Creative Process

Blog, Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

Creativity, a need or an addiction for artists? 5 things I do to stay focused on my art!


June is around the corner. And it’s almost the end of the school year which for us means the end of our job contracts in high schools/ secondary schools. And it means also look behind and realise that despite of all going on in our lives, and we’ve definitely had our share this year, we have still been quite creative since January. 

Yann has done some deep sound work in the studio, and rethought the all way we organise our music set. I’ve done some small videos (some are even published on Youtube here), learned new editing tricks, taken pictures, done small drawings. Nothing physically released that’s for sure, no new recording, although we’ve tried hard on that.

I guess like for most artists, creating is a need, can I even say a basic need? One that if it isn’t met messes up all of our lives even where all could go well? Or maybe it could rather be an addiction. Something we got so much used to that we feel we need and to want to experience it again and again?

As the years pass by I’m coming to the conclusion that it isn’t just about “being creative”. It’s also about “staying” and “feeling creative” no matter what. No matter the turmoil of life, no matter if our art doesn’t generate enough revenue to make a living and get us back to side-tiring-non exciting-jobs.

1 Recognise what can’t be done right now

Sometimes it’s just not the time and recognising and accepting it seems to make it easier to navigate through. I’ve seen too many times what denial could do to us. Denying that we aren’t getting the expected gigs/sales/views/streams. Denying that it makes us feel sad and worthless. And fooling ourselves pretending it’s about not giving up. Getting revenue to sustain our living and ensure we’ll be able to live decently, afford healthy food, replace expensive violin strings, do some unavoidable repairs in the house or on the car, all this certainly isn’t about giving up on our creativity.

2 See instead what you can do & start creating something small

We all hear about “dream big”, and keep on seeing this quote shared by anyone on facebook “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” (which btw is by Norman Vincent Peale, author of the Power of Positive Thinking which worth a read ). I feel it’s ok to do so…. when it makes me feel good! When it doesn’t, because let’s be honest when my tour agenda is almost empty the gap is too big for my mind to deal with, I can’t fool myself on that one.

I realised I hadn’t created many videos in years, although it made me extremely happy, and I just thought this was extremely sad. I used to vlog for Astrakan Project. To shoot little sequences just because they had interest for my eyes and because I wanted to see them come to life. There are many reasons for why I was doing less of these. On one hand it’s true that the small equipment I’m lucky to own has its limitations. A lot of limitations for sure, and the truth is also, when I hear our music, I have visions of glorious landscapes and skies that I can’t capture. And I imagine scripts (I wrote a few of them, some even with a storyboard!) that can’t be done with me alone so far.

What was then my cure? Go back to step 1! I acknowledged I couldn’t do these projects right now, and started thinking about what was doable right now. Doable technically. Doable schedule-wise too. I realised I was aiming at creating a full music video, with our tracks being almost all more than 5 min long, that’s a tremendous amount of work, and just the thought was pulling me back from doing anything.at.all! And guess what? It made me so happy to imagine, shot and edit this small sequence with my son!

In a way, I try to change my perspective. Instead of staying stuck into “want I want to do”, I gently try to push myself to also see “what I can easily do” and that makes me (quite as) happy too.

I’m preparing a few more, you can subscribe to our Youtube channel here if you haven’t done so.   http://www.youtube.com/astrakanproject/?sub_confirmation=1.

3 Reduce social media

And I’m serious on that one! More than often I can be more than happy about friends having gigs, tours, exhibitions, and I’m happy to listen to new music people share, discover new videos. But again, if the gap is too big with what I’m experiencing right now, I just see how it makes me feel sad to hear/see their own achievements, and then it builds up to resentment, to feeling like a victim, and I deeply believe feeling like a victim doesn’t really pair with being a thriving artist! My feeling again, everyone is different, some people may get motivated by some sort of competition or revenge, but it’s not my case at all, I need to be centered and at peace to create.

the ghost of me - Simone Alves - Astrakan Project
The Ghost of Me.

Since a reduced my scrolling time, I noticed how I had more clarity, more ideas, and more focus for sure to deepen the ideas I have, and actually create them (I also noticed I could remember vibrant dreams, is that related?). I feel that even “nice”, “inspiring”, “classes”, “how to” content is an excuse for not being creating myself. There’s so much waiting to be done! I have a long way to go, but I’m taking responsibility for trying it out.

4 Read (or listen) to inspiring books instead!

My bible will forever be The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. I don’t know if there’s anyone around that hasn’t heard about her book, but if it’s your case, know that it’s been a companion for a decade, and it’s more than a usual inspirational book. It has concrete steps and exercises to get back on creativity. I could even award it as best-value-book-ever!

