Watching paint drip while listening to Car Talk on NPR.
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In the world of improv, this is known as, “Yes, and…” It’s how I endeavor to approach ALL of my artforms, and life in general.
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I’ve been snapping pics of my work all throughout the creation process — from wobbly, messy beginnings, all the way through to the final product. I take the pics in Instagram, which then gives the option to also share to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and even Tumblr if you have a Tumblr account — all with the click of a single “share” button (brilliant!).
When I first started sharing this way, honestly, it was a little scary. After all, this isn’t just me sharing the carefully edited highlight reel; this is me sharing the whole process, including the mess and the muck, and the parts where I’m pretty convinced that what I’m doing totally sucks.
And yes, there are plenty of those parts! In fact, this image from Behappy.me is a pretty good shorthand for my own creative process for anything and everything I create — paintings, songs, online courses, live retreats, etc:
The good thing, though, is that once you understand that parts 2, 3 and 4 are simply an integral part of the process, it becomes a lot easier to keep going and not get permanently stalled when you get to those parts. Now I’m so much better at noticing that, oh, yeah, here I am in the “I am shit” part of the process, and reminding myself that it will pass.
When you do something enough — including noticing that every time you create you go through a phase of thinking you suck — it gets easier.
This applies to sharing my process, too. What was scary at first has become second nature.
It has also brought some surprising gifts:
I hadn’t realized how motivating it would be to get positive responses to my pics!
The challenge, of course, is not to allow myself to be swayed by other people’s opinions. I’m the artist, after all — my job is to create the unique expression inside me, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks about my work.
That said, getting “likes” and positive comments adds fuel to my creative fire, and this is a good thing!
The most valuable gift of the feedback I’ve been getting, though, is not praise, per se. Instead, it’s something more subtle and nuanced. Especially when I post something I’m not particularly pleased with, positive feedback helps me take off my critical glasses and look at my work through other people’s lenses.
This is HUGE!
Being able to see my work through the eyes of others helps me to look at it less harshly, and to appreciate what I might have dismissed before as unworthy of appreciation.
This is different from needing praise to validate me. Instead, it’s enabling me to step outside of my limited viewpoint, and see my work not for what it isn’t, but for what it is.
Another very sweet surprise is that, not long into my experiment with sharing my process pics, someone on Facebook asked if it would be possible to purchase one of my pieces-in-process.
Um, that would be yes! (And it quickly made me realize the importance of making this super-clear in my Instagram bio and in my posts as well — all work is for sale!)
This initial inquiry turned into not just a sale but also a commission, when it turned out the client wanted two sister paintings. And when she came to pick them up yesterday (see the blue/green pics at the top below), she also bought two other pieces I had in the studio, one of which wasn’t even finished yet.
There’s nothing like a sale to make an artist’s day. 🙂
Marketing that Doesn’t Feel Like Marketing
The upshot is that the process pic-sharing that I’ve been doing is good for me and my art in so many ways, including being good for my business!
It’s “marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing.”
Most creatives I talk to have a weird idea about what marketing is. We’re so afraid of coming across as slimy and sleezy that we’re often scared to share at all!
But of course effective marketing doesn’t mean strong-arming someone to buy something they don’t want or need! It simply means sharing what you offer with people who might actually like to buy it.
Which is exactly what I’m doing with my process pics: simply sharing my process. It’s fun! And it’s helping my audience of Right People to find me.
If you’re an artist, you might give it a try yourself!
To give you an idea of what my shares look like, below are start-to-finish pics of a recent piece. (The colors vary depending on the light I’m shooting in, but I consider this part of the inherent beauty of these process pics — they may be incredibly inaccurate in terms of color, but they really capture where I am, in terms of the artwork’s evolution, and what time of day it is and what work space I’m using when I snap the pics.)
This is just one piece I finished recently. You can see lots more process pics over at my Instagram page. Or hop over to my Facebook page, where I’ve been asking followers for title ideas for my pieces. Who knows? You might name my next piece! 🙂
And if you’ve been scared to share your work yourself, you might give it a try. It’s amazing how enriching it is when you see your work making a positive impact on other people.
Now go get creating!
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
Sometimes all you need is a change of scene. MB and I got just that last weekend on a trip to Seattle to visit his family.
When we planned the trip a few months back I knew I’d have a good time (it helps when you really like your significant other’s family), but I didn’t expect to come home so inspired to create! Much to my delight, my mind is abuzz with ideas for getting myself back in the creative sandbox with my art-making.
See, I’d kind of fallen out of the creative sandbox for awhile, at least with my visual art.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve been more focused on writing, and art has taken a back seat.
Or I should say, the back burner. As a dyed-in-the-wool passion pluralite (aka multi-passionate, multipotentialite, Renaissance soul), I never focus on one thing exclusively. I expect to rotate my creative pots around my stovetop.
After years of trying to cram my square passion pluralite peg into a round specialist hole, I’ve learned to accept and embrace that focusing on one thing is simply not how I’m wired.
