Because, believe me, if your client doesn't want to pay you - or can't - no amount of contract language can make them. Not even small claims court. (And I've tried that. But I said "No" to the TV-judge-court, because that's just tacky. Long story.)
Luckily, most people are good people.
Likewise, if your gut or heart tells you that you're not compatible, believe it. (Your head will be screaming, "But we need the money!" Ignore it.) And, rarely, if you get deep into a project and then discover that you and your client have serious trouble understanding each other or have stopped liking or trusting each other, learn how to leave gracefully. One of my earlier bosses, an interior designer, taught me to Fire the Client.
This is not to say that every moment working with a wonderful client will be all celestial harmony and mutual admiration... there might be just a few fleeting moments of, um, disagreement. This is right and natural. Good.
The website BoingBoing today featured the design firm Segura's wonderful new client contract:
You give me money, I’ll give you creative.
I’ll start when the check clears.
Time is money. More time is more money.
I’ll listen to you. You listen to me.
You tell me what you want, I’ll tell you what you need.
You want me to be on time, I want you to be on time.
What you use is yours, what you don’t is mine.
I can’t give you stuff I don’t own.
I’ll try not to be an ass, you should do the same.
If you want something that’s been done before, use that.
Classic designer thing - go to bed thinking of problem / wake up with solution. This was what my muse handed me this morning:
I'm asserting copyright on this one - Clare Floyd DeVries 2017
(My avatar is the kid screaming over her bowl of orange sherbet. While the others are foolishly oblivious to the hazard of asphyxia inherent in running a motor boat inside a tunnel/canal completely blocked by more orange sherbet. I mean, come on! Everyone knows about this danger. I'm sure there are pamphlets explaining it.)
Hmmm... Not quite sure how to apply this to the problem at hand.
It's been a very busy year for me so far - both onstage and off - and, you know, sometimes you just need a rest. Artists especially, I think, need to refresh and recharge their creative batteries. Luckily, I now have a bit of a lull in theater deadlines. A break. So, rest. Yay! But recharging? How do you do that? Well, what I've found helpful before is as follows: 1) Take better care - eat and sleep better, exercise more, catch up on doctor's and dentist's visits etc. Buy new socks or underwear... and maybe a few cool summer clothes. 2) Have fun. Some of that exercise might be at the pool or beach! Watch movies. Goof off. Do something different... 3) Do / see / read / hear / experience something different. Like visit a museum. The Kimbell in Fort Worth has a terrific show about its original architect Louis Kahn right now. Lots of drawings and models, including a full scale mock-up of part of one house. (Plus, of course, the museum building itself. More HERE.) And the neighboring Amon Carter Museum has an interesting exhibit of Polaroid photography. More on that HERE.
I visit museums with a sketchbook...
you can't always photograph what interests you
After the sheer wonder of the BIG Polaroids I never knew were possible - 20"x24"! - the images I found most interesting were two by James Nitsch that incorporated both the actual object - a razor blade, a leaf - and its image. Fascinating to see the passage of time separate these objects still further... the razor blade rusts and its photo ages differently, the leaf dries and turns brown while its photo stays green. Time physically trapped in Art.
The most touching image was a Polaroid by astronaut Charles Duke during the 1972 Apollo 16 mission: a family photo (protected in a plastic baggie) lying on the dusty surface of the moon, a surface rumpled by astronaut footprints and the tire tread of a rover. That little snap-shotted American Family (kid in a tie!) lying there so long ago so very very far away... realizing that that kid's grown up now, yet that photo still lies there...
Artistic restocking is all about new thoughts and images stored up. Gathering!
So I'm reading, web surfing (is that still a phrase?), listening to podcasts and TED Talks (artist Dustin Yellen's work, wow! HERE). To someone who works in collage, Yellen's 3D collages caught in glass are amazing phenomena.
I'm going to the library again, now that I have time to actually bring back the books on time.
I've also traveled, briefly, to the Pacific Northwest - a beauty I hadn't seen before - and to today's Waco and HGTV's hot interior design Magnolia Market - a beauty I had not wot of. A marvel of marketing certainly. More travel soon!
Is it time for you to take a refreshment break too?
ADDENDUM: Found and added that great moon-snapshot.
A great interview with the legendary designer Eugene Lee... who's been designing sets for Saturday Night Live since it started in 1975! Oh, and little shows like Wicked and Sweeney Todd for Broadway. On Vox HERE. Sounds like the pace of live TV would kill me...
