some of this some of that

The first thing I want to say is that if you are following me and my ramblings is
“Thank you very much!” The second thing I want to say is “I’m sorry for the schizophrenic content.” In the world of art I am trying to tackle a variety of projects which use a variety of styles.

Sometimes my writing will be about the abstract paintings I am trying to prepare and at other times about the political/topical cartoon I am working on. I feel very strongly about both projects.

Both are equally important to me and balance each other out. If I am not feeling up to painting I can write or draw a strip and vice versa.

Today is a comic strip day and I have several more planned. The strip has its own Facebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/asskickinjim  so if you enjoy the strip feel free to “Like” the page. I also have just launched my own site which covers all aspects of my art.  http://www.asskickinjim.com

The new strip is a “commentary” on the increased threats coming from the leadership of north Korea.

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Who and what too

In a continuation of the “Who you know” theme the story continues. 

When visiting an educational arts program in my old work area I touched base with the cafe owner where my work will be in October. I visited some of my other old customers and stopped at a cafe/deli in another town. This cafe also regularly had displayed art on the walls but didn’t seem to have any kind of schedule for showing art. I was especially friendly with the deli workers as this was routine place to stop for lunch. It was lunchtime when I stopped and kind of busy, but stuck around to talk with my old friends. As an aside i asked Becky one of the women who works there about any kind of art schedule they may have. She immediately put me on the phone with the owner and we talked a few minutes, she asked me to submit samples via email. Which seems to be the way things are done these days.

I was away over the weekend but emailed her some samples the following Monday. I received a reply the next day saying she would put me down for May. MAY!! Today is the last day of February  and I need to have work for a small cafe in May and a larger cafe in October and then this happened…

This past Tuesday I was out to lunch with my father and his financial advisor. Lunches I usually find boring at best but I have a small amount of money invested with the same company so it might be in my interest to show up. The conversation weaved in and out from finances, the snow pile up here in Connecticut, family etc. It was a good lunch. The financial advisor asked about the artwork I was doing admitting he knew nothing about art. While I dabble in a few things including illustration and cartooning I mentioned the Fine Art, Abstract work I had been concentrating on and the upcoming shows. He said he was interested in doing an organic wine tasting to gain some new clients and that it would be at an Art Gallery. Maybe he could put some of my work on display and have someone talk about organic wine and someone to talk about the art. 

Another possibility from a who. When I show the work it usually keeps them interested and leads somewhere. 

I said in a previous post I am really not very good at the WHO part of “who you know” but I have used some past and current connections to make the best of things. 

I have always worked better with pressure and deadline looming and now I have signed myself up for both. The Who part has worked out surprisingly well now WHAT I do with it is the big question.Image

 

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Who and what?

The age old saying is: “It’s who you know”. I was never good at knowing who it was i was supposed to know. For many years I did a job that made me get to know certain people. It was a service job. I was actually pretty good at it considering I think of myself as antisocial. I provided a service, I had a routine, I was in the door made some small talk, cracked a joke and out the door to see my next customer. I did this same job, working with many of the same people for nearly eight years. 

The last year of the job things changed drastically. The workload went up and the pay went down. I was more busy than I had ever been. These small interactions with my customers were quickly being lost to the numbers game. Customer service took a back seat to productivity. When i made the decision to leave I informed my customers that I was once again going to pursue art. Most were extremely surprised. They had no idea I had an artistic background. It had nothing to do with the job I was currently doing and wasn’t a very big part of my life. They were mostly excited for me and wished me success although they would miss the service I provided.

Before leaving I showed some older paintings to a cafe owner who regularly showed artwork in his place of business. This was a new experience for me as i had only done editorial assignments in my previous art life. I wanted to drop the portfolio and run. I didn’t want to try and read his facial expressions or gauge his interest as he looked at my paintings. He looked through the book made some vague remarks. “I love the colors.” I believe was one. He told me he was pretty booked but that October of 2013 was the next open date. I was floored. I was excited and nervous but felt boosted immediately. My logic was: he gets a percentage of whatever sells. So he must think something might sell. 

I got my foot in the door with the who. I did have a professional relationship with this person but it also turned out to be what I did that mattered in the end. I did a completely unrelated job but the WHO from that job got me WHAT I wanted in a completely different arena. Image

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The Push

Sometimes we need that push or maybe better yet a shove or even a swift kick in the ass! As an Artist this is sometimes hard to admit. I’m an artist right? i should be doing this for the pure love and joy I get from working. The pencil on the paper, the feel of the paint on the brush, the mixing and combining of color, the happy mistakes that happen when the brush isn’t clean and we find ourselves with an unexpected shade or texture.

