How to Start a New Artist’s Life

Blog-backporch

Back Porch

Let’s take a step back in time. It isn’t a very big step, just a few months to August, 2014. I’ve owned and operated Grasslands Gallery in Val Marie, SK, for five years, showcasing and selling original art and craft by almost 30 of Saskatchewan’s finest artists inspired by the Grasslands experience. Now it’s time to close the gallery so I can focus on making my own artwork. Apparently, though, I’m not completely done with the idea of operating art galleries, because I say to my old friend, the amazing watercolourist Catherine Macaulay, that if I ever do this again, I’ve learned some things. If you can avoid paying rent, or can negotiate a setting in which you pay rent only for the months you open, it would be a really good idea. Operating in a place where you will be anyway, or in a place that allows you to do other work, is the best. You should take a realistic commission. You need to be able to accept credit cards. You need to decide how much you want to spend on advertising. You need really good signs.

Then let’s take a bigger step back, many more years. Catherine Macaulay and I are on holiday near Ogunquit, Maine. I’d never before seen such a place as Ogunquit. It’s picturesque, a good tourist destination, and there are artists’ homes and studios by the sides of the roads, with signs saying ‘Paintings’. To make art and sell it? It seems like the best artist’s life. Like a dream.

Now we’re back in the present. Catherine and I are talking about how artists make a living, or don’t, and what options might be open to us. “You could put up a sign that says ‘Paintings’,” she says. “Sell them out of the porch.”

And how simply a world opens up. For my own back porch I won’t pay rent. My studio is in my house and I’m here a lot. To sell only my own paintings, the entire price is my commission. I can get Square on a cell phone to accept credit cards with. Advertising will be a few posters. Signs? Easy.

It’s exciting, this Backporch Gallery idea. Isn’t it? I knew you’d think so. I’m planning to open by July 1. Please stay tuned for details. You’ll be the first to know.

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Are You Ready to Move On?

Blog-window-viewI had a bad case of post-exhibition letdown. Of course, it doesn’t feel like post-exhibition letdown when you’re in it. It feels as if the world has no purpose or structure and like you’ve lost your last friend. It’s convincing. As convincing as any other short term grief.

And it is grief. You were completely focused on a goal and then you reached it. You knew who you were and what you were supposed to do, and now you don’t. There’s a big hole to be filled.

What to do? Talk to someone, or several someones. Cry if necessary. Think hard. Look for a new path. Pick one. Waver. Make wild plans. Look for someone to blame. Take on not-relevant commitments that you’ll have to get out of later. Try not to give up. Make a decision. Go back to work.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going back to work. In the next week or so, I’m going to complete the last in a series of three tiny (5″ x 7″) Grasslands landscape paintings. There’s a gallery shop waiting for them. Then I’m going to make a good start on a new piece for the Assiniboia Gallery, representing my artwork in Regina, SK. At 24″ x 30″, it will be my biggest painting over a year. I’m also going to finish this blog post, file my overdue GST return, and deal with the mighty pile of paperwork that has accumulated on my dining room table. I’m going to keep on getting my neglected flower garden going for the season – not as late as it sounds because it froze here last week, but still. I’m going to spend some time with friends, show up where I’ve said I will, and say “no” once to something not my responsibility, just for practice.

And I’m going to take a break from feeling tired and discouraged, and give feeling lucky and excited a try. I’m ready to move on.

How do you move on in your artist’s life? If you’d like to talk about it, please get in touch. First, please read about artist mentoring with Laureen right here. Then send me a message using this form. Tell me – who you are. What you do. How long you’ve been doing it. The challenges you’re facing. What you want to be different. I’ll respond with an offer of a one-hour introductory mentoring session where we get straight down to work on your goals. This is the only way we can both know for sure whether I am the right mentor for you. There is no charge for the introductory session. And no obligation.

And for readers of this blog and only until June 8, I have an extra special offer.

