First, let’s get a show of hands (well you know, virtual hands in the comments) of who considers themselves a creative. And a second hand for who is a professional creative, meaning you do something create for a living.

I have been making my living from creativity for 9 years. I used to say that I’m a photographer, but I’m giving that title up. It never resonated, particularly. I do still mainly create images, but that won’t always be the case. Oh, I think I’ll always make photographs, but there is so much more to do that I don’t prefer the label.

For 10 years I’ve had to be very creative in how my business runs. Anyone who thinks that a career in fine art means creating whatever you want, and then sitting back as galleries sell your work for tons of money, is sorely mistaken. At least in my experience, and in the experiences I know from others.

Maybe one day.

But here’s the thing; I don’t think anything would change for me if it did.

A couple days back I finally finished two massive projects I’ve been working on. I found myself with no pressing deadlines (all self-imposed, mind you) and I didn’t know what to do with myself! I started to flounder. I started to feel useless. I started to panic.

And then my husband took my hand and said, “You have permission to do nothing”. And that changed everything.

I realized how good it felt to give myself that permission; but at almost the same instant, I realized how little I wanted that. Maybe for one afternoon, yes. I watched Beyonce’s new documentary (wow) and layed on the couch for 4 hours.

But today I was up at 5am again, ready to conquer (slay). It’s just not in me to sit back and relax. I don’t want to. You see, the thing that causes me to suffer is what causes me to succeed. I am a creative overachiever. I am highly creative, and I love to achieve more and more milestones.

That means that a career as a freelance artist hasn’t been overly difficult for me because I am an idea machine. It’s like the Alice in Wonderland quote. I think up 100 ideas before most people have had their morning coffee. It flows from me effortlessly, and I have enough confidence to make a lot of the ideas happen.

But it’s not all roses. Like I said, the thing that causes me to succeed also causes me pain. I suffer from anxiety at a level that most people don’t; I operate at a level that even stresses other people out. I work 16 hour days eagerly for weeks at a time. I pursue ideas relentlessly, despite energy/cost/likelihood of failure. If given the chance to talk business, I’ll always take it.

Thankfully I’m not an over-sharer. My friends get a little sad at times because I don’t share what I’m doing unless provoked. But there is always something going on in my head and in my life. I’m not happy unless I have a passion project.

One of the biggest questions I get asked at workshops is: How have you managed to sustain a career in fine art for nearly a decade?

The answer is extremely multi-layered. But the real answer is this: I understand how come up with and activate ideas.

It sounds simple. I understand it is anything but.

If this is something you would be interested in having a seminar about, let me know. I’d be honored to guide anyone interested through a roadmap of how to better hone ideas, how to put them into action, and how to find success via mobilized confidence.

I hope this didn’t sound too much like tooting my own horn. I am proud that I am able to do these things, but it truly does come with a down side. Learning balance has always been difficult for me. Understanding my limits is not something that computes. And sacrificing relationships is something I’ve done many times for the sake of my passion. It doesn’t bring me joy to admit that, but it is the side that no one sees.

Right now I’m on a new routine to manage stress better. Ever since having the epiphany that I operate on a different stress level to most people (ie: constant…even my “down time” is riddled with guilt about not being productive), I’ve taken measure to reduce my anxiety. We shall see!

To operate at that high stress level means that I need to be productive every second of every day. I find myself multi-tasking. Can I brush my teeth while reading my morning emails? Can I put dishes away while brainstorming my next business idea? I try to have the next 6 months strategically planned out with deadlines in my calendar and goals set. If I’m not actively or subconsciously thinking of my future, I feel distressed.

For example, I had an exhibition opening while embarking on a 14 city tour that lasted 6 weeks. It took a lot of effort to get those things settled. But even in the middle of the tour, I mapped out what my year looks like from July to December, just so that when I arrived back home in July, I could hit the ground running.

I am learning to find stillness. To be okay with not achieving something every moment of every day. But I even worry about letting that go, because it is the very thing that has allowed me success over the years. The goal is to reign it in and hone it better instead of letting it spread like a compulsion into everything I do.

I share this in an effort to be more transparent and to aid my community in any way possible. Love to all!

