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Success and Flowers

I began teaching in Continuing Studies at Emily Carr University of Art + Design shortly after my book, Artist Survival Skills, came out. I had picked up a Continuing Studies calendar to see if there was a course I might take and noticed that the listing for a course called The Business of Art showed the teacher was TBA (to be announced).

I contacted the University to offer my services for what I thought would be one semester, assuming the regular teacher was on leave, but I have taught the course every semester since. While I am only in the classroom for six hours a week for two months each semester, my course is a compulsory part of three certificate programs with about twenty students attending each of my two classes.

My challenge with the class is to make it relevant to a diverse range of students. Some students have considerable experience while others have none, and they work in vast range of media. Some make products while others provide services; some are mature and some are very young; most are female. I would say that the average age is fortyish.

The experience is overwhelmingly positive. Each term, there are students who make it exciting for me to go to every class and this summer it was outstanding. Amongst the registrants were a couple from Switzerland who were inspiring, three delightful lawyers, a highly energetic and thoroughly engaging and hard-working university administrator and an equally appealing financial industry executive, a frustrated engineer/entrepreneur and several international students possessed of an incredible work ethic, and many others—too many to mention here.

The high percentage of professionals in my class is yet another outcome of the Baby Boom. The front edge of the boom is sixty-six this year and my course is heavily populated with retirees and eventual retirees seeking to establish new careers in retirement or to return to a passion postponed. Coincidently, this summer I had half the normal number of registrants, allowing me to get more deeply into conversations with this great cohort during the course.

Part of my course concerns the professional curator and my course material includes quotes from curators of whom I asked the question: “If you could address the graduating class of Emily Carr, what is the most important thing they should know, in your opinion, from the entirety of your professional experience?” At the end of one section of my course this summer, a student who really inspired me asked if we could get together and when we did, she asked me the same question. Here is what I told her.
Know what you want from being an artist. Be it money, public awareness (“fame”), curatorial respect or all three or degrees of each—know exactly what you want from your career. To that add talent and you have half of what you need.

The other half is one of four things: an incredible work ethic, a balanced and appreciated extroverted personality, significant business acumen (an entrepreneurial orientation) or genius. Talent + one of these four qualities = success no matter how you define it.

Speaking of a good work ethic and engaging personality, Vancouver botanical watercolourist Dana Cromie (www.danacromie.ca) has been appointed the first Artist in Residence at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden.

Dana was introduced to botanical watercolour at the UBC Garden in 2010. As a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the Botanical Artists of Canada, the absence of a local forum and an education enrichment program for local botanical artists frustrated him. By contrast, he noted the Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado, a city comparable in size to Vancouver, offered over 150 botanical illustration workshops and courses per year.

Believing that peer interaction is crucial to developing a positive environment for the education, production, exhibition and appreciation of botanical art, Dana started an Internet forum for local botanical artists and illustrators.

Here is what Wikipedia says about forums: A forum is an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are at least temporarily archived. Also, a posted message might need to be approved by a moderator before it becomes visible.

Forums have a specific set of jargon associated with them; e.g. a single conversation is called a "thread.” A discussion forum is hierarchical or tree-like in structure: a forum can contain a number of sub-forums, each of which may have several topics. Within a forum's topic, each new discussion started is called a thread, and can be replied to by as many people as so wish.

Dana moderates his forum where interested members can post threads for discussion, notices, and questions relevant to botanical illustration. The address is www.botanicalartistsofbc.ca/forum. Basic instructions on posting are included in the Welcome page. If you are interested in botanical illustration, I urge you to participate in this forum in order to build momentum in the profession.

Chris Tyrell Loranger is the author of Artist Survival Skills and Making It!, an arts writer and educator. His popular opinion pieces have appeared in our newsletter since its first issue in 1986. Visit his website, www.christyrell.ca or his art marketing blog http://visualartmerchandising.blogspot.ca, to learn more.

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