What Does It Take to Make Art?

Or be a creative person for that matter.

Recently I’ve found my personal work on a decline. I haven’t put forth the time and effort I really want to to create new and cool things. Yes I am busy. Yea I’m also lazy. But a part of me realized its because I’m scared.

A year ago I was submersed in an art community as I attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. It was a crazy unforgettable experience, and with so many like minded people around it was less scary to unveil my work for the world to see. I was able to stand beside it proudly even when it wasn’t as up to par as I knew it could be. Of course I was still scared to be in front of tons of people, having them critique my every line and shape, but I did it anyway.

So what changed?

I left that community. And lost my self confidence in my work. I kept denying this until I made myself face the problem as I haphazardly finished a painting I started a year ago and have been putting off. So I was looking for inspiration to make myself feel better and stumbled upon what really makes up an artist.

found on Chive
found on thechive.com

It lies somewhere between absolute narcissism and crippling self doubt.

As hilarious as it sounds I realized this Venn diagram nailed it. Completely. Utterly. Nailed it.

As well as the drive to pump out incredible creative works any creator needs to be cripplingly aware of every flaw and completely full of themselves to push themselves further and further.

This sounds silly. How do you not look like an ass while being completely narcissistic but how do you not look like a weenie while being deep in self doubt.

I still have yet to figure this one out, but I’m on a mission to figure out what this means for me.

I feel like this really just heavily hints towards the notion of courage. You know, doing something even when you’re afraid. Where does courage come from? Is it within all of us or is it something that we learn through our environment and our peers? And if I find out where this “courage” you speak of comes from, how can I get me some of that sweet courage for myself?

Shit. I feel like the cowardly lion right about now.

But seriously. How do we as humans attain the courage to do the extraordinary things we do? So I turn to none other than Google and type in ye olde search bar “where does courage come from?”

In all honesty I didn’t think I’d get much of anything good, but then I found a blog by Jamie Matthewman (The Inspired Man – read the post here) and a New York Times opinion article by David Bornstein (read it here) in the first two search results. What luck, huh? Especially since they’re both relevant to my questions and good reads at that too.

Courage according to the article comes from a self perception to be “strongly linked to other through a shared humanity.” That’s the short version relating to moral courage anyway, but still applicable. The blog credited it to choice and how you perceive yourself. These both have in common how you as a person are perceiving yourself. Like how strong do you think you are, physically and emotionally or how much faith you have in yourself, etc.

I found this incredibly interesting. I feel good knowing that a starting block for being a well balanced person in my Venn diagram is re-evaluating how I perceive myself and working on what I see as conflicting with my choices to be courageous. I found this crazy interesting. The idea of breaking this down into smaller steps in order to achieve the greater goal.

Courage is a choice that is governed by the way you perceive yourself, and if there are perceptions of yourself that conflict with a courageous attitude, such as not trusting yourself or not believing in your own strengths, you have to work on those perceptions before you can “leap into the fire” (so to speak).

Of course that seems like almost a convenient answer so I turn to the internet.

I want feedback on what makes people feel confident in their creative works. Tell me what gives you courage. Where does it come from for you?

I Never Knew I Was My Strongest Asset

A lot of people don’t know this, actually. That you are the strongest asset in your life. Others are saying “Well duh, it is my life after all, I have control over it.” But that’s only part of what I’m getting at today.

I always thought that I believed in myself and dove into challenges, no matter my fear of failing, with the strong idea that I will come out successful and I will be stronger through this experience. I was always fairly satisfied with how I supported myself and pushed myself farther. I always thought so anyway.

Pusheen the cat being lazy from pusheen.com

But recently as I’ve edged my way farther into the “adult world” I realize how much of a struggle this transition is for me. Growing up is hard not to mention kind of crummy sometimes. (Okay more like super, incredibly crummy for what feels like at least 65% of the time. Its gotta be over half the time that I’m dealing with crummy situations, I swear.) I’ve felt frustrated and wanted to give up. I’ve spent cumulative hours sitting in the shower or laying in bed in the morning because I just can’t will myself to go out there in the real world and face another day. This sounds a lot like depression, but it isn’t. Its just me not wanting to deal with it, otherwise known as me being lazy and not wanting the work of an adult but wanting the play.

