Rabidly Whimsical Tenacity
May. 2nd, 2013
02:03 pm - State of the Marrus...ow...
I'm sorry for the radio silence, but on-going health issues (I've got a disk that's dying in my lower back, and have been told I can't do anything but manage the pain & hope the two vertebrae knit into one), coupled with running a full-time business, are taking their toll. One or two lines on FB is just easier. I hope to get back to writing more when New Orleans festival season dies down (hello, next book, maybe?), but I do have a few things over here:
and I post regularly here:
Also, I made a new store over here, and I really like the interface: http://marrusart.storenvy.com/collectio
If you like something, use the code "SMARTART" for 15% off. Thanks for helping me do what I do:)
Feb. 16th, 2013
...any three of my small prints for $100, which includes domestic shipping! To see what's available, please pop over here:
10:32 am - For the FaceBookers among you...
...if you want to see new work & what I'm up to, I'm much more active on my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marrus/5
I save LJ for pithy posts & big art uploads. Thanks for coming with me!
Feb. 4th, 2013
09:18 pm - Why you’re sitting home alone...
Because I am fascinated by why people do what they do, and therefore pay close attention to human interactions, I’ve been hearing a refrain with heartbreaking regularity: “I’ve lost touch with my friends. I don’t go out anymore. I’m so lonely.”
While I’d like to soften the blow, if you’re all alone, waiting for someone to reach out to you, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.
Look at this way: When you’re a single digit protoplasm, your folks probably coordinated play dates with other similarly sized blobs. You got a little older, and there was grade school, then high school, with a whole new cast of characters planted in your path. You became buddies with the guy whose locker was next to yours, you met a cool group of kids at the drama club, you hung with your fellow players after hockey practice.
If you went to college, suddenly, your schoolmates had similar majors, or at least interests. There were a plethora of clubs & activities & parties to hit, maybe fueled by the social lubricant of beer bongs & body shots. One group of friends led to the next, and you were overwhelmed with more people than you knew what to do with. Good on you!
But once school was over, with its prepackaged camaraderie, you were out in the real world. The first few years of adulthood are often a bitch – you’ve got student loans, maybe a young family, a shitty job that hopefully leads to a less shitty job, but it’s probably gonna be awhile before you’re self-sufficient. This means the focus is on the next buck, the next rung on the social hierarchy, and those advancements are often made at the negation of interpersonal relationships.
I think this happens because we are told, constantly, that money & status are the only worthwhile goals. By the time we come up for air, twenty years have evaporated, and everyone has retreated into their own specialized compartments. Suddenly all your friends are gone because no one bothered to nurture those relationships, and you have no idea how to make new ones, because you never really had to learn.
It’s a lot harder when they’re not pre-packaged, pre-approved, and shoved in front of you, isn’t it?
Lasting friendships take WORK. They’re not about clicking a box on a website, or sending out a mass text on New Year’s Day, or hoping that at least one person can be conned with a six-pack and a pizza to move a sofa after seven months with no contact.
We must make time for the ones that matter. Pick up an actual phone and CALL someone. Schedule a shared cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. Have a potluck dinner party (it’s also a great excuse to clean the house). Reach out when you’re happy, not just when you’re depressed & need an ear. Relationships (not just the romantic kind) take effort. If you plant a garden, you wouldn’t just drop some seeds on the ground and expect to eat salad for the next 30 years, would you? Nurturing a beloved inner circle is exactly the same, right down to cutting back the wayward bits or dousing groundkill on the weedy ones.
Because you don't need to spend the rest of your life with a friend who just happened to drop in your path, either. Questioning a toxic relationship, I was told, “we’ve known each other since kindergarten”, as if this was enough to allow someone to continue making her miserable forever. If your “friend” drags you down, tries to make your life smaller so you’ll stay with them, belittles your triumphs, sabotages your happiness, it doesn’t matter how long they’ve been doing that – it only matters that you’ve already let them for far too long. Time to cut them loose. Better to be lonely than brutalized.
