A New Year

January is sort of an in-between month – by that I mean we are still winding up unfinished business from 2013 and at the same time trying to remember we are now beginning a new year. For several months I will have to consciously remind myself to write 2014 on my checks (am I the only person who still writes checks rather than use the bill paying option through the bank?)

After several months of ‘marketing’ art rather than making it, I am looking forward to getting a new supply of rice paper and losing myself in ink for a while. I was in four art show at the end of the year and have some work on exhibition this month at a local gallery. I sold several pieces for which I am grateful. In all cases the works that sold were on the small side and priced under $150; in addition, they tended to be representational rather than abstract – important information to consider for 2014.

At the gallery where I currently have some pieces there is also another artist who is showing ink work. I liked her art which is large: 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 feet – all framed and under glass. The prices ranged from $800 to $2,000.  The framing costs alone probably ran at least $150+, not to mention the 40% commission the gallery will take from any sale.

I heard one man come up to her at the opening and tell her he had curated many shows and her work was outstanding. But he didn’t buy anything. Tonight is Second Saturday in Sacramento when hundreds of people will go from gallery to gallery to see what’s on show this month. These are usually lookers not buyers; the art walk is a free source of entertainment.

When people want to hear music they pay for tickets or have a cover charge. Musicians don’t play for free. But somehow that doesn’t apply to art. Artists create it, pay for supplies, get it ready for exhibition and if a piece sells pay a big commission to the gallery. And if it doesn’t sell, which happens most of the time, have to decide if they want to recycle the art or store it.

I was talking to another young artist the other night who, of course, has a day job in advertising design and paints at night and on the weekends. He has several large (3 x 5) oil paintings on display which I doubt will sell (at least in this market) and I wondered, although I didn’t ask, what he intends to do with all these canvases when the show is over.

I was reading a Call for Artists for another local show that I found interesting and include it here:

Historically, art has been a topic of interest for many diverse groups of people. In order to achieve acclaim, the struggling artist must first satisfy the desires of just one group: those who will pay for and exhibit art. Overcoming this hurdle is certainly one of the most formative experiences of any new artist’s career. For this reason, artists who operate outside of this paradigm rarely, if ever, receive the opportunity to exhibit their art in a museum. Even when a museum chooses to do an exhibition highlighting the art of an unheard voice, it is still a voice picked by the museum for the entertainment of its donors.

The message goes on to say this show will be different in that the public will be asked to vote on the best picture of the show and the artist will then have a two week private exhibition later in the year.

If you’ve ever watched any of the art documentaries on PBS or similar channels you see stories about artists who have made it to the big time. These are artists with warehouse-sized studios, exhibitions in Paris, London, Rome, NYC and Tokyo, and whose work sells for five and six figures. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Just as there are only so many superstars in music or movies, there are just so many artists who move in those rarified circles. For every star who gets discovered, there are probably hundreds (if not more) of equally talented ones whose names will remain unknown. I guess that’s why art always has it patrons – whether it is a Renaissance Pope, wealthy burgermeister, or Wall Street financier.

So in looking to the new year, I am thinking I will focus on one line of small, representational pieces that might sell, and on a second line of large formats that probably won’t find a buyer but which I will enjoy doing. In both cases, I will put my emphasis on making/doing/being and let the marketing take care of itself – or not.

Check out another post on Creativity and Spirituality at http://sacredgate.wordpress.com.

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WordPress sent me a summary of activity on my writing and art blogs today which I found interesting. What did kind of annoy me was a statement which said I got more views last year than this year so I might consider returning to those topics which had attracted more readers.

This assumes that the reason I write the blogs is to develop a big readership or a following that will in some way lead to either fame or fortune (or am I reading between lines that aren’t there?). If popularity or profit was my goal I would have quit posting long ago.

Of all the many people who have signed up for my blogs only a handful ever hit the like button or leave a comment. For all I know – and suspect – no one is really out there. It’s all a virtual reality that really doesn’t exist. Readers sign up, visit a couple times and then disappear into the matrix to frequent other blogs that feature more interesting topics – like the ones I wrote about last year.

No, I don’t write for readers – as much as I value them – I write for the same reason I make art. I must or something inside will shrivel up and blow away. It doesn’t matter if what I write or paint is any good – although I hope it is – it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes or agrees with me – although I am always happy to learn others may share a similar sensibility.

