Category Archives: conversation

Whose Art Is It Anyway?

I usually don’t pay attention to any crazy-artist streaks within me, but I suppose from an outward standpoint it’s probably obvious. I have a tendency to swing between extreme emotions about everything I do, spending half the time loving a painting, and the other half hating it. But that’s normal, right? Creating is hard.

I also like to spontaneously change my work after it’s finished. One might say “destroy.” “Ruin.” “Cover up.” I say “improve.”

I have been known to quietly remove an unsold work from public view in order to change it in such a drastic way that it is essentially a brand new painting. First I’ll paint it white. Then I’ll paint it over.

This infuriates my husband. In his mind, the work now belongs to my fans and my audience, even if no one owns the physical painting. In my mind, the painting isn’t finished until it has a home, and as long as it’s hanging on my own wall, we’re calling it a “work in progress.” Continue reading

In Pursuit of Passion

This past weekend I was talking with my dancer friend about a film she’d recently seen (Pina, a tribute to dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch) that she was very enamored with. She said I had to see it, that all artists would benefit from watching it, regardless of what art they created. I wasn’t opposed to the idea. Having read and benefitted from dancer Twyla Tharp’s universal perspective in her book The Creative Habit, I felt like I was down with the dancing crowd. I didn’t feel compelled to run out and see the movie, but sure. Why not.

To make her point, and because she had a captive audience, my friend whipped out her laptop to show me a few YouTube clips of the film. Okay, yes, it was pretty, and they definitely knew how to dance, and fine, they–OMG WHAT WAS THIS?! What were they doing?! The fluid movements and lovely down tempo beats! The sets! The costumes! IT WAS RAINING ON THE STAGE! The color and texture and framing and… holy crap, this was like watching a painting. I saw each scene much like I see the beginnings of ideas when I start a new piece. It was beautiful. I was downright inspired.

I love talking to other passionate artists. I love hearing them blather at length (as I do) about their individual loves and interests in art. I don’t even have to be familiar with their art to know why they do it. It’s a kinship. We speak a dialect of passion. Continue reading

In Between the Art

L

ast weekend I went to a concert of someone I’ve technically known since I was five, and despite the fact that she’s fairly popular, I was woefully unfamiliar with her music and had never seen her perform (unless you count living room karaoke.) It ended up being pretty incredible to watch, not just because the music was awesome (which it was) but because I was witnessing this person that I’d interacted with in a casual way perform as she does best, in her element, in front of her fans, in the spotlight. She displayed a great command of experience and talent in exactly the moment she needed to.

As artists, we’re familiar with this situation to varying degrees. Any time we’re at our own shows, or even doing something as simple as releasing a painting for public view, we summon all necessary skill and confidence into a fixed period of time in which we allow ourselves to be stars, to lead the room in a chorus of our own making. We understand the necessity of doing so, at least in short bursts, especially when we’re promoting something specific.

But what happens the rest of the time? Why do we tend to put our public selves into stasis when we’re not attached to the art? We still have a duty to be artists, which is doing more than making art. We have a purpose to live artistic lives, with intention and passion. Our lives should be as interesting and inspiring as our art. Being an artist is an action, not a title.
Continue reading

The Highs and Lows (of making art)

Tree shadows on canvas

Sometimes I just want to slap myself.

I have terrible mood swings regarding my art. One minute I think my work looks great and my career is going to be swell and everything is awesome. The next, I downward spiral into despair that nothing looks good, nothing is working, I’m a hack, it’s going to fail, people will laugh and mock and cry.

It’s all part of my process.

Generally at some point during every single painting I’ve ever made, I love it; I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done. At another point, with every single painting I’ve ever made, I hate it. It’s trash. It’s not worthy of continuing. And I do this back and forth throughout the entirety of creating each piece until I’m finally happy and satisfied with it. Continue reading

Makin’ a List

It's a Small World at Disneyland

Well since my master plan of getting a tree and making things semi-festive this year has not panned out due to our house being infested with illness, I thought I might do a little dreaming instead. If I can’t decorate, I can still use my creativity!

Here are five things I dream of doing, some easier to accomplish than others, but one day I’ll have done them all. :)

1. Throw a big festive dinner for friends and family. Vegan options, not-remotely-vegan options, wine flowing like wine. In a big decorated house.

