24 Nov 2013

Passion vs work

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you ~ Oprah Winfrey

Over the past few years I've been working on understanding myself and the way I live my life. I've learned a lot about myself and my passions and one important discovery I've made is that photography and any kind of art must stay only as a hobby for me. I'm unable to split things into work images and fun things just for me. It all ends up as work.

  • Then the way I think about art or photography changes 
  •  My subjects change 
  • How I approach a subject changes 
  • The way I feel about the work changes and it sucks the fun right out of it for me. 
  • I also hate self promoting stuff and managing sales, it all starts to feel like that's all that it's about and the art disappears into the distant background. 
I guess I'm trying to say that art for me has to be fun for my creative juices to flow. The stupid thing is that I knew this when I left school but it was pushed into the dark recesses of my mind and ignored. I never took art into higher study and I never attempted to turn it into a career because I knew it would become a chore and the fun would disappear. I could have taken my tech drawing classes to a higher level though. Drawing house plans and kitchen designs felt different from the art side of things. More controlled and detailed and it had to be accurate unlike art that is so much better when it is looser and flows and has your feelings and emotions in it. Maybe that's what separates it for me. Work is controlled and has constraints put on it from other people and art is free flowing and as soon as I add someone else's wants into an image or start to add a budget, promotion or any other business side effects it kills the free flow.

I wonder why it can take years of banging your head against the wall to finally learn something that you already knew from long ago? I ran my thoughts on this past my mother who is also trying to sell photographic images and she agreed with me. She told me that she hasn't taken any family photos this year at all when in the past she would have taken loads. Purely because her mind is now focused on photography as a business and the fun side has now gone. Perhaps it's a genetic thing with us?

Human nature says that when we do something there has to be something in it for us to want to continue it. A payoff if you like. When I take photos for fun I generally take more images of my family and friends and the beautiful places we have visited together. The images serve as reminders of great days and the payoff is high for me. The same happens when I paint or draw something for myself while I'm out somewhere or even at home. The art transports me back to that time and place, all the sights, sounds and smells come with it. However, when I take photos for work I'm concentrating more on technique, camera settings, best angles etc and when I look at those images those are the memories I have of that place. Memories of rushing to catch the light in the early morning, finding a great angle and then shooting and moving on before the light changes. It's a different process altogether from strolling around a lake with family on a beautiful day, laughing and enjoying everyone's company and capturing the magic moments freely as they arise.

I've had days in the past where I've gone on a family trip and when I've gotten home and looked back through the photos I've realized that I haven't taken any photos of my family while we were out. In fact some days I've realized that I've spent my day miles behind everyone else shooting things while everyone else has had fun without me! Where was the payoff on those days? The money earned from those images certainly wasn't worth the loss of interaction with my family. Perhaps part of the problem is that I don't like to take people pictures for work so if my mind is in work mode I don't shoot people including my family on a day out. Don't get me wrong, I do like to take pics of my family but I don't want to sell them so they are definitely not work.

So I was wondering how do you balance your passion vs your work? How do you switch off the work mode when you're with family or do you somehow manage to balance the two? I'd love to hear your ideas on this.

Enjoy life and travel light :)

10 Nov 2013

Art and hobby supply cleanup part 3

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less ~ Socrates

This is the last part of my supply clean out and the toughest for me. The scrapbooking stuff, tools and misc stuff. As I mentioned in my last post, scrapbooking is my kryptonite. I collect ephemera and papers etc but I don't end up using them and have a hard time parting with them because they're pretty and they might come in useful one day. It's also made more difficult by the fact that I also like to make mixed media collages which can also use some of these things. The thought of separating the two is a headache on it's own.

