Episode 131 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Using Timers

Using Timers

Techniques like this are important to know of because one of them will stick with you and be very effective. And then you have a better chance of using your time in the same way, repeatedly. Try them all a few times and see what feels comfortable. Using an analog timer is simple and in some ways like a game. Go to the store and buy yourself an egg timer. I know you could use your phone or computer, but an old analog or even digital egg timer is better because it won’t distract you or take time to figure out. Set the time for thirty minutes when you are ready to do your daily amount of time. While the timer is going, you can work on only things related to your goals in the calendar for that time. No email or Facebook or anything else. The purpose of having a timer is also to prevent you from extending your thirty-minute slot because you were looking at email or something else. When the thirty minutes are over, they’re over—that’s it. It is worth trying this technique because, as I said, it will either work for you or not.

Managing Anger and Sadness

Your Own Patterns

As you begin to manage your time, you may encounter resistance on several levels depending on your personality and past patterns. The first thing that I encountered when I was starting to manage my time was that I felt I wanted to be free to do whatever I wanted and resisted the notion that I had to treat my life like it was a job, checking in and out. What I was thinking was that I felt that life on the default mode of just doing what I could to make a living and enjoying myself was the ideal way to live and would make me happiest because I saw that as freedom. However, when I experimented (which I am asking you to do), I found that I certainly did get more done, even if it irritated me a little. But what was more profound was that I was enjoying life more through the feeling of getting something done; even if it was through a regimented schedule, it had tremendous pleasure associated with it. This is why you are reading the chapter you are, and it is the best possible scenario when you have finished the exercises and workbook section. The idea is that you will have a similar feeling. You will experiment with several time management techniques, and one will work and, it will give you more pleasure than you imagined. Then even though you might resist doing it again, if you can remember the pleasure you got from achieving so much, you will go back to it.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 130 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Small Steps Get You Very Far

 Small Steps Get You Very Far

This is the beginning of a big step because if you can get used to managing thirty minutes of your time, five days a week, you can begin to manage other portions of your time as well. And soon, decisions you make in your daily life will be adjusted according to the schedule in your head that you are always looking forward to. Managing your time this way gives you more energy because you are excited about what is happening and there is literally more time in the day to do what you want. When it comes to inspiring stories on time management, just look to people who seem to be doing the impossible.

Not long ago, I was reading the obituary of Rosetta Reitz; do you know who she is? She died at eighty-four years of age in New York City and had a remarkable life. She raised three children as a single mother, and at the same time pursued her career as a jazz historian, writing about women in jazz. She also wrote the first book by a woman on the subject of menopause and, as an entrepreneur, opened a small bookstore and started a record label, and kept working her day jobs to pay bills. Her day jobs were answering calls in a classified advertising department and waiting on tables. Her list of accomplishments actually goes on quite a bit more, but this is enough to seem extraordinary, don’t you think? How is it that she raised three children on her own with side jobs and at the same time wrote books, had meetings with all kinds of people, went to jazz clubs, made new friends constantly, and hatched new entrepreneurial ideas that worked?

Being Passionate Helps

Certainly, her passion is the greatest factor since, in general, everything else was against her! After she had decided what she was going to do with her life, or even if she just decided one project at a time like, “I will write a book,” she then had to carry through on her promise to herself, in whatever form. Her given task was to raise these kids, make money, and do a lot more things. So she had to make time on a regular basis to do all of this. The method she used was the same that people have been using for centuries when they need to get something done: She dedicated a particular time every day to the task. Take weekends off, but stay the course, stick to the path, and complete it! There are several methods to try, but here are a few to get you going.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 129 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Using Time in Small Increments

Using Time in Small Increments

I like to start with small bits of time so that you can see how the process works and not get overwhelmed by it. Pick one thing that you would like to do more of every day. Let’s say for example it is applying for grants. Then go to your calendar and pick a time frame. I would say no more than thirty minutes at first. Pick which weekdays, not weekends, that you want to use for this purpose. I would pick at least four weekdays, but you can pick five if you like. Then define when the thirty minutes will occur. Is it from 9:00 to 9:30 am every day, or is it at different times on different weekdays? If you pick out your four or five blocks of time this way, it should be easy to use them the first time. Starting out this way is very helpful because you don’t want to feel pressured or burdened by this process, you want to feel that it is easy and doable. Once you have all your thirty-minute time slots put in your calendar, commit to the schedule for two weeks at the very least. In the two weeks that you have committed yourself to this, do the following:

  1. Put your calendar on a wall where you will see it (even if you have to print out a portion of your digital calendar).
  2. Start a diary on your computer or paper of what you have done in each thirty-minute block.
  3. Treat your blocks of time reverently, like this is the time that is for your health, and it is a life-or-death situation. I mean, it is, isn’t it? If we spend our lives thinking about what we could have done if we’d had more time, it is like a small death in that part of us that never gets to live. So treat this time like it is very precious. If you are supposed to be writing letters to people or applying for grants or anything else, do only that.
  4. Make an agreement with yourself that you will not check email or Facebook or anything unrelated to your task during this time.
  5. If you get stuck, or feel like you can’t do something, then read this chapter over again and do some research. Even if you are not writing or working directly on your topic, then do research on it, like which galleries or grants you are looking for or which ones are even out there!

