Resolutions & Other Important Changes

28 Jan

I hate it when I use scented lotion and accidentally scratch my nose. I feel like someone sprayed perfume in my face.

I thought it wouldn’t be right to publish that elaborate post about New Month Resolutions vs. New Year’s Resolutions and not give some sort feedback on how I’m doing (check out The Productive Artist: Breaking Out of Your Resolution Rut if you haven’t seen it).

As January comes to an end, I have to look back and see how I’ve done. Since my resolution wasn’t very specific, and there’s a reason they should be, I don’t have a black and white picture of my success. But I can look back on all my little efforts and see that I, indeed, succeeded. There are a few weekly focuses I had and I really surprised myself:

  • Kept a decent work schedule and balanced my part time job with my art.
  • Began planning and came up with some awesome ideas for my upcoming art show (March 13th and 14th! Mark your calendar! More info soon.)
  • Bought a Fit Bit, signed up for a 15K, and have pushed myself to reach personal bests. I’ve NEVER gone as far or as fast in my entire life!
  • Practiced positive self-talk. Like they say, you are your worst critic. I’ve decided to go a little easier on myself and give myself more credit. Unfortunately, if I’m honest, this is an area I’ve been struggling with. I’m happy to report that small self affirmations and acknowledgement of my abilities and accomplishments have worked wonders in this area. Maybe I’ll write a post about how deteriorating perfectionism is. Or have I already?

Then there are the daily items: from reading books to cleaning the bathroom to doing my nails to cooking dinner. I’ve given myself small tasks every day, even numerous a day, to challenge and build my willpower muscle. Each passing day makes me feel more accomplished, especially when I give myself a pat on the back!

And finally… prayer. I prayed a very important prayer earlier this month and I thought now would be as good a time as any to share with everyone. I always used to pray, “Lord, please just take over my life and make me do what’s right. I don’t care what I do, just do it through me and let it be Your will and whatever You feel is best for me.”

Except… this prayer was never answered.

Wanna know why?

It sucked.

It might sound weird to refer to a prayer as “sucky”, but it’s true. Typed out, it sounds ok. But first of all, God doesn’t take over your life. He even promises He won’t. That’s where free will comes in. Second, I never seriously meant what I said. I’d pray it and then I would continue on living the way I always did. I never changed anything. I didn’t actually open myself to Him and His direction and will.

I finally decided to try something different. I prayed a different prayer. First, I asked God to forgive me for praying that other meaningless prayer. A silly prayer I prayed for years. A prayer I cared so little about that I continued to pray even though it went on “unanswered”–as if to blame God for my lack of obedience. Then, I prayed…

“Lord, remind me of You.”

I prayed that God would just keep Himself at the forefront of my mind. That I would easily remember that He’s there and I have Him to call on. I prayed that I would just plain think of Him more, and that He would give me the strength and motivation to do the things that would just simply remind me of Him.

I meant it, it made sense, and it was answered. And you know what? He’s really working on me because I’m gradually inviting Him into other areas of my life. I’m finding more strength in areas I usually struggle.

He’s pretty awesome. I highly recommend.

The Productive Artist: Break Out of Your Resolution Rut

9 Jan

I love Pinterest. I use it to get great ideas and inspiration. And it’s around this time, every year, that the majority of the pins on my feed have something to do with eating healthy, losing weight, or getting fit. I’m getting notifications that friends are creating new boards with words like, “new”, “skinny”, and “healthy” in their titles, along with other clues as to what their New Year’s resolutions are.

I have very similar resolutions. I am, admittedly, a resolution maker. I’ve heard so many people say they aren’t. They’ve even said they hate New Year’s resolutions. And I bet I know why. Probably the same reason I didn’t come right out and state mine this year. I stared at my goal list and sighed. I felt overwhelmed and tired of starting over every year. January after January kickstarted with energy and motivation that dwindles steadily until there’s no sight of the goals come March. I believe another reason people don’t like New Year’s resolutions isn’t only because they don’t achieve the goals they keep setting, but it also seems silly to wait until the beginning of an entirely new year to try to become the person you want to be. So this time I’m doing something different…

A few weeks ago I was already running through my mental New Year’s resolutions. One night my ambitions led me to the goal setting page on Lululemon’s website titled, “Create Your Ideal Life with Goal Setting”. I watched all their videos, filled out their goal writing worksheet, followed their goal setting guidelines, and read their goal related blog posts. I was on my way to completing a pretty hefty list of ambitious long term goals, both physical and professional. It was energizing. But as I kept writing and finally reached my short-term goals, my enthusiasm fizzled, I got overwhelmed, and stopped. It was when I started on the things I want or need to achieve sooner than later that I felt a sensation of exhaustion. I learned something about myself. Although I want these HUGE things for myself, I didn’t truly believe, in that moment, that I could get there. The result: When I began the planning portion, I somewhat sabotaged myself… Why? So that I’d be right? Like a self-fulfilling prophecy? No no no no no… NOT acceptable, Lynette.

