Category Archives: The Business of Being an Artist

Community Matters at San Jose City Hall, Reception Friday June 6



I was honored to be invited to participate in the Community Matters show at San Jose City hall. This show features SJSU art department alumni and will be open until October 1., 2014. I know several of the participants and am flattered to be included in such a talented group. These are the art students I would come home and tell Greg about. “They’re going to do something big,” I’d tell him and you’ll see by their work exactly what I meant.

Each of us has our own display area an, in addition to several of my better known artist’s books,  you’ll be able to see a work that isn’t even on my website yet. Tentatively titled Elephants, it is a collection of artist’s books about family secrets. When the curator, Robin Treen, visited my studio she was excited about this piece and asked if I could have it finished in time for the show. “Sure!” I told her. And it was done at 2 a.m. the day of the install.

I hope you can join me on Friday, June 6th, between 4:30-6 p.m. for the reception.



Finding Time for Your Art

Ginger Burrell - Time Machine Color

If only there was a machine that could make more time! Many of us find it a challenge to find time to sleep, let alone find time to make art. Do you have strategies to make time for your art?

This has been an ongoing struggle for me. I am sidetracked frequently not only by the many other responsibilities I have, but also by my own tendency to undermine my own creative work. If it isn’t a household responsibility, a kid that needs transported somewhere, or an appointment that needs kept, it is me dragging my feet because I’m not sure I can make my art fit my vision, or I’ve gotten so far in a project that I’m afraid that I’ll screw it up and have to start over, or I’ll be afraid that my audience won’t love it the way I do (even though I tell myself it doesn’t matter…)

Last year I did a year-long project titled “Picturing Dialogue.” Because I had deadlines and a lot of other artists to answer to, it kept me on task and focused all year. So for me, deadlines and people to answer to are a good start. But here I am on January 13th and I’m finding myself in my old patterns.

In an attempt to create better working habits this year (and eating habits, and exercise habits, and… oh wait, here I am getting sidetracked again…) I did some wandering around the web looking for techniques to set aside time for what is most important – Art. (And besides, I got to wander the web and not feel guilty about it!)

In a blog entry by Bet Borgeson, I found the idea of a TIMECARD – “This may seem a quaint thing, but it works, and it has helped others. Why does it work?  Because it is a big part of the structure that surrounds an art life.  Noting the timebegins to work on you mentally. You are noticing your time.  You might find yourself guessing how much you’ll get done.  You’ll have conversations with yourself about your art time.  As time goes on and you are faithful about keeping a record, you’ll likely begin to compete with prior weeks and months–even years.”

On Empty Easel, in an interview with Rice Freeman-Zachery, I found the idea to QUIT WATCHING TV – Now I know an artist who has pretty much done this and her art output, on top of a full-time “regular” job, is amazing. In quality as well as quantity. In fact, Rae  is an inspiration to everyone who knows her. But I like TV and at the end of a long day it’s often the only thing I have the energy for. Although I’m still cross at the story-line for last night’s Downton Abbey.

Mary Baker’s Art Blog may well hit the nail on the head for me – and for many of us… “LEARN TO SAY NO.” My favorite sentence – “‘No’ is a complete sentence.”

In Cathy Johnson’s Tip #33, Making Time for Art, she suggests MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOURSELF and keep it, just like any other appointment.

Balzer Design’s 5 Ways to Make Time for Art, has two tips that struck a chord for me:  LET THE CROCKPOT DO THE COOKING and Set Limits for Computer Time. Perhaps I can improve my art making habits and my eating habits with one tip! And I love the computer… I love reading the news, looking for recipes, reading email, blogs, Facebook, watching Henri videos… uh oh, and that’s just a small part of the list. I’m beginning to see a problem here.

Do you have strategies to “make time” for your art? Please share in the comments! I’ll try these out and let you know how they work for me.


It’s a Sidewalk! Or a Pathway, or a Walkway, or…

Studio sidewalk (1 of 4)

For a year and a half we’ve hopped from stepping stone to stepping stone, tip-toed across sheets of plywood or made running jumps across trenches. Finally, we’ve got a mud-free, trench-free way to get to the studio! Of course the kids miss the trenches and the tenuous plywood bridges, but I’m happy to have a solid way to get from the gate and house to the studio!

Sergio and his crew did a great job …

Studio sidewalk (2 of 4)

I’ve always wanted to put our initials in fresh concrete – this time it was allowed!

Studio sidewalk (3 of 4)

I’m restarting teaching classes in the studio in December. Why don’t you bring some friends, take a class and try out the new pathway…

Studio sidewalk (4 of 4)


How to Dress Like an Artist

Stephen Jones Coco Beret

[Coco Beret by Stephen Jones Hats]

Greg has mentioned to me several times that I don’t “dress like an artist.” I argue that I dress like every other artist I know. And how is an artist supposed to dress anyway?

So when we were at the LA Art Book Fair I had a good laugh at the n+1 table. They had tote bags with an excerpt from the book I like your work: art and etiquette titled “How Artists Must Dress.”

This passage, by Roger White, is on page 42 of the book:

“Artists must first of all distinguish themselves from members of the adjacent professional classes typically present at art world events: dealers, critics, curators, and caterers. They must second of all take care not to look like artists. This double negation founds the generative logic of artists’ fashion.

