escape to create residency - the work

e2c-9 2014 turned out to be a jam packed year between residencies, exhibitions and new work and materials. while the concepts behind my work shifted and clarified, the work itself started to take new forms. many of these shifts began with a residency in february at escape to create in seaside, fl. set in an idealic location of sun, white sand and blissful weather, i was able to bypass most of the polar vortex and focus on incorporating new materials into my work, as well as work on grant proposals.

the main focus for new materials was latex house paint. toxic if not disposed of properly, it’s one of those household items one always has too much of. while there are a variety of different options for disposal now, that wasn’t always the case. only 5 years ago, there were only three cities in the united states which had recycling programs for latex. one could take the cans in, drop them off. the paint would be sorted by colour, mixed and batched and prepared for resale. now, hazardous waste facilities across the country accept latex for disposal and some will allow people to go through the cans which have been dropped off, pick out what they want and take them home for use. i actually did this for installations later in 2014. all in all, i went through approximately 40 gallons of paint which had been picked up from a hazardous waste facility.

for several months prior to arriving in seaside, i’d begun experimenting with incorporating latex house paint in my work. a fellow resident, natalie bork, from my time at the mccoll center for art + innovation had used latex house paint in her work. while her process was completely different, i found part of her process fascinating. i was interested in finding a new material which would allow me to create similar formations to what i was able to create with wax, and her skins looked like they might be a good alternative. i’ve been looking for a material which would free my work from the rigid (literally and figuratively) substrate wax required. my goal was to create free flowing three dimensional pieces similar to the wax formations which could hang down a wall and run across the floor. work which could drape over a railing. an organic growth fitted to a man-made environment. i thought the flexibility of paint skins would give me that ability.

while still in charlotte, i rescued some cans of paint which had been left at the dumpster and started pouring on various surfaces to see what would work best to provide a flat even finish and wouldn’t be ripped apart when i peeled the dried paint skins up. i also experimented with different fabrics to see if i could find something which could be incorporated into the pour to provide additional support so the dried paint wouldn’t rip when under tension. by the time i left for seaside, i’d gone through about eight gallons of paint and created a few experimental pieces both mounted to wood and sewn together.

latexe2c-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i left for seaside, mats and tarps in hand, ready and excited to start pouring a lot of paint! the wonderful marsha dowler at escape to create worked with her local resources to gather up three five gallon buckets of paint. once there and set up, i started pouring. and pouring. and pouring. and to my complete horror, the paint didn’t set right. instead of yielding the consistent results i’d expected from the paint skins i’d produced in charlotte, i wound up with brittle, cracked paint which looked more like dried mud. it was dry and brittle, not soft and supple. i tried a whole host of different variables, but nothing worked. i tried thin pours. i tried thick pours. i tried mixing the paint longer to make sure everything was blended well. nothing mattered. i deeply frustrating time. i had all these plans and all these tools i’d brought to focus on this work, which was really excited to make, and it was not coming together.

so to give myself a little time to shake it off and figure out what was wrong, i turned to my backup project. just some salvaged materials from a previous fun and not-even-close-to-serious installation for a fundraiser. i saved the work because the materials were kind of cool and thought i might be able to do something with them at a later date. with some small measure of foresight, i brought them with me just in case i had some time to kill, to see if i could come up with a way to use them. the pieces were mostly large sheets of clear acrylic called dura-lar. i’d spray painted them to create a fun aquatic landscape. and for some reason, pulling these things out and looking at them, i sparked with the idea of little squid. scissors in hand, i started cutting up small pieces of plastic to make crazy cuttlefish. while they looked more like fabulous earrings from the 80’s, the cuttlefish led to jellyfish, jellyfish led to plants and plants morphed into something which bordered on feathers and birds. after hours and hours of cutting, these anamorphic creatures took shape and we made a trip down to the beach to see what they would look like in situ. the pristine white of the sand and contrasting black of old wood and degraded plant material became an amazing backdrop for these little creatures. click on the image below to see a gallery of the recycled acrylic pieces from the installation.

crdoc-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

in the end, the latex didn’t work out as expected. i created mounds and photographed them using a macro lens to create really lovely distorted landscape images. again, click on the image for the gallery of latex landscapes.

e2c-16

 

project update: the next few months and preliminary thoughts on project funding

latex time for a plan update!

with the beginning of next week starts truly an avalanche of activity leading up to our so called casting off in july. here's what the next few months will look like.

  • beginning of february - i begin month long residency at escape to create in seaside, fl. i'll be developing new installation work with new materials which are otherwise destined for landfill as well as working on a number of grant applications and developing the define earth website.
  • beginning of march - i'll be back in charlotte and starting to pack up work for my solo exhibition at city ice arts in kansas city, mo, as well as starting to sort through our belongings to determine what will be stored and what will be sold. we're also going to take some short scouting trips to places which might be interesting locations to work on the define earth project.
  • late march - we'll be launching a kickstarter campaign, celebrate my birthday, kevin retires, and we install the show in kc
  • beginning of april - after the exhibition reception and first friday events, i'll be back in charlotte, continuing the purge and packing up work for…
  • late-april - delivering work for artfields in lake city, south carolina. a two week long art competition with $100,000 in prize money. at the same time, kevin will be striking the show in kc and bringing the work back to charlotte.
  • may - a slight breather focusing on selling and packing as well as retrieving the work from artfields.
  • beginning of june - i begin a month long residency at the golden foundation in new berlin, ny.
  • late june - kevin will wrap up selling and storing our belongings,vacating our apartment, and come to get me at the end of the residency.

at that point we'll be officially homeless!!! yay! (i think.)

our plans from there out in part depend on how the kickstarter campaign goes, as well as how my funding applications are proceeding. at minimum, we'll be fixing up the 26' ericson sailboat we currently have so it's in live-aboard condition and fully safe for travel. i'll be creating some new pieces for installation of my show with aspen hochhalter at central piedmont community college in september. at some point in there, we'll relocate the boat to charleston, sc and start honing our sailing skills as well as beginning actual project work.

my funding strategy is broken out into plan a, b, c and d because i'm a former project manager and some anal retentive behavioral patterns you just can't break. but suffice as to say, they range from going with what we've got and making due, working pretty small to begin with and growing over time to selling the boat we have a buying a larger sailboat and taking off. a friend of ours who's an experienced sailor suggested we spend some time on the ocean sailing the boat we have so we can have a better idea of what we want in a larger boat when that option becomes available. we agree.

in my mind, i see the funding breaking down as such.

