What Made Me Cry This Week – How Dante Can Save Your Life

How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod DreherCover of How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod Dreher

Let’s be honest. I started writing this review when I was just 4 chapters into the book. What can I say? I was hooked by the first line and already wanted to cry midway through the second chapter. The book hit the write strings.

My parents have been telling me to read this book for some time. They even bought it through Amazon and sent it straight to my address; there’s no clearer way to say “Read!” I put it off for some time while I read some of the graphic novels I had lined up (there’s some reviews on that coming up!). Until the fateful day came when I reached for Rod Dreher’s book, inside the bus, going downtown. I read the first line, then almost missed my stop because I didn’t want to stop reading. I had to go back to it later — on the bus ride back.

First things first: you don’t have to read Dante’s Commedia to enjoy this book. Although reading Dreher’s book might have you reading the Commedia in the end, just like it has my mom. Now we can proceed.

Dreher has a beautiful prose, and weaves together memoir, poetry and real-life applications. The book is intended for any audience, as he makes sure to create paths for inclusion for those of faith, Catholic or not, as well as for the atheist and agnostic.

I can’t help but share it in his own words, because for me they were so beautiful: “It’s a book for people who have lost faith in love, in other people, in the family, in politics, in their careers, and in the possibility of worldly success.”

At the beginning, he gives a quick overview of his life, in similar fashion to a memoir. But he ties it in with what’s coming up: Dante and the impact the poet has had on the author.

This section deeply moved me because of how much I saw myself in Dreher. We’re both intellectually driven, both book worms, we both have somewhat complicated relationships with our parents.

Even though our lives are completely different, he is able to tie his own life to broad universal themes: our sense of exile – even when we go back to our childhood towns. I even wrote a very similar piece about this feeling – although poorly written in comparison, here.

I’ll fill you guys in on the rest next week, once I’m finished reading it!

But in the meantime, what do you think? Which books have just grabbed you by the soul? Do you also feel a sense of exile, no matter where you are?

Read Part II of this review!

How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod Dreher – Buy it through this link and support my work!

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The Discipline to Create Art

Night Wolf - Illustration

This is something every artist struggles with. At least I do. It’s something I want to improve, to get better at: the discipline to make myself do art. The discipline to be my own boss. Why not write about it? Maybe it’ll make me more disciplined. And let’s be honest, I’m always writing for myself. So, whatever you get out of this, it’s a bonus.

How to be disciplined? Take one step at a time

If you read, watch, or follow other artists online, you’ll find out that, for someone pursuing a career in the field of creativity, “just surviving” college isn’t enough. School can only teach you so much. You need to spend time pursuing your own projects and your own dreams. One step at a time.

In fact, one of Jason Brubaker’s main pieces of advice from his book, Unnatural Talent, is to work on your personal project. Develop it, nourish it and make it grow. Something personal, that you feel passionate about.

So how do you do that? How do you discipline yourself to get your own projects done? I’m not sure, if I’m honest. I haven’t gotten to a point where I’m satisfied with my discipline. But I have made a couple of attempts at improving and learned some things from those. Here’s a list of suggestions and tips for you to try out:

 

Blog_Numbers1Choose a specific topic or style and stick with it for a week. See how you can say or show the same subject in a different way.

This can be a fun challenge to see how creative you can get within certain boundaries – like using a tool you’ve never had. Or making a series of 4 in. sized paintings. How creative can you be with the limitations you have?

 

Blog_Numbers2Get other people involved. Tell them you’ll work on a project for 7 straight days. Or let them have a sneak peek of your work in progress – put your honor on the line somehow.

This one is tricky, because if you don’t do what you promised you might feel bad about yourself and do even less. But it works great if it motivates to just sit down and do it. I usually tell one person about one project I want to work on, and to another person a different project. I’ll probably not do all of them, but at least one of those I’ll feel I need to get done, and indeed get it done.

