I'm not the Immortal Artist. You are

Immortal Artist is dedicated to exploring all aspects of experimental art and creating new and innovative techniques which other artists can use to strengthen their own work.

The blogs creator, experimental artist Grey Cross pursues and discusses art across a wide spectrum of artistic mediums. They include painting, sculpting, body art, digital art, and photography. With an emphasis on teaching artists to utilize today's social networks to further their own art and reputations.

This blog uses the Living Blog concept, an idea created by Grey Cross

Grey Cross Studios/Immortal Artist Operations

New Orleans

Email: greyacross@aol.com

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Moon & The Marketing - Daily Log for 07-30-15

Finally, as seen above, David's Luna is completed. 5 feet across, this piece took about 14 hours just to spread the wax that forms its color. Getting this finished has been my main goal tonight. Being so large its taken up a lot of studio space over the past few weeks. So will be glad to move on to something new.

The intern training to take place today had to be postponed due to heavy storms yet again in the area. So it gave me a bit more time to work on this.

The other project of the day has been installing an ordering system for my inventory. This is something that my website has desperately needed and I've been lax about putting in place.

I cannot stress to other artists the importance of keeping a great inventory system of your art images. We pay attention to making sure the actual art is stored properly, but we pay much less attention to our inventory systems.

Mine encompasses approximately 300 pieces of work that include paintings and sculptures. But much worse than that is the accumulated inventory of thousands of images taken over the past 13 years. Images that are broken down into different series that all need names, ID numbers, pricing, etc. I've always considered myself a well organized person where it comes to my inventory, but it is truly challenging lining it all up to place on the newly redesigned website and getting all priced and into the buying system. I suspect I'll be at it for months.

This all part of the daily experience of operating a serious art studio and making the most of what you create. This is something I'll be teaching the interns soon so they start out on the right path towards maintaining their work.

Tomorrow are model interviews for an upcoming body sculpture project.

That is all for tonight. I am so tired I can barely type this, but my promise to myself is to create a meaningful daily blog even if I do it half asleep! On towards another day.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Need to Just Create - Daily Log for 07-29-15

Click to Enlarge

Some days are so hectic that if you don't take time to just stop and create you burn yourself out. Today began with several hundred emails to sort. I hit the ground running the moment I got into the studio. With two hours to get my administrative work out of the way before working with one of the interns. 

Mentoring is not an easy task. It takes focus and patience to bring an intern that shows promise but little basic knowledge of art to a better understanding of the path they wish to take. I know that some teachers pound a basic understanding of the artistic greats into their students. So when we began talking about some of the styles of painters of the early 20th century and my intern had no clue who Jackson Pollock was, I knew I needed to chuck the rule book out and focus on showing him the art of Pollock and not Pollock himself. Face it, the names don't mean much. The style and the quality of an artists work is what is crucial. So we spent an hour just talking about style and the mental condition of Pollock especially in his final days. 

Understanding the madness that makes some artists great is important. I think it shows us greater insight into a persons work than understanding how they held a brush does. 

So the session ended with a hell of a storm coming in over the city. An already harried day was added to by flooded streets and winds bad enough to knock down part of the hurricane shrine outside of the studio. 

So by the time my evening work time arrived I felt like the day had already been 30 hours long. I made the attempt to work. I looked at a colleagues wonderful new art site. I began writing a blog article on mental illness and artists but decided my own mental state wasn't in a place to write on it tonight. I worked with more wax on the David's Luna painting to prepare it for tomorrow nights intern. But it was all done in a bit of a fog. I finally gave up at midnight and slept for an hour to try and recharge my batteries. 

When I got back into the studio all I wanted to do was sit at the computer quietly and work on digital art. I find that digital art relaxes me a bit. Its challenging without being physically exerting like some of my art can be. It is almost a form of meditation for me. The result of this meditation is the piece at the top of this blog entry. 

I find if I am able to create something each night, even if it is digital work, that it clears my mind in a way that nothing else can. The results is that nearing 4AM in the morning I am finally feeling a bit more like myself. I will work until dawn and then sleep and begin the whole thing over again tomorrow. 

Some say that artists have it easy. But a working artist who has to make a living from what they do rarely has it easy. We work our asses off to achieve. I am sure many of you face the same.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A World of Wax - Daily Log For 07-28-15

Tonight has been devoted to wax work. Technically called Encaustic Art, it is the use and application of using colored and heated beeswax to paint with. 

I of course am a poor starving artist who found out early that beeswax is pretty freaking pricey! So one day I decided to just be a kid and play with crayons instead of beeswax. Even if it didn't work, it would teach me something about the technique. 

So I did it and found a new passion. I started off small and slowly but it dawned on me quickly that this was a pretty cool technique. I began just experimenting on vellum paper. Within a month I was attempting the technique on canvas. It was more difficult, but I developed methods and techniques to place the wax and spread it. It also meant many burns. Its not an art form for the timid. Now after several years of working with wax and many huge canvases, I am proud to say I've mastered the technique. 

I discovered early on in my art career that I had a love of metallic acrylics. So I was happy to find that crayola made a little known metallic crayon also. While I did many works in primary colors, I really loved working with the metallics the best. And I could do finish work with just a little metallic acrylic for touch-up work. 

The final achievement was that using a gloss glaze over the wax I could bring out all the myriad colors and make them shine. This worked particularly well on metallics and brought the silver glimmer right out in the pieces I was working on. 

So that brings us to tonight. I've been training one of my interns in creating wax work paintings. For the past few weeks we've been slowly putting together a piece. Because of the length of time it takes to spread the wax and because the intern sessions are only a few hours long at a time. I'm attempting to finish the wax work tonight so that during our next session he can see how the detail work is done to complete the piece. 

If you'd like to take a look at the complete work in progress photos so far for the piece, click here:

So the night has been devoted to waxing. But my brain is brainstorming two new art techniques that I would like to experiment with soon. I will not share the details yet as I have not worked them out totally in my mind. But when I begin to actually experiment I will most definitely share them here in that little box on the right that says "Studio Works in Progress". This was newly added tonight but since I photograph all my experimental projects as they develop, you can be sure that that box will fill up quickly.

I think thats all for now. The following photos are some examples of past wax work pieces. 


