Thursday, March 22, 2007

What does it really MEAN to be an artist?

What does it mean to be an artist. Is it ANYONE who creates , or only those who make some sort of living from their creating?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Keeping a Positive Outlook in the Face of Poverty.

I have always been one who believed that the world is a wonderful place. I survived a few rough years early on, but I still see the best in people. I choose to think that the people I run into daily as other artists, as gallery owners and retail store managers, and even the street people in my neighborhood, are basically good people who want the same things I do in life. Love, understanding, to share ideas, dreams, hopes, and to have some sense of security. These are the things I believe every human being wants and strives to obtain on some level.
When you are working hard at producing the thing you love most in the world - in my case my paintings - sometimes it is easy to see only the poverty, the rejection, need for supplies, the lack. But if I can let myself look past competing with the Jones of the world, I realize that I have an incredible gift in living simply. I go to bed early and I wake early. I teach, I paint, I market, I sell my work, I cry, I love, I live my life. Every day that I do ALL these things I am one step closer to living the life I dream.
I believe I have a "voice" that needs to be heard... Whether it is in my art work, my singing, my teaching, or the integrity with which I try to live my life day to day, as long as I am true to that, as long as I focus on the gratitude I have for the here and now, and keep my mind and my heart focused on the images of truth and prosperity I visualize, then I believe the Universe in all its generosity will meet my desire, meet my need, and give to me a thousand fold what I work for with my heart, and soul.
This is "The Secret" known by men since the time of the Babylonians and before. The Law of Attraction that rules all things in creativity... "thoughts become things". What ever we focus on will become ours. If we focus on debt then we are in debt. If we focus on bad service or the rude neighbors, that is what we attract. If we fear "painter's block" then the blank canvas is frightening! But if we focus on prosperity and wealth, unlimited creativity, and the generosity of the world around us - THAT is what is the universe provides us.
For that reason I still see everyone I come into contact with as loving, generous and kind. And always people from whom I can learn more about live, love, art, and security.
until next time
Create beauty and fill the world with love
Wynn

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cross Curents - how all aspects of life influence art.

I came to painting late in life, like many people. It's not that I didn't paint when I was younger. It was that life took too much out of me and I had other careers simply trying to survive.
I grew up in the Appalachian Blue-ridge mountains of south-western Virginia. I was the product of a very poor and uneducated family. While music was part of our everyday life, it was what people there did - along with drinking massive quantities of alcohol - to forget that they were living dead-end lives that they felt they had no control or options over. Music was an escape.
I learned that lesson early, and used music as my way out of poverty and a painful abusive existence. I worked hard, got scholarships, went to some of the best music schools in the country and had a brief exciting career as a singer on Broadway, and in opera around the county. But always my heart was not in it. Music was a skill I had learned well, but it was not my passion. Music was a means of escape, and it allowed me to build a career as a teacher of singing and acting, but still I knew there was more to me.
I have a gift for survival. It comes from being an abused and abandoned child. I've learned to keep my eyes open, to see all angles, to be constantly aware of those around me and search for safety. It has taught me a good work ethic. Focus, enjoy, and live life fully. None of us has a promise of tomorrow.
The music of the mountains and of nature were my escape as well. As a child I could be anyone, do anything, while roaming out in the hillsides and woods that were my play ground. My happy moments of childhood are all about my being in the countryside - watching the skies change, smelling the fresh turned dirt, enjoying the strength and shelter of the trees as they reach to the sky. Is it any wonder that as I discovered the latent artistic talent in me I focused on those same trees silhouetted against the beautiful Virginia skies?
Everyday that I get to paint now and to learn about myself and my gift is a treasure for me. I am learning to listen, to use the training I have as a musician to focus on the rhythm, the mood, the metre of a painting. I approach the board with no preconceived idea. I let the colors and the emotion lead my hand. I explore my relationships as dancer, poet, writer, singer, actor and human in every splash of paint, every scraping of the surface, every line and happy accident of form. I go back in my mind to the quiet of the woods. the rustle of the wind through tree branches and leaves, the splash of the creek , the chip chirp of different birds voices, the safety and strength I found in those trees that today still hold and protect me.
I have tried to forgive my parents for the damage they inflicted. I am trying now to learn to love and to hope. I am building a wonderful life as a professional artist. I become more aware everyday that we can not isolate one thing in our lives from any other. I am the person I am today - intelligent, caring, articulate, passionate, and sensuous - because of the people who bore me. I paint the way I paint today because of the life I led as a different type of artist. I jokingly refer to myself at times as an "idiot savant" for I have no training in art and I simply paint from my soul. Luckily for me that part of my brain that can assimilate and retain almost all the information and visuals I've ever been exposed to allows me to recreate those visions in my own style and follow the choices I make.
These days I thank the universe for all I have been given, and I ask the universe to give me more time. Time to love. Time to share. Time to paint my life one stroke at a time!
Til next time
Create beauty and fill the world with love.
Wynn

