I usually don’t pay attention to any crazy-artist streaks within me, but I suppose from an outward standpoint it’s probably obvious. I have a tendency to swing between extreme emotions about everything I do, spending half the time loving a painting, and the other half hating it. But that’s normal, right? Creating is hard.
I also like to spontaneously change my work after it’s finished. One might say “destroy.” “Ruin.” “Cover up.” I say “improve.”
I have been known to quietly remove an unsold work from public view in order to change it in such a drastic way that it is essentially a brand new painting. First I’ll paint it white. Then I’ll paint it over.
This infuriates my husband. In his mind, the work now belongs to my fans and my audience, even if no one owns the physical painting. In my mind, the painting isn’t finished until it has a home, and as long as it’s hanging on my own wall, we’re calling it a “work in progress.” Continue reading
This past weekend I was talking with my dancer friend about a film she’d recently seen (Pina, a tribute to dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch) that she was very enamored with. She said I had to see it, that all artists would benefit from watching it, regardless of what art they created. I wasn’t opposed to the idea. Having read and benefitted from dancer Twyla Tharp’s universal perspective in her book The Creative Habit, I felt like I was down with the dancing crowd. I didn’t feel compelled to run out and see the movie, but sure. Why not.
To make her point, and because she had a captive audience, my friend whipped out her laptop to show me a few YouTube clips of the film. Okay, yes, it was pretty, and they definitely knew how to dance, and fine, they–OMG WHAT WAS THIS?! What were they doing?! The fluid movements and lovely down tempo beats! The sets! The costumes! IT WAS RAINING ON THE STAGE! The color and texture and framing and… holy crap, this was like watching a painting. I saw each scene much like I see the beginnings of ideas when I start a new piece. It was beautiful. I was downright inspired.
I love talking to other passionate artists. I love hearing them blather at length (as I do) about their individual loves and interests in art. I don’t even have to be familiar with their art to know why they do it. It’s a kinship. We speak a dialect of passion. Continue reading
I want to say upfront that this is just one story from my life, and not a commentary on the gallery system as a whole. My personal experience with “traditional” galleries has ranged from lackluster to unethical (and possibly illegal, but I’ll get to that in a second.) I do not believe they’re all like that. I’m very open-minded about galleries. I’ve simply had great success and enjoyment representing myself, and doing so is not a reaction to anything negative as much as it is a belief in doing something positive.
When I was starting out professionally, I heard from a number of people within the local art scene that I was ready for my own show. So I went out and got one. The gallery I’d found was up and coming, an offshoot of a more successful gallery nearby. The owner (we’ll call him Shawn) was an artist himself, and sold a great deal of work, all at higher end prices, with a pretty significant and growing following in the area. He liked my work, and immediately offered me a show. After securing a date, I heard from fellow artists that although his art “was a bit formulaic,” he seemed to be a fantastic businessman. The openings I attended in the months leading up to my show were lively events.
When I arrived at the gallery the morning of my own show to set up, I could sense a weird and unexpected attitude from Shawn. He was cold and unhelpful. He abruptly announced that I couldn’t use blacklights, a fairly integral part of my art, despite seeming enthusiastic about them a few weeks prior. He further informed me that I wouldn’t have access to half the space I was promised, because another artist was using it. When I firmly explained the necessity of the blacklights, he finally told me I could use a small room through a hall and in the back for this purpose.
I was determined to keep a good attitude about things. Continue reading
It’s easy to forget that our creativity needs practice. We often take artistic abilities for granted, because it’s just “been there” since we were children. Most of us are artists because it comes naturally. Sure we might have to learn discipline about the business aspects, but the art! Hey, that’s the fun part! That’s eeeeasy.
Until you hit a block. Then you spend each day staring at an empty screen or a blank canvas, cursing at the white space, convinced your career is over. The crying. The despair. Or maybe that’s just me. Continue reading
ast weekend I went to a concert of someone I’ve technically known since I was five, and despite the fact that she’s fairly popular, I was woefully unfamiliar with her music and had never seen her perform (unless you count living room karaoke.) It ended up being pretty incredible to watch, not just because the music was awesome (which it was) but because I was witnessing this person that I’d interacted with in a casual way perform as she does best, in her element, in front of her fans, in the spotlight. She displayed a great command of experience and talent in exactly the moment she needed to.