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 128 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / This Is Your Life

This Is Your Life

After looking at your calendar, you know this is the way you have either planned it or what you default to if you are not thinking much about it. Most of us are not time planners, so the life we are living is a life by default, a life that seems to be of our choosing but in fact is very limited, because on default mode you don’t realize there is extra time you can control. The next step is to control that time. So take a look at the calendar again and think about what else you need time for. Is it spending time with friends? Family? Or do you need to take a vacation? Perhaps a weekend retreat? Or maybe you need more time for the studio or more time to go out to the theatre or see art shows at museums and galleries? Maybe more time to read books? Whatever it is, take the time to write down a list of these things (use the work- book). And write down all the things you wish you had more time for. Take your time and think about anything you would like to do more of.

Examining Your Time

Now that you have a list, look back at your calendar. There is a finite amount of time in every week, and now you are a time designer. There is no one that will do this job but you, and no one who can really advise you on the right way to spend your time but you. So start filling in that calendar because this day might change your life; this day might have you plant the seeds of your dreams—your ideal life—in rich soil that will make it all grow easily. Just this idea is a reason to celebrate, so go out and get yourself a present for getting this far and then come back and read the rest of what I have written!

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 127 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Time Management Techniques

Chapter 6

Time Management Techniques

In our lives, probably the most precious commodity we have is our own time. How to do more than one thing at a time, efficiently, and without stress is the goal of this chapter and workbook. This is probably the biggest hurdle for most artists who want to become more professional in how they look after their careers. Because the question is always “How much time do I have to spend doing this stuff?” Meaning how much time during each weekday do you need to spend on doing things like writing letters and contacting people and other things you would rather not do. There isn’t a specific amount of time at all; it is more about how you perceive all your time and how you can manage that in the same way that you would manage your eating habits. If you can’t manage your eating habits, there are all kinds of diets you could go on until you find the right one for you. It is not unlike that with time management. There are lots of techniques, and I will give you some here, but the important thing to recognize is that you want to change and are looking for a system. Just like dieting, you may not find the right method for yourself instantly, but if that is your goal, you will surely find it soon through trial and error.

Time Management

Changing Your Habits

Let’s begin with the basics because just like a diet, you are already using a time management system, and just like you have a diet that you are using but are not always conscious of, so it is with your current time management plan.

I suggest using a physical calendar, a paper calendar that you can write on, instead of an online one, but if you regularly use a computer application or an online calendar like iCal or Google Calendar, then please do.

First begin by blocking out all your time on your calendar. Start with sleep. Mark the times that you tend to fall asleep and wake up. If it is different on weekends, then mark them that way. Then look at your weekdays. If you are working, fill in all the hours you are working. If you are not working, fill in the hours describing what you are doing that occurs regularly. Perhaps you are walking the dog, volunteering somewhere, visiting friends, or making art, but describe it all on a recurring basis in your calendar. Then move to the weekends. Is there a regular event or class or a park that you tend to go to on weekends? If so, fill it out with that information.

Now you can look over your schedule and how it is occurring without doing anything else to it. This is the step where you should print out your electronic calendar or take a good look at the paper one you just filled out.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 126 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Fact-Finding

Fact-Finding

However, parts of this story were probably made up. Apparently, research shows there were no tartars in that area at that time. And furthermore, eyewitnesses say the pilot died shortly afterward, and Beuys was conscious and was taken to a hospital to recover for three weeks. Beuys was making his own myth about himself, and you can just as easily adopt this strategy even if you do not want to be a major figure in the art world as he was. Does that mean that you should make up a story about yourself? Possibly, but embellishment isn’t out of the question, and this is straightforward myth-making and self-aggrandizement at  that.

The point I am making with this example is that your statement can also begin to create a myth about yourself—that is, a fictional story that is mixed with the truth. If this appeals to you, then use it and experiment, and if it doesn’t, use one of the other methods. The point of an artist’s statement is simply to get the attention of the person you are showing work to or the institution that you are applying to for a grant, or for your average juried show. No matter which it is, it is important to make your- self stand out and look different from others who are competing with you.

