Labor Day Painting Sale & Life Update

Labor Day Sale!-2

This may be the longest it’s ever been since my last update. I’ve been trying to plan better and be more consistent in my business and in life but, as they often do, unforeseen obstacles have gotten in the way.

I guess it’s finally time to admit that our relocation has been more of a nightmare than an adventure. I tried to be optimistic and make the best of it, and I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed certain aspects of life in this area, but “normal moving stress” and obnoxious neighbors gave way to a series of disappointments, specifically a lack of business and personal connections, and finally what I consider betrayal from our friends/Joe’s business partner who we followed here.

This is probably not the place to go into detail, so suffice it to say that they behaved with incredible selfishness and unprofessionalism and, intentionally or not, did a lot of damage to our lives and the gym. And in the end, they weren’t the ones to stick around and deal with it. It’s hard to explain in such vague terms without sounding like I’m being petty, but I’ don’t want to start drama, I just feel the need to share what’s been going on in order to move forward.

It didn’t help that I was, and still am, trying to manage recurring major depression with basically no support system. I think the hardest part was losing faith in myself and other people, because the red flags were all there. We knew better. But whether out of goodwill or desperation, we gave the benefit of the doubt anyway. Either way, it’s shocking to be treated like nothing more than a means to an end by people who said they cared. At least I’ve learned that my instincts are usually right, if I would just listen to them.

As all of this was coming to an end, Joe found out with about a month’s notice that he’d be deploying for the fourth time. We knew this was a possibility and I was honestly never sold on living here, so my backup plan was – surprise! – temporarily moving to Asheville, where I hope the plentiful art, good food, nice people, and beautiful mountains will remind me what it feels like to enjoy life.

You may remember I’ve tried this before, and maybe I’m being stupid, but logistically it’s more realistic this time. We’re just renting and we want to move closer to town anyway, so in between, I’ll put most of our stuff in storage and find a small place for me and the cats.

My online inventory may change a bit as I try to take advantage of local shows, galleries, and other activities, but I plan to keep my shop running and updated. Maybe I’ll even blog and make YouTube videos again! Either way, I’m sure there will be plenty of inspiration for new projects.

So on that note, I’m participating in Etsy’s Labor Day sale with 30% off all paintings in My Shop, including minis, magnets, and ornaments, to try to reduce some of my larger/more damageable stock before I have to pack it. It runs from the August 30th to September 3rd with a preview today.

If you’ve read this far, I want you to know that even though I’ve fallen behind with certain things, it has meant the world to me to have my business and its growing support network to focus on through these struggles. I may have largely gone without friends or opportunities in person, but at least there’s the Internet, right? So thank you guys and I hope you’ll stick with me and see what’s next in the coming months!

On Being an Artist

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Being an artist seems like both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I feel really talented and amazing, like I know who I am and I’m doing what’s important to me no matter what anyone thinks. Other times, I get discouraged with my lack of sales, I feel like no one appreciates my work (which is probably unfair to my friends & family who think it’s awesome, but hey, self doubt comes with the territory) or I don’t even like it myself and wonder if I’m a “real” artist at all.

This contradiction seems to be true of many things in life. As a sensitive person, I can sympathize with others, but I also get emotionally overwhelmed. As an introvert, I know how to enjoy my alone time, but socializing seriously wears me out. I’m sure people with all different personality types have equal, if opposite, struggles.

But back to being an artist. When I look at my Etsy statistics over the last few years since I opened up shop, my business is steadily growing. I’m selling more jewelry every year, especially during the holidays. But that’s easy to forget on a day-to-day or even month-to-month basis. And when it comes to my paintings, selling even one is a rare accomplishment.

I understand, these days most people can’t afford that stuff. I could just be realistic and go back to my day job. Some days it really bothers me that my husband wakes up at the crack of dawn 5 days a week to do whatever the Army tells him to do, and I am not contributing anything because my depressive introverted self can’t even handle a retail job, and I don’t know if I’m qualified to do anything else.

(My husband does not feel the same way. Amazingly, he is supportive of my craft business, understanding of my struggle with depression and, old fashioned young couple that we are, he is happy with my contributions of cooking and sometimes cleaning the house and supporting his crazy dreams too).

But I had a sort of revelation the other night, as I sat on the floor blasting angry music and painting and crying. Lately I don’t seem to need much of a reason to hate everything, so there I was, a “beautiful mess,” as he called me.

Painting suddenly seemed like a very painful endeavor. It looked like a pretty landscape, but it felt like I was literally pouring my soul onto the canvas. Everything I love and hate about myself, everything I’ve been told about who I am and who I’m not and what I can or can’t do, all the loss and hurt and anguish of living in a broken world.

I thought about how God asks each one of us to give ourselves to Him in different ways. He wants to know us, and He wants to make us more like him, and sometimes that means suffering and sacrifice. Maybe for me it means giving myself through my art, not knowing what God might do with it in the future. I might become successful in the world’s eyes, or find a cause to support, or teach, or just inspire people.

Paul instructs us in Romans “to present you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (12:1). I am not trying to twist Scripture to justify what makes me happy. But perhaps this verse applies not only to our bodies but our hearts and minds, and maybe we are giving ourselves to God when we use the gifts He’s given us without holding back. Maybe this is part of how we worship God, how we know Him (and ourselves), and how we trust Him.

(Not that I don’t have issues with “holding back.” I am quite attached to my comfort zone, and my art seems to be confined to my perfectionism. I am a realist, and I have no desire to be abstract or modern, but my favorite works have always been impressionistic, the ones that seem to combine the characteristics of both the subject and the medium. Not saying God has a preference, but it probably wouldn’t hurt me to let loose a little).

Maybe you don’t believe in God and this sounds crazy or stupid. But maybe you do have something you’re passionate about, something you can’t seem to walk away from, no matter how unrealistic it might seem. I am encouraging you to pursue it.

Of course, some of you have responsibilities that you can’t blow off to follow your dreams. I just hope you won’t give up on your thing, the thing that makes you feel like yourself, because of haters or the fear of failure. Even if it’s just a hobby, even if no one else understands.

Because maybe that dream is inside of you for a reason, and if nothing else, maybe you will learn more about yourself as you pursue it. And what an awesome thing to learn. It might be painful or scary. You might have things about you that you don’t want the world to know; I do too. But there is no one else in the world just like you.

So what’s your thing? And how do you make room in your life to do it?

Image from YouQueen

I Can Paint in the Dark

You could say I’ve been having a rough time lately. My husband is super busy with Army stuff while my Etsy sales are slow, our friends are dealing with some really heavy situations (I am a very sympathetic person), and I can’t seem to find a solution for my ovarian cysts without making my depression worse, so I’m pretty much always in pain or exhausted or moody, or all of the above.

So when I have a good day where I actually get stuff done, it’s a big victory. And when something messes me up like the power going out AGAIN (seriously what is going on?) it feels like an equally big defeat. Caveat: I try to keep things in perspective ever since that one time my frustration with interrupted activities turned out to be caused by a tornado that destroyed other people’s homes. But so many power outages later in perfectly safe weather, a girl gets fed up.

Anyway, today was one of those days. I’d worked my way down my to-do list and was finally going to paint. Not for my Etsy shop or a commission, but just for me. Call it a hobby, call it therapy,but I feel better when I do it. Except for when my painting sucks and then I pretty much question my whole entire identity, but that’s another topic for another day.

But it was getting dark, and before I could get started, I went outside to find my cat and came back to a house without power. Not only could I not paint, I couldn’t even watch Netflix instead. Or bake, or blog, or anything that I wanted to do. Maybe I just have too much anxiety to handle boredom.

As much as I hate to admit it, I may have a tendency to play the victim. I mean we all need help sometimes, and that’s fine. But I’m the kind of girl who feels like every setback is a personal attack, and wonders what’s the point of trying. That said, I can be pretty resourceful when I’m not too busy being Debbie Downer, and sometimes my husband is kind of a genius.

He said I could use his headlamp, so I found the batteries, and put it on, along with Joe’s super-ugly-but-super-comfortable old basic training sweats that he gave me for painting. Which seemed kind of appropriate, since my latest work in progress is from a photo he took in Afghanistan.

My favorite of those photos, besides the ones with my husband in them, is the one he took of the sunset over the mountains, which I also painted. But this one, in its simplicity, also caught my eye.

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After playing red-light laser tag with my restless aforementioned cat, I got to work. It’s slightly more challenging to mix colors in limited light, but I’m actually pretty happy with the progress I made. I’d done the base colors already, so I mostly just detailed the foreground, and I still have to paint the flower/weed things on the side, which are kind of my favorite part.

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The power came back on before I even finished working. But now I know for next time, as silly as it might sound, I have one less limitation.

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A Note on Opinions, and Some Things About Me

Lately it seems like every time I open my mouth, somebody has an opinion for me, especially on social media. In fact it seems like everyone has an opinion about everything, and most of them are not very nice.

Share an unusual craft project? Too much time on your hands. Post too many pictures of your pet? Must be a loser. Think anything in life is hard, ever? You need to toughen up, or be more positive. Basically if you’re different from someone else, you need to change. If you’re not perfect, people will be lined up to tell you about it.

When did we become the police of each other’s time, thoughts, feelings, words, and actions? Why do we feel the need to “fix” everything that makes us the slightest bit uncomfortable?

I’m sure some people mean well, and there is definitely a time and place for friendly advice. But if it’s not needed, or you don’t know the person/situation, or you can’t be tactful, it’s probably not that time and place.

Some people also like to trivialize because it’s “just social media,” but the way I see it, it doesn’t really matter what means of communication you’re using. If you order something online instead of buying it in the store, you’re still going to get the real thing. If you say something thoughtless, chances are your words are still going to stick.

On the other hand, sometimes we take things personally that weren’t meant in a negative way. It’s really hard to tell where someone’s coming from when you’re not face to face, and it’s better to clarify than be mad about nothing.

Maybe I’m just as guilty as anyone else. I’ve definitely stuck my foot in my mouth a few times and realized too late how someone might react. All I’m saying is that our words are powerful and we should be careful with them.

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While I’m on the topic, I am going to go ahead and share some things about myself that are often misunderstood. Not sure if anyone really wants to know, but here goes.

I have depression. I can be negative sometimes, but I am trying to make the best of my situation. Sometimes that means laughing or patting myself on the back or doing things I enjoy. Sometimes it means lying on the couch all day or exercising to angry music or, God forbid, venting a little. And when you’ve heard “look on the bright side” enough times, it starts to sound a lot more like “suck it up,” so it’s probably not going to help.

I’m an introvert. I need more time to myself than some people. I don’t attend a lot of group functions because they wear me out, but my friends are still important to me.

I’m creative. I make art because I’m good at it and I enjoy and it keeps me sane, not because I have nothing better to do. I’m working hard and my sales are picking up, but I don’t need a successful career to feel like I have a meaningful life (luckily for now my husband supports me with his “real” job and I support him with my fabulous domestic skills).

I’m an Army wife. Deployment sucks. I’ve pretty much heard it all. “He’ll be home soon enough.” “At least we have technology now.” “I know how you feel, my boyfriend’s away at college.” “At least you have a husband.” Yes, it could be worse. Yes, it’s made us stronger. But at the end of the day, I’m still lying in an empty bed with a half-empty heart hoping he’s coming back at all. So while I appreciate people trying to make me feel better, it doesn’t always work. And I really don’t need an opinion about the war, either.

I’m sensitive, which means I tend to get my feelings hurt, but it also means I care about people like crazy, and I take the time to understand complex situations and personalities.

I love Jesus, and I have my beliefs, and I try to live my life accordingly. But if I had the chance to show love to a gay person or a prostitute or a criminal, or a woman who had an abortion, or someone who practices a different religion, I would. Because you don’t have to agree with someone to care about them.

So add cats and baking and nerd movies, and that’s me in a nutshell. I definitely have my flaws, and my opinions, and my judgments. All I am asking is that we think before we speak.

What are your thoughts on opinions? What do you wish people understood about you?

(Photo credit: http://sundayinbed.tumblr.com/page/17)