You Are Here

http://dornob.com/you-are-here-3-real-life-works-of-digital-map-inspired-art/

Apparently some really nerdy (aka awesome) artists do projects based on digital map graphics. Check out more here.

You are here.

For the last few months this has been a kind of mantra for me, something I go back to when I am feeling lost or overwhelmed. It centers me and reminds me of my place in the world, the space I take up in it. It gives me perspective. It gives me freedom. It makes me appreciate what is around me and it makes me feel like I’m part of something that matters. Plus, it’s map nerd-ery – always a bonus in my eyes.

You are here reminds me that I take up space in the world – actual, physical space. That I am part of the world – glued to it by gravity, breathing it in, pooping it out. No matter how much time I spend in my head, the reality is that I am here, physically present in the world, taking part in it and sharing it with everyone else –  even on the days I wish I wasn’t.

You are here reminds me that the space I take up is a space that no one else can. I am the only collection of these molecules and these experiences in all of time and space (Maybe. I guess statistically and astrophysically speaking there might be another one of me. I’d really like to meet her). At moments that perspective makes me feel entitled, but more often it makes me feel like part of a much bigger picture. It makes me feel a responsibility to respect the fact that I am here, that I do exist, that I have a presence and that it’s my job to make the most of it. It makes me very grateful.

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You are here reminds me that I have choice. I imagine myself on one of the walks I did in London and remember the excitement and overwhelming sense of curiosity I felt when I came to an intersection full of streets I’d never seen before. You are here means I have the choice. At any given time, in any given part of my life, I am always standing at the intersection of choice. I can dive into whichever option looks the most appealing or exciting to me at that exact moment. That’s insanely liberating.

You are here reminds me not to push myself too hard. I want to be really good at everything and I very regularly compare myself to people who are way ahead of me in the game (based on my completely arbitrary calculation) – much to my emotional detriment. You are here reminds me that everything is a process, that I am where I am at, no more, no less. Sometimes I can settle into that, be comfortable being where I am. Other times it causes ridiculous frustration. But you are here is a fact. It’s a reality check. It doesn’t judge or enable. It just is. You just are. You can’t argue with it, which I find huge relief in.

You are here reminds me that there is no competition in life, there is no final destination to which we are all running, trying to beat each other along the way. There really isn’t. There are billions of us, all with our own goals, prospects and concepts of success and achievement. There is no race, there is no competition, therefore there is no need for comparison. I am where I am at. You are where you are at. We are. We can help each other out or share our story, but we are not going the same places. And that’s a good thing.

It’s a good thing, maybe the most important thing, because you are here reminds me that I am not alone. I am one pin on the map. One person moving around, living my life, trying to improve myself and the lives of the people around me. I take up the space I take up, I am a unique individual with my own set of choices and challenges. But so is everyone else. We are all doing the same thing. We are all finding our way, making our mark on the map. When I zoom out and see it all, when I let myself be one tiny dot in the confetti of beautiful people living perfectly ordinary lives, I get a true sense of what it actually means to be.

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Curiouser and Curiouser

I’m a curious person. I love things that make me go, “Hmmmm, that’s interesting…” And I love how digging into them often opens up all new avenues for me to pursue. I love the playfulness, the possibility that curiosity brings. Yet I often find myself writing off my curiosity as a fun but, ultimately, useless thing. I push aside my curiosity in the pursuit of something I am told is far more meaningful: passion.

For a long time, I’ve felt an overwhelming pressure (both internally and externally) to “follow my passion” in life. Far from being the rewarding and exciting adventure it is often billed as, however, it feels more like an impossible and thankless task, one that I would even describe emotionally crippling.

The time and energy I have spent looking for my passion, reading about it, filling out worksheets to try to capture it has left me feeling exhausted and desperate. It always feels just out of reach, something I could grasp if only I kept at it, approaching it from different angles, like a buttery kernel of popcorn that has slipped between the cushions.

Enter: Elizabeth Gilbert

A couple of days ago, a friend shared a video with me that freed my mind from the pursuit of passion. In the video, Elizabeth Gilbert, a human who I admire more all the time, describes it like this:

You spend a lot of your life having people tell you to follow your passion. It’s nice advice, it’s heart-warming advice, it’s great advice — if you happen to have one that is very clear and obvious.

Sometimes it feels cruel and all it does is make you feel even worse and more left out, because you’re like, ‘I would if I knew what it was.’

