Archive for the ‘collage’ Category

Dear fellow starvelings,

We last left our heroine (that is, me) talking oh-so-knowledgeably about art brut & being self-taught & stuff.
That was, hmmm … MONTHS AGO!

I’m still here, getting through this horrendous winter as best I can, draping cats over me for warmth, and hoping my gel medium doesn’t freeze.

I actually have a show up, sort of.  A group of 12 collages, all having to do with literature, all displayed in local bookstores to celebrate National Book Month.  “But,” you say, “that was JANUARY for pity’s sake!” Yes, yes it was. I was supposed to gather up the pictures the beginning of February but a combination of snow, below-freezing temperatures, and The Cold That Wouldn’t Go Away, has made me extremely late in retrieving my wayward pics. When I get them back, I’ll show you a few of them so you can get the idea of what I was aiming for.

I also have to submit my application for reimbursement of expenses (I got a grant from the Northampton Arts Council for this project), which seems backwards to me.  I needed the grant money most when I was actually getting the supplies.  Better late than never, though – and I am grateful for the grant.

If you’re read carefully up to this point, you will have noticed that I made 12 (count ’em, twelve) collages for this deal. Big ones, too. I loved doing them, but I was working like a fool for months getting them just right. I’m still suffering from post-artum stress disorder and have been diligently working on books to re-fill the shelves of my own bookstore.  I usually work on pictures after the store closes, but I haven’t picked up a color pencil or a brush for a few weeks now.  I’m sure I’ll be all peppy & full of vim & vigor once this SNOW GOES AWAY! (< hint to sky-god).

In the meantime, in case you’re interested here’s a link to an article about the show.

http://www.masslive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/01/literature-inspired_collage_ar.html

You will note that the picture came out very badly. It does look better in person. It does! It does!

Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.

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Okay, I’m fortunate enough to have a gallery show next month, my very first in Northampton. The hardest thing about getting ready is the pricing part. There is no secret formula (though I’ve been advised of a few). Naturally, however, there are factors to consider. I’m not known, except to my best friends and maybe on Facebook. My pieces vary in size and complexity, and all of them are weird. They will not be purchased by any cash-stuffed corporate guy to hang on his office wall. The people who like my stuff tend to be other starving artists who can’t afford gallery prices. But I must have something on my price list (due tomorrow!).  I’m at the point of calling an old buddy of mine who is also an art dealer BUT he has bought pieces from me in the past and tells me he intends to in the future. Would consulting him be kosher? I know he’ll be practical and honest, but it would still be sort of an awkward situation.

So. Maybe I’ll devise an mysterious formula of my own using: a) length of time it took to make; b) complexity; c) size; d) X factor (i.e., How much do I like it? How much do I never want to see it again?)

Did I mention that I’m sharing this show with two other artists? I have no idea what they’ll price their things at or their rationales. We’ve talked about it amongst ourselves but only in the vaguest of terms. They both have MFAs and I do not. Does this mean I should price mine lower? I’ve looked through a large book of galleries and their average sales figures for individual works. Most of them start at $100-$150. I’ve never priced ANYTHING over $100.

I’ve been told that so-called “emerging” artists tend to price their pieces too low, out of a desperate need to validate themselves and their art by selling SOMETHING, ANYTHING! I’ve also been told that it’s easier to lower a price than make it higher. But I’m also embarrassed about asking for real  long green.

Oh, bother. Plus there’s that pesky thought at the back of my mind — I need the money. I spend the least amount possible on first-class materials, but I need SOME recompense for all those hours spent painting, cutting tiny pieces of paper into recognizable shapes, sanding the board, preparing the board, making the thing look the way I want it to, sealing the whole thing up against the ravages of time and sun. Well, geez – let’s not forget coming up with the concept in the first place! Good or bad, I’m the one who thought of it and put it together.

I’m still deliberating. After all, I have till tomorrow. I always tell myself that I work and think best against a deadline.

If it comes down to it, I can always just pull figures out of a hat. Then if any of the gallery patrons asks me why such erratic amounts, I’ll tell them that even my pricing is a work of (conceptual) art.

ImageI get asked where I get my crazy ideas maybe a little bit more often than a lot of other folks, maybe because a lot of my ideas really do seem pretty crazy. Like the collage illustrating this post. I do have my fans, and most of them use phrases like “strangely disturbing” to describe my stuff. That suits me just fine. But honestly, the most important thing is not having fans who “get it” (as wonderful as that is), but the fact that you, yourself, love what you’re doing. Seriously.

I keep hearing about artists with MFAs who chart careers. I can see the graph now, the incline, the plateau, and then either a further incline or the long descent: “Emerging” then “mid-career” then “late-career” as though the stage the career has reached is the best way to describe the art and the artist as well.

Take heed, fellow starving artists: I personally don’t care if you’re on a career path or not, but I do care whether or not you love what you’re doing. Otherwise, why be an artist at all, especially a starving one?

One of the most useful,  entertaining, and  inspirational experiences I ever had was a week-long workshop with Lynda Barry a few years ago. This woman is a genius who draws and writes like nobody else. She captures the feeling of what it’s really like to be a child (the terror, the longing, the love) as well as anyone since Dickens. I love her work and no one else could do it.

Lynda Barry spoke from her own experience when she advised us to pay attention to the work, pay attention to the voices in your head. Do not give a thought about an audience for your work (at least not while you’re in the midst of  working). Be selfish. Do it for you. At the time of the workshop Lynda was working on a wonderful art journal where she put ideas, drawings, snatches of conversation, color experiments. Did she use a fancy-schmancy expensive notebook with an extra-special grade of paper? No. She used regular lined yellow paper. What counted was what she put on the paper, not the paper itself. Being allowed to leaf  through that journal was one of my most thrilling adventures to date (and I’ve had more than my share of adventure).

At any rate, what I’m trying to say is that you can find a way to do what you want to do somehow, if you really want to do it. This may mean you have to get a grunt job somewhere to pay the bills, but that’s okay. That sort of job just leaves your mind more free to explore ideas when you get off work, instead of fretting over some office deadline. By the way, don’t fall into the trap of getting stuck  in the kind of corporate career path you find it hard to get out of, even if it’s a path in corporate art (unless, of course, it’s corporate art that truly makes your heart sing).

I know it’s hard to do this, especially if you have a family and all the responsibilities that entails. Still, try as hard as you can to come as close as you can to your ideal. Listen to your inner voice, be it quiet or explosive, soft or wild. Take time, and let your family know you must take time, to do your work. Even if they tease you. Even though they may ask you why you do it, when it doesn’t look like anything they’ve ever seen before. Or why you do it, when they’ve seen other things” just like it.”

I myself have partially solved this by having an extremely understanding and caring husband, who is a genuine 50/50 kind of guy. We are both self-employed and live and work in the same building, with a bookstore up front and an apartment in the back. It took us years to achieve this goal, but it does give us more time as well as more space. We can trade off chores, depending on who is getting ready for what project. This month I’m working on getting a gallery show together, so Ken is demonstrating his culinary skills (good for me, since Ken is an excellent cook). In March, while the show is on and I have more free time, I’ll do some more cooking and he can spend more time on his own projects.

As I said, this required time and commitment, but we have as good a balance right now as we could ask for. We may not have much money, but we do have the most important things: love and meaningful work.

Of course, there are alternative solutions and compromises that you can come up with too.

Just remember, the first thing to do is listen to those inner voices and they’ll tell you what your priorities are.