Coffee with Art: On Criticism

Going over the Loomis method… really like these proportions a lot better!

Merry Christmas Eve… eve!

I did do my morning coffee with art, but I got busy with last minute Christmas shopping (today I learned that the nearby craft store isn’t busy the day before Christmas eve! Yay!) So, now I’m posting right now.

After that, I did a lot of drawing… working on commissions.

Okay! Story time! Yesterday, I posted my portrait on Instagram. Another portrait artist commented asking if I would like some feedback. I looked at his page, turns out he made beautiful portraits, so I said, “Sure!” Not only did he tell me that my noses tended to be too long (what he said exactly was “I think you have the habit of placing too much space between the nose and the eyes” but yeah, I make my noses too long), but that the Loomis method for drawing portraits was super helpful for him and it would be worth checking out! Never heard of the Loomis method, so I told him I’d check it out.

I eagerly went to check it out and turns out I actually DID know about the Loomis method, I just didn’t know it was called that (basically, it’s the classical base measurements of the face. The corners of the mouth line up with the pupil of the eyes etc). But, nevertheless, I always fall back into my old habit of drawing noses too long, so it’s always good to retrain yourself.

This morning, I started off with following a YouTube video on the loomis method and I really like the proportions much better.

Criticism is a funny thing- and definitely a very important part of art. I don’t think I can think of a more perfect example of criticism than what I saw. First of all, he ASKS if I want feedback (which, I don’t think should be necessary, but there’s a lot of sensitive souls, so I guess it can’t hurt to ask before giving criticism), second, he frames my habit in the NICEST way possible, and third, he directs me directly to a method which gives clear directions on how to improve my art in this direction.

Honestly, if that’s not perfect criticism, I dunno what is. Like that’s the kind of criticism that lifts you up, makes you feel like you learned something. It’s not like you get 9 people saying your work is great but that one person says something is slightly off, and you can’t stop obsessing over that one comment and feeling bad about the fact that you were even born in the first place!

But, as we all know, not all criticism is this amazing. Sometimes people are jerks and will actually make fun of your art, make personal attacks at you, or, even worse, they don’t MEAN to be harsh, but because this is the internet and so much communication get’s lost in translation, somebody might say, “The face is off. I don’t know how, but there’s something off about it.” And since they’re not there in person, and turns out they actually mean it in a friendly way, but our stupid hypercritical brains imagine in a cold way.

Honestly, I don’t know the best way of handling criticism. Every body is at various levels of sensitivity when it comes to their artwork. And the fact that our brains jump to the worst case scenario, or we let ourselves internalize criticism so much is probably based on a millennia of evolution (imagine two cavemen that both hear rustling in the bushes. One is nervous about it, the other one says “eh, it’s probably nothing. Nervous guy lived. Easy-going guy was eaten by a tiger hiding in those bushes.)

All I can say is, criticism in all forms is inevitable. If you keep choosing the route of dwelling on negative criticism- or not figuring out which is legit and which is just trolling- then you’re just gonna go crazy.

I think the best thing to do is think a little bit every day on how you can’t control other peoples’ opinions about you and your work.

Don’t take criticism from people you wouldn’t take advice from.” -a smart person. Not sure who.

Also, if you suspect that one of your “critics” is actually a jerk. (Especially if you look and their content is much worse than yours, they don’t offer helpful advice on how to improve, and they make personal attacks) Laugh at them! It’s so pathetic and SAD that they have nothing better to do than make fun of strangers on the internet! Their opinions. Do not. Affect you.

Once again, hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!!

Coffee with Art: How to Let Go of Anger

Without going into too much detail, I did not have the best day yesterday. This morning, I was angry knowing I was going to have to go back to things that were causing me grief and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle it. It was at this moment I decided to stop watching videos on my phone, and draw.

I was just super angry. I could not stop being angry.

It was at this moment that I decided that I realized that this anger was doing nothing for me except killing my blood vessles. I wasn’t facing the source of my anger, I was just dreading it. I had this time to do whatever I wanted to do, and I was wasting good thought and emotion energy on being angry.

I decided the best thing to do was to turn on a video about Marcus Aurelius- the master at helping you stop wasting your energy on stupid useless wastes of time- and be better! A better Roman. Or, if you’re not an ancient Roman, a better version of you.

While drawing Bouguereau’s “Head of an Angel” which, by the way, had the face of absolute serenity, and just what I needed at this time”

Haaaa…. so serene…

It’s really quite remarkable how drawing really helps organize your brain. Particularly with such calming subject matter.

It was at this moment the video I was listening to said “1. Be Grateful” as Marcus Aurelius began his journal with a list of the people in his life that he felt grateful for. Now, being grateful doesn’t mean trying to ignore the things in your life that are making it unbearable, but it’s definitely a good start to build yourself up first, then figure out what you could be doing to make your situation- and the situation of everyone around you- better.

In order to make your life better, it doesn’t hurt to remember the things that remind you that life isn’t so bad.

