Man, my mojo is back, with a vengeance!
I suffered for MONTHS without inspiration or the drive to create. “How can I be an artist if I don’t want to paint?” I’d wonder. I even questioned if I should keep doing artwork since painting/creating was the last thing I felt like doing. My self-confidence wavered, I hit a bit of depression and I’ve cried more in the last 12 months than I have in the past 10 years. It’s been a really tough year on my psyche.
David told me to take the summer off and revisit in the fall. If I felt inspired, by all means I should create, but if I didn’t, then I need not punish myself. He was right, I needed time to step away (and lick my wounds) before I could move on.
Thing is, I had spent most of the fall of 2011 and early part of 2012 in mass-production mode for a licensing agent, producing the kind of generic artwork they wanted. Things I submitted were always critiqued or sent back (which I totally understand is part of the business) and I felt as though I was being asked to change everything about what and how I created. They thought I had potential but they weren’t ready to license my current work. I was expected to crank out hundreds of “vanilla” stuff I couldn’t stand doing. My style began to change (not for the better) and I began to hate what I was creating. And how could they like what I was creating when even I didn’t like it? It was constant pressure, constant pushback, no publicity, no reward.
As you can imagine, my sensitive soul cracked and in May, I made the very difficult decision to part ways with my agent and give up on licensing. I felt ashamed. I felt deflated. And I stopped creating.
Luckily I had enough unpublished material that I needed to keep secret while under contract that I was able to share “newer” stuff on my blog and in my shop, but the reality is that I was rarely creating for about 4-5 months. I have since repainted over a lot of things I’ve never shared because I just didn’t like the material. What really bothered me is that I couldn’t remember how to create my girls the “old way” because I was forced to change it to a newer way and I had repressed a lot of my old techniques in order to fit the mold. When I tried to create, I hated what I was making, so I stopped.
Now I’m not knocking licensing, licensing agents or even the agent I had. They do incredible things for lots of artists. But what I’ve mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg, it’s the nature of art licensing and I couldn’t hack it. I love to create what I love to create (part of why I made the leap to work for myself) and trying to create something I never had and/or couldn’t stand doing and trying to create perfection like a digital artist was killing my spirit (which let’s face it, handmade mixed media is a MESSY art form, no perfect circle/repeating patterns here!). It’s why I love mixed media – it’s painting outside of the lines, trashing boundaries and forgoing symmetry for imperfect yet unique beauty.
It’s also the reason I don’t do commissioned/custom artwork – it’s just too stressful trying to create someone else’s vision and part of the the joy of creating art is creating from the heart.
Now, with no external forces cramping my style and having had a few months to “shake the funk” I find that my ideas, inspiration and my actual work is blossoming in incredible ways. Though I was creating during the “gray period” I find that the quality of my work and the flow of inspiration is so much better now and I am over the moon with happiness now – conjuring up ideas, sketching, collaging, painting. It’s like the old days where I can’t be too far away from a journal as the ideas are constantly flowing. Now my main issue is finding enough time to keep up with all the ideas (and after being dried up for so long, this is a wonderful problem to have!).
Once again I’m not against licensing; I just encourage artists who think they want to jump in to REALLY do their homework, examine if they can work under other’s directions/expectations without feeling like their wings have been clipped (and for collage artists, I can’t stress enough about researching the legal limits/ramifications of using pattered paper, book scraps, vintage photos, etc. which takes on a whole new legal dimension when mass producing; I spent many nights paralyzed with fear over possibly being sued for incorporating the smallest piece of legible text in a piece!).
So while I won’t be reaching a national platform quickly (so long Target!) I’m happy to be sticking with my lil’ Etsy shop and meeting people who have found my work there, or in a small, family-run boutique, or on Facebook, Pinterest, this blog or with my partnership with FORCE. That is much more validating in the long run; I just missed that notion on the sprint to notoriety. Now it’s about slow, steady and at peace.
So what’s on the horizon? More girls, lots of fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Holiday themed pieces, and tea!
Stay tuned! And thanks for hanging on during my roller coaster year. Feel like I’m out of the gray and back in full color. xo
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