First runner up on my Inspiring Artists series is Beethoven!

My youngest son is learning a very simplified version of Ode to Joy from Beethoven's 9th symphony.  Which means he is whistling it 24/7.  In order to get a small 5 minute break from the incessant melody, I decided to tell him the story behind the song.

I told him how Beethoven wrote that song after he had gone completely deaf and during the writing he was well aware of his decline in health. It got me all choked up and I could hardly tell the story. It really hit me that even after going through the worst trial a musician could have, instead of wallowing in despair and self pity for the rest of his life, he wrote the symphony that defined all symphony's and it was about joy and brotherhood. Not struggle and defeat.  

But that is not the whole story.  At the time of the 9th Symphony Beethoven had actually been going deaf for over 20 years. So it was not a new trial. When he first discovered his hearing loss and the permanence of it, he was actually in a lot of despair. He even considered suicide at one point, but his "art held him back" he wrote,

"It seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me."  

He needed more time to finish all the creations in his head. That was more important than any suffering he was condemned to.  

And what did Beethoven write as he excepted his loss of the thing he loved most?  Symphony #3, The Eroica Symphony.  Ultimately it was a piece written to celebrate Napoleon Bonaparte (something he later regretted.) However, artists cannot help but to put some of themselves into every piece they create. If you listen to the piece with the knowledge of the great despair Beethoven was dealing with at the time you can hear it in a different light. For the most part it is a very triumphant and happy piece. There is some dark turmoil intermixed, but that is life!  How wonderful that even then he could write of triumph.  

As beautiful as it is, compared to Symphony #9, Eroica falls short. Why? Beethoven spent most of his adult life and career thinking, writing, creating this final complete symphony. In a way, it was the ultimate culmination of his life and career.  His life was not perfect. He never reached fame and adoration as we would define it. He fought illness, had a rascal of a nephew that caused a lot of heartache and died destitute.  Over all one would say he did not have a happy life. Yet he found happiness in his art. His love for music and his ability to share that love through sound is so powerful that one can't help but be moved by it. 

Why did I choose him as my first inspiration? Because he reminds me that regardless of what is happening in life. What turmoil is in the world, we can still put good into it. We can create beauty and celebrate in humanity and goodness.  That is why he is amazing.  He, of all people, had every right to create powerful dark pieces. Songs of dispair and sorrow. He also could have quit entirely and found some other career. Yet he chose the better part. He needed to bring forth "all that was within him."   

If you have not had a chance to listen to the 9th Symphony in it's entirety, then I invite you to do so now!  It is an hour and 6 minutes long. So listen while you are doing whatever you are doing. It is so amazingly put together you can see why it was the symphony to define all symphony's. I'm willing to bet that when you reach that final movement, that Ode to Joy, you too might get a bit choked up.

Changing it up.

So...hello, how are you? 

I have noticed, as I am sure you have also noticed, that I am not so awesome at keeping this blog up. It has come to my attention that I have a conundrum, a muddle, a perplexing puzzler if you will.  I know that in order to be likable, searchable, knowledgeable, seeable, relatable, etc. etc., you are supposed to blog. At least that is the rule of staying relevant according to google.  So as an Illustrator it would make sense that I maintain a blog related to that topic.  I should be taking the pretty pictures of my art, giving the step by step photos, creating the tutorial video, or at bare minimum saying, "hey I did this thing. Here is a picture."  But as the inspired Sweet Brown said "ain't no body got time for that!"  Besides if you REALLY REALLY need to know the big secret behind the inner workings of my mind, you can go to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And trust me, it is not that big of a secret. 

So my conundrum is how do I go about obeying the law of the land by keeping a blog, when I really just don't want to? We are supposed to write about what interests us, and frankly, I don't find writing about me very interesting. This has caused me to use the time tested practice of avoidance. There is no solution, so I won't do it at all.

But now I have a solution! 

If the internet really needs one more way to find out the deep thoughts and feels of Tannie Smith, then what better way to do so than by sharing what inspires her?  I decided that I would much rather share with you the amazing artists that inspire me than spend one more minute writing about myself!  That sounds way more interesting to me than me. 

And keep in mind, art is not just an image on canvas. It can be music, poetry, dance, film, etc. Anything that conveys a meaningful message in a creative and profound way.  Moving forward my posts will be about any artist out there that is inspiring in some way. That is putting something positive out there. At least from my point of view.

So I guess, in the end, it is still a little bit about me. :-)


2015 Sucks...Or Does It?

This week held in it Back to the Future Day. The day in which Marty McFly travels to the year 2015.  A day where we were supposed to achieve hover boards and flying cars.  As a kid I absolutely loved that movie and watched it many many times. What self respecting 80's kid didn't? Yet in all those viewings, it never occurred to me that I would actually still be alive in 2015.  So what did the world think when we did in fact achieve that famous date of October 21, 2015? A large disappointed sigh.  

