Sometimes when I start on a commission that's just the most incredible design I throw all "business sense" out of the window, ignore all advice from my advisor, eat 90% of the costs and go all out.
These massive commissions often take months of meticulous work and emailing to get through and it renders my time down to nothing, my bank runs dry and my blogs and sites all start to look a bit dusty from a lack of updates. That's not so bad, but when things go wrong again and again and months start rolling by without spending money on myself or my pets it really starts getting me down. I start to worry, I start getting cranky, I get nervous that the lack of updates means I'll lose all the people who are interested in my work. I see incredible artists uploading new work every week, sometimes twice a week, and I wonder how on earth they find the time to do that and lead a normal life. I see work by someone who has made their first art doll that is MILES better than anything I could ever do and I go into a massive slump! Such beautiful work made so fast and so effortlessly, it makes all of my struggles look futile and pointless.
When I get to that stage I have to yank out the big guns to help keep spirits high. Usually there is a hump I have to get over, and sometimes the anxiety is so bad I can't and I end up freezing up for months like last summer. Having a list or a collection of ideas and things written by a Happy Me will help cheer Grumpy Me up when the hump starts looming!
It's a very personal thing so I don't expect all of these things to work for you, but I thought I would share anyway just incase something clicks. Things like, people say "go for a walk". Often going for a walk makes me angrier! I can't explain why, I suppose it gives me time to brood on things that make me grumpy. Then I feel guilty that I'm not working, I'm walking, and that the best artists don't just roll over and go for a walk, they power through and make amazing work anyway, and "WHY can't I do that and ohh I'm such a failure I should just throw in the towel!" It's not true, I'm not a failure, but sometimes cogitating on why I can't work gives me time to focus on my negative aspects. So here are methods that DO work for me.
1. Looking at my old work.
That was a doll I was very proud of when I made it. He sits on my bookshelf in my studio with his massive, awful bug-eyes and that grin and I think of the happy time I made him. I was in the studio at university surrounded by friends, chatting, listening to music, it was a sunny day in a bright room and I was having a blast mixing resin and fimo, looking at art in books and reading about lammergeiers... He makes me happy for two reasons.
a. it was such a great time making him and I had FUN!
b. he's awful!! He's so dreadful! My work now is so much better and it's great to see the improvement and how far I've progressed.
2. Having fresh flowers and plants growing everywhere.
My studio has two big windows on two walls, one has a desk running along it which looks out onto my aviary and the other has a windowseat looking onto the veg patch that I grow tomatoes, nasturtiums, wildflowers, beans and other propagated plants on. The veg patch is bare for a lot of the year so I make it a point to have at least five or six potted or fake plants in the studio that I look after along with the seedlings on the windowseat. I also have fake flowers everywhere to make me feel fresh, when they get dusty I just chuck 'em in the dishwasher and they come out sparkling
Fake flowers are great, they look real and make everything feel sunny and alive. Real flowers make me feel so happy, I get to watch them grow, they don't need much maintenance, just water in essence but you can get really into the soil, light, warmth, food and other things. You can be as complicated or as simple as you like and when they die down in the autumn you have the fake flowers as a back-up.
3. Turning off the internet!
When I'm in a funk I often try to get "inspiration" by looking at other artists work, but I ALWAYS end up feeling worse! It's either "why didn't I think of that" or "that's so beautiful, I could never make that" or "I should draw more, why don't I draw more, I don't have enough time" or "I really want to do a trade with them I wish I had more time!"... Then I see really incredible doll artists producing the most amazing posable and then selling them for peanuts!!! It makes me so sad and angry, then I just end up playing Skyrim for a week trying to escape from it all, which is so counterproductive. I can deal with and enjoy internet art when I'm happy and cheerful, but I have to turn the internet off when I'm sad. Just getting away from the rush of information for three or four days really helps freshen my brain up. It's tough and often an extreme case because I have a lot of friends I chat to, but when I do do it I always come back feeling totally fantastic.
4. Going for a walk to the beach and watching my dog.
This is a short term solution because after the beach bit I have to walk up a cliff and along the tops to get home and I always end up thinking grumpy thoughts then, but walking TO the beach and ALONG the beach is awesome. I mean how could you not feel at least some glimmer of happiness watching that mad hairy dog running around in circles, just glad to be alive? He adores the beach and I adore him, so seeing him so full of life and happiness and playing fetch with him for a while really lifts my spirits.
