Poem by Rumi, “Green Ears,” ink micrography on paper – in progress.
Poem by Rumi, “Green Ears,” ink micrography on paper – in progress.
In 1912 the successful Lawrence (Massachusetts) Textile Strike was led by women and immigrants fighting for better working and living conditions. One slogan, made popular in culture and song, “We want bread, and we want roses, too!” summed up workers’ desire for both life’s necessities and its glories. It must’ve been in the back of my mind since my childhood (both my parents were big folkies, so I’m SURE I had heard this many times growing up), and it jumped off the page onto an abstract I just finished.
The poem, written by James Oppenheim after the strike:
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”
As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men—
For they are women’s children and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes—
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew—
Yes, it is bread we fight for—but we fight for Roses, too.
As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater days—
The rising of the women means the rising of the race—
No more the drudge and idler—then that toil where one reposes—
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!
Back in the studio after lots of time working on other projects — OK, yeah, a little TOO much time. Got a bit of an artistic block, I think. Too many ideas, too little motivation. After all, my next show isn’t for another —- FEW WEEKS!!! HOLY TIME SINK, BATMAN! While online project management stuff can be really good, it can take ALL OF YOUR TIME just to learn and organize.
In other words, procrastinate.
But it’s all good. I’ve got show applications in and am starting to hear back on the earlier ones, at least through early May. First one (unless I get REALLY stir crazy before then) will be in Morristown NJ – at the Spring CraftMorristown show again. Then maybe Syracuse, maybe Gaithersburg MD, definitely Rockville MD, and WE’RE OFF! Oh, uh, off as in Off to the Races, not off as in time off. Outdoor show season — I’m looking at another 20-25 this year. Watch my calendar for the latest updates.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Back in the studio.
Watercolor on paper with a layer of clear acrylic above it with the last chapter of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea written in ink as contour, texture and shading.
Octopuses (that plural doesn’t look right… is it?) are amazing creatures. Intelligent, curious, and alien. Well, not really alien, but kinda. You understand, right? Anyway, this piece isn’t part of my Endangered Species series, even though a few of the critters I’ve painted are classified as Threatened, including several of the coral reef species and the sea turtle. But this is more a celebration of underwater life, and how really stunningly different most of the rest of the planet is from our usual home environs.
To wit: couch, dog, spouse:
Not that I’m saying that my home environ is anything to take for granted. On the contrary, I am DAILY thanking my lucky stars that I have what I do. But I’m also incredibly grateful to be a part of this amazing planet, home to us and the beautiful alienish creatures we share it with.
Possibly the hardest part about being an artist full-time is trying to figure out how much I need to charge in order to continue doing what I’m doing. Problem for most of us is that we’re artists, not accountants or bookkeepers. Personally, my money management and planning skills are abysmal.
Obviously there are the material costs – paint, glass, ink, papers, mats, frames, boards, bags, etc. OK, that’s easy. Then there’s the overhead of running my studio – electric, heat, computer, etc. So far, so good.
Now I’m doing shows about every other weekend… first there were the application fees just to be considered and juried in or out (usually $25-$35, some want $50 and up, which is insane). How many shows did I apply to? Dozens. Several dozen. I can’t quite remember. Some are online apps, some are email, some are snail mail, some are fax. OK, now it’s getting a bit more complicated. And they all have to be paid early in the year. THEN there are the actual booth fees for the shows I get into and commit to. THOSE have to be paid early in the year, too, which means that I’ve shelled out thousands of dollars long before I get to see what kinds of sales I make at the shows.
You don’t want to know what those booth fees are.
Finally there are the expenses associated with each show – travel, food, lodging, etc. Having to pick up a doohickey at Lowe’s just before the show opens because my doohickey broke. Those I’m not so great at either, just ’cause I’m so focused on getting the show set up, run, and broken down I tend to leave that to retrospective bookkeeping (digging out wads of receipts from twelve different bags or pockets when I get home).
But those are things everyone has to deal with, more or less. I am just organizationally-challenged. But I’m getting better at that because I have to.
I’ve kept my prices low as much as I can, to cover all of the above. But you know, I realized that if I have to sell several of my beautiful creations just to make back my booth fee, that’s just basically handing my babies over to the promoters. Yes, they’ve found new homes with customers that I trust will enjoy them and have their homes enriched by them… but for me, all I’ve gotten is out of the red. Sometimes not even.
Like I said, I ain’t no businessman. I’m an artist. I spend a LOT of time on each piece, as you all know. Why haven’t I fully valued the time I put into crafting each piece? ‘Cause I’m dumb.
With that, I’m giving everyone fair warning that my prices will be going up. To fair market value. And hopefully to something that will help me continue to do what I love and what you enjoy.
