Friday, August 24, 2012

Blogging about art

my original blog header

Today marks the 4 year anniversary of my blog.  And that's why I've decided to share some of my thoughts on art blogging. Now, normally I try to avoid blogging about blogging. I find it can be a terribly solipsistic exercise in extreme navel gazing when done too frequently.  But since I've never written a post about blogging before, perhaps you'll indulge me.

Artists should blog about their art. Not just because of the marketing and SEO benefits to their online web presence, but also because it helps an artist to think about his or her artistic process.

Bloggers are typically advised to illustrate their posts in some way.  We artists don't have to rely on stock photos. We can use pictures of our own work!  For us, original content is very easy to come by.

There are things that disappoint me about art blogging, though.  Right now I feel like it's not as effective a tool as it once was back in 2008.  I'm not getting as many art sales or event attendees from this blog, or my website, or Twitter, or Facebook, as I would like.  I barely get comments on this blog anymore that aren't from annoying spammers.   In case you're wondering, I have it set up now so that anonymous comments are allowed, and all I have to do is decide whether to approve them.  You never see the spammy comments because I delete them myself.  I realize that I could deter spammers with CAPTCHA, but was concerned that it might deter legitimate commenters as well.
Perhaps there is just something in the nature of art blogging that causes people not to comment.  Perhaps visitors to online art galleries approach them with the same hushed reverence they do in the physical world.  Maybe art blogs attract lurkers.  I'd like to believe that some of the people who read my blog--if they are real people and not just worthless spam-bots--are sensitive, introspective souls too shy to leave a comment on a blog post that can be read by the public.  And I have had some readers tell me in person that they enjoyed reading my blog, though they never left a comment online.  Not getting comments can be very discouraging, but when I feel discouraged, I think of what Brian Sherwin wrote about art blogging:

Remember that a lack of art blog comments does not say anything about who you are -- it does not mean that your art is 'bad'. Point blank -- don't make your art blog into a self-imposed popularity contest based on numbers. Don't beat yourself up. Remember that blog comments -- be they few or plentiful -- have little to do with the value of your blog content OR the value of your art. Remember that lurkers -- such as myself -- are always just around the corner.

I think a lot of other creatives are also beginning to realize that being active in social media is not a substitute for getting out there and meeting people in person.  I am starting to see it more as a supplement.  Perhaps social media is like a multivitamin while face-to-face networking is like a fresh fruit smoothie and a salad.  Just as you cannot live on vitamins alone, you cannot rely on social media alone, especially now.  There are too many cat videos to compete with.

My blog is one of the first things people see when they search for me by name online.  It gives people a sense of context, of where my art is coming from.  Art blogging helps me to document my process in words and pictures.  I know exactly when my paintings were made and what inspired them because of this blog.  It proved a very useful source of information when I wrote my thesis paper for grad school, and later, my book.

So in closing, I think there is still something to be gained from being an artist blogger, though its benefits have diminished since the Web has become so much more crowded with attention seekers hoping to become the next big thing.  There are other formats out there, but what I like about blogging is that it allows me to express myself using both my images and my words, and doesn't limit me to 140 characters to do so.

If you're an artist interested in blogging, here are some links to get you started:

7 Popular blogging styles for artists to choose from from The Empty Easel

Artful Blogging from Stampington

52 Blog Topics for Artists from Art Print Issues

27 Thoughts On Blogging For The Artist by Darren Rowse
Why artists & illustrators should blog from Pikaland

8 Big Benefits of Blogging for Your Art Career by Lisa Call
Is blogging for me? by Andrew Bryant

Friday, August 17, 2012

8 art supplies you can pick up at the drugstore

For those of us who are artists, art supply stores are magical places with all the raw materials that inspire us to create. Tubes and bottles of brilliant colors, mind boggling assortments of pens, colored pencils, and markers, papers thin enough for tracing or heavy enough to absorb watercolors, brushes of every description, adhesives for every surface imaginable, spools of armature wire just waiting to be shaped into something, books and magazines that instruct us in our technique... Yes, art supply stores are a wonderland, until we get to the register to pay. And then, if you're like me, you wish all those lovely supplies weren't so expensive, even after getting a student discount and using a coupon.