Something that makes it a bit easier to part with them though is copyright. Printed paper, other people's photographs, fabrics and I'm sure some postage stamps have some kind of copyright protection on them. I may be able to use them in personal images but maybe not in images I want to sell. (It looks like a minefield when you look for information online). I'm not 100% sure on how this all works together when you add these items into your mixed media work but I prefer to err on the side of caution and create my own textures and background images either photographically, hand painted by me, or created in photoshop or illustrator by me. This all takes extra time and effort but at the end of the day I know that when I put an image online, I created everything myself so I don't have to worry about someone else's copyright. This in the end, made the paper collection much easier to part with.

As for the rest, it was time to roll up my sleeves and start going through the boxes.
  • I love old postage stamps and will keep them for use in my private work in my journals and smaller canvases.
  • I'm keeping the lino pieces and carving tools. The only reason I haven't used them yet is that I can't make up my mind on the logo I'm trying to create. I'd like to be able to print my logo on things. So far I've created lots of different logos and have lots of ideas for new ones but I just can't seem to be satisfied with any of them. I'm too fussy I guess or fickle maybe?
  • The playing cards are a bit like the scrapbooking stuff really, I want to try making ATCs (Artist trading cards), but have never gotten around to it. On the plus side they don't take up much room and we could always play with them. I've kept them for now with a six month expiry date on them. If I don't use them before the six months are up then out they'll go.
  • The ink and stamps are used mostly by my daughter and occasionally by me. (Copyright again in my mind). I've found them a new box and put them where my daughter can easily reach them.
  • The lettering stencils, plastic set squares, protractors, and rulers etc, I've stored in a desktop file box. Much easier to reach and keep tidy. (See image above).
  • The wire and solder has moved down to the garage where the soldering iron and vice etc are. My son wants to try making metal sculptures out of scrap metal and bolts and my hubby has agreed to help him with this. 
  • I've kept the buttons and various paper fasteners. They might be useful when I start making my own journals.
  • One other large thing that I got rid of was an old wooden table that I was using sometimes when working on larger projects. It had a chipboard top that water had ruined and was too low to work on without getting a sore back. It also took up a lot of space when I wasn't using it. This will be replaced by a plastic topped table that folds away for storage. It will save space and my back. I'm lucky our town is holding it's annual inorganic collection at the moment. (This is where the council allows us to put old furniture and appliances out at the kerb for collection for free. Many people drive around the neighborhood and pick up free bargain furniture and the council cleans up what is left at the end of the week).
  • Everything else left, tools and metal fastenings mainly, I've put into a large plastic tool caddy on wheels. This gets them out of the way but easily moved to where I need them.
    That seems to be the bulk of it all sorted out now. I've cleared a lot of space (magazines and scrapbooking papers mainly plus the table and a few canvases), and organized what's left so that the people that use it the most have the best access to it. It looks much better now. In six months I'll review a couple of things and maybe prune things a little more but for now I'm happy with the results.

    I'll finish by saying that it's well worth the effort to go through your art and craft supplies every now and again. You may find that like me you have been storing a lot of supplies for a hobby that no longer interests you or one that you will never start. It's also amazing how many old broken rubber bands and solid liquids in bottles and other broken things that you may find too.

    Have a great week :)

    7 Nov 2013

    Art and hobby supply cleanup part 2

    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler ~ Albert Einstein

    In the first part of my art and hobby supply clean-out I went through the 'easy' stuff first, such as the hobby stuff I knew I wouldn't be using again and the photography and computing stuff that I knew wouldn't cause me too much trouble. Tip- Anytime I know I've got 'sentimental' or ' I'm sure it will be useful when I do decide to do this hobby someday' type clutter I work through the easy stuff first. That way I get the positives of seeing an easily cleaned and organized space to help boost my confidence in working on the harder more sentimental stuff later. If I started with the hard stuff first I'd keep things I don't need, make bad decisions and end up getting discouraged and not wanting to continue. Start easy. Start small.