Through all of this frustration though, I’ve been getting jobs. Paying jobs. As a freelance graphic and web designer. Oh and they’re steady jobs. Did I mention they’re paid? This is me edging out into the real world. I’ve never before had much for jobs, and if they were it was a trade for something, so this is a huge new chapter in my life. But all these jobs are a source of frustration. I’m not used to working so intensely with clients yet. But it’s all cool, its a learning experience.

So by now you’re thinking, “What the hell are you getting at? I thought this post was about self help and believing in yourself and junk. You’re just rambling about how hard it is to be awesome and have paying jobs.”

Hold still squirrel, I’m setting up the story so you’ll understand my remarkable breakthrough moment.

The only reason I’ve gotten this far in my life, I credit to my support network. My family, friends, and boyfriend. These people support me in this journey by giving me jobs, helping me network, referring me and my talents, and helping me with inspiration. They are the only reason I’m still fighting through this and coming out on top. They are my strongest assets.

But I was wrong.

Completely.

F***ing.

Wrong.

How did I come to that conclusion? Well, I went to kickboxing class. (I’ve recently joined a gym as a way to get out anger

A photo of the gym I go to (Title Boxing) supplied by my friend Carrie who initially referred me.

from my frustration and get a little exercise in while I’m at it.) This is where it gets a little cheesy.

When I’m in the zone, punching away at that bag, I feel on top of the world. That “nothing can mess with this bitch” attitude comes on strong, and that’s how I came to my conclusion. It took a dose of me feeling confident and strong about myself to understand an incredibly important fact that I was overlooking.

I am my most important asset.

Many of us can overlook how much we actually put into everything. I’m always so quick to thank everyone else who helped me. I’m so quick to treat my boyfriend to ice cream or buy my parents candy as a thank you. (Don’t judge me I’m still relatively poor.)

But at that moment in time, it all hit me. I should be thanking myself a lot more than I do. There’s no shame in patting yourself on the back for a job well done. There no shame in taking yourself out to dinner or getting your favorite snack because you achieved greatness in whatever you’ve been working so hard to accomplish. I never give myself enough credit and that just isn’t going to fly anymore. I’m the reason all this is happening. Yes, a lot of people help me achieve my goals, but 95% of the work is all me.

So why do I only acknowledge when I do something wrong? My mind focuses on the negatives and things I could’ve done better. Why brain, why?!

I feel it’s because I’m not acknowledging myself as an important asset in my own life. This realization hit me one week ago and since then I’ve been tackling life with a new ferocity all because not only do I believe I can take these challenges, I know I can do a great job and I know its because of what I can do and not just the people helping me. Since my remarkable breakthrough I am able to love myself more as a person because I’m not so focused on the bad but so much more focused on understanding the fact that I am the most important asset to my dreams coming true and I’m a great asset to have on my team. I am turning into one of those strong people I’ve admired since I was little, and I’m not going to stop now.

This post is a little self centered, mostly because its my own personal story, but it really shows how learning to love yourself can help push you to do better at this thing called life. Reminding yourself that you are important and treating yourself is important. Even if it’s just listing some of the things you know you’re good at to give you that feel good confidence boost. With so many messages in our society always saying in some way that you’re never good enough, it needs to be you who reminds yourself that you are worth gold. Body image is part of that, and I’ve come to terms with that part of my life, but self worth is another and sometimes that can be much harder to understand and acknowledge. I had to confront my own self in order to acknowledge my own worth. I encourage everyone to do the same, because you’re all important in your own way.

I’ve found the value of valuing myself and I’m glad I found it now instead of later in life.

Hell, today I even got out of bed before my alarm.

What Is Feminism Trying to Achieve Anymore?

Yeah. Feminism. I said it. Almost a kind of scary word to put in a blog anymore, right?