As it turns out, there are a few things you can save money on by avoiding the art supply store altogether. There are several items for your studio that you could actually pick up from the drugstore.  Also, if you happen to be making art in a location that is far from an art supply or hardware store, the local drugstore--an establishment that is often open 24 hours--could come to the rescue.

eye droppers - Eye Care Aisle

Sometimes you just want to add a few drops of water or Turpenoid to thin the paint on your palette. And eyedroppers are the perfect tool when you want precision and control. The nice thing about the ones from the drugstore is that they are made of durable rubber and glass, and can be taken apart and cleaned.

spray bottles - Hair Care Aisle

An indispensable tool for ceramicists and painters alike, a plastic spray bottle can be used to apply a fine mist of water to clay that is drying out too quickly, or to water-based paintings for paint that is drying out too quickly.

makeup sponges - Cosmetics Section

More than just a beauty supply, latex (or latex free) makeup sponges can be use to smoothly apply paint to small areas of a painting. I use them to create highlights, and they fit very well into crevices.

makeup brushes - Cosmetics Section

This essential tool for powdering a pretty face can also work very well to create pretty pastel and charcoal drawings. For a fraction of the cost of the ones sold at art supply stores, the synthetic bristle brushes still do a great job of softening, smoothing, and blending.

rubber gloves - First Aid or Home Health Care Aisles

Many of the chemicals found in the paints so often found in our ArtBins contain harmful chemicals like cadmium, chromium, and lead. It is imperative to protect yourself from exposure, and one way to do this is to wear gloves. And even if you prefer using non-toxic materials, it's still worth not having to clean the dried glue and paint off your hands. Unlike household cleaning gloves, these fit tightly and allow for more dexterous use of your hands. The drugstore is a great place to purchase disposable latex gloves in bulk.

nail polish remover - Manicure aisle

Are you guilty of paintbrush neglect? I am. Fortunately for delinquent painters there is a last-ditch solution for acrylic paint-hardened brushes that is less toxic than what you'd get at the hardware store: nail polish remover. Since you're not getting it for your manicure or pedicure, you can skip the kind that's fortified with vitamins or scented with a nice fragrance and get the pure acetone version. If you're not too particular about your brushes (and if you were neglectful enough to let them get encrusted in paint, I'd say you're not) you can soak them in nail polish remover for a while until the paint dissolves.  It's also useful for getting paint off of metal studio furniture. Just be careful because it's flammable.

rubbing alcohol - First aid aisle

You can create some fascinating effects when you use rubbing alcohol with acrylic paints, and you can also use it to remove dried acrylic paint from brushes or clothing. As with the nail polish remover, be careful because it's flammable.

hair dryer - hair care aisle

If you're working with water-based paints or glues and want to speed up the drying process, why not give a hair dryer a try? I keep my old one at my studio for just this purpose.  You may want to do a test run first to make sure that the paint and or paper will not have an adverse reaction to the heat.

Do you rely upon any drugstore art supplies that aren't listed here? Please share in your comments.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

An excerpt from my new book, Post-Consumerism

Post-Consumerism by Tiffany Gholar

Though you can see the pictures in my book very clearly in the online preview, it isn't easy to read the text. So with that in mind, I'd like to share an excerpt with you.  

Trial and Error

My course of study at Governors State began rather inauspiciously. In a frenzy to make up for lost time, I tried to do too many things at once. I took on a new full-time job that was far from home; I was taking two graduate courses at a university that was also far from home; and I was trying to find a way to buy my first home. All my time was consumed with studying, learning the new product lines I was selling at my new job, learning African art history, and learning about all the things that were wrong with the foreclosed fixer-uppers I was considering. Too little of my time was devoted to what I needed to figure out as soon as possible—my preferred painting style.

