Seeing Success Through One Lens

16 x 20 Acrylic wash on canvas. K. Cameron

Seeing Success Through One lens

Last  night for an undisclosed reason I woke up 2:30 am. I went back to bed at 5:30 am only to remain in a REM-less sleep. You know the sleep that is not sleep. The one where for all intents and purposes you are awake. In fact I’m still in that state as I write this post. The lyrical description “Day Sleeper” aptly applies.

To pass the time between 2:30 and  5:30 I decided to spend it with my old friend Jack Daniels,er no  ..my old friend Google, who would help me search out and find other accounts of misery. Misery loves company.

The room was quiet and a bit cold. Outside it was -8 degrees Celscius (0 is freezing btw). A small electric heater clicking on and off in a creaky old house with the occasional sound of snow moving on the roof was all that was to be heard.

I felt alone.

I read blogs and stories about people who were going through a tough time in their lives. Most of them could have been bettered by just a small windfall of monies to give them hope. For example, one guy had been unemployed for over 8 years.

They all had one thing in common,these personal stories.  Success is and was defined as one’s failure to overcome a problem in their lives. Money was really at the crux of most of those problems. Job loss lead to divorce, loss of dignity, etc. One lady wrote as if this would be the note they found after her demise.  Sad. She mentioned how much she loved her 7 year old son’s smile but since everything in her life was chaos there wasn’t much point in going on. I can only hope her comment was more of a melodramatic plea but one never knows.

I think this all comes about because, especially in the West, we see life through one lens. We have created a so-called civilization that gauges all of our success/well-being on what we possess or our possess-potential. Once this substructure of thought is wrenched from our psyche we consider the most awful, despicable actions to ourselves or our neighbors.

We suppose we have nothing left to stand on.

We even consider leaving those that we love because in our minds we create their minds lens for success. We don’t even know for sure what the they think of us or that the they even give us any thought at all.

True, sometimes we do know what they think. Usually a dear relative will inform us of our delinquencies and failures as if the very proclamation of them would some how create an answer! Usually their soapbox sermons include a damning list of past and vast failures. This gives us another angle on the saying, ” Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” In another words, your enemies may be less hard on your mental health than your friends/family.

What to do?

Snap out of it. My idea is tell myself whatever I need to in order to change my thought. If you know me you would know I never swear. In this case though a firm audible/ inaudible “ta hell with it!” might really help. Seriously but move on from there.

Find the ‘7 year old son’  reason to live another day.

I think the smile of a seven year old boy ( or girl) is worth something. It was for Leonardo Davinci! He’s gone but the Mona Lisa’s smile lives on.

Sure, sure…Maybe it doesn’t give you the money to buy him/her an ice cream or a trip to Disney Whirl but who cares!  In a way it’s not all your fault. Society plays a part. If we could lift ourselves even temporarily away from social expectations and see that people lived on this planet for centuries without this thing or that we might see the great crime committed when we even consider doing ourselves in.

I know. Depression is not so simple all the time. It’s a mental illness. However living our lives as if dancing on the edge of failure all the time is indeed to invite depression-disaster.

I think this is where art comes in.

This is my problem when we think about art and money as the same thing i.e. in the same category.

An artist can indeed, be successful without making a dime from their art. The point of art is to get us to see things differently or for how they really are. Being a financially successful artist is no gauge of how successful our art is.

So I say keep trying to sell your art. Sure thing. Although it’s not a measure of how successful you are as an artist or a person. No way!

So with these thoughts I leave you as the guitar strums me out.

All talk of circadian rhythm
I see today with a newsprint fray
My night is colored headache gray
Daysleeper…

My bed is pulling me.
Gravity

R.E.M.

 

 

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Leaving a Mark

My impression of Harvey Specter in a rough sketch.

We hear a lot these days about leaving a carbon footprint. The fact is as  humans we move about the earth leaving behind a life-trail. Sometimes it’s a good trail. Sometimes, not so good- as in the plastic jetsam that is smothering the planet we call home.