Friday, March 2, 2007

WORK makes the world go round!

Before I started painting and going for a career in the visual arts, I had a decent career as an opera/ musical theatre actor singer and voice teacher. I had been to some of the best music schools in the country on scholarships. I usually got cast in everything I auditioned for , and I had what most people would call a career. I was lucky. I had a great ear, a somewhat photographic memory ( which is both a blessing and a curse now in my art work), and I loved to learn music just for the fun of it. I never waited until someone hired me for a gig to prepare a role or learn new music. I never really worked at it, things fell in my lap. The problem with that kind of early success though is that you never really know how to cope when work, focus and discipline are what are really needed. As I started to mature and the offers came less and less frequently, I liked travelling less and less. I recognize now I had not built the marketing machine and discipline to keep myself in front of the ones who made those kinds of casting decisions. I slowly let my performing career move to the back ground and settled into teaching private lessons. I recognized even as a (once again) self-employed voice instructor who was a great teacher, and one that loved teaching more than performing, that I still had not learned the skills I needed to sale and market myself in order to build the kind of private instruction studio that would pay my hefty living expenses in the Washington, DC area where I had settled. But the more important thing I realized was that I was in the wrong field. Between lessons I would sketch. I began to paint and develop my techniques using oil pastels. Immediately people were collecting my small work and the response I got from people has been steadily growing. A year ago my business partner Michael convinced me to take a stab at painting professionally and at developing my art as a real business. We took a class last year through a local group called Empowered Women International - a training program for women entrepreneurs in the arts. Then another offered by the very competent Catriona Fraser and Lenny Capanello of Fraser Gallery in Bethesda, MD. I found that I was excited about learning to market. I get excited looking at options for production that can make me more expressive in my art, and at the same time reach different audiences. Believe it or not I am thriving on learning to read a cash-flow chart. Me... the girl who my whole life thought a budget was what you got at the car rental agency is learning to balance my expenses with my sales... and deduct deduct deduct! Michael and I have gone through the necessary steps to incorporate as an LLC, we have Tax and business licenses now and next week we open our Business checking account (at my favorite small and personable bank in the area Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust - which has also used my art work for the lobbies of two of their branches! ) We are still hitting all the galleries that seem appropriate for my work while at the same time developing product lines for other outlets! I am an artist. Before I was a painter I was a singer. Before I was a singer I was a professional dancer. I have written and published all my life.. articles and poetry, and yes I am still working on that first big novel. I think of myself as being about as feminine, helpless, (and hopeless financially), and right brain as one can be. And yet I get excited everything I find a new possibility for an exhibit where I can SELL my art work. I have learned ( and am learning) that by being business savvy I can REALLY make a living at my artwork and enjoy a pleasant life as an artist who REALLY can survive and compete in the world. A year ago I did not have a portfolio of any kind. I had been in one exhibition a friend asked me to hang a work in, and had sold several works to students and family members who saw them at my home studio. Since then by PAYING ATTENTION to my business and committing myself to working every day as a artist I have been in 10 national and international juried shows. I have 14 shows lined up this year up and down the east coast already and many more in the works. I have place best in show in Two Competitions. I have been accepted in two local galleries and have two others vying for an exclusivity contract. I have been in the press numerous times for my art and my achievements. I was awarded Artist of the Year for 2006 by EWInt.org for my achievements after completing their workshop. I have several works in corporate and private collections and I am starting a new wholesale line of affordable work for national distribution in galleries. On top of that . I complete 247 paintings last year and this year have created two new series. (and at this writing it is only March.)
For me learning to take care of business has given me an immense new freedom (and motivation) to create! Til next time Create beauty and fill the world with love! Wynn

