Friday, October 8, 2010

An Interview with Roland Reiss 9/6/10

ROLAND REISS is, first and foremost, a distinguised artist whose work has been widely exhibited and critically since the 1960s. He has also been an important presence in the world of contemporary art for many years as one of its key teachers, a long time faculty member and department chair of the art school at the Claremont Graduate University, which has launched the careers of many of today's significant artists. He was also the moving spirit behind the celebrated summer program, "The Painting's Edge."

Here at "Persist: The Blog" we're truly grateful to Roland for joining us in our continuing pursuit of persistence in the spirit of creativity, for the depth of his knowledge, and for sharing his thoughts on "persistence" with us. I hope he won't mind that I describe him as one of the art world's greatest elder statesmen. He looks back, from retirement, on a long career in art, with the wisdom of one who has persisted despite all obstacles. His responses are worth careful reading and attention. Together, they make up one of the most complete and thoughtful statements on human creativity that I have read.

PERSIST: THE BLOG We are all about persistence, as our title suggests, and we’re asking all kinds of people what it takes to keep persisting, as a creative person, in a culture that is not always welcoming or encouraging. You yourself have been “persisting” as an artist for a good number of years. In your experience, what does it take?

ROLAND REISS: My first thought is that there may be a genetic component to persistence: that one must continue no matter what. My second thought is that some of us have been given the gift of work. The idea, in my case, from my father, that one defines oneself in the process of working and that work itself provides meaning to existence.

Each of us is faced with discouragement. I have known my share of disappointment. During such moments I have found relief and even joy by pouring myself into my work. Belief in oneself is essential. It requires a sense of personal integrity usually based on self-knowledge, self respect and the fragments of support one receives from others in the field. It is important to remember that many extraordinary artists received little or no support in their lifetime and sometimes devastating criticism. Ultimately one must enjoy the process of making art, secure in the knowledge that one is really good at it whether others perceive that or not.

It is important to completely embrace the idea that you are an artist. That it is your way of being in the world. That you are a living medium for society’s expression of what it means to be alive. In order to persist and to avoid a creative block it is important to practice creative openness and flow. Openness means the ability to continually produce and entertain new options, new possibilities. Practicing divergent thinking and pursuing the answer to “what if” by going beyond known limits. Flow means continuous working, staying sensitive to the nuances of your medium and ideas, allowing things to have a life of their own, unfolding before your eyes; and then focus, zeroing in at points and bringing all of your resources to bear on what you are making. Next, bringing it to a very high level, one which takes your breath away and makes you want to return again and again to the moments of excitement and of satisfaction that your effort has brought to you.

When you know once and for all that you are a maker, a maker of things, a maker of form, then you will have no choice. You will realize that it is only in the process of making that you find true fulfillment. The resulting product makes that process manifest and the enjoyment of it available to others. Persistence wanes under fear of failure or mediocrity. Wanting to succeed outside your self, in the eyes of others, at a very high level can become a terrible burden. It is a burden which can crush the creative spirit, replacing joy and confidence with fear, a sense of inadequacy. Fortuity, geography, contacts, publicity and aggressiveness probably have more to do with success today than the actual quality of the work. The desire for professional success can produce a sense of defeatism in the face of career disappointments. Unfortunately, most artists blame their work for not being able to overcome their problems in the social-professional sphere.

Probably the greatest drag against persistence is the constant fear of what others, especially critics, will think about what you have made. The belief is that professional opportunity and success flow from what others think. It is the feeling that one cannot control what others think; they may not like what you have made or what you have to say for a huge variety of reasons. Worse yet, is the relative indifference about what you have done. Those who persist manage to keep “they” out of their heads most of the time. “They” are not the most important people in your art. You are the important one. “They” should not be invited into your studio. If “they” are there, you can ask them to leave. Just keep working, if you finally get tired of what “they” will think, it will be time to trust yourself, to enjoy who you are: an art maker.

Years ago, I came across a definition of art that has served me well: Art is anything that intensifies, clarifies, and extends the nature of human experience. The capacity to produce all three of these elements in the work not only makes it art, it makes for really good or great art. When I was a graduate student, instructors would come up behind us as we were working and intone the question, “What is your statement?” like the voice of God. It took years to learn that this was the wrong question. It should have been, “Who are you and what do you find really interesting in life?”

