Friday, February 25, 2011

About Love

I get a lot of love. As I bumble along in life, lusting after luxuries that I don’t have (or need), yearning for the things that I want (a larger studio with well designed storage space) and lamenting about whatever I want to kvetch about at the moment, I remind myself of the love in my life. And I get a lot of support (emotional and practical) for my less than sensible lifestyle. This comes at certain cost (also emotional and practical) to some of those who are already generous with their love.

This love is what I hang on to and search out when I need its comfort; heaven knows I am expert at locating it. It is in the cherished people who populate my world and make it safe for me. They provide the good times; they share the sorrows. They put up with me.

I am mindful of what I have taken from some of those that now I miss. From my mother, who died a long time ago, I took (along with much else) superstition. She inherited it from the old country that her parents came from. She wouldn’t let a knife lie diagonally across another because there would be a fight, and she would not count on good things happening; they’d get jinxed. I am still careful with knives. No need for added risks. My brain knows better but those old beliefs connect me to her. She was the source of unbounded love in my life.

Writing this blog is rather like painting in that it takes unexpected detours, a process self-indulgent and sweet. This one started on Valentine’s Day as I wondered about the holiday and how it has changed from being about lovers to being the day that people send messages of love to all and sundry.

The image above is Neighborhood, sixteen little houses in one frame. I wrote of the little houses in a post titled Memoir some time ago. I have been doing them on and off since I was in kindergarten. Neighborhood is one the most recent, done in 2008 along with three others along the same line. I don’t consider them my best work; they are done with more emotion than brain but they are the ones I have tender feelings for. They have served as memorials and safe places, tombs for people I have loved and sites of refuge for me. Two of this series are in Boston being considered for purchase by the new Boston Medical Center. I have a number of paintings placed in hospitals and it pleases me to think that some of the comfort I find in them is available to those who walk past them or maybe even gaze at them in a waiting room or a treatment room.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

About the Technology of Art

When a painter begins a work with a vision in mind he/she will usually reach for the materials he has been using and which have served him well. But it often happens that the vision evolves into something else or for some other reason the artist needs to vary the materials. This situation will engender a search for whatever it is that will make the updated vision a reality. The research can take many forms; in my experience it has consisted of questions asked in the right places, books, and the bless├ęd internet. Then comes the testing. Putting together the vision, the materials and the experience is the challenge. The quest and discovery are part of what keeps this life endlessly engaging.

I have been corresponding this week with a friend that I graduated with long ago from The Cooper Union School of Art; we both continue to learn about the craft of art. I hope it will never end. Here is some of our exchange:

Joyce: I've started working with acrylics because the work I was doing with pastels/collage was costing too much to frame (I often work large 5-6Ft.) but I am not feeling comfortable with the acrylics and am miserable because I'm not having the pleasure and the work looks amateurish. I felt so free with the pastels.

Joan: I love pastels too and use them over acrylic (which has collage layers embedded in it) to get the intensity or color variation that I want. If you are interested in experimenting with that mixture of media, you'll need to put a transparent layer that has some tooth in it over the acrylic. Then you can use powder pastel, oil pastel, charcoal, pencil, colored pencil; the choices are many. Golden makes several mediums that might be good for the purpose. I'm using a transparent gesso (lots of tooth) by Liquitex at the moment.
P.S. I don't believe you could ever look amateurish.

Joyce: Your suggestion helps free me up from the tightness I'm feeling working with the acrylic. What do you do to hold the pastel that you've put on top of the acrylic? I don't want to have to glass the work — that's what makes the framing so expensive. 

Joan: I don't think you have much of a choice there, Joyce. Even if you use a fixative (which will alter your color), the pastel surface is not strong enough to be left uncovered. I couldn't find on your web site what surface you work on, but if it's paper, that's another reason to need the frame (for support). If you want to mount without framing, you would need to mount the paper on a rigid surface or else on canvas and then on stretchers. And you still need a strong surface which would have to be covered with a removable varnish to protect it. I have done that on large pieces and they have held up well.

I am not the last word on any of the above. Our own answers might not support another’s vision. One of the best sources for answers are the technical support people at Golden Paints. They are wonderfully generous and knowledgeable and have helped me through many a quandary. I look forward to reading that Joyce has found her way happily. If any of the artists who read this blog have found solutions to the dilemmas described above, we would be grateful for your input. 

