On Shame, Vulnerability, and Resistance. (aka MATS class starts next week!)

Part B of the Lilla Rogers class, Make Art That Sells, is starting this Monday and I have a confession to make: I realized the other day that I was dreading it. Uh what?

Yep, you read that correctly.

snail and the rose
At some point during the last half of Part A I had let comparison, and subsequently shame, get the best of me. In the beginning, I was so excited to start the class and had decided that I would use it to really do some creative stretching! I would try new techniques, different styles-- experiment! All things I don't consciously do with my art work on a regular basis. Sounds fabulous, right? And it was. Mostly.
So here's the thing with experiments: often times they fail. You try something and it just doesn't work for whatever reason. But almost always the failures lead you down a path you wouldn't have found otherwise. Which leads to growth, aka the whole point of experimenting in the first place.
lilla rogers Mats class A
Know what is really not helpful while experimenting? Comparing your work to other people's, never mind a bunch of really talented artists. And I'm embarrassed to admit it, because I consider it such a rookie move, but I totally fell into that. In general, comparison can be pretty deadly to creativity, but it felt even more so combined with the growing and stretching I was trying to do. Instead of inspired by my fellow classmates, I just felt not good enough. Instead of having fun and playing and trying new things, I got nervous and tentative. I was not so nice to myself. Doesn't someone compare your inner artist to a child? (Is that from The Artists Way?) Well, I was total jerk to that kid. And forget about discovering any new paths through my hard won experimenting. It became too scary, too uncertain.
I should note that all this was sort of kicking around under the surface. I knew something wasn't quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it. The class, (which is great,) moved at a fast pace, packed with information and I scrambled to keep up, confused as to why it seemed like it was getting harder and harder to do so.
And then it ended and I breathed a sigh of guilty relief.

Gaia Cornwall Ice cream!

Fast forward to last week, when my fellow classmates all started bubbling with excitement over the impending beginning of Part B. It couldn't come soon enough for them! Meanwhile I was using words like "impending" and maybe "looming" when I thought about it. And I was ashamed to feel that way. What was wrong with me? Why am I being so lame? As a creative person, this should be like unlimited ice cream sundaes for five weeks. And instead, I'm dreading it?? WTF, Gaia?

In a burst of synchronicity the universe swooped in and offered some guidance. Fellow classmate, Cheryl Bakke Martin,  posted Oprah's interview with Steven Pressfield. He wrote The War of Art, which is one of my favorite books. One that I recommend to everyone, I have a much loved and dog eared copy. Though apparently, I hadn't picked it up in a while, because I kept having "Aha moments," as Oprah likes to say.
Pressfield starts by defining Resistance:
"Resistance is the negative force that arises whenever we try to move from a lower level to a higher level. When we're trying to identify with our nobler nature. --Our higher nature."
And then Oprah mentions the list of activities he compiled that commonly elicit Resistance. Number 1 is "The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or creative art, however marginal or unconventional."
Oh yeah...

[ted id=1042]

And then, because I can be a stubborn person who needs things hammered home, what book should be prominently displayed at my local library? Brene Brown's Daring Greatly.  (You might know her from TED talks, like the one above.) The book opens with a passage from Theodore Roosevelt's speech, "The Man in the Arena":
  It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...
 And then Brown says:
"...Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it's understanding the necessity of both; it's engaging. It's being all in."
"...Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection."
I put the book down and was like, "Ok. I get it!"
Lilla Rogers Class
I share all this in the hopes that it will find some reader out there who is struggling with the same stifling thoughts and heavy self doubt. I hear ya. But I'm happy to report that after a kick in the pants from Pressfield and Brown, I'm raring to go! Dare I even say, Bring it on.
And to my fellow classmates, who are continuing on this journey with me, let us be brave and vulnerable explorers together. I can't wait.
Note: All the art shown here was done during the second half of Lilla's class. 

