Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Art of the Week: More Cake

Remember my Art Is Everywhere cake from the first open forum cake decorating? Well, this past Thursday we went to the second such event and decorated cupcakes. I decorated this chocolate cupcake dragon, and Chuck joked later that I should post its size and lifespan here on my blog. He decorated these two bavarian cream filled chocolate cupcakes with flowers. We indulged in our treats at the park near the grocery store after creating them. Oh, how I love buttercream frosting...

Cupcake Dragon
Genus: Chocolate Cake
Length: approximately 8"
Lifespan: 10 minutes

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This Week

I have been trying do less in August in anticipation of all of the big fiber events coming up in September and October, but I will be participating in an art fair this weekend. The weather is supposed to be wonderful and it will be nice to visit with my stepmother, who will be bringing some of her own creations to vend as well. I have been to the winery before for a friend's wedding, and it is quite lovely.

Wine & Art Festival
Hidden Lake Winery
10580 Wellen Rd.
Aviston, IL
Aug. 27 & 28, 2011

I also have some new work in the upcoming Hint Fiction show at Columbia Art League. For this unique exhibition, artists were invited to create two works in response to stories in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer. Artists had to register what stories they intended to create works from to ensure that a diverse range of interpretations and stories could be included. (Each story was limited to a maximum of three interpretations.) Some excerpts from the book can be found on the art league's site here.

Hint Fiction
Columbia Art League
207 S. Ninth St.
Columbia, MO
Aug. - Sept. 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weight Loss

I have struggled with my weight all of my life and have worked really hard in the past year to drop it. I find it saddening how many people who lose weight joke that "I used to live to eat, now I eat to live." I find this holding true for myself as well, and it depresses me that something that once brought me pleasure does not anymore. I cannot eat anything or indulge in anything without thinking about the potential consequences and whether or not it will make me gain weight, which makes me not want to bother to eat at all as very few things seem worth it.

I started dieting because I grew weary of having to hear every doctor I ever went to tell me that I needed to lose weight, even when I wasn't clinically obese, and I was in a situation where I wound up seeing a lot of doctors in a short time in response to a medical diagnosis in the fall and so it kept coming up. My body was always happiest at 150 but that still is overweight as far as the medical community is concerned. The final push was twofold. First, I acquired a Wii Fit, which is programmed with a double standard by making you choose a response from a checklist in response to gaining more than a pound over a day's time when you're either trying to lose or maintain, whereas it doesn't do this the other way around when you lose an equivalent amount of weight, even if you're underweight and are trying to gain. (I know because I have now been on both sides of what it considers to be ideal.) But the daily check-in just made me really self-conscious about everything I ate and did and made me feel too accountable.

I will admit that I did need to lose some weight though - I'd drifted up over the course of time. I was feeling pretty good about myself after I had lost over 40 pounds and gotten to around 150. But then I went to a specialist about a recurring medical issue and, in response to telling her I was trying to lose weight, was told that losing weight is hard and that I should keep working at it because if I did so my symptoms would likely disappear on their own. Both things combined to further fuel a cycle of self-hatred and I am now at the lowest weight I have ever been since middle school. It depresses me that I can count every rib and every vertebrae in my spine and yet by weight and height alone am considered to be "healthy" according to the medical charts.

I know I shouldn't let others' opinions of me affect me so, but when I'm down I struggle with feeling as though I'm being judged and so it tends to feed into itself. I have a horrible self-image, especially regarding my body. I hated what I looked like when I was larger and I still hate what I look like now that I'm not. I feel like a deflated balloon and see only see my flaws. But the attitude shift regarding food deeply saddens me because I cannot indulge in one of the only things I found comfort in. It's not like food was a constant overindulgence, but now it seems more of an enemy than a friend and I really don't want to eat out or be in social situations at all. I guess I just need to keep reminding myself to try not to buy into all of the body image BS but I feel as though I'm bombarded with it constantly.

Why do we live in a culture that encourages overindulgence while embracing self-denial? I realize that unhappy people make better consumers because they are trying to fill a void. And while it's true that money doesn't buy happiness, a lot of people spend an awful lot of it trying. I know that those trying to sell me something don't care about my emotional well-being, they just want to make money off whatever it is that they're peddling, whether it be an idea like what is perceived of as attractive or a physical thing like a soda.

But I just don't have the energy left to fight it anymore, I'm too drained. I have always incorporated this in my art, which has been my primary means of coping with it, and now am doing a little better as I am working on more art again. But where does it end? I wish I didn't need art as a catharsis, that I didn't even need an outlet for my pent up frustrations because I could just ignore all of it. Or, better yet, that the double standards and mixed messages weren't there in the first place and we could all just be allowed to be at peace with ourselves rather than being constantly bombarded by someone trying to sell us something or chastise us for deviating from what is considered "normal".

