The Thing about Art (and Artists)

This scene is based on a view near Halls Harbour NS. It’s a beautiful scene of the old house house contrasted with brilliant musk mallow flowers. Available on my Etsy shop. Please click on image.

‘Just read someone’s heart-felt, out-pouring lament about the despair that sometimes seems to cloud over artists.

To be honest I identified with what this woman was saying. All her life she wanted only one thing and that was to be recognized for her art.

The problem seems to be less with ‘money’ as  she says, but a lack of recognition and understanding among family and peers as to her ‘being’ an artist.

Also she says she only started showing her art when she was 48 years old and soon she will be turning 50. She says her “time is running out.”

On her facebook post she gets lots of comments of sympathy and encouragement. So obviously it is an artist thing. Okay I’m kind of mad at myself for thinking in a similar way at times and I’d like a good honest attack on what the heck is really the problem with ‘us’ (artists)! I’ve heard everything from creativity uses up so many ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain ( therefore leaving us depressed) to we were all just raised with a silver brush in our hands and therefore don’t know just how good we have it i.e. ingratitude.

So what’s the problem and what’s the answer?

I’m going to give it my best shot.

I want to dissect her lament (without compromising her anonymity).

First let me work backward and deal with this age thing.  These will be profoundly redundant truths but truths, none-the-less.

  1. Age is meaningless really. Most likely she didn’t start being creative when she was 48. She likely has been creating her whole life in some way; at least ‘seeing’ like an artist. We are always growing!
  2. Chances are she will actually have more time to create now that she’s 50 than since she was 16 ! Maybe not. Maybe she will have to look after an elderly parent or ill ‘child’. But if you factor in the time just spent making a living and raising kids between , say, 25 and 45 it likely took up most of her time. So a year of solid creating or painting is more time than she would have had spending an hour a week for most of her life. ( You do the math..I’m an artist, lol)
  3. She says her time is “running out”. Well I can empathize however a lot of people don’t make it to 50 and a lot more ( in our western society) are making it to 85 ! So the simple fact is WE JUST DON’T KNOW! ha ha ( maniacal laugh). So why even bother to pretend to see the hour glass that belongs to an invisible Creator? We don’t know.

Next she confesses discouragement is part of this creative life. I get what she’s saying. I’ve known (and continue to know) that too. But is it really? Aren’t there hockey players that thought they were just that good and wanted to make it to the big league but now ‘just’ coach the minors on a volunteer basis? Punch! Slam! Pow!  That must have been one big Holy Batman Bag of Hurt!

Then there’s the returning veteran who struggles with scars of night terrors and perhaps horrors that have robbed him of the very limbs he or she needs to lift a paint brush.

So maybe we are just whining and sighing and sounding like a rusty saw.

She says she finds herself often waiting and waiting (the unrung phone, the empty inbox) for someone to ask her to paint something.

Why?!

She , like myself,is looking for Permission! Seriously. What else can it be? Who can ultimately give us permission? I think you know the answer. I think I know the answer. Sometimes she questions herself  as to why  she ever wanted “it” so badly. I take that to be the issue of recognition as an artist. So that’s a whole ‘nother thing. Let’s tackle it. ( Hey I’m expecting you to comment and flesh out whatever I’m missing here).

One last thing about the age thing. Art ( the pursuit thereof) is a lifetime thing…it NEVER stops. It takes years, even decades to become proficient in one’s skills.

Recognizing recognition.

Okay so further on in the comments on her post she mentions a spouse that is “very supportive” and is able to pay the bills. I don’t know about you but this is sounding pretty ideal. In fact I confess to a space of time where my wife was able to pay the bills and I was able to paint and pursue artistic venues full-time.

Recognition is going to come in this life in one or both of two ways.

  1. You will sell your work.
  2. People will tell you in some way that they like/love your work.

Selling Out

This artist, all artists, myself as an artist has to ask one question. How far do you want to go with selling your work? Is that what this is really about I wonder?  We want the phone to ring? ” Hello, I see you are a great artist and I want to buy your work”.  GONG!  It don’t work that way. If your goal is selling out ( of stock) then it means creating, finding, marketing your work and that itself is a freakin’ full time job! Nobody is going to save your a$$. Really.

