Monday, February 22, 2010

Art and Money Interview

Some time back, I did an interview with Zoe Westhof, part of the Unconventional Guide to Art, whose ideas I have been using as part of my personal quest. I wanted to share that interview here this week.

Before, what was stopping you from using the internet to expand your art career? (you can talk about fears, doubts, etc.)

Before I came across Chris's blog last summer, I had been busy with my teaching career here in Turkey and with parenting my young son. I had an acquaintance at my school who I knew had an website where he sold some of his drawings, but I felt pretty overwhelmed with my other responsibilities and I had some misconceptions about what would be required to put my art online such as having advanced computer skills and expensive fees, etc. Such misconceptions kept me from giving it much thought. I returned to this States last summer from my home in Turkey and in the course of this visit, I came across Chris's blog from a friend. His ideas about doing what you love, as you can see from my blog, resonated with me and coupled with some deep seated frustrations about teaching in educational institutions, re-energized my interest in putting more energy into my art that I had been. When I got the Art and Money package, I learned about how easy it was to start showing my art online and dove into those resources. Essentially, my own misconceptions were the main reason I did not start sooner. There is an old adage, when the student is ready, the teacher arrives, that seems quite relevant here.

How have you been using The Unconventional Guide to Art and Money? What were the most useful things you got out of it?

I found the whole thing to be wonderfully accessible. I enjoyed listening to the art interviews for the ideas that people had success with, particularly the photographer who seemed to add some needed counterpoint to all the successes your other interviews brought out. His evident skepticism was actually quite reassuring for me as I have seen a number of marketing systems such as multi-level marketing that always emphasis the ease of their system to gain riches. I appreciate Chris's sober approach which seems genuine. He seems to walk his talk, which I find so refreshing.The suggestions about how to market my art and how to think about one's business through the corporal metaphors( head, heart, voice, etc ) made a lot of sense and was a useful organizer. The suggested websites were extremely useful as I immediately started employing them as you can see. Chris's and your own emphasis on sharing and building community were tremendous draws for me and part of what feel so right and are the reason I want to be involved what you are doing. The whole package leaves one with a sense of "I can do that" and "here are the things I am going to do". Through Chris's blogs, I get inspiration and a model that is quite natural to emulate.

What were the first few things you did to set yourself up online?

I already knew a bit about blogging and had put some art on the web through blogspot, but reading Art and Money gave me the idea to create a blog that had written content as well as my art. I found that writing about what I was doing, following my bliss, seemed to be the most natural way to keep having something to say and since I have had that notion for the last twenty years, I think I have learned enough about that concept to have ideas and experiences worth sharing and reading. I already had some high quality pictures of my work through my earlier foray into brick and mortar galleries and access to a high quality scanner made it easy to start uploading images as I joined red bubble for its print on demand set up, fine art studio online, wix and cartfly all for my originals. I have been adding art to those sites and learning at my own pace about marketing myself. I have appreciated that sense of taking things in my own time and in my own and I appreciated one of Chris's recent blogs about doing things as he sees fit rather than blindly following experts. I found the art community on red bubble quite fun and love getting feedback from other artists there. Because it is so easy to self-publish on the internet as I have now learned, I jumped to it. Now, it seems the next part of the learning curve for me is to how to bring "my people" to the sites, both those who resonate with following their bliss and those who want to have my art. I feel gratified through having the base of these sites to work from and see that I can now tinker and fine tune, perhaps do more with designing my own web pages, use word press, etc.

What approach are you taking with your blog? Was it hard to start blogging?

I am using Chris's approach as a model. He seems to base his work on sharing what he is doing and discussing the ideas, the process and all the things that come into play on the way. I thought that writing about my experiences in following my particular bliss, creating art, would be useful and interesting. I set a goal of writing an entry every week which seems to work to keep me focused on the goals I've set and through writing, the self-reflection helps me to process and evaluate what I am doing. It has been quite easy to stick to this as I keep coming up with things to write about. I also gathered from the artists you interviewed that sharing personally about their art and their life seemed to influence their business positively, that along with a desire to keep my friends and family around the world more informed about what I am about on a regular basis, I felt that a blog would be a really good thing for me on a number of levels. That has been borne out in my own increased level of satisfaction with my life since starting the blog and from the feedback I am getting from friends and family about my blog.

