Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ethical decision-making

Everyone likes to think they act ethically. People aren't inherently evil, they just find ways to justify their actions to themselves. This makes the matter of ethics confusing, whether referring to it on a personal level or on an organizational level.

There is push these days for organizations to act ethically, but what defines ethical decision-making is not black and white nor cut and dry. It is instead a sliding scale, ranging from not-for-profits whose entire reason for existence is for the greater good, to organizations that participate in corporate social responsibility to appease consumers and to try and give back to the community, to organizations that push every limit and act fraudulently and corruptly to make as much profit for shareholders as possible, and everything in between. There is no answer to ethical decision-making, but it is important to remember that the closer we get to unethical decision-making, the easier it is to justify to ourselves taking it one step further.

This is a visual representation that I made for a business case dealing with ethical decision-making. It is important to remember that all of our decisions exist on an ethical sliding scale, and that we must ensure that our decisions do not begin sliding to the unethical direction. We must also value ethical decision-making as a high standard for organizations as consumers. By being aware of how ethical our actions are, we can make the world a better place.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Professionalism is just as important in the art field as it is in any other type of business. The way you portray yourself is very important, and while the image of an artist as a disheveled eccentric is attractive in theory, portraying yourself as professional leaves the impression of a trustworthy individual in the minds of others. This is essential when people are considering purchasing your artwork, when they are trusting that you will follow through on a commission, or when someone is trusting that you will have a body of work prepared for a gallery showing in time. If someone has a sense that you are well-managed and put together, they will be more likely to give you these opportunities.

A good friend once said to me: dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have. For years I believed that being an artist meant that I could play by my own rules and avoid the standards that everyone else would have to live their mundane lives by. However, when my friend said these words to me,  I was working for minimum wage in a mundane office, unemployable as an artist, and those words really stuck with me. I realized that getting ahead as an artist would take more than talent, hard work, and good ideas. It would also require me to present myself as someone that is put together. And despite the fact that I wanted to be acknowledged as a working artist, I began feeling as though the job that I wanted as a working artist was not one as a disheveled eccentric who was obsessive of all things art, but one as a professional looking artist who is successful at their business.

I began dressing more professionally at my job, I purchased a few blazers and always tried to look nice. However, when I started business school I never thought that I would fit in. I never felt that my attire would ever be up to snuff, and I always had difficulty looking truly professional. As time went by and I gathered more business attire (might I add, at no cost more than I was buying regular clothes for the most part), I realized that it's not that difficult, and that anyone can dress professional with a reasonable amount of comfort as well.

Can't wear a pair of pantyhose without a starting a huge run in it? Buy some damn dress pants. Break my face on the bus with high heels? Payless has plenty of flat shoes, don't worry. Can't find a button up shirt that doesn't look like the buttons at the boobs are hanging on for dear life? Well, there are plenty of nice shirts without buttons.

Another thing I learned years ago is that your art should look professional as well. Now, mind you, I am not saying to change your art style. If you art style is a mess, let it be a mess! However, there is something very important one of my professors during my Visual Arts degree taught me. I was working on a book project for a printmaking class, and I had printed and bound a book. Now, I was never very good at precise detailed work, but I wanted to make a nice-looking book like the ones I had seen made in workshops I had attended. But instead the inside cover of my book had glue all over it and the pages were all a bit crooked. My professor for that class, when critiquing my book, told me one something that has stuck with me ever since. She said "Lenore, your artwork is very messy. That isn't a bad thing, it's the type of artwork that you make and it's who you are. But you have to embrace it and to always make sure that if it looks messy, it looks messy on purpose".

That has stayed with me to this day. My messy disheveled artwork was suddenly no longer something I struggled with, but instead became something I could be proud of. I stopped trying to make neat artwork, and instead put my efforts into making sure the messy work I was making was presented properly. My artwork remained messy while the presentation changed.

It took me years to realize that this practice was important for myself as well. I could remain a messy person, who is all over the place, constantly busy, constantly have a million ideas running through my head, working on a variety of projects, as long as I presented myself in my dress pants, nice shoes (no heels) and nice shirt (no buttons) so I looked like I was being a messy person on purpose.

Have any tips on professionalism as an artist? I'd love to hear it! Comment below!

<3 Lenore

Friday, August 15, 2014

Love art every day

As I said a few posts ago, when I spoke about how I keep focused on art while I am busy, I often try to make whatever small doodles and drawings I can to keep myself involved. Here's a quick little doodle I did on my iPad. Thought I'd share as a reminder to you all to love art every day.

<3 Lenore

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The struggles of a Fine Arts graduate

When I finished my Visual Arts degree, I was very unsure of what to do next. If there is one thing I've learned after completing a university education, it is that the focus of university is on academia and knowledge, and what you do with it when you're finished is of no concern to them. This is unfortunate, however, because many students are never taught the skills to get the job, or to even know what job they are qualified for. There is something that I find very frustrating about programs that charge such large sums of money and put teenagers in insurmountable debt despite holding the firm belief that there is no place there to teach usable real life skills in the field.

