Gingko Leaf Gallery

5 REALITIES about Being an Artist

Artists know there are probably a hundred more realities than what I will list here, but I will start with the first 5 that pop into my easily distracted, constantly coming-up-with-ideas mind. As well as being a small gallery owner who deals almost daily with 35 or more artists, I am also an artist myself. It carries a double “burden”, but also gives me insight into what an artist thinks. Believe me when I say, we’re all a little crazy, a little delusional, or a little full of ourselves. Speaking from experience? But of course! So, for the purpose of this blog I won’t say “artists” because that smacks of finger pointing. Instead, I’ll simply say “we” and include myself in the category of artist.

  1. We think we’re something special. Yes, the rest of the world doesn’t “get” us and though frustrating at times, mostly we like that designation and use it to excuse our quirky and sometimes questionable behavior. A recently made friend has bestowed me with the title “the Crazy Art Lady” which is kind of fun and dismissive of my way of seeing things. I like it, and I believe most artists love being able to say, “Oh, and I’m an artist” as an addendum to the career status. Being an artist almost immediately puts you in a “cool” category.
  2. Artists make a lot of money. Hmmmmph! I say. They didn’t come up with the term “starving artists” for no good reason. I haven’t seen too many of us starving because it is true most have a day job and art is what we do the rest of the time. Yes, there are some who have made a career of producing and selling art, but it’s more the exception rather than the rule. In fact, we occasionally undersell art in order to buy more art supplies. We recycle canvases, scavenge interesting items, and barter for much needed supplies. Resourceful people we are at creating something out of almost nothing. We create because we are creators. Sadly, we’re not bankers, though.
  3. Artists have plenty of venues in which to display their work. Not so, not so! We have our homes, our families/friends homes, a studio….maybe a gallery, maybe a doctor, lawyer, bank, hotel, etc in which we may exhibit work, but mostly we have eyes pealed and ears perked for the slightest mention of a place to show. Creativity comes into play here, too, as we offer a few pieces of art to a local restaurant or bar, a friendly coffee shop or contemporary office lobby for free. Sometimes those places will result in a sale, but more often it doesn’t because the casual onlooker assumes the property owner has bought art to decorate, not exhibited on a loan agreement. The exposure is the main benefit, but if you the reader have a place where art is welcome, please let your artist friends know. They will thank you.
  4. Artists create only original art. Hate to disappoint you, but there is “nothing new under the sun”. All artists look at other work and either recreate it with their own twist or develop a uniquely recognizable style that reinvents something from someone else. Even van Gogh studied Japanese art and meshed it into his work. One of my favorite books is “Steal Like an Artist” where he explains the difference. Copy work IS stealing, but looking at another artwork and being inspired to create your own interpretation or version is NOT a sin (or crime). I deal with this all the time in the gallery where an artist will create a new image that reminds someone of another artist’s work, and yet is completely different. If John Smith paints Elvis, and you paint Elvis, and then I paint Elvis, chances are, Elvis still looks like Elvis….but hey….it’s still new work. Okay, maybe not THE best example, but I think (hope) you get my point.
  5. Saying you are an artist doesn’t make you an artist. I really struggled for a few years to even say “I. AM. AN. ARTIST.” This is because my mother was an exceptional painter in the realism style, and taught art in our home studio to hundreds over a 40 year career. I compared my skill to hers and always came up short. However, it occurred to me one day that I am not like her, but I have my own artistic style, therefore I CAN say, “I am an artist”. I had a body of work, had a solo show, and began to sell before I could say the actual words. Unfortunately, I have dozens of “artists” visit the gallery with a cell phone photo of two or three shots of a beginners level painting and they want to put one piece in my gallery. It’s so sweet, but I do have to be gentle and encourage them to keep working and bring me more examples in a year.  I’m not saying they are NOT an artist, I’m just saying keep at it and return. Who knows where the work will progress to in that time? All I know is, when you tell someone your mother or aunt or cousin is an artist, brace yourself because it’s all relative. Build a body of work and let someone who is an artist see. Don’t depend on the non-professional to back you up. Just do what you love and enjoy it along the way.

