KIDS AND ART

Find a way to welcome these younger visitors to your work, your vision, and the world of art. It pays off for everyone.

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I absolutely love my MOO mini business cards, for lots of reasons!

I had an open studio last weekend, a community art event that’s very popular in our neighborhood.

I spent the week before clearing clutter, arranging and pricing new work,dusting (I decided to call it ‘patina’ instead), in preparation. True to form, I was also making new work up to the day before. I get my best ideas with the pressure of a deadline!

There are two things I did/didn’t do that may astound you.

I DON’T offer refreshments for visitors in this studio.

I DO provide small gifts for children, and encourage them to touch my work.

You may be astounded. Most artists/craftspeople I talk to, do exactly the opposite. They hope to entice visitors with snacks, coffee, even wine. The welcoming-kids part stops many artists in their tracks. In fact, when I wrote a series of columns and an ebook about keeping your workspace/selling space holyone artist actually asked me specifically how to keep kids out of their booth.

I quit offering food in my show booth because I don’t need it anymore. It can be an ice-breaker, especially for bored husbands who usually show up with hands in pockets or schlepping the wife’s purchases. But now, instead, when I greet visitors, I tell them it’s okay to touch the work. It has the same appeal, permission to relax and explore, and it works. And no more visitors who are only into the wine, and nothing else.

So why do I welcome kids in my art space?

Because it is an act of generosity, compassion, good will, and education. And it’s the best gift I can offer visitors, especially those who are new to my work.

First, welcoming kids means you are also welcoming their parents, or grandparents. Few places accomodate kids. Find a way to do that, and you’ll earn the undying gratitude of their accompanying grown-ups.

Second, being open to kids lets the grown-ups actually shop. If not today, then when the kids are older.

Third, the peace of mind you create in your space expands to all your booth/studio visitors. When others hear you giving permission to engage, they relax, too.

Finally, the education bit.  Parents are often the younger crowd we wish we could attract, and their kids are also future collectors. By removing the pressure of “don’t touch!” and “hands off!”, we create a unique opportunity to talk deeply with all visitors about our work.

I cannot tell you how many creative people tell me that “people don’t appreciate fine art/fine craft” anymore. Or how  “schools don’t teach that appreciation to young people anymore.”

I’m baffled by this. When did regularpeople ever appreciate fine craft or art?? I didn’t know any artists or craftspeople growing up. I never saw any books about it, nor art exhibitions, nor even art museums, until I went away to college.

When were we ever taught it in school? Art in elementary/middle school was drawing and paper mache and construction paper galore. Even in high school, the art room kiln broke when we fired our first clay creations, there was never any money in the budget for real paints and brushes, and the art teacher simply didn’t have the time for anything beyond the bare minimum instruction. (She was also the only coach for all women’s sports –volleyball, softball, and basketball–and was only hired my junior or senior year.) When the school budget was cut, art and music were the first things to go. I’m sure things today aren’t much better, as “home ec” and vocational trades programs go the way of the mastodon.

We’re actually in a period of incredible exposure to handmade and fine art. People can easily find craft and art online. It’s as easy to buy a handmade item or a work of art online as it is to buy a hammer or a box of hot chocolate mix.

So who will teach the art-makers of the future? Who will share the vision, and encourage the connection for the collectors and admirers of tomorrow?

Yup. Us.

When we engage people with our work, we share something powerful. Inspiration, artistic vision, professional goals, our process, our materials (and why we choose them) are ways to educate (gently), connect (authentically), and encourage our audience to buy and collect handmade. People are genuinely hungry for this.

I get that not all work is touchable, or safe for young ones to handle. I’m fortunate that my artifacts are sturdy. In fact, their touchability is a strong selling point, too.  But we’re creative people. We should be able to come up with ideas that work.

I have several. I keep a box of shiny, pretty beads on hand. I’ll ask young ones to pick one, and then offer to make a necklace for them, using inexpensive cording and slip knots.

I keep some samples of animal artifacts on hand, too. I’ll ask a youngster if they’d like to hold a bear or a horse (or a bird or a fish). They’re so unnerved, they’re usually speechless, but also intrigued! I let them hold the animal while their parents look around, and retrieve it when they leave. Parents are so grateful!

I freely hand out business cards with images of my work on them, or old show postcards. Again, a well-appreciated gift, and also a reminder of their visit to my space.

