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Meaning Making

Earth
"Earth" photo by pschubert

 

There are times - no matter how strong we are, how successful or talented, we wonder if what we are doing really matters.

But take a moment. 

Just sit in silence and imagine the world. 

Imagine it spinning, with the outlines of all continents, the oceans.

Now think about the people who have purchased your art. See pinpoints of light shining in the dark, lighting up in the cities where these people live.

Think about the visitors to your website, for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, it doesn't matter. They saw something in your art that intrigued them, caught their attention.  Held meaning.  See their lights flickering on, blooming out around the world.

Think about the readers of your blog. Those who just scan the hadline, others who comment, even those who disagree with what you have to say.  See their lights.

Think about those you help through the sale of your artwork. The galleries, salespeople, framers. The people who create your magazine ads or work behind the scenes on the juried shows. I support Kiva with every art sale, so I see lights blinking on in Mongolia, Peru, El Salvador, Kenya, Turkey, Cambodia, on and on. 

Think about the random acts of kindness you perform, the donation in the red kettle outside the department store, the extra large tip you left the harried waitress who still managed to refill your coffee, the artwork you donated to the pre-school fundraiser. 

More lights, flickering on. 

You, your thoughts about art, your creative energy - more powerful and full of meaning than you think.

Just look at that earth shining in light. 

 

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"I just purchased and read your book. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the info and will be following up on your blog. I turned 50 this year. I started my art career 3 years ago. I read as many art business and marketing books as I can but yours is the first I have found addressing starting out at 50." ~ RT, Oregon

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

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Old Sai Loses a Horse (or a Taoist Fable for Artists)

I was recently reminded of a Taoist (pronounced Dow-ist) fable.  There was a farmer, Old Sai, who had a horse to help him plow the fields, but one day the horse ran away.  All the village came to console the farmer on his loss, and the farmer said, "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?"

A few days later the horse returned, bringing with him several wild horses.  Everyone in the village gathered around the farmer and congratulated him on his good fortune.  But the farmer said, "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?"

The farmer's son decided to train one of the new horses, but was thrown to the ground, breaking his leg.  Again the villagers came to console the farmer, who only shrugged and said, "Good luck, bad luck, who is to know."  War broke out, and all the able-bodied men and boys went off to fight.  All were killed in battle except the farmer's only son, who had remained behind because of his broken leg.  When the villagers came to sadly congratulate the farmer he again merely nodded, and said, "Good luck, bad luck, who is to know."

This story is often used by business motivation experts, but it resonates with me because it describes my studio experiences. At any given hour my painting will have a "good luck" or "bad luck" point of view. Take, for example, my internal conversations that go something like this: "Brilliant block-in," followed a few hours later with "I can't believe you didn't see that design flaw."    Believe me, it's a big relief to realize that over two thousand years ago, Taoist teachers were trying to get their pupils to understand the same thing -  Yin Yang is everywhere.

The real difficulty in the Yin Yang aspect for me is that the more I learn, the more likely I am to identify with the villagers rather than the wise Old Sai.  I notice when I've done what seems like a poor job.  And because I notice, I want to fix it - which is just as likely to lead to more noticing of those bits and blobs that the fix has now thrown into obvious relief. 

It's really quite frustrating.

But not hopeless. With hard work, teeth-grinding patience, and a friendly nudge from the Taoist teachers, it is possible to wait a few hours (no, oil paint won't dry) to decide if that oops isn't really a stroke of genius in disguise.  Things are not always what they first appear to be - and in our fast-paced, highly competitive, being-in-the-moment artistic lifestyles, it's probably all right if you stop a few moments and just breathe. 

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For what it's worth, it is possible to adhere to high standards and take a patient approach.  Chef Keith Floyd says this about cooking - which also applies to artists trying to follow the Taoist way:

"Cooking is an art and patience a virtue.. Careful shopping, fresh
ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need.
There is one more thing.. love. Love for food and love for
those you invite to your table. With a combination of these
things you can be an artist." ( from Art Quotes )

 


Where the Grass is Greener

Isn't on the other side of the fence.  It's where you water it. 

Like anything else, grass responds to focused attention.

So if you're not happy with your art is right now, if you wish you could grow but don't know how, or feel as if your work will never be validated, then realize what you're watering isn't the grass, but the weeds, made up of don't know, will never, not happy...

Why not start pouring water on the grass at your feet?  Connect back with the work you want to do and the rest will take care of itself.

But we knew this already, right?

...so why does my grass look like the dog was in charge of turning on the sprinklers?

