A Change.

JAkkermans_clusters_webA change is coming.

I’ve been pretty quiet on here lately, I’m aware.  I’ve been re-thinking, re-evaluating, and re-prioritizing my life.  I’ve decided to give up a big commitment in my life, which was very important to me, but was causing an imbalance in my life, taking too much of my energy away from other things.  I am cutting back to the bare bones, refocusing on what is most important- my health, and my practice.  It has not been an easy decision to make, and one that definitely has aspects that I will miss, but a necessary one.  I need to focus on my personal work, my plans and goals, and work to make those happen, keeping from getting bogged down in the details of life.

I am excited for the change, nervous, but a little bit reluctant.  Letting go of the old to make room for the new takes a bit of faith. It means giving up a lot the good things as well as the not-so-good.  I’m sad about that, but ready to move on to what’s next.

I don’t know exactly what will happen in the next few months, only that I needed to reposition myself, a slight redirection, as I wasn’t headed where I’d like to go.  I also need a break for my health.  In the next little while, I will spend some time allowing myself to relax, work, and hopefully find my spark again.  I will put no pressure on myself for a certain length of time.  Let it become fun again.  Be social.  Explore.  Take field trips.

This is a period of transition, of realignment.  I think I’ve learned something, and it’s a reminder for me to focus on what’s most important.  (If you don’t make a decision about what’s best for you, who will?)  Only I know what’s best for me, only I know what I want, and ultimately, I am responsible for my own life and my own choices.  The details are just details, but the larger pieces are ever so important to get right.  I’ve gotta decide for myself what my priorities are, and honour them.

I’m committing, universe.

Values…

Rose bud

The goals I have set for myself for 2013 also fit really well with my values.  Here is some of my reasoning behind them.

1. Get one more rejection letter in 2013, than I did in 2012.  You don’t get opportunities if no one knows you’re out there and ready for them.  At least half of the game is getting on people’s radars, and being visible. Exhibitions and events help with that, but so does putting in a good application.

2. Apply to grad school. Advancing my education will create more opportunities, such as teaching.  I would love to teach, and think I would be good at it, although teaching is not my end goal.  Also, having two years to focus exclusively on your practice would be luxury…. I really do miss that.  Community is also an important part of this, and expanding my perception of the world.

3. Attend a minimum of 20 openings, not counting my own. Community.  Having a studio in my house is great, but sometimes it gets lonely.  And people forget about you if they don’t see your face occasionally. (And it’s fun, of course.)

4. Send out 4 newsletters. Community, keeping in touch with people, promotion.  Staying visible, and accountable to myself and those I know.

5. Spend more time working on my arts practice than I spend at work.  Although I work for an arts group, I don’t want my day job to take over my life.  I am still primarily an artist.  There is lots of overlap between the two, but I need to make sure to protect my studio practice.  The day job is important, but it is there to support my practice. If it overtakes my practice as an artist, I am not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  This goal is to help me remember my priorities and my core purpose.

6. Expose my work to more/different audiences.  Expand on my current community to include people who may not have seen my work.  I see this as moving outside of the art community in Calgary, in various ways.

7. Quit working by 9:30PM every night.  This last one is not really a goal, but a reminder to relax and maintain a balance.  I can be very busy doing a lot of things, but need to make a point of having down time as well, even if it’s only an hour before bed.

I think these are in line with my most important concerns: keeping and building on the community I have, learning as much as I can, and using my time wisely, to spend it doing what I should be doing, including relaxing.

2013 Goals

Windmill Door

Here are my professional goals for 2013.  I realize that some of these are slightly vague, but rest assured that I have defined them much more specifically for myself, but I’m not sure I’m willing to share that much information to the internet at large.  Here are my six goals for the year:

1. Get one more rejection letter in 2013, than I did in 2012.  This ensures that I put myself out there, researching opportunities and sending out applications.*

