Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Progress

It's always nice as a customer or fan to see something in progress. I forget this sometimes as the artist, though, and forget to take pictures along the way.

For the last several months, I've been working hard to remind myself that the steps are often just as interesting as the finished piece, so I keep my camera handy for snapping some shots.

Seeing these "in progress" shots helps customers and fans really see what goes into making that oh-so-special piece they have. It also helps them really see that, yes, this is really handmade!

Don't forget to share your "in progress" moments with your fans sometimes too!

**All of the above pieces can be found at TuckooandMooCow's Etsy shop.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sense Diary ~ A Closer Look.

I am so thankful to have had such amazing art teachers when I was in college and there is a specific teacher (I will be sharing a blog entry featuring her work in the very near future) who inspired me to stretch my imagination and allow myself to draw outside the lines. It's about 13 years since I was going to community college and this year I felt the desire to return to jotting down ideas/inspirations/challenges into an artist journal, but not just an artist journal -  a sense diary.

Keeping a sense diary involves taking the concept of the artist journal a step further, where the artist not only sketches ideas that are milling around in their head, it's a record of making more intentional observations of mundane, everyday things... to always be seeing something different, and taking a closer look to see what makes up an object, or how things change from day to day.

Every week I will be sharing different artist journals/sense diaries from my own diary, other sources online and will be posting a challenge each week that will require keeping your own sense diary that you can write in, draw in, paste magazine clippings, pressed flowers, etc. but there will always be an underlying theme for the week.  I think keeping these diaries will stretch your imagination and help you create with a much larger revelation of everything that surrounds you.

I started my first entry by going through some magazines and finding textures and colors that intrigued me.  I love Anthropologie and was drawn to this gorgeous display so I pulled out parts that my eyes were particularly drawn to and wrote down thoughts of those things.  I also attached a little drawing I had intended to use for a locket, but it didn't work how I wanted it.   I like being able to keep a record of some things that don't work because they may work again some other time when working on a different project, or they may spark an entirely new idea.

This Week's Challenge - Sense Diary for 4/25-5/2:

Pick an ordinary object from your house and place it somewhere where it won't be disturbed.  Each day, observe and write down all that you notice about the object.  Think of everything and don't leave out things you might think are silly.  The small things matter just as much as the larger things.

So go purchase a brand new and fairly large sketchbook (which brings about good excuse to go out and buy one of those, right?) and have fun!  See you all next week! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Don't

Photograph by Madden Photography

I've been traveling a bit recently, and one thing (the only thing?) I love about the actual traveling part is that being in an airport or airplane for any amount of time allows me to catch up on reading. I haven't done a great job of setting aside time to read in my day to day schedule, so the flights I used to dread I now look forward to because it means I have some time to get lost in a book.

On my past couple of flights I finished Drive by Daniel Pink (an interesting read), which is all about what motivates us. At the end of the book Pink shares some tools for staying on track and keeping motivated. One stood out in particular, because it is very simple yet I could instantly see how it would be an effective tool. Most of us probably have a good idea of the things that distract us, but have you ever really organized those thoughts and written them down on a to-don't list? I hadn't!

The idea of making a to-don't list (credited to Tom Peters, btw) is so simple and easy to implement, especially if you already write to-do lists. I love that it's a tangible little reminder of the things we know we shouldn't be doing that suck up our time and energy. The next time you're writing a to-do list, why not make a separate column and jot down a few things that you want to avoid that day and just say no! Staying motivated and focused can be tough. Making a to-don't list is a great way to check your distracting habits at the door so you can concentrate and get more done (e.g, stop checking Facebook so you have more time to read besides just when you're on an airplane). ;)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Calm as still water (for the next 3 weeks)

I was not sure about what to write today...  I was looking for some inspiration and suddenly bumped into this photo.  I was so attracted by it.  I`m so like that right now.  I feel exhausted... and with a lot of things around me that need to be done, finished, organized, etc...

I`m reading "A song of Ice and Fire" since a couple of months... I`m starting the fifth book now (A Dance with Dragons) and one of my favorite characters is Ayra, a small girl, who suddenly is alone in the world due to the war that`s going on in the story... Before all her family was killed she used to live in a castle, and she was learning how to fight with a sword.  She is one of those girls who don´t like dolls and dressing with lacy dresses, she wanted to ride a horse and be able to fight with a sword so finally her father gave up and let her take some classes... I`m telling you all this because in the book, the character that was teaching her how to fight (Syrio Forel, one of my favorite ones in the story), he teaches her the following phrases: "Calm as still water", "Quick as a snake", "quiet as a shadow" and when she is all alone and in the most horrible dangers she keeps repeating them to get stronger... 

