I was lucky this cold winter week in December. I went to the beach, hung out at the marina, and gazed at flower gardens in full bloom.
You think I’m kidding? Well, I’m not. I was lucky enough to visit the Jacqueline Penney Art Gallery & Studio in Cutchogue Long Island NY. Now this is an Artist who loves sunshine! Take a look at her work at her website http://www.jacquelinepenney.net and then make an appointment to go see and collect her work.
Jackie is a real renaissance woman. She paints, she teaches and she writes books helping others to enjoy the experience of creating Art. She is a sharing and giving human being and it shows in her work.
Her beautifully re-designed 1840’s barn is at once her home, her studio working space and the gallery where she sells her work to the public. This seamless breaking down of boundaries defines a truly creative person. There is no beginning, no end, just the all-encompassing act of creating.
The way she lives and the way she lives her life describes a true Artist.
Talent doesn’t guarantee professional success in the arts. Whether your intended career is in dance or theatre, writing or painting, you need an entrepreneurial mindset, good contacts and competence in basic business skills: selling, negotiating, writing contracts. No one is better qualified to teach their skills than Long Island’s top visual and performing artists.
Come for the breakfast. Stay for the lunch.
Kirsten Lonnie, Executive Director, Southampton Cultural Center
8:35AM – 8:45 AM The Economic Impact of the Arts
Michelle Stark, Commissioner, Office of Film & Cultural Affairs/ Suffolk County Department of Economic Development
Live music, art exhibitions, independent films and theatrical performances are revitalizing Main Streets across the country. A look at how cultural activities drive economic growth.
8:50AM – 9:00 AM Brand Me – Where Your Career Starts
Cindy Smith, ImageQuest Communications, Inc.
Not every brand comes wrapped in plastic. As a creative professional your brand creates expectations, defines your identity and expands – or limits – your opportunities. Learn how to take charge of Brand Me from the onset, and maintain control throughout your career.
9AM – 9:15AM Act I: My Career in the Arts
Josh Gladstone, Artistic Director, Guild Hall/John Drew Theatre, East Hampton
9:15AM – 9:45AM Myth-Busting: The 10 Big Lies That Keep Artists Poor
We don’t pay our contributors, we offer exposure.” “All great artists suffer for their art.” “We acquire all rights.” Sound familiar? Hear how our panelists deal with these and other myths. Moderator: Bonnie Grice, radio host and director of cultural programming, WLIU-FM Panelists: James Faith, Faith Ent., producer, Great South Bay/American Music Festivals Shenole Latimore, jazz musician Jim Lennon, photographer Bunny Hoest, cartoonist, “The Lockhorns”
9:45AM – 10AM The Interview
Vic Skolnik, co-director, Huntington Cinema Arts Centre
One of Long Island’s most influential cultural figures, Victor Skolnick co-founded the Cinema Arts Centre in 1973, bringing year-round, top-quality international films to Long Island. He screens hundreds of films a year and showcases about 200 at the centre.
10AM -10:25AM Getting to Yes All creative people must sell. Here are three approaches. Panelists:
Lisa Kende, Manager, The Kende String Trio, Manhasset
Jacueline Penney, painter
10:25AM-10:45AM Making Friends with Technology
Today’s digital media, including the Internet, CD-roms and podcasting, enables the entrepreneurial artist to produce, market and sell his or her own work, find gigs, get media attention, find collaborators and more.. Learn strategies for successful online self-promotion; how to be part of online communities, and more.
Mary Ahern , Digital imagery
Rob Dircks, co-founder, Acoustic Long Island podcast
Shenole Latimer, jazz musician
10:45AM -11AM BREAK
11AM:11:15AM You’ve Got a Mouth – Now Talk
Saralee Rosenberg and Ellen Meister are both Long Islanders with new books out on the suburban female experience. They met on the book promotion circuit. They talk about how they fuel sales, one listener at a time, and how silence is decidedly not golden for authors with books to peddle.
