HARP lessons? I've always wanted to play the harp.
Online business classes? My art IS my business. Sign me up!
Learn Spanish in one year? Oooh. Being bilingual would be amazing.
...Actually, I've always wanted to learn sign language too, so let's shoot for trilingual!
Choir that meets over lunch? Fun! I could TOTALLY squeeze that in!
Evening cooking class? Funnnnn!
...you get the idea! Y'ALL. My month and a half of 2019 has been FILLED with daily invitations like these. Log into Facebook, and you immediately have access to a variety of exciting events and classes coming your way! But how do you decide which to participate in, and which to pass by? I have been so close to pressing the I'M GOING! button on so many of these events. So what's stopped me? That nagging little voice in my head---I'll call it my inner artist.
The inner dialog goes something like this:
ME: Oh my gosh! Harp lessons?! I have wanted to play the harp for awhile now! Totally signing up!
INNER ARTIST: Whoa there. WEEKLY harp lessons means DAILY practice and commitment. Is there anything you'd rather be using your time for? (New Year's resolutions, anyone?)
I'm stopped in my tracks just about every time my inner artist asks that question. The truth I came to acknowledge a little over 8 years ago was that I AM AN ARTIST. I don't say that sentence lightly, and I can tell you, it took many, many YEARS for me to be able to say it confidently. Sure, most of my life I have made art...and friends and family called me an "artist." So why was it such a big deal for me to call myself an artist? Words are powerful, and the word ARTIST, when used to describe myself, means COMMITMENT. It a LIFE resolution. Every day, I recommit to my art making practice---taking some semblance of a step forward. Now, that doesn't mean that every single free moment of my life is spent making art. But, at least once a day, I make time for my art. On some days, that may look like spending an hour or two working on a painting. Other days that might look like sketching out ideas, taking an inspirational walk, updating my website, or applying for new shows/exhibition opportunities. Still other days it might very well look like taking that business class or that evening cooking class. The defining difference is that my decision to press that "I'M GOING" button is made while keeping in mind my LIFE resolution to continue grow as an artist. I often find inspiration in the most unexpected places, and cooking class might just be one of those places!
So, as you find yourself 8 weeks into 2019, I encourage you to think about your own LIFE resolutions. You don't need to share these resolutions with anyone (unless you really want to!)---Just make a promise to YOURSELF that you are going to take steps every day to grow closer towards those goals. That means sometimes saying no to those things that may seem fun, but take you away from your ultimate goals (ie. becoming a harpist). The best part? No matter how big or small the step, you are continuing to move forward towards your goals.
Lately, I've been coming across the mid-progress posts of various creatives involved in these 365-day challenges--the ones that usually begin around New Year's Day, involving promising to do something consistently every day of the year (sketch 365, 365 days of doodles, photograph-a-day, blog 365, etc.). No matter what name you give it, there is something uniquely rewarding about doing something EVERY DAY, as opposed to once a week, month, or whenever inspiration hits.
What's so magical about doing something every day? I remember back (was it really THAT long ago?!) when I was in my first year of undergraduate studies, I took an intro to painting class. One of our very first assignments was to paint 15 paintings in one day. We were told to set a timer and give ourselves no more than 5 minutes for each of the first 10 paintings. When the timer went off, we were to stop wherever we happened to be in the painting and move onto the next. After we completed this assignment, we had to do 5 more paintings with 10 minutes each. For the first couple of paintings, I remember not getting terribly far before the timer beeped--and, out of frustration, I may or may not have continued painting a little past the timer to finish the area I had been working on. After 4 or 5 paintings, I finally got into a groove and was able to even finish a few! By the time I got to the 10-minute paintings, I found, to my surprise, that I was able to finish my paintings well before the timer dinged--and actually had time to go back and add extra details!
All this is to say, there is something incredibly freeing (and initially terrifying) about doing something in repetition--whether it be every 5 minutes or every day. Being under time constraints can be scary because it means that there isn't a lot of time for fixing mistakes or staring at a blank paper...you have no choice but to commit to an idea and let go of the need for perfection. While I have never done one of these 365-day challenges, I have, for the past 5 years of my art career, committed to a consistent studio practice. Being consistent in my practice--be it painting, prepping canvases, blogging, sketching, or something else entirely-- means I'm always taking steps forward to keep the momentum going. As I discovered back in my undergraduate painting class, once you get into a groove, that curtain of perfection will lift and you will discover things will start to get a little easier and eventually become a natural and integral part of your day (habit).
Looking to make a change? Why wait till 2019? Give a consistency challenge a try--be it every day, every week, or month--consistency is key.
I'll be the first to admit that fashion is NOT my thing--though I find myself continually inspired by the people I see confidently walking around wearing color and pattern combinations I never would have imagined worked together (like black & white stripes with floral patterns?! Love it.)