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I know I've ranted about artists constantly being hit up for donations of their money, art & time and have spoken about the generosity of artists before, but today I'm going to take an opportunity to encourage artists to volunteer.

There are many benefits of volunteering for art organizations that you are involved with. So many artists just see memberships in art organizations as lines for the resume, support systems for emerging artists, or opportunities to exhibit, but they can offer so much more than that. I have spoken before about becoming actively involved, and I strongly encourage art organization members to do so.

Active members' voices are heard more than those who just pay their dues. (Note: some members are more active by contributing more monetarily, this is not solely based upon time involvement.) It is the active members who will be sought first to offer insights into how organizations are managed and what they want to see happen. So by becoming involved you can help determine focus and direction and shape the organization.

Volunteering can help you network with those running the organization and other members and artists who are involved. Helping out with drop off and pick up of art, working receptions, sitting a table during an art fair and other similar tasks can offer great opportunities to meet others and to get to know those involved in the organization better.

Uncrating shipped works enables you to see how other artists pack their works for shipment and what works and doesn't work for them and why. You can then refer to this knowledge later when preparing your own artworks to ship.

Helping to hang shows is a huge benefit because you can see the end effects of curating and how artworks are positioned in the space in addition to examining how other artists prepare their works for hanging. You get a better feel for the flow of the show and for how different galleries and spaces do things differently. This can help when considering curating an exhibition yourself or when hanging or preparing your own work for display.

By being actively involved, you gain invaluable knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes and get to know more people in the organization. You can put that information to use to make it easier on those working with you and to better understand their processes, thus making a better professional impression while establishing contacts. And, the more you do so, the more you'll find that others are willing to work with you towards larger scale projects or with alternative presentations because they know and respect you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

This Week

I know it's short notice, but I hadn't totally formulated my schedule until yesterday. There are a couple of things going on this week so I thought I'd mention them.

My cats, Sam & Ginger, will have artwork on display in the Fur Elise show at White Flag Projects on Saturday (tomorrow). The show is comprised of "objects made from collected fur brushings." Sam and Ginger worked with me to create a series of Hairballs for the event, although they've been overzealous and have still been creating more hairballs even since I dropped their artwork off. I guess that's what I get for encouraging them...

Fur Elise
White Flag Projects
4568 Manchester, St. Louis, MO
Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, 1 - 3 PM

I am also going to be plein air painting during the 18th Century Home & Garden Tour at the Government House. Columbia Art League members were invited to paint and display some of their paintings at the event. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous and I'm really looking forward to it; plein air painting and home tours go very well together and I miss the Lafayette Square plein air event greatly.

18th Century Home & Garden Tour
Government House
Ste. Genevieve, MO
Saturday, Aug. 13 - Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011
I will only be participating on Sunday. Tickets to the homes tour will be required and cost $20 each.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Revisiting Some Past Blog Posts

I used to blog a lot more in response to my life and in general, and often posted advice and insights to help other artists on their own journeys. I try to revisit these themes on occasion and to bring up past posts, but please feel free to follow this link to see some of my past advice posts.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Determining Quality

I was recently invited to a discussion of art in St. Louis and the idea of quality kept recurring. This got me thinking about the role of the artist in determining quality, and so I am hoping to better formulate my views on this on my blog here.

Frankly, I don't think that the determination of quality is genuinely the role of the artist. Now I know that notion likely seems very idealistic and is probably a turnoff to many, but I strongly believe that the artist's role is primarily to create. I know that all of us censor ourselves in regards to what we do and don't show. Many artists are their own worst critics and can get wrapped up in ideas of quality all too easily. But I am personally striving to do so less and to move towards creating without questioning.

Many people have branded me one of the most creative people they know, and I firmly believe this to result from my desire not to self-censor. I have cautioned against stifling one's own creativity on my blog before. The more we question what we're doing, the more likely we are to kill our muse, to shoot down ideas before we can even fully explore and formulate them. I have even tried to start discussions about how we censor ourselves to get a better feeling for what other artists do, since I find that I don't do so near as often as most. But it is imperative that we allow ourselves to play and explore, not just as children but into adulthood, and this is not just specific to artists. When we give ourselves that freedom we come up with ideas we may have otherwise thought unfathomable.

So who do I think plays the role of determining quality, if not the artist? I believe that the art historian, buyer or critic can and will do so. The art historian determines what is acknowledged and remembered for the future, what is written about and studied. Though the artist must be able to put a price on his/her work, it is essentially the buyer who determines whether or not that price is justified by choosing whether or not to pay it. And the critic examines artworks and evaluates shows as good or bad, drawing the public to either agree or not. Why force these roles upon those making the art? And don't get me wrong, artists can also be strong art historians, buyers and critics, but I believe that it behooves them not to do so when examining their own artwork to avoid the potentially paralyzing effects of overanalysis.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Trying to Chill Out

I know I can be a bit of a control freak, which causes me a lot of stress in the art community at times since I often find myself working with people who are simply not as neurotic or organizationally-obsessed as I am. But I am really trying to chill out more and let things slide. It is still very awkward and part of me really wants to step in and take control, but I think I'm doing better at it.

