Category Archives: opinion

Perseverance: Or How to Build Your Art Career

I was thinking the other day about how some artists become successful and others, equally talented, don’t seem to be able to attain any kind of success.

I think I was prompted to this thought by a casual remark my husband made while he was watching the Masters golfing tournament, I wish I could golf like that. My flippant reply was, Well, you have to get out there more.  Golfing a few times a year won’t cut it.

This harkens back to Malcom Gladwell’s theory that you need 10,000 hours invested to master anything.  Not quite true but close.  I would clarify that to be many hours of working diligently and with thoughtfulness.  If you practice incorrectly, you’ll only get good at doing something poorly.

But I asked a visiting artist, Alice Kidderman, a tiny woman who is a wonderful stone sculptor, what her secret was.  We hosted many artists over the years at the arts center and some were definitely more organized and easier to work with than others.  Alice was one of the best.  And most successful.

She told me that being a stone sculptor took a physical toll on her body with all that hammering away at pieces of rock.  She always spend one day a week, usually Wednesdays, on the business aspect of her career.  Updating inventory, posting and updating her website, applying to shows, taking care of the money and correspondence, etc.

This reconfirmed some things that other artists have written; about how they spend 50% of their time on the business of art and the rest of the time on creating.  That makes sense to me.  Otherwise, you can end up with a studio full of work and no place to go with it.

When I was Director of the arts center, I always made annual, monthly and weekly goals, keeping in mind the five year plan.  Everything was flexible but it gave me a road map.  Each Monday I would look at what I wanted to accomplish in each area (fundraising, grants, performing arts, special events, etc.) and started with the most difficult task first.  Sometimes this meant locking myself in my office and just sticking with the task at hand, without distractions. I have always been a goal setter and list maker and I still do this.  Now I apply my efforts to my own career – art creations, home / farm stuff, whatever.

One of my top goals this year was to redesign my website, a chore I was definitely not looking forward to.  I’ve had my own website since the 1990s and it has morphed several times.  And I’ve managed several other websites, too.  It always involves learning new platforms, tricks, maybe some coding.  What a headache!

After several months of researching what other artists are doing, many web hosting companies, and new platforms, I finally made my selection.  I made a list of what I wanted:  full screen but adaptable to notebooks and mobile, an e-commerce site, a site that looks good but is relatively easy to manage (ha ha), and more bells and whistles.

Then I spent some months moving domains around to new hosts (the former hosts really gave me a hard time about this).  I outlined what I wanted on the actual site, wrote out the descriptions, found or took the art photos, and then I dove in.

I made use of my library’s high speed internet and would come in early and spend ALL day in a little study room working.  Even the librarians were surprised when I left in the evening and commented on how long I had been here.  But, as I replied, sometimes the only way to get a job done is to sit your butt in a chair and do it.  So, whether it’s writing a grant application, doing your taxes, or creating something new, just dedicate a significant amount of time without distractions to the task at hand no matter how difficult it may seem at first. Break it down to small tasks or steps if you need to, but stick with it.   The feeling of accomplishment when you’re done is amazing.  And it encourages you with the possibility of the next big thing you can tackle.  And you will.

So, I invite you to check out my newly designed website at www.kgmiracle.com .  It shows my bigger paintings and will give you a lot more information about me as an artist.  There will certainly be additions and changes over the coming months but I always welcome feedback and suggestions.

Screenshot of new website, KGMiracle.com Check it out.

Thanks for stopping by.

Advertisements

Your Legacy

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.  (Kahlil Gibran)

I was in my studio yesterday, finishing up a large painting that I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks.  Then I started another one…and finished it.

My mind often wanders when I’m working as I’m zoning out in the painting process.  I’ve been spending the past month redesigning my website from the ground up.  I put up some work in the archives which one of my sons remarked he had never seen.  (Before you were born, sweetie.)  That led me to thinking about all the art I’ve created over thirty-five years plus.  A lot!

And then that led me to think about where it all is now.  I did my first art fair in the early 80s and have been selling my work ever since.  I’m embarrassed when I visit relatives and see all the paintings I’ve given them over the years.  It looks like a Kit Miracle art gallery.

