SCINAS | Comfort

October 24, 2014

Note: What the heck is SCINAS? My little mantra that Self Care is Not About Smoothies. I introduced it here.

The highlight of my week was watching Ben make this pie. It was less about the joy of having pie to eat (though I'd eat pie & whipped cream for breakfast every day if it was available), but more about the joy of making ordinary, everyday comfort. 

When I experience crappy circumstances, or just exhaustion over life's general unpredictability, I'm aware that the things in life that comfort me most are tiny, ordinary things: Ben's mimed orchestrations of the opening credits to television shows; the sight of our cats in a sunbeam; apple pie. (Actually, a long list of foods...)

A few months ago I was at a friend's house and noticed she was keeping a jar of moments of the year that she wanted to remember-- moments to hang onto and be grateful for. For me, that's the stuff of comfort. I need to make a long list of moments and things that I love. I'll add to it that thing I read on the internet; Morrissey singing My Love Life; the last episode of Six Feet Under that slayyys me; Tiny Beautiful Things; that picture from our wedding where I was crying and laughing in the same breath; the memory of the first grilling on our patio. We need the stuff of ordinary joy. Gather it around you like armor, because that's what good comfort is. 

5 With: Elizabeth Braaten Palmieri

October 22, 2014

A common theme in these 5 With interviews is make the work you want to see in the world; don't wait for permission. I see a lot of that outlook in Liz's work. We studied theater in college together, and since then her life has included a few moves, massage school & a good amount of resourcefulness in continuing to find creative opportunities-- regardless of location. Now living in Columbia, Missouri, I was excited to see that Liz  co-founded a theater company & has been writing her own work. I'm excited by the risks she's taking & the way she's dedicated to figuring out how to Make Sh*t Happen. 

Describe your current artistic work:
I am an artistic, aesthetic and entrepreneurial slut these days, working on projects that span from my roots in live theatrical performance to film, and recently, a newly formed collective of themed, curated experiences. I am the co-founder and artistic director of GreenHouse Theatre Project, a professional experimental theatre company based in Columbia, Missouri that focuses on process and creative collaboration. My other project is a short film that I wrote, produced, co-directed and performed in last summer titled Perch. It will be premiering at the Citizen Jane Film Festival in November and will make the festival rounds this upcoming year. And my latest endeavor is a collaboration with a photographer and a fiber artist. This 'curated experience' workshop will be framed by a theme and incorporate slow food, a beautiful landscape/location and documentation of the whole production. Working with passionate, talented artists who share my aesthetic is what really turns me on.  

What are your biggest creative challenges?
Keeping my self-motivation going with independent work. Self-promoting. Trusting others with my work: I tend to be protective of my writing, and don't let anyone read my works-in-progress. Much of my work comes alive in the rehearsal processes, while workshopping and playing with material, and because of this the words look flat to me on the paper. I don't know if others will get what I see in my head until we are on our feet moving with the words.

How do you balance paying your bills with making your art?
I just had a huge fundraiser for my theatre company.  It was a success, and much of that credit goes to my board-- a group of professional, left-brained, art supporting people that keep me on track.  Otherwise, money is a dirty word to me. It is necessary, as we pay all involved in our projects, but it mucks up my idea of pure art-- art created for the necessity to live. 

Aside from my performance work and teaching, I am a massage therapist. That is where my consistent income is derived. Bodywork for me goes hand-in-hand with my work as a performer, and it keeps me stable amongst the crazy, inconsistent schedule I keep with performance.

Share some advice for other artists:
  • Brainstorm & meet with other creatives: have tea & drinks together; go on long walks in the woods and throw ideas out there
  • Find mentors: if possible write them & meet with them
  • Document: write your ideas down & collect images, writings & objects that feed your ideas
  • Find inspiration-- it's everywhere: see art, listen to music, watch movies, read 
  • Be open & avoid saying 'no' to others' ideas or your own (the #1 rule of improvisation)
What's inspiring you right now?
This past year I saw an incredible documentary film, Art and Craft about a prolific art forger. The little man was a character like no one could write: quirky, scheming, schizophrenic and lonely. I fell in love with his story and connected with the film makers. I am currently working on an original piece called The con-ARTIST, a three person, experimental piece based on his story. My company will premiere it in May, 2015 at an art gallery in Columbia. 

