What He Said: John Scalzi Has a Plan for How To Stay Creative in the Age of Trump

photo-by-nik-macmillan

It’s rare that I repost a piece from the Los Angeles Times, but the general thesis of this one has been rolling around my own head for weeks, and it seems John Scalzi beat me to it! So rather than wrangle my own version–and since he covered it so well–I’m linking his piece here. Take it to heart… it’s important that creative folks stay creative, even when it seems like the entire world has turned upside down around them!


John Scalzi’s 10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump

John Scalzi

IT’S NOT A GREAT SECRET that Donald Trump and his incoming administration are not hugely beloved by America’s creative class — the difficulty Trump is having in finding performers for his inauguration is only the most obvious manifestation of this. What’s probably less known is that Trump election put a number of creative people into mental tailspin. Not only for the fact of his election, but for what his policies mean for creatives: The possible disappearance of the Affordable Care Act, through which many creative people were able to secure health insurance, is just the tip of the iceberg for many.

People who don’t make their living through creative endeavors often suppose turbulent times make for great art, but the truth is that for many artists, being worried or anxious or depressed steals away the ability to create. The new reality of Trump’s America means a lot of creatives have to readjust — find a new balance to get back to creating.

How to do that, if you are creative person knocked for a loop by the election? Here are some of the things I’ve done, and that other writers and creatives are telling me they are doing.

[Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times….]

Photo by Nik MacMillan

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Cleansing Power of Creativity… Yours

— photo by Gaelle Marcel

Maybe it’s the God-syndrome; the idea that having the power to create is what life is all about, what ‘godliness’ is all about… or at least closer to that vaunted status than ‘cleanliness,’ for God’s sake, which is what we’ve been told all these years!

The power to create comes in countless varieties, allowing humans of every predilection to choose their path to the heavens. But in a culture more readily fixated on watching, judging, commenting, hang-wringing, ranting and railing, it’s easy to get preoccupied by the passivity of being an observer, an analyst, while minimizing the activity of shifting the zeitgeist with the smallest touch of our energy and creativity. We huddle over Facebook or Twitter, availing ourselves of the latest “whatever,” feeling our outrage stoked, our righteousness riled; we share, and comment, and converge, and there is some value, some sense of being part of the roiling evolvement of our world by this engagement, and certainly there is.

But we have to question: is it sustaining value? Does it help us in our lives? Does it help others? Does it change outcomes? Does it positively impact those we know, we touch; the world around us?

I’m not convinced. It’s fun, surely (sometimes); it’s distracting and entertaining. We do come across funny animal videos (perhaps the BEST reason to be on social media! 🙂 ). There are great, inspirational stories about great inspirational people; those have merit. Activism may be stirred, involvement encouraged, but how often does that get beyond observational to become actual?

I bet if studies were done (which they probably have been but I’m too lazy to go look), we’d discover that people spend a significant chunk of their “free time” on social media, immersed in arguing/commiserating about politics, crime, gossip, outrage and tragedy, less on creativity, inspiration, and upliftment, and certainly less on actively pursuing those higher-toned activities.

In some ways we can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. It’s driving past the car crash, looking at the dead body; gorging in the latest tragedy. We observe and remark and ponder, but odds are good all of that leaves us feeling more burdened than inspired to act.

So as thinking people, we have to be aware of that equation, cautious about our own indulgences, our own consumption, to adjust. I often take myself off media, social and otherwise, enforce a sabbatical of sorts, out of sheer need for a mental/emotional palate cleanse. I get deeply wearied (I’m not sure there’s a word strong enough to express how wearied) of the relentless, redundant, scab-picking coverage of this presidential election. I get battered by the glut of tragedy presented by the globalization of our news media. I fight not to become inured to the injustices, the prejudices, the caustic bigotries and vile behaviors that drench our online discourse, so I can continue to be a voice of reason and protest.

And I create. I shut it all off and create. And that’s when I discover the ‘godliness’ we each have the power to access.

As some of you know, I went to an Adele concert recently. At some point the speakers got really loud so I had to piut on my best ear protection for concerts, that helped a lot with the ringing I had in my ear. It had been a long time since I’d been to a show as big, as overwhelming, and as I watched this warm, charming, supremely talented singer/songwriter work her magic on the thousands of people in the room with me, I thought to myself: ‘what must it feel like to have your path so firmly etched that you know your job, your gift, your contribution to the world is bringing joy, emotion, inspiration, reflection, MUSIC to this many people?’ I envied Adele’s singular purpose and her ability to carve a life where creativity was both her art and her occupation.

