Fighting Fear

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“Fighting Back from the Inside” drawing by Maranda Russell

Fighting Fear
Written by: Maranda Russell

I took fear by the hand
and shook him until I heard
the sound of his yellow bones
popping in and out of place.

I pushed him down the stairs,
his skull cracking
against the white, stone steps
on his way to the finale.

He hit the basement floor,
his form a worthless gray lump,
emitting the mocking voices
no muzzle can silence.

Still, I must close the door
at least one more time
and pretend not to hear.
So I do.

New Videos! Artworks for Sale & My DNA Genealogy Test Results!

Hello! I had a couple videos I wanted to make sure I shared with my blog readers! The first is just another look at some of my newest artworks and what inspired them (quite a few of them already sold!):

Also, I decided to do one of those DNA genealogy tests for fun, just to see what kind of results I would get, so here they are:

Hope you guys enjoy the videos! If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to my YouTube vlog channel, Spiritual Agnostic.

Abstract Art Kick – Delving into the Dark

Lately, I’ve been on an abstract art kick. For several reasons. The first and foremost reason is probably because abstract art is just pure fun! It often feels more like playing than work. It is a great way to rediscover that childhood sense of wonder and vivid imagination that we all once had but may have left behind.

It can also be a low pressure way to try new things. With abstract art you don’t have to worry as much about whether it turns out good or not. Even if it does turn out badly, just put some more paint on and keep reworking it! I’ve done that myself quite a few times and ironically, those “bad” artworks often turn out to be some of my most popular pieces. Go figure.

Lastly, I believe I am drawn to abstract art because I find it to be the most efficient way to express deep emotions and feelings in a way that transcends simple, realistic imagery. With abstract art I find it easier to delve into subjects like depression, anxiety, rejection, anger, hurt and fear. For some reason I find that the happier emotions can be easily expressed using realistic or figurative art, but the seedier side of life and human feelings can be harder to portray. And to be quite honest, I’ve always been fascinated by the dark side…even though I strive to live in the light as much as possible.

Here are a few of my recent abstract paintings, hopefully they make you feel something. If they succeed in doing that, than I feel like I have done my job as an artist –

"The River of Envy", acrylic 5.5" x 8.5"
“The River of Envy”, acrylic 5.5″ x 8.5″
"Quick to Turn Away", acrylic 5.5" x 8.5"
“Quick to Turn Away”, acrylic 5.5″ x 8.5″
"Deep Space Abstract", acrylic 5.5" x 8.5"
“Deep Space Abstract”, acrylic 5.5″ x 8.5″
"Floating Through Life", acrylic 5.5" x 8.5"
“Floating Through Life”, acrylic 5.5″ x 8.5″

5 things I love about being an artist

"Molten Ascension", watercolor 5.5" x 8.5"
“Molten Ascension”, watercolor 5.5″ x 8.5″

Since I recently wrote a blog post about “5 things that can suck about being an artist”, I thought it would be good to balance it out with 5 things I absolutely LOVE about being an artist!

1) Getting to work mostly at home, whenever and wherever I desire and in whatever clothing I desire (usually pajamas). It also rocks to be able to listen to whatever music or tv show I want to while working.

2) Making something out of nothing. There is just something so magical about taking a blank sheet of paper or canvas and creating something brand new that is one-of-a-kind. It is especially exciting when I have a great idea in my head and see it taking shape before me. To me it seems to be a tangible way to “make dreams come true”.

3) When people really connect with something I have created and tell me how much they like it. There is nothing that makes me happier than hearing someone say they have “fallen in love” with an artwork of mine or that something I made inspired them or made them happy. I even get all happy inside when people on Facebook like, share or comment on my artwork. (So if you are a FB friend of mine, keep that encouragement coming! It means more than you know!)

4) This might be weird, but I really love shopping for art supplies. It is one of my favorite things to do. Second only to shopping for books. When I get into an art supply store and see the aisles of paint, brushes, canvases, pencils, pens, etc., I just feel so happy, almost like I used to feel as a kid when I got to do “back to school” shopping and pick out all my cool supplies for the coming year. I guess that is the nerd in me coming out.