This week I revisited my goal list to try to figure out why I lost interest. First of all, who’s to say that I don’t achieve my 10 year goal in five years? Not to mention, some of my art-related goals have to do with circumstances that I may never end up in, which would just make me feel like I failed. So, I took a cleansing breath and switched gears: Instead of setting HUGE goals for 10 years, 5 years, or even 1 year out, I decided to focus on the small successes that will get me where I want to go. This will allow me to gauge a realistic pace and identify how much I can actually accomplish. Then I’ll be able to challenge myself with achievable short-term goals. I might find that a goal I originally set to complete in one year was unrealistic, but then again, I may find that I achieve something better even sooner than that. Ultimately, it’s nice to dream up goals, but really it’s the focus and planning that will cure the poor little Lynette that stopped writing her goals because she just never achieves them.

In order to take smaller steps towards the bigger picture, I’ve committed to a brilliant idea that I’m really excited about. It’ll be a lot easier to achieve goals, I’ll be able to monitor my progress easier, I’ll be able to adjust future goals more freely, and if I don’t achieve a goal, I’ll be able to efficiently analyze why, think of a new approach, and achieve it the second time around. My plan? I’m going to set new month resolutions. This way, IF I don’t achieve my goal, it’s only a month loss and not a year, which is a lot easier to dust off and try again. Ultimately, it’ll be a lot easier to achieve goals that only take a month instead of a year of commitment. And it’s easier to take one day at a time to achieve a weekly goal instead of committing to an entirely new lifestyle beginning on January 1st. The willpower required for New Year’s resolutions is outrageous. Which brings me to my January resolution…

Be able to lift a 100 lbs with my willpower muscle by the end of January.

Say what? I know, I know, this sounds vague, which is breaking rule #1 in goal or resolution setting. What can I say? I’m a rule breaker. Joking aside, this goal is my cute way of saying “I’m going to commit to achieving my daily goals for a month in order to gain willpower and practice achieving daily goals.” My goals might even be all over the place, that’s okay, organization will be another goal, just so long as I am working towards something each day.

I challenge you to take this different approach to making resolutions. What would you like to accomplish this month that will get you closer to an ultimate goal? Breaking that down further, what can you accomplish this week? How about this evening or tomorrow? Let me know what you think!

Success Breeds Success – My Progress

25 Nov

Ever hear that?

“Success breeds success.”

Ever wonder what it means? Or really give it much thought?

I’m not going to dive into the theories or studies of this statement. I just want to share what I, myself, have learned about it.

In my opinion, if you work hard at something, and you push yourself, you are going to make some sort of progress. And whether it be your end result or not, or maybe even barely there, any sort of progress is still progress. And, in this girl’s humble opinion, if you make progress, you are successful. Then, when you’ve reaped your reward, even a small one, you learn from it. You have information now that can propel you forward. If what you’re doing isn’t a gamble, you are almost guaranteed to progress even further. Of course, I’m speaking very generically. Saying that your output depends on your input is very generic, but it’s generally true. I find it to be extremely true in my case.

In my art career, my little baby bud of an art career, I have found that if I push myself beyond my limits, even scare myself a little, I always end up with some sort of reward or information that I can use to my future advantage. This is very well rounded in my art career. It applies to the creating side as much as the business side. For example, I’ve made the statement within the last few months that “I don’t do portraits”. However, in the last 30 days, I’ve done five. My first five. And I’m pleased with them! Success. I’ve also stated that I only paint on canvas… Yet, I finished 20 small pieces of art painted on wood panels, and I loved the process. Success. I sold 16 of the 20 at an art show in Burien. Success. And now I have 6 more pieces commissioned that will be painted on wood. Success. And yes, I said “commissioned”. In fact, my first commissioned pieces. I’m excited and not a bit of the fear I used to experience when I thought about commission work. Success.