11:15AM -11:30AM Spin Control: Gettting and Keeping Media Attention Learn what journalists look for in cultural stories and how to get in front of them.
Panelists:Bonnie Grice, Director of Cultural Programming, WLIU-FM
11:30AM -12:15PM It’s The Law. A handshake and trust – good. A solid contract – priceless. Learn to write enforceable contracts, to license and protect your intellectual property, and other important legal stuff..
Panelists: Kathryn Dalli, Attorney with Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo LLP, in Riverhead Jim Lennon, Jim Lennon Photography
12:15PM – 12:45PM Breakouts – Speed Mentoring Meet informally with speakers and other creative artists or business specialists. Exchange ideas, ask questions, meet mentors.
Keynote: Success Starts with You.Emmy-award winner and founder, Wainscott Studios, Mitchell Kriegman Mr. Kriegman began his diverse career as a short story writer, performance artist and video artist. In the early 1980’s, he joined the team of Saturday Night Live as a performer, writer and filmmaker. Soon after, Kriegman began creating, developing and producing series for Comedy Central, Nick at Nite, Disney Channel and other cable networks. He has written for such publications as The New Yorker, National Lampoon, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar. As the creator of shows such as, Clarissa Explains It All, Bear in the Big Blue House, and Book of Pooh, and executive head writer and developer of numerous other signature television series including Rugrats, Ren and Stimpy, Doug, and Life with Derek, Kriegman is the creator and executive producer of It’s a Big Big World, the Emmy-nominated PBS preschool series focusing on environmental awareness. Today, he owns Watermill Studios and employs a growing staff. He discusses how he did it.
I was pleased to join an international group of digital artists at the inaugural exhibition of their brick-and-mortar gallery at MOCA, the Museum of Computer Art, in Brooklyn NY. The show was on display at this well lit and airy space located in Park Slope from Sept 2 – Sept 18, 2008. Though no longer there the amazing work of digital artists worldwide can still be seen at the MOCA online virtual gallery.
Don Archer & Mary Ahern at the inaugural exhibition of the MOCA:Museum of Computer Art
MOCA was established in 1993 by computer artists Don Archer and Bob Dodson to promote digital art in its various forms and manifestations, including 3-D rendered art, fractals, enhanced photography, animation, mixed media, computer-painted and -drawn art, etc. Many talented artists have given them access to their work, and what you see in their archives and exhibitions are some of the best work that they have solicited. Some of it may be of technical or historical interest, some of it may be innovative and unusual, and some of it may have potential (dare we say it) as high art.
As an online museum, MOCA is host to hundreds of world-class digital artists and thousands of their images, all available for viewing online. It is one of the most heavily-trafficked, comprehensive, frequently-updated and respected computer art museums on the Web. The goal is to keep abreast of the latest and best in digital art. Both beginning and advanced artists frequently visit the site, if only to see what the competition is doing.
My Garden and my Art work side by side. Both require me to make aesthetic judgements about composition, scale, color, texture and style. When I’m deciding where to plant the flowers I’ve hauled home on my endless trips to the nurseries it doesn’t seem that much different to me then when I’m deciding how to compose them on a two dimensional surface.
I think about what style I’m looking for, what colors will work together, whether the scale of the placement works for me. I think about the type of flower and texture of the leaves. I make decisions about the 3D composition of the garden much like the 2D composition decisions on a painting.
The garden adds so many additional layers of complexity since the artwork is moving in time with nature, the seasons, the elements, and time. The painting remains caught in a moment.
Capturing that ephemeral moment is so gratifying to me in my Fine Art. I control it, unlike my Garden which is usually out of control.
You can visit this Watercolor painting on my website in The Work or you can buy a print of it in The Store.
Grape muscari, otherwise known as Grape Hyacinths live close to the ground. For years I never took much notice of them except for the little spots of brilliant purple that bounced so nicely against the bright yellow daffodils they bloomed along with in April.
Then I got down. Hands and knees down.