30 minute sketch

Things that I’m grateful for:

  1. A loving husband: Mr. Meyer has really helped keep me sane over these past couple of years. He’s always patient with me- especially when I’m not at my best and he goes out of his way to cheer me up. He’s always grateful every time I do things for him and one of the reasons I can’t wait for work to be over is that I get to go him and he’s there.
  2. What I’ve accomplished so far. When you’re constantly in the presence of someone who needs to put others down because he’s (or she) so pathetic they have to tear others down to make themselves feel better- it’s really easy to feel like you are nothing. But you’re not nothing. You’ve probably accomplished many things that have already made you an interesting person thus far! When I’m feeling badly about myself, I try to remember that I’ve gotten up early so many times so that I can make art before going to work. I’ve lived in Italy to study art conservation (meaning I’ve TOUCHED ancient pieces of art). I’ve also volunteered, been there for others who needed someone to talk to, and I consider myself a decent human being. Heck, even this year, in the face of many sabotage efforts by one of my colleagues, I gave a speech in front of about 200 people inspiring others about the beauty of art and trees! Which actually teaches me that just because someone is jealous and is trying to sabotage something good about what you’re doing, you shouldn’t let them. Screw that guy. He’s pathetic.
  3. For Coffee. This morning Coffee with Art has really been something to look forward to. There’s such a cheerfulness that comes with dedicating some time in the morning before the day starts while happily sipping some coffee.
  4. Christmas. I love Christmas! I’m almost thirty, and it still has that same wonder and magic. And yes, I even enjoy the stressful parts of Christmas like shopping for gifts! Christmas has always been something special to me!
  5. That I’m alive. Now, this does seem like a cop-out, but hear me out. Life is filled with so many opportunities that we don’t take advantage of because of the various excuses we make for ourselves. The fact that I’m alive today means that I can do small things today to help improve my life in ways that aren’t immediate. There are many things I have that I know if I didn’t have them, I would wish I did. Yeah, there are jerks in this world, but who cares? The best thing to do is to master yourself and just see them for what they are: pathetic, sniveling, ungrateful, spiteful, jealous mice that, if you really think about it, don’t impact you. Best thing to do is not be like them.

It was at this moment I realized, I’m not angry anymore. My patience is going to be tested today, I’m going to need to excuse myself and take walks when my blood starts boiling, I’m going to have moments where I become too angry to think, but I had a good morning, I’m going to have a good evening, and then… Christmas break starts, and it’s going to be wonderful.

Coffee with Art: Commissions and Character Portraits

So…

I am dumb.

Like, REALLY dumb.

Like I am so frustrated with myself for being so dumb!

Yesterday, I was researching how commissions online worked, and during my research, something just clicked for me. What’s my favorite thing to paint? Realistic portraits. Whenever I got paid to make a custom piece of art for someone, which ones were I the happiest doing? Somebody’s portrait for a character they were playing in an RPG!

So, now I’ve decided I’m going to get to work on a bit of a portfolio for myself- starting with a couple nice oil paintings of my husband’s and my World of Warcraft characters. It’s gonna be fun.

Coffee with Art: Painting Piggies

Cute Piggy. Tough Piggy.

Well! This is the 5th edition to my Source of Strength series. Today is the first day of my weekend after I started journaling again!

So, I’ve downloaded the pdf of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and I’ve been writing in a private journal about how each of his journal entries pertain to my own life. What lessons was he teaching himself that I too need to take away?

As a result, I don’t feel stressed, frustrated, depressed, or resentful like I have been during my days off. I’m really excited and motivated to face the day! Yup. Stoicism. That’s the way to live.

I really like this piece. It’s not really as dignified as a cute puppy with an inner wolf. Boars are not exactly as magestic as wolves or lions, but having visited Sienna, Italy while wild boars are pretty much their mascot (also, wild boar meat is super delicious!), I have a bit of a soft spot for them.

I have no idea what I’m going to make tomorrow though. Tomorrow’s going to be my last animal in the series… I may just end up doing a caterpillar/butterfly motif.

Coffee with Art: Journal Idea for Building Inner Strength

Today, as promised, a puppy with a wolf shadow.

Okay! Journaling idea for keeping yourself sane! And when I told a psychiatrist I was doing this, she said it was the right thing to do!

Find a person from history you admire, find a book they wrote, and start a daily journal analyzing the things they wrote and how they could pertain to your life.

For me, that’s my dead mentor, Mark.

So, I went back to work to see if my last three days of drawing, blogging, and meditation would actually help… turns out… to my surprise… it did! When I was getting bullied, I really couldn’t help but think how funny it was that jerk was so pathetic that in order to feel good about himself, he has to antagonize others. It’s great!

I think there was something else that helped though. Something I did consistently a while back that I stopped doing, but all kind of came back at once.

When I was working at my old office job, I got there a few hours before my boss did. So, I found a pdf of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, downloaded it, read each of his journal entries, then wrote my own journal entries about what I took away from his wisdom.

I know that constantly being in the presence of someone who verbally makes you feel small to prop him/herself up can be damaging, but sometimes you’re just stuck there. Finding a different job can take months, and quitting your job to start a business is incredibly risky and not a lot of people can pull it off, and those who can run into all sorts of different problems.

