Category: artists and romance

Confessions of an Artist: Embracing Defeat

This post needed some humor so here it is!
This post needed some humor so here it is!

It’s been a long time since I wrote a personal/art career post here.  The main reason for that has been the absolutely disastrous year I’ve been having.  Rather than continue putting on a happy face, I thought an entry of candidness might be more helpful.  After all, I started this journal because I wanted to talk about my journey as an artist and I want to stay true to that instead of let this place devolve purely into WIP’s and self-promotion.

This year started with my partner nearly dying from heart complications from bronchitis.  Nearly dying being terrible enough on its own, the ensuing mentally draining recovery topped with an icing of medical bills made a perfect cake of disaster.  The funny thing is, we were more prepared for this than most and those savings got us through a difficult time, including the time immediately after his recovery where my partner was let go from his job.

I’ve said in the past we’re a single income household, with my art bringing in some income, but not a lot.  There followed another extremely stressful and depressing period where we both weren’t sure what was going to happen next.  Even still, my partner reassured me that it was okay to continue trying to do art as my living (because he’s awesome and so, so loving).  We had enough to live off of and emergency measures in place.

But I had something to prove.  I didn’t want to be a money sinkhole when we were in such a period of turmoil.  Here I was in my own little dream world trying to squeeze every penny out of my art, which only made it harder to create anything with that pressure to make everything I made worthwhile and profitable.  I spent more days tied up in a lack of motivation and depression than producing anything at all.

As this year wore on and other medical catastrophes and setbacks happened, I hit a low point.  I gave up for the briefest milliseconds on the notion that any of this struggling to be a professional was worth the suffering it was putting me (us) through.  It felt like everywhere I went, people I respect were bombarding me with the fact I was especially failing this year, that I should be farther than I am.  I needed to be stronger!  My insistence that I could never show weakness and should react by working harder and beyond my limits only worked against me because I turned all of that stress inwards, causing my own physical and mental health to decline.

In a strange way, finally accepting defeat this year has been freeing.  I have become increasingly aware of the long game and the shortness of life here on this earth.  Entering the IP Development Mentorship with Robot Pencil earlier this year was a game changer for me.  I have a lot of ideas I’ve always discredited because they weren’t producing results RIGHT now, but here were several professionals telling me my ideas are “F**king awesome”.  I’m not sure I would have entered this mentorship otherwise if I hadn’t been in the place where I was just so tired of struggling and really wanted to give those unacknowledged passions a chance they would not have gotten otherwise while I was obsessing over proving myself.

It’s funny how we need permission to just do the thing we always wanted to do…

Luckily, we’re doing much better now.  Kev has been making leaps and bounds with his recovery and has also found employment.  We continue our game plan to let me build my art career.  And while I feel guilty for having this privilege when so many other artists don’t, I’m not going to squander this opportunity with guilt anymore because I’m trying to impress those who quantify success as merely money, when success in life is so much more than that.  That path leads to elitism and becoming the kind of person and artist I don’t want to be.  With our income stable for now, I have also started saying no to a lot of jobs that I feel aren’t going to advance me as far as my personal projects might.

I’m still terrified of the unknown and of waiting for another bad thing to happen, but I’m hoping that surviving one terrible year means we’re better equipped the next time.

I suppose if there’s any advice for other artists to take away from this, it’s that sometimes you have to embrace failure because it’s one of the best ways to learn how to do anything right, that other artists who you admire more often than not are projecting a self-image of success (even when it’s not true), and that doing so doesn’t make them any less of an artist.  Also, try to save up backup funds for those rough times because they are waiting to sucker punch you in the gut when you least expect it!

Meanwhile, I’m still here…a little older and a little wiser.

Thinking Long Term

It’s been a minute here since I’ve really sat down to post in this journal since I moved into my new digs (other than the short jaunt through the studio). I’ve been slowly, but surely settling into the new space and entering a brand new phase of my life and art.  A whole new balancing act has begun and the time was needed to sit back and consider this without spreading my energies too thin across the net.  I’ve fizzled out of conventions this year for the same reason.  I needed time to sit back and gaze upon my work with a long lens without the obsessive selling haze of conventions and have decided I’d rather be concentrating on producing new and improved work, instead.

Another big change for me is the fact that I am living with a wonderful, loving partner who has willingly agreed to take on the bulk of our financial burden so that I can concentrate solely on my art career.  It’s a definite switch from my previous situation, which involved barely combating my student debt with part-time work, leathercrafting, and getting by with what little commissions, royalties, and art sales I could make.  Some might find this surprising, but even though I’ve been doing this for a few years, I still consider myself more towards the beginning than the end of this endless journey to becoming a professional artist (or, to define this term more accurately ‘professional artist’ being an artist who makes the majority of their living off of their art).