Touch is such a compelling instinct for all humans, not just young ones. So much so that Bruce Baker, noted speaker on professional development skills for artists, advises, if your work is too delicate to touch) having a sample of your work on hand that is touchable, even for grown-ups: A sample of the handmade paper you work with for people to stroke, or a piece of the roving you turn into handspun yarn. For fine 2D art, perhaps a scrap of paper with a bright daub of paint on it, or the experimental work you made to figure out color mixes, cut up into pieces for them use as a book mark.

Let them look at some of your tools, or raw materials: Old paintbrushes. Samples of the wood you carve. A printing block.

At the very least, try business cards featuring images of your work. Moo is an online printing company that offers small business cards. They cost more than other brands (watch for their sales!), but you can customize them to the point where you can order 100 cards with 100 different images of your work. So cool to say to a child, “Would you like a picture of a bunny, or a bird?”!

It’s worth brainstorming about how other art and craft media could be presented in small samples or even inexpensive “gifts” to kids. I’d love to hear your current strategies, ideas, and suggestions in the comment section!

P.S. I can’t seem to post images in the comments section, but I’m posting a pic from my friend Melinda LaBarge. She made these lovelies for young visitors to her booth!  Send your pics, and I’ll add them!

Melinda Labarge makes these adorable felted acorns for her younger visitors. Lucky kids!!

Melinda Labarge makes these adorable felted acorns for her younger visitors. Lucky kids!!

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WHY ARE PEOPLE RUDE??

The deliberately rude ARE different than you and I. We must understand that to protect ourselves.

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Still making little bears….

Yesterday I wrote a post, responding to another artist’s frustration on being treated rudely by a gallery she approached.

Shortly after I published it, I received a comment that baffled me. It was condescending and pretentious, and completely missed my point.

I almost replied to it. Instead, I’ll be deleting it soon.

Why? Because any comment that includes the phrase “Sorry to offend your sensibilities, but….” is not a serious contribution to discussion. (The writer’s contention was, I don’t understand that galleries are a business, and rank hobbyists need to know that.)

I almost leapt to my defense. The original article expressed dismay at how the gallery treated them, not the fact that they didn’t like the work. After all, if a business is rude to its potential vendors, is that good business sense?

I decided to delete the crabby response. But I still wondered why someone would be deliberately provacative. When I visited the person’s website, I could see no evidence of a working artist, or even a viable online presence. Nothing. Wha…..??

Finally it dawned on me. Whether I responded, or left the comment as is, people visiting my blog would do just what I did: Click on the crab’s site to see what they’re about.

The crab was using his comment as click bait. Diminishing what I offer, in order to build traffic to their own site.

We hear it all the time: Don’t feed the trolls! Don’t let them bait you, engage you, feed off your anger.

Unfortunately, the trolls are getting bigger, and hungrier.

A memorable illustration is high tech blogger Kathy Sierra, whose inspirational, highly-readable blog changed the face of her industry–until hostile comments and death threats chased her off the scene. (Temporarily, fortunately. She’s back, and she’s awesome.

Another is Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, who was brutally trashed on Twitter by a someone who’s name I won’t even print.

And of course, the biggest troll of all, the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

What do these trolls gain from their behavior?

Unfortunately, a lot.

They get attention. Publicity. Lots of it. And though we detest and protest their behavior, we end up talking about it–and them–even more. The Google hits skyrocket. The person who cruelly baited Leslie Jones actually celebrated when he was banned from Twitter. Why? Because the media talked about him and his antics even more, nonstop. The interviews continued, the outrage continued, and there he was, sitting in the middle of a media frenzy, enjoying every minute, crowing about his successful grab of the world’s attention.

The more we learn about people like this, we realize they are not motivated by the same things that motivate most of us. I want to be known for my work, of course. But I want it to come from a place of inspiration, compassion, support, and contribution. I want to use my gifts to make the world a better, happier, more joyful place.

These others crave attention. Power. Control. And they will do anything to get it. The world is a playground to them. The media is a system to be gamed. The rest of us are simply fodder for their egos.

In my own tiny world, where I make little horses and bears, where I share what I’ve learned on my journey so that others can be inspired to walk their own path, there is no room for these people. Oh, sure, some will make their way here from time to time.

But I’m learning to recognize them faster. 

And I hope you do, too.

 

 

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Filed under life lessons, mean people suck, social networking, What is the story only you can tell?

RUDE REJECTION?

There’s rejection, and there’s just plain rudeness. Recognize the difference. Today I read an article about an artist who approached an art gallery while they were on vacation in anothe…

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RUDE REJECTION?

There’s rejection, and there’s just plain rudeness. Recognize the difference.

