Category: Being an Artist

Just show up and try

After writing about fear last week, a friend reminded me that one thing creative people fear is rejection. This is definitely an issue for me and most creative people I know. Generally, creative people work alone in their studio, pouring their heart and soul into their latest creation. Some find support groups to critique their work and offer productive feedback. But, for the most part, the creative process is solitary.  Eventually you’re proud enough of what you’ve accomplished and declare the “masterpiece” is ready for human consumption.

It takes a lot of courage to put your work out there. When the art hits the public eye, the reality sets in. People will have a opinion; good or bad. You always hope for positive feedback, but you never really know. Some creatives are so worried about negative feedback, that they refuse to put their work out for anyone to see. Other’s have no fear and really don’t care what other people have to say. Rejection is difficult, but over the years I’ve become more confident dealing with it. I’m believe people who may reject my art, aren’t rejecting me.

When I’m looking at someone in the eye, I’m pretty those with negative feedback won’t tell me what they “really” think. For this reason, I like to eaves drop in on people when they view my work. Doing this I’ve overheard someone say what I made was “hideous!” Or there was a time when a woman critiqued the way I quilted something.  I was also shocked the first time a 30-something woman viewed my oil can quilt and pondered why my subject was toilet plungers. Her comment made me do a palm-plant to my forehead . “Oy!” (P.S. I later learned it’s was a generational issue.)

So how do you handle fear of rejection? I notice I’ve grown a greater tolerance to negative feedback and rejection. However, I don’t think the fear of rejection will ever completely go away. I try to accept the negative comments as just an opinion, because I can’t please everyone.  Sometimes after the hurt fades, I realize that the comments offered good ideas and give me inspiration for improvement. Above all, I’ve learned the best thing to do is just continue to show up and try.

What fear is holding you back?

Lately, I’ve been thinking alot about fear. I’m beginning to realize that it’s not an acceptable topic for adults to talk about. It seems like unless it’s a major crisis in someone’s life (death, illness, tragedy, etc) our sense of fear (anxiety) is not considered realistic. I don’t understand this because we all experience some fear in our lives.

Some people are fear junkies who live on the edge of life, jumping out of planes or climbing high mountains. Surely, they experience fear, because one false move could end their lives and they know it. These are hyper-adrenalin seekers. We view them differently because they do things so extreme, with apparently no fear. They are super-human. We might even ask them if they’re scared. They laugh with casual response like its nothing to walk across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope.

But what about the fear of making a change or doing something out of the ordinary for yourself? We often allow these “milder” fears to stop us in our tracks and give up on our plans.  Sometimes it’s scary to move on with a project, so why not just give up? We can settle back into our “comfort” zone and just ignore the desire which set us into thinking about a new opportunity.

I think it’s important to be open about our fears and discover why they may stop us. Sometimes we fear the unknown. Other times it might be fear of failure, success, or a simply fear of change. Generally, none of these fears are usually life threatening, but we allow them to cripple us from moving forward. Why is that?

What’s worse is when we speak of these fears, they’re acknowledged as trivial… “Oh honey, that’s nothing to be afraid about.”

I feel fear about some of the decisions I’ve made with my art. Recently, talking with some other artists, I realized I’m not alone. If we all experience it, why don’t we talk about it.

Fear can be a healthy part of self-development. For me, fear usually will either make me give up or make me fight harder. It all depends on my passion for the project and my desire to overcome the anxiety. I’m the only one who can decide. So, what fear is holding you back?

 

Find joy in the creating

This is part 2 of a 2 part blog series on creative inspiration. Read part 1 click here:
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Last week I shared a story about becoming inspired by an art exhibit where I connected with the other exhibiting artists. The same weekend I had an opportunity to display a SAQA Trunk Show at a local quilt shop, Cary Quilting Company. SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) is an international organization of art quilters consisting of over 3500 members in 39 countries. They have several “trunk shows” containing small art quilts which can be rented and displayed.

As the NC/VA Regional Co-Rep for SAQA and with the support of Cary Quilting, I brought the quilts to the shop. For 3-days, my friend, Christine Hager-Braun, and I sat watch over the quilts and invited shoppers to look at the artwork. The overall response from visitors was “this is amazing.” They were excited by the diversity of artistic expression.

Since the quilts measure only 10″ x 7″, visitors were a little surprised by how small they were and realized they “could” work that small. The smaller size seemed to minimize their angst about creating art. Quilts are usually pretty big and cost a substantial amount to make. Something this small seemed to liberate them to enter their “studios” and play.

I also met creative people who didn’t quilt and didn’t want to learn, but they saw the variety of techniques and became intensely inspired to explore fabric as a medium. One beautiful woman, came back a 2nd day to show me what she was inspired to create after seeing the exhibit. It was pretty amazing what she did. Her energy, gave me energy.

But then, sadly, there where others who implied they could “never do that.” I answered, “Why not? If you want to, you can.”

I realize through this opportunity, that the power to be creative is inside each of us. Because bad art happens, the issue is whether we are willing to push past our ourselves and create things that might stink. As Seth Godin puts it: “What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.”

