Being True to Yourself

I've been making some big changes to my website and portfolio over the past year. Sometimes it's felt like like one step forward and two back. Other times, the work was completely stalled by my own doubts. What were these changes? I decided to give my SciFi art its own gallery, instead of hiding it away. When I read that sentence back to myself, it sounds like no big deal, but it was a decision I stressed over. I might still have the art tucked away if it weren't for two friends who saw its value. One friend wanted the art for his book covers. The other friend convinced me I had something special worth sharing with the world.

So what was the fuss all about? I've always had diverse interests. This isn't even the first time I've explored space and science fiction in my art, but it's always felt as if most people associate me with nature and fantasy. They wouldn’t be wrong but it's only one aspect of my identity. I don't think I've ever fit neatly into one box--who does? I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors. I do feel a strong connection to our planet, so it's not surprising it shows up in my art. The other side of me loves Giger's Xenomorphs, and as a teenager listened to heavy metal and alternative rock (and still do), played Doom and read a lot of Stephen King novels. I don't hide this other side, it's always been there, but it often surprises people who don't know me very well. I suppose I've also never looked the part!

The Hive

I think for a long time I let how others perceive me influence the art I gave center stage. Behind the scenes, I was still working on my SciFi visions, just not promoting them very much. I'd convinced myself that the two couldn't coexist together, that if they did I'd alienate fans of my nature/fantasy art. I'm such an idiot...

The two artworks above were created using vastly different techniques, but they look as if they were meant to hang on the wall together. This summer they will. My website is in order and I've recently relaunched my store to feature both my fantasy and my scifi art. It's time to be true to myself, my art and my vision.

The Jupiter Event

Beginning with LibertyCon next month and CONvergence in July, I'll have both genres present in art shows. I'm both excited and terrified, but there's also a feeling of calm that's spread over me. I'm embracing who I am and what I love. Being true to yourself is part of the that magical recipe that let's an artist create using their full potential. When you're holding back or trying to create something in what you think is a popular style, you're only hurting yourself.

Create the art you love, the art that drives to you to want to create every day. Be kind. Be humble. Be thankful for those that love your vision too.

Winter Wanderings

Autumn is my favorite season, but my heart holds quite a bit of love for Winter too. I love the crisp feel of winter air and walking among the bare trees I adore. There's a stillness in winter that's perfect for introspection--for listening. Have you ever stopped to listen to the earth? I spend a lot of time listening and thinking, wandering and daydreaming. It's where my art is born. If I don't have that stillness my focus becomes cloudy and my thoughts are lost to chaos of our modern world. 

For the most part I'm able to keep my focus with short daily walks. They are part meditation and part creative process, both end up filling a need. And of course, I often find little treasures along the way. The feather I photographed below belongs to a Mourning Dove--I think! 

My daydreams and wanderings always make their way into my art. I have little sketches and ideas jotted on slips of paper all over my table. I try to keep it in order. That usually lasts about a week. I find I'm most open to my art when I have everything I need around me. If I tuck it all away, the visions fade away.

One of the benefits of living in the country are the magnificent sunsets I get to see. The ones from my front door aren't too bad either.

The land is a being who remembers everything.
— Joy Harjo

Where do you get your ideas?

Where do you get your ideas?

If you’re an artist, writer, musician or anyone working in a creative field you’re bound to be asked. However, the question is a disguise for another. What they are really asking is how did you come up with this final work of art. The question implies there is some secret formula for making art–all it takes is that spark of inspiration. If that were true, we’d all be artists! Having ideas is only one part of the equation. The other half is a ton of hard work. Ideas are important though…and passion. Without either you don’t have anything to fuel the hard work. I’m always a little shocked when I hear an artist say they are struggling to come up with ideas. Maybe it’s just a foreign concept to me. I always seem to be brimming with ideas, so many that I must reign myself in so I stay focused. The well I draw from is all around me and inside me.

Are they struggling to find ideas or are they struggling to find that BIG painting idea? Are they too focused on the end result? When I think of ideas, I think of all the scribbles in my sketchbook and the notes that eventually lead to a painting. It’s a process. Even when I think I have a core idea for a painting, it always continues to evolve before I have the final artwork. I think some artists are looking for that stroke of genius, that masterpiece. This quote from Chuck Close sums it up well…

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.”

“All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

Just get to work.

Start by sketching something you love. What are you passionate about? Make list. I love nature, fantasy and myth. I also love horror movies, owls, crows and bones. I love taking hikes in the woods. My imagination is fond of mixing all of these together.

When I’m sketching the things I’m passionate about or getting out of the studio to embrace what I love, I can’t stop the ideas from forming. So if you’re struggling, stop sitting around. Take your sketchbook outside, or to a museum, or a busy town center or a cafe… Explore a new medium or tackle something you’ve never drawn before. Challenge yourself but remember, there’s nothing wrong with returning to things you’ve drawn or painted hundreds of times. You just might think of a new way to express that object or idea.

Originally published at tesseraguild.com