Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Opening New Doors/Ending November


, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Today, I'm very tempted to slap up a post entitled "I Won! I Won!" on account of the fact that this marks my 30th National Blog Posting Month post. And, yes, if you're counting (or even keeping score) this "officially" means that I've won the "competition" yet again this year. But there's something about winning this year that leaves me feeling a bit, shall we say, hollow.

For starters, many folks who participate in NaBloPoMo are sort of what the Internets like to call "Mommy Bloggers." You know the type I'm talking about here. The 3 am, "oh! I just burped my new baby son Mark!" kind of blog posters. While I certainly respect motherhood and all of the duties it entails (I can't image a "profession" that is less well-paid or under-appreciated actually) I'm sorry but I just don't spend countless hours a day reading up about the lives of Mark or Sally or "the twins" or anybody who is "outnumbered" by their children. You opted to stay at home and have children, please don't blame me if the only "excitement" you now get in your life is an occasional blog post to an otherwise uninterested Internet. Frankly, I've got better things to do with my time and, in case you could not tell, don't really encourage all that much interaction with these types of bloggers (although, I'm the first to admit, some of them, and a do mean a select few here, are quite good writers. I have browsed some of these "Mommy blogs" in the past and found a few gems, surprises and such, but I find it difficult if not impossible to regularly do this given the time constraints of being a working artist. In case you could not guess from reading this, my art and photography take up most of my waking hours, often leaving me little time to do things like sleep or eat, let alone surf the web reading about Mark, "the twins" or anyone else for that matter.)

If the propensity of "Mommy Bloggers" were not enough, I feel as if I've sort of outgrown the "competition" itself. I think I have participated now maybe 6 or 7 times and I've "won" every single time I've started. It's really not all that challenging to me to post once a day, every day for a month. In fact, I could probably do this for six months and still not run out of things to say. I noticed this year, on the BlogHer website (this year's host site for the NaBloPoMo competition) that they are posting things like "writing prompts." Maybe I'm stating the obvious here, but I really don't need a "writing prompt" to do this. Every year I do the competition, I "assign" myself a topic of interest-this year was music-and I've noticed too how I hardly fall back upon this theme or I fall back upon it less and less. This year, for example, I had so much to share, so much to write about, I hardly talked about music at all (did I ever? At any one point, in this year's competition, did I even mention music? Have to check but, mmmm. really don't think so and, if I did it was not too much.) It's not much of a challenge for me to write about my selected topic anymore, let alone just to splash up thirty or so odd posts across the time span of a month.

Then there's the issue of quality. Actually, NaBloPoMo, National Novel Writing Month, and all of these so-called "competitions" leave this out across the board. I tend to aim for quality not quantity. So much of social media is geared towards a model of "success" that centers around raw numbers. I don't want to have 10,000 Twitter followers if there are no other artists or art patrons on Twitter. If my fans, and I mean my true fans (actual fans of my art and photography, not just passers-by or folks really interested in reading about Paris Hilton who accidentally stumbled upon my site instead) aren't reading here, then I'm not doing my job and, if they aren't using a particular outlet of social media (like, say, Twitter) then I'm not going to use it either.

Actually, Twitter is a poor example here because, at least the way I have been using Twitter, I have a core group of select followers on Twitter. And they are all artists and patrons. It's working well for me, Twitter is. Twitter, however, provides me something Blogger cannot. I can control who follows me on Twitter, I have less control (if any control) over who happens to click on by my blog. Because of that, yes, I'm sure I'll get the occasional "Mommy Blogger" stopping in, usually this marks a feeble attempt at mooching traffic from my site, but these people too usually dry up and go away, if for no other reason that the fact that we don't share the same core audience.

Sorry to be the one to inform you, if you haven't figured it out already, but the folks interested in reading a "Mommy Blog" or reading about Paris Hilton's escapades are not going to be interested in reading my site and won't be regular readers here. Likewise, the folks who do read here regularly won't be the slightest bit tempted by comment lures like, "check out my new site to find out news about..." If it isn't related to art or photography in some way, you aren't going to get a lot of traffic and I don't strive to have ten million followers a la Kim Kardashian so there really isn't even a lot of traffic to lure. Those looking to mooch traffic from my site usually turn away empty-handed because, frankly, there just isn't all that much traffic to mooch and, in case you could not tell by the banner, descriptions and all, this is a site devoted to art and photography. It's a personal journal about my life as a working artist. It's always been quite personal, I've not really tried to drive a mass of traffic here, and I use it simply as a means to share what is happening in my art world with my patrons, students, friends, and family. If I sometimes sell a print or two, hey, that's great too, but that's not really why I'm here and that's not really why my "regulars" are here either. To put it bluntly, you will get better results and we will all be happier if you go and sell your news about Kim Kardashian's wedding (or divorce) elsewhere.

When I first started writing Carol's Little World (and yes, I do mean "writing" as pictures were not even available back in those early days) my intentions were clear. To post here my thoughts, to make this a bit of a personal journal. I have always wanted this to be something like an on-line diary of sorts. I never proofread, I have tons of type-o's but that's not why I'm here either. I don't "polish" my writing here-it's off the shelf, off the cuff banter, a slice of life, a post here or there about what is happening in my own little world. It wasn't designed to be a novel in the making, nor is it a textbook. If you want to learn about equipment, if you want a photography teacher, if you want somebody to show you how to paint, etc. it might help in those regards but you'd probably be better off taking one of my classes or taking a class in your local area. I don't try to inform, educate, or entice. My blog, for me anyway, has always been a personal journal. I concentrate on sharing a little bit about my day or something that's happening, going on in my world, something I think might be funny, fun, entertaining, and the like. I seldom spend more than five to ten minutes per post and I seldom put too much thought into my posts. It's usually just off the cuff banter centered around what is going on in my life at any given moment. That's all it started out to be, that's all this site was meant to be, and maybe that's all it ever will become. I maintain other sites, like HouseOfCarol.com if you want a "storefront" (really want to buy some of my work) and I have other hang-outs on the web (like Facebook) if you really want to talk to me in more of a "real time" kind of a way. This is, and sort of always has been, a kitchen table of sorts. It's a behind-the scenes look at what it's like to be an artist and photographer, it's my personal journey, it's my diary, it's a slice of my life and that's all I intend it to be. I'm not trying to turn a book deal, get "noticed" by anybody "big" in the industry, or anything like that. There are other, better outlets for things like that. This is my kitchen table and I welcome any and all who want to share in that but I also recognize it's a small group and probably always will be a small group of core folks interested in what I have to say and share. Not all that many people are truly interested in a behind-the scenes look at art and photography and most who are, well, they are busying doing it themselves too, not reading up on blogs like this one (although, as we know, more then a few of them check in from time to time here. *Waves*)

So, while I may have "won" National Blog Posting Month this month, I don't really feel like this is a true "win" in fact, I'm probably going to move on to bigger and better things next year. Basically, I feel as if I've outgrown the "competition" of sorts and diverged over time from what it was intended to be. I recognize that some of you might be disappointed and there is an entire year (well, eleven months) left before I have to sign-up again, which leaves a lot of time for me to change my mind but, for all of these reasons and more, this November, while it marks my "winning" NaBloPoMo might also mark my last NaBloPoMo at least for a while.

I am happy and do share with all of those who have "won" the competition again this year. It is a job well-done and it is worth the effort to craft and write more posts to one's blog for most people. I hope you enjoyed National Blog Posting Month in some small way this year as well, and I wish the good folks that run it nothing but success in their future competitions. I do also cordially welcome any new followers to this, my own little world, because it is great fun and there is, as they say, never a dull moment.

Well, maybe there won't be any dull moments until November rolls around yet again next year. Hey, we can all hope, right?

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Tale of Fifty Five Artists


TwoBirds, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Yesterday, I was speaking with a friend about the state of the economy and the art world. This down economy can actually be helpful to some artists. For those willing to stay the course, stick to their guns, this is an opportunity of sorts. "In good times," I said, "it's hard, sometimes impossible to get into galleries or shows." It's true. The same galleries that will look at your work now won't give you the time of day in a booming economy. And, I can vividly recall a period of time when everybody was out on the Internets complaining of how they could not get into shows. It's a time in the not-to-distant past, and I remember it oh so well (unfortunately.) Also, in these down times, with the stock market being so wild, many people opt to invest in artwork. It's something a bit more tangible than a stock certificate and it's something that will hold its value over time. There are only so many Monets, Van Goghs, etc. in the world. Likewise, even contemporary artwork provides a lot of "bang for the buck" here because it tends to appreciate a lot quicker than some of the work from established artists. A Monet is already worth it's asking price of, say 14 million dollars, but the guy (or gal) who invests in a $2500 painting today only to find out that, in ten years, yeah it's work $80,000? That's somebody who has made money in the art world. This also has the little added "bonus" that you get to keep the artwork all of that time. You get to hang something in your house and rub it in the noses of all of your friends. Imagine how that goes. "Oh yes," you can casually say, "this is my [John Smith] original!" Won't you look like the smart investor (and art collector) in front of all your friends at dinner parties and such.

