Documenting Protest: Granny Peace Brigade Art

Regina Silvers, Visual Artist and Art Organizer

I draw, paint, and have been exhibiting my work since the ‘70s. Right now I’m engrossed in the most exciting art project of my career: The Granny Peace Brigade series.

In 2005 a friend of mine was arrested, along with a small group of older women– all members of various Peace groups like Code Pink and the Gray Panthers— for demonstrating at the Army Recruitment station in Times Square. They were cuffed, jailed, and eventually tried and acquitted.  Out of this experience they formed The Granny Peace Brigade. I’ve been a supporter and ardent admirer since then.

I drew them during their trial and later began to photograph them while I marched and demonstrated with them. After a while, I began using these photos as source material for new work.

Much of my previous work of the past 20-odd years had focused on nature-based motifs. Working from sketches made while hiking upstate NY, I created large close-ups of the rocks, weeds, waterfalls, and woodlands, drawing attention to their “ordinary” beauty and vitality.  At the same time – initially because I am devoted to drawing the figure – I created the ”Placard” series: paintings and drawings derived from images of protesters I found in newspapers. This however was a different matter.

As an older woman, and an activist since the days I marched with the Women Strike for Peace against the Vietnam War, this project is more personal and vital.  It gives me an opportunity to merge my aesthetic, political and social concerns, through personally meaningful, timely, subject matter. It’s been challenging and exhilarating.

It’s been said that “…the eye witnesses, the hand records.” As an artist I am following a long roster of artists who “bear witness” (think Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, Picasso, Ben Shahn, Leon Golub). While I’m not intent on painting a political polemic, I do want to pay homage to these feisty peace activists, and transmit their message that “Democracy is not a Spectator Sport”.

As I participate in documenting this piece of our history, I  show, close-up, what it’s like to be in the midst of the energetic Grannies, visually expressing the view that older women are concerned, and can have an active voice in our society.

To make a piece of art that conveys the energy, immediacy, and spirit of the narrative, I work quickly, making many large pieces for each motif, varying the composition, the approach, and the materials. The works range from 20 x 30” to 36 x 72”, in pastel, charcoal, acrylic, and/or oil paint. Some become finished “products”, others remain studies. I feel privileged to be able to hone my approach to making art while visually expressing something of such importance to me, and hopefully supporting the efforts of these heroic women.

I will be exhibiting this work in a one-person exhibition at Saint Peter’s Church (Citicorp) NYC in May, 2013.


Regina Silvers has been involved with fine art for her whole adult life- as a visual artist and an art organizer. Originally trained as a NYC art teacher, her varied career includes jewelry designer, gallery director, curator, art consultant, museum publicity/advertising manager, and always, practicing artist.

She was a founder and President of TOAST, the TriBeCa Open Artist Studio Tour (2000 to 2010), and co-founder and Director of the Gallery at Hastings on Hudson (1976-84).

Silvers has maintained a studio in TriBeCa for more than 20 years and, until recently, a studio in Woodstock, NY. Her work appears in corporate and private collections throughout the United States, and she has participated in more than 40 exhibitions nationally.

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How to Storyboard for Hollywood and TV: Robert Castillo

Robert Castillo, Award-winning Director, Animator, Storyboard Artist

I was born with a pencil in my hand, or so the story goes!  Ever since I can remember drawing has been a vital part of my life.  It’s something I have been doing all my life. Drawing was the tool which helped me communicate with others. In 1977 when I stepped off the plane from Santo Domingo, I knew not a word of English and drawing was how I communicated.  I was born here in the United States, but was raised in the island of Santo Domingo and did not speak English.

My family has stories of me drawing on walls; on the furniture and doodling on my father’s college books.  In school, I was constantly in hot water because all I wanted to do was draw.

Today, I still draw. I am a Storyboard Artist. My job is to take a script and a story and illustrate it and bring it to life! I meet with the director and try to see what is in his head. A storyboard is similar to a Comic Book, where you have sequential images that tell a story. I love movies and I love to draw so I am very happy doing what I do.

