Category Archives: Business of Art

What’s on Your Desk?

Aisling's computer desk - 20150901Following the lead by K. M. Weiland ( and encouraged by my friend Nanette Day and the example set by Jules Dixon  I’m sharing a completely un-staged photo of what’s on my computer desk this morning.

(My current “art desk” is my bed. I have stacks of paper for drawing, plus a silverware drawer insert — $2 from IKEA, but you can find similar ones at Target, Walmart, etc. — filled with pens, pencils, paintbrushes, etc.)

Anyway, here’s what’s on my writing/computer desk and (at least partially) shown in the photo:

1. Computer (bearing a Honeydukes sticker from the Harry Potter shop at Universal Studios theme park), printer/scanner, and monitor.
2. One mic, plus one headset with its own mic.
3. Two pens, four thumb drives, a calculator, a portable hard drive, and a spare USB hub.
4. Two bottles of vits and a glass of water.
5. Lots of papers: My daily to-do notebook, and yellow, lined pad for notes. Notes from said yellow pad.
6. A printed page from my upcoming coloring book, still in progress.
7. Last but not least: A white mouse from IKEA.

(If you’re just desperate to see everything in detail, click on the photo for the 800 x 600 pixels version.)

Since I’m incredibly busy right now, it’s a minor miracle that my desk is this tidy.

I decided to post this since it’s kind of in line with “Real Professional Qualities,” my somewhat sarcastic article from Professional Quilter magazine, March 1986 issue.

(Since that article is nearly 30 years old and not online, I’ve scanned a rather shaky photocopy of it and posted it as an 8.5″ x 11″ PDF. If you’d like to read it, click here. <– Be sure to download the file within a minute of clicking that link, or it expires. If that happens, reload this page and download the file immediately.)

Stage Fright, Perfection, Flow, Teaching, and Art

Chairs for audience or students.Stage fright has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  It’s very selective.  I’m fine in front of a crowd of thousands, especially in halls where the lights are on me and I can’t see the faces of anyone past the first row or two… and even they are too dark to see clearly.

Put me in front of an audience of 20 or 30 people, where I can see every face and every micro-reaction to what I’m saying…?  Panic. Total panic.  I have to steel myself to even think about that kind of public speaking.

That’s why, when I teach, I have a firm rule:  I need access to the classroom, in solitude, for at least 30 minutes before the students arrive.  (Otherwise, I’m likely to blurt all kinds of things… usually extreme and unexpected, if you’re not ready for the panalopy of creative ideas that rush through my mind like high schoolers rushing to class before the “late” bell rings.)

During my personal pre-class time, I give myself a “pep talk,” and use breathing techniques that would make Dr. Lamaze proud, to relax myself enough to teach.  With the right mindset — or at least mental distance from “not good enough” self-talk — I can teach a great class with lots of student involvement.

(Without exception, every class I’ve taught that fell flat… it’s because I wasn’t given that 30 minutes to prepare.)

Creating art can be a similar issue for me and many other people.  We may not have that visible audience, but when the initial spark of inspiration fades, the voice of the inner critic can be worse than any heckler in the classroom.

(You know that student.  She’s the one who sighs loudly and repeatedly. And, at the end of the class — when it’s too late to do anything about it — she tells you how deeply you’ve disappointed her, and how you really shouldn’t be teaching.  Or making art.  Or both.)

Regardless of where the message comes from, we’re often striving for impossible perfection… as artists and as teachers.  The slightest shortfall or flaw seems magnified on a big screen and in HD, and every metaphorical pore and blemish is the size of the Grand Canyon.

In fact, we’re often our very worst critics.  We hold ourselves up to impossible standards, and we’re usually using the wrong measuring stick.

Last night, I was disgruntled.  I’ve been working on a series of small (5″ x 7″) oil paintings, based on memory and photos I’ve taken.

Unfortunately, the results are — so far — uninspired. (I’ll get back to that in a minute.)

Pandorica-inspired ink drawing

Click to download the ATC file. (Original is 5″ x 8″.)

