Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On failure

As a freelance journalist, I've become strangely desensitized to rejections from editors. If a story idea doesn't fit a publication, I shrug it off. Sometimes, a great idea doesn't suit the needs of a particular publication at a particular time. I send off loads of queries, and while I might get frustrated when I can't break into a particular market, I don't get terribly upset.

Naturally, when I began focusing on my art career in 2009, I figured I'd go boldly forth, and pitch myself just as shamelessly.

Turns out, I'm a big chicken shit. While I do submit my work to magazines and apply for art shows and galleries, the rejection has been much harder to bear. I have had many a pity party in front of my monitor - even when I realize that my work was inappropriate for a particular opportunity.

I have to constantly remind myself that failure's part of the deal - especially for artists. We will get rejected by juries, funding committees, the general public. We will inevitably display our art at an outdoor festival and overhear snide comments from passerby.

Success! This spring, my art graced 17 billboards across the province.
I'm waiting for my thick skin to grow in, but until that happens, I force myself to ruminate on the good that comes from putting myself out there. Sometimes I fail, but sometimes I do fantastically well.  Earlier this year, for instance, I was one of three winners of the Art Upon Request campaign, and had one of my artworks on 17 billboards across Alberta for a couple of months.

Failing, now and then, helps me appreciate these wins. It also helps me bond with members of the art communities I'm a part of. Falling on your face is a kind of rite of passage, I hate to say, and it bonds us all together.

Another win: Sold this at a juried art show this month.
But failing's also important for the learning opportunity. Sometimes, I fail because something I've painted, drawn or written kinda sucks. Or, it's simply wrong for the market I've submitted it too. Knowing the difference between a piece of art that's missed the mark, or a piece of art that simply doesn't match a market, is a critical skill. You don't figure it out without putting yourself out there and risking failure.

That said, after a recent failure to secure a spot in a juried arts and crafts festival, I think I'll be laying low for a wee bit. As a writer, I know that success is 90% perspiration, I also know that a person needs to have reserves of mental energy to put it all on the line. So, for the next couple of weeks, I'll be doing the things that make me happy and putting applications and queries aside until I feel ready to put it all out there again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thing-a-week: Saturday doodlin'

I'm a chronic doodler. As a kid, all of my class notes were covered in doodles - everything from grinning puppy dogs to abstract swirlies. I was always more interested in making art than anything else.

These days, I doodle on envelopes when I'm on the phone, in my daytimer when I'm jotting down appointments, and of course, while I'm watching the tube. Here's yesterday's doodle, accomplished while watching reruns of Sex and The City with my lovely sister. 

Mike Kendrick's Thing-a-week is already posted! Check this shizzle out!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Portrait of the artist as a very awkward teenager

In early September, I attended the Kaleido Festival, in north Edmonton. It's a great two-day arts festival, with everything from street vendors like moi, to stilt walkers, to acrobatic artists, to live's good fun.

When I'm at a festival, I like to make art during the quiet times. On Saturday, I was sitting at my table painting, when a shadow fell over my canvas.

"Needs more yellow," said a familiar voice.

I looked up - it was my high school art teacher, Mr. Jones! He taught me all three years, in fact, and taught me a heckuva lot about art history. Since graduating in '99, I'd hoped to run into him, so it was great to catch up. We went for a coffee a couple weeks later, and chatted about travel, art-making, and what some of my classmates were pursuing more than a decade after high school.
Naked virgin mother meets Alien King?

Anyway, this blast from the past made me think back to those important years. But, there's another side to nostalgia. As a friend of my sister's once remarked:

There are so many memories I feel awkward about.

Well said, Lauren. Me too. And lots of art I feel awkward about, let me tell you.

Every now and then, I flip through some of my old sketchbooks from that terrible era, and there's an awful lot of teen angst bleeding through the pages. I was really, really obsessed with Salvador Dali in those days, so there are plenty of melting trees, naked people missing arms and legs, and other dramas. It's awkward.

But, is it terrible? Well, not really. I had my teenage pretentious moments, but most of what I drew and painted was pretty honest and raw - I can't fault myself for that. I was just extra, super-duper passionate about art. Some of that has melted away over the years, although I still have that fire in my belly to make art.

Another weird one.
Maybe that's what the naked virgin mary drawing is all, representing that super-weird impulse to make art?

Or, maybe it was just an awkward moment.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thing-a-week: Comics? Me?

