Author Archives: mamacraftista

New Year, New Goals for 2015

As 2014 comes to an end, I have to say that for the first time, I feel like I know exactly what I want to accomplish for the New Year. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve meandered in and out of the freelance/Illustration world for a few years. But part of the reason why I think I’ve never grown as much as I would like in the art business is because I’ve never had a solid business plan. Crazy, I know. The younger, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants me felt that it wasn’t really necessary to have a plan. I mean, real, TRUE artists just don’t need that type of structure. We’re REBELS. Turns out that we do. Real WORKING artists don’t just see art as their passion, but they have to see it as a business in order to make money. The biggest thing I learned from working in corporate America is that you have to have a plan for where you want grow, and what you have to do in order to grow. So with that said, here’s the basics of my business goals for 2015:

Market, Market, Market!

Any working artist will tell you they spend most of their time marketing themselves in order to get jobs. More than actually creating work. It makes sense, because really how else are you going to make money? My goal is to not only market myself digitally (via craigslist, freelance websites, etc), but go the grassroots route as well. Leaving my postcards and business cards in different venues, talking to other business owners, and doing face to face contact. I can’t always hide behind a computer screen or easel.

Create, Create, Create!

During the time I’m not marketing, I need to be creating. Not only to keep my passions up, but to continuously add to my Etsy store, which determines my place on the site (more on that in a minute). Selling my original artwork and prints is critical in order to make money. So I need to continue to pump out new material in order to have a large variety to sell.

Increase My Etsy Activity.

I love Etsy. I really, really do. I am all about the handmade, and I think is a wonderful marketplace for artisans, vintage sellers, and creative people to commune with each other while making money.    For me personally, it’s so much easier than selling on my website, which just serves at a portfolio and “where else to find me” hub. Etsy does all of the grunt work, all I do is price and list for a tiny fee. Great for a non-techie like myself. But clearly, there is a LOT of competition on Etsy. Tons of artists sell their work there, and where you land on the site’s search engine depends on how often you post listings. So in order for me to stay at the top of the list, I have to constantly list new work. It’s going to be time consuming, but totally worth the effort. Staying close to the top will drive in more sales, and will keep me on my toes creatively.

Establish Business on the Legal Level.

Learning how to protect myself and my work legally. Establishing an LLC. Getting a better understanding of accounting, invoicing and contracting. Tax forms and 1099s. These are all things I’ve never thought about in the past, but I need to do in order to establish myself as a true business, if it is something that I want to do on a full time basis.

Make a Daily Schedule and Stick to It.

People think working from home is easy. While it is convenient, it takes a LOT of discipline to actually GET work done. You can get distracted by other things, and before you know it, the whole day has slipped by (today has been one of those days). Add in a rambunctious three year old to the mix and priorities can get pretty jumbled. I enjoy making my own schedule, but one thing I need to improve on is sticking to something specific. It involves continuing to get up early, focusing on completing one task at a time to complete it, rather than multitasking and not finishing anything, and utilizing the time I have alone (AJ goes to daycare twice a week).  I also need to scale back on social media, which can be a huge time suck, and brings me to my next goal…

Scale Back on Social Media.

Social media is great in the sense that it allows clients a peek inside of my world, WIPs, and keep them updated on my journey. But while great with connecting with clients and fans, is surprisingly ineffective in actually gaining work. I’ve heard this from other artists as well. And like I said, it can be a time suck. The few minutes to scroll through timelines and feeds can add up quickly. So I’ve been stepping away from Instagram and Facebook and posting less. I’d never disconnect completely, but there are better, more productive ways to spend my time.

Monetizing and Writing More Often My Blog .

I don’t really considering blogging as a form of social media, but more as an outlet to explain and showcase what’s going on in my life, artistically and otherwise. I see it as a direct connect to clients and fans, and a way to express myself in words. I’m not much of a photographer, so places like Instagram are cool but not really conducive to what I want to express. I enjoy writing though, when I sit down and really focus on it. So I promise to write more often, at least once a week (I’ve done pretty good this month, if I do say so myself). I’ve also been looking into monetizing my blog, as in earn some money from it. I would never, EVER charge anyone to read my blog, but there are ways to earn small amounts of money from the readership. There are ad-clicks, sponsored posts, advertising, etc. These are some of the ways that full time bloggers make their money, and if you really work at it, it’s a very sweet deal. I am not looking for blogging to be my main moneymaker, but extra cash in order to pay seller’s fees, buy supplies, etc would be helpful.

