A look into the inspiration behind the work.

I Got Nothing #Selfie

How about that for having nothing?

Yeah, I got nothing. I envy people who seem to have a witty comeback for nearly every conversation. Usually I find myself standing in the middle of a group with absolutely nothing to contribute.  The pithy comments usually come later when they are irrelevant to the current conversation or I am alone.

Sometimes it takes me a while to completely process the context of a face to face conversation. I am paying attention to more than the words that are spoken. I am observing the gestures, expressions and the rhythm of the words as they are spoken. When I pay attention to all of that I become an observer rather than a participant.

I am fascinated by people in social context as a result I become a wallflower rather than the center of attention. It is the artist in me and the lure to paint people rather than landscapes.  Sometimes I wish I could have Google Glass so I can simply capture the moments I see to store and recapture the poignant moments on canvas.  (Who has $2000 for an accessory that you don’t own and can’t share?)

What is needed is something inconspicuous, because as soon as you pull out the cell phone to capture the moment, people suddenly put on their masks, the emotional instant is lost.  One possible more economical solution is the new Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch which makes a camera available on your wrist. But somehow that would seem awkward and sneaky to attempt to get a shot as you casually look at your watch like Dick Tracy.

I still have nothing. No witty contributions to the conversation or a way to capture the interesting things that I observe.  It must be a little spring fever and my imagination whirring away at the possibilities to integrate technology into my work. Of course I don’t need any of those gadgets to continue with my selfies.  I am not finished with the “Being My #Selfie” series yet so I’m all good for today even if I still have nothing.

I can simply continue with my blissful nothingness.  “You know nothing John Snow.”  This doesn’t stop John from moving forward with his goals.  I think I’ll take a cue from him and just keep moving forward.

How about that for having nothing to begin with?

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Failure #Selfie

Do you think a 15% failure rate is acceptable?

Sometimes things happen that you have no control over. Last week I had a potentially devastating breakdown in my technology. The laptop that I had for less than 3 months and had been relying on almost exclusively had a hard drive failure!

After the initial freak-out, I took a moment to breath and realized that I had already taken precautions for this situation with a cloud back up. Although not an instant fix, the data I depend on for my business and my art still exists out there in the cloud, thanks to Backblaze, http://www.backblaze.com.

This was an unexpected hitch in my schedule and it affected everything in my life for several days. Nearly everything got put on hold just to address this one problem.

I spent a few hours on the phone with the computer manufacturer to convince them that the hard drive was actually not working so I could use the warranty to send it in and get it replaced. Although the guy on the phone was patient and helpful, I still began to wonder if I could ever fully trust the computer even if I did get it fixed.

Then I began to wonder how many people have their technology go down? I did some research for laptop failures. Would you believe that out of all the manufacturers out there, none are less than 15%?

I guess it is true that there are many computers manufactured on a Friday (14.2%) end of the week attitude and it looks like that maybe there are some created with at Monday hangover as well.  If you are curious about the manufacturers, take a look here http://lifehacker.com/computer-manufacturers-ranked-how-to-pick-a-laptop-tha-1467145338/all.

I started to consider how those statistics are reflective of the human condition. We expect that when we buy something that it work perfectly all of the time.  So I asked myself, is this unreasonable? I came to the conclusion, even though it seems high, it is reasonable to expect at 15% failure rate on anything that is touched by human capabilities. It is impossible for us to be perfect all of the time and so we should take precautions to protect the things that are important to us and be reasonable with our expectations.

This is a lesson that I am going to go forward with: Have a goal and try to meet it, but don’t beat yourself up when unexpected things fall along your path. View it as a detour, deal with the issues and then get back on track as soon as possible.

So today I think I am back on track with my “Being My #Selfie” series.  I can’t promise that life or technology won’t get in the way again. But when it does, I’ll be kind to myself and take the time to deal with it and move forward just like this last week.

How about you, do you think a 15% failure rate is acceptable?

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Realization #Selfie

Will you join me on this journey? I make it super easy and fun!

This post marks my 50th “Being My #Selfie” painting in the last month and a half. When I look back and consider the journey so far, I realize that the only way to accomplish anything is daily progress. Including sticking with a schedule and expecting only that something must be done each day toward the goal even if you are not real sure what that end game is going to look like.

Initially I was thinking that artists have created self-portraits throughout history and these were the original selfies. These artists didn’t have the advantage of today’s technology to get immediate feedback on their work as artists do today through the web. I decided I wanted to explore the possibilities and take a personal journey combining the new presentation opportunities online with a traditional method of creating the images.

