The End of Waiting? New Waiting.

After a time, active waiting fades. It has to. One just cannot hold stark vigilance indefinitely. We get sleepy, need some popcorn, remember what we didn’t remember earlier.

Have you tried meditating? A moth lands on the knee. A dog barks, the door squeaks, there’s that unfamiliar electrical humming….again. And that’s just the outside stuff. The mind abides in its job of unceasing cognitive narrative, past and future. The body itches and aches, is too cold, gurgles and needs unkinking. We drowse. And yet nearly any meditation instruction will tell you that’s perfect: a complicated and obvious attending to the present moment exactly as it is. Allow. Allow. Allow.

Last post I talked about distracting myself from worrisome hyper-vigilant waiting by playing the piano…or, my new keyboard ploy, writing about waiting. I was then waiting to present my work for jurying to become an Exhibiting Member of the ACGA and my mind was looping through my packing, breakage, my set-up, imagined traffic snarls, breakage, low blood sugar, pressure to execute and stay attentive and in my body. Breakage and breakdowns. I was deeply on edge and vulnerable as hell and I was concerned about that too.

Still, I felt good about my work – mostly! – but not sure about successfully getting it seen because of my own bumbling. Over and over I ran my game plays. So much out of my control.

It actually could not have gone much better. People were personable and positive. The vibe in the room of about twenty artists, while pretty intense, was professional. I couldn’t do the set-up I had practiced, needing to adjust it for the half-well-lit table location -that I chose! – but I still could think on the fly, telling myself to move slowly and thoughtfully. No rush. It’s all just fine.

Here’s a shot of one part of the room, with my friend Susana Arias’ sculptures in the foreground and my set-up in the back far right.

ACGA Jurying Final Touches

And here’s my presentation.

Liz Crain’s Ceramic Industrial Containers

Once set up, we left for a few hours to grab a bite and see family. That night San Francisco could not have had more threatening traffic and steeper streets, with the GPS maddeningly mispronouncing their names, such as “DAV-ace-derro” for Divisadero. Just wrong, stupid GPS lady-voice! And of course I was on edge the whole evening thinking we would not be able to return on time to pack up and they would put my stuff out in the hallway like they had said they would.

Yet, once home with everything put away, everyone thanked, and a few nights of better sleep, I forgot to actively wait. I remembered what I hadn’t remembered earlier and got back in the studio with some new clay and new forms. I played with the dog, did laundry, commented on Facebook, meditated, visited with my Mom.

And when I offhandedly checked my email last night, there it was, a missive from the ACGA, with the Message Snippet blessedly saying, “Dear Liz, I am happy to inform you…..”

So, now…. new waiting of a different sort, tempered with validation, gratitude, wonderment, gusto, a wee bit of aw-shucks-I’m-not-worthy and a whole lot of curiosity about what happens next. Allow. Ole. Allow.

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I Used to Play the Piano While I Waited

Amusing yourself while waiting for the Gatekeeper

I begged my folks to buy me a piano when I was around 9. They got an old upright, a former player piano with doors that slid open behind the music ledge. Mom antiqued it burnt orange, and, hating that, re-antiqued it to avocado green. But the offending orange forever peeked out between each black key.

I breezily rode my bike several blocks to my teacher’s every Thursday afternoon, even in the summer. I quested for her gold stars and especially her big rectangular EXCELLENT stickers awarded after I flawlessly played my practice pieces for her, showing off.

But I had never really practiced them. Oh, I wrote 30 minutes, 30 minutes, 30 minutes each day in the log book I took to her – and got Excellents for that, too. But it was a lie because I didn’t keep track and I rarely spent time with the actual homework of the week until just before I got on my bike Thursday afternoon.

I played the piano for love, devouring my books whole. No one ever had to remind me to practice and reporting 30 minutes a day was probably selling myself short. I played out of joyful curiosity and mastery, for relief, for recreation and while I waited: for dinner to be ready, for a ride, for the phone to ring, for a long Sunday afternoon to wind down.

I quit those lessons in Junior High. Something to do with the annual forced memorizing and fancy recital performances combined with my Ugly Duckling Stage. I just couldn’t do it again and with no dignified way out, quit altogether. But I never stopped playing, eventually seeking the practice rooms in college and in time getting my own pianos and keyboards. Presently I don’t have either and I sure could use one today to help with waiting.

