Honesty

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First, please go checkout my art takeover at Frothy Monkey in 12 South if you want! I am excited to announce that my work is going to be visible in more spots around Nashville…and not on canvas or paper or mylar in frames, but on walls, crosswalks, and some more surprises! Mural plans are in the works and I owe it all to my friends at Native magazine and my new friends at Nashville Walls Project and Tinney Contemporary as they’ve helped guide me into finding some street art opportunities and have given me some valuable advice. Beau Stanton was in Nashville over the last couple of weeks, painting an incredible mural on 5th Ave and I highly recommend going over there to see it. His process is pretty amazing. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to paint on walls, having done so without being asked many a time as a child. Working large scale is always my favorite way to paint. I got to learn from the best two weeks ago, getting some great pro tips from Beau Stanton himself, and I am so grateful to be in a city that has one of the most incredible collections of street art, and to be surrounded by truly inspiring work and artists.

I’d like to discuss what defines a “truly inspiring artist" to me. A reader (I was really excited to have a reader p.s.) reached out to me a couple of weeks ago worried about bothering people by asking for advice or mentorship. This hit home because I often feel the same way about approaching literally anyone #socialanxiety and I reminded her that flattering someone by seeking out advice from them is never annoying, and if it is, then you don’t want advice from an arrogant person anyways. I kept thinking about this, though. If I am confident about my work and what I am doing, then this fear I have really shouldn’t exist. I always have trouble approaching artists or gallery owners, etc. and a lot of it is out of respect, awkwardness, fear of being annoying, social anxiety, etc., but I think another reason behind that is a lack of true confidence in my work and what I am doing. Maybe I shouldn’t share this, but it’s all in the spirit of HONESTY! This feeling has been incredibly paralyzing, hence the extremely delayed blog post and serious artist block, but I am going to work through it and explain how! (bare with me)

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Right now, Joel Daniel Phillips’ newest work is up at Tinney and not only is it some of the most thoughtful and engaging work I’ve seen, but hearing him talk about this series and conveying a message that is so universally relatable, made me want to take a step back and think about what I am really trying to achieve with my work. To summarize, his exhibit entitled Welcome to the Orange West is a collection of photorealistic graphite and charcoal drawings of abandoned, decaying signs along Route 66, oil rigs, and historical depictions of Westward expansion and the effects it had on the land and its inhabitants. Our romanticized and nostalgic emotions toward this part of our shared history is convoluted, to say the least, and this work forces us to question the cost of our actions or “the sociological factors surrounding Manifest Destiny.” It explores layered histories, classism, environmental and emotional damage that took place, and still take place, to get to where we are today.

So, not only is the work incredibly skillful to a point of actual mastery of graphite drawing, the message is clear, the themes are relevant, thought provoking, and relatable, but the artist is also incredibly articulate and knowledgable on every aspect of this work, ready to literally answer any question that may come his way regarding what this work means to him and to all of us. The amount of research and work that took place before he even picked up a pencil is evident, and on top of that, some of these pieces took upwards of 340 hours to complete. It all speaks very personally to him as well, documenting his move to Tulsa, OK and familial connections to Westward expansion, evoking an emotional response from the artist and viewers. Basically, this is my goal as an artist and what defines an inspiring artist to me. These were all the essential skills we learned as art majors that we needed to master if we wanted to succeed; work must be skillful, thoughtful, personal yet evoke an emotional response in others, it must be well-researched, clear, and artists should be knowledgeable, invested, and articulate about their work. I think recently I have gotten a little swept up in the commercial side of it all. With so much constant competition, mostly pressures I put on myself, to “post a new piece everyday”, “get more followers”, “apply for more shows”, “make more money” it’s hard to produce truly thoughtful work. While there is definitely value in practicing, and “painting what you want” and just painting to paint, taking time to research and finding some true inspiration in something personal is critical. 

I highly recommend going to visit Sewanee right now! All the leaves are changing and it's so pretty!

I highly recommend going to visit Sewanee right now! All the leaves are changing and it's so pretty!

