Celebrate the Release of The Fire in Vengeance by…

A love story that has no rules. Ancient magic in a blood bond. A mythic terror invited back into the world.

THE FIRE IN JUSTICE — book two in the Enforcer’s Legacy Series — is releasing FRIDAY JUNE 1, 2018, and to celebrate, the first book in the series (and book one in Christan and Lexi’s trilogy) THE DARKNESS IN DREAMS will be offered FREE on Amazon Kindle May 25 – May 29.

preorder THE FIRE IN JUSTICE now so you won’t miss out. And if you haven’t read THE DARKNESS IN DREAMS this is the perfect moment to try it out free.

4.45 average ratings on Goodreads! (and if you’ve read The Darkness in Dreams, please leave your unbiased review on Amazon)

Here are a few of the reviews:

“Enforcers Legacy will be a really great series if the books keep going in the same direction as this first. Some of the Enforcers bound themselves to humans. The Enforcers are immortals, but their human lover dies, and they have to find them when the human lovers are reincarnated from life to life. I can’t wait to see how Christian tells Lexi that she too is now immortal after a blood bond Lexi had done to save Christian”

“This isn’t the typical genre I an used to. However, I really enjoyed this one. Sue Wilder is a great writer and I am looking forward to what is to come from her.”

“I am totally hooked…”

“It was great!”

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The Fire in Vengeance

“If I told you why I did it… what would you say? That I was a monster, driven by my grief? That all I wanted was vengeance?

There are times I would say you were right.

I misused the magic.

And now I can’t take it back…”

Secrets have been hidden in a past life, putting Lexi in danger, and Christan—the immortal enforcer, the origin myth for the most feared creature in the ancient world, the man who loves her—must face what he can’t control in order to protect her.

The action-filled paranormal love story described as “enthralling” began with The Darkness in Dreams. The story continues. Lexi struggles with the reality—she is immortal, but her human vulnerabilities put her in danger. Christan now possesses a power he should not have. And the Calata is not pleased.

When a girl is murdered, Christan and Lexi are forced to return to Florence, where old enemies await and the Calata war erupts in a crimson mist.  A past life must be remembered, clues hidden for centuries unearthed, while an ancient magic threatens to unleash the Fire in Vengeance to sweep across the land…

“There’s a monster in all of us…”


I love historical romances with a paranormal twist—Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Thea Harrison and Karen Marie Moning (although not really historical) and Game of Thrones. One characteristic I enjoy—and have happily adopted—is the use of historical detail to construct my fictional world.

In The Darkness of Dreams we’re introduced to the Calata, the ruling group of seven immortals—although now there are only six. These beings control immortal society, and the structure is based on feudal Europe with seats of power, private armies, constant battles and deceit, with an influential class of lessor immortals. These elements are integrated within our human world and have been influencing human affairs for centuries. When I was writing the first draft, I called this group the Council.

But “Council” was a tired word without romance, and when I began the rewrites I researched ancient languages and came across comitia calata, the name for one of the assemblies that were known in Rome during the time of Servius Tallius. These were non-voting assemblies. Their purpose was to witness the reading of wills, or the oath by which sacra were renounced (the Sacra Corona Unita was the mafia in Puglia). Calata is a very old Italian word that means invasion, appropriate for my fictional Council of Immortals who were “named by an ancient civilization with no other way to describe them.” And far sexier than “Council.”

However, my Calata was not going to be a benevolent advisory committee validating wills while eating cheese and drinking wine. No, my Calata is something quite different and “invasion” only hints at who and what they are in terms of powerful and intriguing characters.

We meet Three immediately in the story. Tall and blond and considered beautiful by some, Three is well-known for saying “there’s a monster in all of us.” She is a cardinal Calata member and her enforcer is Christan—the most powerful being she has ever created. Christan is a warrior, half-human, half-immortal. He has earned his position; he follows a code of honor. Warriors are loyal to him because of who he is and what he has done and can do under the right circumstances.  Three wants the best for Christan, but being immortal, she doesn’t always understand what that is and must change throughout the story arc.

