Full Circle: The One Minute Martini

The One Minute Martini from Shayla Maddox on Vimeo.

(a video dedicated to Michael J. Sonntag)

[Shot with my iPhone, edited in iMovie.]

Let me explain a few things about martinis.

There is no "right" way to make one.

When I turned 21, I decided that I wanted to drink martinis occasionally; because they looked cool to hold; made me feel very retro-chic; and most importantly, gave me a go-to drink to order at a bar when I was (as yet) inexperienced with ordering things in bars.

It helped that I really, really liked green olives. I could eat a jar of them. Seriously.

But! At 21, drinking what is basically straight vodka or gin in a cool looking glass takes a bit of effort. I wasn't looking to get drunk (well, a little), I was looking to enjoy the freaking martini. Like people in black and white movies seemed to.

Martinis are an acquired taste. Just watch the face of someone who hasn't tried one before when they taste it. Abject horror.

So, like the dedicated soldier that I am, I powered through and spent the subsequent 10 years perfecting my martinis. Over the course of this time I naturally developed the complete adoration of this drink exactly as I'd hoped.

The opinions and information people put out about how to make the "right" martini vary greatly. The internet is filled with nonsense about the exact steps and ingredients one must use to make a proper martini, and anything even slightly different than this is blasphemous to the martini gods who will then banish you from ever drinking with martini drinkers ever again. Puh-lease.

It's a martini.

Fortunately, I have a friend who is a bit older than me and had already perfected his martini by the time I was 21. He happily took me under his martini wing to educate me over the course of these past 10 years. I credit all my usable martini knowledge to him. In fact, the martini glasses used in this video were a wedding gift from him.

Anyway. Back to martinis.

I use vodka. Ice cold, I keep it in the freezer when we have vodka at all. I personally think gin tastes like pine trees, but as my martini mentors have told me they are starting to prefer gin, I may have to be a little more open minded.

Use as much vermouth as you want. Some people don't like it, and use less. (which is called "dry.") Some people need more. ("wet") I use about a capful.

Shaken versus stirred actually makes no difference to me as far as flavor (now that I like the taste of them) but friction with the ice is good for softening it (and necessary when you haven't pre-chilled your vodka.)

I used to drink them "dirty" (with added olive brine) but I later decided that the brine made the drink waaayyy too salty, so now I just add olives. I've also been known to add cherry tomatoes and basil. Live it up, ya know?

The one thing I have learned over this last decade is that all the mysticism over how to make martinis is just that. Make it how you want. There is no right way. The point is to make one (or two) and get on with your life. Preferably while looking all retro-chic and holding a martini glass like the badass you are.

Wearing pearls is optional.

Fighting Disillusionment

Disillusionment with everything, really. Politics, the economy, the art market, humanity's appreciation of art and artists, the community in which I live, jobs, money, savings, travel, myself, my career, my interests, my options.

There was an article published this month in the New York Times called Maybe It's Time For Plan C about independent business owners and artisans experiencing the downsides of pursuing their dreams.

To say the least, it was disheartening.

I took a bit more time off from painting than I intended to. I spent time reading, thinking, exploring new/old hobbies, pursuing interesting avenues to augment my business. During this time I began to wonder... Am I even doing the right thing? In general? In life?

Will I one day be sitting in a pile of broken canvas after some inevitable apocalypse wishing I'd spent less time thinking about my art business and more time learning to fish, to garden, to (God-forbid) sew?

Okay, maybe not. I'm not banking on inevitable apocalypses. Yet.

Ultimately, I love what I do and I do it because I'm good at it, dammit. These are my skills, and that's what I'm offering to the world, and you know what? I keep discovering that I have more skills than I thought. My definition of "artist" continues to expand, and that excites me. It involves so much more than paint. Regardless of what one might think of my art, I'm good at being an artist.

And I don't just want to be good at it, I want to be unearthly badass at it. This might take me the rest of my life, of course. Which means, counting backwards, I had better be on my way this very second.

Here's where the kicker really happens: I know that I am on my way. I know this because I'm working towards something. I know this because I'm pursuing it wholeheartedly. I get up early, I do never-ending "business things," I paint, I write, I plan, I dream, I even freaking make videos now, I work, I work, I work. All. Day. Long. Even when I take time off, I work. I'm constantly pursuing more work. I'm always trying to add more in my life, not less.

Most importantly, I know I'm on my way because I can see a distinct and measurable difference in my life over the last 10 years. 

Hell, that's even true exponentially over the last 5 years.

.forward motion.

I just have to stay pointed in that direction. One foot in front of the other. Always.

I have no interest in "retirement." I am not looking for a scheme by which to get rich so that I can stop doing the very things I was born to do. I am not going to let my life pass by in a series of intentions and promises.

