Posts Tagged 'artist life'

Farewell for Now and One of the Most Important Lessons I’ve learned in the Past Couple of Years

{This is a little watercolor and pen I’ve been playing with. I call this “Gems, in Rose”}

So, I had my last day of work work this week—my last day at my part time job {as courier for the City of Davis}. As I rounded the corner to my last day there, it became even clearer to me that this job taught me one big lesson, a lesson I really needed to learn, a lesson I would never have believed a year and a half ago: you can work a job for money without selling your soul!

This lesson is not a huge surprise to me at this point—this is the job I talked about in my post last October, Finding a Job that Jives with Your Creative Practice, and I’ve known for quite a while that I had found a winner of a job for me, or at least an absence of the complete loathing I had felt at many previous jobs. But, to have worked at a job job for a year and three months without ever having wanted to jump out a window is a new record for me! One thing I particularly noticed is that I never started counting down the days, hours, and minutes until my last day. I just kept doing my job, feeling excited about my upcoming move, but never really feeling the urgency to leave that I had felt before. This is really a revelation!

If you read my job guide last October, you would know that there were many special things about this job—at the top of this list is that I worked there only 17 hours per week. This had a big impact on how I viewed the job in the general scheme of my life. But still, if you had asked me two years ago if I would ever have a good relationship with any job (other than art), I would have been doubtful. And then I did.

And now I am here at a new crossroads—the big question looming in my work-life right now is: Once we move, will I try to do art full-time again, or will I get another part-time job? I’ve been wracking my brain over this one trying to know which way to go. A lot of it depends on money, and we’ll just have to see how our finances shake out once we get to Boulder, my husband starts his new job, and we see the actual cost of day-to-day life in a new place.

But then earlier this week, once I was coming to my last day at my job, a funny thing happened: I realized that it doesn’t really matter which way I go. I can actually say to myself, “If I need to get a part time job, I will just get a part time job,” and I don’t feel like I’ve fallen into a dark pit of loathing! This is quite a change from the wretchedness I felt back when I first started looking for work again after realizing that I just wasn’t financially prepared to continue with art full-time. {to read about my whole journey, see these posts}

I am so thankful to have learned this lesson—I know it will help me in my work-life for the rest of my life. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes you learn the most important lesson from something that at first feels like a colossal frustration and failure? In a way I am thankful to have been pushed to get this job, because knowing what I learned there just makes me more flexible and adaptable—more able to create my own life the way I want it, no matter what. So with that I say a big THANK YOU to the universe for showing me this, and to the City for hiring me!

And now the real moving and shaking begins. We’re off to Philadelphia this weekend for a friend’s wedding, and then next week we’ll be packing up and shipping out. As I mentioned before, I’m closing down Blue Bicicletta for most of the month of June. I’m hoping to come share some of the Philadelphia and packing adventures here with you on the blog next week, but I’m closing down my online shop today, to reopen when the dust settles at the end of June/beginning of July.

And then . . . I’ll be back and better than ever in July! I’ve been getting more and more excited about new work and new directions for Blue Bicicletta after this break. I can’t wait to continue to share the adventure with you! As always, stay tuned!


Life as an Artist: Update 8: make art, not war

{poster by Shepard Fairey, available here}

It’s been quite a while since I wrote my last “life as an artist” update—the series I started, to talk about the reality of making your life about making art. In fact, this is a pretty perfect time for me to be writing this particular post because it has been almost one year since I started this series to write about my adventures in making a living as a full-time artist.

If you’ve been following my blog since then, you know that the last year has been a grand adventure for me. To recap in short: I quit my “day job” and started doing art full-time in October 2009, then due to financial issues, I decided to look for another part-time job starting January 2010. I was absolutely terrified about getting another job, as I had had many soul-killing jobs, but in February 2010 I found a job as a courier for the city. My courier job {that I still have} turned out to be a great fit—I get to spend every morning working on art, and I courier in the afternoons {during which time, I let my mind wander as I deliver mail in the city’s Toyota Prius}. On top of everything, it seems like the minute I started looking for part-time work last winter, my art sales went up, and now I’m making a pretty steady part-time income at it.