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Phosphorescent Screens and Miami Heat - The Daily Log for 07-27-15

Its a long day today. I think the midsummer heat is making us all lethargic. Even with two air conditioners going in the studio, you can still feel the palpable intensity of the heat just outside the door. I much prefer the cooler days when I can have the studio door open in the evenings and let the night air drift in.

Today's focus was on photography. Mainly the art of photographing my own art. Squared off canvases are much easier to deal with than oddly shaped sculptures. I've been photographing these smaller pieces for months now but just not been happy with their quality. The ability to express a three dimensional object with a one dimensional photo is frustrating to say the least.

How one gets into the tiny details that some of my sculptures embody is a nearly impossible task.

I've gone as far as to rearrange the studio a bit to allow for something akin to a miniature green screen that can be put up quickly. Made from a very old 1940's era movie screen, the silver phosphorescent material should work for a backdrop. I've experimented a bit with it, but still just not sure its what I am looking for. Tomorrow I will play around with it more.

Suggestions are always welcome from those of you who might have experience in this area.

For those who follow the Twitter feed, I've added a new information line to the daily posts. Some are aware that I now feed information and articles regarding Burning Man. Now I've added the 2015 Art Basel Miami show to the feed line. This one will heat up in the fall as it gets nearer to the December opening for the show but already beginning to see information about it. Here is the new graphic, so those following can grab Basel related articles easily.

The rule of a good Twitter feed is to constantly update your information flow. I try to provide whatever information might be the most educational and informational to fellow artists, just as this blog seeks to do the same.

The key isn't in finding the right information. Its in going through that information quickly and efficiently. With over 500 news feeds coming in through email daily, time is constantly at the essence. The beginning of the day is always the hardest because there may be anywhere from 50-250 emails waiting to sorted when I begin.

But I sort of find it a challenge. Its a good way to get the day flowing, find out whats happening in the world of art and educate myself.

I have the lights down low tonight and the candles lit in the studio. For some reason i was in need of peace the last few hours. Here is a shot of the studio to close.


Monday, July 27, 2015

The Artist as a Magician

Recently one of my interns stopped by the studio to pick something up and was literally stunned and agape at several pieces of art that had been created during the week while he was gone. One of them he'd helped to plan and discuss before its building. And now here it was almost complete in front of him.

The first thought that came into my mind was that he looked like a child at his first magic show. He could not understand how I was able to create these new pieces just since he was last here. But this magician has no problem sharing how his tricks are made and I proceeded to give him a basic understanding of how each piece was created.

But I came away from it thinking that artists truly are magicians. We conceive our ideas most in the privacy of our own minds and the magic wand of our brushes and tools we bring that idea to life. To some it must seem like magic.

I am watching a lot of videos right now of groups crafting various pieces of art for the 2015 Burning Man festival and I get that same giddy feeling that my intern got when I see what they are bringing to life. It is a true mystery how we are able to take just a thought, idea (or so often in my case) a dream and turn it into reality.

To some who enter our domain, it must seem like entering the cave of an ancient druid. Our shelves are lined with ephemera that tantalizes. This past weekend I had visitors who came for a bit and I noticed one woman, as she sat listening to the conversation who couldn't help but look curiously and a bit confusedly around the room. In fact at times she seemed a bit mesmerized. I asked her if she'd like to touch one particular piece that her eyes kept straying towards but she shook her head almost as if I'd insulted her by idea. I am not sure if she was afraid to touch it, or appalled that I would suggest it. I've gotten both reactions before.

We've had the idea of "touching art" bred out of us I think. You look with your eyes not your hands is the mantra of all museums. But I have no problem with people touching my art. I think it brings them closer to it. The magician is revealing nothing by allowing someone from the audience up on stage.

So perhaps we do not resemble the modern magician as much as we do the ancient wizard or alchemist. We dazzle with our tricks which spring lifelike from our imaginations. Our reputation of producing gold from iron is safely hidden within our studios.

Even if we can't really do change iron to gold, the mere idea that we might be able to keeps us foremost in the imaginations of the viewer.


The Artists and the Blog - The Daily Log 07-26-15

I've kept this blog since October of 2014. In that time I've seen the readership go from about ten a day to almost a thousand a day now. I guess that means something although I am not really sure what.

Its funny, over the years I'd attempted to keep a blog probably a dozen or so times. Before that I'd tried the old diary game on countless occasions. I'd keep up with it a week and then hang it up again.

Then I began my life as an artist. And I found much to my surprise that I had quite a lot to talk about. I resisted the temptation to start blogging yet again for many years after. But bits and pieces would be written and saved and ideas and thoughts kept coming.

I've been online forever it seems. From almost the very start of the worlds virtual life I was already dabbling. Like many I was already well versed in BBS systems and in the archaic precursors to modern day social networks in the form of Compuserve and the old American Online (no not that thing that exists today). And you inevitably become skilled at communicating your thoughts in the form of words, not language.

So last October came and I decided one day to try it again and start a new blog. But with one difference. I'd always tried to blog in the form of a diary. Those inane daily meanderings that some are so good at. I decided instead that I'd only write when I had a specific clear vision for something that I felt I wanted to say. It didn't matter if I was doing so daily, weekly or monthly. I wasn't really doing it for anyone in particular anyway. I was doing it to share the mind of an experimental artist with anyone who really gave a damn.

So here I am eight months later, realizing more and more that keeping this blog is almost as important as the art I create. I suppose in a way its just another form of art. One more art experiment that seems to work for me and that others enjoy.

I've become a big proponent of advising other artists to keep a blog. But to do so not out of a need to be heard by others. But out of a need to hear ourselves. For me, blogging functions as a way to keep my thought processes going. To remind me of ideas I've had and techniques I've developed. And to act as a sounding board for art I'd like to create.

Recently an argument with a marketer who told me my posts were too wordy and that they could "clean them up for me", resulted in me making it very clear that I am not really concerned about not being wordy. What I am concerned about is writing from the heart and the soul of the artist in however many words that might take.

All the blogging experts say that the most successful blogs are the ones that speak from the heart. Readers don't want to read stupid shit. They want honesty and they want to know the mind of the author in the same way that people who collect art want to know the mind of the artist. Same rule applies. I would not send my art out to a marketer to "clean it up" so why would I do so with my words?

So with this in mind, this particular blog article is taking my blog to another level. I'm breaking my own rule about only blogging about precise issues and never the inane. I am going to try (as time permits) to start a nightly blog post that talks about the daily goings on in this studio. The challenges faced. The problems that occur, the guts of how an artist works day to day.

