We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Adrienne Smith. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Adrienne below.
Alright, Adrienne thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. How did you learn to do what you do? Knowing what you know now, what could you have done to speed up your learning process? What skills do you think were most essential? What obstacles stood in the way of learning more?
I fully believe anyone can learn to create/draw/paint if they have the determination and motivation to put in the work. Talent is a “bad word” in my world, because it has the connotation that drawing is some sort of innate gift given by some being, but that cannot be further from the truth.
Drawing is a skill, and it is a skill that is buildable.
So once we dump the idea that only “the chosen” can make art, then we are able to really learn and take in information to build our skills.
I’ve loved making art and drawing for as long as I can remember, my mom says that I said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up! I’ve always chosen art as my extra-curriculars in school and I remember even really wanting to go to the Art Institute in Portland, Oregon. That is, until I found out I’d never be able to afford it in all my years.
I was super heartbroken when I learned of the cost and had to figure out “what now”? Art kind of went on the back burner and I pursued a degree in mathematics, oddly enough. Not that I knew what I was going to do with it, but it was fun, until it wasn’t. Ha. There’s a point where math is ridiculous.
In any case, learning art is a struggle if you don’t find it fun, or cannot prioritize it. I feel that drawing is really observing, and if you can observe, and learn to observe better, you can really begin to translate your observations from your brain, to paper. But just like anything else, it takes practice and repetition.
Now, imaginary art is pretty foreign to me and I have no cracked that code for myself yet, but I know that it just takes practice too!
Everything takes practice. I love the quote from Bob Ross “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you’re willing to practice, you can do.” And the quote from Henry Ford “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
I have witnessed artists who in the beginning, could only draw stick figures, but then they go from drawing a stick figure to drawing beautiful works in about a year of purposeful, and dedicated practice. Of course not perfect, but honestly, I know that practice is the key to learning anything, and especially art.
For me, drawing what I see is easy, that is the observation thing I talked about earlier. I find that I can see tiny details that some don’t ever see. But, I felt that was “okay, I’ve done that now, what next?” I needed to open my mind. I didn’t realize that at the time, but, this year I took a workshop called Sketchbook Revival, put on by Karen Abend, where many creators came together and taught different classes, and it DID revive me! It made me actually want to learn a new art skill. I was always scared to really try! I was afraid I would lose my style for some reason. But, what I found is my style is put into the new art skill I’m learning.
Sketchbook Revival reinvigorated me and opened my mind to learn more. I’ve now paid for my first art class put on by an artist I admire. I purchased 31 Bright and Fun Sketchbook Paintings by Suzanne Allard. I have always felt that “I could do that” when I saw other people’s art, especially abstract. But the thing was, even tho I felt I could do that, I never actually did! Why not? Because I didn’t know where to start!
This class has really inspired me and I’ve been waking up every morning wanting to create! It is THE most amazing feeling!
I’m 34 years old, I’ve been arting my whole life but outside of grade, high school, and college extra curriculars, I never took any classes. I think it’s possible I never had the brain space to do so, but recently, my husband and I changed our whole lives.
When I was going to Portland State University, I met my husband, dropped out, moved to South Korea and Germany (thanks US Army!). After husband did not reenlist, we moved back to Oregon. At the time we had a dream of homesteading, of being more self sufficient. We bought 20 acres in Central Oregon and had a small hobby farm, complete with chickens, ducks, geese, honeybees, rabbits, donkeys, a cat, some koi fish, oh and some quail! I did art here and there but mostly I was busy taking care of the animals.
Last year (2021) we suddenly decided we were moving to the Caribbean, and in Dec. 2021 we closed on selling our farm and did just that, we moved to the island, St. Croix of the US Virgin Islands. It was so hard giving up our lovely animals, but we found them fantastic homes. I still miss them every day, of course. Back then my mental health was dwindling, something was missing. Now, we’ve been here on island for almost 6 months and I’ve not had to take care of anything aside from my cat (and the dishes…) and I’ve had real space in my brain for art! I’ve created more art here in 6 months than I think I’ve made in the last ten years.
Sometimes our environment impedes our ability to follow our passions, and once you realize that and are able to change it, it can really open up a whole new world for yourself. It’s been an amazing experience.
