What can I say to open my first blog post in over 13 months? Overall, 2013 was a great year for me. I turned 30, moved in with my amazing, beautiful and talented gal, became an Uncle and was fortunate enough to do some traveling. But in the context of this blog, and my lack of TLC towards its upkeep: being a weekend and sometimes end of day artist, such as am, has not been very fulfilling.
I have struggled to find a money, art and life balance all my life. While I have accepted, and in fact am proud that I have an unquenchable need to make art and to live a creative life, poetically akin to the need for water and clean air, I am emotionally bound by social and fiscal responsibilities that I cannot seem to rationally escape, or make easy for myself. Rent, food, utilities, student loans, bank loans and credit-card payments fill me with such anxiety and stress that the thought of not having a steady source of income puts me in a panic. Living the life of making art, writing grants, hawking my illustrations and shamelessly promoting my skills to possibly still end up with nothing, or worse, nothing and a bad reputation is absolutely terrifying to me. Since art is an essential part of my life, would that mean transitioning to supporting my life with art alleviate the fear of having nothing, or just make it greater?
I have been earning “non-art” money since I was 6 years old. I started with a paper route, thanks to my supportive parents who helped carry papers until I was tall enough to reach all the mailboxes and always with paper assembly. When I was old enough to get a Social Insurance Number I entered the tax-paying workforce and have not been unemployed since. The adage: “all worthwhile endeavors are worth working for” is true. I do not want to sound like the artist lifestyle of making, writing, hawking and promoting is undesirable, in fact the opposite. What I struggle with is the jumping point. What made the “successful” ones brave enough to take the first step? How do you make the first step when you have close to nothing to fall back on? Perhaps my struggle with money, art and life is more deep-rooted than I thought. Even through my 6 years of post-secondary education I worked several “non art-money“ part-time jobs. The feeling that it has to be all or nothing is incredibly powerful when it comes to supporting myself off of art and is precisely what is keeping me at bay.
To stop this from sounding like a pessimistic rant, I want to stress that overall, I am very happy. I have worked hard for the successes I have had with art and illustration. The work I have done as a visual artist has taken me places I would never have dreamed I would go. I have met and worked with incredible people and am blessed to have lived a passionate life thus far. But I want more.
I want to continue to make art and illustration and teach. I want to be involved in my community at both professional and grass-roots levels. I want to be involved in my community making art. I want to lead my community in making art. I want to further my education and my craft. I want to be the best that I can be.
Here is what I have been up to…
With my gal, Tori Fleming and our incredibly talented friend Matthis Grunsky we started to rent a studio space in the Roy building in September of 2013. It was an incredible deal. Starfish properties, the building owner, had plans to gut and renovate the building in the coming years. They agreed to rent out spaces with open leases that could be terminated without objection when construction was to start (with three months notice of course). This meant that we didn’t have to be careful about making a mess of the unit. Unfortunately, we will be loosing the space as of February to make way for new downtown condominiums.
I applied at the University of Victoria in British Columbia to study for my Masters in Fine Art at the beginning of 2013. Sadly I did not get accepted. I am viewing this as a sign that I should take some time away from furthering my education and figure out the direction in which I want to further it.
I have only been working on one painting for the past 13 months. Remember that 5’ x 6’ canvas that I had stretched the month after the residency. After much deliberation on subject matter I have settled on classic rock – more specifically, junky, grungy Canadian classic rock. I just wanted to have something that I wasn’t going to get board with, I could find reference for and get inspiration from as well as give me a lot of room to experiment with paint application. So far so good – I am happy with the mood I have set.
(I am not sure how to make animated gifs work in the body of the blog, but if you click on the image, you will be able to see the painting in progress)
I feel like I have made great strides in this department. I had two pieces published in THIS magazine (see the website for the images) – neither of which I have been paid for yet (not the economy for freelancing I’m afraid). I was so happy with the July-August piece I did that I submitted it to both Creative Quarterly and Applied Arts magazines’ annual Illustration contests. Sadly it was not accepted by Creative Quarterly, I am still waiting to hear back from Applied Arts.
Most excitingly however, I have been working as the Illustrator in Residence for Tomorrow.is. Tomorrow is a progressive journalism entity that strives for non-biased, thorough, open-discussion based stories. My plan is to create at least a piece a month both to accompany the stories they publish and perhaps inspire new stories. I am trailing a bit for January, but have several ideas on the go.
In the Fall of 2013 I taught a course though the School of Extended studies at NSCAD. Using my illustration background and my love of visual communication I “prof’d” a course on Graphic Facilitation. I am happy to say that I will be teaching it again this Winter. Registration starts January 14. I am really excited about it.
SHOW and BOOK?
My body of work: “100 Canadians” went on display for the month of July. I think it was a success. I had a lot of nice comments in the guestbook that suggested I try to have it published in a book (an idea I’ve had for a long time). I decided to re-tool the body of work, more specifically the idea of the body of work, to suit a children’s audience. I put together a small prototype of what the book might be like and presented it at the Word on the Street festival in September. While the publishers I pitched my idea to liked it, they were far too Maritime focused to take a chance on me. I don’t want to drop the idea, but am at a standstill for where to go next.
The only significant public chalking I did was at the Pride Parade in July. I made the summer issue of Snap! For my friends Cate, Leon and Brian I helped facilitate a World Café meeting they hosted for the Sustainability and Leadership certificate program at Dalhousie University. It was a lot of fun, but in hindsight, chalk is not the best medium for making fast art in a low-light environment where food and drink are being served.
Final thoughts: I can’t help but think this blog post, the sum of 13 months of “part-time” art, is comparable to one week when I was living in Lunenburg. Maybe that could have something to say to my money, art and life balance issue. If you made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope to have more soon.
Below are some musings from sketchbook…