Part Three of my Fragile Things series is here! Part One is here. Part Two is here. This is the final part of the series featuring my photographs of fragile things, with hand-lettered text from Neil Gaiman's book of short stories, Fragile Things, overlaid on top. Working on this project has been enlightening and I really appreciate these final thoughts about the nature of fragile things.Read More
Part Two of my Fragile Things series is here! Part One is here. This is a three part series featuring photographs of fragile things, with hand-lettered text from Neil Gaiman's book of short stories, Fragile Things, overlaid on top. These photo illustrations explore the nature of fragile things. I myself am going through a fragile time right now, my Mom is dying of cancer, and I have found working on this project to be a great way to meditate on what I am going through and what it all means.
From the Introduction:
Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.
From the story Strange Little GIrls:
The view changes from where you are standing. Words can wound, and wounds can heal. All of these things are true.
From the story How To Talk To Girls At Parties:
We wrapped our dreams in words and patterned the words so that they would live forever, unforgettable.
Hearts may break, but they are tough. It's something I need to remember right now. Resilience, perspective and a legacy. That is what Neil Gaiman's words mean to me. It's why I write and make art. Writing and making art make me stronger, give me perspective and hopefully, it will build up into a legacy that I can leave to my family.
Part Three is coming in the following weeks! Stay tuned for that.
A few months ago I was inspired to photograph objects that are considered fragile. As I was working on the shots, I remembered that Neil Gaiman published a collection of short stories called Fragile Things. It was a book I didn't remember reading, so I picked it up from the library and I found that I was familiar with many of the stories from other sources. There are some good ones in there. Some of them are creepy, but still so good. Gaiman is such an amazing story teller.
I came across so many great quotes that I decided to hand letter the ones that were specifically related to fragile things and overlay the illustrated text onto the images. This is the first image of a three part series and I'll post the next two separately in the following weeks.
From the story Strange Little Girls:
She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon.
You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.
She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell. All your tomorrows start here.
From the story Instructions:
Do not lose hope—what you seek will be found.
Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
I've really enjoyed working on this project and it's given me new insights into fragile things. I love these sentiments about identity and trust. You need focus and passion. You need to trust dreams, hearts and stories. It's about knowing and trusting yourself. And above all, do not lose hope. Ever. What you seek will be found. For a seeker like me, that statement makes me feel so good. It assures me to just keep at it. I will get there eventually, I will find what I am looking for.
The short story Instructions, became a lovely book of it's own illustrated by Charles Vess. I bought it for my kids and this story/poem is pure magic. It's all the best advice from fairy tales. Your kid's adventures and imaginations will most surely be inspired by reading it.
What is your favorite fragile thing or fairy tale?
Melanie at Inward Facing Girl is featuring my photography and studio in her Art I Heart series today and I couldn't be more flattered and honored.
I'm a very intuitive worker. I try not to plan too much and I let my mood and circumstances tell me what I should be working on. Sometimes it's just about sorting through a box of old things.
I have a list of ideas and concepts that I revisit constantly to see if anything stands out to me or feels like I have more to add to it.
Read more over at Inward Facing Girl and get a peek at the first photos of my newly organized studio! I've been working on cleaning up my space for MONTHS and it's finally starting to come together. If there is anything you would like to know about my creative process or my studio, ask questions in the comments and I would be happy to answer them! Here's one secret, while the pictures show a perfectly arranged studio, behind the camera and just out of frame is a complete disaster of everything ELSE. It's true. Remember: Nothing is perfect.
I've decided I'm not a careful crafter. I'd rather be a throw-it-all-on-the-table-and-make-a-mess kind of crafter. At least, I've learned to be that way with the kids. It's just more fun. There was a time when I crafted Martha Stewart style and it's great when I'm doing my own projects but I've reached epic levels of frustration trying to get the kids to do a project a certain way.
This year Milo moaned a little bit about Valentine's cards but got very excited when I suggested that we make our own. I thought it was awesome that he wanted to get creative instead of just signing his name to store bought cards like we did last year. I have tons of art supplies on hand, so we didn't even need a trip to the store.
I cut thick white drawing paper into 3 x 4 inch rectangles and gathered up a bunch of red art supplies like decorative papers, red and gold paint, red ribbon, markers, a red dinosaur stamp and a star and hole punch. Everything went in the middle of the table and I let the kids decide what they wanted to include on each card. I gave them a little guidance, at first we worked on five cards at once so they were similar, but by the end of it they were doing their own thing on individual cards. It goes a little faster if you do five cards at once, adding the same element to each card assembly-line style.
Quinn made almost all of his own this year, with just a little help from his Dad and I thought it was adorable he was signing his name with just a "Q" by the end of it. His cards are below and besides the dog one and the big heart, he made them all himself. I loved that he got creative with the hole punch and wanted four holes next to each other to thread the ribbon through. So clever. (He would tell me where to punch and I would do it for him.)
For the card above, Quinn asked how to spell Valentine. So freaking cute.
Milo hand-drew quite a few of his own cards as well but Chris and I did help him with some of them. All of Milo's cards are below. The top one that Milo is holding was entirely designed by him and I really love it. If you scroll down to the last image, can you guess which one of the ten cards Chris made? (Hint - when he asked for a green marker I almost didn't give him one!) It was fun to punch holes in the cards and tie a red ribbon on each one and even though it looks a little messy, I think it adds a fun element to it.