Yes, it's been two weeks since my last blog post -- sigh -- but it's been a crazy, whirlwind month. I had a couple of art things (including the Kaleido Festival in Edmonton), school started (I'm taking short fiction this year!) and I'm up to my eyeballs (ow) in writing gigs.


I should've expected as much, but it took me by surprise (as it does, every fall). Particularly the explosion of writing projects. I've been loathe to turn anything down since I'm heading to Europe Oct.6-18 (France and Belgium! Hurray!), and it's always good to fill up the coffers before I take time off!

Anyway, art-making has fallen by the wayside a wee bit - but I did make a wee comic recently. My friend Tammy Lee - a webbie, artist and comics genius - is showing me the ropes! So, over the last six months, I've been reading every graphic novel I can get my hands on (including plenty from the Library o' Tammy) and finally, FINALLY, I decided to start my own.

Okay, deep goes. Meet my alter-ego, "Grumpy Girl."

Yes, it's poorly scanned, and you can definitely tell that I got lazier with the second panel. But, I'm gonna give it the college try. There's so much you can do with sequential art (aka comics)! 

As always, do not (seriously, don't) forget to check out the fine art works of my blog buddy, Mike Kendrick. He routinely puts me to shame! Lately, he's been showing off his graphic design skills. Check this shizzle out.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Flirtation with orange (Thing-a-Week)

A family friend once told the story of his younger cousin, who went to art school in New York City in her 20s. One semester, she called him and exuberantly declared that she'd "discovered" the colour yellow.

I can't recall the finer points of his story, but at the time it made me giggle until my sides hurt. This young artist's "yellow period" was hilariously pretentious. It was the kind of story that makes me hope and pray I don't turn into a flaky artiste.

That said, I've had plenty of love affairs with colours. At the risk of coming across as a complete and utter flake, I think I'm a little enamoured with orange, this month. This piece, acrylic paint and acrylic ink on 10 x 12" birch panel, is all about colour and texture. It began as a painting of the night sky - complete with cartoonish planets and space craft - and evolved into a bright abstraction.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Where the magic happens

While chatting with a rural artist at a trade show, I remarked that he must have a glorious studio. I imagined a deluxe set-up in an old refurbished garage or an unused barn or heck even a yurt. I was salivating at the possibilities.

Where the magic happens.
But nope - it was quite the opposite. This established Canadian artist, whose work has appeared in galleries across North America and Europe, works at his kitchen table. Where he eats his morning cereal.

He must have noticed the look on my face.

"You can make art anywhere," he shrugged. "Why do you need a big studio?"

I can think of a few good reasons - but here's the biggest: domestic harmony. I may not work on huge canvases, or use fancy tools, like a kiln, but making art makes a mess. And, frankly, my spouse isn't thrilled with my junk all over the living room.

But, he's not wrong. There are ways to integrate an art space into almost any home. In our home, I've set-up my easel etc. in a sneaky little area between the couch and the fireplace. 

Sometimes, I'll drag the easel back to my office, at the back of the house. Thanks to my handy-dandy tool box, I can shut the lid and haul my paints and brushes down the hall to tuck it away. I keep my paint palette in a very portable cake caddy, as well, so the paint stays wet longer (and prevents colourful cat footprints everywhere). Sometimes, I even use the removal cupcake-holder as a palette.

But I love the bright light in the living room and since it shares the space with a TV, my mini-art studio is a more social place to be.  Most of the time, that's what I prefer.
Favourite shows include: Damages and Intervention (don't judge me).

Eventually, I'd love to have an entire room just for my art and I've got designs on a big room in our basement. It was recently re-done after a flood this spring, which destroyed the carpet and a lot of the drywall. Now, it's got this fancy, mold-resistant lino that looks like slate (it's not tacky, I swear!), a huge closet with mirrored sliding doors, and a brand-new window that opens like a dream. It's strangely bright in our basement, so I have no doubt I'd be comfy.

Problem is, the room is currently the office of our very lovely tenant. We're eager to pay down our mortgage quickly, and Natalie is the quietest, most considerate human I've ever met, so I hope she stays a long, loooong time. I'm happy to settle with the dream tenant and wait a little longer for the dream studio!

This big toolbox has a top storage area as well as three drawers that slide out. A great place for brushes/pencils/tape/etc.
Found at Canadian Tire: A cake caddy. It's air-tight and keeps paint wet for longer.

Inside, a removal 'cupcake tray' has become a large-but-functional palette.