Category Archives: Life

I Don’t Have Any Time…

Trying to plan meals and keep two kids entertained…

The hardest part of committing to the artist residency in motherhood has been time management. Before the residency I would spend my kid’s nap times catching up on dishes or the laundry. Now that I am trying to spend that time and any other free time in the studio other things are starting to pile up. The visual clutter is making it harder to make art a priority so I am trying to take a step back to create a schedule. Despite the ease in which I can create a mess, I do not function well in a disorganized environment.

This last week I have focused my late night internet wanderings while feeding my little one on how other people schedule their time. I finally looked into bullet journaling. Turns out I used to do a very simplified form of it in college without realizing what the trendy bloggers were calling it. I personally think the name is misleading, it’s a personalized and customizable day planner. And despite my hesitation to spend time writing down and thinking about all the things I don’t have time to do instead of doing those things, I am going to give it a shot. The goal is that by being more intentional with my time I can be more productive and feel less chaotic.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

As always, thanks for reading,

-r.n.a.

 

 

Use Your Words… 

Constructive criticism can be incredibly valuable. Critique was one of the worst/best parts of art school. It was the worst because it required a level of vulnerability. When done with a great group who understood the benefits of not just saying something superficial or nice like “You worked really hard,” it was the best. It created a dialogue to help you talk through your ideas, potentially gave you a new arsenal of inspiring artists to look at, and gave you a gauge of how well your idea was being articulated to an audience. 

 
After graduating the regular critiques ended. Sure I have a group of people I know that I can send photos too or video chat with who would talk through something I’m working on but I have to seek them out, put myself out there instead of showing up to the mandatory critique whose attendance and participation is a requirement if I want a good grade. 

When I do seek it out I ask things like: 

“Does this look dumb?”

“How weird does this look?”

“Am I stupid for thinking this works?”

“Stupid right?”

Talk about a meaningful conversation!

And it’s not just with something I’m making, it’s with anything I do. If I’m not sure about something I’m wearing: “I’m not making this work am I?” If I have an idea that I want an opinion on: “I know this idea is stupid but what do you think about (idea)?” It’s annoying just writing about it.

I’m constantly telling my two year old to use her words instead of whining… I need to take my own advice. Those style of questions are basically a grownup form of whining. Whining shuts everything down but your desire to get away from the whiner as quickly as you can. Or at least that’s my reaction. 

I’m trying to be more direct and clear. To ask things like, “I am having a hard time resolving this design aspect. Any thoughts?” Or “Could you give me your opinion on this? Wondering how I am doing with articulating my idea.” It leads to way more constructive dialogue than a pouty, “This looks dumb right?” 

As always thanks for reading,

-r.n.a. 

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The Beginning…

Today is the official start for my year long Artist Residency in Motherhood!!!!!!

I have been thinking and wanting to do this since I first heard about it over a year ago. At the time I was working full time and waiting for kiddo number 2’s arrival. I really liked the idea of the commitment but I lacked the courage so I pretended like I would do my own version of it which was code for “i’ll make a lot excuses so this never happens.”

I did dip my toes in the art making occasionally. Drawing became a great outlet in the weeks leading up to kid2’s arrival. After kid2 arrived she sometimes would take a nap at the same time as her sister and I would run to my studio as quietly as I could and then just stand there. Not sure what I could actually accomplish in 20minutes (or at all) I usually ended up trying to organize something or cleaned while promising myself that next time I would do something more creative.

It was thrilling.

Then I did what I am really good at doing and completely discredited any shred of creativity I was foolish enough to think I had. Awful stupid things that I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough at if I heard anyone else say them filled my head. The worst of them… ‘Grow up Ren, stop with this foolish art stuff.’

In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly she calls it Shame Gremlins. And dirty little gremlins they are. She talks about how the more vulnerable you feel the worst the gremlins become… the lady knows what’s up. Every time I would even think about the potential of doing something art related the gremlins would spring to action, propelling down from the rafters shouting their war cry ‘REN SUCKS!!!!!’ The more I tried to ignore them the dirtier they played, knowing exactly what to say to shut me down.

Not to be all ‘This book totally changed my life..,’ but this book is totally changing my life.

I feel ready in a way that I just haven’t before. I am also tired of letting the gremlins run things and ruin something I really love doing, and that’s showing up in the studio to make art. 

