A group mailing arrived here yesterday. A young friend was asking for donations so he could quit his day job and get serious about painting. I told him to keep me informed of his impending cash flow. His request reminded me of a ne’er-do-well rock musician I once knew. When asked if he ever did fundraisers, he answered, “Only if they raise funds for me.”
It’s easy for creative folks to get a feeling of entitlement. I’ve always thought there had to be something in it for the funder as well as the fundee. Advances on future performance have a way, like those notorious sub-prime loans, of non-performing. Grant-giving organizations know all about this.
What’s better for creative folks to dig around in their passions. Doesn’t matter what these are — dancing, kayaking, figure skating, perch fishing, bird watching — as long as they’re sincere. Passion builds connections. Enhancing the personal solvency of the passionate just happens to be a by-product.
Recently, I received a request from subscriber Jeffrey Whiting to join a collective movement called “Artists for Conservation.” They charge you to get in. AFC is a significant way for artists to “support wildlife and habitat conservation, biodiversity, sustainability and environmental education through art that celebrates our natural heritage.” Right down my alley. Five hundred Signature Members from 27 countries are publishing wildlife art books, holding exhibitions and promoting knowledge.
It’s invitational. Your work has to be up to scratch. But just hobnobbing with competent folks like Derek Wicks, Robert Bateman, Eva Van Rijn, Jay Johnson, Pablo Dominguez and Alison Nicholls would be worth the jury and the fees. To give you an idea of some of the work done by AFC members, we’ve put up a selection at the bottom of this letter.
No one likes the idea of sitting with a tin cup and a sign that says “I’m an artist. Feed me.” Better to think about who we can feed. In this day and age there’s a universe of possibilities. Believe me, when artists get into servicing their passions rather than shivering in the rain, good stuff happens.
PS: “We are a collective of like-minded artists who share a common mission.” (Jeffrey Whiting, President and Founder of AFC)
Esoterica: The AFC is a not-for-profit foundation where members share expenses. You can get an idea of the full range of their activities by going here. If you think someone owes you something, the Foundation is offering its 9th Flag Expedition Fellowship and a $5,000 grant for an artist to travel to a remote part of the world to study threatened species or habitats.
Artists for Conservation
by Carol Chretien, USA
I have gotten to the place where my art and giving are one. The magic of this is simple for me… my passion (Art) feeds my compassion for homeless animals (a donation is given from every sale) and that is my Passion & Purpose. I “have” to paint and I “need” to help. I am one very lucky artist. Making art satisfies my own need to create but it also impacts others in the more practical way of a 3-way win… I paint and it sells, a collector has art they love, a homeless animal receives funds for food, shelter or medical care. I am Blessed and that is Art Helping Animals.
Do it with enthusiasm
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada
What colour is the sky in this ‘artists’ world? It is called WORK and it is something artists need to know how to do. I once met a wonderful woman who counseled women about getting out of prostitution. Sadly, she was once a prostitute herself. I was intrigued by this woman because she looked like any dynamic business woman you would see in an office downtown. She told me she always recommended “keeping the regulars, just don’t work on the street.” I thought that was a brilliant piece of advice for anyone trying to “make it.” I graduated from art school in 1988. Since then I have painted and worked steadily on my career as a painter and I have logged over 100 exhibitions. I never know when a painting is going to sell or even if people are going to respond to the “new direction” in my work. But, five nights a week, I put on my black slacks, a pair of black shoes and an apron, screw on my smile and wait on tables. I am good at it and I enjoy getting out of my studio. I would also say to anyone, no matter what you are doing, do it with enthusiasm. What is really loathsome is to sit and listen to some hack artist who obviously hasn’t made it yet, standing there with their hand out and asking the public to “support the arts.” And in this economy, trust me NOBODY HAS SPARE CASH TO SUPPORT THE ARTS! And these days, grants and bursaries are a pipe dream for most of us. What your young artist friend needs is to work hard and dial up the quality of his work and bring people to his paintings.
There is 1 comment for Do it with enthusiasm by John Ferrie
An artist’s dilemma
by Gail Caduff-Nash, Mountain home, NC, USA
This topic of starving artists is provocative. I have sent some of my things to my state conservation groups for their silent auctions and helped them that way. As someone who also wishes she could spend her days painting, and knows that this is her real talent, it is frustrating having to go look for “real jobs” that hardly pay anything anyway — much less for more art supplies and framing materials, or jury fees or publishing costs. It almost makes the somewhat communistic ways of old Italy, where people were born into certain forms of work, and Leonardo got his break through his father’s status, almost desirable. Unless of course you were born unto street sweepers or funeral directors. There’s no answer for this. The government tries to give money to aspiring artists. Private foundations try to help artists. I’ve never asked for any of this. But I’m not producing art right now either and can’t afford to get what I have done ready for market. It is the way it is. If art is someone’s lifelong calling, they’ll find a way to get back to it.
