Knowing When to Quit…

Those who have spent a good deal of time painting will know exactly what I mean… There is a noticeable feeling I get when a painting is behaving as it should.  Colors are brighter, strokes are tighter or flow more evenly.  All the planets align and a fantastic painting is born.  Sometimes, however, things don’t quite work out how I expect.  It could be a combination of stress, creative exhaustion… a melting pot of a thousand other ingredients that keep me and my trusty brushes from doing our best work.  Just the same as when all is well; when the badness begins, you just know.  I usually toss my brush in my water jar and think , “This ain’t happenin!”  I usually try to leave it for a few days hoping that when I return to the easel, the planets will realign and I can turn this thing around.  Every so often, this works.  Most of the time, it doesn’t.  So the question at hand is, “When do you call it quits?”  It is easy to pour a bowl of gesso and return to a blank slate.  Not that paintings and kids are the same, well for artists, sometimes they are…it’s a labor of love thing.  If your kid is having a rough patch, misbehaving; those aggravating things kids often do, you don’t return them and start over.  Parents spend time correcting the behavior to create something beautiful and worthwhile.  I want to try to employ the same tactics in my “not-so-good” paintings.  Leave the gesso on the shelf and keep soldiering on until it is completed.  When the muses and painting gods seem to be against me; it seems like a waste of energy to keep fighting the inevitable…my painting WILL be crappy. Quit or keep going, quit or keep going?  I ask myself this a hundred times when I reach “the point.”  Is the time I already invested a waste?  Some of these paintings are ones that cause me to question whether or not I am actually a good painter.  Each work started with an idea, a enthusiastic thought that I have mentally designed something that will be good.  Perhaps they each deserve to come to fruition, fully.  I think the key is to identify the triggers that cause my work to head south in the first place.  I know this will be an ongoing investigation…

Below: the stagnant Einstein



The Great Studio Organization Effort 2013

I see all these photos in magazines and on social media sites with lovely images of organized, color-coded, no -paint- splatters -on -the -wall studios and offices.  My biggest question is…. do these really exist?  It’s akin to women looking at images of super-models and underfed Eastern Europeans in clothing and beauty ads.  I get studio envy.  Mine is a maze of madness where personal injury is likely on a daily basis.  There are towering boxes of fabrics and remnants of holiday crafts past.  I share a space with my better half, Ryan who has learned to mentally block out the chaos and focus on his area on the other side of the room.  He and I have started in with larger paintings, cause everything’s bigger in Texas, which will require more open space. SO…I decided yesterday that productivity is bred from some sort of order.  I WILL CLEAN the studio.  Around 9:00pm I was at it; tossing out trash; consolidating boxes with that “WOOOO” feeling.  1:00 AM: it was like sitting in a congressional filibuster; that “beat -your -head -on -the -wall” feeling. Now the rest of our home looks like we are moving… something my aunt and I refer to as the “sh*t shuffle.”  I guess these are perils of being a business-owner with a studio/inventory storage center in your home.  I can resolve to be better organized and have been fortunate to have Ryan’s help (he a complete anti-hoarder; which is fantastic).  We are taking on larger markets and are currently working on our first official online store. I know we will feel the growing pains soon.  I will never complain about these.  I want to sell and share the things I make and am passionate about.  However, my wares and arts do deserve a nice organized place to hang out until they are sent off to their new homes.  I know that one day, in the not-so-distant future, I will have a brick and mortar store with a stockroom and possibly (the angels sing) a work area. I am reminded of so many stories of the entrepreneurs who have started new companies and some that are now very large corporations.  I will try to remember the stories I’ve read of dining tables doubling as factory assembly lines and living rooms that look like sweat shops. I love the things I make and the constant state of dreaming up new ideas to craft and share.  I love making art and have worked very hard to get to a point where I can make art for a living.  I continue my studio recovery efforts and console myself with the fact that those folks in the magazine pictures were probably up until the wee hours cleaning up their everyday messes and two days after the photo shoot; chaos reigns once again.  