Last week I stumbled upon a documentary about photographer Bill Cunningham (free to watch with Amazon Prime). Cunningham, despite claiming not to be a 'real' photographer, spent his days photographing the fashion trends he came across on the streets of New York. There were so many great takeaways from the film, but the biggest for me were stay true to your art and there is inspiration and beauty in simplicity. Cunningham kept things simple (biked everywhere, ate as cheaply as he could--even refused to accept payments so that he wouldn't feel like he owed anyone anything). He knew what he liked and was driven by those interests (without any desire for recognition). In fact, in the documentary he was shown receiving an award, and during the reception he could be seen telling other guests that they were more deserving of the award than he. Rather than spending his time photographing models on the runway, he much preferred capturing every day people, wearing their own unique ensembles.
Like Cunningham, I have found that inspiration abounds beyond the walls of my metaphorical (and physical) office. Despite my general disinterest in the world of fashion, this documentary was a great reminder of the value of stepping outside of your comfort zone every once in awhile to take a deep breath and open yourself to the possibilities around you.
Happy SECOND day of Spring! :)
Spring is such a beautifully messy season! Some of you may have already witnessed the new plant life emerging--bright green, hopeful sprouts, emerging through the soil, stretching towards the sunshine....only to be stopped in their tracks by a freak freeze/snowstorm/hailstorm/etc. Like I said, Spring can be messy. But, despite the set-backs/hurdles, new life emerges...and it's beautiful.
The more I think about it, the more Spring seems to mirror the creative process! Think about it. For those of you who follow me or other artists on social media, you probably don't get to see the freezes, hail and snow storms. Social media allows you to skip the rough drafts and erase marks of "Spring", and move right into the perfectly drawn/painted/sculpted finished works of "Summer."
So, in honor of Spring, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about my messy creative process! As many of you know, my paintings typically begin with a foundation of book pages, collaged over the surface. But even before that, there has to be an idea, or a series of ideas. Ideas always begin in an artist's head, which then have to be translated from dream to reality (sketch/rough draft). Once it exists, the idea then has to be translated to whatever medium the artist wants to use in order to transform their rough sketch into a finished work. If you've ever attempted to transfer an idea from your head to your hands, you know that this process can be incredibly messy (and, frustrating!)--and more often than not, the concept you had in your head is NOT what ends up in your finished product.
Since my work adds the extra dimension of words, a portion of my messy, rough draft stage also involves selecting text to go with my image. Once I have my idea translated into a rough draft "sketch" (usually a thumbnail sketch), I then go through a second round of transformation--transferring my tiny sketch onto the actual panel, covered with book pages. This process almost always results in even MORE changes to the original plan in my head (i.e. My thumbnail sketch wasn't the same proportions as my canvas, the position I planned to have my characters in doesn't look quite right, etc.).
Next comes the inking! Once I've decided that my composition is ready to go, I then begin inking over my sketch. This, again, usually results in a few changes as I look over the lines in detail. Once inked, I then begin painting all of the big shapes in my painting. Again, this process usually results in changes to my original idea (i.e. I decide certain colors look better together--or perhaps I'd rather fill certain areas with magazine textures as opposed to paint.). Once finished painting/collaging my colors, I add my last layer of ink and paint details (fur textures, smaller line work, stars in the sky, etc.), paint the colorful border around the side edges of my painting, and sign the bottom right corner. Pfew! Done.
So, next time you come across a finished, polished work of art, take a moment to appreciate the behind-the-scenes mess that likely went into this creation. Spring is messy. But the beauty that emerges is well worth the wait.
This post is more than likely NOT about what you would imagine after reading the title. If you were picturing a tutorial talking about something like THIS...
...you'll be sorely disappointed. The type of "re-colorizing" I wanted to talk about is more about you (and me) and bringing back color into fading inspiration.
Speaking from my own perspective, I've found that creative energy tends to come in bursts---after what can sometimes feel like months of faded inspiration. Way too often, I give into the urge to turn on auto pilot, going through the routine motions proven to get me through a day/week of work--waiting passively for inspiration to return. Unfortunately in my experience, I've found that this approach tends to not only drain even more color from creativity, but can also be incredibly disheartening for those waiting for inspiration's return.
So if you are feeling uninspired, unmotivated, and generally faded, why not actively do something about it? Sometimes that means forcing myself to go through the motions of creating (which isn't always the easiest thing to do). But more often than not, my best and fastest solution to bringing back some color into my life is to GET OUT.
John R. Stilgoe, in his book "Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places," elaborates on this process of "getting out." He writes:
"Get out now. Not just outside, but beyond the trap of the programmed electronic age so gently closing around so many people at the end of our century. Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run. Forget about blood pressure and arthritis, cardiovascular rejuvenation and weight reduction. Instead pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard. Walk. Stroll. Saunter. Ride a bike, and coast along a lot. Explore...Flex the mind, a little at first, then a lot. Savor something special. Enjoy the best-kept secret around--the ordinary, everyday landscape that rewards any explorer, that touches any explorer with magic."