Perhaps you've heard about NYC's Public Theater production of Julius Caesar, which features a Caesar dressed as a Trump lookalike? This costuming gives Shakespeare's brutal killing scene - always upsetting - added, um, political bite. Obviously controversial. Let's be clear though, the production does NOT celebrate this murder. It's presented as a bad step in a tragic direction for the play's world. Pros and Cons... Personally, I think trump costuming in combination with graphic stabbing was a bad idea - though fair game artistically - but it just seems too violent for an ugly and potentially violent time. The recent shooting of baseball-playing Republicans (which the theater company couldn't anticipate) underlines the violence which we all feel simmering. On the other hand, many people are genuinely worried about a slide into authoritarianism - and a Juilus Caesar / Trump helps clarify those issues. Kinda a think-piece, this production. Certainly folks are thinking about it. But... a completely different quibble: doesn't the trump-look make the audience giggle at first appearance? I'll have to reread the play because I can't remember if that would be appropriate or not. I'd like to see the production, which is the only way to evaluate it. Artistic choices... Anyway, that NYC company has had serious push back - including loss of some funding and a huge public fuss.
Believed public domain image - Julius Caesar
Our local Shakespeare company has gotten death and rape threats! (They're producing one of the Bard's comedies and Quixote - not a toga in sight.) Maybe it's not surprising that people capable of vile emails don't read theater programs carefully. And, know what? writing vile emails is free speech and their right... just not the threats part. (Threats get sent to the FBI.) So please support theater. Even controversial theater. Because free speech matters. Art matters. Read further articles HERE. Or get a ticket to see the Bard locally HERE. Shakespeare certainly is keeping up with today's politics isn't he? ADDENDUM: I corrected the name of Shakespeare Dallas' production, just Quixote, no Don.
Last night The Dallas Theater Center was given a rare Regional Tony Award for their work.
Well deserved! In a radio interview Dallas Theater Center's artistic director, Kevin Moriarty, credited this win "to every carpenter and..." going on to explain that it is the result of decades of good work under several ADs and by many many artists and box office clerks and so on... I agree. This is, in part, a win for the whole theatrical ecosystem of DFW. Important as the DTC is and Tony-Award-winningly TM excellent! as it's work obviously is, it just can't do such high quality work without a whole supportive world of contributors. Contributors of both ticket money and artistic talent. A Tony! Wow, what a great validation. Congratulations! Speaking of Thanks Due, I'd like to nod now to several theater colleagues who aren't around to share this community thrill: Kristina Baker, who died seven years ago now. A wonderful performer and singer who I remember best as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. I remember this show well because it was my first set design for a musical. (Who knew musicals were different? Or so hard?) Kristina was wonderfully patient and good humored about those crazy-tall kinda-welded-together rickety metal stairs I made her climb. While singing! This show put WaterTower Theater on the map. (And me too.) Kristina helped raise the bar for local actors, while being unfailingly kind and helpful to us all. Helping create the kind of theater ecosystem we have here. Wade Giampa, who died in 2009. A terrific scenic designer. Lovely scenic painter. His work raised the production values at Lyric Stage - famous for their musicals - and wherever he worked. I remember a conversation with him onstage at a civic theater where, as we talked, he nonchalantly painted with a brush on a long bamboo pole... creating, effortlessly!, a birch forest. A good and wise friend to me as I was learning about theater, generous with his experience. Kindly sharing hard-earned wisdom with the newbies is - as Wade's example models - one of the best parts of our theater community. Rene' Moreno, who died this year. A wonderful director and much sought after, he was famous for the intellectual seriousness of his work and his gift with actors. But also a lovely actor. I had the privilege of designing several sets for him and the unique chance to design a set at Kitchen Dog Theater that featured him in Richard III... in a wheelchair. A design challenge - all ramps - except for one set of stairs where, at the early off-to-the-party-ditch-Richard scene, his Richard was left behind, unable to climb after the others. From the bottom of those stairs the look on Rene's face... Or his voice speaking Shakespeare's:
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
These were all exceptional people... and yet part and parcel of a work-a-day theatrical community that continues on, doing good work... So great congratulations to the DTC on their Tony! And a moment to give thanks to - and for - colleagues like these who create a community in which such a cool thing is possible.
Just a quick note - crazy busy building two shows (and helping out on a third designed by someone else). One show is King o' the Moon at Circle Theater. The second is Native Gardens at WaterTower Theater. Here are a couple pictures:
The model of Native Gardens photographed at my studio window.
The set under construction... Real dirt! Real plants! Real hard work!