You can see Joyce’s work at Joyce Silver :: Artist

The image above is Rosebay, ©2008, 36” x 48 “, Acrylic and Mixed Media on Paper

Friday, February 11, 2011

About Marketing

I depend on selling my work in order to pay the rent and buy the groceries. I have no problem with that. I see no reason that I should not have to work for a living. I like work. Work of my choosing, that is. And I don’t mind that the galleries and consultants that sell my work take fifty per cent of the retail price. They earn it; they do the hard part. I get to stay in my studio with the ringer on the phone turned off while they pound the pavement and deal with clients whose requirements can be difficult to satisfy. If I can forget, at least while I am in the studio, all of this background noise about survival and such, I get my little bit of heaven on a regular basis.

Because a lot of the time there is some anxiety about the foul-smelling, hairy wolf at the door, I have been putting more time and energy into marketing than is worth said time and energy. In these last thirty or so years since I resigned from a salaried job, the galleries and consultants that I have worked with have provided income. I have of late been attempting to incorporate into my daily routine (or weekly or whatever) the use of every other conceivable route to sales and notoriety. Let me count the ways: Ebay, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube, two kinds of blogs (have been trying to get started on Wordpress in addition to Blogger), Etsy, younameit. And then, one day recently, it came to me: This is not good.

For those not familiar with the term, the art consultant is somebody, or a corporation or company or a group of somebodies, who sell art without doing gallery exhibitions. There is no expense or hassle for me about publicity, announcements, framing, or travel. The purchasers might be residential customers, or as happens often in my case, corporations, or healthcare facilities or something along that line. The consultants and their clients have brought home the bacon in the shape of checks in the mail. Except for this blog which is a joy to me, the other routes mentioned above have failed to bring returns in proportion to the time invested.

I no longer feel compelled to follow all the advice and directions I have heard and read about marketing art. That is obviously impossible as anyone in her right mind would have realized a long time ago. I am a slow learner. 

What brought the message home to me was my own response to a friend’s comment to my last post: “Amazing how much there is to do in a life so short.” Looks like I can’t do it all. I will stay with the consultants and continue with this blog (which has me hooked). And most importantly, I will give back to the studio and to myself the time and energy that I was squandering. That is where the real rewards are.

The image above (click on it for a close-up) is of the same twelve collage paintings as in my post of January 7: About Structure. The 32 pieces in the series are finished. I will photograph them today and send the images to the consultants I have worked with in the past. And a few new ones. I am happy with these paintings and expect them to bring many happy returns. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 4, 2011

About Frivolity

At lunch this week a dear friend encouraged me to relax some of the restraints I was applying to the more frivolous vein in which I am tempted to work. I am fond of the lavish work of people like Gustav Klimt, William Morris, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I like Liberty prints and small paisleys and small flowery design on wall paper. Illuminated manuscripts, Islamic design, all these are complex, highly detailed and decorative arts. I delight in them. And if I just give in to the inclination, that kind of decorative pattern making will flow into my painting.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum was housed in my alma mater, The Cooper Union. I looked at fabrics and wallpaper and whatever artifacts were displayed there during breaks from class. Then I went back to being a budding abstract expressionist because that is what were trying to be back then. And long after that I became the person who loves and respects the art of minimalists like Ellsworth Kelly and the beautiful and rich simplicity of Sean Scully. No wonder it gets confusing.

I don’t need art to have “meaning”. My choice in reading is mostly fiction which I read for the pleasure of it. It doesn’t matter that this reading is sometimes about tragic lives; the enjoyment of the experience is that it that transports you to a place outside yourself. I will leave to people who know more of human psychology than I to explain why we take that trip watching the small screen or large, by reading of others’ lives, real or imagined, or any of the other ways we find to rest away from our own routines or cares for a moment. Goodbye reality, enough for now. May blessings rain on Netflix and my local library. What luxuries they are.

But I have digressed. I went to my studio after the above mentioned lunch conversation and back to work on a painting that had gone wrong and lost its promise. I decorated it freely and it began to resurrect. Then I gave it some structure (it needed discipline) and it came alive. After that I finished (almost) the two I have posted above. They and the one I just described (at left) are mavericks, far less structured than the others in this series of thirty-two pieces I am focused on now.

I try to keep this blog from becoming personal; I would prefer to keep it about art and life, and I would like to keep it short. A losing battle, both.

These three paintings are still untitled, not yet finished and included in the Structures series currently in progress, mixed media works, 26” x 20” each.