Monthly Archives: August 2010

Value$

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We’ve had a couple of very interesting and diverse posts recently – however I do think there are some convergent ideas.

Quil4 had just written her first blog post ever (hooray!) and had mentioned the difficulty in defining ‘self-expression’ and the differences in the utility of different types of writing (how the skills of some arts will be used in non-art endeavours – for instance writing for academia vs. creative writing)

Micpen2 has made a great  point on the Artists and Entrepreneurs post about how artists should do not need to feel insecure about being paid for our work – all professionals are paid for their time, talent and skill.

Self-expression is absolutely necessary – I firmly believe that self-expression and the ability to self-express in a safe environment can play an important role in our overall attitude towards life as well as our physical and mental health. But we generally have a tendency to express when something has made an emotional or intellectual impact: new loves, new loss, old love, old loss, haunting, happiness, pain, sadness, joy – you get the idea.

Artists – and those who consider themselves professional artists – differentiate ourselves by being able to create and produce even when there isn’t a gut wrenching emotional response to a particularly intense period or set of events. Of course, professional artists are also moved by such great and tempest like times in our own lives – that was what made us want to initiate in art to begin with!  However, professional artists will also learn aspects of the craft or forms that are related to their own vision or art that allow the overall quality and intention of the message be delivered clearly to the audience.  Also – professional artists are willing to exhibit, perform, publish – they are willing to share.

Many people suggest that in order to be truly considered a professional artist, you must be paid for your works. I’m not sure if I buy that entirely (no pun intended – hahahaha).  I do agree with MicPen2 – if we are going to make our art and works available to others for sale, we need to learn to appreciate our own skill sets! We sometimes forget that not everyone has the ability to do what we do – even if they had the capacity they haven’t put in the time.  Our works have monetary value and we should slowly understand that our audiences (aka consumers) are willing to pay fair market prices for our works (you pay unfair market prices on things everyday and don’t even think twice about it!).

However –the quickest way to lose your passion is to start getting paid to do it! There comes this bizarro veil of resentment once you attach monetary value to work that has inherent intrinsic value.  Scott Belsky (CEO of the Behance Network) puts it brilliantly, “ Your challenge is to maintain an organic relationship with the craft that you love.  The expectations and rewards imposed by others will only compromise your passion if you rely on them as the source of your interests…..stay motivated by the means rather than the ends.” (Making Ideas Happen, Penguin Group).

Money makes it SEEM as if the value of the work is tied directly to the amount of dollars someone external to the artist is willing to pay – that is not the real value of the work;  the real value of the work and subsequently the value of the artist is the consistent, persistent and determined way in which we love, love, love the process of creating.

Money and Value are not synonymous – however both have their place in the life of the artist – it’s just a matter of you creating the right balance between the two – what works for you? what fits? what feels right? There are no right answers and fortunately there are no wrong answers either.

Quil4….My story so far…

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I majored in International Relations with a minor in English literature, as part of my BA studies, and recently graduated with an MA in International Affairs, focusing on human security and development. Residing in Vancouver, I’m currently contemplating law school and searching for gainful employment. Creative writing has always been a hobby(though my readership has been mostly limited to myself), and though somewhat technologically illiterate, I’m truly excited to learn more about the world of blogging.

I’ve always loved the idea of being a storyteller, with all its romantic implications. If art is defined, above all else, by what one feels, then what better way to live life than to live it feelingly. Throughout my academic years, creating and enjoying art, in whatever form, seemed to offer both escape and elevation. It wasn’t the focus of my studies at university, so I linked art with leisure and pleasure and indulgence, it was satisfyingly separate from my professional reality and academic exercises. It was dessert.

But that didn’t mean I didn’t need it. Tired with reading about wars and dead political theorists and evidenced-based studies on global health issues and harsh international realities to which I was becoming increasingly de-sensitized to (my major was international affairs), I craved the release of reading less objective, less empirically sound, less strictly worded material. I wanted to be moved. (I like this expression that denotes internal emotional mobility and dynamism, that can be both a quiet shift or dramatically seismic). I wanted to read words crafted to evoke an emotional response, and I resented having to avoid those words in my own papers (though I understand the necessity of staying away from a propagandist’s agenda in the realm of political science).  I resented referencing every sentence, citing my words, searching for peer-reviewed articles to substantiate my thoughts; my writing felt impersonal, I didn’t feel particularly articulate. I missed the malleability of creative writing, that freedom to sculpt out your own meaning with the scalpel of your choice. Writing with style and texture. Inhabiting a story. Hiding meanings between the lines. Floating around as the omniscient narrator, going on a power trip and getting into characters’ heads. The creative process is incredibly empowering, as Josh Groban would say: “It lifts (you) up, so (you) can stand on mounntainnns.” As the ‘creator’ you have an incredible amount of flexibility, can traverse vast landscapes, can bridge past, present, and future; in short, you can be something of a superhero.