For people interested in doing Storyboards, the first thing I would suggest is putting up an easy-to-navigate website that shows your best storyboard work. If you do not have any professional experience yet, just put up any samples that you do have. When a client calls, be honest with them if they ask you what project the sample work is from. If it is not from an actual job, then just say so. Do not let your lack of experience become an issue. Try to promote yourself and find an agent if you can. There are agencies like Storyboards Inc. or Famous Frames that are always looking for new talent. Storyboard agents are not absolutely necessary. It depends on what city you live in. If you are in a smaller market town, you may want to have an agent to see if it works for you.

Professional storyboard artists charge $600 per day and higher. It is up to you to know the value of your work. Rates are listed in The Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. It is published every year by the Graphic Artists Guild. When a client contacts you about your rates, get all the details you can and be able to tell the client how many frames you are able to do in a day or how long it will take you to complete the project. Negotiating the rate is something that you will have to get a personal feel for, and finally you have to draw well, so whenever you get a chance practice your story boarding skills. There are many books and videos out there full of useful information. Many DVDs also have special features, and of course the web is full of resources and examples.

Robert Castillo is a Storyboard Artist who lives in New Jersey and works in New York City. He graduated with honors from The Art Institute of Boston and has a Master’s Degree in Computer Arts from The School of Visual Arts.

As a storyboard artist, Robert has created boards for films including Lee Daniel’s “Precious”, the Christopher Reeve’s directed animation Everyone’s Hero, Queen Latifahs “The Cookout” and “Perfect Holiday” and the award-winning cable television programs  The Sopranos, and Smash.

 He has also done music videos for Alicia Keys, Ja Rule, Kid Rock, Lauren Hill and Don Omar; commercials for Phat Farm, Adidas, And 1; as well as promo work and music videos for MTV, Nickelodeon’s Ironman, Fuse, VH1, Court TV and ESPN.

His talent has been recognized with various awards and honors, including L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future and The Student Academy Awards in 2004 for his short film S.P.I.C. The Storyboard of My Life which has screened in fourteen festivals including Cannes and The Museum of Modern Art.  In 2005, S.P.I.C. had a special screening at TIME Magazine in New York and at Walt Disney Studios.  Robert has also lectured on “The Art of Storyboards” at NYU Tisch and Jersey City University.

Robert has given back by auctioning his artwork for The John Starks Foundation as well as Project Sunshine.   He also volunteers his time with The Ghetto Film School in the Bronx,  Mount Sinai Hospital and The Automotive High School of  Brooklyn.

Bringing Your World to Stage: EbzB Productions

Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen, Founders, EbzB Productions

EbzB Productions is a professional touring company dedicated to developing original theatrical productions to promote integrity, self-discovery and positive transformation of individuals, artists, audiences, and communities. They believe the performing arts encourage positive transformation through discoveries unveiled immediately and upon reflection.

1. What have been the key factors in evolving your careers and your business?

Understanding the business aspect of show business. Negotiating contracts, bookkeeping, public relations and marketing are just as important as raw talent to an artist.

Cultivating real and positive relationships with everyone you meet. We are not talking about “networking” or “social networking”, we are talking about developing real and respectful friendships with your community. Some of our most enjoyable and lucrative work has been the result of ideas generated among friends. We’ve had surprise opportunities with our latest productions from people we knew when we were just starting out – 40 years ago!

Everyone you meet has something to teach, offer, and benefit your development and career. For example, while working at Hedgerow Theatre near Philadelphia, Serena was offered a part-time position by Susan Raab of Raab Associates, a children’s book marketing agency (and now host of this blog). That job, relationship, and friendship not only gave Serena valuable experience in learning professional publicity techniques, database building, technology and relationship building; it also resulted in a valuable friendship which has returned thousand-fold for Serena. Twenty years later, Serena hired Susan’s son, Jeff Raab as an actor in a production she directed. These long-term, cultivated relationships prove most valuable to career success.

