Q: Foreign travel has long been a significant aspect of your work. What are your views on cultural appropriation?
A: For more than three decades my inspiration and subject matter have come mainly from international travel to remote parts of the globe. I daresay there is no better education than travel. The result is that I possess a deep love and reverence for people and cultures all over the world. We are all connected by our shared humanity.
I wholeheartedly agree with what Henry Louis Gates eloquently expressed in the NY Times Book Review of October 12, 2021. Additions are mine.
Any teacher, any student, any writer, [any artist] sufficiently attentive and motivated, must be able to engage freely with subjects of their choice. That is not only the essence of learning; it’s the essence of being human.
What I owe to my teachers – and to my students – is a shared sense of wonder and awe as we contemplate works of the human imagination across space and time, works created by people who don’t look like us and who, in so many cases, would be astonished that we know their work and their names. Social identities can connect us in multiple and overlapping ways; they are not protected but betrayed when we turn them into silos with sentries. The freedom to write [and make art] can thrive only if we protect the freedom to read – and to learn. And perhaps the first thing to learn, in these storm-battered days, is that we could all do with more humility, and more humanity.
Comments are welcome!
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*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
I like to think of myself (and each of you) as a high priest of memory protection. Using our cameras, we protect the memories of our subjects; we protect the memories we have while interacting with those subjects; we help to protect the memories of our audience who sees our work. This is truly a sacred calling, and one that deserves respect and a thoughtful approach.
Scott Bourne in Photo Therapy Motivation and Wisdom by Rick Sammon
Comments are welcome!
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A: That is for each person to decide, but as someone who devotes every waking moment to my work and to becoming a better artist, I cannot imagine my life without art.
I will tell you a little about what art has done for me. In my younger days boredom was a strong motivator. I left the active duty Navy out of boredom. I couldn’t bear not being intellectually challenged (most of my jobs consisted of paper-pushing), not using my flying skills (at 27 I was a licensed commercial pilot and Boeing-727 flight engineer), and not developing my artistic talents. In what surely must be a first, the Navy turned me into a hard-working and disciplined artist. And once I left the Navy there was no plan B. There was no time to waste. It was “full speed ahead.”
Art is a calling. You do not need to be told this if you are among those who are called. It’s all about “the work,” that all-consuming focus of an artist’s life. If a particular activity doesn’t seem likely to make me a better artist, I tend to avoid it. I work hard to nourish and protect my gifts. As artists we invent our own tasks, learn whatever we need in order to progress, and complete projects in our own time. It is life lived at its freest.
My art-making has led me to fascinating places: Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, France, England, Italy, Bali, Java, Sri Lanka, and more; and to in-depth studies of intriguing subjects: drawing, color, composition, art and art history, the art business, film and film history, photography, mythology, literature, music, jazz and jazz history, and archaeology, particularly that of ancient Mesoamerica (Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, Maya, etc.). And this rich mixture continually grows! For anyone wanting to spend their time on earth learning and meeting new challenges, there is no better life!
Comments are welcome!
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Q: To be a professional visual artist is to have two full-time jobs because an artist must continually balance the creative and the business sides of things. How do you manage to be so productive?
A: With social media and other new ways of doing business, managing it all is getting more difficult every day. Bear in mind that I say this as someone who does not have the extra time commitment of a day job, nor do I have children or other family members to care for. I have no idea how other visual artists, who may have these responsibilities and more, keep up with all the tasks that need to be done. In The Artist’s Guide: How to Make A Living Doing What You Love, Jackie Battenfield lists a few of them (believe me, there are others):
…being an artist isn’t just about making art. You have many other responsibilities – managing a studio, looking for opportunities, identifying an audience for your work, caring for and protecting what you have created, and securing money, time, and space – in addition to whatever is happening in your personal life.
To begin with I try to maintain regular studio hours. I generally work on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and once I’m at the studio I stay there for a minimum of 7 hours. To paint I need daylight so in the spring and summer my work day tends to be longer. My pastel-on-sandpaper paintings are extremely labor-intensive. I need to put in sufficient hours in order to accomplish anything. When I was younger I used to work in my studio 6 days a week, 9 hours or more a day. I have more commitments now, and can no longer work 60+ hours a week, but I still try to stick to a schedule. And once I’m at the studio I concentrate on doing the creative work, period.
I am productive when I keep the business and creative sides physically separate., ie., no computers, iPads, etc. are allowed into the studio. Recently I tried an experiment. I brought my iPad to the studio, thinking, “Surely I am disciplined enough to use it only during my lunch break.” But no, I wasted so much time checking email, responding to messages on Facebook, etc., when I should have been focusing on solving problems with the painting that was on my easel. I learned a good lesson that day and won’t bring my iPad to the studio again.
As has long been my practice, I concentrate on business tasks when I get home in the evening and on my, so called, days off. After a day spent working in the studio, I generally spend a minimum of two to three hours more to answer email, apply for exhibitions, work on my blog, email images to people who need them, etc. At present I have part-time help with social media – the talented Barbra Drizin, of Start from Scratch Social Media – although my time commitment there is growing, too, as more details need my attention.
No one ever said it would be easy being a professional artist, but then again, I would not choose to spend my days any other way. As I often say, “Being an artist is a calling. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT a life for wimps… or slackers.”
Comments are welcome!
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A: I honestly have no idea, but whatever it might be, there is a good chance that I’d be bored! In my younger days boredom was a strong motivator. I left the active duty Navy out of boredom. I couldn’t bear not being intellectually challenged (most of my jobs consisted of paper-pushing), not using my flying skills (at 27 I was a licensed commercial pilot and Boeing 727 flight engineer), and not developing my artistic talent. In what surely must be a first, by spending a lot of time and money training me for jobs I hated, the Navy turned me into a hard-working artist! And once I left the Navy there was no plan B. There was no time to waste. It was “full speed ahead.”
Art is a calling. You do not need to be told this if you are among those who are called. It’s all about “the work,” that all-consuming focus of an artist’s life. If a particular activity doesn’t make you a better artist, you avoid it. You work hard to nourish and protect your gifts. As artists we invent our own tasks, learn whatever we need in order to progress, and complete projects in our own time. It is life lived at its freest.
My art-making has led me to fascinating places: Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, France, England, Italy, Bali, Java and more; and to in-depth studies of intriguing subjects: drawing, color, composition, art and art history, the art business, film and film history, photography, mythology, literature, music, jazz history, and archaeology, particularly that of ancient Mesoamerica (the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, Maya, etc.). And this rich mixture continually grows! For anyone wanting to spend their time on earth learning and meeting new challenges, there is no better life than that of an artist.
I SO agree with this exchange that I read years ago between between Trisha Brown and Mikhail Baryshnikov in the New York Times. I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it to my studio wall:
Trisha: How do you think we keep going? Are we obsessed?
Mikhail: We do it because there’s nothing better. I’m serious. Because there is nothing more exciting than that. Life is so boring, that’s why we are driven to the mystery of creation.
Comments are welcome.
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