This leads me to what I really want to talk about here in this post: despite the balance I have struck between working for myself and working a side job to make extra cash, I have still been creating bucket-fulls of struggle about being a full-time artist. You know—that endless stream of shoulds inside your head—that voice that tells you, “If you were serious, professional, etc, etc, you would be doing this, this, and that?”

I’ve grown very tired of that voice, and tired of beating myself up about all the things I’m not doing, in order to become a “full-time artist.” So, last week, I started wondering, “what is this all about? Why am I doing any of this?” And the answer is: I just want to make art—I just want to make lots of expansive art—play around and by doing so, inspire other people to do the same.

And the reality is: I AM! I make art every day. I spend 20+ hours every week playing around, making art, and creating my art business. So, in light of this realization, I wondered again, “What if I already am living my ideal life? Couldn’t I want to be, and strive to be a part-time artist and a part-time dabbler in other jobs?” These questions made me feel like the sky opened up and the sun started beaming into my brain.

I realize that to some, this could seem like a cop-out—“when all else fails, give up”—but is it? I think that being a full-time artist is a very worthy goal, and I say “go for it,” if it sounds expansive and wonderful and you love what you’re doing to get there. But for me, I realize that if getting there feels like striving, and putting my nose to the grindstone, and working really hard {and all of the neuroses that I seem to create along with it}—then, that really just sounds too much like “work” to me {the opposite of play}.

Yes, I am admitting here that I don’t want to work hard. This does not mean that I don’t want to do my work, but wouldn’t it just be a whole lot nicer to work softly? Do the work that you find beautiful, compelling, inspiring, gorgeous, and just forget about all of the other junk? Of course, there will always be bookkeeping and lugging large tables to craft shows, but, want to know something weird? I actually like doing the bookkeeping for my art business—I find it fun to crunch my numbers—I know, I really just lost you on that point, but—wouldn’t it be nice to just follow the dream part and drop the drudgery?

The phrase that keeps popping into my head about this is from the gorgeous poster at the top of this post that I always have in my studio area, designed by Shepard Fairey (and I believe I’ve shared with you before). It says, “Make Art, Not War.” While I think that the intended meaning of the poster is a bit different, for me it means: I’m here to make art, not war inside myself. I’m here to lead a life of wild creativity, not a life where I make even my wildest dreams into some version of the hard grind.

So, here I am saying I would like to work softly at being an artist—I would like to make art with as much whimsy and light and play as possible, and I would like to continue to work a random string of odd-jobs to make extra cash—who knows which odd-job could be around the next bend—it could be exciting {for now my courier-ing continues}!

My grand goal is to continue living the life I’m living right now, and enjoy every last second of it, and see where it leads. And even when I’m frustrated, I would like to enjoy that too {if possible}— can’t I enjoy being frustrated? On that note, I think I’ve revolutionized my thinking enough for today, and I will go forth and continue working away at art as softly as I’d like, or even hard when I feel like it. Thank you for sharing this adventure with me! Happy dreaming!

Creative Time Management

I’ve been having a great last couple days of art-work, after a not so great first couple days this week. This change is entirely based on a few tricks I’ve learned over the past few years about how I can structure my time in a way that motivates me to do my work, even when I’m feeling unmotivated.