The good news is, I believe, if you’re willing to put in the time and the good Lord gives it to ya then you can make some kind of living from your work. It means uncovering a market, it means finding your niche. It means study, study, study and work, work , work. Yeah like a mad dog. That’s what it takes. It means getting a thick skin and thinking of the veteran who just took a bullet for you and stop feeling sorry for yourself

The next great news is that with the invention of the internet you can paint while listening to free podcasts and Youtube vids on everything from marketing to creating work. Listen and listen. Replay the best ones until it gets stuck in your head how to do a thing and then practice it.

Falling in Love

After you’re dead and gone and if you could be ‘a fly on the wall’ you would hear a litany of praise on how great an artist you were. People will remember and think of how YOU made them feel better. Young nieces and nephews will say ” Gee Aunt so-an-so was an artist. It means I can be one too. maybe it runs in the family”

Every time your name passes over parting lips you will be remembered as someone who had a great gift, ” a natural God-given talent”. They’ll say stuff about you that will make you smile. They won’t say “she wasted her time”. They just won’t. The few that are saying it now have their own internal,emotional crises and it’s bitter water coming from a bitter well. Why drink from it?!

Fall back in love with your work and that part of yourself which is a special gift to others. It doesn’t have to be sold to be appreciated but it can be. Just remember that creating the art and the business of art are two different things that happen simultaneously. The artist is one who gives- not gets. This giving attitude , I believe, is what it takes to get.

To Be Continued…

 

 

It’s Never Too Late ( to do what you love)

Over the Moon

Timing is a funny thing. In fact where I live the time just went ahead 1 hour (Daylight Saving Time) . Not sure if that’s relevant but just more coincidental to this post.

Do you find ( like me ) that you think a lot about whether it is best to do a thing when you feel like it or to just discipline yourself to grind it even when the feeling is not there?

Honestly I think it is a bit of both. Moderation is a word that I often feel is limiting. I mean, don’t you feel that a Yes or No or either this or either that is the answer you really want?

When it comes do doing something you love, like creating art, etc. it seems  we want it both ways. I’ve often heard other artists say ( myself included wholeheartedly) that ” Today I’m just not feeling it!” That is to say that if I don’t feel like creating something right now I should walk away from the  easel. Ever notice how this occurs usually on your day off or time set aside to actually do your art!!?

 Here’s the thing… I think both approaches are okay. I think that there are times in the scheme of things we need to go for a walk, split some firewood or take a trip. Other times ( maybe more often so) we need to just pick up the brush ( both metaphorically and actually) and lay down some paint with no idea where this will take us.

The best thing is to avoid guilt. Guilt is not a good motivator. Habit can be a good motivator ( GM), Feeling Euphoric can be a good GM, a Kick-in-the-Backside ( both metaphorically and  actually) can be a good GM. maybe a good BM could be a good GM..no, scratch that 

Guilt never works. When we say we were guilted into it then it never ends well. There are other ways to force ourselves to do what we love. It is ironic one would have to say that :”Force” ourselves.  I mean by concentrating on the small picture or doing that first small step. The idea that I can pour a drop of paint on the palette and play around with it and then draw it on the canvas…squiggling a line from left to right, top to bottom. That sometimes does the priming right there and the creative spark begins to work. Other times a grand vision  of mural proportions energizes us to create all things great and small, all things bright and beautiful…

Sometimes for my own pleasure I like to play my drums/bongos. There are times I’m not feelin it but when I  sit and tap out a rhythm to a tune  I like and in that weighted moment my spirit seems to rise with the music and often ends after an hour of enjoyable percussion.

Whatever occurs remember it is never too late to start again to do something you love. Never. You may have to scale back for health reasons or the demands of life put upon you but say to yourself that the promise of the rising sun is that you have this one more moment which is clean and bright like an empty canvas waiting for it’s next conscription.

And if you work at night then let the moon and stars inspire you.

The Encouraging Voice

theencouragingvoice

Caricatures I did of the cast of Casablanca

If you listen you can hear it (them).

It’s no surprise that we have voices in our head.

After all the brain is a huge memory bank as well a processor of ideas and actions. Some of them become voluntary and some involuntary- which makes sense. Who wants to tell their stomach to churn the food you ate and to add all the necessary acids and hormones to do their job. The brain assigns jobs that we are not consciously aware of.

thebrain

I remember seeing a TV show or movie years back that opened with the scene of a man being thrown into the water after being wounded in a car chase. At least that is what my memory bank tells me.

The screen showed a man being plunged deep in the dark waters and you could hear his thoughts.