Lilla Rogers' Class Week 3, part 1

Week 3 focused on the picture book's market! Hooray, my favorite! Easy-peasy, rainbows and sparkles, right? Well, I thought so too, so I decided to not work in my own style, but to try something different. To experiment.  Well, I gave myself a run for my money, that's for sure. Our main assignment ended up being a spread or cover of the story The Snail and The Rose Tree by Hans Christian Andersen. Lilla wanted us to focus on expressive characters, color story, and hand drawn type --if we had time.  I chose to do a spread.  Mary Blair, one of my (and everyone's!) favorites was talked about a lot. I was thrilled.

I wanted to play with the following new-to-me elements:

  • flat, graphic shapes
  • "cute" large eyed characters
  • negative space
  • limited color palette (so hard for me!)
  • no pencil lines
  • retro details

Lilla provided us with vintage book covers for inspiration and I gathered my own as well:

vintage books Mary Blair

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vintage book



Lilla Rogers: Color Studies

We're working on week 4 right now and I wanted to just quickly post these color studies. I was supposed to collect yellow, green and neutral colored items from around my house. I have tons of vintage paper and it was so fun to go through it! green color study Lilla Rogers

neutral color study Lilla Rogers

yellow color study Lilla Rogers

I took a bunch of photos of green and yellow objects in the house as well, but I haven't uploaded them yet... We find out our assignment tomorrow and we'll see how we'll use all this!



Lilla Rogers' Class Week 2

For week 2, the market focus was home decor and our assignment was to design a couple plates that could be used as a collection. I drew lots of pods and "non-traditional" florals, mostly with a brush pen, for the first couple days.

pod flower sketch

pod flower sketch

pod flower sketch lilla rogers class

Then, for my final plates, decided to work in "my style"-- pencil drawings, layered in Photoshop, with pops of colors. I don't usually work in this market, so it felt fresh and new to me.

I started out with this:

floral plate lilla rogers

That turned into:lilla rogers pod plate

Some details:Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 1.55.35 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 1.55.18 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 1.55.03 PM

I liked where it was going, but the colors were tripping me up, so I moved on (without finishing it) to what became the design I submitted:

lilla rogers Make Art That Sells Class Plate


It didn't end up getting chosen for review, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The two plates don't quite work together as one collection. But I think if I adjust the colors in the first one, and uh, actually finish the design, they could work together nicely. I'd like to make one more coordinating piece as well.

detail home decor plate

detail succulents pods home decor

The biggest thing that stuck with me in Lilla's overall critique of this project last week, was making sure that your design comes across small.  Nine times out of ten, the buyer/client will be initially looking at your image in a tiny format-- a thumbnail on your site, or a shop online, a catalog etc. The basic composition has to be be visually interesting and graphic enough to grab them.-- To make them want to see the big version, with all the details.

This sounds obvious to me now, but it caused a huge shift in me. And as much as I love this design, it really isn't all that powerful as a small image. (She suggested we "test" it as 1 inch x 1 inch --the size of a promo button:)

lilla rogers Make Art That Sells Class Plate

Ironically, the design I started with, has a bit more punch as a small image, due to the large shapes/graphic background. It would have had even more if I had finished it and added in the pink color:

lilla rogers pod plateAnyways, it's something I've been trying to keep in mind ever since.

Children's Books, Week 3 next!




Class with Lilla Rogers!

 bear, zebra Make Art That Sells Class

I have some exciting news: I signed up for a intensive, ten week class with the wonderful agent Lilla Rogers! The class is all about "making art that sells" in various markets that will be covered each week.  Its a big investment --of both time and money-- but its one I'm making in my career.  And I'm going to make the most of it!

I met Lilla briefly a couple years ago at a NESCBWI portfolio event at her house and I've wanted to work with her ever since. So I'm pretty thrilled about this opportunity learn and stretch and grow artistically, professionally, and personally.

My fellow students have been posting their illustrations about getting into the course (see?-- everyone is excited!) and so there's mine. Usually I err on the teacher's-pet-zebra end of things, but lately, I'm totally that little bear, freaking out. YAY! (Do they familiar? They're from this piece. I have a feeling I'm not done with these two yet...)