Posted in Studio Notes

Studio Notes 12/04/19

In the school holidays, office hours come second to parent hours, and they’re all parent hours.

And frankly, that’s great!

One of the great things about being a parent is that you get to experience all of the hobbies that your kids pick up and inevitably abandon, and learn a bit along the way.

Eventually you won’t have the chance to do that any more, so you might as well roll with it and enjoy… and get back into the studio when the term starts again.

Technical support yet again

In my universe, being a mum means being the tech support dude.

I never expected to spend my time labouring over ADB drivers or reboot key combinations, but my 14 year old has now decided to embark on a life of hacking, which means that I have to scrabble to keep up. So naturally that means spending hours on rooting a OnePlus X phone – the phone he had to have above all others.

I thought after that I could convince him to sit with me and watch a Skillshare course on developing plugins, but he was off. I didn’t have enough energy to carry on myself, but I’m adding that to my scroll of projects.

This week has been filled with lots of back-end maintenance projects for my own sites, so I kinda want to get it all out of the way and out of my system so that in a week or two I can get back to my real work.

Stuff I painted, made and wrote…

Over the weekend I started work on that portrait of my lad, but I’m still not sure where it’s going. Will I toss it or keep going? I’m not entirely sure right now.

Playing around with double-sided books.

I’m fooling around with double-sided books as well, because I just have to.

As for what I’ve been writing about – last week it was customer lock-in, and this week it was the sunk cost fallacy. It’s getting dangerously close to pop psychology around here, but I like it.

There’s probably a bit more of that to come, but first, I have some mumwork to do.

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studio notes 12/04/19

Studio Notes 05/04/19

What’s next?

I’ve really enjoyed a week with no plans and no pressure. I could do with another one… so I think I that’s what I’ll have. I need to decide on whether to work on the 250 coin next, or divert myself into finishing off a personal painting that had to get packed away before my house move.

T's portrait in progress on the studio wall.
T’s portrait in progress.

The pipdig problem and customer lock-in

Recently I’ve been listening to a few marketing podcasts (remember sunk costs?), and I came across the concept of lock-in.

As a consumer, it’s something I strive to avoid, but as a creator, it’s something I’d love to know how to capitalise on. Of course, I’m clueless as to how a visual artist would go about creating any kind of closed ecosystem cozy enough to make customers/collectors never want to leave, but the concept is still interesting.

This week it became apparent to me just how strong a force customer lock-in is, in the wake of the unfolding pipdig problem. I watched the drama unfold in amazement, as well-respected members of the WordPress community outed pipdig, a hosting provider and developer, over a myriad number of sins such as:

  • using bloggers’ servers to perform a DDoS on a competitor
  • changing links in bloggers’ content to link back to pipdig
  • hiding a “kill switch” that could effectively wipe out a site…
  • and much, much more!

As the experts waded in and rubberneckers like me looked on, pipdig’s loyal customers came to the rescue, refusing to believe the evidence or the word of the experts.

It came down to “I’ve known this company for x years, they’d never do anything wrong!”, and, “Do I really have to change all my themes now? I’ve got them on 19 blogs!”.

Basically, customer lock-in happens through getting so comfortable with any service that you embed them into your life, making it too much of a hassle to leave, and also embed them into your identity, making an attack on their brand into a personal attack on you. It’s fantastic for companies that can take advantage of it, but not so great for consumers at the bottom who can’t get themselves out of a bad deal.

After several years of staring hopefully at code, I’m not an an expert, but neither am I a complete fool, so thankfully there’s little chance of me getting suckered into this kind of loyalty… but it does make you think about all the other aspects of life wherein we willingly lock ourselves in.

So the moral of the story? If you’re an artist who doesn’t consider yourself “technical”, you don’t have to resign yourself to the whims of your web host overlords. This is why I cover websites and blogging here – to empower you to do as much as you can, or jump ship to someone who can do a better job for you.

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Studio Notes 05/04/19

Studio Notes 29/03/19

I finished my first screen printed notes!

