Yes, Art Matters

Last week, the world was dealt a devastating blow. An entire nation was brought to its knees with the stunning realization that racism, fascism, and the general population’s distrust of our government is a perfect storm for a Person Like Him to rise to power. I have a lot to say about that, but for now I’m going to shift focus on how I’ve seen current events affect artists and friends of mine.

Being self-employed, independent, freelance designers and artists means relying on social media and nearly constant self-promotion to remind people that you exist and are interesting and you are making cool things. Make no mistake that I find this work exhausting and would rather be locked in my studio making, making, making. 

With mixed feelings last week, I had to keep marching on towards two major art shows that I’ve worked incredibly hard for and arranged my whole life around. This is work that I live for, honestly. But last week, I didn’t feel like selling my work, and I didn’t feel like selling myself.

At the same time, something snapped inside of me. I’ve spent so much of my life being polite and playing it safe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total rule breaker. I just prefer to break the rules quietly. 

On election night, that polite part of me broke and I publicly let my feelings be known. Then I made protest art. I didn’t give myself time to let the work rest, or get critiques from friends. I published “PUSSY GRABS BACK” quickly as a rallying cry before I lost my nerve. 

At West Coast Craft, I took Polaroids of people holding a giant PUSSY GRABS BACK print that I made. People laughed, and cheered, and stared, and rolled their eyes, and threw their fists in the air in support. This is the proudest moment of my career.

“What’s the point? Making art feels useless. I feel guilty for continuing,” are phrases I’ve heard again and again by my closest artist friends this week. We had to talk each other through it, reminding each other that our work matters and it isn’t pointless. The world still needs art. We need art that informs, art that soothes, art that renews rage so that we maintain momentum and keep fighting. To put your brushes down at this point would be a disservice to everyone. 

We all need each other right now.

Self-employed folks are having a hard time justifying putting their work out right now. 

Especially women. 

Especially women of color. 

It doesn’t help when industry voices publicly criticize this choice. I want to be clear about this: there’s a difference between ignoring current events and continuing to make a living. There’s also a difference between artists selling political work for pure profit, and artists selling work for profit that is donated to charities and political organizations.

It’s okay for independent designers to keep plugging along right now. And it’s okay for employed designers to keep going to work and trying to do their jobs. And it’s okay for anyone who has had a hard time getting out of bed. And it’s okay for anyone who keeps getting dressed. And it's okay for anyone who’s afraid of slowing down for a second, because if they do, they might collapse in grief. And it’s okay for everyone who can’t handle the news or social media right now. And it’s definitely alright for people who are mad as hell to organize, protest, and say whatever the fuck they want because we are in dark times, and the time for politeness is over.

Please continue to support independent artists and designers during this time. We rely on you to make a living, and we need our community more than ever right now.

Here’s a list of women and people of color making art that gives back right now:

Who else is giving back? Let me know in the comments. ❤️

Video Roundup // 10

Mariah has quite a few remixes of her own work, so I’ve decided to share them relatively close to the original videos. To back up a little, this is my first time watching most Mariah Carey videos. Now I’ve made it my mission to watch each one and tell you what I think about it. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. <3

1. Emotions (Remix)

Amazing. It starts with Mariah belting out gospel notes, and then goes into an ultra cool dance beat, complete with Very Strong Keyboard Notes. The video is the same.

2. Heartbreaker Remix - Mariah Carey, Missy Elliot, Da Brat

Jay-Z didn’t contribute enough to the original, so we had to bring in some pussy power with Da Brat and Missy Elliot. Caveat: I don’t think Mariah should have to wash any car with her face on it. C’mon girl, you’re better than that. Da Brat destroying a wedding cake is everything. Missy is the best. I wonder how stoned Snoop is in this video?

3. Fantasy ft. O.D.B.

Last week we covered the original Fantasy video, which everyone adores. Let me point your attention to this version of Fantasy with special guest Ol' Dirty Bastard. This version of Fantasy is low-key, and the video is chopped up in a weird way to accommodate the smoother track. More importantly...how…did…O.D.B. get here? I love that they obviously shot his part on a different day because the sky is cloudy. And now the clown is tied up. Anyway, RIP O.D.B. You and this remix live on in dance clubs across the world.

4. Obsessed (Remix) ft. Gucci Mane

Um, this is a remix of Obsessed with Gucci Mane. That’s all you really need to know.

