Creating paintings that resonate with viewers, paintings that hold the viewers attention and bring them back again for another look, is a major goal of every painter. I spent the winter months this year buried in my Iowa studio creating a new body of work and now I’ve started to share it publicly. I’m two art shows in for the year. In the last month I’ve been to my first show in St. Louis, MO at the Laumeier Sculpture Park and participated in a show on the downtown streets of Iowa City, IA.
One of the major benefits to artists exhibiting at an art fair is getting direct feedback from your audience and customers. I’ve learned to observe my visitors and listen closely to their feedback. I’ve also started to jot down some of their comments and observations for me to reflect on later. They are teaching me about my own work. They ask inquisitive questions and as I answer their questions they help me to become more articulate about my work and techniques. Creating a painting is much more of a solitary pursuit, interacting with the general public in my art booth is not.
Observations, Questions and Comments from the road so far this year…
“I feel like you are inside my head.”
“There is so much depth here.”
“You’re my kind of painter.”
“Looks like lots of spontaneity there- I like that…to see surprises.”
“Calming and soothing, yet full of life bubbling up.”
“It’s just like free… so free.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I love your stuff. It’s so vibrant!”
From a trio of college friends… “Groovy!” “It’s crazy stuff!” “Rad!”
“What is the name of your method? What about the ‘Van Zee Free Method’?”
And, lots of questions about technique…
“Is it glue?”
“Is it Elmer’s?”
“Is it wax?”
“Is it encaustic?”
To which I answer… “No, it is all acrylic mediums and paints”.
“Really??? Cause I didn’t even know acrylic could do anything like this?”
And, then I start to notice which paintings people are gravitating toward and which paintings they look at for a long time and which paintings they point out and talk about to their friends or family.
This year I’ve noticed there is one painting that consistently gets feedback. It is the painting titled “Unraveled Fears”.
Some comments about “Unraveled Fears”…
“It looks like a tornado of love.”
“I think it is an elephant.”
“Looks like female anatomy parts to me.”
“It’s a tornado. I know it’s a tornado!”
“Have you ever in your life stood in front of a painting for such a long time?” From two college age musicians who spent a good half hour studying the painting
And, an interchange between a mom and her high school age son…(which so appropriately happened on Mother’s Day)
Son: “I think it is going up.”
Mom: “No, it is going down.”
Son: “No, I am sure it is going up.”
Mom: “No. I am positive it is going down and I’m the mom so I am right!”
“Unraveled Fears” may be the painting that I wrestled with the most this winter. I spent so much time adding more layers to this painting and and it was the work I was the most hesitant to share. This seems to be a reoccurring experience for me- the paintings that resonate deeply with me, the ones that feel the most deeply personal, the pieces I’m concerned about sharing…end up being the paintings that elicit the most in-depth concentration and conversations. They draw people in for a longer look.
The work that resonates deeply with me, also resonates deeply with others.
And, once again, I am reminded and challenged of what I know to be true…that when artists create from that which is within, when they create from that which is authentic, when they allow their heart and soul to flow into the work, the work will resonate and the real conversations will begin and continue long into the future.
Dear Creative Heart,
Many years ago when I was a young mother I sat on the cement floor of my basement with a lone sketchbook I had desperately dug for in the back corner of my closet. As the blank page stared at me, I wept. It had been years since I had drawn anything. I had a college degree in education and art but I had no idea what it was that I “drew”. I hadn’t painted in years (other than projects like stencils on the kitchen wall). Maybe all my creativity was gone…sucked out and dried up by the everyday demands and activities of my life? Maybe my brain would never work that way again? How would I ever figure out what ART it was that I did? Maybe I would never make “real ART” again???
I have no idea what I drew on that blank page that day. I may have drawn nothing at all. I do know that I was in a place of painful creative frustration, possibly desperation…I was alone, facing my creative fear, staring at the blank page in utter disbelief that I had let myself dig such a big creative hole in my life and not sure I would ever really be able to emerge from such a place. Over 15 years later, I still remember that moment like it was yesterday.
It is with gratitude that I now look back on that period of my life. I’m so thankful for the many people that showed up in my life and who became encouragers for my creative journey.
My encouragement for you today…you don’t have to do this “creative thing” alone.
Creativity doesn’t have to work that way.
It doesn’t have to be that hard.
Find someone-anyone… my creative friend who can be an encourager. Surround yourself and your creativity with support. While much creative work is done in private, there is so much you can learn about your creativity in community. When you share your work, allow others in a supportive environment to critique your work, find teachers to show you new techniques, or share tips and experiences with other creatives, your own creative work will start to grow and transform. You will find new energy for your work and inspiration to keep returning to the work when things get bleak or challenging.
Not every experience of creative community is going to go smoothly- when you hang out with other creative people you start to see each others mud and muck- insecurities can surface, pride and jealousy can rear their ugly head, feelings can get hurt, but each of those experiences are teachers. They refine you and do not define you. In my experience the joy far out ways the challenges. You may have to step out of your comfort zone to find your creative community. You may find your creative community locally or you may have to reach out to a broader area depending on your creative specialty. You may gather with your creative tribe in person or connect through the power of social media or technology.
Dear creative heart- make work of finding your creative tribe..no matter what your “creative thing” is. If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “Well, I don’t have a creative thing?”, it is high time you figured out what it is. If your creative thing has been buried away, it is time to resurrect it. I’m a firm believer that everyone and I mean everyone is born creative. It may take on many different forms and we may express it in different ways. It may be covered up with layers of pain and shame, but it is there and one of the best ways to help you discover the fullness of your creative gifts is in community.
I’m thrilled to be able to spend this upcoming weekend with two of my creative communities.
Artists and Authors on the Square (Dec. 3-5, 2015) during Pella Tour of Homes, 836 Main St. Pella, IA. I will be gathering with one of my creative communities who I love to hang out with and who have known me for a long time. Join us as we share and celebrate the creative activities of artists and authors in the Pella community. I’ll be sharing a brief presentation at 12:00 pm Saturday sharing tips and techniques for acrylic painting.
And, “Buy Local ” friends!
For more information including time and location, visit Artists and Authors on the Square.
Paintpushers present “Local Color” (Dec. 2-Dec. 27, 2015) Des Moines Social Club, Des Moines, IA Reception Dec. 4, 2015 5-9 pm. Paintpushers is a professional artists critique group who I meet with once a month in Des Moines, IA. Once a year we create a show together. For this show, each artist has created multiple pieces of new work (7-12 pieces of 12 x 12 affordable works) exploring the theme of “Local Color”. Meet the artists in person on Friday night, Dec. 4 from 5-9 pm. For more information , visit Paintpushers on Facebook.
I’m so excited to share the new 2015 Art Collection with you! I spent the cold, Iowa winter months deep into the process of creating new artwork in my studio. I’ve been exploring new color combinations and delving deeper into the visual themes of swirls and spirals.
It is my hope that these new pieces will inspire you to create a home with as unique a style as you. If you’d like to see the pieces in person, I’ll be traveling to art shows through out the Midwest in the summer and fall and I’d love to have you stop by and see me. You can also contact me for a studio visit if you are interested in a specific piece.
(More shows will be added as information is available.)