A look into the inspiration behind the work.

Development #BeingMySelfie


Sometimes we can be defiant and not want to live up to the expectations we set for ourselves. I started this Selfie journey last February and had a plan to paint every day. As things often happens in about 2 months in I lost my steam because life started to get in the way. You know those little daily things that come up that can create roadblocks to getting everything you need to get done in a day. I wasn’t able to live up to my goal of daily paintings. I started feeling guilty about letting myself down and not meeting my goals. That the guilt kept me from painting and I was in this cycle of beating myself up which was getting in the way of doing what I love to do which was to paint. I was vicious to myself, denying myself the pleasure all because of an artificial goal that I set up, casually and I was letting it beat me.

I decided it was time to re-evaluate my goal and asked myself “Am I making goals that are unreasonable?” The answer to that question was obviously “YES!” So I readjusted my thinking and decided to simply make a yearend rather than a daily goal and see if I could make regular steps toward that goal instead. I set the goal to have 120 self-portraits done by the first of February 2015.

This was an “Ah Ha!” moment. Suddenly I no longer had a guilt cloud hanging over my head every day because I wasn’t sitting in front of the easel and I wasn’t feeling resentful about the things life was throwing at me that I was seeing as a roadblock. I started painting again.

So today I have finished my 80th selfie in the series. It is liberating! I am 2/3rds done with my goal in only 7 months. I still have 5 months to get the rest of my 120 paintings done. 40 paintings in 5 months, I think that is doable. Even with the additional things on my plate with the last quarter of the year looming, I know that I will have the time to make my painting goal.

I am unusually optimistic because traditionally the last quarter is especially a busy time with the holidays and activities that are coming. My mindset changed simply by not beating myself up day after day and focusing on an end state goal rather than a daily focus. The daily focus is still there, but the slate is clean each morning and I no longer focus on the past failures.

I really wanted to celebrate my 80th piece and I wanted some input to what I was doing with my Facebook friends. So I picked 6 selfie photos and asked people to vote for their favorites with the promise that I would paint the most popular one and I would make this piece bigger than any previous painting. They picked this ornery face of determination… PERFECT for number 80!

Because painting a piece 9 times larger than my usual pieces I decided to show my progress each day. This was great fun and I enjoyed insight from friends’ comments as the piece was developed. This is one of the great things about social media. You don’t even have to leave the studio to get feedback from your friends! And it surely beats dragging a 3 foot painting to a friend’s house to start a discussion about the piece.

Here are my posts as I developed the piece.

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The Naming of "Seriously! #BeingMySelfie"


Sometimes when I pick a picture to paint I am not completely sure what it attracting me to paint it but more often than not while painting it a title and thought comes to me. This one was stubborn the thoughts I was having were too complex. So I put it out on Facebook to find a title. There were many awesome suggestions that resonated with me but the most popular one was "Seriously!" This is not too far off from the sentiment that I found with the piece. The thought that was going through my head was "Tell me a story I can believe in!" and the tune of "Something to Believe" by Poison. But obviously that title was entirely too long.

Thank you to all of my faithful friends to help me name this new #selfie.

Here is a YouTube video from Poison, a flashback from my youth, Enjoy! :)

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Blog Hop - Share the Love!


Last week I was invited to join in an interesting blog hop by the artist Belinda Fireman  in answering a few brief questions about my creative life and to share three other artists whom I admire... I think this is a great way to share the love!

1) What am I working on/writing?
Currently I am working on several projects. All of them art related. I have been working on a painting series called “Being My #Selfie” which explores the selfie social media phenomena with images and prose that will culminate in a show and a book next year. I am also developing a Visual Art Business Basics course which I will be teaching at Washburn University during the fall semester. Finally, I am working to grow my home based business Art Print Express which keeps me hopping.