Getting to Know My Art Community.

I am fortunate enough to live in an area that has a large creative community and a great appreciation of the arts. There are a lot of galleries, art centers, workshops and viewing spaces within 10 minutes of my home. I want to venture out and learn more about the local artists, put down some roots, and build a name for myself in my area.

Expanding My Creative Brand.

There are so many creative things, beyond painting and drawing, I want to try out. Knitting, crocheting, repurposing furniture, sewing, soap making, floral arrangement, gourmet cooking,  jewelry making…the list goes on and on. I also want to write and illustrate at least one children’s book, graphic novel, and webcomic series, license my artwork, and teach arts and crafts workshops to kids and adults. My ultimate goal is to build a creative brand. I want Mama Craftista to be an umbrella company for many ventures. Not quite a lifestyle brand, but not just an art brand. I’d like to fall somewhere in the middle.

Always Make Time for Family.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my goal, above all, is to be there for my son, particularly during these oh-so-fleeting child years. It’s the reason why succeeding in this career path is so important to me. To stay out of a stuffy, rectangular office, make my own schedule, and why I am working so hard to make it happen. Because of that, when I am not working, I need to be present. That means not checking emails, sneaking in sketching or writing, etc. What’s the point of spending the majority of my time with him if I’m constantly distracted while I’m with him? I don’t want to fall into the “workaholic” trap and constantly sacrifice my family time for my career. I truly believe that a balance is possible, and if I am controlling the reigns, I fully believe that I can achieve it.

There are several small things I want to accomplish as well, but this is the jist of the larger things. I plan on revisiting this post a year from now and check off what I have accomplished. Here’s to a great holiday, a productive rest of the month, and progressive new year!

Business Talk: Just Because I Love What I Do, Doesn’t Mean I Will Do It For Free

So as you know, I’ve been on a hardcore marketing and self-promotion grind as of late. I’ve been putting myself everywhere, trying to formulate a presence in the illustration world, and of course, land some clients. The results of my determination have brought me a bit of notoriety, which is fantastic. But unfortunately, a few negatives come with that notoriety. And the BIGGEST negative is the increase in requests for spec work.

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Let me start with a short story. A few years ago, I agreed to collaborate with an aspiring writer who claimed he was shopping a children’s book around to different publishers. He had come across my site via Myspace (so you KNOW this was a while back), said he loved my work and was interested in working with me. Me, being the super-eager person that I am, agreed immediately, seeing big things with the projects. My illustrations in a children’s book? Fantastic! He emailed me some snippets of the story, and asked me to come up with some sample illustrations. “So I could see what type of concepts you could come up with and what your style is like,” he said. And I agreed to do just that. I settled down at my desk and got to work immediately. Within a week’s time I had created six colorful, hand-drawn and hand colored illustrations. I was so proud of my work and was convinced that the writer and I would land some great publishers. I emailed my work to him, and he was really impressed. He said he would finalize the story and get back to me with more parts to the story and to discuss compensation. I agreed, sat back and waited. A week goes by with no word. I emailed the writer and received no answer back. I shrugged and figured he was busy writing more. Another week goes by, and still no word. I send another email, and no response. Finally I picked up the phone and called him at the same number I had been corresponding with him for the past two months…and it was disconnected. I never heard from him again.

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That experience was painful, but it was definitely a good lesson. Fast forward to now, I get approached by a company about a print project for a magazine article. I make a bid on it, and point the company to my website to see my work. I get a response back saying that they really like my work and are interested in taking my bid. But first, however, they wanted me to do a detailed mockup of their project, just to get a feel for my style and how I would approach it. I’ll admit it, for a fleeting second, I considered it. Because freelancing is now a full time job for me, I’m eager to gather as much work as possible. But then I instantly caught memory of that incident just a few years ago, took a step back, and reiterated that I didn’t do spec work and my style was evident in my portfolio. I would be more than happy to provide a few rough(and copyrighted) sketches, but that’s as far as I would go. And if that was the case, I would be increasing my bid to accommodate the extra work. Needless to say, I haven’t heard from this company since.