 

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"I could sure hear you in the book, very upbeat and encouraging...I also loaned your book to my Tucson art teacher and she let another friend of hers read it, too.  She’s already doing most of what you suggested...she hates self-promotion like most of us do..."  TB, Tuscon, AZ

 Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist



The 17th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction on Labor Day Sunday, September 2, 2012

 

I am very pleased to announce that two of my recent paintings have been accepted into the 17th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction in Rist Canyon on Labor Day Sunday, September 2, 2012

Oregon is no stranger to the massive forest fires that so recently burned in Colorado.  A major Smoke Jumping School (firefighters who jump out of airplanes to fight fire in remote areas) is located here in Central Oregon, and over the years I have become good friends with many of the men and women involved in understanding and fighting these fires.  They are devastating, affecting not only areas that are burned, but thousands of others - animals that lose habitat, burned neighborhoods that now must fear mudslides and floods, scars on the forests that take decades to recover.  I am pleased that the sale my artwork will go toward helping support the volunteer firefighters of Rist Canyon.   

This year you may participate in the bidding without being in Colorado - through online bidding and by phone.

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Fenceline. oil on mounted linen, 12 x 16

  live auction  - bid by phone

Fenceline owes it's inception to a painting I came across years ago, by Andrew Wyeth, titled Flood Plain, 1986  and his description of the work, specifically the comment "I looked out and wondered, What's that blue thing?"  It was the child-like wonder about things that raise our curiosity - the What's that thing? question raised by this master artist - that stuck with me all these years. 

One day as I was wandering around the local countryside, I came across a fenceline that was in the process slow decay through neglect. "Progress" was slowly forcing old ranchers off their land and pastures were waiting for the inevitible subdivision developer.  I wanted to capture the character of the land before it disappeared.  I noticed the way someone had cleared the area by throwing tree branches against the old wire, and the glimpse of orange from the rusting metal fence posts was visually exciting. The light was not particularly dramatic but it was the sense of "what's that thing" buried in the dense foliage that infuses this painting with interest.

 

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Summer Storm Coming, oil on mounted linen, 12 x 18

 Silent Auction Minimum bid: $300

Driving along the highway through north Central Oregon and there isn't much there to look at other than the huge cloud formations of the storms that come through during the summer, starting lightning fires out where there isn't much other than juniper trees and bunch grass.  There is a section of this highway that Oregon has designated as "journey into the past" highway - and this is usually defined as the small rows of buildings hugging the wide spots of the highway, miles and miles apart, and then a section identified as part of the Old Barlow Road - the last overland route on the Oregon Trail. 

It's impossible for me to put all of the vastness of this landscape into a single painting, and I am far more impressed by the power of the storms and the indefinable sense of something momentous just about to happen anyway.  All of the energy from generations past, back thousands of years - that energy is in the painting.  I like the feel of it. 

 

Click here to view my work on the auction site.

 

Click here to see the full list of participatng artists.

 

From the Richard Schmid 2012 Fine Art Auction Homepage:


Icons of the West Show and Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction

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Snow Flurries, Ochoco Ranch

Exhibited in the National Icons of the West Exhibition

held at Dana Gallery, 246 N Higgins, Missoula, MT 59802

June 1 - August31, 2012

 

 

17th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction

I am honored to announce that  Fenceline and Summer Storm Coming have been accepted into the

Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction to be held September 2, 2012, at the

Rist Canyon Mountain Festival
Sunday September 2,2012from 10:00 to 4:00

 

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Fenceline

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 Summer Storm Coming

For more information

Richard Schmid Auction

Icons of the West 2012 at the Dana Gallery

 

 

 "I've got my book in the mail and I read it with great pleasure.  You have a great style and the whole book is such an inspiration.  I really enjoyed it and I keep it handy for all the moments when I doubt myself."  SM, Australia

 

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

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Thoughts from a Closet Regionalist

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Dry/Canyon, Mountain Series, oil on board

Having recently read the interesting post on Edward Winkleman's blog about his thoughts on Regionalism, I had a small Epiphany of my own.  I am a Regionalist.  Not such a horrible thing, when you think about it.  There are numerous artists we all could name who are seen as internationally recognized stars of the art world but - who are, at the core - Regionalists.  So yes, I am a Regionalist.  I live and paint my environment, as I experience it.  As I want to share it with those who live in areas quite different from mine.

We most often learn about Regionalism in the Art History classes, looking at Grant Wood, or Thomas Hart Benton.  There is an odd quirkiness about their Depression Era work; it carries the negative stigma of being the kind of art that attempts to "reassure America with scenes of idyllic rural life." Art we would - in today's volatile political arena - dismiss as pandering to an unsophisticated audience looking for their Thomas Kinkade fix.

DSC08771 sm copyI admit, after reading Winkleman's open thread, I was feeling an insidious fear that my work was really just "Tourist Art from Quaintsville."  I had to remind myself of all the artists who inspire me, and the common theme I find in their lives - that they all felt the need to remove themselves from what was their equivalent of New York.  That they all isolated themselves, in an effort to discover their own sense of who they were and, more importantly, why they felt compelled to create the art that they did.