As with any creative project, there are realizations and discoveries that happen as you get absorbed, and dare I say obsessed with the venture.

The big thing that I didn’t envision in the beginning was the development of a new website http://meme-a-leivan.com to encourage people to use my images for their own expression. The site is simple; you are immediately presented with a range of emotional images and when you see the one that fits your thought, click through to add your own expressive, witty thoughts. Finally you are offered a variety of ways to share it online. There is also a library of recently created memes to share as well as an opportunity to vote on your favorite.

Most artists would cringe if you used their work. My shift from that mindset was the idea was that emotions are universal and relatable. It seems a natural idea to open the door to making them easily available for people to use on social media. Bringing people into the mix of my exploration of the role of this technology created an even deeper study of the subject. Do you have pithy thoughts or ornery replies to ideas that have been posted on your timeline?  I invite you to join me in this project by making memes of your own to share with your friends!

What does the next few months hold? I am not sure; although trite, the truth is it is the journey not the destination that matters right now. I am thrilled that you are taking the time to follow my progress and your comments and feedback are always welcome. Better yet, become a part of the journey by using my meme maker and share your reactions to the world with your friends and family! http://meme-a-leivan.com

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Foole #Selfie

What do you think of my new look for summer?

This is going to be my new look for summer! I think that Miley Cyrus is one of the most entertaining and imaginative artists in the entertaining industry and I’m going to strive to be more like her.

Ha ha, April Fools’ Day! Really! I’m thinking that is the funniest thing I could ever strive to be and I don’t understand why even Miley Cyrus would strive to do the things she does. Exhibiting herself in a raunchy sexual manner doesn’t make her appear grown up; it actually makes her appear even more childish. Many rebellious young people seem to miss the idea of self-respect when the set out to thumb their nose at the world and usually this comes back to bite them in the tail they use to twerk with.

In the past the fool or jester in a king’s court was considered a wise man because they would often show alternative ways to view an issue. I am not sure what issue performers who choose to rehash shocking material that has been done already is trying to enlighten us on. Unfortunate for them, the shock value has pretty much worn off and now it is just trite and the reaction becomes an eye roll rather than a call for understanding the rebellion. When we strive to be a mimic we can only be a shadow of those we are flattering with our copy.

It is especially tiresome when someone with an already solid reputation chooses to insult not only their current audience but also the entire gambit of anyone catching a glimpse with the rehashing of material already done well in the past. Why throw away what is working just to make a lame attempt at shocking your audience. *** YAWN***

Ok, maybe I’m being rough on little Miley. It is clear she has strived to put aside an opportunity to be a positive role model to perform nearly pornographic and demeaning behavior that can only be a bad attempt to gain publicity. She is young and still able to recover from her mistakes when she grows up. I just hope that it is sooner rather than later.

Enjoy the fooles around you today; they will entertain you by sacrificing their own self-respect.

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Critic #Selfie

What are the unexpected reactions to your #selfie?

 “You can get away with doing that because you are beautiful.” As the astonishment wore off of that statement I asked “What are you talking about?”

What my friend was talking about was my “Being My #Selfie” series. Naturally when I see my fellow artists the subject of what we have been doing in the studio is one of the first things that come into the conversation and a critique of the work is expected and appreciated. These are valuable because you can get insight into what you are doing and how others see what you are creating.

This time her comment was so unexpected nearly floored me. The subject of my own beauty was the furthest thing from my mind as I am developing this series.

I have never thought of myself in such terms, average - yes, not repulsive - maybe but never beautiful.  Beautiful is an arena I don’t care to be a competitive player in. In my youth when young women begin to apply makeup and attempt to compete in the “Beauty” arena, I quickly realized that there was a lot of work and money that went into playing that game. Even being the people pleaser that I was in my youth, I was able to go beyond the peer pressure and decide that I had other things to worry about. I concentrated on grades and developing my talents rather than to spend time in front of a mirror.

Now as an adult, I can analyze this just a bit further and discover that it was probably a self-image issue. I didn’t believe I was beautiful so I didn’t want to spend time looking at myself or put the effort into trying to convince anyone else that I was anything but myself.

The products in my makeup drawer expire well before the product is used and sometimes it has only been used once or twice. And I cringe every time I walk into the beauty isle to get more, usually because there is a business meeting or formal occasion coming up and I think that it is socially expected to put my face on and look my best for the event. My daily routine means there is no makeup and very little mirror time.

