Thursday, March 26, 2020

Be The Artist by Thomas "Detour" Evans

Be The Artist (Fulcrum Books)

Thomas “Detour” Evans

Reviewed by Ginny Short

If you search Amazon for “art techniques” you get all sorts of choices, from botanical drawing techniques to how to do doodle art or paint on stones. Search for “the business of art” and you get a few choices. It often seems to me that we have a habit of separating art from business as if the two don’t go hand in hand. So often I remember hearing young people referred to as “creative” but encouraged to get a degree in something that will pay the rent. I was one of those. This likely creates a huge barrier between many a talented artist and success. Evans is trying to bridge that divide.

Thomas “Detour” Evans is a Denver based artist ( who, according to his own self-description, is an all-around creative. The book, he states, comes out of his own success and his desire to help others become successful as creatives. Nothing beats a good solid business background to get there.

This book is a highly readable book. You can read it straight through or you can pick and choose your chapters. Most of the chapters are applicable to many types of creatives – writers, actors, visual artists – but a few are really devoted to visual artists (and no wonder, this is Evans’ main focus.) As a writer I found many of his suggestions completely apropos to my work. Evans’ presents a chapter with some thoughtful ideas based on his own experience, then follows with examples, quotes from successful artists, “homework” or questions for thought and some suggestions for google searches to broaden your own horizon. I found these various approaches neat and easy to follow, while stimulating the thought I think that Evans’ is trying to encourage. This, I think, is the best part of the book: he is trying to have a conversation. Allow the conversation.

This book is a great introduction to the business of art.

Some of the topics he covers:

·       Mental health for artists (really, really important!!)
·       Finding your voice.
·          How to create a CV, resume and/or artist’s statement.
·       Funding, pricing and marketing your work.

He fills the book with good thoughts and insights like “don’t quit your day job” to start with, or encouraging you to ask and discover your art community (and how valuable that is), to thinking about your studio space to your legal rights as a artist. The various topics, while not in depth, gave a really good outline of important topics that an up and coming artist should consider, as well as tips on how to get more info or go deeper into each topic.

Finally, the book provided good inspiration from the words of successful artists. These quotes are scattered around the book and each was worth savoring. This book is a really solid background in the business of art, simple yet concrete. I enjoyed the conversation.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What you have heard is True by Carolyn Forche

Review of What You Have Heard Is True

By Carolyn Forché

Penguin Press 2019

Review by Ginny Short

A mentor in one of my nonfiction workshops at Regis, University once advised me to “Think like a poet, write like a novelist and tell the truth.” I’ve thought about this often, sometimes with puzzlement, sometimes with despair. How does one do this?

Then I read this book. Carolyn Forché succeeds so well in this prescription that I could not put the book down. The story is that of a young woman who is recruited as a witness during the civil war in El Salvador. Conscripted is the right word, and yet it is not. Ms. Forché was approached by an El Salvadorian National, Leonel Gomez Vides in 1977, who invited her to come to see his country. It is a puzzling and interesting relationship. When asked why he was approaching her he responded, “Because of your poetry book, and Maya’s[1] letter. She told me all about you.” Because she is a poet.

In my view, this book justifies his choice of a poet for his witness. The book is a beautifully told story of her experience of El Salvador and its people, the country and the human rights violations that she witnesses. She tells her story and that of the people she Leonel introduces her to. The elusive Leonel (“…too mysterious for most people,” says Maya. “…it is also possible that he is with the CIA” Maya’s father opines) approaches her and invites her to visit El Salvador, a crazy idea that Forché is drawn to. Once in El Salvador – and not always certain why she is there – she is taken step by step into seeing the world around her.

This is a book about seeing, and isn’t that what witnessing is?  To see and attest to a fact or event, someone who knows something, sees something. It is easy to forget – as we are surrounded by our SUVs and country gardens and Starbucks on every corner that not everyone lives the way we do. In these days of rising tempers around the issue of migration, it is good to remember that other places are not like ours. This witness is not limited to time, but is as relevant today as it was to the events Ms. Forché is drawn into.

The world she is drawn into is both beautiful (From the high steps, the market stalls were a flotilla roofed by market tents like sails, white and hard to the wind, luffing at the edges, bright and taut, and beneath them people moved like schools of fish in the swells of commerce) and terrifying (“What happens to the unlucky?” “What happens? They are disappeared. The become desaparecidos. We don’t know after that, unless the corpse is found and even then we don’t know because they are, how do you say it? Beyond recognition”).

            Forché’s text is lyrical and moving, and she brings to us the reminder the power of story. This one reminds us of the need to be aware, to pay attention, and to not take our lives for granted. She brings to the conversation the need for empathy, the need to remember that we are all part of the same and that we are responsible, we are part of the problem. She impresses with the need to witness, more than the fact of her own act of witnessing.

[1] Maya was a friend of Ms. Forché’s and Leonel Vidas’ cousin.