And perhaps you don’t have anyone who DOES interest you. You can find them, but yeah, YOU need to make the effort. Figure out what you like to do, find a place where other people do it, and GO THERE. Join a group online, and if one doesn’t exist, start one. Make an effort to make it happen, cuz it won’t happen otherwise. Be the catalyst.
Look at those in your life who have brought you joy, clarity and support. Reach out to them, let them know how much they mean to you, walk across that burning bridge. And those who are dead weight? Love yourself enough to let them go. You deserve better.
Jan. 21st, 2013
I've been a spectacularly busy girl! New lithographs available, as well as original work! Thank you for looking, thank you even more if you share this with your tribe, and if there's something you love, poke me in the comments section! I'll happily combine shipping if you fall in love with more than one piece, and if you want a bunch of them, I do discounts:)
(Please forgive the whack sizing of some of these - I'm waiting on a copy of Photoshop!)
Twistfire Fae. 8.5x11" prints, $50, includes domestic shipping
CloverFae Twins. 8.5x11" prints, $50, includes domestic shipping
BadLuck Fae. 11x8.5" prints, $50, includes domestic shipping
Strange Hat. 11x14", Original oil on canvas board. $300, plus whatever it costs to get to you!
Painted an octopus. For no reason:) Original oil on board, $350, about 10x16", plus shipping
Tetherwolf Gate. Original Oil on canvas, 12x24", $3500. 12x18" lithographs available, $75, includes domestic shipping
Hellfire Fae. 8x10", original oil on canvas board. $550 includes domestic S&H
GoodLuck Fae. 8.5x11" prints, $50, includes domestic shipping
PrayerWings, 11x14" lithographs. $60 includes domestic S&H
BloodSprite, 12x18" lithographs. $75 includes domestic S&H
CloverFae Twins, 8.5x11" lithographs. $50 includes domestic S&H
Dec. 27th, 2012
02:07 pm - "Why All Paintings Don't Grow Up to be Prints", or "Self-Preservation in the Age of Be-Backs"
I’m hearing a lot of grousing about why I don’t make prints of every painting that I do, and I’d like to explain my reasons.
I sell my work at festivals around the country and online. Originals start around $300 and go into the stratosphere from there, while prints average about $50 each. It used to be that I’d make a new lithograph if I’d really put my heart into the painting, thinking that if I’d spent so much time loving it, other people would, too.
Not the case. I learned the hard (and expensive) way that my tastes and those of the buying public don’t always coincide.
I use an online fan page to determine which new paintings have the biggest audience for a potential print run. When the clamoring grows loud enough, the painting is digitally shot, which is about $75. Then, off to color correct the image to the original so the colors between the screen, the original, and the press jibe - $85/hour (averaging 3 hours/image). Then paper selection, figuring out other pieces to gang up on the press, rinse, repeat.
Every time I make new lithographs, I’m investing at least a thousand dollars. Yay credit cards! (I won’t even go into everything that happens AFTER a piece has been printed, and what it takes to get an artist’s work out into the world - I wrote a whole BOOK about that.)
And then, that piece that everyone wanted? That I got emailed and messaged and called about? That racked up 143 “likes” on Facebook? That provoked so many buried memories from all who saw it? That made that one chick burst into tears?
And I’m on the hook for the rest of them.
A discomforting disconnect has emerged from the ensconced safety of our screens. We comparative shop with the best of the bots. We rarely, if ever, see the salespeople, let alone the maker of our purchase. Storefronts have become streaming lists of ones & zeros, and the human interaction is removed from the equation.
Many of us like it this way. If I need a new coil of rope light, I don’t want to deal with rush hour traffic and a bored employee to get it. I just want to hop on Amazon.
But there is a difference when we deal directly with the person who has MADE the thing. Or does the performance. Or is having a party. I’ve written elsewhere about the blessing/curse that is the intertubz, but a disturbing new trend is emerging, once again fueled by the facelessness that is the online world.
