Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A room without a roof- Pharrell Williams

I started attempting to paint in 1996.  I was 25, owned a hair salon in Brentwood and was looking for another creative outlet.  There was a client of mine, Gail McDaniel an accomplished water colorist, that started this series of watercolor painting workshops that lasted 8 weeks.  This was way before the "sips and strokes" craze so there was no expectation that I would actually learn how to become an artist.  I signed up with a couple of friends and at the end of every 8 weeks, we would sign up again.  It was a great fellowship and a lot of fun.  We would meet every Tuesday at the Brentwood Methodist Church and paint from 9-1.  Some would work on one painting the whole 8 weeks and nuts like me thought there should be a stack of finished paintings every Tuesday.  Our teacher, Gail, had a lot of patience for our shenanigans because it was clear early on that it was all about hanging out.
 
The start of 2014 marked the 15th year that I have been painting to grow a business and working to cultivate collectors.  And I mean working on it everyday.  In that time span there has been a lot of change.  One of the most notable is- Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Etsy and shopping carts on a website.  Something as simple as business cards required a lot of effort and money.  Hustle meant for real HUSTLE.  Advertising would cost you real money with no guarantee of results.  Finding a show to participate in was hard as well and don't even get me started on the cost of a portfolio before digital photography.

Over the years I have tried it all.  I have painted every conceivable subject matter and on every kind of surface.  There have been a few hits and a lot of misses.  I have participated in fine Art shows, festivals, fundraisers, home parties, gift shops, antique booths and everything in between.  I have sold a lot and nothing at each of those.  I have made great friends and I have rubbed some people the wrong way.  I have seen many businesses come and go.  I have seen many artists and crafters with incredible talent buy supplies and go gang-busters only to stop.  I have seen several become household names.  I have never thought of quitting but I have had to course correct many times. And I have learned something valuable with each experience.
  
As much change as there has been the most important things remain the same. I still have a love affair with color, those girls I started the watercolor workshops with are still my dearest friends and biggest cheerleaders, I still have the same collectors, I still love the craft of doing a good haircut and I am still so incredibly grateful for every opportunity I get in life.  Even the one to pay taxes today;)

It occurs to me that there are a lot of “i's” in this post.  This year has also ushered in something else new. Since my “Where Women Create” article, I get a lot of emails and visits at shows from aspiring artists and crafters for any tips that I could share.   That change has had me look back in a way that I have never done and putting into words this journey.  I know I sound like an old coot with my “back in my day” language and how technology has really paved the way for anyone to have a store front.  I do that only because it is an important distinction to make.  In 2014, if you have the talent, the discipline and the patience to stay professional in sometimes unprofessional situations....the sky is truly the limit.  There has never been an easier time to get in the face of collectors.  So my “i’s” are to encourage you.  

I don't always follow my own advice but I want your take-away to be this:  it is ALL about the work and the collector.  You will run into more drama than a “Law and Order” marathon if you pursue this business as a career.  The great news is that it rarely affects the collectors, the events run by professionals or the big companies that license....in other words....the people that hand you the money.  Because they are ALL about the work.  I encourage you to keep your eye on the prize and savor the moments when you realize that what you are doing is actually working!  And don't spend too much time dwelling on the times when it is not.  You have to define for yourself why you are doing this and when the drama has you revisiting that reason try your best to be a professional.  Just because it is a creative environment there is no real excuse to blur the lines of professional behavior.  I have blurred this line at times, and regrettably so.
  
 As I write my check to the IRS today I am especially reminded of the details of this journey.  When I got to the part in my return that asked " did you get paid any royalties" it made me a bit weepy. Most of my time is now is spent designing for mass production.  When I think of those images being everywhere, it is hard to wrap my head around.  I still live in the world where my work is packed up in a box that fits in my car and I am thrilled to have sold 20 things.

In the spirit of revisiting, here is a watercolor that I painted for my Best Friend, Teresa in 1998 and it hangs in her house today.
      