  • in-kind donations - we'll be seeking in-kind donations of equipment to fit out our current boat to make it a decent live-aboard and safer vessel for ocean sailing, greening up where we can. things like solar panels, composting toilet, wind vane and auto-steering, navigation equipment, etc.
  • kickstarter funds - funds raised from our campaign will go towards equipment we can't get through in-kind donations, and the sailing and project expenses - fuel, docking and mooring fees, any kind of permits we might need to get, project equipment, etc.
  • grant, foundation, corporate funds - larger project expenses such as purchasing a larger boat and implementing the onboard residency, upgrading equipment and greening out the boat, setting up the database and other platforms needed to maintain the habitat project (more on that coming soon), etc.

unfortunately, because the grant and foundation funding can take so long to come through, and there's no guarantee we'll win, i feel it's more important to get started on a small scale rather than not start at all. at first that bothered me. that we might spend a lot of the funds people contribute on the campaign fixing up our small boat, then receive a grant which allows us to get a much better boat. but then i realized if that does happen, those funds made from selling the smaller boat will in reality just go back into the project anyhow, paying for new upgrades, maintenance or project expenses, so it's not really a loss.

so, what do you think? sounds busy, but sounds good? do you have any questions?

 

project management and the artist: tales of a small installation

some time ago, i wrote a post about project management as an artist. i touched on really just the tip of the iceberg. having been a project manager for over a decade, it is a natural part of my process and the way i see events unfold. it's something i do all the time, whether i'm conscious of it or not. but looking back at what i wrote then, and where i'm at now, i think it's time for an update. because there is so much information to impart, this will need to be a series of posts. if you're interested, check back for more. project management is probably something you already do, whether you realize it or not. you have a show lined up, you figure how much work you'll need to hang. you think about how you're going to get it there. you think about a myriad of little things which will get you from point a to point b, and that is project management. regardless of the project, the same points always get touched on. we've already discussed timelines. let's talk about spaces and planning the exhibition.

and now, tales of a small installation project.

last summer i curated my first exhibition which included my work along with that of three other artists. it was a funky little exhibition in a crazy little space. literally a hand built shack on the grounds of the Castle Hill Center for the Arts on Cape Cod. (if you'd like to see images, go here.) i hadn't been to the space in person and while i knew the space was going to be rough, and small, i was still shocked at just how small it was. but it was okay, because i was prepared and had planned everything ahead of time!

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 11.23.03 AM

pretty much the first thing i do when i line up a show is to get the floor plan of the space with detailed measurements. in this case, it was a shack which had been built as part of a workshop. the shack was divided into two spaces, one a gallery and the other a library with bookshelves and some exhibition space. while generally, it seems like details aren't necessary for your average show, every bit of knowledge is beneficial. for installations or size specific work, it can be crucial. imagine showing up at a site to install, and finding there is a giant electrical box in the middle of the wall where you'd intended to put up a major piece. or worse, a tiny piece. picture a 9"x16" metal industrial box next to a 6"x6" painting. rarely is that going to work. but if you know ahead, you can plan for it.

gallery detail

librarywmeasurements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for losing ground, gaining perspective, i had selected two other artists in addition to myself whom tend to work either large scale or installation. having gotten a basic floorplan with some dimensions from the venue, i roughed out a floorplan for the space. the largest wall was about 50" wide, with a sloping roofline which cut into the available hanging space. i had to be very careful with what work i was selecting and placing to avoid overwhelming the space and not have the pieces installed at an odd height. my preference is for plenty of whitespace around the work and not crowding. with that knowledge going in, i went back to the artists to find out what work they had available, including dimensions and hanging requirements for installation. i then selected artwork which would fit according to gallery needs, hanging requirements and aesthetic requirements, and started laying out the artwork on my floor plan. there was one piece which i had very much wanted to install, but after a lot of issues with planning, i finally accepted that it wasn't going to work, and that artist and i selected something else. the floorplan was finalized and i let the other artists know which pieces i wanted.

proposed layout

we discussed in detail timelines, when i needed the pieces for installation, how they would be delivered, any installation requirements or instructions, striking the show and how the items would be shipped back, who was going to attend the reception, who could help with the install and strike, and high res images of selected work for the postcards.

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 11.18.29 AM

game day arrived, we showed up at the space with installation kit in hand and i had a minor freak out about how small the building was. it was so small. BUT! i'd planned and knew that everything would work, so it was only a minor freak out.

losing ground, gaining perspectivewhat i hadn't anticipated was that a rather large and slightly aggressive vine had started growing inside the gallery space over the winter! it took up a corner of the space in which i had planned to put a specific piece. the staff from Castle Hill said they were fine with removing the vine if i needed the space, but they were really hoping we could work around it. because the concept of the show revolved around environmental concerns, i thought it was a rather fantastic opportunity which you wouldn't normally have. nature invading our exhibition. so we shuffled some work around, and in the end, it was a wonderful benefit.

there was one piece which i hadn't actually been able to finalize before the installation, and honestly, it gave me nightmares. i had no idea if it would fit in with the rest of the show. i didn't know if it would fit in with the space or literally fit IN the space. i planned backup work for the spot just in case. but the work arrived. it was along the lines of what i was expecting and it was huge. but we were able to place it in the space i had originally planned and had previously discussed with the artist. with the help of some accidental and creative space rearrangement (we took/tore down a long worksurface mounted to the wall - so grateful for an awesome, flexible and understanding facility), the piece went floor to ceiling with the worksurface serving as a wonderful low pedestal. the somewhat opaque piece was also wonderfully backlit from a small window behind.

lessons learned:

all knowledge is good and get as much as you can ahead of time. and far enough ahead of time that it's a benefit.

whether it's working with a specific piece, a space or working with different artists, get what you need to plan and implement the show. if it's not working, cut it lo0se and plan something else.

plan all that you can, but be flexible to changing situations during the installation. you never know what might pop up and make the show better.

in the end, all the work looked great, it worked well with the idiosyncrasies of the space, the work all arrived on time and was a breeze to strike. the moral of the story, no matter how much you plan, there will inevitably be hiccups. but by having as much information ahead of time, it's much easier to sort out once they occur.

life is fragile

untitled 12.01last week i had the wonderful experience of going to an artist talk at the mccoll center of visual arts in charlotte. at the beginning of each new residency period, the center hosts these talks, and the incoming artists each give presentations about their history, their work, what they'll be doing while there. i've meant to attend numerous times but never seem to get out the door. being a little reclusive aka introverted, i'm uncomfortable around a lot of people, especially people i don't know. but i'll be starting my residency in april and i wanted to prepare for my turn. i love artist talks and if you've never been, i highly encourage you to go. if you're an artist, i recommend it even more. and go often. (this was actually my second this week. the first was vic muiz, most recently known for the movie "waste land", at the mint museum.)

for me, these presentations are very stimulating, and would account for my being up all night. yes, all night long i considered this one takeaway - the concept of fragility. it is one i deal with every day.