    • Art Books. I share a love of art and an art space with my two children so the art book section needed to be looked through by all of us. We have a number of beginner 'how to draw' books that used to belong to my son before his skills outgrew them. However, my daughter is now starting to enjoy using them so they are all staying for now along with two origami books that she also enjoys. There was only one book in this section that no-one wanted so out it went. I'm new to watercolor and my son draws cartoon characters and usually colors them in pencil but has expressed an interest in trying to color them with watercolor instead. So it makes sense to keep these books and the books on how to draw animated figures. The book on perspective is also staying, as is the calligraphy book and my daughter's favorite book on using rubber stamps. The woodblock printing book also got a reprieve as my husband was interested in it. He's the woodworker in our family.

    • Scrapbooking. This left the largest section of books on scrapbooking. Scrapbooking is a particularly bad area for me. It's my kryptonite. I really like the idea of scrapbooking. I love looking through and collecting the goodies that go hand in hand with this hobby but that's as far as it ever goes for me. I collect papers and supplies and books on this subject in the hopes that one day I may give it a go but honestly I'm fooling myself. If I was really going to start working with this stuff I would have already. So as hard as it feels to part with these books, I'm going to. Now you might be thinking that I should keep these books, that I might use them now that I know they are being wasted but I find them to be a nagging distraction. Whenever my eyes glide over the art books looking for inspiration or a new technique, my eyes catch on these books and the little voice in my head says "What a waste of money. Why did you buy these books you don't need? You could have bought blah blah with the money you wasted on these books!" and then I feel bad instead of excited and inspired. I guess it's like walking into a cluttered room to look for something and your brain scolding and nagging you for not cleaning up the mess. It's unpleasant and distracting from the people and things that really do matter, besides, there are enough people in the world shaking your confidence without you doing it to yourself too.

    • Art journaling. Art journaling is something I really do enjoy so I've kept all of those books and wouldn't mind adding a few more to that section. I love looking through other people's journals. You get to peek into their inner world for a little while. I guess this is why some of my all time favorite photographers are street photographers. They capture little glimpses into other people's lives and worlds. I've also kept the book on how to bind your own handmade journals. I haven't made one yet but I hope to soon. 

    • Magazines. This brings me to the magazines. I've kept stacks of different types of magazines to use in collages etc but they're getting in the way and they weigh a ton.(most of them were given to me so at least I didn't lose money here) I'm halving them for now and may reduce the number again if there's still too many.

    • Paints.This is one area I'm not too bad in. My watercolor paints are all fairly new and in good condition as are the brushes. Even my acrylic paints and brushes are good so just a quick tidy around and a new container for the paints worked a treat. I've created space in a cupboard for the paints, gesso and other chemicals etc. Somewhere safe and out of sight.

    • Pens. I replaced my gel pens and felt tip pens recently so they're all okay. I did change my storage of them to horizontal instead of vertical though because I read somewhere recently that they work for longer if you store them that way. Apparently the nibs can dry out if they are stored point up and they could leak if stored point down. So horizontal seems the way to go. I'm now storing my tech pens this way too.

    • Colored pencils. All of my colored pencils are in good condition and I don't have huge sets as I don't use them a huge amount. I changed their storage to a pencil tin made from an old cocoa tin wrapped in wallpaper scraps. (See picture above)

    • Paper and journals. The spare journals are new. I buy a couple ahead before I finish the old ones incase they don't have what I want in stock when I want to buy them. I decided to store the watercolor paper inside the tilt-top box I paint on instead of on a shelf. It just means that it's closer to hand when I want to use it.

    • Canvases. My daughter painted on some of the spare canvases that I had which only left two 12" square canvases to store. I'm planning a couple of inspirational paintings that will look great on the wall above my desk area. From now on I'll only be buying canvases as I need them. I want to paint bigger on canvas but don't want to be storing oversized canvases in my lounge/art space. With kids and a dog it would be too easy for them to get damaged.
    I think that's enough tidying for today :)

    Have a great week :)

    6 Nov 2013

    Art and hobby supply cleanup part 1

    “Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, 
    worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear,
     and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.” ~Jerome K. Jerome

    Over the past couple of years I've been busy decluttering our home. I've gone through every cupboard and wardrobe, every bedroom and bathroom and every bookcase in our house at least twice. Removing all the unused, ill-fitting and unwanted items I could find. Now that I've gotten rid of all of the 'easy' stuff such as outgrown toys, clothes and books I'm now left with the 'harder' stuff. Children's artwork, sentimental items and the art and craft supplies. 

