Dear Fellow Starvelings,

I know all about how a true artist must follow her singular vision, not care too much what others say, make her art for herself and not necessarily for any intended audience.

But we all know how good it feels when someone praises our work! Especially when we know they’re being sincere about it.  I’ve got a smallish but (I hope) growing base of people who apparently see things through as  bizarre a lens as I do.  Or at least they like taking the occasional peep through that lens.  And it feels soooo good to hear them say so.

I’m promising myself right now to spend more time “liking” the artwork done by my friends on Facebook, and “liking” the galleries that show interesting stuff, and even “liking” the foundations that make a lot of this art-making possible. Telling people in person, too, of course, when I have the chance.

Everyone should feel the glow of praise once in a while.  Of course, no one should praise something just because she thinks she should, or because she’s expected to, or (lord have mercy) because she’s asked to. Fake praise is nothing but flattery, and flattery not only gets you nowhere, it’s also usually recognized as being fake. Which just makes things sticky and awkward.

So praise when you feel so moved. That’s my advice and, I hope, my practice too.

I’m in an especially good mood today because I’ve been selling some of my recent pieces straight off the internet. Even though I don’t intend to use Facebook as a commercial venue, and just post my pictures to let other folks see what I’m up to, when somebody says he wants to buy something  he’s seen there, what can I do??

At any rate, I think maybe it’s time to rethink having a commercial website where I can send people to browse. This is really going to be a big deal for me, and I’m going to tread carefully.  It does make sense, though, to give people a chance to see the pieces priced *before* deciding to buy them.

I do just want to mention one thing that’s even better than hearing that someone likes my stuff, or even that someone wants to buy my stuff. And that is all about making the art itself — when I’m stuck, having a sudden vision of what I have to do to make the thing right — or finishing something and actually liking it myself (I’m a tough audience, especially for my own stuff) — or just the sheer joy of applying color to paper. Those are the true moments of ecstasy for me.

And I hope for you too —

See you next week!

Judith Keefer Tingley – Mixed Metaphors

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Dear Fellow Starvelings,

April has come and gone, a sodden sodding mess. Now the sun has decided to shine and I’m ready to go dancing in the streets!

But before that, let me describe to you a very tricky situation a friend finds herself in. This friend (we shall call her MM, for “Miss Moral” because moral she tries to be, even though the moral path is sometimes not the most obvious one).

Here are a few facts about our MM:

She is a painter. She is also passionately political.

She belongs to an association of painters, all of whom are very nice people. It is a well organized association, with a President and a Board of Directors and lots of committees.

Recently MM received a notification from the Association that she needed to add her signature to its by-laws, as this was required of all members. Our poor MM had not been aware of this requirement; she had not even been aware that the association had by-laws. Wanting to be a good member, she found the by-laws, read them once, read them again, and then again, shaking her head in bafflement. Most of the document was just as she’d expected, but one clause gave her pause. It was undoubtedly the most well intended of all the sections, but she worried that its inclusion might force her not to sign, thereby resigning her membership.

What was it that worried MM so? It was the insertion into the by-laws a statement asserting that the member would not make art “that defames or vilifies any person, people, races, religion or religious group and is not obscene, pornographic, indecent, harassing, threatening, harmful, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, abusive, inflammatory or otherwise objectionable.”

Well, of course this sounds perfectly fine on first reading. MM would never ever ever make art that could be considered racist or sexist or homophobic or ageist … but wait a minute… MM considered the content of some of her political paintings. She made fun of certain political groups. She made fun of religion in general. She vilified racists, sexists, homophobes, ageists and others of their ilk quite strongly in some of her pieces. She sometimes included likenesses of well-known politicians or celebrities in her work, and not in a flattering way.  She pondered the meaning of even including privacy rights and publicity rights in the by-laws.  But as she understood it, art trumped these, at least when applied to public figures.

The more she thought about it, the more confused she became. Surely some of her paintings could be regarded as indecent, maybe even inflammatory, and “otherwise objectionable” — she was sure at least some part of the population would object to many of her pieces.

So, though she deeply respects the intentions of the agreement, she still hasn’t signed it.  And the vast world of possibilities seems to be getting smaller and smaller as she considers some of the pieces she has planned —  what might be indecent, what might be inflammatory, what might be otherwise objectionable.

I took my show down last week. It was a wonderful month full of nice people saying nice things about my work (and even buying it!!). I feel like I’ve taken a big first step.

On the other hand, I’m also feeling something similar to postpartum malaise.

I know I need to start working again, and I even have plans for a Scarlet Letter piece and a Cain & Abel piece (settling the score, as it were). But these projects are large & complicated and seem intimidating right now.