There will probably be a fair share of inanity, but who cares! Its good to look back and realize that things do change and we do progress in our skills and abilities.

I hope you will share that journey with me as I add this to my regular blog ramblings.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Building Unreality - One Artists Journey Towards Understanding His Work

I have to face it. Through all the phases I've gone through in my artistic career, the element of unreality always exists. Whether I am painting or sculpting or experimenting with new art forms, this single element always exists.

I am not talking about fantasy. That is a different thing. While some of my work has some elements of fantasy within it, this is something different. This is an ability to create an otherworldliness along with a basic message.

Whether it is creating art related to climate control, or a sculpture that makes a pointed message about religious extremist, or just something fun like an abstraction. I can't seem to get away from that simple touch of unreality that seems to exist in all that I do.

For example, in the piece "Cause & Effect" there is a very stated message about climate science and our disregard for it. Yet there is that haunting skull that lurks out of the ice with its leering smile. In "Menace in the Night" there is the swirl of a giant hurricane making landfall over the twinkling lights of a city, yet you float above it in silence, watching it. Knowing what it is about to do to that community far below.

In both (and many more) there is an illusion of unreality blended in with the hardcore reality of the message.

You may say, "so what? That's your style". But understand that most artists aren't really consciously aware of their style. It is usually for others to say after seeing a body of their work. For others, that style fundamentally changes with each phase of their career.

I've been through many. In my early days I was strictly painting flat canvases. Then I gradually moved towards three dimensional canvas work that was part painting and sculpture. After that I moved into luminescent art, which was flat painting done on heavy vellum where the light could shine from behind the painting and illuminate it into a different piece of work than what you would see if it was front lit. From there I moved on towards wax work paintings, using wax with a soldering iron and a hair dryer to create vibrant color pieces. After that I came full circle back and began making huge sculptures that could still be hung on walls like a painting. Finally and in my presence phase I have become a sculptor of small pieces, usually something that can be set on a desk or a pedestal, but intricate in detail.

But through every single phase, when I look around my studio everything still has that air of unreality.

To be honest I hadn't noticed this until recently. I suppose that is why I am writing about it now. I think artists suffer from a sort of myopia where it comes to their own work. We can only see whats right before us. We focus on each and every brush stroke with a fanatical devotion to detail. Yet we have a hard time stepping back from our work and looking at it as a complete body of work. I think if we did so, we'd see things we never ever considered before.

When I first saw this, I wanted to label it "fantasy". But fantasy is a completely different thing. Fantasy art can hold many of the same elements of illusion and unreality, but its goal is not the same. A great fantasy artists can create other worlds in their art without ever creating the illusion of unreality.

Author Terry Brooks is an fantasy writer of the Shannara series. Terry has always had this amazing ability to strike just the right level of unreality to his work that it goes a bit past just basic fantasy. He uses elements of the here and now, blended with this other worldliness to create true unreality. I remember a scene in his first book where the heroes of his universe are moving through a dark and deadly forest and they come upon the ruins of an ancient city. But its immediately apparent that this is no dead city from the ancient past. This is a city from OUR future. This is a Chicago, or a New York City that will someday fall to ruin right amidst this amazing other world he's created.

This isn't just fantasy. This unreality. This is a blending of illusions that surpasses basic fantasy elements to take the viewer in and out of their own reality in the blink of an eye.

One of my studio interns recently said of one of my sculptures that he'd lost himself for a moment looking at it. That for a split second he wasn't in the room, but he was soaring like an eagle past the giant waterfall I had sculpted to rest on the slate ledges of the nearby cliff and feel the water spraying on his feathers.

THIS is what creating unreality is all about.

I suppose this is also what separates a "phase" from a "body of work". Phases change, sometimes radically. Where an artists body of work has basic elements that always seem to be present and marks their works almost in the same way a signature does. You can look at a piece of their work done 20 years ago and compare it something they did more recently and say "I know that artist. His work has evolved but that's definitely the same artists work".

So think on this a bit when you are creating your art. Think not only about the project before you, but what your work as a whole represents to you. You may be surprised what you find.


Friday, July 24, 2015

The Shame of the Human Body in Art

There was quite a bit of publicity around a body painting event in Macon Georgia that was to take place at the SoChi Gallery. The artist Daniel Montoute was to paint at the event.

Only scant hours before the event was scheduled to occur the gallery owner shut it down. Citing that the artist didn't have the proper permits to paint nudes in public. 

A Bibb County prosecutor was quoted as saying that nudity, alcohol and body paint don't mix. She said, "If they have alcohol, they cannot have nudity." 

Like a Warner Brothers cartoon character my internal thermometer burst out of the top of my head when I read this. 

Have we not overcome our fear of the human body yet???? The naked form has been part of art since art began. You can find cave drawings of naked men chasing animals in ancient hunts. You can see works by the greatest artists in history that feature nudes from Michelangelo to Picasso! 

Body painting has been one aspect of my work for years. I've done shows with up to thirty models at a time and dozens of artists working together. I've never faced this kind of ignorance in the dozens of shows I've done. I've also never been asked for permits even though many of those shows also had alcohol present. I know that this is a different state than Georgia, but I cannot help but be saddened and angry at this view of a valid art form. 

It is interesting that I am also interacting with the gallery owner via Twitter while I am writing this. He Tweets and I quote " I have no problem with any art form. For this show, proper permits must be obtained to avoid legal ramifications." 

The simple fact is that if you represent the art community in any way, you have an obligation to stand for what is right in that community. Banning a show just because the human body is abhorrent to some means that eventually all art forms are banned because they will offend someone. That is the nature of art. It is not all pretty beach scenes and quiet forests. Its edgy, it carries a message and it speaks to us in not always the kindest terms. It makes us confront our own humanity.

By bowing down to this without a fight it damages all artists.

I counsel the gallery owner to at the very least stand up to this bullying. If the show must be cancelled temporarily then pursue its rescheduling with fervor and with as much publicity as possible. Ignorance cast into the light of day often withdraws into the dark corners where it exists. If you speak from the heart about what is right then you bring attention to the problem. 

I recently read a story of an art store in a small town up north (forgive I do not remember where) who displayed a nude painting in its window and several in the town went ballistic about it. The owner removed it quietly and without a fuss. I can almost guarantee there will be no nude bodies in any art form in that town for a long time to come because the owner did not stand up to ignorance and laid blithely down to it.