So, I took out my pen and paper, and started doodling one of my Pandorica-inspired pieces. (The Pandorica is a Dr. Who story element.)

I was so caught up in it, I let it run to the edge of the page.  And then, I felt so disappointed, because that meant the piece would require an additional, larger support, just to be matted.

This morning, my husband pointed out that it’s a perfectly good work of art, as it is, and there are worse things than needing something in back of the work so it mats well.

He also reminded me that art is about the inspiration.

That gets me back to my paintings… the ones that aren’t turning out.  I said that they aren’t inspired, and I mean exactly that: I’m working on them, production-style.  By definition, that’s an industrial approach. (Yes, I am reading Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception.  It’s brilliant, inspiring, and terrifying, all at the same time.)

So, I went back to my Pandorica doodles.  I’m waiting for this evening’s sunset, hoping the colors will be inspiring enough to spark (and complete) some or all of the six little paintings currently on my easel.

I want to take them with me to M.I.T. next week, when we’re hearing Seth Godin speak and participating in whatever’s going on at that event.  I’d like to hand out art, at random, in kind of a random acts of kindness gesture.  In other words, just for fun.

But… I feel a little stuck.  And, I’ve been trying to work with a deadline more than inspiration.  Bad idea.

It’s compounded by my fear of disapproval, or — worse — no reaction at all.  Boredom.  Kind of a “What, you think you’re an artist…?” reaction, as they drop the art in the trash.  (Have I mentioned how well I can awfulize when I’m in this mode…? *chuckle and sigh*)

Okay. I’m not sure if this is more stage fright or the visual equivalent of writer’s block.

Either way, it’s putting the emphasis on the finished work and others’ opinions — even their potential opinions, if it’s work I haven’t shown anyone — instead of where it belongs, on the inspiration, and the creative expression that results.

But, what I’m describing in angst-laden terms is how we, as artists, make ourselves tiny and insignificant.  And, it’s why we often stall and lose precious time in which we might be making art.

It’s a toxic, all-or-nothing approach.  It’s so far from being in flow — in the creative process where we’re in touch with the sublime — we couldn’t find it with a road map, a compass, and a laser-tuned GPS.

The teaching…?  I quit, years ago. Yes, that’s letting small-minded people win, but that’s okay with me.  It’s a battle I never wanted to fight.  I’m happy to leave those political games to others who savor them.

The art…? That’s another matter.  Recovering my willingness to be creative, out loud… thats why I changed this website back into the blog it was in the first place, back in 1995 or 1996, when I began it.

And, it’s why I’m staring down virtual stage fright, posting last night’s Pandorica piece here, as a graphic and as an ATC you can download (and print at 300 dpi). Click on the illustration, above and on the left, to print your own copy.

Art and the Economics of Giving

Online picture of a free poster and ATC - Imagination by Aisling D'Art

Are your usual fans in a temporary financial jam? In recent years, that’s been sadly commonplace.

The fact is, as of 2011, Half of Americans don’t have $2000 for a rainy day.

In an emergency, even with 30 days to come up with $2000, only 25% of Americans are sure they could beg, borrow or steal that much money.

If you’re in business, you need to know your potential audience and customers. In 2011, if your usual fans & collectors are among 75% of Americans, they can’t buy your $1500 painting, wall hanging or assemblage, no matter how gorgeous it is.

Sure, your art may be worth that much or more. Value isn’t the issue here.

The more pertinent questions are:

  • Do your business practices make your future customers feel better or worse about themselves?
  • Do they like how they feel around you and (especially) around your art?  
  • Do you have rapport with them?

If they don’t feel that sense of mutual understanding on a personal level — even as artist-to-customer — they won’t be as open to connecting with what your art communicates.

Sure, you can focus on the minority who can afford your art. That may be a smart tactic, for now.

However, that probably shouldn’t be your exclusive focus.  Even if you don’t put as much time into laying a foundation with the rest of your audience, they’re still important to your future as a successful artist.