While I was studying Visual Arts, I spent the entire four years feeling as if I had myself all figured out. "I am soooo lucky that I know what I'm passionate about and what I want to do for the rest of my life straight out of high school", said my brain while dragging my tired ass to class every day.

However, things were very different after I was out of school. I was left with this wandering sense of "now what?". I had to find somewhere to live, money to pay rent, and no one was showing up at my door offering me money to live as an artist.

So what did I do?! Well I did what many artists do at that point in their career! I started working at a call centre. (Other acceptable answers here would have been gas station, restaurant, or retail outlet).

It's a sad truth: since the recession it has become extremely difficult to be an artist. I don't understand how art schools can stay afloat if they do not begin teaching students the skills to survive after art school. You see, no matter how passionate you are about something, you still need to eat and pay rent. No matter how passionate I was about art, I had to work 40 hours a week at a call centre. There have been several points in my life where I've had to work two jobs, up to 60 hours a week, just to afford the cost of living. Finding the time to make art on top of that is difficult. Finding the time to network yourself or to sell your art on top of that is near impossible.

Here is a great Maclean's article about how difficult it is to be a Fine Arts graduate right now, and how schools have to adapt.

Students need to start these processes while still in school. Students need to start gaining the business skills (networking, marketing, financial skills, etc) while still in art school, because they will never find the time to learn these on their own. Instead, they end up in dead end jobs with piles of half-finished and finished canvases in their bedroom that no one will see because they don't know how to get someone to look, while busting their asses to pay off their debts.

Now that I'm enrolled in an MBA, I feel like I am gaining the necessary skills to be a working artist. If that doesn't work out, I have the skills to find a job that will pay me enough that I can at least have the time to get my art out there. However, I was never made aware that applying for an MBA was an option for me as a Visual Arts graduate. It took me four years the figure that out. Nor did I think for a second to enroll in business electives during my undergrad. Why did no one tell me these things?! Why have I suffered this whole time?

I think one of the issues is that the professors teaching these programs never faced the problems that we do. When they finished school there was grant money available, there were teaching jobs, they didn't have to choose between making art and eating. However, I sincerely feel that they should look around them and see what is occurring to students after they walk out of the school doors. They need to adapt, or there will be no room for art school and no room for art in the lives of the upcoming generation.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How I stay focused on art when I am very busy

I have been busy and while enrolled in an MBA and my life has been very business-focused, so I try whenever possible to keep art in my mind. Even when I do not have the time to make art, I try to keep inspired in the little free time that I have. In an attempt to remind myself that the purpose that I am attending business school is for the business of art, because art is my real passion. Truly, I would like to integrate business and art together in my life. When I first finished art school and was attempting to figure out what to do, I found few resources relating business and art or addressing the business side of art. I think I would like to communicate the business skills from my MBA to other artists, to help them as well.

This summer has been hectic for me, but here are some of the ways I have been keeping art in my head.

1. Reading about art. 

Art & Physics: Parallel Vision in Space, Time and Light
by Leonard Shlain

I feel that reading about art really keeps me focused. The work of other artists can be really inspiring, and get you motivated and excited to express your own thoughts and ideas. I often like to read about art from different viewpoints, and I have always taken great interest with physics, so I picked up this book. I take many issues with this book, the author many time forces his theory and I feel he also manipulates the concept of some of the artwork to mean what he wants it to mean. Also, the author often leaves out important advances in physics in the book because they do not contribute to his theory. However, at 437 pages I think this book is a great overview of art and physics and I enjoyed the ability to compare the timeline of the two together. If nothing else, Shlain demonstrates how changes often occur in both fields at the same time because of the shift of perspective of everyone in society. I also enjoyed having the inspiration that comes with reading about many of my favourite artists again, and sometimes getting perspectives on their artwork that I hadn't been exposed to before. 

2. Listening to podcasts

I have the luck of working from home for my internship, so when I am doing more visual work (formatting documents, etc) I can listen to podcasts. One of the few great resources I have found for business and art is Alyson Stanfield's blog and podcasts. Her website,, has some great resources and if you search for her podcasts, she has a ton that covers all of the topics you could imagine encountering as an artist. It keeps me motivated and informed. 

3. Drawing and painting small things

I don't have the time to work on big paintings, therefore I try to do small sketches and small paintings whenever possible. Even if the paintings have no conceptual meaning to me, sometimes it's just nice to have a tool in my hand and move a medium around on a surface. Here is a small painting I did this summer (unfinished at this point, some shoulders went in later). 

