Monday, November 11, 2013

If Herons Dream

Sometimes I start a painting and am so surprised when it is finished that I am unable to claim it. It doesn't really feel like my work.

When I left this piece in the studio last night, I was thinking it would probably end up washed off or torn up, because I really couldn't recognize it as my own art. Also, I don't think I really understood all the levels of the painting. However, this morning when I stepped into my studio to view it with fresh eyes, I felt quite lured into the painting. There is a story here, one of mystery and outer-worldliness.

When I started this piece, it was all about design. I love high or low horizon lines, compressing a lot into a little space like when a photo or painting has 3/4 sky and 1/4 land or visa versa. So in my design, I put the herons down low even though they are the subjects of the painting, leaving a lot of space to play with above them. But then there is the dilemma of what one can do to make the large area interesting and tell more about the piece.

If Herons Dream
Transparent Watercolor, 30 x 22

As I worked on the painting yesterday, I saw the upper area as a backdrop to the life of these birds. The sky is their territory and this painting is about that. It is also about time and our predecessors in the Northwest both animal and human. As I added the stamps I've created after viewing pictographs and petroglyphs, my thoughts about this piece became deeper and almost mystical. I named the piece If Herons Dream, because I wanted the birds to have a collective consciousness allowing them to live both in the present and the past.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

After the Hanging of Art

Getting a group of paintings done and prepared for hanging took a few of weeks of focused energy. Finally on Sunday afternoon with the generous help of my husband and sister, those paintings were hung at Pearl Street Cafe in Eugene. After attaching the art by wires, leveling and stabilizing each painting, then carefully placing the title/price tags and some informational tags about some pieces, I stepped back and was proud of the way the wall now vibrates with color.

Yesterday I felt a bit lost, without the drive of an immediate goal. As I cleaned up and organized my studio I started thinking about how much I hope to make some sales from this show. That led me to reflect on a post fellow artist Ruth Armitage wrote last week about the artist's ego. Obviously I have enough confidence in my work to think it is worth putting it out for the public to view. But will any of these pieces speak to a viewer and compel them to take it home to their own wall? And if, at the end of this month, nothing sells, what does that do to my ego?

And so it goes in my brain when I clean my studio instead of painting.

But I know I'm not alone in this web of healthy ego mixed with self-doubt. So many of us artist put in a lot of effort for little monetary reward. Whether it is setting up for an open studio, or hauling art to a festival, or putting together a cohesive set of paintings to hang on a cafe wall, we do the work, put our egos out there, and hope for positive feedback in the form of praise, sales, or inquiries.

Regardless of what happens with these paintings now on display, I will "show up" in my studio and paint because that is what keeps me centered and sane. I paint to express myself, constantly searching for even stronger messages as I have in my River Tapestry series.

And if anyone needs a nudge to buy, my daughter suggested a visual subliminal message.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Continuation of a Busy Week

Look who showed up at the end of my brush yesterday--The Collector.

The Collector
14 x 11, gouache on gessoed paper
I have spent time this week painting some of my favorite river creatures this week in order to have a wide price range for my exhibit at Pearl Street Cafe which I'll hang on Sunday. I was surprised to learn that two small paintings also sold at Excelsior Restaurant this week, so I realized I would need more small paintings than I previously thought.

So yesterday I went out to my studio without a plan, but looked through my empty frames to see what sizes I had. I found a nice antique gold simple 16 x 20 frame. Then I search for a clean mat that would fit the frame. (For those of you who live near shopping, you might go to the store. But for me, it's a two hour drive to go to town and get home. What I have on hand sometimes has to work.)

The gold frame led me to look in my flat files for a piece of paper prepared with gold gesso. Then I looked around at some of my reference photos and saw this raven I photographed in Yosemite last fall. He's appeared in one painting as the Yosemite Trickster, a small raven on a large painting. But here, in The Collector, he takes a starring role.

I can't say that it always works out as easily as it did yesterday, but I felt really happy with this painting.

Fellow artists, do you ever paint to a frame? How does it work out?