    I've avoided going through the art and craft supplies up until this point because I figured that everything in there was important and useful and so there would be no point in going through it all unnecessarily. I mean really, who's heard of an artist minimizing their art supplies? It just doesn't happen does it? Artist's are known to be messy and have large collections of books and supplies, it's in their nature right? Well, that's what I thought so the idea of sorting through this stuff was pushed to the back of my mind and I tried to ignore the quiet little voice that said "Oi, wait a minute!"

    That was, until a couple of weeks ago when I finally took a good look around our lounge/art space and realized that all of the 'clutter' in the room wasn't regular household clutter. It was art and hobby supplies and some of it hadn't been used in years. It was taking up valuable work and storage space so something had to be done.

    • I had two shelves in my bookcase filled with painting, art, photography and cross-stitch patterns and computing books. Also my finished journals.
    • I had loads of cross-stitch supplies. Spare material, tons of threads in plastic boxes with a bag to fit them in, bags for 'current' projects and the threads for them, and loads of finished designs waiting to be framed on one shelf.
    • I had acrylic paints, gesso, brushes, spare canvases and texture paste on another shelf.
    • Watercolor paints in tubes and pans, brushes, watercolor paper, spare journals, and watercolor pencils on another shelf.
    • Scrapbooking papers, assorted 3D embellishments, buttons, old postage stamps, old magazines, assorted paper for mixed media in various shapes, sizes and textures, wire, solder, tools, ink and stamps, lettering stencils, felt tip pens, gel pens, colored pencils, art pencils, charcoal, various tech pens, spray fixative, carving tools, lino pieces, picture frames, eyelet kit, packs of unopened playing cards for making ATCs, compass set, plastic triangles, flexi-curve, knives and cutting board and lots of other misc stuff.
    • 2 cameras, film and digital and various bits to go with them, tripod etc.
    • Lastly there is the computer side of things. The computer, scanner and printer, printer paper and also the drawing tablet etc.
    Yikes! No wonder I felt like I was making no progress in cleaning up, I was ignoring a huge amount of stuff!

    Then came the tricky part, what to keep and what to get rid of? I decided to start with the easy decisions first. All of my cross-stitch stuff hadn't been used in about 3 years and I have no plans to go back to it again. So I rang my sister-in-law and asked if she would like it, she has three daughters and said yes. Starting out in a new hobby is always expensive so if you can share what you have with family and friends it works out great all round.

    • Never dump your unwanted supplies on people without asking first though. There's nothing worse than having a lot of stuff dumped on you when you don't actually need or want it. Always ask first.
    Next came the photography stuff. This was easy as I got rid of a lot of spare bags and things when I sold my SLR a couple of years ago. I mostly use my Canon G11 now and occasionally my film SLR. I went through my photography books and pruned down to four favorites.

    The computer stuff just required a tidy up of the printer trolley and photo paper and a quick dust around the rest. I sorted out a shelf on the trolley for the graphics tablet and spare drives etc. I only had one book on Photoshop and decided to keep it.