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
Speaking exclusively about my painting and writing, I paint people and write about them as I see them. I don’t mean that I literally see people with yellow skin, what happens is I tune into is their energy, personality and mood. Whether I am painting a subject sitting in front of me live or working from a photo that I have taken, I look beyond the obvious and reach for the secret message which can be found just under the surface.

I think that it is wrong that people think that the only good art is art that mimics reality as if we don’t already have the ability to do that through photography. There are so much more to each of us than what is skin deep that can be revealed, appreciated and understood in an expressive portrait. In addition, we rarely know what the artist was pondering while creating it. It is like coming in on the last half of a movie, missing the motivation of the characters. Throughout history, we have been missing these stories! 

3) Why do I do what I do?
My mission is to explore the depths of the human race, see beyond the superficial and emerge with insight with images and words that will delight and captivate people willing to pause and accompany me on the adventure. 

This mission permeates everything that I do in life whether it is painting, writing, teaching or helping other artists develop their product line with prints. It all involves seeing beyond the obvious and bringing meaning to our lives.

4) How does my writing/working process work?

I draw my insights not only from personal experience but from the chosen subject. What I discover is an emotional state, an attitude or a flickering thought that reveals the humanity within the person being painted. Filtered through my brush, developed with symbolic color and then described in stories each personality and secret becomes a complex narrative that stretches past what can be captured by a click of the photographers shutter or our own vivid memory.

Here are just a few artists I LOVE. I recommend checking their artwork - You will see a theme of COLOR with these ladies!

Picture

 
 

"I am an artist who can’t choose a favorite colour, a recovering perfectionist, professional procrastinator, and a mom of twin girls and a boy. Although I’ve been an artist my (almost) whole life, I started painting again in 2009 to help heal myself physically and emotionally. I hope my art brings beauty, colour and happiness into your life." - Belinda Fireman 

"I am an artist the artist who brings you visual experiences that expand your imagination..." -  Carol McIntyre
Becky Drager - Biography
"Using super-saturated colors and a modern graphic look, I make the native limestone, brick, metal or animals pop with energizing life by injecting the painting with inspirational color that enhances the beauty of the object whether it is natural or man-made." - Becky Drager
"Art really has nothing to do with talent. You can have all the talent in the world, but if not used what good is it. The drive to create has more to do with an obsessive, compulsive nature, than talent. It's something you HAVE to do. It helps if you love it." - Shelly Bedsaul

 

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Visual Arts Business Basics - A New Calling?


Garage door and butcher paper make a great white board for planning big!

There is a short break in my Selfies because I am seizing an opportunity to give back and learn something new every day! My husband Chuck Leivan, a master trainer for the KS Army Nat'l Guard taught me a new planning technique to develop my class Visual Arts Business Basics (AR 399) at Washburn University Art Department.

This is a simple, put butcher paper up on the garage door and layout your plan. This method really helped me see the details and how they fit into the big picture.

My objective for this class is to give the students a clear understanding of the mindset, skills and actions that are involved in building a visual arts career beyond creating their art.

This has been something sitting in the back of my mind for years. The memory that keeps coming back to me was Frank Nichols, one of my art instructors at Fort Hays State University told me "What I see for you in the future is you telling people like me what to do."  At the time I thought it was a weird comment and I wasn't sure what he was talking about. Of course who understands the sage when we are 25 years old? Was he being prophetic?

When I was in college we had a similar class. Back then it was all about getting into galleries and how to take good slides. To tell you the truth, we were discouraged from thinking of art as a product. Art for arts sake was the motto of the day. I always asked myself why I was paying all of this money for a degree that wasn't intended to pay for the courses I was taking... however I saw beyond that and saw through that lie. I think the winds on that myth are shifting.

The opportunities for artists have exploded in the last few years and I have done my best to keep up with it all while building my own art  career.  As I see it, this mindset is the crux of the problem and it is a solvable problem. Building an independent art career is a viable career decision for artists today if they are willing to step beyond their comfort zone and learn simple business skills.


