Tag Archives: feedback

Living With An Artist at Crunch Time

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by Mick Stevens in The New Yorker

Hi everybody.  Its me, Greg, your guest blogger here again.  The 2017 Codex book fair is just around the corner and Ginger’s work is coming together nicely but she’s swamped right now.  Which is why you get me.  I shall continue my previous theme and discuss Codex prep from my perspective.  Specifically, I see Ginger is super busy and stressed so what can I do to help alleviate that (without making more work for her)?  We’ve been through this a number of times preparing for various art shows and here’s a few things I’ve learned that will help.

  • Volunteer to be a studio assistant.   Your first reaction may be, “I’m not an artist, how can I possibly help in the studio?”  True, I don’t know much about art but I do know how to measure paper and use a bone folder.  I can even work a Kutrimmer.  In fact, I quite enjoy putting on the headphones and cranking through a stack of paper or davey board.   I don’t know anything about book bindings but I can run to the store for more art supplies.  I often tell Ginger, “Pretend I’m a small child (not a stretch) and give me specific and clear instructions, I won’t be offended.”  Even taking on small menial tasks can be a help to her.
  • Encourage your artist to take breaks.  There are natural stopping points in Ginger’s work such as waiting for paint or glue to dry.  Or when transitioning from one book to the next.  That’s a good time to suggest a break.  Sometimes we go for ice cream and other times we just lie in bed and pet the cats.  A walk is always a good option.  Sometimes Ginger wants to talk about her work and other times she doesn’t even want to think about it.  We might take a dinner break and watch half hour of mindless TV.  Laughing together is always a good stress reliever.
  • Don’t take it personally if your artist is always busy or distracted.  This is not the time to stamp my foot and say “but what about me?!  Pay attention to me!”  During crunch time the artist is always thinking about his or her art.  We might be doing something completely non-art (including sleeping) but part of her brain is still working on art problems.  So I don’t take it personally if I’m talking to Ginger and she gets that faraway look in her eyes before jumping up and rushing off to the studio.
  • Make sure your artist doesn’t neglect his or her health.  One of the best ways to do this is to encourage your artist to get more sleep.  It sounds contradictory but more sleep can actually be more productive.  I’ve seen Ginger get into the bad pattern of working eighteen hours one day but then dragging for the next two days before giving in to a long sleep to catch up.  The net result is less productivity.  And more stress because then she feels like, “Oh no, I’ve been dragging and sleeping too much, I need to work even harder!”  I realize that Ginger will laugh at this because normally I’m one of those “Five hours is enough for anybody!” kind of guys but I realize that everybody is different and during crunch time you have to do what works best for you.
  • Be ready to give tough feedback.  This is a difficult one because I see Ginger working so hard and I see she’s stressed and fragile and my instinct is to tell her that everything she does is great.  After all, I want to be encouraging and I want to help her soldier on.  But I would be doing her a disservice.  We both agree that just because there’s a deadline looming it’s no reason to lower standards.   There are plenty of times in life where I’ll say, “It’s good enough, just get it done” but not when it comes to Ginger’s art.   So continue to give the tough feedback but be prepared to deliver it with an extra dose of kindness.  See my previous post on “The Art of Art Feedback”.
  • Don’t add extra pressure to your artist.   Yeah, this isn’t the time to remind her about her looming deadline.  It’s also not a good time to say, “Wow, you must be so stressed!”   Believe me, she’s acutely aware of it.  It’s also not the time to burden her with issues that aren’t urgent.  Do we really need to plan our 2018 vacation right now or can it wait a few weeks?  I find it’s helpful to jointly map out our week in advance so that Ginger knows which tasks or events I have covered and doesn’t have to worry about how non-art tasks are going to get done.
  • Remove distractions from your artist’s daily life.  This goes hand-in-hand with the above point.  Make or bring dinner.  Do extra household chores.  Offer to take the pet to the vet.  Attend the family function by yourself so she can keep working.  In fact, guess what?  You yourself might be a distraction.  The question to ask myself is, “Does Ginger really need to be interrupted or is this just a needy attempt to get attention?”
  • Give meaningful and specific encouragement.   Right now Ginger is very focused on a huge to-do list and what’s not going well.  Those unsolved problems are weighing heavily on her mind.  This is when she needs encouragement but not that general encouragement which, while true (“hey, at least you get to make art, isn’t that great?”), isn’t very helpful.  One of the best ways to encourage is to point out what I like about each new work.  What really pops out and how does it make me feel.  Sometimes Ginger gets to a point where she only sees what’s wrong with a piece.  It helps to have a fresh pair of eyes tell her what’s right and how well the piece works.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  They’ve definitely worked for me.  If you’re an artist then show this list to the people living with you.  And identify those people whom you can really depend on and allow yourself to lean on them a little.

-Greg

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Holiday Gift List – Support an Artist!

This time of year it’s pretty likely that you’ll be purchasing a gift or a few for people that are important to you and/or they’ll be asking you, “What would you like?” I found some artist created goodies I thought you might want to add to your list(s). Note, I have no association with any of these products, but I think they’re cool, and they’re made by artists, so I fully support that!