my work is comprised of long strips of wax, a rather delicate material. there are no armatures, no material embedded within to give them strength. no fabric or paper. just wax. there are other materials added to the wax to make it stronger, but in the end, the surface areas are still fragile. i've fought this perception, trying to reassure collectors that the surface isn't really that fragile and they shouldn't be afraid the strips will break off. in the end those attempts sounded like a justification of my work. the reality is, all artwork is fragile. think about installations in museums and the care taken to preserve them. think about how one places delicate objects in one's home. cat owners can testify never place the easily breakable christmas bulbs at the bottom of the tree within the easy reach of a paw. artwork is placed in a location with the same consideration.

after the talk, this concept of fragility seemed to extend further because life is fragile. not in xenophobic way. not in a constant risk assessment way. but in a "things happen" way. illness, accident, deteriorating health possibly from exposure to things which we probably shouldn't be exposed. life is fragile. and not just our life, but our environment as well. this is at the core of my work; this sense of fragility, this literal and conceptual tie between the human species and the natural environment. our exposure to toxic chemicals means a host of potential illnesses, reduced birth rates, increased death rates as the exposure oil dispersants have on coral. studies of combined Corexit and oil when exposed to baby coral larvae, found the larvae 'were unable to settle in rock where they should have flourished but instead died' according to a mote marine study.

bearing that in mind, this work should be fragile. the work should break apart and degrade. as we with studied ignorance, recklessly bound through life, thinking only of our desires and need for immediate gratification; this work should have that capacity to degenerate over time, even as we realize our own fragility. and maybe once we fully know this concept of fragility instead of the detached view we maintain during our busy busy days, we'll learn the reverence we should have for life and all things.

 

some observations from a juror

last week i think it was, i had the distinct pleasure of jurying my first exhibition and might i say it was exhilarating! i love it. i'm hooked. but it was also a fascinating experience being on the other side of the application, looking at what other artists do. i've worked very hard to create a professional presence. not having attended art school, i've always felt behind the eight ball when it comes to the business of art and to compensate, i study, read and research all the time to make sure i'm meeting the expectations of other art professionals and hoping to stand on equal footing with those professionally trained. what i learned from this jurying experience is that my assumptions were wrong.

most of the issues i witnessed in the submissions i reviewed i've seen spoken about over and over again on other blogs, in books, etc. they seemed like givens to me and in the back of my head, i though "who would do this?". evidently, quite a few. i know that those who read my blog would never do this, but just to be on the safe side, or if by accident some newbie stumbles across this post, here are some observations which will hopefully improve your chances.

please make sure to use the appropriate file labeling as specified in the call. DSC-001.jpg tells a juror absolutely nothing about who's work it is. how am i going to pick your work from that? seriously. if a juror is slammed with responses for a call, i can tell you they probably aren't going to take the time to sort out who's file that is. it will be automatically tossed out. for that matter, follow ALL instructions with respect to images, be it size, format, whatever.

did you really want to submit a photo of work which is dirty, creased, stained with ink splotches, taped to the wall with masking tape, poorly lit, etc? is that really putting your best foot forward? when there are other people, presenting professional level work and photos, do you really expect the juror to choose your poorly handled and represented work?

did you actually read the call? is the work your submitting in line with what is the topic or theme of the exhibition? i realize that there is a degree of interpretation involved when trying to decipher calls. i'm doing that myself right now with an rfp for an exhibition. but if the call is for portraits and you're submitting landscapes, you're throwing your money away. i don't care how beautiful your work is.

if the call is asking for details on the pieces, e.g. the size and medium, please, please, please provide it. the juror and venue actually do need to know the sizes of work. a 48" x 60" piece takes up a lot more room than a 12" x 12", and wall space is not infinite. if the juror has to track you down to find out how big a piece is, and there are plenty of other submissions which will suit equally as well with the specifications provided, you'll probably be eliminated. if you really want to do it right, submit the information as a pdf in a simple, detailed image list noting each file name, name of piece, medium, dimensions, year and any other pertinent information requested.

know your limitations - know what work you've committed for what time frames and don't double book. this is a juried exhibition, and i doubt any juror is going to allow substitutions. and offering prints as a substitute? really? that's unprofessional and is going to earn you a bad reputation.

i'm assuming that you love your work. do it justice. present it well. don't half ass it.

 

where we're at

realistically, there is a huge plan to be laid out when taking off on such an adventure. for years, we've made mental lists of remote, tropical locations, noted unspoiled and/or endangered flora and fauna to be seen. i've lusted after residencies in sun drenched italy or misty ireland, while kevin poured over blog after blog of cruisers in "preparation". now it's time for rubber to meet the road. so while you've been pondering "what's next?", we've been busy busy busy. i've been developing massive changes to this site. creating a shop page, details on "the plan", developing plans for "the book", and on and on. there's the route. putting together those mental lists into actual destinations and working up a map for you to follow. and the important part - the actual boat.

what do we need in a boat? in the beginning, we thought a boat somewhere in the neighborhood of 40' would be a good sized. long enough for safe passage across the oceans, but easily handled by two and not too pricey would fall in that range. something with a shorter draft would be good so we don't have to be too concerned about shallow mooring. we'd love, love, love a catamaran, but we are talking an artist's budget. the length of the boat also determines all kinds of fees - mooring, canal passage, etc. lately however, while looking at different boats, the idea has occurred to us that if we had something slightly larger, a second berth could be converted into studio storage. although i'm not planning on taking the wax supplies with me, there are other supplies and tools i'd like to take along. and there's the remote possibility of picking up new tools along the way. cough, cough! and there will be space needed to accomodate the world's slowest art delivery service. while we were leaning towards a 36-42' pedrick or maybe a c&c, the thought of having a v-berth in the forepeak has a certain appeal.

whatever we end up with, we're anticipating extensive fixing up and renovations along the way.  based on the experience and expenses of pat, ali and crew at bumfuzzle, our preliminary budget looks something like this:

  • $48,000          boat
  • $8,000            miscellaneous boat bits
  • $7,500            new sails, main lazy bag and shipment
  • $5,400            autopilot with installation
  • $3,000            dodger (welder and canvas)
  • $2,700            canvas sunshades
  • $2,600            backup outboard motor
  • $2,045            new hyphalon RIB
  • $1,900            ticktack wind/speed/depth
  • $1,335            new batters and starter
  • $1,060            300' chain
  • $960               lines, rigging
  • $925               companionway hatch
  • $710               EPIRB (emergency stuff)
  • $700               engine parts
  • $700               inverter
  • $650               refrigeration service/parts
  • $750               lifelines and cat overboard prevention nets
  • $450              charts

so we're looking somewhere around $90,000. that being said, feel free to buy some art. please!

coming clean

have you ever had one of those dreams that just sounds so outlandish, you're loath to talk about? it's nursed in your heart of hearts, and it's your deepest, darkest desire. the most basic version of this might be shared with a couple close friends, or people who would understand, but mostly you keep it to yourself because you just can't stand to hear from all the naysayers. you know the ones. the response starts with a deer-in-the-headlights look, quickly followed by the thought "are you insane", which is then reduced to "really?" and somewhere in there contains "i'm only thinking of your own well being…" in conjunction with a "but".

