Determined to Suck #7: Artist Hell

DTS7

The artist’s process is deeply confusing in that you may say you make art, or you are an Artist, but I’m coming to think that really, we allow art to happen through us. Anything else is forced and leaves us feeling hollow and empty. Art is an act of trust- allowing inspiration or muse to work through you and trying to put aside the judgmental brain while you execute. The other part of the process is not having a goddamn process, I guess. It’s the part where your uninspired and you want to smash your head against walls as you walk down your hallway.

I realized today that in the past I ignored my creative dry-spells. I would just party, or hang out on the internet but both of those activities are addictions that I was never good at managing. And this time around they feel gross. Here in NYC I’m performing often enough to feel stagnant because I don’t have a new act out.

I tweeted the other day about how I was coming to terms with calling myself an artist. Even more so considering myself anything more than just a burlesque performer. But in the last few years (and even more recently) other latent parts of my abilities have been called into major action, like producing, singing, hosting and painting (though painting is the thing I consider myself the least active in and certainly the least good at). I consider myself alright in most of these activities, but I feel like age and experience (like 20+ years experience) are what truly makes you proficient in any of these arenas. Sometimes I just want to be 50, no joke. My voice will have matured awesomely, and my performing style will have matured as well. Hopefully I’ll still like bourbon and cigars and occasionally strip (I plan on looking like I’m in my 30’s then thankyouverymuch).

I’ve had plenty of time to think about this because currently I’m in artist hell. After returning home from a glorious time in Europe and specifically at the Stockholm Burlesque Festival, I withdrew into a cocoon that consisted of staring at walls, going to the gym (70% of when I should have been there), walking my dogs, long naps and binge watching Supernatural. None of my time was spent making art, save doing my job at night at my regular shows in the the week. Introvertedness paired with the loss of your muse makes for mighty fun times. I cried a lot too.

Until 3 days ago I was certain my well had dried up. I spent almost a month in panic about art. Everyone else was fucking making art. My husband is pumping out awesome art right now, my peers are making new acts, and…..I need to write a song, finish two acts and try to keep up my intention to paint, which after my return seemed like I would never return to again.

How can I be considered an artist if I don’t feel like bloody making anything?

So I painted this shitty thing you see above me. Well, I drew then painted. It was….nice to feel like I was doing something even though all I was doing was creating something I didn’t aesthetically like. The paint spread and and dipping the brushes was soothing. I lasted for about 10 minutes before I decided that staring at a wall or really anything else was better.

How can I be considered an artist if when I sit down to make something I want to get right back up?

Ugh.

In my smarter moments yesterday I revisited the two acts I need to finish and decided to focus on procuring the materials needed and funnily enough it catapulted me into act research, which was a nice feeling. I even worked a bit on an act I have to do tomorrow. I wasn’t floating on air or anything, but I was consumed with my tasks while I was doing them. Yesterday and today I consider research a part of my process. Tracking things down, falling down youtube rabbit holes. The more mundane and insane-making parts of the creative process. I suppose I am making future art. Art in the future. Oooooooh

So, I guess, to any of the 5 of you that might be reading this- I suggest you keep a handy list of things you need to work on for when your well runs dry, as it might help you. And take the advice that was given to me- take it easy on yourself. Sometimes you’re just not going to be creating anything. And sometimes you aren’t going to be creating anything good either. It’s all okay.

Determined to Suck: What is my Worth?

*Determined to Suck is my experiment in letting myself create and display art that is not perfect in an attempt to loosen the bonds of my perfectionist nature that has plagued me since childhood and rears its ugly head in my performing career.  I chose painting with watercolors because it’s cheaper than a lot of things, I love color, and my husband has a lot of art supplies. 

I didn’t know what to paint today. A friend suggested I paint the feeling of being successful on stage, so I painted this:

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Please note the cheesy roses and decadent fancy curtains. Universe, take note….

My performer ego and vulnerabilities are on high alert- I have 4 shows this week.  Like any performer, I love to be loved and I want to do well. To give a great show- to be “worth” the monies and appreciation I’m shown. Lord knows I got a lot to work out here. I’m not retiring my shitty art projects any time soon, y’all.

