A look into the inspiration behind the work.

Visual Arts Business Basics - A New Calling?

Garage door and butcher paper make a great white board for planning big!

There is a short break in my Selfies because I am seizing an opportunity to give back and learn something new every day! My husband Chuck Leivan, a master trainer for the KS Army Nat'l Guard taught me a new planning technique to develop my class Visual Arts Business Basics (AR 399) at Washburn University Art Department.

This is a simple, put butcher paper up on the garage door and layout your plan. This method really helped me see the details and how they fit into the big picture.

My objective for this class is to give the students a clear understanding of the mindset, skills and actions that are involved in building a visual arts career beyond creating their art.

This has been something sitting in the back of my mind for years. The memory that keeps coming back to me was Frank Nichols, one of my art instructors at Fort Hays State University told me "What I see for you in the future is you telling people like me what to do."  At the time I thought it was a weird comment and I wasn't sure what he was talking about. Of course who understands the sage when we are 25 years old? Was he being prophetic?

When I was in college we had a similar class. Back then it was all about getting into galleries and how to take good slides. To tell you the truth, we were discouraged from thinking of art as a product. Art for arts sake was the motto of the day. I always asked myself why I was paying all of this money for a degree that wasn't intended to pay for the courses I was taking... however I saw beyond that and saw through that lie. I think the winds on that myth are shifting.

The opportunities for artists have exploded in the last few years and I have done my best to keep up with it all while building my own art  career.  As I see it, this mindset is the crux of the problem and it is a solvable problem. Building an independent art career is a viable career decision for artists today if they are willing to step beyond their comfort zone and learn simple business skills.

I'm so excited! The first session starts a month from today on Thursday August 21st! Time will tell if this is a new calling!

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Self-Mutilation #BeingMySelfie

Accidents happen, unlike Van Gogh, my attempt at self-mutilation was completely unintentional.   I was shaping a box for a shipment and simply thinking through the problem of adjusting the box to fit. As I was scoring the cardboard, my thoughts are interrupted by a tug at my left index finger and a surprise flash of red pouring out of my hand. Knowing that I have a tendency to pass out when I cut my hands, I grabbed my finger, looked away and rushed over to the paper towel holder and wrapped the wound.

I was home alone, my husband out of town for work and my son occupied across town.  Then I began to panic – what if I pass out! Quickly I made phone calls to both, wanting someone to know my plight. First to my husband, as the phone rang I realized how stupid this call was because there would be nothing he could do… I hung up and called my son.  After leaving a desperate voice mail and disconnecting, I looked down at the blood blooming paper towel clinched in my left hand and realized I was on my own and needed to get to Med Assist immediately.

Hurrying to our vehicle, I decided to drive myself to the minor medical center. I concentrated on the task at hand, shaking and sweating I made the trip even cursing the red light that held up my progress.  With a clear trail to the facility I looked again at the now gore soaked makeshift bandage and just knew I was going to lose the end of my finger.

Walking into the center clutching my left hand, a bright eyed receptionist pleasantly asked how she could help. “I cut myself real bad,” I desperately explained. They took me back immediately to assess my finger.

As it turned out my worst fears where over blown. I was not going to lose the end of my finger and the staff at Med Assist did a fantastic job patching up my stupid self-maiming.  They spent over an hour dressing my wound and were patient and kind in my hour of desperation.  

They honored my request not to look at the wound, which is always a guaranteed moment of unconsciousness.  I still don’t have personally witnessed view of my wound; I am trying to muster up the courage to see it for myself. They told me I had cut across my nail and wouldn’t lose the entire end of my finger.  So the view in my head is much better now than the idea of what it was to begin with.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the people in the medical field. They do things with grace and ease that would have me blithering in the nearest corner.

In the big picture the take away for me is you may find yourself alone and in frantic pain in the twinkling of an eye.  However if you can muster up the courage to keep a cool head enough to seek the help you need you will find people who are kind and understanding that can help patch your wounds and get you on the track of recovery. -- Oh, yeah and be careful when using sharp tools especially when you are home alone.

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And I Saw it on the Cover of a Magazine!

Cover of the seveneightfive Magazine

Being My #Selfie on seveneightfive magazine! Thumb through to page 18 for insight on the artistic process and what the selfie is all about!

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So, what motivates an artist?

The Abundant Artist

Today I had the opportunity to hang out with fellow artist Belinda Fireman and The Abundant Artist folks! We talked about what it is like to work as an artist, our motivations, where we have been and where we are going. More fun than should be legal!

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Overwhelm or Headache? #BeingMySelfie

What art career obstacles are you experiencing and would like to overcome? and would like to overcome?

For many independent artists out there thinking about creating a viable art business is both overwhelming and a headache. But did you know that everything about business is learnable and with the right knowledge you can build an art career even in Topeka, Kansas?

