Studio Sign for a Reminder
As a reminder, this sign is posted on my studio wall visible just beyond my easel; it has been there for months. Then several weeks ago, a friend of my husband's walked in an wanted to know what it meant - what did yelling have to do with art? Ever since then, Bob has been checking on my paintings to see if my "50 foot voice" is evident - which I think is pretty cool and I need that kind of support. Since Bob is a regular contributor to my monthly newsletter, read past newsletters by clicking here, he decided to write about it in his article for the month of July. I have copied it below.
Where is Your Fifty-Foot Voice? by Bob North, Husband of the Artist
"There is a sign in Carol's studio that says "where is your fifty foot voice?" No, she's not practicing for American Idol, and this doesn't mean vocal projection or being heard at the back of the lecture hall.
It's all about the visual dimension, creating art that grabs your attention and starts speaking to the heart and the mind even before you can see the brushstrokes on the canvas. At a distance, a painting is the sum of all the individual parts the human eye can't resolve. How does the artist create this sense of voice at a distance? Carol's recent use of the "window" - creating a sense of multiple paintings on one canvas - is one way.
The window creates an immediate sense of intrigue and mystery that asks you questions. What's going on in the painting? How are the windowed segments related to the rest of the composition? Color is another means of getting your attention across the room. It's not just bright and vibrant hues, but combinations, contrasts and color harmony. You see much of this in her featured painting here, Breaking Free!.
Finally, it's a sense of depth that can compel you to walk up to the painting and see where a path leads. That also happens with Breaking Free! when I want to go peek out that window at the landscape to catch a glimpse of who escaped. Oops! You may interpret the painting differently..? We'll see a lot more of this effect in Carol's work soon and I will be making sure her 50 foot voice continues to show up."
Do you ever look at your work and ask yourself this question? Or how about, what am I trying to say? Why am I trying to say it?Comment on or Share this Article →
"Swinging in the WInd" 20x15 pastel
Recently, I received a wonderful gift in the mail from a friend and fan of mine. Unbeknown to me, he had written a story poem inspired by my painting "Swinging in the Wind," and sent it to me. As the recipient, I was humbled by his words - in fact I was moved to tears. Why?
When one of my images strikes another person's emotional or spiritual chord, my heart is rewarded. In this world of sound bites and texting, knowing that a visual creation can cause someone to pause and reflect, is deeply satisfying. Making connections with our fellow humans is vital to humanity, our creativity, and is inspiring. Below is David's writing.
Memories: The Swing
by David Quammen (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
The climb up the hill was considerably more strenuous than it had been those many decades ago. As Jim neared the crest of the hill he could see the tree. His tree, or at least, in those years he thought of it as his tree. Another step toward the crest and he saw the branch of the tree on which the rope had been tied. One more step and the rope came into view.
His heartbeat, more noticeable as a result of the climb, calmed a bit when the swing came into view.
Reaching the crest, Jim approached the swing. Happy to see that it was still there.
Seeing the swing, being gently swayed by the Colorado breeze, flooded his mind with those long ago dreams and fantasies from his childhood.
As Jim neared the swing he noticed the rope was in good shape. Perhaps someone replaced the old rope.
Others must have used the swing. The old rope would have rotted over the years.
Jim's memory recalled the name 'Goodrich' which had been on the tire casing. On examination he found this was the original tire.
Pushing on the tire, it swung with ease. Would it hold him? Could he still sit in the tire?
With the weight of his body he pulled down on the tire. The branch bent, but did not appear to be overly stressed. Jim pulled as hard as he could downward. He thought the swing would hold his weight.
Knowing this would be his last trip to see this hallowed place of his childhood, he decided to take the risk and sit in the swing.
Carefully he put his head through the center of the tire, turned his body and clasping the top of the tire and rope, pulled himself up to where he could sit in the tire facing the valley below.
As he settled his body in the swing, the memory vault of his mind sprang open. Suddenly he was a child again. It was a summer day and he was swinging back and forth gazing into the valley below and the horizon beyond the mountain peaks.
A child's mind can instantly create thought and fantasies.
In the days of his youth Jim would think of the future. At times he would look deep into the valley, perhaps in search of pitfalls which may come his way.