While this may be true, I had another surprise yesterday. As you know, it seems I have had some work accepted into the local holiday show at the Austin Visual Arts Association gallery space over at Austin Art Space. Now, I've told you this news already (the reception is on Thursday for those in the know) so I won't go into details about that again but there is something about this show that comes as a bit of a shock to me.

The shock, as it were, is that there are over fifty, I think over fifty five artists accepted into this show. Fifty five artists? In one show? In a down economy? And that's not counting the ones who did not make it into the show. (Imagine the rejection pile is even bigger.) Seriously, fifty five artists is more than half as large as the East Austin Studio Tour. That's massive! That's a lot of artists. In a down economy, I can hardly believe that there are fifty five artists doing a small holiday show and sale down at my local art studio and gallery. I mean, this is not MOMA or the Guggenheim, we're talking Austin Art Space here. Yeowza! That's a lot of artists.

And therein lies the surprise.

I'm shocked that we have so many artists, so many working professional artists in Austin. Shocked really doesn't begin to cover it actually. It's astounding how many artists there are out there.

This got me to thinking. How does one stand apart from that pack? How does one go about "making it" when there are so many, oh so many, lined up, waiting patiently in line alongside, waiting to "make it" as well? It boggles the mind really, even thinking about that.

It's something I hadn't given much through before really. I mean, Austin has always been a smaller-ish town, even if we sometimes have events like EAST, many of the artists tend to know each other. We hang out in these little "hovels" like AVAA where you can safely do things like life drawing or confess that you really enjoy the smell of darkroom developer in the morning, and nobody thinks any worse of you for it. We go to the DAC, we visit Congress Avenue, we tend to stay in our "neat" little artist "boxes" which tuck nicely into the fabric of our quaint little city. Everything's so neat and tidy, you could almost wrap it up in a holiday bow, yes, that's how the Austin art scene actually is.

With so many artists out in the great blue yonder, it's hard to stand apart, and this has given me a bit of a pause today. It drives home that point they always make about "branding" and "professionalism" and all of that. In order to make it, you need not only leg work, not only a "product" you can believe in, but you need to stand out, break away from all of the others in your field. Originality, it would appear, gets rewarded.

That's my thought for the day today. This is certainly a topic I will re-visit again at another time, perhaps after I've given it a bit more thought, but I wanted to share this with you today too, in order to get you thinking about it as well. And I'd certainly be up for some pointers. How do you stand out? How do you break away from the pack? Have you noticed your "pack" growing larger and larger in recent times or is it just me? Perhaps Austin is a growing city and that's part of what I'm seeing actually happen here? Maybe I've just not noticed it before? It's surprising for me to say the least.

Jack Kerouac once said, "“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

Today anyway, I'm starting to think he was right about that.

Until next time...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fun Parts


Fun parts, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Jerry Garcia, guitar player for the band Grateful Dead, once commented, "I don't know what the appeal of a Grateful Dead show is, I've never watched one." He's right about that, of course, having never gotten to watch one because he was always part of the act.

One of the problems with the big, wonderful East Austin Studio Tour is that, as an artist, I want to go and checkout all of the neat artwork. I want to go and see everything, at least as much as I can, but I have the strange problem of having to sit next to my own work. It's not always really possible to leave your "booth duty" at EAST to, well, to go and check out EAST (oddly enough.) This year, I did manage to break away a little bit, here and there, to go and check out some work on display. At one point, I made it over to the glass blowing studio, which I was very happy to see, since I had not seen it before.

One of the things you might not know about me (or maybe you do) is that I'm oddly fascinated with glass blowing. I love the entire concept of glass blowing, of making art glass, and such. The idea that somebody turns molten fire into beautiful glass is just astounding to me. I love it. I would imagine it's close to the feeling we get doing encaustics-turning a molten hot lava into paint and then making art with it. That's amazing really, if you think about it. So, I was very happy I got to go and check out some of the glass studios, as I love this form of artwork.

I had already decided I was not going to photograph the glass studios (no, this would be a photo shoot best left for another day.) If I had stopped to take pictures, why, I'd probably still be there. So, instead, I resolved myself to just walk through and take it all in.

It was just as amazing as I thought it would be. Bits of colored glass all over the place. Finished pieces strewn about next to works-in-progress. It was fun to wander around the ovens and see some of the places where they can actually blow, heat, or otherwise work with the glass, not to mention they had a great studio area with glass "leaves" hanging on the wall. They were amazing really. I've love to get lost in that place, especially if I had a camera in hand.

As we were leaving the glass place, I noticed this rack of shelving. It was very clearly labeled (gosh, I wish my studio were so labeled) with items to be used in glass blowing. Stuff like ball baring bits and other assorted "mix ins." That's when I saw this label and I knew, instantly I knew, I had to break my "no photos rule" just for this. I mean, who in their right mind could pass up a sign that reads: "FUN PARTS" right?

This is FUN PARTS on the hipsta.

In case you're wondering, I think there were some marbles in there. Yes, yes, it's true, somebody actually lost their marbles. Actually, come to think of it, somebody put their marbles in a bin and neatly labeled them as "FUN PARTS" but that doesn't change the fact that, somewhere out there, in the wild blue yonder, is somebody missing some marbles.

At this point, I have to ask, I mean I really just have to beg of you. If you've seen my marbles, please, oh please, won't you put them in the FUN PARTS bin? I think they'd belong in there with, you know, with the other odd assorted FUN PARTS, don't you? So, if you find any, please leave them in there, in this bin, so that I might know where to look. I mean, you wouldn't want me to lose my marbles now, would you? (Of course, I say this like I have marbles to begin with. HA! Even so, if you find them please, you know, politely and quietly into the bin with them, ok?)

We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

--The Management

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Plans for Professionalism


Earth-Glacier_3958, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
I get asked a lot and I'm sure it's on many people's minds, "How do you turn professional?" Many people, it would appear, want to "make it" as an artist or photographer and maybe don't know how or don't know how to go about getting started. I've talked some about this on the blog in the past and I thought that, now with the season turning, the new year starting, and all, it might be a good time to re-visit this topic. So, here goes.

For starters, it helps if you have a definitive body of work. What I mean by that is that you have some "style" of work, some sort of "collection" of say 20 images that are somewhat cohesive in nature. A lot of people are great shooters, and, yes, you can make a career out of shooting this and that but starting with a defined "body of work" is a great place to start. It's much easier to market, that's for sure. And, my painterly friends, don't go thinking you are "off the hook" here because you work in paint or some other media that's not photography. You want to start off with some body of work that's say 20 paintings all the same size, media, and basic "technique." You basically want to start off with a body of work that looks like the same artist created it and, it really helps here, if it's large enough to fill a gallery space (that's why I suggest 20 pieces, although it could be more or less, obviously, depending upon if you work very large or small scale.)

