Part of our philosophy here is that anyone has what it takes to be an artist. You don’t need to be formally trained—although sometimes that helps—to express yourself in an artistic way.
That’s why we make our studio space open to any and all do it yourself artists on our “Do It Yourself Weekends.” These do it yourself art weekends happened roughly once a month, but sometimes the space is too busy to allow that so sometimes it’s only once every other month.
The idea behind them was simple. We have tons of artists within our community who love creating art, but they don’t always have the ability to go out and purchase all of the equipment, the accessories, and they wouldn’t know exactly how to set it up even if they did. So how can we get these artists, who are dying to produce their work, into our studio space? That’s where the “Do It Yourself Weekends” came into play.
Once a month, or once every other month, we open up our studio space to the full neighborhood, and for a nominal fee you can use all of the equipment. We usually charge around five dollars for an entire day of studio time. Where else can you find a deal that good? And obviously word has gotten out because the last few weekends we have had so many people we’ve had to put some time restrictions on certain activities.
These weekends are great because they solidify a community of local, independent artists. Our do it yourself weekends aren’t just about making art, although that certainly was the catalyst to start them. They’ve not turned into something much more. Locals will come in just to get a glimpse of what’s going on and see a few artists at work. They may buy a few pieces from the gallery upstairs or they might go out back to the BBQ.
That’s right. Our little gatherings of local artists have gotten so big that we actually have cookouts now. It’s not a continual cookout obviously, but either Friday evening or Saturday afternoon we will have a cookout for all of the people who are milling around. It keeps them interested longer, and the smell of the food actually helps attract people from the area too.
All in all, it’s a great event that is well worth the time and effort to put it together. We have sculptors, painters, printmakers, graphic designers, and just about any other kind of artist you can think of. You name it and odds are they are here.
Our next objective is to try and organize a block party weekend at all of the surrounding businesses so that we can generate more attention for everyone. A few of the local businesses are closed on the weekends when we have these, but if we could get some of them to stay open and have a full block event, the exposure would be great. I’m sure it will be a great success and after our initial run, we’ll have even more local businesses joining in.
Inspiration. What does it mean? The answer to that question is different for every person alive. Some people get their inspiration from the strangest places possible—especially artists.
I recently ran across an art collective who claims they organize a yearly camping trip to get inspiration for their work, and I was very interest. So, I pulled one of the artists aside to see if I couldn’t get a little more information, and here’s what I was able to uncover.
Surviving Outdoors as an Artist
As you might imagine, the outdoors, trees, rivers, etc., are a big subject matter for artists. The landscape is a classic subject matter that never goes out of style and artists regularly use nature as an inspiration for their work.
But, according to the artist that I spoke with, very few artists know what it’s like to be in nature. They see it from their windows, for airplanes, from other pictures, etc., but none of them have experienced nature.
I thought this was an interesting point. How many of us could actually go out and experience nature, survive in the wild with just a few hand tools. This is what this art collective is aiming to do.
It’s part of a new and growing trend called “method art creation.” Similar to method actors who take on the role of their character during the entire film or recording process, these artists want to go out and experience what it is like to live in nature to get inspiration for their art.
They are making it a week long trip, so every person brings nothing more than what they can carry on their person. In other words, they brings bugout backpack and anything that doesn’t fit, doesn’t get brought. See more about how difficult this is to accomplish.
Art Produced from Survivalism
My next question to the artist was, “How does this process affect your artwork?” I thought that experiencing the harshness of nature, that it might make for darker pieces with a lot of negative or dark tones involved, but he said it really depends on the trip itself.
If the trip was nice and sunny, then it usually makes for brighter pieces, but if it ends up raining or storming, they obviously the pieces are affected.
I’m not sure if I would ever do a trip like this. I mean, I enjoy hiking and occasionally camping, but I don’t think I would ever be able to survive in the wild. Drinking water like a real survivalist straight out of the river would be tough. I don’t know if they have any kind of water purification or not, but even eating food would be tough.
Most people bring one of two emergency food bars, but those only last a day or two and they are outdoors for up to seven full days.
It might be a little extreme for me, but these artists are definitely committed to their craft and I can’t wait to see some of the work produced from their latest trip.
I was recently visiting family in the Chicago area and saw an interesting flyer I thought I’d let my readers know about.
As I’m sure many of you know, Chicago is one of the hardest hit communities from gun violence in America, yet it rarely receives much attention from those usually calling for tighter gun control regulations.
Well, the locals are taking matters into their own hands since the rest of the country has seemingly forgot about them—or so the flyer says.
Donating Money to Charities
There is a large group of local artists who are looking to raise funds to support those families affected by the terrible gun violence plaguing the city and the entire surrounding area. There are sometime 10-15 murders a day on the streets of Chicago from gun violence.
All of these children have families: mothers, fathers, grandparents, and usually siblings.
What is left of these families that are being torn apart due to gun crimes? Artist have banded together to sell their work and donate the proceeds to local charities that help out the victims.