How do you like to do Valentine's cards at your house? I do prefer making them by hand, I feel like it adds just a little more love to each one, but I'm certainly not against keeping it simple and buying them. I think what is most important is that the child decides what THEY want to do. I even told them that they didn't have to do them at all, but that they wouldn't get any Valentine's if they didn't give any Valentine's. It really upped the incentive for them when they understood the give and take.
Happy Valentine's! Hope you have a wonderful LOVE day everyone!
A few years ago I experienced Arcade Fire's interactive video The Wilderness Downtown (use Chrome to view) and it made me cry. It was so personal and beautiful. One of the people who worked on it, Aaron Koblin, presents an amazing TED Talk on how we can use data and unique interfaces to tell stories and bring some humanity back to the information. Get your note books out. This is a good one.
I made a limited edition print of "Nothing is Perfect" to give to anyone who asks to see my Portfolio book (printed thanks to Blurb!) at Alt Summit this week. It's the image I chose for the cover of the book. The prints are four inches square with a border and you can put it on your bulletin board to remind yourself to stop looking for perfection. Nothing is perfect. In fact, the beauty is in the imperfections, like the amazingly gorgeous rust pattern on an old iron furnace door I found at an antique shop.
I'm so happy with how my book turned out! I opted to upgrade to the lustre paper and it looks and feels amazing. I divided the book into six sections to match the Creative Work galleries on this site. Each section has ten images from each gallery. While it's lovely to view images on screen, there is something wonderful about holding a real book in your hands. I can't wait for you to see it for yourself.
I also made a protective sleeve for the book out of a linen bag and a red felt pocket I had that happily matches the spine of my book. I tend to collect packaging remnants like these and it was fantastic to combine them together to make a new item. The book and limited edition prints fit in them just right.
Will you be one of the lucky 50 to get a limited edition print? I hope so. Remember, ask to see my Portfolio and you can take your print out of the red pocket! They are all signed, numbered and dated on the back. Which number will you be?
See you at ALT! I can't wait for the internet to come alive! It's slightly freaking me out, but I'm trying to follow my own advice: Don't freak out!
PS. If you won't be attending ALT, you can view my Portfolio Book online at Blurb.
Oh how I admire yearlong creative projects. The dedication, the planning and the thought that goes into these just blows me away. I'd like to do my own someday, I think, but for now I will just admire them from afar.
Check out this video. Jonathan Britnell shot video every single day last year and used one second from each day to make this incredibly moving portrait of his life.
Last year, Amy Turn Sharp wrote one poem every day, and Lisa Congdon posted an illustrated quote to her blog every day. I loved those two projects and they were so inspiring to me throughout the year.
This year, Lisa is teaming up with Maria Popova from Brain Pickings (one of my favorite places to find cool new ideas) to publish the site The Reconstructionists. It launched today with four portraits and biographies of incredible women who changed the way we see the world. Read more about it on Lisa's blog.
Each Monday they will post a new portrait and I'm looking forward to seeing who they will feature. Joan of Arc? Nora Ephron? Marie Curie? Amelia Earhart? This is such a brilliant idea, I wish I had thought of it myself!
I did some research for my son's science fair last year and I was amazed at the small number of women scientists I could find information for. I used Jane Goodall and Mae Jamison in the materials I prepared and it got me thinking about how we present role models to our young girls (and boys too!) It's so important to present a balanced view of both genders (and all races) so that we can all find someone we can see ourselves in. Hopefully this site will go a long way to making role models for our girls more accessible.
Are there any year-long creative projects that you know of? Are you doing one yourself? Please let me know in the comments!
I'm really happy with this year's board and I'm excited to see some of these things manifest in my life.
Have you ever made a vision board? Here are my tips:
- Choose about five magazines to pull images from. Make sure the magazine are ones that you read and love. Just any old magazine will not do.
- Go through the magazines and pull out ANY images that appeal to you, for any reason. Color, words, imagery or just a "feeling". Don't worry about why you are picking images, just pull them out and make a pile.
- After you have a good stack of images, lay them all out on the floor. At this point, you can do some journalling about why certain images appeal to you. Maybe they relate to things on your life list, or maybe they represent certain ideas to you. Write the reasons down if you like. This year, I didn't journal about my images, I just let my instincts lead me.
- Get poster board, a canvas or some other stiff surface to use as the base for your collage. Begin to arrange the images in a way that appeals to you. Maybe you want to pair certain images with certain words. For me, I laid out all the images first and then added the words later. Not all of your images will fit, so pick the ones that you like the best and place those on your canvas first. Arrange the rest of the images around the most important ones.
- Glue the images down with a glue stick, mod podge or rubber cement. Really, any kind of glue will work. Some glues make the images curl or warp a little, that's ok, just keep pressing down the edges and they will eventually stick.
- Once it's finished, select one word to guide you for the year, and place it in the middle. I used white paint and outlined it with a black Sharpie marker, but you could print something out on your printer or draw it on a separate piece of paper and glue that down too.
- Hang it on the wall to catch your eye any time you need inspiration.
If you wanted to do something that was a little less work, you can just tack images to a bulletin board, although, I do love the permanence of doing it with glue on a canvas. If you have any left over images, don't throw them away! Make a collage in your sketchbook with double stick tape or save them for next year.
Good luck making your own vision board! I'd love to see pictures if you do your own.