That is the magic of the process, the doing. My problem is getting to the doing. The ideas are usually present and the materials plentiful but to sit down(or stand up, I do a lot of my work standing). Working at home alone with no real deadlines and distractions galore is a terrible combo for me. 

When I did regular illustration work I had basically a two week window. A week for ideas and sketches and another for the finish. I kept me on track and focused, without that it is much harder.

I have a gallery show in October. I’ve been doing the work but it is still a long way off  and i have a hard time pushing myself to do more work. I’ve applied to another cafe/gallery and am hoping that comes through. It may sound insane but if they told me they had an opening in May it might be the best thing that could happen. It would light that fire I need. That is the scary part, to be doing the work because you have to but not because you always want to. It causes doubt as an artist. I feel pure joy when i’m working I just don’t always have the push to do the work.

What do you do to stay motivated, focused, and working when the drive isn’t there?

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PANIC

I’ve dealt with anxiety my entire life, at least I think so. I didn’t really realize this until recently. I thought it was something that started in my New York City college days. I remember being in my one room rental on 31st street and waking in the middle of the night agitated, hopping off the bed and wandering in circles, heart racing and perception skewed. Things stretched as if I were ten feet tall. That was the first time I recall the night panic that I so often suffer from.

In reality in happened in different forms throughout the years. It was stomach pains when I struggled with math in the fourth grade. It was nausea when I was visiting an unrequited love in Boston. We went to the top of the John Hancock building and I thought for sure I was going to throw up on the elevator. It was claustrophobia as I sat in the lecture hall with three hundred other students taking my Art History final exam. I felt like I was trapped in the wide open,that everyone knew I was going to rattle apart at any moment.

 My first real full blown panic attack came at the end of a relationship. It wasn’t even that serious but in my head I made it something it wasn’t. I had tickets to a concert that night and the person I was seeing told me she didn’t think it was going to work out. I went to the concert after, determined to have a good time. It was Morcheeba at Irving Plaza. I remember it being a good show and that one member drank an entire bottle of wine during the performance. The panic didn’t happen at the show or the train back to Queens but early the next morning. I awoke agitated like I had in the past, tossing and turning trying desperately to relax, which just made things worse. I got up to shower and shave and found myself staring into what I thought was a funhouse mirror. My right side numb all reality skewed. I had never experienced anything like it. I thought for sure I was having a stroke or heart attack but somehow I finished  my morning routine got dressed and went to work. I think I went to an ER in the city but don’t really remember. I do remember one nurse almost laughing when I mentioned stroke  and that I was “too young” to have a one. 

Late night anxiety and panic has been the format my mind decided was the best way to deal with issues and stress ever since. 

It has reared its head in an especially ugly fashion the last few weeks. Starting as agitation and working its way to the most severe panic attacks I have ever experienced as of last night. I have a great therapist whom i will see tomorrow and a psychiatrist who can hopefully prescribe me something better or stronger than what I take now for anxiety. 

I had means and methods of calming myself during these episodes (including drawing) but they have recently fallen woefully short. I’ve gotten advice from friends and given things to try, really looking for answers anywhere. I’m not really pro or anti medication but understand better after last night why people self medicate. I would have done almost anything to be back in control of myself. Even thinking I couldn’t stand to live this way for very long. When you can’t escape from your own head where can you go to feel better? 

I’m determined to get a grip on things.  In many ways I’m in a better place now than I have been in a long time. I have more direction and passion in my life but I have also taken more risks which have yet to pay off. The balancing act is a precarious one. Image

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Second thoughts, second chances

Second thoughts, second chances. I think everyone has second thoughts but not many of us get second chances or when we do we don’t realize it. I know all the cliches about hindsight is 20/20 and “Don’t look backward you are not going that way” but I have a wandering wondering mind. So I sometimes look over my shoulder; sometimes at the choices i’ve made and sometimes to see what might be coming up behind me to bite me in the ass.

In a previous post I mentioned how I ended my art career by my own hand. I could also say: I let the terrorists win. The events of 9/11 were the straw that broke the camels back. New York City was wearing me down already. What had been the greatest place in the world during my years in college lost some of its luster when it became my place of employment for a variety of reasons. Commute, money, being the top reasons among others. After 9/11 I was done. I was unhappy and frankly scared. As an artistic creative type I have a very vivid and overactive imagination. Seeing myself being blown to smithereens by a suicide bomber during my 45 minute subway commute (one way)  was a daily occurrence. I decided it was time to leave and so I did. In an almost unbelievably complete way. The end of October 2001 I packed all my worldly belongings in a van and drove home to Connecticut. Using one garage bay at my parents house as a storage unit. I returned the van(from Barn Rentals in Queens, what a piece of shit) spent another few nights in Queens and moved back to my hometown. 

