New Store Front Openning

Feature, Products

For a while now I’ve been looking for an option to help people get more direct access to my goods and I think I have a solution. A few people have mentioned a hesitation to buy from Etsy and I guess I understand some of it. We are drowning in complicated passwords and email marketing. It is such a huge hassle to create a new account, track the endless passwords and block the notifications. And unless I’m going to give the Etsy more money to set up yet another webpage, there’s no way to buy without registering for an account. I need to make it easier to buy. Not to mention that some of my prints don’t necessarily fit in with the cozy, good-feeling vibe, and female driven tastes that Etsy is trying to promote. I mean, fart jokes are awesome, but I don’t think hipsters aren’t really into school-boy humor. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.

Well, starting today, I’m going to try out an option provided by my mobile credit company and see how it goes. So now when you click on my “Store” link on this website it will take you to the Square sponsored storefront where you can order prints directly from me. No complicated logins to remember. No advertising. No hassle. Just unfiltered vulgarity beamed straight to your home from my demented brain.

Check it out.

 

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Anti-Spam

Anti-Spam

Business

Technology has invaded our lives. Everyday we spend several hours checking social media and email. Personally I hate updates: all the background noises and flashy messages that pop up on my phone to alert me of things that I don’t really have time for. I’ve turned the majority of my notifications off. This is why I choose not to advertise using email. To bombard you with useless notices about something that you really don’t need – it irritates me as I imagine it does you.

If you search the Internet for marketing tips one of the strategies you will see is building an email list. It is the number one sales tool for companies because it gives you a direct pipeline to people’s private lives. It is also said that “conversion rate” or turning clicks into sales, is highest in emails, bringing a higher return than social media. This is why people are always trying to get you to sign up for email lists. They believe you are better primed to spend money and it’s these kinds of tactics that I have learned to dislike.

Therefore I have deliberately decided to meet marketers’ advice to shout as loud as possible at people to get their attention by any means possible with my own silence. In this one area anyway. I do advertise. I occasionally take out ads on Etsy. I publish pictures and notifications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ (although I don’t know why I bother with the last one). And I’m considering hitting up several businesses to drum up client work. Because how else will people know that I exist?

But social media is the kind of space where you have more latitude to control who you let in. And it’s momentary. Something pops up. Then it quickly moves to the bottom of the list, evaporating from view over time. Unlike the unending, never expiring mailbox. Social media can also be conversational, not just a one way shouting match, where you can talk to a real person and not just a corporate image. If my story is interesting enough I think social media should be sufficient for my advertising purposes.

A lot of this attitude is learned by working my booth at a craft fair or art show. I can see people’s immediate reactions when their faces and body language change after I try to start a conversation. Anything more than “hello” and people run away afraid of aggressive sales tactics.

I’ve talked about this before. Going to a small Sierra mountain community and being welcomed like an old friend was a shocking experience for me and my wife. We are so used to being hit up for money that we have become distrustful of strangers. And that is a sad state, but one that I’m intimately familiar with.

I used to be one of those aggressive salesmen in the mall trying to get you to sign up for credit cards you didn’t need. I hated being in that position. I felt awful and sleazy, but when your job depends on car salesman tactics you either comply or go hungry. Today, I take that life lesson seriously by trying to give people the space and freedom to browse on their own, because as someone who’s been around this aggressive sales culture long enough I think it is important to respect people the same way I would like to be respected. Maybe I can even capture some of that Sierra mountain friendliness and bring it back to the urban sprawl.

Being friendly, approachable, joking, taking the time to demonstrate and inform – these are worthy attributes that outweigh any benefits I might receive with an email advertising campaign that junks up your inbox. I want to be personable. Human. Not a salesman. And in order to serve that principle I will strive to be less invasive. To treat you like a friend which is easy enough since if you like dinosaurs and beer, chances are we have a few things in common.
 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Reclaimed Wood Decor

Double Duty

Business

Busy. Slammed. Overworked and feeling like I might be on the verge of burning out. But I keep pushing forward. I can’t stop. Because it’s survival mode now. Nothing like a little pressure to motivate you.

