November 15, 2014

Where Is This Even Going?

Get yourself a cup of tea (or coffee, if you're so inclined), a nice blanket to make you feel fuzzy inside and sit down, today I'm going to tell you a story. This story will be told through words, gifs, pictures taken by others (and some by me).

This story is partly personal, it might have some sort of anecdote in it, or it might just be dribble. Let's see shall we?

Earlier this week I read two articles that have partly inspired sharing this story. You can read these here and here. The first article is about the power we each have to 'choose our own adventure' in life and the second is a Reddit thread from a 46 year-old man explaining his mistakes in life.

What I took away from both of these articles is, as human beings, we often get caught up in categorising ourselves and what we do. Stereotyping, if you will. When you're in high school, you're a student and when you begin working full time, you're whatever profession you decide to take up, right? I thought so too, until last year. 

Almost two years ago I got the best email I've ever received. I had gotten into art school. 

I felt pretty damn good about myself and my work. Knowing that actual respected artists viewed and validated my work was one of the most amazing feelings in the world. It was also great because I knew that all of the time and energy I had injected into my work wasn't for nothing. 

I had made it, I thought to myself.

When orientation started, I was so, so, so young. I was excited to learn and eager to meet other people who were also going to be studying fine arts / photography. People were creative in their clothing choices, their haircuts, their accessories. I remember being spellbound by a girl doing sculpture who had made a headband out of barbie dolls. So awesome.

But then, I felt the pressure to also dress to match my personality or mood. I found myself picking things out of my wardrobe thinking, this will make me fit in. Don't get me wrong, I love dressing up, I'd love to have crazy pink, purple, turquoise blue hair and wear everything from Gorman, but at the time (and even now), I didn't have the money to look the way I wanted and that made me feel very awkward.

Like I said before, we get into the habit of stereotyping ourselves and others.

But it's hard to do what you love. I became so obsessed with a very one dimensional image of what I was supposed to be because I attended an art school that I constantly questioned, what's wrong with me? Why am I this way? Why can't everything just be easy for me?

You see, while I enjoy creating art and looking at art, I'm not an artist stereotype. I'm not always mysterious, I don't always dress differently. I'm not achingly thin nor do I consider myself to be vulnerable. I like exercising and running and to me, that doesn't fit within the artist aesthetic that I have in my head. I felt like a fraud and despite whether that was true or not, that thought ran through my head day in day out.

source: 1 / 2

Both of these women I admire for different reasons. I love Kusama's artwork, her idiosyncrasy. I love Lorna Jane's philosophy (move, nourish, believe) and her commitment to her health and her dreams (two very important parts of my life). But at the time I was in art school (and even a little bit now), I felt like these two amazing women just don't go together. You cannot be both Kusama and Clarkson, can you?

Around this time, I re-watched Tavi Gevinson's TedxTeen talk from 2012.

This quote was like a warm hug. It reassured me that I don't have to be what people expect of me just because of my job or what I'm studying. I have the choice to be whoever I want to be. If I want to be an artist and run marathons, then there's nothing wrong with it. As long as it makes me happy, then that's all that counts.

That's fine for every day life and all, but when you're trying to market yourself / your work, projecting yourself as a multifaceted being is difficult.

One minute I'm inspired by the delicate, sensitive work of someone like Laura Makabresku.

Or by the intricate journal drawings by Gemma Topliss.

And in complete contrast, I'm inspired by popular culture, television and films, nostalgia and internet culture.

Emoji meets Easy A by Emoji'd Screencaps

RIP MSN Messenger

Le'gogh by Nismo4banger

After I think about all of my interest areas and inspirations my head kind of becomes a big whirlpool and everything gets mixed up and confused. I don't know what I like and I don't know where I stand.

I end up feeling torn between two worlds; the soft, sensitive aesthetic and popular culture, and I just don't know how to market that. How do I pick a Tumblr theme for that? How do I show both of those worlds in my work?

Eventually I just forget about it and change my Tumblr theme regularly or my ideas for projects go out the window and the circle begins again. I'm inspired by something, I think about how this could work within my current aesthetics and interests and then get overwhelmed because everything is just a mishmash.

And now I'm here, writing this blog post of how I would like to embrace my multifaceted-ness but how difficult I find it because of marketing and my personal budget to spend on clothes, make up, hair / my general appearance, and how annoying it is that I feel like a blend of everything I've interacted with in life rather than a solid shape that fits in a cookie cutter like everyone else seems to.

Don't get me wrong, being fluid and open to different briefs in my work is a seriously important skill but I often feel as though I haven't found my niche yet, like so many other people seem to have and that really frustrates me.

Visual representation of my mind when I feel like this

If you experience this at all, please feel free to vent or share your suggestions of how I can harness the best of both worlds in the comments below.

And now I'm going to go and watch some Lizzie McGuire because we all know how much better it is than Hannah Montana.

