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Who are you and what do you do?
I am Cecy Esparza, a Mexican “todóloga”.
Todóloga – Literally means “to be an everything-studier”. The more English translation is, “to be a jack of all trades”. The word todólogo/a is made up of todo meaning “everything” and the suffix – logo/a which means “one who studies”
My parents didn’t mind what I did or studied as long as I had a career to have the security of finding a job if I needed to. My brother always told me I should choose one thing to do and be the best at it but I just wanted to do it all.
Looking for my definitive definition and identity I’ve had a couple of crisis through the years.
I decided to give curated sections of me including only the relevant parts depending on who asked, “mexican”, “tourismologist”, “model”, “artist”, blah… but the more I look, the more words, and adjectives, trades and experiences I go through, the more difficult it becomes to keep my different “identities” in check.
What’s your background?
I am mainly a self taught artist. People often think because I do many “artistic” or creative things, I probably have an art formation background. In reality I am a Tourismologist by profession (B.A. in Tourism Business Management). I have experience in hospitality, event planning, costumer service and other fields.
The closest thing to an art formation I had were two art class experiences in basic drawing and oil painting during university as extracurricular courses. More recently I had another oil painting class at the Upper Hutt Woman’s Community Centre in Wellington.
My mom’s side of the family, even though not artists by profession either (mainly teachers), do have a fame of being “todólogos” as we say in Spanish. My grandpa used to come up with many ways to sustain the family from photography to selling sweets and snacks to cake decorating.
From there my mom, aunt and uncles developed a sense of doing everything on their own and coming up with creative ways to make a living, leading to me and my cousins with an infamous curiosity to try and do it all.
What’s your media of choice?
Even though I’ve had two oil painting classes I actually don’t really use oils too often. My media of choice are acrylics and ink.
Drawing has always come easy to me and after participating in the Inktober Challenge for two consecutive years, I’ve grown comfortable with pen and ink drawing, loving the finish and look it gives over the traditional graphite or pencil drawing.
Acrylics is the paint that I’ve used the most and in more variety of occasions. Over my university years, I painted two acrylic murals used in the XXVIII Touristic & Gastronomic Show & the 2018 Oaxacan Festival at Ms Millenium Hotel.
Why do you do what you do?
Nobody told me art wasn’t serious or I couldn’t do it but I was never encouraged to pursue it either. Based on my subconscious preconceptions of life and my inherited curiosity for culture and the world (this one from my father’s side) I decided to go into Tourism Business Management.
My father also had his own business (doctor’s office) so my idea of success in life was being my own boss, therefore Business Management looked like the obvious decision and adding tourism to the pot made it a match made in heaven for me at the time.
But as we know, “Not everything that shines is gold”…
After experiencing the idea and the mindset other people had towards the career plus the low pay rate and awful treatment through the different sectors of the industry (in my experience mainly coming from supervisors and managers) I decided this wasn’t going to be a sustainable life and career path for me.
I always tried to push my art and creativity here and there in my former years but was always either put down for my impracticality or taken advantage of.
2020’s pandemic and my mental health issues really pushed me to finally find my way through the creative world. I needed some way of being fully recognized and appreciated for my strengths instead of constantly living through the unappreciated unseen creative extra mile efforts.
Hello and welcome to this first Artist Way check in. If you don’t yet know what the Artist Way is, it is a book written by Julia Cameron that is meant to guide artist and creatives of all walks of life through a 12 week process of self discovery and unlock of your creative freedom. If you’re curious to know more about it and see the recompilation of my weekly check-ins, check out this blog where I describe the different components of the 12 week journey and tools included in the book:
There is some tasks that I didn’t fully complete within it’s own week so the completion of each week does merge with one another on occasion. I decided to include the tasks as I like to illustrate and compile them but I don’t want to spoil them if you’re about to do it yourself and want to discover what each week entails by yourself so beware!
The weekly check ins in this blog answer the questions Julia asks to put your progress into perspective. I added the weekly tasks to the list and categorized the questions as follow:
- Morning Pages:
How many days this week did you do your morning pages?
- Artist Dates:
Did you do your artist date this week? What did you do? How did it feel?
- Weekly Tasks:
I added the weekly tasks here.
- Check In:
Did you experience any synchronicity this week? What was it?
Were there any other issues this week that you consider significant for your recovery? Describe them.
Without further a do, let’s have a look at these weeks’ check ins!
Week 1: Recovering a Sense of Safety
- How many days this week did you do your morning pages?
7/7 Days. Word Count: Mon 728, Tue 640, Wed 775, Thu 860, Fri 1567, Sat 1080, Sun 1142
I decided to write on the computer because of my hand injury. The first days Jono and I were van camping so I wrote on the phone and it was uncomfortable for my hand so I kept an eye on the word count to be done when I reached the number. When we were back home, I tried to fill in 3 pages on word and didn’t keep an eye on the world count. I had a lot in my mind after starting therapy a few months ago and I hadn’t been writing any of my thoughts down for ages. I also didn’t have work yet so I wrote a lot.
