Category: Being an Artist

You won’t regret it

I’m so happy to see nice weather. These past few months have been a challenge in North Carolina. Today makes 3 continuous days of sunshine. I think this is a record for this year. My windows are open and birds are singing. Spring marks a time of renewal and growth.

Do you ever take time to think about your own growth? Do you ever feel stuck? Sometimes I do. That’s usually when I want to try new things. It could be all I need is to take a class or read a new book. I just find it important to keep trying, keep being involved and keep learning.

I’m approaching an age when most people start to settle down. Their kids are grown and they retire from their jobs. People handle this change of life in different ways. Some look forward to sitting home and some seek travel. Creative people frequently look forward to more free time for their artistic endeavors.

I guess as we age, we find more time for our interests. We’re less wrapped into the drudgery of being a money-making machine or raising a family. I hope whatever age you are, you seek what you love. Many of us face health issues later in life. So, waiting until you retire to enjoy life may add limitations to what you can do.

As we move from spring into summer, no matter what you’re age, I hope you stop a minute to think of what brings you joy. Then, find time for yourself and your passion, you won’t regret it.

One step at a time

A week ago today, I was in Cleveland, Ohio. Although I grew up in Chicago, I don’t remember ever visiting Cleveland. I’ve heard it is a fabulous city, great art museums, restaurants, hotels and, of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On this trip, I didn’t get to see any of it. I was escorted directly from the airport to a outlying suburb for a visit K & S Productions studios.

This trip was the apex of the past 6 weeks where I’ve been preparing to film 4 segments of the Quilting Arts TV (QATV). I shipped my quilts ahead and carried 2 suitcases on the flight. One was full of clothes…4 segments means 4 changes of clothes. The other was filled with supplies to demonstrate my techniques.

I’ve been watching QATV since it started. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every episode. So you can imagine my excitement when they asked me to be be part of the series. It was surreal to walk on set to see all the familiar props juxtaposed with all the filming equipment. I had no idea there were so many moving parts. In order to save time, they want us to film in one take…which isn’t always possible, but that’s the goal. You plan your segment to be no more than 12 minutes.

I arrived a day early so I could get comfortable with everything. I’m glad I did because I really got to enjoy the company of everyone there. They were so professional, kind and supportive. They all were dedicated to making the “guests” look good. Of course there was the host, Susan Brubaker-Knapp, and Vivika DeNegre, editor of Quilting Arts Magazine. There was also Kristine, associate editor of Quilting Arts and Jeanne from Bernina who helped us prepare. Besides the film/editing crew from K&S there was also Kathie, producer and Katherine, production coordinator. It was a smoothly operated production that made this newbie feel at ease. I have only been on TV once before…with all their help, I was much better prepared this time.

The morning of the filming was make-up time. This was another first for me. I have never had my make-up done by anyone. Looking at myself in the mirror, I looked like I had a face-lift. I could get use to this…

My first segment had me a bit shaky…but all went well without any “major” glitches. The other 3 have become a somewhat of a blur in my memory. But I do have the memories of being in the “greenroom” with the other guests on the show. I have found new friends among these talented textile artists, Julie Basseches Booth, Patty Kennedy-Zafred, Deborah

Fell, and Sherry Lipman McCauley. It’s fun how you connect with people when sharing similar experiences.

Three of my segments will air on PBS (or Create TV) this fall (2019) and one will air next spring (2020). I look forward to seeing the episodes. They tell me I didn’t appear nervous…so I’m banking on that outcome. For now, I’m preparing for what comes next; I have some plans I’ll share with you soon!

Reflecting on this journey I’m reminded: How do you climb that mountain?… One step at a time.

 

You’ve got this

Last week in my blog, I remembered the little girl I used to be. Part of my reason for looking back in time is because I continue to move forward. Today I am opening up a new chapter in creative my life. I don’t know where this will lead me, but I know I am doing something that I often thought about doing (I’ll tell you more next week).

In the past I wondered, why can’t I do this? Maybe it wasn’t the right time, maybe I really wasn’t ready. Anyway I look at it, I realize it’s been a long journey since that little girl was finger painting in kindergarten. What’s next? I have some ideas but what’s the rush?

I want to take some time and reflect on my journey. Sometimes we set milestones, but when we reach them we don’t take the time to appreciate where we are or how we got here. We always seem to rush onto the next step. But, really, how did I get here? I didn’t roll out of bed yesterday and suddenly make this decision. I realize it’s been a very long road full of trial, error and learning. Sure there’s been some set-backs along the way, but even on my darkest days, I was always moving forward.

Think about where you are in life. Even if there are things in life that you’re wanting, I bet there are plenty of things you can appreciate about where you are right now. I say congratulations!! because you made it to today. Nothing has stopped you from moving forward. I bet you had days that were worse than today and some that were better. You’ve worked hard to get here and there’s more to come. Don’t give up now. You’ve got this!

Play day

Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are a creative spirit. You may not create your own things, but I’m sure you at least admire the creative process in others. Maybe you’re trying to be more creative on your journey or maybe you’re a professional trying to make a living with your art. Since, I don’t know for sure, I’m just going to believe that you have that creative spark.

I speak of being creative, not just making “art.” Art is often interpreted as a final product; a painting, photograph, music, or prose. A lot of people are intimidated about producing, but would still consider themselves creative. Maybe you doodle, sketch, knit/crochet/embroider, or simply have a good eye for home decor. You have a creative spirit.

What does it mean to be creative? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’ve realized it is the core of my being. I am at my best when I’m making. Through some self-evaluation, I also realized that this creative energy I have is not something I just developed. It is something I was born with. What is your earliest creative memory?

