Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Quiet Day at the Gallery

As I write this, I am sitting at an old desk in the Stillwater Art Guild Gallery, of which I am a member. It is a cold, yet sunny Sunday afternoon, and I am fulfilling my bimonthly obligation to work. So far today, there does not appear to be a tremendous demand for local art, since we have had only 12 visitors in the first 3 hours that we have been open, and no one has made a purchase.

While it isn't good that the front door is not opening very often, these are the kind of days that I have found I can spend time evaluating my display wall, examining the art done by fellow gallery members (there are over 60 of us), and sometimes plot out a new direction. I am able to focus on nothing but art for several hours, and often it leads to ideas for new work. There is a wealth of talent in this group, and one can learn a lot by studying the work of others.

When another gallery member stops in to upgrade their display or pay rent, or simply to stay in touch, it gives us a chance to chat. We are all experiencing the same economic challenges with regard to our art, and we are all searching for ideas to promote our business, and stay fresh and relevant in our work.

And then, at any given moment, a solitary customer may walk in, or an older couple who have time to browse, or newlyweds who need something to hang on their walls. They start to ask questions about a particular artist or a subject that they are interested in, their favorite colors, or a style of painting they admire. I try to be as neutral as possible in directing them to an artist or a piece that will meet their requirements, obviously hoping I can guide them to my work. Sometimes it leads to a sale of one of my paintings, and sometimes a different artist's work. In the big picture, it doesn't matter. It is a great feeling to complete a sale of any art, witnessing how thrilled the customer is with their purchase, and anticipating how grateful the artist will be when I call to tell them they have had a good day at the gallery.

The customer leaves, and silence returns, broken only by soft background music from the CD player, and the creaking of the floor in the antique shop upstairs. I go back to my art magazine, or my blogging, or sketching. I will patiently wait for the next art lover to walk through that front door.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

I have an old, yellowed print hanging on the wall in my studio that reminds me to never give up. I saw it in an antique shop years ago, and commented to my wife how much I liked it. She immediately formed a plan to buy it, and on my next birthday she presented it to me as a gift.

It is a framed reproduction of a 1907 pencil drawing by an artist named Malcolm Stewart. A fairly extensive Google search has not yet revealed any facts about who Malcolm Stewart might have been. Nevertheless, I have chosen to assume that he has depicted himself in the drawing. It is a picture of an artist sitting at an easel, with a large pallet balancing on his left arm. He is leaning forward, with his right hand holding a brush against a canvas. Surrounding him in his sparse and dilapidated studio are several other canvases, some of which have a word written on them that no one ever wants to accept - REJECTED.

The print is a constant reminder to me that no matter how bad things get, there is always another day, or another idea, or another plan to change whatever issue or scenario may be getting me down. Over the years, I have faced rejection in many forms. When I was in my teens, I often submitted cartoons to national magazines, only to later receive a rejection letter. I have, occasionally, finished a painting that either I have rejected, or unfortunately, my customer has not been totally enthralled with. I applied for an arts grant that was not approved, sold art that was never used as intended, and have been passed over for jobs for which I had applied.

Regardless of the reasons, I learned a long time ago that it doesn't do me any good to feel sorry for myself and complain or quit. Through a combination of self-examination, analysis of the issue, and sometimes prayer, I have learned to accept these negative events, and usually gain valuable lessons and wisdom from the experience.

The title of the old print is perfect: Hope Springs Eternal in the Human Breast.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The pressure is on

I can't believe it has been a whole month since my last entry. It seems only a few days ago that I confronted that mouse in the bag, and chauffeured him to his room for the night.

My better half has been reminding me that I need to come up with a topic, and since it has been so long, it had better be a good one. Boy, the pressure is on.

I have a notebook that I jot down blog ideas, and many of my previous entries have originated from that. It's filled with 1-or-2-word thoughts to capture an idea (e.g., clones and Norman Rockwell), and memories of the past (e.g., basic training) that may trigger a story. Sometimes, an idea just pops into my head, the words start flowing, and I must immediately go and write (e.g., Where's a clothespin? and Napalm in the Morning).

It is not unlike the process of painting. I keep a small sketchbook to write down art ideas, or draw something that I observe and want to preserve for reference. This book is full of plans for future masterpieces, and yet it seems I spend as much time scratching my head about what to paint as I do with a brush in hand. Sometimes, the more ideas I have (for both art and blog posts), the more paralyzed I seem to become. The paint tubes cannot squeeze themselves, the brushes will not dip themselves into paint, and words will not appear on the computer screen until my fingers start typing.

But, then, a breakthrough! An idea from my notes or a photo from my files, or perhaps a unique feeling about a topic will push me to create. It doesn't always have to be magic. It doesn't have to pour out wisdom, and it certainly will not always make someone laugh. (Of course, some of you may laugh at things I say when it isn't necessarily intended to be humorous.) After all of the painful delays, and the agony of creative indecision, the colors begin to build and the words begin to swim through my mind. With my eyes closed tightly, I can see a vision of the finished piece, and hear the words of the text singing with anticipation.

That's just about the time that my stomach starts to growl, alerting me it must be time to eat.