5) Lastly, when I am in the “zone”, painting or drawing, I feel it is almost like a meditative state, where all my worries, cares and physical problems recede and the “true” me gets to express itself for a while. Even though I have many chronic pain issues, when I create, even the aches and pains seem to take a back seat to my soul and its desire to connect to something on a deeper level. I’m not sure if that is the case for everyone (perhaps it is due to my Aspie ability to focus on special interests), but regardless, I am grateful for it.

5 things that can suck about being an artist

"Beam Me Up God", watercolor 8" x 8"
“Beam Me Up God”, watercolor 8″ x 8″

1) No matter how many artworks you create or sell, there is always this niggling voice in the back of your head asking, “Am I really talented or is all this a fluke? What if my artistic muse abandons me and I never make another meaningful work of art?”

2) There is a point in almost every artwork that I start that I feel it is total crap and just want to rip it to shreds. Sometimes resisting that impulse is extremely hard. Often, even the best, most successful pieces of artwork I have created barely escaped the shredder.

3) The whole Money vs. Love issue. Do you create what you love, even if it doesn’t sell, or do you create what you know will likely sell? I have tried to do both but find it doesn’t work for me to try to create anything just because it is “popular” or will sell. I inevitably lose interest in the project and get depressed because I am not being true to myself. Luckily, my art is selling more and more even though I am following my bliss instead of the dollar signs. However, I realize that my situation is not the same as anybody else’s and some people have to do what they have to do to pay the bills and put food on the table. I respect them for that and hope they can also find time to do whatever feeds their soul.

4) People just don’t realize how expensive professional art materials can be! How many artists get the look asking why they charge so much for their art? I used to wonder that too when I would see a hefty price tag on a piece of art…but now I understand. Most of us really don’t make much profit from handmade things…even if they seem expensive. I’ve also noticed that people are often confused by how much it costs to ship artwork, especially if the object is large, heavy, being sent to another country or the buyer wants special postal services.

5) The absolute worst thing about being an artist in my opinion? When you go through a dry spell and nothing (or at least not much) sells. It can make you want to give up entirely and wonder how people like Van Gogh kept going when they never sold much of anything (of course then I remember that he did cut off his ear and eventually committed suicide – which doesn’t cheer me up much). In the end, I guess it is the passion and the obsession that keeps us going…and hopefully the depression from feeling unpopular even lends itself to a deeper display of emotion that improves our work or adds a new depth to it. At least that is how I like to look at it.

My new passion for ACEO artwork

Lately I have really gotten into the practice of collecting, creating and selling ACEO artwork (art card editions and originals). In case you don’t know what an ACEO is, it is a little trading card with original artwork or prints of original artwork on it. It is right around the same size as your typical baseball card (2.5 by 3.5 inches). Many artists make and sell these tiny masterpieces now. The thing I like best about ACEO’s is that they are small, so they don’t take up much space and they are fairly inexpensive, so it is an easy and cost effective way to collect original artworks. Even better, many of these cards have become highly collectible, so although you may only spend a few bucks on a card today, it could be worth a lot in the future! Buying these little artworks is also a great way to support independent artists. They do sell little frames and easels for artworks of this size, so if you want to display your artwork or give it as a gift, that is no problem.

Below are a couple of ACEO artworks I have done recently that are now for sale on ebay, keep in mind that these are only the size of an average trading card. Doing a lot of detail on something that small takes a steady hand and patience, but it is a lot of fun too! If you would like to see more of my art for sale (including other ACEO’s) please visit my ebay page!

"Heart Energy" mixed media on paper.
“Heart Energy” mixed media on paper.
"Yellow Dress" mixed media on paper.
“Yellow Dress” mixed media on paper.

Encourage young artists, don’t criticize them

One of my favorite recent art works I created...fitting for how I felt about art back in elementary school.
One of my favorite recent art works I created…fitting for how I felt about art back in elementary school.

