Out of Control

I've had kind of a rough week, I'm feeling much better now, but that's why the posts have been so sparse. I'm back on my shaky legs with a real theme today, I can't really promise coherence though. 

Today I'd like to talk about control and how feeling in/out of control has affected my art. 

Most artists I know are control freaks, some may be more subtle about it, but for the most part my friends who are artists are not going to lay back and let things come to them. One of the positive things about that is the artists I know are incredibly hard working because of this.

 I know in my work I always reach the "I'm doing this all on my own and no one can tell me otherwise" point. That's usually the point where that series is at it's worst, and I usually come out of it directly into a "I have to find someone to talk about this with" stage. However I do spend a significant amount of time in the first stage, it's hard to give up any amount of control in my work, especially when the thing I am working on is super close to my heart. Here's where I give myself advice that I'm probably not going to follow, but giving up some control in work is almost always a good thing. You don't have to follow the advice that's given to you, but it's always really good to have it in your back pocket just in case it's a better idea than you had. 

For example I had a professor in school who is almost alway right when it comes to technical things about my work. When I was doing my thesis he suggested I switch to a different type of paper, he loved my images, he thought my concept was solid, but he told me to try a glossy paper. I was almost offended, I didn't like glossy paper and this was my project so I wasn't even going to try. I couldn't give up that tiny piece of control just to try the stupid glossy paper. I'm sure you all know where this is going, I tried it after months of telling him no, and ended up loving how it looked. 

Now that was a story about paper which probably isn't a significant problem in most people's lives, but paper choice is important! And so is loosening the reigns every now and then and giving up some control in your work even if it's just for an insignificant amount of time to try the goddamn glossy paper. 

Ask Yourself Better Questions

I was listening to my favorite podcast today, and Rob Lowe was the guest, and he spoke about some of his achievements, downfalls, and scandals and while he was talking he said to ask yourself better questions. 

That phrase stopped me in my tracks (well it would have had I not been driving)

This is a way of reacting to the world that I hadn't thought of, but as someone who recently has become more confident a little more open that phrase stuck with me. I repeated it in my head on my drive home over and over and over again. 

Ask yourself better questions and your brain will give you better answers. An example that was given was:

Q: Why did that fail?
A: Because I'm a piece of garbage. 

So to rephrase that so your brain would give you a better answer (and my brain gets a lot darker than "piece of garbage", but for readers sake I won't go there)

Q: What did I learn from that failure that I can use later?
A: All sorts of things, let me list them! (says your much happier brain)

Now, of course those were the examples given and I'm sure there are many ways to rephrase things so your head doesn't give you the "wrong" answers or the sad answers. 

As I was repeating this in my head on my way home, I was wondering how I could apply this to my art practice. How I can rewire how I think about failures both commercially and personally. Many people say you learn more from the mistakes you make than from your successes, there are a ton of famous quotes from famous people about failure and how it helped them succeed, but how can you go from a true failure to a true success? And how can you keep the failure lessons in your back pocket without having them weigh you down?

Those are really hard questions, and I'm not sure anything I come up with tonight will be a good enough answer, but I feel like the actual theme for this blog is "Brianne starts out with a question, tries to answer it and ends up more confused". And that's okay with me I'm comfortable in the confusion, I almost relish it. I like looking for answers. I think, for me at least, the answer is do it again. Do it again and don't feel guilty about having to do it again. That's something that I have to work on, I have to realize that very few people can shoot one roll of film and have an entire series, it just doesn't work like that.  No one is perfect the first time around, and no one is perfect the 100th time around. I think in art, and in life, there's a lot of letting things go, and the happiest people I know are really good at letting the tough stuff go and keeping the good stuff at the forefront.  

That's my new goal. Ask myself better questions so I get better answers from my brain. I'm a smart person, and the people around me are incredibly intelligent therefore we are all able to rephrase our questions to ourselves. 

Until tomorrow.



Use Your Friends.

No, not that way.

Resources, specifically human ones, are so immensely important to making artwork. Even if your practice is incredibly private and no one sees anything until it's 100% done it's still really important to have a group of artists surrounding you so you can leech off their creative energy (it is true, all artists are vampires) I am confirming that here. 

I spoke yesterday about how much of a stereotypical introvert I am, and the only time that I find that not true is when I'm in a room full of creators. I love talking about art, I love talking about anything that you can connect to art (so pretty much anything if it's framed the right way). I find other artists to be one of the most important parts of my process.

For the last two years my practice has gone from using people as models to just using myself and my immediate surroundings, I still love a good (scary, weird, messed up) portrait, but at the moment I'm more interested in my world, one that I don't feel very comfortable in. I live and work in an area that's inhabited by people that might as well be from a different planet, they speak a different language from me, they've lived different lives. So I suppose that interest stems from an almost scientific fascination. 