after a short but intense and electrifying conversation with a very wise and creative individual, i've decided it's time for full disclosure and i want to let anyone who actually reads my blog (there's got to be someone, right?) in on my secret dream. it involves kevin (my significant other who shall be henceforth known as my s.o.), myself, the cat and a sailboat. yes,  your worst nightmare and the cat's as well… a circumnavigation.

now, truth be told, kevin and i had separate ideas of our deepest, darkest desire. mine involved prolonged travel exploring new places and cultures, learning languages, new materials techniques, making art and exhibiting. and kevin's involved living on a boat and being able to move his home wherever he wanted to go. now, i'd been on a sailboat once in my life, as a kid, and kevin hasn't fully disclosed how much sailing experience he's actually had in the past, but he has read a lot of books if that could be any comfort. but the root of the plan made a lot of sense, and i liked it. a compromise was reached.

so over the next few months, those few people who actually read my blog will see changes taking place on the site. i'll be putting up more information about "the plan" and try to explain the who, what, when, how, where and why of such a crazy plan and why i think it will be so amazing.

stay tuned!

some of the finer points

while compiling my list of things which would need to be planned, i came across several items which i was unsure of. what time would i need to be out of the space by? did i need to patch and repair? what about the lighting - was i going to need to adjust the lighting or was that something they took care of? etc, etc.... so i sat down with my preliminary list, and wrote out an email to the curator to get more detailed information. the curator responded to me with her answers attached to my questions, which i've italicized for differentiation.

hi laura,

i'm formulating my timeline, etc. in preparation for showing at the carrack in october (i know it's a long time out, but i'm anal and like to plan ahead), and i have a couple questions for you.

 

i wanted to confirm a couple quick things about the dates. my dates are 10/1 to 10/11 i believe.
to be specific, my installation date is 10/1 and take down would be 10/11?

 

Correct- technically you have until noon on Friday 10/12 to be out of the space.

 

also, as far as lighting, i don't recall the set up. do i arrange the lighting or is it pretty much set the way it is? do i need to get any kind of permit for parking to unload and load the artwork on those days?

 

The space is lit by rows of spotlights that we rigged onto pipes so each of them are adjustable as far as their direction, but all are turned on and off by a single switch (i.e. there is no dimmer or individual control). You can turn off individual lights by climbing up our ladder and physically turning off lights one by one.

 

if i get you fliers by 9/15, would that be good or is earlier better? obviously not too early, but would say 9/1 be better? and how many would you like?

 

The earlier the better! I send out a newsletter at the beginning of each month but I can send out info much earlier to catch the press if I have it in time.

 

will we need to do any painting, repair, cleanup before or after the show?

 

The space should be clean and ready for you to hang when you get here but you will need to return it to that state at the end of your exhibit - spackle, paint, sweep etc.

 

i'm compiling a list of papers, etc., which i was going to send publicity materials to, and find out their submission requirements. do you have a list i can add, check against?

 

Yes! See the attached. Do please let me know if you send ot your own PR stuff to them so I don't repeat.

 

what do people usually do about food, beverages and music? in denver, the city banned galleries from serving wine and most didn't have food and/or munchies. i don't know what's done here, usually.

 

All refreshments are completely up to you. You are welcome to bring any food or beverage - alcoholic or otherwise - for the reception. Cups, plates and napkins are the responsiblity of the artist as well.

 

and that would be about all the grilling i can think of right now. is there anything else i might have forgotten?

think you covered it! :) 

project management and the artist

as i mentioned before, i'm going to be having a solo exhibition at the carrack modern at the beginning of october. this gallery is an experimental space, and the shows are completely produced by the artists. since this is the first time i've ever put together my own show from the ground up, i really want to put together a great show and actually have people show up. nothing is more depressing than an exhibition with no attendees, whether they like the art or not. and since i'm in completely unfamiliar territory, i'm going to once again fall back on something i do know which is project management; it helps me to organize my thoughts, i can track my progress, establish deadlines of when certain tasks need to be completed and when all is said and done, i can see where i made mistakes and refine the process. so, the first task is to put together a list of what needs to get done aside from the artwork. for example, i'll need postcards, press releases, etc. part of the organization is to break these down by general area, i.e. publicity/marketing, transportation and installation, reception. honestly, i don't know everything which needs to be done yet (remember, first time) so it's starting out as a draft and i'm sure i'll be adding on as time goes by. i'm also planning the actual work i'm going to hang as well, so i have a clear picture of what the exhibition is going to look like when the doors open.

again, the benefits of a timeline are innumerable. i can predict what my workload is going to be at certain points, and adjust if need be. i can also tell if i'm behind schedule and need to speed things up or get something done pronto. i also pad the timing to account for unexpected delays or things which may come up, so if something looks a little weird, that's why.

off the top of my head, here are a couple things i know i'm going to need done so i'll start by listing them out along with theoretical timeframes. you may notice, typically i work in reverse chronological order. when i'm still planning how to do things, i'll think about it in terms of how it's going to go step by step and then convert.

publicity -

message, visuals and title

postcards (if you want a postcard, make sure you're signed up for my mailing list and i have your mailing address!) should be sent out minimum 2 weeks prior one week to label and mail one week to print

total 5 weeks


facebook event


two weeks prior (with reminders?)

press releases 

list of list of media outlets, arts news and reviews to send pr to should be completed 5 weeks prior to opening - mailing lists, newspapers, magazines artsee (deadline?) NC art blog - Dave Delacambre independent other art/news sources? should be out 1 month (?) ahead of time one week to pull together

total 5 weeks

flyer 

should be out 2 weeks ahead of time 1 week to print and mail 1 week to develop

transportation and installation -

make floor mounts - 1 week pull together installation kit - 2 days (hardware needed? laser level, screws, nails, hammer, torch and extra butane, work kit, mounts, extra wall rubbers, leveling goop) build rack for transporting pieces - 1 week install rack in truck -  1 day install large paintings in rack - 1 day (park in garage overnight?) how to transport smaller pieces? drive to durham, install - 1 day (helpers?) (confirm dates and day for install) lighting installation shots before and during reception truck and rack - 1 day take down, clean up and return to charlotte- 1 day helpers? (confirm dates for removal) remove paintings, disassemble rack and return truck - 1 day

reception -

food/wine? music?

administrative -
title cards flowers? price list

what am i forgetting? i'm sure there are other things to add. suggestions?

