We all want our work to be high-quality and fully-formed right out the gate, right? It’s only natural.
Thankfully, though, over the past few years, I’ve seen a shift in conversation encouraging creatives to overcome this barrier of perfectionism. This conversation has given birth to ubiquitous mantras like: “Done is better than perfect,” “Aim for progress, not perfection” and “Start before you’re ready” — all of which is advice I can certainly get behind.
Personally speaking, perfectionism is actually something deeply rooted in my consciousness, being the over-achieving, academic kid that I was growing up. For the past six years, I’ve worked to overcome this mental barrier nearly every day, trying to create and share my work despite the voice in my head that naturally likes to point out every flaw or short-coming or opportunity for improvement.
Today I want to share with you one specific mental shift that helped me start to make that journey from perfectionism-induced paralysis to prolific production (holy P’s!), and it may just be one take that you hadn’t yet thought of.
It starts with a story.
My first job out of college was at an advertising agency in North Carolina. The office was in an old renovated tobacco factory, with industrial-chic brick walls and polished concrete floors. There was ping pong and shuffleboard, dry erase marker frenzied across glass walls, and a coffee bar at the center of the office to work and hang out with fellow co-workers. It was the epitome of what I imagined was a “cool place to work,” and I couldn’t believe I’d snagged such a coveted spot.
But there was a problem — I was so eager to get my foot in the door of the advertising industry and this “cool firm” that I ignored the fact that the only position they had available when I graduated was in the media department.
In short, this meant I spent my days formatting spreadsheets, running banner ad campaigns, and fielding calls from media reps at niche financial magazines. (You see where I’m going with this, right?)
I’d gaze longingly at the creative department that sat in the pod of desks nearby. I’d see them revising logo concepts and brainstorming wild campaigns and editing TV spots. I wanted so desperately to be there with them. Knowing inside the kind of creativity I was capable of and realizing that nobody else knew the potential inside of me inflicted on my heart a slow, desperate kind of suffering that’s hard to describe.
I would daydream about someone from the department marching over to my desk and asking little 22-year-old me: “Hey Caroline, I know you’re super creative and we could use a little extra brain power over here — can you come help us?!” It took me months to actually snap out of my delusion and realize: that is NEVER going to happen.
Why? Because I hadn’t given them any reason to.
That’s the simple truth.
In an interview I watched recently, Glennon Doyle said this when talking about the feeling of envy:
“There’s nothing more painful than seeing someone else do something that you feel like you were meant to do.”
We’ve all had that feeling, right? You come across something another person had made and it HURTS. You don’t want it to feel that way but you can’t stop it; the envy creeps in. When that hot feeling of envy rises up in us, it’s usually because we’re actually mad at ourselves for not acting on the potential that we know is within us. We don’t want to feel the disappointment in ourselves, so we pass it off onto another person in the form of envy or jealousy.
Back in 2011, I was itching to start my own blog. I had SO much I wanted to say and share and create, but I couldn’t settle on a name and I had no idea how to customize my blogger template and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to write about… so I just waited.
I waited for A YEAR. I waited until I finally paid attention to that hot envy I felt when I stumbled upon every favorite blog I saw, and I decided that it was time I stopped whispering to myself “I can do that” and I started proving it by putting in the work.
Again: No one will know what you’re capable of unless you SHOW them.
Don’t just expect people to sense that you’re a writer; start a blog or self-publish a book so you can show them.
Don’t just expect people to guess that you’re an artist; post those paintings on Instagram and show them.
Don’t just expect people to assume you’re musically gifted; publish those tracks to SoundCloud and show them.
Right now you might see sharing your work as scary, especially if you feel it’s not perfect. (Reminder: no one’s is.) You don’t yet have that perfectly cohesive Instagram feed or every page of your blog beautifully designed or each lyric of your song in its poignant beauty.
With every new piece of art that you make and share, it’s like one more little beacon of proof showing the world (and, more importantly, yourself) what you’re capable of.
I guarantee you, if you simply BEGIN and you share consistently for just one month, you’ll start to experience the thrill of taking what is inside you that’s begging to be expressed, and letting it see the light. That is the soul’s ultimate feeling of freedom, and it’s better than any drug. (Full disclosure: I don’t like drugs, so that’s an easy comparison for me.)
The truth is:
Imperfect freedom tastes so much better than perfect confinement.
Imperfect reality feels so much better than perfect fantasy. (Because it’s real.)
Imperfect progress is so much more satisfying than perfect stagnation.
Your challenge this week is to identify what potential is inside you that you’ve yet to share.
What are you capable of that you can start SHOWING today. Then, make that plan and simply begin.
The tools that are available to us as creators have never been more accessible or more plentiful. Get out there and use them.
I had this dream of myself in a big studio, hands covered in paint, jamming out to my favorite tunes and dragging color around a canvas.
When I woke up, I pretty much high-tailed it to the nearest art store to bring my dream to life.
I had no idea what supplies to buy (or what to do with them), so I just grabbed a mixture of craft paint, professional grade acrylic paint, a boatload of canvases and headed home.
I started my acrylic paint experiments by trying to paint images of objects I found online. I did my best to study the light and shadows and keep in mind perspective and proportion.
I felt so restricted by the process, and trying to paint with any semblance of realism was robbing me of the joy I experienced in my painting vision.
That’s when I started to explore the idea of going abstract.
I was much more interested in things like lines and patterns and shapes than I was any particular subject. Still, I found myself intimidated staring at my blank canvas with literally infinite possibilities of color, pattern, shape, and composition.
For a while I just sort of sat, paralyzed, afraid to paint anything at all. I was afraid of creating something “ugly,” focusing WAY too much on the outcome rather than the process.
So I set up a small “studio” (read: table covered in a drop cloth) in our guest room and I began painting every day. I started small by experimenting in a mixed media sketchbook and trying out different brushstrokes, color combinations, and styles.
