The New Year Is Upon Us. / by Shawna Miller

As 2015 seems to have drawn to a conclusion, it seems appropriate to reflect my thoughts upon the upcoming year. First, let’s take a look at 2015 – like most years our blessings are abundant. So much has happened over the past year that has impacted us in almost every way possible. One could easily categorize them as: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This year saw some incredible changes. 2015 started off rough – as the end of a well-thought-of friendship drew to a close coincided with some pretty intense body issues mixed in with a splash of New Jersey living, internal artistic implosions, and lots (and I do mean lots) of introspective hermiting inside this incredible orange-lit sanctuary I have created out of wall hangings and dried flowers. However as the smoke cleared from the unnecessary/necessary ugly, and I began to understand a bit more about my internal artistic being it became easy to see that this year was pretty, pretty, pretty good.

2015 saw me conquering many fears, as well. Both professionally and personally. I could not be more grateful for that. Fear has been the running theme since moving to Jersey and I am finding the release to investigate that fear through my art has been such an intense relief. Artistically, 2015 found me exploring more than ever. From taking a few drawing classes and learning a bit of sculpting to learning and exploring new mediums like encaustic and watercolor – these are things that are leading me into 2016 as I will continue to use them to better my craft. So what are my goals artistically for the Year of the Monkey? Here are a few that I will either be successful at, almost finish, or horribly crash and burn at. I will accept any of those fates as 2016 is about just doing and not harboring:

  • Complete the “Vagina First” series by sculpting and applying mixed media methods to a total of 100 individual pieces. Why 100? Because 300 feels narcissistic and the number 200 and I have a continued feud. 

  • Complete another self-portrait series. Speaking of narcissism, aye? Ha! In reality, I learned a crap-motor-ton from my last adventure in self-portraiture and I want to see what happens when I add a beard into the mix. Yeah, a beard.

  • Collaborate with another artist to create a super-fantastic-fun-time-super-art. Why is this important? Much like the all-important sand-box in kindergarten, social skills are best kept polished, and learning from another artist is the perfect way to not become full-hermit and also learn a bit about another human being and their art. 

  • Continue learning anatomical sculpture. Starting small with polymer clay this year. I will upgrade with time.

  • Research and apply for at least 1 artistic residency with focus in any of my current fields. This has always been a huge fear of mine. Mostly because I feel like I am struggling every day to just identify myself with being an artist. Having to write about why my art is important AND also ask people to vouch for such a narcissistic act? Oh heavens, my heart feels like it will explode upon full thought of such a thing. However, this year, I give no fucks. 

  • Have coffee with 1 local artist. Hey! Route 9 is seriously a scary road to travel upon. If you have spent any time with me over the past year I have surely told you about how my first evening here I almost…well, that is for another time.

  • Sell 1 piece to a private buyer. Validation. Plain and simple. 

  • Finish my drawing and painting course. Yas! I have struggled with seeing that I am valuable enough to do these things - this has been one of the biggest issues for me this year. 2017 will also include more research and practice, but it is important to still keep it on the list. 

  • Learn how to make marionettes. Mostly to frighten my sister...I have a thing worked out with my nephew. Don't worry about it...

  • Focus on two other artists to shamelessly promote throughout the year. One thing I so wished for when struggling emotionally as an artist was knowing and understanding the validity of my work. 

  • Don’t be a jackass. This sounds simple enough, but it encompasses so much. I am not talking about just being a jackass to other people, but also to myself. It is so easy to fall into the pit of self-pity, or sadness, or doubt. That is being a jackass to myself. I mean, come on. I never thought I would actually be doing this as my life. It’s pretty fucking great.

  • Incorporate more music into my work space. Just ‘cuz, grooves, man.

  • Learn hand book-binding. In my opinion, there is nothing sexier than a handmade book or journal. 

I am sure there are more goals that are needed to be put up here. In fact, I know there are because I wrote a list last month in preparation for this writing. I lost the list this evening while installing my new desk. I shit. You. Not. I even had some fancy artistic wordage written on there to validate each goal. But let’s face it, who the crap-jack wants to hear all of that? It’s not natural to speak in such a way. I would much rather just bullshit a few sentences and see what we get at the end.

One other thing that I have been thinking about lately is the amount of exposure I give not only myself, but my work. It seems like this day in age an artist is expected to produce so much work, it become an assembly line of mediocre pieces seeping with no thought to appease the gallery commerce gods. Now, it is not fair to say mediocre in all cases, but you cannot tell me that if these artists had the funds and the time to create work that allowed them the actual time to dive into their artistic psyche that they would not chose such a fate over the one of the assembly line artist? What I am saying is, now a days it seems like every artist I follow has new work every day. They post their progress every day. They post the good, the bad, and some even post the “ugly”. I have always felt uncomfortable doing so. Somehow I feel like I have no right to post and connect in such a manner because I am still learning. I am starting to believe that this is flawed thinking. I wonder what actions I could take over the coming year to live in the lavender lands of the in-between?

So art is the theme for the Year of the Monkey. Let’s even make it a combo theme of art and connection. We will leave the definition of such things up to fate for the coming year. I am so thankful for the incredible experiences I have had in 2015 – I don’t know if I will ever be able to top such an incredible year. In all seriousness I want to give a huge shout out to those who do support my art. You get me and that is why you are in my forever-circle. That’s a thing, trust me.

So onward to 2016 we go! Engage! Do! Be! Don't Be A Jackass! Make Something For Someone! Be Rebellious! Be Excellent To All! And most importantly: Do One Thing You Are Afraid To Do.