It’s 5am, and as I sip my coffee, waiting for the computer to boot up, I look out the window at the snowstorm that has taken over the streets of the small Swedish town that I now call home. I feel like a fish out of water, or more accurately: a Californian city boy on the Swedish countryside. Unlike the fish, I’m not gasping for air. If anything, it’s fresher than what I’m used to in California. Many of the Swedes in town ask me why I left my life of sun and beaches behind. There are many answers to that question, but in its simplest form it’s because “My family and I wanted to try something new.”
I’ve been interested in understanding the lengths we’re willing to go to obtain creative inspiration as artists. The thirst for something novel, in a world where its novelty is becoming more abundant than ever. It pushes us towards unexpected circumstances and experiences. Coming to rural Sweden has brought its challenges and limitations, which I believe are good elements for the creative mind. I often felt trapped in comfort in my studio back in California. Being a stranger in a strange land has forced me into a new perspective. It’s given me the opportunity to put my skills and tools in practice. I now have the chance to work with a clean slate, a fresh new canvas. I can create a new version of my artist self with the added benefit of experience from the previous chapters of my life.
Survival as an artist is a constant test of one’s will and creativity. Moving to another country doesn’t make the situation any easier. However, it can have the tremendous benefit of narrowing one’s creative focus. I took inventory of all my creative skills: painting, illustrating, writing, acting, video & photo production, website design, creative project management, and making short and long form social media content. I knew that at least one of these skills must be worth something to somebody in this small town of 10,000 people. I could be the one go-to person in town to offer one of my skills as a service. Yet, I was still missing the obvious. The obvious was that all of these skills together, in combination with my own uniqueness as an artist, was priceless.
Today I hear a lot of advice telling individuals that they “Must niche down”. This principle theorizes that you must find that one path or product and focus all your attention into it. This can be good advice for some people, but it wasn’t working for me. The rebel artist within me had a difficult time holding this doctrine. My professional and creative interests had always been distributed across several mediums and media. It may be true that if you don’t focus on one niche then you won’t become “an expert” in that one thing, but as artists we’re often looking to become experts of our own creative mind. I recently came across a concept, “You are the niche”, in a video from writer/creator Dan Koe. As individuals we each bring our own uniqueness and experience to the world. I knew that I was “one of a kind” as an American artist with a background in media production living in the Swedish countryside. I was able to see creative solutions to problems from a different angle. My self-worth, now becoming revalued, I would need to find those who were in need of my creative skills and services.
I networked as much as I could and before I knew it, my circle had grown enough to begin freelancing for clients. Just within a few months of moving here. I was selling my artwork and prints to those who needed to fill an empty space on their wall. I was making video/photo content and websites for local businesses and associations who needed to update their digital presence. This would eventually lead me to create Projects Unknown Media Division, a content production company.
In September of last year, I held my second art exhibition at Ljusstråk, a local arts and culture event. I displayed my oil paintings and even did a live painting session in my gallery which was hosted by Björk Kafé & Skafferi. This event became a great opportunity to network and display my artwork, but also to talk to people about producing creative content. It was here that I would have the idea that I shouldn’t split my work into two sectors, Projects Unknown which housed my artwork, and Projects Unknown Media Division. I had thought originally that these two aspects of myself were separate endeavors. I thought that by dividing my work into two niches it would be easier for others to categorize me. I found it difficult to manage these two divisions separately of one another but also, I felt it didn’t express my identity as an artist. Now I’ve decided to combine everything under Projects Unknown, to become the niche.
When I’ve talked to some about my business it’s difficult for them to comprehend the depth and span of my work. In my pursuit to bring clarity I’m launching more content this year. Blogs, photos, and videos of the various projects that I’m working on will provide insights on what I do. One of the great lessons I’ve learned from filmmaking is to show through action versus tell through dialogue. I’m aware that I’ve just laid out a whole body of dialogue for you to read, but please see this blog post as the first action of what’s to come. In future content I will discuss the insights and updates on my process and projects. I have a belief this will provide a vision for future clients and collaborators of the services I am capable of. Most importantly, I hope that my journey will also inspire the artist within you to reimagine how you view your creative skills and your artistic identity in a world that’s calling for unique creative minds to take action.
I look forward to you joining me in The Unknown.