I`ve been doing that... with these phrases and other phrases of my own...  "you can do it", "balance it out", "time goes slow... not fast" and many others.  And this is just because I get really stressed all the time about all those things I need to do!!!! oh oh oh it`s always an emergency and I`m always doing million and one things at the same time and sometimes I think I don´t accomplish much you see... so why, o why if I was doing all those things at the same time at the end of the day I feel empty, exhausted and with a bunch of things to do still... Plus I always end up doing what I want to do and not what needs to be done, so that`s a problem too.. because I`ll have more thing to do the next day and so on, and on... and on...

Well... this is because my mind is not disciplined.. and this is what I need to do... I need to be "calm as still water", "quick as a snake" and "quiet as a shadow"...  and just right now I need to have something to eat because is midday and I haven´t had breakfast because I`m doing those million and one things I need to do!!!!! so that`s how I ended feeling like the woman in the photo...  (I even need to be discipline to eat and exercise!!!) ouf!

I guess what I really wanted to tell you all is I`m planning to have 3 weeks of hard work, discipline work, away from the computer (at least posting and checking in a discipline way), not taking custom orders until May 12th and focused in 2 big orders I have to finish by the 2nd week of next month (they are a big surprise).  So... I`m starting to feel the stress... and this time... Just this time... I won´t let it happen, I won´t finish like the woman in the photo... I`ll end these challenge in a better way... I`ll listen to Syrio Forel and I`ll keep repeating those phrases in my mind,  (they sooth me... really they do!)  

Have a good week everyone! above all have a productive week!!!

Cara Carmina

photo by: Keith Guy

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Write it Out

Follow Your Heart moleskine journal by PeacesofIndigo
 For the last few weeks, I've been journaling more. Not a private journal about my own thoughts and feelings on life (although, those enter in plenty), but a journal about where I want to be and who I want to become as an artist and business person.

Remember all of those countless times people have told you to write down your goals? Well, I challenge you to take it a step further: I challenge you to explore who you are as a business person and as a creative individual through journaling specifically about your work.

It's really helped me to realize where my weaknesses in time management are, to understand what works for me and what doesn't, and to be more aware than ever of where I want to go. Finding out where I want to go has been the best thing to come out of this for me.

I hope you'll take me up on my challenge!

*By TuckooandMooCow

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


yes, I have ants at home...

Spring is really happening now in Montreal and with its arrival a bunch of visitors arrive to our house uninvited because we live half a block from the St. Laurent River... (very nice ha?)  Among these visitors we have bees, spiders, flies (don´t like this ones) and ants....

The ants appear little by little... one after another show up in my studio.  My studio is the closest room to the balcony that faces the street and a huge Maple tree so that`s why they come there first... I like tho think they like my work... but being realistic I`m just the closest room.

They have arrived since 2 or 3 weeks ago and they haven´t stopped coming, in fact, they have arrived more and more often.  I`m starting to think we have to control this somehow... (we`ll talk to the landlord to see what he can do... as long as does not involve too much suffering for them... we are vegetarians and hate to kill anything...  maybe a sign that says "no ants allowed" would help and there would be no casualties)

Well... the point to all this ants story is that the other day while trying to photograph one of them... I started to think about their size, they are so small! less than an inch long.  We live in the 3rd floor... so somehow this tiny being climbs three floors... (human floors, in ants measurements that must be a lot more!)  I`m amazed about their tenacity... about their perseverance.   They are very determined, they have a goal in mind (whatever it may be) that makes them climb up... and they get to my studio!!!! all by themselves!!!!  amazing ha?

This whole ants situation has made me think of myself and my work.  I cannot but compare my artistic journey to an ant´s climb...  I have many goals for my work... and for myself as an artist.  So... I guess what I really wanted to tell you today is that I want to be like an ant!!!  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hitting Resistance and Overcoming It

Running Love, hand painted necklace by TuckooandMooCow
Working myself through a funk is a long and winding process. It seems so easy to be inspired when I'm in a peppy go-go-go attitude, but when I hit the wall and slump, I really slump.

The past month has been a bit of a study in this. Hitting resistance comes with the territory of being in a creative line of work. We thrive on bursts of energy which can last for hours or even years, but eventually we all hit the wall of resistance. Why do you think the phrase "writers block" is such a common one? We've all encountered it.

A few weeks ago, I decided I was going to make some big changes in my life first and let them work outwards. I'd noticed for almost a year the growing stagnation inside myself. It crept like a swelling river flooding over the banks of my veins and drowning me with its soul-sucking power. By the time my husband left to begin his career in the Air Force, it was all too easy to let it consume me.

After a little over a week accomplishing nothing I decided enough was enough and I sat down to take a serious look at my life. I realized that I'd been dragging my feet on things for a long time. I'd been gradually becoming more sedentary and becoming less peppy. I started to think, "I'm not sure I know me like this." I realized immediately that my body needed to move. Just like a puppy needs to be walked and run, so did I, so out I went.

