Business Advice: Listen to the Wind

When I was 8 years old, I had a dream that I died.

I was on the swing behind my childhood home. As I kicked higher on that swing, a man came out onto the back porch. He was waving a gun. Jolted by fear I leapt off my swing to flee. He shot me in the chest before I hit the ground.

My omniscient self watched as I exploded upwards into the air-  arms outstretched like wings. Instead of crumpling to the ground, I flew joyously skyward, through the branches of two big oak trees that still reside in my parent’s backyard.  I remember arching and twisting, soaring and plunging back toward the earth, even more nimble than a bird… as if I were part of the wind.

The aspect I fall short to describe each time I recall this dream, is the feeling that took over my heart. It was a feeling that didn’t surpass words, it defied human language all together.

Imagine the most blissful, orgasmic, all encompassing love and freedom that you can conceive.

Then multiply it times infinity.

<jinx personal jinx>

Suffice it to say, I woke up a different little girl. My 8 year old self laid in bed for a few minutes trying to reclaim any residual morsel from my conceptual death. I had never in my short time on earth felt so completely rid of all fear… so intensely at peace with… everything? Nothing?

***

In sixth grade my great uncle died. I tentatively composed a letter to his daughter and told her ‘not to worry.’ Uncle Nunny had become the wind, and it was the most amazing feeling you could imagine. Times infinity. I told her not to worry because I had dreamt it.

Two years later I sat in an eighth grade classroom. At 1 pm on a hot May afternoon, third floor of a 19th century building, and I was craving a breeze. I was also craving an escape. Not necessarily from the heat… rather from hormones, frizzy hair, and a brain that seemed bent on sabotaging my self-worth. My desk was the by the window.

A gust of wind came out of nowhere that day.

As the teacher reviewed clauses and verb agreements, I gazed across the expansive front lawn. There I watched all the free adults and children too young for school, walking leisurely in and out of the public library next door. The breeze picked up and fluttered across my face. I thought of Uncle Nunny. I thought of flying out of the window across the lawn where all the ‘free’ people could walk in the sun and read picture books.

I wonder what my teacher had been thinking that day? Did she feel hot and tired like me? Did she know that I was dreaming about flying? Did she know that I was pondering the meaning of death? Did she know that even at 13 I thought she was ridiculous. Did she know the absurdity of analyzing sentence structure, when I was trying to find meaning in life?

***

There were probably a lot of frustrated kids like me, who grew up and became teachers. They became teachers so they might try something different:

I know you’re looking for meaning. My class will be a safe place to start searching.

And on that first professional development day those new teachers eagerly arrived to learn how they might do such a thing. There they met a district consultant armed with a power point presentation entitled:

How to read your district’s report card: A guide to learning standards

You will listen for 2 hours about how to measure Language Arts, Math and Science. They will not talk about Visual Art. Or love. Or Meaning. And it’s in that moment that the new teachers get it. All the memories click full circle.

So that’s why she droned on and on about homonyms.

As the consultant talks about adequate yearly progress I turn and gaze out the window at the wind… contorting an American flag too and fro.

***

Five years later I lay into bed listening to the wind. I swallow I little harder than I mean to... Is it just my imagination or does Texas wind blow much harder than in Ohio? Austin and graduate school whispers promises, and I have this feeling... This feeling that if I play my cards right, I can fly right out into the storm. 

One month later I'm leaving teaching. Leaving my family. Leaving my partner. When they ask me "WHY" I can't say for sure, but I'm certain that soaring in a windstorm wouldn't make sense. I'm 30 and I worry perhaps I'm too old to to fly.

One night as I cry myself to sleep I fall into a dream. A tornado picks me up and flings me into the atmosphere. I am terrified. Until I'm not. The storm is like a cradle, the wind holding and coaxing: LET ME DO THE WORK it whispers. Finally I listen. It occurs to me as I get tossed about that I have been the storm all along. 

I am flung out of a dark vortex into a sunny Texas field of grass. I lay on my back and gaze around. Everything looks completely different, yet I am overcome with a feeling that I want to be in this new place. A man in a suit walks over and extends his hand to help me up.

