Monday, August 4, 2014

August changes: You say goodbye, I say hello

I knew I'd learn a lot in my first few months as a full-time artist, but MAN... I had no idea how much I'd learn.
Homework. (All photos by Lisa Myers Bulmash)
I'm still absorbing an ocean of information and business practices from the EDGE professional development program for visual artists. And like most educational experiences, you learn nearly as much outside of class as you do inside class.
Fellow EDGE grad Lorri Falterman presents her art to the public
To keep you from drowning in information if I told you everything I've learned in the past six weeks of professional development, I've cut it down for you.
Make more art: Yes, you also have to promote your work. But once you get into that group show or art fair, you'll need something to show/sell. Bonus: remember how great making stuff feels?
Work your network: Through one person in my artist network -- Alicia Harvey...
Painter Alicia Harvey and me, after my EDGE Grand Finale talk
I met artist Vikram Madan, who's exhibited his gleeful, colorful paintings all around the Seattle metro area. What a great gift to have a friend like him, who likely knows of a gallery that aligns with my own art!
Vikram Madan presents his work at the Grand Finale
Don't devalue your work: Paradoxically, pricing too low makes your art look less valuable. Look around at your competition's prices. You may have to move the price around a bit before others realize what a gem they've found in your shop/gallery.
Safety first: Wouldn't it be horrible if you packed all your original artwork carefully... and then let everything slide around in the back of the car? Use the bungee cords. They are your friends.
Bungee cords and a hand truck help you save your strength
for important things: more art-making.
Write it off: (This one's my favorite.) If you're a professional artist, you can write off that museum membership.
And the framing costs for your two-dimensional pieces. And a trip to take photos for a new body of work. The trip to Tahiti to follow in Gauguin's footsteps, though... you better keep every last receipt to prove the trip is art-related.

So what did you learn during summer vacation, class? Tell me in the comments, or on Facebook.

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...