Tag: artist on art

Chaos and Course Corrections – Getting Lost in a Chaotic Cultural Crisis

"Chaos" abstract painting social commentary by BZTAT

Bill walked up to me in my tent at the Canton First Friday Art Walk, and he reached out his hand towards me. “Are you Vicki?” he asked. I replied that I was, as I awkwardly shook his hand, a bit surprised because most people refer to me as BZ in my art circles.

“I have been looking for you,” he told me with a reserved sort of eagerness. “Didn’t you used to have a blog?”

“I still do have a blog,” I told him, “although I haven’t written in it for a long time.”

Bill proceeded to tell me that he had found my blog online at some point, and that he had read a post I had written about the Canton Arts District. He said that the post helped him understand the movement to utilize the arts to help revitalize downtowns, and it helped him understand the potential hazards of gentrification. He had wanted to meet me for a long time.

I don’t know exactly which post he was referring to – I have written a few on the topic – but the fact that it had been of such value to him startled me. I often wonder if, 1) anyone reads what I write, and, 2) if anyone cares about it if they do read it.

I used to write a lot. I don’t do it so much anymore.

It isn’t because of laziness that I stopped writing. It isn’t writer’s block either. I stopped writing on purpose.

In the past, I wrote down ideas that I wanted to share with others because I had something to say, and because I thought I had a unique perspective that could benefit others. I still have a lot to say, and my perspective is still sage in some respects. I wonder, though, does sharing my perspective benefit anyone? Hmmm.

Let’s face it. The internet has made it possible for anyone to share an opinion about anything in an instant with millions of people. Cottage industries have developed out of making internet stars of people who post images and videos of gratuitous junk. Prospering from impulsive outrageousness is big business, making intelligent reasoning seem quaint. Trolling and harassment tends to destroy any opportunity for civil dialog. Propaganda and conspiracy theories dominate our cultural landscape with a ferocity that squelches any legitimate debate.

What room is there in this chaotic ethos for an artist and writer who carefully considers her world and comes to thoughtful conclusions? Can I even come to any thoughtful conclusions when our present day culture is so tumultuous and upended?

My dearth of writing of late has been a course correction of sorts.

Previously, my art and my blogging was an intentional course of commentary on the world around me. I was marching towards understanding, and I was sharing my discoveries along the way. Something changed on that path, though. Somewhere on that journey, it became clear to me that the sort of understanding that I had been seeking was no longer a reachable goal.

All I was discovering was chaos. Nothing was understandable. The things that mattered to me previously seemed either irrelevant or insignificant, or they no longer made sense to me. When nothing made sense, writing no longer seemed apropos to me on any topic.

How does one chart an intentional course of commentary, when you can’t even find your way through the mist?

I honestly had no answer to that question. So I changed course. As I floundered in my course of seeking meaning and purpose in my life, I stopped sharing literary commentary.

My circumstance could be called a “midlife crisis” or some other function of age. I am getting older, and that does change the way you experience things. I believe this is bigger than an individual emotional upheaval, however. Our world is in crisis, not just me. My reaction to that crisis is my path, as I have always been one to reflect upon the bigger picture in my life as an artist. It is both a gift and a curse.

Could a new course correction be coming?

Bill and his daughter at Canton First Friday

Something changed in that moment that Bill walked into my art tent. The fact that he had sought me out because my words in a previous commentary had been meaningful to him – well, that shook me up. He helped me see that holding back my thoughts serves no one, especially if there are people wanting to consider them in their own life journeys.

Writing right now is painful. It does not flow. It does not conclude. Everything is up in the air and hard to grasp with a definitive statement. Is that enough reason not to do it? Or is it reason enough to summon new energy within myself to find a new course?

 I live each day of my life by my motto, “Life is an adventure!” I try to approach each new experience as something to be explored and not just endured. Some adventures are not enjoyed, but the exploration reaps benefits, nonetheless. I need to keep reminding myself of this.

Thanks for stopping by my tent, Bill. I am glad that you found me. And thanks to anyone else who has happened to have found this piece of writing. Share your own thoughts, if you wish, in the comments below.

Perhaps your thoughts might trigger a new direction for my adventurous journey.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

I have a secret.

Top Secret Stamp by Artist BZTATI have a secret.

I must, right? I am an artist, and artists create things that no one else can create. We have insights and methods that are outside the reach of others, and we do things that inspire comments like, ” I wish I could paint like that!”

There has to be a secret if others cannot grasp it, yes?

The funny thing is, I don’t feel like I have a secret. What I do is just what I do, and I just go about doing it every day, enjoying the process most of the time. Sometimes the process is a struggle and not exactly enjoyable, but I do it in pursuit of an outcome that is ultimately satisfying.