Here is one that I painted for my licensing deal with Creative Co-op and it was part of spring 2014 release.  Virtually the same painting 16 years later and with a little more skill.  Another reminder that all of your effort matters but you can't see around corners to know how much so.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trendily Original

My man calls my head "the coconut".... He wakes me up early every morning and will tease me about how fast my mind starts spinning.  I have about 50 new ideas a week.  Most of them are not worth pursuing but every now and then there is a nugget that will influence 50 more ideas.  Not sure how that relates to this post, only that it was the first thing on my mind.

Since I got published in Where Women Create, the emails that I have received from artists and crafters have been eye opening.  I have come to realize there is very little true "nuts and bolts" information about turning Pro in the art world and what that looks like.  It seems there is a great deal of "control" that people think they have to give up to do so.  And in my opinion, it is the NOT letting go of control that will keep you from turning Pro.  For all of my issues, control is not one that I have held onto- Thank You GOD.

The last few emails have been on the subject of copyright infringement.  Here is my experience and opinion about this issue.

I started painting seriously about 10 years ago.  That means for real money- turning Pro.  Coming off of a career in fashion hair and make-up design, I was an avid fashion magazine subscriber.  It was a borderline addiction!  I would plan days to just sit around and read my magazines.  In a word- INFLUENCE.

My career in the high profile make-up world started with being an educator for Sebastian International.  My job was to teach make-up artists new trends.  My REAL job in that was to try to sell the salon the make-up line Sebastian had.  Every season, I had to compile a story board of current fashion trends.  It was old school...no internet google searches.  I would take poster board, tape and a stack of magazines to make this compilation of photos and words of fashion.  I got really good at spotting trends and predicting the direction that any one designer would take.  I got a reputation in the hair world of being "ahead of the times", when in reality I was just researching what people were already doing and pulling the trigger early in my own work.

When I started painting seriously, I had no idea that it would take me into a world very similar.  I started off just painting what I felt like with no thought to what influenced me to do it.  It took me a few years to realize that the art world is very different than fashion.  In fashion, "copying" is expected.  Hair clients bring in photos of a celebrity and want that exact hair.  It is a testimony to your talent that you can pull that off.  There is nothing proprietary about being the first to do it.  The only bonus is the slew of celebrity clients you get for having the original "design".  I am sure Jennifer Anniston hated everyone having her hair but we loved the idea!

As a licensed artist....your job is to be "on trend" and original at the same time.  That is tricky.  I still do the same research as my fashion days but it is more to make sure that someone else hasn't had the same idea.  It is remarkable how many times an image has popped in my head and I will search it and find how many millions of people have had the very same idea!  There was a time when "putting my own spin" on it was original enough.  And sometimes, it still is.  It really all depends on the trend (take chevron for example).  If let's say....I have never painted with shades of gray and I do an entire series with gray because it is on trend....some artist that usually only paints with gray might get all up in arms because I have switched colors.  There is no copyrighting a color.  Someone being upset doesn't make it proprietary or me a thief.  Blatantly stealing their idea does.  There was a time when I didn't research at all what someone else was doing.  And showed up a few times at an art show with similar subject matter to someone else.  It didn't feel good.  Now, I spend hours researching to be sure I have a copyright on the idea.  There might be someone that hasn't yet published their work with the same idea but you get the picture.  And there is a big difference between copyright infringement and being "trendily original".  Let your gut be your guide.  If originality matters to you DON'T COPY ANYTHING FROM ANYONE.  Most importantly, you can't have it both ways.  You can't copy and be original at the same time.  I had an artist last year accuse me of copying someone else's work.  The hilarious part of it was the first time that I ever saw her (the accusing artist's) work, it was a painting hanging in someones bedroom and it was a copy of mine.  The owner started apologizing (before I even noticed) for asking an artist friend of hers to copy it.  I truly didn't care about the copying but the later hypocrisy of the artist- I did care about.  I contacted the artist that she accused me of copying to make sure that she didn't share that opinion.  She didn't but it made me stop using a palette knife!  My gut told me that the palette knife made it too close for ME to be comfortable with and that was all that mattered.

