Love letters. Setting up my installation at the Bazemore Gallery for my 2016 show, “Tender Missives”. This piece included hundreds of historically accurate and researched love letters from figures in history throughout the centuries. As part of the installation visitors were asked to write their own and add it. This was a really challenging project for me, getting outside my comfort zone of 2 dimensional painting into something interactive. Hose letters took forever to create, but it truly is amazing how things come together when you put your mind to an end result.
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Ohh April! My very favorite time of the year is when the cherry blossoms are out in full bloom, and the great long stretch of summer is out before us in glorious, warm possibility. I spent some time this week painting the cherry blossoms and happily reveling in their heavenly beauty… I was in the park almost every day! Check out my time lapse of the painting done and a few of my other pieces. Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in collecting any of these oil sketches.
White top and pink skirt: Forever 21. Lavender dress: true vintage. Blue dress: Urban Outfitters. Floral dress: true vintage. Striped top: Lucy Paris. Hats: Forever 21. Sunglasses: Green Street Consignment.
Which is your favorite look? What about favorite cherry blossom painting?
I can’t leave without posting the most epic floral painting ever. “The Roses is Heliogabalus” by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema. Enjoy! Until next time,
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This month I am lucky enough to be living in a Philadelphia zip code, so am eligible to participate in the Barnes Foundation and Mural Arts competition and exhibition at the Barnes Foundation, called “Let’s Connect Philly.” It’s a really cool idea– artists are to pick one piece that inspires them (I picked Renoir) and do a small piece inspired by it! During the exhibition (in May–June) the public can go and vote on their favorite pieces, with the winning artists getting a residency and stipend at the Barnes! Needless to say I’m very excited to enter! Above is a time lapse for the first 7 hours of painting I’ve done on my piece. It’s not done yet, but when it is, I’ll post a side by side of the piece by Renoir that inspired me and my own.
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It’s always the first day that it goes the quickest. After that, it is all about refining the details. Here is a unicorn painting inspired by my visit to the Met Cloisters and seeing “The Hunt of the Unicorn”. Click the video to see the time lapse!
You could spend forever on a painting, but it’s all about the quality and focus of the time you spend on it. Blocking out all other distractions and focusing all your mind and skill on the painting is like a meditation practice. I am always surprised by how much more quickly and better quality work comes out of a painting session when I’m in this state! I read a book once that described this state as “flow.” Perhaps it deserves a post of its own!
This painting I’m currently working on, “Magical Creatures,” is not completed, so be on the lookout for another post about the finished painting.
In the meantime, my recent painting after Fragonard, ” The Chase,” is completed, with a limited edition print run available in my shop. The prints turned out beautifully…every little brushstroke is captured in detail, and each one is on acid free archival quality paper that is velvety and smooth. Hand signed by me! To grab yours, click here.
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I woke up for a moment, then immediately went back to sleep because I had to see what happened in my dream.
I was in an elevator riding downward, having just realized that I had left my suitcase back up at one of the floors above. I had to reach it before the time portal closed. I pushed the buttons to bring me back up, and reached the floor where I had left my suitcase. It was there, but a different color. I grabbed it anyway and stepped back into the elevator, which was now full of people. I tried to look inconspicuous. The men had pinstripe suits on, and the women had 1940’s style hats in all different colors. As I reached the ground level, I stepped outside onto the street and walked into another time, this present time.
Around my neck was a camera that I had used to take pictures while I was back in time. I walked into a camera shop to get the shots developed, and somehow recognized that the elderly man behind the desk knew my secret. I asked him earnestly, “Is it possible, to go back and forth? Do I have to choose one or the other? Can I have a life back there, and in this present time?”
He wouldn’t answer me, but silently took my film.
I woke up. There was more to the dream, but that was what I could remember of it.
What did it mean? Does this dream have any insight into my life? Perhaps. Maybe it’s a reflection of my appreciation of other time periods, and an expression that I want to bring the charm of the past into the present. Does it have unexpected, unusual imagery present that I normally would not have imagined? Absolutely. Imagine an elevator full of women all with brightly colored hats. Imagine suitcases that changed color. The artistic possibilities are rich, all mined from your subconscious mind creating images that you would never have thought of before.
I have several paintings that have stemmed from dreams, and they always come out a little more interesting and unfathomable than works dreamt up by my daytime brain. Artist throughout the ages have also taken inspiration from their dreams. Take the ones below:
What practices that have helped me harness the imagery in my dreams into an artistic practice are:
- Keeping a dream journal– using writing or sketching, capture the images in your dream as soon as you wake up.