  1. Excellent for anyone from your casual crafter to your serious artist, let’s start with Helen Hiebert’s Twelve Months of Paper Calendar. This calendar is filled with fun paper projects to enjoy each month. You can buy the calendar separately for $30.00 or you can add the paper pack for another $35.00.

2. For the more serious book artist or book binder on your list, any of Karen Hanmer’s books on Lulu would be a fabulous treat. I’m adding the Biblio Tech ($15.00) and Contemporary Paper Bindings ($55.00) books to my wish list. (Yes, Greg, I know you read my blog.)

Contemporary Paper Bindings

3. For an artist or anyone who works with paper, fabric or leather,  I highly recommend the Teflon Folding Rib from Talas. As I was telling my students on Sunday, it is truly the one tool I can’t live without. I use it in place of a bone folder in almost every application now. I use it for everything. It is especially fabulous for box making, book covers, anything with an inside corner, anything sticky… It’s probably the single most useful tool I’ve ever had in the studio. Seriously. Really. Buy one for your artist friend. They’ll love you. Get two and save one for yourself. $20.00

Image result for teflon folding rib

4. For a fun look at the history of Blooks (objects that look like books), check out Mindell Dubanksy’s book: “Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren’t.” A great gift for the book collector on your list, anyone who makes books, anyone who likes the history of objects, etc. $45.00

5. If you’re looking for artist book eye candy, you’ll want the new catalog of Julie Chen’s work, “Reading the Art Object: Three Decades of Books by Julie Chen,” available from Vamp and Tramp. A steal at $30.

5. For the children on your list, check out the children’s books and artwork of Melanie Hope Greenberg. Melanie is a children’s book illustrator. Her illustrations are colorful, fun and lively.

And for the adults on your list who are children at heart, check out her original artwork. I’m partial to the one below! (Or you could hang one of her original pieces in a nursery or children’s room. What a great birthday or shower gift!)

There are so many wonderful gift options out there! From now until Christmas I’ll fit in some extra posts like this one. If you have suggestions, please let me know. Shameless self-promotion encouraged.

~Ginger

http://www.gingerburrell.com

 

Pop-Up “How To” Books That Deserve Shelf Space

This post is the 4th in a series detailing the “How To” books that survived my studio clean out because they deserve the space they occupy. I’ve been waiting to share with you about the Pop-Up Section until the Pop Up Now II show opened at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, Oregon. If you’d like to see the show in person it isn’t too late. The show is open until December 17th.

In case you’d like to read the previous posts:

“How To” Books That Deserve Shelf Space #1

“How To” Books that Deserve Shelf Space #2

“How To” Books that Deserve Shelf Space #3

Pop Up Now II at 23 Sandy Gallery

Now, to move on to Pop-Up “How To” books. Here they are in no-particular order. And I have to mention there are a few more that I want but don’t own yet.

The Elements of Pop-Up: A Pop-Up Book for Aspiring Paper Engineers by David A. Carter and James Diaz

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Don’t like the title scare you away. You don’t have to be any kind of engineer to use this book successfully. If you’re going the kind of person who needs a physical representation of pop-ups in order to figure them out (as I am), this book is for you! It has step by step instructions and detailed information on each kind of pop-up included and…

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it has actual pop-up samples of each kind. If necessary you can take them out of the book and take them apart, but not easily. (Don’t ask how I know this.)

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The Pop-Up Book: Step-by-Step Instructions for Creating Over 100 Original Paper Projects by Paul Jackson

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This is a beautifully illustrated book with extensive diagrams, photos and examples of each kind of technique. For example, “Shape of Slit.” While it looks complicated, the pop-up below is actually two folds and a cut slit. Paul Jackson will have you making fabulous pop-ups in no time.

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Playing with Pop-Ups: The Art of Dimensional, Moving Paper Designs by Helen Hiebert

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Helen Hiebert’s books are always excellent. This one features moveable features like volvelles in addition to the pop-up elements included in the first two books. I especially like that she includes historical information about the techniques.

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If you feel like you already know all there is to know about pop-up techniques, it’s still worth the purchase of this Helen Hiebert book. In addition to a very strong “how to” section, there is this beautiful gallery section. Here are some samples by Julie Chen.

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The Art of Pop-Up: The Magical World of Three-Dimensional Books by Jean-Charles Trebbi

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While this book does have some “how to” at the end, and some samples (see the last photos), the real strength is the history and examples of pop up and move-able books. It’s an education and eye-candy combined.

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I especially love the “Picture from ‘Transforming Performers: with Surprise Pictures” on the page below. Such a simple and do-able concept, but also eye-catching and a terrific way to advance content in a book.

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There is also an extensive gallery section that will introduce you to pop-up artists and their work. It’s a great jumping off point to spend some time with Google and learn even more about these pop-up geniuses.

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These last two photos are samples of the “how to” section of the book. Adequate, but not a good starter book. And honestly I don’t use it for this. But the first two sections are fabulous.

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Well, now I want to go to the studio to make pop-up books! How about this? Next week I’ll give you a freebie tutorial on making pop-up trees. Perfect to use in holiday cards.

Do you have a “How To” Pop-Up book you’d recommend? Please share in the comments!