5. We Belong Together Remix Live

Times Square was the place to be on New Year’s Eve 2005. Her backup dancers are great and the tune is smooth. The best thing about this has to be the Youtube comments where some people say she’s lip syncing, and other people go into great detail defending her live performance (as recently as two years ago). Mariah fans are so real.

Productivity

Most people either say they're a morning person or an evening person. When you work for yourself, you can get super nuanced about when you want to do different types of creative work. For me, that mostly means I see very few people during the week. Yeah, I'm a work hermit. Not always. But sometimes I just get in this mood that lasts for weeks where I feel like I constantly have something that I want to be doing. Instead of wondering if this is good or bad, I'm rolling with it. Texting other stay-at-home club members (when my phone isn't in Do Not Disturb) helps me make sure I still have a social life. :)

I get the most work done early in the morning, late at night, on Friday afternoons, or during big events like the Super Bowl. I think it’s because the world is a little quieter. I feel like I can get away with brave, creative, honest work when the whole world isn’t looking – no judgment and no noise. Finding the space to be creatively WEIRD and WONDERFUL is one of the best gifts you can give yourself! That's what Tuff Stuff and 100 scribbled-down half-baked ideas are all about. When we take our work too seriously, it shows. Give yourself room to play! And remember:

When do you feel the most focused and creative? What helps you get loose and make silly stuff??

Video Roundup // 9

It's Friday! Time for another Mariah-fest to get us into the weekend and in the mood for That Love Day. Let's go!

1. Honey

The jetski video!

2. Heartbreaker

What I love is that the video jumps right into all girl synchronized dancing. AND I forgot about her evil brunette twin!! Things that make me laugh: Jay-Z in the back just saying “sing the song!” 

3. Fantasy

I’ll forgive the clown at the beginning, but ONLY because of the little girl dancing, that belly chain, and classic Mariah surrounded by dancing dudes. Can anyone tell me where to get a cropped zip-up sweatshirt?? Yeezy season 1??

4. Shake it Off

We need to shake off the week before we can enjoy the weekend. What I love about this song is her reference to a Calgon commercial. I bet you $100 that people a few years younger than me – or even my age, 26– don’t get the reference. While we’ve got the fightin’ words out, I’m gonna say that Mariah and her little girl dance gang beat Taylor Swift anyday. To top it all off, she defaces public property with a Krink marker. Done.

5. I Want to Know What Love Is

Am I trolling you? Maybe a little. This video is weird. Screw it though, I love this song! Try getting it out of your head the rest of the day, I dare you. You’re gonna listen to this 10 more times today and do a little desk karaoke - don’t act like you won’t.

I hope you know what love is this weekend! Let me know what your favorite Mariah video is and you just might see it next week. ;)

Baby's First Sabbatical

Last September, I decided to take three months off of client work to focus on personal work. There are a few reasons why I took time off. First, I was tired. I had done a year’s worth of client work in 10 months. (Whoa.) Second, I was a little burnt out. I had just planned my third conference in two years, in New York at ADC Global. (Amazing.) Third, I was ramping up for my first art exhibition in San Francisco – West Coast Craft. Okay, now I’m hyperventilating. That is a lot of things! 

The Secret Handshake Conference at ADC Global, Oct 2 & 3

The Secret Handshake Conference at ADC Global, Oct 2 & 3

West Coast Craft, Nov 14-15

West Coast Craft, Nov 14-15

I’ve spent a bit of time kicking myself for not *doing enough* during this time off. It’s not a good feeling. When I think about what three months of free time looks like, I imagine how much can be done with a clean slate. But the truth is, it wasn’t really a clean slate! I had planned a lot of events and activities during this time! So I did those, and there wasn't time for anything else. The first time Stefan Sagmeister took a year-long sabbatical, he basically did nothing because he didn't come up with a plan beforehand. His story makes me feel a lot better about the way I spent my time.

The Good

Free time is amazing. I feel so well rested and low-key stress-free in most aspects of life. I’ve been able to take a step back and reflect on the types of work that I want to be doing, and who I want to be working with. This is a super radical idea to me, since I jumped into freelance in late 2014 and just started swimming. I’ve even started saying “no” to projects that aren’t the right fit for me – something I don’t think I would have done without this time off.