The prestigious and encouraging Echo Chernik, whom I met at DragonCon last year, gave me the advice that it takes at least 10 years to establish yourself as an artist.  By that measure, I am only 4 years into this and only ‘middle-aged’ in my career!  If so, the last couple of years were my ‘mid-life crisis’.  I’ve been struggling, mentally and physically, with this career path and if it really was worth the heartache it caused me with my debt, neck/shoulder issues, and the feelings of failure that come with not being where I wanted to be.  Your words really hit home for me Echo!  I had to stop holding myself to the standard that I was a ‘failure’ at being an artist because I haven’t reached my predefined level of success in a mere 3 years.

I’m sure some people are wondering “Well you have someone supporting you now. What are you worried about?  Kick back and relax!”  As a proud, independent, and highly stubborn woman, it’s hard for me to admit that I have to rely on anyone else to help carry me in any sort of fashion at all.  A whole slew of guilt can result from this arrangement with one’s partner, including, but not limited to:

– You comparing yourself to your partner’s profession (and therefore measuring which one is more important or worthwhile)
–  You feeling guilty that they’re murdering themselves at work while you have ‘the easy route’ because you enjoy your job. (Thankfully, my spouse very much enjoys his work, which makes this worry easier to handle!)
 – And finally the kicker for any modern woman, the fear that you’re reverting to old stereotypes where you are the content wifey who stays at home and cooks the meals and does her cute little art thing on the side (aka. art is not a serious job that will make any sort of serious money and therefore, again, not considered a serious persuit).

But if there’s anything that I’ve learned about art, life, and love, it is a balancing act.  Before my boyfriend and I could come to this decision as partners, I had to examine my direction first, ask myself the tough questions.  Is pursuing art as a career worth the struggles we’ll have along the way?  Can it really equal any sort of serious money, in the long term?

In the end, my answer was ‘yes’.  If talking to other professionals who have ‘made it’ has taught me anything, it is that an art career can be both fulfilling and lucrative, but it hardly ever just falls in your lap!  One of the most important revelations I’ve had in the past year or so is that I needed to seriously sit and consider What am I passionate about painting and where does it line up with paying industries?  A lot of people fall short doing this (to which I highly recommend every single one of you read Jon’s portfolio-building series over at The ArtOrder RIGHT THIS MINUTE).  Then, you are in danger of stumbling into the trap of Oh I’ll just draw pretty things and someone will find me.

This is dangerous trap because it often leads to disappointment and I will tell you right now it can equal a lot of wasted years of meandering boredom with what you’re doing or opening up your portfolio one day and realizing you don’t have a single consistent example of the Cool Stuff you want to actually draw and get paid for. (This has recently happened to me. A client asked me for samples of a book cover and I had only…two viable examples. Ugh!)

I am realizing that every job and every opportunity that will come in my career is a victory not just for myself, but my partner as well. He believes in what I’m doing and knows that it is not a fancy or a phase, despite the fact many people around us are prone to think of it as such.  Most of all, he respects it as a job which requires the same amount of dedication, if not more, as driving somewhere and working for a paycheck.  These factors of understanding and respect were essential for us to agree upon before we could ever settle with our current arrangement.  I share these feelings here as a matter of posterity for those who might be dealing with the same conundrum of a work-at-home partner and any of the guilt that might be involved.  It takes balance and respect without judgement of yourself or your partner from either side.  It takes clear communication of what you both expect to achieve together.  Most of all, I know that if this wasn’t our arrangement, I would still be pursuing the same goal.  My path being made easier isn’t an excuse or a reason for success.  You gotta want it first, else you risk not just your own success, but a loved one’s as well!

For now, I’m quietly phasing out the distractions from my career goals and working towards building my portfolio as a book cover illustrator (which branches out into all sorts of fun things, like CCG art and RPG art).  I have one simple goal for this year besides that, which is to attend Illuxcon and get my name out there to a few targeted companies.  I’m keeping it simple, maintaining my balance, and already I am feeling so much better for it!

I hope to bring you some actual ART to this art blog the next time around.  Till then, congratulations for reading through my entire wall of text!

Out With the Old, In With the New

Persephone. A new direction?

We’ve headed into the final round of my charity auction (for now), and I’ve got to say it’s been a roller coaster of emotion for me!  I’ve said goodbye to so many of my old pieces in the past couple of weeks, some of which sold for only a dollar.  I’ve made my peace with this, however, as I’d much rather see these pieces go to homes that will appreciate them, rather than sit in my basement gathering dust. GONE, they are, and now I feel a weight lifted knowing that this old work is not present for me to rely on anymore as the base of my body of work.

