Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Finally, the Feeling Series has begun again

My Feeling Series painting was started in 1994 but my idea to do paintings that depicted emotions came many years before that. I knew, when I first had the idea, that I was not up to the project. It took at least 15 years, a couple of years in art schools, several years of therapy and at least 10 years without alcohol and drugs in my system before I was emotionally ready to begin work on these canvases.

This is the first painting, called "Anger" which took the better part of a year to paint. These paintings are not intended to be universal; they are my emotions, and many symbols and images are from my dreams, my thoughts and feelings.

This one is "Fear". It has many references to death and various fears I have and presaged, in a very spooky way, the life altering event that came to me unexpectedly when we lost our entire retirement savings.
That event caused our unplanned move to Florida where we owned a home. I went to Rhode Island to close my gallery and studio, sell most of our furniture, art supplies, and a huge amount of stuff, while frantically finishing the Fear painting, which I knew I could never duplicate anywhere else. The rest of the series may be seen on my website: http://www.gainor.biz/index_files/feelingseries.htm

I was unaware that I was going to have to start over in Florida and it proved to be demoralizing, as well as massively confusing. I had not worked for anyone else since 1977! I had to find work, my husband began to have serious health problems, and the lightning bolt hit me before I knew what had happened. It has been seven years. I could find work, and I could teach painting, but things were so different here. In Rhode Island I could easily fill a 5-day painting workshop. Here, they laughed at me if I suggested a painting class to be more than 2 or 3 hours.

The big derailment was the Feeling Series. The sheer size of them was daunting in my 10 x 12 spare bedroom studio. I used to work on them for 8 to 12 hours at a stretch, for weeks at a time. Now having time to paint for a whole day was not possible. Ever. How could I find the focus again? I worked for a brief time in a dreadful place that operated on shame. It brought up so many feelings and I thought "now is the time to start the Feeling Series again." I all ready knew what imagery I was going to use for the Shame Painting. So it got set up in this tiny studio 3 years ago! It has been mocking and shaming me every time I go in and out of my studio, seeing it there, ready to go, the canvas blank and turned against the wall.

On January 1st I made several resolutions. One was to either start the next Feeling Series painting or close the series at 7 paintings. I originally planned 12. It has been a daily affair of meditation, invocations, talks to myself, and talks with trusted friends and confidants, and finally the leap off the cliff happened last Sunday. It was exhausting. I not worked on a 48 x 36 inch canvas for a long time. My arm and shoulder hurt from reaching. My back hurts all the time anyway, but after lowering and raising the canvas numerous times it hurt much worse. I wanted to sit, but the energy needed me to stand.

It has begun...finally. I know I am up to the technical aspects of the painting; you don't forget those things. But I worry about the focus, the energy level, the commitment of time, and how to finagle my life around such limited resources of time and money. At one time I considered applying for a grant to finish these paintings, but was afraid that on the outside chance I got one I didn't know for sure I could fulfill the commitment. I am still not sure I can fulfill the commitment, but at least I don't have to pay back a grant!

So...one day at a time I will continue to wrestle with Shame. Check back for reports. I hope there will be reports, because that will mean there will be some progress.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Art Supplies Addiction

Two blogs I read every day both had Art Supplies as their topics. More specifically, the over acquisition of art materials and the proliferation of art supplies most of us won't use, and worse won't throw out. Feathers of Hope, by my friend and cousin "Pica" and her partner, "Numenius" is accessed at www.magpienest.org/feathersofhope/ .The other blog is called Making a Mark, by British artist Katherine Tyrrell, and her extensive blog and website are wonderful reads. http://makingamark.blogspot.com/

Both bloggers mention disastrous economics that are affecting most of us in the US and evidently it has hit the UK as well. In financial bad times we are looking at budgets, spending habits, and trying to determine what we can afford to do without. I know I am doing all that on a daily basis. And the art supplies spending has seriously been curtailed. Pica, in her blog entry today, said that she managed to skip going into an art store during a recent trip to Berkeley. The compulsive trip to the art supply store always leads to at least one compulsive expenditure of something that I can rationalize at the time, and then wonder why I bought it when I discover enough similar items to last me for the rest of my life an hour later when I get home.

I can not offer any concrete suggestions on how to curtail the compulsion to buy art stuff. I do fairly well with the art books these days, but my downfall are brushes and my current obsession with pigments. I do not need any more brushes, but I'll throw in a few, just in case, when I am ordering online, and I can not pass the brush aisle in the stores and I always seem to find something for a great price that I can not live without. I have yet to discover the "perfect brush".