PTB: As a teacher, you have made a lasting contribution to the lives and work of literally hundreds of studio artists. Aside from the technical skills they need as artists, what have you most wanted them to take away from their experience of working with you?

RR: I have wanted my students to see that the connection between whom they are and the art they make is a natural one. They must understand that art is a special and idiomatic way of producing meaning. Making art and sharing it are two sides of the same coin. I have wanted then to understand that aspiring to great things can only come from the capacity to appreciate great things. If they find in themselves something creative to bring to the table they will have achieved some measure of greatness. I want them to be players in the world of contemporary experience, to appreciate their contemporaries as the best that our society has to offer and for them to create the art that is appropriate to our time. I have wanted them to know that though we have one voice we may want to sing many songs. Art is a lifetime adventure and it may take you many places.

PTB: Looking back at former students who have moved on into lives of recognition and acclaim and others who have had to struggle with less favorable circumstances, do you have any insight as to what qualities contribute to a studio artist’s success?

RR: It is difficult to predict which students will succeed while they are in school. Some are great at being student artists but not as professionals after graduation. Fate can play a hand in success so predictions are not to be trusted. In retrospect and given my interaction with some younger, highly successful artists, I would make the following observations: Likelihood of success is greater if the art is really good. It is possible for an artist to tell if there is a strongly favorable reaction to their work even if it is not good. If it is not so good it absolutely must play into the current critical dialogue of curators and art writers, if it is to succeed. There must be a strong professional commitment on the part of an aspiring artist. The artist must be constantly productive.

Given good work and productiveness, it is essential that artists pursue their career outside of the studio. There is a certain type of artist whose lifestyle and career moves bring them considerable attention. These artists network at the highest professional level. They seek out people who can help provide them with opportunities: art writers and critics, museum directors and curators, important collectors, owners of top line galleries, highly successful artists and artists who are receiving a lot of attention. They are extremely well organized and focus intensively on their work and careers. They usually are financially secure or receive family support. They seldom teach or do so part time. These artists are highly intelligent, mobile and reasonably attractive. They usually score an important gallery early on in their careers along with attention from museums. Most are socially adept and able to advance the cause of their art in the art world.

PTB: Is teaching a good alternative path for those many artists who need to make a living but have little prospect of doing so with sales of their work? In your experience, what are the sacrifices a teaching career requires of an artist? And what are the rewards it offers? How do they balance out against each other?

RR: Teaching is a great path for those who need financial support or those who are raising families. Full time teaching will seriously limit the professional possibilities of young artists starting out because it will absorb their time, energy and availability. It does not get better as time goes on. The professional art world does not give any importance or respect to teaching except in China. Many dealers consider teaching to be a detriment to the artist’s productivity and professional life. Let me be clear, there are two kinds of art teachers. The first are those who teach from the beginning of their careers and perhaps because they love doing it. The second are those who become highly successful artists first and then obtain highly paid professorial appointments with light teaching duties and the time and freedom to pursue professional opportunities.

Aside from the detrimental effect on professional life, teaching art is an exciting and highly rewarding activity, and, in its own way, it can be as satisfying as art making. Sadly, for many artists, its satisfactions can be seen to replace the desire to persist as an artist. I believe that every artist does not make a good art teacher but in order to be a really good art teacher, you have to be an excellent artist, whether successful or not. In a truly active professional career, there is no balance; teaching must be on the lighter, less committed side. If not, you may have a wonderful life as a teacher with a secondary career as an artist.

My own experience has been that sustaining an artist/teacher career requires a great amount of energy and considerable amount of sacrifice, that means less reading, movies, traveling, art openings, social time, sleep and, above all, less time with family. I was unable to take advantage of many career opportunities that came my way. On the other hand I was probably born a teacher. I have the deepest appreciation for my own teachers and I have gratefully carried the torch they gave me. My students have taught me more about the future than I could ever know and they compelled me to stay alive to current art developments and dialogue so that I could support their growth and achievements.

PTB: Now that you have retired from teaching, does full-time commitment to studio work bring any special challenges? Or is it all pure bliss?

RR: Retirement has its double edge. While there is more time to make art, and I believe I am making the best art of my life, with retirement comes age, diminished physical energy, and less endurance. The thrilling part is I know more about art making than ever before and I love art more than ever. I now fully understand that art is my life’s work.

