I got this Christmas ornament today at a art and craft show here in Knoxville. The artist, Hallah John Paul Boltik, of http://www.hallahart.com/, moved here after being in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and the following flood. His stories were touching -- his spirit was great. It is one of those "non-coincidences" that he is the third person I've met this week who stayed in New Orleans during that time. All of them stayed because they felt they had to -- the first to care for an ailing relative, the second as an employee of a hospital who was required to stay with patients who could not be evacuated, and the third who stayed to help elderly neighbors who were unable to leave.
Non-coincidentally, I hadn't planned on being at the art fair. And, non-coincidentally, Hallah said something that helped coalesce some thoughts in my head. I'm going to paraphrase him, but he showed some of his art that he had found floating in the water in his flooded studio. (Because he paints on wood and varnishes heavily, some of his art survived the water well.) He said that in that type of crisis, you realize how unimportant art is. Of course, art is important, he added -- as art. But, he realized that the artwork itself -- well, if it had been a blizzard and freezing, his artwork would have been firewood -- and he would have been glad of it. I suppose that if it had been made of canvas, it might have become a tent, or used as a sign, or something else. You see where this goes? Art is not something to get all worked up about.
One of the other people I met talked about how she had lost things she'd been saving for a special occasion. Now she says she realizes every single day is a special occasion. Again -- there is the attitude of not getting worked up about STUFF and instead just enjoying it.
Oddly (or not) I had e-mailed Diahn earlier this week about 2008 art goals. Here is part of the e-mail:
"...And something about painting with more "joy" -- I mean, just think about that wonderful painting at the art center -- THAT was painted with some joy. ... I kind of start out painting with joy, and then choke. Gotta quit doing that."
This all started in early November with the aforementioned discussion about "content." We were privy to some professional art critiques, and while the judge did some valid critiques, several were not so much critiques as arrogant dismissive criticism and ... oh, I don't know. It was poorly done. There were some comments that were not at all "objective" but were just, well, mean. There was one comment in particular that made me so angry -- and I have no idea what the piece of art was or who the artist was, but the comment would have been completely devastating. As in, never paint again. It was THAT bad, and, I felt, done very unproffessionally. (Whew. I really wanted to get that off my chest.) Our real conversation, however, centered around his comments about artist's choice of subject matter. We couldn't figure out how one still life was "trite subject matter" and another was prize winning. We could understand compositional issues, execution, etc., but the CONTENT or subject was the issue .
Our conclusion was that content or subject matter is a very personal thing. You may see a portrait and see "just a child" and someone else see a poignant moment in childhood. Diahn finds landscapes kind of boring (I hope you don't mind that I tell on you, Di!) -- and the ones that make her yawn the most are the ones I find calming. One person may feel that a painting is incomplete without something alive somewhere in the painting -- the other person may find another presence intrusive. In short -- it just doesn't matter. You have to paint what you love. You have to paint what calls your name, whether it's realism or complete fantasy from your head. Listen to and learn from people's critiques about your composition, your technique, how you could express your vision more fully -- but just smile and nod and don't worry about it if they don't like WHAT you paint.
And I think you have to do it with some joy. Go visit Hallah. You'll smile.
Since I didn't get to go to watercolor class this morning, there isn't any poinsettia painting. Here's my first December drawing -- a 10 minute watercolor and colored pencil sketch of a little candy cane that I stuck in my back pocket at the art fair.
(You know how it is in December -- you just never know when you might need a candy cane. )
I'm loving doing these very fast little paintings with watercolor on Bristol smooth finish paper. The paint behaves in a ... wait a minute ... what I mean to say is that the paint totally MISbehaves and that makes it fun! I grabbed my colored pencils to define the shadow, and accidentally picked up Prismacolor Verithins, rather than the regular waxy colored pencil. WHAT a great difference! I'm going to be exploring this mix of mediums and some palette additions a whole lot more this month.
Now -- I promised myself that I got four hours today to work on the front porch painting ... I'm off to paint!
Woo hoo! It's December and countdown time!
P.S. What did you do Christmas-y today? I put my Santa picture on my phone for my wallpaper and put out a four foot inflatable snowman. (LOL -- there's a story to that!)