It is amazing how your awareness of a situation can come into clear focus once you make a decision to remove certain distractions. Now that I have decided to pursue painting and writing full time, I see with certain clarity how I was not serving myself by remaining in artistic limbo, spreading myself in a myriad of different directions. While each of these pursuits gave me a certain kind of gratification - financial or otherwise - I know now that if I were to continue just floating along on the surface of so many different areas, I would do just that. Float along on the surface. By making the decision to end my design projects and sharpen my focus, I now have the ability to go deep into a new world and see if I can really make a go of it. Kind of scary. Incredibly exciting.
Even though I have made many dreams real beyond my wildest expectations, I still have all the usual fears and anxieties that anyone has when embarking upon a new journey. In addition to some wonderful successes, I have also had some miserable failures and situations that I never want to experience again, so I am in a fairly balanced place in terms of expectations. I believe it is possible that I can succeed in these new realms. I also know it will not be easy, and a good portion of the work I will need to do for any success is not painting or writing, but all kinds of mundane administrative & organizational tasks. It will involve learning a lot of new things and facing many rejections, as I am basically an unknown in these two worlds. Because I have had ups and downs as an artist and an entrepreneur, I will know better than to take anything personally, and I think this is one of the biggest hurdles most artists face. Yes, my painting and writing are both extremely personal, but if someone does not respond to either, it is not a personal attack against me. It simply is not something they connect to. Hopefully more people will be moved by my work than not, but that remains to be seen.
* I still have many fun Swirly products on the market, and the Swirly Girl line from Three Cheers for Girls continues to introduce new goodies every season.
* I am also developing new card lines with Recycled Paper Greetings, and Swirly cards are still available from them nationwide.
* My book, Plant Your Dreams and the Miracles will Grow is still available.
* Inkadinkado will be introducing new holiday rubber stamps this fall, and they also have a fun collection of everyday stamps in their latest catalog.
*The work I will not be doing anymore is freelance graphic design work - logos, business cards, etc. I have had the pleasure of working with many wonderful clients over the past few years, and everyone was extremely supportive and encouraging of my decision.
I am still in the process of re-formatting my online journal. Right now that involves me transferring all of my photos and journal entries into the new page, which is a tedious yet strangely gratifying experience. The new journal and a few more website revisions will be up July 1.
"Taking on a special project will help you embrace what you have the power to change and let go of what's beyond your control." - My horiscope for today
This morning I am thinking heavily of the fragilty of life, although this reality is not something that ever ventures far from my consciousness. I have known too many people who have faced cancer, died in car accidents and from heart attacks, had brain tumors, MS and other assorted illnesses and tragedies. Each and every day I wake up and remind myself not to take the day before me for granted, because one never knows how quickly the pendulum might swing in a devastating direction.
It sounds like such a mundane and unromantic answer, but whenever I think of what I am most thankful for, the same thing always comes up: my health, and the health of those I love. I think it is the one thing that can strike us most unaware, most unprotected and leave us the most vulnerable. With any other problems in life - financial, relationship/marital, family, career - a certain end will come to whatever is troubling us and the tide will eventually turn in a more positive direction. Time can heal all wounds, as they say, and fortunes can be rebuilt. With health problems, there is more uncertainty and I believe, at some point, much more reliance on faith and perhaps even prayer. Someone very dear to me faced Stage Four Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2001 and was given a 20% chance of survival. After 12 weeks of chemotherapy, he was clean and the doctors were stunned. I asked him how he got through it and he said "Five things: prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer and my friends." He is still doing great. Those must have been some kick-ass prayers. (P.S. "Dear God, Thank you for answering those prayers, and mine too. Love, Christine.")
Sometimes it is easier to look at situations such as these and say, "OK, he was supposed to go through this to learn more about himself and life and shift the path he was on. Something wonderful came from the experience." Then there are other situations I witness and I want to look up at the sky and scream a simple one word prayer: "WHY?!" Over the last year I have had to look hard at what my grandma has been going through to find something - anything - positive. I have been angry, felt helpless and have admittedly been in a bit of a state of denial, not wanting to talk about it, think about it or face it. I look at pictures of her and it is as if an iron cloak envelops me, weighing down my shoulders and making me breathe heavier. I close my eyes and try to envision the pain washing away from me, like a foamy tide returning to the waves, and my eyes sting.
I have these moments - these moments where I just feel sad for the suffering we all have to go through at times. I know this sadness will pass, just as the gleeful joy I felt riding my bike along the Venice boardwalk yesterday passed. All the good and bad comes and goes; all the light eventually gives way to darkness and sometimes the darkness makes it almost impossible to see where we are going. But it always passes, just as we will, in our own way and our own time and hopefully, with our own deep understanding of the beauty and magic of every teeny tiny moment we are here, with each other, making our way.
"Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life." - Mary Oliver.
There are times when I feel like a total phony. I go to the websites of other artists and illustrators and I think, "What am I doing calling myself an artist?!" I start comparing myself, and feeling like I should be doing more, better, different or something. It is the silliest thing ever, and not at all productive, helpful or inspiring.
