The Ever Evolving Nature of the Blog

top view of creative workspace with keyboard and coffee
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

AKA:  Jess can never make up her mind/is never satisfied/(to put a positive spin on it) is constantly learning and growing.

I’m back in the proper head space to be creative and work on the blog and creative projects again!  The last half of January was kind of a blasé month for me, mentally/creatively (not in a dire way, just sort of fatigued, hence the complete dearth of blog posts), but February has been a creative high point, and I’ve been thinking about this blog again.

I finally, finally moved all my OCtPoWriMo posts over to a separate blog – Rarely Tidy Writing – which is where I will host my contributions to all future writing challenges.  It’s accessible via my Navigation Menu, and if you are someone who followed me during one of the challenge months and are only here for creative writing, it might be a good idea to go and follow that blog either instead of or in addition to this one (I’d love for you to stick around!  But I know that it’s entirely possible that you followed me under the faulty assumption that I was a “writing blog,” and if my ADHD ramblings aren’t your cuppa, I understand and encourage you to check out Rarely Tidy Writing instead).

I’ve also been thinking of a previous post I made, talking about honing the focus of this blog somewhat, and reflecting on how that’s been going for me so far.  I’m enjoying, I think, that I am still able to talk about things that are important to me and that affect me personally while still having a lense through which I can focus my writing, but it remains important to me to keep a personal presence on this blog.  Over the last week, I’ve been considering this, and decided to try out combining two things I’d been mulling over for a long time: making #weeklycoffeetalk posts, and incorporating vlogs into my blog.  Since I plan on talking about my personal life during these weekend vlogs, my Friyay! posts will become more fully centered around media and products (i.e., things that you, as readers, can seek out and consume if they sound interesting or uplifting to you) instead of personal milestones or celebrations.

Anyway, that’s what’s what.  Hope you have all been well, and I’m looking forward to new projects on the horizon!

Happy Friyay!: February 22, 2019

Happy (1) Hey, Happy Friyay!  I’m back on the positivity train, after a pretty long time away (I kind of still can’t believe I had an entire month of radio silence post-convention), and it’s fitting that it’s the last official day of my winter break – when I kind of need a bit of a pick-me-up before jumping head first back into the daily grind.

Things that are perking me up this week:

So, I’m a huge fan of animation, and I recently discovered PhantomStrider’s YouTube channel, where he present Top 3/5/10 lists on topics like Darkest Cartoon Network Episodes, Best and Worst Cartoon Reboots, and Creepiest Spongebob Episodes.  I spent an inordinately long time on TVTropes looking up some of the entries on his Worst Cartoons of All Time list (OMG, NutshackNutshack.  Whyyy??), and it was so bad, but so entertaining.  His commentary is thoughtful, and honestly, I find his voice generally pretty soothing and easy to listen to.  He also warns if the footage he’s using is going to be disturbing, which was good for when Bear was in the room, so I could either skip it or distract him.  Anyway, if you’re an animation fan, I recommend.  I’ve spent a lot of time on his channel the last two days.

We’re going to see Captain Marvel on March 9th!  I enjoy reading comics and graphic novels, but most of my familiarity is with properties from Image Comics (with one or two notable properties from Vertigo); I’ve always been intimidated by the more famous/prominent Marvel properties because of the overwhelming number of reboots and alternate universes, so I have very, very little prior knowledge of Captain Marvel – but my feminist, comic-book-loving friends are super psyched, and I totally love the MCU, so I’m excited to be seeing this one on opening weekend (especially since I doubt that I’d be able to avoid spoilers on either Tumblr or Facebook for very long).

I set a goal at the beginning of the month of complete 10 “pieces of art” (defined however I saw fit) in February, and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve completed five, with a sixth and seventh underway.  I may not actually make it to ten, but hooooly hell, do you know how much of a productivity boost this is from last year?  From the last several years?  I completed two pieces in January, bring my year-to-date total up seven, currently, which is more than I’ve done in most years past.  And it’s February.

