On Owning It: I Am An Artist

10/23/14

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About two months ago, I was at the book launch event for my latest book, Art Inc. I was signing books, one by one, and chatting with the folks who came to the table. Two young women approached, smiling widely.

“I am so excited about this book!” one of them exclaimed.

“Oh, thank you!” I replied.

And then I said, assuming if she was excited about my book it must be the true: “You must be an artist!”

The young woman paused with clear hesitation. “Well, I do some graphic design…and I paint in watercolors, but…”

“So you’re an artist,” I replied.

“Um, I guess so?” she said, her cheeks turning red.

I have wondered for a long time why it is so hard for artists — especially women — to own their status in the world. It took me years to identify confidently as an artist. Why are we so hesitant – at least until we’ve graduated from school or until we’ve “made it” — to proclaim, “I am an artist”?

And so it made perfect sense to me that the first chapter of my book, Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist, be dedicated to the notion of claiming our identity as artists.

For time immemorial society has seen artists as a different breed. We are moody and temperamental. We starve to follow our passions. If we are at all concerned with making money or if we do make money from our work – especially through commercial work – it must mean our intentions as artists are somehow corrupted. From all of this has grown the starving artist myth.

And, furthermore, most of us have been taught – either directly or indirectly – that if what we create brings us any reward at all (financial reward, recognition, even industry awards) that this reward is fleeting. This notion that our careers are built on a foundation of scarcity (which is no foundation at all) has permeated our society and our psyches.

And that is, in part, of course, because art is subjective. Our careers and our future careers as artists are based on whether people like our work, whether it becomes a commodity others want to own or pay us to make. We are always reminding ourselves that we could tomorrow starve, so we better be grateful for what we have today.

No matter how we came into the world of making or selling art, we all believe in some small way (or many of us in some big way) that at any moment it could all go poof! and disappear, that the people who pay for it today could go away tomorrow and pay for someone else’s work instead.

So many of us spend a lot of time feeling like we are lucky at best and that if we are making money from our work we might not even deserve it. Even artists who have been at this for a lifetime may feel like “imposters” in this world, that at any moment they will be “found out” and exposed for not really being talented or legitimate.

This sense of impermanence, of treading lightly, of not knowing whether my future was secure, even after my work was in demand, has been a big part of my story. And I have come to learn from talking to scores of other artists that it’s an incredibly common story.

It has been 14 years since I first picked up a paintbrush. And I spent much of that time feeling like an imposter. I didn’t study art or illustration formally in school. I did not follow traditional pathways to get where I am. Most of what I do most days I taught myself how to do. I don’t even know most of the time if there is better or easier or “more right” way to do what I do.

And for that reason, I used to spend a lot of time feeling inferior; like for some reason I did not deserve the success I was experiencing. And worse than that: that’s what I feared others might think about me too.

But at some point, I decided, this is bullshit.

And then the next part of my story became my internal fight to think in broader, more confident terms about who I am as an artist and what I can accomplish — not just in the near future — but over my lifetime.

I began spending a lot of time reminding myself that regardless of whether this has all been luck or whether I have any talent isn’t what matters. Who cares about that? What matters is that I am happy getting up every day to paint and draw. What matters is that I make my best effort every day to be myself in my life and work. What matters is that I work really hard at my career. What matters is that I am thoughtful about the work I want to make and the people I want to work with. What matters is that once it started, making art for a living hasn’t failed me.

I have also come to own & embrace all of my experience, including my unconventional (and late blooming) path, including feeling like an imposter, including my mistakes, including all of the less attractive parts of my story. Because all of those things, in addition to my hard work & my successes, have helped to make me who I am.

I am an artist.

For more on owning your identity (and potential) as an artist, see my book, Art, Inc. or my online class Become a Working Artist.

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Words for the Day :: No. 45

10/22/14

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Hope everyone is having a great Wednesday.

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New Notebook in the Shop!

10/21/14

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Now in my shop: my 5×7 inch “mega” screen printed notebook/sketchbook (front and back pictured above).

Filled with 48 blank pages for your doodling or sketching pleasure and originally designed for my sketchXchange event in Portland in October 0f 2014, this notebook (beautifully printed by Scout Books) is now available for purchase here in my shop.

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Have a great Tuesday, friends.