This post is not about pollution though. It came about as one of those in the shower moment thoughts. Too much information? Do you ever have those? Like Barney Rubble sometimes our true talent for singing only comes out in the bath or shower. Maybe it has something to do with being baptized in water- a return to the womb , so-to-speak.

This post is not about inspirational talent in the shower.

If you’re anything like me you have moments of what might be called minimalist thinking. When you have an epiphany and it turns out to be so profoundly simple. It occurred to me that most of what I do can be paired down to simply leaving my mark.

This is likely true for all artists. If you think about it then you realize that all art, music, film, sculpture is about leaving a mark whether lasting in the cerebral sphere  and passed on audibly/orally (like music) or something  tangible in the tactile realm- like even a gravestone.

We are all leaving a mark .

I’m not sure why, at the early age of five I was so intent on drawing my first mural on my sliding bedroom door. A large face with stubble and a cigar. ( no one smoked cigars in my family). For some reason some innate desire reached out to that pencil or crayon and began asserting an influence on my surroundings. Since then my interests have been in art, caricature, painting, drawing, drafting, film-making,logo design and of course, writing. All of these are about leaving a mark.

Just like the earliest of scribes who pressed bone into soft clay to create cuneiform tablets we too share in this amazing quest to leave our mark upon history.

Now from here one could ask and point out the obvious. What kind of mark are we leaving? We’re you or I really proud of that painting or Youtube video we did? Of course part of being human is playing the fool. We all make mistakes. Sometimes big ones that just don’t get erased too easily.

However, I’m not going to press those questions. I’ll preach to myself first.

Suffice it to say that artists leave a  mark. Perhaps this post is a bit open ended or anticlimactic. You’re invited to comment or further the discussion. It was, however, the fact that in its simplest form my job or at least my avocation here is to leave my mark; to leave behind a record for others to experience.

This fact has left an indelible impression upon me.

So now what about you? Anything to add to the discussion be it ever small or large ? :^)

My Art is not as Good as…

Wolfville Chimney Swift

Robie Tufts Nature Centre Wolfville NS. Acrylic on canvas board by K.Cameron

“My art is not as good as someone else’s.” True or false?

This is a feeling that comes over every artist sooner or later.

The fact that your Mom posts your art on her fridge or more likely her facebook- wall is no real assurance either.

I mean it’s great if she does post to social media (especially if she knows a crap load of art collectors) but she is ,after all, doing what a Mother would do. She’ll likely love your art no matter what.

This is where I’m supposed to come in and console you  by saying it’s the nature of art that there is no such thing as good art. Did that sentence make sense?  In other words it doesn’t matter if you color over or outside of the lines.

Yes it does. If it’s not an abstract piece and it’s supposed to be an architectural rendering then it does matter if you colour outside of the lines.

Or, on the other hand, you might be expecting “You’re art is brilliant!” and you’ve achieved your highest level of skill. In this case you’re only lying to yourself. One day you may wake up and be embarrassed to find out that you’re really not the best painter,singer, writer, etc.

So how do you know if you’re art is any good?

Basically by comparing it to someone else’s in the same genre.

Two things to remember are that :

Art is subjective (poor art can be liked by someone).

It doesn’t have to be the best art in order to sell.

In other words you can still be proud of what you have accomplished and at the same time strive to increase your skill level with the medium you use. Your art does not have to be technically perfect but it has to express, to some degree, the emotions and message you intended it to say (not so much in words).

How to get better at art.

Nonetheless, your art can always get better as your skills increase.

The only way to increase your skill(s) is to increase time spent on said skill(s).

The question of whether your art is good enough to sell is really a  no-brainer since a lot of bad art sells. If you want to get better art then you want to get better at art!

Your art has to please you, to some extent. Otherwise you will have no fun at it at all.

Being good at art means being genuine and honest with yourself and your work.

