Thoughts are things

Thoughts are things 
Acrylic on paper, 9" x 12"
$ 150 - ORIGINAL AVAILABLE




Do you have a friend, a relative or a colleague who’s always complaining? Have you ever noticed that they often seem to find themselves in unfortunate situations? What if one of the main causes of their unfortunate situations is their way of thinking? What if our thoughts attract these unfortunate situations, like a magnet attracts metal. And the more we think and complain about everything that’s going wrong, the more they seem to happen. What if our thoughts really create our environment?

“Thoughts are things”. The first time I heard that concept was while watching a motivational video compilations featuring Will Smith. I didn't really get it at the time, but it stuck with me and my search to get a better understanding of what he meant lead me to discover various authors and speakers such as Napoleon Hill, Bob Proctor, Wallace D Wattles, Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert, and many more. And I started to get a better understanding of the concept behind the idea that our thoughts and emotions affect our environment. It’s essentially what the book The Secret is trying to convey. The part that was unclear to me was the importance of the emotion behind the thoughts. Emotion is key. As I pay attention to what's going on around me, I can now see how thoughts fuelled by emotions can become things.

This is what inspired this painting called Thoughts are Things. As I mentioned before, this year I felt compelled to paint clouds using the colour trends of the year and later discovered that my painting are essentially a representation of what I see around me. As an artist, I observe and see the world differently and reproduce it visually to share a new perspective with you. I paint was feels right and analyze it after. And after completing this particular painting I started to notice parallels with what I see around me and in the media : people (including myself who create their own negative environment by holding on to thoughts they don’t like ). The problem is, the more we hold on to those negative thoughts clouds, the stronger they can become. Those little negative thought-clouds fuelled by our emotions soon become storm clouds, casting more shadow into our lives, and if we keep holding on, those storm clouds can turn into tornadoes, turning our world upside down.

I can see how the more we focus on negative thoughts, the more negative events we can attract. They don’t need to be our own thoughts to have this effect. Watching the news and witnessing a lot of negative press can get us emotionally involved in nurturing thoughts that has nothing to do with us. But by latching on to them, they start to affect our own lives. I see that a lot, especially when it comes to politics lately. You may have seen many example on your Facebook feed like me, of people just arguing online about events that are completely out of their real lives and affecting their own genuine relationships which has a direct impact on their lives.

So what’s the solution? We can’t avoid all negative thoughts but we can be mindful, observe them from a distance, let them pass by without holding on to them and focus on the thoughts we want to materialize instead. It takes practice because it doesn’t necessarily comes naturally to all of us, but it makes life a lot more enjoyable. Instead of focusing on what we don’t want, we can focus on what we can, fuel these positive thoughts with our positive emotions, and these emotions will then fuel our actions and we’ll see our worlds change for the better.



Head over to Cafe Press to get a print of this artwork

Don't let fear be your guide


Yesterday I listened to an audiobook called The Instant Millionaire: A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth by Mark Fisher. It was a nice little story about a man who's unhappy with his life and met a self-made millionaire who teaches him the secret of becoming wealthy in all aspects of his life. It's a beautiful story full of great simple insights that really resonated with with. I'm probably going to listen to it again because it reminded me of various lessons I've been picking up along my journey so far, but I haven't necessarily applied all of them. 

One quote that particularly struck me wast the one shown above : "Don't let fear be your guide". How many of us make decisions or avoid making decision out of fear? I know I still do it and too often. The silly thing is that a lot of those fears are silly : fear of the unknown, fear of getting hurt, fear of hurting other people, fear of feeling judged, fear of feeling embarrassed, fear of making a mistake. The longer they stay in my mind, the bigger the can become if I don't take a step back and look at these fear honestly with a certain amount of detachment. Most of them are not life threatening. They're just uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is where growth happens. So it was a nice little reminder for me to get uncomfortable in order to keep growing. Silly things like going to an event even though I don't know anyone. What's the worst that can happen? Nothing really, but I'll learn and experience something new.

Another beautiful quote that I really connected with was this one :  

Always remember that at a certain heights there are no clouds. If there are clouds in your life it’s because your soul hasn’t soared high enough. Many people make the mistake of fighting against their problems. What you must do is raise yourself above those problems once and for all. The heart of the rose will lead you above the clouds where the sky is forever clear.
Mark Fisher, The Instant Millionaire: A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth

This quote is freakishly aligned with my thoughts regarding my art project on clouds this year and almost reenergized my determination to pursue my call to paint clouds. 