I've started painting again. I've almost finished a new piece. I'm about to start three more.

The fog is lifting.

Thus begins the age of video previews.

People online have told me so many times that they wish they could see my art in person.

Well, this isn't *quite* the same, but... pretty close, right?

I've wanted to utilize video for years. It's finally that time.

This is just a short preview of a painting I'm almost-but-not-quite-done with. I noticed how much it sparkled in the sunlight and knew immediately that I should show you.

I love living in the future. :)

Full Circle: Repainting Art

For the record, I don't repaint things very often. Sometimes I just feel like the emotions I had while painting it the first time have changed so drastically as to make the art seem "wrong" to me.

This is especially interesting given that it's important to me that each painting be reactive to all types of light, and change throughout the seasons. I guess it goes deeper than that too, as I occasionally want (need) to alter something to reflect who I am at a later time, and how I've changed.

When a painting is purchased by a collector, the piece feels done to me. I have no desire to change it at that point. Once someone else has found something in it so profound that they want to own it, to have it in their own space, it seems to me that the process by which the art came about is complete. I make my art to put out in the universe. When it has a purpose higher than myself, an importance in someone else's life, it no longer belongs to me.

This might be an example of my crazy artist brain. I'm not sure. Some artists outright destroy their own work. I do know that I value my right as an artist to do what I want with my own art. There is the possibility I will repaint something on a whim if I suddenly feel the urge to do so. In this sense, it's good to get the painting away from me, out into the world so that I no longer feel any power over it, or powerlessness to the emotional struggle it causes me.

Either way, it's all part of my internal process in life. I view it as a good thing.

Perfectionism and The Creative Gap

(originally said by Ira Glass, of This American Life, and subsequently spread around the internet on blogs and through Twitter by various creative types. I can't determine who made this particular graphic.)

I'm a perfectionist, allow me to just say that upfront. 

I set impossible standards for myself, ones that I couldn't be expected to achieve, and then experience the soul-crushing reality of having not achieved those things. In some ways, this ongoing ritual forwards my ability to accomplish goals and motivates me to work harder. Often, it just sets off a downward spiral of disillusionment and self-loathing.

You can imagine how this goes when I utterly fail at something. It's hard to tell what is failure and what isn't, of course, since anything short of perfection tends to be regarded as failure. There are tears. There is depression. There is the general belief that everything will come crashing down, that everything I do is a waste of time, that my goals are nothing more than a mirage in the distance, something I never quite arrive at.

Here's the thing about perfection: It's an illusion. 

I have a few friends who have claimed that at some point in the vague distant future they are going to "launch" themselves and their careers after they have perfected all the kinks and nuances of who they intend to be. See, I don't actually believe this method is possible. I don't think one can burst forth into the universe fully formed, with a fully functioning website, a beautiful portfolio, a backlog of internet history, and plenty of obvious experience and high-profile contacts like the midcareer rockstars they want people to believe they are.

You have to suck first. Publicly. You have to start with crappy materials, make dumbass comments, put out bad work. I know, it's shocking, and a punch in the stomach, but that's how it has to be. I sincerely believe this. What I hear when people talk about how one day they will arrive on the scene in perfect form ready to "start" their successful careers is delusion, and the probability of it never happening at all. ProTip: You're never going to feel ready.

Successful people fail first. It's not that they're not embarrassed about the stupid things they did early on, or continue to do. It's the feeling of being uncomfortable that inspires them to do better, to improve. How do you even know what you suck at if you don't put it out there? How will you make better work if you don't have a starting point?

You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I don't want to be someone who never improves because I never tried. I want to get as close to my high standards as I possibly can. I can't imagine how bad I'd feel about myself if I hadn't been willing to put less than stellar material into the world that has gotten better over the course of years, that still continues to improve as I go. I want to start new things and improve upon those as well. I want to constantly be evolving into the best that I can be.

I will never achieve anything remotely close to this without first taking risks that may or may not work, and sucking it up when they don't. If I don't have the skills to learn and adapt, how will I achieve anything? How will I survive?

It starts somewhere. If it doesn't, it has nowhere to go. 

I don't want to ever reach a point in which I feel I have accomplished everything I set out to do, that I am somehow complete. There's always something to do better. There's always a way to reach higher. The satisfaction, ultimately, comes from embracing the road to get there, and simply enjoying the process, through all the pain and triumph and embarrassment. 

I am the work in progress. 

Full Circle: Are you a dreamer?

 My Ode to Waking Life.

Made with my iPhone, the Cartoonatic app, and iMovie on my MacBookPro.

Full Circle: Think Tank

It's Video Blogging Monday!!

Putting my new computer to use. Also, you know, vlogging is the sport of the future.

'Think Tank' because that's where I've been and what I've been doing these last two weeks.

Be gentle, it's my first time.