I’m waiting for it to be time to drive up to Ft. Mason in San Francisco. Waiting to carefully set up and present 8-12 pieces of my “finest ceramic work” to a Jury of the Association of Clay and Glass Artists, hoping for admittance to that professional group of artists. I’m more than a little nervous, which is probably good. I care. The work and my display for it is all packed and in the car. I still need to shower, dress, take the garbage/recycle cans to the curb, make sure the dog is fed and happy, get the mail, leave a light or two on. Make sure I have the directions, that my phone is charged, that I have a snack and some water or something. I’m crazy waiting real good.

Just right now I need a distraction. I remember how I played the piano in odd moments as much to calm myself as to ease the antsy-ness and the hyper-awareness of time. Waiting today reminds me I sure could use a keyboard!

Heyyyyyyyy……wait….a……..minute…. I think I just found one.

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Anti-Goals, Part Deux

Comedy and Tragedy, Which is Which?

Ya know, I think I really got me onto something with those Anti-Goals from my last post. I wrote mostly in jest, but then again, not really, as those are behaviors and thoughts that I struggle with and it was good to name them with high irony. And while I don’t think I’m alone in my difficulties, I must work through them alone in person in realtime in this life.

 

What’s that quote about happy and unhappy families? Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, first line…. Being “unhappy” in one’s own way, even if it seems mundane, means needing singularly specific “happiness apps” as remedies, which requires close and personal attentiveness.

Point is, once one knows one’s devil-enemies, the playing field and/or battleground cannot help but change as well. And that, too, demands a tricky and confusing mobility of soul, not to mention of thought and behavior.

No wonder it’s so hard to attempt to change for the better! Everything is changing anyway, my mind, my mood, my give-a-shit…what the hell does it take? How, oh how, to sustain Positive Change through All Change? I loosely quote the insightful potter Annie Chrietzberg, “What don’t you get about the change-yness of change?” Exactly.

Well, I get that I am a Contrarian. I get that I need to take on both sides – the Either/Or – before I resolve to the Both/And or The Third….which brings actual change to sticky places. Once The Third is perceived, duality crumbles and all manner of 4ths, 5ths, 6ths…..Infinite-ths arise. It gets juicyfun again, too.

Continuing in the vein I started last post, I need to counter those snarky S.M.A.R.T. goals, whose very left-brain linear clarity propels me smack into petulant inaction.

I tried making my Anti-Goals S.M.A.R.T. by identifying their Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound components. That led to Action Items like this one: Raise FreeCell Win Percentage from 34% to 35% by end of the week. What a beautifully written goal, but just as unmotivating as any.

Instead, I found it edifying, even cleansing, to propose S.T.U.P.I.D. goal criteria and here they are:

S.T.U.P.I.D. Criteria

S = Self-Sabotaging
T = Time-wasting
U = Unhealthy
P = Punitive
I = Impossible
D = Diffuse

This is my happiness app, doing things like this – though it is ultimately about the liberation of getting out by going through.

I pretty much find both the S.M.A.R.T. and S.T.U.P.I.D. criteria examples of the Either/Or camp and now that they’re resolved a tad – because I am more aware of what I want and of what I don’t want to aim for – I get to boogie around in the Both/And arena hopefully discovering what I truly need to do, be, attract, attain and what discipline and order I need to bring to those practices and tasks. If that’s what I get out of this, great, but if I get something else, I’ll deal.

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Being A Social Artist

Social Media Marketing for Dummies Book Cover

Oh, my, such a lot to explore here, but I will try hard to stick to my major idea: For me the idea of being a Social Artist who Markets Her Work means attempting to be a living oxymoron. I just don’t resonate with it.

Or didn’t. Or I’m a work in progress, learning to live the BOTH/AND instead of the EITHER/OR. Nowadays I find it interesting to ‘put on my Big Girl Panties’ [my new favorite saying from this summer] and get myself out there, even if I concurrently break out in metaphorical hives.

This unnatural, learned behavior was hatched in October 2008 when I ran across Alyson Stanfield’s Art Biz Coach site and book, I’d Rather Be In the Studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion.

Fast forward to the present, having collected Alyson’s wisdom through her book, artbizconnectionsalon, online classes, blog and website, phone sessions and even a couple of live workshops she happened to conduct in Northern CA (lucky me!) I – who couldn’t make an attachment to an e-mail back then – now find myself blogging, chatting, friending, following, tweeting, linking, posting, commenting, messaging, convo-ing, listing and re-listing IN ADDITION to making art and more art, entering exhibits, opening my studio, contacting galleries, joining art associations, attending receptions, and in general authentically livin’ the dream I dreamed my whole adult life. The mysterious other things that artists do out in the Art World have been revealed…they are just not exactly what I thought they would be and I am learning to pick and choose.