I’ve learned to give myself full permission to follow whichever creative muse is calling me. Which means also giving myself full permission to not follow all my other muses at any given moment (because if there’s one thing passion pluralites need to learn, it’s that you do get to do everything, just not all at the same time.)
And yet… Despite the permission to not make art, I’ve still felt a sense of vague dissatisfaction that I haven’t been making much with my hands. Oh, I’ve sat down at my drafting table here and there, but I haven’t had that eagerness and curiosity that I look for when I’m creating.
The truth was, I was bored with making ArtSparks. I’d fallen into a rut and I hadn’t yet discovered what I wanted to make instead.
A Case of Persistent Amnesia
One of my Rules for the Creative Sandbox is “If you don’t know where to start, start anywhere,” and I often preach that it’s not thinking and intellectualizing that leads to creativity, you’ve got to do something. And yet pulling out my papers, brushes and paints, doing something, still wasn’t doing it for me.
This past weekend showed me that — doh! — I left something rather crucial out of my creative sandbox rules: the importance of filling the well.
Oh, yeah! I seem to be perpetually amnesiac about that…
Apparently I’m not the only one. Creativity maven Julia Cameron says that the Artist Date, one of the staples of her creativity course and best-selling book, The Artist’s Way, is the thing that generates the most resistance in people.
Although our trip to Seattle wasn’t technically an Artist Date, since according to Cameron’s requirements one needs to be alone on an Artist Date and I was surrounded by other people all weekend, it accomplished the same purpose: filling my well.
As I said, sometimes all you need is a change of scene.
The beauty of the Pacific Northwest is inspiring all on its own, but against that backdrop there were a couple of unexpected highlights: the Ballard farmer’s market, and empty-handed visits to two yarn shops.
Read on for two slices of my Seattle weekend…
A Doggie Photo Shoot at the Farmer’s Market
Note to self: next time you’re feeling uninspired, head to a farmer’s market!
And be sure to bring your iPhone camera. Even if you have nothing to draw or write with, if you’ve got a smartphone there’s a creative play device always in your pocket.
I’ve never thought of myself as much of a photographer, but my iPhone makes it easy to play and zero pressure (no film to worry about wasting). The filters and cropping in Instagram make it extra fun — a perfect creative sandbox tool. Even those of us with no “professional” aspirations can feed our creative hungers with snapshots, and the farmer’s market offers a luscious palette to play with.
You’ll find fruits, veggies and flowers galore…
And naturally, you’ll also find lots of street musicians…
But if you’re at the Ballard farmer’s market in Seattle, the real treasure trove is the dogs. Seattle is a dog-watching paradise!
At the Ballard market, these signs are everywhere:
And the dogs, oh, the dogs! Wiener dogs…
Cute little dogs…
And big dogs…
The sweetest pit bull you ever did see …
(Here she is in close-up…)
And tail-waggy, blue-ribbon mutt dogs…
Fast-moving dogs who won’t stand still for their portrait shoot…
And of course, at least one happy corgi!
The Yarn Shops’ Lack = My Gain
My other well-filling escapade in Seattle also had to do with fur… sort of. Of the sheep and llama variety, plus all sorts of plant “furs.”
In grad school, I spent more time knitting than I did studying, but it had been ages since I’d been in a really nice knitting store. MB’s sister-in-law took me and MB’s mom to two really high-end shops this weekend, and I was in heaven!
(I only wish I’d thought to take more pictures, but I was so busy caressing the glorious yarns, it didn’t occur to me until afterwards… oh, well. Next time…)
I absolutely fell in love with two scarves and was sorely tempted to buy the yarn to make them, but in the end it was probably a good thing that the skeins I wanted were out of stock. Let’s face it — I already have more yarn than I’ll probably ever use, and much as I would love wearing the scarves, is knitting a scarf really how I want to spend my limited time right now?
Um, probably not…
(Remember what I said about passion pluralites getting to do everything, just not all at the same time? Prioritizing is perhaps a passion pluralite’s greatest challenge, but I’m getting better at it!)
Although the yarn store excursions may not have filled my yarn coffers, they absolutely filled my well. Not only were the colors and textures a visual and tactile feast, but I came home revved up with creative sandbox ideas.
All that yarn in my hope chest? All those UFO’s* in my closet? All of a sudden I’m afire to incorporate them into my artwork.
Here’s a shot of an in-progress experiment, in which I’m in the process of knitting together two pieces of paper:
Oh, and there’s even a bonus to all of this: My recent change of scene is helping with my clutterbusting efforts in an unexpected way. Instead of “sweaters I’ll never finish” (the kind of thing that I have the darnedest time getting rid of), my change of scene helped me transmogrify my “what do I do with this?” stash into “art projects-in-the-making.”
I don’t know what they will turn into, but for the first time in a long while I’m excited to experiment, and this is a good thing.
Thanks, Seattle, for helping to cure my Artist Date amnesia and refill my well! I look forward to my next visit.
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!