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Nap Time

'The Start of Something New' Copyright 2011 Kate Forman

‘The Start of Something New’ Copyright 2011 Kate Forman

My daughter is sleeping. There are two very remarkable things about that short sentence. First, I have a daughter. She is gorgeous and strong, remarkably opinionated, stunningly beautiful, intoxicatingly huggable, endlessly kissable, and mine.

MY daughter. They let her come home with us from the hospital. No Doctor or Nurse asked as to my credentials, they weren’t concerned that I failed the high school Chemistry regents test twice. TWICE. Doesn’t it seem that a Mother should have a more basic grasp of Chemistry? I wouldn’t know an atom from  an ion if they offered to change a diaper, and yet, here she is. She’s mine to love, to hold, and to raise — Me, with all my imperfections, and short-comings, and history of goof-ups — I got someone in my life who is absolutely perfect.

Full disclosure: and my husband, she is also his, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on me. Me the mommy, me the humbled human, me the perplexed artist, me the admirer of this incredible baby girl.

The second remarkable thing about the opening sentence is that she is sleeping. Who said that infants sleep all the time? I’d like to call them up and give them a piece of my mind. My daughter sleeps, but not the long tranquil spells I’d imagined during my pregnancy, during which I day-dreamed of no day job and endless hours of nap-times in which to paint and market and even blog. Bwahhh-haaa-haa: that is the sleep deprived laugh I send back to my round naive self.

This fierce little lady and I already share some things in common, and one of them is: we’re kind of lousy nappers. She soaks up the room from the moment she’s awake to the moment she’s asleep, there is so much to see and focus on. In fact, watching her, those first few weeks, develop the ability to focus on our faces and other interesting sights was fascinating. I have trouble turning off my vision long enough to drift off to sleep too, it’s hard to let the room, the window, or the book go during the daytime. My daughter can be anything she wants to be, and I don’t want to push any career on her at all, but I expect that she is already a visual person — as shutting out the day for a nap seems a bit challenging for her too.

However: here today is a remarkable occurrence. We both slept well during the night, we made the coffee together, we had a few chats about things like patterns on pillows, and corners where things meet, and red stuffed animals, and then she drifted off to sleep, and I sat down with the end of the coffee and got things done. It is an amazing feeling.

I have a feeling that this blog will begin to be about being a mommy and making art. The balance of day-jobs and freelance art pursuits and the practical obligations of life is always on my mind, and this blog has frequently been a space for me to express my reactions to it…and now there is another piece to the puzzle. I’m already chewing on this quandary: being a Mom emboldens me, and inspires me, but also has already shifted the entire course of my day and my life, and I wonder how to continue to weave it all together. For now, though, I can hear my gorgeous girl’s soft breath and occasional whimpers and coos, and with that in my ears I’m going to go make some art.

Thankfully brushing the dust off…

'Holding Hands' Copyright Kate Forman 2004

'Holding Hands' Copyright Kate Forman 2004

So, it has been a very long time since I’ve posted anything here. Unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting this blog and my other on-line presences: the website… the twitter….and the Facebook. As it turns out, it’s just as easy, if not easier, to be distracted and even overwhelmed by an abundance of good things. I’m used to griping about the ick and the gook — they’ve been my standard excuses for not marketing-painting-hustling enough — but I didn’t imagine that loveliness could be a de-railer too.

Plus, full confession: I was always walking a line between keeping the super personal & the super professional clear…I never saw myself as a blogger who’d use this forum as a diary. I wanted to blog to refine my sense of my presence on the web, market myself, get new ideas and words back, be a part of the times, and get better at using words to describe myself and my art. And then I hit this obstacle: how to express the super personal, super wonderful, and concede that it meant re-creating how and when to make art…

In short order: when I started this blog, not too long ago, I was a single childless lady who made most decisions, including artistic, within the wide open space that description entails. Now I am (happily, over joyously, breathtakingly) married and 32 weeks pregnant. It turns my head around, it amazes me, it inspires me, and…it’s changed me.