And then there’s Six—what can I say? Three’s enemy is Six, everything a powerful immortal should be, cold, a determined enemy beneath the veneer of a civilized man. Immortals think in terms of winning and losing and Six rarely loses. I’ve always wondered if Three’s animosity with Six came from a jilted relationship. There’s certainly a backstory there, but these characters haven’t revealed it yet.

We also meet Two, who is fiery of temper and small in stature, five-foot four unless she’s wearing four-inch heels—always with red soles to remind her enemies of the blood through which she has walked over the centuries. She dislikes Christan immensely because she dislikes “messes.” In her opinion, every time Christan is involved he “leaves a bloody mess” and she wishes Three would “keep her attack dog muzzled.” Two controls areas associated with the Roman Empire, and lands held in trust for Two, who has been missing for centuries. One’s enforcer is Leander, and within her group is another enforcer known as Baz, who was pledged to Two.  Baz—a name that means royal—becomes a rather intriguing character as the books evolve. 

It’s all exciting and wild adventure and no one really knows how it will end… but it will be entertaining and filled with epic romance and happy endings.

As always, thank you for reading my books. If you enjoyed them, please think about leaving an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are important to new authors who have not yet established a fan group for support and I appreciate you all for reading.

Release of the Darkness in Dreams

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“There was always a darkness in the dreams…we planned it that way.”

~~A quote attributed to Three, the powerful Calata member, never verified

Three is an interesting character.  She is an immortal, a powerful member of the ruling Calata, and she plays a major role in my Calata-Immortal Warrior series.  Her history is filled with secrets and intrigue.  Her enemies are many, but we discover that on the Calata there are two members who are actively plotting against her, and who foolishly believe they will win.

The office was quiet and pristine and more fortified than it looked. There was a file, left unopened and sitting in the center of the desk. Beside it sat the photographs, stacked in a precarious cairn—or perhaps a warning flag in black and white. The warning would be ignored, as warnings usually were, since one did not send warnings and certainly not to this woman. She lived in world filled with power, fortified by legend. And the legend was enough.

 Phillipe knew this, of course. He was a tall man, both muscular and thin, dressed like an academic with the red suspenders that had become his trademark. To outsiders he was harmless. His mind was lethal. So was the rest of him, and the woman trusted him implicitly.

As for the woman, she was not ordinary. Her voice, when she spoke, carried the hint of France, or Italy, or even Russia. She was tall and elegant and considered beautiful by some—but she was not human. Her hair was too blond to be natural, her eyes too silver to be ignored, and for these reasons she’d been Ais to the Etruscans, Theos in ancient Greece. Rome once called her one of the Ten Great Gods but they were mistaken—she was not a god. She was part of an immortal race, a member of the ruling Calata, which meant the invasion, named by an early culture with no other way to describe them.

The name stuck, as did the meaning, and throughout their long existence only seven had been strong enough to rule. Now there were six. Their names were in the ancient form with no equivalent in the human language. For expediency’s sake, they used numbers. She was Three. Her enemy was Six.

“There was always a darkness in the dreams,” Three said as she sat behind the desk. “We planned it that way.”


The Darkness in Dreams - 3DThe Darkness in Dreams is available through Amazon Kindle  for $0.99 and FREE through Kindle Unlimited.


There were some tragedies that never should have happened but did…fragments of past lives that should not be remembered…

Galaxy North had what everyone wanted: freedom, with no socks to pick up. She lived in a small town on the Oregon Coast, and if her life was lonely, it was also safe…until the dreams began.

 Christan was Immortal. An enforcer. The origin myth for the most feared creature in the ancient world and yet he could not rid her from his mind. Demolish her memory. Forgive her sins…and his own.

Christan has sworn that he will ever need her again—but then he’s forced from his exile to confront the rising danger from a common enemy. Christan must face the woman who has always been the other half of his soul. Lexi must accept the impossible, embrace who she really is, and finally reclaim the love she has been finding and losing in endless lifetimes.

The Darkness in Dreams is the first in a sizzling and action-packed mix of paranormal romance and action thriller, the first in the Enforcer's Legacy series, stories filled with past lives, forgotten love, and immortal warriors. A Calata Novel. Adult language and sensuality.

Sue Wilder is an author living in the Pacific Northwest. She first discovered the power of story as a child living in California, when she was caught starting a grapefruit war in a neighboring orchard. She managed to absolve all her cohorts from guilt, and has since moderated her behavior. She now writes romantic paranormal fiction for a more mature adult audience, bringing to life the characters who intrigue her. For more information, please visit Sue Wilder Writes




Isolation and Art

On a bright spring morning in 2017 I got up and walked away from my art.

Over the past six months -- well, more than that -- I've been in self-imposed isolation.  I have not written about art.  I haven't entered my studio or picked up a paint brush.  It took me six weeks to even clean my palette, and I abused the expensive Rosemary brushes I loved so much by forgetting that I'd left them in a jar of mineral spirits.  

Why would I do such a thing, after having spent nearly 20 years working as an artist?

It was sudden.  There was no hint of what was to come.  I'd just shipped off several paintings to a gallery that would exhibit my work for several months.  I'd paid all my art association dues.  I entered the jury process for a prestigious show (into which I was accepted) and had just purchased a fresh gallon of oderless mineral spirits and several new tubes of paint (which are still in the plastic shopping bag at the foot of my easel.)

Why would I do such a crazy thing?

I think, looking back now, that I'd lost what had once given me joy.  I gave away art books.  Donated some supplies and still life objects, thinking I would clean out my studio. I sold several paintings from my website.  Two other galleries sold older work. I Interacted with a wonderful gentleman who found two of my early paintings for sale in Portland, Oregon, purchased them for his "West Coast Artist Collection" and then researched the artist's signature.  He inquired if I was the artist. I said that I was and sent him images of how the two paintings should be hung together. He was thrilled.  "I knew it was you!" he wrote, as if I was famous, and I felt... nothing.  I thought, "Nice, I'm glad he's happy."

And I realized something was wrong. 

I knew I wasn't even close to being famous, but perhaps I was a fraud. Of course we all go through the "fraud" stage.  It's almost expected as proof you're "real."  "Genuine."

But when the "fraud" stage comes from a loss of joy, then it's more than wondering if you're real.

In the past eight months, I've been doing other things, and the distance those things allowed made it easier to see what I was doing with art. My insights are personal to my own experiences, but in general, what I realized was:

  • Cultural changes in how people view and regard art have fundamentally changed over the past two decades.  The demographic group interested in "Redefining their Lifestyles" -- those retiring, downsizing and discovering value in original fine art, cultural events, symphonies and theater -- this group has aged, certainly, but more importantly, the recession permanently frightened them into protecting their assets.  These were the people who enthusiastically supported the galleries that no longer exist.  The many artists who supplied those galleries.  It's a demographic that disappeared and was replaced by an entirely different demographic looking for a different experience. Which makes it difficult to proceed with business as usual. 


  • Technique is paramount over enthusiasm, emotion, effort.  It doesn't matter how passionate you feel about what you do if your technique is not the style in vogue and at the highest level of accomplishment.  Within the genres there are different descriptions of technique.  Having painted abstract -- and been more successful at it than representational -- I know how the market used to value innovation and the evidence of artistic fervor. But look at the hundreds of thousands of abstract paintings being offered and you understand what I mean.  Finding innovation these days requires working at the extremes and incorporating the cult of celebrity and everything that entails.  Perhaps it's always been like this and I'm just noticing it. Perhaps I was too blinded by passion to see.


  • If there is no joy, there is no work.  For me, I lost the joy at some point and I'm not sure I will get it back.  There are glimmers, of course.  I have two old paintings sitting in my studio, one on the easel, the other on the floor.  Both are resting in frames, waiting reproachfully for me to come in and reacquaint myself with them, fix their little flaws, bring them closer to the original inspirations.  I'm not sure I will ever do that and I'm honest enough to say it's okay.  Even if I've spent years supporting other artists and encouraging the idea of forging ahead despite the obstacles.  I can still climb over those stone walls, but for the moment I'm not sure if I want to put in the effort.  And that should be okay, too. 

The most interesting lesson in this is that I haven't closed down this blog, even though I let it languish for six months without a posting.  I haven't closed down my website, even though I've not uploaded a new painting in more than eight months.  There's  some reason I can't cut the tether; I'm not sure what it is, other than art has dominated my life since childhood.  Creativity feeds my soul.

I remember looks of pity from art-educators when I insisted I was going to an artist. I vowed I would never fall into the trap of the disillusioned. I'm not trying to discourage my fellow artists now.

I do think it's healthy to step back now and again and reevaluate why a particular activity is important and then choose what to do.  Healthy to realize others like you suffer with the loss of purpose and joy.  Some will recover, others will find alternatives. 

For now, I am choosing to remain in a holding pattern. 

2018 will be an interesting year!


Artists and Self Actualization

I was recently listening to a podcast that included a section of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and I found one comment to be pertinent to the idea of being an artist. The presenter said that self actualization - the highest point in human development - was a point we reach intermittently but do not remain in a self actualized state continuously.
This reminded me of the way artists talk about being in the flow, or in touch with the creative universe. These are the moments when we are actually feeling self-actualized. We experience the highest sense of gratification, of connecting to who we really are at our core.
It makes sense, then, that when we fall out of that state of self-actualization we feel unhappy, as if we might be missing something.
I think it is helpful to realize that these moments of self-actualization are by their very nature transient experiences, but the art we create should not be dependent upon needing to be in that state of hyper-awareness.
Artist's block, those moments when we feel like there is no point in doing something when there is no outlet for the resulting paintings - by shifting the perspective away from believing that the only value comes from someone else buying or liking the work might be the better choice.
Perhaps the ultimate value comes from the opportunity you have to reach the highest point in human experience. This can come from painting, writing, gardening, yoga - whatever activity allows you to reach the potential of becoming who you really are at your core.

I appreciate the way you have accepted my words, and my art, into your lives.  So I would like to thank and welcome the new subscribers to this blog, and those who have also subscribed to my newsletter.  In my newsletter I write more about art technique, my motivations behind specific paintings, and occasionally offer paintings for sale at special prices.  Here is a convenient link to subscribe to my newsletter .

I would also like to thank those of you who have purchased my book, Ancient Wisdom: Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist, over the past month.  I hope this book helps you with the intrinsic motivation, as well as offering practical ideas and a bit of humor at the end of the day. Please leave your recommendations or suggest it to others who might be interested in the content. 

How to Get Better at Talking about Art

I remember the exact moment when I knew I was an artist.  It wasn’t as a child.  Art was the friend I set aside when it was time to be a grown-up.  No, it was much later, when I was well over fifty.  I don't know why it took so long.  But in a way, I'm glad that it did. 

We all experience life in ways that prod us toward such realizations.  Eventually, we find ourselves talking about that progress.  When I first got out of art school, I was invested in the philosophical influences I had learned.  I relied on Art Speak, a lot.  I spent most of a decade painting and explaining while eyes would glaze over until I had lost my audience.  And in the end, I lost my confidence.

While the process of learning can be uncomfortable, you can’t always fix your inexperience through art speak.  It is not an effective way to control the impressions people make about your work.  But you can learn how to better engage your audience.  I have discovered at least three keys to effective Art Speak: these insights might be helpful to you.

Key 1:  Start by nurturing the human connections.  People are curious about their attraction to art.  They want the story.  What were you interested in depicting?  Why did you pick that subject?  Through this shared conversation, something interesting happens.  The viewer becomes invested in the work, making their own connections.  It is no longer a work that must be justified.  It becomes a form of collaboration.

Key 2:  Discuss the entire canvas.  The example of developing the entire block in before the focal point applies here.  While it's obvious that your painting is about a child sitting in the shade beneath a tree, by pointing out how the loose abstract in the background helps to describe the dappled light, or the thickness of the paint on the folds of the shirt provide dimension - it's the details that add richness to the visual experience.   At a recent art walk, I enjoyed a long conversation with a group of college students. Their curiosity ranged from questions like ‘what is this about?” to “how did you achieve that and why?”  I finally asked if they were art students.  To my surprise, not a single one had ever taken an art class.  They just found the discussion interesting, seeing the art with new insight. 

