Creative Crisis

Ever feel like you don't quite fit in or belong where you are? I'm sure many people can say yes to this statement. However, whether you say yes or no is not what's important. What's important is what you do about it. If you do feel lonely, sad, neglected or weird about your situation it's quite normal and okay but if you are content with staying that way and just "putting up with it" you might want to think twice. This is not to say that each person doesn't have their own comfort zone, yet maybe coming from an artist/travelers perspective my idea of comfort might be a bit different than the average person. And that is okay to. What I am trying to get at here is that at least for me, once I start to feel complacent, strange or awkward to the point of sadness in my surroundings it is time to make changes. Big or small it doesn't matter just the act of stepping back and taking a new approach or look at things is my goal.
For the past few months if you have kept up with my blog you will know that I made the decision to stay/work at my east coast art studio instead of what I normally do which is live out West. Whether this was a good or bad decision is debatable (thank you mother nature). Point being I threw myself a curve ball and relied on intuition placing me where I thought I needed to be. To give you some back story technically my "home" is in New York however, due to jobs/ freelance and my own excitement to explore, I have been spending a good majority of the past 5 yrs (10 months a year) away from New York and out and about in the United States. It was amazing and exactly what I needed at the time. Then a few months ago I was feeling burnt out, mother nature was not kind to winter out west and I needed the comforts of "home". And you know the rest. After spending 3 months straight, minus a few failed road trip attempts,(mother nature we really need to talk about your timing)I began to get antsy, agitated and was feeling a bit like a failure and let down to myself and everyone around me. Mostly because everyone of my friends/clients back home kept reminding me of this crazy wild vagabond, rock star lifestyle I normally lead and here I was not sleeping, eating like crap and spending hours a day behind a computer editing/blogging/ and doing odd photo jobs to make ends meat. It was definitely at least in my mind the complete opposite of the world/pace I am used, and what people perceive me to be. This is not to say that to truly live one must meet all others expectations, but hey I am human after all and we all in some ways need others approval and love (to a certain extent).
Anyway, the more I thought about all the adventures and crazy things I normally do for work and pleasure the more depressed and anxious I got. In many ways it was like a catch 22 because I should have been enjoying my down time and relaxing after so many months/years of non-stop action yet, my brain had other ideas. Originally I just by passed the feelings of rejection, self-loathing and depression. I put aside my feelings and decided instead to just immerse myself in work and worry about the rest later. It worked for a good time, however eventually I had to own up to what I felt and how to handle my situation. I tried giving myself personal projects ( some worked, others well, didn't), and making my own deadlines to improve my career in the future. Now let's take a step back and exam that last sentence. Yes, I do believe it is important to plan for the future, however living for the future and not seeing what's in front of you can cause a bigger issue later own. Thus, by trying to be pro active this winter, making plans for the future, I missed out on being in the present.
Okay so this ins't the most upbeat cheerful post I have written but stay with me I do have a point. All in all I do not regret spending time molding my future in place of the present, in fact by doing so I learned many valuable lessons and feel stronger. At the same time, I am now more than ever very conscious of my present and making sure I take each day and be present. One of my best friends and someone I consider to be my true conscious at times when I am most lost and feeling vulnerable once said " You are where you are ment to be" At first I took this as just another cheesy quote. But going back now and understanding the emotions and frustration I have felt in these past few weeks this sentence makes sense more than ever. By taking control of our own reactions, interactions and influence within our space, we as people can adapt, grow and become comfortable with situations that may seem lost, frivolous or hurtful. We can transform our fears, hopes and desires into the environment around us not by seeing the negative or fear but by embracing the good, the opportunities and the immediate moment that we are in. Sometimes, life is a game of chance and other times it is what you make it to be. No matter whether I am flying at 15,000 feet in a Russian fighter jet, dropping cornices on a snowboard at 13,000 feet or shooting product shots safely in my art studio on a snowy Saturday afternoon, it is all relevant and all important. Each moment we make, each encounter we share with others is special in its own right and helps to make us the people we are; makes us braver, stronger, more comfortable in our own skin. Thus, able to share with others these experiences so they can also see in themselves hidden talents and a rightful place in this world.
Fast or slow no matter what pace my life takes at this very moment, it's okay and normal. I don't have to live up to expectations nor do I have to down play my troubles or doubts. We are all human and struggle is real. Whether it's an artist with depression or a rock star with excess money feeling lonesome. Deep down we all share the same universal needs, wants and desires; to be happy, loved and part of something bigger.

