Friday, May 24, 2013

Something Awesome This Way Comes . . .

We're going to be doing something amazing here at The Art Abyss, but I can't tell you about it quite yet. What I can tell you is that I am SO EXCITED about it -- and it's going to make this summer rock, hard.

I know, you're thinking, "Kate, cut it out -- just tell us what you'll be doing already!" But I can't -- I promised Kadie I wouldn't, and anyway, if I told you now there wouldn't be a reason for us to run a week-long contest next week where you win free stuff!!! Yes, free stuff -- and not just any kind of free stuff, tangible free stuff. Like, free stuff that comes wrapped up all pretty and delivered to your very own mailbox, with love, from Kadie and Kate. And next Friday, we're going to announce just exactly what it is we're giving away, and how it's going to help you have the best summer ever.

(DISCLAIMER: Our legal department requires that we mention that we can't actually guarantee that you'll have the best summer ever -- but we can strongly suspect it!)

But there's a catch -- the only people eligible to win this super-cool free something have to come check us out on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest first. Once you're there, post a picture or a link to something that rocks your world, with the hashtag #somethingawesome (yeah, even if it's on Facebook -- just leave it on our wall). If you're on Pinterest or Twitter, be sure to mention @theartabyss somewhere in your post. Then, sit back and enjoy. You can enter as many times as you like -- the only requirement is that each entry has to be something different. Easy enough, right?? We'll pick a winner at random from all the entries -- and announce it Friday at midnight.

So what are you waiting for? Get to work sending awesome stuff our way, and in return, get ready to receive one big ol' beautiful package courtesy of yours truly. See you on the awesome side!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Take 5 With Anna + Micah Garman

Anna & Micah Garman

Creative Specialties:
Photographer (Anna)
Musician (Micah)

Current Location: 
Chicago, IL

Mini Bio:
Anna & Micah Garman currently live in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.  Anna has both a concert and lifestyle portrait photography business. She loves a good craft day with her girlfriends, festivals and craft fairs, bike rides, and doing anything outdoors. She is not afraid to be silly, she loves to dance, and is great at making funny faces.  Micah has played and toured nationally with several bands but currently enjoys playing worship for different churches in the Chicago area.  He loves having morning coffee with his gorgeous wife and reading epic fantasy novels.

Website: (Micah's most recent/past project)

1) What is the greatest challenge you have faced as a creative person?

Anna - I have just recently joined the professional photography community and honestly, sometimes looking at the professional photography world as a whole can be very overwhelming.  There is a lot of gear and software to learn and so many different types of photography specialties.  So for me the greatest challenge so far has been learning what type of photography I am most passionate and gifted at.

Micah - I think the greatest challenge I've experienced as a musician is finding the right people to create music with.  Lots of people who play music will always talk about finding someone "to jam with" but it really takes great chemistry with other musicians in order to create an environment where a project can really thrive.  That said, I think building up a great musical network takes time and is a pretty big challenge in and of itself.  Most professional musicians attribute their success (besides practice and talent) with someone who hooked them up with someone else.  I've played with some incredibly talented musicians and it was mostly because someone referred me to some dude looking for a guitarist for an event.

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

Anna - If money wasn't an issue, I would love to travel the world so I could take pictures of kids in different cultures at play.  The goal being to capture what brings children joy in different parts of the world.  At the end of the trip I would work to get a book of those images published.

Micah - Oh dang, besides supporting my incredibly beautiful wife by traveling the world, I would totally make guitars, guitar amps, pedals, and pedal boards!  One of my favorite things to do recently has been making my own gear to use when I play live.  The last thing I made for myself was a bypass looper pedal; which basically makes it easier for me to choose which effect I need at the push of one button; instead of tap-dancing on all my pedals.  

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

Anna- I head out with my camera, I try to always carry it with me.  If I am preparing for a shoot I love to sit and talk with my clients and feel out who they are and what they love.  Once I have a good idea of who they are, I research and look for ways I can incorporate and bring that out in our photo session.

Micah - I basically just open up Reason, my favorite music program, and start laying out tracks.  I know this sounds crazy, but I don't necessarily need to be in the mood to create music.   I typically lay down a simple melody and build off of it.  I honestly love the spontaneous melody lines and song ideas that simply happen because I thought a certain sound or synth sounded rad.  I'm also a huge proponent of creating music that makes me feel different emotions.  Think of the way you felt when you heard your favorite song for the first time.  That is what I try to capture every time I write something.

