This has been a weird year of hurry-up-and-wait for me. My kids are on the cusp of adulthood, and though I have regularly been shamed by my mother-hen routine (not to mention the Jewish grandmother in me that has to feed anything that's not nailed down) I'm itching for the transition to happen so I can pour the amount of energy into my painting and drawing that I need to. Never good with regular interruptions, I need large chunks of time to be properly productive and nothing makes me happier than productivity. I regularly fantasize about living the ascetic life of a hermit in a beautiful, remote place ... with a high-speed connection and a pipeline to an endless cache of art supplies of course!
In January I lost my precious airy-but-cozy basement studio to Carl's band's equipment, including the drum kit and all its offspring. The thing is that I love it when they're practicing here, so I've worked really hard at trying to make do with a small corner of the room. I'm weird about space (among other things), as my nearest and dearest will be happy to tell you, so it's been a struggle. Not only that, I lost it completely for a week in February when a friend was staying on the hide-a-bed down there for the Olympics and this past week when a band exchange student from Ontario has been staying there. It's been rewarding having another mouth to feed though, heh! (He's probably been less impressed, though, by having to share our only full bathroom with a family of four.)
All this need-to-nurture stuff really has a negative impact on my work life, though, and always has. Just yesterday I had this revelation which I shared with friend, Di:
What pisses me off about all this is that I bought into the middle class myth emotionally but totally rejected it intellectually. Emotions will always win in my mind/world which is part of the reason I’m an artist and not an accountant. I have blamed my toe-the-line parents but there’s no question that I wanted my own family and didn’t know any other way to do it so took the path of least resistance. I have spent every moment since then fighting the battle within myself.
On my good days it has been a battle well worth fighting. On my bad days I have railed against the economic circumstances and character weaknesses that landed me in the suburbs and all the mainstream conformity that the successful suburbanite represents ... and I don't.Some would say I have it really good, and I do, but I'm not the sort of person who's good at letting my work come second. I truly believe that I have a 'vocation' and hate to feel like I'm wasting precious time. I'm constantly reminded of the years when I completely squandered it.
But enough navel gazing. There are drawings to be done and groceries to buy. Photos to take and laundry to catch up on. And so it goes.
I'm beginning to think that my approach to art has been all wrong. While I've been bogged down with the mundanities of personal vision, integrity, beauty vs. truth, and all the age-old questions artists ask, I've totally neglected attending to what really matters: fashion. I've also forgotten about the cult of personality. From watching attention-getting artists as diverse as Damien Hirst and Hazel Dooney I can't help but wonder if what I really need is a big schtick.
This book, while tearing down the culture of taste, might actually serve as a sort of reverse "how to" manual.
...authentic ways of talking, making judgments or artistic preferences are simply the latest fashion statements, earnest attempts to fill an intellectual and spiritual vacuum that don't pick out any real properties in the world.
But for a truly analytical look at the absurdity of taste, this is the place to go. The entry on Banksy does a bang-up job of wrapping up taste in art in a neat little package. And I love this:
If you find all of this to simply be too much work and wish to ensure that white people will neverspeak to you about art again, there is an easy escape. Simply mention your favorite artist is Thomas Kinkadeand that you are in negotiations to purchase an original from the store in the mall. This will effectively end any friendship you have with a white person. I know, I know. I need to get off the interwebs NOW if I want to retain any sense of my own direction and get some real work done. But first I need to hire a wife.
If, like me, one of your unfulfilled wishes is to visit New York City's Museum of Modern Art, then let's go this afternoon. This short video contains every painting on display in the painting galleries of the MoMA on April 10, 2010.
OMG how I love to paint in oil on panel. I was completely divorced from reality while painting this crow today. During that time it clouded over, rained, and cleared up again. Or so rumour has it.
I'm doing a set of four small 'study' panels using a combination of my hard edged acrylic style (but in oil) for the graphic stencilled part ... and my looser, blended way of using oil paint for the more naturalistic elements. I'm not sure yet if it's working but it is teaching me patience as I need to wait between steps/layers for the paint to dry. One down, three to go.
Another house painting under my belt. I think I'm about done with these though Denise is clamouring for more and I've promised one after this. Then I'll be done. This one took way too long and I'm glad it's behind me.
