Thoughts in Isolation

Art Journal, Self Reflection

Friday, March 27, 2020

Day 1: I cried yesterday. Somewhere in Minnesota we reached the boreal forest and it felt like being suffocated. I dreamed so long of traveling (without the means of doing so). My heart irrational. I cried “I know all these trees!”

On the other hand I have a home to come to. Both physically and geographical. When times were difficult before, when I had no where to go, or no money, or the relationship was over; I had that in my father’s land. And I have that now. An imperfect home in the woods. Walls, roof and heat.

Today we unpack. Do laundry. Assess the winter damage: one bedroom, the drywall of the ceiling partially collapsed and water damage to the floor. Something wrong with the stink stack. The kitchen faucet is partially broke. The shower head is completely shattered and the pipes are damaged in the wall. Somehow the wood shed is still standing, against expectations. The dishwasher isn’t quite right. Something in the switch. I found thistle seed stashes. Somebody (or somebodies) small and furry is living in my home.

News: Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Covid-19 positive with mild symptoms.

News: Our President is making it personal with the Governor of Michigan. Suppliers are being told not to send supplies, even when the President stated governors should procure their own.

I am afraid now, more than ever. I am more angry than I’ve ever been. I am helpless. I took a long bath, my first in eight months. I can’t get calm. I’m going to go for a nap. To try to get out from these overwhelming feelings. I have too many people working in nursing. I am breaking down. I cry, seeing their faces. Terrified for them.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Day 2: The cat doesn’t stop crying. He bellows in empty rooms. He may be channeling my feelings. I was weepy and I’m now hollowed out. I can’t even go out to escape. There’s no escape. My body escapes for me. Drowsiness comes down often. This is the life of the damaged. My brain takes care of me by putting me to sleep.

News: the President declares a state of emergency for Michigan. They send 1000 N95 Masks. It’s a hysterically low number. I take solace in governor Coumo’s daily briefings. He’s the leader in this crisis.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Day 3: Anger. I’ve always despised Sundays and Holidays because of the limits put on what you can and cannot go and do. But now every day feels like a Sunday. If I could sleep through till this was over I would, but I can’t and I shouldn’t. I’ve already slid too far into the comforts of sleep. Instead I’m going to try to set some daily expectations for myself.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Clean Something

Read

Art

Today I cleaned one area in the kitchen. Which led to some open shelves. Good enough. More than I set out to do.

News: the President accused New York hospitals of nefarious activity with PPE in the corona task force news conference. Every day I listen to that and to Governor Coumo. Thank the stars for Fauci and Coumo.

Monday March 30, 2020

Day 4: Hope is a tender thing. Hope is a small newborn babe. Hope is a fire in night. Hope. My husband had an interview this morning. It sounds like a job offer is coming, for after the Covid-19 crisis. There’s hope in this darkness. Hope can crush a human under its enormous weight. Hope can be dashed. I wait in the wilderness with hope in my heart.

News: Yesterday the President announced 30 more days of Social Distancing.

Coffee and failed attempt at 100 Day Project

News

Got internet access

Cleaned out bookcase and purged books

Napped

Tried to watch Pet Cemetery

Ran away and worked on The Painting, it goes well

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Day 5: More overcast days than sunny moments, the weather is concurrent with my oppressed mood. The cat continues to cry. Yowls if he cannot see me. Sometimes I drug him with catnip to get it to stop. He is unhappy.

People are expressing feelings of derealization on social media. Welcome to the world of trauma my friends. Only, we are just getting started. My trauma responses are in full gear. Numbness. Sleeping long hours. Fatigue. Loss of interest. Derealization. The only way is through. The way through is to try a little every day to be human until the fog lifts. Go through the motions until they aren’t motions. Set little attainable goals.

News: The administration “believes” the peak of cases will hit in two weeks.

Coffee and the motions of the 100 Day Project

Forced myself to clean a couple walls and two shelves. That’s enough of that.

Bath

Reading

Weight of drowsiness overtook me: nap

Coumo and then Trump news briefings

Staring at a wall

Cut paper for Polaroid project

April 1, 2020

Day 6: My mental health is unraveling. It is a chore to get myself to do things. I let off Instagram and my Charley Lakes Studio Facebook page . Fine. I am trying to get the fortitude to work on the Polaroid project. I’m barely putting effort forth into the 100 Day Project. I’m sleeping in and napping. I know this headspace well. And it is not a good place. This is not where I thought I’d be last week. I’m fighting my way through.