When Life Gives You Lemons Just... Go Skateboarding.

So this winter has turned out to be anything but ideal. To be honest I have been home for a month and it feels like centuries. But in the grand scheme of things that is okay and let me tell you why. For starts, I told myself when I made the decision to stay on the East Coast this winter that I am here to concentrate on bettering me, my company and making life all around more enjoyable. I thought that would have at least included a bit more snowboarding (mother nature is not complying) and a few more employers who were consistent. Yet, the reality is the weather has been beyond East Coast conditions terrible and my employers have been having it rough cause well, money is tight when you depend on mother nature for a pay check. And I get it; we can't always have exactly what we want especially when certain elements like snow conditions are out of are control.
On the bright side I have been taking this opportunity and instead of bumming out and whining about winter, I am embracing improving other aspects of my career and personal life. For instance, I have been skateboarding almost everyday rebuilding muscle memory and relearning tricks in anticipation for warmer, dryer days and a future skate trip in March. Also, I have stepped back a bit from go, go, go lifestyle of shooting and travel to enjoying some personal time doing activities that I can't do when I am away and wicked busy, such as playing guitar, sculpting and doodling.
With this downtime and lack of mother nature's cooperation you are probably asking yourself how I am maintaining an income. Well, let's just say I am getting creative. Photography is not just all about photographing cool stuff. Yes, that is my favorite part and the most fun part, but being a professional photographer is also a business. This involves marketing, finances, networking and countless other tasks that get put on the back burner sometimes in exchange for shooting. However, these key elements also help in the progression of a business and rounding out my career as a whole. So how to make the not so fun parts fun? It's not easy but I have slowly been working out better plans to make my non shooting workflow easier, more efficient and not so painful. By having set goals now for my future endeavors these downtimes are helping me to stay focused and organized so I can enjoy the photography shooting parts more, especially in the coming months. Thus, networking with fellow bloggers, photographers, graphic artists and web designers at this time have helped in my progress and given me some extra cashflow to fund what I call "me projects" or fine art motivation.
In addition, to all this adulting, on the flip side I have been spending this time promoting some already finished projects such as my book "Ashe in Wanderland" (which you can check out on my website www.jeaninenewell.com) as well as other side projects and learning what is needed and useful so I can do more collaborations and projects in the future.
All in all what seemed like a rocky and stressful start to an off winter is turning into blessing not a curse. I am having a great time learning new things about social media marketing, business savvy ideas, brainstorming with fellow artists/photographers and getting "me time" to build and grow personally as well. My advice, if life is seeming to get you down and you feel like nothing makes sense, hanging in there just a little bit longer. As that old saying goes "when life gives you lemons... go skateboarding!" (okay so maybe that's my take on it). Let the adventure continue.

East Coast Living

Being back on the East Coast can only be described in one word, surreal. Between sub zero temperatures, waking up in the same place and having a somewhat consistent routine(when was the last time I could say that) being back in my art studio has been quite the adventure so far and I have only been home for about 2 weeks! Yet, even though it has taken a bit getting used to, to be quite honest it is refreshing (other than the frigid temps). So I have to say right off the bat no regrets coming back East (other than the arctic cold). Did I mention it's really cold in New York (okay okay I think I have made my point). Anyway, with the New Year officially behind me and work slowly trickling in, I am starting to feel at ease with myself. I will admit, the first few nights here, it was hard to sleep with so many ideas, thoughts, and worries running around in my head. However, now that I have had time to sit back, unpack, organize my schedule and look at the bigger picture, life and work are making more sense.

On the flip side I am struggling just a bit (as all us East Coasters are) to maintain a level of stoke about winter when I see it snowing outside yet, the temps are so cold that it is nearly impossible to enjoy it. However, this week is looking up. Forecasts are showing "normal" temps (aka above freezing) so I am maximizing my work load during the frigid days hoping to spend this week adventuring and exploring amongst my backyard. It has been 5 years since I have spent a winter on the East Coast, so to me it is like seeing the Adirondacks with fresh eyes. With that said, I have so many project ideas to incorporate with winter activities it's hard sometimes to control my excitement.

On a similar note to help with not going stir crazy, I decided to reincorporate the original reason I got into snowboarding in the first place back into my life; skateboarding! Unfortunately and fortunately this summer was so good for whitewater and kayaking it didn't leave much down time to skate. So my skating and skills have been on the back burner for some time. Thus, I scrounged in my basement for some spare wood and created my own DIY skate bench for my studio. Granted I am beyond blessed to be living and able to have/afford a studio the size I have (about 750 Square feet). What once was an old store front of my good friend/business partner's house is now you guessed it my home sweet home. So taking full advantage of the space has definitely been a main goal of mine, not just for this winter but in the past 6 yrs I have had it. I am happy to report that even taking some time off from skating it's slowly starting to all come back to me and I am beyond excited to make it a staple of my everyday life again.

Just last night I had a chat with a good snowboard/skate buddy of mine who I met my first season out at Copper Mountain. Looks like a skate/film trip to North Carolina is in the works for this coming March! I guess I better start working on my heel flips. Anyway, throughout all the family/holiday stuff, moving home to New York, climate extremes, and minor internal freak outs ( yup those happen sometimes). I am feeling very blessed and fortune going into 2018. No matter what is thrown my way, change is inevitable and I think I am finally starting to embrace it! Here's to studio life (for a few months) and enjoying each day's struggles and rewards. Let the adventure continue!

Moving Forward

I've never been much for New Years Resolutions however, I am always on the search for ways to motivate and improve my life personally and professionally. Thus, instead of writing out the old let's accomplish 10 things blah blah blah I am making myself accountable in a different more artys way; ergo projects. A main focus for most artists to keep on track or get back on track with their art is to give themselves (or in some cases have someone else) give them a project which will motivate, inspire and push ones creative boundaries. I would be lying if I said I didn't have a thousand project ideas running through my brain on a daily basis. However, ideas are just that moments in time of a passing thought until put to fruitation. Thus, every so often when I feel a bit stuck or burnt out from commercial work, one of these ideas plays on repeat so much so that I feel entitled to share it with the world and not just let it fester in my world wind of psychosis.
So in honor of a new year and the continued creation of my second book "Ashe's Rising" I have decided to take on a 52 week challenge. What is that you might ask? The 52 week challenge has many variations, yet I like to keep things simple. Basically for the year of 2018 once a week I will be posting an image to my social media and website based on a theme using limited materials. So I will be photographing my Nikon point and shoot camera (which was my talisman from my first book "Ashe in Wanderland") as my theme aka reference item. With this object I will be using only my GoPro Hero 5 camera to take the picture (my limited material). And really that's it. Each image can be taken anywhere at anytime or any day I choose as long as it is a picture of the Nikon camera photographed using my GoPro Hero 5 once a week for the whole year. Sounds simple enough right. Well, yes and no. The concept is straight forward however, the exciting and sometimes frustrating/challenging part is pushing your brain past the mundane and thinking outside the box. What I mean by that is where to photograph? How does it tie into my weeks adventures? When to take it? What are my cameras limits and capabilities? Who can I involve to be a part of it? In the end there are so many open questions it is an artist/photographer's nightmare and dream come true at the same time!
A few years ago I did a similar project using a coffee cup as my object and my iphone as the limit material and man was it a fun ride! Each image was unique yet as a whole made for an awesome body of work. I am hoping to have just as exciting and stimulating results with this project also. In addition, with the new year and a new body of work being created, I am hopeful that this will also help to further my commercial career in terms of thinking outside the box and pushing me to take chances to make me stronger and more confident as an artist and person.
All in all I am officially ready to say goodbye to the rollercoaster ride of 2017 and hello to new adventures, projects, artwork, friends and clients in 2018. Let the adventure continue!