What has changed since you started using these online platforms?
I had felt myself to be a rut creatively for some time and all the energy I have added to my art in the process of creating these online platforms has me feeling quite energized. I feel that this process has been the spearhead for getting me back on track with my deepest desires for my life. I am in other vital stage of transforming my life and feel that you and Chris have been a kind of silent partnership in that, companions on this journey. Even if I never sell enough of my work to live on that alone, what I am experiencing through engaging in these endeavors is invaluable. Truly, the work is its own reward and the money, though wonderful, really a side benefit.

Monday, February 15, 2010

In the meantime...

Last week I shared how gave up drawing over time as a adolescent. This week, I would like to share how my creativity was fed until the time when I determined to study art at university. Part of my family's heritage, on both sides, includes Native Americans. This was shared with me as a child and I think it influenced my interest in Native American cultures and art. When I was 4 or so, I visited my cousin who was at a summer camp and saw a fireside performance of "Indian " dancers and I swore that when I got older that I would become such a dancer as well. When I got older, at age 13, through the Boy Scouts of America in my area, a local Native American dance troupe was started and I was among its founding members. Through this group, I became immersed in creating costumes for dancing. I worked to create my own outfits over the years and wherever I went, I searched for raw materials such as glass beads, macaw feathers, deer hide and so forth to bring into reality the various designs I had in my mind over the years. I spent hundreds of hours over the years of my teens and early twenties on bead work, leather work, sewing and fabricating various elements of my powwow outfits. All of this work reached a climax for me when I finished an outfit I had been designing for years and danced in at a powwow in Portland, OR. Incidentally, I ended up with my picture in the local paper wearing that outfit. Around the time I finished that outfit, I began to get interested in drawing again and started to find some books and local resources to pursue that interest. As drawing started to take up my free time, I did less and less craft work until drawing pretty much took over all together, although from time to time I do some little bead work projects. The drawing with this week's post is from a photo that was taken by a friend as I modeled my then recently finished powwow outfit. The outfit itself is in pieces, some with me in Turkey, the rest on display with my mother's collection of wondrous trinkets and toys.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Still more early art adventures

When I was in grade school, Ms Cassida was the art teacher that would visit our school from time to time and give us art classes. These visits were my favorite part of school. Her visits represented a break in the ordinary events of the school day and I always looked forward to the time she shared with us. She would start the class with showing us a model/demonstration of the art project we were going to create and then walk around helping us individually as we got started creating our art. I was always so impressed with the work she did and she seemed like a sort of god with all the beautiful things she was able to create. I loved when she would come beside me and guide my hand when doing some drawing or commenting on my work in progress.
Ms Cassida was my art teacher through fifth grade and when I think back into my formative experiences around art, fifth grade was an important time for me.To give a bit of background, my community was a consolidated school district of a few small towns and their surrounding rural areas and for a time, all the fifth grade students were in one school, the old high school.This year was really exciting as it represented a change from being in class with the same students all year every year to mixing with dozens of new faces and moving to different classes for math, literature, art and physical education. My friend Frannie Curtis knew I loved to draw and she told me I should checkout the drawings of another student, Jonah Cagley. Jonah was what could be called a child prodigy. He could draw accurate realistic representations of people and pretty much anything he wanted as far as I could tell.He was often being invited to birthday parties and being asked to draw superheros and such for the host,which I imagine got quite tiresome for him after a time. When I saw his work I was amazed and intimidated, I saw my own as quite pitiful and I think ,having internalized all the messages around me about comparing myself to others in order to place myself along the worst to best continuum that is encouraged by most of society, I gave up the idea of being an artist on some level. I seem to have decided that since there was no way I could be the best at art after seeing Jonah's work, I lost my enthusiasm for drawing little by little. At the same time, art became divorced from my school day in junior high and high school as art became something you signed up for as an elective. That decision about drawing remained until I dropped out of university after my second year, unhappy with the path that I was on and unsure of what I really wanted for my life. Dropping out gave me the time to clean out a lot of the garbage I had taken on in my life and this cleansing left space for my love of art to come back into focus. That was over 16 years ago. I have written a bit about starting off on my journey of learning to draw through some resources such as Cameron's The Artist's Way and Edwards' Drawing on the Right side of the Brain. I also found some local art classes useful until I decided to go back to university and study full time. One thing that remains clear out of this and what I think others can glean from my experience is that it is never too late to start. What have you given up on? What seems like it is too late to start? I encourage you to revisit those dreams you gave up on , dust them off, update them for your life now and make a step toward them.