Thursday, December 22, 2016

Art Art Art & Money Money Money

Andy Mouse - Keith Haring

Painting nudes

Us artist have it so good.

In art school, we live in creative hives.

We can follow sparks of imagination to see where they lead, which is always to something else. We can record traffic and make it music, print our own art money like Andy Warhol---invite an audience to the forest for an outdoor, nature symphony - like John Cage --and---we get to take classes where we stare at nudes and draw them. It’s a good life.

...and then we graduate and leave the paradise.

So many of us wonder what we’ll do with our degrees. Will we be able to get a job? make a living? are we destined to work in restaurants? What will we do?

There are many who give us artists a hard time. They think artists aren’t realist, that we don’t understand the real world. Many think being a doctor, lawyer, accountant, nurse is the rational, sensible way to go.

For people who want to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, nurse ---it is indeed a good idea to pursue those professions.

For those of us who think putting paint on a canvas is heaven, composing a photo, writing a novel, making a movie or directing a play are the things that make a life meaningful ---don’t be swayed into becoming someone you aren’t - don’t disrespect your own talents.

The Museum of Modern Art helped raise me.

I grew up in Queens - in NYC ---my friends and I would take the F train to 53rd street and go hang out at the museum --or we’d head all the way to the the tip of Manhattan to hang out at the Cloisters - where we’d examine the Unicorn tapestries.

Art is the foundation I stand on. It is because I saw a Claus Oldenberg exhibit at MoMA, when I was in 8th grade ---and that my grandfather was in the fabric biz, that I’m an artist in business.

I seemed perfectly possible to pursue my dreams and make a living.

I’m here to urge you to go into business.

Small biz - micro biz, art biz is what makes capitalism fun! We are the verve meisters.

Go into business - become part of the world of commerce. Figure out how to make some money from your art.

  Learn how to write a proposal, write an invoice and reel in the job. It’s exciting to be involved in the mainstream conversation.

As Andy Warhol said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art."

©Jennifer Smith 2016 - Artist in the Material World

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


There are many meccas. For artists, it’s NYC.

On the strength of a nice, little grant from The National Endowment for the Arts, in the 70’s, I headed to NYC.

I had no job, but I knew a few people. I knew I could land and sleep on someone’s couch for awhile. That was enough. It was a good move. I could take in the art movements from around the world and found my little niche in that world. Thrilling!

The other day, I gave a talk to a bunch of business students at Morehead University - in a lovely, small town in the midst of Kentucky’s rolling hills.

In telling my story, my hope was it would give students courage to follow their heart - not just make rational decisions.

Rational decisions are over-rated. What’s rational to one person may be seen as totally crazy by another.

Say, someone wants to be an opera singer. That person will hear, from people who may never have listened to opera --- and really don’t know what they are talking about ---- that they will never make any money pursuing an opera career.

Don’t listen to them!

Instead, Go to Italy, Go to NYC, go to places where opera is valued.


Want my advice to students?

Go! Follow your dreams. Want to work in the tech world - Go to Silicon Valley, or Houston, Boston or Hyerabad in India. Want to dance - Go to NYC. Is there a place you’ve always wanted to live? Go there. You will find work you love because you love the place.

Go to your Mecca. You will be rewarded and enriched.

Friday, September 30, 2016

In Praise of Foolish Decisions

Drawing by Anne Avery Dougans
I'm in favor of foolish decisions. We have this one precious life. Our time to make a mark, to have some fun, to set out on an adventure to make discoveries and to screw things up.

No life is perfect, nothing is guaranteed. It won't be a smooth ride. There will be bumps and crashes. Things will fall apart. Dreams will be dashed, we may not climb the highest mountain.

But we will have stories. We will know some fascinating people. We will be a fascinating person for going after the foolish ---the artistic moment, the vision, the move, the boyfriend, the husband, the babies.

For me, following the muse has lead me into a world of creation. Sometimes I look around the mascot studio where we might be making a rainbow bellied dinosaur, collecting fabric swatches for some imaginary critter and shaping foam for some buff, muscular mascot.

All of the foolish decisions have lead me to my very own little piece of heaven.

©Jennifer Smith 2015