Please Terrell Sandefur (SoChi Gallery Owner) don't allow this to happen. Fight for this artists right to do his work and do not allow ignorance to walk over you and your beautiful gallery. Do what is right no matter how hard it might be to do.

UPDATE 06-06-2016

I wrote this article a year or so back and have seen countless examples of the shame of the human body. So I've decided to tackle this in a new way. I'm creating a coloring book of the male form which I hope to release for sale sometime in the summer of 2016. I'm tired of all the shaming that artists face just for using the body in their art. So shame me if you wish, but I think both the male and female form are beautiful and something to be cherished in our art. Here are some examples of how I am doing it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Artists Who Support The Community are in Turn Supported by The Community

I am fond of telling artists that complain that there are no opportunities for them, to go choose the worst neighborhood in their community and transform it. Most just goggle at me in disbelief.

Its a tough thing to transform a neighborhood. It really takes a community working together to do so. But using art as the catalyst for that change can yield amazing results.

I was recently given the opportunity to see this in action at the New Orleans YaYa Arts Center. This amazing facility is dedicated to teaching kids how and what it means to be an artist.

Their are many arts districts in my home of New Orleans. Museums, galleries, art related organizations cluster together and form a new hub for the arts. YaYa's new facility is about as far from our arts districts as is possible. The neighborhood surrounding it (which I am proud to say I also live in), is a mix of poor to medium incomes and predominantly black residents. Until recently the area was composed of the sprawling Magnolia projects, which were rundown, crime ridden and towards the end mostly abandoned.

In an effort to change this, the city demolished the old standing structures and replaced them with an array of new homes priced to allow low income folks to still remain in the neighborhood but with a much improved way of life. YaYa came in and plunked right down in the midst of this area and built magic.

The clean magnificent facility contains a glass blowing and pottery area as well as studio space for students to create and gallery space to show their work. All in an area that has seen its share of hardships over the years. This is no "high class art snobs" only facility. It is a grass roots effort to bring the arts directly to the people that need it the most.

You know from previous articles that I've written how much importance I place on teaching the arts. It agonized me growing up that most schools placed an emphasis on sports far above any emphasis on the arts. Those of us who needed art in our lives basically found it in our own imagination rather than through caring teachers who wanted to encourage us to make as much of our gifts as we could.

I can only imagine an art hub growing out of YaYa's geographical position, but one that offers and encourages the arts to kids that so desperately need it.

So I say again to all the artists out there that complain that their work never gets seen and how few opportunities there are. Step out of the center of the art world for your city and find the place that has absolutely the least amount of art within it. Begin changing it. Encourage other artists to do the same. You want your work to count for something? This is where it begins.

I teach LGBT students in my studio. I am a firm believer that it is no longer the responsibility of the senior members of LGBT culture to help the young come out of the closet. They are doing that on their own now. But I am a firm believer that we do not do enough to encourage the young once they make the decision to come out. We let them slip into the drug and night club scene and they do little to foster their own growth. The same exact thing happens in underprivileged societies whether gay, straight, black or white. If we begin encouraging our youth instead of letting them fall, then we can truly change society for the better.

So to all my artist friends, think on this and think of what you might have become if you had had more encouragement in the arts as a child. Or if you had that encouragement what did it do for you that turned you into what you are today? Make your life resemble your art, beautiful and complex, with the chance that you can teach another something new in what you do.



Monday, July 20, 2015

The Wrong Way to Self Promote as an Artist

The following resulted from a set of spam links sent to my blog chat room. The purported person claimed to be an expert in showing artists how to self promote. I was so put off by her methods and how misleading it is to teach a new artist that the best way to get ahead is to spam their work in places where it was not meant to be posted.

I added it here in the hopes that new and emerging artists DO NOT pull this kind of shit to try and get their work noticed and most of all will not fall for flimflam sales people claiming they have the answers to your art problems.


Dear Maria,

You recently posted a message in the personal chat room of my blog. To refresh your memory, here is a transcript of what you said:

Jul 20 2015, 3:54 PMMarie Kazalia: HI Mark, I found you by following a link on Twitter. I like the topic of your artist on name recognition--but the article itself is a bit long. I could help you with a condensed version that will get read, for my blog Artist Marketing Resources http://artistmarketingresources.com Let me know if you are interested. Artist Marketing Resources | transmedia artist self-promotion informationArtist Marketing Resources | transmedia artist self-promotion information
Jul 20 2015, 3:55 PMMarie Kazalia: Also, feel free to follow the new @ArtWorld_Art on Twitter--http://www.twitter.com/ArtWorld_Art I am building up the account for the owner--already over 500 followers on day 8 of this new account. ArtWorld (@ArtWorld_Art) | TwitterArtWorld (@ArtWorld_Art) | TwitterDeleteJul 20 2015, 3:55 PMMarie Kazalia: My email address is: MarieKazalia@gmail.com

Now first of all, when approaching a potential client, it is always wise to use the correct name of the person. My name is not nor has it ever been "Mark", as should surely have been noted by pretty logo to the right of my blog saying "GREY CROSS STUDIOS".

Second, if you are planning to assure a potential client of your resourcefulness, it is usually unwise to begin by putting down his/her work by saying "its too long". Obviously you do not grasp the fundamental business concept of attracting clients by complimenting rather putting down their work.

Third, the most basic premise of "self-promotion" is to do so in a wise way which attracts a person rather than repels them to your work. When self promotion becomes spam, such as posting that self promotion in an area that OBVIOUSLY is not meant for self promotion, such as the above mentioned blog chat room, then you are telling me right off that you are NOT a person who I can gain any insight from as an artist, but perhaps you should be coming to me for that advice.

I suggest you actually read some of my blog articles on creating a good reputation online and learning how to self promote your work in a way that make people want to be involved with you rather than repulsed by you.

It takes a lot to get me mad, but posting trash such as this to my blog only makes me angry. You will note that this response to your method of self promotion has been cross posted to my blog also in hopes that young artists that want to learn how to promote their work DO NOT use this method as a way to do so.