On Friday, I posted the first of five goals (from my Life List) that I will be sharing this week at Camp Mighty. My second goal is to become an American Citizen. The recent election really stirred a desire in me to vote. I grew up in Canada and voted there a few times before I moved to the States but since moving here over twelve years ago, I have been unable to vote. I had work visas for the first few years and now I am a permanent resident, but only citizens are able to vote. I was eligible to apply for citizenship three years ago but I didn't have the urge to do it until now.
I've downloaded and printed out the application and I'm ready to begin the long process of gathering all the paperwork and documents that are required to apply. It's not cheap, the fee to apply is at least $700 and it's similar to the permanent resident process, but with a civics test at the end! I handled the last application without requiring a lawyer and it took about 8 months from start to finish. I hope this one goes as smoothly.
I never really thought I would be doing this. The desire to vote and participate in politics surprised me but I think my oldest son's interest is part of it. I want to show him how to engage politically and teach him that it's an important right that we should take seriously.
I've also been influenced and spurred into action by Heather Barmore, Liz Gumbinner and Kelly Wickham. I may not be ready to start talking politics all over the place here, but I want to thank them for making politics understandable and accessible to a small town girl from Canada who wants to show her boys how to be the best American men they can be.
I am still very proud of my Canadian heritage and I see this as an addition to my identity, rather than a replacement. I will always be Canadian, and now I can be American too. For a while I worried about having to renounce my Canadian citizenship, but I've looked into and it seems I will be able to hold dual citizenship with no problem.
I won't miss out on the next federal election. Do you think there is a chance a women will be running for president? I really hope so, that would be so awesome. She'll probably have my vote for sure. I look forward to voting in federal elections with Milo when he turns 18 and Quinn when he turns 20. I will be so proud to see them participating in their community and in their future.
Last year, the attendees of Camp Mighty reached our goal of raising over $20,000 for Charity Water, and partially funded a drilling rig that was sent to Ethiopia. I was so proud to be personally responsible for $550 of that amount, with the fantastic support of my family and friends. I got an email in June that the rig had been fully funded and was on the ground drilling. Here's a picture of "Camp Mighty Team 2" written on the side of "Yellow Thunder." Isn't that awesome? We helped do that!
I'm returning to Camp Mighty this year and that means we are attempting to raise $20,000 for Charity Water again. It's a huge amount of money and we can't do this alone, so once again, I really need your help! You might remember why the efforts of Charity Water are so important:
"Water changes everything. Join Us."
I am responsible for fundraising at least $200 of the total this year, but I know we can raise more than that, can't we?
This year I have decided to give away a *custom piece of art* for EVERY $20 donation made in my name. (That means if you donate $40, you get two!) By custom, I mean your favorite color, your favorite face and you favorite three words will all be combined into one fabulous 4x6 piece of art.
All you have to do is go to our Camp Mighty Charity Water fundraising page, hit the blue "DONATE TO THIS CAMPAIGN button", enter in a donation amount for $20 or more, enter your first and last name and put "for Leslie Fandrich" in the comment section. That last part is super important so I can track all the donations made for me. I will mail you (probably before Christmas, so you could get these as gifts!) a custom piece of art that will include, as I said above, your favorite color, a drawing of you or someone you love and up to three words. Here's an example that I did for myself: Gold + my face + "Sparkle and Shine" = Awesome reminder of what I have to do each day.
Your custom art will be painted and drawn on a 4x6 inch piece of 140 lb watercolor paper. I'll use watercolor or liquid acrylic paint and archival Micron pens. It's perfect for framing however you choose. (The frame above is NOT included.)
Here are some combinations you might want to consider:
- Blue or Pink + your baby's face + your baby's name = Adorable keepsake.
- Brown + your dog + speech bubble with "I LOVE YOU" = A reminder of what Buster is thinking all day.
- Pink + YOU + "Survivor" = Proud breast cancer survivor.
- Red + your Grandma + "Kick Ass Grandma" = Unique and slightly inappropriate Christmas gift.
- Silver + Dr. Evil from Austin Powers + "One Million Dollars" = Financial goal and favorite movie quote all in one.
You get the idea, right? Good. Now go donate $20 to one of the best charities on the planet, don't forget to put MY name in the comment area of the donation form, email me (lesliedf at gmail dot com) your preferences for your custom work of art and feel awesome that we are helping to bring clean water and beautiful smiles to people like this:
Charity Water is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, so all donations made directly to the organization are tax-deductible.
Thank you so much for all your support! This is a great cause, one that I know I will continue to support in the future. It's such a wide spread problem, and such an easy fix.
GO CAMP MIGHTY!
On Tuesday I wrote Part One about Shauna's beautiful space and my girl crush on Danielle. Today I dive deeper into the exercises we did, specifically the jealousy map.
Girl Crush is more than girls crushing on each other. Before I went, I didn't really realise how in depth we were going to get about our goals and dreams. Yes, we had tea and cupcakes, but Danielle led us in three exercises adapted from The Artist's Way that were designed to get us comfortable sharing in the group, battle our inner critic, and recognise our greatest goals by identifying who we were jealous of.
Looking at who we are jealous of is an unconventional technique because we are taught that it is wrong to be jealous. We shouldn't envy our friends, or want to be something other than what we are, but the truth is that our brains do it ALL THE TIME. Instead of battling that feeling and letting our inner critic tell us we suck for being jealous, why not embrace that feeling, look at it honestly and figure out the WHY. Figuring out WHY we are jealous of someone can lead us to understand what we really should be focusing on in our lives.