(image: Afternoon Light, Mountain Series, 20x30, oil)

I am also a realist.  I'm willing to acknowledge that my work will only show in New York if I participate in the National Association of Women Artists Annual Membership Show again.  The ambitious part of me mourns the idea that I will never make it in this rarefied arena - and the other part acknowledges that my passion has already taken me in a different direction.   DSC08772 sm copyWhich - after all - it is the path that suits my art, the way I paint, the ideas that inspire me, and the stories I want to share. The stories many collectors appreciate.

This quote from Zen teacher Cheri Huber is on my studio wall because it is the most important thing for me to remember: "Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear."

Because there is safety in crowding into the center of the herd, where you aren't as likely to be taken out by the predators. Safety in blending in and adopting a form of camouflage by looking just like everything else around you.

(Image: Eye of the Sleeping Man, 22x28, oil)

There is safety in not raising your hand, not sticking out your neck, not taking that road filled with rocks and weeds where you might suddenly find yourself lost and alone. And ignored.

But maybe, being an artist is what you are, not what you do, and if you honor that part of your creative life then you must also honor your personal voice.  If nothing else, this recession has been a gift to me in this respect.  I have discovered the freedom to explore ideas related to my art and my process that I would never have had the courage to express before - partly because no one seems to be looking right now, and I say that with all respect and warm humor.  It's like we are all waiting in the wings, and no one knows when the curtain will go up, but some of us are so fearful we will miss the big event we can't move from our spot. 

DSC08776 sm copyMaybe a negative concept like being a Regionalist Artist is the kind of impression that can keep you rooted in place, seeking safety.  Or maybe it is a concept that expands your way of thinking about your art. By working through the clutter of generalizations in Winkelman's post and continuing thread, it is possible to see that if we wanted to, we could describe everyone as a Regionalist - the Conceptual artists who require a continuing dialog with like minded people to fuel their work, the landscape artists drawing inspiration through environmental ideas, even the dismissive term of Quaintsville denotes a "Regionalist" way of thinking about where you are compared to where everyone else is. 

DSC08796 sm copyYou could say I live in the middle of nowhere and I would agree.  You could also say that the Pacific Northwest is dominated by Conceptual and Contemporary influences.  And you could also add that the idea of someone choosing to paint landscape in such an environment is probably...well, someone who is lost in Quaintsville.

And you might be right - if you are speaking from a "Regionalist" viewpoint where the center is where you are and the importance of other art diminishes the further away it is from your center.

It is the secret reality of the art world.

We are all Regionalists. 

 

 

(images: Break in the Storm, Mountain Series, Mile Post 46, Mile Post Series)

 

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"I could sure hear you in the book, very upbeat and encouraging...I also loaned your book to my Tucson art teacher and she let another friend of hers read it, too.  She’s already doing most of what you suggested...she hates self-promotion like most of us do..."  TB, Tuscon, AZ

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

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100 Artist Show - Mile Post 42 and the Art of Communication

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 Mile Post 42, 12 x 12 x 2 © 2011

 

This is my contribution to the 100 Artists Show at the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem, Oregon.  My challenge was to respond to a letter sent by my partnered artist and to create an art piece that represented our communications. The Mary Lou Zeek Gallery will be blogging about the show and the artists - and how you can bid for your favorite piece - here.

Artist Statement

My letter contained an evocative poem by Portland artist Jeanne Levasseur, titled Winter.  As I read her words I could feel the dampness in the air, the cold bite of frost.  I wanted to capture that sensory experience of time and place in my artwork.

I am inspired by landscape. Looking, experiencing, touching, and feeling the place and form are all necessary for my work. I pick up a dry and brittle twig from the debris of a passing storm, feeling the energy in my fingers, delicate, before crumbling away. This is the energy I try to interpret with my work. 

Paintings often begin with a textured layer of gesso. I rub color onto the surface, or place a gestural mark to suggest the landform.  I am interested in the transforming power of light, and like the Impressionists, I want my paintings to be recognizable but not familiar, a place of memory and not subject matter.  I move from the abstract to the specific, bringing what I know about the landscape into the abstract forms, colors and shapes, and transforming them into a living, breathing place.

Being open to where the paint takes me is part of the process, like a traveler in unknown terrain: the work is successful when I create a space that others want to explore.

This is going to be a fabulous show with so many different artists participating - I hope you will join along in the fun!

Press Release and Info:

100 Artist Show

 Art of Communication-10th Annual 100 Artist Show

Show Date: February 1 – March 3, 2012

Opening reception: First Wednesday February 1, 5-7pm.

