I know, I’ve said it before, it’s been a while since my last post. I guess when I started this blog I thought I’d never run out of ideas. I haven’t run out of ideas, just time. And so while I was thinking about all this, I thought I’d sit down and blog about something no one wants to talk about when they have a blog, which is that some of us are okay with not blogging the commonly accepted minimum of twice weekly posts.

I’ve read all of the blogs that encourage me to blog. I’ve gotten newsletters that tell me the way to build a following is to be a faithful and frequent blogger. I’ve listened to creative coaches, successful people with “brands” and lots of others that talk about how they got there through blogging. I am happy that worked for them, but the truth of it is that I don’t always have the time and energy to share and be on “transmit.” So there, I said it, and I know some of you are sitting there shaking your heads and others are nodding in agreement. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me which one you are unless you really want to.

I figure I only want to take up space in the blogosphere if I have something that I think is interesting to share and is worth your time. So here are the highlights of the last several weeks:

In May I was in New York to attend the opening of the show, Making their Mark, I curated at Susan Eley Fine Art. Included in the show was David Kidd, Chase Langford, Audrey Phillips, Maria O’Malley and Lisa Pressman.  Here are a few snapshots of the opening, courtesy of Maite Agahnia, an amazing painter, who flew out to hang out with me and see the show.

Maria O'Malley, SOLD!

Chase Langford

 
Lissa Pressman, Audrey Phillips and me

In June, I taught a lot. I had a beeswax collage workshop that was a huge hit. I spent a weekend in Three Rivers California teaching monotype for the Three Rivers Arts Alliance, an organization that proves you don’t need a ton of people and a boat load of money to infuse art into a community. If you have never been to Three Rivers, which sits just outside the Sequoia National Park, add it to the bucket list. I stayed at the Sequoia Motel, a charming place, the kind with the pool in the front, owner on site and a dog to greet you.  It reminded me so much of the kinds of places we’d stay at when on family road trips. There weren’t a ton of restaurants in town, but then again everyone was so friendly and hospitable that I had dinner invitations every night. The workshop was at St. Anthony’s Retreat Center, a peaceful place up in the hills with amazing views. I can’t wait to go back.

The classroom view from St. Anthony's

Sequoia Motel

So that’s what I’ve been up to, oh, and painting of course. Don’t know when I’ll blog again. I’d love to say that it’ll be real soon, but seeing as how I showed my cards in the first paragraph, who knows when that will be. I do, however, promise to try and make it worthy of a blip of space in the blogosphere.

“I feel so bad I couldn’t talk to you!” was the message from my friend Maite Agahnia this morning. She and her fellow artists of the art group Art6West had an amazing opening last night at India Street Gallery in Little Italy here in San Diego. I was thrilled she didn’t much time to talk to me, but not because I didn’t want to talk to her.

Maite Agahnia, 5th Ave., 9:44pm

Maite Agahnia, 5th Ave., 9:44pm

To my thinking, it meant that she was sharing her work and inspiration with people who didn’t already know her or know her work. That’s the point of an opening – it is a chance to share your work with new people. I’ve been lucky to watch the work progress over the last several months. I know about as much as a third person could know about the work, which is a real privilege. Last night was the chance to share it with others and by the crowds that were there, plenty of people now know her and her work and I couldn’t be happier we didn’t get to sit and chat for very long!

I also got the chance to briefly talk with the other ladies in the show, three of whom I know as well. Cree Scudder has some amazing new work that is pushing into new territory.  Brenda York continues to inspire me with her smart whimsy, both in her work and her life. Bronle Crosby blew me away with her technical skill in her portraits of the other 5 women in the show. I had to laugh as my husband and I walked over to see them. I had introduced him to Cree and Brenda, both women he’d never met before, and when he saw their portraits on the wall it was great to hear him react, “Hey, that’s the Brenda we were just talking too! Oh my god that’s good! And the other woman you were talking to!!  And there’s Maite’s portrait!!” If I ever needed a portrait of someone, she’s the one to do it without a doubt.