Stealing Plums-An Interview With Molly Anderson-Childers 8/27/10

Molly Anderson-Childers is a writer, artist, photographer, and creativity consultant. Her work has appeared in local and national print publications, including Southwest Colorado Arts Perspective, Edible San Juan Mountains Magazine, Images, The Durango Telegraph, The Four Corners Business Journal, newWitch, On the Wings of Poetry, Eternal Portraits, and more. She has also been published extensively online, and contributes work regularly to: , , and She publishes two blogs, and She founded the Durango writer's group, Wild Women Writing, in 2008, and leads their monthly meetings. She is currently hard at work editing her first novel, Stealing Plums.

Persist: In your piece, “101 ways to Delight and Inspire Yourself,” published on Creativity Portal, you mentioned that you had recently quit your job to pursue a freelance career. Was it difficult at the time to make this decision? Was there a “straw that broke the camel’s back” that catalyzed this decision? Any regrets? No matter how slight...?

Molly: Quitting my job was the easiest decision I’ve ever made in my life. I hated the job, because I wasn’t treated with respect by my bosses, and I didn’t feel safe there- I carried Mace to work every day! The straw was an awful performance review- I’d worked hard for months, but instead of receiving a much-deserved raise, I was told I’d have to improve my sales figures or be terminated. It was all about the money- my efforts meant nothing to them. The only regret I have is that I didn’t torch the place…

Persist: In your first 50 tips from the same article, which strategies for breaking down creative blocks work the best for you and how did you discover them? Is there a strategy for finding strategies?

Molly: I’ve honed these strategies after many desperate battles with my own creative demons. As the founderof a writer’s group, I have also had the benefit of working with some amazing women who have shared their strategies with me. When I’m feeling creatively blocked, a change of scene always helps. Taking a long drive, visiting a favorite bookshop or gallery, or just going for a walk with my dog can give me the fresh perspective I need to attack the page with renewed vigor and inspiration.

My strategy for finding strategies? I ask every writer and artist I know what helps them out of the creative doldrums, and then I take their advice. Another strategy for finding strategies? Follow your heart. What are you called to do? What do you love? Do it, and find your inspiration there.

Persist: When you gave yourself the time and freedom to create after leaving your job, how immediate was your ability to “practice daily?” Do you find it challenging to sit down every day and create? Was having an irrelevant job the only barrier?

Molly: After quitting my job, my schedule- and my creativity- was wide open. Sometimes it’s tough to focus, as my studio is at home and I do most of my work there. Time management and organizational issues can be a hurdle if you’re working out of a home-based studio, but my joy is in sitting down to write, and it is usually effortless once I get started.

The challenge is finding time (and motivation) to do dishes! Money issues also enter into it at times- freelance work doesn’t offer a steady paycheck, so learning to budget is very important if you’re thinking of making the leap from day job to dream job. The great thing about it is with the added pressure of paying my bills through my creative efforts, there’s not a lot of time to worry about writer’s block. I’ve got deadlines to deal with, new assignments coming in- a steady stream of inspiration is flowing. I find that the more I write, the more I want to write. It’s self-perpetuating.

Persist: How do you actively differentiate forcing an idea to happen and simply opening yourself to inspiration? Which is more essential, in your definition of success, discipline for the sake of producing or finding inspiration?

Molly: The difference between forcing an idea and finding inspiration is tricky. I maintain that 90% of writer’s block is just laziness, and lack of discipline. I’m inspired every day. I’d hazard to guess it’s the same with most people. When I sit down to work on an article that’s due, even if I’m not feeling inspired, I’m not so much forcing an idea as forcing myself to stop procrastinating and slacking off.

Making the time for that inspiration and acting upon it is the hard part. Those who actually do something about it are the ones who succeed where others fail. I think that discipline and inspiration are equally important aspects of my work. Without discipline, all of those fabulous ideas would never get written down!

I firmly believe that you can discipline yourself to become inspired on demand. The two are inextricable, in my mind. At times, stories appear whole and breathing, like a bolt from above. It’s wonderful to be in The Zone, taking dictation from the Muses…but that state is fleeting, and not always easily accessible. However, with a discipline of writing daily, you’re more likely to become inspired than someone who only takes pen in hand when the mood strikes him. Getting started is the hardest part. Once you’re into the second or third page, you’ll find your inspiration and time will fall away.