The Isolationist INTJ me still gets plenty of solace and creative communing one-on-one with my Muses, of that I make sure. But I have come of artistic age in a new time when the gallery walls are transparent, the artist’s rep looks a lot like me and I have the virtual means with which to share my artistic entirety – images, words and connections – in a way that strangely suits me.

There are no longer Gatekeepers: we know our fans and collectors and they know us. We expect it. Though I sit here and you there, you, dear Reader, are a real person! You can talk back to me, you can tell others, and so it goes virally along.

Being a Social Artist, even one who Markets (read: SHARES, and thanks, Alyson,) isn’t quite the oxymoronic existence I once felt it to be, and even if I have my reluctant moments, I have definitely learned how rewarding it is dive in the pool and play.

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Fairy God Cub

Here’s the bookend to my last post about Ratty Got Her Wings, a second sculpture of mine accepted into the Santa Cruz Art League’s upcoming exhibit entitled Beasts on Broadway: Animals Galore. (The SCAL is located on Broadway in Santa Cruz, hence the show title.)
Introducing the Fairy God Cub! It’s another animal sculpture “with a twist” completed under the tutelage of Tiffany Schmierer of Skyline College last summer.
What I love about this one is the vulnerable (sheepish?) expression of the baby lion and of course those strap-on costume fairy wings. All fantasy protectors should engage us like this. Here’s another shot of the wings:
The interesting thing about wings¬† is,¬† as far as I can tell, angels have feathered bird wings and fairies have diaphanous insect wings. So, am I right? Any of you out there really informed about this? It’s the sort of detail that makes a huge difference between a general interpretation and getting a sculpture that reads in all the right ways.
What ever did we do before Google Image searches? I remember using picture encyclopedias, but even they could fall short at times. Or maybe I am just a lot more specific and picky than I used to be. Yeah, that’s it!
All I wanted today was a short and sweet post about the short and sweet Fairy God Cub.
May you glimpse your own inner kid-self playing dress-up and donning, along with the wings or the cape or the mask, magical powers in spite of very real doubts… and for the time being becoming protected and fantastic.
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"Dear Artist, Congratulations…"

Thus began the letter from the Santa Cruz Art League. It said that my work was accepted into their upcoming Beasts On Broadway, Animals Galore exhibit, which was juried by George Rivera, Executive Director of the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, CA.

Well, triple yippee to that! This letter is also heaps sweeter in ways beyond its YES! to my art and my efforts to take it into the world for Show and Sell. It says YES! to rats and YES! to pertinacity.

Here’s one piece that will soon be a Beast on Broadway. It’s titled Ratty Got Her Wings. I made it this past summer while studying at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA with the inspiring and wise Tiffany Schmierer. (I put 2,500 worthwhile miles on my car in order to receive her inspiration, guidance and feedback! I can’t wait to share this good news with her.)

Rats are one animal that get a bad rap over their historically, and admittedly not undeserved, bad rep. Yet to categorically reject all rats is, well, Rattism. You can find lots of positive action websites dedicated to easing that prejudice. Look, there goes one now.

My piece is more personal than political, though. Rats, even pet ones, just don’t live very long. Two-three years. This life-size rat sculpture is for all the gentle females that came to be cared for and then leave my sons: Zelda, Kiwi, Latte, GL (short for Greased Lightning,) the One-Who-We-Can’t-Quite-Remember-Her-Name-Right-Now, and dear Moose. They are buried in a group in our redwood grove with a sign, RaT pAcK, posted on a nearby trunk.

Ratty Got Her Wings is my way of saying a heartfelt thank you to those animals. I’m certain that the intimate knowledge of their bodies and movements allowed me to fold that love into the sculptural form I had in mind. Here are two more detail shots of the piece: Oh my, that dreaded snaky tail and a perky face because a rat knows you,just like a dog does.

So, what about that acceptance letter’s ratification of pertinacity (a $2 word for doggedness)?

Like Weight Watchers, I have joined the Santa Cruz Art League at least four times since I moved here in 1989. I’d join for a year, desultorily put something in the everyone’s-included Annual Members’ Exhibit, never quite figure out what else I could do to become involved there, feel awful artistic angst and let the membership lapse. In a common case of sour grapes, I mentally thought of it as The Fart League, which surely is neither clever NOR original. Last year, however, I joined with some goals in mind and I knew that if I did not see them realized, I would understand why, not feel bad and move on to other venues for my work.