 

 

scanning the listings

i was recently a featured artist on the ArtsyShark website, which you can see here. part of the interview was to discuss what i'm currently working on, but this time of year i'm typically more focused on administrative tasks over painting. although i was originally hesitant to bring it up,  i asked carolyn if i should write a little bit about my organization of business practices vs. creative practices and how i batch tasks. she thought other artists would be interested, and i've been pleasantly surprised by the responses and follow up questions. so, to further expand on that, i thought i would go a little more into my daily practices. because of the idiosyncrasies of an encaustic studio, as well as those of my studio, my practice developed into a certain rhythm. the year wound up divided into four separate periods; the heat of summer was too hot to paint, and the deep cold of winter was too cold. at first, i just took these periods as breaks, or focused on work which would be done outside the studio. but these forced breaks have become a rather integral period i use for my career development and those things which must be done and don't involve studio time; updating the websites, photographing completed works, etc.

another eccentricity of an encaustic studio is, unless you have everything set on a timer or have other work to do, typically you can't just walk into a studio and start slathering molten wax. the paints have to be warmed up, and my studio takes about an hour for everything to be at the point where i can start working. i know everyone has their own special routines they go through during this time. for me, i usually sit with a cup of coffee, cat in lap and i look at, among other things, calls and requests for proposal (rfp). there are a variety of sites i go through (a list of sites i typically look at are on my link page here), and i've gotten it down to a point where it goes rather quickly. i have loosely based criteria i look for in a call and anything which looks vaguely interesting i bookmark in my browser.

the bookmark system, for me, is really were the rubber meets the road. it's what allows me to be organized and on top of what i'm doing. probably residual freakish-anal-retentive-leftover-behavior from my days as a project manager, i break everything down by due date. the bookmark system is broken up into sets of folders as shown below:

calls

  • january
  • february
  • march
  • april
  • may
  • june
  • july
  • august
  • september
  • october
  • november
  • december
  • 2013

exciting, eh!?! when i bookmark a call, i tag it with the due date of the call in front of the call title, i.e. "2.17.12 apexart :: Unsolicited Proposal Program" and drop it into the appropriate month folder. if the call is something important, is an rfp which will take time to develop, or is a call i know i want to apply for but is due at the beginning of the month, i'll drop it into the folder for the month before or whatever month i plan to begin working on that call. my preference is to allow 6 weeks to work on an rfp. at this point i don't worry too much about organizing the dates within the folders. i'm just sorting.

the month organization itself starts at the beginning of the month. instead of searching through calls, i'll spend the morning going through the calls bookmarked for the month and organizing them by date. i'll also note the due dates on a desk calendar, starring those which i know i'm going to apply for. it may seem repetitive, but i don't want to have to turn on the computer to look at dates and how my month is laying out. i'll also note down conference calls, webinars, or anything else i have scheduled for the month. something to take note of with calls are there are different types of due dates. some are postmark, but not all, so you must make sure you know which is which. if it's not clear, ask. if you note the call thinking it's postmark, but it's received by, you're work is going for nothing. when it is a "received by" date, i build in time for delivery and adjust the call date accordingly.

now that the month is organized, when i'm perusing the listings, news, etc., in the morning i also have my own deadlines noted. on mondays, i'll spend a bit more time reviewing them to determine if i really want to apply or not. you don't have to apply to them all, and i definitely don't. but looking at them all mapped out with the important ones starred lets me know what the workload is going to be like. last fall i had something like 7 calls, 5 rfps (including residency applications) and 2 grant applications due within 5 weeks. almost all of them were important, so it becomes an issue of prioritizing, planning ahead and starting early. although i didn't apply for all of the calls, i would never have made the deadlines without being organized and planning ahead.

organization like this can seem monotonous. when i was younger, i felt that to have these kinds of practices or to have routines was the absolute death of creativity. ruts were ruts no matter how you looked at them. there is a distinction though between a routine which makes your life easier and a rut. and having these small routines frees me from having to make small, unimportant decisions all the time and frees me to focus on what's really important. i hope this helps, somewhat. what makes your life easier and allows you to be more prepared?

the carrack

being the impatient, overachiever i can sometimes be, i've been busy the last month or more working on various exhibition opportunities. while some of those i'm waiting to hear back on, and others are pending final details, one exhibition which is confirmed is for an exhibition at the carrack in durham, nc, for october 1st through the 12th, 2012. for those not familiar with carrack modern art, it's a really interesting venue. located in the heart of downtown durham, "The Carrack puts the artist squarely at the epicenter of all of its efforts. The space operates on a zero-commission, no-strings-attached basis, and we encourage artists to use the space for solo exhibits or mindful collaborations, allowing them to show their work as a whole, as a body of work rather than just a couple of works amongst many on a crowded wall, as is often the case in group shows, salon galleries, co-ops etc…. The artist should use the space to put his or her full artistic identity in the spotlight."

in return for such freedom on exhibiting your work, marketing, promoting and all other aspects of the exhibition are also in the hands of the artist. although a bit daunting at first, i'm really excited at such a wonderful opportunity. not only do i get a beautiful 50' x 25' space to work with, but also the invaluable experience of learning how to self-produce and self-promote an exhibition.

so, i've decided to blog about the process of putting this exhibition together. keep your eyes peeled for regular updates on the painting, planning and implementation. and sign up for my e-postcard and newsletter for quick updates on the progress. i have some new work in mind for the show which i think is going to be really great, and i think (and/or hope) the blog posts as a whole will be an interesting and illuminating view into the process!

getting it from here to there

i was asked recently about the technicalities of shipping encaustic work. i'm sure every medium has it's issues, and i know for a fact that every artist freaks out about the wreckage which can be made of your work going from point a to point b. encaustic has it's own peculiarities, and especially my ribbon pieces with their fragile sides and surfaces. so, let me plant a few thoughts in your head about handling the goods. items to consider in shipping:

  • edges and surface of your work
  • weather and ambient temperature
  • special circumstances

what is the condition of the surface or sides of your painting? do you have a lot of drips on the sides? it's something i believe all those who work with encaustic face - what are you going to do about the edges? leave all the cool drippings which are fragile and break off so easily? do you trim them off and clean up the edge. i usually edge the pieces, revealing the layering, and then paint the edge of the board. it breaks my heart, but honestly, i usually break most of it off while i'm working on the piece. and no matter how much bubble wrap i use, i think you're sure to lose at least half of what's remaining. if someone else has a great tip on this, i'm more than happy to hear. the only solution i've found is crating which is just not cost effective.

that being said, it's important to protect the surface of the painting with a barrier layer, and what i use is glassine. it comes in sheets, rolls, envelopes, and think of it as fancy waxed paper. straight waxed paper is also equally effective, but it's coated with paraffin wax, which may and probably will adhere to your work. since paraffin is an inferior wax, you really don't want that. glassine won't leave anything behind and prevents your packing layer (bubble wrap) from leaving little bubble marks all over your work. especially if you take pride in the silky smooth surface of your works? take my word for it - not fun. and if you're work is roughly worked, trust me, you won't get off either. wrap your work in glassine and rest easy, knowing when the work is received by the curator or buyer, it will look great and they won't be flipping about how to get rid of all those little bubble impressions.

