Category Archives: Sundry

Artistic discussion.

Sophie’s or Hobson’s Choice?

Time and time again, I find myself at an impasse. While I am never bored, there is a burden to having more than one creative passion, especially when not in the position to devote more than a couple hours a day, at most, to any one art. I know, poor me, right? Seriously, though, it can be a double-edged sword if you don’t have the freedom of  complete and unadulterated movement. I carry some level of frustration and unfulfillment with me at all times. The logical thing to do, especially since I can’t quit my job in this economy, is to make a choice: art, music, or writing.

Well, outside of my blogs, the writing would be the easiest to send to the gas chambers (apologies for the crude analogy, albeit based on a work of fiction). While the written word is my favorite form of literal communication, and am very proud of whatever I put on screen, it is the medium I am least passionate about if a relative measurement can be put on an emotion. However, it is vastly easier to squeeze in writing when I’m at work. Yes, I confess to occasionally working on my blogs when I should be reconciling revenue accounts. Shame on me.  I’ve also written a lyric or three, as well as a couple of stories. That is the beauty of working on a computer all day. It is also pretty easy to write down ideas in a meeting and make it look like I am taking notes on the topic at hand. Disingenuous? Maybe. But, I have my priorities, and they aren’t in accounting anymore.

So, would I give up the writing? I don’t think I have to completely, considering how accessible the activity is. That leaves art and music.

I am able to sketch during my lunch hour. I don’t always do that, but the option is there. Being in a cubicle, I can’t bring a guitar and work on tunes. When I had an office with a door, I could do that and just play quietly. Those were the days. But really, that is all picking at bones to barely sustain me. The productive work should happen outside the office. There’s all night to work, or at least a few hours, right? Wrong, not if I want to eat, spend time with my husband, do chores, run errands, have a social life, and deal with whatever else comes up. I also have to go to bed at a reasonable hour so I can get up early and work out. If I am not healthy and have energy, I can’t work; that is non-negotiable. Can I catch up on the weekends? Responsiblities don’t take scheduled time off. I get several hours in on a good weekend. Then, I am left with vacations. What can I say? I mean well, but those books just don’t read themselves. Sigh.

I did finally answer the question for myself if I had to make that Sophie’s Choice between art and music. It would have to be the music. While I am equally passionate about all of it, and I lose track of time when I immerse myself in them, music touches me in a unique way. I can’t explain it completely. Again, if I could measure a relative emotional response, the feeling I get from writing music—when it is good—is transcendent. I feel on top of the world. It is, in a word, sublime.

But to leave art behind, never to pick up a pencil or set a brush to canvas again? That pain would be unbearable. Since I do not have children, it is the closest approximation for me as the level of sacrifice I can fathom. I would have to be in dire straits in order to make that choice. I shudder at the thought.

Does that leave me with a Hobson’s Choice, i.e., no choice? Perhaps. Right now, I am riding a cool wave of creative energy. I am making great progress on a painting I have been nursing since the beginning of the year (post to follow on that), I have done the same for a fantasy drawing and hope to complete that in the next week (post will follow, as well). I have two titled songs in progress, as well as the germ of an idea for a third one. I am about to start writing a children’s story, and my husband and I are researching markets for a vampire story we completed a couple of months ago (see the post titled “Bite While It’s Hot ” from March 7, 2010). There is an upside to chronic insomnia, I suppose. Oh yes, and there are my blogs. They are the easiest way to reach out to as many people who want to read what I have to say, as well as let them know what I am up to. Who could ask for more?

Me, I suppose. I want more time, more energy, and more money. Because, I never want to get to the point where I have to make that choice.


Well, it’s progress

After about a six-month dry spell, or should I say my “creatively parched” period, I am lifting my stiff legs back into the saddle . . . again.

I go through this all the time, and I trust most artists do, as well. We are on again and off again more than your average Hollywood relationship. There is always some hurdle or road block to divert our creative path, further challenging us to produce the body of work to immortalize us in a positive way. I keep on referring to the collective, as my only solace in my constant struggle with consistency is that, in truth, I am not alone.

More times than not, it is due to a lack of time, energy, and motivation. I am rarely at a loss for ideas. I just . . . can’t get it together most of the time. I will myself almost every day to make it different than the prior one. Yet, I am still performing the same uninspired song and dance. Basically, I make excuses for not wanting to put forth the effort.

It is all frame of mind and perspective. Think positive and progress—good or bad—is more obtainable. Simple, right? [No] Still, I’ll give it a whirl and summarize my past two weeks.

