I Am In The Wrong Line of Work

I came across these paintings on display in a public building, yesterday. Aside from the obvious–why are the winter-y holiday-y paintings up this early?–I would like to point out the price tag on some of these suckers.

Okay, so that probably doesn’t add up to minimum wage, either, but there’s a very direct-to-consumer model going on here that feels very… immediate.

The paintings themselves are actually pretty nice.

Sort of a cross between Grandma Moses and Thomas Kinkaide going on here. Not really my style, but since I’m in the habit of taking pictures, I might as well pass these on.

I’m not 100% sure on the cost of wall space here. Whoever’s in charge of that made themselves pretty scarce. But it does get some decent foot traffic.

 

(I think we decided this one is Providence, Rhode Island.)

They are for sale, and if anybody wants to buy one, I’ll chase down some contact information for you. (Unfortunately, the artist’s name isn’t as clear in the tag picture as I thought it was.)

Pondering Patreon

I’m not signing up, just yet, but Patreon has been on the edge of my radar for a while, now.

For those of you who don’t know, Patreon is a platform that allows people to support the creatives they love by pledging various amounts of money per (well, thing created, or month, or… well, you get the picture.)

In exchange, the creatives produce “things” for their patrons, beginning at one end with access to patron-only content (think stories, music, or comic strips) and progressing to bigger, more extravagant rewards as the money goes up. (Think private performances, real-live art, physical, signed copies of books, and sometimes out-takes that never made it into the finished manuscript.)

And in theory–if you’re good enough, or lucky enough–you get paid enough to live, and work on your art, and so forth.

So, getting serious, here.

The first time I heard of Patreon, it was from a rock star. Who had just published a New York Bestselling memoir. Who, even several years later, is making 38,000 dollars per thing.

Well, obviously, her variables do not apply to me.

I’m an introverted writer, and my tits are strictly indoor tits, and by the way, I don’t have a pre-mustered army of fans behind me.

So, I went in search of lab rats. early adopters who are biologically similar to myself.

That’s easy enough. I headed off to Twitter, and made a list. And every time someone mentioned using Patreon, I added them to the list.  Okay. So, there aren’t all that many, and they’re probably not a cross-section. It’s an on-again, off-again hobby. (If you know anyone else who should be on the list, or if you have a Patreon, yourself, send me Twitter handles.)

And now–thank you, hurricane–my teacher Holly Lisle is joining Patreon. Here’s a link, so you can get the scoop straight from her.

That’s another not-my-variables situation, but I’m hoping we’ll hear the inside story of how it’s working, and what she thinks. (You know, assuming she isn’t blown all the way to Canada by the next hurricane.)

As of right now, though… the conclusions I’ve reached are:

  1. It helps to have a ready-made fan base
  2. Having a means of reaching out to people who are not fans yet is imperative. (That would be the people at your show who just turned up for the buffalo wings. I’m not really sure where a writer pulls in spectators.)
  3. Most people are starting way too early, and probably wind up with one or two family members or close friends sending them a buck now and then.
  4. Rewards should be really well thought out, and consist of multi-disciplinary content.
  5. If you have a friend who can be talked into jumping, maybe watch them hit the ground before you leave the window, ’cause you only get one chance at the grand opening.

 

So, any thoughts on Patreon or other pay-the-artist platforms? Tips?

And, again, if you know anybody who’s doing it, send me a message, or leave a comment, and I’ll add them to my List of Glorious Fame.

Art And The Engineering Student

So, once upon a time, I had a boyfriend.

(Shut up.)

And somehow… (you’ve gotta supervise those devils every moment) …he wound up finding my art portfolios. I had two of those at the time, enormous, Weimaraner sized manila envelopes that held vast sheets of newsprint on which I’d drawn various and sundry highly educational subjects.

One of them was labeled “Clean.”

And the other was labeled “Dirty.”

As in…

Boyfriend dove head first into an assortment of charcoal drawings of landscapes and vases.

