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The Time a Teacher Told Me My Art Was Too “Crafty”

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While in high school, I was so much of an overachiever that I couldn’t fit all my passions into my class schedule. So my love for art was relegated to an after school activity in a small “Gifted Arts” program. It was two hours after school once or twice a week with an art teacher where we worked on various projects and explored new styles since the handful of us in the class were talented but not taking an art class as part of our course load.  During my sophomore year I had a wonderful teacher,  Mr. Pitsenbarger, who was hands-on and taught me creative skills I still employ today when brainstorming a project. But my freshmen year teacher almost made me quit art.

I think the first problem stemmed from her way of structuring the program.  Where Mr. Pitsenbarger had specific units and weekly projects with set goals, this teacher allowed us to develop our own large-scale projects and then work on them during program time with her help and critique.  While this seems awesome in theory (Woo! No assignments! No rules!), it really made the entire experience a free-for-all where I didn’t really learn much in terms of art theory or skills or practice. She helped me do a little research when I decided to work three-dimensionally and encouraged me in certain directions, but really what ended up happening was me feeling pressured to make the piece a certain way (that is, her way) and so I lost the original inspiration I had for creating it. Which resulted in a hideous fabric covered box and a failed attempt at starching and wiring fabric into a sculpture.

I remember getting extremely frustrated with it because it had mutated out of my original idea to a point where I barely even recognized it and the teacher seemed irritated with me that I had taken on such an intensive project when it wasn’t even something I had wanted!

But the thing that struck a chord with me the most and what honestly put me off from making any art for several years was that she told me all my ideas were too “crafty.”

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In a social media-infused world where “craftiness” is EVERYWHERE from artfully presented recipes to Dollar Store Hacks to holiday decoration tutorials, it seems weird that being told you’re “crafty” would come off as insult.  Now being “crafty” is a pretty lusted after asset especially when you can show off your craftiness to your social media following daily.  But at the time (and with the implication of being “too crafty”), it decimated my artistic confidence.  Instead of embracing my artistic style (which involved collage, mixed media, and a fair amount of fabric) and helping me develop it even if it didn’t fit the “traditional” style of art she was used to teaching, she shot me down and boxed me into some preconceived notions of what art should be. Which ultimately lead me to resent her and resent traditional forms of art (besides my time with Mr. Pitsenbarger I haven’t developed any traditional art skills like sketching or painting in class format since then).

So now, years later, with little attention paid to my traditional art skills (which I deeply regret), I’ve come to realize that my craftiness is not a detriment to my art. While the art and creative projects I enjoy doing may never hang in the Louvre or the Met, they bring me joy.  And for me, art is about the emotion–whether it’s joy or sorrow, empathy or anger.

I’m not painting grand landscapes on life size canvases, but I am making DIY costumes for cosplay like Judy Hopps for this past Halloween. And participating in the Creative Sprint where many times the goal is to make something out of nontraditional elements. I also started collecting magazines because I feel like getting back into collage and seeing what my life and creative experience since then will help me create.

I’ve also been super inspired by one of my fellow NextUp winners Cinnamon–known as the Art Sherpa on YouTube–to start painting again. I’ve been watching so many of her viewers post pictures of what they created based on her tutorials and pieces they painted because of the skills and confidence Cinnamon taught them. I love the positive and supportive community she’s created! I have a feeling if she’d been my art teacher she wouldn’t have told me I was too crafty!

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It’s Cinnamon aka The Art Sherpa teaching you how to paint!

But I also don’t want you to think that I hate that art teacher or that I want to shame her for her comment. While at the time, I was angry and hurt by what she’d said about my art and my art process, I know that most likely she didn’t mean to hurt me. She was doing the best she could in an after school art program for a rural public school system where she probably wasn’t getting paid for the extra work. It’s not like it was easy for her or that she was trying to be a self-righteous judge lording over us.

No, she was trying to help me the best way she knew how. It just so happened that it resulted in an unfortunate opinion about my work that stuck with me (because I was a very sensitive child, honestly).  But I hope that you know, that art shouldn’t ever be too crafty. Even straight-up crafts are art in their own way!  It all stems from the creativity and passion you infuse it with.

So go out and get on with your creative and crafty self! Don’t let someone shut you down because your art is different. I mean, learn the theory and basic skills if they’re teaching it to you, but also develop your own style even if it’s something your teacher (or friends or parents, et al.) haven’t seen before.  Let your art be as unique as you!

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What It Means to Be “Creative” for 30 Days | October 2016 Creative Sprint

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I’ve always considered myself a pretty creative person. In grade school I considered creativity my best asset. Parents, friends, teachers were in awe of the creative ideas or projects I would come up with and praise me for my unique way of thinking.  And today, while I still work hard to produce lots of creative content weekly for my YouTube channel and blog, and people still occasionally praise me for my creativity, I feel less creative than I ever have.

