Friday, September 16, 2011

Diagram of Progress

It's interesting to look back on your life and be able to see the physical progress. Not just in years and age, but in the actual changes. When you can plot the progression on a diagram and say "This is where I was five years ago, this is where I am now, and these are all the things in between."

My most recent round of unemployment was less difficult than previous ones, mostly because I quickly acquired a position working from home. I also felt as though the universe was sending me the very clear message: Stop fooling around! Go make art! DESIGN! DESIGN! DESIGN! I am attempting to heed that message.

I refuse to work in an office doing menial administrative tasks, or to sit in a room with a hundred other people chained to a desk by a headset. Those do not make me happy. They do not fulfill me, or sustain me. They make me tired and angry and frustrated, because I have so many dreams. So many things I want to create, and those jobs just suck out my soul in a slow agonizing death of myself.

Which is why I decided on grad school, but then realized that I'm not quite ready. Instead I am focusing my effort on gaining experience as a designer, building a client base to allow myself to freelance. I am finding productive ways of using my time to create. I'm putting together a series of art work that, if it all comes together, will become a huge display in a gallery as a solo show. I'm volunteering my time and skills at a local arts center, and I'm researching and applying for internships. These are all things that I could not have done five years ago. I believe they are things that I had to come to, they are things that are the beginning of the next part of my journey. A new phase of life.

I am lucky that right now I am able to do some work from home, and I am considering finding part time work at a bar, and also the internship (if I can get one). These are not things I could have done before, even a year ago. Even six months ago. I needed to reach this point with a clear realization of what I truly want and how to get it. 

It's encouraging to look back over the years and be able to plot this progress. To know how far I've come. It makes me believe that the only direction I can go is up, and that my dreams are within my grasp.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Where is the Beginning

Since my decision to go to grad school I've received information regarding several programs here in Philadelphia. As I read through all of them I find it daunting. Each program is intense, requiring the artist to push themselves beyond their limits, to discover themselves and to create something amazing. I find it somewhat terrifying, as I look back over my own work and my own accomplishments as an artist.

I find it frustrating that when I think on what I have done over the last five years, the whole of it amounts to almost nothing. I have flitted back and forth between having huge dreams of doing something artistically amazing to not wanting to do much of anything at all.

I don't have a concise body of work. I don't have a style or a theme. I don't know what I want to convey, what part of me will be revealed in my work. I don't know how my own art will be created, and I don't know where to begin. The beginning is usually the best place to start, but where is the beginning?

When I would paint I would simply put color on canvas without any sort of thought. I would paint and paint and paint until the shape and colors came together to form something that I liked. However, when I would show these pieces to people they would argue that it is not concise enough. That there is no cohesive thought behind it, that it wasn't quite what it should be. That I should KNOW what it is I am painting before I paint it. Frustrated and uncertain I stopped painting.

Ever since then I've not created anything of myself. Anything I do is an illustration, a design, a pop culture reference. It is not a piece of me, because I no longer know how to express myself in art. My struggle is how do I find that? How do I express who I am? Why can't I not know what my art will be until I make it? Why do I need to have a specific style in which I create? Why can't my art be abstract expressions of myself, and why can't I not know what those expressions are before I start?

It is for those reasons, and others, that I am withholding my graduate applications for at least a year. I want to take the time to find out who I am as an artist, and how it is that I express myself and my vision of the world. I want to create amazing work and build a fantastic portfolio. This is not something I can do in a few months, it might not even be something I can do in a year, but it is something I can begin, and that is the important thing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Poe the Cat

This is the inking I did of Poe, my friend's cat. Unfortunately this was taken with my husband's phone, so it's not the best picture. I plan on getting a better quality photo soon.

For the record my friend and her entire family loved the picture. They were so thrilled with it and plan to hang it in their home. It really made my day and my confidence soar to have been able to capture the cat so accurately.

I'm really looking forward to working more with ink. It's a fairly new medium for me, but one I really enjoy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Daunting Prospect

Unemployment continues, though it's only been less than a week. Not having a phone makes it difficult. I'll need to acquire a microphone and set up google voice so I can make effort toward finding a job.

This evening I finished an ink drawing of my friend's cat. My husband said "Have I ever told you that your art is awesome?" I said "I'm not sure...?"

I had been putting this project off because I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to approach it. Was it going to be done with ink? Or was it going to be an etching? Was I going to wash it with color? Or leave it black and white? The whole project seemed daunting to me. I was afraid that the moment I began it I would ruin it, and feel as though it was hopeless. That I never should have tried. (I seem to have a defeatist perspective on my art.)

In the end I just sat down and did it. I had photocopied some photo's, blowing them up to twice the size so I could mark them. Then I gridded the whole thing out, gridded my paper and threw down a rough sketch. Then I started inking it in. The whole thing only took a few days, and I probably could have finished it in less time if I had spent several hours solid on it at a time. But I worked in spurts, taking a break if I felt nervous.

