99 Red Balloons, Detail, 51 x 51" (with frame) /129.54 x 129.54 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2010
1. The ability or skill in your ten finger tips (or toes) (or lips) (or tongue) (your whole body) (or whatever it is you use to make art in any form)
2. Your heart and mind (because that’s what you use to make art)
3. Even if they take away your tools, your instruments, or whatever that isn’t a part of you physically or spiritually, you will always have the means to make art (unless they surgically remove your heart and mind, fingers, toes, etc.)
4. The tools and instruments, materials, equipment, studio, etc. that you do have
Windy Day, Detail, 48 x 36" (with frame) /121.92 x 91.44 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2006
People who know me might laugh when they hear me say this, but I really have a hard time asking anybody for help, for anything.
Just this past week, for instance, at my other job, I was forced to realise that my backlog had grown to unmanageable proportions. Blame it on my bad time management or what you will, but blaming wasn’t going to get the tasks done. I was embarrassed to ask the others on my team to help out, because I was hyper aware that they had tasks of their own, too.
In the end, I asked for help, and hey, presto! The tasks were done in a day, when they had been sitting on my to-do list for weeks.
So I admit—I’m like that as an artist, too. But I guess now I’m having to recognise, formally, that asking for help with your practice isn’t a bad thing.
Sea Urchin, 24 x 36" / 60.96 x 91.44 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2007
I’m not talking about the kind of comparison you do when you identify your work with a certain movement or philosophy, e.g. ‘My work is ______-ist, much like the work of _____’. I’m talking about the kind some artists do when they compare their work or their practice to those of others who seem to have achieved the level they want to be at, themselves.
You know, like ‘How come _____’s work is hanging at ______ and mine is still stuck in the studio _____ months/years/eras later?’
I’d be lying if I said I was never one of those artists. And I think this might be something that happens to a lot of artists at different stages of their careers, but most especially to artists who might’ve been practising for some time, and are feeling a little stuck.
For what it’s worth, coming from me in my humble capacity, this post is for you <3
Fly, Detail, 36 x 48” / 91.44 x 121.92 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2006
I tried writing this blog once before, and it turned into the ‘epic saga’ of my other career, lol. So this is me starting over focusing on just my art practice.
I’m pretty sure I’ve referred, in so many words, to the ‘double life’ I’ve led for a long, long time on the jillablog—there’s two people in me (and unfortunately, they’re both nuts XD), namely the artist and the writer.
Both of them have degrees; the writer got her degree first, and for years, the writer supported the artist in pretty much every way imaginable. Every cent the writer made went to buying paint and paying for classes, which eventually turned into paying for art school proper, and funding the practice. If Vincent had Theo, jillamonster had the jillawriter.
The writer wrote the artist’s proposals, press releases, social media posts (and this blog ^_^). The writer never seemed to have a problem with that, because that’s just the way it’s always been.
My Tallest, 22 x 30" / 55.88 x 76.2 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2005
How do you support an artist? Well, duh, you buy something ^o^;
No, seriously, I mean, of course, there’s that obvious way. And believe me (believe all of us painters, sculptors, printmakers and so on), there’s no such thing as ‘too much support’ ^_____^
But there are other forms of support, other ways to show artists that you believe in them and that you want them to keep going, even when the going gets tough. And believe us, again, when we say, the going does get tough—and not just for us, but for the people around us, as well.
So if I may make so bold, I’d say the other forms of support can be just as, if not more, valuable to an artist as the kind you shell out.
I guess there’s some sentiment sprinkled into the murky miasma of my current state of mind, but humour me:
This post goes out to everyone who knows an artist personally, and who’s kind enough to want to support that artist in some way. It also goes out to anyone who may not know an artist personally but admires the work of an artist enough to want to show some support. And it goes out to everyone here on earth who’s ever supported me as an artist <3
JNM Redux, Detail, 18 x 22" / 45.72 x 55.88 cm, Acrylic on Paper, 2014
It’s that time of the year again—when a lot of us do some reflecting on what’s gone down in the last twelvemonth. I guess it’s only natural for artists to reflect on their practice around this time, and since I decided (before the pandemic) to spend the past year on a sort of artistic sabbatical, my reflections took a somewhat different turn.
That, in turn led me to consider what it takes for someone to be considered a ‘practising’ or ‘professional’ artist. (And whether that even matters, whether other people consider you thus or not.)
Paintball, Detail, Diptych, (2) 48 x 48" / 121.92 x 121.92 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2010
‘Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor,’ said Cinderella's-mother-masquerading-as-a-tree, and if you're a struggling artist, that's very likely something that still, small voice in the back of your head is saying, too.
