A little recommendation for you and yours on you next date night


I’ve been making more vLogs lately. Here’s one on glass blowing that would be a fun date idea for anyone, where ever you live.

If you’re on the Facebook, let’s be pals.

Enjoy!

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Terry Crews sings the hits


800px-Terry_Crews_by_Gage_Skidmore_5.jpgAs you may already know, I read Tim Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors last month and I have been sharing different quotes I highlighted throughout the book. These come from former football player and actor Terry Crews.

When asked about book recommendations, he answered (emphasis mine):

The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel. I have read hundreds of personal development books, but this is the one that clearly showed me how to visualize, contemplate, and focus on what it was I truly wanted. It revealed to me that we only get what we desire most, and to apply myself with a laserlike focus upon a goal, task, or project. That in order to “have” you must “do,” and in order to “do” you must “be”—and this process is immediate.

Focus is such a beautiful and evasive concept. I love it. And I hate it.

More below the jump Continue reading

The paths to artistry are many


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As mentioned, I’m reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking.

Reading the book is coinciding with lots of goings on. We’re still doing the Whole30 diet. I’m concentrating on being a positive presence in my world. Maybe just my little bubble. In that vain, I’m reaching out to more people purposefully. In turn, they’re reaching out to me.

Palmer’s book feels a little long at times. Or perhaps I want to get through it faster, and I am not directly connecting with her story at this point in my trips around the sun.

But a quote hit me yesterday that I had to share:

There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.

I’ve been mentioning lately that it took me forever to land on the Moon of Artistry, finally jab a flag its surface and declare, “I’m an artist!” Maybe I regret taking so fucking long.

But I got there. So that counts.

Sometimes I think the flag was already sunk in the dirt before I got there, I just pushed it a little further down.

Part of why I dragged my feet was because I thought artistry was unachievable. Musicians and famous painters are artists. Authors of multiple best sellers = artists. Weird people that dress funny are artists.

I create new work almost every day. I get paid to do it. It’s been that way for at least 16 years. Twenty years if you count my freelancing from the beginning.

One day I decided, “It’s time.” And I scribbled on a little blue and white “Hello, my name is:” sticker with the word, “Artist” and I peeled it off the little white part and slapped it on my chest.

I’m handing a “Hello, my name is sticker” to Tina. Time to sign it. Shit or get off … 

Tina and I have worked together since we first met 18 years ago here in Chicago. I pulled her onboard with my company around 2007, and her transition to freelancing with me was scary for her.

She hasn’t been able to identify exactly how she fits into the scenario of our business. Like me, she wears many different hats. In the Adam & Eve since of the word, it angers and belittles her to think of herself as Jeremy’s Support. The Bible calls it a Help Meet. Damn, that pisses her off.

Frequently, I’m seen as “the Photographer” therefore, I’m somehow superior, if only in Tina’s mind. While it’s not a competition, it creates a hierarchy when people say, “What do you do? … Oh, so you assist.”

So you assist. Period. Not question mark.

That’s some bullshit. 

In so many ways, she’s so much more talented than I am. She art directs practically every shoot we do. She also art directs my photo retouching and video editing. I don’t think she realizes how much she does that. But there’s so many times when she makes decisions on video edit or photo delivery that I would never have done personally.

If her hand is in the art, it’s hers, too. Art is, and will always be, collaborative. It’s time for Tina to recognize her role in that level of the partnership.

She’s amazing with people. That alone is an art. She manages business for our company and stuck by her guns when people tried to undercut us or attempt to negotiate lower rates.

She’s got an eye for design and fashion. She has a distinct vision. Every time I turn around, she’s studying some magazine spread, watching a documentary on fashion, or staring at interiors on the internet.  While I would spent every last dime on new gear, she would spent every last dime re-desiging our home.

She’s even more amazing with me. When she see me fighting a light on set, and the client is standing near by, she’s a magician of distraction. When I break something or, just the other day, I plugged in a cord that didn’t belong in a light and it blew my flash tube, smoke bellowed out everywhere from the face of my light, she immediately goes into rescue the situation mode. I love that.

At some point, we have to say, “Damn, Tina, you’re not the support system. You own this company. You have a vision and an artistic eye. You make it what it is. Without you, we do not exist.”

