So for those of you late to the party, I stopped painting (which is currently my true seriously excited passion!) and changed hats around September 1st of this year. Reasons being: I inherited 4 massive UHAUL boxes of jewelry components from someone who passed away, I designed jewelry for over ten years, stopped so I could work on painting, but have been asked over and over again to make more jewelry. I kept saying “yeah, yeah, yeah” with no serious intent, but after inheriting someone’s life long passion, I sort of felt a responsibility not to let this persons things rot in my basement along with my own most-likely-6-UHAUL-boxes worth of jewelry components.
I mention this, because in speaking with other artists it’s always on our minds. Do you create what you want which most likely has no customer or do you create what others would like from you in order to have any type of economic viability in this society?
It’s a tough question and it breaks my heart. For instance, my new print making teacher submitted one of her own prints into this art exhibit. The print was beautiful and she actually won an award for it. However, she walks into the show with a bunch of tiny reproductions of her work with the assumption that no one will actually buy the gorgeous hand-made print, but they’ll buy a $15 notecard reproduction if she’s lucky.
How does this affect the psyche of an artist?
I’ll tell you, it makes a lot of artists hold back. One amazing etching may take an artist 40 hours to complete. What is the dollar value of that many hours devoted to anything? It’s hard to take up the cause of “artist” when there’s no one to buy the work to help you pay your rent.
My question is can people really not afford it or do we have an instant gratification / throw-away society that wouldn’t value art enough to buy it even if they could afford it? Do people somehow find the money for the new phone, TV, dinner out, new garb and a vacation to a tropical island? Were generations before us taught to appreciate and value art and now – not so much? or am I just hanging out with a bunch of paranoid and insecure artists? …..which is it?
I know this question isn’t new. Van Gogh and his contemporaries were completely undervalued in their society and only functioned and produced art by the graces of those who paid for their existence. In Van Gogh’s case he had a loving brother who paid his bills so that his brother could paint instead of work in a factory.
I just finished reading a biography about the artist and home décor guru William Morris.
He wrote poetry and many books on this subject. His major complaint of the 1860’s was that the artisans of his time could only create for the rich, for it was only the affluent that could afford the artwork. How could William Morris get his artwork into the hands of the working class? He began to design furniture, fabric and wall paper to contribute to a beautiful aesthetic in the every day home. The only kicker, was the more successful he became, the higher the prices for his everyday items. Thus in the long run, the market excluded his target audience, the every day middle class person. So here’s a thought, in the olden days the middle class copied the wealthy. You tried to look like something you deemed you wanted to be. Maybe in modern days, the middle class feels secure enough in themselves to not want to copy the homes of the rich. Thus no need to invest in art…
Why am I going on and on???
Well I am sitting here, working my tail off to make smaller ticket items. I am making pottery pieces, mini etchings and jewelry so that I can actually create things at a low enough price point that people might actually buy them. There is joy in this, because I actually get to see my artistic endeavors in the hands of others. On a soul level, connecting with other people and creating something that makes people happy – feels really good.
But there’s another side of my soul. This side wants to go deep within itself and use its imagination and call for freedom in a way that society doesn’t really want to support. For me I want to work on 6 foot canvases and spend 40 hours on one piece that I work and work until my soul deems it to be complete.
When I’m done, no one may want this thing I created. That creates a feeling of no-value. There’s no connecting with people and sharing something that might make them happy. Where do you go with that? Into the basement? My basement is getting full.
How do you pay your rent when your soul 100% tells you it wants to be an artist?
Come January 1st, I am going to drop all of the things that I am working on and I am going to dive head first into my pool of paints. It’s a little scary. From a societal perspective I worry. Will the world treat me like a frivolity? When I come out of my little spiritual bubble toting what I assume will be fairly strange canvases will they have a place in this world or will they become yet another layer of my basement?
I don’t know.
Luckily I have enough courage to tell my thoughts to shove it and go take a hike… but there’s still a small essence of creeping doubt… why bother? who cares?
Oh pardon me… was I ranting again? You know you give someone a blog where they can sit all by themselves and write and somehow it winds up sounding like a personal journal… Bobby Smith is sooo cute will he ever like me??? … yeah…to be continued… ;)
Here are the layers of the painting:
The Portal – Acrylic and charcoal on Canvas 4 ft x 4 ft
This spring and summer were my first ever attempts at abstract painting. Some really weird pieces came out. REALLY WEIRD!
Above was one of the last before I stopped painting. Besides the strange portal in the painting, (which I love I’m not even sure how that got there!) There are some really pretty painterly elements.
The colors are soft yet really bright and exciting. Your eye moves throughout the canvas, there’s tons of texture. There are definitely aspects that work. I think when I take up painting again in the new year I will take a lot from this painting. It’s a direction I can see my painting going towards. I think the landscape genre lends itself nicely to my mark-making and I like the small elements of human cultures. Maybe bridges, more ladders, buildings and transportation vessels??? It should be a great stepping off point.
OK. Time to switch hats again. I have spent this week in the print shop and the pottery studio. I should have a lot of work coming out in the next few weeks and I do love to share it! So, thanks for watching and listening. Really –Thank you!
Thanks for the rant, Mary… I totally hear you. I loved your show at the courthouse. Don’t stop.Sally Olsen
then again, the necklace you wore today blew my mind !!
what’s a #%$ incredibly creative gemini to do ??? !! ??? !!!
p.s. i love the painting, especially the white ladder !!
It’s a lot of times difficult to do what makes you happy. End of sentence.
Maybe do a little of the box office stuff and do the painting on and off.
There are very few people who get to do their well filling joy producing activities ALL the time.
Also: the more yoga you do the more you will have joy for no reason and will find joy in everything including traffic jams and nasty people. Remember, little girl, you’r not your job.
That is so well said. I forget to get outside my bubble :) I’ve got it amazingly good! Way too often I feel like Chicken Little – “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Really it’s not and I have to get back to “joy for no reason”. I struggle with that. Well said. ….ughh… now how do I carve out time for yoga???? xxoo :)
I love the painting Mary. Sometimes I think we put too much pressure on ourselves expecting our art to pay for our living. Just make that big painting for you. Have you read Big Magic yet? So much wisdom in there from Elizabeth Gilbert.
Oh man… I’ve really been suffering from my own mind lately. Thank you for the book recommendation. I’m going to go find it today!
How is this for strange synchronicity? I was listening to NPR a month ago and someone mentioned the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. So I went to my library and requested it. It wasn’t available, so my request was put on hold. Of course fast forward a month and I totally forgot about it. Until today when I took your advice and requested the same book from the library again! -Guess I’m meant to read the book… If my library request ever comes through!
I find your blog extremely expiring:)
Tell me… Where do you find the time to fit everything in?!
Gosh lady, you have some drive!!!
Keep up the great art!
From a clay lover!
Wow. What a comment THANK YOU! Ya see, I need to come in contact with people in the outside world more often because from my perspective I don’t ever get enough time to fit everything in! I think my drive comes from not making art for a decade while being home with my kids. Being inactive led me to really soul search to figure out what I wanted to “be” and ultimately that’s an artist! Now I have a decade to make up for and a will to experience as much as I can while still on this stinking planet! ;) Thank you Clay Lover!
i’m gonna traCK DOWN THE BOOK …..BIG MAGIC !!
THANKS FOR CONNECTING ;-)
maybe we could start a little book club in January and read it together!
For the record I know first hand that you were not “inactive” while raising kids, personally nor artistically.