Artist As Writer

Ever wake up one day and realize that you're totally neglecting some aspect of your job? That's how I feel today - I just realised that although I've been enjoying writing and editing for several projects recently, I've been neglecting my own blog.

I went through a phase of "micro-blogging" with my Instagram posts, and I've been guest blogging for MyArtResources.com (read my first of a 6-part series on Branding Basics for Artists here). In addition, I'm applying for several opportunities - eg. artist residencies, grants, exhibition proposals - that require written statements, project proposals, etc.  So basically, I've been writing a lot; which I love!

While my main creative outlet will always be painting, I actually really enjoy writing. People don't often associate visual artists as having a good relationship with words, but I guess I'm one of the few. It's refreshing to shake it up sometimes and use a different part of my brain to problem solve and be creative. So back to blogging it is. 

Do you have something like that in your job? An auxiliary task to your main job description that allows you to get out of the daily grind, sparks new ideas, refreshes you to return to your main tasks? Share in the comments below. 

P.S. I'm also a bookworm, and get inspiration from fiction writers. I often listen to audiobooks in my studio. A few favorite authors at the moment are Neil Gaiman, Tana French and Barbara Kingsolver. It's not that I want to become a novelist; rather, I want to make paintings that make people feel like I feel when I read their books:)

Art Biz Breakthrough 2015: here I come!

Great piece of advice from Art Biz Coach, Alyson B. Stanfield

 Check out more of Alyson's useful advice on her website:  artbizcoach.com

Check out more of Alyson's useful advice on her website: artbizcoach.com

So what's my action this week? I'm investing in my own professional development by heading to Golden, Colorado (just outside Denver) for a conference of art professionals getting together to talk shop. I couldn't be more excited! I am looking forward to learning a ton and building my community of working artists like myself at Art Biz Breakthrough. The very existence of this conference designed specifically for the business side of being an artist is such a validation for me as a small business owner/entrepreneur. What a great way to begin this next chapter of my art career and life!

As always, I will be posting updates to my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts - follow whichever platform works for you!

Artist as Story Teller

I heard a story on NPR the other day about this journalist, Paul Salopek, who is traveling the world by foot over 7 years and gathering stories along the way. The exact opposite to the book Around the World in 80 Days, yet seemingly just as crazy. What a wild and extremely fascinating idea! Clearly a journalist's job is to collect stories, but I think this is an innovative way of going about it - not rushing around to find the story but instead meandering and observing life along the way.  You can follow his stories here.

Most artists are story tellers, and I think their inspiration often comes from slowing down, taking time to smell the flowers or notice the color purple. For me, it's not that everything I see or hear goes directly into my paintings; rather, noticing the quality of light just before sunset in the late part of spring on my way home from the office, or the bird of prey that sits on a wire above the expressway every morning on my commute triggers something in me that makes me want to create.

I think my attention to detail and appreciation of beauty in the everyday comes from a childhood growing up in rural areas with limited electricity.  When I wasn't voraciously reading novels, National Geographic or World Book Encyclopedias (yes, I was a nerd), I was running around making up games to play. My family didn't own a TV or a computer until I was well into middle school, and I didn't get a cell phone (which I had to share with my twin brother) until I was 16.  So I had plenty of time to think and imagine things, something that has certainly affected both my world view and my art.  Of course, now-a-days I am all too often caught up in the fast pace of our tech-centered world, and I have to remind myself to slow down and find that centered vantage point of chronicler and story teller.

Which is why I like hearing stories like this Ted Talk by artist Shea Hembrey: How I became 100 ArtistsHembrey created a biennial featuring art by 100 artists from all over the world, except that all of the artists were personas that he created. Not only did he make multiple pieces of art in 100 different styles, but he also created back stories for each artist so that the concept behind each body of work was based on something to do with the artist's life experiences, interests or topics of exploration.  Now that is some great story telling!

Two takeaways from this fascinating project: first, Shea's criteria for the work that the artist must be able to explain the work to their grandma in 5 minutes or less, thus making it more refined and more accessible to the general public. I think this is extremely important in the current climate of overly-convoluted contemporary art. Second, that it have the three H's: head - "interesting intellectual concepts", heart - "passion and soul," and hand - "in that it would be greatly crafted,"  simple enough instructions that I, for one, hope to uphold in my work. 

Handyman Artist

I have been thinking a lot the last couple of months about what it means to be an artist.  The word has so many connotations and often negative ones, as if people still think becoming an artist is this easy thing that rich, privileged kids get to do for fun.  Well, that hasn't been my experience nor that of any of the artists that I know, so I thought I would so a shout-out to all my hard working artist peers who pour their sweat and blood into being an artist, which requires being a bit of a renaissance (wo)man.  This is installment #1, and is dedicated to my mom, who gifted me my trusty toolbox, my artistic talent and most of my handyman knowledge.  Thanks Mom!

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Almost all the artists I know are very handy, especially the female ones.  Even non-visual artists, particularly those into theater props or costumes.  I find it sort of amusing (and terrifying!) when people ask me what I do as an artist - meaning, do I paint? If so, what?  But there is so much more to it than simply rendering a picture on canvas.  Occasionally people do ask about my process, and I enjoy explaining how I take (amateur) photographs or sketches, collage them together and then create a painting.

And then there's the nuts and bolts part of that question.  The part that makes a hardware store my 2nd most favorite type of store to shop in (after the grocery store and before the art store, which has many, many beautiful and unaffordable things).  As a painter, my first order of business is making my own stretcher bars, stretching and prepping my canvases, and when the painting is complete, attaching the proper materials to hang the piece on different types of walls.  That is pretty standard, but then there is the harder stuff.  Like painting walls between every show at the gallery you work at, or tearing up the old nasty carpet and replacing it with faux wood flooring in the building you are helping renovate for your new art collective.  The stuff that builds your muscles, or as Calvin's dad would say, "builds character."

And this is not necessarily a bad thing!  I know many artists who have worked as house painters, construction workers, home-improvement builders and/or in hardware stores as their day job to support their art.  One often reaps benefits from this type of work: discounts on materials, free use of tools, seasonal work that allows you to work on your art, introduction to cheaper, non-traditional materials that inspire new and more interesting art (not to mention the know-how to make your own home improvements when you do become rich and famous and buy a house!).  All-in-all I think there is a sort of toughness that develops the more serious one is about pursuing art, and this translates into the work, whatever medium it may be (stand-up comedy, musical theater, poetry).  This sort of thing weeds out the people who became art majors in college to study something "easy" from those of us who are (maybe too) serious about our work.