Reinventing Myself

You go through phases.  You have to reinvent reasons for playing, and one year’s answer might not do for another.

~ Yo-Yo Ma

Have you ever reinvented yourself?

I realize, only after having a year of hindsight, that I have been doing exactly that.  Or, mostly exactly that.  I’ve also been reinventing my bubble, my environment, my world.

Artsy Business Growth

The hubs and I have continued learning all kinds of cool stuff, adding to our repertoire of painting and faux textures.  We started with cleaning up and re-coating cabinets, and we have gotten really good at re-coloring cabinets with stain and with paint.  We have re-done some cabinets in a distressed, shabby chic style.  We have even rebuilt cabinet doors with metal screens as the interior panel!

Recently we started working in concrete, making counter tops and awesome floors and oh, my gosh!  Talk about potential for all kinds of arting!  Concrete has so many possibilities, from texturing to a myriad of cool coloring techniques.  And smoothing it and forming it and playing in it is awesome.

Changes with the Kidlets

I’ve also taken over our kidlets’ education entirely.  We were previously schooling at home but following a program.  That program has changed so much in the past six years that it is almost unrecognizable compared to the original program.  The last school year I battled frustration and burn-out and in some cases, anger.  The kids were doing way too much busy work and had become tied to the stupid computers.

So we’ve left that program behind.  We’re now enjoying a much free-er, livelier, exciting learning adventure together!! 🙂

Personal and Artistic Growth

And I’ve also been plowing through some personal and artistic growth and expansion…and rebirth.  I’ve been getting into the groove of not being totally involved in the making money for the family.  Being a bit of a control freak, this part has been harder that I thought it would be.  But slowly I am letting go of thinking I have to be in charge of everything 🙂

That release has led to all kinds of stuff.  I feel more relaxed, and more peaceful.  I have stronger faith.  I have more inspiring energy to give to the kidlets and to making stuff and to my art.  Which has also expanded, way beyond my most common outlet of art journaling.  My projects are getting larger in scale and braver.

Overall, I have more courage and I feel more, well, more ME.  Which then turns around and make all of this bigger.

So where does that land the blog?  I’ve actually been missing posting here, and I’ve been amazed that my little corner of the blog-o-sphere still has a life of its own.  I still have traffic and activity and see my work show up in the strangest of places!

My goal is to connect the blog to my other online stuff, like our website and Pinterest and all of the fun and creative stuff we’ve been growing.  I’d like to include some of the family adventures in life and in learning.  Where it goes from there, who knows…but I’m coming out of the fog that’s been enveloping me.

I’m ready to share again, to look out here again, to see the world again!!

Rock Quote Pic

Art is My Job…Finally!

When I started blogging, my hope that was someday, somehow, I would figure out how to monetize the blog, or my art, or both.

The goal was simple: make art, post stuff, get subscribers, make money.

Have you ever seen the episode of South Park with the Underpants gnomes??  You know, they steal underpants, the kids follow them one night to figure out where all of the underpants were going…and the kids find the gnomes with enormous mountains of underpants.  They ask the gnomes what’s going on, and the gnomes tell them:

  • Phase 1: collect underpants.
  • Phase 2: ?
  • Phase 3: make profit.

The boys ask them, what about phase 2?  All of the gnomes stop and start mumbling and look around at each other, asking Phase 2???

That’s kinda how I feel…I have no idea what happens in Phase 2.  I just know that I make art, I like to slap paint on stuff, and I want to get paid.  Then I have way more time to art.

Oh, and I also love to talk about what I love doing, and I love sharing fun tips and ideas and inspirations, I feel a NEED to give it back cuz that’s how I found this whole thing, by checking out other artists’ blogs and videos.  That’s how the blog really got going.

And I knew only that if I kept blogging, somebody would eventually look at it, and I might be able to build up the following from there.  Doesn’t that seem like what others do?  They blog a bunch, they get a bunch of regular readers, and somehow they get paid.  Advertisers just magically want to start paying them for space on the blog, I’m sure that’s exactly how it goes,right??

Okay, so I understand that’s not reality.  And I have found all kinds of other satisfaction from the blog.

So as we kept plugging along, praying for some opportunity to get paid to be artistic, I got more and more frustrated with “practical” jobs, “practical” choices and so on.  I was having more trouble smooshing myself into that mold.

Now, over the years, my hubs has painted houses, sometimes all white (boring) and sometimes with super-cool faux painting schemes.  He’s re-done cabinets and installed awesome wood-work and helped people with color schemes and decorating diy ideas.  We just hadn’t really pushed it to become a more consistent and financially supportive part of our lives.

But now we are doing just that. 

What I realized is that I want to get paid to paint.  Commissioned work is pretty cool because I know the piece is sold before I make it.  And the customer gives me the idea and the inspiration.

Painting a house is exactly that: a commissioned work. 

It’s not exactly what I was thinking I was working  towards, but it is so way much better than calling people all day long, looking to make a sale.  Stuck in a chair all day long, no sunshine, no exercise, and no painting.  That kind of day sucks for me.

And because I’m playing in paint and painting tools and Home Depot for jobs, I am thinking about other projects and inspirations while I’m working.  And while I’m working, I’m listening to music, chatting with the hubs, and finding new ways of doing things all of the time…

It’s taken a few jobs to get in the swing of the physical exertion part of my day, but I’m feeling stronger and more energetic and more excited all of the time.  In fact, I had a break because my oldest kiddo and babysitter was at camp.  I had to send the hubs to the job without me…and what did I do?  I painted the walls in my living room in between art projects at home!!

Here’s the point…

So often many of us pine for an artist’s life.  We ache for a way to make money arting so that we can spend all of our time arting.  We feel a pang of longing looking at the artful lives of those out there and feel like we’ll never get there ourselves.

If we can broaden our scope of possibility just a bit, we can find ways to live the life for which we’re pining.  We might be able to find other ways to explore our artistic selves and to financially support ourselves and our art supply habits! 🙂

And all we did was put up ads on craigslist, fairly often, and eventually built a free little website so that we could give that link on the ads.  People can go to our website and see explanations of what we do and see examples, as well as click over to our flickr page for more pics of our work.  We also believed in ourselves, that we could do it, and kept up our optimism.

And people do call us.  We do get work.  And I get lots of left-over supplies to play with!

pink room

Pink and white walls, black doors, and stencils and stickers to decorate.

Painted walls, trim, and stained and painted stair rails and posts.

Painted walls, trim, and stained and painted stair rails and posts.

 *Now I’m looking for someone to get brave and hire me to do a full-blown mural!  Then I’ll really be having some fun 🙂

 

 

 

 

Face Practice

GirlWow, so long since the last post.  Sometimes I wonder how I miss so much time??

Our painting business continues to grow.  We built a small website (take a look here).  I am amazed at how much better I feel getting out and painting and refinishing cabinets, and really physically working.  For so long I have used my brain and my conversation skills, selling and serving customers and, well, sitting.  Way too much sitting, talking on the phone, using the computer, and not getting up and moving around and doing more physical labor.

I really like it.  My body is feeling strong, my back feels better, my soul feels better…this kind of work is so meditative!  And I get to spend my work time hanging out with my hubby, making things beautiful!!  It just really doesn’t get much better than this 🙂

And in my art time outside of that, I have been continuing to focus on drawing faces.  Maybe soon I will start practicing bodies to go with the floating heads, lol…

The biggest challenge for me with faces is the coloring…I thought I would battle more with the features, but nope, it’s the coloring.  I have really come up with some interesting color combinations, that’s for sure!  But I keep at it, I’m actually learning to not fight it, but to just keep going…like so much else in art.  That’s a common theme for me, it seems.  Trust the process (I wrote ages ago about that here).

What a feeling of accomplishment, though, to keep at it and begin to see the success!  And this particular girl has a special place in my art journal…she is on the last available page of my current large journal!

Finishing an art journal…that has a very solid feeling of accomplishment.

I have been working in that particular journal for two full years now.  It’s funny, when I first started journaling, I would work in one journal straight through, then moved to the next journal.  Along the way, I started working in a whole bunch of art journals at one time.

