I try not to make this blog too political, but I think that the arts are as always under attack, under funded and not valued in society which is why this please me so very much.
I’m coming upon the year anniversary of my father’s death. And what has been, for a lack of a better term, the least productive year artistically of my life.
I was depressed about it. Lost, one could say in the volume of silence, the abyss of nothingness.
That was until yesterday when in a passing conversation with my fiance’s dad, I mentioned that I had previously been a math major.
“Math major, pshhh. Let me see those grades. You had to be failing that is the ONLY reason that anyone would switch from math to English…..”
Enraged, I took my grievance to social media where I got a bevy of responses similar to:
“Why would you do that????? He’s right. Don’t you know companies are poaching math and science high school teachers…..”
A rekindled fire burned with in me.
Why would I switch from Math to English?
Very simply, when it came down to studying for my Cal final freshman year of college, I decided instead to watch Young Guns.
Yes the 1980’s brat-pack western.
And it dawned on me, I was good at math, oh I was, (got a high A in the course) but I wasn’t passionate about it. I didn’t stay up late at night to study or work on math, but I sure as heck did for writing.
I have railed in previous posts about how much art matters, but have, through the course of the last year, partly forgotten how passionate I am about it.
His words, though, and others fuel my fire. Art matters. My art matters. You’re art matters.
And don’t let anyone tell you otherswise.
Now, where is my pen, do I dare to disturb the universe?
So if you haven’t read Iggy Pop’s recent speech, and you are an artist, you should. It’s a bleak but true analysis of the current world for musicians, but not just for musicians, its true for artists.
This weekend, my friend and I packed out bags for a local comic book convention. It was our first time as vendors. And after eight hours of selling our hand made goods, I have a mixed feeling about the whole experience.
Not because we didn’t sell as much as we would have liked, which we didn’t, but because of how we were treated by the consumer who bartered and belittled our prices again and again. I understand that a little good-natured bartering is a part of every con, but there become a point at which it is, well, insulting.
People offering you half and even less of the price you are selling at. What was worse, some of these people were fellow artist, fellow vendors.
And worse, if I rejected the price, there was an indignant rage? Why wouldn’t I take it? Wouldn’t I want to sell something at any cost?
No, honestly, if it means I’m going to lose half my cost, I’ll save my art for later, thank you.
Yes I understand that Walmart and china cheapies exist.
But why and how do they exist? Because other countries have awful labor laws. They exploit people, children, ect.
It saves you money. I get that. As someone who has been dirt poor, I understand limited funds. But if that is the case. If you don’t have that much money to spend at my both, just come over, say hi, and admire my work. Don’t try to barter and then get annoyed when I say, “no I can’t do that.”
No I don’t do this to make a living. And it’s a good thing because if I did I would be hosed.But I put money and time into making each of these crafts, and I find it ridiculous that people expect to pay cents on the dollar for crafts.
As I was driving on Tuesday to the semi-annual developmental workforce meeting for my teaching job, I took the hour plus mind-numbing drive to catch up on the world around me, by tuning into my local NPR channel.
But as my hand left the preset, I wanted to scream.
Now fans of NPR know there is one week (every six months or so) that you want to avoid: fund-raising week, were every show you love is continuously interpreted with a guilt inducing plea for funds:
“If you love this show, don’t you want to keep it on the air….”
“It is people like you who…..”
“If we don’t raise $$$$, your favorite host will be executed at dawn….”
Ok, maybe the last quote was made up. But, it’s probably only a matter a time.
After five to ten minutes, I’m usually so worn down that I wish I wasn’t broke and had copious amounts of cash just so I could offer it to NPR to just shut up during day one.
But, as I listened, today I thought different about it. Maybe as artist we need to be able to channel our inner NPR/PBS, that almost cocky, whining desperate plea that screams, “I provide a service, I deserve to be compensated.” Even if it means we turn off a few of our readers/watchers.
It’s hard, as an indie artist to make a living, harder if we fall into a trap where we are afraid to demand (or ask) for compensation for work.
The reasons, I think are varied. I tend to struggle with not wanting to annoy people as well as sometimes not feeling qualified.
But, I think I might just give this a try.
This has been a busy week! (And as I’m writing this I feel I’m writing a short, not as amazing “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”). I’ve been asked before, sometimes, that as an artist, what is it that you do?
Sometimes I think when you tell people you are an artist people automatically envision romantic Paris-wine dreams . Not so much.
So for those who are wondering, here is a sample of my week:
First I received an email that my poem “We Is” is going to be published in July in torrid magazine. It was a nice email (though a pang of sadness as I couldn’t call the first person I always do) especially because I have not been submitting anything as of late (too too busy).
Then, I spent the first part of the week, furiously getting a portfolio together for a grant program for the Illinois Art Council. It’s a long shot. They announced over 15,000 in grants. However, the announcement came with a 3 day turn around (talk about pressure.) I will keep you updated. Also if you live in Illinois check out the Art Council page for more programs.
Afterwards, I had a Skype date cue the fancy music, first date jitters and a wine with a fancy illustrator friend of mine, Riki,check out her work) to discuss working on a children’s book (Lots of exciting info to be coming!)
The rest of the week was a hodgepodge of emailing about guest blogs, contacting a graphic artist about a graphic novel, talking to my best friend Ashy about doing a collaborative art show and a few other art odds and end on the promotion side.
