Thursday, January 24, 2019

So THAT'S Why It's Worth So Much!

"So that's why it costs so much?"     "No, that's why it's WORTH so much."

Yesterday I ran across a post announcing a 3-day workshop taught by a collage artist I greatly admire, whose style is distinctly different then my own. As I read the workshop description with interest, dreaming of making room in my schedule and budget to treat myself to study under this artist's tutelage, I came to the registration page and had a little shock. It was close to twice the cost of the average three day art workshop!

My first thought was one of surprise, but then I found myself calculating the entire cost of a trip like that. One where I might be able to rationalize the several hundred extra dollars for the event in relevance to what I was sure I might gain if I went.

And oh how much I wanted to go!

The chance to get an inside glimpse into the practice of an internationally recognized professional, working on a level that I currently aspire to. To learn techniques so different from my own, to have the opportunity to sit on the other side of the classroom table and glean from the instructor’s wealth of accumulated knowledge, and vast experience making art and selling it. Getting to sit side by side with other students who often bring their own fresh perspective and invaluable tips to a class environment like this. And let’s face it, as an artistic introvert, taking a workshop is my idea of a good vacation. It’s structured and organized, I get to enjoy the creative process in a pressure free zone, and still leave myself a few days to go out and explore the area while I’m there.

I didn’t wind up enrolling due to a conflict in my schedule, but the process of researching and mulling it over got me to thinking about some of the questions I’ve been receiving as my own spring teaching schedule draws near. Questions that sometimes directly, sometimes not, imply a lack of understanding of how a workshop fee is calculated and why it can be different from one location to the next, or even from one instructor to the next.

Why, you might be thinking, does it cost so much? 

It feels a little taboo to be talking about it out loud like this. And I could go on and on explaining the things that I'm privy to that the student doesn't necessarily get to see – like the difference in overhead between being hosted by an art center, or a private studio. Or the behind the scenes costs of a major art conference or retreat vs teaching at a small indie shop. I could share how much out-of-pocket is involved for the artist in each situation, for supplies, equipment, liability insurance, shipping, and travel. Students are often surprised when I tell them that my transportation costs are rarely covered by the host, and oftentimes lodging isn't included in my contract either-especially at those larger art centers and conferences. I could share that these costs don't change for me regardless of whether we have the minimum number of students enrolled or the maximum, but that my compensation changes according to the number of seats filled.

And I could share that, like many full time artists, I don't have a safety net or another source of income to support myself, so I carefully plan my budget in advance to be able to offer any early bird discounts or holiday type special offers.

I could even tell you how much work goes into creating a class and marketing it – sometimes well over a year in advance – (my 2020 schedule is shaping up to be very exciting), the number of hours required to apply, fill out contracts, create interesting content, correspond with the host site, student inquiries, record keeping of enrollment, accounting, sending out yet another 1099. Making samples, ordering supplies, keeping up with it all on social media, and last minute exchange of details with the host site, or directly with the students so everyone winds up exactly where they are supposed to be with everything they need to have a great time, all the while starting the whole process over again for the following years schedule. 

In between all of this, as a full time artist, I am also developing new ideas, working on upcoming shows, applying for opportunities, grants, fellowships, learning techniques that I need to help my own practice. When I don't create and grow, I have nothing new to show for it and nothing new to offer you. 

I could tell you all of these things, really I just did. But I know that this isn't the thing that you necessarily need to understand when making the decision to register for a class, parting with your own hard earned dollars, dipping into your own reserves of time, energy, and resources.

Last month I was listening to the radio, when the newscaster exclaimed how much cheaper it was to go see a particular team play this year due to whatever loss they had endured the year before- now tickets were “only selling for about $200 each instead of the usual $500 for a tournament."

Only $200 to sit in the bleachers for a couple of hours watching a game? What a bargain! (read sarcastically). I'm not a sports fan, the cost of these bargain rate tickets sounded astronomical to me. But people pay it everyday. Hundreds of people. Thousands even. Sports stands full of them!

