Friday, May 29, 2009

Art and the economy

My father told me a couple of weeks ago that he has no plans to cut back on his spending because he thinks spending is good for the economy. I’ve wondered about his words off and on ever since because practically everyone else I know has cut back.
When people tighten their belts, artists, writers, musicians, dancers and so on feel the pinch first. In a way it’s understandable because we tend to think of engaging in creative pursuits or buying their “products” as a luxury. But this makes life challenging if you’re a member of the clan.
At the moment I’m attempting to stockpile art for my show in the fall, so I haven’t been trying to sell anything. But I must admit I’m worried about what the economy will be like in October, and whether or not people will buy anything then.
One thing I can definitely say is that I am getting fewer writing projects from mainstream publications now. The number of magazines is declining, and those still publishing are opting for shorter articles. When you get paid by the word as I usually do, this is discouraging. Some magazines haven’t changed their rate for a decade, and others have even lowered it. There are also publishers who use what’s happening in the economy as an excuse to take advantage of freelancers.
Recently I received an email about writing a 500-word technical article that would have paid me $10. No, this isn’t a misprint. The editor’s thinking was that I could re-sell my writing. While I have done this in the past, it can take months of networking to find a new market, and editors naturally don’t want to pay you what you received for the original article.
When you’re dependent on freelance work and selling art for your financial survival like I am, it’s easy to feel fearful. But you have to work at overcoming this because it’s crucial to cultivate resilience. I decided yesterday that what I needed was an image to look at while I worked …an image that would remind me to stay positive and to be proactive—instead of focusing on the negative, as I’m prone to do.
I immediately thought of the angel wing I’d bought from Colette Copeland back in February and I put it right in front of my computer. Every time I looked at Colette’s creation today, I smiled. Engaging in this activity makes me feel much better than reading yet another depressing report about the state of the economy (and then dwelling on it).

Who says art is a luxury? In my opinion, I believe it’s a necessity.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Georgia O'Keeffe

If I had to pick a favorite flower, it would probably be the iris because it reminds me of Georgia O'Keeffe. She painted dozens of flowers from the iris to the poppy and lily, and what I love about her images is that she usually zoomed right into the most interesting part of the flower. In her own words: “I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.”
I saw a documentary on O'Keeffe once and the most interesting part was the tour inside her studio. Before she began a new piece, all her brushes were chosen and her paints mixed in advance. I guess she must have taken Gustave Flaubert’s advice to heart. “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

What It Is

It’s been over a week since I posted here, which is probably the longest I’ve gone since I started blogging. To be honest, I’ve been in a creative rut for a while now, so it’s been hard to stay positive. When the way you’ve been doing things isn’t working, you can’t keep doing them and hope things will change anyway.
I hate feeling like this, but on the whole it’s proving to be a good thing. Sometimes you have to reach the bottom of the trough before you can become more buoyant and start making sense of it all.
In What It Is, cartoonist Lynda Barry writes about pursuing good drawing for 30 years and how all the joy went out of it for her. She finally realized that when she drew she was being held hostage by two questions: Is this good? And ... Does this suck?
A light bulb went off in my head when I read her words because I could see I’ve been doing the same thing myself and it’s been holding me back. (Does anyone ever get a positive answer to either of those questions, I wonder?)

Barry believes that focusing on images is an ideal way to break the mesmerism. Or as she describes it: “We’re not having the experience in order to make an image; we’re making an image in order to have an experience.” She doesn’t present you with recipes for making finished stuff though. Through provocative collages, illustrations, insights and exercises, What It Is encourages you to liberate your creativity by making it your own.
In my opinion, this is a must-have book for any artist or writer, whether you’re feeling blocked or need a push to go more deeply into your craft.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Museum of Bad Art

I kind of like these two dog paintings—particularly the one on the right. They’re part of the permanent collection of MOBA (the Museum of Bad Art), which is located online and in the basement of two Boston-area movie theatres. All you have to do is buy a ticket to Slumdog Millionaire or Star Trek and you gain free entry to the latest exhibits.
Looking at all the paintings in MOBA’s online galleries, I couldn’t help wondering what the difference is between "outsider" and so-called "bad" art. Maybe Outsider Art is bad art that sells? In any case, my opinion is that art is art whatever the level of skill and number of sales.

To see a Canadian painting that’s part Of MOBA’s permanent collection, check out this article in today’s Toronto Star.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Mum!

This is the memory box I decorated to hold all the cards, letters and photos my mother received today at her birthday party. Believe it or not, Mum just turned 90 and she is still driving, throwing dinner parties, playing bridge, going to the opera and her book club plus volunteering one day a week in the gift shop at her local hospital. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture: she’s amazing. She does more at her age than I do at mine, and she does it with such style. I’ve decided that I want to be just like her when I finally grow up.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

To Twitter or not to Twitter?

Remember when posting to your favorite Yahoo group was a big deal? Nowadays it’s hard to keep up with all the ways you’re supposed to communicate (and participate) online. It’s almost like having a full time job.
I have to admit I’m fascinated by people who Twitter and Tweet though. I mean, how do they remember to do it? And is anyone really interested?
It seems like they are. I read a newspaper article recently about Twitter, and the writer mentioned that his first post was: “Just ate half a sandwich.” Within a few moments over 50 people had tweeted back to say: “That’s great!”
I thought this was absolutely hilarious. I guess you can’t say much when you’re limited to 140 characters, but somehow I thought the whole process would be more haiku-like. For example:
Should I feed the dog?
No. I’m going to take a nap.
Oh, oh. Too late.
She read my mind.

However, I don’t think I’ll be setting up a Twitter account anytime soon. In my opinion, I do way too much thinking and obsessing about myself anyway, and it probably isn’t fair to drive my friends crazy with it too.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Back from Boston

I’ve been to Boston several times in the last ten years, and one of the things I love about the city is its architecture, especially the Victorian brownstones in the Back Bay area, and all the amazing churches like Trinity, Old South and The First Church of Christ, Scientist.
But I was tempted to title this post: Don’t Fly Delta because of the experience I had coming back. Have you ever heard of an airline moving your flight forward not once or twice but three times, and then notifying you by phone after you’d actually arrived at your destination? If my friend Jackie hadn’t warned me how unreliable Delta could be, I would never have checked.
Once I arrived at JFK in New York, I had to wait for eight and a half hours for my flight to Toronto. In addition to several delays, there was a security breach (Delta’s fault), which involved all of us being removed from the plane, and subjected to yet another security check including a full body pat down. When we were finally taken back to the plane, two people headed for Washington were put on our flight by mistake. Delta’s solution to all this? A mini bag of peanuts for everyone who had been “inconvenienced.” Next time I’m going Air Canada.