If you’re in that position right now… forget about passion.

Follow your curiosity. It might lead you to your passion or it might not. You might get nothing out of it at all except a beautiful, long life where all you did was follow your gorgeous curiosity. And that should be enough too.

As I processed this idea (in the shower, where all the good thinking happens), I felt an analogy that made the whole thing really click for me and helped me let go of this desperation I have to find my passion.

Prince Charming.

Disney princesses are told that there is a prince who will come, sweep them off their feet and make their life worth living. He could appear anywhere at any time, but when they see him, no matter the circumstance, they will just know. Their eyes will lock, their hearts will sync and they will be one and the same being from that moment on, living happily ever after in bubble of uncontrollable happiness.

When people talk about following your passion, they use imagery like this too.

Just as the Prince Charming myth leads us to ignore every other person along the way who isn’t “The One,” the passion myth makes us ignore our curiosity. Instead of being happy playing the field – having flings, sleeping around, dating the bad boy, snogging a stranger in a shitty pub – we sit in a corner waiting for this knight in shining armor to come and find us. Or even worse, we go desperately looking for him in everyone we see (that’ll be the option I went for).

I am exceedingly guilty of trying to shoehorn my curiosity into a passion. I find something interesting and I tell myself that this must be the one! The thing I’ve been waiting for! The thing I am supposed to do with my life. Finally!

It usually lasts about a week.

Letting go of passion and the idea that it will make you whole is as exhilarating as that lightbulb moment you have after a breakup when you realise you are free to do whatever you want, with whoever you want, for as long as you want.

There’s freedom in that moment. And that freedom sounds far more interesting than spending the rest of my life looking for something perfect – especially when the imperfect things make for far better stories.

Not Too Shabby

Hi all,

Long time no chat. As it turns out, there are certain things in life that suck the creative life force out of you pretty quickly. I have been in the thick of one of those things for the last month and a half and am happy to announce that I finally walked out the door and will never look back.

Hooray, huzzah and all the other happy, onomatopoetic sentiments one can muster!

This liberation has allowed my mental imagery to shift back to bursts of color, fanciful designs and long-shelved project concepts. One such whim is a series of Oman-based postcards I’ve had floating around in my head for quite some time. I saw visions of these over the summer, but, as is so often the case, when my vision is clearest my resistance is strongest.

My problem is that I’m not an artist. I mean I AM an artist, I have the soul of an artist, the inclinations of an artist, the desire to make art central to my life…but artists are just so so cool and talented, right?

I am NOT cool or talented.

I’ve talked about this before: it seems that making art is really about letting go of what we think we have to be in order to be an artist so we can just get on with making art.

Lessons learned are often revisited, it seems.

My resistance stems from the fact that, when presented with a fantastic image in my mind, my hand struggles to render it on the page. It’s a real battle, folks. I want so much to share what I’ve got in my head, but the only tools I can think to do it with seem to lock up and refuse to cooperate the minute I touch them. Woe is me.

Here’s where the letting go comes into play.

I won’t ever be a Rembrandt. I won’t ever draw still lifes with peaches so ripe you can smell them through the canvas. I won’t ever draw a dog that looks like anything but a pig.

But maybe I’m destined to draw the best damn pig ever. Maybe my style is abstraction, imperfection, essence as opposed to replication. Maybe that’s just who I am. Maybe that’s my thing, the way I share what’s in my head.

There are talented people in the world – incredibly amazingly talented people – and, rather than envy them, I would like to be proud of them, encourage them, support them, send people their way because they deserve to be found and fawned over.

The only way I can have the energy to promote other people, however, is if I put myself out there as much as they do. When it comes down to it, we all feel the same way when it comes to sharing our work. We all respect and appreciate other people with beautiful talents. And we all battle imposter syndrome every time we sit down to the page. All of us.

We’re all constantly re-learning that there is no spoon. There is no creative blessing that makes some people artists and other people not. There’s only art. Making stuff. Trying things out. Experimenting. Practice. And, above all, having fun and not worrying about the end result.

Letting go and riding on the wings of your creative voice. That’s where the joy is at anyway, isn’t it? For some that might be in mastering the details of a portrait, for others it might be expressing their emotions with flashes of paint across a wall. For me, making art means playing with whatever ideas come to mind in that moment without concern about the final product.

