My studies are coming together. More slowly than I would like, but they are happening. My husband says I need to give myself some grace. I just read an article about how artists produce better work if they take their time and do other things that they enjoy, so I need to remember that.
Yesterday we watched an Art:21. The theme was humor. All four artists used an element of humor in their work. They weren't necessarily laugh-out-loud funny (although sometimes they were) but humor was a starting point. My favorite artist in the episode did beautiful paintings of Audobon-style scenes of wildlife, but with something disastrous going on. One painting featured a branch full of passenger pigeons, stealing each other's eggs and mating and stuff. But the branch had fallen off the tree and was about to crash into the ground. That sort of thing. My favorite quote from him was "I just want to paint a sexy monkey."
I listened to an Art Biz Blog podcast the other day, and it was about taking out things from your workday that weren't working anymore so that you could add something else in. I was dismissive of the idea when I first heard it but now I think it's something to pay attention to. We really only have so much time, and sometimes things take a lot longer than we think they will. So we need to allow ourselves the time to do the most important work in.
I watched another podcast today. It was a lecture by an artist who works in very small, detailed embroidery. His "patches" were usually about 3 inches squared. His work was very high quality. It must take a lot of time and practice to learn how to embroider that well. He said that in a very productive year he could produce 10 of them, but it was usually less than that. He did scenes from his life, such as things that inspired him about his backyard (I don't know many people who love their backyards as much as this man did!), or a reflection on his grandmother, things like that. It's kind of nice to see artists celebrating the mundane, the everyday, as a blessing.
I got a book on spinning out from the library. I spin a little but I'm not very good, probably because I haven't done very much. Also, I have a spindle rather than a wheel, and most spinning books are about using a wheel. I don't have the money or space for a wheel at this point in my life, so I'd rather use a spindle. Anyway, this book, Respect the Spindle, by Abby Franquemont, is about just that. I have been reading about the author's spinning journey and about different types of spindles. I learned why I have trouble getting thin yarn: my spindle is too heavy and the yarn will break if I make it too thin. So I might want to pick up a lighter spindle eventually.
I have been working on drawing from imagination for the past few days. It's an exercise from Burt Dodson's Keys to Drawing with Imagination. I got this book and his original Keys to Drawing from the library. The exercise I'm working on is called doodling and noodling. First you doodle a shape, quickly and spontaneously. Then you fill in the shape with some kind of decoration which is some kind of meticulous pattern. I spent a few hours on this. I thought it would be a fifteen minute exercise, but I listened to three albums' worth of music while doing it.
From left to right: patches, shading, and dots.
From left to right: cactus, pinwheels, and concentric.
A rare photo of me working.
I think my next drawing assignment will be from the observation book. It will take a half hour of sitting still so I need to block out some time to do that.
I haven't done any work on surface design in the past few days because I'm running out of supplies and don't have the chance to replenish them quite yet. I have a bit more to do before I'm totally out though, so I'm hoping to get back to that tomorrow.
Also, I'm helping another artist who is doing a project on illness. I'm going to write my illness (bipolar disorder) on some vellum tags with my thumbprint on them. Then I'm going to tell a story about overcoming my illness. She's going to collect these tags from many people and put them in glass bottles, I believe. In any case I'm glad that I'm helping another artist.
I'm also continuing work on the panel for a blanket that I'm knitting that will end up being sewn with other panels and distributed to the homeless. It'll be a scramble trying to finish it on time but I'm working as hard as I can on it.
I have completed my first semester of my UnBFA, and it totally didn't go how I expected. But that might be a good thing.
I set out an educational plan at the beginning of the semester. First, I wanted to teach myself surface design. I am proud to announce that I have achieved my goals in that regard. My work is very much improved, and people seem genuinely impressed when I show it to them. I get a lot of joy out of what I make. Through practice, I have grown so much as an artist. It's really weird for me to be tooting my own horn like this, but damn, I'm getting better! I can't wait to see what the next few months will hold as I continue to grow.
I finished my design book. There weren't as many practice opportunities as I would have liked, but I am starting to see the principles being applied to my work. My skills have improved enough that I can actually explore different ideas, particularly in form and color. So that didn't quite go how I thought, but it certainly has changed my work, and I think it's for the best.
I didn't get to work on drawing as much as I would have liked. However, my drawing did improve. This is partly due to the study of value in my design book, and partly due to having the tool of a blending stump. I did not learn to draw from imagination (something I am currently weak at) but I will continue to work on my drawing from observation, at least for a little while.
I didn't get to Art History at all! Fortunately I studied it a bit in high school, so I'm not completely clueless.