I feel like having my old work around encouraged me to be less productive. It’s easy to get comfortable when certain pieces have met with some success.  Now that they’re gone, I feel an even greater push to be productive to fill that hole in my closet. I’d ideally like to be able to produce at least one fully thought out and detailed piece a month, but it just hasn’t happened for me for one reason or another.

It’s funny to think that my work will be different now, if Persephone is a portent of things to come.  I’m afraid of not being able to present a cohesive body of work anymore since my old work still makes up the majority of the prints I sell.    As such, I’ve been slowly retiring older prints (many which I already have in the CLEARANCE section of my shop) and gradually re-branding myself with newer work more pertinent to the industries I’m aiming for.  There is such a massive undertaking of creating completely new bodies of work ahead of me!  I have to wonder if most artists go through this shedding of skin? This metamorphosis of imagery, style, and media?  Surely, I am not the only one who shifts their colors throughout their career?  I wonder if we just never see the older work of the pros we know, so we always assume they knew what they were doing from the get-go.

On that note, I’ve been thinking long and hard about just what industry it is I’d like to target right now, with the good advice from friends in said industries and art communities to guide my way.  The hard facts are that my work and fundamental skills need to be more polished to get into concept art, which is my ultimate goal.  Neither do I currently have the ability to relocate to the places where I’ll find those kinds of jobs with my significant other’s career in the mix as well.  His career takes priority right now because I am simply not ready to enter into the field I’d like to pursue, while he has advanced to the point in his field that he is ready to enter the next level.

This is one of the many challenges of having romantic relationships as an artist.  Moving can be difficult when you have to prioritize one person over the other to make sure your bills are paid, while you also have to be honest to yourself about what your potential is at the given time.  By the same token, we are so incredibly lucky to be able to advance together and provide constant support for one another.  While one person is building strength, another can man the wheel.

However, all is not lost, as there are other art fields which seem suiting for me.  Playing card art, book covers, and interior art for rpgs have caught my eye, since they all tie in to my favorite subject matter (fantasy, scifi, and character-driven works) and, for the most part, allow you to work remotely.  It’s a way to suit my needs and develop my skills while still being in an industry I can be passionate about!

I’m excited about this course correction of mine and have been brainstorming on a list of subjects I’d like to depict in a targeted portfolio for each.  I shall have to ramble on what I’m thinking of doing later, however, because this blog entry is already long enough!

Thanks to all of you who drop words of support here and in other online communities.  I feel like a flag in the wind sometimes with no control over where life is taking me.  Words of encouragement can mean so much to build the kind of positive attitude I need to reach my goals.  I started this blog to document a journey from amateur to professional and I feel like I’m finally on a course that’s not as unrealistic as it used to be.  I have goals, steps, and everything I need to get there. Now it is up to the art to pave the way!

Let the productivity begin!

Confessions of an Artist – Romance and Artists

It’s been awhile since my last entry in the ‘Confession’ series. We’ve talked about everything from storing art improperly to getting out of our artistic comfort zones.  Today…I’d like to admit that at one time in my life, I was intent on being the ‘crazy cat lady’.

You know the one. That kooky lady next door with eight cats, who has named them all for pop singers, knows each cat’s personality by heart, and will talk hours on end about them and their adventures.  In my younger days, I thought that’s what I was destined for, and, in fact, welcomed it. I didn’t need the distraction of a huge epic social life.  Chilling with a few close friends suited me just fine.

I had an education to finish and a career path in front of me.  I didn’t need the distraction of marriage, children, and the dedication of time and energy and the stress that comes with it all.  I considered myself pretty darn selfish, as was my right as a person with free will to be. I gave a verbal warning of “Beware, INDEPENDENT ARTIST” to just about everyone I dated.

I didn’t think there was a way to reconcile the alone-time it required to develop as an artist, writer, etc. while also being with anyone, ever.  The cats would understand me…, guys however? I wasn’t so sure about them!  I felt that most guys I dated didn’t deserve a gal like me, who was always putting her career ahead of the cutesy couple time that should have been filling up every second of my free time when I wasn’t in class or at work.  I did not need to call them to tell them I missed them because I had plenty to keep me occupied.  I had stories to write and masterpieces to paint, after all!  Most guys found this off-putting.  They deserved a ‘normal’ girl who could give them the time and dedication that they deserved.

