I know, I know, it’s Tuesday, not Sunday. Before sharing my experiences at Cirenaica (sarah-neye-kah), I needed some thinking and recovery time. I’m awake now and exploding with thoughts and notes for you.
The intention behind this year-long weekly series, Greyhairs Rising, was to share with anyone – especially retirees – how I reconstituted my artistic career in both writing and painting. I’ve given you a lot of how to get started and stay in the game information. I’ve shared a load of resources to explore. I am now in a state of being with my work that goes beyond the nuts and bolts of how to.
I was ready to take a big leap forward and chose to apply to Cirenaica, knowing full well that I might be overwhelmed and overrun by REAL writers – educated, perceptive, smart, critical thinkers who know how to use their words in writing and speaking, offering up the very best of critique and support for their fellow artists. Truth be told, I didn’t know all of that going in. I wanted to have the experience of being in residency with other writers, in a teaching environment, without letup, but I was also worried.
My apprehensions were about:
- Living among, young, energetic, creative types
- Could I keep up?
- Could I stay awake?
- Would I have any “senior” issues that would get in the way? (You all know what I mean!)
- What if I didn’t like the people, place, or any of it?
- Would anyone care about what I had to say?
- Would I have anything of value to contribute?
I can say to you happily, that not one of my concerns was an issue. When it came to keeping up with the lively younger folk, I didn’t have to. Eight or nine o’clock in the evenings, when I disappeared, they might ask, “Where’s Maggie?” but somebody would know and say so, “I think she went to bed.” And when I got up at 5:00 a.m., I had the quiet of the space to myself, got the coffee brewing, and went to work writing. It was glorious.
And everyone was good natured and unafraid to expose their work to critique. Each participant submitted 15 to 25 pages of writing for everyone else to read and critique before we met. Each day, about 11:00 a.m., we gathered with our notes and spent a good hour to hour and a half on one writer’s submission. The writer was not allowed to comment while we, one by one, responded to the work. Near the end, Nickolas Butler, our artist in residence at his own house down the road, made summary comments and then took the writer aside for a brief one-on-one. This process is referred to as workshopping.
I admit to being confused for a day about the use of the word workshop in this context. I understood a workshop as an opportunity to work on a topic – like a class. I understood critique as a separate and more line-by-line approach to providing feedback. The workshopping we were doing was neither. This was whole-hog, educated reader, skilled writer, perspective on:
- Favorite sentence
- What’s working
- What’s not working
- Title – yes, no, middle-of-the-road
- What’s it about?
I understand that this process will vary from artist to artist – everyone has their own way of doing things, right? I did find that limiting the comments to these points – especially the first three – and actively listening to what everyone had to say – gave me a deeper appreciation of every single story we were given to read.
Before the workshopping began, the writer chose a section of their own story to read aloud. I cannot stress enough, the value of reading aloud. Some stories I had no particular feel for, came alive for me when the writer read. The stories took on an entirely different dimension as I listened to others talk about the work. I realized, and I’m hanging my head in shame here, that I read too fast, with too critical and impatient an eye and mind. I need to change.
I could write about this experience for days, but I’ll stop now. Well, before I do, I have to give kudos to the chef, Brent. He went out of his way to accommodate my food allergies and served up some of the most delicious food ever to pass my lips. And BJ Hollars, the coordinator of the event, is a fabulous man.
I encourage you, one and all, to seek out a residency experience if you’re at all able. You’ll thank yourself after a day of recovery!
A note on Cirenaica
The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild is pleased to partner with Cirenaica for our second year of summer residencies! Nestled on 43 acres of hills, farmland, and forest near the quaint village of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, our residencies promise participants of all levels and genres an intensive yet rejuvenating experience amidst an inspiring backdrop.
See you back here next Sunday (or some day during the week). Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.
I’ve heard a lot of frustration from writers and artists about time – how can a working, mom or dad, or anyone, find time for creative writing and art? Having just taken a course in time management from Springboard for the Arts, offered at my local library, I can say that a time audit will help you find that time.
Participants were asked to keep track of what they did for 24 hours in each of seven days. After each activity, we were asked to note if the time was Alpha, Beta, or Art time. Alpha is any time spent on art related activities and Art itself. Beta is time not spent on art or art related activities. There can be overlaps.
At the end of the week, it’s easy to see how much time is actually spent producing art. That may be only 20% of your time in a week. The time audit will document how your intentions to work are interrupted and will be useful in creating a space in each week that is devoted to your creative work. Following is a repeat of steps you can take to make creative time a priority:
Focus is the key to making time to do the work. You may need to focus first on all the reasons why you are dragged away from the work you start. Keep a sticky-note pad handy and make note of each time you’re interrupted.
- How many times were you interrupted by someone else?
- How many times were you interrupted by your phone?
- How many times were your thoughts interrupted by (fill in the blanks)
- What else?