I can’t really tell you what has happened over the last few months. Not just because my memory sucks – something I like to refer to as my beer soaked brain – but because I have been going pretty much non-stop. When I’m not working a full time job during the day as a tech for theater (building sets, hanging lights, cleaning up other people’s mess, etc.) I’m taking whatever free time I have to build up… well… what has become the family business. Which isn’t out of the ordinary. The biggest difference is that everything feels like it hinges on the success of our separate, yet jointly created ventures. Our feet are in the fire now.

Here are some things I’ve been working on behind the scenes…

Over the last three to four years I’ve been plugging away at this art business in a moseying pace. Sauntering in the way retired hobbyists do for pure enjoyment of a thing that keeps my human setting on tolerable instead of obnoxious. That was pretty much the course we followed when, earlier this summer, my wife quit her job. Now, urgency is how we operate. Like the way that a bathroom can be urgently needed when a bowel movement won’t wait. One savings account has been depleted and we are living on single mediocre income in the one of the most expensive counties, in the most expensive state, perhaps, in the world. Rent is about to go up. Probably will do again soon after that. Cost of living is steadily rising at the same pace as global warming and has a similar impending doom feel about it.

Still I’m not worried. Anxious. Tense. Sleepless – absolutely. But we’re not to the cliff’s edge yet. And we have experience in this sort of thing: post recession we tightened our belts and pulled together what we could to make ends meet. It was stressful, but I think weathering the storm made our marriage even stronger. Made us tougher people which will come in handy as the strain grows, and it most definitely will. We’ve only just begun to hit hard times.

In the last few months my wife has opened five shops under three brand names, posting two or three dozen products of her own. She’s been by my side at many of the flea markets, art walks, or craft fairs that I’ve attended this year and she has been working every day to work on building her product line.

Time for a plug here: you can see her shops on Etsy, Society6, and Redbubble under Come To California and I Love The Unknown. Or follow the links here: 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/cometocalifornia
https://society6.com/cometocalifornia
https://society6.com/ilovetheunknown
http://www.redbubble.com/people/ilovetheunknown

Sure I’m tired. However, without that tiny, minuscule earning we are earning the hard way we might not weather this storm. It’s our tiny life boat. A raft in the in cold, trashing ocean. Got to bail the water out. Or sink.

So when I say I have been busy it’s actually true. Not just something I say to blow off our friends, but an all out war against the lies that the economy is recovering. Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to not only ramp-up my efforts to put up new prints, but create things to help my wife’s business to gain some traction. I’ve made a Pop-Art dinosaur, some reclaimed wood decor, display tables and shelves. I’ve enrolled in fairs and markets as a partner to my wife. All while holding down a job that doesn’t necessarily have a constant schedule. I am one hundred percent business and we spend a lot of time talking shop when we are not working.

It’s odd to be here. I’ve heard the war stories from other creatives who say that when you don’t have a fallback you work harder. Well, now here we are. No Plan B. Without a safety net. Or at least, a safety net that looks a little threadbare. Maybe it can’t take the full weight of our fall, but it’s best not to think about that. Concentrate on reaching the other side. It’s with that determination that I keep working. Normally I would be too tired to keep drawing. This is the busy time of year for me when the day job takes up a lot of time and energy. Luckily there has been a little bit of space to breathe in, but I’ve had a few days here and there where I don’t feel like doing anything.

Then I pick up the axe and go right back to swinging. Dark bags under the eyes. Shoulders bunched up like knotted Christmas lights. Barely able to recognize mistakes. Which I’m making more of. Before this autumn I would have told you that I didn’t have the strength. That I would have let the flame die out. I’ve surprised myself.  My wife stepped up too. I knew she would. What makes it hard for her is that we keep hearing how the economy is doing better, but we’re not seeing it anywhere. Approaching one hundred applications to underpaying jobs and several interviews and temp agencies teasing opportunity only to pass on actually hiring through a gutless email. Pile on top of that a heap a lackluster sales and you might begin to understand the low feeling it brings. Can’t stop though. Not now.