Then later that week I went down to San Diego to work on songs for an original musical in which I’m involved (The Geeze & Me), and despite having my computer along, I made a point of staying off social media, detaching for a minute from the noise and madness. As I worked with the show’s creator, Hedges Capers, banging out melodies and recording tracks, or discussed the script and characters with his wife and co-creator, Nancy Capers, I found myself wrapped in the excitement and exhilaration of creativity, pure and simple. It brightened my day and lifted my spirits, making my awareness of, and engagement in, the darker corners of life more manageable, less burdensome, more in balance.

Meanwhile, and during all the above, I’ve been knee-deep in accomplishing the first (very rough) draft of my third novel, a topical piece dramatic enough to be a departure from my first two. It’s been a bitch in that, and taken some stern focus and concentration, but the process of writing is the essence of what I’m talking about: there’s an immersion, a cloister-like cocoon that’s achieved, one in which I’m taken as an observer, a chronicler, into the world I’m creating, which is insanely surrealistic and magical. And while in my created world, following the activities of my imagined characters, the world in which I actually live hovers nearby, still in view, still accessible, but muted for that moment.

It’s within that mystical cocoon where the simple act of creating becomes the ritual: tapping the ‘godliness’ we each possess, where intention and imagination result in creation.

That ability is life-changing, empowering. It allows us to detach from self, from noise, from ego; from the distractions and chaos of culture, to, instead, create. A song. A book. A code. A building. A dress. A cake. A painting. An invention. A game. A restaurant. A water system. A business. A plan. A purpose. A curriculum. A change.

A better world.

Crayon photo by Gaelle Marcel @ Unsplash.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Competitive Creativity: What Is It Doing To Art? And To Artists?

 "Please...please pick me..."
“Please…please pick me…”

It was the second round, the one where two singers, chosen from the group of finalists, face-off against just each other; winner takes all, loser goes home. I watched my friend take his place on the stage. A handsome, supremely talented singer/songwriter, he’s written and recorded songs that could make your heart soar or break into a thousand pieces and yet there he was, singing his touching ballad with heart and soul…only to be pitted against a Broadway-style belter going full-tilt Mariah Carey on some barn-burner, and, well, you guessed it… my pal went home.

Apples and oranges. Coffee and tea. What’s the point? Both valid types of performers, both excellent at their particular craft and style, but we’re going to throw them in the pit together to decide which is better than the other.

Why do we do that to our artists?

Why do we set them against each other in situations where arbitrary standards are applied, subjective opinions rule, random preferences (“he’s so much cuter!”) play a role, and the whimsy of fickle and often superficial criteria set the bar for what’s “hot,” who’s a “star,” what’s a “bestseller,” and who wins the prize?

Why do we make them compete against other qualified artists to win “best” when “best” is, more honestly, impossible to determine and strictly subjective? Why do we make them give their work away so greedy consumers can enjoy it without exchange, in hopes those consumers start viral and positive word-of-mouth? Why do we make them “audition” every day of their lives for acting, singing, writing, photography jobs, often ones beneath their talent, all while treating them as if their years of work and artistic contribution are irrelevant to their perceived value?

The moment before one of our best becomes that arbitrary "best."
– That vulnerable moment before one of our best becomes an arbitrary “best.”

Why do we make artists battle each other like gladiators in a pit, while giving audience members, opinion makers, and gatekeepers the power to thumb up or down depending on cultural mood and sway? Why do we make them beg for readers, go into debt for song plays, humiliate themselves in hopes of an acting gig, or accept “exposure” and “internet real estate” in lieu of money because, hey, “my kid takes pictures as good as any professional, why should I pay you?”

Why do we make them jump through such hoops, tap-dance with such desperation, become “monkeys” to our grinding, mercurial cultural tastes?

Well – you could also ask –  “Why do artists put themselves in those situations?” And you would be asking another valid question.

Why do they? Why do they allow themselves to be judged on anything other than their work, their evolution as an artist, the depth of their talent and skill, or the merit of their individual and unique creative contribution?

Because they want to “make it” – a living, a fair wage, a career – and “making it” in the creative businesses is a BITCH.