Conservation book makes good
by Valerie Kent, Richmond Hill, ON, Canada
Herbert Pryke, an artist living in York Region in Ontario decided to publish Connecting With Nature and after a juried entry, 20 artists from the region were selected to be in the book. It is a wonderful little art book with lovely quality art works in it. All the profits are being donated to the Toronto Conservation Authority for the protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine, a unique and precious resource. The artists donated the use of their art work and are also giving lots of time for sitting at various venues and shows to promote the book. The book has generated much interest and so there are many venues where the work has been shown and will be yet shown, before the year is up. It is a remarkably selfless and worthwhile project and Herbert has poured love and money at it.
Sharing our talents
by Nancy Holloway
This is a wonderful letter and I couldn’t agree more. I contribute 3 or 4 paintings on a regular basis to charities for fund raising. I even had one person who won one of my paintings call me and ask to see more of my work. That’s certainly not why I do it. I believe we are to share our talents for the good of mankind as well as bring beauty into the world which some may be inspired to purchase. Of course, I’m retired and have an annuity so am not dependent on selling paintings. However, to ask people to support me so I can paint seems to be the reverse of the way I see the situation.
Where’s the entrepreneurial spirit?
by oliver, TX, USA
I always thought of artists as entrepreneurs. Perhaps your young friend should self-publish a book for those who can’t buy a full original piece. Art for the patron or consumer should give something back at least. Then there are grants, residencies and a host of other ways to seek support. Still, at the end of the day, whatever the market will bear. An interesting approach to get a self-funded “residency” or grant. But if he succeeds, why didn’t one of the other approaches work as well. I won’t be surprised if his approach doesn’t work.
(RG note) Thanks, oliver. You were right, it didn’t work. The fellow phoned me today and said a lot of folks wrote to say he had the wrong approach and told him to get lost. He raised less than a hundred dollars and half of it came from his sister. He has decided to cancel his campaign. He is 22 years old and already a rather good painter, so I’m sure he will make it by hard work and application.
Give and get back
by Rob Corsetti, Farmington, UT, USA
Don’t shoot your young aspiring artist friend just because he is young. It has taken me 50 years to learn the more you give the more you get back. It’s an eternal law whether it in your art, relationships or whatever. In charity the more you give and sacrifice — whether time, money or means — it seems to have its own reward.
by Alison Nicholls, Port Chester, NY, USA
I completely agree with your view that artists need to find their passions and pursue them. Not only is this good for any causes the artist may support as a result, but I am confident that it improves the quality of the artists’ work. After all, there is nothing more inspiring than working on what you love.
I discovered this after moving to Africa in 1994. I always enjoyed sketching but had never been inspired to pursue art on a regular basis. Moving to Africa changed all that. I know it is a cliche but I fell in love with the bush, the wildlife, the space and the colors. I found myself sketching on every bush-trip and over the following nine years my watercolor style developed. I now live in the US, paint African wildlife full-time and return to Africa on an annual basis. I now use my wildlife art to raise awareness of endangered species and funds for African conservation organizations. I joined Artists For Conservation and in 2007 I was awarded their 5th Flag Expedition, spending 6 weeks at the Painted Dog Conservation project (PDC) in Zimbabwe, tracking and sketching endangered African Wild Dogs. It was a fantastic opportunity and just this week I was lecturing about the expedition at the Explorers Club in Manhattan along with Gregory Rasmussen, Director and Founder of PDC. I achieved all this as a direct result of painting what I am passionate about. It’s a win-win situation. I paint what interests me most and I help support great organizations. But in addition to this, I have found a wider following for my work because there is nothing more obvious to an audience than someone who is passionate about what they do.
There is 1 comment for Win-win situation by Alison Nicholls
Contribution through books
by Judy Reinsma, Saugus, CA, USA
In addition to enjoying painting I write children’s books. A book I wrote and illustrated, The Legend of Wunderbar. It’s about a horse with antlers and is set in medieval Europe. I have donated copies to various youth groups, horse rescue groups, etc for their fundraisers. I also attend events at local schools where I sell books and donate a portion of the proceeds to their library fund or whatever they need. This has opened up a world of contacts and good will and I find that it comes back later in sales of my book.
Obviously an artist would not donate original art of great value to charity, but signed prints, small pieces etc that are given to charities, especially silent auctions, usually provide lots of publicity and an opportunity to advertise you and your work. You can build interest in your art that way and also good will recognition in your community. Most important, your art will be seen by folks who may not frequent galleries, but appreciate and hopefully will buy art. Yours!