Persist: In fact, what is your perception of success? Why? Has this changed often throughout your life and career?

Molly: I was a kid in the eighties; my perception of success at that time was loads of money, a closet full of stonewashed jeans, fancy cars and a mansion on a hill. As I’ve grown up, this perception has changed. My perception of success now is working for myself, on my own terms, and being able to live comfortably on the fruits of my creative labors, with no day-job distractions. My dreams are simpler, but no less dear to me. Now, success means doing the creative work I love all day, every day, and getting paid well for it.

Persist: Anything else on your mind these days?

Molly: I’m gearing up for a writing/art workshop in September called “Text off the Page.” I won a scholarship from the local Women’s Resource Center, and can’t wait to attend. In other creative news, I’m expanding my scope as I take on the role of creativity consultant. I help clients take their work to the next level, with dynamite strategies to beat creative blocks, solve problems, and banish the demons of procrastination. I’m also editing my first novel,Stealing Plums, and will soon be seeking an agent. I’ve always dreamed of being a novelist…now, I’m making that dream come true!

In the photo below, Molly offers us a Gerber daisy; a symbol of creativity, passion, and inspiration.


Roberta Allen 8/16/10

Thanks to Emily for today's interview on Persist: The Blog... And to Roberta Allen, for graciously participating in our series:
It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you Roberta Allen, a New York based artist, writer, teacher, and coach. She has been teaching at The New School University since 1992, but is entirely active in her one-on-one coaching and writing workshops. In fact, for all you New Yorkers, one of her workshops is giving a reading at The Cornelia Street Cafe, 29 Cornelia St. in the West Village on Monday Sept. 27th, 6-8PM. She warmly welcomes new faces! But for the time being, please enjoy this unique and honest conversation with a figure of great influence to many.
Persist: Can you tell us a little about your creative process as a visual artist? What about your process makes you feel pride in being an artist regardless of any kind of success or lack there of? How about writing? Is it a similar process?
Roberta Allen: When I’m involved in making art or writing, the outside world goes away. Time doesn’t exist. There’s only my world. That involvement, that flow is life-giving, life-supporting. What is difficult is being between projects. I’m looking for publishers for two recently completed manuscripts, my memoir, DIRTY GIRL, and a short short story collection, EVERY MAN’S NIGHTMARE. While waiting, I try things out, there’s a lot of starting and stopping until I discover where my energy wants to go--art or writing. It’s important to let myself be wrong. That’s an uncomfortable feeling but I live with it. It’s part of the process.
Persist: Which came first, a desire to be an artist or a teacher? From your experience, could you more easily do one without the other, or do you find that being an artist/writer enhances your ability to teach and vice versa?
Roberta Allen: I’ve had eight books published and have been mostly writing in the last two decades or so but I’ve never stopped feeling that I’m an artist. I do think my creative activities and teaching feed each other. Teaching my private classes is very satisfying. I love the energy that’s generated. I love to see writing improve.
Persist: Were you always a writer? What prompted the transition in your career to writing?
Roberta Allen: I have always been a visual artist--since I could hold a pencil. But writing was very important in my conceptual art. I explored the meaning of signs and used verbal labels to try and expand our perception. I don’t think I would have become a writer at all if I hadn’t been fixated on my father (which I discuss below) though I didn’t have that awareness when I began writing. In fact, it was only after discovering in therapy that my father wasn’t illiterate--he stopped school after 3rd grade--that I let myself write: I didn’t want to be better than him.
Persist: Do you find yourself shifting between the two genres regularly or does your success in one or the other effect where you focus?
Roberta Allen: Writing and teaching don’t leave me much time for making art. I have private students as well and I want to start a tele class for writers outside New York City. I make art anyway but so far I haven’t figured out how to make time to promote it.
Persist: You began to share a rather unique story about your relationship to the art world and your reasons for leaving. Would you like to share a little of that with us now or shall we just look forward to your memoir DIRTY GIRL?
Roberta Allen: In the course of writing DIRTY GIRL, I realized that I left the art world because I couldn’t leave my seductive father who had abandoned me when I was 17. It wasn’t the first time he had abandoned me but the last time was the major trauma in my life and I believed it was my fault. I had tremendous guilt. Every art dealer I worked with became my father and in my fantasy I was going to make it “right.” That, of course, didn’t work. I ended my art career because I couldn’t give up my father. It’s a decision I regret but I couldn’t do anything else then. After a serious outburst, my NY gallery found me a therapist. I saw her for ten years. When I left my dealers in New York and Germany, I began writing. I had to write about my father in order to understand. But I (mostly) disguised him in my stories and other books.
Persist: What is one of the more important skills you hope your students might take away from a workshop?
Roberta Allen: Most important I think is that they continue writing--PERSIST--as Peter Clothier would say. But they won’t unless they keep tapping the ENERGY--the excitement, the interest--that made them initially want or need to write. I show students how to keep digging with my exercises until they find that well of energy--and it gushes forth. That is when they know they’ve found their material, the material that really moves them. But it’s important to keep writing from that energy. I teach other tricks to keep them doing that. Whenever work feels dead and that sometimes happens, it’s because the writer has gone in the wrong direction. I think the same can be said for visual art. That’s when you need to return to the source of that energy. It may not be something you can articulate, it may only be a feeling you can’t even name but you know when you’re “on it.”
Persist: Tell us a little about how you got into the world of private coaching…
Roberta Allen: After a reading I did, a talented young writer in the audience said she wanted to study with me. I told her that if she found two other people I would start a private class. She did--after posting flyers everywhere. That was 1991.
Persist: Many of your students are very successful. How do you address the issue of “success” with your writers versus simply being creative and continuing to pursue their passions? How do you define success to them if at all?
Roberta Allen: Some of my students have published books later. I hope that what they learned in my workshops helped them achieve their goals. We can’t control what happens “out there.” We can only control what we do, how we think, and what we feel about our work. I know how good it feels to create something I’m happy with and want to share. I don’t deny how happy I am when others appreciate it. But it’s not always possible to share what we create with “the world,” or to put it another way, the world we share our work with may be small indeed. But even a small world has its satisfactions. In my workshops, for example, we bond and create a community among ourselves that feels very alive and nurturing.
Roberta Allen is an eight-book author, an artist who has exhibited worldwide, and a writing instructor with private workshops since 1991.
For weekly writing prompts you can also visit her Weekly Writing Prompts blog.