I would meet that man one year later at my first fine dining serving job in downtown Austin. When I saw him the first time I instantly remembered the dream: ("Oh hi there. I didn't expect you here.")

I would work at that restaurant all during grad school. He was the sommelier. We weren't particularly close. I didn't see him after I left. I never told him he had been in my dream before I knew him. That would have been creepy.

***

Seven years later I'm holed up in a west Texas cottage, getting ready to take the next steps of my tiny art business. I look back on what I've done and it's surpassed anything 12 year old Becca could have conceived. I still teach, but now I fly. I still make art, and I listen to the wind. But as things grow, so does my fear. What if I fail?

An icy wind is ushering in a cold front across the desert. I've never heard west Texas wind... is it my imagination or does it blow much harder than in Austin? The walls creak, the dots connect in my mind...

8 years old, Uncle Nunny, eighth grade English, district report cards, tornados…

They don't tell you in business classes to listen to the omens of the earth. They don't tell you that the universe speaks, if you'll listen to her messages.  

The evening wind wails outside my tiny Marfa cottage. I am surrounded by desert. All of my closest friends are 500 miles away. 

LET ME DO THE WORK, it howls.

No expense report is needed to assess the deep sense of meaning resonating in my heart. No excel spreadsheet will track the new meanings I may construct. In fact, if I never tell a single soul… the wind and I will share in this secret moment of evolution together… and I will wake up tomorrow just a humble artist without a single bragging right to speak of.

But I will have listened.

And that is the most important thing.

 

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Second Edition Austin Coloring Books are Here!

Second Edition Austin Coloring Books are Here!

The Austin Coloring Books have a new look and feel, just in time for the holiday season!

Our second edition are digitally re-drawn and edited versions of your favorite images. They are printed on acid free 80 lb stock which is great for all dry media... and looks beautiful with most wet media too! (We still recommend inserting buffer pages into your book if you color with marker).

First edition books are 50% off until they're gone... (and heads up, they are going fast!)

Second edition books aren't in the web-store... YET. They will be posted soon for all to order. In the meantime Austin friends, (to show you some love), we are releasing the the newest edition books at our holiday shows for a limited time. Now available at:

Blue Genie Art Bazaar: Everyday through Christmas Eve.

Cherrywood Art Fair: Dec 9 and 10th

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar: Dec 14- 24th

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Paint Print and Pastel

Paint Print and Pastel

A year or so ago, I was preparing for the first week of the seven week art class. The night before the first session, I got an email from one of the students I'll call "Jim." He let me know he was flying in from Houston, and would be arriving to the first class an hour late. 

"No problem!" I told Jim.

The next night class began. In filed the typical demographic of my art classes: 20-something to senior women. Usually the class had a few guys, but this class would only have one... Jim. As he had promised, Jim arrived an hour after class started. I must tell you all when he walked in, I was surprised. We all were surprised.

During graduate school I served tables at a fine dining spot in town. I got used to waiting on men and women with a tremendous amount of expendable income. Over time you learned to recognize certain things. One of the things I learned to recognize was the difference between a dress shirt my boyfriend might wear, with say... the dress shirt from the CEO of Exxon. I instantly noticed that Jim was dressed like the latter.

He had been traveling for business and had come straight from the airport. His crisp white shirt was perfectly pressed, his dress pants and shoes were jet black. More than this, they were clearly very expensive. He was tan. He had silver hair perfectly combed back. I could tell everyone in the class noticed it. Jim was also clearly aware of it. He gave a sheepish apology for being late. His facial expression said: "I know I know... Please treat me like everyone else." 

And so I did. 

Jim quickly became an amazing addition to the class. Each week he brought wine. He was kind. He was friendly. And yes, Jim had a powerful position working in (what I would regard) as a cut throat industry. He was not the usual demographic at my hippy art school on a nature preserve, and everyone loved him for it. I loved him for it. Conversations with Jim slayed the standard stereotypes. He was refreshingly adept at straddling two worlds. 

Naturally, I couldn't help but wonder what made him take my class. I watched him each week and it was apparent in spite of his gregarious warm nature, art made him deeply nervous. Still, he showed up, braved the new territory, and was strong enough to share his vulnerabilities with the other students. I really admired him.

