Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The World of Art

Paul Dorrell was commenting on the art scene in Colorado yesterday, and it got me thinking about how many sectors of the art market there really are. I read a lot of art forums and blogs, and I’m always amazed at how stratified the art world can be.

There’s the art scene in New York, which (from my vantage point in Colorado) seems to revolve on its own axis independent of the rest of the world. There’s the western art scene, which is centered around the big art markets in Scottsdale, Jackson, and Santa Fe. There are the more regional art markets, which tend to revolve around tourist traffic and more representational artwork. There’s the California plein air scene, which maybe gets a little more hype than it deserves (Isn’t it just painting outdoors? Why the fancy French name?). And so on and so on….

Outside of regional differences in the art market, there also seems to be a big divide between the world of contemporary/modern art, and that of representational art. Both sides seem to look down their nose at one another, as though the other isn’t producing real art.

Even within more specific subject matter, there are sides. In the world of portraiture, there are those who work from photographs and those who only work from life. While there are many who fit in between, those on the extremes are the most vocal, and the bickering between the two sides never seems to end. In landscape painting, there’s an ever-growing divide between the “plein-air” painter and the studio painter, and a lot of people seem to want to choose sides. As a landscape painter, it mystifies me – I paint outdoors sometimes, and I paint in the studio sometimes – what’s the big deal?

Considering that most artists are so passionate about art, I find it funny that we choose to align ourselves with different groups and choose sides. Then again, it makes sense that a bunch of people who are extremely passionate about what they do would be extremely passionate about defending their way of doing things.

I just paint what I love to paint, and sell it where people want to buy that type of work. I’m happy, and the checks are coming in, so I have no complaints. But I can’t help but wonder how much more visibility, support, and funding the arts would receive if everyone would quit their bickering and realize that we’re all working on the same thing in different forms…

Monday, June 26, 2006

Why Bother to Plan At All?

What a crazy weekend.

I had nothing on my schedule this weekend, so the plan was to catch up on painting. I have 24x30” and 14x18” paintings that need to go to the gallery before this weekend, and a 24x36” and 16x20” that need to be completed for a commission. Since I had barely started any of these, I figured this weekend would be a good time to make some progress.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it really happened.

A short hike on the trail near my house on Saturday morning turned into a big ordeal when my dog Bailey got bit by a rattlesnake. Our house is in the middle of rattlesnake territory, and I see the things all the time when I’m out hiking or trail running, but I usually don’t worry too much about them. On Saturday, there was one coiled up in some rocks on the side of the trail and apparently we pissed it off because it rattled at us. Bailey was ready to sniff at it, but Nate pulled her away by her leash before she got too close.

We thought everything was fine until she stopped walking about a ¼ mile later. Anyone who knows my dog knows that she doesn’t just stop in the middle of a hike. We checked her paw for thorns and couldn’t find anything, so we tried to keep going, but she just wouldn’t put any weight on her back paw. Finally, Nate decided to run home and get the car, while I walked her through the field to the end of a cul-de-sac at the edge of our neighborhood. We didn’t see the snake strike her, but I thought her behavior was a bit bizarre so we took her into the vet right away. Sure enough, they found a snakebite on her back leg and went into emergency mode to take care of her.

In the end, we spent half of the weekend visiting our pathetic dog at the vet – it was so sad to see her laying there with an IV. Luckily we took her in right away, so she’s going to be okay and we were able to bring her home last night. Her leg is still twice the size it should be, but she’s back to being her normal hyper self.

Unfortunately, I’m probably going to be too freaked out to hike by myself on this trail anymore, which is a bummer because it’s one of my favorite things about the location of our house. Oh well…

As for painting, I only managed to finish the underpainting of the two big paintings, and get about a third of each of the gallery paintings done in oil. Other than the underpainting, I didn’t make any progress on the commission, but I have a little more leeway on time so I’m trying not to stress.

Since it’s Monday, I’m putting together a schedule now to get everything done when I need to – this is my plan for the evenings this week:

=> finish 24x30” painting (complete middle and foreground)
=> finish 14x18” painting (complete middle and foreground)
=> finish 16x20” commission (finish rocks and foreground)
=> work on 24x36” commission (finish mountain and start on sky)
=>photograph and sign paintings for gallery
=> frame and drop paintings by gallery in AM
=> leave for vacation and RELAX for five days (Aspen/Snowmass for the long weekend – woohoo!!)

And then I wonder why I feel like I have no life sometimes. Geez!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Burnout and Recovery

"Aspen Light"
Oil on Canvas Panel

About a month ago, I was feeling burned out.

Burned out on work, on art, on everything.

The feeling came after scrambling for two weeks to provide six new paintings to a gallery at a time when I was so tired from pregnancy that I could have easily slept for 12 hours a night. Once I delivered the paintings to the gallery, I spent three weeks doing a lot of nothing, and I didn’t touch a paintbrush almost the entire month of May.

At the time, I wondered where my discipline and motivation had gone, and had a lot of self-doubt. Now I’m getting back into the swing of things, and I honestly have to admit that I was mostly burned out due to the crappy first trimester of pregnancy. I wanted to do everything I always do, and my body just wasn’t up for it. Period. No negotiation.

All I’ve got to say now is THANK GOD I’m past that first trimester and feeling like myself again (minus the fact that my wardrobe is rapidly becoming un-buttonable).