It’s an amazing show. Go see it if you can, it’s up until February 20th. They’ll have a closing event on the 17th from 5-7pm if you want to chat with them in person which I highly recommend. So I am curious, who do you talk to at openings?

I’ve been busy traveling, printing and teaching this summer. I try to do monotypes during the summer so that I can work in cooler temperatures. Turns out my concentration breaks around 85 so I find that I can print in air conditioning to my heart’s content.  But here’s where I’m beginning to run into trouble: now I want to paint.

For some reason, I’m having a difficult time switching to painting from printing. This usually happens organically for me. I run out of ideas for monotypes, I burn out and then I am fresh to paint. After all, they aren’t that different in my mind, at least in the way I tend to approach both mediums. I see each as a process of layering. The same imagery shows up in both painting and printing and my color palette is about the same too. Until two weeks ago.

I was teaching monotype to a small group of students for the La Jolla Athenaeum. Since it was a smaller group, I ended up experimenting. I have always been curious about the 4 color process – layering yellow, red, blue and black on the same print to achieve a broad and deep range of tones.  Curiosity turned into pay dirt.  I was instantly attracted to the range of tones and color and so in the next week I experimented some more.  I came up with some new, very exciting to me monotypes and I knew that I was on to the next substantial series of monotypes.  

So here’s the dilema: do I continue to struggle to paint and print at the same time? Do I just accept that I’ll be printing into the fall and not paint quite as much as I think I should? Is it that I like to focus on one thing at a time more than I have realized to this point? When I print I tend to go until I run out of paper. Obsessive? Slightly. But I subscribe to the idea that quantity leads to quality. I know that not every print will be a winner, and over the years I’ve learned that I bat about 60%, which is more than enough to make me a happy camper. When I paint I try to shoot a little higher, like 100%.  A bit extreme I know, but I feel like the material and the panels and the effort into each painting means that I need to work on it until I get it right. Maybe that is a part of the hiccup?

I’m not sure where all of this leaves me in getting painting again. I’d like to think that my desire to get going again will be enough to trip the switch inside to find my painting groove. I’ll be continuing the series of monotypes throughout September despite the fact that the weather is turning and the wax is calling my name. Will this time be different? Will I be able to work simultaneously on both? I don’t know, but I’ll keep you posted.

There are a few artists out there suffering from an illness: Copycatilism.  That’s right, I just made that up but I’ll bet you know exactly what I am talking about. Symptoms include: laziness, lack of imagination, tendency to spend hours looking at other artist’s work, and the click of the mouse to save images for later use.  Those infected may also lean towards tracing, transposing, and photoshop tweaking to disguise their symptoms.

Copying happens for several reasons in my mind. You have the student variety, a student is taking a workshop or class and suddenly the student’s work looks like the instructor’s work. This is natural and excusable if the student moves on and graduates to their own version and work once the instruction time is over.  Then there’s the, I’m just experimenting variety.  This is usually a weekend artist that sees something they like and they try it on for size. Maybe they completely copy the image or they change the palette to match their sofa. I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but they like something and they want their own version of it and never intend to do anything with it other than hang it in their house. Which bring us to the more insidious kind of copier, the I came up with it myself kind.  This is the person that emulates and tries to own someone else’s work.  This is the person infected with Copycatilism.

I’ve been exposed to people infected with Copycatilism as have many of my artist friends.  A few years ago I had a workshop co-participant ask to use my ink because she liked my custom mixed palette and loved my imagery so could she use my stencils too?  AWK-ward. She managed to create a color palette like mine anyway, and copied my imagery, along with my compositions and image size. She was so proud of her “new” work. I started to think I was crazy, that I was imagining that she completely copied me, how could this happen in a workshop in front of other people??? Until another participant came up to me a whispered that this woman must like my work so much she decided to copy me.  My stomach turned inside out. I almost skipped the last day of the workshop.  This copy cat contacted me a short time later so that we could “work together.” I tried to be kind and compassionate but I did tell her that she needed to be aware of what she was really doing.  I never heard from her again.