My second go to book is Big Magic, Creative Living beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I listen to it actually rather than I read it, but I love it and it has changed my perspective on the expectations I had towards my art. I realised I was putting a lot of pressure on what I was creating. It had to please me, to make me happy, to get me revenue (oh! That’s a big one!), to get me to travel, to get me to meet new people. I realised I needed to accept (remember step 1 😉 ) that if it was really cool when it would happen, I should relax, step back, and re-focus on the process of creating, not on the out-come. To be honest, that’s way easier said than done and experienced!

The author has also a very unique take on inspiration and ideas. For Elizabeth Guilbert, ideas have an existence on their own, like they are floating around waiting for someone to grab them and materialise them into the physical world. A very profound book that I feel like… listening to again as soon as I press the publish button on this post!

I’m personally a big fan of audiobooks, especially for non-fiction books, books about creativity, motivational books. When I discovered about it, I was in awe with all the possibilities. I already loved long drives, but that definitely make them even more exciting! Same goes for cooking sessions!

(This link should give you 1 month for free, which means one book credit for free)

That’s all for today folks, if you have any advice or thought to share with me, please to in the comments below, if that was useful too 🙂

Wishing you a lovely, peaceful and creative week!

A galon / with heart, Simone

PS: Links may be affiliated for some of them (on Amazon for instance). As a friend of Astrakan Project, you allow us to earn a small commission if you make a purchase through our affiliate/referral links. This doesn’t affect you in any way in the checkout process. Thank you for supporting our creative journey!

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Blog, Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

On the (music) road. A long (emotional) road.


We’ve arrived in Greece after 2 weeks travel across the Balkan region (mostly Serbia and North Macedonia) that we miss so much. It had been 2 years since we hadn’t been around, and it really feels like we’re reunited with an ambiance that is deeply part of who we are – or rather have become.

 

We are very happy we had the plan to travel once the album would be released. We did some little promo before our departure, and thanks to the Internet (and easy cheap sim cards!), we can easily manage the rest of it for when we’ll be back to France early November.

Our happiness comes also from a more relaxed way from our behalf to deal with the album release. It’s a true fact that with the experience, we get better at it. And I’m not necessarily referring to the contacts, or the sequence of what needs to be done. That’s the easiest part in a way.

I’m here rather referring to the emotional part of the release, how having a limited audience in a niche style affects what we can do at release time. Basically, despite of the nice support we got during the crowdfunding campaign, we didn’t have huge crowds waiting for Inês album. Also, we got amazing feedback from some media, but also plenty of no replies from radios we’ve worked with previously. From people too. Some sales in the first week, though nothing exceptional.

Honestly, it can be an artist’heart’s killer! But as I said, we now plan for it, and planning for what we most love in the world *travelling* certainly smooths all the mixed feelings we experience. And don’t get us wrong! We do enjoy every bit of this amazing project, all is part of the game, it’s just music after-all, isn’t it? And as years pass by we do improve at staying motivated and grateful no matter what.

http://www.astrakanproject.bandcamp.com/album/in-s

§ Simone.

 

 

 

Blog, Crowdfounding Inês

Doubting aka when your crowdfunding campaign doesn’t go as expected


It’s really been 12 very long days for both of us. 12 days since we launched the crowdfunding campaign, and they seem like months.

12 days with some hopes, some joy, but mostly doubts, and honestly, we weren’t really prepared. We weren’t prepared to how it would affect us, because it does affect us, and to be honest not in the best way. Surely everyday life had recently left us tired, and with limited time to work on music in the perfectionist way that we like. But we weren’t expecting that the campaign itself would be so emotionally draining, and we really start to find it even more complicated to focus on what we love: create music, create art, imagine sounds, or rather layers of sounds.

facsimile livre
testing the book size home – it’s quite nicely large to allow for nice extra artwork and still be readable. 

12 days means we’re halfway tomorrow from the deadline that we set for the 21st of June. It means we should have got at least half of our budget covered, or actually more, since it is hard to keep up with the energy as the days passe by, specially when we’re a small team of 2 people. It’s complicated to come up with new content daily, to re-share, to get in touch back with all the people that said would help promote the campaign and did not yet come back to us. And so far we haven’t reached 24%. Sometimes numbers speak for themselves. Let’s face it.

Some years ago, we would have tried to release it on personal finances, and then get the money back from sales. But we are at the moment not gigging enough to get some direct sales opportunities. Also the local labels we’ve been in touch with, although they did show some interest, did not lead to any production proposal. All that means crowdfunding really seemed like the only option we had, and with a few people on our mailing list, we thought we could easily reach enough folks willing to invest some pennies.

Now.

Now, yes, we do (try to) keep positive, we have been practicing how to sometimes fail and keep it up for quite a few years, and we are the living proof it is possible! (some useful tools here).