If we both decide after the introductory session that we’re a good fit, you’ll make a four month commitment. My usual charge for this is $75 per 1-1/4 hour session, one session per month. Because I understand the artist’s budget, I’ll invoice you before each session, at the beginning of the month. You can pay by cheque, credit card, or PayPal account. We’ll set up the timing of the sessions as we go.

Here’s the special offer: the last session in your four month commitment will be free of charge. That means you get a no-charge/no-obligation introductory session and a no-charge final session. Five sessions for the price of three. Think of all you could accomplish in six months. The world would be a different place.

Remember, while Artist Mentoring with Laureen will still be available after June 8, this special offer will be gone. Don’t  miss it.

What are you ready to move on to?

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Can We Talk?

blog-ladderSo many questions. Questions about the value of art, the opinions of others, the importance of recognition, the meaning of success. I ask them all the time. I think every artist does.

And so many hard answers. Because the answers always come back the sameThey come back as more questions. Questions like, “Where do I want to go?” And, “Will what I’m doing get me there?”

Thomas Merton said, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” Stephen R. Covey paraphrased: “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

Is the ladder you’re on getting you to the place you want to go? I’d love to talk to you about it.

As an artist, I’ve learned how to keep myself going. How to make my art, how to send it into the world, how to start over and over again. And I’ve developed a personal storehouse of information, skills and ways to deal and change. As an artist mentor, it would be my great honour to work with you as you create and fill your own storehouse.

To find out more, please read about artist mentoring with Laureen right here. Then send me a message using this form. Tell me – who you are. What you do. How long you’ve been doing it. The challenges you’re facing. What you want to be different. I’ll respond with an offer of a one-hour introductory mentoring session where we get straight down to work on your goals. This is the only way we can both know for sure whether I am the right mentor for you. There is no charge for the introductory session. And no obligation.

If we both decide after the introductory session that we’re a good fit, you’ll make a three to four month commitment. The charge for this is $75 per 1-1/4 hour session, one session per month. Because I understand the artist’s budget, I’ll invoice you before each session, at the beginning of the month. You can pay by cheque, credit card, or PayPal account. We’ll set up the timing of the sessions as we go.

As an artist, you’re alone so much. And you don’t have to be. You don’t always have to do it by yourself. If you work with me you’ll get the information you need, you’ll get clarity, you’ll feel more confident.  You’ll climb your ladder faster.

Want to see what some of the artists I worked with have said? Click here.

Have questions? Ready to get started? Click here.

I do so look forward to hearing from you.

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

What Is the Value of Art?

Assiniboia-2-rev-webArtist with sign

What is the value of art? How do you measure success in your artist’s life? Do you gauge by the world’s response or your own? What is the measuring tool?

At the end of January I was asked to participate in an exhibition at the Assiniboia Gallery in one of Saskatchewan’s two main cities, featuring my artwork along with two other artists. The Assiniboia is a well-established commercial art gallery; it’s been a part of the visual arts scene in this province for over two decades. We’d started working together earlier this year.

That’s me above, beaming on opening night, April 24. Never in all my years has my name been on the outside of a building until now. Gallery staff hung and lit the paintings beautifully. Plenty of people came to the reception. There was dinner out with old friends afterward, and lots of laughter and stories.

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Exhibition installation (photo Robert W Harwood)

Three days later I was asked to take down my post of the exhibition invitation from a local community Facebook page. Though I’ve made many contributions to the page in the past five years, this post was deemed too much like “personal businesses, such as multi-level marketing schemes selling everything from jewellery to weight-loss products.” Posts about Wings Night at my town’s only hotel “benefit the community as a whole.”

Then I was nominated for a national visual arts advocacy award. It’s a true honour to be thought of that way, no matter the outcome. The award has now been granted to someone else.

An interview was published about my artwork and the Assiniboia Gallery exhibition in one of our regional newspapers. A whole page, with photos. It was a bit alarming to see myself publicized so, and exciting at the same time. So far, two people have mentioned they noticed the story.

And so far, my artwork in the exhibition isn’t selling as well as I’d hoped. It’s some of the best art of my career.

