Wednesday, 28 March 2012

on the giveaway countdown!

Hullo lovely readers, hope your week is awesome wherever you might be!

Just a wee reminder that you've still got a day or two up your sleeve depending on where you are in the world- I'll be drawing the Ophelia Giveaway this Friday, the 30th March. It's absolutely free, and only takes five seconds to enter. Just swing over to the original blog post for all the details.

All nice things, petal cakes!

Mel x

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

sorry, i don't speak arts-hole: the importance of 'thank-you'

On the whole I'd say I was a pretty happy person. I have bad days, like everybody else.

You can tell a lot about an artist by the way they interact with fellow creatives and admirers. Nothing gets my goat like artists who carry on like the world owes them. This is something that's been bothering me for awhile now, and I'm wondering if any of you have had similar experiences or might be able to explain this arts-hole epidemic.

This blog exists because I love making art and I love writing. I also use Facebook because I am one of those old-fashioned types that is genuinely interested in meeting other creative people and sharing intelligent thoughts about art and the world we live in. Being an artist is often like working in a vaccuum: most of us are solitary creatures and work alone. Of course, the world and our art can't work that way, and getting out with friends is absolutely necessary and healthy in the pursuit of preserving our sanity. And yet, as avid Facebookers will know, some of the people you'd most like to interact with, at least on a professional level, live thousands of miles away. Social networking at its' best- when it works.

A lot of people also use social networking sites to promote their work and/ or business. Again, this is great, and I certainly take advantage of these features myself. If people have already expressed an interest in my work, I share bits and pieces on my page- very much like the Ophelia giveaway post earlier this week, or new treasures in my Etsy Shop. Subscribers can either participate or ignore these posts.

But here's the rub: when admirers take the time to compliment or congratulate an artist on a job well done, I am absolutely appalled at how few actually take the tme to say 'Thank-you'. Writing essays of thanks as I do is optional, but I'm a word-lover and enjoy the discussion, so that's my perogative. In reality, it's two words that takes two seconds to say and three to type. If artists put their work out there for the public, chances are people will want to comment. I found it dfficult when I first started selling my work at my local markets, to talk about myself. I'm naturally quite shy and given the choice I'd rather talk quietly with three people rather than 23. But there it is: people do actually want to know about you.

There still exists a great stigma upon the artworld that divides those that can and those that want to, and I don't honestly feel all artists are doing enough to break that down. It is not, as kids are still conditioned in school, an exclusive club riding only on lofty and abused terms like 'talent' or 'giftedness'. Art still isn't seen as one of those basic needs, but the funny thing is, it makes a hell of a difference to the places we live and work in and our emotional wellbeing, and by that measure it is absolutely necessary.

Not interacting with people who express an interest in an artist's work therefore exacerbates this divide. So many people come up to me at the market and tell me they had a terrible time with art at school, that their teacher tore their work or their confidence to shreds. If an artist gives such individuals the cold shoulder in response to their congratulations/ queries, most often people reiterate to themselves, even unconsciously, that they are not good enough to interact with art.

If an artist can't interact with their supporters to make them feel their congratulations are valued, why put their artwork out there in the first place? Excuses like 'I don't have time' are, quite frankly, bullshit. If an artist doesn't have time to say thank-you, they don't truly value what they do.

Worse than being ignored is the fobb-off. I make art almost exclusively to collect it, and like 90% of the wonderful people who have and continue to support my work, I like to buy direct from the artist. And I love the interaction that goes with it. So, if I'm thanked in a perfunctory sort of way (online) for my interest/ purchase feedback and then promptly redirected to an artist's blog/ Facebook page/ Etsy shop, I've already tuned out. Shunning discussion in favour of redirecting your audience to another inaminate online application communicates only that you consider individuals as numbers. I know just what sort of sacrifices it costs to be in the position where I can make art full-time- why waste it by alienating your audience?

Ugly manners make the prettiest of pictures much less appealing.

As a potential customer, I absolutely want to know that my hard-earned money is going toward supporting someone else's dream, that they'll use their earnings to make more wonderful things, to develop as an artist and that they can take heart in being congratulated when faced with a creative block. Everyone, whatever their profession or passion, wants to feel valued. 'Thank-you' is the only response anyone should ever give to a sincere compliment. It's not a particularly Aussie thing to do, to sit back and be self-satisfied with loads of praise, and I admit it still does make me blush sometimes. But I'm not talking about being conceited here; there is no excuse for not accepting a compliment graciously or for fobbing someone off.