After I became more comfortable with the simple act of actually putting paint to paper (not just thinking about painting), I realized I still wanted to find MY unique voice.
My goal was simply to see how my own style would evolve and to try and uncover my unique voice through intentional daily practice.
(To give you an idea of that evolution, here’s a snapshot of the various styles I experimented with from January 2016 through September 2016!)
It’s been the most rewarding process, and I’m more convinced than ever that acrylic paint is an amazing medium to express your creativity.
So today I want to take what I’ve learned in my painting journey thus far and share some tips with you in case you too are itching to express your creativity through painting!
That first trip to the art store, wandering the aisles of Michael’s, I literally purchased about 20 small canvases to begin painting (thank goodness they were having a 50% off sale!)
In my head at the time I thought “It’s not a painting if it’s not on canvas.” How wrong I was! You can paint on ANYTHING, but when you’re starting out, the most important thing is to choose something that is cost effective AND not intimidating.
Canvases are unfortunately neither of those things.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at a canvas, it feel so permanent and so formal. That fear of “messing up” creates one more barrier between you and painting and that’s what you’re trying to avoid! Not to mention they’re not cheap.
My solution? Trade in canvas for thick, sturdy watercolor paper when you’re starting out.
Once I made the move from canvas to paper, suddenly I was a lot more comfortable trying things and going through more painting experiments because I wasn’t as concerned with “messing up” a canvas. (Side note: there is no messing up in acrylics; you can always paint over it!)
Paper feels more playful, disposable and approachable, plus it’s more cost effective. Depending on the size, I’m able to get a pad of 30 9”x12” pieces of paper for just $10, as opposed to $16 each for a canvas.
**IMPORTANT: If you do decide to pick up paper, aim for at least “140 lb” paper. That number is a reference to the weight of the paper. The higher the number, the thicker or sturdier your paper will be. I’ve found that anything less (like 90 lb) just can’t hold up to the weight and wetness of your paint and it will bubble. **
Want an idea of something to start with? Here are some paper brands I’ve used and love!
When I started my daily painting project, I started by using these large 18″x24″ sheets of Canson Montval watercolor paper* which has a beautiful rich texture.
Since then I’ve switched to the Canson XL watercolor paper brand* which is still great quality, but it’s just a little bit less textured and happens to be more accessible as it’s available at Michael’s and my local art store. I’ve also gone down in size a few times (simply because I’m able to complete a painting more quickly) to the 11”x15”* and the 9”x12”*.
(FYI: links with * are Amazon Affiliate links and I get a small commission if you buy awesome art supplies through them at the same great price you normally get!)
Speaking of supplies, the next BIG tip when getting started with acrylics is to…
Like I said, when I started getting into painting, knowing which supplies to invest in was probably the most confusing part. I parked myself in a Michael’s aisle for about a half hour wondering what paintbrushes I should get and what the heck the difference was between the paint in the “professional” section vs the “craft” section.
So let’s try to give you a little more direction, shall we? Here’s the biggest thing for you to know about acrylic painting supplies.
First and foremost, a HUGE disclaimer:
Every paint has a different consistency, every brush has a different give and every paper creates a different texture. On top of that, every ARTIST (pst. That’s you!) has a different vision and spirit they’re bringing to their painting.
That’s why it’s so important for you to test a wide VARIETY of supplies, so that you can see how each supply impacts your painting and the overall aesthetic of what you’re creating.
All that said, here are some basic things I’ve learned about the most important supply — paint — that may guide you.
First off, yes, you can totally mix “professional” grade acrylic paints with regular ol’ craft paint, but there IS a difference in the quality and consistency from the cheap stuff to the expensive stuff.
There are basically three categories that acrylic paints falls in: (1) amateur or craft paint; (2) academic or student level; or (3) professional or artist’s level paints.
The main differences are in the quality of the pigment and the thickness/opacity of the paint. The higher you move up the quality spectrum, of course the more expensive your paint will be.
So, what’s worth investing in? Well, I’ll tell you what I keep in my studio. The majority of paint I own is the first level — basic amateur craft paint — and that’s because I paint A LOT and I’m not too concerned with the long-term adherence of my paint to my paper or canvas.
I love craft paint because it’s cost effective and comes in a wide variety of hues. I can also use it as a base to mix in my more expensive, higher quality paints, which makes them last longer in my studio.
One student level paint that’s great to start out with is the Liquitex BASICS paint*. When I was beginning, I invested in a variety pack of the small tubes and that got me acquainted with the thicker, richer paints. Now I buy the occasional bigger tubes because I know what colors to go for, but if you’re looking for a middle of the road option to get started, it’s a good one.
Texture of the Heavy Body Acrylics in action:
The Heavy Body Acrylics are rich and buttery and SUPER thick.
I love using them when I want very strong, opaque color, and as I mentioned, I use them to mix with my craft paints to give them more weight and hold.
Texture of Golden Fluid Acrylics in action:
Fluid Acrylics, on the other hand, are very thin, almost runny, but the pigment is rich and velvety and strong.
This type of paint can create completely different marks than paint of a thicker viscosity and I love experimenting with it, especially to get that “drip” effect that you see in the pieces below:
Again, the only way to know what YOU like is to try out a variety of supplies. I recommend setting an introductory budget for yourself and getting a diverse range of quality levels and brands to find out what you love best.
Also, consider experimenting with unconventional materials too! A few months back Jason and I were baking and I wondered if I could use wax paper to create texture on my paintings. I’ve been experimenting with wax paper in my work ever since and I’ve discovered at least 10 different ways to use it in my paintings to add texture and spontaneity.
Okay, once you have a wide variety of supplies in mind, you might be wondering… what color paints should I buy? Which leads me to my next tip…
I’m obviously a sucker for bright, VIBRANT colors. (What? You couldn’t tell? ?)