What a surprise! How intricate the little flowers are. Little bells dance around a central stem forming a small pyramid. This inflorescence changes shape as it ages and can be more and less tightly knit.
The individual purple doesn’t seem to change on each bell but the overall purple varies when viewed at a distance based upon the tightness of the overall flower.
I enjoyed these 4″ bulbs so much in my garden that I bought a bag of them from Costco one year and low and behold the next spring the flowers that bloomed were very different from my originals. They were more blue then purple and had a more rounded then pyramidal over shape.
So I googled Grape Muscari and found a world of cultivars I didn’t previously know existed. That’s one of the things that is so much fun about gardening. You are constantly in a learning mode. You are in for surprises every year and every season. The knowledge and information you acquire just keeps on growing, along with your garden.
So now I know that so far in my garden I have Muscari armeniacum and M. azureaum. Next year I’m sure to have more.
When I made my Digital Mixed Media Painting of my Grape Muscari I was careful to recreate the basal growth of the leaves. It would not have been accurate if I’d placed the leaves higher on the stem. The painting would have looked like a plant Frankenstein. As a Garden Artist, that is not what I’m trying to create.
You can view this Grape Muscari piece in my Store.
Northport Art in the Park. My first art festival in July 2008. Notice there are no walls to hang Art!
In June 2004 when I did my first outdoor Art Festival after a 30 year gap since my debut at the Floral Park Art League shows, I bought a tent and some shoji screens to hang my work. What was I thinking?
I wanted the booth to look classy so I didn’t want to use metal frames that I’d seen at other shows so I figured that I’d hang my paintings on the screens and it would give an upscale look. Wrong!
The first gust of breeze at the show in Northport harbor blew everything down. I resorted to folding the screen around one of the legs of the booth with bungee cords and hanging a few pieces on them. The wind was unrelenting but I sold $150 that day and I was hooked again.
Westhampton Beach Art Festival, August 2004. New booth with Flourish mesh panels.
I quickly rallied for my next show two months later, which was the Westhampton Beach Art Festival in August of 2004. By this time we had gone to other shows to scout out booth strategies and decided on the mesh panels made by Flourish. Since we had severe transportation space restrictions at the time, we needed to conserve space in our SUV and these panels did that and more.
I really like the white walls. It is a nice sleek modern look. The panels are easy to put up and take down. The booth is cooler in the summer since the breeze can go through the mesh. I can endlessly fidget with my arrangements since the hooks I use are simple to reposition. The panels roll up and fit in a bag which makes for very easy transporting. They are amazingly strong and I’ve been known to hang a lot of very heavy paintings with glass on them.
CT Flower & Garden Show in February 2007. Indoor booth frame with mesh panels by Flourish.
We’ve used the same panels on our outdoor EZ-Up booth and also on our indoor booth frame which we got from Flourish. The choice of booth sidewalls was one of our better equipment decisions.
Westhampton Beach Art Festival in 2004. Notice the webbed beach chair.
As with all the other aspects of your booth design finding the perfect chair is extremely important. Much as you may not think so you need to have a very comfortable chair available for you to rest during the inevitable slow times in the booth at an Art Festival.
My first chair in 2004 was the same one I had used at the beach and at softball games prior to exploring the world of Art Festivals which now keep me hopping on the summer weekends. It was a standard webbed chair that is really too unprofessional for a sales situation. Fine for behind the booth but not in it.
My next chair was a high folding Director’s chair which I got at Pier One. It was very comfortable and the style of wood and fabric I picked looked good in my booth. It kept me up high when I was sitting so that if a customer came into the booth I could speak to them eye to eye without getting off the chair. Sometimes potential customers feel intimidated when you get off the chair to speak to them so the higher design of the Director’s Chair worked very well.
One problem though, the wind kept knocking it over since it wasn’t heavy enough. We kept repairing the split arms until they were too ugly and then we’d buy another one. This worked until 2007 or so when the chairs were discontinued at the chain.
