I made a Society6 page, as a new way to sell some of my work. Check it out Here.
I made a Society6 page, as a new way to sell some of my work. Check it out Here.
Images Cinema hosted a screening of “Not in Our Town” presented by Greylock Together (a local activism group). I took notes during the post-film discussion, and here’s what I came away with:
~ In order to prevent and address hate crimes in our community, everyone needs to take responsibility for what happens and be present for one another. This makes everyone safer.
~ We need total commitment from police and political leaders to respond to hate crimes when they happen.
~ We need more Black Lives Matter signs. These small symbols of acceptance and unity work best when EVERYONE has them. If there are only a few, and one gets stolen or vandalized, people might be nervous to put them out. If every house has one, it shows that we all support the movement and believe that Black Lives Matter and the vandals would see that they are outnumbered.
This feels like a really important note. Having a sign in our yards, or a decal in our windows, is such a small and simple (and inexpensive) act. But a large number of people displaying these signs makes such a big statement. We can say, “Of course most of Williamstown supports the Black Lives Matter movement,” but if there are only a few signs scattered around town, it doesn’t really look like it. This is a very important time. We are a mostly white town. We need to show our support, to ally ourselves, to use our privilege for good. It’s really easy to get a sign. There’s no good reason not to. Imagine if every lawn had a Black Lives Matter sign. And a rainbow flag. And Welcome signs written in Arabic and Hebrew and Spanish. What a big statement that would make to the rest of the country.
~ When someone has been targeted or made a victim of hate crimes, we need to ask, “How can I support you?” And then show up for them.
~ We all have to work on the subtle, underlying feelings of hate/racism/sexism/bigotry in order to prevent bigger incidents.
~ To be supportive means to take deliberate and concrete action.
~ We need public displays of holidays from different religions/cultures, not just Christmas.
~ We need a blanket visual symbol to use throughout the county, unifying us with the other nearby towns instead of keeping ourselves so separate.
I have worked a lot of jobs. At age eighteen I went to college to study theater, writing, comics, and dance, with the dream that I’d make it work somehow– I’d find a way to make a living at this crazy thing called Art. So I never committed myself to a full-time job. I worked multiple part-time jobs at once, scrounging for any little bit of time to draw and write. I drew comics in the box office and the projection booth at move theaters. I wrote short stories in emails to myself at receptionist desks. I sketched on the subway, worked on story ideas at babysitting gigs after the kids went to bed, wrote in diners at 6am. I lived close to the bone, making just enough money to survive.
While living in New York City I walked around to comic book shops asking them to sell my little self-published mini comics, and got feedback from store owners about how to make them look more professional. I modeled for life drawing classes. I submitted to short story competitions. I volunteered at MoCCA Fest in exchange for a couple hours of table time selling my comics. Any small way to make a tiny amount of dough from my art.
March 1st marks my one year anniversary of being “self-employed.” I quit my job to be a full-time artist and stay-at-home mom (we need a better term for this). So, how do I make money?
The short answer is that I don’t make very much. I am fortunate to have a partner who believes in me, believes in my work as an artist, and takes on the responsibility of supporting our family financially. This is the first time I have not supported myself completely since college. It’s hard sometimes, to reconcile this fact in my head, that my husband supports me financially.
But the truth is, if I were to go work at a job I wouldn’t make enough to pay for daycare or to make it worth it to not be home with my baby. And I would likely be sad and unfulfilled. So instead, I stay home and take care of Giles, which is a very important contribution to our family. And twice a week my mother-in-law takes care of him at her house so I can do my artwork.
Art Work. It is really, really wonderful that my only work (besides being a mom) is making art. It is also really hard. In the first couple months of Full-Time Artist Life I made just as much money as I did at my previous job. I taught a comics workshop, sold a few commission portraits, sold some drawings from an exhibit. Art income often comes in windfalls like that– for a few months I will sell a bunch of things, and then there will be long dry spells.
These are the ways I make money:
Teaching: this is relatively new to me. Last year I taught a five week Autobiographical Comics workshop for adults at a local art school. I am about to start teaching another workshop with the same school. This is a really nice way to make some money, the highest hourly wage I have ever been paid in my life– about $25/hour. It’s also inspiring, working with students and seeing their ideas and growth. A great way to make money in my field that is truly connected to what I love. It’s also a lot of work, and takes time and energy away from making my own things.
Commissioned Portraits: this is something I’ve been doing for a while. I don’t get a lot of commissions. Most art from people I know, friends and family. On my Etsy site I offer portraits, holiday cards, and invitations. Commission work can be tricky– early on I learned to be very clear with customers about what I do, what my style is, and that I will not copy the work or style of other artists. I change my prices pretty often, never sure of how much to charge, balancing how much I value my time with how much someone will realistically pay me.
