Shelley Widhalm

Archive for October, 2018|Monthly archive page

Art for Art’s Sake, Not for Free

In Artists, Dying of Exposure, Harrison Hand, Loveland Artists Collective, Writing on October 28, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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Artist and author Harrison Hand of Loveland poses by one of his books in one of his Facebook photos.

Artists can love what they do, but they shouldn’t be doing it for free—or they might die of exposure.

“The shark is who’s going to take advantage of you and eat you versus those who will carry you,” said Harrison Hand of Loveland, Colo., an artist, illustrator and filmmaker who owns Harrison Hand Studios. “We have to shift how we get discovered and how we get marketed.”

Hand gave a presentation, “Dying of Exposure: the problem of working for free and how to fix it,” at the Oct. 22 Loveland Artists Collective monthly meeting on ways artists can profitability market and price their work. The Artists Collective brings together visual, performing and literary artists to discuss topics related to the arts and meets at various locations, including Artworks Loveland, an art studio and gallery in downtown Loveland, where Hand spoke.

Artists who do not have a large marketing budget may resort to low-cost gorilla marketing to get their work in view of the public, but what Hand calls sharks can come in, promising, “Give me this, and I’ll promote you.”

Sharks and Dolphins

Sharks can take on various forms, offering payment in forms of exposure when artists need to earn a living. They may want artists’ stuff for free. They may be two-headed flees/fleas who take your stuff and flee or put your stuff in a flea market setting surrounded by stuff sold from elsewhere, causing you to drown from the false exposure. Or they may be the friends and family types who expect you to work for free and come up with an excuse to take what you make.

Instead, artists need to identify the win-win marketing dolphins in their midst in the sea of sharks that can carry them to paying customers,

“Dolphins are going in the same direction as you to carry you to the customer,” Hand said. “Sharks take you where they want to go. Dolphins take you where you want to go.”

Dolphins get excited about what you do and tell everyone, or they make it easier for you to get discovered. Dolphins who are artists may cross-promote each other’s work, something artists can do by connecting and sharing what they like.

“You want to find those key people who talk you up and promote you,” Hand said.

If artists do decide to charge below their normal rates, they can mention what they normally charge and say they will do it for less and expect something in return, Hand said. Or they can state their rate and suggest other sources, such as students who may charge less, he said.

“Don’t devalue your time because you love doing it,” Hand said.

Working for Free?

Hand turned the rest of the discussion over to the 30-plus artists and writers in the audience. They suggested when requests for free work are sought to possibly set aside a couple of charitable projects a year and once that is met to roll over requests to the next year on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“I try to, in the nicest way possible, explain first of all, there are ways to ask artists for their art,” said Sheron Buchele Rowland, fiber artist and metalsmith and organizer of the Artists Collective. “It’s symbiotic. We’re carrying each other forward.”

Some of the artists questioned how much they should charge for their work—it’s based on materials, market and time spent both on the work and developing the skills to do it, Hand said.

“What we do is unique. We all have a unique vision to show the world,” Hand said. “What I do is a skill just like what you do is skill.”

The Artists Collective provides education and networking opportunities for artists and aims to activate the arts to promote their success.

“We are about community. We are about networking,” Buchele Rowland said. “That community is really critical because we spend so much time in our studios by ourselves.”

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Saying Goodbye to a Car (with a little bit about writing)

In Car Repairs, Cars, New Cars, Writing, Writing and Cars on October 21, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services had to get new wheels in early October after she said goodbye to her 16-year-old car that took her all over the country and got her nearly 170,000 miles.

For months, I knew we’d be parting ways, my car of 16 years that took me nearly 170,000 miles in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Nebraska and my home state of Colorado. I knew that after replacing the clutch, fixing the brakes, getting yet another set of tires and having 2,000 misfires in the engine, plus a window that wouldn’t go up or down and a front end duck taped together, all within two years, this day would come.

The Repairs

My heart pounded as I heard the verdict on the cost of repairs. I couldn’t keep fixing what’s broken and return my car to clean newness. I called a towing company to have it taken from the car shop to my apartment. I’d driven it the day before, and it went thumpity-thump down the road, the “Check Engine” light flashing as it went slower and slower until it was a matter of … where do I stop? I parked, went to a meeting and a co-freelancer helped me drive the car to the shop.

At 2:15 p.m. on Sept. 28, my car arrived on the bed of a tow truck, which lowered it into its parking space. I looked at the white truck and my car, back and forth, thinking, do not cry. I got my key and sat inside my car, and I cried. I didn’t think I would, because I’d been saying “I hate you” for breaking down.

Memories flashed through of our times together, my cranberry red Saturn, my first brand new car when I thought I was fancy and on the top of my game. I had a job as a features writer at The Washington Times. I was going to work at The Washington Post or The New York Times. I was going to be a published author. I would have an expansive wardrobe and fill my passport to overflowing.

The Adventures

My car and I went to the beach and to the mountains. We went on wine tours. We went shopping. We got separated in big parking lots. We listened to audio books and the radio. She, my Cranberry Red, listened to me talk on the phone before that became a no-no, and she heard me go through the gamut of emotions. She was there out my apartment window wherever I lived, my constant.

I sat in her passenger seat, thinking, I won’t be driving you anymore. This is it. This is goodbye. My heart beat a little faster. I couldn’t catch my breath. I wanted to have my car to go places. To be. Not this. Not this soon.

I got laid off in 2008 from The Washington Times, and my car and I moved back to Colorado. I got laid off in 2016, and we thought it wasn’t fair, two layoffs in less than a decade, but it was the recession and then post-recession. Cranberry Red started to age, and she needed lots of assistance to keep going. I gave her what she wanted, peeling out hundreds and hundreds of dollars for her care.

