Sometimes the best way to get out of your head is to change your perspective. Literally. If you work with a camera, use a different angle! That discovery was paramount to my growth as an artist.

See what you can do to create from a different perspective or angle than you normally would!

I’ll pull some of the art that I see this week to feature!
Use the hashtag #PromotingPassionChallenge so I can find you!

Here is some food for thought. Enjoy the challenge, and remember to push yourself creatively!

  • March 31, 2020 - 11:33 pm

    Gallagher Green - I am going to try so hard to get a photo done for this, despite the insane craziness that is my life right now!ReplyCancel

It’s a freaky round of 10 Things I Love… and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My dark heart needs to be satisfied, and these are the things that make it swell:

  1. Andreas Mantegna and his forced perspective paintings
  2. Francesca Woodman (self-portrait artist)
  3. Hannibal (tv show) – Season 1, Episode 2
  4. Francis Bacon (paintings) + Battleship Potemkin (1925 silent movie – a frequent influence in his work)
  5. Caravaggio (dark paintings)
  6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (dark fantasy book)
  7. Amanda Palmer and Edward Ka Spel – Beyond the Reach & The Clock at the Back of the Cage (music videos)
  8. Emil Alzamora (sculptor)
  • March 31, 2020 - 11:32 pm

    Gallagher Green - I will check these out thanks!ReplyCancel

A self-portrait does not have to be the whole self. If you’re not there yet with that kind of work (and it is a deep, long-lasting work), only use a part of yourself. A hand, your hair – get creative! And if you feel like you can push yourself, create a full-fledged self-portrait!

This means you are the one working the camera and in front of it. I’ve created over 500 self-portraits in the past 10 years. Whew. Jump on board with me!

I’ll pull some of the art that I see this week to feature!
Use the hashtag #PromotingPassionChallenge so I can find you!

Here is some food for thought. Enjoy the challenge, and remember to push yourself creatively!

Meta!
  • March 16, 2020 - 2:10 pm

    Gallagher Green - Got lots of ideas on this, it is my jam! ReplyCancel

  • March 26, 2020 - 10:11 am

    Naufragia - Lovely work as always. Love the hands in the back, and the contrast between red and blue!ReplyCancel

+ A branding test!

If you are someone who…

  • Makes art and has a business
  • Makes art and doesn’t have a business

…you have a brand. It doesn’t matter if you sell your art or if you don’t, you still have a sweet little package that contains your personality and art. You may never have labeled it. You may never have thought about it. But the word “brand” still applies. 

Why? Because the way you define your style makes up your brand.

I want this to be a really practical look at how to figure out your brand, because I’m a little tired of not having a roadmap myself.

In the climate of today’s art world, the people who can move between an art-mind…

and a business-mind are the artists who succeed.

I want everyone to have the best chance of survival, because I want the best art to shine. So let’s all get up to snuff on branding.

Here are the steps that I find most valuable:

  1. Define the visual style of your art.
  2. Define the conceptual style of your art.
  3. Define your personality.
  4. Write an artist statement containing two sentences for each of the following topics: What you create, how you create, and why you create.
    1. If you have multiple ways of creating, do this for each one separately.
  5. Diversify your content. Figure out how to put your branding keywords into more of the content you produce.

The first four items on the branding to-do list are simple. Writing out lists of words is the most basic level of branding 101. Figure out what words you identify with. Keep them close.

The fifth task is more difficult. After all, if we understood intuitively where to pour our energy, we’d all be wealthy, working artists. 

I believe the key to a successful brand is to put passion first. It might sound woo-woo, and a little too on-the-nose for this blog, but it’s the real deal. If everything you create (art and business wise) go back to your passion, you will build a brand that lasts. 

Branding gets a bad reputation because it insinuates, at least to me, the idea that we are all acting in order to get attention. Branding makes artists seem like sell-outs. This is a topic I feel very strongly about.

