I just watched a video of neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor who suffered a stroke and lived to tell her story. Although I don’t buy all of Ms. Taylor’s metaphors and explanations, I still find her story inspiring and provocative about reality, human beings and spirituality. I encourage you to watch:
Archive for May, 2009
My blog has been going for a few weeks now. What do you think?
Please submit comments with your requests or suggestions for what you would like me to write about.
Thank you for reading!
Recently I was invited to speak at a local junior high school Career Day, with a group of students interested in becoming artists. For a couple weeks I pondered what to say to these young people. I wanted to avoid the pitfall of our culture’s myth about artists.
The myth is essentially that artists float in a creative bubble, buffered from the harshness and realities of the world, in some way immune to the same demands and obligations that other non-creative professions are subject to. As well, artists are believed to have a special connection to some zone of inspiration where ideas and creativity just flow to us without any work.
None of this is true! I wanted to burst a bit of this myth in my talk with the students. I felt it was my responsibility to leave them with something that could actually help and not merely entertain them.
To that end, I focused my talk on the knowledge and skills I feel are necessary to succeed in a career as an artist, and I particularly stressed the need for knowledge outside the realm of art. According to every artist I have ever met, creating art is the fun part of being an artist, however it amounts to only a portion of what artists actually do to build their careers.
Here is what I gave the students outlining the knowledge and skills I think are needed to be an artist:
Business and Economics: accounting, income statements, balance sheets, cash flow, budgeting, The Indifference Principle, marginal utilities and marginal values, time management, project planning and management, strategic planning, marketing, quality, customer satisfaction, sales, management, critical paths, time value of money, business planning, etc.
Writing: Grammar, communications, expository writing, resumé writing, artistic statements, journal writing, etc., artists MUST be able to write eloquently about their art or no one will take them seriously.
Communications and Eloquent Speaking: public speaking, customer relationships, none of this: “Well, I was like, you know, like, working on this like painting and like I totally love it!” Artists MUST be able to speak eloquently about their art or no one will take them seriously.
Ethics: good work habits, do what you say you’re going to do, keep your commitments, be on time, have your materials and work in good order, dress well, speak well, appreciate others, value and don’t forget people who help you, help others coming up behind you.
Earning and Saving Money: Start now! Save a portion of all the money you earn. There are no retirement savings plans for artistsl It is up to each of us to save for our futures, and nobody talks about this in art school.
Learning, Curiosity: Develop a love of learning, develop curiosity, pursue ideas and questions, read, travel, experience life.
Develop other interests besides Art! This is crucial. Artists MUST have interests outside art itself that can feed their art. It can be anything, anything that interests you and that keeps you curious and learning.
Resourcefulness: find materials and tools wherever you can (I am a big fan of dumpster diving in industrial areas), problem solving, getting help from all sorts of people.
Develop Humility and Confidence: learn from it (find out why you were rejected if you can, as that’s sometimes a great way to progress), NO arrogance, yet have confidence in you and your work and your goals.
Join Art Organizations: meet other artists, gallery owners, museum people, collectors, whoever you can talk and learn with.
Grant and Proposal Writing
Internet skills: blogging, research skills, website building, You Tube and other video media, marketing via internet, social sites, etc.
Thank you Colleen Birch Maile, Editor-in-Chief, and Amanda Bjerke, writer, for my article in SkyWest Magazine!
20 | SKYWEST Magazine May/June 2009 United Express
ARTIST MASTERS Reinvention
California’s Kathleen Elliot’s rapidly developing artistic career is sure to inspire anyone contemplating a new path in life. This is a woman adept at reinventing herself.
An inveterate creative-type, Elliot has long been prone to stretch beyond the expected. While working as a hairstylist and makeup artist, she studied philosophy. That interest spring-boarded into six years of managing and designing adult education and linguistics courses. In the 1990s, those skills, in turn, led her to a position in organizational development and training in the Silicon Valley’s booming semiconductor industry.
While there she became friends with a co-worker who did scientific glassblowing. He loved it and tried to share it with everybody he knew. “I spent some time in his garage poking around with flames and torches and I really took to it”, Elliot explained. “Bead making was just becoming popular in the U.S. I bought a little bead making set up, some glass and a book and I just followed the diagrams until I taught myself how to make glass beads.”
Before long people were asking to buy her jewelry. Then the semi-conductor industry experienced dramatic changes. The company Elliot worked for was sold. “I was not inspired to stay there after that.” Instead, when her husband suggested she become a full-time artist, Elliot made the leap. “My naivete about what that really meant helped me make that jump”, she said. “I knew I loved the art. That’s the easy part; building a career, running a business, figuring out how to make a living at it was hard.”
In typical fashion, Elliot determined that she would give the new pursuit her best effort. She applied to Dale Chihuly’s noted Pilchuck Glass School and was immediately accepted. “I spent three summers immersed in glass, working from nine in the morning until one the next morning. It gave me time to experiment and work out the details. Finally, after three years, I could say yes, I’m satisfied; this is good.”
Elliot’s delicate botanical pieces are inspired by a life-long love of plants. To get the intricate detail, she uses a lamp working technique also known as flame working. “The glass is worked in the flame of a torch mounted on my work bench”, she explained.
Elliot spent another year refining the techniques she developed at Pilchuck. Then, to jumpstart her visibility, she began to donate her work to art auctions throughout the nation. “It was a good way to get my name out there to people who collect art.”
She sold her first piece in June 2005. From there her work attracted the attention of a bevy of galleries. Her home studio has grown to keep pace with the demand for the graceful artistry of real or imagined flora. “When I started I worked from a corner of a back room, then I moved into a dining room we never used and I was spilling out of that. My husband said why don’t you just take the family room? So, I’m there now. It’s a big space with a giant work table and lots of room to invent.” There she finds her greatest joy is uncovering the unexpected in her own work. “The process of discovery is the greatest joy”, she said.
Kathleen Elliot is represented by Pismo Fine Art Glass, http://www.pismoglass.com.
by AMANDA BJERKE
In February, 2008, I was invited by the city of San José to make an art piece commemorating the 50th anniversary of San Josés sister city relationship with Okayama, Japan.Â The piece was to be gifted from the City of San José to the Mayor of Okayama.
San José, California, is the heart of Silicon Valley, with the largest concentration of technology expertise in the world – more than 6,600 technology companies! Before that distinction, Santa Clara Valley, in which San José is located, was known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight for its rich agriculture and beautiful scenery.
I grew up in San José as the city grew in its new industry, and while there were still fruit orchards, vegetable and flower farms. Some of my fondest memories are of summer mornings, tiptoeing out of the house early on the weekends with my brother. We rode our bicycles to the surrounding orchards, sat under the fruit trees enjoying apricots, plums and cherries warmed by the sun.
I imagine Okayama citizens who enjoy memories of their own much like mine. Among other similarities, Okayama and San José share agricultural foundations. In the northern part of Okayama, approaching the Chugoku Mountains, white peaches are cultivated.
I wanted the art piece to include a peach for Okayama and an apricot for San José. To signify the sister city relationship, I created the two fruits on one branch. The resultant art piece is titled “Sisters”. It was presented to the Mayor of Okayama in March, 2008.
Making this art piece on behalf of the City of San José has been a privilege and honor for me. I am immensely proud to know that a piece of my work, representing the city I grew up in, has significance on the other side of our world.