I realized today that it has been a little while since I've updated my blog. I have a few things I want to write about in the coming weeks, but I've been short on time lately.
I thought it was worth mentioning that I am quite active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I would greatly appreciate it if you wanted to follow along on social media. I like posting little process videos, works in progress and a number of little side projects I'm plugging away on that don't currently fit with my website categories.
You can find me here:
Facebook: Michelle Wiebe Art
While most of the content I post is spread evenly across all three platforms, it isn't identical. Hope to see you on social media!
I’ve been in a really reflective mood as of late. Looking back to last year at this time, I thought I had so much figured out and that 2018 was going to be such a busy and productive year. I could not have been more wrong. Last year at this time, I was slowly reaching a breaking point that been gaining steady ground over the past few years. I was a wreck and I kept dismissing it as being over tired. Looking back it almost seems comical, except that it was awful and I had no idea what was going to happen.
Last year at this time, I had signed a bunch of exciting contracts for teaching. I had also made plans for some interesting art I wanted to complete. I had mapped out in great detail the upcoming six months worth of work. This is fairly typical behaviour for me and it seemed so straightforward as I was headed into January. Except, this time, I had a slow creeping terror that I was going to fail. I couldn’t name it; I couldn’t explain it and I couldn’t see anything amiss. All my plans were the types of plans I had made and executed in the years before, only bigger and brighter. It was time, or so I thought.
Typically, when I make plans, I start with all the known items coming up and enter them into a fresh day timer. The School District time table is usually the first to be entered. I follow that with kid’s trips and camp, out of town guests and miscellaneous doctor’s appointments. Once I have those commitments filled in, I then look to fill the spaces in between with a balance of workshops, events and shows. I book with venues and start adding deadlines for applications and deliveries. It is very methodical and deliberate and touches a very geeky part of my soul. After those items are entered I can do everything from plan blog posts, the focus for studio days and whether or not I need to have something in the slow cooker. My day timer is what allows me to function when my chronic illness flares up or life becomes chaos. It gives me stability.
Last year at this time, I had a day timer waiting for me and everything was so hard. My most favorite day of entering all the known dates came and I struggled. I look at what I had planned in a bunch of saved emails and had to transcribe them onto fresh pages. As I attempted to reign in the chaos of multiple dates and places, I could feel panic rising in my throat. I had to physically circle all the weekends so I would not lose track of them. I entered in all sorts of events but had to make notations so I wouldn’t get confused. Every time I added a new class, anguish came clawing at me. I thought I was overtired.
It never occurred to me that I was steadily checking out of all manner of things I loved. Weekly commitments would come and I would secretly hope they would get cancelled. Activities like running were reduced to resented obligations. Christmas shopping overwhelmed me to the point of tears more than once because I had such a hard time keeping track of what we needed to pick up and what we already had bought. I had an app on my phone for this purpose that I’d used for years and for some reason, manually typing in the items, figuring out a trip to multiple stores and budgeting my time was nearly impossible. As Christmas approached, this distress I kept feeling of everything spinning out of control was steadily gaining ground.
Funny thing is, looking back; I actually have very fuzzy memories of Christmas and all the fun family rituals we celebrated last year. Those memories are there, they are just behind a thick sheet of Plexiglas – I’m pretty sure they will crystallize as I celebrate this year. What I do remember with great clarity is the overwhelming feeling of panic and un-named dread for the upcoming year.
I also remember December 27th, which is typically an unremarkable day in the Christmas Holiday calendar. Although I’d wager that is usually the day that most parents finally get a chance to relax after the unrelenting upswing in the days before Christmas and then Boxing Day sales (remember, I have teenagers, that is the only reason that Boxing Day is notable) On December 27th the panic was still there. I woke up in a foul mood too. My husband helpfully suggested we go for a run, thinking this would provide a stress release for me.