I needed to develop a body of work, and it needed to be cohesive enough to come together as a graduate show. I needed to choose a unifying theme. The theme of displacement was the one that appealed the most to my sensibilities as a frustrated yet hopeful first-time home buyer. Chicago was nearing the end of an era in which it seemed like every possible vacant structure—be it a factory, hospital, school, or warehouse—was being converted into condominiums that I could not afford. I found the prospect of it quite distressing.

Perhaps I have always had a keen sensitivity to exclusion. I grew up academically cloistered, spending my school days with other gifted students from kindergarten through high school, and I never felt like I belonged anywhere once school was out. Sometimes, even amongst my peers I felt out of place because I was more interested in art and creative writing than math, science, and computers—the three subjects that seemed, to some of my teachers and the world at large, to be the most important interests that a gifted student should have. I attended a church whose strict teachings warned parishioners to shun “worldly” things. We were admonished to be “in the world but not of it.” My experiences often made me wonder whether I was meant to fit in anywhere.

I felt as though I also was being locked out of my chosen profession of interior design, that my very career was being displaced. In the year that had passed since graduation, I had not acquired a year of work experience with a licensed interior designer, and as a result, I was not on track to being able to call myself an interior designer. Instead, I was working parallel to my chosen field, admiring it from a wistful and seemingly ever-growing distance. I knew I could be a great designer, but nobody would give me a chance. My quest to become an interior designer had started to seem like yet another reason for me to feel like an outsider looking in.

I felt alienated from the job market in general. Even with two college degrees, I felt like no human resources person outside of a department store would let me get my foot in the door because I lacked experience. So many entry-level jobs were being outsourced overseas or eliminated completely, and it seemed my options for employment were dwindling every day. And so, I felt an empathy and a kinship for those with no place to go, because that was how I felt as well.

Yet, I had a hard time translating this sense of displacement into a visual language. I ambitiously had begun a 30” x 40” oil painting of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but the temptation to go back to painting in the abstract style which I developed in my undergraduate painting class was always there. Often, I succumbed to that temptation and put the Hurricane Katrina painting aside to work on pieces that picked up where Katrina left off. An abstract, monochromatic canvas seemed a welcome respite from the chaos unfolding amongst my Turpenoid-spattered evacuees. Working in an abstract style felt right to me, yet I lacked confidence in my artistic instincts.

Heckuva Job | 30"x40" | oil on canvas | 2007

Untitled (Green) | 30"x40" | oil on canvas | 2007

Pulled in different directions, torn between keeping the commitment to work in the style I had proposed to work in and following my inclination to work with corrugated cardboard and other found objects, I created an assortment of paintings that seemed at odds with each other. Each had the kernel of an idea, but none of them explored the idea in depth. My energy was too scattered between work and school, and my lack of focus was reflected in my art.

During the final week of the summer term, after a harrowing final exam in my art history class and an anguishing final critique in my painting class, I was dealt a final coup de grace when my new job fired me after less than two months for “not making connections with the customers.” When I got home and checked my voicemail I discovered that I was getting an incomplete in my painting class. I may not have had a second chance to be a design consultant, but at least I would have a second chance to prove myself as an artist. I went back to selling carpet, which is the job I had held before the one that fired me. After having a taste of working as a designer, having to go back to selling carpet felt like a demotion. I had fallen back into the rut I so desperately had tried to escape. What had been the point of design school? Had it all been a waste of time?

The one good thing about my carpet sales job was that it was much less demanding of my time and energy. Sales were slow and downtime was plentiful, so when I had finished my reading for school, I used the extra time to read books on subjects that interested me, and to write about my frustration with working in retail.