Unless an artist wants zero exposure or connection to the outside world, they want some kind of commercial success. They wouldn’t cut CDs, post photographs, publish books, or produce plays if they didn’t.

artist

They want to make a living — some kind of living. They want a bigger audience, a more influential pulpit; an upward trajectory. They want to advance beyond the basement rehearsal room, the badly lit garage, the crappy office where they wrote their last three books. They want their work to get out there, to touch more people, have more impact; be heard, read, and looked at by more than their enthusiastic, but limited, circle of family and friends. They want fame and fortune because fame and fortune allows for steadier progress, more and better opportunities, the attraction of more effective business connections, and a higher level of collaborators. Because art is communication and communication requires a Point B. They want more Point Bs.

But we live in a world of too many people, and with so many of those people pursuing artistic careers, and so, so many outlets available for those many people to put their work, the supply has colossally exceeded the demand. Which makes creative competition a sort of necessary Hunger Games designed to thin the herd.

Frankly, supply has always exceeded demand in the arts; success has always been a rarefied, selective thing, but now – with the internet, all things DIY, and enough televised talent shows (you’d think!) to run out of talent – the gates of perceived opportunity have burst open, and everyone with a modicum of talent is rushing forth to be counted. And the bean counters are counting and artists are competing and it’s all getting so crazy that shenanigans and misguided notions of every kind have been injected into the madness.

Examples?

Singers, producers, and record execs now regularly rely on digital technology to manipulate marginal performances into artificially perfect ones. Independent (and other) authors pack Amazon pages with paid-for, swapped, and often undeserved “5-star” reviews to hopefully pull them out of the pack. Photographers Photoshop their work to death in an effort to stand out in a field where billboards, newspapers, and media sites are putting out calls to amateurs with iPhones. Copywriters, journalists, and essayists are forced to balance free gigs offering bona fide Ior not!) exposure against “getting paid or walking away” in arenas where “everyone’s a writer!” and no one wants to, or, apparently, needs to pay for quality writing.

All of this has reduced art, and artists, to… yes, I’ll use the analogy again: The Hunger Games: artists out there with defenses high, attempting to survive in a world where those in charge frame them as generic and dispensable… and too many fellow artists believe “cheating the system” is necessary in a competitive environment where talent, quality, and sustaining creativity are far less valued than viral appeal.

But is that giving us the best art, advancing the best artists? You tell me. I’m not convinced, particularly when I read, listen to, or see extraordinary art that is ignored or dismissed for lesser, but more viral work.

Which means this to me:

Personal best

I’ve stepped off the playing field. I won’t compete anymore… at least not in the ways described above. I won’t pit myself against other talented artists to win some arbitrary prize; I won’t chase after an audience; I won’t involve myself in situations that kill my soul, even a little. The only person I’ll compete against is me, to beat my personal best, and continue to grow and evolve as an artist. I’ll put my work where it can be found, I’ll happily share good news, I’ll continue to promote and talk about other artists I admire, and I’ll do everything within my power and resources to advance my goals. But I’ve put down my bow and arrow. If this means I’m truly out of the running, so be it. I’ve discovered that sometimes running just kicks up a lot of dust…

Fingers crossed image by Mjt16 @ WikimediaCommons.
“Best Lead Actor Emmy” shot: video screen grab
Trumpet Player by Padurariu Alexandru @ Unsplash
LDW shot by James Johnson

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

I’m Not Hip Enough

ldw-pondersI finally figured it out.

I’m not hip enough.

Oh, I’m good enough – and I say that with complete humility because “good enough” by today’s standards is completely relative. And by that I do not mean your relatives think you’re good enough – that’s a given – I mean that in the world of instant reality show stardom, digitally perfected perfection, inexplicable and arbitrary fame, self published/self promoted… well… everything, what, really, is good enough? I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I’m at least it.

I’m just not hip enough.

I was thinking about Rock+Paper+Music. Ever since I started writing for Huff Po, this blog here, my very own lovingly created, carefully managed and artistically designed forum for “sass and sensibility,” has become the slightly ugly stepsister overshadowed by the behemoth that is Huff Po. I try to find the balance: I keep my Huff Po stuff what is is – analysis and commentary on political, cultural, religious, and artistic issues –  sometimes articles overlap, but this blog is more personal, with more pictures, a warmer tone at times, often about non-famous people I know who should be famous, what my latest familial challenge is, that sorta thing. And despite the fact that I don’t obligate myself to write in just one genre (parenting, writing, photography, etc.), I do create a through-line with my brand of commentary, my voice, so to speak, so it is thematic enough…right?

