June 2019 Trip Report

June had fun summer times AND plenty of painting and portrait-making!

STRUGGLES

  • Client work/Art work balance. This is always tricky, but things were especially busy with client-work this month, and there were more than a few days where my own projects fell by the wayside. Every day is a new chance to achieve that sweet spot between working for a living and living, haha.

  • Cat Surgery. On the last Monday of the month, we took our cat, William Blake, to the vet for lethargy, vomiting, and lack of appetite… he had a huge piece of ribbon from one of his toys lodged in his stomach, which the doctor had to surgically remove. STUPID CAT! Thanks for making us prove our love to you with our finances.

WINS

  • Got 7 paid commissions this month. Hoo-yah!

  • The anti-depressants are working. Which is amaaaaaazing! I still have bad days but holy moly is it so much easier to dust myself off and move on. I’m feeling clear-headed and focused, full of energy and loving it.

  • Made my second “art therapy” painting. I had a diabetes scare earlier in the month (it was just a fluke, don’t worry) and immediately went to blaming myself for bad eating habits when I heard the initial news. The result was messy and kind of embarrassing, but it was hella cathartic. I think I’d like to do a series with these, but we’ll see if they continue to show up.

  • I feel like I have a handle on my technology. After reading “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport I did a few of the exercises and am MUCH happier with my day-to-day life and feeling like I am back in charge when it comes to device useage. I did my 30 day digital declutter and am loving all the extra free time I have!

  • I’m planning like a boss. Charlie Gilkey’s digital momentum planner has been a total game-changer. I LOVE this system. There’s quite a learning curve, but his approach is realistic and effective, which is hard to find in a lot of life-hacky planner gurus.

THINGS I DID

  • Thing I DIDN’T do: keep track of the things I did in a list! Oh well. Here are some things from memory/looking back through my planner:

  • Painted four more pet portraits

  • Made two more paintings and finished a third from last month

  • Reorganized my desk/workspace

  • Started knitting (and I am obsessed)

  • Read two novels

  • Started cooking more vegetarian meals at home

  • Kept up the kayaking, and got Jamie into it, too!

THINGS TO TRY NEXT MONTH

  • No-spend July (after our vet bill - $$$$)

  • Sew a summer dress

  • Knit a hat and scarf (winter is coming!)

    Repeated items:

  • Keep a consistent art practice going

  • Book a First Friday venue in 2019/2020

  • Stronger promotion of Print of the Month club in June

FINANCES

  • Income: $1,064.19

  • Expenses: $643.93

  • Profit: $420.26

I had several expenses this month: upping my subscription to my social media scheduler, buying more art supplies (paints and paper) from Blick Art, ordering more business cards, plus normal operating expenses (sales taxes, 10% donation to the Camp Fire fund, shipping costs, and costs of goods sold).

But, I was able to transfer $300 out of my account into our joint account after last month, which felt amazing, and it looks like I’ll be able to cover my plane tickets and car rental for my Durango, CO art show in September, which feels even better.

To summarize, my June was awesome and full of fun. Here I come, July!

May 2019 Trip Report

Another month in the books! May was awesome, and you’ll see why:

STRUGGLES

  • Fewer new Patron sign-ups than I hoped for. I did get some new patrons joining the Print of the Month Club, but of course I wanted more! The more the merrier (and the more = the lower my cost of producing the prints). Still working on getting the word out about this… follow-up is tough.

  • Depression. This one hung around for a couple of weeks into May, but…

WINS

  • I started taking anti-depressants. The drug I started on had some annoying side effects (restlessness, twitchiness, weird muscle tension) but so far my mood has improved and stayed consistent. I met with my doc about the side effects and we’re trying something new… we’ll see how it goes!

  • I made my first “art therapy” painting in years. I’m not ready to share it yet, but let’s just say it was actually really fun and very cathartic!

  • I’ve got opportunities lining up. I haven’t even had to LOOK for them, they just keep showing up in my inbox! An artist residency in Italy reached out to me, a cool AR-hosting site offered me a free artist account, my friend Ann sent me an art fair application, and another friend Michele hooked me up with a gallery up in Fairfax that I’m planning a trip to visit and in talks with.

  • I feel like I’ve got a handle on life. It’s a great feeling, lemme tell you. I have energy, I have clarity, I’m letting myself do more of nothing and using my screens less and with more intention (I highly recommend “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport which I got from my library and could not put down!!)

  • I’m painting consistently. I have two paintings almost finished, a third completed, and a fourth started. That feels great! I’m saving the new work for a big reveal at my Durango Art Center (DAC) show in Durango, CO, in September!

  • The Art of the Cosmos updated their site (and I’m on it!). This is a show coming up in April of next year in LA that I am really excited about!!