To try to force originality, I have made several changes in how I work.  One of the biggest changes I have made is what I let into my brain.  I have hid in my Facebook news feed any images that could influence me.  I moved my studio to a private place and I rarely have visitors.  I no longer read magazines or go shopping in gift shops.  I barely even hang out with creative people!!  It sounds extreme, I know.  It all depends on how serious you are about originality and what works best for you.  I have an inability to see images and not be influenced by them and it is mostly subconscious.  I have started reading spy novels and there is no influence there!  I also don't pay any attention if someone is influenced by my work either.  By the time I show it, it is on it's way to China for a million of them to be made.  And that is copying on grand scale!  Because of that it needs to be my idea.

At times I will see an artist using a technique I have been wanting to try.   I ask them if it is ok and if they will share any information.  More often than not, there is a technique of mine that they want to try and we share our resources and knowledge.

In close....copyright infringement is defined as "using someone else's trademarked ideas for your commercial gain".  Be clear on what is true infringement before you start.  When you turn pro just picking up your brush offends some people.  The stakes are higher for me now and I take even the hint of it seriously.

If it is an idea that cannot be copyrighted- it's fair game.  It will be frowned upon by your artsy and crafty peers but that might not matter to you.  I had someone once tell me that she only copies people that don't live near her!  I guess she doesn't need any friends in Texas;).  And if that is the stance you are going to take, be grown up enough that when that person in another state confronts you and tells you that the 3,000 miles is too close for her; be gracious and not defensive.  Again, let your gut be your guide.  

Here is my take on Chevron and the Oh So Trendy vintage paper craze...    


Here is my original idea for a Christmas collection in 2015.  Everything under the sun has been done for Christmas so I am extra proud of this one.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Perspective

It appears that 2014 is going to be a year about getting a real grasp on perspective.  As an artist, usually that pertains to making sure the composition, subject matter or color scheme "read right".  All depending on what your goal is in the finished result is what your definition of "reading right" is.  For me and my work, I like things a bit "wonkie".

A lot like life, actually.

I spent the last weekend at a writing retreat.  I didn't go to do any writing but to explore options of doing some artists development projects.  I don't really know where my heart is on teaching but I know I do have a heart for it.  Whether it is in a "hold in your hand book", ebook or workshop the jury is still out on.  I really discovered while there what a big thing is and what a little thing is.  And not in that "someone always has it worse" way but in the "if a little thing bothers you- dig deep for the big thing behind it" sort of way.

My recent feature in "Where Women Create" required me to get down and dirty with my creative journey.  In the way that I had to write an 800 word creative journey story.  It was something that I hadn't given much thought much less write down.  I must say....if you have never actually verbalized why you do what you do, I highly recommend it.  It is a journey worth taking.

I have spent the last week really incubating all of the things that I learned, the people I met and the way that it has made me feel.  I have a big deadline to meet so, I thought I would use this week to dump out my brain all of those thoughts by making some little things.  Nothing that would stretch me in any way.....just keep my hands in it.

I have been experimenting with some of my images that are licensed by using them in different ways.  One of the ways is to make some jewelry using bezel trays with glass cabochons.  An artist I met in December was kind enough to share some of her supply resources.  And trying new things is fun.

When I got all finished with them, they seemed big....Big as in size.  Just a 1x2 but they seemed much larger.  I wore one all day and decided that it was just seeing the image in another way that was tripping me up.  I put them away and resisted the urge to throw them away.  A common urge when I step WAY out of my comfort zone.

The company that I license my work to, Creative Coop, sends me samples of every product they make.  Today... my shipment of the latest release came in.  It just so happens that 2 of the images that I made into a necklace with were made into signs....BIG BIG signs.