~GREY~ (please make note of correct name and spelling)

As an addendum to this, the woman did email me back very put off at my attitude and telling me that she had dealt with men like me who claimed to know it all and would eventually humble themselves and come back to use her services. I guarantee that will NOT be happening in my case. I'm happy to be wordy in my posts and speak honestly and just as I would if someone were speaking to me in person. If others are not interested, then don't read it. And YES I misspelled her name back to her just to be snarky.


Tweets as grains of sand - How One Artist Envisions the Twitter Universe (#Twitter Science 101)

I recently used a giant hourglass as an example of a Twitter feed. Artists get frustrated. "No one follows me. No one sees my work!" is often heard from those just starting out on their Twitter journey. Its can be a difficult and frustrating journey.

I was one of those that just could not grasp Twitter. I gave up on it several times. Then I began thinking of it in terms of information flow and I visualized that flow. I won't go back over this but I highly suggest taking a moment to read this article at some point:

The game of information on social networks is the key to understanding this often bizarre social universe.

So what does this have to do with an hourglass? Well, artists think in pictures. Its hard for us to grasp something unless we can relate it to an image in our mind. So the hourglass is how I imagine Twitter.

Every single Tweet you make is equal to the falling of the grains of sand in an hourglass. When you send it out that Tweet, grains of sand falls to the bottom of the hourglass. The more often you tweet the quicker the sand in the hourglass flows. When you stop, the sand slows. If you wait 2 hours between tweets the sand will begin to fall slower and slower. If you take 8 hours off the sand comes to a virtual standstill.

Each tweet does not equal one grain of sand. What each tweet represents is the number of viewers who see that tweet.

The hourglass is moving constantly when you are an active user. I try to make it a point to send out a Tweet every 15 minutes. I know not everyone can do this, but for those artists attempting to create name recognition for themselves, the more you can Tweet the better for you.

Now, here is the mistake most make. They think that just posting and re-posting their work will achieve their goal. IT WILL NOT.

In fact it can work exactly the opposite for you. For the hourglass to work, your Twitter feed must have substance. You may get a retweet or two from posting your work, but eventually people will begin ignoring your feed because there is no substance to it.

To keep a good flow of sand through the hourglass there must be substance. There must be a reason for people to come back to your feed and want to look at you. The more often you can do this, the more often people will seek your feed out instead of just seeing a post randomly among all the other tweets.

By imagining the hourglass I can envision each tweet shaking the hourglass a bit and making the sand fall faster. I literally wake up in the morning and say to myself, "OK lets get the hourglass moving again. What can I do to shake it up a bit and get that sand flowing. Thus begins a day where I am making art but I am also taking a moment to keep the sand flowing. I may blast out ten tweets to start then I can maintain the flow easily without it disrupting the equally important flow of my art. Anything that takes me more than five minutes to do regarding a tweet is too much.

For example, those who follow me, know I often post quote panels regarding art and creativity. These are common sense thoughts and ideas I have on art as the day goes by. At first I would just retype the thought and tweet it. Then I started converting them into a graphic so I could eliminate the typing and just post the graphic with the words on it. These show up randomly on my feed throughout each day. It has substance because (at least I hope) each one has a bit of advice within it. I've eliminated a few precious seconds that I could be using more constructively and still getting the same benefits from the tweet and providing one more tweet with substances back to my followers.

Another example is this very article your reading. I try to write at least two or three articles a week. They are more time consuming, but they are a source of substance that followers like. The initial writing of the blog article is time consuming, but once its written it becomes a regular link on my feed. After having written several hundred blog articles, I can now post the link and the title of the article regularly without constantly re-posting the same link to my followers. I pick up a few more readers each time I post and the sand keeps flowing through the hourglass.

Now if you intersperse your feed with your own artwork people will not get bored with seeing the same thing over and over again and will take an interest in what you create. Where just posting the same pieces of art work over and over again will get you very little notice and very few grains of sand flowing through the hourglass

The thing I think that artists forget on twitter is to use the same creativity that they use in their art to create a flow of information that people want and enjoy. If you can envision that hourglass and couple it with your own creativity, you can and will pick up followers who enjoy your creation. And most important of all you will put your name out there constantly, which ultimately is the goal of any artist in todays art world. NAME NAME NAME.


Friday, July 17, 2015

What is the Poor Starving Artist?

[boh-hee-mee-uh n] 

A person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

A recent comment regarding poor artists really got to me. In a local newspaper regarding a recent article on funding sources for poor artists, it was said that most of the poor starving artist "set", were nothing but bohemians living in squalor.

It is easy to call anyone who thinks and lives differently than you a bohemian. Like the term "liberal", the angry folk of our world have attempted to turn both terms negative. But as one of those poor starving artists, I consider my "bohemian lifestyle" a badge of honor.

To me it means that I've set aside the conventional definition of what a person should do with their life. I've set aside a daily job. I've set aside a big house with lots of toys. I've set aside the limitations that these things impose upon a person.

More than bohemian, I take offense at the word "Squalor". Living an alternative lifestyle does not mean squalor! Clutter yes. I admit clutter can swirl around me like a sirocco. I am a collector who uses what he finds in his work. But I do not live in squalor. I love nice clean sheets on my bed, a clean kitchen and a clean body.

This opinion is a misrepresentation of what it means to be a poor starving artist. For me it means the decision whether I put a project aside because I don't have enough paints to complete it, or putting aside eating lunch for a week. It means not being able to go out with friends because I want that ten dollars for glue.

The daily decisions that most make without even thinking become a concern to the poor artist. I want to attend a free art lecture in the city, but I can't afford to park my car (if you even have a car). So do I lose a day taking the bus in and out of the city to attend that lecture or do I pass it up even if it could benefit me?

How do I make the most out of that $20.00 to get enough food to last me two weeks? Will I be too tired to continue to paint because I've allowed me body to get malnourished?

These are the crisis that often face the poor starving artist. But we weather them because what we do counts! What we do has a greater meaning in our lives than working 9-5 and being miserable even if we have all the toys and a full stomach.

It angers me that poor artists have such a negative image in today's society. When I say that the voice of the poor artist is only heard through their work, I mean it. There is no greater tool that we have than what we create. It speaks in a way that words never can. It tells the world of our desires, our passions, our despairs. Most of all it tells the world that we too count even if we are not doing what society thinks we should be doing.

Ultimately these may be the most important pieces of art out there because they come from the deepest parts of the spirit. They come from anguish and pain.