THINGS I DID

  • I made several updates to my site throughout the month, including adjusting links, adding images, and migrating my entire “Scoutaroo Zine” site onto my main site and upgrading it.

  • I started two ad campaigns, one for pet portraits (and have received lots of great inquiries and even a couple of orders from it!) and one for the PotM club.

  • I reached out to Olly Olly Art Gallery, Hey There Gallery, and submitted to Create Magazine, Banditto Art Residency, and an art fair in NYC.

  • I followed up with a couple of past buyers to see how they’re liking their work and if they’re interested in anything else I have available.

  • I started and (have almost) finished three paintings and started a fourth

THINGS TO TRY NEXT MONTH

  • Keep a consistent art practice going

  • Book a First Friday venue in 2019/2020

  • Stronger promotion of Print of the Month club in June

FINANCES

  • Income: $875.84

  • Expenses: $443.06

  • Profit: $546.88

  • I have flights to book, a car to rent, and art to ship for Durango in September - profit is going toward those expenses and to supplies (been buying a ton of canvases and new paints this month!)

I’m looking forward to a quiet couple of months this summer to put my head down and focus on making some new paintings! I’ve also discovered Waller Mill Park which is just five minutes from my house and has a few miles of trails and KAYAK RENTALS!! I went kayaking for the first time in years last weekend and I can’t wait to do it again very soon (as soon as my shoulders aren’t sore anymore from the first time, haha).

Thanks for being along for the ride!

I Am A Serious Artist (who likes to draw dragon comics)

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Throwback to my art from 13 years ago this month. At 15 years old I was just as obsessed with likes on DeviantART then as I am with likes on IG today. Not much has changed except now I'm afraid to even draw dragons and aliens because I did that when I was a teenager, so lame right, pfffttt...

I had the distinct feeling when I was a teenager that nobody took me seriously. My art teacher, my parents, my pastors. I was dismissed for being too angsty, too dark, too melodramatic, for asking too much of the world and it's people. I was always told I would (or got the feeling I was expected to) grow out of it, whatever “it” was. Whether that perception had any basis in reality, it was an overarching theme in my teenage years. It's carried over to now, at age 28, and I'm afraid to draw what I really want to draw because I'm terrified that it's not going to be taken seriously.

I mean, dragons and aliens and fantasy and sci-fi nerds are always the butt of jokes, always considered adolescent on some level, but heck, Game of Thrones has captivated the grown-ass adults in this country, so obviously SOME PEOPLE still like dragons. But also, have you ever seen a dragon painting at a fine art gallery? (If there are figurines of wizards holding crystal balls with “Made in China” on the bottom of them in the same building, it does not count).

I'm caught between worlds right now, on the cusp of finishing "The Artist's Way" and realizing I'm at a crossroads. Do I go down the "serious" road of being a "fine artist"? Or do I go down the "silly" path towards the stuff I actually like? Comics and dragons and aliens and crazy character designs and floating islands and the deserts of Tatooine?

You know, nobody told me I couldn't do both, either.

Don’t ask me why there was ever a divide between “fine art” and “illustration.” To me, it’s the same as the divide between “sacred” and “secular.” Those of you who have grown up in certain religious settings will understand me here. Trying to separate things by distinct categories never really worked well with humans, because things can’t really be divided up by truly objective measures. We’re all making up definitions of categories as we go so we can put each other into boxes, into weight classes. The heavy hitters (the “fine artists”) can’t be in the same competitive pool as the lightweights (“illustrators”). The analogy falls apart there, because I do understand how categorizing things can be useful, but here’s the crux of my comparison between “fine art and illustration” with “sacred and secular”:

One is not inherently better than the other.

In fact, they can’t be separated. Not really. They’re cut from the same cloth. God blasphemed Its own dang self when It made us in Its image. What can be holy? What isn’t sacred? What is fine art that doesn’t evoke some communication? What is illustration without craftsmanship and mastery?

We live in a world where not only can we not leave things alone and we MUST categorize and define everything, we then go so far as to insist on assigning a value to the categories we’ve sorted. We do this everywhere, all the time, I really don’t need to start citing examples, but I will: race, body size, gender, income/career, education, address, etc etc etc... Every aspect of life is sorted and measured in human society. In this case, 9 times out of 10, the “fine artist” is given the prestige, the higher value, over the “illustrator.” And for some reason I realize I desperately WANT that prestige. But why? What would prestige get me anyway?