Some of what I do is a matter of skill that has been carefully honed over the years. It is not so secret. Many of my processes are easily analyzed and revealed.

Other aspects to my process, though, are more conceptual and intuitive. They are less obvious and more oblique to the casual eye. I guess that these aspects are what intrigue people the most. They are also what make my work uniquely mine.

My point in musing about all of this is to let you know that none of my artistic “secrets” are intentionally guarded as such. I don’t purposefully create a mystique about my creative process and prevent others from trying to duplicate it. I am secure in my ability and my unique perceptions, so I do not fear that others will copy and achieve identical results.

That is the real secret.

Each person has their own personal identity that ultimately shines through in their art, so even purposefully attempted copies of another’s work reveals something about the actual artist and not the one imitated.

I like to help others discover their creative selves, and I enjoy sharing about my own experiences to facilitate that process for people. I am very open to sharing my techniques and processes in the hopes that others will use them as a way to explore their creativity and try new things.

So if there was one “secret” that I could reveal to help you in that process, what would it be?

Ask away in the comments here. Future blog posts will take up your questions and hopefully help reveal the secrets to your own creative potential!

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Revisiting an old painting and creating something new

whimsical painting by BZTAT
Painting by BZTAT

I painted this painting several years ago, well before the days when I started signing my work BZTAT (c. 2001). It was purchased by my doctor from a gallery that no longer exists. At the time, I had not seen her but for a couple of times, and she did not recognize that she had bought a painting from a patient until she took it back to her office.

Now I, and her other patients get the pleasure of viewing it when they come to visit. Lucky for me in regards to my health, that doesn’t happen often.

My doctor has purchased other paintings from me since then, though. An avid dog lover, I have painted her pups’ portraits. And now, she has asked me to paint a companion piece to this one. How fun!

I used to paint and draw patterns and symbols like this a lot in the past. I am looking forward to giving it a go again.

Stay tuned!

How can I keep from painting?

Dancing Spirits and Hearts drawing by BZTAT
“Spirits Dance” Drawing by BZTAT

There are so many troubling things in our world, it is hard sometimes to remain positive. As an artist, I know that everything I create exists against the backdrop of cultural strife and struggle that is in my world.

It is hard sometimes to remember that it is not all bad in our culture. Beauty and joy sometimes come to us with a whisper or other subtle communications, while ugliness and pain come with dramatic noise.

My artworks do not necessarily reflect cultural events. Yet they contribute to culture by bringing something positive into the world that counterbalances all the negative influences that prevail.

Words and musical mysticism by the musician Enya bring me some peace as I contemplate the pain that has screamed at me from the headlines this week.

And I ask myself, how can I keep from painting?

 

How Can I Keep From Singing – Enya

My life goes on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentations,

I hear the real, though far-off hymn

That hails a new creation.

 

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear it’s music ringing,

It sounds an echo in my soul.

How can I keep from singing?

 

While though the tempest loudly roars,

I hear the truth, it liveth.

And though the darkness ’round me close,

Songs in the night it giveth.

 

No storm can shake my inmost calm,

While to that rock I’m clinging.

Since love is lord of heaven and earth

How can I keep from singing?

 

When tyrants tremble in their fear

And hear their death knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near

How can I keep from singing?

 

In prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts to them are winging,

When friends by shame are undefiled

How can I keep from singing?

 

..

What is it like to be an artist? Essential.

Artist BZTAT in 1985 at Marshall University
Artist BZTAT in 1985 at Marshall University

I graduated from Marshall University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Printmaking. I received a Master of Arts degree in Painting and Printmaking a year and a half later. (Yep, I had big hair back then.)

I took off into the world with lofty ideas of  being an “Art for Art’ Sake” kind of artist in the hopes of being on the cover of Art in America someday.

fail whaleAnd I flopped. Big time.

We didn’t have the Fail Whale image or Twitter back then, but the image would have worked for me.

At the time as I was miserable, but it was probably one of the most important experiences of my life.

I quickly realized that I was not cut out to be a full time artist – at that time, anyway.

I had no experience or know-how in marketing or making business decisions for making art my career then. In fact, my art professors had strongly discouraged me from developing any such skills. To do so would have disrupted the purity of my artistic intent, I was told.

There were other reasons for my failure, though.

I believe that I failed because I was not prepared to do something for a career that seemed self-indulgent to me. Although I firmly believed then, and still do now, that art is essential and important to our world, it did not seem essential enough to me to build a career around – at that time anyway.

I felt a sense of responsibility to contribute to my community and my world in a way that was more essential in the sense of life saving and world changing, and creating abstract paintings as I was doing at the time just did not cut it for me.

Neither did working minimum wage low-skill jobs when I had 2 degrees.