What was going on while I was writing this post, seemed more accurate to chose the shot where none of us are looking. (This is also the reason for any spelling or grammatical errors in this post)

As always, thanks for reading!

-r.n.a.

 

You should check out:

Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly… Don’t forget to support your local bookstore if you can 

-Artist Residency in Motherhood’s website 

 

 

 

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L7 Weenie…

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Made by the talented Spencer Simmons. 

There is this glorious period of time that exists between the moment you tell someone you can do something and the moment you actually have to step up and do it. It’s also super stressful.

Sometimes it is reveled that I am an artist of sorts, that I graduated from art school with a degree in woodworking and furniture design, that I studied photography, and that I am in the process of setting up a studio in my home.

Sometimes I talk way to much.

And they believe me. Just saying that I went to school for photography and woodworking makes me a great photographer and woodworker in their mind. Or at least one that is more than adequate. The conversation often will include a comment about how they would love to see my work or how they would love if I would do something art related for them.  I hope they never see my work and forget that I ever said anything.

Because until they see my work or give me a task to complete they just go off my word and they believe that I am more than an adequate artist. Once they see my work they may realize that although I call myself an artist I am far from one. Or if I help them with their art crisis I may fall short causing them to realize I am no artist at all, just someone with a lot of art making stuff and a misguided notion that they can do anything useful with it. I don’t know what their expectations are but I do know that I wont be able to live up to them.

I still haven’t convinced myself that I am an artist/woodworker/photographer or figured out what those words even mean or what it even looks like to be an artist/woodworker/photographer. It all starts to lead into this whole existential dilemma that makes me want to say FORGET IT. (Okay it makes me want to say a different  word that has four letters that also starts with the letter f but my in-laws, parents, and sweet people that might not appreciate such vulgarity might be reading this so I edited it.) 

And so I make excuses. I don’t have time, I have my daughter to take care of, my space isnt completely set up to work in yet, I don’t have the right tools, it’s too cold outside while also being too hot, the lighting is off, I ate to much or too little for dinner, I needed to check facebook every 5minutes, I don’t know how to use the equipment in my woodshop, the local lumberyard doesnt have the right wood that I like to use, I was going to work on it tomorrow, my nose itches, I’m probably getting sick so I should just curl up in bed with a book because I do not read as much as I would like, I am to tired and need to just go to bed, i’m just going to go to bed instead because that’s easier and no one will judge me while I sleep for not sleeping good enough.

This past christmas I got a christmas gift that called me on my shit. This gift was so good it called me out right in my excuse making face. To be fair the gift giver had no idea they were calling me out, they thought they were making me a nice gift. And it was a super nice gift. My sister-in-law’s husband made me a wooden beer carrier. He had seen it online, thought it was cool, and figured out how to make it with supplies he got at home depot in his basement where he is not hiding a state of the art wood shop as far as I know.

He thought I would like it so he figured out how to make it. The end.

If it was me I would have spent three months talking myself out of making it for any number of reasons that were not actual reasons based in any sort of reality, and then I would have just bought something while feeling blue about how little time I have to make art and the growing number of projects that I know I will never get too. It is so stupid but I have the hardest time changing my thinking.

But I have to. It has to change because until it does I am just going to be a wanna-be artist that is too much of an L7 weenie to do anything about it.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

 

 

 

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Traveling between universes…

How do you illustrate the power and emotion of growing up with divorced parents? The struggle of trying to live in two parallel universes? The transition of going from one parent’s house to the other?

Since moving to Maryland I have made a few trips to see my family at my dad’s house. Part of the route is the exact route I traveled every other weekend as a kid to visit my mom. It’s strange to be 28years old, with my own daughter in the back seat, driving the same route. The route is super charged with memories that pull me in reluctantly, flooding me with moments from all of those car rides. I am equally as moved by what has changed and by what has stayed exactly the same 10 years later.

I have always played around with the idea of making work about the duality of being raised with divorced parents. To illustrate how it felt to be raised in that setting, to make the conversation focus on the children of divorce. Not to shame parents who got divorced, or to some how make my own parents feel like they failed me in some way, but to say, ‘Hey having two birthday’s wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be,’ or express how frustrating it was to have someone ask if me and my sisters had the same mom, or how hurtful it was when I would say no and they responded with ‘Oh so then your actually only half sisters.’

