Month: October 2014

Art School: Should You Go or No?

I am a day late for Day 7 in the Feel Good Blogging Challenge, which today’s topic is about controversy, but I had a good reason to be late because of homework. School comes first, which brings me to my topic: should you go to art school?

Full disclosure: I’m studying at an art school. I choose to go back to school now because I was unhappy in my day job. I was making art on the side and the idea of studying art full-time seemed like the right thing to do. I do enjoy being a student and I am challenged enough to get out of my comfort zone. But did I need to go back to school to study art when I was already a self-taught artist?

Postsecondary school is very expensive. Tuition rises every year and statistics show that it is difficult for young people to find employment in their field after they graduate. The chances of finding work, especially in the field of art as an artist, is substantially harder. Gone are the days when you can find a patron who can support you. Getting representation from a gallery is incredibly competitive. Art doesn’t always pay well, and many people resort to doing it as a side business because it’s hard to make money from it. Plus, all of the elitism that surrounds art school and the art world is enough to roll your eyes and cry out, “Pleeeeeeeeaaaassse! It’s JUST art!”

Perhaps you’re thinking that art school is a bad decision.

Well, not necessarily. The experience of going to art school offers students with new possibilities of methods, practices, thoughts, and ideas that they have never heard of or even imagined. If I had never gone to art school, I don’t think I would have been exposed to certain types of sculpture or textile arts, two mediums I’m fascinated with. The experience has given me room to experiment is see what others have done, and it’s all very inspiring.

I’m not keen about graduating with debt but I’ve made peace with that. I had no other choice if I wanted a postsecondary education. Debts can be paid off at a reasonable level over time.

Art school gives you critiques, which you need. As a self-taught artist, I was constantly seeking out advice and feedback for my work. I got compliments and praise but they were all positive. No one told me a negative thing, or at least not in a constructive way. This is bad because how am I supposed to grow as an artist if I don’t hear criticism?

But going to school is a personal thing. If you feel like you can do without it, go ahead and good luck. But if you feel like you want more than just learning about art, like experience and camaraderie, then go. Trust me, just go.

OK, that was my last post. Now back to more homework.

Day 5: How To Be Helpful by Bob Newhart (and Martha Beck)

My friend Jessica is a life coach and I have been part of her coaching sessions for more than two years. Thanks to her sessions, I have learned the proper tools to help deal with the existing issues I had, as well as to tackle any of life’s problems that has come at me since. I have also gained an amazing support network where I can reach out for help if I should need it.

One of the resources we used during the sessions was Martha Beck book’s Steering By Starlight. The book is a great resource that provides sound advice, simple exercises and witty anecdotes. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend that you do.

One thing that Martha tackles in her book is how to calm our lizard brain. Our lizard is located deep inside our brain and provides us with survival alerts when we’re faced with danger. These warnings were really helpful back when we were hunter gathers and somehow, they’ve stayed with us ever since.

Now, I know what I’m saying may sound weird but before you dismiss it, this theory was coined by neuroscientists in the 1970s and it still holds a lot of truth. You can read more about the lizard brain in this well-written article here.

Our lizard brain is that part of us that tells us negative thoughts. We all have them. You may think that this voice is keeping you safe but it’s actually holding you back. This has nothing to do with a gut feeling where you might be in actual danger; this has to do with the fears that creep up on you when you’re contemplating big decisions. It may tell you that you’re too old to go back to school, that you can’t take that dream vacation, that your can’t quit your boring job and do what you want to do, etc. That voice can be very hurtful and it can prevent you from achieving your goals.

In her book, Martha teaches us how to calm our overactive lizard brain. What we have to do is to acknowledge it and say to it, “OK, lizard, I hear ya. Now, go back to sleep.” Sometimes that works. But sometimes it doesn’t, and you need to be firm and tell it to shut up. This is where Bob Newhart steps in.

Jessica played this video during one of our sessions and it cracked us up. Because the idea behind “Stop it” applies to our lizard brain yapping its head off to tell you that you can’t do something. You have to be like Bob and say, “stop it”.

So, the next time your lizard tells you that you can’t, just tell it to “stop it.”

Go ahead and try it. Trust me, it works.

Passion: the loaded word

Passion.

I’ve always found that word to be loaded because it’s always tied to something or someone in a really strong way. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But is it a good thing? Passion is great but it fades. But it can also morph into something else, like another passion.