I recently read a story about a homeless man who was a jewelry maker. His work was exquisite, when he could afford to make it that is. He'd lived on the street quite some time when he decided he must change his situation, so with the help of a few friends he gathered some meager materials to start his craft and still being homeless he went to the city to get a permit to sell on the street. That was when they told him he'd need $500 for the permit and insurance.

Bless his heart he took a piece of cardboard and wrote upon it that he needed help to get off the street and to afford a permit to sell his work and people gave. He got the permits and the insurance and started making a living for himself out on the street still homeless.

Now most would say "good for him, he picked himself up by his bootstraps and made something of himself". But the story just made me sad that the man had to go through so much just to allow him to be an artist.

This cavalier attitude towards the poor, that if we just worked harder we'd be fine is perhaps the biggest myth of all regarding the poor artist. Many artists don't make it not because they aren't working their asses off but because they've never gotten the break of being noticed or having someone believe in their work and want to support that work until the artist is doing well.

In the end it comes down to living our lives and creating our work with meaning or entering the world of superficiality that a large percentage of the rest of society lives in.

So when you read an article about a poor starving artist, try to remember what we really are and that we represent something that many others do not have the courage to do. Support them even if its just with a word of encouragement. Let them know they have meaning too!

Or one day we will all be gone and the world will fade into the shades of gray which mean that we no longer have beauty in our lives. That would be a very sad place.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Is This a Social Network or a Gulag? The Artists Virtual Life Destroyed

Recently I was informed through Facebook that they didn't like my name and felt I was a fraud. They demanded that I show ID in the form of license or other legal document to prove I was me or I would be kicked off their service.

Now if I had a simple name like John Jones (no offense to the John Jones out there) I can't help but wonder if I would have never received such a warning. But alas Mr. Grey Cross doesn't seem to fit their profile of a normal average citizen.

Of course, anyone who knows me, knows also how stubborn I am. I refuse to be treated like a criminal and refuse to give them any such proof of who I am. Thus an account in good standing for 7 years will be summarily wiped off the face of the earth, virtually eliminating a large portion of my virtual life.

Various suggestions came in from caring friends including forging documents and creating false names. But any system that treats its users like this does not deserve my finding a way to remain on their network.

But it leads to some deeper ethical questions that we will eventually have to face as social networking becomes a larger and larger part of our life. Those 7 years represent for me the earlier years of my career as an artist.

I look at it this way. If I was a world renowned artist rather than a nobody was facing this, would it be either wise or humane to wipe away evidence of the early years of his artists life? I equate it to someone coming in and ripping up the first journals of Leonardo Da Vinci because they thought he was a Genovese instead of a Florentine and he couldn't prove it! (yeah that's a vague reference, but google it if you don't get it)

We are half virtual now. A vast part of who we were is now out there for any historian to research. As I've said before, we are more immortal now than any generation that has ever come before us. And this organization is choosing to wipe that immortality off the face of the earth.

Is there a solution? I suppose not. We also live in an age where the large corporations have sway. They cane do what they want, when they want because there is no one to tell them differently. But rules like this don't take into account the role they now play in the future history of this world. They see nothing more than the immediate profit of the next quarter without considering the greater picture of what they represent.

This saddens me in a way that I cannot really express in words because the artist in me mourns for all the others who may have the same thing happen to them because of a ridiculous rule.

Some will say "well your just being a curmudgeon and you get the service for free so follow their rules". But if we do not take a broader look at what these social networks represent in terms of documenting the history of who each of us are, then I think we lose a greater part of our own humanity.

For those that will come after this poor artist and see a gap of seven years in his life, know this. Those seven years counted for much of who I am today and who I will be tomorrow. The information contained in each of those posts include:

- my failing health to HIV and how I crawled back from near death to vitality again
- my mothers last words to me before she became sick and passed
- the first days when I fell in love with and discovered my partner in life and love Billy Martin
- the first pieces of art I created after I retired from photography
- the photos of thousands of you taken over the years

All of this lives still in the confines of my own computer and my heart but it will never ever be shared again with the world because all those memories have passed now.

Take these things into consideration Facebook when you randomly destroy a persons virtual life.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Artist Apprentice - Teaching the New Generation of Creators


A person who works for another in order to learn a trade:

History/Historical. a person legally bound through indenture to a master craftsman in order to learn a trade.

A learner; novice; tyro.

I am always envious of the old masters such as Leonardo Da Vinci who apprenticed under the Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio. While Da Vinci was by far the more well known artist, Verrocchio was no slacker.

Regardless of either mans status as a great painter, this was the era of apprenticeships. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement where the emerging artist could benefit greatly from the experience of the older more established artist.

This is a system that we have sadly lost over the years. Apprenticeship now is looked upon as archaic. I've never really understood why. Perhaps its because artists now have no patrons to help them learn and fund their works. An artist in today's society has to hit the ground running. The schools are expensive. The galleries won't touch an emerging artist until they prove themselves (and sometimes not even then). Regardless of whether they are young or old, if they want to set their path towards the arts, its a hard battle with very few to help them along the way.

What I would have given and would still give to have an established artist to guide my hands and my ideas. We all need our mentors, perhaps even the older more established artists. Sometimes its just a mental need, to have someone we trust tell us if our work is great or total shit. To have someone who understands the frustrations and the joys.

Many call me an idealist. They tell me that I should stick to my own art and stop worrying about the paths of others. But my personal ethics say to me that if I learn something and I benefit from it, then it is only right to give it back to others.

Art is one of those things that cannot be mimicked (unless your a forger). If I teach you the exact skill set that I have and I tell you to recreate a piece that I've already created, it will inevitably reflect the personality of the person making it. It may resemble my piece, but it will not BE my piece. So why fear of sharing skills and techniques and secrets of the craft? What you create will never be what I create (again unless your a forger, but that is a story for a different day).

Its my personal crusade to share what I know with others. I am an experimental artist to the core. I take things that have no right being used the way I use them and I bend them to my artistic will. I am not saying I know anything greater than any other artist, but I do know things. And those things should be shared.

I do this a hundred times a day right now through the social networks. Everything I make is shared from start to finish. Its photographed, its documented, its discussed. I do this so automatically now that its habitual for me. And I do it with the idea that while I may have an artist in Argentina and an artist in Bulgaria that follow the creation of a particular piece while its being made, there is no way for me to calculate how many artists may look at those discussions later, over years and decades.