So if I am doing art and writing just to please myself, why bother posting it on the internet? Because the blogs give me the sense of distance I need to appreciate the writing or art in a different environment. When I paint a picture I have a certain protective or fond relationship to it – until I put it in a frame and hang it on the wall. As soon as I do that, I no longer ‘own’ the picture; it must struggle to its feet without my help.

Similarly, when I read something I have just written I am often astonished by my profundity or style. After I have printed it out and let it sit for a few days to marinate, amazing transformations occur – and not always favorable ones. The time alone has allowed the essay or poem to come into its own – or not.

This Artist/Editor duality is a necessary one and must be kept strictly separate. If the Editor enters during the creative process, the innocence and spontaneity vanishes. If the Artist visits during editing, favoritism and mediocrity often result. It’s all a balancing act.

So in the coming year (do you also find it amazing that 2014 is already here?) I shall not strive to write anything interesting or paint for profit or popularity. Now that I’ve retired I have the luxury of pleasing myself and will not abdicate that responsibility.

I hope some of you will come along for the ride. I’ll try not to make a nuisance of myself and post too often. Meanwhile, best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!

The Bulgarian

“Write each of your poems
as if it were your last.
In this century, saturated with strontium,
charged with terrorism,
flying with supersonic speed,
death comes with terrifying suddenness.
Send each of your words
like a last letter before execution,
a call carved on a prison wall.
You have no right to lie,
no right to play pretty little games.
You simply won’t have time
to correct your mistakes.
Write each of your poems,
tersely, mercilessly,
with blood — as if it were your last.”

blaga dimitrovaBlaga Dimitrova (1922 – 2003) was a Bulgarian poet and Vice President of Bulgaria from 1992-93. . In the 1970’s her work became more critical of the communist government and she received reprimands for not being politically correct.

The sense of urgency, of fire, of life, resonates very deeply in this poem with its allusions to our contemporary world. Things seem to just get faster and faster, so fast, in fact, that the meaning of it all is skinned away by the friction of the journey. Here, the artist is given a manifesto, a laying bare of what the responsibilities of this life requires – total dedication and commitment to being alive and awake and caring; and, perhaps, in so doing, awake our brothers and sisters from the sleep of materialism. There is no second chance, no room for hesitation or the ego. Every step, every stroke, every word may be your last.

If you liked this post you might also enjoy http://sacredgate.wordpress.com.

Time to Bloom

morning gloryWhen I went outside today I was astonished to see one beautiful blue morning glory flower in bloom in a pot I had on the patio. I had never expected to see it – in fact, I had even planted another viney bush in the same pot – for I had planted a package of morning glory seeds in the spring two years ago.

The first year produced only a few thin spindly vines, so last spring I tried again but with much the same results. But now, in the waning days of Autumn, one lone vine has produced a bloom. Were the seeds perhaps from the southern hemisphere and therefore beating to a different solar drum than here in northern California?

I am delighted with this new resident at my home and closer examination has revealed a few other buds among the greenery. With the winter solstice only six or seven weeks away, plus the steadily decreasing night temperatures, I fear these sun-loving flowers will not long be here. I can but admire their spirited drive for life and expression regardless of the circumstances. There was no debate in their seedy minds, no weighing of consequences and outcomes, for blooming so late and so recklessly.

I will take it as an example to myself. Although there may be times and seasons more advantageous, there is no limit, no perimeter beyond which creativity and self-expression is wasted. Why wait for just the right moment, the ideal circumstance, the most propitious environment? In fact, the humble morning glory is proclaiming that now is the perfect time to create, the perfect time to bloom.

Divine Dissatisfaction

In the last two months I have desisted from writing and art – sometimes with ease and relief, sometimes with a restless chomping at the bit. I’m glad I did it. Sometimes I need to create a vacuum; I need to have a psychic and creative housecleaning in which everything is swept away and I am left facing empty walls without a crayon.

Part of my discontent arose from motivation. In both art and writing I had begun wondering why I was doing what I was doing. What was the meaning or purpose? Was it enough just to do it because I felt like it, and how much of that was ego-driven or commitment based? I was thinking too much and  second-guessing all my actions.

I turned my attention to other parts of my life and drew my bucket from other wells. I now feel more refreshed. I don’t know if I found any ‘answers’ but I did discover a lighter spirit and a desire to again present my insights, rhythms and perspectives.

In seeming support of this new chapter I came across a quote from Martha Graham when I attended a little get together on ‘found poetry’ (more of that at http://marietaylorink.com  blog in a few days) that spoke directly to the questions I had been pondering.  Plus, I discovered that Martha hailed from Allegheny, Pennsylvania, my neck of the eastern woods which, of course, gave even more credence to her pronouncement.