This is the sort of thing people don’t really share on Facebook. If you looked at our photos and posts online you probably wouldn’t know that we are having a hard time. I don’t see us starving any time soon. We’ll get through this for now. Yet when times are tough you buckle down and dig in. You don’t quit. And I think that’s the thing that gives me hope. That by doubling down on our dreams we might be able to tunnel our way out of this mess. To feel the warm sunlight on our faces again as the storm clears. Stronger, better people for having survived. We are fighters after all, seasoned by a harsh environment and used to pulling double duty.

Event: Rock + Roll + Art + Los Angeles

Events

The Great Rock and Roll Flea Market at the Regent in Los Angeles has some pretty cool stuff like vintage vinyl, leather jackets, and, you know, rad rock stuff. Sunday, September fourth I will be adding my dumb crap to the pile of awesome stuff. Come check it out if you’re in the neighborhood because I’ll be releasing a new print to the collection before anyone else can get their mitts on it (hint: it’s a California print, fresh off the press).

Also, my awesome wife, who is a much better person than I am, will be bringing her awesome concrete pottery! Check her out on Etsy @ComeToCalifornia.

The Great Rock and Roll Flea Market
Sunday, September 4, 2016
The Regent Theater
448 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
11:00 AM to 4:00 PM

For more information go to The Great Rock And Roll Flea Market website. Or check it out on Facebook.

Special Combo

Special Combo

Business

I love making sets of prints. It makes a lot of sense to get the buyer to want to complete the collection, but I’ve found that this doesn’t quite go down the way that I intended. I might have to change up my tactics a little.

My art is on the cheap side of the print world. Rock poster gods typically do larger prints for twice as much money – on the low end. So my pricing undercuts them by a lot, but I’m also not quite at the thirty to one hundred dollar class yet. My street cred is low and my talent needs shoring up in a few small places, but I figure in another five thousand hours I’ll start catching up.

In the meantime I’m hoping to build enough stock to bring in a steady stream of online sales and that might be purely volume based. That is to say: the more prints I offer the better sales will be. Right now it’s a small collection and the more popular earners on Etsy just have bigger collections.

In my head I think, “You can make up the difference by promoting sets”. Sell two or three at a time and it’s just as good as the higher end sales. Then I can keep building stock and have the previous prints pay for the new prints. Problem is, customers are only buying one at a time.

I’m not entirely sure why that is. Maybe they are only in love with a single print and not so much the rest. Or with shipping prices maybe they’re doing the math and thinking “I have to buy a frame too,” which adds to the overall costs of a single print. In any case people are not buying the sets so clearly my strategy needs some tweaking.

One problem is my inconsistent marketing. I’m still trying to get a feel for pushing product online and being socially awkward I’m not sure what to do or say other than be myself, which I think sometimes pushes people away. Nevertheless I need to a) take some social media dietary fiber and get more regular on my posting. People respond really well when I’m consistent. And b) be a little less advertisey. Recently I ran a bunch of posts that were heavy on the marketing lingo and I got ZERO reaction. Not that I’m surprised really, because I hate advertising myself. Lesson learned. Chill with that shit.

However, I don’t do a good job of showing the sets together and I need to start promoting the sets and not just the individual pieces.

Another issue could be that people are not quite impressed with my style yet – or maybe I haven’t fully fleshed out a style and people smell weakness. This will take care of itself in time, but I’ve seen worse things go out so I kind of think the problem lies somewhere else. Besides, I’m getting likes on my work, just not – what’s the word – conversions. Which tells me people like it plenty, just not enough to fork over cash-money.

One customer hinted that if there were framing options they might be more inclined to make the buy and that has been ringing in my ears ever since. I like to build crap with wood so if I can find a way to quickly and cheaply manufacture my own frames then I can sell the prints + frames as a package deal. I really want to believe that this will help sales, but part of me thinks it’s only marginal at best.

Ultimately I think it comes down promoting effectively. I loath advice that tells you need to chase down keywords and like and follow your way to the top. It feels sticky like car salesmen tactics and I get that it works, and if you want to make money… blah, blah, blah. It’s clear to me that going too heavy on advertising doesn’t work because people get turned off by it. You need to have a plain message that appeals to customers (which is still advertising) without sounding and looking like advertising.