I’ll start by simply stating that I’m not a 3rd wave feminist. If you’re into labels you may consider me more of an egalitarian, or perhaps even a type of post-feminist. I don’t even feel comfortable calling myself a feminist anymore because the shit storm of over-reaction in either direction it incurs gives me a damn headache. I don’t feel that I could ever honestly agree with the viewpoints that many 3rd wave feminists are trying to force down my throat, especially when the message I receive when telling them I don’t agree with them, but I’m still a feminist, is backlash and scorn for not doing more to ‘put men in their place.’ (Gag)

Not all feminism is bad. But this makes me wonder what these 3rd wave feminists are really trying to achieve with some of the campaigns they initiate. The one that a friend of mine brought to my attention was attacking something they had labeled as ‘manspreading.’ What is manspreading? Well from what I’ve gathered the term refers to when a man sits and spreads his legs, what I’ve always thought is to better accommodate their extra…well…you know…genitalia.

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

So here’s an article on the matter. It is a few months old but it is still relevant to the topic.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/nyregion/MTA-targets-manspreading-on-new-york-city-subways.html

I would like to address a few points first. Yes, this can be rude. Yes, if you are taking up two seats you should have the common decency to let someone sit. No, you shouldn’t discriminate who sits next you you on public transportation, move your legs/body/belongings for anyone who may want to take a seat. No, it will not kill you to ask someone if they could move slightly to let you sit and no, it will not kill you to sit directly next to someone. I agree that you should make room for the rest of the people around you if not to just to be a considerate human being. I’m okay with the subway having some kind of signage reminding people to be polite, but I’m not okay with the women who are attacking men for sitting. Even more so when I see the posts and pictures of a man practically alone and ‘manspreading’ with plenty of other seats to choose from, but the poster still shames them anyway.

What I don’t agree with is the fact that feminists are attacking this issue, claiming it to be a display of male dominance.

Want to know a secret?

Women do it too.

Taken from Clayton Craddock’s blog post #Manspreading

I think that it should apply to the woman who puts her purse next to her as well. If that’s not a display of female dominance on the subway, then I sure as hell don’t know what is.

It just seems to me that more and more these 3rd wave feminists are just grasping at straws, trying to figure out what about men they can shame next. Its all about the shaming anymore. Why do we as humans feel compelled to put someone else down just so we can rise above and feel better about ourselves. I don’t understand it.

I was a bit of a bully growing up. I’d put down other people to make myself feel better. Sometimes I still do. And you know what? It doesn’t make me feel any better. Maybe for a minute, but then I just feel shittier for being such a negative person. And even though I used to act that way, I still don’t understand why I did it.

It bothers me to see things that belittle men based on nothing other than women wanting to be treated equally, but not putting forth the effort to treat others equally back. That’s pretty much the basis on the golden rule. The first thing I ever learned about social interaction was to treat others as you would like to be treated and it feels like as we grow older we seem to forget that.

Shaming people isn’t ever going to get you anywhere for your cause. It may get you in the spotlight and maybe you’ll gain more followers, but in the end it won’t actually help you push your cause further. There will always be that other side, the side you put down that will fight back, because they don’t want to be treated like animals. As a feminist, you’re trying to achieve that same goal, so what good will it do you to be the one holding the leash shoving your opposition’s nose in its own poop? It just turns into a fight to see who can maintain dominance; who will be treated like an animal and who will be oppressing that animal.

Maybe I just love men too much and admire their difference from me to fully understand how this helps me in my battle for equality.

What do you think internet? How is this type of shaming helping the move for equality?

This is comedian Brett Druck. It kind of applies, but at the same time doesn’t. But I do find it funny. brettdruck.com

Art is More Important Than You Think

Since I started this blog I have always maintained in my bio that I am and artist, yet I have yet to speak about it hardly at all. Today changes that. I want to go to a dark topic in art that is affecting us today.

I’m talking about ISIS and their senseless destruction of priceless artifacts and artwork that define humanity through the ages.

If you haven’t read up on this, I seriously encourage you to look into it. I’ll even make it easy for you:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/06/opinions/manning-isis-antiquities/

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/03/isis-destroys-ancient-art.html

http://www.newsweek.com/isis-destroys-shiite-mosques-and-shrines-iraq-257683 This one is fairly old and centers on the destruction of religious sites, but shows pictures and is still relevant to the problem.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Monuments Men” or know history of the Nazi army confiscating artwork for their own you may feel that this is somewhat similar. That ISIS is copying Hitler to make a point. Well, in my strong opinion that’s the wrong view to take on this. This is very different from Hitler, and he even looks like the lesser of two evils here.