That makes it sound so easy. Oh boy. Let me tell you right now that it is not. Letting go of the dissonance between the images in my mind and the replication I make on paper can be a serious battle – which is weird because the words themselves imply something so simple.

“Letting go” alludes to a muscular decision, an action that can be done with the zap of a few neurons. Maybe it can for some, but for me it feels like just the opposite. It often takes all the energy I can muster.

I’m working on this by trying to get myself to the page / the canvas / the paper as often as i can but, as you can see, I often avoid the battle all together by just disappearing from my creative pursuits for long periods of time. I’d love to say it won’t happen again, that I’ll see you regularly from now on, but that would just let us both down.

For today, at least, I have great news: I finally sat down with this postcard concept and gave it a whirl. Here’s the final product for you to oooh and ahhh over.

Wadi Shab Sketch with color and pen-002

For those of you who don’t live in Oman, this is a painting of possibly my favorite wadi around: Wadi Shab (here’s where you appreciate the pun in the title of this post…I’ll wait…)

Because of the previously mentioned internal battle I have when I’m making art, I also wanted to share the process with you – mainly to show you that I really did plan to give up a few times along the way.

Scanned Work

I’m learning that, to get to the end product, you have to make your way there in stages. Don’t laugh. It really was news to me. I always thought artists pulled up a canvas and worked their way from top left to bottom right, every line a perfectly finished product until they reached the end. That’s very much not the case. Each work is a lasagna of refinement. You start with the basics, the general layout, the big essential elements and work your way to the details (there’s a life lesson in there I’m sure).

The funny thing was, nothing looked like the end product until I actually got to the end. It wasn’t until I scanned the last image in and saw it on my computer that I thought “Well damn! That looks like exactly what I had in my mind! Whaddya think of that?”

I didn’t see that coming.

All along the way I wanted to stop and give up, frustrated that it wasn’t what I thought it would be, what it could be. But, for a change of pace, I didn’t. This one time I kept telling myself it was just practice, my first attempt and nothing more, that it didn’t matter what it looked like at the end because I was learning along the way.

I don’t know how I managed to let go with this one, but I’m pretty freakin’ pleased with the result. I’m even more pleased that I forced myself to learn my lesson once again while still having fun along the way. And I’m pleased that I could think of such a fitting title for this post while also making it a cheesy pun.

I’m easily pleased.

Until next time.

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Next!

Hi friends,

Well, it’s finally finished. It took a little longer than I hoped but I am happy (and  pretty proud) to say that I finished my mandala project! Yay!!

Now that I am on the other side, I can definitely say I will be making more of these (they have a tendency to doodle themselves out all the time now). With well over the required 30 attempts under my belt, I now have a much better feel for what kind of style I like and what is natural for me. I tried a lot of things and played with a lot of ideas, and in the end I found myself constantly going back to the Indian motifs. There is just something about those patterns that moves my soul. I can’t get enough.

Although I made more mandalas than I have pictured here, I wanted to show you a sample that reflects the process as a whole, not just the best pieces. Some of them are absolutely awful and that’s part of the reality of testing things like this out. I had some brilliant ideas that I just could not get on paper. I also had some days where I thought it was going pear-shaped and then it ended up becoming a piece I really liked.

So without further ado, I give you: my mandalas!

Along with the photos, I’ll share with you some things I learned in the process about mandalas in general and my style and preferences in particular. Hopefully it’s helpful for anyone trying to figure out their own groove with their art. Continue reading

My Mandala

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I don’t like being stuck.

To give you an example, let’s look at my work history, shall we? In my 15 years as an adult, I have worked:

  • at a chocolate shop
  • at a book store
  • at a vet clinic
  • in a hotel
  • at a university
  • at a human rights NGO
  • at a financial institution
  • as an accountant
  • as a manager
  • as a financial advisor
  • as an intern
  • as a nanny
  • as a tutor
  • as the owner of my own business
  • as a blogger
  • a walker
  • as a newbie artist

I don’t like being stuck.

I don’t stick with things for long because, you know what, I don’t have a lot of time and I want to do lots of things. My work philosophy is that if I know how to do all the parts of my job, it is time to move on to something new. If I apply for a job it is because I want to learn how to do the things I am meant to do there, not because I know them already. I like learning, I like growing, I like a challenge.

