Every time I have a show, I talk about how I really need to build myself a “show kit”, a box with all the equipment that is necessary to put up a show and cover for when something inevitably goes horribly wrong. That way, in the future, rather than stressing out and running around last minute, throwing a bunch of tools together and hoping for the best, I can simply grab the box and go.
At this point you might be thinking, “Oh, so Kyle has finally made this box and is going to tell me about it!”
I’m going to show you a video of me griping about not getting around to putting it together. Hopefully by talking about the show kit here, I will find the motivation to build the damn thing in the near future.
Several days ago, I launched the Artist Statement Generator, an online tool that spits out a paragraph of generic meaningless fluffy art language. This project’s background is explained in greater detail in my previous entry, Online Artist Statement Generator. Since posting that article, I’ve corrected a few typos, and added some social media widgets to the page; a facebook “like” button, a google “plus one”, and a flatter “tip jar”. I also added the usual header and navigation links that appear on all of my website’s pages.
After getting this artist statement generator to the point where I was happy with it, I updated my main website, then submitted the page to the popular link-sharing website Reddit. I’ve typically had bad luck with getting my work on reddit; while my comments typically gain a fair amount of positive attention, my submissions are most often ignored. (I guess I don’t have a knack for generating eye catching headlines.) I figured I had little to lose, so before firing my computer down for the night, I shared my project with the art sub-directory, then went to bed.
Last week, Brad and I had a few sales of our photo book, Illuminated Landscapes. Through a complicated series of relatives and acquaintances, the purchaser was able to have the books delivered to me, so Brad and I could sign them.
It’s always flattering to be asked to sign something. (well, I assume it’s always flattering, I don’t really know for certain; this is one of the first things I’ve been asked to sign…)
In the last several months, through a series of flukes and random good luck, I’ve had the opportunity to observe several well-known people in action. One thing that struck me was how cool they were. They weren’t arrogant celebrity divas, they were regular people who, upon meeting me, went out of their way to make a tiny gesture to make me feel cool.
This gave me a brilliant marketing idea: don’t be a dick.
Sometimes, a single word can do more to focus my practice than weeks spent in the studio.
In a recent interview on 99 percent, Francis Ford Coppola talked about some things he has learned about cinema throughout his long career as one of Hollywood’s greatest directors.
“When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word.”
Know the core of the work.
Keep this word in mind while working.
Be able to express the core in a single word when asked.
This was one of those ideas that didn’t really excite me so much as I was reading the interview, but the more I think about it, the more I think that this is a very, very important point.
Continue reading Focus on the Core of the Work
I’ve often heard the expression, “jack of all trades, master of none”. The idea behind this phrase is obvious enough: if I spend my time doing a little bit of everything, I may end up being versatile, but I will never, ever be truly great at any one thing. And if I want to be a great painter, I’d better drop the camera, the audio gear, the camping, the website work, the writing, the wood work, the electronics, and everything else, and just paint.
I’ve been told that if I make a business card, I should only put ‘painter’, and leave out the “photo, video, sound” part. If I make a website for my paintings, I should avoid even mentioning that I also do photography. If I really want to pursue photography, then I should make up a fake name and make a new website for just my photography. I shouldn’t let people know that I like to do more than just one thing. I shouldn’t get distracted by doing more than one thing.
But, is this really good advice to follow? Does a wide focus spread across many fields eliminate the possibility of truly mastering any one of them, or does the knowledge gained in one discipline inform the decisions made in another?
OK, I’ve got to admit it, this post has nothing to do with Christmas, its just a lame attempt on my part to use a catchy title to catch your attention.
As I mentioned before, in “Personal Development Time”, I’m taking some time off from painting to push myself further, to experiment, to explore, and hopefully, to come back with some new work that really blows away what has come before it.
This is a tricky time for an artist, because it is very easy to let this time off turn into a wasteful period where nothing gets accomplished. This happened to me once before. After Graduating University, I wanted to keep pushing my work further, even though it was in a really good place where it was. I pushed it quite far -in the wrong direction. It took nearly two years before I was able to get myself back on track. I don’t want to get derailed like that again.
One massive pitfall that must be avoided at all costs is getting yourself stuck in research mode. Research mode is a very easy place to get stuck, because research is easy, it’s safe; there is no risk of failure, and no end in sight. There is always something else to read; always another idea to absorb; always something new to learn. It feels like real work, so it’s very easy to stay in research mode and feel like you are not wasting time.
But you are.
I find that artists are often drawn towards some very bad ideas; ideas that might seem beautiful or inspiring on the surface, but upon closer inspection are just a load of B.S.
For this reason, I try to stay critical of the new ideas I come across until I see some sort of real-world evidence to back it up. Anyone can have an idea. Any idea can be true or false.
In casual conversation, and in the art circles, some ideas are very popular, or easy to write about, or lead to good-sounding grant applications; but I don’t see popularity as a good reason to hold on to an idea. Testing an idea against nature, and having that idea confirmed by evidence is the only method I know of which ensures that a idea is not wrong.
“Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled” -Richard Feynman
The new idea that I have been mulling over in my head lately is from Seth Godin, and his ideas on marketing. The man is very charismatic, very entertaining. He has a way of explaining things simply and directly, with a certain irreverence towards the traditional way of doing things (sort of like the attitude Kevin Smith has when he describes his interactions with people in the movie industry). It’s the story of the beloved outsider who comes in, challenges the good old boys, and changes everything. He makes it all sound so easy, once you accept that you are going to have to do the work yourself.
This, of course, has my warning flags raised.
“Anyone who is this easy to like has to be wrong”, says the alarm bells in my head.
Continue reading Staying Critical and Selling Stories
I just got back from a series of lightning talks hosted by Site3 CoLaboratory.
What is a lightning talk?
Think of it as a TED talk in fast-forward.
Toronto has a lot of very cool people doing a lot of very cool things. The problem is that most of these people don’t know each other; they don’t know about each other’s work. Wouldn’t it be great if all these interesting people got together one night, gave a 5 minute presentation introducing the work they are passionate about, then they all stuck around for an after party where they could all talk to each other, and actually share ideas and contact information? Well, that is exactly what a lightning talk is. Get cool people together, make them talk to each other.
Continue reading Lightning Talks at Site3
I was recently given a pair of broken headphones. The damage was nothing serious, the right ear had just snapped off. They still worked perfectly fine, so long as I didn’t need my right arm for anything; I needed that to hold the dangling phone up to my ear. The TV station that the headphones originally belonged to has no need for gear that only half-works, so they gave them away.
The design of these headphones makes for a very difficult repair. I’ve had the same problem with this particular brand before. They make great sounding headphones, and great looking headphones, but the ears break off far too easily. I’ve had many broken pares sent my way, and I’ve always tried to fix them the same way; by collecting the broken parts and trying to reassemble the phones from these parts. To reassemble the headphones, I’ve tried epoxy, elastic bands, resin bond, contact cement, melting the plastic parts back together with a soldering iron, and duct tape.
Duct tape works very well – for a day, then they fall apart and I’m back where I started, only now everything is coated in a good layer of duct tape goo.
Elastic bands work for a few weeks, then fall apart.
Epoxy lasts about a month before the flexibility in the plastic causes it to pop off.
Resin bond and contact cement do nothing-there is simply not enough surface area to stick properly.
Melting the plastic back together just gives off fumes that are probably very bad for me, then snaps apart as soon as put them on my head.
In short, all of these methods have failed miserably, and none of these were creative solutions.
Continue reading Finding Creative Solutions