Hitler took artwork for several reasons. Some he liked and wanted to sell or keep. Some of it he wanted to put in his museum of conquest. And others he destroyed in order to control the culture of the people he was dominating. Art is very influential to any culture and he knew that by seizing control over that, he could seize the culture associated with it. Don’t get me wrong he’s still bad and that was a horrible thing to do.

Buuuuuut, ISIS isn’t really doing that. They’re destroying because their extremist view tells them to eradicate all traces of anyone who opposes them. I suppose you could group that in with control over a culture like Hitler, but I personally feel that it goes to a far more sinister level. A far more soulless level than Hitler ever did.

You should watch this:

http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/world/2015/02/26/id-wedeman-mosul-isis-destroys-artifacts.cnn

So why should you care? It’s Iraqi art and artifacts. That’s not my culture.

Shut up.

You should give a damn whether or not ANY other cultures past is being wiped away. Art and artifacts document how everything came to today. That is a documented history of that entire culture and to have it suddenly vanish is unthinkable.

But another reason you should care is because they’re trying to wipe out the history of mankind. Mesopotamia and the first sprouts of human civilization began around there. We use records of our past to help ourselves move forward in the future, instead of backwards or in repeat. Sure, all of that happened so long ago and we have obviously moved far past it, but those artifacts and treasures can teach us things to this day. Take an introductory art history class. That’s where you start. Right at the beginning of documented time. And yes, you can and probably will learn something about humanity you never thought of before by studying such old pieces.

In all honestly I get so upset talking about it I can’t form the words anymore to complete thoughtful sentences, so I’ll leave on this: What do you think/feel about it?

And if you don’t think or feel anything, why not? Because in my opinion you should at least care a little.

Loners Die Sooner

Are you a bad ass, lone wolf who needs no one and lives for yourself only? Do you walk in and out of people’s lives and never think twice about anyone but yourself? Well good news, you sound like some cool movie character that every girl wants to “fix”, but bad news, in reality statistics say you’re going to die sooner than me. Because I have friends.

I’ll admit it. The title and first paragraph of this post were to catch your attention. There is truth to that though. We are social creatures and if you don’t make relationships with the people around you, you actually are prone to dying younger, which honestly I find fascinating.

Okay, moving on.

No, today I want to rant about the importance of friends and why, other than death making a visit sooner, you should really invest your time in them. I’ve found this especially true of people my age in their 20s, but this is a life long lesson. Sure you may not have the same friends in 10 years, but you should still have friends.

So I tired that whole, “school is so much more important than going to a movie because I’m poor as hell anyway and I really need to study and I just CANNOT deal with drama right now and everyone just wants to start drama, like, all the time and I’m just not going to deal with it by cutting out friends,” mentality. Guess what? It sucked. And was an absolute hell of a time. And I didn’t even cut out friends entirely! I just chose not to invest hardly any time in them. A not as dramatic version of that mentality still made me an emotional, depressive wreck. Ask my mom. I’m sure even she got tired of me calling just to complain about how crappy life was.

My best friend, KC, and I

So I discovered the importance of friends. And I don’t just mean a significant other. I have one, he’s amazing, but him being my only friend I wanted to do anything with put a strain on our relationship. Maybe you’re at a point in your life you don’t even need a S.O. and that’s good for you, but I have one and he is my best friend. But you also need friends who are the same sex as you. If you’re in a gay/lesbian relationship I mean another friend besides your S.O.

So here’s my main list of why you, in your early adult life (and entire life), absolutely should invest time in friends. And not just furry and imaginary friends.

1. Friends, while they may have less or more experience than you in any given topic, are good to go to for advice. They’re someone to talk it out with, and while they may not even have good advice, talking might just help you find the answers you need.

2. Friends can help you feel better after bad experiences. The act of being social feeds our human nature. We crave it. So instead of holing yourself up in bed, watching Netflix and eating ice cream, try having a friend over. We are social creatures and you will inevitably feel better just being around someone you choose to have a relationship with.

