Sunday, April 26, 2015

One Artist's way of Dealing with Burn-Out

Page from my art journal. I covered the page with chaos, then tried to calm it down....

This week I think I let life get the better of me. It's been a stressful month. House stuff happened (plumbing issues and the resulting mess), work stuff happened (insane deadlines), car stuff happened (in the last couple months, a new muffler, new battery, new alternator. Holy $$$. The perils of relying on a 12 year old car.). By last week I was feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and completely burnt out. It's amazing how fast it happened... but thinking about it, I've been dealing with work stuff for at least 6 months now, I had the stress of an art show and two days of talking to strangers (not my strong suit... I'm getting better at it, but I still find it completely exhausting), and I haven't been feeling my best. I've been burning the candle at both ends for a while, so I suppose at some point it was bound to catch up with me.

Here's a shot of the page in it's initial stages. I think
my feelings of anxiety come through pretty strongly...
Usually when this happens I can get myself back on track fairly quickly. I go into my studio, put on some music and paint. Just pushing colour around, playing with shapes, no particular outcome in mind. It's almost like a spiritual experience. A couple hours in "the zone", and I'm good as new.

How is it that when I'm in the midst of an anxiety-induced meltdown I cannot remember this?

I have a few other things that help me out when I get completely stressed. They don't actually solve any of the problems, but they help my state of mind so I can look at things a bit more clearly. In then end I've still got the bills, the mess and the deadlines, but I'm in better shape to cope with it, and not end up curled up in a ball in front of the TV, paralyzed by panic.

Here's my list (which I suppose I should print out and tape to my studio wall...):

• Exercise. Going to the gym, getting out on my bike, even just a good, brisk walk helps my mental state enormously. Alone is best. Gives me time to think things over, or even forget about them temporarily... out of my head and into my body kind of thing. This is especially helpful if I'm angry about something. Quite literally, I'm working it out. This isn't always easy, since rainy damp weather can make me ache all over. But it really is time for me to get back into some sort of routine.

• Write. As in stream-of-conciousness, not always making sense kind of writing. I'm not a journal keeper, though I've tried many times over the years. Anyone who has worked their way through Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" will know that daily journaling is one of her key ideas. I've tried to do this as a regular thing, but I just can't seem to manage it. I know it helps... I should try to set aside time on a daily basis.

• Cook. My husband has come to realize that when he comes home to a meal that has required hours of preparation, or an abundance of baked goods cooling on the counter, that something has gone very wrong somewhere. Not sure what it is about cooking that I find soothing... maybe it's the repetitiveness of the chopping/stirring. The only issue is I then have to find the will power to not eat all the stuff I just made. In one sitting.

• Act like a child. Sometimes I will make stuff that goes directly into the garbage. It's incredibly juvenile, but I will draw pictures of people that piss me off, and give them horns, a tail, a whacked-out hairdo. Then put them in a boat being circled by sharks. Or draw them being eaten by a gigantic lizard. It's silly, but strangely, it helps.

One thing I just can't do is do nothing, which is what people will often tell me I need. Take a day off, they say. Just chill, they say. Nope. Can't do it. With everything that needs to get done sitting there staring at me, not doing anything just makes matters worse. I can't relax. I spend the time making mental lists and trying to figure out how to get everything done, and getting pissed off at myself for not being able to relax. I guess that's why holidays away are good... being away removes the need to get whatever it is I'm stressing about done RIGHT NOW. Maybe it's time to schedule a weekend somewhere calm and peaceful. Try to unwind a bit before the summer starts so I can enjoy it. And after this endless, freezing winter, I need summer. Kinda like right now.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Behind the Scenes at an Art Fair

Me, standing in my booth at Arts on the Credit last weekend. I had my abstract work on one side, and the music series
on the other. I was undecided as to what I wanted to focus on, so I went with a selection of both. Not sure if that was the
best plan or not....  Photo credit: Annette Seip
When you wander through an art fair, do you ever wonder what all happens before those doors open? I never did until I actually participated in one. Now when I apply for anything I take a good long look before I click submit. I thought since I just finished Arts on the Credit, I would give you a little behind the scenes peek... it really does require the organizers plan every detail to have it all go off without a hitch.

Photographer Annette Seip hanging her work. By the time she
was done the booth looked great... you'd never know there
was so much other stuff that came and went.
Set up can be chaotic. When you have 40+ artists with helpers (if they're lucky) trying to set up at the same time, it can be pretty insane. Wisely, Marie and Sue had given us staggered set up times so we weren't all waiting for the 3 parking spots close to the door. Our unloading location seemed to be somewhat of a wind tunnel, and we couldn't have both sets of doors propped open without creating some kind of tornado vortex in the lobby of the hotel. Not acceptable. Luckily we had Don, who stood at the doors, opening and closing them as we hauled in our gear one at a time. And believe me, we had a lot of gear. You could tell the artists that were very experienced at doing this kind of thing... they were set up and gone within an hour. It took me a fair bit longer than that.... 

A hotel employee bringing in more tables. 
Mary Anne Dente, adjusting her lights.
At one point it was difficult to move around in there...
Last minute changes were done on Saturday morning. Little things, like affixing title tags and setting out business cards. Fifteen minutes before the start and there were people lined up at the door. The place was almost instantly packed, and stayed that way, with the occasional lull, until the end. I felt like I hadn't talked so much in one go in my life... or at least since last year. What I got from the other artists that I talked to was that they also had a lot of interest along with a few sales.  It's wonderful that people are actually buying art again, after the last few years of a generally soft market. I myself sold a few pieces, and had many wonderful conversations with people browsing. 

My neighbour, Linda Vanwyck, talking to visitors to the show.
I also had very sore feet, and by the end my back was not feeling so wonderful either. Note to self: get better footwear for standing around. Something with a nice, cushy insole. 