Sometimes I feel like using the grid approach to drawing from photo is cheating because I'm not freehanding the whole thing. But how is it really any different than tracing a photograph for an illustration? Just because I use a guide of some kind to get the initial layout, doesn't make the whole project a fraud. It's still my own work. If it were cheating one could argue that drawing anything from a photograph, or even real life was cheating because it didn't come out of your head. It's the same sort of logic that equals A+B=C THEREFORE B+C=D (even if it really equals E).

In the end I'm thrilled with the piece. It's beautiful and probably one of my best so far. I've already found a few things that I would do differently if I were to do it over again, but those things are so minor that I'm probably the only one that notices them.

Tomorrow I gift the work to my friend. She already knows she's getting it. It's for her birthday, and a commemoration of her dearly departed cat.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Unemployment, Panic, and Silver Lining

So now I'm unexpectedly unemployed. I'm rather upset about this, as the situation is utterly ridiculous. I got fired because I was caught in horrible and unexpected traffic that resulted in me being late one too many times. I was not allowed an explanation of the circumstances, or any sort of chance to defend myself. I was simply told to hand over my keys and leave. Couldn't even finish out my shift. Bastards.

I actually liked that job, and I was doing everything in my power to get there early and do my job. It's just a few times I ended up stuck in traffic I couldn't avoid (Thank you Philadelphia!) that caused it to end. 99% of the time I was there 20 minutes early. Doesn't that count for something? Apparently not.

So now I embark on yet another feverish job hunt. I need to find something and quickly. That or manage to generate a steady stream of clients to fuel my freelancing full time. I doubt that's going to happen. I'm just not sure where to go with this. I could hand my resume off to a friend and ask them to put in a good word with their boss, but that job would suck the soul out of me. I would hate it every day. It would hurt in ways I can't even explain. It would be in a call center. Ugh. I HATE call centers.

Another option is to submit my resume to the temp agencies I had worked through previously. The problem with this would be landing yet another hateful position in yet another call center at this same company. Oh, the hurt! Additionally, I could hope and pray that the more local branch of that same agency would provide me with a position that lasts more than a month. I'd like to point out that this has never happened.

A third option is to submit my resume and portfolio to some local design temp agencies and see where that goes. It would be in my field, granting me much needed experience. But would I actually get any positions? I worry that my work is not up to par, that my lack of experience is going to forever hold me back, that if I did get in I'd just be overwhelmed. Honestly, I probably worry too much about that stuff.

There's a lot to think about here, and a lot that needs doing. I really can't go too long without generating an income. However, I will have more time to work on my own projects until I DO find something. So, at least there's some silver lining.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Portfolio, Photoshop, and Clients! Oh my!

I've actually done very little in terms of portfolio pieces. I feel as though I'm being pulled in several different directions and I haven't quite had the time to sit down and really work on them. The one time I did I started an oil painting thinking they were water solluble... turns out they weren't and I've no paint thinner. I felt brilliant. However! I like the painting, just waiting until I acquire some paint thinner before I finish it. I have many many plans for projects in the works. My next project is going to be some sort of inking or etching of my friend's cat. (She already knows about it, so it's not a super secret surprise.)

In the meantime I'm reaching out and trying to connect with other artists and designers. So far Google+ has been beneficial for this. I find it important to connect with other artists of all types, to always be expanding your horizons, to challenge your own visions through the eyes of another. If you can see how another artists sees the world, it can profoundly affect how you see the world, and how that is affected in your work. It's also just nice to have other people on a similar page, so that when I start geeking about whatever super sexy font I just came across I don't get too many weird looks. Or maybe I do.

The other thing I've been focusing on is photoshop tutorials. I found a neat website that has a bunch of different tutorials that I really like. So far I've gone through two, and I'm pretty keen on the techniques, if not the results themselves. It's just awesome learning new techniques, and finding resources that teach me more in one tutorial, than I ever learned in any classroom.  Anything that will make me a better artist and designer and gives my portfolio a punch is a win in my book.

Also, clients. Generating them, to be specific. It's part of why I'm blogging, why I'm active in an artistic sort of way on G+, twitter, and facebook. I suppose the next step is stepping up my portfolio, building a website, and emailing the giant list of contacts I've got. I've talked to a few other designers and it seems that as a freelancer generating clients is the most difficult thing, especially if you don't already have a somewhat consistent base. To do this, all day, every day is my dream. To have my own office (at home or otherwise), to work for myself, set my own hours, and create fantastic, mind bending design for fun and profit. That's what I want, but I can't do it without clients. They are the bread and butter of this business, and without them nothing gets done.