I went back to school and received a Masters degree in Counseling in 1991.  I then embarked on a 20 year career as counselor for families and children. I continued to create artwork, but it was not my career.

Counseling families and children facing trauma and other forms of emotional pain seemed more essential and important in the grand scheme of things. Although counseling was never a high paying job, it did allow me to live sufficiently, and I felt that I was contributing in an important way.

Over time, I grew to be disenchanted with the social services field, however. I found that organizations established to “help” people often were challenged with making decisions based more on their own survival than on the needs of their clients. I railed against it, and ended up changing jobs a lot.

I was always looking for a place with a consistent emphasis on both  integrity and high quality services. I never found it.

I began to put more energy into my artwork around 1999, and by 2009, It was becoming more of a career for me.

After September 11, 2001, art began to feel more essential to me, as I felt a strong compulsion to contribute to my world through expression. I had always been a philosophical sort of person, and 9/11 brought out that side of me in a new way.

I now focus primarily on painting portraits of pets, and have found that surprisingly healing and, yes, essential, for those who commission me to paint their animals.

I recently was commissioned to paint a portrait of a cat that had been hit by a car a week earlier. The distraught pet owner told me in an email, “I really think the painting is going to give me a lot of comfort. Talking with you and thinking about the painting has given me comfort already.”

What is more essential than that?

I think that I had to live a life of essential experiences before painting as a career felt right to me.

Although I look forward to a continued life of  essential experiences, I think that it is a life that fits me now.

 

What is it like to be an artist? Exacting, exhilarating, exhausting and exasperating.

Artist BZTAT painting process

Let’s call it the 4-E’s.

Being an artist has many different qualities and these 4 “E” words sum it all up.

Exacting – Being an artist means that you have been granted insight and vision that has yet to be seen or grasped by others. In order to clarify and and illuminate that vision for others, the artist must engage in an exacting process of creative definition. It drives others crazy sometimes. I have been called a diva for being stubborn and insistent about details that, during the process, make no sense to others. Later on others may understand, but often, artists are considered royal pains in the patooty for obsessively holding to their exacting standards.

Exhilarating – Color, to me, is exhilarating. Bringing about creative images and objects that swirl with color and shape and composition is the most exciting process! Often the process can have spans of drudgery, but overall, the process, and the product, are very exhilarating.

Exhausting – It takes many hours to create a work of art that stands out and takes its unique place in the world. It is both emotionally and intellectually intense, and physically tasking. Exhaustion often comes when you realize you have painted for several hours without a break and probably should have stopped a long time ago.

Exasperating – It is a gift to be granted the insight and vision of an artist. It can be a struggle, however, to convince others of your financial and structural needs to complete projects. Finding people to commission projects that have yet to be visually articulated can be tricky. Convincing others of the necessity for details when you are not fully certain of how the process will develop can also be a challenge.

As challenging and frustrating as these processes can be, I cannot imagine my life without it. I am grateful for having the opportunity to be a creator and to be able to share the talent that I have been given!

 

We all have special talents and gifts. What is yours?

What is it like to be an artist? Sometimes it is pretty ordinary in an extraordinary sorta way.

Animal Artist BZTAT painting in studio
BZTAT – an ordinary day in the studio

Yesterday, I posted about how being an artist can be pretty fabulous. Most days though, are boringly ordinary.

I usually awaken later in the day than most, pick up my iPhone while still in bed, take a photo of whichever of the 5 cats around me is looking the cutest, check my email and social media sites, get up out of bed, and then I am off to my day.

Nothing all that extraordinary about that.

Creating and marketing my artwork is my job, so my day is sorta like yours. I do various tasks involved with “my job” which includes: researching ideas, acquiring materials, networking through face to face and social media connections, updating my website, writing newsletters, writing blog posts, reading other bloggers’ blog posts, catching up on the latest news and current events, and reading email.

I get lots and lots of email.

After I do all that, I get around to the actual creating. I usually paint or draw or do other creative activities later in the evening. That is the time I am the most creative for some reason, and it is when I have less distraction.

So if you had the idea that artists are out in some kind of dreamy world that is separate from yours, you would be a bit off base.

My mental world, though, is probably a bit different than yours.

When I paint, I go into a creative place that takes my mind in different directions. I go into a semi-trance of sorts where I am basically doing a mindless task, yet my intuition and creative vision are always on auto-pilot.

My eyes scan every detail and every brushstroke. Although not everything I paint is intentional, my mind is alert for where I am at, where I am going, and where I have been.

I sometimes know exactly where I am going, and other times I engage in an adventurous experiment. Sometimes I think I know where I am going, and then I step back from the canvas for a look. “Crap, that’s not right at all,” is my next thought. And I change directions.

There is always a visual and verbal dialogue going on in my head. I really can’t explain it. Sometimes it is a swirling mix of visual and verbal snippits – ideas or images that crossed my path during the day, or issues and circumstances that stick in my brain and need to be processed.