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The prospect of speculative work, or “spec work” as it’s called, is a sensitive subject in the freelance world. Simply defined, it is any job for which the client expects to see examples or a finished product before agreeing to pay a fee. It is something is that is frowned upon in the industry. As a matter of fact, the American Institute of Graphic Artists and the Graphic Artists Guild consider it unethical and should be avoided at all costs. This is completely understandable among well-established artists who are at the point to where they can pick and choose their work without consequence. But what about the so-called “starving artists” out there? The ones who are getting their feet wet in the industry, and trying to stake their claim in the world of freelance illustration?

Here’s my take on it: I see being asked to do spec work as a way of downplaying both my work ethic and my abilities. My talent should be evident in my portfolio. That’s the whole point of a portfolio after all…to showcase what you are capable of. I also see it as an incredible waste of my time and my money. You wouldn’t ask a plumber to unclog your drain just to see if he could do it, or an electrician to rewire something to see if he was able to. They are providing a service, and they should be compensated for it, and that’s what I expect for the service that I provide. That’s what all artists should expect. On top of that, I feel that as a new working artist, you are building the wrong type of reputation. The art community is a small one. If you start building a rep as “that illustrator that does free work,” clients catch wind of that, and start hitting you up all the time for it. So whenever the subject comes up, I either politely remind them that I do not do spec work, or that if a mock-up is an absolute necessity, it will be coming at a much higher, copyrighted, and non-refundable cost. Usually that’s enough for them to retract their “offer.” There are cases where artists do pro-bono work or donate work to charities and non profits. I personally gift custom art, because I’m all about the handmade. I think that is an admirable thing, but something that should be at the artist’s discretion, not at the client’s insistence. To be asked to provide a service for nothing in return…well, it’s insulting, plain and simple.

Why does this happen so often? I think there are several reasons. The biggest one is that there is the unshakable stigma that freelancing is not “real work.” Just because freelancers often work from home, make their own schedules, and are doing something that they enjoy doing(you have to, because you definitely don’t freelance for the money), doing it is something that comes easy. Sadly, I see so many freelancers…all artists on all levels really…deal with this more often than not. I know I deal with it constantly, and it gets exhausting to have to always explain “what I do.” But like any other job, we work incredibly hard. In fact, I think we work twice as hard because we are handling all of what a different department would handle at a “regular 9 to 5″ type of job. You know all of those things that your boss handles? The Payroll Department? Human Resources? Administrative Services? Customer Service? Freelancers do all of that on their own. So the fact a lot of people don’t think that we’re really working…well, it’s almost laughable. Another reason is that a lot of potential clients just don’t know any better. It kind of goes back to the whole “it should come easy to you” deal. But again, this is our business, and a service we are providing. For every hour that is spent on an unpaid spec, it is an hour taken away from a project that we are actually being paid for. There are also those out there with more devious motives. Those that would snatch your concept and your style and run as fast as they could in the opposite direction with it, money in hand. And without a contract or a prepaid fee, there would be nothing you could do about it.

So, from one aspiring artist to all the others that are out there reading this: patience truly is a virtue in this business. Sometimes it feels like all of the effort to make your presence known isn’t going anywhere, but it is and it will. We are ready and willing to jump at any possible opportunity, but sometimes we have to take a step back and really think about whether it is a good opportunity. Someone taking advantage of your “newness” to the industry is a horrible feeling, and one of many things that can break your confidence. More than anything, follow your gut. If someone is asking you to do something for nothing, then it’s not for you. There will be many more chances where that came from, and it will be one that will give you what you deserve. Patience, persistence, and determination mean everything in this business.

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Cooking Craftista: Homemade Pumpkin Puree

One of the perks of being a stay at home mom is that I can once again experiment with new dishes and take on more homemade recipes. I wouldn’t say cooking and baking is a passion of mine, but I do enjoy getting creative in the kitchen. I’ve aimed to make more things from scratch, because it’s healthier and ultimately saves us money. And of course, seeing my family enjoy something that I have cooked is a huge plus and motivation.

