Art v Artist 2020

(This post was originally published on on December 14, 2020)

It’s the end of 2020 so here’s a look back on my art and creativity this year.

I don’t need to tell you this, 2020 has been a year that will remain with those of us conscious enough to remember it *looks at children age 5 and younger with suspicion and envy*. I’m not going to try to silver lining this wackadoodle experience we’ve all had of 2020. For me, like many, it’s been a year of struggle, confusion, a lot of YouTube, and sure, some opportunities.

When this year started, I made a bold decision to quit my career in arts administration. At the end of January, I had figured if the time to prioritize art and community education in my life wasn’t now when would it be? What was I waiting for? So, at the very end of February, just as we collectively in the United States were becoming aware of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I made the jump to full-time independent artist/ community educator, supporting myself with a part-time job.

My reflection on this decision I want to sum up as simply as possible: it has been really hard and I’ve often struggled to support myself, but I’ve also gotten to re-focus on my favorite things about being me, and I don’t for one moment ever regret the choice I made. I have been so very lucky, because just like everything else in life, luck has played a huge part here in the success I’ve experienced. It’s only been with the incredible support from my family, friends, and community that I’ve been able to make this transition.

Angel’s Landing (2020) ink – my first all-ink illustration

Making time in my life to make art has been an incredible investment into my own existence. This experiment that was half-chosen/half-pandemic-induced, in which I had several days/weeks alone in my home with my cat and the art supply collection I’ve been bulking up for years, has resulted in the profound gratification of knowing precisely what I want to do with the time I have here, on this planet, in this body, in this world.

I want to make art.

And I want to encourage others to make art.

The time investment I made since the start of the year to make art as often as possible – for me that’s mainly drawing and painting with various media – has yielded the most prolific creative year of my life and from that I can see exponential growth in my artistic skills. It can be hard to self-evaluate creative growth, but I’m in the fortunate position to have made SO MUCH ART this year that I have a collection of pieces that describe in sometimes awkward detail how much my art has changed.

I compare my Angel’s Landing piece from March, to the Seekseequa mountain illustration (bottom 3 of the top compilation image) and I see so much development in my skill, specifically my line quality and detail work. I get so chuffed to see that change in my art, it’s like I’ve been exercising regularly all these months and I’m seeing results that I feel really proud of. And the earlier piece is already a far cry from where I started, 3 years ago when I quietly said to myself, I think I’m ready to be an artist.

It’s also really fun for me to compare these two illustrations: Phases of the Moon, which I did in April, and Enlightenment Now, which I finished last week. I can see the ways I’ve gotten stronger: in composition, in figure drawing, in painting and in digital enhancement… I could go on (although it looks like my clothing illustration can still use A LOT of practice). But the thing that I like the most is how this is so clearly a subject/ composition I like to illustrate. I mean, I kind of forgot that I had drawn the moon illustration in April, and I found it while going back into my files for pieces for this retrospective. I should do this kind of illustration again in another 6 months to a year to see how it’s changed: dark hair girl, giant black bird, something celestial and lots of blues, purples, and greens. One thing for sure to say about the skill development, thank goodness I picked up colored pencils! They really make that bird LIVE!

Community Education was something I had all but given up for lost this year: with gathering so risky, how could I teach art for kids, teens, and adults? This really was a blow at the beginning of the pandemic, arts education was (and still is) 80% of my soft business plan. Teaching is essential to me, and I realized late last year that I truly need to be teaching, working with kids and adults to exercise their creativity. I was hanging out with a class that my arts org was hosting, and being able to be with those kids, making a gigantic mess that I had to clean up afterward (and they helped a lot, really) was one of my happiest moments at work last year. So then when I quit my job to be a full time artist and educator, and the educator part was pretty much impossible because of the global pandemic, I was like a lost sailor at sea.

I’ve reclaimed my bearings, little by little, by offering public and private classes on my website at Inklings, and with local organizations like Linn-Benton Community College. I have also had the beautiful opportunity to work with the local youth services non-profit, Jackson Street Youth Services, to offer art classes and creative projects for their shelter and mentor programs.

I’ve been participating in more classes, which has been a big boost to my energy. Being isolated and disconnected is rough on me, as a highly social person. It’s my normal to have every night of the week planned for some social interaction — and although that was often exhausting and I’m quite grateful for the reset to my typical commitments, I still quite miss the opportunity to connect with others’ creativity and to learn and explore with other people. Participating in webinars to learn about social justice and the arts, Theatre of the Oppressed, Solidarity Economy, Transformative Justice, yoga and advocacy, all of these have been important experiences to keep me involved in my communities and to inspire my creative teaching. I have the beginnings of plans for 2021 classes that go beyond visual arts that I am very excited about.

And that’s brings us to now, looking ahead. I have the sketch of a chubby little kitty that’ll end up being my New Year postcard (watch out loved ones, Dynamite is coming!). I have class plans that I’m working on, and connections and relationships that I’m nurturing.

So, yes, it’s been a year, and one I would have changed for all of us, if I could. But since I can’t and this is the year we had, I’m glad it went the way it did for me. I got really lucky, to have enough support to get through this year, including generous friends and family, a part time job, and absolutely no questions about what I should have been doing with my time when I suddenly had a lot of time. I knew I should be making art. And I did. That’s something I feel good about feeling good about.

<3 Happy and safe holidays, and f*** 2020

P.s. Want to follow along and get more Inklings? In 2021, I’ll be posting more about the work of being a creative entrepreneur, the process of artistic skill development, and probably a lot more random project posts and cat pictures here on the blog. Subscribe on the blog front page to catch all the updates.

You can also support me and see more of my art (plus get free stickers every month) by joining my Patreon.

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