My current work plays with the struggle between simple vs complex, and easy vs hard.
I just read the book, “Love People Use Things” by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. In the following quote, they provide the origin of the words “complex” and “simple” and it blew me away.
According to the book:
“The Latin root of the word ‘complex’ is complect, which means ‘To interweave two or more things together.”
This applies perfectly to my artwork as it deals with the interwoven complexities of life.
Lately, I’ve been trying to simplify my art to the essence of what it is without losing what makes it unique and special. What began as an exploration of color has now become an exploration of form.
By contrast, according to the book:
“The word ‘simple’ shares a Latin root with the word simplex, which means ‘having only one part’.”
I am exploring the intersection between the two, where simple and complex meet.
I am struggling with the concept of letting things be easy right now, especially in my art. The reason why is that I’m at a point in my art where I am starting to like what I make and not hate it. I’m working on a series of pieces for the MARN Salon show and it seems like the concept is too simple, too easy to execute.
I’m creating two large-scale (for me) canvases that are 3′ x 4′ and I’m intimidated by them. I have never worked so large scale before and I don’t know how they’ll turn out. I’m used to creating complicated and complex designs. I created two smaller sample pieces and accidentally came across a new technique that is easier to do and looks good.
If it is easy, it doesn’t feel as valuable to me, for some weird reason. The value of art is not the effort put into a painting but the way it looks when it is done, or at least that what’s I’m trying to think.
There is a story (probably apocryphal) about Picasso on a train. Someone asked him to make a drawing for them, and it took him around 3 seconds to draw it on a napkin, he handed the drawing to the person and said that will be $100,000 (or something like that). The person who wanted the painting said, “That only took you 3 seconds to make, why are you charging so much for it?” Picasso said, “No it took me a lifetime to be able to draw it in 3 seconds.”
This story illustrates how the effort in building skills should not be devalued. Yes, painting has become “easier” to me, but that is after I’ve put time into learning it.
As they say, “The simplicity on the other side of complexity is priceless.” It feels a little like cheating to slap paint on a canvas and then draw my design over it, but I really like the results.
Challenge is one thing, but making things hard and complex for the sake of it is not a virtue. I need to embrace ease and flow. I am often told I’m too hard on myself, so letting good enough be good enough is hard.
How about you? Do you struggle with similar issues? If so, how do you deal with it?
If something (a style, a technique) comes easily to you and you enjoy doing it, then don’t stop. You may feel that it is effortless, but other people may struggle to do what you find so easy, so don’t make things harder for yourself by setting yourself unnecessary challenges. Above all, have confidence in yourself and your vision; few people will believe you if you do not believe in yourself.
I found this quote after publishing the original post and thought it went so perfectly with it that I dedcided to incorporate it.
I was cleaning out my basement last night when I happened upon an old notebook, I reread this entry that was written on 12/2/16 and I was blown away from the wisdom of my past self. I hope you can find some value in what I’ve written.
Persistence pays, small daily actions add up over time
Show up, consistent action over time is what works in the long run
Relationships & Connections are key, without them, life loses meaning
Keep my eyes on the big picture, don’t forget what I really want
Hope is a hard-won freedom
I have more and less time than I think
The labels I apply to myself and others are sticky, watch out for them
The long game is the only game that matters
Define my values or they will be chosen for me
The default action is always easier, but not necessarily right
Be true to myself
Letting my light shine inspires others to do the same
When I’m feeling afraid, that’s when I am making progress
Nothing good comes from my comfort zone
Worrying is wasted energy, invest in creation instead
I get to tell my story
Stopping being a victim is a choice I can make
“Why” is the most important factor
Lean into uncertainty, that’s where the good shit happens
Create value for others
While I am the hero of my own story, don’t forget that everyone else is as well
The things I judge others for are what I am afraid of in myself
Belief and mindset are important
Don’t drink the cool-aide find out what is real for myself
Real change is scary and hard and worth it
Don’t quit, keep moving forward
Don’t take things personally, other people don’t think about me as often as I do
Face my emotions, don’t stuff them down or run away
Doing the work feels good
Responsibility and work aren’t dirty words
I can grow up and still be authentic
Fun and play doesn’t have to end with childhood
Relationships take time and attention
My limitations are mostly self-imposed
Doing the tempting thing in the moment will feel good then, but it won’t in the long run
Money isn’t everything, but it is an important factor, so don’t ignore it, it won’t go away
Live in the paradox
I’m not alone
Keep learning and growing
I am stronger than I know
Either/or is usually a false choice
Be careful of what information I let in, I am more influenced by outside stimuli than I think I am
The world is interdependent, I can’t survive alone
Pick my companions carefully
Do what I enjoy doing
Open my heart to the right people
Never stop exploring
Life is an adventure if I decide it is
Less is more
Anxiety is an overstuffed bag
I don’t remember exactly what prompted me to write these words, but I’m glad I did. I hope you can find some use out of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. Please let me know in the comments section which one resonated the most with you.