Everywhere I looked was another post, another video and another rant on how disappointing 2015 actually is. Each sketch that included Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd spoofing their characters was a sketch of disappointment in what they found.  It seems the overall consensus from the world is that 2015 is not awesome, it sucks.  What I find interesting is that the whole of that basis is our lack of true hover boards, (I saw "true" because we actually do have hover boards, just not the ones from the movie) and flying cars.  Two things that did not come to pass has apparently ruined this entire year and the future forever.  The entirety of what we have achieved to this point, (30 years) is completely dismissed as worthless because of our lack of floating transportation.  Apparently MagLev doesn't count.

The fact is, there have actually been some amazing breakthroughs in technology. Things that no one could have predicted.  Smartphones alone have changed the entire social structure of our culture.  How we work, how we communicate, how we get places.  Watch any movie about the future pre-1995 and even if they have a FaceTime/Skype type communication, none of them thought of it as portable.  Take a couple hours and watch a few Ted Talks. We have people cleaning the ocean, printing food, growing organic buildings, cars that drive and park themselves. There is a guy with full working plans and a realistic timetable on building the first Starship Enterprise!  We are currently creating the technology to travel from Austin to Albuquerque in 3 hours.  Tesla cars. That is all.  Seriously have you driven one of those?!?!  We can even control robotics with our minds!

I could go on and on because the innovations that are happening right now, in 2015, are mind blowing and practically limitless.  Yet how easily we as humans toss all that away because of the lack of one or two things. We throw a collective Millenial tantrum because we didn't get what we wanted.  (Gen Xers you really should have known better.)  Part of our human nature seems to focus only on the thing you wanted that didn't happen, rather then all the amazing things that are actually happening.

What does all this have to do with Art?

Everything! I this as an artist all the time, and I know many artists that do it as well.  Each time I come to a piece I struggle with, something I can't seem to get right or just isn't working, I spiral.  I tell myself I suck, I knew I was a fraud all a long. Can I even draw? Could I ever? Give up, give up, give up. Your were just a poser after all.  It doesn't seem to matter how many successes I have had, what has been published or what awards have been won.  In that moment, that one struggle defines the rest of my talent. It is in these moments that I need to do better then that. I need to step back and see what is actually happening. Because the truth is, that those struggles are most often the very thing that make me better the next time.

It is the things that aren't working that drive me to be better. To create all the other good that my eyes are closed to.  The challenge I am giving to myself after this epiphany is to embrace the things I don't have. To appreciate that struggle. To step back and see all the "other" it created. To look at the whole picture and focus on the good that was there all a long.  I think Marty McFly would actually be pretty impressed with what we have done so far.

Little Girl Sketch

This is the result of a warm up that became something more. I've been wanting to practice drawing more children as that is something I just haven't done a lot of.  It is a skill every illustrator needs to know how to do, especially if you want to do children's picture books.  However, I had been putting it off.

I couldn't seem to wrap my mind around what a "Tannie Smith" kid would look like. Every time I sat down I would begin to obsess over how to do it "just right."  It was a weird thing to get hung up on...but nevertheless I was hung up on it.

Each day before I work, I try to start with a warm up.  Usually something that should take me about 20 minutes or less.  Today I decided that enough was enough.  For todays warm up I would just draw whatever kid came into my head.  I told myself not to think about it and to just see what pops out of the pencil. 

I was happy to meet this little girl. She is a fusion of a few things.  A funny thing my youngest son told me. A little girl I saw at the store wearing the brightest hair ties.  A fun chat with a good friend of mine.  A memory of my little sister when she was 1 or 2, putting rocks in her pockets.  And a little girl the same age who put pennies in hers.

Once I drew her, I had to finish her. So my warm up turned into a bit more of a complete sketch. It  also gave me the chance to work with some inks I have wanted to try for a while. I hope to meet this little girl again and learn her name and what adventures she might get up to. I think there is a frog involved.

The moral of this story...

Just let go and draw something.


Something new...

So today I am writing about something new. It's a little bit scary and a little bit fun and mostly exciting.  Some of you have already used your sleuthing skills and have picked up on what I am about to talk about.

Good job Sherlocks!   

As you should know, I closed tann|design in 2011.  It was at a time when I was considering taking the business out of my home office and renting a space. The work had gotten too big for me.  I needed a full-time staff.  At the same time, I noticed how little I was around and how much my kids were missing me. So instead of expanding, I shut it all down.  Frankly I was burnt out as well. I had spent too long trying to do it all and it had taken a toll on me. I had lost the love for graphic design.

I took a good year off, doing nothing but enjoying my family.  After that year I wondered if I would ever enjoy design again. I was at a place where I actually started hating it.  But that didn't stop me from having that Creativity Itch.  I still had the desire to create in some way. So I sketched here. Drew there. Painted a little, but nothing too serious.  