Something else that can impede our passions is our mental health. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression for most of my life and just in Dec 2020 I was also diagnosed with ADHD. Suddenly my world made sense! This is why I hobby hopped from thing to thing to thing! With the help of medications I’ve reeled in my anxiety and depression and life is different. It’s so much better. ADHD is a different story as the meds did not do what they were supposed to, for me, so I still struggle with that. I’d rather have ADHD flairs than depression and anxiety any day! (The other day I lost my hair brush??? How?? Thanks ADHD!)
However, where I am right now, being able to create and be open to learning, I think I really owe it to managing my anxiety. I’m trying new things and I’m not scared cause, it’s just paper. I’m not wasting supplies because the real wasted supply are those sitting on the shelf, unused.
Adrienne, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’ve been a creative my whole life, I’ve always chose art or some sort of creative extra curricular in school. My mom says that I’ve always wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I’m now realizing, it is a REAL passion of mine.
I’ve tried and tried to create a happy business from my art, from private contracting for a craft store creating scrapbooking displays, photography, selling prints, doing commissions, even painting murals in windows, but, they always seem to fail, or rather, I lose interest (thanks ADHD). Sometimes they become too hard and it’s not fun any more. Doing commissions, for me, that’s a passion killer, I cannot create for other people, it really kills my drive. It made me not want to create at all! One time I did not create for years after burning out!
I’ve finally figured out that I don’t need to make money from my hobby (even tho it would be nice lol), but I need to make art for me. And maybe in the end I can sell prints but selling can’t be my goal.
I’m someone who is very open with my struggles, especially revolving around mental health. I find that people are thankful for that. Just being open, honest, and transparent can be so refreshing for people. It’s also nice for me to share, it’s relieving to get those sorts of things off my chest.
One of my favorite things to do is to cheer and encourage new and experienced artists on, to let them know that art is a personal journey that is our very own. It’s going to be different for each individual.
I love to share my life, as I pursue my interests, as varied as they can be, from my scrapbooking days, our military life, living in different countries, beekeeping, more art, having a farm, and now living in the Caribbean, snorkeling and creating art. I love taking photos and am also practicing underwater photography. As I learn new things I love to share what I learn and what I struggle with, -especially- the struggle.
I share everything on Instagram and Facebook, I even share videos on YouTube when I feel I have something worthy! I just love sharing! And I really love to cheer other creatives on!
You can do it!
How can we best help foster a strong, supportive environment for artists and creatives?
Realize that art is not effortless! Being a creative takes years of education, dedication, and practice. It is ever evolving and there is only continuous learning.
Artists deserve PAY. Not “exposure”. I do not understand why a large part of society currently feels that art is frivolous. There is art and creative practice in everything we see and do. Vehicles, buildings, decor, gardening, creativity is at the core of almost every endeavor!
Art is not without effort, it is valuable, and it does take time. Not only does society, in general, need to realize this, but many fellow artists themselves!
Your time is valuable! You deserve to be compensated! Not everything should be donation and not everything should be compensated with “exposure”. You, and your skills are unique, they are valuable, and you deserve financial compensation! ❤️
What’s a lesson you had to unlearn and what’s the backstory?
“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
This is not true for everyone!
We don’t need to monetize all of our hobbies! Sometimes this line of thinking, of having a creative side hustle, it can create a huge burden and also it can make us candidates for burn out and self doubt.
Questions like, I love doing art, why am I hating doing commissions? I feel like I should be loving this?!
Sometimes, creating for other people kills the passion, kills the happiness, and puts more pressure on your ability. Or sometimes you even get really excited about it and take on too much, which creates burn out, and then your creative cup is left empty, or even full of disdain for the thing you once loved doing. Will you come back to it? Hopefully, but it may take years.
Burn out is one of the hardest things to get over. Especially when dealing with a myriad of “fun” mental health cocktails like depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
Every person’s creative journey is different. Putting the pressure on your passion to sustain your whole livelihood or even a portion, can be too much, and that’s ok. You do not have to side hustle your passion.
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Mixed media collage piece: collage bit of beautiful black woman illustration by Therese Trudeau complimented by my mixed media abstract floral.