I’ve always gravitated to the energy and inspiration I get from colors that are very saturated, so I tend to scoop up just about every bright or slightly bright color I can find, and I steer pretty clear of earth tones and more dull or shaded tones.
As for you, ask yourself what colors you most gravitate toward not just in art but in life.
Do you feel connected to the tranquility and softness of pale pastels? What about the grounded boldness of dark and moody earth tones?
Look to your wardrobe and interior design style for clues.
What things do you find yourself loving when you’re in the home decor aisles of target? Vibrant, bold throw pillows or earthy, rich accents?
Choosing what color palettes to paint with is your opportunity to do what resonates with YOU, and the beauty of abstract painting is that you don’t have to worry about your palette matching a certain subject or landscape.
One fantastic tool for uncovering your color affections is Pinterest! Start a board of color inspiration and see what you start to pin. Then search your visual inspiration for color palettes that you may not have thought of on your own.
The thing about color is that there are literally INFINITE possibilities, and while I love to go with my instincts when selecting colors, sometimes I like to switch it up and pluck my palettes right out of inspiration I find.
For a while, I would actually build color palette mood boards, tape them up in my studio and then use them as inspiration in my abstract paintings. It was so much fun! I could interpret the color scheme in my own way. You can see examples of that here:
Sometimes I’ll also draw out color inspiration from one single photo. And the best part — you don’t need Photoshop to put these together! You can use a free and simple tool like a Google Doc/Google Slides presentation (like I do below) or a Keynote/Powerpoint presentation. (Pro tip: To get the colors from the photo, I use this Chrome extension, Eye Dropper.)
I just pull up this inspo doc up on my iPad while I’m in my studio if I want color palette inspiration!
Again, remember that color palettes, just like materials, will require experimentation and exploration. Your color preferences may change over time and that’s perfectly fine.
Still, starting with a general idea of what colors you want to buy/work with might help you overcome that overwhelming feeling that I had when I started out.
The ultimate tip to getting started with painting is simply, well, BEGIN! Forget whatever stories you’re telling yourself about what supplies you NEED (turns out, you actually do not need an easel to be an artist ?) or what you are or aren’t good at and just dive in.
The truth is, you can read articles (like this one) or do ALL the Google searches in the world to see how the “experts” do it, but ultimately you’ll never uncover your unique artistic voice unless you devote time to making things and putting in the practice.
Painting is such a beautifully therapeutic exercise and I really do believe that it has the power to heal and TEACH us things about ourselves that other things just can’t. It’s a way to express your feelings and instincts in a tangible, visible way.
So throw whatever judgments you have out the window, go to your nearest art store, grab a few things and simply START PAINTING.
I know you’ll be glad you did! Painting has been the most amazing gift in my life and it’s helped me see myself more fully as an “artist” — something I was always afraid to call myself before.
If you need a tiny boost to get started, sign up for Acrylic Explorations and I’ll walk you through my own painting process MUCH more in-depth. I take you through the materials in my studio and share with you three different acrylic processes from start to finish.
Hope you enjoyed this post, and remember…
September 5, 2016
After launching Color Your Soul—a project that was basically four months in the making—I had such a joyful feeling. It was so comforting and validating to know that this creative idea of mine was in loving, accepting hands with people who appreciated it. The warm email replies (especially from those of you that unhesitatingly jumped on board with this first issue and became subscribers!) were an incredible feeling.
Today, though, I want to get REALLY honest about the emotional aftermath of launching a creative project like Color Your Soul, one where so much of your heart is invested.
Truthfully I thought about not writing this letter at all, sticking to some safer topic that felt less raw. But, after thinking it over, I realized that you guys don’t read my writing for the sugar-coated stuff. I’ve always tried to share with you the REAL emotions and real insecurities behind running a creative, values-based business, and so today I wanted to honor that promise by keeping it real.
So here’s the truth:
Despite experiencing the highest high introducing Color Your Soul to you guys on Thursday and welcoming many of you as subscribers, I woke up on Saturday and felt strangely OFF. It was a feeling I haven’t had in a while, not necessarily one of sadness or disappointment but just of confusion, like this beacon of light I’d been chasing all summer was no longer illuminated and I was now fumbling around in the dark.
This isn’t how this is supposed to feel, I thought. I made the thing I’ve been dreaming of making! It’s alive and in the hands of people who appreciate it! So what is this strange feeling?!
It’s not that I was questioning my vision — I believe more than ever in the vision I have for this movement toward soulful, inspiring, thought-provoking content — and as I look at Color Your Soul and the canvas it’s provided me to go on making this kind of content for you guys, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s what I want to be working on.
So, if it’s not the idea itself then, what is it? Where was this sudden slump coming from?
I spent all day yesterday trying to sort through these emotions. I took my token beach walk to ponder the meaning of life (that’s not a joke, I actually do that), and I got really honest with myself, peeling back the layers until I hit on something that felt real.
What I decided was this:
I was experiencing a creative hangover.
There are two primary causes of a creative hangover. (Duh, bourbon and tequila. Just kidding… Or am I?? ???)
For months I woke up and I had a clear purpose: to get ready for the launch of Color Your Soul.
I had a guiding vision that provided a structure for each of my days and gave me something distinct to measure my progress against. This made my creative spirit feel safe and purposeful.
My friend Steph often refers to this as “chasing the carrot.” When the carrot goes away, there’s a feeling of aimlessness that settles in.
This weekend, even though my purpose was technically unchanged (work on Color Your Soul), the big guiding beacon of “Launch Day” — the carrot — was no longer there. That absence no doubt contributed to my weird and aimless feeling.
When you pour your whole heart and your true self into an idea or a project or some kind of brave leap, when you spend days or weeks or (in my case) months daydreaming about it, you inevitably create a version of it in your head that feels real.