Reaching the 75%

If you’re meeting some of that 75% at art shows, galleries, or even as you’re running errands — and hope to attract them as clients, customers and collectors in the future, when they’re back on their feet — now is the time to establish rapport. They’ll remember it later.

Think about what you can do, so they feel a connection with you right now. What can you give or sell to them that they can own, and — at the same time — help them feel better about themselves?

Even if the person can’t purchase any of your art right now, he or she should walk away thinking, “That art is so great.  I’m going to own some of that, some day.”

Contrast that with the sad, “That art is beautiful, and yet another thing I can’t afford. Maybe I never will.”

See the difference?

So, make it possible for the person to connect with your art and feel good about it, right now.

The importance of gifts

FREE Product Samples for home and officeWhether it’s a happy conversation, a free art postcard (like VistaPrint’s freebies, which I use), a link to a webpage where they can download something… make sure you connect with your friends and fans, and they remember it as a happy meeting.

This isn’t a reciprocity thing.  It’s not, “I’ll give you this now, and you agree to give me something in return, later.”

The gift economy is a little different.  It’s about bonding as individuals, and as a community, to establish a personal connection and goodwill for the sake of the group and each other, period.

What do you get out of this?  You get to be part of a happier, more connected community in a happier, more connected world.

You get the satisfaction of having done something good.  Too often, that’s vastly underrated.

Remain sensitive to what’s really going on, despite appearances.

It’s important to stay current about the world in general.  Use other people’s surveys (such as the article linked above) to understand your audience and what’s going on with them.

Right now, the global economy is in transition.  This effects artists as much as anyone else, and perhaps more than most.

This is your opportunity to do something nice and helpful… and be remembered for it.

Everyone wins!

Pave the road to your successful future.

It’s fine to focus on people with cash who also like your art.  That’s common sense.

However, pave the road for your continuing success — and invest a little happy karma — by making it possible for everyone to own some of your art, right now.

It’s not difficult.  It may require a little creativity, but you can do it.

(Note: If you liked my graphic at the top of this article, it’s a free download.  You can click on the image or here to download it as a 5″ x 7″ poster.  If you collect ATCs, click here for that free download.)

To understand more about
our economy and the importance of gifts
be sure to read Linchpin by Seth Godin

Copyright, Flickr and Google Images

Gummy worms, photo by shinjaejun (USA), shinjaejun.comWell, my recents posts on the topic of copyright — especially related to Flickr and Google Images — seem to have opened a can of worms.

I did a little more research so I could refer people to the best resources & opinions I could find.

Here they are:

Flickr photos and images are not in the public domain. The photos and images are generally copyrighted.  Some members of Flickr choose to release some of their rights via Creative Commons licensing, and you can search the photos for pictures that are okay to use.

There are several copyright-related threads at the Flickr forum.  Click here to read one of the best replies, by joepphoto.

Combination lock - photo by Linusb4, AustraliaHere’s one of the clearest explanations of what’s what at Flickr:  Understanding Copyright on Flickr.

(Flickr itself, and its parent company, Yahoo, default to the normal rules of copyright as outlined by the U.S. government.  And frankly, that’s fine.  Flickr shouldn’t have to repeat the laws.)

Google Images are usually copyrighted, as well.  Google aggregates (or “scrapes” or collects) images from all over the Internet, the same as they post the titles of webpages, and summaries or excerpts of them.

  • Nobody’s webpage is automatically in the public domain because Google indexed it.
  • Nobody’s photos are automatically in the public domain because they’re among the visual indices at Google Images.

Bootleg video recording, photo by Piotr Ciuchta, ScotlandA copyright thread at Digitalpoint includes good answers and some stupid ones.  Correctly attributing ownership is not enough to meet copyright laws.

That’d be like someone copying a recent movie and thinking it’s okay because all the credits are intact in the copy they added to a torrent site.

(Oh. Wait.  People do that.)

Google explains the rights pretty clearly.  In a nutshell, you have permission to view the images in Google Images.  You don’t automatically have permission to copy and use them.

However, you can use some of the Advanced filters to find images — in Google Images — with Creative Commons licensing.