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2014 :: A Sewing Odyssey :: #7

10/20/14

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This past Friday I worked on my seventh garment sewing project of the year: a tunic made from some beautiful Nani Iro double gauze, which has been hanging around in my fabric stash since I purchased it earlier this summer. For this tunic, I used the same pattern that I used to make this dress, except kept the hem a bit shorter. [For those of you who are new to my blog, I started sewing my own clothes this past January. You can see all of sewing projects from the year here.]

To give this tunic a special pop, I used some neon pink bias tape for the neckline (also something I bought earlier this summer that I have been dying to use). I also recently purchased a serger, which I used to finish off all the interior edges of the dress (a very satisfying exersize, I might add!).

When I first started sewing clothes in January, I had no idea how much I didn’t know about garment sewing, and how different it is from quilting, the only other kind of machine sewing I’d ever done. Since then,  I have been working on refining my sewing skills every time I make a new garment. The first few pieces I made were humbling and frustrating, and I realized I needed to dig in my heals and learn some things, especially if I was going to make anything that I would feel proud to wear regularly. So I read a few books, took some classes and had lessons from my friend Sonya. And I finally feel like I am getting the hang of it, though I have so much more practicing to do, especially because I want to advance to more complicated patterns and techniques.

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This particular tunic is a very simple shape, just four pieces to construct. I know I will be using this pattern over and over again! It’s very flexible and easy to wear. My friend, pattern designer Sonya Philip, designed this pattern especially for me, but you can purchase very similar patterns of hers here.

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Have a great Monday and happy sewing!

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New Phone & Laptop Cases Available!

10/17/14

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I’m so excited to announce my latest phone, laptop and device case/skin designs! The first, above is called Garden Menagerie, and you can get all of the cases and skins here. (Scroll down to see the second design.)

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I’ve also released Spring All the Time, in a similar complimentary palette, which you can get here. Cases and skins available for every imaginable device!

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Happy shopping and have a great weekend!

CATEGORIES: For Sale | Phone Cases
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The DELVE Toolkit

10/16/14

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I love hearing about new resources for artists, and I was really excited recently when Sara Jones showed up at an event I had in New York and introduced herself to me. She is one of the founders of Kind Aesthetic, an creative agency who helps artists create a visual, written and emotional representation for their practice or business. One of their services is the DELVE Toolkit.

The DELVE Toolkit for artists & creatives offers personalized, one-on-one, professional guidance to visual and performing artists, creative entrepreneurs, crafters and makers to help them best communicate what they do, get (and stay) organized, and achieve their professional goals.

What you get:
+personalized direction and weekly assignments
+hours of one-on-one conversation plus email access to Kind Aesthetic
+the drive and focus from two professionals who truly care about your success
+honest, clear feedback
+constant, steady motivation and manageable tasks
+confidence, accomplishment, self-reliance and new amazing work habits and skills

You can set up a free 20 minute consultation by emailing hello@kindaesthetic.com

You can also read more about the toolkit here.

Have you taken my Become a Working Artist Course on CreativeLive or read my book Art Inc? The DELVE Toolkit sounds like fantastic followup support and action to get your art career moving.

Happy Thursday.

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Editorial Illustration for Design Observer

10/15/14

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I was pretty excited last month when I get an email from esteemed journalist Rob Walker, who writes for The New York Times and Design Observer, among other prestigious gigs. He asked me to be part of his latest project: the “Spawn of the Gerrymander” — in which he asked some of his favorite illustrators to use their talents to highlight the true shape of political mapmaking in the twenty-first century. You can read the introductory essay here and browse the whole series here on Design Observer.

I illustrated North Carolina’s Gerrymandered Fourth District to look like a Leafy Sea Dragon. You can see the illustration in all it’s glory and read about my interpretation here.

Have a great Wednesday!

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New Print in the Shop

10/14/14

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Friends, I’m now offering this Harriet Beecher Stowe hand lettered quote as a print in my shop. Get it here.

Have a great Tuesday!

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Portland, YOU Are Awesome

10/13/14

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This past week I spoke two different times at two different events for 2014 Design Week Portland. I have always known Portland is a special place. I have been going to Portland for visits for the past fifteen years. Several members of my family, including my sister and parents live there, and I have loved that town from the beginning. But the experience of the last several days brought a new level of love and appreciation to my heart. So many incredibly kind people, well organized, sold-out events, and good beer, food, smiles & hugs.