Just because I like to make art and I’m good at it doesn’t mean that I need to be a professional artist. I’ve gone far enough down that path to realize it doesn’t lead to where I want to go, at least not anymore. I’ve put a lot of deep thought and reflection into this and I realized that I need to work more closely with other people and help them in a more direct way.
I’m following a newer, more on certain path. I want to follow this new path and see where it may lead me. All this aside, I know that there is no one “right” path, The continuing down the path of a professional artist is a valid path for me.
All that said, I’ve come to a point where I want to make a decision and pursue a new path, I’m not sure where it will lead, but this new path is calling me. I might as well tell you what I want to do, I’m still unsure what to label myself, but here goes: I want to help other creative entrepreneurs who want to take the next steps in their business but are feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities and options on the table and are feeling stuck, unable to move forward. I want to help them simplify and gain clarity through productivity tools and project planning.
Here’s some background, I have suffered from this exact problem for a long time and I’ve spent countless hours listening to podcasts and reading books about productivity in order to improve myself and grow. Through observing all that information, I have come up with systems and practices to help myself that I believe could benefit others as well. Along with that, I began working for Lisa England in July 2016 and have found that I have been able to help her clarify a project that she’s been wanting to start for a long time, create a realistic timeline, and break the project down into actionable next steps. I’m really enjoying doing this with her and if she needs my help doing this, my hypothesis is that other people will want the service as well.
Pursuing this new thing is exciting, it doesn’t mean it’ll stop making art altogether, I’ll just move my art to hobby status. I’m excited to move forward with this new venture. I’m unsure what to label myself, a coach, a consultant, or something else, but I’m not letting that stop me anymore.
I’m in this for the long game and in order to do so I need to set up a strong foundation. I’m looking for people to practice with so I can clarify exactly what I offer and who I want to work with. If you or anyone you know is struggling with feelings of overwhelm over everything you have to do, please feel free to contact me at Carley@carleyknight.com so we can get together and see if I can help you.
Yesterday, while biking, I had an idea. I decided to reframe my mindset around the word hard. Instead of saying that something is ‘hard’ I will instead say that it is ‘challenging’. Often when I say to myself that something is hard I will not do it, but if something is a challenge, then it is something that I can overcome.
I have a few challenges that I am facing now, my main one being feelings of overwhelm, feelings of fear, and feelings of uncertainty. In the end, I guess that my challenge is to move forward in the face of my feelings. My feelings are holding me back because it is challenging for me to move forward with my life with so much unknown.
The main thing I need to do is keep doing what’s already working, i.e. eating healthy, meditating, journaling, biking, etc. I have to keep reminding myself that I am already on the right path.
Right now, I have a lot of opportunities and a lot of stuff going well for me and I don’t want to screw up. I know that I need to write it all down to deal with the feelings of overwhelm, that once my ideas are out of my head I can deal with them. I need to remind myself that I am the one taking on this challenge and that challenges can be overcome.
I’m not a real artist, I’m just pretending to be an artist. There, I said it. Yes, I am making art, I went to art school (and then dropped out for financial reasons), my art is starting to get noticed, I’ve been accepted to art shows and I could probably get into a gallery if I tried, but I feel as though I’m a fake. I feel like at any moment I’m going to get called out, “She’s not a real artist, she’s just pretending to be one” and the jig will be up. The whole reason that I’m an artist is that I’m calling myself an artist and no one has caught me yet. The more progress I make in the art world, the stronger this feeling gets. Sometimes this feeling is enough to make me want to quit and change course.
The thing is though, I’m beginning to realize that I’m not alone in this. I heard that there’s a name for what I’m feeling, “Imposter Syndrome”, which according to Wikipedia is:
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. 
So knowing that this is a thing and I’m not alone helps me to feel better, it doesn’t solve the problem though, the feelings don’t just magically go away. I hope that by sharing my story this issue can start to be discussed more and by it being discussed, fewer people will feel alone. Does anyone else feel this way, and if so, how have you managed to overcome it? I would love to know, please comment below to share your experiences, as I would love to hear them.
I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’m not meant to be a visual artist, maybe this isn’t the path I want to go down anymore, maybe I want to be a writer.
When I think about it though, no matter what path I chose there will be struggle, uncertainty, hardship and pain. If I let that stop me now, I’ll just get to the same problem in a different place and it’ll be even harder to stick it out because I won’t have built up my grit muscles. I need to stick it out and keep going for my sake.
The type of life that I want to lead is a meaningful, challenging, fulfilling one where I’m able to keep growing as a person.
Maybe I don’t “have what it takes” to be an artist, but I’ll never know unless I actually try and make an honest go of it. If I really work at it and fail that will suck, but at least I’ll have done my best and I won’t wonder anymore. And if I try, I might succeed. That’s the scary part there. If I succeed I’d need to actually change, and change is scary. I need to rededicate myself to my work, like I said before, I need to lean into the fear and uncertainty.