So from this roller coaster of happiness and daunting I wonder, what is the value of art? Do we value its making? Its quality? Its financial reward? The opinions of our peers? The opinions of the communities we live in? How important is public attention or recognition? What value is highest? Who decides?

And what do we focus on? Do we decide that the ups are what counts, or the dejections? Is there a balance? Or does neither really matter? How do we know?

How do you measure success in your artist’s life?

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

The Last Brush Stroke

Sunlight-changes-softly-webLaureen Marchand, “Sunlight Changes Everything: Softly” (oil/board)

The last brush stroke on the last painting headed for an exhibition of my newest work. 27 hours before the exhibition opens. The gallery hosting the exhibition is 390 km/235 miles from here. You can’t ask for finer cutting than that.

In January of this year I began an association with the Assiniboia Gallery in Regina, SK. I’m really happy with it. Late that month the gallery invited me to participate in an exhibition that will introduce three artists newly represented there, of which I’m one. Also happy. Welcoming BIGOUDI, MIKE KEEPNESS, and LAUREEN MARCHAND. New Artists, New Work. The exhibition invitation is lovely.

assiniboia-invite-apr-2015Then there was the making of the work. Three months for six new pieces. Shouldn’t be that hard.

The first paintings were so slow. A new light, a new colour, a different look at my subject. Sometimes I’d spend three days painting a leaf. Eventually it got a little faster. I waited for easier to arrive as well. It didn’t.

This is an odd job. You’re your own boss. No one to report to. No one to tell you when you’re doing it right, either. Or wrong. Or how to do it better. You set your own hours. Lots of them. You conceptualize, produce, construct, manage, plan, promote, cook the meals and wash the bottles. You make things that never existed before, on deadline. You never for a minute feel like you know how.

Eventually, and maybe inevitably, given the long shifts you’re working and the isolation that goes with them, you lose perspective. Perhaps a little madness sets in. You feel alone in a strange land. Lost. Even frightened. Sometimes you feel as though you must be missing a layer of skin. You wish for understanding. Help. Something to make this end. You could stop, I guess. But you promised, and your word is all you are.

Then, all of a sudden, you’re done. The last brush stroke on the last painting, 27 hours before the exhibition opens. I can’t tell you how different I feel. It was immediate. I’m in love with the light on my dusty house, the stray cats in the street, everyone I know. The tiredness that’s been dragging along with me for three weeks? Gone. Uncertainty? Gone. Who was that crazy person? She’s gone too.

The sunny, sane person who has taken her place, even if just until next time, is going to a party. Friday, April 24, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Assiniboia Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan. Won’t you join me there if you can?

New Artists, New Work, at the Assiniboia Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, opening April 24. I’ll be there for the reception. Please do drop by and say hello!

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please pass it on.

The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Meditation Near Exhibition

Crocuses-4-webCrocuses, April 2015, Grasslands National Park

A woman doesn’t live by studio alone, but in the last weeks of intense art production before an exhibition, you’d sometimes never know it. You began this process feeling like you might have found meaning, but by this stage any meaning that exists is in the completion. It’s only now you begin to think you might know how to do this art stuff. You also know that you couldn’t sustain the pace.

Many, many years ago, as a new art school graduate working an evening job as a gallery attendant, I met Alberta sculptor Katie Ohe when she brought in an entire exhibition of her welded and polished steel abstract sculptures for installation the next day. Her face was exhausted and exhilarated and slightly burnt, from too much arc and torch late at night to meet a deadline. I doubt I even spoke to her – I was young and and shy and nobody – but I’ve never forgotten that look. Maybe we all wear it sometimes. If we’re lucky.

Along with the memory of Katie Ohe, that evening gallery attendant job gave me something else that lasts to this day, the habit of trying to cram as much studio time in as possible then cramming everything else into the time left over. Making a living. Making a home. Making a life. In these last days of art production when I’m alone a lot, I sometimes wonder if my choice was the right one. But later, when I see the exhibition all hung and lit and glowing, I hope I’ll be sure.