After reflecting on her words, I could no longer wait to share it and kick started the blogger. So, here is the big one for your contemplation.

Martha Graham 1947
Martha Graham
1947

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”

I was surprised and delighted by her statement “You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.” How freeing! It releases us from the thinking mind, the judging mind, the ego. In becoming a channel for the creative we turn the responsibility for the end result over to the Creative.

After a little more poking around I found a few other statements she made that I felt captured the creative spirit.

“There is a fatigue so great that the body cries, even in its sleep. There are times of complete frustration; there are daily small deaths.”

“We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.”

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.”

Thank you, Martha Graham, for sharing your gifts.

PS: I am using a new layout design for the blog and wonder if the dark background makes it too hard to read. What do you think?

 

95e39/huch/1887/27Martha Graham 1901 – 1991

Martha Graham was an American dancer and choreographer regarded as one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance, and is widely considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Graham invented a new language of movement, and used it to reveal the passion, the rage and the ecstasy common to human experience. 

She danced and choreographed for over seventy years, and during that time was the first dancer ever to perform at The White House, the first dancer ever to travel abroad as a cultural ambassador, and the first dancer ever to receive the highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom. In her lifetime she received honors ranging from the key to the City of Paris to Japan’s Imperial Order of the Precious Crown.

She said “I have spent all my life with dance and being a dancer. It’s permitting life to use you in a very intense way. Sometimes it is not pleasant. Sometimes it is fearful. But nevertheless it is inevitable.”

Wikipedia

Hiatus

Lately I have been feeling that I have said all I want to say and painted all the pictures I want to paint – for now. I need to air out the cupboards of my mind and create some emptiness so for the next two or more months I’m going to put the Marie Taylor Ink and Marie Taylor Art blogs on hold. I’ll check in some time in the fall. Meanwhile, thanks for all the reads and comments. Have a great summer! Marie

PLAY PERIOD

An_Artist_at_his_EaselEvery once in a while I pick up some art books at the library to get a new perspective or ideas about painting. It’s not necessarily a book on ink wash or oriental art; it might be a how-to book, a survey of an artist or art period, one on techniques or on mediums. I picked up a good one the other day – “The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook: Landscapes” by Gordon MacKenzie.

Ink wash and watercolors are similar in many ways although rice paper and watercolor paper are two different animals. MacKenzie’s book has lots of good information and tips on techniques that I can adapt to ink wash work but it was his comments on composition of a painting that hit just the right note with me today. He said: “Art is ‘me’ made visible. Growing from painter to artist is about honoring the child of the universe within who just wants to play.”

How true is that! Within my Box of Treasures that I will grab if the house ever catches on fire are two pictures. The first is of a zebra in finger paints done by my son Rob when he was about 5. The minimalist work shows a series of black lines only – no outline – suggesting a ‘horse-like’ body and head. How perceptive, for what is the most noticeable about a zebra if not its stripes.

The second was painted by my granddaughter Catherine at kindergarten and is a series of colorful ‘blobs’ swimming in a white sea. I think it is supposed to be tropical fish. It makes me happy just watching them swim.

Do you remember art class as a child? Part of the reason it was so much fun was because we never made a bad picture.

MacKenzie writes about our internal artistic dialogue…

“But I might make a mistake.”

“So what? You are probably the only one who knows or even cares. Do you really think that others are concerned with what you do on your pieces of paper? They’ve got their own pieces of paper to worry about. As for the critics who don’t even try- learning to ignore them is the kindest thing you can do for them.

Meanwhile, try to remember this:

  • You have always known how to compose pictures.
  • You did it as a child and you never forgot.
  • What you have lost is the memory and nerve to follow your instincts when making a picture.
  • What you have temporarily forgotten is how to play.
  • What you grew instead was an ego that demanded protection from embarrassment at all costs.

But it is time to take back command, responsibility and freedom for your compositions – because no one else will.”

Picasso said something similar about art and children when he said: Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

This is a good time to remind ourselves why we are creative. It is not to make money which is unlikely at best, and certainly not to be famous which requires a lot of good karma in addition to talent, or even to express our individuality in our journey of self-discovery. We are creative because it is fun – and because it is a lot more painful not to do it.

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forgot?”         Howard Ikemoto

 

Visit my other sites: http://marietaylorink.com and http://sacredgate.wordpress.com.