interact with others, watching and learning silently.

Cobblestones, Stirling, Scotland 2015

Cobblestones, Stirling, Scotland 2015

The internet has opened up a world of possibilities to artists and we have the ability to connect in new ways. You don’t have to know your mentor in real life. They don’t even have to know you exist. But finding someone who you look up to, who has life experience, who shares your principles, and whose vision you can get behind - that is priceless.

We can drift through life, going it alone, learning from our mistakes, and I still do that to an extent. However, it’s reassuring to know I can talk to my mentor about big life decisions and I won’t be judged or led astray. Often times she merely holds up a mirror with her words and I’m forced to realize I already know the right decision.

I know I’m a very emotional being, and my emotions often influence my decisions. I have a heightened sense of my instincts, and I always follow them. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it leads me down a very difficult path, on which I face many trials and character tests. Those the are times I grow the most.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I crave transparency, honesty and truth about the journey we call life. 

If you’re interested in reading honest truth from artists, here are some amazing resources I’ve found over the years:

If you have any resources you find especially inspiring, about the true artistic journey, please share in the comments below or message me! I would LOVE to see them!!

023. An Artist's Sacred Space

As an artist, when you are engaged in the act of creation, there’s something magical happening. You are accessing a part of your mind that is uniquely yours. No one else in existence is in that mind space except you. It is a sacred space. One that should be nourished and encouraged.

I’m not trying to be dramatic, but I find it hard to describe it in any other way.

Ink drawing, 2016.

Our imaginations are something that set us apart from other species. We have the ability to conjure fantasy, to build worlds in our minds, to completely and vividly live out different scenarios and possibilities before ever making it known in the tangible world.

The complexity of the human mind still confounds scientists. Countless studies show the incredible highway of neurons active in any given moment. Take sight for example. As you read this, your eyes are receiving light along the visible wavelength that has been reflected off of the screen in front of you, and within an instant, your mind has translated it into words that have meaning. Something so “simple” yet so incredibly profound.

Artists take something completely unreal - an idea floating in the ether of their mind - and bring it to life for others to see/touch/hear/taste.

How do we balance the need to share our artistic voice with our need to experience that sacred space?

Over the years, I’ve witnessed and lived through the rise of digital media and social networks, just old enough to be fully aware of their beginnings and how it has changed daily life.

At times I’ve completely embraced it, almost been lost in it. “Needing” it.

At other times I’ve completely rejected it.

I still remember the day I deleted my Facebook account (2011). I was walking into a restaurant with a friend and as we were getting a table, I suddenly realized my eyes were glued to my phone as I was “checking in” to let Facebook know where I was. That moment of realization stunned me to my core. Why on gaia’s green earth does it matter that I’m about to eat at this restaurant, and to SHARE that online in an invisible social network…?? I scrolled through my Facebook feed and saw post after post of pointless shit (sorry but I don’t care what someone is having for breakfast or that their dog got a new toy, or that my friend’s aunt’s friend just saw a hilarious video on youtube).

That day I went home and deleted my account. To be honest there was a week’s worth of withdrawal, and then very suddenly, I was free.

That was a wakeup call for me. It started me on a new personal journey.

Rather than share everything about my life as it was happening, I began to live my life for me. I lived more deeply through each experience. I did things just for the sake of doing them. Before, if I had gone on an amazing mountain hike and taken photos, that same day I would have posted all of them online and been busy responding to comments and likes, whereas after I deleted my account, I was fully immersed in the hike, discussing it with whoever I was with, internalizing how amazing it was, and planning my next trip. I learned more about myself in that year than ever before. There was absolutely no desire to jump online and share what I did. I was having incredible adventures, and the only people who knew were people in my daily life.

Occasionally I would wonder, does this type of existence mean less because I’m not sharing it? And almost immediately I would realize, no. Our existence is real regardless of who knows about it. I still climbed that mountain. I still spent a week on that beach reading and playing in the waves. I still ate breakfast. So rather than focus on making sure lots of people know about all my wonderful or boring experiences, I simply lived.

This epiphany was extremely important with my artistic journey.

At the time my photography career was slowly starting to grow, and I was also beginning to paint and draw a lot more.

After work each day, if I didn’t have a photography gig, I was painting or drawing. I would enjoy hours of quiet, internal reflection, brought forth through abstract paintings. I wasn’t doing it for any reason except I loved it. I had this internal desire to move color across a canvas to create vivid and active compositions.

Those early months of exploration were my own. I wasn’t concerned with sharing any of it because there was no reason to. I learned SO much about myself and my reasons for creating. During the act of creation, there was a feeling of pure joy and relief in expressing my inner voice in this way. More and more canvases were lining my walls, and my husband at the time started to encourage me to share them. It was also the time I joined Twitch (not yet streaming). So in 2014 I created my Instagram account.

Nowadays, I share almost everything I create on instagram, even my sketches. I have to stop and ask myself, why?

Why do we feel this incessant need to share everything we create? As an artist in an ever increasing digital world, there’s almost a feeling that we will get left behind if we don’t keep active on social media and various artistic communities. It feels good to share something and get a positive response. However it feels empty in comparison to the joy of being completely immersed in our sacred space without the intention of sharing or outside reactions.

When I was in art school, social media wasn’t a thing yet. Facebook had just been invented but it was in it’s infancy. So this SHARE SHARE SHARE culture was not part of our lives. It worries me now that I’m sometimes apprehensive to create anything on my own without a thought of recording it in some way to share on instagram (or another platform).

For artists I believe it is partly a biproduct of our desire to spread our voice, share our vision, as well as build our business. There’s a direct correlation to how much money I make to how much I share with the world.

Perhaps we need to force ourselves to stop and think about that sacred space. Those moments of solitude creation, with no intention of sharing it, simply creating to create. The sacred space that we can easily forget about when we are busy sharing or planning to share. The great masters worked all day every day on their studies and their (now) famous commissions. Most of which were not “shared” until much later, after their deaths, as technology began to spread throughout the world. They lived their lives, immersed in their studios, their families and friends, their communities. Were they better off for it?

These days I find myself less aware of my sacred space, and more concerned with how what I’m doing will be shared. As a full time streamer, I’ve been completely engulfed in this SHARE mindset again. I spend the equivalent of 40 hours per week streaming my artwork as well as digitizing my work to share on social media, my website, and my Etsy store. This is the reason I’m able to make a living, but at what cost?

So my new goal...my vow to my artistic self is to create more without the concern of sharing.

(even now I’m giggling as I realize the irony of sharing this with you).

To spend at least an hour or two a day creating something purely for myself. To be once again immersed within my visions and practicing my ability to render them.

The desire to share and be part of a community is human nature, but I’ve experienced how easily it is to let it take over completely. It is my sincere hope that I’m able to maintain a balance between being in my sacred space and my desire to share. I always feel much more satisfied with the former.
Do you have experiences or insights relating to this? I’d love to hear them! Comment below or email me!