I could easily continue quoting Stilgoe's writing regarding the art of exploration, but will force myself to stop here. Although the act of going outside can often initially require some deliberate movements (particularly if the weather is not cooperating), once you're out there, the sites, the sounds, and the act of forcing yourself to slow down inevitably brings inspiration and renewed creative energies. Below is one of my most recent paintings--inspired by our first snow storm of the year. Did I mention this week this week is in the 70's--sunshine and blue skies? Gotta love fall in Wyoming!
Feel like you could use a little re-colorizing? Get out. Take a walk around the block. Sit on a bench, close your eyes and just listen. Ride your bike. Your creativity will thank you.
“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”
In a recent post from author, Austin Kleon, he mentions this quote from "Groundhog Day," explaining "How you answer that question is your art." Earlier in his post, Kleon writes, "And, frankly, I no longer need my work to change anything — I just know I need to do it."
So...what would I do if I were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that I did mattered? Similar to Kleon's response, my answer to this question, without hesitation, would be "my art." Now, I admit this answer feels a little like cheating to me, because the truth is that even if everything else around me was exactly the same every single day, the artwork I made would be different... EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Even if it looked the same to the outside observer, each experience in creating it would be different. And if nothing that I did mattered, again, in a sneaky plot twist, my artwork WOULD matter because it would matter to me.
One of the biggest struggles when you are working as an artist--particularly when you are first starting out, is fighting the urge to make art that "sells." That, my friends, is a tremendous amount of pressure that will lead you, as an artist, to a massive, insurmountable creative road block. I don't know about you, but I can see right through an artist's work that is created just to sell. There is something cheap, and incredibly inauthentic about this type of work--reminiscent of the type of "art" that you can buy in a souvenir shop. And while I appreciate the business side of this form of "production," as an artist, willfully removing your creative freedom from the equation can hardly be fulfilling. Not surprisingly, this often results in not only the artist feeling a lack of connection to his/her work, but potential buyers also feeling a similar lack of connection.
A truth that I acknowledged early on in my career as an artist is that if I focused on creating artwork that mattered to me first and foremost, everything else would fall into place. And so far, that has proven to be true. My most fulfilling moments as an artist are when I am able to witness someone making a connection with my work. A few years ago, a visitor to my booth at an art festival, after spending several minutes smiling at my work, exclaimed, "You must be a happy person because when I look at your work it makes me happy!" In another instance, a mother stopped by one of my shows with 4 children. She looked completely exhausted and asked to sit for awhile while her kids ran around. As she sat and looked at my work, her face began to brighten, and when it was time for her to leave, she turned to me and said, "Thank you! I feel so much better now." She left with a smile on her face and a little more pep in her step. Instances like these, and countless others have proven to be more rewarding than a focus on making sales could ever be.
Focus on creating artwork that matters to YOU, and everything else will fall into place.
Over the past few months, I've been hard at work getting a body of new work ready to go for a big exhibition in Laramie, Wyoming-- Touchstone! This will be my first time exhibiting in Touchstone, and I am very excited to transform one of the hotel rooms into my own gallery space. For more information regarding Touchstone, check out their website.
The show will begin this Friday evening with a reception from 6-9pm, and then will continue Saturday from 10-5pm and Sunday from 1-5pm. Hope to see you there! In the meantime, here's a sneak peek of a few of the new pieces that will make their debut in the show!
As someone who begins her studio art practice AFTER a full day at work, taking the time to rest and just breathe can seem like a waste of valuable creative time. However, it turns out taking those moments of rest can be one of the most important thing for creatives to do! For my seventh podcast episode, I share a few thoughts on taking breaks to breathe and recharge in order to benefit your creativity!
Have a wonder-filled week!
Last week I had two different conversations that eventually led to the topic of artists' minds. The consensus is that they are FULL. Full of ideas, that is, and always searching for more. I know during my own day to day encounters and actions, I am constantly in the process of either taking in new ideas or thinking about/building on old ideas. It seems like some ideas need to sit and percolate longer than others, but eventually they all seem to find there way back out into the world-- as a part of a new work of art, a conversation, or perhaps as a simple fleeting thought.
For this week's podcast episode, I decided to focus on the power and importance of our thoughts. Enjoy!
Anyone who is familiar with my work knows that bears tend to make fairly regular appearances in my mixed media paintings. What can I say? I like bears. They're fun to paint, perfect for hugs, and my go-to larger animal when stars need to be caught, or a character needs a lift--and, until a few months ago, I hadn't given much thought to any deeper reason behind my bear fascination.
In this podcast episode, I discuss my thoughts and experiences with bears--including some very real bear encounters!
Have a great shortened week! (Thanks, Labor Day!)
Welcome to the whimsical world of Tara Pappas' mixed media art! Thank you for stopping by to view samples of my work and read a little about my adventures as an artist. I am always looking for new ways to connect and grow as an artist, so would love to hear from you if you have any questions or interests in a particular piece. I hope that my work brings you inspiration and joy!
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