I ended my long abstinence from performing in front of an audience and did my first open mic in 10 years. I performed Styx’s Renegade (a spirited if somewhat dorky choice) and my original—One Second (see earlier post of the same title for the attached recording). It went very well, if I do say so myself. A couple of friends even came out to show their support. A week after that, I played Renegade at my vocal coach’s gig. The pub was sparsely populated, but no matter. Dammit, I did it. The seal has been broken, and now I feel confident and inspired enough to keep this ball in the air.

Second, I started my first painting in seven months. I finished Bona Fortuna (see earlier post of the same title) back in April. While I did set up another still life shortly thereafter, it remained untouched since. I realized that part of my problem was that it wasn’t grabbing me. So finally, finally , I dismantled it and worked on a new idea. It is untitled at this point, but I can reveal that my intent is to combine something beautiful with something dark. Oh wait, that is what I am always inclined to do. Anyway, I used pieces of an antique tea set I posted about early this year, and paired it with other props to tell a rather sordid tale. At least, that is what I hope will be conveyed. I will post my progress soon and discuss what I have in mind for the piece.

Now, if I can keep this momentum going and keep a clean house and work out regularly and make my deadlines at work and get enough sleep and walk the dog and pet the cat and spend time with my husband AND still keep my social life from dying a tragic death and . . . ugh, never mind. I just made myself weary again.

Happy thoughts happy thoughts.

When at first you don’t succeed?

I have been a bit dry the past few months. While I have smatterings of ideas, I have not recorded any (new or existing) material. I have set up my next painting subject, but have yet to apply brush to canvas. The two drawings in progress remain on my art table at the same stage I left them months ago. The story I was co-writing has been stuck in the middle of the same scene since  . . . and you get the idea. While I won’t call it writer’s block, per se, it certainly has not been the most creative of times for me. I can’t blame it on one thing. If I could, the impedence would possibly be easy to push aside or eradicate for daring to get in the way of my artistic vision quest. No, it is rarely that simple, nor is it easy to explain whereof my funk originated. Life, as well as myself, sometimes get in the way. That is my excuse, and I am sticking with it.

Not to wallow in self-pity, but indulge me for a moment. Snapping out of it, so to speak, would be less daunting if I received even a nibble of encouragement. Okay, that isn’t completely true, but I will get to that in a bit. Back in June, I entered my latest piece, Bona Fortuna, in a popular artist magazine’s annual competition. Comparing past winners with my painting, I found it comparable and believed it stood a good chance of placing at least as an honorable mention. Well, the announcement was made on their site last week that all the winners were notified. I logged onto my e-mail and found only junk. I even checked my spam folder: zippo. While I was not completely discouraged, as I was realistic that the chances of winning weren’t tremendous, it does make it more challenging when I am struggling with ways to fan the flames inside me to keep that passion and drive going. On top of that, I could not even get into one of the largest local arts festivals. I guess it is who you know. It is difficult to set a precedent with those organizations when they won’t let you in to begin with. I wish I could adopt Groucho Marx’s philosophy to not care to be a member of a club that would have me. But blast it! I wanna play too.

Okay, I’m over it. All I can do is keep putting myself out there. Even Rasputin got some tail just by the sheer quantity of women he threw himself at. It would be nice if it didn’t cost money. These contests and festivals charge entrance fees to cover the jurors’ review, so I understand the necessity of it. For the most part, it is an immaterial amount. However, those costs do add up if incurred repeatedly. And really, until my name becomes more familiar—or more to the point—luck is on my side, I need to step up and throw what I have at the wall and see what sticks. Thank goodness for tax deductions.

As for the aforementioned nibble of encouragement, I do have to admit that the lightbulb is finally going on for me with regards to my vocal lessons. I am figuring out how to sing more properly to improve the longevity of my voice, as well as build on its strengths. I don’t even mind that age has shaved a little bit off the top of my vocal range.  I lost my love of singing over the years (again, its complicated), and am now rediscovering it. I do strongly suspect that I will be up for stepping behind the mic again fairly soon.

With this post, I hope to breathe new life into this blog along with my drive to create. I shant let them gather so much dust again.

Practical or petrified?

I just finished reading a very good post in my friend’s blog. Last year, she took the bold move to leave the safety of her salaried job behind and pursue a writing career. While she has not yet made enough to eke out a livable wage, she has just recently been given an award for one of her first efforts as an official journalist. She deserves the props, if anyone asks.