One thing that made the class unique: It wasn't taught by me directly. I was the host teacher. Each week I invited a different guest artist from the school to share their artwork and lead the class in a short lesson. Each week was a different media. Collage, Drawing, Printmaking... and Painting.

On Painting day I noticed Jim was especially quiet and uncomfortable. As class progressed, the guest teacher and I stopped a few times to help him. Jim clearly didn't want it. Short of him saying it aloud, everything about his body language said "leave me alone". So we did. Halfway through the class he excused himself: "I need a breather." He left his wine, paints, and canvas to step outside. And that was the last time I saw him. 

I waited a few weeks for good measure and then emailed. He replied immediately, but politely declined returning. "It's not you Rebecca, I'm just not an artist."

I don't use the word "brokenhearted" lightly, but in that moment my heart broke. I wanted to tell him he was wrong. I wanted to tell him if I spent even an hour doing what he did for a living, I would have not handled it with nearly as much grace. I basically wanted to beg him to give it one more shot. Instead I told him I respected his choice. I told him the class missed him. Even if he just came for wine and conversation it could time well spent. 

Jim didn't come back.

I spent a lot of time thinking about him. I pondered how I could have prevented him getting to the dangerous place feeling he didn't belong in that studio. I shared the story with others, and many of them said there was nothing I could have done. Perhaps they're right.

In spite of all mitigating factors, feeling as if we're not artistic hurts. Y'all know what I mean, right? It cuts deep. It's not the same as feeling as if we're not good at Math. Not good at fixing cars. Not good at fashion. Not good at cleaning. Not good at shooting a basketball. 

I think it's a special kind of hurt because deep down we know we ARE artists. We know this, and we desperately want to feel and experience as much. 

I know I'm not a mathematician. I also don't feel like I'm supposed to be one. That makes it okay when I can't consistently divide fractions or balance an equation. There's no gap between my skill and expectation. If there's no gap, there's less pain. It's the gap between knowing we are absolutely artists and not feeling it. The gap is what hurts. 

Some people will argue me on this point. "Borrelli, I know I'm not an artist and I'm okay with that. Not everyone is an artist." I see their point. Most people define artist as a person who makes classically defined art objects: "Paintings, dance, theater, music..." 

I define an artist as someone who does anything artistically.

As a kid, my father invested in an old Triumph motorcycle. He spent much more of his time fixing it than riding.  I would watch him tinker for hours. Trying a little of this here. A little of that there. Nope, let's twist this... nope too far. Let's go back and test this angle. It was total artistry. Here's the kicker: My Dad's artistry is not exclusive to all people who fix bikes. A pissed off person who hates motorcycles (but for some odd reason) has to work on them, might go through the same motions as my Dad... but it's not art anymore. 

I could write a novel on this, but for the sake of this post:  Artistry is a quality humans imbue into ANYTHING. I've met artistic Target cashiers. Artistic garbage men. Artistic computer engineers.

When people say they're fine with not being an artist, what they don't realize is they're fine with not being a visual artist. They're still getting their artistry needs met somewhere else. Creativity and making exist deep in our veins. It's coded into our DNA. 

Picasso famously said: 

"We are all born artists. The problem is staying that way as we grow up."

Many of us are fine getting our artistry needs met through tinkering on a motorcycle like my Dad, or cooking a fine meal like many dear friends. But some of us want to make visual art with classic materials like Jim. And like Jim, they don't know where to begin because it's scary. It's new. It's unfamiliar terrain. 

Thus Paint, Print & Pastel was born. It was crafted with Jim in mind, and if you related to his story in any way, this class is for you too. It was created for people who deep down want to make art, but don't know where to start. It's for people who want to have fun, yet also want simple, no-nonsense tools and techniques so they can put their creative ideas into action. 

I partnered with the perfect person to help create this class: Alex George. I have yet to meet an art teacher as good as Alex when it comes to explaining foundational art techniques to beginners. She's a natural. She's patient. And more than that she's truly talented at making seemingly complex things accessible for first timers.