My earliest creative memory was when I was in preschool (back then it was called “Head Start” and Kindergarten). I remember the school, I remember the day the teacher pulled out the easels. I remember when we (see photo) were allowed to finger paint on the “big” paper tablets. I chose red and yellow paint and did my finest abstract rendition. I remember being proud. I remember saying, “I’m going to call it Ketchup and Mustard!” I remember that little girl, who didn’t always have it so easy. I realize my creativity has gotten me through alot and continues to drive me today.

I think of you today. You’re also creative, right? Do you remember the young creative you? Do you allow the creative you to come out and play? Just thinking…maybe it’s time we let the kid inside have a play day.

Listen, learn, be kind and connect.

I gave a presentation yesterday using a SAQA Trunk Show to guide the participants in understanding/appreciating art. There were 57 mini art quilts in this show and nearly 80 people in the room. From table to table, we passed stacks of 5 or 6 around the room. The participants were instructed to closely look at each quilt and critique them.

To critique doesn’t mean criticize. When we look at art we should make it a challenge NOT to make quick value judgment of “good” or “bad.” We should be specific about what we see or feel. General terms like “pretty,”  “busy,” or “I don’t like it,” don’t explain what’s really happening. When viewing art, if we find a point of connection we can better explain how we’re reacting to it. Some questions to ask are:

  • How does it make you think or feel?
  • What does it remind you of?
  • What draws you in or pushes you away?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by the concept the artist is trying to portray?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by their method of execution (how they created it)?

We also need to be generous and empathetic when we make our comments. Even though the artists may not be in the room with us, try to find what’s good about the art. Always remember that it takes courage to put your artwork out there for others to see.

The best way to learn about art is to take time to look closely at it. I instructed the participant to really study each piece for awhile, then flip it over to read the artist’s statement on the back. You can learn a lot about the artist’s vision by reading the artist’s statement. After they read the statements, I asked them to look again at the quilt to see if their opinion changed. After they viewed each one in the stack, I asked them to share their thoughts: What was their favorite or least favorite and why? Did they find connection?

I enjoyed hearing their feedback. Art is subjective. Something I like may not appeal to you, but either way I can connect to it when I take time to understand what I’m looking at. I can also connect to the people I’m with by listening to their opinions of what they see. Sounds like a lesson for life: listen, learn, be kind and connect.

 

Tomorrow offers new opportunity

I’ve been riding a mix of feelings the last couple weeks and I’m wondering, how do you judge a good day from a bad one? Does any one event crush you to a point of writing the entire day off as bad? I’m know there are instances that could be that bad, but for the most part I try to focus on what’s good (operative word: “try”). This is what helps me get through difficult days.

Earlier this year, I entered 2 different juried art exhibits and heard from both this past week. The first one was a win. My artwork was accepted into the Sacred Threads 2019 exhibit. This exhibit is about textiles artists of all faiths connecting to the sacred and/or sharing their expression of the spiritual journey. Two years ago, I also was selected to be in this biennial exhibit and had the opportunity to go see it. This entire exhibit speaks to me. I’m extremely happy to be in this show.

Yesterday, I received the other notification which wasn’t so rewarding. This exhibit spoke to me from all levels of my journey of being an artist and sharing my connection with nature. All 3-pieces I entered were rejected. I was quite worried about entering this one, because acceptance would place me on another level of professionalism. I was extremely anxious about making sure the entry was spot-on and I didn’t make any mistakes (which could potentially get me eliminated). You know what? Even with all that anxiety about entering, I’m very OK that I didn’t get accepted. This rejection isn’t about me personally. It is about a pool of fabulous artists all trying to get their shot. Someone has to sit on the sidelines in this “game.”

Some days it’s difficult to reflect on what’s positive in our lives, but there always is something. I think putting the best that you have into an entry, then receiving a rejection can be difficult. I’ve been there, but I remind myself there’s something else down the road. This moment of disappointment is only temporary. When I feel myself in a pity party, I remind myself that tomorrow offers new opportunity.

 

See my artwork at:

Sacred Threads July 11-28, 2019, Herndon, VA

Everything is so temporary

Have you ever noticed how quick things change? When we’re living a routine life, we go through the motions and it frequently feels like we’re sitting still. We get up walk through our day and tomorrow it is another one of the same. Then there are times when we have big events to look forward to. You know, like the vacation of your dreams or milestones like waiting to get married or have your child (or grandchild). We wait with anticipation and then, almost suddenly, it seems like we’re looking backward remembering “when.”

I’ve been noticing this a lot. Maybe it’s an age thing. I remember waiting to go to the Grand Canyon. I was so excited for this new opportunity and now I’m looking backward on the trip that was 2 years ago. Every second of that trip was in my mind when it happened and now my memory is forgetting the details. I feel this way about my exhibit last year. I spent 2 years anticipating it and now I’m somewhere else anxiously anticipating the next thing.

I was reminded of this feeling on Monday. I was at the Fayetteville Arts Council to pick up my artwork from the “Take it for Granted” exhibit which hung this past month. As I packed up my art work, I got to take one last look of one of my pieces, “Tres Dominae Lagerstroemia”  (3 lady crepe myrtles). That piece meant a lot to me, I remember the excitement of making it and exhibiting it at Eye Candy Gallery. That was a beautiful exhibit. On Monday there it hung in another gallery, with the tell tale red sticker… sadly, it doesn’t belong to me anymore.

I took one last look, one last picture and said good-bye. For me it represents life in general. Everything is so temporary.

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.