Inspiration from the Masters

The Denver Art Museum is wrapping up a printmaking exhibit from Rembrandt. I’ve seen the show twice now, and it is truly inspirational to me. My appreciation for Rembrandt only grows, as time goes by, with his understanding of light and shadow, precise mark-making, and relentless study of art in general.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I am trying to be thoughtful about how I want to apply myself, moving forward. One thing the exhibit so plainly demonstrated to me was the diligence and discipline required to create the type of work I want to produce. The artist’s attention to detail and his commitment to learning are concepts I will refer back to when I need to find motivation this year, and beyond.

Time to get to work.

"The Three Trees" Rembrandt van Rijn

"The Three Trees"
Rembrandt van Rijn

Decisions, Decisions

The creative process is about decisiveness. It is knowing where to put your energy and how much attention is required by a particular area at any given time. In short, it is a balancing act, but once you learn how to achieve that balance, the results come easier and the creativity flows because you are no longer wrapped up in thought. You are then connected with intention.

Colorful Intentions

As I continue to advance my painting technique, I am taking greater care in my use of color. Conveying a sense of depth is paramount; more so now than actual content. What this means is visualizing the colors before I apply them to the canvas. This is a new concept for me. In the past, I have simply had a vague idea of what I was going to paint and thus, approached my work reacting to the initial thought through a stream of consciousness. I am changing method that now in favor of a more deliberate approach through color and value. The result will allow for more dynamic and dramatic work.

The painting to the right, (with the working title After The Storm) shown in progress, is what I would call a crossover painting in that I began the work before I made this realization. I am now finding myself retrofitting the painting with my new technique. It will be interesting to see the end result.

Painting With Intent

I have two hardboard panels that I’ve kept around for some time. Originally, they were scraps left over from the storage racks I built, but I held on to them thinking I could eventually use them as painting surfaces. After completing the last of my paintings that fell into my creative gap, I was finally ready to start new work, eager to apply all I have learned since the beginning of the year. Last week, I prepared the panels for painting with gesso. Though I wasn’t exactly sure what I would paint, I was open to ideas that demonstrated the illusion of depth while taking advantage, compositionally, of the panel's narrow format. I began work on the two paintings Monday.

Tuesday was my second session with them and I completely shed away all worries and concerns and for the first time in what seemed forever, painting as freely as I ever have with effortless joy and intent. I wasn’t worried about a final product. I didn’t beat myself up over money or feel any pressure whatsoever. I didn’t care about the appearance of my art, or if it was even consistent with other works. I wasn’t consumed worrying about my health, my appearance, or anything for that matter- I was simply and fully immersed in the present act of painting… and it was beautiful.

By letting go, I let the hardwood’s surface dictate my direction. As I progressed in the work, compositions revealed themselves in a way that allowed me to fully visualize the final rendering. I saw the paintings before me in their current, raw form. Simultaneously, I could see the finished works, even though they won’t be finished for another week or two. I also saw the finished painting hanging in another venue- perhaps someone’s home, a gallery, or even a museum- I couldn’t really say, but I saw it as if it had already happened. The feeling frightened and excited me all at once.

Hustle & Flow Continued

I am happy to report that the week continued to usher in new positive events in my life. Since Monday, I continued to do my part through meditation, recognizing negative thoughts and trying to counter them with healthier ones, clearing more physical space to make room for positive energy, and giving what I could to support those around me. In return, I received a letter of acceptance into a gallery in Texas. What made this even more remarkable to me is that I sent my artist information nearly a year ago. I assumed that since I did not hear from them, my materials had either been lost in the shuffle or I had been rejected. I was amazed by the timing. I also learned yesterday that I have been accepted into an art festival this summer.

It is my hope that this blog serves as a friendly reminder to anyone who may be facing challenges right now that you still have the power to change your situation. Here's to working for better days.

Hustle & Flow

Lately, I have felt utterly stagnant. As the economy dwindles, the impact has diminished my art sales, as I observe consistent confirmations by other artists, dealers and galleries who are feeling the same crunch. A friend of mine just returned from Hawaii, where she told me both the local galleries and restaurants alike had witnessed a 60% decrease in business in the last year. Another friend attended The Armory Show in New York City (a very high-profile art fair) and commented on how quiet attendance was. I recently wrote about the cancellation of The Artist Project in Chicago this year.