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The good, the bad, and the ugly...?

I went to a wonderful wine tasting "Thank you" reception at Principle Gallery in Old town Alexandria last night. Professionally produced, it was a wonderful way to mingle with the well-to-do's and the want-to-be's, try some new vintage wines I'd never heard of before, and talk with the wonderful gallery personnel.
From my first visit to this gallery I have felt drawn to it. It is light, open, airy, and the art-work is well displayed and lit for maximum impact. Being a professional artist who is always looking for the kind of gallery that is right for my own paintings I appreciate a lot of the work these people do. Several of the gallery personnel ( Kinsey and Michelle in particular) are so out going and friendly. They always remember me by name, they ask about my professional progress, they are willing to talk and offer advice and to make suggestions and to introduce me to other artists and collectors. They always put introverted and shy me at ease. I am a firm believer that a personal relationship with the galleries you want to do business with is the way to learn and grow in the business both as an entrepreneur and a gallery represented artist.
Perhaps one of the hardest things I've had to work on in entering the full time art market has been the confidence to talk to others about my work. I am a GOOD painter. I am more than competent. I use color and form well. I have a gift for distilling the essence of the landscapes I paint to their basic components and capturing not just a reproductive quality but a spiritual essence. I move people with my paintings. This is fact. So why do I immediately get embarrassed and tongue tied in the presence of a gallery director? I am learning that I have only to communicate WHO I am and WHY I do WHAT I do to carry on a easy relaxed and confident conversation.
One very strong element I have realized is that Gallery owners, (and collectors and other buyers) want to recognize us as "ARTIST" - meaning "other than they." At the same time, people with money are more inclined to buy from you if you are perceived as one of "us" and not one of "them". Someone once commented on the fact that I am always dressed to the nine's at any art opening. I suppose I was raised in the belief that an opening is a special occasion and one should respect it as such. I am always surprised at the "edgy artists" I meet who go to an opening in their paint covered jeans and a t-shirt. Hardware in your lips, nose eyebrows and ears and face do not make you an artist. People seem more inclined to pay expensive fees for your art work if you LOOK successful than if they think you will vanish and your arts value with you a year. It's easy to be the flavor of the month if you are perceived as a rebel, or a trend, yet many collectors of art buy not just because they love your work, but because they believe it is a long term profitable financial investment.
It seems to me as an artist that more people are willing to pay for well executed and beautiful work than for edgy in your face and ugly. A painting may make a statement and challenge someone to think and contemplate as it hangs in the gallery, but few people want to be surrounded by ugly and challenging art at home or at work day in and day out. I have seen works that I could admire the technique of the artist, but the work itself made me emotionally and violently ill. I am sure there is a reason and a place for that. Personally I find there is already enough ugly and dangerous and threatening in human nature and the world around us. I don't need to recreate that in my art work. While I don't claim to be the litmus test for the nations' art collectors, I do think I represent a large percentage of the upper and middle class population who buy art to support artists and at the same time to be surrounded by beautiful works they can not create themselves.. .
'til next time
Create beauty and fill the world with love.
Wynn