Friday, April 15, 2011

To Make a Long, Long Story just a Long Story...

Ok, so I have proven not to be so diligent about blogging often.  I suppose I should focus only on the highlights to get caught up what's happening with my art today...

I mentioned "Bill" in day 1.  Jane knows Bill...Bill knows Janet...Janet owns Creative Framing in Louisville and Lafayette.  Creative Framing not only frames beautifully (and I highly recommend Janet as her talent is exceptional at putting the right frame with the right piece of art) but also has a gallery for purchasing art from many local, talented artists.  Anyway, Bill insisted on taking a few smaller pieces that I brought in for Jane's critique.  According to Janet, he would not leave her alone until she took a look at my art.  To make a very long story shorter, Janet offered to include my work in an art show on December 10.  This was in November - I had 2 paintings and 3 weeks to come up with at least 12 more paintings.  I pulled off the paintings but was soooooo nervous about the art show. 

I don't do people well and everyone was giving advice about how artists need to talk about themselves at these shows - tell their story.  Well, I'm thinking to myself, "I have no story!".  I have no "artist statement".  I certainly have no formal training and therefore am unable to throw out artist terminology or tell about experiences studying abroad, etc..  I have nothing to talk about - I just paint!  I worried myself into a knot about "my story".  Everytime I went into the gallery, Bill would introduce me to people and start telling them what he knew about me.  He kept commenting "I love her story" and I'm thinking "What in the hell is he talking about?  I haven't come up with a story yet!".  So one day, I paid close attention to what he was telling people about me and realized that my story was pretty simple - the fact that I didn't have a lifetime of art experiences, awards, notoriety was apparently what was most interesting to him.  So, I went with it - it was truthful, sincere and I didn't have to remember any exaggerated details.

Now on to the bigger hurdle - my antisocial behavior meets a room full of strangers.  Lots of people, lots of wine, lots of food, laughter, chatter everywhere, people really having a good time!  Me? Here's what's going on with me - anxiety, claustrophobia, self doubt, hot flashes, stockings won't stay up, I'm in a dress and heels (UGH!!!), I'm dodging a newspaper reporter, it's even past my bedtime.  Well, my dearest friend, Debbie Terrell, knows me so well and predicts all of this weirdness that I'm feeling so she simply gathers my other friends and family and form this nice circle around me.  I'm grateful for the break, have a few more glasses of wine and all becomes comfortable in my bubble...

After it was all over with, I thought to myself - "Okay, I can do that again."  And I am working on the overall problem - my fear of people expecting me to be more than I am and being disappointed. 

A picture of Debbie "studying" my art made the newspaper and I sold 15 or 16 paintings at the gallery in the following 2 months and several requests for commissioned work.  I'm actually looking forward to more shows!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"I didn't learn a thing!" - I can be so narrow minded!

"I didn't learn a thing" – well, I was so wrong about that.  I was so focused on specifically learning to paint a tree and to me that meant that we sat there with brush in hand, actually painting trees.  What I failed to understand at the time was how those exercises ended up creating a tree for me.  Obviously, I learned a lot of technique and skills but what helped me take some next steps were the following:

-          Everything is made up of circles, squares, triangles, etc…just break up objects into shapes and add color. 
-          Quiet inspires me the most but if I have to have music, it’s usually something like Al Green. 
-          And another thing – EVERYONE is an artist!  Art is simply creating something.

The most impactful lesson I learned was not just about art but life itself.  I learned that I need to work on letting go of having to control everything.  Go into anything you do with an open mind, patience and open to the probability that someone else might know more than you.  And live in the moment – value everything that you are doing, learning, seeing, feeling at the time that you are doing, learning, seeing, and feeling.  Let your brain rest, stop thinking about what’s next and missing out on what’s now.

Teachers can certainly teach you how to do something very specific, like painting a tree or a math problem or how to write the perfect sentence.  But more important; teachers have something very special that most of us don’t have – the ability to help us find our passions; what we are good at, our inspiration, our confidence. 

For all of you who constantly say to me – I could never be an artist.  If you really want to learn an art and live in the area, I highly recommend checking out pARTiculars Gallery and Teaching Studio in Lafayette.  There are so many varieties of art and teachers.  For painting and so much fun – ask for Jane Whittlesey!  Setting aside some time to be creative helps reduce stress, allows your brain to relax and your whole body is just at peace for a little while. 

                                     Dee's Plum Autumn repainted on a 2" X 2" canvas - on my desk!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Be the tree and who is Jane?

I have been asked over and over how I got started on this journey of becoming an artist.  So here goes - my path to become a "real"'s been crazy but so exciting.  It all started with Dee Sakas.  She asked me to create a 32 X 48 painting for her condo at Copper Mountain last September.  Her request was a forest with aspens and fall colors with some plum to match her chairs.  She sent pics - I was quite puzzled!  The chairs looked lavender and the kitchen was teal blue.  I wasn't sure how I could integrate fall colors into her existing color scheme.  I also had never created my very own composition.  I have painted (copied from books or magazines) many pieces over the years for my friends - never at their request and never any expense to them, so never any pressure to be perfect.  Panic is setting in.

I sat swishing color for weeks and weeks and was getting nowhere.  I had heard of pARTiculars art studio in town where you could take lessons so I signed up for a 10 hour art boot camp.  I assumed that we would sit quietly in front of easels, with our eyebrows in that serious crinkle, learning all the details of painting a tree.  Well, I was completely wrong.  Jane Whittlesey (teacher) walked into my life and I will never be the same.  I am not sure how to describe Jane.  She is one of the most fascinating people I ever met.  She is absolutely the most positive, flexible, carefree, no rules kind of girl.  Our exercises consisted of the following:

1.  loud music, dancing around a large table, covered entirely with a large piece of paper, splashing paint of all colors. 
2.  paint an unknown object blindfolded based on what your partner was describing.
3.  creating cityscapes, landscapes, still lifes, etc with paper clips, bottle caps, pipe cleaners....

Well, at the end of the last class, I told Jane all I wanted to know was how to paint a tree.  Her response, "be the tree - think like a tree - how would you grow if you were a tree?"  That was it!  A whole week and I hadn't learned a thing! 

I continued to swish paint on the canvas, not really creating anything recognizable.  Frustrated, I paced outside quite a bit and started to just look at the aspens in my yard.  Everytime I went outside, I noticed new details about the trees. Without realizing it, I became a tree.  I would run inside and paint just a little something that I noticed, then run back out and turn back into a tree, run inside again....this went on for a couple of days.  Eventually I had a forest.  Ground cover and a path worked it's way in.  Then a couple of logs landed in a space that I was bored with.  I was almost done and realized there was no plum....I dropped a plum tree right over those logs.  I'm told this wouldn't be realistic.  Well, it is already in my imaginary forest so it stayed.  It was done, I loved it, I was excited but terrified of Dee's reaction.  I was sure that she would hate it.  I had a few friends come over for a critique - they LOVED it!  The girls were yelling out prices that this piece would sell for.  It didn't matter - my agreement with Dee was that she would pay for the materials only.

I took the painting in to show Jane.  She LOVED it!  Bill LOVED it! (more on Bill later!).  So, I was confident enough to let Dee have it.  I was on my way to Copper to deliver my first self-composed piece.  I said to myself - "If Dee pays for the supplies, I will be happy.  If Dee offers anything extra, I will be a "real artist."   Dee LOVED it and handed me a check - she was more than generous - she confirmed that I was a "real artist".  There was a lot of LOVE going on with this painting.  That was all I needed - $$$ invoked confidence.