Being better at your skills means comparing your skill level to someone, like a mentor, who has put in the time to bring out (more) flavour in their art. You will be amazed at what you do if you strive to get better, taking a peek and learning from those more skilled but also having joy and thankfulness for the stage you are at now. Don’t become obsessed with someone else’s level of work; they too had to follow the same path you’re on and are following their own path.

Success as an artist can be measured in many ways but the outcome of such gauging will always lead the true artist to humility, respect and awe for others and the world around them.

Thanks for visiting! join the discussion over at my facebook page if you like!

Let Me tell you a Story…

Sketch and Illustration by Kevin Cameron for a book called Stuck ( by another author)

Artists are story-tellers.  I’ve thought about it for quite a bit and can’t seem to disprove it. Can you?

Artists aren’t  natural default liars. That’s another kind of story-teller; like the punchy uncle at the family get-together that spews out strings of mistruths and half-truths and no truth about wild adventures of former times…when things were simpler…and less true apparently.

Artists tell a story every time they paint, sculpt, photograph or make music, et al. Even if they do not sit and draft up a plan but seem to act impulsively they are in fact telling a story. Sometimes the story is obvious. Take for example Banksy’s starving huddled boy  encircled by flies , behind an empty bowl, wearing a contrasting colourful Burger King hat (crown).

The story is one of poverty ironically juxtaposed with abundance. The boy likely found the hat and like any child pretends a different life. He feels he may be worth royalty but is contrastingly treated as a pauper.

Sometimes the story is not so much the content but in the mode of transmission.  Bright , bold and cheery colours might be expressing joy and lightheartedness and in fact they may be a result of something quite the opposite. A happy person can paint a dark portrait while at the same time one we would expect to be forlorn from a heavy life might find peace and respite in a world of painting happier contexts. I’m thinking of Maud Lewis , for one, who had a hard life yet surrounded herself with brilliant works of art painted from basic oil paints.

Maud Lewis – Two Deer in Snow

So what is your story? As an artist what are you saying to your world? These two are questions I ponder as art for me seems to be about expressing whatever it is I feel connected to in the moment or in some phase of life.

Art , for me, is like some twin joined at the hip or maybe more like I am the shadow of it; the art being the reality.

What does art mean to you as story telling ? Have I missed anything? Feel free to comment below. Thanks for visiting!

It’s Never Too Late ( to do what you love)

Over the Moon

Timing is a funny thing. In fact where I live the time just went ahead 1 hour (Daylight Saving Time) . Not sure if that’s relevant but just more coincidental to this post.

Do you find ( like me ) that you think a lot about whether it is best to do a thing when you feel like it or to just discipline yourself to grind it even when the feeling is not there?

Honestly I think it is a bit of both. Moderation is a word that I often feel is limiting. I mean, don’t you feel that a Yes or No or either this or either that is the answer you really want?

When it comes do doing something you love, like creating art, etc. it seems  we want it both ways. I’ve often heard other artists say ( myself included wholeheartedly) that ” Today I’m just not feeling it!” That is to say that if I don’t feel like creating something right now I should walk away from the  easel. Ever notice how this occurs usually on your day off or time set aside to actually do your art!!?

 Here’s the thing… I think both approaches are okay. I think that there are times in the scheme of things we need to go for a walk, split some firewood or take a trip. Other times ( maybe more often so) we need to just pick up the brush ( both metaphorically and actually) and lay down some paint with no idea where this will take us.

