Friday, July 5, 2013

Take 5 With Anne Condit

Kick-ass illustration by the artist, found here.
Anne M. Condit

Creative Specialties:
I work primarily in pen and ink, but I'm learning more about digital methods. My sculpture background has led me to favor pattern & texture over color, generally. I find inspiration from old books of specimens, fairy tales, and science fiction. My graphic design work is another natural extension of my love for stories. The right typeface has as much narrative power as an illustration.

Current Location:
Huntsville, AL

Mini Bio: 
I have loved art since I was young. I studied sculpture & drawing at Birmingham-Southern College, where I earned my BFA.  A distinctly narrative quality emerged from my work. In any material or style, my art wants to tell a story. Because of this quality, I found myself drawn (bad pun! bad!) towards illustration. Honestly?  I just want to be my 3rd grade librarian. Except I will have designed and illustrated all of the books.


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

It’s okay to introduce yourself by saying, “I’m an artist.” You have nothing to be ashamed of-- the amount or quality of work you’re doing, the possible negative perceptions. For the longest time, I didn’t do so because I didn’t “feel” like an artist, I was just trying to be one. F*** that! If you’re trying to be an artist, you are an artist. Even if you’re just a high-school kid drawing ponies.

2. How do you remain positive and hopeful when either the ideas stop flowing, the work dries up, or the money stops coming in?

I try to always have a project going. Even if the piece isn’t very technically or conceptually challenging, I feel much more positive if I’m creating something. That endlessly quotable Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

I keep two inspiration boards-- one hanging in my studio, one on the website Pinterest. If I don’t have a deadline or an organic inspiration, I look to those for new project ideas.

3. What is the greatest challenge you have faced as a creative person?

Time management, in the forms of procrastination and saying “no” to people. I am a very people-oriented person, so it’s difficult for me to carve out studio time or decline project opportunities. Sometimes if you’re the “creative one” in a group, people will automatically turn to you for artistic projects.

I’ve had great fun taking on some of these challenges, but you also have to consider 1) If it’s within your scheduling and technical abilities; 2) If you can make the person happy. If you draw like Edward Gorey and your best friend wants a Thomas Kinkade mural, you might want to think twice.

4. How do you cope with creative anxiety and societal expectations?

On the one hand, I want to create revolutionary, important work. On the other hand, what is revolutionary in art anymore? Society expects art to be controversial-- so much that controversial art has become boring. Then you also have people who just want something pretty to hang over their couch. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I would like to create art that people buy initially because they think it’s beautiful. But I want them to one day be sitting on that couch and be disturbed. Not necessarily grossed-out or upset. But I want them to notice a subtext, and wonder if it’s the artist’s intention or if it’s all in their head.

5. If money were no object, what would you make?

I would go to an old church, or chapel, or some kind of sacred space, and transform it into a massive encaustic installation with beeswax. I would paint it in the winter, then let it slowly melt in the warm Alabama summer. I’m not sure what I would embed in it, that would depend on the history of the location or what’s fascinating to me at the time. But I like the idea of a piece changing and revealing itself. I think that walking through the piece would be overwhelming-- the warmth, the smell of the beeswax.

6. What moment/place/time/setting lets you function to your fullest creative potential?

I hope I still haven’t found it yet. Right now I do best in my studio space, right after breakfast. I’m not hungry or tired, and I haven’t committed to anything else in the day.

7. Do you have a ritual way of preparing to create?

Yoga pants are a must. Music, radio, or background noise so I don’t feel lonely. Coffee. Ridiculous amounts of coffee.

8. How do you deal with the inevitable uncertainty that accompanies a creative life?

I think about this moment: when I was cleaning out my childhood bedroom, I pulled out my old portfolio. I started flipping through the stuff that I worked so hard on, but thought was crap at the time. I’m still unsatisfied with my work, but it’s gotten better. It was in that moment I decided I wanted art to be a part of my life, no matter what, and I would fight for it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

And now, for something entirely different -- again.

With all this talk of travel, we figure it's time for a change of scenery on the blog too. Today I'm in Chicago -- and about to go have my mind blown all over again at the Art Institute. The best part about that? I'm taking you along for the ride! 

Come join me over ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE for a running photo stream documenting the vibrant beautiful mess of buildings, people, and energy that is Chicago. When this is what you see outside your hotel window, you know it's going to be a good day.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

One Small Step For Art Kind...