It is a totalitarian regime, complete with uniforms: all black. Far from chic or modern or cutting edge, it just looks drab, makes the men look like androids, the women appear matronly. It is not a seductive black, or a mysterious black—not even a powerful black. It is an unimaginative, uninspiring, dehumanizing black. There is no music. There is no natural light. The bulbs in the track lights are dim. There are clocks, but they all display the wrong times. Nobody wants to be here.

For six years, my resentment towards working in retail had been building, but my most recent experiences had deepened my awareness of my displeasure with the work I was doing. My job was my largest time commitment, and I felt as though I could not be myself when I was there. My interactions were scripted. I constantly was being compared to other salespeople. I felt as though we were all being judged on our ability to sell people things that they did not need. Being surrounded by beautiful things I could not afford was utterly tormenting.

I felt powerless in my dealings with abusive customers. They were always right, so how could I ever stand up for myself? Anyone, it seemed, could just come in from off the street or call my department on the phone and start giving me orders, and I would have to take them; if they did not like what I had done, they even could report me to the management and try to get me fired.

In this retail environment, I was disposable and replaceable, not unlike the cardboard boxes that the merchandise was shipped in, or the plastic bags that the customers carried out of the store. It was a brutal existence, yet all these things were made necessary by consumerism.

Ironically, it seemed as though my own desire to create was sublimated into a desire to consume. I still was obsessed with buying a home, and still working full time so that I could do it. Though I then had plenty of time to read, I still had not set aside time to work in the studio so that I could finish my incomplete paintings.

I found a new source of inspiration when the fall trimester began—a creativity class that used The Artist’s Way as one of its texts. I became more aware of the negative thinking that was holding me back, and also became more open to new ideas as I took time to seek them out. The art and design magazines and books I read, art shows and film festivals I attended, and other artists I interacted with awakened my creative yearnings. More attuned to my true desires, I began to realize what kind of art I wanted to create. At the same time, I also began to see that my overloaded schedule—working full time at a job I despised, taking an interior design course in addition to my graduate work—was preventing me from working in the studio frequently enough to make any progress. It was my job that had made me become, in the words of Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi in Finding Flow (a book I was reading for my creativity class), “materially comfortable but emotionally miserable.” I came across a thought-provoking question that Daniel Pink had posed in another book I was reading, A Whole New Mind:

“If you knew you had at most ten years to live, would you stick with your current job?”

My answer was, “Absolutely not!”

I began to suspect that I had been working too much in order to avoid making art. My longing for time to make art became greater than my desire to become a homeowner. For the first time, I allowed my art to become a priority in my life. So, when I found an opportunity to work part time at a nonprofit, I quit my job selling carpet.

I still had a few more weeks left before the trimester was over, and I used my newly-earned free time to work on my art. I finally was able to immerse myself in my art because I had been freed from my fear of being an artist. It was then that the real work on the Post-Consumerism series began with the creation of Smother.

It is unusual for me to think of both a title and a concept simultaneously. So often, one precedes the other, but in the case of Smother, the title came to me because I was feeling emotionally smothered. Giving the piece that title was a way for me to push back against the negative influences that threatened to overpower me in my personal life and in my job. I saw it as a form of resistance.

The concept, a field of white plastic shopping bags splayed open and arrayed on a canvas and wood support, was inspired by both the dire warnings of accidental suffocation printed on the sides of the bags and the disastrous impact of plastic bag waste on the environment. The irregular shapes of the bags and their translucency give them a cloud-like quality. The piece is imbued with a sense of the ethereal.

The use of a common disposable object in a work of art, to me, is a symbol of transcendence. It was indicative of the transformations taking place in my own life as I became more aware of my negative thoughts and emotions, and found new ways to grow beyond the pain they had caused me for so long.

Once Smother was complete, I finally realized the direction in which I wanted my art to go. Better yet, I no longer had an incomplete in my first studio class of grad school.