I think that a more professional grade of doggedness led me to both better art and better ways to present it and it is what ultimately got me into the animal show at SCAL. To my way of thinking, it is decidedly all connected

In one way or another, though, I have been perfecting my art my whole adult life. But I have been effectively perfecting how I package and present that art less than a year. (Read my last post about my business card saga, just to hear one story about this.) One of my undeniable artbiz mentors is Alyson Stanfield. And now, as I wind up an online blogging class with her and Cynthia Morris, I can say a personal but public thank you to them. And to the other students I have struggled alongside, who I have come to know through their questions, humor and writing: Dear Artists, Congratulations!

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MOOve Over, Old Biz Cards

Back in the day, when I first started thinking of myself as an artist, I ordered some business cards. They were black on white and not any more useful than the social calling cards I ordered as part of my High School Grad Package: Elizabeth Ann Hawes, engraved in a treacle-y script. (Who’s she?)

I remember fully believing that the business cards themselves proved my legitimacy. And, sadly, I have done this at least 5 to 555 times. New endeavor? New box of cards! Change of medium? More new cards! They mean I really mean it, right?

I handmade my cards in the 70s, each one lovingly inked and water-colored. Personal. Artsy. So labor-intensive I did not really get to the art.

In the 80s, I scaled the corporate ladder and was issued new cards for every promotion and different bank I represented. Commercial-Loan-Officer-Wannabe-Artist, at your service.

In the 90s, I drew a crane graphic (last name Crain!) and printed them on ivory Avery tear-apart bizcard sheets. Cheap, but rough-edged and flimsy. Fortunately only seen by a few.

I also had boys to raise. Need flash cards for your times tables? Use the backs of those old cards! How about a bookmark? A glue holder? A flip book? Something to clothespin on your bike to make your spokes rat-a-tat? A House of Cards? Here…use these.

Yet it finally has worked the other way round: I am an artist because I make art. Oh, and I guess I could probably use a biz card instead of writing on paper scraps and trying to accurately recall all the ways you can contact me or see my work/words online now. Never mind the phone and street address.

For the past few years, I have printed a small run of cards to match my annual Santa Cruz County Open Studios Art Tour postcard. That felt right: it featured fun recent art and my name, phone and email, all on the front. And last year’s card, as you can see, even had a ‘halftone screen’ of my studio on the reverse, which I used for titling/pricing in my exhibit. I thought it was pretty innovative at the time.

So much has changed in the past year, I feel like an adolescent who has grown two inches in two months. Last July I added a sticker to the back of my old cards (better than using them for flash cards) but even it was out of date sooner than I planned. The “website” will now be this blog migrating to (shhh!) WordPress…and the Etsy Shop is now open with even a few sales… and you can click from this blog to there, if you’re curious.

Enter MOO Minicards, snappy graphic snippets of your own works, which I first saw in February at Alyson Stanfield’s Hollister Workshop with the delicious art of Princess Simpson Rashid on them. I envied them mightily and bookmarked the MOO.com site.

It took six months, but I have my own delightful group of 100 MOO Minicards now and they are a joy to give out. Last weekend I hosted “Art on Bay Avenue” at my house with my work, Connie Williams’ watercolors and Annie MacHale’s weavings. (They both use MOOminis and differently than I do.)

I had a small wooden bowl of MOOcards for my visitors and it felt like offering everyone their favorite candy. No sales pushiness, just an outright gift from me to them, given and taken with love and delight.

I had also bought, assembled and displayed the MOO Mosaic Frame. It is a compelling way for visitors to take in your body of work at an informing glance. It functions quite well as a visual Interpretive Message. We just can’t expect even those who have made the effort to come to your exhibit, to ‘grok’ the totality of what you’re puttin’ out, never mind hoping they have the time to page through your portfolio or stand in front of your digital picture frame as the images glide by. All-at-Once Eye-Bites are in order and the MOO Mosaic Frame does that well.

When a dear collector bought an elegant face jug I was really proud of, I tucked both a photo greeting card AND a MOOminicard of it in the bag. It felt better than right. It felt natural: as natural as hand-lettering and watercolor-washing my cards in the 70s, but with five ways to continue the conversation with me on the back. (And S, if you’re lurking here…I dare you to leave a Comment.) Now that’s a two-way gift!

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