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

Anna- I keep looking forward, trying to learn as much as I can and exploring different avenues that could allow my creativity to really blossom.  When it comes to finances and staying afloat I honestly try to hand it all over to God.  He gives me peace about it.  He has always pulled through and helped us make ends meet.

Micah - I'm going to be lame and "ditto" Anna's comment.  We have been incredibly fortunate to pursue what we both love to do.  We both love to encourage each other and cheer on our various creative pursuits.  I think having someone there to help push through any doubts makes creating a reality instead of a hobby.

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

Anna - Sunday afternoons :)

Micah - Watching other musicians do what they love!  A good beer with friends also helps…seriously.

If you are a passionate creative and want to share your own Take Five on The Art Abyss shoot us an email at and let us know!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Militant Baker: Sticking It to Abercrombie and Fitch, Awesome Style

You may have seen these pictures percolating through the Internet recently:


That would be Jes, of Militant Baker fame, in a photo series she created with Liora K Photography in response to Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries' comments regarding his distaste for fat people wearing his brand. I happen to be so lucky as to know this incredible woman, and watching this photo series and the attached open letter to Mike Jeffries explode across the world of the Internet is an absolutely surreal experience, and I am SO thrilled for her. I definitely recommend reading her entire post -- because it's AMAZING -- but here's the big takeaway from her letter that makes me love this so much:
I didn't take these pictures to show that the male model found me attractive, or that the photographer found me photogenic, or to prove that you're an ostentatious dick. Rather, I was inspired by the opportunity to show that I am secure in my skin and to flaunt this by using the controversial platform that you created. I challenge the separation of attractive and fat, and I assert that they are compatible regardless of what you believe. Not only do I know that I'm sexy, but I also have the confidence to pose nude in ways you don’t dare. You are more than welcome to prove me wrong by posing shirtless with a hot fat chick; it would thrill me to see such a shoot.
I'm sure you didn't intend for this to be the outcome, but in many ways you're kind of brilliant. Not only are you a marketing genius (brand exclusivity really is a profitable move) but you also accidentally created an opportunity to challenge our current social construct. My hope is that the combination of these contrasting bodies will someday be as ubiquitous as the socially accepted ideal.
Being true to yourself looks pretty damn hot.
 Why am I posting about this here? Because in a week where we're talking about mapping your creative DNA to discover what makes you tick, Jes is a perfect example of what you are capable of when you go where your interests lead you. As a body positivity activist, photographer, and blogger, with her previous work includes such awesomeness as The Body Images Project, Jes is a woman who's following her passions all the way to the Today Show and beyond.

And after all, that's what living a creative life is all about, right? Using your passions to show you the way -- and sometimes, just sometimes, finding out that where they take you goes beyond your wildest dreams. Congrats to Jes, and just because it makes me so darn happy, here's one more Attractive & Fat image for your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Your Creative Autobiography

I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations.  These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses.  They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them. […] “I suspect many people never get a handle on their creative identity this way.  They take their urges, their biases, their work habits for granted.  But a little self-knowledge goes a long way.  If you understand the strands of your creative DNA, you begin to see how they mutate into common threads in your work.  You begin to see the “story” that you’re trying to tell; why you do the things you do (both positive and self-destructive); where you are strong and where you are weak and how you see the world and function in it.”
“Another thing about knowing who you are is that you know what you should not be doing, which can save you a lot of heartaches and false starts if you catch it early on.”
-Twyla Tharp

The past few years I have come to realize that I am not good at everything.  But more importantly than that, I've realized that I don't have to and shouldn't be good at everything.  For years I ran a business trying to force myself to deal with situations that my personality just wasn't equipped to handle.  I beat myself up everyday telling myself that I was a weak individual and that I just needed to suck it up and deal with it.  I mean, other people seemed to have no problem dealing with the smallest tasks that left me completely frozen with fear, obviously I was just a failure in comparison.

Eventually, I decided I needed to step back from the situation I was in as it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to deal with mentally and emotionally, which in turn was causing profound negative physical effects on my body.

