When I was younger, just out of grad school … starting a teaching career … and through my 50’s; gallery representation, regular shows, awards, and a bigger public presence were very much in my sights. Building that resume was critical. But now, not so much. Actually, not at all.
In order to proceed, I felt I needed a new road map.
One that made sense for this current period of time in my life and my work.
Part of that map pointed to lightening the load in my personal and studio life- in both literal and less obvious ways.
Here’s how that went……
1. In the literal sense, I knew there was just a lot of stuff in my environment. Kids toys and games, sports equipment, extra furniture and clothing we didn’t need, and plenty of frames, shipping crates, art supplies that I no longer would use. I made heavy use of Craigslist, and also donated/gave away lots of items.
2. I went through completed work and started to edit out some pieces…(rip rip) Lots of work on paper falls in this category, but also a few paintings. I want to keep the best out of a series, or conversely what I would not be embarrassed to have out-live me. (And a digital image can always remind me of the piece.) I’m not a famous artist whose legacy will be left to a museum. More likely it will be my daughter who has to figure out what to do with mom’s artwork. And if you’ve been creating work for thirty years, even with regular sales, you start to have a large collection to think about. I became increasingly aware of what a burden that could be.
3. I decided to let go of feeling obligated to respond to every event/opening/announcement/call-for-entry email- although I will still go out of my way to see something truly inspiring. I deleted my Facebook account, although at this point still have my art page. Suddenly I felt even lighter. And I had so much more free time!
4. I’ve found several other ways to launch my work into the world and people’s homes- using consultants and on-line galleries; selling at local non-profit venues and through open studios. The good thing about this process is that I am truly in control over my “inventory” and the prices I want to charge for it; whether it’s for a corporate or health care environment, or a private home. Now I often find buyers who are perhaps beginning collectors, who appreciate original artwork but are not able to spend huge sums of money. It’s more important to me that these pieces find a good home, rather than placing some arbitrarily high value on them. And because I am no longer painting for commercial solo shows or exhibitions anymore, I’m not obligated to generate a large body of work every couple of years. I’ve kept a spreadsheet that shows when I moved to this model in 2004, and when I look back it’s gratifying to see 134 pieces (!) have been placed using these outlets. And that doesn’t include the notecards and calendars that I made using original linocuts.
5. Not adding to the load- As I try to find homes for older paintings, I find that I don’t want to add many more to the ones already stored in racks.
I am doing more on paper- charcoal, and pastel drawings- small etchings or monotypes. More easily stored in flat files and can be rolled to ship out if sold. (I keep a stash of heavy duty 4” tubes for this purpose.) I decided last year to stretch up a couple large 46×52” canvases, and have something larger to challenge me for a longer length of time. (more on those next time) Plus I paint in oil so it’s a slower process anyway. Layers can’t be put on in a matter of a few minutes, sometimes you have to pause, let something dry, or scrape it off if you want to alter your approach or change a color.
So all this is a different way of defining progress, or success if you will.And it feels like a good fit for the long haul.