And in the meantime, out there in the world, crocuses are growing. In the warm April air on remote hillsides in Grasslands National Park just a few kilometers from where I live, swaths of soft purple are tucked into the prairie. So a couple of days ago I turned the production flame down low for awhile and good friend and fellow artist Catherine Macaulay and I went to see them. A slow walk, a high hill, meandering on ridges, growth just beginning to feel like spring. And those small gentle cups, tucked away. Also glowing.

The exhibition I refer to is New Artists, New Work, at the Assiniboia Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, opening April 24. I’ll be there for the reception. Please do say drop by and say hello!

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please pass it on.

The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Taking a Break

???????????????????????????????Studio, production mode, April

The other morning I went for coffee with a friend. Not much news, you might think. But I’m in the last stages of getting ready for an exhibition and shouldn’t I be painting all the hours of the day?

I have the Puritan work ethic. It’s a blessing and a curse. Maybe you know how this goes. I get a lot accomplished but often feel like there isn’t enough. Not enough hours, not enough production, never enough art.

And yet. My friend doesn’t live here and was around only for a few days. I’d already put her off twice. If you owe something to the gallery hosting your show, don’t you owe more than that to a friend of 20 years’ standing?

So I walked out to meet her for coffee. We had a lovely visit. After 20 years, usually you just do.

Then I came back to the studio and went back to work. And you know what? I probably got about as much done that afternoon, starting after 11:30, as if I had been at it all day. Pretty good painting, too. With relaxation, connection and a walk behind me, I was looser, more conscious. Maybe taking a break was even better than not.

A break. When did you last take one? The work will keep. You’ll do it better when you come back. Let’s all go now.

The exhibition I refer to is New Artists, New Work, at the Assiniboia Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, opening April 24. I’ll be there for the reception. Please do say drop by and say hello!

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please pass it on.

The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

A Few Steps Toward Change

Heron-Campbell-River-webGreat blue heron near Campbell River, British Columbia

Just small ones…

If you want a new way of seeing, a tiny epiphany, a different version of yourself, this vast Canadian country is a good place to look. Space, change, beauty, room. You could find anything you wanted here.

A companion and I headed west. Just a little vacation, with wonderful friends to visit and beautiful scenery to look at along the way and on arrival. From Val Marie, Saskatchewan to Campbell River and Quadra Island, British Columbia. Three long days driving, 1800 kilometers/1100 miles, each way. With 11 days available in total from early departure morning to late arrival evening home, we must be nuts.

Nuts or not, it was great. Days of talk, time with the people we’ve known longest, vast ranges of prairie and mountain and seacoast. A lifetime best-ever heron sighting. Spring flowers and spring storms.

And days of thinking. I’d been thinking a lot lately, mainly about what wasn’t working. My paintings take too long to complete, my commitments are too many, I don’t get out enough, my heart isn’t in it. This is a different kind of thinking. My heart is in everything.

With my heart in it, I see that change doesn’t need to be as vast as Canada. I could change just a little. Get up a bit earlier, walk a bit oftener, do bit less of what I don’t want and a bit more of what I do. Not untold miles, but tiny steps.

What small steps can you take toward change?

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

The Tightrope Artist Touches Earth

 A question of balance…

Blog-tightrope-Michel-MeninI don’t have a good sense of balance. The year I was ten I grew eight inches, to my full 5’5″ height, and after that nothing was where I had left it. The lower edges of upper kitchen cupboards. Streets as I stepped off curbs. My feet. Even now after all these decades, it’s as if the world tilts and throws objects sideways. How did the coffee maker get so close to the edge of the counter? Where did that bruise on my knee come from? That bump on my head?

Like many physical realities, this one seems to be a metaphor for so much else. Life balance? What’s that? I excel at projects, which I throw myself into. Maintenance after the project is completed, not so much. Preserving the precarious equilibrium between making art and making a life feels like a tightrope act to me. And if the balance pole tips even slightly the wrong way, I might fall off. Over one edge, friendlessness and squalor. Over the other, no art at all. I cling to the edge with the art on it and when I step away from that edge, I grab for connection. Often even ordinary upkeep seems impossible.