Me and my pal, photographer/artist Dana Brady. She was there bright and early Saturday morning, to purchase my abstract piece, "The Story So Far". Didn't want it to get sold out from under her.... gotta love friends like that!
Photo Credit: David Simmons. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

FAQ: What is a Giclée Print?

The world of art reproductions has change greatly over the past couple decades, thanks to the invention of the digital printing press and inkjet printers. Once there was a day when doing reproductions of art work was an extremely expensive undertaking, so very few artists did it on their own. These days, because of this new technology and the subsequent price adjustment, most artists will have reproductions made at some point in their career.
My "Red Flame" painting is now available as a
giclée print in a small 8x10" size, as well
as a larger 16x20"

The most common form of art reproduction is called the Giclée print (pronounced zhee-klay). These are printed on large format inkjet printers that have the ability to print very high-resolution on archival paper and canvas using fade-resistant, pigment based inks. The original piece is photographed or scanned at the highest possible resolution, colour corrected to ensure as accurate as possible reproduction, and printed out on a variety of surfaces. I use a heavy, acid-free watercolour paper for my prints, but I have photographer friends who have printed on aluminium and wood panels, along with paper and canvas. For the fine art photographer and digital artists, these printers have opened up a whole new world... and what they are doing with it is really inspiring.

One of the best things this type of technology brings is the ability for artists to follow a just-in-time business model. Instead of having to do a run of 100 prints, you can print however many you need. If you only need one, no problem. Once you have the colour corrected file, reprints are a snap. There's no need to find a spot to store a box of prints, no worries that they might not sell, no enormous initial outlay of cash. It really is a wonderful thing.

For the novice fine art collector, Giclée prints have opened up a new source of wonderful art. Many artists who would at one time only display and sell originals will now dabble in the print market. My own original paintings may be priced out of reach for some young, would-be collector, but a $50 print? Well, that's a lot more affordable. And the price of shipping a print on paper to another part of the world is a whole lot less than packing and shipping a painting on canvas.

Limited Edition Vs. Open Edition Prints
My entire Legends series will be available as
Limited edition prints through Global

What's the difference? Well, a Limited Edition print is one where the artist has decided that they will only print a certain number of copies, and when it's done, that's that. They will never be printed again.  In the old days the plate was destroyed, these days I think the file is deleted or drastically altered. This increases the value of each print, as there will only be so many of them in existence, and as result, the price goes up. Open edition prints have no set final number... there might be 20, there might be 2000. When the artist runs out, they will usually have more printed.

If you are in the market for a limited edition, the print will be signed by the artist, and there will be a number somewhere, usually on the bottom left border, just outside the image area. The number will be a fraction, the top number being the print number, the denominator is the number of prints in the edition. So, for example, if your print says 22/100, yours is print number 22 of an edition of 100 copies. Another interesting tidbit... these prints are signed in pencil, not pen. The idea is that the pencil will cause an indent in the paper, making them difficult to erase or change.

How to Care for a Fine Art Print

So, you've got this beautiful print... now what? Well, that depends. The prints themselves are archival, so they are pretty easy to care for. Prints on paper should be framed under glass. Canvas prints are coated with a sealant, so they can simply be hung on a wall as is. But not in direct sunlight; the inks are not a fugitive as traditional printing inks, but they will fade if they spend years in the sun. As with original work, don't use a chemical cleaning product on your print. You might end up with a mess on your hands. Dusting with a soft cloth is all that's necessary.

So, there you go. Even if you are on a budget, lovely art can be a part of your life. Many artists produce other products with their images. These days there doesn't seem to be a limit on what can be done. High quality pillows, phone cases, laptop sleeves... surf around a bit and take a look. Technology really is pretty incredible.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

New Artwork: Navigation of Memory

"Navigation of Memory (All Roads Lead to Now)", 30x40" Mixed Media on Canvas
I've been working on an exercise from Julia Cameron's creativity book, "The Vein of Gold". I did the Artists Way years ago... twice actually... and found it to be really helpful in getting through a creative block. This one is different, and though I've started it a few times, I've always stopped part way through the first section. I'm going to try to get a bit further into it this time. It's not easy, but I have to think it will be worth it in the end.

The first section of the book is devoted to your story... noting down significant events in your life and seeing how your reactions/thoughts/feelings about yourself were shaped. It's interesting to try to remember things that happened decades ago and understand how it has influenced you. I was thinking about that as I was working on this piece. Decisions made, paths taken and not taken... all these things have made me the person I am. When I graduated from school I chose to go get a "real job" instead of getting something temporary and working on my art. I chose to have a family and buy a house instead of living in a small apartment and working on my art. Once I had a house I had to keep the real job... I had a mortgage to pay. I stayed in the job I found tedious and dull because it had more flexible hours than other jobs I was qualified for. Those were my choices... I have to remember that when I see a brilliant 20something win an award or a residency, and then I look at myself nearing 50 and feel like somehow I missed the boat. Looked at in a different light, at 20 I didn't have a whole lot to say. I didn't trust my own opinions and I was constantly looking to others to validate my views. Now, not only do I know what I want to say, and have a much more expansive visual vocabulary with which to say it. Sometimes, not achieving any type of notoriety can be useful... it gives you time to develop and mature without having to worry about disappointing your collectors.

Malcom Gladwell has written about the phenomenon of the  "Late Bloomer"... contrasting creative people who hit their stride later in life, like Cezanne, to those who can achieve brilliance right out of the gate, like Picasso. I wonder sometimes how many late bloomers don't actually get to bloom, because life has beaten them down before they got there. It's all too easy to just give up, but ultimately your best bet is to follow the path that leads to happiness. All roads really do lead to now.