Saturday, May 16, 2015

Back To School... Sort of, Part 1



One of my best friends has been a lifelong learner, taking tons of classes through the years on a variety of subjects ever since we met in college. If you put them all together she could probably have degrees in at least six subjects, but that hasn’t been her priority. I love that about her and respect it tremendously. Meanwhile, I always felt wildly different about education. I was all about getting in and out of college in four years flat – get my degree and I’m outta there. (Purely coincidentally, the class of 2015 graduated today from my alma mater, UNH – congrats fellow Wildcats!) 
But ever since I’ve really focused in on my art making career, I’ve been open to the idea of re-educating myself on my own terms (which basically translates to free and when I feel like it). Fortunately, there’s no lack of free resources online – from podcasts to Ted Talks and more – wonderful insights from the minds and experiences of successful artists, business owners and self help enthusiasts. Topics explored include, but are not limited to…
How to manifest your greatest dreams. 
How to figure out what those dreams are in the first place.
How so-and-so became a successful artist.
How to best market your art.
Since I came to this conclusion that I need to embrace education as part of my journey towards the career of my hopes and dreams, I’ve been almost manic in my consumption. I thought since my audience tends to be other artists, I’d share a little of what I’m learning here on my blog. I have to say though, if you aren’t an artist by trade, this information tends to apply across the board in all matters of life, so read on – I think you’ll dig this stuff too.
Pause for an art break…
 My latest custom painting commission 
Reflections 2, Acrylic on 40" x 40" canvas
 
The first thing I’d like to talk about is this idea of GOING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
It’s something I’m getting from almost any and all of these interviews and discussions, “You have to go outside your comfort zone.”
Full disclosure: Any time I’ve ever heard that in the past, my gut reaction has always been as follows…
No. 
I don't want to. I’m an adult, and therefore I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.
The end.
What, am I supposed to jump out of a plane to gain a deeper appreciation for life? Please. No way, not in a million years. I like comfort. I like knowing what makes me comfortable and I like remaining comfortable. (I’m also a Taurus, that’s sort of our "thing".) Besides, life throws enough curve balls all on its own to actually want to seek out more things/situations/experiences to unsettle me. Why would I do that? It just never made any sense to me.
But I think I was missing one key point to all of this.
FIRST you must figure out what you really, really want and THEN you must be willing to go out of your comfort zone to attain whatever that is. It isn’t about nonsensical risk taking - duh! (Why did I think it was?) No one will be waiting for me with a million dollars on land if I jump out of a plane (PS even then I wouldn’t do it). It’s about being very aware of what it is that you want and then open minded about the path of achieving and actualizing your dreams and goals, not letting any fears stand in your way or limit how far you can go.
So, in the business of making and selling art, maybe this means “putting yourself out there” on social media platforms or making connections with local galleries, or maybe it's getting started on a big (albeit intimidating) concept/project/series. In general life terms, it can mean opening yourself up to failure if you try something new, facing some of your biggest fears and doubts on the road to love, or challenging your ability to communicate in order to strengthen an existing relationship.
It just never clicked until recently, but now I get it, and in a way, it’s almost scarier than the concept of jumping out of a plane because these particular challenges are now unavoidable and necessary if I want to achieve my goals. But what better encouragement is there to do them than a. to prove to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to, even stuff that scares you and b. to get yourself closer to living the life you’ve always wanted to live! In one of the many Ted Talks I listened to the other day, someone said this line that I had to write down so I’d remember it…
Success is the freedom to do whatever you want to do.
That may sound like pure hopeful rubbish, but let me tell you, after listening to one successful person after another, it is absolutely true and possible.
The trick, if there is one, is simple. You have to be willing to work extremely hard and take risks boldly and with conviction, and that includes going out of your comfort zone. And that’s a challenge my comfort loving self is willing to take... firmly on land, thank you very much.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite educators thus far…
Lisa Congdon - She's everywhere right now... for good reason. Check her out. 
Alyson Stanfield aka The Art Biz Coach - I've only barely scratched the surface of this excellent artist resource, including tons of free podcasts
Kesha Bruce - I've been following Kesha for years now, she's fantastic!
Elle Luna - I just love her attitude and spirit! This essay in particular is a must read, "The Crossroads of Should and Must".

I know I'm missing some new favs here, follow me on facebook and twitter where I am most likely to share my latest great finds! 