Here’s the downside though: I get scared of committing to things because I think of the innumerable other things I *could* be doing with that time. I get scared that if I throw myself into a project (like, I don’t know, learning how to make art or illustrate a book, hypothetically) that I will be stuck with it forever…dun dun dun. I give it a half-assed attempt and then when I still suck I tell myself that it was obviously a bad idea and I should find a new project.

Combine this train of thought with the fear (of both failure and success) I have over becoming an artist, and pretty much nothing gets done. I find ways to stay busy so I feel like I am making progress, but not very deep down I know that I am actually running away from committing to the things I sincerely want to be doing.

It’s a problem.

I was pondering on this situation and it reminded me of relationships. You know how sometimes people are scared of getting married so they just move in together? I was thinking that might be a good approach to this problem. Marriage is big and scary and forever. Moving in is a month to month kind of deal.

If I apply the same approach to my art, it’s much less scary. I don’t have to make grand announcements to the world, promises about things I will do forever, vows to remain loyal to a project. I can have a  month to month relationship with a project; agree that we’ll see how it goes and move forward from there; give it my best shot, make it my one and only, but understand that we aren’t legally obligated to each other for as long as we both shall live.

To that end, I decided that this month I will move in with mandalas. I’ve found some amazing artists on Instagram who do incredible things with mandalas and it is really inspiring stuff. I haven’t ever made them before but I’ve always been drawn to the Indian/tribal/folky style that accompanies them, and I’d love to learn some of the techniques. I’ve made a few this week and I notice small improvements every time, which is really motivating to see.

Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:

The Earth Reversed

My first mandala! To learn the basics of construction, I went to the great site CreateMixedMedia.com. I titled this The Earth Reversed because it made me think of an inverted view of the universe: the core of the earth is on the outside then it moves in through the ocean, the land, and into the sun and heavens. Drawing it reminded me that life is all about perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mandala #2. This was a late night session where I couldn’t get to sleep because I was too excited about drawing. I was feeling Indiany and went with some of the motifs I have seen in lots of henna patterns recently. I like how delicate it looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In my third attempt, I was inspired by Anna Eidenberg (probably the person I most frequently stalk on Instagram). She does amazing things with mandalas. I noticed that she doesn’t always hold herself within the boundaries of the circles or other geometric elements but often breaks out with beautiful organic shapes. I used that idea as a starting off point for this piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So for this month, I am moving in with manadalas (does the plural have an s?). I’ll make 30 of them. It might not be one every day – we’ll aim for an average – and I’ll see what other projects call my name at the end of that time. I’m not committed to this being my thing forever, but, to paraphrase Andy Grammar, during this month I might meet other projects at the bar who are super hot and want to buy me drinks, but I will stay true to my mandala (hehe – I am pretty pleased with that pun).

See you next time!

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PS you should probably listen to this song right now. I’m slighty obsessed.

An Aristic Retreat

Voices from Within

Cutting the ribbon to kick off the show! Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery

One of the most liberating things I have done in my quest to unleash my inner artist is to suck up my fears and attend the Gailani Art Retreat in Muscat. The idea of painting in front of other people was absolutely terrifying, and for the majority of my first retreat I was actually shaking a little. But I made it through the first one, eagerly went back for a second, and am happy to announce that one of my paintings was in the retreat’s Voices from Within exhibition last Saturday!

At my last retreat, I met a muse in a new 9-year old friend who had no fear about changing things up mid course. When I was stuck she wouldn't hesitate to throw something on the canvas to give me a new starting point. It was fantastic! There's nothing like a kid to help you paint without fear.

At my last retreat, I met a muse in a new 9-year old friend who had no fear about changing things up mid-course. When I was stuck, she wouldn’t hesitate to throw something on the canvas to give me a new starting point. It was fantastic! There’s nothing like a kid to help you paint without fear. Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery

These retreats are such a breath of fresh air. The purpose is not to create amazing pieces of art (though they create themselves anyway!), it is to spend an entire day dedicated to allowing your artistic expression to find its way to the canvas.

If at any point, you appear to be planning, plotting, outlining or in any other way deciding on the future of a piece, Gailani (the fantastic artist and founder of the retreats) will come by and mess everything up for you. He’ll turn the canvas upside down, streak red paint across your blue background or take your brush away and slap your hands on the canvas. It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the process, which makes every moment interesting and exciting. Every stroke, every motion is about doing what you feel inspired to do.