Beyond their role in helping victims financially, they also want to see some reforms take place that help prevent these kinds of crime. Due to a recent Supreme Court ruling, Chicago can no longer outright ban all handguns, which is what the artist say they would prefer, but they have a second best option they would like to see implemented.
I met up with one of the artists to talk about their plan.
More Secure Gun Safes are the Answer
In order to stop gun crimes and prevent future deaths, we need to make absolutely certain that guns are not being stolen and trafficked throughout the streets of our city.
Marcus Gill, a local artist, says requiring gun owners to safely and securely store all of their firearms in a large wall gun safes is one possible solution to the gun crime epidemic.
“A lot of these guns are being stolen and robbed from people’s homes. If we lock them up inside the house, these criminals won’t be able to get them. That will keep huge amounts of guns off the streets,” says Gill.
Some self-proclaimed “second amendment advocates” say this will do nothing but harm law-abiding citizens who legally own firearms for self-defense.
“If you make everyone lock their guns up in their homes, how will they be able to protect themselves in the event of a robbery? The answer is, you won’t. You are preventing men and women from keeping their children safe,” says Steven Willard, a pro-gun local.
Willard says he isn’t opposed to using high-security gun safes to protect firearms. In fact, he says he owns many quality liberty safes and other brands where he secures most of his guns.
But requiring all of them to be locked up at all times he says will not stop the crime problem and it will only hurt families trying to protect themselves.
None of this changes the wonderful act, however, of these local artists, who are selling their artwork and donating all of the proceeds to local charities.
People are suffering and these artists are doing what they can to help.
Artists have long used their medium to encourage and facilitate social change. This is part of what makes art edgy and provocative. Even today, artists throughout the world are making bold steps and statements for human rights.
Chinese artists have long called for free speech and ability to criticize the government.
This is something so many American don’t truly appreciate and take for granted: the ability to use their medium for any kind of artistic expression for which they choose. All throughout the world, governments censor the speech, the press, the arts, of everyday citizens. This leads to a lack of expression, a lack of thought, and a lack of culture generally, all of which are fundamental elements of the artistic process.
California Artist Gather Against Fracking
Given their long history of advocating for social change, it’s natural that artists in America, given their wide rights of freedom of speech and expression, would still be protesting what they see s injustices in there country, in society, and in their neighborhoods.
Recently a group of California banned together to protest fracking, which is a process of extracting natural gas and oil through high pressure well-stimulation.
The artists want to ban the drilling technique, which they view as harmful to the environment, but unlike most protests in modern America, these artist were not just protesting something, they were also making a stand for something else.
Too often protests are just “against” something and are never “for” anything. They are just “anti” events full of negativity and offering no solutions. This was not the case at the recent California artists rally.
Advocate for Water Softeners State Wide
While fracking was the specific issue that brought these artists together, they have since come out in favor of Fleck home based water softeners for every home in the state of California.
With the recent drought in California, they say that by providing each home its own reverse osmosis water filtering system the state will be able to save millions of gallons of water annually. If you can’t change the conditions of water falling from the sky, your next best bet is to change the uses of that water.
Governor Brown has made several steps to curb the use and consumption of water in California, but the protestors say none of them will be as affective as requiring all businesses, hotels, and private residents to use water softening systems in their home.
The systems will more efficiently and effectively distribute the water throughout private homes and restaurants statewide, and since the home is where most water is used, it only makes sense to limit how much water people can use in their homes with their families and children.
So far the artists have not been successful in their call to ban fracking on a state-wide basis or for softeners for all homes and businesses. They have, however, been successful in getting several cities and municipalities to ban fracking completely within their limits.
This is seen as a big step in the right direction and half-way to the end goal of giving each home access to clean water that is filtered and free of any bacteria, germs, and pollutants.
Art and beer? Why not?
That’s what a few local artists are saying in the Portland, Oregon region and it’s quickly becoming a regional sensation.
I recently took a trip down to Portland to visit some friends and enjoy the city. The Pacific Northwest is one of my absolute favorite areas in the country. The people are so energetic and full of life, there is always something going on and places to go, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous.
And the nice thing about Portland is it’s right by another one of my favorite cities to visit-Seattle.
Anyway, I was up there on a recent trip and I saw a bunch of artists outside painting, sculpting, and freehand drawing surrounded by beer.
This obviously isn’t something you see everyday, so I had to go investigate, and the story is pretty incredible.
As it turns, out there are things called a craft beer club that send out different beers to a list of subscribers each month. These people pay a monthly fee to be on a distribution list and each and every month they get a new case of beer sent to their house.
No, this isn’t a new case of Budweiser; it’s a new custom, craft beer that most people wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience because of the regional distribution of so many breweries.
So, how does this relate to local artists? Well, a group of brewers who started out making beer in their basements with homebrew kit supplies they cobbled together from friends had recently got picked up into a large beer of the month catalog.
For their premiere run, they wanted to include something special into each of the cases—a custom piece of art that was specific and unique to their hometown and their brewery.