The best thing is to avoid guilt. Guilt is not a good motivator. Habit can be a good motivator ( GM), Feeling Euphoric can be a good GM, a Kick-in-the-Backside ( both metaphorically and  actually) can be a good GM. maybe a good BM could be a good GM..no, scratch that 

Guilt never works. When we say we were guilted into it then it never ends well. There are other ways to force ourselves to do what we love. It is ironic one would have to say that :”Force” ourselves.  I mean by concentrating on the small picture or doing that first small step. The idea that I can pour a drop of paint on the palette and play around with it and then draw it on the canvas…squiggling a line from left to right, top to bottom. That sometimes does the priming right there and the creative spark begins to work. Other times a grand vision  of mural proportions energizes us to create all things great and small, all things bright and beautiful…

Sometimes for my own pleasure I like to play my drums/bongos. There are times I’m not feelin it but when I  sit and tap out a rhythm to a tune  I like and in that weighted moment my spirit seems to rise with the music and often ends after an hour of enjoyable percussion.

Whatever occurs remember it is never too late to start again to do something you love. Never. You may have to scale back for health reasons or the demands of life put upon you but say to yourself that the promise of the rising sun is that you have this one more moment which is clean and bright like an empty canvas waiting for it’s next conscription.

And if you work at night then let the moon and stars inspire you.

The Encouraging Voice

theencouragingvoice

Caricatures I did of the cast of Casablanca

If you listen you can hear it (them).

It’s no surprise that we have voices in our head.

After all the brain is a huge memory bank as well a processor of ideas and actions. Some of them become voluntary and some involuntary- which makes sense. Who wants to tell their stomach to churn the food you ate and to add all the necessary acids and hormones to do their job. The brain assigns jobs that we are not consciously aware of.

thebrain

I remember seeing a TV show or movie years back that opened with the scene of a man being thrown into the water after being wounded in a car chase. At least that is what my memory bank tells me.

The screen showed a man being plunged deep in the dark waters and you could hear his thoughts.

They went something like this as he told his brain and body to prepare for survival:

“Heart- Slow to 40 beats per. min. Lungs- maintain oxygen levels and exhale slowly, etc”

You get the picture.

The hero of the show was controlling his thoughts to improve his chances of survival.

Maybe it’s fiction..but…hold on. Do you hear the voice(s) in your head?

What are they saying as you attempt to go about reaching your goals?

Often times we pick up the negative, critical voices that surrounded us from our youth. I know I have. We too , may be saying words that hurt others and we’re not aware of it. 

We use those harsh words, backed up by our respect for authority figures ( teachers, parents, that aunt or uncle, etc) to twist together a long whip with barbs and bone. We then get in the habit of whipping our own selves with it mentally.

 

Those harsh words we have owned and put our own personal stamp on them. They become our words, our thoughts. ‘Not going all Spock on you here but you hear what I’m saying, right?

We chose to believe them.

Sure criticism is good. It helps us survive and helps us learn. However we can dwell too much on words that do not carry us forward to our goals.

Once we realize that the thoughts we think are our own choice we can begin to bring correction to our direction!

This is the starting point. We can try all kinds of external influencers but when it comes right down to it we have to change, sometimes slowly and with practise, our habit of thinking and self-talk.

Image from blog "What Shih Said"

Image from blog “What Shih Said”

Be mindful of what you are telling yourself. Is it wise? Or is it harming your ability to take action and embrace change and succeed at your goals?

“Brain- You can do this! Heart- You’re large enough for this task. Lungs- take a deep breath and Go For It!!”

Thanks for visiting. Drop a line if you like 🙂

 

The Road to Greatness

Old Halls Harbour NS

Old Halls Harbour NS

The Road to Greatness. That’s what this post is not about.

‘Achievement’ is a word familiar to the realm of art and creativity. Achievement is painted to be the ultimate goal. Achievement really never answers the question “Why?”

Why do you paint? Why do you write? Why do you sing? Is it for achievement sake?

Strangely enough I came across three separate interviews today that were all linked thematically in an unusual way. One was about a young child actress who confessed to feeling so isolated and alone while others looked on her success with envy. The next one dealt with the stress and pressure we humans feel and have always felt relative to our culture  due to being overworked, strung out and burnt out to the point of melancholy and depression. These latter ill effects are often praised in our achievement driven societies.

