An Unusual Path to Watercolor
Sometime around February or March of 2021, I was panicking about having enough money to not only leave Japan, but to survive and feed myself after returning. At that point, I did not know where I would land- Austria was initially part of the plan, so, scrambling, bought a pack of watercolors, telling myself they’d be to create supplementary income, taking up significantly less space than bulky canvas.
Did I mention I didn’t know how to use watercolors? Never took a class, didn’t really know where to begin. Had blobbed some colors around, but never really finished a piece.
Why on earth did I think this was a thing that could happen? Lemme tell you something- survival is one helluva motivator.
As luck may have it- the watercolor plan never had to come to fruition. My Austria stay fell through as Covid suddenly lifted its middle finger at my plans, and landing softly back in the comfy cradle of Tallahassee, Florida opened up as my best option. I was fortunate enough to sell a few canvas portraits after returning to help pay for food.
As luck also had it, my quarantine time had me isolated in the incredibly talented Yoshiko Murdick’s studio (Yoshiko's Art House), nestled amongst a prolific range of her watercolor paintings- portraits, still lives, abstracts and the most beautiful North Florida landscapes you could be blessed to rest your peepers upon were tiled towards the ceiling. My mind and eyes ate up the imagery almost as if I was being gifted a continued education purely by proximity.
Motivated by the beauty, I’ve continued my watercolor bumbling, scribbling out illustrations, lettering and cartoons (basically playing around to see how the brushes and paint works), and FINALLY recently began feeling confident enough to start promoting the portraits.
As wacky as the execution was, I am SO grateful that my impulsivity to create overrode my nervousness about a new medium.
Now- I wouldn’t call that confidence. I wouldn’t call it talent, either. I’d call it laser focus and some serious hard-headedness! 🤣
A Grand Adventure Awaits
My friends, the long and winding road that is life leads me back to my country of origin (well, after a sojourn to Vienna; I hear Austria is especially lovely this time of year).
UNITED STATES, here I come! A new chapter begins, as the saga continues...though saying I’ll miss Japan is an understatement, I’m excited for the experiences that lie ahead.
BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??
It means I need to eliminate some canvasses, y’all! Can’t fit ‘em in a bag!
Visit HERE to see what limited quantities of sizes remain (you may be pleasantly surprised at the adjusted prices).
March 8th IS THE ORDER DEADLINE.
I can’t thank you all enough for your continued enthusiasm for the things I have been creating. It’s all so near and dear to my heart, please feel free to message me any questions you have! 🙂
Is It Depressing?
Truth be told, the majority of my portraits are probably commemorative ones. My husband asked me the other day if I find it sad or depressing to be painting (his words) "dead dogs."
On the contrary, I’ve found it to be a great source of beautiful human connection. I’m often shared very personal, thoughtful stories of loved ones (human and non-human) lost, and I’ve cried with many clients… literally thousands of miles away.
It’s deeply touching that I have been honored time and time again with the task of recreating moments shared into the shape of a face on a canvas.
I feel grateful, endlessly, for the love I'm given every day, and for what is shared and trusted with me. <3
Creativity, Control, Expectation
I have often felt like a person with no ideas so much of the time. I tell people this, and they are always surprised! And as fulfilling commission work is in terms of human interaction and general satisfaction that I'm doing something that makes people happy and a lot of times, deal with great loss, I often forget/neglect to explore my personal narrative. It's not always intentional, but I think we all can get lost in the things we "have" to do, instead of doing that work on ourselves that we know needs to get done, and will make everything else more fulfilling in the long-term.
I wonder..."Am I just someone who interprets cute faces with paint? Do I have more to say? Is this all I have to say? Is that enough?"
I feel it's really important not to get into too much of a groove. You risk plateau, you risk becoming irrelevant, you risk boredom. These things all have a huge affect on the overall outcome of my artwork.
Being an artist, your job is to constantly confront yourself (which also means issues or topics, as your interests and draws should always be questioned). We all know this is hard and scary work. But to make really really good art (and life), you have to make it literally your job to maintain self awareness, and experiment with our medium (or other mediums), or we (and our work) risk becoming banal. You can apply these things to life in general, once again. Do you want to each cheese sandwiches every day, or will your lunch at work (and thus your workday) be better with leftovers from a new sort of meal that you finally nailed? Will it help you to finally read that book that's gathering dust on your shelf, or will it be better to let it sit there and continue to bring unneeded pressure? It's all risk. But what is actually risked? Time? Usually not more than what we waste on social media. Usually it's a risk of confrontation of our own ego. And that can hurt!!
