Saturday, April 20, 2013

I Only Blog When My Mind Is More Chaotic Than Usual

There once was a mind so chaotic.
At times it seemed almost despotic!
So a purge it did seek, with the freewrite technique,
Which prevented it turning psychotic.

Thankfully, the chaos is not combined with nasty hormonal moodiness. Although it might be if I take more than a few days to finish this post, and we absolutely want to avoid mixing the two. Bad hormones plus an overloaded mind is my middle-class American equivalent of a Whedonesque-type scenario like unintentionally transporting yourself into a demon dimension because you stupidly read aloud the Sanscrit writing on that old amulet you found at a yard sale. The current cranial pandemonium is caused by the horde of ideas and projects that long ago applied for visas into the outside world, but have been kept waiting like folks in a bread line in the former Soviet Union. They are getting impatient. They are getting pissed. In fact, they are about to riot. As a benevolent dictator, I do want to prevent that. But also, since I am a dictator, they cannot leave without my permission. Herein is my proclamation that will set them free. Go forth, Ideas and Projects! Affect the world in a positive way! Make money! Inspire people! Get OUT of my freaking head! Okay, after all that drama you might be wondering what these ideas and projects are. You may know (if you have slogged through my thoughts for any length of time) that I am absolutely terrified of goal-setting, or making resolutions, or trying to plan any kind of scheduled time to do anything. You may also know that despite that fear, I am a total self-improvement junkie. I realize that's kinda oxymoronic. But I must make a disclaimer and say that this is absolutely Not a Manifesto About What I Will Do and When I Will Do It and When It Will Be Done. This is simply giving freedom to the Mindstuff, and if/how it eventually manifests itself in the tangible realm remains to be seen.

As always, the Mindstuff consists of things I want to do/accomplish either soon or eventually, but about which I either procrastinate and/or literally have only a small amount of time for at this stage of my life. Sometimes I am surprised at how much art, writing, etc. I have actually produced over the past 20 years, because I have never been any better at time management than I am now. Even when I had fewer kids and fewer other grownup responsibilities I still wasted time and allowed fear to distract me. Now I'm more afraid that I will drop dead before I can do the things I really want to do. But I  think that God might have finally given me the make-a-craft gift set that will bring into focus the para-domestic side of my life. Shall we open the box and see what it contains?

Paper, lots of different kinds
Paint, pencils, inks and related art supplies
Books to cut up or scan from
Cutting tools, stapler, needles, embroidery floss, ribbon
Instructional books

Insert reads: Hours of Creative Fun!!! Just add words of all kinds, psychological angst, spiritual meanderings and self-deprecating and sarcastic humor.

Hey, this is the same type of stuff I have been using for almost 20 years! But hopefully since it is the God Stuff and not some cheap Dick Blick knockoff, it will have some kind of irresistible power over me.

Given these supplies, I see that I am supposed to keep making zines, hand-binding books, doing art journaling and learning how to paint...and I sense that I am supposed to add in teaching workshops and writing at least one book. But let's be honest, for most of my life I have been a dabbler and spent a lot more time reading about these very hands-on things than actually practicing them. I hate to say it, but I believe I need to make myself some kind of course of study (for lack of a better term) mostly on the art end of things. My Rebel-O-Meter is beeping like crazy just thinking about it. But there is no way I am going to learn how to, say, mix colors without actually doing the exercises in the color book. Zine making is really the only thing on my list that I think I have "down", as far as being technically competent.

Note: We have entered the demon dimension to which I alluded in the first paragraph. Abandon hope of avoiding snark, all ye who enter here. Actually, my late-evening latte and the fact that Husband has removed all children from the vicinity may allow me to remain in the not-so-evil antechamber long enough to finish this in a more or less pleasant fashion.

So, onto my thoughts about what a smart person would do to improve in these areas, while not at all assuming I am a smart person. I set no actual goals. When I write like this, to focus or clarify things in my mind, it is probably more like I am using the very new-age concept of setting an intention, without the new-age gobbledygook. I remind myself what is important to me so that I can have an idea of what to do when it is time to "do the next thing". I have a tendency to be scattered, in case you haven't realized that yet. Remember, if any of this gets done in 2013, it is a victory. Also remember that most of this will not be new to any of the uh, 15 or so people who read this blog.

Zinemaking: I have not made a zine since 2007 (the 100 page extravaganza Eclectic Domestic/Bohemian Housewife, which will hopefully appear in digital format this year sometime). Six years is a long time to go between zines, and I have started working on one a few times, but I always gave up. I originally thought my next one would have the same title as this blog, No Spring Chicken. But that is the name for my Midlife-Crisis Self, who thankfully appears to have left the building. I am now Midlife Mama, who is much less miserable than that chicken person. But I just couldn't nail down any kind of focus for a zine, which was stressing me out. But then I realized that it's my zine and it doesn't have to have a focus besides well, me and what I want to put in it at any given moment. So I made a cover with the title Midlife Mama Presents: No Rhyme or Reason. That means it will be a good format to chronicle/practice all the stuff that I am trying to integrate into my life at this time.I want to include some things that scare me, like at least one comic and some self-portraits that are less-than-flattering. I also want to include some handmade mixed-media thing, probably some handpainted tag journal books or something.

I have a friend who is also a zinemaker (so grateful I found her!!!!!) and she feels the same way I do about the importance of keeping paper alive in this age of Digital Everything. So, we are going to start a zine distro (distribution site) to promote zines made by Christians. If hers and mine are the only ones that are ever on there, so be it. But we both hope to start infecting people with a virus whose main symptom is an unquenchable desire to create personal publications on paper, or PPP. There is no known cure once you are infected, but it is not easily transmittable, so we have our work cut out for us if we want the infection to spread. I published a How-To-Make-A-Zine zine a few years ago, and I think I will probably make a revised and expanded edition which can be distributed with the virus inside, bwahahahahahaahahah! The joys of being a mad scientist!!!!!