But in effect, all branding does is give a container to a mess of could-bes. 

Your art and your personality are messy. Everyone’s is. That’s life. And humans naturally search for containers for the mess. Literally and figuratively. We put toys in bins, we organize our pantries. We compartmentalize trauma and we let joy move to the forefront. We love personality tests because it makes us feel understood, but also because it categorizes us and that feels good

So branding makes sense to me. I think of it as my own, made-up personality test for my art. 

In that spirit, here is a test I want you to take. 

Answer with the word you most identify with:

  1. Are you more spontaneous or structured?
  2. Is your art visually more dark or light?
  3. Is your art conceptually more deep or surface?
  4. Do you enjoy monochrome or color?
  5. Is your personality more bubbly or subdued?
  6. Are you more inclined to share or to hide?
  7. Do you want people to feel hope when they see your work or sorrow?
  8. Do you produce work fast or slow?
  9. Are you more about product or process?
  10. Is your work detailed or big-picture?
  11. Is your work for the realists or the dreamers?
  12. Are you an introvert or extrovert?

Here are my answers. Share yours below!!

  1. Are you more spontaneous or structured? Structured
  2. Is your art visually more dark or light? Dark
  3. Is your art conceptually more deep or surface? Deep
  4. Do you enjoy monochrome or color? Monochrome
  5. Is your personality more bubbly or subdued? Bubbly
  6. Are you more inclined to share or to hide? Share
  7. Do you want people to feel hope when they see your work or sorrow? Both
  8. Do you produce work fast or slow? Fast
  9. Are you more about product or process? Process
  10. Is your work detailed or big-picture? Big-picture
  11. Is your work for the realists or the dreamers? Dreamers
  12. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Introvert

By asking either/or questions, you can begin to narrow in on your brand without stressing yourself out. It’s easier to think in terms of yes or no sometimes instead of the wide sweep of WHAT IS MY BRAND. 

In fact, do this with a friend. Go through as many questions are you can think of that are yay/nay questions so that you can workshop together some of the finer points of your brands.

Let’s go back to the idea of a passion-based brand. 

If you know how you operate naturally, you are already working under a passion-based brand, assuming how you work naturally is how you are working. 

A passion-based brand is a brand where all elements and choices relate back to your core passion. For example, every single thing that I put out there, be it behind the scenes content, images, videos, jobs I take, etc., are all conscious choices made because I love to do them. They also all feature things that I love to do. 

The goal of a passion-based brand is to make sure your actions (ie: what you put out there, in all forms) aligns with your content (what you create). 

PASSIONATE ACTION
+
PASSIONATE CONTENT
=
PASSION-BASED BRANDING

Share your test with us in the comments and let me know if you have any questions about branding. I’d love to create a follow-up post about this, and maybe even an online seminar!

  • March 18, 2020 - 5:05 pm

    Maureen Denny - These steps seem easy but for me, not so much. I will give it a try and see what I come up with. Meanwhile, I did manage the test at least!

    1. Are you more spontaneous or structured? Spontaneous
    2. Is your art visually more dark or light? Light
    3. Is your art conceptually more deep or surface? Surface
    4. Do you enjoy monochrome or color? Color
    5. Is your personality more bubbly or subdued? Subdued
    6. Are you more inclined to share or to hide? Hide
    7. Do you want people to feel hope when they see your work or sorrow? Hope
    8. Do you produce work fast or slow? Sometimes fast, other times painfully slow.
    9. Are you more about product or process? Process
    10. Is your work detailed or big-picture? Big picture
    11. Is your work for the realists or the dreamers? Realists
    12. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Introvert, big time.ReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2020 - 4:28 am

    Michi Lantz - 1. Are you more spontaneous or structured? Depends. In brainstormin mode I’m spontaneous. After that more structured.