Given that you have a defined body of work, how does one get started? I now offer up some pointers.
  • The East Austin Studio Tour (EAST) was a great opportunity for artists to sort of "spring board" but what if you don't have an "EAST" where you live? Do some research and legwork here-find a local group, maybe a photo group that does some shows or a painting group that you can join to organize shows. Also, find out about local art tours in your area. That's always a great place to start.
  • Just finding these local opportunities is not enough. You need to prepare yourself for them. Have some business cards done up along with some postcards or handouts/flyers, anything you can hand out to tell folks more about your artwork. If you can manage it, do a Blurb book of your artwork. Even if you don't sell the Blurb book, have one copy available as a "display copy" so that you can present your work in a formal format. 
  • Websites! This is so important. A blog (like this one) is great but everybody really needs a website as a springboard. Now, you might be thinking that this is really too difficult or expensive for you to manage-it doesn't have to be. In fact, some of the websites I recommend are not at all that expensive and they provide you with the best marketing available. If you can't afford anything, start with Google pages (those are very close to being free.) I use VisualServer from the folks at PhotoEye books in Santa Fe and highly recommend them but there are a few other outfits you can check out as well. BigBlackBag.com is another one of my favorites as is Foliolink. I recommend going with a website that does not use Flash but also one that has templates you really like. Browse the sample websites here and find one that really "wows" you and then basically use the same style of templates to build your own. This will be time well-spent, trust me. Nothing pulls in more sales, traffic, or just basic "attention" than a well-crafted website and the prices of these "template driven" websites have come down, way down, to the point where they are not affordable. 
  • On your business cards, include your name, website address, telephone (if you are so-inclined) email address and sample images. I use Moo.com for great looking business cards as they are affordable and provide you the opportunity to do different images on the cards. On my Moo cards, I have the following information: My name, my business name (or studio name, in my case: "Carol's Little World") my telephone number (including area code) my email, my website address (in my case: "HouseOfCarol.com") and my blog address (since my blog gets a lot of traffic and it's separate traffic, I decided to include it on my business cards.) 
  • Use an image hosting/print sales site such as ImageKind. Etsy also works here and there are also several juried on-line sites you can frequent to get your work more "out there." These sites work well because they allow you to sell prints directly to customers. I try to avoid selling prints of work that I'm doing in gallery shows on these type of sites but these sites are good for things like older work or work that you shoot specifically for them. The idea here is to have some kind of an on-line presence and to be able to find your work in a multitude of ways, not just through your own personal website. 
  • Teaching-explore teaching opportunities. It wasn't until recently that I realized teaching is a great way to get more folks to look at your website, to purchase prints, etc. not to mention it gives you a built-in set of followers and a back-up income. All of that, plus you get to share your know how with a budding group of artists or photographers. For all of these reasons, I recommend teaching in a local studio, gallery, art school, or community college setting if you can manage it. (Many of these programs are offered in the evenings and on Saturdays, so they will not take away from your "day job" and you might find the extra income useful for doing things like getting a new printer or buying that new lens you've always wanted.) 
  • Load up your work-This might seem obvious to some and unheard of to others but load up a portable hard drive (doesn't have to be a large one-you can get a 250 GB drive these days on the cheap) with some of your best work. Carry it around with you on your laptop and be prepared to send out work often. Those times when you're waiting for that morning coffee could be better spent at Starbucks by uploading some images or submitting some images to shows for consideration. This will help you be location independent, portable, and also organize your work better. 
  • Workshops-think about starting workshops. This kind of work can be difficult to get but it's worthwhile and there seems to be a never-ending market for workshop instructors. Try to team up with somebody who is doing workshops or attend a few workshops so that you can see how they run and how to run one smoothly. I'm a big fan of the workshop experience and while I'm not running ones of my own, could really see how I might do this someday if I really were interested in pursuing this type of opportunity. Places like the Santa Fe workshops and the Maine Media Workshops are great places to start but there are also tons of others out there, so look around, be selective, and find the ones that interest you. 
  • Increase on-line presence-the on-line market is really just a series of eyes upon your work and it can be difficult to translate those "eyes" into page clicks and then additionally into purchases or solid leads for your work. Sign up for something like iContact or ConstantContact and begin growing an on-line database contact list of sorts. Organize this and watch it grow, as care and feeding of a list like this makes a career. Many galleries are famous not so much for the work they show but more for the list of collectors they keep and you should start to do the same thing if you want to be successful. 
  • Find a local market-in my case Houston is not too far away so it would be in my better interest to try and get myself into the Houston market. Research galleries there, go gallery hopping, load up websites of artists who regularly show there and poke around some to see what it takes to tap into sometime like this, a local or regionally well-known market for your work. 
  • Do some 1-person shows-try to get a 1-person show of your work by approaching galleries. Do this once you have your business cards and website complete. Organize your website along the lines of a gallery submission packet, including your C.V., artist statement, and information about your work. What's that you say? You don't have an artist statement? Oh, get used to writing them. Go on, do it now. You have ten minutes. GO! (Hint: don't muss and fuss, read a bunch of others and come up with something you can live with for starters. Let your body of work guide you on this one.) 
  • It helps to come up with a "generic" artist statement in case your tongue gets tied. You can do this in addition to coming up with an artist statement for each body of work that you complete. Here's another hint: get used to writing and talking about your work. You will not be a success, you will never "go far" in this crazy art world if you cannot do the basics like write about or talk about your work. Accept that now and get over it. Either learn to do it and do it now or accept the fact that you will be a bank teller or waitress for the rest of your life (spoken with apologies to bank tellers and waitresses here-I have a great deal of respect for what it is you do, it's just that we artist types want to do something different with our lives.) 
  • Social media-don't neglect Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Blurb, and the rest of the lot. When I say, "don't neglect" I actually mean "don't neglect" although I find way too many artists putting this type of marketing first. If you don't have a body of work, if you don't have an elevator speech, if you don't have a clear artist statement and a general "direction" for what it is you are trying to do, these type of social media outlets will only be a waste of your time. Focus on the important stuff first, then do this, but, you know, don't forget to do this too. 
  • Don't neglect advertising-there are many outlets that will provide ads and places for you to advertise. Don't neglect ads. Spending $100 on a ad in your local art rag might be more productive for you, and might reach more eyes than say spending hours on Facebook, especially if you find yourself talking only to your own friends on Facebook. If an ad allows you to reach news eyes and you can afford it, go for it. 
  • Reach out of your comfort zone-figure out how to print, matte, frame, and ship your work. Start doing shows outside of your local area and outside of your local art market. Use resources like ArtCalendar and ArtDeadline to find out about shows and opportunities and get your work out there. Some of these, many of these in fact will have a fee attached. That's part of doing business. The fact is, it costs money to apply for some shows and you should be prepared for this. I usually recommend students prepare themselves to send out about 4-10 opportunities a month, some of which come with a $35 or even a $50 fee. I'm sorry to say but many galleries, especially the ones that make money, won't even look at your work for free.
  • Do as many shows as you can and keep track of all of the shows you wind up doing. Keep a detailed C.V. listing the shows, locations, dates, jurors, and relevant information for all of the shows that include your work. Just as having a detailed database is important, this is going to be your calling card of sorts. Most galleries only want to do shows with people who have done shows before so it's important that you keep an accurate record of all of the shows you have been in. Don't leave anything out, no matter how small, especially as you are just starting out. So what if you can only get into a restaurant show right now, list that proudly on your C.V. as the next guy applying for the slot might not even have a restaurant show to his name. Aim for getting into bigger and better venues but keep track of the smaller ones too. 
  • Consider branching out into merchandising-stuff like calendars, T-shirts, etc. if you can afford them are also a great way to get your brand out there. 
  • Lastly, consider charity and pro bono work. While this is not the best way to sell work, it can be really helpful if you are just getting started. Don't have any shows to your name? Consider doing some mail art shows and donated a matted/framed print to a charity auction. It's a great way to support a cause you care for as well as get a show/line item listed on your C.V. Besides, I can't imagine something more suitable to get your branding out there-imagine if you will an underwater photographer who regularly donates to the "Save the Manatee" organizations or a portrait artist specializing in children who does something like the Heart Gallery or helps out adoption causes? That's a great way to brand yourself without investing much money and it's a great way to help out a cause you can believe in.

I hope this helps or at least gives you something to think about. It's a lot to digest but I'm sure it's a great place to start if you haven't thought much about it before or if you are just getting started down the road to turning pro. I'd also be curious to hear some other techniques you might have tried that worked for you, either positively or negatively so for my artist friends, please feel free to drop me a line with any additional pointers so I can include them the next time I prepare a list like this one, for those just starting out as professionals.

Until next time...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More Show News


PinkSunset, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
I just found out that I'll have some work included in the upcoming 12BUY12 juried show sponsored by the Austin Visual Arts Association. The work will be a 12x12 encaustic panel (encaustic on board actually) pulled from my latest "Sunset" series.

The details for the show are:
"12BUY12" 7th Annual Holiday Art Show & Sale @ Austin Art Space Gallery & Studios

Exhibition Dates: Dec. 1 - Jan. 7, 2011 Reception: Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Other than that, it's a quiet rainy night here in Austin. Yes, I said rainy, as it's really coming down now where I live. Since I've been home, I have to say I've done little other than curl up with some good reading. Right now, I'm reading "The Man in the White Suit" from The Stig (AKA Ben Collins.) I'm really enjoying spending time home, resting up, doing little, eating when I want to, and playing a lot with Chase. It's been a great holiday so far, which is good, because I have every indication that it's going to be a crazy end of the year and probably a crazy new year as well.

...Off to read some more and settle in for the night!

Until next time...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Black Friday


ShoppersNo2_4308, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
While I'm not a big fan of shopping in the "big box" stores, I thought I might help out some folks who might otherwise be stuck this holiday season. (I don't mind calling it the "holiday season" now that, officially, Thanksgiving is over here in the US.) Today is a special day in the US. It's called "Black Friday" and it's marked by people going out, filling up the stores, buying Christmas presents.

For those of you who might be shopping for artists or photographers this year, I thought I would provide some guidance. So, without further ado or fanfare, here are some shopping ideas for those on your list inclined to be on the artistic side.