    There ends the easy part. 
    The art supplies and books are going to be much more difficult and I'm going to save that job for another day. I first need to decide what kind of art I like doing the most and what equipment I need to keep for that. I tend to work smaller now with only the occasional larger canvas. I'm also doing more with watercolor but I still like my acrylics so I have some soul searching to do that will ultimately help me decide what to keep.Wish me luck :)

    Have a great week :)

    17 Sep 2013

    A bright new future

    Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful ~ William Morris

    The image above was one of the break through moments I had recently while working in my pocket journal. I've been struggling for years with clutter and over the last couple of years I have really started to look at 'stuff ' in a different way. It took a long time though for me to realize that my stuff owned me more than I owned it. This may sound strange but I've found it to be true. My stuff rules my life. I have to pay for it when I buy it, then spend lots of time and/or money looking after it, and even then it's not finished with. I may have to pay someone to take it away, or spend time listing it to sell, or spend money dumping it or donating it. Then there is the inherited stuff that has the emotional ties to it, you can't just dump 'great whoevers' stuff can you? Not to mention wedding keepsakes, birthday presents and other gifts etc. Add being an artist into that mix and suddenly you have piles of art and craft stuff added to the house as well.  Don't get me wrong I'm not a hoarder like you see on tv with stuff piled to the ceiling and no room to walk around. We can see the floor in every room but the cupboards are full and there are lots of books, toys, art supplies etc stored in extra storage spaces around the house. The kitchen cupboards and drawers are full and I won't even mention the garage/workshop area.

    I've had enough of clutter and I want to make some big changes starting from today. So from now on my blog is going to be a bit more of a mixture of topics. I hope you don't mind. I want this blog to be a record of my art learning and decluttering along with sharing some links to other interesting art and minimalism blogs and any tips and tricks I find along the way. I really enjoy these minimalism blogs Becoming Minimalist and Zen Habits and also Miss Minimalist and the art blogs that are listed here in the side bar in my favorite bloggers list. There are loads of other great blogs too but I haven't yet found an artist minimalist blog. I guess it is a hard niche to fill because you have this urge to declutter things but it can be hard not to collect things to add into your mixed media or other art works. I'm not sure if this will even work but I'm willing to give it a try. 

    So I think with new beginnings should come a new blog title. Say goodbye to "My first artist's journal and blog" and say hello to "Simple Life, Simple Art"

    Have a great week :)

    Good Intentions

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions

    Have you ever noticed that when you are sure about something and make a statement about it, for example "Hopefully this will be the start of weekly posting from now on" that life has a way of making a liar out of you? It did for me lol. My last blog post was in July. I got as far as painting the boys birthday cards that I had drawn and then went down with a nasty case of flu. I spent a miserable week moping around the house and then another two weeks stuffed up with a head cold before it hit me with it's final blow and gave me a sinus infection. It's been a really nasty flu this year, everyone that I know that's had it, has had it for weeks with it morphing into various forms before they have finally gotten rid of it. Autumn and winter are usually my favorite seasons but this year I welcomed spring very gladly. Anyway, I'm back again and I'm going to post on here anytime I feel like it :D That should fix the life making a liar out of me problem lol.

    The image above was painted today in my new Stillman and Birn Zeta sketchbook. I've never tried one of their books before but I love this one! I ordered it months ago and had to wait because the Zeta wasn't available here in New Zealand yet. It was well worth the wait. I love the smoothness of the paper for my pen work and the pen didn't bleed on the paper when I wrote, like it has in some other books. The paper didn't warp or buckle at all no matter how wet it got from the paints either. I think I have a new favorite journal. However, they don't make this journal in the 4" x 6" size that I prefer for my go everywhere pocket book so I think that when my small journal is finished I'll try the Stillman and Birn Alpha series out. I can't wait!

    Speaking of my small journal, I've been working in it a lot while I've been sick but at the moment there's more writing than images in it. I had a couple of break through moments in this journal during my illness though. The image below was one of them. 

    I realized that I wasn't anymore productive in my new large work space than I was before I got it. In fact I was probably less so. My huge desk seemed to be a clutter magnet and I had taken over way too much of the lounge. I also found that it made my art space very business like and I really needed it to be more fun and inspiring. Great for business type things but not so good for getting my mind into the creative play zone I need to draw and paint. I did learn that I prefer an "L-shaped" work space so I traded my large desk for a couple of smaller ones. Luckily I'd bought cheap 2nd hand so I didn't lose out on the deal. I've also worked out what work zones I need and what works for me. 

