Sitting on the Metro in D.C. yesterday, I noticed that nobody on the train made eye-contact with anybody else. Nobody paid attention to the others. Nobody struck up a conversation. Nobody smiled.
And yet, there we were, only inches from each other, in a drab, cold, dirty environment – sharing the same breathing space, passing through each other’s lives for those few moments shared in time.
Of course, the argument could be made, that people are obnoxious, rude, cold, unfriendly, etc.
To me though, it seems that people are afraid – afraid of each other, afraid to smile, afraid to connect, afraid to step out of the comfort zone, afraid that maybe the other person might not smile back, might scowl at being engaged in a conversation, or and interaction of any kind.
Each in their own world. Each world lived in that same cold, dirty, bouncy tube running through tunnels of concrete.
A very sad, and very lonely world.
The whole ride, I was imagining the interior of the train transformed by happy colors – a beautiful sky painted on the ceiling. The handrails decorated with polka-dots and happy colors. The carpets replaced by something resembling a field of flowers. Happy music playing. The gaudy neon lights replaced with warm daylight bulbs. The cars clean, and fresh smelling. And the people, happy to ride home to their loved ones, carrying on conversations about their days at the jobs they love, or with people they enjoy being around.
Smiling at each other. Caring about the one girl that sits there all alone with a sad look on her face. Caring about the two girls from “The Hood”, whose parents obviously don’t care to know where they are or what they are doing. Caring about the young yuppie professional, with the new wedding band on his finger, and his new laptop case on his shoulder, with a nervous look on his face.
We have become so accustomed to being afraid of each other, that we have forgotten very much how much alike we are with all our fears, our concerns, and our lives in general.
It’s time to make a difference – act different – Dare to be Different!
Smile at someone.
Talk with someone.
Care about someone.
The world is never changed for the better when we don’t make the effort to make it better, each individual in their own living space.
So – put on your superhero cape, don the mask, and go fly!
You might be the only person that has smiled at that other person for the past few weeks. You might be surprised at what this does for them – and you!
As an artist, downtime rarely happens at all – whether we are driving on days between shows, or printing between shows at home, or getting set up for the next show, we hardly ever just sit and contemplate what we might want to be doing with our time.
So what DO we do when we aren’t working?
But, because work is fun, it has become not only work, but a hobby, a life-style, and the things we love to do most. We usually will walk along the beach looking for findings for jewelry creations. Or look around the desert for some cool rocks to wire-wrap or include in a new mixed-media piece of art. Or we will be looking at other artists’ websites to see how other artists create. Or, we are watching inspiring movies that usually spark new ideas.
It has become a lifestyle to see the little unseen things in the world. A little girl pitching a fit outside our booth becomes a little grumpy flowerfairy from the woodlands. The sunset becomes the color palette for a new landscape painting. The store we are visiting to purchase a clothing item becomes the inspiration for a new texture we want to add to some paintings…so while yes, we will occasionally sit on our behinds, we draw inspiration from everything life surrounds us with.
Happy things that make us smile. Stupid people that make us cringe. Stories that make us laugh. Clothing that transforms the wearing one. All are now part of what makes our downtime into worktime – we never clock out.
Which is why we love being artists.
We made it to our first show in 2016 in Dunedin Florida – our trailer had been stolen, broken into, everything dumped in the woods, and much of it destroyed, right before Christmas.
Nonetheless: Christmas was awesome, and it gave us at least a few days to be with family.
And, fortunately I have insurance that will hopefully cover most of the lost art and the damage to my show setup and other artwork.
So with beautiful weather under palm trees, life is still good.
Even with some rain and some flooding this afternoon, we still ate happy to have made it down here, even if the panels are crooked, the frames scratched, and some of the sheep a bit muddy – they still have the capacity to make people smile.
Which is nice.
Every now and then, life has a way of reminding you that little things do, in fact matter.
Things your mom would tell you to “Never Mind” or “Get Over it”. Things like the salt in the shaker going solid so nothing comes out.
The bread you had in the oven for dinner being slightly burnt, because you took the time to watch a quick youtube funny with your teenager.
Or, best example: hotel sheets that don’t fit the bed.