My friend, Mikayla, and I. She recently moved to Louisiana but we keep up our long distance friendship with texts, videos, Skype and planning visits. We still push each other to try new things and be the best we can be.

3. Friends fill a void. Sure, its great to have hobbies and personal things that you enjoy. Its good to have alone time. But again, we are social creatures. We need this just like we need to eat.

4. Along with that filling a void, friends help keep you emotionally/mentally stable. Drama happens. Friends fight. Friends walk away from each other and don’t talk for years. How can that help you be emotionally and mentally stable? Well, for one, you shouldn’t have just one friend, so in this event you have others to fall back on. But friendships also help keep a person happier and less stressed. That results in a more stable you. (Unless you have crappy friends who only want to hurt you. Those aren’t friends by the way.)

5. Friends push you to be the best you that you can be. Good friends don’t let you just give up on stuff. They are always looking out for your best interests and not selfishly looking out for themselves. They’re like cool parents in this respect.

So that’s my 5 main reasons why everyone needs friends and why I’m glad I found the importance of friends and saved myself years of hell. And admittedly it took my best friend to tell me to reconnect with other friends for me to see the light. Of course coming across true, honest to God great friends is a journey you have to go through on your own, you should try to find them. And of course you should be the kind of friend you want to have. But a lot of things happened in my personal life this week and I just realized how grateful I am to have the friends that I do and how important they really are to me.

My friends, Carrie (left) and Anna Mae (right), on a night out. These gals have been my friends since second grade and kindergarten. Growing up together we know each other well and have maintained our friendships for years, even through that thing called high school. We have always been there whenever any of us has asked. And even sometimes when we haven’t.

The Importance of Animals (in my life at least)

I grew up on a farm. I’ve been surrounded by a variety of animals my entire life. Heck, I’ve even had a cat since the day I was born. Animals play an important role in my life. They do in many people’s lives. The other day I got to thinking about that and why. I was doing my daily yoga and my cat decided to join me. Instead of chillin’ out and watching or even participating, she instead assumed the position laying underneath of my downward dog. What an inconvenience, but whatever, I love her. She’s like my baby, my furry almost daughter, my best friend that can’t talk back. Well, scratch that, she gets in my face often and we meow at each other when she doesn’t get her way, but you get what I’m saying.

Lauren in all her fat cat happiness.
Lauren in all her fat cat happiness.

So what’s with her? Why am I so attached to HER? She’s a princess. A bitch. Like, 80% of the time. But, nonetheless I love her so much I move out of her way when she lays underneath of me during my yoga. What’s with me? So I got to thinking about how we need this animal companionship. Sure, its not for everyone, but almost everyone I know who has had an animal in their life, looks at life, love, and friendship a little differently. (I don’t think hermit crabs and fish apply here.)

My first cat, Tabby, taught me that life is short. She passed away when I was 12. That was devastating for me because I didn’t know life without her. But I didn’t learn this lesson right away, it actually took me letting another cat that close for me to understand. Which was weird, considering the fact that I lived on a farm and we had barn cats that did as they pleased, including reproducing. They died all of the time, and I was sad, but soon I would forget about them and be on with my life. Which makes me wonder if anyone will remember me years after I’m gone, but that’s running on another idea.

So the time came when my mother wanted to get another cat to fill the hole her cat left when he passed, and of course we would get two because they need a playmate. I was excited, but reluctant to fall in love. Before I get any sappier, I’ll wrap it up with we got Lauren and her sister Tiranen, and Lauren became my girl.

She was a bitch from the beginning. But somehow over time, we grew close and became inseparable. She taught me that love isn’t a closed door, people and animals come and go, but you can always learn to love again. She taught me that friendship is unconditional. When I left last year to go to Minneapolis, she waited for me to come home. As soon as I got home we would be together constantly. She didn’t care that I left, she knew I’d come back. When we got mad at each other we would make up.No matter what, at the end of the day, we knew we would be there for each other.

The morning I left for Minneapolis, Lauren wouldn’t let me out of bed.

