Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category

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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The Frustration-Motivation Question

In Artists, Frustration, Motivation, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on December 4, 2011 at 7:00 am

The opposite of motivation, I believe, is frustration.  

As a writer (I wrote a couple of novels and hundreds of poems), I find it frustrating that I keep writing and writing and am not published, but I can’t fathom the idea of stopping. I am motivated to write, but on the flip side of that, I’m frustrated that what I write gets sucked into a big vacuum of “whatever.”

I’m not trying to engage in self pity.

Instead, I want to explore the word’s meaning. Frustration is the result of encountering obstacles to a goal or a project. It can be a feeling of being stuck, of not getting anywhere no matter what you try to do – a feeling that left unresolved can crystallize into anger.

Motivation, on the other hand, is the desire to do something and the drive to carry out a goal. It is what causes you to act.

How can you turn frustration into motivation?

First, remember your original goal or what you want to accomplish.

Keep track of the steps you take toward that goal, taking credit for each accomplishment.

And realize that setbacks will happen.

I can write all of this off the top of my head, but I still let frustration come into my day.

For instance, I have to work a regular job and can’t spend the time I want to, when I want to and how I want on my art. I want to pick up my bags and travel all over, gathering experiences to craft into words.

But if I stop to think about it, my desires are unrealistic. It’s expecting life on a silver platter.

Artists have to earn their place; otherwise, how will they encounter the angst they need to produce the beauty that lifts off the wing of its opposite, that of pain? If artists are given it all, how can they be motivated to explore the depths of difficulty instead of riding through the easy?

Frustration, I think, keeps me propelled onward as I write out my soul in the hope that someone somewhere will listen. Motivation does the same thing, so that I have to fight to keep both emotions in balance.

I need the frustration, or the dark, to experience the lighter, happier side of motivation – it’s like dancing, singing, living and being free just because I have words to take me there.

Creative Motivation

In Artists, Motivation, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on November 20, 2011 at 7:00 am

I don’t wake up with it every day but I want it to get me through until I return to bed.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out why it ebbs and flows and can’t be a reliable constant.

I wonder why I have to keep reminding myself of it.

It’s called motivation.

Motivation is the desire to do something, the drive to carry out a goal.

For example with work, my motivation is that I want to get paid, I want to do a good job and I want to learn and better my writing skills as a reporter at my hometown newspaper.

But at the same time, I want to write my novel and live the novelist’s life.

Herein is the contradiction: when I’m in the midst of a writing project, I don’t want to leave it do practical things. And when I get caught up in practicality and the hey-ho march to the mines, I convince myself I’m too tired for my passions.

What exactly is motivation?

I looked up the term, as well as the phrase “artists and motivation,” and found a few definitions.

Motivation is the process that initiates and guides goal-oriented behavior. It is what causes you to act.

Motivation, which can be intrinsic or extrinsic, has three components, that of:

* Activation, or the decision to initiate a behavior.

* Persistence, the continued effort toward a goal even though obstacles may exist.

* And intensity, or the degree of concentration.

Like a kick starter, I have to remind myself of my goals and think of the eventual rewards whenever I find that I’m tiredly crossing off items from my list of have-to-dos.

If I’m bored, I have to remember that I have constructed my life and that even though I’m not doing something at the moment, my life isn’t meaningless. I have inserted it with future goals, present friends and past lessons. I have goals and friends and things I want to do.

Here’s some other advise I try to follow:

* State goals in a journal or tape them up on the fridge.

* Plan out the steps to take to reach those goals.

* Forgive yourself if you get sidetracked or frustrated. Like with trying to lose weight, if you binge, you shouldn’t stop the diet and call yourself a failure but continue on the next day.

* Get active by doing something physical or social.

* Dream.

* Plan.

* Retain the commitment.

And remember your passion, the reason you are chasing your dream in the first place.

Trying to Be Me

In Artists, Fitting in, Passions, Shelley Widhalm, Shyness on October 23, 2011 at 7:00 am

Be You is the moniker for the Innovation Lab, an alternative program in Loveland, Colorado, that educates public school students by allowing them to identify, explore and follow their passions as opposed to prescribing their learning according to subject matter and state standards.

Earlier this month, I visited the Be You house, a 1910 Victorian home redesigned to fit the program with study, meeting and exploration spaces. I sat in the detox room, which is the starting point for students to let go of what is clogging their inner self, so that they can begin to be who they are.

Artists have to have some connection to their Be You-ness. Before creating something, colors, motions, sound and touch have to break the barrier of the skin and be internalized.

As a poet and writer, I try to be attuned to the sound of leafs skidding against pavement and how geese sweep from disorganization into a V of flight. I try to gather words through my observations, as well as eavesdropping on conversations that I happen upon, so that when I do write, I have an arsenal to work from that gives me things to think about and reflect upon.

This constant gathering of sense impressions is part of who I am, but is it the Be You-ness a few students are finding in the Third Street Victorian house? My art that is within comes out when I express my observations, thoughts, ideas and inner core into words after I learn, grow and do.

But I can’t do it alone. I can’t learn about other people by remaining entirely internally focused.

I need to look outward. When I do, I find that I lose some connection to my innerness. When I try fitting in, mainly with friends and the corporate culture so that I can earn a paycheck, am I fulfilling my Be You mission? If I ignore my artist self to earn a living, I notice my Be You gets ignored or pushed aside.