Oh, hell, it probably isn’t buttonholed enough and that’s probably as unhip as all get-out and the very reason why Rock+Paper+Music remains a smart, thoughtful, but unviraled and slightly flatlined creative endeavor. I want it to be bigger, better, more OUT THERE, but either I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing in terms of proper 2.0 Internet promotion (likely), the title is too benign (I thought it was clever…what do I know?), or it’s too hard to…well…buttonhole. I insisted on taking liberties with the “blogging mandate of buttonholing” and look where it got me: writing about how I’m not hip enough. And saying buttonhole a lot.

This whole stew session was set off by a blog I was made aware of today. People I Want to Punch In the ThroatIt was implied by the poster of this blog link that it’s really funny. Or at least the posted article was. I immediately swallowed (with some difficulty) and clicked the link. I will refrain from commenting on the visual (there is none) and only read a bit, trying mostly to find out who “Jen” is (suggested by her bio, which is aptly named “Who is Jen?”), and it turns out the person who came up with this rather aggressive title, Jen, also writes for Huff Po (but, really, there are thousands of us, how hip can that be??), has been interviewed by NPR (shoot…I hardly even listen!), she’s witty, snarky, funny, and says things like, “All of a sudden I’ve got lots of people who want to know who I am.” and “I think the title sums it up. If you can’t figure it out, then go away before I punch you in the throat.” Sheesh. So I did go away…but not because I couldn’t figure it out, more because my visceral reaction to the literary violence of her title made me dizzy with hip-envy, which is really the downfall of a person like me. Because even after exhaustively social-media’ing, cyber bush-beating, virtual stone-unturning, and all my other various marketing ministrations, I lack Jen-like “virality” (I made that up…a play on virility and viral…come ON, that’s kind of hip!!).

Nah. Not really.

I’m so unhip, in fact, that I had an old friend – one I hadn’t spoken to in years but who’s on my mailing list – send me an email in response to a new blog notice with one line: “Please remove me from your mailing list.” No signature; no, “hey, how you doing?” Just that one line. Stunned, I wrote back, “We haven’t spoken in years, odd that your one communication in all that time would be this request.” He wrote back chiding me for “taking it personally,” adding the supposedly assuaging explanation that he “just doesn’t like blogs.” I took him off the list. He’s a pretty hip guy. You do the math.

But let me make this clear right now: I’m not a slacker. I know what’s what and I’ve got myself social media’d all over the place (personal page, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and I work those puppies like nobody’s business (just look at how I active-linked them all!). Maybe that’s the problem…nobody’s making it their business. Well, not nobody, but it can get bleak out there. Let’s take Twitter, for example. Despite my rather articulate, occasionally thought-provoking, sometimes self-promoting, but always 140-character Tweets of substantial pith, I’m pretty much ignored. While everyone’s tripping all over themselves to get “followed” by Benicio del Toro (who was officially on Twitter for all of two or three days) or retweeting some disgusting genital/masturbation reference by one famous actor or another, I’m clearly not high-profile enough for consideration by the Twit-verse. Frankly, they’re a hardy bunch and it’s likely I just can’t keep up. That feed scrolls off the page so fast that I can only presume the people who are constantly present, wit and parrying away, are sitting at a computer 24/7 with nothing better to do than desperately attempt to one-up each other or incite conversation with a Tweeting celebrity. Though Roseanne Barr did retweet one of my tweets once, I can only ride that train for so long. And I’ve now just said “tweet” or “Twitter” more in one paragraph than anyone should.

It could be my age. I don’t make a point of throwing actual numbers around but it’s not hard to extrapolate. In any circle of contemporary hipsters I’d be considered seriously OLD and being considered OLD in the world of the considerably YOUNG is about as effing unhip as you can get. You don’t even have to do stupid shit like wear white stretch pants, say “anywho,” or keep complaining about Facebook Timeline. Despite the inroads made by Betty White and Cher, and despite the fact that we’re all sort of grossed out by the epic damage being wrought on older faces by cosmetic surgery, the fact is, if you don’t know why Kelly Osbourne is feuding with Xtina (or even who Xtina is), who/what is trending on Twitter, or how Vodka and feminine products have become linked (sorry…it is viral), you’re not only OLD, you’re terminally unhip. Which might mean I’m slightly hip for being able to reference any of those things. Probably not.