Gazing, even staring at times, into the endless horizon beyond the mountain tops often brought to him a sense of hope, inspiration and belief that he could accomplish his goals, many of them yet to be revealed.
Then, as quickly as his earlier life had come to mind, he returned to the present.
With this change came thoughts of uncertainty for the future. Jim was old, days are numbered.
One more gently swing, then with his feet on the ground, removed his body from the swing.
With an affectionate touch to the tire, he released his hold, turned his back and began the walk to his car. As he began the descent he was compelled to look, once more, at this childhood scene burned deep in his heart.
The swing, swaying ever so lightly, again waiting patiently for the next child to ride the wind - and Dream.
Reflections of yesteryear accompanied Jim as he slowly made his way down hill to his car.
The long planned visit was over. A slow smile came across his face. For a brief period of time he had been returned to his days of youth.
Has a painting ever moved you to writing a response? Or has anyone written or composed music inspired by one of your creations?Comment on or Share this Article →
Various art magazines I have read over the years
Yesterday, I was quietly reading through a current art magazine while eating alone in a cozy delicatessen, and a stranger comes up and asks me, "Is that Southwest Art?" I responded affirmative, and then she inquired, "Do you think artists should paint to sell or paint what they want to paint?"
Dumbfounded by this question, it got me wondering how a simple art magazine could motivate someone to approach me and ask one of those questions that will haunt artists for eternity. After we both admitted that we were painters, she then mentioned that she thought SW Art was a good place to learn about what was selling in the marketplace. I had to admit, that that was not why I was reading the magazine.
After she left to attend to her sandwich, I had to reflect upon my reasons for continuing to allow art magazines to fill up my mail box. What are your reasons? Here are some of mine:
- To keep informed of what other artists are creating
- To read the life stories of other artists, their motivations, etc.
- To read the words that writers and artists use in describing their work
- For inspiration
- For color ideas
- For researching potential galleries
- To find out about exhibitions to attend as well as to apply
- To learn how artists are using the Internet and social media
- To learn about various art business topics
- To attempt to stay current on various topics
Earlier in my career, I subscribed to artist magazines that were important for learning technical tips, such as:
- Preparing the substrate for a particular medium (watercolor, pastel, oil, etc.)
- Picking up application tips
- Studio information
- Instruction for specific subject matter, such as water, clouds, trees, etc.
- Juried shows
- Art organizations
- Art supplies
- Etcetera, etcetera,
Having a variety of magazines has been important to me, be it one that focuses on a region of the country or on collectors or techniques or trends or business topics. I always glean something, even if it is just a quick scan.
Other reasons I peruse art magazines:
- To evaluate my artwork in comparison to others
- To follow other artists
- To learn how I might be a featured artist in the future
- To attract fellow artists to talk to me in a restaurant...??
What would you add to the list? Why to art magazines pile up in your studio/office? :) I am sure I have missed several other reasons. Are there non-art magazines that you find helpful/interesting? Why do non-artists read these magazines?
P.S. By the way, I did give her my opinion on what should motivate an artist to paint, but I will leave that for a later discussion.Comment on or Share this Article →
Last week I learned that my older, and only, sister is in the fourth stage of liver cancer (the survival rate of liver cancer is extremely low). This was unexpected news. Meanwhile, I had been in an intense stage of painting, creativity, challenging myself with my visual message, pushing my skills, writing, increasing my visibility on the Internet, re-designing my blog, etc. In other words, I was humming along in my world, but a STOP SIGN popped up suddenly, and I was in an emotional fog. These events happen to all of us unexpectedly. How do we artists continue during these times? Can you paint? Be creative?
Pardon a detour: Why am I telling this story? Because I am inspired by Brene Brown's words I watched last Friday, in a TED video, entitled, "Embracing Vulnerability," (a 20 minute video I strongly recommend.) During her talk, she states, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love." My interpretation - to be a whole and effective artist/person, I needed to be vulnerable. Pretending or denying my sister's illness would not be emotionally healthy. Hence, I decided I would accept her challenge and allow myself to be vulnerable about my grieving process and to share what I have learned regarding creativity/artmaking when an emotional crisis crosses my path.