5. Cleaning the studio.
I hate cleaning, it takes up time and it shouldn't need to be done, but as much as I hate it I always feel better in a tidy studio and house. A lot of my anxiety is time related, so stopping work and spending time cleaning is low priority, but when the worst comes to the worst, spending five minutes tidying my desk, wiping it and sweeping the floor helps me clear my head a little.
6. Doing my accounts
Uuuggghhh... This can be a double-edged sword... Often when I tot up income and expenditure at the end of the month (sometimes half way through the month) it's bad news. I always seem to spend everything I earn, no matter how much I earn, I'll spend it and make about £30 profit for that month! It's frustrating to see it in black and white, but equally it helps me feel clear about WHERE the money is going (website fees and postage mostly) and HOW to stop spending it! I have GOT to stop buying in so much stock (or at least use up what I have) and I need to work out where my personal drawings are going. Working out finances helps relieve stress as it gives me the ability to form a game plan, what to do to make it right. Floating around in a limbo of not really knowing what's wrong feels awful.
7. Playing pokemon or skyrim
This is a bad one I try to stay away from as it's pure escapism. I feel good while I'm doing it, very content, but when the consoles are switched off I realise I wasted four hours doing essentially nothing. It's good at the end of the day as a reward though, if I get time inbetween supper and bed.
8. Have a glass of wine
This is a naughty one I shouldn't really do and need to keep an eye on but when I'm feeling REALLY REALLY awful I'll share a bottle of wine with my boyfriend and we'll watch some ridiculous film and it helps me escape for a while.
9. Look at that drawing I did of myself
I drew this about 18 months ago to remind myself not to give up or else I'll end up living in a damp hovel in the woods like a cave man. It acts as a perpetual warning and is on my fridge. I wouldn't mind living in a wood but I do suspect I'd go completely mad and turn feral, and I love having a hot bath so I'd rather not live in the woods. Reminding myself that having a hot bath and fresh food all year round (thanks to the Refrigerator) and the resulting bills is still better than sharing a wet hollow with woodlice and centipedes.
This morning I started writing this and got to number 7, then decided to go and do work. I was in a foul mood and didn't want to do it, but did it anyway. I procrastinated a LOT, but when I really got stuck in... I actually had a fantastic time. I managed to solve several problems and worked straight through lunch and tea... Then at 7.30 Rob brought me sustenance and booze and told me Crufts was on telly. The things I succeeded at were as follows:
Utilised materials that have been lying around for centuries to fix *scenceable
's commission's antlers
Remembered about another material that was perfect for ENHANCING said antlers
Remembered ANOTHER material perfect for *Treekami
's commission's wings
Successfully put all three remembered materials into use and made awesome antlers and freaking brilliant wings that you guys are gonna DIG SO HARD
I succeeded at solving three problems today (everything comes in threes) and it's given me a fantastic feeling for the weekend, that this week wasn't wasted and I DID accomplish things and I AM alright.
I feel great, you know I'm gonna add an 11
11. Write down things that cheer you up!
Spending time really thinking about it made me realise and remember why I do what I do and why I love doing it. It gave me time to contemplate my life, how good it was and how lucky I am. And after doing it for a while I did get bored and went to do something more interesting: making dolls
It's a small thing... And something I wouldn't do usually because it uses up valuable time. But when the chips are down... You'll try anything.
Well... I hope something maybe helped you, I feel great for getting all this off my chest. As a business I feel it's unprofessional to let your secrets out, but to be honest... ever since I started the whole "business" thing I think my art and DEFINITELY my happiness have suffered. Most of it is money related :/ I feel I can't spend hours and hours working on something now because it's a waste and I could be doing something better and EARNING money instead of arseing about... But it's important to have that time to yourself to do what you want to do. I said this to my business advisor recently and he said that most female creatives get like this and he was really worried I'd burn out. He said it's SO IMPORTANT to give yourself "creative time", even if it's 15 minutes a day, just something to make you relax and look forward to and take your mind off everything else.
I have some tricks for keeping yourself organised that I got from him too but... I think that's for another day, this journal is long enough
Have a great weekend everyone.