  • June 3, 2020 - 8:53 pm

    Gallagher Green - Goodness, I have never been that driven. I hate stress and avoid it so much as possible, it is like a life goal of mine. LOL
    I used to get annoyed with myself if I thought I didn’t get enough done in a day, but now I have taught myself to see that if I was happy during the day then it was productive, no matter what happened.
    I hope you learn to enjoy the quiet in between moments. ReplyCancel

Is there anything more fun than thinking about finding a portal to a new world? If you’ve read Narnia, you know the magic of that discovery. I read books every day so I can experience that joy. I also love creating with that theme in mind. What objects or spaces can you see as a portal?

This is a really broad topic, so take that and run!

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!

Even a broken door can be a portal.
I love this image that i created ages ago, her legs and arms mirrored in the sky.
Portals as a symbol for choice.
What will you find on the other side?
Entering, fearlessly…
  • May 25, 2020 - 12:12 pm

    Gallagher Green - This is a good one, and I think I will get this one done. I have messed the last few for a multitude of reasons. ReplyCancel

In June of 2019 I went to New Zealand. It was winter, but not horrendously cold. Just windy and a little bit biting. I got to speak to 150 creative individuals at NZIPP, a beautiful photography conference in Wellington. 

When I started speaking in 2011 at After Dark Education, I was one of the weird one at a weird conference. There were a lot of weird people who were doing things a little off-kilter. I thrived in it. I remember meeting with one of my mentors, Jed, who said, “are you ready to be thrown into the world of public speaking?” 

Yes.

And so I was, and did. I started speaking all over the world to groups big and small. Sometimes only 5 people would come, and sometimes 5,000. And in all of those workshops and lectures, I realized that I was still the weird one. Except, it only got exponentially more obvious. 

Fast forward to 2019 where I spoke at NZIPP. I was welcomed by the most loving showrunners who helped me get set up for my talk. As I walked over to the event center from my hotel, I noticed we were right on the wharf and the water looked so beautiful. There was even a dock area…so accessible.

So, before my talk, I asked one of the showrunners (Peter, you were a gem and I’m sorry for nearly giving you a heart attack) if I could jump in the water. In winter. In New Zealand. Never having met any of these people before. In front of 150 attendees. 

It was a little risky on my part because I hadn’t felt the crowd out yet. I didn’t know if it would be too weird. But I asked, and after much resistance (they were so worried about my health and safety!), they relented. I have that effect on people. 

I got up to give my talk. We talked of inspiration and Photoshop and all manner of normal things. Except, nothing that I do is normal. My pictures aren’t normal. My way of speaking isn’t normal. 

And then, with 20 minutes to go in my talk, I asked if everyone wouldn’t mind coming out to the docks with me while I jumped in the water. A moment of hesitation, and then a resounding YES. And off we went.

I proceeded to put a costume on, set up my camera on a tripod, and shuffle to the end of the dock. I looked up. 150 people were gathered all around, phones in the air and ready to watch the spectacle. Oh gosh.

I started to explain my thought process, since it would be crazy to just jump in with no explanation. I talked about how I create self-portraits, what conceptually drew me to the water, what I was hoping to achieve visually…

And then I jumped in. The water was absolutely, butt-kicking freezing cold. I laid back, took a deep breath, slowed my breathing, and moved around the water. I closed my eyes. I didn’t care who was watching or what was happening around me. For one minute I floated, so in my flow that the world could have ended and I would have still been peacefully floating in that bay. 

And then I lifted my head, asked if everyone got their shots, and climbed out of the water. Everyone erupted into applause. That’s the icing on the cake, because you see, I do things like this all the time, except I’m usually alone. This is my life on a weekly basis. I make a point of it. 

So to have people there witnessing it, it felt nice. 

Then I got up on the stage to keep teaching, like a crazy person.

Why bother to tell you this story? Because I have built a career out of being weird.

The places I speak at align with my brand because they trust me to be the voice of the weirdos. Why do they trust me to be that? Because I’ve branded myself into it. If someone hires me to speak to their group, they know they aren’t getting a normal motivational speaker; they are getting a firecracker that is both unpredictable and bright. 

It’s not just speaking, and in fact, that is the least of the ways in which branding weirdness is gold. 

