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Art talk & my journey of self-discovery

When exploring various forms of art, you could feel intimidated by the process. Often, things in life that seem very simple are quite the opposite when you experience them, and it is not different with any form of art and crafting. When you are just starting out, you should not feel like you are not good enough or think that your skills are not improving just because you don’t like what you make. Skills are not something given by nature, you have to work to improve them.

Even after years of creating all sorts of things, I still don’t like what I make most of the time. And you know what? It’s perfectly fine.

Just like the fact that people don’t like the sound of their own voice because of the difference between what they think it sounds like and how others actually hear it, you might want to throw away everything you make. One remedy, as I like to call it, is to imagine someone else created it. Would you feel the same about it? Probably not. The truth is, you’d praise it instead of throwing it away. Self-criticism is good, but it is easy to cross the line.

Are you a creative person or an artist?

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Creativity is something all people possess by birth. Children develop it by playing, drawing and watching others. When time for school comes, they are encouraged even more to find solutions for problems they will face in life.

Being creative means finding solutions to trivial problems, such as cutting paper without scissors, closing a box without tape, changing a light bulb you can’t reach or making a cake without flour.

If you find yourself in one of those situations, you will find one solution. Your mother will think of another. Your brother will have a different one and so on. The fact that people think and act differently is what makes them unique in every single way, including their creative side. Let’s take an example. You are alone in your home and the light bulb is burned out. It is too high to reach so what can you do?

Perhaps you’ll take a ladder. If you go searching for it and realize you don’t have any, what else can you use? A chair that can support your weight? A sturdy table? Would you build a platform of bricks? Or borrow a lamp changer pole from your neighbor? All of these suggestions are creative as you are thinking of several alternate ways to do a simple action you usually wouldn’t need any tools for.

Artists are creative, but they also need skills. Some people believe that we are born with certain, predetermined skills that will come to surface as we grow. There are intriguing thoughts by biologists, psychologists and philosophers related to this theme, but what you will find true is that determination and hard work leads to building and improving a skill. 

Early childhood is incredibly important in human growth and development as the child learns by observing and also through experience. We are witnesses of amazing things children can do at a very early age, such as be fantastic singers, dancers or painters. While some believe it is their talent by nature and of course it could be, sometimes it is only the result of parents pushing their child to do what they want, what they failed to do themselves at some point of their lives or of any other reason.

Help! I’m suffering from a creative/artist’s block. What can I do?

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If you love to dance, dance. If it makes you feel good to draw, then draw. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself asking ”Why am I doing this?” and if the answer is not something along the lines of because it makes me happy, I feel great, it relaxes me, then something is wrong.

Loving what you do and doing what you love is the unwritten rule of living a long and happy life.

In the world we live in, there are many obstacles that keep us away from achieving that, but it doesn’t mean you should give up. On the contrary, it should spark your determination to resist the gloomy present. There will be times in life when you’ll be aware of that, no matter how much you love to paint or dance, you just won’t feel like doing it. That’s okay. The worst thing you can do is force yourself to do things you don’t want to.

To feel inspired again, take a look around. Take a walk, observe the nature, see the beautiful colors that create a palette like no other. When you see a person coming home, stepping off a train, hugging their child or playing with their dog, imagine what’s behind it. Who are they? What are they doing? Why are they here now? Where are they going? 

It helps the writers the most, but if you ever try it, you’ll see how amazing it is to think about lives of others. What inspires them, what they like to do in their free time, if they are in love… nothing is more inspiring for an artist than that. Sure, you can imagine your own worlds, draw characters that never existed, combine reality with fantasy… but whatever you do, take a break and embrace the energy of the world. Trust me, it’s very helpful.

The block will go away eventually, once you stop thinking about it and convincing yourself you cannot do anything. You can, it’s only your subconsciousness telling you to stop for a moment, take a breath and do something else for a change. Don’t force it and you’ll be back on track in no time.

My journey of self-discovery

In my nineteen years of life, I have tried out many things. And I love them. I love music, I love to sing, learn languages, watch TV shows, write and read books, shoot videos, take photographs, travel… it’s a long list and I am absolutely in love with all of those activities. I know people sometimes find it strange, and I don’t blame them, but it is possible to make time for all of them as hobbies and still have enough time for chores and, in my case, university.

My first passion was definitely all about handmade things. I remember one day when I was maybe five or six-years-old. My mother brought home a magazine dedicated to DIY projects. It was explained in steps and even though I recall not being able to read the instructions very well back then, I learned just by looking at the photos.

There was absolutely nothing more interesting than flipping through the pages. It was published once a month and I remember I was always excited for the next issue. I kept buying them for years and even now I like to take them out and flip through once in a while. You might wonder why I am writing this? Back then, I didn’t have virtually any materials and tools needed to make things in the magazine, so I had to think of a creative solution. Now when I look back, I am actually glad the situation was like that as I learned a lot of things, from which glue is best for which material, to how to use bits and pieces found in the house to create useful objects.

As I pretty much only had paper, glue and scissors, I believe it is the reason why I always come back to papercraft. I tried many things, from decoupage, drawing, making useful things like headphones pouch, book holders, bookmarks, purses from recycled clothes, tatting, crochet… but I always came back to papercraft such as 3D paper statues, origami, gift boxes, card making and most recently, paper cutting.

People often don’t believe me when I say I can make pretty much whatever they would like, but I’m not bothered by that. When they see a handmade necklace I’m wearing and say they would love one like that, I make one for them with pleasure, thrilled they liked it.

