Monday, November 30, 2009

November HITS










Welcome back for the monthly update on my life as a visual artist. Before jumping into November, I'd love to share a highlight from October 31st which wasn't in last months HITS since I posted a day early.

After some prodding from a friend asking if I'd seen any art lately, I finally checked out the Sacramento art scene. My cousin S helped me navigate to galleries all over downtown, where we saw lots of paintings of coy fish and abstract ceramics. I was on the hunt for inspiration, networking with other artists, and scoping out venues that would be a good fit for my art.

Reviewing the paperwork for one of the galleries it said what Bay Area galleries state, that they book 12 months in advance, which is not something as a Gemini that interests me. What I am making now is not what I'll be working on in a year from now- I'd have progressed further. Starting in the new year, I'll look into other ways to bring in money as an artist, but for now, I'm working on several other projects due in December, besides making Christmas presents.

While visiting the galleries and studios I was talking with a fellow Gemini artist, who made me feel much better about exploring multiple mediums at once. It keeps up the momentum of making art and it's more exciting to always be learning something new.

November
This is the first HITS that I had a hard time recalling what I accomplished this month. So much has been going on, that looking through my photos and calendar, it made me feel better about this month. I do plan/wish that December will be more focused, but yah right, that probably not happening.

I'm starting to embrace Sac Town as my town of residence, and actually buy art supplies here, instead of buying them in the Bay Area. I found a ceramic supply store, that offers classes for adults and studio time. Just being in there made me miss ceramics even more!!!

The highlight for this month was having two friends from college spend the day with me and make art. It was really encouraging taking with them and it was so much fun spending time with fellow artists. I am looking forward to the next time!


Extended Learning
Even though I am done with college I can't help myself and research art related topics. This is what I picked up this month:

PBS Art:21
20 minute long video segments about contemporary artists!
I've rented these from the library and it wasn't until this month until I got with the times and streamed it online and like watching any series, was sucked in and watched all of the videos!












Where the wild things are
After seeing the IMAX movie last month and really wanting to work with those production companies making puppets and miniature mountain scenes, that a friend told me about this art show in San Francisco. It's of the artist/writer Maurice Sendak, which will be at the Jewish Museum until January 19, 2010 (so I have time to make it there!)


first annual art awards at the Guggenheim
It's like winning a Tony or Oscar, except for artists!!


Misc.












  • Made a gluten/dairy free chessboard cake and avocado ice cream (click for the post and recipe)

















  • On this blog I created a widget (aka picture link to a table of contents) for both the HITS and the Liberating trip from BART. It took way longer to get that in place then intended, but I really like how it simplified the navigation on this site.










  • I hired a web designer to revamp my art portfolio site (elizabethsymington.com). I tried doing it myself and ended up with a blank website. Oops. The site should be up by next months HITS! I can hardly wait!
  • Took a test on being an enumerator for next year, where I will help collect information for the US census.
  • Who would of ever guessed but I am learning to use Maya (a 3D program used at video game companies), a tablet and improving my photoshop skills. I have weekly lessons via the telephone and homework assignments (which I love getting!) from Mr. Photoshop (thanks Ian!)
  • I traded bikes with my bike dealer, and now I have a smaller, super cute, yellow bike! Her name is Aura because I am always at her center and she exudes beyond me, plus she is an optimistic and fun color.
  • Thanks to visiting galleries on Halloween, I got excited about joining a group show. I started brainstorming for a show I'm going to try to be apart of in January. The theme is coloring books. The deadline is Dec. 25th, so I need to get hopping!


I have studio space!










Last week I rented a garage for my studio space, hence the mess. I'd already outgrown the tiny desk in my bedroom and desperately needed space to make the commission that's going to be a tactile tent over Andrew's bed.

Since Saturday I now have a new found respect for the garage door. I tried to make it in one trip from the garage to the apartment, so with full hands I managed to pinch 2 of my fingers in the door. They are healing nicely. I was super lucky they didn't break. I also dropped what I was holding, breaking the shadowbox frame.

On a happier note, I figured out that if you don't have a miniature screwdriver, some nails have cross hairs at the point, which work great for a substitute.


Egg/Straw/Milk Crate Sculptures













Still playing around with emptying out duck and quail eggs, dying them, cutting them up with a dremel and arranging them on colorful straws. There may or may not be lights inside of the eggs. We'll see. I don't know where this sculpture is heading, the scale, or what it is supposed to say. All that I know is that I still have lots more avenues to explore and that I really enjoy cutting up the eggs!


