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Rekindling your Creative Fire

This article was taken from the Spring 2021 issue of Wet Paint Magazine. We thought it was still very relevant as we approach the 2 year anniversary of pandemic shutdowns! Check out the full issue for a ton of springtime design inspiration, step-by-step’s, and more articles about getting back to work post-covid, some covid-friendly designs that work around masks and on arms & legs, and tips for ways to connect with your clients, among much more!

Spring 2021….

Has this pandemic caused you to lose your creative “mojo?” I’ve seen so many artists on social media who are down, depressed, and feeling hopeless. Many of us have not even touched our face paints since last March! I, for one, just recently passed the one year anniversary of my last face painting gig, and it was definitely not an anniversary I want to celebrate. 

As face painters, having all of our gigs canceled hits us hard in other ways beyond the financial. We have become accustomed to delivering joy, being the life of the party, and having the satisfaction of creating more smiles per hour than most other careers. When that joy that we thrive on is taken from our jobs, it is easy to get down. Money can be earned in other ways, but the joy and satisfaction that comes from our jobs is much harder to replace. Many artists are even announcing that they are selling their kits and giving up face painting. I would like to encourage you today not to jump to that point just yet!

My suggestion, if you are just not feelin’ it with the face paints, is to not sell everything, but set it aside for now. So many people out there would do just about anything to have a fulfilling job like we have, and that gift is not something we should let go of easily. It is still way too early to predict any lasting effects that the pandemic will have on our industry. Instead, whether you are taking up another way to make money or not, seek out even more creative outlets! 

But what if you aren’t even feeling creative anymore? After all, the more creativity you use, the more you have, and if you’re not painting, chances are your creative “bucket” has run dry. How do you refill it? 

The key to getting your creative fire rekindled is to not require your passion to pay the bills…at least not for a little while. To rekindle our own fires, we need to focus on ourselves, using our talents to bring joy to ourselves, not necessarily to make money. Think of it like reverting back to childhood, when you made art just because it was fun and enjoyable. Removing that pressure to pay the bills from your passion alone will light a spark.

Even the genius Albert Einstein often found himself “stuck” now and then, unsure of what to do next or how to get past a roadblock. He did, however, discover an ingenious way to open up his mind to new ideas when he found himself in this situation. He called it “combinatory play.” When Einstein was stuck, he would stop working, set aside the problem, and go play his violin for a couple hours, inevitably resulting in new ideas and a way to move forward. He defined combinatory play as “the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another.” Essentially, combinatory play means taking two unrelated things and putting them together to create new ideas. The key to combinatory play is to just do something else…as long as it is different, and most importantly, you are enjoying it and having fun! It doesn’t have to be face painting, and it doesn’t even have to be painting. It can be playing an instrument like Einstein did, working in your garden, a physical activity, or learning about a new subject. 

Why does this work? Einstein believes that combinatory play relieves some stress, for one thing. Again, removing the stress of the expectation to make money, leaves only fun and exploration. It also allows your creative mind to start connecting dots between ideas, creating totally new ideas that you may never have stumbled across had you kept forcing your way through the problem.  Combinatory play also offers a change of perspective. Doing something else gives you a mental break, and in turn, a fresh eye.

Now, many of you have found other ways to use your creativity to pivot your business, still bringing in money in other creative ways. If this is working for you, please don’t stop! I myself have been having fun and making some money painting windows and now offering virtual paint parties (on canvas)! Keep doing whatever is working for you, but if you find yourself still not feeling fulfilled, or not even in the mood to pick up a brush, give some combinatory play a try.

Besides my own creative business pivots, I’ve also been dabbling in other things, solely for myself without the pressure of monetary performance. I’ve been doing some painting on canvas and rocks, and have even started learning Spanish! In previous issues I’ve featured some ways other artists are pivoting their business, but in this issue I’d like to set aside the work aspect of our creativity and focus on play.

I started painting vintage campers in 2021 and am about to start my 11th!
I took up dot painting on rocks in 2021…so fun and relaxing!
One of my early rock paintings!