as mentioned, now comes the bubble wrap. i wrap, a lot. it provides not just protection from impacts, but serves also an air barrier for temperatures, helping to insulate the work. the box might be driven around all day in the back of a delivery truck, which could be blisteringly hot or frigidly cold. this bit of insulation does make a difference, but how much also makes a difference. how much you bubble wrap do you use, you may ask? think about the package taking a side hit with something large and heavy. will your painting survive the hit? also think about how big your box is?  is there going to be a lot of extra space in the box for your work to move around inside? maybe some rolled up newspaper or something to fill up the extra space would be good. if the box is really tight, we're back to that side impact question again. do you have enough packing material to take a hit? you want your wrapped, insulated painting to fit snuggly into the box, no room for shifting or movement. if there isn't a box which is going to fit well, make your own. big sheets of cardboard cut to the proper shape can make sufficient boxes. or check uline, a great source for packing material.

i buy bubble wrap in big roles of one continuous sheet, perforated every foot. it makes wrapping easier. i also pack extra bubble wrap or place special foam corners on the corners of the piece. damage to a side isn't fun, but damage to a corner is really not good. take care of the corners. once the bubbles are in place, i wrap the whole with a plastic barrier, similar to industrial plastic wrap. it also comes on a roll, and you just roll it all together. it's a lot of work, but it makes sure everything stays in it's proper place and it's tight. unfortunately, none of this is very environmentally friendly, which really kills me, but until i find a better way, that's how it is. and i reuse as much as i possibly can without the packing job looking shifty.

although i have never done this, there are other artists who have found some form of metallic/foam insulation barrier which they wrap around the inside of the box. it could be something separate, or it could be incorporated into the box. i've been fine without it, but i've heard other artists swear by it. if you're interested, you might check a supplier like uline, or trusty home depot.

as an option, i've recently found some art boxes which have foam inserts which you cut to the size of your work. you can buy them with or without the metallic insulation barrier, and some artists say they are fantastic. i'm sure they aren't cheap, but check out this video. if you were to go with this type of scenario, you still want to encase the work in glassine. you always want to control what is rubbing or coming into contact with your work.

i often tell collectors that if my painting is melting whilst hanging on their wall, they have a much bigger issue than my painting falling apart, ie their house is burning down. the melting temperature of encaustic works is somewhere between 160 and 170 depending on what formula you're using for your medium. encaustic work will also get brittle in extreme low temperatures. so, you always want to think about what temperature ranges you're going to be shipping your work in, because this is important in the planning. if you're shipping in the middle of a heat wave or frigid weather, you might consider some form of expedited shipping. i  set up an account and ship fedex. it's great because i can pre-fill out the return shipping slip with my account number, and it gets charged to my account. the sender doesn't have to do anything and no worrying about the package having enough postage for the return shipping. all it takes to get an account is a credit/debit card, and bamm, you're a registered shipper.

although you don't have much control when the work will be delivered on it's way out, you have more control than you realize when the work is coming back to you. when i'm filling out the return shipping slip, i'm not using my home or studio address. i use the address of the closes fedex distribution center (remember, i'm shipping fedex). it's probably closer than you think. mine was about 15 minutes away. the reason why i do this is because my fragile, heat sensitive box is not being driven all over town all day. if i'm not at home, this great big box isn't sitting on my door step in 100 degree or 10 degree weather until i come home. and as much as i love my neighbors, there's no temptation for someone walking by. if you have the package signature required, then you're tied to someone else's delivery schedule of "whenever". but, if you ship to their distribution facility, it's sitting in a nice, climate controlled facility waiting for me to pick it up at a time convenient for me. any extra charge? nope. i love it!

there are special works, like my sculptural pieces, which would never work in the above kind of scenario. for these pieces, i build custom crates. i also modify the back of my sub-straights to accomodate the hardware in the crates. there are screw inserts located in each corner of the sub-straight which match up with wholes located in the bottom of the crate. a screw passes through the bottom of the crate, through a layer of dense foam cushioning, and into the back of the sub-straight. this screw is made tight so there is no movement of the painting within it's crate. this happens in each of the four corners. inside the crate, there is also ample room on all sides and top to prevent a side or frontal impact from hitting the painting. the lid, with instructions for installing and removing the work, is put in place. the crate is then packed into a box with packing material surrounding it to prevent movement of the crate within the box. it took a lot of work to figure out this packaging, as well as retrofitting older works to handle the crate. the retrofitting worked, but it was difficult and not pretty. if you plan on working out of the ordinary, i recommend thinking about how you're going to ship beforehand and save yourself a lot of headaches.

questions? thoughts? comments? throw it at me...

let's all step up and say "hi"

i made an amazing discovery this past week which still just astounds me. so simple, yet so profound, i felt like i just had to say something about it. it involves actually talking to people.

shocking! i know!

but let's think about this for a minute. i don't know about you, but i spend all my time in my studio, working away. i'm kind of a shy, introverted person and i can amuse myself for hours. i love people, but honestly they intimidate me. so, over time, i've developed this habit of communicating via email. for four years, i worked as a stock broker and virtually lived on the phone, speaking to people non-stop. it nearly drove me over the edge being "on" all the time with complete strangers and only added to my reticence of the phone conversation.

one and a half years later and i'm a changed woman. my skin doesn't crawl when the phone rings and i really enjoy chatting it up with my friends when we get a chance to connect. but this? this is something entirely new.

it all started during my busy week of pushing papers, writing proposals and filling out forms. i had a question. (two actually.) i also needed to speak with a reference of mine, someone i very much admire and who really freaks me out. normally, i would just jumped on that "new message" button and gone to it. but i didn't want to wait, so i picked up my phone and made a call.

that person on the other end of the line... that person was nice. that person was there to help me, and she actually did in more ways than one. let me explain. when i initially called, i got her voicemail. so i left a detailed, but not overly so, message regarding my question. i left my name and contact phone number. professional, nothing shocking. but when she called me back, she first reiterated what i was calling regarding, but then stopped and said "before we go on, i just wanted to tell you i visited your website and i absolutely love your work!" i thanked her, we had a short chat and she then proceeded to give me the information i needed, a time frame i could expect before feedback and that was that.

but this was an amazing experience for a variety of reasons. first, this wasn't just getting information. this was making contact with another human being in a personal way. we all know. we spend a great deal of time online. after a while you may get to "know" the nebulous person whom you've been chatting with, but it takes time. you're missing the inflections and intonations you have with a real conversation. you're missing all those nuances which tell you about whom you're talking to. instead of being a series of characters in a rectangle on a monitor, you are a voice, a personality, an individual in a way two or three traded emails will never be. and she looked at my website. a senior administrator for a grant giving body "loves" my work. now if i'd been really smart, i would have said "if you'd like, i'd be happy to put you on my mailing list. i occassionally send out electronic postcards of work in process or has been completed. and if you don't want to get them anymore, you can just unsubscribe."