I recently went up to Sewanee and ran into my favorite professor, who I always seem to run into him when I need direction the most. He reminded me to not lose sight. We discussed my work and my plans, but I think saying out loud that I need to think more critically about what it is exactly that I am doing, was euphoric. I needed a push and a reminder of what I love about what I do. I read a post by an artist recently, and I can’t remember whose it was, but she said “I am so grateful that there are people that connect to my work, even when I don’t”. We can all relate to that, but we shouldn’t. If there’s one thing I want to be fully connected to, it’s my work. I think everyone wants that.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Challenging Yourself

Recently I have been pretty busy! I had two art shows in August (solo exhibition and an event at Hachland Hill, which was featured on Business Insider!), I will be in the MBA Art Show this weekend, Frothy Monkey in 12 South in October, Fort Houston's show on October 7th, and just started my part time job at Tinney Contemporary downtown as their new gallery associate, which has been a dream. I’ve already met artists, collectors, curators, other gallery owners, and am making really valuable connections in the art scene here. Not to mention am learning so much from the two incredible women who own and direct the gallery. My dream is to own a studio gallery and I am learning from the best! Now that my weeks are much fuller than they were, I’ve noticed it’s harder to block out studio time. My schedule still lends itself to a pretty decent amount of free time that I need to utilize with painting, but whenever I finish a series, I sometimes procrastinate getting back to painting (or drawing). It’s not because I am at a loss of ideas of things to paint, because my mind and sketchbook are filled with ideas for my next painting, but because it’s kind of scary. After I create a series I am proud of, getting back in the swing of things by starting on something new or different is kind of like going back to square 1. I know musicians experience the same feeling after completing an album or a song, they have a million ideas for songs, but procrastinate getting back to the studio. 

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I think in order to grow creatively, improve your craft, and stay productive you need to constantly challenge yourself. In order to do that experiment with different mediums, subject matters, etc. Something I find beneficial is attending the art crawl here in Nashville every month. Every first Saturday of the month, galleries here open their doors to new exhibits. Being completely surrounded by incredible, local artwork at all the galleries here is simultaneously inspiring and intimidating. I love reading artists’ statements and seeing how some of my favorite artists’ styles or processes change over time. I think in order to stay inspired you need to truly experience the competition, not just see it. Understand why artists use certain mediums, see what textures can be made using certain styles, and watch how people respond to different works. A lot of artists argue that because of Instagram and Facebook and the amount of art that is constantly in our faces now, it’s hard to create something completely organically and not be overly influenced by what others are making. I have a real fear of creating contrived and derivative work, and I want to be clear that there is a line between being inspired and being a fraud. There's also a line between playing to your strengths and still being original, and challenging yourself. I know I’ve talked about it a lot, but I guess it's because it’s something a lot of us struggle with daily; comparing ourselves and what we do or make to what others’ are doing or making. 

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Getting back to my point of experimenting with different mediums and challenging yourself, here are some things that I do! I sometimes give myself assignments that I got in college. I will draw with my eyes closed, or use only one paint color, or change mediums halfway through a painting, or make a painting based on a word, or switch from abstract to attempting photorealism. I also started building my own frames, which was a real challenge at first, but now is incredibly beneficial and a huge money saver! I build them out of Fort Houston, and if you live in Nashville and like making things, this is your place. There are a million ways to challenge yourself. This isn’t news to anyone creative, but I think once you are depending on your creative pursuits financially, it’s easy to fall into patterns of making the same thing or using the same style because you know it sells and it’s comfortable. I’d love to hear about what other creatives, who maybe even read this blog, think about this. What do you do to challenge your work? What role does social media play in what you create? I am always eager to hear from other artists and creatives and start some conversations. Working from home and in a solo studio can be pretty lonely so feel free to reach out to this loner artist with any thoughts you have!

Oh, hey! Speaking of other creatives, my parents and brother run a pasta sauce company called Grandads Gravy. In case you haven’t tried it, it’s delicious. 2017 Ordering is OPEN through tonight (September 11, 2017) at midnight! So get those orders in and help support a local business that is close to my heart. Order Here >>

P.S. (Last thing I promise) Just a reminder that if you are at all interested in collaborating with me and want to send me something you are passionate about, whether it’s your own art website, small business, products you use, recipes etc. Email me! I’d love to help support any creative endeavors anyone has and am always looking for blog content. K gr8, T Out. 

