How do you get your groove back?

I went into the studio today, after taking about 3 weeks off. The space was still set up for the big craft fair I'd participated in, complete with a plastic Christmas tree and decorations. I immediately set to the task of breaking the holiday stuff down and rearranging the furniture back to it's functional position. After about a half hour, I was finished and ready to get to work. I looked around me, and immediately, my mind went blank! I had no idea what I should do. Should I paint? Should I draw? Should I check into social media? Should I prep my marbling tank? I was paralyzed by the options! I've spent the last week DYING to get back to work, and once I'm there and ready...nothing. Talk about a buzz kill. 

            My "happy to be back at work" smile - before the "oh sh!t, what do I do" feeling set in.

            My "happy to be back at work" smile - before the "oh sh!t, what do I do" feeling set in.

This isn't the first time I've had artist's block. It seems to happen each time I return from a break, and it lasts longer than I'd like. I've found that it helps me to sit and doodle for a day or two. It clears the cobwebs, and helps me flex my creative muscles a bit, until I'm ready to take on the heavy stuff. 

How do you handle getting back into the flow of work after a long break?

Mass Production and the Inevitability of Burn-Out

With the holidays upon us, and a huge craft fair rapidly approaching, I've been in mass production mode for the last few weeks - pumping out marbled ornaments and gift wrap like a machine! At some point in the past, I recall really enjoying making these things. The idea of my work taking it's place among treasured and collected tree ornaments, or carefully encasing a special gift for a loved one, is so romantic and exciting. I imagine the oooohs and ahhhhs as someone realizes their gift has been wrapped in one-of-a-kind, handmade paper. I'd certainly appreciate that level of thoughtfulness!

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But the business of making these things is something else entirely. It's a mental and physical work-out, spending hours at the tank, swirling my stylus through the same collection of colors over and over and over... I find myself tuning out my creativity in favor of speed and precision. I literally dream deliriously of marbled patterns for restless nights on end. I lose touch with my art, and that affects my mood and frankly, my self confidence. I feel like I've somehow failed myself, getting sucked into the "what will sell" world. 

So today, I called Uncle. I've made over 120 ornaments, and something like 80 sheets of marbled gift wrap. I may sell out, but enough is enough. The heaviness I felt went down the drain with my last batch of size for the year. Tomorrow, I plan to take the morning to snowshoe into the wilderness to cut down my Christmas Tree. It'll be a great way to "reset" my mind and move my body in ways other than swirling a stick. With the craft fair only about 10 days away, I've given myself time to prepare my booth/studio, set my prices, and maybe even make some real art! Sometimes, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to throw your hands up and call it a day!

First Time Showing My Work...In a Long Time!

They say you have to start somewhere, and I'm pretty darn pleased with where I'm starting! After just two months working as a full time artist (for the first time since Art School!), I'm having my artwork displayed in public! It's only a few pieces, and it's in a bakery cafe - an AWESOME bakery cafe - but I couldn't be more thrilled. Well, maybe I could be more thrilled, if I sold some work.

The work you see here belongs to myself and my studio-mate, Kelly, of Kelly Thiel Studio. Kelly is an incredible sculptor who also makes beautiful mixed media paintings. She sells her work in galleries around the country and I am proud to have her as a friend and mentor.

Our work can be seen at Fearless Baking in Bend, OR, where it will be on display for the holiday season! For more information on Fearless, visit their website at: Fearless Baking. They are having a big event this Thursday called, Taste of Thanksgiving, where they'll be offering samples of their holiday treats, beer and wine, discounts on holiday orders and of course, our artwork! If you're local, try to make it down between 4-7pm.

Finally, it's my time.

It's been a long time coming. I used to think that all I had to say was that I had a degree in Fine Arts, and somehow, this one credential would make me a bonafide fine artist. Over a decade later, I see that Art School did not make me an artist, my experiences, successes and failures have. I've failed many times in my artistic career, but in some ways, I've never failed at all. Over the past decade+, I've been adrift in the sea of life's choices. Having been fortunate enough to have a husband with a steady income, who can support our family, I've been able to dabble in whatever creative expression I choose. I tried being a photographer for awhile, but it never really spoke to me. Then I moved on to jewelry design, which I found isolating. I always painted, illustrated and explored the latest DIY project, but never took anything seriously. In a way, the non-urgency around my career has made me a bit lazy and directionless. I haven't had to push myself, intellectually or creatively, and as such I've fallen victim to artistic atrophy. Until a big move and lifestyle adjustment changed everything!

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Recently, our family relocated from the Bay Area of California to small-town Bend, OR. It was a multi-faceted decision, which involved finances, family and lifestyle. We had no idea what sort of transformation would take place nearly immediately after moving. In California, you need to be busy. Busy working, busy raising kids and shuttling them from activity to activity, lest you be outdone by your peers. It's an exciting, but exhausting lifestyle that leaves one with not much time to ponder the direction of their life. But in those rare, quiet moments of contemplation, my husband and I realized that we were simply surviving and though we could easily stay happy in the superficial sense, our growth as creative people was stunted.

Fast-forward a few months, and here I sit, in my own studio space in the Arts District of Bend, Oregon - a serendipitous find we stumbled upon in our first weeks here. I'm surrounded by fellow creatives. I come to work at least three times a week and have endless projects to tackle, shows to prepare for, and inspirations to pursue. My creative fire has been lit by this amazingly ingenuitive community of makers and designers and artists. I just want to sling paint!

So welcome to this new and exciting chapter of my life. I can't guarantee that this is what I'll be doing until the end of my time. But I will tell you that I have found my purpose and I have found direction...and my credential has nothing to do with it.