Inspiration is Everywhere

I work long hours at an easel as a practicing artist. Then there is my apprentice time in an art gallery where I am learning the ropes. I welcome the opportunity to get out now and then for some fresh air. Plus, I like to see what is going on in the neighborhood. From personal experience, I know that inspiration is everywhere. Recently, I found it at a street festival a few blocks a way that I visited with a friend. We both love a fun atmosphere and seeing the excitement on the smiling faces of the kids near the bouncy house. It makes us feel more alive. Kids will bring out the best in most people. We decided to spend considerable time and observe and take photos. My friend is a writer, a different kind of artist, and took ample notes.

The young ones didn’t take notice of our presence. No one else seemed to mind as we were bearing down on the revelers. We watched and waited as the line of children dwindled. Each one had his turn in the bouncy house. Inside were brightly colored balls and the little heads would pop out of the mass of roundness with glee. It was magical as the balls moved quickly around to form new configurations. Suddenly, I had an idea. I would create an artwork out of these colored balls. I could either paint them on a large canvas as an abstraction or I could literally use them in a “construction,” a type of sculpture.

When you use something that exists in reality already such as a ball, it is called a readymade. I had never done anything with such objects before. I thought back to the bottle rack of Marcel Duchamp from the early twentieth century. I would be in good company if I pursued my idea. I thought long and hard and abandoned the concept of a painting. That would be too simple and mundane. I started looking online and found that you could find a cheap bounce house for kids, and asked the supplier about acquiring just some balls. They do sell them for people who have purchased a bounce house and need some spares or just want to decorate their kid’s sandbox. I selected about a dozen of them in assorted colors.

I took them up to my studio and arranged them in an interesting group. I sat and contemplated their sizes, shapes, and hues. This is the essence of art. I then made a wooden fence to go around them to kept the design intact. It was starting to look interesting. I needed to keep the balls in place so I inserted a piece of plastic under the entire construction. Then I decided to change the placement of the balls. I hit the nail on the head this time. When the work of art was on view in a gallery (my dream and fantasy), the observer can change the composition at will. He or she could be imaginative and contribute to the artistic experience of my original object. The day at the street fair had been very profitable.


Sold My First Piece!

I just had to log on and tell you all some big news! No, the boyfriend did not pop the question. Read the title of this post again. That’s right, I sold my first piece!! I know, I can’t believe it either!

The painting was a landscape I saw in a dream. There was a jagged mountain and in the dream, I was trying to climb it. I don’t know how but I just knew that the view would be spectacular if I could get to the top. I have never seen this place in real life and I have no idea how to climb a mountain either. But dream me was determined. I had my art equipment with me and I remember it being hard to climb while having to lug all of that stuff. I kept trying even though the rocky surface was cutting up my hands. In the dream, I hit my head as I was climbing. It didn’t hurt but it bled, and the blood ran into my eye. When I got to the top, I couldn’t see the view because my vision was cloudy. I wouldn’t have been able to paint anyway because my hands were so bloody and wounded from the climb. And I had lost most of my art supplies on the way up. I remember thinking in the dream that it had not been worth the struggle to get to the top. I was looking around for a way to get down when I finally woke up.

Yes, I know it was a messed-up dream.

The painting kind of reflected all that. I have to say, it was really good. The colors were all red and purple and angsty. I used a putty knife to make the sharp edges of the mountain and you could almost believe that if you touched the painting, it would cut you. You could feel the potential in the view at the apex but you just couldn’t quite see it yet. There was beauty and also a lot of frustration.

Anyway, so I had taken a picture to show the receptionist, Jamie, who knew all about the dream. He was just as disturbed by the dream as I had been so I thought he would like to see what I had done with it. While I was showing Jamie, the boss came by. He stopped to look at the picture and asked me where I’d taken it. He was surprised when I told him it was of a painting I had made. He asked me to bring it in and who am I to argue with the guy who signs my paychecks?

I brought it in the next day and he told me that if I wouldn’t mind selling, he thought he had the perfect buyer for it. No, can’t say I minded selling! We agreed on a price and then he added his fee on top. The number seemed a little silly to me. I didn’t think anybody would really pay THAT much money for something that little ol’ me made. But it turned out that Boss Man was spot on. He sent a (much better quality) photo to the buyer, who responded immediately with some questions about yours truly. Mostly if I had any other works similar to that one. Um. No. That was pretty much lightning in a bottle. She came in, stared at it for what felt like a half hour, and haggled on the price a little. I didn’t care what she paid for it as long as I got to brag that somebody paid for something I painted.

