Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Solopreneur Wednesday: Who Said I Have To Be Passionate About My Work?

The topic of “follow your passion” or “being passionate” about what you do pops up every once in a while in the blogosphere. And in the past couple of weeks the topic has reared its head again.

I start to get a little, um, anxious, when this topic is discussed.

Near as I can tell this latest go-round started some time after the World Domination Summit was held in Oregon. Alyson Stanfield asked if this was good advice on the Deep Thought Thursday segment of her blog. The comments were entertaining to read.

Alyson attended WDS. Cal Newport was a speaker at WDS and he “debunked” the directive to “follow your passion.”  When Alyson said “yay” to Cal’s directive, that too generated many responses.

I did not attend WDS and did not hear Cal Newport’s presentation.

But when I read Alyson’s Deep Thought Thursday post and the accompanying comments, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something “wrong” with me. And I realized it has to do with the word “passion.”

Passion versus Making Meaning

This may be more about semantics than anything but when people talk about getting all “passionate” about what they do, I feel like an odd-ball. I start to doubt myself and ask “Am I really passionate about what I do?”

Something about that word conjures up images of people dedicating themselves to one thing for their entire lives, 24/7. They live, breathe, and eat whatever it is they are passionate about. I look at them and say “Wow. Wish I was like that.”

But I don’t think I am. At least not compared to the image that is in my head.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. But I also like to do other things. I love making my art. I love looking at art. I also love to travel, cook, spend quiet time with my hubby, play with the cats, take long walks, and so on and so forth.

I have many interests and some may rank higher than others at any given time. And I think that is where the whole “passion” thing bothers me.

It seems to conjure up this idea that to be passionate about something means that is the only thing you could be passionate about. That just doesn’t feel right to me. When I’m making my art, I’m focused and enjoying that moment. When I’m traveling, I’m enjoying that moment. When I’m eating a great meal, I’m enjoying that moment.

Instead of being passionate about something, I think I prefer to feel that what I’m doing is meaningful or that I’m at least getting something out of the experience.

And in terms of making art, this has been a biggie for me.

I’ve always had a strong desire to make meaning with my art. This is part of the reason why I got bored with production work. I couldn’t find much meaning in repetitively making wine bottle stoppers, perfume pens, or business card cases.

So I made my Spirit Messengers. These pieces held meaning through symbolism and stories. And I saw how people reacted to them when I brought them to art shows.

Darwin Explores
Amy A. Crawley (2012)

Over time I decided to focus on animal inspired art. It made sense as animals are of great interest to me. I care about their welfare. I donate a portion of sales from my art to a local no-kill animal shelter. But, as I said, it took some time to make this subject matter the focus of my art.

I think the other aspect that makes the “follow your passion” mantra difficult for me is that this art making gig is also my business. Somewhere along the way, when art becomes a business, you learn there are many more things that must be considered if you hope to have some amount of success. It becomes a balancing act to make art and run a business as an artist.

Maybe that’s why some people say “Beware of your hobby turning into business” (or something like that.)

This morning I read Alyson’s most recent blog post on why she doesn’t advise people to follow their passion. She wrote this as a follow-up to her Deep Thought Thursday post, as many people wanted to know her opinion on the discussion.

I really agree with Alyson’s opinion. What do you think?

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Share This!

It is the month of December and that means many people are blogging about goals and planning for 2010. Here are some blog posts on these very topics that I enjoyed this past week:

Itchy Goals

I loved Sarah Marie Lacy’s revelation on why goals make her itch. It is wonderful when we have these a-ha moments. Does the thought of setting goals make you itch? Read Sarah’s story here.

Consistent Creativity & Productivity

When I read Charlie Gilkey’s post on what he calls our “engagement threshold” and how this impacts our ability to be creative on a consistent basis, I felt like he was describing exactly what I go through. You know, the time it takes us to make meaningful progress on anything and how we don’t make progress because we don’t have enough time to “get into it.”

This is a great post for anyone who feels they just don’t have the time to start a project or to continue a project because of limited time. Read it here.

