The 5 Keys to Making Art You Love

The 5 Keys to Making Art You Love

For the longest time, the idea of making a body of work and really embracing the idea of being an artist was just overwhelming for me. I have always done creative stuff. Not just little crafts. I would take art classes and learn some intensive techniques like metalsmithing, bookmaking, lampwork beads, or ceramics. And I had always hung out in art communities. But I never really dove in to creating a body of work. I was an art major in college. How did I not really understand how to make a body of work? It was as if I thought that learning complex creative techniques would somehow give me license to consider myself an artist. And maybe just by the nature of how I used my visual language communicate ideas, did give me license to call myself an artist. But I had nothing of substance other than a couple of successful projects to show for it.

Once I found my medium in fiber art, I kind of felt I really still did not understand where I was falling short in terms of how and what I was making as an artist. Even as I started UrbanGypZ I was not really producing something cohesive that I felt like I could stand behind as really art. It is one thing to be a professional knitter, dyer and hand spinner, but I am not sure I would consider any of those things (outside of the the actual business) a body of work. I found little clues to my own style in the materials(the yarn and the fiber) I was creating. But, actually making a real body of fiber art work– one that I felt was cohesive, had substance and considered my personal style–took a really long time for me to come to terms with and produce.

Here is what I figured out: Being an artist doesn’t have much to do with talent (which by the way is subjective) or even what you are making. It actually is all about consistency and confidence using your visual language. Today I am going to share with you what I have found to be my 5 keys to actually making art I love and am proud to stand behind.

Make art a priority. I am the first to admit, I will often bump my studio time for random everyday errands. But, I have to say, the first thing that HAS to happen when you are really, really ready to start making some art is you MUST show up. Seriously. Get the calendar out, slug out some non-negotionable time, and start saying no to anything else. This shit is not going to make itself. Get in the studio.

Make a lot of the same thing. It is so easy to just cycle through a series of techniques and consider yourself a craftsman. Don’t get me wrong trying techniques and playing with ideas is important and fun. But, what if you take time to explore an idea deeply–doing the same thing over and over, until you feel you have really mastered the technique and it becomes second nature. The next step would be to make tiny adjustments and add small details that bring your personal style to this body of work. The artists whose work I can identify, are the ones who have made a lot of the same or similar things over and over. With each exposure to their work, their style becomes recognizable. I remember the artist and may even seek out their work.

Stay curious. While making a lot of the same thing, you also need to continue to give your work room to grow and evolve. Inspirations are born out of feeding your curiosity. “What if” is the best thing you can ask yourself in terms of growing your work. Be curious enough to take a chance on trying new versions of your work. It is okay if you decide these ideas are not right. There are really no mistakes. It is all information and will most likely lead you to the next “what if” moment. This is what growing your work is all about.

Don’t overthink, just do. It is easy to fall into the trap of measuring your work against other’s– worrying how your art will be perceived and judged. This can be one of the biggest creativity killers. Get out of your head and judge your work only by how you perceive it in your heart. Do you feel a little flutter when you stand back to really look at your work? Do you find yourself thinking “oh hell yes”. When your share your heart, anything you make is a million time better than working off your fear of how your work will be perceived.

Show your work. Just do it. Even if it is only with your friends. Actually…share your work especially with your friends. I know this is outright contradicting point number 3. There is no explaining why this will make you a better artist other than to say, the people who know you the best, will see you and your heart in your work. AND…they will also call you out when your work does not ring true.

Being an artist is not an endpoint, but a never-ending process. Looking back I can see that even the doubt and dissatisfaction I had, was all a pert of the journey. And from what I can tell will continue to be.

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My Creative Emergency Toolkit

My Creative Emergency Toolkit

I have been avoiding my weaving. Really. I have scheduled so many weaving days in the last month and just don’t do them. It is not that I am losing the weaving love…in fact I am really excited about the stuff I have made so far. It is really more like I am feeling a lot of self induced pressure to make something even more awesome. So I just avoid it all.