They went something like this as he told his brain and body to prepare for survival:

“Heart- Slow to 40 beats per. min. Lungs- maintain oxygen levels and exhale slowly, etc”

You get the picture.

The hero of the show was controlling his thoughts to improve his chances of survival.

Maybe it’s fiction..but…hold on. Do you hear the voice(s) in your head?

What are they saying as you attempt to go about reaching your goals?

Often times we pick up the negative, critical voices that surrounded us from our youth. I know I have. We too , may be saying words that hurt others and we’re not aware of it. 

We use those harsh words, backed up by our respect for authority figures ( teachers, parents, that aunt or uncle, etc) to twist together a long whip with barbs and bone. We then get in the habit of whipping our own selves with it mentally.

 

Those harsh words we have owned and put our own personal stamp on them. They become our words, our thoughts. ‘Not going all Spock on you here but you hear what I’m saying, right?

We chose to believe them.

Sure criticism is good. It helps us survive and helps us learn. However we can dwell too much on words that do not carry us forward to our goals.

Once we realize that the thoughts we think are our own choice we can begin to bring correction to our direction!

This is the starting point. We can try all kinds of external influencers but when it comes right down to it we have to change, sometimes slowly and with practise, our habit of thinking and self-talk.

Image from blog "What Shih Said"

Image from blog “What Shih Said”

Be mindful of what you are telling yourself. Is it wise? Or is it harming your ability to take action and embrace change and succeed at your goals?

“Brain- You can do this! Heart- You’re large enough for this task. Lungs- take a deep breath and Go For It!!”

Thanks for visiting. Drop a line if you like 🙂

 

A Tapestry of Colour

Oceanrocks2016fb

The beauty of Creation is in it’s variety. Diversity abounds. You only have to look at the world around you to see that difference is something we have to live with. Really! There is not just one kind of tree or flower.

It’s like that with people as well. There are different races, different ethnicities. The thing about people is that they disagree sometimes. This is just another form of variety. Difference of mind.

I’d be naive to believe that all difference brings about good.

But let’s not dwell on that side of things right now. That gets enough attention from news media.

A New Goal.

You can change your world.

You can be agreeable without having to agree.

One practical way to love others better is to imagine ourselves in their shoes. When we pause to think how we might like to be treated in a certain situation, we build empathy for those actually living in that situation. Do we like to be treated with love and respect? Then we should give that gift to others. (gotquestions.org)


The painting above is called Ocean Rocks which I just completed this summer. It doesn’t even have it’s protective finish yet. I hope you see a visual lesson in this tapestry of colour.

 sideoceansmall

It’s the Real Thing!

Kevin Cameron ArtIf at all possible…you may as well choose to be happy.

Are you having a rough day, maybe a week or even a year! Too cold in the winter? Too hot in the summer?

Really they’re all feelings aren’t they. In a way they are kind of an illusion. We all have our illusions, big time! They keep us going really.

I’m always surprised at how a lot of people feel that art is just an illusion, therefore not real and therefore non-important… a waste of time!

Really though. Imagine this. You’re driving the road on a nice sunny day ( winter or summer-your choice).  You are much happier today because things seem good. Your kids haven’t ticked you off. Your parents aren’t doing something stupid and life is good. LG.

BUT it’s all just an ILLUSION!  You’re bank account could be being drained from some offshore hacker bouncing signals off an uncaring and cold satellite.  You could be one turn away from a random fender bender. Yet we all dream lazily along some days as if the world was all right. That’s what I call ‘Not Real’.

Art, although dabbling in the illusory, is in fact just as real or more so than the stories we tell each other and ourselves to feel happy ( or sad , if we want).

I say choose to be happy or content and chose ‘art’. It’s the real thing.

Hmmmm now I just have to remember this post the next time I look at my income tax or worse yet the cat pukes on my freshly mopped floor.

Thanks for visiting!

New Journeys

  *Self Esteem Ebook for Children

Sometimes you can find a new journey on an old path.

A new year doesn’t have to mean that everything will be new  for you.  Something good from last year or other years might find it’s way into this one.

You know how we often list off all the crap that happened last year. Debts. Sickness. Accidents and we say good riddance!.

Let’s not throw out Father Time with the bath water…er, or something like that. Father Time has a few good things to give Baby New Year.