    2. Is your art visually more dark or light? Dark.

    3. Is your art conceptually more deep or surface? Deep.

    4. Do you enjoy monochrome or color? Both.

    5. Is your personality more bubbly or subdued? Subdued mostly. But with close friends definiteley bubbly at times.

    6. Are you more inclined to share or to hide? Share.

    7. Do you want people to feel hope when they see your work or sorrow? Both.

    8. Do you produce work fast or slow? Mostly rather slow.

    9. Are you more about product or process? Process.

    10. Is your work detailed or big-picture? Big picture.

    11. Is your work for the realists or the dreamers? Dreamers.

    12. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Introverted and HSP.ReplyCancel

  • March 26, 2020 - 10:18 am

    Naufragia - Are you more spontaneous or structured? – Depends.
    Is your art visually more dark or light? Both. I love both sides of the spectrum. I guess if I have to choose one, it’s light.
    Is your art conceptually more deep or surface? Deep.
    Do you enjoy monochrome or color? Both.
    Is your personality more bubbly or subdued? Subdued, but trying to be more spontaneous and bubbly now!
    Are you more inclined to share or to hide? Share
    Do you want people to feel hope when they see your work or sorrow? Depends on the work… it tends to be hope, but with darkness in it.
    Do you produce work fast or slow? It tends to be slow.
    Are you more about product or process? Process, everytime I try to give this more importance.
    Is your work detailed or big-picture? Detailed.
    Is your work for the realists or the dreamers? Both
    Are you an introvert or extrovert? I’m in the middle according to the Myers-Biggs personality test.ReplyCancel

I debated if I would write this because I keep my personal life really personal. But this is one of those things that has provided me with so much change and inspiration in such a short time that it would be inauthentic to brush past it.

I’m approaching 3 months of having my foster son in my home. December 18, 2019 is a date that will be forever etched in my mind and heart. It was the day that everything changed.

I became a licensed foster mother mid-December after a full year of going through the trainings, and got a call for my first placement less than a week later. From that first call, nothing happened how I expected it to.

First, I got a nearly-two-year-old. I’m licensed for up to two, but in my dreamscape of fostering, I thought I’d get a little baby to start out with – grow with the experience, work my way up to loud personalities.

I almost said no. I was so scared to say yes when the call came in.

I saw the number on my phone, an unidentified Arizona number, and I knew right away it was about to happen. He’s almost two, they said. He has emotional issues. He doesn’t self-regulate. He has twos siblings. He needs to be moved immediately. You have 10 minutes to answer yes or no.

That was all the information I was given. I hung up, talked to my husband, and I told him I was scared. He reminded me to let go of my expectations, because we aren’t in this for us, it is for them.

I called them back, said yes, and they told me that he would be dropped off that night. He wasn’t. We waited hours to hear anything and I finally gave in and called the state. They told me they couldn’t find anyone to drive him, and asked if we could make the 3.5 hour drive the next day to get him. We accepted, though now I know we were being manipulated so that the state worker didn’t have to do her job.

The next day was surreal. We drove the distance, stopped for our last meal before becoming parents, and then pulled up to the address we were given. It was an unofficial daycare; aka, someone’s house who had a bunch of kids running wild inside.

We entered the home and their caretaker pointed to a little boy in a high chair. “That’s him,” she said. And within minutes we pulled him out of the chair, walked him outside, gathered two tote bags of his things, and put him in our car.

There was no state worker, licensing worker, or anyone of any official capacity to oversee it. Just us and the daycare worker, both taking each other’s word that this little boy is the one we are supposed to take home with us.

I sat in the back seat, trying to entertain our little boy for 3+ hours in the car. I had no idea what to do or say, how to change a diaper, how to comfort him. I sat in the back seat shaking out of fear.

When we got home, nothing got better. I was so sick with anxiety that for a week straight I barely slept, barely ate, and visibly shook. I hadn’t experienced anxiety like that since working a job I hated over a decade ago. I didn’t expect it. I thought I would fall into the role of mother instantly.