Tall bamboo chair for art festivals makes a big difference for the artist and the customers
So I cruised the internet and found the chair of my dreams with Hollywood Chairs which is sold by Totally Bamboo. http://www.totallybamboo.com
I got the Tall Deluxe Hollywood Chair and I didn’t forget to get the cup holder for my Starbucks. It is soooooo very comfortable, good on my back, good for my feet. Even if I don’t sit on it I lean my bottom on the seat and it relieves back pain. It is a bit large for the trailer but we put it in first and take it out last and store it in a carton to keep it looking brand new. The wood is really bamboo and smooth and soft to the touch. It makes you feel rich just sitting in the chair. The seat is padded. It has never blown over in the wind and it is easy to wipe off any food that get on it. This Hollywood Chair was a great investment!
Hicks Nursery Winterfest January 2005. Flimsy tables didn’t last long.
Finding the right furniture for your Festival Show booth is not an easy task and for us it took quite a few twists and turns. Granted the work I’ve been showing over the last four years has also taking dramatic zigs and zags, I spent more money, time and energy trying to get my sales desk right.
In 2004 when I started doing Art Show and Festivals, I bought some extremely cheap folding tables for $11 each. They had aluminum legs and an almost cardboard top but they served the purpose for a few shows. I put some tablecloths over the top of them and they seemed to work fine. I was even able to store inventory underneath. Then the moisture got into them and the tops warped too much to be useable.
I replaced them with foldable molded plastic tables which have adjustable legs for height variations. They were much heavier and could store less underneath but they were much more durable. In fact, I still have them and use them once in awhile with tablecloths when I can display more outside the booth.
Desk set up at the Connecticut Flower and Garden show in February 2007
In 2005 I thought I found the perfect solution. On the internet
February 2008 Connecticut Flower and Garden Show with the ProPanels desk
I found a folding crafting desk with flip up sides and drawers in the center to hold all my office material like stapler, tape, pens, sales forms, my credit card reader, lunch, etc. Well, after two shows the flakeboard cracked and fell apart from the back and forth transportation in the trailer. The look of the desk was fantastic but the materials weren’t made for the rigors of road travel. Even collapsed into the size of a night table, the desk took too much room in our trailer so we discarded it. Money down the drain.
We bought a pedestal desk from Pro Panels. Lightweight enough, fully collapsible and it has two shelves inside. http://propanels.com
I created a curtain with some fabric to put on the open back of the desk to hide my paraphernalia. At the last show I didn’t realize until it was too late that people were just reaching into my desk to steal my shopping bags because they didn’t want to carry their literature even though some huge company was handing out free literature bags at the entrance to the show. Every single show is a learning experience. I guess that every day of life is too.
Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, 2/2008 before set-up
Doing Art Festivals, whether they are indoor or outdoor, are quite grueling events.
Basically what you are doing is building a moveable, temporary store. All the requirements for showing, selling and packaging your work are amplified since you must be able to set-up within an hour or two hour time frame in a temporary location. When you’re done you need to do the same in reverse and leave the location as you found it.
You need to design your store to be reflective of your style, visually inviting, easy to navigate & clearly representative of your body of work. You need to be able to give out information, write up and process sales, and provide packaging for customers to conveniently take home their purchases.
Connecticut Flower & Garden Show booth set up in February of 2008 for Mary Ahern.
Your booth and all your furnishings must be collapsible and able to be moved from your vehicle to the staging area you have been assigned. Desks, racks, tables & chairs all need to be lightweight and folded for transporting. The selection of your display needs to take into consideration the space requirements of the work you’re going to sell and the total amount of space available in whatever means of transportation you will be using.
I really enjoy writing my blog. But I really enjoy making my Art. I also really enjoy
gardening, family, friends, cooking, reading and studying. So where do I find the time to do it all? There is only so much time management you can do to be more and more efficient. Eventually you actually have to make choices of what your priorities are and eliminate tasks from your action item lists.