So, what does this have to do with me? Nothing, and everything. After reading her thoughts on the subject, I can’t resist drawing lines between our respective circumstances. It makes me ponder my own situation. Basically, she did what I wished I could do, or perhaps more aptly, had the guts to do. There is nothing I’d love better than to leave my accounting job behind and spend at least a third of my day with my art, as opposed to piecemeal—minutes here, an hour there. What stops me? Well, it all centers on money, and the fear of not having it. Love may make the world go around, but money keeps it spinning on its axis.  

Actually, it may be the absence of money that keeps the world going round in circles. What keeps me getting up every morning to do essentially the same thing over and over again is the need to make a living. It is the same routine, the same rat race, the same old same old. I am rotating on the axis of my own making. Aren’t most of us?

So, how do I break the vicious circle lest I end spinning in my grave? I suspect someone will need to come in with a stick and poke at me to stop the madness. With my 42nd birthday looming, I am more and more aware that my time behind me is getting longer than the time ahead. I am past the point that I should be focusing on taking over the reins and controlling this ride and moving forward instead of doing 180’s repeatedly. That should have happened long ago. So, what stops me now? Is it really just money? I even entertained the lottery fantasy, and realized that I would not quit my job. At least, I would not right away. I think it is part nature, part nurture that makes me so cautious and afraid to take risks.

It is the little things that give me pause about this subject. Right after I read my friend’s blog, I spent my lunch hour at a café with the plans to work on my sketchbook. It was not a good day. The sun was too bright, no one would hold a pose, and people would block each other. I lost enough of my mojo that I couldn’t even draw simple objects. Bah! I was so frustrated and unfulfilled that the last thing I wanted to do was go back to work. Getting in some good sketches is very therapeutic and makes it much easier for me to face the rest of the work day. Today, I was left with an annoying itch that I can’t scratch. I think that it would be different if that was what I did with the majority of my day. It would be more palatable to have a bad time of it if I already had many good ones behind me. But, I don’t, because I can’t.

Or maybe I won’t.

What’s in a name?

I should probably explain my URL/signature. Because, I have not encountered anyone who is willing to pick it apart and analyze what it means. I had an art teacher who told me that I always reach for the metaphor first. Guilty. It still doesn’t stop me from doing just that; but as always, I consider how my work comes across before proceeding.

I knew pretty much from the start that I would be interested in making my vocation in several different ways. I get irascible if pigeonholed. Not really irascible, I just like that word. I do get claustrophobic, however. So that I do not digress, I’ll just explain my intent.

One, it was a business decision. The name is AmaranthiArts Studios, i.e., more than one (virtual or veritable) studio exists.

While I do market under my name, the business name will remain, and it is one I fashioned out of some things that are important to me. Many think of “Amaranth” as a grain, which is not incorrect. There are other meanings which I focused on. One is as a fictional, everlasting flower. We all want to be immortalized somehow, preferably in positive ways. What better way for an artist to do that then by creating beautiful work that can sustain and be enjoyed for generations to come? That is my goal, of course. Amaranth is also a mixture of my two favorite colors—purple and red. It chemically dyes pharmaceuticals, food and clothing, but that takes the romance out of it. More to the point, those colors have become inextricably linked to me, as anyone who knows me can attest. Surrounding myself with purple and red makes me happy.

I trust “Arts” needn’t be explained. I used the “i” just to make it flow better in pronunciation. Am-uh-ranth-ee-arts.

So there you go.

When at first you don’t succeed . . . start a blog.

In a fit of ambition, I purchased a URL with the complete intent to post images to market and sell my art, music, and fiction writing. I did this back in 2007, and just last summer, extended the subscription for another three years. All I can say is that thankfully the fee is minimal, because here is my website thus far:

Nice, huh? There are prevailing reasons why my website is not active; lack of content is not one of them, I assure you. I also have the site fully conceptualized. It’s quite slick in my mind’s eye. It really boils down to a deficit of time and money; the former due to requiring a 9-5 job as most adults do along with the normal and all-consuming responsibilities of living; the latter because in order for a rather technically-challenged individual to build a website, one must pay someone to do the task. And since I am not inclined to half-heartedly do it, I have to invest in a quality product. Other things have already laid claim to my disposable income for the foreseeable future. But really, it is a matter of deciding to make the commitment to that. Until then, this is a more economical, accessible, and less daunting means to introduce myself.

Along with other musings and observations, periodically I will be posting images of my paintings and drawings, as well as clips of my music. Of course, since it isn’t my style to just throw something out there and let vultures seize on it like so much carrion, I will explain some of my process and intent. There is a fine line that artists always tread in letting the work speak for itself versus over-explaining. One can leave the audience scratching their heads; the other risks being pedantic and telling them what to feel. 

So, without further ado . . .