Halloween Cactus Lights












I realize Halloween and Thanksgiving have both past, but my supplier for the LED bulbs for the cactus lights decided to stop carrying them and it was a HUGE hunt to find more of them. I bought out another store, but they don't plan on reordering, so it may be a while before I make more cactus lights.


Christmas Presents
I wish I could share photos of the Christmas presents I am working on, but then, it wouldn't be a surprise. What I can share is that I've made a shadowbox of the original gameboy, complete with games for a friend who is a video game artist. You're just going to have to come back on January 1st, to see what I made. :-)


Framing (my other love)
I am now a certified bronze picture framer, and already working on becoming a silver level. I asked what it takes to be gold, but much to my surprise, there is no such thing. So instead I researched online and found that the Professional Picture Framers Association has a test to become a CPF (Certified Picture Framer). Unfortunately I need 12 months of experience before taking the 3.5 hr. long test of multiple choice questions, but I've downloaded the study guide and hunting down the recommended books. Then in 5 years I can take the test to be a Master CPF!!

At work to pick up a few extra hours and to learn a new skill I am training to be the backup bookkeeper when the main bookkeeper is on vacation.

I learned that there are DIY frame shops, where the staff cuts the molding and mats and then you assemble the art into the frame. I would be really fun to teach how to frame. It's also a cheaper alternative to custom framing.

I also discovered several Green frame shops, mostly in Colorado, the Bay Area and Portland. There is so much waste in a frame shop, I think it's the shop's responsibility to recycle.

Photos for this months HITS (Happenings in the Studio) are here.

HITS Table of Contents


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

inflatable picture frame










Good old Photojojo is feeding my addiction to framing in their latest newsletter with this inflatable picture frame!

I love it when artist's use unexpected materials, especially when they use light weight, inexpensive materials that look really pricey.











I
LOVE
trompe loeil!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

3 Tests in 1 Week


I'm all done with school and yet in the past 7 days I took 3 tests...



The first was for a basic competency test to see if I qualify to be a enumerator, who collects information for the US census.














e·nu·mer·ate ( -n m -r t , -ny -).
1. To count off or name one by one; list


For some odd reason this carpet sample popped up on my image search for enumerator.



Numero dos was for a TB test (I didn't have to study for that one!) and passed with flying colors, so I can listen to kiddos practice reading.










This was an installation in my beloved city, San Francisco.




Last but not least, I took a written test at work to become a bronze certified picture framer.












I'm always looking for unusual frames and these fit the bill. They feel very sculptural, like an art installation.


What tests have you taken lately?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Portfolio Site is Down

Hello All,
My portfolio site (elizabethsymington.com) is temporarily down. When it's up and running it will have my most recently completed installations and artwork.

Thanks for your patience.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Bother Getting Organized Again


by Elizabeth Symington



I spend more time getting organized than staying that way. Authors Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping C.S.W. of Organizing for the Creative agree that it takes less time to stay organized than to get organized. Saving time and being less stressed are my motivation for getting my possessions in order. Being disorganized has also mentally held me back from running my own art-related venture. I know papers will exponentially grow when the doors open for business, so I feel that if I don’t get it under control now, how will I operate a professional business? (Don’t fret, this book goes into specifics on how to succeed at the catch-up game to get things into order and then how to stay ahead.)

According to this book, right brain dominant people (RBs), like artists, actually think differently in terms of organizing than from analytical, left brain dominant people (LBs). Since most organizing containers are tailored to LB’s way of thinking, it is a no wonder that RBs are often messy. So what kinds of organizing systems are a natural fit for us creative people?


Even though Organizing for the Creative is a paperback, it took me a while to get through. I’d be snuggled up on the couch reading when I’d come across a nugget. Being all excited, I’d immediately get up and implement what I just read. Compulsively I sketched out better suited organizing containers, by using the preferences that us creative people love that are listed in this book. It was like a game thinking of what areas I let be cluttered; analyze what gets left there and visualize in my mind the best kind of home for those specific items. Then I’d create or find these organizing containers and keep tabs on it to asses if anything needed to be altered. I love games!


Which is Your Dominate Brain Hemisphere?

Your toothpaste tube has the answer. The authors of Organizing for the Creative Person talk about how left brain people carefully roll up the tube as they go. Right brain folks squeeze it from wherever. The cap could even be missing! Who needs it anyways!?! Basically LBs are analytical and RBs are intuitive. This disparity of thought process makes is necessary to have different organizing systems.

