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.

Peace,

Brianne

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
Peace,

Brianne

 

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.

Peace,

Brianne

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 

Peace,

Brianne

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.

Peace,

Brianne

This is an Angry Blog (Please feel free to ignore it)

I have a lot on my mind today, I had a few things that totally threw me for a loop today that were truly frustrating so I'm going to talk about art but not art I guess. 

Art is physical, it's emotional, it's spiritual, and it's mental. It involves every part of your soul, so when someone comes in and gets in your head it can really make things difficult. I had a person today tell me that mental illness doesn't exist (and a whole slew of other terrible things), but specifically that all people who call an ambulance during a crisis are just looking to be drugged up for a little while and "drool on themselves". They even went as far as to ask if I was beaten or sexually abused as a child to have an excuse as to how I acted pre-diagnosis. (she also said if diabetics stopped taking their meds and just weren't fat they would be cured). Let me tell you, I have been angry in my life, I don't think I've ever been this angry.

So it's taken me this long to write this blog. I was going to write about the body and how important it is and has always been to art making. I was even going to do a little art history lesson with it. I was going to write about how physically making myself better by walking every day to make photographs is making me more in tune with my body and my mind. It's making me feel better about myself and not be as concerned with the way that I look because I feel good. It's time away from screens and time away from conversation other than the occasional good morning (people are SUPER friendly at 6 am). I was going to write about how my relationship with my body has been a long and complicated one of self destruction and self harm, but art (and therapy) helped make me better. All of these things I was going to put into what I felt was an important thing to talk about for myself. 

However my night was ruined by this person, and I let it be ruined. I let myself get this upset about someone who is obviously not educated in the way I am about this topic.  I let it control me. Normally I have a pretty thick skin, five straight years of critiques will do that to you, but being bipolar is so ingrained in my story and my art that the ignorance got to me. I am tired of defending the fact that medication is important to my survival. I would be dead without it. That is not an exaggeration. I am tired of explaining to people that exercise and meditation will not cure my chemical imbalance in my brain. They help a lot, but it is not a cure. I am tired of people telling me maybe you should take your meds just on days that you feel bad. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. 

I want to make art. I love art. I love writing. I wouldn't be writing this blog if I had not made the decision to go to therapy and take medication and talk openly with my friends and family about my illness. 

I'm sorry for the non art related art blog, but today exhausted me. It made me feel illegitimate and frustrated that there aren't enough resources for education about mental illness, or resources for treating it. 

I refuse to be silent though. If I can help one person that's all that matters. I am stronger because of my fight, I am a better person because of my fight. My feelings are legitimate and so are yours. 

We will be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow evening.

Peace,

Brianne

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

Inspiration

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

Peace,

Brianne

Obsession

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

Peace,

Brianne

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" 

Anyway, 

Until tomorrow

Peace,

Brianne

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. 

You Probably Have the Ability to Do It

Continuing on my "excuses" series of posts I'm going to write about a couple excuses that are always in my back pocket when someone asks me about what I'm working on. I use them to lie to myself just as often as I use them to make others think that I am thinking about what I'm supposed to be doing even if I'm not doing it at that particular moment. So for my sake, I'm going to write them down and then debunk them so I can refer back to this when I need some motivation. 

I find I give the best advice when I'm not following it myself. 

The first one is money, any visual artist (or performing, but I don't know the numbers on that stuff) knows that art supplies if they are good art supplies are expensive.  For me, it's really hard to keep up the quality of printing that I had now that I've graduated art school. I'm lucky enough to still have access because I still work for the department, but I have to work at least two other jobs to get by. How do you get around not being able to afford your medium? Well, for one, maybe wait on darkroom printing for a bit, find ways around it. Or for a little bit change mediums so at least you're making something always. Always be creating something, even if it's not good. 

The second one is not unique to me, but it is not the norm. My mental health is something that frequently prevents me from making work, somewhat ironically though when I get myself to make something it tends to bring me back to reality at least a little bit. It's a strange balance because either extreme of the bipolar spectrum I'm useless, being a little bit manic (hypomania) makes me super productive artistically but incredibly miserable to be around. This is a tough one to debunk, because sometimes it's truly impossible to make the thing happen when you have a chronic illness (see: spoon theory). The only advice I can give is if you're in a bad place write first, it takes the least amount of energy and a freewrite can help you work out what needs to happen to get you to start creating again. Another thing you can do is remember the exercises you did in drawing 1, do those at least it's something. 

Also, going to throw this out there every time I mention mental illness, if it's stopping you from making work, it's doing more harm than good creatively and maybe it's time to ask for help. 

The last one I hear all the time is time. I'm not going to justify this with a long response. You have enough time. Take a break from facebook, netflix, instagram, twitter, youtube and just fucking do it. If you've managed to text your girlfriend/boyfriend/best friend/family member all day then you have an hour to spare to make something.

Treat art like a job, even if it's not your job yet, you might want it to be. There's a reason it's called a discipline and it's because it takes hours and hours and hours to get to a point where it's ready to show. 

Until tomorrow.

Peace,

Brianne

But My Work isn't Good Enough

To add to the previous post, which was on artists block. Today I'm going to write about your art, and mine, not being good enough. 

Every artist of every medium has thought to themselves at one point or another that their work isn't good enough to do _____ or it isn't ready to go _____. Other times, because we are artists and feel that we deserve to be heard. There's no fighting the fact that we have to have a certain sense of self worth to want our work to be seen.

I heard someone say once, and have repeated it many times: "I usually think I am simultaneously the most incredible person in any given room and also the biggest piece of human garbage to ever walk the earth".  If you didn't giggle at that or say "ah", maybe this post isn't for you. 

In my work, I walk a very thin line, because my subject matter is almost completely autobiographical I have to think that my story is one worth telling, and one worth consuming. However what makes that work "good" for lack of a better term is it also explores my darkest and lightest moments, my insecurities, trauma, and the way I was raised. None of those things awaken a lot of confidence in myself. 

So how do you learn to balance the two? And how do we get past the "my work isn't good enough" stage? As usual there are no good or real answers to this, but this is what has worked for me 

  • It is probably not good enough yet.
  • It may never be good enough.
  • Your heart might not be in it. 
  • If those three things are true start over. 
  • If it's still not good start over again
  • If it's still not good start over again
  • If it's still not good start over again
  • Get people to talk about it 
  • Critique the shit out of it until it cannot be critiqued anymore. 
  • Then get someone new to critique it 
    • you don't have to always listen to a critique

Are you picking up a pattern yet? Through practice your art will get better, your concepts will evolve into something more tangible and complicated, you will feel better about it. Do you think a songwriter writes a song in one session and it's ready to be recorded and played for hundreds of people? Odds are no. Of course there are a few exceptions, there are people who can sit down do the thing and be done with it. But they are a minority, and usually those people are the people who have dedicated their lives to it, so they've been through all of the terrifying stages that we as young artists have to experience still. 

So what I'm saying is, your art is probably good enough, it's just buried under the stuff that we need to strip away to find what our true concept is. Hell I started a thesis about one thing with a lot of drama and ended up with some quiet photographs I didn't leave my house to make. They were about the same thing, but I had to chisel away the drama to get to what I really wanted to say. 

Make a lot of art, enough that it feels like too much art, and then throw stuff away because if you aren't willing to kill your art babies you're in the wrong business. Start over a lot. And then when you feel confident stay confident. Once it feels right it probably is going to be.

Peace,

Brianne

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. 

Peace,

Brianne

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,
Brianne

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, 

Brianne