Stories in the Subconscious Mind: Screen Writing Success with Jurgen Wolff 7/13/10

I enjoyed my half hour interview with Rick DiBiasio of Middle Aged Crazy on Blog Talk Radio yesterday afternoon. Our talk ranged from the challenges faced by our creative people in our current cultural climate to detailed questions about Persist, the book, and its contents. I found Rick to be a bright and perceptive questioner and valued the time I spent with him. I plan to return the complement and include him on our growing list of interviewees before too long. In the meantime, as promised, here is the interview with Jurgen Wolff, the hollywood writer and writer's mentor. I hope you'll find it as interesting as I did and that you will take the time to visit his sites at Jurgen Wolff, Your Writing Coach and Time to Write. There is much to be learned from a man of his experience.

Persist: You clearly have an extensive history and a fine reputation as a writer in a variety of fields. At what point did you begin to recognize that you had a contribution to make as a coach and advisor to others? What brought you to this realization?

Jurgen Wolff: When I went to Hollywood, I found that it was very difficult to get good information on what producers were looking for, how to get an agent, and so on. I didn't have any connections, so I came up with the idea of starting a little publication that I called "The Hollywood Scriptletter," and used that to get interviews with experienced writers, producers, agents, and TV and film executives. By publishing the newsletter I was able to share what I was learning. These interviews later became a big part of two books I wrote.

My first successes were in the field of sitcoms and again, at that time, there was very little information about how to do that. I started teaching some workshops and found I really enjoyed sharing information and helping people who were trying to get their start. At that point I wasn't that much more experienced than they were, which was good because it allowed me to understand their needs.

I continue to write books about writing and creativity but now I am also able to reach more people via the internet and I'm excited about the new mentoring/coaching program I have that helps people to set and reach their goals. I call it the Breakthrough Strategy Program. It's on a hiatus during the summer but returns in September (information at I also have a new website dedicated to helping people who want to learn scriptwriting--that's at Screen Writing Success.

Persist: In what way are the satisfactions and rewards you get from your creativity coaching work different from those you get from writing and publishing?