Right and left brain traits can be learned to make you more balanced. In this book, it analyzes behaviors of LBs that RBs can learn to alter to fit their natural organizing style. There are lots of specifics on how to organize the home and office with an emphasis on problem areas like photos, recipes and papers. The book is also great for LBs to further understand how us RBs think, so there is less conflict.


Left Brain Preferences to Organizing:

  • Vertical (filing cabinets)
  • Hidden (drawers or closets with doors)
  • Complex systems
  • Linear (bullet points for brainstorming)
  • Formal (expensive looking furniture, like wooden bookshelves)


Natural Fits for Creative People











Right brain dominate people prefer horizontal organizing.
We also like things to be informal, like using 2x4s to hang up tools.














Creative people also like their things exposed,
so they don't forget about them (fear of out of sight, out of mind).

Plus we prefer to simplify things by having easy access.

This means no drawers or cupboard doors.


Creative People Prefer:

  • Horizontal (storing papers flat in open cubbies)
  • Exposed but also quickly covered up to eliminate visual clutter (secretaries desk)
  • Simple
  • Circular (mind mapping technique for brainstorming)
  • Fun
  • colorful

Nothing is Wrong with Me

Organizing habits come from your thoughts, so Organizing for the Creative Person talks about common thought patterns for right brain dominate people. This was by far the most helpful part of the book! By analyzing why I think certain thoughts, I’m more in control of keeping my possessions in order. It also made me feel less alone in my struggle to stay neat and tidy, since other creative people deal with the same issues.

While reading, the biggest Aha! moment happened when I realized I think globally. Let’s say my art studio is trashed. I’d weigh how long it would take to clean the whole room. If there’s not enough time to start and finish in one session, I wouldn’t start cleaning. An LB looks at tasks in parts. They would see each section of the room as a separate task, like the desk, the floor, the tool bench… They would naturally attack one area, instead of doing the whole room at once.

Knowing the disadvantages and advantages of thinking globally has helped me to treat myself (and other artists) better. I have lightened up on giving myself a hard time about taking on too much, like cleaning the entire studio in one go, getting burnt out and not cleaning for a long time. I also have cut back on trash talking to myself for not cleaning the room at all, because I thought the task as a whole was too intimidating to even start. By seeing projects in sections, it feels more doable. I’m now less likely to put off a big project, since I started cutting it up into smaller tasks.

We are Creative in More Than Just Art

The great thing about right brain dominate people, is that we are naturally creative. Since creativity is not limited to the arts, you can use it in any aspect: running a business, financial, organizing… You don’t need to feel like you can’t be organized because you haven’t been or stayed that way. By reading Organizing for the Creative Person by Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping you’ll get more tools on getting and staying organized.

Imagine how wonderful you’ll feel having a natural system for organizing. You’ll be less stressed and more in control. Now think about how much time you daily spend looking for things. Would it take more time to hunt for missing items than to daily clean-up for 20 minutes? Consider giving organizing another try.

2 Ways to Improve Your Street Cred

By Elizabeth Symington

When I first thought about creating a business card and website it sounded daunting, time consuming, costly and boring. I had to trick myself by designing the prototype with my hands instead of on the computer. Scented markers, fake grass, glue stick, large sheets of white paper, ruler, thin tipped pens and paints showed me how to have fun with making creative and interesting marketing tools.

Think about your web design and what colors and font best describe what you do. Aim for a cohesive look between the tactile business card and the virtual website. From there you can input the design into the computer or hire someone to be the webmaster.

Nowadays everyone asks if your art is online and for a business card with the web address. Here are the basics on setting these up for us creative types.

Business Card

There really is no good excuse for not having a business card. They are inexpensive. And you’ll probably find they are really fun to design. Keep your playful mindset and dare yourself to be funky by designing a mini business card or alter the shape. Maybe a more traditional card would be best. Think about how you want others to view your company and go from there.

There are free templates online or you can upload your own design, have it printed and shipped to your house super quick. Another option is to design your own card and have them printed at a local copy shop. If you want someone to take care of the designing for you, advertise on Craigslist or check out the local art college. They might even design it as a class project. You never know until you ask.

On the business card include your name, your title, phone number, email and website. If it’s relevant put your address and office hours.

You don’t want your email address to scream, “I made this account when I was 15 and I had a crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas!!!” Think of something professional like yourname@gmail.com. If you don’t want to use your name (or if it’s already taken), consider the name of your business or something else respectable.