Friday, May 01, 2015

Week in Review - Hello Spring!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/231635083/turquoise-sky-spring-green-chartreuse

Spring has truly arrived here in New England, and I can't think of a more inspiring time of year to embrace change and transition, and feel the surging power of creative energy and motivation. 

https://www.etsy.com/listing/231630733/instant-download-stock-photography

Every day, something new blooms or rapidly evolves from early bud to blossom. It's really quite spectacular and awe inspiring if you think about it. Life GROWS on.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/231796487/ocean-triptych-wall-art-acrylic

In the studio, I'm already mentally launched into summer and I've "arrived" at my favorite place to be - the beach! I created this triptych of three 18" x 24" canvases that I titled (thanks to my aunt's suggestion!) "Timeless Ocean". 

https://www.etsy.com/listing/231796487/ocean-triptych-wall-art-acrylic

I've been enjoying using metallic paint (gold, silver, copper) to recreate the shimmer of sunlight on ocean water. It's a lot of fun to work with, and one thing I've discovered is that it's best to go back and forth between seeing the sheen and not seeing the sheen. (If someone were to catch me in the studio they'd be perplexed by me constantly bobbing my head around as I work!) 

When you see a piece with the reflection really shining, that layer pops in an almost 3D way to the eye. It's important that those lines or shapes, or however you are using it, make sense from a complete compositional perspective.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/231796487/ocean-triptych-wall-art-acrylic

I so enjoyed painting this, I'd love to paint a dozen more. In fact, I have another triptych in the works in a bit of a different palette and I'm eager to get back out to work on it right now! 

I'm really trying to live in the moment, and it's working beautifully (*much easier to do with gorgeous weather and flowers!). But I'll be honest, a part of me is like... 


 (In more ways than one.) ;) 

Thanks for checking in and have a great weekend!



Friday, April 10, 2015

Studio Sale: Take Two

After selling some paintings in my last post, I'm ready to keep the deeply discounted sale paintings coming! Here's round two of work I'm eager to see leave the nest. 

All of these paintings were part of my Fresh Impressions series I created in 2011/2012. This collection was a first step in a direction that would lead me to the style I am painting in today. Though I am showing these works in a vertical orientation, you can choose to hang them going in whatever direction speaks to you.


 
 
"Morning Meditation" is acrylic on 24" x 36" canvas. My current price for that size is $690. I would be willing to part with it for $300 including shipping in the US. If you are outside the US and would like to purchase this, contact me with your country and I can get an exact shipping quote for you. 



"Four Seasons" is another Fresh Impressions painting, in acrylic on 18" x 24" canvas. My current price for 18x24's is $350. I could let it go for $120 including shipping in the US ($25 for international shipping).  



"Blizzard" is also acrylic on 18" x 24" canvas, and it could be yours for $120 including shipping in the US ($25 international shipping).



"Mystic Journey" is one of my favorites from the series. It is acrylic on 16" x 20" canvas. My price for 16x20's now is $250 but I could part with this one for $100 including shipping in the US ($25 international shipping). 



"Reckless Abandon" - Acrylic on 16" x 20" canvas, $90 including shipping in the US. ($25 international shipping).  

If you are interested in purchasing anything you see here I can set up a custom listing on Etsy or send a PayPal invoice to you directly, whichever you prefer. Contact me at jtorrant@aol.com or via my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaTorrant


 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Spring Prep - Studio Sale Take One

A test run template of a sliding table easel made with foam core boards and packing tape. I got a little excited about "my contraption" and shared more photos/descriptions on my Facebook page

As I prepare for another season painting outdoors, I'm eager to clean the slate both creatively and physically in my space. I want to be surrounded by current work - work that communicates and feeds off of each other. I want to see the same reflected in my Etsy shop as a cohesive whole, so the idea of promoting discounted work in a sale section no longer appeals to me. I figured sharing what I've got in a blog post would be an easy way to present older work I have available. Works that, for whatever reason, have yet to find their forever homes. 

If you are interested in anything I've shared here, send me an email at jtorrant@aol.com. (AOL... I know... so antiquated, right? What can I say, I still like being told that I've got mail from a familiar voice. That guy and I go way back.) 

Prices listed are evidence that I want these paintings to leave the nest! Payment can be arranged via a PayPal invoice or a custom listing on Etsy, whichever you prefer. So if you like something, let's talk! I'll do this on a first come first serve basis, so let me know sooner than later if you'd like something. 