Gailani Retreat Growth

These paintings came from the retreat theme of growth. I have come to see growth as a natural and inevitable fact of life – a guaranteed outcome from everything we do – but it is something I have often tried to control in my own life. I’ve attempted to force growth in a predetermined direction (despite its inclination otherwise) or inhibit it to maintain my own status quo out of fear. This retreat challenged me to let growth happen as it wants to without judging it, forcing it, censoring it or editing it. Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery.

Although I couldn’t be in Muscat for the exhibition, I am really pleased to know that it had a huge turnout (over 430 guests!) and inspired more people to look to art as a way of finding their voice. I certainly look forward to meeting some of them at the next retreat.

To read more about the exhibition, check out the Times of Oman write up here! It really captures the purpose of the retreats and the brave and engaging spirit of all the people who participate in it. I’m so glad I’ve found this group of artists in my new hometown.

See you next time!

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An Artistic Retreat

Voices from Within

Cutting the ribbon to kick off the show! Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery

One of the most liberating things I have done in my quest to unleash my inner artist is to suck up my fears and attend the Gailani Art Retreat in Muscat. The idea of painting in front of other people was absolutely terrifying, and for the majority of my first retreat I was actually shaking a little. But I made it through the first one, eagerly went back for a second, and am happy to announce that one of my paintings was in the retreat’s Voices from Within exhibition last Saturday!

At my last retreat, I met a muse in a new 9-year old friend who had no fear about changing things up mid course. When I was stuck she wouldn't hesitate to throw something on the canvas to give me a new starting point. It was fantastic! There's nothing like a kid to help you paint without fear.

At my last retreat, I met a muse in a new 9-year old friend who had no fear about changing things up mid-course. When I was stuck, she wouldn’t hesitate to throw something on the canvas to give me a new starting point. It was fantastic! There’s nothing like a kid to help you paint without fear. Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery

These retreats are such a breath of fresh air. The purpose is not to create amazing pieces of art (though they create themselves anyway!), it is to spend an entire day dedicated to allowing your artistic expression to find its way to the canvas.

If at any point, you appear to be planning, plotting, outlining or in any other way deciding on the future of a piece, Gailani (the fantastic artist and founder of the retreats) will come by and mess everything up for you. He’ll turn the canvas upside down, streak red paint across your blue background or take your brush away and slap your hands on the canvas. It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the process, which makes every moment interesting and exciting. Every stroke, every motion is about doing what you feel inspired to do.

Gailani Retreat Growth

These paintings came from the retreat theme of growth. I have come to see growth as a natural and inevitable fact of life – a guaranteed outcome from everything we do – but it is something I have often tried to control in my own life. I’ve attempted to force growth in a predetermined direction (despite its inclination otherwise) or inhibit it to maintain my own status quo out of fear. This retreat challenged me to let growth happen as it wants to without judging it, forcing it, censoring it or editing it. Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery.

Although I couldn’t be in Muscat for the exhibition, I am really pleased to know that it had a huge turnout (over 430 guests!) and inspired more people to look to art as a way of finding their voice. I certainly look forward to meeting some of them at the next retreat.

To read more about the exhibition, check out the Times of Oman write up here! It really captures the purpose of the retreats and the brave and engaging spirit of all the people who participate in it. I’m so glad I’ve found this group of artists in my new hometown.

See you next time!

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Some Postcards for You

Hi friends,

I’m writing to you from my sister’s dining room table in Lexington, Kentucky today. I’m sitting by the garden door and revelling in the cool breeze that’s coming in. It’s so fresh I even have to wear a shawl. Imagine that! After the scorching temps in Muscat and the small heat wave in Tel Aviv on my visit last week, this is absolute perfection.

Anyway, onto the good stuff.

A few weeks ago, I asked you to help me with my postcard project by telling me three things to put together in drawing. So without further ado, here are the first three cards that I’ve made and sent off for you.

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Three things: Marmite, One Direction, bunting. Sent to: Slovenia

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Three things: mermaid, hula hoop, wine Sent to: France

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Three things: a child, an umbrella, a star Sent to: Saudi Arabia

Thanks for all the ideas you sent! They are all really exciting and challenging in different ways. I look forward to making more for you! If you haven’t requested one already (or if you want another, I suppose) you can send me your ideas here and I’ll draw one up for you.

Cheers,

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