Basically you’re unhip just by virtue of having lived longer than the much hipper younger people who are now running the world on the sheer heft of their buying, downloading, clicking, viewing, sharing, texting, tweeting, stumbling, or YouTubing. Any hip quotient I could ever possibly muster pales in comparison. Though I have a smart phone and still wear black jeans. Not enough. Not near.

But I get the young thing. I do. It’s a great time of life. I had an amazing experience as a young artist. I did have all that stuff – the slavishly devoted managers and producers, the band members who happily hitched on my ride; good Variety reviews, people who said they’d make me a star, backers and financiers and agents and publicists and fans and all that head-swirling stuff, some version of which our girl Jen is probably reveling in when she isn’t punching someone in the throat. But, truth be told, even when I was young I wasn’t so hip. When an unknown Madonna and I met with the same manager at the same time (she and I didn’t meet at the same time, he was considering us both at the same time…and I was the one there on a recommendation from the legendary Kim Fowley of Runaways fame…how hip was that?!), that manager passed on me, took Madonna, and while I kept singing and writing songs about interracial relationships and the meaning of life, she was dry humping gay dancers and making millions (and, yes, admittedly, recording some great pop songs I dance to even to this day!). She was hip. I was not. Dammit all to hell.

Here’s the thing: when you do what I do – freelance writing, photography, music – and you’re not hip enough – as we’ve established I’m not –  the burden of wrangling all that creative output falls squarely on YOU. You don’t get a manager drooling over your “potential.” People don’t rush the door to get you viral and trending. No one’s setting up conference calls to “discuss the trajectory of your articles.” NPR ignores you. We’ve discussed the Tweeting. Basically you’re on your own. You market and media and bush beat and try not to annoy the shit out of the few people who actually respond to those mass mailings or Facebook links, and hold tight to the notion that you remain worthy despite it all. You write a few articles that do go (sorta) viral and that ticks up your hip quotient for a second, but it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” world out there and you’re Sisyphus; every single article, query letter, photography posting, and attempt to put a band together is a new effort that requires rolling that rock up the hill each and every day.

Rocking and frikkin’ rolling.

Did you ever see The Flight of the Conchords, that hilarious 2007 HBO show with the New Zealand music/comedy duo, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie? One of the funniest bits on the show was the ubiquitous appearances of their “one fan” (played by the very funny Kristen Schaal), who made it her business to be the very best fan she could be and, since she was their only one, they were grateful for her (most of the time!). Sometimes I feel that way about my small but very loyal group of friends and fans who always take the time to click, leave comments, re-post, pass on, and generally show a little love on a regular basis. Hipness notwithstanding, they are there, a small but mighty group, and what I lack in “virality,” I have – in spades – in some very appreciated loyalty from them. They’re like my “one fan,” though happily more than one. But just a little more! I’m grateful for them.

The truth is, I love what I do…my creativity lends tremendous purpose to my life. It always has, even when I was younger and hipper and not writing about either. But if it appears I’m now too sincere, too earnest; if I’m not snarky enough or funny enough for the times; if I lack cutting enough edge or just the right touch of verbal violence, so be it. I discovered long ago that you not-hip-enoughhave to be who you are, who you truly are, and if that doesn’t bring them to their feet, again, so be it. To feign something or attempt to be someone else just to match the zeitgeist in hopes of greater acceptance or more success is pure folly. It never works. You always get found out. Look at Milli Vanilli.

So as Popeye would say, I am what I am. Thank you to those who get me. I love you guys, I really do. Which is a long way from wanting to punch someone in the throat.

Yep…definitely not hip enough.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Art of Art Discussion: Just Quiet Down and Go Create

We all need a break now and again from the day-to-day work that holds our focus. Like the vaunted “15-minutes” regular office workers get to stroll into the cafeteria for java and a Danish, we freelancers take our moments, too; often to hop online for a little social media refreshment. I’m as guilty as anyone; there are days when serious-conversation_smmeeting a deadline, finishing a project, getting errands done, or managing my ever-growing list of marketing tasks all require the interruption of some light trolling on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Huff Po, Fine Art America or any of the groups and discussions one might find here or there. And when I do, I’m typically compelled, by virtue of senses stirred, to jump in. Sometimes it’s just clicks on photos and links I enjoy but, equally as often, the urge for rejoinder is strong. It’s hard for me to read inane chatter, mean-spirited comments, or truly debatable topics without wanting to throw in my two cents!