I will be the first to admit it can be hard to carve out the time for creative play, even when Covid has taken away all of your gigs. I’ve been working non stop since the shutdowns last March, exploring multiple pivots for my business and other ways to bring in revenue. It wasn’t until nearly a year later that I finally forced myself to slow down and accept the gift of time that Covid has given me, carving out some time for combinatory play.

I live in Minnesota, and we really know how to get out and enjoy winter. However, with both of our boys doing distance learning and my husband working from home as well, this winter my family and I decided to spend the month of February somewhere warmer. We loaded up the truck with our stuff, our boys, and our great dane “Wahoo,” got up early one Saturday morning, and drove 19 hours straight through until we reached our Airbnb on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi! We were set to stay there for a full month, and I vowed to pack more art supplies than clothes, and spend time during the week days making art while my guys were working. I packed up my acrylic and watercolor paints, and all the empty canvases that have been collecting dust in my studio for years.

Our route…non stop to the coast!
The snowy views we left behind
Wahoo & Sam in the truck

My self inflicted artistic sabbatical did not disappoint! With temperatures warm enough to go outside, I made myself at home on a little table on the deck facing the backyard bayou, and set to work making whatever I felt like. I even did a short Facebook Live video on my Paintertainment page about combinatory play. Whatever crazy ideas came to me, I acted upon. I loved the shape of the fallen magnolia pods in the yard, and thought they might be fun to make colorful, so I painted them. I collected gnarly oyster shells on the gulf shores and adorned them with colors using my dot painting tools. I painted countless sunset scenes on mini canvases, finishing them off with glitter on the water and real gulf shore sand glued on the shoreline. I painted sunsets with silhouettes of seagulls, egrets and pelicans on the insides of oyster shells, and on fallen palm tree fronds. I made watercolor paintings of the things we’d seen on our weekend adventures, and acrylic paintings of my favorite vintage campers in fantasy camping settings. 

Paint magnolia pods? Why not?!
A few mini’s
oyster shells are everywhere!

I fully realize that not everybody has the luxury of being able to run away to another state for a month. But in the process of fighting the pressure to once again monetize my passions, I did learn a few tidbits that can be applied to just about any artist in some way…

Carve Out The Time

This can be the toughest part…making the decision to be intentional about rekindling your fire by setting aside precious time to do so. Start with what you can, even if it’s just one hour a week. Maybe try to set aside one DAY a week to work on something fun and new. If you can swing it, look ahead at your calendar and carve out an entire weekend! It was scary for me to set aside 4 weeks…so I was flexible with myself. The weekends would be dedicated to family fun, and I would still set a goal to complete my most urgent business to-do’s every morning and run needed errands, but any other time while my family was working would be spent making art. Even with all of the fun vacation-y things we did on weekends on the gulf, I still found myself actually looking forward to my art time during the week and whatever I was going to make next!

Shrimp boat
I referenced a photo I took for this one.
The little backyard deck table I spent most of my days at in February 2021!

Change your scenery

Changing your surroundings can really help to give your mind a break from the day-to-day, and allow creative ideas to come into view. Even if you are still strictly following stay-at-home orders, you can change your viewpoint by going to a local park and setting up space at a picnic table, or even changing what room of your house you’re in or rearranging your current creative space. Perhaps you can even find a family member or friend in your Covid bubble and visit each other, or swap houses for an afternoon! Eager for inspiration beyond your immediate surroundings? Try immersing yourself in another culture with some visual research, or seek out virtual online tours of beautiful places. If you’re able to take a weekend or day trip, that’s even better! You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world, the country, or your state. Just put yourself in a different setting, look around and take it in.  Just don’t forget to allow yourself to creatively respond to your change in scenery in some way, or you may miss out on the new ideas it brings. When I wasn’t sure what to “make” first on my trip, I painted random colors on found objects, and scenes from my surroundings. Each Monday I would scroll through my camera roll from the weekend, and paint some of the pictures I found Instagram-worthy!

Painting on fallen palm tree fronds
Tiny paintings are fast & fun!
I love my traveling watercolor set!