(Did I mention they have to be supervised constantly?)

These were charcoal drawings… I know I said that, but what I mean is, they were intended to make the student (in this case, me) look at both light and shadow with intent and purpose. You start out with a blank sheet of paper. Then, you cover every last inch in charcoal to make the whole thing a smooth middle gray. (Read “mess.”) And after that, if you want something to be white, you have to use your eraser. If you want things to be black, you have to use your charcoal. You can’t ignore light, shadow, or line.

And no matter how much fixative you spray on them, the charcoal comes off. On your hands… your clothes… your carpet.

In the sense of… for one semester, I had “art clothes.” The charcoal never really came out of them, although, after a while, they did get back to where you could sorta tell what color they used to be.

Well, you know we weren’t going out that night.

Well, he wasn’t, anyway. No place nice was going to let him in looking like that. (We do not open our girlfriend’s “dirty” portfolio while wearing a white shirt.)

The look of horror was still fresh on his face when I came up behind him and said, “So what do you think?”

Dreams Without a Sell-By Date

I was talking to a coworker… or maybe this is a theme, and it’s just suddenly becoming obvious… But, it was one of those “At my age” conversations. So, here she is, in a job that she hates, coming off the last job that she hated, and which finally just hit the boiling point. Just couldn’t stand it, anymore, so here she is… And she was basically saying… what else can I do, at my age? (Her age is older than I am, but probably still about an eternity from retirement.)

The thing is, she had ideas. None of them are really things she’s passionate about, and most of them are things that you probably should be passionate about, if you’re going to make them your life’s goal. But they sound better than here, and why not?

Oh, yeah. That’ right. At my age… There are geographic factors, too. Kids, grandkids. Family in the dying little town we live in. We’re all good at finding reasons not to jump. Not to face the unknown.

The truth is, I don’t believe either one of us should count on our current job being here for long. Definitely not until I retire. Probably not even until she retires. And it’s really not that great a job to begin with. More of a devil you know situation.

Not everybody gets be an astronaut when they grow up.

And most kids… we pump them full of the kind of dreams that do have sell-by dates. How many years do you have to become a baseball player? I mean… you might spend your eighties tossing a ball around with the Senior Sluggers, but you’re never going to play for the New York Yankees. No, not even way out in left field. How long before you lose your chance to be a rock star? Do you even want to be President of the United States after you’re old enough to buy a beer?

Writing is different.

You can actually do that, regardless of age or geography for as long as you’re interested in doing it.

You can be better at eighty five than you were at twenty five.

There’s a lot of value in the idea that I can still make it, even at my age. Even at her age.

And I can make it doing something I’ve always loved.

I’m still working toward that goal.

In school, I got a lot of That’s Nice, dear… Have you considered this assessment-indicated career in forestry and wildlife management? Certainly more than anyone suggesting that writing could be a career path in itself.

 

And we made it. Happy New Year, Everybody.

Time to get back to work.

Onward, toward those goals.

I did some math, and came up with a number. Figured out what happens to the page views on this blog, if I carry last year’s growth rate through 2017. I’m too far away from that number, right now to consider it a realistic goal.

Then, again… a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed how much I’ve done since then.

I’ll keep my number to myself, but I’ll write it down, and maybe, if I remember, I’ll compare at the end of the year.

I’m heading back to my revision, and to the first of my stories for the 52 Week Writing Challenge.

You go back to your art, and your goals.

We’ll put in the work. We’ll put in more work. We’ll make the world a better place, not just for other people, but for ourselves, too.

It’ll be a good year.

New Year’s Resolution #3: Get Involved

Resolution #3 is to take the time and energy to be actively involved with my creative communities. I’m a little hit-and-miss on that one. It’s hard to find my local creative community, and being quite honest, a little harder to find common ground with them. Well, I’m taking the effort. Will track them down. Will take brownies and chips. We’ll see what happens.

