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I recently received a link to an article which contained some useful information but the underlying assumptions were disturbing to me.

The article is basically a long pep talk for artists and designers whom, the author cites, seem to regularly get taken advantage of by their clients, and rarely make serious money.

There is good advice in there, but I have a real problem with the basic tone, which is so aggressive, it comes close to cancelling out any of the useful points.  What disturbs me about this is the arena in which this young man has chosen to operate. It frames business as war where only the powerful can win and the weak (or good soldiers as he calls them) always get taken advantage of. The business concepts on which the arguments are based assume the worst about human nature so that all the tactics presented are about self-preservation and intimidating others before they get a chance to intimidate you.

The author spends a lot of time explaining how to force others to meet your needs, and how to demand respect.

Well, respect can’t be ‘demanded’, it needs to be earned. And nowhere in his 15 page article did I find a word about respecting your client- her intelligence, his creativity, her ability and desire to create a good working situation for you.

Words such as fight, attack and escalate are used regularly throughout the article.
Business as self-preservation and getting ahead at all costs, and being able to dropping the right influential names, and mentioning one’s 5-6 figure monthly salary, are presented as The definition of success. It is a paradigm which is unfortunately so widespread that most people can’t even see that this is a choice.

My experience is that if you live in a world defined by these parameters, this is exactly what you will get; you’ll feel pressured to always maintain a warrior stance in order to survive. And you won’t be able to see kindness and generosity, even when it is right under your nose, because you won’t be looking for it.

There were a few things I did like about the article, scroll down to see next post.

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continued from previous post

The part of the discussion that spoke to me concerned ‘philosophy’ as opposed to ‘tactics’. The author has captured something I mention here a lot when I say, ‘Don’t ask how to market better on Twitter, but ask yourself what you stand for and where you want your energy to go, what do you want to feed and help develop in the world?’

He says it this way (paraphrased):

Start acting on principle instead of tactically. Most people ask, ‘What should I do?’, but this still leads to a stressful scrambling kind of life.

The next step up is thinking strategically, ‘What am I trying to accomplish’, and focusing on the goal. Not not getting all frantic about tactics, you can lead a good, rewarding balanced life.

‘There is an even higher level though. This is acting philosophically instead of strategically. This asks,’What is right and wrong? What’s worth living and dying for?What do I stand for? Who am I?’.

There are also some excellent points about how to deal with situations where clients try to change the terms of the original agreements during the work, and how designers often get roped into delivering more work than they get paid for.

This said, the article as a whole gets my back up. I feel that this take (see previous post) on business is becoming outdated, and I’d like to see young, gifted and ambitious people like him spending their considerable energies more like Jonathan Harris does –  on building new models instead of cleverly figuring out how to exploit the existing ones purely for their own gains.

I”ve avoided mentioning the author’s name before now because while I disagree with his means, I don’t want to make it personal. If you want to read the whole article, it is called, ‘Designers, get paid by being a prima donna’ 

Marshall ends with these words:

I do think artists deserve to be treated better, but that means demanding to be treated better.

If you only take one thing from this piece , it’s to lay down a set of principles about what your time, your art, and your life are worth, and to explain them in advance. In the process, educate people about how best to work with you, and immediately call someone out when they start disrespecting your principles and your life.

We’re on the planet for a brief blink of an eye…It’s too short to share that time with people who won’t respect yours, and yet eternally long when shared with people doing beautiful and creative things….

Well, who can argue with this. Certainly not me. I totally agree.

But where we differ is Read the rest of this entry »

Catching up

November 26, 2011

Decorative letters and packaging workshop

I haven’t posted in awhile because of uncharacteristic busyness as well as being away for a week.

The photo shows the last session of my recent series of creativity workshops here locally. We’d just decorated some tissue paper with mixed media and were puzzling over a complicated 6 piece triangular origami box.
The next course is a wild adventure (I hope) disguised as  7 week (1x/week) beginners drawing course. Participants will get basic drawing skills while being exposed to a lot of other media and techniques. They ‘ll be encouraged to let go of  ‘getting it right’ and let go a bit to discover their secret talents. For any local people (Northern Holland, de Marne area) the course begins on January 11. Keep on the lookout for a possible free introductory lesson.
I’m recently back from Glasgow where I had a project with Alicia Devine shooting film clips for an internet course we are working on for caregivers on the topic of dementia. This was under the benign and inspired direction of David Ramsay, one of the world’s rare artist friends and enablers.
I’ll keep this one short because I ‘ve got more to share here about my recent trip to Scotland as well as some of my pet themes such as painting, art and money, creativity as a binding element in community, and craft as a potent political force.

Late yesterday night, not quite ready to turn in,  I came across a talk on TED by Jonathan Harris. An hour later I was still riveted to the screen having followed a link to one of his other projects.

The initial TED talk is about how we are increasingly expressing ourselves through websites, blogs and social media, and thereby leaving behind footprints. ‘Footprints that tell stories of …moments of self-expression’.

Jonathan writes computer programs which collect and study these expressions of feelings on the web, then organises them into dazzling visual displays which are actually complex data bases. It is a brilliant talk and concept, but it is not what brought the instant of insight and recognition to me at 2 AM.

One of Harris’s recent projects was, starting with his 30th birthday, to take a photo a day for a year, write a short story about it, then post it every night before going to bed. Watching the short film about it on his site is an amazing experience, they are great photos and each photo is shown for a second only, compacting a year’s worth of impressions into a few minutes.

It started out straightforward enough, but towards the end Jonathan had some important insights which exactly correspond with some real reservations I’ve been having about living life so publicly on the internet. And which have time and again prevented me from joining Facebook or Twitter. Read the rest of this entry »