Missed Step

acrylic on bristol Dawn Blair ©2012Available on eBay this week
acrylic on bristol
Dawn Blair ©2012
Available on eBay this week

I missed a step in my last post. A very important one!

I think it’s easy to do too because this is really a step that must over arc all of the previous steps mentioned. It is your guiding star, a pinpoint of light that will always assure you that you are on the right path.

So what is it?

That missed step is: Have Fun!

If you aren’t having fun at doing creating your passion, why are you doing it anyway?

Have fun! Through it all, have fun.

Three easy steps

1. Do more. Whatever your passion is, keep creating it. It’ll keep you happy.
2. Do better. Never stop improving your craft and yourself. These two knit together. A skill you’ve learned because you wanted to try something new will grow to help you in another area. Life just works that way.
3. Listen to heroic music. If you feel swept up, empowered, and ready to take on the world, you will automatically do more of Step #1. As the tagline on Two Steps From Hell’s website says, “Music makes you braver.” If you don’t know where to start with heroic music, obviously they are a good place to start!

Keep repeating. If you don’t know what to do next, start at Step #3, close your eyes, and let yourself imagine– it’ll reveal your heart and take you in the right direction.

Where your decision comes in

A lot of people want to be creative, to write a book, to learn to paint, to do pottery.

Want.

That single word is a chasm that must be crossed. It implies lack, that something is missing. Saying, “I want a new car” means that you don’t have it in your life. Much different from “I’m going to buy a new car today.” Standing at the brink of “I want to write a book (or whatever)” is making a lack of the actual doing.

Decision is the faith to make the jump across the chasm. It is that step from “I want to create” to “I am creating.”

And that stirs up a lot of fear. In going from lack to having, there is a big change. Change always evokes an emotional response. Once you realize the demon standing between “I want” and “I am” is purely a primal response trying to keep you warm and safe in the status quo, it’s easier to move through it.

Every action has a reaction — meaning to act again. Once you’ve gotten one page out, one painting out, one bowl done, you take those new skills forward to the next project.

Gee, what do you know? You are now making art.

Create away!

Nothing gets left undone

Last week I wrote about large projects. I wanted to write about keeping the faith when working on these large projects. Instead, it turned into more of a “how-to.”

I still wanted to mention “keeping the faith” for your large projects. I read not to long ago that the universe does nothing while leaving nothing undone. I’ve really been thinking about this lately. Let me share with you some of my thoughts.

Nature is. The season warms; plants grow, trees grow leaves. The season cools, plants die, trees pull their sap back to their roots. There is no definitive line other than a pseudo-arbitrary date we humans set that marks the “1st day of summer” or the “1st day of fall. I’ve seen an inch of snow fall in July in northern Nevada. But no one has to walk out to the maple tree and say, “Okay, it’s fall now. Time to lose your leaves. Go to sleep for the winter.” We expect “nature” to take care of that. It does, and the cycle continues.

The sun comes up every morning and makes its trek across the sky to set in the evening. No one has to set an alarm clock for the sun. We know now that the sun is the center of the universe and our rotation just makes it look like it’s rising and setting, but that hasn’t always been a “truth” in the minds of humans. There are countless myths about the sun’s journey and its meaning. But the universe doesn’t care what we think. The sun will rise tomorrow. It’ll set tomorrow. The cycle will continue for exactly as long as it is supposed to (for I won’t presume that our solo star will burn forever). When it is time for the sun to die, it will do so just as the universe intended and in the same cycle as every other star.

Believe that we are in a larger system and this balance cycle not only works above us, but in us as well. We don’t have to think about our heart beating or the process of digestion. These systems just work within our bodies without our conscious thought. Only do they get out of balance when we are out of sync.

So, when I say that you have to have faith in your large projects, know that I’m talking about trusting the process of creation as a system that will work automatically for you. Notice in last week’s post that I didn’t say you have to put your nose to the grindstone and keep working at your project no matter what. No, I said that you can’t let fear let you get stuck in the mud. I even acknowledged that you would get stuck but that you needed to wash off. There was no force there. No mention of how to get unstuck either. Having faith in the process and allowing yourself to be will assure that if this project is truly yours to manage, you will go through the dip and come out the other side. I did say that you had to “lean into” your project and carry forward. But again, that isn’t a forced action or even a hamster on the wheel image. Have you ever gone out and shaken a tree to get the leaves to fall. Okay, I have — I wanted to rake my yard before it got cold and the leaves just weren’t letting go! Needless to say, I wasn’t very successful. I couldn’t force the process. I had to let be and let nature.

Now, with it being Memorial Day, I do want to add an extra thought here. What about the fear that you will die before your project is completed? Very real fear. I know that I have too many stories that I want to tell, both with words and with pictures, that I will never be able to tell them all. I personally trust that I will be compelled to tell the stories I need to and nothing will stop me. The ones that aren’t something I have to tell will fall away. I doubt that only one person gets a story, so I know others will receive the same story I did and they will tell it. It might be that which they are compelled to tell whereas it wasn’t my story — I was just the backup gal in case the real artist couldn’t complete his/her mission, kind of like the Miss America runner-up.

I do wonder what painting was the last that Thomas Kinkade finished. Was there one sitting on his easel? Is it still there? I believe he is a man who let his demons get him. He got out of sync at least with his life if not with his art too. At some point, he stepped back and saw that what he was creating was larger than himself — too large to handle and the fear entered. But within the larger whole, nothing of his life or his art was left truly undone. It was exactly as it needed to be.

Have faith that your projects are on track. Be grateful for each day you are given to lean into the process of adding your artistic talents to them. And, above all, trust the system that you are creating exactly as you should.

Big projects

Large projects can be hard to handle. Whether it’s just something that’s going to take awhile or the scope of it is just huge, it’s easy to stop in the middle and wonder which way is up.

Don’t let the fear, that icy cold stop that pours from your heart right down to your feet, get you stuck in the mud. We all get bogged down every now and then. Sometimes, a mud bath can be rejuvenating! But it’s important to wash yourself off, warm up with a fuzzy towel, and get back on track. You can’t just step back and look at the whole project wondering how you’ll get it done; you’ve got to actually lean into the project and move forward with it.

Sacred Knight is my big project. When I try to scope the whole project within my vision, I wonder how I will get it all done. It seems impossible. I have had to break the whole thing down into small pieces, first the four separate story arcs, then the five different books (subject to change as it has before), then each chapter. I even write this story in layers. There is simply too much to do all at once.

So take the great body of work you want to do or are doing, and break it down for yourself into smaller, manageable chunks. Yes, every now and again you do need to look up at the whole thing and make sure it’s on track. Believe me, if my second story arc gets off, my third and fourth arcs won’t be nearly as effective, so I have to keep checking. Just don’t get overwhelmed by the complexity of your project. Look up, make sure everything is in alignment, then get back to work.

Reflection of you in your art

What does your art say about you?

If you are being authentic and putting all of yourself into your art (not just producing for some commercial reason), then you are putting bits of you into your art that you may or may not be aware of. Has anyone ever pointed something out to you that you weren’t aware of being there?

A few years ago I was working a show when a man came into my booth and looked around. I watched him nod slowly as he looked the pieces over. I was heading over to introduce myself when he turned to me and asked, “You’re a spiritual person, aren’t you?”

The bluntness of his statement caught me off-guard. I felt my mouth starting to work like I was fish pulled out of its water home. I didn’t know how to answer without opening the door wider on a subject for which I wasn’t prepared. Was this guy looking for an argument?

But there was something else about him that seemed like a genuine curiosity. I found myself smiling as I replied, “I would say I’m more spiritual than religious, yes.” I felt pleased with my answer, hoping it would stop any debate that he might have in mind. I was painting trees against sunsets at the time. How can you start up about religion over something like that?

He nodded again and stepped over to a piece. Pointing at it, he said, “I once heard that if an artist has more sky in their piece, they are more spiritual. A higher horizon means they are more earthy.”

I realized it was true curiosity coming from him — a bit of an article he’d once read coming back to him now, but that he’d never had the opportunity to explore until now. He was merely trying to find out if the hypothesis was true.

It also pointed out to me something that I had never thought about when I was painting. I was doing my work out of joy, not realizing that so much of my own self was going into the work.

So, what is your own work saying about you?

Putting forth the work

I’ve been working with Manga Studios (or I was before I got taken down with this awful cold that’s been going around). I’ve said in prior posts that a person can make great strides in accomplishing whatever they want to do even if they only work on it in 15 minutes a day.

Well, as proof I put forth some *beginning* examples of some of my coloring attempts from Manga Studios. I say *beginning* because I feel like I teach myself how to color and then I “forget” and have to teach myself again. I keep feeling like I’m not leaving the starting block.