So because I live in this closed off suburban world I have to keep my creator friends close, we have to occasionally collaborate for the sake of my sanity (and I'm hoping some of them feel the same way about me). It's so essential to talk about ideas, and for that matter just talk. Something will come of it because that's what artists do we create. We learn from each other. 

I've made the mistake quite a few times of trying to cut myself off from the world, I've thought maybe I'd be happier if I was isolated, and at times I have been. I figured outside artists do it, why can't I? Spoiler alert: I cannot. I like being alone, but not that much. It always comes back to the phrase "nothing is created in a vacuum", and I know that's usually meant to talk about inspiration and history before you but for me it also means that I can't create unless I'm living the life of an artist, and that comes with the responsibility of staying in the studio until 2 am not because you have a project to finish but because you want to watch other people's processes, and because you are passionate about your friends' successes. 

So I guess what this long rambling post is about is keeping up with the people around you, especially after graduating from art school. I need other peoples creative energy because they are living a different life than I am. I cannot have empathy or understanding for something I haven't attempted to learn about, and I cannot make art about something I do not have empathy or understanding, no matter how hard I try. 

Until tomorrow



Lets Get Honest

I'm going to come right out and say it, I'm a liar. Not in any way that harms others, in fact the lies I tell probably harm myself more than anyone else. I'm sure people can relate to not feeling comfortable sharing all of themselves with their friends and family (or maybe it's just me that feels as if I have to tiptoe around the truth). To be honest growing up I always felt like I needed to walk on eggshells, I never wanted to hurt anyone so I would tell half truths or just not say anything at all. It's something I struggle with today. Instead of telling a person in my life that something they are doing is hurting me or making me feel bad I ignore it until that bad turns into anger. 

None of that is the point of this post though, but the narcissist in me wants you all to know a little tiny bit about how my mind works. The point of this post is to tell my readers how art has allowed me to be completely 100% honest without actually being honest. For those of you who know me well you might look at my art and be able to piece together bits of my life that I would never come out and tell anyone. I'm a private person (that statement is not backed up by the daily blogging and photographing) but I truly am. If I had my choice I would pull a Sia and not show my face at any gallery, but alas I am neither that famous nor that talented (yet). So when I show pieces that come from the deepest parts of me, occasionally ripping myself open and sharing myself with an audience, there's a freedom there. I don't have to walk on eggshells when I put something up on a wall or on the internet. The piece speaks for itself, and the piece speaks for me. 

Art gives me the freedom to explore topics that I wouldn't even talk to my therapist about, and it opens a dialogue with other people that might in the long run end up with me being more verbally honest. The funny thing is I want to share myself with people, I sometimes think I have important things to say, and interesting ways to say them. For me though those interesting ways have to be done through art. 

Also if someone asks me about something in my work or about my life I will be honest with them. A straight question deserves a straight answer, but if you don't give me a straight question you can bet your ass I'll be dancing around that answer until you give up and go home. 

Maybe the new goal is to practice some radical honesty when the situation calls for it. Maybe that's one of the risks I'll be taking (see previous post).

That's all for tonight.



Lets Take a Risk

We're going to get serious again today kids, I'm sorry, but I've had an incredibly frustrating week and I think I need to work out some stuff. 

How do you make art when you don't feel safe? Safe is a pretty broad term and for this purpose I'm going to define it as secure and confident. There are a lot of other ways that relate to my life that I could talk about as far as safety goes (I've already discussed safe spaces), but for now we're going to talk about security and confidence. 

Every artist knows going in that choosing a creative field is no guarantee, security goes out the window the second that paint brush, camera, pencil, piece of clay, musical instrument or anything else gets put in your hand and you feel something different, something powerful, something you've never felt before. You feel at home even though you don't know what you're doing yet, and the excitement and passion that grows from those first few years create what I'm going to dub the "new artist bubble" some groups call it a pink cloud. Inevitably that bubble is burst or that cloud is darkened when you realize that your extremely talented peers are your competition, your mentors who you admire and aspire to be like are only just scraping by, and you can't get a job with health insurance (okay maybe that one is personal, but COME ON). 

On top of that you have your personal security and safety to worry about, for me at the moment I don't feel safe in where I'm living, I don't feel secure in my day job. I'm struggling, less so than a month ago because I made some important changes for my mental and physical health. Some days are better than others, but some days I sit and I feel like I can't keep it up. 

So I ask myself, can I see myself doing anything else? Could I live with myself if I walked away from a potential art career without even trying? Am I frustrated because I'm not patient? The answers to those questions are no, no, and yes respectively. I don't feel safe or secure in this path that I've chosen for myself, but I don't want anything else for myself. And for the other stuff, the housing situation, the shitty job, the lack of any funds whatsoever, hopefully that won't be a long term problem. 

I put a lot of pressure on myself, I have the disease of "I want it now, and I want more", and I don't really know how to give myself a break when it comes to that. I don't know how to make myself feel more safe or secure. Maybe the answer is to become less safe and secure. Take more risks instead of obsessing over the ones that I'm taking now. 