To an outsider mundane, irrelevant occurrences.
The sheet thing – it’s a thing.
When you are forced to join the “carnies” of the art world – the art show road warriors – you get a whole different perspective of what the real “art world” is like for thousands of american artists.
Did you know, that quite a few of these people come to the art festivals from hundreds of miles away?
Did you know that they often have to set up their tents and displays either late at night or before dawn the day of the festival?
Did you know that many of them sleep in their van or even their little cars to save on hotel costs?
Did you know most of them eat snacks all day, because they can’t leave their booth to go get food – or, if they do, the food choices might be limited to fair food like funnelcakes or chicken on a stick. For every day of the festival. At $7-$15 a meal.
Did you know that most of those sleeping in their vehicles don’t get to shower after a long day of set up, show times in the sun, talking with people all day, and the going to sleep in their overheated cars?
Did you know that booth spaces at art shows cost between $100 and $1200 to rent at the art festivals?
Did you know that often the only bathrooms available to artists are the portapotties at the festival? Did you know that often there isn’t even water to wash hands afterwards?
Did you know that artist often get robbed, at shows, with security present?
My car was broken into twice in four days, with important paperwork two gps systems stolen from it a few years ago. Another time, a lady tried walking off with the money from four shows in my computer bag – she opened the car door and tried walking away with it, while I was loading the trunk.
This, at a show in one of America’s wealthiest towns.
It explains why so many of us artists have vans or rv’s or even tents to sleep in while we are on the road. And canisters of water and hand sanitizer.
This past weekend I joined the ranks of the “nomadic tent dwelling artist” species – the rv was being difficult again, so I opted to avoid paying $129 per night at the only hotel in walking distance of the show, and bring a small tent along instead.
Camping on the grounds was $40 for the weekend.
Only, I grabbed the wrong one from home – it was the smallest we had, but it also turned out to be the one with the shattered tent poles, and apparently also the one tent some cat or tge other had decided to use for a marking spot.
This I found out after a long drive here, a long setup of booth, and a scuttle to fix the broken tent poles with a branch and some duct tape.
Did you know that duct tape fixes a multitude of things, but it does not remove the smell of cat pee? I learned a lot this weekend.
At night, i also learned that I am highly allergic to something in the grass or the tent I was sleeping in – breathing problems at night in a field in a tent that smells like a litterbox after a long day don’t make the art world look more attractive.
So – three nights of that situation got me through the art festival (which, it turned out was more of a craft festival instead). After the show ended, i decided to splurge on a hotel room – a clean soft bed, with a clean shower, and free breakfast within walking distance sounded great.
The price, I was told: $166 for the night, but, special discounted rate is $99.
Usually, my max for hotels is $89 per night – higher than that, and the car becomes a viable option for sleeping in.
But – with no other hotels to choose from and the lobby looked clean and comfy, I got a room.
Everything looked tidy – towels and bathroom clean.
The shower felt great.
But the sheets!
Not the crisp, white, tightly tucked sheets of a $99/night hotel, but the $35/per night “you will get mugged, raped and hacked into pieces if you sleep in this motel” kind of sheets. The pillows: flattened pieces of old quilt batting or possibly up-cycled chair cushions from a hundred year old church pew (it was hard to tell – almost got a concussion when flopping onto the pillow).
The blankets: half unraveled,musty smelling objects (not unrelated to the smell in my tent, with the additional “flavor” of old nicotine).
Not tucked in sheets. Not cotton sheets.Not fitted sheets. But a flimsy, somewhat polyester type flat sheet that attempted to cover the mattress and the protruding very worn yellow foam mattress pad.
No matter how careful you lay down on that kind of thing, you will find yourself engulfed in a twist of sheets, blankets, unsavory bedspreads, and nicotine smell.
Keep you awake all night, regardless of your level of exhaustion.
It is most certainly not the ingredient for resting up after fighting the war for survival for three days…
$99 for a night like that – Did you know that a halfway decent sheet set with a fitted sheet can be purchased for around $40?
– if you are in the hotel business: the sheets matter. A lot. Get good ones, or charge only what your bedding is worth.