I didn't finish those business books that I intended to read. I had to actually run a business, though. I watched several Art of Photography podcasts, which did improve my photography a little. I listened to Art Biz Blog podcasts and read some of the website. This site is tremendously helpful and I hope to continue to study it. I learn something every podcast or blog post. Also, I am happy to announce my latest development in my business: I'm going to be in the Crafty Underdog craft fair! It will be January 8th. It's not a lot of time to prepare and I'm going to be scrambling trying to come up with displays and business cards and stuff, but it's a start. I'm also working on three large commissions that are consuming my time and energy. They are sort of like term-end projects. Very exciting. Furthermore, I am working on my first series that is intended to be more on the art side of the continuum and less on the craft side. I am hoping to get into a show, somewhere, sometime. So this business thing is going somewhere.
I did not get to go out to galleries and see as much art as I would have liked. Practicalities of life made this difficult. I did make it to one excellent lecture and one mediocre one (albeit with great art) and am keeping my eyes peeled for more. I have gotten to volunteer at the Museum of Contemporary Craft a few times now, and I'm making great connections there and learning some of what it takes to run a museum (it takes a whole lot!). One of the advantages of volunteering is that I also get to see the exhibits.
I am also taking it upon myself to improve my hand embroidery and am looking for a way to learn tatting. I'm not yet sure how I will incorporate these things into my work, but I am sure that they are important!
I am starting to form plans for next semester. I will have to continue to study surface design and am going to try my hand at some small shibori projects. These will involve stitching a design, pulling the thread tight to bunch the fabric, dyeing it, and then undoing the thread to reveal a pattern. I will have to do this on small pieces at first because it will take me a year if I try to do it on a tablecloth or something. Additionally, I'd like to work on my weaving a bit. I've only woven one project on my loom (due to lack of funds for suitable yarn) and would like to continue to practice. I need to learn to dress the loom by myself, which is a little daunting but I've done it twice now with supervision. So I will try to hunt down some yarn that will work.
In drawing, I need to actually get that drawing book out of the library and practice more. I might continue to work on drawing from observation for the time being and learn to draw from imagination in a future semester. Hopefully I will also be able to study art history this semester, but my focus will probably be on other things and I might have to let this slide a little longer.
Business study will continue unabated as I learn to run my business. I think it will be much the same, bopping around finding what I need and then implementing that.
I will also be taking my first "continuing education" class this semester. Really, it's just an hour or so class that cost me five dollars, and it's not even fiber-related, but there you go. It's something and it's getting me out meeting people. I will continue to listen to various podcasts (I probably have hundreds of hours of podcasts now) to learn more about the art world. My husband has also tracked down episodes of Art:21 online, which is a great series and very educational in contemporary art.
So, that's my end of semester report!
I had a number of learning experiences this last week, although none to show you pictorally at this time.
First, I applied for one of the local craft fairs. I have yet to hear if I have gotten in, but it seems like a good fit and is an affordable place to start building my craft fair presence. It's called Crafty Underdog and it's a bimonthly event at a local theatre-restaurant. It sounds like a lot of fun, and my husband and I are going to attend the next one to see what it's all about and who's selling what. While researching craft fairs, I came across this post
on one of my favorite blogs which included a PDF of tips for sellers who hate selling. I'm not very good at sales, despite several years of retail experience. The PDF is so immensely helpful. It even includes questions you can ask your booth visitors to start a conversation rolling without being an aggressive salesperson. All I can say is THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I tend to slouch behind my booth with a frightened look on my face, which isn't terribly inviting. They had suggestions like standing in front of your booth. It has made me so happy. Even if I don't get into Crafty Underdog, it's very useful for other craft fairs I might get into.
I also came across this article
via Facebook. It's about the many hats that a performing artist must wear, and is an answer to the question of "do you just do this or do you have a job?" As I am discovering, being and artist, performing or otherwise, involves many jobs, not just making stuff. So in addition to the actual production of art, I am a marketer, agent, seller, social media coordinator, administrative assistant, accountant, business manager, PR person, delivery girl, website designer, photographer, graphic designer, and hopefully soon, a teacher. So that's 14 jobs. On top of that I volunteer at the museum, educate myself in art (as well as all the other jobs that I don't have much experience in), try to live as self-sufficient a life as possible (made my own toothpaste today), go to church, edit my husband's manuscripts, and spend some quality time with my husband and friends. I try to squeeze a little exercise in there as well as it makes me feel much better. I am hoping to add more volunteering too: I'd like to get involved in some kind of feeding-the-hungry project, and I'd like to teach Sunday School. But I am not going to go hog-wild trying to add everything at once or it will make me crazy. I should also point out that I have a friend helping me with ad copy on my online store and my husband helps me with the social media. Nevertheless, I am extremely busy. So when people ask me when I'm going to get a job (because people do ask me that) I can tell them that I have 14 and don't have time to take on any more right now.