I’m a little better with online communities, at least in part because I can cherry pick the parts I like. No one on the internet has ever asked me to help them move, for instance. And finding people who are working on the same challenges I am is sooo much easier.

So, I’m working with some groups to get to where I want to be.

I’m taking on the 52 Week Writing Challenge (Found it on Medium.)in 2017. The challenge is to write one something every week for a year. There’s no specific something it has to be, but something. A poem or a book chapter every week. I’ve already talked about my desire to write and publish more short stories, so **surprise** I’m going to commit to writing one short story every week in 2017.

Fifty-two short stories. That means four for the A-to-Z Challenge in April, and four for the StoryTime Blog Hop. Probably one or two for my blog during the Holidays. That leaves forty-two that I can submit to magazines or contests. Which, all said and done, would probably do wonders for my career.

I’m going to hold off on committing to NaNoWriMo until closer to the date. I might be ready for a new project on November 1st and I might not.

As always, I’ll be jabbering away at the Holly’s Writing Classes Forums… Which are really one of the most supportive and stable writers’ forums I’ve come across. And keeping up with this blog (which may or may not be less solipsistic in the future. Prob’ly not.)

And I will be jumping back into my revision with both feet in the new year. Hoping to start annoying agents–and eventually, the unsuspecting public–with my work as soon as possible.

So, what challenges are you taking on for 2017? What are the best communities to push you forward? What’s made you a better writer?

New Years Resolution #1: Ask More Questions

I wasn’t going to do a New Year’s Resolutions post this year, and now I am. In fact, I’m going to do a series of them over the next few days. I don’t really know why the change of heart. Maybe it was writing my last post, and thinking about how people make money from art.

Maybe, it’s just the realization that at their heart, New Year’s Resolutions are about making your life better. What can I do differently? What would make me happier, stronger, wealthier? What can I do to make myself happier next year than I was, this year?

So, I’m working on a list of open-ended resolutions. Not things like “lose twenty pounds” or “take up atlatl hunting.” But soft resolutions. Friendly resolutions, where there really isn’t a succeed or fail. Just things to keep in mind over the next year.

So, New Year’s Resolution #1 is:

Ask More Questions.

I’m not the most outgoing person in the world, and if I’m not in a venue that actively supports asking questions like school, or a brain-storming meeting, most often, I won’t. It’s not that questions don’t pop into my mind. They do. All the time.

But I still don’t ask them.

I don’t know why.

Information should be one of the easiest things to ask for. It’s something everybody has, and even if they give it away, they still have it. It’s not like asking for a quarter or a new bicycle.

  • How long have you been doing this?
  • What do you do differently now than when you first started?
  • Who helped you the most?
  • What’s hurt you? Professionally, I mean.
  • Where and how do you make your money? Craft fairs? The internet? Day Job?
  • How did you think of that?
  • What else do you do?
  • What are you going to do next?
  • And the big one, the one nobody asks a whole lot, if they’re a grown-up. Why? Why? Why?

For 2017, I’m giving myself permission to ask the questions that pop into my head, even if they’re the wrong questions, even if all I’m really asking is “Point me in the right direction?”

I will ask.

And I’m accepting the responsibility of answering questions, too. The ones people ask, and the ones they don’t ask… and the ones they don’t know how to ask.

So, what about you? What are the best questions you’ve heard, and the toughest questions to get people to answer?

The Business End of Art

They’re selling the local art gallery that fought so bravely. It clung to life for as long as it could, but today, the only words on the sign are “For Sale.” The various sculptures that once filled the yard are gone, and there’s no doubt the sign means the building, itself.

We’re not quite big enough–not quite enough traffic, either–to support an art gallery. I suppose you knew that, if you paid enough attention to know that the sculptures on display in the yard were always the same sculptures.

I don’t know how the gallery’s finances worked, exactly. If I had to guess, I’d say something along the lines of a co-op. A group of artists getting together to fund the space, and sell their work together. Now, I’ll have to give it a decent mourning period before I ask.

