Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Running out of space

Topics in the blog today:

  • creating a good work schedule (that works for everyone)
  • applying art on everything

Working vs working
I used to think that I was able to do anything, I set my mind to and that getting stressed out was merely a question of poor planning. Perhaps it's a question of putting too much on my plate, realizing that some people can have quite a lot on their's and manage it quite well, while others struggle to handle just a few things without losing grip.

Now, having decided to set new goals for myself, I also had to make the decision about when to work on achieving these goals. This decision was made on a subconscious level, but I've found that a lot of other artist's actually do the same, when they're planning their work. In my case it's a question of juggling the regular full-time teaching job at the local school with the routines of having kids and all that comes along with that and my desire and need to paint. 

First of all, it is relatively easy, once you've mapped out the different elements of your everyday life. The teaching job, I have, is a fairly good one. However, it takes up about 75% of my life and consciousness in general. Everything from planning each lesson to meetings with colleagues and parents, while running into your students daily when doing your grocery shopping or on your way to the dentist etc. It is more than often the last thing, I think about before falling asleep, and the first thing I think about, when I wake up. This job provides us with money to buy food and other vital things. I'm told that I'm good at it. 

Where I find it limiting is, when I have to follow the same schedule for 40 weeks. On the other hand it gives me an enormous freedom to plan around those 40 weeks. I can plan my weeks as well. The schedule remains the same and I'm lucky to have a few very good slots in it that enable me to work some early afternoons and one early morning. And let's face it - most people concentrate and focus much better, when they aren't interrupted by their children or other distractions. I'm one of those people. On the other hand I don't want to dismiss the kids, when we're all together. Our time together is so precious in our day and age, and I know they'll be moving out soon enough even though they're only 6 and 10 yrs old right now. So, I work (wether it's blogging or painting), when the kids aren't home. And occasionally at night when they're sleeping. It's not always, though, that I've got endless amounts of energy, but sometimes I get lucky. This gives me a total of about 16-20 hrs per week blogging or in the workshop, which is not bad. I wonder what it would be like to work full-time in the workshop.

Yesterday, I received a blog update from Robert Genn focusing on distraction issues in the studio - and I can only agree with him. He suggests the Pomodoro Technique to help bring back focus and intention. While my studio was only just set up this summer, I am still enjoying the private and personal workspace, which is secluded from the rest of our home. I used to work in what was a combined living- and bedroom, which suffered heavily under the dust that is inevitable no matter how much you air and vacuum the room. Some of RG's other suggestions to create a steady and productive workday will certainly come in handy to someone as fluttery as me. Thanks.

When there's no more canvas
 ... then it's time to look around at what else you've got, that you can paint on! I won't discuss the reasons for why there's not sufficient canvas in my studio, since it seems obvious. You either haven't ordered it in in due time or funds are lacking. 

Not long ago I began decorating old wooden wine boxes. It is a challenge to confine yourself to such a limited amount of space when you're used to working on relatively large canvas. An old friend once introduced me to the fun it can be to also decorate and paint on furniture, which in my case would include shelves and tables. But anything goes really. On my private Facebook-profile I have created a photo album to give you an impression of the last couple of years working on all sorts of hard surfaces.

Once you're used to the brush reacting slightly different to a hard surface as opposed to the somewhat bouncy canvas, you discover new techniques and alternatives to the big surface. Besides, it's fun - and that too has to be important!

Oh, by the way - I sorted out the time settings on Blogger. Phew, was beginning to actually be envious of myself NOT living on the West Coast of the US, preferably San Francisco or L.A. Now I'm back on the East Coast of chilly Denmark facing wintertime.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Someone must know

For some reason this blogger-thingy believes, I live in California, and so my posts are published very early in the morning. Fact is I'm an hour ahead of GMT. I'm in Denmark. In the province. And even though I place myself on the map in the settings, I still get the Pacific Daylight Time. Sorry for being such a blogger-novice, I am sure there is a way to change it. And perhaps someone out there to help me.

Today I'm going to air my thoughts about different stuff:
  • benefits of working with charcoal
  • amateur vs pro
  • OK Go and going global
Charcoal & dust
Charcoal is such a gentle and easy material to work with. I've got two different kinds, one round in its form and one square, each very different in texture and fastness. It is easy to apply to either canvas or wood, while it creates shadows and shapes that are easy to 'push around' as needed. I can't quite remember, what I used before I was introduced to charcoal. From then on the pastel crayons came into use, which helps create a firmer depth in the colors or their shadows. In time the 'finger painting' part came along - got down with it and got dirty!

Recently I coincidentally discovered a charcoal pencil. Not a regular pencil, but one with proper charcoal. This may seem ridiculous to many artists out there, however I don't have access to more than one rather limited art supplier in this town, but there's an office supplier, who sometimes takes in different supplies for art amateurs, and some of these are good for usage in various ways. This pencil enables me to add much more detail to the work. And I love working with it. It's cheap, so I'll have to go and get loads more, before they're sold out and never get in stock again. As to shopping online for materials and tools, I have found myself to be a bit old-fashioned as I need to feel and see the materials and tools. The upside to this method of buying is, that sometimes you actually discover tools, you didn't think suitable for what you're doing, but turn out to be just what you were looking for, without knowing it. 

Amateur vs pro
While on the subject of hobbies... I still haven't done a complete exhibit and thus I must render myself to the hobby-state. Or must I? When is a painter professional? After a sale? After 10 sales? After entering a gallery? After publishing a book? I don't know. Even though I feel professional and have sold quite a few paintings over a short period, I must admit, that my self-esteem still has a lot of growing up to do. I am very humble, I suppose. 