Today I read an article about an artist who approached an art gallery while they were on vacation in another state. It was quickly apparent they were not interested in the work itself. Only the artist’s credentials–other gallery respresentation, shows they’d been in, etc. Because the artist is just starting this process, they were deemed ‘not good enough’. OUCH.

I’m a huge fan of growing through rejection. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from the process.

Art galleries have as many ways of working as there are….well, art galleries. And the people who own/manage them are, as a fellow artist said years ago, just “customers with stores.” He meant that we often ascribe great powers to the institution. In reality, they are regular people, with all the attendant idiosyncrasies, attributes, and flaws. With a gallery behind them.

Some are only interested in ‘the sure thing‘–an established artist with a loyal audience, who will bring them business. Apparently, that’s the kind this artist ran into. Er, walked into.

Others are constantly looking for the ‘the next big thing.’ If our work knocks them out of the park, we are professional in your outlook, and we’ve done our homework and paid our dues, they might take us on.

Others are always looking for ‘the next cool thing‘. They want a fresh face with a distinctive style, a unique body of work, that they believe will appeal to their audience. If they can afford it, they will invest in your professional growth and development.

Others may love, love, love your work, but ‘it’s not their thing’.  It simply doesn’t fit with the audience they’ve developed over the years. They want to say yes, but they can’t. In fact, when I worked with galleries I met at wholesale fine craft shows, this happened a lot. They couldn’t help but carry my work. But it simply didn’t work out for either of us. (And I’m eternally grateful they tried.)

I wrote an article about this for a magazine years ago, and got to talk to a few prestigious gallery owners. One said you could even have awful photos, but if they could tell the work as astonishing, they’d still take you up.

So today’s tip for getting gallery representation: Galleries that host juried exhibitions and encourage people to apply might just be looking for those fresh faces. Apply to the ones you think might be a good fit for you.

In fact, you should/could follow up with them after the show, EVEN IF YOU WERE NOT ACCEPTED into the exhibition. Why? Because when putting together a cohesive show, some amazing artists might be excluded (ruefully), because their work doesn’t ‘go with’ the rest of the work in the show. Your work might be greatly admired, but simply not ‘fit in’ with that particular batch of artists.

Remember–a gallery that treats an artist badly at the get-go….is that a gallery you’d like to work with? Yes, galleries always say you should make an appointment, contact them before visiting, etc. But in reality, as long as you chose a time when they weren’t busy, and you weren’t pushy or demanding, a good gallery will ALWAYS take a few minutes to take a look. And even if it’s not a good fit, they will often recommend another gallery that might suit.

There are other strategies to building a ‘resume’ of shows and honors, but the short story is, what you learned is, this was not a gallery you’d want to work with anyway.

. A gallery only interested in your resume? A gallery treating an artist rudely? Condescending, snide? Remember, it’s just as easy to be kind and respectful as it is to be arrogant and condescending. If they chose the latter, walk away.

Your work is awesome! And there’s a place for it in the world.

Count your blessings, dig in, and keep going. Find the best home in the world for your anamzing work.

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WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES?

A simple yet extremely effective practice to ground yourself in your life’s purpose. I’m recuperate from yet-another surgery this summer (my 11th, and it’s my foot).  I’ve n…

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WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES?

A simple yet extremely effective practice to ground yourself in your life’s purpose.

I’m recuperate from yet-another surgery this summer (my 11th, and it’s my foot).  I’ve never had my tonsils out, and I still have my appendix. But apparently all my other body parts are either out of whack or get whacked a lot (Tae Kwon Do, Thai Kickboxing, etc.). OTOH, I once twisted my knee very badly chasing a chicken down our icy driveway in Keene, New Hampshire. So maybe it’s just a karma thing.

I’m past the pain and the exhaustion that follows surgery. But I’m still extremely restricted in my activities. No weight-bearing on my foot. No driving. (Which means I haven’t been to TJMaxx, or thrift-shop hopping, or flea marketing in a month. Cruel and unusual indeed.)

But I’ve been listening to more podcasts, watching more movies, and reading, reading, reading. I can’t remember the last time I got to read a book from cover to cover in a day. (Oh, wait, I do remember. My last knee surgery, two years ago!)

Today I found the PinkHairedMarketer, Sonia Simone. I love her business philosophy: Go where your heart follows, do what works for you, as long as you don’t lie, and you don’t hurt people. (More on that below.)

One podcast really grabbed me today. It’s called.A Quick, Enjoyable Way to Sharpen your Vision, Goals, and Values. In it, she talks about the kinds of stress that actually improves our life and our work. She talks about setting goals. And she stresses the importance of including our values when we create those goals.