I do know one thing, there's nothing more satisfying than making a photograph from start to finish and seeing it hanging on a wall for people to see. There's also nothing more terrifying than putting your soul on that very same wall to share with those very same people. So maybe I will throw caution to the wind, maybe I will take more risks and try to free myself of this strange guilt I have for choosing a field like this. Maybe I have to stop listening to certain people in my life. 

I welcome any and all advice on this.

That's all for today 



I do Not Know What I'm Doing.

I think the title says it all, at this point in my artistic career I have no clue what I'm doing. I wish I did, truly. No matter what point in my life I'm at I always feel as if I should be further along than I actually am. I'm 23, shouldn't I have a job in my field? Shouldn't I be showing work in galleries? The answer to that question is a hard maybe. I'm lucky enough to have a pretty healthy art practice, is it going anywhere? Nope, not yet. Do I get feedback? Not as often as I'd like to. It's weird to say this, but I miss critiques, how do I know if it's good if a professor doesn't put a subjective grade on my hard work? How do I know if something is successful if my classmates don't subjectively tell me my work is good or bad. 

I wish they, and by they I mean every artist I came in contact with up until now, told me that when I left school I would feel like everything I do is going to go nowhere, probably for a long time. I wish they told me I would go through periods of helplessness while I try to figure out how I want my career to go. 

I do know one thing, or I think I do, I want to create my own spot in the art world. I want to work hard and build something exciting and newish, I don't think I want to go the traditional route of apprenticeship or production assistant or working in a camera store until I want to throw things. I want the adventure of taking some risks along the way. 

However you've also gotta make money, so a day job is imperative, and odds are that day job is terrible. So I guess I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing and hoping that one day in ten or twenty years I look back on that and say it's a really good thing that I didn't know what I was doing or else I wouldn't be here now. 

Until tomorrow




Just Do It.

To lighten things up today after the infuriating situation that I posted about yesterday I'm going to talk about two different things. The first being ways to encourage art practice without physically making art, and the second being exploring outside of your medium. 

Up until about three weeks ago I had nothing going on in my life that would really encourage me to go out and make work. Sure I made the occasional photograph, or painted some mildly disturbing portraits of dream people, but I didn't really have a discipline.  Then Falcon Ridge happened, and just to let you know I'm probably not going to ever stop talking about that festival being a source of inspiration for me. I'm kind of like an electric car, I can go all year until then but I have to recharge for five days on the ridge. One morning I woke up very early, and I was too anxious to watch netflix, which is what I would normally do if I'm up before the sun, instead I took a walk. At first it was just a walk, and then I started looking at things the way a photographer does and I realized there is gold all around my town. Weird lawn ornaments, strange looking buildings, rich people putting numbers on things it was awesome. So I started walking every day with my camera making photographs at magic hour. So that little thing, the anxiety I felt staying in my home pushed me to start making art again. Now I look forward to getting up and finding these things and kind of wandering until I have to go home to get ready for work. It's working for me. So you don't have to be making stuff to get encouraged to make stuff. I apologize for the lack of good wording I am very tired I spent four hours at a doctors appointment today.

The second thing that I want to talk about is going outside of your medium to get yourself moving. I've spoken briefly about this before, but I think there's value in repeating it. You don't have to be good at it, you don't even really have to like it. What you do have to do is try. Maybe you paint something and it looks kind of like a person you saw walking down the street the other day, and now you know that you should always have a camera at the ready. Maybe you find an abstraction in light that you can't quite get right on your canvas so you snap a phone photograph and study it and then you can get that light right. You don't have to show anyone these things, not many people ask to see an artists sketchbook, or at least I never would. It's wildly personal, like a journal or some peoples twitter accounts. 

That's all I've got for today, I'm still a little shaken from yesterday, which frustrates me how much this person got under my skin. Tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully the longer removed I am the easier it will be.



Road Blocks

There are a couple kinds of road blocks, mental, physical, monetary, people telling you that you can't do somethings. In art we have to grow a thick skin pretty quickly when it comes to hearing the word "no", because we hear it a lot. Even if it's not a direct no we hear "that's not possible at this time" or "maybe you should be thinking about going a different way" or even "I don't like that I don't want it to happen" 

The mental roadblocks that we put up are usually because we are afraid of doing what we're about to set out to do. We doubt ourselves enough that we don't even try. We think, that project is too big for me, there's too much work for one person to do (hint, if it's a huge project that can be collaborative make it collaborative). It's a crisis of confidence, can I make the thing in my head come out onto the paper, pallet, film, video, sculpture whatever. Usually no, it's not going to come out exactly how you pictured it, however it might come out better or different in a good way. Mental roadblocks are not the same as artist block, you know what you want but you don't know how to get there. The best advice I was ever given was just start and see if it works. 