So, there you have it. Five reality checks that I “think” most artists will at least partially agree with knowing that there are always exceptions. We are all hopeful to sell art, but mostly we are all hopeful to CREATE art. It is what sustains us through the ups and downs that life brings. It seems to keep us sane….or at least most of us.

 

Claudia Lowery

April 9, 2017

ENCOURAGEMENT

Encouraging another does not come naturally for some people. In fact, there are some who seem to have either a jealous streak or negative comment toward any endeavor an artist attempts. This is true not just in the visual arts, but in all creative arts. People either “get” what you’re attempting to do or they don’t. Those who do not seem to relish squashing ideas, ruling out any possibility of success, or question your motives. Oh my….can’t they just let us be?

Creatives are sensitive, but it’s imperative that we turn a deaf ear to the naysayers. Because of our unique sensitivities there could even be a tendency to be a chameleon artist who buys into all the doubt quickly shifting a productive mood to one of wallowing self-doubt. Do NOT fall for that!

I am truly one of those who have difficulty shaking off negativity delivered to me by others. Especially when it’s from someone close to me. Over time I’ve tried to use it as a catalyst for productivity, even if it means I create something with a thread of anger running through it. Keeping my eye on the prize is my goal, though I’m not always pleased with the end result. The prize, for me, is completion of a project under the most dire of circumstances. I can stand back and evaluate the product, and hopefully it results in an intensely passionate piece of art that moves me as well as other viewers. It’s a hit or miss proposition, but regardless, I can know I overcame the unwanted commentary from outside sources.

Be an encourager to every creative you meet whether a beginner sculptor, an intermediate painter, fledgling songwriter, or experienced writer. Pull the lever that catapults them to reach higher and further than they believed they could. Help them to believe in their ability to create, and keep your negativity to yourself. They have enough stacked against them to overcome without your comments. Constructive criticism is helpful, not destructive. You know the old saying, “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.”

Claudia Lowery

March 6, 2017

TEMPUS FUGIT

Tempus Fugit is Latin for time flies and as I return to post a new blog it’s a bit disconcerting to see it’s almost been a year since I last blogged. I could say tempus fugit while I’m having fun, but unfortunately that’s only partly true. Summer 2016 was slow as molasses with flies hovering overhead. I had several things to distract me and fill my head with creative inspiration, but as July progressed I lost a dear friend, only 53 years old. Then September was a low point. My brother died, I had knee surgery, another 52 year old friend died and the month ended with a young man taking his own life. I questioned a lot of things, clinging to the comfort of love, and somehow, slowly I got through it.

All these months later I look back at the strength of human spirit to endure tragedy, entanglements, doubts, relationship difficulties, and wildly unexplainable creative outbursts that produced some of my best artwork. The fiery furnace of life provides fuel for creativity. Is it worth the trials to see the end result? I think it is food for thought, but I really don’t know the answer. What is sure is that time will indeed pass and if we take the opportunity to create, whether it be a painting, sculpture, song, poem, or story there is value in the healing quality of making something from nothing. Time will surely pass even if we do not “make”, but what a wonder it is to look back and see that thing produced as a result of those lean and struggling hours. Maybe it was the very thing that carried us through to today.

So look back at the calendar pages and ask yourself this….did I create during the darkest days and brightest nights? Either with or without it time will, indeed, fly so why not go ahead and continue on the path most loved? Creatives cannot live in a vacuum void of product. And do not judge the value of the creation for everything has worth, if only for your own satisfaction. You survived that period of time. That’s all that matters.

Claudia Lowery

WHAT WAS I THINKING?

“Art galleries are dying”, “I thought you were retired”, and “Did you make all this art?” were only a few of the things I’ve heard since opening a 2500 square foot gallery in a town with approximately the same population proportionately speaking (25,000). I’m not a math wizard, but I think it might mean there are 1,000 people for every 1 sq. ft. of art gallery. Mercy! I hope that isn’t true.

