Monday, December 13, 2010

Everyone's A Critic!?

I took my daughter to National Portfolio Day so she could meet art schools she is interested in attending. I always thought she had talent, she's been drawing since she was a baby. In fact her drawing at age 2 led her to the Center for Academic Precocity.

She gets straight A's in Art, has taken extra-curricular art classes and is the president of the Art Honor Society and volunteers for Free Arts.

I know I am biased. But I thought the schools would be somewhat impressed...

She brought a portfolio with drawings and paintings.

Now, mind you, she's an honor student, taking AP classes, with great grades...and when not doing homework, she's in a band [and writes music], lies on the couch and has pretty normal life. So, I suppose she should have spent more time making art or taking more art classes... perhaps her portfolio was a bit slim?

Is she the most talented 18 year old? Probably not... I wasn't expecting her to be swept up museum curators upon entry.

I expected a little more consistent feedback. Oh, no one told her she was awful, or wasting her time, but I was surprised that the critiques were completely contradictory!?

School one - Do more figure drawing. Not from photos, from life. Your paintings are your worst work. Work on shading. Your drawings in graphite are your best work. Forget Fine Art, go for Illustraton. Not impressed, but the critic is in the photography department. Do more drawings and send them in [uh... deadline for application is NOW-ish?] not exactly encouraging, but not bad... at least they had a conversation and he was not discouraging her.

School two - Do more still lifes. Your paintings are flat. No other feedback.

School three - Very positive, actually really liked some work [paintings] and gave her some hints on improving work and how to edit her portfolio for submission. They talked at length about the school, the town the school is in and how she would fit in. But, this was never a school she considered.

School four - Your paintings are your best work. Your work is best when telling a story. Come visit the school. [I know this school values academics as highly as art work]. It was worth waiting over 2 hours in line for that...

The lines for the other schools she was interested in were WAY too long,  so we were out of time. I wouldn't say she was discouraged, though - she was given a lot of good ideas, inconsistent as they were. She has a lot work to do - too bad finals start this week.

BTW, she wants to be an Art Teacher.

If you think I"m a whining, unrealistic Mom - NO - I know she will be faced with criticism throughout art school - same thing with any artistic endeavor. And I know better than anyone you need to develop a thick skin and a strong point of view.

In college, my life drawing prof absolutely ignored me the entire semester. Would not look at my work or speak to me, gave me no feedback whatsoever... until the final critique, when she said my drawings looked like cartoons...[thanks for all the help, bitch!] and one painting prof told me to stay home and create 12 paintings...that I didn't need his class [lazy me did so, got an A, but didn't learn a flipping thing from him!]. And I would suggest not taking Art History at 7:00 a.m. - they dim the lights and a monotone professor will put you right back to sleep during the slide presentation.

I was wondering what would have happened if I had taken MY portfolio in for review. At every art show or gallery opening, viewers positively swoon over my work, but I can image the comments from critics now... don't worry, I can take it.

Here's some I've had in the past mostly from galleries that actually SELL my work:
You should paint celebrities.
You shouldn't do close-ups... put your subjects in a room.
Your strongest work is portraits,
Ah, your work is just pretty pictures, it needs to be about something.
Don't put writing or words in your work.
Work bigger, much bigger.
We can only sell smaller pieces.
Don't paint celebrities.
No one like portraits, can you do landscapes?

Do you think being an artist is easy? Do you think being self-employed is a dream? No bosses?
Ha - a self-employed artist has a million bosses - critics, gallery owners, art-collectors and everyone who sees your work in person, everyone's a critic!

Get ready, daughter!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


My husband & I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for vacation a couple of weeks ago.

Really, a V A C A T I O N!

He really works hard, and for the past several years, has been using his vacation time to help me with Art Festivals. Those "mini-vacations" are really no vacations at all - between long drives, the grind of physically setting up a booth, tent, merchandise, and then standing around for 2 - 3 days is pretty tiring. Evenings are usually spent grabbing something to eat and sleeping.

So, it was about time we took some actual R&R.

Krystal - Pool
Lucky for us, we have a time-share [we haven't been for years]. Lucky for us, we had enough frequent flier miles to get there for [almost] free. My best friend met us there and stayed at our hotel.
Krystal - New Tower [stay here]

The beach at Yelapa
Wow. What a difference. We didn't have to wake up early, we didn't have to be anywhere at any time. We decided to take casual clothes so we didn't hit any "fancy" restaurants.The only thing we did was take a cruise to Yelapa... and snorkel, and kayak. The cruise was fun, it was a beautiful, cool day, we got wet suits. By the time we got to Yelapa, it was warm and sunny. We hiked up through the "sleepy" village, supposedly charming, to a water fall. It was nice... not fabulous, then hiked down a different way to get to the beach. This sort of "easy hike" is NOT good for older people, or people who are not sure of themselves. The hour on the beach was an hour at a restaurant [we just had lunch on the boat], the water was too cold for swimming, but it was pleasant enough watching the group in front of us sporting "Hedonism" visors drinking and shopping every beach vendor. Then back to PV, the crew decided to put on a show which was pretty lame and unnecessary - but hey, it's open bar and that was the best pina colada I've had in a long time.

