Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Burned Out Austrialian Artists Need Our Help

Dear fellow & sister artists,

In February we all watched in horror while much of the Australian province of Victoria went up in flames. While that was horrible enough, it got worse: the town of Marysville, Victoria, is an artist's haven. Every gallery, studio, wooden sculpture garden, brush, canvas, oil, pen -- everything went up in flames. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of art and every art space is gone. All. Gone. In a blink of an eye. There was no time to save anything.

We have a chance to help. A sister artist, Wyn Vogel (no relation) and I have joined together to create ART - "Art Recovery Together" Wyn lives in Brisbane and has lots of contacts in Marysville. She has contacted the local art group, the Yarra Valley Arts Council (YVAC) to find out what artists need. They need EVERYTHING. The YVAC is helping us coordinate.

For three months, from April 1 to June 30, Wyn is turning over her website to collect art for sale, the proceeds will help buy art supplies, replace equipment, anything they need that helps artists start working again.

We need your help and your donations. The donating artist will email me with a jpg, sale amount, how much of sale amount will benefit ART, (at least 50% please!) and the estimated shipping cost (to US and to AU). We will put them on the web site and publicize the on-line event. If your piece sells, we will contact you with information on shipping. All family-friendly work is requested.

Basic info:

1. Jpg files should be about 900k
2. Send up to 5 views of each work. Fewer is better but send what you need to show the work
3. Include your name & contact information, website, size and medium of work
4. Short bio (no more than 3 normal sentences). You can include your picture.
5. Send all information to

This project has been backed by the Regional Arts Council of St. Louis and by the Yarra Valley Arts Council in Australia. Both Wyn and I are putting our reputations behind it, for what that's worth. Wyn's work can be seen at

This has taken Wyn and me a couple of months (mostly Wyn!) to jump through hoops and get permissions to proceed. It's not too late! Thanks for any help you can give our fellow and sister artists who have lost everything -- including their art. Let's get them creating again.

Please send this to EVERYONE who can help. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Thank you!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Buying Handmade

I finally did it. I opened the Etsy shop.

If you don't know about Etsy, I encourage you to explore it. Etsy provides artists a venue to display and buyers to discover small hand-made treasures. Most of the work there is inexpensive, ranging from $10 - $100.

It's the place to go for a special gift. It's the place to go to support an artist. It's the place to go to buy hand-made.

I'm happy to see our culture returning to an appreciation of fine hand-made things. I've given hand-made gifts for years: note cards, pottery, knit scarves. Most people appreciated them -- some didn't. The ones who didn't thought I was being cheap. The ones who did loved that I spent time creating something just for them.

When I want a gift, I love buying finely crafted hand-made gifts. Of course, not all hand-made is created equal but the best hand-made
  • is fair trade. I'm buying from the artist or the artist's agent.
  • often is local. Not many resources are spent in shipping. Lots of the materials are local too.
  • supports a fellow artist. Lots of us support ourselves our families from the work of our hands. We appreciate our patrons.
  • preserves the craft and allow us a glimpse of other cultures and other peoples.
  • introduces me to the artist. There's something special about owning or giving a gift when there's a personal connection to the maker -- even if the connection is a short email or phone call.
  • reminds us of our values. Integrity of work, quality materials, customer service. No one's work is exploited in my studio. (Ask my intern. I think I'm fair. If not, I'll correct it!)
  • is special and comes from the love of the work. That shows in the items created.
Every other generation or so, as a people we return to our roots. We pick up the basket reeds and clay lumps amd charcoals and needles and begin to create for ourselves again. I'm sorry that sometimes it takes an economic downturn for us to reject all the over-packaged, grossly-advertised store-bought, but I'm glad we're getting there again.

Hand-made is special. Hand-made is holistic. Hand-made is sustainable.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You Know What You Should Do.....?

Sunflower II, Mixed Media Painting, ©2009 Jeane Vogel, 16x16

Is there a connection between artists being told what to do and the banality of most art seen in public places in the US? Bear with me here.

The connection might be called Unsolicited Advice.

I seem to get it all the time. Strangers walk into my studio, look around. "You know what you should do..." Then it begins.

A fellow artist walks into my studio. "You know what you should be doing ...?" No, you do that. That suggestion has nothing to do with my work.

I'm not saying that I don't like input and advice. In fact, I often ask for it and get terrific responses. Sometimes I don't like the suggestion, but it might give me pause and force me to understand why I'm not heeding it. (As an aside, if I need my ego fed, I ask advice from my husband. He seems to think everything I do is wonderful. How cool is that?)

What I truly don't understand is why do people insist on telling me what I should be doing. Do I look incompetent? Do I seem confused or aimless? Did I ask for advice? Am I your student?