Whatever the dumb economic reason is to preserve a status quo that is broken for most of us, I don’t want to play by those rules anymore. If I want to put flippin’ dragons into my paintings, I will! Or if I don’t, I won’t! (Dragons are actually hard to paint and I’m actually a pretty lazy painter). If I want to put an alien on a desert landscape instead of a space girl, I will! (I mean, that one’s not much of a reach, in fact, it’s kind of the natural progression of things, don’t you think?) If I start painting portraits of orcs (not a bad idea, actually) and everybody laughs at me and wonders why I can’t go back to painting pretty pictures of the desert (or wonders why I have to put those space girls on them at all), who the fork cares? If I want to start making comic books and never pick up a paint brush again, I WILL!

I’m a relatively young artist at age 28. But then again, 28 is like 758 in Internet Years. So sometimes I feel pretty old when I realize I’m just now figuring this out: I can do whatever the heck I want with my art. It’s MY art. I have the luxury of not needing to depend on it for my income, either (which is a whole ‘nother issue I’m sure I’ll tackle in another post some day in the future).

I don’t need to be taken seriously to make art. YOU don’t need to be taken seriously to make art. Take your own damn self seriously. Everybody else can go eat snot. Byeeee!

💜Ciara

P.S. I still love my Space Cowgirls series and I never want to stop. Please represent me, Fancy Galleries. K, bye 4 realz.

April 2019 Trip Report

Ok, first official monthly “trip report” for those of you interested in following along in my journey to becoming a full-time artist. I have a lot of background to get through and a lot to report this month, so BUCKLE IN for some long-ass, radically-transparent bullet-points!

Struggles

  • Depression - I am seeing a therapist and seriously considering medication. My depression is actually relatively mild but it can be debilitating and it seems to be happening more and more regularly, and I don’t got time for that.

  • No Sales at my Glen Echo Park/Park View Gallery show - This was a huge blow for me. I knew I needed to manage my expectations better and I should have realized the space was too out-of-the-way for a lot of foot traffic, but I still had too much hope and self-worth banked on selling something. I always do. I’m working on it.

  • Scarcity Mindset > High Expectations > Self-fulfilling Prophecy of Perceived Failure - I’m realizing how much this pattern affects my mood and my day-to-day activities, and I’m actively working to change it. For example: I give myself way too much to do on a daily basis, can’t do it all/feel overwhelmed, and then feel like there’s “never enough time/money/energy” and I feel like a failure. This madness has to stop! I am starting by only giving myself one “extra” task to do a day (writing this blog post counts as a big extra task), and also trying to repeat mantras and affirmations that there IS enough time/energy/me to make it happen, whatever “it” happens to be.

  • Rest - I suck at this. I’m trying to be better about letting myself rest.

  • Dropbox - For some dang reason my dropbox has been having syncing issues. This is stressing me out and I need to schedule some time to just deal with it already so I know my stuff is safe & sound (that stuff is my livelihood!)

  • Making time to create vs. time to make money - I have a couple of clients who I do virtual assistant work for and I am SO grateful to them because they are basically bankrolling my artistic endeavors, and they are awesome to work for, but I always wish I had more time to make. On the flip side, I have a bad habit of using client work to procrastinate on my creative work (because let’s face it, creative work is HARD and it’s easier to use the “too busy” excuse than to maybe waste a whole painting session).

Wins

  • An Amazing Opening Reception at the Park View Gallery - which also happened to be my birthday! My friends were there and all super supportive, I gave my very first Artist Talk (so fancy!) and I got lots of great feedback and comments from the folks who wandered through! I was walking on cloud 9 after that event.

  • Learning About Myself - between The Artist’s Way, therapy, and my new favorite planner and the amazing team behind it, I am figuring out the mental traps I find myself in and how to get back out of them (see “Struggles” section). I’m also realizing that maybe I need medication.

  • Got myself a Totem - his name is Noah (they have a medium-sized, multi-colored one at my therapist’s office and I got an identical one and I love him)

  • Got myself a mani/pedi - I’m trying to be more generous with myself and treat myself more. Also I forgot how much I love pedicures.

  • Sold 2 pet portraits - My most expensive options, too! That felt good! I love doing those so this was definitely a win.

  • Got some new Print of the Month Club Members - Always a win! I love it when people love my work enough to want to buy stuff on a monthly basis, it feels great!

Things I Did

  • Talking to people at my art reception (a novel idea!) - this worked WELL. I approached almost everyone who came through armed with the question, “which piece do you like best?” which requires a positive response and is not a yes-or-no question… I got some great feedback that way!

  • Pet Portrait Ads on Facebook - did not work well, partly due to budget. I did get a couple hundred clicks on the ad, which is promising! I do have more of an advertising budget going forward so I’ll be able to experiment more with this in the near future

  • Started the Print of the Month Club - I got a couple of new patrons and several upgrades out of this re-structuring of my Patreon page! Definitely worth it. My husband and I came up with this new tier structure together and I am so grateful that he shared the initial idea with me, because this is so much more sustainable!

