Friday, April 06, 2007

throwing out the baby with the bathwater

A few days ago I heard a radio interview with a guy who has simplified his life to the point that he only has 40 things ... and I immediately sat up and took notice. There's some sort of crossed wire in my brain that causes me to want to throw out everything I own when I'm feeling any kind of stress, and I've been feeling all sorts of it lately. Fortunately the big neighbourhood spring cleaning pick-up happens in less than two weeks. I just wish I could find a way to make money at it, like the 40 things guy who, in finest American style, now has his own cable TV show. (And no, I don't do garage sales.)

I've been dabbling, experimenting, trying to find a niche like there's no tomorrow. Seems I'm always dabbling, experimenting, trying to find a niche. I threw out the most appalling attempt at collage (again) today. I love mixed media -- I just can't make any meaningful sense of it in my own practice. The smart thing would be to figure out a way to make money purging stuff and instead buy a lot of mixed media pieces with the money I make! But that still doesn't solve my creative direction problem.

I'm beginning to realize that my current 'creative investigation' (read: obsessive web surfing) can be divided into two fairly distinct fields: art and design. It never even occurred to me that design was on my mind until I discovered myself compulsively checking out design blogs. And then I made the connection between all the really successful Etsy artists and what's popular in the design world. And I started looking more closely at the Gudrun Sjoden and IKEA catalogues lying around and then there was this interior design article in a local newsmagazine that said "It's all about birds this year..." and like an Easter chick I suddenly emerged from my shell to discover the world of design and its trends. Where's it been hiding all my life and what can I do with it? I've had a fairly narrow focus on fine art these past few years but, let's face it, the number of people who make a living in the design world make those of us attempting to make a living producing Real Art look like we might have a screw or two loose.

I'm not ready to throw in the towel quite yet. Doing what you love is important, in spite of what your parents might say, but when the government is still managing to ding me on the small amount of money I made selling my work last year (hiring an accountant turned out to be a waste of time and even more money) I'm throwing things out like there's no tomorrow! (And there won't be any beautiful new inkjet printer walking in the front door to replace those purged items anytime soon.) Just when my fretting reached a crescendo, though, I decided to take a break and head to Chapter's with my husband and son. I tried to stay away from the art section but couldn't resist, and this book practically jumped off the shelf into my hand:

I think this is the art therapy I've been looking for. The first chapter has been so good that I've been savouring it slowly, afraid I won't internalize every single last important message.

Meanwhile, I have also come across a couple of good, completely unrelated blog posts that still somehow address the same topic, either directly or obliquely. Check out Christine Kane's wise words and then pop over to Ian Lidster's blog. I'm feeling better already. Now, I wonder if I can get that armoire back that I gave away...


Blogger Peter said...

Funny thing isn't it? I've been throwing away LOTS of stuff too. I don't know where it all comes from. I'm going to check out that book. And, hey, any chance of seeing more of your sketchbook pages?

7/4/07 3:47 a.m.  
Blogger Cream said...

I really enjoyed the book review.
Obsessive web surfing! That's me at the moment...
Searching for direction.

7/4/07 3:50 a.m.  
Blogger Angela Rockett said...

I love that book! I checked it out from the library read it last year, then bought it for an artist friend for Christmas. Alas, I don't own a copy myself yet, but it's on my list to own.

Another great book on simplifying (to the extreme) that I just picked up last week is "Radical Simplicity" by wandering artist Dan Price. Funny, the theme of simplifying seems to be on my mind a lot lately too. Purging closets and shelves. Just checked out "Not Buying It" from the library yesterday.

Also, I just found Christine Kane yesterday too. Guess I'll go check out Ian's blog too.

7/4/07 9:08 a.m.  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I'm going to request this book from the library right after I write this comment. Thanks for the link. I also enjoyed reading Christine and Ian's blog posts.

I have also been purging, but there's no way in hell that I'll ever get down to 40 items. I'm not even sure I could choose the top, dog, house, car, pot and spoon to cook with, bed, towel, light, see my 40 items are being allocated quickly - I'm not sure there's room for anything art related. I do admire someone who could live such an ascetic life.

I often have this guilty feeling of contributing to the consumerism of society since I make items for sale. I've come to the conclusion that it's okay though. It's a free society and I liken art purchases as a spiritual one...a connection with a fellow human being, unlike mass prouduced items.

7/4/07 10:06 a.m.  
Blogger kj said...

you are a searcher, andrea. that is a wonderful part of you. i know only too well how hard it can make living in the real world, but hey, it's a lot better than being numb.

i wish i could help you find the right mix of passion and $$$.


7/4/07 10:11 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Oh oh another book to buy - I'd have trouble getting my book collection down to 400 let alone the rest of my possessions down to 40... we could do with yet another declutter - the problem is that as soon as I've made space I see it as space that needs things to go in it...

