Artists are the heart and soul of Meow Wolf. This month we are celebrating several of our own employees who create for and outside of the company by highlighting their personal works. They also offer wonderful advice on how to stay motivated to work, best practices for creating the best pieces, and finding that sweet spot of a work/life balance.
"I spend a lot of time on a screen during the day. Making art at night restores my literal depth of perception, exercises the dexterity in my fingers, and fills the pixel-pounded cracks in my soul with warm, purple glittery goo. The goo allows me to endure more screen time the next day. Some people need big bouts of sweaty exercise or to doom scroll social media to survive. I've realized that what I need most is the goo."
“I’m motivated to know and to show my unique flavor as an individual, without inhibition, beyond the collective. No one else can do it quite the same way. This sense of freedom nourishes my soul, keeps me well and inspires further creation. My lifestyle must reflect this as a priority. Instead of waiting for it to come knocking at my door, I know I must set the trap for inspiration. I keep a physical space devoted to art making and inspiration like musical instruments close at hand. I must sometimes say no to invitations and devote downtime to daydreaming, journaling, feeling emotions, exploring, playing, and reflecting. It’s less about what is created and more about the act of creation for me – the courage, hope and conviction to live it calls forth from us.”
“There can be a feeling of creative fatigue when you use the same tools for your day job that you use for your personal work. If you spend all day sculpting, it might be the last thing you want to do with your evening. If you spent your day creating music, spend your evening doodling. If you spent your day painting, spend your evening writing. Creative side roads to different mediums might seem like a distraction, but I believe that reengaging your mind in a new way will help you come back to your area of specialty with a surprising new perspective. It's also very important for me to redefine ‘productivity.’ Not making art is very much a part of the art making process. Staring at a blank canvas, or rough sketch for hours. Going on a walk. Lastly, if your medium is visual, choose subject matter that you enjoy to look at. I have found incorporating humor in my art makes it natural to stay motivated, or using colors and shapes that make me happy.”
“A consistent, sustainable practice. Work on it every day and never for too long. There will be good sessions and bad sessions—that's okay—the process and routine is as important as the result. I find it helpful to think of my work as furniture rather than art: something that fulfills a purpose in a home or space rather than existing for the sake of itself. Together that all creates a low stakes iteration environment where growth and movement happen naturally.”
“Consistent and constant practice alongside a wide variety of experimental mediums is pretty key. Knowing that, at some point, you’re going to be a beginner, and the key is to come at it with an open mind and an excited heart! For my personal practice, I work in 15 minute increments; starting something on a timer for 15 minutes after work. It’s a good way to get started and see how I feel, but regardless of the amount of time I work on something I still get something done. Usually that fifteen minutes will get me into the flow of work, or it becomes a really good set amount of time to get something done.”
“Motivation comes from inspiration, so I try my best to make time to seek experiences outside of my practice. While seeing other murals out in the world is usually inspiring, ideas usually come to mind when I view work that is out of that medium. I love immersive and interactive experiences—not just the ones that encapsulate visual arts. Going to live shows and getting outside and experiencing nature/sunshine/the ocean helps clear my mind of work and gives me a fresh perspective. The best way for me to stay motivated is to maintain balance with work/life/making. If any of those takes up more time than the other, I tend to feel symptoms of burnout. It's taken years of fine-tuning and self-awareness to realize that spending time to recharge is just as important as creating art.”
“My personal art is totally intertwined with my personal experience. I have always felt the need to create in order to process feelings and life events. Sometimes I tackle an artistic challenge to strengthen my skills, and at other times I'm just painting my dreams or the subjects I like to contemplate. In terms of finding the time, it's nights and weekends, but the process is so different from work. I feel good being able to do it all. It's all necessary.”
“Making art is an act of self-care. It’s a process of shutting off the work day, the collective creativity, and opening up to ideas that personally re-energize and inspire me. It’s like redrawing a boundary around my individual creativity. I usually work on a small scale. I’ll use small painting boards like a sketchpad for exploring a variety of ideas. Lately, I’ve been interested in painting the buildings in my neighborhood. I think this has been a way of investing in my relationship with Santa Fe, a way of renewing interest in my daily surroundings. I’m not one to stick to a series for very long, but I try to remind myself that any place can be endlessly fascinating if you know how to look at it.”
“I am incredibly fortunate to have established a career that allows me to work closely with artists, helping them create amazing exhibitions, but my personal art practice happens when I’m off the clock. Two to three days a week I get up at 5:00 a.m. and spend several hours in my studio during the still, pre-dawn hours. I find that starting my day in my studio gets my creative energy flowing, and focusing on my personal explorations first thing allows me to then jump into my work day already feeling a sense of accomplishment and artistic fulfillment. Even if I merely sit in a comfortable chair and study works in progress, being in the studio encourages creative energy and allows the work to speak and evolve in quiet, subtle ways. Having a set routine keeps me invested in my personal process, even when the demands of my day job get stressful.”
“One of the most amazing things about working in a creative field is getting opportunities to do work I wouldn't be doing on my own. I get to bring a lot of myself into my work, but not all of myself. So I try to focus my non-work art on ideas, impulses, and desires that are unfulfillable at work.
I also like to spend time not making anything! You have to fuel the heart and the mind and the body with input and spaciousness rather than demand output when it doesn't feel natural. Though, of course, sometimes you just have to sit yourself down in front of your materials and start.
Some other tips:
When working on my personal art, I do what I can to free myself of any expectation of a particular result. I like to indulge aesthetic impulses that may not be "good" choices, but that make me happy.
I like to be impatient with drying times and screw up my own work and have to react to what happens.
Sometimes I'll tell someone I'm going to paint so I feel obligated to do at least a little, which usually leads to doing a lot.
Hide your art from view when you're taking a longer break so that when you uncover it you will see it with fresher eyes.
I sometimes take pictures of my work and scribble on them with the rudimentary drawing tools available on my phone, just to see if a new background color or a big decision that's hard to visualize looks like a good idea.
One of my favorite art games is simply to get someone who knows your work well to identify something unifying about your work. If you always paint figures, do a landscape. If you always work in vibrant colors, work in muted tones. If you rely on red—no red.”
With all of this advice on cultivating the right artistic practice, we challenge you, a wonderful reader and artist, to work on something every day for the month of August. Start a new project, work on some photography, make yourself learn a new skill and hone it every day for the month of August. Once August is over, send an image or two of your work to [email protected] for a chance for it to be featured on our social media channels. Be sure to include your name and social media handles so we can properly credit you! Happy Artist Appreciation Month!