Lean On Me

Especially in North America, we hear a lot about how we are supposed to be independent and not need anyone else.

Lean on me:  my grandma and her family, 1930s.

This turns out not to be the case.

We need other people.  Other people need us.  Even in a one-person home business, we are dependent on others – our clients, our family, supportive friends, even the anonymous people who make available to us services like the Internet.

This video says it perfectly:

Think about who you depend on – and thank them.  Think about who depends on you – and encourage them.

Respect Your Art

A couple of words of wisdom to all aspiring visual artists out there – things I learned the hard way:

1) USE TOP-NOTCH MATERIALS.  When I was starting out, including when I was studying Fine Arts in university (more on that later), I used the cheapest materials I could find.  In fact, in art classes I was actually told to use large sheets of newsprint for my assignments.

Now, this isn’t a bad idea in a way, especially if you are in the early stages and aren’t turning out a lot of work that you feel is good enough to keep.  If you’re going to wind up filing away (or throwing away) a lot of early attempts at drawing/painting/pastels/whatever, you don’t want to waste a lot of money on materials.

On the other hand, when you get to the point that you are starting to turn out works that are a respectable quality, you will truly regret not using good materials.  Because cheap materials turn yellow or degrade in other ways – along with your work. 

I’m speaking from experience here.  I have a number of drawings I did fairly early in my art career that were really good drawings – but done on cheap paper.  I still have the drawings, but they are no longer good enough to exhibit because the ground has yellowed badly. 

Yellowing paper (drawing: “New Sprouts”)

(Note:  for smaller works, there is a work-around:  if it’s small enough to scan into your computer, you can use photo editing software like Corel Paintbrush Pro to correct the discolouring and fading, at least for digital prints.)

Sample of image drawn too close to edge.
Drawing is too close to edge of paper (drawing “Neighbour’s Horse”).

So, once you’re really starting to bloom, invest in good materials – and that means archive-quality materials. 

While you’re at it, be sure you’ve made provision for archival-quality STORAGE of your materials and your finished works as well.

2) PLAN AHEAD.  I have always had a very bad habit of just starting in on a drawing – only to find that the finished work was too close to the edge of the paper to properly mat and frame – or even to finish.  (Another thing that you can work around if the item is small enough to scan into the computer). 

I’ve learned to start my drawings by penciling in a margin around the page – at least 1″ in from all edges.  That way, even if I get close to the margins, there’s still enough room for matting and framing.  Even if you’re just doing casual sketches in a sketchbook, you want to be prepared in case you turn out something really stunning!

I’ve also learned to do a quick, very rough, very light sketch of the entire image to begin with.  With close attention to relative distances and proportions, this gets you off to a MUCH better start.  (Note that both of these apply whether you’re working in pencil, pen, oil paint, acrylic paint, or pastel – start with a light rough first.)

In other words, have enough respect for yourself and your art that you EXPECT to turn out works that are good enough to display, to cherish, and even to sell!

The Un-“Cloud”ed Day

Keeping your data – and your software – “in the cloud” is very big these days.  The big idea, of course, is that you can access the program and/or data from anywhere.  So handy!

First, a word about words.  “In the cloud” sounds so ethereal, somehow.  One tends to think of one’s programs and data floating around over one’s head in a fluffy white cloud.

The reality?  Data and programs stored “in the cloud” are actually stored on a hard drive somewhere.  Actually in a series of hard drives, connected by networking software.  Here’s an explanation from Wikipedia:

Cloud computing is a jargon term without a commonly accepted non-ambiguous scientific or technical definition. In science, cloud computing is a synonym for distributed computing over a network and means the ability to run a program on many connected computers at the same time. The popularity of the term can be attributed to its use in marketing to sell hosted services in the sense of application service provisioning that run client server software on a remote location.

…Cloud resources are usually not only shared by multiple users but as well as dynamically re-allocated as per demand… For example, a cloud computer facility which serves European users during European business hours with a specific application (e.g. email) while the same resources are getting reallocated and serve North American users during North America’s business hours with another application (e.g. web server).

…Proponents claim that cloud computing allows companies to avoid upfront infrastructure costs, and focus on projects that differentiate their businesses instead of infrastructure. Proponents also claim that cloud computing allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand

…Several deterrents to the widespread adoption of cloud computing remain. Among them, are: reliability, availability of services and data, security, complexity, costs, regulations and legal issues, performance, migration, reversion, the lack of standards, limited customization and issues of privacy.

(“Cloud Computing” article, Wikipedia [my emphasis])

So what’s the problem with storing your data and programs on some networked hard drive somewhere instead of on your own computer on your own desk?  Let’s focus on one:  “availability of services and data”.

A while ago, my Internet connection went down – a not-uncommon experience in small-town and rural areas.  I had no Internet connection for the entire morning – no access to email, no connection to social media sites, no direct access to my business website.

Frustrating?  You bet!

Did it keep me from doing any work?  NO – because MY programs and data are stored directly on my own computer (on which I am typing at this very moment).  If I had been using “cloud”-based data storage, and/or “cloud”-based software, I would have lost the whole morning’s productivity.

That day’s problems were caused by a problem with my ISP.  Maybe some hardware failed somewhere, or maybe someone drove into a power pole – no way of knowing (or predicting.  Or controlling).

That’s not the only potential source of trouble, either.  What about a technical problem with the cloud service provider?  A natural disaster or power outage affecting not your own area, but the area where your data happens to be stored?  Human error (or actual wrongdoing) on the part of one of the unseen, unknown people who are in charge of handling the whole system where YOUR data and programs are stored?

There are potential problems with keeping all your programs and data on your own hard drive, too, the biggest one being equipment failure.  (Which means you need to BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER REGULARLY – something which will be covered in another blog post!)

BUT – keeping everything on your own hard drive gives you much more direct control.  Some companies – ones that need to share data, or ones where the people travel extensively – may find the advantages of “cloud” computing outweigh the disadvantages.  For small businesses, entrepreneurs, churches, and other users limited to a few people and one (or at least one main) location, the advantages of keeping your business essentials under your own control have to be considered first.

Because – think about it – what is the life-span of a cloud?