i'm still learning too.

i also spoke with my reference, and instead of being completely freaked, we had a nice little chat and i found i'd completely misunderstood instructions she'd given me but was too nervous to confirm. i also met a lovely woman at, of all things, a farm tour. we buy a lot of organic meat from her, but took advantage of a local farm tour to actually see their farm. she was great, recognized us, so she stopped to chat. during the conversation, i casually mentioned i was an artist. she was interested in that way most people are when you mention "i'm an artist", and politely asked what i did. then she was intrigued, so i dug out my business cards which have photos of the work on them. then she was really interested and asked if i had done a residency or knew about the residencies at a local art center, to which i enthusiastically responded "yes! i'm applying for their program right now!" she asked if she could keep a couple of my cards (they're all different) to give to her friend. although this conversation may lead nowhere, any possibilities would have been negated if it had never happened in the first place.

again, i totally spaced that whole "mailing list" thing, but i'll get there. some day.

the point is, you are a complete person and whenever you reach outside your studio, you are interacting with other people. and they are just people too.

talk to them. you never know what may happen as a result.

the day to day is never what you'd imagine

when i first decided to embark on this adventure, i had visions of spending every day in my studio, sipping tea or coffee and painting my little heart out. things just never turn out how you expected. you know the feeling. after spending 5 or 10 years in a career, you find yourself in a position thinking "is this what i thought i would actually be doing when i was in school?" pushing paper. filling out time sheets and expense reports. trying to figure out exactly how much time was spent on "that" project today.

this life is not so different.

this week, i got to spend friday chilling out and puttering in the studio. and yes, puttering is a technical term. i had no real goal other than to not have a goal. no task list, no to-do's. mess around on facebook a bit and twitter a tad. at first, when i turned the studio on, i thought "what do i want to paint today"? that idea quickly went out the window in place of cleaning up pieces which were nearly finished.

the rest of my week was entirely different. it involved trading emails with galleries, speaking with a few artists and curators about references. speaking to grant organizations about submissions and questions as to their requirements. writing and submitting materials for review for one grant proposal, and reviewing the feedback. writing and submitting materials for a residency. reviewing the criteria for three other residencies and starting to get my ducks in a row for those. emailing and speaking with organizations on how to get into creative capital workshops and finding out about a fellowship i must apply for. reviewing a few calls. speaking with a friend about putting together a series of pop up exhibitions, while continuing the planning of my own exhibition proposal. and writing a letter of recommendation, which i've never done before. actually, pretty much all of this stuff i've never done before.

i've let these tasks intimidate me for months. there have been many opportunities on my lists, but this week i made some decisions. i know what i want to do. and now i know what to do.

nothing happens unless you make the first move. nothing happens if you don't take that step forward. i'm not willing to wait for opportunities to present themselves. i'm going to create my own opportunities. creating those opportunities means conquering your fears. it involves risk. it means putting the effort forth to become the person you want to be.

your life is in your own hands. make it everything you want it to be.

interview with laura moriarty, gallery director for r&f paints

following is an interview conducted between myself and r&f paints gallery director laura moriarty posted on the r&f handmade paints website as part my artwork being their featured artist of the month, june 2011. to see the entire feature article, go here.

Q & A WITH NATALIE ABRAMS & GALLERY DIRECTOR LAURA MORIARTY

LM: What is the core theme of these works?

NA: My work comes from a mapping of moments of hypersensitivity I experience; I think all people experience. I’m just fascinated by these flashes in time, sometimes momentous, usually not, in which everything just seems so crystal clear. These moments occur in a freeze frame of something I see or experience. The senses take over, the ego is shunted aside and the conscious is pure observer of what the senses are recording. I call it the “texture of a moment”. The other component is moments of self realization; a reflection of my state of mind at that time. How the exterior is reflecting the interior.

In part, that is why I gravitate toward painting water. We see the surface, the exterior we present to the world around us. But underneath there is what’s going on inside. The calm cool surface of placid water, but the huge bubble of air struggling to the surface as we’re drowning on the inside from our own inner turmoil. We live our lives measured in how many breaths we take; air is life and symbolic of time. Unbreathable, water becomes a suspension in time. Between the two there is a horizon line, an event horizon. My paintings are a mapping of that event horizon, both the physical texture and self realization.

LM: What do these ribbons of paint represent for you?

NA: These ribbons of wax represent emotions, as if captured on reels of film; once significant, later lost, discarded, or neglected and ultimately deteriorated. They are our history and future. They are the dramatic pauses, glimpses of our surroundings which turn into that aforementioned freeze frame where life somehow becomes particularly sensitive. These pieces reflect the textures associated with specific, tangible experiences, moments or events and feelings, which at the moment seem overwhelming but quickly fade from memory.

LM: Have you always worked sculpturally, and if not, when did you begin to?

NA: I started working sculpturally in about 2004 when I became increasingly interested in the dimensionality of sculpture and textures; giving texture a more pronounced depth. Life is three dimensional. It has depth and movement. For example, the movement of water as shown in the piece “deep blue”. Instead of painting a picture of ripples in the water, the painting becomes more of a dimensional exploration of the movement of the water itself. The textural rise and fall, broken up into big drops distinct but liquid, cascading and merging with one another.

LM: Do you think about environmental issues or events while you're working? If so, what have you been thinking about lately?

NA: Being an aggressive environmentalist, yes, environmental issues and current events are always in my thoughts including when I’m working. Up until recently, I’ve tended to focus on what I observe and want to preserve in the landscape pieces. I haven’t found the ability to express that intense anger I feel about individual and corporate irresponsibility towards the environment, although that barrier is finally coming down.  Events such as the mass destruction of environment, culture and personal life and lifestyle such as that we’re witnessing in Japan is a very difficult pill to swallow. And, though I realize many catastrophes such as Japan are beyond our ability to control, I do believe much is and I am always striving to make people aware of their impact on the planet and educate those who want to make changes to in their own lives.

LM: What do you learn by making your work?

NA: When I first started painting, I didn’t feel I was cut out to be a confrontational artist. I live in awe of those artists who are able to wear their feelings and opinions on their sleeves and in their art, but I just really didn’t feel I was one of them. My interests and issues were much different. I was focused on gaining understanding and perspective, living a more balanced and serene life and projecting that in my work. A prime example of would be my piece, The River’s Voice and The Bank’s Reflection. The painting is an interpretation of a passage in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha when the main character, Siddhartha, sitting at the river hears its voice. I used to read the book every year and that section was particularly poignant for me.

Now, I’m starting to feel that almost compulsive obligation to express what I feel are wrongs or injustices as those art heros have. Being very introverted and reserved, this desire for self expression is both liberating and daunting. But over the last 10 years, many things in my life have changed and as I develop, my work also continues to develop

location independent artist

below is a guest post by another artist, Nemo, whom i met online via a mutual friend. i love his non-traditional lifestyle and the flexibility and freedom it affords. i also admire his entre into so many different communities. enjoy, and please check out his work through the links below. -n

“I’m gonna retire, get an RV and see the country!”

