I have found myself in several completely separate and unrelated conversations lately and one theme keeps coming up.
Why do we do that thing we do in that way that we do it? Actually I’m not sure if that sums it up well. I might write on, and see if this all becomes clearer by the end.
Danielle LaPorte has recently written a new book called White Hot Truth. Her premise is something like this. You know all that self help reading, self-proclaimed-expert advice seeking, program signing up, soul searching, affirmation reciting, clairvoyant consulting, life coaching, Insta-guru worshipping, all of that? Yep, It’s probably all ensuring that you can’t actually get to what you already know you want to do or be or create. It’s all just telling you on repeat that you are not quite enough….but if you just do this course, or that retreat, or read that book, of repeat that mantra, or follow these secret 7 steps, or spill your guts in front of this seminar audience, then you might just get there. You might then be complete, you might then be ready….and if not, there’s always the premium program, or the invite only masterclass. There's always somewhere to defer your efforts and your better judgement.
Undoubtedly, there are some genuine and brilliant sources of guidance out there....but not many.
Danielle writes from experience, and I'm so glad that she has.
People often ask me where I sell my work and I feel a sudden urge to justify my existence. The expected answer consists of a list of art galleries. But that’s not my answer. I have exhibited in galleries and art shows fairly regularly over the last few years, but I’ve got to say I’ve often done it for all of the wrong reasons. There’s a lot about the experience that has felt in opposition to all of the reasons I do this work - for work rather than for a hobby.
I don’t mean to rule out exhibitions for the rest of my career, and when opportunities present I consider everything, because it’s a bit stoopid not to. What I would like to rule out is being the bunny at the end of the exhibition string. Exhibitions where artists have to pay actual money to be considered for entry (yes, that’s a real thing) are out. Exhibitions where the gallery staff “design” the art are also out (yes that’s a thing too).
Who am I, you may say, to be throwing stinky mud at the fine folks of the art world.
No one is the answer, I’m no one important.
But I am an independent artist and I’m allowed to say that certain aspects of the way art is marketed and sold are absolute bollocks, and as such I’m allowed to do it differently. To my friends operating in gallery world who are blissfully happy and fulfilled, I’m clearly not talking about you here.
So the actual answer to the question of where I sell most of my work, is directly to the people that love it. Most of my work has been sold directly to clients via word of mouth, social media or more commonly through my private online events. What I love about working this way is that I usually get to have an actual conversation with the person who is buying my work. The people who buy my work almost always want to know how I painted it, or where the idea came from, and why. And I’m happy to tell them. It isn’t art-speak rubbish, it’s a real human connection. It's also the reason I seem to do a lot of commissions - because conversations and human connections. It is special to me that someone appreciates what I’ve made so much that they want to part with their money, in exchange for living with the art. That’s quite a significant transaction. I know that people put a lot of thought and consideration into buying something from me, and that’s the way I like it. I want you to buy it only if you actually love it, and it has real meaning or feeling for you. So perhaps you can see that whacking paintings up on a wall among a bunch of other “pictures for sale” feels kind of lacking something.
People are frequently buying art to match the cushions, and it will all be junk when the next series of “The Block” begins and they realise the cushions and the art are no longer trending. It’s hard to know what you love when you are always looking to a tv show or a magazine or to Instagram to find out what it is you are supposed to love at moment, what the cool people love. People are buying art because it's trending, and mistaking that for discernment. I find that a bit hilarious and a bit disturbing.
Knowing what you don’t want in life is sometimes easier than putting your finger on exactly what you do want, and I don't want to be in next summer's garage sale.
The conversations I’ve been having lately revolve around this. What is it you actually want and how can you actually go about creating it?
Some of these chats I’ve been having are with friends who are right in full career change swing and entrepreneurs riding the waves of the journey. Some conversations are with the “you’re so lucky” crowd, some are with curious bystanders.
Here’s what I've learned and what I know. You just keep doing what feels right, what feels like you - not comfort zone you, but deep and true you, most excellent self you. No one else’s 7 step plan was made for me, and at some point you need to stop seeking guru advice and top 10 recommendations and guaranteed quick fixes from outside of yourself, and start answering your own questions. Then my friend, the rubber meets the road, you put your money where you mouth is, you start to walk your talk. Please insert your own favourite “get that shit done” metaphor.
In the past, I have walked away from careers when I’ve gotten in deep enough to see the cogs and ugly machinations at work. I’ve opted out and walked away feeling all noble for not being a part of it anymore (talking to you fashion world). But I can’t walk away from art because I’m not sure what of me would be left. So instead I’m working, and walking my less than traditional path in a career with no promises, and no limits, and of course no manual. I'll be over here doing what feels right and I'll put my fingers in my ears and sing la la la la if I hear the words "If you want to be a real artist you should......"
This is absolutely not an advice column, way too many of those already. But if you know someone who might find this useful, please share it with them via social media, or any other way you like.