This got me start thinking about creative time management, and how you set up frameworks that actually lend themselves to your creative habit, instead of strangling it. I thought I’d share some ideas about this with all of you in hopes of getting a little dialogue started about this—so drop me a comment—I’d really love to hear {read} your tricks too. I think this is an especially big issue for artists or any entrepreneur or self-employed person because we manage our time independently—there’s no office to go to where other people tell you what to do and when. So, here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. Schedule blocks of time for your work. The first and most important key I have learned to motivating myself to get to work is to actually make time for it. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it seems like many of us creative types spend more time waiting to get inspired than we do actually working {I’ve been there}. I’ve found that even if I’m completely uninspired, if I’ve allotted a couple hours of my day or week to a project, and I force myself to sit down and work on it, more often than not something comes. Even if I just sit there thinking about what I might want to do, it’s just a matter of time before I get going. I really can’t give enough emphasis to how essential this idea has been to me in doing what I have done in art—it’s the cornerstone to creating art regularly {or anything for that matter}. In fact, I think it’s the cornerstone to accomplishing anything at all—to actually write in blocks of time for your work on your schedule, and don’t let anything, I mean ANYTHING, get in the way. Hey, don’t take my word for it—go read the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

2. Figure out what helps you feel free to do your work. There are piles of books and guides out there telling people what’s the best way to manage their time (hey, look, I’m writing one too!). The bottom line is that you are the only one who knows the best way to manage your own time. You may prefer having wide open spaces in which to contemplate what you’ll do next, you may prefer working in short bursts, you may do your best brainstorming while you’re on a bicycle. The trick is to find which ways work best for you. Personally, I like larger blocks of time, and then I oscillate between leaving the time open and deciding what sounds most exciting on that day, or alternately, planning what I’ll do by the hour within my larger block of time, so that I know I’m doing the work I want to do. These two things sound wildly different, but they suit my personality perfectly at different times. You may have noticed from this description that I also prefer to work on multiple projects at one time—this gives me lots of different creative opportunities and keeps me from getting bored or stuck {when I am stuck, I just move onto something else for a while}. You may prefer working on just one project until it’s done, or alternating, or any other combination you can think of.

3. Be flexible. As I was starting to explain in that last point, often the system that works best for you will be different during different parts of a project or different moods. Be open to this, and realize that if you’re having trouble on a certain day, maybe you just need a system change. Like I was saying about this week, I started out quite badly—I was in my “leave the time open and decide what sounds most exciting” mode, and I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. It turns out I just needed a little more structure right now, and so once I wrote out a schedule detailing what projects I would work on and when for the rest of the week, I started doing the work easily and getting so much done. At other times, this detailed planning system makes me feel stifled, and so I let go of the schedule and let myself choose what inspires me at that moment. Learning that it’s OK to change it up has helped me to keep the creativity flowing.

For me, these are the three keys to managing time in order to support creativity—really, I know I’m on the right path when even the system becomes creative! If your time management system is as creative as your work, you are bound for one lovely creative life.

Again, I’d love to here your tricks and tips—how do you manage your time to support your creative work?

Krista Vernoff on Committing to Thrive as an Artist: a video

I just found this amazing video by way of Marisa at Creative Thursday. As you know, I am always thinking about being an artist, and this video really gets to the core of a lot of the negativity and insecurity there is about making a living as an artist.

The video is of Krista Vernoff an executive producer and head writer of the show Grey’s Anatomy. She has also been a part of the Omega Institute, and she made this video in correlation with that work. It is amazing! Oh, my heart! She talks about how when you start telling people you want to be an artist, everybody tells you how hard it’s going to be, but what if we changed our definition of hard? What if it wasn’t hard?

Listen up, she is wonderful!

{I did have some difficulty watching it the first time (it was a bit choppy), but it seems to be playing just fine now—hang in there if that happens to you—it’s worth it!}

Here it is! Thanks Marisa for leading me to this!

Life Without Art

For the past couple of weeks, I have been feeling this dull frustration—that kind of lurking feeling of the doldrums, of something not being right. I had been chocking it up to my lack of routine and workspace these days, since we’re staying with family and waiting for our new housing lease to start September 1. But then, it dawned on me—I haven’t been making any art. “Why haven’t I been making any art?” I wondered. “Why don’t I just make some art!?” I exclaimed.

And so, I made a plan to draw yesterday, and just having the plan made me feel better. And then when I actually put pen to paper, I knew everything was going to be alright. And here is what I drew, another lesson I’m trying to remind myself of:

Today, I feel better by leaps and bounds, and I have to just laugh at myself—haven’t I learned this lesson before? If I go too long without making something, I start to feel off—a little blue, and just darn frustrated with the world.