I almost never became an artist. When I was in elementary school I hated art. I was convinced I was the worst artist in the world and in a report card of all A’s, art was often my only B and once I even got a C. So why was elementary art so awful? Simple, because of my teacher.

I won’t say that my art teacher was a horrible person, she was just not encouraging, at least to me. She often yelled at me because I wanted to “copy” things rather than come up with my own ideas. She thought that we should all just dream up a picture and put it on paper. I couldn’t do that very well. Perhaps because of my Asperger’s Syndrome (which I didn’t know I had at the time). In fact, I still can’t normally create art just from the imagination (with the exception of some abstract work). The way I work is to see something that grabs my eye – a picture, a person, a scene – and then I take that idea and I draw it the way I see it. It always turns out far different than the original idea, but I do need that original seed of an idea to start with.

I remember clearly one time when we were supposed to be freely drawing from our imagination in class. I sat there stumped as usual, with no idea what to draw. Then I looked at a friend next to me who was drawing a picture of two girls on top of the world. I liked the idea, so with my friend’s permission I did my own version of it. When class was over and we turned in our pictures, the girl and I both had to stay after class because the teacher wanted to know who “cheated” off whom. I remember thinking, “Cheated?! Who cheated?”. She scolded us both and told us to never do it again.

This teacher also often commented how I was “not the great artist your older sister is!” One time she even told me that and made me stand in the corner because I wasn’t “trying hard enough”. Craft time was hell too because I didn’t have the best coordination and my crafts often looked a mess. Again, I would either get yelled at or just get a big disappointed sigh. I got the message loud and clear, again and again. I was no good. I had no talent.

So how did I finally rediscover my artistic side? Well, that I owe to another teacher, someone entirely different. When I got to middle school, my art teacher encouraged me. She showed me how to draw certain things if I didn’t know how. She helped me come up with ideas if I was stumped. She told me how good things looked and encouraged me to try new things without yelling at me if they turned out poorly. In her class I never got a B or a C – all A’s. And I’ve enjoyed art ever since.

Why I consider myself an outsider artist…and am proud to be one!

One of my most recent artworks, "Blood Relations" in pen and ink.
One of my most recent artworks, “Blood Relations” in pen and ink.

For a while, I really struggled to find a place in the art world. I wasn’t sure where I fit in. I have no formal training (other than the art classes I had in elementary and middle school), so I am almost entirely self-taught. I have read some artistic “how to” books, but always tend to kind of do my own thing and follow my own style. Even when it comes to picking art tools and supplies, I don’t necessarily go for the “high art” stuff that costs an arm and a leg. For pen and ink work, I tend to use Sharpie markers and pens and for painting, I use moderately priced acrylic and watercolor paints and usually paint on art board (a sturdy kind of cardboard). I do indulge a bit and get good quality sketching pencils, but they don’t cost all that much anyhow. For colored pencil/crayon work I have used high-priced “artistic” brands, but still kind of prefer the old fashioned Crayola honestly.

So when I heard about the genre of outsider art and that it generally refers to self-taught artists, I was immediately interested. I found out that outsider art is also often linked to artists who suffer from mental illnesses or disabilities, which fits me great since I have high-functioning autism and due to that, may tend to look at the world a bit differently than neurotypicals. Of course, I also have troubles with anxiety and depression, so I may qualify on both counts!

Lastly, I have read that outsider artists generally don’t create for the sake of “selling” their art or obtaining commercial work, but instead make art that is meaningful and appealing to them personally, even if it means not selling much work. In no way do I look down on artists who take on commercial projects or create with an eye to selling (everyone has to eat after all), but I myself struggle to do a good job on any artwork that doesn’t cooperate with my passionate Aspie obsessive interests. I am thrilled when I do sell artwork because it means I have kindred souls out there…and that excites me even more than any financial payoff.

So there you have it, my take on outsider art and why I feel I fit in that category. I know there are many art experts who sit around and debate what true outsider art is and if it even exists, but for me, the outsider art community has made me feel at home…and maybe that matters most of all.