For years, I was my own worst enemy. A few people who know me saw that intimidated dabbler. I held myself back for many years, until I decided that I was destined to share what I do. It is increasingly clear, that my goal as an artist is to inspire. I can encourage confidence in those doubting themselves, because I’ve been a doubter too. I realize we don’t have to allow a critic to stop us because, it is our own decision to accept the labels. Yes, we can reject them, if we choose to.

Because there are so many ways to express ourselves artistically, we shouldn’t try to replicate someone else. I say be open to learn, experiment and make bad art. If one style of expression doesn’t feel right, try another. Eventually, you’ll know that you’re on the right track, because you will find joy in creating.

 

Sometimes you’re the bug

One of my goals this month was to submit work for a couple “calls for entry.” This is the process where an organization is looking to create an art exhibit and “calls” out to artists to submit their pieces for consideration. When the entry deadline arrives, the organizers select pieces that will fit with their idea. For the artist, its a crap shoot. You pay your entry fee and enter your work, then wait. The response will either be yay or nay. You have to be ready for either answer.

Right now I’m waiting to hear from two. On one the call for entry closed a little while ago. The pieces I entered “I think” fit the theme. One was an older piece created a few years back.

I decided years ago that I would not make any artwork for a particular exhibit, unless it clearly fit with my style. This older piece was created before I learned the lesson. I made the piece for a collaborative exhibit. I struggled making it. I realize now that I didn’t connect with it and that created my conflicts. I was making something just to make something, just to get a piece into an exhibit. This month, when I submitted it to the call, it became more important because my collaborator was suffering with final stages of cancer. She died a few days ago, shortly after I submitted the piece for consideration. My fingers are crossed on this one, because it would mean so much to honor her with this exhibit.

The other call, literally has been “calling my name” since I heard about it. After wrapping up my exhibit “As Nature Speaks,” I had quite a bit of artwork with a nature theme. This exhibit is specifically seeking art with an environmental theme. “Ah…hello?… that’s what I do!”

I submitted 3 different nature-inspired quilts to this 2nd call. It took me several days to write the artist statements. What to say, wasn’t the hard part … fitting my thoughts into 1000 characters (to include spaces and punctuation) was the challenge. How could I sum up everything in so few characters?

I completed both tasks and can only hope that what I sent gets selected. I know the reality. There are a lot of great textile artists out there and we’re all competing for the same oportunities. The trick is to not feel so invested in the outcome. I’ve been on the selection side of the story and know that a rejection isn’t a reflection on me. In reality, it is likely is that there were just a lot of good art for them to consider. Whatever the outcome, I’ll remind myself that “sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.” (~Mark Knopfler)

 

Take it for granted

Last month, I mentioned that I was awarded a 2019 Regional Artist Grant through the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County NC. The grant funds are awarded to “provide financial support to a broad range of exceptionally talented visual, performing, literary and inter-disciplinary artists by funding a project that will have a significant impact on the advancement of their professional artistic career.” I am so honored to be recognized with this award.

I am also overjoyed with pride that this is the 2nd time I received this grant. As a grant recipient in 2016,  I was invited to show some of my work in an upcoming exhibit “Take it for Granted” a Regional Artist Grantees Exhibition at the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, in Fayetteville, NC. This exhibit features the art of grant recipients from the past 3 years. I’m excited to be a part of this event and have entered 5 pieces to exhibit. I’m looking forward to seeing the my work along side of other grantees who were also graced with this prestigious opportunity.

If you’re in the Fayetteville, NC  area, please consider visiting the Arts Council while the exhibit is hanging. I would love for you to see my artwork and that of my peers.

Take it for Granted
A Regional Artist Grantees Exhibition
January 25-February 23, 2019
January 25 – the 4th Friday Reception 7-9pm
Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County
301 Hay Street
Fayetteville, NC 28301

 

Good day

I’ve committed to some personal challenges this year. Last year I focused a lot of my time into making art for my solo exhibit. Now that that is behind me, I’m trying to make-up for some of the time I spent doing studio work. Its a good to spend time in the studio. However, now I have all this art in my possession, I need to get it out in the public and hopefully purchased.

This is the business side of making art, it is an entirely different skill set. Since the start of January (today is the 9th day), I have placed a collection of art work for sale into the hands of a local gallery. Two pieces were entered into consideration for an upcoming show. Five pieces were sent to the Fayetteville (NC) Arts Council for use in their exhibit opening January 25th. Three more are waiting on me to complete the finishing touches to submit to another call for entry with a deadline at the end of the month.

Its a little mind boggling to think that I have so many pieces of work, but that’s my outcome of 2018. Last year,  I dedicated the time to create. I’m still kind of struggling to get back into the swing of studio time, but I need to allow myself time to re-focus. The business stuff needs to get done too.