There's a half dozen other things I wanted to mention, but I think most of them can wait for their own post, as this one is getting to be a bit of a ramble.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I'm starting on pieces for my portfolio and getting back into creating fine art pieces on a regular basis is going to take some getting used to. Over the last several years I've only done a handful of pieces, unsure of myself, my abilities, and what I wanted to be when I grew up. It's difficult to gain confidence in yourself if you don't try and don't put yourself out there. Fear of rejection is sterilizing, and not believing yourself capable of creating "good art" feeds the fear of rejection.

I'm finding that "good art" is subjective. Certainly there are technical aspects that are generally considered the correct way of doing certain things, but it's also understood and expected that those rules are really guidelines and they are expected to be bent and broken. One of my teachers in college told me that in order to break the rule, you must first understand it. I'm not entirely sure that I agree with this, certainly there are self taught artists who have never conventionally learned the "correct" way of doing something, and have instead done something different, and some of them are extremely successful artists.

For me I've held a lack of self confidence that I am slowly starting to overcome. I'm beginning to realize that I am a better artist than I give myself credit for, and I could become a great artist with practice, exploration of new media, and exploration of myself. I am beginning to try new things, to revisit old things, and to try to find my own style.

I think the thing that I enjoy most about creating art is trying new things. I'm the type of person that wants to try everything. To create art in every medium. While I might find that there are some things I don't seem to have a knack for, there are even more that I find I truly enjoy.

I currently have a goal to prepare a portfolio that reflects my versatility as an artist, my own personal style, and my eagerness to learn and explore. My portfolio will ultimately be a dynamic exploration of art, and to achieve this I plan to complete at least one piece a week. Eventually I will get into the rhythm and simply not stop creating, and that is what I would like to ultimately do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Off to See the Wizard!

Sort of.

I'm applying to grad school, and oh my god it's like a second job. I've only just begun the process and I've already managed to find ten million things I need to do before I'm ready to complete the application process. I've only just begun sending out information requests for different programs and begun thinking about how to pull together the type of portfolio that kicks major ass. I'm also starting to stress. My personal application deadline is January 1.

I've already begun recruiting people for assistance. I've got people on stand by to critique any work I do, I've sent out requests to former professors for letters of recommendation, and I've already got people giving me tips and advice on how to write my essay. This is a bit more like wonderland and a bit less like oz.

All of this on top of being a full time mom, freelance designer, part time receptionist, and working on a graphic novel. I've also got ambitions of making a personal website to host my blog, my portfolio, short stories about my adventures, and possibly even a webcomic. Sometimes I think I'm extra crazy, but this is what I really wanna do, and I need to do it now. It's time for a change and this is it!

To help keep myself focused, to help me keep the stress down, and to chronicle this new and exciting adventure I plan to post on here every so often. Hopefully a little more often than in the past (I am a lazy blogger, but at least I admit it, and that is the first step to recovery.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We're All Gonna Die!

Let's talk about the end of the world.

I've been playing too much Fallout 3 and watching too many things with zombies. I'm starting to get paranoid.

I absolutely adore Fallout, and I'm jonesing for a copy of New Vegas, though I'm not even half way through Fallout 3.

You ask why it has taken me six months to get to Three Dog? Because of shit like this.

I'm paranoid with an overactive imagination. I have had to give myself an indefinite hiatus from the game because of this. A few nights ago I went to bed in abject fear of the end of the world. I was fairly certain that I was going to awake in the middle of some sort of apocalypse, be it zombies, nuclear holocaust, or a world war on our home turf. I also realized that we have no way to really survive. We live in the middle of a highly populated urban area, we have no range weapons and no ammo, and we don't have a large supply of food. I'm pretty sure we're doomed. I fell asleep straining my ears for sounds of impending doom. Excessive sirens, screams, car crashes, or possibly no sound at all. When I woke up in the morning I was actually surprised that nothing had happened.

A few weeks ago I watched the first episode of Walking Dead, and Oh My God, it was awesome. Probably the only Zombie anything that I REALLY liked. However, I still spent several days terrified of a zombie breakout.

I am also counting down the days to December 21, 2012. We have 1 year and 363 days. I have no idea what, if anything, is going to happen that day. However, I'm predicting one the highest suicide rates of decades, possibly longer. Also mass hysteria and panic. I have a feeling as we get closer to the date we will be seeing and hearing more and more people talking about it and their predictions and in the week leading up to it the media will be inciting said panic and  hysteria, and the world will be holding it's collective breath.

There has go to be something wrong with me, I swear. Sometimes I think I'm going to turn into a Doom Sayer, complete with cardboard sign. "THE END IS NIGH!" I mean, they're the only ones that actually believe this stuff?