So while immersed in academia, I also allocated time for some creative writing, and often felt like when I was writing I was at my best as a person. (I heard author Zadie Smith talk about this in an interview). At my most empathetic. At my most understanding. At my most forgiving. At my most good humoured. For me, (being quite slow at most things, like eating) rallying my thoughts together takes time, when I speak my words are less thoughtful than when I write. When you write you can trace your thoughts all the way to completion, you have room for eloquence. You can take a breath and avoid jumping the gun, you can backspace your assumptions and other errors of ignorance, you can best traverse the shades of gray that color human life, you can wade through people’s complexities, digest them, and eventually learn to love all parts of them.

So creative writing was never purposeless for me, yes there is a level of self-involvement that I draw from, but equally a sense of connection to others. There was thus much gratification be had by me from investing in my so-called ‘diversions’. Escape and elevation, and lets also add, expression. Expression of self in relation to others, self’s connection to self and others…(I honestly don’t know if that makes any sense..expression is often difficult and problematic and …so is self). So now that I have my degree in hand, I am faced with the challenge of reassigning the role of creative endeavours in my life. To pursue it as a career is daunting for numerous reasons, financial of course, but I also lack discipline with my writing. I write when I feel like, I don’t know if I can do it any other way. And if it’s not my dessert…what does it become then? Unenjoyable, health conscious (financial health) writing? That’s no good. Hence, this blog, that I am so happy to contribute to, keeping me in line with due dates but encouraging creativity for the fun of it.

Peas in a Pod us Artists and Entrepreneurs

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In my last few posts I’ve been obviously obsessed with combining the ideas of art and business.

Do art and business always go hand in hand? Of course not!  But there are times when they do.  Everyone should have the ability and a safe space to self-express and business has little to do with that.  (Self-expression is not exactly the same as being an artist or creating art – if you want to argue with this please feel free). Business is really an exchange of goods or services – forget the dollar sign if it makes you uncomfortable.  Think of business as a way to fulfill a need that you have (instead of a want which is what we do in consumerist culture). Cool?  Cool.

Artists and entrepreneurs share similar characteristics and our work has similar properties:

  • We both have great passion
  • We move from initial concept through stages of development to a final product or work
  • We are constantly looking to explore and learn
  • We have to deal with a lot of constructive (and not so constructive) criticism
  • Financing or Funding our dreams is a hefty aspect of our work
  • We find what we do very satisfying
  • We are willing to invest emotionally, physically and financially into our projects
  • If we fail (or deem something a failure) we will eventually get back up and try again or try something new
  • We are risk takers (even if the risks seem small)

If you are a CEO or a COO or a HR Manager or a Team Lead (essentially someone who is allowed to make final decisions) you should consider hiring more artistically inclined people to your teams.   Artists aren’t sensitive – we are critical and analytical. We synthesize great amounts of information and see patterns and themes in disparate ideas.  Business leaders always tell their teams to think outside of the box and then put them in a closed bare walled boardroom to brainstorm.    I have no idea why so many brainstorming sessions (even in creative industries) take place inside of board rooms – this is brainstorming not contract negotiation.  You would actually have to be a very skilled artist to make use of a blank space like a boardroom to create  brilliant ideas without external inspiration- and let’s be honest the vast majority of your staff are not creatively inclined.  Alternatively you could provide time or encouragement for your team members to express their creative sides or propose ideas which are tangent to your business.

Artists – we need to be more business saavy – the world of the record label, large gallery, movie studio or television network, essentially the idea of big media business currently is in pieces and in future will be replaced by the Apples’, Googles’ and Yahoos’ of the world. These companies are not made for artists – they are entrepreneurs – they use art, music, literature to further their businesses – but they are not in the business of art. Google is not really interested in meaning – they are interested in information – these are very very different ideas. And in practice Apple is not interested in creativity – they are interested in facilitating creativity.  Now of course, inherent in the Apple process are aspects of art and design – but they use these as tools for their software business (as discussed by Colin Gibbs in the post “As Always Mobile Music faces Uncertain Future” Jul 17 2010 on GigaOm.com).

The profitable and meaningful media future will require a hybrid  in the media industry.   A hybrid company that has the brains of a technology based corporation and the heart and soul of a community based artistic organization.    Any thoughts on building the foundations or staples of the a sustainable new media ecosystem or the real ticket – the business model to support that ecosystem?  If you have the monetization aspect down – I’d love to treat you out to coffee ;).