Monday, April 27, 2009

Motivation Monday

Motivation is simply the reason for an action. It is the why behind what we do.

Three months ago, on February 2nd, 2009, I started this series on motivation. My thoughts stemmed from the definition above. During the past twelve posts, we looked at how important it was to have a strong why behind what we do. In order to maintain a high level of motivation, we need to consciously make a strong connection between what we want and the reasons why. The reasons why need to be compelling in order for them to be powerful.

Therefore, on February 9th my post encouraged you to really think about what you want and why. I also asked you to think about how badly you want what you say you want. The following week, Feb. 16th, it was time to examine why we don't take action - to really look at what is in it for us if we don't do the things we need to do, in order to have the life we say we want. On February 23rd the focus was on what we gain when we say yes to your dreams and passions.

March started off having you look for inspiration. The idea was to identify who has or is living the life you desire and to look for traits they possess that you could develop. March 9th was all about celebrating our greatest asset - a positive attitude. March 16th's post shared my thoughts on how we handle waiting for our big break. On March 23rd, I asked whether or not you would hire yourself. I asked you to think about how you could start being your own best employee. My advice March 30th was to become a passionate pursuer of knowledge, to embrace learning. Successful, happy people are willing to grow and learn new things.

How we can achieve balance in our busy lives was discussed in the April 6th post while the April 13th post looked at how you could get motivated to do all of those necessary non-art tasks. Finally last week, April 20th, I encouraged you to pursue your dreams NOW!

This Motivation Monday series is finished for the time being. Now would be a good opportunity to read any posts you missed or to reread some of your favourites. All of these posts are conveniently located in one spot - just click on the Motivation Monday button in the Featured Writings section of this blog, in the right hand side bar.

Motivation Monday posts will reappear from time to time. Just look for the colourful letter M. I sincerely hope this series has been encouraging and helpful. I appreciate the feedback I have received and the comments that readers have shared. I have ideas for another series in the coming months so stay tuned and most importantly, stay motivated!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Motivation Monday

Going after your dreams...what are you waiting for?

When you think of pursuing your dreams, are you waiting for a better time? Perhaps you are waiting until your kids are in school, or until your children require less taxi driving. Perhaps you are waiting until your life is less busy or you are waiting until you have more money saved up. Are you waiting until you retire?

"There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, "Yes, I've got dreams, of course I've got dreams." Then they put the box away and bring it out once in a while to look in it, and yep, they're still there."
Erma Bombeck

Isn't it time you took your dreams out of the box and put them into action? Just how long do you think you have?

"Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it, I say! Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows."
Pope Paul VI

You have no doubt heard the sentiment that we should live like we are dying. Do you? We have all known someone who has had their life tragically cut short by disease or an accident. What if we don't live to a wonderful old age? The reality is that there probably isn't going to be a perfect time to chase your dreams. The economy goes into a recession, your kids move back home, or your elderly parents take more care than you had expected. Life happens.

I would like to encourage you to start chasing your dreams now! Don't wait for a time in the future that you hope will be it now.

"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."
Diane Ackerman

"Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I encourage you to use your spare moments to live the width of your life. Live your life to the limit every minute of the day and don't let your dreams decay in a box. Don't wait to start living your dreams.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Peony is finished!

'Crinkled White' Peony, Coloured Pencil on Stonehenge, 20.5" x 5.5"
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Reveling in the sublime...that is what I was doing this morning. In past weeks I have been teaching on Saturdays. Ah, but not today. This morning I was up with the birds, brewed some coffee and sat at my drafting table, pjs and all. It was a gloomy, almost rainy morning and it seemed appropriate to put Mozart's Requiem on the CD player. Pure bliss. While I was sipping my coffee and enjoying the music, I tweaked the peony above. Please take into consideration that while I took many photos in different lighting conditions, I didn't get a photo that was quite true. The white is reading rather blue but I hope you can get an idea of what the work looks like. (you can click on the photo above to see a larger image) From here, the peony will go on my studio wall for a while so I can look at it from a distance and see if there are changes I wish to make.

This peony would have been done sooner but I have been busy with other aspects of my business. I have been teaching, negotiating teaching agreements for the fall (outside of my studio), advertising, writing my newsletter and setting up new classes. It didn't help that this was a rather large piece (for me anyway) and it had a lot of detail. I loved doing it though.