So, what is this question that we all have – be yourself or be what you need to be to survive, whether it’s for a moment or a year? Can we know who that Be You self is but be afraid or unsure how to get there?

The Be You realness has to, I think, offer up a balance between the internal and the external, so that both can mutually benefit without harming either one.

The Modeling-Writing Connection

In Artists, Modeling, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on September 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

I decided to accept the modeling contract but still need to do the paperwork. Why I’m delaying, I don’t know.

Maybe it’s fear. I don’t mind getting the rejections, but I do hate to waste time. I’m worried that I’ll go after the casting and modeling calls and not get accepted for anything, plus lose the time that I could have spent writing.

I’m trying to finish editing a novel, start my next novel and put together a collection of poetry.

I see my time after the work day as something I have to fill with a set number of tasks, plus have some fun, if there is, you know, time. If I don’t accomplish at least most of those tasks, I tell myself that I won’t get anywhere with my goals of writing and getting published. It’s a self-imposed conundrum born out of perfectionism.

I used to not be this way, well except for my grades.

I used to see myself as shy and introverted with a desire to go out, at least during my college years. If there was a party to go to, I wanted to be there. I wanted to stay up late, listening to loud music, talking to at least a few people and forgetting that I usually label myself as shy.

But after college, I started moving every couple of years, chasing my news career. I still wanted the fun factor, but making friends wasn’t always easy.

So I hung out alone – a lot.

As I became more extroverted as a reporter, and that quality seeped into my personal life, I became more introverted in another way. I started getting my satisfaction not from seeing how much fun could be had in one night but from inner stuff, including completing tasks, writing and working on my dream of becoming a novelist.

Now, I want to show off my exterior through modeling, but at the same time, I want to protect my interior comfort of being that starving, alone and needing-to-achieve artist.

Working, or Vacation?

In Artists, Novel editing, Vacations on June 12, 2011 at 7:00 am

This past week was supposed to be my vacation, but I spent more than 20 hours editing my novel.

Unfortunately, it’s Friday, and my vacation ends on Sunday. I’m ready to restart my vacation and not do any work, but unlike in politics, there are no re-dos.

My mom and I drove to Omaha to stay with relatives, meeting my brother and his girlfriend there for our weeklong stay. I gave up a few things to do my editing, like a trip to the casinos across the river in Iowa, grocery shopping, cooking dinner (my brother’s girlfriend loves to cook) and playing Rummikub at night (the family had a tournament thing going on).

I “snuck” off to Starbuck for two to three hours at a time to do the editing. I can concentrate there, do some people watching and listen to music as I slowly edit about 10-15 pages in an hour.

I also spent two or three evenings out on the patio doing more editing. I liked looking out at the verdant sloping lawn and at the rabbits hanging out there. One even plopped down on its belly, with its front paws splayed out, looking pretty cute.

But I missed things. Like conversations over preparing meals, playing board games and being together. I was away at Starbucks, chasing this dream that is just that, at least for now. Being a starving artist takes many forms, whether it’s not being who you want to be in order to pay the bills or being who you are but then not having enough money.

I fit my starving artist self into little slots of time that I would rather use for having fun. It’s the weekend, or after work or, like now, a vacation. I spend my vacations being who I want to be during non-vacation time, when I am not who I am.

It’s quite confusing.

All I know is that my family probably wonders where I am. Oh they know, it’s Starbucks, but I’m away from them when, really, I should have been a part of their whole. I guess I’ll have to wait until next year, having learned my lesson.

Working hard has its place, but not at the cost of what’s in front of you, that moment, that being together. Even so, I’m glad to have the editing done.

The Art of Communicating

In Artists, Communication secrets, Fitting in, Party, Shyness on January 30, 2011 at 8:13 am

I went to an artist’s get-together Friday night and, to my surprise, talked with people almost the entire time. Usually, I find a spot where I look like I’m okay being alone, that way I can be shy and still try, at least somewhat.

I told the artist who hosted the wine and dinner party – I had interviewed her for a features article – that I do oil painting as a hobby. I told her that I’ve been taking classes for four or five years, but I have never sold any of my work. She invited me to her get-together, which was attended by 25 to 30 people, telling me that maybe I could make a connection or two.

One woman I talked to who is in her 50s said she was incredibly shy as a child, just as I was. I told her how I’ve had to teach myself social and communication skills by reading books and, of course, by observing and learning, something I didn’t know how to do as a kid. She said a friend told her that one way to make conversation is by asking questions. She said I was good at that, inquiring about her life and her work. Being a reporter forced me to be more outgoing and taught me how to ask questions to keep a conversation going.

I stayed until 9:30 p.m. and, originally, had planned to go to this new nightclub for this week’s get-out-of-my-comfort-zone challenge. I couldn’t believe myself, but I said, in my head, I’d rather finish this book that I’m reading, and I didn’t want to go to bed late. How silly is that? I said, hey, I can put off my challenge because I did not actually set a time frame around it.

And then I congratulated myself for spending a whole evening talking, and furthermore, I stopped at this Art Lab downtown on Thursday night, where I also talked the entire time. But does that really count if I was talking to people who I interview?

I felt nervous as I walked up the stairs to the artist’s loft for the party, not at the Art Lab, because it felt more like work, even though instead of a pen, I had my dog with me.

This week, I’ve also bee thinking that it’s easier and more comfortable remaining in my shyness shell. I like it here. But I set up this challenge, and I can’t quit. So I’ll have to suck it up and put myself out there. Here I come, slow as a turtle.