More on the Critic

As I said earlier, the New York art critic Jerry Saltz has a Facebook page, and at one point, he offered to edit people’s writing if they posted their artist’s statements. On his page, he said an artist’s statement should be

[written] in plain language. Keep it short, simple, to the point. Use your own syntax; write the way you speak. No platitudes! With giant abstractions (“nature,” “beauty,” “ambiguity”) say what you’re doing with these big things. Or AVOID . . . them. Don’t be afraid to be funny/weird, your stupid self! A glimpse of real self is powerful.

He is affirming much of what we are saying here, that you need to be straightforward to a large extent, and that you need to be clear. But what he is not saying is that you can also break the rules, as Beuys did, and make a story up that is compelling, edgy, and effective.

Editorial Help

I am not saying you should not seek the help of an editor. All writers use editors, and even a friend who is a good writer can be of assistance.

After you finish your statement, show it to someone who will give you their honest opinion. Show it to someone who knows nothing about the arts; show it to a child, and examine the responses you get. The statement should be understood easily by almost everyone. If it is difficult to understand, then something is wrong and should be adjusted. Ideally, it should also be very exciting or engaging so that it is memorable and makes one want to see the work.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 125 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Traumatic Story as Artist’s Statement

The Traumatic Story as Artist’s Statement

Another type of artist’s statement is the biographical one that often includes a traumatic experience in the artist’s life. The reasons this one can be very effective are several. Unlike Marlene Dumas’s and the Roach sisters’, this one tells the story of a very personal and traumatic experience that helps the audience to understand the artist’s work..

If you are not familiar with the work of Joseph Beuys, he was a German sculptor who was born in 1921 and died in 1986. Some of his more well-known works consisted of a chair with animal fat on it as well as felt. He used felt in many forms—as a suit, and piled up in layers—and for most, it was very abstract and not easy to understand.

The story he wrote is another type of artist’s statement, which I have reproduced below. It is about a traumatic event in his life during World War II.

Had it not been for the Tartars I would not be alive today. They were the nomads of the Crimea, in what was then no man’s land between the Russian and German fronts, and favored neither side. I had already struck up a good relationship with them, and often wandered off to sit with  them.  “Du  nix  njemcky,”  they  would  say,   “du Tartar,” and try to persuade me to join their clan. Their nomadic ways attracted me of course, although by that time their movements had been restricted. Yet it was they who discovered me in the snow after the crash, when the German search parties had given up. I was still unconscious then and only came round completely after twelve days or so, and by then I was back in a German field hospital. So the memories I have of that time are images that penetrated my consciousness. The last thing I remember was that it was too late to jump, too late for the parachutes to open. That must have been a couple of seconds before hitting the ground. Luckily I was not strapped in—I always preferred free movement to safety belts . . . My friend was strapped in and he was atomized on impact—there was almost nothing to be found of him afterwards. But I must have shot through the wind- screen as it flew back at the same speed as the plane hit the ground and that saved me, though I had bad skull and jaw injuries. Then the tail flipped over and I was completely buried in the snow. That’s how the Tartars found me days later. I remember voices saying “Voda” (Water), then the felt of their tents, and the dense pungent smell of cheese, fat, and milk. They covered my body in fat to help it regenerate warmth, and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep warmth in.

—Joseph Beuys

The Story: Where Fact Mixes with Fiction

That is a gripping story from the first sentence; it draws you in and hints at the life-and-death situation we are about to read, to the dramatic ending with a last line that speaks to his materials. However, after reading this story, you can then look at his work, his use of felt as well as animal fat, and it takes on a new meaning. In fact, it tells a story; it is not abstract, but rather illustrative of why he uses those materials! Now the abstract work seems filled with life and death and the struggle to survive. You have a clear insight into his work, and looking at it reminds you of his story. He also wrote a résumé that was highly unusual. Instead of listing exhibitions, he started with his birth, calling it “Kleve exhibition of a wound drawn together with an adhesive bandage.” He went on to create a résumé that was in itself a work of art, or at least a work of fiction artfully done! Let’s go back to his statement and look more closely at what he has done here. At the very least, he has told a compelling story. When I lecture and talk about his statement, I often read this story aloud to the audience, and I almost always get audible gasps when I read the part about his plane crashing and the copilot dying on impact. Again, like a good novel, this text brings in the reader and leaves them affected by the words in a powerful way.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 124 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Artist’s Statements for Grants and Awards

Artist’s Statements for Grants and Awards

Here is another way of approaching the statement. These two artists won a New York Foundation of the Arts grant, and I have never forgotten their statement. I came upon this when I was reading about the grant recipients, and they used the artist’s statement to say a bit about what they had done. But first, let me explain how a jury for a grant usually works. As they look through hundreds, perhaps more, of applications, this is how it is presented. Usually in a fairly dark room, just before they show your images, they read your statement. So that means your statement should stand on its own, so that after it is read, the jury is thinking, “I can’t wait to see this!” That is the feeling you want to create, not confusion or anything that lacks clarity.