I need to be honest about my experience, because I have the distinct feeling that, like much of the internet, people sugarcoat their real experiences.

I didn’t feel connected to our little boy at all. I had no idea what to do. It felt like someone else’s child had been dumped in my lap. And that was exactly what happened. He was violent toward me – biting, pinching, slapping, kicking me. The first week he was with us he threw a toy truck in my face and my nose started bleeding. I remember entirely breaking down.

That wasn’t the first time. I found myself screaming when I had no idea what else to do or say. I found myself crying without control. I found myself hiding in any moments I could, unable to will myself to do anything but sit on the floor.

That first week my husband and I both got the flu, and it was the worst we had ever experienced. I didn’t know how I would get myself off the sofa, or how I could make it to the doctors appointments we had lined up for him, or how I would feed myself, let alone a baby. For 10 days we existed in this newness, and I hated it.

You read online about how adoptive parents just fall in love with their kids right away, like they’ve always been together. I thought fostering would be the same. Like I would see him and know he’s “mine”. But that is an expectation that cannot happen in foster care. He will never be “mine”. And I knew that – subconsciously, despite trying to tell myself to love him like he’s mine, I didn’t. I wanted him gone, and I hate admitting that.

The new year came and we had just started recovering from the flu. We went through a lot of ups and downs those first two weeks, attempting to get his anger under control, while I attempted to understand my own. I wanted to be a parent for so long, and now that I was, I felt inadequate. I didn’t even like it.

People online kept emailing me to say what an inspiration I am for fostering – how they are just certain I’m an amazing mother. But that wasn’t true, and those emails only served to make me feel more guilty and upset.

I would talk to other parents about expectations of two-year-olds. When I would share about the excessive tantrums and the hitting, they would say it was normal. It made me feel crazy. It wasn’t until a behavior specialist came to our home and told us that his behavior is not at all normal that I started to feel a little bit better – validated, and understood.

With all of that heartache, I started to feel love. We saw little breakthroughs. I started changing his diaper standing up because he was less likely to hit me that way. I started finding places to take him to get his energy out. I started becoming more comfortable with being his mom – carrying him, putting him to sleep, singing to him.

And somewhere in there, I came to love him. It wasn’t instant, and that is important. It is important for the inspiration I’m taking into my art, and it is important because you might one day feel the same thing and feel LESS because of it. You are not. I am not.

After a month I felt like we had a good thing going. I started thinking about the day he would leave us (which, at the time, was going to be very soon, though that fell through) and I started to feel pangs of panic. I didn’t want to lose him. I wanted to see this through, watch him grow.

The state has said they are going to move him twice with no results. We haven’t had a court case yet and everything is up in the air. That’s the hardest part – not knowing. I may receive a call one day that he’s being moved that night – or in a week – or in a month. We just don’t know.

The mental tax that occurs when you constantly live in a state of unknowing – and with no ability to give weight to your opinions – is excruciating. I have no autonomy, though they try to make you feel like you do, at times.

Three months in, and I love him desperately. He also pains me, and is absurdly difficult, but mostly, he’s loving and funny and so, so cute. And he knows it. In the beginning he used to get angry when I brought a book out, and now we read for at least an hour every day. He’s learning to swim. He has some friends at the preschool he attends twice a week. He loves to climb stairs and pet the cats. He runs into his room and climbs up on his giant stuffed teddy bear and asks me to sing to him. Lately, he wants to be held all the time.

We’re still overcoming obstacles, like his food addiction issues – which is not uncommon for neglected children. But we’ve made so much progress the behavior specialist said she can’t believe he is the same child as when he arrived in our home.

And that is the silver lining, that’s why we do this. You can never know the impact you have on someone’s life, not fully. There will come a time that our boy leaves our home and we may never see or hear from him again. We may never know the impact we’ve had. But I don’t doubt that my presence is helping. Even when I fail. Even when I overreact. Even when I do everything wrong and wish I could try again. I’m giving this boy what he needs – safety, love, and a place to grow.