Values are the things you care about–not necessarily the things you are good at. For example, you might care about family, and yet your family situation could be totally messed up. This snagged me, because in every way, issues around family are hounding me lately. But family is tremendously important to me, though I struggle with how to be a good parent, how to be a good daughter and sib, without compromising my own needs and outlook on life.

Values give meaning to our lives, and our endeavors. When we set goals, it’s important to consider our values. They play a huge part in the way we measure ‘success’. Because the toys and treats and the other signs of success that we usually define as ‘success’, if achieved at the cost of our values, will drain us. There are ways that even a quirky, multi-faceted art-and-writing business like mine could be amazingly profitable. But so far, I haven’t found a way to do that, that would not compromise my values. (Sooooo…..I’m doing something right!)

Sonia quotes often from Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress. (Bless her heart, she also recommended McGonigal’s TED Talk if you only have time for the quick take-away.)

Sonia made many observations I liked. But the big take-away for me is this:

“It turns out that writing about your values is the most effective psychological intervention ever studied.”

That’s right. Simply taking the time to write down your values–or even articulate your values to yourself, in your head–is the best way to align your goals, to create a vision for yourself, to feel more engaged and more purposeful in your life. Sonia says:

Connecting with your values, on the other hand, is easy and energizing. It’s refreshing. It helps you reframe things. And if the research holds true, it lasts a surprisingly long time.

It can just be a matter of writing out a few paragraphs about your values and why they matter to you. Just take a little time to remember what they are, and think about them with some richness for a little bit.

I would definitely recommend that you feel connected to your values — to the ideas that give meaning to your life — as you work with goals and vision. They’ll give you that “Why.”

See why I like this so much? Yep. The big “Why” there. My favorite tool is the word, “WHY?”

And so today, I start off this experiment by identifying, and writing about some of my values:

Family. Complicated. Not always full of love and respect. But I love my family, above (parents, aunts, uncles, grands), below (my kids), and sideways (my husband, my sibs.) Sometimes there has to be protective distance. But I always hold out the hope that things could be better.

Passion for my art. My artwork and my writing are both the work of my heart. They tell my story, all the way. My responsibility is to get it out into the world. Yes, I’d love some money to come of it all. But I will strive to do it even if nothing comes of it.

Compassion.  This can be hard, if I refuse to set aside my assumptions about other people, about how things work in the world. But I am determined to be open, and to listen. To really listen to people who have different experiences in the world than mine. To respect their stories.

Service. By volunteering, I step outside my comfort zone. I learn something new. I expand. I’m almost ready to explore such opportunities here in Santa Rosa. Something will call to me. Soon. And I’ve learned that when I’m called, I should go.

In fact, service is also why I write. I want to share what I’ve learned with anyone else who would benefit from it. I’ve looked at ways to better monetize my writing and teaching. But there are some steps I just can’t justify. And so you get a lot of it free, just by coming here. Or over there, at Bold Brush Fine Art Views newsletter.

Openness, and Authenticity. I am an imperfect human being. I didn’t get where I am today by pretending otherwise. I can’t fake it. When I fail, I’ve let you know. And then I pick myself up, and try to do better. If I can do it, you can do it. And if you can do it, well, maybe that will encourage me to try, too.

Growth. The by-product of all the above.

There are more, of course, but who wants to work with all 50 core values? Wait…you think I should??

I just realized that my artwork is a physical manifestation of my values.

What are some of your values?

And how do they relate to your personal, and professional goals?

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LEARNING TO FLY Part 3: What Rudyard Kipling Said

Learning to Fly Part 3: What Rudyard Kipling Said

by Luann Udell

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for Bold Brush Fine Art Views. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
Stay calm, stay focused, stay dedicated … and carry on.

In my first two article in this series, I introduced the concept of the checklist (NOT a to-do list, as many people read it, but periodic ‘checking-in’ with your goals, your creative process and marketing plan, to make sure they align and you haven’t dropped a ball); and the concept of a co-pilot (your support team.)

Today we’ll consider the next critical concept: What to do when things go horribly wrong.

In talking to several small plane pilots over the years, I’ve learned that most plane accidents (outside of terrorism and acts of God) are due to pilot error. A pilot may fly a big, flashy plane that ‘looks good’, but it’s over-powered or tricky to fly, in relation to the pilot’s skill level. Or they ignore bad weather conditions and other obvious dangers, in their over-confidence.

