I have returned. Yes. I will keep you in suspense no longer, my talk went wonderfully! In fact I would say it was one of the best talks I have done, certainly the one in which I felt most comfortable. I’m not sure what happened, it was like somebody else took over my body, no nervousness or fears at all. I began by taking off my shoes (and inviting others to do the same). I’ve learned that it is helpful to try and shift the context of a place if possible. In this case the “ballroom” I spoke in was much too formal and stuffy, so barefeet were helpful. I shared the story about my first year art school teacher who asked the class to get under one large table. We sat there for a few minutes and she came back in and started pounding on the table top. In an instant that classroom became a very different place. You never knew when you walked in what would occur. Just a little shift is all it takes sometimes. I felt a little more ownership of this fancy hotel walking around the marble floors in bare feet.
I’m not sure what happened with this talk, but I really felt something shift in me. I think it had to do with the fact that for the first time I gave myself permission to be terrified (with the help of a few loving friends). So when those scared feelings came in I felt like, “oh hey, I know you.” In the past I might have tried anything possible to banish them from my body. I think the other thing that happened is that I do feel deep down that I have something that needs to be said, (different than what we were taught in art school). It seems that the art schools are becoming more and more business-like, more strict in their approach. I want to tell people that there are no rules in this game, you really can try anything, try something you’ve never done before. do the opposite.
I did incidentally feel a bit like an imposter at times. My room had an actual boardroom table in it. I had my breakfast delivered to my room in the morning, sitting at the end of the long table I would call a meeting to order. giggling. For some strange reason the hotel had a bizarre “urn” theme. There were urns everywhere. In every hallway, in my room. I felt like I was surrounded by dead people. I was on a quest for some tape so I could subtly adhere little notes to them that said, “Uncle Ernie, 1932-1987, rip”.
So for those of you artists and designers out there who could not attend, I am posting one of the handouts here. From what I could gather it seemed that my talk was quite a different focus than many of the others, (read:anti business/corporate, non-traditional, slightly controversial). This to me is the highest of compliments, I wonder if How Magazine knew who they were hiring.
1. Document what you are responding to regularly. *journal/sketchbook, blog, listmaking, photo journal, bulletin board collage, internet bookmarks, Allow yourself to go deeper into an idea. Find influence outside of your field. Consider that you are ALWAYS working for yourself.
2. Start to challenge yourself on a regular basis to try new things, (not just for work. *i.e. new foods, colors, processes, classes, travel, become a guerilla artist, etc. Your hobbies are your greatest source of play.)
3. Go back to your childhood, (the formative years). What were your favourite things to do? In this lies some clues as to where you want to focus your energy as an adult. What makes you burst with energy?
4. Do something that is not for money. For your own enjoyment. (Your greatest work will come from here!)
-gifts for friends.
Design for yourself. *See handout on guerilla art.
5. Use sources that are based on your daily life. Your life IS your art. What are the things that are most important in your current life?
6. Become a collector. Collecting allows us to look at one thing in a contemplative & mindful way. Giving you new insights and perceptions. Examples: Maria Kalman -purse contents, Steven Guarnaccia -shoe sole
rubbings, Ian Phillips & Grant Heaps -Lost & Found pet posters, Mark Ulriksen (former art director) -misspellings of his name, Charles & Rae Eames -toys from other countries
7. “Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain.” Ignore what other people are doing. It has no bearing on your existence or vision of the world. The times we feel the most discouraged are usually due to the fact we are comparing ourselves to others. Most times reading awards annuals, and industry mags only serves to make us feel inadequate. Try cutting it out entirely. Designer Bruce Mau recommends not entering awards competitions. His reasoning, “Just don’t do it, it’s not good for you.”
8. Don’t promote to target your audience. By all means send things out into the world, but don’t think in terms of “promoting to get work”. Send stuff out because -you’re proud of it, -you want to share something with the world, -it’s fun to get mail, -to have good karma, -you want to spread your germs, -you like licking stamps. Try sending a postcard of something you made for fun, (i.e. directions on how to make a finger puppet). When thinking of subject matter for promotions look to your current life. If you deal with topics that are important to you a piece will have much more life to it.
9. Take a lighthearted approach (Don’t take yourself too seriously). If you feel stuck, you can always reinvent yourself, (re: try something else).