Confession: I do want to shame those people because that’s actually just a turd thing to say to a kid. They are my whole sisters because love doesn’t play by your genetic technicalities.

For now the idea will continue to muddle around in the back of my brain, it will either continue to take shape or just float around as a fragment of an idea. I’m finding that is how my brain works, it needs time to really flush an idea out. It doesn’t like to be rushed. I remember hearing that Louise Bourgeois would spend 10 years from initial idea to finished piece. They would start as sketches, then become small hand-held clay or wood models, then slowly become bigger and bigger until she felt she had found the right scale. Of course she had multiple ideas being flushed out at any given time but all of her work followed a similar process.  In the mean time landmarks of my route between universes have started to show up in sketches and doodles, becoming the subject of my recent exploration in india ink. I don’t know where either this subject matter or this new medium will take my work but I’m enjoying exploring both.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

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I’m Not that Bold…

Earlier this week I caught the faint whisper that Mary Ellen Mark had passed away.

I was first exposed to her work through her documentary Street Wise. I had just moved to Philadelphia from Seattle, WA where her documentary took place. Although filmed 25years before I arrived in Seattle, the landscape was still familiar. I had just been introduced to the work of Diane Arbus and Dorothea Lange, these women who had created these relationships through the lens of their camera to give those that were being overlooked a voice. Watching the documentary, I was overwhelmed by Mark’s ability to tell this story without glamorizing the life of Tiny or Rat. She didn’t make me feel sorry for them either, somehow she found that middle road that so many struggle to find when dealing with this type of subject matter. I left the class and walked straight to the library to pour over her photography, in awe of the way she put herself and her camera unashamedly into this world that was not her own in order to capture it. Along with Arbus and Lange, the subject knows they are being photographed. Many of Mark’s shots imply that she was bent down, leaning in, engaging with the subject to photograph them. I wish I could be that bold.

You put a living, breathing, human being in front of my camera and my blood stops moving through my veins. Even if I know them, if they are willing to be photographed, or even if they asked me to photograph them the reaction is the same. My stomach tightens and my mouth goes dry as I fumble around with my suddenly foreign camera. I had to go out and shoot at least two portraits of strangers in Portland for the medium format class I was taking. It was one of the later assignments, I had made a few dozen photos already and was incredibly comfortable with the camera I was using. Then I went and tried to complete the assignment, waiting until the last possible moment to do it. I nervously stood on a busy street, trying to find the courage to stop biting the side of my thumb and wondering where I was going to find the courage to actually ask someone if I could take their picture. When I finally did it went horribly wrong. I quickly took two shots making so many mistakes you would think it was the first time I had ever attempted to photograph anything. For some their camera gives them this confidence. For me its not big enough to hide behind and instead draws to much attention when I am trying to go unseen.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

Check out…

Time Article about Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark Website

Diane Arbus Website

Recent article on Dorothea Lange from NPR

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An Artist with a Baby…

  A little over a year and a half ago I began research for my Art History Minor thesis. I wanted to look at how society’s pressure on women to become mothers effected women artists. Because it needed to be historical I added ‘and how/if it’s changed over time as society’s expectations of women have changed.’ I began scrolling through page after page of women artist’s wikipedia pages. I know wikipedia isn’t an up standing academic source but I needed to answer two questions very quickly about the artists I was considering for my paper; Did they have any children and when did they live. I had a long list of data that was eventually narrowed down to two women who were raised around the same time, with similar cultural expectations, whose lives led them down two different paths. Georgia O’Keefe, who had no children because her husband Alfred Steiglitz thought it would ruin her career, and Louise Bourgeois, a woman whose anxieties over not being able to conceive actually prevented her from conceiving a child until after she adopted her oldest son. I also included contemporary women artists like Sally Mann and Mary Kelly.

Around the same time Sheryl Sandberg was getting media attention for Lean In. As I was doing final edits, Michelle Obama was being criticized for calling herself Mom-In-Chief during a speech. It felt like everywhere I looked there were more facts, more things I wanted to talk about regarding women in art and mom’s in our society. But the paper had to be submitted and I had already exceed the minimum number of pages required. The semester ended and as my brain tried to shift gears to my second thesis paper for my major (which was on a completely different topic because I never thought to carry on my research and tie it into my studio practice) I found out I was pregnant. I was going to be facing my own challenges of balancing mom and artist. And all that research I had done just made the whole thing even more intimidating.