Self-reflection is not easy and revealing who we are jealous of makes us feel vulnerable because we fear being judged. In the safety of the workshop it was still hard, but we all did it and supported each other with perspective, understanding and advice. First, we wrote down who we were jealous of, either a specific person, a type of person or a character trait. Then, we went back and tried to figure out WHY we were jealous of them. This is the part where the group discussion was very helpful because sometimes, the reasons we are jealous of someone are not obvious right away. Talking it out helped us to dig a little, find the truth and get to the heart of WHY. Once we figured out WHY, we thought of actionable steps that would help us fulfill that need or want or achieve our goal. Sounds easy right? It's kinda not.
I'm going to take deep breath and share who I am jealous of, to show you how this exercise worked for me. Don't judge, okay?
The one that I shared with the group was: I am jealous of in-crowds. Now, you might think it's because I want to be popular or to be seen, but you would be wrong. In-crowd might be the wrong term, but you know what I mean, right? It's a group of people who are already friends or have worked together before. I am jealous of them because of the support and opportunities that seem to come from being part of a group of people who are working together. It's hard to work alone, and to me, the in-crowd is this wonderful place to be, where you get hugs and jobs all day long. It's easy to look around and see cliques of people and want to be a part of one of those groups, but you can't apply to be a part of an in-crowd, they either include you, or they don't, and you have no control whatsoever about what other people do. So, here is what I have decided to do, I'm going to participate in and build my own community. I'm going to gather with those people around me who are doing what I do and I am going to hug them and support them and work with them. We all have our own communities if we just look around ourselves, like a local Mom's group, the local library or blogging friends who are attending the same events. Teaming up with the people who are already close to me is an excellent way to get support and opportunities.
After all three exercises I was totally exhausted and felt like I need to curl up and take a nap to process all the wonderful things that I heard, but we had one more task, art making! There were book covers, magazine clippings, stamps, pressed flowers, feathers and fantastic art supplies. We all got busy making art and tried to bring some of the insights we had during the day into our pieces. Sitting around the kitchen table, we had more discussions, and I wished that in the future I could conjure up this fantastic, creative table of women every time I needed them.
Thank you to everyone that attended Girl Crush Philly, especially Danielle and Shauna! You both did an amazing job inspiring us. Hope I can see you both again soon.
Over the weekend, Jill and I drove down to Philly to attend Danielle Krysa's (The Jealous Curator) Girl Crush art workshop and tea party at Shauna Alterio's loft apartment/studio. Our friend Elizabeth, who we met at Camp Mighty last year, came with us and put us up in her guest room for two nights. (Her home and family are adorable.) We were also surprised to see Jennifer Cooper from Classic Play and Stevie Koerner of Tru.che (who we also met at Camp Mighty) there as well. Seven more incredible women rounded out the group and we spent the day getting to know each other, getting to know our inner critic (that devil that often whispers self-hate in our ear) and supporting each other through discussions about how to allow creativity into our lives as much as possible.
Shauna and her husband Steve seem to live and breath creativity. Their blog Something's Hiding in Here and companies Forage Haberdashery and Seed House Stationaries represent the diverse range of things they like to make and every inch of their personal space is thoughtfully considered and decorated in a perfectly whimsical, modern and eclectic way. I felt like I was in an Anthropologie store before I even knew that Shauna had once worked for them designing displays and directing the visual language of all the stores. Everywhere I looked I was just in awe of beautiful objects, beautifully arranged.
While the space was envy-worthy, what topped it was the people who filled the room. These women were incredible. Each one had an interesting background (videographer, chemical engineer, artist, curator, designer, writer) and really interesting ideas about where they wanted to take their lives. Shauna was the hostess and the center of much of the girl crushing, however I must admit that the reason that I was there was to crush on Danielle. There is something about her that I feel such a kinship towards. I'm sure half of it is that she is Canadian, but it's also her art school background, ad agency experience and her five year stay-at-home Mom stint before she realized if she didn't do something for herself again she might go crazy. All that is me too. I feel like I need to learn something from her. Yes, she was definitely my biggest crush of the day.
These gatherings of creative women are certainly something special. It's such a safe, nurturing environment and yet it's no cake walk. Vulnerabilities were revealed, feedback was given, we were all asking questions and trying to get at the root of blocks and issues that may be holding us back. It's hard work. It was exhausting. But it was amazing to witness and participate in.
I have so much more to share about the insights that I had and the exercises we did to reveal them. Stay tuned for more soon. For now, you can check out the rest of my pictures on Flickr.
Update! Read PART TWO, in which I reveal who I am jealous of. (It might be you.)
I found these amazing clockwork birds at The Evolution Store in SoHo last week. Aren't they beautiful? They are created by Jim and Tori Mullen and you can see more of these beautiful creatures on their website.
Reading about them on the site, it seems as if this is something that developed after many years of collecting ephemera and making art. From the site:
"In 1991 original decoys were passed on to us and they decorated Jim’s studio for years. In 2006 Jim decided to go through his boxes of old and damaged birds and have some fun. He combined his love of mixed media with his vast collection of found objects and a new 3-D art form was born."
Now, these pieces are sold for $300 - $400 at stores and galleries all over the United States.
It's inspiring to be reminded that sometimes incredible work comes from years of foundational work and everything that you do will add to and build up your abilities, materials and ideas.
What do you have laying around that could inspire your next project?