Certainly political postings corral the lion’s share of this type of response, but more recently I’ve read or partaken in “art discussions” — analysis and deconstruction of style and technique, contest decorum, commerce demands, etc. —  and, much like politics, the tendency for some to veer into cynicism, negativity, and arrogance is apparent. And disappointing.

Like anything else on the Internet, Art is a big topic. Go to any art-oriented site – photography, painting, jewelry design, graphic art, whatever –  and you’ll find opinions on every aspect and angle. And in those discussions, you’ll meet as many wonderful artists as you will curmudgeons, which, frankly, I find surprising. I don’t know why, but I always expect artists to be more uplifting and good-spirited than they often are.

See, I was lucky to have been given a constructive and very positive foundation in my training. My experiences in a wide variety of “the arts” included an overriding message of support, assistance, camaraderie, and the sheer joy of the craft. Certainly there were those who took opportunity for snarky critique, behind-the-back denigrations, sniffing arrogance, or bashing disguised as instruction, but I was fortunate that most of the teachers, professors, mentors, and fellow artists involved in my impressionable youth exuded their own joy in the craft and that imprinted upon me a higher-toned mission statement; one of constructive input, positive output, and personal and communal artistic integrity. Or, as is suggested in this age of The Secret and The Power of Positive Thinking, a “half-full perspective bereft of the toxic effect of negativity.”

talking

“Either love it or do something else,” I was advised. I was also reminded of the old adage, “If you haven’t got something nice to say, don’t say anything.” Which, unless you’re a bona fide reviewer, opinion writer, or comedian, applies to pretty much everyone else.

So it’s jarring for me to read threads in which artists snipe at each other, knock down the work of others; become “authorities” about what is or isn’t Art (as if they, in particular, know!), criticize and demean the marketing choices of fellow artists, or denigrate any aspect of the industry – art or commerce –  that they, personally, don’t appreciate or wish to partake of. These are the kind of people who find fault and spew criticism, whose toxic brew of negativity was what a mentor of mine used to call “sour-pussing.” Glass half-empty. Discordant. Contrary.

For example; at Fine Art America, the very well managed site that provides hosting, printing and delivery of fine art photography and paintings – and a place where I’ve met a slew of very talented, supportive artists who are smart, enjoyable people – there is a contingent (likely too large a one) that “sour-pusses” on a regular basis. A discussion thread commenced recently regarding the winner of a now-concluded “Times Square Art Contest.” The woman who started the thread posited her prompt with a tsunami of criticism; of the winning piece, the artist, the contest, the overall marketing demands of the art world, concluding with a cranky assessment of “the whole thing.” (Frankly, I wanted to get her a juice box and tell her to take a nap!) But, more disappointingly, what followed this diatribe was a slew of commiserating comments, supporting her thesis to some degree or another. Lots of judgment of other artists’ work, denunciations of the overall state of the industry, snarky rejoinders about contests that “demean” artists into “begging” for votes, right down to a nihilistic grump-fest that included the statements, “There will be artists as long as there is society, but that too is coming to an abrupt halt. America is going under as we speak, and the rest will follow in quick order,” and the exceedingly grim “THERE IS NO FUTURE to ART. Humanity is much more interested in Ipods and marching blindfolded into the future. We are the last artists on this planet.”

All I could think was…WTF?!?

I shook my head as I read this manifesto of negativity, wondering how these people got out of bed, much less found the energy and inspiration necessary to create art. Luckily there were a few bright individuals who spoke up to shoot down the negative trend and did so with enough intelligence, optimism, and artistic good-will to offset, to the degree they could, the snarling hordes but, I have to say, I was disappointed that so many seemed hell-bent on ripping Art, and its artists, a new one! I was tempted to leap in and make my points, but realized, with some weariness, that the thread leader was jumping on every response with her continuing brand of snark and snarl and it was just too nice a day to get involved in that level of crankiness…though I did send an email to the most cogent and wise of her debaters, thanking him for his insight!

While I agree that we all have “the right to our opinions,” as Debbie Downer repeatedly pointed out, too many seem to have missed the lessons of integrity, constructive thinking, artistic magnanimity, and a positive, supportive outlook. Clearly Art has long had a history of creative personalities who were churlish and mean-spirited; many who were (are?) burdened with insecurities, jealousies, schadenfreude, and plain old nastiness, but in the communal world of online art exchange and discussion, there really is no room or reason for all that.