I'm so excited! The first session starts a month from today on Thursday August 21st! Time will tell if this is a new calling!

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Self-Mutilation #BeingMySelfie


Accidents happen, unlike Van Gogh, my attempt at self-mutilation was completely unintentional.   I was shaping a box for a shipment and simply thinking through the problem of adjusting the box to fit. As I was scoring the cardboard, my thoughts are interrupted by a tug at my left index finger and a surprise flash of red pouring out of my hand. Knowing that I have a tendency to pass out when I cut my hands, I grabbed my finger, looked away and rushed over to the paper towel holder and wrapped the wound.

I was home alone, my husband out of town for work and my son occupied across town.  Then I began to panic – what if I pass out! Quickly I made phone calls to both, wanting someone to know my plight. First to my husband, as the phone rang I realized how stupid this call was because there would be nothing he could do… I hung up and called my son.  After leaving a desperate voice mail and disconnecting, I looked down at the blood blooming paper towel clinched in my left hand and realized I was on my own and needed to get to Med Assist immediately.

Hurrying to our vehicle, I decided to drive myself to the minor medical center. I concentrated on the task at hand, shaking and sweating I made the trip even cursing the red light that held up my progress.  With a clear trail to the facility I looked again at the now gore soaked makeshift bandage and just knew I was going to lose the end of my finger.

Walking into the center clutching my left hand, a bright eyed receptionist pleasantly asked how she could help. “I cut myself real bad,” I desperately explained. They took me back immediately to assess my finger.

As it turned out my worst fears where over blown. I was not going to lose the end of my finger and the staff at Med Assist did a fantastic job patching up my stupid self-maiming.  They spent over an hour dressing my wound and were patient and kind in my hour of desperation.  

They honored my request not to look at the wound, which is always a guaranteed moment of unconsciousness.  I still don’t have personally witnessed view of my wound; I am trying to muster up the courage to see it for myself. They told me I had cut across my nail and wouldn’t lose the entire end of my finger.  So the view in my head is much better now than the idea of what it was to begin with.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the people in the medical field. They do things with grace and ease that would have me blithering in the nearest corner.

In the big picture the take away for me is you may find yourself alone and in frantic pain in the twinkling of an eye.  However if you can muster up the courage to keep a cool head enough to seek the help you need you will find people who are kind and understanding that can help patch your wounds and get you on the track of recovery. -- Oh, yeah and be careful when using sharp tools especially when you are home alone.

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And I Saw it on the Cover of a Magazine!


Cover of the seveneightfive Magazine

Being My #Selfie on seveneightfive magazine! Thumb through to page 18 for insight on the artistic process and what the selfie is all about!
 

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So, what motivates an artist?


The Abundant Artist

Today I had the opportunity to hang out with fellow artist Belinda Fireman and The Abundant Artist folks! We talked about what it is like to work as an artist, our motivations, where we have been and where we are going. More fun than should be legal!

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Overwhelm or Headache? #BeingMySelfie


What art career obstacles are you experiencing and would like to overcome? and would like to overcome?

For many independent artists out there thinking about creating a viable art business is both overwhelming and a headache. But did you know that everything about business is learnable and with the right knowledge you can build an art career even in Topeka, Kansas?

I attended the ArtsConnect Sustainability and Economic Impact of the Arts panel yesterday featuring guest speaker Randy Cohen, the Vice President of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts. He unveiled the results of the year-long study on the impact of the Arts in our community. The good news is that $20 million dollars in business spending in Shawnee county alone. Now that is an impressive number! More on the event at CJonline

These statistics say that the Arts is a viable business in our community, it places the arts as the 7th largest employer in Topeka! How about some of that for you my artist friend?

This is fantastic news for the Arts as a whole in Topeka and proves that art careers can be built. But as I see it, we aren’t quite there yet. What I see on a daily basis is that Art isn’t seen as a business but as a hobby or a pastime for the creators.