Gifts for Artists
  • This year, at the East Austin Studio Tour, Yupo paper was very popular, so I might start off with some of that. You can read more about Yupo paper here but basically Yupo is, "a synthetic paper, machine-made in the USA of 100% polypropylene. It is waterproof, stain resistant, and extremely strong and durable. [It] resists tearing and buckling and remains perfectly flat, eliminating the need for soaking, stretching, or taping. Watercolor professionals have found Yupo to be receptive to a variety of aqueous techniques, but it is also ideal for offset printing, silkscreen, debossing, drawing, acrylic painting, and more." Not to mention, you know, it's kind of cheap, starting at about $3 a sheet.
  • Moleskine Journals-Perhaps made famous by The Sketchbook Project (heh, probably not) these personal journals come in all shapes and sizes and provide the budding artist, journalist, writer, or traveler with the perfect place to jot down notes, collect ideas, or sketch. You can also doodle in them in case, you know, "sketching" sounds too formal for you. More information on the Moleskines can be found here for the curious. 
  • Moo giftcards-Moo, yes, as in, "the sound a cow makes." While I've had to explain this website to many people multiple times (yes, it's really called just 'Moo' google it if you don't believe me.") I've never had to explain the quality business cards, postcards, and "half" cards (called "Moo cards" by those in the know) produced by these good folks. The folks at Moo really can produce 100 cards with 100 different pictures on them. They really do make wonderful high quality cards, postcards, stickers, labels, and the like, and they really are that inexpensive to get some. And, yes, their website really is named after the sound a cow makes. Moo business cards are tops in my books for artists, so I'd recommend you get a gift certificate from Moo as a good artist gift if you really don't know what to get that whacky artist friend of yours who plans on selling homemade hand-painted brick-a-brack over the Internets this holiday season.
  • Watercolor brush with water container-a popular brand is the Koi Water Brush found here but these watercolor brushes with water containers make great gifts for any artist. 
  • Ampersand Art Boards-available in a variety of shapes and sizes, Ampersand Art Boards make wonderful surfaces for artists to work. They come in a variety of surface options but basically have you covered if the artist on your list works in waters, oils, acrylics, pastels, encaustics, or a variety of media. 
  • NuPastel small sets-these are now available in places you might not expect, such as Office Depot stores but NuPasels are used for a variety of illustration purposes as well as by artists when they want something that looks a bit like a soft pastel but it a lot easier to clean up. More information here for the curious. 
  • Watercolor pencil sets-not just for watercolor artists anymore, these versatile pencils can be used in a variety of applications. For those inclined to try life drawing, the watercolor pencils can be added to give a color pop to base charcoal drawings. They are especially fun when combined with the Moleskine journals to create a nice sketchbook combo suitable for travel. 
  • Hake brushes-not just for calligraphy anymore, these versatile natural hair brushes can be used for encaustics, watercolors, or as a general "wash" brush. The bamboo style handles are quite comfortable and the brushes are quite versatile for any artist friend on your list this year. 
  • Shiva sticks-Like oil paint on a stick, these artist sticks are dry to the touch in 24 hours and suitable for oil painters, encaustic work, or others who need a swath of oil in their life. They come in convenient sets and, according to the website "colors can be spread or blended with a brush, knife, or Colorless Blender. The colors are completely compatible and can be blended with any oil paints. Use turpentine to thin. Paintstik colors are self-sealing — just peel off the film before each use. There are no unpleasant odors or fumes, so you can paint virtually anywhere, at any time, and on almost any surface: canvas, paper, wood, plastic, metal, and fabric. Non-toxic and hypo-allergenic." Sounds good to me. 
  • Gift basket of foam brushes, turpenoid, cleaners, soap, spot remover-What artist does not need these things? This "basket" can easily be made up of items purchased at your local hobby, craft, or art supply store. Extra points if you skip the "basket" and otherwise manage to fit everything into the back of a blank canvas or perhaps even some type of framing kit. 
  • Bamboo frames-What artist does not need a frame? These sustainable frames now come in all shapes, sizes, and, yes, even colors to match the wonderful creations the artist on your list is going to make this holiday season. Check with your local framing supply store, art supplier, or even craft store to find the latest in "green" frames that, well really come in all sorts of colors.
For Photographers on Your List
  • Blurb gift card-nothing screams "I'm a photographer!" like presenting your very own Blurb book. These high quality books come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in price from under $10 to hundreds of dollars for hundreds of pages of Blurb book goodness. While gift cards might not be the most personal item to purchase, supporting the photographer on your list by encouraging a personal book might be just the holiday ticket this year, not to mention you can set your own price.
  • Think Tank Photo Bag in Twill-Nothing screams "I'm a photographer mug me!" quite like a bulky camera bag with a giant "Canon" or "Nikon" logo plastered across the front of it. Luckily, the folks at Think Tank photo have come up with a solution I like to call the "non-camera camera bag." Called their "Retrospective" line these camera bags offer up a taste of both style and substance, as they don't look like your grandfather's butt ugly camera bag yet they somehow hold all of your newfangled DSLR and multiple lenses without making you look like a cluttered ape. 
  • Moo giftcard-Not just for artists, Moo cards allow photographers to hand out their credentials to passers-by without having to break the bank on fancy expensive business cards. 
  • Anything from the Lomo Store-While I'm partial to the shiny new Diana cameras, these "cult of lomography" store folks have plenty to offer up in their gift shop. Most of their items are low-fi and come with a price that doesn't break the bank, not to mention it's just a lot of fun in Lomo land.  
  • ICP gift certificate-Likewise, the ICP people have tons of camera-related items including bags, totes, hats, T-shirts, earrings, and, of course, ubercool photo books. Go on, you know you want to look now. 
  • Colored flashlights-While this might not sound like a gift for photographers, the idea of an LED flashlight that spits out 10 different colors is totally spiffy for the "paint with light" photographer crowd. Available in multiple sites around the 'Net (see ThinkGeek here) these flashlights can be a lot of fun even for those who don't do long exposure work. 
  • Gorilla pods-Joby's original sort of tripod like entanglement of legs provides a wonderful second tripod even for those who have one and can act as a great travel tripod, around the house tripod or even iPad tripod (try saying that 10x fast!) Available in a multitude of shapes and sizes, the trusty GorillaPod comes with a pricetag that can't be beat. These are also available in some camping stores, such as REI and also LLBean as well as most photography outlets and even some "big box" type of stores. 
  • Metallic paper for the inkjet lover out there-The new crop of metallic papers that are suitable for inkjet use would make an excellent gift or even stocking stuffer. Available in a multitude of sizes and even "metallic" colors (such as gold or silver) this might be the perfect gift for that photographer friend who has everything (or thinks he has everything) but has been itching to try something new. 
  • Cute lens cleaning cloth in a can-JillE makes a cute lens cleaning cloth and you can also get one at Amazon.com (see here for details.) These always make great little gifts are are often something photographers don't buy for themselves. 
  • Monopod with "feet"-harder to describe than it is to look at these monopods are smaller and lighter than tripods yet can be just as handy. I look to use something like this especially when traveling or working indoors where a full-sized tripod might be a bit too clumsy. More of a specialty item, you might have to shop for something like this on-line but it would make for a fun, affordable gift for that photographer friend on your list.
I hope I have given you some shopping ideas for the artist or photographer on your list and I hope you have a great, happy Black Friday even if you are not shopping at all.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

My human can't come to the blog right now. She's busy with something called a "turkey" (not quite sure what this is but it sure smells like a tasty bird to me!) In her absence, I thought I would put paws up to the keyboard and type some for her.

For starters, today is thanksgiving, and I'm sure she would love to thank all of the people that help bring you Carol's Little World, allow her to work on her artwork, to paint, to draw, to take pictures. All of the assistants, helpers, support and the like who help make this possible and have made it possible over the years. The suppliers, the people who make and sell everything from the paint she uses to the flash memory she seems to eat continually. She loves you, she really does. Next up on her list are all of the galleries and museums she works with and the people who help sell and carry her work. Without you she would have a hard time making it out in this cold cool art world so, of course, she wants to spread some love and thanks your way. Finally, she'd also like to thank all of you out there who stop in here to read this. All of the patrons who come out to the shows, all of the people who follow her on Twitter and friend her on Facebook. She's very thankful for you too as well. (Queen Flake wants to thank Snowflakes everywhere for their support today, I'm sure she does.)

Last but not least, she wants to thank friends and family (any many who overlap several groups listed here.) She would want you to know that you are special to her and she values you and loves you deeply. She is thinking of you this holiday season.

I think she would even give me a pat on the head for doing this today but not sure. She's awfully fussy about things like the couch and, once when I was teething and got one of her shoes she had a fit (not sure why, I mean, she had another one sitting right next to it! Besides, it's not like she had all four, you know, enough to make a complete set.) She might not like me chewing up this "keyboard" thing for long so I best be going now too.

Hey, is that a squirrel?

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday


Sunset Lost, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
This one is called Sunset Lost.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Earthen Sunset - Encaustic on Panel


Earthen Sunset, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Today's upload and post is called "Earthen Sunset." I got these pigment sticks from R&F paints (the people who make the encaustic paints that I use) and tried them out. One of the sets that I have is metallic and one is supposed to be a "life drawing set."

I started using the life drawing set because I loved the shades of browns in it. It has everything from dark sepia to earthy reds to light golden flesh-like colors in it. Oh, these pigments sticks really are very nice and have made me wonder, why have I not tried these sooner or tried to do more with these sooner? Now that I know about them, oye, will I be using them a lot. Though they are a bit expensive, I believe they are well worth the price of admission as it were. The colors blend beautifully and they really have lovely pigmentation. The set I was using was very even and smooth and somewhat even easy to draw with, at least I could almost be able to draw with them.

I had a very productive day in the studio yesterday, being able to knock out five paintings over the course of the day. When working with the encaustics on this new small series I have unified them by using a darker foreground and a lighter "sky" area. My inspiration for these was sunset time in the desert. I saw the beautiful brown earth tones and immediately thought about Santa Fe and the way the colors all look in the desert at dusk. I made some abstract landscape-like paintings, although you might not read them as landscapes. I'm fine with getting away from the realism for a while, I mean, heck, I do enough photography for two lifetimes, right? I'm all good with delving into the abstract, especially with the encaustics. All of these new paintings have some kind of title that hints back to their "sunset" beginnings.

Working a bit larger allows the artist a bit more freedom. Working smaller allows us to experiment and try out new things. These are sort of mid-sized panels, actually 12x12 panels. I hope to move back up into the larger sizes soon, and do some 18x18 panels, also I have purchased some 18x24 panels that I will use as well. I do like the larger square work but also really like the landscape orientation that an 18x24 allows me. I like having that natural orientation and that rectangular size, almost better than the square. Maybe again here, it's all of that photography corrupting me, but that's how I see things.