Key 3: Be curious about what others see when they look at your work. This isn’t always comfortable for the artist.  I remember standing in front of a self-portrait, listening to someone say it would probably look better upside down.  He was probably right, and he had no idea I was the artist.  But the experience reinforces an important point.  Most people want to connect, but human experiences are not unilaterally universal.  I have always found the best insights this way, realizing that I was too focused on getting something perfectly right when most people saw the work in a different light. 

If there is isolation for the artist when creating work, there is also the need for connection.  At some point, you will be asked to talk about your work.  It may feel awkward to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation, but in the end you are both after the same result. 

How Color Trends Give Emotional Cues


January is the month for "Colors of the Year," symbolically defining the trends for the coming months.  As useful as it is to consider new color palettes, emotional cues behind the choices hold the most value.

When Pantone introduced the 2016 colors of the year, they keyed into two themes: persuasive compassion and serene composure. Thematically, the 2017 color marketers are tapping into more energized emotions, and if interpreted right, artists can find new opportunities for work that appeals to the various niches.

Elle Decor uses words such as sophisticated and creative to describe how the consumer sees self identity as defined by personal living spaces.  In the visual examples used, Elle Decor combines furnishings and fine art to define specific moods or emotional cues, from those seeking drama, to atmosphere, or regional identity. 

IMG_1577Elle Decor is not alone in seeing a new trend emerging, based on the consumer's desire for a more optimistic, cozy, comforting, renewing, or elegant new image for 2017.  Pantone, recognized as a standard setter in the design environment, has selected the color Greenery as definitive of the 2017 environment.  Their descriptions of the emotional connections to Greenery include back to nature, spring, renewal, life affirming changes, starting over with a fresh approach. 

Sherwin-Williams has selected "Poised Taupe" as their Color of 2017, calling it a complex neutral intended to communicate the idea of a refuge from the outside world. Ideas such as elegance, graceful patina, earthiness and the authenticity of "a well-lived life" identify the emotions they want associated with this color. 

Benjamin Moore takes it a step further, posting a video showing how their design team drew inspiration from contemporary art events, selecting their deep purple color, called "Shadow," as their entry into the 2017 trend.  Shadow is intended to communicate the combined emotions of nostalgia, morning light filled with optimism, evenings of mystery, romance, magic and "an Old Master palette."

The value here is in the word choices used to sell the colors, and how those define the marketer's view of the 2017 consumer.  Using this analysis, 2017 will see strong enthusiasm for a culture-based environment, where not just colors, or furnishing, but original fine art may play a strong role.  It will be interesting to see if this theory plays out for both galleries and artists alike. 


IMG_1978 small copyI appreciate the way you have accepted my words, and my art, into your lives.  So I would like to thank and welcome the new subscribers to this blog, and those who have also subscribed to my newsletter.  In my newsletter I write more about art technique, my motivations behind specific paintings, and occasionally offer paintings for sale at special prices.  Here is a convenient link to subscribe to my newsletter .

I would also like to thank those of you who have purchased my book, Ancient Wisdom: Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist, over the past month.  I hope this book helps you with the intrinsic motivation, as well as offering practical ideas and a bit of humor at the end of the day. Please leave your recommendations or suggest it to others who might be interested in the content. 

Image: The Sun, The Moon, and The City.  @2017, SFSmith




Artist Carmen Herrera, at age 101, Shows at Major Museums

One of the most fascinating artists of 2016 has to be Cuban-born, American Minimalist artist Carmen Herrera.  Born in Havana in 1915, Herrera moved to post war Paris, eventually ending up in New York City in the mid-50's.  Her work was exhibited next to Piet Mondrian, and was considered equal to that of Barnett Newman and Frank Stella, but Herrera remained unnoticed, and undeterred. 