Self discovery through art


As I was putting together this latest video about my 100 cloud paintings project, I realized that there seems to be a right brain left brain game going on while I create the paintings. Despite the fact that my intent while creating the paintings is always to make them look different, perhaps because I paint them in pairs, the pairs have a lot of similar traits, just like non identical twins. 

This didn't occurred to me until I saw them side by side in the video. I wonder if it's because of my setup painting them side by side or because I used the same colour palette. Maybe both? Even the first two, sold painting to two different collectors, were from the same painting session. What does it mean? Who knows. 

Another interesting insight from this discovery is that, is it also reveals another part of my personality: a particular affinity for balance and symmetry. The more I paint the more I discover about myself. How you do anything is how you do everything. I think this says a lot about how art can support people in figuring things out about themselves if they are open to it. For me it's a great way to find clues to many existential questions such as : Who am I?   

If you're looking in finding things out about yourself, I would definitely recommend using a form of art as a tool to bring out some clues from your subconscious mind into light. It may even help you find your true purpose in life. 

Failing Forward - 5 benefits from my "unsuccessful" Kickstarter project



You win or you learn. Despite not reaching my goal for my Kickstarter project, I survived the imagined humiliation of having an unsuccessful crowdfunding project online. Who knew it wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it would be! Don't get me wrong, it was quite the roller coaster of oscillating between confidence and self doubt, constantly switching between my desire to keep going vs my desire to give up. What kept me going is that I really want to make these paintings and I kept learning new things along the way. Besides, all of the people I admire for achieving great things, failed many times before. What's one failed project? The thing is, if you're not failing you're not trying hard enough. If you're not trying hard enough, you'll stay where you are. So I kept going and came out the other side with a handful of insights and skills that will surely serve me in my current and future endeavors.

My benefits came in the form of five upgrades in the following area : 
  1. Quality
  2. Productivity
  3. Creativity
  4. Social media
  5. Online business

1. Quality : I improved my art  

Practice makes perfect. Although  I haven't reached the famous 10,000 hours of painting clouds yet, I'm closer today then I was a month ago. Repeating the same process using various colours and shapes gave me insights on how to best use and mix the colours to be able to get more depth into the paintings. With practice I came to better understand how to mix the light and the dark colors to create more depth and I also allowed myself to experiment with colours I may not have tried to combined together otherwise. Some were surprisingly complementary.  I can already see the difference from the first painting to the 30th, and can only imagine how much better the will look by painting number 100. 

2.  Productivity : I made more art 

This is what 30 cloud paintings look like
One of the things I kept in mind while learning about the life of Picasso is that he was very productive. He has thousands of paintings to his name. In order to become better and more successful I know I have to produce more work: pay the 10,000 hours entry fee to the Notable Artist Party. Challenges like this was a great excuse to get to it. No amount of theorizing, reading or watching instructional videos will ever come close to the effect of taking action. This project was my main focus for the month of February. Being focused on one goal made me more productive and I probably created more paintings in that month then I ever did. 30 paintings, that's a little more then a painting a day. The Make 100 Kickstarter challenge made me accountable and as a result I became more productive and I have 32 finished artworks to show for. It doesn't stop here. I'm only a little over 30% done and despite not being funded, I'm continuing the process so that I get to 100 painted clouds by the end of March,  as planned. 

3.  Creativity : I got many new ideas

Doing something for the first time forced me to think outside the box and what I'm used to. For me, thinking of new ways to bring my artwork in front of people required more creativity. It also let me to create different videos (like the one below) based on suggestions from peers and ideas that emerge from various conversations about this project. It also gave me a chance to come up with new ways to present the artwork on social media, different ways to photograph my work, and different ways to describe my work.



This focused challenge also made me see my subject from a new angle and I'm realizing that I'm not only painting clouds, but I'm painting thoughts or a reflection of them. The more I'm diving into the "why" behind my inspiration to create these paintings, the more I'm discovering opportunities to express my own thoughts and insights through my art and also it enable others who see it to discover more about their own thoughts through them as well. I'm realizing that clouds are thoughts and we give them meaning depending on our own stories and experiences of life. I get a feeling that the clouds are just the first step in this creative journey, which makes me more eager to complete my challenge this month so I can dive into its second stage.


4. Social Media : I have a better understanding of its impact

First : Gary Vaynerchuk is right : Facebook trumps all social media platform at the moment. I documented all the actions I took over the course of the month (where I posted, what I posted, how many times I posted, etc) and got the results from Google Analytics regarding where the clicks came from. By far, Facebook was the most effective, followed by Instagram. I also saw the difference videos make compared to pictures. Video created spikes of interest compared to any other posts. Working on this project also made me realize that I'm not yet fully benefiting from the capacity of social media platforms to reach the right people. I've barely skimmed the surface. 

I also learned that while it's great to get views they don't equate purchases. I was fortunate enough to have my project partially funded so I also got a bit of insights regarding where they came from and as I suspected, it's far easier for someone in the Kickstarter community who has backed projects before to back your project then to get someone new in the system. Nevertheless my click to sale ratio, based on the available data was 1%, which is good for a beginner. This means that had I been able to get the page viewed by 5000 people, I likely would have reached my goal. 

As it turned out, both backers had backed projects before and I suspect that had there been a way to reach out to art backers via Kickstarter's mailing list, this project would have gotten a better chance at being fully funded. The main issue for me was not enough views. Perhaps a 60 day campaign would have given me a more time to get a better hold of the online marketing aspect of the project. I would say marketing is probably one of the most important aspect of a Kickstarter project like this. 

I've always kept google analytics at bay because there seems to be so much data to look through, but at the same time, its valuable information tells you how your presentation and products are received by the public. It's definitely something that I need to use more often.Throughout my campaign, I've learned about the benefits of using tools like Google Analytics to get an idea of what's working and what's not, what gets attention and what doesn't. Starting this project with the goal of making it successful prompt me to look for avenues to spread my message and reach the right backers looking for such a project. This meant that I had to be more active online and post on a consistent basis. Using Google Analytics, I was able to see the impact of my posts.


5. Online Business : I have new tools to create a better online store 

Participating to this project made things a little more real in terms of the process of creating a piece of artwork, selling it and shipping it to it's collector. I realized that I had a few steps in the process that needed tweaking and refinement. For example, once the Kickstarted was over I realized that my artstore on Square, only accepts purchases from Canada after a client from the United States tried to purchase one of the paintings. I had no idea this was even an issue. Why they would create the system that way, is beyond my comprehension, but that little bit of information got me working on alternative ways to enable clients from other countries to purchase my artwork. It's still in the works, but I'm currently using Paypal, which makes it easier. If there's anything I learned from listening to people like Gary Vaynerchuk and Tai Lopez is that when it comes to selling items online, make it as easy as possible for any interested party to get your product.

Conclusion

All in all, this experience turned out to be very valuable for me. It was worth it, and dare I say, I would do it again. I guess, going through it made me grow a little more and I have a better appreciation and understanding of what it takes to succeed : repeated failures leading the way to success. So, no matter what difficulty or obstacles lies ahead of your dreams, don't give up. The guys in the video below didn't and look where that attitude took them. 

SOLD! Cloud 18 - Pink Bliss Moody Cat Cloud over a Sea Star Sky

Pink Bliss Moody Cat Cloud over a Sea Star Sky 
One of a kind original painting featuring Benjamin Moore colours. Signed in the back.
$50.00 SOLD 
SKU : 100CLOUDS018




DESCRIPTION
Original painting from the 100 Cloud Paintings series featuring colours of the year. Find out more about this project here (video). The more you look at it, the more it will reveal different shapes that speaks to you and your thoughts. Each original painting are handmade on acid free heavy weight 245 lb (400 gsm) acrylic paper, using paint suited to match your home or office. 

Dimension : 6 in x 6 in (15.2 x 15.2 cm)
Colours : Pink Bliss and Sea Star 
Shipping : Artwork is carefully packed in an acid-free protective plastic sleeve and shipped in a rigid photo mailer. Unframed. Item tracking is included on all orders.

Lessons from 5 strategies used on my first Kickstarter project



I've always avoided the idea of running my own Kickstarter project. Even if many visual artists ran very successful campaigns, many also failed. And the idea of running a project that fails is terrifying. But for some reason, the Make 100 challenge from Kickstarter felt different. Perhaps it's the fact that it was initiated by Kickstarter and that the idea of challenging myself to create a series of 100 art pieces, warmed me up to the idea of joining. After seeing some similar project succeed under the Make 100 umbrella, I decided to take the plunge despite the fear of failure and the illogical shame that comes with it. Now that's I'm 1/3rd of the way to the deadline, I've learned a couple things so far from the strategies I used as a beginner, to try to make it a successful one. And I would like to share them with you. It might give you some insight if you're thinking of creating your own campaign in the future.

