the artist googles “how to be an artist”

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Before I started my 365 Journey — in which I do something creative each day in 2023 — I actually Googled “how to be an artist.” I didn’t like what I found. Turns out, in order to be an artist, you have to practice. It’s not enough to want it or think about it. You have to do it. (What a bummer! LOL)

Of course, I knew that ahead of the Google search but admit I was looking for a short cut. I wanted to jump the line and be good at something without doing the work… sort of like I want to lose 30 pounds without changing any habits. It’s not gonna happen that way, so we put in the work.

And that’s what I’ve been doing: a little something each day in service of my writing and art goals. I’m really pleased with the results from February (and I highlight those wins below), but before I get to them, I wanted to share some recent discoveries.

First, a bit of wisdom from an artist I discovered through Instagram. Adele Sypesteyn (@adelesypesteyn) shares videos as she works on abstract paintings, and something she said stuck with me. Each time she comes back to a painting, she looks at what’s working, so she can build on it. She also considers what’s bothering her about the piece, and that’s where she jumps in, trying a new thing that may fix it. If the fix doesn’t work, she just goes over it and keeps going.

In which the artist Googles how to be an artist? That’s one way right there.

Next, here’s an important reminder to be playful — and have fun! — as we work on our paintings or poems! The Adirondack Center for Writing has “invented” poetry machines (the picture embedded here is from the group’s website).

Isn’t that terrific?! Each machine dispenses plastic bubbles containing a piece of paper with one of 10 poems. I’m dating myself, but as a kid, the only thing better than having a quarter for a random prize in a machine like this was having change for the coin-operated horse outside the store. Check out the ACW website (linked above) for details about the poems. And, if you live near the ADKs as I do, you can find the machines at locations in Blue Mountain Lake, Indian Lake and Northville.

And finally, I traveled home to Northern Maine in late January into early February, including a short stay in Portland. The trip had all the potential in the world to be high-stress and intense. A family member was having complications after surgery. I’d rented a car because mine had been dead since Christmas. It was winter travel FFS. I had limited time off due to a work crunch (and so I was juggling work, too).

It all ended up being fine. Despite hospital PTSD from all those months and surgeries when my mom had colon cancer, I felt strong and mostly calm. I did lots of breathing and positive self talk. I gave myself grace and space. It’s entirely possible, despite my best intentions, that I’ve grown a lot through all the work I’ve done.

On that road trip — something like 450 miles each way — I rediscovered The Poetry Saloncast, the podcast from The Poetry Salon. I binge-listened through a couple seasons and loved the format and interviews, some with new-to-me poets and others with poets whose work I know well. The conversations are delightful and inspiring. Highly recommend!

And now, here are a few new creative wins for 2023 (earlier progress shared here) –>

February Win #1 / Traffic to this blog is booming, at least in comparison to its own page view history. I started optimizing it for search in 2021, and it’s been a success.

Each month’s traffic now is just shy of a full year’s worth of visitors prior to 2021. And it seems that Good Universe is on the radar of at least one of my heroes: Ellen Bass included a Carolee Bennett writing prompt in the handouts for her 5th series of Living Room Craft Talks. (I attended the series but hadn’t spotted it; thanks to poetry pal Christine Swint for letting me know!)

February Win #2 / I was interviewed by Albany Poet Thom Francis for a radio series on local poets. It’s a short, 10-minute segment, and I really enjoyed our chat. You can find it here. The cover photo for the interview is a hoot — an “ancient,” 2010 photo of a baby poet.

February Win #3 / I’m continuing to make art each month “with” long distance art buddy (and fellow poet) Donna Vorreyer. In February, we worked with a single shape, and I chose the semi-circle. What you see here are gelli plate prints and collages using homemade papers.

February Win #4 / The Gertie manuscript is shaping up. With several months’ distance since I last attempted it, I’ve been able to let go of strong poems I liked but didn’t belong and also to pull poems that I can now see are too weak to make the cut. And with the daily work I’ve been doing, new poems are swooping in to fill their places. It’s also interesting to revise at this stage, knowing so much more about the manuscript, about Gertie and about myself.

February Win #5 / Despite the snow and cold (a.k.a. “Carolee Kryptonite”) of the last several weeks, I managed an Artist’s Date: lunch at a local haunt (McGeary’s), a trip to Albany Center Gallery and coffee with Jill. I’m still shocked I made it out of the house in this weather!

That’s it from me at the moment! Keep going, y’all!

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