2. Spend all of autumn in a place that really shows its seasons. I’ve always dreamed of renting out a nice house from maybe September through December, somewhere like Vermont, where I can watch all the leaves turn colors and then fall off while the world around me morphs into a giant snowglobe. And everything will smell like apple cider, and people will walk their dogs through piles of leaves and the dogs will be wearing scarves and sleigh bells will jingle in the distance. That’s how it is there, right?

3. Make hot white chocolate for my husband. I’m not a fan of white chocolate either (the darker the better) but the poor kid is allergic to regular chocolate. It’s so sad.

4. Buy mistletoe and hang it somewhere.

5. Go stay in a shnazzy hotel in a big city that’s all decorated and bustling for the holidays, with window displays and people running around and lights hanging from everything. Like Paris. Or New York.

Despite not yet having a tree or even knowing if I’ll be able to get one, I know I have a few things to look forward to this year either way. Hanukkah party at our friend’s house. Sushi on Christmas Eve. Driving around looking at lights with my husband. Mulled wine and watching Downton Abbey with my mom.

But in the meantime, I’m gonna keep dreaming of a healthy weekend. :)

Written by Shayla Maddox for Art & Musings

Personal Empowerment (and Kicking Ass)

A Confident Stride

A couple of years ago, as I approached a new decade, I decided that I was no longer going to be bashful in my 30s. To me this meant developing the strength I knew was there, and blossoming into the perpetual self-confidence I felt I deserved but never embraced. Why shouldn’t I? I was young, healthy, smart. I had good ideas, and with a little hard work, a great future.

Suffice it to say, now in my 30s, this is still an ongoing struggle.

So what’s the problem? What I didn’t know in my 20s is that being confident is a verb, an action. It’s not a feeling that floats around inside you. Doing the things of a confident person is what makes you confident. You have to do first, feel later. You cannot sit around waiting for confidence to find you, or blame the lack of it on your inability to accomplish tasks. The years continue on around us regardless of whether or not we feel confident enough to participate. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Continue reading

New Traditions

Wintery trees in Pink

Do you decorate?

I’ve always adored holiday decorations. Or, at least, I used to, before I had adult responsibilities and recognized that I was short on space. (Clutter didn’t bother me as much as a child.) Even the holiday decorations in stores made me giddy, and I dreamed of which “style” I would put up if I were grown up and had my own home.

Now I am, and I do, but I’m not very interested in decorating. Which makes me sad.

In fact, I’ve become less interested in decorations the bigger my home has gotten. I put more effort into decorating when I was 21 – and squished into a small apartment with 3 other people – than I do now. I don’t know why.

Well, yes I do. Now my priorities are different. My business is my focus. My studio has expanded exponentially with each move we’ve made, thereby rendering any “bigger space” irrelevant. I also grew to hate clutter, in part because I spend all my time in a messy studio. It doesn’t help that I try to be all minimalist and Zen. It’s hard to fit multicolored lights and reindeer into that. Continue reading

Why I Hate ‘Work of Art’ (and why I watch it)

Fingerprint of Inspiration

If you’re not familiar, ‘Work of Art’ is a reality TV show on Bravo about artists, in the same vein as Project Runway. Artists with different styles and backgrounds compete against each other toward one last battle, the prize being money and an official show in a fancy art place, displaying all the crap they made over the course of the season.

Each episode presents a new “challenge,” or theme, to inspire the artists to make a piece of art that will be judged against all the rest, after a time limit of one day in which to conceptualize, create, and finish their art. It has to be unique, innovative, something that passes the approval of “qualified” judges, and must never be too reminiscent of their own style or in any way similar to what they made last week.

It’s not much different than pulling in ten random people off the street, throwing them into a craft store for 20 minutes, and then demanding they produce genius art in a day.

This is not a venue in which these artists are allowed to display their lifetime of creativity, the progress in their own careers, or their unique fingerprint of inspiration. It’s a pressure-filled war zone where they are emotionally blindfolded, dropped off in the middle of nowhere, and told to build epic cathedrals out of popsicle sticks. Their reward is a harsh critique from some dude who owns a gallery in New York and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Sarah Jessica Parker will grace them with her presence. Continue reading