 2. What would you advise newcomers?

Educate yourself. Get your university degree. A broad-based education is mandatory because it enables empathy and understanding for the people, events and politics conveyed on stage. Take classes in marketing, business, and accounting as part of your major or electives. Design an independent study that focuses on organizational administration. Actor Conservatory training is great for technique and career networking, but it often doesn’t help you understand the content and context of the material you will perform. It is not enough to perform a song or monologue technically. An artist should be able to interpret, apply metaphor, understanding, and value.

Get as much experience as you can auditioning, performing, working on the tech crew, and volunteering in the theatre’s administrative office. It’s so important to understand all the jobs in the theatre so that you can appreciate everyone’s contribution to your success. You never know when the stage manager may have an opportunity to recommend an actor. He will recommend someone with whom he enjoyed working and who makes him feel appreciated.

Trust your instincts. If an audition or job offer violates your personal values, decline it. It won’t ruin your career to say no. Hold onto your integrity – it is the only thing you can be sure of in this business.

3. What about Do’s and Don’ts?

  • Do be kind and respectful to everyone you meet.
  • Don’t talk behind other people’s back. You never know when the God mic is broadcasting your intimate stage whispers to the crowd in the greenroom.
  • Do get a signed contract when you work.
  • Don’t go against your instincts.
  • Do get attractive promotional materials (head shots, website, resume, demo reel, classic audition clothing)
  • Don’t spend exorbitant amounts of money on your promotional materials. Keep it simple and within your budget. You can upgrade when you can upgrade.
  • Do have a support system. That system should not only include fierce friends who make you laugh, but also equally important activities that make you feel good about yourself when you’ve had a bad day at the theatre.
  • Don’t assume that Broadway and Hollywood are the only definitions of success in the acting business.
  • Do develop your talents to serve in other aspects of life – perhaps as a teaching artist, or drama therapist, or as a communications director. The skills of an actor are extremely useful in corporate, educational, and medical environments.
  • Don’t sell your soul for fame and fortune. Both fame and fortune are simply by-products of a job well done and a life well lived.

4. What resources have you found most helpful?

National Endowment for the Arts  – for information including on Presenter Consortiums

Unified Auditions – StrawHat, SouthEastern Theatre Conference, League of Washington Theatres

Unions – Actors’ Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild

Arts Councils – Local and State Arts Councils

EbzB teaching artists are dedicated to the promotion of dramatic art as a valuable educational tool. They’ve been trained by The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts “Artists as Educators: Planning Effective Workshops”; The Lincoln Center Institute‘s International Educator Program and the National Center for Creative Aging as teaching artists. EbzB is also endorsed by the North Carolina Arts Council‘s Touring Artists Directory.
Founded in 1998 by Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen, EbzB Productions celebrates the profound impact of storytelling through theater in a repertoire of productions, flexibly designed for easy touring to all types of performance spaces. They’re an award-winning husband-wife, actor-manager team who bring over forty years of experience to the stage. Their careers have taken them from off-Broadway and the U.S. to Canada and Europe. In addition to performances, EbzB Productions, Inc. runs student workshops, residencies, and professional development seminars.
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Gilding Tips: Artist Karen Fitzgerald

My work is idiosyncratic – it’s round and it incorporates gilding extensively in its surface, process and idea.  In a wider view, my work is traditional in that I put paint on a substrate.

Gilding has wide applications in our world. It’s been found as far back as the early Egyptian civilization. We know the Chinese were gilding 5,000 years ago. While gilding in our modern world is usually decorative in application, traditionally it was used to signify something beyond the physical. It indicated the sacred, spiritual realm.