Maybe you aren't a sports fan either. You may be totally tracking with me on that one, but think about the amount of money we humans are willing to spend to be entertained – sports, music concerts, going to the theater or opera, etc. We work hard and we just want to relax and enjoy ourselves sometimes. 

It's a big booming industry, the entertainment world is.

Most of these events are designed for us to participate in a very passive sort of way – cheering for our team, or band, or favorite cast members. We walk away with a souvenir program, a ticket stub, some very fine memories, and if we are lucky, an autograph or two, after only a few hours that went by all too fast.

But when you take an art workshop, you get so much more than passive entertainment.

You get personal interaction with an artist whose style and experience you admire and appreciate. You get to glean from that experience, asking questions while watching their process up close and personal. You make fun new connections in a relatively small group of people. You'll laugh and have fun, you'll walk away with a work of art or two that you yourself get to create, and you will also leave with some very fine memories. The event itself will last several hours, or even days, longer than a football game. And most importantly, you'll leave with a working knowledge of new techniques and a budding confidence in your own abilities to create. A good instructor will inspire you to grow in your own practice, whether you choose to pursue it professionally or as a hobby. There is nothing passive about the value of learning a new skill. 

And THAT, my friends, is why an art workshop is worth so much. ♥

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Recap From SOFA Expo Chicago 2018

I wrote the following post last weekend as a post on Facebook and Instagram, where I received an overwhelming amount of feedback and encouragement, a great majority of which was from other artists who could relate to what I shared. It is a raw and honest look at where I landed after the experience at SOFA and how it impacted me. I thought my blog readers might appreciate reading about it too, so I am reposting it here:

"I’m still processing my experience at SOFA Expo Chicago last weekend. On the one hand, it was an experience of a lifetime to be there after a decade of attending the show as a spectator/dreamer. On the other hand, I did not have any sales, nor did the majority of the artists in the area around me. Many of them with years of experience at this particular show with outstanding sales in the years past
There were a number of contributing factors; the show was under new management, the floor plan was not as open, traffic did not flow well on the end of the hall I was on. Our gallery was given individual small booth stalls rather then the single large gallery space they’ve had in the past- which proved most difficult for people to comfortably view the work, and the buzz in the air that tension over the impending election was causing uncertainty in the buying crowd- overall sales across the entire show were down.
All of the above, and more, were factors outside of my control. It’s impossible to plan for all the variables and all had nothing to do with the art. And yet. And yet....
I’ve never participated in a show before where I didn’t at least make my investment back. And usually that investment would afford me a profit plus a career benefit of future opportunities making the risk highly worthwhile.
Many of you have followed my journey preparing for this show, but you may not have realized just how much an artist has to invest of their own resources. Yes, the show is oriented to galleries and being repped by one is the only way to get in, but many of these galleries are unable to foot the 80-100k bill alone, so the artist contributes financially to the space their art will cover. Like most of what we do as career artists, and not unlike any other small business owner or entrepreneur, we invest a great deal up front and work very hard to generate enough income from that investment to keep going.
We not only have to sell our work, but we sell our image, we sell our stories, we sell our love and passion. We polish and refine and practice our statement, and we happily share what we do with you, the interested viewer and potential collector.
Making the art is only a small fraction of what it takes to be an artist.
People are often surprised to hear that our studio time is not where we expend most of our efforts. And somehow never quite grasp the risk involved in doing this job. It all seems so glamorous from the outside.
Much of that risk really is outside of my control. And yet...
In my logical brain, the side that was meant to analyze, and decipher, and process information, I can take a step back and still feel good about what I created and the fact that I was given such a tremendous opportunity to begin with. It knows the variables it can change, and those it had nothing to do with. In my logical brain, it is a business, it’s not personal. But that logical brain is at war with the vulnerable creative brain- The one that poured its whole self into these canvases and feels raw and achy, as if hanging its very soul on the wall for you to judge.
As much as we artists do create because we just need to create. We also need to eat and pay our bills and keep the lights on like everyone else. It can be damned exhausting to do this work. The energy and time and money it takes.
This experience was a little like being drafted into the NFL and then spending the first season sitting on the bench. Okay, I hate sports and have no idea if that’s an appropriate analogy, but it’s what keeps coming to mind. Will there be a next season for me?
Honestly I’m still in recovery mode and right now I feel more than a little discouraged. For the first time in many years, I’ve entertained the idea of going back to a traditional job. And I’m not at all sure my health would sustain it. Not the most encouraging post I’ve shared in a while, but it’s the reality in my life right now.
That picture of the cape wearing baby in the mix? That’s my granddaughter whom I was babysitting during the weekend of the show. I committed to watching her for her momma and daddy before I knew there would be a scheduling conflict. So I even sacrificed my time with her to be at SOFA, spending overnights as Grammy in charge and tag teaming by day with her Yia-yia and Aunties.

