Sarah Beth Smith Photography on Flickr

Arizona Cactus Skeleton
I'm happy to have started blogging again!  It gives me another avenue to tell stories told through the lens of my camera.

If you like what you see and you want to see more, check out my Flickr page, where I've set the goal to try and update week with new images.  Right now you'll find I've added lots of photos from my travels over the past year.

I'm trying to get out every chance I get - it's tough in the rain!  But I will be sure to post whenever I find something good.

If you're a fellow blogger/photographer/human on Flickr, Google+ or Instagram - I'd love to connect.  Find me and say hello!


All-Time Top Three Least Favorite Nuggets of Advice for Creatives

Blazin' artsy trails, kickin' creative ass and takin' names. 

The worst advice I ever got about being a self-starting, creative, passionate, scatterbrained, artsy-type person with lots of irons in the fire?  Oh, where do I begin?

Here are my all-time top three least favorite nuggets of advice that well-meaning, yet oblivious people love to give us hard-working artists.

You should make what will sell.  At times, I have felt tortured by this advice.  I touched on this topic somewhat in my last post.  It's a double-edged sword when you sell what you create.  After devoting a great deal of time and energy to creating what will sell with Deeds & Petunia, I now try to see my art as something that's channeled through me and something I can enjoy/appreciate.  If you are someone who is blessed enough to create amazing, fulfilling work that others enjoy and want to buy, then by all means put it out there and make some dough off of it!  Just remember, it's easy to fall into the trap of making only what will sell and losing your authenticity and drive to create.  I do have a photography business in addition to being a visual artist, so I walk that fine line myself.  I feel you.

Make something everyone will like.  "Yeah, your work is nice, but I don't get it.  I love your flowers and mushrooms! You should keep photographing flowers." I actually got this advice the other day.  I was annoyed but then it made me laugh a bit. When I hear that I have to remind myself that my work is not for them.  It's for those of us who get that zing of excitement and resonance when they look at it.  Like that one song - you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself.  No one should ever have to sacrifice their authenticity or their unique voice to please others.

You should suffer for your art. I do believe in a measure of artistic suffering in order to produce great work and tend to be so very melancholic myself that I am sure I utterly repel the perpetually positive.  But I don't believe you should have to let it take over every corner of your life and marinade you in misery in order for you to produce work that's meaningful.  That just stinks.  If it's making you miserable, maybe put a pin in it and come back to it in a week, a month, a year.  If you're meant to create it, it won't leave you. Or if it does, let it go.  Author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about it in her book Big Magic - how that inspiration will find someone else who can bring it forth and you'll make room for the right creative idea at the right time.  Love and respect creative inspiration like you would any other healthy relationship.

March (or gallop) to the beat of your own drum.
The Only Advice You Should Ever Listen To.
I'll end with the best advice I ever got about being a self-starting, creative, passionate, scatterbrained, artsy-type person with lots of irons in the fire.  Make what YOU LOVE.  Do your best to ignore the negative-nelly naysayers who don't understand or appreciate your creativity and artistry.  No one says you have to make it your 24-7 passion or your career, but don't stop doing what you love because you can't monetize it or because no one else appreciates or understands it.  You owe it to yourself.  It's the only advice you should ever listen toy.  Love yourself.  Love what you create. The end.


The Winding Path To My Own Creative Fulfillment

Hooray! I'm reviving the blog because I like to blog. I miss blogging. I'm not making products to sell in the Etsy shop anymore because I don't want to. I've found closing my shop and taking a break ultimately led me down a winding path to creative fulfillment.

I've been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's new book "Big Magic" this week and it got me reflecting on my winding path as an artist.  The validating message of her book is to just create - don't worry about commercial success, don't worry what anyone else thinks/make art you enjoy, and honor the muse-gift of creative inspiration when it strikes or perhaps lose it!  She's a fan of finishing what you start, even if it's a half-assed effort.

Creating Deeds & Petunia began as creative outlet and morphed into a small and humbly successful business that felt pretty great.  Making sales, being featured in publications, growth and recognition with the business was validating and gave me the okay to keep doing it.  I found a good balance between work and life and raising two small kids it all felt good and exciting.

As things got busier and kept growing, I felt the endeavor begin to plateau.  As I tried to help it continue to grow, I felt overwhelmed, dissatisfied and frankly a bit bored with it all.  I wanted to make things.  Beautiful and exciting things.  But I didn't want to spend time that I didn't have marketing myself.  I didn't want to spend money I didn't have on marketing either.  I didn't want to make things worrying about what I was going to *do* with them.

I didn't want just a business. I didn't want to quit either, but I didn't know quite how to evolve and keep the creativity flowing. I liked what I created but never felt totally in love with making any of it. Close, but no cigar. I felt defeated. Eventually I closed the shop and quit blogging for a while and tried to pursue other avenues so I could let my creative endeavors be free of the burden of providing me income.  But I couldn't help but feel somewhat like a failure.

Not The End, Just The Next Chapter

It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.  I eventually found my path again and learned to declare "I am an artist!" without hesitation.  There were plenty of bumps and bad jobs that I quit, bad advice from self-declared experts on what I should do (now when I hear the phrase "you know what you should do is..." I run), a move across four states and many depressing months of sulking and despair over how to continue with a life devoid of creative fulfillment.  In reality, I hadn't failed at my business or as a creative person for that matter, I had just outgrown it and my ideas of what success and fulfillment should look like.

Looking outside of me for validation instead of looking to create what made me happy and fulfilled and excited and challenged was a big lesson.  I realized that I'm not burdened with creating a product anymore, and my artistic outlet is a lot more than just an outlet, and definitely more than just a business - though there are still some business elements I grudgingly take seriously.

What I use my creativity for now is to deliver a message to/from the Universe that comes through me, a gift that I must honor.  Half the time I'm left dazed and wondering how it came out through me.  But I love what comes out.  This art is beautiful and terrifying and cathartic and satisfying all at once.  I have already had some successes with my new endeavors, but even if I never make another dollar off of what I create it won't matter. Because it's not about the money (no one chooses art for the money!) or recognition or measurable success by our society's standards.  It's so much more.

If I never started Deeds & Petunia, I never would have even picked up a camera, I never would have opened this portal of creative flow.  In the end, I wasn't a failure, I was on the long and winding road to where I'm supposed to be now - making surrealist narrative portraits, taking photos and trying to find a steady way to pay the bills that won't kill my creativity. :)