The image on the business card is your chance to showcase what you do. The entire back of the card could be a color image of your art. A logo would also work. To avoid having to constantly update your business card, avoid images that are too specific on your current artwork, but pick an image that shows where you are going as an artist.

Web Presence

Domain Name

There are lots of options online for showcasing what you do no matter your knowledge of web design. My recommendation is to buy your domain name, even before you think about who should host or design it. You don’t want someone to snag your web address!

For fine artists it’s standard to go with your full name for the web address for your portfolio site. If that is taken, think of something that gives an idea of what you do without being too limited. You want a domain that describes where you are going as an artist. ElizabethSymingtonCeramics.com is very specific. If I even wanted to try another medium, like photography, then this web address wouldn’t work anymore. If my name was taken I would have bought ElizabethSymingtonArtwork.com. It gives the general idea of what I do and it has flexibility for when I branch out.

Types of Art Sites

1) Design your own website or hire out. Check out other artist’s websites for ideas of what you do and don’t like. This is also a good way to find a designer that you like.

2) Set up a free art blog with Blogger or Wordpress. They are user friendly and allow you to share articles, slideshows, photos and videos. This is a good way to include customers and make them feel special by letting them be the first to see the art in progress.

3) Depending on your art business, using a free online portfolio could be the way to go. It is a virtual mall of artists that are searchable by medium and subject matter. Everyone has the same page layout that they customize by uploading photos of their art, descriptions, artist’s statement, resume and contact info.

Recommended sites for posting your portfolio:

http://artslant.com
http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk
http://www.myartspace.com

4) Set up an etsy store to display and sell your inventory. There are minimal fees per item posted. Very user friendly and like the online portfolio sites, being a part of a community could help with networking and bringing in more traffic.

5) Facebook is very well connected and has the capability for sharing photos. Perhaps it is not the most professional if it’s your only site, but it is better than nothing.

HTML Basics that will Serve You

If you know some HTML it can help a lot to make your free online portfolio site and Craigslist ads look more polished. For reference I use Facebook’s html cheat sheet (please hyperlink: http://www.facebook.com/notes_cheatsheet.php) for simple changes like bolding words.

Photos

When you share images of your art, the quality of the photo reflects on your business. Unless it’s an obvious work-in-progress there shouldn’t be other things in the shot like ladders, art supplies, people, pets, clutter….

Prospective clients are judging the quality of your art through a 2D image. After spending X amount of time on the art, do you want a mediocre photo to advertise your hard work? You might want to take photography classes or hire a professional.

Keeping Organized

To keep track of where your art is online and for ease of adding new artwork, keep a master list of the urls, user IDs, and a clue for the password. It is best not to save it on your computer, but on a removable drive. This spreadsheet is also helpful for when you move and need to change your contact info.

To make things go faster, when I signed up for multiple artist portfolio sites, I made a file folder that contained my resume, statement, images, and image list.

Share your url

Besides having your web address on your business card put it other places, like after your signature on your email.

You can share new artwork and promotions on various sites like digg, kirsty, and twitter by leaving your url. I love twitter, because mine is set up to automatically update my status on Facebook and on my art blog. When you post on youtube in the subject line give yourself credit and include a link to your site.

In closing

Don’t get overwhelmed. Instead have fun with designing business cards and a website. It doesn’t need to be super complicated or techno savvy with Flash components. You can always upgrade. Make it look professional and just get it done.

Moving out of your Comfort Zone to Advance Business

by Elizabeth Symington

It’s up to you to reflect on your productivity and how to enhance it since you call the shots. Think about your to-do list. Maybe it’s super long with lots of descriptive notes, or perhaps you don’t feel the need to make one. Is the to-do list typed up systematically in a spreadsheet or is it handwritten with colorful markers? How often do you find yourself having completed all of the “fun” tasks and stuck with the daunting one? Using Bernice McCarthy’s 4MAT for learning style I realized why I’ve been avoiding certain tasks and how that has held back my business.

The 4MAT learning style is a cycle where knowledge is acquired and retained through practical application. Each person naturally leans to one of the four learning quadrants: 1) establishing relationships, 2) understanding the essence, 3) searching for usefulness, and 4) creating personal adaptations and integrations.













Quadrant 1 individuals are intuitive people who thrive at talking and listening. They ask “why” this new knowledge is important and use their senses and past experiences to find that answer.

Quadrant 2 folks love to get the facts straight from the experts by attending lectures, watching videos, and reading. They love logic, charts and details. When learning things they question “what” is this new information?

