Living the way you want

Finding my niche

Back on the topic of self discovery. I've been experimenting lately and trying to find my niche within the art world which is ever evolving. I was set on doing oil paintings of people's pets at one point. Then I experimented with cityscapes and enjoyed doing those. And then my husband got me into nerdy paintings and drawings of video game characters. 

I've been feeling this pressure to carve out a space in this vast vast world of art. When you think of the greats, you think of their masterpieces and the movements that they helped promote. Monet had his Impressionism and his lily pads at Giverny. Hopper had his cityscapes and landscapes. I ask myself everyday, what is my thing? 

My drawing of Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service.

My constant frustrations and eagerness to push myself further and faster are my double edged swords. It drives me and motivates me but it also hinders me. At the moment I'm really into using art markers and pens. I can quickly sketch out something and then color it in with my Copics. I feel like it gives me the instant gratification that I can not necessarily get from oils.

Evolving as an artist is an uncomfortable feeling. It is so natural to be complacent but trying something so different and foreign can be a great thing. I noticed how my skills had improved when I made myself paint my first cityscape. It opened up a whole new focus for me and enhanced my views on perspectives. 

My latest rendition of a Sailor Moon character.

I've always loved anime and cartoons. I've envied anybody who can easily draw in that style and create their own characters. Ever since I can remember, I would try to draw Sailor Moon and fall flat on my face. I would try to mimic the ways that manga artists would draw their characters but it felt so foreign to me with the huge eyes and pupils and weirdly shaped heads. It still is a struggle today but I ended up improving after many tries.

From the training I do have, it has been more of a traditional one. I would focus on photo realism and be disappointed that my drawings and paintings weren't exactly what I saw before me. I feel like my art style leans between realism and cartoonish, I'm still figuring out a name for that. I have to remind myself to this very day that my style is what makes my art special. As mentioned in my bio, I aim to make my paintings or drawings to look real and surreal at the same time. My problem was that I didn't see the beauty of that but now I do. 

My husband, our dog and me in the style of Pixar's Up.

The masters weren't great in the beginning of their careers and had to explore their niches as well. It's not like Monet got up and created his iconic paintings right away. I'm still in the stages of finding what I identify with that makes me who I am. I'm not even sure if I will ever have a place in the art world and inspire a movement. But for the moment, I'm taking a step at a time and learning new things. 

Sort of movie review - The Little Prince

This blog post is going to be a bit more personal. It is no secret that I struggled with my new career choice. I've explained in past blog posts how it took awhile to proclaim my status as an Artist. Everyday I am in a constant internal struggle with my brain and heart. I have to convince myself that this ambiguous path ahead of me is worth it and what I really want. I've been so ingrained in certain expectations of adulthood and the sacrifices that come with it. This is where the movie the Little Prince comes in.

Promotional poster for The Little Prince on Netflix.

I've had this movie in my Netflix queue for awhile now. I finally opened it up and started to watch the movie. In past blog posts, I've talked about my admiration for Antoine de Saint-Exupery's beautiful book with its illustrations. The movie version didn't disappoint. The movie is like a story within a story where the main characters live parallel lives to those of Saint-Exupery's tale. It first presents this rigid society where everyone is expected to adhere to certain rules and be "essential". Communities are mapped out in perfect right angles and everyone has a claim to their own square box of land. Houses are all shades of gray and white. The population runs like a finely tuned marching band. In perfect synchronicity, adults proceed with their jobs and lives. Children are expected to mirror the strict routines of their parents to ultimately succeed in their society, thus continuing the circle of life. This is where I felt that I could relate. 

As mentioned in past posts, I've grown up with a rigid belief that you have to sacrifice a lot of your desires to become a successful adult. Life was scheduled into stages and I had to follow these in sequential order. In my case the ultimate goal was to become a successful businesswoman who somehow maintained a lifestyle in Manhattan and eventually got married with kids. In this world there were "rules" on how to behave and dress, pretty much pigeonholing my individuality. Of course as a C.P.A. the stereotype of a nerdy individual who is constantly sitting at a desk and crunching numbers had come from aspects of real life. The first few years of full time work as an accountant, I drank the cool-aid. I thought that it made sense to work crazy hours and be constantly stressed. I thought, eventually I will get to the point where I could call my own shots. Alas, I realized that world was not for me. The world I was living in felt like that gray society in the film. I constantly got up in the morning, got ready for work, did what was expected and came home feeling unfulfilled and dejected. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and that it was normal to feel this way. I was living in a world of facades rather than something genuine.