Acrylic on canvas

The fight of my life since I finished my Bachelor of Fine Arts has been finding the time to keep up with my artwork. I do not come from a family that can support me while I don't work, and it is difficult to find a good paying job these days. I keep reminding myself that I am doing an MBA to free up more time and have access to more resources when I do find a good job, and using these techniques to keep myself focused on art helps me along the way.

<3 Lenore

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fake it 'til you are it.

The jump from art to business has been very interesting for me. I often get reactions from both professors and people I am networking with when I tell them that my background is a Visual Arts degree. It's rather unexpected, and sometimes I wonder if there have been people who didn't think I could survive business school. I am surviving. And it is changing me. But I think that because I have been so focused on learning, that I haven't noticed how much. However, there are moments when it really hits me.

For example, the other day I was sitting in class thinking about how I should pick up a copy of the book Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. I had remembered seeing it in all of the Starbucks locations when it came out. The first person perspective on the life of Starbucks would be really interesting. Then I sighed thinking, I'll never find the time to read it with all of the schoolwork I have right now.

Then I realized something. When the book first came out and I saw it in all of the Starbucks locations, I remember rolling my eyes. Another marketing gimmick, I thought at the time, who would buy into that? Yet here I was, years later, feeling distraught over the fact that I did not have enough free time to read this book about a business while in business school.

Today I went to see my career adviser to do a mock interview and discuss my internship prospects. We discussed the cover letters I have submitted, as well the answers I had prepared for my interviews. She said to me that she is not worried about me getting a position because I have great interview answers and that I am really learning how to communicate with business language. She said she was very impressed with me.

Who am I? I thought. When I first moved to Ontario it was rough for me, I felt very out of place. Things are different here, people are less brash and more professional. And colder. I had to learn to be less forward and communicate accordingly. Three years ago, in peasant skirts and hoodies, I moved here feeling like I would never belong.

Eventually I became comfortable here, dressed a bit better, began communicating differently, and made a good pocket of friends. Then I joined business school and all of those feelings began all over again. I'm a Fine Arts graduate, who let me into business school? I can't wear business attire without getting a run in my pantyhose and scuffing up my shoes, who is ever going to believe me as a business person? There were many periods in my 20's where I have felt like I was mutt in a dog show, just waiting to be found out. Yet, I haven't been called out yet. If anything, I am becoming more successful every day.

A few months ago I watched a TED talk that really expressed how I've been feeling the last few years. It's by Amy Cuddy and it is called "Your body language shapes who you are". It is about how your own body language can affect you psychologically. However, the importance of body language is not what I took away from the talk. Near the end Amy Cuddy spoke of her life, and how after getting in a car accident her intelligence had been affected. She eventually managed to get into university, but was struggling with it immensely. She spoke to a professor about it and told them "I don't belong here". That's a feeling I have felt a thousand times.

Amy Cuddy says, don't fake it until you make it, fake it until you are it.  Fake it until someday you become that thing. Someday when you are it you will have a moment when you realize how much you've changed. You'll realize that you aren't faking it anymore. You'll realize that you didn't even notice when that happened. You'll realize that you belong.

If you can find the time, I highly suggest watching this TED talk. From someone who is faking it until they are it, who feels so out of place constantly, who wants so badly to succeed and express my talents and capabilities to the world, it will inspire you. Also, keep your mind open. Things that may not seem interesting to you may someday become another passion of yours. And perhaps, saying that the program has changed me isn't appropriate. Rather, it has helped me grow.

<3 Lenore

Friday, January 3, 2014

Business and Art

I have been rather silent because I have been working endlessly in the MBA program at Carleton. I am soon entering the winter semester, and I must say I am enjoying it. It is extreme amounts of work, but I am learning essential skills that are readily applicable to the real world.

As a Fine Arts graduate, I thought that I would find the business material dry or difficult. However, if there is one thing that I have learned from taking on this program it is that my thirst for knowledge applies to all facets of knowledge. I thoroughly enjoy learning information and applying it. I enjoy communicating, whether it be through visual means or through writing. I believe that no matter what career path I take that I will find it satisfying as long as there is a challenge and that I can apply my capabilities.

In other news, I will be exhibiting two paintings at the Carleton University art gallery, who is having a show that is open to all Carleton students. I just varnished them and prepared them for hanging. Here is the Signal Hill painting I had been working on previously, varnished and completed.

"Signal Hill"
Oil on Canvas

Unfortunately I have not been making any new art at all since I have started the program, I was unable to receive any funding and have been working while attending school to support myself. I miss making art. The anniversary of Sierra's death has came and went and I itched to express the emotions that have been rolling around inside of me. It will have to wait for the time being. I am hoping that all of the things that I accomplish when I finish this program will allow me more free time and money so that I can focus on art in my spare time. 

I wish you all the best, hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year. I will try to update soon with some interesting business news and opinions. 

<3 Lenore