April 18, 2007

a little interview

hot pink blossoms, Berkeley, CA, Olympus Epic

Kristine Mays asked to interview me this week for a school project and I decided it would be fun to post my answers below:

Survival Skills And The Artist
1. When did you begin thinking of yourself as an artist?
When I was a kid I drew, painted, and danced my little heart out. I've always thought of myself as an artist or creative person.

2.. When did you begin producing artwork? What was your initial medium?
Everything I do now (making jewelry, drawing, painting, taking photos) I have literally been doing my whole life. This is how I know I am on the right track!

3. What are some of the non-art related jobs you have had that have allowed you to exercise your creativity?

Selling clothing at a boutique in San Francisco. Since we worked on commission and I hated the pressure and focus of that, I played a game with myself each day. My intention was to have fun with each person that walked through the door…this made for creative ways of approaching people when they came in, creative ways to have them feel comfortable, and made for more fun and collaboration with my co-workers. (Things can get pretty catty with a team of girls working on commission!)

Once, a man and his wife walked in the door and even though they were dressed conservatively I suddenly had a vision of the man in the most outrageous lime green vinyl jacket we had in the store. I walked up to them with the jacket and said, “This might sound crazy but I'm a wee bit psychic and I see you walking out of the store wearing this jacket. Isn't that weird?!” They laughed and agreed to try it on. He looked amazing in it and I commented that it made him look like a rock star. They giggled and said they'd like to buy it.

A few weeks later, I was looking through Spin magazine. The very man I had helped was pictured… He was in the band Garbage, and was in fact a rock star.

4. Do you find it difficult to balance making art and being a mom? How do you work with the complexities of this?

So far, I find balance by working with the tiniest of slices of time. It's amazing what you can get accomplished in 45 minutes when you're a mom! I also prioritize my creative work over things like doing the laundry, checking my email, or other chores. Those things can wait; they always eventually get done. But your creative work? It takes commitment. It is easy to say you don't have time for it… if you don't give yourself that gift, no one else will.

5. Have you hated your work before? If so, please tell me about that experience.

Luckily, I haven't ever hated my work. The first few years were difficult financially and there were times when I felt really lonely and afraid. Every day I had to recommit to my work and my dream. It was tempting to give in to the voices that said, "This is NEVER going to work! Are you crazy?" I felt like quitting a lot of the time... Looking back, I SO honor myself and the courage I had at that time to keep going in the face of very little money and success. It is one of the things I am most proud of.

6. By your own definition, what does it mean to be an artist?
I've always had an aversion to saying that I am an artist... It somehow sounds pretentious to me. I suppose I don't believe it is an exclusive thing. I believe that everyone is an artist in their own way. I prefer to say that I am a creative person or that I am somethihng specific like a painter or a photographer.

If I had to define it, I would say that it is about finding our unique voice. We all have a voice that is meant to say something special. It is a practice, a discipline, and a lifelong pursuit to get out of our own way and let that voice come through.

7. Do you have any advice for working artists? I always like to say “Follow the Fun” as a general rule. Whatever calls to you as fun will likely lead to the most joy, creativity and ultimately success. We often hold unconscious beliefs that work should be hard or boring or, you know, like work. People are always saying things like, “They don't call it work for nuthin! or, It's a job!” I encourage you to create a job that you would truly do for free. Don't paint with oils when you really want to use crayon & glitter; don't shoot weddings when what you really love is to photograph dogs. When you choose to be a working artist you are bravely taking a leap of faith in the name of doing work you love. Make it your dream job, for real. I believe this is the key to true success and fulfillment in your work.

My other tidbit of advice to any creative person is to take your tools with you. If you are a photographer, carry your camera with you all the time. Take photos on your lunch break. Take photos of your co-workers. If you like to draw, keep a sketchbook in your purse. Draw the people on the bus during your commute. Draw your baby while they nap. If you're a writer, definitely have a notebook in your purse. Or index cards. This is a great way of getting down little ideas and thoughts and scenes. Don't wait to "be creative" for when you get home or you "have the time." Ha!. Make it a way of life. It is who you are anyway.