I had spent the almost all of the previous 8 years in NYC. Work and then school. I made great loyal friends who shared many of my ideals, interests and passions. I was happy, I was accepted and I was pursuing the one thing I thought I was ever any good at: Art. In the span of a months time I gave it all up. The friends, the art, the dreams. I maybe returned to see those friends once or twice more in 2001 and I was gone. In the few times I returned after that I don’t think I even bothered to try and get in touch old friends when I was there. I saw some of them again during a wedding a few years later but that was about it.

Some friends kept in touch or they tried. It was often a one way street, my side being a dead end. I didn’t see how that part of my life mattered anymore. It didn’t have the same dreams or goals I used to. I didn’t have anything in common with my friends from college/nyc. I think some of it was based on shame, based on the fact I had given up. I had nothing to add to the conversation. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy but I also wasn’t very happy. I took pride in my job each day but wasn’t proud of the job I was doing. To me it wasn’t worth talking about. It was something I did. I lived with that mentality for many many years. 

I probably would have stayed at the job I was doing indefinitely had things not changed in a major way. ( Originally it was a 5 year plan:”i’ll stay 5 years and move onto something different and better, this is just for now.” When things went bad it was heading towards 7 years). I knew i had to leave I had to change; it was no longer going to work. Immediately art popped back into my head. I like art. I got paid for art. It was the only thing I was ever good at(but was I still?). I stayed at this job for another year. Each month reinforcing the fact that I needed to leave. I needed to change. There was no way to stay. 

This is where second thoughts comes into play. What if I had been better at keeping in touch? What if i had taken more trips to NYC? What if I had some fun? Maybe this job I took so seriously, that I devoted so many of my hours, days and weeks to would have seemed more bearable had I allowed myself some enjoyment. I remember going to a Christmas party and meeting a girl who had mutual friends. We hit it off. But I had closed the door on NYC and never pursued it. Would a few dates I the city have killed me. Probably not. So the second thoughts were many.

The second chances I can thank my friends for. My loyal friends who shared my ideals, interests and passions. The friends I thoughtlessly abandoned. The friends whom I was too ashamed to keep in touch with. They welcomed me back with open arms. After 10 years in limbo I decided It was okay to get back in touch with them and  show my face. They didn’t ask why I didn’t call or write or email. They didn’t accuse me of being rude,a bad friend or a self centered prick. One of the first questions I got was “When are going to visit?”. The level of acceptance was overwhelming and humbling and lets me know I had and still have  amazing friends and friendships that  can’t be replaced.

That finally happened in June of 2012. In what has been one of the most interesting times of my life. A time of growth,exploration, connection, immense happiness, some sadness, many answers many more questions. 

A second chance has somehow been granted. A chance I don’t always feel I deserved or have yet  earned but one I promise not to wasteImage

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Social Media and Networking

One issue as an artist is the ability to sell yourself and network. I think it is fair to say that a number of artists find that  the marketing aspect of being creative is not easy. As a much younger artist or someone who wanted to be an artist my idea was that I would be hidden away in some studio space and left alone to create. This is not how things work. Locking oneself away in a studio might produce a good amount of art but what do you do with it when it is finished? Hide it under your bed? Store it in the Attic? If you want to make a living as an artist the art needs to be seen, if you want the art to be seen you need to interact with other people. 

Today the ability to have the work seen is really greater than ever. Anyone with a camera phone can take pictures of their art and upload it for the world to see. This can be a huge positive and a huge negative. Unknown talent, amateur talent, have the possibility of being discovered. This creates the attitude of if they can do it why can’t I? So what does that create? More and more people make the attempt but more and more people also gum up the works with inferior work. Somehow you must use everything at your disposal to get the work seen. Be consistent, be relentless, have focus and discipline when it comes to promoting yourself as an artist. 