It’s a short one this week, possibly because I’ve just been mostly chilling and hanging out with my family – not consuming a ton of media or doing a ton of interesting things (I mean, I’ve had fun, but April Break is really the “fun” one, when I get out and do things.  Andy worked this week and it’s been snowing; by April, it’ll be warm, and he has the week off, so I’m greatly looking forward to that).

What has been buoying you along this week?

When Their Art is “Art” and Your Art is… Not

 

adult art conceptual dark
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here’s the double-edged sword of looking to others’ art for inspiration:

You are undoubtedly going to start making comparisons of their art to your own.

And yours will, inevitably, be found lacking.

A month ago – oh my God, where did the time go? – I went to a convention hoping to help spark my creativity by surrounding myself with creative people and the products of their creativity.

I’ve had a pretty positive creative start to 2019 – I didn’t hit my January goals, but I made real progress, and I’m making progress on my February goals, as well.  So I was hopeful, going in, that I would find an additional boost of inspiration for future projects – maybe fresh subject matter, or a medium I hadn’t tried before, or new ways of using familiar art tools.

The convention did not disappoint.  I came away with a wealth of writing and poetry resources, and having absorbed and observed a myriad of visual art of all styles and mediums.  I came home aching to create art.

And I did.  And they’re probably technically among the best pieces I’ve ever created.

And it is still so, so hard for me to bring myself to call them “art.”

Objectively, I’ve seen similar looking pieces in gallery showings before – bold bright colors, kinda kitschy – not so identical to other works as to be derivative, per se, but alike enough to say, hey, this is recognizably similar to these other pieces.  Pieces I would refer to as “art.”

So what separates, in my mind, my work from theirs?  Especially the work I’m mostly proud of?

That’s what I really want to emphasize: this is work that I think looks good.  It’s not the most skilled artistry, but I’m a beginner, and on an aesthetic front, I find it pleasing.

So why is it that I can’t bring myself to think of it as anything more than the concrete manifestation of a self-conscious shrug?

And actually, I think I kind of, sort of might have actually figured it out.  Or at least figured out part of it.

None of my art… “means” anything.  It’s not political or deeply personal or intellectually challenging; it’s never going to be controversial, or have people arguing over the creator’s intent, or be interpreted or analyzed in an art history class.  It’s visual doggrel. It’s ephemera.

It’s just some paint on a canvas.

But why isn’t that enough?  Why can’t I just splash some paint on a canvas and create something that… makes you want to look at it?  That makes your eyes hungry for it?  Something that you can consume, enjoy, and move on?

I drew all the time as a kid; I was not an amazing artist, but I was pretty good for my age. Peers, teachers, and friends would often compliment and comment on my work, and I had pictures hung at art fairs and won school awards, and drawing was fun.  It was enjoyable for me, as an artist, and it seemed to bring pleasure to those who saw it.

It wasn’t until I took studio art in high school that suddenly I had to, like, validate my art with an explanation.  And that’s not to deride or delegitimize people who produce highly personal, political, or otherwise “meaningful” art – it’s just to say that, up until that point, the act of creating in and of itself was enough.  The aesthetic pleasure it brought to others was enough.

But then suddenly, I had to defend what I produced – what was the inspiration, what did it mean, how long did it take?  Suddenly, the measure of worth was placed on how “deep” the “meaning” of the work was, or how labor intensive it was to produce.

You know, sometimes you see a color and want to paint with it.  Sometimes, your brain just goes, “You know what’s awesome?  FRICKIN’ ROBOTS,” and you want to draw some damn robots.  Sometimes you spend days laboring over a painting; sometimes you commit a ten-minute doodle to your sketchbook.  None of these things is inherently more or less valuable than the others.

I want to go back to the days when “making art” was about having fun, and bringing someone joy.  Hell, even if that someone is just me.  Why do we devalue our own pleasure so readily?  My happiness is important.  When I find something that brings me joy, that should be celebrated.  That should mean something.