Yeah, I know, it’s a little late in the month to be writing about New Years maybe. Looking ahead may bring anxiety and looking back may get us down in the dumps..yeah, January does that to everybody. You’re not alone. Listen to that still, small voice inside of you that wants things to be better. Reach out to someone. It really doesn’t matter what others think. It’s your life and it’s worth looking back (and forward) to anything or anyone that made it good. Don’t focus on what you didn’t get or the way you thought things should have been.

That one good thing is worth living for.

An artist does the same with ideas , techniques and inspiration what we all do with our trash. Recycle it. Revisit it. Renew it. Make it come to life!

Hey , I’m even thinking of taking up oil painting again after having set aside the ole’ linseed oil for decades. There’s something good in the familiar, ya know.  Like the smell of linseed oil. Strong aromas bring back good things and memories sometimes. Don’t dwell on the past though. Think about today.

You may find healing in the winter of your life. I hope you do..I really do.

Thanks for visiting. I know it’s been a while but I guess I just needed the time…

*Detail of Show and Tell Michelle, written and Illustrated by me, Kevin M. Cameron.

Did You Lose Something?

SecondCup

Under painting by Kevin Cameron (Second Cup)

You’ve started your painting and things are going “in the flow”.  You’re just at the initial stages- maybe the under-painting. Perhaps you’re focusing on value and composition or maybe it’s colour and/or sort of abstract.

Everything seems to be going great. Sometimes, however, there is  that period of staring at a blank canvas that feels longer than a Hobbit’s journey. But let’s assume you’re past that and you are fully in the moment and the painting (both noun and verb) is coming along nicely.

Then you have to stop.  For whatever reason. Maybe it’s to get a snack, maybe just some sleep. You return and something’s gone. It’s not your easel, brush or laptop . It’s that other important intangible thing-inspiration. Uh Oh! The muse has left!

It was like meeting someone for the first time serendipitously at a nearby cafe. The conversation has a promising glow. You turn to get your coffee and they are gone. You hardly had time to memorize their smile.

The Inspired Painting that Isn’t

At this point …you have before you… an expression of your passion but part of your mind is saying, “This isn’t complete. I can’t hang this. I can’t sell this and probably couldn’t give it away.  This is when our motives become challenged.  Do you push ahead and lay down coats of paint that seem to be only burying the life you had underneath?

This is a tough question. How do you resolve it? ( I’m not being rhetorical).  How do you resolve it?

Perhaps we could look at our options and motives. What do you want to capture this time?  Stay where you are and you’ve captured some primitive, emotive expression. Continue and it changes like a baby to a child and like a child to an adult.

I guess every stage is good. After all , who’s to say, if you proceed the creative work might actually get better. It’s all a matter of opinion since art is about emotion and communicating it to others. You can put down that canvas ( or musical composition, poetry ,whatever) and stop where you are.  Sometimes this is what must happen.  Other times you will paint right over it and something new is born once again!

You turn for your coffee.  A new friend is there and this time…they stay. :^)

Underpaintings2

Revealing Yourself (but also…)

Peace

Lockeport Beach, NS. Acrylic by Kevin Cameron- PEACE

Art is all about revealing the inner you.

Maybe it’s about more than that but if you want to show some of the deepest innermost regions of you then art is one way for you to do it.

Are you a bit shy or a full blown introvert?  Or would that be fully imploded introvert, ha.

Many a shy person has used art to bridge themselves socially to others.  I know I have. Being an artist allows the quiet ones to speak.  It gives us something not to hide behind but to use as a tool to reach out to others and our world. You and I become the brush of our own mind’s making.  We use art to paint ourselves on the world around us and it takes the focus off of our supposed shortcomings allowing freedom of speech, as it were.

Do you find it hard to operate in a group.  Trust me, I know.  Social Anxiety has been my companion since early school days.

By allowing yourself the pleasure and priviledge of art others can find a common ground with you.

Before facebook and social media art was the sure fire way to tell others not so much “Look at me. Do you think I’m gifted?” but “Hey do you like this?  What do you think of my drawing, etc.?”

Chances are if you meet an artist, they’re not arrogant.  If so, move on. They have issues to deal with.

What I call a true artist is one who, like yourself, is reaching out to others.  With art I could never have painted the murals I did in public or talk to strangers as I caricatured their faces as others waited in long line ups. Ahem.  Well they weren’t always long lineups.

Art is gift.  It’s a gift to others. Imo, a gift from the Creator…to be shared not for our own arrogance or glory.