I’ve been busy again the past week or so, trying get some paintings done for the gallery, working with a commission client to nail down a composition, and juggling work and life and everything else. I started five paintings last Sunday, and finished three by Tuesday so they’d be dry enough to frame and deliver today. I put the signatures and finishing touches on them last night, and framed and photographed them. I also finally got approval from a commission client to start on the second of two paintings, the composition of which we have been discussing for over a month now (that’s a whole other blog entry in itself). So now I’m finally ready to take off from work, deliver some paintings, and hop on a plane to Chicago for the weekend to attend a wedding of one of Nate’s friends.

Despite the busy schedule that doesn’t seem to end, I feel a lot better now. I’m looking forward to coming home from work on Monday and starting a couple of large paintings I have planned. No more burnout!!

(The painting above is one I’ll be delivering today. It’s small, so the brushwork actually shows in the picture for once. I had writer’s block last night, so it has a bland title, but oh well. I always figure that people buy my paintings for the image, not the title, right??)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Movin' Out

I posted a few months ago about Twyla Tharpe’s book, The Creative Habit, and how great I thought it was. After reading about her working process and some of her bigger projects, I just had to go see her show Movin’ Out when it came to town.

I went last night and I thought it was excellent. Granted, I’m a bit of a dance geek so I’d dig anything choreographed by Twyla Tharpe, but it was really good. If it comes to a town near you anytime soon, go and see it!!

I thought it was especially interesting after having read the book and knowing some of the issues she had to work through to make it a success. Knowing that audiences didn’t receive it well at first, and that there was a lot of rework involved to make it a successful Broadway show, made it fun to see the final product. It reminded me that art is never easy – it’s not just a moment of inspiration where everything comes together and you create a masterpiece. A successful work of art is the result of hard labor and serious problem solving, and sometimes it takes years of perseverance to get anywhere near where you want to be.

There’s nothing better than going to the theater or a concert to inspire some creativity. (Well, I guess going to an art museum to check out good art would fall into that category too, but you know what I mean…)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I decided that I need a new look, and I'm a bit sick of the blogger templates so I got technical and found a different one on the net. I chose this one because I like the green and the more natural color scheme. This blog has pretty much morphed into being a blog about my transition to being a full-time artist, so I wanted a background that my paintings would look decent on. I could do without the orange and the carnival scene at the top, but I think it's going to be a while before I figure out how to replace those. Until then, this is it! Any opinions?

Anyhow, life's been a bit hectic lately (what's new?!?), so I haven't had any time to post this week, but I'll be back soon!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Art and the Most Hyper Puppy Ever

Earlier this week, Tracy posted about the toxicity of the materials artists use, and whether or not our paints are really all that much more dangerous than a lot of the substances that we eat or get exposed to every day. It’s a serious topic, and I definitely err on the side of caution now that I’m pregnant, but I just wanted to share a kind of funny story that’s related to the safety of oil paints.

I have a golden retriever named Bailey, who is a bundle of love and enthusiasm, and who was completely insane when she was a puppy. I’m not joking – she was honestly the most hyperactive puppy I have ever seen. I’d never had a dog before Bailey, so I thought maybe all dogs were completely spastic when they were small, but since then I’ve learned otherwise. The antics of my friends’ dogs pale in comparison to the stuff Bailey did when she was little and fluffy. Luckily she was cute, so we loved her anyways.

Anyhow, one of her oh-so-endearing qualities the first year we had her was the tendency to eat anything in sight. Remote control, eyeglasses, paper, plastic bags, dishrags, water bottles, insulation – you name it, she digested it at one time or another.

We have a walkout basement that serves half as my studio and half as a pen for Bailey. She has a nice fenced off area with a doggie door to the backyard, and when she was completely insane as a puppy she would sleep there at night so she couldn’t destroy the house.

One morning we went downstairs and could hear her on the stairs up from the basement. Apparently she had escaped from her pen overnight and had the run of the basement for who knows how long. As soon as I opened the door I knew she’d been in my paints – she had orange paint from one end of her to the other. Paws, mouth, and belly were the unmistakable shade of cadmium orange.

Upon further investigation, I found that my tube of cad orange was missing, and the only sign of it was the orange paint on my dog, more orange paint on the carpet, and the cap. My dog had eaten an entire tube of cadmium orange oil paint, tube and all (apparently the cap didn’t taste so good though?).

I immediately freaked out. Cadmium is toxic!! My dog was going to die of poisoning from ingesting large quantities of a heavy metal!! Being a geeky engineer, the first thing I did was pull the MSDS sheets for the paint to look at the health implications of ingesting a tube of it. I called the vet and the paint company, and both assured me that in the concentration found in oil paint, cadmium is not readily absorbed by the digestive track. Apparently, eating cadmium orange oil paint is not that bad for you – inhaling it is the big risk (i.e. if you sand your paintings). They guessed that it would go right through her without harming her.

Sure enough, 24 hours later my yard was full of dollops of bright orange paint. And I say paint because the stuff was literally the exact same consistency it has straight out of the tube. She didn’t seem affected in any way (well, except when we had to give her the longest bath ever to get the paint out of her hair – then she was a bit grumpy!).

Four years later, she’s healthy as can be – let’s hope it stays that way!!