Photo tip: I have been shooting a lot of photos with my little Olympus Epic film camera. It takes incredible photos and is only about $75. I adore this camera. (Don't get the zoom version of this camera however; the optics are not as sharp.)

Posted on April 18, 2007 12:17 PM

Thank you for this! This kind of inspiration is what really drew me to your blog and kept me coming back for more on my lunch break at work. :o) Thank you, thank you!

P.S. Ben is so cute and very photogenic!

Posted by: Tammy L at April 21, 2007 08:05 AM

I can so relate to these sentiments. I'm also "creative" - I paint and draw, mostly, but also do a little of all sorts of things. Just in the last 3 months I started to sell my work on eBay, as an answer to my coach's suggestion that I think of whta would be the perfect dream job for me. I wanted to be using my creative talents somehow, and this was my first little baby step in that direction. It also works in that I can create in the small bits of time I have too, and still sell them and not feel as though I never have time to do ENOUGH for a store, or a "show" or something. Just to be painting again and to earn a little bit of extra money feels terrific, not to mention the mental break from being a SAHM and the use of entirely different brain cells for a little while.
But, I have to think about taking my tools with me. It's harder when you have a 4 year old, however, because she wants to jack with my stuff all the time!

Posted by: Trasi at April 19, 2007 07:53 PM

andrea, you are so FREAKIN inspirational. thank you thank you et merci mille fois. you are a superhero to hundreds, including me.

fyi, baby ben is scrumptious

big hug from
(proud owner of 2 pairs of earrings which you sent me when i lived in paris a few years ago)

Posted by: isabelle at April 19, 2007 05:32 PM

I love how your posts make me think and leave me with a smile.

Posted by: Andrea at April 19, 2007 11:19 AM

What a great post (even if there were no Ben pictures to go along with it). Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

Posted by: Rebecca F. at April 19, 2007 06:59 AM

yes yes yes ! take your tools with you. I always lose out when I don't do this. I must buy some more film!

Posted by: m at April 19, 2007 05:14 AM

I just wrote a blog entry a few days ago about what it means to call myself a writer and not feel like a fraud. The other day someone called me "an artist" and I felt slightly giddy from it. How pretentious and preposterous to use that word for me! But of course, I was secretly very flattered and pleased. (You can read the whole post at http://thewordcellar.blogspot.com/2007/04/choose-symmetry.html.)

Posted by: Jennifer/The Word Cellar at April 18, 2007 10:44 PM

Thank you so much for this! As usual, you are so wise and you have such a delightful way to put us on the right track...

Posted by: Alex at April 18, 2007 06:37 PM

Such good advice and wonderful insights. You are doing so well as a new mom if you've already figured out to do the creative work first -- it's taken me close to 11 years of motherhood to figure that one out!

Posted by: Yogamum at April 18, 2007 03:30 PM

words to live by - thank you. I've been missing our coaching calls and this came at just the right time :)


Posted by: stef at April 18, 2007 03:14 PM

What great advice! Thanks so much for your wisdom. I'm just beginning to step out into writing and your words here are SO helpful and encouraging! Thanks, Adrea!

Posted by: Lindsey at April 18, 2007 03:07 PM

and... you're a writer! And a good one. :)

Posted by: Meg at April 18, 2007 02:53 PM

Another inspiring post, A. THANK YOU. I am in phase 2 of post leap taking...and it is nice to feel that connection to a fellow creative leap taker!!

Posted by: Amy K. at April 18, 2007 01:57 PM

How inspiring. I finally changed my major to art studio after trying other majors that just didn't feel good to me. I've been sitting with "I am an artist" for about a month now. Trying to let myself believe it. I really appreciate this interview.
Thank you.

Posted by: Juliene at April 18, 2007 12:54 PM

Which Garbage member was it? I know Butch, and I can totally see him in a lime green jacket!

Posted by: Leah at April 18, 2007 12:15 PM

completely agree with sentiments re: new mom multitasking skills. who knew!!!
ps - Ben is dreamy!

Posted by: claire at April 18, 2007 11:51 AM

Your truely amazing!!!! My friend told me about your Journal and it has inspired me ever since....Thanks!!!!!

Posted by: Jolene at April 18, 2007 11:14 AM