I Can’t Paint Sitting Down

I can’t and don’t want to paint sitting down but I might have to if things continue as they are. If I am really absorbed in a painting, I can’t stop. I want to go on and on for hours or all night. I fear losing my train of creativity. There is the issue, however, of back pain and sore feet. Even my calves feel the burden of standing for so long. I also move about the studio retrieving certain colors or brushes. It all takes a toll. I tried massage therapy and it worked for a time, but the discomfort always came back, plus it was expensive as I needed it quite often. Would I have to resort to sitting and making only small works of art. It seemed an impossible solution.

After abandoning the massages as they took a lot of time out of my day, I went to a physical therapist recommended by my doctor. I didn’t need surgery or any dire treatment, but simply some exercises to loosen the muscles in my legs and feet. Most of all I needed to rest these muscles by taking breaks. When I work in the gallery, my part-time job, I can’t sit down at any time unless it is for lunch. I was indeed in a quandary to say the least. What was I going to do? I think it would be to suffer in silence. I asked around including family and friends and they all said, don’t work so hard. I was not going to heed this advice. It was counterproductive to my nature. When I am compelled to paint, I must proceed at the moment when inspiration arrives. What would you do?

The physical therapist was of help as the exercises worked to an extent, but the best part of our collaboration was that he recommended compression socks that nurses wear. These are for both men and women, and anyone who stands on their feet on the job. Nurses are known to have long shifts so I asked someone I knew to get more information. You can buy them in a medical supply store or online in any size and color you want. They are made from a nice, luxury fiber that stretches to fit the foot. They are super comfortable and move with you through your day, providing a nice, light massage-one you don’t have to pay for. You can wear them with any type of shoes from oxfords to sandals or you can wear them alone. This was how I used them when in the studio. Why wear shoes if you don’t have to. After a day or two, I can pop them in the washing machine. I have several pair in case I am not in the mood for laundry. I am so grateful for the good advice and am no longer surprised by the amount of time medical professionals spend on their feet.


You Break It, You Bought It!

Haven’t you been in a store such as a curio or antique shop and found a nasty sign that says “you break it you bought it?” It is more than intimidating even for serious buyers. Perhaps they are referring to children or pets, but the sign doesn’t make that clear. In fact, this policy is just plain insulting. I suppose they want to make sure you don’t move things around which could knock something valuable off a shelf. Then why make them hard to reach and so far apart?

I used to bristle at such signs and would stop frequenting that store, but something happened in the gallery where I work which changed my tune. While we want people to feel comfortable walking around and approaching the works of art, they can bump into something by accident. Now I question how I would respond? Would I make them pay? I think the director would but it depends on the person who perpetuated an ugly scene. Imagine pieces of a ceramic statue all over the floor. Imagine the look of horror on everyone’s face—the boss, the receptionist, and mine. True destruction is infrequent and sometimes you can repair an object. I must say that is not often and it is quite expensive. There are fine artisans who can do it for a hefty price. If the client or visitor wants to buy it, he or she can pay for the repair.

I saw my boss get livid and start seething. I was afraid he would start lecturing the person to be more careful. In the end, he made the man pay. There was no loss to the gallery but self-respect. It seemed greedy to me in the long run. Meanwhile it was my job to clean the mess up and I quickly grabbed the vacuum in the utility closet in the kitchen. We have a simple, inexpensive model that cost less than a hundred dollars but it has good suction and performed its task well. All the pieces, large and small, were in the bag inside. It was a thankless job because I could see that the person who had obliterated the statue was upset. He even offered to vacuum it himself. Of course, that was absurd. Patrons, no matter their evils, must be respected. I went on to finish the job and proceeded to empty the bag in the kitchen and inspect the pieces. Nothing was salvageable but the head. It was a nice artwork executed by a local artist with talent galore. I kept the head in my pocket. After I returned the vacuum to its storage place, I packed up my things to go home.

I put the ceramic head on my work desk where I do sketches. It made a nice paperweight. Something good came out of the gallery fiasco. At least the artist’s work lives on. I may do some sketches of it to send to him, but I was loath to reveal what had happened.


Me and My Great Ideas

I am on a mission. It requires special creativity and inspiration. I am painting a surprise gift for my boyfriend. It isn’t easy when you are demanding of yourself and I know it will take forever to get it right. I have started well ahead of the gift date as a result. I have to make sure whenever he comes over, the painting is out of sight. When complete, I have the perfect hiding spot under a high quality mattress protector that I use to cover old canvases. It used to be in the linen closet but I found a better use for it. Whatever stage the painting is in, it will be invisible to visitors.