By Wednesday, after taking notes on interruptions, it’s easy to see why we can never find a decent amount of time to grow as an artist or writer. Now it’s time to focus on solutions. Review your sticky-notes and write on each one a possible solution to the problem. Example: Phone interrupts. Turn off the phone during work time.
If you were on the job, you would not be allowed to entertain all the distractions you do allow when you are on your own time. Understanding how to set limits will be key to making the time you need to deeply focus on your creative work.
You have your notes in hand that illustrate how many distractions you allow. You’ve made notes on possible solutions. Now is the time to implement the solutions by setting limits.
Limit your workspace – keep distractions outside of your workspace, even if that means closing the door or wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Your workspace must become sacred space – yours – where important work is done and others are not allowed to intrude during work hours.
Limit your time – allow yourself enough time to get into deep focus and produce work, but don’t take so much time that everything else goes to the wayside and becomes an excuse for not getting back to work the next day. Make a schedule.
The most compelling distraction is the one that opens the gate for all others to flood in and overwhelm your best intentions. What is that one thing that overwhelms your artistic practice? Faith in yourself to do this work.
You’ve made the decision to explore your creative self. Don’t judge your successes and failures. Judge only these things:
- Adequate workspace
- Adequate work time without interruptions
- Whether or not you did anything with the workspace and time you created.
The lack of belief in the work and you as the creative spirit will undermine every effort you make or think you want to make.
This entire process is about YOU and no one else. Only you can make the time and make that time what you want.
Prompt for the week.
- Keep those sticky-notes handy so you can keep track of your interruptions and plan for solutions to distractions.
- Create a cheat-sheet using your distractions/solutions notes and post it above your work area where you can see it for quick reference.
- Make sure other members of your household who feel to interrupt, refer to the cheat-sheet before breaking your focus.
- Post your work day schedule for them to see.
Next week’s topic: Steps to publishing a story.
See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.
I’ve been complaining loudly for months about how hard it’s been to write my first novel. I’d worked on the story, off and on, for a few years. In June of 2015, I applied for a grant from my regional arts council – Five Wings – to help me finish the book. With those funds, I took a class on how to write a novel (I had no idea how to structure the story to fill 90,000 words) and hired an editor to help me polish the first draft.
On March 5, 2017, I finished the novel and sent it out to beta readers for comments. For the next few weeks, I can let this project go.
I hate the book now. I don’t even know what it says anymore. I don’t like its words. The beauty of the inspired words was destroyed for me in the endless edits.
I didn’t feel that way when I was creating. I felt that way when I was editing and re-writing. The passion for the work went out of me and it became drudgery. I understand now, why so many great writers were depressed drunks! To face the beast that’s coming after embracing the beauty of the inspiration – well, it’s too much. I had no desire left to write another book.
Maybe if I’d been an English language major in college and had a degree in literature, the work wouldn’t have been so tedious. I don’t know, but I suspect that even the most learned and capable author has moments of despair and grief as the inspired concept is reduced to the mechanics and fine points of the finished product.
But yesterday, I was reawakened to the beauty of words. I remembered why I wrote the book. I felt the story I meant to tell. The happiness of enthusiasm for telling a story stood up inside of me, then sat by my side, held my hand, and shared a listening ear, as a young man, a spoken word poet, performed.
The young man, Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, is smart, sensitive, and clear in his message. He wears his heart for the work on his sleeve. He tells stories of being human while the audience nods in agreement. Yes! We can relate. We feel united. We’ve been so divided. I hear an unexpressed collective sigh of relief.
But it’s all just in me, in my own mind, I suppose. I didn’t know how hungry I was to hear a poet release me, like a butterfly captured in a jar, release me back into a lush garden, back into the beauty of words.
Guante performed at the Brainerd Public Library with support from the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library Brown Bag Book Events.
I like it and that’s enough.
With the advent of the World Wide Web as a marketplace for all, there is little need any longer for excellence in craft or practice. All you truly require is an internet marketing genius to bring you sales and a reputation as an accomplished artist. Does that mean that you could become wealthy selling scribbles on napkins over the internet? Very likely.
If you are one of the above, wishing to gain fame and fortune via marketing tricks, then I wish you all the luck in the world. You probably won’t need it. You’ll do fine.
For the rest of us creative types, however, who want to gain an audience because of our artistic efforts, we need to do a better job of presentation. It is a fact, still, that word of mouth is the most effective sales tool. If your work and presentation are sloppy, your audience reviews will reflect your lack of effort.
Last week we took a tour of some art galleries. Are any of you ready to present to a gallery for an exhibition? I hope so. Keep last week’s post bookmarked, so you’ll know how to begin your inquiries.
You’ve all seen the pencil drawings that are executed on crumpled paper, smudged, and drawn with a hard graphite pencil. Not only is the work difficult to see – the harder the lead, the lighter the line – but there’s no dimension. How does our work come to life? By using the right tools and media on the right base material.