Quadrant 3 people are also detail oriented but with a focus on “how does this work?” They like to practice, hypothesize and master practical life skills as fast as possible.

Quadrant 4 is made up of intuitive people who take the new found knowledge and ask “what if?” to adapt it to their lives. They are also flexible, focused on innovation and act on their dreams.


Applying Each Quadrants Preference of Tasks to the To-Do List:

Figuring out which quadrant you love to dwell in can help you ascertain how much time you spend on tasks of that genre and if the duties in the other quadrants are being neglected. I’m a diehard quadrant 3 since I adore taking information, applying it to my life and practicing it until mastery.

In relation to the to-do list, I tend to put off making phone calls since I prefer to stick to facts and objects and “getting things done,” instead of building relationships which is what quadrant 1 people love. Knowing that I put off phone calls since they “waste time,” I write on the to-do list an estimate of how long each call will take. This puts things into perspective, which usually adds up to being on the phone five minutes at a time, even though it feels like hours. It is also important to partake in small talk since quadrant one people would feel unloved if I called them and got straight to business.

The quadrant 2 tasks that I greatly love and adore are being systematic and organized with a fascination and thirst for facts. The only difference is that as a quadrant 3 person I prefer to take that information and put it to use in my life. As far as the to-do list is concerned quadrant 2 duties can include researching local government laws, new technology, and different business entities without regard to applying the information to your business. Being a quadrant 3 person, I occasionally feel overwhelmed with researching since the limitless amount of facts and details can give me “analysis paralysis.” This is where decision making is delayed until all of the facts have been investigated and analyzed. Knowing this, I give myself a time limit on when a decision needs to be made or have someone else do the research for me.

When writing this article I attacked it like a quadrant 3 person by focusing on a topic of relevance for business owners and artists. After brainstorming for a practical topic, I had to refamiliarlize myself with About Teaching, 4MAT in the Classroom by Bernice McCarthy, because it had been a few years since I read it. Instead of a typed outline, which I normally do, I drew a visual outline of a diagram of the learning cycle and began writing a rough draft for the article.

My tendency as a quadrant 3 person is to move straight to mastery, even before it’s time, so rough drafts are very difficult for me to write. I’d rather write the article perfectly the first time, but this approach can take a very long time and not have the best results. On my to-do list it says to write “an imperfect rough draft.” Being a stickler for rules, this helps me to write more freely and not worry about perfect formatting or sentence structure. I then let the article sit for about a day and tweaked it before handing it off to be proofread.

Quadrant 4 tasks on the to-do list can include how to adapt new found information for your business, like altering a production process that you heard from a friend. I shy away from quadrant 4 tasks since they often have unpredictable outcomes, making them riskier. In order to encourage myself to do these much needed tasks, I remind myself this is where progress happens and that “proud” feelings result when completing something scary.


Strategies for Finishing the Not-So-Fun-Tasks:

Aim for a balance of the quadrants; that way there will be fewer things on the to-do list you'll want to avoid. Until you reach this balance, acknowledge there is nothing wrong with preferring particular tasks and focus on solutions to complete the things you put off. Some solutions are:

• Do the least favorite task first to get it over with (like presenting first in speech class).

• Make it into a game by making the to-do list into a bingo card. When you have a bingo give yourself a reward! Or set a time limit or date as to when the project has to be done. Call up a friend and bet them you’ll get a specific amount of things done in 3 hours or you’ll owe them $20.

• Contract out or delegate to an employee.

• Partner up with someone to make the experience more enjoyable and to help with motivation.

• Imagine the sense of accomplishment and other rewards for finishing this daunting or unenjoyable task


Recognizing Limitations to Break New Ground

The breakthrough mentioned earlier was in relation to over planning which prevented me from taking the next step in running my first business. For the past nine years I have planned many businesses, but wanted to be completely prepared before opening the doors. I became a thorough planner, but no businesses were ever opened.

True to being a 3rd quadrant person, I prepared to be an owner by attending many seminars, taking classes, researching online and reading many books. Everything was planned and practiced, but it was the fear of not having a controlled outcome that held me back.

I was also stymied about not knowing where to find the legal forms for opening a business. The task felt overwhelming since there were lots of unfamiliar terms. It seemed like it would take hours to find the correct forms. Then a few days before this deadline, a friend surprised me by finding the two forms I needed to open a business. His encouragement and leading the way through the government sites helped me to move past the daunting details and into owning a business.

Acknowledging what you love to do and not do can speed up your productivity and reduce your stress. Best of luck with analyzing and assessing your productivity!