A while back I wrote about copyright and design theft (HERE) and talked about Pepe the Frog, a cartoon slacker-amphibian stolen by the alt-right for neo-Nazi and other hateful memes. Pepe's creator, Matt Furie, tried to fight, to rescue his creation, to rehabilitate him. (I picture a sort of drying-out clinic/swamp for skinhead amphibians - filled with repentant Amazonian poison frogs in gang coloration, taking the twelve-leap program. The original, innocent Pepe might have appreciated that image.) His creator tried to save him. But now...? Now he's still listed by the Anti-defamation League as a hate symbol. Now even his creator has had to give him up as irredeemable. A guilty frog.
Collage from Public Domain images (and poor, poor Pepe)
I joke - sorta - but it's not funny. It proved impossible to save Pepe from the haters. Just as many other artists find it impossible to assert their copyright when their works are stolen for profit . And all the online fans who previously created joyful or silly memes now have to concede that Pepe The Frog is lost to them too. This is why we can't have nice things. Today Matt Furie killed off Pepe. Today, on Free Comic Book Day, is Pepe's wake. Read more HERE.
If you're planning on seeing today's DAVID CARL'S CELEBRITY ONE MAN HAMLETat Kitchen Dog Theater (and if you're not you should be) be warned:
Now showing at Dallas' Fair Park at the Margo Jones Theater / Magnolia Lounge. 2:15 and 7:45. (I'll be at the 2:15 show and so will the Dallas Mayor - come join us!) Because of this last minute Fire Marshall induced move of venue, Kitchen Dog is offering half price tickets... Call 214-953-1055 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or just show up at the door and say you were sent by company member Clare DeVries.
Isn't that gorgeous? Just makes you want to buy a ticket to far star-strewn places doesn't it? Between NASA's poster campaign and the new Star Wars films space is suddenly cool again... maybe we'll get that Mars Colony in my life time. And now that I've set up an inevitable and not-in-my-favor comparison, let me show you some more of the protest postcards I've been designing lately. (Protest? Why ever?)
A handy be-kind-not-cruel card to send to legislators about immigration issues.
A health-care issues postcard. And, for ticked-off women who, whatever your politics, are annoyed by powerful men Not Listening...
In my head the Statue of Liberty is starting to live quite a heroic superhero adventure. The perfect avitar for this moment in American history. Please, if you're writing to your congressional representative or senator and you like a postcard design, feel free to print 'em and use 'em. Pass 'em on! (Print on card stock at 4 1/4" x 6" or stuff, any sized, in an envelope.) Oh, and don't forget the artsy one - the arts need all the help they can get:
From a behind-the-curtain artist's view, all these designs are collages done with computer image / photo editing software (rather than scissors and glue) from public domain images. Turns out, for me at least, political upset means a chance to hone my computer / art skills! Who knew? So, if our American Experiment slides into Authoritarian Tyranny, maybe I can at least get work as a Propaganda Poster Hack. Who knows?
Or they'll need artists on Mars.
And, before I lose this stickynote again, here's a gem of a topical poem I found in the NY Times written by Susan McLean:
Kitchen Dog Theater is proud to announce our new accessibility initiative: Admit:ALL - which provides 20 FREE tickets to every KDT performance this season (after opening nights) for those otherwise unable to afford them.
These tickets will be available at the box office on a first come-first serve basis. Arrive half an hour before showtime and just ask for an Admit:ALL ticket! BIG THANKS to Communities Foundation of Texas for the seed grant to get this program off the ground!
Paper Flowers - running now through March 11th.To see a full calendar of performance dates- go to kitchendogtheater.org
As an antidote to reading waaay too much current events / political coverage lately, today I'm rereading Francis Bacon's Essays. Written about 450 years ago, I figured these musings by the shrewd English philosopher and statesman would give some perspective. Yes indeedy. Turns out, people are still pretty much the same people now as then. Political forms are different - absolute monarchs being thinner on the ground today (though that could change) - but politics is still politics. Then, while still remembering this morning's headlines about the beginning of sweeping deportations, I read this ancient news-flash:
" All states that are liberal of naturalization towards strangers, are fit for empire."
Bacon goes on to talk about how the Roman empire was the most welcoming of foreigners, inviting them into full citizenship. This warm welcome and easy assimilation was the great strength and richness of their empire... the very thing that permitted their civilization to flourish and grow.
Any present day applications come to mind?
A bronze statue of an aristocratic boy - Roman - the Met CC0
The essay is "Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Empires." The Roman Empire lasted 500 years, will ours last the next 260 if we become "ill-liberal" towards strangers?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just announced that it's set 375,000 art images free.