I think one of the things about abstracts is that, in general, they look best when LARGE. I need to start doing some 36x36 sized panels or some such thing, just to start getting that big and to allow me to work with the materials better.

For me, encaustics is becoming as much about working with materials as it is working with the paint. I find myself saying things like, "let it cool, add more wax" all of the time. I've discovered that it's really just laying and layering in the wax, working with the layers, adding texture, colors, wax, and pigment until you get a composition that you are happy with, that you like. It's almost as much about the materials as it is about the color or the paint itself, at least that's what I'm finding.

I believe that my new set of encaustic work is much better than what I had been doing. I now look back and sort of cringe at my old stuff and that's good. I mean, I'm a mature artist, so I know how to put out work on some level, but the encaustics are harder to work with. I do feel like I'm turning a corner, of sorts, that I'm now able to paint more with them, able to get the kind of "looks" that I want more and more as I work with the paint and materials. This is a gradual thing, and I'm certain it will happen over time. I've also learned as an artist not to rush things. Work will come if you let it happen.

Of course, like an idiot, I ran out of white paint in my studio yesterday. What a fool I am and still a beginner on so many levels. (Ok, note to self. Never ever run out of white or black paint. Really a stupid move on your part in oh so many ways.)

Today it's supposed to storm a lot so I will be away from the studio doing other things. I do have some larger panels to think about and I will start to think about working on those, not to mention I laid down some plaster yesterday too, so that I can use Conti crayons or even soft pastels on some plastered boards as well. Look for that work, coming soon to a blog near you.

And, you know, probably some additional photography too because, rumor has it, there's a photographer that lives here sometimes as well.

Until next time...

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Macaroni and Cheese


, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
This just in, fresh from the "Don't Cook Like This At Home!" category, this is some of the nastiest looking mac and cheese I have ever seen in my entire life. And, yes, it's from my stove as well. Allow me to explain (and forgive me for using the word "fresh" in relation to this, as you will see, it's anything but. In fact, the word "fresh" should be banished entirely from this blog post forever more. Well, except for me now telling you it needs to go away that is.)

The other day, I was running late. I was hungry and tired and really really just wanted something quick to eat. No problem, I thought. I have some of those "shells and cheddar" boxes stacked up in the pantry, set aside for just a time like this. I'm all stocked up and it will only take me about 10 minutes to cook something like this. So, without looking, I grabbed a box out of my pantry, that infinite space where I can stash away canned goods and non-perishable items for eons. Yay! All good to go, right?

Heh. WRONG! Boy, was I ever wrong.

For starters, it was late and I was tired so I didn't look too closely at the box. I sort of half-read the directions, printed on the bottom, without looking too carefully at anything else. It told me to boil some water, put some milk in, and after a few other "rub you belly and pat your head" events, the entire thing was supposed to "boil up" on the stove and then I was supposed to wait something like 10 minutes for dinner.

Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah. How does that old saying go? "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble." I waited for what seemed like an eternity (ahem, read: 10 minutes) and then the good instructions said I was supposed to leave this mess out on the counter for 5 minutes to cool or do some sort of carnival tricks (actually, good money is on "cool" but, you know, just in case your box of dinner does something different, I want to cover all of the bases here.)

As the mess (and I do mean "mess" in the literal sense here, not speaking metaphorically at all) started to cool, I realized something. The box, the outside of the box, a box I had only bothered to half-read and even that counts only as "half" if you consider I squinted at it in something resembling proper kitchen lighting, clearly said on it, "Shells and WHITE Cheddar." The WHITE being the operative word here (yes, in case you're wondering, the capitalization is all mine.) White. White. Isn't that a color that's not like really yellow?

So now I start to wonder. Hmmm. What have we here?

I can't say that I pretend to even know what it is, but I can say, with some confidence, that it's clearly not white. Nope, not white at all. Perhaps a spiffy yellow, we got ourselves a "light golden" winner. Ding! But, white? Nope, not a chance. Nothing white here, move along folks, nothing much to see that's white here.

So, like did the box lie? Did it maybe tell a little fib of some kind? Or was I really on crack and this "pot of gold" actually morphed itself into some kind of wild, funky ass crystal meth that I just didn't know about?

Here's the situation. It was late, I was tired, and I had me some oddly yeller mac and cheese. What's a girl to do?

Since it was late at night, I can totally admit to having been painting, drawing, or otherwise doing something photography-related until odd hours of the day that day. Hey, that's what I do, right? No surprise there. Well, the surprise comes in with the fact that I sometimes don't really have the best of noses-I loose my sense of smell sometimes when I've been dealing with paint fumes or photo-related chemicals all day long. It just kind of goes with the territory (try sniffing some paint thinner if you don't really believe me here.) Now, as you can imagine, one good whiff of this thing with a fresh nose resulted in, let's just say, something I really didn't want to get all that close to and leave it at that, ok? (Eeeuf. What a stinker.)

That's when I looked at the box. I mean I really looked at the box. Actually, I take that back. I looked at the EXPIRATION DATE on the box. Expiration date? Who knew these "shells and cheese" boxes even expired? Did you know this, great snowflakes, and forget to enlighten me, Queen Flake, as to this situation? Oh the shame! A closer look at the expiration date revealed something interesting. The "Shells and WHITE Cheddar Mac" had actually expired in February. February 23rd in fact. February 23rd in the year 2002.

Ha! Ooops. So much for the idea of "non perishables" in the pantry for dinner.

And so I offer you this humble advice. If you find yourself painting until near midnight and also find yourself hungry and in need of some food, might I suggest you skip cooking anything at that point? Thundercloud, some fast food locations, and even doughnut shops, yes, they're open that late/early in the morning. You'd be much better off, trust me on this one. Unless of course you actually like YELLOW colored stinky "Shells and WHITE Cheddar" macs. And, as for me? Yeah, you guessed it. I went to bed hungry that night. No way I was going to partake of something that came from the decade that brought us Avril Lavigne, that's for sure.

Until next stinky, stinky time...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Waving Goodbye to this year's East Austin Studio Tours


GloveShopWindow, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Today is the last day of EAST. I hope you had fun exploring all of the art studios and enjoyed all that East Austin has to offer. I know it's been a heck of a year for me. I was able to do some demos, met a lot of folks, and got to display my work in two different venues, and lots more.

At this point in the EAST tour, many of us are happy to get our lives back, that's for certain. EAST really consumes us for two entire weeks in November. It makes for a busy show season in the fall and really makes for a lot of personal contact, which is something I really love.

One of the problems with being an artist, especially where I live, is that I don't get to talk to patrons all that often. So many times I find myself shipping crates of artwork off to here or there without having any contact with the shows. Seldom, if ever, do I get to attend the shows my work is in. Unfortunately, this is just a fact of life. I can't travel around and meet everybody as much as my artwork can.

The East Austin Studio Tour changes all of that. It's mostly about personal interaction. Everybody really wants to come out and meet the artists. It's not confining the artwork in stuffy galleries, it's more about getting out, enjoying the days, seeing the studios, and talking to the people who make art. That's what I love about it. It's a lot of work, yes, but it's fun that we get to do that. No shipping crates for us all this time!

Well, I hope you had a great EAST tour or, if you live where there is not an East Austin Studio Tour, I hope you get to get out and see some local art where you live. Art and artists are everywhere. Sure, it's great to have something like the East Austin Studio Tour but, even if you don't have an event like this, make the time, go and see some artwork. Get out an explore your local artist studios. It's not all that hard to do. Most artists will open up their studio to you upon request and it's really great to get out, meet these folks, and see how artwork is made in your neck of the woods. Likewise, if you're an artist, I would encourage you to go ahead and let people into your studio space. It's a great way to talk to folks in your community and to share what it is you do with the rest of the world.

There's nothing "magical" about the EAST tour, in fact, many artist communities could do something very similar where they live and work too. It's just organizing, deciding upon a date, maybe getting some sponsorship, and deciding to get together and actually do it. I have to say that, in Austin anyway, it works wonders. We all love getting out and seeing the work, not to mention meeting lots of folks we would not otherwise get to visit.

Tomorrow's another studio day for me, although I have to admit I'm going to miss all of the hoopla of the tour. It's going to be very quiet without all the visitors, that's for certain. So, even though I might be waving goodbye to EAST for the year, I'm now going to pop into the studio on a hopefully more inspired and recharged note, with some fresh ideas and some new insights to the creative process that EAST has afforded me.

Until next time...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

In Humble Praise of the Abstract


DinoBlur_4730, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
I write to you today in humble praise of the square black and white abstract image. Now, I know these type of images don't usually get all of the attention, no, everybody always wants to look at mountain tops or pretty girls half naked. But I like these sorts of images, at least, I've written here before about how much I like doing large square black and white images. There's just something about them that I really like, something I can't quite explain. And, while I don't normally do fully abstract images, I kind of like the tints and tones across this one. It's got every "color" from the deepest of black to the brightest of whites in it, somehow, all sharing the same real estate. There's just something about abstract black and white work that I really like so I post it today without apology and write to you today in humble praise of the abstract.