If you and I were sitting in a coffee shop, and I told you I was having a party in a week, and you said, OH BOY I’M SO COMING!! WHAT CAN I BRING, chances are pretty good that you’re gonna show up to my party.
Enter Evite & Facebook Events. How many art shows/musical events/birthday parties/dinners have you “joined”, with little intention of actually showing up? Clicking is easy, right?
But saying you’re joining an event is not the same as “liking” a post. Someone may be making food. Buying booze for coquetailes. Renting a theatre. Hiring additional help. And it’s all based on those RSVPs which have become more and more suspect.
I live in New Orleans, which means being bombarded with requests to stay at my place for Mardi Gras. (We’d better be really tight if you ask to stay for Mardi Gras, and be good riding a bicycle, cuz I ain’t driving you.) I’ve been forced to tell old friends that I don’t believe them til I see a receipt for their flight. Because people talk big, tell me they’re coming, and then just don’t show up.
I think it’s a combo of the be-back mentality (“Be-backs” are what we who sell directly to the public call uncommitted shoppers, as in, “I really like your art…I’m gonna look around and be back…”) plus internet anominity that allows us to say anything with impunity. Maybe it’s just that our integrity has gone to shit. Whatever it is, my business model has gotten caught in the middle.
I’ve always been a stickler for honesty. If I SAY I will do something, you can take that to the bank. I like being a person who can be counted on. And I’d love to see a reversal in this trend, so I put forth a challenge:
If you see an event, and you think you might go, pull out your calendar. Talk to your significant other. Make a decision. And if that decision is “yes”, and only then, click “attend”. Then SHOW UP.
If your child asks to go to a movie, and you say “yes”, look at your schedule. Figure out a time. Put it on the calendar. Then GO.
If your friend has written a book, and you think the idea is great, and your friend actually manages to get it published, BUY IT.
If there’s an artist whose work you love, and you write OHMIGODMAKEPRINTSOFTHAT, and the artist does, GET IT.
And at the very least, if you love something, link to it. Get your friends excited about it. Boost the signal. Reward the ones that have the stones to put it out there, to make something, to make something HAPPEN.
Our words are the only thing we have. Make them count.
Dec. 19th, 2012
I’m an artist and author who’s made a living selling my work for over ten years. I’ve learned a lot about talking to people both in person and online, and since I’m a BIG fan of sharing knowledge, I’ve written a by-no-means-all-inclusive piece about getting the word out to your clientele. A caveat: this will skew towards creative folks, cuz that’s what I do, and what I know.
So, you’re finally running (or are ramping up to run) your own business. I’ll assume that you have the basics down: a product line, a website, a pronounceable business name. How the hell do you get the word out? Where do you find your rabid customer base? Isn’t it enough that you have cool stuff to sell and the world should be stampeding your door like Black Friday Walmart shoppers?
Sorry. No. Unless you’re selling water in the middle of the desert, you’re gonna hafta do some legwork to find the people who love you. And the easiest, least expensive place to start is online.
There are many outlets to promote what you do: blogs, social networking sites, video, Amazon author pages, write-ups on aggregate hubs, but let’s start with Facebook.
Yes there are others, but this is the main one I use, and If you’re a business owner (and artists, performers, authors and musicians are business owners, too), and you’re NOT using it, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. It’s free, everyone’s on it, it’s integrated, and once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. No, Facebook is not a perfect world. For example, they have the rights to the images you post, but plaster everything with a big watermark (we’ll get to that later) and chalk it up as the cost of doing business. Let’s start with:
Make a Page. If all goes well, there are going to be people who love what you make or do, and you will have NO idea who they are. You may not want to open your private life (ie, your personal profile) to everybody who’s ever perused your wares. A Page allows people to jump on board without you even knowing. They can also jump off just as easily, so make staying worth their while. A Page reminds you that this is for your company, so it may give you pause as to what you put on there. Which leads me to:
Nobody gives a damn what you had for lunch. Unless you’re a chef, or you’re teaching a cooking show, or it’s somehow relevant to your business, no one cares. Save the music videos, song lyrics, and baby pictures for your personal page.
