Friday, August 30, 2013

It's About to Get Messy!! (Wreck This Journey Week 3)

The Face of Temptation.
(No, I don't know why there's a jump rope.)
A box of old acrylics, a journal with explicit instructions to wreck it, and a weekly vlogging assignment . . . what's a girl to do??

Talk about it on You Tube, of course!!

Tune in for better editing, better lighting, step-by-step documentation, and perhaps most importantly, victory rolls. Yes, we brought out the big guns this week.

No, but seriously -- watch it, and then check out these up-close shots of the super-cool smooshed paint that occurred.

(NOTE: For some reason Blogger is angry at the embed link I'm using. Click here to view the video in the meantime.)

So. Much. Fun! Check out the pictures, after the break.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It Takes Two (AKA How To Be Married To An Artist)

Christo + Jeanne Claude

Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera
Georgia O'Keeffe + Alfred Stieglitz
Being married to a creative person isn't easy.   Our emotions tend to run close to the surface, we collect strange objects that we tell our spouses will "one day" come in handy for a project we're sure, and we spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy working on projects until they are just right, only to then turn around and tear the entire thing apart and start over because we just weren't "feeling it." 

We study hard to fine tune our craft and work for months or years on end to get into the public eye, and then once our big moment is upon us are utterly terrified of anyone seeing our work.  

Not only do we need a partner who can encourage us to keep going when the road seems to all but have vanished before us,  we also need someone who can be there to tell us when we are straying off course and losing sight of what is really important.

But mostly we need a partner who pushes us to be better, to take risks, and to dig deeper.

I'm not quite sure my husband knew what he was getting into when we got married.

Sure he thought, "Oh, she's so creative," but I'm pretty sure he thought that would translate as "Oh, she'll have good taste in decorating", or "Free art for the walls, score." Not, "Dear God, it's 3am and she still hasn't gone to bed because she's having a panic over her show and almost threw all the work out the window because she is having last minute doubts about her talent," or, "You want me to do what while you photograph me for your project!?"

But over the years he's adapted and gotten pretty damn good at it.  I mean now he hardly bats an eye when I ask him to photograph me stuffed in an old trunk holding a tiny candle and hiding my face.  Or tied up from head to toe in an old abandoned building.  (Which worked great until the cops showed up because someone had seen us and reported that a man had kidnapped me and tied me up and was photographing me…)

And in that time I've learned a couple things about being a good creative partner from him.


1) A good partner makes you do your own work.

You know back in school when they made you do those terrible group projects and one person always just took over and pretty much did the entire thing while the other people in the group just sat around twiddling their thumbs and throwing paper airplanes at each other?  That's not what we're looking for.  A good partner doesn't just do the work for you, they come along side you, encourage you, but make you do your own god damn work.  Every creative needs to struggle a little in their work, it's what tells us that the work is worth doing.  If it was easy everyone would be making it.  The struggle lets us know we are on the right path.  If your partner comes along and makes the road too easy because they think they are trying to help us, they can really keep us from forming the passion and connection to our work that we can only gain through the struggle.

2) A good partner believes in you 
more than you do in yourself.

The honest truth is that almost 99% of creatives never really feel talented or good at what they do.  Most of us are self-conscious, and constantly doubting our skills and talents.  A good partner can see through all that.  They can see the talent we are afraid to show off, and they can help us see it as well by pushing us towards situations or people that will be able to reflect it back to us.

For example, my husband once sent an anonymous email to a major art publication saying he had come across this great young artist that he thought they should take a look at.  A week later I got an email saying they were going to run a 5 page article on me.

3) A good partner can keep calm 
and problem solve.

During almost every creative project something always goes horribly wrong.  It's just fact.  At that moment, while I'm running around having a panic attack because I think my creative career is ruined and that I'll never work ever again, my husband is quietly sitting in the corner making a plan.  It never fails.  I freak out and he calmly saunters in, breaks down the problem and offers a list of possible solutions that I couldn't see because I was too busy freaking out.

4) A good partner takes you seriously 
when nobody else will.