A physical roadblock is something that might come if you're doing a project with a lot of people that requires a lot of planning and organizing and then all of a sudden someone pulls out or a location pulls out or someone just drops the ball. This is one I'm still working out, I'm not good at the organizational thing, it's a small miracle that I've kept this blog going for more than a week, and haven't gotten distracted yet. I guess go through the proper channels if you can, don't do anything illegal, and ask forgiveness instead of permission? I don't know. I have no clue if you have an answer it would be really awesome if you gave it to me. 

I'm ignoring the money thing, because I am too poor to even pretend to know what I'm talking about. Maybe kickstarter? I don't know. 

Also a second short one if someone tells you you can't do something (unless it's like a self funded trip to Mars) tell them to go fuck themselves. With a little bit of belief and a lot of hard work most projects can get done. Not overnight not even over a week or a month if it's a big one, but if you dedicate yourself to it, it's very possible to have it happen. 

I write this post as a reminder to myself that no matter how bleak things look I can push through it. I hit a significant roadblock today, one that morally I'm not sure I can continue on the road that it's blocking and I'm having a really hard time with it. It's throwing me off my game, and to be honest it's a little depressing. It physically hurts to not have a vision happen. I know that if I keep pushing forward something will come out of it. 

Until next time


I was just speaking to two really amazing artists on inspiration and how it comes to us as creative people, and we all established that it was really too broad of a topic to try to boil down to the short amount of time that we had (more on that in a future date). 

I'm going to try to tackle at least a little bit of how my process works.

The first thing I want to point out is the power of the word, the word inspire means (according to dictionary.com) means to fill with animating, quickening, or exalting influence or to communicate or suggest by a divine or supernatural influence. Those are powerful definitions. Inspire is a powerful word. I think a lot of times in todays world we flippantly use words that mean something a lot more powerful than they actually do. My two favorite examples of this is the word awesome, your sandwich was not awesome (maybe it was, who am I to judge) the grand canyon is awesome, to be filled with awe is something really powerful, the second being "I miss you". I miss you is something that we are programmed to say to someone we haven't seen in a while, like we have to say it, but to actually truly miss someone is a really intense painful emotion. 

So back to inspiration, as an artist I can be inspired by many different things, the town I live in, a comedy show, something someone says passing me on the street, pretty much anything. To get from the inspiration to the work though, is very complicated. Art takes work. Something or someone may have lit the match, but you have to build the fire up and keep it going. So to boil down inspiration to who is your most influential artist, or what inspired you to start the current project your doing? 

I think Josh Jordan today said it best, that by making that one thing the topic of discussion about your art negates the hours and hours of work that you did to refine your series or your craft or even just one image. 

It erases the work that you did leading up to the great unveiling, it ignores the fact that your blood sweat and tears went into a piece that may have been spurred on by one moment or a small piece of your life, but that doesn't mean that the muse fairy creature came down upon you and told you what to do. The closest that I've had that comes to that is when I write poetry, which is why I don't write it that often because the poems come out of me, I don't write them, they write me. As far as visual art goes, there are hours, weeks, months, even years that come out of that small speck of inspiration.

So I guess the punch line to this is, pay your artists as if you knew how much time and effort goes into fanning that match flame into a bonfire. The end product is not what the process is.  

Looking and Seeing

Today is going to be a short post, I had a long day yesterday and I've had a longer one already today. I have some stuff in the works which is very exciting for me, but it means working full time and then full time doing the other stuff. I'm being very cryptic, but I can't announce yet. Soon! 

Anyway, today I'm going to talk specifically about photography, this process can be used in any medium, but since photography is the closest to capturing exactly what you see in the real life (sort of, more on that later) onto film or pixels and it's my medium that's what I'm going to discuss. 

I knew from when I was younger that I had an "eye" for photography, I remember being very young and I had my first little digital camera that maybe had 1.3 megapixels and taking it to the zoo, and when I came home that day my parents had guests over. The woman told me that I had an eye for photography (I was showing everyone I could my camera and my photos because I was VERY proud of myself). 

As I got older oddly I got worse at really seeing things for what they could be. I started using the studio almost exclusively because I knew I could control every aspect of it. But when it came to my thesis studio shots didn't feel right. So I had to learn how to really see things again. I had to think about framing and pay attention to everything in the frame because I was shooting polaroids and there was no "I'll crop that out". That process probably saved my art practice (and my grade) because I wasn't going to be able to say what I needed to say with studio shots, and the current work I'm working on is in the same vein, I'm back to using medium format film because polaroids are expensive and unpredictable and I think I've had enough of them for a little bit. 

I guess my advice is do a project that is the opposite of how you work. Granted, I wouldn't recommend changing it up for your thesis but whatever works works. If you're a studio photographer, go out and shoot some landscapes (You will probably never see a straight landscape from me because I am not comfortable with them at all), if you're a nature photographer go play with lights in the studio. The same could be said for all media, if you're a singer/songwriter and the words come first always, try writing the tune, if you're a figurative painter try an abstraction. This is advice I've gotten from many artists wiser and more experienced than I, and the "experiments" may be a disaster, or it may be your first actually successful (critique wise) series. 

