Friday, November 1, 2013

When you care enough... to not say anything.

I disappeared. And I plan to do it again really soon.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that usually means that there's a lot happening... that I can't blog about. Well - I DO blog it - but only in my head. I write incredibly long, very thoughtful posts. ;-) Sometimes, there are even pictures or drawings to go with them. Someday, I will be THAT kind of person who is brave enough to say what she thinks and not give a flying fig newton what anyone else thinks. (Oooo... fig newton.... See? I still care.)

I would like to tell you about some interesting things I learned about myself - and other people - this summer. And what I have learned from all these classes I took this year. Can you believe it is November!? At the beginning of this year, I decided that I needed to go back to school. I researched online options for MFAs - nothing excited me. So I put together my own program with Surface Design, Illustration, Mermaids, Fairies, Inktense pencils, writing, nutrition, and relationships... I'm missing a few in there I think? But you get the idea. And every thing finishes up next week. I made it. Almost.  I did what I set out to do. Now I have to process it all. Then figure out how to show you what I learned.

Back to flying fig newtons...

Art is hard. What I do may not seem like a "real" job to some people, but it can be even harder since there is no easy path to follow. There are stereotypes hitting you from one direction and the economy from another (Art may be the first thing cut when times get difficult, you can't eat a painting. But Art is the only thing that remains when a civilization disappears). And then there are the internal debates - trying to please the client, altering your style and values to fit the demand, fear of failure. And job insecurity...

It's easy to forget our personal goals too. I found myself judging my accomplishments and thinking "I haven't published any real books this year - what have I been doing with my time?!" I had to list the places I had taught and the ebook and the trading cards... and then I remembered that my goal had been to LEARN this year! And not everything I learned this year came from a class - but I definitely gained knowledge!

I've been pushing myself and trying on different hats - some got flung across the room - and decided I don't like hats... and agonizing over assignments and people and places and things. And what I have come back to is that I suck at all that stuff. But when I slurp up everything I see and then percolate and then just toss it up in the air - I am happy.

Example: Planning an excursion out "there" with my kids is hell. Walking in the dark, holding hands with my daughter... dumping all the Halloween candy on the floor, picking the best of the best (with a glass of milk) and snuggling while watching E.T. - that is bliss.

Example #2: Sketching and sketching and researching and scanning and wracking my head to come up with a clever solution to an illustration homework assignment... Hell. I remember why I quit.
Walking around the entire outside of my son's High School desperately searching for an unlocked door... in the dark. Finally sneaking in as a student ran out... then slipping into the auditorium just as a bunch of red-dressed flapper girls take the stage... ah? Ah. Just stop, Sandy. You don't need to be anywhere else. Yes, Alex, I am happy to wait another half hour while you rehearse... besides, I see something that I would LOVE to draw...

Anything Goes
 PS - Yeh - THAT makes me happy. :-)


  1. Navigating our place in the world is its own adventure....and sometimes adventures are hard. I'm so glad you've share your journey with us. You inspire! Don't forget to include that in your list of accomplishments! And if you're not interested in hats, just choose some tiaras! ;).

  2. Hi Sandy, thank you for putting your thoughts into words. It was helpful to me to read what you had to say. I agree that art is hard and so competitive. I find it hard because I want to be original all of the time. It's also hard because it's isolating. It seems to feel like I'm on the brink of being pulled into a giant wave, and that's where I need to go. Am I making any sense? You just got me started on something.
    I enjoyed reading this post, and your Zentangle book, Yoga for the Brain.

    1. Thank you - and, yes, I understand what you are saying. I keep repeating to myself the immortal words of Dory (the fish-friend from Finding Nemo) "keep swimming... keep swimming..." :-)

  3. Sandy, you are a deeply interesting person - and that is only what we see! You are very brave in your decisions, what to write and how much. To see another person going through profound and personal struggles, and sharing this journey, is like having a close personal friend who is willing to open her heart - it makes my own journey, which is quite different to yours, less lonely.
    I am inspired by your zentangle art; during this year with Kristen's cancer and my husband's crises, zentangle has been a profound help to me; I have almost made up my mind to do CZT training - I have some discussion to do with myself as to my worthiness! But I see that even successful, "professional" artists struggle with the same insecurities, that makes me less hard on myself.
    I love to see the beez posts come up in my email - I know that you will give me something to think about, smile about or see another way.
    Thank you from the depths of my heart.

    1. Maybe successful, "professional" artists struggle even more with insecurities since our every mistake is on view to the world. It is harder to take risks. I just saw a great quote somewhere this morning... "it is better to be standing at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb, than at the top of the one you don't want to climb." And you are definitely WORTH it. If you do go to CZT training, you will meet a roomful of people who feel the same way. It is very exciting and reinforcing. :-)

  4. It is unfortunate that "art" is defined by many as any image, spilled forth or constructed. The same can't be said about "writing," because a lot of people can't just spill words onto a page.

    "Marks," the strokes used in creating structured illustrations, are calligraphy, and those who are the most knowledgeable about the sets of marks available create the most interesting illustrations.

    A problem with some people is that they mistake "anything goes" simply because they can "go there" with mastery and what it takes to master something.

    Anyway, I think I recommended the book "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon. I'm on my 6th reading. Every time I start feeling up-tight about my direction and craft, I re-read this book to get back on track. I have the Kindle edition which I've marked up. Sometimes I just meditate on one of his passages.

    1. True!
      And i just ordered the book. Thanks for the tip. :-)

  5. You sure hit the nail on the head, Sandy. I've been thinking a lot lately about how 4 years of art school nearly destroyed my creativity. It went into hiding for many years. I finished college with an environmental science degree dove into that career and didn't look back to art for many years.

    I have lately enjoyed your Yoga for the Brain book and have begun to paint and draw again. And mess around with fabric too.

    I think I'm going to look up that book Littleviews mentioned!

    Best wishes,

    Liz M

    1. It took me ten years to "forget" art school and remember my previous joy of drawing. I'm glad you are finding your way back. :-)

  6. You are not alone. When you have to do what your soul dictates, it is so often disappointing - in more ways than financial.

    The greatest ideas in your own head can fall flat when sent out to fly. And then you doubt how great your ideas are.

    Artists are not likely to get rich, even really good artists, and often it isn't even easy to keep up with obligations. But things always work out.

    The only answer is to stay true to yourself and your passions, and I think you do that.

    1. Reminding myself WHAT I am trying to do is my biggest stumbling block.

  7. Now then, to really open (and perhaps "blow") your mind, I highly recommend "Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Maters" by David Hockney. It costs around $25 on Amazon/B&N. Changed my life forever!

    I spent 6 weeks in Europe this year after having read and rearead this book. I saw the "ancient" paintings and I gotta say, those paintings are all over the place. That lead me to understand that almost everything I've read about "art" and what are in museums is strictly BS. Apparently, many of the critics and collectors just don't know what they are talking about. I saw a great museum in Holland, for example, that I'd be ashamed to bring an art student to for it would ruin that student's understanding of what it takes to be an impassioned illustrator.

    Anyway, this is a "visual" book. The only time it will take you to read it will be based in how absorbed you become with it. Those old artists were, indeed, commercial artists and the tricks they had up their sleeves were what helped them to be accomplished. That said, tricks are good and half the fun of being a draftsperson is discovering those tricks.

    1. Awesome! i just ordered it too. :-) I remember feeling so frustrated in art school with the arguments about fine art vs. illustration. Most of the"classics" would have fallen under the definition of illustration since they were commissioned by a client to illustrate an event or portray their wealth and status... even the Last Supper was "just" an illustration for a cafeteria wall. ;-)

  8. I often have to remind myself that everything I need in life, I have already. Everything I want, and want to be, comes to me at just the right time. If something I "want" doesn't come to me, it is not meant to be.
    Life is very much like a ZIA. We have the strings to keep us in line, we have the option of crossing those fine lines and barriers or play it safe and stay within the confines of those lines. We can use patterns that are familiar and comfortable, or we can venture into experimenting with new patterns, new techniques, new papers or inks or colors. And all of those choices come to us, just when we need them.
    For some, a Master's Degree is a goal, a title to laud over others, a proof of achievement. For others, titles and proof are not as important as ability, capability, passion and compassion. You, Sandy, have the ability, capability, passion and compassion that many "masters" are lacking. You are where you are meant to be, you have come into the lives of others through your books, trading cards, and blogs. You teach us all, everyday, how to live gracefully within our "strings", you teach us that jumping that line can be like playing a lofty game of Chinese Jump Rope, and you are a perfect example of creating your own path, in your own way, always with a goal in mind, but most importantly, you keep those you love within reach of a hug and offer them sound encouragement, leadership, and understanding.
    Remember, who you are and where you are ... it is meant to be ... and each tomorrow will expand who you are and where you are ... it is meant to be. Your goals in life are set by you, and shouldn't be measured by the expectations of others, or the failures and accomplishments of others. Don't let the projections of others influence your directions in life. You don't over-work your ZIA ... try not to over-work your present moments. And remember, many many people you have never seen and never met are in awe of your work, your words, your sense of humor, your sense of self, and your ability to edit (rather than ramble on and on like this commenter). Thank you for all you share and all you do.

    1. Thank you. Nicely stated.
      Right now... I am trying to "re-purpose" myself. I am looking for what I need to work on next. When I feel clear on a goal and feel truly useful, I can MOVE forward and do stuff. Now, I feel like I am treading water. I have faith that the next thing will be along sooner or later, but I like to use the lag time to refill my arsenal and develop some new muscles. ;-)

  9. Sandy, You are such an inspiration to me. Earlier you quoted Dory from Finding Nemo ~ "Just Keep Swimming." That is something that is hard to remember at times, for all of us. Taking time for yourself is so important if that is what feel you need to do. Just be you for awhile. Sometimes remembering why we love the process, and making art for ourselves can make us want to swim again.
    I just want to let you know that I so enjoy reading your newsletter, seeing your pictures and drawings - that flapper is so cool! I love your Zentangles -- I don't even Zentangle, but I am inspired by your art -- I started drawing and painting by doodling in 2004 -- and always considered it zen, though very different than the wonderful patterns you share. (Mine are more kind of stained-glassy, but totally stream of consciousness.) I was so excited to be led to your blog from a Zentangle search! You see, you were already one of my favorite artists and I didn't even know it. I still tell everyone who will listen that my favorite rubber stamp is the Zombie Pizza Slice from Bartholomew's Ink. Your line was by far my favorite -- it fit my wacky, mystery-loving- absurd-y style. I am tickled pink to be able to see your progression. I think you are amazing and your books/cards look absolutely wonderful!! They are definitely on my wishlist. I like to play with the patterns a lot.
    Whatever the future may hold for you -- you are an amazing artist. Thank you so much for your wonderful art. And for sharing your stories, laughs and overall fantasticness with us! :)


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