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Meditation and making marks

sketchbook page progress

I’ve spent the last several years making classes as a priority and art secondary. This was an important shift of focus for a couple of reasons, but mainly to create a sustainable income as a full-time artist.

With the focus on writing what I know as video chapters for my Skillshare classes, I fell out of the habit of being an artist for myself. I need to make it clear: I love making classes. The “but” after saying that is that I began an increasingly unhealthy relationship with my own art and my own discipline for making it. I – wrongly – built up an impossible standard that if I wasn’t learning, writing, and making examples for classes I was failing my path in some way. This unhealthy shift was a slow process, but came to a head over last winter, which, to be frank, was a really crap time for my mental health. I stopped creating everything, with few exceptional bursts of creative output. I didn’t even produce a class for six months. I was at a rock bottom.

In a way, it had to happen. I had to hit the wall to see the problem. I’ve recently been on a path toward energising what I do – both teaching and creating art – and it’s working, if slowly.

I have revisited what it is to keep a sketchbook, and am now making it a morning meditation of sorts. I know in my mind that no one will miss me if I take ten minutes or an hour first thing in the morning to fill a page or two in a little sketchbook. I know that keeping a sketchbook is a valuable tool for experimentation and learning. The “doing” is a little more challenging because of my guilt-centric thought processes, but I’m getting into it now.

I used to draw all the time. Drawing is my first love. It’s always been my conduit to the weirdness in my head, the outlet for expression and the wonderful (and, at times, frustrating) challenge of documenting what I observe. I love freaky drawing. I love realistic drawing. I love it all. So what the hell happened that I stopped filling sketchbooks?

Somewhere along the way – let’s just say, since art school – I programmed myself that art wasn’t going to be a viable living. I didn’t go to a traditional art school; I have an industrial design degree. I regret nothing, but something about that planted a toxic seed deep inside me that sprouted slowly into a full-blown “you’ll always be a hobbyist” mentality. I overcame this for a few years of genuine fine artist success a handful of years ago. I was represented by a couple of galleries. I sold expensive paintings around the world. I had large solo exhibitions. I grabbed the dream and made it work for a little while.

But art sales are difficult to count on and so I looked to establish a secondary income stream. Teaching on Skillshare has been the best thing for my confidence and income but also created a difficult situation: I found I had to really focus on one or the other – either class creation/teaching or fine artist, and so I chose to build my teaching career into a reliable income. I pay my bills with what I teach online and that’s fricking fantastic. What is not fantastic is that now I’m ready to balance the two areas of my art life and it is so hard.

I haven’t seriously, regularly painted canvases in several years. I haven’t drawn for the joy of drawing in sketchbooks for years. I don’t feel like a beginner, but rather like someone coming out of a coma and being very, very rusty at everything. Sure I can draw. Sure I can paint. I have been competently and successfully teaching others how to do that stuff for years. But, can I paint for me? For what’s in my head? Can I risk the weird stuff rising up and splatting onto pages and paintings? Of course, but it’s tricky, I won’t lie. I have been mostly creating examples for classes for years but rarely challenging myself. I’m in the process of changing that now.

I’m taking those 10-60 minutes in the morning to break down some barriers and tap back into the truly creative me. I’m beginning a journey of belief in my own work again and it’s already making a difference in how I feel about my art and being in my studio.

I’m in the middle of producing a new Skillshare class now, and it is taking longer than I’d like, but at least this time it’s because of allergy season issues preventing me from working rather than mental health reasons. I’m forging new, healthy work habits and the sketchbook work is one aspect of that. I’m pretty rubbish at traditional meditation, so the sketchbook time is my morning meditation. I meet myself at my desk, perhaps listen to an art world podcast, and draw. Today I added gouache to the drawings and love it. I actually enjoyed the process instead of feeling like I was wasting time or making crap. (Maybe it is crap, but I enjoyed it.)

I feel like I’ve turned a corner and perhaps I’m entering a new phase of my art life. It still involves teaching (I love teaching), but I am returning to the joy of making things for the sake of making them. Instead of rare or infrequent bursts of creativity that leave me exhausted, insecure and unhappy, I am making a daily effort to reconnect with my creative self. Feels good.

Holy heck, I’ve started blogging again.