You spend so much time and invest so much of your emotional resources imagining it, that a part of you just assumes the reality will match the fantasy.
But, we all know that the reality NEVER actually matches the fantasy (that’s literally the definition of a fantasy — it only exists in our imagination.)
When I experienced the high of launching last week — a mixture of joy and relief and excitement and anticipation — all of those amazing emotions fit the vision in my dream BUT they weren’t sustainable, not at those levels anyway.
After the high faded and my heightened state started to even back out this weekend, suddenly I became acutely aware of how my reality contrasted with my dream.
Think about it: we never fixate on visions of ourselves having a perfectly humble, mundane happy day; Instead, our dreams and fantasies tend to feel grand and elevated. It’s no wonder reality can often seem pale in comparison.
That dissonance — the disconnect between the grand vision I’d fixated on for months and the happy-yet-humble satisfaction of reality — caused a sort of emotional reverberation, my creative hangover.
This concept doesn’t just apply to some big project like I’m talking about, but I think it could be any big event in your life, any vision you’ve been working toward.
Once you reach that milestone and the high of it wears off, often you can be left in a strange emotional limbo.
For me, it was a matter of first becoming of aware of it and not feeling guilty over it. For a moment I thought to myself, “Snap out of it, Caroline, you made the thing you wanted to make and you should be elated!”
Criticizing yourself for your emotional response is never productive, at least not in my experience.
Once I recognized this creative hangover for what it was and realized it didn’t say anything about me OR about my love for Color Your Soul, then I just shifted my focus back to the long game. I let go of the fantasy of “Launch Day” and set my sights on a more sustainable, more reality-based vision — one where I’m not building up some grand to-do or chasing down another carrot, but instead, I’m reminding myself to aim for what’s sustainable. To recalibrate my emotional measuring stick to a range that’s much closer to the everyday kind of happiness that comes with doing work that’s deeply fulfilling.
It may not be the grand stuff that daydreams are made of, but it’s REAL and it’s rich. It can be that normal happy day where I get to continue to work on the thing close to my heart, serving people close to my heart (hint hint: that’s you!)
Have you experienced this emotional, creative hangover? A project or event or big leap that left you feeling a little lost or dazed afterward?
If so, how were you able to navigate that experience and how can you emotionally recalibrate your own expectations so that you find satisfaction in reality, however that feels? Let me know in the comments!
The reason I wanted to share these feelings with you all is to show you that no matter how long you continue to make things, no matter how many years you get under your belt running a creative business, there is always more to learn and further to grow.
Even if you do find the courage to MAKE THE THING (which is half the battle!) there will always be unfamiliar, often uncomfortable feelings to navigate, and that’s just part of the gig. Creativity at its foundation is an emotional pursuit.
August 23, 2016
In 2016, I had this vision for a creative hybrid subscription of sorts. I wanted it to be part magazine with rotating content around a central theme; part online learning hub with new classes added on a monthly basis; and part exclusive art gallery where I could make a collection of art with a central message and share it to a group of art lovers that would appreciate it.
I called it Color Your Soul.
The only problem was…
What do you call a thing like that? How do you EXPLAIN a thing like that? And finally, the doozy-of-a-doubt that shows up for me on the regular:
Those are the questions that continued to bubble up as I took each and every step toward making my idea a reality.
Have you ever experienced that feeling before?
Have you ever fallen in love with an idea that felt unprecedented in a way?
Maybe it’s a weird business idea that you just can’t shake or a really specific niche audience you want to reach or your own hacked together way of designing something or an art style that feels strange but also kind of wonderful…
It creates in you a feeling like you’re floating out in the middle of the ocean—no one’s paper to glance at, no one to ask for advice, no one to walk ten steps ahead and make sure you don’t fall down a well. It’s just YOU.
Well, here’s what I’ve learned about that feeling.
Even though it can feel vulnerable and risky and kinda lonely and TOTALLY scary, it can also be a beautiful sign that you’re actually creating from your most authentic voice.
I forget sometimes that I actually live with the king of crazy himself, Mr. Jason Zook, who among other things has sold ad space on his chest, sold his last name, and most recently has sold his future.
In response to each one of those ideas, multiple people told Jason they either a) didn’t understand the idea or b) knew the idea would never work.
And you know what? He did them anyway. Why? Because that’s who he is. Jason’s authenticity lies in constantly doing things that push the boundaries and that challenge convention.
When I feel myself doubting any of my ideas that I’ve come to love so deeply even for one second just because it feels new and different and weird, I think of Jason and I’m reminded that different is memorable. Different is authentic. Different is original.
So let this article be a permission slip to you (and also to me):
Create the thing that is so true to who you are and what your gifts are and what you feel compelled to make that it’s impossible for it to exist because YOU haven’t made it yet.
Go after your unique vision even if it feels weird and scary and completely unknown because that just means that the payoff of creating it will be that much greater when you see your vision come to life.
Not only will you have the distinct pleasure of making something you’ve been dreaming of and following through on your idea, but chances are that it’ll be the idea that makes people sit up and pay attention because it will be 100% YOU.
Creating is a scary and exciting thing, and I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.
March 18, 2016
I asked you guys what questions you were most curious about when it comes to my artistic process, my Abstract Affirmations Daily project, and opening up the MV Art Shop.
I got some great questions on Instagram so I decided to create a few Q&A videos to answer my favorites!
One question I get asked a lot is…
In the video below, I’m in my studio showing you first hand what brands I love to use, plus my super secret weapon: the best white paint pen of all time.
Click play to give it a watch!
+ Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic Paint (Turquoise Deep)
+ Golden Fluid Acrylic Paint (Cerulean Blue Deep)
+ Folk Art Multi-Surface Craft Pain (Bright Pink)
+ Sharpie Permanent Markers, Fine Point, Black, 12-Pack
+ Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pen, Medium Tip, Black, 12-Pack,
+ Uni Posca Paint Marker PC-3M, Black, 3-Pack (Japan Import)
+ Uni Posca Paint Marker PC-1M White, 3-Pack (Japan Import)
Click here to view the whole playlist over on YouTube! If you have any other questions you want me to answer in another video, feel free to drop it in the comments!
February 5, 2016
When I started the process of researching how to turn this #AbstractAffirmationsDaily art project into prints, I was incredibly surprised to find that there is a staggering lack of information out there on how artists have been able to turn their creations into tangible, sellable items.
Trade secrets, perhaps? I don’t know.
What I do know is that many of you out there are creative people with an interest in making money doing what you love. (And I’m of the opinion that the world is a better place when more people are able to make money doing what they love.)
That’s why I want to offer this ongoing blog series, #SellYourArt. (Simple and to the point, yes?)
Throughout this series, my hope is to pull back the curtain a bit using my own experiences and report back on what I’m learning as I work toward selling prints of my artwork in the Made Vibrant Art Shop. Maybe it’ll help some of you take the plunge and start selling your art too!
Here are a few articles you can expect in the #SellYourArt series:
+ How to choose which platform to use to sell your art
+ How to estimate your business costs to see if your project is financially viable
+ How to choosing a printing method for your art prints
+ How to launch your shop using pre-orders
Let me just reiterate: I’m learning all of this for the very first time! I’m sure there are some of you out there that have experience selling your art online, and I hope we can start a helpful dialogue in the comments so that more makers out there will feel confident in getting their art out into the world and making it a financially sustainable part of their lives.
Now, on to the info!
Last week I shared with you the launch of the Abstract Affirmations blog feed to house each daily art piece and post.
The purpose of that was both personal — I wanted a place to see the entire collection together — and strategic — it’s important to build visibility and buzz for your work if you want to create enough demand to make money from a shop.
In this post though, I want to share with you the first few steps I took in the journey to launching the Art Shop, beginning with figuring out what platform to use to host my shop and handle the printing/order fulfillment of my art prints.
Based on my limited consumer knowledge, I saw my options for selling my art falling into three slightly different buckets:
As I considered each option, I saw definite benefits and drawbacks to each, which I’ll list out for you here:
So, what were the defining factors that led me to Option 3?
When it came down to it, I value having maximum control over the buying and shipping experience. I want the entire process to feel like Made Vibrant through and through, from the buying experience to getting your package in the mail. And I’m willing to take on the risks associated with that because I also highly value learning. I know that things are almost guaranteed not to go according to plan but I look forward to facing those challenges and adaption (and sharing every bit of it with you guys!)
I also feel comfortable enough with the audience I’ve built up on my own through this email list and on Instagram that the allure of using a third-party site wasn’t enough to persuade me to take the experience off my website and onto another. If I was an artist just starting out with no audience, I think I’d probably choose Option 1 or Option 2.
Anyway, I hope that helps some of you with the same big looming question I had in the beginning: Which platform do I use?
Of course, this was just one decision in a whole string of decisions I had to make when it comes to selling my art, but I look forward to sharing that with you guys in the coming weeks!
Next up I’ll be sharing with you how I estimated my costs and revenue before embarking on this endeavor so I could make sure selling my art was a sound investment of my time and money.
Side note: thanks to Self-Made Society email subscriber and artist Kristin Cronic for replying back to one of my emails with the RedBubble/FineArtAmerica options which made me realize I should go over these platforms more in-depth!
December 8, 2015
Elizabeth Gilbert — author of my favorite book of 2015, Big Magic, a complete treasure of a writer, and soulful creative through and through — used my #BetterLetteringCourse art journal piece from yesterday to accompany one of her beautiful, thoughtful Facebook letters this morning. (If you’re not following her page, I highly recommend it. She regularly shares article-length posts with gorgeous insights on life and creativity.)
Anyway, aside from geeking out over a personal idol of mine sharing my work, I was even more grateful to have my work accompanying a sentiment so near and dear to my heart: the idea that CREATIVITY IS FOR EVERYONE.
Art is not about the product, but about the process. It is about what you learn, what you become, what you awaken to throughout the magical endeavor of creating. I believe that with all my heart and it is beautifully expressed in Liz’s words which I’ve copied for you here, highlighting my favorite passages (warning: it’s long but so worth reading!):
BIG MAGIC MONDAY
Dear Ones –
So grateful to the artist Caroline Kelso for making me this beautiful imagine, of a quote from Big Magic. (If you want to learn more about Caroline’s lovely work, click here for further awesomeness: http://www.madevibrant.com/)
Caroline’s design here is a a good illustration for something I’ve been wanting to talk about since I got home from book tour a few days ago.
I keep trying to think of the takeaway of these last few months on the road with BIG MAGIC, and what keeps coming to mind is this one challenging question that I faced back in September, from a reporter who asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that your book is only going to encourage a lot of talentless people to fill the world with even more shitty art?”
I was staggered by his question. (To be very honest, I was torn between wanting to give him the finger, and just wanting to give him a big hug, and say: “Who hurt you, son? Who did this to you?”)
Because the gulf between his world view on creativity and my world view on creativity felt like the Grand Freakin’ Canyon — and I wasn’t sure how to even begin bridging it.
I was struck by the anxiety and fear (and, frankly, insecurity) that lingered behind behind this man’s query. I’m accustomed to people saying that they are afraid to explore their own creativity because they’re afraid their work might not be good enough…but this was the first time I’d heard someone say that he was afraid OTHER people might explore their own creativity — because THEIR work might not be good enough.
That’s a whole lot of fear about other people’s lives, baby.
And because of his fear, this man wanted to make sure that the realm of creativity remain CLOSED — restricted only to the special, the talented, the precious, and the deserving.