Dear Artist,isn’t it time you started sharing?

Thanks for visiting!

Want help getting started on your artistic path?  Give me a shout.  I think my email links all work.  I’d love to hear from you! This is not a business proposition! Surprise, surprise… Just for chat!

Grow Your Art

Acrylic by Kevin Cameron

Acrylic by Kevin Cameron

Artistic skill, like anything else, has to be tended or grown.

Very few, there be, prodigies that have all their skills honed so close to the starting line.

I’m from Nova Scotia.  Nova Scotia is this small piece of land with a unique and distinct geographic shape.  It’s basically plunk, smack in the middle of the ocean.

Well it’s not really in the middle of the ocean but it sounds better for dramatic effect.

Nova Scotia as seen on a globe reveals itself to be naturally a fishing community since most of it is accessible to the Atlantic Ocean.

What may come as a surprise is that it has quite a rich history in various forms of farming.

We grow cattle, chickens,grapes, veggies, dairy,apples, peaches,cabbage, and many more wholesome foods. My grandfather on my Dad’s side had his own small farm with sheep , pigs, chickens, a cow or two, barn ,sheds and a couple tractors,etc. farming actually rivals even fishing according to statistics.

My Brother in Law on the South Shore had his own farm as well as running greenhouses.  Currently I live on one of NS’s largest orchard farms.

Hennigar's Apples

You get the idea.  The concept of growth is all around us. Artistic skill is not something that comes overnight.  There may be a predilection for art early but without practice, some discipline and /or training of that skill may not get developed as well, in the traditional sense.

Also , I believe Art mirrors personal Development!

It’s not just about learning value or perspective it’s about developing you, your style and your passion.

In order to get good at any skill you have to immerse yourself in the essence of it. Like farming, you have to get your hands, arms , etc dirty! It’s the only way to start out small with a seed of talent and then water and nurture it until it produces fruit.

Farming and Art, Growing-a-living-thing and developing a talent in art are all very similar. As my Brother-in-law farmer recently commented, “ I am , in essence , an artist of the ground.”

So too, you dear Artist, are you grounded and growing in your skill? Are you and I developing who we are and what we want to say to the world with our art?

Thanks for visiting my little plot of cyber-land…come back again!

Vaya Con…Bios :)

Detail of Fence post painted by K. Cameron

Detail of Fence post painted by K. Cameron

I guess “Vaya Con Dios” means “go with God”.

This post could be called “Go With Bios” ( groan) since it about bios for artists.

As Neil Diamond once said “That’s all the Spanish I know…” ( long story)

Recently I was reading in a book on art marketing by Susan Abbott (Fine Art Publicity) about interview questions for artists.  I’ve been reading this book for a few years now.  Not that it’s not good or extremely long it’s just that I can take a long time to do things, ha.

One of the questions to be considered is :

“When did you ( the artist) first know you were going to be an artist?”

I thought this is a great question to be answered in an artists bio.  Okay.  If you’re checking my About/bio right now I most likely don’t have it updated…remember, ” I take a long time to do things”.

The challenge here is to try to remember all the way back to any epiphonic moments (epiphonic …is that a word?)

I would assume that a quiet, tranquil spot with your favourite drink and a trusted notepad might be beneficial. Maybe even during a sunset just to make it all dramatic.

Once, in an interview of Robert Ulrich he was asked a similar question. “What made you become an actor…an artist?  How did you know?”  I believe it was asked by  Brian Linehan on a program called City Streets long before social media.  The pre-millenial epoch.

Robert Ulrich’s answer involved him casting his gaze downward to the studio floor and saying something like “It was the way the light sometimes shone around the corner of his bedroom door early in the morning…”

So even though this story may be missing some details the fact remains that even after 30 some years I still remember Robert’s answer and in a way I remember it’s meaning even though it was based on a visual image in my mind.

The take away?

Tell the truth but make your bio remarkable…memorable when it comes to answering “What inspired you to become an artist…?” I’m sure there was more to his answer.  The point was he saw things differently from his young colleagues and wanted to pursue acting without a doubt.

I can say for sure that the way Robert Ulrich answered that question in a way became an answer for me.  His pensive, deep searching moment that was interrupted with glowing smile , like light bending around a corner door, became an epiphonic moment for me.  I knew I loved art and creativity then for sure.

More later on art bios under Marketing and Branding but for now..

Vaya Con Dios!! Thanks for visiting :^)