Da Vinci kept his notebooks. And even now 600+ years later they are an invaluable resource for today's artists. What would we all give if there had been an internet and a great camera in his time (yeah I know, but its a fun thought to think what he would have left us). But the man gave us his genius in the one way he could for his time.

Don't get me wrong, I am NOT comparing myself to Da Vinci. What I am doing is stressing how valuable what today's artists know and can share to artists today, tomorrow, 50, 100, or 1,000 years from now. We are the products of our time. What we learn now will never be repeated. If you've never read my blog article on artistic immortality, I suggest it.

But that doesn't mean we should sacrifice the "now" for the "future". Its today's artists that will benefit most from our knowledge as creators.

When I first started my little crusade online, I attempted to create a structured program of mentoring for emerging artists and it failed. I think that many were just too shy to say "teach me", while I was too shy to say "let me teach you". But I think it was for the better because now I just barrel along and teach everyone that crosses my path. Its a much more liberating way of teaching and being taught by those I am graced to meet.

I will name drop a moment because they are great examples. Two artists that come to mind are Rosie Hartman out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Jackie Janisse out of Sault Saint Marie Canada. These are two incredible artists who I've learned so much from in the past year. Both have very different lives and very different styles, both are accomplished artists that far surpass myself. But I have developed relationships with both these ladies that I would like to think benefits us all. We teach each other and that in the end is what this is all about. Do you not think that Verrocchio learned as much from Da Vinci as Da Vinci learned from him? I guarantee both benefited.

So this week I took this offline. About a month ago I began running a simple craigslist ad looking for emerging artists who wanted to intern for the summer with the studio. I thought long and hard about this beforehand because I wanted any one-on-one mentoring to be as much like the old apprentice ways without the inevitable servitude that often came from such apprenticing. How does one structure a program that takes the best of the old apprentice system and eliminates the parts that are outdated in today's society. The hell if I know if I am doing it right, but after about a dozen interviews, two emerging artists are gracing my studio with their desire to learn and become artists. The first began last Wednesday, the second begins today.

So you can see why these thoughts are foremost in my mind right now. And also why I record them at this time. I can look back at them later and perhaps encourage other artists to do the same through what they read.

Perhaps nothing will come from it, but it is my hope that it teaches me as much as may be taught to these folk.

Perhaps I am nothing more than Don Quixote, tilting at artistic windmills.

I will follow up in a future blog post regarding experiences in this realm of apprenticeship.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

When the Artist Must Speak Despite the Consequences


A person who goes to extremes, especially in political matters.

A supporter or advocate of extreme doctrines or practices.

"The Crucifixion of Free Thought"

My art is my voice. I once had delusions of being a professional writer, but I found out quickly that my destiny was to speak through my creations.

I've been an activist from the start of my artistic career. I didn't plan on it. But my views often come out in the pieces I am working on. My focus is extremism in all forms. Anything that divides instead of unites infuriates me. And that often takes the form of statements against religion.

I didn't set off on this course, but we live in a time where extremist views seek to divide and conquer the unity of the world and I am not one to keep my mouth shut when I see persons or groups demanding things of others.

Many of my pieces have been outright attacks on extremists within organized religion. I make no secret of my disdain for them.

Examples include a huge 6' x 6' canvas that depicts the twelve apostles roasting in hell with Jesus Christ dead in the center of the cave of entombment, blood dripping from hands and feet. Towards the bottom is a headless preacher testifying to an assembly of the dead and three skeletons hanging on crosses at Golgotha. Another piece includes a very old King James bible with all the pages missing except the book of Leviticus (yeah the part about gays going to hell and stuff). Cracks run across it as if its about to shatter and a skeleton key and skull rest to either side of it.

Subtle huh?

The point is that sometimes as artists we MUST speak. Art teaches. It forces conversations and debate. It makes us face the unfortunate realities of our world. I sometimes envy artists who can paint beautiful beach scenes and and pleasant forest trails. Unfortunately I can't.

I've been warned on many occasions to beware what I create because there are some very vengeful people out there. But are we really better people for taking the easy path? Does it serve anyone to just hope others will speak for us? I personally do not think so.

I don't think artists are alone in this. Creatives from many different disciplines act as sounding boards and speak when others either remain mute or cannot speak at all.

I remember in the 80's Jeffrey Osborn writing an amazing song called "Soweto". This was the era of Apartheid and the song was very powerful. I was pretty young then and I'd never had any dealing with politics or causes but it was strong enough to me that I went and attended an anti-Apartheid rally on the steps of the Michigan State capitol building. The creativity of that man spoke to me in such a way that I took steps to learn about what Apartheid was and rally against it.

This is the power that art has.

Now that I am nearing 50 years old, I can say that I've learned that lesson over and over again and I would like to think that its made me a better man.

Now on this night I am approaching something that I am again being told "DON'T". While my focus for quite sometime has been on evangelical extremists and climate deniers. I am going to begin work on a piece that focuses on Islam. Yes I hear your gasp and sense you shaking your head. "The boy ain't got no sense". And its true, I probably don't.

Evangelicals are pussy's compared to the Islamist's. A die hard evangelical Christian will picket you, spit at you and use the power of the media to try and destroy your reputation. Islamist's will just drive a car through your house and blow it up.

But the threat of death should not stop a person from speaking. In fact it should be an incentive to force us to speak through whatever means at our disposal.

This does not mean that we should be loud or ignorant or bigoted. What it does mean is that we speak as eloquently as possible, as diplomatically as possible and with as little hurt to people as we can. And mostly we use the talents we have to create that voice.

So with all this said, I will continue to develop this new piece because it must be done. I hope you speak with the talents you have also. If we all speak then the voices of hate and division are drowned out...someday for good.



Just a note to those following. I am waiting on a specific item I need for this piece. So when it ships to me then I will begin work on it and post it during development.

The item I was waiting for has arrived and is better suited to what I wish to make than I expected. I will be beginning the piece in the next day or so and will update as it goes along.

Friday, July 3, 2015

NAME NAME NAME - How Artists Get Recognized

[rek-uh g-nish-uh n]

An act of recognizing or the state of being recognized.
The identification of something as having been previously seen, heard, known, etc.
The perception of something as existing or true; realization.
The acknowledgment of something as valid or as entitled to consideration.