That was a lot longer than I anticipated, I am thinking a nap is in my immediate future. 

Until tomorrow




We all know it, we've all experienced it, I'm assuming if you're reading this blog you have some sort of interest in art. Maybe not, if not, welcome, hope something is interesting to you. 

As a person who has only lived a certain number of years on this earth (and quite a few of them I was not conscious of what was happening)  Now you're trying to figure out if I mean when I was a small human or some crazy college years, I'll never tell. Anyway, I've only experienced a small number of things that I'm going to experience in my life, and for me I've experienced a lot more than a good portion of my age group (not tryin' to brag or anything but I've seen some shit).

However all jokes aside this tiny little section of my life is the only thing that I have to draw on to make work about, and hopefully I will have lots and lots of experiences down the line to draw on to continue to grow with my work. I have noticed a pattern in my work, and have spoken to other artists about this as well I make work about the same thing. Every series, it's about the same thing. I'm not going to give you an artist statement because I think they're lame and useless (that's another post) shout out to Chris and Craig. Every time I make a painting I'm making it about the same thing. Every time I click the shutter I'm thinking about the same thing (well, I don't actually think much when making photographs but you get what I mean). 

The best thing that was ever told to me, by a pretty famous photographer was it was okay to make work about the same thing for your whole life. It was okay to be obsessed to the point that you don't have a choice, it is a compulsion to make that work, and it doesn't mean that the work looks the same. I can put up two photographs from two different series and as an outsider you might not see the connection. But for me, for now, my work has a theme and I'm okay with it. 

I like the idea of obsession, and I know it's considered a "sick" emotion, but when properly harnessed it can make incredible things and inventions and beautiful pieces of work. 

So make the work about the same thing, you might not be done telling the story yet, and you may never be done telling that story. Thats okay. 

Until tomorrow



Don't Knock it 'till you Try it, and Don't Feed the Demons.

I don't think today is going to have a theme, I think I'm just going to write and see where it takes me, I've been juggling a few different ideas and none of them are ready for publication even if it is just for the 30 or so of you that consistently click on this blog. 

For the past couple of days I've been getting up before the sun rises and going to make photographs around my town so I can catch the before and after "magic hour". (also when I make photographs of the stuff people have in their lawn they are less likely to throw things at me when they are still asleep). It's kind of lovely, I find the 6:30 crowd to be pleasant because they want to be awake that early, the 8:00 crowd isn't quite as nice as most of them are still in their PJs walking their dogs, or dressed in business casual and walking their dogs. Essentially I've learned 8 am is prime dog walking time. 

I've never really been a morning person, or a night person for that matter. My brain chemistry up until very recently has been either you're up all night forever or you're going to sleep for years. So having this little routine where I listen to a podcast while I walk, make some art, and then go to a park and do yoga until the sun catches up with me. That way I get a whole day in before it's too hot for my poor Irish skin to handle, and I can still go to work. I'm made for the cold rain dammit. 

The weirdest thing is I've never been this productive, not even when I was making my thesis, and I have more things up in the air than the walking tour of my town. I'm not sure if it was a Falcon Ridge switch on top of the hill crying my eyes out, almost a cleansing that I needed to start making work again without wanting to hurt someone. Or maybe this is just going to be a productive time block in my artistic life. Either way I'll take it. I know for a long time exercise was my enemy, I didn't have time, I needed to keep working, and when I did have time I couldn't motivate myself, but this has been really great for me creatively. 

So maybe the theme of the blog is don't knock it until you try it? I'm much happier than I've been in a long time and I'm still making work that I'm content with, which further disproves the "fact" that I held on to for so long that I had to feed my inner demons to make good work. That has to become some sort of mantra of mine "don't feed the demons" 


Until tomorrow



Social Media and being Marketable

Today is a complicated day for me, it's coming with a lot of complicated feelings of inadequacy, anger, confusion, and oddly freedom. I think that's all I'm going to say on that subject, to say it's a sore one is putting it lightly. 

Instead of dancing around my issues, today I'm going to talk about the idea of the duality of being a creator but also having to market yourself like a producer. Early on there aren't many art dealers who will work with young artists. They don't want new blood, they want established artists who they can predict what's coming next and even if they can't at least they'll know it's marketable. 

So duality in it's simplest form is black and white, two sides of the same coin. However, I've found being at the very beginning of this learning curve there are a lot of grey areas in how you can get your work out there. You straddle the artist side and the business persons side, which one wins, and when does it become more of a performance piece than an actual interaction with human beings?  Whether it would be respected later on by gallery owners and museums who knows? But isn't what's important the fact that people can see, buy, interact, and discuss your work? Art doesn't pay. For most people it doesn't pay for a large majority of their life. So how do I get in? 