2. Apply to grad school.*

3. Attend a minimum of 20 openings, not counting my own. 

4. Send out 4 newsletters.

5. Spend more time working on my arts practice than I spend at work.  This is a tough one.  A friend told me about someone she knew who made a point of spending one more hour per week on his practice than he spent at work, so that he had no issues calling himself an artist, first.  While this may sound unrealistic, if I can keep my work at an average of 30 hours a week (over 4 days), I think I could do it.  I will count anything related to my practice in this: sketchbook/ thinking time (including on the train), supply shopping, research -all kinds, including conceptual, scientific, process (such as electronics, etc), art business, opportunities, etc-, writing applications, studio time, goal setting (ha ha), etc.  30 hours/week is not unrealistic, if I want to keep my practice as my focus. Honestly, I’m probably pretty close to this amount anyway, although keeping track will give me a better idea of where I actually stand.  (I blame my BFA for that- it’s almost impossible for me to sit still anymore.  That means I’ve been trained, I guess.)   Because this one is a tough one, I might have to revise it later on, as I see how it plays out, or adjust my schedule to help it- for example, if I worked from 8-4, instead of 9-5, I’d have an extra hour of potential studio time in the evenings.

6. Expose my work to more/different audiences.  This one is also purposely little vague.  I do have some ideas for this, but again, I’m not sure I’m willing to share them all at this point.

7. Quit working by 9:30PM every night.  This last one is not really a goal, but a reminder to relax and maintain a balance.  I can be very busy doing a lot of things, but need to make a point of having down time as well, even if it’s only an hour before bed.

* Notice that the format of these is very specific.  Rather than say, “I’m going to have 6 exhibitions in 2013,” which I have absolutely no control over, I present my goal in a form that I DO have control over- sending out a certain number of applications (thus guaranteeing the receipt of rejection letters).  Regardless of the amount of exhibitions/ opportunities I get, I am still in control of whether I have reached my goal or not, and anything else is icing on the cake.  For the grad school one, it’s “apply to grad school,” not “get into grad school” or “go to grad school,” as I probably don’t have control over that, however, I do have control over whether or not I apply.

The other part of goal setting is being accountable to it, and keeping it easy to track.  I will put this list up on the door of my cupboard next to my desk, where I can see it all the time.   It’s also important to for me to keep my goals in line with what I want, and what’s realistic for me.  Notice that I didn’t list “Make $X in 2013,” or “Sell X pieces of work.”  These just don’t apply, or fit in my plan for the year.  I’m also making a point of keeping the big picture in mind.

2012 is a tough year to follow, but I’m sure this one will be just as good.  Stay tuned!

Blog as Journal

I’ve realized that I use this blog as a journal.  It’s purpose is primarily for me, although I share it with other people.  I use it to collect things- research, information, inspiration and ideas, and I use it to work things out for myself.  I use it as a record of my interests and progress in certain projects.  It is a record of my life as an artist, containing information on shows and projects I’ve done, holding content related to those, such as images and video, which, let’s face it, just doesn’t work in a physical journal.

Some of you may be sad to know that I have not been keeping up my art journals as much lately as I have in the past, possibly because of this.  I still keep sketchbooks (of course!  I don’t think I could work without one), and I do have a physical journal, but at the moment, it is almost exclusively text, and usually concerns much more private things than my blog.  While I do think at some point I will return to the art books, for now, this is the way it is.  It’s time consuming to keep up those journals, although I do find it a great way to unwind.

It’s funny, all formats – written journals, visual journals and blogs – all have their own pros and cons, and it’s too bad that there’s no format that addresses them all.  For instance, with my visual journals, I often feel that the written aspect is under-represented, and the same goes for the visual aspect of the written journals.  Both are also private, which can be both a good and a bad thing. Blogs can be private, assuming it’s done properly, but are limiting in the visual aspect- there’s something about the immediacy and versatility of pen and paper that a blog just can’t provide.  And a concern unique to my time, is that physical books can’t be used for digital media.  I wish there was an easy solution to this, as currently, I keep 3 journals- my journal, sketchbook, and my blog, each with their own purposes, patterns, versatility, and limitations.

It is important to remember that my blog is public, and so I need to be aware of the implications of what I post, unlike my other journals.  Quite honestly, though, I like to think I act like an adult in my regular life anyway, so this isn’t too much of a change.