Let’s look at the statement by Suzzy and Maggie Roach, two singers who were trying to get a grant for a sound-experiment project.

Our new compositions were inspired by two tape recorded conversations. We studied the rhythms and tones of the two women and translated their vocal patterns and personal expression into a musical piece. We abandoned any preconceived notion of structure in order to follow the natural curve of their stories. After twenty years of writing songs, we have become increasingly interested in the way people speak, and intrigued by the idea that human voices are always singing.

Isn’t that beautiful? If I were in the jury, I would be excited to hear what they were doing, and I would want to give them a grant if it were even slightly interesting; do you know why? Because even though I have no idea what their work sounds like, their approach is very poetic, and the last line is particularly beautiful. Their idea that human voices are always singing is absolutely beautiful. I want to believe that very much. It is affirming of life and art, and no matter what they do, I would want them to be able to continue their experiments. Wouldn’t you? Also, note the length of their statement; it is quite short and to the point. This type of artist’s statement is less a summing-up of all their art and more specific to one project, articulating their approach. This is a method to keep in mind because instead of writing something long and partially biographical, it gets right to the heart of the matter without over-explaining things or becoming dull.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 123 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Title of an Artwork

The Title of an Artwork

Words are amazing and powerful, and they can change the meaning of what we are seeing. Consider the now-infamous photograph by Andres Serrano titled Piss Christ, in which a crucifix is floating in the artist’s urine. When you look at the image itself, it is beautiful, a rosy color pervades, and we see a crucifix slightly out of focus looking romantic and, quite honestly, like a very Christian picture, a believer’s picture. It could hang on an altar and would seem appropriate. The only thing that made it controversial was what the artist said about it. The artist stated in the title card on the wall that the image was taken of the crucifix in a jar of the artist’s urine. Can you imagine looking at the image and thinking or feeling that it is beautiful and then hearing that it is actually in urine? The artist’s statement has not only changed the way you see the picture, it also caused a huge controversy that made him world-famous! What I find even more amusing is that we do not actually know if it was in fact in urine. It doesn’t look like urine, and there is no proof that it is urine; it is simply what the artist said in his statement. That statement changed the entire meaning of the work.

Episode 123

A One-Line Statement

Marlene Dumas said, “I paint because I am a dirty woman.” As the artist’s statement of an extremely well-known painter, hers is one you should pay attention to. It is brief, perhaps too brief, but it is also extremely successful because probably after reading this once, you will remember it and maybe even tell someone else. She is a painter who could have easily talked about how she uses the figure as a means to critique contemporary ideas of racial, sexual, and social identity, but she doesn’t, and it is to her credit. What she has written is also engaging, humorous, and sexy. We smile or laugh when we hear this, and it feels bold and aggressive as well. Of course she could write more about her work, but for the purposes of most artists’ statements in applications, websites, and even exhibits, this works. Of course if she wants to explain more, or if she has a catalog coming out, more could be written about her work from different perspectives,  like a historical, political, or philosophical context, but that is not necessary, initially.

Most artists struggle so much with their statement, and here is a way to be brief, not prosaic and dense, but simple, accessible, and engaging. The most important thing as with any text is to be engaging. When you begin an article in the newspaper, the first line has to grab you and make you want to read the rest. The same rules follow with an artist’s statement. Some people advise that you hire a professional writer, but I think it isn’t necessary in most cases. Just write. Write something that someone without an art background might understand.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 122 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Owning a Gallery

Owning a Gallery

I owned a gallery for nine years, and in that time, I received hundreds of artist’s statements. What I noticed were two things. Sometimes, many times in fact, if I liked the artist’s work and then read the statement, I often changed my mind and didn’t like what the artist was saying and, in turn, didn’t like the work even though I had liked it initially. That is how powerful a good or bad artist’s statement can be. Think again about the dating comparison. Let’s say someone is interested in you and wants to date you, and he sends his picture. At first you think he is handsome and has a kind face. He describes himself as playful and intelligent, so you decide to write back. Then he sends you another letter with his personal statement or a little more about himself.

Now he tells you more about how wonderful he is and all the sports he is involved in, how many awards he has won, where he has lived, why his marriage didn’t work out, and his two kids, etc. Perhaps you will change your mind now, thinking this guy seems full of himself, and what do you care what awards he has won or about his ex-wife and his kids? Or perhaps you will feel differently, but the point is that when we present ourselves or our artwork, what we say about it carries incredible importance, because no matter what people think initially, they will reevaluate what they feel after you have explained or talked about your intentions.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.