You can find out more about Liz's work over here and read more 5 With interviews here

Connecting to the Work | 5 More

October 20, 2014

Continuing on from this post, here are 5 more suggestions for connecting to the work you want to make-- which could mean feeling less creatively stuck or figuring out what direction you want to take a career shift. Or, remembering what you want to pour yourself into in your free time. In no particular order....

1) Learn from Jealousy: As I've written before, jealously has been a great tool for helping me get clear about what I want to make and do-- and who I want to make things things with. I'm usually jealous of the people who do things with confidence and without apology. It turns out that there's nothing stopping any of us from being one of those people. Jealousy is great for helping us figure out what we want, because it's such a strong emotion. It can be a force for motivation-- and I love this podcast that discusses exactly that.

2) Let go of Assumptions: Ben and I were chatting a few months ago and he said something really great: "When you unsubscribe from the assumptions you have about what you do or what you don't do, then you can get down to work."  
I assumed that because I'd always been a choreographer and dance teacher that my career would continue in this trajectory. I had to make space for the possibility of change, which is sometimes really uncomfortable. Before Small Art, I never considered myself a curator-- I assumed I wasn't qualified. I thought that being a good choreographer meant making work in big spaces. Both of these assumptions turned out to be false. This is where I urge you to try something new, to work in a different artistic discipline, to entertain projects and ideas that you'd usually turn down. Give yourself 6 months to try some new things.

3) Say "Yes" / Make Lots: I've talked a lot about being decisive and saying "No", but if you're trying to shake things up I invite you to says lots of "Yes" instead. Avoid being choosy and judicious; forget about whether or not this thing is going to lead your career somewhere spectacular; give yourself permission to stop thinking realistically about money for a while. The key in these stuck places is to get moving, and thinking too much works against this. Make as many things as you can for 6 months, without thinking. You can reevaluate then. 

4) Make a Mondo Beyondo List: There's a theme in these suggestions: give your rational, left brain a rest, and tap into your intuition instead. 3 years ago I took an e-course from Andrea Scher called Mondo Beyondo. Though it made me a bit uncomfortable with its woo-woo/ hippie dippy nature, taking the class was actually just what I needed. A Mondo Beyondo list is a list of improbable things you want to accomplish or experience in this lifetime. It's different than a goal list: these things are supposed to be really reach-for-the-stars kind of things. There are a couple reasons I love this list:
  • It helps you cut straight to what you want, practicality aside. And half of the challenge, really, is figuring out what you want...
  • It helps you cultivate a certain amount of faith & courage: there are things that you can do to work towards these goals, but there's also plenty that's outside of your control
  • It's awesome to make a list, put a date on it, and then consult it later and see things happen (I promise, things start to happen-- it's really a little out there).
5) Commit to Morning Pages: While I admit that I've never made it all the way through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, I've found a lot of value in committing to her suggested Morning Pages. The exercise has you write 3 full pages at the beginning of the day, before doing anything else.  You write with a real live pen or pencil (no ipad or computer), in a steam-of-consciousness manner. The idea is just to write-- stop over-thinking or censoring yourself in any way. The goal is to get yourself moving, without worrying about where you're moving to.

I'll share a few more suggestions on this topic next week. 


October 17, 2014

It was been stunningly beautiful in Minneapolis this past two weeks, sunny and mild, and I've been watching the neighbor kids attack their raking with determination. (We could learn something from them.) I have put most practical things on hold in favor of an extra walk or at least napping in a sunbeam, and I'm confident that in a month or two I'll thank myself for soaking in this last big dose of vitamin D. 

I've been taking this transition time to do more things just because I want to, which I highly recommend. I've been perfecting my manual car driving because I donated my poor car, and I'm sick of being the person who stalls in front of you at lights. And I've been sorting through my bedroom and office closets, donating or throwing out loads of things. I have to admit that this makes me ridiculously happy, because man I like getting rid of things. I remembered that I have a library down the street and requested a few of these recommendations. I zoomed through 2 seasons of The Mindy Project, laughed my face off, and then started Call the Midwife at Laura's recommendation. Now I'm thinking that maybe I want to become a nurse in England and leave the car in favor of a bicycle. What do you think? 