I think because I have been in such a state of drifting with my work - not especially focused on any one thing, but more scattered in a number of directions - I feel like I have nothing to show for the last year or so. Nothing could be further from the truth however. I re-designed my entire website and have added dozens of new pages and features, I have kept up with a number of clients who have sent me work consistently this entire time, I have twenty or so paintings in the works (and one already sold), new Swirly products in the works & on the market and my latest collage book is almost half full. There are other projects I have kept up with as well, not to mention just keeping our household running smoothly, coordinating travel plans and dealing with various family issues. It is so funny how easily we can slip into feeling like we are not accomplishing our goals when we start comparing ourselves to others when in reality we are right where we belong.
I think part of my problem - although I think it is a great "problem" to have - is that I have so many ideas swirling around in my brain on any given day. Ideas for collages, paintings, stories, articles, essays, books, photography projects, documentary films, my business cards, an art camp for kids and on and on and on. I wake up and end each day wishing I had more time to CREATE.
And so I've found my answer. That is why I call myself an artist. I know of no other way to be.
When I know a new project, change, transition or move is coming down the pipeline, I tend to start getting ready for it early. I'm gearing up for a major shift career-wise, and this situation is no exception.
For many months now, I have been floating along between various paths on my journey as an artist - part time commercial illustrator, part time painter, part time writer, part time freelance graphic designer. This has been fine, and I have been comfortable with the uncertainty of which one of these endeavors might emerge as a stronger passion. A couple of months ago, I began to see painting and writing pull forward, and this week I have decided to dive into each of these pursuits head on. I therefore spent today doing a few rather mundane tasks, mainly changing my email address and setting up a new online journal format. I'm not sure exactly why I feel the need to get these done before I wrap up my current freelance projects and move into this new phase of my career. Maybe just because they've been nagging at me for so long, having gotten rather settled into my to do list with their own couch and mini-fridge. In any case, these are two tasks I am so happy are done. They are helping me clean out some of the clutter in my brain.
My summer started off fabulous with a vacation to Hawaii and it does not look to be slowing down or becoming any less adventurous, exciting, scary or fulfilling anytime soon. So much is going on and I can hardly believe my good fortune. I will have much to write about. Stay tuned.
I returned from a lovely quick trip to Washington, DC yesterday. I grew up there - in Alexandria, VA actually - so normally when I return for a visit I am a crazy woman. Breakfast, lunch, afternoons & dinners are all booked trying to catch up with friends from high school, college and other bits and pieces of my life. Going back to Alexandria is a little bit like going back in time, always a bittersweet experience with plenty of laughs and big hugs.
This time I tried a different tactic since I was only there a few days. I kept my visit a secret from all but a few people, not because I didn't want to see everyone, but because I simply had to prioritize. I was only in town for three full days, and I did not want to be stressed out the entire time and only partially present with whomever I was with at any given time. My dear, darling friend Blair just went through an incredibly challenging year on so many levels, so most of my time was devoted to her and to my mom, and this was absolutely perfect.
I have known Blair for - yikes - almost 15 years now, and what a friendship we have shared. To see her now, knowing what she has gone through ever since I've known her, and all the sliding doors that could have very easily taken her down a devastating road, I cannot help but stand before her in awe. She has a strength and passion for life fueled by her love for her daughter Grace, and through all of the pain and heartache of the past year she has managed to keep her wild sense of humor fiercely intact. I haven't seen Blair in almost two years, but the minute we were back together it was as if not a day had passed since we last cracked ourselves up at something totally silly. When I went to her office to meet her my first day in town, it turned out we put on the same outfit that morning - a turquoise t-shirt and white pants. We weren't too surprised by that, it made sense.
On my last night in town, we went to dinner around 6:00 with her daughter, and were on our way home by 8:30. I was laughing the next day thinking about our evening rituals from all those years ago when we first met and didn't even think about going out until almost midnight. I love how our friendship has evolved, matured and survived a lot of pendulum swings, and I love how much my face hurts from laughing so much when I'm with her.
"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." -Anais Nin
This is my second journal entry for today, but I just can't resist, because I had another lovely "kooky" experience today, another "coincidence". Speaking of which, many thanks to everyone who sent me their own serendipitous stories. I love reading them & hope you continue to share more with me.
If you are a regular on this site, you know my adjustment to life in LA has been a mixed bag, and meeting people I really connect with has been one of my biggest challenges. Another challenge has been my hair, and during the entire ten months I've been here I have continued to go to Santa Barbara for haircuts. Last week I finally went to a salon I had my eye on for a while called Ohm Salon and made an appointment. The receptionist chose the stylist for me as I was a new customer, so it was a total crapshoot.
Today when I walked in for my appointment, one of the stylists immediately looked up and gave me a friendly hello and I thought to myself, "I hope she's the one!" Sure enough, she called my name and we were off to the races. As she was cutting my hair we were discussing my paintings, and I noticed a tatoo on her wrist. When I asked her for a closer look, I saw that it was a tatoo of a rose with wings. I just stared at it, explaining to her that one of the main elements in many of my paintings are wings. Wings are what I'm doing more than anything these days. And here they were on the wrist of a woman I'd just met, but who I already know will be a regular figure in my life, at the very least as the fabulous stylist with the two bulldogs who cuts my hair.
Sometimes it can be difficult to be patient when looking for kindred spirits in a new city, but when you finally find them - wherever they are - it is such a unique treat. Like tiny seeds beneath the ground that you don't even know are there until the rain comes and the flowers pop up, sometimes future friends walk among you for months or weeks or years until that perfect time when your worlds are meant to collide. And a tiny set of wings lets you know you are on the right path.