One last thought: the stuff I’m making is pretty niche. I’m not sure how many people really like Cats with geometric shapes or 666 posters (which at this time has 1 view in the past 30 days – my worst performing poster to date – compared to my highest performer which has 43 views), so maybe I need to mix it up with a couple of prints with broader appeal.

Be more consistent. Spell it out for people. Don’t be a car salesman.

Hey thanks for listening. Sometimes I just have to work it out.

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Elenkoff

Fugscreen Studios

Videos
[vimeo 66652730 w=700]

Making screen prints can be an exciting and addicting process because it takes an idea that only existed in you head and makes it become a part of the real world. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing something come to life and like Elenkoff says, there are only a handful of these created. The community is really great too and I’ve had experiences – on a different level – with people who want to talk shop and share.

Claremont Art Walk

Claremont Artwalk

Events

Claremont is surprisingly hidden from the world. It doesn’t offer much near freeway exits and the charming downtown is a little tucked away. So I guess it’s no surprise that a lot of people miss this bad ass gem. However there are stirrings in the wind that tell me there are changes coming.

The Claremont Art Walk has been fighting for its life. Run by volunteers this monthly event has had a difficult time getting off the ground. Which is too bad since Claremont has a lot to offer, but part of the problem is a perceived highbrow, snooty, college town atmosphere where million dollar homes would make even my rich OC neighbors jealous of the Jone’s. It’s a very, very small place that has all the problems of small town politics. Add to the equation a rowdy next door neighbor with dirt under the finger nails, Pomona, which had it’s own downtown art scene that burgeoned for more than a decade, but is now fizzling out. Now Claremont is finding itself in a place that it is not really accustomed to bringing in a scruffier crowd.

When you cross under the freeway the tension between the two sides is palatable. Pomona’s grimy brick buildings and Mid Century blue collar homes paired against the pristine, manicured landscaping along side the adobe of Claremont and it’s no mystery. I never really heard anyone talk about the other side when you are facing one side of the freeway or the other. However, the energy was there. Yet now with the changes taking place we are seeing some groups shifting over to Claremont. And to Upland which is another nearby town of local flavor.

Claremont has always had an art scene, but one very different from the Pomona breed. It’s traditionally been the kind of wine drinking, flowing clothes wearing, slightly grayed type of artist that represents a class of well heeled bohemian that I’m accustomed to in places like Santa Fe, Sedona, or Laguna Beach. Now, there is a fresher look moving in. A younger, purple haired, with more slender physique fitting clothes artisan moving in.

It sounds like Pomona has chased out the artists. They have done their job and raised the rent for developers to point to buyers and say, “Look here! Artists are cool and you want to be cool so buy my property and move in.” I don’t know if gentrification is winning in Pomona, but it seems clear that the once tight knit community of artists there has broken up due to what Pomona doesn’t offer anymore.

Bunny Gunner, an art studio that held turf on Pomona’s 2nd Street down the road from the Glass House, has now moved to greener pastures of Bonita in the Claremont Village. A few others have joined in the fray like Mirrored Society which is celebrating its three month anniversary above a fairy land trinket store (*yawn*) separated by oaky white railing. Not the traditional dark stain we see in hipstery places, but give it time.

So when a friend of mine contacted me and asked me if I could do an art show in Claremont I said sure. Fuck it. Not knowing about the shifting climate in the region of my former stomping ground, it sounded like a good time because I like Claremont anyway, but now, looking from the outside in, it looks like Claremont offers an opportunity for artists that seem to be graduating because the well ran dry.

In my base of operations, Tustin, we have a similar thing going. Probably not as highly priced, but it’s people are older, the streets are clean, and we are bordered by a rough around the edges city. Sandwiched between more expensive property and grittier Santa Ana, Tustin is a relative oasis in the property wars we are struggling to live through. Tustin is primed to take overflow from places like Orange whose rents have been escalating astronomically and pushing out businesses. Claremont is not the cheapest place to rent, but like Tustin it does offers a pocket in a sea of struggling businesses where people can gain a foothold.