I enjoy making, no matter which material I’m using. Today I’m inspired to make a piece of jewelry, tomorrow I might design a paper cutting template and make a gift box for a birthday coming up.

If someone tells you there’s no person that can have more talents or however they want to call it, do not listen.

If you want to sing, paint, design clothes and write a book, do it. You are living your life, not anyone else. You better make it count.

Another aspect of a life of a creative person with artistic tendencies is having to deal with criticism coming from ignorant people who secretly or openly laugh at your lifestyle. No, I’m not talking about those who couldn’t afford education. I’m talking about those who have not seen the beauty of this world and the power of what a man can create. Some say they don’t understand art so they’ll raise an eyebrow at an abstract painting worth millions of dollars. Others will insult it, claiming they can make it themselves.

Is that true? One thing to keep in mind when selling or giving away handmade items is to be prepared that 1/3 of people will take a look at what you made, huff and say: ”I’m not paying for that. I can make that myself.”

There are people who will lower their eyes and keep quiet. My response is always: ”If you ever do, I’d really like to see it.”

And, before you ask, no, that was not ironic at all.  Believe it or not, but that reply wipes the smirk off their face in a second. The truth is, I really would love to see what that person would make. But, they often think of it as an ironic retort and feel insulted. Why? Because they know they can’t make it themselves.

They can make something similar, but the soul of the artist will always be embedded in only what he makes. Yes, he can send a box full of supplies to someone, tell him exactly what to do with it but the final product will never be the same as if he had made it.

Collecting artwork is not only collecting things you like or find esthetically pleasing. It is about bringing a piece of the artist’s energy and inspiration into your home. Every artist has his own style. Handmade is handmade, and no machine can ever replace that.

Yes, I can buy and download a pattern for a gorgeous necklace done by a jewelry designer. Yes, I can also buy identical beads, wire and tools. But, it’s never going to be the necklace like hers. She designed it, she made it. I can try, but it’s never going to be the same.

Now that I think about that, what’s with all the templates I offer for free on this website, on Etsy or on Facebook? People often ask if I’m afraid someone will steal it and use to mass produce things and gain huge profit.

It happened once. I won’t lie, it was a tough period. A woman (see why I don’t use the term artist here?) downloaded the design for a paper cutting template meant for personal use only, which means it is all right to use papercuts as gifts but not to sell. I was actually happy she liked it.

The happiness was short-lived.

A week later or so, another woman sent me a screenshot of a website, asking me if they had my permission to post it. I zoomed in and was shocked to see laser cut wood that was made from one of my templates.

I am truly grateful that there are still people like that wonderful lady who are kind enough to warn designers of any misuse of their products. The woman recognized my design and messaged me immediately. The company’s owner used it to make expensive products without purchasing a commercial licence, or even asking for permission to use.

To be completely honest with you and warn you that handling these things won’t be very pretty and it’s all part of reality, here is her answer to my email in which I politely asked her to remove the content (paraphrased, or in other words edited to make it slightly more polite): ”Well, I purchased personal use templates from other Etsy sellers and used them too. No one complained but you.”

I have seen SMS messages longer than that and even more professional. But, I’m not bothered by the lack of respect and formality. It’s surprising how a person who knows they are guilty can act as if you are the one who is completely wrong and should be apologizing.

How exactly can you politely reply to such an unprofessional and insulting (as previously stated, I paraphrased her sentences full of errors and written in an accusing manner) message?

I hope you will never have to face it, but keep in mind that your work is never protected.

All in all, despite this experience which was disheartening, I am not afraid of sharing my work with others. Things like these happen, you learn from them and try to prevent them. I’m calm because I know that people value uniqueness and not plagiarisms. They recognize all the hard work that goes into creating something and will always choose it over a counterfeit.

  Should I go to art school?

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As a self-taught art lover, I have zero experience when it comes to art schools. I do have an opinion regarding them which might be surprising but entirely genuine. One thing is for sure, to be an artist you definitely do not have to go to any art school.

They can be overly expensive. While you might pay a similar amount for medical or law studies, as an artist you will not, on average, make huge salaries compared to doctors and lawyers.

What I think about schools in general, is that instead of encouraging young people to stand behind their beliefs and express them freely, they shape their minds and form walls around it, forcing them to think in a specific way. It turns people into robots, or sheep if you would like, that blindly follow orders.

Art schools can have that sort of effect when they are very traditional with closed-minded staff (not all are like that, it truly depends). If you are not a person inspired by taking orders, and instead want to develop your ideas in a natural way without anyone interfering, you might want to avoid art schools.

Working under pressure can result in despising what you do just because you must do it.

You’re not doing what you want to do, you’re doing what someone else wants you to do. You don’t develop your vision nor your style.

The positive side is that you will have resources, you can ask other artists for advice and are dedicating your time to making art. The community plays a big part, as you have support and constructive criticism coming from people like yourself. On the other hand, a nasty teacher or a jealous student can make your life living hell by degrading your work and convincing you that you are not good enough.

Another point is that a diploma is nothing. Your work is the proof of your abilities, not a signed piece of paper. With a diploma, you have credentials, but not necessarily skill.

Perhaps try an online course or attend a workshop first to get a feeling of how it would look like. If you feel uncomfortable or there is anything else that indicates you would not be happy by going to an art school, don’t do it. No one can decide for you, so take your time.

The art of living

To conclude, I would like to add a quote for you to think about. Take it as a friendly piece of advice and keep it in mind when you face a creative block, a lack of inspiration or feel like you constantly have to explain yourself and your passion for art to others.

quotefancy-12421-3840x2160Image source: Quotefancy, Ryan McGuire
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