News: Florida finally has a “stay at home” order. Kurt fixed the shower.

Coffee and 100 Day Project (posted last weeks blog) while listening to NPR updates.

Leftover pancakes and Coumo briefing. Which I turned off. I felt my body descend into drowsiness. That’s enough.

Read

Nap

Cleaned off kitchen cupboard fronts: literally the least I could commit to

Stare out the window

Watch “Witcher” and cut paper. I have no idea what is going on. What is the plot?

April 2, 2020

Day 7: The sun shines. I feel lighter. I drink coffee and explore social media. I am appalled at the ridiculous conspiracy theories on tap. Like the time I read a thick book on why atheists were right (I turned agnostic), I come out of this time absolutely sure conspiracy theorists are dead wrong. I’ve had enough. Everyone seems to have their favorite. As though the reality of this world isn’t fantastic enough. Reality is far more amazing than given credit. Maybe we need more arts and sciences. To sit in wonder of the mundane without need of some spectacular shadowy double truth.

News: Michigan officially suspends the K-12 school year. The Democratic National Convention moved to August.

Coffee & 100 Day Project & NPR podcasts: productive

Can’t get the Coumo briefing to play.

Read

Nap

Polaroid Project

Witcher… finished it. I think I get it. Maybe.

April 3, 2020

Day 8: The days blur. Woke up well after noon. Oops. I watch people on social media, who weren’t taking the situation serious, change their tune. I hate cleaning. And I hate having a messy house. Conundrums.

News: Etsy sent out a request asking for its makers to make masks.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Stare out the window

Polaroid project

Refuse to nap… sort of watch a movie and start a tv show: “the expanse”

Life is becoming so small…

April 4, 2020

Day 9: My vessel facilitates anger. I vibrate with it. I am nobody. I, and everyone I know, we are acceptable losses to the capitalist gods of greed. What a better world this would be if we weren’t tethered to live in an expansion economy. There must be other ways we can live? Surely???

News: no news intake, need mental space today

Coffee & slow simmering anger

100 Day Project

Polaroid Project

Thought long and hard about cleaning… not today!

Binge watching “The Expanse” (don’t judge me. I’ve not watched anything since October)

April 5, 2020

Day 10: The snow is going away fast. When we arrived home, our house was snowed in. We had to break a trail through deep snow to haul necessities in. Now? The driveway is mud.

News: Texas issues “stay at home order”

Coffee & 100 Day Project

A walk

getting fancy… have the easel in the house for the painting now

more “the expanse”

Monday, April 6, 2020

Day 11: I realized I was checking out of reality. I put NPR on this morning and I couldn’t even finish my coffee before I was back in bed. So check out of reality it’s going to have to be if I want to be awake. Or save news for a bedtime snack.

News: prime minister Boris Johnson in the ICU and the Queen gives a rare speech. A tiger in a zoo is infected.

Coffee and 100 Day Project

Nap

Painting

TV

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Day 12: It rains.

Coffee

Sleep

100 Day Project

TV

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Day 13: The sun shines. The cat cries.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Read

Sleep

Read

Sleep

TV

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Day 14: Hope. A year after my husband lost his job. A year of stress and worry and adventure. Good news today. Fragile news amongst the sea of uncertainty. News that could evaporate as the world continues to be tossed upside down by a virus.

Coffee…

Essay: Understanding

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, Self Reflection, Thoughts

If you have followed along this far I’m sure it is clear I struggle with my identity as an artist. I’m using both my time traveling across country since October 30th and the 100 Day Project to focus on developing my artistic voice and understanding my motivations. And along the way completely muddling up my website. Your welcome reader.

Today I had a breakthrough. It started two days ago really. I posted a piece of bird wing on Instagram. At first I was going to stop myself out of fear of losing my audience. Instead I went ahead. I decided I need to be authentically me and that includes sharing my inner world. I added a caption about how I saw beauty in life cycles.

That started it, but I didn’t know it.

I’ve been reading books about artists, following art blogs, going to galleries, museums and listening to art related podcasts. You know, immersing myself. Out of this came the idea that there is a thread in my life, specific to my experiences that can inform my work. Other artists could point to childhood memories that easily intertwined with their adult artworks.

I just could not see it.