And if you think that broadening the definition of art somehow devalues labor intensive art made by technically skilled or trained artists, then I have to ask you why you think we have to withhold respect from any group of people in order to give it to another.  Respecting and recognizing someone or something as valuable is not a limited resource; we don’t have to ration it.  I can deeply appreciate, and even be in awe, of the beauty and skill inherent in a work of classical art, and still cling to my graphic novels (and in fact, this works the other way as well – I can be in awe of the skill and beauty of a classical work of art and still feel no personal pull or connection to it. You cling to what you connect to, and you can’t control and shouldn’t be shamed for whatever the object of that affection is).

I can get pleasure from a Van Gogh painting and a comic book; a Carravagio and a cartoon.  They are different kinds of pleasure – sometimes life-affirming, sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes a quick chuckle, sometimes a belly laugh.  We need all of them.  The experience of one form of pleasure does not dull the others.

So I’m going to try to take all this to heart and go back to painting pretty pictures.  The technical piece (which I do need to work on) will come in time, with patience and practice, but I can’t promise that the subject matter will get any deeper.  I just really like painting robots, and gems, and bones, and birds, in bright neon colors.

That’s ok.  Someone will like them.  Even if it’s only me.

Con Season!

Tomorrow is my first convention of the season, and as anyone who’s followed me knows, I always come home from cons feeling super creatively energized, though often directionless in terms of where to channel that energy.

This year, with two projects already under my belt, I feel like I have gained enough momentum and have enough ideas to carry me through another two or three projects on my own, so my hopes for this convention are a renewed sense of creative energy, and maybe some new inspiration for subject matter for the future.

I also hope that it will help me to put into words a few things I’ve been wanting to write about, and should that be the case, I’ll be back with a few new posts in about a week.

Also, woo, long weekend!  Hope you all have a safe and happy one.

The Life-Affirming Cringey-ness of Past Failures

rainbow clay
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

I got it in my head several years ago that I fancied myself a sculptor of sorts, or at the very least, a kitschy clay artist.  I spent some money, bought some Sculpey (a weird, Costco-esque bulk block of white clay), and spent a lot of time crafting some charms.  Charms that I sculpted, baked, painted, and deigned good enough to photograph and put up on StoreEnvy for sale.

Before the store ever went live, though, things in my life got hectic and complicated, I got pregnant, and most of my creative hobbies got shoved to the back-burner until fairly recently.  It’s only in the last few months – probably around five years later, at this point – that I began to become interested in clay work again.  I asked for and was gifted new Sculpey tools and glaze for Christmas, and started work on several projects just after the new year.

Now, in the intervening years, despite not working with Sculpey, I’ve watched videos of other artists creating art using clay, I’ve scoured Pinterest boards and read how-to articles, and recently have even found some books on the subject.  When I finally sat down after a week of preliminary sketches and brainstorming, the end result of my first attempt was a reflection of several years of absorbing and processing that information and those techniques, and it showed.

I was so dang happy with how my project turned out, I got online and logged into my old StoreEnvy account, and hey, what do you know, there were all my old projects, photos and listings just waiting to go live.

Oh… my God.  How did I ever think those thing looked good enough to sell??

Now, let’s backpedal a bit.  The things weren’t atrocious.  They were recognizable for what the were supposed to be (cupcakes, in this case).  And in most cases, the ideas – and even the designs themselves – were solid.  Like, yes, these were good concepts.  Even my overly critical, knowing-what-I-know-now self could recognize that.

But the execution was very, very emblematic of what I was talking about in a previous post – the mad rush to produce, at the cost of the quality of the product.

I admit, I had a moment of embarrassed realization – oh God, I plastered pics of these things all over Facebook.  I showed them to people, proudly.  I gave a few as gifts.  Oh, man.  Don’t even look at me.

It took me a few days to really process it, but eventually I realized a few things.

  1.  I am my absolute worst critic.  I nitpick and analyze and overthink everything.  I am/was likely the only person to notice all but the most egregious flaws.
  2. Part of the reason I am judging myself so harshly in hindsight is because I am looking at my creations through the eyes of someone who knows so much more.  I know more about using tools, about texturing techniques, about tinting and shading.  I am judging work done by someone who wasn’t privvy to any of that knowledge, and who was doing they best they could with what they knew at the time.
  3. That I can look at my past work and be able to ennumerate the aspects in which I could improve, and explicate in specific detail how and why I would make those changes is a very real testament to the fact that I have grown as an artist.
  4. The very fact that I can look at my work – despite my own hypercritical tendencies – and see value in the concept proves that my ideas, even in the nascent stages, have value.
  5. However embarrassing I find the photo evidence of my past failures, I now have a blueprint to create new and improved versions, should I chose to do so;and if not, I have the skills to move on and develop new, fresh ideas.

