Mapping The Story of Your Art

June 27, 2012

3 months ago I started working as a consultant for artists and creative small business owners. These consulting sessions are for people who are looking to turn their creative business uncertainty into next steps-- for people who want some help taking a look at their suitcase contents and figuring out where they are traveling with them.



In 3 hour-long sessions I work with you to map out the story of your creative business and figure out how to share this story more effectively with your clients and audiences.  

Together we 

  • Look at the training and experiences that set your work apart from others in similar endeavors.

  • Plot long-term goals and actionable steps to reach these goals.

  • Find the language to communicate what you do, why it's important, and who it's for.

Depending on the individual this can entail

All of this helps you to get out of your own way, so that you can focus on Doing The Work.

If you'd like more information about how we can work together to map out plans for your art, you can contact me at laura[at]mildlyminnesotan[dot]com.

Routines

June 26, 2012

Summer has caused a complete revamp of my schedule.  I have a new serving gig twice a week, I'm teaching again, and I'm back in rehearsal.  Family vacations and the weddings of dear friends have had me frequently out of town, and we're getting ready to move across the river to a new neighborhood.

The bottom line: every week has been different.  My routines are missing.  And, I'm a person who thrives on a certain amount of routine, especially because Ben and I have work schedules that fluctuate a lot by nature.  Creativity brings its share of chaos and unpredictability, but I like to keep certain life things very much the same on a daily basis. For instance, I get up early and sit with my coffee every morning, even now that I don't start work at 7:30 am.  And, most nights Ben and I cook dinner together.

So, I'm searching for more anchors like that- new habits and things that I can rely on always staying the same. It's reassuring.

What do you do every single day?

Taking A Break From Your Art

June 15, 2012





Almost exactly a year ago, I finished making a performance-- the biggest dance-type thing I've ever made.  I'd also just made a wedding-type thing the month before, so I was tired.  A beloved community member, who I really liked, died the night he came to see the dance-type thing, so I was sad.  And then I lost my job, so I was depressed.

Isn't this a fun story?

I didn't want to think about being creative for a really long time.  I'd spent all of my money and then some (despite getting a grant) on the performance, and felt bitter.  But, I didn't want to feel like a quitter.  (Dude- it rhymes!)

In fact, I read this article, which was tweeted by Minnesota Playlist.  The article discusses why it's ok to take a break from making your art.  I was almost offended by it: how dare someone suggest such a thing?  I had a lot of fears about taking a break from making things.  Some of them were superficial (what am I going to tell people when they ask me what I'm working on?), and some felt more serious (will this make me less of an artist? and what will I do if I'm not at rehearsals?).

Other than a cameo appearance in a friend's dance and a short piece I made with Ben in October, I haven't worked on a performance in a year.  And, it's been awesome.  

The truth is, sometimes you just need a break.  Sometimes, you're tired. As Nancy Wozny, author of the article, writes "Over the years, I have heard heroic stories from artists working at many levels, even the ones with Guggenheims. There's work to be done, and if you don't have a staff to do it, it's usually you. It gets old. People get tired. Our labors of love can easily shift into labors of dread."

But, there's another thing too: taking a break allows you to get some perspective.  It allows you to see what has been working and what hasn't.  When I'm working on artistic projects (especially several in a row), I have little objectivity.  Looking at a past process while on artistic hiatus, though, reveals a lot of helpful information.  For instance, I can see how self-inflicted a lot of my anxiety was, and that I could minimize that by making sure that I have more collaborators next time.  I can see that I made things more complicated and expensive than they needed to be, and that the piece probably would have worked as well without the expensive set.  I realize that, had I planned better, I could have focused more on marketing and publicity, and that this side of things is almost as important as rehearsal time.

It's been good to be reminded that we all wear many hats.  I can exercise my creative muscle outside the rehearsal room, whether inventing a salad dressing or fine-tuning a business plan with Ben.  And, I can enjoy that feeling that I almost forgot-- that one where you are listening to music or reading a book or people watching, and all of a sudden big ideas start to just pour in- and probably because you weren't forcing them; probably because you had the space.

My college theatre advisor reminded us often about life experience- about how there is no substitute, about how it is invaluable in what we make.  We could rush out of college and apply for grad school, but the thing that was really going to change how we created was something that we couldn't force: time.  I hope I keep remembering that.  I hope that my buddies who are taking time away to be parents, partners, travelers, bread winners, or students of something totally unrelated and new remember that, too.