I am now thinking about the next piece. I have a busy week ahead. I am hoping to get the ball rolling with a printer for my line of reproductions and I have to be out of town to handle something regarding my Father's estate. Given my schedule and the fact that my last three pieces have been rather big, maybe it is time to do a small piece. The peony is 20.5" x 5.5".

The piece I did before that was Neptune's Leaves, 16.5" x 25".

Before that, it was the Swiss Chard Mosaic piece, 17" x 7".

Yes, definitely smaller and faster for the next one, maybe trading card size! :-)

After the blissful time time in the studio, my husband and I and our dog went hiking for couple of hours on the Carp Ridge. The Ridge is a rugged, rocky, wild place just a few minutes from my home. Absolutely delightful. Those words at the top of my blog, "add beauty to your life", well that is how I strive to live. I hope you have found a way to add beauty to your weekend. Now, I shall head off to look through my reference photos to see what art might be next.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

World Creativity and Innovation Week

April 15th - 21st

World Creativity and Innovation Week starts today, April 15th. April 15th was chosen as the start date in honour of Leonardo da Vinci's birthday. Celebrated in 43 countries, the goal is for everyone to appreciate the role of creativity and innovation in making the world a better place.

The creativity day website has ideas for celebrating creativity and innovation in the home, work place and school. Perhaps you are a teacher or a homeschooling parent. You might find these tips helpful. I personally enjoyed the tips for celebrating at work. One of my favourites is number 1: the weird challenge. "Find the smallest or zaniest problem your organization faces and challenge people to come up with the worst solution. Watch how 'worst' ideas spawn great ideas." A suggested small problem was people not shutting off their computers and the zaniest problem to solve might be stolen toilet paper. I really like the idea of trying to come up with the absolute worst solution.

My second favourite tip for the workplace, was number 9: the mistake party. Here the idea is to really celebrate mistakes. The site says, "A big part of creativity is taking risks and sometimes risks lead to mistakes." The work team makes a pact that every time someone makes a mistake, everyone will join in the celebration. The celebrations include: Throwing one's head back and enthusiastically shouting "I made a mistake!!!!", clapping, cheering, whistling, dancing, shaking and shimmying." Okay, the next time I make a mistake at the drafting table, I shall enthusiastically shout "I made a mistake!" and I shall dance, shimmy, clap and hoot (I can't whistle). It might not be quite the same experience as I work alone in my studio, but what the heck, I'm game. I mean if it leads to greater creativity... :-)

Here in Ottawa, as part of Creativity and Innovation Week, the Council for the Arts is kicking off a series of meetings to discuss what we want our long-term future to look like.

So why not look for ways in your home or workplace to celebrate creativity and innovation this week? If you belong to an arts group, you might wish to start planning a community wide event for next year. Hey, I'm thinking that celebrating our worst solutions and our mistakes would make great material for Motivation Monday posts!!

Does anyone remember that peony piece that I posted a long time ago? Okay, not that long ago but I haven't given any further updates. Well hang onto your next post will have the finished image!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Motivation Monday

As an artist, do you need help getting motivated to do all those non-art tasks that are piling up and making you feel guilty? Well keep reading, because help is on the way!

Last week, we looked at how important it was to have the perspective that as artists we are running small businesses. Yet many artists avoid the non-art stuff because well, it isn't art. So this week the goal of this post is to encourage you to shift your thinking once again. This time, you are going to change the way you think about non-art tasks.

How can you get excited about the business side of art? Simply start to see business tasks as creative tasks! As an artist, you love creativity. Stop limiting creativity to your art and start viewing all of your tasks as inherently creative. Do you believe that one can cook creatively, decorate a house creatively, raise children creatively, and garden creatively? Of course you do. Then, why can't someone run a business creatively? The truth is, the more successful a business is, the more creative it is.

Perhaps some examples might help. Think about designing a website. An artist needs to make all sorts of creative decisions as to the layout, fonts, content, and colours. Think of how diverse blogs are. Again, each one expresses the creative choices of the artist. Designing business cards, media cards and brochures are very creative endeavours. Here again as the artist and business owner you get to determine the content, colours, layout, fonts and so on. Do you have to create a display for doing shows? You will need to creatively choose the backdrops, display grids, lighting, and tables that will present your art in the best possible way. If you teach art, creating content for courses is a very creative thing to do.

Are you making the connection now? You love creativity and you enjoy having the opportunity to express yourself creatively. Well yippee, those business tasks you have been dreading and putting off are actually more opportunities to get creative!