Blue and Pink ~ 24" x 12" ~ acrylic on canvas, image around sides
Then again, maybe I'm just a fool. This article in today's Winnipeg Free Press has unaccountably depressed me. I think it just drove home to me the fact that what the average art buyer purchases is not what I like (or like to produce). A disproportionate number of my own sales have gone to other artists. I'm honoured that those who understand art like what I produce, but artists are few and far between and, unlike some of the more commercially (key word) successful artists in the article, tend to colour outside the lines. In a convoluted way this article actually proves rather than dispels the notion of the starving artist. Though the journalist talks about artists who "defy the sterotype" he goes on to mention that the average Manitoba artist makes just $11,181 per annum. That said, of the Winnipeg artists mentioned, I do love many of the cityscapes of Larry Rich.
Urban Aqua Larry Rich
But enough about the commercial end of the business. If I found that disillusioning, then this was enlightening, Ed Maskevich's follow-up to my blog post about using his artwork as a model.
It had to happen. Visual art being, ermmm, visual ... the creators of new ideas for reality TV were bound to slot it into primetime somehow. After all, a reality TV show pitting novelists against each other might lack a certain, shall we say, visual appeal. I'd like to see them try, though. (And I agree with Rudy; this just seems wrong somehow.)
Last year Bravo Canada had a unique idea called Star Portraits that married a distinct visual artform with TV-friendly celebrity. The artists were portrait artists and the subject matter famous Canadians. The famous person chose the portrait they liked best and the remaining two were slated for the now defunct Portrait Gallery of Canada. I was hooked. But American Bravo's "... hour-long creative competition series ... that brings together 14 aspiring artists to compete for a solo show at a nationally recognized museum and a generous cash prize" sounds too much like Survivor to me. I'm not denying that there might be entertainment value there, though! Read all about it here.
It was a filthy night last night: torrential downpours and wild wind. Perfect for prowling the streets and alleys on the edge of Gastown with my camera, where Carl's band, Vena, played their first gig at a hole-in-the-wall nightclub. Here are a couple of my artsied-up shots:
Though it's not, technically, my best photo of Jesse, it is my favourite ... so I thought I'd enter it in Diane Schuller's contest. If you don't vote for Jesse I won't hold it against you -- if you vote for #5 that is!
Back in the day (as in wayyyy back in the day) developing artists apprenticed to masters. This involved a lot of copying. I see some wisdom in this, except the part where I, being a woman, would never have even had the opportunity. Then there's the part where I have a hard time taking direction. And the arbitrariness/jealousy/exploitation of a lousy master. Oh what the hell, I would have hated it, but I'm sure there's some wisdom in it.
Most of the artists I know who make progress with their own vision are 'rugged individualists' (like myself, hehe) but we all need direction at times. Usually we are curious by nature and are therefore able to be self-directed. A couple of months ago I saw this image of a pastel drawing by Ed Maskevich, an artist whose work I admire, and have gone back to it regularly ever since. I like the use of colour grad- ations, etc., but there was something I wasn't undersatnding about why it appealed to me. Last night I decided to do the apprentice thing and copy it, using my own drawing style and medium (coloured pencils on black paper), and see what I found out.
I'm tickled that I decided to do this because learn I did. The first thing I learned was how tortured my trees look! These are like emo trees in candy floss colours on black velvet. Ed's use of colour is more successful because though he uses a similar palette (but warmer), he's more subtle in the application and didn't use a black 'underpainting', which intensifies the effect rather than deadening it (which was what I'd expected). But the Big Learnin' happened around the composition. The use of cleaner lines (though there are more of them), straighter tree limbs and the general leaning to the right (more bisecting of the vertical) creates a dynamic tension (different from the Charles Atlas variety -- but not that different!) that I completely missed when I wondered what it was that appealed to me. When acting as a juror for three exhibitions last week I kept coming back to compositional strength. The colours can work beautifully, the drawing be sensitive, the handling of paint fresh, but if the composition sucks it all falls down and the work is rejected.
This exercise has re-taught me the value of making compositional thumbnails before tackling a painting. If it works when it's a 2" x 2" drawing, it'll work when it's 36" x 36". Back to the sketchbook!
My last post will be coming down in a few days, plus my entire Small Art blog, so if there's anything left over there that interests you please let me know soon. Though it's been successful, this whole garage sale business has made me feel kind of unclean and is unlikely to happen again. I think most artists understand what I mean. Making ends meet can make you do weird things. The best part about it is that it led to me meeting up with a cousin I hadn't seen in decades, so it was well worth it. Here's a photo of her and one of her Paint horses.
By the way, I just love the photo above, if I do say so myself. I took it a few weeks ago in an alley behind East Broadway and it sort of illustrates how this whole garage sale business makes me feel. Click on it as it's way better enlarged.