Artist Non-Negotiables

You won’t always feel enthusiastic or passionate about your craft.”

That’s a little tidbit I don’t recall any of my art instructors informing me or any of my fellow art students. Neither can I recall ever reading about it in the countless articles of advice I’ve read for artists over the years. Yet it’s what I’ve come to learn. The truth is the artist’s path isn’t an easy one and some days you won’t feel passionate or enthusiastic about it.
I’ve noticed that some of the people I know personally have a rather romanticize idea about what I do. Just recently I was talking to a long time friend of mine who said to me “You’re lucky, you’re doing what you love to do.” I don’t know about the luck but I could tell he was under the impression assuming that I probably wake up ever morning beaming with joy that I get to draw everyday. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Overall, yes, I do experience a sense of satisfaction at the thought that I’m making a life doing what I enjoy doing but that satisfaction varies from day to day. Some days I’m happy and content especially when sales are steady and I’m not worried about getting my bills paid. Some days I don’t feel anything either way. Then some days I’m thoroughly frustrated and have to push through to get anything creative done. But then there are those days were I give serious thought to saying to hell with it all to go get me a desk job. These fluctuations in my passion for my craft have often left me feeling conflicted and baffled. With the plethora of self development information out there, I’ve always been under the impression that if you have the opportunity to spend your life doing something you love you will wake up every morning beaming with enthusiasm and ready to take on the world. Truth is, most of the time I’m on an emotional roller coaster with constant highs and lows. …and that’s okay. But nobody tells you that. You see, for the longest I’ve been under the impression that I’m doing something wrong because I’m not a walking ball of sunshine everyday. I get conflicted inside and wonder if I should be doing it at all. But one day I realized that the problem wasn’t that some days I lack enthusiasm and passion, the problem was that I thought it was problem. There’s nothing wrong with having bad days because trust me, you will have them. You will have days where you’re bored. You’ll have days where you can’t think of anything to create. There will be projects where you will be all excited about in the beginning only to have that excitement dissipate halfway through. And there will be days where you just end up vegged out on the couch with junk food and Netflix. And all of that is perfectly normal. A trick I’ve learned to get through these ups and downs is to make sure I set some non-negotiables at the foundation of my craft. These are key commitments that I keep above all else. For me there are three of them:

1. To do a little bit of something pertaining to my craft each day. That can be working on a drawing for 30 minutes, writing up a blog post or promoting my work, so long as I do something everyday. It’s easy to get wrapped up in other aspects of our lives and put your craft off until the next day. But I’ve seen how putting your craft off can easily become a habit. The only way to counter that is to develop the habit of working on your craft everyday.

2. To always finish at least 85% of my projects. Now if it’s a commission it must be completed but on personal projects sometimes they just don’t turn out or somewhere along the way I lose interest. Most of the time I push through it but every once in a while there are some piece I just can’t bring myself to complete. In this case I just let it go and move on to something I’m more interested in but only if I’ve been consistent in finishing at least nine of my previous projects.

3. No matter what, always do my best. I’ve learned that I can’t let my day to day feelings dictate how I approach my craft, so I need some guiding principles to get me through the ups and downs.

Being an artist isn’t some never ending purgatory but it’s not always glorious either. It just is what it is. Some days your creative energy just flows, your work turns out far better than you imagine and you make a few good sales. And then some days you find yourself on your living room floor throwing a temper tantrum, crying to the heavens wondering why you were cursed to be an artist. Okay, maybe that’s just me but no matter what, always do your best. 😊

Sculpting Light

The difference between a good artist and a great one is:
The novice will often lay down his tool or brush, then pick up an invisible club on the mind’s table and helplessly smash the easels and jade. Whereas the vintage man no longer hurts himself or anyone and keeps on sculpting light. ~ Hafiz

