Posts Tagged ‘how to for artists’

"Muse, Muse Where Art Thou?"

TORCH

An inspiration

rides on a barebacked white horse

against the wind,

bearing gift-wrapped kindling

for an unlit fire,

salve for blistering hands.

An inspiration

lies awake at night

pondering the possibility of true love

with an unknown factor

who might change the outcome of the picture

completely.

An inspiration sits quietly in blue or red

for a place to live, alms for the poor, a marriage to

a blank canvas,  it never meets.

An inspiration fights at times,

just to stay alive.

________________

I wrote that poem many years ago in response to a friend who  had lost her inspiration and could no longer produce work she was proud to call her own. For whatever reason, her muse left on horseback one day and she was lost.

She told us she felt “vacant” as if part of her moved out without a 30 day notice.  She said she was forced to find another tenant to fill that space or she’d be bankrupt, so she started drinking. Sad as it was, she found a tenant that was far too eager to take up residence in her domicile and eventually forced her to allow a rent to own contract and bought her out in a few years. She was young but no longer had the will to keep going. Her art left her for good that day. A year later, she was found dead in an alley, apparently murdered.

It’s sad that we give up and walk away from the very thing that keeps our spirit alive and free, creativity. We often give up for reasons that seem confusing to others. I, along with countless others just shut down and don’t wait around for the door to open again, a door that will bring in a new and refreshed tenant who will gladly live in that sacred space inside us. What makes the muse move out without notice in the first place?  How do we produce one day and the next find an empty apartment?  Fear has been the basis of my “shutting down”, fear of success, fear of failure. That tag team can creep up on me like the enemy they are and ambush, leaving me tenant free, standing in a vacant room. And then there’s depression.

In her blog ” Case-notes from the Artsy Asylum” Susan Reynolds has posted an article about depression in creative folk, and cites this study: “Arnold Ludwig wondered the same thing. Lucky for us, he didn’t get distracted from Psychology and swept up in clay (you can probably guess who did that).As a result he’s now a professor, and a researcher at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Also an MD – so he’s just the guy to find out more about this.

And he did! In fact, it was a study of 1004 men and women over the span of 10-years. His group was made up of a wide variety of accomplished people in just as wide a variety of professions, including art, music, science, business, politics, and sports.

In the end, he found:

  • between 59 and 77 percent of the artists, writers, and musicians suffered mental illness  especially “mood disorders”
  • compared to just 18 to 29 percent in the less artistic professionals”

There are times when the Muse taps on the window asking to be let in, but we often don’t pay attention to that tapping, and instead go out and buy new locks and install them on the door by feeding our anxiety about not creating. Instead we scramble for something to take its place such as love, sex, alcohol, drugs and depression often fill that space.

Is there hope?  Yes. A friend of mine went to a career counselor to find out what she could do about this lack of inspiration. She was given several tools to try and decided on one that spoke to her. She purchased space for a want ad in the local newspaper. Her ad read something like this:

“WANTED: Muse for hire. Willing to pay any price to get the position filled. Needed for full time (24/7), year round work. No hiring process, no interview. Just show up if interested. Immediate start.”

It was just a small $5.00 ad, but it was something that served two purposes. She was able to realize just how desperate she had become trying to find that muse or at least another muse and how much her ability to create meant to her. Her ad was answered when she read it the next day in the paper. Although her artistic muse had left, another muse answered the call and gave her inspiration to write that ad. The drought ended and she was back at the easel that night. Now I know that was just too simple, but it does happen. Some of us wait for years for that muse to come knocking or calling to rent that apartment. For others, it returns in another form and still others it just never comes back.

If your muse has flown the coup, try bringing it back by venturing into another creative outlet. Think about something you’ve always wanted to try, like throwing a pot on a potter’s wheel or making a necklace out of jump rings or simply take a local art/craft class. Work on a project you’ve put off, read, go buy yourself a new pen or notebook, carve out a work space for yourself and sit there even if  you don’t do anything.  Remember that fear of failure and fear of success? Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” You can make plans for a dinner party, see a movie, paint a room. Rearrange your work space, or go to the local art store and look around. Find another avenue for creativity to seep back into your life. Sometimes I’m frozen and can’t do any of these things, but I have learned to not panic. I write and play my guitar. I write this blog because at the moment the paintbrush and canvas have stopped speaking to me. In order to keep that door ajar, I do something else. Once you stop thinking about the creative block, you open the door for your muse to come back.

Inspiration can come and go at a moment’s notice, or with no notice at all. Thinking outside of the box, utilizing other creative venues can be of greater value than looking to fill that empty apartment with destructive tenants. Think of the price.

“Artists are visited by the Muses, or tormented by their own passions and demons.” (Wes Nisker)

“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.” (William Shakespeare)

Please leave a comment on this blog. I would love to hear from you.

