As many of you know, I launched a Print of the Month series in January. I am so excited to let you know that the February limited edition print is here! It is 13×19 inches (the largest digital print I’ve ever offered), full color, and printed on white archival quality paper. Each of the prints is signed, dated and numbered by me. You can purchase yours HERE, but act fast! There are only 40 and they will sell out fast!
If you follow along on any of my social media channels you know that I’ve been, like much of America, a bit riled up after the election of our new U.S. president, especially since the inauguration. I’m not here to talk about politics at this moment, so hang in there with me. I’m here to talk about what some of my followers expressed when I did start talking more frequently about politics in the last year, and what their reaction has made me realize.
For the record, I’ve been speaking about my political (personal, social, world) beliefs here on this blog and on social media for years. I don’t do it a lot, but when stuff in the world or in my own life happens that I care about, I say what I think. I feel like I have a personal responsibility to say what I think. Also, I’m gay. Openly gay. I’m married to a woman. I’m covered in tattoos. Over the years, my hair has been every color in the rainbow. I live in a liberal mecca (and moved here from another liberal mecca). I have done work (very publicly) for both the Obama and Clinton campaigns, the Human Rights Campaign and other progressive causes. I’m an artist. You get the picture.
I sometimes naively assume that if you follow me online or take my classes, that you also get the picture — of me and what I’m about. But what I have learned over the years (and especially recently), is that a portion of my following, while they might assume I have political opinions that are different from their own, they don’t want me to talk about them. They just want to look at my pretty pictures.
Here’s the thing: for the most part, I do make a living drawing and painting “pretty” (and mostly politically benign) pictures — bold, graphic landscapes, floral line drawings, animals, repeating decorative patterns, vintage-inspired quilt motifs, and inspirational hand-lettered sayings.
The day of the inauguration, I wrote a post here about activism. I started more fervently making and posting politically charged artwork. Afterward, I got comments and messages on various platforms saying some flavor of: “I follow you because I like your art, but I do not want to hear about your political views.” Others argued with the power or validity of anger (I had said, in no uncertain terms, that I was angry). One woman proclaimed that she was unfollowing me, and that she was also going to unfollow every artist who was also currently an activist speaking out against the government. Because, to her, it is wrong to question the president. She also vowed to unsubscribe to the platform on which I teach classes and to never buy one of my books again. She was done with me. It’s worth noting that I have not experienced a mass spewing of vitriol. Most of my former followers have unfollowed me more quietly, and, even if they’ve expressed their opinion about why, they’ve done it politely and respectfully.
(Above: one of my many recent posts on Instagram, at the Women’s March in Portland, holding a sign I made and wearing a Pink Pussy hat my mom made for me)
In truth, I believe the beautiful thing about social media platforms is that you get to choose who you follow or don’t. That requires a bit of trial and error — you might follow someone because you “like their art,” but then later discover they express opinions that you find offensive. I have unfollowed folks for a variety of reasons. I am in full support of unfollowing, because a lot of the time, it makes sense. And so, my response to the woman I mentioned above was some version of “…that’s the great thing about social media — you don’t have to follow or listen to anyone who you don’t want to, who rubs you the wrong way, who you disagree with, etc. Follow if you want, but I totally respect unfollowing. Peace!” You get to “curate” your own social media feed.
After years on the Internet, I have learned not to take disgruntled followers or mean trolls personally. I have learned to accept unfollowing as part of everyday life. What has become more important to me, and the main point I want to make here, is living my truth, expressing myself as a whole person — not just someone who makes pretty pictures — is more important to me. Here’s how I put it to the woman who publicly proclaimed she was unfollowing me and all artist/activists: “I am not on this planet to please everyone or make everyone feel comfortable. I am here to share my art and my experience and to be a voice for what I believe in.”
That’s right: I might make pretty pictures, but they do not define who I am. I am a complicated, sometimes messy human being. I have past experiences that haunt me. I have regrets, hopes and dreams. My views have been shaped by my experience — as a woman and a lesbian, for example — just like your experiences shape your views. That’s why on my Instagram feed and here on my blog you see both the pretty things I draw and paint and, occasionally, of the other stuff — my struggles, my beliefs, my heartaches, my joys and contemplations and my political rants.
I also want to acknowledge that while I have lost many, many followers over the past months (especially in the past weeks), I am incredibly heartened by the support that the vast majority of my following (and it’s going strong) have expressed for my activism and my activist artwork. I think most of my followers do see me as a whole human being — they want to see me as a whole human being. They like knowing where I stand, and where they stand in relationship to me. Sometimes we don’t agree. Almost daily I am challenged to think about at least one thing one of my followers has said or asked.
I am also heartened by the activism of so many artists on the Internet — many of whom have never said a controversial thing on their Instagram feed or blog until now. I continue to urge artists to use their voices. Your freedom to do so is what makes our democracy great! Your words have weight. Use them.
Have a good Wednesday, friends! And thank you for listening.