Here is the crazy thing…I think my new obsession with clay has totally saved my weaving log jam. Here’s how it all went down:

After months of searching for a much more attractive solution to for hanging my wall weavings, I created a series of wall tile headers to sew them onto. Once glazed and fired, I pulled out all my old weavings to match them up to my new tiles. I was surprised to find myself noticing how subtly my work has evolved. I also found so old techniques I am wanting to go back to. But new/old ideas aside… I found it most amazing to realize that my work has progressed without my even noticing it. And it did so because I was not in a place of pressure to innovate innovate innovate. The evolution happened through the steady work of being in the moment of turning my favorite colors and textures, inch by inch, into fabric.

Art is still happening when you work from exactly where you are in the moment of using your visual language doing what you love.

All those daily inspirations happen far easier when you just don’t overthink it… and I am living proof that it is much easier to say than do.

Because this is not the first time I have experience this particular creative log jam, I decided it was time to build an emergency plan to have on hand when this particular creative/motivational block comes up. Here it what mine looks like:

 

Take some self care time to check in and see if there is some underlying issue I am just not seeing. Sometimes it is burnout, sometimes it is another unrelated stress I am avoiding. Sometimes I just am physically not feeling well. Most of the time I am just overthinking it. But it does not hurt to really check in to make sure I am not missing an all together different concern to be addressed. Often it is as simple as taking a walk on my neighborhood greenway. Or even taking a nap.

Using my essential oils. Y’all know I love my oils. My diffuser runs 24/7. I only use Young Living Essential Oils because I love the purity and they work so well for me. My favorite way to use my oils is to help me through this very kind of emotional issue. My go to oils when I am feeling motivationally/creatively blocked are Present Time, Envision, Motivation, and Clarity. I will sometimes add Valor II if I am feeling insecure, and Stress Away if I am fighting some everyday crazy outside of the studio.

Set up my space. When the motivation is iffy, damn straight my space needs to be über inviting with snacks and beverages, a good movie or music, and my favorite tools in place. Sometimes I might add some of my favorite non tool items, like my favorite rocks and crystals, a plant. It is almost like arranging my living room…or better yet creating an sacred space with tiny alters.

Journaling time. It also helps me to flip through my art journal, add a little bit of work even start a new page.

Schedule my studio time. Sometimes I need a day or so to mentally clear time to focus. That studio time does not have to be very long either. Sometimes an hour or two is just fine.

Plan on working on more of the same. This part is huge… when I am feeling overwhelmed, to keep moving with my work, sometimes I just need to take baby steps. AND there is absolutely no shame in making more of what was awesome. Many many  famous artist spent lots of time painting the same thing over and over allowing the tiny innovations to surface naturally as they work. So, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I am going to just pick one simple look to recreate. Keep it simple.

I am even going to make myself a paper reminder to hang on my notes board. My creative block cheat sheet. So, what kinds of things would you put on your creative block emergency plan? Would you use some of the same steps? Do you have some favorite creative self care tips? Leave me some comment love below or share them in the Fiber Art Collective. Not in the Collective? Sign up below.

 

 

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Getting back to the art journals

Confession time….I have fallen hard off the art journaling.

While I would like to be able to say I am one of those people who can not live without her paper brain, lately that just has not been the case. I have always admired the sketchbooks of artists who are constantly working in them, Those books are a work of art in and of them selves. And I have seen first hand in the Graphic design industry, how those journals have helped some of the most successful creatives in the industry grow their work. Those journals are how they process ALL their ideas into form. It is how they keep their creative brains limber. It is where they let their creative ideas play and grow without judgment or outside influence.

I find artists are pretty polarized when it comes to working their ideas out on paper. I once taught a college level design class and required the students to keep sketchbooks as well as provide thumbnails and roughs of their work. Half the students hated going through the documentation process, thinking it was wasting creative time. The interesting thing was it took those students more time to do the work, and they did not have a reference to refer back to for future projects.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been in a much needed creative flow. Finally settled into a routine in my new town, with an amazing new studio resource available to me, I am awash with so many ideas right now. I am so grateful and it i like a breath of fresh air after 2 years of stagnation while we sold our house and moved. But alas, my ideas are scattered among so many tiny little notebooks. It is time to wrangle those into one place. Here are some of the things I need to document

  • I am on the edge of a new body of work with my weaving integrating my new love of clay
  • I have been in the thick of a LONG website overhaul and with each page I start to rework, I find 3 more pages that need to be redesigned or created altogether.
  • I am developing a series of dyeing tutorials and will have copious notes
  • I am making clay stuff and have so many new ideas I just can not keep up with them all.