Personally, I think it’s much more empowering to be able to control your own thoughts and actions. I don’t think you can control your emotions, but I do believe with enough exposure to Stoicism, you can be better about letting your emotions control you.

It’s not a popular idea, I know. The more wildly accepted thing is to listen to your emotions because they’re trying to tell you something is wrong even if you don’t know what is intellectually, but I’ve found in my own experience more often than not, when I act purely out of emotion rather than stepping outside my own ego and thinking things logically, I just end up making things worse for myself.

It feels great in the moment to lash out, sure, but the long term effects usually end up being much much worse.

I don’t know if I would have believed all this a couple years ago, but after nearly a year of journaling, getting so frusterated by my situation then reinvigorating my love for Stoicism, it’s really helped me become less miserable.

Coffee with Art: Inner Strength is Hard

Well, over these last three days, these paintings have been a nice little bit of therapy. I really enjoyed making them. Tomorrow, I’m going to make a dog with a wolf’s shadow. Maybe a caterpillar with a butterfly’s shadow, and I’ve even thought about making a pig with a wild boar’s shadow.

Like I said in the previous post though, it’s not enough to “Believe in yourself.” It might make you feel good in the moment, but once you go back out into the world, you might find this weighing on you:

—-

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly.

They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but of the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine.

—–

In short, people are jerks…

—–

And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him.

We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”

… and you have to deal with them. Lest you become an increasingly bitter jerk yourself.


I uh… just now realized in context with this image you could interpret it as the monster that will undoubtedly come out if you’re not wise or careful and let people step on you too much… which is also true!

So… like I said… this takes A LOT of meditation. Finding your inner strength is difficult and it is so much easier just to let yourself become that jealous, surly, ungrateful jerk who might antagonizing your life. Don’t let yourself be stuck in that situation, but don’t become so desperate that you forget everything you work for, rush into something else, and run into the same problems.

It’s time to think, “What do I have right now that if I didn’t have, I would wish I have?” (Another bit of wisdom from Mark)

When things are going wrong, it’s so easy to spiral. The best thing to do is figure out how to build yourself up. Once it’s easy to meditate and realize what you have, what you’ve accomplished, and how you’re not going to let some sniveling, kniving son of a bitch drag you down to his level and ruin everything you’ve built… then you can realize how tough you are, and what you want.

One thing that I really want is a coffee mug that reminds of that.

So I decided to make one!

The bird and the cat coffee mugs are currently on sale at Redbubble!

I ordered mine and I’m super excited! ^_^

Coffee with Art: Inner Strength

Glad to see many of you liked my Baby Yoda watercolor.

I gave it to Mr. Meyer… not sure what he did with. *Gasp!* Maybe he took it to work! That way Baby Yoda is always inspiring him at work! ^_^

The things that went through my crazy head:

I was going to title this, “the crazy things that went through my head,” but the thing that started this wasn’t crazy at all.

Anyways, yesterday, I decided to visit my mom which turned out to be a really good idea. She inspired me to go back to studying Marcus Aurelius.

In short: life sucks, deal with it!

Now, granted, my mom has this special ability of not telling you think you want to hear, but rather what you NEED to hear, but it’s always worded in such a powerful way that you walk out feeling like a bad ass and able to take on whatever life throws at you.

Fast forward to this morning. I had a completely unrelated thought. With the exception of the bible verse one my mother-in-law gave me, the coffee mugs that get featured in these Coffee with Art posts are nothing spectacular. Yes, I know you come here for the art, and not the coffee mugs, but that’s besides the point.

So, I thought, “You know what? I’m going to design a coffee mug!”

Then… things started clicking… Marcus Aurelius, inner baddass, mornings, watercolors… it all came together somehow.

Using my “if you don’t know what to draw/paint, look up a quote and go from there (patent pending) technique, I looked up Marcus Aurelius quotes. Found this one and wrote it one some watercolor paper:

I was about to make a pretty border of some kind, when this image flashed into my head:

And NOW, I want to do a whole series of these! Yay!

Tomorrow, I’m going to do a housecat with a roaring lion as his shadow!

My Conclusion

Humans are tough. Unbelievably tough. Just think of all our ancestors suffered through: horrors, diseases, wars, the jerks they had to put up with, the jerks most of them became. Bringing us to today. With the rise of mental health problems in recent years, it’s easy to forget how tough we truly are.

This isn’t a simple “Believe in yourself, Sailor Moon!” situation either. If it were that easy, we wouldn’t be suffering. Being able to look deep inside yourself and finding the strength to be resilient from day-to-day life, the unwillingness to let yourself become bitter and resentful. No. This takes a lot of meditation. Like exercise, inner strength is a muscle that needs built. I think there are many ways of doing that.

  1. Literal exercise (I’ve found that after a day of working out, things that would otherwise usually bother me are just “eh, no big deal”)
  2. Journaling
  3. Meditation
  4. Volunteering
  5. Art!

Then of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a coffee mug that reminds first thing in the morning to remind you that there is an inner badass deep within your soul.

I’ll get right on it!