Friday, April 12, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Take Five With Kate Selby

Mini Bio:
Kate graduated with her BFA in Studio Art and her BA in Creative Writing, with a Minor in Music. As you might guess from the 2.5 degrees, she has a bit of a problem focusing in one creative area. These days, she runs a graphic and web design company with her husband Chad and four fur babies in Tucson, AZ, has an obsession with Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and aims to be a mixed-discipline artist and midwife when she grows up.

Creative Specialities:
Electronic mixed-media installations and sculpture, graphic design, large-scale paintings and drawings, singing opera, writing poetry and short fiction.

The Best Way To Describe Her Is:
Multipassionate multipotentialite, doing her best to spread love in the world.

Personal Pages:

1) What is one thing you've learned as an artist that you wish you'd known when you first started out?

Honestly, I still feel like I'm just "starting out" - I graduated from my undergrad almost two years ago, and though things are starting to become clearer for me, most of the time I'm left feeling very lost in how to move forward in my art career -- and impatient with myself for feeling so lost.
Yet when I really look at what I've been doing on a day-to-day basis, I can mark a slow trajectory toward my living a more creativity-oriented life. I guess that's the one thing I've learned -- that I need to stop expecting my career to materialize overnight, and just enjoy the process.

2) Do you have a ritual way of preparing to create?

Absolutely not. Maybe one day I will, but right now I'm very much still in a place of "I create when I have to," such as for a design commission. Which is not a bad thing, necessarily -- and it definitely uses a skill I learned in art school, making something up on command -- but otherwise my creativity is something that sits in the back on my head daydreaming while I get through the work and necessary obligations of my life. When I get a chance to let it out, I'm blessed that, at least so far, I have the problem of too many ideas to work with, not too few. I suspect it's kind of like a dam - right now, 99% of my creative impulses are stopped up immediately, because I either don't have the time or don't feel like making the time, so when I get a chance to open the floodgates they all come rushing forth. If I should ever get the chance to tear down the dam, I expect I'll have a big creative flood of work, and then I'd fall subject to the same high and low seasons of inspiration as everyone else.

3) What moment/place/time/setting lets you function to your fullest creative potential?

I need to have had a decent night's sleep. I need to not feel rushed. I prefer to have worked out and spent some time playing with the furbabies first. Time of day doesn't matter so much to me, as much as being able to stop worrying about external obligations -- so it helps if I've already checked Facebook and my email, and if I have my phone nearby. And being alone in the house, or working after Chad has gone to bed, really helps -- because I always feel like I'm missing out on participating in my relationships if I lock myself up to create when there are people around. I see that impulse needing to go away as I get to the point of having kids; I'm going to need to learn to be defensive of my time. But at the moment, the best thing I can do for my creativity is get the other stuff out of the way, so that I can unplug and just work.

4) If money was no object, what would you make?

What wouldn't I make?? I would make everything - I would make these fabulous clothing designs that currently only in my head, then photograph people dressed in them in these fantastic situations. I would make these giant LED wired sculptures, invoking renaissance art figures through the medium of old electronics all stuck together. I would make the giant mosaics that I've been dreaming about, and bronze sculptures forty feet tall. I would go nuts - and then I would stage a solo show out in the open in the middle of Central Park. Maybe with walkways twenty feet above the ground, and the art all suspended around the walkways. And I'd be in the middle with a symphony orchestra, singing opera. Because why not?

5) How do you deal with the inevitable uncertainty that accompanies a creative life?

 Carefully. Probably too carefully, though I'm trying to get better at that. I was still working a 9 to 5 up until three months ago, and even now I have my supplemental income jobs. Quitting my full-time job was a huge step forward for me, as far as embracing "living a creative life" (though I would argue that it's not necessary for you to quit your job in order to have a deeply creative life -- in my case, it was a step towards transitioning to the kind of life I envision my creativity thriving in). Post-graduation I had this narrative running about how I needed to prove that I was "making something of my life," despite having the type of degrees that people always joke about being a sure path to working in the food service industry and nothing more (which is a whole other classist, snobby issue that I can get into some other time). I took a lot of pride in being able to point to my having a salary, to having work-provided benefits. I was also often very unsatisfied, because I felt like, here I was, successfully escaped from the eighteen years of my life spent in school thinking about how I was wasting my life and never getting anything done, now sitting in an office thinking about how I was wasting my life and never getting anything done. I'm still not getting everything done that I want to do (see Question 1), but now that I'm taking more control over my time and giving less of it over to other people's agendas, I feel like more of my daily work is worthwhile.

I've been running the Twin Wicks Design business with Chad now for a little over a year, and while we are currently still finding new clients on a regular basis, I know that that won't always be the case, and there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thinking about what will happen when that time comes. I came across the term "lateral freelancing" not so long ago, and it pretty much perfectly sums up what I want to do with my life from a work perspective -- if I have enough different income sources flowing in, then even if one thing has bad month, the other ones will be there to carry me along (income diversification, anyone?). Not to mention, it keeps me from feeling bored -- and I'm often surprised at how easily my different business ventures can feed into each other. At some point, I'm hoping I can add my fine art creations, writing, and singing into the mix, but in the meantime I'm thinking of this time as laying a firm foundation for my creative life to stand on.