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by Mark Brennan, Whitehill, Nova Scotia, Canada
One of the reasons I paint apart from my own personal passion for wild places, is to bring people back in touch with nature, to get them to think about their own place here on earth and to motivate them towards lessening their environmental footprint, and perhaps even to get them involved in a cause, for good. Yes I know, idealistic perhaps!
If you look at some of Canada’s brightest landscape and wildlife painters, there is an underlying trend they all share; they are passionate about what they paint. When you are passionate about something, you will work towards protecting it. I think we, as artists, have a responsibility to see a deeper meaning in our work other than simply cashing the cheques.
I have spent years convincing government and forestry corporations to protect significant habitat here in Nova Scotia, along with others, and because of our efforts there are about 15,000 hectares of Acadian Hardwood Forest protected that would have been sent to the mills. When artists have passion for the things that move them, the good we can do is endless. Aldo Leopold wrote, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
An artist’s passion for something is one of the greatest gifts; it motivates us, moves us and most importantly provides us with an opportunity to work towards a better world by doing something that is right, something that preserves instead of destroys.
To comment on the young artist asking for a handout: My advice to him would be to seek out what he is passionate about and just paint. He will learn more about himself from his errors, his hard work and struggles than any handout could teach him. Without hard times, how can we appreciate the good times?
Needs, wants and desires
by Fred Asbury, Memphis, TN, USA
Your article only addresses part of the congregation. There are folks in great need that are talented but underfunded who cannot join organizations like you suggest. I, for example, am a fine art photographer/painter with talent but living in poverty. I work 20 hours per week at the only job I can find driving a bus after school for kids at risk. This amount of income qualifies me for a $200 per month live/work space (25% of my take home income). My car is paid for so I have no car payment but I commute 65 miles to work 4 days a week so I do have car expense. I eat modestly going out to eat very seldom. I buy clothing at thrift stores. You can see that I am not a person that can afford to pay any fees to belong to an exclusive art organization or even pay them to survey my work to see if it is acceptable.
I only have one option open to me now. That is to show my work wherever I can find places to show (and I do network as much as I can). I have 17 images prepared on CD and ready for the printing of my next show. This will be my 12th one man show. The budget for the show is $4,000 covering printing, framing, and publicity. Where will this money come from?
I am not alone in my plight. Many evolving artists are in the same boat: Talented, ready, but underfunded. I have been at this for nearly 10 years now. I am not discouraged and remain very positive that success will come. I do not appreciate articles that thwart efforts to attain funding from donors. Yes, there have been abuses and there have been many untalented bums that just want a handout but many years ago when you were an emerging artist, if lady luck had not intervened in your endeavor to become a successful painter then maybe you would still be where I am today. I am not saying you are not deserving but you have to admit that good fortune has smiled on you. I am not asking for a handout. I am willing to share financially in my success. Who is going to step up to assist the emerging artist?
There are 4 comments for Needs, wants and desires by Fred Asbury
Opportunities in asking
by Kittie Beletic, Dallas, TX, USA
Asking for a handout is different from asking for help. When your back is against the wall and it feels as though you are sinking fast, what should you do?
Open your mind and heart. This is practical advice. Someone, a very long time ago, spread the word that there are only a couple of ways to see. Not true. As artists, we have only to experience an accidental drip onto a near-finished painting to understand there is more than meets the eye.
Learning to rely on our talent requires a sense of self-trust. It requires confidence which most often comes through experience. If we don’t try, it won’t happen at all.
There are ways of getting what we need without money. Barter is a fine way to make an exchange. What can you do for someone in exchange for money or for a service you need? De-limit your mind and heart and see what opportunities come your way… or are directly in front of you!
Artists who understand how creativity works know that critical thinking skills can be applied to anything! Embrace the words Infinite Possibilities and begin to make a list of who you know and who they might know to help you. Ask questions. Attend meetings related to your work. Volunteer already painted works for a benefit and ask to be invited or highlighted. Open your studio/home for a few classes to the public or a specific organization (church, school, neighborhood group). Start a blog and explore the networking possibilities.
Reaching out doesn’t have to be related to charity or entitlement. It works best when you come in the spirit of sharing — giving and receiving. When the intention is pure, it works, ABRACADABRA, like a charm!
Bebedouro City – Piazza
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Peter Beckett of Flesherton, Ontario, Canada, who wrote, “If artists are creative and intelligent they might try to prove it by coming up with solutions to the problems that are more than adequately identified. Pointing the finger and blaming someone else only raises the level of hostility. At this point, the ‘truth and reconciliation’ model might be worth a try.”
And also Uri Sec of Kiev, Ukraine, who wrote, “Artists in privileged societies where opportunities fall from trees even in bad times have no idea what’s going on.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Artists for something…