Turning down the noise so that I can hear the birds

How to build a thriving life as an artist that honors my values and voice, without losing myself in the grind?

June 10, 2024

The following text was originally published on my newsletter. Embedded images have been removed.

It's hard to believe but it's already been six months since I wrote my last newsletter. So much has happened since, but the biggest overarching theme, personally and professionally, in this time has been figuring out how to survive the ever-changing art and technology landscape. I've constantly asked myself this question: how will I continue to build a thriving life as an artist that honors my values and voice, without losing myself in the grind?

A huge part of this is the extremely volatile social media space we are experiencing. The question of Instagram’s impending doom has been floating in the ether long enough now that it's almost trite. But these days, you can hear a death knell ringing in the artist community. Since 2020, the de-prioritization of static posts and images in favor of Reels marked a shift for many artists—and the algorithm just continues to get worse. Recent policy changes related to new "AI at Meta experiences," asked Instagram users to manually opt-out to prevent their images from being used as AI training data, a move that has many artists seriously re-considering their future on the app. To be honest, it's been a while since I enjoyed spending time on Instagram. Like many, I'm there because I feel like I have to be.

New apps, like Cara, are beckoning artists with promises of AI-free futures, but after I made an account there, I unfortunately didn't feel like it was a digital space I wanted to hang out in. Substack (where I previously hosted my newsletter and which I once had high hopes for) has started to feel off-putting to me now that it's transitioned into a social media landscape, complete with Twitter-like "Notes," and (reportedly) a planned roll out of video content. As Phoebe Taylor writes in her Substack "Weird Girl", Substack "did exactly what all of these platforms have done before. Invite the artists, give them the tools to stick around, and start rolling out the enshitification of it all." 

So, what's an artist to do?

Dear reader, I honestly don't know. Every artist I know right now is struggling in some way. But my search for a simpler, more authentic way of connecting brought me back to newsletter world (I am trying out a new platform, we'll see how it goes!) and I've deleted the Instagram app off of my phone so that I can only check it in-browser on my computer. I already feel a bit more grounded and like there's less noise in my head all the time. Right now, mailing lists and newsletters are what feel the most real and hopeful for me. Knowing that you, my subscribers, care about my work and my journey, see the emails I send, and take the time to read them, is one of the best feelings ever. So, truly, thank you for being here. My goal is to send out a newsletter every quarter moving forward.

Why am I rambling about all this right now? Well, because I want to be transparent with you: this is the context I am currently in. This is what is on my mind as I sit down to write, and I think this context matters. Because, as I paint, as I draw, as I sift through grant applications, open calls, residency applications, and send out emails to potential collaborators and commissioners, this is all in the back of my mind. I'm working hard not to lose hope, become cynical, or apathetic, but it is a considerably difficult time to be an artist trying to get their work seen and find meaning (and also keep the lights on). Still, even with all this going on, even with the world as bleak as it currently is, there is always plenty of good to celebrate and be grateful for. So without further ado, let's get into some updates.

I'm re-launching my print shop 

I will be selling fine art prints AND original paintings and works on paper, launching late summer.
Thank you to everyone who has inquired about prints for sale in the last years since I shut down my shop in 2021. As a thank you to all of you who are supporting my journey, I'll be offering newsletter subscribers 10% off all prints and 5% off original paintings and works on paper (not just one time, but forever). So stay tuned for more information and subscriber discount codes.

I will once again be building social impact into the shop, with a portion of proceeds always going towards causes I believe in and want to support.

Speaking of support, if you want to support me, please send a note to a friend who you think would like my work. Share my Instagram, share my newsletter. In a time when so many of us are fighting to be seen, it would mean a lot to me.

I've been longlisted for the World Illustration Awards

My illustration, "As above, so below" was selected for the longlist out of 5,000+ entres as part of the exploration category. The shortlist will be announced later this year. Check out the whole longlist here.

I've been awarded some artist grants 

I am very new to writing art grants (in fact, I'm pretty new to throwing my hat in the ring for things in general), which is why it's been an absolute dream to get some! 

I was awarded a 1-year working grant from the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, which gave me an unrestricted grant to focus on my art practice without having to rely as much on commercial work. Last week, I was awarded a second working grant from the Swedish Authors' Fund, to continue working on A Home is a Portal, the book I started during my MFA. I have also won a 3-year studio grant which will subsidize my studio costs for 2024, 2025, and 2026. 

I set a goal at the start of the year to apply to three things every single month (for a total of 36 things during 2024).* Happy to report that, as of today, I've applied for 17 so far. Only one more to go for June and I'm on track! 

*Several years ago I read and was very inspired by an essay back called "Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year", the thesis of which says: "Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year, because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances, too.” Though it's come back into my mind from time to time, right now this advice feels more relevant than ever.

I've made some illustrations for Vogue Eyewear 

As part of their Pride campaign on "Pride in action," I made two drawings exploring the idea of community, collectivism, and collective well-being. Though pride is about celebrating freedom of identity and the right to be and love whoever we want, it is also about uplifting each other, mutual aid, and collective liberation. Right now across the world, so many communities are being oppressed. To me pride in action also means supporting one another and acknowledging that all liberation struggles are connected ♾️ 

I've signed a lease on a new studio 

Over the past few months, my practice has undergone a substantial shift towards painting and printmaking (I haven't picked up my iPad in months). Since last fall, I have made more paintings than I made in my whole life. A few months ago, I started to feel in my gut that I needed more space, particularly more wall space. I made a vision board outlining exactly what I wanted in a studio, and I'm happy to report that I've just signed a lease on an amazing new space that ticked all the boxes and that I'll be moving into on August 1! I can't wait to scale up my work and get messy and experimental. 

This has gotten quite long, so I'll close this out with a few paintings, paintings-in-progress, and works on paper from my studio time the last couple of months. I hope you are taking good care and that you can have some restful time in nature and surrounded by loved ones this summer. Feel the sun on your skin, listen to the birds, and remember what a miracle it is to be alive, right here, right now.

As always, thank you for being here and reading about me, my thoughts, and my work. 

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