But here’s the problem: Who gets to decide who is deserving? Who gets to decide who is special? Who are the “wrong people” for creative living, and who are the right people? Who gets to play gatekeeper here?
After taking a few deep breaths, my answer to the reporter went something like this: “My concern is not that the world is filled with bad art — and I’m not even sure that the world IS filled with bad art, by the way. My concern is that the world is filled with millions of people who don’t create ANYTHING AT ALL, because they have been told that creativity does not belong to them. My concern is that those people are being denied an essential ingredient of their humanity, and that they are therefore reduced to being mere producers and consumers, rather than being makers — and this cannot be good for anyone.”
Because here is what I believe with all my heart (and after meeting so many of you over the past three months, and after hearing your own stories of creative discovery, I believe it more than ever)…I believe that:
Creativity is our shared human inheritance. Which means that everyone is invited, at all times. Absolutely everyone.
Creativity offers us ever new ways to unfold ourselves, to renew ourselves, to calm ourselves, to challenge ourselves, to explain ourselves to the world, to escape the world, and to alter our environment (both internal and external.)
The act of creativity is good for us — even if the final product is not “good” at all (whatever “good” even means in this context.)
Creativity is about the process, not the product. As my dad says about his Christmas tree farm, whenever anyone asks him how holiday sales are going: “The more important part for me is what happens the other eleven months of the year.” And what DOES happen the other eleven months of the year? My dad gets to cultivate and create beautiful trees, which he loves doing so much that it always causes a revolution in his heart. My dad gets such rich personal satisfaction from the process of cultivating and creating trees that it keeps him happy all year long. What occurs in December (selling or not selling the trees) is totally secondary.
Creativity is worth exploring, then, even if you never make a fancy living from it, even if you never win big prizes for it, even if you never show your work to anyone. It’s worth doing for what it does to YOU — not for how it lands on the world.
The most interesting part of creativity to me the stubbornness and love involved, not the level of talent (whatever “talent” even means, in this context.)
Creativity is about having the courage to try something new, even if you’re not sure it will work.
Creativity is about becoming a scientist of your own experience, and returning to the laboratory of life again and again, to tinker around with different ideas.
Creativity is about becoming an active participant in your life — even if it’s only in a small and modest way — rather than just being a passive witness, as life happens to you.
Creativity is about choosing curiosity over fear — not just once or twice, but again and again and again and again…
Creativity is a way that we can leave a tiny handprint on the walls of our lives, proving: “I was here. I made a thing. I did this.” It doesn’t have to be Mozart. It doesn’t have to be Van Gogh. It doesn’t have to be monumental to be monumental. Creativity is one of the best ways we can prove to ourselves that we did not just come to earth to pay bills and die, but that we also came here explore the mysteries of expression — and to be unreasonable, whimsical, searching, curious, gorgeous, and sometimes just plain odd.
Creativity is one of the most effective ways to cause a revolution in your own heart.
Creativity is for everyone. Your ancestors did it; my ancestors did it; and I hope to God that you and your descendants will all do it, too.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t belong in the realm of creativity, or that you aren’t invited. And don’t ever let anyone ever project their fears and insecurities about their OWN creative existence on to YOU.
Just keep making your own thing, and watch what happens to your own beautiful life as a result.
So that is what I believe.
CREATIVITY BELONGS TO YOU.
You are all wonderful, and I love you, and thank you for everything that you bring to me and teach me…
But seriously, can I get an amen?! As I read that this morning, I wanted to climb through my computer screen and give Liz a big hug for putting words to something I so fundamentally agree with in my bones.
While I’m not sure I could ever communicate this idea as beautifully as Liz does here, it is a topic that I want to echo for you all today because it is that important.
It reminded me of an article I stumbled across months and month ago called “The Mediocre Movement” about the saturation of hand-lettering and typography inspiration in art and design. In this Medium post, the author pretty much posits that our collective taste level for design — especially hand-lettered typography — is on a rapid decline. That we should be more discerning in who we support and what we deem to be inspiring or great.
I remember reading this article, my heart level increasing with every word, and thinking, “Okay, but WHY? Why must there be an objective standard for what art is deemed good and what good does it do to discourage people from expressing themselves through art?”
It’s this very thinking that prevents SO many people from even embarking on the creative journey in the first place. It is this “not enough” mentality that feeds our pre-existing fears and prevents us from experiencing the transcendent joy of creating and stretching and growing and expressing.
Listen, I understand where the sentiment comes from. The author of that piece is clearly passionate about design and art and beautiful things and he wants to protect his idea of what that is in our society. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to protect what they love.
However, do you know what is more important than beautiful things?
Beautiful people. Beautiful lives. Beautiful experiences.
A world filled with people who love themselves and share their stories and are generous with their experiences. A world full of wonder and discovery and possibilities, not standards and rules and exclusion.
I know from experience that creativity, expression, exploration, delight, self-love… these are the building blocks of beautiful things — things that aren’t things at all.
Creativity belongs to you. (And don’t you EVER forget it.)
It is your human right to create. And whatever comes of it — whether deemed “good” or “not so good” — is irrelevant.
Please, for ALL of our sakes, “create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” 🙂
June 3, 2015
Whether you’re a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur, a musician, or any other creative type, I’m betting you’ve fallen into the comparison trap at some point or another.
You know the game, don’t you? The one where you look around and wonder to yourself, Where in the world do I fit into this sea of talent?
—. The perspective that people will come to know you for. BUT, you don’t know where to start.
I remember when I finally decided to start my own personal blog back in 2011, I would read some of my favorite blogs and think, They have such a distinctive writing voice. I wanted that for myself.
The following five tips are the ways that I’ve been able to uncover the unique creative voice inside myself, and I hope they serve as guideposts for you to do the same.
