Friday, September 27, 2013

I Used to Think Eating Paper and Throwing Things Was Only Appropriate for Kindergartners (Wreck This Journal Week 5)

I've been wanting to do an action post on the vlog for a few weeks now. I hadn't realize that it would end up featuring extended footage of me shoving paper into my facehole.

Also Featured: Fire, Mud, Shoelaces, and my Incredibly Inept Left Hand.

Catch up on all the glory below, and don't forget to shoot us a comment if there's a page you'd like to see featured next!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Challenge #22: Hold Yourself Accountable - With A Little Help From Your Friends

Happy 100th post, everybody!!

Here at the Art Abyss, we've had our ups and downs - after all, starting - and keeping up with - a goal can be an exhausting process! In last week's challenge, Kadie talked about how sometimes it can be hard to keep going. This week, I want to talk about what to do once you've decided you will.

Let's take it personal for a moment:

I graduated with a BFA in studio art and a BA in creative writing, with a minor in vocal music. I'll give you one guess as to which of these fields I'm actually working in these days.

. . .


You may remember that me alluding to this before. While you can make the case that doing graphic design and writing advertising copy counts as using my art and writing degrees - and if you did, you wouldn't be wrong - but those activities have very little to do with the large-scale paintings, drawings, sculptures, poems, and songs that currently exist only in my head.

While driving home the other night, Chad and I got to talking about the Daniel Batten article I posted last week, and Batten's idea that "you are what you practice." One of the reasons I love having Chad as my life partner/unpaid therapist is his ability to really push me on an issue, without judging or invalidating my emotions. In this case, it was the fact that for the last two years I have made only the smallest attempts towards art creation, and that while I keep chalking it up as "needing a steady base to work from," the reality is that I still - STILL - have no idea how to go about "becoming a professional artist." I've read the articles, I've talked to successful artists, I've taken the classes and webinars -- but it still makes absolutely no sense to me. I keep waiting to wake up one day with the realization of, "Oh, that's how you become an artist!"

Over the course of our conversation, we arrived at the specter of me as an eternal dreamer, always coming up with grand ideas but never following through on any of them. I start something, but then I get overwhelmed, or scared, or other things become more urgent, or I lose interest, etc. etc. etc., and then I move on and never think of my forsaken project again, except for the occasional guilty twinge when I see it lurking on a shelf. Icky, right? I could hardly sleep after that talk, I was so wound up with frustration and anxiety over what my practice has become.

The next morning, I decided I needed to take drastic, conscious action. And that's when Kadie had a brilliant idea:


Welcome to the new, ongoing challenge we're starting at The Art Abyss. Kadie has a book to publish. I have a portfolio website to design. We both have realized that we do a pretty poor job of staying accountable to ourselves -- as Evita sings, "It's very difficult to keep momentum when it's you that you are following."

Absolutely true -- which is why, starting this Monday, Kadie charged me with completing the initial design for my site, and I charged her with editing the first chapter of her book. We have until Friday, October 4th to complete our assignments, at which point we will also be sharing our progress with all of you.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE: We've created a Facebook Group to help even more accountabili-buddies get connected. Whether you want to be responsible to one person, or would rather have a whole group of people cheer you along, we're thinking it's just about time we take this holding ourselves accountable business seriously. And that means reaching out for a helping hand.

To sum up -- ladies and gentlemen, your challenge:
  1. Get yourself an accountabili-buddy, STAT.
  2. Give each other a goal to reach by Friday, 10/4.
That doesn't seem too hard now, does it?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Daniel Batten: Why You Have No Choice But To Follow Your Passion

Image from awesome talk on Talent + Passion here.
I was going to write a big post today responding to Kadie's challenge post, and talk about how, because it's so easy for me to lose faith in a project, I spend far, far more time putting my passion off for another day, when I have the time/energy/inspiration required -- and how that approach is ultimately hurting my art practice.

But then I found this brilliant summary of all the things by Daniel Batten:

(Originally posted by Daniel Batten at
Have you noticed how many people there are that are doing things they don’t enjoy, saying “I’m just doing this for a short while, and then I’ll be able to…”

Sometimes this is true. But if you are still doing things you really don’t enjoy after three months of becoming conscious you don’t enjoy what you are doing, then I’d suggest you are kidding yourself.

The problem with kidding yourself is that it makes you into someone that you can’t trust. And as soon as that happens, you will also stop trusting – your ability to realize any goal – your talents – your integrity.

That’s a pretty big consequence. So how do you stop yourself from self-decepetions? That’s a good question – and one which I’ll answer,

But first, to help you root out all such self-deceptions from your life, lets look at 3 all-too common examples of how these self-deceptions manifest.
  1. An entrepreneur starts a business because she loves x, and wants freedom. Three years later, she is operating the business (which she hates), doing very little of x, and has less money and less freedom than she had as an employee.
  2. An employee says “I really don’t enjoy this job, but I’ll do it for now because it pays off my mortgage”. Twenty years later, he has switched job 7 times, got a few promotions – but still doesn’t really enjoy the work, and never feels that he has enough of a financial buffer to do what he loves.
  3. An artist takes the plunge and “does what she loves” but doesn’t earn much money from it, so carves out 30-40 hours a week to do itinerant work to support what she does until she “makes it big”. Each person is living life from the standpoint of “I will be happy when…” (I get the house/ boyfriend/ job/ IPO/ big account/ ….). But even if for example the entrepreneur does hit pay-dirt – so what? For 10 years, she has practiced putting on hold what she loves – and so this is what she’s become an expert at.
Even if this person decides to give back by becoming a business mentor – without a lot of self-enquiry, she will only be able to mentor other companies to follow the script she followed. Seek whatever you want in this life – but know that the minute you say “I will be happy when…” you have lost something precious.