I have been a quest to figure out what my passion is. I’ve had many passions. A lot of them have led me to the road where I am today. At the moment, I would say my passion is embroidery. I don’t know how it developed but the desire to do it hit hard. I couldn’t get enough of it. I picked up embroidery when I wanted to do a photo project and realized that the idea I had in mind, wouldn’t be well executed as a photograph. It needed to be something else, which became embroidery. I don’t know why embroidery. I could have drawn my idea or created a 3D object, but instead I chose a needle and thread.

However, embroidery is my personal passion: I don’t share it with my projects for school. I like keeping it separate. Right now, I feel like I’m on a quest to search for what my passion will be when I’m done school. What kind of sculpture will be “my thing”? But right now, I’m passionate about anything that’s embroidered or textile based. I clearly need to do more soul-searching or just change majors.

However, I will tell you a story about my first passion: photography. Let me preface that I still love it, but right now, photography and I are taking a break. We’ve both realized that we need some time apart in order for our relationship to work for the long-term. How we were first introduced is a quite story.

It happened nearly eleven ten years ago. I was working as a customer service rep for a mortgage broker company. I was bored at my job, bored in my relationship, bored with my life. I had an affair with a coworker which ignited a lot of passion that had not been lit for quite some time with my long-term boyfriend. I soon ended my relationship, realizing that what I was doing was wrong, and began to put my entire soul into this new and exciting, and secretive relationship with the new guy. Both of us were unhappy at our jobs. One day, he had found a job downtown and then, without a goodbye, he ended our relationship. I was devastated. I thought I had found a soul mate. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t think straight. And on top of that, I thought that everyone at the office knew–it was a really small office. I had to get out of there and applied to any job that took an interest in my resume.

One morning, I was on my way to an interview downtown. Normally, I stressed over interviews. They’re awkward and nerve-wracking, and I never know what to say whenever I get asked the question, “where do you see yourself in five years?”…

I wasn’t even thinking about the interview on the subway ride there. I was thinking about him. My passionate fling that broke my heart. I arrived to the interview on time and met with the director of the company. He began by asking very informal questions about myself, what I liked, etc. The interview went extremely well and sure enough, I was hired. I felt like I had a new beginning even though it took me a long time to get over my fling.

A few months later on a break, I stopped by to visit my friend at the reception desk and I see a stack of postcards nearby. On it was a picture of a brick wall and a bicycle and a plant on the ground. It looked simple yet something about it was just beautiful. It was advertising a photography event organized by a few Toronto photobloggers. I found out from my friend that one of the photobloggers worked at the same place I did.

I took the card and explored each of the artists listed. I was floored. I discovered a new scene of people who were taking photographs of everyday life, random things and posting them on their blog and on Flickr. I wanted to do the same. I opened up a Flickr account and with my very modest Olympus point-and-shoot camera, I began to document life the way I saw it. I followed their blogs, liked their photos and eventually attended social events where I got to meet a few of them. Some of them are still my friends today.

Through the world of photography and of Flickr, I discovered my passion for photography. I was addicted with techniques like how to take better photos, analog and digital cameras, various post-processes… I was hooked. I remained that way up until recently.

While my passion for photography waned a bit, my interest in art, such as painting, textiles and sculpture, began to grow and I wanted to seek other artists in other mediums. Without photography, and not having that horrible relationship experience, it wouldn’t have led me to what I’m doing today, which is a great many things including embroidery.

There you go: my passionate story about my first passion. So, I guess passion isn’t a bad word after all. It can drive you and take you down a path that you never thought possible. It can help you guide to your next passion, which is thrilling.

Finding inspiration: where to start?

A great thing about being in art school is that you’re exposed to so many great artists of the past and present.

From all sides and in all mediums, I’ve been thrown the names of artists by my teachers for future reference or to become potential inspiration for my work. And as a student, I want to learn more about them and their work, but it can be a daunting task to explore all of these artists and feel overwhelming.

I’m in the second year of my BFA and I’m majoring in Sculpture and Installation. I have no idea what kind of media I want my work to be represented. Is it metal or is it plaster? Is it bronze or is it textiles? Do I want objects to speak for my ideas or do I venture into performance art?

In a way, it’s OK that I don’t k now. I’ve just started my major and I’m still figuring stuff out. And I’m certainly not alone in this journey. However, I don’t find a lot of comfort in that.