- Did you do your artist date this week? What did you do? How did it feel?
I didn’t set aside specific time to do anything thinking “ this is my artist date” but I did the 20 minute walk in the tasks.
I also had a small painting session by myself before I started the Artist Way while Jono and Dom were watching tv. I felt restless and I wanted to get up and do something else and I felt like painting. This was the 27th of December, before we went away on the van trip and about 5 days before I started the artist way but I count it because it’s the first time in a long time (or maybe ever) that I just wanted to do art because I felt like doing it and resort to it for comfort, not to achieve an end result or wanting to be productive.
I won’t go into detail with the actual names or characteristics of people listed.
- Time Travel: List three old enemies of your creative self-worth
- Family member
- Teachers, mostly in university
- Bosses, in particular one of my first jobs at an office
- Time Travel: Select and write out one horror story from your monster hall of fame
This person used to always call me lazy because I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do. They were very authoritarian. They also said I fake sang because I sang in a high pitch voice mirroring power metal bands my brother and I listened to at the time. I also wasn’t musically trained and struggled to be able to sing freely later in life because of this comment. My throat would hurt. They also took a drawing I made in one of their rage outbursts and used the back to write a sign with a marker as a form of scolding for something I didn’t do directly. Ruining the drawing. Later in life they were amazed at my drawings and heard me singing the phantom of the opera and said “I didn’t know you could sing”. Of course they didn’t. They were the reason why I wouldn’t.
- Write a letter to the editor in your defense
As I mention later on the issues for recovery check in, I find it hard to put myself in the position of the wounded child. I wrote the thank you letter first (task coming up) and I wrote a beautiful 2 page letter that made me feel really good and I cried. Doing it this way made the letter in my defense to an enemy even more difficult. Because I liked the thank you letter and I wanted to send it to the person and I went into the letter to the editor with that idea too. I couldn’t get myself to write something thinking they’d read it. Then I tried to put myself in the position of the wounded child and make it funny and cartoony but I couldn’t. I left this task undone until the end of week 2 and all I got around to write at the end just to give the task a tick was:
“You shouldn’t have treated me like that. I was just a girl. You turned off my light. You took away my desire to do things that I was passionate about. You made me feel small and worthless.”
Maybe I’ll process this in time and get around to writing the funny wounded child letter at some point but not this time.
- Time Travel: List three old champions of your creative self – worth
- 4th – 9th grade spanish, physics and chemist teacher
- After school English teacher
- Amalgamation of teachers that helped me to get through high school when I was depressed and had family issues
- Time Travel: Select and write out one happy piece of encouragement. Write a thank – you letter
This was a long two page letter to my 4th – 9th grade teacher who was very disciplined but encouraging. While writing I realized this was a person who didn’t only compliment my drawings or a specific thing I did but always praised my (and I assume other student’s) efforts. I realized that my creative worth and sense of self worth in general lies on people diminishing me, my personality and my efforts rather than my artwork or work in general.
The idea of having somebody that was so encouraging for my efforts going the extra mile formed my character to try and go the extra mile, even if other people would go and diminish my efforts later in life. It brought me comfort that amongst all the bad memories and pain of my childhood, there was people that saw and encouraged me for what I was and my efforts rather than results. (Even though, I was a really good student that liked putting efforts into presentation and this teacher valued presentation so she might’ve been biased to my work.)
- Imaginary Lives: If you had five other lives to lead. What would you do in each of them? Select one and do it this week.
- Cultural Anthropologist / Historian
- Psychologist / Therapist / Art Therapist / Physical and Mental Rehab
- Costume Maker
- Graphic Designer / Digital Artist
- Musical Theater Singer / Actress
There’s many things I’ve thought about doing when I was young and even now a days. I keep thinking of all the things I could be if it wasn’t so difficult money wise and in many cases, networking wise. These are a few of the most recent ones that have been around my head. I wrote quite a few more which was handy because on week 2 they ask you for 5 more.
This week, I learn how to read music and practice piano (musical theater) and made a mushroom hat (costume maker).
- Write down your blurts. Work with each individually. Turn each negative into an affirmative positive.
I wrote about 15 blurts, worked and turned about 10 of them into affirmations. I’ll share with you my top 3 of the 5 they asked for in week 2 and how I worked through them.
|You ask too much of yourself and nobody asked nobody asked for thesis / postgraduate quality work (extra mile efforts).
You weren’t meant for your career (tourism & hospitality when I mentioned I was happy doing other creative work).