I like Claremont. If I can play a role in opening its bounty to the world around its borders and maybe learn something in the process, I’ll pitch in. It begins by drawing me back in with the Art Walk, May 7. For artists like me this is opportunity knocking. A new hole in the market that I can slip into.

I don’t know if the Art Walk is good or bad. Worth it or not. But in my mind change is always good. And besides, there’s really good food and even better drinks. After your hearty meal think about how you are breaking ground on a new shift in cultural boundaries. Participating in the flux of people trying to make it work. The artist’s struggle.

And maybe, if you didn’t eat and drink too much, come by and see me the first Saturday of May, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the Packing House on First Street. Technically I’m still filling out the paperwork for this show, but something tells me I’ll be there rain or shine. And with some new art to boot.

Cats versus Dog

Cats v. Dogs

Random Thoughts

Cats and Dogs. They have always been a symbol for things that don’t attract. Don’t belong together. When someone requests dog art, what does a cat owner do?

I have a cat print up on Etsy and I got an odd compliment saying basically they liked it but if I had a Lab print (or maybe it was retriever) they’d be more willing to buy.

I don’t know what to say to this. Am I in the business of taking requests? This is the customer. And the customer is supposed to the be the end all, be all. Right?

In life there are dog people and cat people. We have drawn that line and I currently stand on the cat side. When he dies there is a good chance I’ll be switching sides and go with team dog, but for now it’s cat time. Still, making a dog print may not work for me. Not just because I don’t own a dog, but because people who own dogs or cats are usually all in. They don’t switch sides and they don’t want to see cat prints mingling with their dog prints just like they tend not to mix real life cats and dogs. There is only dog, or only cat.

Branding – and I hate this overused marketing bullshit, vomit word – is a real thing. When you choose to make dinosaur pictures people come to expect more dinosaurs from you. It’s that consistency that helps people decide whether or not to stick around and see what’s coming next. It’s like watching the X-Files: you come back to see Mulder and Scully do their thing no matter how cheesy it is because it’s familiar. It’s the same reason why Free Bird is the most played song in bars and why you’ll always order the same crappy Jumbo Jack meal after a night of drinking (or Del Taco if you’re like my wife). We like consistency.

So getting back to the cat and dog thing. As a businessman I can see the dollar signs in making a dog print. Dog people really love their dogs and anything that resembles that would probably sell. But. If I plant that print next to my cat print it might work against me. People will know that I’m an impostor trying to make a quick buck. Now that doesn’t mean that I can’t make a dog poster. It may mean that I have to wait until I sell out of my cat prints. Or maybe when we make the switch to puppy love I’ll take the cat offline and make the switch then. Or maybe I’m just over analyzing the situation entirely and people don’t really care that much.

To the customer that made the request: I might get to you down the road, but right now I’m going to hold out for a while before including dogs into the lineup. Sorry. Some things just don’t mix and it’s that black and white line between cats and dogs that make me timid. Then again, money is a pretty good motivator.

 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Take Chances

Steps Into Darkness

Random Thoughts

My beautiful wife has started setting aside time to work on herself lately – I’m so proud of her – and recently she has been thinking out loud about how taking risks is an important part of growth. I agree with her that risks are a part of life and the people that I see growing the fastest are the risk takers, but neither one of us is really a daredevil. So what does that mean for us?

I’ve known for a long time that I wouldn’t fit into a certain mold. I’m not a wheeler-dealer, or fast talker. I’m not able to sell the pants off a chimpanzee or bring people together locked in kumbaya arms even for free hamburgers and beer. At one time I thought I could pull some tabula rasa shit and force myself to become a different person and I actually had some success. Although it was a lot of work and I just ended up feeling like crap and fraudulent. I’ve decided that it’s time to pull back and focus on the things that when distilled, boils down to that brown-black, crusty essence of Rob that’s left after all the water burns off. In a way the riskiest bet you can make is to lay down your identity. That thing that gives you a Spiderman origin story and helps you bind together all the mismatched jigsaw pieces of the world that forms your perspective. If you lose that bet you’ve gambled everything you’ve ever known about the world sending you silently screaming into in a psychopathic dissociative meltdown. Quite a lot to risk.