Taking A Break From Your Art





Almost exactly a year ago, I finished making a performance-- the biggest dance-type thing I've ever made.  I'd also just made a wedding-type thing the month before, so I was tired.  A beloved community member, who I really liked, died the night he came to see the dance-type thing, so I was sad.  And then I lost my job, so I was depressed.

Isn't this a fun story?

I didn't want to think about being creative for a really long time.  I'd spent all of my money and then some (despite getting a grant) on the performance, and felt bitter.  But, I didn't want to feel like a quitter.  (Dude- it rhymes!)

In fact, I read this article, which was tweeted by Minnesota Playlist.  The article discusses why it's ok to take a break from making your art.  I was almost offended by it: how dare someone suggest such a thing?  I had a lot of fears about taking a break from making things.  Some of them were superficial (what am I going to tell people when they ask me what I'm working on?), and some felt more serious (will this make me less of an artist? and what will I do if I'm not at rehearsals?).

Other than a cameo appearance in a friend's dance and a short piece I made with Ben in October, I haven't worked on a performance in a year.  And, it's been awesome.  

The truth is, sometimes you just need a break.  Sometimes, you're tired. As Nancy Wozny, author of the article, writes "Over the years, I have heard heroic stories from artists working at many levels, even the ones with Guggenheims. There's work to be done, and if you don't have a staff to do it, it's usually you. It gets old. People get tired. Our labors of love can easily shift into labors of dread."

But, there's another thing too: taking a break allows you to get some perspective.  It allows you to see what has been working and what hasn't.  When I'm working on artistic projects (especially several in a row), I have little objectivity.  Looking at a past process while on artistic hiatus, though, reveals a lot of helpful information.  For instance, I can see how self-inflicted a lot of my anxiety was, and that I could minimize that by making sure that I have more collaborators next time.  I can see that I made things more complicated and expensive than they needed to be, and that the piece probably would have worked as well without the expensive set.  I realize that, had I planned better, I could have focused more on marketing and publicity, and that this side of things is almost as important as rehearsal time.

It's been good to be reminded that we all wear many hats.  I can exercise my creative muscle outside the rehearsal room, whether inventing a salad dressing or fine-tuning a business plan with Ben.  And, I can enjoy that feeling that I almost forgot-- that one where you are listening to music or reading a book or people watching, and all of a sudden big ideas start to just pour in- and probably because you weren't forcing them; probably because you had the space.

My college theatre advisor reminded us often about life experience- about how there is no substitute, about how it is invaluable in what we make.  We could rush out of college and apply for grad school, but the thing that was really going to change how we created was something that we couldn't force: time.  I hope I keep remembering that.  I hope that my buddies who are taking time away to be parents, partners, travelers, bread winners, or students of something totally unrelated and new remember that, too.

Laura Brown: The Great Lakes of North America

June 8, 2012

If you know me in real life, you know that I'm pretty excited about having recently met Laura Brown.  She's a printmaker, and we first met through....um...twitter.  Laura recently returned from the Women's Studio Workshop in New York, where she was an artist-in-residence, working on a new artist booked called The Great Lakes of North America.  On Tuesday, there will be a party at the Minnesota Center For Book Arts celebrating the release of the book.  I asked Laura to share some thoughts on printmaking, and the process of making the book.




Give us print making for dummies.  What does it involve?  How long does it take?

The broadest, most basic way to define printmaking is this: you make an image on one surface and ink it to transfer it to another surface. We call the first surface the print matrix. This might be a screen, a wood or linoleum block, a metal plate, or a litho stone. Usually the second surface is paper, though you can print on almost anything. As a rule, you need a new print matrix for each color you want to print (though lots of printmakers will combine colors on one block or plate). So, if you want to print a four-color screen print, you need four screens, one for each color. Making a print is, in general, a long process- the more colors, the more complex the image, the longer it takes. But, the beauty of it is that you can make multiple originals! So you put a ton of work into making your print matrix and then you can make many of the same image.




Why were you interested in the Great Lakes in the first place?  What made you propose the project?

Place is a really strong theme in my work. I grew up in the mountains of southwestern colorado, so moving to wisconsin as a teenager was quite a shock. I am fascinated and mystified by the midwest, with its lush green summers and flat farmlands. Early on, making prints about this strange landscape and the weird industrial/agricultural architecture in the midwest became a way for me to work out the things about the culture I don't understand. The Great Lakes are, to me, a mind-blowing geographical feature that both connects and separates the midwest from the east in a lot of different ways; they're an in-between place.