I attended the ArtsConnect Sustainability and Economic Impact of the Arts panel yesterday featuring guest speaker Randy Cohen, the Vice President of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts. He unveiled the results of the year-long study on the impact of the Arts in our community. The good news is that $20 million dollars in business spending in Shawnee county alone. Now that is an impressive number! More on the event at CJonline

These statistics say that the Arts is a viable business in our community, it places the arts as the 7th largest employer in Topeka! How about some of that for you my artist friend?

This is fantastic news for the Arts as a whole in Topeka and proves that art careers can be built. But as I see it, we aren’t quite there yet. What I see on a daily basis is that Art isn’t seen as a business but as a hobby or a pastime for the creators.

This isn’t the truth. Since the dream inception of the NOTO Arts District a few years ago there is one thing in the planning that is lacking. That is business expertise of creators. The myth of the starving artist is still rampant in the mindset of the artists as well as the public at large. 

Starting out on your own entrepreneurial endeavor is a lonely place to be, I know this from starting my own business, ArtPrintExpress.com. I had to actively search for the answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had, but discovered along the way. There wasn’t a mentor to turn to for advice because no one else had tried my sort of business in the area before. I ended up turning to online business experts to give me guidance. With determination and perseverance (what I have renamed as Artitude) I made it work.  The road was jagged and there were and are failures but I now have a viable business model.

Not everyone has to have such a solitary road when it comes to creating an art career because there are many people in our area succeeding in building a career from their art. What I believe is artists as a group can come together to learn from and support each other to build viable art careers.

For my artist friends who are attempting the dream of making a career from their art I have a couple of questions. Would you be interested in learning what it takes to build a viable business with your art? If there was a course, what are the obstacles you are experiencing and would like to overcome?

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Secrets or Gossip? #BeingMySelfie

Am I telling you a secret or gossip?

What is the story here? Am I getting ready to tell you a shocking personal secret, a juicy piece of gossip or something completely different?  Share with me and your friends what you see in this piece or give me a story of a secret or gossip and how sharing had an impact on you or others.

Do you remember as a kid sitting in a circle and playing telephone or also called gossip?

The way it is played is the first person picked a message and it was passed as a secret from one person to the next until it ended with their neighbor. Then the neighbor announced what the secret was and then the person beginning the message announced what the message was to begin with. The two were never the same. This activity really shocked me as a kid, because the original meaning was always grossly distorted once the message made its way around our circle of friends.

It was a lesson well learned by me and I take it into consideration whenever I open my mouth or if I hear news from any source. Inevitably no matter how hard each person tries to stay true to the message it is never the same as the original source.

I believe it is not always maliciously changed, but that when we hear a message we also add to the telling our own life experience and the story gets changes simply because it went through each person as a filter.

This phenomenon happens even online. However, I think in this medium it many of the changes in the story are actually planned to meet someone’s agenda. There is much more effort involved in repeating a factoid online with a graphic or photo than there is in simply telling the story face to face. So the filter and distortion happens intentionally.

Unfortunately, we see this used with every story in the most trusted news sources as well. The integrity of our news sources has given away to agendas and the attempt to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle. I believe that caution must be used when we hear any news unless we witness it firsthand.

This makes it difficult to ever find the real truth. Then again isn’t all truth filtered through our own experiences? So do we ever know anything but the truth as we know it and our choices in what we believe?

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Dread or Disgust? #BeingMySelfie

Do you see dread, disgust or something different?

The subtle variations of expression can say volumes about the person we are looking at. But we will never know the whole story. Expressions can also be deceptive.

As I am creating these selfies a favorite show comes to mind, “Lie to Me”, I don’t know if you were a fan so here is a short description from Wikipedia: The show isinspired by the work of Paul Ekman, the world's foremost expert on facial expressions featuring actor Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a genius psychologist with an expertise in body language, predominantly microexpressions, and a founder of The Lightman Group, a private company that operates as an independent contractor to assist investigations of local and federal law enforcement through applied psychology.

microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression shown on the face of humans according to emotions experienced. Here is a short video that explains it really well.

If you are interested the series is on Hulu.

I found the series endlessly fascinating. I suppose that my own interest in people sucked me into the show and the amazing powers of observation.

The one thing I learned from watching the show was that there are stories in every face.  In this piece do you see dread, disgust, or something completely different? Maybe I dread what just came out of my mouth and the reaction I know is coming or I’m simply disgusted that there was an unidentified bug that just flew by that could be yet another mosquito that is hovering to suck my blood and make me itch for days. Please tell me the story your see in this piece.  Just for the fun of it share this with your friends to learn what they see. 