Highlighted in yellow on the page linked above, Google reminds people to verify the exact terms of using images that appear at Google Images, even when the images bear Creative Commons licensing.

Here’s what Google says:

Before reusing content that you’ve found, you should verify that its license is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse stated in the license. For example, most licenses require that you give credit to the image creator when reusing an image. Google has no way of knowing whether the license is legitimate, so we aren’t making any representation that the content is actually or lawfully licensed. [Link]

I hope that helps explain what people can & can’t do with your images, and what’s okay (and not) if you’d like to use someone else’s images in your art or other products.

Personally, I’m rabidly enthusiastic about Creative Commons licensing.  I’ll talk about that in a later post.

For now, I’ve ordered the following book. I want to see suggestions about apparent conflicts between unbridled creativity and the copyrights of those who’ve created works of seminal (= strongly influencing later developments) importance.

Copyright and Free, Royalty-Free Resources… again!

Dripping data? (CD image by Matthew Bowden, UK)Many people — perhaps most people online today — aren’t aware of how copyright laws apply to what’s on the Internet.

I know no one who deliberately breaks copyright laws.  They’re just misinformed, or misguided by how they see copyright laws ignored online.

Often, people believe that anything online is okay to borrow, at least for personal or one-time use.  After all, everyone else is doing that… right?

I understand. Until you’re caught, there’s probably no reason to think twice about using someone else’s images, especially if those images aren’t clearly marked with a copyright symbol.

So, I don’t want anyone to feel as if I’m pointing a finger.  I’m not.  I deal with this subject constantly, and I’m very aware of how popular misunderstandings are when it comes to copyright law.


I’m not an attorney.  My interpretations of the law are my own opinions, not legal advice.  To get adequate legal advice, you’ll need to speak with an attorney that deals in trademark and copyright law.

However, even judges don’t seem to agree on copyright law.  How harshly you’re treated, if caught, can vary from one courtroom to the next.


I’m an artist.  Since the mid-1990s, when I created my first website — gosh, was that really over 15 years ago? — my own images have been stolen.  The tragedy is, I usually give permission when someone asks, first.  I was thrilled when one of my original photos was used for a record album cover; the band asked permission and I gave it freely.

When I find someone using one of my illustrations illegally, I approach them directly.  Most people quickly (and apologetically) remove the image from their websites.

However, a few balk.  They insist they bought the image from someone else, as part of a package, so they think the image is in the public domain now.  Or they found the image at Flickr.  Or something.

Then I have to contact the person’s website hosting service, and the usual result has been: The hosting service shuts down every website that person has.  They’re banned.  Nobody’s happy, and it didn’t have to conclude that way.

I’ve written several popular articles about copyright, the “three stroke” myth, and how copyright law affects artists.  Some of that information may apply to you.  My original article is at , along with several other copyright-related articles.

I also teach artists, including photographers, how to protect their images so they can prove they’re the original creators of the respective works.

It’s a simple technique: I remove about 1/2 inch on at least two sides of the original image, before I post it online.  When the hosting service asks me to prove it’s my original graphic, I can show them the larger version that has never appeared online. So far, that’s always worked for me and for my students.

Others use techniques such as digital watermarking:


Okay, maybe you shrug off copyright laws.  If you don’t know anyone who’s been caught “borrowing” images, and you don’t know the anguish of having your own work stolen, maybe it’s no big deal.

However, there is new software in production — I’ve heard that it’s in beta right now — and it’s designed to identify images being used illegally online.  Art museums facing budget crunches are especially interested in using this technology to protect their images, online.

As it was explained to me: The basic technology is similar to how cameras “know” where faces are in the photos, and always make sure they’re in focus.  Or, software that now replaces unattractive faces in family photos, and instantly fills in with a better face (from another photo) in the same size & location.  (I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on TV.)

Similar software recognizes distinctive elements in your original graphics and — through Google Images, Flickr, Facebook, etc. — scours the Internet looking for any matches.  Once you’re caught by someone who has deep pockets or an attorney with whiplash mentality… heaven help you.