I discovered a wonderful 2010 interview by Hermione Hoby, titled "Carmen Herrera: 'Every Painting has been a fight between the painting and me. I tend to win.' The abstract artist on the man who saved her paintings from the bin, and being discovered at the age of 89."  

One of my favorite quotes is this:

"You don't decide to be an artist, art gets inside of you. Before you know it you're painting, before you know it you're an artist. You're so surprised. It's like falling in love."

But she has an acerbic wit and great insight, so I'm sure you'll find favorites of your own.

More interesting reads on this remarkable story of passion and resiliency include Carmen Herrera, 101-Year-Old Overnight Success, Gets Her Whitney Close-Up (with video), at CultureGrrl, written by Lee Rosenbaum, and this Dazed article, At 101-years-old, artist Carmen Herrera is NY’s one-to-watch, by Ashleigh Kane.

Overlooked for decades, Carmen Herrera remained true to her passion.  Though some of the reasons the art world ignored her work have since been resolved - women are not as invisible as they were 50 years ago - there are other obstacles that have little to do with gender or the quality of the work or the direction of the vision.  The take away here is truth to vision and belief in purpose, and not allowing age to be the excuse for no


Your Unconscious Contract With The Art World: Balancing Disappointment with Creativity

How do you balance your creativity while working in an entirely different field? Or stay connected to your own art practice, and yet succeed in an art world that often feels too opaque and impenetrable, operating by secret rules?

Over the holidays I learned about a young artist who was self-destructing, because the door to her creative path had slammed closed.  “I consider myself an artist,” she said, “trained to be an art teacher. But the only door left open to me is toward a corporate job I hate and which drains me of all creativity.”  Another artist, connecting through email to explain his disappointment after pursuing an academic art degree in his 40’s, struggled with a loss of faith in the art world. “It seems almost too challenging to maintain the heart of creative art making while entering the art market.”

IMG_1929 portfolio copyWhen we commit to a lifetime of art making, we rarely consider what is actually required – little institutional security, the need for both independence and collaboration, success, failure, hot and cold, critics and feeling invisible.  Often, when confronted with that reality, we struggle with disappointment.  But disappointment comes to us for a reason: the message is not about impossible dreams, but how to pursue them.

I have always maintained that it’s important to have a philosophical understanding of your art: the why, what, and how of it.  Identifying meaningful connections to art history provides a reason for creating despite the down times, the fears and loss of confidence.   There are more long-standing artists who sustain the idea of Fine Art through a dedication to their work, than those who fly to the top of the visibility scale, so building a strong foundation from a very personal perspective is worth the effort.

Keeping roles separate is equally important.  Real life can be filled with demands, and often a few obligations (such as work and family) will overrule all others (such as the need to make art).  Since we often have unwritten contracts with world, we feel intense disappointment and anger when those contracts don’t work out. Most of the time, we don't even realize the subconscious contracts we construct, we just behave in ways that assume outcomes that fit comfortably with our image of what we should be. This is actually a larger impediment to creativity than we acknowledge - the reality that life might not always allow you to spend the time, under the conditions you need, to do the work that you intended and trained and expected to do.  Or that the work you produce will not even be acknowledged, or allow you to make a living doing what you love. 

Keeping it real is so much bland, generic advice, I'm rolling my eyes even using it.  A better suggestion is to constantly reevaluate what is real and possible, and adjusting accordingly.  I have been painting and selling art for over 18 years, and I work harder at it and find it more challenging in today’s environment than ever before.  So realistic is important to me, as well as risk taking and believing in what I produce, and how I choose to market it.  I admit to going down rabbit holes, searching for solutions to make my "contracts" come true. There are moments when the "why bother to be an artist when there are so many struggles" question is overwhelming, especially when there are so many deserving artists who are under exposed, and always will be. Directions change, new styles emerge that take attention away from your work, you grow cynical from rejection and disinterest.  So the real question - the real contract -  is how to evolve when the current path is not working, how to keep painting when you can't imagine doing anything else. 

Leonard Cohen talks about writing all the time, doing nothing but writing in order to find out what the song is.  Stuart Shills talks about affirming the immediacy of a moment, finding the residue of memory. 