1. Ignore Kickstarter Spam Messages

One thing I did not expect to get is spam messages within the Kickstarter mailing system. As soon as I hit the launch button, I received a lot of unsolicited messages from anonymous Kickstarter accounts selling their services to promote my campaign. You can imagine my disappointment receiving 10 messages selling me crowdfunding campaigns for hundreds and thousands of dollars and not one word of encouragement. Most of the accounts I received messages from had no activities on their profile. I'm not even sure they are real accounts, they could be bots. If they weren't they would waste their time soliciting on a $500 campaign. At least I don't think so. So be aware that this is something that's going to happen. Maybe they are valuable to people running larger campaigns, but the fact that they don't even check to see if what they're offering fit, they wouldn't be my first choice. 


2.  Seek Advice from fellow Kickstarters

The silver lining in receiving so many spam messages on Kickstarter was that it made me realize that I could also reach out to fellow participants and ask for advice. So I did.  I reached out to a couple successful artists who also took part in the Make 100 challenge project and surpassed their initial goal. I asked them if they had some advice for newbies. Some of them were kind enough to reply (interestingly all first timers as well) and they recommended to post daily on all social media platforms and email previous clients. For a lot of them, the bulk of their backers were people they knew. The ones who seem to have more experience or a longer career in the field, seemed to be the ones who did better. One early participant was lucky to be featured on the Kickstarter newsletter and that helped boost her reach. Reach is probably one of the most important thing to focus on during a campaign. If you're lucky enough to be featured on a high traffic site, you'll be able to reach more people. Unfortunately I haven't seen a lot of promotions by Kickstarter about the #Make100 project other then a post about how many creators joined and maybe a handful of posts promoting some projects under this umbrella. I would have thought that for initiating the project, they would tweet about it a lot more often.



3. Reaching more people on podcasts

I got a message from a former Kickstarter creator to beware of unsolicited messages selling campaign promotions at a high price. She suggested I take a look at Fiverr instead as there were more affordable options there. It's not something that had crossed my mind but so I decided to take a look and found a well rated online radio DJ who sold ads on his show for $12USD. I figured that would not be an expensive lesson to pay if it didn't work out, so I gave it a try. Three days later, I received the link to the show featuring my radio ad,  a download of the audio version that I could use as often as I like, a posts on his Facebook account (3400+ likes), a post on his Twitter feed (44,700+ followers) and a custom Google link to track traffic coming from his posts. 

It's hard to say how much this has helped other than having a couple extra clicks from that specific url on my page. I only got 27 clicks from it so far and I don't suspect I'll get much more then that, unless I repost it myself. Since I already created my own custom link, it would defeat the purpose. The bulk of the leads coming from this ad would be by listerners searching for "100 cloud paintings" on Kickstarter, as it was the only way for his listeners to get to my page, and it's difficult to track. Still you can listen to the ad below, it's kind of fun to have a stranger create an add based on your content. It's a genius idea on his part to fund his show through Fiverr, but I think if I was to do this again, I would choose a radio show targeting a niche market interested in arts. Another lesson is that one tweet on a social media account of 44,7K followers doesn't make that big of a difference especially if there followers are not very engaged. Hindsight 20/20.





4. Tracking my own social media marketing


Right at the beginning of my campaign, I decided to use a shortened Google URL across all platform to see what kind of traffic I'm getting from my effort. I could have used different URL for different social media platform to get a better idea of which is more effective, but I kept it simple with just one. This link is used on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and in my email signatures. Basically, any opportunity to insert that link and get people to at least go see the page that I could think of was used. What I've learned so far is that it's important to reach as many people as possible. One of the reasons why project may fail is that they are not seen enough. To date I generated only 53 clicks (+27 from the Fiverr service), which tells me that I need to work on that aspect of my campaign. It's not being seen by enough people online and I will have to think of other strategies to get it in front of the right people.  


5. Tracking and updating my Kickstarter page

I've only realized today that there's a way to track traffic on my Kickstarter page using Google Analytics! What gets measured get accomplished. In the remaining 19 days of the campaign, I'll be able to learn where traffic is coming from, what works and what doesn't work.  It will be a great way to get a better understanding of it.  I also keep updating my page with better photos, more videos and better description as I'm producing the artwork. I'll keep you posted on the progress and results from this experiment. 

If you have any questions, comments or advice, feel free to post them below. 