Whatever you practice is what you will get better at. Practice the guitar, and you will get better at the guitar. Practice putting your dreams on ice, and you will soon be an expert at putting your dreams on ice.

The remedy is that you must follow your passion. Do you see how you really have no alternative? It is too dangerous not too. We think that we will get financial gains and progress for doing “good enough” for a time. But trying to live a life without our passion is like saying, “I’ll just drive this car for a while then I’ll put some fuel in it later.”

Without fuel, we go nowhere fast, and so we end up coming slower as well as having less fun. A lose-lose. We end up pushing a car around, huffing and puffing, rather than relaxing and letting the fuel power the car while we relax.

So if you want happiness as an “end goal” that means you need to practice being happy, and stop practicing things that make you unhappy. Put fuel in your tank by daring to do what you are passionate about, right now.
Stop it, Daniel Batten. Stop being so awesome right now.

If you want to read more from Daniel Batten, check out his site, or go read this article as it originally appeared on

Monday, September 16, 2013

Challenge #21: Passion Is A Choice

Here's the thing.  Passion is a lot like love.  At first you fall in, head over heels, you can't help but be consumed with it.  Then slowly, over time, and with every obstacle you are forced to cross during your career, the feelings that were once so strong start to diminish and fade.  Then one day you wake up and have zero desire to have anything to do with what you were once so passionate about.

That's why passion is a choice, not an emotion.

Sure the happy lovey-dovey endorphins swimming through our brains are great to kick start us on our journey, but if we rely on those emotions to carry us through our career we're in for a rude awaking.  Every artist has those days where they roll out of bed and want nothing to do with their work, and suddenly have no idea what they are doing with their life.  Things start to close in around us and feel bleak and desperate.  But we have to keep going, because passion is a choice, not an emotion.

Emotion is what tells us we'll never be good enough, strong enough, talented enough, so what's the point?  Passion on the other hand requires a choice to say, "F!*# it, I'm doing it anyway," even when we don't want to, even when its hard, and even when we would rather be anywhere else but working.

I'm not going to lie, I am a chronic project non-finisher.  I get really excited about a project, get about 60% of the way through it, and then loose steam and move on to something else.  I constantly rely on my emotions, and when they begin to wane I loose interest and quit.  I can't even begin to express the number of boxes and boxes of half finished pieces of "something" lying around my studio.

Through the years I've laughed it off as a goofy personality trait, "haha, you know me…" But as I get older I'm starting realize what a serious problem this really is in my life.  Sticking with something just until the going gets boring and then bailing out is a terrible way to live a life or conduct a career.

I don't give up on my marriage because not every single moment is as exciting as the day we met, because I know that love is a choice I have made.  I have chosen to love this person.  Some days are fantastic, and some days I want to flush the toilet while he is taking a shower… but I love him because I have chosen to.

So why do I give my art career any less commitment?  Sticking with something just until I'm bored, never lets me truly accomplish anything.  I don't want to look back on my life and see a lot of false starts and half finished projects.  I want to be able to look at my life and say, "I DID this, I DID that."  Not, "I thought about doing this, or I started doing that, but you know…"

Don't forget you snag your nifty challenge badge so
you can inspire your friend to be challenged along with you!
People writing this blog every week is hard.  Half the time I'm pretty sure nobody reads it or could care less if I ever write anything on it ever again.  But I'm still here, and I'm still plugging along because this is my passion and I am choosing to embrace it for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, wether exiting or practically boring me to death.

So this week I encourage you to ignore your emotions and keep going.  Wether you were thinking about throwing in the towel on your creative career because it just doesn't seem to be working out, or you just can't seem to find the energy or motivation to finish that project you've had sitting in the closet for a month now.  Choose passion.  Choose to live a life you can look back on and say, "That was me! I DID that!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Challenge #21: Make The World A Better Place -- For Free!

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Humble Brag Challenge Badge.
As artists ourselves, we know how precious time spent working is-- and how that in turn informs how much we charge for our work. We did a whole week of posts talking about that, actually.

But today, we're going to talk about something different. Radically different.

Chances are, you have interests besides strictly making art and making money. Maybe you've thought about volunteering or donating to your local food bank; maybe there's a club at your school that advocates for a cause you believe in; maybe you know someone who loves the arts but can't get out there to experience them.

Whatever the situation, there's more than one way to make the world a better, more art-filled place -- and what better opportunity for you to be generous with your talents? Are you a musician? Set up a random performance downtown during lunch hour for all the business folks, or head to a nursing home (ask the staff first to make sure it's cool) and stage a mini-concert. Visual artist or photographer? Maybe one of your local non-profits could use your skills for a poster or accept a piece of work for a future fundraising auction. Writers: is there an issue going overlooked in your community? Why not draft a compelling letter to the editor, your representative, groups in your community that would be interested in solving that problem. Blog about it, then use your personal network to spread the word.

Whatever you do, your challenge this week is to use your talents without concern for compensation, without asking 'what's in it for you?' Doing good just feels good -- and you have the power to make it happen. Now let's get to work!