Then I was asked if I could teach some private art lessons.  I said sure, I had nothing better to do and it seemed fun. So for 2013 and 2014 I taught drawing.  I ended up really loving it!  I believe strongly that the best way to learn, is to teach. It was really a great time for me and helped me re-discover my love for art. Something I thought I had killed off with tann|design.  It had re-awoken my passion for creating through image.  But it did not re-awaken my love for graphic design. That ship has sailed. We had the funeral. I hates it forevers.

In January 2014, I had made the goal to re-learn the world of illustration. It was my first love and honestly, I am not entirely sure how I got off-track in college. I have some theories, but I won't go into that now. I was rather rusty though. So for that year I re-learned how to draw by hand. No computer stuff.  I took a watercolor class to help me be better in that way. I re-searched other illustrators to see what they were doing, and what skills I needed.  I had no set goal, other to get the rust off my traditional skills. 

So this brings me to the part that scares me.  2015 brings a new goal. It's time to prove my mettle. This is the year I start focusing. No more directionless creation.  I am setting my sights on several projects. Projects mostly involving children's books. I am very excited to start this new chapter in my life. It means a lot of hard work. It means learning a whole new art field. It means, in a lot of way, starting from scratch.  I am left with a lot of questions. Did I re-work my talent enough? Can I catch up to the other illustrators that have ten years+ of work on me? Can I actually achieve a dream I've had since childhood?

I am doing my best to fill my tool belt. I am learning from any platform out there that wants to give me knowledge.  I am also trying to do it with a better balance then I did tann|design.  I am jumping in with both feet. And it is scary. I am going in a place that I've never been. It is familiar and strange all at the same time. I am the captain of my own ship and I don't know these waters.  I have a lot of questions and a lot of doubts, but I am going make the answer to my questions and doubt be YES! Yes I can do this. Yes I can succeed. Yes I can catch up and yes, yes I do in fact have value.

So wish me luck! You will start to see (and have already seen) an uptick in my work. You will see me fail. And you will see me succeed.

I see you 2015.

Well 2014 is heading out the door and 2015 is peeking in.  It's that time once again to think of what we most want to accomplish for the next year.  This past year I kept it simple with only two goals.  To improve my health and improve my art studio.  I believe I was able to achieve both of those goals because i kept it so simple.  So this year I plan to do the same. I want to maintain the progress from this past year, but add two new goals.  

First Goal: Focus 

Now that I have grow my studio a bit, I want to focus in on my illustration. I realized as I tried to improve my fine art painting AND my illustration ideas, I couldn't seem to fully succeed at either. So this New Year I am making a choice to Focus. So for 2015 I will focus mostly on illustration with the goal of completing one or more of the books I have had plans for.  This does not mean I will never paint or draw in Fine Art again, only that it will be taking a back seat for a bit.

Second Goal: Tennis

My younger son has been really wanting to learn Tennis.  This has inspired me to also learn. I have never played and know absolutely nothing about it. I think that it would be a lot of fun if we both learned together. That way he could always have someone to play against!  Dan knew about this goal of mine and already had Santa help out by bringing rackets for the whole family on Christmas. So 2015 is the year of Tennis.

Of course there are a ton of other goals I would love to make. However 2014 is the only year I have EVER achieved my New Years Resolutions. So I definitely want to limit myself again and see if that is the key. :-)

Let me know if you achieved any of your 2014 goals or let me know what your goals are for the New Year!  Happy 2015!

Where did you go Fall???

Here in Texas we don't do cold. If it even hints at a snow flake there is a missive HEB (local grocery store) rush and everything shuts down.  We are more used to Crazy Hot summers and then a fall that kind of goes into spring then back to hot.  Winter is two weeks in January.

However 2014 was predicted to be different and for once, Weather Man, you were right.  It is COLD! And not just "oh its 68 degrees and because I'm Texan it's cold" cold. It's been 32 degrees the past few days.  I know some of you upper north people are saying "that's nothing."  Well true. But I have been in 32 degree weather up north and on a sunny day, it's not always that bad. If you have ever lived anywhere with any kind of humidity. Then you know that it is a whole new level of cold. The humidity creates this phenomenon where the cold can now reach to your soul.  I don't know how that works, but it's a fact.  Here is a shot of me as I am typing this.  In the house.

Tannie Freezing

No I am not going anywhere. This is just who I am now. 

Last weekend was the most beautiful fall weekend.  And then winter arrived. Yep we got two days of fall.  I couldn't figure out how this happened, when suddenly the answer was revealed to me!  I watched Maleficent with the boys and it was pretty obvious after that how it got so cold, so fast.

So yeah. That is my theory and I'm sticking with it.