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I See a Website in Your Future

Picture this if you will, you walk into a sparsely lit room that is adorned with beautiful silks, and beads. The air is thick with excitement and incense. Your heart is pounding, your pulse is racing as you see table covered in a breath-taking silk table cloth in the middle of the room, with two chairs sitting opposite of each other. On the table sits a crystal ball, nothing else. In walks the woman who is going to tell you your future. She is dressed in the same silks that surround you; she offers you to sit at the table. She sits down and asks a few questions, then begins to tell you what she sees…If I could tell your fortune, and give you great news about a flourishing creative business with lots of sales and notoriety, I would definitely tell you about it. But alas, I can’t do that so I am going to fill you in on some information about something that could also tell your future, but with some work on your part…WEBSITES. I know, it could be a boring post, but it’s not!

If you’ve ventured offline to expand your horizons and spoken with gallery owners, shop owners who offer consignment, local juried shows, organizations you are applying to become a member of, you’ve probably heard some of the following questions: “Do you have a website? What’s your web address? Is your website listed on your business card?” The word “website'” is a common buzzword you might want to pay attention to. Articles I have read, books I have scanned and artists with whom I have spoken all swear by the necessity of artists having their own…yes, you guessed it, website. Don’t be alarmed, or have an anxiety attack,it’s not as scary an on-taking as you might think. I promise I am not going to get technical.

Let’s just explore some reasons why it’s a unanimous vote for artists to have their own website…it won’t be painful or scary.
Firstly, your own website will give you exposure. Websites can offer exposure to artists, people and organizations wouldn’t otherwise know exist. A potential customer in Illinois has no clue that they would like and probably purchase a piece from a silk artist in North Carolina, if they don’t know the artist is around. A gallery owner in London would have no idea that there is an artist living and creating in Toronto whom she would love to represent! An organization such as Worldwide Women Artists doesn’t know the hard working glass artist producing gorgeous pieces in Maine and that they would love to include on their member charter, if there is nothing happening with promotion. Remember the story of the tree falling in the forest and no one is there to hear it?

Some art schools require a portfolio these days for admittance. Some will ask for a web- site to suffice that requirement. If you want to join an organization or an art club, they may ask to see your website to view examples of your work. It is much easier for people in these positions to view a simple site than to wait for your cd to arrive (or not) and find it amongst all of the other cd’s they are inundated with on a daily basis.

Secondly, a website allows you to keep all of your work in one place. Yes, that spells organization, oh, you have heard of that haven’t you? Artists are not known to be organized, that’s why we marry people who are! Just kidding. Imagine, all of the examples of your work contained in one place, wouldn’t that be a miracle? If someone asks to see your work whilst riding the train to the city, hand them your business card! They can then go to your site and take a look and all of it will be there. There’s nothing like being asked to be able to view your work and you have nowhere to send them. You want to be thought of as a professional artist don’t you? Maybe it’s time to act like one and having this tool will assist you on that journey.

Lastly, the final word…sales. If you want to sell your work and not have to pay fees in order to list it, then pay fees when it sells, an e-commerce website is the way to go. The potential customer goes to your website, views your work, purchases it from you and that’s that. You decide if you’re going to accept credit cards, money orders, personal checks, PayPal, REM etc. There’s no one else involved! And as sites that allow you to sell your work through them begin to get overcrowded, therefore minimizing sales, e-commerce sites are taking root as another more personal alternative to sell your wares.

Now that you have seen what a web site can do for you, how do you go about getting one? There are many sites that offer free websites, and make it easy for you to create it using templates. If you blog, you know that blog sites offer templates for that. Well these sites offer templates to you to get you started. Some templates aren’t flexible and therefore you might get bored with them rather quickly if you like to change things around a lot. These sites are great places to get started, to get your feet wet and they don’t charge anything to enter the pool! Here are some free website companies that don’t have hidden charges at first glance, they are completely free: Microsoft Office Live, CrawlDog.com, geocites.com , mosaicglobe.com weebly.com Of course there are others, but these were the sites that had the simplest layouts and upgrades are available for a cost.

If you are able to afford it, you might want to work with a professional web designer to design this new business opportunity. There are many of them out there, some good, some not so good. Prices shouldn’t vary too much from one to the next, and if they do, be wise about their training and ask questions, ask to see their portfolio or THEIR site! If you decide to go this route, be sure you have your plan written down and have a clear idea what you want it to look like and who your target customers are. If the designer spends only an hour with you and then runs off to design, you are probably going to be seeing a lot of that person in the future. Ask questions, give the designer the clearest possible instructions and needs. Creativity is fluid, ever changing and our ideas, our “product” is ever evolving with us. You will want to invest in this web site so it lasts for a specified period of time. You really don’t want to have to spend that money every year or so, do you? Be sure to have your ducks in a row and you get what you want and need the first time around.

So, to wrap this up, websites offer new possibilities for artists in this ever changing world. Whether you try a simple, free website for starters, or hire a professional, it’s an opportunity for you to gain the exposure Van Gogh, Vermeer, Whistler and others could not have dreamed of. A website offers organization, and a more personal atmosphere from which to sell the work you love to make! Try it, it doesn’t hurt and you’ll learn a lot. You might just have some fun along the way.