Saturday, August 16, 2008

Winning is Not Just for the Olympians

Well, Michael Phelps just won his 8th gold medal. What I like to see after the athletes win big, especially if they are not a medal favorite, is the look on their loved ones' faces. Phelps's mother looks so happy. The mother (?) of the Tunisian who won a swimming medal was priceless. You wonder what's going on in their mind. Are they just full of pride for their child/spouse/sibling? Or is there some envy? Is there a little voice saying, "why him and not me? Why did he get the opportunities and not me? Is his DNA that much superior to mine?" I'm not sure how I would feel; no one in my family has ever competed in the olympics.

But Olympians aren't the only ones who win. I have students in my 7th grade science classes who win just a little bit each day as they struggle to overcome disabilities. For some people, it's not a matter of being the best swimmer in the world, but remembering to hand in your assignment. Then there are the students whose smile when I tell them they earned a C for the quarter matches any gold medalist's. While the world is focused on the elite for a few weeks this year, we can't forget to focus our interest and attention on the people who really need it during the remaining 200 (or so) weeks.

So I enjoy the olympic winners, I rejoice in my students' victories, yet I struggle with my own. Allowing myself to feel pride in my accomplishments is hard, and I don't think that is unique to me. We all have daily successes that we need to celebrate, and we need to allow ourselves to feel pride. Yet we don't take the time to reflect on our accomplishments and we don't take the time to allow ourselves to relish the feeling of pride. I feel embarassed when my victories are made public, yet is there something wrong with winning? Perhaps I've always been so busy rooting for the underdog that I feel as though I'm being selfish by accepting accolades.

Darn it, I've worked hard at teaching and I've worked hard with my art. Is winning an award at a show or enabling a student to reach their goals so embarassing? Is it wrong to take a few seconds and reflect on what I've done and feel pride in my victories? I think that if we were to reflect and rejoice, our self esteem would improve, and as a result, so would our performance. If educational research shows that intrinsic motivation is the strongest, then we need to nurture it in ourselves, not just in others. After all, that's what intrinsic means, right?

So take a moment to jot down what you've done today. Don't look at the list you made this morning and agonize over all the items that haven't yet been crossed off. Look at everything you did do today. Pretty amazing, huh? Congratulations! Go ahead, smile, look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you're pretty cool.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Goals for an Art Blog

Welcome to my blog! As a newbie blogger, I have several reasons for starting a blog:
  1. To increase awareness of my art.
  2. To allow people (artists, collectors, anyone) to learn more about me and therefore about my art.
  3. To provide a place for me to journal. More on this below.

In the interest of actually making a profit at art, I have heard/read that creating a blog is an excellent way to connect with people, not only potential collectors, but also fellow artists that may be able to provide constructive criticism to my work and to my writing and ideas.

I originally hail from Montana. College years were spent at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa securing a BA in Biology, and finding the love of my life (I've now been with her longer than I was without her!). For a career, I've pursued interior design (glorified furniture sales person!), nursery worker, graduate student, dental technician, and currently, 7th grade science and language arts teacher.

Art started in high school with watercolors, with which I obtained some college scholarships (didn't use them, however). Oil painting courses, a one-man show, and my first art award happened in college. Then, about twelve years later, I took a class in stained glass. That led to the craft fair circuit, which I found rewarding for a few years. However, when people tried and barter down an original picture frame priced at $35 that took hours to make because they could go to a box store and buy equivalents for less, I knew that stained glass was not going to be very lucrative.

What I discovered was that the jewelry I made during the stained glass phase was extremely popular, could be massed produced, and sold at a good profit. However, I needed to be able to broaden my offerings, so that led to the new tangent of beaded jewelry, under the company name of Studio 206. This venture was much more lucrative (still is!), and I have slowly moved into the realm of silversmithed and custom jewelry.

On track to define a couple lines that could be mass marketed online, I opted to take a course in pastel paintings at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN from noted pastelist Susan Ogilvie. That brought the jewelry thing to a screeching halt as I realized that I really loved working in two dimensions, and the challenges that it brought. Pastels especially provide a more sensory experience in the art; you actually can rub your fingers raw blending colors. They seem so under admired in the art world, yet they seem like the pure essence of 2D work with their pure pigmented colors and techniques that draw heavily from drawing (no pun intended!). More on this in a future blog!

As a result of the workshop, my New Year's Resolutions shifted to include submission of my work to two venues: a juried art show, and a juried art exhibition. I juried my work to two of each, and was accepted to one of each. The gallery presentation is in Tacoma Washington at the American Art Company, hosted by the Northwest Pastel Society. It runs through August 16th, 2008. The art show is here in southern Illinois August 22 - 24th, called The Midwest Salute to the Arts.

My family and I were actually able to see my painting in situ at the Tacoma Gallery, and were pleased to walk in and find that my painting had won an award! Another first, and definitely a proud moment in my life.

Next weekend is the big show here in Fairview, and I think I'm about ready. I have 19 paintings framed and ready to go, not counting the two that are required for the donation to the children's art section. I have set my new display system up in my garage, so that I can fuss with the placement of the pictures and with the lighting. I have also obtained a machine to start taking credit cards - until now, I have only accepted checks and cash. It's all quite overwhelming - fortunately, I have started displays from scratch for my jewelry and for my stained glass, so I'm not a total novice!

The third reason I started this blog was to give myself a place to journal. In my language arts classes, I keep nagging the kids to keep a journal, because it's a great way to put down your feelings, and in so doing, really exploring those feelings and ideas. This summer, all four of us in my family kept a journal of our vacations. I really enjoyed it, actually, and need to find the time to sit down and put the finishing touches on it. Natually, mine had sketches in it, as well as little momentos that I collected along the way. My wife's (she the type A organizational guru) journal was a list of places we went and the money we spent. She calculated gas mileage while I analyzed the colors and shadows of a thunderstorm.

There's a little about my and my motivations for blogging. I hope to philosophize more on art, pastels, pastel techniques, etc. in later blogs. For now, peace, and enjoy the last half of August!