I’ve been meditating on it, and I feel like between owning our company and being a creative force on it, we are blinded by a form of ignorance. There are major roles in business and art that she’s fulfilling on a daily basis.

If I had to give her a title or titles now, I would say that first we’re equal partners in our company. Second, I would call her Art Director. She manages the look and feel of almost everything we do, from style and function of a film to the look and design of a set. And thirdly, she could own the title Producer or even Executive Producer. Producers are, quite possibly, an instrumental and integral part of any photo shoot or video production. Without them, it would be absolute chaos.

She, like me, wears many hats. At one point she is wielding a camera taking photos. Then she’s shooting behind the scenes video. Then she’s consulting the client on where to put the chair, what flowers to add or remove from a scene, what books to put in or take out, etc. etc. etc. etc.

A photography and film company is not all glitz. While we do a lot of photo shoots and film production, there’s a bunch of non-creative stuff involved. Just like I couldn’t call myself an artist for so long, we are having trouble calling ourselves, say, an agency. Or something more than a photography studio. Our talents extend only as far as the fence we build around our capabilities.

I look forward to how Tina’s search for her identity unfolds, literally right before us. I feel it’s only a matter of time before she reaches

Show your work, you big dork!


 

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 8.22.25 AM.pngThe last couple of days, I read and finished a book by Austin Kleon called Show Your Work! 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered.

The only thing I read when I borrowed the ebook from my local public library was “Show Your Work.” The little subtitle about getting discovered didn’t appeal to me.

But as I sit here self deprecating about borrowing a book about getting discovered, which seems very “sell-out-y” to me, I think, “So what?”

It’s a fast read. And if you read it, it’s an encouragement to basically either do what you’re already doing or to maybe do more of what you’re already doing.

It encourages you to chip away at your own art. To share something every day. To start documenting your own process and when you’re ready, share that. These are things I already try to do.

He presents the idea of hanging with like-minded people from an idea stemming from Brian Eno’s concept called, “Scenius.” It’s a derivative (in a way) of “Genius”. It’s basically the idea that if you are associating and hanging with artists, you’ll pass ideas, steal from each other, do more and essentially succeed at creation because of the ricocheting encouragement.

I should remind everyone that “genius” is comes from the Latin verb genui, genitus, “to bring into being, create, produce”, as well as to the Greek word for birth.[4]

So any time you’re creating, you’re practicing the art of genius. And, I feel at the moment, even though I scoff at people who I think are hacks and they’re creating their asses off … they are creating their asses off … so get out there and do it too!

There were two quotes or moments in the book that gave me the holy shits!

One was from the author Annie Dillard, who writes a lot of religious oriented books that my mom and sister read. One of my first production jobs ever was that I interned for this videographer who interviewed Anne Graham Lott about writer Annie Dillard.

The quote I took from this book was:

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

BAM! POW! ZING!

Isn’t that nuts?

I completely whole heartedly agree with that quote. And it makes me want to go out and create something now. It makes me want to help someone else. It makes me want to be better. Work harder. Be more productive.

The second quote I wanted to share is a passage from the book:

People need to eat and pay the rent. “An amateur is an artist who supports himself with outside jobs which enable him to paint,” said artist Ben Shahn. “A professional is someone whose wife works to enable him to paint.” Whether an artist makes money off his work or not, money has to come from somewhere, be it a day job, a wealthy spouse, a trust fund, an arts grant, or a patron.

This quote means a lot to me. Because over the past 20 years of my career, I’ve had jobs I hate. I have had to supply my own art with capital from jobs. At first, I worked for the man. I had two “big-boy” jobs. One was for a newspaper and the other as a graphic designer for a large trade show producer.

Then I went on my own in 2002. But for the majority of my career, I’ve had to make a transition from supplying my own capital to create my own work. Fortunately, the past five years or so, I’ve made the transition to — let’s say — 80% exactly what I want to do and around 20% what I need to do to supply my passion, which is interiors and architecture as well as making cool videos.

The struggle as an artist is how much do you talk about, promote, show work from your (my) other jobs? Those jobs have contributed to my whole being?

