Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Art Blog: Herding CATS

I have been an artist all my life. However, I felt like a REAL artist when I sold my first oil painting when I was a teenager. As I think back, I realize it was an awful painting. It was a landscape with trees, a pond, and two swans floating under the sun. Yes, it was very cliché, but I was only 15 years old! A real estate agent was visiting our house. He saw me working on it and bought it on the spot for $50. That was big money back in that day and it was the start of my official career!

As life went on, I learned a lot about being an artist. I did the bohemian, hand-to-mouth thing. I worked hard to keep the art fires burning. If I have anything to be proud of it is longevity. I have never given up.

There was one period of my life when I got tired of being so poor and decided to sign on to teach, but I definitely kept my art career. I entered the strange world of education. Since I didn’t have a clue as to how to deal with this system, I needed to educate myself. I went back to school and got all kinds of new foreign credentials. Being the overachiever I am I became super teacher. I was a part of every online teacher group, message board, education website, etc. It was like an obsession. I even ran multiple teacher support groups and websites.
After a few years of that, I stopped. I had lost my ART self in the fervor of trying to be great at something I didn’t care about in the first place. However, I learned a lot in those years. It was a good experience. I am thankful for the new perspectives.

One of the things I learned is teachers work together. They are very social. They have a collaborative spirit. For example when I ran teacher email groups, the lines were buzzing. Every day, there were bunches of emails, new discussions, and new ideas. Teachers share. When I stopped trying to be a teacher extraordinaire, I started running artist groups. I did the same things as before, but instead of working with teachers, I chose to focus on my people, the ARTISTS.

Every artist group I have ever tried to moderate ends up being lethargic. There is rarely discussion. There is little camaraderie. As I sat back and watched these groups happen, it was like watching a poker game with everyone wearing sunglasses and holding their card hand close to their chest. Nobody trusted anybody! The groups seemed sullen and all too serious. The members were quick to judge others or fade into the woodwork. It is kind of sad really. I know artists tend to be loners, but not taking advantage of social opportunities online is very bizarre, albeit interesting to me.

In recent months, I have been trying to coordinate a Twitter art show. The show’s name is Twitter: 140. The deadline is today. I have worked so hard to put this together. Yet, there have been many ups and downs. In my frustration yesterday, I tweeted a follow artist and spoke of being exasperated. He said something like “You know Sheree. trying to organize artists is like trying to herd cats!” At this point, I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I believe they are “FERAL” cats at that!

I am not going to think about why. I am ready to settle for “It is what it is!” In the meantime, here is the piece I made for our Twitter:140. I love it!

"TWINGO is the unique and original tweet
language of the Twitter Tweople."

Sheree Rensel
11.75” X 11.75”
Acrylic, copper, mixed media, on wood
CLICK pic for detail view


Parker said...

That's an awesome piece Sheree! You have outdone yourself, and have every right to be proud. I love the typographic elements and the little tweeps in their own little tweephouses!

Also love the herding cats post. It's not restricted to artists, although they are particularly unique in their individuality, and proud of it.

namastenancy said...

First of all, I love your pieces - I love all the ones that you put up for us. There is so much humor yet surrealistic truth in this one. Herding cats indeed! I have the same problem with the artists in my studio. You have written the checklist - sullen, uncooperative, secretive, unhelpful....I wonder if "us" artists were always this way or if it's an attitude created by our marginal status. Maybe a lot of artists are saying f-u to the world that thinks that they are lazy and inferior. Of course, they only hurt themselves but who ever said that artists (as a group) are mature? I have found my social needs met through my writing and blogging activities and now, through my journalism pieces for the SF Examiner. I'm glad that I found a way to connect but I'm sad that it's seldom with other artists.
And organizing for our fall Open Studios?
Herding cats doesn't even begin to describe it.

Amy C. Moreno said...

wowee...love this piece. will read more later. congrats on herding all the cats and getting this art show done. If you do another, I plan to participate.

Anonymous said...

Love your piece! As an artist, I'm trying to be part of the virtual community. I know a lot of the artists here on PEI looked down on me 10 years ago when I said I was doing digital art, like I wasn't a real artist.

Melody Knight Leary said...

Great piece Sheree!!! I'm sorry I didn't make the deadline but when I get back home I plan on completing the piece I had started for twitter 140 anyway.

I read your blog and was laughing to myself because you sounded so much like me. (I have a feeling we're cut from the same cloth (and same generation).Teachers do share, but artist/teachers, not so much. I would look around at my non-art colleagues and see all sorts of collaboration and networking. In the art department, a few would be sharing but most would be holding their cards close to their chest. You would of thought some of them were guarding state secrets! But being the over achiever that I am, I worked mighty hard to herd that group of cats - or at least get therm all heading in the same direction. As you expressed, it was a good experience for me as well and gave me a little insight into how secretive some creative types can be.

Now that I'm retired, I enjoy not having the responsibilities of managing others and just focus my attention on managing my own creative output.

Sheree Rensel said...

Thanks for using that metaphor while talking to me. It was such a perfect description of the way I felt during moments of organizing Twitter:140. It has been a challenge to say the least. The last few days have been the funniest of all. I should write an article about some of the stuff artists have said or done during this deadline period. Some of it is extremely funny (in retrospect). LOL
No matter. It is all going to work out! Thanks Jim for your shoulder. Sorry about the tear stains. LOL LOL

Sheree Rensel said...

Nancy, I have thought a lot about this "artist's temperment" issue. I think it is very complicated. I think most artists are born loners. They would have to be in order to spend that much time in the studio alone. This is a problem in itself. Many of us lack proper social skills! I know I am guilty of that. I have an innate mistrust for just about everybody. LOL LOL You are right. In some ways, we bite off our own noses to spite our face. I don't think this will ever change!

Sheree Rensel said...

Amy, Thank you for your comment and stopping by. :-)

Sheree Rensel said...

Anonymous. You are what you think you are. If you think you are an artist (digital or otherwise) than you are. Be one. People think a lot of things. Who cares what they think? It is your life. It is yours to live as you want. :-)

Sheree Rensel said...

Melody, This is exactly why I write this blog. I know for sure many of us are more alike than different. Even though I still teach, I have a unique situation. I am an ARTIST who teaches. I am not a TEACHER who makes art. There is a huge difference. I am guilty of not being a team player in regards to people in the art department. I know how to teach and better at it than most. I am not being snotty or conceded! I am being honest! LOL I don't have time for all the education trivia. I just go there, do my job well, and go home and be an artist. This is what works for me best. See. I guess I am one of those feral cats too. LOL

Anonymous said...

Nice! Liked your blog..:) Thanks.