  • Applied for the Harpo Foundation Grant - funny story on this one… I remembered I had written down some grant urls and thought, huh, I should check the deadlines on that, and this one was due THAT DAY. So I stopped everything and applied! It was an easy application and only cost $15 so we’ll see what happens!

  • Started a painting of Craters of the Moon - I like how it has turned out so far! I’m not 100% on what I want to do to finish it, but we’ll see. I’ve got plenty of time before Durango and all it needs is the final finishing touches.

  • Consolidated ScoutarooZine.com into my main website/upgraded my main website - Thanks Squarespace! Also, I am SO grateful to myself that I decided to stop making Scoutaroo for a while. It’s allowed me so much more time and mental space to try to figure out what I’m doing next “fine art”-wise.

Things To Try Next Month

  • NOT sharing everything on social media - It feels like if you aren’t posting something new every day/week you aren’t doing enough, and it drives me crazy. Between now and the Durango show in September I’m keeping my works-in-progress close and only sharing in my newsletter.

  • Follow up with previous buyers - I need to go back through my Etsy shop and send out little convos here and there to folks who have left good reviews and have purchased from me in the past, and maybe redirect them to the new site & the newsletter. I’ve actually made sales doing this, so it’s worth it!

  • Apply to First Friday Events - Between Richmond and VA Beach there are plenty of places that I’m sure need artists to fill their walls! I need to make a list of the participating galleries and start sending out feelers (I’ve already got a good conversation started with a gallery up in Fairfax, maybe for a 2020 show!)

  • Experiment with FB Ads - I mentioned I have a budget now (thanks to a friend & benefactor on the inside at Facebook), and it’s on my list next week to spend some time thinking about an ad strategy for pet portraits and for print of the month club. This was another reason for upgrading my SQSP site - now I can use that powerful Facebook Pixel tool and put my ads to work. Muahahaha!

  • Related to above - integrate MailChimp and SQSP - I know I can do a lot more here, too. It’s on my calendar in May to take a look into.

Finances

  • Income: $663.57

  • Expenses: $351.51

  • Profit: $312.06

  • I am planning on saving money for the Durango show going forward (I have to ship the work and get myself halfway across the country) so I am grateful for that profit!

I really have a lot to be proud of from the last month, despite not selling any original paintings! And that just means I have less to do for the Durango Art Center show in September, anyway, so I can’t REALLY complain. Till next time, keep on keepin’ on, friendos!

Announcing the Print of the Month Club!

Hey, guess what?!

THE PRINT OF THE MONTH CLUB IS LIVE!

I've officially released a whole new set of reward tiers over on Patreon.com/Ciara that I'm calling the Print of the Month Club! Now you can choose desktop/mobile wallpapers, stickers, postcards, prints, and more based on a different image from my catalog every month. It's a great way to start collecting your favorite paintings of mine in print-form.

So, head on over to Patreon.com/Ciara and click the big orange "Become a Patron" button on the right-hand side up there to take a look at the rewards you get for supporting me! I've also got some new goals set up - let's see if we can get to that first one before May (when the FIRST PRINT ships out!) Be thinking of your questions... 

If you've been following me for a while and you'd like to help me keep doing what I love and making this work AND start collecting my past work, please consider becoming a patron and join the club!

Also, help me spread the word about the Print of the Month Club by sharing this post on your socials! Thanks for doing that!

Why I Think I Do What I Do

Originally shared in a newsletter on January 24, 2019

Something I've been asking myself a lot is, why am I drawn to paint what I paint? The answer is more elusive than you'd think it would be. I mean, I love the desert, I love mountains, but I could just paint deserts and mountains as they are. They're beautiful enough without their colors made crazy and cowgirls and domes jumbled up in them, aren't they? Why do I feel the need to embellish on the perfect beauty of nature?

Maybe it's because I'm a human being, and humans seem to have an insatiable urge to modify their surroundings. Maybe it's because God made me in Her image, and She is a creator, too, and I'm just flexing the divine in me. Maybe it's because I think landscapes are nice, but bizarre landscapes are more fun to look at. If I can paint a dome in there or stick a space girl on there, why wouldn't I? I can play in my own world, put my own spin on the natural beauty of this planet.

Maybe it's because I'm drawn to the mysterious. Maybe I like to make people wonder what the heck an astronaut is doing in the American Desert, or what that dome or those spires are doing nestled in our national landmarks, our familiar landscapes. Maybe it's all of these things.

Whatever the reason, I'm going to keep doing it, but mostly because I like doing it and it's fun to do.