Several years ago I received a call on my business land line phone…when I had a land line.  It was from a woman in Florida who had purchased one of my small paintings in a resale shop.  It had my information stamped on the back.  We chatted for a while.

That led me to thinking about where all my paintings are now.  I’ve traveled a lot.  Shipped a lot.  And now, with online marketing, have sold work all over the place.  It’s a little bit of me scattered all over the world.  That’s my legacy.

I’ve never been a person who longs for fame, but it’s always pleasant to think about all the places where my paintings live now.  Maybe they’ll end up in a jumble sale; maybe they’ll be treasured family heirlooms.  But they’re like my children, scattered to the winds.

Which led me back to one of my favorite poets, Kahlil Gibran and his exemplary work The Prophet.  The section of the poem above is from the part of the work where he discusses Children.  My art is like my children.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

We are the bows.  We send our children….or our creations…out into the world.  That is our legacy.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of The Prophet lately, check it out soon.  I’m sure you’ve got an old copy from high school or college lying about.  Or you can check it out of the library. Or purchase a used copy.  You won’t be sorry and you’ll have plenty to think about when your mind takes a walk.

Talent or skill?…or is it even art?

Moving sculpture from junk

Talent or skill…or is it even art?

I’ve had some pretty lively discussions with artist friends this week about what is authentic art.  Boy, that is a can of worms. Fair warning; there is no definitive answer to this question but come along for the ride.

We were reviewing submissions for the gallery for next year (2019).  About 50 artists entered their portfolios this year for about seven slots.  This is usually a good variety (some years we’ve had up to 200 entries). The committee was also given a list of about 15 artists to consider who didn’t actually apply but who might add to quality of the line up.  (Debatable.)

The committee is comprised primarily of professional artists and art teachers.  But…we do not always agree on what would make a good exhibit.  A little background is that this is a public art gallery so we have to be somewhat cognizant of our audience and the fact that we are receiving tax dollars.  We like to bring in new and different work but we’re not out to shock our audience.  We also understand that many people enjoy viewing art they are familiar with.  Trying to meets the needs of everyone is challenging.

A little more background.  I have been on this committee for about 30 years, and was director of the arts center and gallery for many of those years.  I’m back to being just a citizen volunteer now.  And I’ve been a professional artist for 35 years.  I’ve probably seen more art than most people will see in several lifetimes.

And I’m still confused.

I believe that some people are endowed at birth with talent.  That is a given aptitude for doing whatever they are going to do, whether it’s shooting a basket or drawing a portrait or playing a musical instrument.  Skill, on the other hand, requires some work.  Continuous practice, that 10,000 hours thing.  I appreciate that.

But sometimes I’m reminded of the story about the Emperor’s New Clothes.  I just feel as if someone is pulling the wool over my eyes and I want to be that kid that says, “Hey, he’s naked!”  I look at a piece of art and wonder, is that really art?  Or is it just hype? I try looking beyond the artist to see where they’re coming from.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, pile of candy installation

For instance, here is a photo of an installation piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres of a pile of candy.  Really?  That is art?  Not to me it isn’t, but a whole lot of high-highfalutin’ people think it is.  I think it is good marketing.  Just my humble opinion.

Helicopter at MOMA

Or how about a helicopter hung in the stairwell of the Museum of Modern Art?  Art?  Or is it engineering?  Who really gets credit for this? By the way, they also own Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World which is exhibited in a dark hallway next to the bathrooms.  Really?

Gabriel Orozco exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum

Or how about this installation by Gabriel Orozco of junk (artifacts) that he collected along a certain part of the beach on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.  (Exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in 2012-2013.)  I like the way he’s laid this out.  I like the fact that he took photos of EVERY piece and made photo montages of them.  It certainly makes me think.  But is it art? Who says?

Wise Man, Cesar Santos, charcoal on paper

On the other hand, there are the wonderful and amazing drawings of Cesar Santos.  Just watch the video of him completing this awesome pencil sketch of an old man.  I’m overwhelmed with appreciation for his talent AND skill.