But over the past few years, I’ve basically hid the fact that I shoot events. I shoot less and less of them per year. But I still use them as a means to an end.

Secrecy, I’ve found, is destructive behavior.

But if Tina were working to help me do my art, I’d have to admit it. If I took out a loan, to pursue my passion, I might have to admit it. But if I do work that I don’t want to do, hide it?

It’s still a conundrum, but I’m starting to think, why hide who I am? Why?

Any advice you have, I’m all ears.

Is there a good time for your refrigerator to die?


On Sunday morning, I woke up, zombie walked into the kitchen and could hear the refrigerator straining a little harder to keep itself cool.

I walked closer, thought, “Something is wrong.” I double checked the doors. They seemed to be shut. So I thought, crisis averted.

I peered back into the door and up at the temperature reading, and it was in the high 40s. It’s supposed to read 37 or so.

The freezer was reading well into the 30s. This sucks!

“Somebody left the door open. Probably Tina! And now we’re screwed!” I thought. Obviously the only culprit in the house for leaving open the door is her. But all will be okay, now.

So I went about my routine. Brewed a French Press of coffee. Did my morning mediation and stretch. Followed that with a warm cup of coffee and my journaling session. Mentally prepared for my Sunday work out.

Throughout the day, the refrigerator didn’t cool down. The temperatures rose. The ice melted. Everything defrosted. All our fridge items were souring. Not only is this bad timing in general, but we’re on the Whole30 diet which centers itself around pre-preparing parts or entire meals, so our entire freezer and fridge are dedicated to Whole30 success.

Around 8:30 that night, we panicked.

“Our refrigerator is dead. We need a new one. Our whole30 is at stake!” We exclaimed in bizarre unison.

Before bed, I filled drawers with snow from our porch and put in some of our more delicate groceries. I left as much as I could on the porch to freeze in the 10 degree temps.

In bed, we ordered a new $2000 refrigerator from Home Depot. The earliest delivery was Thursday or Friday. We chose Friday because we had an interiors job on Thursday. Tina had one of those “I’m a psychic. Thursday will postpone. I just know it.” I doubted her. “We can’t bank on your special powers of intuition.” So we went with Friday (a full five nights away!).

I’m a skeptic and she’s the damn goddess of prediction. 

Monday morning, our nightmare was still reality. We got a text that our thursday job postponed (Tina did the “I was right!” dance). I called my dad to ask him for advice. “Should I call a repairman or do you think this thing is dead?”

“If you can get it repaired,” he said, ” You could get another few years of life out of the thing, and not spend $1500 or more bucks, the better…”

I couldn’t help but feel guilty about throwing a 500lb piece of Millennium Falcon junk out because it happened to stop working and might be fixable. Tina and I went back and forth and thought, “This thing has been on the fritz. It’s dead. No dice. Let’s buy a new one.”

NEW STUFF IS FUN!

Tina went online to find a retailer with an earlier delivery date. I jumped in the car to pick up our studio mini fridge to use in the interim and run some other errands.

A text showed up while I was out that said, “I think the refrigerator is cooling off again. Am I crazy?”

I called. Sure enough, we were looking at the rough, metallic equivalent of a technological resurrection. Our fridge was Jesus’ing a Lazarus. Or vice versa.

It looks like we had  left a door open and it froze up its coils. The fridge shut itself down for 24 hours to thaw.

So for about 24 hours, Tina and I wasted a bunch of time troubleshooting a broken fridge that wasn’t broken. We’d like to thank the academy for our performance of freaking out. And for all your support during this time of stress and need, we appreciated your incessant prayers and positive vibes.

Oh, you didn’t send prayers? that’s weird. How did this fridge start working again, then?

What kind of Twilight Zone do we live in!?!

 

Keep it Simple, Stupid!


Around our house, Keep It Simple Stupid has become a repeated phrase.

I tend to complicate things. Or my mind does, anyway. I try to document our experiences on camera, and often I try to say too too much. Or if I tell a story, I dip into no man’s land when it’s completely superfluous.

When simplicity is best, I’ll hear Tina call out from an adjoining room, “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

This morning I thought I would come up with and start using its acronym, “KISS!”