We went to our local track and I went for an angry five kilometre run. Everything during that run made me frustrated; the seniors walking the track, the illegible signs that no one seemed to notice or want to correct, and how difficult it was to figure out what direction I was supposed to run in, even though there were several people already running in one direction. I had no idea that a lot of this was not normal. It didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t normal when I couldn’t figure out how to open my lock. Finally I got super frustrated, I went to look for my husband - it was shortly after I found him that my seizure struck.
In one moment, I went from being someone who was over busy and over tired to someone who had a seizure. In a few hours, I went from that to someone who had a brain tumour larger than a golf ball sitting on her left parietal/occipital lobe region. A couple weeks after that, I became someone recovering from brain surgery. At the time it seemed like I was symptom free, but looking back, it was there. It was the source of my un-named panic.
Turns out your parietal and occipital lobes are super important for processing the world around you. They are responsible for a lot the visual, spatial and language information we use to navigate the world around us. As my slow growing tumour took up more space, it subtly affected those processes and made doing the things I love best very hard. One of the reasons why we didn’t see my issues sooner is because some symptoms echo those of my chronic (well controlled) illness and the fact I was in the habit of meticulously using a day timer. These masked my growing inefficiencies and reading comprehension problems. (side note, I was dyslexic for the three weeks between seizure and surgery, that was weird but not a symptom leading up to discovering my tumour)
When I say “comprehension” it was I literally got so bad with keeping track of written words, I would forget what the paragraph was about before I finished it. I could read it, I could understand it, I could remember reading it, I couldn’t tell you what the content was. It was like sand slipping away in an hourglass. Dates were hard to fix on a calendar because I couldn’t hold onto a date from an email long enough to transcribe into a day timer. I literally got to the point of having my iPad open beside my computer, beside my day timer to see all the moving pieces together. This wasn’t a memory issue so much as a reading issue. I didn’t have nearly the same trouble when somebody verbally told me a date to remember.
Words were a problem sometimes. Especially art/tool related words. Learning letterpress terminology was strange because I would learn a word, know it, know the object and use of the word... for some reason I could not verbalize the word unless I pictured reading it and read it out loud from my mind. Friends would show me tools or equipment and tell me all about each item and I would balk at saying “could you please hand me the _______” time and time again, I could not make the word cross the threshold of my lips. I was very embarrassed about this and thought I was forgetful. I tended to talk around the word and pick up or point to the object instead, waiting for someone else to say the item. Apparently I’m pretty good at that, as I don’t think anyone caught on. Except the time at Heritage Park where I had a room full of teenagers in front of me and suddenly I could not name one item I was explaining. I had explained it probably twenty times already that day until I was left completely blank. That time my head felt very wrong and I left to go sit down and recover. I brushed it off as the flu because I was sick a few days later.
Why is this important? I did my day timer planning for the first part of 2019 this week. I was so scared of how hard it would be so I put it off a few weeks later than normal. Shockingly, it was so straightforward and easy. Come to think of it, every time I start a new book, I brace myself for the upcoming slog of pain that results in me abandoning or forgetting the contents only to find reading is a pleasure. Words still seem to trip me up a little, but I don’t think many people notice (I notice when I’m teaching or explaining art processes) I can’t separate baren and brayer in my mouth, even though my mind clearly knows the difference. I keep referring to the exit in a parking lot as a door (i.e. “we need to leave by the north door” I mean to say exit but my mouth doesn’t articulate that. It’s a blind spot I can live with. I can name the tools now too.
I also have a garden in my mind. It is lush and green and a source of great excitement. For the first time in several years I am pushing to experiment with my art, to make things at home, to grow my passions. I can’t seem to shut my mind off on these things either. I dream something up and can’t stop reading and processing and planning. Right now I am optimistic and full of hope for the future. My husband keeps remarking that it is like I have woken up from a long sleep. In a way, I have.
In closing, you will notice that unlike other “year in review” posts I’ve made, I’m talking very little about art. Honestly, while art sustained me and teaching brought me back to normalcy, 2018 was not about art. Here are some things it taught me:
Now, instead of rebuilding and regaining things that were broken, I need to learn new things. I can’t let illness define me. This is such a small part of who I am, I feel like it is time let the other parts of who I am take charge. In the next few days, I’m planning on posting some of the exciting things I want to do to grow my skills in the coming year. Hopefully 2019 will let me!