    Work zone 1
    My main work area. This is a 4' by 2' (1.2m x .6m) desk no higher than 29" (.73m) high so that I can use my angled work surface on the top for my watercolor paintings on flat sheets of paper. I work flat on the table top in my journals. For larger acrylic paintings I can use a table easel on the top. I have this situated at right angles to a window so that I have good light. I also have my paints and brushes etc on a shelf near by in work zone 3.

    Work zone 2
    My computer area. This forms the other half of my "L-shaped" work space. I pay the bills here, blog, photoshop, scan paintings etc from this desk. I have a shelf underneath to file things straight away, this helps to keep the clutter from this area from overflowing into my art space but ensures that I can find anything at a moments notice. This area also houses my scanner and graphics tablet on a wheeled trolley that My husband built for me. The desk is against the wall to cut down screen glare. The only thing here that doesn't really work for me is my chair, I really need to replace it. 

    Work zone 3
    My storage/thinking/relaxing zone. This area has a large cubby type bookcase where I store all my paints, brushes, art books, camera gear, spare canvases, craft supplies and finished works and journals. This is situated just a scoot on my wheeled office chair away from my other work spaces. Because I work in a space between the dining/kitchen and lounge rooms I have easy access to hot drinks or cold and a comfortable seating area to sit in while I sketch out plans or read through my art books. It's my storage/work and relaxation space. If I really want to chill out I can watch my tropical fish from this area.

    That's my three work zones and they seem to be functioning a lot better now and I have the added bonus of more lounge space when family and friends come over.

    Hope you all have a great week :)

    5 Jul 2013

    I'm back

    “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” 
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I can't believe it's been nearly eight months since I last posted here. I was only meant to take a short two week break, maybe a month max but, things happen and here we are eight months later.

    A lot of things have changed in my workspace. I'm still sharing the lounge but I invested in a good sized second hand desk and a cubby type bookshelf to store my growing collection of art and reference books. I still need to look for a decent office chair though. I also picked up a second hand medium sized wooden box with a tilt top lid to paint my watercolors on. The space inside it is handy for holding my desk sketch/idea book and small works in progress. I even managed to pick up a second hand three drawer mobile unit to store my art supplies in. I've put little trays in the top two drawers that I can pull out to use their contents when needed. Ideal for colored pencils, felt tip pens, gel pens etc. and it all tidies away to keep my desktop clutter free. Well it works in theory anyway, my desk now seems to be attracting school papers and bills etc instead. Grrr. The paperwork of life is such a pain.

    Art wise nothing new has happened really. I haven't painted in a while. I started creating business cards and letterheads etc in Photoshop for my Zazzle store and that snowballed into opening a separate store for business items. Then I created a number of new photographic and computer generated designs for elsewhere in my store and that's kept me busy for months. Right now I have three boy's birthday card designs waiting to be painted and some more half designed cards for girls that I haven't quite got right yet. Once I've finished these designs I'll have them to paint too.

    Elsewhere I've been going through our house again and getting rid of unnecessary clutter. This seems to be an ongoing process. Some things I donated, some things I sold, which paid for my desk, bookcase and mobile unit and some things I threw away. So between all this and keeping up with the kids I completely forgot about my blog.

    I've decided to try to plan out my week a bit better and make sure I leave myself some painting time so it's not all full on computer work all week cos that gets tiring after a while. Perhaps alternating days will liven things up a bit. I've also got to get rid of this idea in my mind that if I don't produce a finished piece of art at the end of every art day that I've wasted my time. I'm not sure how many of you have the same nagging voice in your mind, but I find that it stops me enjoying painting when I'm forcing myself to up my output and sometimes it stops me from starting a piece of work. I need to relax more and just let it all flow out as it comes. My morning walks are always a good way to blow away the cobwebs and get new ideas coming. Time spent in nature is never a waste of time. Anyway, hopefully this will be the start of weekly posting from now on.

    Take care and have a great week :)