I always felt like I had to make a choice. And each choice would be leaving behind an aspect of creating that I enjoyed. If I chose painting, I’d have to let go of blockprinting. If I chose drawing I’d never paint. If I did trees, I couldn’t do animals. If I tried a new medium it wouldn’t fit with the rest of my work.

I was missing what my work has been about entirely.

Entirely.

From dead trees, ravens, crows, up-cycling, cats, decaying buildings, dying saguaros, desert vistas, water, spiral symbols, animal bones, skulls, gardening, seasons, the mysteries of world religions, even attention to textures and certain aspects of Japanese culture it’s been about life cycles. And importantly life out of death.

But why?

Perhaps because the day I was born, October 30 (the same day we departed) was the one year anniversary of my Grandmother’s murder. I grew up with that as the dinner conversation for years. My father never got over it. My aunt wrote a fictionalized book inspired by it (absolutely worth reading: available here!). I’d say it was the single most defining event of my childhood.

Then during my twenties, when I most needed to lean on my father for support to go back to school, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He made poor life decisions, leaned on me, and I spent five years watching him die slowly before the real end when I watched him suffer for weeks and eternal days. He didn’t know where he was, let alone who I was. I had a complicated relationship with my Father. It took time to understand his imperfect humanity. When the time comes to say your final goodbyes to a parent or someone with a terminal illness, you too will find complex feelings hidden away to deal with.

After that I chose to work in home health for two years and a nursing home for over four years. (After college I felt no inspiration to do art, until the ink doodles started compulsively taking over and I couldn’t ignore my creative needs anymore). I wanted to give to others the peace I had from knowing my father was cared for. Being close to death was somehow being close to my father. Giving comfort and kindness to the sick and dying was giving it to him, in a way.

For a long time, unconsciously, my art work has been about life after death. Life from death. Beauty in death. I just didn’t know it. I don’t need to change what I’m doing. I just needed to understand it. I can accept and embrace the materials, media and subjects that speak to me. And know I’m giving something to the world uniquely mine that I can be proud of.

Thoughts from the Road: Self Reflection

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, process, Self Reflection, The Road, Thoughts

The question is does travel change you?

We were thrust into a situation where our options were all less than appetizing so we went all in on the idea of traveling. Go West to find some future, like so many people before us. In the beginning it felt like we were merely fleeing the brutal winters of home. Then it felt like an extended vacation. Now I’ve reached a tipping point.

I go West. I go West in search of something more than. At the crest of this tipping point I find my head and heart. The true being in my form sizzles at my skin longing for its release from the long prison. Somewhere in this life I put away my truer self. I put her away. I contained that wild artist child. I tried to be many different people. I put on different masks hoping to blend into environments I never quite understood.

As a child I was wild. And creative. I ran unsupervised in a pink dress and sparkly jelly shoes. I trashed clothes because my whims decided My-Little-Ponies needed outfits. I drew cats with long tails and white tips. But I hid that child away. I grew up in a home where alcoholism and anger reigned hand-in-hand. I took that wonderful wild child and hid her away because I wanted to fade into the background. Instead I quietly continued to grow stronger in my creative abilities.

Long term travel by truck and travel trailer is slow. Well, we (my husband, two dogs, a cat and I) are slow. We stop for the dogs. We stop for the sights. We stop for lunch. We stop because we want to spend a few days somewhere. We decide to see half of Texas when we didn’t even want to go there in the first place. Instead of a vast dangerous wilderness filled with indigenous tribes; I’ve found reservations marked on maps, old roads, weathered abandoned houses, rusted cars, forgotten towns, endless fences, rampaging cities, tourist holes, scenic campgrounds with all the modern conveniences and whispers of the wild and savage past trampled by docile tourists.

I also find myself with this time. Finally, the time to think. Throughout the years I always wanted to take time off of work to just think, if I could just take those days I could figure it out. IT. Whatever it was. What I wanted? What I was thinking? There was this something I needed time for. Hours, days and apparently even weeks were not enough for me. I needed to be removed entirely from my life.

Wherever you go there you are.

Finally…

There I am

A complex damaged resilient creature with a drive to create….

What have I learned about myself in these weeks?

I feel a budding inside of the artist. She’s almost ready. Almost done cooking. The elements are all there stewing. I’ve seen works in small galleries, big galleries, and museums. I’m feeling more confident that there is something particular to me. My artist voice is about to mature. This time of travel and reflection is a gift I cannot ignore.