Usually we think of the work "RISK" in financial terms, huh? To me, it is absolutely a financial term. My thoughts are my time, and my thoughts are my artwork, and my artwork is my money. Not only is this my business, but it's also my craft. I have to take risks to learn new techniques, to try out new products, to expand my horizons. And all of it is inextricably connected to my sense of "me," and therefore incredibly difficult to extrapolate from the concept of "self worth."
I had begun to perceive everything as risk. And all these concepts were creating a value system that was in direct opposition to my actual core. It's ironic is that I taught for over a decade, and I know very damn well that you have to make a lot of bad art before you can make good art.
I'd gotten stuck for years in this perpetual state of believing that perfect, intentional execution is the answer. But it's bullshit.
I wasn't running (which I love), my cooking was getting dull, I was making timetables of my days, I was researching the shit out of the "next step" with my business, and making all sorts of plans... I was wielding control on hyper-efficiency, and it was KILLING MY CREATIVITY. I wasn't "flowing," I was controlling. I was miserable!
Isn't it crazy that the more "control" you have, the more anxiety seems to brood?
Control is an illusion, y'all. And it controlled the shit out of me.
So, what brought back my drive? Taking away a certain amount of value system to tasks. Or, rather, taking away a LOT of expectation. I know this seems impossible. I get furious (I mean furious) at people who say things to me, like,"Oh, you need to just let it go, man," Because,"No, maaan, I cannot just 'let go,' and can you show me a map or a diagram of what that looks like, because I seriously can't wrap my head around it." I also wave an imaginary magic wand and roll my eyes.
This was definitely was a challenge and a hell of a lot of "unlearning" for me. I love structure. I need structure. "It gave me a sense of control." But, what I was currently doing was NOT working. And "just getting out there," shit, just putting ONE foot out the door was a lot better than spinning. You can't research your way into a good life. You have to step towards it.
For example- the running. I have grand dreams of running a marathon (and beyond). But I honestly was having a hard time even getting out of the door. I had gotten all this new gear for hot temps and cold temps (the weather here is schizophrenic . And I would literally sit in it all day, perfectly warm or cool, waiting for "inspiration." I would look at my training schedule and have these expectations and dread every single run, because I was no freakin where near my dream. So, one day, I realized that #1 reason I liked running was just to get outside and explore. (Okay, and that I can eat a lot more when I'm running.) So, I then decided to chuck the training schedule and just went out with the intention of... getting out. Walking was fine. There was no time goal. No distance goal. I allowed showing up to be a success. It took months, and I had to be really real with myself, but eventually I was ready, and I gave myself little distance challenges and speed challenges... because they didn't make me crazy with anxiety!
Well, last week, I ran a half marathon and got second place. And you know what? I don't think I've ever had more fun in a race ever. I was more focused on the pretty trees and flowers and great weather, instead of putting my value solely into performance and what that means to my personal value. And, in return, I got some inspiration for artwork.
**pro tip**Actually living your life creates the best art.
#buthowdoesthisapplytoart #keepreading #almostdoneipromise #youcantpaintinyourhead
I started applying this with art-ing a few months after the running. I was feeling a lot more open, since I felt like I'd discovered a bit of a porthole back to some sort of practical satisfaction with myself. I was also noticing things more, because I wasn't lost in my cycling thoughts of inadequacy. I could enjoy a color just for being nice, and not thinking it had to be the subject of the next painting that absolutely had to be flawless. And, bbviously, putting myself on a time schedule to "create fifteen drawings at 2pm every day" was not cutting it. I was becoming resentful of the work. And it was being resentful back (haha). It was stiff and uninspired and depressing, but not in that "artsy" way. It was just lacking in any sort of life. Sure, the lines might be okay here and there, but none of it was anything that I was particularly proud of. And the fact that I was uninspired with my life up until me rediscovering running was keeping me from being open to actually enjoying new ideas to draw.