Today the maintenance tank in my Epson 4800 was full and refused to print. I foolishly had forgotten to order a replacement when I ordered my last slew of ink. I found a company on Long Island about a 45-minute drive from my home, Ardito’s, who had it in stock and immediately planned to drive over to pick it up. Then I thought about it an extra minute and ordered it delivered for an additional $8. I figured that my time and gas for the 1 ½ hour round trip drive was worth more than that. This is purely learned behavior on my part and it doesn’t come easy.
I have to work constantly on making smart time management decisions. I go through a process each day that goes something like this:
What is the most productive use of my time today?
What is going to cost me if I don’t do it?
What is going to make me money if I do?
What are the most immediate deadlines I can’t miss?
What are the upcoming deadlines I need to make steps toward?
Do I have the food in the house to cook dinner tonight or do I have to shop?
Blogging seems at times like a complete waste of my time. But guess what? It actually helps to keep me organized and I always feel better when I write and post something. It helps to clear my thinking process.
You would think that if you were given the gift of reinventing yourself into a career which would be more personally satisfying emotionally and without consideration of financial income, you would instantly jump into the deep end of the pool.
Well, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t work like that. When my new husband Dave, gave me the gift of reinventing myself at the age of 50 I felt overwhelmed. What I found was that for all the years as a single parent when I was working without a net, I put my blinders on and just charged forward.
Yes, I had morphed my career repeatedly to keep it tailored to my strengths and to keep it as interesting as I possibly could. Yes, I had given up corporate America to form my own company when I got a concussion on the glass ceiling. Yes, I was more aware than most of what parts of my careers I enjoyed and what parts I did not.
So here you are at midpoint looking for a new career that will fulfill you in a different way than your original career. You may have enjoyed your work and the environment and friends you made along the way. But you may have outgrown it or outgrown the need for the tradeoffs you made in order to pursue the work.
Your children may have grown and college is paid for. Your health status may have changed or you no longer want to be on planes four days a week like I did for many years. Your marital status may have changed for the worse or for the better as mine did when I married Dave after 17 years between my two marriages.
Chasing your dream is not easy. It takes courage to look deeply inside yourself. It takes courage to be honest about your long and shortcomings. It is a long and often hard journey to rediscover yourself.
On January 5, 2008 I was featured in an article in Newsday titled “Dream Chasers.” The subject was the choices and sacrifices some people make when deciding to step off the corporate treadmill in order to pursue more emotionally or spiritually rewarding careers without regard to financial restraints.
The author of the article, Arlene Gross, wrote about the choices, decisions and sacrifices of five different individuals. The various paths we chose to explore in our second careers are as different as our paths in our initial and primary wage earning pursuits.
Noel Rubinton, the editor of the Act Two section of Newsday, however, hit on a different issue when he encouraged people to use the New Year as an opportunity to explore yourself even if you couldn’t at this time make the giant leap of a whole new career.
Noel wrote that, “A line that really resonated in our cover story came from Mary Ahern… finding that switch took work. ‘The hard part at first was trying to find inside myself what that dream actually was. You spend so much time marching forward and doing what you do, you lose the essence of yourself’.”
When my husband Dave gave me as a wedding gift, which coincided with my 50th birthday, the opportunity to re-invent myself you would think I would have immediately jumped into my studio. Instead I whined and anguished for a months over what I wanted to do with this great new vista open to me.
I was so overwhelmed with the immense possibilities I now had available to me that I suffered each day trying to make the right decision with this precious gift. I spent so much time trying to fathom what makes me tick, what intellectually interests me, what direction would support my value system, what new career would be feasible and sustainable for the next 30 or so years, what would not impinge on the home life that we had just found together and cherished so much.
I talked about it endlessly. I beat it to death. I’m sure there were times that Dave wished he hadn’t made the offer since I was so annoying in my pursuit of the “what if’s”. Massage therapist? Lawyer? Chiropractor? Quite frankly, I never even considered Artist.