But people are who they are; I can’t change them. The woman running that thread is clearly a person with many other issues in her life that contribute to the attitudes she exudes online. But while I feel sorry for her (and certainly anyone in her near circle!), I ain’t gonna debate her. Because I reserve my perspective, my thoughtfulness; my contribution, for conversations that are constructive and focused on offering views and opinions that transmit something positive and helpful, rather than the banal, deflating, blather-fest of negativity I found on that thread.

stepping-into-the-plaza

My suggestion to that crowd? Stop talking and go create. If you have that much time to spend tearing down others in a community setting, go make another piece of art instead. Rather than getting some kind of buzz out of stirring up mutual frustration to feed your own, shut off your computer and pick up a brush or a camera. Don’t worry about what others are creating, just create. Quit expounding on what you think is stupid and create. Don’t announce what you won’t do, just do what you will do. If you don’t have the desire to be in a contest, don’t; but don’t cut down others who do. Don’t want to ask people to vote for your work? Again, don’t. But quit yacking about others who have no problem garnering support for theirs. And if someone wins a damn prize, offer congratulations and accept that even if “it’s not really creative” to you, it clearly is to someone else…enough that they won! And if you don’t have it in you to congratulate them…

Just quiet down.

Stop talking.

And go create.

All photographs by Lorraine Devon Wilke

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

May I Introduce My Other Muse?

We each come into this world with a penchant, an inclination; a psychic nuance that gets under our skin, drives our goals and, simply put, makes us really happy. The list is long of those many things that inspire and clearly it’s a very personal thing. What incites creativity, passion and ambition in one can be a complete flatline for another. It’s as individual as a fingerprint. A snowflake. That dish my friend Lotta makes that no one’s ever been able to figure out.

For me it was the creative arts. Always. I don’t know why. I could point to the lack of TV in my youth and childhood – and the books, music and art that filled the gap – but, frankly, my younger sibs who did not do without are just as artistically inclined and they were definitely Children of the TV (similar to Children of the Corn only in that their eyes are a bit large). Perhaps our penchants are pre-programmed. A carry-over from a previous life (if you believe such things). Certainly they’re influenced by parents who, in my case, were passionate about the arts, injecting them at every turn, convinced that even rearranging the living room was an expression of the creative mind. It is, Mom; I agree. And thank you, both, for your fine contribution to my artistic journey.

So armed with my many Muses who kept me company throughout an eclectic life, I happily bandied in a bevy of mediums, even past the point when others tried to convince me to “pick one and stick with it.” Creative monogamy, so to speak. But I had arrived in LA pumped by youthful years of writing, acting and singing, poised to take it all on in this fine creative mecca, so I chafed at the notion of exclusivity. Seemed so…exclusive. Still, I was a naive and eager young lass, addicted to my ambition and ultimately easily swayed, so I threw aside my concerns and did just that; I chose acting, forsaking all others like a good, faithful spouse, convinced that by committing to only one Muse I would certainly conjure its success into being.

Yeah. That worked.

Don’t get me wrong, I had loads of fun as an actress but ultimately fell out of love, particularly after it was clear that a viable career was not to be had and, it turns out, I really didn’t care all that much. Mostly I missed the other Muses. I remember telling my manager at the time, after five years of acting fidelity, that I missed music and wanted to get back to it and he literally laughed in my face. Seriously, he laughed. His perspective of me was so narrow that rather than explore a new path and its many possibilities, he presumed I was a deluded little dilettante. Big fat tipping point, that laugh. I dumped him, quit my acting class, threw out all my vapid 8×10’s and spent the next decade or so deliriously happy as a singer in a rock n’ roll band. And a writer. And a taker of pictures. All of it. Even some damn acting. My creative harem. Welcome home.

As I see it, this business of artistic monogamy is foolishness. Fidelity is for marriage, not art. Do what you love, do everything you love, and if you do it well, all the better…share it. Yes, I know the world is now saturated with loads of purported artists in every genre who do not do it well, whatever it is in this age of immediate and ubiquitous shallow-stardom, but if they enjoy it, enjoy away. We don’t have to pay attention and perhaps over time they’ll weary of the exercise. One can hope.

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Anyway, this is a long, roundabout way of introducing you to a particular Muse I’ve been deeply involved with for many years but have kept close to the vest for various reasons. While I’ve done session for family, friends and artists; have prints hanging on a few office walls and on various websites, this has been a somewhat stealth pursuit. No particular reason other than, as I viewed the many talented professionals attempting to build their photography businesses in a unfathomably competitive market, sorting out how to monetize the craft as I performed it eluded me. So I just took pictures and learned some worthy skills in the meantime. But after years of shooting, more requests for prints, a growing number of calls for sessions, I decided it was time to come out of the creative closet and throw this, too, into the mix that is my creative life.

