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December 2011

Taking Art Off the Grid


I recently read a Squidoo Lens about Myth-busting the idea of Living off the Grid.   The author (RenaissanceWoman2010) opened the discussion with a quote from Henry David Thoreau:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately...I wanted to live deep..."

There is an abundance of information about the mechanics of being an artist ( and yes, I write my own share of it),  but at times I want to get back to the idea of creating create deeply.  I started wondering if a concept like living off the grid might help me return to those quiet moments where I find insight into what it means to create art.

When I first thought about taking my art off the grid I imagined shutting down my blog, my website, closing my facebook account, refusing to enter shows...definitely not something my creative side would allow the pragmatic side to do.  Was I thinking in terms of myths here?  Could I hypothetically take my art off the grid without literally doing it?

Perhaps I was complicating my thinking.

Myth #1 Off the Grid means retreating from all aspects of the Art World.

And yet both Agnes Martin and Georgia O'Keefe found strength by retreating from outside influences, while the Artist Retreat has a long and valued history. So an argument could be made that there are times when the artist will benefit by retreating from daily activities, finding space to synthesize privately what she has learned, and to understand from a more deliberate and personal perspective. 

Myth #2 Off the Grid means slipping into obscurity.

This was a huge myth for me - I had to really think about what I was fearing - the idea of not actively participating in "being an artist" and all that means - galleries, shows, websites, on-line networking - if there is an artistic equivalent of jumping off the bridge I was sure this was it. 

But I changed the way I interpreted the idea of "obscurity" by thinking in terms of "personal expression."  Moving off the grid of current popular taste could be a huge step toward strengthening the conviction in my own work.  By mentally freeing myself from the temptation of comparison, I am not stepping into obscurity.  I am actually reinforcing the expression of deeper ideas that resonate with viewers looking for the same insights. 

Myth #3 Off the Grid means trying to become that embarrassing relative dressed in macrame and peace beads.  

This seemed like another expression of fear to me.  I remember when we moved from California to Oregon during the early 70's craze of "getting back to self-sufficiency." That meant subscribing to The Farmer's Almanac, buying chicks at the local Farmer's Co-Op, and herding escaped cows with your car (don't ask). So this myth seemed firmly embedded.

But stepping back from actively seeking acceptance for your artwork does not consign you to the fringe unless you step so far back you are now spending your time playing golf. 

Again it is a question of re-framing the idea.  Refusing to follow the trends -if only for a short period of time - gives you the freedom to explore what living deeply and creating deeply might mean to you.  Maybe it's an opportunity to make space for growth and understanding, to bring insight back and apply it with fresh energy and momentum.

Do you think getting off the grid might be a useful idea?  How would you take your work off the grid? As someone who is always looking for that philosophical angle, I am curious about your thoughts regarding this idea. 










A New Reading/Discussion Guide for Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist as a Squidoo Lens

In response to those of you requesting a "book club" atmosphere around Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist, I've just finished a fun new lens on Squidoo called Ancient Artist Resources for Artists - Study Group Guide for Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist.  

There's new content, discussions, and my favorite feature - the Dueling Debate Modules, where you can agree or disagree.  Why not get your artist friends together in a cafe or a studio and have an old-fashioned Salon?

Here is a sampling:


Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist is about your art - why you create art, and the choices you must make in order to create art. It is partly a discussion on the practical aspects of the art business, as well as an exploration into your own private understanding of what it means to be successful as an artist.

Just buying a book and reading it isn't always enough. The experiences of artists differ. The motives for creating differ, as well as the sources of satisfaction. While Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist is written from personal experience, as well as the experiences of others, it raises questions that are not easily answered.

This lens is an additional resource as you begin to identify your own questions.

This lens is about taking risks.

It's about finding your voice.

It's about art.



Creating commerce through our art work

...and the difference between the two

art opening in 2009

Art and commerce have always had a partnership: throughout most of world history, art was a commodity - a decoration, a fetish, forms of identification, or a means of story telling to an illiterate society. Artists worked for patrons and created on demand. Very few signed their work, and only within the last century has the idea taken root of the Artist creating Artwork as a means of personal experience - performance art, earth works art, environmental experience art. While expressive freedom has indeed opened the doors of opportunity for many artists, for others, the reasons behind the "why" of creating art have become far more nebulous.