These original mixed media prints were created from a hand carved rubber block I call "Cupid Missed". Each one was printed in black ink with watercolor washes on 6" x 9" watercolor paper. $10 for one or $25 for the set, $2.50 for shipping either way. 





"The Process" is an acrylic painting on 18" x 24" canvas. I painted it in 2010 and it definitely represents a particular era of my abstract painting. I'm willing to let it go for $100 including shipping worldwide. UPDATE: SOLD





"Awakening", created in 2010, represents yet another era of my abstract explorations - playing with texture medium. This piece is on 20" x 20" canvas and it has a great three dimensional quality that pictures just can't capture. I can say farewell to this piece for $100 as well (shipping included). 





"Sister Mountains" was created after returning from a wonderfully relaxing vacation in northern Vermont in 2013. It is acrylic on 24" x 24" canvas and I can part with it for $150 including shipping. UPDATE: SOLD


That's it for now, but there will certainly be more! Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Moving on to greener pastures...

My sketchbook with a series of designs for custom vegetable stamps, a few of my hand carved stamps, my favorite ink pads, tools of the trade, and test papers...

With a hint of trepidation and a whole lot of excitement, I am officially making the move away from my rubber stamp shop, Green Garden Stamps, and focusing entirely on my ART...

...for now? (More on that later.)

I opened my rubber stamp shop in 2010 after finding that I really enjoyed the medium and the ability to express another side of my creative aesthetic. Here's a collection of my favorite kinds of designs to carve - rustic, country, garden-inspired.


As the years progressed, I learned a lot operating this business. I also connected with tons of amazing people, businesses and organizations. Creating custom stamps was always such a pleasure. Here are some examples of my custom work.

Perhaps my favorite of all was connecting with the good people of Max's Love Project - http://maxloveproject.org/

Such a fun stamp carved for two great friends for their wedding.
 

At some point along the way, I saw an example of stamps being used to show meal selections at a wedding on escort cards. It was in a magazine or online somewhere, I can't recall. But it got me thinking and sketching... and I came up with this set of four designs. 


Each measures about 1" x 1", for beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian. They quickly became a hit. Soon I had people contacting me about other options - do you have a pig? Can I get a pepper instead? After compiling a list of custom requests, I expanded the product line to include more options.


I've been selling them in various numbered sets and they are by far my most popular product. These meal stamps have often paid for much needed winter oil deliveries, weekly groceries - you name it! I'm incredibly thankful for all of my customers, press and social media sharing - it's been an amazing ride.

So why quit when you have a successful business? 

That's the million dollar question isn't it?

The answer requires me to take a deep breath because it's rather personal, actually. To a degree that I'm not quite sure how much I want to reveal. But this time in my life right now is about taking greater risks, so here goes...

Toward the end of last year, my undiagnosed lifetime of depression and anxiety hit an all time high and I finally had to confront it and deal with it. I "talked" (spurts of words in between sobbing) with my doctor and acknowledging it to a medical professional alone felt incredibly healing - a huge weight lifted. It was the first step. And now I've been on medication for the last five months and it has dramatically changed my life for the better

(At this point I feel like adding some caveat like "hey I'm no expert" or "talk to your own medical professional" or something like that. It should be obvious that I'm speaking solely about what worked for me, right? Moving on...)

It isn't as if I haven't been aware of the existence of medication for such things. But I'm about to get real here - as an artist, I was seriously scared that whatever unknown spark made of rainbows and/or stardust that "made" me an artist would go away if I was medicated. THAT plus whatever quirks I felt made me "me" kept me away from what would end up being a godsend for much too long. But I'm not in the business of looking back right now - it's too potentially destructive. I am just happy and thankful that it has come into my life here and now. However, I feel like it's important for me to say that my fears were entirely unfounded and in fact, I feel like I've never been a better artist than right now.

Medication hasn't taken away my unique self. Instead, it has relieved a ton of distractions, road blocks, obsessions, paralyzing fear and doubt, and rabbit holes that prohibited me from being really present in the moment. I feel joy and peace sincerely now, and I mean that sincerely. It isn't "numb", it isn't "fake" (as I had feared).

I read somewhere that when a person lives with chronic depression and/or anxiety, it erodes/eliminates certain neural pathways that medication can "reconnect" in a way. That makes so much sense to me and speaks to that feeling that my states of inner calm/peace/joy now don't feel "phoney" - they feel entirely natural - clean and clear.

