Grateful for a Summer

It’s hard to be an artist. It’s hard to be productive. It’s very hard to be grateful.

For this summer I set out with a plan: to be a “full-time artist.” I didn’t have a full-time job. So I decided to embrace the opportunity. I had many dreams and plans.

Stuff popped up. Everywhere.

I worked for a month at the dining hall. One week I did 46 hours, which I didn’t see coming. I discovered I’m still addicted to computer games. And while I was disciplined at the beginning of the summer, it has fallen through now at the end.

When I look back through this summer I realize I made very little money through my art – even as a “full-time” artist. But I did work and I have to stop denying that.

I wrote blog posts, made images for them, figured out layouts and promoted myself on social media. Believe me, that last one is harder than it sounds. It’s like you’re a little brat jumping up and down with pompoms trying to get people to look at you. It takes a lot of confidence to keep doing it.

This summer was hard because again and again I was putting myself on the line. I was putting myself into my art, and my art into the world, to be looked at, criticized or even just ignored.

Being productive was also hard because I lost my wallet. And because I had to do my laundry. And cook. And buy groceries. And pay bills. And clean my room. And figure out what to do with my broken car. And pack and travel. And help out my family with a quinceñera. And and and and. AND!

But. I need to stop. I’m tired. I’m tired because I worked. I’ve been making myself write, and draw and paint, and take criticism and feedback and incorporate it – “throwing away” whole pieces just because they were off the mark.

I was heavy. Broken. Scared.

I needed a time to see. To see what the work of my hands have done. To see and be grateful. To celebrate what I accomplished this summer. So I decided to make a list with numbers of what I’ve done this summer. A time to celebrate the fruit of my hands.

The Blog

I wrote 40 blog posts, and with the help of my team there’s been 20 that were edited and posted (with my team’s help)

I made around 20 images, including quotes, for blog posts

I got 172 visitors on my blog, with 295 views

My most viewed post has had 35 views

The Art

I made 5 new prints for my Etsy store (which is closed right now because I’m currently travelling to Honduras!)

I’ve worked on 5 commissions and am working on 3 more

I did 5 fanart sketches and paintings

I made 2 small GIF Animations

I worked on 3 freelance posters, with 4 more underway

I made 1 semi-animated video

The Learning and Growth

I read 15 graphic novels

I read 2 non-fiction books

I took 1 screenprinting workshop

I listened to 3 online talks given by artists

I absorbed numerous YouTube videos, podcast episodes and online articles

I had 1 critique session with my art teacher

I went to 1 publishing and editing training seminar

Social Media

72 Posts on my Facebook art account

37 Posts on my Instagram account

1 Twitter account started

Sometimes I forget how much I’ve done. Sometimes I have to stop, and look. See what I’m doing and what I’ve done. Breathe. Remember. See the small steps taken and where it’s heading. Be grateful. For the time I had, for what I accomplished.
Relax. Enjoy it. Smile at my past self: he hasn’t completely ruined my whole life, yet.

If you want to do this list exercise, feel free to post it in the comments below! It can be about anything – self-care, productivity, reading, learning, exercise, social media, whatever you can think of!

Orange Unicorn

Extra post today!

A week or two ago—it’s so hard to tell the passage of time during the summer—my friend Zach commissioned a caricature of himself. I forced him to give me artistic freedom with it, which made it even more fun! I felt very inspired to do it for some reason, and I ended up not even using a reference! Here’s the result.zach and jorito

We both really liked the result, and my addition of the words “Adventures of Zach and Jorito” gave us the idea of making Zach into a character. I mean, if you know him, you know how much of a character he can be.

Zach was a great pusher for the idea, and really wanted me to do it! Eventually I gave in. But I decided to make it Orange Unicorn.

While I considered taking on the challenge of giving life to Jorito as a comic character, I decided to go with an “easier” path – giving life to myself. It’ll help that we spent a lot of time together this summer. We’ve got lots of stories to tell! So be prepared. These short stories will be inspired on real-life events, but a lot of it will be fictional and adapted.

This will be a weekly webcomic going for about 12 weeks, maybe more, maybe less. Planned start of the posts is for the 7th of September. I’m expecting to be able to post a new upload every Thursday, instead of the What Made Me Cry This Week. But we’ll see how it goes!

One last thing. Zach and I disagree on which character design to go with for myself. I want to use my character Birdman. Zach thinks I should use my self-caricature. What do you think?

character designs

Make sure to follow the blog to stay updated on what I post.

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), or Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

To Be a Flower

To be tender. To be frail. To be a flower: vulnerable and open.

That’s what I tried doing for most of this summer. To write blog posts and make art that mattered to me. That showed you parts and facets – of me. In the hope that, for some reason, those images, those pieces of me, also mattered to you.