Creative people struggle to find meaning and purpose as a daily experience. Without a "patron" we find ourselves on our own. And we ask: Who will buy our art? Who will help us sell our art? How can we justify the long hours of hard work with so little financial reward? Where will we find the funds needed to replenish our supplies, pay our mortgages, and contribute to our families while still maintaining our creative purpose without having to give up?

In Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist, the section on How to Mentor Yourself focuses upon how we can identify sources of inner emotional support, obtain practical knowledge, discover methods to improve our craft, and build resources to help maintain emotional balance. Discuss your response to these questions:

Do we create as a form of self expression? And if so, then when our "expression" is not appreciated why do we begin to doubt ourselves?

Do we create to sell in the marketplace? What does this mean in terms of the decisions we make regarding what we produce? How does this affect our interest in the work - whether the work sells, or does not sell?

What ideas did you respond to in the essay by Shannon E Myrick, Ph.D, titled "Motivation and Art: Does getting paid for your work lower its quality?" How does this theme of intrinsic verses extrinsic motivation work it's way through Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist?

Depending on the type of art you create (photography, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, clothing, painting) how have you integrated your personal expression into your work?

How do you think you are honoring your creative vision and why do you find this important?

What are your best methods for maintaining a balance between what seem like competing concerns?


I hope you will hop on over to Squidoo and see what's there - it's too much to recreate on this blog. 

Best to all of you - thank you so much for supporting Amcient Wisdom Emerging Artist, and wishing all of you a happy, creative life every day. 

Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle UK Store - Ancient Wisdom Emerging ARtist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Great Gift Ideas for Artists, Art-Lovers, and those who just like lists

DSC08141_edited-1One of my favorite Christmas songs is the one they play continually in the malls and on the radio - "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."  It always makes me smile, and take a moment to stop and simply enjoy the season - the weather, the decorations, the smell of warm cookies -  without all the hectic demands.

If you're like me, you are always thinking about what you can get for that "hard-to-buy-for" person in your life, particularly if that person is an artist or an art-lover.  So here's a list of gifts that are sure to fit into almost any stocking.

A subscription to an Art Magazine.  Some of my favorites are Art of the West, Fine Art Connoisseur, Southwest Art Magazine, and Plein Air Magazine (Outdoor Painter).

A Fine Art coffee table book - here is a terrific one by Everglades Artist Jo-Ann Sanborn, titled Embracing the Everglades, that features her artwork as well as the story of this endangered area. Embracing the Everglades is available from her website.

Every artist needs a good brush soap, and one of the best I've found is Jack's Linseed Studio Soap, available from Cheap Joe's.

Instructional DVD's.  Some of the Best are by Quang Ho, Scott Christensen, and Sherrie McGraw.

Liz Massey compiled an original and creative list of gift ideas on her blog Creative Liberty

Consider giving a small piece of artwork, or a gift certificate from a favorite artist, gallery, or workshop.

Show your support for what your favorite artist is doing by becoming their "patron" - consider a gift certificate offering to help clean their studio or cook dinner. Or just tell them how much you love their art and want them to keep creating it.  That would be the best gift of all!

For the aspiring artist of any age, don't forget Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist the business plan (not just) for the mature artist. In my Gratitude Jar (image above) I have many "notes" of gratitude for all of the wonderful comments you have been sending my way about Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist.  Here are just a few:

Thank you so much for your wonderful book.  It's full of great ideas and plenty of wisdom that I will put into practice.

I've got my book in the mail and I read it with great pleasure.

You have a great style and the whole book is such an inspiration.

Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it and I keep it handy for all the moments when I doubt myself.

Ancient Wisdom Emerging ArtistFor those of you in the UK, the book can be purchased directly from me (email me) or through Amazon US store, but the Kindle Version is available in the Kindle UK store.  And if you like it - or even if you don't - please consider leaving a review. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours!