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Cat Contemplates Beauty

Art-cat-webCat and roses

Like many artists, I feel most at home in my studio.  I have a nice small cottage-y house in the tiny village of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, gateway to Grasslands National Park, one of Canada’s most remote and beautiful locations. What would in a normal person’s house be the dining room has been turned into my studio and office and that’s where I spend most of my days. The studio isn’t huge but it’s bright and sweet and all mine, and everything I need to work with is there. Though sometimes, especially when I’m figuring out some new idea, the studio can spill over into the living room, dining area and kitchen.

And then the art cat helps.

The art cat understands inspiration. She knows the value of considering, of spending days imagining, of doing less. She knows what beauty is, because she inhabits beauty herself. She knows how to dream.

So now, after time with the art cat, I’ve begun something new. This period of exploration always feels scary and at the same time like a path is stretching out in front of me. It feels as though if I can see that path, all I have to do is follow.

Does the art cat wonder why I don’t accept her help more often?

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s studio. To receive updates, plus a free printable postcard of one of my most recent paintings, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Keeping the Faith with Tara Swiger

Blog-TaraTara Swiger is one of my heroes, so it was really fun to be featured on her podcast. We talked about keeping the faith with your art, how artists learn about business and how I decided to open my own Backporch Gallery. I didn’t even know I knew some of those things!

Tara is a maker, an author and a workshop leader who helps other makers and artists find our best business by following our enthusiasm and experimenting with what works for us and our people and the world we’re creating. She’s honest and enthusiastic and knowledgeable and kind, and when you hear the interview you’ll know why it was such a pleasure to talk to her. I’m one of Tara’s Captains in the Starship, her membership community of entrepreneurial-minded creative people, which you can find out more about on her website. Working with Tara is one of the highlights of my week.

Enjoy!

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s studio. To receive updates, plus a free printable postcard of one of my most recent paintings, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

How to Keep On Making Art

Goals, plans, structures, accountability, faith…

???????????????????????????????Sunlight Changes Everything: Ribbon (oil/board, 12″ x 12″)

A couple of decades ago I worked as a sessional lecturer for the University of Saskatchewan, teaching visual arts in a multi-disciplinary introduction to fine arts course required for first year elementary education students, with eight or nine sections each year and up to 35 students in a section, more than 200 students each term. Because I was a sessional and not a real professor with real-professor privileges, I had no desk to call my own. Three times each week I carried in my backpack over the University Bridge everything required to give slide lectures and hands-on demonstrations, and to grade and return three assignments per term to each student.

Then one brief shining winter an unusually enlightened Associate Dean offered those of us who taught this course a better deal. For that year only, he could appoint us as eight-month term faculty instead of as sessionals. We’d be members of the Faculty Association. We’d have minimal benefits. We’d have access to some research funds. We’d have offices.

I loved that office. It was in a temporary trailer, with flimsy dividers between me and the nearest other term faculty member’s office, far away from any colleagues. All winter a cold wind whistled in around the building’s metal door. I had a phone and a place to grade assignments and write lectures. For eight glorious months I carried nothing on my back except my coat.

And I discovered the lure of having a ready-made role. As long as I stayed in the office, marking papers and reading books that might be useful for class content and wondering if a student would show up for office hours, I knew who I was. I didn’t have to create my identity out of nothing; there was no purpose to invent or work of my heart to be disdained. There would be no art either.

We all need to earn a living. We all have demands on our time. How do we go on making art anyway? We need awareness. We need goals, plans, structures, accountability, faith. We need support.

Soon I’m going to re-open and launch my private artist mentoring program. If you’d like to get advance notice so you can decide if my brand of long-time experience and keeping faith is the kind of support you need in your artist’s life, just put your email in the box on the right to receive blog posts. You’ll be the first to hear.

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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.

The Promise of Better

And a failure to comply…

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Dining table before compliance

On a January afternoon like this one you hesitate to go outdoors, even though the sun is shining and the temperature is well above freezing. There’s a north-northwest wind gusting to 70 km/45 mi per hour. You could blow right over, into one of the large and ice-bottomed puddles that spread on my village’s roads during a melt. Instead, it’s a good day for admitting that there’s no such thing as being a full time, all the time, no-excuses artist. Not unless you count being bookkeeper, studio assistant, preparator, curator, publicist, researcher and webmaster as part of that.

Of course, you have to. Like many artists, I’d rather spend all my time at the easel, struggling with whatever painting is currently giving me grief, but like most artists, I know that if I don’t do these other things, no one will.

And there are long stretches sometimes when no one does. Especially no one does the bookkeeping. Numbers and I have an uneasy relationship. Sorting receipts and entering dollar amounts is one of the least fun things I can think of.

But the bookkeeping has gotten out of hand. I’m almost nine months in arrears in my Canadian Goods and Services Tax filing. Revenue Canada Agency is sending me letters in brown envelopes. I’m called “non-compliant” and my tax refunds will be withheld. Vaguely, worse threats hover.

So today, in the wind, I will comply. Sort receipts into three-month quarters, then into categories within the quarters. Enter numbers into Excel spreadsheets. I give thanks for Excel. Add up kilometers travelled for business and expenses for business use of home. Figure out the car’s percentage of business use and the studio’s percentage of costs to run my house. Use bank deposit book to enter income by source. How much GST did I pay? That’s input costs. How much did I charge? That’s GST collected or collectible. Subtract one from the other. Hold my breath.

Let my breath go. GST is collectible from only Canadian sources. In 2014 much of my income was American. In all quarters, I collected less GST than what I paid. Revenue Canada owes me, not the other way around. I press the File button on the GST web page. Now there are no more brown envelopes to worry about. No more vague threats.

You’d think I’d learn. Not let things get like this. I always promise to do better next time. But my easel is still more fun than the file folders. My lack of love for numbers is a failing, I know. We all have a few.

What are you promising to do better?

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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.

Wishing

The best of the season to you…

Blog-Christmas-b-2014Tree, 2014

May your days be merry and bright.

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please feel free to 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.