~Ginger

http://www.gingerburrell.com

The Art of Art Feedback

Hi everybody, my name is Greg and I’ll be your guest-blogger this evening.  Yes, I’m the husband Greg that Ginger mentions from time to time.  And yes, despite a recent knock on the noggin Ginger is okay and doing well.  She’s busy in the studio and will return to blogging soon enough.  In the meantime, Ging has asked me to write a few words this week.   So I shall follow the advice of my sixth-grade English teacher (shout out to Ms. Fawcett!) and write what I know.  And what I know is how to be married to An Artist.  So buckle up, here we go…

The 2017 Codex is just around the corner and Ginger is hard at work on new books.  Some of them are just in the idea stage while others have advanced to prototypes.  So I frequently hear Ginger ask, “Hey, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me some feedback on this new book..?”   And here is my reaction:

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“Deer In The Headlights” by James-The-Nose on deviantart.com

Ah yes, the art of giving art feedback. Those of us who know an artist or perhaps even live with one have been asked to critique new work.  It is a veritable minefield that I occasionally successfully navigate (the unsuccessful navigations could be their own column not to mention material for marital counseling).  Here are some guidelines that I have learned along the way.

  • If you’re the significant other of an artist then your first thought might be, “Why me?  I’m not an artist!  I’m not qualified to say nothing!”  Ah, but you do know how to have an opinion and that’s the first step.  The next step is to not be intimidated.  Treat the art piece as you would a movie, a ball game, or a business plan.   Objectively evaluate each aspect of the piece.  Say what you think works and what doesn’t.
  • Get yourself in the right frame of mind.  Turn off the TV and put down the phone.  Go to a room away from the kids or pets so they don’t distract.   Be aware of your own feelings, are you tired, hungry, stressed, or cranky?  Sometimes I simply have to tell Ginger “I’m really tired right now, let’s wait until I can give it my full attention.”
  • The artist values your opinion and thinks you have helpful insights.  Being asked to give a critique is an honor.  In fact, I like seeing new work because it’s like seeing a new side of Ginger.  I think it’s very cool that even though I’m not an artist Ginger still thinks I have useful things to say about her work.  In return, I have a responsibility to give an honest assessment.   Don’t just dismiss the work with a “hey, great!” or “yeah, its nice”.  Sure, everybody likes to hear praise but the artist probably wants something more helpful.   Which leads me to…
  • You aren’t doing the artist any favors by watering down your feedback.  My mother used to tell me “if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all”. (A phrase which Ginger often reminds me in social situations, to little avail.)  It’s a nice sentiment but I don’t believe it’s true.  Sure, honesty can be dangerous.  There are times when I have strong opinions and maybe Ginger isn’t in the right frame of mind to hear them.   I might make an observation or suggestion and Ginger might disagree and push back.  We’re not arguing, we’re having a dialogue.  And that dialogue can help Ginger clarify her thinking about the piece.  She might storm away in anger but, at the end of the day, Ginger realizes I was just being honest and she appreciates my candor.
  • BE SPECIFIC! Saying, “I don’t like it” is vague.  “This font is hard to read” is more specific.  “It’s confusing” is vague.  “I don’t understand the jump from this page to the next” is better.  Specific is helpful because the artist can then re-examine her choice and decide whether to keep or emend it.  (Though sometimes I think that Ginger’s silence means she’s re-examining her choice in a husband).   Specific feedback is actionable.  “I don’t get it” is vague, what’s Ginger supposed to do with that?  Be specific even in your positive feedback, what elements work and why?  What aspects (materials, colors, flow) work well and why?  What stands out to you?   Despite the fact that it might kill me I realize this is a case where more talking and more words are better.
  • Gently play the devil’s advocate and question each element of the work.  Why is this here?  Why did you choose this? Does this element add to a piece or is it just distracting?  Did you do this just because you can or because the work needs it?  Sometimes I sound like a two-year old asking “why?” over and over but I think it’s a question that needs to be asked.
  • Don’t let the artist give a long introduction or explanation before presenting the piece.  I feel the work should speak for itself.  Too much explanation can color my impressions of a new work.  If there’s a lot to be said then say it in the piece.   Don’t try to sell me on the idea.  Let me look and form my own first impressions.
  • Don’t just focus on technical details, how does the work make you feel?  Sure, comments on book structure, material choices, and other technical aspects are good.  But the point of any art work is to communicate with the viewer’s intellect, heart, and soul.  Does the work touch you?  What emotions does it evoke?  Again, be specific.  Some of the best feedback I can give is to tell Ginger how her pieces make me feel (sad, angry, bored, in awe, curious).
  • Don’t take it personally if the artist doesn’t agree with or act on your ideas.  They are just suggestions from one person.  It’s the artist’s work and the artist has the final say.   Don’t be a baby and get exasperated.  Don’t throw up your hands and exclaim, “They why did you ask for my opinion then?!”   Art feedback is no place for sarcasm, belittlement, or condescension.

I hope you found this useful.  If you’re an artist then maybe forward it to the people who get to see your works in progress.  And I hope this gives you some insight into how us non-artists feel, go easy on us.   -Greg