Subjects/Themes/Topics coming into sharp focus:

  • Melancholy over what the earth has lost to human inhabitation and the perpetual growth economy
  • Celebration of nature reclaiming man’s work
  • Appreciation of nature: wonder, joy, awe
  • Sadness over human sprawl across the landscape and a yearning for freedom from modern human artifacts
  • Enjoyment of the living creatures around me plant and animal
  • Capturing the essence of my subject in medium/media available (photography, acrylic, ink, color pencil etc.)

The answer:

Everything changes us. I came West to be changed.

Cultural Appropriation: Mixed Thoughts from a Visual Artist

Art Journal, Thoughts

On good days I think I get the arguments around cultural appropriation. On others I throw in the towel and decide I am irrelevant to cultural debates at my ripe age of thirty-seven. I’ve had it explained to me by those in the “know” aka as a college age girl deeply into social issues. I’ve read articles and been subjected to the hostility of news reports. Just when my brain says yes that very much makes sense… it gets pushed too far and says “wait… what?!?”

The Beyonce Argument

I will admit that I was pulled into a Facebook battle about cultural appropriation with wits far exceeding mine. I was being schooled on cultural appropriation. Just as I was losing I asked if it was ok for Beyonce to do it.

Is it ok for Beyonce to do it?

That is how art gets created. Ideas and imagery are exchanged and woven together to create a new narrative. Artists look for new languages of symbolism to inform their work. We travel, frequent museums and galleries, and read obscure literature. We look for inspiration in every aspect of our world and beyond. If you have an interest, there is an artist out there making work about it.

In one answer it was ok for Beyonce to do it because she was a woman of color and it was somehow different. “It just was.”

In another answer it was not. Beyonce held the power as a western woman, the various groups she wore the costumes of did not.

I do cringe now when I see a pop star step out in the dress of another culture. The results are often beautiful and interesting see Iggy Izaelia, Beyonce, Nikki Minaj, and Gwen Stefani (note: probably all of them at one time or another).

And…

I’ll tell you.

While sitting through an informative video at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs Mississippi these thoughts crossed my mind. This white Ocean Springs’ male artist like many artists before was influenced by primitive cultures and their symbolism.

More well known was the influence of Japanese art on Western art starting with Impressionism. We are talking influence on artists from Klimt to Monet.

Should the way art history is taught in light of cultural appropriation change? I would say yes. (At least from how I was taught)

Should artists stop being influenced by other people and cultures. I don’t know what the right answer is. I am absolutely sure that there will be a richness among the arts lost if that give and take between diverse people is quashed.

Voodoo dolls in a gift shop. Many people pick up this mass produced keepsake in Louisiana. Voodoo is mixed up with Hoodoo in the common imagination. It is far richer and more interesting than a tourist shop doll.
Alligator Heads at a small town restaurant, Louisiana. They may be the most authentic thing I’ve ever seen for sale ever anywhere.

Here is my understanding as of November 30, 2019. (Warning I can and will change my mind as new arguments are presented to me).

  • If you visit another culture and (for example) take photographs of a ceremony. Then later exhibit them with an explanation and sensitive understanding, this would be of cultural value.
  • If you bring back an object of spiritual value from that same culture and use it in a photoshoot with a model and no context, this would be construed as offensive, even if the results were aesthetically pleasing.
  • Authenticity can be difficult to come by. We should try to support it. What do I mean? When you are out there in the world buy local. That could mean local artists and/or indigenous goods from indigenous people. (not an original thought, a mix of my beliefs and newly acquired learning from the inter-webs). Spend a little more for something handmade by the real deal. In some cases less, but whatever you do, please run as fast as you can from mass produced tourist junk shops imported from China. If you visit China find a local artist to buy from.
  • When minority groups ask for local school mascot to have a name change from say “Redmen” or “Redskins.” Instead of digging in our heels and saying its always been that way, may be listen to why. We’ll get used to a new name.
  • Halloween… sometimes we could let somethings be politically incorrect.
  • If art history surveys are still taught the same as they were approximately ten years ago when I went to a liberal arts college, some adjustments could be considered. Even at that time they were struggling even with how to talk about women in the world of art history, unless it was the great Frida. Seeing the history of Western art through the lens of cultural appropriation would be beneficial. Anyone taking a good course? Shout it out in the comments.

Writing about this topic has helped immensely in solidifying my understanding, but the term cultural appropriation is being tossed around the media like a hot potato. I just like to remind myself that I can be a kind person and a supreme jerk. People are people wherever you go, even when google maps takes you through the rougher sides of city.