Unsolicited Advice. It makes you question your judgment, censor your thoughts, keep your work safe.

Or, are you telling me what art to produce because you don't like my work? Don't understand it? It's not what you expect? Ok. Tell me that instead.

A Buddhist friend tells me that I get so much unsolicited advice because I'm always giving it. Well, that should stop, shouldn't it? OK, I'll work on that, but there's something more.

Do we really want all art to look alike? Are we so narrow or limited or lazy or stupid that we have to be spoon fed only paintings of little girls holding a bouquet, or a sailboat on the sea, or a field of sunflowers. I've created art with all these things, but this is all we can do? Can't we create something that forces a viewer to spend more than 5 seconds with it before moving on?

Art should spark a conversation, link to another idea, inspire an action, even just solicit a smile. I'm not saying that every work produced has to be important or controversial or political. Our art should not just fade into the wall.

Take a look around at your bank, your hotel lobby, your dentist's office. Do you notice the art? If not, ask why it's there. I don't think we really want everything the same. We don't want to be told what we should be doing.

Monday, March 09, 2009

f8 & Be There

Those of us who began studying photography in the dark ages (read: darkroom ages) had this adage drilled into us. f8 and be there!

It means that the photographers who get the "best" pictures are those who have their camera set on a medium aperture (f8) to compensate for focusing errors (no auto-focus in those days), and are there -- at the spot they are supposed to be.

What it really means is, "be prepared." There's also an element of luck involved. Now, I've was a Girl Scout until I was kicked out at 13 (another story) and I've been a GS leader for 8 years. I'm a mom. I know all about "be prepared" and the value of "luck!"

I started thinking about what "f8 and be there" could mean for all artists today. It struck me that "f8 and be there" is the old photographer's shorthand for daVinci's 7 Virtues of Life for Artists.

Note that DaVinci didn't call these the "virtues of artists" but the virtues of LIFE for artists. I think what he is telling us is that talented artists who do not live in the world, experience the world, interact the world, comment on the world and struggle to fix the world are artists who are wasting their talent on self-indulgence and ego.

I've had daVinci's 7 Virtues, with my interpretations, posted in my studio for years:

Curiosita -- an attitude of curiosity of continuous learning. It's the "what, when, where, why & how?" of living.

Dimostrazione -- an ability to learn and to test by knowledge by experience. Have an experimental nature.

Sensazione -- a development of awareness and refinement of sight and other senses. Be alert. Be aware. Use all the senses to experience the world.

Sfumato --think the way you paint. Overlay. Blend. Have a tendency to embrace and accept uncertainty, ambiguity and paradox. Be a free thinker.

Arte/Scienza -- a develop a balance between science and art, logic and imagination. Use the whole brain. Think. Create.

Corporalita -- have a calculated desire to achieve poise, fitness and ambidexterity. Be physical. Take action.

Connessione -- recognize that all things are connected. Life, art, politics, people, nature, commerce, faith.

Thanks, Leonardo.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Let's Bring Back the Patronage System

Anyone who has been to Florence or Rome, or who stayed awake during the Art History class slide shows, has seen the splendor that was created during the height of Europe's golden age for artists. The 15th and 16th century in Europe was awash with money and princes and aggrandizement. The work was bold and new and demanded to be seen and discussed.

Ever wanting to best their peers, the elite hired hired artists, kept them on the payroll and commissioned grand work that still takes our breath away 500 years later. I haven't set foot inside the Medici Chapels since 1982, but given the chance I will gush on for 20 minutes about the detail and beauty and exquisite workmanship of the floor-to-ceiling mosaics.

It was an era of full employment for artists. Patrons paid, artists created.

Not that all was good, of course. Your patron had to like the work you created for him. Many a tortured artist was forced to produce pedestrian art to please the master. If not, you might be discharged -- permanently.

Diego Rivera experienced the pain of the displeased Patron in the '30s when Rockefeller destroyed the commissioned mural because it was too revolutionary. Rockefeller knew who Rivera was, right? Did he think that Diego would paint a mural of the benign industrialist? Or maybe dogs playing poker?

There are some who believe that we have a patron system in place right now: it's called the University. Artists teach and produce work. Some are no more satisfied with the new Patron system, than with the old. Though few art professors lose their heads if they get a negative review.

So here's my challenge. Let's bring back the Patronage system. Let's be active in seeking out matches for artists and collectors, companies and institutions. Let's be generous with our knowledge of each others' work. Let's encourage businesses to take down the anonymous, boring, beige mixed media abstracts and pretend-watercolors of sailboats, and replace them with work that will make people stop and look -- and want to come back to the business to look again.

The Patronage system filled 15th century Europe with beauty and majesty and work worth of comment. It's time we do the same in 2009 everywhere.