A lot of the time it felt like I was just ignored. Writing into this void of the internet, where there’s already too much going on. Posting pictures and images that got few likes. After all that’s what it’s about, right? You liking my writing. You liking my paintings. My drawings. You liking… me. Right?To be a vulnerable flower - creativity

Every now and then I have to hide in a hole. When around people I’m constantly trying to please, to make them feel better, to add something of value to them, to offer something up – even if it’s some of my weirdness at times. So, every now and then, I must hide in a whole to just please myself, and not be constantly evaluating: Do they like me? Was that good? Was that worth their time?

Every now and then I need to hide my art in a hole. To make it only for myself. To bury the piece amidst all the files in my hard drive. To bury it within all the other papers. It’s art that doesn’t ask you to look at it. It’s just asking to exist for a second, only to be hidden and forgotten – it grows best in the dark confines of the earth.

Flower Hope

This is very hard, because in the end, the only way I can survive – to bring in the bread – is if I show my art to you. If I’m tender, frail, vulnerable and open like a flower. And trying to find that balance, between the art that I make for others, and the art that I make for myself, is a complicated one. The art that sprouts out in colorful petals and the art that hides under earth – gathering the nutrients.

 

Right now, I feel drained. My creativity has been flowing over this summer, and it’s running out. I know it can replenish itself, but it needs time. It needs time to allow the water to evaporate, condensate and to come back again. In that soft refreshing drizzle, that smells like summer and nourishes the earth.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has set up — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

Pineapples! They’re the key!

“This pineapple is ripe. I should eat it.”

Pineapple

You know. You can find inspiration for art and for growing in your art anywhere. Even in a pineapple. But you may be asking why. Why is he choosing a pineapple? Well because there’s one in front of me right now. And because that’s what I want to do. My desires are frequently unreasonable.

But so how can a pineapple inspire you, and help you grow in your art? Well here’s a list of how.

 

Blog_Numbers1You can sketch it, draw it, paint it. Represent it in some way. Just by doing this, at least once you’ll be better than you were before. At least that’s what they say: “Practice makes perfect.”

 

 

Blog_Numbers2Eat it. Savor it. Enjoy it full-heartedly. Maybe even find a cool recipe through our friend Google. – Enjoying life is just essential for art. While there are great artists that I’m sure didn’t quite enjoy life, that doesn’t mean that you can’t! And after you’ve enjoyed the pineapple you can go back to your sullen self if you so desire. It’s up to you.

 

Blog_Numbers3Make a pineapple character! Or a pineapple world! Or a pineapple house! (uuuh.. Sponge Bob?) Come up with anything new that you can from a pineapple. Maybe a dress, or a blouse that has it stamped on it. Or maybe fuse it with a different fruit, to come up with a Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen? Oops. It feels like my ideas have already been used everywhere! Oh wells. Maybe choose a different fruit, or just think of something even newer. If you can.

 

Blog_Numbers4Write on, and about, the pineapple. I mean seriously. You’re an artist. You’re in the business of creativity. Anything new, anything imaginative is good. Even if you don’t see yourself as a writer, this can be great to break your shell! Get creative. Go crazy. With a pineapple. (In case you didn’t notice… that’s what I’m doing right now!)

 

Blog_Numbers5Slam it against a wall, floor or sidewalk. Draw that! Paint that! Seriously. I mean. Aren’t you curious to see what a smashed pineapple looks? And how will you draw that? You could even make a whole comic telling the whole story of how you read this awesome blog post and decided to smash a pineapple, that you ended up drawing, that made you super-crazy internet famous.

 

Blog_Numbers6Balance it on your head. Count how many seconds. Keep a track of your record. You don’t know why you should do this? Well. If you can’t figure it out on your own, I’m not sure we can be friends.

 

 

Wait…You’re still reading this? What are you waiting for? Go make some art with pineapples!

P.S.: The pineapple was eaten, leaving no space for me to try out all my tips. But I did get myself pumped up enough to come up with this dorky pineapple-inspired character.

Pineapple Character

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

 

Do Something New Every Day

Do Something New - Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Ok. I exaggerate, it doesn’t have to be something new every day. It can just be every week. Or maybe every month? I don’t know. Just try and do something new, is all I’m saying.

Today (as in 2 weeks ago, when I wrote this) I went to Dinderbeck Studios, here in Grand Rapids (GR), and took a 4 hour long workshop on screenprinting. Before the workshop, I had never heard of screenprinting, or any other forms of printing besides digital, to be honest. And it was so much fun learning something new.

Screenprinting is a fairly simple process. You just make the image, transfer it to the screen, then apply paint and transfer it to your paper, canvas or cloth of choice. Some people do t-shirts through this process.