As I said, it’s fair market value. Why should people buy art at prices higher than the mass-produced pre-qualified pre-chewed and pre-interpreted stuff you can get at Target? Art is worth much more than paper, gas, doohickeys, and show expenses. I look around at the artwork we have collected over the years from other artists and feel the beauty, hard work, individuality of expression and taste they’ve created in our home and in our lives.
From an article from artbusiness.com:
* Art is a powerful form of expression not only for the artists who create it, but also for those who own it. Art allows people to express their individuality and to represent their beliefs, feelings, hopes, convictions and philosophies in socially (and visually) acceptable and redeeming ways.
* Art encourages people to ask questions, introspect, think about new ideas, experience fresh new perspectives and most importantly, it encourages us to take brief moments out of our busy lives to reflect on more than just the mundanities of our daily existences.
* Art improves our quality of life. All you have to do is think about the difference between a room with bare walls and one with walls full of art.
* Art inspires us to think about and even visualize how life might one day be better than it is now.
* Art stimulates conversation, dialogue and interchange even between total strangers who might never otherwise say a single word to each other. It gives people permission to share thoughts, feelings, ideas and impressions that they might not ordinarily share.
* Children are fascinated by art. Art prompts children to ask questions and encourages them to fantasize, imagine, explore and expand their perceptions of reality, and to dream of unlimited possibilities. Art teaches children how to be creative and have fun with life and gives them permission to do so as well.
* Art personalizes and humanizes the places where we live and work. Art revives lifeless interiors– homes as well as businesses– and transforms them into unique, beautiful and engaging environments.
* Most artists live very modest lifestyles because to them, making art and making the world a more beautiful place is more important than making money.
* For those so inclined, art can be used to signify wealth, success or power and can even be used to intimidate. For example, imagine a CEO’s office appointed with a big bold, vibrant, dynamic painting hanging on the wall directly behind their desk, and two imposing larger-than-life sculptures strategically placed around the office. Anyone who sits and meets with this individual must also contend with their art.
* An original work of art is not only visually appealing, but it also radiates the personality, abilities, creativity, insight, inspiration, technical mastery, attitudes, and at its best, the brilliance and genius of the artist who created it. People who own art are not only able to experience, but also be inspired and uplifted by these qualities on an ongoing basis.
* An original work of art reflects, enhances and sometimes even magnifies the personality of the individual who owns it.
* Original works art have a certain energies about them that reproductions and mass-produced decorative items simply don’t have. You know just by looking at it that another human being made it, and not a machine.
* An impressive or extensive personal art collection can be likened in microcosm to that of a great museum, and certainly increases the esteem of the owner among his or her peers. In fact, many of the great personal art collections either end up in museums or become museums in and of themselves.
* Art makes people proud to live and recreate where they do. They point to their museums, public artworks, galleries, non-profits and cultural institutions with pride.
* Art makes people proud to work where they do. They point to their corporate or workplace art collections with pride. Seeing original art in the halls, lobbies and offices of their corporate headquarters has unconditionally positive, productive, inspirational and uplifting effects.
* Owning original art has unequivocally positive effects for those who own it. Simply put, it makes life more livable.
* For business people who like to make profits, either directly or indirectly, know that many people decide where to spend their time (and money) based on the art that businesses have on display. For example, commercial spaces such as restaurants, hotels and meeting places often attract people because of their impressive art and interior decor.
* Art is environmentally friendly, energy efficient and easy to maintain. It does not increase global warming, use fossil fuels or need to be serviced on a regular basis, and it’s certainly not just another expendable commodity destined for the landfill once it outlives its usefulness. Art never outlives its usefulness. In fact, it only gets better with time.
* Across the country and around the world, artists move into troubled or blighted neighborhoods or parts of cities that have fallen on hard times and revitalize them with their artistry. Property values increase, new businesses move in and the overall quality of life in those areas improves immeasurably. Sooner or later, the public at large discovers these wondrous transformations, and in some cases people actually travel great distances to visit these creative oases. In other words, buying art and supporting artists serves far higher purposes than simply decorating your walls. Your ongoing support provides artists with the means to continue improving the quality of life for us all.
Thanks for hearing me out, and thanks for your continued support.
P.S. I’ll be honoring the show prices up until 7/25/17, when I hit the road again. If you saw something you would like to buy, find it on my website shop and/or email me. -CB
So, ’tis the season of gift shopping and gift buying. If you’re like me, your tastes are pretty specific and difficult to describe to someone else. That also means that unless I’ve actually said “I love this artwork because” X, Y, and Z, it’s really hard for someone to pick, out of a selection of paintings or photographs or even pottery the one thing I would choose for myself. Yes, it’s the thought that counts, but someone wouldn’t necessarily know which thing I would be really drawn to, or what I think would go well with my style or decor or space.
Which is why I think it’s difficult to do a holiday show with large, somewhat expensive (though it’s all relative of course!) original artwork. I think folks prefer to buy artwork for themselves rather than for others, because they’re afraid of getting something the other person wouldn’t like. And if it’s something that has to hang on the wall, well, let’s just say it’s not something easy to switch out at the last minute when Aunt Mabel is coming over and you need to suddenly rearrange your walls to put up that awful thing she bought you two years ago but has been in the attic ever since.
So far I’ve done a few holiday shows, and I’ve found that people who like my work and gravitate toward it prefer to buy my original art for themselves and prints for others. I love it — they want to share my work around! They also tend to opt for more well-known authors or stories, something more easily relatable than some of the obscure stuff I find and embed into my artwork. In this vein, many a gift-seeker has requested certain themes… a flamingo, a giraffe, a lizard, a collection of Emily Dickinson poems, funny quotations, etc.
Your wish is my command! For the season, I’ve begun a line of handpainted giclees, most of animals and pets, which are all either well-known stories or sets of moving and/or funny quotations by famous folk. Check out my Etsy shop for the latest, and PLEASE! keep those requests coming! I’m having a blast! But don’t worry… I’m still working in layers of glass, I’m still working with poetry… it’s ALL (still!) WORDS!
I am an artist.
To me that means I keep moving, keep experimenting, keep trying new materials, new methods. It fits my personality, my ADD.
It’s hard not to. It’s why I ditched the Ph.D. track early on… getting a Ph.D. means you have specialized in something. Something so focused that you are perhaps the only expert in that one thing. I couldn’t do it. Gave up a fellowship and left grad school.
Now, a couple of careers later, I’m back to my first (and only, apart from my amazing hubby) love — art.
When it comes to applying for shows, though, it’s coming back to me. Specialization. When I get rejections, I’ve been told show promoters don’t want to see the breadth of work that I’ve done — watercolor, ink, printmaking, etched glass, layers of glass, mirrors, etc. They want to see a Cohesive Body of Work.
That’s kinda a new concept for me. Not that I don’t have it… my work is cohesive in theme — exploring the physical manifestation of poetry and language. But from a viewer’s perspective, you don’t get that at first. It takes some time to absorb. Ya gotta get closer. So they’re right in the sense that you don’t see that there’s a Cohesive Body of Work in front of you. It looks like a mishmash of styles, which, I guess, it is, when I present it that way.
So I’m learning to present my theme as a visually Cohesive Body of Work. Group all the works together by materials and colors. Separate out the 3D from the 2D. Mirror backs go with mirror backs; watercolors on paper go with watercolors on paper. Etched glass with etched glass.
And you know what? It looks great!
Only problem is… each style requires a separate application. And maybe even a separate booth. Wow. Maybe I’d better specialize?
What are your thoughts? Got any suggestions? What’s your favorite piece or style? Enquiring artists want to know!
Art show season is upon us here in the Northeast and I’m learning how to be an Art Fair Road Warrior. Seriously, I want a membership card, just ’cause I want to see what the logo would be. Sadly, it’s mainly just a virtual group on Facebook, but still. I think it’s gonna take a lot more shows and a lot more miles behind me before I really qualify, but I’m working towards it. This weekend will be my third show in four weeks, so that’s a damned good start if I say so myself. And I do.
Amazingly enough I don’t really get bored to tears sitting, standing, or futzing around in and around my booth. I thought I would, but I don’t. At least as long as there’s somebody around. The first show was pretty rough because the weather was so awful (Pouring in Pittsburgh) that people just didn’t come around, or if they did they were moving quickly. The second show (Hot in Harrisburg) started out fabulously to the point I was freaking out — my first customer came in and picked out a piece before I had even gotten my sales book and credit card thingy out and ready, and there were early crowds that made me panic thinking that they were all getting impatient waiting to buy something. Sadly that turned out to be a common first-day early morning rush, and I had no other sales that day or the next. And did I mention hot? It was hot. And I was in a spot which, while on the grass (so it coulda been a lot hotter), received no shade from the gorgeous park trees to the east or the west for the duration of the show. My face and my fan were never more than four inches apart.
But Monday, Day 3 of the show, was a beeeeeeYOUtiful day, and all the visitors seemed much more relaxed and interested in hanging around and talking.
THAT’s my favorite part. Well, apart from writing in the sales book of course.
There are always folks who bring their kids in (usually bored-looking preadolescents) and tell them that my work is just like that project they did in fourth grade, right? To which I usually reply with encouragement to the kids, and try to ignore the obvious corollary to the parents’ comment that indicates their opinion of my artistry, skill, and/or experience.