Unplug

Our worlds exist online more now than ever, which means we need to have analog experiences more than ever! Yes, there is a LOT of inspiration to be found online, and social media can be a great place to kick start new ideas. However, especially when you’re feeling down or depleted, it can also be a great source of procrastination, distraction, and unhealthy comparison. If you suspect this is the case for you, try turning off your computer, or closing your social media apps for a while. I’m not suggesting you go on a year long Facebook fast…just try spending even one hour, hopefully more, doing nothing digital. Listen to some music. Read a hard copy of a book or magazine. Go outside for a walk. Try a new recipe. Step outside and visit with a real, live neighbor or two. Take a nap! Whatever it is, give your brain a rest from screens and interact with the physical world. Keep your creative eyes and ears open, and try to act on the first crazy idea that pops into your head! Which brings me to my next suggestion…

Swinging on vines
Going for a walk at a park
immerse yourself in nature!

Say YES to crazy ideas!

The best part about making art only for yourself, is that you don’t have to run anything by anybody, or convince anyone else that your idea is worth trying!  I mentioned that I painted on magnolia pods while spending time down south. I had no idea what they even were until some Facebook friends told me. I thought they looked neat and had a unique shape, and my first thought was “this might look cool painted with bright colors!” So, I picked it up, got out my paints and tried it! 

The more often you act on those funny little ideas that come to you, the more often they will come to you, and the easier it will be to find that natural flow of new ideas. As business owners with busy schedules, we tend to set aside many of the ideas that pop into our heads, because we have other more pressing things to do. But by giving your idea some legs as soon as it comes to you, you are telling those ideas that they are welcome, that they can come any time, and that they will be heard and acted upon.

Discovering magnolia pods
Painting shells
Gluing sand and shells to canvas

Restrict Yourself

Perhaps the possibilities are just too endless when you think of ways to “play.” There are just too many books you want to read, or too many blank canvases in your studio to know where to begin. Instead of completely freeing yourself to do anything, try the opposite, and restrict yourself! Make yourself paint with your non-dominant hand, or using only one or two colors. Give yourself a limited task, whether it’s materials, time, or subject matter. Sometimes limiting your resources can force yourself to get creative in ways you never would have thought. You can even limit yourself to subject matters you would like to improve upon! 

I decided to force myself to paint clouds, which I feel I am not good at. I spent some time watching a few YouTube tutorials on clouds, and while I still wasn’t totally happy with my result, I learned some new techniques, added more tools to my shopping list, and had a lot of fun in the process! I also limited the size of most of my work, bringing along canvases as small as 2”x2” square. This forced me to complete pieces in less time, focusing less on the tiny details. Some days I only allowed myself 5 or 10 minutes to paint something in my watercolor sketchbook. I found myself loving the style that came from a time restriction!

Ugh, I hate painting clouds!
Tiny canvases only!
Tiny watercolor sketchbook

Consult a Kid

Remember when I mentioned how combinatory play takes us back to childhood, when we made art just for fun? If you have trouble taking your mindset back to childhood, consult an expert: a kid! Pull aside your own kid, your grandkids, or neighbor kids, and ask them what they think about what you’re working on. Ask them what you should make/paint/do next. Ask them to show YOU how to draw something. Or better yet, get out the finger paints and just play right along with them! Kids have that innate ability to think outside of the box, because they haven’t yet moved into one. They don’t carry with them all of the preconceived notions and limitations that adults do, which makes them particularly great at allowing limitless creativity to flow.

Fight the urge to monetize everything

Ironically in this pursuit of painting just for my own enjoyment last month, as I shared my work on social media I found myself having to fight off requests for commissions and people telling me “you could sell these!” I had to explain to several family members and friends that I had spent the majority of my life trying to monetize my art, and I was currently just trying to paint for myself, for fun! I may explore some of those opportunities down the road, but for this one month, my art was off limits!

My only goal during my time in Mississippi was simple. Make art. Make more art than I ever do at home, only for fun. Fill as many of the blank canvases I’ve been hoarding as possible in the time I had. There were no quality requirements…only quantity. And that, I believe, is what revived my own creativity, and sent me home with loads of new inspiration and ideas!