It’s great for making hand-made prints. It offers you the chance to make several copies of that one print, but each print somewhat unique – or you can make it be. It will always have, at least when I’m doing it, mistakes or small flaws.

I think that’s part of the beauty of it. It’s not perfect, it’s not the same, each one is unique. Hand-crafted. It allows for the artist to be a part of the reproduction process – Marx would appreciate the ability it gives the artist to be closer in touch with the “means of reproduction.” Bye bye alienation.

The workshop was also just great to get to know some people from GR. There were 5 of us. We each worked on our own prints, but at the end we exchanged ours with each other! So I ended up getting some free art for my room.

Below you can check out the prints I worked on. They allowed us to come for another week after, during their open hours, for free.

But the reason I’m sharing this: it’s because it’s one of those “new experiences” that has helped me get pumped up for art again. New experiences change the pacing that you make art and your thought process opens up to new pathways. However, it doesn’t have to be a new art form that does this – although new art forms can be great – but really just about anything new does it. Open up your brain pores to creativity.

You can explore a part of your city you’ve never dared to go to. Or it could be going to a new city or country. It can be going to a new café, or starting a new type of project – like a blog! It can be to go to a new event. Or even to try and recreate one of your old pieces, under a new light. It can be to go be a reading mentor at middle school. Or to help at a homeless shelter.

Anything that gets you thinking in new ways. Step out of your comfort zone. I know. It’s cozy there. But just do it. It’s fun. Sometimes.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM every Tuesdays and Thursdays.

How To Avoid Interruptions

Why I Work at Night

I was in Brazil for a week this summer. Much of our extended family had gathered in one house down there for my sister’s Brazilian equivalent of a quinceñera. But I still needed to make art. And, while I think artists need to be able to show their art to others, solitude is a necessary ingredient for the creative process. With all the family back together I just needed to find the right time to get the least amount of interruptions.

That’s where the Night comes in, and by Night, I mean whenever everyone in your house is already asleep. The Night is very special because it offers you time to work on your art piece without any interruptions. This has become crucial to my creative process. And that’s because during the day interruptions seem to lurk around every corner.

Interruptions can be anything. People asking about your day, what you’re working on; or the need to pick up your little sister from downtown, or getting groceries. And one of the easiest ways I’ve found to avoid these is to either: find a place where you can’t be interrupted, i.e. a studio, or do it at Night in your house office, kitchen table, or basement.

But why even bother? At least for me, I’ve found that interruptions really hinder my speed. They don’t allow me to get in Flow, to reference ideas exposed in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book. And Flow makes for good art.

The creation and development of art takes a lot of focus. The more focused you are, the more space you have in your brain to come up with ideas. Art takes a lot of thought and ingenuity – the free association of ideas – to be well made.

Flow, the Creative Process, and Interruptions

Also without interruptions you can better focus on each individual tiny leaf, each one of the eyelashes, the variations of shadow and color. Once you’re done you’ll realize how much time has passed. How much better the piece has turned out. Fewer interruptions equals better art.

So, I found out that doing art at Night worked for me because there was no one to stop me. No one to interrupt or distract. It has worked for me most of the time – like when I don’t need to get up the next day at 6AM for an extra work shift (these are joy-killers let me tell you).

But what works for you? How do you avoid interruptions?

I’ve Done Enough

Seeking for Help and Motivation

It’s one of those days where I just don’t want to do anything. Just lie in bed and rest. Relax. I did a lot yesterday; I deserve it right? Well, it’s just Tuesday. Work still needs to get done.

Another pit. Another excuse.
When making art, it feels like there’s never an end to those. Everything seems to be an excuse to just not work that day.

I mean. I’m sitting right now in front of my computer trying to find motivation to do something. Just anything, really. To lift my pencil and make a mark. To open Photoshop and let it out. Whoever said being an artist was easy, didn’t try being one.

I’d like to leave a word of encouragement. I don’t know. Some nugget of positivism. Something that makes it worth your while reading this. But I feel like admitting the truth is sometimes the only thing we can do.BlogQuote05_A

I don’t always want to do art. A lot of times it just feels like another job, another task to get done. Another routine, another cycle.

How do you break that? How do you see art with new eyes, when art is all you see? Maybe go look at some engineering equations, or at the periodic table and memorize a couple elements. Maybe that will do it.

Here it is. A post, a tribute, to that wicked lazy side of life – the one that wants to hold you in your bed and never lift you out of there.

But now I’m off to make some art. Even if it’s horrible. Or repetitive. Or the same and unoriginal. I don’t have any motivation, but I’mma go do it.

You can follow my art page on Facebook or Instagram (@jandrewgilbert) to see my art and get notifications on blog updates!

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.

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.