I have written on occasion of my struggles with living in the post-Bush economy. I am going on year three of unemployment, and now get by mainly with a little help from my friends. What little work there is in my field of Instructional Design is going to younger applicants – and there is precious little of that. That happens in other fields as well. Once you hit your fifties opportunities shrink based solely on your age, and of course these days anyone out of work is in trouble.
If you haven't seen it already, take a look at this quickie animation of unemployment rates by county since January '07 in the USA. (H/T Lupin)
When you land in terminal unemployment, and what has worked for you in the past just won't work any more, you have to find a new way to live. In such circumstances one goes through certain processes, making a list of skills, strengths and weaknesses and assessing these against any potential or actual opportunities.
When it comes to that list of strengths and weaknesses, it is heavily weighted in my case toward the weak side. My strengths are comparatively few, and if there's one thing I've learned it's that it pays to play to ones strengths. I guess that's especially true when you don't have that many to begin with.
I can write a bit and have a modicum of artistic ability, while possessing all the carpentry and mechanical skills of a young baboon. So handy man work is out. I do manage to sell a few prints from time to time from my Face Book photo page, but it's not many and I don't make much. Art is a hard dollar I have found. I have done the visual design for a few web pages, none of which are live on the net yet, so I can't use them to generate new business.
In a market where there are virtually no jobs for people like me, we have to do something. All of the analysis and self-knowledge that I can muster tells me that I am doomed to write and make art...for better or worse. So far it's been worse but I'm hoping it will get better.
It's always been my ambition to be a writer and artist. The only reason I became an Instructional Designer is because it is mostly about writing, plus I got to illustrate much of my work. I've been writing and illustrating my ass off for over 30 years. But it's no longer about ambition, it's about necessity. And necessity is a 'mother' of invention.
In my artwork, I often begin with a photo from the public domain and use that to make a new image. This is termed appropriation art and is akin to sampling in the audio world. Digital appropriation artists are creatures of the Internet and a logical outgrowth of cyberculture.
In the visual arts, to appropriate means to adopt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of man-made visual culture.
Here are a few of my recent digital paintings done in Photoshop.
As some of you may know, I've been working on a book project for a couple of years now. It is a highly autobiographical view of the last 50 years of American history with the working title, "The Secret History of my Foolish Heart." I would say this project is 85% to 90% complete, which is to say I still have a lot of work to do before it's ready to publish.
More recently I've also been working on a side project which consists in part of a repackaged collection of my Daily Kos diaries on hippies called, Wear Your Love Like Heaven – The Hippie Diaries. I have rewritten all of the previously published diaries, and there is approximately 50% new material. Previous illustrations have been replaced with b/w documentary photographs from the public domain, many of which are guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of any old hippie...and possibly others. There are also several of my collages included, though the only color is on the cover. All interior images are black and white to keep costs and the price down. I have put a lot of effort into making this smallish 138-page book a well-polished jewel. I hope I have succeeded, but that's for the readers to judge.
Special thanks to Patric Juillet who suggested that I put this volume together and turned me on to this sweet little deal at Amazon.com. It allows authors and artists to publish themselves directly to Amazon bypassing the usual gauntlet of agents, editors, publishers and hucksters in the traditional publishing jungle. Seems like a pretty sweet deal to me. It seems that it is empowering the artist (they also publish music, video, etc). This is available to anyone who is capable of putting it all together by themselves, which is a considerable task but doable. In the case of book publishing, you do get some editorial support. They'll warn you if there is something technically wrong with your document but you are fully responsible for all editing, proofreading and formatting - and all has to meet their submission standards. It takes a lot of work to get it all right, but when you do you're done. When final proofing and editing is complete, you click the publish button and your book goes live. It is printed on demand as the orders come in, thus avoiding waste. You retain all your rights, and it all seems very straightforward and democratic to me. I like the thought of just putting it out there and letting it sink or swim. Sometimes you get lucky. I know that chances are it will sink and I accept that...but I remain ever optimistic. :-)
I designed the cover art using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. The design is based on a female figure lifted from an Alphonse Mucha poster in the public domain, originally done for the JOB rolling paper company in 1898.
The quotes are actual unsolicited quotes. I realize that it's terribly immodest of me to include them in the cover design...but then modesty doesn't sell books.
I equivocated about posting the following image for fear that it might give some people the vapors, but in the interest of full disclosure I guess I should. This is what the back cover looks like.
Please forgive the shameless self-promotion but I'm told it's necessary if I want it to sell...and it is important to me in more ways than one that I sell a few of these babies. And for the record, I do not believe that I am either Tom Paine or the soul of Daily Kos, but I do appreciate the kindness, wisdom and powers of discernment of those fine fellows who said so. The book is ten bucks. I wouldn't dare ask anyone who needs the money to spend it on my little book, but for those of you who can spare it, I'd consider it a great kindness.
Wear Your Love Like Heaven – The Hippie Diaries is soon to be available at Amazon.com, but my royalties are higher if you purchase directly from my eStore page where it is available now. To all who buy a copy, please enjoy its strengths and forgive its weaknesses...and thank you very much.
I would like to express my gratitude to all of you here at Daily Kos who have supported me and my work over the years. Your friendship and support have kept me sane, and you have taught me more than I could ever quantify or repay. You have all been, and continue to be, a very big part of my life. Thank you for that and may you all have the most wonderful existences imaginable.
I know, I know, I'm a shameless bastard.
P.S. Good luck to everyone out of work or otherwise having to learn new ways to survive. Don't overlook Kossacks Networking For Jobs and Community.