A talented emerging artist and friend of mine recently took a suggestion to hold a studio open house. He said even before the event took place that he was finding it valuable because it gave him something to talk about with people around his town and they were very encouraging.

It used to be that artists gained name recognition through the galleries. They promoted the artist, got their name out there and generally made a big deal about you. Now even if you get into a gallery, name recognition is a lot less of an affair. You do a lot of the footwork yourself unless your attached to a large gallery with a great budget for promotions. For most of us (if we get into a gallery) it will be a smaller affair with a limited budget often in a small to medium sized town.

Today's art marketing is about name name name. You can't rely on anyone else to do it for you. Your gonna have to do it yourself!

The problem is that most artists just flail around really unsure of the best way to do it.

Lets talk about mistakes first. In today's online social network environment, the absolutely worst thing an artist can do make a nuisance of themselves. This goes for online and off. If you are an artist who has an app built in to continuously cycle your art on to your Twitter or Facebook accounts. Stop it! Your only doing yourself harm. Name recognition isn't about sticking your art in someones face constantly non-stop. You know, the artist who when you look at their social network feed they've managed to post a piece of their art every ten minutes for the last 40 days. First, its obvious that they could never be doing it themselves. They have to have an automated system doing it for them. Secondly you lose your effectiveness if all you are doing is self promoting incessantly. People eventually just stop bothering to look at you.

The same goes offline. I've written before about how disastrous it can often prove to go door to door over and over again to local galleries and art dealers. Gallery owners hate it. Its one of the reasons many galleries have a set week or month where they will review artists portfolios and refuse to even be bothered with them the rest of the year.

The bottom line is: "making a nuisance of yourself only serves to piss people off".

So what is there besides that? Nothing, go home and take up needlepoint. No I'm joking. Honestly, put the yarn down.

The key to effective name recognition is "content". You want to find ways to put your name out there while giving something back to others. Lets take the example of my artist friend. He's holding an open house. So how many ways can he take advantage of it?

First he can announce it several times. Second he can send out invites both online and in paper form. Third he can talk about his preparation. He can tell followers online what he is doing to get ready. Not as a single announcement but step by step following his progress. Fourth he can show photos of the art he has prepared for the open house or the art he might be creating for it. Fifth he can give away a piece of art, thereby giving him one more unique reason to talk about the event. Sixth he can invite the press in the form of a press release or better yet by finding out if they have online accounts and informing them through their social network name or via email. Seventh he can invite local gallery owners to attend. So that's seven basic ideas and we aren't even to the night of the event yet.

The event itself may be a flop regarding sales. That's because people rarely buy art at a party. They want to see the art, they want to talk to the artist, but they rarely buy. But that's OK, your event is already a success even if absolutely no one shows because you just put your name out there dozens of times. If anything it was good preparation for learning how to exhibit your work and you got to give your studio a thorough cleaning. The point is name name name.

So say you don't want to hold a studio event. Your space is puny, your mother is in the next room asking if you fed the cat. Its just not a good scene. So what else can you do?

Lets go back online. Your about to start a new painting. Logic would say to most that when you get it finished then you post it online and let people see it. WRONG! The process starts before you even begin with a simple photo taken of your prepared supplies. Your canvas, your paints, anything you are using for the piece including perhaps a basic explanation of what this painting will represent.

Now if your like most painters, your going to create your masterpiece in stages. You may gesso the canvas first. You may lay down a background color. You may use a texturing agent. All of these are opportunities to post about the piece, in turn your again putting your name out there with every post. Your not irritating the crowd because your posting information that others enjoy seeing. Potential buyers love to hear about the process of creating work. It involves them at a personal level and evokes emotions that make a person want that piece of art. If its a larger piece of art, it may take you a month or more to create. If you do it right and you take a little extra time between steps of your painting to snap a photo and post it, you can create an amazing amount of name recognition with a single piece of art.

Now say you start monitoring art events going on in your home city and you start posting about those events. You don't only post an article about the event, but you may post commentary about it. You may post artist recognition posts about who is attending various events. If your intelligent you check and see if the person is online and you tag them in your post. That gives another artist recognition, which is always a good thing, but it also is one more reason to put own name out there.

You've irritated no one. Your provided a service to those organizations sponsoring events (which includes galleries) and you've stuck your name out there yet again. NAME NAME NAME!

Now if your thinking you will be an overnight success with this, think again. You won't. But what you will do is lay a framework of name recognition that after a year or two might just start to pay off in a major way. You've kindly ( and diplomatically) promoted the same gallery 3 times in a year. They know your name now. They may see a piece of your work online and start paying more attention to you. Eventually you may end up in that gallery simply because you kept your name out there consistently and without being a nuisance. You look professional and that ALWAYS is a benefit to a gallery. They don't want to deal with problem artists. They want stability in their own operations and that extends to who they may promote.

Yes, its the long way towards your end goal of being a successful artist. But it is also the wisest path.

Some ideas will work for you, others won't. Its not in the merits of any one way to get your name out there, but in the total accumulation of doing so over and over again.

There is one other factor in this that is crucial. Its "Time Consumption". An artists primary task must be in making new art. If your totally consumed in the task of marketing yourself, you aren't creating any product to market. Juggling time is precious.

A good example is the graphic at the top of this page. I decided I wanted to promote arts in various cities. I would research a specific city and then post on 3 or 4 different types of art events taking place in that city. The concept was good, but what I found after doing it several times was that it was vastly time consuming. To do it right, it took sometimes an hour of research for a single post. Not a good plan. If it takes me any more than ten minutes to put information out there, its not worth my time. (But I love the graphic so this gives me an excuse to use it in this post).

Keep in mind I use no apps to post for me. Every single post whether its on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or several others is written by me at the time of posting. I can put out 50 posts a day on Twitter alone without it impacting my art schedule but that's because I've refined it to the point where I can analyze quickly and efficiently. I'm not bragging. I am merely stating the point that time is precious and you have to make it work for you.

I can come up with literally hundreds of ways to keep your name out there. Yes they take time, but part of being an artist is also to learn to promote yourself. The point is to think as creatively about marketing as you do in creating art. The more creative you are, the more unique your marketing and the more it will get noticed. Stop relying on what you see other artists doing and do something new. And never forget name name name.

One final word. Remember its about the art not the art marketing. If you put the greatest amount of effort into creating kick ass art, that in the end is what people will remember the most about you.