Nobody wants to be spammed non-stop. If people have “liked” your Page, great! That’s a privilege, not a right - treat it accordingly. It’s fine to show what you have to offer, but what sells it is the backstory, your enthusiasm about what you, do, and why people should want it.
If you own a clothing business, talk about the jasmine drink given to you by the ancient crone who sold you the silk fabric while you were on a shopping trip in Thailand, THAT’S something to get behind. People want to be entertained. As an artist, I’ve discovered people love the stories BEHIND my work (literally behind it – I insert the inspirations behind the piece into the bag & board in which it’s packaged.) The stories give a point of commonality between your patron/client/customer. If all you say is #buy my shit, no one cares, and they tune you out.
Be consistent and engaging in your posts. If I like a Page, but it’s only updated every six months, I’m gonna get bored & hop off. Engage your audience. Photograph the sculpture as you work on it, get them involved in the process, and eager to see more. Talk about what gets you excited about your new performance. Tease them. Link to cool things that are tangentially related to your business that you think they’ll enjoy. Don’t go overboard, or you’ll never get any work done. You’ll figure out the right amount posting based off of the new fans you get, and how many of them actively engage with you. FaceBook has metrics to track this. The REALLY good stuff gets shared, and this can lead to new fans of your work. Which leads to:
Watermark your work with your website. You never know where your images are gonna turn up. They might get shared, Pinterest-ed, yanked as wallpaper, or used to illustrate someone’s blog. (All of this has happened to me.) You may or may not get asked for permission. Embedding a watermark at least shows that it’s yours, and can drive traffic back to your site from the weirdest of places. There is an app (cost me a buck) called “Text on Photo”, and it’s allowed me to bypass Photoshop. Now I can shoot a new painting, import it into the app, slap my watermark on it, and send it out to the ether, all from my phone.
Images beat words. And images with words on them get shared the most. You know that what you’re doing is working when people go from liking a post, to commenting on it, to sharing it. When the conversation ceases being about YOU, and goes to being about what you DO, that’s the best. Remember though, that if you write something in text, and attach an image, and that image gets shared, the text doesn’t necessarily get shared along with it. If you want your words to go with your image, embed them ON the image.
Write like a grown-up. If your update sounds like a Ritalin-free tween typed it with her thumbs, stop it. Read your work aloud. Does it sound like you? Does the voice represent your business? Would you want to talk to the person who wrote it? Does it sound trustworthy?
Trust is a big deal. There are so many visual clues that we just don’t have when gaging another human online. For your business to grow, you have to be ON it. Respond to questions in a timely, polite fashion. Be friendlier than you might be in person to make up for the lack of eye contact and body language. Be exquisitely professional.
Keep it positive. Save your bitching, whining, trolling & snark for your personal page. Better yet, keep it offline. It’s a timesuck, you never know who’s reading, and the internet is forever. Do you really want to lose customers over a Dr. Who flamewar? Instead, focus on what you do, what brings you joy, what gets you juiced about your business.
You can talk about some of the challenges with running your business (again, that cool backstory stuff), but it’s a delicate balance. Think about what YOU’D like to know about someone who does what you do. Start there. And make sure that anything confidential with a client stays that way.
Cross-post with complementary businesses. Cultivate people in your life who are doing work they’re excited about. See if they’d be cool swapping links, or saying something nice about your product. If you like their stuff, and they like yours, chances are there will be fans of your product in common.
All this does take some practice, and if you’re not willing to learn, hire someone to do it. But, you got into what you’re doing because you’re passionate about it, it excites you, the details make your heart sing. That kind of enthusiasm is infectious, and no one will be able to promote your business quite the way you can. Your online presence, ideally, is a love letter to why you got into what you’re doing in the first place.
This is not a complete list, there are exceptions to every rule. If you’ve got advice to add, please do so in the comments. I’m almost always up for learning something new!
(There’s lots more info like this, along with full color paintings and kinky clown stories in my book, or you can see a mess of my artwork here. Finally, this is my Facebook Page.)
