making art

Who are You?

Whenever I was considering adding an artist to the gallery roster two distinct factors came into play in my decision making process. One was considering an established artist who would add immediately to the exposure, the prestige and aesthetic advantage it would contribute and second considering a relatively obscure artist who had a very clear artistic personality and skill set. In other words something I could not get anywhere else and was in complete alignment with the gallery sensibility.

I had recognized that these two strategic factors were powerful enough on their own to make or break any gallery. In fact any significant gallery does the same thing an artist needs to do and that is defining very clearly who they are. Success and failure comes down to having a knack for recognizing something special and then the skill, insight and ability to present that to an audience in a compelling and distinct way.

Many artists and galleries for that matter, get stuck in the developmental stage of their evolution. This, in my view, has to do with closed mindset and the unwillingness to take leaps and to trust yourself. It plays out by reserving a mental space of thinking if one thing doesn’t work I will adapt to the marketplace. In most businesses this is absolutely valid but in the art scene it is deadly no matter how much you want to defend that position. I have actually had artists show me their work and when I concluded it didn’t fit with the gallery they brought out other work and said,  ‘well, how about this work that I do?’ My internal reaction is, ’how many freaking kinds of work do you do?’ At that point I know the conversation is over and any future chance of inclusion is gone.

If we look closely this example disintegrates any possibility of creating value. Oversupply decreases value and undersupply increase value. Common sense. Your unique personality combined with your particular skillset is your value metric. Develop it and commit to it and anything is possible. All I know is when I look at any work this is my qualifier for any attention to what I am seeing and possibly considering. And to be clear for pure collectors that is their criteria as well. Much, much more can be said about this but the bottom line is who are you? That’s what I want to know and it should be so obvious on first look that I either want it or I don’t.

So consider asking yourself ‘who am I?’ The benefit of honestly examining this has the potential of kicking you forward and into any possibility. Might be worth a try.

 

image: Marc Baseman, graphite on paper

Marc is a Southwestern artist who does amazing miniature drawings typically 2″x3-4″.He is a great example of skillset and personality and worth looking up his images online. I have actually exhibited Marc’s work in the past and consider him an extraordinary artist.Love his stuff.

Art + Beliefs

While this article relates to art I have seen the principles spoken about apply to everything in life and all disciplines. Whether we acknowledge it or not we live our beliefs. It is a primal manifestation. The deepest beliefs are so entrenched within us that they tend to exist almost invisibly. The repetitive thoughts that churn in our awareness tend to grab our attention and day by day ask us to expend our primary energy there. But just underneath that chatter reside our core beliefs that have the power to open and close doors in our lives. To imprison us or to set us free.

Many will say, ‘I am well aware of my beliefs and I have a good grasp on who I am.’ On the surface this sounds like a good state of mind. In my view, this is the place most of society lives and is comfortable with. Open mindedness and entertaining the thought that maybe there is more than meets the eye might be a place worth considering. A place of ‘I don’t know’.

We enter the world with no beliefs and then begin the process of being cared for. Being cared for opens us to both subliminal and overt messages that are absorbed within us as our very existence depends on it. On our first breath we begin the road of adopting beliefs at such an existential level that as we mature we lose awareness of these because they intrinsically shaped who we think we are. I have found that these beliefs, despite not being in my best interest many times, I defend to the death unconsciously because that is who I think I am and how I was raised.

Choosing to be an artist or whatever it is you are driven to do confronts the status quo within us and the challenge begins. My drive to want to create powered me through self- doubt, insecurity, limiting views of myself and the need for acceptance. The pain of questioning myself and the discomfort of open-mindedness was secondary to this other force that pushed me forward both out of necessity and want.

I struggled in the studio for 15 years before I dared to venture out and entered an international competition that took me 3 years of submission and rejection to finally be accepted in. My discontent pushed me to try. I opened myself to rejection knowing that acceptance couldn’t come unless I did. From that decision I was invited into a major exhibition in NYC that I had always dreamed about being in. From there I was acquired into the National Gallery and one day I realized my beliefs about myself had changed without me even knowing it.

Experience has shown me that true change cannot be constructed. It comes from open-mindedness and the willingness to take another look at oneself when life says it is time. The scenarios that have changed me have come when I least expected. I resist change as hard as I can most times so it is only when something larger than me steps in and I seemingly have no choice that I grow. I know a few things for certain. I can do some things today that I wouldn’t have thought possible before. I know there is a force that pushes us through adversity and change despite our discomfort. I am certain that anything is possible when we take seemingly insignificant moves towards what we want.

It does seem apparent it takes a lifetime to grasp what our beliefs are and to allow that something to shape them into better things for us. I no longer worry about changing myself. Art has been my vehicle to self- awareness. I grow when I least expect it and despite all my efforts to resist it still happens thankfully.

