I have been having the hardest time trying to write this post. Every time I sit down to do it I either feel like I have a lack of motivation or what I have written sounds like a manic episode of thought put into giant overly descriptive paragraphs. I think this has to do with the fact that I’m stressed out, and because of this, my means to maintain motivation has been an emotional rollercoaster.
Over the course of the past month, I have been working my butt off. Mostly, I’ve been getting ready for this festival-type art show at the Howard Theatre that is actually happening in less than 12 hours from now. I made ten new paintings in less than a month to sell at this thing. For those of you out there who are not artists, that’s a lot. Like A LOT. In addition to the hours of painting, I also bought materials in preparation to be ready, and I bought prints of my paintings to sell.
This show is not the only life event I have currently. There are many other moving parts happening. Over the past year, two friends and I have been writing short scripts in order to create a type of online series and to enter into short films festivals. At this point, we are finally starting to film, which also means editing and is another thing to do once a day of filming is done. I also have been persistently, without fail, taking self portraits and also editing those. I’ve been rigorously looking for jobs, freelance and part-time work, because I’m running out of my saved income and thats terrifying and also a huge stressor. I’ve also been applying to other art shows so that I can keep doing this and so I can try to continue to pursue some sort of career here. I have old projects that I’d like to actually finish including the six people I told in NOVEMBER that I’d carve them Harry Potter wands, and have only officially made one. If you are one of those people and you happen to be reading this, I’m sorry, I swear when it gets warm outside again I will actually carve them. It’s too messy of a project to do inside a house.
That’s the general gist of things that I need to do. The cherry on top of the mile high pile of stuff to get done is that a little over two weeks ago I contracted some form of the plague which put me completely out of commission for almost a full week and basically pushed me a step back in my plan for working on all of my millions of projects. And here, as I write this, I am now definitely sick again of course hours before my big art show. I started feeling it yesterday, but I was hoping it would go away. Emergen-c is my best friend right now.
As I stated earlier, my general motivation has been such an emotional rollercoaster. it goes like this: I sit down and get a ton of work done; I feel generally good; I get through a bunch of applications feeling like I’m on fire, and like I’ve done such a great job; I feel optimistic about doing things, and like I’m moving on the path I’m supposed to be on. I can actually do as much as I like to think I can do. Then I have periods of the exact opposite: I can’t do anything; I cry; I get frustrated; I’ll think I’m not good enough– or what I’m doing isn't good enough. I fear that I’m going to fail, and that I’m going to fail so badly, I somehow won’t be able to come back from it. Unfortunately over the past few days my thoughts are more of the latter. Besides what I’ve mentioned in the previous paragraphs, I have some other personal things going on, as most people do, which I’m going to neglect to share because it’s just a little too personal, but sometimes it really takes a toll on me.
When I’m experiencing a lot of stress, I have really, really bizarre dreams. A few weeks ago I had a dream that I was in the house where I grew up, and there was this lightning, tornado, storm, apocalypse thing that was causing all the trees to violently sway in the wind and crash down everywhere and onto my house. This is significant because the house where I grew up is in the woods and 70 foot oak trees surround it. About seven years ago, one of those trees fell onto the house while my dad and I were both in it. We were fine, but the house took a bit of a hit. The crash shook the whole thing, and it was an utterly terrifying experience. So I essentially have a fear of trees. It’s not like if I see a tree I’m all of a sudden paralyzed with fear, but if bad weather comes through, and I’m anywhere near large trees, you bet I feel uneasy. So the first indication that I may be stressed out is because I had the dream about the trees crashing. And yes, I have had other nightmares about trees falling down on my house.
The same week I also had a dream that I was back working at my first restaurant job where I worked for about five years. I was getting slammed with tables, my orders were all late, and I was drunk or high or something to that effect. I’ve had this dream before, but this time I was wearing my old private school uniform from middle school, which is new and super weird. Then this past week I kept having dreams I have a beard. Not like a full, bushy beard, but instead this weird wispy thing. I don’t know what all these mean, but I know that it means something is not right. So apparently, I’m going through some things.
To parallel my motivational state, creating this whole month’s collection of pictures has been a series of ups and downs. I adore the portrait of me laying in the snow with the flower crown. The second I reviewed the images on my camera I felt really great about them. These pictures were taken on a Sunday, and I was also so overly proud of the fact that I was being so proactive about starting early in the week for my projects, but I was also really excited because I genuinely really like this series of photos. I was feeling creatively charged. I felt like I was on the way to pushing myself to think outside of the box for my self portraits. Although, I will say it was not a very pleasant experience having to look up and to try to keep my eyes open and relaxed while snow fell down on my face and into my eyeballs. In many of the pictures I looked like I was mid-sneeze because I was trying to focus on keeping my face relaxed while simultaneously keeping my eyes from blinking the moment a snowflake fell into them.