What to do? Well, I’ve decided to give myself a little boost by beginning with an abstraction & then finding patterns in it. Like when I was a kid and found patterns in the wallpaper. I’m working with the first abstraction now, using color pencils to discover my own creation within the lines. It’s fun and surprising and I find that I’m actually constructing a coherent picture out of it all, just going with my gut..

I don’t know if it’s art, but it’s getting me energized.  I’ll post the finished product when it feels finished, and you can judge for yourselves.

Art or not, it is serving a useful purpose – it’s getting me going again!

Our Global Village

Posted: April 7, 2013 in Uncategorized
Today is National Holocaust Remembrance Day. I have been watching SHTETL, a film that asks hard questions about how ‘good people’ can ignore or rationalize or even condone horrific acts that are taking place in their own village.
We must remember and learn from history.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the persecution of ANY group of human beings.
We are living in a global village, and EVERYONE is our neighbor.
We cannot allow ourselves to ignore the suffering of human beings
anywhere in this world.
PBS has made it possible to watch SHTETL online, here:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shtetl/

 

And yes, it is high praise indeed when I come right out and recommend a company. Too many small companies are just subsidiaries of large corporations, and I’m not a big fan of large corporations.  In fact, this situation can get downright depressing at times.

But I am not here to bury small business. I am here, just as I said, to praise it!

Lucky and astute is the person who already patronizes American Science & Surplus, either through the company’s mail order catalogue or at one of its retail locations (in Chicago & Milwaukee). These fortunate customers have access to so many interesting and useful things, things you just don’t see anywhere else (well not at these prices, anyway).

AS&S (I vow that I am not in any way associated with this fine company except as a thrilled customer) is pretty much what it sounds like — surplus items, many of a scientific nature. But such surplus! You should check out their website (where you can also order a catalogue) and see for yourself how varied and rich and CHEAP is their selection, how clever is their commentary, how lovingly they put the whole thing together.

This is the only catalogue I read cover to cover. Yes, even the science section because EVERY section in this catalogue is likely to have something of use to me as an artist, and to open up my imagination in a way that those cookie-cutter magazines and their associated ads mentioned in my previous post can never ever do.

What have I received and put to use from AS&S? Hemostats! Silver paper! Wooden objects such as unpainted dice & round wheely type things! Doll heads! Doll legs! Twine! Cord! Ribbon! Fabric! Tweezers! Scissors! Wire! Chinese Rifflers! Rubber mats for cutting on! Lots of things to cut WITH! Paints! Beautiful glass bottles and jars to store paint and other things in! Cheap brushes for when I don’t need the fancy kind! And, really, so much more!

Let me just say that with AS&S, the possibilities really are endless. It’s icing on the cake that they’re so nice, and friendly, and funny.

I’m always telling people to patronize independent businesses, and AS&S has been chugging along like the Little Engine That Could since 1937 or thereabouts. They are unique and wonderful and you should be inspired by them and their offerings — so inspired you might order something today!

Okay, that’s enough exclamation marks for one post. (And one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to swear off exclamation marks … ah, well, so it goes …)

Anyway, here’s their website – have fun – (I personally have my eye on 2 pantographs for $4.95, you can’t beat that) – http://www.sciplus.com/s/c_2

Fellow Starvelings,

You’ve seen them. I know you have. They’re usually in strip malls or retail complexes or even in the somewhat grander vertical malls, the ones with escalators and food courts where you can order Pad Thai. I’m talking about arts & crafts chain stores. They all have the same inventory in the same sections so if you’re in a far-away city you’ll still know just where to go for those Very Special non-toxic archival quality sparkly pens, or whatnot.

It should be obvious that I’m not talking here about independent artist supply stores, where the staff  knows something about making art, and tries to provide the highest quality merchandise to their patrons. Yes, these independents can sometimes be over our normal budgets, but sometimes the prices aren’t so  much more than the chains. Not to mention the fact that once in a while one really does need to splurge. (We starving artists especially deserve an occasional splurge, since we’re so tight-fisted otherwise & save our pennies for such eventualities.)

The chain stores are expensive, too, and I’m not just talking price. They sell gimcracky & faddish stuff, meant to fall apart. They sell KITS for heaven’s sake. All well and good for the youngsters, but don’t kid yourself that a finished kit in any way represents an artistic endeavor. They sell a lot of junk, and no  matter what junk is priced at it remains junk and is therefore expensive, wasteful, and time consuming. For the sake of honesty I should add that they do stock some respectable brands as well, often priced about the same as what you’d expect at the independent store (see above); so go for the independent in these cases.  I have nothing against handicraft, by the way, and am fully aware that it takes a lot of time and talent to produce some of the wonderful pieces I see at artisan exhibitions. One of a kind pieces, and again, NOT  made from kits. So this is not about art vs craft. It’s about the declaration that somehow by merely following directions and making something that looks “just like the picture” in the magazine one is making ART.