 

image: Italian artist, Edoardo Tresold

wire mesh is the main material: this work is amazing and check out the link to his site…very cool concepts and execution

Accepting the Imperfect

As artists, as people, as one in a global community we measure ourselves and judge others from a perspective of being able to attain perfection. When things go wrong, as they will, we agonize over our own insecurities as well as how we think the world will judge us. Making a painting, putting together an installation or whatever it is we are attempting to do will always have challenges that are unforeseen and part of the process.

Resisting the expectation of glitches and measuring any effort from perfection undermines our cosmic gift of growth and learning. The why of things seems unanswerable but knowing the intent and motivation of any effort transcends and transforms any unforeseen difficulty we are presented with. There are so many holy scripts that reinforce this idea of compassion for the other and the acceptance of ourselves for exactly who we are.

‘In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.’ Rejoice in your weaknesses [imperfections] for in them we are made strong.’ Every religion and spiritual practice highlights understanding, compassion and gratitude for what to us looks like a flaw, a mistake, a glitch.

The courage to explore and experiment contains within it the element of imperfection. Edison tried 5000 combinations of things to find 1 that worked. 4,999 failures according to most. He saw it as 4,999 steps to success. Whatever we have a passion to do accepting it all, the good, the bad, the struggle opens us up to a greater guidance that is undeniable and sacred. Every world changing discovery or accomplishment was strewn with challenge and defeat and glitches. But if those brave people hadn’t at least tried then how much less would we all be. But because of their courage on the road to their vision amazing gifts come to others.

Those that we remember and that change history are the very ones who risked, looked like failures, grappled with their own insecurities but pressed on towards the mark despite it all; being driven by something that is indescribable but ultimately divine. In the life of an artist, a scientist or whomever this drive to share something with another is enough and it will find it’s way to those to whom it matters.

 

Image: Nicola Tassie’s ceramics

Invitation to a Hanging, Aftermath

Last Saturday I undertook the challenge of installing an exhibit in 4 hours in front of a group of people who were both participating as well as observing. I am not sure if this has ever been done before but in its aftermath I believe demonstrated the power of arrangement and presentation.To me it was performance art. Many elements comprising a greater work of art, the exhibit itself. The process was available to see and experience for those who were there.Art in and of itself can be presented in such a way as to add value or to devalue it from a singular and as a larger whole perspective. As artists we must always complete each work to its intended presentation state whatever that might be. By not paying attention to this part of the art making process we devalue ourselves especially when others you are showing with have resolved this part of their work.

The image above is where we started. A group of apparent disparate work waiting to be assembled in its highest form as an exhibit. Presentation cannot be under estimated. A painting when finished must now be presented or it is incomplete. This applies to all mediums that we use. Upon acquisition the work then surrenders itself to the placement and place it will be installed. When all of these elements align we have the potential for magic. Art in its highest and most valuable form is something we all should want.

In my mind a work of art is comprised of 3 elements. The first is idea or concept. The second is expression. The material manifestation of the idea aligned with our personality and ability. Third is presentation. How is this work shown and then presented to the public whether the public is your own house or a museum. A work is incomplete if all three are not addressed.When an artist gets these right opportunity is created and we stay out of our own way.The takeaway is that there are practical measures we can take to get the most out of what we do and understanding all three elements intimately is critical to success and fulfillment of purpose. At worse I would suggest to begin to think about how your work will be perceived when shared with the public. What can you do to give your piece justice in the sea of other works that will be seen side by side with yours?

 

 

 

5 Tips to Improve Your Drawing

One of the big benefits of a blog is the ability to share great things with others. A good friend and artist, Mark Hampson, who teaches at the Royal Academy in London, wrote a short but insightful article on drawing and applies to all mediums when making art. I am sharing the link and take the time to read and explore the RA site.Please feel free to pass on to your artist friends as well… I particularly like #5 and something I have been talking about in these posts.I hope you enjoy and please give some feedback after you have read.

Mark’s Article

 

Discontent, the Fuel to Dreams Come True

When I look back to find the moments and emotional states that brought me closer to what I had always dreamt for myself, I identify my internal frustration and discontent of not being where I thought I should be in my life and career as the motivator.

Because I had always wanted a career doing the thing which I loved, which was art, I spent a lot of time getting to know that world from a very young age. I ventured off to local galleries [the few that there were] and immersed myself in that world from pure enjoyment and love of what looked to me like freedom and dreams come true. The idea of making art as my life’s focus was so exciting that it dominated my thoughts day by day.

I began entering high level shows in high school and while there was rejection I had also experienced acceptance and that experience reinforced my dreams of a life making art. I never actually struggled with ‘am I good enough?’ I always was aware that the artists I had idolized such as Sol Lewitt, Robert Ryman, Christo, Josef Albers and others in that generation had found a way to make art their life and so would I. In the early years I would make my wife go to galleries with me, which I admired, with her knowing that I would leave being completely frustrated and sometimes angry that I wasn’t being seen in those places. Needless to say she didn’t like going to galleries much and I can’t blame her.

I would go back to my day to day studio life in complete discontent and wonder what I didn’t know that everyone else did who were in those galleries. What was I missing? Is there some secret to being seen in the places I wanted to be seen? I have the distinct memory of one particular day having a light bulb go off inside. I said, ‘here you are working in relative obscurity and within a narrow geographical area and what do you expect? Out of sight out of mind.’ My discontent and frustration exceeded my intimidation of approaching places I lusted after and as uncomfortable as I was I starting letting people know I existed.

I wrote the book ‘Studio to Wall’ to elaborate the discoveries and experiences that came out of this to produce a blueprint that can be adapted to each individual’s circumstance and personality. I have always believed that if one person can do something then so can others and why not me? My experience is not based on romance or unrealistic expectations but the actual ‘how to’ of it all that most artists will eventually discover. It is history for me and what this blog is all about. Sharing what I learned and experienced as contributing back to a world that has both loved and hated me.

So in the depth of what feels negative for us all, such as frustration and discontent or self- doubt there is an opportunity that far exceeds what we can imagine if we deflect these motivators outward instead of inward. We each need to experience successes in art. Not just the making of it but the sharing of it on any level. I have seen universally that when our work connects with someone there is a feeling of it is worth it all and we want to do it again and again. This sharing is excellence,communication and insight at its very best, the essence of all expression.

 

The Two Faces of Creativity

I have seen a deluge of books and speakers focusing on creativity in all facets of life and how to unleash its hidden power. In my mind I wonder more, ‘how do I harness creativity’, as I see its effects on the world both as a mass consciousness as well as individual expressions for both good and bad. Creativity disappears, as I see it, when we are no longer in this body but even then, according to your beliefs, maybe we then are flying high on creativity and I choose to believe that.

But in the here and now if we really pay attention to this energy of creativity we are constantly awash in its influence but typically in a negative way. Thus what we actually seek is a form of creativity different from what we are experiencing. Creativity tells us stories internally with no regards of being true or not. Creativity doesn’t care if it’s true only that someone will believe it. Internal chatter is creativity going non-stop. The wandering of your thoughts and creating all kinds of scenarios real and unreal is creativity. We all who are breathing are creative beyond what we might imagine.

Creativity has two faces. One that grows us and one that can harm us. Even in the art process uncontrolled creativity or imagination can inhibit your growth if you are susceptible to the negative stories it wants you to believe about yourself and the world. Some call it the inner critic or many other characterizations. Try being still for 10 minutes and let me know how the conversation goes. ‘Your not good enough’. ‘Do you really want to feel rejection when you go peddle your work?’…Most hear this internal discussion… Do nothing but just sit. What do you hear? Where does your focus go? Is your story the story you want to be true or the one we don’t want to hear anymore?

Artists, because we are intensely involved with the world of creativity, are highly sensitive to both faces and it takes some energy and focus to reel it in and use it for what we really want. Not putting yourself out there to be seen, when you really want to, is a good example of internal creativity gone wrong. We imagine scenarios that make us anxious. Maybe some will end up true but we can’t actually know until we make a move. However making a move toward the way you want it also creates the possibility that good things can come. If we get stuck in some story that preys upon our insecurities or fears we freeze.

Imagine the ‘what ifs’. ‘What if’ despite the story you hear inside the thing we want happens by moving towards it? ‘What if’ the imaginings that confront us at our core really aren’t true? I have found a couple of things that moved me past my inhibitions and restrictions that dogged me most days. The act of focus and physically making your work realigns the creative force. Once we have an ‘object’ of attention creativity automatically shifts to where we want. It happens almost without being aware it is happening but at the end of our studio day we feel invigorated and almost high. We transcended the initial resistance and we allowed our process to carry us. Making this a habit puts us on a path of increased confidence in ourselves and our work as we experience our creative expression working on our behalf.

Once we have a finished work we then typically say to ourselves, ‘now what’? I used to feel a let down once I finished a piece but my routine led to the next thing of interest I wanted to do and the process began all over. As I built up a body of work my focus was ‘I want to show these somewhere’ and despite all of the insecurities that can pop up, I began to build up a network of connections that always created a place for my work to go. So I had a process for creating and I had a process for distributing my work once finished. As you get that solidified it becomes more of a flow and far less resistance and the creativity energy funneled its way into what I wanted and was harnessed. As artists we need to make deliberate moves that gets us closer to what we want for ourselves and the doing is what matters. The take away to me is creativity is always there to craft the life we envision. It can be an uncontrollable energy if it has no where to be directed to or we can take actual steps to create processes for ourselves where it will just go and flow naturally.