While I was cleaning up my mess and then cooking I found myself listening to the amazingness that is Alan Watts on Youtube. Now, I haven’t listened to a lot of his stuff, but holy shit was he a performer. A philosopher- with a voice of gold. If you have 30min I  suggest you listen to this piece. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVjuOG_XJNE

I breath life when he says “you mustn’t be afraid to play the wrong notes….just play something!” Well, I have 4 performances this week where I hope I will pull the trigger when it comes to playing the wrong note vs. not playing a note at all. This is especially pertinent to my more free-flowing gigs and my vocal performance with my band. That being said- I always do pull the trigger, but maybe now I’m really hoping that I go for it. You know- take it all the way. 😉

If right now in this moment I was offered a well-deserved standing ovation or a few hundred dollars, I would take the ovation. Surely there’s a way to have both, but seeing that money is an illusion (listen to the piece before arguing), the value of that ovation is simply beyond measure.

In a world without money, and a deep knowing of our own worth and connection in this world- I wonder what I would create. Surely I would still be a performer, but would it be different? So today and for all my todays I will continue to implore myself to be fearless. And to bang on a hell of a lot of wrong notes.

I have more thoughts but not enough time….

Namaste,
Sydni

Determined to Suck #5: Vargas Girl

Determined to Suck is my experiment in letting myself create and display art that is not perfect in an attempt to loosen the bonds of my perfectionist nature that has plagued me since childhood and rears its ugly head in my performing career.  I chose painting with watercolors because it’s cheaper than a lot of things, I love color, and my husband has a lot of art supplies. 

Resting is hard. Doctors orders are hard. So I cheated. An intense ab workout while watching Supernatural- I mean, who can resist Sam and Dean? I’m feeling so fidgety…

I spent a whole day wanting to dance, to go to the gym, to do something physical. A dog walk wasn’t enough. I can’t wait to get back to business tomorrow. Rehabilitation of even the most common issues is a son of a bitch. Take it from me, take very good care of your bodies. However, it might not be enough- for me it wasn’t.

I remember when I started on my body journey- after years of ignoring my body after significant knee injuries in high school- how much I just wanted to look better. 50 pounds overweight, heavy smoker and drinker, sports induced asthma, anemic…. Quickly it morphed into getting healthier (because you rapidly become aware of how in shape you are, all shortness of breath and extreme soreness from doing almost nothing) . But now it’s to get stronger. To rehab my body back into something that not only feels awesome to be in, looks awesome to me when I run around my house naked, but also functions properly, all it’s ligaments and muscles playing a harmonious symphony. I suppose I’m looking for balance.

DTS5Years ago I swear I would have killed to look like a Vargas girl, all soft curves, flowing hair, nipped waists and bedroom eyes. And perhaps there’s a part of me that still does because I sometimes flip through my Vargas book for inspiration. But over the last few years, watching the state of the world, and the state of women, my perspectives have changed into something else. Something that not only looks powerful to me, but also FEELS powerful to me. Strong. Warrior-like. In the last few years I’ve been on a quest to take my power back. From the men around me that talk poorly about women, from a culture that tells me that I should want to look different than how I do (or want to look), and from the web of social media that numbs us from looking inside.

I’m doing pretty okay on the first two. The third one is still a bit tricky. As an entertainer, sometimes you feel like you might not exist if you don’t use social media to it’s highest potential. For much of it though- we’re all shouting into the void.

Sitting still, looking inside your own void takes a lot of guts. For a long time our perspectives are skewed, kind of like the body I managed to paint of my Vargas girl interpretation. Sometimes there’s a mark, like the one I tried to cover up with white around her mouth, but it persists even when you try your best to hide it away. Like watercolors- it bleeds through.

I suppose for now, I’m just dealing with what is bleeding through- and instead of using methods to cover it up, I hope I can follow my own advice and let it breathe a little bit. Imperfection is tough work. I need more of being still. We all need to stare into the void and witness and deal with whatever comes up.