Because my blog is primarily for myself, I’m not overly concerned with how many visitors I get, links, and all those other things.    On the other hand, if I can give someone a look into how life actually is for an emerging artist in this city, then that’s a plus, but not my main goal.  Let’s just keep it the way it is, as it’s working for me, and that’s all that really matters.

Phases of Practice

I seem to be going into an experimentation phase.

Like a lot of artists, I go through phases with my work.   Productive phases (grooves), where everything seems to roll along smoothly, almost pulling me with it, unproductive phases (ruts, like the one I’m finally seeming to get out of), where I’m stalling, and everything in between.  Experimentation phases, where I’m trying a lot of things, but not actually making any finished work, and research phases, where all I seem to do is read and write about ideas and what’s going on in my head.

As you may know, I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting out of a rut in the last few months.  Now, it feels like I’m at least doing stuff, trying things out, ordering a couple different kinds of supplies to play with (such as Arduinos), and at least moving.  I haven’t been able to make any more “finished work” in a while, but that’s natural, I guess.  Now that I’m playing with things again, that will come.

So what have I been doing?  Lots of experiments with the Arduino Uno I bought. Making things blink, playing with servo motors, and making slow progress.  I am no where near being able to do what I want to do with it, but you’ve gotta start with the basics, and then work from there.  I’ve shared a lot of my research in the last few weeks, but not much of the progress I’m making.

Here’s a video of something I’ve been playing with….

You can see the servo in the box in the middle there, and and the blue thing (plugged in with the USB) is my Arduino. It draws it’s power from the computer for now (I need to get it set up with battery power), but the signals that control the servo are coming from the Arduino. You can also see my notes on the blue mock-up, as to how I’ve threaded each of the four legs, varying the movement. I want to try this again, exploring some more options, as the threading has a direct impact on the type of movement in each leg.

In this example, I have the Arduino controlling the servo by time intervals. I have also been playing with sensors to influence the movement, but that will come later.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s some exciting things to come, when I get some of this figured out.  The thing about electronics, is that it’s not like other media- it either works, or it doesn’t, there’s not really any inbetween. It can be really difficult to get things to do what you want, but when you do, it’s SO great!

Spinning my Wheels…

You may have noticed that I’m having a tough time getting rolling lately.  I’ve been spinning my wheels.  Twyla Tharp would call it a rut (not a groove, which is how things had been going for about the last… two years).  Even though I have a lot of ideas of things to work on, everything seems daunting, and my energy is low, never mind trying to find studio time.  (Work is probably a big part of that lately, although I do like my job.)  I’ve got things laying in pieces all over my studio, and piles of things on counters that I haven’t touched in a couple of months.  I’ve been carrying around my sketchbook in my bag, without having hardly cracked it open in weeks.  I have lists of things I want to do, applications to write, and lists of things to research and books to check out of the library.  Lists of things I’d like to make and materials to order. And all I do is none of it.

What’s going on?  I’ve tried taking a break, since before we went on vacation last month.  That’s getting me nowhere, as there seems to be no end in sight.  My motivation hasn’t returned at all.  I’ve been making a point to hang out with a few good friends, but that hasn’t helped much.  I make a point of spending time in the studio, but it seems I just move things around.  Or stare things down.  Flip through my sketchbooks,  zone out or stare at the wall.  I know sometimes I need percolation time, but this isn’t percolation time, it’s literally nothing.

My usual tactics for restoring my motivation aren’t working.  I try working in my journals- same problem.  I flip through the books on my shelves, particularly The Journals of Dan Eldon, anything Danny Gregory, Lynda Barry, Julia Cameron, and… nothing.  Usually I can flip through whatever grabs my attention, and off I go.  There’s a spark.  Right now, the tinder is waterlogged.  Usually even something like “Paper Cutouts” can cause a spark.

Anyway, this is getting old fast.  Normally, I pride myself on my self discipline, but that has been an incredible challenge lately, although it can’t be unique to me.  Do any of you have any ideas?  I could sure use some suggestions.

(The photo is my studio when we moved in, in August of 2009.  Looks a little different now, I’d say!)

I need a break.

Quite honestly, I need a break.