This is particularly important as it is a kind of expressionistic portrait with heightened color and thick brushwork. The paint brush traces are visible everywhere, a kind of chronicle of my esteem. The impasto paint will take a long time to dry and I am a little concerned about some of it rubbing off on the mattress protector. I must make sure there is space between the artwork and the vinyl. I suppose if it happens, I can use turpentine to get it off. Oil paint, in case you don’t know, takes three or more days to dry and if it is laid on in a thick manner, it may never fully dry—or at least not in a few months. I will then apply a sealer so when the painting is in my boyfriend’s home, it won’t damage the wall.

I usually use acrylic paint but it has a different texture. I wanted an old-world quality to the portrait and evidence of my influence from the great era of abstract expressionism. He knows art history and would be pleased to see this reference. This will set it apart from typical portraits that you see in galleries. While there is a good likeness and skilled brushwork, it is often thin and transparent. Most of the portraits look like they were done by one painter. Thus, my great idea to make my work different. I want it to stand the test of time. I never want my boyfriend to cast it aside, full of grime and dust from sitting in the closet. If it is a good work of art, he will mount it on the wall in public. That is my dream.

I am working diligently at the project and am making progress. The day of giving is drawing near. The paint below the surface is starting to dry and soon the top coat will follow suit. If you dry the paint with a hair dryer or heater, it will eventually crack. You can’t rush the process. Oil painting requires knowledge and skill which I have learned over time. Goodbye acrylics if this is a success. I am heading in a new direction that could be permanent. Artists discover themselves as they go along and you never know what is your destiny for sure.


Who Knew Construction Workers Look Kinda Like Performance Artists?

I love my job. I am an artist (I hope up and coming) who works in a fine arts gallery where all kinds of interesting things happen. You never know what to expect from day to day. Artists come in toting their new work in the hopes of getting interest in a show. Patrons love to see the new art and discussions with them are always interesting. We talk about collecting and what motivates a particular purchase. Some people stick with paintings, others with works on paper. Still more three-dimensional objects. They show me photos of their homes and offices in the hope that I will comment positively. I would never be negative and deter a client from making a new acquisition. I don’t always love everything on display, but as far as sales go, everything is wonderful. There is an art to selling art to put it mildly. I am not trying to be funny. I want to get better at it so I can expand my current duties at the gallery which entail computer documentation, mounting shows, and processing mail.

One of the discussions that I have with clients from time to time is how you cannot collect or even capture performance art. This kind of art is ephemeral. Something occurs for one moment only. The artist conceives of the art work as more of a process than something tangible. Only photographs can document what happens. It is hard for some collectors to get into this experience but more and more people are coming to understand it. You can be very surprised what is appropriately called performance art. A famous artist long ago shot himself in the arm to make a political statement about weapons. Another wraps buildings and fences. The covering is only there for a short time and thus the work is a statement about time and change. I am fascinated by this kind of vision that is rather philosophical.

Feeling this way about performance art, you can imagine what I was thinking when I entered the gallery one day and found a few “artists” using an air compressor. What a great idea for performance art, I thought. This is really something different. Boy was I wrong. In front of me were two construction workers making some repairs to the space. I had mistaken them for performance artists. It just goes to show you that anything goes in the contemporary art world. My boss, the gallery director, had mentioned upgrades or that anyone would be coming. I had fooled myself which was rather embarrassing, but fortunately I hadn’t mentioned by misassumption to anyone else. They would have had a good laugh, unless they were caught in the same dilemma.

Let’s hear it for performance art as a viable modern form of expression. Let’s welcome new artists, but let’s also be sure of their status. I won’t be caught unaware the next time around.


A Weekend of Inspiration

It was the boyfriend and my year anniversary this past weekend. When that homebody told me that he was taking me away for a three-day holiday, I jumped at the chanceto actually go somewhere with him. He had rented a cabin on a lake, of all things. The weather was not supposed to be very good but it never is this time of year. I put on my snow boots, packed some hot chocolate, and hoped for the best.

The drive was nothing special, especially since we didn’t head out until after he left work for the day on Friday. In other words, it was just dark outside. Oh and it rained. That was fun. Luckily the cabin was only about a half hour away so we got there before the temperature dropped and everything froze. We were exhausted from the long day and the weather-induced tense drive out to the lake. Not the greatest start to a romantic weekend. We didn’t see much of the cabin before we collapsed on the bed and were out for the night.

I woke up the next morning and looked out these fabulous floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom. The rain had turned everything outside into a sparkling ice wonderland. It took my breath away. I was tempted to wake up the boy but he’s cute when he is sleeping and I knew he needed the rest. So I quietly grabbed my boots and camera to sneak outside to get some photos of everything. I fell on my butt several times. My rear and my pride were the only things damaged, the camera was unscathed. Lucky, I know. The things I do for my art! I am still having trouble sitting down and that was days ago.

