Life Goals

One of the main reasons I work at the gallery is to make connections. I want to learn how buyers interact with artists. I need to know how to approach gallery owners to get my work shown. While I am here, my plan is to cultivate good relationships within both groups. I am learning how to display pieces to get the maximum amount of attention to it. How to make something that looked kind of iffy into a sure sell. I plan on rocking this job for as long as I’m here. Who knows, maybe one day I will be a buyer and I can travel all over, evaluating new talent and collecting pieces to sell in the gallery. Wouldn’t that be great fun? One of my life goals is to travel and study the art in other countries. It would be great to get paid to do that. I would much rather be spending someone else’s money on travel if given the choice. I can just hear myself saying, “Yes, I bought that piece on a recent trip to Morocco…” Pretentious? Maybe. But still so very cool. This place is opening a lot of doors for me. I would be a fool not to take advantage of that in any way I can.

The next step in my plan is to be able to afford my own art studio. I want to have a space to go to and work. Kiss the (hopefully) boyfriend-turned-husband on the cheek after our morning coffee and say, “I’m off to the studio.” A place that is not also my bedroom, or a converted garage, or anything like that. I don’t care if I have to live with my parents for another five years as I save the money, I want that art space. I will get there, and not by compromising, either. I don’t want it to be some dingy shack the size of a sardine can. I want it to be clean and bright. With quality supplies. I did the starving artist bit in college and I have no desire to do it again now that I’ve graduated. That’s why I went to art school in the first place. I want to be climbing the ladder, you know? Not perpetually at the bottom of the chute. I have a lot of respect for those who do things that way, I am just not that person anymore. I can’t help it. I have champagne tastes on a boxed-wine kind of budget. I recognize that in myself and I own that. That’s why so much of my money goes into a savings account.

The end goal is simple. I would like to be a self-supporting artist one day. I know that if I keep putting myself out there, getting advice from other artists and networking with the people who will be showing and buying my art, there is no limit on what I can do. I just have to be patient.


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.


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!


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!


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.