One of the things I love most about my husband is that he has always taken me and the work I do seriously.  As a creative people we are belittled right and left as we go through life. People say things like, "Do you actually make any money doing that?" or, "You just sit around and play with crayons all day, why don't you go and find a real job?"  A good partner doesn't see your work as frivolous or silly, they can see the importance that it has to you and take it as seriously as you do without jokes or laughter or belittlement.  They would never tell you to go get a "real job," because they know you already have one.

5) A good partner cares more about you 
than about your work.

It's easy to get lost in a project and lose your bearings in life.  You forget to eat, you stop sleeping as much as you should, and bathing becomes very low on your list of things to do.  A project can also consume you to the point that your mood changes, and you start acting like someone you're not.  The project can become so important that nothing else matters.  But a good partner never looses track of you, the you that you are supposed to be.  And they care more about making sure that you are happy and healthy than about the well being of your project.  They can see where passion has stopped and obsession has set in and know when to intervene to keep you safe physically and mentally.

I think I'll keep him :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Challenge #20: Get In A Fight!

First, a little fictitious artistic difference, to set the tone.

Now let's get down to business:

Alice Stewart was a brilliant, hardworking and enthusiastic doctor working in the 1950s, but in order to gain recognition in the scientific community, she needed to solve a major problem plaguing humanity. Her research led to the discovery that x-rays during pregnancy were to blame for the rising rate of children's deaths from cancer. Except . . . people were really, really, reluctant to believe her.

Margaret Heffernan breaks it down in her TED talk:
Now that finding flew in the face of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom held that everything was safe up to a point, a threshold. It flew in the face of conventional wisdom, which was huge enthusiasm for the cool new technology of that age, which was the X-ray machine. And it flew in the face of doctors' idea of themselves, which was as people who helped patients, they didn't harm them.
In the face of all that "conventional wisdom," Dr. Stewart found the courage to stick to her guns and to her findings -- and eventually, her research was accepted and the practice of giving pregnant women x-rays ceased. But what about at the beginning? When everyone else said differently, how could she be so sure she was right?

Take it away, Margaret Heffernan:

Here's the key moment (for the purposes of this post, at least):
So, how did she know that she was right? Well, she had a fantastic model for thinking. She worked with a statistician named George Kneale, and George was pretty much everything that Alice wasn't. So, Alice was very outgoing and sociable, and George was a recluse. Alice was very warm, very empathetic with her patients. George frankly preferred numbers to people. But he said this fantastic thing about their working relationship. He said, "My job is to prove Dr. Stewart wrong." He actively sought disconfirmation. Different ways of looking at her models, at her statistics, different ways of crunching the data in order to disprove her. He saw his job as creating conflict around her theories. Because it was only by not being able to prove that she was wrong, that George could give Alice the confidence she needed to know that she was right.  
It's a fantastic model of collaboration -- thinking partners who aren't echo chambers. I wonder how many of us have, or dare to have, such collaborators. Alice and George were very good at conflict. They saw it as thinking. 


When I heard this talk on the TED Radio Hour this Sunday, I got super excited. I mean, think about it: when have you done your very best work? Was it when everything came easily, when you had a supportive and uncritical audience, and the result you arrived at was basically the same thing you imagined at the start? Probably not.

Technically, of course, the critique and revision process isn't really like "getting in a fight." But it can feel that way -- the further from your own ideas and aesthetics this other person falls, the more likely you feel nervous about exposing your work to their criticism. It seems like such a huge risk -- what if they don't like it? What if they think it's stupid?

The truth is, no matter what field you're in, you're going to experience that kind of negative criticism. But there are also people who can challenge your ideas with positive criticism, people who come at things from an entirely different perspective, who will push you to make better work. Those people are your key to unlocking the next level in your practice.

Therefore, this week we challenge you to Get In A Fight. Go find something - whether a piece of work, or a belief you hold, or an idea you have, or a plan you've made -- and then go find someone that will force you to defend it. Maybe you'll discover something new you hadn't considered before. Maybe you'll change your mind entirely, and have to start from scratch, but that new foundation will be ten times stronger than the old one.

As Margaret Heffernan says,
When we dare to see, and we create conflict, we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best thinking.
Now that sounds like a plan.

Don't forget this week's Challenge Badge!

I made it using this super nifty pre-scrubbed version and font pack from (just imagine the possibilities!)

We'll be looking for people rocking it this week -- and be sure to let us know what you learned from seeking out conflict in the comments below.