That’s an obvious case of copying but what about when you aren’t sure? My take is that your gut is sure. If you see a work out that looks enough like your own that a bell goes off internally, there’s a good chance you got copied. Sadly, the internet has made all of this quite easy to do. It also makes it easier to see when you may have been copied since it seems we are all connected now via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the like. Not to mention that if you don’t see it yourself someone you know may see it and let you know.

Some things are not really copying though. Like a friend said the other day, “I just invented the circle now if anyone else uses it I’ll know they copied me.” She was of course being sarcastic. There are iconic images, shapes and styles that just aren’t copying.  Like a circle, certain images are so widely used that it doesn’t amount to copying. Now if the color palette, size of the work, material, texture and the like are the same, then that increases the likelihood that it is a copy.  I have a painter friend who was alerted to a series another artist created chronologically after hers that was so similar that when I saw the work there was no mistaking that she had been copied. It was so obvious it was disgusting.

Some say that if you’ve been copied you’ve arrived, that it is flattering. I don’t really see it that way although I understand the perspective. It’s one thing to try another artist’s technique as an experiment, but once an artist claims someone else’s imagery as their own original idea they have crossed a line. I don’t think there are very many of us out there making art that is entirely original, myself included, but I do think that artists need to make sure that their ideas are fresh and not someone else’s worked over. Or not even worked over in some cases. In the meantime, pray for a cure.

I had the pleasure of welcoming fellow painter Cree Scudder to the studio on Thursday.  We’re both in the midst of painting for upcoming shows.  She’s painting for a show in Florida and mentioned that the host for the show asked her for a body of work that she feels doesn’t represent where she is right now in her creative growth.  So the question came up: Do you paint for where you were when you got the show or do you paint where you are right now?

It’s a bit of a quandry in my mind as it was in Cree’s.  How do you go back and trace through creative questions that in essence were already solved? Is it possible to do it up fresh, staying true to where you were and where you are going at the same time? Or does that just come off stilted?

I’m not sure. I told Cree to paint where she is now and let the chips fall where they may.  That was my gut response and I suppose I stick with it. I feel like if you are true to what you want to say, many of those that supported your visions and ideas a year ago will support them now.  There’s always going to be a thread running through the work if you create from you own perspective and let go of what the expectations of others will be.

Now I am going to print this out and put it up in the studio to remind me.

I hate to say it, but sometimes it really is all about size.  I recently heard from Susan Eley, my gallerist in New York.  She had been contacted by a client who wanted a 60″x60″ painting and they loved my work.  Since I work in encaustic, 60×60 is a really big size. For all of my acrylic and oil painter friends out there, it’s kinda like asking you to paint a 10’x10′. It’s a daunting task.  And they didn’t want to commission anything.

This situation pushes two of my buttons.  One being the people pleaser button, I really would love to help Susan make the sale. Obviously I have a dog in the fight as well, since it would be a lucrative sale for me.  I suggested four 24″x24″ or four 30″x30″ panels that could be hung together for the effect of a larger painting, and I have several paintings in those sizes the client could chose from. Plus I think that groupings like that are a sophisticated approach to hanging and seeing art.  Susan suggestedtwo 24″x60″ paintings, which happen to be my favorite size to paint right now and would be a welcome challenge for me to essential think of them as pairs. Client says no go.  They want one piece. Here’s where button number two gets pushed.

I have a hard time letting go of a missed opportunity. Some situations just don’t work. I can’t feasibly paint a 60″x60″ painting and ship it across the country and hope that the client likes it. It’s not a typical size for me and it’s too far outside of what I normally do. So I’ll keep painting, doing what I do and hope that the next opportunity that comes along will call for 24″x24″ paintings, lots of them.