But she also finished the lesson Tabby started. When I moved away my biggest fear on top of losing her as “my cat” was losing her. She’s 7. Her life’s half over and honestly that scares me a little. I don’t want the pain I felt when I lost Tabby all over again. She’s my best furry friend and it’s like she’s a person. She has her own personality, her own habits, and we communicate in our own way. Which makes me face the fact that life is short. I shouldn’t be worrying about the fear I have of losing her,  but making the most of the time I get to spend with her.

And those three lessons I’ve seen in almost every animal/human relationship. I can apply these to every relationship I move towards. I can apply it to my life. Who knows if I’ve taught my cat anything besides come when I snap my fingers, but she has taught me so much. Especially through the “hard” teenage years of finding myself. That is something I will always be grateful for and I realize I love her because she taught me things I needed to know. And that she continues to love me no matter how much of an ass I may be. I am lucky to have such a great friend.

Lauren and I (kind of looks like shes smiling)
Lauren and I from 3 years ago (kind of looks like shes smiling)

Parenting Isn’t Always Easy, But C’mon…

Okay so the title of this post obviously points to me ranting about parents and how terrible they are nowadays. But what do I know about parenting? I’m just a single girl, 21 years of age, with no children. Well, scratch that, I count my cat Lauren as my child. It’s, like, the same thing. (Before you go off your handle and completely disregard me, I really want to stress how I am not serious. I know pets are not on the same level as a child.)

I’m not going to go on about how all parents today are bad at what they do, because that simply isn’t true. I want to touch more on a story KCRG covered about a woman charged with child endangerment. This story hit me harder because I know that child and her father is a good friend of mine. I won’t list any names besides the woman whose name is in the story already. You can read that here for reference.

KCRG photo of the mother, from the article by Lee Hermiston

Parenting is not an easy task. It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and patience. Even I, a childless youth, can understand the basic qualities of a good parent. Heck, I’ve had them to look up to my entire life. No, I cannot truly understand the unique hardships the role has to offer, but at the very least I can empathize with the situation. I have many friends, younger and older, who have children of their own, That doesn’t make me an expert in any way, but I have the strong urge to slap this mother up and down the street for putting her child in that kind of situation.

It sickens me to know that there are people who would put themselves before the child they fought tooth and nail to keep. In my opinion if you didn’t want your baby or you felt unready for such an incredible weight to bear there are other options you could have taken, such as adoption. But to then turn around and put that precious angel of yours in serious danger is like trying to have your cake and eat it too. Of course I know more personally about this particular situation than I am willing to release, but similar situations happen every day.

Children are gifts to many. Its hard to look at something like this and feel any sympathy for a mother or father who would put themselves so far in front of their child’s needs. I got to thinking and wondered if this may be because of how we have conditioned ourselves as Americans. How much more does this happen in other countries? What are their different situations? What other factors come into play? I got to thinking about how we as Americans pride ourselves on independence. We value putting ourselves in priority. But to what extent? A child can’t very well fend for itself and when you become a parent you take on that responsibility. Are we just getting lazier as a society that we don’t want to care about anyone much further than ourselves? Or is this merely an isolated incident among many and our society as a whole is better than ever?

I feel as though I hear more stories of these cases in the news more and more than my mother and father might have heard when they were my age. Is this really a rising trend? I looked into it a bit and according to “Child Welfare Outcomes Report to Congress 2008-2011”, which can be found through the childwelfare.gov site, neglect rates have been a declining trend since the 1990s. That’s good, but then makes me wonder if the news stresses stories like this more and if that helps raise awareness of these types of things. The one thing that really made me look more at myself in this whole situation was that it took a close friend having this happen to his daughter to get me to acknowledge that this stuff happens. What does that say about me? I began thinking about how this impacts me even if it wasn’t my friend’s child in danger. A lot of these questions I still am not entirely sure about the answer. Hell, I’m still in shock because it all only happened a couple of days ago. This seems like something I really need to think more about though.

What do you think? I understand my post may be a little opinionated and heated, but what answers to any of these questions can you provide? Or maybe what does it make you think about?

And for further peace of mind, yes the baby is just fine as far as we know at this point. She was all smiles by the time she got home.