I knew one thing for sure. I was tired of computers and wanted to become a Luddite. And then one Saturday morning, sitting on our deck, having coffee while surrounded by the gardens I designed and have worked on for decades, Dave suggested that since we loved the gardens so much and they gave such joy to people, why not design gardens for others.
Ten days later I was enrolled as a full-time student in the Ornamental Horticulture Program at Farmingdale. I knew I wanted to be a landscape designer and this was the best beginning. Two years later I graduated with my degree and a new career.
After seeing the photos and reading the article Dream Chasers, written by Arlene Gross for Newsday, which featured myself among others who have turned in mid-life to careers which are more personally satisfying, I have enjoyed revisiting my journey.
Mary Ahern showing her oil paintings at the Floral Park Art League in 1976
Here is a photo of me with my Award winning oil paintings at the Floral Park Art League in 1976. I painted them all before I began my college Art education. For a year I took oil painting classes on Wednesday evening at the YMCA in Bellerose Queens NY and from this experience I found my life’s calling.
Each year I looked forward to showing my work at this outdoor art show and each year I sold some of my works. What a wonderful experience it is to realize that work you created from your own imagination and from assorted colors in tubes moved others in such a way that they will give you money that they earned so they can hang your vision on their walls. I am still moved that my skill and vision will enhance their lives each and every day.
Thirty-one years later I’ve returned to selling my Artwork outdoors at festivals. This shot of me was taken while I was taking a call on my cell phone at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Festival in New York City in May of 2007. I still enjoy getting out of my studio and meeting people. Speaking to my customers energizes me and personalizes the selling experience. At shows I always enjoy seeing some of my former customers who come by to say hello and tell me where they hung the Art they’ve bought from me and how much they enjoy seeing it everyday.
I was featured in a Newsday Business section article written by Arlene Gross. The excerpt focusing on my background and my life choices is copied below. If you’d like to see the article in it’s entirety you can see it on my website in the Press section.
At midlife, taking lower pay to begin more satisfying careers
By Arlene Gross
Special to Newsday
11:07 AM EST, January 4, 2008
Mary Ahern had (experimented) in art for many years, but had never been able to actually make a career of it. Until four years ago, that is, when she made the switch to full-time artist.
“I had always been a creative artist,” the Northport resident, explained. “Life, however, intervened, and as a single parent, I was never able to create my art on a full-time basis.”
Changing careers at midlife is no small feat, and switching to one with substantially less earning potential is more difficult still. According to Randy Miller, founder and president of ReadyMinds, an online career counseling service, downsizing a career can be a source of great anxiety.
Yet for some people, any fear or hesitation is mitigated by the yearning to follow a dream. Seeking more spiritually uplifting endeavors can be the ultimate challenge, and Miller said any attendant loss of income is often compensated with a renewed sense of purpose and newfound happiness.
“There are a lot of people who go through life and think, ‘What if?'” Miller said. “With a strategic plan, coupled with the new passion and ultimate objective of doing something different, one can more easily achieve their ultimate goals.”
For Ahern, a new husband provided the impetus and financial support to move forward. Income, the couple concluded, was less relevant to the quality of their lives than the legacy they wish to leave behind.
“When we married, Dave urged me to follow my dream,” she recalled. “The hard part at first was trying to find inside myself what that dream actually was. You spend so much time marching forward and doing what you do, you lose the essence of yourself.”
Once their five children — all from previous marriages — were finished with college, Ahern felt it was OK to follow her calling.
“My income from my art doesn’t yet come close to the money I’m used to making in either my career in computer graphics equipment sales or my own graphics design firm,” she said.
One of her greatest sacrifices was a big dip in retirement savings, which now come exclusively from her husband’s salary.
“We have a comfortable nest egg,” she said, “but by coming out of a conventional career, I no longer have the extra cushion to add to my existing portfolio of tax-advantaged savings vehicles.”
Despite her diminished earnings, Ahern says she is happier. “I am living the life I am meant to live,” she said.