On Not Being Good at Things

I’ve been thinking about being good at things.

You look at talented people. Artists, musicians, singers, dancers, actors, authors. People who are really good at design, or carpentry, or sewing. And you think, damn I wish I could do that.

The thing is, all those talented people started out untalented. No one just wakes up one day and knows how to play the piano, or paint a realistic portrait. People develop their skills over time, and with practice. When I first started sewing years ago, the garments I was making were barely fit to be worn out of the house. These days, I have a wedding dress under my belt and another scheduled. I’ve made costumes for plays. I’ve made and altered clothing for friends, family, and people who just happened to hear that I sew. And I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. I’m not expert, but I’ve learned and improved over time.

A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to paint with watercolour. Every so often I sit and create something, and sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s awful. And that’s OK. Because at least I can say I’m doing it. Again, I’m by no means an expert. In fact, I’m not even remotely talented where painting is concerned! But I enjoy the process, and sometimes I think that’s all that matters. Not comparing myself to talented artists who have spent years honing their craft. For me, it’s not a passion, but a hobby. And therein lies the difference, I think.

In the same way that I own four different string instruments and still can’t play a single one. The truth is that whilst I love the idea of being able to play an instrument to go with my singing, I’ve never dedicated the time to learn. I get frustrated when I can’t learn 20 songs in an hour, and then eventually give up. But if I spent time and effort learning them, in the same way that all the talented musicians I admire have learned their instruments, then I could add that to my small list of things I’m not-bad-but-not-awful at.

I blame my lack of time. I blame the fact that I’m not good at a thing (despite not being able to GET good at it if I don’t practice). I blame life, and commitments, and work and a myriad of other things. But hey, in 3 weeks I’m gonna be made redundant anyway. So maybe I can start actually putting in some time and effort to learn a skill properly. Instead of just trying it out every few months and giving up after a day. Maybe I’ll take a class or something, I dunno.

Anyway. The point is, that skills rarely come naturally. And even the ones that do still need to be worked on. And it’s OK to not be good at everything. And it’s also OK to admire in others, skills you would like to have yourself. But if you want to have those skills, you’ve gotta be prepared to work at them. But don’t let not begin good at something stop you from trying it. We’ve all gotta start somewhere.

Practice makes perfect, or something.

Creating Away the Dark (at Least Temporarily)

I only work two days a week. This is a development that occurred a few months ago, when the agreed upon hours I was working in the other shop were cut back completely, and indefinitely. It was a change that meant all the savings I had managed to put away (a meagre $1700 by the time my hours were cut) suddenly had to go towards the weekly cost of living. I am now down to my last hundred in savings, and any progress I had made towards my long term goals was not only halted, but I actually ended up about 100 steps back…or 1600 steps, really.

Anyway, my financial troubles are, amongst many other things, one of the reasons why this week has not been a super fun time inside my head. So, as I often do when I feel the beginnings of a depressive episode coming on, I decided to try and vent it out in a creative way. For you other creative types out there, I’m sure you can understand the catharsis that comes with just spending hours working with your preferred medium. For me, my creativity manifests itself in garment creation and more recently, embroidery. Usually accompanied by a giant mug of tea. Listen to me; I sound like a little old lady – in fact yesterday my father quipped that soon I’d be ‘taking up knitting, or crocheting like a real old woman”.

But ageist comments at my own expense aside, I find a kind of peace when I’m creating, whatever form that may take. And lately, I’ve tried to expand my horizons. I am a very stubborn person, and I like to try and teach myself things as autonomously as possible. So, whilst my brain is doing it’s hardest to overwhelm me, I’ve been battling with equal fervour to keep the insidious thoughts at bay. This week, I bought a bunch of art supplies and did my first ever watercolour painting. It sucked. I mean, it major sucked, but though the end result was certainly nothing to write home about, I did feel a strange kind of pride in my wonky sunflowers. And, as watercolour painting was one of the things I was determined to try this year, it did feel good to actually make a start on my newest creative adventure.

Supernatural shirt weirdly appropriate for this week.

This wasn’t enough however, and so I picked up my long unused ukulele – another of the things I said I was going to do more of this year, ooops – and found a tutorial online (I mean, I said autonomously but some things just require YouTube!) and started to practice again. Have I forgotten everything I tried to learn since the last time I picked up my uke? Absolutely. But did I get a sense of productivity and accomplishment because I’m actually getting somewhere this time? You bet your blog reading butts I did. So, between making terrible watercolour art, and practicing scales on my ukuleke, you’d think my time would be pretty well occupied? Apparently not enough. On top of these newer creative pursuits, I started making my costume for our upcoming play and I completed another embroidery project.