Believe it or not, even though I am painting my own face every day, I don’t think of these paintings through the lens of vanity, but as a form of artistic expression.

As I paint, I look at the image of myself as a subject, like I would a still life or a flower. There is something else going on in the right side of the brain, looking for the shapes and subtleties that make up a face rather than it being ME. It could be my husband or any other person.

The fact that I am studying myself really doesn’t come into the equation of whether or not it is a good composition or an interesting expression that I would like to paint. But of course I can’t escape the truth of who I am painting and I use the opportunity to explore my inner self while painting my outer self. So you can see now how my friends comment about my own beauty came as a shock.

There are views out there about selfies being a vanity that our youth are participating in. I think it is a way for people to wrestle with the social expectations of the world and their place in it.  I have found that even the expressions I have chosen to paint reflect that same search for meaning of the human condition in our ever changing world.

With my “Being My #Selfie” series my intention is to explore the role of social media in our lives and usually that starts by examining our own thoughts and feelings on what we are exposed to.

Do you find yourself in critique mode with the selfies people are offering online?

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Freedom #Selfie

Would you rather be an American or an American’t?

Do you have any idea what it means to be truly free?  The concept seems to be falling into a muddled mess and there seems to be more victims daily that are held up to show just how unfair the world is.

I don’t know about you but I learned in kindergarten that the world isn’t fair. This is the first wonderful thing about living in the US. It is the only place in history you can actually create your own wealth with your effort and your mind....

There are loads of examples of honored Americans with rags to riches stories. If you stop and think about it, they were willing to risk everything to make their visions reality.  Have you ever dreamed that their story can also be yours if you desire it enough to make it happen? What would you be willing to risk?

I think with the freedom to choose we also must accept the freedom to get another job if we don't like the one we have, the pay we are getting or the benefits they offer. Or ultimately, create our own job because you will never truly experience freedom while working for another. 

Think outside the box! Exercise your FREEDOM!

If you don’t choose to maximize the liberty you currently have you are only holding yourself back.  Don’t be surprised or offended when I slap your hand like a child when you put it out and claim to be a victim when you are a capable adult with choices that you have made and have to now live with.

I refuse to be held hostage by your bad choices and I take offense at you expecting me to save you from yourself. I see too much of this expectation on the news.

If I went around saving everyone I would quickly have nothing left to give – I would be broke spiritually, mentally, physically and monetarily. Then I would be standing there getting my own hand slapped.

Your independence is right in front of you, just reach out, grab it and refuse to be a victim. Use your talents to bring something amazing into the world. Because when it comes right down to it, you are amazing and you need to give yourself permission to express it. Would you rather be an American or an American’t?

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Einstein #Selfie

Why do you think we can let small things give us pause and make us check ourselves?

There are all sorts of fun tests online. They can reveal things about ourselves that maybe we didn’t know before. Last night I was prompted by a friend to take a test on Facebook and learned something that I only suspected.

I took the IQ test at www.arealme.com it is a quick 20 question quiz. I encourage you to go take it. It is a little challenging and I recommend if you are going to try it to be fresh and undistracted. They claim that the average score is 90-100 just like a typical IQ test. I was surprised to get a score of 160 – Einstein!

As the pleasure of beating my friend’s and husband’s score wore off, I began to wonder how valid the test was and if I was living up to my own potential. Where is my Theory of Relativity? Einstein was only 23 when he came up with that world altering concept! Am I concentrating on the right things?

I have a tendency to push myself to depression and have been working really hard to evaluate my accomplishments fairly. Thank you arealme.com for telling me something I didn’t know about myself and making me reevaluate what I’m capable of doing! Frustration set in for a few moments.

With that in mind, I came to the conclusion that I am pretty darn happy with the way things are and the progress of the things I am working on. Also, I probably will never know for sure the impact of my own endeavors and maybe I’m doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.  Even though there is always room for improvement, surly I wouldn’t be as satisfied with my life so far or be happy enough to dedicate my time to my work.

With my anxiety cleanly behind me, I came up with one more question. Why did that little quirky 20 question quiz make me reexamine anything? What does that say about me? 

Now I’m asking you, why do you think we can let small things give us pause and make us check ourselves?

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Concern #Selfie

Do you use your talents to influence your concerns?

What is it that we should really be concerned about? Our fellow man, the environment, health care, our loved ones, the list is endless as you scroll through the news feed. If I had the ability to be concerned by everything that was wrong with the world today I would be so busy worrying about I would get depressed enough it that I would get nothing productive done.

