Visual

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, DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Hard-copy is not dead & about music visual identity


This unique piece of Artwork travels to Ireland as a reward for contributions to our Crowdfund campaign. Yann has been a few time to Ireland, but I haven’t so far… I’m hoping this painting is opening the road for me, it’s still a dream to go and visit some of the incredible megalithic sites as well as sites linked with Celtic Irish Culture. Performing there would obviously be a bonus 🙂 Let’s send this wish out into the winds!

Music is a classic performed by The Bothy Band in 1976/77 and released in 1996. Full version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aWl_qdUK1o

 

And this one is on its way to the South of France…

ines bras

 

We are still only realizing how slowly incorporating my artwork into the project has become part of it, part of its identity, and has considerably impacted too the way we now envision projects. With the small audience we have, we probably wouldn’t have been able to reach the goal on the Crowdfunding campaign. The artwork is what has generated interest, it made it easy to post regular visual up-dates whereas posting music studio ones could feel a bit of the same.

When we went to local record labels with the project last year, I could sometimes hear something like “is it a book or is it a music album?” “how can we promote it if we’re not sure what it is?” “if it’s a book with just the lyrics, then it might just be a booklet, not a book.”

 

Once again, we are shown that what is hard to understand in the beginning is what makes us stand out and makes us different, and thus helps getting our project been noticed. In a way, the strong visual identity we’ve developed over the years balances the fact that the language we use can sometimes be an obstacle to dive in into our music.

Now that we started to get fantastic and lovely feedback from people receiving the first orders, we also can feel how the visual impact the way they perceive the music afterwards – so far in a very positive way.

Photo Joelle

Every music style is different, but in our case, we can confirm that we get to earn some money from hard copies sales while we barely make any sales on digital-only editions. We even had already a couple of people that ordered first the digital edition (that still includes the book in pdf) and re-ordered the hard-copy, and that was just the first week!

Is there any conclusion? While we hear very often that digital is the future, we can see exceptions all the time, and personaly it’s not what we’ve been noticing (since 2012, we’ve released 3 hard-copies and 2 digital only). Is there any rule? And who makes up the rules? As artists, we are creative people, and being creative is also something we can apply to the way we connect with our particular audience. We still have a lot to learn on that field, but the last months of conceiving and releasing Inês project has certainly been very inspiring in that field.

To be followed!

– Simone.

Blog, Crowdfounding Inês

Small artwork / petites illustrations


(this page relates to our crowdfunding campaign rening right now for our music and book project Inês. Please have first a look at the general campaign!) / (cette page concerne la campagne de financement participatif de notre projet de livre/album Inês. Merci de consulter d’abord la page en français du financement participatif pour y comprendre quelque chose!)

(français plus bas) For a contribution of 90€ you get to choose any of the following art-work pieces. They’re all on watercolor paper (professional quality), and will need to be framed. They all include collage and a mixture of techniques and materials, sizes are different, check each for details. When contributing on indiegogo, please add the title of the piece you choose, or we’ll get back to you.

Pour une contribution de 90€ à notre projet, vous recevrez une illustration originale ayant servi à la réalisation du livre. Toutes les pièces sont uniques, sur papier aquarelle de qualité professionnelle, sans encadrement, et incluent beaucoup de collage parmis les techniques utilisées. Référez-vous à chaque pièce pour les dimensions. Lors de votre contribution sur indiegogo (en anglais), indiquez nous le titre que vous choisissez, sinon nous reviendrons vers vous.

  • 1. The boat – Le bâteau

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)

For song n°1 The triumph of King Alfonso. 30.5*23 cm approx 12*9 inches.

Pour le titre n°1 Le retour victorieux du Roi Alfonso. 30.5*9 cm.

  • 2. Water Spirit 1 / Sylphe 1 (already chosen / déjà choisie)

Water Spirit 1 full

For song n°5 Gwerz Inês, 32*24 cm approx 12.59*9.44 inches

Pour le titre n°5 Gwerz Inês, 32*24 cm.

