How do you feel about your old art? Reviewing old work and a Redbubble revamp

Do you ever think back about your old work and feel dissatisfied? Like it just wasn’t your best work and you don’t really want people seeing it?

I’ve had a collection of pieces of my work on Redbubble for several years now but was really struggling to feel any enthusiasm about promoting them at all. More than a few weeks ago now I decided to go back and have a look and try to figure out if the work was really as bad as I felt it was, or if there was something else going on.

When I opened up my account and started looking through the work I realised that I actually quite liked a lot of the individual pieces, but that it didn’t feel like it hung together as a collection very well. In the years since I started using Redbubble’s print on demand service to sell things with my art on they’ve done a lot of work to the interface, and it’s now a lot easier to go in and experiment with things like the size or arrangement of work on a particular object, or to change the background. They’ve also released a bunch of new products (like backpacks!), and I simply had not been keeping track.

So I’ve begun to experiment with changing the background on related pieces so that they ‘fit’ together a bit better, and making the same design available on different colours. I am not sure if people will like these new versions any better, but I am certainly happier. For example the design above looks so much better on a dark background than it did on the paler one that I had it on before, and now kind of fits much better with the pink version – have a look at the backpack below.

The upshot is that, while I’ve not quite finished revamping my collection, I am feeling much better at promoting my works now. I’ve even been pushing some of my designs on twitter this month as we draw close to halloween. Like this one.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Mental health and silver linings

Last week I wrote about my recent brush with anxiety and how at times like this I find that creativity can form a kind of refuge for me. During that time I made a picture of a cat that I rather liked. It’s inspired by my two cats. Both of them are black and a little eccentric, but one of them has displayed some almost saint like qualities in his tolerance of the overly enthusiastic affections of my toddler son.

Over the weekend I had a go at doing some finishing touches in photoshop, and was relatively pleased with the result. So even though I wasn’t feeling near my best in that time, I have come out with a little silver lining in the form of a piece of art.

This is the finished piece above. If you like it, and fancy treating yourself to something with this image on, it’s now available in my shop at Redbubble here.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt: Offerings #3

I saw these coins while I was on the way to taking my son to nursery. Someone had left them on a bollard on a traffic island in the middle of a busy road. I managed to get this photo on the way back. It’s not the best photograph. The traffic island is quite narrow, and I didn’t want to hang around with the pram as it was a bit of a precarious position to stand in.

But I did want to get the photograph because it sparked an idea for me. Someone had left coins in the middle of a crossing, reminding me of the many myths of the crossings people needed to make from this life into the underworld. For example in Greek mythology the soul of a person would need to pay the ferry man Charon a coin for passage across the River Styx.

The sight of these coins at the crossing made me wonder. What could the person who left these be paying passage for?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Anxiety and creativity as a refuge

Last week I was off work with stress and anxiety. I’m back in now, but it was a bit of a shock to crash out with a panic attack on a not particularly difficult Monday morning, and find myself unable to return for a few days after that. While I’ve struggled anxiety for quite a long, I don’t normally find myself needing to take time off work with it, but that’s how things go sometimes, isn’t it?

During my time off I was feeling really tired and had that kind of brain fog that makes it a bit difficult to think things through properly. From a creative point of view, I wasn’t been able to write much either, which is my normal creative weapon of choice. When my mental health slips this way my instinct is to retreat into making pictures. I find something therapeutic in the physical activity involved in drawing, cutting paper and working out which other materials may work for that particular design.

There are a few theories about around why creative activities are helpful to mental health, including (not an exhaustive list);
1. That it provides a nice distraction from difficult feelings or circumstances
2. That it may provide a route into a state of ‘Flow’. This is a psychological term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and which describes a positive state of mind where a person is fully involved in and focused on a particular activity (for more information you can read his book on the subject here (affiliate link)).
3. A route for self expression or catharsis, allowing people to express, and more clearly understand their own feelings or thoughts on a difficult situation.

Over time I have probably found all three of these aspects of creativity helpful to my own mental health, and am grateful that it is something I feel able to do. One of the benefits of building some form of creative practice into my everyday life is that when things feel a bit difficult, I have something productive to withdraw into, like this last week.

And I made a picture of a cat that I’m pleased with too.

Thank you you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative Prompt: The missed shot

This year I’ve been experimenting with creating creative prompts for other creative folks by taking photographs of strange or quirky things that I see when I am out and about. My general format is then to post the photo along with the story of the picture, or some thoughts that the picture provokes in me. In last week’s creative prompt I briefly mentioned the sometimes transient nature of creativity, and this weeks photo is a really good example of that.

I first saw this broken pair of sunglasses on the road a day before I took the photo. My initial response was that they weren’t that interesting to me, but then when I found myself thinking about them a bit later in the evening knew that they had caught my attention after all. When I went looking for them the next day I was relieved that they were still there, but they were not arranged as I remembered.

When I first saw them one of the lenses was still in place in it’s frame. While I like this shot with the strip of yellow running through the photo, it’s not as good as that first glimpse. Basically I missed the shot because I didn’t take advantage of the moment.

I’m sure I’m not the only creative with experiences like these, and would like to hear about other similar experiences in the comments below. What was your best (worst!) ‘missed shot’?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Learning to do self promotion, and a sale on Redbubble

When I started this blog several years ago my plan was just to be able to blog about my creative stuff, and maybe connect with other creative people too. Once I got going I found that while I enjoyed the writing side of it, I really didn’t enjoy the self promotion side of it. For a long time I didn’t really push the blog, and for much of 2019 I didn’t blog at all.

A friend of mine once told me while I was pregnant that I would probably feel a lot less concerned about what other people thought about what I was doing after my son was born, and she’s been pretty spot on on that account. Over the last year l’ve spent a bit of time getting the hang of promoting myself on twitter, and have been a bit more comfortable in pushing myself. The one thing I am still finding difficult to do is to find the time to connect with other bloggers, to read their blogs and to join in with commenting. But am trying to do better with this.

Most of my recent blogging has been about my writing, as it’s been difficult to do much visual art or film making because the setting up of things takes so much more time. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ‘indie’ route for my writing, and recently realised that I’m already an ‘indie’ with respect to my art, and have quite a ‘back list’ available on Redbubble.

I received an email today from Redbubble to say they are running a sale this weekend on the website, so I thought it was a good opportunity to engage in a little self promotion. One of my favourite collections was a series of pieces of paper cut and mixed media art that were set across all four seasons – The Forest Kiss Collection. I look at them now and find that similar ideas are informing my writing, with my current project also featuring cycles and seasons.

This weekend, if you were interested in getting yourself some new art, take a look at Redbubble, which features art from over 700,000 independent artists, and use the promo code FINDYOURTHING grab yourself a bargin.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

My toddler is a scientist: experimentation and the creative process.

A few weeks ago my son learned to walk. Like every other skill he has picked up, the process involved a lot of trail, and a lot of error. There were plenty of missteps and a few little falls here and there, but it didn’t take him long to get the hang of it. Now he likes to spend his days charging around, while we spend our trying to keep up with him.

Over the last year it has been his gift to us to hang out with him while he learns to do new things. I am sure all parents think their children are clever, and I am no exception to this rule, but it has been one of the most delightful surprises of parenthood to be able to see this unfold. He is the epitome of a little scientist. Touching. Tasting. Moving things about. Trying one thing, seeing it fail, trying it again with adaptations, before moving on to the next option.

The other morning we were eating breakfast together and it occurred to me that this process is also the process that underpins good art. Trying one thing, adapting it, trying the next. I am one of those odd people who trained in the sciences, but is drawn instinctively to the arts. In my mind there has never been a huge distance between the core process involved in doing science, and the one that underpins the making of art. Watching my child develop has reinforced this for me in the most profound way.

Now he has walking mostly under control, we’ve moved on to putting blocks together in new and interesting patterns. For him, inspiration appears everywhere. We aren’t quite up to building yet, but that too will happen in time. I can’t wait to see what he will experiment with next.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

Here is another creative prompt for this week.

This is my cat, who likes to look down on us and in a ideal world would have us deliver his dinner to him at the top of the stairs.

Writers, artists, doodlers and storytellers, have some fun with this image. Post your ideas in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Finding (or not finding) my flow: art in the time of parenting

Hello Magpies!

I am sorry that I missed last week’s post. My brain feels like a sack of porridge at the moment.

I have been thinking a bit about creativity and the stop start nature of artistic work when you are also a parent of a young child. While it took me a while to adjust to having a young son, I feel as though I have got to a place where I am fitting in art, writing or film making every day at the moment. Baby Magpie’s naps have got slightly more predictable, and I’ve also found some time some evenings to do stuff.

So the logistics are beginning to work themselves out, and I am pleased with myself for that. But for me there is a second element to creative work that is really important, and that I’m having a bit less success with. I can have a plan, and follow the plan. I can do 200 words a day for example, but are they good words?

I struggle to find my flow when I am squeezing in work into twenty minute chunks here and there. Flow is a psychological concept, described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, that describes that really enjoyable mental state where everything is working together, your focus is aligned with what you are doing, and time passes by unmarked. If you are interested in reading more, I think this book is good.

I find that it is in this state that my best ideas for my art come to me, and I find it hard to completely enter that state when I also have one eye, or one ear on the baby. Has anyone else experienced this? if you have, and have tips on how to manage this pleased let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for reading. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Thought custard

It’s been an interesting week here at the Magpie nest. Baby Magpie has slept through the night several nights in a row. Like most new parents we were waiting for this moment with great anticipation, believing that it would usher in a return to a blessed state of getting several hours of unbroken sleep.

That’s not actually what happened. Instead, Baby Magpie has slept soundly, and I have woken at the times of the night when he normally wakes, and then spent several minutes gently prodding him to make sure that he was still alive. I’m definitely doing better for sleep now, but it’s still pretty broken, and not the step change in my mental resources that I was hoping for.

I was trying to think of something more intellectual for this weeks blog, but I find instead that I have thought custard. My ideas just aren’t running as smoothly as I would like them to. I have found it easier to work on artistic bits and bobs. The paper cut above is the first bit of animation work I have done since Baby Magpie was born, so I am pleased to have managed to get back to that. It’s a little bit of progress, but it will do me for now.

Thank you for reading. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.