This is probably the most important point and the one from which the rest all stem. Consumption can be a great thing because it gives our creative brains some fantastic stuff to chew on—inspiration to form future connections.
However, if you’re heavy on the consumption end of the spectrum – in other words, if you’re taking in more than you’re putting in – you’re going to clog those creative parts of your brain with other people’s work. If you want to discover your style, the simple answer is this: make more stuff. And certainly, at the very least, make more stuff than you see or read or analyze.
This one is probably an extension of the former point, but more specifically, you have to crack down on the inner comparison glutton in you.
Listen, I get it, this seems counterintuitive. If you’re an artist and you like the work of another artist, you’re going to want to follow them on Instagram. If you’re a blogger, you’re going to subscribe to the blogs of other writers you enjoy. BUT, what I’m suggesting is that until you feel you have a handle on what makes you unique, it’s in your best interest to unfollow, unsubscribe and cut the inspiration from your life. Temporarily, I promise. Only until you find security and confidence in your perspective.
When I decided I wanted to start a weekly newsletter with inspiration and action on how to grow in business and in life, do you know what I did? I unsubscribed from every inspiring newsletter that came to my inbox because I had to discover MY voice and I knew that if my email was constantly being flooded with reminders of someone else’s voice, it would prevent me from moving forward.
Consistency is key when you’re trying to cultivate any sort of creative discovery. I truly believe that your voice shows up when you create momentum for it to arrive. What did Picasso say?
Yes, a thousand times YES!
Jason and I are big fans of 30-day challenges because we feel 30 days is long enough to see improvement and progress, but short enough to feel that you can accomplish a goal.
I can assure you that if you commit to creating your art for 30 days—whether that’s writing a blog post, making a piece of art, doing a small video, etc.—when you emerge you’ll have a MUCH better idea of what your unique tone and style is. But the key is sticking to it and finding some sort of accountability to keep creating.
Now, consistency is fantastic and I definitely recommend giving yourself a time frame or some sort of parameters to your creative process. However, there’s just one caveat to that strategy that I have to mention.
As much as it’s important to hone your skills and refine your voice as it sits right now, you also have to be aware that your true creative voice might be just on the other side of your current comfort zone.
I think of it like this: Many big Fortune 500 companies have their formula for how they run their business and how they grow year after year. Each year it’s their goal to execute this formula well and keep that growth alive. However, the really good companies have something like an “innovation” budget or department.
The goal of this line item is to keep pushing the envelope, to keep seeing what’s possible. You have to view your creativity the same way. Yes, it’s your intention to cultivate your voice as you know it right now and to keep honing your craft (see #3 above). BUT make sure you leave room for growth and innovation. Make sure you’re experimenting too because that could lead you to something that’s truly original.
Try a new medium, think outside your typical box, explore a completely different style than you’re used to once in a while. This will give your creativity the breath of fresh air it needs to come to life.
Self-doubt is the thief of art and of growth. If you really want to explore your creative muse, you have to convince her that she’s safe. Create an environment in your own mind where no idea is a bad idea. This is easier said than done, sure, but it’s the only way to truly push the boundaries and see what your inner creative voice is telling you. Maybe 90% of the art you make during this exploration phase is crap. And that’s okay. Why? Because that 90% could lead to the 10% that’s pure gold. Write with abandon, make art that doesn’t make sense, do it all FREELY and know that eventually you’ll find the inner voice inside.
There you have it, my five top tips for uncovering your unique creative voice. The underlying theme here, of course, is simply this: get out there and make more stuff.
Create from your heart, from what you feel, and not from what you think other people will like. That’s when you’ll stumble upon what makes you truly original.
May 7, 2015
To say that the series was inspiring would be a gross understatement. It was beyond magical.
We watched all six episodes in one night (actually, to be totally accurate, we watched five episodes, then Alli, who is an amazing baker, started falling asleep while still having to bake an entire batch of scones from scratch later that night, so they had to dip out and Jason and I couldn’t wait another second so we watched the final episode after they left. Sorry guys!)
Whether you’re a foodie or a lover of filmmaking or have no interest whatsoever in either of those things – it doesn’t matter – do yourself a favor and make a date with this show, y’all, because it’s that good.
The docu-series tells the story of six of the world’s greatest chefs. Each episode focuses on one chef from one particular part of the world, each with his or her distinct motivations, challenges, heartbreaks, moments of failure, sources of joy, and experiences that led them to pursue their craft in a masterful way.
There were so many interesting ah-hah moments that struck me during the show, but the whole thing reminded me of a topic I’ve had on my mind for months now, and that’s this idea of mastery.
The first time this idea came into my consciousness was back in 2010 when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. In it, Gladwell talks about the 10,000 Hour Rule – the idea that to become a “master” in a field, you must practice roughly for 10,000 hours. He had tons of research and examples to back up this theory, but for whatever reason, this definition of mastery seemed boring to me.
Sure, being a world-class violinist or one of the world’s best whatevers has an allure to it, but it seemed to me that pursuit of mastery JUST for the sake of mastery felt a bit empty to me, and I was never sure why.
Until Chef’s Table.
There I watched story after story of these MASTERS, and I was mesmerized and inspired by their dedication to perfection. Me? Inspired by perfection? You guys know that’s not my jam. We’re all about imperfect progress around these parts, not things like mastery and exquisiteness.
In almost every case, these chefs went to culinary school to learn traditional techniques and had a mentor who they studied under early in their career. Yet each one mentioned something very telling – that after they left to strike out on their own, they found themselves simply trying to copy the same old dishes to perfection, the ones they had learned over and over. And though they were talented, they all found themselves overworked, burnt out, and wondering why their restaurants sat empty.
That is until they dared to venture off the traditional path and find their own voice. To start cooking truly original food. To find an identity among the craft – a vision.
