Thursday, June 19, 2014

Week 1 of the artist life

I've gone through several stages of adjustment in my first full week of being a full-time artist.
See if any of these remind you of your first day in a job where you make all the rules:
  • oh-my-God-what-did-I-do... I think I'll take a nap.
  • oh-my-God how much stuff do I really need to move into the studio? (Answer: all of it. Someday.)
  • My Schedule's Flexible, How About I... take the kids to all their dental and doctor's appointments in one day?
I haven't touched a brush since I varnished my most recent collages.
But then last night I got a reminder of the possibilities that are opening up, now that I'm a Full-Time Artist. I found out last night I've been accepted into the October Best of the Northwest show!
This is a bigfathairydeal... 200+ artists in a two-day show devoted specifically to fine art and fine craft.
People are There For The Art, as opposed to a people going to a festival where art is just part of the spectacle.


I'm beyond thrilled... and I'll know some of the other participating artists, like the map painter Lisa Middleton of Great River Arts.
But it's still an adjustment for my whole family, thinking of me as a full-time artist vs. an artist-with-a-day-job. Here's the conversation The Husband and I had when I got the big news:

Me: OhmyGod... [stunned pause] I got into the Best of the Northwest!
The Husband: So that's one of the big shows?
Me: Yeah.
The Husband [imagining me staying up until the wee hours, painting]: So are you gonna have to make more stuff for this show? [and then it hits him] Oh wait: your job is to make more stuff, isn't it?

Yeah. My job is to Make More Stuff.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Taking a leap into the artistic unknown

I've decided I want a career as an artist more than I am afraid of the risks that life entails.
So on June 16th, I step into a new job: full-time artist. hyperventilating with excitement With studio space and everything! Look look LOOOOOK!
I'm giving up my space at the edge of the kitchen (well, most of it. I'm rather territorial) for a place with fewer distractions and more support.
I kickstart this new life at the EDGE Professional Development Program for Visual Artists. For six weeks, I'll learn things like:
  • what a professional portfolio should look like
  • how to approach galleries that might be interested in my work
  • business concerns for artists
  • funding, exhibition and other opportunities
  • marketing/communications, including social media stuff
I'll go to class on Saturdays, then do my homework during the week. I've been out of school long enough to actually welcome the idea of homework and structure, so you know it's been a LOOOONG time. And yes, I will be prepping for a few shows and exhibiting my work at the same time. Plus, there's new work to photograph properly, in the shared photo space.
Hoo boy. I'm thinking I need one of those wall-sized calendars to map out my new life!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Work-in-progress: the other side of the story

Thank you for hanging in there until I could come back to update you on my collages. Things have settled down for the moment with my family; hoping things improve quickly there.

Back to the far past, and my great-grandfather Taylor. You remember he fought on the Union side in Kentucky after either being freed, or escaping slavery. (I chose to paint over this image, since I have no actual photo of him).
After the war, Taylor worked as a farmer and hired hand. I imagine he really needed the work: he and his first wife had three children. Then with his second wife (my great-grandmother), Taylor had eight more kids.
So when a farmer refused to pay Taylor for his work, Taylor must've been thinking he couldn't go home empty-handed.
Instead, Taylor went home with three bullet wounds: on his neck, shoulder, and hip/groin. So the farmer who shot at him was telling Taylor -- who was probably "worth" between $800 and $1500 when he was considered property -- that his labor was of no value.
What a horrifying -- and horrifyingly common -- irony. And yet Taylor hung on, working around the bullet still left inside him, working around chronic pain his doctors recorded in his veteran's treatment record.
Courage was once honored with a crown of laurels. But since he lived and died in tobacco country, I've given my great-grandfather a crown of tobacco leaves. I've also ordered him a medal or two. Once I've added the finishing touches, you're invited to the medal ceremony.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Back in a bit

Sorry, but things are a little up in the air due to a family situation. I will be back tomorrow.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Work-in-progress: one side of the story

Not having any photos of my great-grandfather Taylor, my imagination fills in the gap to build these collage portraits. I've taken this (copyright-free) image...
and turned it into these:
At the end of the Civil War, my great-grandfather Taylor returned from Texas to Kentucky, to his wife and two daughters. At some point, he worked for a man who refused to pay him after Taylor had completed the labor. When Taylor called him on it, the man fired shots at him -- hitting him in the neck, the shoulder and groin.
So as a Civil War veteran, Taylor looked for medical help from his local veterans' hospital. They told him since he didn't receive the wounds in battle, there was nothing they could do for him.
The pain drove him to two more veterans' hospitals in Ohio and Virginia, where they told him the same thing: sorry, buddy. I imagine him guided by the North Star, in search of relief.
On Monday, I'll wrap up the story with more about the other half of this collage pair. Hang in there!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Work-in-progress: Looking forward, looking back

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have noticed an evolution going on...
.. two collage portraits in progress.
The Janus faces I've been working on are inspired by one of my great-grandfathers. The family story is that Taylor escaped the person who owned him (either in Virginia or Kentucky). Near the end of the Civil War, pension records show he became a private, then a sergeant in the United States Colored Troops (later known as the Buffalo Soldiers). But the records indicate it wasn't until after the war that Taylor was seriously injured.
His doctor filled out the above diagram, with pointer fingers to show where Taylor was shot three times: once in the neck, once in the shoulder, and once in the hip near the groin. (P.S. That's a fig leaf in the diagram.) He lived with those half-treated wounds for years, searching for relief while trying to support nine children as a farmer or farm hand.

I'll tell you more of the story behind the gunshot wounds tomorrow... I promise...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Making more art: get on with it already

I thought a lot about this quote recently:
If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.
-- Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait (1889),
via Wikimedia Commons
I've had a really hard time silencing that voice for the past three months, even while the rest of me kept thinking of new art to make. Instead of working, however, I've been wasting time -- yeah, I said it -- worrying. Fretting about the right venue in which to sell my art, and how to find collectors who will connect with what I do.
 Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.
-- Andy Warhol
Here's how I got over myself and started making again:
  • I chose to start working toward an exhibit deadline I know I can meet.
  • I painted while I let The Boy and TwoBoo watch TV. 
  • When the kids got bored, I told them, "find something to do that doesn't involve a screen." I then ignored the whining that followed. 
They found something to do.

Sometimes I do look for something creative for them to do alongside me, but not always. They can make their own magic. I can make my own, too. And yet I'm still forgetting and relearning this lesson, so clearly I have some work to do.
Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.
-- Chuck Close
Do you have a prompt/trick/method to help you get to work? Tell me in the comments or on Facebook.