Juliette Aristides, painting of soldier

Or there’s Juliette Aristides and her wonderful atelier for training artists in classical drawing and painting.  Boy, do we need that! No, she isn’t exactly trying to do “pretty” but her work is pretty amazing.  I’m so glad to see someone still promoting classical training in the arts.  Not just hype.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that realistic art is more popular than abstract art or assemblages.  People can relate to it.  No, I do not think that realism is better than abstract or installations.  But I certainly do not have patience for anyone who believes that obscure art or that which needs an explanation is better than realism.  To each his own, I guess. There is no room for art snobs.

And this is my humble opinion.  Go check out your local gallery or museum to see for yourself. What do you think?

Hey, how about these ties at the local Good Will? I think this is an interesting composition. Is it art?

Original art makes your house a home

Or…ten tips on decorating with art

I am astounded when I walk into someone’s house and they have nothing on their walls! What?!?  It’s like watching one of those home improvement shows and the final reveal shows nothing personal at all; just “wall art” that can be picked up at any decorating store.

Your home is your sanctuary.  It’s where you go to be you.  To be with your family.  If it doesn’t reflect who you are, then who are you?

Are you bohemian or modern?  Are you zen or kitschy?  Maybe you feel most comfortable with Swedish Modern or French Provencial.  Who are you?

Art adds so much to our lives but so many people are afraid to make a choice.  They’re afraid to make a mistake.  Afraid to put a hole in the wall to hang a painting.

So here are a few tips I suggest for choosing art for your home.  Some but not all will ring a bell with you.

  1. Choose the largest piece you can afford and make it a focal point.  Make the colors of your decorating scheme around the painting if you wish.  (But it does not have to match the sofa!)
  2. Do you have a theme in mind? Maybe you collect bird or flower-related items? Landscapes of Nova Scotia?  All pink or red or orange works? Perhaps you just enjoy modern abstract.  Whatever floats your boat, do it.
  3. Group items. Maybe you don’t have that large focal painting, but you can make a focal area by grouping artwork.  They don’t have to be framed all alike, or maybe framed at all.  That’s okay.
  4. Don’t forget bookshelves and sideboards. You can tuck small paintings or artwork into unexpected corners.
  5. Change out your artwork. You don’t have to keep the same pieces up all the time. You can switch them around or change them out as your mood or the seasons dictate.
  6. Avoid too much matchy matchy. Maybe you like Norman Rockwell prints but do you need twelve of them?  Just saying.
  7. How is your family and love for them represented? Do you have a framed painting of a child’s masterpiece?  Try it.  You’ll like it.
  8. Buy what you love. So what if the art you love isn’t currently in vogue.  It’s your living space.  You can have what you want.
  9. Let your art collection grow and go with you. When you move to a new place, hanging your own personal touches will make it feel like home very quickly.
  10. Make your home a retreat. This is the place you can come to kick back and be yourself.

Art makes a house a home.

The Demise of Art Supply Stores and Bookstores

Just a small part of my secret addiction.

Two of my favorite hangouts when I go shopping are bookstores and art supply stores.  For some reason, these marvelous emporiums of possibilities grab me and hold on until I manage to escape some hours later.  Usually lighter of wallet, too.

Last week I made a foray to the “city” of Evansville and, as usual, stopped by Dick Blick’s art supply store.  I had my list in hand, had checked out online prices, and was prepared to spend some money.  I milled around a bit, filling my basket with some “necessary” studio items, and proceeded to the checkout.  The clerk couldn’t tell me if the in-store prices matched the online ones or not. What the heck.  I was there already so I checked out anyway.  It seemed like a lot but when I got home and checked the online prices, they were the same.  That’s good for my budget.

And I’m afraid that I do the same thing at bookstores.  Spend hours perusing my favorite sections, surreptitiously check prices with Amazon and Bookfinder, and see if the book I desire is the latest edition.  It’s just so easy so shop from home and have my heart’s desire delivered to my doorstep.

But the past several years, I’ve made a concerted effort to actually buy something in these stores, even if the price is a little more.  I think we need to support our local merchants for more than just a cappuccino and to read magazines for free.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Yesterday I received an e-mail notification that Dick Blick’s in Evansville will be closing later this month.  I am so sad.  This was one of my favorite stops every time I went down there.  Shopping online just doesn’t supply the same adrenaline rush of actually fondling new pens and paints, checking out new authors, just looking around to see what is available.