Love,
Syd

Determined to Suck #4: Perfect Girl

*Determined to Suck is my experiment in letting myself create and display art that is not perfect in an attempt to loosen the bonds of my perfectionist nature that has plagued me since childhood and rears its ugly head in my performing career.  I chose painting with watercolors because it’s cheaper than a lot of things, I love color, and my husband has a lot of art supplies. 

So…I didn’t walk entirely in love and light today, guys. In fact, I allowed myself to get furious at body shaming. I mean, that’s cool right? It happened twice, once before I even had my breakfast about fake boobs to the effect of “natural ones only please!”, and then again just before lunch when I saw a “friend” on facebook who took a photo of a bigger woman on the train. I don’t really want to get into what exactly was said, but suffice to say I was furious with comments about “natural” beauty and then about fat.

I swear we’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t right? “Just accept yourself”…. “beauty comes from the inside” (so long as you’re not ________). In just two incidents perpetuated by women I realize that we are FUUUUUUCKED. We got so much more work to do. Oh man, in my head I went on a rant about what is “natural”- I mean, NONE OF US ARE! even mere hair products are a way to sculpt ourselves into something we want to see more than the self we wake up with when our wigs are off, eye lashes on the sink, nails unpainted, lipgloss wiped off, dermablend is washed off the scars….

The most fun thing about having a body is what we can do with it. The worst thing about having a body is people seem to love to tell us what we “should be doing with it”. Just think, in these fantastic mortal vessels, most of us can move, laugh, breathe, play, paint our faces, sew/glue/put hair on our heads, corset ourselves, and holy shit- just think of all the procedures you can have simply because you want to, or because you had trauma! Magnificent, all of it. Also super groovy if you want none of it. But no judgements!

With that being said though it’s not your job to look spectacular every time you leave the house, being pretty is not a toll you pay in order to walk down the road, or to simply exist (I read a beautiful thing on a site with a way better way of saying that than I just did, but oh well).  Don’t want to wear makeup? No shame! Want a full drag face at 10am? Get it! If you want to wear a different wig every damn day of the week, or you want boobs, do the damn thing! And if anyone side-eyes you for any of it, laugh in their general direction. We are all damn kidding ourselves about natural beauty. We’re damn near bionic at this stage in the game with all our external and internal additives….

If what truly matters is the inside when determining a “good” or “worthy” person, then just pay attention to that. Simple enough. Though I do know that I’m being idealistic, but a girl can dream, right?

Speaking of internal additives, today I received the final of three injections into my knee as a way to prevent surgery and preserve my cartilage. Ouch! Due to the nature of the injection, I’m told to go walk for awhile to move all the fluid around, so I walked from West 60th street (Columbus Circle) down to the bull in the financial district to meet my husband and get on a train. Oh, and today is 9/11. The city was justifiably moody. It was quite a walk. About 1.5 hours down 8th Avenue, all the way.

Can I just say: the people. Holy shit the imperfect, glorious, wonderful people. I decided to play a game. If they looked weary or tired or anything less than happy I would simply say in my head “I wish you love” while glancing in their direction. It kept me pretty busy. We need so much more love on this planet. It was pretty much the business of my entire walk. We’re all here on this giant blue marble trying to get it right, you know? And the weight of this responsibility is heavy. So heavy. It’s in the ill-fitting suits of the financial district, the “I spent an hour picking out this outfit” in Chelsea, the “I have to buy more” in Columbus Circle….and it’s all okay. I might not be personally into some of those things, but it’s all okay. It’s all coping. We are all coping. With being human.

I wonder what we’d all be like if we were told that it would be okay if we messed up sometimes. If we got reallllly dirty. If we pretended to be someone else. If we had the time to truly meditate on who we really are. If we played. If we got to look how we really wanted (I don’t mean how pop-culture tries to brainwash us), and do the jobs that really moved us. I wonder what kind of world we’d get to live in if we chose love a lot more.