I will fully admit I haven’t quite got the complete hang of this yet. (After all this blog isn’t even a week old) I kept my Facebook page mostly personal so I wouldn’t miss posts by the people I really consider friends. But if you want to work in an industry similar to those you went to college with my advice would be to friend as many of them as possible to increase your professional network. Facebook has alerts for the people whose posts you really want to see, just use those to keep in touch with friends. I do most of what needs to be done but keeping up to date on Social Media can be a full time job within itself. I have the following accounts in the world of social media: Facebook, A Facebook fan page, Twitter, Instagram, Deviant Art, WordPress, LinkedIn, An Alumni page, a personal website and probably some others I don’t even recall at the moment. That is a lot of places to promote yourself for basically nothing. Consistency is the key. Keeping things updated and connected. 

When I Instagram do I share it on Facebook and Twitter? Is my blog connected to my LinkedIn profile? Is the artwork on the Alumni page up to date? Are people stealing my images from Deviant Art? Being that many of these services are free is my work protected? Should I be trying to sell my work through Instagram or Facebook? 

The ability to promote is there and much of it is free but it isn’t as easy as it seems. I am curious to hear what other artists have done in the world of social media to promote themselves. what works? what is a waste of time? 

Here is a strip I did when Instagram announced it was going to own and sell the images people posted using the Instagram App. Image

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Up and Down

Up and Down. I guess it is the way of life. The way of the world. One day you are up the next day you are down. For me it sometimes goes from morning to afternoon. Unbeatable in the morning, beaten in the afternoon. This was yesterday. I felt very positive about the possibilities in the morning. I had just received my “promotional” books the day before, one for my paintings and another for the”I’ll kick Your Ass” comic strip. I felt like things were happening, moving and could be poised to take off. Naive and silly thoughts considering my past experiences in trying to promote art.

Maybe because I had gotten a haircut the day before and updated my wardrobe the week before I felt things were changing. I was making moves, but was I really? A new haircut always cheers me up. Crazy right? 

I went to Barnes and Noble to do some magazine research the way I had done years ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of Illustration still being used in magazines today. But somewhere along the way doubt crept it. After eating my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookie and drinking my Caramel Macchiato I sat in the cafe with some magazines trying to find the mastheads. I began to lose steam. What was the point? Would the books even get looked at? Would they be returned? (I will do postcards in the future but for the strip a book seemed like the best idea). I got what I came for but drove home despondent. As much positive feedback as I receive on all three fronts illustration, painting and the comic the battle still somehow seems completely uphill. That combined with doubts of the day in my personal life seemed to be too much. I briefly considered hopping the train from Connecticut to New York City and maybe hook up with some friends or just play it by ear. Trips to the city almost always cheer me up as well. Money being an issue I decided against it.

I did regain some momentum and finish three comic strips I had started the day before. Scanning them and cleaning them up in Photoshop. I ate a horrible dinner and went to bed. Doubt weighing heavy.

I started up and ended down. I’ll see what this week brings.Image

 

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Norovirus strip

norovirusSince I have introduced the “I’ll kick Your Ass” strip in a poor manner I think I should post an accurate version of what the strip really is. The strip is sometimes political, sometimes pop culture centric sometimes nonsensical. It is one of the variety of styles I am exploring in my artwork. To see more strips you can visit the fan page on Facebook.

http://www.Facebook.com/asskickinjim

This is the latest. where AKJ takes on the Winter Vomiting Disease aka Norovirus

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Yesterday and Today

My art career was effectively ended by my own hand  somewhere in 2001. I want to say around the month of July. I did a full page Illustration for a magazine which I believe was called Utah Business Monthly. It wasn’t my best work, I was uninspired and don’t feel I gave one hundred percent. Earlier in the year I had taken out a page in the Directory of Illustration, which in hindsight was a big mistake. Until this point I had done targeted postcard mailings to magazines and book publishers I feel my work would be best suited to. The results were not overwhelming but it was a steady build. With the lack of response from the directory and the poor work on the Utah job i was in a bad place. I was also working in NYC at the time doing a job I liked but didn’t love. The commute was long, the money wasn’t great and after almost eight years in the city I was feeling burned out from almost every direction. 

I was on my way to getting a promotion at work. I was to become a full member of the photo department instead of the studio assistant job I had currently held. I would have more focus, better pay, maybe a new attitude. This was the end of Summer of 2001. The events of September 11th took place and my world along with everyone else’s was turned upside down. My offices were located only a few blocks from the World Trade Center. I took either the 6 train downtown or the N train to the WTC to go to work. 

Sometime in the future I may recount that entire day. It is burned into my memory in a series of still photos that still play in my head like a slide show from time to time. 

For now I will share a comic strip I did that briefly recounts the day. The “I’ll Kick your Ass” strip is something I have brought back from the college days. This isn’t the greatest introduction as it is not a typical strip. i will share more of them also in the future. Image

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