CLICK THE IMAGE TO GO TO THE PAGE

What My Paintings Revealed About Me

Progress shot of the 4th iteration of the painting


I'm slowly realizing that everything we do, every single decisions we make, says something about us. As much as we try, we can't really hide anything. We may think we can, just because most people are too busy worrying about what others think about them and most people are not present enough to really notice their surroundings. But if anyone takes the time to take a good look at someone, including themselves, they will soon see all the clues that make up their personality : the clothes we wear, the shape of our body, the food we eat, the music we listen to, the things we talk about, the things we like, the things we dislike, they all say something about us. With that said, I realized that what I choose to paint, also says a lot of things about me. The crazy thing is that it's subconscious. I didn't really see it until I took a step back and started to analyze my paintings and consequently, myself. Here's what I found out: 

1. The featured colour revealed my intent

A deep purple called Shadow. As soon as I saw the colour and the name, I was drawn to it. I was inspired. It was instant. "I love this colour!" That was my first thought. I had to have this colour. What does that say about me? Well, doing a little research on the meaning of colours, I found this rather interesting quote on color-meanings.com
The color purple or violet assists those seeking the meaning of life and spiritual fulfillment. They expand our horizon and connects us to a higher level of consciousness. For the same reason, philosophers around the world are often attracted to these colors. In color psychology, purple and violet represents the future, imagination and dreams. They inspire and improve our psychic abilities and spiritual awareness as well as ensure that we stay grounded and down to earth.
How fitting! I've been on a path of self development for the past couple years, going to workshops, reading lots of books and pondering on various philosophical topics. And this year I decided to start an art project called Dare to Dream. And here's another interesting discovery : I was also drawn to the name "Shadow" for this colour. If it had been called Eggplant or Blueberry, which can also fit the colour, I most likely would not have been as intrigued by it as much. But I do like the mystery of the word shadow and I'm all about uncovering and discovering things. 

2. The main subject reveals part of my personality

Why clouds? Why not landscapes, animals, oceans, places or people I don't know. I was just drawn to them. I realized that I was spending more time painting them and that they started to creep in more and more in my work to the point where I decided to make them the main feature of my paintings. Then I realized that it's very telling of my personality. I'm an idealist : Head in the clouds and feet on the ground kind of idealist. I'm always in my head, thinking, contemplating, analyzing, observing. I'm a dreamer by nature. I've been that way since I was a little kid. There are so many connections that are revealing themselves between my creative personality and clouds, it's a little freaky. Also, I recently found out that my astrological sign is an air sign. Coincidence? 

Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 4 
Acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"
$ 880 - ORIGINAL AVAILABLE

3. The topic of the first piece reveals my message 

So what inspired the painting? Why did I choose to arrange the clouds that way? I don't know. It was just a feeling. I felt like arranging them that way. But the more I spent time on the topic, using the same colours, the deeper I thought about it. I tend to create first out of intuition and analyze after. Now that I've done four painting on the same topic, a deeper understanding of what I created now seems to surface. 

Why did I chose the title Cloud Cover Casting Shadow for this particular piece? Why did I decide to keep the name Shadow in the title of the painting? I could have used anything, but for some reason I was also drawn to the word shadow. In my mind, shadow goes hand in hand with light. You can't have one without the other. This whole idea of balance through contrast is definitely something I relate to.  

If you look at the various iterations of the paintings, there are clouds all around forming some sort of container and there is light on the right in the back. That light enables the viewer to see that within the clouds is a little cloud, almost like it's protecting or hiding it. Why did I felt compelled to create it that way? Why is the little cloud in the shape of a heart in two of them and what is that shape in the other two paintings?

For me, taking a step back after creating it I see that as starting to reveal a part of myself that I've kept hidden and protected. Things that I hold dear in my heart : my art, my ideals, my aspirations in life, etc. Starting this journey of creating as much as I can no matter what is a difficult one because it's very revealing and when we reveal things we're often afraid of being judged. But at the same time, there's all this energy that's bottled in and need to come out and do what it needs to do in the light. It comes back to that first book I read a couple years ago, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. What he said in the book stayed with me and in it's own way, the words from the book have been gradually coaching me to share my work, especially this quote : 
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.
I remember having an a-ha moment when I heard a character of a TV show say that the role of an artist is to help people see better. That also stayed with me. Perhaps there's a connection there as well and way more for others to find out as they contemplate these particular paintings. Different people will find different meanings and see different things out of the same painting and that's really fascinating. If by creating these pieces I get to contribute to someone else seeing something better, then I've done my job.  

Check out the speed painting videos of the latest two iterations of Cloud Cover Casting Shadow to see the paintings in the makings. Maybe you'll get something special out of it too.

Mini version featuring a heart cloud.


Largest version featuring a blob cloud. Maybe it will make more sense to me in the future.