  • I made a list of all we will do if by the 21st of June we hadn’t reached the 3000€ goal. And well, that felt good. It includes some travelling with no other purpose than travelling. It includes also some time with our lovely son, who has for most of his young life heard about the album Inês, and from whom we’ve asked a lot of patience while working in the studio and postponing playtime.
  • We also are sure we’ll finish the musical part of the project, meaning having a digital edition. Maybe release it digitally, though it’s still costs for us, and we earn even less from digital editions. Or save it for later, who knows what’s around the corner?
  • We’ll probably send a new newsletter out and ask for what folks think isn’t appealing in our project. Or on the way we presented it. Maybe too complex, when you only have seconds to convince people, we know our music needs time to dive in.
  • If nothing moves by the end of next week, that is by the 17th, we’ll also consider canceling the campaign before its deadline so that we can plan for next summer instead of being waiting.

Anyway, I personally want to hear it from start to finish, I’d rather say, I need to hear it, and just that thought (together with the lovely and generous support of a few of you) gets me back on track.

But right now, everything is still possible – indiegogo page is here is you want to support us 🙂 

A galon / with heart,

* Simone.

Blog, DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

9 months or 4 years? + album Inês big up-date


Dear all,

It has been considerable long time without any up-date from us. Probably because sometimes our progress is so slow that we even barely seem to notice any.

For B album, I remember we started on the 1st of January 2014 on the very first drafts (though we had some ideas of compositions already, or had been working on them for live performances). Anyway, on the 1st of October 2014 we collected the promo samples freshly pressed from the factory. In the meantime we had recorded all the tracks, developed new sounds, new arrangements, done concerts in France, Belgium, and set up our 2 first UK tours, also set up all the legal side, made the artwork for the booklet, edited countless teasers and music videos. That’s 9 months sharp full time into music.

For Project Inês album we must have got the idea around july 2014. Actually while working on the lyrics for Gwerz Inês. The story was so deep that we couldn’t choose a proper angle until we thought we would leave most of it for next album.

Mid 2015 we were already doing some progress on the lyrics/music, and had many ideas about the concept. Broad lines, but most of it was there. At the end of summer 2015 the finances we had asside had gone, and we had to come back to Brittany full time where Yann has been mostly working full time as a teacher. We’ve done the best use we could of holidays for gigs/tours until 2017.

Ar Maured o kuitaat Iberia / The Moors driven away from the Peninsula. Artwork for the concept album Inês (medieval love story between Pedro King of Portugal and Inês de Castro)
Ar Maured o kuitaat Iberia / The Moors driven away from the Peninsula.

We’ve had many ideas for Inês Project. Many. Many musical directions that didn’t work, mostly because we realised it wouldn’t be doable for the 2 of us to set up the ambitious sounds we had in mind at first.

So we did what we always do: one step at the time, we do what is doable. We do with the limited time/money/means we have. We make the most of it, and try to go around limitations, turn them into challenges. Most of the time.

At least we try. When we look back we realise that maybe, we also lost a lot of time by not being focused enough in what matters : creating music. Sometimes we get bitter, anxious, and only see the limitations. They are challenging limitations. Not travelling much is a major source of sadness for sure. Everytime you leave the music for something else, you need to get back into the mood. As quickly as possible! But there’s no other way than to do with what is, right?

Almost 4 years later… that’s starting to be painful, at a certain time, we need to switch to something else too. So, to give you an clear up-date at where we are at…

  • Lyrics are mostly all written, there might be a need for some changes as we go threw the vocals recording.
  • We have all of the tracks structures, sounds, ambiances with minor changes that will occur once vocals will be in place.
  • Most of instruments played by Yann are finalised (guitars, drums, ud and violin).
  • We have a clearer idea about the guests and what they’re doing on which track.
  • We have a clear frame for our crowdfunding campaign (we’ll be using Indiegogo), time frame, money goals, rewards, etc…
  • I have a structure for most of the artwork for every song.

What’s still to be done:

  • Record all the vocals.
  • Get our guests’ tracks to add to the mix.
  • Create most of the artwork – and there’s a lot to be created. Confession time: I need to have to music before I actually can paint. Probably that’s a limiting belief as well!
  • Edit all the graphics for the booklet with all the lyrics + notes.
  • Finalise the mix/master.
  • Translate all the lyrics in French/English.
  • Set up and launch the crowdfunding campaign. That’s a huge part! Includes a lot of promo, editing some videos too, printing some artwork for rewards too. And for that… we need the artwork !
  • All the legal side of the project – taxes – authorisations – etc…

Put that way, we can’ say there hasn’t been any progress ! Wish us luck and plenty of energy.

A galon / with heart,

– Simone.