Nothing earth shattering to say today, other than I just wanted to post this image and check-in a bit. I hope you are all enjoying your weekend and gearing up for the upcoming holiday weekend in the 'States. Next week, you see, is Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the official start to holiday shopping (although, I suspect, some of you have started shopping already.)

This morning my doorstep was, ahem, "violated" by a big box from Dick Blick. Oh, happy day! More supplies in the mail. Come to Mama, you luscious art supplies, you. Mama needs to paint some more. Have lots of plans but not time to get myself into the studio to do anything. Sometimes, eh, you know, that's how the artistic life goes so I take it as it comes. It's all good, you know, all good, and helps me appreciate studio time more when I can actually get it.

Enough talking about that, how's your weekend going so far?

Until next time...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Of Art and Scale


Tint_6879, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
I had a few paint colors left on my palette this morning, so I decided to whip up a quick painting, you know, one last one for EAST and all. Here it is, I hope you like it.

AHEM Kidding, kidding!

This is actually part of a well-known piece of artwork. So why am I posting it here, today? Why am I posting this instead of some of my own artwork on this, my personal blog? Well, it has to do with a question of scale, which, conveniently, is today's topic for discussion.

How big do you think this painting is? Do you think it's small? Large? In the middle? Is it a 16x20? Is it part of a larger work? Is it GIANT and does it SCREAM LOUDLY, "I AM A TITIAN!" or is it more humble and quiet, gently filling the space it's in?

One of the problems with viewing artwork on the web is that we often loose a sense of scale. Not only do we drop the sense of scale in artwork, but we often misplace context as well. Allow me to explain.

If I had done this painting in encaustics, on board, on a small 10x10 panel, and put it in the room with all of our other encaustic paintings, do you think it would get noticed? Do you think folks would stop and see it, stop and look at it? It's detailed, that's for sure. And, yes, you can't take away the technique of the painter here, even given an unknown scale as viewing this over the Internet. I mean, this is some fantastic paint slapping, there's no debate about that. And the colors? Damn! I can't get colors this good with my high-end digital SLR camera. Phew! Nice job there, old Italian painter Titian, you really pulled out all of the stops on this one. (Heh. Imagine this in "Score Me!" I'm sure somebody would give it a "2" and say it needs more "boobies" or some such thing. Rascals!)

What about if this were hanging in the Louvre, next to a bunch of other famous paintings by artists long since dead (or, perhaps even worse, forgotten) would you stop to notice it then? Would you even pay it any mind or would you suddenly bolt up, trample a truckload of Japanese tourists to death on your way to see the Mona Lisa? (Be honest now!)

The difference here is a matter of context. Put next to some fabulous other artwork, put in the same context as a Tintoretto, more Titians, and lots of lovely Leonardo's? Yeah, even a painting *this good* can turn into a "ho hum" experience. Hard to believe, but this is true. Put it next to a bunch of beginner's work and, would it stand out? You'd like to think so but, here again, maybe not. It really just depends upon the context, the frame of reference, and the scale. (I'm not saying here that Titian would be mistaken for a beginner, no, but what I am saying is that, in the context of a bunch of beginners, perhaps even the great Titian would be reduced to sitting in a corner, thanks in part to his work looking different from the others in its surroundings. You know, sort of not "fitting in" scale-wise or context-wise. He would stand out like an apple in a bowl of lemons is perhaps a better way of putting it.)

Many people talk about going to Florence, Italy to see artwork. It's a city that leaves an impression upon very many artists. One of the pivotal pieces in Florence is the famed statue "David." Carved by Michelangelo himself, "David" is perhaps one of the world's most famous works of art. Many people have viewed "David" on the web-you can probably Google "David" to find lots of references to it. It's all over the place. Even people who have not seen "David" in person recognize it, since it's all over the web and has been reprinted so many times.

What many people don't realize is that "David" is not life-sized. Oh no, he's not. He's actually 17 feet tall. Yes, you read that right. SEVENTEEN FEET tall. That's a big "David." Perhaps we should call him "DAVID" or, in something resembling "proper" Italian, "DAVIDISMO!" He's bigger than big. He's living LARGE, that's for sure. Many people, upon viewing him for the first time, are unprepared for this. Even though they have seen him countless times on the Internet, even maybe seen video of him, he's still a sight to behold in person. ("DAVID," why hello, "DAVID!" indeed.) Instead of "shaking his hand" when you get to meet him for the first time, you get to maybe shake his "left toe." Yeah, he's that big.

So this brings me back to the question of scale. I absolute *love* this Titian painting, as you see it here, in small (well, small-ish) format on the Internets. It reproduces well, very well in fact, on-line. The colors really pop, thanks in part to the mastery of Titian with mixing the color palette, yes, but also because of the relative scale of the piece. The blues are "properly placed" next to the reds and such which gives this painting a wonderful sense of relative scale when reproduced on-line (if this is too technical a conversation for you, just think about it this way-the people all look about the same size in relation to one another which, you know, can be difficult to do if you are a novice painter.) But all of this "technical" discussion still doesn't answer my original question.

How big do you think this painting is in "real life?"

That's actually a bit of a loaded question because, while we can "judge" relative scale on the Internets (that is to say, we can answer the question of "do all of the people look about the same size? Do the people in the back appear 'correctly' smaller while the people in the 'front' of the painting look a bit larger? Like they are coming towards us from the plane of the painting?") we can't always judge absolute scale, in other words "how big is the overall work?" This is an easy question to answer in "real life" but much more difficult to answer on the Internets. Think of it this way, does this painting fill up a room? Is it, like our "friend" "David" actually a "DAVIDISMO!" or is it, you know, perhaps, a "davidino?" Seventeen feet tall and bulletproof or you know, like three inches across is what I'm asking here. And this question, this is what's so difficult about viewing artwork over the Internet. Digital art, so often, looses its sense of scale when reproduced on the Internet.

As painters and photographers too (yes, even they don't get a free pass here!) we have to think about the scale of our work. Are we making things too big? Too small? Do we want to make a "grand statement" to make our own personal "DAVIDISMO!" or are we making an intimate little "davidino?" Are we going seventeen feet tall and bulletproof or is three inches more our style?

Many photographers here are limited by their tools. So many, perhaps too many more, don't even think about this-we simply don't consider this when making, even printing our work. Others, perhaps incorrectly, always strive to "go big or go home" by making the largest photographic prints they can possibly make-everything here is couch-sized. Most of our printers only do 16x20 sized prints (if we are even that lucky-I'm sure many of you reading this might not be able to print larger than 8x10 or letter-sized work without using some kind of a service.) Does that really mean we should just always do 16x20 work? 8x10's all of the time?

One of my favorite photographers, Micheal Kenna, always does small work. He prints his work small and on an intimate scale. If you've never experienced it, I can tell you firsthand, it's a wonderful experience being in a room with a bunch of Michael Kenna's. They are small, yes, but they sort of "dot" the space and they have a wonderful intimate feeling about them. They aren't "sub par" they are just, well, small and detailed. They make you want to move in closer, to really examine them. He's a master at doing this, even with subtle work. Other photographers work large, very large. I've seen billboard-sized work in galleries and certainly there's something to be said for seeing large, splashy abstracts, especially a bunch of these together hanging in a gallery show. They look wonderful and you can get lost in the work. A few years ago, I had the privilege of seeing some of the work from the series "Elevator Girls" in person, at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and, let me be the first to tell you, it was wonderful. They were all printed very large, on acrylic material of some kind, so they were very reflective and shiny and, wow! I really got lost just walking among them, walking around in-between these pieces. I could not have imagined them printed or presented any other way. They were fabulous. Big, giant, gooey fabulous work, done up in large scale for lots of folks to be able to explore.

My point here is: don't just go 8x10 or "as big as it gets" and stop, no, think about how you want your work to be seen. Think about scale when doing your work, even if you are a photographer. It really helps move your work to the next level. You really should be thinking about scale even when you're in the field shooting. I mean, it doesn't hurt to ask yourself, "what am I going to do with these later?" You know, are you going to blow them up BIG, I mean like "David"-sized big or print them small? Postcards? Large banners? Think about scale as part of the process, just like a painter has to and this, almost always will help you visualize your work better. If you don't believe me here, try it out, try it just once and see if it doesn't help.

If you've always done small work, think about going big. If you've always had the "itch" to go big, think about doing small work. Try seeing what you can come up with if you limit yourself to an entire show of nothing larger than 5x7's. Sometimes too, we allow the scale of the work to sort of "rescue" otherwise boring work. Just making something big doesn't make it better, no, it just makes it bigger. Just like those who photograph a lot of "red" stuff sometimes use color instead of thinking about composition, so too do some photographers rely more upon scale over composition. Making "red stuff" doesn't make stuff "better" it just makes it "red." Photographers who do this a lot often benefit from forcing themselves to shoot in black and white. Take the color away and you'll learn how to compose. Likewise, with scale, it can be the same thing. Don't think about making everything "big" to save yourself, rather shoot everything thinking it's going to be no larger than 5x7 and force yourself to bring about that "Michael Kenna" sense of intimacy about your work. You just might find your work all that much better for it. Of course, if you're used to working small, try it the other way. Print something large, make your own "private" "DAVIDISMO!" even if just once, just to see how your work translates into a different scale. Maybe that 8x10 printer really is holding you back and you would benefit from working a bit larger.