Hope you enjoyed your blast from the past,


  1. I remember when I first met you for the Tavi Gevinson talk and then again for Rookie Day and every girl I met said they wanted to do, or were going to do fine arts or something creative and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Why? Because I was a Bachelor of Science, I wanted to be a geologist (and am so far on track) but I also worked as a basketball referee.
    I felt I was so beyond different and it made me kind of panic because where were the other girls doing science and juggling creative activities? Even the younger girls still in high school were doing completely different subjects than me! and I wracked my brains but couldn't work out why this was so.

    Because we are not meant to be able to be explained by one word. Or a stereotype. Or our job description. We are meant to be more than out immediate circle of friends, or let our parents or siblings define the role or niche we exist in. We grow, and inhabit a space of our own. And we should take up as much or as little space as we want.

    You do art but like exercise? Good for you! Nothing should make us feel like one activity precludes us from another, but in a world where we immediately pass judgements on people we meet and see (and I am also guilty of this) it is a hard habit to break. It takes a while to figure all this stuff out, but the moment we can embrace our multi-faceted nature is the moment we can grow exponentially.

    1. Thank you for this reply, Adele!! I can imagine how you felt!! From a third party point of view, I actually didn't think anything more about your chosen degree, in fact, most of my friends are doing science and I'm the opposite haha!!

      I completely agree with everything you've mentioned. We all need to embrace our individuality, the little things that make us special :-)

  2. I had a crisis like this in my first and second year of uni, I felt like because I didn't have one consistent way of dressing or one aesthetic, that I was inauthentic or I didn't know who I am. It took me a while to realise that we are, like you say, multifaceted, and we change and we're fluid and we should go with it. That's how we discover things and change our minds and say oh this is more me than that other thing.

    This is the image that changed everything:
    Just in case you can't open it it says

    A: Just be yourself
    B: My 'self' is just an ever shifting collection of desires and reflections
    A: Just have fun then

    It's so hard when the word 'aesthetic' is thrown around so much. Nothing is cohesive and being into art and exercise doesn't have to be a contradiction

    In Austin Kleon's 'How To Steal Like An Artist' he says we should leave no part of ourselves behind and that if we have seemingly contradictory interests we should let them 'talk' to one another because the creative outcome might be really amazing and unique.

    This is a great post


    1. Thank you for sharing this, Aida!! I really need to read 'How To Seal Like An Artist'!!

      (and I completely agree with Kleon's advice! Maybe I should do a fine art exercise photoshoot)

  3. I enjoyed reading this immensely. I laughed quite a bit (RIP MSN messenger) and I also related very much to what you are saying, I like the quote about women being complex because people are complex.

    I sometimes actually find it quite alienating when I meet a creative who is so sure of their style, but perhaps has nothing else going on. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it's great to know who you are and what you stand for, but I just think artists aren't uniform creatures like accountants or receptionists, nor should they be. Some people, like 9-5 professionals, accountants, lawyers, doctors etc (do they call it white collar?) can rejoice in the concrete definition of their occupation and that's great. But I don't want that to make artists feel compelled to try to take that uniformity and apply it to something to which it is non-applicable, only to limit ourselves.
    I don't know it that made sense haha but I really enjoyed this train of thought.

    1. I completely agree with what you're saying! I think it's a mistake to limit yourself so much and being fluid is important because in photography, a very commercial form of artwork (at times) it's important to keep up with trends and new techniques! Also, sometimes creating the same looking things over and over again can get very boring to look at. Sure Picasso or Monet's work all look similar but the intricate detail is so profoundly different that each one is entirely different. Sometimes it's hard to achieve that within a photography! :)

  4. This was interesting to read! I think being well rounded is something you should be proud of :) I understand what you're saying though, when I started uni I had an identity crisis because I couldn't decide on how I wanted to be perceived by other people, what niche I should fit in.

    1. I think most people feel that way because university is a new place where you get to choose what you look like/who you are. When you start high school, in Australia, you're a pre-pubescent, acne infested teen and you don't really know who or what now. I regret all of my fashion choices when I was 12/13 but that's because I hadn't discovered vintage clothes or my actual style! I feel more comfortable in my skin now in that respect.

  5. I have been dealing with this EXACT problem. When I start getting too inspired by others photography, instead of the things that inspired me and made my work my own, (Movies,Music, Art, etc.) I started losing myself in my work. I pondered, "Should I go for the light romantic, over-exposed film look that's in all the magazines?" It sounds silly, but we are pressured by ourselves and society to create what sells instead of blazing our own trail, when in actuality, someone blazed the trails everyone is currently following. Thanks for the insight and sharing!

  6. I'm almost tempted to go back and count the times you use the word 'market' but I won't. it's in my opinion at the core of this problem. we are all so much more than what we are told to be, but we are supposed to turn ourselves into a brand, easily recognizable, so that whatever we are doing can be sold easier. it's bullshit. embrace every aspect of who you are. easier said than done, I know. but it's the only way to be authentic. our consumer society is slowly destroying everything, and it's not sustainable in the long run. the other thing is overexposure to inspiration and to the work of others. just 25 years back people in your situation had to go to the library or to exhibitions or spend a lot of money on specialty magazines. these days, everything is available to everyone. all the time. for free. of course this is messing with ALL our heads. it's not just you. and you'll figure out a way to handle it. xo


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