It was so beautiful and quiet there. I was probably the only person outside for miles around. I could have lived in that moment forever. My awe didn’t end there. Over the next couple of days, everything thawed. Except for a good portion of the lake. We saw a bald eagle trying to ice fish, watched a chipmunk scurry right across our path, and witnessed some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life. We also drank all the hot chocolate, of course! There was romance and happy anniversary celebrations but I felt like my mind was going the whole time, trying to record every single moment. I took even more photos. I cannot wait to go home and use them as a reference to paint. I am not the greatest photographer. Things never come out in the picture the way they are in my head but they are helpful for me when I paint. At the very least I can use them as a reference for the colors to use.

If I ever find myself unable to come up with a subject for my art, I will have to remember to go back up to that cabin. I have so many ideas from just a three-day trip, I cannot imagine what it would be like to stay there for a whole week. Or a month!


Not My Job Description

I love working in an art gallery. It is a dream for an artist just starting out. You learn the ropes, get exposure, and feel a part of a special realm. I also love time in my studio when I am in the midst of creation. I feel blessed to have been born with aesthetic talent so that I have a ready road to personal fulfillment. I never thought about entering a different field such as business, medicine, education, or mechanics. My path was always laid out in one direction, or so my parents believed. I am earning my stripes in the art gallery and making art as I write. I feel compelled to share my experience to help others in the same boat—artists who want to make a living but with the kind of work they admire and believe in. I don’t want to have to compromise my values to please the public. Don’t get me wrong. I do want to please the public, but not at the expense of my pride.

Meanwhile I apply myself daily as needed in the gallery. This means sometimes doing things that I don’t feel are in my job description. I process the mail which includes a lot of images that would-be artists have submitted for consideration. We are very selective about what we show so I have to answer them back. I keep tabs of inventory and pull out work from storage to show clients. I clean up after an opening and help serve the snacks. I update the computer with new purchases and client information. All in all, I have a lot of variety going on. I love greeting people as they come through the door and most of all like discussing the current work on view. The gallery is in the business of selling art so I never deter people from making an acquisition, even if something is not my taste. But I never would push a painting on a novice art lover just for the sake of a sale.

Something was added to my job description the other day. The gallery director was concerned about the air quality in the ample space and wanted me to select and install a new air purifier. What could be harming the paintings? It didn’t matter that I know: I now had a task. I set out to research the subject and stumbled on a mid-size unit that would cover our square footage. It was the type that people use in hospitals or children’s rooms to help those with allergies breathe better.

There is nothing specifically made for an art gallery. There is an expensive model for museums to prevent chemicals from reacting with the artwork, but this is not what we needed for sure. I got a regular air purifier that per the product description would clearly do the job. The museum purifiers have fancy settings that can be changed according to the climate. I think what I found will do nicely. Cleaner air is around us.


No Way, A Tropical Getaway!

If you had the means, the time, and the choice, where would you go for a fabulous beach vacation. I assume that all of you readers love the shore as I do. There are so many great places from Hawaii to Tahiti, but for me I vote for the Caribbean. Think of all those tropical islands and how glorious the sand and water are. I would give anything for a week of fun in the sun. We all need to rejuvenate and relax no matter how much we like our work. Life gets dull and discolored if you don’t take a break and change your point of view. I mean that literally: it is important to have a change of scene and get a new lease on life. And because I am an artist, I invite the inspiration that the beach always brings.

So, my friend and I have set a date for a long weekend in the Caribbean on a picturesque isle. We picture ourselves side by side on lounge chairs with a large beach umbrella overhead. Its big stripes match our giant towels. You can’t miss us for miles away. So, we made this dream a reality and off we went. Not a minute off the plane, we headed for our resort and the sand. We jumped into our swimsuits, grabbed the towels and ran to the water. Just a few feet away we set up “camp.” We had a cooler by now with water and beverages not to mention a few tasty snacks. We rented the chairs and an umbrella so we would not burn. The sun in this region can be intense. We applied sunscreen, put on dark glasses, and we were ready to surf. Come late evening, we were loath to move a muscle.

What is it about the beach that is so magical? Sure, you can ski in fresh powder snow, go boating on a lake or a river, or hike in the mountains when the weather is fine. But when it comes to rest and relaxation, not to mention artistic inspiration, I vote for the beach every time. I mentioned that I am an artist so I bring along a pad of paper and some colored pencils and make sketches of the people and the scenery. I take the work home and make some of the better works into paintings. I also like the fresh spontaneity of watercolors. I wish I could take them with me, but once when I did, they got full of sand.

I don’t get a beach vacation more than once a year and then we vary the location. Sometime I will have paintings of so many destinations that required recreation in paint. Perhaps this is the perfect fodder for a one-man art show at the gallery. If I work hard and finish enough, there will be ample paintings to fill the gallery space. I will have large and small versions of my beach vacations. Hopefully, they will remind people of the joy of the ocean.