Plan B

Sometimes things do not go as plan whether it be work, personal goals, or something as simple as an organized date night. And in the relative scheme of things that is okay as long as you can relax and just go with the flow. Sounds easy enough right, well sort of. For me personally, I have always been an individual who makes options more than plans. I like to look at situations and feel comfortable to be well uncomfortable. It's sort of a self defense mechanism in some ways. This way if my plans have a hiccup or issue I always have a "Plan B".
As of late I feel as if the last few months have been nothing but "Plan B". To be honest it has been amazing and frightening, to step out of many of my comfort zones and live each day fully embraced in all its glory good or bad. For example, living this summer in Colorado whitewater kayaking and photographing the GoPro Mountain Games was a dream come true and then the work started piling up. As much fun as I was having taking time off to be out West this summer exploring and photographing, my workflow, clients and personal matters were calling me home to the Adirondacks. So with a heavy heart and a tad bit of hesitation I decided to reroute my plans and follow my gut. Turns out spending July and August home in New York were some of the most lucrative and enjoyable moments I have had there in a long time. So with these turns of events in mind I have kept a very loose yet, professional schedule these days. Always keeping in the back of my mind that at any minute, hour or day what I think should be the right direction may indeed get flipped on its head.
As I sit here right now in a coffee shop in Colorado reviewing a week of shooting the Grand Prix of Snowboarding at Copper Mountain, I am riding an adrenaline high on life yet, also sad that my time here is limited and I must return home once again to New York for the duration of winter to work and create. Everyday is a constant reminder that what truly matters is not where I am, or how much I have, but in the end it is the time I have with friends, family and clients. And how I cherish that time to push myself to be the best person I can be personally and professionally.
Long ago when I was a kid and realized my true calling was to create art and photography, originally I was scared to death. Nobody wants to intentionally live a life of struggle, poverty and confusion, yet these were all things that many people sadly associate with artists and try to justify it's okay. Well, sadly I used think that these things were also true until I realized I make my own agenda; my own life and just because I am a living artist doesn't mean I need to fit a stereotype.
So going back to the theme of Plan B, recently I have tapped into what I see and feel is a healthier and happier mindset for my career as an artist. I am allowing time in my schedule not just for workflow but also personal relationships too, because without these roots I would not be the strong individual I am siting here today. I would probably be freaking out every time something went array when in fact all you need to do is step back reassess and begin again.