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With Thanksgiving approaching (as in tomorrow), I thought I’d share a new recipe I tried out with the pumpkin Little Angel received from his teachers for Halloween. At that point it was too late to carve it into a Jack-O-Lantern or paint it. But I didn’t want it to go to waste either. So I decided to make into pumpkin puree. After looking at several tutorials, I figured out the baking method was what was best for me. I also did this while Little Angel was in school, because it involves a large knife. So yeah, here we go!

Use whatever size pumpkin you like. Angel’s pumpkin was on the smallish medium side. Cut the stem off. I also sliced Angel’s name off because I didn’t know if the marker seeped into the skin.

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Using a large metal spoon, scoop out the innards and set aside. Confession: I’ve never carved a pumpkin before, so can I tell you I had no idea that’s what a pumpkin looked like on the inside? It was fascinating. I also didn’t know how much muscle it took to scoop out all of the innards. It’s really thready and sticky, so it takes some work.

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You can keep the pumpkin seeds or not.  The tutorials I found made it sound like it was sacrilegious to throw them out, but I’m not a seed person (in terms of eating them) so didn’t really care. However, I kept them to roast later because Big Angel likes them.

After the innards are mostly scooped out, cut the pumpkin halves into quarters and set them on a cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil on the flesh so it can stay soft while baking. I also splashed a little oil on the sheet to keep the quarters from sticking.

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In a preheated 350 degree oven, bake the pumpkin quarters for about 45 minutes. And be sure to enjoy the glorious pumpkin-y smell that fills your house during that 45 minutes.

Remove the quarters from the oven. They should be a light golden color, with a little browning on top.

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Let them cool to the point of being able to handle them, but not cold. Then slice off the pumpkin skin, so that only the flesh remains.

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If necessary, cut the quarters smaller and pile them into your fruit/veggie crusher of choice. Pumpkin flesh is very muscly, so I would recommend a food processor. However, since I don’t own a food processor, I piled them into a blender instead.

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If you use a blender, add a splash or two of water to help with the blending. Don’t add too much though, as pumpkin holds a lot of water and the puree may come out more watery than you want it to. Blend in pulses as to not overdo it. It takes a while, but totally worth it. The result is smooth  pumpkin-y goodness that looks like orange mashed potatoes.

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Store in your container of choice. I chose Mason jars at first, but since I’m not too sure what I’m going to do with it, I transferred it to a freezer bag. Frozen pumpkin puree is good for up to a year, but refrigerated puree is only good for a week. It looks pretty in mason jars though. Then again, what doesn’t?

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As for the seeds, it is pretty easy to roast them.  Rinse them off in a colander in warm water to get all of the stringy innards off, boil them in salt water and then roast them for about 20 minutes on an olive oil-greased pan in an 350 degree oven, until they are a light golden brown. Salt to taste.

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Big Angel appreciated these as a late night snack, and frankly they are so much healthier than store bought, which tend to be over salted, in my opinion.

So yeah, I’m pretty proud as to how the puree turned out, and I hope to make a lovely pie, or cupcakes, or something out of it for Christmas. For Thanksgiving however, I’ll leave the cooking to my stepmother and instead concentrate on something I truly enjoy…eat!

Taking a Leap of Faith: Self-Reflection and Stepping Out on My Own…Finally

Hello all! Thanks for hanging in there with me! Sorry about the long absence, but I am happy to say that a lot of positive things have happened in the past few months. And by far, the most life changing thing was finally taking a leap of faith, and going full time with my freelance and creative business.

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To say I am terrified would be an understatement.

Now mind you, my safety net is limited. Actually, my safety net is non existent. Oh sure, I have a backup plan just in case it doesn’t work out. But I am trying my hardest to not even entertain the thought of it not working out. I am trying to channel all of that negative energy into investing, every day, into my business, into my passion, and into truly making a living by my art. And believe me, this decision did not come easy.

I mentioned before that I have been meandering in and out of the freelance business on a part time basis for several years, and I’ve had moderate success.  I’ve picked up lessons and figured out what to do and what not to do along the way. I’ve also managed to gain a clear focus on what I wanted to do with my business, and how I wanted to get there. And admittedly, working in the corporate world helped me figure out a better game plan. I’ve had the opportunity to work for some dynamic small businesses, and form personal relationships with business owners who are still deeply connected with their roots as young upstarts, trying the build themselves from the ground up. It has definitely been enlightening journey, and because of that, I’ve felt more ready than ever to really step out and follow my passion. But it really took an “A-ha!” moment to make the jump.