Here's the thing, I can talk in cliches until I'm blue in the face, but setting out to reach our goals is terrifying and completely overwhelming no matter how you slice it.  It's hard enough to let ourselves dream of that distant far off mountain we'd like to reach, but once you sit down to the brass tacks of actually making a map and figuring out how you are going to get from point A to point B, things start going a bit lopsided.

The problem comes in when we start to realize just how much work and effort it's actually going to take to get to that damn mountain.

It's easy to dream and say someday, but when we are faced with a physical map and a plan of action we start making excuses for why not, why it's too hard, why we'll never make it, why we can't.  It can almost be comical how ridiculous we can get with this mindset.  Larry Smith does an amazing job of pointing this out in his TED talk "Why you will fail to have a great career".

"You're afraid to pursue your passion. You're afraid to look ridiculous. You're afraid to try. You're afraid you may fail." - Larry Smith

It's so easy once we create our roadmaps to become suddenly paralyzed by them instead of encouraged by them.  The journey seems so overwhelming we are simply unable to begin it.  But a mountain is never conquered in one giant leap, it is  scaled slowly, one step at a time.  Even if the step you can take today is small, you are still one step closer to your dream than if you let your fear of failure paralyze you from even beginning the journey.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Challenge #13: Make A Map, Dammit!

You may have noticed that the timing of our posts has been a bit sporadic this last week. That's because I've been on a road trip up through the eastern United States -- and it just so happens that last night I landed in Huntsville, Alabama. Sound familiar? It should -- that is the city of residence of our very own fabulous Art Abyss editor Kadie Pangburn, and we are cooking up a little surprise just for you in honor of the occasion. But let's get to the challenge.

In the spirit of summer travel season, this week and last week we're doing a bit of creativity voyaging. Specifically, we're attempting to make some progress toward that big beautiful mountain that beckons off in the distance, that goal you've always wanted (or have realized is actually what you want -- maybe through using some useful tools). However, say you've figured out where your mountain is. You can see it, even. You've memorized the snowy peaks, the way it glows at sunset. You know that mountain -- your goal -- inside and out.

There's only one problem: you don't know how to get there.

Last week, we talked about the challenges that you face when trying to figure out what goal is best for you -- but that's only half the struggle. Once you identify your destination, your way forward still may not be clear. No matter how many artist biographies you study or self help books you read, the reality is that your narrative, and the difficulties within that narrative, is still unique to you. Other people can develop tools that may help you, but unless you allow your needs to shape the way those tools are used, you'll find that you keep running up against the same old roadblocks again and again, and end up stuck staring at that mountain from the same place as before.

Once you have a goal in mind, you're like a GPS system (or GoogleMaps, or Waze, if you prefer) that's just starting up - you've told the computer which way you want to go, but it hasn't processed the data for a route that will get you there yet. It's still just the tool.

The data that you add -- in this metaphor, street names, traffic warnings, interesting attractions and useful stops along the way -- is what makes your GPS unique to your situation. Now what might they call such a collection of data?

Oh yes -- a MAP.

Now, how might we go about becoming cartographers for our own personal creative GPS?

Let's start with identifying major landmarks along the way: what are the things that you have accomplished, are in the process of accomplishing, or will accomplish that are necessary developments to have in your life for you to be able to pursue your ultimate goal?

For me, it comes down to three basic things:

1) Financial Stability
2) Fulfilling Relationships
3) Knowledge

Note that I said "to be able to pursue your ultimate goal," not "to be ready." I am a terminally un-ready person, but when I change that question to ask if I'm "able," things become much more feasible. I don't have as much knowledge as I'd like, but I have enough to get me started. Ditto for finances. Out of the three, fulfilling relationships is one thing I am incredibly lucky to have on lock. Once I get those other two things further along, I should be in good shape to pursue my ultimate goal of being able to support myself with my art.

Now that you know the major landmarks you need to pass, figure out what routes will get you there. 

For my map, this means taking a more active role in my finances, continuing to nurture my relationship with those around me, and actively seeking out new information and inspiration to inform my work. Anything that gets me closer to achieving these landmarks counts as a route I should consider taking.

Final step: make your itinerary. Where should you start? What comes after the first step? And after that? How do you get to the end?

Thankfully, unlike a roadtrip, you don't actually have to know how you're going to accomplish reaching your ultimate goal of the mountain -- but if you break things down into the individual steps and plug those into your GPS, not only will you be headed somewhere, but you'll actually be headed where you want to go, even if it doesn't always feel that way. 

For the moment, I'm going to get back to my real roadtrip. But on the long drives from town to town, I'll be figuring out what's on the map going towards my mountain. What about you?