Of course there are a few exceptions. Keeping your accounts in order - humm, maybe you can get creative and use multi-coloured pens?... Not recommended for tax forms. :-) But if we are honest, there are also exceptions on the art cleaning paint brushes or spending hours tweaking lighting, fabric and objects to get the perfect still life reference...dampens my creativity just to type it! Indeed, creative cooks have to grate carrots and chop onions and creative gardeners have to endlessly battle weeds.

Yes creating a new blog and creating course content might feel more like work than creating your art does. But, it can be enjoyable! Simply focus on the creative aspects of what you are doing. I encourage you to really make a determined effort to change your thinking about your non-art tasks. Consciously become aware of how these tasks require you to be creative. As soon as you do, you will find that these tasks are not a variety of horrible things that take you away from your creative journey as an artist. In fact you will find that they are part of your creative journey as an artist and as a successful business person. Honestly, just make the shift...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

e-newsletter for coloured pencil enthusiasts

'Penny For Your Thoughts' by Cheryl Poulin
Mixed Media Collage with Coloured Pencil, 16" x 20"
Copyright Cheryl Poulin

Well woo-hoo, the April issue of my Coloured Pencil e-Newsletter is ready to read.

Don't miss the fantastic mixed media art of featured artist Cheryl Poulin. Coloured pencils are great for highly realistic drawings and so much more. Cheryl's work is proof of this.

For those of you who have been patiently waiting for me to offer my 'Beyond the Basics' class, don't miss the announcement regarding the new dates. I have also added a new session of my Coloured Pencil Basics course. It starts in just over two weeks so don't delay your registration!

Don't miss the reminder of the on-line show that will take place later in the year. If you are a Newsletter Group Member, do you have something you would like to submit? If not, you have lots of time to put pencils to paper!

To read the newsletter, click here.

If you know of someone who would like to read all sorts of interesting info on coloured pencils, please let them know about this e-newsletter. Each issue has a featured artist, a Q & A section, blogs and websites to check out and other good stuff. Subscription is free! So why not email me today and sign up to be a member? I will never share my database and I do not use this list to send out any other mail. All you receive is an email notifying you that a new issue of the newsletter is ready to read. If you have slower internet service, I do not actually email the newsletter, only the notice and a link. Therefore you do not have to worry about the downloading of your email getting bogged down.

You can email me by clicking here. Your comments and feedback on the newsletter are quite welcome.

Enjoy the newsletter and Happy Easter!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Motivation Monday

Balance comes from priorities and priorities come from perspective.

This week's topic comes from a comment that Laure Ferlita made in response to the previous post. Laure asked for some thoughts on how to balance it all - being an artist, producing work, being our own marketing person, and being someone who is constantly learning. And as she noted, this was the short list!

Balance is very important because without it, we run the risk of becoming worn out, unproductive, overwhelmed and unmotivated.

The key to balance is to look at all of your goals and tasks and prioritize. Many people are good at goal setting but they are not so good at establishing realistic priorities and achievable time lines. Some people end up working on the goals that they like, for example they know they need to establish a body of work and they like making their art so they spend a lot of their time on this goal, while not spending enough time on other important tasks. Other people tackle all of their goals at once, doing a bit of each regardless of the urgency of individual goals. The result is that artists end up exerting a great deal of effort but they don't have the results they need for that particular time.

So where does perspective come into this? Step back and look at the big picture. How do you perceive yourself and what you are doing? Are you an artist? Would you like to sell your work to the public? Are you a small business owner?... Did I get you on this last question? Here is where your perspective might need to shift. If you are an artist and you intend to sell your work, you need to start thinking of yourself as the owner of a business. This simple paradigm shift in your thinking is what you need in order to enable you to prioritize your goals properly. Shifting your perspective from one in which you are an artist that occasionally, hopefully sells some work to that of someone who owns a business in which art is the product for sale, is the key to obtaining balance.

Many artists resent the time that the business side of things takes. These tasks are many and they eat into our studio time. But they are necessary. If you wish to remain a hobby artist that might sell a piece from time to time, then your priorities are different. But if you truly wish to make a living at your art, you must realize that you are running a business. Imagine owning some sort of business - it could be a coffee bar, a pizzeria, a clothing store, anything...Do you think that you could successfully run these sorts of business without dealing with marketing, customers, advertising, staff, doing things like ordering stock and materials, managing inventory, cleaning the store everyday, etc.? Of course you couldn't. The truth is that you can't run an art business successfully without dedicating a significant amount of time to non-art tasks. Unless you hire an agent to promote you or you have galleries that will sell all of your work, you will need to roll up your sleeves and get to work yourself.