That still, small voice is what makes you jump at every 'unlengthy visitor' that comes knocking because well, art is like a video game—the more 'experience points' you rack up, the better for your career and/or your practice.
In a way, that voice, which I guess one might equate with my Daemon, has been 'the boss of me' for a long, long time. I always listened to him for, well, FOMO, I suppose—the fear of missing out on an opportunity to put my skills to use, hopefully sharpen them, and accumulate those ‘art experience points’ in the process.
Or well, I think I should say I almost always listened to him. Because something happened fairly recently that prompted me to say no to the urge to at least push for a whole bucketload of experience points. While I admit that decision wasn’t made without regret, looking back, I think I (//channels the Grail-guarding knight) chose wisely.
I’d like to share this experience with you along with a few words of wisdom (not that I'm wise or anything like that) about choosing your ‘art battles’. Choose the opportunities you commit to, rather than grabbing every single opportunity that comes your way and clinging to it like a long-lost relative (who is hopefully old, loaded and has you in his will (just kidding, so sorry).
Rebecca, 40 x 40” / 101.6 x 101.6cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2019
Dreaming isn’t doing. It can be the start of doing, like, you’ll start doing because you were dreaming it, but until you take actual, purposeful steps toward making them come true, they’re ‘just’ dreams.
When I was a kid I used to say that I’d work really hard until I was 30, live off of what I’d saved working real hard until I was 40, and then die. I’m 45 now, so I guess I didn’t take those actual, purposeful steps, haha.
As I write this, I can’t help thinking about two things. The first is my first post on the jillablog, which I wrote about this same time two years ago. That was when the, I won’t say ‘first’ thing, but I would say ‘thing with the greatest impact’ occurred to set all of this in motion.
The second is my last show, Aviary, where I painted a lot of birdcages which, while it really had been something I’d always wanted to do, just felt ‘fitting’ or most suited to the times, at the time.
Looking back, I guess I really sort of can trace how everything led to me being here, two weeks in (and two years since) to my finally starting to settle down in what I’m trying to set up as my own little studio-slash-home.
Zebralang, approx 3 x 4’ / .91 x 1.2m, Acrylic on Canvas, 2011
Acrylic, to me is kind of like, if you like birds and you like horses, chances are, you’d like a pegasus. Or, if you like a good-looking guy who can dance, you’d like Gene Kelly. Or, if you like Oreos and vanilla ice cream…you get the idea.
What attracts me most about acrylic, I guess, is its versatility. I always said that if, one day, I had absolutely no more money to buy paint (and that day, I’m afraid is all but upon me), I would just sink what little I had left into acrylic. (Then live on crackers and water, lol.) I can use it like oil, and I can paint with it like watercolour.
Come to think of it, I didn’t learn to use acrylic at art school—everything I know about it, I learned in art classes at the museum, and my fantastic teacher there taught me how to use it both ways. (We did use acrylic at art school, but more like a support medium / like for ground or underpainting and not as a medium in itself.)
I remember she said acrylic, basically, was a lot like liquid plastic, and it had only been in use really for art in the past 50 years. (That was some 20 years ago, so I guess I should say 70 years, now.) That said, people won’t really be sure of the archival value of works in acrylic until a few hundred years or so have passed.
Then again, given how people keep going on and on about how plastic isn’t biodegradable, I guess it’s fairly safe to say works in acrylic on canvas, at least, ought to be a good enough investment down the road. (That is, if you’re buying art for that purpose.)
When the bad guys asked the Joker to go kill Batman, what did Joker say? ‘If you’re good at something, never do it for free.’
Lately, I’ve become a little extra sensitive to the fact that there are people who seem to think it’s ‘okay’ to ask artists to do what they’re good at, gratis. Coincidentally, Melissa Corbett, an Australian artist based in Spain, recently released a podcast on ‘Why do people think my art should be free?’ featuring Italian artist Chiara Gomiselli and US-based artist, Tatyana Ostapenko.
Interestingly enough, there are even some people who seem to think that if you’re an artist and you ask to get paid for your work, you’re not a ‘real’ artist. This strikes me as funny because I’ve also heard the exact opposite—if you’re a ‘real’ artist, you should be making money off your work, because if you don’t, you’re not a professional.
Go figure. ^_^
In this post, I’ll be thinking x writing out loud about how it just seems so easy for some people to ask artists to work ‘for exposure’ or ‘as a favour’ because ‘you like to do it, anyway’. Like they think artists somehow don’t deserve to be compensated, at the very least, for the time and the materials (which don’t come cheap) that go into creating a work of art.
I don't purport to know everything. Yet if the little I do know can be of any help, you are more than welcome to it.