Friends, meet my other Muse; Photography, meet the gang.

mezquita-arches_smThough you’re just meeting, I’ve actually been shooting pictures for most of my life.  For whatever reason, the idea of visually chronicling the journey was as natural as blinking an eye….and this was before Smart Phones and Facebook! I had a crappy little camera I took everywhere and I have many of those pictures still. They’re amateur and silly and some are as crappy as the camera taking them, but the eye was there, the composition was good and, bottom line, they are responsible for inciting my interest. It’s only been in the last couple of decades, however, that the passion to do it well became a pull. In fact, there was some regret that I hadn’t actually taken it more seriously earlier on…damn if I didn’t find the whole darkroom ritual of lights and chemicals and magically appearing images a romantic one! In fact, if I hadn’t rushed headlong into the performing arts I’ve always said I would have either been a professional photographer or a zoologist. Seriously. Either one. Primates or pictures.

2-baby-in-a-flower-field_smBut given my lack of aptitude for the sciences, photography, albeit peripherally, was at least able to come along on the ride – as much as possible given the limits of time and money. And though that first crappy camera held me in good stead for many years, it was when my mother-in-law bought me my first good Canon 35mm about 20 years ago that my world changed. Suddenly the pictures in my mind’s eye translated to paper. I began viewing things from the perspective of frame and light. Even when I didn’t have the camera, I was like Pam in The Office wedding episode snapping invisible pictures of perfect moments. I learned that the excitement of capturing an image of true beauty or amazing candor was as exhilarating as belting a killer song or writing that brilliant paragraph. I was hooked. And when the digital revolution exploded with all its heady possibilities, I took a leap of faith, invested in a top line Canon DLSR, a couple of stellar professional lenses and have been in a solid relationship with the Muse ever since.

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I have great respect for technicians but I am not one. Perfection of skill and deep, expansive knowledge of the science of photography belong to those who made it their business to prioritize learning the technology from the ground up. For me, Multi-Muse Gal, learning the craft and technique of photography has been a slow, steady process of personal experimentation, research, book and hands-on learning. My education has been mostly instinctual, with excellent tutelage and guidance from renowned, respected photographers and teachers along the way. I studied printmaking with a master printmaker, learned camera basics from a Canon specialist and, particularly in the last three years, worked with a noted photographer and designer for whom I shot countless photos, did digital processing and printing, as well as extensive restoration and repair of older, damaged files. I learned a tremendous amount by the sheer action of doing it and what has evolved through all of this is the skill I have and my particular style of visual storytelling, examples of which have found their way onto my site (and some in this article!).

I chose the pictures I did for the site galleries because, simply…I love them. I have my favorites, certainly, but I love them all. Not to sound childish but they make me happy and represent amazing experiences in which I participated. Some depict historical places that took my breath away, some are those decisive moments in real life captured in a flash of serendipity; others are simple beauty or sweetness with no other explanation, and some are stories I wanted to tell or people who grabbed my eye. A few are even technically dubious but exude something unique or special in a way that won them a spot on the site despite their flaws. It’s a collection that speaks loudly to how I see the world and I happen to like what it has to say.

I truly hope you also enjoy the statement.  There are over 600 photos posted on the site so don’t attempt to view them all in one sitting. Take the time to enjoy them in incremental visits when you can freshly view each gallery. I promise it’s a more enjoyable experience that way and I’ll be adding new things from time to time anyway!

And beyond the sharing of creativity, I chose Fine Art America, the company hosting the site, because they have streamlined the process of printmaking and that, after all, is part of the goal here: to inspire you to order prints for yourself, your friends, your office; your gift giving. Because ultimately I realized the way I could best monetize my craft was simply to shoot what I love and then put it somewhere where others could access it and, hopefully, find a piece or two they’d like for their living room. Or the kitchen at Grandma’s. Or that space in the den that always looks so bare. Should you wish a print, a photographic Christmas or holiday gift, a box of cards or a canvas of any one of these photographs, I would be honored.  Fine Art America makes it easy to get the commerce done so click the link below and go commerce a little…my Muse and I will thank you.

But whatever you do, first and foremost, enjoy!

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LorraineDevonWilke: Fine Art Photography

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All photos courtesy of Lorraine Devon Wilke

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.