I have been told if I'm so paranoid I should prepare. Build up an arsenal, 3-4 years of non perishable food product, buy a house and fortify it adding in a bomb shelter, store 5 years worth of filtered fresh water in airtight containers, store several seasons worth of seeds. You get where I'm going with this. My only issue with this approach is that in preparing for the worst I become MORE paranoid.

So, do you fear the end of the world? The Zombie Apocalypse? Nuclear Holocaust? How do you prepare for it? What are your plans for survival?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The things we don't talk about.

I find it frustrating, unhelpful, and unfair that there are so many things that we don't like to talk about. Or if we do it's in hushed tones and as though we are ashamed to be having the conversation. Certainly there are some who talk about them loudly and openly and productively, but not many, and they are often hard to find.

Depression is one of those things. Even though a high percentage of Americans are diagnosed, and even more are suffering undiagnosed, with it we don't talk about it. Give them a pill and let's be on our way is often the attitude, along side the brush offs of "Everyone gets sad." or "If you just tried you'd get over it." and any number of other things.

I don't often talk about myself and the personal stuff going on in my life here for two reasons. One, I am depressed and I don't want to sound as though I'm whining. It's a fine line between reason and excuse, and I often feel as though all I'm giving are excuses for my behavior. I have a LiveJournal that I have recently returned to updating regularly with this sort of thing. Feel free to look me up if you can find me.

Reason two! I don't know who, exactly, reads this. I don't know what friends and family I have that might be following me surreptitiously on here, and while I'm an open book to just about everyone, I'm not so much to my family. So even though my LJ is public, I'm not quite ready to go all in over here and blast my personal business on the interwebs.

However, this is something I want to talk about, because no one does. (Remember, this blog isn't ONLY about geeky things. It's also about me.)

I've been diagnosed with depression since I was fairly young, also ADHD. Halfway through college I stopped taking meds and convinced myself I was fine for many years. Only recently have I realized that no, I'm really not fine, and that I do need medication and therapy. It's been long and painful getting to this realization and acceptance of myself and my wonky brain chemistry, but here I am, and here I shall stay.

Depression is a hard thing to deal with. It's hard on the person who has been diagnosed, and it's hard on the people around them. I often find it difficult to do some of the most basic things for myself. Showering, cooking, cleaning, not to mention I have a child and a husband that need me. The guilt of not being able to do take care of myself and them is killer, and it feeds into the depression and general feeling of worthlessness. It's a self repeating cycle and it is SO hard to break out of. At some point it becomes familiar and comforting, it's easy to keep feeling the same things over and over.

It also affects work performance in ways that you might not expect. I'm a designer, at least it's what I went to school for, what I so desperately want to do with my life, what I'm trying to do with my life, but I haven't been able to. Recently I've received several projects that I'm incredibly excited about, but I find it difficult to work on them and complete them in a fast and efficient manner. How can I work when I can barely pull myself out of bed? I also fill in temporary office and call center positions and watched as the people around me get hired full time, but I don't. Why? Because I often exude a demeanor that screams "I don't care about this job! I don't want to work here!" Do I ever, really, like the jobs? No. Do the people around me? Likely not. However, the difference is that they are able to push through and do the things they need to do to get a full time job. I, on the otherhand, can't seem to focus enough to be as effective as I know I could be. So my attempts at getting a full time job to fill in until I get my graphic design career going fail.

I don't think I fully realized how much the depression was affecting me until recently. Oh, sure, within the last couple years I acknowledged that I could certainly use some good therapy sessions, but I didn't accept that I might actually need medication. I was afraid of it. My experience with it growing up was less than pleasant and I resented everything about it. Sometimes I still do. I trained myself to forget to take it, which is why when I got to college it became completely ineffective and I suffered withdrawal symptoms constantly.

I don't know what changed, but over the last month or two I've realized and accepted that I cannot function. I often can't do basic things, and that I'm not just lazy. That it's not just a matter of changing my habits, but it's also an actual problem. I think the trigger for my realization came in the form of mild panic attacks and anxiety. I suspect I may have a mild anxiety disorder as well as ADD, but I'm not sure. All I can say is standing in the middle of the kitchen with nothing but an overwhelming sense of impending doom and being convinced that the world is going to fall apart if everything doesn't get done RIGHT NOW is a sobering experience.

Depression is not something that can be defined by a specific set of behavior. It's not something people can really understand or relate to unless they've dealt with it themselves. It's not a broken arm or a seizure. It's not an addiction, though addiction and depression often go hand in hand. It's not the sort of thing that people really talk about. Instead they brush it off claiming laziness and bad habits and if the person would just put a little more effort into things they'd be fine. However, it NEEDS to be talked about. There needs to be open discussion about it, not just on the blogosphere, not just on forums and websites, but in our homes and communities. Everyone knows the word, everyone knows theoretically what it is, but there is little community support for those who have to deal with it.