I have old books that I used as journals, I have kids’ board books as journals, I have loose pages that I journal together, I make mini-journals out of bags or cards or junk mail, I have composition books as journals…and I have my sketch books.  I have themed journals, I have chronological journals, and I have extra paint journals (you know, the ones where you slap extra paint or ink on pages that you use as backgrounds for stuff later).

And the journals are all over the house!  I was cleaning up some shelves, and I counted…seven journals going at the moment!!  My kids thumb through them, they show them to their friends, and my hubby looks through them all of the time.  My art has become such a way of life in our home, I never imagined how ingrained in our lives it would all be.

That has its own very satisfying and fulfilling level of accomplishment, too.

More Art Time, or Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart?  If it does, then the path is good.  If it doesn’t, it is of no use.

~ Carlos Castaneda

It’s funny…I hated my day job, I prayed for a way out, and I had been pining for more work time with the hubby…and I had been praying for new ways to bring in other sources of income so that I can work on more art and make money with my own hands.

I sort of thought, in all of that pining and praying and fervently hoping, that I would have some alternative worked out BEFORE I left the hated job.

Well.

So I don’t always get to choose the timing or the details or the exact path of how prayers are answered, or so I’m learning.  I did not get a new job lined up, I did not make sure I had plenty of savings at the ready, I did not have a whole bunch of multiple streams of income all neatly lined up.

Nope, I sure didn’t.  My prayers got answered with a big old fashioned kick in the butt as I lost my grip on the slippery rock of seeming safety.

I have been through this before.  When we opened our business consulting firm 6 years ago, I fought to keep a hold on that rock.  I was so afraid to let go and flow with the river.  I was afraid of the unknown, even though I hated the work that had me “trapped” in the known.

While I have since moved away from so much business consulting as the economics of small businesses have changed these past couple of years, I loved my work and my rules and my customers and my way of being able to sink or swim on our terms.

Then I got foolish and took another “Joe Job”.  And in the short time I was working it, I got complacent and liked the feel of the rock under my strained fingers.  I lost sight of my priorities and how I wanted to create my life and how good it used to feel when I felt good about the work I did everyday.

Then comes my answered prayers.  I lost my job.  Before I was ready, or not exactly on my terms and on my timetable and when I was all neat and tidy and “ready”.

And guess what??  I’m living through it!  It seems that I can earn money and art at the same time!  It’s a bit different than what I imagined, and is not the total sum of what I want to do in paying art time, but it so totally works!

Christopher and I have been painting the walls in people’s homes…faux painting, which is just an enormous art journal background!  And re-finishing cabinets and designing murals and playing in color and going to Home Depot…it’s what I love to do, just on a much larger scale than my art journals.  Of course, not so many rub-ons or markers 🙂  But I get to hang out with Christopher and listen to music and wax rhapsodic and paint and make something that looks beautiful and brings joy!

I am still fighting the fear a bit, it’s certainly uncomfortable still, but I have faith that we are moving in the right direction, and I feel so inspired when I come home from a day of painting!  And I have time to art more and get back to so many projects that were falling by the wayside…Now it’s just a matter of scheduling enough jobs to keep the lights on and the art supplies coming!!

xoxo

Happy Fish

 

Keep Visiting, We Are Still Creating

Life is beauty through and through
Life is sunny, life is cool

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros,

Life is Hard

We have been working to redefine and sort out what we want with our blog.

I guess I’m not completely sure where the blog world needs St John Family Studios, but the times that I’ve asked I seem to get few responses.  I’m unsure how y’all all get interaction on your blogs…but I seem to get nowhere in that department.

I do know this: during this past hiatus, our blog continues to have momentum, it continues to have this weird life of its own…it keeps going, people keep searching our art and coming to our page and looking at it over and over again.

I really have NO idea how that happens, but it’s pretty cool.  So something we do here is interesting 🙂

I’ve been completely involved with some new classes, a job outside of the house that I really do dislike a whole bunch, and other regular life stuff.  But my goal this year is to figure out what’s next, where the blog fits in, and how to keep sharing cool art and techniques and inspiration…and to figure out how to get the art and the surrounding stuff get to be the focus and the stupid job less of a focus.

Do you feel that pull?  How do we get to the place where what we love and feel passionate about is what we spend our time doing, and still eating and paying rent??  Any thoughts??

