Paper Cuts

photography, process

A cafe contacted me about possibly showing my work in their shop for April, but a glitch with my cell phone made it so that I did not get the notification that they had called until three days later. They ended up finding another artist to fill the spot. With that said, the surprise request was a lesson learned in being ready to show work at a moment’s notice, and motivated me to work on framing photos from my Paper Cuts set using simple pop-out frames and backing board as mat board. I enjoy giving my work a little face lift with some matting and framing, especially when I already have the materials on hand to make it all work. Should I get another surprise call, I’ll have some work ready to go.

   

Fighting Reality

adulthood, anxiety, art, creativity, empowerment, Health, Learning/Education, life, mental health, Motivation, photography, process, therapy

As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?

-David Bowie

The death of a celebrity is a time when the world gathers to talk about how someone lived, and how that person’s existence changed their lives in some way. It’s a time of mourning, but can also become a time of self-reflection.

In 2014, as the men’s World Cup was coming to a close I thought about how the next one would be in four years. I’ll be 40 when that happens. 40. 4-freakin-0. So many thoughts have been running through my head since then:

Where did the time go? What have I been doing  with my life? Why am I still “figuring it out?” How is our 20 year high school reunion is just around the corner?

But if there is anything you cannot dodge, it is the passing time. So what do you do? You may have read about how I found a book that inspired me to quit my day job and pursue photography. I did indeed do that. And I was successful in achieving my first goal of showing work at a coffee shop in the 8-week course period. It’s been encouraging. I’m lined up to show work in Feb, June, and July!

However, it has not always been smooth sailing. I have been managing a constant level of anxiety for years now, and it rears its ugly head in times of transition and daring. On great days, the existence of it is barely there. On bad days, my body can shut down to the point where I can’t leave the house and don’t know why. And when that happens, the squirrels in my head start running around and judging me. They ask similar questions to the ones above, but with awful, shaming tones. Read them again like it’s a bully yelling at you, and change instances of “I” to “you”:

Where did your time go? What have you been doing  with your life? Why are you still “figuring it out?” Your 20-year high school reunion is just around the corner! Yeah. It sucks.

One night the self-shaming tone that lodged into my head was “You’re getting old.” I had been told I was getting old when I was 21-22 and living in Hong Kong (different standards). Back then, I could ignore them. It was easier to see that my life was ahead of me. I had years before I needed to “figure it out” and “find myself.” At my current age it is difficult to make that statement without a hint of heavy-handed cynicism.

I am not a spring chicken. My 20s are gone, and my 30s are nearly behind me. When someone tells me I’m getting old, it is very easy to just nod and agree and accept that my knees periodically do not want to do what they used to (like flex without pain). I’ve never seen one’s 40s as a person’s prime (MANY have proven different). As I pursue a career to sell my photography, it is very easy for me to see myself as having showed up really late in the game. I worry about how I appear in gatherings when the sea of people around me are in their 20s. They are vibrant, endearing, and have a childlike curiosity others just eat up. And let’s not forget that they probably look super hip and fashionable. I recognize that there are overly-eager ones who visibly can’t keep their cool,  but my brain can only see how everyone else is probably better than me at everything. They are more in-the-know, are well connected, have been invited to fabulous parties, and have a higher alcohol tolerance (getting older really sucks in this department).

But therein lies the danger of accepting the generalization that once you reach a certain age there isn’t much reason to try so hard. The scary state of mind when you start to believe that what you do is aesthetically pleasing at best, and bland and uninspiring at worst. With a little more thought, you’d think that it makes more sense to haul ass and get your life going given you might have less time than others. Then there is the thought that age really is just a number and a state of mind. I believe that we were born into this world with pure joy. And even though that joy took a bruising throughout the years, as long as you’re breathing there is still time to nurture it and bring it out to shine again and again.

Now, I know that I have to acknowledge setbacks, physical and emotional. But I want to use the awareness I worked so hard to harness and exercise, and turn toward my challenges, and change the messages that are coming at me to ones of courage, love, patience, hope, and faith. I can be whoever I want, whenever I want. I can’t slow down time, so I need to think about how I can take advantage of what I can do with what time I’ve got left.

Not convinced success can’t be achieved after 40? Check out Richard Feloni’s post in Business Insider UK titled 24 People Who Became Highly Successful After Age 40.

Do you have ideas you want to manifest into awesomeness but don’t know how to start? Here’s the 8 Weeks to Badass DIY coaching program I mentioned earlier by Jen Sincero.
Others who charge my mental energy. No Surprises here.

Brene Brown – Renowned researcher story teller who opened my eyes to the power of vulnerability and shame.

Elizabeth Gilbert – Who didn’t read Eat Pray Love? Her TED talk on creativity was a way to shift how I looked at creativity as something that wouldn’t kill me.

Debbie Lacy – I’m still getting to know her work, but think Lunch Challenge: What do you want?, a short talk she gave at TEDx Olympia was insightful.

Telling Stories

anxiety, art, creativity, Learning/Education, mental health, Motivation, photography, process, therapy, work

I woke up the other morning and felt a nudge to get myself to the kitchen table and start doing something – anything. I didn’t quite make it. I scrolled through Facebook for longer than I wanted, and then I made it to the kitchen. I put the kettle on the stove to get the coffee process started and then pulled out my notebook and pencil.