If you have the means to create some art just for fun, while paying the bills in other ways, I encourage you to do so. Setting aside your creative endeavors all together can quickly result in your ideas drying up as much as my festival glitter did over the past year…it’s rock hard! However, neither your festival glitter nor your creative juices are too far gone. In the case of my festival glitter, adding water brought it right back to it’s original splendor. Keeping your creative juices flowing, even through a dry spell, will help you stay skilled and clever, and make you all the more ready to jump right back into the profession that you love, just as soon as we come out the other side of this pandemic!

One Year Later…

So, this article above was published nearly a year ago now, and as I look back I can still see the positive effects of my “forced creative sabbatical.” While I am certain I made more “just-for-fun” art in my one month in Mississippi than I had in 10 years prior combined, I didn’t stop once I got home, as I feared I might. Realizing how much joy just making art brought to me, and how much it fueled my creativity in my business as well, I made it a point to keep carving out time for art with other mediums. On this trip I created my first vintage camper painting, and 1 year later I am not working on my 12th camper painting. I’ve continued to enjoy rock painting and share this new hobby with friends, and this winter have taken up paper quilling as well! My hope is that now that we are coming up on year two of this pandemic, that you too have been able to re-evaluate and re-prioritize how you spend your time. And if you haven’t yet, it’s not too late! Look back at what has brought you the most enjoyment over the past two years (not necessarily the most income), and figure out a way to work it back into your schedule. You just might discover an entirely new passion, make new friends who share that passion, and see the positive creative effects trickle down into your business as well!

paper quilling!
One of my camper paintings
A christmas camper painting!

Gretchen Fleener is the editor of Wet Paint Magazine, and also runs Paintertainment.com, and online face & body art supply shop and source of oh-so-much free instruction and inspiration. Find her on Facebook and Instagram  @PaintertainmentDotCom, @GlitterGlamper and @GretchenFleenerArtist.

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Glitter Glamper Becomes a Reality!

The ONLY thing photoshopped here is the logo decal…I’ll likely order a decal like this for now (I already have them on my storage trailer), but hope to have a real neon sign made down the road that can be hung on the outside while “open,” and then stowed away when driving!

If you’re a fan and follower of our Glitter Glamper on social media, you’ll know that on September 25th I took a huge leap of faith and purchased the REAL, live Glitter Glamper! Why was this such a huge leap of faith, you ask? After all, the Glitter Glamper was a raging success it’s first year at the Minnesota State Fair, and my concept had been proven beyond my wildest dreams without even having a physical Glamper yet! Well, as we all know, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, which has put a screeching halt to the event industry, and in turn, nearly all of my income, making it a big financial risk to take on the hope that “someday soon” we’d be back to “somewhat normal” life! Here are some of the factors that nudged me just far enough to put what’s left of my money where my now slightly shaky confidence was:

  1. With virtually all of my events cancelled since March, I had a little more TIME on my hands to work on a big project.
  2. With no income stream in sight for most of 2020, this may be a good year to create tax deductions!
  3. We WILL eventually get past Covid. Events WILL eventually come back. But in the meantime, even if they don’t come back with the volume they once were for a long time, having the ability to go mobile and set up “shop” outdoors at an event, where I can easily control the number of people within that 6′ radius at a time and sanitize as needed, is a huge plus! People may not be able to book a large indoor gathering for a while, but being able to spread out outdoors opens up unique covid-friendly opportunities.
  4. My current space at the state fair is inside a “cage” type booth, but even if they don’t have an outdoor space for this trailer in the near future, it can still be utilized at events around the Twin Cities. And, it MIGHT actually fit INSIDE my current “cage” space…hmm…I’m exploring possibilities. 😉
  5. I can’t leave out the fact that my husband has a much more stable job than I, which sustains us and our cost of living even during a pandemic…so I fully realize that I am incredibly fortunate and privileged in that respect. If my business fails, we won’t be on the streets (or crammed in the Glamper), and that is the one thing that gives me the ability to do these crazy things!

