Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Taking A Break

It is good to take a break. People take breaks from everything. We get breaks at work, we take a breather, it goes to show that even if we are working on things we like we need breaks. It isn't just about wanting a break, but needing on. We are living breathing creatures, and our bodies as well as our minds need a break every once in a while. Otherwise we would just burn ourselves out unable to cope with the continuous strain.We sleep every night, we take vacations, and in fact we have a tendency to schedule our whole year around the breaks that we take.

I have been working pretty hard at my art for quite some time now. I love my art, but even that has its limits. My imagination seems to be broken, (Whenever my imagination seems broken this is all I can think about:  beef stew.) The other day when I sat down to think about why I have been having trouble coming up with new stuff, I realized that it has been months since I have really taken a break from work. My kitchen table has been cluttered up with art stuff for so long I don't really remember when I last saw it all cleared.

I am pretty regular at working out. I may hate even though I know it is good for me, and whenever I am working out I reflect constantly on the week I take off of my routine, and that only comes around after a 6 week period. But I don't really ever look forward to taking time off of my art. I stay dedicated and happy with the work the entire time. I really only realize that I need to take a break when my imagination starts to shut down. I would love to keep working on this stuff non stop, and if it weren't for my brain failing me I don't think I ever would stop working on my art. It is just too much fun for me to keep creating so long as the ideas keep coming.

Sadly, though I ran out of creative juices this last week. I have resigned myself to the fact that I need to take a break from my art. I don't really think I could stop creating all together. In my effort to stay active despite my artistic vacation, I have decided to start building myself a piñata for my birthday. I have been wanting to make one for ages, and with my birthday coming up it seems like the right kind of diversion to reset my imagination.

I used to have a most active imagination when I was working in data entry jobs. The work was mindless and my hands were busy so my brain could wander in infinite space creating and imagining for hours. There are now many more things in my life to tug at my brain and pull me from the world of imagination. This pinata will keep my hands busy so that my mind can get the chance it needs to wander the in vast landscape of my imagination and find new ideas to play with.

I don't have any tips or tricks to resetting my imagination, and making ideas come when things are broken down in there. What I do know is that when I take a break from my work, and come at it again my imagination comes back fully rested and ready to make something new. There is no reason to think that you are a failure because you cannot come up with something new, you just need to let your creative mind have the rest that it needs, because our minds just like our bodies need rest.

Your mind is just like any muscle, if you don't use it regularly to come up with creative ideas its creative capability becomes weak. You are never not creative, the muscle doesn't just disappear because you don't use it to just loses mass.  You just need to give it a rest and come back to it again building up its strength with use. Don't neglect the creative muscle, but also don't try to over extend it, either of those will only end in break down. The best thing to do is to use your creativity regularly but also take breaks before you completely burn out.

Now back to my piñata. I have some paper-mache to mix up.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I don't want to change

I don't know why I am so resistant to change sometimes. I have a way of doing things, and I like my little systems for getting things done. I used to get critiques all of the time when I was in school. People would push me to go outside of my box, and try new styles and techniques of work that would open me up to new discoveries in my artistic practice. It is always good to be willing to change. Making changes in how we work, is the only way we can make improvements. The only way to make things better is to make changes.

It is like that saying goes, "Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If I use the same techniques and procedures to do all of my work forever; I will no longer be improving my work, and eventually will no longer be relevant.

Despite all of this I am still often resistant to change. I am a creature of habit and feel comfortable in my life of ritual. I have had pointers and suggestions about my work from several different sources, but I have been unwilling to change. I think it comes down to two things.

The first reason that I may be resistant to change is that I am lazy. I like the way that I do things. It is easy to repeat the same procedures on every art piece that I am working on, then that way I don't have to try as hard to produce something. Also the suggestions that I have received are more labor intensive than what I have been doing previously. Why should I do more work for an end result when I could just do it the easy way? This is no way to think because a better process cannot be found if I am unwilling to try a new things.

The second reason for my resistance is that my creative mind seems to be dead lately. I mean I have a list of projects that I want to work on, but they are all things that I have been doing. I will finish them, because they are what I want to do, but when it comes to working on something new none of my ideas have been able to come together into something that I can actually make. I get these hints of an idea but nothing that is strong enough yet to form the basis of a new piece.

I don't know what to do about this mental block I have against this new process. I have been waging a battle against the artist's block that has been holding me back for weeks. The only reason that I have been able to keep working is, because when I was still able to grasp things from my imagination I wrote them down and have stored up ideas to keep working on. The thing is that if I continue to battle with my creativity like I am right now I am going to run out of things to work on.

If I get the the point where I don't have anything left on my list of projects then I will become inactive. When I don't have any active projects I stop working, and go into my lazy depressed phase and don't work on anything for months.

What I need is to figure out a way to implement the suggestions people have made into my work. I need to take these things and run, use them to inspire my next pieces of art. This will kill two birds with one stone. I will be able to avoid falling into the lazy inspiration-less pit of depression, and I will be able to implement the changes to the work that will improve it. I just have to work harder at finding my next inspiration so that I can get onto making these changes.

Though I don't have any strategies to defeating a creative slump. If I keep working at it I usually come up with something.  If only beating your head against the wall actually worked to help you come up with ideas. Oh, well inspiration will come and if it doesn't I will just have to do creative exercises to make them come. One way or another I will keep moving forward.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Many thanks

I have quite recently started teaching art to a kid in my area. It kind of just happened, and I am making up lessons on the fly with not real curriculum. The classes are informal and take place at my kitchen table where I do all of my own art, but it is kind of fun.

Getting ready to teach each week has made me reflect on lessons I had when I was learning how to draw and do art. It has also made me thankful for all of the art teachers I have had through the years. I don't really think I would have discovered my love for art without out them.