Many times I long for the days of my childhood where out-of-the-box ideas were prolific.  I can remember the constant stream of story ideas and the overflowing journals with poems, short stories, and reflections on life. I was always sketching or painting or working on a larger art project.  Most of my clothes were some DIY creation, and every holiday/birthday/special event warranted a handmade card and gift.

But slowly–imperceptibly even–those creative activities that filled my thoughts and occupied my hands during every free moment slipped away, filled in by some obligation or self-doubt.  It’s not that I stopped being creative. Creative thinking is a skill that you can bring to pretty much every part of your life, so I’ve continued doing creative things.  But I lost the confidence to continue exploring the creative activities I’d always loved.  I found myself spending more time using my creative skills for needs rather than just desires.  And for me, the joy of creativity comes from being creative for creativity’s sake.

So enter the Creative Sprint!  If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen some of my posts about it, but I wanted to reflect on the project as a whole on the blog this week. It was a 30 day challenge where you were emailed a daily prompt to help you make or do something creative. Prompts ranged from being inspired by the color green to using items you found outside or in your kitchen to create something.  It also focused on cultivating a creative community with the hashtag #CreativeSprint so you could find other Sprinters and follow and encourage them and even had prompts asking you to work with or be inspired by them.

You would think that 30 days of creative projects for someone who loves being creative and desperately wants to inject some art back into her life would be a dream come true!  And it was…in some ways. It was also a nightmare in others.  Encouraging yourself to do a creative thing every day is easy. For me, coming up with an idea for a creative thing every day was pretty easy too.  (It actually got to be quite exciting where I would go to bed happily anticipating what the next day’s prompt would be and gleefully opening my email when I awoke to read it).  But actually DOING the creative thing came to be the hard part. I think that is where the self-doubt comes in.  And why I stopped being so free with my artistic endeavors.

I still have lots of ideas–maybe not as many as I did when I was young and mostly obligation free as a tween (which, honestly, if you put aside all the hormonal changes, I’d suggest is the most creative and free time of your life).  But I rarely follow through with any of those ideas anymore.  I don’t create the giant mixed media collage because the canvas is expensive and where would I put it anyway? I don’t start writing the novel idea I had because I haven’t finished a novel yet so why should I start another idea for it just to rot half developed? I don’t actually sketch in my sketchbook because that last sketch I did wasn’t any good so why would I want to document my degrading art skills?

But during the month of October, I made myself DO the creative things. Sometimes it was with satisfaction and excitement.  Other times it was past 9 pm and I was ready for bed but scrambling to scrape together something. There are days that I’m incredibly proud of.  There are other days that I would rather hide from the world.  But it can’t be argued that I now have 30 more art pieces than I started October with.  And probably 30 more pieces than I would have created at all had there not been the Creative Sprint.

What I really took away from this challenge though is not just 30 pieces of art (good and bad), it was the realization that I have some work to do with overcoming my self-doubt when it comes to making art. Because I love painting and sketching and writing and creating things. But I’m stopping myself from doing those things out of fear.  In the digital age where every creative thing a person does seems to need to be broadcast to the internet in order for it to be “real,” it’s hard to not compare yourself to others or to feel confident enough to share something that you’re proud of even if it’s not professional level art. (And who’s to say what’s “professional” level and what’s not anyway?)

Just like any other skill, you have to practice to get better.  So I think if I want to get better at writing and art (or at least to get back to the place of confidence I was at in high school and early college), I need to work on it more.  Maybe not everyday, but MUCH more often than I have been.

So what do you think? How have you struggled with your creativity and self-doubt or confidence issues? Tell me down in the comments!

Also check out this gallery of all the things I created for the Creative Sprint!  I’d highly encourage you to sign up to participate in their next sprint which should be in May. Sign up now and they’ll notify you when it’s getting close!

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Adventures and Artistic Endeavors: The World of YouTube You’re Probably Missing

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This week’s Tuesday video (I really need a fun name for it. I guess I should be uploading on Friday so that it could be “Fun Fridays with Kaitlyn!” since that’s the general vibe I’m going for) hold a special place in my heart. It probably won’t be my highest viewed video (as my music videos and experiments in editing never rank as high view-wise), but I wanted to celebrate it on the blog today because I put a lot of hard work into it.

I’ll be honest, it’s much easier for me and has a much better payoff to film and upload videos of myself talking about getting your crush to like you or building up your self-confidence.  But my first love on YouTube–what I watch and always have wanted to emulate–are the experimental editors, the motion graphic artists, and the music video directors.  I like to see content that pushes the boundaries of video and music and storytelling and art. It’s what I strive towards even if it’s not necessarily what I create on my channel regularly. But this week, I made the effort to learn something new and create something beautiful that tested my skillset.

On the most basic level, “Summer Adventures” is just a travel-inspired music video with shots I’ve taken over the summer (and even some from the end of last summer!) artistically cut to music. I added some light leaks for a whimsical effect, but other than the beautiful scenery there wasn’t anything particularly awe-inspiring in that part of the process. Yet somehow I still ended up spending 6 to 8 hours on the project. Why, you might ask? Because I wanted to give it an extra “umpf” by creating a quirky title and lower thirds.

I had already been researching different types of clean lower thirds for inspiration on a work project and I ran across this tutorial by Mt. Mograph which I absolutely loved. So many people make simple tutorials drag on forever but Matt was able to create, animate, and explain well his piece in just over 5 minutes.  That’s a great tutorial!  I learned a few tricks to accomplish graphic movements I’d witnessed but only ever clunkily created with much more ease and precision.

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The time suck came from my desire to create “Write-On” Text for the title screen. I wanted a really quirky font and I didn’t just want a fade in. I wanted the letters to build themselves on screen. I’ve worked with “Trim Paths” quite a bit in After Effects and I knew the way to achieve the look I wanted came from drawing out each individual letter from watching this tutorial previously.  But that’s a lot of lines! And curves. Curves have been the bane of my existence, but after watching several wonderful tutorials on using the pen tool in Illustrator, I’ve found it much easier to work with in After Effects too. So I decided to go for it! I started with just the title and drew out each individual letter by creating paths in their shape and using a stroke to match the width of the letters. I could then animate the stroke using Trim Paths and it came out wonderfully! Each letter has to be in it’s own shape layer and it can feel tedious with the drawing and adjusting the curves to fit JUST right and naming each shape layer so it doesn’t get too confusing, but I did it!  And then on Monday I got the crazy idea that I should do the same animation for all the lower third text too!

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It’s a time-consuming process, but it does create a really amazing effect (I think especially with the particular text that I chose since there are all kinds of extra lines and curves.  So I ended up with a project that includes a few motion graphic elements that I’m REALLY proud of and in turn, makes me even more proud of the project as a whole.

So if you’ve gotten this far, and you haven’t quite understood what I’ve been talking about the in the last few paragraphs or so, thanks for sticking with it!  I’m actually quite the motion graphics nerd. I love After Effects and Illustrator tutorials, and I honestly could spend all day watching and experimenting with them.  I would suggest that you check out some tutorial channels if you’ve ever been interested in motion graphics or graphic design.  Sometimes I watch just to learn the keyboard shortcuts I still don’t know about, but there are so many talented individuals who make amazing tutorials for you for FREE. How often can we really get quality learning these days without paying a boatload of money?

Some of my favorites include ECAbrams, Mt. Mograph, and Kriscoart Productions (who I got to meet and become friends with through the YouTube NextUp program which was super cool to me because his channel was one of the first “tutorial” channels I found and fell in love with).  Go check them out! And go challenge yourself to do something cool and creative this week! There are so many things I’ve felt like I couldn’t do until I picked up my pen or mouse and tried them!

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Art, Depression, and Monsters of the Mind

Monsters of the Mind 1I started a blog yesterday that was pretty honest and raw about the rough time I’ve been having with depression recently. But it was SO raw, that I was a little afraid to continue writing it and post it. You all know I’m an advocate for honesty in my blog and vlog, but I think for now I have limits on how honest I can be. Just because I worry for my safety, career, and future when I post things like that. So instead, I decided to go a different route with how I’ve been feeling. I picked up my iPad and drew my feelings.

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I love art. I love drawing and painting and sculpting. I wish I had more time to devote to it so I could really hone my skills, and it makes me think that art should be one of my 2016 goals. Like instead of one blog a week, maybe one art piece a week with a short blog on my purpose behind it instead. I think that could be an interesting experiment, especially since one of my 2016 goals for my YouTube channel involves art/coloring as well.

But anyway, let me introduce you to The Depression Monster. He’s only one variation of the Monster. Monsters of the Mind are sneaky shape shifters. But today he appeared to me like this. Razor sharp bird claws, dead eyes, and tentacle-like arms that can reach out and find you anywhere. That can trap you, choke you, drag you back. He also has a grey and dreary aura that affects everything around him. Even the sun hides from him, and the flower die at his feet. He’s an all around miserable and misery-causing guy. But he’s also kind of cute in the oddest way so that you’re tricked into letting him into your life and feel guilty about kicking him out even though he’s very obviously making things unhappy for you.

He’s a plague. And tomorrow, he’ll likely look different so you won’t recognize him and let him back into your house if you managed to rid yourself of him the previous day. He’s crafty like that.