Because the Women's Studio Workshop is in New York,  I wanted to emphasize how place fit into my relationship to the studio and to my artwork.  I made my first artist book a couple of years ago during a residency at the Minnesota Center For Book Arts and I was interested in learning more and expanding my work in that direction.

What was a typical day at the Women's Studio Workshop like?

The Women's Studio Workshop was founded in the mid-70's by four artists who were intent on providing creative space, time, and money for women artists.  They get funding from by organizations such as the NEA, and the Andy Warhol Foundation, and they bring printmakers and book artists to their studios to publish books. Money from the sales of the books keep the studio running.



In the beginning, I was responsible for teaching fifth graders how to make prints, which was really fun and quite exhausting. The rest of the time, I was free to work on my book. All of the studios are housed in what was originally a country store in the middle of nowhere in the Hudson Valley; it was really picturesque.  I would hole up in my tiny studio with the sweet depression-era vandercook press and a pot of coffee, and had few distractions.  Twelve to fifteen hours of the day was spent printing, and  I LOVED it.  The staff, other artists-in-residence, and I would take breaks together for meals, or to run or hike, but otherwise we were working.  There were a lot of hard things about being away from home and working so intensely on one project for a period of time, but I learned so much and am so grateful for the experience.


What surprised you about the process?

As a printmaker, I am really comfortable working with 2-dimensional images, using processes that allow for a lot of spontaneity in the development of the image. Making a book takes so much more planning. Every element of a book has to work with all the other elements--the prints have to line up correctly, the binding and structure have to make sense. Making a beautiful book requires a lot of meticulous attention to detail. I learned a lot about when and in what ways to let myself work spontaneously and when I had to plan--sometimes the hard way.

You can find out more about Laura's book here.

Dances- Made To Order!

June 5, 2012

Ben's last dance film {Photo by Megan Mayer}
Ben and I are very excited to take part in a national dance film series- Dances Made To Order.  The Minneapolis edition (our film, as well as films by choreographers Kenna-Camara Cottman and Pramila Vasudevan) will be posted on the Dances Made To Order website on July 25.  You can buy a ticket to see all 3 Minneapolis films for $10, or get a season subscription to the series (33 films) for $50.

Here's the really, really awesome thing: you can vote on what kind of film we make.  From June 27 through July 5 you can vote on the ideas that inspire our film by going to the Dances Made To Order website!  We then have 2 weeks to make our film.

I love the idea of ordering up what you want to view.  And, as an artist, I love working with restrictions-- knowing that I have a set framework.  It's much more liberating than having endless possibilities (for me).

Dances Made To Order is interested in finding new ways of funding the arts.  65% of ticket revenue goes back to the artists, and 10% to the city's curator.  I strongly believe that creative people need to do just this-- get creative about ways of producing, funding, and making work.  It's so exciting to see (and be a part of ) a series that is committed to doing this.

Please contact me if you want more information about the series!


Connecting with audiences: the magic of the micro-share

June 4, 2012

Instagram from our last dance/film collaboration

Back in December I attended the Minneapolis/St. Paul Social Media Breakfast, and the theme of the day was entrepreneurship.  Among the speakers was my friend, Kate O'Reilly, a local publicist.  She was talking about ways of connecting your brand with your audience, especially in a day and age when time is scarce, but we have so many different options for connecting.  She noted that it's not necessary to take the time to blog about everything you're doing-- you can micro-share.  Options like twitter and instagram give us ways of telling a story with a single photo or a 140 character message.  You can document rehearsal, a client meeting at the park, a visit to the farmer's market, or your project research.  I would even argue that a single picture or a tweet can craft a stronger story than pages of words-- and it obviously takes less time.

My new twitter-to-real-life friend, print maker Laura Brown, instagrammed her way through making a book while in residence at New York's Women's Studio Workshop.  With the hashtag 'lady art camp', we followed behind the scenes of her journey.  Recently Laura told me that, when she returned to Minnesota, it really did feel like people were more connected to her work and the story of what she had been creating.

I especially love the idea of micro-sharing for artists, because it's hard to communicate process to an audience.  And, it gives a fun challenge-- how do we find the story of our art and make it shareable?
 

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