I wanted to put my head through my drawing table today. Despite the end results and the delight I see on the faces of collectors, being an artist isn’t easy. Some days I just want to throw in the towel. But then I remember there isn’t anything else in life that I’m remotely interested in doing. Nothing else makes my eyes light up or stirs my soul like creating art and seeing others creating art. I’m fascinated with the imagination, artistry and creativity. I’m the type of person who wants to see the concept art and storyboards for a movie more than the actual movie. I want to see and know how things are made not just marvel at the finished results. So this spirit of art and creativity is just in me through and through but it’s not always an easy spirit to live with. Sometimes I wonder why I couldn’t have been someone interested in numbers and went off to become an accountant? Or something a bit more, dare I say…practical. But that just isn’t how I was made, so I guess I’ll just keep sculpting light.

Botanical Art

“Magnolia” – by Q. Rumbley

As an artist who is mostly inspired by Nature and all of her creations, I’ve always had a bit of an interest in botanical art. Every now and then I try my hand at doing something botanical. Can’t say I’m all that great at it, especially since I’m doing it using the pointillism technique but I try. From what I’ve seen most botanical art pieces are done using watercolors or ink washes, mediums that just boggle my mind, yet make for some rather vivid and life like visuals. Pointillism is a bit of a departure in regards to techniques used for the art and is more so seen on the textbook scientific end of illustrating plants. Either way, it still makes for some good art.
Here are a few artists who I follow on Instagram that create some rather wonderful works of botanical artistry that are inspiring and delightful. 😀

Darren Sleep – @artyplantsman

Seinjeong Lee – @4lee5

Lauren Boles – @laurenbolesart

Media Jamshidi – @mediajamshidi

Imitation

It’s said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. In the field of creativity, sometimes imitation can get in the way of personal growth and authenticity.

Have you ever looked at another artist’s work and thought “Wow! That’s amazing. I want my work to look like that.” And then set out to try and incorporate that artist’s style and technique into your own work? When we were young we might have done this. But as we grow as an artist it can become a hindrance to the development of your own style and technique. I used to do this a lot in my early years of drawing. Back then I had a number of artists whose work I admired and tried to get my own work to imitate theirs, which can be a good way to practice and learn specific techniques. But the thing about imitating someone else’s work is that if you get into the habit of imitating, it’s easy to slip into becoming really good at just copying without ever really developing a style that’s all your own. It can also have the off handed effect of causing you to compare and devalue your own work. You may find yourself so focused on trying to get your art to look similar to another artist that you completely miss how your own style maybe unfolding or worse, you may get discouraged and feel that your art is no good if you’re not able to adequately replicate the other artist’s style.
There’s nothing wrong with admiring someone else’s work and being inspired to improve upon your own. But as an artist one has to be careful not to fall into the trap of striving to imitate the styles of others that you end up squelching the seeds of uniqueness in your own development

Signs

Sometimes life can be a bit…odd, to say the least.
I have this art box, which pretty much looks like a plastic tool box for art supplies, that I’ve keep since the 90s. It’s stuffed with all sorts of things, pens, erasers, pencils, exacto blades, glue, watercolors, pretty much all the stuff I’ve experimented with over the years. So today I went rummaging around in it looking for some watercolor pencils I knew I had buried in this eclectic mess when I came upon this rock, which clearly looks like it has a pictogram of a rabbit on it. Obvious at some point in my life I either got this rock for some reason or someone gave it to me. I just can’t remember from where or from whom but I suspect it either came into my possession from one of the pow pows I’ve attended throughout the years or from that little Native American shop in South Bend I used to frequent some time ago. Either way I find it rather peculiar that I would find this little thing at a time when I’m just now getting over my issue of being creeped out by rabbits. To cause my eyebrow to raise a bit more, just last night I was researching black American folktales, when I got to reading about Br’er Rabbit and now here, I find a rabbit in my art box. Is this a sign? I have this saying that if something happens once or twice, it’s a coincidence. If it happens three or more times, you need to stop and pay attention.

I’ve now given the rock a permanent place in my Sacred Space. 😊