As is often the case, artists work not only at their art in their own studio space, but supplement their incomes with other jobs in order to have health insurance and buy food and other essentials. For me, in addition to showing up in my studio, I also work part time at a frame shop. At the frame shop (Picture It Framed) I use my artistic vision to help others design their framing to complement their artwork. Not only do I design, but, much to my own surprise, I also know how to work the saw, joiner, glass cutter, mat cutter, and other power tools to assemble the frames and put it all together to hang on the wall. I say “surprise” because I never thought I’d learn how to be so precise and patient with a ruler. As of this writing I still have all my fingers and toes (and plan to keep it that way). I guess you could say I have a unique skill set in that I make art from start to finish – from the conception or idea, sketching it out, choosing my medium and color pallette, executing the painting, then framing it to hang on your wall…oh, and let’s not forget selling it too!
When time allows, I also offer my teaching services in watercolors and pastels. When teaching I’m passing on the information and tools that were given to me by my teachers, helping to create more productive and successful artists and thus, more beautiful artwork. So if you don’t hear from me, you know I’ve been busy.
Recently, while introducing myself to a portly, jovial older gentleman at a local event, he asks me what I do for a living. I tell him I am an artist. Then the conversation turns to art, music, and food. Months go by and I see him again in the frame shop where I work. He remembers me, greets me with his toothy smile, and we get set on designing his new piece he acquired from an auction. As he’s turning to leave he notices my abstract pastels, goes up to them to get a better look, and expresses his liking for them wondering who the artist is. I tell him those are my pieces along with the watercolors above them. He’s looking surprised and says, “Ohhhhh, you’re a real artist.” I can’t help but smile. What IS a real artist?
I’m not sure what is considered a “real” artist these days, but I know they’re very rarely painters. It seems everyone is trying to “one-up” each other to get noticed: piles of bricks, walls coated in excrement, unmade beds, animals sawn in half and preserved, these are far more likely to be awarded prestigious art world prizes nowadays than a boring old painting. With the right resume and the support of a handful of influential critics the next “important artist” is born (Insert picture of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” here), but is it a passion to create or the desire for fame that is the driver here?
I have an eclectic group of friends who feed me on an energetic level – and a lot of them are other artists, writers, poets, performers, and dancers. None of my artist friends look alike or dress alike or create alike, but we all have something in common – our love and compassion for creating. Our subject matter, execution, and mediums are very different. I’m always impressed by each artist’s own interpretation of what flows through her to produce the art we create.
Georgia O’Keefe didn’t paint flowers because she was a botanist; Rembrandt didn’t paint his own image because he was a narcissist, and Degas didn’t paint dancers because he was a ballerina. The object of a real artist’s obsession is almost irrelevant. It’s merely a vehicle allowing all of her personality, her likes and dislikes, her excitements, joys, and fears to find complete and full expression.
For me, the purpose of painting is not to adorn a living room or office wall, not to make money in a niche market, but simply out of the sheer need to express, to create, to bear witness to my time on earth. Each painting I finish is like another sentence for a chapter of a novel. I’m in the second half of my book and there is a twist in the storyline. I’m more interested in the essence of my subjects, exploring abstract and mixed media, endlessly awed by the constant flow of nature. It doesn’t really matter whether someone considers me “real.” What matters most to me is having the ability and the inspiration to continue to paint from my heart by what inspires me. And if what I create happens to resonate with you, then we have found a connection, and for that I am deeply grateful.