Then there’s the business side. I’ve fallen away from my blog, obviously, which is a marketing tool for me. It not only allows me to get my own thoughts straight, it gives people the opportunity to get to know me better. Sometimes people buy the artist more than the art. Is it scary to post your personal thoughts? Absolutely. I hold my breath every time I hit “publish”, but it’s a decision I made to do… yet, it wasn’t driving me the way it had before. I let myself get sidetracked. I missed it, but nothing really pushed me back to it, which made me wonder if it was worth keeping. That is, until I got a note from an incredible event planner with an event show in Seattle asking me if I would like to try live painting. She said she found me because of my blog post about live painting. Success.

Live painting? I only ever admired the idea. It was a little scary, but I agreed to try it. I showed up at the show as a vendor and absolutely loved it. Success. Now, with a new service I’m offering, I received interest from venues, planners, and brides and grooms. Success!

And finally, the last incredible piece of success I’m proud to share: by the end of this year I will have completed close to 55 original paintings. Granted, some were very small (6″x6″), but some were big (up to 48″). That’s an average of more than one painting per week. It was awesome and I can’t wait to progress from that every year.

Hope this inspires you somehow, or at least gets you thinking.

Baby steps, right?

The Question You’re Never To Ask An Artist (Supposedly)

11 Jul

When I was writing yesterday’s blog post Best Questions to Ask an Artist, I didn’t include one very popular question. I decided it needs it’s own moment while I express my unsolicited opinion. I want to share my thoughts on the question that every artist has been asked:

“How long did it take you?”

Ooo… a touchy question for many artists. I have pretty strong feelings about this one. Many artists seize up when they hear this question. One video-blogger said it’s the one question you should never ask an artist. Why? Because it’s assumed that if an artist didn’t spend that much time on a piece that it isn’t worth as much. That same video-blogger made the point that an artist could answer the question with how ever old they were when they finished the piece, because art involves life experience and exposure. Her point being that a piece of art isn’t completed in the hours, days, weeks, or years it takes to physically paint it, it involves a countless multitude of moments of creativity over the artist’s lifetime. Pretty good point! And I agree… to a certain extent. I think the same argument could be made for any piece of work that requires human involvement. For example, a businessman giving a presentation:

“How long did it take you to create this presentation?”

“My entire life.”

Hmm… it better be a damn good presentation.

My opinion? People aren’t asking this question to determine the worth of the piece of art. They are sincerely curious how long it takes to paint a piece like it. As an artist, I’m always surprised how many people “aren’t creative” or “don’t have a creative bone in their body”. It isn’t an intrusive question when they really have no idea how long it would take.

I know some artists argue that “non-creative” people have no idea what’s involved in creating art, so when an artist says “three days”, the worth of the piece is related to time instead of creative investment. This might be true… but they may also be very impressed that you’re able to complete something like that in three days.

Not that anyone has asked, but I feel that if an artist is so uncomfortable with this question, he or she just needs to learn how to answer it. It’s an inevitable question that will always be asked and the asker shouldn’t be condemned for it because, let’s be honest, it’s a legitimate question. And it isn’t common knowledge that it’s considered a “rude” question by some. I say get over it. Too many people are afraid to ask questions about art as it is without artists making up rules. There are no rules in art, remember? THAT being said…

I got asked this question a lot. I understand the way it sounds to people. But I found that an artist can educate people about the piece they are asking about at the same time the question is answered. They aren’t asking, “How many hours did you physically spend painting this?” They are asking, “How long did this take?”

Here’s my answer to my painting Chess, which took me the longest of all my paintings so far:

“Well, I started with a small sketch just to have an idea of what I was going for, then I set up a little photo shoot to get the perfect perception angle. The whole painting is done from a photograph I took of a chess board and pieces. The actual sketch of the board took me a couple days because it involved so much calculation to get the perception right. I had to redo it a couple times because even math failed me in a few spots. The painting took about three weeks of scheduled work, then about two more weeks of touch ups because the more I looked at it the more picky I got about the board.”

Sounds so much better than:

“About five weeks.”

Many artists seem to have the tendency to want to make it sound like they took longer to complete a piece.  Chess took me X amount of time, so it sounds like it should be worth about X amount of money. But on the other side of the coin… it took me five whole weeks to finish that thing??? There are artists out there who could complete that piece in less than one week! But the reality of it? I had to create it from nothing. It was a process and no one could’ve done it but me, which was clear in my explanation of how long it took.

“The dead chess piece didn’t originally have a crack in it.”

“The background wasn’t originally going to represent the kingdoms.”

“I nearly didn’t add the chess pieces because I liked the background so much.”