During the New York City show at Webster Hall for Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, there was a moment that simply took my breath away. During the song Bottomfeeder, Amanda gracefully entered into the most beautiful crowd surf in the history of music. She was wearing an epic chiffon train, created by her long time costume designer Kambriel, that stretched out behind her and covered dozens of people, rippling over everyone like water. It was so poetic and the act of literally being supported by her fans was not lost on anyone.
Quote from Kambriel:
"I’d venture to say her entrance into the crowdsurf was quite possibly the most elegant ever. Floating upon waves of outstretched hands. This amazing moment lasted the entirety of the song, and sent Amanda all the way from the stage to the very back of the venue, around, and up to the stage once more… It was magic."
I was lucky enough to be up in the balcony and to capture this amazing moment from high above. It would have been incredible to be on the floor and under the train as well, but I'm so glad, from a photography point of view, to have witnessed this from where I did. What a sight.
I've got a ton more photos from the show, but this moment deserved it's own post. Seriously, if you have a chance to see her show, you don't want to miss this one. It's full of beauty, power, emotion and inspiration.
Were you there in New York? Have you seen her in another city? What did you think?
Also, if you are interested, check out my post about the Kickstarter show at Momenta Gallery in NYC.
In July and August I took the advanced painting class that Lisa Congdon and Mati McDonough offer called Beyond the Basics. The approach in this class was a little different than in the original Get Your Paint On, instead of doing one painting per week for five weeks, we worked on one or two paintings slowly over the five week period. Each week we completed one stage and built up the canvas as we went.
I hadn't taken a painting class before Get Your Paint On and it hadn't occurred to me to create a painting in stages, slowly building up the layers and carefully refining the shapes and colors as I went. It seems so obvious now, but you know what they say about hindsight. You can see an animated gif of the four stages I took Rolling Hills and Houses through. To see the four stages of Open Door, scroll to the bottom of the post. I love watching them cycle through the stages, to see how they go from rough, washy images to a clear, sharp and solid paintings.
It was so helpful to slow down the process and really take my time. This approach ensures that there is room to make mistakes and fix them as you go along. Paint can always be painted over and the richness that develops as you layer paint is really incredible. I feel like I am finally grasping concepts that will help me illustrate the ideas and scenes in my head and I look forward to continuing to paint.
For these two paintings I wanted to illustrate the idea of being on a journey and to also continue with the house and feather themes from two paintings I made in the first GYPO class. Open Door is a little more obvious and the concept began with the door handle. I modelled it after the door handle in my old room of the house I grew up in. I wondered, what would be inspiring to find behind a door you opened at the beginning of a journey? For me, it would be an old letter from a friend offering advice, a compass to find my way and a feather so I could fly. It's up to you what is inside the box. Maybe an invisibility cloak, or puzzle pieces, or even a sledgehammer. The box contains whatever it is you need on your journey.
In the second painting I wanted to visually represent the six stages I feel like I have passed through in my own life. The small house on the left represents my childhood. The house on the bottom right represents my teen years and has a distorted perspective from the rest of the houses, the next house up with a huge red roof represents my college years that had so much learning and thought. The house with the glowing yellow roof is my amazing time working as a designer in New York City and the house on the top right represents me as a mother. My motherhood house has a small roof but a huge main floor full of love. The last house on the top left is where I am at now. It's the biggest and most balanced of them all.
I'm really happy with them, I feel like I was successful at making these paintings into what I wanted them to be, but I still have that feeling of seeing other paintings and wishing I had made something else instead. Isn't it weird that despite what we accomplish we still wish we had done something more or something different? These paintings are far more colorful than the type of paintings I am drawn too and they feel like they are missing some kind of sophistication or coolness. I don't know, maybe it's my own internal critic but I suppose I simply must keep working. I'm pretty sure that the more paintings I make, the better they will be.
I'd love your feedback. I mean, if you think these paintings suck please don't tell me THAT, but you know, constructive criticism would be awesome. Thanks friends! Your input and support is always so valuable to me.
Amanda Palmer and her new band The Grand Theft Orchestra have an album coming out in September called Theatre is Evil. She made music history by raising 1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter to fund the production, promotion and tour for the record. Chris and I bought the Kickstarter package that included a NYC gallery opening of the art work inspired by music from the record, as well as a special acoustic performance in the art gallery. It was an epic night.
I'm going to let the pictures mostly speak for themselves for the moment (I've got a post brewing about why I think Amanda Palmer is so relevant and important) but I will say just a few things.
- Almost the first thing I noticed when we got to Momenta Gallery was Amanda. She was heading outside to take pictures and she swept by us in bare feet. For the rest of the evening she was completely present and available to everyone who wanted a minute with her, not hiding in the back room until it was time to go on stage. It was awesome.
- The second thing I noticed was that the A/C in the gallery was broken. Sweat was literally rolling down my back but the oppressive heat was like another character in the performance. It made things sticky and uncomfortable and it added a rawness that might have otherwise been missing. That was kind of awesome too.
- The third thing was that Amanda pours her heart and soul into her performances and I was left wondering how she can take in so much energy from her friends and fans and send it back out again. It's like she is an emotional conduit for everyone and that connection is one of the things that endears her to fans and makes her so special. Again, awesome.
- The last thing was that her bandmates; Jherek Bischoff, Michael McQuilken and Chad Raines are incredibly talent musicians who are bright enough lights to stand next to Amanda and not get lost. It was amazing to witness their synchronicity with each other and I'm pretty sure they could make music with practically anything. Awesome, Awesome and Awesome.
Well done Grand Theft Orchestra and a huge Thank-you to Amanda for an amazing night I won't EVER forget. (Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a link to the entire set of pictures.)
Were you there at Momenta with us? Did you see this performance in another city? What were your thoughts or favorite moments? Personally, I loved the performance of Trout Heart Replica, with the beet cutting and also the performance and artwork for The Bed Song. The ritual of laying out the bed sheets was amazing and Kyle Cassidy's B&W photographs of people laying in bed were so touching, intimate and of course sad.
Finally, if you want to see it all, including MORE NAKEDNESS, check out the complete set of photos on Flickr.
This is my final painting for Get Your Paint On. It is most certainly a culmination of everything that I learned in the class. I feel like, for one of the first times, I envisioned a painting and was able to make it real. It felt good. I used what I learned about color, composition and layering to create this painting one step at a time and I totally enjoyed every moment of painting it. Mati's final words for me were simply that she had wished she had painted it. That's saying a lot. I've posted my paintings from week one and weeks two, three and four as well.
With summer looming, I am trying to piece together a schedule for the kids so I can maintain the work time I have come to count on. I've got a little local summer camp planned for them, a few overnights with relatives and a daytime babysitter lined up to come to the house here and there. I am also embracing the summer. We have some vacation time planned and I'll be taking the kids to the local beach and parks, so things may be slower and more erratic around here over the next couple of months.
I'm looking forward to this time, to think about what I'm trying to do, and to figure out what I really want to focus on. I feel like I have been saturated with inspiration over the last year and I need to let things soak a little. Do you know that feeling? I have been seeking out every opportunity to be inspired, to learn and to connect with people and I feel like I need some down time to absorb it all. I didn't write about Mom 2.0 or about BlogStar Supper, not because they weren't amazing (because they totally were) but because I just needed a break from trying to formulate quantifiable learning points about every experience I have been having.
Each experience influenced my life in one way or another, as all great experiences do. There were little moments and big moments and the ripples will probably be seen in everything I do. Sometimes it's hard to talk about these moments when the experience feels deeper than just what is on the surface. I feel a shift happened over the last month. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's almost like seeds that I have been planting are just barely starting to grow. These little things are fragile and I feel like I need to cup my hands around them and protect them until I know they are strong and will keep growing.
The creative process is so mysterious! Sometimes you have to push outward, force yourself forward and soak it all up, and other times you have to pull inward, sit still and let things absorb into your brain. Here are a few great posts I read last week that have hints of some of the ideas I have been thinking about. (Also - one of the ripples from Mom 2.0 is that I have been commenting more, thanks to a great 7 minute talk by Liz Gumbinner of Mom 101. I left a comment on each of these posts and have committed to leaving a comment every time I read a post that resonates with me. You should too!)
Bloggers: Are We All Neurotic Extraverted Introverts? by Melanie at Inward Facing Girl
Lemons. Lemonade. by Kelly at MochaMomma
Rebirth: What We Don't Say by The Sage Mama (thanks for the link S.M.)
Purge by Tracey at Sweetney
Speaking of purging, that is exactly what I did this weekend in the family room/kid's playroom and in my studio space. We have a separate guest house that is semi-attached to the house that I use as my studio, but over the winter it became a major storage room. I am just finally digging myself out of it. I cleared enough space for me to do my work for the painting class last month, but I discovered a few problems with the layout of the room and I need to rearrange things and finish sorting through a ton of my own clothes, paperwork from years ago and a bunch of baby items. More shifting.
The goal is to have both the family room and my studio space pared down to just the things that we love and use. I find it so much easier to use a space when it's not cluttered and when I have easy access to everything I need. My work space has also been very fragmented lately and I think I would benefit from bringing everything together into one place. My computer has been in the family room in the main house, so I have had easy access to it, but with the kids home from school over the summer I think it would be good to move it out to the studio where I can have my own quiet space to work, even if they are home.
How does your physical space influence your mental space? Does your creative process also have moments of pushing out and then pulling in? Summer is a good time for thoughtful reflection, don't you think? As always, I'd love to hear from you. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
The painting class I was taking, Get Your Paint On, is over but I still have to finish my final painting. (EDIT: Here is my final painting for the class!) These are the paintings that I completed for weeks two, three and four and I am quite proud of them! (Week One is here.) I got some excellent feedback from my classmates and instructors in the Flickr group, and despite the madness that has been the last few weeks, with travel and life, I was able to get everything done and be happy with what I was able to produce.
The painting above went through a remarkable metamorphosis, starting out as this. I had no plan and I just kept painting until I was happy with it. If I painted an area I didn't like, I would just paint it out with white or titan buff. I did that a lot, and the texture was built up and I really liked the layering process. I hope in the future to be able to direct myself more toward a goal like this, rather than flailing around and not knowing what I am working towards, but for now I am just enjoying the discovery and the process of painting. Here is what Lisa had to say about my painting,
"Wow. That's what I said when I saw this just now for the first time. I think you have some real talent as a painter, Leslie! The colors and composition here are just amazing. The texture is also fantastic. I love the little moon too. My only suggestion is that the barn/house is a tiny bit vast and takes over a bit. I am wondering if the space would be broken up a bit if you added a window on the side the same color as the door? but further up? I think that would help the composition slightly. - Lisa"
For the painting below, the beach scene, I actually did have a clear idea of what I wanted to paint. I sketched the scene out on paper first and I knew exactly what kind of colors I wanted to use. I really enjoy the color mixing process and I think all the experience I have had as a photographer and designer really helps me here. I see and think in colors all the time. I was so thrilled to see that this painting was selected by Mati and Lisa to be highlighted in the final class blog post! I included what they had to say about it below.
