The Holiday season has come and gone. As Klee and I prepared for our long winter nap and reflection, I was struck by an important question. Who are you today? I mean, I know who I am, right? Surprisingly, the answer is no. The fact is that we change and evolve with every experience we have.
Listening to the gusts of wind and snow pummel my house, I was taken back to my childhood and some experiences and people that helped make me who I am today. These moments, conversations, struggles, and highlights taught me valuable lessons. However, if I am candid with myself, it is just a narrative I have repeated so much that it has become a reality. Everything I remember from my past is a construct of my design. I watched much TV as a kid and absorbed characters like Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross. They impacted me by introducing me to something I wasn’t surrounded by. Hope. But was it real?
Maybe it was the holidays or that Klee and I decided to take some time off from all the craziness and reset, but I can’t help wondering why I do what I do.
Anyone following our journey knows the last few years have been full of adventurous tales.
Some of you know that we moved last year, and to say it has been a crazy rollercoaster ride is an understatement. Let’s be honest, the last few years have been a bit of an insane ride, and I finally feel like we are getting to some semblance of normal. Well, normal for us. As I reflect, I think about how our lives changed dramatically and the toll it took on us.
The true craziness started in 2020 when the world shut down, and everyone fought amidst a pandemic. Klee and I spent a lot of time navigating the changes that would have to come with our art business. No longer able to do local shows for income, we needed to adapt and change our strategy. As we watched our bank account dwindle, we struggled to find footing. The truth is, spending a lot of time indoors and away from others wasn’t bothering us at all. Klee and I are artists. That’s normal for us. We spend a lot of time in our studio. We also really like each other, so nothing much had changed. It felt like the world around us was changing, or maybe we were paying closer attention since we weren’t distracted by markets and shows. Things sometimes felt a bit dark, but we kept our spirits up.
Because we needed to take a new direction, we focused a little more on connecting with artists online. We started a community of Rogue artists from all over the world. We wanted to create a safe place for creatives to interact and share ideas. We began to invest more time in our online efforts. We built a community, started a podcast, and uploaded more videos. We also supported the artists in our local area whenever we could. Then hurricane Sally hit our area, and everything shut down twice over. To say that 2020 was challenging doesn’t quite sum up the year. Let’s say the term dumpster fire is a better description.
Enter 2021, and things are slowly coming out of the worst of the pandemic, but there are still a lot of heightened emotions and arguments in the world. As much as people wanted to talk and argue politics, I wanted nothing to do with that conversation. At this point, we had our eyes set on moving, but we were still trying to navigate the financial effects of 2020. I was writing my second and third books, organizing the art for a large exhibition, planning an adventure to the north, and figuring out how to afford to purchase a new home.
We had wanted to move from the apartment we had been living in for a while. The truth is we had outgrown it years earlier, and other factors involved made it a somewhat challenging environment for what we do. With every year that passed, the challenges became more prominent. Every year, however, we would put it off until the following year. This was most likely due to fear. As much as we wanted to move, we knew how to navigate our environment, which was comfortable (as in our comfort zone, which has nothing to do with real comfort). We finally reached a point where we had no other option but to move on and leave the apartment behind. Things had gotten beyond challenging, and we were determined to escape the situation we had put ourselves in by living in the apartment. We decided that even if we had to live in our car, get rid of everything, and start over again, we were willing to do that. It was time for a change.
Of course, the odds were stacked against us. Self-employed artists are at the lowest rung of banking loan opportunities, but we didn’t care this time. We were going to make it happen. Towards the end of the year, we gathered what we had saved from successful art shows and proceeded to travel the country and look for a new home. We eventually landed in Oil City, which had an artist’s relocation program to revitalize this once-boom town. The city is beautiful, and we found a house that we immediately fell in love with. It was our dream home. Our offer was accepted, and it was time to return, pick up our belongings, and start our new life.
Upon arriving at the apartment, we found that a leak from an air-conditioner had devastated Klee’s jewelry bench and tools. The water had also gotten underneath the protective tarp surrounding the studio. This meant that we would have to tear things down at a hurried pace. Exhausted from our travels, we jumped into taking the studio apart, buying a house long distance, organizing another art show, collecting art from around town, and getting ready to move our lives across the country.
The studio was shut down during all this, and we could not take any orders. This meant we were not making any money.
It was a month of constant exhaustion and heavy lifting that ended with us throwing everything into a 26-foot U-Haul before our landlords showed up with their own Uhaul (who needed us to move ours out of the way, but that’s a whole other story). We put our jeep on the tow dolly and navigated our way to our new town, stopping to nap at a Truckstop and racing against time to make it to our new home for the closing.
Once we were at the house, the challenges continued. We knew that buying an older home would require updates and repairs. However, we did not expect no-shows, delays, and a lack of good contractors. The house needed new electrical, plumbing, and other repairs before we could open our studio. At this point, the studio had been shut down for months.
Finally, eight months into 2021, we opened the art studio and jumped right into taking commissions and opening up our online store. We were in our dream home, and life was good. However, it was nonstop, and my body couldn’t take it anymore. The move and pushing my body too far caused debilitating pain. I pushed on anyhow.
We organized a two-month gallery show, released two books, music, volunteered, and worked on commissions all while we did repairs for our new home and built our lives back up. All the while feeling like we would never catch up and get back on track. We pushed through the holiday orders and finally got to a place where we could catch our breath.
Honestly, all of this would have been fine, it is just the luck of being busy as an artist who just moved to a new town. However, on the back end, everything we had in place to run our art business was old and outdated. Systems needed an overhaul, and everything was more complicated than it needed to be.
Enter the break.
Towards the end of 2022, we decided to take a few months off to get ourselves organized and restructured. During that time, we released the last audiobook, built a Rogue Artist Community site, created systems for our business (giving us more time for creativity), finished building our art studio, and updated our website and webstore.
Another artist I know said, “I’m jealous. I wish we could take a few months off and relax.”
Relaxing is next on our list lol.
My reflection on these last few years has taught me that no matter what is thrown at you, nothing can stand in your way as long as you are determined to keep going. However, making time for self-care and relaxation is paramount. We may be able to climb mountains, but you have to stop and rest along the way.
I can sit here and bitch about all the struggles we have had, but honestly, that’s just life. How we handle them and reflect is really what matters. We may still be recovering physically and financially, but what drives me forward is the same thing I was introduced to as a child. Hope. The difference is I surround myself with it now.