How easy it is to forget the simple fact that I need to just keep making—I mean, I really forgot it at one point, and the remembering is what started what is now Blue Bicicletta. But I hadn’t forgotten it for a while since then. But then the situation, and my monkey brain got together and decided to give me a little challenge. I appreciate that challenge now because this is an important lesson to remember—making art is bigger than just drawing for me—it is my version of really living (when the trivial drops away and I can just have fun). It expands me, but also gives me comfort and feels like coming home to myself. And so I say it again, THANK YOU ART!

{P.S.: I apologize for the poor quality image—am having some technical difficulties. Will hopefully have a better one soon}

The Fine Line of Graphic Design

{a random striped object for your amusement}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fine lines between different jobs. Sometimes it’s so easy to tip over into a career that’s related to your interest but doesn’t fit you exactly. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about graphic design. Many artists seem to end up in the graphic design realm because it seems like a more viable career. A few years ago, I started studying graphic design in earnest, only to realize that it was really my second choice. It wasn’t my passion—sure it might fit better than being a data entry clerk, but wouldn’t it be better to give the real thing a try? Actually try to be an artist first?

Now, I’m not knocking graphic design—there are lots of people who are meant to do it—in fact, one of my graphic design teachers confessed that she had started out in fine art, but really didn’t feel right there. Later on, she figured out that graphic design was where she belonged, and she absolutely loves it—I mean, it knocks her socks off {and she’s an outstanding teacher because of it}. But it’s also quite easy for artists to end up there by accident—trying to be practical, or because they can. Lately, I’ve been tipping into that realm for a few projects (despite my realization a few years ago), and while I do somewhat enjoy it, I start to get cranky if I spend too much time away from creating art.

To an innocent bystander, it might seem like graphic design is creating art, and on some level it is, but the question is more: what is the purpose of the creation? Art is all about your own personal vision and expression, whereas graphic design is about expressing other people—representing them to the world. It’s a really amazing thing to help people represent themselves well, but if you long to create from your own wild imagination, you will no doubt start to feel stifled.

{another random striped object for your further amusement}

I find that these kinds of jobs exist all over the arts (and surely in other fields too)—say you want to be a fine art nature photographer, but you end up doing portrait photography, or you’d love to write, but you end up teaching English, or you want to be a chef, but you end up managing a restaurant. Again, I’m not knocking any of these jobs—there are people whose passion is to be a portrait photographer, English teacher, restaurant manager, but if you just end up there (with no intentions or moves towards leaving), what’s the point?

This has quickly turned into another one of my motivational rants about living your dreams. Please forgive me, this line of talk seems to be hard-wired in my brain, and it was especially riled up today as I just decided to turn down some graphic design work because I really REALLY need some time to let my creative brain wander!

I just wanted to share these ideas with anyone out there who struggles, as I do, with turning down work—because couldn’t we all use a little extra cash? But sometimes, it’s just not worth it—you can’t put a price on your freedom. It’s OK to say NO, in fact, it’s a blessing and a giving act, because then someone else who would really love to do the work can step up to the plate.

Perhaps I am naive to think these things—to think that you can make a living at whatever your heart desires. But sometimes it’s good to be naive—sometimes you need to be naive in order to do the impossible. Happy Creative Day!

Life as an Artist: Update 7: (Life as a Human)

{“Rays of Understanding,” 6 x 6 inches, pen and ink, available here in my shop}

It’s been quite a while since my last Life as an Artist post (a series of posts I started last fall to talk about doing art as a career), and in truth, I”m not sure that what I have to say today will fit in that narrow category, perhaps it would be better classified as Life as a Human, because the past few months I have really been thinking a lot about life in general.