I encourage, in fact I urge, everyone, to judge an artist on the way they treat those who wish to support them. I will not buy work from anyone who can't say 'thank-you' or 'you're welcome', or who forgets the potential art can make upon a life. And no, I won't 'like' your Facebook page either- I don't subscribe to arts-hole.

I do not for a minute forget that it is the people who read, buy and support my work that allow me to be here, still making it. Without these wonderful people, I'd still be teaching, probably earning a lot more, with less personal time and feeling like something was missing from my life. I have chosen to live my life this way, and I certainly don't think I'm better or lesser than anyone else, artist or no. I've made my decisions.

Last I checked, manners were still free. And I intend to keep using mine.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

'ophelia' and a glorious grumpy star giveaway!

Happy Sunday liebchens!

I wanted to share a sort of photo documentary over the week it took me to colour 'Ophelia'.

As with all of my work, I started by drawing her out in a fine mechanical pencil first (you can see the intial image here). Drawing is my first love and I can't remember a time when I haven't been without it.

My wonderful husband Dave then photographs my work, and with a bit of tweaking in Photoshop, I print it out at low opacity on very smooth hot-press watercolour paper (Aquarelle is particularly lovely).

The printed lines act as a sort of guide for me when I'm colouring. I am completely unable to just grab a blank piece of paper and paint straight onto it; I absolutely have to draw at least the faintest guidelines first.

Most often now though, I keep the drawing and the coloured version completely separate: the graphite drawing lets me dream while I sketch in the first faint outlines. Once they're there, the character just unfolds: I let it be what it should be, I get to know the character and they become themselves. It is a beautiful process for me to spend that time watching them come to life.

The colouring is much easier to do once I've got the 'underpainting' printed; we use Epson inks which are waterproof and fade-resistant, so they don't disappear as such but become nicely integrated with the colour I add on top, and add a depth I might not otherwise have using such vibrant colours.

You might notice from my previous post, or from some of the photos I've been posting up on Facebook recently, I've another album titled 'the first attempts of 'ophelia'' which features this same image in quite a different incarnation. I've left that album up on Facebook mainly because it's nice to remind yourself of the places you can go as an artist if only you give yourself permission to try new things and take risks. Shortly after the last photo in that particular album, I took the painting to the point of no return. I couldn't capture her in paint as I saw her in my mind.

There's really no point in failing in small ways: if you want to fail, stuff it up proper royally, take the five minutes granted you to cry, throw a tanty or snap the offending paintbrush in half. And then be proud: jumping in the deep end might well take you to a place beyond your capabilities, but at least you tried.

And silver linings are never too high for anyone with the smarts to go get a ladder. 

If you'd love a chance to win your own copy of 'Ophelia', you can go to the Grumpy Star Studio Facebook page for all the details.

Don't have Facebook? That's alright, all you need to do is: 
1. Sign yourself up to subscribe to or follow the blog;
2. Post a comment here, in as many or little words as you fancy, why you'd love to win her.

One lucky winner will be drawn on Friday, March 30th.

Good luck my pretties!

Mel x

Sunday, 4 March 2012

where i work

Evening stargazers!

For the past year, Dave and I have been slowly redecorating our little flat and using our earnings to fill it with things we love. The spare room, until a few weeks ago, consisted of perhaps a metre of floor space, with every other square inch covered by frames, Hahnemühle paper, Aquarelle blocks, poly-fibre stuffing, garbage bags bursting with fabric collected over the past 10 years- it was, in short, like the insides of my head before a morning coffee: chaos! Until, of course, Dave, ever the brave knight, offered a few weeks ago to help me clean it out.

Here's a little slice of what is now my favourite place in our house. On the table you'll see a half-finished 'Ophelia' (more progress photos of her very soon!), my dolls and postcards and gorgeous pictures by the very wonderful: Nicoletta Ceccoli, Rebecca Dautremer, Effie Lada, Chiara Kloe, Natalie Pudalov, Constanze V. Kitzing, Marita Albers, Caravaggio, Gabriel Pacheo, Ann Haddon and Ana Ventura. I love working here- it is easy to dream in the company of such greatness ♥

Hope you have a wonderful week,
Mel x
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