PS - For those of you who might be reading about this for the first time, I spent the first half of 2018 blogging about recovery and making art post brain surgery. Some posts are totally written by someone with a brain tumour or someone who recently had brain surgery. I've never bothered to edit them. They are a little art piece in their own right. I put my blog posts in chronological order on this page.
It has been really busy in the studio these past few weeks! Here is a snapshot of all sorts of fun things coming up from me:
Final Weekend for Leighton Art Centre's Christmas in the Country: If you fancy the above paintings, they are available till Sunday afternoon at the Leighton Centre. There other fresh pieces of mine available as well! I hope you check it out, it is an amazing event!
Free parking, free admission & complimentary festive treats throughout both weekends. Spectacular Rocky Mountain views included! Click here for more information.
Upcoming Acrylic Painting 5 Week Class and 1 Day Lino Workshop at Inglewood Art Supplies: I am so excited to be back next week at the great new studio space adjoining Inglewood's store. There is still room in both the painting class as well as the Linocut workshop.
November 13th - December 11th, 2018
Tuesday Evenings, 6:30 - 8:00 pm
In this adult beginner course you will learn the basics of painting and start working on your masterpiece! Students will learn how choose their subject, prepare their canvas, apply paint with a variety of techniques, as well as troubleshoot problem areas. Students will take home a completed painting and the knowledge to develop their skills further on their own.
5 classes | 1.5 hour class
$175.00 + GST (supplies not included - click here for list)
Save 10% by registering before November 7th
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at email@example.com or 403-265-8961
November 17th, 2018
Saturday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Learn the basics of linocut printmaking. The instructor will teach students about composition, safe cutting techniques and how to pull prints. Participants will leave with a variety of hand printed projects, their own carved blocks as well as the skill to practice at home using basic art materials.
$100.00 +GST Supplies not included (supply list here)
$135.00 +GST Supplies provided
Save 10% by registering before November 12th, 2018
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-265-8961
Northern Reflections Painted Window Exhibition:
November 13th - December 31st
Downtown Calgary (see link)
Michelle Wiebe/Michael Kohlweg Window:
East Village Experience Centre
I'm excited to be participating again in this event. This year's theme is "Electric Winter" and my animation partner and I have a treat in store for everyone who loves Santa!
Download the Augle App and bring the kids down to the East Village Experience Centre to see the magic that happens when you use Augmented Reality (AR) to view original art. There is free onsite parking during open hours and helpful East Village Ambassadors to answer any questions!
Don't forget to vote for your favorite window! They are located around East Village and Stephen Ave. Click here for more info.
I always try to keep my main page current with upcoming events and shows - check there for even more things coming in the next few months! I hope to see you at some of these events!
Sometimes a series comes together from a few different directions. Over the past few months, an important part of my daily routine has been watching all the different birds that land in my yard. I received a bird feeder at Christmas and another at Mother's Day and they are stationed where one can sit with a cup of coffee to enjoy the ongoing drama. Needless to say, my yard is teeming with all sorts of interesting species and a continual source of inspiration. That was the beginning of this series.
Recently, I've been resorting my art supply storage areas and uncovering all sorts of treasure. One of those has been a stash of handmade Etchu card. Named after the region in Japan that it is made in, it is a thick, creamy, decadent paper. All four sides have a natural deckle edge and you can clearly see the kozo fibres in the texture. I've been itching for a little project to try it out on.
In my sorting, I came across the above pictured sketchbook. The bird and the circle triggered an idea that blossomed into the series I'm working on. Although the image is 10 years old, it felt really new to me because I hadn't sat down and properly explored the idea way back then (working a day job, little elementary school kids and painting for Etsy consumed most of my time in those days). Once these three elements came together, the series just unfolded effortlessly. Once they are dry I will sign and edition them then let you know where you can get your hands on one!