Finally I caught some radio discussion on the joy of being content with being average. Many called in to confirm their increase in satisfaction with life when they finally decided to let go of some unrealistic  targets they had aimed for in earlier years. I never heard any of these articles in their entirety but just enough to piece together an overall lesson for myself.

I think , as an artist and yes, also as a person, I have longed for a time when life becomes an easier coast to success.

For instance this summer (2016) I sold  several prints of my work however I did not sell out. I think in the bottom of my heart or in the back of my brain there was this longing for the euphoric success that would mean all of my prints would have sold out. It didn’t happen, of course.

That does not mean that success was not achieved but it does mean that my vision and view of how life itself should have unraveled was different. I know for a fact that purchasers were delighted with my work and it will be impacting their lives  in a positive way for years to come. Art, by the way, has the power to do that.

What I’m trying to describe is that feeling we all have that someday if we try hard enough we will reach a peak or plateau for which we will achieve greatness and thereby happiness.

But the summit does not bestow upon us joy.

For many it will only egg us on ( sometimes miserably) to yet another higher, loftier goal.

For most of us, in time, we realize that those *achievements lie as ruins like some ancient Babylonian ziggurat; a tower of Babel that has eroded into the sand from whence it came.

The Road of Greatness, I think, is the one we want to be on. It is that road that at all points finds us comfortable with who we are and being authentically defined as just who we are at any year, month decade or day.

Do we give up striving for greatness? Yes. Perhaps the road of greatness is more of self improvement rather than being reliant on the praise and accolades of strangers. That road seems to leave us as strangers to our own selves.

At 52 and closing in on 53 years of age I still feel that I have learned so little of what life is really about. I know, though, that with each year material possessions for the most part weigh us down as we trek this road. Perhaps the  death of vain wishes brings about the beginning of a release toward true wisdom.

I know now that seeking true greatness is not something to be attained but rather, realized…right now in the moment.

A Tapestry of Colour

Oceanrocks2016fb

The beauty of Creation is in it’s variety. Diversity abounds. You only have to look at the world around you to see that difference is something we have to live with. Really! There is not just one kind of tree or flower.

It’s like that with people as well. There are different races, different ethnicities. The thing about people is that they disagree sometimes. This is just another form of variety. Difference of mind.

I’d be naive to believe that all difference brings about good.

But let’s not dwell on that side of things right now. That gets enough attention from news media.

A New Goal.

You can change your world.

You can be agreeable without having to agree.

One practical way to love others better is to imagine ourselves in their shoes. When we pause to think how we might like to be treated in a certain situation, we build empathy for those actually living in that situation. Do we like to be treated with love and respect? Then we should give that gift to others. (gotquestions.org)


The painting above is called Ocean Rocks which I just completed this summer. It doesn’t even have it’s protective finish yet. I hope you see a visual lesson in this tapestry of colour.

 sideoceansmall

The Cat named Art

ART can’t be contained.

No matter how much an artist tries to stop being an artist it always comes back.

Like the cat that leaves but keeps on showing up on the doorstep ( an old Muppet skit comes to mind) the artist for whatever reason can’t ultimately stop being true to their nature.  Perhaps you’ve experienced this too.

For what reasons artists find to take a hiatus depends upon the artist however it’s often linked to a dissatisfaction with their results or even themselves.  Yes a kind of perfectionism that haunts us.

Life can get too busy with jobs, social expectations and a myriad of good things. At the end of the day , though, there is a hunger to do more.  The warm, caring nurture of time spent painting  beckons us back to the easel, the canvas or preferred medium of your choice.

The shelter from the howls of cold wind and life itself once again calls us home to safety.

In this way Art cannot be contained.  You may be a creative who thinks they can put off your inner call until retirement or until that list of home repairs needs to be finished but in the end you’ll find that spark of creativity is a hard thing to dowse .

The call to be creative leads you back over well trodden hills and forest paths to a home you keep hidden in your heart.

Isn’t it time you came in from the cold!

Have a creative day!  Thanks for visiting.