Generally speaking I think the United States has become culturally risk averse. I hear a lot of talk about crime and there seems to be an abundance of anxiety about it, but when I think about it I can go outside right this minute and freely walk in places that twenty years ago I might have been shot or mugged in. We have warning labels on things that should be obvious. We worry about the tiniest details to the point where young people are now becoming defensive for other people, whether it’s needed or not. People fear government overreach even though nobody has really threatened anything that drastic – well, nobody currently in power that is. The future is uncertain and it’s almost as if we don’t know how to be happy unless we have something to be worried about. In reality things have never been as good as it is right now. It might feel like desperate times, with Paris, San Bernardino, and now Brussels under attack. My heart goes out to Brussels, so I don’t mean to make light of their suffering, however if you ask any Syrian refugee to compare their lives to ours I’m pretty sure you’re going to see a huge dichotomy.

In a previous post I talked about having good people around you and more than a few times I’ve found that to be true. I was born with more bone in my skull than brains so it can take some time before lessons get hammered into my head, but keeping good people around is one condition that has saved my ass time and again while taking risks. Without that firm ground to stand on, without the confidence of being able to retreat into a safe place, and without a cheer-leading section to keep your momentum up it can be difficult to grow.

For those people that I count among my friends all of them live with varying degrees of risk taking. Some have gone more or less solo, chasing down that dream of being your own boss. Something I aspire to. Others are locked in jobs that make them feel like their life is a waste. Something I’m sympathetic to. The best of us find hobbies and interests that make us real people outside of work instead of cardboard cutouts that get propped up in cubicles and storefronts. Wasting away. Trapped in the chains of the economy. Public policy. “Synergy” and oceans of pointless vomit, piss, and shit built up over the centuries and sold as gold bricks by previous generations. We all crave something better, but it can seem daunting to take on massive institutions.

If I look at people who have built a solid business they don’t look like me. Outgoing, gregarious, smart with money, well invested, and well planned. I don’t really see those qualities in me. Others might, but impostor syndrome is a real thing. What I’ve realized though, after a couple of years in the working world, is that no one knows what the f**k they are doing. We are all just making this up as we go. That realization was an empowering moment. It’s as if I was given permission to learn by screwing up, which really is the best way for a thick-headed ape like me to learn, because everyone else is screwing it up right alongside. So when risk goes from something that keeps us up at night to transforming into a life lesson in disguise then it develops into an important tool for growth that you can kind of manage.

Fear, and fear of failure, is a significant factor to overcome especially if you are like me and risk averse. The wife shared an Instagram post with me from designer, Nathan Yoder of Yonder Studios, who points out that sometimes that fear might just be laziness, or as he says, “… sometimes I’m merely too tired to even try failing.”

View this post on Instagram

Lunchtime sketch in the park. The other day I was thinking about the whole "fear of failure" idea. It struck me that, though at times that fear is very real, sometimes I'm merely too tired to even try failing. I think at times we can get so caught up in the stresses and burdens of our days that we don't even allow ourselves the first steps towards something worth fearing to fail at. This can come from past failures which have caused us to become tiresome and cautious or simply from our obliviousness to all that we are capable of. There is so much in life to be thankful and excited for. I don't know about you but I think a world of excited people sounds like a more fun place to be a part of than one filled with pessimistic people and I don't want to be one of the later bringing down the first. I hope that if you haven't found that thing that gets you jazzed that you will soon and, if you find yourself tired of trying, I hope that you will find once again that childlike curiosity that sees the best in others and constantly wants to go, ask, try, and do.

A post shared by Nathan Douglas Yoder (@nathanyoder) on

It’s worth noting that fear might be hiding under the guise of stress so that if you are running from place to place, plugging holes, barely keeping your head above water, its is very, very hard to justify the necessary risks when you are draining your resources on other things. You only need to go as far as the nearest poverty stricken nation to see what desperation does to taking risks. But this rings true for us as well since we work full time during the week, fighting for space to work on side hustle projects.