The other big goal this year for me is to learn to not be afraid of drawing and painting the human form, faces, hands, noses, eyes, hands, and all of the super-duper things that float around in my mind’s eye.

So I leave you with a sample of how I’ve spent my recent time arting.  Please keep coming back.  We will figure it out 🙂

xoxo

Class from LifeBook 2014 with Tamara LaPorte

Class from Life Book 2014 with Tamara LaPorte

Finding Your Blog Voice

I Can't Help Myself

I found this paper towel on the table 🙂

Do you ever feel like you have no idea what’s going on with your blog?  Or do you ever feel a bit disconnected with your blog?

My blog and I are having a bit of a butting of the heads, or maybe it’s more like a lovers’ quarrel.  Seems my blog wants me to just keep plodding along, posting love notes and pictures of art, and hoping for the best.  My blog doesn’t want to be organized or on a mission or any such thing.

I think my blog is lazy.  Or maybe just flighty.

I, on the other hand, want to drive my blog.  I want to get organized.  I want to define our mission.

That all seems tough to do when I’m not totally sure what my blog voice sounds like.  I started this whole gig looking to make connections, hoping to inspire someone the way that all the beautiful art blogs out there inspire me.  I have been hunting for the perfect equation, that blissful mix of cool art pics and thoughtful navel-gazings, mixed in with new connections to other artists.

And yet, I feel a bit like the blog and I have stagnated.

What do you do to keep your blog fresh?  What do you look for when you’re blog hopping around, searching for some inspiration?  How do you bring that back to your own blog?  How do you get your readers to interact with you through your own blog?

How did you find, or how are your finding, your blog voice???

Happy Freakin’ Friday…We Should All Be as Imaginative as This Kid

Not everyone takes the time to check out my Happy Freakin’ Friday videos, I know it’s sort of my own little joy…but this is well worth the peek.  This guy is innovative and believes in himself and in his dream.  We can all learn something from him…

Preparing Our Creative Self, or Gratitude as a Way of Life

As artists, we’re all on the lookout for inspiration.  We’re always on the lookout for amazing art fodder (something I’m tend to post about a lot as well).  We’re always reaching for the next a-ha moment, where we get smacked upside the head with our next creative idea.

I would like to suggest that one of the best ways to keep the ideas and inspirations coming is to train.  You know, train like an athlete, who not only has to practice the actual physical activity he’s pursuing, but train like an athlete that is working to keep his mind and his spirit in harmony with his body.

 

It takes discipline to master anything.  It takes focus.  And it takes a positive mental attitude.

I realize that not everyone is looking to become the next Picasso, but even anyone who is looking to create for personal joy can benefit from finding that place of positive mental attitude.  Keeping our hearts and spirits and minds in the right place can keep the inspirations flowing.

Reflections on Gratitude

Gratitude for all of the blessing in our lives is likely one of the most important pieces of maintaining the right mental attitude for our creative selves.  And gratitude for what we have already in our lives is a great start to bringing in more.  I personally have way more fun when I give to someone who appreciates it, as opposed to someone who doesn’t.  It’s not that the giving is about receiving gratitude.  It’s that if I can choose where to offer my help or my time or my resources, why wouldn’t I choose someone that feels gratitude rather than someone who doesn’t??

I’m certain the same force works when we’re talking about God and the Universe.  If we’re ungrateful, or even if just not actively grateful, why wouldn’t the blessings go to someone else, who IS actively grateful?

Even with a plea for inspiration, the same energy holds true.  And so to keep ourselves in top form, to make sure that we’re living the life we imagine, and to really prepare ourselves for the creativity, we should start with being in a place of active gratitude.

Casa de St John

In our little family, we have cultivated a habit of gratitude.

It started years ago when our eldest kiddo was a little bitty guy.  He liked to do bedtime prayers, the traditional kind where he would bow his little tow head and ask God to bless his mom and his dad and his grandma and his grandpa.  It got to the point where he would rush through it (like many super young kiddos will be prone to do), and it definitely got way less sincere over time.  Not that he wasn’t sincere in wanting God to look out for all of his family members, but insincere in the way that he was going through the motions without any thought or feeling.