Learning gilding has been an experience of constant surprise. The basic idea is that a metal, beaten thinner than a human hair, is applied to a surface. The variety of glues (referred to as ‘size’) is astounding. Older German gilders used a mixture of beer and honey. A contemporary gilder uses the juice of garlic. Size falls into 2 categories: water-based and oil-based. Leaf is delicate to handle – I rarely use loose gold leaf. It is available in two forms: loose and transfer. The transfer leaf is adhered to thin tissue – handling it is less risky than loose leaf. When using loose leaf (I always use loose leaf in silver, copper and aluminum) you can tear it up, achieving an interesting non-gridded surface. By carefully sealing gilding you can gild in layers – for instance, adding linear elements on top of a gilded background.  Sealants are as various as size! One of the things I’ve learned is that gilding requires a constant attention to touch, and a constant willingness to change a habit of process. I recently gilded a copper ground.  I sealed it with shellac first, allowing the shellac to cure for 24 hours, then added a layer of Lascaux UV.  Overnight the Lascaux turned a deep brown!  Whatever reacted, the fact that it did signals me to that attentive mode, being careful not to assume materials will sit happily together.

I use gilding in a non-decorative manner. My intention is to signal to the viewer that they are not looking at a replication of the physical world. Gold is embedded in the core of our civilization, its dynamic energy often signals something beyond the purely physical. The precious metals I gild with indicate a quality of energy that expands beyond our physical world, a quality that is metaphysical and transformative.

Light suffuses our world – its energy shapes the mood of each day. I use color as pure light, physical energy, creating complex shades and tones that reconnect energies present in the everyday world with my own as well as viewers’ experiences. My work gives you a way to have a visual experience of your own energy. Similar to looking in a mirror, when you look into one of my paintings, you respond to the color, nuance and energy that is embedded in the piece. You have an experience of your energetic self, manifested in the physical properties of the paint. We know from scientists that energy can travel in waves.  Here-in lies the power of the wave: as you experience this energy, it has the capacity to shift your own energy to a higher level. I have always loved the action of wave energy in water. As the energy passes through the water, it lifts the water. As the energy of my painting reaches you, it lifts your energy.

In the New York area, a terrific resource is Sepp Leaf, international distributor of gold and metal leaf, gilding supplies, Liberon and decorative finishing products

Karen Fitzgerald’s work has been widely exhibited in the United States, including at the Queens Museum of Art, the Madison Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum and Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, the University of Arizona – Tucson, and at the United Nations in New York.  Her work is also in the Spencer Collection of the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Union Gas collection, the Rienhart Collection of Germany, the Museum of New Art in Detroit and many other public and private collections.

Workshop: Ms. Fitzgerald will be offering a day-long gilding workshop at her studio in Long Island City, NY on January 21, 2012. She’ll cover types of gilding, how to gild large areas, gilding in layers, working with copper, aluminum, silver and gold and related topics.  For information, contact Kbfitzgerald@gmail.com.

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Pursuing sculpture in clay, metal and glass: Immi Storrs

Immi Storrs, Sculptor and Glass Artist

What advice do you have for beginning sculptors?

I learned many years ago about working in clay was that water-based clay is a much more tactile, but loses some of its spontaneity because it needs to be kept wet. Plasticine has an odor that I don’t like, and people will find it doesn’t take thumbprints like water-based clay, but it does not need to be kept wet. And those clays need to be put in a more permanent medium, unless they are hollow without an armature, and can be fired. The other material that is interesting is plaster. It can be slathered over an armature and then chiseled or rasped away. The plaster when done takes very interesting patinas. I use water-based colors for that.

What was the biggest challenge in marketing yourself as a sculptor at the start?

The biggest challenge in marketing myself early on was finding a gallery. As my work is cast in bronze, which is very expensive, and that made my work expensive. Not many galleries are willing to take on new artists whose work is expensive because the market is not there. Galleries, at least here in New York, have enormous costs and they need to be able to sell their artists.

How have you differentiated yourself?