Friends, I’m so excited to let you know that one of my paintings has been turned into a quilt pattern — that you can purchase! I’ll get to that in a moment, but first: the story behind the quilt.
Some of you may remember that last year, I was a judge for the 2016 QuiltCon. QuiltCon is a competition of modern quilts. You can read more about it here. Last January (so about a year ago), I traveled to Los Angeles for the judging. I was joined by two master quilters. Long story short, looking at hundreds of quilts that week inspired me endlessly. I wrote about the experience here.
One of the pieces I made when I returned from QuiltCon was this piece, which I called Los Angeles:
The organizers of QuiltCon asked me if they could turn this painting into a quilt design and I happily said yes! You can see the final quilt they made as a sample below (which at some point will become mine!):
You can purchase the pattern here.
Have a great Thursday!
Guess what? We’re already halfway through Creative Bootcamp! Congratulations to everyone who has shown up to the “gym” again this week for more exercises. This week in my Creative Bootcamp we’re going to play with color again, but this time we’re going to use some restraint and work in monochrome. I love working in monochrome because it forces me to play with values, pattern and intensity in a way I might not otherwise.
I’ve been so excited to watch what some of you are creating in the class. I’ve been following along with the #cbugbootcamp hashtag daily on Instagram. Here are a few of my favorite spreads from the last couple of weeks (I couldn’t possibly post them all!).
Luscious colors and layering by @juliehamiltoncreative:
Beautiful palette & another fantastic example of layering by @angiehiltzdesign
Love the pastels here and use of background imagery by @quietlyfiery
I’ve been ogling over this one from @klikadesign since she posted it:
@paulineijle has mastered the Matisse effect here, but totally with her own flair!
I love this spread by @hannekesupplyillustration because of her use of both bright neon and muted colors and her fantastic composition
This page by @megan_whisner_quinlan would make the most gorgeous fabric pattern!
I am so drawn to the orange and purple combination — and the gorgeous attention to detail and composition of this one by @happychinchilla!
And how about these sunshines by @sara__ponce?? I love the combination of pinks and yellows in the background!
I can’t wait to see what you all create this week in monochrome! I’ll be visiting the #cbugbootcamp hashtag regularly. Show me what you’ve made over at #cbugbootcamp on Instagram! It’s also never too late to join the class. Join us!
Shortly after the election in November, I sat down with Maria Molfino, who hosts the podcast Heroine: Women’s Creative Leadership. We weren’t sitting down to talk about the election. In fact, we mostly talk about other things — things like what I was like as a kid (and how that changed when I hit puberty), and women stepping into their creative power, and the unsexy parts of my work. I hope you will give it a listen*.
But inevitably, at the end of the podcast, Maria asked me about using my art for activism. At the time the podcast was recorded the election had just happened. In some ways, I was still in shock. Even though I’ve never been shy about sharing my views online, I was just then beginning to think about how I would use both my art and my platform online to express my views and influence others in a more powerful way. I also talked about this very thing with Sandi over at Crafty Planner in our recent podcast episode, also recorded after the election. It’s been on my mind a lot. It’s something I think about nearly every day.
My question has been: how will I use my social media platform and my creative expression to contribute to activism?
In the last two months I have made some major shifts in this area. I have begun to care less about losing followers or attracting trolls, and I have begun caring more about speaking my truth, regardless of what happens as a result. I have begun to participate in fundraisers and political campaigns online. I have begun donating part of the money I make as an artist to organizations and political causes I care about. I have been openly expressing my grief to my 125,000 Instagram followers.
Part of that shift has come from watching other artists, in particular fellow women artists, speak their beliefs on social media and through their actions. It has been one of the most inspiring and liberating experiences of my life to sit amongst so many creatives expressing their dismay and anger.
Yes, we are angry!
We are very angry.
That’s right: YOU ARE NOT ALONE in your anger or sadness or grief.
You are not alone!
For me, action has helped keep me from falling into the pit of despair.
Here are some things I am doing, and I encourage you to do too:
+Use your pain to express yourself.
+Make time to express your feelings and beliefs through your art.
+Own your anger or frustration. Do not let others tell you to “settle down.”
+Be authentic: say what you feel and in a way that you would say it. Speak your truth!
+Stop worrying about whether people will stop following you or like what you post.
+Participate in fundraisers with your work.
+Support causes you care about through your art — raise money, encourage others to donate, do pro-bono work for them.
+Connect with other artists who are also interested in using their work and platforms to shed light on political issues and human rights issues you care about; collaborate with them!
+Research workshops in your community that teach about activism for artists. Participate in local initiatives.
+Follow and support fellow artists who are using their platforms to express themselves. This is a time to unite!
Tomorrow I am off to the Women’s March in Portland. Next week you’ll see a short video I made for a post-election cause I’m very excited about. After that, other things. I will not remain quiet.
In love and light,
*If you enjoy Maria’s Heroine podcast, you can also find it & subscribe to future episodes in iTunes here: bit.ly/herpod