thoughts and observations of art
and the NYC art world
HOW DOES AN ARTIST JUGGLE PAYING THE BILLS AND MAKING THE ART?
For me, it is exactly that: JUGGLING. Literally. Do this for 15 mins, then do that for 30 mins. Look at the checkbook for 15 mins and pay a couple bills, then see if there's anything left over to buy polyurethane and fabric. Nope, can't afford to buy the new circular saw today. Maybe next month.
I can afford to get about $20 worth of supplies at the hardware store -- and then I"ll have to pull in until the next paycheck comes in. Make the best of it. Look at the bills and see if you can plan for them, for now and for next week.
Then write down the ideas for the next piece of art and another idea comes when I pulled out the paper, and then there's another idea. Write those down.
Open that bill that came yesterday and face the balance due.
Bam flash: just got an idea for that third piece in my Harriet Tubman series: write that down.
Put stamp on the envelope and mail the bill: it's due in 2 days. I"ll probably get charged a late fee, but next month I"ll do better. Back from the post office.
Figure out that design idea I just got while waiting to cross the street.
Dang: didn't even realize I had x, y , z in common in him; okay, that'll go on the piece. I want the border to be x.
Flip flop, flip flop, juggle, juggle, juggle.
Do ten things at once. Learn how to do ten (10) things at once. Keep good notes. Write it all down.
Even the greatest idea will be forgotten by me if I don't write it all down. Copious notes. Copious ideas. Copious creativity. Live copiously.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF MONEY?
Stop making the art and get more work.
Shift from art brain to work brain. And make it happen. There are big chunks of work time in my months and then big chunks of art time.
Learn how to switch back and forth quickly and easily. That was an early, good thing I learned. Got to be able to switch back and forth, fast.
My art world exists because I can afford the studio rent. Period. I can afford the studio rent and all else because my boyfriend underwrites a lot of my living. Let me be perfectly clear; I'm not doing this alone. No shame in honesty.
I'm in charge of my bills; therefore, get out there and make the rent. No studio means no art. No money to rent a studio? Means no art for me. I don't make art in my dining room anymore. A lot changed after Hurricane Katrina. Get off my arse and make that money.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST THORN IN YOUR ART WORLD SIDE?
There are many. Let me start with: the naysayers, whiners, whingers, complainers. Not to leave out the passive aggressives.
Pullleeeeze take your little selves elsewhere, all of you's. Cork thyself. Not here, no! Not ever. Goodbye for forever.
Let's get the politicians and builders to create a separate planet for those folks. NASA! Build a special rocket ship to blast these amoebas into Outter- outter-outter-so- freakin'- far- outter- we- can't know- where- they'll- end- up- SPACE.
I see lazy folks who call themselves artists all the time. I see very angry artists all the time. I move to the other side of the street, or the room, depending on the event. When in doubt: run away quickly!
Do the old French Leave, early and often.
There will be plenty more events to attend.
If the event is kind of sucky I leave and get back to the studio. Get back to my own thoughts! Get back to figuring out what I'm gonna do next.
I went to a party in Chelsea in mid-2007. I was kindly invited by the guy who gave me half of a two- person show there, in his Chelsea art space. Very nice guy. John Scott; he's a primo, top level art conservator.
But most especially a really nice man. One of those rare gems in the art world. [ Yes! They do exist. Wahoo !!! Love them, respect them, help them when I can, and hope to always be near them.]
Well, it started out as a nice loft party. It was, overall, a nice party. The middle part with tears and vitriol spewing ....pulleeeeeze.
Wish that had not happened. It was, I'd come to see, an art world shakey, wakey wake-up call. It was another lesson.
I'd never been to one, a loft party, in NYC. I looked forward to it. Fast forward to artist person there who had a little too much to drink? Or lived a little too much in the "I'm a real artist; you are not !" bubble? [ or h/she drank too much of the old art world cosmic kool-aid?]
I said something about needing to make money from my art, because I sure didn't have enough money.
S/he blasted right into me, put me down 'cause I live on the other side of the Hudson River and then s/he went on to rant loud and long about what a "real" artist really --- drama, drum roll, more drama---
Thanks, but no thanks, honey girl/boy artist.
Let me speak directly to The Angry One Artist:
Your anger precedes you, envelopes you, emanates wildly unchecked from you, leaves a bad stink, and is harmful to my health.
I left, called my boyfriend as I walked to the PATH station, and promised: "No more parties where there are lots of artists. Never again."
I've pretty much kept to that promise, and happy to report I have, still, no regrets whatsoever on that promise.
When I run into the complainers, the drunken ones or the sober ones, whose fear spilleth over, I run run run away. I don't have any need to stand my ground, speak my anything, prove, defend or explain, or be understood.