As an artist I am always weighing the cost of any particular endeavor compared to the potential benefit. There is always a risk, a gamble involved. Multiple streams of revenue would be my answer to how I manage if you were to ask. But multiple streams of energy and time don’t always match. And multiple streams can have dry spells all at the same time as well.
I’m grateful for all that I’ve experienced and achieved. Grateful for all the love and encouragement I’ve received. And grateful, even, to have a bit of a legacy to leave for my grands, even if it’s just a bit.
But today I have to admit, I am tired.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Send Me A Sign

It is an astonishingly gorgeous day at the harbor today. As I walked the dog and watched the Seagulls soaring overhead, I found myself thinking how strange it seemed that I've never found a pure white feather at the park in all the time I've lived up here. I find beautiful white ones with sharp black stripes, or charcoal grey ones with white at the tips, mottled and matted ones that look like something put up a good fight, but not a single all white feather in the past three years.
And then, as if it were a scene from a movie, I looked down and saw it tucked among the blades of grass at my feet. I almost missed it.
I am a sign kind of girl. And this surely fit the bill. The morning started with a fleeting prayer - I just need to see your presence today Lord.

The week has been a busy one, catching up with work at home and working hard in the studio on some very good things. But it has also been a melancholy one, as I process a fading friendship that has stirred memories of other faded relationships from the past. And a cousin, who is also a dear friend, phoned to say her health issues have entered a new stage, so she was heading to the hospital where she'll stay and receive aggressive treatment. 

It's not the first time that God has responded to my need for a visible sign by reminding me that He holds me close under His wing. I've been around the block enough times to have had that question answered for me- He is as close as the very breath I breathe. I carry Him in my head and in my heart. But, sometimes we need to hear "I love you" more than once, sometimes we just need a visible reminder. Yes, I am with you. Yes, I am here. Yes, you matter to me. 

More than head knowledge or heart knowledge. More than sending a person to be "God with skin on". He gave me this pure white feather at a moment it was sure to catch my attention. I will hold it tight today, imagining it came from the very wing of God himself, and not a simple seagull soaring through the clouds. 

"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” Exodus 23:20

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Maybe It's Not So Bad To Be Like Delilah

Last week so many of you wrote to say that my message about not giving up on a goal too soon (aka - Don't Be Like Delilah) resonated with you, that I decided to post it on my blog. If you didn't get a chance to read last week, you can check it out here.

Today my walk with Delilah taught me a very different lesson. At a steamy 90 degrees outside, we set off for our walk already dragging our tails. Now I had it in my mind to get out and do our business quick so we could get back home to a tall drink of water and the air conditioned living room, but not Delilah. No, with the temperature turned up, she was in no mood to rush at all. As a matter of fact, she deliberately stopped at every single patch of grass that was covered with shade, throwing herself on her back each time to cool off. Our twenty minute walk was nearly doubled by the time we got home, but Delilah didn't care.

Yesterday, I spent the entire time in my studio shoving papers round and round the work table in an effort to complete the collage pictured above. By the time I went home I was under no small amount of stress; Not quite satisfied with what I had on the table and knowing I'd have to keep working on the design when I returned. I felt like the day had been a colossal waste of time. My image list is due for the SOFA Chicago Exhibit at the beginning of September and I've committed this month to getting the fronts of at least 8 of these 30" x 30" works done. The proverbial heat is on and my inclination is to rush.