The relationship between an artist’s work and attire should not take the form of a direct visual analogy. A stripe painter may not wear stripes….”

Does this mean a book artist may not wear books? 😉

You can get the tote and the book, along with some other fun goodies as a bundle at n+1.

Paper Monument Tote from n+1

So, how should an artist dress? Should an artist strive to look like one? Should a painter look different from a book artist? Should a printmaker look different from a sculptor? Should a photographer always carry a camera around her neck?

For fun I Googled “How to Dress Like an Artist.” Here are some of my favorite tips:

From WikiHow: How to Dress Like an Artist: “Add piercings. You can pierce your eyebrow, your lip or your nose for dramatic effect.” “Stop shaving… artsy girls shouldn’t feel the social pressure to shave.” “Wear a hat. A beret looks good on both guys and girls.”

From eHow: How to Dress Like an Artist: “Wear a tweed jacket to dress like an artist.” “Add long black skirts to your wardrobe. A female artist has as least 2 in her closet, and she wears them often.” “Carry a tote bag that is big enough to store all of your artistic necessities. A Nietzsche book and a magazine about paintings  or writings are a good bet for anyone who wants to dress like an artist and carry the right accessories.”

From Tips to dress like an Artist: “Artists tend to extend their artistic chops to every area of their lives, including their wardrobes. They can’t stop creating, even if they try. Everything they touch, own, and wear becomes a medium of individual expression. It’s the artist’s way”

How do you dress as an artist? Do you dress to look “like an artist” when you go out to public events? And do I need to make a trip to Paris so that I can get an authentic beret?


Banff Centre Blog Post About Book Arts

One of my automatic Google Searches turned up this blog post from the Banff Centre. It first caught my attention because I am a big fan of Yoko Ono’s artwork and her Box of Smile wasn’t a piece I’d seen before.

Yoko Ono Box of Smile

But then, as I read through the blog about the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives and their collection of artists’ books (more than 3,800 !) I thought I’d add it to my list of places to visit – and share it with you, too.

The blog also discusses what is an “artist’s book”, what is book art and whether book art makes a sound investment for collectors. Whether you agree with their perspective or not, it is an interesting read. Artists’ books and book art: A conversation with our art librarian.


Dusting Off the Mental Cobwebs

Last week I finished unpacking my studio and starting working on several new artists’ books. They’re ideas I’ve had floating around during moving and recovery and, finally, I’m ready to get back to work. After months of getting a house ready to sell, moving for the first time in 15 years, and then having a hysterectomy and recovering from that –  I finally feel like I once again have the physical and mental energy I need to dedicate to being an artist.

First, I had to start the week by beating myself up mentally. Why on earth didn’t I write/create/develop ideas while recovering? All I was doing was lying around, right?

Next, I had to forgive myself. Apparently I needed all of the energy I had just to heal. I wish I could have used that time more productively (I don’t think watching 63 episodes of Eureka counts as productive) but for some reason I couldn’t. I tried.

And finally, I’m dusting off the cobwebs (and my tools) and starting anew. I’ve started working on images for one of the new artists’ books. Family and friends are gamely standing against a white while for photos while wondering what on earth I’m going to do with them.

Photoshop is less intuitive right now – I know I used to know how to do all of this. I’ve started taking photographs every day – Oh, how I love to take pictures!  So far mostly of my garden growing and some jam I made this morning.

I’ve hooked up my new printer, a Canon iX6520 (all by myself, no husband-who-is-an-engineer-tech-support!) and I’ve started testing it. My beloved HP that I’ve used to print all of my artists’ books went kaput and I feel like I’m back at square one. Can I use pages I’ve already printed with pages from the new printer? Do I have to start over? Will this printer print on Rives BFK as beautifully as that old printer?

And I’ve started working in my studio. I’ll post photos of the studio later this week. Right now I’ve got the radio cranked up and I’m remembering how to hold a bone folder and being grateful for my health, for being able to find most things where I look on the first try, and for my amazing new workspace.


Studio Update: Let There Be Drywall

A quick studio update. We have drywall!

And chicken-wire. Sadly that will probably be the only chicken-wire in our yard. Despite lobbying for nearly 6 months I’m making no progress in getting Greg to agree that chickens would be a nice addition to our brood of four kitties. Fresh eggs for breakfast doesn’t seem to be enough incentive. I think I’m making progress on the a-puppy-would-sure-be-nice front, though. Stay tuned.

The front door is on the left. The closed door on the right is to the bathroom. (You can get to the bathroom via an inside door, as well.) I’m looking forward to being able to make cyanotypes and paper in the patio behind the studio and take all that wet, messy and wonderful stuff straight into the sink. No more trekking it through the studio.)

The bottom photo is a tradition Greg and I started nearly 13 years ago when we met. We take shadow pictures wherever we go. (It warms my heart that now my niece, Samantha, takes shadow pictures everywhere, too.) The thing in Greg’s hand is a tape measure. We seem to be measuring everything these days.

I’ve also started space planning and I’ll tell you some more about the books and software that I’m using for inspiration and planning in a blog post or two later this week.