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June 2010

May 2010

Art and The Artist

How often do you think of your artistic self in terms of output? What you accomplish and not what you are?

These two sides of yourself - the professional outer world and the inner imaginary world - cannot be separated without losing some vital element necessary for living a creative life.  Two women came into the gallery the other day with some cards they were offering on consignment.  What they really wanted was for the gallery to provide a solution, for someone else to take responsibility for their creative output.  They hadn't thought about the business aspects of creating, and had a "no" answer to every suggestion: Why not start an online shop?  Why not package in bulk?  They were still locked in the inner joys of creating and could not understand why they were hitting so many roadblocks.

But the reverse is also true.  If you become focused on the external demands of the marketplace and forget why you are creating art, then you are equally frustrated by roadblocks.  There is nothing worse than looking at a painting that totally bores you, has no life or spark but you keep plodding along because you think it's what the market wants.  The artist must learn how to live in the space between his personal creative identity and popular commercial style, to blend the inner world of imagination with the outer world of reality.  

Create art every day if you can.  Believe in your ability to both express your uniqueness as well as produce excellent quality.  Invest time in defining the business aspects that will help you achieve your professional goals.  And take time to live in the inner world of imagination, appreciating the creative life you are actually living. 

Realism Explored

About style, Sorolla is quoted as saying "...I began my own method of action. Whether good or bad, I don't know; but sincere, real, the reflection of what my eyes saw and what my heart felt: an exact expression of what I thought art should be."

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No name yet, just below Steelhead Falls, deep in the canyon on the Deschutes River

oil on canvas, 14 x 18 @2010

As I continue to refine an understanding of my particular style, I grow both more comfortable with my approach and more aware of what I don't yet understand.  I am always a student.  Right now I am studying  Joaquin Sorolla's use of color and Nicolai Fechin's abstractions and surfaces.  Try as I might, I am only able to achieve a level of abstraction by using a palette knife, and it is usually in the final stages of a painting that I try to put some gestural brush marks on the surface without obliterating the underlying layers.  So I will take Sorolla's advice and settle on a method of action of my own - since I can't seem to change it anyway. 

Whether good or bad, it is sincere, real, and a reflection of what my eyes saw and what my heart felt. 

What We Need

I have discovered over the last decade that the act of becoming an artist involves more than creativity, hard work and perseverance. It's vital to remain centered - for me, this means maintaining an awareness of the creative world around me, and spending time each day appreciating and supporting those who are also working in this realm.

We all have universal needs as artists - to be acknowledged, encouraged, to feel what we do has value.   I was talking with an artist friend recently and she described it aptly: "This is something in your soul, that you have to do, no matter the consequences.  Sales are nice, money's nice - we all need that - but even if the sales weren't there I couldn't stop what I'm doing. It's like breathing." 

Because we often feel this inner need to create so compellingly, when we don't receive external validation it can be disheartening.

I believe strongly that a meaningful artistic life involves supporting the artists around me as much as it involves honoring my own inner motivations.  I have accumulated a list of goals that I aspire to, and although I don't always accomplish these goals, they remind me to live each day with an awareness that I am not on this journey alone.  So each evening, I take a deep breath and ask myself these questions:

Did I offer my enthusiasm in support of another artist today?

Did I acknowledge how much I owe to those who went before me?

Did I listen compassionately to another artist's fears or aspirations?

Did I appreciate the criticisms for what they were - the other half of the dialog that my artwork started?

Did I maintain faith in myself despite the challenges?

Like I said, I don't always accomplish every goal - some days I don't even come close.  But I've learned to be patient with myself, and to remember that being an artist isn't always just about the art.

Upcoming Exhibitions:

National Association of Women Artists 121st Annual Exhibition, June 9th - 27th, at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, New York, NY

"WAOWing the Golden State" Women Artists of the West 40th National Exhibition, June 4th - 30th, Olaf Wieghorst Museum, El Cajon, CA

Along the River

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Along the River 8 x 16 oil on linen on panel

A friend suggested to me that the reason my Fish Weir painting was somewhat disappointing to him was because the subject matter wasn't recognizable.  I wonder how much the idea - needing to immediately understand what you are looking at -- actually influences whether or not someone "likes" a painting.  My photographer made a similar comment about a different painting, which is why I'm asking.  Not that I necessarily agree with this point of view -  I personally like mystery.  I don't want everything illustrated for me, but I can see that others really enjoy that style. 

But the thought occurs to me that a painting can be too obscure. 

Along the River is a new painting, not completely finished. After I photographed it I realized I needed to clean up a few edges.  But I like to think that the subject matter is recognizable.  This is along the banks of the Deschutes near an area called Cline Falls.  The river - as usual - is at the base of a canyon, although not so deep in this area.  During irrigation season the water level drops and the small river willows and grasses take advantage.  During the summer, the kids love to hunt the small crawdads that hide in the rocks just beyond where the willows are growing.  You wade out carefully, bait your hook with a worm.  You don't need a pole, just a sturdy string and a bucket for the crawdads.  It takes a bit of practice and patience to lure the crawdad out from beneath the rocks and by the end of a hot afternoon the more successful hunters have a pretty good haul.  I'm not sure what these kids do with the crawdads after they've caught them - I've never really asked, but an old relative of ours said that they "made good eatin'..."  Somehow I've never tried that particular delicacy.  I know others use them for bait for the trout.  Again, not my area of expertise, so I limit myself to painting the willows above the rocks where the crawdads are hiding. 

So in a way, the subject matter in this painting is also obscure...