Sunday, September 28, 2008

Welcoming Success

Since I dropped my regularly paying gig a year and a half ago, I've had to wrestle with the notion of success. Have I had it? Will I get it? Just what the heck is IT?

I've got several pounds of books on the business of art. Topics include How To: get into exhibits, build a resume, get a gallery, sell online, build a website, create a blog, frame for less, talk about ourselves, market ourselves, market our art, send a newsletter, win friends and influence art buyers.

If we read them all and do all that, we get success, right?

What does success look like? Does it look like a pile of money? A blinking sign with my name twinkling on it? A page from a magazine with an image of my most recent work printed on it? Perhaps it's a reception hall full of wine-sippers on opening night. A hearfelt hug from a former instructor, maybe. Will it knock on my door and announce it's arrival? Maybe I'll hear bells ringing, or the earth will tremble just a bit. That would be nice. I'd know for certain I got success. Or an earthquake.

I guess the point is this: success is very personal. And fairly hard to describe. And I have the feeling it will change everyday. In many ways impossible to measure. Some days it will be an earthquake, rumbling and shaking. More likely it will be quiet, warm and soft like a favorite blanket.

The thing is to pay attention. Every day, pay attention to your life, your actions and how the world reacts to you. You'll get success. It'll be there if you look.

What does your success look like?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Am I Typical?

Several days ago I was visiting with a nice woman who asked me what my plans were for the remainder of the day. Paint! I yelped. The sky was wildly blue, the wind was nowhere to be felt, it was a day that just begged to be painted.

Oh, she said laughing, you know how to have fun. I'll bet you're a typical artist.


Just what is a typical artist? Oh, that one. No, not me. Not so much.

I don't own a big loud multi-tiered skirt. I don't have big hair. No birkenstocks either. I can tell time, and given enough of it I can add digits in my own head. I believe in starting meetings on time and finishing up quickly. I have several sports medals and trophies (admittedly none very recent) and have been known to attend sporting events. I don't always know what's going on, but I cheer with the best of them. I'm organized in my own way. I have no intentions of starving, either.

Does that make me odd?

Believe it or not, I don't know any typical artists. Not one. The artists I know are just like teachers and bankers and insurance salespeople. We show up for work. Sometimes we play hookey. We attend classes and workshops to educate ourselves in our chosen field. We wear sensible shoes and golf and visit our accountants regularly. We barbecue and go to church, or don't, and live pretty much like the rest of the world does. We also believe in getting paid for our services, just like the teacher, the banker and the insurance exec.

So maybe I should have educated her. Maybe I should have explained how normal we all are.

Maybe next time I will.

Are you typical?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Painting Lesson

In a month or so I'll be teaching a pastel class for the Grand Island Sketch Club. I'm really honored to be asked to share with them because they're a group of dedicated and very talented artists. It occured to me that maybe you'd like in on the lesson.

This first shot shows how I arrange my pastel sticks. I made the trays out of fome-core board. The sticks are arranged by color family, and value.

The first step is to sketch out the "chunks", the big areas of value. I lay in a thin layer of pastel in a very dark value which represents the darkest part of the painting, and then rub in some red tones for the foreground. When that is done, I dip an old brush into rubbing alcohol and wash the pastel into the paper. (By the way, I'm using Art Spectrum sanded paper.) This allows the first layer to be very rich yet thin. Because it's melted into the surface I can go over the first layers with lots of lighter colors.

Now I work on the local, or "real" color. I'm slowly adding colors to suggest leaves and grass.

This close up shows how loose my strokes are. Lots of original layers show through. I'm not really worried about how accurate the colors of the grassy area are, or even whether it's actually grass. My interest lies in the energy I get from the scene. By letting some of the drips and dribbles of the alcohol wash show through, the area becomes really exciting.

This 9 x 12 piece is nearly done. There are some issues with the sky I need to resolve, and I'm not sure about that diagonal line through the foreground, but it's time for a break. I'll put it away for a couple of days and see what comes to mind with a fresh eye.

If you're interested in taking the October 13th class, let me know and I'll get you the details.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weekend Fun

You'd think by my email that the only things going on this weekend were debt relief, consolidating my bills, or enhancing my husband's pe...uh...personality.

Wrong! It's not too late to check out Jerome Dubas' amazing ceramics at Graham Gallery. The reception was held over the weekend, but his work will be featured for another couple of weeks.

Famfest in Aurora was held over the weekend as well. A family oriented event, it's a great time to see who's creating what in the fly-over states. Truly amazing. Artist's of all kinds get together and show off their wares. I had the real pleasure of hearing an emerging singer-songwriter, Leesha Harvey. She's got a beautiful voice, and the song writing skills to match. Don't fret if you weren't there on the square listening, she'll be at Mick's Music Bar in Omaha in October. She's worth the trip.

The crowd was appreciative, and that's important for us artist's. It's tough, shlepping our display panels, chairs, families and art to various courthouse lawns, parking lots and parks. I don't do the festival circuit much, so Famfest is a delight. And thank you to Gloria for valuing my work. I'm pleased you purchased a painting you're happy with.

Oddly, there were no solo trombonist's featured at this event. (Brian, this one's for you!)

Next time you decide to settle for cleaning out your spam filter, go find something else to do. Your pe...uh...personality is just fine.