On the other hand, some of the amateur artwork I have seen can be split into two categories; the first being the creative steam vent, a lot of people use to direct their focus away from rutines, stressful events or trying times in their lives. It's important and functions as a creative extraction fan. The other is well thought through. It derives from talent that is either nurtured or just sprouting out, sort of out of control. And it's simply not for sale. The ongoing discussion about what defines art - well, if it's the price you put on it, mine is regular crap in many artist's eyes, or so I think.

OK Go & going global
About a week ago, I posted a random pic of one of the wine boxes, I re-decorate on the Facebook-wall of the band OK Go. One of their lyrics had popped into my mind, while working on it, and it somehow fitted perfectly with the Buster Keaton-clipping, I'd added. The next day, the band itself had 'liked' it - this was not expected, or what I'd try to achieve. But the fulfillment of being seen by someone, who is not only famous with their 37+ million views on Youtube, but who I admire for their output and own creative thinking - well, I was flabbergasted to say the least! A few other fans of their's have liked it too, and you sort of grow with amazement over the fact, how social networking can also work. I've been noticed by someone outside of my town...

Where I live, Facebook is primarily used for keeping each other updated on how you feel, where you are (physically and emotionally), which dish you're cooking, what your kids have just said that was sort of funny and who did what to hurt your feelings etc. Way back I used it for that as well, I'm no saint. But coincidentally sharing your work because the inspiration for it came by sort of randomly while still conveying an important message, and getting the immense feedback is a whole new way of using social networks to me, which I must admit, I appreciate much more. I recommend it to all artists. I love it!

Often on a sub-consious level, I use many lyrics in a poetic sense in my work. Extracts from different songs and artist become relevant at one point or another. Sometimes they are erased, while at other times they are emphasized. To me it's essential to listen to music while I work. OK Go never struck me as a band, I'd quote in my works, since it's their visual creativity that is perhaps the most striking of all to me. Poetry by Patti Smith (the New York poem) and an old Edith Piaf-lyric (The Autumn Leaves) included in paintings sold off very quickly, but also Bombay Bicycle Club (Dust on the ground & Ghost) had a way of finding their way in there and sold off too!

On that note, some of you might think: "Hey, that's violating the copyright laws!" I was a bit nervous at first, but someone shared this quote by Jim Jarmush (film director and artist) on Facebook (!) one day:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.”

Thanks, Jim - it's what we in the teaching world call intertextuality. You could also call it inspiration. You see it in films, shorts or motion picture, plays, novels, any sort of artwork - even political quotations are used in many different ways out of contexts. Less we forget Arnie's 'I'll be back!' You hear it more often than you'd care to admit. In any case, I thank the muses for inspiring me and being there in times of darkness.
The pieces in which I quote the above mentioned artists can be seen on either my Facebook-page or on Flickr.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nobody knows...

After a couple of days filled to the brim with distractions, I've settled down with morning coffee, a calmer mind and plenty of ideas to put in this blog. The kids are off to school and I won't have to go for another hour.

'Edith' (100 x 140cm)
The hecticness of it all derives from a lot of things, which I'm certain other people are no strangers to in this day and age. Juggling a job to accumulate a sufficient income, kids, ex-husband, household, my parents and my true work, painting, is becoming a challenge, that I somehow have to learn how to tackle. It can drive me into a dim mental darkness, if I start thinking too much about what I want, but haven't got - where I should count my blessings on my way to achieving, what I want out of life. Since my divorce I've taken up painting again, and I find so much fulfillment in that, that I have decided to make it my future. Before actually having sold five pieces since last summer, I thought of it as a hobby. One day, I realized that I could stick them in one of the many empty shops here in town. 
Putting myself out there
So I spoke to the landlady of the one opposite my house, which is in a pedestrian highstreet. Loads of shoppers daily. She was very accommodating to my request and even gave me a key to access the place my self, re-arrange the exhibit, when I saw fit. Stuck a notice in the window how to reach me... Before I knew it - I think only two weeks had passed, I sold my first two pieces. Of course with a discount, because the customers - a local couple - bought two. 
'Cold Core Fusion' (100 x 140cm)
Then a long time passed, the tourists came and went, loads of interested people. Sold a small piece to a friend, who borrowed it first to see, if she could live with it. Eventually, she found out, she could. Meanwhile I spent a lot of energy working on older pieces, to make them ready for a sale, even 'copied' one piece, which my children prohibited me from selling. The minute it was put on display in the shop, it was sold off along with another piece. The tourists, who bought them, were from Germany, and I prided myself in reaching a more international audience. Perhaps one of my most nervous moments, when standing in front of a group of 6 customers, examining each painting, viewing them over and over, asking me a lot of questions about them - and then buying two! I was sweating for several hours after that sale. 
It's been quiet for some time now without sales. I have spent this time working on a Facebook-fanpage for the artwork, with only a few followers, but I don't mind. If they join it organically, I assume it's the best way of knowing, if people actually do like my work. Also, I'm trying to construct a website, which is the more tricky part. It takes time and also money, which I'd rather spend on materials, but if I want it....

The point is, that no one really knows of me yet. It gives me a sense of security mixed with frustration. Because I do really want to get out there, but all in due time. Meanwhile I will work on sorting out the 'hecticness' and try to manage life in a fashionable manner, as they say.

Off to work...