The Art Game – not for the faint of heart

 

 photo courtesy of larryvillephotos.blogspot.com

Who am I, standing in the midst of this thought-traffic?  – RUMI

The life of an artist is like being a one-armed paper hanger or a one-man band or someone who herds house cats. Anyone who still believes that an artist passes the days squirreled away in some romantic, sort of melancholy, splattered-up loft studio, sipping wine and adding a brush stroke here or a swipe there is sadly misinformed. Here in the 21st century, life has changed so dramatically that you would scarcely recognize it as being a quality life for the professional fine artist. It is rather chaotic, and requiring multi-tasking and laser focus. It can make you crazy.

With the evolution of the computer we artists have absorbed a relatively nano-second-ish,  lightening speed change in the way we do business. With digital imagery, social networking for marketing purposes, website maintenance, the need to write newsletters & blogs, keeping a database of clients on  spread-sheets, writing our own resumes, bios, mission statements, self-publishing brochures and invitations, then photographing and cataloging our work, cutting matts, framing our work, seeking gallery representation, shipping art and transporting it to and from shows, recording sales, bookkeeping and paying our quarterly taxes…..well you get the picture. A much smaller percentage of time is left in the day to relax and paint. In many ways it is easier to do all this than it has ever been – and in other ways it has become increasingly more and more complicated. The tasks have widened, deepened and intensified instead of narrowing and being more focused. Today’s artists can no longer afford to just paint; not that they ever could; and few to none are able to afford an art rep. And NOW! OMG there is mucho competition out there, and unless you can run with the wolves you will be trampled and forgotten. With all the ways to communicate now, an artist is constantly bombarded with the images of the others, the wolves winning the race. An artist can stay aware of everything else out in the marketplace and even make adjustments, if he/she is flexible within his particular genre, to what is more trendy and marketable if that is what he/she desires….  Or if he/she wants to stay totally off the beaten path, then at least he also knows what the beaten path is doing at the moment so he can travel against it. Never before has the world seen so much about what the rest of the world is up to. Ignorance is no longer an excuse for any single thing.

An artist has got to be clever. And very efficient. Organized. Charismatic, great with the public, charming, funny and able to speak well about what he does and why. Technologically savvy. A marketing genius. A true salesperson. Gone forever are the days when an artist got away with silent sulking, being disheveled and drooling, a cigarette hanging just off the lip, obtuse and inarticulate, not to mention solitary, antisocial and in need of personal grooming…. I can’t say these days that we are all polished up poster children for the perfectly put together artist in the 21st century, but we do generally look different now – almost like downtown city business people who are just dressed a little off. We are better now than ever, just still odder than most.

And that is how we like it. For god’s sake let us at least hang on to that, OK?

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The Creative Epiphany – The Schizophrenic Artist With Her Hair on Fire

?????????? Mixed media Collage titled “Broken Road” by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2014

Remember a couple weeks ago I was talking about the creative person who changes his/her style and cannot please everyone in the process? I said it is no one’s business but your own how you paint, what you paint, and what direction your unique evolutionary process takes you. OK that is a given. But some of us do it a little differently, so it’s no wonder the innocent viewer is confused. This “being a creative artist”, meaning any kind of creative person at all, is multi-faceted, and it not only goes deep, it goes very wide, and then it goes deeper again. If you were fracking for the good stuff, the core, the gem of being an artist, you’d have to go in from the side as well as going deep. Very seldom do you get a gusher, and rarely when you do, it is not just about the art. There is just so much else down there….

So – your evolution within your creativity is your journey – your adventure – and no one else will ever truly grasp your struggle with it. Some people follow a straight path, sensible and logical, one style morphing slowly into another, evolving sanely; others do not. They take the broken road. Being an artist, writer, musician (such as the ones who are in the symphony orchestra but play rock & roll for fun), of many styles, all running consecutively throughout your career is insanely different and only once in a great while at some special intersection does it feel the same as those who go in the straight line. You do move forward, but in a more exhaustive frenetic pace. I guess you could put it this way – you are evolving as an artist just fine, thank you very much, but in so many arenas that you jump from one arena to the other as they all race along neck to neck in a parallel line, often changing lanes in the same day, because you could not possibly live long enough to wait until one style runs its course before you start on another. You are too impatient for that! You need to be trying out lots of ideas at once to see which one sticks and becomes the money -maker or the emotional shaker. You are a three-ring circus, a one-man band, or in the extreme a psycho artist with your hair on fire. I actually think many fine artists of the painting variety do this, and they are on fire in a good way. If you can manage the chaos it works to your advantage since one style or avenue of creativity feeds on the other, and is enhanced by the proximity of all the other creative outlets you are pursuing. So you multi-task and you get more done than if you did not. That is the fun part.

