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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bounce back with me

Bouncing back has never been so sweet.

For those who know me from my earlier country-style graphics and my website Amretasgraphics, you might remember my ups and downs running the site, my joy every weekend and after office-hours drawing graphics for your country-style websites (long before blogs were "in"), and my constant trial-and-errors with sharing and selling the graphics online. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

For those who know me from my professional life, well, some of you might have discovered in some points that I 'hang out' a lot with my computer even after office hours. And the fact that most of the time my work required a high dose of visual creative touch - that might be the reason my personal artistic life has been disguised, perfectly.

For those who know me as the daughter of my father - a contemporary painter who has dedicated much of his life to fine art - this might not come as a surprise. A great aunt even wrote a comment on my Facebook post, expressing her thanks to God that I 'finally' followed my father's path. I heard a loud cheers from that side of my world. But it is still a loooong way to that path, great aunt!

Somehow I looked back, and thought how it was something I never expected to happen in my childhood, where I witnessed my parents' everyday struggle for life. My father lived in those times where there were not many options for artists to make a living from their art. It looked normal at that time that I would never, ever, want to go into art. Yes, I danced, as a Javanese girl I had to be able to dance traditional dances. And I fell in love with the violin at age 13 after watching on TV maestro Henryk Szeryng playing Beethoven's violin concerto.

But the idea of making art for a living? No no no. "Did you want to have a hard life like your parents?" No no no. "You should be an engineer, a doctor, an economist" Even my old wise dentist told me so while checking my unhappy teeth. By now I never even wanted to touch a sketchbook. It was the violin who kept me sane, however. And Mr Bach, Mr Mozart, Mr Beethoven, Mr Kreisler, and Mr Vivaldi. Well, Madonna, too, sometimes. That's how I learned English :-)

Looking back again, I see now that my spirit guides - whoever they are - had never given up. Being an exchange student for a year in France, I was given a host family who did every sort of art in the weekends. It was my host mom, Monique, who 'forced' me into drawing that one weekend in the garden and told me "you should draw more!" "Non, maman, I can't draw" "Are you kidding?" and then we went on visiting ALL museums in town. And she gave me more blank sketchbooks and oil pastels. I didn't like oil pastels.

Half year in France I was sent to vacation-stay with another host family in Nice, in the South of France. There I got another host mom who I think had made my spirit guides jump up and down from extreme excitement. Maryse took me to St Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, and I had, beyond everything I could think of, that strange but very strong 'home' feeling of being surrounded by the artwork of Miro, Matisse, and Picasso. All those paintings I had seen in the books on my father's desk.

The next thing I could remember, when I was home again in my hometown Yogyakarta after that one year in France, I told my father about that experience and he was only silent but he had a little tears in his eyes.

I still didn't think art was my world.

So I moved to Jakarta, went to study French at the university and later to a secretarial school. At my first job as a secretary, I was taught Corel Draw by the in-house graphic designer for work purpose - he didn't have any idea what he had brought me!

In 1999, already at my second job, my then boss told me he saw I could make a good web designer (again, a motivation for work purpose, but he didn't have any idea what the impact would be!). I started to experiment with creating websites, using Geocities at that time, and my first personal website was all about violin.

When I couldn't find any graphics to illustrate the content of my website, I started to experiment with drawing programs: Microsoft Paint and Photo Editor.

And that's how it all began...

1 August 2000, Amreta's Graphic Corner was up on the web world, on geocities.
27 October 2001, I purchased the domain www.amretasgraphics.com

2003 - started packaging my graphics and selling them online, using an online payment service called Emetrix. PayPal was not available for Indonesia at that time, so everything was done manually, much of experiment here and there.

2005 - server crashed. Lost database.

2006 - started blogging on amretasgraphics.blogspot.com  on and off until 2011
I think I was quite an avid blogger, and I was diligently experimenting with my own graphics to decorate the blog. I saw some possibilities to package my graphics into blogging themes and add them to my online shop, but I made a major mistake: I was into thinking that I was very busy at work, with lots of happenings, with lots of projects I had to handle. There was no more room for other 'hobbies'. My work was my play. 

Yup, a real blunder. With that kind of mindset, you can imagine what would follow suit, and what I would miss out on.

Worse, I didn't have a good system for selling the graphics on the internet. No more new graphic packages, no more updates, and should I say that it resulted in no more new customers? I really had no clue. I was still blogging, though, but mostly about what's up in my life. I even posted several 'starting overs', which means I had fallen several times. But hey, I got up again. Again and again.

I'm just craving of finding that damn good system - even if that system means "habits" - as I learned that creativity is a habit - a damn good step-by-step which would make it  possible for me to have my digital shop up online and running without having to go through that fall-and-get-up-again cycle. Even though I'm not afraid of falling - been there done that several times now - and because I would bounce back again and again, I still don't want to feel the pain of "never learning from experience". It made me feel stupid, made me feel dumb.

Perhaps having the courage to go on and to go through every learning experience is also a challenge for me in this journey. When finally Paypal was open for Indonesia a few years ago, I quickly signed-up and went on to the next experiments: trying out shopping platforms like Big Cartel, Etsy, Meylah, and setting up a shop on my own website. But yeah, perhaps I didn't have enough courage to go through everything. I was in the trial-and-error mode all the time. And by the time I thought it didn't work, I was down and discouraged. What's wrong with this? I asked myself several times. And then I let my site and blog and shop go on hiatus.