Let’s have a dialog. Thoughts? Opinions? Corrections? Leave a message.

Thoughts from the Road: Part 2

Art Journal, The Road, Thoughts

Alabama

Alabama Cotton

Cotton fields. Cotton Fields. Cotton Fields. And the pines. We Stayed the night in northern Alabama at a woodsy state park with a history of iron mining before the Civil War. The drive up through the pines had me nostalgic for my childhood in Georgia, and looking at a map that was geographically only a few hours away.

The surprise was the South had industrial capabilities, that is not what was taught to me in public schools. What I was taught is the North held all of the industrial might and the South depended on outside sources. Of course the site at the current Tannehill Ironworks State Park was strategically targeted by the Union.

Mississippi

Mississippi Alligator and Friends or Lunch

Unfortunately we only drove along the Gulf coast. White sand beaches lined with shore birds on one side, coastal houses up on stilts on the other. Blocks free of development filled with mature Live Oaks. Later we learned that these areas were once filled with antebellum homes lost to storms.

Live Oaks Overlooking the Ghosts of Antebellum Homes
All the Shore Birds on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Lousiana

New Orleans

Call it bucket list. Call it dream vacation. Call it whatever you want. Between reading novels, watching movies, the history, the food… I’ve been enamored with the place. It was as dark and damp as I imagined. The old buildings tended to. Narrow streets with Spanish architecture smashed together. Narrow glimpses of courtyards behind locked wrought iron gates.

Spanish Influence Architecture, French Quarter, New Orleans

But then you get to Bourbon Street.  I did not know about Bourbon Street before I went there (or maybe I didn’t pay attention?). Among the crowds of tourists there were street performers, they appeared to be families. The atmosphere was so loud, so cacophonous, I couldn’t think straight. Then I saw white middle age business suite guys standing on the balconies lurking with their beads clutched tight. Not looking like they were having one bit of fun. Their beady eyes tracking the flows of people. It was Wednesday at 6:00pm.

Windowsill Moment from New Orleans Business
Gallery in the French Quarter, New Orleans
Rainy Day in New Orleans

New History and Old

If you go to New Orleans the cemeteries are as amazing as they say. I’m not one for tours, but tour is the only way to see St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and it is worth it. I only regret that I could not wander with my camera as I wished.

Scene from St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 New Orleans
Detail from St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 New Orleans
Detail from St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 New Orleans

Within view of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the most recent tragedy in New Orleans. While we were traveling and galavanting, workers were still trying to retrieve the the two bodies from the hotel collapse. Which was visible from almost everywhere in the French Quarter, looming over the revelry.

View of the hotel collapse from the French Quarter, New Orleans, November 2019 (At the time of this photo there were two bodies trapped in the rubble)

Antebellum

Vignette in the Slave Quarters of the Laura Plantation

All along the rivers the plantations of old divided up the land. Some still working plantations, some gone, and some tourist attractions.

Antebellum is such a pretty word…

Bananas in the Kitchen Garden of the Laura Plantation

And they are such pretty structures, with the mature live oaks lining the drives up to a symmetrically built house. The one that caught my eye was colorful. Turns out that was typical of the creole plantations before British/American colonial influence came to the area. Because the creole were influenced by the French, Spanish and island culture.

But I had to tune it out and walk away. Slaves. Slave quarters. The tour included innuendo to all the things that happened to women slaves. Including documentation of births.

Here we were touring a plantation for fun. In an area where the descendants of the slaves and the descendants of plantation owners could still be living side by side. And my insides feel ugly. Because I think about my friends and my family being treated as 3/5ths of a person. It is too real. And there is rage. I think about the people I care about and then in my mind take away all their autonomy and tell them they aren’t human. I don’t know if antebellum is such a pretty word anymore.

Gulf Coast

Shrimp Trawler Heading out on the Louisiana Delta

We took US 90 through the delta swamps of Southern Louisiana. To my Michigan eyes the raised roads through the cypress swamps were magical. All egrets and Spanish moss dotting the waterscape with cypress rising unbelievably from the murky standing water. When our first attempt at staying on the Gulf failed we drove even further south on the delta to Grand Isle State Park. The cypress trees gave way to golden grass islands and deep waterways crawling with fishing boats, shrimp trawlers and more types I have no name for.