From the Flickr pool: "There is quite a lot I like about this painting, Leslie. I love the colors, first. It's a really nice balance of warm and cool. I also think the composition is exquisite. I love the juxtaposition of the diagonal line with the straight line and how the line of the sign mirrors the diagonal line of the beach. The tiny ship is just the perfect amount of detail. This is very Edward Hopper to me. Anyhow, my only feedback is that I'd like to see more shading on the sign to make it appear as if it's popped forward a bit. The tricky thing is we haven't "taught" this yet, so I hesitate to even give this feedback! I'm wondering if even the slightest, thinnest dark great line around the edge of the sign would help move it forward a bit? Other than that, I think it's almost perfection. - Lisa"
From the class blog: "Here are some things that make this painting successful:
+Color: Variations in blue. Nothing is entirely flat. And yet it has a soft, flat feel to it. Balance of warm and cool colors, but cool dominates.
+Composition: really wonderful placement of everything -- from the sign that is slightly diagonal to mirror the beach line, and the horizon line with a ship far in the distance. Nothing competes in this painting. Everything is in perfect balance.
+Consistency: This painting is consistent. It's flat but it's also painterly (which is really hard to pull off successfully) and every element has the same level of paint application and brush stroke. I feel like every inch of the canvas got the same attention. Nothing is "underworked".
+Subject matter: this painting is narrative. We are forced to ponder: "what's happening here?"
Awesome piece. - Mati and Lisa"
After all that positive feedback on both paintings I felt awesome, and thought that maybe I can do this art thing in a meaningful way, along side my photography. The feedback is invaluable and has increased my confidence in my painting abilities, but even without that I think I would have felt proud of what I had created. I knew that I had gotten these paintings to good places, where I was happy to show them and I was proud of what they looked like.
My fish painting, below, was fun to do. I almost didn't post it because it was kind of an after thought, but I am glad that I did. It got a lot of reaction on Facebook actually, from friends that were not taking the class. I painted it at the end of the day, to use up some paint I had left from the beach painting. I was just scrubbing paint on the canvas and then I added the fish shapes in a moment of inspiration. I enjoyed it, and I guess it shows. Sometimes you work so hard to pull something out of you, and sometimes it just flows.
These last two paintings were done for week two. The assignment was to choose a painter who inspires us and I chose Ed Ruscha. I've loved his work for a long time and it tied in nicely to the typography work I've been doing. I also used a photograph I had taken, of a sunset over New York, as the inspiration for the background. The process of taping out the words was tedious, but for the first time I used a bone folder to "seal" the tape edges and prevent any paint from leaking under. It worked! I really loved painting the skyline and the windows and I think I am going to try painting a few more skylines. I do prefer the realism of the skyline and the technique for painting the sky in the canvas on the left.
Overall I have learned so much! Just getting a push to paint once a week was helpful and Lisa and Mati gave plenty of guidance and examples of techniques and styles. The positive feedback was the best, to hear that I have talent is a huge motivating factor for me. I know I love to paint and when I push myself past the ugly I can get it to a nice place. The key is to just keep working on it!
If you are thinking of doing a painting class, but can't commit to attending a class every week in person, this is a great self-paced and easy environment to learn. As it is with these online courses, you get out of it what you put into it. I'll be signing up for the advanced class in the summer, to learn more about shading, creating dimension and deciding on subject matter. I can't wait!
I heart Neil Gaiman. You might know this about me already. More than the work that he does, which is awesome and amazing, his creative and free spirit is contagious. He recently gave the 134th commencement speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and everything he says is spot on for anyone thinking of making a living creating art, or really for anyone doing anything creative. Watch the video or read the transcript (from the U Arts website) below, and be inspired.
May 17, 2012
I never really expected to find myself giving advice to people graduating from an establishment of higher education. I never graduated from any such establishment. I never even started at one. I escaped from school as soon as I could, when the prospect of four more years of enforced learning before I'd become the writer I wanted to be was stifling.
I got out into the world, I wrote, and I became a better writer the more I wrote, and I wrote some more, and nobody ever seemed to mind that I was making it up as I went along, they just read what I wrote and they paid for it, or they didn't, and often they commissioned me to write something else for them.
Which has left me with a healthy respect and fondness for higher education that those of my friends and family, who attended Universities, were cured of long ago.
Looking back, I've had a remarkable ride. I'm not sure I can call it a career, because a career implies that I had some kind of career plan, and I never did. The nearest thing I had was a list I made when I was 15 of everything I wanted to do: to write an adult novel, a children's book, a comic, a movie, record an audiobook, write an episode of Doctor Who... and so on. I didn't have a career. I just did the next thing on the list.
So I thought I'd tell you everything I wish I'd known starting out, and a few things that, looking back on it, I suppose that I did know. And that I would also give you the best piece of advice I'd ever got, which I completely failed to follow.
First of all: When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing.
This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can.
If you don't know it's impossible it's easier to do. And because nobody's done it before, they haven't made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet.
