Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Staying True to Course

Marsh Hugger Oil on Linen 20 x 24"

I have been painting for 8 days straight and have a few small paintings completed. At least I thought I did. But as I look at them now, pulled outside from the studio I notice they are "okay" but none of them seem to have that same flare or verve of my previous work. How come? What's different? Let me back up a bit.

I've had some recent successes. Within days of each other two of my large paintings sold and I got into my first prestigious (their words) art show. And of course I was riding high and sharing my great fortune with those closest to me. I began to enter more shows and was inspired to keep this momentum going. I made prints of my recent boat and barn photos and got to work...but with one difference. I had a new purpose. Paint smaller paintings. The gallery said they'd love to sell more of my work but preferred smaller sizes due to space constraints. Now you laugh. What's the big deal with that?! Well I love to work large and was heading in an even larger direction (one of the recently sold paintings was 4 x 5 feet) but I pressed on.

Six or seven paintings later I realized I wasn't making great progress. None of them were finished and something just wasn't right.  They seemed a bit contrived (boat paintings sell, boat paintings sell). But I just kept on painting even with this darn nagging feeling in my head.  Some were even a bit off from my normal mark making. Sometimes you just gotta keep painting and hope you can paint your way out and back into the zone you last left. And that's what I was trying to do...but
Two 12 x 12" Oil on Linen Studies
...I guess there are days when you seem to just be going through the motions. You're not out on the field giving every play your 110%. And for the most part it's not apparent to anyone else and sometimes it's not readily apparent to yourself - and then you have to decide if you're going to give yourself a buy or call a penalty on yourself. [Do they teach this in art school?] But then yesterday, after finally allowing myself to quiet the brain chatter and think about it, I called penalty. Sure I could probably sell some of these but it wasn't until last night when I heard about another art show with a deadline of...tomorrow...that I looked at them again and said, "none are worthy. And if they aren't worthy of putting in an art show they certainly aren't worthy to be put out on the marketplace with my name on them!" Another lesson learned. Or maybe the same lesson we need to keep learning no matter our age or skill. Stay true to yourself, your own art, your own style, your own ethics, true to your own school you might even say. Don't allow anything or anyone to influence you or sway from your own path. Even if there's a temporary reward (read money). I'd rather shut myself off from humanity and paint in my own world and come out with a body of work that is truly mine whether they sell or not. Whether there's an upcoming art show or not. This is the only way it's going to work...for me.

So now I will get back in the studio with a fresh and focused approach. Maybe some of these paintings I can salvage with a bit more work but for today I'd rather start with a blank slate...or in this case...a larger blank canvas. Brush on!

P.S. You can learn more about the art show by going to this link (and notice the use of my “Blue Door” painting - cool!). The Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Push and Pull of Life

Fenner Farm, 30 x 40" oil on canvas by christine sullivan

There are too many things we take for granted and typically they are what we cherish the most. And isn’t it the case that we have to learn this the hard way. Like when you hear the news that an old college friend has died at a much-too-young age. One you haven’t spoken to in years yet you know you both would immediately pick up where you left off. And while the memories flash before you as you laugh and cry thinking about the good old days the reality sinks in and you are left with this tugging feeling and wonder how you’ve allowed time and miles to let these relationships wane. And yet if we had a portable slide show of all of our friends we could witness our life’s quilt and clearly see how visibly we are all tethered together.  

And it’s funny how in making new relationships we find ourselves sharing our thoughts and memories from childhood, college life and the bridges we have crossed together and are continuing to cross - as if to acknowledge that they are now in the links of our life. And you in theirs.  It is in this continuance, this push and pull of life that in large part shows up in my paintings. Not so much the sentimentality of the past, more a feeling of yearning as well as acceptance. We never seem to realize that within the very moment we are laughing together with our family and friends this is where the paintings begin. The light, sounds, warmth, safety and love we share. These landscapes of moments. As in the painting above I did of Fenner Farm in Cazenovia, NY - the past (old decaying barns) overlapping the present (new wind turbines) - with neither taking center stage but they acknowledge each others presence as the years of hard work and innocence whisper by. Similar to our relationships with others as well as our local geography. Both seem to act as sentries over our lives - having an abiding interest in our welfare. And we in theirs.  

But the images, the images are meaningless unless we have someone to share them with. As Max says in The Legend of 1900, “You're never really done for, as long as you've got a good story and someone to tell it to.” Brush on!