I have one teacher in particular that I am especially grateful for. She taught outside of school like I am with this kid. I learned things that no in-school art teacher would have ever gotten to. She was and is still an actual practicing artist. I learned from someone who makes art that I admire. It was great to gain insight that is so fundamental to my own art practice.

The most important thing that she taught me was how to see. She taught me the difference between symbols we use to communicate and the lines of the real world. In our lessons she broke me out of the habit that most people never break, that compulsion to draw with symbols rather than drawing with their eyes. I am a very logical person and at times it can be quite difficult for me to see real life through the symbols that permeate our lives. Up until the point in my life where I had that lesson, I had always thought that I didn't posses the skill to become an artist. I thought the most creative thing I could do was write. I was pretty sure that I would end up doing some kind of average desk job.

I have leaned to see the shapes of things. I have learned the difference between the weird almond shape that has a circle inside it that is a symbol for a eye and what a real eye looks like. I didn't know what I was doing when I was learning these lessons. They were just assignments. She managed to teach us without us realizing just what it was that we were learning. Now that I know what she was teaching I am eternally grateful for these lessons.

With the new objective I have to teach another how to draw, I feel like I can actually do this. She prepared me so well with the fundamentals of drawing and the lessons she taught me were simple enough I feel like I could easily pass on this learning to others. She broke down the concept of drawing so well for me that I feel like anyone could learn to draw if they had the desire to.

I am so thankful for the gift she gave me, that I have learned how to express myself through art. I don't know that I could ever express to her how much I appreciate this skill in my life. Though I may not ever see her again I just needed to share my gratitude for her lessons. I would not be the person I am today if I had never attended her classes. They became the direction of my life and continue to help me as make my way through this world.

I don't know who I would be without art, but I am thankful for what it has done for me in my life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Life Lessons

I have spent the last couple of weeks preparing for my first craft show. Since actually being at the fair this weekend I have learned a few things. There are so many things I have learned, some of which don't apply to my work, I cannot put them all down, or even account for all of them now that I have time to sit down and think about it I am have listed the most important.

I would like to start with the most important thing I learned this weekend. People like my work. Having spent the last couple of months struggling with self doubt, lack of feedback from customers and viewers, and low sales has made me think that maybe I was creating a product that people didn't appreciate. It was great to have people walk past my booth and smile. Since the nature of my work is quite humorous it was fun to see people do a double take of my art laugh and then move in to see more. Even though I am for the most part an introvert it was also nice to get a little attention for my work from people other than family and friends. I didn't even care if the person bought anything in the end. I felt happy just getting to see their reaction to my art. Learning that people liked my art made me want to continue on with this venture. My faltering confidence has had the boost it needs to keep going on.

I have also learned about the cost of a craft fair. I won the booth, which was great because I had a substantially smaller amount to compensate for in trying to make a profit. When talking to the other venders I learned that this fair in particular may not have been the best place to go to get sales. Some of the people there were estimating that only %40 of the vendors there were even going to earn back the cost of the booth in sales. I got lucky enough that not only did I make up for my over head but had I actually paid for the booth I would have broken even.

Apparently you have to do research before you decide to be a vendor at a craft fair of any kind. Some fairs are better than others. Some fairs are more expensive than others. There are some that are pricey and you don't make your money back, while others are pricey but you get way more sales than you would at a cheap one. There are also cheap ones that make no money. There are topic specific fairs, I was just at the Oddmall you know for weird stuff. I also got invited to sell at a SciFi convention, and a Steam Punk fair. Before I decided to do another fair (that is if I decided to do this again) I need to be sure that I am selling in a fair that attracts the kind of people that would be interested in my product, and is also popular enough that I will get enough buyers to make up for my costs.

The traffic at a fair is different than internet traffic. On the internet I feel like the shear mast of information and product available in one place, and the number of views you have to get before you get a sale or even a "like" is vastly higher than what you have to do in person. Based on my observations of people,  (I am an avid people watcher. Being a vendor offered me a great opportunity to sit and watch people) the fact that they left their house to come see stuff in a craft fair has already narrowed down your audience to people interested in at least seeing your stuff. Also people who have left the house are more willing to spend money, and they give your product more viewing time than what they would have done online. I tried to used my numbers from my Etsy shop to estimate how much product to bring with me. It turns out that I considerably underestimated the interest I would have in my booth. I probably would have made more sales if I had come with more product. Because as it turns out people who would have made an impulse buy at a craft fair, are also the people who will not really look at your site after they go home even if they say that they will. (Though it may still be too soon to tell on those numbers. I can only base it on what I have seen so far.)

The last lesson I learned is the most specific to my work. I have been targeting the wrong audience with my blog features and reach-outs. Somehow I have been reaching out to blogs and sites that get more traffic from the teen nerd girl. What I have learned is that though they truly appreciate my art they don't really have a use for it. They like to look at my pictures online but don't really have any kind of motivation to buy. In the end I actually made more sales to adults and in particular men. Adults have things like homes that they have to decorate. They also have stuff like money with which to pay for things. Two positives when it comes to selling art.

Guys also tend to like funny things more than girls. My booth was right next to a booth decorated as a bakery selling plushies shaped like donuts and had little kitten faces on them. Girls and women would stop all day at this booth and fawn over these cute little things while their male counterparts would stand there for the most part uninterested till they saw my booth. It was funny actually to watch Dads pull kids and husbands draw wives away from these stuffed kitty pastries to look at art. I need to find these people online. If I want to draw people in without having to do another fair I just have to find where these guys hang out when they are on the nets.

Though I don't know if I will be doing any more of these fair, I have gained a ton from the experience. Much of which I can implement without having to do another fair. I hope that I can follow through with all of this new information to improve my sales and find my success without having to pay for all of the overhead that comes with working a fair.