A few months ago, sitting at my desk at my corporate job in Midtown, feeling the same frustrations of monotony, craving more time with my family, ideas for paintings and drawings and…CREATING…in my head, I had some sort of an epiphany: I’d been working in the corporate world for close to 15 years, and I wasn’t excelling or growing in it. Not only  that, I was terribly bored with it. Why wasn’t I investing all of this time into a career that truly made me happy? The artistic work that I have done over the years proved that my skills were viable, and clients did find them suitable for their creative visions. Not only that, people enjoyed my original artwork. I’ve sold several paintings over the years, and in the back of my head, I’ve always known that if I invested real time into it, I could and would be wildly successful in the creative field.

WHAT WAS I WAITING FOR?

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My original plan was to resign in February, but fate and circumstances deemed my time of exit to be sooner, as in a week ago. Despite it all, I take it as a blessing in disguise, because who is to say  that I would have left the nest if I wasn’t forced out? Old fears could have crept back, and I would have been consumed with doubt and fallen right back into the safety zone, and the same pattern. Not this time. I don’t have the option to fail, and I have two big reasons why…IMAG0642

My family has, and always will be my biggest motivation to succeed. There’s a big part of me that wishes I had managed to build a thriving career long before my son was born, but then again, who is to say I would have the same motivation if he wasn’t here? One huge plus of my career path is that I can do most of it from my tiny home studio. I can make my own schedule, and I can be here for them in the best way I know how. I can be there to help with homework, cook a decent meal, go on school trips and events, and so forth. I am a true Libra, in the sense that I crave balance like air.  I need for my time to be distributed evenly between my work life and my family life. That is a balance that I just wasn’t able or allowed to get from my corporate job. And like I’ve said, I want to be motivation for Little Angel as he grows up. I want to show him that if you work hard and stay focused, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. And don’t think Big Angel is left out of this. He is the main reason why I am able to venture down this path on so many levels. His blessing and his confidence in my abilities are enough to get me over any mountains of doubt. It is because of him that I have been granted this opportunity to pursue my dreams full time, and I am so grateful for that, and for him.

So with that, I look forward to this new path. I’ve already worked out a schedule, and my marketing efforts are in full swing. I’m looking forward to putting my many ideas into action, and growing in my field. And of course, the blog will be updated more often. Thank you all for your continuous support, and thank you for following my journey!

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The Business of Duality: Day Job vs Career Work, Plus a Peek at New Art

I don’t know if I mentioned this here, but I have a “regular” job. When I say regular, I mean a plain old 9 to 5, doing office work at a company in midtown Manhattan. It’s a nice place to work at, but nothing special, and it’s a steady paycheck. The creation of Mama Craftista is a combination of the experience I’ve gained while working freelance part time, a solid business plan of what I want to accomplish in the next five years, and an overwhelming need to make a living by my art, completely. But my business isn’t yet where it needs to be in order for me to support myself financially. I have my goals and a timeline set, but in the meantime, office work pays the bills.

I had a conversation with a friend and co-worker the other day that got me to thinking about the duality of pursuing your desired career while working a not-so-desired job to pay the bills. She is currently studying to get her real estate license, which requires a lot of hours. Like me, she is the mother of a toddler and has a fiancé, and is constantly working to find some sort of balance between work life, personal life, and career. She said her biggest motivation is to be able to be financially independent, while making her own schedule so that she can be able to spend more time with her family. To not have to answer to anyone but herself. I can totally relate to that, and is definitely one of my motivational factors to get where I want to be with my business.

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According to the Freelancer’s Union, 40% of the American workforce are independent contractors. Working independently also seems to be the preferred career path of millennials. They are less concerned with making massive amounts of money at a job they hate. Instead, more are drawn to making just enough to be comfortable, while still having happiness and personal freedom.  I don’t feel like I covet the “millennial” title; I think that’s more reserved for recent college grads just entering the workforce. But I completely relate to that mentality. When I left college in 2003, I walked right into an economy that was just beginning to crumble. Although I am proud of my degree, it really hasn’t done much to land me a job in the art field. It had been a few years before I realized that creating my own opportunities made more sense for what I wanted to do. But by then, I had already had several years of administrative experience. As I mentioned in a previous post, I appreciate the things I’ve learned from the small business owners that I have worked for. But I’ve always known that I wanted more than to be just an assistant.