I remember during a visiting artist talk with a woman who refered to herself as a ‘stay at home mom who is lucky enough to have a studio practice too’, I had asked her how she balanced being both mother and artist. She told me to establish my career first and then pursue being a mom. It wasn’t the response I was expecting. Most artists can’t claim an established career until they are 40, a little late in the baby making game for a girl that wants a few kids. And at 27, the idea of waiting another 13years to have children seemed crazy. No longer are women told that they shouldn’t assure their failure as an artist by having children in art school, but there is still a very real idea spread around that regardless of your gender, kids just get in the way.  I returned to my research notes, I looked everywhere for glimpses of how mom artists were making it work. I read books, watched documentaries, and talked to anyone that would answer my questions. I walked away fearful that for most the pursuit of being a mom and artist simultaneously meant sacrificing their husbands. I really like my husband. I didnt want him to be the price I had to pay for an art career. Other women who seemed to have happy marriages seemed to have had a career established before having children. I was planning on walking across a stage to receive my diploma 5 months pregnant with no established art career other than obtaining a Bachelor of Art Degree with a Minor in Art History. It didnt feel promising.

I had visions of sharing my own experiences. Being open about how I was going to manage my studio practice once my little one arrived. Telling stories of how I gently rocked her with one arm while making brilliant art with the other. I would stay up late to get in studio time if need be and I would look back fondly on it all with a knowing smile.

And then she was born.

This little creature consumed every second of my life. With trying to heal, feed her, change diapers, and getting thrown up on without sleeping for more then two hours at a time there was no time for anything else. And that was with help! Any functioning brain cells were occupied with taking care of my little one. 

Even when I did find time for things, I wasn’t sure I wanted to share anything about what was going on. It all felt to personal and private to share. Despite my own frustration at how very little was said about finding studio time with a little one, I was unsure if I wanted to say anything on the topic. But being a mom has become such an all consuming part of my life, that if I make it off limits I dont know that I will have anything else of any real value to say.

I have started slowly, feeling like I have enough of a handle on taking care of my little one that I could slowly add something else to my plate. Reading Art + Fear during feedings was a great inspiration to get up the courage to get moving. I also started reading an Artists Guide, taking time to journal. I probably spent a month putting things in perspective so I would know what I was working towards. I found a grant and applied. Having to write out what I intended to use the grant money for was an awesome way to shape my intentions. It got the ball rolling. I wanted to be the artist I was talking about in my proposal.

Having spent time journaling and planning allowed me to mentally plan for the lack of time I would have for my studio practice while I prepared to move my family from Maine to Maryland. I knew it could potentially throw off the momentum I was building, but by scheduling it in and having a plan for what the studio practice looked like before, during, and after the move made the event a stepping stone in the grand scheme of things instead of a road block to intimidate me.

I came to the close on our second week in our new place and I finished carving out a space to work. I even found a little time to work. It has only been about 35minutes of hands on studio time but it was a glorious 35minutes. Some weeks that number will increase, and other weeks the number of minutes will get even smaller. But I am working and that is all that matters right now.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

I included links for the books I mentioned in my post but check to see if your local bookstore has them first.

Mary Kelly

Sally Mann

Georgia O’Keefe

Louise Bourgeios 

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Quick Update…

Last post I shared how excited I was to use the new film scanner and was starting with all of the images I had taken at Diamond State Vintage Baseball games. Well they are up on my website with some other new work. Check it out.

As always, thanks for reading.

– r.n.a.

Kindling for the Fire…

On Deck at Pea Patch Island. Diamond State Vintage Baseball Team 2011

This week has been an exciting one for my little studio. After a lot of consideration and months of second guessing I decide to use some of the money I generously received as a graduation gift almost a year ago to buy an Epson Film Scanner. Although nerve wracking, it was inspiring to invest in a piece of equipment that will allow more freedom in my studio.