The answer unfortunately, is social media. Unless you're really good at small talk, the answer is social media. I hate it. I know most artists hate it. I enjoy writing this blog, I enjoy making photographs, I enjoy painting. But I hate having to make sure that it goes up on every platform imaginable. I don't do so well in real social situations, so you can imagine the anxiety and white knuckled fear that happens when I put something out there for the internet, which has proven to be an incredibly unyielding and cruel place. But for my generation, I don't see another way out. 

Anyway, in this case I don't think I have an answer, and there are some things both in this subject and in others that I don't really want to talk about today. Some will be revealed soonish (I hope). I'm hoping to move along that learning curve and share that part of my journey with you all. 




I've been thinking a lot about perception the last few days, partially because I feel in my self centered universe that I'm not doing what I need to be doing to keep me alive spiritually (at least I thought I wasn't until today). This is a hard thing to admit, but I think I'm better than my job. I feel terrible saying that, and I know I should be grateful to even have a job, also insert any other typical reaction to that statement here. I don't really have time to address my shortcomings when it comes to feeling superior or smarter than the other people in the room. It's not a positive trait that's for sure, and probably comes from feeling inferior to the other people in the room. 

I seek out a challenge, I want the people I surround myself to be smarter than me, and for the most part they are. I have a wonderful group of friends that challenge me on a daily basis, which in turn makes me a better artist.

Perception can be tricky though, and it can change in an instant. 

I graduated in May, so I know I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself to get my work out there, and hard work, dedication, and some talent will get me there eventually. But when I left school I fell into a deep rotting pit of depression. Who was going to give me deadlines? Who was going to steer me in the right direction? Who was going to listen to me when I was panicking about said deadlines? What do I do now that I don't define myself as a student anymore? The perception that I had was I wasn't going to be able to make work again after school, and a lot of artists don't. Or they go on and do other things and keep art as their hobby. That wasn't going to be me. I couldn't let it. But I was quickly turning into that person. 

"Hey do you want to do a studio day?"
"No. I've got work"
"Hey do you want to go shoot somewhere?"
"No I'm too tired"

And then people stop asking. 

So here I was, three months after graduation, with friends who weren't sure I even wanted to talk to them let alone go make art together. But something around that three month mark changed. I think I painted a silly looking face, and then I went to Falcon Ridge, and then I got a new idea for a project. It was slow, very slow, and some days I still feel myself fighting that instinct to just not. My perception of the situation has changed though, I knew that the pressure I was putting on myself was just not realistic, or safe for that matter, I had a point where I wasn't even sure if I was an artist or not, maybe I had just made it up in my head (I didn't I am in fact an artist DESPITE my preferred medium being photography) 

I have a feeling this is going to be a fight I have for the rest of my life. I'm willing to take it on though.

On Being Afraid

If you're like me you have a lot of fears when it comes to your art. I almost didn't get the degree I got because I was afraid of having to show that much of me to a group of people. I knew my art was revealing enough that there wouldn't be many question. Now, thats how I interpreted what was going to happen if I got through the portfolio review process, everyone would know everything about me, and what they didn't know they could guess pretty easily. I was terrified walking in, shaking, hear racing etc. I had only shown work to professors I knew really well, and always at an ascending level. The problem wasn't that I thought my work was bad, I was actually fairly proud of the portfolio that I put together for the review, the problem was that I was afraid I had been too transparent in my work and they would either think I was oversharing or that I wasn't developed enough to maintain myself in the program. 

I got in. The work was good. But it was too revealing at least for my style. I am no Nan Goldin, I am a good Irish Catholic raised girl who likes to talk around the issue. As much as any therapist can say about that, it actually helped my work that I was kind of a chicken when it came to outright saying what it meant, it forced me to creatively say those dark and twisty things without having everyone come out with bruises on their heads from the hammer I hit them with. 

And since we're talking about fear, how about the fear of putting work up in the gallery (after spending all semester getting comfortable with the professors and other students) for the whole fucking world to see. Well, a good portion of the staff and everyone's parents. I have never felt so nervous in my life. So fearful that someone was going to figure me out as a phony, someone who never deserved to be making work in the first place. 

And the beautiful thing was none of that happened. However I said to myself, and a few friends if I ever go into a show where my work is hanging and I don't feel like I'm going to throw up a little, I think it's time for a new career. 

Artists Block

I've been trying to think about what to write about today, Falcon Ridge is over, and I can only emotionally handle doing one post about it anyway. So I've been wracking my brains all morning, and then it hit me, writers block, artists block, whatever stops me (and you I'm sure) from doing art. 

There's the minor things, like being too busy with other aspects of your life, or not coming up with ideas that you feel strongly enough to act on, and just doing other things. 

And then there's the big things, the issues you actually have to work through. Not being able to start something because of the anxiety that it wont be good, not coming up with any ideas, or hitting a point where you don't love what you're doing anymore. 