"You didn't do enough marketing", analyzed a crafter friend, "...you should learn how to package your stuff, make it something interesting for 'your ideal customers' to buy, and well, keep marketing to those people". The fact is, I read books about marketing, and hello, marketing is part of my office work. Why couldn't I implement what I learned to my own online shop? Back to the courage thing...

Did I have a lot of excuses?  Whatever. Being an entrepreneur requires a huge amount of courage, that's what I learned. I admire those successful people. How did they do it? I know nothing was easy in the beginning, even for those successful entrepreneurs. There were a lot to overcome until they arrived to that 'overnight success'.

So you see, I reached the rock bottom. It's not easy to admit. I've been in this trial-and-error  mode for years now. Somehow this cycle has to end.

But there's another behind-the-screen story too, to this.

Some of you might know my story about me going to Bali in new year 2013 to find stories about my late father, who lived as a young artist in Bali in the 50s and early 60s. It was a wake up call for me to go back to art - the same strange wonderful feeling - or even stronger - as that feeling I had in France when I was 17. And during these times, I had almost given up my art life.

I concentrated on my research about my late father almost the whole year of 2013, visited his grave and started a website in January 2014, ten years after his death. Soon after my return to Jakarta, in February I was 'introduced' to Adobe Illustrator - and I couldn't stop. As if armed with all the stories, findings and spirit I absorbed during my research about Dad, I found a new energy, and a new style.

And this time, I uploaded the new graphics to my personal Facebook account.

And there came the surprise. Many of my personal friends and even extended family members were suprised. And to my surprise, a lot of them gave huge interest and had ideas what to do with my new artwork. My former coworkers turned out to be postcard collectors, mug collectors, and my cousins wanted t-shirts with my drawings screen-printed on. I enlisted my own mother, who quickly found suppliers to do the work in my hometown. I thought we had successfully started a tiny if not small business.

Until I fell into that trap again - when I thought I was very busy at work and no room for personal art life. Very bad trap. Now I know it, and I can tell you!

I was very busy at work, and when not busy, I was constantly sick. My blog and website was still up but no updates, and my last blog post was published in March.

I really didn't know what to do. Energetically I was stuck.

Until that one fateful lunch break in early October where I remember the wise and beautiful Chantal Monte in Bali told me over a session to think of my father's energy (for help) and draw on paper. I was at work, feeling unwell, and had only 35 minutes. So I made a drawing. Believe it or not, but as I thought of my father's energy, it just flowed. It was love, I could feel it. Love of life, and it was a life force.

1 p.m. drawing was done. I felt much better. I snapped the drawing with my phone and posted on Instagram, reposted on Facebook. 77 likes!

A few days and a lot more drawings later, my headache was totally gone, no more bloated stomach, and I slept well at night. A total luxury. I just found my own prescription! (it's no magic though, I also took traditional turmeric drink and detox tea, plus vitamin C - but those didn't really work before I did the lunch break drawing habit).

Later I learned that creative energy is the same as life force, when it is repressed, the body becomes sick. Eureka! I will keep drawing in this energy. I posted more drawings on my personal FB again, and kind words just kept pouring.

And when a few friends started to ask whether they could buy the drawings?.... hmmm.

A good sign.

Time to bounce back. And this time, I've learned something important, and it's going to be a sweet bounce-back.

Also I've learned, when the life force flows, synchronicity happens. And it just happened, as I was preparing my bounce-back with this blog, April from Blacksburgbelle announced that she'd hold another class on Creative Live soon in November, and the topic was? guess?...Create Digital Products That Sell While You Sleep, and she hosts a blog tour which I don't want to miss out.

As I wrote in the beginning of this post: Bouncing back has never been so sweet.

Would you bounce back with me?

Are you ready to make your creative work more lucrative, stable, and sustainable in the long-term? Join April Bowles-Olin for an introduction to digital products and how they can enhance your creative business. This course will show you how to produce and position viable products for generating multiple revenue streams and passive income. RSVP right here to watch it live and get access to the workbook for FREE. This post is part of the Create Digital Products blog tour.

Find this post a good news? Do share it with your friends and give them a graphicalicious treat using the share buttons on the post-footer below :o) sweet thanks!


  1. Very lovely post! I love your beautiful drawings. I can't wait for April's course, it is really going to change lives :)

    1. Thank you very much! Yes, I'm looking forward to April's course as well! :-)

  2. Wow! What a story! I'm so happy that you'll be taking my course and that you participated in this blog tour, writing a really thoughtful and insightful post.

  3. I really enjoyed your post. You have a great knack for writing too! I felt like I was right there with you. I even wanted to see the art that made you feel at home. I also love classical music, mostly piano.

    You are brave and tenacious & endearing. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I hope you continue to let the LOVE pour from you :)

  4. Let's do this! Can't wait for April's course. :)

  5. Welcome back Amreta! I enjoyed very much your post. I hope more to come.

  6. Great writing and very inspiring big sist! A reminder for me to keep moving. I run little drops of tears reading this. Best luck.