Shorebird picking at the Jellyfish
Beached Jellyfish
Sunrise at Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana

For more images from me follow my FB: Charley Lakes Studio or Instagram: Charley_Lakes_Studio

Packing and Reflecting

Art Journal, The Road

Today started with a dream. I won’t tire you with all the details, but I was aware I was dreaming and I enjoy dreaming. At the end of the dream I was sitting on a bench trying to take a photographs of waterspouts over the ocean and to the left of me there was a fire burning the world. I was not scared as it was a dream. I thought: this is a strange dream even for me. Then my father came and sat by me and told me I had to go through the fire.

I’ll be unpacking the symbolism of that for some time. Today however, I am packing my art supplies up in used tackle boxes, very convenient those. I got to thinking about the all the different ways my life could be right now. Less than a year ago I imagined putting all my extra energy into an art gallery with the Marquette Artist Collective. Four years ago I wasn’t putting any effort into being an artist. Ten years ago I had just graduated with a BFA in fine arts. Fifteen years ago I was completely lost and floundering.

Today I am packing up my work and supplies. I have a loose idea of finding inspiration in the great unknown and tracking down new opportunities to build my art career while living in a camper with two large dogs, a cat and a husband.

I have so many regrets about leaving. I had to re-home several cats and that was heart breaking. I had to let go of everything I worked to build in the Marquette Artist Collective. I also had to come to terms with the state my garden would be in. I finally let it go. I had to resign from a day job that I loved and say goodbye to people there that I will never see again.

I will always have a conflicted nature. I will always wonder about the path not taken. There is a surreal quality to the days as we get closer to leaving. I will finally slake my wanderlust. Was it an easy decision? No. Will it be worth it? I sure hope so.

Advice I Wish I Could of Given My Younger Artist Self

Art Journal, Thoughts

Imposter Syndrome

In college I could barely socialize with any of my peers because I thought they were all ten steps ahead of me and I didn’t belong there. I had feelings of inadequacy, no matter the feedback I received from professors or peers. I didn’t show my art as much as I could have in the student gallery. I didn’t get involved in school sponsored clubs. I stuck to my self and that only hurt me.

“The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized  fear of being exposed as a fraud.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com

What changed? I create. I say yes to opportunities. I keep myself open to learning from others. I found a supportive community of artists.

Stop Comparing

Just do that.

Art is Life

I was consistently asked by the oblivious what I would do with art, as in: how would I make a living. I struggled to find a home in other academics. I dropped out of college once because I was so directionless. But I had a passion and it saved me from myself and I went back. That is what “they” do not understand. Some of us are lit from within. What “they” didn’t see are the careers, here is a very incomplete and most obvious list of possible professional art careers:

  • graphic designer: newspapers, magazines, sign shops, print shops
  • website designer
  • professional photographer: wedding, graduation, lifestyle, freelance, product
  • illustrator
  • jeweler

How do I make a living as an artist? I do not yet. My original work sells. I get commissions. The prints of my work sell. I currently have a day job working as a certified nurses aid, and I love that work as well. A lot has changed since the rise of Etsy and the handmade market, the general population finds handmade more desirable.

Be Honest With Your Work

The value of Art School was being among my peers and going through critique. It was the time spent pushing my brain to “see” clearly and learning the elements of design. Inside that atmosphere to get the most of it, I had to let go of my ego. (That ego obstructs artistic growth).

I try to remain open to criticism from people. Even if I “know” they are wrong I try to ‘see’ my work from their perspective, and it is often better for it.

Learn These Sooner

Learn from anyone set in your path. They all know something you do not.

Take advantage of your current situation. If it is school, join art clubs, participate, show your work.

Find your people. Go to local art events. Don’t be intimidated.

Once you find them, maybe get involved.

Not everyone is going to be nice, not everyone is going to be unfriendly. Try to let it roll off of your shoulders.

Have a body of work gallery ready (who knows when you will be able to fill a last minute show). Have a portfolio ready to show. Have business cards ready. Have words ready to describe your work. Have a bio and an artist statement. Build your website.

Keep learning. About marketing, business, art and business, you-tube videos about your medium of choice. Lately I’ve been deep diving LinkedIn and found promising content.

What lessons did you learn that you wish you could tell your younger artist self? Let me know in the comments.