Exhibits: these can be great or not so great. It’s a lot of work (and often expense) to put up a show and there’s no guarantee that I’ll sell anything. It can be fun, and it sure feels good to sell work off the wall. It can also be disappointing, and exhausting to smile and make small talk at openings, to hang and rehang work, to sell myself. My favorite part about doing exhibits is when someone I don’t know responds to a piece I made, and especially when they buy it.
Selling Other Stuff: I also make and sell t-shirts, tote bags, cards, etc. This is more intermittent, for example, when I have a specific idea for a shirt design and enough money to make a bunch of them up front. Then I sell them on my Etsy site until they run out. Shirts are hard because I never know how many of each size to print ahead of time, and often end up with leftover sizes that no one wants. Because of this, sometimes I will wait to actually print the shirts until I have several pre-orders. Cards are the easiest because they are cost-effective (they aren’t expensive to make, so I can charge less and still make a small profit. I’m a big believer in affordable art).
My ultimate goal is to get an agent and a publisher and have my comic books and short story collections published and for sale at stores. To contribute financially to my family and have lots of people read my work. The way that I am making this happen is by putting my work out into the world any way I can. Posting my comics on my blog, selling at indie comic conventions, submitting stories to magazines– just putting it out there and putting it out there. I am a big believer in doing things myself. I don’t like to rely on other people’s approval. If I can’t find someone else to publish my comics, I make them into books myself and find a way to sell them. I just keep going, keep making the work, keep sharing it, and things will happen.
Other artists make their livings in different ways, have different methods and different measures of success. This is how I work.
I’d like to give a special shout out here, to my dad. I often write about my mom on this blog, and how she is part of my artistic life. But my dad has always supported me– emotionally and creatively, even financially when I’ve found myself in a tough spot. He is the BEST exhibit hanging partner, audience member, and starred in an early short film I made. He may claim to be the non-creative person in our family, but he is an artist in life, in his own work, and in being a dad. I owe him a lot. So, thanks Pops. I love you.
Why is there such pressure on mothers to exclusively breastfeed? I would never judge another mom for how she feeds her baby. It wouldn’t even cross my mind to do so. But somehow, feelings of guilt get into my brain about transitioning from nursing to formula. Most of the time I feel fine about it, and I know it’s the right decision for us. But then there are moments when emotion overwhelms me and I start crying in the shower, or while making dinner. I feel guilty. Guilty for what?
Guilt is a familiar feeling. Am I a good daughter? Sister? Friend? Wife? Mother? Am I taking care of everyone enough? Doing enough? Working hard enough? Do I eat enough vegetables? Watch too much tv? Am I too demanding? Too bossy? Was my mom mad at me when she died? Am I too selfish, wanting time to myself? Am I ignoring all my friends while I figure out how to be a mom? Did I pass on this mutated gene to Giles? Will having more kids be bad, because I might pass the gene on to them? Do I call my grandma enough? Is it awful that I still haven’t mailed our holiday gifts? And I’m really late on those thank you notes…Do I do enough housework? When was the last time I cleaned the litter box? Was that thing I said yesterday too bitchy? Am I not bitchy enough? UUUGGGHHHHH
How do we let go of guilt? How do we know that we are enough? How do we help others know that they are enough?
The first thing I did this morning was cuddle with my husband and baby. Just like every morning. Giles giggled and kicked his legs. We kissed his face.
I am angry. Even if Hillary had been elected, we would still have to face the fact that so many people in our country support a man who feels it is okay to sexually assault women, who spouts racism and sexism and hate. There are problems here. It is not okay.
My friend Alexander shared what he wrote on his classroom board today:
Do Now: The election is over. No matter who you wanted to win, at least one thing is true: you have the ability to do something today to make the world a better place. What can you do?
HW: Do that thing.
I am making a list of the things I can do:
I’ll add to this list as I go. Live my life in the way I believe is best. Be the change. Today I will make coffee, hold my baby as he naps, play with him, laugh, read, sing. I will cook. I will write a bit in my journal, maybe do some drawing if I can. If it stops raining I will go out for a walk and smile at my neighbors.
What can you do?
Do that thing.
Age six, first grade. We lived in Denver and I took the bus an hour and a half across the city to my elementary school. Most of the kids I spent time with were not white. I was not aware of this, being only six-years-old and not knowing yet. One day I asked my mom to braid my hair like my friend Shannon’s. She obliged, making a bunch of tiny braids held with barrettes at the ends.
That morning at school a girl came up to me and said, “Why don’t you paint your face brown, too?”
I didn’t know that girl, and I didn’t understand what she said or why she was upset. She wasn’t any older than me, but she was aware of her color in a way that I was not. I was white and never had to be told it.
I told my mom what happened and asked her why the girl had reacted that way. I don’t remember what my mom said, I wish I did. But I do know that I came out of that moment knowing that I was white and that girl was black, and my friend Shannon was black, and it wasn’t appropriate for me to copy her hairstyle.