I had a good time volunteering at the Museum on Thursday. It was pretty slow, which was kind of boring, but it's also a great environment because everyone is an artist and everyone is interested in everyone else's work. So although I did it to learn about how a museum is run, I actually am doing a fair bit of networking and promoting my business. Totally not what I expected! I also got a bit of time to look at the exhibits. I never have enough time on shift to spend the hour and a half you really need to look at everything, but I can get things in bits and pieces.
After my shift, I went to a lecture by the artist Kanishka Raja.
I really enjoyed looking at his paintings and his influences (he does incredibly detailed paintings which sort of reference surrealism and magical realism). However, his talk used what I call "Academicese" which is language that is so highly peppered with field-specific jargon that it is unintelligible to anyone outside the field. There was talk about mitigating the interstices between modality and ornamentation and such
. So I have a good idea of what his art looks like and no idea about anything he said. It was worth it to see the art, however.
I listened to a couple of podcasts from Art Biz Blog
. The first one that I listened to was about gratitude, which is lovely (it was her last podcast, so she was thanking her listeners. One thing I did get out of it was the That Is Priceless blog
, which takes famous works of art and gives them new titles. It's hilarious. The second one was about how to get free stuff for marketing information--mostly advertising the blog itself. The last and most helpful one I listened to was about people who did all their art marketing without the help of the internet. One person did her sales through a mailing list sent out to friends and family. She sold shares in her research trip to China and financed it that way. The local newspaper heard about it and she sold even more shares. Another artist sold hundreds of paintings through her mailing lists, displaying things at restaurants and selling at fundraisers. She uses postcards for a personal touch. So those are good ways to get the word out in addition to messing about on the internet!
I had a fantastic week art-wise. First, I am working on a series that I started with my wall hanging with the Proverbs passage. I have decided to do a series that incorporates that whole story, the one of the capable wife. I'm currently working on the next section and will need to do one or two more. My husband and I decided to approach a few cafes to see if they would display the series when it was finished. I'm very excited about this. It was my hope to do more sort of gallery stuff along with my stuff for everyday use, and I'm glad I'm doing it.
I had my first shift volunteering at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. It was amazing! It was during an event called "First Thursday" in the Pearl district of Portland, where all the museums and galleries are free for the day on the first Thursday of every month. It was very busy, and I helped checking bags and policing to make sure people didn't take flash photos or touch stuff or talk on their cell phones. (Just a public service announcement: you can't take flash photos in a gallery. The flash damages the art. Some galleries don't allow photos at all for copyright reasons.) It was great fun. The other volunteers are all amazing people, and I had a fantastic time. I also got to see the exhibits (not get a good look, but a look nonetheless) so that was an added bonus.
Friday, I went to a public lecture that was put on by the Museum and the Pacific Northwest College of Art. It was about one of the exhibits, Studio H. The presentation was by a woman who had a non-profit design firm. She wanted to use design to help change the world. She got hired by a school superintendent in Bertie County, North Carolina. The public schools in the county were doing really poorly, with not enough teachers and not enough funding and all the top-performing students going to private school. It is a very poor, sparsely populated area. First, the woman and her partner designed some classrooms to help create a better learning environment. Then, they got a brilliant idea. They would become high school teachers, teach a class design for the community, and then hire them over the summer to build something. They hit a lot of road blocks, but eventually opened a design class in one high school. The students had a lot of trouble in the beginning. Some of them didn't know how to read rulers (like they didn't understand the concept of an inch), some were scared of hammers, and some had never taken an art class. So they had to focus on the very basics in the beginning. Then, students had to build a corn hole board. They were given directions for the board, but they had to come up with their own design for the front. They were given two colors and a verb to work with. The verbs were things like "twist" and "stretch". They ended up being very beautiful, and the kids got to learn about how precise they needed to be with building things. Then they had a giant corn hole match. Their next project was to build chicken coops, where they had to build models and design the coops. The coops required a feeding area, a roost, and a run. They built three coops (after very many models) and gave two of the coops to families in their community. The last coop is in the museum. Their final project for the year was to create a structure for the farmer's market. Because Bertie County is a flood and hurricane area, they had very particular building codes they had to work with. Because their floor had to be raised, it ended up being the perfect height to unload trucks from. The local egg farms had bays with eight docks for loading the trucks, so the students made their structure with eight docks on either side for local flavor. They made built-in tables so the vendors didn't have to bring their own. It ended up being beautiful and the vendors and the shoppers loved it. So the students got a great education and summer jobs, and the community got some much-needed building done. It w