But how? So far I don’t have a good answer, but I’m learning that by taking small steps and focusing on my daily actions instead of the bigger picture I’m feeling less anxious, calmer. As long as I do what I need to do, i.e. eat healthy, exercise, and meditate daily I’m better able think and be creative. When I don’t do those small things I start to fall apart and second guess myself. I need to figure out how I’m going to support myself in the future, sure, but now I need to focus on the present, not worry so much, and have faith that the bigger picture will take care of itself.
I read a book about uncertainty a while ago by Johnathan Fields, it was called “Uncertainty” and I probably should reread it. The book talked about uncertainty and how you can live in the face of it. I remember he talked about how daily rituals help sustain a creative practice. I also want to reread “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. A friend recently recommended it to me after I posted my last blog post. I had read it when I was in art school, but I can’t remember much from it.
Anyway, I need to put less pressure on my art, focus on making progress everyday. I miss making art, I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere I let fear rob me of my art making. I haven’t worked on my art in a few weeks and I miss it. looking back, I think what happened was I showed at gallery night and I didn’t sell anything so I got discouraged, I need to remember that the goal of making art isn’t to sell it, the goal is to make it. I need to think small: progress, not perfection.
Thanks for listening to my ramblings. I wrote this post as a journal entry to myself and I thought that maybe someone else might get something out of it. If you enjoyed this post please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Have you encountered similar issues? How have you managed to overcome them?
I just went to an art opening at the Walker’s point Center for the arts (WPCA). I realized something while I was there, it seems obvious, but it just clicked today. Great artists have a point of view. They have something to say, an idea that they want to convey. I need to figure out what I want to express. I have been afraid to articulate what I believe and what I have to say.
What topic do I want to explore now? The idea that there is an invisible interconnected interdependent web that connects everybody and everything across time and space. We are all connected to each other in a meaningful way. That sounds spiritual. I’m also interested in art itself, what makes something art? What role does art play in our society? What role does the artist play? I don’t have a good answer for myself. I need to redefine my world, what is possible? What do I believe? What unseen assumptions are holding me back? Those are fascinating questions to me.
I believe in questioning, following your curiosity, and that there is value in art. Expressing my own unique point of view is part of my job as an artist. One role that the artist plays is that of the questioner, the disruptor. I don’t believe in absolutes, black or white, the world holds so many shades of gray. In exploring opposing viewpoints I clarify my own. No one needs a wishy-washy artist, but at the same time, as soon as you are certain of something you are wrong. Painting doesn’t have to be my medium I think that I’ll return to doing to fiber and installation art.
The unseen relationships fascinate me. What can I explore that is interesting to me now that will bring value to others? What new spin can I bring to those age-old questions? I want to start a long-term project, Maybe about overcoming fear and the resistance, about showing up every day in the face of uncertainty.
Uncertainty will always be there, It’s what you do in the face of it that counts. What am I passionate about, what lights a fire under my ass? I wonder why I’m afraid to articulate so many things fully. I think it’s a fear of commitment, once I put something into words, it becomes concrete and real, even though stating an opinion is not an obligation to hold that belief forever. Having an opinion and being wrong isn’t the end of the world. In the end, I want to be known for something. I want to stand for my convictions, but at the same time I need to hold on loosely, I’m not a fundamentalist. Maybe I already know the answers to all my questions, I need to start asking the right ones.
When I ask myself, “What do I believe in?”, “What do I stand for?”, “What is my art is about?” and “What impact do I want to make on the world?”, I hear the fear and resistance whisper to me: “What if people don’t like it? How will you support yourself with that? How are you survive?.”
First of all, “everybody’s” opinion doesn’t matter to me, I need to choose a select group of people who I care about, Whose views are of value to me. Secondly, worrying about money hasn’t gotten me very far. I‘m not making money from my paintings now, and I’m not sure I ever will. Why not start doing something more interesting? Something that has a strong point of view, that wasn’t created from a place of fear, but from a place of love for the craft, from passion? I need to stop trying to do everything and just do what I’m good at, the future will take care of itself.
I need to let myself have ideas and dream big. I want to create meaningful art, I’ve been so afraid, I need to start stepping into myself. I can only create the art that I can create, I have to stop trying to create someone else’s art. Having a strong point of view is an asset, not a liability.
I have come to realize that doubts and fears will always be with me, and that it’s how I deal with them and move forward that counts. Moving forward in the face of fear is a definition of courage.
The fear and doubt I feel are a sign of the resistance. They are a sign that I am moving in the right direction. I need to lean into the uncertainty, fear, and risk in order to live the life I want to lead.
There are different types of fear, fear of failure, the unknown, death, success, fear of making the wrong choice, etc. The only thing that they have in common is that they are all in my head. Fear isn’t out there, it is inside of me.
Right now my main focus is getting healthy, long-term I want to be able to support myself through my art and lead a life of adventure while making a meaningful impact on the world.
Daily I struggle with making the right choices, leaning into the fear and uncertainty, I often make the wrong choice, I’m not perfect, but I am moving forward.
I believe that focusing on my health has helped significantly. I am meditating daily, I’m up to 20 minutes. As a byproduct of my daily practice I am better able to recognize my thoughts and feelings while I have them.