My goal is to one day have a studio equipped to support my pursuits in various artistic mediums. With an extremely small budget for equipment and materials, my studio will continue to grow slowly. I have a pretty good idea of what I want my studio to look like and have been slowly adding pieces that are making it more of a reality. Things that allow me to continue to pursue art.

Diamond State Baseball. 2011

With a film scanner I feel more encouraged to use my collection of film cameras. Its easy to get the film developed (the next addition on the photography side of the studio will be the chemicals needed to develop my own b+w film) but well outside of my budget to have the film scanned for me. The frames aren’t always consistent on every roll of film because of the type of camera’s I am shooting with so there is the concern that the film will be cut to a standard size which could cut through the middle of one of my frames. So the rolls of film just sit. At least they did until this past week. I’m starting with scanning all the photos I took while attending my dad’s vintage baseball games. I hacked my 120N Blue Holga to use 35mm film to capture one of their games at Pea Patch Island in Delaware. Another game I took my Agfa box camera along and played with the framing options built into the 85 year old camera. I like the diversity of using the various cameras and the lack of control that I have beyond pressing the shutter and hoping for the best. I like that they force me to stop trying to take control and to just focus on what is in front of me. To finally see the fruits of those labors is exciting and rekindles the passion I have for going out and capturing the world.

This is not the start but the rekindling of something great… a fire that my insecurities and fear prevent from burning for to long.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

Check out…

Diamond State Baseball 

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Sooo…. it’s been a while.

Runny Bunnies and Friends

I could say that I have just been super busy doing all this super busy stuff but the truth is I didn’t know how to follow up after my last post. Somewhere along the way this blog went from a place for me to just ramble about what is going on in my studio practice to me feeling like I needed to write these deep insightful reflections on the deeper issues of the world with every new post. Honestly I don’t have it in me. I don’t know how often I’ll update but I think it’s important, more so now that I am out of school, to keep talking about what I have going on in my studio.

Right now my focus is on getting my Etsy shop going. Making new work and photographing that work is great. Listing the stuff and trying to figure out how to maximize your SEO so that shoppers find you in the gigantic sea of Etsy shops is another story. I think I am slowly getting the hang of it but I’m not getting as many views as I would like. I also find myself getting so caught up figuring out the logistical side and how to best promote the shop to attract more potential customers that I am spending less time on making. I like the business side to a point but half the time it feels so hopeless that I get frustrated and find myself going down the dark dangerous path of wanting to walk away while wondering why I even tried in the first place. If I can’t direct traffic so people can see what I have already made why keep bothering to make new stuff? Somehow I keep turning around with a new sense of determination, wanting to try at least one more time to make it work.

Right now I think my biggest problem is that there is no order or plan. I try to make a point to work on something related to the shop, but lately its just been picking up my laptop to make a few posts on a team board or to post something to our Facebook page. There is no schedule and I definitely need a schedule. My only schedule up to this point has been to work on the shop daily without any specifics. Usually I just grab my laptop, make a few posts to different teams I am a part of, put something up on our Facebook page, and read another article about how to make your etsy shop more successful. At the end of the week I feel like I have nothing to show for all of the ‘work’ I put in. I don’t feel like I have actually done anything useful.

And maybe I haven’t. I spend time doing something shop related but its really not constructive time and it’s usually just to say that I have done something. I certainly am not spending it wisely and balancing the business side and the making side. If I want this shop to make a profit I need to start treating it like a job and put meaningful hours in. That is where I think making a schedule will help, if the schedule says that I am supposed to be working on making new items then I need to be making new items. If the schedule says I need to be promoting the shop then thats what I need to be doing. I really need to make a schedule…

I don’t know why I am so passionate about making this shop work or maybe I do and just don’t know how to articulate it. But I really want this to work. The items that I make to sell in my shop are things I really enjoy making. After four years of art school, where everything you created was embedded with meaning and you were encouraged to look deep in your soul to find the inspiration to make meaningful work, it is nice to be making for the sake of just wanting to make something. It’s a welcomed mental vacation of sorts. There are a few ideas working themselves out in my brain that have deeper meaning but they are going to stay in there for a while longer. At least until I can no longer ignore the little voice in my head telling me to jump in and work on multiple projects at once. Right now I am really enjoying just focusing on one project, I like the simplicity of it.

Alright… I have a schedule to make.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

My shop Don’t Blame the Bacon

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