The Artful Life Journal is a series of personal narratives that record my journey as an artist and a creative entrepreneur. To understand and measure progress you have to know where you started. This entry is a record of my beginning and a challenge for you to record your start.
The Identity Struggle
I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life leaving me with a rather confusing picture of who I am. The internal and external ME are not always in concert and I wasn’t sure why. In late 2018 I started a journey of, not just building a creative business, but an exploration of myself.
I think all of us have an aversion to putting our true selves, cold and naked, into the world. It’s easier to hide behind our computer screens and let people believe we are someone else- someone better.
When I began the process of personal branding and setting up my creative business I didn’t think that I would have a problem putting myself out there. But, the farther I got into 2019, the more I realized how dishonest I was being about myself TO myself.
Peeling Back the Onion
As a consequence of trying to be the most honest I can be, there have been multiple starts, stops, do-overs and name changes. All quite frustrating. All because I kept unconsciously fighting the act of exposing myself.
Somewhere in there, I started digging into the dark places and asking myself WHY? WHY was I having such a hard time defining myself? I continued to poke around into the most highly protected parts of myself. I was looking for that gem- that most authentic part of me that I could proudly show off.
In this process, I’ve tried to answer questions like who CAN I be? Who do I WANT to be? What’s the unique gem I can hand to the world – as an individual, as a woman and as an artist?
I found that the answers to these questions could change depending on the day or mood was in. Answering those questions was not as straight forward as it seemed. The questions and their answers had to be revisited many times before a tiny nugget of truth could reveal itself.
At one point along the way, I considered pretending that I was already a self-sustaining artist who had her mess together. Some people pull off the “fake it till you make it” approach, why couldn’t I? However, my little voice told me I didn’t want to establish my brand with a lie right out of the gates. Thankfully, I listened.
Another start and stop was using my Cicadablu Studio brand. This again was easy because I could be Cicadablu Studio, and didn’t have to me ME. I set up my Etsy shop and a website for the studio, and thought I had arrived. But the seed of unrest was still there. The Voice told me I was still hiding. It accused me of being ashamed of who I really am and what I have to offer. My Voice is a bitch.
This was and still is a bitingly uncomfortable process. To KNOW these things I have to expose truths that have been buried and admit to things that I don’t like.
The End Result
In the end, my decision was a hybrid of Cicadablu Studio, my personal brand, Miki English, and a separate blog, Building An Artful Life. Although more complicated to maintain, this approach alleviated several issues:
1. It prevents me from hiding behind a brand that isn’t my name. There is something extremely exposing about using your actual name.
2. It kept me from convoluting the Cicadablu Studio brand with my personal stuff. I have plans for the studio….
3. It gives me the freedom to go full monty on my blog – be exactly who I am, with my name, my skills and my reality.
The world will like me, or not. I’m OK either way.
After All That, Let Me Introduce Myself
I’m a semi-skilled, self taught artist who is starting a creative business at 52. There. Saying that out-loud was tough. I’ve spent my career in small businesses- both other people’s and my own. I’m a grandma three times over, have four grown kids and run Terra Sano Farms – a hobby farm- with my husband, Woody.
When it comes to skills OTHER than art, I have them. It’s a list too long, but suffice it to say, I’ve spent the last 34 years of my adult life learning and doing – just NOT doing art full time. Oh, I’ve dabbled a lot, but never enough to view myself as an artist.
I haven’t discovered my artistic style. That is unless my style is “all over the place”. I’m still in mimic mode with my art work and haven’t done enough to say “that’s me!”. At times, envy gets the better of me when I see artists who do one thing and do it great. I’m very “changeable” if that’s a word. Doing one thing all the time bores me and I go after the next interesting thing. Squirrels…
I’ve finally KNOW what I want to be when I grow up: an artist, a teacher and an entrepreneur. I’m one of THOSE people who didn’t finish college. I spent 10 years, a LOT of money and still don’t have my piece of paper. Although I LOVE learning, I could never put my finger on exactly WHY I was there. I took lots of breaks, changed schools, changed degree programs (and lost lots of credits). All because I didn’t have a purpose.
I have an infestation of squirrels. Ideas, plans, hopes, dreams and curiosities. All in- head first. That’s my thing. That’s how I ended up with a farm. One day I hope to corral these squirrels and unclutter my head.
Art has always been a constant presence in my life. Always pulling -always tugging. Always that ineffable itch that has to be scratched. My mom is a very creative person so I guess I’m the apple that didn’t fall far from the tree.
I love humor— and can find it in almost anything. Subtle, wickedly dry humor is the best. My own sense of humor is of the dry and quirky variety.
I confess, I’m a girly girl at heart. It has taken me along time to admit this. I’m a pleaser. I tend to let other peoples likes and dislikes color my own. But, when I’m honest, I love flowers and hummingbirds, fuzzy animals, the color pink , glittery things, swirls and curly Qs and cute ballet flats.
I like clean and simple design with bold colors – most of the time. Cluttered, messy and chaotic makes me crazy – probably because my head is already cluttered. But, sometimes, I find clutter and chaos to be cozy and warm. The dichotomy of me. And you wonder why I struggle…
I know that I have a creative soul, skills to share and encouragement to offer others who travel the entrepreneurial road. I don’t think that needs an explanation.
I want to share what I know to encourage and strengthen others. I may not have a strong body of art work to show, or be the most skilled painter, but I have 30+ years of other useful skills that that I can share right now. My goal is to share myself, my experience and my knowledge with you.
I want my work to be a place that people want to live in for a while. One of my favorite paintings is Kohlers Pig by Michael Sowa. It’s hanging in my bedroom. On mornings when I get to laze in bed, I enjoy looking at it and wonder “what in the world is going on that little pig’s head?” I never get tired of wondering about that pig – living in his world for just a few minutes. That’s my dream. To have my work affect others in a way that’s meaningful, brings joy and pulls at their soul.
Until Next Time….
I’d like to challenge you to record your start. If it was so long ago you don’t remember, just write down your impressions about that time. Putting words and memories onto papers is very therapeutic. It’s like housecleaning for your brain.
My personal journey ahead – creating a self-sustaining creative business – would be an unknown and difficult path even if I was clear about who I am. That said, if you follow along, you may watch me take experimental detours and side trips while trying to figure this thing out. I hope you’ll stay with me. Most of all, I hope you’ll share your stories with me.