So often this is what happens when I have a deadline. I get in the studio and let my inner critic take charge. She's such a bully. No time to sit and gather wool, or look at a magazine for inspiration. Every move I make must result in a display of brilliance or she's quick to jump in and tell me just how lacking my efforts are and how much I am blowing it.

Yup, the inner critic is a real tough cookie to work for. Is it any wonder I felt so stressed out when I left? 

That's why I needed today's lesson from Delilah. With the heat turned up, Delilah knew the only way to get through the walk, was to take it nice and slow.

I won't get to my destination with the quality of work I want to produce if I let my inner critic stay in control. I need to follow the other voice- the one I often call my intuition. My intuitive voice is the one that tells me to slow down and be curious. She knows that the time I spend sorting and sifting and trying new papers isn't wasted. When I follow my intuitive voice, it often looks like I'm just gathering wool-or rolling on my back in a patch of shade. But my intuitive voice is kind and encouraging. She doesn't get mad if I need extra time to work on one piece. As a matter of fact, she knows that this is how the best work will actually get made.

I know I'm not alone with these two opposing voices accompanying me in the studio. That's why when I teach, I don't like to focus on technique alone. It is just as important that we learn how to tune in to the right voice- the one called your intuition, and let it lead teach you how to trust your time on the artistic journey, especially when the heat is up in the studio.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Big and Little: An Intuitive Collage Workshop

Big and Little: An Intuitive Collage Workshop  

Where: My Studio- Racine, Wisconsin
When: Friday, Saturday, Sunday March 1-3
Time: 10:00am - 4:30pm
Register now using the coupon code SOFA2018 at checkout and save $100 for a limited time at this link! *

"The intuitive artist is the artist who trusts what her eye tells her is good. She allows for the fact that she has a story to tell through art, but lets go of the notion that the story will be known before she starts working. It is not so much about learning a technique, as it is learning to trust that you know what you know. It is letting go of a plan, letting go of expectations, and creating in spite of your fear. If you have been formally trained in art it may mean learning to trust your eye rather than the rules. If you have never so much as taken an art workshop it may mean giving yourself permission to play with the tools and materials you once thought were only for professionals. Either way, to work intuitively allows for the finished work to be more than what the artist is capable of producing on his artistic merits alone. It allows for the voice within to translate to the canvas without the need to have to spell out the message and make it obvious to the viewer. "
Except from "The Art of Expressive Collage" by Crystal Neubauer
Join me in my Wisconsin studio where we will delve in to the art of paper and glue, developing a working knowledge of collage, while connecting to the design and composition knowledge you already carry within, to create satisfying works of art in your own authentic style. 

Whether you are an experienced artist or a novice, this workshop will dare you to let go of expectations and ignore the rules, beginning with a series of collage exercises designed to infuse freedom into your creativity and help you tap in to that intuitive voice as your personal guide. 

Using these little works as small studies, we will turn our focus to a more intentional placement of elements, coming from that place of freedom and trusting what our eye and intuition knows is good, while learning tips, tricks, and techniques from a professional point of view, to translate what we see into a series of completed works on paper incrementally increasing the scale as we go. 

Students will leave the workshop with a series of small 4" studies and multiple big works of art ranging from 6" up to 30" in size. Discussion will include a variety of ways to display your completed collage work. 

Register now using the coupon code SOFA2018 at checkout and save $100 for a limited time! Follow this link to register. 

Students Supply List:
Personal collection of ephemera and found/collected papers
1 junk mail catalog or old magazine - (will not be used as collage material)
Baby Wipes
9" x 12" or larger- spiral bound pad of 140# Cold Press Watercolor paper 

I will provide:
paper for small studies and largest works
all other tools and supplies necessary

*Registration fees are not refundable however in certain instances, may be transferable to another person, or credit provided for another workshop taught by me in my studio - within six months of the original class. There are no exceptions to this policy! In the event your plans change, please contact me to inquire about a waiting list for the workshop, I may be able to help you find someone to take your seat. Transfer fees will apply.