On top of that: two really cool illustration projects fell in my lap. I’m not complaining about any of this, no sireebob, I’m kicking up my heels in joy (okay: metaphorically, as I’m not jumping around at all these days.) However, all of this good stuff overwhelmed me…and in an attempt to prioritize this blog, and the above forums, went by the wayside.

But that’s not what I want, what I do want, now more than ever, is for  my ability to create art and generate an income from it to be consistent. So, taking a deep breath, I’m waltzing into this Thanksgiving Holiday giving thanks for the amazing goodness in my life: for my husband — who emboldens me, for my growing baby — who captivates me, for my friends and family who’ve always believed in me, and for my capacity to climb back on the horse, again, and continue trying to make this thing of a working artist…work.

Would an illustration by any other name sell and tweet?

'Artist's House' Kate Forman coypright 2008

‘Artist’s House’ Kate Forman copyright 2008

Lately, I’ve been surrounded by several smart women who often refer to the “Secret,” that book made so instantly famous by Oprah. I don’t know that I’m full on board with its premise (though, to be fair, I’ve only ever learned about it via second-hand observations,) but I have always been a big believer in positive thoughts and imaginings.

Along those lines, I also subscribe to the theory that you have to, respectfully of course, shout your wishes out to the universe. It’s amazing to me the many things that seemed to drop into my life the very minute after I was finally able to specifically, and loudly, articulate what I wanted.

What I want is more illustration assignments and a licensing contract so that my images can work for me. Hold on…ahem…

HEY UNIVERSE, HI, KATE FORMAN HERE: I WANT MORE ILLUSTRATION ASSIGNMENTS. I WANT THEM TO PAY REALLY, REALLY WELL. ALSO, AND IMPORTANTLY, I WOULD LIKE A LICENSING CONTRACT SO THAT MY IMAGES CAN BE USED REPEATEDLY AND CREATIVELY TO MAKE ME MONEY. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR ATTENTION AND KIND CONSIDERATION.

Gotta admit: that felt quite nice to shout out loud. However, I still have a problem, and that’s why I’m writing today: I need more specifics. See, I don’t think — and I’d really appreciate hearing others take on this — that the Universe responds well to broad generalized statements. Mine might not seem so broad, but I’m aware that I don’t stipulate exactly what kinds of illustration assignments, and exactly what kinds of licensing contracts.

Part of my problem is that I never quite narrowed down the markets I think my work is most relevant to, and I’m still struggling to assign the right adjectives to my work. Often people use words like “whimsical,” a co-worker recently described it as “dreamy,” and one reader of this blog used “humorous” to sum up my paintings.

If you have a wee moment, I’d love your feedback:

Thank you in advance for your attention and kind consideration.

Keep kissing those (artistic) frogs

'Behind the scenes' Copyright Kate Forman 2006

‘Behind the scenes’ Copyright Kate Forman 2006

 This weekend was my beautiful god-daughter Jenna’s first communion. It was a blast: she looked like a wee princess, and kept her tiara on long after her pretty white dress and hand-knitted shawl came off. There was a lot of dancing among the young guests, but Jenna’s younger brother, Scott, my Godson, and I took some time to look through his sketchbook.

Scott is an amazing artist and he keeps an almost daily sketchbook. It’s awesome and filled with pictures of his imagination, including a castle he designed for his sister (what princess wouldn’t want a pink castle with a purple slide as the exit door?) and a cool green frog waving from  a cool turquoise lily pad.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: Scott’s self acceptance, and how all of us other keepers of sketchbooks and similar collections of dreams and ideas could learn a lot from it.

You see: the frog drawing, as compared to some other sketchbook pages, was, well, a little rough. Please understand, I’m not dissing Scott’s artistic talent, he’s WAY ahead of where most 5 year olds are developmentally. It’s just, the wave was a little off, and the posture on the lily pad was just a smidge un-frog like. On top of that, Scott’s name — drawn over the frog — had been crossed out in blue crayon, and the whole page had been ripped out of the book, and then stuck back in.

So I asked Scott what was up, and this is how he explained it to me: first he wrote his name, but then he didn’t like where it was, so he crossed it out, and then he thought he didn’t like the way the frog looked, so he ripped it out, but after a little bit he realized that he liked the drawing just the way it was, so he put it back in.