 

Play To Your Strengths

In a city like Nashville that is completely riddled with creatives, it’s really hard to stand out. It can be really discouraging, and although it’s not nearly as populated or cutthroat as New York or L.A. for example, it sometimes feels overwhelming. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve gone to the Wedgewood Houston and Downtown Art Crawl, The Porter Flea Market, 615 Day, Jessi Zazu’s Undefeated Art Show, and the Farmer’s Market Night Market and needless to say, there is a TON of real talent in this city. (Images feature some of my favorite vendors at the Porter Flea Market and beautiful art by Jessi Zazu.) One thing that has stuck with me over the past few months though, was something a fellow art major from Sewanee said to me. We were discussing some of the challenges that come with being an artist, trying to support yourself, and how to stay motivated and he talked about how hard it is to evoke real emotion with art and how powerful it is when you see something that does. That is every kind of artists’ mission. 

Whenever I get side tracked and want to create something more commercial or scroll through Pinterest or see what’s top selling at various local markets or art galleries and tell myself “I should be doing something like that” or “I wish I’d thought of that” I remind myself of that main artist’s mission. If the purpose of what I am doing is to make real connections with people through my art, then it has to be totally original and truly important to me.  A creative’s goal should never be to try what other people are doing since that seems to be working for them. And if we are talking about it in business terms, there isn’t a demand or market for creative work that already exists. You’ve got to play to your own strengths, not try to copy someone else’s. It’s easier said than done when our newsfeed and communities are completely saturated with successful examples of creative things people are doing- you definitely don’t have to search for it anymore, it’s almost too easy to find. BUT that’s not a bad thing at all. This just goes to show us that there is a never ending amount of opportunity. I’ve already talked about creating your own opportunities, though, and want to talk about how to stand out. 

So again, everything I do goes back to that sole mission as an artist of forming connections with people and evoking real emotion through art and the one thing that I want most, which is to be a full time artist. The biggest strength any creative person has though is his or her originality and unique message. It’s the number one way to stand out. It's how all other successful creatives got their success. From there I ask myself “ok what else am I really good at that can help me achieve my goal?” I’m somewhat strong in terms of marketing, web design, and productivity; I love a good social media campaign, a clean website and making those to-do lists. Other strengths that are incredibly important are organization, business sense, salesmanship, and financial responsibility. Some of these are strengths of mine and typing some of those words makes me feel physically sick with anxiety and fear. Anything that I don’t feel incredibly confident that I can manage on my own, I outsource. I think it’s really important to be thoroughly realistic about your weaknesses when starting a business. There are some things I just can’t learn how to do no matter how much I research. For example, I’ve mentioned this, but my dad created my budget for me based on my art income and how much is allotted for supplies, needs to be set aside for taxes, and how much I can actually pay myself. He also got me set up on quickbooks and gain a better understanding of what my monthly income must be. It goes without saying and is very obvious that you gotta have your ducks in a row financially with any business endeavors, so if you are like me and don’t consider yourself a financial wizard, go find one! They really exist! There are a lot of puzzle pieces that need to come together when starting your own creative business and trying to make it a success. I’ve only listed a few, but really the most important thing you can do is create something that is totally original to you and then be honest with yourself about your strengths and ask for help when you need it. When I first started out, and if I am being honest, this is still very much the case, I couldn’t afford to actually pay to outsource things so I asked friends, family members, fellow artists for advice and help in exchange for coffee or artwork or sandwiches from Clawson’s, which I would gladly take over money any day. So to close out (and I am really sorry if this sounds preachy or condescending or just plain obvious, my intention is only to share some things I am learning) keep it original and meaningful to you, spend more time working on your strengths than your weaknesses, and always be honest when you need help. 