For Love of Running, hand painted necklace by TuckooandMooCow

I ran and ran through the neighborhood until I was so tired I thought I might collapse. I kept it up for days...then that become a week... then more, and finally here I am four weeks later. As I ran each day I started realizing something: when my body moved, so did my mind. It was like I could physically push myself through that wall that resistance had built up in front of me! This gave me even more strength and courage to keep it up!

Resistance is a rough thing. Until reading through the book for our AAG Book Club, "The War of Art," I hadn't really put a name to that invisible barrier that was stopping me from doing what I needed to. I kept thinking that so long as I was functioning and capable that was enough. But it really isn't.

Are you stuck in a rut? I seriously encourage you to find some way to get your body moving whether that's running, dance, yoga, pilates, or jump roping! Your mind craves the energy your body provides. Don't ignore those puppy-like urges to play! As creative people we should be playing everyday to hold on to that child-like sense of wonderment and to keep the beast of resistance at bay.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Artist Coach

Last month I started seeing an Artist Coach! and I want to share my experience with you all because I`ve found it as a very enriching experience for me and my business.  For me personally seeing an artist coach has many purposes:  I would like to have a sense of direction in my business, I need to push my career forward and  I really want to improve my business skills as an artist which are not that great at the moment.  I`ve seen my coach 2 times already, first to introduce myself and my work to her and the 2nd for a workshop she gives called: "Jump Start your Art" (sound interesting ha?) So..... here is some of the info I got form this workshop that I found super interesting and I hope it helps you too!  

Business of Art - Required qualities and skills

- Creative vision & competency
- Strong desire for independence
- Self-confidence & self-reliance
- Versatility & resourcefulness
- Persistence, self-discipline & determination
- Organization, planning & time management
- Promotion - Sales skills
- Ability to take calculated risks
- Knowledge of your industry

She explained that as creative professionals we have to have three main things in our business:

- Creation & Production
We have to have something to sell ha? we have to have a product and this product has to be a good one, specially as an artist-designer you have to have coherence and a self recognizable style plus quality.  This is very important

- Marketing - Promotion - Development
You have to develop a brand and put it in the right marketplace for it to be successful, you have to be known and in order to do this you have to have promotional strategies.  Because lets face it, it doesn´t matter how good a product you can have, if no one knows it, no one will buy it and you will not have a business at all.  You have to be able to target your market and present your work to your target market in the best of ways to make it appealing.

-Governance (this is my less favorite of the three)
This is basically regarding to the business itself, numbers, taxes, business plan (do you have one, I don`t!), company structure, legal structure, etc...

So... at the workshop we had to put a % of time for these three different aspects of our creative businesses.  She explained you HAVE TO do the three of them in order to be successful and you have to be able to do them almost everyday (with different % of time and also depending of the season of the year, it can vary of course but you HAVE TO do them all).  I put 40% for creation and production, 40% for Marketing and 20% for governance... that is ideally you see, because right now my time is very much focused in the marketing and almost not at all in the governance and I`m getting a bit behind in the production.  That`s called time management (oh oh oh but I think you already have heard about that ha?) try to make a plan of how much time will you put in these three different baskets and stick to it...  I`m trying!!!!

And last but not least she gave us a list of people we NEED to surround us with to achieve our goals as a creative business person.

-  The public:  Fan and followers (advocates), buyers and employers-clients.

These are the people that will make our brand successful at the end, those who like it, those who buy it, those who tell their friends about it so they can also buy it.

- Your industry / community: Presenters, industry players (reps, bookers, agents, critics, curators, programmers, etc), industry organizations, networks and information portals, media (advocates), creative collaborators, expert professionals (graphic designers, publicists, lawyers, accountants, etc.), suppliers

In order for your business to be successful you have to be part of the industry you belong to, these is key to be successful, you have to get all the possible help from the people who know the business, who will do those things you don't know, you will only enrich yourself if you do so.

- Funders / Patrons: Granting agencies, sponsors, members, donors

Being an artist is not a very easy way to make money (we all know that already ha?).  If you get to have some sponsorship or a grant this will certainly help your business and there are many resources out there for artists, you should put a bit of time and effort to find them and get them.

I went out of the workshop feeling very accomplished as many of the people attending it were very young artists who had no clue about many of this things and are just starting their careers.  I really believe Cara Carmina is going in the right path and that gives me a sense of direction. I felt very proud of my hard work and also very happy to know many of the points she suggested we should do to improve our businesses I´m already doing them (applauses).  I need to change and improve many things and get to be a great time manager (working on it as we speak!!!! ain´t easy but I'm trying).

Being a professional artist is certainly not an easy thing.  Specially when you are the only one working (like me) on everything at the same time, but is not impossible either and I know I can only get better at it! Hope all this information is helpful for all of you!

Oh oh oh and I found this great article about Artist Coaching that is very interesting and I would suggest all of you to read!

Cara Carmina