Gosh, a lot has happened since I last posted here. If you look at the previous blog post, I’d just released a class on ink hatching on Skillshare. Since then, I’ve released a total of sixteen (16!!) classes there and rapidly became one of their Top Teachers, which means I’m in the top 1% of their total teachers. This is kind of a big deal…

When I started Skillshare in late 2016, I had a long-term plan to ramp up my teaching income to become an important part of my earning a living as a full-time artist. I am so glad I did this. I knew it would mean putting my fine art creation and sales mostly on hold until I could achieve a balance between the two worlds. The time for shifting energy and creating more balance is now (2019).

Part of this transition is to bring the writing back, both here and on my personal blog. I’m tired of lazily blurting the news on Facebook or Instagram instead of really taking the time to reflect and share more authentically what is going on. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I bleddy love Instagram, but I need to do some stuff here. So, yeah, I’m blogging again. Expect to see the art side of stuff here including art business, art tips and techniques, posts about my process, posts about new work, and more.

Thank you for being here.

(Also, sign up to my newsletter for stuff. That’s a thing too. It’s an infrequent but quality thing that I’ll be putting out a little more often than the blue moon schedule I’ve been using so far.)

Teaching Ink Drawing Techniques on Skillshare

July was a big month for me as I jumped into the world of filming video tuition! I’ve recently released a class on popular learning network Skillshare, and I’m watching the student numbers and glowing reviews grow. It’s unbelievably exciting to be exploring this new aspect to my art career. If you want to try my class for FREE, hit this link and enjoy. It’s about ink drawing using hatching techniques, and will build your confidence with the exercises.

My new class on Skillshare - Improve Your Ink Drawing with Hatching Techniques by Jen Dixon
My first video tuition class! Exciting!

I plan on releasing another class in September, and at the time I write this, I’m thinking it will be a class on making miniature abstract art. It was actually one of the first ideas I had for a class – based on work I was producing at the time – but is a little more complicated, so Improve Your Ink Drawing with Hatching Techniques won out as my first class release. My goal is to release a new video class every two months, perhaps with some free mini classes in between.

The free class links above are for a limited number of students, but if you miss out on that, use this one to get 3 Months of Skillshare for 99cents. That gives you access to classes on all topics site-wide – including mine – which is also awesome.

Oh, one last thing. If you are taking my ink class and post things up to Instagram or Twitter, use #jendixonhatching so I can find your work. Can’t wait to see it!

Open Studios 2016 Time!

conservatory gallery
It’s Open Studios Cornwall time again and things at Penwarren are already in full swing. I held a preview party last evening to kick things off, and boy did it! Thought up and arranged somewhat last minute – and credit to Pete for the idea and much of the prep – we invited people to eat, drink, check out my art before anyone else, and have a good time. Mission accomplished, and though I hadn’t set up the evening to promote sales, work sold, and I have already had an email from a collector showing her purchase framed and hanging in her house! Still smiling about that as I write this.

As for Open Studios, the official event started a few minutes ago for my location, and I’ll be open 11am – 5pm everyday from 28th May – 5th June. It’s always a tiring event to be a part of, but so worth it. I love having people ask questions, see new things in my (mostly abstract) work, and of course, it’s great for sales. Art can be a fairly solitary profession, spending hours alone in a studio, but this event allows me to share my creative sanctuary for a while.

If you find yourself in the neighbourhood, do stop in. You’ll find a map and address on my contact page and additional information on the Open Studios site.
(Photo above is of my conservatory art gallery.)

Getting inside my own head

Been mostly doing jenporium.com shop website stuff today. There are at least a couple hundred more paintings, drawings, and illustrations to add over the next few months, and each of them requires some copywriting.

One copy task is to write individual descriptions for my works, and – alas – I’m the only one who can do it. Although slow-going, I’m finding it really interesting analysing my own art sometimes years since completion. I’m seeing connections I never understood until now, patterns in my marks, colours, and styles. Fascinating.

It’s still going to take me forever (at least) to get something written for each piece, but if I tackle a few a day, I’ll manage. In the meantime, here’s one I wrote up this afternoon that surprised me a little:

https://jenporium.com/art/107

(If you’re interesting in buying any of my art, let me know. Due to the complicated nature of shipping what I create, the site only supports UK shipping addresses for now, however, I am always happy to put together a quote.)