That’s all folks.

No breast-beating or loathing self-doubt, no torturous self talk or avoidance of sharing. Just an open, confident, loving ability to edit, and accept, with a healthy dose of matter-of-factness.

To top it all off, when I praised Scott for his truly wonderful drawings he very seriously looked me in the eyes and said: “yes, I am a great artist.”

Now I know I’m biased, he’s my Godson after all, but I really think he’s brilliant. So, the next time I’m painting and berating, or resenting a revision, or shrinking from self-promotion I’m going to keep young Mr. Scott in mind, and dial down the neurosis and up the acceptance.

To that end: I never liked the illustration that accompanys this blog. I still see it’s faults, but today I also reminded myself that I painted it while I was working 40+ hours a week, and operating on way too little sleep. It was an illustration for a children’s magazine, and a perfect fit for the article. There are things about it that I learned from, and wouldn’t repeat today, but I still really love the make-up guy — I painted him with greatness.

You can’t burn the candle at both ends

'Toss Up' Copyright Kate Forman 2003

'Toss Up' Copyright Kate Forman 2003

 

My Grandfather passed away last week. It’s odd, because I posted about time management, and didn’t mention him. I suppose it was a little too new to write about. There are so many benefits to working from home, but I know from my day job that it’s easier to handle grief when the boss ain’t me. I can compartmentalize difficult feelings and focus on the task at hand when there’s an external force (bosses, co-workers, clients) right in front of me, but at home, even with a deadline or a healthy to-do-list, I find it much more difficult to make my emotions behave.

I have been blessed in my life to have two Grandfathers. They couldn’t have been more different, and they got a long like a house on fire. From my childhood to my adulthood their ability to laugh it up and find common interests (for example: paintings of riverboats,) made me happily surprised.

My Grandfather who just died was an insurance salesman, a pipe smoker, and prone to dressing mono-chromatically. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease fourteen years ago. Alzheimer’s is a mean disease, and it made me angry that his feisty personality, humor, and ability to quickly cut through b.s. was pervasively overcome.

My last post was a whine, I’ll admit. My problem with time management is that once I start doing something I find enjoyable, it’s hard for me to shift gears, even to another enjoyable task. Hence ‘painting days,’ and ensuing neglect to marketing.

In my defence, I’ve been this way for a long time. My Grandfather’s passing made me recall a night I slept over their house, when I was sent to bed I brought along a flashlight and was happily reading away when he knocked on the door and poked his head in. I braced myself for a stern reprimand (it wasn’t the first, or last, time I’d get caught reading when I should have been sleeping) but instead he smiled, took the pipe out of his mouth and said, “sister, you can’t burn the candle at both ends.”

I was 8, and I had to think long and hard about that imagery. Just now, writing it, it made me that combination of happy sad that comes from remembering childhood and Grandpa’s, but it also made me think that maybe being a working artist is attempting to burn the candle at both ends.

As he really did love to call anyone out on their tall tales and/or excuses, I know what he’d say if I ran that theory by him: (cover your eyes fair reader,) he’d call BULLSHIT. And then put the pipe back in.

Sigh. Back to priorities, time management, and shifting gears.

Time management, argh, ack, and oh jeez

'Tug of Water' Copyright Kate Forman Illustration 2004

'Tug of Water' Copyright Kate Forman Illustration 2004

Since I’ve had this blog (two months,) I’ve made it my business to post about once a week, usually on Tuesdays. However, I didn’t post anything at all last week. After nearly two months of prompt and enjoyable blogging, a developing Twitter presence and a fairly steady presence on Facebook, I hit the wall.

Simply put: I have poor time management skills. However, I also have a day job, a family, the loveliest fella ever, illustration deadlines, and, you know, a strong need to make art. So, more complexly, if I spend all day painting I have anxiety about my marketing campaign (I have GOT to get out another e-mail ‘blast,’) but if I spend all day twittering and networking (check out this cool jewelry and mixed media artists’ blog, and this magical artists’ one too) I have guilt about not painting (what’s the point of shouting “I’m an artist, pay me” from the virtual mountain tops if my craft languishes?)