Getting back to "my" painting here. This is a panel from the Scala d'Oro, the famous "Golden Staircase" located inside the Palace of the Dodge in the heard of Plaza San Marco in Venice, Italy. I believe this panel was painted by Titian, although some attribute it to Tintoretto and others bear not attribution at all. It appears to me to be created by Titian due to the colors used here-Titian was a master of color and really made his colors "pop" not to mention we know he was hanging around the Dodge's Palace in Venice, as he has "other works in the show" (ahem, as it were.)

To answer the "burning" question, this is actually not a painting at all, it's part of a ceiling panel in the Scala d'Oro. Many people, actually probably most people "viewing this" walk underneath it without even noticing it on their way to visit the "Bridge of Sighs" from the inside. Few, if any, stop to take photographs of it. This is actually a fresco that's part of a ceiling panel so it isn't very large, though it's part of a larger work known collectively as the "Scala d'Oro" or the "Golden Staircase" in Venice. And, yes, the famed painted Titian, at some point, will become one of my "Painters Every Photographer Should Know" in case you are curious and want to learn more about his work with color. This "painting" is actually about 20-30 inches across, maybe a bit larger but not too much. It's cropped here, as there are some gilded (actually "real" gold) sort of "frames" around it which are really ceiling joists of some kind (helping to hold up the plaster, I believe.) This is, perhaps a smaller work than you might think it from the Internets, although the detail and composition is striking.

No matter the scale, context, or era, this is a wonderful painting and I will always enjoy looking at it. This is one of those painting that I look at and think, "gosh, I hope I can paint like that someday," regardless of how "big" it is (or isn't!) I hope this discussion of scale has helped you think about your own work in a new or different sort of way.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Of Art and Fear


BoyFeedBirds, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Are you afraid of something? Maybe things that go "bump" in the night, spiders, or, horror of horrors, public speaking. (Isn't everybody afraid of public speaking?) Artists, like most people, are no different. We have hopes and dreams, yes, but we have fears too. And, like other people, sometimes our fears are not totally rational.

Being an artist who paints, draws, and takes pictures you might think that I'm not really "afraid" of anything art-related. But, well, you'd be wrong about that. I've always called myself "a bit shy" about drawing, especially in public. And painting? Well, oddly enough, sometimes I can do it ok and sometimes not. It really depends here. I have no trouble doing oils in front of people but I appear to be quite shy about doing encaustics. Now, I don't really know why this is, I mean, I'm not really quite sure why I'm afraid of doing things in front of people. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm some kind of freak, put on this earth for the only purpose of being entertainment (fodder) for others? Maybe I'm just shy? Or maybe it's because I feel like people are secretly laughing at me? I don't know.

I don't know about that, but I do know that, sometimes anyway, I feel that, when I'm doing art or making artwork, the whole world is making fun of me. It's almost like I can hear a little tape recorder, playing out the scorn of society in my head, "You think you have talent? Go get a real job. Stop doing these stupid silly drawings of little houses, they are worthless. Hmmm. While you're out there getting a real job, might want to get a new wardrobe too. You look too frumpy to be a 'real' artist." The little negative tape recorder? Yeah, it's so bad. It's not what you want to hear, trust me on that one. And it just keeps playing on over and over again in your head, really getting louder and louder each time you hear it.

So, what's a girl to do?

For EAST this year, I was asked to participate in some demos. I'm totally afraid of this. Afraid yes, but I did it anyway. It's demos which involve painting in front of people. GULP. (That's just the kind of thing I'm afraid of.) Now, last weekend, I did my demos. I rolled up my sleeves, got out to the little demo booth area, grabbed that paint brush and yapped and painted away! "These are encaustics. This is how you paint with them. This is how you put the wax on. YOU, yes you! What's your favorite color? Here, let me start with some of THAT and we'll take it from there...." Oddly enough, the painting didn't turn out half bad. The negative tape recorder? Yeah, as you could probably guess, it was so *gone* once I got going. (The trick with that is to shut it off, to stop it before it gets to loud and just get on with what you are doing, ignoring those negative voices in your head. Yes, I know, sometimes easier said than done.)

My point here, this post, is not really about my own personal "negative tape recorder" it's more that we all have one. Each and every one of us has some kind of "no, that's bad!" voice in our heads. Sometimes, yes, sometimes these voices are helpful. "Don't play with matches!" or maybe even, "No, bright purple polka dots do not go well with orange shoes!" but, more often than not, the voices we here can hold us back. Somewhere along the way those "bright purple polka dots" turn into "yes, that dress does make you look fat!" or "no! You can't draw! You're not good enough!" When we reach that point? You guessed it. That's when it starts holding us back.

Artists have fear too, each and every one of us. We're all afraid of heights or public speaking or dresses that make us look fat or whatever! The trick is to learn to harness that fear. Perhaps the one thing artists have that not everybody is blessed with is a coping mechanism. We can paint, draw, take photos out of fear. I've discussed this before, but there are many people out there who are afraid of heights. That's all well and good, very many people are just frankly afraid of heights, but, of those people afraid of heights, how many of them are still afraid of heights when you strap a camera to their faces? Maybe not quite as many, for sure. I know of several people who conquered their fear of flying (in airplanes, even in smaller planes) by taking photos. There's nothing quite like the grand "bird's eye view" of the universe to put that "oh my God, we're all going to crash and be killed instantly!" negative tape recorder voice on the back burner. If you don't believe me, get out and try it sometimes. Art can be a great coping mechanism, witness so many art therapy programs. Some of us (ahem, *cough* *cough*) even become quite fearless when behind that camera lens. This goes a long way to explain why sports photographers often get run over by linebackers at football games or why war corespondents often get shot. We've learned to be so busy with the camera that we've put the fear, the normal everyday fears that help protect us, aside to do our jobs. (Don't get me in a helicopter, ok? I might just dangle out the window without a rope. Well, provided I have a camera, that is.)

So, today I challenge you. What does fear look like to you? Does art help you conquer it? Are you afraid of public speaking? Of drawing? Of heights? Spiders? Snakes? Tall buildings or open spaces? As a person, I can't say that I would want to force you to go there but, as an artist, I'd have to suggest you at least try out some artwork and see if it helps. So, go on. Paint about it. Draw it. Strap that camera to your head and go bungee jumping or ride the crazy white water rapids. I dare you. You can do it! Come on, you know you can do it.

As those (maybe even those without a paintbrush in hand) might say, "you have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Travel Bug


MountainView_3829, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Being a photographer means that sometimes you travel. Since I'm a photographer, it stands to reason that many of my friends are photographers too. (I have a lot of photographer friends.) Having so many photographer friends means that you have a bunch of friends who travel a lot and, believe me, I do. Some of my friends travel a lot. I mean like a lot. Like, we're talking glorious amounts here. When I say "glorious amounts" I mean they actually are on the road each and every minute of every single day. I mean like they've been to every country on the globe at least three times. Heck Joe McNally even gets free biscuits from the airlines these days. I mean who does that anymore? In this economy? Biscuits reserved for somebody in Seat 12D who travels so much the airlines all know him by his first name? Really?

I kind of have a love/hate relationship with travel. Sometimes, I love to travel. I love seeing new places, trying out new foods, meeting different people. Perhaps one of my dream jobs would be as a co-host for that cable show "Three Sheets" where the guy gets to go to bars and drink his way around the world. Yeah, I so would love to do that-I love trying out mixed drinks local to wherever I go. It's not just the drinks though, I love the excitement of a new city or the scenic views of an unfamiliar landscape. I love being out there, wherever "out there" happens to be. It can be exciting and new and really gets me out of my usual rut. It helps alleviate the pressures of a daily grind, that's for certain.

Unfortunately though, since I know so many heavy travelers, I also know a lot about the darker side to travel. I'm not just talking about the "it's 3 am and I don't know what time zone I'm in" or the "Oh, right, this vending machine won't take my money. I don't have dead queens on my quarters!" dark side either. Those are just little glitches and are really part of the fun of traveling a bit.

For starters, when you travel, your world, your own "little world" goes on without you. Your family and friends, they're all at home, doing what it is they do. It's hard to keep in touch when you're miles away. Skype is no substitute for being there. This is especially hard on children. Hate to be the one to break the bad news but, if you're two continents and several time zones away, odds are good you're going to miss your kid's soccer practice on Saturday. And that's just the mildly bad news. You might still be thinking, "ok...yeah...so what if I don't have kids?"

I've got friends who have been mugged in New York, caught in uprisings in Egypt, trapped in Tokyo Tsunamis, and that's just for starters. Do you really want to deal with a nosy Turkish customs official at 3 am? Even if you're not carrying any dope, I dare you to try that and tell me you don't have visions of "Midnight Express" dancing in your head for weeks afterwards. Love sitting in an airport gate for six hours on end watching news clips in some forgotten language while the rest of your friends are enjoying a Sunday afternoon off?

It can also be really hard to do simple stuff, like go to the dentist or get your haircut. The little things that we often take for granted are harder to do when you're not around to do them. A friend of mine got a jury notice once while he was away and came back to face a bench warrant out for his arrest because he had ignored the court summons to appear so many times. Of course, he wasn't even aware he was being summoned, and he was three continents away opening a new business in Asia somewhere the entire time. Eventually, they excused him from his jury mess, but situations like these make us all wonder. Do you really want to go through all of that? It can be especially hard if you travel alone a lot. Isolation is no fun and, being isolated three continents away is even less fun for some folks. Those room service menus get to look pretty old pretty quickly and it's really not a whole lot of fun walking into a restaurant three continents away trying out how to ask for a "table for one" in some language you don't even being to speak while the locals all stare at you because you appear quite like an alien being from mars (or some such thing.)

There's also the grind of being couped up in a small metal box hurling through space at breakneck speeds. Love the smell of stale air in the morning? Legs cramp up much? Just how much do you love that middle seat? You really didn't need that checked bag, did you? Sorry, we're all out of "airport approved rubber chicken" here's an "oh, heck, I don't know kind of a mystery meat for you-nobody eats this crappy airline food anyway" dish I'm sure you'll just LOVE. This ought to tide you over for the next 18 hours including layovers. Please make sure you OJ Simpson yourself through that next airport, your connecting flight leaves in 30 minutes. Oh, and yeah, we don't know what gate you need to find either. Please check the message board where it's plainly spelled out for you in something resembling Outer Mongolian characters clear as mud. You have ten seconds to do that before you get trampled by a pack of hurling Japanese tourists. As my friend Linda used to say, "Good luck with that!" Even Joe McNally's million mile biscuits are looking pretty stale when you put it that way.

But, then there are times when it all works right. When you take yourself to some magical place you had only dreamed about or seen in pretty travel brochures. I can tell you, with certainty, that Hawaii is as lush and tropical as you imagine it to be. (It's even better looking in real life than the brochures, believe me.) Venice is romantic and fun, plus the food isn't half bad. Iceland looks like no other place on earth and New Orleans? Oh, what a fun town, go there if you can. From my first trips, early in my life, flying to California or driving cross-country to the Florida coasts and keys, to my most recent trips to Kona and Rekjavik, I would not trade some of my travel experiences for anything.

Sometimes, it seems like the more I travel, the more I miss my home and the more I stay home, the more I want to travel. The travel bug bites me every once in a while and I feel like I just want to flee. Land masses several continents away feel too close for comfort and then I remember Joe McNally's stale biscuits, my lost luggage, drinking tea at two am because I don't know what time zone I'm in and, gosh, I really do miss my dog when I'm away.

It's a strange thing travel is or, you know it can be, almost like a teeter totter. A little is too much and a little more is not quite enough. It's a great balancing act when you don't even know you're dancing. Everybody wants to land on the beach in Bimini but nobody wants to get stuck in Detroit in February and life is like that. Sometimes, in the great lottery, you draw up Detroit in December or some such thing and sometimes? Even the Bimini side of things has some disadvantages.

Yes, I guess it's safe to say I have the travel bug again, maybe a little bit, but it'll go away once I get out more. As I start to plan my photo trips for next year, and think about the places I might go or the locations I want to shoot, I'm excited about getting to pick out special magical places but also worried that I might miss stuff happening at home too. Lately, it seems like I want to get out more but I'm almost always one lost piece of baggage away from wanting to jump into bed (my own bed, thank you very much!) and pulling the covers up over my head. There's something also wonderful about sleeping in your own bed, eating your own food, "crash landing" on your own couch that I really enjoy. It too is a great way to recharge the old batteries. Oh, and I'll still miss my dog every time I go away. It's my favorite part of coming home again. Getting to see Chase jump up and bark like he hasn't seem me in ages. (Good doggie!)

Look for some future posts on upcoming locations as it gets closer to the new year and I plan out my 2012 travel calendar. Right now, I'm still mulling over the next great locations and spots I want to visit and trying to figure out a way I could fit more camera gear in a carry-on. If you're a photographer too, I'd love to hear about some upcoming location shoots you have planned for the new year.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Place Called Sometimes Island


GreenGondola_5811, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
There was an article in the paper the other day about a place called Sometimes Island.

I live near Austin, Texas and in Austin, actually just outside of Austin, sits Lake Travis. It's a large lake along the Colorado River, the lake itself formed by a series of dams. The entire setup is run by an outfit called the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA.) The dams control the flow of water, obviously, to keep Austin (no, not "weird" although I guess they do that too) from flooding like it used to in years past. In the past, Austin was home to some historical floods, with parts of the entire City being shutoff and underwater for great lengths of time, so this elaborate series of dams was built and a government organization formed to control it all, to control the flow of water down the Colorado and protect the City.

Well, smack dab in the middle of Lake Travis there are some islands (sort of) that pop up when we have a drought, basically when there is not enough water to cover them. Because of the nature of these "disappearing islands," islands that are basically there sometimes and sometimes not, the locals have branded them, well the largest of them, "Sometimes Island." According to the news report on the issue,
"So-called Sometimes Island is now part of a peninsula jutting out about three-quarters of a mile into Lake Travis. The Austin American-Statesman reported Monday that the lake, for the first time since the 1960s, is so low that visitors can walk from Mansfield Dam Park to Sometimes Island. The island's name came about because the land is only exposed during droughts. The chief park ranger, Dan Chapman, says the peninsula is pretty brushy and unappealing. The area was part of a farm on which cattle grazed before Mansfield Dam was finished in 1941."
I've always been oddly fascinated with the entire concept of "Sometimes Island." I mean islands are supposed to be made of rock and stone, big giant things like Hawaii that offer shelter from the great seas and oceans of the world, right? Hard giant rock formations that you can land a boat on, heck even build condominiums on, not disappearing or "popping up" when the weather is right or they just sort of feel like it. "Hi, we're here! Came in for a spot of tea today. We'll be back underwater tomorrow." I mean what is up with that? A disappearing island? Does it come with its own magician, top hat, and giant bunny too? It's just odd to me.

Combine this with the fact that the newspaper just ran an article saying that our drought is so severe you can now walk out to Sometimes Island, that it's now actually a peninsula and not even an island anymore. An island you can get to without using a boat? One that's only there sometimes and sometimes not there because it's flooded with water but now it's actually a peninsula? Wait...let me get this straight again...It's hard to wrap you head around this, isn't it? (Oh how I miss the giant bunny now!)

[I smell an art project here, I swear I do, or at least the makings of a great title for a new encaustic painting or perhaps a very funny blog post, don't you? I mean, how great would this be for the setting of a murder mystery? I could almost sniff out the title now: Murder on Sometimes Island. Oh man, this is like epic. Where are the late night jokesters when you really need them most?]

Sometimes (ahem!) I have to really wonder about people who say they can't find inspiration for artwork anywhere. I mean, you can't even make up stuff this good. It just falls out of the sky or, in this case literally rises out of the lake. How could you miss being inspired by stuff like this? Is there anything like this in your little world? Any odd inspirations? Settings you find interesting? Or things that strike you as out of place? Sometimes (there's that word again!) it just takes a small glance, a slight look at something and a brief thought but, when we make ourselves ask questions like, "what's up with that?" there is often inspiration to be found in our local setting. We don't have to go all out wild and crazy, we don't have to travel the globe to find this stuff, it's the slightly odd and out-of-place things that work just fine here. You can find a small inspiration, add a lot of imagination, and come up with a great art project. Imagine what the concept of "Sometimes Island" could become in the hands of a great mystery writer, a sculptor, or perhaps even an abstract painter.

In case your new to all of this, maybe you're a beginner or maybe you're just looking for a dash of inspiration, I hope I have provided you with some food for thought. Go out and find something in your little world that's different, unusual, maybe only slightly off and capitalize upon it. Take it to its limits. Stretch it. See where it takes you. It's one of the many ways we can be inspired to create something new and different. Ask the big questions yes, but don't forget to stop, pause, and wonder, "what's up with that?" too. Maybe it's just something dangling slightly out of place, a nail in an odd place, or just something a tiny bit "off" in some way that sparks a thought and provides your inspiration. I hope this technique will help you find new inspiration in the small things you happen upon every day, not just the larger mind-blowing experiences, because those sometimes (!) only happen to us once in a little while.

This image was taken in Venice, at a holiday festival, but it could just as easily been taken in Lake Travis or near where you live. There is water everywhere. There are boats on the water everywhere. There are even islands and odd happenings everywhere. Plastic bags in the wind, odd signs, nails out of place, hooks holding up strange things. It's up to you to go out, to explore, to find these things too. So, maybe you don't have a Sometimes Island where you live, but I'm sure there's something else, something maybe even wilder and crazier or even something that allows you to stop, pause, and reflect just long enough to find inspiration. Go out and find this place, this place that's special and inspirational for you and explore it.

Perhaps tomorrow will bring another image here on the blog from Iceland, Italy, Mexico or, you know, this place, the place known as my own special Sometimes Island. I tend to live there, in case you couldn't tell. I love to hang out in the land of odd little inspirations, strange happenings, and wonderful little quirks, I'm at home there more than I am someplace you might consider more "normal." Sometimes Island? Yeah, I could probably just move there, really I could.

And, let me be the first to tell you if you haven't figured it out already, it's the greatest place to visit if you can manage the trip.

Until next time...