Posts Tagged ‘art’

What with all the snow & cold & sniffles & whatnot, I discovered myself last week without a thing to wear. Yes, really. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been to the laundromat and foraging about the back of the floor of my closet yielded nothing but a few fossilized hairballs. So, heaving a sigh, I filled one basket with Warm and a second with Cold, and set off into the wilds of Sunderland, where my favorite (because usually empty) laundromat awaits.

Because I hate doing laundry so much, I always take something along that might at least give me a tad of simple pleasure, for balance —  usually an art book or journal or just some purty pictures. This time I brought a very plump overview of what the blurbs  contend are the most majorly exciting artists on the scene today (or at least yesterday, since the book was published  in 2008).

I did like a lot of the pictures – 2008, if you’ll remember, was a year filled with taxidermy, toys, and, as usual, huge inhuman installations — but what I found most striking was the language with which these works were described. I’m wondering now if the jargon of 2008 still works today and, if so, should I be taking more advantage of it.

Here’s a list of words and phrases I found in the text which, I think, are intended to indicate that the work under discussion is Very Very Very Important and Earthshaking and Cool:
visual and visceral — appropriation — decontextualization — multiple encoding — iconic — temporal flow — not strictly ocular — juxtaposition — deliriously infantile — revealing cultural codes — strange, mysterious quotidian objects — transformational — process — post-non-representational —

And so on. I’m sure you know where I’m heading with this (don’t use a small word when a bigger or more obscure one is available), but you can’t really get the true flavor without the surrounding text, which both in style and substance declares itself an art know-it-all, with the perfect vocabulary to set itself apart from the yahoos of the world.

Possibly I can boost my own art career by making more and better use of these and other polysyllabic words & perplexing terms. People will read my artist statement and scratch their heads, but by gosh they’ll pay attention and maybe even think I’m some kind of genius.  Then again, possibly I need to get a brand new book describing in brand new, yet still obfuscatory,  jargon just who’s the hottest of the hot cutting-edge artists of 2014.

 

 

 

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

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!

Image

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.

Dear Starving Ones,

I’ll be a bit on the short side today. Even though we here in Western MA missed the worst of Nemo (we just got the much friendlier Little Nemo), there was still an awful lot of shoveling to do, our fuel supply is heading toward zero, and I’m ready to take a dive under some blankets for warmth.

I can even make use of this time to do some detail work for the show next month. By the side of my bed I keep some things I can work with while watching netflix on TV (by the way, if I haven’t said it before, let me stress now that if you like movies netflix is a real bargain for the unlimited streaming alone).Anyway, I keep pens, pencils, templates, a box with variously sized & curved scissors, and a lap desk intended for a little kid (cheap) which has pockets on the corners so smaller stuff doesn’t disappear under the bed or get stolen by cats Luckily enough, I was the sort of child who did her homework while watching TV at the same time so this sort of multi-tasking is second nature to me by now..

So today I’m under cover(s) with a Bollywood movie to watch and some “coloring” to do — perfect!

I do wish the best to everyone in New England who is having a much harder time than we’ve had. Lots of folks still don’t have any power, and the snowfall has been incredible. Over three feet in some places, while we only had 15-16 inches. My thoughts are with you, New England comrades!

Personally, I’ve never been a football fan, and usually don’t even know who’s playing in the Super Bowl. Yes, I realize it’s the Great American Holiday but I just can’t understand the entertainment value in eating pizza while watching a bunch of huge guys smashing into each other But that’s just me. My own Mother is looking forward to the game (although I think in her case it has more to do with being a Beyonce fan than anything else) and so are a lot of my friends, even the literary ones.

However you feel about the Super Bowl, here’s my advice on how to make it an opportunity for artistic endeavor. If  you dislike it and don’t even want to watch the commercials and have managed to avoid committing yourself to being present at any parties, well fine. Consider the day to be your own Art Holiday, and spend the day undisturbed and free to work on your stuff. No guilt.

If you are for any reason watching the game, use it as an opportunity to sketch the human body in motion. Since these are very large bodies, this exercise should be especially helpful to those of you who aspire to be comics artists specializing in superheroes. You can also practice delineating a veritable panoply of emotions, as you watch faces expressive of hope, despair, joy, rage, etc. etc. If you are aspiring to be a commercial artist, take note of the memes being used in the extra-special advertisements so that you can avoid what they’re doing (after all, you want to establish your own Brand, yes?).

Have a good time, football fans, and whatever you do, try to avoid any discussion about the huge amounts of money football players get paid. Those same muscle-bound hunks you see tearing around the field like gladiators today might easily wind up in wheelchairs in their fifties. They’re making a sacrifice and a compromise to keep the Great American Holiday going, and I hope they’re also making some good investments.

 

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.

You may have noticed in last week’s post that while I was talking about organization, I didn’t dwell on tossing things away. In fact, I am not entirely in favor of the anti-hoarding movement of the past few years. You know what I’m talking about; you’ve seen the shows on TV. Tiny houses filled to overflowing: some with actual, disgusting garbage (ugh, yuck), but some with a mixture of the usable and the unusable.  Enter “hoarding experts” (who are these people, by the way, and where do they get their certification?) who proceed to convince the owners to throw away most of their possessions, until the houses are left as bare as one of Jack Webb’s old Dragnet sets or a vacant motel room.  Guilt is used as leverage, i.e., if you don’t throw out your stash of beloved objects, it means you love them more than you love your family. Now, in some cases that may be true, but to act as though this bit of psychobabble applies in every case is just plain silly.

J at worktable

Here I am, happily working on a few small pieces in the small allotted work space at my work table. I’m using some of the chipboard that I’d acquired for cheap a few years back — hundreds of pieces of it, which I kept stored in a box, waiting for their time to shine.

I’d hung on to them because I was sure I’d eventually find a use for them. And I did. They’re great as miniature book-casings and as the foundation for the small purses I’m making here. The “hoarding experts” would without a doubt have torn these seemingly useless pieces of board from my hands, insisting that unless I threw them away I’d be proving myself to be both crazy and selfish.

To tell you the truth, I’m perfectly capable of loving both my husband *and* the chipboard, just in very different ways. My husband understands and does not feel threatened by the chipboard or any other materials I keep on hand.

At any rate, my point is simply that if you see a bargain and you are absolutely positive that you will have a real use for it even though the project might not start today, tomorrow, or even next week, go for it. Remember those swell vintage ties I mentioned last week? I have  now stored them neatly in a stackable bin with the rest of my fabric. I know I’ll use them; I even have a few ideas roiling around in the back of my head already. Those hoarding experts may consider this an affront to their calling, but I’m keeping them just the same.

PS  My husband, naturally, has been given first choice of any ties he might want to keep for himself.