Some things to know about traveling to Puerto Vallarta. It's safe. There are a million things to do, or you can sit on your butt and ask Ramon to bring another round of margaritas and chips & guacamole.
You can rent a car, or you can take the bus [cheap!] or taxi's [fairly cheap] to anywhere.
Looks a little run down since last we went, but not awful...a little dustier. Maybe the stores are moving toward Nueva Vallarta and La Punta Mita?
Anyway, you will be constantly assaulted by time-share sales people. They will offer you free lunch, free massages, free boat trips... they'll pretend they met you before. You will also be pestered constantly if you hang out on the beach. Our hotel has security, but that's to keep beach vendors out of the pool area. You'll start out being nice, but within hours you'll be saying "No, gracias" or "No tengo dinero" and by the second day, you'll be holding your book over your eyes to avoid contact. Anything sold on the beach can be purchased elsewhere for less. Walking down the main streets is a contact sport, avoiding those listed above AND everyone trying to get you into their restaurant, bar or nightclub.
There are great restaurants, and you CAN drink the water. Try Pipi's for fun and fajitas [not on Fridays, tho], and El Arrayan was fabulous - not typical "Mexican" food. There are many more... we had a great lunch at Daquiri Dick's in the Romantic Zone.
Walking is an easy way to see everything. We walked from our hotel into town [5 miles?] and from downtown all the way to Las Conchas Chinas one day [okay, we took a cab back].

Although I feel like I've already seen everything, I really enjoyed Art Walk on Wednesday night [sorry, didn't buy anything] I missed Sergio Bustamente's gallery TWICE, but did get ice cream at Bing. I've gone there forever, get Espuma de Angel every time, and this is the first time someone explained the flavor in English [I still don't get it, but it's unique and yummy!]
Sharon wanted to see the houses Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton lived in during the filming of "Night of the Iguana" - Casa Kimberly [Liz's house] is under construction to be made into condo's. Nothing to see [except the run-down bridge] and pretty sad.

If you can swing it, make sure you get a massage [or ten]. The spa at the Krystal had a promotion going - 75 minute massage for $40.00. Best ever, no kidding. Ask for Rosario.

Yarn Painting
Huichol Bead Animal
This is the first time I took some time to check out the Huichol art. These are the Peyote People. Their art represents their visions, and each animal/symbol has meaning. At one store, my husband and I were set to BUY a piece of art [yarn painting], but it was our first shopping stop, before we left, the manager offered to sell us the work for about half price...IF [and only if] we would take a cab to a timeshare presentation, spend 90 minutes hearing about it, and then cab back. This was out of the question...[but Norm was thinking about it]. We checked out other stores. We also loved the bead work. We went back to the store another time, same schtick. Darn! We should have just paid full price, because we just wanted it... next time, we'll go here, instead.

I read a book, played solitaire, slept, sat at the pool, on the beach and did my Zumba workout every day. I was inspired, relaxed and had lovely times with my husband and my best friend. Wow, I guess that is what vacation is for!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Saving Stuff for "Someday"

And, many of you know my Mother was an artist, an author, a relentless business woman and tireless volunteer. I'm honored to have inherited creativity, eye for beauty and maybe a healthy dose of Chutzpah, from her, too.
Mom left a lot of "stuff" for me... to look at, think about and most importantly - use. Art, frames, canvas, brushes, beads, wire & jewelry tools, a dremel, clay tools, paint... and so much more. And, then there are baskets, cookbooks, journals filled with her drawings and notes. Because she was ill, so much of this was put away, not being used or enjoyed. So many things saved for "Someday." It made me think about how many things we hang on to for another day. As if we don't deserve to use those special things "now."

Why do we keep the good china for special occasions? Why don't we burn those beautiful candles, or use the fancy lotions we got for our birthdays? Do people still put plastic on their couches?

Why are we putting off our ability to enjoy our stuff and our passions - now? I remember a great Nora Ephron comment about how at the end of her life she'd be sorry if she skimped on the Dr. Hauschka's lemon bath. And, I had a wonderful lunch in Asheville, NC... the chef's philosophy "Don't Postpone Joy" struck a note. Read more about Laurey's here.

I remember those days when I was one of those "starving" artists... and hoarded every piece of  ruby-lith, scraps of fabric, buttons... for "someday." I still laugh when I'm flipping through my stores of paper and find a piece of graph paper from what seems like 100 years ago. I stopped saving things for another day and put it to use now!

I let my daughter use [almost] all of my art supplies. Yeah, she's ruined a couple of brushes, and doesn't always put the caps back on the paint tight enough...but gee, I'd rather encourage her amazing talent than hoard some paint. I can buy more paint, I can never replace amazing time with her in the studio!

I think it's better to enjoy what you do have...even if the dogs ruin it [have you seen my couch? nibbled!].  Use your stuff, drink that bottle of champagne at the back of the fridge, slather on that lotion, wear your "good" jewelry... otherwise, your life is all about just storing your possessions. Oh, geez I sound like George Carlin's riff on "stuff!"

I brought my Mom's dremel tool home. Now I guess I need to read the instructions so I can use it.