Like I said last week, the colours changed on me mid-printing, which was unexpected, but I ran with it and ended up with something more ochre-tinged than froggy green.

Back of banknote saying "The borrower is a slave to the lender"

Because I took my photographs late in the day on Sunday, I lost the light I needed and basically ended up with a blueish cast after colour correction – or I should say, after attempting colour correction.

So yeah, I’ll have to take some new pics but I just had to get them uploaded there and then, because I knew the start of the week would be too busy and it would end up taking months.

Front of banknote, portrait detail.

Here’s a post about the ideas behind this part of the money project and the process.

Tidying up the studio and the loose ends

There has naturally been a lot of visual notetaking and recording over the course of the money project, and I found that starting a sketchbook helped me to get to grips with the processes and track the progress.

I don’t naturally gravitate towards working in sketchbooks, as I like to work on loose sheets, and do a lot of 3-d work as well… so sketchbooks always seemed to be just tarted up scrapbooks, which I couldn’t be bothered with. Still, I realised last year that I needed to start one just for the money in order to sort out the clutter in my head, and guess what? I really enjoyed putting it together, and it totally paid off.

Now, the challenge is to sort through the past few months’ tests and scribbles and decide what makes it in and what goes into the bin.

Dilution, and other roadblocks to getting art done

On Thursday I was listening to the Escape Hatches episode of The Accidental Creative podcast. One part of it made me stop – the second “escape hatch”, dilution. You can get there at about the ten minute mark.

Was what I always thought of as “shiny object syndrome” really just a way of diluting my commitment and rationalising underperformance? Maybe – I am very open to analysing myself in that way, as long as it’s helpful and not just something to make me feel generally annoyed with myself.

Recently I’ve made a lot of progress with saying no to things and turning down work that doesn’t pay off in terms of what I want to get done in the long-term; so I want to keep that going by taking a little bit of time to wrap up some of the small, niggling projects that don’t count towards either the figurative images or the money project.

Just a few things like making new cardboard box shelves and making some Japanese stab-stitch notebooks and notebook covers – not practice-related, but things that I’m curious about and want to hold in my hands!

Then I’ll have all the time to focus on the two (or, let’s face it, three) projects that I love.

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Studio Notes 29/03/19

Studio Notes 22/03/19

When you’re thinking about being productive and/or successful as an artist, it really helps to look at the big picture. I tend to worry about not getting enough done from week to week, probably because I know I’m going to come onto this blog and confess every Friday.

But that weekly cut-off time frame doesn’t matter, really; it’s an arbitrary limitation that I’ve imposed on myself to help myself. It spurs me on, even though absolutely nothing will happen if I don’t make any art or if I don’t post about it. *crickets*

This week I’ve attacked the work. It’s been hard to make myself stop long enough to write about it, actually! And all this after moping last week about not getting enough done – the thing that worked was turning up, doing a few materials tests, and letting the little embers catch fire.

I made a mistake…

Last year I knew I couldn’t go straight through the process and print my notes, because I had to have surgery. So I did the next best thing and got all my prep out of the way – I mixed up all three of the colours I would need, and tested them out. Great, right?

Three green screen printing inks in squeezy bottles
Feeling prepared – my first mixed colours

Well, when I did that, I ended up re-mixing the lightest colour, as colour no. 3 was too close to colour no. 2. That means I ended up with four bottles of ink.

Of course, three months on, I picked up the rejected colour and started a full run of prints, and only realised what I’d done after getting through most of the first side!

That meant I had to totally reformulate the two colours that came next, which was a waste of time. But… after having spent time this week listening to a podcast episode about sunk costs, I was happy to brush that off and work on making my second round of colours better than the first. After all, I knew the first iteration wasn’t amazing, so this was a chance to shoot for that!

Screen printing and drying prints with bulldog clips
My drying and printing methods are quite basic.

