Learning to Honor “Creative Time” Despite a Busy Schedule

This is turning out to be a summer full of good things. Art shows, a Paul McCartney concert at Fenway Park (thus fulfilling my childhood dream of seeing a Beatle in REAL LIFE!!!), celebrations with family and friends (weddings, birthdays, togetherness, oh my!), and…(drum roll please)…buying our first house!our first home (birdhouse)

Yay! I’m SO excited about the house. We’ll start making our move over the next few weeks. Planning has been in full swing and soon it will be time to tackle the PACKING. Let’s be honest: moving, as exciting as it is, is also a lot of work. But I look forward to making this place home – a place that, over time, will undoubtedly become special as we live, work, grow and play there. We are very blessed, and I am mightily grateful, indeed.

Meanwhile, I’m also busy preparing for another exciting event: the upcoming art showcase, REVEAL. Making and matting prints, pricing everything, figuring out display and marketing logistics, gathering all my materials, writing statements…show prep ends up taking more time than one might think.

Prints for Upcoming Show

making prints

Interspersed amongst the many tasks of moving and show prepping are an upcoming wedding and a few family get-togethers. So many good things. Good things that all demand time, energy, and commitment.

So…all is well and I’m happy as a clam, right? Well…to be honest, until recently, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Well, not really overwhelmed, actually, but just sort of…dead inside. Empty. Detached. If I wasn’t feeling numb, then I was feeling anxious about my responsibilities and annoyed about having to attend to them.

Which in turn, made me feel bad because…aren’t I supposed to be happy about all these good things? How can I be so ungrateful? Not only that, but compared to other people, my load seems pretty small. Other people constantly juggle more things than this. What’s wrong with me? (blah blah, broken record, so typical)…

But! I’m feeling better now. What changed? My attitude, of course!

It occurred to me that there were 2 things in particular that were getting me down. Things that, once identified, I realized I could change:

  1. I was holding on to exceedingly high personal expectations. “I am going to be SO flawlessly prepared to showcase my artwork and impress everyone. And I’m going to get all my work done for the show before THIS weekend, so that I can focus on moving and my other commitments in the weeks following.” “I am going to ROCK this move – I will be so organized with the packing that it will be stress-free and painless. I’m going to clean our apartment so well that the landlord isn’t even going to have to clean it before the next people move in. That shower is going to glisten!” And “I’m going to be the best wife/daughter/sister/aunt/friend during all the get-togethers. I’ll be present for every single moment and full of energy, too.”
  2. I was not allowing myself any time to do CREATIVE work. In pursuit of perfectly executing the expectations listed above — preparing for the show and organizing for the move — I couldn’t justify taking time to create NEW things.  It seemed like a selfish luxury, something that should be “backburner-ed” until all the hustle has died down.

Obviously, such high expectations (issue #1) are a real trip-up. You know how, growing up, “they” always encouraged you to “do your best?” in every situation? Well, that’s always been kind of a killer. Theoretically, my best could always be better, right? I could always sacrifice more to go the extra mile…maybe forgo sleep, or dinner, or sanity. There’s simply no gauge for what “my best” really is and it’s a shaky ideal to aim for.

Once I realized I was thinking that way, I remembered something my husband has pointed out to me numerous times. If I change the focus from “doing the best” to “doing something meaningful”, it’s a lot easier to move forward. “Perfect” is not the goal. The goal is to be engaged and connected to what I am doing, to do MEANINGFUL work – work that I can feel proud of doing, for which I don’t feel ashamed claiming ownership, and work that connects me to the people and the experiences at hand.

That second issue, though — the need to honor my “creative time” — that took a little longer for me to get comfortable with. How can I justify telling people that I need to be alone this morning so that I can sketch out some fuzzy creative ideas that are dancing around in my brain? Surely, I don’t really need that.

