Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ABOVE: Vineyard Eve, 16 x22" soft pastel, 2007 (California)
ABOVE: Palouse 1 and Palouse 2, 12x12" soft pastels, 2010 (Eastern Washington)

Art Fear and Loathing
Road Trips and Residencies

I'm thinking its time for another art trip. Of course every trip I take turns into an art trip. I can't help it. I'm cursed that way (hence the landscape paintings) and subconsciously I think make the vacation destinations based on landscapes. I like to see an area slowly and fully so I've done a lot of driving tours. If you're curious about certain parts of the US ask me as I've probably driven thru it. I don't seem to arrange trips to tropical beaches very often though. Maybe its because deep down inside that sort of place doesn't move me very much (though nothing beats a good Margarita on the beach—sometimes artists need that too). It's healthy to let a new environment effect your work whether you are a landscape artist, sculpturist or a minimalist. New places and new people change how we see and feel. They renew us. Whether that means immersing yourself into a completely different culture or in one that's just a slight tilt to the one you already live in.

A friend just sent me a website of an artist residency in Greece where he is currently on vacation. Sounds just divine. I've had my eye on a couple overseas residencies for awhile now. Hopefully this will happen for me someday. The timing isn't quite right for me now—fiscally speaking that is—something about being an artist in a recession. Go figure. But that doesn't stop me from thinking about it. Through all my day dreaming I've learned a few things about these residencies.
Some pay a full ride (room/studio, board and sometimes even travel) and some allow you to stay for a reduced amount. A lot of residencies out of our country seem to ask for some funds up front for board costs. There are grants artists can apply for from organizations here in our country to help assist with those costs (See Artist Trust link at bottom of this article). Most of the reputable US residencies I've researched pay room and board for their artists. Some offer art supply stipends on top of that too. Residencies also have time constraints. Some will require a large commitment of time (6 months-2-years) and others will only let you stay a minimal amount of time (under a month). Besides finding a residency in a place you wish to go, knowing the residency's time constraints, what it offers (studio space, art equipment, room types, food) and how much it will cost you to be there (don't forget your travel) will help narrow your decision down. Realize though that getting a good residency is much like getting into a good gallery. Thousands of people apply each year and only a handful get to go. Don't be discouraged if denied. Try again the next year. Having a residency on your resume is good but more importantly a residency allows an artist the time and space to create without limitations and the potential to learn and bounce ideas off other artists.

I have a great studio and certain days in my week are dedicated to working in it but life is full of interruptions ranging from the phone ringing, dogs wanting me to throw the ball or the Fed Ex guy showing up. Sooner or later my husband comes home from work and my energy is lost for the rest of the day. Don't get me wrong. I love my life but its work sometimes to make the space to work if you know what I mean.

No worries if you can't commit to or get a residency. You can still renew your art with simple road trips. When Chris, my husband, and I were building our house a couple years ago I was also under the deadline for an upcoming solo show in Seattle. I had begun a large portion of the work on a road/fishing trip to Yakima. I also wanted to drink wine. (When in Rome...) None the less the show was titled "Driving Thru Vineyards". Just as I started the work of Eastern Washington we started building the house. Building a house is stressful but especially so when you are doing it yourself. On top of that we had been living in a cabin on our property for the last couple years—off the grid and hauling in water. This tight space not only functioned as my home but my studio. Somehow in the past I had been able to produce several shows out of it. Then my husband took a leave of his job to build the house. He and other people were constantly in and out of our cabin and on our property. It was just too much. I knew there was no way I was going to get enough work done for the show. Not to mention during this time I was also working on the house and at my full time job too. Completely freaked out and with Chris' encouragement I hit the road. First I found a absurdly cheap weekly rental in Marin County (CA) where I made my own residency so to speak. It was awesome. Nobody bugging me for an entire week. I produced and began an amazing amount of work with new vigor. A couple months later I drove myself down to the Willamette Valley and stayed a couple nights and painted that scenery too. Between the three trips (Yakima, Marin and Willamette) my work gathered a cohesive-vibrant feeling that I don't think I could of achieved if I had been locked up in our one room cabin with constant interruptions.