After talking with a friend about all this, and getting some great advice, I started by not letting my sketchbooks be so damn precious. I wrote grocery lists in them, I used ink and pencil and watercolor and whatever I had on me. I started keeping a journal in them, which was HUGE for my creativity. I brought them with me in my running backpack. I got them out often and just held them. IT IS JUST F****** PAPER. I cut out things in newspapers and magazines that thrilled me and stuck em in there.
I made bad drawings. I made good drawings. The point is- I made drawings. And I didn't feel so shitty, like they had to be a certain caliber every time. And then, like the running, I got to the point where I could give myself "challenges," and I actually was able to raise up to them, without feeling so stiff and anxious like I was in the past. I was ready. Here's a little of what I have worked on recently that I'm actually pleased with(!):
My illustration work still has a long way to go, but I'm just glad that I'm doing something. Because now I know that it's just another small step or a walk or a jog or a weird little doodle away from the next small, satisfying, and way-more-present step.
I guess I'm sharing this with you because I'm still very much in the middle of my journey with all this. I wanted to document it, and hold myself accountable on those days where I try to jump to step 42 when I'm on step 4.
I know we can all relate with this.
I believe in YOU!
I know this is a sorta corny thing to post about, but I freakin' LOVE my new business cards. I'm not super confident about design stuff- but I'm making myself practice and practice and practice, because I want to be a well-rounded artist, dangit!
What are you practicing lately? How's that learning curve treatin' ya? These took me about a half a day to design, just for a frame of reference, and, like, 90% of my patience.
I taught art in various mediums for nearly a decade, and the most common remark from beginners was that they “could hardly draw a stick figure.”
I'm writing this to all of you who think art is only for those who are “naturally inclined.”
I used to send my husband, Richard, drawings when he was in the army (around 2001). He tells me now that he is “glad I kept working at it, because they were terrible. Not "terrible" with quotes around it. Terrible. Capital T. And they were.
Artmaking is like running- if you like it enough, you push through the pain. A marathon runner begins with just one mile the first time out. They don’t just decide one day that they’re going to “try a marathon” after never having run before. You have to develop the tenacity. You have to develop the muscle memory. You have to enjoy the process enough to see through the times you realize you have a lot to learn.
If you don't like the process enough to push through- it's just "not for you." Just like you may enjoy cycling more than running. It's not that you're lacking some sort of magical artistic ability that people are "just born with." Hell, you may be amazing at accounting, but the thought crunching numbers all day makes your stomach turn.
With painting- If you like the small kernels of learning, you learn a little more each time you sit at a canvas. And you’re going to make more “bad” paintings than “successful” ones, I assure you. It’s that way with everyone, no matter what level.
Work work work, and you’ll get results.
ABLN is EXPANDING!
I'm in Japan and definitely ready to expand! Shirts, totes, scarves, digital paintings, and MORE!
If you have an idea, throw it my way!
Here's just a little taste of some yummy imagery.
Public Speaking and Jazz Hands
Pinch me! I was asked to speak to middle schoolers about the trials and tribulations of being a full-time artist! Evidently, I do jazz hands and the robot when speaking publicly. Kinda describes my personality, actually. What a fun day!
I feel so lucky to share my dream with kids, and let them know that if they work VERY HARD, they can seriously do some awesome things in life!
#art #publicspeaking #careerartist #mountdora#mountdoramiddleschool #gratitude #fun #robotarms #jazzhands#community #communityoutreach
Such a Wonderful Welcome Home!
I'm going to be travelling a lot coming up, so I figured it'd be cool to keep my clients in ze loop. Have no fear- I am tiny and my setup is modular. I am captain efficiency, and deadline-obsessed!
FIRST STOP: MY HOMETOWN
I am so thrilled and honored that my hometown newspaper, the Daily Commercial, wrote a piece on me just one week after moving home! I have been working SO hard in the past year to become a "real artist" (ie, 100% self sufficient on that being my SOLE means of income), and it was very encouraging to have my hometown not only recognize my efforts, but encourage it!
THE BEST PART-----> My muse FRIDA DOG was on the front page with me!!!!
Click on the link below to read the article- if not for me, do it for FRIDA!
LAURA AND FRIDA ARE MOVING...
I'm Laura Nicole, a critter painting yogini, traveling the world and loving life.