Jurgen: Writing is quite a solitary activity. I enjoy that, but I also like to get out and interact with real people. I guess the main satisfaction I get in terms of teaching and coaching is encouraging people who often don't get that encouragement from anybody else, and watching them blossom. I understand from my personal experience what an important dream it is to want to share your stories with others.

As well as the workshops, I share tips on my writing blog, and on the screenwriting site I mentioned. I post there every day and it gives me an excuse for staying on top of new developments on the writing scene. It's not a secret that when you teach, you learn a lot as well, and that's part of the appeal.

In November I will be teaching for two weeks in Las Vegas and those classes will be filmed and turned into DVDs for people who can't make it to my live workshops, so that will be another way to share my methods and I'm very pleased about that. .

Persist: I myself place a good deal of emphasis on the need for “practice” and recommend a daily practice-such as meditation-as a fine model for the writing practice. To what extent does something similar figure in to your workshops and individual sessions?

Jurgen: I have developed a lot of what I call "right brain" tools and exercises that use visualizations, dreams, and techniques like mind mapping. I know from my own experience and that of my students that these make writing easier, more enjoyable, and more organic. I think it was Michelangelo who said the figure was already in the marble, he was just chipping away the parts that weren't the figure so he could liberate it. I have much the same attitude toward stories. I believe they develop in our subconscious mind and we just have to clear the way for them to make their way into the conscious mind. We have to allow the story to appear rather than to try to force it.

That is one reason I am against the trend toward using templates or formulas in screenwriting. I believe the story should determine the structure, not the other way around. Too many aspiring screenwriters start with the three act structure or the hero's journey or some other model in mind and try to make the story fit it. That results in very predictable and inauthentic stories. Of course that doesn't stop many of them being made into predictable and inauthentic films--some of which make a lot of money.

I think it's important to feed your mind with lots of different things: mythology, music, art, nature, and some foolishness. Pay attention to your dreams and take time just to wander and be quiet. You are filling the well that eventually you will dip into to get the material you will turn into a story. It's not fashionable to say so, but we need to disconnect sometimes, to waste a bit of time, to leave the phone and the computer turned off so we can hear ourselves.

Persist: I am also much concerned with the predicament of writers and artists who are not and may never expect to earn a reliable living following their passion. How do you advise those with the passion of the amateur rather than the goals of the professional?

Jurgen: If you base your judgment of your work and your life on how much material success you will have, you have come up with a prescription for unhappiness. The cliche is that good work will find an audience but sadly I don't think that's always true. In our culture, the writers and artists who are great at self-promotion tend to get the attention, not necessarily the ones with the most talent. I worked in Hollywood for about ten years and it really is a place where "you are only as good as your last picture." That attitude is soul-destroying and was one of the reasons I left and moved to London. Here I've made less money but have been happier, and that's a good trade.

First, I think you have to love the process and your creation (which is not the same as thinking it's perfect, of course). For instance, I wrote a novel that so far is unloved by publishers. But I am very fond of the two central characters and will be glad I got to know them and to spend a year with them, even if the book is never published. Actually, if I don't find a traditional publisher probably I will self-publish and at least introduce these characters to my friends. If you don't enjoy the act of creating something, if you think it will be worth doing only if you sell your creation, maybe you should be doing something else.

However, naturally we all want to have our work reach as many people as possible. One way forward is to learn about marketing as well as creating. I have written two books on this topic, again because I needed to learn the process and thought I might as well share what I was learning. It's still not my favorite part of what I do, but I know that I need to do it.

By the way, if you are shy, it would be a good idea to try to overcome that. I am confident when teaching or public speaking, but I have a basic shyness that I realize has been a hindrance. Maybe my next book will be about how to overcome shyness! Actually that is one of the reasons I first learned hypnosis and it did help.

Back to your question, it really helps if you have a day job that leaves you enough energy to pursue your creative activities. Or if you have a rich spouse or partner. I am thankful every day that I have been able to make a good living doing what I love, but the hard truth is that for some the act of creation will have to provide enough satisfaction--not because they are less talented but because life is not always fair.

Persist: To what extent and in what ways does your practice of hypnotherapy feed into your work as an advisor to writers?