I’ve taken a thousand pictures of him, a hundred videos. Sometimes I wish I could show you his face and tell you more about him and his story, but I can’t, and I wouldn’t anyway. It’s difficult, though, living with this much of my life in secrecy. None of my family have met him yet, but we video chat everyday with my mom, who goes by “Lolly”, and his favorite thing to say is “I love you Lolly”. My family is so on board for this chapter of my life, and that has been heartwarming beyond belief.

The support of my friends has been immense. Boxes of toys and books and blankets and food have made all the difference.

I take him for photo shoots sometimes, and he loves the camera – both taking pictures (which is precarious, but I let him) and being in front of the camera. I wish I could use him in one of my creations, but the risks are too high. My time as a parent is becoming easier. Preschool has helped so I can work, and I’m finding my footing as a multi-passionate mother. I learned to ignore the far-too-many-people who told me that I should be his sole primary caregiver since I “work from home anyway”. I’ve learned how to bang out some amazing work in the span of a nap, or before he wakes up. I’m doing this. And certainly on pre-school days, like this one.

In fact, my naptime, pre-dawn, and preschool day work sessions have resulted in: planning my Promoting Passion convention, starting an inspiration deck of cards, making a fine art book, shipping work off to various galleries, and creating work for my new solo exhibition in May. I’ve managed to make and release 8 new images so far this year. I’ve managed to create 14 total. I thought my life would go on as it was, and largely it is, but with a lot more excellent planning and hard work. And sometimes guilt. And sometimes tears. And sometimes epic joy.

I don’t know how this will impact my art yet. It will – I know that. In a huge way. But I’ve never been someone to create from the chaos of my emotions. I wait until I process it, and one day I will. That day is not today, however, and for now, I hope this update will suffice.

Thank you for your love,
Brooke

  • March 12, 2020 - 8:55 am

    Dave - There’s no parenting manual. It seems like you’re doing your best. That’s all anyone can ask. I think a lot of your reactions are exactly normal and to be expected. Just be as kind to yourself as you would a friend in the same place. Don’t feel like you’re all alone and can’t ask for help. If you need help, ask for it. And do it sooner, rather than later!
    I believe in you. It’ll be ok.ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2020 - 9:18 am

    Sydney Paige Richardson - So much love to you. Thank you for sharing and being so honest about your journy.ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2020 - 9:48 am

    Laura B - I’m so moved by this essay, and proud of you for opening your heart to this little boy who has experienced immeasurable loss. As former foster parents I respect everything you’re going; including your commitment to both your own values and the privacy and well-being of your young dude. WTG Team Brooke Shaden!ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2020 - 9:50 am

    Kim standish - You know how to be compassionate. You know how to love. I’m a special education teacher of students with emotional disabilities. I teach middle school. There are many days without answers. They often don’t express themselves in a way that we are familiar with. Most of their behaviors are their way of filling a need. Many don’t have consistent routines or people they can count on. Loving someone and helping them understand that there is someone there to meet their needs is soooo much of their struggle. You know how to love. You are compassionate. He is blessed to have you in his life.ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2020 - 10:50 am

    Vincent - It’s a beautiful thing you’re doing!!ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2020 - 11:23 am

    Elizabeth Haen - Thank you for sharing what you can and so openly. I have been thinking of you so much these past few months, know that it’s a tough road to walk and knowing that you would find your way through it. Sending continued love as you figure out what the future looks like one day at a time ❤ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2020 - 12:23 pm

    Margherita Introna - You have been on my mind a lot the last few days as I have been wanting to send you an email. Something you said the other day really touched me and it has been in my heart ever since. But I know I will need some time before I can put my feelings into words… so until then, I just wanted to send you a hug, love and light <3 xxReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2020 - 4:09 pm

    Nick Cormier - My wife and I did fostering for a year. It was the hardest, yet, more rewarding year of our lives. I feel your words and they bring me back to that year. Sending you lots of love!ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2020 - 8:07 pm

    Lucas - Brooke – As one of the people who expressed admiration to you, I feel terrible for adding to the anxiety. That said, I cannot help but respect and admire you more for persevering in the face of such circumstances. Parenthood under typical conditions (whatever that means) can be pretty rough. I can relate to many of the questions you raise about the impact you’re having but I cannot imagine the pain of uncertainty you describe nor the heartache brought on by the abstract yet imminent threat of your foster son’s departure.