But on Sunday I cleaned the basement.

It was sorely needed, but it wasn’t on my list. Not now, anyway. Maybe in the mysterious future when I have this scheduling thing figured out. It’s a cellar-ish place at best down there, so I throw stuff in that I can’t quite deal with. Which makes it worse. By now it was about as bad as it could be. Then on Saturday night, late, I discovered that one of the heating ducts had come dis-attached from itself and was heating the world, not the house. Because of my long-standing aversion to seeing housekeeping as reality, I couldn’t even reach the duct break without a major organize, scrub-up and chuck-out. The situation had reached embarrassing. Sunday I went to work.

For almost seven hours I moved things, swept, re-arranged, wiped, threw out, recycled, vacuumed, made decisions. I even labelled. By early evening my lungs were full of dust and my back hurt. And the space was beautiful. Well, not beautiful; it’s still a basement. The space is functional. Functional is a huge improvement. On Monday my neighbour came over and repaired the heating system. Even he was impressed. It feels great.

But what does it all mean? Have I conquered the balance of maintenance problem? As much as I would like to think so, probably not. This wasn’t maintenance. This was a project. I excel at projects.

The whole question needs more thought. How can maintenance be manageable?

Meantime, let me just grab that pole.

How do you create balance?

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The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Support for Taking Your Art to the World

Making and taking to the world…

Studio-Laureen-1600-1274Laureen in studio, early 2015

“There are lots of artists in the world, but there’s only one you, and the only person who has your point of view is you. If you decide to not make things, all you’ve done is deprive the world of all the stuff that only you could have brought to it.”

That’s Neil Gaiman, author of over 30 books and one of the best commencement speeches in the history of the world.

And if you do make things but you don’t take them to the world, will you keep on making?

That’s me, Laureen.

These two aspects of the artist’s life are so closely linked. How do we keep on making art? How do we take our art to the world? If we stop doing one, will we inevitably stop doing the other?

If you want support with making and taking your art to the world, my version of that support will re-open in a tab on this website on Monday, February 23. If you want an early look-in on Saturday, and the early possibility of booking a free introductory session, please sign up to receive blog posts by entering your email in the box on the right. I limit my mentoring practice to a small number of very carefully selected clients.

About me, Laureen:

As a career artist and former art gallery owner I have huge amounts of experience with the will and faith needed to make and keep making art and with the nuts and bolts of getting that art to its audience. I have BFA and MFA degrees and have exhibited for over 25 years. I have had more than two dozen solo or two-person exhibitions as well as over 40 group shows. My paintings have been recognized by the Saskatchewan Arts Board and the Canada Council, are held in many public and private collections, and have been represented in exhibition catalogues and reviewed in newspapers and magazines. In the visual arts I’ve worked as organizer, teacher, mentor, adjudicator, writer, and curator. I’m proud to hold the Canadian Artists Representation “Tony” Award for service to the visual arts in Saskatchewan and the Centennial Leadership Award for Service to the Province of Saskatchewan. In addition to freelance writing and giving workshops about the business of art for artists, I’ve been writer, researcher and editor of the Saskatchewan Visual Arts Handbook, published by CARFAC Saskatchewan, since its 2nd edition and now in its 10th. I owned and operated Grasslands Gallery for five years, until I decided in 2014 to close it so I could spend more time with my own studio practice. I’m technologically literate and have set up several WordPress websites including Grasslands Gallery’s at www.grasslandsgallery.com and my personal site at www.laureenmarchand.com. The gallery website offered online sales, so I had a chance to learn about that too. In fact, I love to learn. It’s a core value for me, so I regularly take classes and engage coaches of my own in order to continue with my own artistic and business growth. And please feel free to ask any further questions you may have!

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please pass it on.

The blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.