Saturday, March 26, 2011


So it's been sort of a shitty-ish day. That means this post probably is not going to meet the expectations of you, my loyal 2.3 readers, in terms of creative brilliance. It's going to be a little bit more like a rant.

Contributing to the overall tone of the day is a little problem I had with an art piece earlier. I decided to make one very last final tweak to an encaustic piece I was very very fond of, and managed to destroy it in the process. I liked this little piece so much because it was small and cute and sweet in a way; I was thinking about my awesome former students in Boone when I made it, and it was one of those magical little moments when a little bit of experimenting and flailing results in something even better than what you were trying for. I'd already signed it and named it, I liked it so much, and I was trying to come up with a strategy for framing it for presentation.

And then I screwed it up.

"No More Snow"
3.5 x 4 inches
no longer available
because I ruined it
This really, really upset me for several reasons. The obvious reason is that I crapped up something I loved, followed closely by the fact that I knew better than to touch it again after I'd decided it was done and yet I went and touched it again, so the blame for the destruction was entirely mine. A third factor: it underscored how far I am from really being able to work my new medium and command my new tools, heightening my frustration with the process of gettting what's in my head out onto a panel.

The fourth: it heightened my interest in and desire for some form of in-depth instruction from someone who has a process and/or produces work that I resonnate with, who seems to work in a way that would actually inform my own.

This is a problem, because that instruction is available. Two artists I admire very much are holding a four-day workshop in the San Francisco area at the end of May. This is a location I know I will have no problem getting around in, nor any difficulty in finding a cheap or possibly free place to stay. I looked at airfares, and they are not as high as one might imagine if you're willing to take the reddest red eye ... and for this I would be. The problem, even though this is being promoted as both an encaustic technique and practice workshop and a sort of "self-confidence building" workshop FOR ARTISTS who are serious enough about their practice to want to commit themselves to it full-time, is that the workshop "early bird" registration fee is $899, and it goes up to $999 after April 1. This fee includes lunches, snacks, materials and instruction. Lodging, dinner, breakfast, incidentals and getting around are entirely on your own.

The refund policy basically states, "we don't refund your money for anything."

I'm sure the organizer would say "It's your LIFE! It's your WORK! Isn't it WORTH that kind of investment?" Why, of course it's worth that kind of investment. I'm sure every serious artist I know would be more than happy to invest $899 in the futherance of his or her career ... IF WE HAD THE MONEY TO BEGIN WITH.

Yes, the organizer is an artist, and a very good one. I like her work. But she has mentioned in the past that she makes six figures as an artist. And she came into that place of being from making six figures as a physician. Is she perhaps a bit out-of-touch with the reality that the rest of us live in?

This is why founding the Free Atelier has become so important to me.

I'm tired of looking at "residencies" that sound wonderful until you get to the inevitable statement in the description that runs something along the line of "You pay us $500/week for the privilege of living in this empty cabin on our swampland and making art. No stipend. Meals extra."

News flash: I can sit in my own house on my swampland and make art without a stipend, and my meals are included, and it's NOT going to cost me an extra $500/week.

I'm sick of "opportunities" to focus on your work as long as you don't focus on the fact that you're still paying your rent at home and yet you're supposed to feel privilged and special because you've been selected as the lucky new payee--er, I mean, artist in residence--for some organization that owns a loft attached to a thrift shop that will let you have the run of the place as long as you pay them $300/week and for any "materials" you happen to use from the thrift shop, work one shift downstairs at the cash register (unpaid), help install the next show (unpaid) and keep the kitchen clean (meals not included).

I'm pissed off by "workshops" that sound like they offer things that would truly be helpful for real, practicing artists, but are priced more to appeal to retired ophthamologists and monied dilettants. (In case you haven't experienced this, monied dilettants may not be the best critique partners to have.)

So, this workshop ... $899 x 30 slots / 2 instructors = $13,485 for three-and-a-half days. (Yes, encaustic materials are expensive. But they're not THAT expensive.)

Bring me a monied dilettante or two, who love the art they do and just want some honest critique and are willing to pay for it, and some artists who have a typical artist's income but would relish the time to spend a week thinking, eating, breathing and dreaming art. I bet Free Atelier can do them both one turn better.

1 comment:

Ann Tracy said...

I know what you mean about the high cost of residencies and workshops. Too bad they don't have a sliding scale sort of thing for them...