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Fast forward to now, with years of working freelance part time, and formulating a solid business plan, I have spent many late nights and early mornings, working on new pieces to add to my store, marketing myself to get freelance work, investing any extra money I have back into my business. This is all while trying to make sure my son and my son’s father are taken care of and my house isn’t falling apart. It is an exercise in exhaustion, but I manage. My friend and I both agree that focusing on your big goal is key to get you through those 14+ hour days. I also like to see it as practice for when you are working your career full time, because although you are making your own schedule, business owners often work more hours than the people they employ. Working a day job should also be seen as a tool, not a crutch. Although it may not be what we want to do permanently, it is a providing a means to take care of yourself, and to get to your end goal of working for yourself. We also both agreed that our kids are our motivators. I want my boy to see that hard work and focus will get you where you want to be in life. I want to be able to have a flexible enough schedule to where I can spend quality time with my family.  More than anything, I want to fulfill a lifelong dream. I don’t want to look back on my life a regret that I didn’t take a chance and venture out on my own, focusing less on money and more on happiness. As long as I have enough to take care of my family and myself, that’s what really matters. So as I get closer to my goal to becoming a full time artist, I will take the duality in stride. After all, that’s what life is about…finding the balance.

Let’s Get Personal Fridays: Divorce

As I’ve mentioned before, this blog is not just an art blog, it’s a life blog. The best way to describe it is a lifestyle blog, but I’m no Martha Stewart, so don’t expect elaborate tutorials on how to make the perfect quiche or decoupaging a 19th century chair in the most perfect way.  What I can offer is the perspective of a 30-something year old woman, trying to navigate through this world the best way I know how, and sharing my experiences, my ideas, my artwork, and what I’ve learned along the way. I promised myself that I would be more honest about my life and my experiences, because I hope that someone else will read this and maybe relate to what I’ve shared. So with that said,  I’ve decided to try out a new feature called “Let’s Get Personal Fridays.” I’m open to ideas for a new title, but the point is to talk brutally honest about a subject that has been or is on my mind. This week, it’s in regards to something I haven’t talked about in a few years…my divorce.

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Long before I met my Angel and had my little Angel, I was in a relationship with my college sweetheart for 8 years. It was my first serious relationship ever, and it escalated into something passionate very quickly, a brand new experience for 18 year old me. However, with that passion came drama. And a lot of it. Talking and explaining everything that made us so NOT good for each other would take up enough space to fill a novel. At some point, I began using the excuse of “passion” being the reason why we fought all of the time, where I felt uncomfortable just being in same room with him, why I didn’t care where he was, or who he was with when he disappeared for days at a time without telling me. Because when were together and we weren’t fighting, things were great. So when he asked me to marry him, I said yes with little hesitation. But there was hesitation. Deep down, I knew things weren’t right.

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Planning a big wedding was stressful. My family and some of my friends weren’t too fond of the idea, because they were not fond of him. But they were supportive because they wanted to be there for me. The closer the date got, the weirder I felt. Our fights stayed intense, if not worse than before. We got into a huge argument the day we got our marriage license (over what I can’t remember now), so bad that I tore the license up and threw it out the window. We ended up having to go back and get another copy. But despite it all, I chalked it up to pre-wedding jitters. When the day finally came, it went off without a hitch. We went on our honeymoon, came home, and started married life.

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One thing I learned quickly: marriage doesn’t change a person. He quickly reverted back to old habits and behaviors, no more than a month after we got married. He spent more and more time away, our fights got worse, and after barely a year and a half, he moved out of our apartment and out of state (we were living in Virginia, he went back to New York). Shortly thereafter, I found out in a pretty dramatic way that he had been cheating on me with several different women, since nearly the beginning of our relationship. That was the final straw. I sold everything in our apartment, packed up my clothes, my art supplies, and my two cats, and moved back to my father’s house in New York.