Over the past several years I’ve seen Border’s flagship bookstore in Ann Arbor bite the dust.  As well as Hawley-Cooke in Louisville.  These stores had knowledgeable staff, enormous selections, and were just comforting places to hang out.

Lee’s Art Shop in New York closed its door last year.  Dang, that is where I bought my Lamy fountain pen (in dayglow green).  And the awesome Rizolli’s Bookstore in upper Midtown was a store right out of casting central – beautiful carved stone exterior, well-worn wood inside, nooks and crannies to find some amazing tome.

Sigh.  I know.  Things change. And we’re all guilty of bottom price shopping.  But where are people going to shop, to hang out, to fondle the plants at the nursery or the special pens and crayons at the art store? To find out what is new and amazing?  Are we all going to sit in our isolated armchairs and just punch buttons to order things?  It is fantastic to be able to find that something special online but it doesn’t quite replace the in-person experience of ogling something new in person. It’s so sad but I await to see what’s next.

What are your thoughts?  Have any of your favorite stores closed?

Resolutions

So how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?

I don’t really make resolutions; I make plans and goals.  Maybe there isn’t much real difference but to me there is.  A plan and a goal sets a direction.  A resolution is just a wish.

One of my favorite blogs is Raptitude by David Cain.  He has tried a number of experiments which he discusses here.  These are often in the form of mini resolutions.

Books, my not-so-secret addiction

But this year he suggests not starting any new project or buying new toys or books,  but using what you’ve got.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a real sucker for the next new book, the new tool, what have you.  But if you’re anything like me, you know deep in your soul that you have “enough.”  Really!

This past summer I cleaned out our big chest freezer before we started storing all of the summer’s produce.  It is now full to the brim…again.  I have had many talks with my husband about using what we have before we buy more stuff, even if it’s on sale!  We’re only two people.  We can’t possibly use all the produce and store specials that we have already.

So check out David’s blog Raptitude. I shared this post on my Facebook but apparently so did a lot of other people.  David was astounded that that he got 19K hits on this post alone.  Must have hit a nerve with a whole bunch of folks.

Life happens

For those of you who follow this blog and may have wondered where I’ve been, I apologize for the scarcity of recent postings.  Life happens.

Amid all the end of the year activities – holidays, performances, painting events, etc. – we had a family emergency.  My husband had a second (and more severe) heart attack. In this case, it was a pretty scary situation to live in such a remote area.  We actually drove 15 miles to meet the ambulance rather than trying to direct them to our house. He is doing well, thank you for asking, but as you may imagine, this event turned the household on end.  He’s sticking with a strict vegan diet as touted by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in  Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.  (Highly recommended, btw.)  A total change to vegan has not been a huge issue since we grow and eat lots of vegetables.  However, now there’s no meat or fish, no dairy, no eggs, no added fats.  But the results have been rewarding.  He’s lost 25+ pounds in the first six weeks and feels great.  Anyway, a new way of eating for the family.

And my day job as director of a multi-discipline arts center has been busy but rewarding.  Several performances, conferences to attend, booking for next season, and work on building expansion.  But I still manage to find time to paint or draw.

The bone-chilling cold of the winter in the midwest and north east has driven me to find relief in perusing gardening books (and ordering more, of course).  Before this most recent bout of snow and ice, I actually spotted the daffodils and crocuses poking up.  Can’t wait for spring.

Meanwhile, life is returning to normal…somewhat.  Back in the studio painting, reading, and…well…country living.

Life happens.

To give or not to give – that is the question

All artists at some time are faced with the question of whether they should give their artwork to someone or not.  Yes, I know, the work just seems to accumulate, doesn’t it?  So we look around, oh, Aunt Sally would love that painting.  Maybe…maybe not.

I will admit to have given away many paintings over the years although not recently.  Currently I wait until someone has actually expressed an interest in my work.  And I don’t easily part with my show-stoppers as gifts unless they have been hanging around for a while.  Artwork is such a personal thing that I don’t want to burden my friends and relatives with some unwanted artwork, especially if I’m giving it to them in person.  Remember that too polite, “Oh, isn’t that…special.”  NOT!