Being a professional artist is an ebb and flow of focus. You always have to keep an eye on short- AND long-range plans. You also have to keep your mind on the business at the same time you’re creating. Its a switch of left and right brain thinking. I feel a little awkward at times, like I’m on training wheels learning to ride a bike. There are always plenty of sudden starts and stops and collisions. However, each morning I remember that it is a new day. I have the opportunity to pick-up where I left off and start fresh with new vigor. Today is always a good day.

 

 

Venture into 2019

I’m finally starting the new year. Over the holidays things are usually pretty uneventful for us, however this past month was an exception. December started slow with me taking it easy following my solo exhibit in Cary, NC. It then quickly ramped up when I started the migration to my new computer. It took nearly 3 weeks to get everything working like I’m used to. During that time, I felt very disoriented while I tried to find new ways to do old tasks.

As I finished up with the computer, in came holiday events and a wedding. Today is the first day that I’ve been able to catch my breathe and work a full day.

This year I’m developing new classes, preparing some of my art work for sale at a local gallery, getting things ready for a group exhibit opening the end of January, and submitting entries into several exhibits with fast approaching deadlines. While juggling these things, I’m also getting ready to buy some new tools using the grant money I was awarded and preparing for a top secret project. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on this year.

I’m happy to say even with all this, I’m doing ok staying organized…especially now that I have my phone calendar synced with the new computer. In 2019 the game has picked up a few notches and its important for me to stay focused. Balance will be the key word for my year.

Through this upcoming year, I hope that you also find balance and sacred time to enjoy your creative journey! I stumbled on the following quote and thought I’d share it with you. It sums up my wishes for you as we all venture into 2019:

  • May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.   – Neil Gaiman

 

A lot to learn

I’m in the process of migrating “my life” from an old computer to a new one. I was once a self-professed computer geek. As a  web designer in the mid-1990’s, I was developing the web long before most people even had a computer in their homes. Oh how, I long for those simpler times. I can’t believe how complex things have become. I feel trapped to stay current, but greatly miss the simple decisions these migrations formally required.

I feel I’m being forced to replace programs I used to love because they have become cost prohibitive. Not too long ago, you could buy new software and use it for several years before feeling the need to upgrade. Then once you did, you could use that for a few years before the need to upgrade again. A good majority now require costly monthly or yearly subscriptions. I just can’t afford this right now.

As an artist, I rely heavily on my digital design skills. I edit photographs and create new designs with the aid of my PC. Even if I wanted to use the almost outdated graphic programs I own, my operating system upgrade won’t let me. As I migrate over to new programs that don’t require subscriptions, I’m forced to leave my comfort zone and learn new ways of designing. It’s challenging for sure.

I foresaw this day coming. So in early October, I decided to apply for an artist grant. I made a wish list of some of the new equipment that would help me draw my designs and patterns. The grant is funded through my state, earmarked for regional artists and administered through a local Arts Council. Last week I received notification that my grant proposal was fully funded for 2019. I am humbled and elated by the honor.

The learning curve on this software will be challenging, but I’m hoping it won’t take that long to develop new strategies to my design process. I’m sure I’ll be up and running full speed soon (I hope so anyway). Until then, I’ve got a lot to learn.

 

Who you are

And now the journey continues as I start preparing for the new year. So many great things on my agenda for early 2019. I feel very fortunate.

Before I get to 2019 (just a few weeks away), I’m working on obligations that need to be completed in 2018. Busy. Staying focused. In the past it was easy for me to jump from one thing to another, but I always felt like I was behind. I’ve decided that the new mission needs to be focusing on completing a task and then moving on to the next.

I did this with success this year as I put focus on the solo show. It has given me a body of work that I’m proud of. Without committing to this, I would never have gotten here. So this week, the plan is to finish another task. I have several proposals/submissions that I need to completed. One at a time they will get done. This is the best way for me to move forward. If two tasks can be combined into one, than that’s an extra bonus.

I am constantly reminded to be true to who I am; to include my values, goals and limits. Each life experience teaches me to listen to myself and learn. Are you listening to your inner voice?  Do you really know who you are?

Full of adventure

“Looking for Muir” © 2018
36.5″ x 51.5″
by Nanette S. Zeller

It was a long journey to get here, but now I can say I succeeded. My first solo exhibit is history. I can look at it all in retrospect. I’m thinking about the overwhelming amount I learned about myself, about creating and exhibiting art, and about the business of being an artist. It’s a lot of information I didn’t know starting out.  I feel  confident about moving forward, but there’s also a crazy amount of stuff I want to know.

With 2018 almost over and 2019 fast approaching, I’m feeling reflective. I know that I am fortunate and I try to be grateful for all the opportunities I have. My life started in January, so maybe that’s why I get so sentimental during this time of year. Each year is an opportunity to honor what I’ve done and look forward to what’s coming.

I have a laundry list of things I need to accomplish before the new year. There are some interesting opportunities opening up for me. There are things that I dreamed about and things that I’ve worked hard for. I’m looking forward to sharing all the details along the way. I slowly stepped off the exhibit train I’ve been riding and now I’m jumping onto the next boxcar full of adventure!