I've been waiting for this space to catch my breath for quite a while, and it's pretty great. 

A couple things I recently read & wanted to pass on:

I really like this advice for artists from Austin Kleon.

The Jealous Curator's recommendations for affordable art.

Laurie Van Wieren shares the process (and the photos) behind 4x4=100 Choreographers Dancing Outside.

Ira Booker wrote another piece about Small Art, and so articulately captures why I love these events.

Happy mid-October.

5 With: Laura Brown

October 15, 2014

You might know Laura Brown from her entertaining twitter commentary or this popular ARTCRANK print or because I like to discuss her awesomeness a great deal. While I'm smitten with Laura's artistic style, I also just plain admire her work ethic and commitment to her career. Since we met in early 2012, I've watched her dig in and prepare for (and then apply to) graduate school, Doing the Work in the truest sense. She continues to inspire me and to teach me a lot about persistence and asking for what you want. This fall Laura moved to Austin to pursue her MFA at the University of Texas on a full scholarship. Though Minneapolis is certainly not the same without her, I'm overjoyed for her big career step. And, so happy to share her words here.

photo by Erik Hess
Describe your work and how you got to this point in your career:
I am a printmaker and book artist. My work explores human relationships and our relationship to time and space, and is driven by the process of translating ideas into visual symbols, taking them through the printing process. I always like the adventure of how the printing changes the final outcome of the original idea.

I got into printmaking in college, because I had a wonderful, enthusiastic professor who was really interested in students and would teach us anything we wanted to know. I’ve arrived at this point in my career just by not giving up. I think that being successful as an artist is really a lot about persistence. Persistence looks different for everybody, but boils down to a commitment to continuing to make things and make your work better, and to continuing to have a curiosity about the world and life. 

I first applied to graduate school right out of college and didn’t get in. I spent the years between then and now taking part in residencies, and gathering information about how people make art and artistic careers. I got involved with a supportive artist community, made more and more work, and figured out what my voice was-- what my work was, what I liked, and what my process was. I applied to grad school this time because I was ready for a more challenged, committed studio experience, and time to make work more intensively. I’m ready to build my career into something more than a part-time pursuit.

What's a current creative challenge you face?
Right now I’m in a new academic atmosphere, which is a little weird. I’m at a major point of reassessing why my work is meaningful, what I’m making work about, and why the world needs what I making. Grad school is a big opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.

How do you balance paying your bills and making art?
When I was working a full-time job with money, I didn’t have time or creativity for art. When I chucked the job, I didn’t have any money to survive. I think for the most part the solution has been to make enough to get by, to live frugally, and to commit my non-working time to making art, almost to the exclusion of any other pursuit. I’ve said ‘no’ to a lot of things to make this possible: dating, owning nice things, and having a car. It’s not a martyr thing-- I’ve made the choice, so I don’t get to complain about it. 

Now that I’m older, I do think a lot more about money and being practical, and what other things I want besides this romantic idea of making a lot of art and being a broke bohemian person. Going to grad school is a step towards hopefully becoming more financially stable, and being able to facilitate continued art making in the future. I needed more stability.

Share some advice:
  • Get clear about what you want and how you define success-- what do you want from your art making? It’s something that only you can decide: do you want to do it for fun? Do you want it as a career? 
  • Put yourself out there. You won’t get anything back unless you do: put your work out there, apply for things, ask for help. It was really helpful for me to join a cooperative studio at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, because I found a bunch of great people who were willing to mentor me. Regardless of your art form, there’s probably a community for you to join to get mentorship, help and advice. Take advantage of this. 
  • Keep going.
What’s inspiring you?
Some of the artists I go back to time and again are Sister Corita Kent, Helen Frankenthaler, and Anna Eva Bergman. They are like visual comfort food to me. Lately I have been digging a bunch of random stuff--grad school has a way of overwhelming you with things to look at and research. I like to keep up with, which is a blog that covers a wide variety of print-related media. If you are in Minneapolis, you should really take a look at my friend Kjel's work in the current MCAD Jerome Emerging Artists Exhibition (up through November 9). It's colorful and funny and smart and I love it.