All of these things, in my opinion, are avoidable, and none of these reasons are good enough to stop making work. Not even the money aspect (although that's a whole different animal and probably two or three posts). There are ways to head them off. As someone who's experienced trauma and mental illness, and as a result a lot of therapy, I can see these things happening before they happen. And I know how to prevent them for me, for you it might be different. 

However, I often see the signs and ignore them until I'm in a full on tantrum at three in the morning in the photography studio because I don't know where to go next. It's not pretty, it's not my personality typically, and it's plain old immature. 

So how do I fix it? I know if I did the following list (oh god, she's going to give us a list) consistenly I would not run into the problem as often. It still would happen, no one can "cure" artists block, but I'm positive it would happen less often.

  • Make something visual every day (even if it is bad and you throw it out)
  • Read books about art, by artists, by art historians (yes, even art historians)
  • write all of your thoughts down (maybe not all of them, but any one that could maybe have the small possibility of being an idea.)
  • Don't compare yourself to the volume of work other artists are making (they have a different workflow than you do for a reason I promise)
  • Have a core group of fellow artists who can critique and discuss your work even if their medium is not the same.
  • Make something for fun every now and then. If you take yourself too seriously having fun is hard.

So that is my list, the way that I can guarantee I will be consistently creating and eventually maybe consistently creating something good. If I followed it, and usually I don't. So maybe one of my post life affirmation at FR I will make that a goal. 



School Didn't Prepare Me for This

I have no idea what to write today, to be honest yesterday's post took a lot out of me. Sometimes I have less spoons than usual, today is one of those days. 

Okay, so one of the big challenges to being a young artist is how to make connections, I hate to say it but my school SUCKED at helping us connect with people who were established, people who might be able to help us out now that we're blindly feeling our way through life. I am not only lost, but I am bumping into things and it hurts. I wish I knew how to talk to gallery owners, how to determine if it is a gallery you should talk to, if showing in a gallery is even the answer now that the internet exists and all art forms are slowly becoming less relevant because some 12 year old with photoshop can do it better and for less money. Okay that may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but the panic is real. 

I feel like I've been given the car, the drivers license, and a tank of gas, but no money, no map and no address to where I'm supposed to be in two hours. So yeah, lost. Instead of pounding the pavement I'm frozen like an opossum hoping that the huge eighteen wheeler with the government loan program logo on it decides to hit the breaks before it crushes me. That was a lot of travel similes and I am sorry, I also have a bit of cabin fever because NOTHING IS FREE. I wake up a lot of mornings thinking "what the fuck did I do, why wasn't I good at math?"

At the moment I'm grateful to be having a bit of an artistic surge of energy, although blogging and podcast planning weren't exactly in the post grad plans, but hey whatever facilitates making more art is good in my book.

I could settle for a compass that points to a spot somewhere in between the place where I want to be and a place where I might be happy. You know, point me in a direction that could be the right one if I ignore it at the last second and pick a different direction. That would be good, at least then I would get within 50 miles and I could probably figure it out from there. 

That's all I've got today friends



A Little Crazy Never Hurt Anyone

Okay, you might be thinking,
"Shit she's going to talk about mental illness, she promised some more light hearted posts, I don't want it" 

Or you might be totally apathetic. 

Odds are it's the latter because I just started this blog and I don't have people knocking down my door to read it every day. My plan today was to write some half assed version of this post about making art from what you know, don't be that guy who makes a film where someone asks "Did you take your meds today?" when a character is acting crazy. I guess that pretty much sums up what the other post was going to be about.

Instead yesterday I was inspired by two really brave women, one I know personally and one that I was lucky enough to see perform her heart out (with a three minute fart noise mash up to wrap up the show). To tell my story, or at least to not talk around it anymore.

For those of you who don't know I'm diagnosed with Bipolar I, which is a mental illness characterized by periods of depression, hypomania, and mania. It's not one of the illnesses that gets a lot of press, although celebrities like Maria Bamford and others are very open about it, there's even a magazine! That's right every couple of months you can read all about it if you so choose. 

How does this relate to art? After all this is an art blog. Everything about me affects my art practice, for example if I'm not taking my medication and I'm depressed I get nothing done. If I'm not taking my medication and I'm hypomanic I get A LOT done, but at the expense of my sleep, relationships, and usually money. If I'm manic I'm in the hospital, so there's not much you can do there art wise because they don't let you have sharp things or cameras, and I'm not much of a charcoal artist. 

I've heard it all from various people about art practice and mental illness, everything from "well you're probably more creative off your meds" to "I choose to not practice the self care my doctors told me to because I feel that it makes my art better." 

I have been there more than once, I have taken myself off medication because I thought it was a really good way to make my practice better. Here's a little secret, it didn't. Usually visual hallucinations get in the way of making good photographs, and the deep depression that made me feel like I was rotting from the inside out was not a productive way to practice drawing my own face for a figure drawing class, especially since I usually had a pretty twisted perception of what I looked like after not being able to move for days. 