But if there’s anything I know about myself, it’s that when I stop creating for a period, I begin to feel detached and dead. Over and over again, I’ve had to relearn the importance of honoring my “creative time”. It’s no small thing. A mere 30 minutes of drawing/painting/sketching can rejuvenate my sense of vitality and restore my desire to interact with the world. It’s wonderful, and it’s an easy thing to do! In the grand scheme of things — of all the strategies out there for keeping oneself afloat — it’s not a very demanding thing to do.

Even so, I had to hear it from someone else’s before I was willing to reclaim my “sacred” creative time. In the book “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention”, author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says: “Perhaps the most difficult thing for a creative individual to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness experienced when, for some reason or another, he or she cannot work. This is especially painful when a person feels one’s creativity drying out; then the whole self-concept is jeopardized.” He goes on to say “When the person is working in the area of his or her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of bliss.”

YES! I know what he’s talking about! When I experience that bliss, I see things with greater clarity. My senses turn back on and I feel whole. When I feel whole, I can connect with life — I can connect with YOU — and act with more grace, conscientiousness, and intention than when I cut myself off from creative pursuits.

And now, instead of tying this all up with a nice concluding bow, I’m going to call it finished and go put my words into action by taking 20 minutes to draw before it’s time to cook dinner.

Oh, but one more thing. Grandma, if you’re reading this: hi! I love you. Just wanted to say that.

Ok, bye.

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A Tiny House Pattern, and some Praise for Technology

I’m glad I live in the age of technology (is that what we call it?). Sure, it can be distracting. We fall off cliffs while catching Pokemon. We drop our phones in the toilet. We can’t sit through a 22 minute tv show without looking something up on Wikipedia. (Excluding the Pokemon example, by “we” I actually mean “I”).

But we’re also communicating, sharing, connecting, teaching, and learning! Without the ease of the internet, I wouldn’t have known where to turn for tips on pattern design. Who knows if the local library would have had books about it? Thanks to Amazon, I ordered a book and it got here the next day. Thanks to the generous teachings of bloggers and YouTubers, I watched videos on how to better use tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. And thanks to social media, I felt encouraged to keep making stuff after people reacted positively to my work.

Another nice perk of technology? Digital textile printing! As Kimberly Kight says in her (very helpful) book A Field Guide to Fabric Design:

“As you read this, fashion and textile design pioneers, newly freed by digital technology from the restrictions imposed by mass production–namely, limitations on the number of colors and the requisite use of pattern–are completely changing the notion of what a fabric print is.”

Fabric design, Kight, says, is entering the “territory of fine art.” Which means we all get to me more creative — and DRESS more creatively, too!

Anyway, here’s a pattern I made so that I could practice some new tricks that I picked up. These houses were definitely inspired by the wonderful colonial architecture that is so common here in Massachusetts. And because I tend to be excessive and am a nut about color, I’m sharing several versions of it with you:

Tiny Houses - WhiteTiny Houses - PurpleTiny Houses - GrayTiny Houses - Lavender

Which color do you like the best? I think the gray one would make a great bow tie. And the dark purple one…it just makes me happy.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your weekend, and steer clear of Pokemon-inhabited cliffs.

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New Website + Upcoming Art Show

Friends! My new portfolio/professional site is launched! You can click on the “portfolio” menu option on this page, and the link will take you to my portfolio site. Now you can see samples of my best work, organized by category and easy to browse through! Hooray. Check it out! Eventually I’ll synch it up better with this site, add an e-mail sign up, and work out the remaining little details, but for now, I’m happy it’s functional and easy to look at.

BIG NEWS! Last week I got a nice surprise when I was invited, out of the blue, to be a featured artist in RAW Boston’s upcoming Art showcase “REVEAL”. RAW Boston is part of RAW Artists. Here’s what their website has to say about them:

Raw is an international organization run by artists FOR artists. It’s mission is to provide independent artists within the first 10 years of their creative career with the tools, resources, and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity. Raw ventures to provide the platform for artists to be seen, heard, and loved. Their showcase events feature indie talent in visual art, film, fashion design, music, performance art, hair and makeup artistry, and photography.

On August 25th from 7-11 PM, I will be showing and selling originals and prints, alongside many other talented Boston area artists, at Mixx 360 in Malden, MA. Tickets are $20 and you can buy them here! The event will have live music and art performers, a fashion show, an art show, craft and artisan vendors, drinks, and much more. I’m excited to go and meet other young artists and to see the fruits of so much creative labor. It’s usually quite inspiring to be around passionate people who are doing what they love.

I have to thank my husband and everyone else who has been encouraging me, from the start, to keep sharing my work online and beyond. It is because of all the sharing (on Behance, Instagram, Etsy, etc.) that opportunities like this have started to arise. If you have something you’re doing that you feel is worth sharing with the world, DO it. This is a great time to be an artist.

I recently met a local photographer, the multi-talented Joey Phoenix, who is going to take photos of some of my larger work so I can get prints made for the show. While digging through my stockpiles to find the stuff I want her to shoot, I found this old gem (I’ve shared it before, but…it’s worth another share because it makes me smile):

Albrecht Durer and Renoir's Cat

It’s a remnant from college. I combined an Albrecht Dürer self-portrait and a Pierre Auguste Renoir painting to make Dürer holding a cat. I think it would make great prints, but I don’t know what the legal boundaries are on works like this, since I essentially just copied the paintings of two of history’s great masters.

I’ll admit it: more than once, in moments of self-doubt/existential crisis, I’ve considered shifting gears and focusing on painting “regal” cats. I’d build up a body of work of classical, Napoleon-esque felines looking heroic with columns and ruffled collars and all that. But someone else is already doing that, and who am I kidding, I wouldn’t be able to focus on such a small sliver of subject matter for very long.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Love to you all. I hope summer is treating you well.

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Surrounded by surface patterns

I haven’t been sleeping too well lately (boo hoo, complain complain). I can’t stop thinking about surface pattern design!

Now, I’ve only just started to dip my toes into this bottomless ocean that is pattern design. I have a lot of room to grow (to put it gently). Right now I’m just letting myself play — figuring out how repeats work, testing out my different tools/mediums, and getting familiar with the parameters of design. Learning, learning, learning. Which, of course, takes time…

…but all the while (day and night) I can’t stop brainstorming ideas! Patterns, my friends, are taking over.

My imagination is racing, turning everything I see into motifs I could use for future patterns. Designers, I’ve learned, call this “building your design library”. Everything is a novelty print waiting to be made, and I can’t stop myself from “pattern-izing” things, from the contents of my refrigerator to the the birds squawking outside.  It’s a fun time (if only I could turn it off at night).

building my design library

(building my design library)

Then, to add fuel to the fire, there is this lovely detail: I’m already surrounded by surface pattern designs! Honestly, have you ever noticed how much art is in your life? Designers have decorated everything — their patterns lurk in every corner, waiting to inspire you.

For example:

(From L to right, starting at top: wrapping paper, toilet paper, my "fungi frock", our bedspread (w/ Ducky the cat), my Christmas boxers (I use these as PJ's), a Bacardi box, a tissue box, the futon cover, and my purse)

(From L to R, starting at top: wrapping paper, toilet paper, my “fungi frock”, our bedspread (w/ Ducky the cat), my Christmas boxers (I use these as PJ’s), a Bacardi box, a tissue box, the futon cover, and my purse. All covered in patterns!)

Needless to say, I’m having a good time exploring this new creative realm, and I’m excited about what I’m learning. I do hope, though, that my body will adjust to this surge in adrenaline and figure out how to sleep at night. (Yeah, if you could get on that, Body, that would be great. Thanks.)

To conclude, here are some of my latest creations:

"Ants and Melons"

“Ants and Melons”

And my 4th of July patterns (in case you missed them on Instagram last weekend):Red White and Blue

(hand drawn scallops/lace)

(hand drawn scallops/lace)

Melting Rocket Popsicles.

Melting Rocket Popsicles.

That’s it, folks! Thanks for stopping by.

 

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The Awkward Middle

This week, I find myself at the awkward middle point of several works in progress. I have this one acrylic painting in particular that has been driving me nuts as I try to find my way through it. I started it with great excitement, but now that I’m well on my way into the thing, I feel a little lost in the woods

work in progress

work in progress

Every project has its awkward middle point. Sometimes it’s a brief ordeal, but sometimes it lasts for months. It’s the point when the shiny exhilaration of STARTING something has worn off. You can’t really see the end point yet – and you’re not even sure if what you’re doing is going to work. When you step back to look at your progress, it looks raw and unbalanced. It’s like looking in the mirror half-way through a haircut. Or being caught mid-step, with one leg frozen in the air. It’s uncomfortable to stand that way for too long. You have to keep going or else you’ll fall over.

At this point, things can look pretty uncertain, possibly even ugly. Things aren’t going how you thought they would. It’s not the perfect picture you envisioned at the start. Instead, it has taken on a life of its own, and now you have to re-define your approach to it. You’re in uncharted territory, trying to figure out where to go next.

If you’re a perfectionist, or an all-or-nothing type of person (I constantly struggle with this), then the middle point can be quite a disappointment. There’s not much aesthetic delight in something that is half finished! It’s off-kilter, it’s incoherent, it’s vague. How do you psych yourself up to keep pushing through?

Instead of relying on the satisfaction of “finishing”, you have to rely on the satisfaction of doing. Finishing is nothing. It’s boring, it’s lack of movement. But DOING! – that is a thrill! It’s the gratification you get from facing a challenge, day after day. It’s the joy of letting yourself be curious about where this thing is leading you. Dress yourself up for adventure so that it’s a pleasure, not a fright, to find yourself in the awkward middle ground.

In fact, maybe the middle point isn’t so awkward at all. Maybe it’s the perfectly natural place to be. I mean, we spend most of our lives in the middle space, right? We’re growing up, but we’re never done growing. We’re learning, but there’s always more to know. We’re married, but our relationship is still a work in progress. We’re done for today, but we’re going to have to get up again tomorrow…

So, alright, alright…I’ll keep working, bit by bit, on this painting that has me feeling so stuck. I’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to learn.

And in the meantime, here are some things I DID finish this week (though even with these, there’s no feeling of “being finished” because with every design I make, there’s a bazillion more I want to do next…):

strawberry pattern

Strawberry surface pattern design for fabric, wallpaper, etc.

"Robot Guts" surface pattern

“Robot Guts” surface pattern

watermelon surface pattern design. (My what a trendy shirt this would make!)

watermelon surface pattern design. (My what a trendy shirt this would make!)

As always, THANKS for stopping by! Have you found yourself feeling awkward in the middle ground lately?

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How to Rock the Summer: A Visual Guide

Summer is here! Find some time to enjoy it.

Go outside!

Cornflower with the cows

(page from my yet-unfinished children’s book (which continues to be a back burner project…))

Eat a burger!…

Burger Tower

(“Burger Tower”. Prints available on Etsy.)

Plant a garden…

Turnips

(“Turnip Twins”, 11 x 14, watercolor. Available for sale at TWK (or e-mail me at jacqueoman@gmail.com))

Go to the beach…

Interested in having this printed on fabric or wallpaper? Shoot me an e-mail!

(Interested in having this printed on fabric or wrapping paper? Shoot me an e-mail!)

doodle from my sketchbook

(a wee sketchbook doodle)

Pick some wildflowers…

more sketchbook fun

(more sketchbook fun)

Do something nostalgic…

(I love to draw tiny foooooood)

(A rocket pop! I love to draw tiny food.)

Go camping…

(page from last year's summer sketchbook)

(page from last year’s summer travel sketchbook)

And enjoy the precious company of family and friends!

(from last year's travel journal - hiking with my husband!)

(entry from travel journal – hiking with my husband!)

Thanks for stopping by! (Now seriously, get your butt outside).

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Welcome to the World of Surface Pattern Design

Lemons 1I recently discovered the world of “surface pattern design”. Now, I’ve always enjoyed me some wallpaper, fabric, wrapping paper, and other pattern-printed things, but it never really dawned on me that there was an actual term/career field pertaining to it. What can I say? — we’re all a bit slow at times.

What a wonderful discovery! Now that I know there is an actual OUTLET for my itchy urge to draw all the “little things”, I find that the sky is the limit.Lemons 2

Fabric…specialty paper…these things are PRIME channels for all the rinky-dink doodles I enjoy making so much. What’s that, world? There’s a REASON for me to create repetitious designs of ketchup bottles?! You’re telling me that someone might actually want some fabric covered in umbrellas and pool buoys?! THAT’S INCREDIBLE! OH life, you never cease to keep me engaged.

Not only is this a gratifying outlet for my difficult-to-ignore compulsion to draw all the things, but it’s also a great way to pass the time after I’ve reached my daily limit of working on what I consider (for better or worse) to be the “serious” stuff (i.e. my acrylic and watercolor paintings). Alas, as much as I WISH I could paint for 8 hours straight on a highly detailed watercolor painting of cracked and peeling house-paint (yes, you heard me), realistically, that never seems to happen. After a certain amount of time, my eyeballs glaze over, my observational keenness dims, and I cease responding intelligently to the details of what I’m looking at. My hand cramps up, and my brushstrokes get sloppy. To keep working at that point would just leave me burnt out for tomorrow. And it would probably undo the progress I made up until then. So I make it a point to stop before I’ve exhausted myself. This ensures that I’m excited and ready to begin again the next day.

Hemingway said it best:

“You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. It is the wait until that next day that is hard to get through.”

And I agree. That wait is hard. You WISH you could just keep chugging along and crank out all your ideas, but you’ve learned that if you drain yourself today, there’s nothing to get you out of bed tomorrow. It’s uncomfortable to try to be patient with your human limitations, to wait until you are restored and able to get back at it later.

That in-between time can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful. It’s easy to freak out and self-destruct. When art is your passion, when it’s the main thing you do to feel connected and alive, then it’s a drag to have to wait-out the necessary periods of rest.  You might find yourself numbing the discomfort by eating a pint (or 2) of ice cream, or by drinking a bottle of wine, or by anxiously gnawing off your hand. Which, of course, makes it harder to start again tomorrow. It harms you and defeats the purpose of taking a break. And it leaves you feeling EXTRA uncomfortable because you’re hungover and feeling guilty for getting in the way of doing what you were so impatient to do in the first place.

I’ve had my share of foolish self-destructive moments, so surface pattern design has been a welcome addition to my list of non-work activities. It still lets me be creative and put my fascination with mundane objects to good use. It still lets me stretch my brain and marvel at the world around me. But it doesn’t drain me or require extreme precision. I can fix mistakes on the computer. I can afford to play around and try a million iterations of the same thing without feeling like I wasted hours of precious effort getting it just right. AND I can do it in my PJ’s on the couch!Lemons 3

So…Yay! I’m not saying my designs are going to show up in stores or on handbags any time soon, but hey, who knows? Now I at least know there’s a place for it. And there are so many things to turn into patterns! (And it’s oh-so-do-able thanks to modern things like iPads and Adobe!)

I’m only sorry that Hemingway didn’t have such a way to pass the time.

(and now I shall resist sharing EVERYTHING I’ve “patterned” so far, so that I don’t exhaust my supply of things to show you in the weeks to come…)

Which of my lemon/lime patterns do you like best? (The possibilities are ENDLESS!)

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Solo Show at TWK in Winchester, MA

Ruffled Iris Watercolor PaintingHello, friends! I’m excited to announce that 14 of my floral/nature watercolors are currently showing at TWK (The Waterfield Kitchen), a restaurant in lovely Winchester, MA. I went there on Tuesday to hang my work and see the space. They have an awesome looking bar and menu, so even if you don’t care about buying my artwork (*ahem), you should still go there sometime! They, along with the entire family of Serenitee restaurants, are big supporters of the arts and regularly feature the work of talented locals on their walls. While I was there, I had the pleasure of seeing some of the paintings that were showing before mine went up — work by the very skilled Deanna Jacome. I love her earthy, rich color palette and the way she makes marks on the canvas. In addition to painting, she also does Turkish marbling (SO COOL!) and makes flower crowns. Check out her shop if you want to buy her handmade journals and sketchbooks, dreamcatchers, floral crowns, or original works of art! Very, very impressive.

Bittersweet 3 DisplayAnywayyyyy…my work will be up for the next month or two and I hope you’ll drive out there to check it out!IMG_1737 Fall Leaves watercolor

Thanks to Creative Salem for putting this together, and to another local artist, Ed Schutte, for helping me get connected to them! I am so thankful for the art-loving environment that I’ve stumbled into since moving up here to Massachusetts. It’s energizing to live in such a supportive community! (And amazing to see so much good work being made by other artists in this part of the world).IMG_3061 IMG_1740

art on display

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Throw Doubt Away: You ARE an Artist.

crab apple blossoms (sketching during breakfast)

crab apple blossoms (sketching during breakfast)

I spend too much time feeling like I’m not a real artist because I don’t churn out amazing work every day. Often, the end of the week comes and I feel distraught over how seemingly little progress I’ve made on my paintings. There are days that I don’t get to paint much at all — where I have to try to take satisfaction in a doodle during breakfast because the rest of the day will be filled with the not-so-thrilling busywork of framing, matting, scanning, and e-mailing.

I begin most days wondering “is today the day that it’s all going to click? If I run fast enough, will I finally fit everything in?” I chase the crushing ideal of a daily routine that is perfectly balanced and productive — where I effortlessly manage my time so that the painting, marketing, networking, practicing, learning, writing, documenting, planning, and accounting all get done…with time to spare for life’s other demands like exercise, eating, relationships, sleep and leisure.

It’s a fantasy that sets me up for disappointment, and it robs me of the joy that comes from what I DO get to work on each day.

Why is it that I can have several paintings that I’m working on, a solo show that I’m getting ready for, and my work hanging in the homes of strangers, and STILL feel like I’m not an artist? If a friend told me this, I’d call her out for talking nonsense.

The only way I’m ever going to feel like an artist is if I decide to call myself one, and choose to own it despite my niggling self-doubt.

So I’m choosing that now. Next time someone asks me what I do, I’ll tell them the same thing I’ve been saying for years: “I’m an artist”. But instead of looking at the floor and brushing it off as if I’m only half- serious, I’ll be sure to stand tall, look them in the eye, and say it with pride.

Because you know what? I AM proud. And I’m not going to downplay how happy I am that I get to do this work.

(A special thanks to Lisa Congdon whose fantastic blog post inspired me to “own it”).

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Now Showing at ArcWorks Gallery: “Niche (Wall Shrine)” acrylic painting

On display (and for sale) now at the ArcWorks gallery in Peabody:

"Niche (Wall Shrine)", acrylic

“Niche (Wall Shrine)”, acrylic

It’s part of the juried show “Spring Fling”, going on from now until June 30th. If you’re local, consider stopping by to check out some of the other artists that made it into the show!

This painting is a continuation of a series of acrylic paintings I did in college. It’s about memory, nostalgia, and the passing of time. The jar holds memories from my childhood — of long humid summers, my grandpa’s house, and other moments that have become unrealistically beautiful in my mind. It’s about our tendency to make certain memories “sacred” and the romanticized light we cast them in. It’s a shrine, more or less, for the idealized moments of the past.

(Here’s a less dark photo)
Niche (Wall Shrine)

(and a close up)

(close up)

I’m considering doing some more of these. Since I last worked on this series, I’ve racked up some more memories to preserve! I’m also considering taking commissions from others who have memories they want preserved. Got any symbolic objects of special memories that you want me to paint? E-mail me if you’re interested in commissioning some jars!

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