- Before you go to bed, only allow yourself to think positively, and go to sleep with the expectancy that your mind will show you something wonderful.
- Go through your dream sketchbook periodically and work out more fully the sketches that look interesting to you. Give them color and life, and see which ones might make fully-fledged artworks.
I hope this inspires you to pay more attention to your own dream imagery and helps you add another dimension to your art practice. I would encourage you to even pay attention to the negative, scary or unsettling aspects of your dreams, as they are usually your mind attempting to work out conflicts in your life, and can help to resolve decisions and choices. Often we avoid our problems or get very pragmatic while looking at them in our waking hours—but our intuition really comes out in our dreams and shows us how we really feel, whether we like it or not. I’ve heard that they are the minds way of trying on different choices and scenarios in life as a rehearsal—to show what it would be like, or show us the way. As Lera Auerbach muses wisely in her book, Excess of Being: “A coward is a servant of his fears. A hero enslaves his fears.” May you face your fears and hopes fearlessly in your dreams, and harness them to create more powerful art.
When you go to work, make your art or go about your business, there are so many reasons to do a good job. Keeping your word, having a good reputation and being consistent are a few reasons. But even deeper than that, I think there are two main places people come from when they create a project: creativity, or competition.
Creativity is a pure motive. Creativity is unexpected, moving, breathing and fresh. It is unique only to you. When you’re in a place of creativity, ideas flow and you aren’t worried about what people think, or even if what you are making measures up to your standards. You let yourself feel, think and create what comes from your mind. You express your thoughts about the world, your emotions, and your aesthetic preferences without fear or striving. There is a lot of joy in being in this state. Sometimes there is a feeling of “this is too easy” or “I can’t believe that was in my brain”. There is more pleasure in making the art, because you’re in a state of making something come into being that is from a pure state, that came straight from your mind. There is a feeling of calm confidence in this state because you know that no one can reproduce exactly what you have. Your uniqueness is your strength.
Competition has a different feel to it. When you’re creating from competition, it can feel paralyzing. There is a feeling of “How can I create something that will measure up, stand out, or otherwise prove my worth?” There is a feeling of pressure, being overwhelmed, and even anger, or “I’ll show them.” When you’re in this state, you can alternate between periods of intense work, and being burnt out and overwhelmed. That’s because you’re not actually enjoying the process! You’re coming from a place of grinding out work in order to prove worth to the world. However, the world will never give you the approval you seek unless you give it to yourself first. You must believe that the work you create is enough, no matter what anyone thinks, because if you believe your art is worthwhile, then eventually other people will too.
I have created from both states, and speaking from personal experience, the art made from pure creativity is more interesting, flows better, and is a lot more fun to paint than art that is made from a place of trying to impress or show people how good I am. It is the unique visions that we need more of in this world, made with a giving spirit, rather than the work made to build up the artist. And I believe when you create from the creativity state, the goals you desire for your art will fall into place naturally because of the creativity and value you are pouring out into the world.
Below are a few ideas for sparking a more creative state:
- Put on your favorite music and sketch for 30 minutes. Not detailing each sketch, just getting as many ideas as you can to suggest themselves.
- Take a walk in nature
- Take a media fast from TV and consuming social media. The things we put in our mind influence our thoughts, so if you want a more pure state of unique creativity, eliminate excess entertainment
- Think about the ratio of producing and consuming. Strive to produce more than you consume. For instance, instead of trolling social media, maybe create an interesting post for your followers and leave it at that. Or instead of watching TV, research some ideas for your next artwork. Producing things, even in a small way (keeping a diary, going for a walk, sketching, giving a friend a call) keeps your mind more active, and stimulates creativity. It also gives you better sleep, because the mind has been more active.
- Travel somewhere new. It doesn’t need to be somewhere far—take a new route home from work, visit a park near you, go for a hike by a nearby river. Unfamiliar situations can jog the creative mind as well.
- Create a goal for yourself and stick to it. Let it be simple at first, like creating something everyday, even if it’s a small sketch. This is different than competition, because you are just giving your creativity a framework to work with. Don’t go to bed without having ticked off this simple goal for each day.
- Take ideas from your dreams. Keep a dream sketch journal and write or sketch your thoughts from the dreams you remember.
- Keep it fun! If it stops being fun, it means you’re out of the flow state of creativity. Let yourself get back to making art for the pleasure of creating, and the best, most unique art will come out of that.