The Goodbye

I felt like she’d become part of me, my car. And then I thought about all of the things I’m going to be. I’m not giving up.

I am going to be a traditionally published author, no matter the effort that it takes, because I will have the heart and the new wheels and the love of family and friends to let me know that I can go forward. I will keep writing and loving writing. Because over the last month, I had wanted to quit my business and my writing and then my car quit, and I figured, no, not both of us.

One of us has to carry on the torch of the Cranberry.

Transitions in Seasons (and How it Relates to Writing)

In Transitions, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on October 14, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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The table centerpiece is a perfect way to transition into fall with fresh-picked apples mixed with the colors of autumn.

The change from summer to fall or fall to winter is more gradual than the calendar indicates.

In Colorado, there’s often an afterthought of heat in late fall or an early snow before summer ends. The change occurs like sliding down a hill with some going back up until the season feels like, yep, it’s fall, or yes, time for the winter jackets.

An abrupt change in season can be compared to writing without transition—it’s hot and then it’s cold without anything in between.

Transitions in Story

Transitions are essential to keep the direction of the storyline clear, instead of skipping without explanation from one time or place to another, confusing readers as they try to figure out where exactly they are in the story. For instance, they might think they are in a coffee shop and suddenly they are in some memory about traveling to another country.

Transitions serve as a bridge that signals a shift in the story, such as a change in time, place, mood, tone or point of view. They mark a scene break, ideally at the moment of heightened suspense, causing the reader to want to know what happens next.

The point-of-view character’s physical environment, or what’s happening around her, can transition into her internal thoughts, memories or reflections. The character may see an object or hear something that triggers recollections of some event from her past. The recalling of past events in the present through flashback interrupts the flow of narrative. The tense can be changed—such as present to past or past to past perfect—to indicate her entry into or exiting out of the memory or flashback. Sensory impressions can be used to take the character out of the memory and return the character to the present moment. Or dialogue can cause the character to come back to the present, though she might ask, “What? What are you talking about?”

Transitions as Roadmap

Transitions serve as that roadmap, or weather guide, keeping the reader within the story world, so that moving between time and place seems natural without suddenly needing to change clothes or pull out the umbrella, wondering what to do next.

I prefer my summer to spill into fall, winter to be short and spring to arrive quickly. But I appreciate all four seasons because sameness would not give that excitement of change, or transition!

The Work (and Poetry) of an Assisted Living Facility

In Community Poets, Poetry Readings, Writing Poetry on October 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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Shelley Widhalm reads some of her poetry at the “Good Work” poetry reading Sept. 23 at the Loveland Museum in Loveland, Colo.

Every time I visit my mother at her assisted living facility, I walk down the halls, feeling wonder at the corkboards filled with cutout magazine pages.

One of the residents, Deloros, considers it her job to fill the white walls with images of wildlife, birds, historic ruins and travel—and sometimes people at work. She cuts out the images, tapes them to construction paper and highlights the text, turning routine magazine articles into art, education and entertainment.

Deloros says she needs to finish her work before lunch as I stop to talk and let her pet my dog, Zoey, a long-haired miniature dachshund. I commiserate, because I know I would want the same thing in my retirement years—some sense of work and purpose. She tells me it helps her get up and going with her day.

“Some feel lost until they have work,” is a line from a poem that perfectly fits our weekly encounters.

Good Work! Poetry Reading

The poem is about life at an assisted living facility and one of 15 that poets read Sept. 23 at the seasonal poetry reading hosted by the Community Poets in Loveland, Colo.

The poetry reading, “Good Work!—A Post-Labor Day Celebration,” featured an open mike and the reading of poems focused on the autumnal equinox, work and going back to school. The poems were on subjects as varied as working in a mailroom, doing a long list of random jobs, going to a job interview, questioning choosing college over steady work, disliking repetitive factory tasks and seeing the act of pushing a pencil across the page as heavy work. My poems were about doing dishes and taking the trash to the trash room.

“It’s easy to get lost in your career,” was a line from one of the poems, and I related.

I find that working too much pushes out real life and fun if the hours become too many—and then I realize I need to work less to be a little more balanced. I wonder what I will do when I retire and how I’ll fill my days. Will I think I have to work, just like Deloros does? Will I be writing my novels and journaling because I believe it’s incredibly important? Will I be published and have “my work” continue bringing in money? Or will the work be something that gets me up to be doing something, anything, just as long as I keep busy?

One of the poems was about Bud, whose job is listening to stories—and it turns out Bud is a dog. Zoey’s jobs involve going on walks, doing tricks and offering comfort to her human companions and those she passes by, like Deloros. She stops to visit Deloros and listens to her stories about her work, wiggling her body at the excitement of being included. I always smile, fascinated by the Deloros’s artwork and the love she gives Zoey.

Taking Poetry Notes

During the poetry reading, I didn’t take very careful notes. I scribbled on tiny yellow and orange piece of papers with poems on them, writing on the back sides of “The Real Work,” by Wendell Berry and two copies of a poem by Gary Snyder, “Hay for Horses.” I forgot my work of being a journalist, absorbed in being a poet and a listener of poetry, marveling at the beauty of the lines and images the poets presented. In other words, I forgot to work.

“It was so much creativity and beauty and heart and soul put into versions of work,” said Lynn Kincanon, a member of the Community Poets, adding that the poets sharing their work was “a community gift.”

The Community Poets, a group of local poets and organizations that organizes poetry readings and workshops in Loveland, will hold the next seasonal reading Dec. 16 on Frosty Nights and the Pleasures of Winter, inspired by the poetry of Robert Frost, at the Loveland Museum. The poetry readings are held every season, and the workshops are held twice a year in April and August.