The Bad

Free time is scary, because you have *so much space* to think about what you want. Too much space means you start playing the what if game. “What if I can’t get what I want? What if I’m not good enough? What if no one wants me for this type of work?” When you start to work towards what you really want in life, you don’t have anyone to blame if things don’t pan out. You’ve got to live with that possibility.

The Ugly

There are more projects I wanted to do after West Coast Craft. I wanted to keep that creativity train goin’ and work on everything, including one very special project that’s close to my heart. But after West Coast Craft, I gave a Creative Mornings talk! Then it was Thanksgiving! Then I made a book for zine fest! Then it was Christmas! I can’t do *any* project in fits and starts – I need continuity. For awhile I felt guilty about not making progress on all those little spare projects. Now I know that I didn’t actually have space for them, and that’s okay. It’s also okay that I haven’t finished posting travel photos from last year, or made music, or perfected sourdough. Patience, my friends.

I need continuity. I need a daily practice. I need lots of time to sit and make and think and explore and process and refine and produce and photograph and show and tell. These are big undertakings. For awhile I guilted myself, “I had three months, I should have been able to do this!” But when I look at reality, there is just no way I could have done all those projects. I was busy making other things!

What happens next?

Now it’s January, and I’ve been quietly thinking and planning my year while slowly ramping up client work. In the future when I take time off for personal work, I will:

• not plan it over the holidays
• set up a project timeline with deliverables and a due date
• be realistic about time management

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter that I didn’t “do more”. Because I did enough. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t crank out that one project that I’m dying to get into the world. Because I will. When I’m ready for that project, it will be my sole focus, and I will plan all my time around it. I will give it the attention it deserves. Nothing gets done without planning first! 

Have you ever taken time off from work? What did that look like for you? Let me know!

Video Roundup // 8

For the last several days I've been gathering everything I need for tax season, with Mariah on repeat. I can't explain it, but her entire discography is exactly what I need to get this shit done. I went down a pretty deep rabbithole of Mariah videos, and there are just too many to fit in one post. So this week is part one of a new Mariah series! Each week I'll be serving up five Mariah videos until I run out or get tired, whichever happens first. Here we go!

1. We Belong Together

When I first went freelance in late 2015, I got hooked on "We Belong Together." I listened to it on repeat, for hours, doing my very first freelance jobs. I know every word now. This video has all of Mariah's favorite things: singing with wet hair, singing with wind blowing through her hair, and a dramatic exit with a hot dude. Get it girl.

2. Up Out My Face

I had somehow *never* seen this video of Mariah and Nicki together until today. The cheap typography is unfortunate — and why does Mimi’s name on her doll box get a drop shadow but not Nicki? Is Mariah's star brighter? Also, the B in Barbie on Nicki's necklace is blurred out for legal reasons, obvs. Cheap aesthetic aside, the best part of this video is definitely that they’re having fun together. :)

3. Emotions

I noticed the Emotions album cover on Spotify and had to investigate. What I found was Mariah hanging out with a bunch of sexy dudes and cool girls in a technicolor party, that includes some guy feeding a loris. YASSS.

4. Dreamlover

Ah the 90s, so carefree! Ms. Misandry has a field of hotties dancing for her, and she’s rocking a casual girl-next-door look. Very cute. Plus does anyone know who the androgynous friend in the stripe shirt is??

5. Obsessed

Apparently Eminem said some nasty things about her back in the day, and she made this song about it. The best part of this video is definitely Mariah dressed as Eminem in a room full of posters of her. Oh, and more wind blowing through her hair. 

Stay tuned for five more Mariah videos next week! What are your top Mariah videos? Let me know in the comments!

Video Roundup // 7

The truth is, I don't surf the net for videos every day or even every week. But sometimes, just sometimes, I come across a video that makes me stop. A video that makes me stop checking twitter, put it on full screen, and just watch. Giving something online my attention for 3, 5, 7, even 10 minutes is an effort. We move so fast. 

The video for "Sleep Sound" by Jamie XX is beautiful in it's simplicity. Dancing is a wonderful, silent, amazing activity that helps humans loosen up and get out of our heads. If you're ever alone, and feeling stuck, turn on a song you like and dance. Let loose. No one's watching. It doesn't matter how stupid you look – that's the point.

What do you like to dance to?