My work is different because I do mostly animals. You can tell what they are, whether it’s a horse or cow or bird, but the horse may have four heads and four tails. And my animals are all generic, though you can tell whether my bird is a water bird or a raptor, You don’t know what kind of water bird or raptor.

My new work is on glass. Having had multiple hand and wrist injuries, I needed to change my technique as clay was much too difficult. I use a paint on multiple panes to create a 3-D effect that some people find disturbing, so I guess my technique works. I think of my new work as both painting and sculpture.

How do you work with glass?

The technique I’ve developed, which is to work with a series (usually six or seven) stacked glass panels that I’ve painted on and sometimes etched, allows me to create dimensionality and to look as though the subject is encased in the glass – in fact, some people have asked how I got the wasp or bird in there. What I’ve actually done is to design, for example with the eagle, so that the front wing is on the first pane and the other wing is on the last pane with body parts in between to make the piece look three-dimensional. It’s challenging because when I make a change on one pane, I have to look at how it impacts all the others, so I’m forever moving the panes around to line them up in a particular way. I use special glass paint, and I also did finally find out that I can get a type of seamed glass, which means that the edges are sanded down and smooth, so now I’m not cutting myself on the ragged edges.

Immi Storrs is an award-winning sculptor, whose work is in museums and corporate collections, including The National Museum for Women in the Arts, The National Academy Museum, and The Herbert Johnson Museum at Cornell. She recently completed eleven sculptures for Japan Airlines, and she’s a member of  The Century Association and The Sculptors Guild.

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How Not to Get a Grant

 

Charles Coe, Grants Program Officer, Massachusetts Cultural Council

How can you be sure you won’t get the grant you’ve applied for? Easy, according to Charles Coe, who sees thousands of such proposals in his work for the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Here’s what applicants do.

1. Don’t read the guidelines.

Ignore the funding program’s criteria. Just write whatever you want.

2. Be vague.

Never give specific details. Don’t get bogged down in boring specifics like, “My plan is to offer six classes during the school year at three middle schools in our school district; my target is to reach approximately four hundred children, and spring exhibitions of the children’s work at each school.” Say instead, “I’m going to work with a bunch of kids. It’ll be great!”

3. Assume the reviewers know all about you.

Forget that stuff the funder said in the guidelines about being clear in the application about who you are and what you do.

4. Assume you’re entitled to a grant.

Why should you have to justify yourself? Funders should stop expecting you to spend all your time writing grant applications and just write you a check.

5. If your last application to the funder was unsuccessful, complain about that in your current application.

That last review panel obviously had it wrong. If the funder sent you their comments, refute each criticism with righteous indignation. Express your sincere hope that the current review panel is more qualified to assess your work.

6. Give the impression that your organization is a private club.

If the guidelines ask you do describe your education and community outreach efforts, say you just don’t have the time or money to do that stuff.

7. Don’t bother to proofread your copy.

This is a grant application, not an essay contest. Who cares about a few typos? It’s just like when you interview for a job; a prospective employer should be able to look beyond a few little misspellings and grammatical errors.

8. Don’t get fussy about your support material.

If the grant guidelines require you to document your work, just submit whatever CD or slides you have lying around.

9. Don’t get fussy about your financial information.

The funder shouldn’t obsess about whether your budget is presented clearly, or if the numbers add up. So what if they ask for a project budget for the next fiscal year? Or tell you to divide your income and expenses into certain categories? Just print out your Quicken ledger sheet and call it a day.

10. Wait until the absolutely, positively last minute to write the application.

After all, you’ve got a lot more important things to do than to sit around fussing with grant applications. Just put on another pot of coffee and whip something out.