The closest I ever got to going there was that time I called to see if they knew of a writers’ group in town. I feel just a little guilty about that. Some tremor on the “supporting creative communities” thread.  I honestly don’t even know if they would have taken my help. Maybe. Maybe not.

More and more, I’ve started looking at the business end of things. If you’re going to make a living making art… how do you do that?

I remember being told that what you should do, if you wanted to make money from art, was to make lamps and clocks. Because, look around you. How many people do you know who own paintings? Sculptures? Okay. Now, how many people own lamps?

Of course, that sounded cynical when I was just out of high school. In the first place, I do know a disproportionate number of people who own paintings. And in the second place…Lamps? Really?

And about a week ago, I went out to eat and noticed the paintings were for sale. I asked how much they were renting the wall space for, and after I finally made them understand the question (as opposed to how much the paintings cost) it turns out that they aren’t charging anything for the wall space. I didn’t push further, because I think I’d hit the end of the knowledge train, but if someone with a little more authority had been there, I’d also have asked how they chose which paintings to hang, and so forth. (The waitress informs me that her boss should pay me, because the place is falling apart.)

There’s a range. From the gallery sells my stuff on commission, to I rent the space, to the restaurant gives me the space for free, (I will add, by the way that actually buying one of the paintings seemed like it would be a little bit of a mess, since no one actually had any information beyond the artist’s business card.) to “this is my mother’s business, and she gives me space for free. You are on your own.

Some of them are work space, in addition to sales space.

Quite a few of them also offer classes, and that sounds like a good way to supplement the venue’s income.

And then, there’s the reaching out to other kinds of creatives thing. Letting the writers use space, in exchange for money or copy writing. That kind of thing.

I suppose–as always–the moral of the story is to know your options, and make a well-considered choice.

Doodles and Scribbles

I said a while back that I wanted to pull more of the creative parts of my life together in this blog. Well, I guess now’s as good a time as any.

Today, I have some doodles. Nothing too serious, just a little sketching to pass the time and clear my mind.

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Mmmm… ink on spiral bound.

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Pencil on paper… Yeah. It’s a tree.

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Colored pencil on scrap manila folder.

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Is that the right way up? I don’t even remember, anymore.

Light Bulbs and Bicycles and Beavers… Oh, my!

So, that’s a community art project. They had it out on tables where everybody could add a bit of glass, as they went by.  I think. It was a lot less finished the last time I saw it. I’m actually impressed by how well it turned out, and by the fact that nobody swallowed anything.

(Look, I took a snapshot! ’cause, spare time.)

I like this better than the kind of community art project where individuals design a giant light bulb, a sculptural bicycle, or… in one lamentable circumstance… a beaver statue. Probably because there’s just one of it, and it doesn’t leave the town covered in “might as well” style art. (Because, really, when are eighty artists ever going to independently decide to decorate giant fiberglass beavers?)

We do community art projects all the time around here.

First, you talk the local businesses into “sponsoring” a piece. (Buy me a beaver, anyone? Anyone? Awww, come on!) Then, you auction the piece off. And sure enough, the same business that sponsored it in the first place usually winds up buying it again the second time around.

We’re running out of businesses.

And I’ve never understood what’s in it for the artists. I suspect it’s one of those Do it for the exposure things we all despise, although the details vary. Seems to me someone I knew did a rocking chair, once… and had to pay for the chair and the materials.

Something like this mosaic actually seems a lot more sensible. There’s community participation. And there’s an artist at the center of it. I’d love to see more of this. They do murals that way, too. One artist does the heavy lifting and skills part, and then everybody picks up a brush to fill in the colors.

What do you think? Would a community art project that’s a little less rigid than bicycles or light bulbs do well? Something where you give the artists dimensions and let them do what they want?

Or would that just make the whole thing incoherent and random?