And there it was......"MY" lesson.  And it was my favorite way to learn.  A visual lesson.  All of a sudden my necklaces looked so very perfect, purposeful and so ME.   Just like my journey.  Little things masquerading as big things and vise versa.  I had to see something big to make it small.  Huh?!  Yeah.....that's how my brain works!

a "little" Perspective...

Hello Teacher....I shall name you Biggie-Smalls



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for it all

I love a holiday called "Thanksgiving"

I wish I were disciplined enough to have an hour everyday dedicated to it.  You know,  there is power in all things give thanks...... Even the toughest things this year have really navigated me into an understanding of my world that will serve to bring me much more happiness.


There are so many things that I am so incredibly grateful for.   On a personal level its the amount of love I feel every minute of every day.  Not just moments of joy but the brick wall of love that backs me--It's honest, real and I can put my trust in it.

On a professional level, it is the ability to "do my thing" that I am the most thankful for this year.  Pass or fail...Sell or no Sell...love it or hate it....fans or haters...good experience or bad.  It's the only thing I have ever done that is ALL mine.  Now having people say I LOVE YOUR WORK is much more fun than shouldering  the criticism.  But if I am being honest, the funky stuff has it's place too.  I have had some of my best growth in life when someone shined a bright light with a mirror attached to it and told me what they think.  It doesn't matter if they did it to be mean...if I benefit.  They are still just mean and I am better.  I'll take that!  One of my favorite sayings is, "If God can speak through the mouth of an Ass...he can speak through her!"  The inside of this Art adventure looks totally different than you would think.  When I talked to a friend about it she said, "back stage and Vanity Fair ain't "Vanity Fair" either!" (hear that......BOOM....a fantasy just exploded)

This has been my most banner year in art!  I makes my brain hurt when I think back to this time last year.  I was just hoping to get in half of the shows I was submitting for!  All of my ideas have not been great ones, I was misunderstood a lot this year and some relationships fell apart, I WAY overbooked myself, and the world of licensing was quite the learning experience.  I am so thankful for my tight little support group that helped me navigate it all without ANY judgement.  Just "how can I help you" is what I would hear.  MY close peeps (including the best man in the world) have the sweetest servants hearts and virtually blocked out all the other noise.  If you don't have a group like that-GET ONE!!  The person you call when you hear good news should be the one you can call with something you need help with.  If there are people that are only there for the good call, I would strongly suggest changing up your speed dial;).

This is the time of year that I reflect over what worked and what didn't and why.  And I always come to the same conclusion....You always have to remember that you are just one girl navigating "your own" path.  As much as we want to please other people, keep them on board with our vision and have them validate everything we do.....there is a balancing act with that and you just being a plain old codependent.  

So today, I am thankful for all the lessons I have received this year.  The little reminders of how incredibly blessed I am and the little signs that if I tweaked just a tiny bit here and there I would have a much better overall Life experience. And that it's not selfish to do so. That is why we work so hard, right??  The pursuit of happiness!!

Today....some fellowship with a group of people who totally get me.  Then on to December...where I hunker down and dump out all these crazy ideas that have been building up in my brain and make some pretties for 2014!  Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!



Thursday, September 12, 2013

It's a Journey

One of the many things you get used to in art as a profession is deadlines.  Show deadlines, commissions, market and now print deadlines.

After getting notification that me and my art studio will be featured in Where Women Create, I now have an 800 word creative journey deadline.  It's a difficult thing to put your creative journey into words.  I mean really....where did it all start?  How did you get here?  More importantly, it is difficult to write about yourself.

I have lots of super talented friends.  I decided to enlist the help of a friend that is a talented writer.  She interviews super famous people so I figure she could surely handle an interview with little me.  She is one of those people you love on site and would totally spill your guts to.  Probably why she is so good at her job.  She was all on board to interview me to help me put words to my creative journey.