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Thursday I spoke at the Design Week HQ in Pioneer Square (which happened to be a geodesic dome). I was in conversation with Namita Wiggers, former Director and Chief Curator for the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, and also friend and inspiration, now freelance curator, writer and big brain. We talked about my path, how I’ve used the Internet and my mulch-disciplinary approach to making a living as an artist. Thank you to everyone who came out to hear us talk, and for all the great questions I got and interest in what I do. It was all very heartfelt! A special thanks to Namita and PDW organizer Kate Bingaman Burt for inviting me to do this event!

Then, this past Friday evening, I gave a talk about my work in general & my sketchbooks to a crowd of over 200 people.

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The event was organized by the amazing Yvonne Perez Emerson and Scott Baker, founders of WeMakePDX.

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Here I am with my wife Clay and Yvonne at the party following my talk. I have been working with Yvonne to prepare for the event for almost nine months, and I cannot say enough about her energy and enthusiasm, not just for my event, but for supporting and being part of the Portland creative community.

Thank you, Portland, for making me feel so welcomed!

Have a great Monday, friends.

 

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Napkin Design for Schoolhouse Electric

10/09/14

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Friends, I’m so excited to have done another project with my friends at Schoolhouse Electric! This time I’ve designed a linen napkin for them, pictured above.

Each 16×16 inch napkins is screen printed by hand and hand sewn in the Schoolhouse Factory. Crafted from natural linen, these dinner napkins will just get better with age and use. A Schoolhouse Electric Exclusive!

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You can order them here or purchase them at the Schoolhouse Electric shop in Portland, OR.

Happy Thursday!

 

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New Coloring Books Available in My Shop

10/08/14

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Every now and again you get a really amazing illustration job — something that you can’t wait to get up and work on every single day. One such job came my way last year, and it was to contribute three coloring books to a new series by Rockport/Quarto Publishing: Just Add Color (there are also books by other illustrators in the series, which you can see here). One of the coolest things is that they let me choose the subject matter for the books, and, as you might have guessed, I came up with Geometric Patterns, Folk Art, and Botanicals for my three books (because they are three of my favorite things to draw).

I’ve now got these three coloring books in my shop! And retail shop owners, you can purchase these books via Hachette distributors.

UPDATE! THEY ARE SOLD OUT. But coming back in a week to ten days. Stay tuned!

Happy coloring! And have a great Wednesday.

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Words for the Day :: No. 44

10/07/14

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Have a great Tuesday, friends. I’m back tomorrow with a brand new set of coloring books in my shop! Stay tuned.

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Become a Working Artist on CreativeLive!

10/06/14

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Last week I taught a two-day intensive class on CreativeLive called Become a Working Artist (and thank you to my student Alexa Heung for capturing the photo above). You can now purchase the 22-video class on CreativeLive for $99. The course includes hours upon hours of content, tips and exercises you can watch at your own pace (once you buy the course, you own it forever). You can read reviews of the course, watch a preview and see all the topics I cover right over here.

Thank you to the entire crew at CreativeLive who worked on promoting, recording, streaming, and producing my class, my three special guests (Carrie Lederer, Lisa Solomon and Betsy Cordes), my hosts Chris and JKO, and my entire in-studio class (all 17 of you!). And thank you also to those of you who tuned in all over the world to listen, learn and participate. It was a really wonderful experience. Here is a photo of the crew and my in-studio students after we wrapped last Wednesday.

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Become a Working Artist, now available for purchase. And, as always, there is my book, Art Inc, a great companion to the class.

Have a great Monday, friends!

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Words for the Day :: No. 43

10/03/14

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Have a great weekend, friends!

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Thank you, Land of Nod!

10/02/14

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Was pretty excited when I found out that the Land of Nod (who I’ve been designing for now for several years) gave my Hygge and West Triangle Wallpaper a shout out in their email marketing campaign yesterday. You can see it here in the background of the room pictured above and you can purchase the wallpaper (in several colorways) here. Thank you, Land of Nod!

I’m playing a bit of catch up after an amazing experience teaching Become a Working Artist through CreativeLive the past two days (thank you to everyone who turned up!), but I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap and some photos.

Happy Thursday!

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