I started divorce proceedings immediately after getting settled in NY. During that time, I had to communicate with him, but thankfully since we didn’t have any children, money, or assets together, the communication was minimal. Despite a few rough spots and cruel words, he made the divorce easy and it was finalized in a few months, and we haven’t spoken since. During that time, I met my Angel, with whom I was honest with from the very beginning in regards to the situation (one day I will write about how we met, he deserves his own post). Six months later, I found out I was pregnant with little Angel, and the rest is history.

So what have I learned from the whole experience? Quite a lot. All marriages start with the best of intentions, but sadly, they don’t always turn out that way. That’s why I kind of bristle when people say, “I want my first my marriage to be my only marriage.” Well, that’s what I wanted too, but it didn’t happen. And I felt like a failure and ashamed because of that.  Also because I was so young when it happened. I was married at 26 and divorced by 28. Divorce was supposed to be for 40 somethings! But as time went by, I realized something…staying with someone who makes it abundantly clear that they do not want to be with you, is a bad idea. Why stay in a situation where you are both clearly unhappy? Is marriage supposed to be forever, even when you are both miserable? My ex showed me many signs over the years that although he loved me, he didn’t want to be committed to me. He didn’t want to be a husband or a father. Why he proposed is a mystery to this day. But a long-lasting, “forever” marriage requires both people to be in it one hundred percent, and to have the same common goals to make the marriage work, despite any adversities that may come your way. A big diamond and a fancy wedding won’t do that, only the husband and wife can do that. I also don’t put all the blame on my ex. There’s things I could have done differently and behaviors that I could corrected to make things easier. That’s why I don’t really like hearing any bad words spoken about him, and prefer that he is not spoken about at all. ALL of the blame of our demise isn’t just on him. The most positive outcome of the whole situation is that I am able to apply these lessons to my relationship with Angel. In fact, I feel more solid, committed to, and more partnered to him than I ever did in any relationship I’ve been in.

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Angel and I have talked about marriage many times, but we haven’t really committed to a date or time frame right now. Our main focus has been dealing with a lot of life changes (like moving, new jobs, career changes, etc) and raising our son. I’m sure people have their opinions and questions, but one great thing about getting older, you care less about things like that. And I do know that with my second marriage will be the better marriage, because I am with someone who wants to be committed to me, and because of that, everything else slowly fell into place. People see and feel our love, and are truly happy for us, something I’ve never experienced. It’s a beautiful thing. One day we will make it official in the eyes of God and the state, but for right now, we enjoy the wonderful partnership that we have. I know I have found my best friend for life, and life has taught me that that means more than any fancy wedding or shiny ring ever could.

*NEW ART* Affirmations and Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

When I was in college, one of the biggest critiques was that I didn’t step out of my “comfort zone” often enough. My usual style was great, but when I tried a new direction, “great” became “awesome.” At the time it was a bit disheartening, because I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, and what I was supposed to do in order to fix it. But over the years, and with many attempts to branch out to other genres and mediums, I’ve figured it out. Case in point, a new series of work tentatively titled “Affirmations.”

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These are inspired by basically me staring at an empty spot by my front door, and wondering what to put there. I thought to myself, “one should hear something positive before leaving home to start the day.” Something bright, something simple, something inspiring. I’ve gathered up a bunch of my favorite quotes…some mine, some well known, some borrowed from others…and illustrated them. These have been fun to do. I’m enjoying the bright colors and loose and easy brushstrokes. It’s different from my work in the past. My style is usually tight and linear, sketched out first with a very specific subject matter. These are straight out of my mind, completely without a plan and totally free handed. Another step outside of my realm is adding words to my art. That is a risk in general, because the words can take the focus off of the art itself. I think I’ve managed to walk the line okay. It’s been a pleasant challenge, not only because of the out of control nature, but working on such a small scale. Most of my work is large, but these are small, 8″ x 10″ to be exact. I may go bigger on a few of them, but not by much. Honestly, keeping them small is freeing in itself. Working on a smaller scale means they get done faster, and I can do more of them. Between all of this, and just having the positive quote in my head as I’m painting…it’s been a great experience.

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All of these will be available for sale in my Etsy store, starting at $50 each. Small price to pay for a little bit of sunshine 🙂