Smother | 40" x 30" | plastic bags on canvas | 2007

Want to find out what happened next? Buy my book!  It's available in softcover, hardcover, and as an e-book for the iPad.  Save 25% when you enter the coupon code JUMP at checkout.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

30 Art Books from Blurb under $50

I am so excited to have published my first book with Blurb. Overall I'm pleased with their service and the quality of their printing.

As an artist, I know how difficult it can be to promote yourself online. There are thousands of books that artists and galleries have self-published using Blurb, making browsing their immense selection a daunting task.  I know firsthand, having spent hours diving deeper and deeper into the archives to seek ideas for my own book.  It was so inspiring to see how many talented artists have taken the time to share their work with the world in book form. 

The only drawback of shopping for art books on Blurb are the prices.  Their print on demand service allows users to set their own prices, and some of the prices are cringe-worthy. I want to make a profit too, but selling an 8.5" x 11" book for $100 or more is not the way to do it.  Fortunately, not all the art books on the site are so grossly overpriced.  I've found many lovely books on the site for less than $50.

I'm pleased to share what I discovered. The books I've highlighted below have the total package: beautiful covers, nice layouts, and quality artwork.  I have yet to order any for myself, so I can't vouch for what they look like in person. But if their online previews are a good indication, they would make a lovely addition to an art book collection.  Some aren't even in English, but the pictures are so gorgeous they speak for themselves.

1. Icons: Giorgio By Giorgio Uccellini

2. Circular Keys By Asher Bilu

3. Roux: An Exhibition Of Traditional And Non-Traditional Printmaking By Houston Museum Of African American Culture :: Book Design: Ann 'Sole Sister' Johnson For Solefolio

4. Nature's Palette By Mark Anderson

5. Journey, Paintings By Nicola Parente by By Gremillion & Co. Fine Art, Inc.  

6. Heavenly Bodies Paper Cutout Works: The Exploration To The "Planet Platonic" By Mayuko Fujino

7. Eric K. Wallis, Artist: A Catalog Of Recent Work By Eric K. Wallis

8. Scapes: Paintings By Lynne Hollingsworth By Lynne Hollingsworth

9. Berkeland: Original Oil Paintings 1997 - 2008 By Dan Berkeland

10. Con Mexico En La Piel: Portafolio 2008 By Angel Gonzalez De La Tijera

11. Lassen By Mark Harris

12. Let's Meet For Coffee: Journal Sketches By Jerome Domurat 

13. Unpasteurized By Boise State Graphic Design Class

14. blur b By David S Rose

15. Deep Calls To Deep: Exploring Beyond Through Mixed Media Image By Sharon W Huget 

16. Eric Hesse: Recent Work by Eric Hesse

17. I Can't Believe I'm Telling You This: The Myspace Portrait Project By Jeff Hurlow 

18. Brettisagirl By Brett Manning

19. The Dancing Houses: The Architecture Of Trinidad & Tobago Infused With Rhythm By Brian Wong Won

20. Introduction: Hsin-Yao Tseng By Hsin-Yao Tseng

21. Stories That Cover Us: Meditations And Fiber Art By Pacific Northwest African American Quilters By Lynne K. Varner-Hollie And Deborah Boone; Edited By Gwen Maxwell-Williams

22. Pop By Artist Olan Montgomery

23. Nathan Pendlebury Paintings By Nathan Pendlebury (Foreword By Richard Smith)

24. Fran Recacha 2003 - 2009 By Fran Recacha

25. Gods And Foolish Grandeur: A Selection Of Paintings By Stephen O'donnell

26. What I Do At Work When I'm Supposed To Be Working By David Fullarton 

27. Solas By Jemma K Derbyshire

28. Paintings 2007-2010 By Pamela Staker

29. My Alphabet Of Anxieties & Desires By Jennifer Linton

30. The Walled Garden By Dianne Fogwell

Support these artists and galleries by purchasing a book from them.  Use the code CSVIP to get 10% off your order.
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