Pigments are fortunately fairly inexpensive and I justify buying them for this reason, and am always shocked when those "inexpensive" pigments I want add up to a hefty sum, minus the shipping. At the present time I have enough pigments on hand to last me for years, as well as brushes, gesso panels, oil paints, canvas, watercolors, more brushes, drawing supplies and papers, and printmaking papers, acrylics, fabric paint, markers, mat boards and frame supplies, and even boxes of colored pencils which I have not used in years. Not to mention the drafting supplies, stretcher strips, rolls of canvas and unprimed linen, bags of rabbit skin glue, jars, plastic containers, props for paintings, fabrics in many colors and textures, and various chairs, drafting tables, and other flotsam that takes up space but is not very practical, like the antique sewing table that belonged to my grandmother, that has drawers with pulls that are missing where I have to wrestle opening the drawers that contain my tubes of oil paint. "Why," I asked myself the other day, "do you have to keep this relic?", but I do. I finally managed to pass along the box of sculpture tools and oil based clay that I had brought with me when I moved to Florida even though I knew I would probably never do sculpture again.

I shudder to think how much all this has cost me over the years!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

More on Jurying Art Shows

I have a suggestion for Art Leagues. When they are looking for a juror or judge for their upcoming show they should formalize the search by having a selection committee that collects portfolios of the several candidates and their work should be reviewed and then the juror should be selected by the same process that the juror will ultimately judge the work of the members of the group. All's fair...etc.!

It would level the playing field a bit, right?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Art Competitions

I have never been comfortable with the idea of artists competing against each other. I try to avoid doing it as often as I can. Most of the art groups I have been a member of seem to thrive on this type of show, hiring a juror to give out awards and cash prizes. Some artists I know thrive on the competition and the boost it gives to their ego and morale but I find it depressing. And I am not talking about my own work being overlooked; I learned to develop a very thick skin about this type of thing a long time ago. In fact I had to unofficially act as a juror for one art club when the selected juror couldn't come, and was forced to select a unified show which necessitated throwing out my own work! Go figure that one! My work didn't look very good next to 35 or 40 blonde (or bland) paintings.

I find it depressing because it means nothing and so much seems to be hanging on the silly premise that one painting merits a ribbon or award more than another. I have been the recipient of these awards and was totally demoralized when the juror gave one of my minor monotypes an award and totally ignored one of my major paintings, that, in my opinion, was far superior to the one that got the ribbon. I chuck these ribbons in a drawer or the trash and try not to advertise myself as an "award winning artist". But the art world is rampant with this kind of fake self-serving adulation and both artists and galleries seem to think getting an award is some kind of criteria of worth. The truth is that if you enter a lot of shows the laws of averages will eventually catch up with you and ribbons will come your way.

I have been a juror too....anything for money, although I feel that I should decline when asked to jury a show, but I might as well get the money as someone else. It is so subjective, and the last show I judged was so difficult since they separated categories and all watercolors were grouped together and the winners were given prizes by default since there were only a few entries! Some of the categories clearly had a "winner"; a painting that really stood out ahead of the others. But I was told to give 4 awards in each category so there were many paintings that received awards that I normally would not have looked at twice. Picking between two really bad works of art is especially hard, and sometimes the deciding factor was the matte and frame! What a shame.

How can you pick a "best in show" when there are 50 or 60 paintings, ranging from abstract to super realism, watercolor and mixed media, photography, and collage? In the end it becomes the painting you like the best. It means nothing, for another judge will pick something else, and 50 or 60 judges may pick 50 or 60 different works in the same show. I seldom see a show that has such an outstanding painting everyone agrees it is the best one of the lot.

One art club that hired me to be a juror thought that it would be fairer to have two people doing the judging, but what they didn't know was that we had to constantly negotiate with each other about which painting would get the awards....I get my pick, then she got hers. (And I was very annoyed at her picks and the criteria she used for judging the works were silly, in my opinion.) Fair? It didn't made any difference, and when she left early I got to select my own picks anyway.

I feel somewhat differently about the selection of works that will be in a show. There are so many feet of wall space in the gallery and a juror will often be hired to select a show that has a "look" to it, or theme, or coordinate the paintings in a cohesive way. This is different from the attempt to select an artwork of merit. I am reminded of one of my favorite authors who submitted a manuscript to publishers 900 times before someone published the best selling book he wrote!