I did a decent amount of planning inside. I knew that since I would be laying in the cold snow with only a sweater, I would not want to take too much time actually being outside. I positioned my camera and tripod inside and laid on the floor while trying to figure out the correct angle and focus. Once outside, I planted the tripod and laid in the direction of the lens exactly how I did while inside. Then occasionally I would get up scroll through the images to make sure I had what I wanted. Planning was definitely key in order for this to work.
The next week was completely opposite emotionally. I struggled so much. Having a terribly difficult time being motivated, I took the next series of portraits almost two weeks after the snow shoot. It was a Saturday. I needed to push myself to do something; so I took the close up shots of my hair in my face. To my surprise, they were good. Despite no planning, the pictures had feeling and energy. The goal was just to play with my hair and see what happened, and I really ended up enjoying the results. In most of the photos my face was fairly cropped. I was pretty close to the camera, but I think the crop makes for more of an interesting photograph, and the image feels sort of intimate because it’s so up close. But also, I was just having fun with it which is basically what this whole project is about.
Another aspect I’ve been trying to work on is to get outside to take pictures for more landscape style self portraits. I’ve been trying to multitask relaxation with essentially work. Occasionally I like to go on hikes and mini adventures to clear my head. In an attempt to be sort of productive at the same time, I now also make sure to bring a backpack with my camera and tripod so that if I happen to stumble on what I think will be a good image. If that doesn’t happen, I just try to enjoy my walk.
One evening I went on a late afternoon walk with my friend Rachel. We walked to a lake not far from my studio. It was all frozen and the sun was setting so I decided that it might be a good time to try to take some pictures. I ended up hating all of them. I was so frustrated with them. They felt so unplanned, and I was unhappy with every single image. The sunset was not as brilliant as I had hoped for, and in all of the pictures I looked like a deer in headlights. I decided to edit them anyway. The image below is the heavily edited sunset shot. I guess I figure my struggles can also be helpful motivation for someone else out there – or something like that. Anyway, to edit these was good practice. I had to do a lot more than I normally do to photos, especially because of that sunset. I even “painted” in some extra color. Really, it was so dull.
Determined to do better, two days later I decided to take some more pictures outside around four in the afternoon on a crisp, clear day. For this particular shot I had already planned the location. There is a Trolley Museum in a big open lot not far from my studio, and it’s often that no one is there. Rachel came with me again to go explore. She’s basically my adventure companion. Sure enough, on that day the lot was empty with the exception of this one car that always seems to be parked outside of the building, but still no one is ever there. We must’ve been the only ones who had been there in a few days. The snow on the ground was untouched.
Sometimes an image will just come to me, and I can recreate almost exactly. Other times, the spontaneity of the photograph can be such a great gift, but also, as I’ve learned, it can also be its biggest demise. It seems that the self portraits where some planning has been involved, the general outcome of the images as a whole usually ends up better. This series, unlike the sunset one, was much more thought out. I know this location fairly well, and I had a good idea of what I wanted my end product to look like. I knew I wanted open skies and a little bit of the surroundings to be present. I also wanted that warm and bright afternoon sun.
We didn’t need to walk very far before I found the exact spot I wanted to stop and take pictures. The scenery matched the image I was trying to recreate pretty perfectly. The sky was completely clear and so blue, and at that time of day the sun created a little of that afternoon warmth I was going for, despite it being about six degrees outside. The picture at the beginning of this post is what I took first. I did multiple portraits with a wider view of my surroundings with the attempt to create my original idea. In the more cropped portrait here, I decided to zoom in a little and focus less on the scenery. I took multiple pictures in this angle as well. I’m glad to have both perspectives and this is definitely something I will try to continue to do just to mix it up a little and give myself more options.
I felt confident after shooting this series. I was able to restore faith in myself and my abilities. I am just trying to remind myself that there are going to be off days in everything I do, and some will be even worse days than others. I know this is natural. I know everyone goes through periods of frustration where it seems like life isn’t going your way, but recently it’s been a toughie.
I’ve probably shared way more than others care to know about, and I know last post I said I didn’t want this to be like a diary, but I think it’s important to occasionally share when you’re struggling, especially because social media likes to make out like everyone’s lives are so perfect. I think it keep us down to earth and reminds us that we’re real and human.
In addition, I do feel like it’s worth noting that I’ve had a very hard time trying to pick a single portrait from each series. I have multiple in each set that I was so torn between because I really admire so many of them. For someone who has been having a difficult time, I have some good vibes now from revisiting all these series… Except for that sunset one.