There are proper materials/tools for every job and there are hundreds of videos on the internet to teach you which to use and when. I praise the skies for the internet for all the educational opportunities it offers. From blogs to video instructions, you can learn anything about any artistic practice.
There’s no excuse for not planning ahead to create a piece ready for public presentation.
- Drawing – http://thevirtualinstructor.com/blog/10-essential-drawing-materials-and-tools-for-beginners
- Watercolor – http://www.marydoodles.com/mary-doodles/watercolor-supplies-the-ultimate-guide
- Oils – http://emptyeasel.com/2007/08/17/a-complete-list-of-oil-painting-supplies-that-every-beginning-oil-painter-needs/
- Pastels – https://www.theartistsroad.net/articles/pastelmaterialslist
These are the first few articles I accessed with ease, that are free of charge to use. Know your tools and materials well, and know how to use them.
Protect your work.
- Tutorial by Quinn Creative: Using Fixatives on Your Artwork
- How To Cut An Art Mat Like A Pro: http://www.prettyhandygirl.com/cut-art-mat-like-pro/
Draw a tree on proper pastel paper, using charcoal or soft lead colored pencils. Be careful not to smudge your work unintentionally. Be sure not to crinkle up the paper edges as you work. Fix it. Mat it. Share it with the world!
Next week’s topic: How to approach a publisher. See you back here next Sunday night!
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Join our Greyhairs Rising Facebook group.
Is there an art to it?
I do not have my artwork in a gallery. I’m still slogging away on my first novel. Until that is in the hands of beta readers, it consumes my every day, and I don’t have free time enough to begin developing a basic concept for a show. But I’ve made a few tentative inquiries and I’ll share here, the little I know. Maybe we’ll get some gallery owners to share their insights with us.
Last week I detoured into the realm of possibilities. No matter what we’re focused on, it’s so important to remember that all of everything exists first, as a possibility. It’s true with objects and relationships, feelings and thoughts. I recommend a daily dose of meditation on possibilities. Ohm.
What are galleries looking for?
Galleries are not only looking to support talent, they’re looking to stay in business. That means they need an inventory of work that will sell. As creative artists, we like to be free to create and not be bound by formula or consistencies in concept. We don’t generally aim to be production artists, producing the same thing in the same style, over and over. That’s fine if you don’t want to exhibit in a gallery. You can sell your work online, in gift shops, and to interior design studios. There are lots of outlets for art sales.
But, if you want to exhibit in a gallery, and grow a following for your work as a known and respected artist, then you need to be identifiable as THAT artist – the one whose work we do know and recognize. For that, here’s what you’ll need to do.
Presenting the work.
- Create a body of work – at minimum, 20 gallery-ready pieces – that is consistent in
- use of media
And be prepared to show a concept portfolio of your “next in the series” work in process.
- Presentation to the gallery for consideration
Regardless of the format you use for your presentation – digital or tangible representation (photo) – each of the 20 or so pieces you are proposing for an exhibit must include:
Title / Media / Size / Price
Put a well-designed, but brief, bio at the end, supported by any news clippings about you as an artist or the work (limit to 2). Don’t overwhelm. If the gallery wants more information, they’ll ask you for it. If you have sold any of the series pieces, include that information along with at least one image of an installed piece if you’ve got one.
Do not overlook the value of a well-presented body of work. If you need help covering the costs of framing or containers or stands or what-have-you to present your work in the best way possible, contact you local arts organizations about available grants to cover these costs.
Now you have a portfolio, who are you going to show it to? Research galleries who consistently represent artists with themes or styles that are similar to yours. They wouldn’t be in business if they didn’t know their buying audience, so find galleries that appear to be a good fit with your work. Look online. Here’s a terrific resource to get you started: http://art-collecting.com/index.htm and also check in your town, city, region, and state directories. Oh, and don’t forget to contact your local arts organizations. They may have gallery space for members. It’s a great way to get your foot – er, artwork – in a gallery door.
Know the gallery’s guidelines for proposals before even thinking about making a personal visit. Every gallery will have its own artist selection process for exhibitions and there are many artists, equally talented, in line for consideration, ahead of you.
Don’t be discouraged.
Gallery exhibit schedules can be 2 or 3 years out, so keep your eye on the prize and not on the calendar. Also, keep a record of who you’ve approached and which portfolio of work you presented. If you get that call, you’re going to want to know, right away, which series they want.
Just a few other resources.
My body of work is…
Next week’s topic: Art presentation. See you back here next Sunday night!
Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.
Join our Greyhairs Rising Facebook group.
Write it. Paint it. Scribble it on a wall. What is freedom for you, for others, for the environment, for anything or anyone? Please post your freedoms. #amwriting #ampainting #freedom http://mefuller.com