As artists, we’re familiar with this situation to varying degrees. Any time we’re at our own shows, or even doing something as simple as releasing a painting for public view, we summon all necessary skill and confidence into a fixed period of time in which we allow ourselves to be stars, to lead the room in a chorus of our own making. We understand the necessity of doing so, at least in short bursts, especially when we’re promoting something specific.
But what happens the rest of the time? Why do we tend to put our public selves into stasis when we’re not attached to the art? We still have a duty to be artists, which is doing more than making art. We have a purpose to live artistic lives, with intention and passion. Our lives should be as interesting and inspiring as our art. Being an artist is an action, not a title.
Relaxation doesn’t come easy for me, if at all. I’ve battled severe insomnia since I was a child. I’ve always had difficulty shutting off my brain. Over the years, I’ve developed pretty good skills at hiding it from the outside world, but internally I’m usually worrying over something. I like to drum up things to fret about if otherwise there’s nothing.
Working for myself is both a trigger and a relief in this regard. Since I’m obsessing over details anyway, I might as well direct that energy toward my own business. I work excellently on my own. I don’t need anyone to point out all the various nuances of business that I should be watching. (Even if I’m conversely too lazy to take action on them.)
Occasionally I must take drastic measures and run away somewhere. Travel is my drug of choice lately. It’s the only thing I find just as exciting as art. Sometimes more so. Sometimes it’s exactly what I need to inspire me to do more art. Often, while I’m gone, I still try to work. I answer emails, renew listings, send out invoices, keep everything moving along.
I think I’m afraid to let go. Continue reading
If you’re not familiar, ‘Work of Art’ is a reality TV show on Bravo about artists, in the same vein as Project Runway. Artists with different styles and backgrounds compete against each other toward one last battle, the prize being money and an official show in a fancy art place, displaying all the crap they made over the course of the season.
Each episode presents a new “challenge,” or theme, to inspire the artists to make a piece of art that will be judged against all the rest, after a time limit of one day in which to conceptualize, create, and finish their art. It has to be unique, innovative, something that passes the approval of “qualified” judges, and must never be too reminiscent of their own style or in any way similar to what they made last week.
It’s not much different than pulling in ten random people off the street, throwing them into a craft store for 20 minutes, and then demanding they produce genius art in a day.
This is not a venue in which these artists are allowed to display their lifetime of creativity, the progress in their own careers, or their unique fingerprint of inspiration. It’s a pressure-filled war zone where they are emotionally blindfolded, dropped off in the middle of nowhere, and told to build epic cathedrals out of popsicle sticks. Their reward is a harsh critique from some dude who owns a gallery in New York and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Sarah Jessica Parker will grace them with her presence. Continue reading
Lately I’ve been pondering the relationships artists have with other artists.
I think in some ways, there’s this mistaken dream that artists all gather collectively the way we imagine it was done in 1920’s Paris; a utopia of sorts for artists to mingle, support, and commiserate with each other.
A scene from the movie Midnight in Paris:
Gil: I would like you to read my novel and get your opinion.
Ernest Hemingway: I hate it.
Gil: You haven’t even read it yet.
Ernest Hemingway: If it’s bad, I’ll hate it. If it’s good, then I’ll be envious and hate it even more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.
Online, I’ve been fortunate to connect with many artists, mostly visual artists, but artists of other genres as well. Perhaps it’s the distance between us, the safe barrier of computer screens shielding us from the snickering, eye-rolling, and snide comments we’ve experienced in real life. Maybe it’s the sense that we share a common bond, not only of marketing ourselves as a business online, but also a common lack of artist-to-artist relationships in the real world.
Or, maybe we just have a wider audience in which to find people we truly click with.
In real life, at least for me personally, I find an odd, awkward distance in communication between myself and other artists. For whatever reason, conveniently, my real-life artist friends are the least likely to comment on my Facebook updates, acknowledge anything about my life, or ask how I’m doing when they see me. Continue reading