Despite all that noise, I also am feeling a very visceral and somewhat spiritual connection to the subject of my creativity, especially when I am painting the portrait of an animal. I pour and pour over the photos of the animal, and I try to get a “feel” for the character and spirit of the creature I am painting.

I also think of what that animal means to the person who has so lovingly commissioned their portrait.

I am a very fussy painter. I fuss and fuss and fuss for hours to get a certain color or shape or composition correct. I make constant changes and I work and overwork areas obsessively.

I cannot explain why. It is just my process. If I did it any other way, my art would not be my art – it would just be some other painting.

When I complete an artwork, unlike some artists, I am very pleased. I enjoy my artwork and I am thrilled when others do too.

I do not complete an artwork everyday, and some days I go to bed feeling very unsettled or unsatisfied with my work.

And I wake up the next day, ready for another ordinarily extraordinary day.

 

What is it like to be an artist? Sometimes it is pretty fabulous.

Artist BZTAT painting at Outdoor Concert

There are perks and there are challenges to being an artist. Sometimes the challenges are daunting. But the perks can be pretty fabulous.

One of the things that I enjoy the most about being an artist is participating in special events and becoming part of the entertainment. Sometimes it is planned. Other times, it is spontaneous.

Last week, we had a concert on the street where my gallery/studio is located. It was such a beautiful night and such a wonderful and casual crowd, I decided to bring my easel and paints out onto the street and paint out in the evening breeze.

Artist BZTAT painting at Outdoor Concert

 I had a great time painting to the sounds of the music, and the crowd seemed to enjoy watching me paint. I especially enjoyed the children who watched with awe. “She’s a real live artist!”

I do planned events as well, and have an equally fun time interacting with people when I am hired to make events entertaining and interesting (Check out my Artify Your Event! page).

Sometimes, being an artist is a lonely job, and I will write about that in a future post. It does not always have to be that way, though.

The process of sharing creativity with others can be so much fun!

Watch the video below of my painting at the concert last week. It is a bit long – sorry for that – but it gives you a bit of an idea about my painting technique.

Have you seen artists at events and enjoyed what they contributed? What would you like to see artists do in your town?

What is it like to be an artist?

Artist BZTAT painting
Artist BZTAT painting

“I wish I could paint like that!” “I wish I was an artist!”

I hear those comments a lot. I generally smile or continue the conversation in some other direction, because it is sort of awkward to respond directly.

I am gratified by the complimentary tone, and I deeply appreciate the admiration. It is a gift to have a talent to which others aspire. How many people get to do something every day that inspires others to say, “I want to do that!”?

It amazes me sometimes how others seem to enjoy the vicarious journey of “living” through the eyes of the artist, trying to imagine what it is like to be, well, me.

I often think my life is pretty boring. I mean, I fill my day with things that are interesting to me, but in the grand scheme of things, I doubt what interests me is of interest to others. Yet, my postings in social media suggests otherwise. Retweets on Twitter and Facebook “Likes” are always a surprise to me.

I try to use this blog to give a glimmer of insight into my life and my adventure every day. My art also shares my insight and unique perspective. I thought this week, however, I would focus more directly on giving my readers and art fans a more in-depth view.

So what would you like to know? What questions do you have about what it is like to be an artist? I will try to respond and give feedback the best that I can in daily posts this week.

Thanks for following my adventure!

Why are artists afraid of marketing themselves?

art marketing for artists

I talk to a lot of artists on a regular basis. Some online and some in person. With only a few exceptions, they almost always put up their guard when I start talking to them about marketing their art and themselves.

I simply don’t get it.

I realize that it doesn’t come naturally to some. I also understand that learning the technologies for art marketing can be intimidating. But artists are supposed to be intrepid souls who will go where others will not dare, right?

WRONG.

My experience has shown that artists tend to shed their intrepid adventurer skins when you start talking social media, blogging, websites, etc. to them. Why is that?

I suspect that there are a lot of reasons. Whatever the reason, it is to the artist’s detriment. Artists who succeed in their own lifetimes tend to be the ones who develop a knack for marketing. They sync their creative souls with their desire to share their work with others, and they find ways to get there work “out there”. When their work is “out there” and seen by a wider audience, it sells.

I am not anywhere close to where I want to be in selling my work, but I am SELLING. I sell more work than most artists that I know. I am not living in luxury, but I am living from the proceeds of my art. I am building a foundation upon which greater things can develop.

I want to help others learn what I have learned, and what I continue to learn about marketing. It is a creative and energizing endeavor, and it does not have to take away from one’s artwork production.

So I ask you, if you are an artist, are you afraid of marketing? What scares you the most? What hold you back?