So they enlisted a bunch of local artist for a day of fun, food, art, and beer to celebrate this new milestone of success for their business. It was really cool to be able to experience it. There was probably a few hundred people that turned out for the event, which lasted 3 to 4 hours (and I got there well into it).
The entire event was really a microcosm of why I like Portland so much. All of the businesses, all of the artists, all of the citizens, they are all intertwined. They all form a larger community that interacts and supports everyone else.
While most people wouldn’t necessarily or automatically associate beer and art together, the brewery nonetheless thought to bring in the artist community for their new accomplishment.
Not only does this help the artists, but it also helps the brewer because the event turned into a big day for business. I mean, look at me. I had never heard of this brewery before. I had never been there before. If I hadn’t seen such a strange site outside when I walked passed, I probably wouldn’t have ever gone there.
But, as a result of their event, I went there, bought some beer, and even made a few purchases so I can make beer at home with my friends.
Portland is a great example of where local artists and businesses work together to create a great atmosphere for both.
As any good student of art history knows, fine art isn’t something limited to the West. In fact, the ancient art that has come from the Orient far predates anything found in Europe.
My love and appreciation for all theses art was the primary motivating factor that led me to teach English abroad—and to go somewhere that was a distinctly foreign culture to my own. Being the son of European immigrants, most of Europe did not fit this description, as I have been there numerous times to visit family members and do some sightseeing.
However, I have never been anywhere in Asia. I had never been to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or anywhere else. Everything was completely foreign to me—and that was precisely the appeal of it all.
Now that I had the idea in my mind to do some traveling abroad, the next hurdle that presented itself, was how am I, a struggling artist living in San Francisco going to afford my way all the way to a different country to take in their culture and art in any meaningful way?
After doing some digging, the answer appeared to me with bright lights, clear as day. I found a number of organizations that offer PAID programs to teach English in Hangzhou and elsewhere.
There it is! That’s the ticket! Are you telling me that I can actually get paid to go overseas, live out a lifelong dream, and learn all along the way? Sign me up.
It didn’t take much time at all and I was on my way to mainland China to teach a classroom full of eager students who wanted to learn how to speak and write in English. Don’t get me know, this wasn’t something that just anyone could do. I always excelled in English, all throughout high school and college. And, in fact, I have a minor in creative writing, so this was something that was right up my alley. But, all in all, if you get the certification to teach English in Baotou, and you meet all the other requirements, you can do the same thing.
So, off I was to a new land, full of learning, adventure, and a new culture I had never experienced.
After teaching for a few months, a few of the other schools affiliated with my placement organization came together to have a mid year teacher meet up. It was great to get together with other teachers who are doing this for the first time, just like me. I spoke with some of the teachers from the programs to teach English in Nanjing, China and they had many of the same experiences that I had, which was reassuring to hear.
When you are new at something, you wonder if it’s just you making the mistakes or having the problems or questions that you do, but really everyone is thinking the same thing. It’s never easy your first go at something, so it was great to connect with these other teachers to hear about the experiences they had with their students.
Even though I’m not quite done with the program yet, I have been to so many different art museums and exhibitions. China and the surrounding regions are scaling up big time the amount of money they invest in cultural activities, so it is a booming place to be. Very exciting stuff!
The modern world of art goes way beyond the traditional studio. Art and design is in everything that we do, own, and operate. Companies like Apple take great pride in their designs and the fact that they hire artists with all types of backgrounds. In fact, Steve Jobs has been quoted as saying the best programmers, computer technicians, and creative people are artists. People who paint, draw, play music, and create designs work on much more than art projects.
This month I had the opportunity to talk with a local artist who is partnering with two companies that specialize in creating professional review courses for the CPA exam. Todd worked with Gleim CPA review and Fast Forward Academy on their newly redesigned courses in an effort to modernize them and bring them up to date for the next generation of certified public accountant candidates.
Todd started his project with Gleim. They were in the process of designing a user interface that allows CPA candidates the ability to access their study questions, quizzes and videos while reading the textbook. This is an important design feature that allows users to access all areas of the review course at once. Todd said that his experience as an artist was essential for this new project. His eye for design helped him organize a layout for the course that would accomplish everything. He was also asked to help redesign the Gleim cpa review discount books. Needless to say they loved his work and are in the process of planning a new project for him.
Gleim isn’t the only company that was impressed with Todd’s work however. Fast Forward Academy is a newer professional review course company that is trying to establish itself as one of the most modern companies in the industry. They strive to provide the best user interface and sleek design that will allow students to learn and remember information faster. Although Todd hasn’t started work with FFA, he is in the process of working out a deal with the company to start their first project together. The Fast Forward Academy cpa study course will no doubt increase its market share because of Todd’s great work.
As you can see, there is a need for artists of all kinds outside of the traditional art communities. Who else is going to design mainstream products, websites, and services other than true artists? An engineer or accountant would be able to create something so beautiful that consumers want to purchase and use it. Only artists can do this. So for all of you reading this with no idea where their art education and background can lead them; think corporate America. Think tech companies. Think outside the box. There are opportunities for all of us out there.