Essentially, I had decided even while working in an awesome and successful state fair booth last year, that I didn’t come this far only to come this far.

While I moved very fast on this purchase as soon as I saw it on Facebook marketplace, it was not an impulse decision. I have been researching and searching steadily for probably over 2 years. I knew from the beginning that I wanted a Shasta Airflyte. This is evident by the business cards I created, and Photoshopped rendering of what I wanted my booth to look like for the State Fair’s application. I knew I wanted one that was manufactured between 1961 (the year that Shasta started their iconic “wings”) and 1964 (when they moved their body design from the classic “canned ham” shape to a more boxy design). At least 12′ long would be ideal, and under 20′ for ease of pulling and squeezing into festivals. A bathroom would probably be impossible, but would be a major plus if I ever were to sleep over in it at a weekend event. I had seen plenty of vintage trailers that “would have worked,” but held out for that elusive dream. I spent countless hours killing time, scrolling through Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. I knew what was out there, what they were going for, and how much work I’d be getting into.

I got a little more serious when Covid hit, but still was starting to get to the point where I didn’t think what I had in my mind’s eye would ever become available, at least in my state or budget. But, just as things always work out the way they should, the wrong deals fell through and along the way made it so that I knew this was THE one when it turned up. Just when I was ready to settle for something other than a Shasta which also fell through (no title), and then let the whole idea go entirely and move on, I found it! The day before I went to pick it up I even got a call from a prospective client who was wondering if I really had a real camper that I could park at their curb for a covid friendly party. Um…please hold for just one day, haha!

Yes, I’m wearing tiny earrings with tiny red & white campers. Hehe!

I have a LOT of catching up to do on the progress of this thing on my blog, so I’m starting with some of the bigger things I’ve worked on so far, and will be sharing a lot more in upcoming posts!

So, back in September I purchased this 1963 Shasta! It really had everything I was hoping for, even an elusive bathroom! The bathroom is suuuper teeny, but it was a wish list item in the event that I ever take this trailer to a weekend festival or fair somewhere and spend the night in it, enabling me to work at an event out of town and save money on lodging. The goal here is to have a camper that embodies my “Glitter Glamper” brand, that functions for the work I want to do in it, and still remains camp-able. Another huge plus with this one was that it wan’t totally falling apart, the floor wasn’t rotting and in need of total replacement (we already went through that with our family camper and I did NOT want to tackle a floor again), it was clean and cute and mostly original! The exterior does not match my imagined turquoise on my business graphics, however, I have decided to stick with red and white. Red is my favorite color, I love how much bolder and eye catching this combination is (which is important for a business), and it gives me future potential to rent it out as a photographer’s backdrop for holiday photos! Later on I’ll show you the history of layered paint jobs on this thing, but for now, here’s where I started…

Interior the day I bought it! The tiny bathroom is in the back right corner closet.
This is the front dinette, which will become my main work space.

After some research in my vintage Shasta Facebook groups I learned that what I have here is not actually an Airflyte, but a Shasta 16-SC. (Ariflytes apparently didn’t come with the bathroom!) The 16 I believe refers to the length, as it is 16 feet bumper to hitch. No worries though…I wasn’t married to the Airflyte model as much as I was married to those WINGS! (Which I don’t believe are original on mine…I’ll tackle that later!)

We had a family camping trip planned for the same day that I bought this, so it was tough to bring it home, park it, and then scramble to head out of town and leave it behind! Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get back home and get to work! The first thing I did was curtains! I know, probably the least important thing…but this is something I knew I could do quickly and make a big visual impact for very little money! I found the shiniest fancy fabric at a local fabric warehouse, and crocheted overly dramatic tiebacks using glittery yarn and hanging crystals! Do you expect anything less for the Glamper? I think not!

Crocheted tiebacks, as blingy as possible, haha!
New, shiny curtains that scream “Glitter Glamper!”
Of course I have my “Friends of the Fair” decal on the window!