Embroidery is not something I ever really considered until this year. I admit, I always kind of thought it was a little old lady kind of skill, and one that I didn’t see I’d have much use for. But then I came across all this amazing embroidery artwork and decided that I absolutely had to try it for myself. So I did. Again, teaching myself basic skills and resorting to YouTube to get the hang of other stitches to improve. The difference between my first hoop a couple of months ago, and my second one this week is noticeable to even the most untrained eye. I already have two more hoops planned for the near future; one as a birthday gift and one inspired by Firefly, because I am rewatching it at the moment and falling madly in love with the characters all over again.

A whole Lindsey Stirling playlist worth of embroidery.

The truth is, even despite occupying my brain with as many creative outlets as I possibly could, last night I still broke down in tears and spent the night staring at the ceiling, with dark thoughts chasing each other around my brain. I knew it was coming, but at least I managed to do something productive this week with my abundance of time off. Gotta count for something, right? Anyway, this post ended up being much longer than I was expecting, but at the very least, it has taken up a chunk of time in my otherwise long, loud and boring work day. So, I’ll leave you with a question! What are your favourite creative outlets? Any genius musicians, prodigy painters or clever wordsmiths out there? Come say hi!

Supporting Local (and International!) Artists

I went to Oz Comic Con on the weekend. Though I have gone in previous years for all the geeky stuff, that side of it wasn’t really my interest this time. And as one of the stall holders pointed out, this Con, unlike it’s counterparts such as Supanova and the like, is perhaps less about the cosplay and the movie star guests, and more about the artists and small stall holders that attend. Which is not to say OCC doesn’t have those things, but the focus is just…different.

In my case, the main reason I went this year was to see a couple of friends of mine who actually run a stall at many of the Australian Cons most years (if not every year). I met Marty and Jamie at a Con…oh, years ago now. Totally fan girl-ed the first time I met them, but now we just hang out with considerably less fan girling…still a bit though, because when you’re in the presence of some super talented dudes, you can’t help it. Marty is the artist behind Martin Abel Art, of which Jamie is the director, and a talented photographer and graphic designer in her own right. And whilst I don’t have room to hang any of the prints I’ve bought over the years, I still keep buying them. Because a) they’re amazing and b) supporting local artists – especially when they’re you’re friends – is good.

I wasn’t planning to spend any money this weekend but once I stopped past a particular stall, I think my purse was out before my brain even realised what I was doing. The stall in question was that of Hanna Mancini, the artist and creator trading under the name Hannakin. I can’t even tell you how gorgeous her artwork is, and her handmade soft dolls are so sweet. Each one individually designed and hand crafted, just… *insert heart eye emoji here*. I couldn’t help but throw my money her way in exchange for some of her beautiful creations. Not to mention, Hanna herself is pretty much the most adorable person on the planet (and has some killer fashion sense!).

Directly across the way from Hanna was another favourite artist of mine, the beautiful and supremely talented Mel Macklin. I was going to buy one of her pins this weekend but I got sidetracked and overwhelmed by all the people, so I will have to hop on over to her etsy store and grab one there instead. There was one in particular that caught my eye, called Thunderbolt Brat, who had the cutest little grumpy face and rain cloud dress I wish I could wear forever. Basically, I simply must have her. Despite not buying anything this weekend, I have purchased two of Mel’s prints previously and the sheer amount of thought and detail she puts into her creations is off the chart incredible. 

Just recently I commissioned a tattoo design from an American artist who I discovered though Instagram. A couple of days ago, she sent me a snap of the final product and I can’t wait to have her artwork inked onto my skin forever. The artist in question is Rose Swenson who, aside from being an incredible self taught artist, is like, a musical genius or something. I am eternally envious of her talent…though I say that while my own instruments sit in the corner of the bedroom I’m currently living in, untouched because I’m lazy. But I digress. Rose paints some of the most divine artworks I’ve ever seen and aside from her tattoo commission, I purchased one of her prints last year because I adore the way she paints girls.

And while we’re on the subject of Instagram, it really is a great platform for discovering talented people. Artists, musicians, crafters, fellow sewists; I could sit here and write a paragraph about each and every artist or creator I’ve found but then we’d be here forever. So! If you wanna check out some more ah-mazing creations from some insanely skilled dudes, give these guys a look;

Jacquelin deLeon ~ Creeptoons ~ Dark Town Sally ~ Iren Horrors ~ Alisa Vysochina ~ Schmoe Draws ~ Audra Auclair ~ Fika Art ~ Mab Graves ~ Cyarine Chris McQuinlan ~ Luke Andrew ~ Charapoo ~ Kukula

Supporting artists is one of my favourite things to do. It helps them to keep creating, and it allows me to gather up beautiful things to one day hang in my house…if I ever manage to own one. Plus, when you support local artists, you’re directly putting money into the economy, and that’s not a bad thing either. And if for no other reason, these people have honed their craft and spent years working on and improving their skills. That alone deserves recognition and appreciation. So support your favourite artists, and get cool things and beautiful artwork in return. It’s a win win.