 

Blog_Numbers3Set aside a time and place to work.

This is one of the most often-repeated-that-no-one-follows pieces of advice given. And hearing it again and again doesn’t make it easier. My tip is for you to find a special place where you can be by yourself, and spread out your materials and art. In that space that you have set aside eliminate as many distractions as you can. Turn off your cellphone, close all other tabs that are not-art-you’re-making-right-now-related. You might be amazed by how much you can do without technology distracting you.

Also, don’t be afraid to have a day in the week where you don’t do art. You need to rest from your art and just enjoy life! I consider it part of my self-care of the week. Making sure you don’t do art for a day will recharge you to come in super excited for the coming week!

 

Blog_Numbers4Look at yourself in the mirror. Stare deep into your eyes. Find your soul. Punch it a couple times until it realizes that making art is a necessity, not a commodity. And get to work.

Sometimes you just have to get to it. Stop making excuses and make art.

As I said. There’s no easy way to get discipline, or to keep yourself motivated. I’m still figuring it out for myself. But I think the last part of the trick is to never give up on being disciplined. Don’t stop trying to be disciplined just because you didn’t do art that one day, or that one week.

Never give up on being disciplined

Discipline can only come with a clear vision for what you want from your talent, natural or not. There will be days or weeks when you’ll be disciplined, and there’ll be days you’ll struggle with it. But just keep trying, for if you give up—there’s nothing we can do to help you out.

 

 

When You Fear that You’re a Hypocrite

Can I Call Myself That? An Artist? - Quote

Today I read some of Rod Dreher’s beautifully written book, How Can Dante Save Your Life. The prose, the style, Dreher’s life, Dante’s life. You feel so connected to them. Everything seems to fit in their place. I was even reading it today at a high schooler’s graduation party. A couple friends and I went for a walk. And I couldn’t help but read instead of, well, socializing.

During the walk, we went to this small children’s park and got on the swings. I was able to finish a chapter there. When walking back to the house, I felt like a hypocrite.

I mean—since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. Not an artist. That came later. What I wanted was to be a writer. Eventually I decided to be an artist because, well. I “had talent.” Or I guess other people believed in me. And grammar was hard.

When I finished reading the chapter from Dreher’s book, that childhood dream came back to me. I want to write. That was my dream. Am I hypocrite for saying that I’m an artist? Or for trying to be one?

I don’t know. But I think a lot of artists and writers have this notion that they have to be a “true” artist or writer to be called that. You have to get national awards, or make a living off of it. We see the titles of “artist” or “writer” like something to be deserved, merited.BlogQuote03_B

David Khalaf in his latest blog post wrote about how his dream of being a “writer” is now being put on the side. It’s heartbreaking to read the post. And he ends by questioning: “Am I writer? For a time I was. I hope I still am.”

And it brings me back to what I felt – like a hypocrite. I haven’t had any big breaks as an artist. I barely have a following on social media. I’m not complaining, I’m stating the facts. And being an artist wasn’t my dream as a kid. Can I call myself that? An artist?

I don’t know if I can. But what I do think is true, is that not knowing whether I’m an artist, a writer, a hobbyist, or just a kid searching for a place in this world, shouldn’t impede me from creating. Creating is beautiful, and a gift we should allow ourselves to enjoy.

Just because I don’t have the title, just because the identity makes me squirm—I feel like a tiny kid in adults’ clothing, trying to find my way amidst the excess cloth—that shouldn’t keep me from creating. Feeling like you don’t fit the title shouldn’t impede you from creating.

What Made Me Cry This Week

What makes you cry? Do you like crying?

If any art piece makes me cry,  I love it. That’s what art is for: those exhilarating emotions that make us cry.

It can be because the story is sad. Or because it just is too beautiful. Or because you know it’s not real. But you cry. The story, the colors, the music, something, touches you, it touches that calloused heart, and tears are shed.