Notice no writing 😦
But life goes on doesn’t it? How was your week as an artist?
I grew up with a healthy fear of schizophrenia, an unusual those probably not my strangest fear and given the family I grew up in, not without warrant.
My grandmother had a very late onset of schizophrenia (nearly thirty) and I grew up in the smashed shell that was her unintended legacy: a father who had essentially raised his five siblings. they would sit around and laugh, telling stories of the time, grandmother, thinking her daughter had been replaced with a robot sent to spy on her, chased the Aunt Bert around with a knife until my father wrestled it away.
Broken china dolls. Carefully glued back together, but the shiny paste still lingered in the cracks.
Oh the art.
My grandmother had never been an artist, until the early days of her illness. She would draw, everywhere.Elaborate murals usually of Disney characters. My father told me it was wondrous, as his childish eyes say it.
Until she started talking to the drawings.
And they answered her back.
I still wonder some days if there isn’t some correlation between art and madness. And though I have had nothing as severe as my grandmother, I have always been a bit off. From my carefree youthful days of car-surfing to my more turbulent twenties and my occasionally bouts of depression (which I can usually control with diet, exercise and meditation, those I have had to take medicine a few times.)
There’s an interesting article in scientific America talking about the history of mental illness in art. It’s worth taking a lot even at the sanest of times.
Repeat to yourself: You are an artist. You are an artist…..
Ok I’ll admit it. There’s times I’ve illegally shared (who doesn’t love CD burning parties) other people’s work for various reasons (like it’s really REALLY hard to find a copy KISS meets the Phantom of the Park). Oh I knew it was wrong, but its just so easy to justify. (Hey I spend 100 on concert tickets, I can burn my friends cd right…..) Of course like all good pirates, I had boundaries. No stealing from indy or upcoming artists………
I say all of this to admit that on this topic I am a sinner.
Still, after a few conversations I’ve had with a few of the 101 Composition classes I’ve visited over the past semester, I’m shocked at the over all consensus on copyright law: copy right laws should not exist. If someone can steal work and make money off of them, the better for it….and well, hey you should just make more work to sell.
I was honest with the class. Telling them about my past, why I did what I did, why it was wrong but why I did it, etc….
I tried having them imagine that they were inventors and artist who had their work stolen….
What about indy artist…….
After hours of discussion, the consensus remained the same.
I’m not naive. I know (as Rand Paul) illustrates that there are certain people that don’t respect the idea of copyright laws, but I was still surprised to find so many people feel that the American way is stealing and that artist who have things stolen are just out of luck, should just stop whining and go out and make new work.
Any ideas how to impart the grain of discourse?
So Dr. Seuss, had a thing with hats. Not just regular ball caps mind you but, as is only fitting, whimsical, fantastical hats. He started collecting hats in 1930. His sister even remarked, ““Ted has another peculiar hobby—that of collecting hats of every description. Why, he must have several hundred and he is using them as the foundation of his next book.”
Now I know what you are thinking. Hats. What’s the big deal. But from what I saw off the website, these hats are pretty darn interesting, and some of them (duh) appear in his work in one shape or another.
Now if this isn’t enough of a reason to go road trip it to Fl or one of the other states which hosts the exhibit, the exhibit also includes some of the secret art of Dr. Seuss.
Below are the current dates for the exhibit:
|Jan. 11 – Jan. 26, 2014||Syd Entel Gallery||Tampa, FL||247 Main St.
Saftey Habor, FL
|Feb. 1 – Feb. 16, 2014||Ann Jackson Gallery||Atlanta, GA||932 Canton St
|Feb. 22 – March 9, 2014||R. Michelson Gallery||Northampton, MA||132 Main Street||(413) 586-3964|
|March 15 – March 30, 2014||Bella Arte Gallery||Midlothian, VA||3734 Winterfield Road||(804) 794-1511|
|June 7 – June 22, 2014||Angela King Gallery||New Orleans, LA||716 Bienville Street||(504) 524-8211|
|June 28 – July 13, 2014||Marcus Ashley Gallery||South Lake Tahoe, CA||4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd||(530) 544-4278|
This exhibition is comprised of twenty six original hats from Dr. Seuss’s estate, alongside authorized Estate Editions adapted and reproduced from Ted Geisel’s original artworks. If you are lucky enough to be where it is touring, check it out!
I was lucky. By the time I was 18, I had a core group of friends with whom I’m still friends with today. Amongst them was Ashy, a painter who shared my love of rock and dreams of being an artist. Over the years we have had a ridiculous amount of fun, planning pointlessly schemes (like moving out to l.a. and living off of contentential breakfast) and going to way too many rock concerts.
Besides our clear shared awesomeness (pics don’t lie right?) and our shared love of 80’s hair metal, we both share our dreams of being working artists. It has been so helpful to have someone else experience the sames highs and lows of art as I have. And now that we have put in YEARS and YEARS of work, we are both finally starting to see the payoffs of our labors.
She just (yes i’m gushing!) got into a pretty sweet art show. Unforunately, as she lives in Buffalo and the show is there, I won’t be able to go. So I’m sending some virtual love, and telling all my readers to check out her work at her website Yellow Blazer’s Studios. And if you happen to be in the Buffalo area check out her work, you won’t regret it!