My annual Holiday Letter!
If the amount of ads landing in my mailbox and the hours of tinny music wafting in the air is any indication, the Great Day of Gift Giving is nearly upon us.
Some of you are behind the eight ball. You’ve postponed your shopping safari for the creative individual in your life and now your heart pitter-pats when you realize you have no idea what to do. Monster storms are bearing down bringing feet of precipitation in its worst forms, all of which will land on your doorstep.
Take a deep breath, I’m here to help.
The following is my handy dandy idea list for those of you who have loved ones who construct, discover and imagine.
(Sadly for you, Handsome Husband is already taken. He’s one of a kind and he’s mine, sorry ‘bout that.)
Otherwise, consider offering -
A quiet space to work. It doesn’t have to have 12 foot ceilings or skylights or north windows - although that would be really awesome. A space all one’s own, even if it's just a comfy chair and a card table, is important.
Acceptance. Of them, of their field, of their output. Of their clutter, their staring while you talk, of their frustrations. And of that chair and card table piled high or piled under.
Time. Time to ponder, time to wonder, time to put down in whatever medium they choose the results of that wondering and pondering. Time to grow.
A self-cleaning work space. (Oooh, I wanna get me one o’ those.) In that same vein, self-cleaning brushes, pottery wheels, pastels, etc etc.
An ear. No, not like Van Gogh. I was thinking more in terms of listening. We creative types need to vent, mostly in a way that lets the fears and frustrations and delights and victories and annoyances out. Even when you have no idea what we’re talking about. Notice I didn’t add ‘advice’ to that. Ears open, mouth shut. To help you out with this, toss in a few open-ended questions. Something like; how do you feel about that? Tell me about…, or how does that..?.
Exhibits. Go! Spend time looking with your sweetie. Use a few of those open ended-questions to find out what they find interesting.
Support. Every now and then say something like, “You can do it” or “you’ll get there”, or the holy grail of support – “I believe in you”. No need to grab your pom-poms and jump around.
Pick one, two, or all of the above. Wrap them in ribbons and a hug. You're welcome.
Today I’m pushing back.
You may have noticed that I keep things pretty light here. It’s not that I don’t have powerful feelings or strong opinions. However, I hesitate to add my voice to the raging judgement factory that is the internet these days. Our measure of angst has been met for the year.
Recently an article was published that tripped my trigger. Three weeks later my trigger is still quivering with indignation.
The issue was how, or even whether to purchase art as a gift for someone. It’s a sticky wicket isn’t it? Collecting art is so very personal. Each patron has their own attitudes about what has value and what doesn’t. I myself enjoy collecting original pieces from artists I know. There’s something really lovely about holding a turned piece by Harold Adams or enjoying a Nicole Gustafsson illustration. A friend loves her entire collection of stuff from the Thomas Kinkade machine. We’ve agreed to get along despite our differences.
Trigger Number One: The author’s conclusion? Because buying something original for a loved one is hard, a museum membership is a better choice. Awful advice on two counts.
Count 1. Any artist I know would be delighted to help you make a choice, create a gift certificate, do damned near anything to get their artwork into someone’s home. The hard working creators I’m familiar with would bend over backward to help you out. Why not give them a chance to do so?
Count 2. A membership to a museum is a fine idea as far as it goes. But it’s a little like a gift card to a big box store. You’re saying, “I couldn’t think of a thing, and you wouldn’t like it anyway. Plus, I’ll never know if you actually use the card, or just scrape your windshield with it. Either way is fine by me”. It’s the (lack of) thought that counts.
And Count 2a – Museums are doing fiiiiiine. With complete respect for any and every art museum in the entire universe, your little donation isn’t going to do much to keep their doors open. It may, however, keep that artist going back to the drawing board.
Trigger Number Two: The author’s conclusion that lovely art isn’t “real” art. Decorative paintings are simply boring, and balanced ceramics are blah. Hm. He would have us believe that our walls should be hung with stimulating (yes), thought provoking (okay), and irritating (huh?) art. His list of artists that we love to hate would include those whose work reflects our capitalist cynical culture, accentuates the awful, stresses the miserable.
Really? Claude, Leonardo, , Mary and Joaquin are only a short list of those who would raise their eyebrows to that. In fact, there would be such an eyebrow raising that hairlines the world over would lift from their moorings.
Dear reader, it’s okay if the artwork you choose does not make you miserable. It’s fine if your new art piece matches your couch. Or your recliner. Or even your curtains. And if it doesn’t match any of those things, that’s okay too. You’re the one who gets to live with it. Positive emotional engagement does not make you a hick.
Before Santa loads his sleigh with membership cards and generic gift certificates, put in a little effort and contact an artist you know. Have a chat and let them know what you’d like. Give them a chance.
Let them bend over backward to make you, and your friends, happy.
I've been sharing the odds and ends of my art life for the last 8 years.