A couple years later we moved to a suburb called Broomfield. Something felt strange about the town, an unsettling vibe. When I expressed to my mom that something felt “off” in this new town she said, “That’s because everyone is white.” There really was something unnerving about being surrounded by almost 100% white people, even being white myself. I was the only Jewish kid in my class and I remember one day a girl came up to me and said:
“Isn’t it weird not celebrating your birthday?”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“Because you’re not allowed to celebrate any holidays.” she said.
“Do you think I’m Jehovah’s Witness?” I said. “I’m Jewish.”
“Oh. Same thing. They both start with a J.”
The following year, fourth grade, a bully in my class called me a “dirty little Jewish girl.” One day that bully let me use her markers and gave them to me afterwards. I thought it was a kindness, but she told me, “I had to give them to you because once you touched them I didn’t want them anymore.”
What I’m thinking about as I write this, the reason I’m writing it, is trying to figure out how to teach my white male child about his own privilege, about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, how our government/society values certain people above others and how that is wrong. About police brutality. About Black Lives Matter. About speaking up. Using his own brain. Standing up for what is right, for other people, in situations that are not easy.
I’m trying to remember being a kid myself, and how I learned about these things. When did I fail? When did I not speak up? When was I aware and kind and brave? I’m trying to be my best self and set a good example and be aware of my words and listen and give him the tools to make things better. To be a better person. To be kind. To help. To be an activist/advocate/ally. To love. To be angry when bad things happen. To use that anger to make positive change. To vote. To live his life in a way that creates the world as it should be.
I’ve been a Self-Employed, Full-Time Artist for one month now. I feel lighter. Why is that? I am living my dream, yes. But also there is something I don’t have to worry about anymore.
As much as I loved my job at Images Cinema (and I really loved it, I love that place so much), there was one part that dragged me down: customer service. All the small stresses, worries, annoyances that come with a customer service job can take up a LOT of brain space and emotional energy. Often my stress quotient was maxed out by bad customer interactions and I had no resources left to deal with other life things that needed my attention.
Almost all of my jobs have had a customer service element to them. I worked in customer service in some way since I was fourteen. That’s sixteen years. In those years I have been yelled at, talked down to, grossly hit on, blamed for whatever rule or policy someone was upset about, been verbally abused to the point of tears, denied a tip because someone wanted water that had “never touched ice”, accused of stealing, threatened to be fired, been called a fascist, been called the c-word, had a four page letter written to my bosses about me, and sat next to a coworker who was literally SPIT AT through a box office window.
Not everyone is mean. Of course not! There are a lot of really wonderful, amazing, thoughtful, kind people out there who are customers. But there are some that are not. And those some make a really big difference.
It’s easy. Just be nicer. Remember that the person serving you at the restaurant, cafe, retail store, movie theater, etc. is a human being just like you. They are doing their best. They are probably making minimum wage. They are probably tired. Fifteen other people have probably been mean to them today. They most likely have at least one other job to support themselves. There is a more thoughtful way to state your complaint. It is probably not this person’s fault. Also, especially at a cinema or theater or other entertainment venue, you are there to have a good time. Why make the people working there miserable?
I’m not trying to offend anyone by sharing this. It’s just that when you are in the position of working customer service, you can’t really say anything for fear of driving the customer away. You can get in trouble with bosses, even lose your job. But the customer is not always “right.”
So please, let’s all just be better humans to each other.
My mom and I used to talk a lot about our lives as artists. She started painting in 2002, I left for college in 2003. We talked about things we were working on, giving feedback, talking about process. How to price things, how to make time for both the business part and the making art part. How to make a living while also having time for family. We had similar goals: we didn’t care about being famous, just to make enough money so we could live and keep making art. We didn’t like Art World. Family came first but also family and art were not separate. It was about living our lives– our lives which were the best art of all.
There isn’t another artist or writer I connect to in the same way. No one I can really have those conversations with. I miss my best art friend, my best inspiration, my favorite conversationalist.
We were part of each other’s art too. I made comics about her and she painted me. I started posing for paintings very early on in my mom’s career, and found I was good at it. Modeling was meditative for me. I modeled for her, for her artist friends, even for some life drawings groups. But it was my mom who painted me the most, and for her that I most enjoyed the process of sitting and being painted. We’d talk, but not too much. We’d come up with poses together, get inspired in museums or from life. I felt myself being seen by her, being documented. It was a powerful thing happening between us, active and energetic. There was understanding in a non-verbal way: how my arm should be, the story of that dress or those pajamas, breathing and holding still.
I don’t model anymore since she died. It’s too hard, it feels off. It isn’t for me what it was before.
There’s a void. Well of course there is but I mean a specific hole having to do with art. There are a lot of artists here but no one for me to talk to about how we make this life, how deeply the things I make and draw and write are connected to the family I want to create and the love I feel. It all comes out of that love. That’s how I know I can be a happy artist. That’s how I know I can do this. Because my mom taught me.