While icing my knee and flipping through tumblr (it’s a nightly ritual, one with the other) I found my perfect girl. Here she is- gloriously, beautifully imperfect, and then made even more imperfect by myself. The quote is what struck me after all that happened in my day today and well, in general, because I am a perfectionist trying to break an old habit.

DTS4

Time for bed. My head is heavy with dreams to come.

Love,
Syd

Determined to Suck #3: The Moon

*Determined to Suck is my experiment in letting myself create and display art that is not perfect in an attempt to loosen the bonds of my perfectionist nature that has plagued me since childhood and rears its ugly head in my performing career.  I chose painting with watercolors because it’s cheaper than a lot of things, I love color, and my husband has a lot of art supplies. 

Not so secret about me: I’m a tarot reading, intention casting, meditating, sage burning hippie. Fuck it. I’m one of those. And nearly every day in the morning before I do my altar work, or in the evening as I go to bed I ask my cards (as a way to get to know them) what my card was for the day (or what my guides want to advise me of). I cast my card later in the day to see if my card reflected my mood, and I got a major arcana card- The Moon (XVIII)

I’ve spent most of my day moody and deep in thought. For much of it I’ve kind of gone kicking and screaming into my activities only to find that in doing them they were somehow helpful to my mood. So I’ve mostly just been plowing through my day this way. This painting was approached very much the same- I didn’t want to paint- but it turned out to be the most time I’ve spent so far on a piece. I ended up truly enjoying myself. 

About the moon: The Moon is the card of intuition, dreams and the unconscious. The Moon provides light as a reflection of the Sun, yet this light is dim, uncertain, and only vaguely illuminates our path as we journey toward higher consciousness. The pool at the base of the card represents the subconscious mind and the crayfish that crawls out of the pool symbolises the early stages of consciousness unfolding. This creature also represents the often disturbing images that appear from our inner depths, just as the dog and wolf at the beginning of the path represent the tamed and the wild aspects of our minds. The path leads between two towers into the mountains in the distance, showing the way to the unconsciousness. The astrological sign associated with this card is Pisces – psychic, receptive and mysterious. http://www.biddytarot.com/tarot-card-meanings/major-arcana/moon/

The uncertainty I feel in being creative is certainly something we all experience.  Even as I grabbed paint from each pot I thought- is it too much? will it be too saturated? Can I fix it? Fuuuuuuuck. In creating my new act and piecing together all the elements, waiting on costume pieces, mind-mapping my just-budding choreography- the uncertainty is real. But I feel thankful to have a place to experience it as I put it all together. 

Most of us are all so uncertain. Even the ones that come out as narcissistic-in fact I think they may have it worse. Last night at my gig I had an encounter with a man who wanted to tell me who his “favorites” were. And they didn’t include me. After politely and promptly shutting him down (and then imagining all the other amazingly burning and hilarious ways I could have done it) I think now today that this poor sucker was just so damn uncertain in how to talk to us. Poor thing! What I am proud of is that I didn’t think “well I want to be your favorite!”, instead I was like “too bad so sad you have to designate women to the status of things to be ranked and then expounded upon”. I know- I was deep last night y’all. 

And then I thought of the performers who love to announce that an audience member called them their “favorite” – Oh believe me that shit happens, and I’m still shaking my head- and in my more compassionate moments I recognize how uncertain they are. They need that validation and to impress upon others that they are the best in order to make it from moment to the next. Sometimes in my darker moments I wonder how close in my moments of ultra-perfectionism and insecurity did I get close to pulling that shit on my stripping sisters in a dressing room. I hope not too close. 

Sometimes it’s the uncertainty that makes you go out on stage, or makes you try something new. This is the type of uncertainty I’m determined to work with. I’m also determined to be okay resting inside uncertainty while I suck at painting, and hopefully my new comfort can sneak out and join me in other creative endeavors. But for now- here’s the Moon: 

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Sit cozy inside of uncertainty and mystery today. She might hug you. 

