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?

Art For The Few… and me

Art for the Few is a hashtag I found on Twitter today. The tweeter was thinking of a painting. Of Frida Kahlo’s What the Water Gave Me, to be precise. The tweet described the heartbreak of realizing that the painting you’re thinking of is in a private collection. #ArtForTheFew

The thing about visual art–paintings, sculptures, etc.–is that there’s only ONE original.

Writing is a more democratic art form. I write something, and make copies, and then one person or one million people all get to read the very same words. There might be some collectibles–hand bound, first-edition-y, autographed things–but the art, itself, is the same, whether you’re wearing kid gloves and reading a first edition, or flipping through a garage-sale paperback.

I write, but I also paint. I also draw. I also–when time and money and space allow-sculpt.

I don’t claim to be great art. I’m well and truly on the starving-artist end of the spectrum. I sell art, when I can, to friends, and along side the Beanie Babies at garage sales. Sometimes, I give it away. Most of the time, actually. Something to say Thank you, or I love you, or let’s be friends. Big pieces, sometimes, but I also make Artist Trading Cards specifically for the purpose of sharing.

Right now, ALL of my art is in private collections.

By which, what I mean, is in albums under beds, and boxes in closets, and on walls I’ve leaned against, while talking to friends.

An ex-boyfriend has one of my favorite paintings. I did a drawing of a train (More realistic, than my usual) for my friend’s grandfather.

And, round about 1938, Frida Kahlo had the same kind of stories. She gave What the Water Gave Me to an ex-lover to pay off a debt.

On the flip-side, I own a private collection. My friends have to send their work somewhere. And you know those starving artists? Yeah. They sell stuff. Some of it’s pretty good. (And, I encourage you to start your own private collection.)

So, something about #ArtForTheFew that bothers me is the disconnect between my art, the way I lived it, and the endgame, at which point, my art is some monumental, public thing that cannot–or at least, should notbe owned by one person. Because, obviously, I gave a lot of art to one-person type people.

I don’t know where that point is. When does art transform from the artist’s to his friend’s to his community’s to belonging to the universe? When does it become sacrosanct? When do you lose the right to sell it, to buy it, to own it?

It bothers me because it emphasizes the cost of art, instead of the value. As if the fact that one man owns one painting means there’s nothing left for anyone else. As if a few select things are art, and everything else–no matter how much you love it–is a pathetic second-best.

I believe that art is out there. I believe that good art is out there.

I believe there’s enough to go around, even if a few well-known or popular pieces are in private collections.