WMM_01 That has been my experience with art. And if you’re like me, I invite you to my series of posts I’ll be doing: “What Made Me Cry This Week.” These will be posts where I share on what I’ve read, seen, or heard that has made me cry, that has made me dance and weep at the same time.

I’m hopeful these blog posts will have a small synopsis or something that makes it worth your time. Nothing too serious.  They will be short posts where I share what I love, most likely every Thursday.

Through this series I hope you find out new artists to follow or just read one of their works. I also hope to connect with you. For us to share what we love. For us to know that we’re not alone.

So feel free to comment, here and in the following posts: did you feel the same? Or was your feeling different? Is there another artist or work that you feel matches this one? What made you cry this week?

 

Coming to Terms With Judgement – Let The World See Your Art II

I started to be okay showing my art because I needed to get better. I needed insights that only other people can give. They gave new colors to the painting, drawing, illustration, article, or blog post… But I also started sharing just because I needed to get over the fear of judgement.

I think this is a fear every artist is born with, but I also believe every artist needs to get past it.

You know how they say that when facing danger our reaction is to either flight or fight? I think there’s one other response: paralysis. But, you know, it doesn’t rhyme, so they leave it out. Especially with art, I think fear creates a very intense paralysis response. For me, it almost never creates the fight reaction. And if you’re paralyzed you’re not creating.

The creator of the Dilbert cartoon, Scott Adams, has a quote that illustrates what I mean: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” So, allow yourself to make mistakes; fight it out and be creative. But after, and only after, you created, let the judgement come in to help you.

In my own art, for example, I tend to not draw bodies the most realistic. I like contorting them, making them almost fluid. Some people could see that as a mistake. They judge my lack of realism. Or maybe they think I don’t understand enough of anatomy. They judge, and that highlights my “mistake.” I can then choose: do I want that “mistake?” Or not? I chose to keep the fluid bodies.

I think judgement helps to highlight, or give attention, to our “mistakes.” We need to find out what those are, and then decide what to keep or not. I think I’ve seen time and again this idea of a two-fold process: be freely creative; then bring in your judgement, or your editor’s hat.

BlogQuote02_B

There’s a space for each process. During the “freely creative” stage there should be the least amount of judgement, and fear. You need to be able to explore, and exploring with fear doesn’t work. You’re stuck at home, never leaving your comfort zone.

For me, thinking of judgement as a guiding light that shows the path ahead has helped diminish my fears of it. Just because I still have to grow and learn doesn’t mean I should give up. It should be the opposite. Because I have to grow and learn, is why I can’t give up.

I have trained myself to view judgement as criticism. Every artist needs criticism to help them grow, and so I try to not take it personally. Judgement can work like answers to questions we have, pointing to new possibilities:

“Where can you go with your art? What might the path ahead look like?”

P.S.: A great book I’d recommend on this topic, if you’re interested to learn more, is the book Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmakingby David Bayles and Ted Orland. The book goes more in depth with the workings of fear and how to overcome it. We read this book for our intro to painting class; and I fell in love with it. Bayles and Orland’s writing was a great resource throughout the semester! 

Let the World See Your Art

When I began making art there was a major roadblock to learning and growing I had to face. I didn’t want people to see what I was working on. There was this tiny voice inside of me that kept shouting: “They’re judging!!!” This was still when I was young, probably before 4th grade.

But any artist needs to be able to show their work to grow and to make a living. If you can’t show your art, people can’t hire you; they don’t know what you’re capable of doing. Not showing it—simply creating for the pleasure of it—is fine if art is just that for you: a hobby.

By showing your art, you receive criticism and different opinions that let you know what others are thinking when they see it.