My friend Bob’s next story was about a small plane crash that made big headlines on the East coast in 1999. I’d read much about the weather conditions at the time, and made a judgment about the pilot. Researching this article, I see many others made the same assumptions, and judged harshly. But again, my friend corrected me.

“He actually did everything right,” he said. “The weather conditions were manageable, he was familiar with the route, he did the right things. He went into a spiral, and he’d been trained what to do. What threw him off when the plane began to spiral, his passengers panicked. In the audio tapes of the flight, you can hear them screaming in the background. And then, distracted, he panicked, too.That’s when he followed his instincts instead of his training-and crashed.”

Panic.

Most artists don’t have to figure ‘death by making art’ into their decisions, thank goodness! But how many of us have had those frantic moments-days–years-of snap judgments about our art careers?

“I finally got that solo show, and nobody bought anything!”

“I got into that prestigious gallery, and nothing is selling!”

“I created this whole new body of work, and nobody likes it!”“I’ve been working like a dog to market on Facebook and Instagram, and I don’t have any likes’!”

“I finally put up an online store, and nobody’s buying anything!”

“I (put your latest step forward here), and (insert the measure of success you didn’t meet)!”

Let’s get more general: “No one in this area appreciates fine art/fine craft!”

Let’s get even more horrific⦠“This world economy sucks!! No one buys art anymore!”

We do our best work, the work of our heart, and we still aren’t rich/famous/collected/published/whatever-your-measure-of-success-you’ve-set-for-yourself.

Even worse, we look around and see people who are successful. They make tons of money (or at least earn a living), they’re famous (they’re in the news all the time), they’re talented (they win all the awards), they’re good at marketing (their work appears in the best galleries and the best homes, etc.

It’s easy to assume they’re doing it right. Which means YOU must be doing it wrong.

And we panic.

We decide we’ll paint what so-and-so paints, or we’ll paint like so-and-so paints, we’ll try to get into the same galleries, use the same hashtags, we’ll write an artist statement just like theirs, we’ll dice and slice and chop up our process, and in the process, lose our vision, our way, our very creative self.

And that makes it even worse, because then we don’t even know who we are anymore.

When I consult with an artist about their artist statement, my first question to them is, “Why do you do what you do?” (And you already know, if they exclaim, “I just love color/light/landscapes/the interstices between the tensions generated from both explicit and implicit layers”, I know I’m gonna be holding some feet to the fire. Because these well-meaning people, people who were attracted to art, and make the art they make, have looked around them, been distracted by what others are doing, and have lost their way. They begin to question everything they do, and how they do it, trying to find out what they’re doing wrong.

And yet, when I push a little, many (if not most of them) are not painting just for the money, or for the fame. There is something in them that is unique, something that is precious and beautiful, extremely human and poignant, that represents who they are in the world.

I believe we make art because of this unique ‘us’, because we yearn to make a mark in the world, perhaps even something that will survive us when we’re gone.

Sometimes this results in success, especially if we can articulate what that ‘something is’, so that other people can connect with it. Sometimes it simply results in a new respect and gratitude for what we do, regardless of how others regard it. Sometimes it drives all our actions in the world, creating those damn ripples in the great lake that we can’t see, but have to believe in. (You know, the ones I’m always writing about.

And sometimes, it is simply the story we tell ourselves, so we can create meaning in a vast and overwhelming universe.

So when the panic and the self-doubt hit, take a moment. Or a day, or a week, or even a year. Contemplate. Reflect. Reach out to your support group, or your wise person in your life.

Cross-check for fear and doubt. Hold them up to the light of the fire inside you, and see what is revealed.

Your homework for the day (should you choose to accept itâ¦Hey, you’re a grown-up now! You get to say ‘no’!) is to reread Rudyard
Kipling’s rousing poem, “If”…. Which begins with

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too….

And ends with

“….Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”

And for extra credit, reread Philip Larson’s controversial last line his beautiful poem, “An Arundel Tomb”….

“…The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.”

The sentiment is not simple. It means that, whether the tomb represented a true love store, or a medieval burial marker convention,what we see is love…

Because in our hearts, we want it to be true.

I have been with many people near the end of their life, and I never heard them talk about their fame or fortune, their achievements or their honors.

They talked about memories; loved ones (those gone before and those who will be left behind); sorrow; regret; gratitude; and forgiveness.

My advice to you, as an artist, and as an artist who may sometimes panic about your place in the world:

Simply do the best you can, as you can.

Create the work YOU care about, right now.

Do better, and be better, as possible. Leave as little as possible in regret.

And grow as much joy as you can, today, with your art.

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