 

 

  • 3. Water Spirit 2 / Sylphe 2

Water Spirit 2 full

For song n°5 Gwerz Inês, 32*24 cm approx 12.59*9.44 inches

Pour le titre n°5 Gwerz Inês, 32*24 cm.

 

 

  • 4. Water Spirit 3 / Sylphe 3

Water Spirit 3 face.JPG

For song n°5 Gwerz Inês, 25*18 cm approx 9.84*7.08 inches

Pour le titre n°5 Gwerz Inês, 25*18 cm.

  • 5. The swans / Les Cygnes

    Swans full

For song n°3 The Hunt, 32*24 cm approx 12.59*9.44 inches

Pour le titre n°3 La Chasse, 32*24 cm

 

 

  • 6. The Knight / Le Chevalier

    Knight full

For song n°4 Inês Trial 30.5*23 cm approx 12*9 inches.

Pour le titre n°4 Le Jugement d’Inês 30.5*9 cm.

 

 

to Indiegogo campaign now! 

 

For this reward we will also include / dans cette récompense il y a également :

+ Hand numbered copy of the Album/book freshly arrived from the factory / un exemplaire numéroté du libre/album à sa sortie

 1 cover artwork repro A5 size on 300g/m² light cardboard / une reproduction de la couverture en format A5 sur carton léger 300g/m2

+  4 Postcards set (artwork repros from Simone’s artwork used for album covers A6 size) / la série de 4 cartes postales des couvertures des albums d’Astrakan Project 

 Full album download ( It will come with the lyrics+translations in french and english on a nice PdF)  / le téléchargement de l’album (avec l’intégralité des traduction en anglais et français en format PdF)

Blog, Sound & Video

Road trip + street art + music all in one!


#shamanstick is a land & street art project around “En Anv Doue ma Mamm” is which we combined most of our passions: music, visual arts, video making, road trip and Breton language. PdF with artwork HR pics will be coming soon!

This adventure is being quite fulfilling, and we have many ideas for our next travels!


Be among the first to get info about our projects and releases by subscribing to our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/vhBnn

 

Song from album B http://astrakanproject.bandcamp.com/album/astrakan-project-b
Artwork project #shamanstick & video edit by Simone Alves 2017
Music “En anv Doue ma Mamm”
Lyrics & music base: traditional, Brittany
Arrang : Astrakan Project
© & ® simone alves & yann gourvil 2014

Roadtrip Be+Nl+Dk+Sv april 2017

Musicians' Diary

How to survive as a musician in the 21th century visual world?


This is the time we realise music isn’t enough. Whatever a musician’s music quality, in our visual era, it isn’t enough. Music, and even good music, is everywhere. But either it has to get really loud either wrapped in great colours before it catches ones ear.

[youtube http://youtu.be/W8r-tXRLazs]

This is the time we realise to get our music heard, we first need to work and be highly creative on the visual side, either on video making, either on press pics, or on album covers. We knew it somehow.

How to get the right image for our music? A big question we’re trying to answer our way. Any ideas or comment on the way we are doing?

§ Simone

 

astrakan breton world music on facebook

Musicians' Diary

Making new with old


the concert dress project celtic world music project
The Concert Dress Project – part 1

This is exactly what our music is about: taking something old, that you would almost not use any more, and bring it to a new life, turn it into a new experience. The old will still be there, but it will taste so much different that it will stand out.

And the Dress then?

Well the dress is a very old concert dress, that I used again and again for years, that I used indeed so much until it was so tired and threadbare that I couldn’t wear it any more. But I can’t get rid of it so easily. I haven’t been able to for years, so I’ll use our music technique: turn it into something totally new!

§ Simone

Astrakan celtic world music album on bandcamp

Musicians' Diary

Because music is not only about music…


It’s also about creating another world in which you can feel and sense our music, in which everything will tell you “you are there”.

diy musician painted tambourine get visual
Maybe some more ribbons?

I had started decorating this small tambourine I use on stage for a couple of songs, but then, I felt it missed some extra twist and colours to really fit into the way our music has evolved. Not done yet, but I’m getting there, and I’m excited to try it… I’m sure it will really look cool.

§ Simone