Personally, I blame the rise of these look-alike chain stores on the concurrent rise of glossy a&c magazines, expensive magazines with delusions of glory. You probably know the ones I mean. They’re big & colorful & full of ads for the very same merchandise to be found in the Big Boxes. It all begins to make sense, doesn’t it? And these very popular magazines are full of what they call “art” — which all looks alike. Boys and girls with angel wings. Ghastly mermaids. “Glamorous” tributes to such artistic cities as Paris and Florence, etc. etc. The magazine will feature articles (in actuality sets of instructions) which, according to them, will inspire the artist to new heights of imagination and skill as long, of course, as the artist uses the list of brand name products (coincidentally their ads appear in the magazine for ease of  acquisition)!

Your imagination will soar! The possibilities are endless! scream these magazines. Well, no. Copying someone else’s design does not require imagination, and the possibilities seem to end with the final bit of instruction.

Honorable craftspeople doing their own thing should be horrified at what these magazines (and shops) are doing to the concept of craft as well.  ART is the goal, even though what is being promoted isn’t ART at all. Craft, on the other hand, is relegated to the children’s department. When I think of the brilliant, original pieces of handicraft that I’ve seen at artisan exhibitions, the dismissal of craft in favor of GARBAGE AKA ART in these magazines makes me weep.

This is so messed up and turned upside down that I’m almost driven to despair. I’m beginning to see “art” pulled straight from the pages of these horrible magazines now hanging in galleries.

Perhaps I’ll be less grumpy next week. After all, the exhibition is going well and I sold one of my favorite pieces today! (or maybe that’s helping to make me grouchy — I’m losing one of my favorite pieces — bye, bye!) Hope to be writing about more unusual sources for materials that really *can* send your imagination into overdrive next week. In the meantime, Find time for art this week!

Greetings, Fellow Starvelings —

Well, I got ‘er done. That is, with the help of my cheerfully competent husband and my fellow exhibitors my first show is hung and will be appearing at the Hosmer Gallery at the Forbes Library in that artsy town of Northampton, MA, for the rest of March. You’re all welcome to come!

IMG_4776

And  now you know why I’ve been absent from this blog for the past few Sundays or so.

Having gone to quite a few small gallery s hows in my day, it occurs to me that much of the expense for the artist is putting a classy looking frame on the art. I’ve never seen the need for frames myself, but a lot of galleries insist on them. Sure, they make the presentation more “professional” for what that’s worth. They also make the piece look more expensive, more worthy of the money being asked for it. Or am I starting to sound a tad cynical?

Anyway, I’m very happy that the Hosmer seemed to understand that my stuff was never intended to be framed and they did  NOT insist. Partly because most of my stuff is obviously 3D (lots of layers to be seen from various angles).  Also, I often have pieces extending past the edge of the wooden board I use as platform.  The pictures look as though they’re uncontainable, and that’s part of the point.

Anyway, here’s a practical, easy, and cheap way to get your unframed pictures ready to hang. Get some wood “furring strips” at your local hardware store or lumberyard. Different sizes are available; get what will go horizontally across the back of your picture with a few inches to spare on each side. You’ll need two per picture (across the top & across the bottom). Pick up some screw eye hangers & wood glue while you’re at it.

Follow directions on wood glue, using clamps to hold the strips to the wood back, then allow 24 hours to dry completely. Wood glue gives a very strong hold when used wood-to-wood. Now screw in the hangers, one at each end of the top strip (I put mine right into the side, but you can also try an approach from above). You can use your fingers but after yesterday I recommend you get a forceps or something similar to reach in and do the twisting for you.

Now all you need is some strong fishline and you’re all set. You can buy fishline in massive spools and have a life-long supply for $40 – $45  or so. Or  you can get just what you need for a specific project. I was first-time lucky, because Hosmer gave us both fishline and hanging brackets.

What is the strip across the bottom good for? you may ask. Well, it  makes the picture hang straighter, eliminating much of the inward lean that so many pictures (framed or not) have without it, and which can make folks seasick just trying to meet a picture head-on.

Okay, now I’m left with the absolute and total disaster area that my living room has now become. Wasn’t I talking about organization just a few weeks ago? Ha ha!  I’ll tell you right now that no matter how organized you might normally be, the last few weeks before a deadline can wreak brand new havoc. At least I know what to do with the stuff I’ve been throwing around once I find it. There’s a place for everything. Of course, I also have to find the places under all this  junk.

See you all next week!