Thanks for sticking it out to the end!! Let me know what you think, or if you can relate.
ps. I mentioned private online events (read exhibitions, studio sales, pop-up stores). They are for my mailing list buddies only and if you think you might to be there, then I’d love you to join me with the form below . I have something special to announce in about 48 hrs so don’t delay!!
Habits are so hot right now aren’t they. Experts everywhere are talking about habits. How to break them, how to make them, wellness habits, business habits, parenting habits, habits to make you rich, and habits to help you sleep. Luckily for you, I’m rubbish at habits. Not as rubbish as I used to be, but still rubbish. Being bad at habits and therefore routine, you might assume that I’m all fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, spontaneous, floating along wherever the breeze may blow. I’m not that either, at all. I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle, like most people, probably like you. I’d like to be better though, and I think life could run more smoothly, just like the podcasts tell me, with a few tweaks here and there. I’m not going to give you any advice, but here’s the tip of the iceberg of changes I’d like to make. I’d love you to add your three in the comments below.
One to Break
Staying up late for no good reason. There are some good reasons to stay up late, but not many and they’re not at my house. Staying up late has definitely become a habit. When I go to bed late, I wake up late, I wake up tired, and I can’t be bothered starting the day in the way I’d like to - in a way that sets me up well for the rest of the day. Days are precious and like everyone else, I have a lot going on in life. Now more than ever I need to give myself the best chance of having a decent day, and it seems to start the night before. When I’m home, I’m going to bed by 10pm.
One to Make
Clean my brushes completely, immediately. I’m good at working right up until the last second and sticking my brushes in a glass of water when the clock strikes “school pickup”. What I’m terrible at is coming back to them in a timely fashion and finishing the clean up job. I’m ashamed to say that my beautiful, treasured, expensive paint brushes can sometimes stay in that glass of water for a couple of days. Bad artist, bad artist!! I must make a new habit of cleaning up completely, immediately. I am not silly enough to think I can achieve this in any other room of the house, but I’m going to do it in the studio. If I’m late for school pickup, you’ll know why.
One to Keep
Drawing every day. Every day. I started doing this a few years ago, and at first I was a little shaky. Sometimes I didn’t feel like drawing and sometimes I didn't know what to draw. Sometimes I didn’t have my proper drawing tools, the right sketchbook and my good pencil or pen. So sometimes I didn’t do it. I didn’t feel like I was “good enough” at it. But guess what? There’s no minimum standard required. Now drawing in the sand is enough, so is half a crayon on the back of an envelope. Daily drawing makes you an opportunist, a maverick, an adventurer. Now that I draw every day, I don’t get attached to the outcome and am less critical not just of my drawing but of everything.
I’d love to know what has worked for you, be it health, wealth, work, parenting, or just the general management of your crazy life. Add your breaker, maker and keeper in the comments below.
I haven’t really done much. I’ve not done mountains of things. That’s why I’m perfectly qualified to write this piece about getting things done.
If you wanted to lose 10kg (by the way, you don’t need to), would you go and ask the metabolically-gifted, naturally and effortlessly reed-thin friend who is always complaining about the problems associated with not being able to fill out the back of her jeans? (Apparently these problems are real, don’t scoff) Or do you go to your other person you know, who has battled a bit with their health. Your friend who has made lots of attempts, and almost as many failures, but seems to be thriving with vibrant health and happiness right now will be a far greater source of wisdom. (Youdontneedtolose10kgsyoudon’tneedtolose10kgsyoudontneedtolose10kgs)
So that’s where I come in. I’ve not done lots of things and I have failed so many times in so many ways. But there are somethings I have done. Allow me to be your guru!!
Here’s how you do stuff.
1. Power Up
In order to get to the end of these 4.5 steps, you’ll need a some juice, some fuel. This is kind of like packing your bags for a holiday, gathering ingredients for a recipe, or packing the entire contents of your house into a nappy bag (yes, memories permanently burned in). Preparation is everything and you need to prepare your mind.
I power up with inspiration that will convince me that anything really is possible, I am an amazing human being, and that the universe is on my side. Podcasts, books, TedTalks, meditation, time spent with world-conquering friends. Any or all of these are great at getting your mind where it needs to be before you begin, and you must continue engaging in these mind-feeding activities. Forever.
There comes a time when you have to actually start doing your thing, whatever that is. At this point, you must tell someone that you have started and what your end game is. Not your dog. Tell your world-conquering friends, tell your cheer squad. Don’t have any world-conquering friends or a cheer squad? Tell someone who does stuff. It’s likely that at some point you’ll tell someone that will respond with something less than encouragement. When this happens, grab a permanent black marker and write “DON'T TELL ME BIG STUFF. MY MIND IS TEENY WEENY.” across their forehead. This will protect you or someone else from making the same mistake in the future. Return to Step 1 and re-fuel. Once you have told the right person, the person who will ask you how it’s going next time they see you, you will feel a little nervous buzzing feeling. That's just the cogs of good action starting to turn. Now it’s time to gather your resources, make list of what needs to be done, and in what order, and place a goal date beside each. And now do it.
I know you can't quite afford it yet, and you don't have all of the necessary expertise, and the timing isn't right, but just start anyway.
3. Have a Breakdown
You are going to have an emotional breakdown of some kind. Whether your thing is building a veggie garden, tracing your ancestry back to the beginning of time, getting a book published, or turning your little passion project into a multi-million dollar enterprise, you are going to have a breakdown or three.
What is important to realise is that it is just another step in the process. An important step. It’s not the end. It’s resilience-building. Have your breakdown, get a haircut, move on to the next stage. Perhaps you need to re-visit Step 1. You won’t have a cheer squad celebrating every time you cross an item off your to-do list. It will be lonely and tedious at times and you’ll find lots of excellent reasons to abandon ship. For goodness sake keep going. Have your breakdown, and then keep going.
I have two words for you. Self sabotage.
I know the things you do to that keep you small and safe. You say No to little opportunities because you’re too busy, not experienced enough, have other responsibilities. You refuse offers of help because you don’t want to inconvenience anyone, and you don’t put your hand up for help when you know you need it. You let due dates slide, because then you’ve missed out and that lets you off the hook. You listen to the naysayers on repeat in your mind, and you call them “voices of reason”. I’ve done them all, I’ve resigned from awesome jobs, and turned down perfect opportunities because I was scared of failure, and also scared of possible success and the unfamiliar territory that success may land me in.
I was in the audience for Missy Higgins’ first keynote speech where she spoke about her creative life and creative process. She was an amazing speaker, and had a great story to tell. Her advice for getting stuff done was “Don’t take any shit from yourself”. Call yourself on your own crap, and get it done. Keep going and don’t stop until it’s finished. UNTIL IT’S FINISHED.
The extra half a step accounts for the fact the you must keep returning to Step 1. Tell someone you’re starting, return to step one. Have a breakdown, return to step 1. Rescue yourself from self-sabotage, return to step 1. Finish you thing completely, return to step 1. There are so many resources out there
In the comments below, tell me how you do stuff. How do you Power Up? and tell me I'm not alone in my self-sabotaging ways....?
So it’s really true. It’s the year 2015. Contrary to what we were led to believe when as youngsters we watched a science show called Towards 2000, we actually don’t swallow our meals in capsule form, our cars don’t hover above the surface of the road and we still have no comprehensive manual for raising a child. Instead we’ve got the Thermomix, Skylanders and sexting, none of which I’ve needed yet.
It’s nice to get a little introspective at the beginning of a new year. To think back over the previous year, successes and failures, wins, losses, and still-not-sures, a little self study; it’s an important armchair (or banana lounge) journey that needs to be taken. I’m a fairly contemplative person and I get this way about every half-hour, 365 days a year, so I like January when everyone else joins in.
We spent the first half of 2014 in a bit of domestic limbo. With a fairly spontaneous house purchase, we quickly swung into house selling mode. This was closely followed by packing mode, moving mode, live-out-of-suitcase-for-a-month mode, and finally unpacking mode. When I popped my head up to take a breath, June!! There’s nothing quite like a little self inflicted whirlwind to shake you out of the rut you didn’t know you were in.
Instead of painting (studio packed in boxes for four months), I did lots of drawing last year, a practise that I hadn’t given much time to recently. Within this drawing practise I rediscovered some materials I hadn’t used in years. Oh the joy of really great coloured pencils!! ...and the aggravation of bad ones!! I also found some new loves. How you doin’ ink brush/pen thingy ;)
Pastels, watercolours, pens, markers; yes it’s been an expensive year, but a year of learning and many firsts. I’ve spent many creative years successfully avoiding drawing faces. If we've hung around together on Facebook (and if we haven’t, please let’s FB) you'll know that last year I drew a buzillion faces. The fact that I'm even on facebook at all is a fairly big deal too. I’ve always been very careful (ok, fearful) about who saw my work and which finished piece they saw. I would never have shown you casual sketching or work in progress. Growth man!
Last year my art was about growth, experimentation, and finding a joyous rhythm to life now that my babies are both at school. I'm not sure I found the joyous rhythm, and that was probably not a realistic expectation, given we are living without a dishwasher. But the opportunities to experiment without pressure, and grow both creatively and personally, to lay my sketchbooks open for anyone who cares to look feels far less painful than I’d imagined. Actually, it feels really good.
So I am leaning in to 2015. I've got a new pretty diary and I'm ready for the next adventure. I'm ready to continue the experiment, to marvel at the ghastly explosions as well as the beautiful breakthroughs.
I have squandered many years, but I won’t waste this one.
.....when does school go back?