Being Open Minded

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      So this blog is a week late because I was in a wedding and then had to play catchup with commissions and work all week, and this is a great example of me being a hypocrite and not sticking to my deadlines. I also haven’t posted new art in a while, because I have been working on commissions, which brings me to my main point: selling out is really ok, all the cool kids are doing it to pay bills. Whether you are a musician playing cover songs at weddings on the weekends to support your songwriting career, or an artist painting peoples’ dogs or favorite quotes, or an aspiring filmmaker filming graduation ceremonies and high school football games, if you are practicing your craft in some way and getting paid, then why is that in any way bad?     People who judge you for it are liars because everyone has to pay the bills somehow, unless you’re a trust fund kid in which case ~slow clap~. Example, I paint a lot of watercolors of homes for people, they make great gifts and honestly keep my art business afloat. Are houses my area of focus or part of my artist statement? No, but I love painting! If I am still producing the work that contributes to my vision as an artist and also practice fundamentals of painting, by painting watercolors of houses, and getting paid to do it, I consider that a win-win. 

    I say yes to absolutely every art commission (or project) and graphic design job that comes my way and I hope that’s a no brainer for most other people trying to make it as a creative entrepreneur, and I have to remind myself to be completely open minded about every job and give each commission 1150%. At my old job my attention to detail was often criticized. Call it selective hearing or putting what I wanted to do over what I have to do first or just being scatterbrained, I fully admit it’s my weakness, and although I've learned how to work on it, the one thing I am able to devote all of my attention to for any amount of time is my art. I never rush through projects; when I am painting, I don’t do things like, oh.. I don’t know, put a giant typo on a direct mailer that got sent out to 1000 Nashvillians. I want that dedication to be evident in every single thing that I paint or produce. 

    Being open minded also ties into creating your own opportunities. When I started this year with the goal in mind to have one art show per month, I had to readjust. I changed that goal to “I will work towards one major art related goal each month”. I apply to galleries and calls for artists pretty regularly and I usually don’t get what I hope for out of it. I am in the stage in my independent career where I am pretty much just blindly throwing tons of darts with both hands and seeing what sticks. I am constantly reaching out to people in my career field for advice, following them on social media, and looking for inspiration everywhere. BUT there is a really big difference between seeking inspiration, and flat out copying what someone successful did. Originality is everything. Here’s an example. I love Heather Day; her artwork and social media presence and brand is just gold. I read her blog about getting sponsors and was really inspired by it. I am in no way there yet, but it got me thinking- if I can’t get sponsors, working with other local, female entrepreneurs could be really cool- tying in other brands and supporting local businesses and collaborating. So, I came up with this idea to incorporate other brands into what I am doing- I won’t divulge all the details yet, because I want it to be a surprise (in two weeks, stay tuned!), but after weeks of applying to existing opportunities and not getting what I wanted out of it, I decided to create my own. This is really how I have showcased my art. I wasn’t having much luck reaching out to galleries one month, so I reached out to a local brewery with bare walls. I want more social media followers and email subscribers, so I reached out to some local businesses I really like to see if they want to co-promote. I guess my point in all of this is, don’t get discouraged if you find that you’re not getting what you wanted out of all your efforts and hard work. It just means it’s time to think creatively. I usually break down what I want to the most basic root of it- I change “I want my art in that gallery” to “I want people interested in the Nashville art scene to see my art” to “I just want to share my art and have it on display somewhere”. Breaking a goal down to the core of what it is I actually want to accomplish allows me to come up with a million different ways in which to achieve that goal. I find it’s really helpful to write all of those different ideas down on paper and then using those ideas as your to-do list for the day.

    I have also been pretty amazed by what I can accomplish when I just really want to do something, versus when I have to. Again, kind of a no brainer. This goes back to the days of summer reading. I love reading, I would be reading all summer anyways, but there’s something about when it was being assigned to me that made it become a hated chore. Same goes for this, when I am working towards a goal that I really want, I am able to think so much more creatively and be so much more open minded about opportunities. This may just be that I am really stubborn millennial, hence the whole goal to be my own boss, but all of this works for me and maybe it will work for you too!

