Wednesday, October 8, 2014

While in New York City over the weekend, I had an interesting (ok, and slightly traumatic and scary yet encouraging and clarifying) experience.

I had meetings at two galleries in Chelsea to show my work. I was plunged into this opportunity quite unexpectedly, which was good because I had no time to get nervous or put any weight on it, and bad because I was unprepared. But that's how it was, and I learned a lot.

The first gallery visit was deflating and depressing. The second made the whole experience humorous.

The first gallery owner began our conversation with a bit of a diatribe on how bad the art market is for galleries and young artists, that all the work was being sold through auction houses and only big ticket artists were selling. After this encouraging beginning, I was then asked to show my work, which he promptly dismissed. "You are obviously an accomplished painter," he said, "but western landscapes don't sell in New York. I can't even consider your work." Done.

Next gallery. A few doors down. I was surrounded by Western landscapes of barns by a not-too-famous Californian artist. I was told by this gallery owner that thirteen of his fifteen $30,000 paintings had sold at his recent show. He also reviewed my work, and said only "thank you," but did leave me with my most applicable take-home advice.

What sticks with me most was the answer to a question I asked the second gallerist. I asked him what was it that made this particular western landscape painter's work appealing to New Yorkers. The gist of his answer was that I just had to keep making the work I loved to make. Period. Which deep down we all know. But it's hard not to want to also make work that sells in big markets once in a while too.

But truly, I am going to continue to just keep making the work I love to make. New York, take it or leave it.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Today is a notable, celebratory, and slightly uneasy day for me. It is the first day in 367 days on which I will not paint.

My official year of painting ended on Tuesday, but I found myself automatically picking up the brushes both Wednesday and Thursday, taking a giddy pleasure in the voluntary nature of these extra days. But this morning I find myself on an airplane to New York City sans tinyExpanse painting box. A twinge of separation anxiety accompanies my airborne sense of freedom.

This is a fitting day to look back over my year of painting. The prevailing sentiment I feel is gratitude – gratitude that I was healthy and privileged enough to paint for 367 days straight.  Gratitude for those close to me who again and again showed patience as I impulsively pulled out my painting box, apologetically saying “I think this one will be quick.” Grateful for the moments spent observing the beauty around me, especially when doing so in the company of a friend or in a new and strange landscape. Grateful for the beauty of transformation inherent in the passage of time. When I look back over these 367 paintings, each one triggers a memory for me – the quality of the day, the thoughts in my mind at that moment, the people around me.

The great majority of this collection of memories is characterized by joy. This was an amazing year, and the sad or difficult time capsules on canvas are few and far between. My painting box and I traveled from the desolate Owyhee Canyonlands in Idaho to the desolate interior of Iceland. From the glow of autumn leaves in the alley behind my studio on Regan Avenue to the midsummer glow of the sun bouncing along the horizon line at a lakehouse in Finland. Boise, Blonduos, Brooklyn, Bozeman, Bear Tooths, Mazatlan, Mill Valley, Mount Borah, Sun Valley, Sandpoint, Salt Lake, Golden, Nampa, Hudson River Valley, Helsinki. How vastly diverse and beautiful are the landscapes of this globe which we call home.

I am delighted to notice that this practice of creating a small painting every day began and truly remained a practice of process rather than product – the process of staying alert to the presence of beauty every single day. (During the writing of this blog, I have witnessed the star-studded sky transforming into a magical pink and blue sunrise symphony over a bed of clouds. I challenge myself to allow the site to wash over me, at least for a moment unfiltered by the language of paint). I know that this habit of observation has sunk in deeply enough that I won’t need my paints to continue, though I’m quite sure painting will always be my own, personal, most tangible way of expressing my experience of the world.

And how wonderful that we each have our own way of expressing our individual experience. We each find beauty in different ways, find our hearts quickened by different impulses. As Rumi says, “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” I believe it is each of our duty, or perhaps simply opportunity, to share what we love about this world in the way most suited and unique to ourselves. I thank every one who has taken a moment to notice my own personal way of sharing my experience of beauty in the world.

Onward! As Shay would say.