All that being said and revealed (YIKES!), I have found that the one thing that has changed is my carving ability. Perhaps that was the lone area in my life where my anxiety actually served me well? ;) Because without it, something feels different when I carve now. Honestly, I just don't care for it anymore. At least not as something I have to do all the time. I think it used to calm me down, and now that I don't need that as much, I'd just rather be doing other things. (Painting, hiking, reading, cooking, gardening, etc, etc.)

Also, arthritis runs rampant in my family and I'm starting to sense its creeping presence in my hands and wrists. If I let myself go there, this can scare me a lot, most especially thinking about my future painting (because painting is a passion I don't ever plan on retiring from). I'm already looking into compression braces and ways to work around this, but there is no question that carving stamps exacerbates the problem. If anyone has seen the movie Words and Pictures, you may recall Juliette Binoche's amazing performance as a painter coping with severe rheumatoid arthritis. She comes up with some very creative work-arounds that were quite inspiring. (PS I really recommend this movie!) Time will tell how much this will affect me, but considering how my grandfather was already greatly suffering with terrible arthritis by my age, and working a very hard job, I have no excuses to not do anything I want. He was body surfing well into older age. Tough stuff!

And finally... unfortunately Life once again brutally smacked me with this hard truth very recently... Life is short. Just how short is unknown. In the face of that, there is really only one question - what do I really want out of my life? It can all get really heavy (and heady) thinking about this stuff, but it's important work. Checking in every now and then to see how your day to day aligns with your "big picture" goals.

It's been ten years since I quit my job picture framing and jumping - mostly clueless - into being a self employed artist. For half of that time, stamps helped compliment my painting business and pay the bills and I'm so thankful for that. But I have come to the conclusion that it's time for me to move on and focus entirely on art. On top of everything else I just shared, it simply comes down to this...

MAKING LIVING BREATHING ART is ALL I want to do, and be, and surround myself with. That and being with the people (and animals) I love, and appreciating life, and simple pleasures/blessings, as much as possible.

That's it.

Carving stamps stopped feeling like "being an artist" a long time ago, and after carving well over 2500 of them, I'd say I'm more than ready to let it go! I've cleared out my shop of almost everything but my meal stamps and some simple leaf stamps. One more wedding season maybe? Or maybe they'll all be gone next week. I'm not entirely certain. ;)


 Hungarian stamp set. Floral folk art inspired by my grandmother. 
 

What I do know is that this aesthetic is still very much a part of who I am and a "wing", you could say, of my creative vision. That's why I'm not so sure that Green Garden Stamps is going away entirely. I'm thinking of changing the shop name to Green Garden Studios - or something like that - and changing focus. Perhaps more digital stamp collections... (all of my digital stamps will remain available). I'd really like to get a tablet to make my own digital clip art (I worked with a graphic designer who perfected scans of my stamped images for my current designs). It's on my wish list along with a new camera because I'm also thinking of adding digital download photography of gardens, nature, and the countryside. Some of my favorite things that keep consistent with the design aesthetic I created with the Green Garden brand.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/GreenGardenStamps?section_id=10494335&ref=shopsection_leftnav_5

There are lots of ideas brewing around for what this could evolve into, but for now, I'm putting it allll on the way, way back burner and embracing THIS instead:


Leo last year in front of my studio at the start of painting season, around this time of year.

PAINTING SEASON OUTSIDE! YAHOO!

Recent commission - Three 30" x 36" canvases for a Houston, TX orthodontics office. I'm loving this ombre style and have created a listing for custom paintings in all sizes in my Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/226864925/custom-abstract-painting-colorful-ombre
  
In closing, this is all totally terrifying. Hahaha!! Putting my truth "out there" as well as boldly leaping into my greatest dreams, aspirations and desires as a painter. In a lot of ways my stamp shop was a crutch that took the pressure off of my paintings. It worked when I needed it to and I'm entirely thankful for it. Now I want more and it's sort of hmm... arrogant? to presume that I can even do it. At least that's what the nay saying voices in my head tell me, which I am learning to silence one by one and listen, instead, to a gentle and loving voice that encourages and says simply, "Go for it. What do you have to lose?". 

Many thanks to all of my Green Garden Stamps customers throughout the years and fellow shop owners that helped promote my shop! It's been a wonderful journey... :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Light In Flux

Light In Flux - Acrylic and oil pastel on 16" x 20" canvas

Late winter sun, blue shadows on snow and birch, resilient brown brush...