Together she and I will introduce you to three fundamentals of 2D art making: Drawing with Pastel and Ink, Relief Printmaking, and Acrylic Painting. We structured it into a weekend workshop so you will have plenty of time to go at your own pace and play around with new materials. We'll have snacks. Mimosas. Music. We're getting all the art supplies for you. And the icing on the cake? We are hosting at the beautiful Craft Studio in heart of Austin's funky East side district.

Everyone deserves to experience themselves as an artist, and we're so excited to hold space for you to flex your creative muscles. I don't know if I'll ever see Jim again, but his first venture into the world of art hasn't been in vain.

Spaces are limited, and Early Bird registration is through November 25th. 

Email beccajborrelli@gmail.com or acritz@gmail.com for questions or conversation!

 

 

 

 

 

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Creatives Meet Business Experience 2017

 

Thursday September 14, I'll be presenting at the first ever Creatives Meet Business Experience. I am (for lack of a more articulate sentiment) PUMPED.

CMBXP is the brainchild of Creatives Meet Business founder, Ashland Viscosi. I sat down with Ashland a few weeks ago to hear more about her story. Her birthday happened not long after, and her only birthday request, was for people to share CMBXP with friends. Here ya go Ashland... Happy Birthday!

***

Ashland never planned on a creative career when she fell into film and production a few years back. She had some success with a short film that won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2014. During that time she witnessed an interesting component of the industry that would later become one of the inspirations for CMB: Support in the film scene only came from fellow filmmakers. She was surprised. Why didn't art industries support one another? Why was it so cliquish? 

She began to wonder if she could create space for cross-pollination among different creative industries, giving local makers a platform to share ideas, resources, and support. Through this shared space she wondered, could creatives gain more confidence and comfort navigating difficult waters? Things like pricing, marketing, social media, and above all... the difficulty of simply asking for help.

And thus, CMB was born. Ashland had concerns about the "sage on the stage" mentality. Rather than have lecturers talk to passive audiences, CMB began as small group, round table discussions for 42 people. While intimate in attendance, each round table was also podcasted via iTune for the public online. Round table topics covered important issues for creatives: financial planning, social media, taxes and accounting, websites, PR, digital marketing, managing professional relationships, and branding (to name a few).

As word of the round tables and podcast grew, Ashland began to ponder: "Why not create a "conference" for creatives? One that brings more of the community into the conversation and shows that the sandbox is big enough for everyone." She conceived of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of sessions encouraging active participation in real time. Creatives could literally see the fruits of their labor at conference-end. Oh yeah... and it would be affordable. 

Enter stage right: Creatives Meet Business Experience

In order to create the robust and interactive experience she envisioned, Ashland knew she needed partners. Enter stage left: Austin Learnshop (how I came on board), General Assembly, and Story Bar. Each organization brought with them industry and creative leaders across so many disciplines... it quite honestly made my head spin with excitement.

Accountants, yogis, marketers, actors, digital strategists, story-tellers, financial advisors, street artists, retailers, designers, social media experts, ceramicists, poets and SO MANY MORE. 

Oh and me... a sign painter.

What will I be doing at the event? I'll be sharing how hand-painted letters and signage are totally back in vogue. We'll be talking about WHY handmade lettering has made a comeback, and how creatives can incorporate hand-made signs in their own industries.

The best part: Each attendee will learn seven user-friendly techniques (for all skill levels) and create engaging chalkboard signs for their home/ work space environments. We were pretty pumped (there's that word again) that the people at CMBXP invested in professional sign painting materials, many of which I used while painting signs at the funky, small/big grocer Trader Joe's.

If I haven't made it abundantly clear, I am...

PUMPED.

 Are you pumped now too?? 

Good.

REGISTER HERE

 

 

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Art with Jeremiah

Art with Jeremiah

This Friday at Art for the People Gallery, Jeremiah Hurta and I will be showing our "Collaboration" piece for their Scene Builders Exhibition.

The founder of the funky South 1st gallery, introduced me to Jeremiah two years ago because our illustrative style was so similar.

We have a surprising amount of things in common:

Both of us took classes at the University of Texas. We have taught art. We love crystals (although Jeremiah knows quite a bit more than I do), we love to doodle, fusion styles of music, and micron pens. More often than not, we prefer to sit down with a pen and see what comes forth from the subconscious. 

