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    December 2009
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John Hughes' painting at a Gallery Quick Draw
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Hints 'n Tips
Fear of Failure
Overcoming a painter's most debilitating emotion
by John Hughes

One of the most debilitating emotions for a painter is the fear of failure. Whatever form it comes in -- fear of starting a canvas, fear of ruining what was initially put down on the canvas (causing one to protect what's there) or fear of finishing a painting -- this emotion is one the artist absolutely needs to overcome.

Fear has its root in the various life experiences of each artist, and the reasons vary, but the net effect is a state of creative inertia that keeps one from achieving a satisfactory result in the painting process. Knowing this, each artist must discover for him/herself a personal solution to the problem. Some helpful questions to ask yourself along with tips for success are as follows:

1- What have I got to lose?
It's just a square of canvas and a few daubs of paint. Buy big tubes and paint on small scraps of canvas-(5x7-6x8). Execute these in one half hour and paint like a millionaire! There is not much of a time or monetary investment here, so doing this will help loosen you up. With some practice, after a while, you will feel more confident on the larger pieces as well (see examples of half-hour studies above).

2- Am I fearful because I think the painting might not be good?
Results are the product of "process." In this case, process involves sound observation and sound execution. To skip the process for results only says that you are not truly painting, just hoping for a masterpiece! Think about that, engage in the process of painting and have fun exploring and learning. The sheer act of painting, if done with understanding, will be as rewarding, if not more so, than the finished product. Remember: observation precedes understanding and understanding precedes execution. Knowing this, each artist must learn the basics -- of drawing, color, value, edges and texture or brushwork. Make a study of these, go after them with a vengeance. This is your key to "process!"

3- Am I fearful because I want others to think I am a good artist and I might disappoint them?
This pressure can be strong when on location and the crowd gathers! Slow down, take a deep breath. Remember the process, which should be your real joy. Lose yourself in the moment, find joy in the journey, a good painting will be the natural result!

Summing up, what have you got to lose? As FDR once said, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." Whether starting, working on, or finishing a painting, force yourself to do it with gusto; breakthroughs usually happen on the cusp of failure. A confident brush-stroke, even if wrong, is always better than a timid one. Jump in and have at it, the only thing you have to lose is your fear!

Opportunity Spotlight
Ballet West collaborates with local artists

As Frank McEntire wrote about in our November edition, non-profits and cultural organizations frequently seek out visual artists to help them out in their fundraising goals. McEntire pointed out that these fundraisers can sometimes have a negative impact on the art community, drawing patrons away from the commercial art market and diminishing the value of an artist's work. Enter Ballet West's "Shoe In," a fundraising event that event organizer Christopher Renstrom believes will be great PR for both the Ballet and the artists; and because "Shoe In" asks the artists to create unique works outside their normal artistic practice, the fundraiser will hopefully be positive for visual artists and their community.

When Adam Skulte, the Ballet's Artistic Director, and Renstrom, his partner, moved to Utah last year neither knew much about the local arts scene. Renstrom says it's always been Adam's dream to collaborate with artists on ballets and since they were doing Cinderella that season Renstrom came up with the idea for Shoe-In. "I suggested that we take a pair of pointe shoes-- since pointe-shoes are iconic of ballet and the glass slipper is so integral to the plot of Cinderella-- and that we approach local designers and artists to see what they would come up with as their 'take' on Cinderella"

Renstrom says the response was tremendous. "We had artists creating shoes in all kinds of mediums. We had shoes in stain glass, shoes made out of metal, shoes in wood, pollymer clay, shoes in quartz, and even shoes in prickly thorns."

The shoes are displayed during Ballet West's season, available to patrons for purchase, with the proceeds going to Ballet West.

"At first no one knew what to make of the Trent Alvey shoes that hung from the second floor balcony of the Capitol theater down to the floor of the lobby," says Renstrom of last year's "Shoe In." "They were weighted down by rock salt, I think, and they reminded me of Olive Oil's long stretchy legs from Popeye. In any case I knew that they would be a hit and sure enough they captured the attenton of the audience and always had a long line in front of them. They were the first to sell and I'm glad to say that they went to a happy home."

Since the first "Shoe In" was so successful Skulte has decided to make it a regular event. He feels it provides great PR for the ballet and terrific exposure for the artists. Skulte's desire to work with local artists doesn't end with this fundraising event. He is also interested in collaborating with Utah artists in creating costume and scenic designs for new productions at Ballet West. "He is hoping to implement this as early as next season," Renstrom says, "and he is looking to choose a collaborator from the terrific bunch of artists from both last year's and this year's 'Shoe In.'"

How it works: Ballet West will provide a pair of pointe shoes to be decorated according to the artist's whim and creativity. Exploring all kinds of mediums and pushing boundaries is encouraged; however, the shoes must be both transportable and non-perishable. Finished pointe shoes will be displayed beginning Friday, February 12, 2010 at all Ballet West performances in the Capitol Theatre and Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, providing local artists with exposure to Ballet West donors and patrons. "Shoe In" creations will also be available for purchase throughout the run of the season with proceeds going to Ballet West. The remaining shoes will then be auctioned off at the Ballet West Fashion show in May 2010. Sketches for shoes must be submitted to submissions@balletwest.org by Sunday, December 20, 2009. The finalists will be chosen by a select committee. For more information on “Shoe In” call Ballet West, (801) 323-6900.