But many times — MANY times, thankfully, I received or heard comments from visitors such as “this is absolutely fabulous,” “how creative,” and, the one that will keep me going through the next dry spell, “this is the most unique work I’ve ever seen.”
Thank you, stranger. You paid me more in warm fuzzies than I’ve gotten in a long time.
I know my work is not conventional. It doesn’t fit into many folks’ conception of art. It doesn’t fit into others’ view of craft. I have difficulty getting into some shows because the jury doesn’t know where to put it, or I don’t know which box to check on the application.
But I do it because I love it and I love experimenting and tweaking ways to experience language and image together. On paper, in glass, in shadows, in layers, with watercolor, with ink, on mylar, on vellum, on cut paper, whatever.
And if you enjoy it, please let me know. If you don’t, but have some constructive criticism, please let me know that too. Beyond that, just enjoy the show. I’m sure you can find another artist that fits your style better. We’re all here just waiting to find our peeps. While that’s no guarantee we can make a living doing what we love (or even just make back our expenses and booth fee), it helps to build a following. Someday they’ll need a gift of fabulous, creative, and absolutely unique artwork. And I’ll be here. Or there. I’ll be somewhere. Come find me.
So here’s the calendar for this summer’s shows… Now the tricky part is to figure out a) which pieces to bring to each show, and b) once everything is set up and I’m waiting for folks to come look and hopefully talk to me, what do I do with myself?
There’s a weird balance between making sure that people feel welcomed and that they’re not bothering me, making sure I’m not hounding or pressuring them (see: carnival barker description from last year), and being out of my mind bored.
I can work on some sketches or perhaps even paint, but I’ve been told that people feel awkward interrupting me and don’t want to bother me.
I can read a book but that’s just kinda rude.
I can try to hide an earbud and pretend like I’m not listening to anything, which would also be rude.
I can just sit there eating fair food all day, but, first of all, ick, and second of all, I need to not have to buy yet another larger size.
Or I can be bored out of my skull hoping people will come talk to me and praying they’ll buy something to perk me up.
What would your reactions be? Would you avoid talking to someone who’s working on a piece of artwork? Would you feel it’s rude if I was doing something other than sitting there waiting hopefully for customers? Got any other suggestions?
May 21, 22 Shadyside Art & Craft Festival, Pittsburgh, PA
May 28, 29, 30 Patriot-News Artsfest in Harrisburg, PA (http://www.jumpstreet.org/events/artsfest/)
June 11, 12 Art at Ives, Danbury, CT
July 9, 10 Haddonfield, NJ
August 20, 21 Arts at the Gardens, Sonnenberg Gardens, Canandaigua, NY (http://www.artsatthegardens.org/)
September 10, 11 Clothesline Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester NY (http://mag.rochester.edu/events/clothesline-festival/)
October 8-9 and 15-16 Greater Ithaca Art Trail (www.arttrail.com)
Single-line drawings pull only the essence of an image and force you to concentrate on the contours that matter in depicting a scene. Once the pen hits the paper, you can’t lift it until your drawing is done. Sure, you can trace back over a line to get to a different part of the image, but it muddies it up and in a way defeats the purpose. And for me, I can’t do that because my lines will then become lines of text – writing over a previous line is not an option.
Here’s what I’ve just finished on paper:
I love the challenge of drawing with a single line. Will add color soon.
While I know that had I stayed at RISD way back when, I probably would’ve come away with a degree (in photography or a BFA or something else from their estimable selection of programs), today I’m pretty sure I’m a better artist than I ever could have become at that time.
I am a slow learner of things that matter. I can memorize stuff pretty easily… at least I used to when my brain cells were nice and perky, but alas they are as old as the rest of my over-the-hill body. And fer cryin’ in the kitchen, I’ve got an impressive repertoire of almost entire movies, complete with gestures and stage direction, in my head, along with all 18 minutes of Alice’s Restaurant rattling around in my brain like a spray paint can. But as time goes by it becomes apparent that those things, while fun and good drunk party tricks for my brother to use to show me off, don’t actually matter. At least not when it comes to figuring out what I want to leave after I’m gone.
I didn’t stay at RISD long enough to learn much about style, art history, composition, or any of that. I stayed long enough to learn that my art and my creativity were so deeply buried beneath 19-year-old insecurities that I’d never find them in an environment of artifice, affectation and angst. I created far, far better artwork before attending art school simply because I was free to explore at my own pace and following my own interest and path.
Now here I am, thirty-something years later, finally ready to face my old nemesis, myself. It has taken THAT long of doing other stuff just to have a title on my door or to have a nametag on my shirt — to be an official member of society — while I secretly learned what creating is all about.
As I said… I’m a slow learner.