As you may well have deduced by now, being an artist for me is about something much bigger—it’s about living a wonderful, beautiful, rich life—a life that I can look at and truly say that I am really living—really appreciating being alive. A life I can look back on whenever my time is up and say, “I really lived.” Maybe it’s cliche to say these things, or a little touchy-feely, but really, as I’m constantly asking: what is the purpose of all this if you don’t feel like you’re really living?

Last night, I watched the movie Marley & Me, about a couple (that becomes a family) and their crazy, rambunctious dog Marley. Marley dies at the end of the movie (sorry to ruin it for anyone, but I think this is common knowledge), and naturally, the family feels the loss like the loss of a family member, and they look back on how they loved him and how he loved them unconditionally.

While the movie is not breaking any new ground, the message was a good one—I walked away thinking about how we often don’t appreciate someone or something fully until it’s gone. I think we do this a lot in life—we are always thinking about the next thing on our to-do list, the next achievement, the next vacation, and we don’t realize that we are missing this entire moment, right here. Before we know it, we have lived an entire life without really living a single moment.

So, I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately and trying to figure out how they all fit together in my life—how they help me to see my purpose on a large scale, and how they apply to each moment and each small choice.

When you really get down to it, I think that if you can deeply live and appreciate each moment with reverence, then nothing else matters. Or perhaps more accurately, if you live each moment with appreciation and reverence, everything else will take care of itself.

The word reverence came up for me this morning when I was writing in my journal about this same topic. My pocket Webster’s dictionary defines reverence as: awe mingled with respect and esteem. I like that definition. It makes me think of Mary Oliver (the poet) and how each of her poems is in awe of this life, each small moment, each bird and cloud. She truly respects and esteems life. It also makes me think of my continuous proclamations on this blog and in my mind, of how I want to live.

Now I must be honest and admit that the reason I keep talking, writing, reading, thinking, defining, re-defining these things is because I struggle to live this way. It is simple to say “live in the moment, appreciate the moment,” it is much harder to do it—to let your monkey-brain thoughts move through your mental space and not grab onto them, or let them rile you up. Man, do I get riled up! Perhaps it is those of us who get most riled up that are constantly seeking? We just can’t take it any more! So, the honest truth is that my brain is often a battle ground, but I am learning that the calm is just a moment and a choice away, and I am teaching myself to choose to live appreciatively in the moment whenever I can.

So what does this have to do with Life as an Artist? Oh, how about nothing specific, but really everything. Questions are the only answers here:

What do you think would happen if you did your art (or whatever else you love) from a place of deeply living and appreciating each moment with reverence?

What do you think would happen if you were a wife/brother/parent/friend from a place of deeply living and appreciating each moment with reverence?

What do you think would happen if you took care of yourself from a place of deeply living and appreciating each moment with reverence?

This idea is the key to everything. Every book I pick up talks about it, and it just keeps coming ’round and ’round to me. It’s definitely one of those things that is clobbering me over the head these days, and I am trying to understand it. So, I leave you with these thoughts and questions, and a little glimpse of what I’ve been working out in my head these days.

{Two modern books I have found to be helpful on this subject: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and Arriving at Your Own Door by Jon Kabat-Zinn (this is a small book with excerpts from the full book Coming to our Senses. Of course, these ideas are ancient—check out any literature or ancient scriptures from Buddhism, and you are sure to find that people have been struggling with them and setting themselves free for thousands of years.}

Hello there! My name is Nicole K. Docimo, and I am an artist and writer from the U.S.A. but currently residing in Zurich, Switzerand. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Some Thoughts

"Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring."

{from "Joy at Sudden Disappointment"
translated by C. Barks.}

~This Work ~

Unless otherwise noted, all images and writings on this blog were created by me, Nicole K. Docimo aka Blue Bicicletta. If you would like to share anything you see here for inspirational purposes online, I just ask that you kindly let folks know where you found it. If you are wanting to share/reproduce any of my work in any other way, or have any questions about how you will be sharing the work in relation to copyright, please contact me directly at nkdocimo {at} gmail {dot} com. Thanks!

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