Sink or Swim: What I Learned From My First Art Fair

Art Journal, Thoughts

Make it easy

My work to the right

Out of necessity I had to get clever about the placement of my display panels. I ended up jutting away from the tent a little. This I’m sure increased my sales. People often stopped to buy a piece off of my rack and put their blinders on through the tent to pay for it. I didn’t do this intentionally, but I will make use of it in the future. Make it easy for the casual browser.

Having Prints

There is an interesting psychology of having an original work (or large print) that everyone loves but is pricier than they want to spend and the prints to go with. I knew it was important to hit different price points. I had a mix of originals and prints ready. But I was intrigued by observing people admire the original and then purchase the print of it.

Forget sex sells: Cute sells.

I made cards for the Outback Art fair that I was certain would sell well to people who were familiar with it. The ‘Larry’s Chippy’ image was used on the previous year’s Blueberry Fest poster (Marquette, MI) and was very popular locally. What I didn’t expect was for it to be so popular with everyone. I sold out.

‘Larry’s Chippy’ Cards that sold out

Presentation

I believe that the presentation of my work also helped with sales. I had all my work packaged nicely in sleeves and matted to standard frame sizes. I have decided on one change. I will type up my price tags instead of handwriting them on stickers. I’m looking into a different way to hang them than clips, a few mats were damaged by people rehanging them.

Works on display

People love a story.

I never knew how much hearing the story behind a work would move people to purchase a work they admired. A customer would comment on my Corvid Study prints and after telling them the story about the reference bird they were more likely to buy one.

There’s a reason everyone’s setup is white on white

Not only do the white tents look clean and neat, but the artwork displays better. And we were cooking under the colored tent. It also looked cavelike with the dark panels. The artwork didn’t have the chance to shine that it would against a white background.

A good tent will more likely survive the worst

The entire weekend was fretful with forecast watching. Now that YOUR work is out there with a flimsy tent to cover it you start to think about these things. On the last day I went to check out tents and learned there was a whole world beyond the ‘easy-up.’ Tents that survive weather: Trimlines and other such wonderful beasts.

Consult the gods of Pinterest

Oh ho ho… of course I should have looked to Pinterest for a concentrated plethora of information on anything visual. Afterwards when I felt there had to be better ideas and approaches I consulted Pinterest to find that yes, I could have:

  • drawn up a layout before hand so we had a plan before getting to the site
  • found all the different ways a booth can be configured and planned and found the one that worked best for us
  • found creative ways to display art cohesively
  • thought about decorating the tent for added interest

I would love to hear from you. What lessons have you learned? Any resources you want to share with me?

Originals and Prints on display

Identity Crisis

Art Journal, Thoughts

Today I question who I am as an artist vs. who I want to be. My head is cleaved with ideas I want to pursue and my shoulders weighed down in reality. There are a few things that I know to be true:

  • I get inspiration from literally everywhere. I want to capture the world with my eyes and hands.
  • I cannot create everything.
  • Yet I keep harvesting new inspirations from artists, my environment, online
  • In the future I will have limited space for creating works and storing them.
  • I get bored working in the same medium, I like to explore. I am compelled to.
  • I forget myself and try to make work that will please the world. When I do this I usually fail.
  • I am not a photographer, but I like to take digital photos.
  • I pay attention to textures.
  • I’m drawn to expressive works, but my work is highly controlled and representational.
  • Today I focus on wildlife in my work, but in the past I created emotional biographical works.

Media I have worked in:

Corvid Study no. 1
  • Photoshop
  • Digital photography
  • Acrylic Painting
  • Oil painting
  • Pencil
  • Ink
  • Alcohol ink
  • Up-cycled wood boxes
  • Found beach objects: flotsam mobile type works
  • Acrylic and alcohol ink on up-cycled windows/ canvas/ mixed-media
  • Block printing
  • Clay

Themes that interest me

  • Water
  • Places people leave behind
  • Death and our relationship to it
  • Archetypes
  • Symbolism
  • Patterns in nature
  • Birds
  • Cats
  • Up-cycling
  • Trees
  • Textures
  • Wabi Sabi

What I want:

  • Harvest new experiences and work them into a new body of work
  • Document the metamorphosis
  • Use media creatively, wisely and expressively
  • Narrow down my media choices
  • Find myself as an artist
  • Create fine art, but still have it accessible to a wide range of people.

I am overwhelmed by all the possible ways I could make art. My brain is drowning in ideas and I am paralyzed by choices. The more cerebral I get about the task at hand the more paralyzed and indecisive I am.

Who am I? And what is my art about?