This isn’t the truth. Since the dream inception of the NOTO Arts District a few years ago there is one thing in the planning that is lacking. That is business expertise of creators. The myth of the starving artist is still rampant in the mindset of the artists as well as the public at large. 

Starting out on your own entrepreneurial endeavor is a lonely place to be, I know this from starting my own business, ArtPrintExpress.com. I had to actively search for the answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had, but discovered along the way. There wasn’t a mentor to turn to for advice because no one else had tried my sort of business in the area before. I ended up turning to online business experts to give me guidance. With determination and perseverance (what I have renamed as Artitude) I made it work.  The road was jagged and there were and are failures but I now have a viable business model.

Not everyone has to have such a solitary road when it comes to creating an art career because there are many people in our area succeeding in building a career from their art. What I believe is artists as a group can come together to learn from and support each other to build viable art careers.

For my artist friends who are attempting the dream of making a career from their art I have a couple of questions. Would you be interested in learning what it takes to build a viable business with your art? If there was a course, what are the obstacles you are experiencing and would like to overcome?

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Secrets or Gossip? #BeingMySelfie


Am I telling you a secret or gossip?

What is the story here? Am I getting ready to tell you a shocking personal secret, a juicy piece of gossip or something completely different?  Share with me and your friends what you see in this piece or give me a story of a secret or gossip and how sharing had an impact on you or others.

Do you remember as a kid sitting in a circle and playing telephone or also called gossip?

The way it is played is the first person picked a message and it was passed as a secret from one person to the next until it ended with their neighbor. Then the neighbor announced what the secret was and then the person beginning the message announced what the message was to begin with. The two were never the same. This activity really shocked me as a kid, because the original meaning was always grossly distorted once the message made its way around our circle of friends.

It was a lesson well learned by me and I take it into consideration whenever I open my mouth or if I hear news from any source. Inevitably no matter how hard each person tries to stay true to the message it is never the same as the original source.

I believe it is not always maliciously changed, but that when we hear a message we also add to the telling our own life experience and the story gets changes simply because it went through each person as a filter.

This phenomenon happens even online. However, I think in this medium it many of the changes in the story are actually planned to meet someone’s agenda. There is much more effort involved in repeating a factoid online with a graphic or photo than there is in simply telling the story face to face. So the filter and distortion happens intentionally.

Unfortunately, we see this used with every story in the most trusted news sources as well. The integrity of our news sources has given away to agendas and the attempt to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle. I believe that caution must be used when we hear any news unless we witness it firsthand.

This makes it difficult to ever find the real truth. Then again isn’t all truth filtered through our own experiences? So do we ever know anything but the truth as we know it and our choices in what we believe?

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Dread or Disgust? #BeingMySelfie


Do you see dread, disgust or something different?

The subtle variations of expression can say volumes about the person we are looking at. But we will never know the whole story. Expressions can also be deceptive.

As I am creating these selfies a favorite show comes to mind, “Lie to Me”, I don’t know if you were a fan so here is a short description from Wikipedia: The show isinspired by the work of Paul Ekman, the world's foremost expert on facial expressions featuring actor Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a genius psychologist with an expertise in body language, predominantly microexpressions, and a founder of The Lightman Group, a private company that operates as an independent contractor to assist investigations of local and federal law enforcement through applied psychology.

microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression shown on the face of humans according to emotions experienced. Here is a short video that explains it really well.

If you are interested the series is on Hulu.

I found the series endlessly fascinating. I suppose that my own interest in people sucked me into the show and the amazing powers of observation.

The one thing I learned from watching the show was that there are stories in every face.  In this piece do you see dread, disgust, or something completely different? Maybe I dread what just came out of my mouth and the reaction I know is coming or I’m simply disgusted that there was an unidentified bug that just flew by that could be yet another mosquito that is hovering to suck my blood and make me itch for days. Please tell me the story your see in this piece.  Just for the fun of it share this with your friends to learn what they see. 

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