Since September I’ve been working on it a little almost every day, racing against the clock and Minnesota’s impending winter to do as much as I can before it has to be put away for winter! The most immediate things that had to be done were really just sealing up cracks and crevices to keep mice out over winter, however, I really wanted to get it looking like the GLAMPER and not your average camper, as much as possible, so that it would be as ready as possible for events come spring. In order to actually physically WORK out of this camper though, I really needed to make space for a work station and chair space for customers.

We got a freak October snowfall this year…it’s gone now, but this shot was enough for me to agree that she must remain red & white…this is just SCREAMING to be set up for Christmas photo shoots!!

Time to start some of the dreaded DEMO!

I decided to remove the dinette to make my work area. While I originally figured I’d have to buy a camper in much worse shape and gut it, this one is really beautiful inside and original. SO, my goal has now become to make this camper be what I need it to be for my work and deliver the full Glitter Glamper experience, but still preserve as much of it’s original design as possible. For this reason I very carefully removed the dinette and have saved all of the original pieces, should I want to ever convert it back to a camper just for camping. (I currently have my state fair booth components tucked away in a storage trailer, so I was able to squeak these parts into the trailer for now)

Pulling out the dinette served another purpose though, to remove the front wood panel which had some rot to take care of, and access the front left corner where pervious owners had hit a deer. This corner was pretty beaten up…not too bad looking from outside but once I removed the booth I could see daylight through the floor, could crumble pieces of the framing with my fingers, and could actually reach my hand down to the ground if I wanted to. Not a hole I would want to leave open for winter! It also greatly compromised the structure itself.

These old Shastas were constructed surprisingly poorly back then. The framing is not one nice, solid, curved piece of wood, but rather, these are made with a bunch of little pieces of wood stapled together to form the curves. If you were to pull the siding off of the outside of a Shasta, what you’d see would look much like something pieced together from the scrap bin. I learned this, among many other things, from the vintage Shasta owner Facebook groups I’m in! So, between the rot and the deer damage, there was really nothing attaching the front left corner of the trailer to the walls or floor. The front panel of aluminum was actually flopping loose as well, once I took the booth out!

Removing the booth, piece by piece! I saved all the original wood facing, cushions, platform and tabletops in my Glamper storage trailer if I ever want to put it back.
After removing the whole booth and the front wood panel which had rot in the corners. Luckily the rot had not spread to anywhere else!
Removing the damaged and rotted wood. I didn’t even have to cut anything here…that is how long the original piece was.

Gah! This part is ugly! Time for a “pretty” break!!!

Okay, so far this is probably the ugliest piece of the whole project…and was a little daunting. I admit that to keep motivated and keep my eyes on the prize, I had to occasionally turn my gaze back to the other side of the camper, look at the parts that didn’t need replacing, and sprinkle in a few more creative mini-projects. I do this a lot in work and life in general…I often bounce from one thing to the next. It helps me get through the boring parts of business ownership like accounting and paperwork while still keeping motivated with the creative, artistic side! 😉

I painted and blinged out several small mirrors to hang in the Glamper!
Hanging mini LED lights, and setting up some fun accessories from my state fair booth! The afghan my grandma made and happens to match perfectly, and I found the mermaid sequin pillow at a thrift store!
I bought this wood sign at a thrift store years ago. It fit perfectly above the door (after removing a little spice rack that was not original to the camper), so I coated it in glitter and stuck it up there!

Okay, let’s go back to the dirty work….

So, I set to work pushing out the dent as much as I could, cutting new wood to replace the rotted and crumbling pieces that had broken in the collision, re-attaching the aluminum siding from the outside, re-attaching the framing to the floor itself, filling up any remaining cracks with rodent-resistent spray foam & caulk.

Removing old wood
Replacing with fresh wood
Closing up the wall after filling gaps and insulation

Removing the booth, of course, left me with a patch of unfinished floor. I’m still thinking about what I want to do with the final floor surface, but in the meantime I needed to at least bring the newly exposed floor up so it sits flush with the rest of the newer sub floor that the previous owner had put in. This involved scraping off the original tile to expose the original subfloor, and putting in a new piece.

