Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wait A Minute! My First Outdoor Art Show

I participated in my first juried outdoor art show this past Sunday, The Flagler Fine Arts Festival. It's location in Flagler Beach, FL is just about perfect. It is warmly sandwiched between the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the smooth salt waters of the Intracoastal Waterway at an intersection filled with a steady stream of locals, beach goers and bikers enjoying "just another day in paradise." I said to my husband, while we started to unpack the car (at 7:45AM), "what better way to spend St. Patrick's Day then out here under the warm sun and by the ocean with other artists! Even if I don't sell anything I'll be a happy camper!"

My friend and her husband arrived shortly after with their beautiful, professional tent. She makes excellent jewelry and is a pro at these shows but as she didn't plan to participate she kindly offered up her tent (THANK YOU!!). Luckily, this also included the much-needed help to set it up! It didn't take long for the four of us to "get 'er done" and after several warm hugs and numerous votes of good-lucks they left me to wrangle with how to display my works.

I pounded nails into the wood slats (behind and attached to the hanging canvas I had made for "walls") and hung two paintings. They looked greaaa....oops! No sooner were they up when down they went. Slamming face first onto the gritty ground. Apparently, their weight rolled the slats forward just enough for the paintings to slide off the nails. After scratching our heads we came up with an idea that might work, if only we had a few more items...sooo off my loving husband went to the local hardware store.

As it turned out, he was gone just long enough for me to learn that I could make "chains" from looping the large number of cable ties I had brought (cable ties and duck tape = a must for ANY situation) together and with the help of one of the volunteers who held the paintings up while I attached the chain of plastic ties to the top tent poles. It was working! I had just finished hanging the final painting when my husband eagerly returned with a small paper bag.  I greeted him with the, "oh thank you anyways, Dear"routine and he sat down a bit dismayed while I pondered my next dilemma.  How to display all of my new "mini" paintings without wire backs?

I then bunched them together on and leaning against the small card table in the back corner and took a few long draws of my now cold coffee. Then one of my art friends and "next door art show neighbor" brought out a wooden A-frame shelving unit and offered to set it up between us so I could use one side and she the other (see below). Phew! Thank you, Linda Solomon! Problem solved. Now I could sit down, right?

My small works display shared with fellow artist, Linda Solomon. 
If you've been to outdoor art shows you kinda know what not to do. The image of the "bored artist" sitting inside their tent while everyone walks past flew through my brain. Or the ones that sit behind their tents and eat or knit. Well, I didn't have a "back door" so didn't have to worry about that. I put my chair out in front of the tent and sat down for a few minutes and quickly felt the beating sun on the back of my neck, plus people were now arriving in small droves so I donned my green St Patrick's Day hat and stood up...for most of the rest of the entire day.

The steady flow of people and sporadic conversations left little time to sit anyways. I was able to sneak in a yogurt, a few bottles of water and a short trip to the public rest room and later in the day a short run around the park to say hello and see what the other artists were up to. My friend and owner of Hollingsworth Gallery, J.J. Graham, had the tent next to me and was entertaining the crowds with a painting demo which he smartly continued with for most of the afternoon. I couldn't help but to think how much easier it is for we artists to sell our work through the gallery system...even with their well-earned commission...our time is definitely better spent inside the studio then out here on the street. But I was determined to give it the college try.

J.J. Graham - artist and owner of Hollingsworth Gallery
demonstrates his unique approach using acrylics.
I smiled and waved at many nice people, talked to handfuls of people that love to paint but were still searching for "their way" and heard many a story about a son or daughter who is in the business. Soon it was time to think about closing down. Yet I noticed there were people still arriving and we were given instructions not to begin tearing down until 4pm. So I decided to wait a minute or two.

This was when I noticed a couple in my tent talking about one of my boat paintings. I gave them space. They walked away. Then they returned. Twice. I then stepped in and we talked pricing. They took one of my cards and left saying they might call me tomorrow. Oh well. It was time to close up.

Packing up seemed easy enough. Same with the tearing down of the tent. As we stood by our cars we heard who sold what and I reminded myself that I was fine with not selling anything, that it was a good test and suddenly felt how much my feet and legs were hurting. I guess it was warranted after standing for almost seven hours straight and maybe those "bored looking artists" sat down for a reason (I'm such a newbie!).  I just couldn't bring it upon myself to go to the studio to unpack/unload my car and instead hobbled home to enjoy some corned beef and cabbage. And a glass of wine. Or two.

The next morning my body and brain was on slow and just around 10:30, while I was briefly out with my dog, I received a phone message from the couple I had met at the festival saying they wished to buy my large boat painting after all. I returned the call and we happily agreed I would bring it over at noon. When I brought the big painting in I noticed they had already cleared a space for it and were anxiously awaiting my arrival. And seeing that the house sat directly on the ocean and was filled with boats and sea fare, I knew this was meant to be.