So, if you are thinking about gifting someone with your personal creations this holiday season, I have the following recommendations.

  • Make sure that that they really have expressed interest.
  • Look around their homes to see that what you plan to give them actually fits in with their style.
  • Ask yourself if you’re just being cheap or if you believe they would really welcome a piece of artwork from you.
  • Is it a quality product?  Would you be proud to display it in your own home?
  • Perhaps you could exchange some work with a friend whose work might be better appreciated by the recipient?  How about a painting for a piece of pottery or some sculpture?  Or your realistic work for something more modern or abstract?

These are just a few suggestions.  I am not gifting anyone my artwork this year except these stocking stuffers.  I call them “portable art”, which are really mini paintings on cedar.  A realistic painting on one side and an abstract on the other.  Since they’re cedar, they can be tossed in a sweater drawer if the recipient really doesn’t care for them.

Portable artwork - mini-paintings on cedar blocks

Portable artwork – mini-paintings on cedar blocks

A birdseye view

My apologies for not posting much recently. I’ve been traveling for three out of the past four weeks. But…have much material for painting so that is encouraging.

As I was flying home from Austin, TX last weekend, my plane happened to go over my own house! This is the first time that has happened. Living here in rural southern Indiana, it was a real treat to see the area from the air…and humbling. Lake Patoka looks so small…and it’s over 9,000 acres! I’ve circled our farm on here. We all look so small from that altitude. And it makes me think that our petty squabbles are small, too.

View of our farm from the air

View of our farm from the air

5 Tips for Getting into A Juried Show

At some point in their careers, most artists want to see where they stack up next to other artists. Competition seems to be a common human trait. One way for artists to do that is to enter juried shows. Some artists do this to add another line to their resume, some to win prize money, and some just for the spirit of the thing.

I have been on both sides of that fence, from entering shows across the nation to judging shows individually or as part of my job as Director of the Jasper Arts Center and have reviewed thousands of slides and photographs. (No one uses slides anymore so that’s how old I am.)

So here is some of the best advice I can give you for getting into a juried exhibit.

1. Read the prospectus carefully. Does your work fit the guidelines? Are they looking for abstract expressionists and you paint landscapes with puppies? Is it a watercolor exhibit and you only do oils? How about the size and weight limitations? Did you check the schedule for entry, delivery, exhibit and return? Will your work be available for that period of time? A small oversight in paying attention to the details will cost you money and time as well as being just plain aggravating to both you and the show organizers.

2. Check out the jurors. Will the show be selected by one person or a panel? Will the images be projected or reviewed online? Can the judge be impartial enough to select work based on its merits and not just because it is in the same style as his/her own? It is an unfortunate fact that I have seen some exhibits selected all in the same style as the judge (shame on them). Most of the judges we have had here at the gallery spend quite a bit of time going through the images, usually reviewing them several times before winnowing the show down. They take great pains to have a mixed variety of media and subject matter and are especially pained at the final rounds when they have to cut out some really great pieces. They care.

3. Review your work with an objective eye. (Don’t listen to your family and friends because they love everything you do.) Is the work you are planning to submit the best you have? Is it cohesive? Will it stand out against the competition? What is the quality of workmanship? Would someone notice it across the room? Is it your own work and not copied from someone else’s design? What makes your work special? (Please, no more barns, flying ducks or Norman Rockwell look-alikes!)

4. Will the work be judged on site or by photos? This can really make a difference for some pieces, especially those involving texture or size. If you’ve ever seen a real Van Gogh in person, you realize that he “carved” the paint on the canvas and that texture is as important as the subject matter. All work looks the same size when projected which may cause advantages or disadvantages. A wall-sized impact piece will appear the same size as a miniature even though the sizes are stated; it’s still the first perception that counts.

If you are taking photos, make sure that your painting is level, no hot spots, no glares or reflections, no frames, no hands holding the piece. With today’s digital cameras and easy-to-use software, there is absolutely no excuse for sending bad images. This is the most important thing you will submit with your application so it had better be the best you can make it.

5. Finally, relax. After you send your application and images off, it is out of your hands. Any two jurors will choose a different show from the same selection of work. Not getting into a show is not the end of the world. You are creating for yourself, right? That’s what is really important. Keep creating!