It has helped being less involved in various groups to focus on myself because I don't have to rely on others to uphold things that reflect back on me. Hopefully someday I'll be able to become more involved again but be less stressed out by it. Ideally I need to learn not to let others' judgments of me affect me so much. When I do have to rely on other people, I shouldn't worry so much about how I am seen as a result of their actions and thus let it affect how I perceive of myself.

It's kind of funny because I've been able to let go in my art for a long while now, since I really started doing more conceptual work to foster conversation. I've had to distance myself in that to avoid being confrontational and to open myself up to more possibilities. But that hasn't been true of my life at all. I often take it too personally when people don't get back to me, lose things or simply forget. But that just comes around to my ego trying to make everything about me even when it isn't, and it doesn't serve me well.

I think when I learn to chill out regarding my own life that I will better be able to integrate my art into it and explore some of the more personal issues I've been struggling with. It will help me to overcome the disparity between the two. Art has always been my life and I've never separated the two in my mind, I just need to chill out more and let things go so that I can live my art.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fun Opportunity to Celebrate Diversity

I had heard about this art and writing opportunity in years past but hadn't realized that it has been ongoing, so I thought I'd promote it here. The Embracing Our Differences billboard show in Island Park in Sarasota, Florida is continuing and offers a wonderful opportunity for young and old alike to submit art and quotations about celebrating diversity. I love the idea and submitted a quote myself. Please feel free to check it out here.


More Artist Pet Peeves

I try not to complain or to do so in as constructive a manner as I can, but I have to put this out there because it really rubbed me the wrong way. There are a lot of stereotypes and assumptions made about artists that I find bothersome, and though I have written about several of them before I will revisit the topic here.

I was just asked to donate my time and materials to a children's workshop-based event and it annoyed me for several reasons. First, there had been no thought given to compensating artists for their time and materials (the idea was that whatever exposure the artists got from participating would be compensation enough, and where materials would come from wasn't fully considered). Secondly, children would be charged admission to raise money for the organization, which is good as it will help minimize the craziness often associated with these types of events, but I think it shows a lack of awareness that the artists were not going to be offered something of that towards supplies and their time.

One thing that really irks me about this is the unspoken assumption that artists will freely offer their time, talent, expertise, artworks and even art supplies and do so gladly even in exchange for poor exposure or for nothing at all. This is perpetuated when artists do just that, or when they belittle their own art as a hobby, which undermines all artists because it fosters the notion that art is little more than a hobby and feeds into the idea that we don't deserve compensation because we're doing something we enjoy.

Another thing that bothers me about this is that it is assumed that artists love children and would be happy to work with large groups of them in their free time and in what are typically messy and chaotic circumstances. This is simply not true and is an unfair assumption to make of anyone, artist or not. Some artists love children and would love to engage in these types of activities but others simply don't, not necessarily because they don't like children but because they don't want to be placed into that camp counselor role. Some are very clean and tidy and don't handle messes well while others don't know how to respond to large numbers of children all at once and get stressed out by it.

A third thing that deeply bothers me about this is that more women than men are asked to do this sort of thing, which reflects other stereotypes and assumptions based in sexism. Just because I'm female doesn't mean I want to play teacher for a day in my off time or that I want to babysit other peoples' kids. These circumstances befall men as well, as is evidenced by the fact that, at a plein air event, a male friend of mine essentially found himself babysitting a young girl her parents left for several hours after exclaiming that she loved to paint. But this more often befalls women.

I offered some food for thought to those who approached me regarding this. However I felt like I was being judged as if I were selfish for not wanting to participate and should feel guilty. I know some of that lies in my own insecurities, but I shouldn't feel that way at all. It is a lot to ask, whether those asking realize this or not, and I strongly feel that those asking should be more appreciative and recognize just how much they are asking for. It doesn't behoove anyone to guilt trip another for something that they hadn't considered in reverse. So if you find yourself in the position of asking an artist to donate their time, artwork and/or materials, try the idea on for size yourself first and see how it fits - if you are taken aback by it then you probably need to reassess what you're offering in exchange and sweeten the deal.

Enough of my complaining though. To contrast my ranting I'm going to post something about a wonderful project and art & writing opportunity celebrating diversity that involves kids and adults and that I feel doesn't undermine the contributors. It is highly competitive but well-worth checking out and considering applying to - the more responses the better.