Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So...What Do You Do For A Living?

It should surprise no one that I love art.  I enjoy talking about art.  I will chat with anyone about painting, the art scene-- even the onerous stuff like art marketing.  What I don't like to talk about is my art.  As a reader of this blog, you might notice that on occasion, along with my usual blather, I will post a painting of mine.  I might talk about how I did it, or what inspired me to do it, but I don't often tell you what I think of it.  The reason is simple:  I feel a painting has to speak for itself.  It is what it is.  As soon as you view my painting, you will form an opinion of it that no words of mine will change.  You would either agree, or not.  

When I'm out in public, I don't talk much about my painting or my vocation, only to answer the question, "What do you do for a living?" with the reply, "I'm an oil painter".  That is usually followed by murmurs of appreciation.  "Oh, my-- you paint all day.  How nice!"  Quite often, the follow up question is, "Does your wife work?"  I'm an honest guy.  I tell the truth.  So I say, "Yes she does".  That does it right there.

"Oh.... well then... You don't really make a living at art then..."

In the minds of the questioner, I have gone from Professional Artist to Un-Employed Wannabee.

Wanna know a little secret?  I punched a clock for many years before I painted full time.  My wife worked too back then.  We needed two incomes to help pay the mortgage and feed the kids.  Did that mean I wasn't really working?  That I didn't make a living at my job?

These days, I leave my house every morning to go to my studio and work on my art.  When I have a painting done, it goes to one of the galleries that represent me.  Then I hope for the best, and work on more paintings.  So does that make me an amateur if weeks go by without a sale, and a pro only when one sells?

Like I said, I'm an honest guy;  I have had times as a painter when paintings flew off the walls, and money was coming in at a steady pace.   I will also freely admit that there have been occasions when times where tight enough for me to go pick up a job.  Back in the day, I would often work two jobs when I needed to. But if I do that now, is it now my vocation, or am I moonlighting?  Does it push me back to wannabee status? 

We all know that there are only a damn few artists (And I will wager that like me, you're not one either) who know that they will quickly sell whatever they produce.  The rest of us?  We soldier on.  Look, painting is hard enough without worrying about your status as an artist.  It shouldn't make a damn bit of difference whether you are rich or starving.  The only thing I personally care about is making the best painting I can produce.  It isn't what I do for a living--

It's what I do for life.



Friday, July 20, 2012

Random Randomness

Thoughts while waiting for the heat to break:

I'm thinking this is one Long Art Summer.  I've been to two art openings (because I'm in them), and I have a Paint Out and Auction for this weekend in Cape Elizabeth, and another in New Hope, Pennsylvania two days after that.  All the while I'm trying to work up some paintings for two more openings in August.  If frenetic activity was considered a sign of success, I'd be famous.  But, alas...

Never in my life have I ever got poison ivy.  I used to boast that I could roll naked in that stuff, and I still wouldn't get it.  No, I didn't roll naked, but my shins and ankles have some lovely, blistered splotches of the stuff that itches like mad.  I must have set my easel up right in the middle of a patch while I was painting the piece below.  Jeez, I'm wicked smaht!

I'm gonna need an ocean of Calamine lotion...

Another thought about poison ivy:  Since I have no previous experience with the stuff, I thought all I had were itchy bug-bites (I've had plenty of those in my life)  so I scratched and scratched with abandon!  Lesson learned...

The other day on the great art blog Underpaintings by Matthew Innes, (I look forward to that blog everyday) Matthew posted a photo of Daniel Greene's palette, with all the colors he uses laid out.  He even gave out detailed instructions on how to mix the individual strings of color.  Tell you what:  Give me that palette, and throw in Mr. Greene's brushes to boot, and I still could never paint as well as he.  It's like saying "If I had Michelangelo's stone carving set, I'd make the Pieta!"  It's the carpenter, not the tools...

My studio gets awful hot in the Summer.  I only have windows on one side, so, I get no air circulation, which leaves it rather muggy inside.  I have A/C, but it cools the place off to about 80 degrees.  The wasps love it!  They get in and dive-bomb my head non-stop all day long.  I've yet to be stung, but it becomes rather disconcerting; Imagine trying to paint while keeping one eye on some hideous, loathsome insect as it comes in for a landing on your nose.  It almost makes me yearn for Winter-- when the studio can get down to zero degrees to start the day.  But hey-- no bugs!...

I've been painting out of doors alot this year.  Mostly to warm-up for the plein air events I've mentioned above.  But, damn-- all that green!  I used to mix my greens with a yellow and a couple different blues.   I thought that buying pre-mixed greens was "cheating".  I've gotten over that.  I now will haul out Sap green, Azo green, Veridian, Light Green-- you name it, if there's green on the label, I want it!  I just finished this little piece in the studio to take a break from all that green:

I'm trying to grow an elm tree to plant next to my studio.  I love elm's.  Once upon a time in the 19th Century, they lined all those Elm Streets that now have nothing but light posts to cast shade.  Dutch Elm Disease wiped out millions of those majestic trees in the 1960's.  I obtained some seeds from disease resistant elms a couple of years ago and watched daily to see if they would take.  We got some sprouts, but then-- nothing.  I had one twig grow to about two inches, but then it died.  I tried to revive it by moving into different sunny spots around the house, but after six weeks of twigdom, I gave up and put the pot it was in out in the mud room and forgot about it.  Three months later it sprouted again!  It grew leaves and about another inch in height for six weeks, or so.  Then, Winter came.  This Spring, I thought it would take off where it left off.  No.  Even though we had an early Spring and everything else that uses Photosynthesis thrived, my elm just sat there-- a three inch twig.  Once again, I gave up on it.  My dog Champ even knocked it over, spilling it and its soil all over the ground.  I just scooped it up and set it back outside.

Wonders never cease.  It took off shortly after that and is now over a foot in height, with branches sprouting out every which way!  My daughter calls it the "Jesus Tree".  Now, will I live long enough to see it cast shade on my studio roof?  Probably not, but I do hope that one day someone will lie under its branches and thank me.

Someday, little guy.  Someday...