Somebody paid (a nice amount) for something I painted!Apparently, all I had to do was have a nightmare to get it done. Who knew?

I am taking the boyfriend out for dinner tonight, people. Somewhere that has cloth napkins!


Guess I’ll Keep on Lookin’

I am plumb out of room in my studio. There are paintings and objects everywhere plus a mess of supplies. I can hardly walk from one end of the small room to another. It is time to move on. But there is a big problem: how do I pack up all this stuff? It won’t be easy but nevertheless I am on a quest to find the perfect space. This is going to take time. I make a list from ads in the paper and organize them by location. For some I can go on foot, but for others I will need my car. I have a list of requirements so I will see what matches my specifications. Here’s what I want:

A large room with separate fully-loaded kitchen. I need an oven and stove, at least a small refrigerator, and some counter space for food preparation.

I don’t require a bedroom but one adjacent to my studio would be nice. It can be miniscule for all I care.

I must have a private bathroom in my studio, however compact. I don’t want to go down the hall and find that other residents are there.

I need central heating and air conditioning. Our weather can turn bad in the winter and steamy in the summer. I want to be comfortable so I can work on my creations day or night. I don’t want to sleep when it is either freezing or sweltering. I just want a good, solid system so I can be effective at my self-imposed job.

I don’t care if it has an elevator unless I am on the top floor. I need a way to tote artwork up to my quarters. It can be something I had out on loan or a large canvas that won’t be easy to carry upstairs.

This is what I had in mind when I set out on my journey. I went from one place to another and checked off my list. I thought I had found the perfect studio but balked when I was informed that it had no heating system. I initially turned it down. Now it was decision time. The price for rent was fair and the space was super large. I would be very content here. I loved the apartment-size kitchen as it had everything I needed. The bathroom was newly renovated and clean. I couldn’t turn this bargain down. I thought long and hard. I finally came up with an energy efficient space heater as my ultimate solution. It would be portable and I could carry it about and set it in the area in which I wanted to work.

I wasn’t worried for very long. The space heater, not being a desktop model, was perfect. It kept me warm and toasty at night. I was careful about a fire hazard but the front was well covered with metal mesh. I was so happy that I didn’t stick with my instincts and turn the place away.


Another New Show Coming Up

I have all the tools of the artist’s trade. These include palette knives, brushes of different sizes and materials, sponges, and cleaning cloths. There is a huge assortment of paints grouped according to type: acrylic or oil. My studio is a little ramshackle, but I can always find everything I need. I particularly love my large staple gun with which I create canvases from scratch. Instead of buying the readymade versions that are more expensive, you buy a piece of fabric and the appropriate wood stretcher bars. You then staple the fabric to the frame in your desired size. Some fabric comes pretreated and some you can find raw. It depends if you want the paint to “stain” the canvas or sit on top. You can also treat your raw canvas with gesso and make your own coating, again saving money.

The point is that I know my way around staple guns. It is a good thing because recently I needed to use one at the gallery. I knew just how to load and operate it. Since it is a smaller size than the one I use to make canvases, I don’t often find it in my hands. Now the gallery is having a new show in a couple of days and Jamie, the receptionist, and I need to staple booklets together. There are several pages in full color that illustrate the work of the show artist. It will be given out to patrons as they enter the gallery at the opening. They were supposed to be stapled at the printer, but someone forgot to add this request to the order. Honestly, where was my head on that day? No matter. Jamie and I can handle the job swiftly. It doesn’t take much special skill. You do have to watch for wayward staples as one or two have been known to land on a finger or two.

It took a while and Jamie and I passed the time discussing our favorite artists and what is happening in the local museums and other galleries. It was a good chance to catch up and we bonded over our love of art. We both like abstract painting of the expressionist kind. We share a love of Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, and Clifford Still. We pulled out a few artbooks and old catalogues from the gallery shelves and pointed out our preferences. It is so wonderful to talk to a fellow aficionado. We discussed new trends in performance art and what impact the environmentalists were having on contemporary creation. What are the signs of the times and will they prevail? There are so many interesting and provocative questions to ask. We could talk for hours. The books were finished soon enough and the discussions were curbed for a time. I look forward to another project we can do together. It sure beats opening mail, put away artwork that has been pulled out for clients, and mopping the gallery floor.