 A little known fact about AFTP: They're a non-profit funneling a portion of profits towards organizations that assist artists on the streets of Austin make a dignified income.

Jeremiah is one of those artists.

When we met he was camping in the Greenbelt. With assistance from Art from the Streets, Art for the People, and Mobile Loaves and Fishes Art House, Jeremiah lifted himself out of the Greenbelt and into an apartment with his partner. He's now making art and being prolific as all get out. In the two years I've known him, I've marveled at his positive attitude and work ethic. I realized early on I could never keep up with amount of work he sends my way.

Jeremiah picked this piece to work on together because 1.) I think he likes getting me to try new things with him (I'm notoriously bad at sticking with what's familiar), and 2.) He suggested my tendency towards swirling rainbows would be a good fit for the background. I instantly agreed with him!

I'll be in Tahoe doing some art at Wanderlust this week, but Jeremiah will be at the opening! Might I suggest if you attend, that you introduce yourself. He is incredibly sweet and will emphatically talk about art with all who are interested. The only thing that makes his eyes sparkle more than working in his studio, is finding out one of his pieces has found a new home. 

I feel very fortunate that I was introduced to this inspiring human. He has overcome a tremendous amount in his life, and I'm a better more interesting person for knowing him. We're aiming to work together once a month. Stay tuned for future collabs.

 

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Austin Coloring at Hope Outdoor Gallery

Austin Coloring at Hope Outdoor Gallery

 

How do you feel about murals colored by the community rather than an artist? Cool? Cop out? Both? Jason and I just took a staycation in Austin, and one of the things I got around to doing: Interactive Coloring at Hope Outdoor Gallery. 

Over the years Hope has become less and less a forum for serious street artists, moving more towards interested tourists tagging their names. One artist I ran into told me (with a noted tone of disdain), I could expect my work to be painted on within the hour. 

I will say when I left, I watched people out of the corner of my eye hone in for pictures (flattering) but also many had paint cans. Who knows. I admittedly had to get over the feeling that maybe I didn't deserve to be there. I'm a COLORING BOOK ILLUSTRATOR. Would legit street artists be annoyed at my presence? If so, I didn't notice, and had an absolute blast. 

I showed up on July 4th in the thick of the lunch time heat with my paint markers. After priming some real estate at the top of the park with blue, I drew a quick 20 minute doodle of the skyline. 

Passersby's of all ages and backgrounds colored a portion. I don't remember names but I can tell you all kinds of details:

A musician from Denton, a designer from NY, lots of Dallas and Houstonites in town for holiday, a couple from Chicago visiting their newly transplanted son, and KIDS. The kids were honestly the hardest workers. One 7 year old braved the scorching cement to get the large dark blue chunks of sky done. 

We used purples because: Violet Crown! It got too hot, and I abandoned it early, but it was a great first attempt! Check out the photos and let me know what you think. I hope to get back soon (when it's cooler!) One hundred degree coloring ain't no joke y'all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We're Artists: Be Like a Dog

We're Artists: Be Like a Dog
The other day a young undergrad (19 years I think, Lordie she made me feel old), asked me to get coffee and chat about art-making for a living. We made a date at Thunderbird. I came armed with my meager 3 years of knowledge.

I was expecting to answer questions about retail.

  • Accounting.
  • Systems management.
  • Prioritization. 
  • Goal Setting.
  • Clients.
  • Boundaries. 

She wanted to talk about none of those things.

Instead we talked for over 2 hours about a totally unexpected topic:

My energy.

It took about 15 minutes of chats on weather before she felt warmed up enough to share. Forewarning, I am about to re-type the insane compliment she paid me then. It still feels like a humble-brag to write.

"To be honest, I am impressed with your intuition and confidence," she said. "Everyone I've watched you interact with seems more comfortable in your presence."

Admittedly I choked on my coffee a bit and tried to control 20 shades of blushing. She went on to share her struggles as an artist, and for lack of a better term, ability to "human." She felt overly sensitive, had all kinds of feelings, felt overwhelmed and anxious by life... and felt like most of her artist friends were the same way. 

In short, she thought I was an anomaly and wanted to know my secret sauce.