Love,
Syd

Determined to Suck #2

Oh man. I totally didn’t want to make good on my new project today. But it’s my intention to paint a thing every day, and maybe write about it (or my feelings around it), so here we gooooooooo……

I have a show that I host tonight so painting seems somehow more important today than yesterday. When I moved from Seattle to New York I was so excited to be performing more (and I am performing more that’s for sure) that I forgot to take into account how different audiences are between the two coasts. At my gig in Chelsea- for instance, the audience can go from “somewhat amused” that there are dancers entertaining them to “NONE FUCKS GIVEN”. It doesn’t matter how beautiful you are, how graceful you are….sometimes it’s just a fucking crapshoot. The audience is mostly privileged, upper middle class, mostly caucasian. Occasionally we’ll get someone famous in there, but I’m always happy to see them because they usually pay the most attention (you know- performers love watching other performers).

It’s a floor show so you’re dancing close enough to touch, smell and definitely interact with the audience. On my more personally successful evenings I am fully eye-fucking everyone, fully present and in general feeling like a sexy badass. But on the nights I can’t quite lock into those feelings (because hey- no one is perfect, jeez), holy shit can it get rough. After all I am human interacting with humans that may or may not (it’s a crapshoot) give any cares to the fact that a performer is baring it all on in a tiny beautiful bar in circumstances that are almost completely unique to New York City.  

On the many nights that I do connect, hit the right note, fall into the performance zone I feel energized it’s magnificent. There’s nothing like it. I feel like I gave something lovely to the universe and was rewarded with a little bit of her appreciation. If I could I would just sweep out the back door full of that glow and go tuck myself into bed happy that I’ve done my job. But that’s not how it goes….

I’m learning how to interact with the public after I am done dancing or hosting. I’m not super great at it. Take away my music or my microphone and I’m just a girl that desperately would love a Harry Potter invisibility cloak. I’m a true introvert that has somehow fallen into a love affair with burlesque and showgirl life. I’m 6’8″ in heels, golden skinned, lots of tattoos….lots to take in that’s not society’s heteronormative standard of beauty. So I get mostly stared at, whispered about behind my back, the sometimes compliment and the occasional extremely rude question. It’s a lot to take after you shed your clothes and eye fucked people, you know? But it’s par for the course while I reside inside this mortal shell. So I deal with it. Most of the time I can even maintain a sense of humor. 

This is usually the time when I start going back over my performance. Could I have been better? What about that moment? Did I stutter or falter there? Oof. They’re still staring a me! Is there lipstick on my chin? Did I sashay away with charm? God I hope so…..the perfectionist is winning again. And she’s a damn liar! I’m pretty certain that no matter if I was THE most famous burlesque performer in the world I would still have those thoughts. We’re mortal! We just did a thing! Performed for people who have all those pesky thoughts in their heads while watching us….but their opinions are none of my business, right? right?!?

Sometimes in these moments I think of Barbara Streisand. Talented and introverted. 

I consider myself a confident person- confident in my abilities and my presentation. I’ve done a lot of work to get to this point…but we all still need a bit of therapy. My therapy of choice remains art but in a discipline I have no business exploring- watercolor. It’s only day two but I’m giddy with how it’s going. 

So today, before I go back into the fray, into the thing that makes my heart sing (and on very rare occasions cringe), I decided to paint a pussy….cat. A cat. Pervs. 

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So….yeah. I tried. It’s definitely feline, but maybe more bobcat perhaps? Fuck. I dunno. I giggled for a lot of it. Pussy jokes aside it was nice to just feel the paint brush in the paint. I still have no idea what I’m doing, but it’s good to feel that way I guess, without trying to fix it right away for feel guilty for embarrassed for not knowing what I’m doing. 

I’m happy to be performing tonight no matter what the experience gives me. I learn a little more about people and more about myself every time I go. The joy in having a regular gig goes beyond getting regular money- it’s like a controlled naked science experiment. Most of the time there’s a lot of fun to be had in it. But you can always learn something. 

Btw, I just find random pictures on the internet and decide to paint them. I guess I’m on a cat kick. At least this cat won’t know that I just painted a shitty watercolor portrait of her. At least there’s that. I am grateful for this pussy’s help in liberating me a little bit more from pesky perfectionism. Huzzah! 

Love,
Syd