Strategic Planning for Creative Types

Lisa Sonora-Beam, author of The Creative Entrepreneur shares her plan for creating a very personal strategic planner. I agree with Lisa that most planners found in stores are boring. And if the planner is boring (basic brown anyone?), will you really be drawn to it and use it? In this post, Lisa shares the first in a several week series on creating your own planner, including writing prompts to assist you in thinking about goals, intentions, and/or plans for 2010. Read Lisa’s post here

Celebrate Your 2009 Accomplishments

December is the month when many people look back at what they accomplished during the year. Often we know we did stuff but we end up saying to ourselves “What did I do this year?” as if we can’t recall a darn thing.

Alyson Stanfield, author of I’d Rather Be in the Studio, offers some wonderful prompts to get you thinking and reflecting on this past year. I started this practice after taking Alyson’s Blast Off class online. I created a document in Word and each month I type in everything I did that month, big and small. It is a great way to review the year and say “Wow! I did all that?!” Read Alyson’s post here

Take Time to Pause

Finally, in the rush-rush hubbub of this season, Kathyrn Antyr of True North Arts reminds us that it is essential to take a break during all the craziness. When we take time to pause, in the words of Pema Chodron, we create “a momentary contrast between being completely self-absorbed and being awake and present.”

Kathryn was inspired to reflect on pausing and prayer as part of an art day and the season of Advent. Her post also includes some wonderful prayer inspired activities such as making prayer beads, a prayer journal and a prayer box. Take some time to pause and read Kathyrn’s post here.

And remember to pause not only this month, during the rush-rush and hubbub, but everyday.


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May Accomplishments-June Goals

The Yes-No Head

I had a few head shapes left over from the guild demo earlier this year. I thought it would be fun to take one of them and make a Yes-No head and mount it to a block.

You’ll notice that I tend to not give my heads hair. I like them bald. I think this is because a bald head looks vulnerable. When we don’t have any hair, we don’t have anything to hide behind or hide under. We are exposed for all to see; the lumps, bumps, and unevenness.

Front Says Yes

Front Says Yes

Back Says No

Back Says No

This sculpture features two distinct faces on either side of the head. The head is sculpted from polymer clay over a foil core. His eyes are hand painted. The head is attached to a Styrofoam block covered with paper maiche. The block is painted in green, copper, and gold acrylic paint. The letters were created with caulking and painted with black acrylic paint.

Height: 5.5 inches tall.

Price: $75.00

Celebrating Accomplishments and Planning Goals

At the beginning of this year, I started to keep track of my accomplishments for each month. This was prompted by an article in Alyson Stanfield’s December 15 2008 Art Biz Coach newsletter. Alyson recommended that we artists start a document on the computer or in our journal where we write down everything we’ve accomplished each month.  She provided a list of questions as prompts to help jog our memory. The key, however, is to list the accomplishments as soon as possible each month. Don’t wait till the end of the year to try and recall everything you’ve done.

What I like about this task is that you document everything you’ve done and then can stand back and say “Wow, I DID all that!” (Because, admit it, how often do we say to ourselves “I didn’t do anything today, this week, this month or this year” when we know darn well we did do something.) So take credit for all your accomplishments, big and small.

I thought about listing my accomplishments and goals earlier this year. Like many other ideas it was shelved (or forgotten). Now, I’d like to follow through on this idea. So here are my accomplishments for the month of May.

May Accomplishments

•    Attended two lectures by the Dalai Lama at Gillette Stadium
•    Got clear on my decision to focus more on fine art
•    Ordered three more banners for show booth
•    Worked on “Leak List” and energy drains for clearing clutter
•    Successfully organized and put on Bolton Artisans Guild spring art show (after a 3 year break)
•    Vendor at Paradise City Arts Festival spring show (3rd consecutive spring show)
•    Published (went live) with Amy A Crawley Fine Arts web site
•    Completed Christine Kane’s Uplevel Your Life Mastery class (7 weeks)
•    Meditated every day for 5-7 minutes
•    Bi-annual dentist appointment
•    Added 15 people to my customer mailing list
•    Began using a timer to focus my time on making art (e.g set timer for 55 minutes and work until it goes off)

June Goals

Here are my goals for the month of June.  It seems kind of light compared to previous months, especially in the run-up to the shows in May.

  • Website
    Update AAC site with dwelling series and other new work
    Add information regarding accepting payment via PayPal
  • E-zine
    Create e-newsletter regarding demo at Five Crows
  • Update customer mailing list
  • Create canvas pieces for Canvas Project exhibit
  • Complete wholesale orders
  • Prepare for artist demo at Five Crows
  • Deliver art donations to the Arts Alliance
  • Update inventory notebook: cross reference art show & consignment sales in inventory book
  • Daily journal writing
  • Read affirmations daily (2x/day)
  • Daily meditation
  • Prepare for trip to France/Dayle’s workshop, including materials/supplies
  • Register for Flickr account
  • Resume leak list clearing

Perhaps by listing my goals here I’ll improve my accountability because now you, dear readers, are aware of what I want to accomplish too.


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Routines and Habits

One topic in the Blast-off class that seems to resonate with everyone is developing routines and habits.  I agree with Alyson that there may not be much difference between a routine and a habit.  Create a habit and it becomes part of your routine.  At one time I pondered the difference between a ritual and a habit; even planned a blog post on it that never fully developed.  Now I wonder if I was confusing a routine with a ritual…though a ritual usually refers to a religious or spiritual or solemn ceremony.  A habit, on the other hand refers to a constant, often unconscious inclination to perform an act, acquired through its frequent repetition.  Applies to any activity so well established that it occurs without thought on the part of an individual.

Well, there is my problem “an activity so well-established that it occurs without thought on the part of an individual.”

Why is it some activities can become a habit and others don’t?  Brushing my teeth twice a day is a habit.  I just do it.  Spending time on art? Not always so easy or well-established.

Alyson shared the following quote from Dr. Stephanie A. Burns:

The most significant consequences of NOT making something a habit is that these activities would stand a good chance of not getting done, either because we forget about it or because, having remembered, we lack the ability to motivate ourselves at the time of the remembering to take the action.

One of the obstacles that can stand in the way of creating art is the business aspect of being an artist.  Some days you spend more time on the business than on the creation.  Get into the habit of doing the business aspect and it becomes hard to create.  On the flip side, if I ignore the business end and spend more time on creating, then it is harder to get back to the habit of doing business.

Argh!

Okay, Alyson and others do remind us that we can’t do it all.

So where to start?  First, I sat down and thought about all the things I do for my art and business; the habits I’ve already established.  Surprise, I actually do have some habits in place.

  • I have a designated folder for receipts and other papers related to expenses and income. One day each week I remove all the papers from this folder and enter the information into Quickbooks.
  • I have certain days for writing blog posts.  I try to post 3x/week.
  • I can usually devote 3 days a week to studio time though that time is sometimes split between making art and doing business.
  • I’ve learned to schedule outside activities in the afternoon when possible which leaves morning hours to art and business.
  • In the past I’ve tried to designate Tuesdays and Fridays as shipping days.

To take this one step further toward making a habit into a routine I’m dedicating certain hours to studio time.  Within those blocks of time I’m working on designating certain times to different marketing tasks.  I write all of this on my calendar (both the desk calendar and the online calendar.)

How is it going?  Well, it has only been a week and a hard one at that given the inauguration and a few days of being under-the-weather.  I remind myself that it won’t happen over night.  It has been pointed out that it takes 21-30 days to make something a habit.  I remind myself that I’ve probably never given myself that length of time to establish a habit.

Alyson asks us to remember our motives and reasons for doing what we’re doing and what we’re willing to commit to.  I’m making it a habit to remember this every day.

And as I write this I’ve had another a-ha moment.  Instead of splitting some days into art and business, I will devote one day to business/marketing, etc.  I’ll do this on Tuesdays because part of that day is already set aside for grocery shopping.  Sometimes it is easier to break away from the business aspect than the creating aspect.

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Recommended: Check out guest writer Keith Bond‘s blog post on making art a priority on Clint Watson’s Fine Art Views blog


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Tuesday’s Business: Blast-Off Class

Earlier this month I started working with Alyson Stanfield in her Blast Off class.  This class is designed to help artists develop a stronger foundation for their business through daily exercises (i.e. homework) and thought-provoking questions.  I worked with Alyson a few years ago when I led a group of local artists in an Art Salon.  In the Art Salon we used outlines provided by Alyson which helped us develop marketing plans for our businesses.

Thus far in the class we’ve discussed gratitude, visualizations, affirmations, blocks to progress, finances, and developing routines.  And that has just been the first 9 days!  (We take the weekends off to catch up on our homework.)

Since the beginning of the month and during the Blast Off class I’ve had three a-ha moments:

  • My packing and shipping process is time consuming and needs to be more efficient.  I wrote out each step in this process, discussed it with Eric, and brainstormed ideas for condensing or eliminating steps.
  • I hit upon an idea for renaming and repackaging a particular product.  I brainstormed with a fellow guild member and asked followers on my Twitter page for ideas which subsequently caused the “light bulb” to go off.  This really convinced me of the benefit of social networking.
  • After visiting with a vendor, another light-bulb went off in my head about a potential joint marketing idea; something that would benefit both of us.

Would any of this happened without the class?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that because I’m writing down monthly goals, writing down ideas that pop into my head, and being asked questions in the workshop, I’m taking the time to think, and to be more aware of my routines, and my surroundings.

One point that Alyson has made in the class is for us to consider our motives or reasons for why we do what we do in order to tackle tasks and goals.

How often do you do that?  Isn’t it more likely that we do what we do because that is what we’re supposed to do?  Perhaps we do what we do to meet someone’s expectation of us?  Or we stay busy all the time which must mean we’re motivated but what happens when we stop being busy?

As Alyson put it “Knowing why you want to accomplish certain things helps you prioritize and move forward” and “the things we usually put off are those that will have the biggest impact on our success.”

I faced that issue this weekend.  I’ve been putting off teaching myself to use Rapidweaver (web design tool) partly because the documentation isn’t very good and partly because I was used to using Frontpage on my former PC and the thought of learning something completely new was daunting.

Using Alyson’s suggestion, I had to ask myself: What is my motive for learning Rapidweaver? To create a brand new web site to promote my two lines of art.  What happens if I continue to put it off? I’m stuck maintaining an old web site that doesn’t represent the vision I have for my art and business.  So, again, what is my motive for learning Rapidweaver? To make a better web site that provides a better visual representation of my art.

I put my butt in the chair and started by reading the documentation out loud.  Bingo; the light bulb went off.  I gained a better understanding of how the documentation is laid out (general overview, then specific information…it still leaves a bit to be desired but now I can tolerate it.)  I learned Rapidweaver is relatively easy to use once I played around with it.  I learned the tool is easier to use than Frontpage (sorry PC folks.)  And, I have to admit, I started having fun with it and look forward to creating my new business web sites.

After taking an online workshop with Christine Kane, listening to various tele-seminars, and reading select coaching newsletters and books I’m noticing a core theme: dream, dream big, write it down, verbalize it, visualize it, get clear, set goals, take baby-steps as needed, and surround yourself with supportive people.  Alyson’s class continues to promote these themes and more.  Perhaps this message is being repeated enough for me to have faith that it really works.  Now to have faith in myself in seeing it through.


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Tuesday’s Business: Be Prepared

Last week members of the Bolton Artisans Guild were offered the opportunity to submit a picture of their work along with a brief description for inclusion in the local newspaper’s holiday gift buying guide.  Three categories were offered under which we could include our work.  This was a great opportunity to have individual member’s work featured in the paper.  It was also very likely that our work would be featured on the front page of the paper…IN COLOR.

Wanting to take advantage of this opportunity I pulled up the Finder on my Mac and went about searching for the best photos to submit.  And there was the problem.  I was searching through various folders and files looking for the desired pictures.  I sensed another a-ha moment coming on.

More than a year ago a friend found herself in a similar situation; searching for some pictures of her work to submit to a publication.  Deb commented at the time that she needed to create a folder specifically for publication photos.  Brilliant idea, I thought, especially because I didn’t have anything of the sort myself.

And apparently I still don’t!

Well, it wasn’t quite that bad.  Sometime after Deb shared her idea, I did start a folder for publication photos…but I haven’t kept it current.