I’ve always been told, usually with reference to writing, never to actually get rid of your work, as you never know when you’ll use it.  What usually isn’t said (maybe it’s meant to be understood?) is that the further along you get in your creative journey, the less likely you are to use any of your previous creations in their original form – you will outgrow them, you will move beyond them, and they will seem embarrassing and inelegant to you.

But they will remind you that, once upon a time, you had this thought, and maybe it was a good thought, and maybe it’s time to revisit it with all the things you’ve learned in the interim.  Maybe this time you can get it to work.

And if nothing else, at least it reminds you of how far you’ve come.

Friday, Friyay: January 4th

& (1)I think with it being a new year and all, I might be due for a new Friday Friyay image.  I’m not in love with it, and if I’ve been learning anything recently, it’s that I should only keep around things that spark joy.

So, welcome to the new year!  It’s probably a shock seeing something from me three days in a row, but you know that “new year, new me” energy that buoys you up for the first two weeks or so of January, right?  I’m just bursting with that at the moment.  My house is clean, I have ideas for things I want to make, and I feel good about things.

Things that have been making me feel good:

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, which premiered on Netflix on January 1st.  I’ve only watched the first couple of episodes, but I would kill, I think, to be as organized and cheery as Marie Kondo is.  I think her methodology is a little intense, but I also don’t disagree with it – I don’t want to even talk about the amount of stuff I got rid of in the week prior to the new year, and it wasn’t even a matter of that stuff not “sparking joy.”  It was stuff I didn’t use, couldn’t remember why I had, or was legit just broken.  So why was I hanging on to it?  I love home transformation shows, and this one so far has been super relatable, in that it’s mostly just people going, “I have no concept of  how to organize/conquer this myself.”  It speaks to  my little executive dysfunctioning-heart on a deep, visceral level.

We submitted our son’s application to charter school’s kindergarten lottery!  I can’t believe Bear is old enough for us to even be thinking about kindergarten, let alone applying, but if all goes well, he’ll be enrolled for the 2019/2020 school year.  I think my mom is already mourning the loss of seeing him everyday, but I think overall it will be better for the both of them; she’s getting older, and while she adores him, I know he wears her out.

As a holiday treat to ourselves, my husband and I bought this wall-mounted, magnetic Scrabble board It’s been great to take turns at our leisure, and I think it’ll be a fun talking point when guests come over.  It reminds me of the quiet leisure activities my husband and I used to do together before we had a pet or a kid, like 500 piece puzzles – the kind of thing you can sit and consider in quiet contemplation together for hours, or pop a piece into place while you’re waiting for dinner to cook.  Sadly, with a four-year-old and a cat, puzzles are off the table (literally; that’s the problem), and this is a nice alternative.

We’ve been getting new Steven Universe episodes weekly since Christmas Eve, and will have new episodes until January 21st (we don’t speak of what may come after that).  I have said and continue to say that it feels dangerously close to endgame, given the current plotline, and while I would love for SU to continue indefinitely, I don’t want it to grow tired with endless attempts to “top” itself (…looking at you, Supernatural).  Still, this past season (which ends with the episode on the 21st) has been intense.  If Season Six is in fact the last one, I am hopeful it will go out with a fittingly epic finale.

I have so much to do on this blog!  I’m still moving over all my OctPoWriMo posts to a side blog that will, from now on, host all my attempts at writing challenges and other creative writing endeavors, and I’m working on some organizational planner sheets/checklists/layout both for my own life and for sharing with you all.

I hope you all have had a hopeful, happy start to the new year, and I look forward to sharing 2019 with you all!