This batch of tea towels has been a long time coming. I've been pecking away at it in stages as my busy summer allowed. Dye a batch, prep a batch, print a colour and so on. Finally, these are all heat set and ready to go! All my popular themes are here, squirrels, birds, bees, flowers and leaves. If there is one you have your eye on, contact me fast - the rest will be heading to my stockists!
Each cloth is custom dyed by me, stamped using hand carved blocks with hand mixed ink colours. Each one is one of a kind and has been stamped approximately 24 - 30 times per cloth. (it's a labour of love!) They can be used in a number of ways: tea towels, scarves, receiving blankets, bread basket liners or for a beautiful one of a kind hostess or teacher gift. Flour sack cloth improve with age and use, becoming softer and more luxurious with every use. It is not uncommon to see a flour sack tea towel in regular use for over a decade.
Summer has passed through Alberta in it's usual whirlwind fashion and I noticed this morning some yellow leaves dropping from the trees. It has been really busy in our household. Kids coming and going from jobs to camp to friends places. Wonderful visits from friends and family. Short day trips and treks into the surrounding foothills. I've been puttering away steadily in my studio any moment I can, but it is mostly prepping for projects that I'll undertake when I can focus for longer stretches of time (a.k.a. back to school). While I'm mourning the passing of hot summer days, I am also yearning for routine and structure. A turning of the seasons.
One exciting thing I am looking forward to is a new partnership with Inglewood Art Supplies. They have been renovating the neighbouring space in their Bridgeland building so that they can begin to offer art classes, demonstrations and workshops. The results of their space transformation is amazing. You can really tell people who make art were behind the planning and execution of this endeavor. Tall ceilings, well equipped work stations and great lighting will make this an amazing place to teach and learn.
I will be offering a 5 week class for beginner acrylic painting that will happen on Tuesday nights from 6:30 - 8:00 pm going from September 18th to October 16th. I will also offer two different 1 day workshops at Inglewood this fall. Beginner Linocut Printmaking in September and then a Creative Art Journaling workshop in October.
In November I will be back at the fabulous Leighton Art Centre to teach a two day intensive workshop on Block Printing on Fabric - this is timed so that those who want to learn an interesting skill can practice by making a whole stack of very cool Christmas gifts if they want.
As usual, I post all my workshops, classes, demonstrations and showings on my main page - there you will find all the links you need to directly register for my classes. I really hope to see you there.
I'm excited to share this "new" painting with you - although it was completed and delivered last month. I wanted to close my health issue chapter on a positive note. A while ago I applied for and was accepted to be part of a group of artists who were selected to create work to raise money for the Branch Out Neurological Foundation's upcoming fundraiser "Your Brain on Art"
Clearly, having just had brain surgery, this felt like a no brainer (see what I did there?)
We were matched up with a Neuroscientist and advised to contact them about the research project we had selected. I had chosen the research project: Vitamin Niacin on Brain Tumor Growth - Dr. Jeffrey Dunn, University of Calgary (I decided I wanted to fund brain tumour research, even though it wasn't directly related to the type of tumour I had) The idea was to call or email with them to learn more and then create a piece based on the conversation.
Imagine my delight when we figured out a time to meet in person at the actual lab! (I had an appointment with my neurosurgeon on the same campus and it all worked out for a face to face meeting) This became even better when I was told they work at the "Experimental Imaging Lab" in the basement, near the parkade. It doesn't get much better than that!
Once I met up with Jeff, he introduced me to the team and showed me the mouse MRI machine. Having had my fair share of "tube rides" in the past few months, I felt a connection to all the work and research that has to happen for technology like that to be useful in bringing people like me back to health (I also found it it kind of ironic that I blogged about people making better MRI equipment way back in the beginning of my brain tumour saga. Turns out, I got to meet some of those people!
Now, about the painting itself - I will admit, I went off on a different visual style than normal. We started our meeting talking about Greek etymology and somehow that stuck. Here is the write up I submitted:
This piece, Messenger, is a reflection of the dual stories found in the research project Vitamin Niacin on Brain Tumor Growth. The title hints at these two stories: delivery via Macrophage and delivery of information via MRI. The winged sandal represents Hermes, the messenger of the gods. He is known for his swift delivery via his winged sandals. I chose to use green to highlight this as a symbol of this messenger bringing healing, hope and growth. The area surrounding the winged sandal represents normal tissue cells; the area within the foot represents tumour cells. Tiny amounts of image contrast agent are being delivered to the core of a tumour via the macrophage, here shown as blue swatches of colour and orange dots
On a personal note, I haven't been blogging much lately, because I've been all blogged out. We have sunshine and the green is peeking out on my lawn. Health-wise, things are going really, really great. In order to consolidate the past few months and move on mentally, I've made a page with all my meningioma related posts with links in chronological order. If you want to start at the beginning and read my entire Meningioma story, click here.
sOn Friday, I attended the wrap up event for the Bud's of Bud's Northern Reflections Painted Window Exhibition. It was a great night reconnecting with the organization's team, the other artists as well as my animation partner, Alyssa Koski.
During the evening they awarded three prizes, People's Choice, Celebrity Choice and the Juried Prize. Alyssa and I were thrilled when they announced our name for the Jury's pick.
I'll be honest, since completing this piece my life has had quite a few changes and developments and 2018 has started out kind of rough. To have a night out and to take home the big prize was a great way to end my week. Thank you, Bud's of Bud's, thank you Jury and most of all, thank you Alyssa - you were an amazing partner to work with. Your animation took this piece to a whole other level and it was a treat to collaborate with you.
At the end of December 2017, I had a seizure and found out that I have a benign brain tumor called a meningioma. In mid January, I will be having it removed and taking a break from all teaching, demonstrating and commercial studio work so that I can focus on my recovery. Naturally, my family and I are stressed out and nervous for the coming months, but we believe I will fully recover and return to prior interests and activities in due time. For those of you who are inclined, your prayers are much appreciated.
As I have grappled with this news in the past week, a lot of thought has centered on what it means to be an artist as it is not only my vocation, it is a key part of my identity. What happens if this surgery changes me? What if parts of this are quite difficult to process or navigate? Google can be your friend and your enemy during times like this. One thing that has brought me comfort has been finding other creative types with similar issues who have shared their journey of recovery on the internet. Hope is not to be trifled with.
So, with that example in mind, I have decided to use the coming months to shift my focus to my path to wellness and to share it on my blog. My hope is that it gives my friends, family, and clients a snapshot of my recovery as well as potentially be a place that google will lead others who are dealing with heavy news and that it will give them hope as well.
Since I can be enormously persistent (stubborn) when I choose to be, I have decided I need to do this on my own terms. I feel like this is a really neat opportunity to share what happens when you take a skilled artist and then operate on their brain. Seriously, you don't get much better blogging material than that. It feels like the ultimate science/art experiment. What works? Will my skills be different? What will I lose? What will I gain? Will my palette change? My subject? Will I still be an artist? I plan to write and share my sketchbook journal, plus whatever art I feel like trying.
It is really important to me that I use this experimental time to be honest about what this has done to my brain and my creative spirit. I'm not going to lie, I already feel quite vulnerable. In the past week, making words fit together (which I love doing) has been stilted and clumsy. I really have to think about spelling and how things fit together in a sentence. Emails and text messages have been slow because I need to read and reread them to make sure they make sense. It takes a little longer to figure out what the problem is. I'm not sure if this is from the seizure, the medication, or the actual brain tumor. I suspect there will be a lot of this frustration in the coming weeks. I also know how cathartic it is to acknowledge that sort of thing, so I think being open will be good for me.
I think it is too easy for artists (myself included) to use platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to present this effortless picture of great art and self promotion. Nobody likes showing the failed experiments or talking about work that you make that is awkward or doesn't sell. No one likes admitting that they are a novice at a new art form until the work is pretty and commercially available. It's easy to throw in words about how privileged and honoured you are to be included in something, or use hashtags like #blessed and #lovinglife. The downside to that approach is it takes hard work and grit out of the picture and makes it look like you won the "art lottery" instead of putting in countless hours being mediocre in order to become skilled. In the coming months, I suspect I am going to work hard and make some bad art. I think it is important to share it with you.
Here are some random things I want to put out there for anyone reading this:
- To everyone who has already sent me a message of encouragement, offer of prayer or practical help. Thank you. I will likely get back to you in the coming week if I haven't already. If I don't, I'm blaming it on my brain issues. They are real and I've dropped a few threads already.
- If you are just learning about this via Social Media and I should have contacted you directly, I deeply apologize - please extend grace and friendship. Having lots of friends and family is a good problem to have, but I know I've missed a few of you! Again, I blame the clumsy brain.
- I work with amazing organizations and I just want to thank everyone who I've had to send the "I need to withdraw from ____" email to in the past few days. You have all responded with such compassion and understanding. Thank you for that. It's been a humbling week and knowing that I can get back in touch and resume our plans when I am better has been a life line.
- For anyone who received a cancellation notice for a class you've signed up for, I am so sorry. I hope you will keep checking here for my courses to be rescheduled so we can do our class at a later date. If you want a recommendation for an alternate, contact me or the organization you booked with for some other classes in the meantime. You need to keep those fires fueled in your own creative journey!
- For any of my collaborators, students or artist friends, it would mean the world to me if you sent me updates of what you are working on. You inspire me and motivate me and I know I will live vicariously through you in the coming weeks. Talking shop absolutely puts wind in my sails.
- If you are in the same boat of needing to recover or you have recovered and somehow you found my blog, contact me. One thing I'm not sure I want to hear is people's horrible experiences. You know what I'm talking about... it starts with sentences like "oh, my cousin Edna's sister-in-law had something like that and it was AWFUL...." You can keep those locked up until after I'm better. I love stuff where we are mutually positive, honest and encouraging though.
A few people have asked how they can help.
- If you know our family personally and you want to pitch in, shoot me or my husband and email or text and we can take it from there. We do have a few offers of day to day help and some meals but lots of people doing a tiny bit shares the load easily. I have the easy part of recovery, I really want to keep my husband and kids from feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. They have heated up enough frozen pizza in the past week already.
- For anyone else, we are not planning to set up a gofundme account or anything like that. However, I will be honest that as an independent artist who makes her living from the fruits of her labors... the next few months are going to be tight. My husband carries the bulk of the finances thank goodness but I will not have the luxury of sick leave. If you have suggestions, advice on Canadian/Alberta/Calgary or Cochrane resources I can access for advice or help at this time, please contact me.
- You can still find my art at Bluerock Gallery, Leighton Centre and Muk Luk Magpies - if you've had your eye on a piece, this would be a helpful time to buy it. I do have a little work available at home but in all this craziness, it might be hard for me to get it shipped. Booking spots in workshops when I return will also be helpful, so keep checking back as well.
- Most importantly, your well wishes and prayers have been treasured and if you could keep me and my family in your thoughts in the coming weeks, that would be the greatest way you could help.
Anyways, I plan to blog and if my brain works correctly, I'll try to remember to file all the posts related to my recovery under "Meningioma" should I have a spell where I can't do it myself, I'll make sure my husband can do it on my behalf. Filling out my contact form means it gets sent directly to my email, which I hope to check often. Thanks!
To read the whole story of my Meningioma click here.
Normally I spend the early part of December writing this annual post in my head. I enjoy reflecting on the previous year and shaping all my thoughts and projects into one post with a unified theme. Or a Top Ten list - I like those too. I'm going to confess that this year, I haven't had it in me. Alas, I'm a stickler for traditions, so I will write my year in review, but it is more off the cuff this time.
After all the chaos surrounding our family's move in 2016 I've realized that 2017 has been a big search for stability. Stability in my studio, with my calendar and truth be had, with my income as well.
We've now been in our house long enough for it to feel like home, especially my cozy studio. I look forward to getting in there and picking up from the day before. I like refining how it's organized and working in my own space. My extended studio (aka, my garage) is not quite there yet. Life has been busy and that was one thing that has eluded me this season. Now it's cold so it'll have to wait a little longer.
I spent a lot more time at Heritage Park as well as instructing this year; those became the cornerstones to my calendar with more flexible items scheduled around them. This has lead to some growth for me as well. I've realized that as more time gets committed outside the studio, the more deliberate I need to be with my time creating. My day timer has been extraordinarily helpful in this regard, I might talk more about this in a future post, The idea that artists are entirely free flowing and dictated by their inspiration is false. Structure for an artist can lead to enormous creativity - a lot of that comes from planning and goal making (but I digress)
Part of the reason why I've been out of the studio more has been because one of the goals I've set is for more stability in my artist income. By artist income, I mean anything that moves me forward as an artist. A job at Starbucks is not intended to move my art forward. My job at Heritage Park was sought out specifically to increase my knowledge about Letterpress. Hence I include that and teaching as artist income. I am a full time artist (I do not have a non arts job) and I look at all the various income streams as my full time job, broken up into interesting bite sized pieces. A new flavour every week it seems.
At this point in my career, I am not at a place where I can reliably depend on a certain amount of income generated by the sale of my paintings. To address this, I've sought out more places to help me sell my art as well as diversified what I make by adding items like hand pulled prints, flour sack cloths and letterpress goods. When I make art, I put all my time and resources in up front with the idea that I will recoup my costs and gain a profit.
The unstable part of this is that I have no idea when this income will arrive. Some art sells before it is dry. Some art takes years to sell.. Once those items are completed, they then need to be cataloged, photographed and promoted, driven to a gallery or listed online. Then you pay the associated commissions or fees to the venue that assisted you in selling your work. Great venues that sell work regularly absolutely earn those fees because the risk of it getting lost or damaged increases the longer it travels around to various places looking for its' forever home.
A few years ago I looked at my options for what path I wanted to follow for the next while. I could bite the bullet and put all my time and resources into just creating with the end goal of getting my art to the place where I could rely on it for steady income. Or I could look at ways to further diversify my income streams so that I wasn't solely putting my time and resources up front. Previously,I had taken a year off from selling my work in order to try new things and evolve in my work without the pressure of conforming or marketing myself. That Sabbatical year was a huge blessing, but all I could afford was one year off. The decision pretty much was made at that point. Diversification became my goal, and I'm thankful for it in many ways. Especially in this economy... if one income stream dries up, I usually have something different I can put into the mix to keep things stable.
Instructing has been a big part of this for me this year: I book an event, I work, I get paid. For an artist, this formula can feel almost backwards at times! There is still an amount of speculative work involved in these events, however. Organizations need to be approached, proposals written, sometimes meetings, lots of email communication, photos, write ups, promotions... none of this is paid time. It all works out when event is complete and you get paid since the fee should cover the upfront work that was done. However, if a booked event does not run, all that work is for nothing.
Lately it's been a matter of finding balance in how many bookings I take and being more selective with which organizations I work with. This year I've had the pendulum swing both ways - constant bookings so I've worked too many weekends in a row (which wears my family out) as well as too many untested venues with bookings that have fallen through (which wears me out). However, overall it's been going really well and I'm thankful that I have a few core connections that work very hard on my behalf to see classes fill up, I love being a part of their team.
I guess the last thing that has really contributed to stability for me has been something a lot more abstract than income, calendars or studio space. It's this idea of "Compound Time" - time regularly spent pursuing unrelated learning that impacts the growth in your art practice. The past few years spent helping at the museum, expanding my printmaking plus all this letterpress stuff I've been doing is starting to heavily influence my direction in the studio. I've changed. I believe I am a more well rounded person because of all the new connections I've made and things I've learned how to do. I look forward to more in 2018. Perhaps I'll start thinking about a Top Ten list for the New Year.