It was a theme throughout all six stories. In order for these chefs to ascend to a higher level of Creative Mastery, the quest for excellence had to be temporarily replaced by the quest for vision.
And, in almost every case, they had to actually unlearn their craft to a degree. Take Massimo Bottura from Modena, Italy, for example, who had to let go of the ideas he had about the traditional meals of the Italian Kitchen that had been around for centuries so that he could push the art of Italian cuisine forward into the future.
He had to become much less concerned with the idea of “excellence” in the eyes of the people to find his vision beyond the boundaries of what was accepted in cuisine at the time. That creative triumph is such a beautiful notion to me. To reject the external in order to find one’s inner creative light.
Now, where am I going with all this? How does this idea of mastery apply to YOUR STORY and what lessons can you take from the lives of these chefs?
A minor change, yes, but it makes a world of difference.
When we’re kids, Excellence runs the show. We’re taught that achievement should be our goal. That the dream is to become truly great at something.
So we practice and learn and imitate and emulate, all in an effort to master something. In my case, that pursuit of excellence showed up in my studies. I wanted to be the smartest in my class. The most successful. Win the most awards. I wanted to excel.
But, like those chefs, I was just trying to follow a well-worn path that was laid out before me. I had no vision and no identity.
It wasn’t until I was able to reject my own desire for that external validation that I truly found my creative voice. My vision.
I think the first big breakthrough in the life of a creative is when we’re able to put aside our desire for excellence (the external kind of excellence, the kind that comes with conditions set in place by society) in order to forge our own path. To find our unique perspective in the world.
The world remembers people who do things differently.
And this can be really scary because there’s a lot of risk in doing something that’s never been done before. When Massimo tried to reimagine some of Modena’s most cherished traditional Italian dishes, there was backlash from the more classically-minded Italians. His restaurant struggled. He wondered if he should give up. But he didn’t. He stayed true to his muse and continued to make dishes that pushed the envelope.
Day after day he worked to once again perfect his craft, but this time it was in pursuit of a mission that was truly original. (SO original, in fact, that his restaurant, Osteria Francescana, was named #3 on the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants. #3 in the world, people!)
Once you’ve found that vision – that identity – that’s when you’re able to adopt that notion of Excellence once again. No longer are you trying to master a craft only for the sake of mastery. Instead, you’re truly executing on your vision to its fullest potential.
So here’s my conclusion: The kind of mastery that I’m down with – Creative Mastery – isn’t just about practice and execution, it’s about having something unique to say.
It is both Excellence AND Vision. I simply can’t get behind mastery for the sake of pure excellence because to me, that’s mastery for the sake of external validation.
And in order to find your creativity, you must first find a way to un-master your craft. To unlearn it the way it was taught to you, so that you can find your unique vision. It is those kind of creatives that move their art form forward.
Have you found your voice yet – your vision? If not, ask yourself if it’s time to unlearn some of that excellence you’ve been taught to strive for. To color outside the lines for a while in order to discover that vision.
And if you have found your unique perspective, ask yourself if it’s time to move back into Excellence mode. To practice your craft so that you might more fully realize your vision.
And then… go watch Chef’s Table. You won’t be disappointed. 🙂
Thanks, as always, for being here and for participating as I try to hone my own Vision. It’s no easy road and I’m not trying to win any “50 best newsletters in the world” titles here, but I am trying to do something that matters.
February 16, 2015
Even though I taught myself how to use the program, after a couple years of near-daily use, I feel pretty comfortable with it. But, it occurred to me the other day that there is still SO much that I don’t know about Photoshop.
I can always do whatever I need to do with the foundation of skills I have, but every once in a while I take a look at the various tools and options that I don’t use on a regular basis and think to myself: What if there’s some awesome tool out there I’m missing out on?
So I recently went on a mission to expand my design horizons.
And while I’m a big fan of learning new things, I have to admit, these days it’s hard to find the time to sit down and watch endless Photoshop tutorials (plus, let’s be honest, most of them are boring! My coffee-induced ADD can’t handle it!)
Side note: “TipGIF” isn’t technically a thing (I made up the term.) BUT I think tips are most helpful when you can see them in action, so I looked up how to make GIFs in Photoshop, and behold, the TipGIF was born. Maybe it‘ll catch on?
Another side note: I use Adobe Photoshop CC on a Mac (though I’ve included PC alternatives as well.)
This is especially helpful when creating graphics with hand-lettering because you can remove the white background of your paper to isolate your hand-drawn element.
**You can also set layers with white backgrounds to Blending mode “Multiply” and their white backgrounds will become transparent, allowing you to place the layer on top of whatever you need!**
I first learned about this little tip in an Intro to Illustrator class at Alt Summit back in 2012, but it was one of those simple ones that changed EVERYTHING for me. By holding down Alt, then clicking and dragging, you can duplicate shapes, layers, images, even layer styles!
Just a handy little keystroke here, but to adjust the size of your brush, simply press the left or right brackets!
Grouping layers can be especially helpful if you need to quickly hide/unhide certain layers or apply a layer style to a group. To easily place multiple layers in a group:
Depending on your Photoshop settings, the background color behind your canvas area is probably some version of gray. However, if you want to see how your photos/graphics look on a white background or black background (or you just want to jazz up your workspace with some bright colors) you can use this shortcut to customization.
(If you want to undo this action, right-click outside the document area and select one of the default gray options.)
I use this trick a lot when I put together mood boards. By creating your grid of rectangles in your mood board, you can then drop your images on top, Alt+click and keep your nice crisp gutters between your images!
I’m sure you know you can hide the visibility of layers by clicking on the “eye” in the Layers palette, but did you know that you can Alt+click the eye icon to hide all other layers except that one? And to reverse it, simply Alt+click the layer again.
Naming layers properly can be a HUGE help when you’re dealing with complex files. Cycle through and properly name your files by:
I hope you found these little tricks helpful!