Right now, I’m taking various classes that are required by my program along with electives in subjects that interest me. I’m taking a course where we look at the study of semiotics, and the study of the body and of the physical space that surrounds us. Another class focuses on 3D technology can help build our sculpture by using technology and non-traditional materials. Another class focuses on theory and practices in contemporary art. My fourth class is probably the most fun in which I’m learning about textiles and its various practices like weaving and basketry.

And I’m really enjoying all of my classes. I like how I’m learning different practices from different artists across the large spectrum of sculpture art. Sculpture isn’t one medium but it’s a whole bunch of mediums. But I have no clue about which artist can inspire me. Up until now, my inspirations have been mainly photographers because I have identified myself as a photographer for many years. Now, I’m an “artist” or “multidisciplinary artist” which sounds vague and can mean many things. Which artist or artists will provide me with some sort of inspiration in my art practice? Where to start?

My solution to this dilemma is explore all of the names of artists my teachers have mentioned, and the ones I have found on my personal explorations. I want to write a post about them and their work, or perhaps one of their works, as a “get to know the artist”. It’s the only way that I can learn my practice, and the only way that my practice can evolve is to study other artists. Instead of getting overwhelmed, I’m going to focus on one artist per week and go from there.

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I’ve already created a list of the artists that come to mind. Fifteen is a good number to start with. Already there’s other names that are coming to mind. I will see what happens after this project hopefully, all good stuff!

Reading Week and Waterfalls

Reading Week has begun and I’m so happy for the break. I need a break. However, I have plenty of homework to get through, including a presentation for a group critique scheduled next Monday. I have no idea what I will be doing for that project but I’m not stressed about it. It’s a weird feeling but one that I’m familiar with. I’ve been thinking about the theme for the project so I’m hoping that as I get closer to the date some concrete ideas will materialize. In the mean time, I am forging through with my other assignments and I feel like I’m organizing my time well, or better than when I started in September.

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This past weekend was our Thanksgiving holiday, which meant a long weekend for most. I still had to work (no 9-to-5 hours for me) but I had a holiday dinner with my parents on Sunday, which was small and nice. On Saturday, my friends and I headed to the Waterfall Capital of the World: Hamilton.

What I already didn’t know about Hamilton is that it’s the home of 120 waterfalls, and most of them are found on the Escarpment. When you think “waterfall”, you naturally think of Niagara Falls. Sadly, none of them are that big in Hamilton. The largest waterfall is Albion, which is quite pretty. And also quite popular.

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It was the perfect autumn day: warm, cool, blue sky with very little clouds. The leaves had already turned, and to see the reds, oranges and yellows in the trees is so beautiful to see. It was great to be outside of the city, too. The Albion Falls are located in the middle of the Bruce Trail, which is a gorgeous space that stretches from Niagara Falls to Tobermory.

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I haven’t touched any of my embroidery stuff in weeks. I miss it. However, right now, I’m trying to knit a toque in time for winter. We eat our turkeys early in the season only because the winter settles in quickly.

The Post KMAF Experience

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I’m over a week late but I had to tell you all about my experience at KMAF!

Overall, it was a good day and a good experience. It was my first ever attempt to do a solo outdoor art show and I couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was a gorgeous day! My set up was very simple and modest (see above). I only had a few pieces to show which occupied one wall. The rest of my 10″ x 10″ space was filled with a table and chair. But that’s OK. I was happy to have received attention for my artwork more than the lack of artwork. And attention I did get!

While I would have liked to have had more art pieces to fill up another wall, I was happy with what I had. This show taught me that the kind of work that I do takes a lot of time. When I signed up to do the show, I had assumed it would take time but I didn’t realize how much time. I also learned to always have a Plan B–my installation idea didn’t work but thank goodness for fishing wire to do the trick!

I was also grateful for friends who popped by to visit and give me words of support. That meant a lot.

The experience was a good one that it gives me encouragement that the next one, which is happening on Sunday, October 26, will be good, too. I think I want to try to do these shows more often so I have to figure out a way to coordinate school work and personal projects. I can tell you that when school started, I was stressing about this show. However, I think a lot of stress came from not knowing what the experience was going to be like. Now that I have some idea, I think I can manage both. In preparation for the next show, I’ve ordered new business cards and I’m busy working on getting my new website launched. Mid-terms are coming up but honestly, I think I can manage!