Thanks for looking!
Aug. 22nd, 2012
12:41 pm - On being fat.
(Updated from a piece I wrote in May of 2008)
I’ve had a weight problem all my life. That I’m chesty & hippy and short waisted & not tall doesn’t help matters. Lousy eyes & knocky knees & wheezy cough & flat feet ensured that sports weren’t much fun for me when I was a kid, and I wanted to be reading or drawing or writing, anyway.
I grew up on simple meals: pork chops & apple sauce, French cut string beans (yucky!!), spaghetti, roasted chicken. We had cookies & licorice in the house, but we didn’t live on chips & fried foods. But, the plate had to be clean, and meals were often emotionally loaded, and the amounts of what I ate got bigger and bigger, and this coupled with the low levels of exercise ensured that I was always kinda round.
When I got older, I joined a gym, and lifted weights, and ran, and rowed, and sweated like a broken refrigerator, and MAYBE got down ten pounds. I couldn’t understand it. I was working out five days a week, busting my ass, and NOTHING was happening.
I grew despondent, frustrated. Clothes never fit well. The summertime Thigh Chafe Plague. The self-loathing. Wondering why inside, I was agile, elegant, my mind a lean rip of sinew and lightening, but outside, I was a dumpy earth mother, good for making goulash and plowing the fields.
My dad died of a diabetes-tinged heart attack when he was 51. He’d had the disease since he’d been 17, but never took very good care of himself. When we hugged, his belly was that hard, round press against me that pointed to layers of constricting fat around his internal organs. I mourned the absence of him, I still do, every day, but the shape of his body etched harder in my brain than the expression on his face or the shape of his hands.
And I’m seeing that shape more and more among Fandom. Kink, sci-fi fantasy worlds & renfaires are so inclusive of everybody that no one ever wants to tell anyone, “No, this thing you’re doing is not alright.”
I think it’s because we live so much in our heads. Fandom is packed with REALLY smart people, many of whom, like me, didn’t have the best time of it when it came to sports or thinking about our physicality. I could spend hours in a book, mindlessly popping sour cream & onion potato chip after sour cream & onion potato chip into my maw, light years away from third grade bullies and the Presidential Fitness Test.
But now, people are dying.
Lots of them. Wonderful, bright people. Organized, driven people. Amazing people that leave a hole in my heart by their absence.
And because telling someone you love, “You’re fat, and I want to help you” is somehow so much scarier than “You’re an alcoholic, and I want to help you”, we go about our day, and ignore the signs in ourselves, in our friends, in our lovers. The wheezing. The bad joints. The lack of energy. The mottled skin. I see more & more folks taking pills for medical conditions, when just stepping away from the computer would be enough.
The end of 2007, I got on a scale, and was stunned by the number. 178 pounds. I’m 5’4”. Almost. This was me:
If I didn’t get a handle on it fast, 180, 200, 250 were waiting with moist, pudgy faces and labored breathing, just over the next hill.
I looked at my diet like I had a thousand times before. I couldn’t see what was wrong with it – salads, chicken, turkey burgers, fruit, some ice cream here & there. I watered down juices. I didn’t drink sugary sodas. I rode my bike & even worked out on occasion.
I decided to go outside of myself, and tried Nutrisystem. The food’s palatable, and it’s easy to prepare, but it was the AMOUNT of food that confirmed my suspicion:
WHAT I’d been eating was just fine. THE AMOUNT I’d been eating was about 3 times more food than I needed.
A bowl of cereal will fit, dry, in a cupped hand, NOT a big, double tiered bowl with a whole banana chopped into it that you eat in front of your favorite TV show, and then when your show’s over, but the thing on afterwards isn’t THAT bad, and you have milk left, so you pour in some more cereal, but oops, that’s too much, better add a bit more milk...
A piece of meat is NOT pound of burger, dripping with two pieces of cheese & mayo & ketchup on a big whole wheat bun. It’s a piece the size of your hand if you cut your fingers off.