Secondly, If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.
And that's much harder than it sounds and, sometimes in the end, so much easier than you might imagine. Because normally, there are things you have to do before you can get to the place you want to be. I wanted to write comics and novels and stories and films, so I became a journalist, because journalists are allowed to ask questions, and to simply go and find out how the world works, and besides, to do those things I needed to write and to write well, and I was being paid to learn how to write economically, crisply, sometimes under adverse conditions, and on time.
Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you'll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.
I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work.
Thirdly, When you start off, you have to deal with the problems of failure. You need to be thickskinned, to learn that not every project will survive. A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.
The problems of failure are problems of discouragement, of hopelessness, of hunger. You want everything to happen and you want it now, and things go wrong. My first book – a piece of journalism I had done for the money, and which had already bought me an electric typewriter from the advance – should have been a bestseller. It should have paid me a lot of money. If the publisher hadn't gone into involuntary liquidation between the first print run selling out and the second printing, and before any royalties could be paid, it would have done.
And I shrugged, and I still had my electric typewriter and enough money to pay the rent for a couple of months, and I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn't get the money, then you didn't have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn't get the money, at least I'd have the work.
Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me. I don't know that it's an issue for anybody but me, but it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money, either. The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I've never regretted the time I spent on any of them.
The problems of failure are hard.
The problems of success can be harder, because nobody warns you about them.
The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It's Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.
In my case, I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard (I don't know why he carried a clipboard, in my head, but he did) would be there, to tell me it was all over, and they had caught up with me, and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn't consist of making things up and writing them down, and reading books I wanted to read. And then I would go away quietly and get the kind of job where you don't have to make things up any more.
The problems of success. They're real, and with luck you'll experience them. The point where you stop saying yes to everything, because now the bottles you threw in the ocean are all coming back, and have to learn to say no.
I watched my peers, and my friends, and the ones who were older than me and watch how miserable some of them were: I'd listen to them telling me that they couldn't envisage a world where they did what they had always wanted to do any more, because now they had to earn a certain amount every month just to keep where they were. They couldn't go and do the things that mattered, and that they had really wanted to do; and that seemed as a big a tragedy as any problem of failure.
And after that, the biggest problem of success is that the world conspires to stop you doing the thing that you do, because you are successful. There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby. I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.
Fourthly, I hope you'll make mistakes. If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, “Coraline looks like a real name...”
And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that's unique. You have the ability to make art.
And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that's been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.
Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.
Make good art.
I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
Make it on the good days too.
And Fifthly, while you are at it, make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do.
The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that's not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we've sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.
The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.
The things I've done that worked the best were the things I was the least certain about, the stories where I was sure they would either work, or more likely be the kinds of embarrassing failures people would gather together and talk about until the end of time. They always had that in common: looking back at them, people explain why they were inevitable successes. While I was doing them, I had no idea.
I still don't. And where would be the fun in making something you knew was going to work?
And sometimes the things I did really didn't work. There are stories of mine that have never been reprinted. Some of them never even left the house. But I learned as much from them as I did from the things that worked.
Sixthly. I will pass on some secret freelancer knowledge. Secret knowledge is always good. And it is useful for anyone who ever plans to create art for other people, to enter a freelance world of any kind. I learned it in comics, but it applies to other fields too. And it's this:
People get hired because, somehow, they get hired. In my case I did something which these days would be easy to check, and would get me into trouble, and when I started out, in those pre-internet days, seemed like a sensible career strategy: when I was asked by editors who I'd worked for, I lied. I listed a handful of magazines that sounded likely, and I sounded confident, and I got jobs. I then made it a point of honour to have written something for each of the magazines I'd listed to get that first job, so that I hadn't actually lied, I'd just been chronologically challenged... You get work however you get work.
People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today's world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They'll forgive the lateness of the work if it's good, and if they like you. And you don't have to be as good as the others if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.
When I agreed to give this address, I started trying to think what the best advice I'd been given over the years was.
And it came from Stephen King twenty years ago, at the height of the success of Sandman. I was writing a comic that people loved and were taking seriously. King had liked Sandman and my novel with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, and he saw the madness, the long signing lines, all that, and his advice was this:
“This is really great. You should enjoy it.”
And I didn't. Best advice I got that I ignored.Instead I worried about it. I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story. There wasn't a moment for the next fourteen or fifteen years that I wasn't writing something in my head, or wondering about it. And I didn't stop and look around and go, this is really fun. I wish I'd enjoyed it more. It's been an amazing ride. But there were parts of the ride I missed, because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on.
That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.
And here, on this platform, today, is one of those places. (I am enjoying myself immensely.)
To all today's graduates: I wish you luck. Luck is useful. Often you will discover that the harder you work, and the more wisely you work, the luckier you get. But there is luck, and it helps.
We're in a transitional world right now, if you're in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I've talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away. The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds.
Which is, on the one hand, intimidating, and on the other, immensely liberating. The rules, the assumptions, the now-we're supposed to's of how you get your work seen, and what you do then, are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen. YouTube and the web (and whatever comes after YouTube and the web) can give you more people watching than television ever did. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are.
So make up your own rules.
Someone asked me recently how to do something she thought was going to be difficult, in this case recording an audio book, and I suggested she pretend that she was someone who could do it. Not pretend to do it, but pretend she was someone who could. She put up a notice to this effect on the studio wall, and she said it helped.
So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.
And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.
- Neil Gaiman