Admittedly, the situation has taken a toll on me; it has been a challenge to remain hopeful in the midst of all of this bad news. Never the less, I have been determined to move forward and believe the key in doing so is changing things that are within my control. The first change I have been focusing on is my attitude. Negative thoughts have plagued me for the last year, ultimately causing major anxiety attacks. After I determined anxiety was the root of my problem, I sought to counter it through meditation and have been practicing Vipassana meditation now for the last three months and I cannot begin to tell you how liberating that process has been for me. That alone, however, was not enough for me to make the necessary change.

Vipassana meditation is also referred to as “insight” meditation; becoming aware of your body, thoughts and feelings by quieting your mind of ideas stemming from memory or anticipating the future, thereby becoming fully present. Though I have been successful at calming myself through meditation, the practice by itself has not changed my circumstances and I have continued to fight feelings of dissatisfaction. In spite of the state of the economy, I know I can change my circumstances, but in order to do so, I not only have to think differently, I must act differently. Meditation made it apparent I need to change the way I live my life. As a result, I am more conscious of how I interact with others and how I treat myself, while considering what exactly I am doing to make things better for myself and those around me. Simply becoming conscious of these things, again, was not enough to facilitate change.

For the last two-and-a-half months, I had put off clearing piles of paperwork that accumulated on my office desk over the course of the previous three months. I neglected to put away packed boxes of clothes and belongings since moving in with JQ. I recently realized all of the clutter was only contributing to the stale mood preventing any progress from happening, and I simply couldn’t stand it any longer. So, yesterday, after another sleepless night, I woke up at 4 a.m. and with nothing to do, I started tackling the long list of small things I had procrastinated from doing: I cleaned up my office desk; I put clothes away and threw out boxes; I filed papers; I sent out e-mail correspondence to art partners and job prospects. I took care of the seemingly little things that were within my control. In doing so, my intention was to make space for new energy and a new flow of positive things in my life by doing away with the lifeless clutter I had allowed to weigh me down. I have read about this type of thing before and now it was time to put it to the test.

Later in the day, I met a friend for coffee. I must admit, I thought about cancelling, but I hadn’t seen K in some time and though I felt like I had more pressing things that required my attention, I wanted to honor my commitment. We ended up having a great conversation with many ideas for me to consider regarding my artwork. It was very positive. After our meeting, I went to the studio and had a very inspiring painting session. When I returned home to check my e-mail, I was amazed at what I found. In the last 24 hours, I was offered an interview, an art showing with a potential patron, two additional art contacts and a meeting with somebody interested in helping me sell my work. I hardly think this is all a coincidence. I feel better than I have in a month and look forward to writing about more positive updates in the near future. Stay tuned.

Welcome Colorado

Today, I co-hosted an event with my fellow RiNo Neighbor, Sharon Brown. The occasion was a private studio show for Welcome Colorado, a group of local women dedicated to showing other women of international backgrounds a slice of Denver life through various activities. Sharon and I agreed to host a private showing of our paintings along with a verbal presentation and discussion around the work.

The occasion had been planned for months and I really wanted to make a good impression on the group. Yesterday, I hung my work up at Sharon's Pattern Shop Studio and only hoped my verbal presentation would be nearly as good as the visual. I began planning what I would say about a week ago. As the time drew nearer, my ideas began to solidify. Over the weekend, I wrote them out and rehearsed the material from flash cards. I was prepared, but admittedly a little uncertain I could manage speaking without fumbling around a bit, at least in the beginning.

This morning, before I arrived at the studio, I meditated. At first, I went through a succession of familiar mantras, but then I did something a little different. I visualized the event, intending the outcome. Knowing what I was aiming for gave me the ability to see the event from its ending back to its beginning. The exercise relaxed me and facilitated a confidence boost to interact in a way that often escapes me. In short, the actual experience turned out very much as I had visualized it. I never even bothered to use my flash cards, as the words flowed out effortlessly with great enthusiasm. I was radiating the very energy I convey through my artwork. I had a wonderful time and I believe the women of Welcome Colorado did too. My growth as an artist seems to be expanding in all directions and it feels miraculous.