Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

to create art or to sell art, that is the question. a discussion.

Shakespeare wasn’t a successful artist, by all the accounts that I’ve read. Though he managed to sell some of his plays for meager sums and earned a small amount as an actor, William Shakespeare never had a thriving business. No one who knew him considered him a successful artist, but did he feel that way? What we can assume is that his writing was dependant on more than his success at writing, because as we all know, he kept at it.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of novels such as Committed, The Signature of All Things and the little-known Eat, Pray, Love, says that irrespective of great success or great failure, success for her means continuing to write. She refers to the place where an artist creates as the “artist’s normal”. This is the place where the artist lives and where the artist should fight to remain whether many or few people receive the artwork well.

Who is a successful artist? Is successful art only a success when someone else has attached a value to it, or is the creation already a success because it has been created? Who defines the success of art? And what happens when an artist achieves great monetary success with one piece and absolutely none with another – is that artist successful or not?

The internet is filled with links advising artists how to market and sell their work in order to achieve success. Bruce Allen, president of an artist management firm in Vancouver, says that “the big vote is the cash register.” An artist is successful if they sell. But, how many songs, words, landscapes, or sonnets does an artist need to sell to be successful? Does the manager, agent or Billboard decide when an artist is successful?

Kim Thiessen has a different view of success. Thiessen, a Canadian best-selling recording artist who some of you have heard of explains “that our success is so often tied to the people we are next to.  Success at the expense of someone else is utter failure in my mind.  Success in community, partnership, relationship...that's pretty amazing.” She says that success, even after raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the AIDS awareness project as part of the non-profit organization Mennonite Central Committee, is achieved when others benefit and community is enhanced.

The visual artist, Paul Klein, who owns and operates a thriving gallery in Chicago, also believes that success comes not from a certain arbitrary number of pieces sold, but from relationships. Many artists are more interested in just getting their work out into the public; sharing it with others who might be impacted by it in small or big ways.

Is it naïve to tell myself that it doesn’t matter if someone buys my work; that it only matters that I write? Maybe. Do I need to be able to support myself to be a successful writer? Possibly. But, if I’m thrilled to survive on Kraft Dinner, living in a tent in a shabby, roadside campground because I have only sold one short story and have endless time to write, am I successful? Surely.

Bruce Allen eventually flips on his vehement idea that success is registered by the number of dings of the cash register, admitting “who am I to say how much money earned is success.” The artist determines their level of satisfaction and success. Unfortunately, the most predominant measure of mainstream success is determined by the number of opening weekend tickets, debut downloads, and books sold. Some artists fight back against these strong yardsticks, bending ideas and targets, such as Autumn Hays. She says, “I do think there is a clear way to know if you are a successful artist. That after all the pressure, aversions, and struggles, you still keep making art. The continuation and advancement of your artwork and practice itself is the mark of a truly successful artist.”

As one artist, whose words have stood the test of critics and time, once said, “to thine own self be true.” That is success.

Works Cited:

Allen, B. (2006, May). What makes an artist successful? (Video file). 
Retrieved from

Gilbert, E. (2014, March). Success, failure and the drive to keep creating (Video file).
Retrieved from    failure_and_the_drive_to_keep_creating

Hays, A. (2014, January 24). Becoming the successful artist. (Web log post).
Retrieved from

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

rocky mountain beauties.

In the midst of our current German heat wave, I’m reminiscing about the cool, crisp air of the Rocky Mountains. Just over a week ago I was in Alberta, looking for bears and hanging out with family. On one such day, my father, stepmum and I headed out for a drive along the Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Lake Louise and then on to Emerald Lake, just up from Field, British Columbia.

The 1A Highway is the narrower cousin that shoots off at various points parallel to the mighty #1, trekking alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks. The railway wandered out west in the late 1800's, binding Montreal to Vancouver across 22,500 kms of rail ties which, more comfortable than horseback, brought Canadians together long before Facebook.

On one August afternoon in 1882, Tom Wilson, a horse-packer for the railway, was led to an emerald-green lake by Edwin Hunter, a Stoney Indian. Hunter told Wilson, that this was the Lake of Little Fishes. Wilson was so taken by the colour of the lake, he re-named it, ‘Emerald Lake’. In 1884, as news spread of this stunning area, the lake was re-named again, in honour of Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.

As you would see Lake Louise in August, and from a canoe.
Photo borrowed from
Chateau Lake Louise, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in 1890, was initially built by the railway to lure wealthy travellers westwards by train. The impressive, but receding, Victoria Glacier hovers above the turquoise-coloured lake, beckoning hikers to venture just a little further. We didn't make it that far, but comfortably strolled along the lake through banks of melting snow. What I wouldn't do for some snow now!

Inside, the Chateau boasts local, fresh and innovative fine dining or fondue, fireside cocktails or teetotaling afternoon tea. From personal experience I can highly recommend the Swiss fondue dinner experience in the European-inspired Walliser Stube.

In past visits at the Chateau, some of the best moments have been spent sitting in front of the large windows, wine glass and good company nearby, taking the view in.

Wilson moved on from the Lake of Little Fishes and later the same year, as he was tracking a team of his horses that had gotten loose, he came upon another gemstone-coloured lake. So turquoise in its colour, Wilson again named the lake, Emerald Lake. This time the name stuck.

Emerald Lake Lodge, named by The Daily Meal as one of the TOP 101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around The World, is seductively tucked into the palm of the President Range mountains, 8 kms above Field, British Columbia. Like many of CP Rail's original hotels and chalets, Emerald Lake Lodge is remote, secluded and offers her guests her undivided, no-cell-service attention - albeit with an elegant, gold rush flair and first-class service.

Chalets perch in clusters beside the lake in spitting distance of the nearest staffer in a golf cart; ready to take you to a hot chocolate treat in the fireside lounge. Cross-country skiing, hiking, and canoeing are just the right activities to tucker you out enough to enjoy that.

For our visit, the three of us strolled along the still semi-frozen glacier lake and then settled for lunch outside on the terrace. It's that exciting, hopeful time in the Rockies, when you can wear a t-shirt and shorts while marching along snow covered paths or partaking in Canadian's second-favourite pastime - spring skiing!

While our server replenished our cold drinks from behind the oak bar rescued from a Yukon saloon, I munched on Endive & Radicchio Salad, with poached pear, sherry vinaigrette, and hazelnut goat cheese. Pa dug into a Rocky Mountain Ranch Burger, slathered in chipotle aioli, country bacon, and monterey jack cheese and stepmum had her beloved Cobb Salad. Other delights on their lunch menu include, a Grilled Buffalo Pastrami Sandwich and Butternut Squash Ravioli, accompanied with arugula, chanterelles, cherry tomatoes, and hazelnut butter. Hungry yet? I am.

And while my outing with pa and stepmum was nowhere near as exciting as Tom Wilson's wild horse adventure, the Rocky Mountains impress me every time. Spring, summer, fall, or winter, around every mountainy corner lies the opportunity for awe. There's nothing like a mountain.

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