I stared at ruled pages and had nothing to write.

Last night before bed and after watching episode-after-episode of the 9th season of The Office, I peered over my husband’s shoulder and saw a book on henna art that had been sitting on a shelf of our sideboard for I don’t know how long. In fact, I had forgotten we had that book. We probably bought it thinking that it would inspire us one day, in some way. Lo, and behold, this morning, it did just that.

The last few months has brought on a tidal wave of activity and non-activity. I started and completed the 8 Weeks to Badass Coaching Program guided via videos and audio by Jen Sincero. I am happy to say that I achieved my goal within the 8 weeks. My goal was to get my photography shown at a local coffee shop. By week 3 I was able to secure a location and will be hanging my work up next month. There is still much work to be done before I hang my work up, but I’m set for this one goal.

Since then, I’ve been working on my online image and social media activity. I even have a friend working on my brand. It sounds artsy fartsy and hoity toity, but I was struggling to do it myself. I bit the bullet and hired my friend to come up with ideas and we’re getting close to something I think I’ll really love that will speak to my personality and style.

With all this in the works, it’s been a challenge for me to produce more work. I find myself to be creative in a general sense. I don’t think I’m all that profound or very original, but I do think I see things differently from others, and have an aesthetic people can appreciate. What I’ve come to realize is that my creativity comes in waves. For someone who can be really impatient with herself, it is hard for me to accept this reality.  I’m probably more likely to come up with work I really like on a quarterly basis than daily or weekly. But it is amazing how I think I need to produce something spectacular every time I pick up a camera. My brain says this is silly and unrealistic. Of course I’m not going to produce something amazing every single time. The monkey on my back, on the other hand, likes to piss me off and judge me, asking things like “Why can’t you be like [name famous artist here]?”  So I’ve been carrying this silly monkey on my back for a long time. I couldn’t name it. I couldn’t explain what it was. I just knew it was on my back and I didn’t know how to shake him off. Or even bribe it off. What I found out this morning was that the monkey on my back was questioning my creative process. “Why do you do what you do? Why aren’t you more prolific or active? Why is it so hard to be around other people? What are you afraid of?” I did not have an answer. So instead, I started to read.

Back to that book on henna. Henna. It’s pretty. I remember getting a henna design on my hand when my good friend was getting ready to marry. It was the one part of the week-long celebration I was most looking forward to. It was the only time I had done it. I flipped through the book and thought I’d go straight to looking at the designs, thought “I wonder how the paste was made? Then, I thought I should read about how henna became what it is. Where did it come from? Why is it used the way it is? I read about animals eating the plant that henna comes from which made their mouths look bloody. The shepherds who tended to them freaked out, thinking their animals were bleeding from the mouth. But after removing the plant from their mouths, they realized the red stained their hands like a pigment. It wasn’t blood. I read about how henna markings were used for celebrations and how it spread from country to country by the migration path of birds. Henna has a history. It has an origin. There is is a story behind it.

It’s easy for some to set a schedule, write down a plan, and do that plan. To take a walk everyday might be easy for some, but for others it is not. I get so much advice about going for walks and taking pictures. About meeting up with people to get creative juices flowing. Unfortunately, for me, these activities can cause me to freeze up. How can it be that trying to do the one thing I’m fairly good at can cause anxiety in me?

I think I found part of the answer to my question when I stopped to read this henna book. I want photography to be more than pretty images. I want it to speak to me. I want it to tell me a story. What I have found is that art tends to be more provocative and of greater substance when it comes from a place of meaning. Art is powerful when there is a story to tell. Simple quick snaps of my food might have some meaning and will cause pleasure for some to see. They’ll respond that it looks delicious or makes them hungry. But the meaning pretty much stops there. Now, think about a photo taken of a table filled with dishes left behind by a family in an empty restaurant. Where did that family go? Was it a family? Who is going to clean that up? Why didn’t they eat the bread rolls? Why are we only seeing one table? Why isn’t anyone else in the frame? Why is this a picture of an empty table of plates?

For me, photos have a greater impact when they can tell a story. I forgot that. It’s probably the one thing that people will tell you. That photos tell a story. That they’re worth a thousand words. But I forgot that. It isn’t always just about being aesthetically pleasing. It’s about telling a story. Not just any story, but a story that I can care about. A story that speaks to me that I really want to share with other people. I know it won’t be something everyone cares about, but that’s not the point, nor do I want it to be. The point is having a connection with a subject or situation, and how I can interpret the image I see to be able to tell a story. And the more I can connect with those instances and be authentic about my story the better.

My last blog entry about my nieces is an example of this very finding. I didn’t intend to write about my nieces. I knew when I took their pictures that I wanted the same vantage point, but that’s about it. I didn’t think much about how to process them. I hadn’t thought about how I had actually spent time with each of them. I hadn’t thought about how they inspired me enough to write about them. But each photo of their little faces did something to me, and the memories I had of them flooded back, so I wrote those down. I had to tell a story. So I did.

That is the photography I want to do. I know I won’t please everyone. I just want to be okay with my work and feel good about the work I do. I want to have greater intention when taking photos. I want to slow down. I want to understand the meanings behind the moments behind my camera. I want to use my camera as a means to meditate and connect. I want to tell stories.