____________________

But, If You DO WANT A GRANT, Consider This

In the current economic climate, the reality is that few artists will make a significant portion of their income from fellowships and grants. As a result, many artists are taking a more entrepreneurial approach to supporting their work, including fundraising the way organizations typically do. Here are a few simple ways an individual artist can get into the fundraising game

Use a Fiscal Agent

Nothing prevents you as an individual from asking people to make donations to help fund a project. But most people won’t donate unless they can get a tax deduction, which you can’t offer unless you have a registered nonprofit cultural organization—a 501- (c) 3. But you could offer them that deduction if you use a fiscal agent. Simply put, you find a registered nonprofit willing to accept donations on your behalf. Donors write a check to the fiscal agent, which then writes a check to you for that amount, minus a small pass-through fee (usually five to eight percent). And the donor gets the tax deduction. For more information:

What you need to know about fiscal sponsorship:

http://www.grantsnorthwest.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-fiscal-sponsorship/

Fiscal agent letter of agreement checklist (the items your letter should address):

http://www.oac.state.oh.us/grantsprogs/guidelines/staticpages/FiscalAgentLetter.pdf

Start an Online Fundraising Campaign

The last few years have seen a tremendous growth in the phenomenon of “Crowdfunding” (online fundraising).  You might already be familiar with more popular sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But dozens more have popped up in the last few years.  For more information:

A guide to online fundraising:

http://www.connectioncafe.com/posts/2010/07-july/new-nonprofit-online-fundraising-guide.html

A Comparison of Crowdfunding Websites:

http://www.inc.com/magazine/201111/comparison-of-crowdfunding-websites.html

Stage a collaborative event

Partner with a community-based non-profit service organization, such as a shelter for battered women, food pantry, or elder services program. Stage an exhibition or offer a performance, and split proceeds from tickets or artwork sold. The organization will put out two announcements in their newsletter about the event—one before and one after the fact. You have access to an entirely new audience who’ll purchase tickets or artwork because you’re supporting an organization they care about. Everyone wins.

Charles Coe is a program officer for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s general operating support grant programs. He is the author of “Picnic on the Moon,” a volume of poetry (Leapfrog Press), and a second volume of his work, “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for My Parents” will be released by the same publisher in March, 2013. Charles is a long-time activist with the National Writers Union, a labor union of freelance writers. He has served on the union’s National Executive Board, is co-chair of the Boston Chapter Steering Committee, and co-founded the union’s National Diversity Committee.

 

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How Do You Draw a Maze? Ask Roxie Munro!

Roxie Munro, Illustrator (publications, books and apps) and amazing Maze Artist

Learn the art of maze drawing from artist and amazing maze maker, Roxie Munro. Inspired by art, nature, architecture and design, Roxie’s mazes are found in paintings, murals, books, and now apps. She shares her design process and arts business tips here.

How to make a Geometric Maze

How to make a Random Roxie Reversing Maze

What’s made the most difference in your career success?

Tenaciousness.

What do you advise newcomers?

Don’t feel entitled. It’s not easy, so you have to work very hard and not give up.

Dos & Don’ts about the arts business?

Be on time. Don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be high maintenance. Be generous to others. Don’t dwell on rejection.

Roxie Munro is the author/illustrator of more than 35 children’s books, including Mazescapes; Inside-Outside Books: New York City (New YorkTimes Best Illustrated Award), Washington DC, Texas, London, Paris, Libraries and Dinosaurs; EcoMazes (School Library Journal Star; Smithsonian’s Best Science Book for Children); and Hatch! (Outstanding Science Trade Book, NSTA/CBC; Bank Street College Best Books of 2012/Outstanding Merit).  Her books have been translated into French, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, and Japanese. Apps: “Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure” and “Roxie’s DOORS.” Out Oct 2012: K.I.W.i.StoryBooks (Kids Interactive Walk-in Story Books). Out 2013: Slithery Snakes.

She has been a working artist all her life, including freelancing in Washington DC as a television courtroom artist. Clients included CBS, Washington Post, and Associated Press. The New Yorker published fourteen covers. She also creates oils, watercolors, prints, and drawings, exhibited widely in museums and galleries.

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