Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Survive as an Artist
By Carrie Yury
From Artillery, Killer Text on Art
Summer 2012 edition

   Recently I was on a panel for the college art association’s annual conference.  The title for the panel was “Ten Years Post Degree:  Professional Success of Women Artist and Art Scholars in the Critical Decade Post Graduation.”
   The panel raised a number of issues for me, including what it means to “succeed” in the zero-sum game art world.  But thinking about the question was a good exercise.  It made me realize that for me the most important measure of success is the fact that I’m still making work that engages and challenges me intellectually, emotionally and politically.  So for my part in the panel, I decided to make a list of the strategies that have helped me continue to make art.
   I’m still struggling, but when I remember to think about and apply the following strategies I do a lot better.  So here goes.  I hope you find it useful.

I mean this on a few levels: socially , career-wise and in terms of getting feedback on your work.  You have to go to openings to get to know the gallery scene.  But when you go out to openings, there is no point in talking to people who are a jerk to you.  You don’t need anyone to cut you down.  Stick with talking to people who are nice to you.  It’s better for your sense of self-esteem. Andrea Bowers told me this in my first year of grad school, and I’m so glad she did.
   Career-wise this is absolutely critical.  My friend, Marc Spiegler told me once that as an emerging artist there are literally hundreds if not thousands of people who can help you with our career.  It’s only when you’re at the very top echelons of your career that those numbers narrow down.  For now, stick with the curators and dealers who like your work!

   When I was still in grad school, I had the opportunity to have a solo show a an alternative space in an office park.  I was thrilled, but at one point expressed concern that nobody would see the show because of its location.  My friend, Carrie Paterson told me, “Take every opportunity.  You never know where it will lead.”  And she was right!  I can draw a through-line from that show to my current representation at Sam Lee Gallery, where I’ve had three solo shows.

   In the story above, I am leaving out a critical fact:  In almost every step of that chain, I put myself out there and risked rejection.  After meeting Chris Hoff a few times, I asked him for a studio visit for a possible solo show.  And I got to know Sam Lee and asked him to come down and take a look at a show I was in at CSUF, which led to being represented by him.  Opportunity is a combination of the luck you make and the luck you take.  And you have to be willing to risk rejection, over and over again, and not let it defeat you.

   Here’s the boring but necessary part.  First, keep regular hours.  Schedule your studio time and treat it like a job.  Don’t answer the phone or check email. Just work.
   Second, have a plan.  Literally.  I have an exel spreadsheet that I use to help me set deadlines and goals.  My spreadsheet has different worksheets for weekly and monthly goals and deadlines.  I also have a separate sheet for three-year, five-year and ten-year goals.  Check back in and adjust the plan every week, and adjust the big goals every year.  It’s so easy to lose sense of direction.  A plan keeps you on track.

   Don’t rely on teaching art to feed you.  The employment rate for MFAs in tenure-track teaching jobs is something like 4%.  Adjuncting can be a great foot in the door but it generally pays poorly and usually lacks benefits or job security.  If you have another way that you can make money to support your art career, try to develop that alongside your art practice.  That way you won’t get to the point where you have to completely stop making art in order to focus on developing a way to make money.  And, try to dovetail your business with your art practice, so your practice can benefit from your other profession.

   If you are lucky you will become an art-star overnight straight out of grad school.  But for the rest of us, it takes time.  The art world is very relationship-based.  It takes a long time for relationshiops to develop.  And, it can take a long time for you to develop, understand and articulate your own work.  Susan Mogul just told me that although she’s won something like 30 grands, she applied for big ones for ten years in a row before winning them.  That’s inspirational.  Keep making work, keep putting yourself out there and something will happen.
   Most of all, keep making work.  That’s why you’re doing this, right?  Because you get something out of making your work, something that nothing else satisfies.  If you are an artist you make art because you have to, so get to it!

Monday, August 13, 2012

birch tree painting

Commissioned painting completed in January of this year finally installed in the client's home!

Friday, August 10, 2012

recent paintings

Recent paintings:  from top to bottom:
"A wish to time travel"
"One of the wishing chairs"
"The Door"
"The Great Tree"
"Dreaming Tree"
"Winter Road"
"We are the stars"

earning my stripes

It's been a restless day today. In the studio there's a need to start a new painting but I'm too impatient to make up the oil palette.  Instead I trust to a spontaneous dance with some acrylic paint and charcoal to find the "happy accidents" in mark making.

The initial idea is a digital collage but in recreating the idea as a painting anything can happen and usually does.  When not in the mindset to concentrate on every little thing I find that reacting to shapes and values can be very satisfying.  I don't know if it will always work out but I love to try.  For trying something I don't know teaches me what I need to know.

So, today's offering is an original 24"x48" acrylic and charcoal on canvas, "Earning my stripes".

This collage is one of 3 ideas for images of humans with animal heads.  I've always identified with the symbolism of the tiger, especially the white tiger, an anomalie in nature.  Tigers are noted to stand for courage, a theme I've always treasured.

When I lived in San Francisco years ago and worked for an arts and entertainment magazine there was an article about our local zoo having two white tigers, brother and sister.

The female was sent away to another zoo and the brother pined for her and was never mated.  I remember visiting the zoo and seeing the forelorn tiger pacing 'round his cell.  He was so beautiful, so foreign and so lonely.

This memory resonates in me that you have to be courageous enough to withstand what life gives you even when you have no control over the situation.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

we are the stars

"we are the stars", what I'm naming the newest painting.  This picture is inspired by my usual muse of trees and an artist that makes things glow, Henning Kles.   I want to portray a feeling of night time and sparkles of light on water.  The figure was tonight's addition. It's ghostliness is deliberate, to be as a memory or moment, like the feeling of what's its like to dive into a pool of water.  You anticipate the feeling of the coldness and the change of environment, but it really is never as good as the feeling of the actual moment.   And when you've come out of the water, its only a memory of the feeling.
 This "memory" we have of feelings is what intrigues me!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

oil persperation

As I leave the studio today to write this posting I realise that I've probably been painting a bit of perspiration in with the oil paint during these hot days of summer.  In fact, the heat of summer is like a wet oil painting ready to melt in runny colours.

The last two Fridays of art receptions for my paintings at different venues have been very pleasant hours of "show and tell".  It always amazes me how others are so keen on "knowing" what my paintings mean, wanting me to corroborate their discovery.  To not discourage them I usually say that it is a bit of intention and happy accident that creates a painting!  Yet I truly love when a painting resonates with someone. In a few days I should know whether two of my paintings resonated enough for two potential buyers.

In the meantime I'm back in the studio experimenting with two new works.  One is a mess, literally.  I just went at throwing oil paint over layered paper on hardboard.  The resulting texture makes the oil paint look messier than a smooth surface.  At first it was just going to be a distant view with a horizon and some big clouds.  Don't know why though, today I thought about putting in a red wavy line and then modifying that.  I'm calling it "frquency" and haven't decided if its any good.
    That's the thing, you never know if anything's any good til you've lived with it for awhile.  Sometimes you know right away, other times it takes time to know. Odd that, but very provocative.  You must suspend judgement or you'd never get anything done!

In another start of a painting, I'm inspired by work of Henning Kless.  He makes pictures glow!  I'm slowly working my way into this rather "sense of night" picture to see if I can make the trees and the reflective water "glow".  Stay tuned!