Jurgen: The visualization tools I use for myself and with my students and clients could be called "hypnosis lite." They give an easier access to the subconscious mind and sometimes yield remarkable results. For instance, one exercise is in your imagination going into the character's residence and finding a photo or painting of great importance to him or her. This happens in a light trance, and 99% of the people I do this with find the image and often it gives them a sudden greater understanding of their character.

I also use it to help people with creative blocks. In a light trance, they get into a dialogue with the block, which usually is a form of protection against rejection. Then, in the waking state, we figure out how to build in that protection so they can move forward. For instance, perhaps someone is blocked from finishing a novel because they fear it will be rejected. We make a deal that when they finish it, they have the option of never showing it to anyone. When they get to that stage, we make the deal that they will show it to only one person who is supportive but candid. The process continues small step by small step so that it feels safe all along the way. And when they are ready to send out the manuscript, I suggest they start work immediately on something else so not all their emotions will be invested in the project they have just finished.

It's unfortunate that for most people the word hypnosis brings images of people on stage doing Elvis impressions or a funny dance. Not only does it trivialize a tremendously valuable tool, it makes them afraid that the hypnotist will somehow have total control over them. Of course that's not what it's about in the context of creativity, but that image is hard to counteract.

Jurgen Wolff is a writer and teaches writing and creativity techniques internationally. He has written nine books, including "Creativity Now!| and "Your Writing Coach," as well as more than 100 episodes of television (including "Benson," "Family Ties" and "Relic Hunter,", mini-series (including "Midnight Man" starring Rob Lowe), TV movies and feature films. His plays have been produced in London, New York, Los Angeles and Berlin. He lives in London.

