A Quote, A Definition, and A Discovery

The Quote:

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dreams.”

Vincent Van Gogh

For many, many years I have carried around a greeting card with that quote on it, and for those same many, many years I have used it to beat myself over the head as an artist. I don’t dream of painting, I’m actually one of those people who rarely remember their dreams. I took that quote quite literally, like the children of The Night Before Christmas, but instead of visions of sugarplums dancing in my head I thought I should be conjuring up great works of art.  I paint from my photographs and sketches. There are gifted artists who can imagine worlds of their own creation, I’m just not one of them when it comes to painting, and quite frankly I’m not sure Van Gogh was either. He painted what he saw in front of him, from sketches he made of places he’d been, or places he lived, and maybe a little dreamy magic. I seem to have a gift for getting in my own way as an artist. I tell myself I’m failing at it, or somehow don’t have the right to call myself one. That leads me to…

A Definition: (Thank you Google)

art·ist
ˈärdəst/
a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.
a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.
a person skilled at a particular task or occupation.
I started drawing at a very young age, I began to paint at twelve, and I sold my first piece at fifteen. Did I call myself an artist? Yes I did, at least in the beginning, but then the self doubt began to creep in. There’s the “I’m not good enough” monster that resides in my brain. I mentioned the monster back at the beginning of this blog four years ago. I was under the illusion that I had defeated it, but I haven’t and thought I couldn’t. I’ve spent a lifetime with this constant companion; it lives inside me as much as every other part of me. I think part of my artistic problem is last I’m living in the land of “Supposed To”. In my mind an artist was always a painter and a skilled technician in drawing or sculpting.  I realize that’s ridiculous. Read the definition. I should have it tattooed on my forearm so that every time I feel the monster raise its ugly head I can read it myself. I think that from a very young age I thought that I had to paint to call myself an artist. The reality is that I have no problem acknowledging the art of others and giving them the title, I just have a problem with myself.  Which leads me to…
The Discovery (actually discoveries):
I haven’t posted on this blog as of late because I had no work to post. Have I been working?  Yes, I have been working every single day.  The problem (in my own mind) is that I haven’t been painting. What I am about to write is so absurd that I can’t believe it myself. I have been embarrassed to call myself an artist because of the work I have produced. There, I said it out loud. I have spent the last several weeks producing work for a show, a show that calls itself an “Artisan Walk”. Was I invited to be part of the show because I am a talent-less hack? Nope, I am just being me again and getting in my own way.  I gave all of this a great deal of thought yesterday. Much of the thought was inspired by an outing with a dear friend on Sunday. This dear friend has a tendency to be highly critical of me, but when he saw what I have been producing he called me a genius. My discovery is this: I don’t dream of painting, but I have very magical and enchanting visions when I am awake. It involves fairies. That’s right, fairies. I have been making them for more than twenty years, and it has been my greatest financial success as an (dare I say it?), artist.
My second discovery or better yet realization is that as much as might dream of painting, I am more compelled by anything in my life to make children happy. I love creating enchanted worlds, of inspiring little ones to use their own imaginations, and to hopefully give them a moment of magic in a world that can be a very difficult place. I have loved the idea of fairies since childhood. At the last show I did I was approached by a woman much older than myself who was so excited by my work. She spoke to me of growing up in England near a forest. She and her sisters would play at the edge of the woods. Their mother would tell them tales of fairies, and leave them “fairy notes” tucked in tree trunks and flowers. While she was speaking to me her face took on a faraway look, as silly as it might seem in that moment she looked like a little girl again, lost in the memories of her youth.
I may never produce the masterpiece that I thought I was supposed to do, and in the years after I am gone no one may see my work hanging in a museum, but I have no doubt that in the imagination of many children I have planted a seed that they will hopefully remember and pass on.
If you happen to be in or near Fallbrook, CA on April 23rd, I will be at The Artisan Walk on Alvarado as part of the Fallbrook Avocado Festival. Stop by and say hello.

Organic Process

Working on my lamp shade became a much bigger project than I imagined, and also headed in a direction that I hadn’t planned on. To begin with my matte knife blade began to dull from cutting out the cardboard tiles and I didn’t have a replacement handy. There was also the fact that I was trying to spell out specific words and as always failed to plan ahead. I don’t like to plan too much when I’m working on a upcycling project. I’d rather the process be more organic and evolve as I work. I’ve produced some really terrific work that way. I made the tiles individually, and then attached them to the frame as I finished them before beginning the next one. I was incorporating the name of our upcoming business (which I can’t reveal just yet), and of course began to realize that the tiles should probably be larger going down the frame. Part of the fun in not planning is running into the “mistakes” or problems and coming up with creative ways to deal with them. I like to let the project lead me by what it needs. In this case I liked the oddity of what was beginning to happen. I also realized that I was going to have some empty space to deal with, this is when the lamp shade headed down the Steampunk path.  I have so many little pieces in my studio that I have gathered over the years, I went up and began poking through drawers and boxes. I came up with a little bit of rusty chain and a box of vintage keys. I began to drape the chain behind and hang keys throughout. I thought it was finished, but as I photographed it for this post I discovered a lot empty space I want to deal with in the morning.Sometimes it takes stepping away to see what is missing. Even as I write this I think I have the perfect piece in mind to add in the morning. I also need to get the right bulb and lamp base. Dan is going to help me tomorrow by creating a lamp base using some pipe. For tonight the not quite finished shade. It’s well on its way, it just needs the right accessories.IMG_1522IMG_1527

Still Moving Slow

IMG_9719Still a little under the weather, so I just did a small still life sketch with colored pencil.  I struggled a little as always with perspective, but I feel like it’s getting better.  I think maybe a need a day of just doing a lot of sketching, nothing precise, but just some free form sketching.  I’m still a little timid and uptight in my drawing. Amongst the piles of stuff in my studio are giant sketchbooks that belonged to my kids from their school days. I think I need to make it my mission this week to just grab a piece of charcoal and fill one of them. I also need to get back to the painting that I started. It has been dry to the touch for more than a week. I had planned to get back to it ASAP, but I have been allowing other projects to get in the way. If I’m going to be honest with myself I think I’ve been avoiding it.  It will be my first full figure painting, but again, time to face those fears head on!