We sat in the floor of my creative cave over a giant Jimmy Johns sandwich and I spilled as best as I could how I got here to this fun foam floor surrounded by my childhood version of a Wonderland.

Before she got here, I spent the morning preparing in my own way- Making something.

We talked about my childhood love of the outdoors and how it meant freedom and adventure
We talked about my 6th grade teacher and it made us both tear up
We talked about my friends and how they are the best cheering section anyone could ask for


We talked about growing up disadvantaged and how hard it was to catch up



We talked about how a creative spirit cannot be denied

We talked about overcoming tragedy
We talked about the moment you step out there and decide you are going to do it and how scary that can be
We talked about forgetting who you are along the way
We talked about getting back on track
We talked about giving yourself permission to be your happy, courageous, unique self
We finished with....What do you do when the haters come in?  How do you stay original while earning a living?  How do you reconcile the right brain and the left brain struggle?  
In the end, I think we found a journey.  It felt like we should take a shot of whiskey but a hug sufficed. Thank you Tammy Ragusa.....!!!!

My creative journey words work will be available here

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When time does your MoJo show up?

I love to sleep in.  Since my childhood days of garden work, farm work and just overall chores, I still feel like I am getting away with something by sleeping in.  Yep....sleeping in is a treat!  

Unfortunately, my creative brain.....she's a morning person.  I CANNOT cultivate an original idea past 3 o'clock in the afternoon.  To take art as a business seriously, you have to strike when the inspiration iron is hot!  My current studio plan is to be at the painting table by 7 a.m.  

I have discovered that if I split my day into 2 parts, my deadlines are a breeze!  Right brain morning and left brain afternoon!  Mornings are for originals and afternoon's are for busy work and organizing.  

Todays's creative organizing project- Make a pile of pretties for a wrapping/shipping station!
Bonus- I got to use my letterpress plates, my Sissix computer thingy that I have not mastered and I found a use for that boatload of washi tape I bought!
It was a good day!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Disply Display Display

It's been several years now of doing shows- Indoor fine art, covered barn sales and outdoor festivals.

Every season, I start a list of all the things I am going to to with my tent, walls and display merchandise.  And every show I feel guilty about all the things I didn't do.  Most of the vendors I show with (especially at barn sales) come in and build a house!  It looks so beautiful but requires them to come in days earlier for set up and I am sure it requires quite a bit of storage for all of those props.  One time, a show gave me 2 hours to set up and now that has become my standard.

I have decided this season to finish my display ideas before I do the art.  My boss is a meanie!;)
I try to stick with a set up that will fit in my vehicle, only require my own muscles to set up can be stored in a small space and better yet- double as shelving in my studio.  I am also a country girl living an urban life with a personal philosophy of minimal living.  My motto is, "If it's not useful or beautiful" it can't take up any real estate in my world.   So.... I am thinking rustic with simple design.

OPERATION: Knock your socks off with my display that fits in my Lexus and I can set up in less than 2 hours

First up..... Mini Montana's
Very popular at shows....Fine art originals in a teeny tiny format 
Problem- I display them in a bucket
Solution- Quilt rack, frame and beadboard 
Bonus- I get to use all my power tools

Found this quilt rack at a thrift shop.  I can take the feet off and it can lay super flat!
I filled a frame I had laying around with beadboard
My walls are going to be made out of lightweight wainscoting (beadboard) and painted dark to give the artwork a POP.   I thought my little displays should look the same.  I love me some Chalk Paint®, a decorative paint by Annie Sloan.  I used Graphite for the depth and also Coco and Old White to layer it.  The frame is painted French Linen, Provence and Pure White.  I used raw canvas cut into strips to slip through the hangers on the back of the frame and it just slips over the top of the rack.

Better bonus...it will sit right on on of my folding tables with plenty of room for baskets full of mini's!!
Next...THE WALLS!