Social Media…hmm

Social media has morphed into a double-edged sword.  On one side, artists and small-business people like myself can inexpensively promote ourselves, share photos of our work with others and promote shows or events that we may be participating in.  The other, more jagged side is a melting pot of negativity, narcissism and often times, plain ignorance.  I am starting to believe that social media sites should have disclaimers.  “DO NOT read the comment feeds from news sites if you don’t want to lose faith in the intelligence of most other human beings…”  While I enjoy updates from friends who have moved far away or getting my annual barrage of birthday wishes, I don’t enjoy the “muck” I have to wade through to get to the good stuff.  Compulsively posting pictures of what you are eating or making a negative remark following every status post regardless of what it may contain constitute as “muck.”  Example….picture of a kitten in an empty Snickers box…I see a fuzzy little kitten in a box after which I promptly laugh and scream, “Cat in a box!”  ( I don’t know why cats in boxes and bags humor me the way they do.)  Despite its seemingly innocent intentions, this photo and post will incite at least one person to charge the publisher with some offense…”If you feed a cat chocolate, it will die!”  Though any rational person will see that there is nothing in the post to suggest anyone fed chocolate to the kitten, someone will comment about it.  Another recent phenomenon I have discovered is what I like to call, “Trial by Facebook.”  These most often occur on public sites and resemble a modern cyber-lynching.  Example…  POST: “I hired a man to do my lawn.  He left my dog out in the sun and when I came home it was sick.”  Comments that follow:  “Someone should leave him out the sun to die of heat stroke… Boycott this lawn service… I am telling everyone not to use _____insert lawn service name here____ ever again! ….  This guy is an idiot… My cousin’s, neighbor’s, boss’s uncle uses them and says they are crappy…”  You get the point.  Not one person stops to hear the entire story.  The lawn service guy could have been negligent, or not.  It could have been a fluke all together.  My point is that social media users react viscerally and without thought in regards to way too much.  I see comments on photos of people’s homes on public sites that are just downright mean.  Social media has brought out a darkness and negativity in society.  I am not saying this as a blanket statement because of course there would be commenters seeking to defend themselves as shining examples of social media civility.  As with most things in life, there is good and there is bad.  There are days when I want to delete the whole thing.  If I didn’t use it so much for business I probably would have done it a long time ago.  There are ways that you can unfollow, block, restrict, blah, blah, blah…  I guess my request to humanity is that we use our ability to connect for good, for positivity.  Share your joyous news, tell people you love them, show photos of good times and maybe the occasional cupcake…and as many kitten photos as you please, even if they are in an empty chocolate box.  

Across the Pond

I told myself when I started art school that I would have a goal.  What seems like a hundred years ago, I told myself that I would attend graduate school in London.  It loomed on the horizon and seemed to recede into the dark with each step I took toward graduation.  There were days and even months where it was forgotten amidst the struggle to keep the bills paid, where Ryan and I would tread water, giving it everything we had to keep our heads above the surface.  I stole whatever knowledge I could from other artists I met.  I worked on myself, my art, my attitude.  I worked two jobs, 7 days a week.  I had ankle surgery.  I graduated.  I started my own business and completed several public art installations.  All the while, she waited patiently, my goal, my muse, my London.  Someone very close to me told me once that the first time she saw me ,only a few minutes in this world, she knew I was destined to lead an extraordinary life.  Extraordinary lives require extraordinary leaps.  There have been times when baby steps were all I could muster but now, I believe, is a fantastic time for a great, big LEAP!  I know I have written before that one of my greatest fears in regret.  I believe that regret is bred out of fear and the inability and unwillingness to live the life that you know you deserve.  That being said, I accepted a position in the Master of Fine Arts program at a university in London.  Five years after I decided to stop fighting what and who I am, my goal steps out from the darkness saying, “Hey, you better jump on getting that VISA, they don’t overnight those things.”


Taking the Leap…or Swim

Fear can be a great motivator.  I use great in its intended connotation; not the modern view that “great” means “good.”  An aside….in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Olivander says, “…after all, He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named did great things; terrible but great…”  “GREAT” means “big” (to me). I think there are many types of fear; two of which motivate me most; fear of what we do and fear of what of we don’t do.  I am battling the latter.  I don’t think, as a functional human being, I have the option to live with a massive pile of regret.  I can only imagine the level of human misery associated with waking up at a ripe old age, saying to oneself, ” S&*t, I never did a darn thing I wanted to do, and now it’s too late.”  I have a fear of regret.  I’ve made myself a list of all the things I need to do in order to live a fulfilled life.  These lines are scribbled with the need for experiences.  As I get older I scratch off the need for “stuff.” Fancy cars and jewels have lost their allure.  I need to breath certain air, hear sounds of certain places and feel their energy.   I need to challenge myself as an artist and embrace the diversity and “greatness” of something or some place much larger than myself.  These feelings and needs have led to the decision to apply to Master of Fine Arts programs in London.  It is a huge leap across a “great” big ocean. My only chance at challenging myself to become something bigger, better and more powerful is to leave the comfort of the things I am familiar with and break out of a continuous cycle of “what works currently.”  It is a scary, awesome, rattling, exciting endeavor that I hope with all my heart works out.  It will help me to check off #1 and #2 on the list and maybe I can start on #3; guiding others like me.  


Must we Digress?