To get to the point, I deal with the uncertainty by making sure that I'm never putting all my eggs on one basket. Especially because I'm terrible at not dropping stuff.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fun, The Great And Powerful

If you haven't gotten the hint already, the theme for this week is fun.  So far we've focused mainly on how fun and play can be beneficial in our own lives,  how it can make our brains actually get bigger, improve our emotional health and creativity and let us work more productively.  But what would happen if we harnessed the power of fun and used it to actually make the world a better place?  Well the good people of Volkswagen have been on a mission to answer this very question with their website: TheFunTheory.Com.  In their words:
 "This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better."
So far by using just the power of fun they have been able to reduce speeding by 22%,  increase the number of people walking up stairs instead of taking the escalator by 66%, and drastically increase the amount of people recycling and throwing away trash.

Not only have these projects bettered the environment and the communities health and safety, they have also spread the joy of fun into the lives of those who participated in them.  I mean, who doesn't want to live in a world with musical staircases and recycling arcade games?  I'm pretty sure I'd have the most well toned rear end of anyone around if I had a musical staircase in my house and I'm pretty sure I'd have to drag my husband away from the recycling bin kicking and screaming...

Also be sure to check out all the other ingenious creative ideas for infecting our world with fun that were submitted by people from all over the world HERE.  Or better yet, if you have an idea about how we could all inject a bit more fun into our lives, leave a comment below!  We'd loved to hear it!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Case For Fun

This is our very first challenge week here on the Art Abyss and we are talking about taking time everyday to do something fun for yourself.  Ok, now before you start going down the thought trail I know half of you are already going down, I know this idea may sound petty, but it's not.

I also know most of you are thinking, "I just don't have time for that."  Kate's been there, I've been there, we get it.  When you have a list of 50 things to get done, clients breathing down your neck, phone calls coming in every 15 minutes, orders to ship, meetings to attend, a desperate need to do something that will put some money in your account, the last thing you think you have time for is fun.

But what if I told you that if you took a 30min break everyday to do something fun, it would actually make you more productive, more creative, and more emotionally stable?  It's true.  I know because 1) I've done the research to prove it and 2) I've been there.

As much as we think devoting all our time and attention to our work 24/7 is what needs to happen for us to be really successful in life, we need to come to terms with the fact that that is a lie.  It took my brain literally years to come to terms with this fact.

As your inspiration for this week and to help you with your challenge I wanted to share a video from the 2011 TEDX conference in Bulgaria.  At first most of the talk is devoted to the sad state of affairs Bulgaria has found itself in recently, last in europe for business, education and social wellness.  However, the discussion takes a rather interesting turn when speaker Steve Keil diagnoses Bulgaria's problem as a lack of fun.  I wanted to share this video because it is an amazing example of the profound effect that devoting too much energy to serious business 24/7 can have on not only an individual but on a society as a whole.

Some of the most profound points that I think Steve mentions in the video are:

"Play: our brains are hardwired for play. Evolution has selected, over millions and billions of years, for play in animals and in humans. And you know what? Evolution does a really, really good job of deselecting traits that aren't advantageous to us and selecting traits for competitive advantage. Nature isn't stupid, and it selected for play. Throughout the animal kingdom, for example: ants. Ants play. Maybe you didn't know that. But when they're playing, they're learning the social order and dynamics of things. Rats play, but what you might not have known is that rats that play more have bigger brains and they learn tasks better, skills. Kittens play. We all know kittens play. But what you may not know is that kittens deprived of play are unable to interact socially. They can still hunt, but they can't be social. Bears play. But what you may not know is that bears that play more survive longer. It's not the bears that learn how to fish better. It's the ones that play more."

"For example, [play] has been shown to stimulate neural growth in the amygdala, in the area where it controls emotions. It's been shown to promote pre-frontal cortex development where a lot of cognition is happening. As a result, what happens? We develop more emotional maturity if we play more. We develop better decision-making ability if we play more."

"The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression. It's depression. In fact, play improves our work."

I think that last statement is the one that is the most profound to me because it is so true.  Every time I find myself at the point where I want nothing more than to curl up under the covers and never come back out again I can almost always associate it with a lack of fun in my life.  Bring back the fun, my emotions stabilize, my ideas suddenly get better, I am more motivated while I am working and life is just better as a whole.

So even though it may sound silly, or you may feel like you don't have time for it right now, be inspired to add a little fun into your daily routine. If anyone asks you what you are doing you can just tell them that you are expanding the size of your brain, improving your creativity and decision making abilities and generally winning at life.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Challenge Number 1: Why So Serious??

I've had a personal challenge for myself these last couple of months, and now I want to issue it to you:

Do something just for the fun of it - every day.

You see, as a (mostly) full-time freelancer, I tend to have a hard time not feeling guilty when I choose to do something not work-related in some way. There are always more projects for which I could be logging hours, a new client to follow up with, a business website or social media page to update. I could literally never stop working, and do it all in the name of gainful employment.

(Of course, I could also give up breathing in the name of conserving oxygen, but I suspect it wouldn't do much more for me than being all work and no play 24/7/365.)

Instead, I made this rule for myself, and wrote it down on my bathroom mirror. So far, it's working -- I can go out for coffee with a friend without feeling like I'm slacking off, and I can even find a sense of accomplishment in having met my goal for that day. This week, I want you to experience that same freedom.

From now until midnight next Sunday, how about we all have a bit more fun in our lives? There's only one rule: whatever you choose to do can't serve any additional purpose.  Write down the challenge, and display it someplace obvious -- trust me, it helps. In fact, why not share a pic of your challenge on display on Instagram or Twitter with the tag #myartabyss? Then follow the rule - stick to it for a week, then report back this next Sunday.

Let's see if this makes things a bit less serious around here . . .