Location: Mary Lou Zeek Gallery, 335 State Street, Salem, Oregon 97301

Salem Remember when we looked forward to art class at least a few times a week in school?  How about all that time spent learning how to print and write cursively?  All of those assignments written on notebook paper?  With budget crunches and ever-evolving technology in schools we have to wonder what will happen to all those words and art produced by hand.  And, as technology marches on, what will be the memories that today’s children leave their family and friends?  What if John and Abigail Adams had tweeted across the ocean instead of posting letters?   How about Julia Child and her friend Avis emailing instead of writing? All of that amazing correspondence gone in the flash of a DELETE button?

During the month of February, the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery will be presenting The Art of Communication, the 10th annual 100 Artists show. 

Over 100 artists were sent blank letters which arrived with instructions and included a stamped envelope with the address of a partnered artist.  These letters made their way to 100 different artists across the country and beyond!  Participating artists received a blank letter through the mail and were asked to write a thought, a story, or whatever they so chose and then send to their “partnered” artist. The artists had over three months to transform the writings into their work of art.

 During this show, the artists will present their own ideas of what it is to “communicate”, while creating striking and inspiring art pieces.  The act of letter writing is beginning to be a lost art, and receiving letters through the mail an almost forgotten pleasure for most of us.  The idea of “mail art” and keeping letter writing as a form of communication is our theme for the 10th annual 100 Artist show.

 The artwork will be on display and the letters will be available for viewing.  The sale of the art will last the entire month with a silent bidding process ending at different times throughout the month.  Anyone interested can call the gallery for a bidding number, see the artworks online on the gallery website or stop in and do the bidding in person.  

This year the proceeds from the 100 Artists Show THE ART OF COMMUNICATION will be used to fund a special after school art and writing project for kids.  We want to replicate the DNA of this 100 artists show pairing children with each other as art pen pals and perhaps even with some of our 100 artists.   While this project will be launched in the Salem area community as a pilot, an important component will be to record what takes place so that the curriculum can be shared free of charge with other communities across the country who are interested in this hands-on experience.

The Mary Lou Zeek Gallery, located at 335 State Street in downtown Salem, Oregon, is the premiere place for purchasing contemporary arts and crafts.  Open hours are 12 pm to 5:30 pm Tuesday through Friday, and 12 pm to 5 pm on Saturday.  The gallery is closed on Sunday and Monday.  To preview the upcoming show and see work by many other Northwest artists, visit www.zeekgallery.com

 

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Great Gift Ideas for Artists, Art-Lovers, and those who just like lists

DSC08141_edited-1One of my favorite Christmas songs is the one they play continually in the malls and on the radio - "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."  It always makes me smile, and take a moment to stop and simply enjoy the season - the weather, the decorations, the smell of warm cookies -  without all the hectic demands.

If you're like me, you are always thinking about what you can get for that "hard-to-buy-for" person in your life, particularly if that person is an artist or an art-lover.  So here's a list of gifts that are sure to fit into almost any stocking.

A subscription to an Art Magazine.  Some of my favorites are Art of the West, Fine Art Connoisseur, Southwest Art Magazine, and Plein Air Magazine (Outdoor Painter).

A Fine Art coffee table book - here is a terrific one by Everglades Artist Jo-Ann Sanborn, titled Embracing the Everglades, that features her artwork as well as the story of this endangered area. Embracing the Everglades is available from her website.

Every artist needs a good brush soap, and one of the best I've found is Jack's Linseed Studio Soap, available from Cheap Joe's.

Instructional DVD's.  Some of the Best are by Quang Ho, Scott Christensen, and Sherrie McGraw.

Liz Massey compiled an original and creative list of gift ideas on her blog Creative Liberty

Consider giving a small piece of artwork, or a gift certificate from a favorite artist, gallery, or workshop.

Show your support for what your favorite artist is doing by becoming their "patron" - consider a gift certificate offering to help clean their studio or cook dinner. Or just tell them how much you love their art and want them to keep creating it.  That would be the best gift of all!

For the aspiring artist of any age, don't forget Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist the business plan (not just) for the mature artist. In my Gratitude Jar (image above) I have many "notes" of gratitude for all of the wonderful comments you have been sending my way about Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist.  Here are just a few:

Thank you so much for your wonderful book.  It's full of great ideas and plenty of wisdom that I will put into practice.

I've got my book in the mail and I read it with great pleasure.

You have a great style and the whole book is such an inspiration.

Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it and I keep it handy for all the moments when I doubt myself.

Ancient Wisdom Emerging ArtistFor those of you in the UK, the book can be purchased directly from me (email me) or through Amazon US store, but the Kindle Version is available in the Kindle UK store.  And if you like it - or even if you don't - please consider leaving a review. 


Merry Christmas to you and yours!