So, this first example, I was going to start with a circle, but then I remembered that I’ve done the circle, square, and triangle before when I was “learning” so I wanted to branch out. I picked on my next favorite circular thing, the pumpkin. Mind you, this was after watching one of the coloring videos and thinking about it in conjunction with some other coloring videos I’ve seen. I really wanted to try out some of the tools. This took me about 15 minutes to color after doing the initial sketch.

Okay, not great. Hey! Are you laughing? You are! Right, so much for “great” art — how about just creating something decent! Ha, ha. <>

But that’s not the point here. Improvement is the purpose. That was 15 minutes of work put in. Now I wanted to see how far I’d come, which meant I needed a comparison piece. So, what to draw now? To decide, I started drawing and just let the shapes guide me into my drawing. As soon as the puzzle came together and I knew what I was drawing, I also knew how I was going to color it. Here’s the second piece — which took me about 20 minutes:

Yes, better than the first. I did actually feel like I’d accomplished something, like I’d put in my first steps on the path to coloring my digital work. Still, I couldn’t help pushing it just a little further:

Aw! Isn’t he just the cutest?

Well, it’s a start. I have so much more to learn. Someday I do hope to have something worthy to post to Manga Studios’ website, but for now with my first attempts, I’ll just show them here. When I started drawing these pictures, I didn’t intend on them to be for anyone but me and my own practice. However, after seeing the growth I (believe I) achieved in less than an hour, I thought it would be worthy to share. What do you think? Do you have a favorite?

What do you think you could do or learn in 15 minutes?

Judge

Each time you judge yourself, you break your heart. — Kirpal Venanji

While there are times I do believe you need to keep a critical eye with your art (which in a sense is making a judgement about yourself, or rather the work you have done), I can also relate to this quote.

Please note how I phrased that in the parenthesis. When you are creating, it is very easy to think at first that you are judging yourself when you are checking over your art. but you aren’t. It is something you created. It is now separate from you. If a piece isn’t turning out as well as you hoped, it’s not that you are a bad artist. In fact, this is a good thing. It actually means you are growing as an artist and seek a higher level of craftsmanship. So don’t get all depressed (and break your heart) believing you’re no good. Rather, remember that it’s a sign of your learning. Go back and keep working on that piece until it is better. Keep the judgement on the work instead of yourself. That’s where it belongs.

As long as you can keep the separation between you and your work, you’ll keep pushing yourself to get better and better.

More Manga Studios

I’ve been working again in Manga Studios 4 (teaching myself how to color again). I came across something that Smith Micro is putting out to support Manga Studios and thought you’d like to see it. There are now webinars for Manga Studios on their website. Yea!

When I was working in MS3 I kept hoping there would be more content available. I got really disappointed when there wasn’t. But they seem to be doing more to support this product now. I really do feel there is a need and a market for it. So many artists right now have tutorials for Photoshop or Painter, but I always felt there should be something better. That’s why I was originally so happy to find Manga Studios. I knew that it would make my life easier as I got started in comics. Version 4 with the ability to color is an absolute godsend!

I recently sat down to read Ghostopolis, but I learned through the webinars that it was done on Manga Studios. Now I need to go back and reread it. It just shows how far Manga Studios has come. I can’t wait for the day I feel worthy to show some of my MS4 art on their site.

Chose talent

The other day I had the opportunity of hearing a friend discuss my book with someone. She started talking about the painting on the cover of my book which I also did. Repeatedly my friend kept saying, “Yes, she is very talented.”

About the third time I heard my friend say “talent,” and mind you that she didn’t know I was overhearing this, I had to laugh to myself. How often do I say that everything we do in life is a choice? Here I was listening to a conversation I’ve had in my own art show booth with that word sparkling in the air all around. Talent.

Go on, say it. Talent.

Even the word feels good on your tongue. We often heard it said that artists and writers are born. How many arguments have you come across where the discussion of being born with talent is true or not? Do you believe it? Do you feel talented in your own art?

Here’s what I came to realize in that moment. Talent is not in question. We all know that if you work hard enough at something, you can learn how to do it. To someone who doesn’t know how to do it, it will appear to be talent. What it is is work at craftsmanship. I have chosen to put in the time in a certain area. To my friend, it looks like talent.

Even more, one step beyond that, why shouldn’t I chose to be talented? I have and I do put in time towards mastering my craft. I know I have a lot to learn, but to someone who has never stepped on this path what I do now already seems good. I look up to other artists and hope that I can someday reach their level. They have chosen talent too and worked for it.

Whatever art form you have decided to take on yourself, you have chosen talent. No matter where you are along that path, beginner, intermediate, advanced, or master, you are already talented. Hurrah!

Now, keep your feet moving.