At first I felt ashamed of my decision and like coward or some sad individual that just couldn't muster up the courage to forge ahead and get over the challenges facing her.  I felt weak, and broken and like I had given up.

However, as time passed something occurred to me that I had never thought about before: what if I wasn't supposed to be good at those things?  The idea was quite startling to me,  I mean there are whole seminars for how to improve yourself, "Become a people person in 9 easy steps", or "Introvert to Extrovert in one weekend".  Our culture is constantly telling us that we should and can be good at everything if we just try hard enough.

The culture we live in likes to focus on our failings, so we can IMPROVE ourselves.  They are constantly trying to barrage us with attributes they view as short comings simply so they can market a solution to our problems to us.  Did you know that nobody cared about body oder until somebody invented deodorant and needed to sell it? Nobody was interested in their product until they invented a shame campaign telling everyone if they didn't wear deodorant they would no longer be acceptable, or loved.

What if instead, we focused on our strengths?  

My husband recently finished reading the book "StrengthsFinder 2.0" for a mentorship program he is involved with at work and after discussing it with him I was struck by how similar it's concept is to what we are trying to do here this week.  The whole concept of the book is this:

"The most successful people start with dominant talent—and then add skills, knowledge, and practice to the mix. When they do this, the raw talent actually serves as a multiplier." 
-Tom Rath

He basically breaks it down to say that "hard work X talent = your level of success" so you can work at a 5 and have a talent level of 2 and you would get a 10.  OR you could have a work level of 2 and a talent level of 5 and still get a 10.


I know I know, here the bottom line: If we focus on our strengths instead of our weaknesses and work on the things that are unique to us, that only we can says, it's going to be extremely hard to fail when any amount of effort is put in.  Our innate talent and passion multiply our hard work exponentially, so why do we sit around trying to copy other people?  We need to get to know who WE are as artists, get to know OUR strengths, OUR passions, so we can nurture them and watch them explode.

Now if you are stuck on this weeks challenge or having a hard time getting started with your creative DNA bubble map, give this exercise from Twyla Tharp's book "The Creative Habit" a try.  It might just help you get the juices flowing.


1. What is the first creative moment you remember?

2. Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it?

3. What is the best idea you’ve ever had?

4. What made it great in your mind?

5. What is the dumbest idea?

6. What made it stupid?

7. Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?

8. What is your creative ambition?

9. What are the obstacles to this ambition?

10. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?

11. How do you begin your day?

12. What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?

13. Describe your first successful creative act.

14. Describe your second successful creative act.

15. Compare them.

16. What are your attitudes toward: money, power, praise, rivals, work, play?

17. Which artists do you admire most?

18. Why are they your role models?

19. What do you and your role models have in common?

20. Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?

21. Who is your muse?

22. Define muse.

23. When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond?

24. When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond?

25. When faced with the threat of failure, how do you respond?

26. When you work, do you love the process or the result?

27. At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp?

28. What is your ideal creative activity?

29. What is your greatest fear?

30. What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening?

31. Which of your answers would you most like to change?

32. What is your idea of mastery?

33. What is your greatest dream?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Challenge #7: Map Your Creative DNA

"If I were an enzyme, I would be DNA helicase so I could unzip Your genes."

Geeky pick up lines may make me giggle, but understanding how my DNA shapes who I am is something I take very seriously. Last night, this led me to explore something quite different for this blog -- Creative DNA.

We all have that thing that drives us to create -- a passion for a particular subject, a fascination with the way a material works, a desire to share an idea with others, or the need to celebrate/exorcise a personal experience. For me, it's a combination of all four mixed together, and it manifests in a huge array of eclectic influences, inspirations, passions, ideas, and experiences that all feed into and out of each other -- and it's awesome. So awesome, in fact, I made a map of it, just to keep track of all the awesomely awesome ways it makes my creative self light up:

(Click the image if you want to see it at full size)

I'll be honest, once I got started it was hard to stop. The best part is, each time I discovered a new path, I started adding bubbles that then tied into other paths, showing connections in my work I've never thought about before. Which then -- get ready for it -- inspires me to explore some brand new ways of creating art.

So that's this week's challenge: make a bubble graph mapping your creative DNA. Get really crazy with it, and send it into, and we'll feature it on the blog. Even grab this week's challenge badge!

What inspiration will you discover? Tell us all about it below!