The concerns of the world are many. So what are we to do about it? The only problems we should concern ourselves with are the ones that we can take action and help solve the problem. When the problem is out of our reach, we can have faith that there are many out there that are in position to have effect of the issues of the day. Then again we can take the opportunity to participate with our vote or in an organization where our concern can be address by many rather than one.  So that really brings our concern home, to what affects our lives on a daily basis and how can we influence our concerns without taking the full burden on ourselves.  

I think we always need to evaluate what concerns we have and manage the ones that we can carefully. Life is messy and chaotic. We shouldn’t be seeking to solve everyone’s problems. It is a difficult lesson to learn. When you attempt to solve their problems, you are buying it. If your solution doesn’t fix the issue, it is now YOUR FAULT not the person who created the problem to begin with. The person who created this issue now has a huge excuse other than themselves to blame the results of their own actions.  So be careful with your concern and action. Sometimes their journey is to fail so that they learn from their mistakes. This is a very hard thing to watch and do, especially as a parent.

I think the best way we can make a difference with our talents. As author James Baldwin said, “This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.” It has been seen through the ages that art within a culture can effect change. So gather up your talents, whatever they may be, select a concern and create some order in the world to inspire the change you would like to see in the world.

How are you using your talents today to influence change?

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Selfie - Golden Light

Why Yellow People?  My usual answer to this question is, “I don’t know where the yellow comes from it is just is what I do.” But that isn’t the real truth. I shy away from the actual answer and usually don’t admit it because it is deeply spiritual and private.

Considering that I’m in the midst of this Selfie series, and pretty much baring my soul on a daily basis let me tell you the real answer.  I’m among friends here online right?

I believe the divine Soul within the human being is “the golden soul.” The soul energizes the physical form—and many cultures throughout history have described the spirit as being filled with a golden light.

Painting is meditative for me and while in the process of creation I intuitively pick up that light and relish it every time I pick up a brush to paint the figure. I do not seek it; it finds me and will show up in the subject no matter the ethnicity of the person being painted. In my experience, the soul is void of racial definitions of our physical bodies. We all as sentient beings radiate in varying degrees with a golden light and those who starve their light will steal from or hide within those who emit a strong energy.

I first had this intuitive thought while painting when I was pregnant with my son 21 years ago and it is still with me. Over the years, it has become a part of the way I express myself on canvas and has developed into the limited fauvist pallet you see in my paintings today.

With this Selfie series I hope to share a bit of my own spirit, through my own images and notes on life in the beginning of the 21st century and along with the innovations of the modern world through Social Media as a tool of communication and expression.

It is harder to see the golden light in each of us when we are shielded by technology. I hope that my images bring to this new medium a hint of the divine light hiding within each of us.   

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Selfie - Looking-Glass

Interacting online often feels like falling into Alice’s Looking-Glass. You expose yourself to an unknown and surreal world which can make us hesitant to show our real selves.

Unlike Alice we are in full control of the images and interactions we have online. This can be empowering rather than intimidating.  With the use of photo editing software we can certainly put our best face forward, design our persona and become virtually anyone we wish to be.  

The ability to be anyone online is not only liberation but also a warning. Are you talking to the person you think you are actually talking to?  Is that 15 year old girl that you only know online really a 54 year old guy posing as that girl? Intimidating right?

Although I personally don’t understand the allure of completely changing who you are online, because it seems like a lot of work! It isn’t that much different in real life.

We all put on our public faces when we go out into the real world too. But it is much easier to create our own Wonderland in the comfort of our own home with the entire world wide web to scrape from and become who we wish to be than to expose who we really are.

In the extreme, this is called “Catfishing” which is a full blown false personality created online and they can do damage to those who the lure with the bait of personal drama and mystery. This activity was brought into light with the movie “Catfish.” http://www.iamrogue.com/catfish.

There are warning signs for these, inconsistent stories, unavailability, items sent from a different address than where they claim to live and the list is long. Basically it is an elaborate rouse created to attempt to live another life virtually and that is where they will keep it forever as long as you continue to play in their Wonderland.

With all of the dangers online, I think we just need keep our heads and to stop and evaluate the situation as we do in real life. When it comes right down to it, no matter where we interact, in real life or online we are still dealing with other fallible human beings. So my friend just be careful out there and keep it positive and you’ll be good.

Have you ever ran into a person creating their own Wonderland online? If so tell me your story.

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