This past summer was one of Tucson's hottest on record. With the heat on my mind, I started a series of paintings featuring a yellow circle (sun) and birds that I've photographed in my yard over the years we've lived here. Well, I didn't stick to the yellow circle long. It became the moon and other colors crept in as well. I broke the margin a little and a lot, or kept it whole. I like the circle as a design element and it helps focus attention on the bird I'm painting too. I've got fourteen paintings so far and I'm not finished yet. Here are three from the series....
I'm at the backside of my artistic career. At 75, I can look back at several decades of being a professional artist, and not all of that experience was fun. In my early days of trying to find gallery representation (and my how THAT process has changed!), I always took a small portfolio of 8x10 photos of my BEST work in the car whenever I was gallery hopping. Just in case I got an opportunity to show it to someone. I rarely told the gallery staff that I was an artist on my first visit, because I wanted to see how they treated their potential customers. Were they knowledgeable about their artists and their work? Did they even greet me and ask if they could show me anything in particular?
In the mid 1970's, since there was no internet and thus no gallery websites, in order to know what kind of work a gallery specialized in, you had to visit it in person, or depend on their print ads in art magazines. When I had researched, visited, and zeroed in on five or six galleries in a particular area I thought might be interested in my work, the next thing I had to do was prepare a package to send them, via snail mail. This would typically include a sheet of twenty slides, again my BEST work, a separate typed list of the slides with title, size unframed, size framed, medium and my price (not necessarily the retail price), my bio sheet and my artist statement. The cover letter said that I had visited the gallery, believed my work would be a good fit, and requested an appointment with the owner or gallery manager (and I made an effort to find out the name of this person) so that I could show them a sample of my work in person. Then I waited for a phone call or letter, or sometimes just the return of my package with no comment at all. If I had no response or return of my materials after two weeks, I called to simply ask if the package had been received, and ask when might I expect to have a response. Sometimes it would be several months. All in all, a time-consuming process, repeated every time I wanted to add a new gallery to those that had agreed to carry my work on consignment.
Some of the galleries I visited expressed a great deal of interest in my style and subject matter, but a comment I heard more times than I can remember was "A lot of our clients don't like works under glass. They don't like the reflections. Why don't you do these in oil or acrylic on canvas?" There were lots of variations on this comment, including one gallery who said they'd take my work, but only if I glazed everything with a product called Denglas, that had no reflections, and none of the 'fogginess" of regular non-glare glass. However, that product was five times the cost of regular glass, and I simply couldn't afford to frame my work using it, because as an unknown artist at the beginning of my career, I couldn't command a price for my work that would have covered the cost of the glass. And don't forget, even though I was paying for the entire cost of framing my work, the galleries still took 40-50% of the framed selling price. I had to pass on being represented by the gallery that asked me to use Denglas.
My advice to younger watercolor artists would be to find the galleries who fall in love with your work. When you do, they will be your best champions and salespeople. They will not ask you to change what you do. They may ask for more work in a certain size, or more of a particular subject matter that you already paint, but they won't ask a watercolor painter to become something else. If they do, keep looking.
We have had more than two weeks of really hot weather - at my house ranging from 104 to 120, with most days coming in with a high right around 106 or 107 and humidity in the single digits. Even for desert dwellers, this is taxing. The sun is not friendly this time of year. Add in wind, and moisture just gets sucked out of every living thing. Thank goodness for air conditioning and cool (in the upper 70's) mornings. Get out early, then get inside until the sun sets.
Summer studio time is generally more productive for me - I'm less tempted to be outside working in the yard, or to be running around town. What am I working on? Must be the heat influence. A series of paintings featuring a yellow circle in a square format. The first ones have a native bird as a subject, but I'm already thinking about the rest of the desert critters I see around my house. Here's one of the pieces, with a Costa's hummingbird....
As an artist, over the years I've often hit a creative roadblock, or life has thrown a curve ball at me, and I have found myself either avoiding my studio, or just not doing any meaningful work even when I'm in there. Trying something new has been the way I've jump-started my dead creative batteries.
Some of you may know that I've been working on a memoir of my childhood years, growing up in a very rural place in the panhandle of northern Idaho. It started out as just a retelling of the family stories for my younger nieces and nephews and their children, but the longer I worked on it, the more it wanted to become a real story. I'm rewriting it again for what seems like the umpteenth time, and still painting yet another watercolor to illustrate some part of the story.
This is a new endeavor for me. I'm image-oriented, after all. Yet I love reading a good book, and words matter to me. So I'm finding this writing business strangely rewarding, though at times also very frustrating. Just like painting!
Anyway, since I'm writing this memoir, I thought, why not write a blog too? Another completely new experience for me, but I'm going to give it a shot and just see where it goes. I can share paintings in progress, as well as photos of my Certified Wildlife Habitat yard and my observations about what goes on there.
This is a perfect time to start since I'm spending a huge hunk of my day indoors. Tucson is suffering through a real heat wave right now and it's probably going to continue until the summer rains get here - I hope they'll arrive on time around the 4th of July. This is serious heat even for us desert rats. It was 120 on the east side of my house yesterday, 117 the day before, 117 again today. Nothing is moving outside during those hottest hours. No birds on the feeders, no critter venturing out even to drink water. They are all up at 4 AM eating and drinking like crazy and then finding the coolest spot they can (digging into the dirt in my patio pots is a favorite) to wait out the furnace heat that is to come. I'm dong the same thing - any outside stuff needs to get taken care of before 9 AM or forget about it.
So, welcome. I won't make a promise I can't keep, but I'm going to make an effort to post something here at least weekly. Stay tuned.
I'm a visual artist, working in transparent watercolor, mixed media and digital painting. The desert southwest has been my home since 1971, and it is my constant inspiration.