Here is what I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. Start a folder for publication photos if you haven’t already.  If you have one, keep it current; consider having sub-folders for each year too.
  2. Choose your best images; the ones that really capture the essence of your work.
  3. Give each photo a name that makes sense.  Make it descriptive.  Pick a naming scheme and stick with it.
  4. Start a folder (or sub-folders) for various publications.  This will help you to remember what photos you’ve sent in the past so you don’t repeat yourself, especially if you submit photos to a variety of publications.  It also helps you keep your work looking fresh.  If you need to put your name on the file for submission purposes, do it to these images, not the original files.
  5. If you’re unsure of the required image size and you haven’t time to ask (or specs aren’t provided), err on the side of “bigger is better.”  The image should be a minimum 300 dpi.
  6. If you want to be doubly prepared, save two versions of the image; one at 72 dpi for web and one at 300 dpi or larger for print.
  7. Get into the habit of putting pictures into your publication photos folder on a regular basis.  When you need to submit an image, you’ll be ready to go.
  8. If you haven’t written an artist statement, a bio, or some other descriptive text about you and your work, now is a good time to do so as you’ll most likely need to include something with the photo(s) you submit.  Much has been written about statements.  Some places you can check include Alyson Stanfield’s blog, and Ariane Goodwin’s site.

In the end, I submitted four images; individual pictures of four specific items I sell.  One was chosen for the gift guide (the editor contacted me and asked if a particular picture could be used as she could only use one.)  Had I been even more prepared, I would have had one picture that contained several of the pieces in one shot.  I was pleased, however, that the editor chose the picture below to be featured in the gift buying guide.

Fortune Pyramid Box

Fortune Pyramid Box

The gift guide for the first week focused on Unique Handmade Gifts and Home Accessories.  You can read the text of the ad, without pictures, here

Over the next two weeks, more Guild artists and their work will be featured in the following categories: Jewelry and Other Wearable Art, and Gifts That Keep On Giving.

And the ads did appear in color on the front page of the newpaper!


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Tuesday’s Business: Planning An Art Exhibit

For the month of November, I have been the featured artist at the Nashoba Valley Winery.  This is a new venture between members of the Bolton Artisans Guild and the winery.  Thus far we have featured artist Amy B. Moran, a watercolorist, and a jewelry specific event.

Setting up and displaying an art exhibit is different from setting up a booth at an art show.  Lighting is a common factor but other aspects I had not considered before.

Name the Exhibit: This probably seems like an obvious thing to do.  However, what makes it potentially difficult is coming up with a creative, catchy title for the exhibit.  Much like talking about our art, giving our exhibit a title requires us to, well, talk about our art in descriptive terms.  And at one time or another we’ve all been told that talking about ourselves and our accomplishments is bragging.

For a solo show, be sure your name is in the title.  If the items you’re displaying have a focal element or theme, be sure to use that as a starting point for an exhibit name…if not the exhibit name itself.  Naming your exhibit also makes it easier to promote.

Plan the Layout: Ideally you should have measurements of the exhibit space.  This includes wall measurements, the location of doors, windows, air ducts, vents, counters, and anything else that affects the visual line of your exhibit.  Are there any temporary structures that can be moved to accommodate your art work?  Where are the lights located?  Can the lights be adjusted to focus on your art work?

According to Alyson Stanfield, space for 2-D art work is measured in linear feet.  The total amount of linear footage is then divided by 2 to determine the amount of space available.  Example: a 20’x30′ room equals 100 linear feet (20+20+30+30).  100/2 equals 50 linear feet for 2D work.

Space for 3-D work is measured in square feet.  Using the above example, a 20’x30′ room gives you 600 square feet.  In this situation you also need to consider how much space is required AROUND each piece of art so people can comfortably view it.

Arranging the Art:  A few things to consider when arranging the art include traffic flow, lighting, color (the exhibit walls and your art), shapes, size, pattern, and lines.

Labels: Alyson recommends placing labels to the right of 2-D work.  A general rule of thumb with pedestals is as follows: for tall pedestals, place the label on the front of the pedestal.  For short pedestals, place the label on top.  What I learned with my exhibit was to make sure text was at eye level as much as possible.

Here are a few pictures of my exhibit:

From Left
From Left
From right
From right

Artist Statement

Artist Statement

Masks and Spirit Shrines

Masks and Spirit Shrines

Fortune Pyramids

Fortune Pyramids

Mask, Water Challenge, Fire Spirit Messenger

Masks, Water Challenge, Fire Spirit Messenger

Icon Necklaces

Icon Necklaces

Milagros Spirit Icons

Milagros Spirit Icons

To learn more about displaying your art in an exhibit, check out Alyson Stanfield’s web site, Art Biz Coach