    I’m convinced that no parent is always at their best, and mistakes/overreactions/tears/uncertainty are part of the experience, for better or worse. At least I rarely know what I’m doing. All of that said, the same things that made me express my confidence in your parenting abilities are on display in this post. There is no cliche, platitude, or silver-bullet-wisdom that covers the range of scenarios and emotions that come with the job. I’m sure that’s twice as true as a foster parent. For all of the challenges you describe, I can’t help but zoom out and observe that you’re figuring it all out… a day at a time, and that is praiseworthy parenting.

    Your fan,

    Lucas WReplyCancel

    • March 13, 2020 - 6:33 am

      brookeshaden - Lucas, your friendship and outreach have meant everything to me. I’m so grateful that kind and honest people like you are out there. My boy plays with his monkey everyday and your words have touched me beyond belief.ReplyCancel

  • March 13, 2020 - 1:09 pm

    Anna Bruce - Someday we’ll share a hot beverage and share stories involving guilt and children. My best friend was/is a foster mom. The grueling experiences she went through, I would not wish on anyone. However, what you are doing IS a wonderful thing (not saying this to make you feel guilty in anyway) but it is so hard and there are so many moments that suck and so much unfairness in having little power of say and not knowing when the child might leave. But as you said, you are making a difference in his life and no matter what, I pray that that impact will stay with him all throughout his life. This experience will only make you stronger as a person even if it breaks you first. Even though I am not a close friend, know that you really do have someone to talk to/ vent to/ be listened.ReplyCancel

  • March 13, 2020 - 5:20 pm

    Me Ra Koh - This was so vulnerable to share. And even though you are always so open and vulnerable with us…This is on a different level b/c it is about your ups and downs as a mom.

    When our kids are doing well, we feel so proud and able to conquer the world. When our kids are suffering, we second guess everything, pray with urgency, wonder what we missed, what we can do better, how we can love more…even if it means tough love.

    The heart of a mother tears you apart holds and holds you together at the same time. It is one of the strongest forces I’ve ever known. It will die for another. It will suffer for another. And it will never stop loving whether that love is returned or not.

    You are in this powerful space Brooke. The love of a mother is carving a path through your very soul. Like a slow forming canyon with endless layers of color and depth, it’s path is slowly changing you…for the better…and you will never be the same.

    Just like being a working artist, parenting needs community. Reach to the ones who speak life and wisdom to you. Find those who are prayer warriors (you’ve got me as one). And the moment you start feeling like you’re failing, pick up the phone. Over the last 20 years, I have found that is a trap. If darkness, not the good kind of darkness but the bad, can convince you to isolate as a parent, be ashamed, feel guilty, the darkness is winning. But the moment you pick up the phone, send a text that even says “Please pray” and that’s all, not only you but your whole family have a fighting chance again.

    Do you know how much I love you?
    xoxo
    mReplyCancel

  • March 16, 2020 - 2:09 pm

    Gallagher Green - I have had a lot going on, so I am a bit late to the fish fry on this one.
    This is why I knew you and your husband would be great parents, not in the TV Braidy Bunch (whom I dislike) or Sound of Music (also dislike) fake bull type of way. But that you two would fight for whatever child came to you two, that you would do anything in your power to help and heal the child.
    I knew you would be great parents for these forgotten children, not because you two are perfect (because no one is) but because you are both Warriors!ReplyCancel