Art Journaling Workshops/Book: This is not the same project exactly, but I need to take a lot of the same steps to prepare. I have sooooooo many books dedicated to bookmaking, art journaling, written journaling exercises, etc. I want to go through all those books and choose projects or techniques that appeal to me and play with them until I can do them well...then I can branch out and change them up, and determine which ones I want to use for "exercises" when teaching. I think I may make a bound book with two or three of these signatures to use for experiments, and if I like it I will send it to Art Journaling Magazine. I will need to not be attached to the book to mail it off - even though they send your work back to you, it can take up to a year and well, who knows what might happen.

When I teach workshops I want to inspire people to make art without fear and judgment, and also to engage with their own lives in that same way. Any kind of "techniques" or art instruction I might give would be secondary.

There are very few art journalers featured in books or magazines who don't seem to be constantly Focusing On The Positive. You know, pages created around your favorite inspirational word or quote, etc. That gets old and boring to me - maybe because my life has certainly not been one long inspirational quote.

I do use them occasionally, though:

But I lean more towards what I consider to be non-nihilistic pessimism:

Most of the time I avoid quotes anyway, and just let it all out in my stream-of-consciousness non-legible way:

My point is not to bash optimism or encourage people to give up trying to find inspiration in an often non-inspirational world...I don't really have a point except to say that I want people who have only seen the cute kittens type of art journaling to know that it is perfectly fine if your personal journaling animal is more scaly than fluffy and has disgustingly bad breath.

I also want my zine to contain a 4 or 8 page mini-prototype of My Future Book which can also be used as a workshop handout. I can't realistically expect to be able to teach workshops for at least 2 years, until Baby is 4ish. Historically, the kids have been about that age when they have been willing to let me go for 6+ hours. 

Natalie Goldberg says that if you want to be a writer, simply write for two full years with no thought of making the writing into anything (novel, memoir, etc)  - so I guess it doesn't seem unreasonable that it could take two years for me to be in any state of readiness to teach. I think the process of writing my book will kill the proverbial flying animal with the proverbial hard object, because well, books like this are workshops wherein the teacher addresses you via the printed page. The book will have a memoir-ish quality that would be missing in the live workshops (because I will be including my own journal writing), but apart from that, when I have a book, I will also have a workshop.

The Really Scary One - Drawing and Painting

This is the scary one because I am truly a beginner in this area, and that is just frustrating. I do have a moderate natural talent for drawing, but it is not that impressive. And when I try to add shading to a line drawing or (gasp) use color in an actual painting, it goes from "not that impressive" all the way down to "decidedly unimpressive". But I want to be able to draw so I can sometimes use my own illustrations in my zines and stuff, and I want to be able to paint because I want to have my own art on the walls of my home.

I do have one painting hanging up already, and I like it, but it's still very amateurish. I think what is good about it was a happy conflagration of accidents.Those definitely have their place in art, but I would prefer if they occurred on top of some kind of technical competency. So, to become technically competent, I have to practice, and my Inner Perfectionist hates to practice, since, well, she wants everything she does to be perfect all the time. I'm not embarrassed or ashamed for people to see my imperfect work, but I really am just lazy and don't want to put the time in, despite mentally assenting to the platitude that It's All About The Journey.

So, what I need to do is keep a sketchbook/paintbook, made with the same Teesha Moore watercolor signatures I mentioned in the art journaling section.  I got a book on color that has a lot of exercises in it, and I guess I have to actually do them. I also want to just draw things from my everyday life, since that is what I want to use drawing for, to add a different element to my ongoing obsession to chronicle my life.  I should expand my horizons and do something besides mapping out my inner landscape. I really should have a Master's degree in cartography by now. (I just stopped and did this sketch of my coffee cup sitting on the piano. My life can honestly be measured out in coffespoons. Not a bad drawing...shading is off but that's what we expected, yes?)

I have soooooooo many cut-off-the-book book covers that I planned to use for paintings and I just need to start doing that (I have used a few of them to make covers for hand-bound books). One reason I avoid painting on them is because I want to paint large, but large canvases are expensive. I have a few large canvases (one with a super-awful painting on it..right now I can hear it whispering, "Gesso over me" in a pathetic raspy tone. Its figurative eyes are begging me to put it out of its misery.) I should probably allow myself to paint on a large canvas as a "reward" for doing color work and stuff in the practice book or on the bookboards, which are probably about 8 x 10.

The Final Frontier - To Sell or Not To Sell?

I have had a few online shops over the years, and they have always been failures...or rather, I have been a failure as a business person. I say that with all the self-love in the world. I just wasn't prepared to have any kind of business. I rarely got orders out on time, plus I was selling things I didn't enjoy making (handmade cards and rag dolls).

I also sold my zines, but even with those, I often wouldn't have enough copies printed, it would take me days to get to the copy place, sometimes I offered a "package" that included a small handmade item, and boom! the customer wouldn't get their order for a month. And no matter how much you like a thing, that kind of sucky customer service is a deal-breaker. (This is not a zine I sold, but one I made for a swap...but it is an example of how my zines look.)

 Despite that poor track record, I still think I will eventually want to offer things for sale online workshop, handbound books and art journals, even paintings if people like them. I don't relate to my past business names anymore, so I would need to think of a new name. And I would have to have an actual inventory so I don't run around frantically like the headless chicken of yore, trying and inevitably failing to get orders made and shipped in a few days' time. At least I learned something from my past experience as a bad businessperson, and I absolutely trust that I would not take this step unless and until I am prepared both practically and mentally.

Anyway, I think that's everything...can you see why my mind was so cluttered?