The United States government and Small Business Administration like to say that it takes five years for a business to sink or swim. I’d be willing to bet that you can tell in three. In the first year you are going to lose money. Just plan on it. The initial investments alone are going to set you back more than you’ll earn. I’ve had to put money down on a press, some screens, ink, paper, websites, Etsy fees, shipping costs, advertising and on, and on. So far I’ve spent more money than I’ve made by a margin so wide it probably makes the Grand Canyon resemble the G.I. Joe sized rivers I made in the backyard with a garden hose when I was a kid. Until my Mother would come out yelling at me to turn off the damn water. The second year you break even because you’ve figured a few things out, but are still learning to walk. In my case I now have a stockroom full of work that I can sell either in person or online. By year’s end I expect to break even after a few sales, recovering from previous purchases. By year three you can actually turn a profit because you’ve developed into a mature business with your shit kind of in order. Hopefully all the ground work that I’ve laid today will translate into stability going into the future that will allow the business to support itself. So that’s what financial risk looks like. Not too bad if you think about it.

Fear, time and lack of energy, all gang up against your hopes. I don’t think it’s hopeless though. If you can schedule an hour a day, a couple of days a week then you can start building steam. That’s something you can decide to do right this minute – one hour during lunch, or after dinner, every Wednesday. Commit to a schedule and do the work whether you feel like it or not. If it’s something you enjoy then you’ll probably turn your mood around anyway, just by taking the first steps. Sometimes I don’t want to draw, but if I force myself I find that I don’t want to quit because I’m having fun. Don’t stop there though. You have to put your work out there. Post it on Facebook and watch people’s reactions. You’ll probably be surprised at what people appreciate and while it’s implausible to please everyone you might find the confidence to take another step further out onto the stage exposing yourself a little more each time. That’s how I did it. And from that seed grows the knowledge that risk is nothing more than a teaching tool to make life better. Because every time you push out a little further, things become more exciting. Packed with potential. We can train ourselves to push the limits, not because a motivational poster told us, but because we have found the intrinsic and extrinsic values of being in control of our lives.

Over time that step out into the darkness will feel less like an abyss and more like an adventure.

F**k Off

Mind My Business

Random Thoughts

One thing about starting a creative enterprise is that everyone is super excited for you. Being a cranky, reclusive artist makes it hard to really appreciate the cheering section, but I’m learning to reframe my opinions so that I can look at it as people being excited for me and not just trying to tell me what to do. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

My Mother and I don’t get along much these days and it’s been pretty rocky for at least half of my life. I’ve been kicked out of the house a couple of times; the last time was when I showed up on a Christmas Morning and my key no longer worked on the front door. I’ve run away a few times too. Once when I was probably five or six years old I cruised across town to where our former neighbors moved, several miles away from home, with only my memory to use as a map. I guess I have always had a pretty good sense of direction.

Lately, I’ve noticed that when I spend time with my Mother I get angsty, irritable, and usually come away feeling really shitty about myself. She’s said some pretty awful things and I’m not claiming to be the best son in the world, but it’s hard to reconcile how one minute she tells me she supports me then spits on my dreams the next. This past winter she was asking about my illustration, how the Art Walk went and everything seemed fine. I admitted that I didn’t make a whole lot of money at the Art Walk, but before I could lay out my plan about how I want to grow this into a full time gig she told me, “You’ll never make any real money from this. Maybe some beer money.”

I was stunned into silence. It made me furious because this is one more shitty comment stacked onto a pile of shitty comments that stretches back to my teenage years when she assured me that I would never make a living as an artist.

Then, in the last couple of weeks some really nice things were happening in my Mother’s world. She was given recognition and a prestigious award for her time on a college board. Something in me told me not to go to the ceremony. I fought it internally for a couple of weeks, having a mental tantrum. I eventually caved thinking, “You know, this is a good thing and it means a lot to my Mother. Let’s just get it over with.” Everything went fine. We had an… okay time. At one point she seemed to be panicking over her speech for the ceremony and I tried to offer a suggestion to which she simply said, “You don’t understand,” and then mumbled something about wanting to read her diary.