The Evolution of an Artist

Change is inevitable, how you deal with it though is anything but predictable. I ‘ll be the first to sit here and say 2017 has been one hell of a challenging year; not good nor bad just exciting. Each time I come across a new task, problem or adventure my first thought has been, how can I spin this to be a good experience or to say the least a learning one. And yes I have had my share of learning things the hard way recently. However, through it all, one important idea I have adopted to my life is that to think positive is to be positive. And if all else fails, it’s okay to say forget it and start over.
So in lieu of my new found ideology and faith in humanity, I have officially decided to set out on my next big adventure and begin the process of shooting a second photography book (sequel) to my first book “Ashe in Wanderland”. To many this may seem like a big undertaking considering I just published my first book back in 2015 and that took three years to make. And yes, originally in my mind I was going to take a breather and concentrate on other personal/professional projects but the universe had other ideas.
Recently I have been running around crazy with portrait contracts, traveling and finishing up editing/video work from Colorado yet, most nights when I fell into bed exhausted from the day I couldn’t shake the feeling that something in my life felt a little off. I wasn’t necessarily feeling stagnant ( trust me work has been anything but boring), it just felt like it was time to switch things up again. So without skipping a beat I began making a list of equipment upgrades I have been putting off (ie. buying a new computer), people I have sadly been neglecting to hang out with (either due to work overload or being in a different state living), and physical upgrades to make myself feel more confident.
What does any of this have to do with commercial work or photography, everything actually. Personal life and work need to sometimes go hand in hand. Thus, to put my best foot forward work wise, one must be content and confident personally (especially being an artist where my brand is me). Never the less my new journey has begun. As I sit here writing this on my new laptop with a few weights lifted off my shoulders (literally chopped/shaved a good portion of my hair off) slowly but surely I am starting to feel invigorated to take on the world. It’s amazing what a few minor changes in appearance and routine can do to push one’s creativity and inspiration.
Emotionally and mentally I am ready for whatever comes next. Sending out positive vibes, giving 110% with my current employers, and going with the flow. As an artist, the best way to take on the bad is to turn into art. Release the demons as they say. So with new found confidence, updated technology, and a whole lot of ambition, “Ashe’s Rising” (book 2) has begun! George Shaw said it best “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

Everyday I'm Hustling...

Truth be told these last few months have been a rollercoaster ride. Ups, downs and never ending excitement. After spending the last eight months out west in Colorado I am officially home to recollect myself and breathe. Yet, as comforting as waking up and working out of my art studio is, the hustle must continue. Yes, now that I am home in my familiar environment it does make things a bit easier in terms of doing/receiving contract work and having my studio and resources at my finger tips. But at the same time my heart does have a small ache in it for leaving behind Colorado. Thankfully I am fortunate to be able to survive and live bicoastally at the moment, thus I will be back "home" on the west coast come winter.
Anyway, just to clarify it feels good to sit down at my office desk and write this blog. It's been a long time coming and to be honest it has been a bit difficult for me ( I've only been home for a few weeks) to put into words what and how I want to express myself in regards to coming home. There is still a small part of me that feels like I caved and gave in by not trying hard enough to work things out financially, mentally and emotionally in Colorado. Yet, sitting here surrounded by work, deadlines and a strong group of supportive friends has made me realize the right decision was made and I am just being hard on myself.
Anyone can up and leave their comfort zone to explore, wander and pursue new places, ideas and passions. I do this on a regular basis. However, there is also a time and place when one should consider stepping back to look at the bigger picture and realize what is most important and best for that person's pursuit of happiness. For me, this involved saying goodbye to my best friend, new boating buddies and potential freelance work to come home to my art studio, old friends, family and a semi-established work network. Having felt like I have been neglecting my east coast family and work network for awhile now, it only felt best in my gut and heart to return home and reconnect those relationships so that I could carry that confidence and work structure back with me to Colorado.
Many people take a look at my life or hear my stories and think damn that sounds like an epic adventure, always moving always doing crazy stuff and getting paid for it. And yes I can't lie my life has been awesome and I wouldn't change a thing. However, with all the bells and whistles, intense Instagram pics, gorgeous sunsets and highlights shown on social media there is another side to every story. When I am not posting pictures of whitewater kayaking major rapids or snowboarding huge drops or even hyped up GoPro Mtn. Game contests I am sitting behind my office desk or better yet out and about hustling for that next gig, big break or client to impress. Yes, I get paid to do what most people pay others to do on a week long vacation, but it doesn't just fall into my lap. Tons of emails, random encounters, mass social marketing and definitively plenty of rejection finally gets me to beautiful mountains or raging rapids.
If there is one thing I have learned best in the past eight months it is that no matter how good you are at photographing, nor how long you have been doing it, always stay humble, it's okay to ask for help and never take for granted those who help support you and your passion. Passion will only take you so far, yet perseverance can take you to the finish line. Thus, as long as you are willing to put in the time, sweat and work it takes, the dream will continue. Here's to living the dream one moment at a time.