Come to find out, lots of people follow a variation of this rule.

I just read in Tribe of Mentors that one of my favorite directors Robert Rodriguez has a saying “Fácil!” when things get too muddied with dumb, self-imposed (or otherwise) complication.

Another writer named Elen Ghulam likes to quote her father for saying, “Take it easy, ya azizi!” Azizi is arabic for “dear.” And it rhymes with Easy!

In other words, take the complications out. Lose the stress. If something is super tough, look at it as easy and go after it like a cowboy on the back of a horse wrangling a calf. If you’re like me, you’ve been doing your art for years and years. So you’ve completed the act of execution a zillion times. Don’t forget that because your facing some new project.

And even if you’re a young, budding artist, remember to KISS all things complicated.

For example, Tina and I had an art date the other night. She found a drawing tutorial on a horse head. The first time she drew it, she looked at it and thought, this sucks. I said, “Draw it again. You’ll do much better.”

She did, and she was much happier with the second attempt. Had she tried a third, it would have been better still.

The first time you do something, it’s tough and has to turn out shitty.” The second time and every subsequent time, that’s art. Art is repetition of the same (or very fucking similar) act of creating.

I’ve grilled hundred and hundreds of steaks. I get close to really good, but it’s only because I keep trying to perfect the process.

I’ve taken zillions of pictures and portraits, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still rethinking execution. So many ingredients stay the same (lights, camera, light modifiers), but things change (people, place, placement of camera/lights, etc).

Do your art or arts over and over and over and over and over. And then do them over again. It’s time + experience + repetition = Keeping It Simple, Stupid!

Ha.

Another thing about the book that reminded me to KISS was that so so so many of the respondents, when asked what they did to clear the mind or when they become unfocused, the two answers that stuck out to me were: 1) take a walk and 2) meditate.

These are two, relatively simple actions that I feel were flying way way way under my radar. I do both. Not for clearing the mind or regaining focus (not on purpose). But I see how being cognizant of the two as enriching activities is a very positive influencer and time spender.

So Keep It Simple, Stupids! Or scream “Fácil!” or “Take it easy, you azizi!”

Hugs. Not Dee-rugs!

 

Are you scared to death? Good!


From The War of Art by Steven Pressfield:

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

And another:

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Every time I create something or I complete something, the fear of sharing it is so terrifying, it’s crazy.

Primarily if it weren’t for Tina’s encouragement and cheerleading, I probably wouldn’t share any of my work. I wouldn’t try to create vLogs or even blogs.

Then there are inadvertent encouragers. There are people on Facebook and other social media who put their work out, publish it, share it all the time. They have way more likes than I do. Way more followers than I do. And all these factors create a bubble of fear, indecision, paralysis, and depression.

I’m 42 years old. Until I was about 38, I vowed never to call myself an artist. Calling self an artist is either validated by some form of success or it’s hackneyed nomenclature.

And then something clicked. Calling myself an artist became a necessity. It became a battle over fear and rejection, self-doubt and self fulfillment. If I don’t call myself it, I will never be it. If I don’t accept it, despite doing art since I can remember … waiting until I’m dead won’t help.

And then there’s social media.

I’ve had a long love hate relationship with social media, this blog, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc. This blog used to be somewhat popular. Now it’s not. I don’t care. Now is my time to revitalize. To do, not say. To take back what was mine. To look forward. Not back.

I have to mind the cues I get that sharing work on social media is somehow going to make me a Rembrandt or Degas or Van Gogh or any other so-called successful artist. That’s not what it is. The dopamine thrill of “one more like.” Nope. The perception of success is bullshit. Success is start to finish. Success is developing an idea, executing it, and then, sharing it. Over and over and over and over and over and over.

“I finished X,” declares the artist. “Time to celebrate?” asks the artist?

“No time to celebrate,” responds the mentor. “It’s time to start Y,” says the mentor.

The likes and approvals of others aren’t the reason for sharing, it’s the process. Everything that came before sharing is what makes happiness and fulfillment. Whether people like it or not, that shouldn’t always be the goal. Although the voices in our heads often try to convince us of that.

I’ll leave you with this other quote from Pressfield:

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”