Monday, December 12, 2011

What’s Your Carrot?

We’ve all heard it a thousand times before, to catch a rabbit you have to bait the trap with a big, ole juicy carrot.

You can catch more flies with sugar than you can with vinegar.

You want to catch fish you need fat worms.

So what’s your carrot? What is the one thing that gets you into the studio and burning up the canvas? Do you long for ribbons, big cash prizes or the recognition of your peers? What is the driving force behind your art and why isn’t it keeping you up at night?

You remember those dewy days of puppy love when you first thought you’d have to have that one special person or die? The pain, the anxiety, the longing and when that person won’t give you a second glance, the rush as all of the oxygen leaves the room.

You couldn’t breath, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, (Which sort of explains why teens can fit in those jeans and those of us who have grown up a bit can’t), couldn’t think, nothing mattered, but the object of your desire. Your palms were slick with sweat, your mouth dry and the pain in your chest, not a nitro pill in sight, how long will this agony go on?

Aren’t you glad you survived it? Those dark and painful days have gone and good riddance to them, but the passion they held made you grow into what you are. So what do you do now that you are all grown up? How do you generate that burning, fevered lust without losing your mind? And if you can should you?

What makes your palms sweat? No the answer is not Jessica Biel, although that is a pretty good reason, but not completely approved by The American Heart Association, or that red Mustang convertible or winning the Lotto. Those are things that we all wish might happen, but are old enough to know better. The thing that gives you sweats in the night has to be a lot closer and more urgent. So what is it?

Winning a juried show will do the job. Seeing your work there by that ribbon will make the ole ticker beat just a little bit faster. Or having some rumpled member of the press ask you for an interview, the secrets of your work and the inspiration that brought it into life, yeah, that will do it.

But if that is what it takes, how long between charges can you go before your battery runs down? We all love winning, but it is something which cannot be counted on. There might just be someone more worthy than you or at least that’s what they believe.

Is selling your art the thing which drives your engine? I love a sale. I get my rusty old motor kicked over real good when someone puts cash in my hand, but the truth is it happens at lot more frequently to those other artists, curse you, Red Baron!

If selling is the thing which fires your inner furnace you’d better be really, really good and that is something hard to predict.

Maybe it’s getting your piece hung which makes your creative juices go into overdrive. That’s the ticket. But getting that done can be a thankless job. There are a lot of artists in case you hadn’t noticed and they all want some version of these keys to passion and you my friend are standing in their way, so get a move on or get run over.

I am a lazy writer. I write because I can, because I love it, because I have a lot of opinions and because I get noticed and you’d better believe one of those is a lot more important than all of the others.

I have two finished novels in a drawer because I have no idea how to market them, three more in various stages of completion and not likely to be finished and a trunk full of poetry cause nobody buys poetry. Why aren’t I slaving away over the keyboard finishing those novels? Why aren’t I printing off query letters by the hundreds, why aren’t I searching online poetry publishers? I’d like to say its writer’s block, but you know what I think of writer’s block, it’s what writers say when they are too lazy to get on with it. That’s me, in a nutshell. I write this Blog because I see that people are reading it and that fires my engine.
Maybe that’s what the artists of the South Coast need more than shows or ribbons or cash prizes, maybe they need feedback.

Now you can get out and beat the bushes and send your stuff to every show you find on the Internet. I personally recommend it. There’s just no substitute for getting your work out there, but it is expensive. Maybe there’s a less expensive way to get what you need.

Maybe you should find some other artists you admire and ask them if they’d like to be part of a critique group.

Not me! I’m not letting some nobody tell me my art stinks.

Okay, so don’t pick nobodies. And if your art stinks wouldn’t you rather know it before you send it off to that show in upstate New York where UPS has sent their newest Learjet which you paid for with the shipping on that wall-sized canvas you sent to the Greater Albany Art, Classic Car and Dog show?

Find a group of like-minded artists and see if they’d be willing to take a look at your work and offer constructive criticism. They can’t do anything worse than say no. And they might just say yes.

Think about it, Coos Bay/North Bend is full of gifted, talented artists working in every possible media. You can’t get ditched by all of them. I know some of the successful artists have already done this, which is probably why they are successful. Because they didn’t wait around for a shlump like me to suggest it, but went ahead and did it.

Think about it, we have Monte Rogers, Kim Wurster, Kelle Herrick, Susan and Steve Dimmock, Anne Sobotta, Jean Kyle, Charles of Charleston, Ava Richey, Victoria Tierney, Catherine Walworth, Joan and Rick Fox and a host of others.

You don’t want a huge group for a critique circle, you’d never get all of the works discussed in a reasonable time frame, just half a dozen or so willing and honest and ready to work.

There’s no better gift than an honest appraisal.

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