Removing old, loose, curling tile with a chisel
After I cleaned the subfloor and cut a new piece, I laid down some construction adhesive.
New floor laid down and ready for screws! Now the floor matches up with the rest of the floor, so I can decide what to do with tile.
Now to find a fresh piece of birch paneling to close up the front wall!

Now that the deer hole/dent is fixed and everything is secure and stable, and the floor is all level, I just need to find some 1/8″ birch paneling or plywood (tougher to find than you’d think!) to close up that front wall, and can get to work finishing the floor and building a work station that will sit over the water tank! So this left corner is where my customer will sit in a tall chair, and the right corner is where my paint/glitter kit will sit!

Honestly I’m thankful that this was all I had to pull out…so many of these trailers seem to have a little rot, then when you pull off a panel it reveals a major problem requiring a complete frame-up rebuild! My husband is going to help re-attach the water pump and re-route the water, and we’ll do a bunch of electrical work. Now I just need to land on a flooring solution…fill in this space with the existing tile, or replace the whole camper with something…GLITTERY?

Okay, this was a long post with a bunch of things I’ve been working on earlier on in the process…next time I’ll share some more of the fun cosmetic things I’ve done! Stay tuned!!

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Are You A Potato or an Egg?

Are you a potato, or an egg?

One of the best things about being my own boss, is that for the most part, I get to decide what I want to do, and when to do it. I can choose to take a gig or pass it on to someone else. I can decide to do more of what fills me up, and less of what doesn’t. Most self employed artists embrace and understand this, though when times get tough, we tend to forget some of our superpowers. Like we can choose to pick ourselves back up, or choose to wallow in self pity.

Lately I have seen so many of my fellow artists in one of two camps. One group is doing everything they can to remain positive, in the face of crippling financial hardship. They are using their newfound free time to do good and spread positivity, controlling what they can and letting go of what they can’t.

The other is curling up into a ball in their hole of despair, making comments like “well, I guess I’ll never paint again.” or “everything I’ve ever worked for is now completely worthless.”

I know that the state of the world is absolutely devastating to the core of us who rely on a thriving event industry for our bread & butter. My business of 25 years has come to a 100% screeching halt just like the rest of yours. What puts me into group #1, however, is that I have not given up my I’m-my-own-boss power. I am using it to not only decide whether to work in my pj’s today, but to decide that my circumstances don’t create my joy.

No, I’m not happy that I have no gigs in the foreseeable future. I am not happy that nobody else does either, and as a result nobody is ordering supplies from my shop. No, I’m not happy that my credit card debt is going to grow, and my income will not fund any family fun this summer. I’m not happy that my birthday was spent in quarantine. I’m not happy that my dad had a stroke right before the “stuff” hit the fan, and nobody is allowed to visit him in the hospital. I’m not happy, no, but I am joyful and that is what keeps me going.

I love this definition of happiness vs joy that I found via Google search:

Happiness may dwell on materialistic, worldly pleasure while joy is derived from soul satisfying, emotional well being.”

-diffen.com

What satisfies your soul? For me, it is absolutely my faith. I can’t imagine how people can get through things like this without it. For a lot of us, especially artists, it is also doing what we love to do…what we were created to do!

If you’re having trouble finding any positives in your current situation, try gratitude…yes…in ALL circumstances. Challenge yourself to find something to be thankful for every day. Sometimes a perspective shift is in order.

  • I’m thankful that I’m now forced to snuggle my boys & watch movies on my couch, while so many health care workers now can’t be close to or hug their own kids.
  • I’m thankful that I still have my talents, and can use them for so much more than my income.
  • I’m thankful that I don’t live in an abusive home
  • I’m thankful for Amazon, and my full cupboards.
  • I’m thankful for a home with multiple rooms, and a yard to play in.
  • I’m thankful for our health.
  • I’m thankful that I’m able to work from home.
  • I’m thankful for the technology that lets me see my family & friends’ faces and hear their voices.
  • I’m thankful for puzzles, perler beads and Neftlix.
  • I’m thankful that winter is on it’s way out.
  • I’m thankful for memes that make me giggle.
  • I’m thankful for our many parks that allow us to get outside while social distancing.