My Favorite Piece in the Gallery

We are doing a photography show for the next couple of weeks. I like this one because there are a lot of different photographers on display. I like the variety of the subjects, the mix of color and black and white that has taken over the gallery. I have been able to talk to most of the photographers so I could learn more about the subjects of the photos—it helps to know these things when you sell them. People often ask, especially with photographs, where it was taken and things like that. But I ask also because I am curious. I love having time with the artists we represent. As I’ve said before, I like all aspects of art, including the business side. I do like to know why artists decide to sell the pieces they do. This exhibit has been a lot of fun because there are so many artists to talk to and I am sure it will bring in a bunch of potential buyers. People like photography. It is always a good seller for us.

So I was doing my traditional walk-through to familiarize myself with the layout and the different photographs for sale. I turned a corner and in front of me was a photograph that just knocked my socks off. It was a picture of a cherry blossom tree with kites flying in the sky around it. The colors were super saturated and rich. It was like walking into a gorgeous, breezy spring day. I didn’t just want the photo, I wanted to be there in that moment. I wanted to watch the kites flying overhead, smell the blooming flowers, feel the warm sun on my face. It was everything that I love about art. The photographer was right there and must have seen my expression because she stopped what she was doing to smile at me. I immediately asked her where she took it. Seems Washington, D.C. has a Blossom Kite festival. It must be so incredibly beautiful to see in person. I chatted with the photographer for a bit more and then headed off to look at the other photos on display.

There was nothing else as beautiful as the kites. I went back again and looked at the price tag. Well, that was a kick in the teeth! It was probably priced pretty fairly but fell very wide of my “I can rationalize this cost in my head” mentality. Oh well. I had resigned myself to saying goodbye to this beautiful photo when the photographer came back over to me. She handed me a postcard that had the Blossom Kite photo on the front. She had gotten a few printed to drum up interest in the photos she was selling here. I couldn’t believe my luck! I stopped off on my way home to get a frame and now it is happily sitting on my nightstand where I can see it every morning when I wake up.

I love my job.


Adding Art to Your Everyday Life

I think that art should be integrated into the daily lives of people. I do not mean that everyone needs a copy of a great masterwork in their living room, either. I mean art in the truest sense: the pieces that make us feel something meaningful. That beautify our surroundings. That make a place feel like home. The main reason why I got a job in a gallery instead of a museum was because I think art should be part of life and not behind a velvet rope or locked away.

I am not picky, either. I am not going to argue with anybody about taste. With all of my education, I certainly have an appreciation for pieces done by the masters. But that might not reflect your real life. And that’s fine with me. I don’t care if you still have your kid’s handprint turkey on the wall and they are now 40. If you walk past that turkey with a smile and think, “I remember the day he brought that home. He was so proud of himself. Look at how small his little hand was!” It is evoking an emotion in you. Guess what that means? That handprint turkey is art. It is something woven into the fabric of your life and your home. Rather than tell you to take it down and put up a Matisse reprint, I’d tell you to hang more.

Art isn’t about how much you spent on a piece or whose signature is on it. What matters is what speaks to you. The art that you like is a reflection of you and what you value. Make the space that you live and work a reflection of you and the things you care about. I don’t care what you choose as long as you choose something. Look around the walls in the places you spend the most time: the living room. Your desk at work. Your bedroom. Are the walls blank? Have you hung anything? What does that space say about you? And the more important question: do you like what it says about you?

If you go on vacation and you take a gorgeous picture of the landscape, don’t doom it forever to life on your memory card. Or worse, sit on a hard drive somewhere. Get it printed. Heck, get it enlarged. Put it in a frame. Get it matted. Go crazy and get it printed on canvas. Make it look like the art that it is. Hang it somewhere people can see it and then brag about it. Every time you see it, you will remember that moment and how you felt. It will make the dark days a little brighter and shine a light on those tough times at work.If you can’t make holes in the walls, use that 3M stuff. Buy cheap posters if you are low on funds. Buy your favorite children’s book, gently remove your favorite page and frame it for your baby’s room. Take apart an old calendar and hang the pictures. Put postcards (either side, who cares!) in frames. Paint something. Paint anything. Go on a paint night with friends. Paint with your kids. Use a 3d printer to make something. Use a computer drawing program and print it out. There are so many ways to add life and color to your surroundings. Look around you. Change your space. Add art. Change your life.