A Little Help
November 7, 2011
“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” –Alexander Pope
“I get by with a little help from my friends” –The Beatles
While I rush ahead in one way (graduating from both high school & art school pretty early, 16 & 20 respectively), I take my time in others (showing my artwork publicly.) It’s been 16 years since I got my BFA. I used to be frustrated about spending time & money on an undergrad education that didn’t hand me a ready-made emerging art career, but the truth is, I wasn’t ready. (And who wants one of those ready-made anyway? Oh wait, some people do.) But I’ve written before about what it means to me to be an emerging artist. Or have an emerging career. Whatever.
So I am writing this to make a note of the fact that it’s really okay that I am not “ready” yet. Maybe this is just an “I know that you know what I know because I told you everything myself.”
Let me list the ways I have gotten help to go from making art & showing no one, to working & showing more regularly.
- Worked at BlankSpace Gallery in Oakland (now closed) in Fall 2009, made connections with people who introduced me to a fellow working artist with a kid! (Jeanne Lorenz) in Fall 2010; she pointed me to valuable resources (a local framer who’s affordable*! He helped me cut panels to spec– for free!– when I was at a loss as to how to have them constructed at an affordable cost.) (Hello, panels!) These were for the paintings included in While You Wait: at Extra Gallery, NYC. I do not have a woodshop.
- Took a class in professional practices in Fall 2010 from Jamie Brunson, at Kala Art Institute. She is a wealth of information. Really. So much packed into 4 classes. She urged me to take risks. So I have. I also connected with two Bay Area artist friends. They were in attendance at #Rank in Miami for the reading of my script. Ron Saunders (currently at Sirron Norris in San Francisco, earlier this year at Krowswork in Oakland) and Dana Zed (upcoming artist-in-residence at the De Young Museum.)
- Participated in #Rank at the Miami art fairs last year, an event that in most ways didn’t accomplish what the organizers wanted. Still, I gleaned so much experience there, and met many twitter friends in person. However disturbing it was (processing the varied strata of the art world), it was a powerful experience. And it’s pretty great to say I had work there, even if I know my work was included as a part of the free-for-all that was the #Rank event.
- Learned encaustic painting from Hylla Evans, also at Kala. I finally found my painting medium. I left the painting department in SFAI in my first semester there (switched to New Genres Dept). I’ve painted in watercolor, oil, and acrylic, but encaustic is everything I want in a paint. ♥ ♥ ♥ And I love Hylla’s paints. I could wax poetic about encaustic, but I think you’d get sick of me. 😉
- Jamie Brunson pointed me to someone to professionally photograph* my work. No amount of googling led me to a photographer who did that, and I was at a loss. My work is difficult to photograph, and I am not skilled with the camera. Jamie also referred me to JoJo Razor to get help with my blog/website last Fall. She is a pro. Although I have to take over the design & workings of my website so that it will become something I can completely update in-house, I highly recommend her for artist websites. I will soon have a site using WPFolio to put together a functional online portfolio, and I have Brian Piana to thank for letting me know (via Twitter) about that option. I needed a site that could seamlessly host my wordpress blog as well, so that was the way to go. Coming soon: Launch of my new website.
- Hylla Evans sent me to someone who could build panels to spec*, because I can’t manage to love the basic sizes. (Again, no amount of googling connected me with such a person.) His panels are AMAZING. I’m attached to sizes that build off the 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. I splurged on those panels in the spring, but have yet to afford to buy more. Enter the local framer. He offered to cut panels to size for me, whenever I needed. For free. Told me not to buy equipment. Wow.
- Twitter. This is the place where I have an art community. People go to art openings and post pics. People complain about art happenings. Whatever is “important” that day (is any of it?) I hear about it there. Hyperallergic is an art blog out of Brooklyn, and it’s pretty much where I get the coverage of a variety of artworld things of interest to me. I don’t have time to find all that information myself. It’s great to periodically review the posts there and catch up.
- Speaking of Twitter, I recently tweeted my dilemma over the troubled re-write of my artist statement. I labored over it until I hit a wall & could do no more. I got feedback from Amy Berk (see below.) Still, I was at a loss with the last sentence. Here is where Sharon Butler of TwoCoatsofPaint stepped in to save the day (Two Coats is a blog specific to painting that I follow.) She tossed me a last sentence, and she gave me the words to drop the passive voice in my statement. (Passive voice- a whole other blog post.) I was finally able to come up with the last sentence I wanted, and she helpfully tweaked that as well. I finally finished it last Thursday.
- This last Saturday, Nov. 5th, was the opening of the show “Tweet/Cry/Connect/Drink/Soar”, the culmination of a class I took from Amy Berk, the Program Chair for Contemporary Practice at the San Francisco Art Institute. This particular class “Exhibit Art” was thru UC Berkeley Extension. We met three times before installing the show. I am not in their Post-Bacc program, but my husband saw this class listing and thought it would be of interest to me. He was right.
- Promoting a show was another skill I needed. And all in all, the biggest lesson: Just do it. I am very pleased to have worked with some great artists in this class, as we are all in different stages of emerging. Staging an art show really is an art in itself. I’m very happy with my work, the artists, and the show. The opening was fantastic. A great turnout, and we had an impromptu artist walk-through. I seriously talked about my work to over 25 people. And I made sense. And no one fell asleep.
- Lastly: friends. I have made a number of artist friends on twitter that have become more than just twitter contacts. Because of twitter, I have gained the essential art community I need, one that fits into my hurried life as a scattered parent & community volunteer. The support I receive from them (it’s impossible to list them all) is key in my mental survival as an artist. It really means so much to have meaningful dialogue with them, to meet them in person as the opportunity arises, to get a little online message to have a great opening, and to know I have their support even when they can’t be there in person. One such friend & artist (who I met because of twitter) is Chris Rusak. He wrote an amazing bit regarding my work here. Having friends in all sorts of places- how else could I get by?
So, I’ve taken my time to do what I’ve always planned to do. I knew I would make artwork, get it shown, say something of consequence in a meaningful way. Something to note: while fools rush in where angels fear to tread, there’s no mention that caution & hesitancy make it any easier. Angels may still fear this place where I am going, but I’m going anyway. And I’m happier doing it when I’m not alone.
*Let me know if you are in the SF Bay Area and want contact info for the photographer, framer, or the panel-maker I mentioned. They don’t have websites. A-ha! This is why I couldn’t find them via Google. 😉