Once you have had the revelation that you are running a business, it makes it easier to prioritize your goals. Which are the tasks that need to be done next in order to run your business successfully? Balance will come once you have defined a manageable lists of goals, along with a realistic time line. It takes time to build a successful business so take a longer view of things. We tend to get out of balance when we have a false sense of urgency, that feeling that everything has to happen at once. Artists often feel pressure to be doing it all. We can become overwhelmed when we are convinced that we need to have a fabulous website, a successful blog, a line of note cards and reproductions, a large body of work consisting of several interesting series, several art shows lined up, art entered into several juried competitions, etc. and we think it has to all happen NOW! These are all worthwhile aspects to running a successful business, but give yourself time to develop them. Determine which tasks are most important and focus on these first. You can work on things concurrently, but don't feel that you need to be doing them all. Relax, breathe.

Next week I will continue with more thoughts on running an art business and how you can remain motivated when doing all of that non-art related stuff...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

New Coloured Pencil Basics Dates

A new session of my Coloured Pencil Basics course has just been scheduled. It will be held over a day and a half at the end of April and the location is my studio here in Ottawa. The dates are Monday April 27th, 9:30 - 4:00, and April 28th, 1:00 - 5:00. This session would be perfect for those of you who work weekends and haven't been able to make it out to my other dates. It is also a good solution for anyone who has to travel from out of town. By getting accommodations for one night, you would only have to make the trip once.

For details on the course and to register on-line, please click here. Hope to see you then!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Business advice from Gene Simmons...

The daffodils are coming up...each day I wander around the property delighting in the daily progress of the various bulb plants and the flowering shrubs. I love watching things grow.

So what am I doing talking about Gene Simmons (and yes, I am referring to the dude from Kiss)? Well, I take my inspiration from many sources. Mr. Simmons has recently launched a new record label in Canada. I was reading an article in the 'Report on Business' magazine insert from the Globe and Mail newspaper (Friday March 27, 2009) on this new venture. Gene offers his take on success, "It's not just about records. You've got to have the complete package: the image, the positioning, the vibe, the media connection. It's not just your means TV and movies and getting your songs out there". I thought this next comment was interesting: "The Who had their biggest success ever by being on CSI. And Led Zeppelin got more bang for buck on one song by putting 'Rock and Roll' on an Escalade commercial." Gene goes on to say that while purists have a problem with this sort of marketing, we should remember that "they're still living in Mom's basement, and they are 35 years old." :-)

Well maybe I am more in the purist camp than not as I care quite a bit about what is associated with my name and my images but what Gene is affirming here is the notion that we need to always be thinking of fresh new marketing strategies. I agree. Our greatest successes can come from very unexpected sources. We have all heard of thinking outside of the box but do we do it?

No matter what state the economy is in, there is always money moving around. I mentioned in a previous post (click here to read) about the two most expensive sports in the US (oddly enough, involving horses and yachts) and how an artist might tap into that wealth. Here are two more examples of creative marketing: A man here in Ottawa makes a living doing landscapes of golf courses. He enjoys painting landscapes and by featuring a vista of a golf course he has found a way to tap in to the golfing crowd. Golfers are passionate about their courses and membership in a premier, prestigious golf course is much sought after. These folks have money and they apparently love to have a print of their favourite course in their den or office. The artist has partnered with the golf courses to offer exclusive prints. This artist also loves hockey and he loves doing portraits. He went after the hockey market (we have a hockey franchise here in Ottawa - the Senators) and he now gets commissions to do paintings of the players playing the game and he also does commissions of players as well as players with their families. This isn't the traditional approach for a painter. Most traditional methods of selling art involves being represented by a gallery, having shows, etc.

Here is your smile for the day...The writer of the article Steve Ladurantaye asks Gene for his thoughts on the state of the economy in the US. The final question is: "How would you fix things - what's the Gene Simmons stimulus package?" Gene replied, "I am the stimulus package, baby."

I agree. We may not be rock and rollers but we are our own stimulus package. Our careers are in our hands. We all have our own personal limits as to how far we will go to market our art. Some artists shudder at the thought of doing market driven art like landscapes of golf courses. Others license their images to everyone and everything. (Maybe they just don't want to live in Mom's basement!) So how far are you willing to go? Is there a happy compromise you can make? Are you really thinking outside of the box?