Artist As Brand: An Interview With Greg Spalenka 7/28/10

I am happy to re-introduce a new friend and fellow thinker from the Southern California area. I mentioned Greg Spalenka, Founder of Artist As Brand,™ in an early post entitled "Branding: A Different View, and am happy to note that I will be participating in his workshop Artist As Brand, in Costa Mesa August 6-8 at Find Art Gallery. Greg is an energetic, knowledgeable and inspiring workshop leader and this three day event might well be a life changer. He describes it as a "transformational, career energizing boot camp." My own contribution will be a short one, but I will be on hand for at least the first two days and available for anyone interested in further acquaintance. Please check out Greg's site, Artist As Brand, I would be particularly delighted if any Persist readers decided to sign up. And until then, please enjoy some of his insight below!
Persist: I know you studied at Art College of Design. Aside from the skills you needed as an artist and designer, what were the most valuable qualities you brought away from that experience?
Greg Spalenka: My mantra growing up has been, "Am I more than I am?" Confronting my fears has been a motivator, hence, I pushed myself to move beyond my abilities. I watched and learned much from my peers. While at Art Center I made friends with fellow student Matt Mahurin. Matt is an individual with lots of talent, tremendous passion and energy. He showed me that the concept behind the art creates a strong foundation but a personal vision manifests by taking risks. All art is study, so don't get too precious with it. One day there was a class assignment I was struggling with. I couldn't pull it together so I asked Matt to come by and take a look. When he arrived he proceeded to take my art outside onto the second story balcony. He looked at the art, then at me and said, "Sometimes, Spalenka, you just have to know when to let a piece go", and proceeded to wing it out into the street. I voiced an expletive and ran down the stairs to watch in disbelief as cars drove over it. I pulled the art from the street. Deep gashes covered part of the surface, and new textures came to light. "Whoa"! It actually improved the piece! That experience taught me that sometimes its a matter of taking a painting to unexpected places to make it work. Allowing the "risk factor" to enter the equation allowed the art to evolve on its own accord. Most of my art now embraces process or "happy accidents".
Persist: You spent a good while in the commercial art world in New York. Can you say a little about your experience of that city? Why did you choose eventually to leave and come back west?
Greg: Soon after graduating from Art Center (BFA Illustration) I moved to New York at the behest of Mahurin. I was terrified of the idea of moving to this city, but it was the center of publishing and if I was to make it as an illustrator this was it. Trudging the portfolio around Manhattan was a full time job. The jobs trickled in, but soon the big publishers were calling. Rolling Stone commissioned a portrait of Elvis Costello, New York Times Magazine put my portrait of a young Hemingway on its cover. I created art for most of the major publishers around the USA. Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, U. S. News & World report, The Atlantic, Business Week, Mother Jones, OMNI, Psychology Today, Ms., Playboy, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, San Francisco Examiner, Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins, Viking Penguin, Random House.
Illustrative journalistic projects of my own making were important too. One of the projects involved 10 days with soon to be boxing champion Mike Tyson. I created life size drawings, paintings and studies of Tyson and the trainers and boxers of Cus Damato's gym, which were published alongside my commentary in the 1989 January issue of "Print" magazine.
Most of the subject matter I illustrated was on the heavy side, Apartheid, Terrorists, War, Government corruption, Injustice, Corporate monsters, Pollution, Murder, Mafia, Child abuse, Psychology, etc. I got a good look at the underbelly of humanity. I realized everyone has an agenda. It was fascinating to see how different publishers would run the same story and skew it so the reader would view it through their lens. I felt that finally I was making an important mark as an artist. I believed that looking at the wounds of the world could bring us closer to healing it. Living in Manhattan was like living in an illustration, the world crammed into a five mile by fifteen mile island. The juxtaposition of images from day to day was surreal. Walking out the front door of my building was a rush of sound and sight. Beautiful models would walk by, while police peered inside a car at a murder victim slumped at the wheel. Down the street a laughing homeless man snagged purses from a flooded gutter with a fishing pole. I was never at a loss for intense bizarre imagery. Sometimes the street found its way literally into the art. Rusted pieces of metal, grating, weathered plastic, broken glass, indescribable man made things would compliment a little corner of some piece I was working on. The city got into my blood.
After eight years I had enough of the concrete and intensity and returned to CA.
Persist: What interested you initially in helping others find their inspiration and their path to success? What are the rewards of the work you do in this area?
Greg: There has always been a part of me that is committed to empowering truth within people. Teaching chose me. I have been asked to lecture and teach here in the US and abroad for over twenty two years. Seeing creative individuals transcend their fears, and reach their artistic goals brings joy to my heart.
Persist: What led to the choice of the title "Artist as Brand"? Could you say a bit about the site? When did you start it? What has been the response? How much of your time do you devote to it?
Greg: The title Artist As Brand has caused some controversy especially in fine art circles because many people associate the word "brand" with corporations. It seems that the word brand has been branded. However if you look at the essence of the word this is what you find...
BRAND [brand] –noun and verb 1. kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like. 2. a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc. 3. a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic. 4. to impress indelibly. 5. a brand name. A brand is a purpose transformed into a product or service that connects to people, the planet, and beyond. The key word here is purpose, and specifically your purpose. This is where the heart of your essence resides, where your most potent art manifests, and the strength of your perseverance matures. The purpose inside you aligned with your personal vision is the foundation of your creative power. When your heart is joined with your art, a vital one of kind signature is formed. This brand is unique to you and your intimate product.
Artist As Brand was born with the intention of empowering artists to make a living from their heart on their own terms by creating an individual base(s) of devoted buyers (fans and patrons).
The concept of Artist As Brand was first presented at the University of San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador last year. The response was so amazing I felt this new paradigm of art sustainability needed to be shared with the world. This year classes will be held in California, Utah, New York City, Toronto, and possibly Oregon, Korea. I am in negotiations to bring it to Australia, Taiwan, China, Japan, Singapore, England, Holland, Ireland and more.
As with any new business there is lots of promotion and education that must be sent out to potential students. I am finding that most of the participants so far are recent graduates who want to create their own unique art empire, or professionals/professors/artists who have been in the field 5-10 years and want to recharge or re-invent themselves. Please see my RESULTS page on my site for testimonials.
Persist: What would you like my readers to know about the workshops that your offer?
Greg: The Artist As Brand™ workshop champions a new model of artist promotion and sustainability that begins with the heart. Participants focus on niche markets which together over time can produce a unique art empire! This is a three day course for serious individuals who want to fuse their creative and financial destinies.
If you were to advise yourself as you do others, what advice would you be giving to yourself right now?
I know that persisting is a key word to succeeding in any worth while endeavor.
This will resonate with you I am sure!
My mantra is "Am I more than I am?" So onward and upward!
Greg started his award winning career as an artist after graduating from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California in 1982. Moving to New York City he began a twenty six year journey illustrating for America’s most prominent publishers of books, magazines, and newspapers. There is more biographical information on his website Artist As Brand.