I could not paint. Nada, nothing would flow. There are 3 paintings at critical stages, and I could not figure out where or what to paint on any of them. I even tried switching the paintings on my easel, but nothing stirred and I was frustrated.
Knowing that I have a business to run, a job, just as I did when I worked for a corporation and I knew I had to keep working. Important decision making is difficult, so I have been doing things such as: cleaning, sorting, signing & varnishing paintings, updating my data bases, cleaning, painting edges of wrapped canvases, tossing, cleaning, prepping canvases, re-arranging the studio, etc., and researching liver cancer.
All of these tasks allowed me to feel my sadness and deep sense of helplessness, for the tears to flow and to take longer walks with my dog. After a couple of days, I was compassionate with myself and stopped expecting any meaningful creativity. These were not activities of denial, but non-brain tasks that permitted me to still think about my sister, our relationship and her adult children (and to make phone calls) and wallow in my emotional fog. However, I missed a lot of other events during this time - such as sending out Valentine's cards, not listening well to my husband, poor concentration, eating too much chocolate - but I believe that being vulnerable was and is necessary. To help with the processing of my sister's pending death (her health otherwise is not good which adds to the poor prognosis), I am going to collect photos of her and create a montage celebrating her life. I know this will be cathartic for me and her children may like it as well.
What happens to your creativity and artmaking when an emotional crisis comes into your life? Some artists paint or create about these emotions, but that has never been satisfying for me. Is it for you? Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable during these times of emotional upheavel?Comment on or Share this Article →
Have you ever experienced workshop or conference overload? Remember returning home after an invigorating class/convention/trade show and feeling numb? I just returned from two days of Alyson Stanfield's workshop on Internet marketing for artists. She is also the author of the informative & well written book I'd Rather be in the Studio!
45 plus energetic artists gathered in Estes Park, CO to soak up tons of information about how we can better market our work via the various available Internet tools & systems. Alyson provided us with many ideas, methods, do's & don'ts, links, resources, all the while we networked and benefited from the exchange of fellow artists. Networking on-line is great, but nothing can re-place that human, face-to-face connection.
Today is re-coup day. Yes, I have many "action items" and "to do's" but I decided that I would rather be in the garden to incubate all that occurred over the past several days. I know that I need to: find someone to help me format a blog on WordPress.org, connect with my accountibility group, tame the purple color on my web site, download EArtist software (my mailing list and inventory are on very old data bases), tell people about the book The Zen of Social Media Marketing, contact fellow students on Facebook, etc. They must wait a day or so.
The earth is a grounding force, so I will go out & weed, get my hands dirty, listen to the birds and enjoy the coming of a late Spring before I dive back into wonderful opportunities available on-line.
Book cover of my book
We artists, of all makes & sizes, often refer to our life's work as pursuing a passion. Even our collectors, viewers and friends make that statement for us. In fact I entitled my book "Painting My Passion: An Artist's Journey with the Women of the West." When I make my various presentations about this journey, I like to quote Jack White's (a frequent writer for The Art Calendar magazine) story he has used in defining a passion. A wise sage took his student to the ocean and instructed him to begin walking into the surf. The sage said, "Keep walking even after your head is covered by water. When you are near passing out, remember that feeling. That's the feeling of passion." When you feel for something as strongly as you want to breath, the you have passion. Passion is wanting to accomplish something more than any other thing in your life.
In my book, I refer to another author who asks these questions when deciding whether to follow your passion: What do I want & why? For whom? For what purpose? How hard am I willing to work? Do I have a support system? What trade-offs am I willing to make? How much do I believe that I will get what I want? I then added the following questions: How strong is my will to succeed? What is my definition of success? Can I say "no" to distractions & detractors (trust me, there are tons of these)? Can I function alone? Whether you are literally alone in your passion or are surrounded by a team (such as Judy Chicago's collaborative artworks), you are the engine behind that passion. You are still alone. You have to believe you are the engineer of the train. If you walk away from it, the passion will die or drasitically go off track.
What would you add? How do you define passion? If you are pursuing your passion, has it been rewarding?