When Drive is Detrimental

drive

This is going to sound like a complete contradiction to my previous post, but rest assured, I live both experiences, and if it’s confusing or frustrating to read about it, imagine living it.

I spend so much of my time creatively stalled out, that when The Muse hits me, I grab that shiz by the horns and ride her as far and as fast as she’ll carry me.

Sadly, this rarely yields quality results.

When I get something in my head that I really want to do (and that I think is a really cool or exciting idea), I jump in with both feet, often so eager to reach the end product I neglect to put any real thought into the process.  The last time I tried to teach myself to paint, for example, I jumped in with the most ambitious project in my mental repertoire (because it was the one that excited me the most!).  I spent no time reading up on or experimenting with the medium; I didn’t draw up a sketch, or an outline, or rough draft; I tried to complete the whole painting in a few hours; and when I was about three-quarters of the way through and realized it wasn’t exactly as I envisioned it, I grew agitated and gave up (see my previous post about being a raging perfectionist).

Part of the problem is that there is a natural appeal to the excitement of a new idea, and it makes me want to see that idea materialize so eagerly that it’s all I can do to produce it as swiftly as I can.  The planning stages: learning about the medium I’m working in, gathering appropriate materials, brainstorming, drafting are not nearly as exciting as the making.

And they don’t feel as real.  You know?  I don’t know if this is a quirk of my neurotype or a nuance of my own personality, but there’s some part of me that views the planning stages of something as lesser than the doing – even if the planning is integral to the doing, even if the planning is necessary scaffolding in order for the doing to be successful.  It feels, in some ways, like just sitting and spinning my wheels.

Maybe because that’s so often what it turns into.  Maybe I rush into projects because I know that, if I don’t, it’ll become just another entry on my Eternal To-Do List, and I’ll never see it through to completion.

But my ideas deserve more than that.  They are project that deserve to get done, but they deserve to get done well, you

🎉 🎉 🎉 Let’s Pace Ourselves 2K19! 🎉 🎉 🎉

  1. Remember that there will be a tomorrow.  I mean, not forever, obviously, but let’s not dwell on the existential bummer that is mortality.  My point is, yeah, sure, you don’t want to drag your feet on getting things done, but let’s, like, set up a timeline, or find a consistent chunk of time to devote to working on projects.  On that note…
  2. Find a reliable time to devote to working on projects – a little time each day to brainstorm and work through ideas, and a larger chunk of time at least once a week devoted to actually working.  Knowing that you have that time coming up (instead of perpetually asking yourself, “when am I going to get this done?”) mollifies some of that anxiety and restless energy that normally makes jumping into a project just to get it done seem like a good idea.
  3. Find a place to work, and keep your supplies on hand, organized, and accessible.  Good job, Jess, you are actually making some headway in this direction already.  The craft room (ahem, basement) is starting to actually look inhabitable, and your art supplies are corralled, organized, and easy to find (for once in your life).  Now you can find what you need when you need it, instead of getting frustrated, grabbing whatever’s on hand, and regretting it in the finished result.
  4. Carry around a notebook (for me it will be two, one for art, one for writing) to jot, sketch, and plan projects.  Date them.  Choose one (two, tops) at a time to work on.  You have a huge problem with 1.) forgetting your “best” ideas, and 2.) having ideas that are woefully un/underdeveloped.  Jot them down.  Flesh them out.  Let them sit and come back to them.  See if you can improve.  Cycle through this process at least once before you even think of sitting down to work.
  5. Do not start new projects until you finish the current ones.  No, not even if you get stuck.  If you get stuck, open that notebook back up.  See where you went wrong.  See what you could do differently.  Run to your blog or Twitter or your artsy friends on Facebook and ask them to take a second look, ask them for advice, ask them for new perspective on the problem.  It feels better (and is better for your mental health) to have one or two projects in meaningfully and thoughtfully in production than to have a dozen nascent projects being hastily and sloppily thrown together.

I don’t think I’ve asked you all yet; what are your creative goals for this year?  Is there a particular project you want to tackle, or are you like me, and interested in developing a reliable method to make creativity as a meaningful part of your life?