We decided to shake it up a bit.  We started gathering together on our big bed and take turns saying something to God each night.  At that point we had kid number 2 with us.  And it did help for a while, but eventually, it got to where they were arguing over not wanting to go first, and the prayers were the same old thing every night, without thought.

Thank-You-For’s

That’s when we came up with Thank-You-For’s.  This is a routine that has hung on for years, and through the addition of 2 more kids, numbers 3 and 4 (I do sometimes call the kids by their numbers, especially when they’re all being super loud).

Here’s how it goes: Each night, we gather ’round the beds in the little kids’ room (it’s a part of the tuck-in routine, and the little ones are first).  Someone different starts each night.  We go around to each of us, and when it’s your turn, you get to say something that you are thankful for that day.  It can be anything.  What it cannot be, though, is some gripe, or some wish that something had gone differently.  It can’t have some kind of modifier on it, like “Thank you for the sunshine today, even if it was a bit hot” (don’t laugh, I heard that one at the beginning).  It’s got to be something clean, something you’re actually thankful for.

The thank-you-for’s range from cartoons to one of the pets to friends to family members to toys.  We’ve been thankful for clouds and rainbows and worms and rocks.  We’ve been thankful for monster trucks and motorcycles and air soft guns and care bears.  My favorites from the kids are when one of them is thankful for another one of the kids.

Just When I Need It

This has helped through so many rough days, those days when I just can’t wait to drop into bed, thinking that maybe I should have stayed in bed all day long.  It has helped with those days when I’ve been stressed about finances or kids griping all day long or when I have had a client in my business give me a really hard time.  It all seems to melt away when we sit down and focus on that for which we are truly thankful.

It sends us all of into dreamland with thoughts of joy and gratitude.  And it sends us all there together, as we’ve shared in the gratitude, and the whole energy of the household is positive and warm and happy.

How to Get Started

You might not need a huge routine for gratitude.  That’s not what’s important…what’s important is that you find that place of gratitude.  Everything else can built from there.  I have a gratitude journal app on my iPhone, where I record the top 3-5 things that I’m grateful for every day.  I create in my art journals quite often about my gratitude.  I make lists in my sketchbooks, I find posty-notes with gratitude lists stuck in the bottom of my purse.

So find yourself a way to focus your gratitude.  Make lists.  Use one of those extra little spirals or Moleskine notebooks or hand-made journals.  Grab a little book at the Dollar Store.  Start a list on your computer, or get an app for your iPhone.  But get to it.  And save those lists.  They are a terrific reminder on those days that feels a bit ungrateful that you do have something to be grateful for.  They can remind you of how wonderful your life is, right now.  They help you keep your heart and mind open and connected to the Creative Source and all of the inspiration out there for you.

Prompt: What are you thankful for RIGHT NOW?  Make a list, on a card, on a tag, on a piece of patterned paper.  Use that in an art journal page.  Do it again tomorrow 🙂

Trust the Process Art Journal Page

The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.

~ Julia Cameron

Trust the Process.  Those are words of wisdom.  Words of simplicity, although not always words of ease.

In my alternate life, my business life, I spend a lot of time working with business owners, teaching them new concepts, helping them wrap their heads around new ideas that sound foreign and a bit overwhelming.  I find myself saying to them all of the time, Trust the Process.  It may seem like you’ll never figure this out, but if you’ll just trust the process, and keep moving along, you will eventually have a larger picture to view.  When you are able to look back on the larger picture that you have created, it will all seem to make sense.  It will look good, and you will know you have accomplishment.

I sound so smart, and like I really know what I’m talking about.  Funny, how is it that I can sound so smart, and really mean what I’m saying, but have so much trouble in my art life following my own advice??

Sometimes I know exactly, or at least mostly, where an art piece is headed.  Sometimes I have a vision in mind when I get started.  Many times, though, I have no idea.  I just get started.  What I am finding over time, is that whether or not I have the vision in mind at the beginning, somewhere during the process, I start disliking what’s coming out.  I start thinking I screwed up, or I shouldn’t have done that, or the whole thing is looking yucky.  I even go so far as wanting to abort the whole thing.