– University Teacher
|My efforts matter. My contributions matter. I add value to the world. I am worthy of doing and contributing valuable things. My opinion matters. I am worthy of taking space in the world.
You don’t have personality.
– Two bosses from two different jobs.
|I am lovable. I have a strong personality. I am confident. I am proud to be different and sensitive. I deserve love and respect. I am worthy of love. I experience life fully. It’s ok to be scared and unsure. People love me the way I am. I am enough.
I am resilient, I am capable, I continue to learn and grow, I am confident in my abilities, I am proud of my accomplishments, I am enough. I am allowed to be sensitive and vulnerable.
|You’re lazy and you’re not helpful or officious.
– Family members
|I am active, I am industrious, I am energetic. I am my own person, I am determined and persevering. I am reliable. I am valuable regardless of what I do.
- Take your artist for a walk, the two of you. A brisk twenty-minute walk can dramatically alter consciousness
- Did you experience any synchronicity this week? What was it?
“In psychology, synchronicity is defined as the occurrence of meaningful coincidences that seem to have no cause; that is, the coincidences are acausal.”
I just feel like I had so much to get out of my system and I’ve been wanting to find an outlet and this is the right time for me to go through this process. Although I had the notion of the artist way in my mind, I first read the “Building a life worth living book”, then “Nobody’s normal” then this. Yes, I picked those books off the shelf and yes I chose which one to read first but I didn’t calculate what was best in what order or think that I needed to read those books. I was only curious but everything was just right.
- Were there any other issues this week that you consider significant for your recovery? Describe them.
I struggled to write the letter to the editor in my defense. I find it hard to put myself in the position of the wounded child. I keep putting blame and shame on myself. Even though I’ve always shouted for people to see me and I put myself in the position of the victim, I’m not used to actually being acknowledged and value myself as something or someone worth defending and fighting for.
Hello everyone! Welcome to this blog. We’re putting together a little impromptu book club. This one is for all the artists out there. The Artist’s Way is book written by Julia Cameron where she explains her method to unlock stagnant creativity and allow it to flow uninhibited. It consists on a 12-week course that helps people unlock their capacity for creativity — whether in art, at work, or in life. At its core, it’s a great practice to access more delight, curiosity, and creative inquiry within your daily life.
For me, in the first couple of weeks, and along side my therapy journey (that started a few months ago) it has been helping me accept that side of myself that doesn’t fit in with the expectations of this capitalistic, productivity and generally “left-brained’ oriented world.
To define is to limit.My very first favorite writer, Oscar Wilde
Side note: Did you know the left and right brain hemisphere dominance is most likely a myth? It’s funny how things people come up with at different times in history stick and we keep internalizing it in our culture and speech. In this case categorizing ourselves arbitrarily by putting ourselves in a box and installing limiting beliefs and insecurities.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.George Santayana
If you’re interested in more of this talk, I recommend this other book I read recently: Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness. “This book argues that stigma is a social process that can be explained through cultural history, a process that began the moment we defined mental illness, that we learn from within our communities, and that we ultimately have the power to change.”
That’s how the saying “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” becomes more real.
Morning Pages (Explanation by Julia)
I love how sassy Julia comes across in her writing so I’ll be adding a few direct quotes from her website and book on occasion. In this case, her explanation of morning pages goes as follows:
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
I must say, I deviate a bit from her suggestions. I’ve been sharing my morning pages with my therapist but I assume a trusted therapist it’s a fair exception. I also started the therapy process before starting this artist discovery journey so I’m taking the morning pages as a tool for my own personal mental health process.
I also have been mainly writing in the mornings but I must say, I’d usually think about journaling at the end of the day to unleash the weight of the day rather than in the mornings and I’ve definitively found myself doing my “morning” pages in the late afternoon or night…
Artist Dates (Explanation by Julia)
Artist Dates are assigned play.Julia Cameron
The artist dates, as the author would say are assigned play. About 2 hours once-weekly time set aside to do something that brings you joy and sparks creativity. This is meant to be a “solo expedition to explore something that interests you” to “spark whimsy” and “encourage play”.
“Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.”
There’s lots of great lists of artist dates all over the internet so if you get stuck on coming up with ideas, I highly recommend checking those out. A good thing to do is to pick a few ideas you like, put them into a jar and pick them every time is time for your artist date. This would help with the decision paralysis and prevent overthinking once it’s that time of the week. Not knowing what your date for the day would be may lead to even more free flow of creativity.
Weekly Tasks (PDF)
The weekly tasks follow the reading material of the week. If there’s anything I could critique about this book so far is that I feel the author goes on a bit too long about the topics. Since it’s a workable book and it was originally a group of individual exercises Julia came up with, it feels like the description and reading material can almost be unnecessary.
The tasks are simple in principle but challenging if you do stop to think through and of course, being topics that are so close and personal makes them emotionally charged.