Regardless, I am turning a proverbial deaf ear to all the warnings, naysayers, negativity, and weird comments to attempt the seemingly impossible task of presenting art for sale to a world that probably doesn’t care too much. My purpose is more esoteric to those in my local art community and for all the rest of the passerby population it poses a puzzling comment here and there. How do I explain myself…and SHOULD I explain myself? Probably not, but that’s not how I roll.

I don’t pretend to be an art expert, but I am an art lover. I don’t have credentials to place me into the company of recognized dealers, but I do have a lovely collection of art in my home. I’m not rich in cash flow, but I’m wealthy in artistic friends in all the arts; visual, written word, dramatic arts, and music. I may not have a head for business, but I do have a heart for art. This is what motivates me.

I’m fairly comfortable in social media, can build a basic website, and handle a Canon well enough to compose, edit, and upload photos. A flair for creating displays helps, too. On top of all that, I was a writer before becoming a visual artist. It sounds like I’m giving you my resume, but it’s more to relate my journey. Through convincing self-talk  I had at least rudimentary skills to nudge me in the direction of laying out my small savings to open the doors of a beautiful, eclectic gallery featuring artists mostly living in East Texas.

My dream has existed about 10 years, but it was MY dream, not my husband’s, and that took a fair amount of maneuvering to create a sense of “I know what I’m doing” and guiding him to catch the vision. Fourteen 8 foot boards, 42 bolts, and 462 pilot holes and cup hooks later he’s shown me that he’s on board after installing a creative art hanging system that will save me a world of agony in the long run. He is my hero! But then…..the “other” shoe dropped.

Recently he announced his frustration that he just realized the gallery wouldn’t make money. Well, I DID warn him of that truth. I didn’t go into this blindly and so even though I prepped him, the fact just now sunk in. That caused me to stand back and re-evaluate exactly why I did do this. Part of his fears are based on the following pattern from 40 years of marriage:

Jobs I’ve held since first meeting in 1974…

  1. coin collector for SW Bell (1 yr)
  2. cashier at air force base store (3 mo)
  3. Fox Photo kiosk clerk (2 mo)
  4. jewelry assembler in the mall (2 mo)
  5. page collator (by hand) for church directories (2 weeks)
  6. Mary Kay Cosmetics sales (1 yr)
  7. Cake decorating business (1 yr)
  8. commentary writer for DFW Suburban newspaper (3 years)
  9. substitute teacher (3 yr)
  10. college student (2 yr, finishing up what I’d not finished from a decade before)
  11. full-time teacher (20 years)
  12. owner of Claudia’s Collectibles at Greenwood Flea Market (1 yr)
  13. owner of Claudia’s Collectibles in Marshall (1 yr)
  14. church secretary (6 yr)
  15. writer for Piney Woods Live entertainment magazine (2 yr)
  16. Administrative Assistant for Marshall Regional Arts Council (14 months)
  17. artist
  18. owner Gingko Leaf Gallery
  19. Not to be forgotten, I raised two kids during all the above.

I’m pretty sure I’ve missed something (I’m serious), but that list lets you know why Rick is suspicious of my endeavors. Honestly, I just see myself as a person who is multi-faceted and loves doing things that involve teaching, creating, and/or selling. “Oh great, another Claudia Adventure,” is probably what he’s thinking. As we say in the South….bless his heart.

I’m in this for the long haul, and here’s why. I not only love art, but I love artists, their quirky ideas, brainstorming, arrogance, creativity, audacity, brokenness, They push me and each other to higher achievement. Sometimes they destroy each other, and then they turn around and help each other. It’s a yin and yang community.

What was I thinking? I guess I was thinking about how artists don’t have enough places to show their souls because for all their fatal flaws and visions they are transparent when baring the soul in paint, clay, stone, leather, metal, fiber, and more. I love being surrounded by the collective soul. You could have that, too, were you to search out that creation that connects with your soul. Kindred spirits know. Come, and be known.

Claudia Lowery

Owner, Gingko Leaf Gallery