These are explanations I could throw in with my answer. Details balance the picture of what’s involved in a painting. Details explain why it took so dang long, OR how much longer it really took than the three days (give or take a year, right?) I spent painting Hangman.

So, to all my fellow artists who are afraid of the question “how long?”, I leave you with this one thing to remember:

“Details are an artist’s secret ingredients, but time makes it a recipe.”

I know, right? I make so much sense for an artist.

Best Questions to Ask an Artist

10 Jul

When I showed my art for the first time, I didn’t creepily keep to the shadows and quietly observe people while I frantically licked my lips. I didn’t sarcastically balk at someone’s inaccurate interpretation of my art. And I didn’t snub someone approaching me while I was so busy making sure people didn’t put their grimy fingers on my paintings…

No, I was right there, answering questions and explaining my thought processes. I was telling stories and engaging in conversation. Once I sensed someone was genuinely interested, I felt free to tell them whatever I thought they’d like to know. It was a learning experience for both sides. I learned how proud I am of my pieces. I learned that I enjoy inviting other people to share in the relationship I have with each one, simply by telling more about them. I learned how people react to my art before and after I’ve shared some insight. I also learned how much I’m okay with someone not liking my art (stupid idiots). But the best part? People’s questions.

The #1 question I received: “Are you the artist?”

What happened after that question was the interesting part. One lady said, “I thought so. You look like an artist.” Which I wasn’t sure how to take. Do I look dirty? Weird? Creative? But I just smiled and said, “That’s definitely helpful!”

One man said, “You must have some strange dreams.” Sometimes…

One particular man didn’t say anything, even when I said hi to him, and he stuck around for quite awhile. No facial expressions either. I might’ve creepily observed him. But I didn’t lick my lips. Well, maybe a little.

But mostly I got, “Beautiful work!” followed by a statement of which piece they liked the best. Always nice to hear.

 

More questions I received:

“What else can you tell me about this piece? I just love it.” (So nice!)

“Where did you study?” followed by, “That makes it even better.” (When I said I’m self-taught.)

“Do you paint with acrylics?” (When everything has a title card that says “acrylic on canvas”, this might’ve been a little forced.)

“Did you choose to hang him at dusk instead of dawn for a reason?” (This was in reference to my painting Hangman. So engaging! And though-provoking. I said “Well, we don’t usually play Hangman at dawn.” He laughed.)

“Would you paint a commission piece of an orca whale?” (Huh? Sure…?)

I’ve seen a lot of do’s and dont’s on artist blogs about what to ask artists. In my opinion, if you have a question, ask it. If you don’t have a question, just stare at the art, you might think of one. If you don’t, no worries, you don’t HAVE to ask a question. You can just compliment, or say nothing, sometimes just taking a moment longer to look at a piece says wonderful things to an artist.

Don’t like the art? That’s okay. Believe it or not it won’t hurt the artist’s feelings. He or she knows their art isn’t for everyone… no art is. Just fold your arms tightly and make grunting or heavy sighing noises as you make your way to the door.

 

Questions to Ask at an Exhibit (more specific to particular pieces):

How did you do that?

Is that an actual place?

What piece will be particularly difficult to part with?

Is this a new technique?

How did you come up with that title?

This seems to be a turning point in the series, am I right?

What inspired this piece?

How do you know a piece is finished?

 

Interview Questions (more about the artist):

What’s on your easel now? What are you working on?

How do you overcome an inspiration block?

When did you realize you wanted to pursue art?

How did you become an artist?

What did you do before you became an artist?

What’s your favorite piece of art you’ve purchased?

Do you hang your own art in your home?

Have you ever painted something you decided to keep?

What’s the greatest compliment you’ve received on your art?

What kind of relationship do you have with a blank canvas?

Coffee or tea?

What’s the difference between a good idea and a bad idea?

How do you know what to title an abstract piece?

How do you feel when someone interprets your work differently than you meant it?

What do you hope the public never finds out?

Intimate: Does it pay the bills?

Has art changed you?

What do you listen to while you work?

What’s the grossest drink after you’ve brushed your teeth?

What’s the most important item in your studio?

How do you keep from getting distracted while you work?

Do you ever censor yourself?  Have you ever started something but then decided it was too bold?

What’s next for you?

And the list goes on and on. There are SO many questions you can ask an artist. In fact, I may do sequential posts on this subject. So if you have any favorite questions to ask artists, or you are an artist and enjoy answering a particular question, please let me know! I’ll give you credit in my next post.

Check back for my upcoming post on a controversial question you’re supposedly never to ask an artist!

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