What are YOU doing?

“Well, I guess I’ll never paint again.” To this I say, why not? Sure, we face painters may move from painting on kids at parties to painting on practice heads, boards, and our own kids until this all passes. But the beautiful thing about painting is that you can do it anywhere! If the only reason you painted faces to begin with was to be paid at parties, it may not have been your calling after all. We don’t create our own circumstances, but our circumstances can reveal the person. Yes, even positive people are entitled to their own occasional pity party. But don’t let that be the new definition of you! Get your cry out and get back to creating!

You have control over whether you keep doing art or not. You now also have control over what you create, when and how you create it…no clients to satisfy, just yourself! Take advantage of that! I’ve seen artists sharing their huge, new design boards they’ve created this past week. I’ve seen artists painting designs to reflect their current struggles, depicting our current world through their eyes. I’ve seen artists sharing their gifts with others. Sewing masks. Decorating sidewalks. Making cards for the elderly.

What I’m Doing…

I can’t control the timing of when my income will return. But I can choose to make the most of this thing I ALWAYS seem to wish I had more of but money can’t buy: time!

The irony is not lost on me. So often I wish I had more TIME…the thing money can’t buy…because I’m so busy spending what time I do have trying to earn the money that can’t buy it, and spend what little extra time I have well. Now that we have no source of income, we find ourselves almost drowning in this elusive, priceless gift of time. Will we spend it well or waste it, only to long for it again when our work picks up?

For now I’m just taking it one day at a time. Having kids really helps because you HAVE to be positive for them. They are watching. All. The. Time. And learning from their parents how to react to tough situations. Right now we are on spring break, so I’m trying to let it be just that…a regular spring break with no strict schedules. They’ll get back to that soon enough when our district’s e-learning plans start. For now, they spend the week with mom, having fun and being creative, just less going out to movies & playgrounds…

Over the weekend I took advantage of the chance to give a little art lesson to my boys! Art imitates life, so I decided to do a still-life project with the subject being a roll of toilet paper!

Still life art lessons with Mom!

We are each creating 9 little pieces, using 9 different mediums, on little squares of paper that are exactly the same size as a sheet of TP! The boys learned about drawing cylinders, how ellipses change with perspective, how to shade, and use some fun tools they’ve never used!

We now have a puzzle table set up, which we’ve really never done. My boys are helping me cook more…

…we’ve gotten out our huge stash of perler beads and are creating a growing honeycomb art piece. My boys have even been helping me sort and organize my gem stash!!

As for my work, I’ve been able to start some projects that have been waiting on the back burner, like creating new stencils for my shop that are designed to be used with my new tutu bling, and painted tutus with 3D fairy wings! (Follow our Facebook page to find out when these stencils are available in the shop!) I’m remaining hopeful that the MN State Fair will happen, and preparing for the Glitter Glamper‘s 2nd year! And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be super prepared for 2021!!

I’m also already working on the next issue of Wet Paint Magazine. Not because it will make me any money, because it has yet to make any profit for me…it’s purely something I create because I love to do it, and it’s mission is to uplift, inspire, and encourage my fellow artists…something we ALL need right now!

Will you let this change you for the better?

I was in a wonderful Zoom call with over 20 other artists around the country last week, put on by Lori Hurley. My favorite quote from the call was when Steve Klein said, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”

The Big Question…

So, I ask you again…are you an egg or a potato? Will you choose to let your circumstances turn you into mush, or will you allow them to make you stronger than ever before? Whether you use your talents to uplift your family in quarantine, or your greater community, show the world what you’re made of! Your circumstances can’t take away your talent, or even your joy, if it comes from the right source! Stay strong painty friends! Hope and joy are just as contagious as fear! What are YOU choosing to spread?

What have YOU been doing to keep your sanity in quarantine? How are your kids keeping entertained? How are you using your art to spread hope and joy? Please share in the comments! We all could use some more ideas for the days and weeks to come!