 

I have an art journal that I started last fall that has been shaping up very nicely. I am loving all the pages so far. Liking them enough to be afraid to actually write  on them! I have added quite a few pockets, not just because I have written my notes in other notebooks, but because I am kind of afraid to mess up my book.

BUT…If I were working in my journals on a much more regular basis than I would be less afraid of messing up.

So if I understand why journals are so important , than why the hell do I fall of the habit? A few years ago I created the 30 day art journal challenge as an exercise for myself to get back into the art journal groove. And Ironically as I am finding I want to get back into the journaling groove again, I am also in dire need of updating the 30 day art journal challenge.

So here is my accountability, For the next week I am posting my daily journal work to my Instagram. In the mean time here is a journal flip of my current book.

 

 

Want to join me in the 7 day journaling challenge on Instagram? Leave me comment below with your Instagram link and use the hashtag #7dayartjournalchallenge on your posts this week.

Other art I do

Other art I do

I suppose you could say I have always had a thing for art. Most of us creative types generally do. Once we are introduces to crayons and the ability to make marks to express what is in our noggin, we are hooked. I have always been an advocate for having some creative projects that are not connected to how you make your living. Something that is not influenced by trends or kudos or profit margins. For me that means stepping outside of the medium that is my income. I started knitting when I was a graphic designer for that very reason. Now that fiber art is my full time work, here are some of the other things I do to keep my creative brain nimble.

The Cary Arts Center. OMG. I love this place. I have never lived in a place with such a beautiful, well funded program for the arts. The community classes that are offered are so freaking awesome. Better yet, once you take a class there are studios where you can dive right into your new found skills and create to your hearts content. AND it is so insanely cheap. AND filled with so much equipment. So far I have take three classes. And have passes for two studios. Here is what I have been playing with

Fused Glass. This is another one of those  thing I thought I would never have interest in. But on a whim I signed up for the class, got hooked on the enthusiasm of my awesome teacher, and have been making plates bowls suncatchers and pendants. My latest thing is making glass puddles for pendants. They are super easy and is a great way to use up scrap glass. Pulling these little jewels from the kiln is like Christmas. I definitely have all my birthday and Christmas gifts for the year, yet I just can’t stop making these. I have been researching ideas for windchimes and night lights, so I image those are next. Here is my Glass Inspiration Pinterest Board.

Clay. I have had a lifelong fascination with clay. And this is certainly not my first rodeo with the wheel. But in the studio orientation, I FAILED the wheel portion of the test. It had been 10 years, and I was rusty! AND the glaze room was so large and there are so many types of glazes I was just not familiar with. I am so freaking glad I am working through a refresher, because there is also a bunch of equipment I have never used before as well.  I am really interested in making some wall tiles that I can incorporate some fiber with. I also want to make some coffee mugs and gigantic noodle soup bowls. I want to try all the techniques, there are just so many different styles I love. AND THE GLAZES!!! I want to throw a large set of tumblers just to play with the dozens upon dozens of glazes and all the possibilities. I am making a set of pendants that are essential oil diffusers as well. My Pinterest clay inspiration board is ginormous.

Graphic Design. It is funny to write this, but I find myself LOVE LOVE LOVING to work on my website. I love making pretty graphic quotes. I was a graphic designer for 25 years, and now I get to do it without a sales rep breathing down my neck.

Art Journaling. If you have been following me for a while, you know I am a huge advocate for art journaling. It is related to the sketch books we learned to keep in art school that helped us develop our ideas into an actual piece. And for many it was a place to harness passing inspirations for later. I can honestly say art journals have been the glue that holds all of my work together. It is my paper brain. Here is my Pinterest board for Art Journals.

Painting. Painting is not something I do too often, but it is definitely something I enjoy when I do. In 2015 and 2016, I took Alena Hennissey’s A Year of Painting series. It totally changed the way I approach painting and I find it LIBERATING. It is almost like a deeper approach to my work than art journaling, with a little bit of soul healing tossed in. I mostly work in Acrylic, but have found a love for mixed media. My favorite mixed media tools are Inks, paint pens and collage. Here is a link to my mixed media Pinterest board.

So, share with me. Do you have any other mediums you like to work in? Please share in the comment below and by all means! If you have any picture you want to share, do so on my FB page of in the Fiber Art collective.