This is the American Dream, I have heard it so many times in my life, I heard people say it when I was little, I heard it in college and I heard it when I worked in a cubical. Get out and experience the road, see what’s out there, see the sites, meet the people. Now that’s living.

My wife and I had the same dream only we are the types that don’t want to wait till we retire. Quick story about how we got to the point where we ditched the jobs, unloaded as many personal items as we could and gave up an address and hit the road.

We lived in a house once, had a yard, spent time doing yard work and talking to neighbors. We used to have people over and did all the things people do who own houses. We felt like we needed something else. Out of no where an opportunity came up that would move us from San Antonio, TX to Denver, CO. As an artist there’s only so many chances to sell art on your own before everyone you know owns a piece of yours and gets tried of going to your shows. So moving to a new city over a 1000 miles away was an excellent way of getting fresh eyes on my art. We stayed in Denver for about 2 years and had regular art shows, open studios and would go out and meet people everyday. About a year into it we felt like we had a good handle on the art scene. We were wheeling and dealing. We were being recognized and noticed at shows and around town. We were getting written up in newspapers and in blogs.

We knew we had to do more of this. So what did we do? We quit our jobs, sold all our stuff and got an RV. We hit the road to see if we could duplicate our Denver experience in other cities. We got ourselves into big festival type shows any where we could. The bigger the better. We shoot for the shows where people always say “that’s a hard show to get into” or “we never get into that show“. Then we book as many smaller shows as can and we talk to tons of artists and galleries looking for any cheap or free events to be apart of.

At the shows we try to find people who know about art events to do. And as you know people love to tell you what you should be doing and everyone wants to try to help you out, so we just put it out there and we listen for whatever sounds good. We pull all the strings we can pull. Like one time in Arizona we were at a big show and we started talking to an artist and he told us about another show at a parking lot of a grocery store. Then we heard about one show on twitter and while doing that show we met a guy who had another show to do which was small but very profitable. You just never know.

We learned so much, even though the lessons seemed hard and even cruel at times. We met so many wonderful people, even if we don’t remember everyone I hope that we brought a small glimmer of hope to living their dreams and doing whatever it is they want to do. And although we have been to a lot of places the list keeps growing and growing with the possibility of learning more and meeting more people. I know we hear it all the time but we really are living the dream that most people have. “Retire, get an RV and see the country” .

check out my blog
 

check out my website

 

 

 

who's life are you living?

there is this preconceived notion in our society of what our lives are supposed to look like. a notion subtly driven into our psyche from a tender age and one which even has changed the meaning of things. it used to be that being a "millionaire" meant having assets worth a million dollars. now that term means earning a million dollars a year. we're encouraged to live beyond our means, have a home too big for our needs, an expensive car to impress our friends and competitors, and to own a blue tooth headset costing enough to feed someone for a year in a third world country. at the same time, we are blessed to have that opportunity and there is no denying it. but if those glossy photos of plastic looking models weren't telling you how to live and what to look like, and we didn't have to work 80 hour weeks to afford that summer rental on the shore, how would you really live your life?

years ago, when i was a workaholic entrenched in a career i hated, a date asked me in a vulnerable moment that question. you know the one, the question we hate to be asked. if you could do anything you wanted, what would you do. i jokingly responded 'be an artist... with a rich benefactor'.

but the truth was, i had a hidden life. on the weekends, in the quiet of my apartment when no one was looking, i would stay up all night painting. being bored and exhausted one weekend, i wanted to do something new but low impact. i dug out an old art supply box given to me when i was young to see what there was and found some old, cheap pastels and a pad of watercolour paper. an obsession was born. i would work till 3:00 or 4:00 each night and then glean what little sleep i could. a few family members knew, and some friends, but that was it.

a few years later, as i was meditating leaving said heinous career, i asked myself that question again, but with deeper meaning. 'if i could shape my life in any way i wanted, what would it look like?'

i wanted to study and learn art and art techniques. i wanted to travel and remain in motion. i realized i don't like staying in one place. i like to explore. i like to see new things, new people. i want to experience different cultures and their depths hidden in languages. to combine the two, i decided on a nomadic existence; find a place to exhibit, move there 4-6 months before the exhibition, paint, learn the language, find something to study and find the next place to exhibit. rinse and repeat.

as i was starting to put my plan in motion, i met kevin and the plan stalled. men! i really liked my plan and, sadly or not, i was also quite attached to kevin. eight years later, i'm still attached to both however....

the plan has morphed into a new plan with details to follow and some nice opportunities for those interested in acquisitions!

working against the clock

i recently wrote the following as a guest post for fellow artist Nemo following a conversation we were having about different artists' perspective on attachment to their work. it starts with one to two days of mixing the base paint, the background colour which will be maintained through the entire painting. then there’s a day of prep’ing the board, one to two weeks of putting down the layers of alternating wax and oils. longer if i’m leveling the layers as i go. then comes the long haul of anywhere from one to six months of carving and digging the pattern out again. sometimes tedious, sometimes thrilling; like a kid opening up christmas presents, you never know what you’re going to find.

a quick piece takes a month. the average piece can take two or three. during that time, i get to know every gassy spot in the board, every burn mark, each layer of colour, every defect which adds character or gives me a headache. i see pinholes as a sign of sloppy work, and will take hours of cautious fusing to remove them. i’ll uncover gorgeous veins of oil in the wrong place. they must be sacrificed for the overall piece to work, but it takes an act of courage. what if another band like that doesn’t come along? will the viewer even notice if it’s left?

in the month or more this painting is on my table, i become intimately acquainted with it. every nuance, every feature, every defect. i know what was in a way no one else can ever know. i’ve tried to document the carving, but i don’t think anyone can really see what i’m seeing looking so closely.

and there are the psychological stages as well. i love it, i hate it, it’s awful and i think i’ll scrap it, then it’s not so bad, then it’s really bad and i should really go back to work because i’m just sitting here wasting time and i could be actually making real money to support myself. then, it’s done and it’s stunning.

when looking upon what i’ve created which no one else could have done, when it has personal meaning and beauty and significance; separating is like saying goodbye forever to a family member or close friend. i think for most people, when so much time and effort is extended toward the act of creation, it can be difficult to emotionally divest oneself from the piece. i know i’ve had to work hard at it, and feeling all the while those pieces suffer for that emotional distance.

there is something really special experiencing the joy a buyer goes through when picking up or purchasing a new piece. some are reserved and with some there is a lot of crying and hugging. getting the opportunity to share in that other person’s excitement and happiness makes it easier. knowing it’s going to a good home where it will be cherished and knowing it won’t eventually end up in a closet or storage room somewhere, neglected and forgotten.