"Sea Fence" - resting in her
new home.
The woman then asked if I happened to have the mid-sized boat painting in the car and I said yes (again, thankful I hadn't taken the time to unload yesterday) and brought that one in, too. They found a space for it over their gas fireplace and noted that coming into the home from the beach you would see both paintings.
"Mill Pond (Tethered Friends)" and
"Sea Fence" in their new home.
They decided to buy them both.  It was such a pleasure to see these paintings come to life when placed in their new home and I felt such peace.

Afterwards, I reflected on all the work I put into this show, laughed at all the ups and downs, the "strategy" of creating all those new "small/affordable" paintings that didn't sell...and how I felt the presence of my mother with me (she spent her summer weekends doing outdoor art shows on Cape Cod for twenty years).  And reminded myself that all I need to do is to keep painting for me and with passion for what I love to paint - the ocean life, the farm life, the clotheslines - because you just can't force these things. You just need to be patient, work hard at what you love, seek out new opportunities (even if some seem like flops) and wait for the universe to do the rest.

P.S. A big thank you to festival Director, Justine Wintersmith and the city of Flagler Beach for supporting the arts and putting on these great events. While this is the only one I am able to participate in, the festivals are held on the third Sunday of every month through July. Brush on!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hollingsworth Gallery Welcomes William B. Brant: Time Travels

Table For One, Oil on Canvas, 46 x 60", 2012 (c) William Brant

Color is, simply stated, everything to William (Bill) Brant (b. 1932, American). And as you walk into his retrospective at Hollingsworth Gallery in Palm Coast, FL you are at once struck by the intense color that is the work of and, some would say, life of Bill Brant. And behind the sophisticated, large fields of flat, solid color also hangs a story, typically one with a wry sense of humor, a political point of view and/or a direct statement about life and death. And it is this juxtaposition between color and commentary, journeyman scholar and whimsical entertainer that invites you to wander the gallery more slowly and wonder just a bit more about the artist himself.

What you should first know is that this quiet, unassuming Palm Coast resident not only obtained a BFA degree from the prestigious Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), but, after earning his MFA in painting at Syracuse University, he returned and became one of its most celebrated art instructors. To many, teaching is a day job, a means to the end of working on ones own art. But Bill took the job of teaching art seriously and gave it his all, working at several classes each semester including drawing, painting, creative thinking, color theory - even computer art. And the long hours and late nights did not go unnoticed as in 1999, after 34 years of dedicated teaching, the Mass Art conferred on him the rank of Professor Emeritus and named the Brant Gallery in his honor. Not bad for the son of a skilled machinist father, a radio and off-broadway actress mother (Lornadoone Townsend) and the eldest of eight (which included six, that's right, six sisters) from a small town in western Massachusetts whose only high school art teacher, Florence White Williams, took it upon herself to find better instructors and private lessons for Bill. And thank you, Florence. 

In Your Face, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 51" 2010

After high school and four years in the Navy, Bill attended the Vesper George School of Art in Boston. Vesper George produced a number of accomplished alumni including several prominent comic book illustrators & writers, fine artists, furniture designers, photographers and actors (the school has since closed). While here, Bill was happily being trained as an illustrator, but it was an instructor by the name of Donald Doughty, who had the biggest impact on Bill's art and turned him on to a new, colorful way of life. You see, Donald admonished Bill to "not make calendar art" and pushed him to seek out sophistication in color. Bill listened and spent the next several years exploring and studying the work of colorist painters Milton Avery, Hans Hofmann, Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko and Josef Albers, to name a few (and interesting to note most lived and worked nearby on the Massachusetts artist colony of Cape Cod). And from here on out Bill's life has been all about color. Yet while this retrospective body of work certainly offers a nod to these acclaimed colorist painters, Bill's work has earned him his own unique stamp on the pages of art history. Period. But not the end of the story.
Summer Place, Oil on Linen, 40 x 36"

At the celebrated age of 80, Bill is having a retrospective show at Hollingsworth Gallery in Palm Coast, FL. The exhibition includes nearly twenty-five bold canvases painted over the past 50 years. Each of them holding true to Bill's love of color, his philosophy that artists, nor their art, shouldn't take themselves too seriously but should have a voice and opinion all their own. At the end of the day, their sophistication is at once beautiful, joyous and inspirational. Bill's use of abstract space is bar non. His compositions a designer's dream and his large areas of flat color, which I'm sure were laborious to create, restful. And the entertainer in Bill seems to walk the tight rope of time and steps off just long enough to jump into your heart and spin around in your mind. This is the show of the year at Hollingsworth, if not the southeast, and I do hope you are able to come experience it through your own eyes.
What: William B. Brant: Time Travels, A Retrospective
When: Opens Sat. March 9, 6 - 9PM, runs through April 1
Where: Hollingsworth Gallery, 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite 209/210B, Palm Coast, FL

And let it be known that Bill is not done painting or teaching. He continues to hold a leadership role in Hollingsworth Gallery's SECCA School of the Arts and is in his studio there most every day. In fact, eight of the large canvases in this show were completed within the last two years. It's as if each painting is pushing Bill to work harder than he's ever worked before. Almost as if time is running out. And I guess that's how it feels at 80. But he's not saying "uncle" by any means. No, I think Bill is just hitting his stride.
More Chairs in the Sunroom, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 66", 2010