– if you are an art festival goer: your purchase of someone’s artwork matters. A Lot. It might just pay for a fitted sheet, or just a flushing toilet for the artist for a night. But it matters.
– if you are a show promoter or organizer: charging the artist $40 extra for a booth fee or electrical service, without providing humane sanitary conditions for the artists to work in, matters.
– if you are a city hosting an art fair and you decide to charge $100 parking fees from the artists that are already paying hundreds just to be there – please give the hotels a tax break so they can put that money towards good sheets on their beds.
We made it through this year’s Springtime shows in Florida, just in time for a bit more seasonal weather than we’ve had so far this year. Florida was colder than I ever remember it being for the past ten shows there – so hopefully that will statistically give us warmer temperatures for next year’s shows there.
With the rain and the cooler temperatures, we did not get to do a lot of venturing that we had planned to be doing this year – we spent quite a bit of time indoors, trying to dry out damp jackets and socks from the few times we did manage to go out.
We also spent quite a bit of time in mechanics shops – the mobile studio RV we travel in was having some severe digestion problems, causing it to stall out in the middle of traffic (always exciting to be the jackass at the front of the traffic jam in rush hour at a major intersection and be stuck there for 20 minutes or more.) We managed to oggle our way home with lots of stops on the way, so next week will no doubt bring more of that along with some major costs for repairs. But still – would not trade my job for the world. We meet quite a few “successful” people – stressed about their retirement funds they are trying to fill so they can do what we do when they are too old to enjoy it…I’ll take that pay cut and do things now instead.
My retirement fund is non-existent – might buy me a burger when I retire.
My investment fund – I think I remember having one, but don’t know if any of the companies are still alive. I prefer to invest in my kids instead.
My savings – hmmm…I think those went to the ex to buy my freedom from him.
My way of life – “disorderly”, “uncommon”, “unprecise”, “unplanned”, and “adventuresome” – yep. And what I was planning to do when my retirement fund was filled, my investment fund was doing well, my savings were enough to live on, and my kids were all grown.
I’ve decided life does not wait for you to accomplish things – you are meant to live, and roll with what comes your way. That is what I am doing. For better or for worse.
So in keeping with that, I’ve been spending some time in the studio again (liking the look of the word “Studio” much better than the word “Cubicle” for myself) – here is the status of the Work-In-Progress “Ewe’s My Sunshine”:
Ewe’s My Sunshine
The purple will be mostly covered by extra white wool, the sun will be more defined and a bit lighter. So far, I’m liking his face – makes me happy to see him sitting on my easel when I walk into the studio.
Today is the day.
It has been a long time coming – a time wrought with fear, anxiety, discussions, screaming fights, and meltdowns. But, nonetheless, today has come.
Today, we drive.
On The Interstate (yes, this needed to be capitalized).
My daughter has been dreading this event for quite a while – each day the necessity of learning to merge on and off the interstate has come up, there were long discussions and hurt feelings ensuing.
A fear of doing things wrong – is that a teenager thing? A learned response from emotional abuse for much of her life? A self- inflicted horror idea now set firmly in her head?
Whatever the cause, whatever the story – TODAY WE DRIVE.
We have not discussed where we are going – she’s the driver, so we’ll go where she is going.
(Hopefully all the destinations will include firm ground under the wheels, and a big void in front of the car…)
When this is done, we will both have successfully ascended a Mount Everest for both of us. I think the view will be grand from up there….
Today we set up the Sheep Incognito booth at the Indian Fort Theater in Berea, Kentucky.
In the middle of the woods – a very serene setting…
Last year it rained. And rained. And rained. But – it still was a decent show for us…this weekend is supposed to be much drier, so hopefully people will take the opportunity to come hang out with all the artisans here and not have to surf the mud.
Who knows, I might even get some painting done – anxious to finish the pompous ass painting…
To celebrate not only the birthday of our nation and the freedoms we enjoy in living in this awesome country, but also to celebrate my own personal freedom from oppression, we’ve traveled North to be a part if the Westmoreland Arts& Heritage Festival.
It takes place every 4th of July at the Twin Lakes Park in Greensbugr, PA.
A lovely piece of americana, combied with a lovely setting, good bbq, good music, and good people.