Friday, July 7, 2017

What Am I Proud Of?

Painting of beautiful June, a tortoiseshell cat with ginger
and white patches.  #petportrait  #memorial

Okay, here it is.....
I have been an artist my whole life, since I was three years old, according to my mother. After finishing art school, I was an illustrator in some high visibility positions, such as creating information graphics for the Associated Press and also as a news graphics illustrator at WNBC-TV. The images that the artists at these companies created were, essentially, answers to a problem. Often these jobs required quick solutions, and certainly one did not feel that one's personal being was exposed. And while there was always a credit line somewhere, most people had no idea who created the work. The nature of the news, whether on television or in newspapers, means people saw the work for a few minutes at most, and then it was onto the next thing. It was exciting work and I loved it. Then, years into my career as an illustrator, a hand injury sidelined me from what had become pretty much a totally digital industry. (There's more to that story, but lets leave it at that for simplicity's sake right now).

So with this hand injury, I decided to go back to the kind of art I had grown up on, art done with pencils, paper, paint and canvases, as opposed to the mouse and monitor of modern news illustration. It took quite a while to get that going again. I was to experience that it's a different thing altogether creating an art practice after you've been out of art school for years and now have to work and handle other responsibilities. However, I just kept making work. I was drawing and painting and pretty much not showing anyone for many years. And here's the thing I'm proud of....I kept making work, even though I had always thought of myself as an illustrator, I was becoming a fine artist. And not because I was learning to draw for the first time. I knew how to draw and had many, many years of practice under my belt. Although letting go of that "I already know that" mentality allowed me to go back to doing some life drawing again and had the glorious experience of seeing my drawing continue to evolve and get better.

What was also changing was how I thought of myself. I came up against many internal blocks and limiting ideas about what I thought I was doing. These internal challenges were coming up because, to me, the work I was doing had no reason to exist except that I wanted to create them. No one asked me to do them. Even though my work would be considered "good," I didn't feel an internal comfort with this situation.

But here's the thing.....I kept doing it. There's more to this part of the story as well, which I hope to be able to delve into and explain in future posts. I think there may be a gold mine of inspiration in some of the deeper issues that came up during this long period of gestation and experimentation and incubation. 

Okay, still, here is the thing that I am proud of these days. In March of 2016 I made a commitment to show my work, somewhere, every month. It didn't matter where: a cafe, a library, an office. I wasn't sending my work out to galleries, and still don't right now. But I committed to show my work in this do-it-yourself way, and I think part of why that was most comfortable for me, was that I was and am still finding my voice. Showing the work in this low pressure kind of way was enough. It was a challenge actually, to make sure I had enough pieces to fill some large wall spaces. And then to be able to speak about the work, which I did for each exhibit.

So yes, starting with March 2016 and going through to May 2017, I had my work up somewhere in my small city. There were some successful exhibits where I sold quite a few pieces and some venues were quieter with less exposure, and thus less sales. A lot of people saw my work, and that was a challenge for me to get comfortable with. But I did it. During this period, I started promoting myself as a pet portraitist, which has been a success as far as I am concerned. I haven't found that sweet spot yet, where the people find me and just have to have a portrait, but I am preparing for that possibility! Till then, I just keep hustling and promoting my portraits.....It may sound silly to say, but I like my pet portraits! I also like the direction that some of my other work is going in, less portrait but definitely inspired by animals and nature.

So I am proud of myself for up-leveling myself and my business as a professional artist and for taking a chance to show my work as well as to speak and write about it. I think the real accomplishment in all of these things is having found my way to being authentic, even if I'm not feeling so sure of myself. There is definitely a place for uncertainty and insecurity when being authentic! I am far from finished with this journey, but to have plundered and blundered through through years of the internal as well as external challenges of pursuing a painting career is turning out to feel like it was worth it.

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