We’re fast approaching a time when you’re playing a dangerous game if you’re using photos or other artwork without permission.


There is no reason to use illegal images in any product, including website design.

There are many great, public domain images online.  Pre-1923 images are generally (but not always) safe to use.  You can find them online; Wikipedia often features gorgeous public domain images by famous artists such as John William Waterhouse.

Many (but not all) works on the United States’ government website are in the public domain.

Some modern-day graphic artists & photographers have released some or all of their rights.  Some websites include modern, public domain photos, such as

You can also find great, legal images — with various licenses to use them — via Creative Commons:

There are many great resources for free, completely legal, royalty-free images.  (Remember: The images are still copyrighted. You’re simply given permission to use the images without paying a fee.)

Stock.xchng is one of my favorites.  Just be sure to search with “Restricted OK” set to “NO.”

Morgue File (not what it sounds like), also called MFile, is another great resource.  Like Stock.xchng, be sure to check the licensing terms for each image.

Most free, royalty-free websites also offer higher-quality images for a fee.  The fee can be as low as $1 with unlimited use rights, and that often depends on the size of the image you want (for online or print use) and whether you’ll be reproducing it on tee-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.

Or, if you found an image — like one of mine — through an image scraper or photo-sharing site, you can find the owner by doing an image search at Google.  Free browser plugins like Search by Image for Google make it right-click easy.  Then, ask the owner for permission to use the image in your project.  Many of us are happy to say yes.

The best idea of all?  Take your own photos.  Practice makes perfect (or at least good enough), you don’t need to get a photography degree… though you could.  And, once you’re comfortable with your camera, consider adding your photos to sites like and earn money from them.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve been using images without permission. 99% of the people I teach or consult for have no idea they’ve been doing anything wrong. This includes respected artists including photographers and illustrators.

What’s important is to use legal images as much as you can, starting right away.  The Internet is always changing, and copyright law is becoming a far greater issue across the online community.

Besides, there is no reason to copy others’ graphics without permission.  There are many wonderful, free resources for great images.  Use them instead.


Want to reprint this?  You can.  It’s free.  This work by Aisling D’Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Spam and Negative Reviews

negative reviews - spam graphic by Michal Zacharzewski, PolandThis morning, an email advised me that my website has one or more “negative reviews” and I can pay a business to counter the negative effects of those reviews.

In other words, another company (and probably a dozen or so) have launched a new campaign to create anxiety among website owners.  Ick.

If you receive a similar email (or two or three or 100), it’s okay to ignore them.  They’re spam. They’re intended to scare you into hiring the services of the advertiser.

I raise an eyebrow at this kind of nonsense, but I know that some website owners will panic and hire the advertiser.  If spam (unsolicited — and often unwanted — emails) didn’t work, we’d receive only good & interesting emails.

Here’s more information, if you’re still a little anxious.

The spam/email included this information:

Google is now using business reviews to determine business ranking. A search for your business shows at least one negative review.

We can help you.

[Their contact info was here.]

How does posting positive reviews help in your businesses Google ranking?

1. Positive reviews increase your business rank by linking important and relevant websites to your website.
2. A constant stream of positive reviews improves your online reputation.
3. Positive reviews drive traffic to your business.
4. Positive reviews restore a tarnished reputation by pushing down negative reviews and links.
5. Helps protect against competitors or anyone else from attempting to run your ranking.

Those “negative reviews” aren’t anything new and could mean almost anything.

Ever since Google created Sidewiki, which allows anyone to post anything about a webpage they’re looking at, there will be snarky comments and negative reviews by idiots… and perhaps a few people with legitimate gripes.

(Frankly, if you’re not doing things that are innovative enough to fail sometimes — or at least generate a little controversy — you need to be more courageous.)

And, that “at least one negative review” might have been posted by the spammers, to have something to startle the website owner.

Note: If your site uses WordPress, you can block Sidewiki comments — including positive and negative reviews — with this free plugin.

But that “negative review” might be some general comment about artists, posted in a thread that you commented at, too.

Or… gosh, “negative reviews” could be almost anything, from (in my case) “Aisling was having a bad hair day,” to “She doesn’t teach by-the-numbers workshops,” to  “Worst. Art. Ever.”

Since I’ve been posting my art online for about 15 years now, I’d be amazed if I didn’t have negative reviews!

Anyway, when I saw this stupid email about “negative reviews,” I sighed in exasperation.  I think this is the new incarnation of companies who get paid to post backlinks.  (Don’t pay for them, either.)

If a spammer emails you with alarming news about negative reviews, flag the email as spam and forget about it.  Negative reviews can mean anything, and — unless they’re overwhelmingly awful (and you’d already know about that) — you can safely ignore them.

If you have a good website, Google will love you (and so will your readers) whether or not you actually have negative reviews.

In Business? Who Are You Reading?

business of art - who are you reading?Are you a professional artist, or launching an art career?

Whether you’re a gallery veteran or simply considering selling your art, it’s vital to remain current about the art field as well as business trends in general.

So… who are you reading, to stay current?

One of the most important recent books is Seth Godin’s Linchpin.  It’s changing about 70% of how I spend my online time, and almost everything about my offline art/business activities.  (Godin is talking about art, but not necessarily visual or fine arts.  The book applies to anyone with a job… self-employed or not.)

In addition, I subscribe to updates (or read the RSS feeds) from several people.  Once again, Seth Godin is high on that list.  (See his recent, excellent blog post, The First Rule of Doing Work that Matters.) Dan Zarrella is another one.  (If you’ve never heard of him, this is a typical post:  Introduce Yourself: Why Should We Listen to You?)

To stay current on art trends, read magazines related to art collecting. Generally, watch for regional trends that are likely to spread.

I put the most focus on the European markets, as they often influence what’s going on the States.  However, I also like the American Art Collector Magazine website, especially their Virtual Art Walk.

Look for colors, designs, and price ranges that are popular.  Look for the influence of mixed media and sculpture, paper arts and fiber.

You can benefit from these insights, whether you’re a full-time artist or someone who’s hoping to earn extra money with spare-time creative projects.

Required Reading for Working Artists

Art calendar magazineYou can earn a living as an artist.  Really.

If you’re not a happy, full-time artist earning at least a good living in art, here’s the most important thing you can do:

Subscribe to Art Calendar.

Here’s what I recently wrote in my Squidoo lens about Art Careers.

If you want to earn a living as an artist, there is one magazine you must subscribe to: Art Calendar.

I’m not kidding. You can’t just stand at the magazine rack of the art store and browse it. You need to have your own issues as soon as they come out and read them. Then, re-read them.

The reason you want to read it is for art marketing advice, career tips, news about grants, gallery opportunities, fairs & festivals, and so on.

The reason you want to subscribe is so you get the magazine before it’s on the newsstands. That way, when you apply for grants, fairs and festivals you’re at the front of the line. That can make all the difference in the world.

Magpie logic

I’ve been completely redesigning my office/studio this week.

The room is a normal bedroom size, about 12′ x 12′, and it serves two important purposes:  I write in this room, and I create art here.


The writing requires lots & lots of reference books within easy reach.  I write on a variety of topics — mostly related to art, travel, history and/or paranormal themes — and I’m well-known for my exhaustive research using obscure (but fascinating) references.

Writers need to promote themselves and their books.  So, I have stacks of PR materials, including a dozen different styles of business cards, each tailored to a particular audience. I need to access them easily when I get a call from an event or a reporter.


My art is all over the place, sometimes literally.

080401-3treesbush-illus-dsI paint with oils and acrylics.  My canvases can be 36″ x 48″ or larger, and as tiny as 3″ x 3″. It’s easy to lose the little canvases and difficult to store the huge ones.  They end up in boxes, behind doors, in closets, under beds, etc.

I also create fabric art, especially dolls and wearable art, plus quilts.  My paper arts require considerable space, including my basic collage supplies (lots & lots of magazines) and embellishments.

Then there are the one-off assemblages that occur to me at odd moments, which — completed or in gestation — take up space.

Placing all of my writing supplies and all of my art supplies in the center of my studio floor… well, it’s been exhilarating and enlightening.

Magpie syndrome

magpie-black-billedI often think of myself as a magpie, in a way.

Sometimes, I see things that spark a project idea.

More often, that project idea is how I explain to myself why I need to own whatever-it-is. It’s how I justify the acquisition.

This is important: If I stay locked into that project idea and don’t explore other options, that collected object becomes clutter.  Two years later, I have only the vaguest memory of the painting, collage, shrine or doll that I intended to make.  The energy is lost, at least partly in regret.

Don’t let the guilt obliterate the energy of the object, or how it resonates — no matter how quietly — with your creative impulses.

That’s what I’m learning as I open boxes and rediscover half-finished projects and objects that never realized their greatness in completed art.

yorkh1-day1sdswAt least half a dozen paintings were in limbo, waiting for the technique I’m currently developing in my work.  (The photo at right is an example.  It’s barely started, but I love the glow of the houses facing the sunlight.)

Until I hauled those paintings out of the closet last night, I had no idea those paintings were such wonderful starts. With a fresh eye, I can see what works — and what doesn’t — and the energy is surging off the canvas as I admire it.

(I thought they were just bad paintings that I’d paint over, eventually. But, every time I looked at them, I wanted to cry because I could see the sparks of brilliance in them.  I couldn’t bear to paint over them, and now I’m glad that I didn’t.)

Yarn intended as doll hair now sings to me as embellishment wall hanging.

Books that I purchased are falling open to illustrations and phrases that almost glow with inspiration.

This is a very cool experience.

Though I realize this can be an excuse to accumulate clutter, I think it’s vital to avoid the extremes of collecting or purging, compulsively.

I’m also mindful that — from a bigger perspective — if you’re supposed to create a particular work of art, the supplies will probably show up, almost on their own.

However, as I sit here surrounded by art supplies, books and projects, I’m astonished at how precisely my “magpie collection” is fitting into place.  It’s as if I always knew that this day would happen.

It’s a concept worth considering.

My paintings: Three Trees (Bush Park, Houston, TX)
York Harbor View (York Harbor, ME) – in progress
Photo credit: Magpie – Juha Soininen, Finland


Cheap Art Manifesto

peace_sign_shadow-illusMany years ago during the hippie era, we dreamed of a free society where everyone had access to what’s important in life… including art.

The following flyer, distributed by the Bread & Puppet Theater, is a classic example of our dreams. The date on this flyer is (ironically?) 1984 — when the hippie movement was reacting to the self-serving 1980s — but the sentiments are timeless.

I wholly support this manifesto. This is one reason why I put free art online for you to print out at home, as often as I can. It’s why, in 2004, I cut my workshop prices in half, and then taught a series of entirely free art classes, too.

It’s why I protest when anyone is making an immoral profit from art and/or artists. And, it’s why those who are making immoral profits won’t like what I’m doing… though they’ll use other excuses.

However, there is one line in the manifesto that may confuse you as a professional artist: “Art is not business!”

In the hippie context, and as Bread & Puppet said, the Cheap Art movement was launched “in direct response to the business of art and its growing appropriation by the corporate sector.”

That is, it’s a mistake to treat original art like any/every other commodity. Business cannot control it. Art is unique, by definition. When it loses its originality, it’s something else; that’s a discussion for another day and another webpage.

The point is, if you try to make a fortune off art, particularly at the expense of others, you drive prices into a range where the average person can no longer afford them. And, in my opinion, that is immoral.

Even as a highly successful artist whose works regularly sell in four- and five-figure ranges, you have to make some art available to everyone regardless of their incomes or budgets.

Here is the Cheap Art Manifesto. Feel free to copy it, print it, put it at your own website, and share the message with others.

(Though the footer on all of my webpages automatically says “copyright…,” any time I say that it’s okay to copy or print something, it is.  The Cheap Art Manifesto has no copyright.)