I say to myself every time that I'm not going to support this system any more, but wind up doing it over and over anyway. I know it means nothing. It would be so nice if our business was like horseracing, or triathlons....the clear winner comes over the finish line first...but wait a minute. What about that horse that had a shot of dope before the race? Is that fair? Did that horse win honestly? The athletes who need teams of medical doctors, psychiatrists, managers, and lawyers to get ahead....hummm. Maybe I'll stick to this art competition thing. At least I have not heard yet of the juror being paid off...not yet at any rate.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I confess to a kind of obsession with storms, especially hurricanes. I love painting storms...all those dark clouds look so ominous and threatening. I have been in many hurricanes, living along the shoreline of Connecticut introduced to me to some very scary times starting in 1954 when Carol did a huge amount of damage to the island where I lived and wrecked my boat which was my pride and joy at the time. We thought it was over when the eye passed over us and we all went out to investigate and got caught out in it when the eye ended and we were nearly swept away trying to get back to the house. Memories like that never fade!

One of the big advantages of the Elmira College Show is that 48 of my paintings are out of Florida at least for part of the hurricane season and this is a big plus. I keep most of them in a steel and cinder block storage building during most of the year, as it is impractical to have them in my small house. Our "manufactured home" (Florida vernacular for mobile home) is very vulnerable and for half the year I am constantly conscious that any one of those tropical messes is a potential disaster for us, or at least a major inconvenience due mandatory evacuation which for us, is to a special needs shelter that provides electricity for oxygen machines.

In 2004 we had to evacuate 3 times for Charley, Frances and Jeanne. Charley was forecast to track straight up Tampa Bay and head directly for us, so we decided to leave for safer parts and went to visit friends in the middle of the state. (This was prior to the oxygen machines). Sebring is quite a distance from either coast, and about two hours from where we live, and we figured we would be safe as well as have some fun visiting with old friends. Before we left I quickly assembled all the photograph albums, my computer and enough art supplies to work on a watercolor of a hastily chosen sunset photograph I took shortly after we moved here.

The irony of that trip was that Charley took a left turn well south of Tampa Bay and headed directly across Florida and we were right in the path of this very intense but quite small hurricane. It left a path of destruction from Port Charlotte through Sebring, and on to Lake Wales, Orlando and Daytona and on out into the Atlantic where it finally blew itself out.

While Charley was tearing up the state I calmed my nerves by working on my little watercolor which I entitled "Wildsky". The title fit very well both the painting and the situation! A few weeks later the next storm started tracking toward us and so I gathered up a new sky photograph and the art supplies and headed for a brick home of a friend in Dade City, about 10 miles from us. It was too exhausting trying to deal with a two hour trek to Sebring and deal with a terrible trip home which was anything but fun! So the next two hurricanes, Jeanne and Frances were spent closer to home and produced "Wildsky II" and "Wildsky III". I sold the series at my retrospective the following September.

For those two evacuations I had gained some experience and fitted myself out with a light that was mounted on a headband so I could have hands free and light for my painting. I also found a nifty battery powered small fan which not only kept me cool but helped dry the watercolor. This high tech portable studio was invaluable in keeping me emotionally intact during these storms which were not quite hurricane force by the time they reached us.

I wonder if I can produce a painting at the special needs shelter if we have to depart hastily for such an unpleasant occurance.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Photographs of the Show

Here are a couple of pictures of how the gallery looked just before my opening. It is a lovely gallery with a spectacular floor and lots of spotlights that made picture taking a bit tricky. My photos are not wonderful, and the work seems kind of puny in the photos, but you get the idea of how they were arranged and it was a pretty wild array of color when you walked in the door. I really liked the rolling panels. I built similar panels for my gallery in Westerly and they are really useful. Here they were used to show my drawings with an arrangement on each side and placing them in the middle of the floor didn't block the view so much as invite you to investigate further. I did not have the drawings in frames but used the corner clips that sandwiched the matte, backing and a piece of plastic over it. It was fairly satisfactory and they were very light which was my aim in view of the price of shipping 48 paintings and 17 drawings. 5 paintings and 2 drawings were sold at the opening!

The show will be hanging until the beginning of September and is open during the summer by appointment. Contact me if you want to arrange to see the show and I'll get you phone numbers and contacts.