Back to the movie...It introduces the weird old man in the quirky house next door. His house is a stark contrast to the grays and whites in its neighborhood consisting of an array of colors. This man is the Aviator and he lives by nobody's rules. He is constantly chasing his dreams and holding on to his childlike sense of wonderment. He literally has a beat up airplane in his backyard that he's been trying to repair and ultimately fly again. This old man introduces the main character, the little girl, how to embrace the colors of life. He tells her the story of the Little Prince and how he left his home asteroid to discover life and ultimately himself. The Little Prince is constantly questioning the rationale behind the behaviors of adult characters. One character simply wanted attention and applause for being the best albeit he was the only person on his planet. Another wanted to count all the stars to then further buy more stars to count. Simply put it by Saint-Exupery, "No one is ever satisfied where he is....Only the children know what they’re looking for". 

The little girl character has been molded her entire life to adhere to this rigid society. Her mother is a prime example of someone who buys into these ideals and wants it for her own child. Following these respective steps would then lead them to success, whatever that was. Like the little girl, I felt the same pressures to assimilate to these societal expectations. I was pushed into the straight and narrow path. Naturally I am a very curious person, but curiosity wasn't essential as an Accountant. Eventually I found my own Aviator per se. After a lot of self reflection I decided to embrace what made me happy. I've tried to see the world through a child's eyes and remember fondly the times I was allowed to be creative and experience things at my own pace.

Being an Artist is maddening and exhilarating at the same time. My brain is constantly working to express myself more and create something that evokes feelings and my individuality. I have periods of time where I feel pressured to produce but nothing comes out. The film literally had a big bad boss character who took all the stars in the sky and kept them in a large snow globe like container. He mentions how looking at the stars made lazy men become idle. In his world, looking around you and beyond is not productive but I disagree. As an Artist I sit and think. I walk and think. I look around and wonder. The symbolism of containing these stars really hit me. Most of my life, I was restraining myself. I didn't let myself pursue what I loved to do. Once the little girl in the movie cracks the container and lets the stars out, you see the immediate effect on the gray and gloomy population. They stand and admire the stars instead of going through their monotonous routine. The world and even the universe has been expanded and it reawakens their curiosity and wonderment. 

"The Little Dog Prince", inspired by the book.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it gave me hope for my future. I ended up going through some boxes of old photos and greeting cards. Seeing the look of joy on my face within these pictures and reading the words of my treasured friends inspired me. It inspired me to try to see things as if it was the first time. It also taught me to embrace my past and learn from it, the good bad and the ugly. The animation of the film was a beautiful thing even though I focused mainly on the symbolism of the movie. I would definitely recommend giving the Little Prince movie a looksy and hopefully you would be as moved as I am. 

Writer's Block

I’ve been feeling some writer’s block lately so I thought I would write about it. As of late it has been difficult to find the light when the atmosphere in our country is in such turmoil. I try to separate my political beliefs from this blog but I have to admit that it is causing me anxiety to the point where it is clouding my creativity.

I have mentioned in past blog posts that I create only things that bring me peace and joy. That is a rule that I will try to stick by. Considering that I put my whole self in my work, the content of my work is very important to keep me feeling balanced.

Rather than feeling pressure to produce work that other people like, I remind myself that I create for myself. I do it to reduce my anxiety and control my environment the only way I can. Times like these, I usually take a break from painting or drawing. I don’t force myself to make anything since that just makes me more frustrated in the end. I think that many creatives need to accept the creativity block that happens every once in a while. Go for a walk, watch a funny movie, anything to soothe away the anxiety and the block preventing you from being your true self.

I didn’t want to leave my readers hanging, so I wanted to send my love. Hang in there. Life may not make sense and we may feel helpless, but the only thing that we can do is work on bettering ourselves. Stay classy. 

Growing Pains: My journey to becoming an Artist

It has only been 14 months since I decided to pursue a career as an Artist. At first, I didn’t realize how much work went into being one, especially the part where you had to promote your own work. I am a naturally shy person. There are times where I get plagued with social anxiety. Talking and revealing myself to others can be a daunting task to overcome. But over time it has gotten a little bit easier after each attempt.

The first time that I admitted to being a Painter to another person was at an Open Studios event at my favorite local art store. There were a few artists presenting their work and even demonstrating what they do. I was so nervous but I managed to have a great conversation with Carol Aaron, an artist who specializes in encaustics. You guys should look her up, I thought her work was so cool! I even asked for her advice in how to get into the industry. She told me to be “stupid brave”, which still sticks to me today and motivates me to put myself out there.  

I think the problem with being an Artist is that you have periods where you are a total recluse, completely inspired by whatever you’re working on. Slaving away at your craft in the space that is your studio. But then you have to eventually come out into the world and shout “I’m an Artist! Here is my work!” Those are polar opposites that become extremely difficult to balance.

Standing in front of my painting "Stairway to Heaven" at the Pacific Art League

Standing in front of my painting "Stairway to Heaven" at the Pacific Art League

It is 2017 and we are inundated with the ease and accessibility of data sharing. Due to the progress of technology, we can reach millions of people through social media through applications like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Where once a website was considered a novel idea now is deemed a necessity. Where artists post videos on YouTube or make blog posts like this one. I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t know that I had to be a painter, a people person and a computer guru all at the same time! Through a bunch of trial and error and consistently tweaking my website, I finally have something to show for it! I’m gradually building up my portfolio and hopefully letting more people into my world.

I think all this effort is definitely worth it. My problem is that I’m terribly impatient. I’ve grown up so motivated to achieve at the most efficient rate. Slow was not in my vocabulary. But that is what is necessary for me to hone my craft. It is extremely unrealistic for me to expect to gain hundreds or thousands of followers on Instagram overnight. As paintings take time to create, so does my career.

Scrolling through Instagram can be a mood buster for me sometimes. I follow so many wonderful artists and I sometimes get the green eye of envy. I end up comparing myself to their work and wonder about my achievements. But then I pinch myself because I am hindering myself by comparing whatever I do to some person I’ve never met. So then I resign myself to admiring those artists I follow and to work and be the Artist that makes me happy. I don’t expect to become a Master Painter or get famous and have a brand of paints named after me like Bob Ross, but I do want to make a mark on this world and show how I see things in my unique way. 

“So what do you do?” Owning up to being an Artist.

You know when you are introduced to someone and the first thing they ask is "So what do you do?" It wasn’t until I quit my job that I started contemplating that question. My old response was, “Oh, I’m a C.P.A. (Certified Public Accountant)”. There would be comments about taxes (which I didn’t work on), some forced laughter and then the conversation would move on. But once I quit my job I didn’t know what to say anymore. Retired Accountant? Housewife-in-training? Unemployed and confused? I then realized that the question being asked was pure crap.

The question itself is super general. It implies that you are defined by your job. If you are a doctor that is your identity. Justin, my husband, would therefore be known as Justin the doctor. Instead of all the other pursuits and interests that he has, his choice of occupation is something that becomes all encompassing. I especially think that with the Internet and social media, there is a fixation on labels and compartmentalizing.  

I sat with this sense of dread when introduced to a new person. Do I explain that I’m looking into new opportunities? “Oh, it wasn’t the right direction for me. Right now I’m focused on making sure that my household is running smoothly and that my husband is happy.” I would give this long winded answer and the recipient would just nod their head out of politeness. I had anxiety that I would be judged as lazy and not living up to my potential, whatever that was.

And then it clicked. After many hours of self-reflection, I was like, screw it. Nobody is going to define me. I will define myself. I am a wife, a former corporate drone, a great cook, a dog mom and finally an Artist. At first I was reluctant to admit to being an Artist. I hadn’t sold a painting yet, I didn’t have a website, I literally just started getting back into the groove. I didn’t think I had the credentials of calling myself one. But once I embraced the idea and admitted to myself that I was an Artist, I ultimately got the confidence to admit it to the rest of the world. With that confession, I owned what I identified as. 

Justin, myself and our pup Chewie at our wedding.

Justin, myself and our pup Chewie at our wedding.

I see painting as my chosen profession. It is something that I love and I think about every day. It is something that inspires me from ordinary things and experiences. And it is something that is a huge part of me. But I am so much more than that.

So I finally have an answer to that age old question of “So what do you do?” I can write on the blank line under 'Occupation', so everybody asking can rest assured. And besides that clearly refined answer, I know that I am not solely categorized as that and I am everything and anything that I set out to be.