For my piece Ecclesiastes, one thing I noticed when showing it to people was that no one saw the story I saw. I would talk with them about it and I would see their eyes light up as they finally saw it for what it was. But the art lacked clarity; it wasn’t transparent enough. And while I noticed the problem, I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. That’s where showing your art to others can be helpful. It gets you to solutions.narrativeproject_ecclesiastes.png

My art teacher, Viviane, gave me some feedback on how I could change it. She told me how she felt the right side was too weighted. It pulled too much attention, which got us thinking that, when looking at the poster, people would begin on that side. They were reading the story backwards because of how I laid it out.

Below you can see the result, with some extra changes incorporated.

narrativeproject_ecclesiastes2
Ecclesiastes Comic Poster – Is everything meaningless?

My teacher’s input, insight, criticism, or whatever you want to call it, has helped me to make the piece better (I hope). A different set of eyeballs gave me a possible solution. And how about your eyes? What are they saying? Is it better?

Criticism can be hard to take. Even though I trust my teacher, it’s hard to show her stuff. However, I know in the end it’s good for my art. Other people’s eyes can help your art to better communicate its purpose and message. So be open to it.

Share your art.

Let the world see it.

We want to.

The First Blog Post – Embracing the Uncertain Future

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Well here we go.

The first blog post.

So I wanted to let you guys know what I’m planning, and I’ll just say it upfront: plans will change. This is just the beginning and as it is with any start, the path ahead is uncertain, things may change.

As far as I know, there’s no true map for when it comes to blogging. It can go well, it can go not so well. I may die tomorrow, or maybe I’ll live and write lots of posts. Who knows. That’s life. But as I wander about, I’ll keep telling myself: “Not all those who wander are lost” (J.R.R. Tolkien).

But the plans. I need to tell you the plans.

I want this blog to be mainly about my journey to become an artist. I have thus far dedicated 8 years out of my 21 to art. Dedication in the serious way, actual commitment – even if I wasn’t always the most productive.

I began drawing classes when I was in 4th grade, and then continued with more drawing classes. I journeyed through YouTube, and DeviantArt, looked at tutorials, interviews, and anything else I could get my hands on. I’ve done a couple of online classes and listened to podcasts. And now I’m halfway through college, and still feel like I only know the tip of the iceberg.

Through this journey I have started to make some small money. This past year through prints and commissions I’ve been able to make more than $500, and I have a goal of making $1000 by the end of one full year. That’s not taking into account freelance jobs done for small companies, or my oil paintings (I couldn’t keep track of the money on those).

I’m still in college, working part-time and dealing with all the drama my emotions bring about. The emotional drama really is the biggest time taker from those. So dedicating myself to art and selling has been hard. And I recognize that it’s a small start, but it’s just that. A start. Life can grow and flow from here on out.

As I move forward I hope to be able to share what I learned and what I’m learning. So I’ll share how I try to stay creative and how I take care of my creative self. I’ll also share some art and artists that inspire me and keep me going. Lastly, I might, if I find the time, share, as well, some techniques I discover along the way, be it in digital or traditional media.

Blog posts will happen mostly every Tuesday and if I have extra posts for the week it’ll happen on Thursdays. You may also notice, for example above on the Tolkien quote, that I have links to products on Amazon. This is a small way I’m hoping to generate some extra income – if you buy something, it’ll give me a small commission. I’m sure you’ve seen this with some YouTubers or Bloggers.

If you’re considering buying something I recommend, please consider doing it through the link I provide. That’ll help me out to keep this Blog going, and to just pay my bills. I hope that whatever I link to can be a welcome addition to your book, art, or music collection!

To end:

For this blog to work well I need your participation, your engagement. It’d be great if you follow my blog – the button is to the side – or my art page for updates.

I want to learn from you: what do you like to read about, what matters to you? And so as I write and post, please share or like something when you feel a connection to it. That’ll let me know to write more on that topic; to dig deeper.

And even more important: comment and let me know what you think. If you feel I’m missing something, forgetting something—throw it in the discussion! I want you to be a part of this newborn blog.

I welcome you to: “I Keep On Dreaming.”