Thursday, April 21, 2016

Inspiring a series

"Listening to the Rocky Horror Picture Show" (Originally titled, "Brandon"), acrylic, 20 x 40"
Please understand that in my opinion there is NOTHING wrong with being a commission based pet portrait artist. However after 30 years of drawing what people told me to draw I felt like I was restless to expand, as I have explained in earlier blog posts. For the past few years I had been searching for some sort of inspiration to create a series that had some deeper meaning for me, but I kept coming up with blanks.  I spent hours reading and studying other artists. I drew every day.  I even sent up prayers asking for signs to aim me in the right direction.

Last season I filled my show tent with well rendered drawings of animals that I thought people might want to buy.  It was hard work and I took it very seriously.  There was no time for mistakes, I had to make money as an artist.  Don't get me wrong, I love the process of drawing, and often go into a meditative state when I do so, but I never forgot that I had to please the art world gatekeepers.

Last fall my friend Larry Vanover became the curator of a new gallery, The West Mercury Center for the Arts.  He thought it would be fun to have a themed show for Halloween.  Everything in the show had to be about the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or had to be scary.  I almost didn't do it.  I had a long list of clients waiting for their pet portraits for Christmas and I didn't have time to paint for fun. Larry however was so encouraging that I gave in and took a few days off from my portrait orders.  I decided that I didn't care how it turned out, I was just going to have a good time and if he didn't hang it, that was OK with me.  I needed a break anyhow.

In order to prepare I watched the movie and did some doodling, but nothing was coming up. I was actually quite familiar with the musical and saw it many times in the theater. It reminded me of my more rebellious days in art school, and the music always brought me joy. My future son in law walked in the room as I was researching and we got to talking about his practice of cross dressing and now much he loved the movie.  I grabbed my camera and did a short photo shoot in the living room with him. He was just wearing his usual garb of jeans and no makeup, nothing fancy, but wow was he photogenic!

I put my head phones on with the sound track playing, and grabbed my acrylics with a glass of wine. I shut my brain off and my hand just took over and danced with the music.  Listening to the music and shutting off my inner voice actually changed the way I painted! It was more like doodling.  I seemed to be able to reach a deeper state of meditation with the proper music. (Listen to "Sweet Transvestite")

Much to my surprise Larry hung it at the show, and we had a blast at the opening where Brandon was dressed as a classy, beautiful and very tall woman.  Larry dressed as Dr. Frank N, Furter.  I dressed as a color wheel. Larry and a few other artists at the reception told me that they thought I might be onto something.
They asked where I got the idea and I told them that I just listened to the musical while I painted and it sort of popped out.
At the opening of "High Heels and Horror" art show at the West Mercury Center of the Arts in Hampton Virginia. From left to right, My daughter's fiance Brandon, Me, and Larry on the right.  

I sort of forgot about the idea of painting while meditating to music as I was completing my long list of pet portrait commissions for the holidays. Unfortunately, soon after the holidays tragedy struck my family and my career was temporarily forgotten.  I was so angry at the world, I didn't care about pleasing clients, I just needed to get out of my own head for a while.   As a kid I always turned to either visual art or music to ease anxiety, so I grabbed a really odd photo of one of my kids, put on headphones and lost myself in drawing. For the first time in many years, perhaps since before art school, I just painted for fun.  I stopped taking it all so seriously and just let it flow.  The technical aspects of drawing have been so ingrained into my brain from so many years of pleasing the world that I didn't even really need to think about what I was doing. It was the deepest I had ever gotten into the automatic art that I researched last winter and blogged about in January. (See my blog about Surrealism.) This therapy felt so good that I did another one of my daughter, then another one and then yet another.  I didn't care how they looked to others. I doubt that they will win any awards or sell, but I don't care.  It feels right and I am healing.

My grief is continuing, but I feel a little better each day, although I have some very bad days yet.  I think that God and the universe answered my prayers in a round about way.  It seems that I just needed to get mad enough at the world to paint for myself.  I needed to connect the dots between music therapy and art therapy.

So far I have completed 7 music related pastels since February.  I will try to get around to blogging more of the series that I am calling "Listening". They will debut live this weekend at my first fine art show of the year, Art on the Square in Williamsburg, VA on Sunday April 24. The gatekeepers of the local art world may love them or hate them, I don't know.  All I know is that it finally feels right.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Listening to Ave Maria by Schubert" 11 x 14" Pastel

"Listening to "Ave Maria" by Schubert"
Pastel on Canson Mi-teintes paper
I am so sorry that I have gotten out of the habit once again of posting on my blog.  I'm so busy painting these days that I just forget to blog.  This was a very difficult winter for my family and I due to a family tragedy.  I have not been this down in many years, so I wasn't sure how it would affect my paintings. Much to my surprise I picked up my pastels and just started creating... and creating and creating.  It soothed my aching spirit.  I was not creating in order to please anyone, or to make money, I was creating to escape and cope.  My social painting classes and my portrait commissions were paying the bills, so I decided that I was going to make what ever appealed to me, and I was going to paint about something that I loved and understood. 

My new series is about my personal visual interpretation of music. I am choosing bands and composers who have had the most impact on my life. As a child my family was very involved in the musical program at our church, and I grew up loving Schubert, Bach and Handel. I sang, played trumpet and piano for various churches until my mid 20s when I felt that I had to give up music to focus on visual arts.  

I no longer go to church, but I have been doing a lot of praying lately.  I no longer perform as a musician, but I am constantly listening to music in order to stay calm and ease my anxiety. Finally, now I have decided to combine my loves into this series. Listen to this golden, rich song by Schubert. It is filled with love.  I hope that I have done him justice.