Last Fall I took another 3-day trip to the Palouse (Eastern WA) with my artist friend Kathleen Faulkner. We both came home with enough inspiration to each create full bodies of work and not to mention it was a lot of fun traveling with another art buddy—(Art) Fear and Loathing. So if you need inspiration—just go. Get out! Even if its just a day trip.

Related Links:

Resartis—International Residencies Artist Communities—US and International Residencies Artist Trust
(Information on Grants also see Resources and Opportunities for Residencies)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Behind Sullivan's Slough, 24 x 36" soft pastel. Lisa Gilley~2010

Auctions and Benefits:
The Art of Giving

If you're a showing artist I'm sure many times you too are asked to give to auctions or causes. In any given year I may be asked by a dozen or more organizations. Why should an artist give to such a cause and when should they refrain? This of course is really a personal decision. Some artist refuse to give away work for any cause. Some are giving it all away. Here's how I decide:

Where are you in your art career? Artist in their mid-career and above may answer this differently than an artist who is just starting out. And that's okay. An auction/benefit might be one of the first opportunities to show your work but I still believe whether you are emerging artist or a master you still need to ask yourself the following questions...

Is it a cause I believe in fully? Supporting an art foundations/associations, museum, or just a reputable do-gooder cause I'm behind might fall into this category. I can't tell you how many times half-rated organizations have asked me for free art for their cause with no compensation or guarantee that the money will really go where it needs to go. Helloooooo! Artist are not banks. Which leads me to the next question...

Do you feel appreciated/compensated for your generous donation? Does this organization thank the artist in anyway with free tickets to the event, sales percentage or advertisement/portfolio pieces? How you feel about this varies for each individual and you really need to be clear with yourself about your bottom line or you may regret it later.

Is this too much of a strain to give at this particular time financially speaking or in reference to available art stock? I may give one year to an event but if my stock is low then I have to consider my galleries and other upcoming events that support me regularly as an artist. For example if I'm in the middle of creating a body of work for a upcoming show, I ask myself if I have the time and resources to do this at this time. Artists have to eat and put a roof over their heads too. Giving is great. Giving all the goods away is not. If you really want to give to one of these foundations but just can't let go of stock at the time, just let them know that you are currently bogged down and would like consideration for the next year. No worries. If they asked you once they'll probably ask again especially if you let them know your circumstances.

Is your gallery (if you have one) cool with this? Some galleries have contracts regarding where their artist show and some don't. I had a very in depth conversation with a Seattle Gallery owner regarding this and she had mixed feelings. She did not tell her where her artist could or could not donate. She was okay with an artist donating as long as it didn't take the attention of her artist off their work that was expected in the gallery. Concerns again were around who was the foundation and how did they spotlight (or not) the artist. I believe galleries generally support their artist showing in places that benefit their career such as museum benefit. When artist are spotlighted in such venues it only helps their reputation and that comes directly back to the gallery.

Does this help or hurt your career as an artist? Yes, its okay to think about yourself and that question can be directed in a couple of ways: Will the audience you are trying to get the attention of see your work? It is possible to put your work in the wrong place. Are you supporting something, say an organization or museum, that will prolong the career of artists, yourself included?

All that said, if you do decide to give to an auction, benefit or charitable foundation realize that what you give is what you get in the end. Giving old work you've been hiding in the back drawers because you thought about tossing it isn't a great idea especially if you are trying to be "seen" in our art community. After all what does that say about your work? First impressions are everything (and so are second, third, 120th, etc). I have been to important benefits where people who I consider masters donate a below average piece. It is much noted by others and talked about around the wine table so be careful.

My next donation will be going to the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner WA. They do offer partial compensation if you cannot donate fully and they treat their artist very well with an invitation to their auction and a pre-party the night before. Growing up in the Skagit Valley I have been a long time fan of MONA, a museum who has stayed committed to the Northwest Artists and NW Art Movement. It is my turn to give back and I look forward to it. Cheers and happy givings.

See related sites to this topic:

Museum of Northwest Art—2010 Art Auction
ArtTalk Blog article "The Pitch"