What is it that isn't working for your with your mixed media work?

Have you tried just making a collage that doesn't have to work in any way at all - giving yourself real permission to just make and not worry about the outcome - just put in what you love and don't fix things with glue too soon either!

7/4/07 11:57 a.m.  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

Why the hell don't you do garage sales?

7/4/07 2:06 p.m.  
Blogger CS said...

40 things! That's so hard to imagine, and I think I'm way less pack-ratty than most. But, something to think about.

7/4/07 6:31 p.m.  
Anonymous Beki said...

You will probably see me at some crossroads you pass as I am a searcher too!

8/4/07 4:07 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Peter: Call it spring fever. My sketchbook pages are very dull -- just thumbnails and ideas for paintings, nothing serious.

Cream: Tell me if you find it, then point me!

Angela: Stop! So many books; so little time... :)

Cynthia: Art for the walls and applied arts are very important in my opinion :). It's the collecting of things like DVDs, shoes and thematic collections, etc., that I wish more people could get over. It's especially tough when you live with a packrat. But to throw out his stuff I'd have to toss him, too, and he's still useful to me...:)

KJ: I can always count on you to read the message rather than just the words. Thanks.

Caroline: OK -- books are important, too. As for the collage thing, I haven't figured out where my problem is, but I definitely need to give myself more playtime.

Brian: I tell the world that one of my charitable works is to donate my best stuff to various charities, but I suspect that I'm also a little bit lazy... :)

CS: The question is, which do you get rid of first -- the older child or the younger one? :)

Beki: I promise to wave!

8/4/07 8:23 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Have you tried starting with copies of your own paintings to make into collages?

Just printouts - nothing precious - but images that you can already relate to.

Would you like me to have a go at making a digital collage from your pics - I've often fancied doing that but you keep you rights all reserved - but that way your images would be going into a collage... I don't know... just an idea...

8/4/07 8:27 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Brilliant idea, Caroline. Please do! I would love to see what you come up with.

8/4/07 8:34 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Okay - thanks - I'll see what happens in the next few days... I'll email you whatever I do first so you can decide if its okay to go public with... oh what fun!

8/4/07 9:42 a.m.  
Blogger Andrew Thornton said...

My sister, Sheila must have dated the guy with only 40 things. She tried to do that. The only problem was that at the time she was living with me and I have been biten by the pack-rat long ago and like to horde things. Lots of things. So as soon as she would get rid of one thing, I would come back with ten, saying, "Isn't this neat! I don't know what it is, but it sure is neat!"

And I think that for the most part, those books are rubbish. Not to knock on the author or authors of the genre, but I think there is too much of an emphasis being placed on being a "successful" or "celebrated" artist. We all go through funks and we all make crap work... the key is to keep making things and eventually it will solve itself.

9/4/07 1:40 a.m.  
Blogger Joyce said...

I guess the irony of "simplifying" by having to count obsessively, and manage your own television show isn't worth mentioning....

North American culture- BAAAH!

9/4/07 5:24 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Andrew: I think both hoarding and purging can become psychological categories. By the way, I'm not sure what genre you think this book is but it's not a self-help book. It is, ostensibly, a work of criticism and memoir written by the art crtic for the New York Times.

Joyce: Hee hee -- good point -- and are you implying that 'North American culture' is an oxymoron? :)

9/4/07 6:55 a.m.  
Blogger Janvangogh said...

I am finding myself checking the design blogs as well.

What do you think is the next trend? I am starting to see references to bugs or insects in general.

9/4/07 9:14 a.m.  
Blogger Bibi said...

Hmm, I can relate to a lot of this. I often have the desire to get Just Get Rid of Everything ... I like thing a clutter-free environment because it helps me think more clearly.

I hired a coach several years ago, and one of the first things she did was have me get rid of everything in the house and my studio that I haven't touched in a year to create 'space' for new creation.

I also read that creative mental clutter can occur when output is being surpassed by input ... so I stop using the net / watching tv etc / using the phone for a couple of days, and I focus just on output (although I will have background music).

I'm a bookaholic, and have banned myself from buying any more until I can get rid of several dozen that I have yet to read!

Sorry ... that was entirely too much input! But at least it was output for me ha ha.

12/4/07 10:11 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Jan: Yes! That and human anatomy.

Bibi: Input good. I'm good about the "buy soemthing, throw soemthing out" technique but haven't mastered the art of de-cluttering mentally. I must think on that more. :)

13/4/07 9:14 a.m.  
Blogger CS said...

Ummm - the older one when he leaves for college? And not a minute before - I'll take a little clutter to keep the kids!

15/4/07 7:02 a.m.  

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