Oh but wait…painting the canvas is only one component of the puzzle. There is still much to be done after you have dripped blood onto a canvas and bled out, giving it all you’ve got. The rest is all done behind the scenes in the third world sweat shop studio where YOU are the one working 24/7 with no days off. After the styles and the choices and the evolution and the actual work all fall into place, then the real work begins. Unless you have hit it so big that you can pay $$$ to have the drudgery contracted out to about a half-dozen other worker-bees, you must do it yourself in your “off hours” from painting.

For instance, if you are an artist who is also a talented writer, those gifts combined feed the way you execute and explain your art, both verbally and in print. You will need to write a distinctive Bio, an Artist’s Statement, a resume, as well as keeping a detailed inventory of your work. If you are also a photographer, you can learn to correctly photograph your own art, saving hundreds of dollars and a boatload of time. If you are a computer wiz you can edit your photos and arrange them with text in your portfolio, after sizing them, cropping them, making color corrections and adjusting them for accurate brightness and contrast. If your work requires framing, well then frame it yourself or allow an enormous amount of money to have a professional do it – and allow plenty of time for that to happen. Weeks and weeks sometimes. If you understand the basics of sales and distribution, then you have a head start toward marketing your own art, or supervising the sales rep you pay $$$ to research galleries and sort through possible “good fit” retail and wholesale representation in your behalf. If you have an eye for display, you can offer an educated suggestion for how your work should be shown in a gallery situation where it must flow seamlessly from image to image. And last but not least, if you are a people person and you can bring a congenial first impression and a quality conversation under pressure, remembering names and faces and leaving a lasting impression, well then you have what it takes to be a success. Tired yet?

But wait again! How can you do all that and still have time to paint in several different styles all racing along at once? Therein lies the challenge. Good luck with that. But ask yourself, “Is there anything else I would rather be doing?”

If your answer is YES, then move on, and do it well.

The Creative Epiphany – If Not Now, When?

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Are you by any chance contemplating throwing yourself into a huge creative project of some kind? The kind of undertaking that involves an enormous investment of energy, time, dedication, perseverance, determination, problem solving skills and bullets of sweat? Not to mention possible disappointment. But also to mention the possibility of great gratification and success.

Does the thought of the thing haunt you? Do you toy with it 24/7 in your mind? Do you have a love-hate relationship with it? You would love to do it but you would hate to have to actually spend the time to do it? Could you live without ever doing it? Or would you always regret that you did not? But if you decided to take it on, and you were wildly successful, would that not be fantastic?

Being on a creative fence is a sharp and uncomfortable perch. You are kind of tortured by your thoughts, feeling poked by spiking jabs of doubt. It is a real pain in the ass. Because after all, that is what it’s all about – the doubt. You constantly inquire of yourself, could you actually pull it off? Are you up to the challenge?

Deciding to do this creative thing would not be hide-able. Everyone would know you were working on the thing. And all your fav people would say WOW.  Some would even go on to say Yippee for you! Go for it! Others would remain nearly silent, behind mocking, eye-rolling  expressions that revealed, Oh brother, here she goes again. How is she ever gonna do that. And they walk away to go pick up their dry cleaning.

Would not doing this creative project thing mean you are just a chicken? Or would it reveal your wisdom in knowing what is just going to be too much for yourself? Playing chicken with yourself means that you pretty much meet yourself coming and going as you circle around and around the thing idea and if you fail to swerve you run head-on into your own self and your un-engaged goals, absorbing the impact and proving your grit and resilience….and you decide you simply must accept the challenge because it has hit you so hard….or you abandon that fruitless game of monotonous dodgeball and make other goals, sacrificing your big dream. And the doubters are thrilled. They can’t wait to see the next crazy game you play with yourself. They are keeping score.

But perhaps gutsy you proceeds with your plans and dreams for the thing and yet along the way at some juncture during the doing of the thing you then actually allow the doubters to insert themselves midstream. You let them monopolize your thoughts. And what if the result of that is you never manage to finish the thing or make it a success, after being obsessed and absent for weeks at a time and spouting off enthusiastic progress reports over your busy shoulder to anyone within talking distance? So what if that happens?

What if the sky falls and pigs fly?

Some would say you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Either way brings periodic agony. Each way brings uncertainty. Big deal. Why don’t you swallow your pride and proceed into the unknown territory of the high achievers? You will find many friends there, all of whom were accosted by doubters as they fought to clear the path to their dreams.