They can possibly make me feel like shit over and over. (Yes, of course we each control how we feel, nobody can make me feel bad, it's my choice, blah blah blah, but unless you've been in the buddhist monastery for the last 18 years, that stuff of theirs does run off and onto us. I do absorb it; it does affect how I feel about me. For a few minutes, an hour? )
Of course, it's Angry One's O.P.C. -- own personal crap. They choose to not contain it, but to shovel it freely. "Look at me ! I"m really angry! and I"m a Real Artist, you aren't !!"
Decide early on to NOT ever, ever, never take on anybody else's art crap, or "Let me tell ya what a real artist is" crap. It's crap.
Did I use the word crap enough times?
ONE OF THE BEST ART DECISIONS YOU HAVE MADE?
Whew. There are many -- but what always pops up, and what I put into effect often: "chop chop, bliss bliss." I have a piece called this, too. Chop chop the deadwood out of your life. Get really serious. Do the work, endlessly, and bliss bliss soon starts streaming in, endlessly.
Don't tolerate mediocre friends, mediocre anything.
Cut out all self-fooling, blinders-wearing, excuses-spewing persons and those who don' t leave you feeling great.
Pretty soon, you'll be in another world, called integrity, success, calm, content and you'll be really pleased with yourself and what you are doing. Nobody can touch you at this point.
You are your own best source of strength and love, drive and creativity. And you will start drawing in the great folks, but keep chopping off, and cutting out, those who don't play the game seriously. They'll find others to suck off of.
The weak ones are drawn to your energy; cut them off fast and keep on chugging.
You be a great example, to them, of self strength, really hard work, really smart work, non-stop integrity and one who always takes the high ground and doesn't play pissy games.
Pretty soon you'll find yourself in the art world cream of the crop...starting with you.
Choose great, be great, be big, win big, live big. Be kind, be gracious, and run like hell away from those who do / live / think / act in a small manner.
You can do it. Smile. Graciously and swiftly kick 'em to the curb; they are not worth your time and energy and love and attention.
Show your teeth. Get very mean.
Re-draw the lines to your advantage. Let in only a few.
Re-think all that warm and soft and fuzzy stuff that permeates how we're supposed to be. Wake up, women.
You'll be in Lonely World for a while. Alone and wondering "Why don't I have any friends?"
Hold the line and don't give up.
And then the tide will turn.
Keep the bar high, and the quality of your friends and your life will change.for.the.better. No.more.whiners.drainers.
Amazingly: you will be amazed...I was amazed and glad ! --> They will start to self-extricate from your world.
Yes, odd but true. They will take themselves outta your game, once they realize you don't coddle them.
And they self-extricate when they realize you just don't do that drama crap. and. making. fuss. fuss. fuss.all.the.time.junk.
Good riddance, ya'll whingers. I am much better off without those persons weighing me down and stealing my time and energy.
They shake up my positive molecules, do some kind of hurky jerky alchemy and make me feel like lead.
How on earth did that happen? What exactly just happened? I was feeling so happy three minutes ago.
ANSWER: Ms. Energy Vampire sucked the happy out of me.
Lock your studio door. Do not talk to many when you're at your studio. Create!
Oh yeah: those damn reception postcards stuck under my studio door. A little treat, from someone I hardly know, and I haven't seen her in about 18 months.
Hmmm.... what's wrong with this picture?
There should be a law. You gotta at least make contact with another artist every few blue moons in order to ask/demand/ expect that that they show up at your reception. Yeah, that would be a good start.
[ Who are you again and when's the last time we talked? ] Okay. That's my new law.
BIGGEST GRIPE ABOUT THE GALLERIES?
Well, some of those gallery persons ain't the sharpest tools in the shed. I'm gonna guess the receptionist is probably a college grad, but darn.... why the 'deer in the headlights' blank stare when I ask a simple question?
The mantra of the gallery person: "We see so many people ....you just don't understand."
Well, darn again: it ain't very difficult to figure out how to deal with the volume of folks who come into a gallery, on any given day, and ask the same question, is it?
Kindness is cheap, easy, and professional. Organization, super organized -- that's what the computer is for! Use it! I love file folders myself. It is not hard to be very organized.
Ivan Karp says that contrary to popular belief, there are no conspiracies in the art world to keep the lowly artists, the vast majority, out of the inner art world circle. I believe him. It's the snitty and the hip, the deer-in-the-headlights blank stare across the visage, followed by the 'you have some nerve, asking me, cheerfully, a follow-up question,' tone that drives me, for a few minutes, bonkers.
Go for the gems; they are out there, I've hit a few and will continue to hit more.
The art world, like power, concedes nothing.
WHO ARE THE ART WORLD GEMS ?
These are the folks who are professional, kind, sharp as shit, and they don't get snitty. You'll know them immediately: they reek of humane.
They are down to earth: you can tell they're real cause they don't shy away from letting you see that they're real.
They are gracious and they act quickly and with certainty. They don't play games; you don't feel a wall going up immediately between you and them.
Just the opposite; they lean in and ask for more from you. Just a little, but more.