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I Want to Paint Me #BeingMySelfie

And now for something completely different..... Here I am being a complete nut! I try to tell people that my paintings speak to me, so here's proof. Not only do they speak, they mock and taunt as well. Share the love I say!

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Pain or Pleasure? #Selfie

Do you see Pain or Pleasure?

With this selfie, I must ask do you see pain or pleasure? Am I in the middle of reacting to my stubbed toe or maybe I just heard the funniest joke and I’m about ready to shoot soda out of my nose?  

The meaning is really up to you, the viewer. What I had in mind when I painted it really doesn’t matter. It is your life experience that defines what you are seeing.

Art is one of the most subjective things in the world. A piece can mean so many things that it is really up to the viewer to define what they are seeing. There is never a right or wrong answer.

With this selfie, I would like to see the stories that you recognize in this piece rather than me telling you the story behind why I painted it… because the truth is, I really want to know what it is you see.

I am sure that every time you see this piece now you will consider both since I suggested that it could be both.

So help me out with the experiment, please take a moment and share this with your friends and see what their reaction is.

It can tell you a lot about a person, it is kinda like a laymen’s Rorschach test. 

See what is on the top of the mind of your friends and discover if they see what you see and let me know! 

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Ad Hominem Fallacy #Selfie

It is time to get real. Is Bigotry Logical?  The ad hominem fallacy is the most revolting of all of the fallacies. Bigotry is only one guise of this style of delusion. We see it used nearly every time two political ideologies are in conflict and we see it on nearly every argument on social media. When someone is making a logical argument and then out of left field someone attempts to dismiss the argument based on a completely unrelated character trait of the person, be it real or perceived, of the person making the case.
I want to bring up just a part of a satirical argument that was in the Huffington post piece that railed against the Topeka population for their concern that the First Lady’s plan to speak at the 501 High School Graduation,  titled “If You're Worried Michelle Obama Will Outshine Your Kid at His High School Graduation, She Will.”
It was an ugly piece filled with numerous fallacies as sarcasm typically is. Meanwhile, I was seeing responses online to this piece as if it was FACT rather than a witticism. It was jaw dropping!
It is also typical of what we can find in opinion pieces these days. As they say there is always a grain of truth in jest.
The one argument that made my gut turn was “And, of course, all the parents and students who signed the petition will say, "This isn't about race." Whenever someone says, "this isn't about race," it's about race. Like OJ, or Trayvon Martin, or that black kid who just got pulled over on the freeway. You may say it's about seating and your kid's special day, and that's probably true, for the most part. But we have a sinking suspicion that if somehow, miraculously, Mitt Romney had won the election and Ann Romney wanted to speak at the commencement, it wouldn't be as much of a problem. Just a hunch. Call us crazy.”
REALLY?  I have to say again REALLY? This argument has been beat to death in the last few years… and actually has numbed us to genuine bigotry. Any consideration of “race” in an argument is illogical at its core.
To judge someone solely on their appearance is the most primitive form of group think ever created by man. I suppose it was necessary to some degree when we were cave men having to fight other tribes for our basic needs being able to identify us vs. them. But as evolved creatures, who can think beyond what we see, use fantastic technology like the internet could actually consider more than one fact at a time and move beyond these undeveloped notions.
Unfortunately, no matter how horrible and antiquated it is to use gross generalizations to go about trying to influence people, it works especially if we can charge them with negative feelings about the other guy.
I am a big believer when someone can write something that ugly and be proud enough to publish it in a national magazine or on their timeline, I always pause and consider how the words reflects back on the author of any post that chooses to demean another’s opinion by attacking a unrelated personal feature such as their race. Nonetheless, it is an emotionally charged attack on character that people seem to crave.
Funny thing about it though, it does get our blood pumping, and it is the bad, ugly news that sells whether or not it is logical. It is this kind of mindset that attempts to illustrate, despite our best efforts, not much has changed in our national consciousness in 60 years and all things considered maybe it is just humanity. We seem to want to see the worst in each other instead of celebrating the best in us. I would like to think that we would want to be better than that.
Let’s try to be a positive role model rather than a destroyer of dreams.  Opinion pieces written in this way are only created to divide and not to heal. This is only one outrageous example.
Maybe we should reconsider which news we prefer. Because when it really comes right down to it, it is the public who gets to decide what news is worth paying attention to and we have that control with our actions, the newspapers, online sites and TV programs we respond to.
I am truly grateful that the First Lady chose to change the date of her speech. Then found a way to address these young citizens without raining on the parade of their hard earned day while still celebrating the Brown vs. the Board of Education 60 year anniversary with her presence and insight. Isn’t that much better solution than sardonically debasing a bunch of kids and their entire community who only wanted their ceremony to be about the graduates’ accomplishments and not a national media circus event?

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