But, let’s be real, it’s even more complex than that: because my day job sustains me financially, and I find it emotionally rewarding too, because my family and friends (and the lovely fella) need more than furtive texts and breathless apologetic voice mails.  If the other side of my career and my personal life don’t get enough attention, they all get cranky, and justly so…but if I place my art lower than them on the time priority list I get cranky (and so do art directors on tight deadlines.) So.

It’s hard.

In an attempt to save this from a completely self gratuitous vent, I will pass along this fantastic blog: ArtBiz — for the business of being an artist, I find her to be an excellent resource for art marketing and tough love inspiration. And, shuffle shuffle, I am aware that balancing acts and time management are all things I can and will work on.

But, I’d just like to say: it’s still hard to get pulled in so many directions all at once.

Hanna, fairy tales, fear and art

"Girl with Ladybug Skirt"

'Girl with Ladybug Skirt' Kate Forman Copyright 2005

This weekend I saw the movie Hanna. LOVED it. Loved everything about it: Saoirse Ronan’s mug, the soundtrack, the spunky best friend, and all of the fairy tale references and imagery. Mostly, though, I loved that it focused on a 16 year old girl who’s major problems in life weren’t a cute boy at school, a wardrobe malfunction, or an un-realistic curfew. Hanna fights for her life — and in that way the movie comes closer to an actual fairy tale than most that revolve around a young female.

‘Hanna’ made me think about a used book-store gem of mine: Bruno Bettelheim’s ‘The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.‘  He asserts many interesting claims, but mainly that our sanitized approach to children’s stories in modern times (1976 for him) cripples their greatest value: the fear. It’s the heros’ and heroines’ fear and fight for survival that makes the story valuable, and any watering down of it, he states, doesn’t allow the reader, often a child, the valuable opportunity of imagining themselves in the same situation. By leaving fairy tales scary and dark, as opposed to Disney-fied, a child can confront their own dark fears and grow.

Bruno Bettelheim was a complex man who may have bought into his own mythology too much, and therefore leaves a controversial legacy, but I like that he embraces fear and darkness in fairytales. Art should provoke and inspire, especially if it taps into what we’re most afraid of. It’s not the axe wielding masked maniac in our closet: it’s our potential. That’s what really scares the crap out of us.

I know it scares me, and it took me a long time to realize that it was fear that kept me from making art. Many things helped me name it, including an amazing book that my even more amazing sister gave me: Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of ArtMaking,’ by David Bayles & Ted Orland.

The book, and years of wrestling, allowed me to confront the fear that I wasn’t good enough for the art: that I didn’t have a right to take time to paint, or assert to the world that I was an artist. That somehow ART was bigger than me, and who was I to claim it, and what would happen to me if I did.

Every time an artist comes to their art making place, they create a fairy tale. They confront their existence, their hands, their creativity, all crippling judgement has to be conquered and slayed: a giant critical dragon that stands in the way of allowing the artist space and time to just be.

So, with my own soundtrack, and with my own vocabulary of fantastical imagery: I’m off to slay the dragon — it’s time to paint.

Letters of recommendation

‘Insured Umbrella’ Kate Forman Copyright 2004

It’s come to my attention lately that I am a great writer of recommendations and giver of glowing recommendations. Many co-workers from my multitude of past jobs have requested that I write letters for them.

A benefit of this blog, and of the Twitter and Facebook account, is that they’ve encouraged (forced?) me to more or less construct illustrative “letters” of recommendation for myself. I’m proud, and going prouder, to be representing and marketing myself more fully, but…

This week I re-started my cold call campaign, based on an e-mail blast I recently sent out. Eek! Cold calls…all I’m doing is recommending myself, but the amount of nervous anxiety I feel doing it is disproportionate to the task. So why does writing a letter of recommendation for a co-worker get filed under “enjoyable challenge” in my noggin, where-as “speak well of your art” gets filed under “primal threat to existence?”

Hmm. I’ll keep you posted, and for you artists and lovers of art, I’d welcome any recommended words to keep in mind to describe my art, and your own tips for how you speak glowingly of yourself.