I looked at this sweet young woman and absolutely saw 19 year old Becca looking back.

I replied: "Girl, either you'll love or hate hearing this... but we're exactly the same. The truth is, I'm an artist and I'm sensitive as shit. Many (MANY) creative people are."

She wasn't buying it. 

To her, we were apples and oranges. She pressed: "What is one thing you recommend I do..." and explained she felt strongly I might have advice on being more confident and extroverted. 

Ha.

I've spent a lot of time since then thinking about our conversation. What is the one thing that I value most in my approach? What is the advice I'd give that girl? (Because y'all my coffee shop advice that day mostly sucked.)

And I think I have it. It's equally unexpected. Maybe a little simplistic, but hopefully approachable:

Be Like a Dog.

Stay with me. I think I got this... just hold on while I explain.

The other day I took Layla to the Greenbelt. If you live in Austin you're familiar. If not, the Greenbelt is an expanse of metro-park that stretches through the city. It's pristine, untouched, and one of my favorite places. I always take Layla with me to the Greenbelt.

On that particular day, we parked at one of the trailheads and began to walk towards the path. We approached a young guy changing T-shirts outside of his car. He glanced up at us, and I expected to exchange a smile and hello. Instead something alarming happened. Instead of a friendly smile, my eyes met with an absolute leer. He gazed me up and down and I was overcome by an incredibly negative feeling. 

Y'all. 

I'm 36. I haven't been leered at in years. I forgot how much is sucks. 

Before I could register what I was reading off his face however, my dog reacted. I felt Layla freeze. I nodded at him awkwardly as I dragged the dead weight of my 27 lb pup past him. Not surprisingly, she was absolutely refusing to walk by this dude. 

Nevertheless, we got to the trailhead unscathed. Jay-Z was a wise man: "Dirt off the shoulder." I took her off leash and we jogged down into the creek bed. We ran about a mile, eventually stopping at one of the cliffs where Layla likes to explore. I hydrated and listened to music, forgetting that the longer we sat there... wait for it... 

Creepy dude had time to catch up.

And when he came around the corner, my dog did something I've never seen her do before or since:

She lunged at him.

Her bark said it all: "I will rip your face off if you come any closer."

Admittedly I was a mix of pride and concern. His leer turned to a frown. He tried to pet her. I had to restrain her. I was about to tell him to buzz off before my dog actually did something shitty, when two women jogged up.

"Aw cute girl!" said the one, and leaned down to pet Layla. 

Layla's tail wagged. She nuzzled the woman's hand.

Whereupon creepy dude became tremendously upset. He looked at me incredulously: "I don't know why she's being like that, I didn't do anything to her." before awkwardly huffing off.

{Phew.}

So here was the deal. (I know you know what I'm about to share, but I'll share it anyway):

He didn't DO anything. But who he WAS... sucked. 

And my dog saw him. 

She saw underneath parts of him. Even more clearly than I could. 

So friends, that is my advice to the woman in the coffee shop. If you feel like you want to be more confident, and less sensitive.

Be like that.

Be like a dog.

If I can do anything differently than her, it's that after 15 years of teaching and 20 years of waiting tables I've learned to heed the spidey sense that's all our birthrights. 

I don't bark at people. Or wag my tail. I just make decisions based on non-verbal things I pick up. I do it religiously. I truly believe that if I'm having perceived success, it's from listening to my feelings before intellect. Especially when it comes to who I work with. I can predict the ease of working with a client simply by the feelings I get off their initial email. 

That is the one thing I wish I had told her. And now it's the thing I want to tell you.

I know, intuitive fluency takes practice.

I recommend in the meantime (if it's feasible) get a pup!

They can remind you how to listen to your spidey sense if you let them. I took Layla to a contract meeting with the founder of West Campus Books the other day. {They will be shipping coloring books for us now!} And do you know what Layla did 5 minutes into our meeting? She laid at his freaking feet and fell asleep.

Needless to say, I'm excited to work with those guys.

Learn to see people like a dog. You know why good people like dogs? Because dogs see under the surface of their mask, and react in kind. 

People want to be seen. 

Well... unless you're the creepy dude in the Greenbelt.

See like a dog.

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