I hope these ideas help you in your creative journey, fellow artists and artisans! Go forth and create with joy. As Lera Auerbach writes in Excess of Being, “Angels of daring, I call upon you!”
Speaking of creativity, I have started a new channel for my artwork, a Patreon page. Patreon is a way that patrons and supporters of my art can get monthly, exclusive rewards like prints and original art for being my patron. To check it out, please visit www.patreon.com/jessicalibor. Thank you readers for your support and enthusiasm for my work. I hope this writing was in service to you! I will leave you with my latest artwork, “Magic Garden,” an ink on watercolor paper drawing that was definitely done in a creative state.
Until next time,
Unless you are employed by a company like Disney, and clock in and out for your job titled “Artist,” the artist is a professional that is largely self-managed. You make your own hours, your own schedule, and have the flexibility that goes along with it–something very alluring and that most people dream of. However, along with this freedom comes a heavy responsibility, as any entrepreneur knows. Yes, you may be doing what you love, but you also have to figure out all the aspects of the business. As a visual artist, this includes not just creating the work, but finding ways to get it in front of other people. The different avenues of your workday may include:
Creation: brainstorming, sketching, spending time listening to music or podcasts while doodling ideas and plans. Making paintings, preparing canvases, the physical act of putting pen, pencil or paintbrush to the canvas.
Organization: Dating, signing, packing, filing, keeping your artworks organized.
Records: getting photographs taken of finished artworks, filing photographic records in your computer, keeping records of recent sales and collector information, planning upcoming show dates and keeping a record of sales made at recent shows and also expenses such as art supplies, transportation, framing, etc.
Planning Ahead: submitting your artwork to exhibition opportunities, writing grant proposals, planning out your year’s (or at least next few month’s) exhibition and work activities. This also includes creative goals such as “Complete a new body of work in 3 months” or “Have a solo show in 12 months”. You may not know exactly how to get there, but by setting an intention that you will, you’d be surprised how you’re able to figure it out! That’s because the brain is a problem-solving machine. It tackles problems and creatively finds ways to get to a goal when you give it something to work for! One idea is to write down a big goal for the year and put it somewhere you’ll see it often, like above your easel. That way when you see it every day, your mind will go into creative problem-solving mode subconsciously without you having to think about it.
Networking: I like to think of this as creative socialization. After a solo day in the studio it’s good to get out and about to different events–art related, and not. Sometimes the best connections come from meeting people in unrelated fields. Going to a cultural event is never wasted. Just always bring your business cards. This also includes your online presence in social media sites. When people comment on your work, respond! It’s a conversation just like it would be in real life, and the more you are engaged with others and interested in them, the more people will engage with you and believe you have something to offer, not just trying to get something from them.
Marketing/Branding: Although many artists believe themselves to be “pure”, “noncommercial,” and eschew anything to do with the term marketing, even that decision goes into their branding style. So I like to think of this not as marketing, but as authentically spreading your message. What is the essence of your work? Your lifestyle? Your vision? What inspires you? Envision the colors, scenes, themes and styles of work that you’re all about. Now when you make an art piece or post something to social media, make sure it’s consistent with your artistic vision. What issues are central to your work? Seek out organizations and other people who align themselves with those issues too. There is strength in numbers and none of us exist in a vaccuum. After all, art is meant to be seen.
Rest: Just as important as working, rest is important to prevent burnout or even injury. It’s crucial to step away from your painting or computer work every 2 hours at the very minimum. Take a 15 minute coffee break, walk around the block, or even take a short nap–this prevents hand related injuries and also keeps your mind fresh. When you come back, you’ll see the piece with new eyes and spot things you’d like to change you may not have seen before.
There are many more details to the life of an artist, but I think the best part is the creativity. The generation of ideas and their execution is what makes an artist by definition an artist. But we only get so much energy in a day, and the trick is to decipher what tasks, creative and otherwise, are important to do. As Lera Aurbach advises in her book Excess of Being, “Edit your actions. Edit your surroundings. Edit your thoughts. Cut, cut, cut.” It’s then we’ll be able to accomplish what is important to us and not get distracted by the 100 things pulling at our attention each day. It’s definitely possible if you focus. The cool thing is that we as artists get to be creative not only in our art, but in our career paths as an artists as well.