Shoes by Lenka Konopasek

Shoes by Kali Mellus
Shoes by Lenka Konopasek
Shoes by Kali Mellus

To learn about similar art opportunities be sure to regularly check our forums.

Organization Spotlight
Bad Dog Rediscovers America
An interview with Michael Moonbird and Victoria Lyons
by Ehren Clark

Bad Dog Rediscovers America is a grassroots arts organization that is flourishing. From its beginning in 1997 in a small, live/work apartment where it served about 30 low-income youths, the organization now has spacious digs in the Artspace City Center building, serves 2000 students annually with a curriculum that is innovative, exciting and professional, providing tools to help today's youth prepare for an optimistic future. As they prepare for an exhibit at Salt Lake's Main Library this month, Executive Director Michael Moonbird and Program Director Victoria Lyons sat down with us to discuss the past, present and future of the organization.

Victoria Lyons: The initial inspiration [for Bad Dog] was from working in a summer program with Artspace. We saw a need for kids to have art year-round and nothing existed at the time. The initial idea was to be able to provide art primarily to children without access to art, to provide art to 100 percent of low income, underserved children.

Michael Moonbird: Just prior to doing this I went out and made up a sheet introducing business people to our concept, what we wanted to do all year round. I went out and . . . talking to different business people in the local community I raised about $800 in a week and a half to two weeks; so that is initially how we got our start. Our first donation was about ten bucks.

VL: And so it was started out of a two-bedroom apartment; kids would come to the apartment space, it was a very intimate environment. Where most people had their kitchens and living rooms we had art tables and art supplies everywhere.|1|

MM: It was sort of a home away from home. We took a small bedroom and made a loft bed and an office below and a little TV area and that was our space. The rest was basically donated to the program.

VL: It had its upsides and its downsides; the commute to work was very short but you’re kind of at work 24/7.

MM: After that, with Steven Goldsmith, founder and then-director of Artspace, we created an art gallery in our apartment and we were open on Gallery Stroll nights. Steven brought people in on tour that were from the banking community, like US Bank and Wells Fargo; when they saw what we were doing they said to us, "We can help you write a grant for this." The quality of the art that we do with kids was very well received with people. So that's how we started getting involved into how to write grants and that really sparked growth.

VL: What sparked the interest for the kids was being able to work with professional artists, being able to work with real art materials, so rather than tempera and construction paper, we use high quality art materials;|2-3| we provide a wide variety for kids to explore and experiment with so, if the kid isn't into watercolor, they don't have to have the idea that "Oh, I'm not good at watercolor so I'm not good at art."

The Vision
We don't want to impose every child coming in to be an artist. There are those kids that come in and really excel in art and move into that area and we do everything we can to get them into college and art school. There are always different circumstances with every family and child that we work with. They can utilize this to do anything they want to do in any type of career, whatever their goals are.

VL: Art is a vehicle and what we do with kids is not to try and produce necessarily future artists, it's more about helping kids become their best future selves and productive future citizens. The arts teach teamwork, cooperation, life skills and social competencies, problem solving and I think most important is an "I can do it" attitude in life in general.

Victoria Lyons and Michael Moonbird of Bad Dog Rediscovers America
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Seeing the Results:
VL: The important thing about being an artist is being able to show and exhibit your work, so being able to put childrens' art on display as professionally as possible as our budgets permit is important. We want to show their work in venues that are high profile around the city. To introduce children to go beyond refrigerator art, and their families and friends are invited to opening receptions, and it is treated like any professional adult artist. [see below for the next opening]

MM: We have done a lot of strategizing. There are times when we will experiment. We started to learn that it takes a whole different philosophy and strategy to go inside of a school and work in the classroom environment during school hours.

VL: We don't have a set formula when we go into a school; we like to build relationships with the principal, with the teachers, the administration to find out what their needs are and their vision for the school, and we don't have standard projects done over and over again. This is an artist run organization. We have always been hands-on.

MM: We have a vision of working with diverse groups of children of all types and as we expand into our community we are looking at ways we can expand into other communities in the United States and possibly internationally because we've gotten some praise from other people that have gotten to know what we do and how we work. That vision really is about what our mantra is and that mantra is "Imagine, Dare, Create."

You can see the results of one of Bad Dog Rediscovers America's programs this month at the Salt Lake City Main Library. |4-7| The Bad Dog Art Apprenticeship Program is designed for teens that are artistically inclined and can go beyond what they learn in a high school setting. The teens get to work directly with a professional artist in a small group setting in that area of expertise. For this apprenticeship program students learned Comic Art from Bill Galvan (script interpretation, idea sketches, and penciling) and Trevor Neilson (inking techniques) and digital photography from Bruce Hucko. Through the Eyes of Youth by Bad Dog Rediscovers America is at the Main Library from Monday December 14th to February 5, 2010. Public reception: Thursday, December 17, 6:30-8:00 pm.

To learn more about Bad Dog programming visit www.baddogkids.org

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