They don't want to waste your time, and you don't want to waste theirs. And they don't want you to waste their time.
They don't push you away; they don't get defensive.
But they do get to the point. They take themselves seriously. In a good way.
They smile! What a shocker in the gallery world.
And there's levity ! wahooo !!!
They are the art world gems. Keep these folks close to your heart. Don't abuse them, their time, or their support. Don't bend their ears; don't expect them to do a lot. They will do a little; you've gotta take that little and make something of it.
The artist must do lots of heavy lifting. All the time. Consistently. Almost non-stop. Go non-stop.
Respect their schedules and their loads.
Respect the work they've done to get to where they are.
Don't pull any punches or surprises.
Don't try to slip something in on them.
Don't be cute.
Don't over reach.
Don't expect a lot. Expect a little and the rest, if anything, is extra. Be glad.
Don't think you're hot *&^ because you are now talking to a big dog. Stay the course; pump out the work, keep it professional and good and kind and smart.
They didn't get to gem status by blabbering and half-assedly doing things. They mean business; i.e., they take themselves seriously in a good way, and you should, too.
Take yourself seriously in a good way.
Help them as much as you can. Bend over backwards. Make things easy for them.
Be easy to work with.
They need easy, polite, professional, kind, gracious, punctual, prolific, light on their feet and easy-on-the-nerves artists. Be one of those.
They've paid their dues; they don't demand that you pay, too, but they do demand that you don't waste their time, that you are professional and respectful, and you are willing to give extra, put out more, do head and shoulders above the others.
[[ Don't demand or expect to be given shortcuts & told secrets. It has the feel of 'Yeah, I know you worked hard to get where you are, but that doesn't mean anything to me. Just tell me how to succeed." And with this tone / attitude, you've just wiped out all validation of the other's hard work, struggles and what he/she cares about. This is not ingratiating. It is foolish. It is arrogant. ]]
Do all of this, art making and trying to make it in the art world, with a happy attitude. Be joyful. Fake it if you must, but be joyful.
Don't overstress yourself or the gems.
Don't over commit.
Don't over promise.
Be real, be honest. Be kind.
The big dogs who are also the art gems: they are kind and very serious and very professional and very willing to give you a chance.
You've got to be head & shoulders above the rest of the artists in order to snag and keep their attention, to work on projects together, to have a working relationship.
You've got to be very decent -- and that makes for great art and a great art world.
Be Kind. Be Gracious.
Always do The Right Thing. These folks REALLY care about art and art and more art. They are art deep and No Holds Barred Art.
WHAT WAS VERY HELPFUL TO YOU IN THE BEGINNING?
The book, Art & Fear, by Orland and Bayles.
It made me realize the gazillion ways I was my own worst -- afraid, 'fraidy cat -- enemy in terms of getting things done. It made me realize my fears. Then, once I realized them, I had to do the work of getting over my fears. Yes, plural. It was Virginia O'Keeffe who said she was afraid every single minute, or day, but that never stopped her from doing a single thing.
So: I'd suggest I keep working on all my fears, stressors, and things that royally bug the bejeezus out of me. The list is long; I've got a long way to go.
WHO WAS VERY HELPFUL TO YOU IN THE BEGINNING?
Adrian Deckbar, realist painter, from New Orleans. Kind, gracious and bought me breakfast and told me about the book, Art & Fear. And her photographer husband, Mike Smith. Very nice artists.
IS IT OKAY TO HAVE SECRETS IN THE ART WORLD?
Yes. Have a lot of them. Secrets abound. I think the art world is built on them. Everybody, it seems to me, feels them, but of course nobody talks about them. So -- secret on!
ANOTHER PIECE OF ADVICE FOR THE ARTIST WHO WANTS TO GET GALLERY REPRESENTATION, WHO WANTS TO MAKE IT IN THE ART WORLD?
Stay in great physical shape, as best as you can muster. I find I need lots and lots, and then more, of energy to get the 10 things done every day, to juggle the 10 things at all times. Juggle a lot, and exercise a lot, and sleep a lot. I need to do a lot of things to float the boat of making art and making it to the end of the line, happily, joyfully.
WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT?
From the buddhists [ I"ll extrapolate to the artist's life]
When I'm a struggling artist, there is "struggling artist struggling." I will have to deal with it. I do.
When I'm a successful artist, and represented by a gallery, sales everyhwere, solo exhibitions I'm thrilled about [ !!!! wahhooo!!!] , then I've got "successful artist suffering."
The bottom line: There's always suffering, no matter where I am at any moment.
Za Choeje Rinpoche, and Ajahn Brahm -- I'm enjoying these guys, robes and all.
And Robina Courtin! A real kick, this nun is. Slugging down the coffees like nobody's business. Blazing mind, blazing tongue. Met her a few times in New Orleans.
Struggle on, oh happy artist warriors.
I (HEART) NY.... on alternate days.
ART = LUGGING STUFF AROUND.