Things have been going really well for me lately, but I feel like I need a break.  I’ve been going since… …. …. probably the start of my last year of school, September 2010.  It is now two years later, and I feel like I need a break.

Luckily, we have a vacation coming up right away here. Four of us have rented a cabin for the first week of October, in BC.  I am very excited about it.  It should be nice and quiet and relaxing.  So, my plan is to “take a break” until we come back from BC, at Thanksgiving.  We’ll see how well I do- going to art school has pretty much obliterated my ability to sit still.  What will I do with all that time off?  You know, it’s funny, I always feel better when I’m busy- sitting still makes me antsy.  Side effects of my BFA, I guess.

I’m still bringing some things to work on, reading (for pleasure, I swear!), and I’ve already packed some embroidery supplies and drawing gear.  I’m also going to bring my MP3 recorder and my camera, which has video.  Forcing myself to do nothing for a week won’t turn out well, I think.  But the things I’m packing are not related to my practice or my career.  Just some things to play with, so we’ll see what happens.  (I may or may not post anything here about it…!)

I’m sure I’ll be more than ready to get back at it when I come back.  Two weeks off from my practice will be huge!  It will be a challenge to take the time off, which means I’m loving what I do.  On a side note, I was talking to someone today, talking about the barometer I use to see if I’m doing what I should be doing- I ask myself, if I won the lottery, what would I change about my life? If the answer is nothing (or not much), I’m doing well, I’m doing what I should be doing.  Honestly, I would probably buy a car, and do some travelling, but that’s probably the only thing that would really change (although I know that speculation is  lot different than if it actually happened). Point is, I’m happy with things as they are, although there’s always room to grow.

Anyway, I’m signing off now, for at least two weeks.  Oh, except if the interview I did for Shaw TV today is posted.  I might post about that.  I’m going to relax, and enjoy the vacation.  See you in a couple of weeks!

(Yes, that is a spooky picture of a cemetery at night.  Where even the crosses have ghosts, and it looks like there’s a seance or something going on on the right side.)

Balance (Time Management)

One of the toughest things about being an artist is maintaining a balance.  A balance between studio time and work time, time and money, work and rest.  Socializing and time alone.

Balance can be difficult on the best of days, and as an artist, it seems that every week is different.   There’s not only different things going on at work, but different things going on in my studio practice and in my social engagements.  Some weeks, it seems there’s too many openings and events to attend, and others, there’s too much work, and yet, in others, there’s a lot that needs to be done studio wise.

This makes it difficult to schedule.  As my job doesn’t have concrete hours, it seems every day is different. It is sometimes a difficult job to allot enough time to each segment of my life (work, studio, sleep, relax/ hang out).  Time management and flexibility is a skill I am still working on- I strive to be as efficient as I can, working at my job and in the studio when I can, and still maintaining downtime to relax and re-energize.

I currently have a little system, although I need to reevaluate what is working and what is not.  I have a few days a week that are scheduled specifically for my job responsibilities, and those days I usually need to be at the office, although some days I work from home.  On days when I am not required to be in the office, ie, studio days, I try to be in the studio from 9-5, no matter what I’m doing. Unless there’s something going on, I’m usually in a good stride by 5:00, and so stay there to keep working. I’ve also realized that I am much more productive if my computer is not in the studio- that way I have to actually break my rule and go upstairs to get distracted in the internet.  (This is also why I still have a CD player. Well, that, and the fact that all my favourite music is from the 90’s.)

Other days need to be flexible, as my work week can change drastically from one week to the next, depending what’s going on.  These days, I try to work from home as much as I can, starting ideally at 9, so that when I’m done for the day, it’s studio time.

I find that on studio days, checking my email first thing in the morning can change my plans.  If I check my email, I often end up working (job).  This is not good, especially since I have relatively regular hours for work, and studio time, unfortunately, gets cut into when things get busy at work. And, quite honestly, I love my job, but if it kills my art practice, I may have to re-evaluate.

Checking my email before going to bed is also NOT a good idea, as, all of the sudden, I’m “just taking care of something,” instead of winding down and getting ready to sleep.  And the reality of it is, 90% of the time, that “something” can wait for the next morning without consequences.