So what feelings are you chasing when you make art?  What needs are you feeding?

What are your contracts?






Second Thoughts on Artistic Style

I recently participated in an event that prompted me to reevaluate my thoughts on style.  The show was available online and when viewed this way, I felt my painting style did not easily "fit" with the general feel of the show.  There were many excellent paintings, all versions of the prevailing visual appearance, and it made me question whether my ideas about personal style ought to be reassessed. 

I have always felt that style developed over time as the artist found his visual language.  The way we mix the paint, hold the brush, the direction of the stroke or the ideas behind the composition are all part of style.  I still believe this.  But I want a richer understanding by expanding on that idea.

The standard advice for artists has always been to develop a style that identifies you, so that your work is recognizable.  So the question is how far can the artist stray from the norm before their audience becomes confused as to the style they are expecting?  It should be easy, but it’s not.

The definition of style, which you can read in full here, is straightforward:  Innovation in style rises through the work of a single or small group of artists, and those that follow are said to be working in a similar manner, or the school of, where essentially they are taking the ideas and expanding on the body of work, but not necessarily changing the trajectory.  So an artist must eventually decide where he fits within a particular school (or set of ideas) and work in that direction, or risk being labeled as disorganized and confusing.

But how broad can that direction be? Where is the boundary, where this side you are safe, and that side you are at risk?

In this article at quartz.com, we learn that art collectors at the high end are looking for artistic rigor, work that challenges the status quo, communicates ideas, displays outstanding technique, a distinguishing narrative – all while playing “outside the rules.” There is no real surprise here from the art sector that believes in preserving high culture for our society.  Art that is intellectually challenging, while reflecting the bones of art history beneath innovation and contemporary approach is meaningful at this level. And while attitudes at the top eventually filter down to the lower tiers, the collectors outside the auction houses have different expectations. They are more interested in ideas around the beauty and artistic prestige of a particular work, the emotional connection or narrative depicted, and a sense of recognition between collector and artist on a subtle level.  But one idea that will not change no matter what group you are talking about is that people bring their experiences and expectations to the artwork, and they want to understand what they are looking at - and the strongest, easiest mode of communication is style. 

Style does evolve organically, but the argument can be made for the artist to fit their work between the fine lines of innovation, expression, and expectation.  This is especially true if you are trying to get your work accepted into prestigious shows or important galleries.  While there is leeway, there is also a strong pull toward "fitting into the whole presentation."  While looking at your own portfolio, there may be a strong sense of continuity, of work that is easily identified as yours.  But when that work moves out into the group shows, what is better?  To fit in with the group or to work at the edges?  Does your personal style fit close enough to the expectation of the audience or does it feel discordant? Are you too sensitive to your own voice, too insecure with the acceptability of your style that you over-react (always possible), or does it signal the need to step back and reassess?

It comes down to the artist deciding what their work is about and how they want to develop the ideas, and then how and where they want to present that work to the marketplace. The reception is going to be risky no matter whether you are following the traditional path or the “play outside the rules” path.  Art has always been about problem solving, and risk is part of the artist’s development.  It is said that art at any level can find a buyer, but most serious artists I know are also looking for high artistic achievement, producing the best work possible, improving their technique, and then translating that into recognition and eventually sales.  I hope I am opening a discussion, and look forward to other artist's thoughts on this subject.  Please add your ideas through the comments section. 


IMG_1772 sm copyI'm very humbled to announce that Moonrise (over Desperation Ridge), 8 x 10, oil,  was awarded Best Nocturne in the August/September Plein Air Salon. 

The story behind the Desperation Ridge paintings: there is no specific geographical place called Desperation Ridge, although seeing parts of the Oregon Outback I am sure more than one gold miner, or short-cut following wagon train called one or more of the volcanic ridges and gullies by that name - or others more colorful.  While not totally born of imagination, Desperation Ridge reflects many emotions artists experience when a painting does or does not come together as intended.  And not just artists.  We all have the obstacles we are determined to overcome at all costs.  There is beauty in that quest.