More about sunk costs…

I found this to be such a motivating concept, and one that I think needs to be broadcast to artists as well as economists. It gave me the kick to clear out the corners of my studio that had become a shrine to the 5+ year old class notes and projects that I didn’t really want, but had once put a lot of time into. Into the bin, and I feel fine.

So I’m sure I’ll be writing more about that, eventually.

But for now, I’ve got money to print.

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Studio Notes 22/03/19

Studio Notes 15/03/19

Overwhelm has hit me hard.

I really, truly hate to say that, as I think it’s so commonplace and it’s something that I’ve gone through and defeated before, and I can already see its cyclical pattern laid out before me: it comes and goes, and I get that it’s absolutely pointless to fret over it.

Backing up – the return of a shelved project

So why slip back into feeling swamped? Well, I was listening to a podcast whilst tidying up, as I often do, and this one happened to be about increasing creative productivity. I wasn’t going out in search of self-flagellation, I promise – I just cycle through different podcasts for creatives and for marketing, and this one popped up.

It was great, actually – engaging and thought-provoking, and it pushed me into reconsidering my timeline for the course I’m writing. I should say, into reconsidering the fact that if I don’t start writing this course as a priority it won’t be finished this year.

Fast forward through the buzz of that evening to the grim reality that the course is not a simple project at all… cue feeling swamped and overwhelmed.

Writing the course I want to take

I’ve been through plenty of art education, and I can see a lot of low-quality courses bandied around online.

There are even more blog articles telling you that you can easily create a course and earn passive income from it. This is the problem – a lot of low, or at best, mid-quality content encouraging you to create low or mid-quality content as a course. Actually, the same goes for ebooks. I think that if you want to write and publish a book in a week, as I’ve seen suggested online, you should accept that you’ll be writing and publishing a bad book at best, or more accurately, an assortment of related articles.

This really isn’t something I’m happy to do, but I’m not happy to sit on my idea for much longer either. I feel as though I need to make this a priority just so that I can get it off of my shoulders and carry on with the artwork that I had to shelve at the end of last year.

What I want to do is to write the course I would want to take, and to write the book I would want to read. Sounds good, but both of those things have to be, for me, substantial and specific, high-quality offerings. The kind of things that require time and research, and a lot of focus.

What I’ve done to get unstuck

Nothing gets done via hand-wringing and worrying.

One of my first jobs this week was to start cleaning and organising my studio, as it had been neglected since my enforced break at the end of last year. This will help with absolutely everything – being able to quickly do some work in some stolen time or find the resources I need for a job.

Another was to organise my existing course/book notes, see what I already had and what else I needed, and come up with a writing plan.

So far, the plan is to flesh out the existing headings into chapters and write the entire text as I would write a book. When the first draft is done, I’ll see if I can package it as a course by recording it. After that, I’ll add to the text, then refine and edit it into a full book. If it’s a bad book, then I’ll make it better. Simple plan.

What helps me to stop freaking out is that part of the plan is only looking at the steps that are right in front of me. Writing a book is a big deal; writing ten thousand words is less so, but writing one thousand words about one single topic is not as terrifying.

Also, I learned that I really like writing notes longhand instead of typing them.

Testing Solarfast dyes under a lamp.
Testing the Solarfast dye under a lamp.

Doing the work

It never ceases to surprise me, just how easy it is to actually get on with the work. Sound strange? Well, I find that thinking about doing something is invariably more stressful than the task itself actually turns out to be once I get started. I managed to start testing my Solarfast inks with the screen printing thickener and come to the conclusion that this was absolutely not the right medium for the money project.

Turning over a double-sided screen print note.

The great thing about this is that even though my tests didn’t turn out as I wanted, the way forward with the inks I mixed and tested in December is totally clear and I’m not left with any niggling doubt as to whether I should try something different.

I’m going to keep the same train of thought for the writing. Just sit down and do the work, even if it’s just a tiny bit, or just to answer that small nagging question. It’s rarely as hard as you imagine it to be.

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Studio Notes 15/03/19