What I have learned from experience is to just keep going.  Don’t worry so much about the fact that somewhere during the process I start to hate what I am making.  Just keep working.  Just keep adding a little bit more.  Stop thinking so much about what I think I screwed up or the mistake I made.  Because as I move along, as I keep adding something, I start to like the whole thing once again.  Because as I try to work the imaginary mistakes into the overall piece, they become a beautiful part of the whole.

Sometimes, even, the mistakes become the best part of the whole dang thing. Sometimes, the mistakes turn out to be the best thing that I could’ve done.  Sometimes the mistakes lead me to use a different color, or a different texturing tool, or to add a layer. The mistakes can become something I try to do again later on another piece, and instead of remaining a mistake, they become a new technique!

And it turns out, my getting frustrated and thinking I have gone the wrong direction, has become part of MY process.  Weird, huh.

I think it has now happened that if I don’t have that emotional roller coaster to tie me to the piece, I don’t feel the satisfaction of accomplishment.  If the whole art piece was too easy, I’m bored and looking for the next thing.

This art journal page is a perfect example.  I was trying out some techniques for image transfer.  It did not go at all as planned or imagined.  In fact, I just ended up with a gooey shadow of what I was hoping for.  I really didn’t want an art journal page in my newest journal to be an abandoned page with a gooey lump.  That just wouldn’t do at all.  So I kept on going, simply because I had to make it look at least a little better.  By the time I had added some color and started incorporating the gooey mess into the colors, I started feeling a bit better.

By the time I got to the end, I got excited!  This page for me is quite a bit different than my usual journaling.  I actually used some text.  I used a very different color scheme, or maybe not such different colors, but way more colors on one page than I typically use.  I used some pastels that I don’t use much.  I made a quick foam stamp for some added dimension, and now I have a new texture stamp.

I sat with one of my kidlets at the kitchen table last night as she looked at the page.  She asked me what it was all about, so I bashfully read the text to her (I typically don’t share much text in my journals) and showed her where the “mistakes” were and how I got them to work.  She was able to ask questions and paraphrase what the meaning is.  She seemed to really get it.  So the whole page turned into something even more than anything I imagined…

So.  Trust.  The.  Process.

Neocolors, acrylic paint, ink, book pages, sumi ink, pastels

Is there a prompt here?  Do you ever find yourself fighting with trusting the process?  Okay, build your own Trust the Process piece, but try using a medium that you have sitting around but don’t use ever or often.  Pull out the pastels, or the markers, or the paint color that you never use.  If you usually use warm colors, go with cool colors.  Do something new.  And just keep going, just trust the process.  Be sure to let me know how it turns out!

Happy Freakin’ Friday! You Can Be a Creative Entrepreneur!

Are you one of those creative types who worries that using your creative gifts to build a business might hurt your creativity?  Have you fallen victim to the fallacy that entrepreneurs are somehow bad?  And that being an entrepreneur will mean that you sold out?

Without entrepreneurs, the world would stop spinning around and around.  Economies and everything else would stagnate.

And as a creative type, did you know that the whole creation of a business, however large or small, is a creative endeavor all in itself?  To build a business, you start with a concept, an idea, or a passion.  Just like in our art.  Then as you sketch out the basic idea, you begin to fill in the details, a little at a time, as you continue to see more details of the vision.  All with the hopes that someone out there will understand and appreciate the vision.  That your vision, your idea, can help someone.  If your vision can offer a solution to someone somewhere, then maybe he will pay you for your solution, through buying your product or hiring you to perform your service.

That’s the basics of it, right?  All of the other details involved in starting and building a business just go along with it.  Just like any other creative endeavor, once you’re committed, you’re going to see it through.  We all run into times when we’re plugging along and we start thinking that we really don’t like what’s happening.  What do you do when that happens?  You keep going, you keep adding more stuff, you keep pushing the paint around or adding layers or changing colors or whatever.  You just keep moving.  Don’t get stagnant, don’t give up.  The same goes with building a business.

Let the creation of your business be as inspiring and exciting as the creation of any other artwork.  Allow it to feed your soul and mind.  Allow it to go through the birthing process and be another outlet and expression for your heart.  You can be a successful entrepreneur, even if you never really thought of yourself that way.  All you have to do is rearrange your thinking and keep the faith.