Work in progress - pear collage
The weather here in southern Wisconsin has been typical winter fare, snowy, overcast, chilly. Luckily for us the snow has been manageable, the cold not too severe. Still, these are days I am happiest inside, working on art projects, reading, watching movies. Ah, retirement! This pear collage is coming along, though I still want to smooth out the color transitions, add some shadows, and perhaps some sparks of complimentary color to make the image pop more. I keep getting distracted by my sketchbooks (I've been doodling like crazy), and by art catalogs, both the kind with materials (wouldn't more sketchbooks and Micron pens be nice?) and the ones advertising workshops. I keep dreaming about spending a week painting with someone whose work I admire, in a place that fires my imagination. Would the expenditure be worth the time and cash spent? Can I convince my husband to come along and keep me company? Then there is a local contest, design a logo for a series of adventure activities in a neighboring city. Do I want to invest time in that?
I had an interesting experience last week. A reporter and photographer from the local newspaper came over and interviewed me for an upcoming series on local artists. As you might imagine, I had ambivalent feelings. I was flattered, and I think the publicity could not hurt my chances of selling one or two paintings or collages locally. On the other hand, I wonder how interesting what I do is to the casual reader. I worry that I might have said something that could alienate other local artists (I hope not), or at least be misinterpreted. I worry about how I will look (think drivers license photo). I enjoyed talking to both the reporter and the photographer, though the latter surprised me when he asked if I made a living selling my art. I couldn't help laughing, and told him that no, I couldn't begin to pay my bills with what I sell, that I thought of myself as non-professional. I paint and make collages because it interests me, because it is what I always wanted more time to do, because I like associating with creative people.
I've been thinking about that. I have paintings in a local gallery, and regularly put my work in shows sponsored by our local art league and by the Wisconsin Regional Artists Association. WRAP is a program run by the UW Extension, and has as its goal the education and promotion of nonprofessional artists in Wisconsin. That term, nonprofessional, is open to individual interpretation. My take on it is the a nonprofessional makes art for the love of it, and does not make a living selling, or teaching, art. A nonprofessional might sell some work and rise cash for materials or classes, but doesn't depend upon that income. I was startled the other day to see a press release for a WRAP show that used the word hobby in its description of the participants, and found my attitude bristling. I don't think of myself as a hobby painter, though the dictionary definition of the word fits: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation, not as a main occupation. Still, the connotation of the word doesn't reflect how seriously I take my art. I put a whole lot more heart into painting than I do doll collecting, which is a hobby for me. The word amateur seems more acceptable, though the definition is similar: a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons, or a person who admires something; devotee. That suggests something closer to what I do.
As a national dialog this week suggests, words matter, and they can shape attitudes in subtle, and not-so-subtle ways.