There’s that shitty feeling again. But I can shrug it off. This is the way she is and I’m not sticking around for the rest of the ceremony anyway. Only I didn’t shrug it off. Not really. The water was set to boil.

I get a couple of random emails from Mother over the next couple of weeks about how she’s so excited to feel like she’s back in action. Friends that she hasn’t talked to in years – due to her reclusive nature and poor health – are coming out of the woodwork to see her. She feels better than she has in a long time. Whatever.

This last weekend I get an email from a friend that she had lunch with. Someone I’ve heard around the house but not someone that I’m familiar with. He’s asking if I know a trustee at the college where I work. Personally I’d prefer to ignore the email, but my Mother was copied on the conversation to which she responded by saying that she thinks this guy might have something up his sleeve which in my mind reads, “Do me a favor”. Enraged is how I feel. The water starts to boil over because I’ve spent the last ten years building myself up from bottom without asking for a single favor. I feel rage because I am more or less a self made man and people that I know nothing about and a Mother who doesn’t really care about what I am trying to accomplish are putting their noses into my business and I overreact. I spend the morning writing ten or fifteen different draft emails as my anger bleeds off, but by the final draft I feel pretty confident that I have reached the perfect balance of hostility and confidence. So I shoot an email off saying back off – mind your own damn business.

I get a reply, “Yep, yes, yep. Understood. Send the photos from the award ceremony.” I’m a little relieved. Maybe I’m in the clear. But then there’s a follow up to an email. I sent some words to her friend where I explained that my Mother’s house was falling down around her ears and that she needed help. My plan was, still is, if she has such great friends then maybe they would be willing to help her get her head back up above water after years of being ill, unable to clean house, take care of finances, and just being a stubborn mess who doesn’t accept help. She was copied on the email again and she replied that I’m selfish and vapid. We have stopped talking to each other for the moment.

I could go on about all the shitty things we’ve done to each other. Years of complicated history that has verged on abuse. Decades into making this Gordian knot are going to be difficult to unravel but I have a secret weapon in the best person to come along in my life: my wife.

She has done so much to ease the raging beast that burns inside of me and while it’s not gone completely I can say that my wife has been the biggest contributing factor to changing my mindset about letting people into the inner circle. For the first time since probably childhood I feel really good about life largely because of her.

Everyone has advice. It’s not usually solicited and that used to drive me insane. The problem is that it takes much more effort and resources to make things happen that when people start suggesting business ideas I get stressed out just thinking about the extra work. Plus, with all that background noise echoing in my head from years of hostility I start getting defensive. It’s a protection mechanism trying to keep a fragile sense of self on life support and by curling up into a ball or lashing out I can keep that tiny seed safe.

However, instead of giving into those feelings when caring friends talk to me about my work I now just kind of nod, smile, and say thanks. Sometimes I even use the conversation to springboard into trying out new ideas that I’m dreaming up. It’s a small step in the right direction, but I’m starting to see a different perspective now that I surround myself with people who are excited about my work and want to join in the fun of making something cool. It’s flattering and if I can hold on to that then I can start to build on this good feeling I get with such supportive friends.

Framing how you see the world is important. That’s what determines whether or not you push forward and feel confident enough to take risks. But you can’t do it in a toxic environment. The people in your life will either lift you up or tear you down and until you can get away from the people that hurt you, their poison will slow you down. Whatever, whoever is poisoning you, cut it out of your life. Get some space between you and that evil so that you have time to heal and build up your strength. Nothing works better to heal those wounds than being truly loved by encouraging people.

For my Mother, I hope she can find peace of mind too. As I am writing this I am making plans behind her back to bring her friends together in an effort demonstrate that she doesn’t have to keep up her stern facade and live out her hardships alone. I don’t know if it’ll make any difference or just anger her in the way it used to anger me. I can only hope.

But for me, things will get better now. I’m in control of my happiness thanks to the people that have helped me through the hard times. I hope to share that sweet-sweet goodness with my tribe too, because good times are only sweeter when everyone’s dancing at the party.

PS. To any friends out there reading this: keep giving me your thoughts. I love that you guys are as excited as I am and I think you have good ideas. Just give me some time and know that I appreciate everything you do.

copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson