10,000 hours later…. now what?

I’ve been captivated by the 10,000 rule since hearing about it a few years ago. Simply put, if you put 10,000 hours into something you’ll become an expert on it.

Well, since I’ve been launched Art PR Wire (4,732) and Art Listings Professional (7,245) since 2009, I have posted over 10,000 posts. I’ve been aiming for this metric consciously and now must decide what to do next.

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What is a blog? What is the point of all this?

The act of blogging is unnatural at best.

At worst, it is a natural part of what already exists – a lot of marketing, advertising, business, porn, political and industry propaganda, some news and opinion. Outside of the guided tour provided by search engines, the reality of the real blogosphere is one that is overwhelmingly dominated by empty graveyards of abandoned blogs and an ecosystem of robots who scour everything.

I never really held a structuralist view of blogs as being different that any content posted to the web. It does not really matter as you cannot ultimately control the appearance of your content, but you can frame how you would like to be seen. (If you want it to be seen with a blue background colour, for example, then you are SOL). You can control exactly how something is to be seen but then it needs to be something other than a blog or website.

The same goes for the content of this blog – what the hell have I done here? It’s all over the place. There’s no editorial calendar. Those involved in one sector of my professional life are probably aghast if they read my opinions about my other professional haunts. Blogs and social media are already experiencing an actual to goodness paradigm shift based on reputation management and other vulnerabilities. It is an extension of our own local laws and customs and often there is more than one layer of this. Some folks are virtually unhireable based on what was posted about them, and not on any exceptional qualities or for any other reason uncommon in society. A true online diary is a risky and rare thing now and perhaps this is for the best.  Most, if not all, of what you will be able to find is arguably contrived.

(I always wondered why submarines don’t have more windows. The Nautilus did. Are we not able to reproduce the technology of steampunk? I mention this because navigating the web is much like I imagine being in a submarine is like: a map, a sonar and a radio but you are not actually looking at the landscape. Giant squids can still sneak up on you.)

So blogs now seem best suited for a professional narrative or to house a serious project. Things that you want to be found. Sometimes I post things that I don’t want to be found. Sometimes I change things or contradict myself. Sometimes I ramble.

I felt bad about the way I blog, over these last 4 years, until I started reading Michel de Montaigne. He is the source of essays and, by extension, blogging. He also would of loved LOLcats.

This makes me happy with what I’ve done, and ok with the fact that what I have compiled here is worthy and interesting. It is a rich source of my projects and priorities since 2009 and in some ways I see parallels with Montaigne deciding to write and reflect in his tower. Seeing yourself reflected in Montaigne is actually quite common, apparently, but I’m ok with that. It is reassuring.

However. There are many differences and many changes coming to my own life at this point. I feel the urge to destroy and create. This blog, my blog, is a constantly changing and evolving and contradicting and snarky and satire and serious and pathetic and .. popular. The more it becomes popular, the greater the risk of not being able to manage my online reputation effectively.

However… I know it sounds simple, but I have recently realized social media is different for artists than it is for everyone else. The same rules do not apply – there is more elbow room for the personal and controversial. If you are a professional outside of cultural spokespeople, then you have to pure as the driven snow. I called this the social eunuch in a previous post.

My posts are not me. They are my work and my work is part of who I am. I have treated my blog as both a sandbox and a jade garden. I’m ok with that and so are many people but most do not get it. I understand and accept it now but not always and not until recently. I have also realized if you are going to do something then do it all the way. If you are going to be an artist online then be an artist online but don’t be what you think other people think an artist online is supposed to look like. Don’t be a simulacrum.

So, by this time next year I should have my grad degree finished. These last four years have been a self-imposed series of learn’ins and experiences vital for preparing for a career of serious work in earnest. Four years ago I lost my business, house, fiance and worst of all time with my son. What was the point of that? A failure for a most people. A typical and honourable tale for an entrepreneur. Rich texture for the life of an artist.

So. It has come to this.

I think it is time I close up and summarize this blog and my art listings professional endevours too. I want all content I produce to be housed on my server with teaser content on social media. What I am thinking, researching, producing will be my posts of my art and creative writings. My communications work will on linkedin and throughout that industry.

I think I have other channels emerging and a new art magazine website project starting next year. I want to “thread” my content out and disperse it widely. A new blog for my activist posts and another blog for my communications career. A third blog for my artwork is almost done. I am trying to currently decide whether to port over some of this content first or simply start anew? I do like a blank sheet of paper.

I am also considering a name change. I am considering a complete severance with any work done prior to 2009. I am considering a PhD in Bio Art. These are all refreshing ideas to me and suitable as interesting blog posts. After I post about them, I will probably be in a better position to understand how I actually feel about them.

There are a lot of things to purge and clip by the end of next summer. I’ll keep this blog going until then and will post new links and updates in the meantime.

I think I am starting the equivalent of Montaigne’s second book. Maybe the third.

It’s in the BAG: Barton Art Gallery project space finally opens next week

I have a small, enclosed front porch with it’s own lighting and electrical outlet. It’s almost perfect to maintain a small gallery space so that’s what I have been threatening to do.

So, now I am. The space is still not finished and has a whack of drywall leaning on one side. I’ve been waiting for our cheap and (very slow) renovations to stop but I don’t think they will before I leave Hamilton. Sometimes, you just gotta say “fuck it” and go ahead with a project – this kind of public declaration essentially forces you to carry through with your threat of art. Sometimes it takes me years to demonstrate I was serious (and usually right) about something and the BAG Project Space is such a something.

So, no time like the present. After agonizing for a year about how I am going to work with and work around the long vertical windows on the west, east and north walls I finally came up with a practical, cheap solution that is easy to implement and just as easy to remove and without damage to the space before we sell the house: white fabric over the walls. It sure beats my previous plan to have a series of drywall panels with wooden frames hanging from the ceiling by hinges.

The 6 sheets of drywall leaning against the west wall are not going anywhere but with a white sheet draped over that, it will transform into a respectable plinth. Hey, it’s my project space and I can do whatever I want.

So the first exhibit “slower: advice for the economy” (a projection about the industrial skyscape) opens up next week on Friday the 13th from 6-9pm. Yes, I am aware of the symbolism of both sets of numbers. For local readers, you will also no doubt recognize that my gallery is open during the exact hours of the ArtCrawl.  You will also note that I live in a poor, some would say “scary”, area of downtown Hamilton not know for arts and culture. Well, consider this new gallery space as a response to that – I’ve criticized designated areas for arts and culture in a city before. Now I believe independence for an artist is the most desirable goal to achieve – more than funding.  No, I don’t believe in the BS that anti-arts advocates spout about not funding the arts. I believe the arts should be so integrated and integral as part of our society that we would have trouble even distinguishing where support ends and begins.

So. I have a humble and independent space for exhibiting a series of exhibits by others and myself. I have some really exciting ideas to materialize in this space, and in many way culminates my work about and in Hamilton over these three years. I have not listed the address because I want to encourage people to explore this community in order to find. I want people to explore this community because that is the way to improve any neighbourhood – go walk through it. Lots of people out walking through a place is a very powerful device. I know many people will probably not bother coming to find it at all, especially if I keep the exhibition hours the same as ArtCrawl and I don’t pander to the usual agencies for promotion. I don’t care if anyone shows up or not – I care about the projects and the documentation. The reason we were able to buy a house here was because of the negative impressions people have of this area – and they don’t come here so the houses were affordable. Why should I now conduct my business on my estate grounds with any different formula?

However, I care if the local community here engages with the projects. I do care about people coming here to engage with the projects too. This space is simply part of this neighbourhood though the act of a pop up art space should be universal.

Contained therein this act and through this upcoming series of projects is my final dialogue with Hamilton.

Love #2, 2012: Painting, interrupted.

I am seeing an orthopedic surgeon later this month about my wonky shoulders. Renovations to our old, crappy house are going very slowly, so as usual my studio is packed with storage. We are living in one room in the main floor. I am also in the thick of an intense but enjoyable graduate program focused on communications, new media and teeming with philosophers both alive and dead. Everyone is smarter and quicker than me. Art is my only hope of surviving this. I always feel like Ethan Hawke in Gattica.

With that being said, my “classical” studio practice is on hold. In the meantime, here is a painting from a unpublished text series in progress. Art Toronto is right around the corner and I am always seeing my art on display by someone else (so to speak) so I figured I better start staking my originality claims while I can.

Love #2

First of many firsts: art practice peering into the distant past

I was honoured to be part of the initial test of the PhotoScopo-recursiveradiogram machine and am very happy to report it worked spectacularly. See below for the very first image from our ancient past:

The very first image of the very first mushrooms on earth.

The very first image of the very first mushrooms on earth.

What we are seeing is a picture of the very first mushrooms that appeared on earth approximately 569 million years ago!

The premise of the machine is simple: it filters light that has been trapped between the moon and earth for eons. Since the moon moves around the earth in every direction, there is enough dark and bright light collected naturally during this time to forensically measure with some very sensitive equipment.

However, even with computers, the process to make a complete PhotoScopo-recursiveradiogram is very time consuming at over several months. No one can be near the machine and even looking at it might damage the equipment as it is apparently very sensitive to organically diverted light. This is not including several years of trying to find the right angle to use and not knowing if there was anything in that spot at that time.

I’ll have some more sneak peeks of our ancient past soon, and these will go into the book. I am very fortunate they choose me to “curate” the first series of backwards-deep scans.

_landsc_APE_: 2012 text work

_landsc_APE #3

_landsc_APE #3 2012, pastel and charcoal on Arches rag paper 30″ x 40″

Visited the Art Gallery of Hamilton today and it’s always worth it.  There’s usually a good selection of text work too, and this time I saw “not wanting to say anything about art”, a multiple plexiglass pane square object with eroded text by John Cage that was very inspiring.

I know that is a confusing description and I wish was allowed to take a photo of it – unfortunately the AGH seems to be one of those places that doesn’t yet put much credence in art bloggers despite my efforts here over the last few years. They don’t send me press releases or media preview invites so I don’t cover their exhibits (yes, I did ask but never heard back. Oh the humiliation).

But it has motivated me to post one of my text works from my new series “_landsc_APE_” – you can see another one here.  I have lots of stencils and vinyl lettering and big stack of rag paper waiting to be worked on, and look forward to completing this series (hopefully) after my shoulder surgery. Hope you enjoy.

p.s. Posting about another current event to lead a relevant online audience to your own content is a type of digital marketing called “Newsjacking”. For example, people searching for the “Play” Exhibit at the AGH in Hamilton, Ontario and with an interest in text art might find a link to this post in Google’s organic search results.  I’ve newsjacked that large and well funded endeavour to capture some relevant eyeballs. I’ll post a couple of more examples of this SEO method for artists soon.

The Artist’s Shoulders #2: Art Stores hate creativity

This is the second in my series about my shoulder problems and how it ties into problems with our health system and perceptions that promote poverty in Canada and thus ultimately the economy … seriously, they are all related and this post outlines a second example of this. 

I’ve just experienced some bad customer service at Curry’s Art Supplies in Hamilton, Ontario. A little while before that, and for largely the same reason, I experienced some bad customer service at Aboveground Art Supplies in Toronto. How does this relate to my shoulder, poverty and health care?

Because some artists work best at small, or medium. As an artist, I’m at my best when I work large.  My drawings and paintings that are large work well, and with my recent digital work this is also true I think – conceptually, when I compose on the computer I am imagining the work as a large scale print.

Unfortunately, with my shoulders, I am not supposed to raise my arms above my shoulders. My left is half-frozen with atrophied muscles and my right *hurts* when I raise it for even a dozen seconds. It really sucks. I’ve literally been fighting off depression because I can’t work the way I want to (more about that in a later post) and I want to work large – I need to work large for what I what to accomplish in my professional practice.

So how to overcome this obstacle? There is a slew of self-help jargon out there that basically states for every closed door there is an open window, and I think this is true – the solution should dove tail with an creative idea and I think I solved it.

I would paint on small squares, a grid, and join them together. Like this test run from an older series a couple of years ago:

oops. mirror image.

oops. mirror image.

In this way, I can create very large works by sitting on a couch and keeping my arms low. I can paint and draw on each square with a well-worked chart and affix them together at the end. I’m really excited about this and have wanted to get started for months. But…

The above little square canvases are actually pretty expensive. About three dollars each and when you multiply that by the seventy panels it comes to $210. If you bought a single canvas of the same size, you are probably looking at about $80. But I can’t do that, because I have bad shoulders.

Ok, so I just need to buy a cheaper square of something to paint on right? No problem, I jump onto the interwebs and look at the options available to me at Aboveground Art Supplies in Toronto. I like this art store – good prices and friendly service – they are usually worth the trip into Toronto.

Hmmm…. they have nice cradled painting panels in a the small square size I need but they are $3.50 each.  Ok, looks like they have a bamboo wood “mount” which are much cheaper and not exactly meant for painting, but they will do nicely. They are about $1.55 each – I can work with that! – but the sizes are rectangular, not square like I need. The closest square ones I can see are still pretty large at 6″ x 6″. I need smaller, so I figure I’ll email and ask if they can order some in.

I get a friendly reply and over the course of some emails back and forth, then a long period of time where I had to prompt the inventory manager as to the status of the request, I get a quote for the 4″x4″ size… at about $3.50 each. Sigh…. when I pointed out I was interested in the bamboo panels they were selling, not the more expensive line that are handmade by a local craftsperson (which is great, but out of my budget for the large amount I want) I got this reply “Those are shipped to us by freighter from Taiwan once a year.” and I have not heard back from this store since. I’m not sure why this was a deal breaker for them. Why can’t I pre-pay for a few hundred of them? What does it matter where they are from or how they get here?

Because this was outside of a routine request for this middle manager. It was easier for him to stop trying to accommodate me than to make an exception for my creative needs. At an art store. Again – sigh. I haven’t heard back from them for a few months now.

So I’m walking by Currey’s in Hamilton today and decide to pop in and see what kind of panels they had. Currey’s can be helpful, and always friendly. Their prices are not that great. The biggest reason I don’t like going in there is the awkwardness of always being confronted immediately with laser focused eye contact and a greeting of “Hi how are you!”. I know this is a corporate script and helps discourage shoplifters – it’s their job to do this but is it my job to respond? It’s so … American. Actually no – it’s too insincere to be American because we Canadian don’t tend to like this kind of loud gregarious behavior when first entering an establishment and this comes through in the employees tone. I just want to look at some supplies.

Anyways, not the employees fault, I look at some of the panels and don’t see the size or material I want so decide to inquire at the front desk about custom ordering. The same employee sort of interrupts me half way through explaining what I need with “No. What you see is what we have. We can’t order anything else in.” Case closed. Ok, she (which is say the store through its policies and training) did not even ask what amount I needed (hundreds in the short term, thousands(?) in the long term) and what she said was very illogical. If one thinks about her response for a second, it make no sense as how do they know what to order and how much to order if requests by customers like me are immediately dismissed? Is there no way to measure supply and demand? Is it a secret way?

Sadly, just like Aboveground Art Supplies my request is slightly different so becomes problematic. That’s why the subtitle of this post is that art stores hate creativity. Remember that public school teacher who conducts art lessons for the kids – but only in special area that is easy to clean up, and only colouring in the lines, and you must cover the entire surface with paint, and you can’t use to much, and it should be happy… any creative worth their salt knows that is actually a way to stifle true creativity and these art stores are no different.

The solution, as many real professional artists know, is to skip these kind of art stores altogether and go straight for the hardware store. I know I should buy a sheet of the kind of light wood I want (because of the way I assemble it, it can’t be heavy) and cut it myself and ground it myself.

But I can’t, because I have bad shoulders.

So I don’t have a pile of small, light wood panels, so I am not producing art. I have not spent any money on this, and cannot sell what I have not made. So I don’t have enough money to buy the pre-made squares or to put an ad on Craigslist or Kajiji offering $3.50 for someone to go buy, cut, ground and deliver these squares for me.

These panels exist, but they might as well be in Taiwan for all that it matters.

It’s a bit frustrating.

*update* Aside from connecting with someone who won’t mind helping me prepare the panels when I am able to get back to studio work, I have considered simply using paper. This may be the best option, but assembling it will be tricky. I need to adjoin each square to the next to support it, and thus the whole grid supports itself. I like the visual wear and sagging this produces, but not sure how this will work with rag paper. I guess it will have to be wire and glue. Maybe something else will occur to me.