We are starved for individuality. In a world where copying trends is not only fashionable and trendy, but also incredibly easy to do (consciously or not), it is like breathing fresh air when someone comes along who is marching to the beat of their own drum. 

I’ve branded myself as myself.

A lot of people brand themselves into perceptions of success. This is why so many people fail to stick with their businesses or even their art, because we can only keep up an act for so long. If you let yourself be exactly who you are, no apologies or explanations necessary, you will find a niche for yourself that only you can occupy. 

When I get hired for a job, be it a photoshoot for a band or a speaking event, I get hired to be 100% authentically me. That follows through to the visuals I bring to the table, the concepts only my brain can come up with, and the way I conduct myself. 

When I have portrait clients come to me to make art, I do the same things with them that I do with myself. We end up lying in a pile of thorns, jumping into freezing cold water, or balancing precariously in trees. That’s just how it is. 

From Day one I decided not to do a job if I couldn’t be myself. Even when talking to brands for sponsorship, the first thing I do is to lay down my ground rules. Rule #1: I do me. I don’t do you. But if you naturally fits with me, let’s do it. 

For real, I actually have those conversations.

If you’re curious if being weird makes money, the answer is that it can. Just like anything else. Everything has that potential. But in an age where individuality is too often strained, the weirdos stand out like a beacon of light in the darkness; a guiding light for other weirdos to follow.

And really, even the most normal of us are a little weird. 

Do you identify with being the odd one out?
Do you feel like you own it or shy away from it?

  • May 24, 2020 - 11:51 pm

    Gallagher Green - I loved this post! There is no question that I am an weirdo and always have been. I used to shy away from it, but I have learned to embrace it and even though I shy away at times even now, I am much more confident about it. Heck, just the other week I bought an urn on eBay and sent to a friends how (Samantha) for a collaboration, now her whole family also knows just how weird I am!
    As I have started writing more and more I have found that it gets weird at times, normally really dark. Which my mom beta reads for me, and I don’t think she sees some of it coming. My writing doesn’t fit my personality, kinda like the differance between you and your art.

    Okay I will stop rambling, thank you for the lovely post. ReplyCancel

Playing with the size of an object or a person or even a background in a frame can be so much fun. From creating miniature sets to editing someone to be small in a backdrop, there is so much potential to play with scale! Let’s play with scale this week and see what we come up with!

This could mean a lot of things, so try something you’ve never done before and see how it goes!

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!

In this image, I created a hand that is much larger than the subjects.
Here I made the prop large. It was a small mask to start with.

Every single day I sit down to write. And every single day I tell myself I am writing. The truth is, I rarely write. I write notes. I write ideas. But I don’t write full sentences, paragraphs, chapters, stories. Every day I study. I watch videos. I read blogs. I research plotting charts and how to develop characters. I learn.

I am a student of writing and therefore I write notes.

And every day I ask myself: When will I  be ready?

When will I feel secure enough in my craft to begin writing a novel? When will I know enough to move forward with my art?

You have asked yourself that same question. I know it to be true because we care about our art.

We care so much that we study and learn and absorb any information that will let us be better at what we love. But to what end? To be the best? To create a masterpiece?

I know, rationally, that if we are curious souls our best art is yet to come. I know that we learn by doing.

So, how do I know? How do I know when I’m ready?

You don’t.

There is no way to know.

And in not knowing, we have two choices. We can delay action indefinitely, which is too likely to mean forever, or we can dive in and make bad art.

That is, until we make good art. We try and fail until suddenly we don’t fail. But that success does come with a price, and the price is failure.

Logically, we know this.

But internally, emotionally, it is so hard to accept.

I spend my time and energy every day learning how to write. This has been beyond belief – total immersion student.

At some point, though, knowing that there is more to learn, knowing that we don’t know everything – we surrender.

We surrender to being less than we know we could be, because our ability to raise the bar is unparalleled and we may never meet that kind of perfection.

But we can begin anyway.

To stop striving for perfection, to stop worrying about not knowing everything.

To simply create. And create again. And again. Again, again, again.

Until our work teaches us instead of web pages and workshops. Until our work tells us where to go instead of educators and mentors. Until our work stands concrete and resilient instead of suffering darkness in our imaginations, never freed.

We begin.

Because at the heart of everything we dream, there must be action. Without it, there is nothing.