You can find Laura and her work over here, and read more 5 with interviews here

Connecting to the Work | Excitement

October 14, 2014

I shared in my Pollen interview (and in this post and this post) that in 2011 I began a career shift, which naturally began with a moment of crisis: ahhhh! I don't know what I want to do with my life (as these moments generally go). At the time I was climbing the dance grant ladder, assuming that I wanted to make work in more prestigious venues. I also worked as a freelance dance and theatre teacher, piecing together income from a variety of gigs in a variety of schools and arts centers. Neither the teaching nor the choreography was proving to be especially satisfying. I can see now that this was because I was very focused on external validation & doing these things because I thought that's what a career as a choreographer was supposed to (or had to) look like. Also, I hadn't properly identified what made me tick: what energized me; what aspects of my work I was truly good at; what I needed.

So that's what this series of suggestions is about: connecting to the work. You know, uncovering what gets you fired up or what you want to be building. This could lead you to an aspect of your money job that you want to be doing more of, a career shift, or even to finding that thing you want to pour more of your non-work time into. 

In my case, I realized how much I love connecting people to one another and creating shared experiences. I realized how much I liked building things from scratch & directing processes. This led to this blog, Small Art, Small Dances, and working on Open Field-- all of which I found more satisfying than the work I'd been previously doing. And that feels really good.

But in the beginning of this transition, I was pretty unsure of what I wanted to do. I only knew that I wanted some kind of change. The suggestions that follow (well, one for today) seem elementary, but made huge changes in my own life over time. Especially this one:

#1- Keep a list of things that excite you, and why. 
(If you don't know why, that's ok, too.)

This list should contain anything that you feel a strong reaction to-- that you care deeply about or want to spend more time with, or that seems to be jiving with your gut in some way; things you believe in emphatically. They shouldn't be limited to any category (for instance, your career) and certainly don't need to make sense. 

I suggest this because
  • Sometimes, especially in times of transition, it's hard to remember what you like, and it feels good to reconnect with this
  • You can, over time, start to connect the dots between the things that you care about and notice commonalities
  • One thing that excites you can lead you to other things that excite you, and though the first thing might not end up being the thing that really clicks with you, the thing that it leads you to might be (whoa, long sentence, hope it makes sense)
Here's what you can be reassured of: something excites you. Worry less about where this journey might lead you and more about having fun. And yes, I know that this is nearly impossible, but I still put the challenge out there: have some fun.  

Up Next

October 10, 2014

As I transitioned out of the Walker during my first part-time weeks, I had two simultaneous thoughts:
  • Holy sh*t, it's an adjustment to be master of my own time again --AND--
  • I've been waiting 7 months to jump into many of these projects, so, let's do this!
Here are some of the things I'm working on building over the next few months:
  • A website: ...for Ben and I! We've had our website for 2 years, and it honestly hasn't been a great fit for us. I have lots of opinions on websites now! I'm rewriting a lot of our content and moving us over to Squarespace
  • Candy Simmons' Blueprint Project: Candy and a great team of collaborators are working on the final version of the piece we workshopped at the end of last year. We start rehearsals next month (taking breaks throughout the year), and the piece goes up in November of 2015. The luxury of time!
  • Resources for makers & doers: I'm repackaging my consulting offerings, and working on designing ebook content for people who need a lower price point option than 1-on-1 work.
  • Wintertime gathering opportunities: Something that feels like a cross between a Small Art and a dinner party. We have this great big kitchen table...
  • A newsletter: Really, truly. 
  • An office: I think I'm ready to put art on the walls!
  • Baby steps towards a dance piece: I'm making the next thing in little chunks, as I get funding. First step: get in the studio (or work 20 minutes at a time again).
What are you building? What are you excited about? Do you want to join in a wintertime party?

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