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Recently I’ve been thinking about professions, pay, and service. Why do some professions pay more than others? For instance, why does a doctor get paid more hourly than a barista? This has nothing to do with the worthwhile efforts of either of the people holding these jobs. You could be the best barista on the planet, make the best cup of coffee in the world and serve it with pleasantness, with a design in the foam of your own making. However, as long as you stay a barista, you will not be compensated for your time and expertise in the way that a doctor will. Why?
Because people need doctors. “But I need coffee!” you may exclaim. You may feel that you need coffee, and you may be addicted to coffee, but you do not need coffee to survive. However, if you had health issues that needed fixing, you would need a doctor. A doctor meets a need that the world has. Many times, a very urgent need. There is also the skill level that is necessary to become a doctor, one that takes into account years and years of intensive, difficult study and exacting practice. Enough practice that the doctor can then do what they do best, whether it is general practice or surgery, and feel confident enough that they will not mess up. You can’t just wake up tomorrow and be one. It requires decades of planning and dedication. This service they provide to mankind makes them valuable. No offense to Baristas here–I love coffee! 🙂
This got me thinking about art and the profession of an artist. Why would someone become an artist? At first glance, it seems that making art serves no direct purpose to mankind. Does it make you healthier? Safer? Smarter, calmer or wiser? Perhaps a little. Is it simply to amuse? To inspire? To send a political message? There are too many kinds of art to say that all art is for one purpose and one purpose alone. As varied as there are people on the earth, so are the many kinds of artworks and motivations of the artists that make it. But the highest paid artists are usually the ones with the strongest vision and best work–so in the same way that doctors are compensated for their service, artists are compensated for their vision. The more compelling the vision, the greater the contribution to mankind.
Proverbs 29:18a of the Bible reads, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Perhaps it is we as artists who take our profession too lightly. It’s a lot of fun to paint, to sculpt, to create things out of your head. This enjoyable aspect of creativity has given some artists guilt over making a profession out of something they enjoy so much. But have we as artists ever truly stretched ourselves to find out what the capabilities of our creativity are? Most of us are capable of far more than we imagined. It is the job of artists, and creatives, to make this vision in the culture we live in today. Because it’s vision, hope, imagination that make life worth living. If you look at it that way, an artist’s job is one of the most important jobs in society of all.
Do you feel called to be an artist? If you feel that it is a calling, then what if you thought of it also as a responsibility to the world? That you, not doing your best, would be taking away something great that mankind would otherwise have without you. Are you truly doing your best? As Lera Auerbach states in her book Excess of Being: “The gap between good and great is much larger than between good and bad.” What if you created not for the fame, accolades, fortune or respect, but out of a duty to give your best to the world? To not think of it as an indulgent thing, but in a service-minded way. Your art serves a purpose, a unique purpose only you can fulfill. It is up to you to discover what exactly that is, fulfill it, and give it to the world.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and start the conversation!
By Jessica Libor, June 2016
Last week, the snowstorm Jonas raged around the Northeast and I found myself trapped for 4 days, unable to move my car out of 3 feet of snow. Most of my neighbors were in the same situation–living on a street that the city doesn’t plough! I had my milk and eggs, and was stocked up for the storm, so I embraced the time to really spend some time painting in the studio. For the first couple days it was great. I was able to spend some quality focused time painting and creating new artworks, without having a time limit of having to be done by a certain time or making it to an appointment.
However, I noticed that by the 4th day my hands were tired of doing the same thing–painting all day, every day. My eyes needed a rest from looking at the surface of a canvas so close to me. My body needed to move around and explore past the bounds of my house. I was stir crazy, but the desire not to waste time made me keep painting and creating.
By the time I could move my car down the road, I couldn’t paint without pain. I had overdone it in my zest for using every moment. Therefore, for the next week, I had to take a rest from painting in order to get my hands back in working order. It reminded me of the importance of balance. In order for something to be sustainable, there has to be balance. Life cannot be spent entirely in the studio, or else what is there to paint about? You must experience life to paint about it. It reminded me that rest is just as important a part in the creative process as creating is. Rest allows the mind to be at peace, which brings unexpected creativity.
However, I find too much rest dull…my mind seeks something to accomplish, figure out, challenge itself. And I believe each of us is put here on earth with something great to do that only that individual can do. The thing is to decipher what that is, what that thing is that you want to do. Usually it has something to do with our interests and passions. To find that passion, to corral it, and to make use of your interests in order to add value to humanity, that is a great thing. As Lera Aurbach writes in Excess of Being, “Without desire, nothing is possible.”