Making Your Own Deadlines

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If you are diving headfirst into your work, then some part of your life gets put on the back burner. In my case, it's my social life (and, ya know, making tons of money). No surprise there for anyone who knows me. Case in point, it's an absolutely gorgeous Saturday in Nashville and I am sitting outside my condo with my dog typing this, but here's the thing: I am doing exactly what I want to be doing at this moment. A really quick life question I have for you before I start talking about why deadlines are EXTREMELY important for any person trying to be their own boss is this: What makes you happiest? What do you do everyday? Realistically, how can these two lists become one? That right there is what I think success is. Just having those 2 lists be the exact same thing. What does this have to do with making deadlines? Well, top of my list is creating and sharing what I create. It's what I believe my "purpose" to be, it's my dream, it's what I wake up and go to sleep thinking about. Therefore, to make this dream become my everyday reality, I need to prioritize, I need to be able to support myself with it, and I need to fully commit to it. If you are in the same boat here's something really valuable I have learned and I hope it's helpful to anyone who's on the same path right now and feeling overwhelmed.

To stay productive, it's important to have something extremely specific to work towards. Not "make more money this month" or "paint more" or "work on my website this week", but goals like "compile a new collection of at least 4 pieces by May 15th and be prepared to give an artist talk" or "apply to 7 group art shows by 5 pm tomorrow" or "upload my latest collection to my website by Friday". The more specific and set you can be with the date AND time, the better, or else you just won't adhere to these deadlines at all. Daily To-Do lists are really helpful with this (I love making hand-written lists every morning) as are calendar reminders and Google calendar, if you want to structure and plan out your whole day. It will keep you on track especially if you are like me and get ADD working from home when there are a million household chores staring at you in the face, your dog is pawing at you, and Netflix exists. In the words of Christene Barberich, Editor in Chief of Refinery29 “I don’t think you can truly know what you’re made of until you are in charge of your days. How you use that time, and the work you pursue, teaches you so much about who you are and what you can become”. I make at least 5 big deadlines per month and countless, small daily tasks to meet those deadlines. I put in a lot of hours, at least double my previous full-time job hours, but if you are doing what you love it's not work and there is no better way to spend your time. 

This is a pretty simple concept and I take no credit in it. Our teachers and bosses have been scaring us with deadlines since the beginning of time. When your paycheck or grade or reputation was on the line, it was pretty easy to have the work done, and it shouldn't be any different when you are beginning your life as an entrepreneur, because guess what, those things are still on the line, just in a different way. Respect yourself and the tasks you’ve set for yourself just as you would for your employer. If the day is ending and I still haven’t met my deadline, I work overtime and say no to a lot of things that come up because getting this work done was my priority. Being your own dream employee is just as important as being your own boss. 

The final point that I have about making your own deadlines is this: don’t be too attached to the results of your efforts, only worry about the process. Once you’ve met your deadline, say goodbye to that project and start on the next one. If your deadline involved applying to a showcase, sharing your work, gaining experience, or practicing your craft and you gave it your all and finished what you needed to get done on time, then you succeeded. Serious productivity always results in something positive. You create what failure is in your head by telling yourself what results you expect to come from your hard work. For example, I hope reading this wasn't a huge waste of your time, but my goal for this blog is just to share my experience and what I am learning as I become my own boss, and have it posted by Monday, May 15th at 11:00 a.m., so even if you hated reading it, and I am so sorry if you did, I achieved what I set out to achieve. It sounds really cheesy, but once I stopped asking myself “what if this doesn’t work?” I became more productive than I have ever been. 

These few points have all really helped me especially during weeks when I didn’t have many commissions or freelance work and felt a little directionless. I would panic about not making enough money that week or wonder if all of my efforts were wasted and felt really overwhelmed. All I needed to do was fill my days with small, realistic, achievable goals and that stress just went away. It’s definitely hard going out on  your own, but I have to always remind myself “this was my choice (which I realize is a luxury) this is what I love and what makes me happiest, feeling scared and worrying is silly and I don't have time for it today anyways I've got too much to do”.