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Studio Awesome Challenge Day 30: what did and did not get done

Studio Awesome Challenge Day 30: what did and did not get done

One more day to go y’all.

It is hard to believe I have been at this for a month. And I am not gonna lie, I don’t feel like I will be finished. At least not in the sense of a perfectly organized studio space and business. It is something I am coming to terms with. For the most part the best laid plans for me usually fall apart in the execution. I can be quite the systems girl. And can create some killer work flows with forms, schedules, spreadsheets, and files. However I find I need a bit of flexibility to really find something I will stick with. And there is also a fine line between A clean studio, a packed studio and one where my materials are available in a way that I can see them and be inspired yet comfortable to hang out in.

So this evening I am taking inventory of my accomplishments and what is left to do. First what I got done:

  • Organized the resource library
  • Organized the needles and hooks
  • Organized the notions
  • Donated a ginormous box of needles and hooks to a local knitting charity
  • Cataloged and purged the WIPs
  • Organized and purged the spinning add-ins
  • Organized and purged the plying yarns
  • Consolidated the fiber/fleece stash to one closet
  • Organized and purged the Mixed media supplies (journaling and painting)
  • Began the news filing system
  • Found my new bookkeeping system
  • Found and began migrating new email newsletter service as well as new opt-in and lead page integrations
  • Reworked my studio schedule to reflect my new business goals
  • Reassessed my inventory management system
  • And the one thing I really wanted to achieve this month, manage a daily blogging schedule with email notifications.

 

As I mentioned, there is still a good bit I need to do. And I will continue to work on as I begin my new work flow next week.

  • Inventory the dye blanks
  • Inventory and catalog finished work
  • Go through the stash yarn one more time(I have already gone through it 4 times in the last 2 years, letting go has been..um.. a process)
  • Organize office supply shelves
  • Tackle the nightmare that are my computer files

So there is is! Like I said not perfect, but done to the point where I can focus on next years business goals. And that my friends I am going to share with you tomorrow along with pictures of my studio!

Studio Awesome Challenge Day 28: The other art I do

Studio Awesome Challenge Day 28: The other art I do

I have more than just fiber in the studio, I have all kinds of other art supplies that help me make art. And they too are a hot mess!!!

Part of what keeps me creatively productive has to do with other mediums I use to make art. What I mean is, sometimes I get creatively blocked when It comes to fiber art, and I need to be able to step back get a new perspective on the visual language I am trying to communicate.

Most of the time that means art journaling. If you have been following me for any length of time, You know art journaling is my jam. I would like to say it is my daily jam, but truth be told the daily part comes and goes in waves.

I also have picked up painting in the last couple of years and am in love love love. It is such a great way to take some of the pages from my journals and flesh them out into a more direct representation of that idea.

When we moved, I have been able to finally set up one of my favorite pieces of furniture, my big ass industrial old stool drafting table. It was a gift from my late great graphic design business mentor. I have schlepped that thing almost 1000 miles. It sat in my scary basement for 10 years. Surviving a home remodel, basement floods, and passing thoughts of letting it go. I am so freaking glad I never gave it away. I love working over it. It reminds me of my design roots, College days before the industry moved to computers.  My first job at a paper company making labels and logos for bags. My second job at a major magazine, specing type, waxing galleys and making perfect mechanicals ready for the printer. Skills of precision measuring, cutting, inking. Building mock ups. Assembling gigantic board presentations for the advertising sales team. All things I still love to do despite the fact they are obsolete skills for the industry. They are still awesome ways to make art. Hand made books, pages and pockets in my journal that provide a 3D experience even if just for myself.

So yeah…I have a bunch of other art shit in my studio that is very dear to me. These days much of the old stool graphic skills fall under the term mixed media. So I suppose you can say I am a mixed media artist as well.

I am not gonna lie, the ephemera part of the art supplies can get a little out of hand. So I have decided that I am only going to allow myself a tall cabinet, one wirecart and the drawer of my drafting table for my art journal/painting/mixed media stuffs. If it doesn’t fit here, its gotta go…wish me luck.

 

Joining me in the 31 Day Studio Awesome Challenge?

I am posting progress and info on setting up my studio over the next 31 days. I will not be blitzing my main email list daily…but if you DO want an email notice when daily posts go live, sign up here: