Why You Don’t Have To Be Ernest Hemingway To Write About Your Art

RSCN5391 copy

Marisa D. Aceves. Pigment Cascade 1. digital photography

article by Marisa D. Aceves

We all love creating our artwork.

When we get a new idea that we just can’t wait to flesh out, we race to our studios with sparkling eyes and child-like enthusiasm, but while we’re content to lose ourselves in the creative process, we may or may not always feel the same when assigned the task of writing about our art.

Why is writing about what we love to do so intimidating?

Could it be that many of us share a common tendency to compare the quality of our thoughts and words to those of   popular art magazines or perhaps the works of award winning authors we were forced to read in school (ex. Hemingway and Malamud)that leave us tossing our laptops and tablets in disgust at out perceived  lack of literary genius?

Of course we could always make the excuse that we were too busy in our studios to write about our work…

…and maybe that might be partially true…but…

…no matter how much we procrastinate, ultimately we will have to provide some explanation for why we create, even if the real reason is as uncomplicated as “I felt like it!”.

If you are one of a number of artists who subtly fears the writing process, don’t fret over words.

Make them work for you.

Here are some suggestions for cutting through the confusion and getting to the meat of your artistic message.

1) Give A Little History –  Inquiring people are anxious to know how, when and why you became an artist.

Some artists’ route to creativity is traditional while others “fall into” their art practice by first participating in some other activity.

Include this distinction in the course of writing about your work.

If you are an artist which has a background in other fields of expertise and you apply this experience to your art, explain how this adds to your unique approach and perspective.

Artists who have undertaken a more traditional, well-traveled route to their artistic development may want to share what subjects, events etc. that inspired them or that continue to inspire their creations.

2) Write About Your Work Often – Practice removes the “intimidation factor” from your writing.

Sure, it’s a little scary, but then again, if you are still learning, you’re always new at something.

Set aside time in the day or week to write down your thoughts and feelings about your work.

Create a schedule that you know is easy to keep.

3) Write in Small Increments – Sitting yourself down to write for an hour or two can lead to procrastination as you sit there tapping pencil to paper waiting for the words to flow.

 If you know that you freeze when forced with a long, drawn out job, you may want to spread the work out and do things in between writing.

This eases you anxiety and helps you to collect you thoughts.

4) Observe the Writing of Others – 

I think the best way to learn how to write about art is to familiarize yourself with the way fellow professional artists write about their work and the work of others.

When observing articles artist write about other artists, consider these questions:

 a) Do they include background information about the artist before describing what they do?

 b) Do they include where the artist lives and works, their specialty (photography, painting, sculpture, installation etc.?

 c) Do they mention the artists level of education, awards and experience?

 d) Do they mention what is unique about the artists’ work?

Once you learn to break down art articles into bits of information, the easier and less intimidating it will be to write about your own.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you study the artist statements of others:

1) What is their work about?

2) What is their particular discipline (photography, painting, sculpture, installation etc.)?

3) Why do they create their work?

4) What are they trying to say with their work?

As you read their statements make sure to answer the questions mentioned above.

When you are finished you will have a rough map of the type of information that you will need to include in your own statement.

You can learn to write about your own art, or defer to others who may or may not truly understand your vision.

Be pro-active; don’t let the meaning of your art get lost in translation.

I am hopeful that over time, you will continue to grow and improve your communication with your audience.

Why Having A Back-Up Plan Provides Greater Flexibility For Your Art Business

DSCN5348 copy 2

Marisa D. Aceves. Bubble Landscape 3 (Vivid and Juicy). digital photography http://www.acevesart.com/

Some people give up their dream.

It’s sad, but it happens all to often.

When it does, years upon years of disappointment and resentment build.

Then anything mildly associated with creativity pricks pride and pushes buttons.

Nothing is ever satisfying; life has lost its luster.

Why do many otherwise creative people stop making art in times of extreme adversity while their peers continue to freely express themselves no matter what the consequences?

The answer is simple.

Plan A didn’t work.

What is Plan A?

Plan A is the traditional well-traveled route to recognition and success.

The scenario may start a little something like this…:

An artist may have always known especially when he or she was young that they were born to create art.

During their formative years, other people (friends, family members, casual acquaintances, etc.) told them that they had special talent in their chosen medium (drawing, painting, photography, sculpture etc.).

Then like many other artists, they went to college and read about the lives of famous artists throughout the ages and in their naiveté, thought that they were going to leap out of college with countless galleries begging them to sign.

They imagine that their innovative work will be featured in various reputable art publications.

Why they would even have their own star on the walk of art fame!

Hey, sometimes this does happen, but many times it takes several years of hard work, commitment, and contacts to build a successful art career.

Reality hits for the majority of art students.

There’s plenty of competition in college.

All of a sudden, many artists find that they are no longer the center of attention.

Instead they are second best, third best, fourth best in class or maybe they are the least skilled of all of their peers.

Often with academic endeavors there is a constant humbling, a steady chipping away of their once ample self-confidence.

They begin to find out quickly that they don’t know everything there is to know about art.

The more an artist learns, the more they realize how much smarter Jerry Saltz (a leading art critic) is then they are.

After school artists have to focus on building a strong portfolio, gallery submissions and other art related opportunities.

If an artist doesn’t have a mentor or an art world connection, doors grow heavier and more difficult to open.

Family problems, illnesses and financial difficulties can sometimes make creating art more challenging over the years.

At this point, faced with these odds, many talented artists walk away.

Should you?

This is a sad phenomenon, but it doesn’t have to end like this.

People don’t have to kill there art career, they choose to.

Sure, there are several challenges on the road to supporting a healthy art career, but if an artist really loves what they do they will always find an excuse to create even if it is not in the medium in which they started.

Most people start out with Plan A at the beginning of their lives, then after several years of experience move to Plan B, C,  or D.

This is not failure, this is called adaption.

The people that give up after Plan A fails never realize that Plan A, was only one way (one possibility) not the only way.

Plan A may or may not work out for you, but if it doesn’t, know that you are not alone.

Lack of Plan A success has nothing to do with self-worth.

It has nothing to do with the size of your talent.

It is not an indication of your true potential for making a valuable artistic contribution to the world.

You can have an art career in the face of intense adversity, but perhaps it will take a different path, one that’s a little bumpier, a little bit scarier and a lot more rewarding.

Be open to combing your interests, learning something new and applying a myriad of skills to different areas you haven’t explored.

Here are just some of the many options available to artists today:

1) Be Your Own Boss – A gallery may not come knocking on your door right away but you can use many different social media platforms to promote your work. Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook are all helpful tools for artist promotion. People all over the world will see your work. Make sure that you protect your work by copyrighting and watermarking your images. You may also consider selling work over your website to prospective buyers once you have reached your target audience.

2) Pursue Other Art Related Fields – Sometimes, you can seek internships at galleries, work at places that show art or volunteer for a docent program at your local art museum.  This can help put you in the public eye and connect you with people involved with the arts in your community.

3) Write About What You Love - Writing about art can help you approach art in a completely different way. It can help you better understand why other artists create the work that they do. It can help you understand the different movements, trends etc. that are shaping the art world. It can provide an additional source of income.

4) Apply Your Creativity To A Career Unrelated To Art – You might find that you have talent in other areas besides art. Pursuing a career in business, advertising, marketing analysis etc. may provide you with the steady income that will help you produce the art you have always wanted to without worrying about whether or not you can pay the bills. In addition you may find that you can approach other careers with the same creativity that you apply to your art, offering an original perspective that other people cannot.

5) Diversify Your Income – You can increase your income by investigating the many different ways that you can expose your particular brand of art to the public. For instance, you may pursue licensing, or putting you images on cups, post cards, greeting cards etc. Curating shows may offer an extra source of income. If you are great at photography, you might consider charging a fee for photographing the work of others. The possibilities are endless.

Don’t give up your dream; dream more creatively.

Once you consider the many options and avenues that you can pursue, any perceived career limitations fall by the wayside.

The Key To Finding Inspiration In Unexpected Places Part 2

DSCN5322 copy

Marisa D. Aceves. Bubble Landscape III (Red). digital photography http://www.acevesart.com/

article by Marisa D. Aceves

I am sure that you have heard the tried but always true saying, “Inspiration is were you find it”, but what if you’re having trouble finding a source of inspiration.

Everywhere around you, popular culture conditions you to believe that if you don’t do it “BIG” it isn’t worth doing.

If you don’t capture some huge monumental event or make a historical breakthrough, then the art you produce isn’t worth doing.

While we all would like to give into the “I’m not doing it “BIGGER” yet so therefore it’s not better” despair, we need to remember that life is not full of “BIG” events, it’s full of many “small” ones.

These small events like spare change in your pocket may not seem like much at first, but they quickly add up to make the “BIGGEST” event you will ever experience, your life.

You can gain both inspiration and insight if you pay attention to the “little” things that surround you.

It’s these “little” things that people cherish, though they are often overlooked even forgotten.

The story behind the picture featured above is a simple one.

A family excursion to the local Dollar Store led to the search for a familiar object to photograph.

Initially, we had decided to pick up some plastic sandwich bags and various other items we would need for the weeks chores.

When we walked in, we headed for the far left of the store.

Measuring cups, plastic ladles, and chip clips lined the isle.

Nothing really struck me as interesting until “it” popped up right in front of me.

The small transparent plastic napkin holder sat on the bottom shelf.

I picked it up instantly examining the many colors shining through it’s beaded surface.

This was the object I was going to photograph.

To the undiscerning eye it was just a cheap picnic napkin holder, but I knew it had potential.

I could choose to see it as a napkin holder and pass it by, but I decided to make it my subject.

The napkin holder would represent more than just a napkin holder, it would serve to deliver a message about the beauty and wonder in common objects and everyday life.

It was my personal challenge to make this common object interesting.

I had to give it life.

I had to help others see the aesthetic value of what would otherwise be considered disposable and forgettable, because if they could do this with a common object, they could learn to approach their lives and the people that they met with appreciation and gratitude.

A fellow artist and photographer, Misty Dreamer 10, tweeted a picture of a beautiful sunset with the message that everyday was beautiful you just had to choose to see it.

Artistic inspiration is all around us; it is in common objects, our relationships, nature, our pets etc.

We just have to choose to see it.

Why Your Differences Are The Hidden Blessings That Can Help Your Art Stand Out

DSCN5251

Marisa D. Aceves. Distant Memory. digital photography http://acevesart.com/

article by Marisa D. Aceves

In a sea of artists producing similar work and selling it successfully, it is easy for artists that create work outside the accepted status quo to feel both bewildered and distressed about their future.

Many of us know there are few certainties in life and yet we crave stability; We often seek it out even if it means that we give up pursuing our latest innovations.

The fear of failure is alive today as it has been for centuries.

It’s not going away.

We have to battle it one piece of artwork at a time.

Despite the overwhelming feelings some of us face as we force ourselves to push forward into unchartered artistic territory, the very things that make us different are the important elements (if used correctly) that can help us stand out.

Here are some helpful tips for overcoming the perceived mental blocks that keep us from confidence in our creativity:

1) Research Your Niche 

Carefully study what other people in your niche are creating.  How are they marketing their work? Who is their target audience?  What works for them? What doesn’t? Add your own personal voice and style to differentiate yourself from artists producing similar work. We all would like to do our own thing. We should produce the artwork that holds the most interest for us, but sometimes when the general population have difficulty with accepting the type of work we are producing, we may also have to look at what does appeal to people and why? When you complete this exercise, you are able to get outside of yourself. You begin to get valuable insights into how others view things.

2) Create Your Brand Around Your Unique Vision

Branding is a necessity, because it helps others to both know and trust you.  If an audience doesn’t know you, than trust will be difficult if not impossible.  As you market your work across different social media platforms, make sure that you are consistent with your overall message. Generally people are more likely to respond to new and different art when you reach them through your message. If your message resonates with them, then your art business has a much better chance of survival. The art then is a symbol for that message. Each time people see your work, they will think about that message because you have given them something to relate to.

3) Network With Other Artists 

Make friends and business connections with other artists.  Some may have similar interests; others may not.  When you have similar interests with other artists you may share what works and what does not. If you are in contact with artists that may not have similar interests, sometimes they can help you to view your niche from a unique perspective. Connections are key to building a successful art business.  When you reach out to others for support and encouragement, don’t forget to provide it.

4) Become A Storyteller

People want to know the story behind your art.  Share both obstacles and inspiration, but be careful not to divulge inappropriate or personal information that could hurt you and your business. When writing about your story, consider these questions:

a) What are you trying to say with your work?

b) What is important to you and why?

c) How does your world view effect the type of work you produce?

5) Share Your Success Stories

When people like and trust you, they are more likely to buy from you and promote your work.  There is nothing wrong with letting people know about a sale that you have made, a contest you have won, your latest commission or a show that features your work as long as you do this appropriately and politely. Simply informing your audience about peoples’ appreciation of your products and services is acceptable. Constantly boasting about your abilities or how much money you make can eventually irritate your audience and keep them from visiting your website so practice discretion.

While researching or creating your niche is a challenge, remember this: No thing worth doing is ever easy. The healthiest approach to tackling difficult aspects of your art business is to view them as both learning opportunities and teaching moments. If you apply the same mixture of discovery and discipline to your marketing efforts, finding your niche will be more enjoyable and less intimidating.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.

How To Get Past Your Insecurities To Produce The Artwork You Love

DSCN5273

Marisa D. Aceves. Rockin’ With Grandma: 60’s Aqua Pattern Punchbowl. digital photography http://acevesart.com/

article by Marisa D. Aceves

Whatever our physical or perceived challenges, we often struggle to get past the world’s expectation of us and our abilities.

Despite our past disappointments, we have all sought refuge in our need to make art out of lifes’ experiences.

What do we do though when the latest idea that we have entertained is immediately shot down by friends, family and colleagues?

Do we give up the projects that excite us the most or do we decide to continue and ignore the opposition?

While people can’t get into our heads to fully understand the scope of our artistic vision, here are some ways to help silence the insecurities that many of us face when we encounter resistance:

1) Suspend Judgement 

Go ahead, create your latest artwork series.  Don’t worry about what others will say or have said in the past. When you worry about what others think, you begin creating the type of art you believe others want to see not necessarily the art you want to create. The resentment builds.  Your art production begins to feel like a chore instead of a privilege.

2) Avoid Over-editing

In the beginning of your process, go ahead and let your ideas and thoughts flow. Work freely and without apologies.  You can sensor yourself later. This will help you to both know and trust the way you work.  Over-editing often leads to indecision.  When indecision occurs, walk away.  Take a brief break. Your work will still be there waiting for you.

3) Leave Peoples’ Opinions With Them

Don’t let other peoples’ opinions about an idea or project you want to pursue keep you from following through. Not everyone will like your work.  While this fact can bore a hole in the most sensitive egos, people have a right to their opinion. This also means you have a right to yours. It’s your work. Your art should express your views and unique insight.  If a person gives constructive criticism, it is solely up to you wether to take it or leave it.

4) Resistance May Be A Sign of  Groundbreaking Work 

In some cases, people may resist because the type of work you are creating is unfamiliar or ahead of it’s time.  Keep pushing yourself.  New work is often initially rejected.  However, over time, it is accepted as the norm. Be patient with yourself and others.

While many of us seek unconditional love and encouragement from our peers, we have to learn to be our own cheerleaders. Don’t wait for someone else to approve. If you do, you may be waiting for a long time.

The Key To Finding Inspiration In Unexpected Places

DSCN5242

Marisa D. Aceves. Shredded Paradise. digital photography http://www.acevesart.com/

article by Marisa D. Aceves

 

The closet door is rotten.

Old wood from the roof pollutes the rain water that has been collecting in the pots, pans and storage containers we strategically placed on the porch.

We know the sleeping porch will eventually collapse.

My grandparents house is 114 years old.

Everything in it is falling apart, rusting away and crumbling into oblivion. 

The whole scene might make you cry if you dare to follow us up those leaning cement steps to the front door, yet there is hidden beauty in our pain.

We must prepare the house to be sold as is.

It is the last connection we have to a time when the world seemed less chaotic. 

 Nothing in the house appears to have any value except for its location.

It sits right in the heart of our city’s historical district.

The guidelines require that the front of the house must be preserved, but the inside can be stripped of it’s character and remodeled. 

Do we need this old house?

No.

Do we wish that we could keep it in the family?

Yes.

However, this is not possible.

Some people might say that cleaning an old house isn’t inspiring. 

There’s nothing exciting about it; especially when you know that its the beginning of closure.

Inspiration though is something you you decide to find. 

You have to choose to see what is valuable in each and every situation. 

Recently, I have decided to find inspiration in the hidden treasures that I find as I clean the dust off the antique furniture and floors.

Sometimes messes are potential masterpieces.

The key to finding inspiration in unexpected places is to keep your mind open to the possibilities that surround you. 

No one is going to drop by and tell you, “Yes, this will make a great picture. Take it.” 

Instead, it is a feeling that you get. 

It is almost instinctual.  

There is no formula for knowing what is great subject matter; each artist has to discover that for themselves.

Breaking old patterns and reexamining old patterns can lead to new discoveries.

Look at the things that you do every day. 

Approach them from a different point of view.

For example, in the above picture entitled “Shredded Paradise”, I noticed that there was beauty in the shredded curtains that use to hang in the second bedroom. 

I was sweeping one minute, then snapping this picture the next. 

Today, I challenge you to see what is great in what everyone else considers ordinary. 

You may find that the subject matter for your next photo essay, painting, sculpture, etc. has been sitting right in front of you. 

It has been unappreciated, undiscovered; it is all yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Our Words and Thoughts Really Can Hurt Us: 10 Strategies For Combating Negativity and The Blues

RSCN5166

Marisa D. Aceves. Glass Bubble Landscape 1. Digital Photography

article by Marisa D. Aceves

Maintaining a positive attitude towards our art and other aspects of our life isn’t always easy.

Past traumas, rejection, career disappointments and failed relationships can temporarily get in the way of happiness.

However, when we constantly find ourselves dwelling on all of the misfortune that we have experienced instead of focusing on our strengths, this practice can not only get in the way of career advancement, it can ruin our emotional, psychological and physical health.

Succumbing to negative thought patterns steals our joy, our energy, and our will to create.

We don’t have to give into negative thoughts, but we often do.

In fact, we are conditioned from birth to think negatively, yet as very small children, the majority of us are essentially positive in our thoughts and actions.

Negative thoughts often lead to negative words about ourselves and others; this vicious cycle continues until we decide we want to change it.

Since the mind has a tendency to keep us thinking about all sorts of things that happen throughout the day, if we remember something negative that happened (something that upset us) this upsetting thought can trigger other upsetting thoughts.

This sets off a chain reaction that seems literally “unstoppable.”

Often worry or insecurities about getting out of our comfort zone in order to reach our goals can paralyze us from taking action in the areas that will ensure our success.

While the mind is trying to protect you and keep you safe, getting out of your comfort zone is essential to your artistic growth.

How do we defend ourselves against our  negative thoughts?

What can we do to set ourselves back on the path to a more positive, healthy outlook?

Here are some suggestions that may help you conquer the current onslaught of negativity:

Carefully Consider Your Present Thinking Patterns - The first step to changing negative thinking patterns is recognition. You have to recognize what types of negative thoughts are influencing your actions. When your are able to identify what types of negative thoughts you tend to entertain and in what areas negative thoughts occur, you can then begin to address the issue. According to Dr. Katharina Star, there are ten types of negative thinking patterns or cognitive distortions that interfere with our ability to think, feel and act in a positive manner. Here is a list with the strategies for combating them:

1) ALL OR NOTHING THINKING – Everything we think about is viewed in extremes of positive or negative. We are either an incredible success or a complete failure.  We are incredibly productive or we get nothing done at all. This way of thinking is extremely inflexible. It keeps us from seeing the step-by-step progress that we are trying to make toward our goals.

Strategy- For each area that causes you to go into black or white thinking, address it with the steps that you are taking to reach that goal each day. You may want to write down the areas that bother you the most. Then take notes of the progress you are making. This is written, visual proof that you are making an effort to move forward.

2) OVERGENERALIZING – When we are feeling down, we make assumptions that situations will always remain the way we once experienced them. We tell ourselves that we’ll never get out of our current situation. This is not necessarily the case, but the words “always” and “never” used negatively limit our view of our lives and potential .

Strategy- Whenever you are tempted to assume or overgeneralize, you should gently remind yourself that the upsetting situation may have been a one time occurrence. One mistake or situation should not determine the outcome of future events. Try to recall pleasant situations in which things did go well to offset thoughts about negative situations, setbacks, or mistakes.

3) MENTALLY FILTERING OUT THE POSITIVE- When we are approaching our lives from a negative point of view we have a tendency to filter out all of the things that are positive in our lives and focus only on the bad or unpleasant things.

Strategy- Count your blessings. Gratefulness helps us to notice what is beautiful and meaningful in our lives.  It helps us to see our gifts and the gifts of others.

4) DISMISSING WHAT IS POSITIVE – When we are discouraged, we have a tendency to ignore what is good in our lives, our achievements and relationships.

Strategy- Remind yourself of all of your successes. Continue to foster healthy, positive relationships by spending quality time with individuals you know love and care about you.

5) JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Sometimes we believe misread behaviors in others is due to their dislike of us or their lack of trust in our abilities.  We entertain scenarios of “doom and gloom” believing that every situation that causes us discomfort will end badly.

Strategy- Tell yourself that your fear of peoples’ judgement is often unfounded. You don’t have enough facts that equal proof. Go into each situation focusing only on what is going on in the present.

Stay out of your head and stay engaged.

6) MAGNIFYING AND MINIMIZING PROBLEMS- In this example of distorted thinking, we adopt either a “world is going to end” attitude to every setback we encounter, or we dismiss every opportunity for change that comes along because we believe we don’t deserve it.

Strategy- Discuss your problems and fears with a licensed therapist, a trusted friend or family member. This will help you get a grounded perspective on what you are experiencing.  Reach out to others who can help you see the true nature and amount of attention each emotional episode deserves.

7) EMOTION BASED REASONING- When we are lost in emotion, everything we see and experience  is colored by how we feel.

Strategy- Before allowing the latest bought of anxiety to paralyze you from taking action, you need to remind yourself that emotions lie. Our emotions are lying to us about our abilities and self-worth.  Feelings are not facts, just feelings.  Since emotions are associated with the right brain, engage in an activity which activates the left brain like counting, writing, researching,etc.  This helps to flip the switch on overpowering emotions.

8) WOULD’VE COULD’VE SHOULD’VE STATEMENTS - In the middle of a bad case of the blues, we tend to rehash what we could have, would have or should have done about a disappointing or unpleasant past experience.  This pointless exercise prolongs disappointment .

Strategy- Move on.  Do what you didn’t do yesterday today.  Focusing on changing bad habits that keep you from a more positive outcome.

9) ATTACHING LABELS TO OURSELVES – Low self-esteem and hopelessness contribute to our attributing judgemental labels to ourselves like stupid, worthless, etc.

Strategy- Refrain from labeling. Tell yourself “I know I have to work on this problem, but it doesn’t make me a bad or unworthy person.  There is no one in the world that isn’t touched by something.

10) PLAYING THE BLAME GAME - When we want to avoid dealing with our problems, we resort to self-blame or blaming others.  However, self-blame increases panic and anxiety.  Blaming others for our problems prolongs anger and frustration. It alienates us from our peers.

Strategy – Make plans to address the areas in your life that are frustrating you. Create a chart and write down possible solutions to each problem with small steps that you need to take to reach each goal.

Coping with periods of discouragement can go a long way to improving your creativity. It’s important not to stay discouraged. Eventually, we can conquer the negative thought patterns and words that are holding us back from our best life and creative work.