Socializing is also important, to relax, and for mental health.  Openings and art events satisfy most of that requirement in my life, because that’s where my friends and colleagues are.  Coffee dates are great for connecting one on one with a special friend, or someone I haven’t seen in a while. I do have a certain group of mostly non-art friends that, when I hang out with them, my face and stomache hurt afterwards, because we’ve been laughing so hard.  There’s nothing better than that.

I think this breaks down into four points. It is important for me to work hard, but to also remember to take time off, where I’m not thinking about work, or I will get burnt out.  It is also important to schedule studio time, no matter how busy I am, as that’s what I’d rather be doing, and often, I find that’s what energizes me. Social time is crucial to release stress and to have outside stimuli in my life.  Rest is critical to rejuvinate and relax.

If anyone has any tips for balance, I’d love to hear them!

Crossing the River

So, lately.

Lately, things have been pretty busy! We just had the AGM at work, and so I’ve been busier than normal. Now that that has calmed down a little, I feel like I can get back to work on my practice as well.

Right now, it seems I am in a research stage… researching, brainstorming, reading, trying out ideas and making samples/ templates. The playing phase. I always enjoy this phase, but it sometimes feels like I’m spinning my wheels a little… no, more like driving around the parking lot, just for the sake of driving. Not having a specific destination. I have no real goal at the moment, just a bunch of ideas floating around in my head. I would like to do most of these, but as of right now, I have no idea how to get from here to there. It’s like trying to cross a large river and you don’t have a boat. Do you build one? Do you look for a fallen log? Build a bridge? Do you invent a flying machine, or a rope system? Talk to the locals/ people who’ve been here before? (Trouble is, being an artist, no one you know has been exactly where you are, with the same exact issues, although there is always someone, it seems, who can help give some direction.) It seems to me, that my method so far is to walk up and down the shore, evaluating my options. Anyway, enough of the metaphor.

Because of work, and this particular phase I’m in, I’m finding it hard to keep up on my applications. I’m also unsure right now of how the work I’m wanting to do will actually pan out, and so that’s a bit of a problem when writing applications for shows, etc. It’s frustrating to me, because usually, I have a pretty clear path of what I want to do and how I plan to get there, but this one is a lot less clear.

I think all I really need here is time. Time to let it percolate, develop, time to research and learn, and figure out the details. Stay tuned.  (And take a look at all the fantastic “research” I’ve been posting!)

Just a reminder that if you work hard enough….

Recently I found this rejection letter…. from the first time I applied to ACAD in 2004. (Excuse the photo quality; the letter is a little beat up.)  Anyway, I’m sure I was really upset to receive it, but looking back, I know I just wasn’t ready at that point in time.  It’s quite funny to me now, as I worked incredibly hard during my time at ACAD, volunteering a lot, and putting a ton of effort into my work and my classes, eventually earning the Board of Governor’s Award for my department.

I take this letter as a reminder that just because someone else says no, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do something, just maybe not in that time or way.  Maybe you’re not ready for it.  Maybe someone else is more qualified.  Maybe you’re just not right for the situation.  It’s a reminder to me that I am capable of doing whatever I want to do, but will sometimes need to fill in what I don’t have or modify my approach. It really does depend how bad you want it, and what you’re willing to do or give up to get it.

And persistence is worth more than anything.

Quote: Marilyn Monroe

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

― Marilyn Monroe

My Journals….

This is a photo of my shelf full of my all journals (bottom shelf)…. and the shelf above holds my 13 sketchbooks, which are really just a different kind of journal.  They are all different shapes, sizes, binding styles, paper type, etc, including a good portion of reworked composition books, as well as a number I have made myself.

I have a system of numbering them, although it’s not very specific.  The journals (including the sketchbooks) are numbered chronologically, but in some cases (where there’s two journals for the same time period, for example), there’s a B journal.  There are possibly a couple in here that are not quite full, but  the majority of them are full right to the last page.

I’m currently working on #39 (personal, private journal, yet untitled), and #40 (sketchbook, entitled, “Eggplant Sandwiches.”)

I don’t know if you remember, but a couple of years ago, I had an exhibition (Self Portrait) where I had invited people to read them.