Boiling all that down, being an artist (or a creative individual in general) requires a heck of a lot of alone time just to think, practice, and develop one’s craft.  This leads to a lot of hangups on both sides of the dating coin. The Artist, who is tortured by guilt because they’re a terrible person for making art instead of spending every moment with their Sweetie OR tortured by guilt for not wanting the American Dream (marriage, 2.5 children, and a house in the suburbs).  The Sweetie, who thinks that because the Artist doesn’t want to be with them every moment means that the Artist cares more about art than them.

Coming into my 9th anniversary with my Sweetie (celebrating this very day, in fact!), I’m happy to say that the years have a way of making us wiser.  We’ve both struggled with our maturing senses of self and what we want from life, both fought with our hangups until I’ve come to realize that Important Thing:

Despite it all, he is still here with me.  Even if we get frustrated, we are both still here trying our best to understand one another and make it work.

He does not judge me because I’m rambling about what exact shade of blue the sky is (Cerulean or Cobalt).  Most of all, he is behind me every step of the way, as far as pursuing my business.  He has learned not to assume that I will always put art over him, but rather that he is a vital part of my happiness and well-being, a living part of my inspiration.  We’re a team, just as I’ll never judge him for comparing the dropped frame rates of consoles games versus PC.

Maybe one day we’ll make a family?  Maybe not.  I’m glad to say I am no longer judged on the prudence of such a choice, at least not by him.

One should never start dating a dedicated Artist with the expectation they should try to take the Art from them or belittle an Artist’s fascination with creation. It’s an essential part of their being. To make them any different is to change what you probably loved about them in the first place.

Happy Anniversary, my Little Kaio!  I do hope you like cats….;)

Are Artists Crazy?


Now attempting to get this blog back onto it’s usual Wednesday/Sunday schedule. I’ve been so tied up in conventions and deadlines I’ve neglected any sort of regular schedule. But I’m back and ready to ramble!

For this week, I thought I’d bring to light an amusing conversation between my boyfriend and I. He has come to the conclusion from dating me that…artists are crazy.

Not like cut up your husband and serve them as pie crazy, but just on a different wavelength than most usual people. Of course, my own point of view is a little different, stemming from my idea that talent is something that is more trained than inherent. My defense against artists being loonies is that we’re no different than anyone else with a passion for what they love to do. Is passion so rare these days that it’s considered crazy?

Artists, and creative people in general, live their lives with one eye open always seeking to learn, improve, or to see something unique in the mundane. Like mathematicians, we seek symbols and some form of order in chaos that’s expressible by the living hand, the writing, the painting, or the pen. I’m no different than my boyfriend, who spends hours obsessing over countless numbered sequences, hardware compatibility issues, and the tiny systems of circuits that form the interconnected body of the computer. He finds joy in that kind of chaos. I merely obsess over how to better capture human expression, the methods for mixing colors, and how to build better compositions.

Spending hours trying to figure out why a computer won’t accept a wireless router signal, now THAT’s crazy to me. I’d rather just toss it at my boyfriend and be done with it. Having that amount of insane patience is crazy, to me.

Yet even in the movies, I see the stereotypes. Artists are the tragic figures, the aloof lovers, the serial killers, the crazies with their heads in the clouds. Are we really that scary? Does it taking cutting off one’s ear or dying of a drug overdose to truly complete our identities as artists? Or can we be just as approachable as other normal people?

And yet, I can understand the idea that artists just don’t fit into certain social situations. During my training as an Arts Administrator, it was amusing to see the differences between accountants, actors, and art directors. There’s a definite shift in focus from ‘budget’ to ‘vision’ and an effort to balance sense and creativity into a cohesive whole. Similarly, I have many relatives who just don’t understand why I’m willing to take a dangerous path of uncertain paychecks over using my perfectly competent computer skills to pursue working as a secretary instead.

I suppose I like the danger of the creative edge and the ability to do something I truly love. Drawing is like a drug for me. If I don’t do it within three days, I start to get antsy and doodle on napkins. If I can’t do something creative with myself, I feel pretty useless. I can’t sit and watch TV at night without having my hands busy with a project. I don’t listen to music unless it inspires some sort of mental image for a story or a drawing (though on occasion I’ll love music just for its mood or beat).

Perhaps that’s what makes me that non-homicidal brand of ‘crazy’? I notice I tend to be drawn towards other people of the same creative spirit, or those who have a similar appreciation for the side of life that invites one to think beyond the norm. I have friends who aren’t artists and friends who are, but all of us share a love for the odd side of things.

For me, where’s the fun in life if you’re just striving to survive? The human mind is capable of so much more.

Maybe I am a little crazy. I look up at the sky and think what a lovely shade of Cobalt Blue or Light Cerulean it is today.

Perhaps that is not normal?

What sorts of stereotypes of creative people have you seen or experienced? How do your significant others deal with your creative side? Let us talk and be mad together.