For the past year or so, I have attended several symposiums, a handful of seminars and the occasional workshop on public art, art production and art entrepreneurship.  There has been a resounding sentiment amongst contemporary artists of all types that galleries, museums and art establishments have historically been stuffy, elitist and unapproachable by the general public.  Joe Blow who has little knowledge of art history, compositions styles, whatever whatever, may still enjoy walking in a museum or gallery and browsing a collection.  “ART is for EVERYONE,” is the message we preach.  Recently the Dallas Museum of Art (which I am lucky enough to say is one of my neighborhood attractions) has been offering free general admission to all permanent collections with a small fee for special or traveling collections.  There are programs and apps browsers can join to keep track of viewing habits, earn points for discounts on food or even admission to the special collections.  I think it’s great!  The more the art community allows access outsiders, the more support we as artists can garner from them.  I could be worth 9.3 billion dollars but couldn’t paint myself out of a cardboard box…this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the works of others who can…and possibly want to share some of my 9.3 billion with them.  There is the middle class working American who can discover painting, sculpture, classical music, modern dance, etc… and truly come to appreciate it thus adding a culturally significant facet to their existence.  There are many communities and organizations who are actively pursuing these ideas and succeeding, however, the point of my tirade is an instance that is quite the opposite.  Leave it to my hometown to digress!  I just read an article about my lovely hometown’s largest art museum who boasts a gorgeous and quite well-known azalea and water garden on their grounds which is a hotspot for local photographers as a setting for wedding and family portraits.  This organization does offer free admission (mind you, you will be stalked excessively by the ancient gallery docents ) but recently released a statement stating they will no longer allow commercial photography on their grounds.  They also indicated there will be fencing and gates constructed around the garden areas.  As far as I know from my connection to local law enforcement (Hi Dad!) there has not been any vandalism, no sex crimes or property theft in the garden areas.  The gallery itself is tucked away in the heart of one of the most expensive, upper-class areas of the city.  I am puzzled as to the motivation behind the decision.  Must the gallery directors keep the ner-do-well photographers away from their prized azaleas?  The gallery goes on the say that after the barracades are finished (lets call them what they are), they will no longer allow private photography on the grounds.  So- if I want to take a photo of a butterfly with my own cell phone, I will be asked to leave?  Legally, if my research is correct, they have every right to do this because it is private property at a private gallery, funded by private donations.  It just seems wrong somehow.  All the forward progression to take fifty steps backward…  I’m sure it boils down to some liability issue; the restrictions of modern world all seem born from lawsuits but it doesn’t mean I have to like or agree with it.

angry flower


It’s All About the Economics

Lately, on the evening news, anchors have thrown at us these menacing terms like “fiscal cliff”, “sequester” and my all-time favorite “inflation.”  Basically, the economy is not at its best.  This forces me to reevaluate things like my spending habits, travel, and luxury items like meat and new socks.  This thinking trend, which I’m sure many other Americans engage in, can force art, music and other culturally-based activities on the back burner until things improve.  It seems logical at first and I admitted to myself that the economy just isn’t up for big public art installations and art purchases.  UNTIL- I was fortunate enough to meet with a former chairman of the Nation Endowment of the Arts who described art as a viable economic product.  For example; I complete a painting… that painting is not a result of spontaneous combustion.  There is a company who makes the paint and brushes and a retail establishment who sells these items along with other art supplies.  There is a factory who produces the canvas I used and another who manufactures the varnish I used to seal the painting.  There is a web server who hosts the website I post my painting on.  Each painting, photograph, sculpture, etc is a myriad of smaller products created by someone earning a wage and then in turn spending it somewhere else on other products made by other wage-earners.  WE as artists are active participants in our global economy.  Art can be as much a necessity as many other products the world sees as commonplace.  This changed every thought I ever had about what it is that I do.  Not to mention, the world would be an awfully boring place without the arts. Public art can increase tourism and also entice folks to move to certain cities or communities.  A recent study showed one of the top attributes a person looks at when relocating is aesthetic.  Murals, sculptures, parks, architecture…these all require art and increase the attractiveness of a community.  Artists are not luxuries, they are necessities…the pragmatics of the world may argue that accounting, medicine, science, blah, blah are more important.  My argument is not based on who is more important but rather the fact that we all have a unique roll to play in making the world a healthy, culturally enriching, happy, peaceful and beautiful place to live.


A Trend Toward the Negative

Sifting through snippets of conversations past; conversations with friends, acquaintances, perfect strangers, I find the threads of my memory getting snagged on a repeating trend.  There are things I need to try, places I need to be for awhile and questions I need to ask.  Occasionally I will share my misguided plans with others only to be met with attempts to dissuade me and keep my feet securely anchored in whichever port I currently reside.  I’ve never been much for the words of critics; they can tear a film apart but if it peaks my interest, I will go see it regardless.  Some of the most highly regarded “whatevers” I have ever heard others gush on have been the most meaningless and irrelevant experiences of my life.  So-if YOU (being society-at-large) don’t particularly care for something, should I promptly dismiss it?  I’m just not buying into it.  Some things you just have to see for yourself.