So sure, if you have a mental illness and you can function without medication, more power to you. But even if the art is better, the world would rather have more of it than a few great pieces. (Also attempted suicide comes with A LOT of paperwork, so just don't try). 

Anyway, I'm not going to say that I would give up being bipolar, and I know that's a little fucked up, but it gives me a slightly different perspective on the world, and I think it makes me a more empathetic person (as long as I'm stable, if I'm not I'm quite mean). 

So yeah, that's all I've got. This was terrifying to write, and terrifying to post, but art is about taking risks, even if it's not visually. 



Art and Romanticizing Being Miserable

The struggling, troubled, artist has always been a trope both in real life and in the media. I can't remember the last time I saw an artist in a film that was the "healthy" character. Sure, we do tend to be an eccentric bunch who take ourselves too seriously, occasionally party a little too hard, and have a tendency to hyper focus on whatever we're doing. For example, when I'm working in the studio I communicate in hand gestures and half words, which can be frustrating for the people who are helping me out, and can sometimes be a little off putting to my subjects. In my real life, I'm a little more laid back. 

Depending on what I'm working on, sometimes making art makes me miserable, because it takes so much of myself I don't have the energy to do anything else. It can make me a difficult person to be around when I'm focusing on one thing for a long period of time. My senior thesis was like that, all I could do was focus on the concept and move forward slowly but surely without stopping. Despite these quirks and rough patches, art making truly brings me great joy, and in fact helps me deal with my mental illness in a healthy way. 

I think the point that I'm trying to make is you don't have to be miserable to make great art, but a lot of times being miserable facilitates great art. It's a complicated dichotomy, another blurry line that all creators have to walk. I truly think that any strong emotion can push someone towards something great, and hopefully for most of you that strong emotion won't be sadness or depression, but joy or passion, which can be just as powerful and can create something just as beautiful. 

Despite this beautifully painted picture of positivity, my art does not always come from a place of joy. Sometimes it's a place of pain or trauma, sometimes it's a burning desire to tell someone else's story, sometimes it's obsession, sometimes it's purely me all the good and bad bits sewn together which will hopefully in the end amount to more good than bad. I try to avoid romanticizing the depression that for a while was what fueled my work, a lot of times it's very difficult. I now know that creating is more nuanced than that, and making work can and will come from all aspects of the human experience. 

Anyway, that's all for today. 

Until next time,

Ethics in Fine Art Photography

I am diving right in today, going from introductions to some heavy, unanswerable, shit, and I'd love to start a dialogue about this because I honestly don't have any answers. 

This particular subject is something that is very close to my heart, and also it's something that I can't even pretend to have all of the answers to. Ethical practice in journalism and documentary photography is fairly black and white, or at least it used to be, I'm not sure anyone can call the current state of media ethical in any sense of the word. However that is a post for a different day by a different person. That can of worms is not one I am looking to open for fear of digging myself into a black hole I will never be able to crawl out of. 

However when it comes to fine art, the lines are blurry, curvy, and sometimes not there. If you call something art, especially if it's meant as satire or social critique, does the artist have the right and responsibility to put things out there that might be polarizing? To that question I think the answer is unequivocally yes. With photography though, especially with portraiture, you're dealing with real humans with real stories.

Yesterday I was having this ethical dilemma about putting up a photograph I made of a friend that was incredibly vulnerable, the story behind it was one of abuse and trauma. Her name won't ever go up on this website, and the story if she chooses to let me post it will be changed so people don't know it's her. Even with her permission I still had a sleepless night last night thinking about this photograph.  I was proud of the work, and I pride myself in being able to get real emotional reactions out of my subjects through discussion and sometimes a little bit of manipulation. Everyone who knows me knows that that practice weighs on me, but I push through because it's for the art. 

In my own work, because I deal with my own story and my subjects stories I always have the hesitation, is this too much? Is this doing more harm than good? Will this person regret posing and talking to me in five years, ten years, twenty years? Many artists ask themselves these questions and do it anyway, and most of the time I do. As creative people we are meant to push the envelope and take risks, but sometimes that culture can be damaging. I had a professor once suggest that since I was doing a project on addiction I should go ask permission to photograph people at a detox. I was so shocked at the suggestion that I couldn't even respond to tell that professor how ridiculous that would be. In no way was I going to go photograph people on the worst day of their lives, who could not consent, and would probably regret profoundly having photographs made of them once their heads cleared. For me, that was how I found my hard line, one I wouldn't pass, but others that wouldn't be the line. 

Anyway, I didn't really answer any of my own questions here, and I don't think I answered anyone else's either.  I would love to start a dialog about this, because I'm honestly curious where the line is for all artforms, how far outside your comfort zone is still okay? 

Until tomorrow,