It doesn’t matter if you eat a big bowl of steamed broccoli if it’s layered in butter & three kinds of cheeses.
I learned that if I want a big varied dinner, that’s fine, but I need to adjust the amount I eat for lunch & breakfast. And, if I’ve overdone it the day before, I need to watch my ass (and my intake) the next day.
I’ve learned that I overeat to procrastinate, or because I’m lonely, or because I “have to finish what’s in front of me”.
I’ve learned to put my food on smaller plates. American marketing insists that we have HUGE plates of food, which OVERFLOW the borders of those plates, and we are MISSING OUT if we see the slightest bit of negative space buried within the vast cornucopia we’re about to force down our gullets.
I’m a visual girl. I fell for the trap. Hell, just look at a toothpaste commercial. See the way the toothpaste is layered on, all along the toothbrush, and then squeezed out just a bit more, so it backtracks on itself? That’s so you get visually conditioned to go through toothpaste faster, and yup – buy MORE toothpaste.
They’ve been doing this to us with food as well, and we’re killing ourselves as a result.
I want to be around a long time. Hell, I want to be around FOREVER, until I’m ready to move to the next level. I want you around, too.
If you’re a guy, and your belly is hard and round, and projects like a bowling ball, it’s not a cute party keg. It’s an indicator that you’ve got fat packed around your heart, and it’s having a harder & harder time beating. And you’re killing yourself.
If you’re a girl, and the girth of your belly exceeds your chest or hips, or you’ve got huge rolls above & below your bra strap, you might call yourself a Rubinesque goddess. You’re also killing yourself.
Before I get jumped on, this post is not about buying into a thin-freak culture. I have no desire to be a size zero. But there’s a difference between loving our bodies the way they are, and slowly killing ourselves because we don’t take a hard look at our actions & emotions & the reasons we’re overweight.
I’m down about 25 pounds from that picture up there. I’m stunned. I actually had to go out & buy new pants cuz my stuff was starting to look like a punchline on me. And, this is my husband, Jay, who will be returning from deployment in a few months. He runs ten miles a day.
Try living with THAT, and see what it does for your self-esteem:)
But I think I’m figuring out how to do this. I hope this time it sticks. And I hope that by baring my struggle here, I can help someone out there with their own.
Aug. 15th, 2012
09:48 am - I wrote a creepy poem...
...they show up in whole chunks when I'm trying to go to sleep, or driving more than five hours. Enjoy:)
It’s queer, but I fear that that the kid in the mirror
Is running the show, not me
He does these bad things, I’m a puppet on strings
But it’s only me that they see.
The teapot he broke, I took the blame for
The marker on baby, I took the pain for
I’m his fall guy for every offense.
And they won’t believe me, they only tease me
About my invisible friend.
I’ve a sneaking suspicion I’m onto his mission
Once I’m banished up to my room
No use to explain, they’ve tired of the game
Unaware that they’re sealing my doom
They’ve locked my door, so they can ignore
The tears streaming down my face.
My reflection, it grins. I’ve paid for his sins
He wins by taking my place.
With my face and my name
They won’t notice the change
He’s smarter and sneakier by far
To be outside is what he wants
I lost this war from the start
He’s stronger than me, that I finally see
No protest comes from my mouth
Day turns to night, he steps into the light
And I just. Wink. Out.
Unrelated, I just posted a mess of new art over at my FaceBook Page. Hop on & see:) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marrus/5
Aug. 7th, 2012
04:38 pm - I've gone digital!
After a year of much more work than I could have foreseen, my book is finally available digitally!
If you're a Kindle user, you pick it up here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008TE3GYQ
And you Nook-sters, this is for you: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lightsu
Of course, I'm still shipping out signed hardcopies, if ya want one. They're chockfulla full color art (so are the digital versions,) kinky clown stories, and hard-won knowledge of how to make a living doing what you love. Grab it here: http://www.amazon.com/Lightsurfing-Livi
Enjoy the ride, and thank you for supporting my work:)
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