Fly! Be free! All under a Creative Commons 0 license HERE... which means you can do what you like with 'em. Free I tell you! PS In all my excitement I forgot to tell you that the wonderful falcon is ancient Egyptian, the sky a study by John Singer Sargeant, and both live at the terrific Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Go visit.
Feel like America has fallen Through the Looking Glass?
Whenever you're talking to, emailing, faxing, writing to, or protesting at your senator or representative on the latest Outrage du Jour, please remember to mention NEA funding too. The National Endowment for the Arts supports all sorts of art - it's especially important in getting arts into the countryside and into smaller towns, where students (or adults) wouldn't otherwise have art funding at all.
My personal experience of NEA support comes mostly from Kitchen Dog Theater, where for five consecutive years (the only Texas theater who can say this!) we have received national funding for our New Works Festival.
New plays by living American writers!
If you do feel moved to write your congressional folk, you're welcome to use this postcard:
Please feel free to use - print at 4 1/4" x 6" on card stock
This year will be Kitchen Dog's 19th New Works Festival. In our time we've produced 26 world premiers of new plays and 125 staged readings of new works. That's NEW work by living writers.
Please help us - and all those other artists that count on it - by helping the NEA.
I've been invited to sit on a panel discussion of The Designers! :
Monday, February 6 at 7pm at WaterTower Theater.
Tickets can be purchased online HERE or you can buy at the door. To quote:
"The objective of the Women in Theatre panel series is to explore challenges, issues, and opportunities women working in the theatre face. This year's panel features Leann Burns, Clare Floyd DeVries, Sylvia Fuhrken Marrs, Frida Espinosa Muller, and will be moderated by arts journalist Lauren Smart. Each of the designers will bring personal insights, from a uniquely female perspective, about their experiences navigating the often challenging world of theatre."
Come on by! Lighting designer Leann Burns and I recently completed WaterTower's production of Silent Sky, which turned out well. (We're probably going to sit on its stage.) A great chance to hear about Design Life - with whatever special viewpoint female designers may bring to it.
There have been so many outrageous political happenings this week that it's hard to know where to start. A sweeping new immigrant ban (temporary? really?). Cutting all funding for the arts and humanities. Muzzling the EPA and National Park Service and many more governmental departments, while nominating leaders for them that hate those departments... It's a blitzkrieg. But a good place for a concerned citizen to start is by writing their congress people. To that end I've designed a couple postcards. Inspired by the anthem that flash-mobbed at the Washington DC Women's March... "I Can't Keep Quiet."
MILCK and the GW Sirens at the DC Women's March
singing "I Can't Keep Quiet"
I love the song. It captures exactly my emotions right now - seeing America going wrong I just can't keep quiet. I won't keep quiet. Let's each become "a one woman riot." (Guys very welcome! Crowds!) A great illustration, by the way, of how Art can reflect and influence current events. Just as the musical Hamilton has. As artists we have - sometimes - real POWER. Inspired by the protest song, here are these postcards:
These designs are gifted to the Public Domain.
These are designed to be printed at 4 1/4" x 6", the largest size U.S. Post Office rules allow. Please feel free to print these on card stock. Use 'em, share 'em, most of all, mail 'em! Write to your reps and senators with your opinions on current policy. Or call them. Or visit their offices, or march, or... RESIST.
Awards can get a little... crazy. I just found out this year's nominations for The Column Awards. Perhaps you remember a couple of earlier posts of mine on the intricacies of scenic design and plagiarism versus legitimate reuse etc. HERE and HERE. The short version is that a tree - and the rest of its set - for A Midsummer's Night's Dream somehow ended up, to its designer's surprise, on stage again as a set for Camelot.
A Midsummer's Night's Dream, Trinity Shakespeare Festival -
set design DEFINITELY by Bob Lavallee
Camelot, Lyric Stage - photographer unknown
set design still by Bob Lavallee... or, and... well, it's complicated
So... now BOTH sets have been nominated for awards! The Shakespeare play's set as "Best Original Scenic Design of a Play - Equity" and its Camelot zombie-after-life as "Best Original Scenic Design of a Musical - non-Equity." This is credited to both it's actual designer and to its imaginary nom-de-repaint-it-we-won't-say-plagiarism designer, Cornelius Parker. That rascal. Ha! As a side note, I am appropriately honored to discover that two shows of my own are also so honored: Kind Lady, for MainstageIrving-Las Colinas and The Winter's Tale, for Trinity Shakespeare Festival. But I'll happily lose - twice! - to that gorgeous tree. PS I'd be very happy to credit the photographer of that Camelot photo if anyone knows?