10. Study other artists or creators who followed their own vision. Research.
So picture the author running down the street at top speed, laughing and yelling ‘ha!’
I am a chalking fiend these days, but don’t tell my fellow townspeople, I’m trying to keep my identity under wraps. There are enough quotes to fill the streets for years. Late night wanderings with chunks of blue and orange dusting my fingers and clothes. sidewalks, walls, driveways, nothing is safe.
Regarding my talk, currently I float back and forth between, “damn right, I have a lot to say and I want to yell it all at the top of my lungs to anyone who will listen. I feel great!” and the scared five year old who says, “Well, I just have to get through it without making an ass of myself, hopefully they will not think i am a complete freak.” Here I am in all my colourful glory. Opening up like a soft boiled egg. Bits of shell stuck in my hair.
Something about it is making me giddy. Scared but giddy. I am embracing parts of me for the first time. They feel like fireflies that are starting to glow more as the sun goes down. I am going to stay in a really fancy hotel that someone else is paying for. (I have never stayed in anything fancier than a Holiday Inn. I usually find hotels depressing.) I am going to wear my red running shoes and carry my ten year old knapsack with zippers that don’t work properly. I am going to walk through that fancy lobby in my jean skirt that has bits of used chalk in the pockets, wearing my Superhero necklace for added strength. I will smile at my new adventure. My bag will be full of books, wrinkled clothes, my laptop, a teddybear that my sister made for me, and a shiny black stone. Maybe I will take a walk on the beach and collect shells in my pockets. Or maybe I will have a long hot bath and try the fancy fluffy robes and the good towels. Maybe I will feel like an imposter. I am definitely going to order room service, Ha!
And I will be nervous. Maybe I will cry a little bit, because it is lonely in hotel rooms by yourself. Maybe I will call a friend. Maybe I will read my favourite authors who are like old friends that make me feel better. Maybe I will want to run screaming from that hotel and run back to my comfort zone. Maybe.
And all of it is o.k. Because there is this brilliant light deep within me that is waiting to come out and I don’t want to hide it anymore. No sir.
I am off on a new adventure. Back in ten days. More words upon my return.
Ever have those moments of “oh, this is the universe speaking to me coming through the body of my dance teacher.” Little moments that make your ears perk up. You say to yourself, hmmmnn, i’d better take note of this, it might come in handy later on. So we are in our class yesterday and someone in the class asks the question, “How do you make the moves look so fluid? When we do them they seem jerky, forced.” And so my teacher, Helen, thinks for a moment and says, “What makes dance fluid and beautiful is not the moves themselves, but instead the transition between them. Because we are constantly moving we must seek to find the grace in the spaces between the movement.” My universal attenae were standing at attention.
Helen has always described dance as a way of “falling gracefully”, since we are always forcing ourselves off balance and then “recovering”. Just think of what it means to walk. For a few seconds while your foot is in the air you are technically in a process of ‘falling’ to the ground, shifting your weight from one foot to the next. Leg up, hovering for a moment, the foot lands, whew, stasis. Whup, leg up, here we go again. If we are to contemplate it too much we might actually hesitate to even attempt it.
And so I wanted to write a brilliant post that talked about the ‘transition between the movement’, maybe something about how one goes about finding the grace while in the midst of change. Maybe I would talk about how I find the amount of change I seem faced with currently rather daunting. But the words just don’t seem to be coming right now. I am not going through a bad time (as someone has suggested), merely a transition. Or maybe I would just write about how I am still sitting with those words from Helen, letting them float through my psyche so the meaning comes out at some point in the future when I am ready to grasp it. Just like the books one reads at the perfect most appropriate time in your life, they seem to find you when you most need them. For now maybe I will let it be a bit of a mystery.
“Only through mystery do we live, only through mystery.” -Federico Garcia Lorca
later that same day:
So much work to get through today, yet the woods have seduced me with their smells (blooms and cedar), and the sun with it’s warmth. Not a surprise. I am easily seduced lately. I walk through the world in a tank top and my table cloth skirt. My face gives away my guilty pleasures with little patches of bright red showing on my nose & cheeks. The water in the pond begs me to go for a swim. I wish I had worn socks as my running shoes are rubbing quite a bit. Walking in the woods one must always confront change, sometimes in drastic ways. Fallen trees divert paths, dead animals are common, (i’ve seen dead birds, rabbits, snakes, groundhogs, deer, squirrels, fox, mice, and the shiny grey intestines of some unidentifiable creature), erosion alters the landscape from year to year, water moves and shifts, animals build (beaver can take down dozens of trees in one short week!), there is the constant change of seasons, plant strains taking over, overpopulation of bugs (last year was the year of the killer ladybugs), new life (I see two baby ducks here as I sit writing). There are also several young teenagers frolicking in the woods today, humans are so good at altering nature. i am like a protective mother watching them with a suspicious eye.
“Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone
through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any
I have these moments (days), when my confidence seems to leave my body, a gust of wind catches it and launches it into the atmosphere. tcheeeooooof. Uh, hello? That’s funny, I swear it was there a week ago. (picture the author walking around her house aimlessly, looking under bed, opening cupboards, disturbing dustbunnies in a futile search.)
And so I walk around the world, with a nagging fear in the pit of my belly, wondering if I am up the the tasks at hand (talk), why do I take these things on in the first place? the critics voice: what do you have to say? why do you think people would want to listen to you speak for three hours? it might be better if you could leave this stuff to the experts. how many times must we go through this? it would be much easier if we just stuck with the safe things, the predictable things.
But is that really living fully? I think not.
And I tell the critic that a long time ago I made a decision, to not take the easy road with everything. This means facing some of the harder stuff head on instead of running from it. It was/is so much easier to run. Running is safe.
But then, just when I get out my running shoes and attempt to tie the laces a little message comes in from the universe. Sometimes in the form of a moving email from a stranger, sometimes a phone call from friend, sometimes it is a loved one telling you you are amazing. And these things help you to see that yes, you are on the right path, that you need to keep going, even if you don’t know what the hell you are doing. Especially if you don’t know what the hell you are doing. Because let me tell you, on most days I don’t know what the hell i am doing. yes, it’s true. and so I keep going.
why is it that so many times we have difficulty seeing our own light?
These little messages from the universe often stop me in my tracks, sometimes they leave me gasping. And many times they remind me to stop trying to do everything, be everything. My only requirement is to be myself. Imperfect, flawed, cracked, messy, fragile, beautiful, lovable and daring. I inch closer and closer to it, like a small animal who wants take food from a human, hesitant, non-trusting. What do you mean I don’t have to do anything? What if just being myself isn’t enough?
It is enough.
New discovery #247 -the dark red matte paint I used in the kitchen not only makes the kitchen cozy feeling but also doubles as a chalk board! Once I began it was nearly impossible to stop, there are words and drawings everywhere. Where I sit down to have my morning tea it says, “You look really good today!” The tea cupboard it proclaims, “While there is still tea, there is hope.” I like a room that speaks to me.
New Discovery #248 -the people who invented cell phones have made it possible to do everything one could every want with them, games, calculator, text messaging, email, web surfing. Now if only I could figure out how to retrieve my calls? Here’s an idea, how about a phone whose sole purpose was to talk to friends and loved ones? One button for on/off. Also, could they make them a little bigger so that I don’t feeling like I am talking to myself?
I nearly jumped off my seat today, having accidentally put the thing into vibrate mode. I thought I was being attacked by a large bug. Why are we drawn to things in our culture that seem to put us on edge? How about instead we create a variety of new technologies that are soothing? Maybe a phone that is soft, like a pillow, instead of ringing it would start floating out in front of you, you have to catch it, when you weren’t using it you could take a little nap. Or maybe a phone that whispers in your ear really nice things when it rings, like an attentive lover. Or how about a phone that is also a travel mug so that when it rings you must sit and pour a cup of tea first? Ooooh, a phone that was made out of silly putty so you could have fun smooshing it while talking. I would go for that one in a minute. That brings me to…
Buried Memory #682 -I used to chew silly putty. (remember using it to pull off comic cells? Sadly this is no longer possible because of changes in the printing process.)
New Discovery #249 -You must seek to love with the same intensity as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.
New Discovery #250 -the plural for fish in some cases is fishes.
New Discovery #251 -It IS possible to consume too many Haribo Rotella’s.
New Discovery #252 -it is o.k. that mother’s day makes me sad every year.
New Discovery #253 -heavy feels are just a part of the process.
reading Henry Miller and going to dance class usually helps.
New Discovery #254 -if I don’t draw or write something every day I get very cranky. Or is that just pms?