Sunday, January 4, 2009

Looking Back

Startling image, isn't it?  One of the things I became interested in in 2008 was vintage advertising imagery from the 1950s and 1960s.  This one led me to thinking about some of the art goals, large and small, I worked on last year.

My most ambitious goal was to mount a show of at our local library.  I was sweaty-palmed about the idea, but  also determined.  I submitted several paintings for review and was accepted.  Elation was followed by real concern.  Many works needed framing, which is costly. The show covered ten years of my work, so the paintings varied in size, medium, and content. Would the exhibit look amateurish?  Then there was the issue of the cable television interview. Would I sound foolish? In the end the whole experience was positive.  I wrote an artist statement, evaluated what I saw as being my best work.  The interviewer, a sympathetic woman, has since become a friend.  Written and verbal feedback from the show was positive, and people apparently enjoyed the variety.  I even sold one painting.

I entered several group exhibits sponsored by the Wisconsin Regional Artists program.  This fine program, run by the University of Wisconsin around the entire state encourages nonprofessional artists to show their work and be critiqued.  A few pieces from each show are eligible for a state exhibition in Madison each year.  I entered large watercolors in several shows and was initially frustrated at not winning awards.  The paintings I did last winter were among my favorites ever.  But eventually one was chosen, and was recognized at the state level. I relearned what I already knew, that one has to create artwork for oneself, and not invest too much psychic energy into receiving kudos from other people.  Still, it felt good when one of my paintings was recognized.  

I entered a plein air painting event in Beloit, worked outside during a week of winds and storms that eventually led to terrible local flooding.  But I met new people, rose to challenges, and eventually sold a painting.  

I learned to cut simple mats, and I began to frame my smaller work.  It still costs money, but I can make my little mixed media pieces more affordable by doing my own framing.  

I put my work into other venues.  A local coffee shop has had several pieces since June.  I also have watercolors and mixed media pieces in a local gallery.  While having my art in public places feels good, no work has sold.  Nobody has come up and mentioned seeing my art in these public spaces.  On the other hand, fewer pieces are resting along the baseboard of my office, or in the attic.  

I gave a few framed pieces of my artwork to friends.  This actually took as much nerve as putting paintings in the library show.  Would these people like, appreciate, an original piece of art?  Would they be too embarrassed to say that it wasn't their style?  

I continued to post my artwork online on this blog and on Flickr for an audience of people I have never met.  This is the place where I have gotten the most feedback and support.  People are endlessly kind and helpful in their comments, and for that I am grateful.

I attended classes.  There was one in watercolor techniques, one in colored-pencil, and one that utilized mixed media collage.  I remember telling a non-artist friend about a class I had signed up for, and she asked me why I was doing that.  Didn't I already know how to draw and paint? Apart from the fact that none of us ever knows everything there is to know, or has developed our skills to a level that we are satisfied with, I take classes to hang out with other artists.  I'm inspired by other people's work, their philosophies, their energy.  But increasingly I am beginning to feel that my time and money needs to go into making my own art, creating my own projects, deciding my own goals.  The time spent in packing up materials, listening to other people, driving to and from classes, might be spent more profitably in working on my own sketchbooks, reading my own books and magazines.  And yet it feels important to me to get out of my own space, my own head, my own rut.  I'm still not sure to what extent classes will figure into my upcoming year.

I read books and magazines related to art that informed and inspired me.  I enjoyed books by John Ruskin, Winston Churchill, and a host of contemporary artists who made me want to keep going, try new things.  But as in classwork, sometimes it occurred to me that I could read about art, or I could do it.  Sometimes reading is just an excuse not to take action.

I made art.  I worked in several sketchbooks, and became less nervous about letting other people watching me work.  I painted in watercolor, acrylic, and even a little bit in oil.  I experimented with collage and mixed media, and discovered that I love this approach.  

As for resolutions, I'm still thinking.  I want to try creating some series, perhaps in a small format. While small pieces are pretty much lost in group shows, they are relatively affordable to frame and to buy.  If I do, say, twenty small pieces that are all the same size and framed in a similar way, I'm thinking they will have a bigger visual impact than a similar grouping in various sizes and framing.  I'm not making any promises about settling into one medium, but at least small art won't be too hard to store. 


Carolyn said...

You really did a lot in 2008 and it is such an inspiration!

A Brush with Color said...

Good for you, Sherry! I'm impressed with how you described jumping into the show you did. And congratulations on your success! How wonderful! Thank you for reading my blog and jotting me a note. I also love the sound of that Harvey Wallbanger cake. Yum! I might have to try that sometime! thanks for the recipe! Happy New Year to you!

Ann said...

Wow - that was a lot of accomplishments in 2008! Your idea of working in a series is very appealing for all the reasons your stated - and that's what I was thinking for 2009 also. I'll be looking forward to following your progress this year!

Sharon said...

You really did have a very good art year! I like your idea of a series and have been thinking of that also for my (ahem...) my "winter art" project.

I always enjoy reading your blog posts, although I don't always comment. I bet you were a great teacher, Sherry ...thoughtful and analytical. My sister-in-law, who visited last week, owns an art gallery in TN. and shared a lot of information about what sells/what doesn't (at least in her gallery), what she looks for in the art she features. We had many interesting conversations...