I recently read a magazine article where the interviewed photographer equated his goals with those of athletes, that is, winning a championship. Having had some success in competitions, I have felt the satisfaction that comes with being recognized among the best image makers. But the idea of creativity being measured as we would winning a World Series, Olympic gold, or some other sports pinnacle, is not useful to me. I also don’t believe the metaphor even applies. There is no reasonable way to quantify the differences between artwork in a way analogous to batting average, or track speed. One could objectively measure artistic success by how much money was made, how many of a particular award was won, how many museum shows were achieved. But these measures too have elements of subjectivity associated with them.
Maybe more importantly, art is not something one should engage in for the purpose of “winning” something. Success has many definitions. But for me success has only one, being able to continue creating and living the life of a full-time artist. Something I’ve been doing in my way for 20 years now. This “success” has been possible not because I’ve competed with others, or won “championships.” My success has come about through the daily activity of engaging with everyday esthetic experiences and creating based on my emotional response to those little events. In fact I am very happy to totally reject the sports metaphor. For me, art isn’t the score at the end of a game, it is the score at the end of a life. The game continues until I’m off the field. At that point, I’ve already won.
My wife Lin and I spend a few days in D.C. We had a couple objectives. First, as artists, it is important for us to be engaged in the world of art beyond the events where we sell out work. Second, Lin had sold some work to the Smithsonian which placed it in the National Museum of American History gift shop, and we really wanted to see it.
I hadn’t been to Washington for a very long time and never for any extended time. So I was very excited to go. And, honestly, I needed the spark that going to great museums gives me. I always come away from such visits with new creative gusto.
Lin and I went to the Renwick Museum, and The National Gallery of Art. Both museums are must-sees during any visit. The Renwick has a more contemporary collection comprising various mediums. The NGA has a collection of primarily paintings and sculptures by the masters. The current special exhibit at the NGA is called “True to Nature: Open-air painting in Europe, 1780-1870.” It was awesome!
Whats nice about D.C. is that if you are staying in walking distance of the Mall, you’ve got a whole lot to explore without needing to get into a car. We are already looking forward to another visit as there was so much we didn’t have time for.
Here’s Lin standing in front of the display of some her work (floral felt trivets and coasters, and felt-art inserted into tea cups). There’s a sign identifying her as the artist and a business card holder on the middle shelf. The National Museum of American History was fascinating, and having Lin’s work in their Museum Store was exciting to see!
In the area around Lin’s display is a variety of work by other artists. These hand-made pieces are all kept around the central check-out area and mostly behind glass.
The process of getting into the various shows I do each year requires a sometimes complex set of actions. The most important starting point is deciding with which images I will represent myself. These must be images that are visually strong, have been made within the past few years, and authentically represent my personal aesthetic. It is a rather stressful process because I can’t know how any show juror(s) will respond to my work. As a full time, independent artist, getting into shows, and more prestigious shows especially, can greatly affect my livelihood.
All I can do is send in the work that excites me most, represents who I am as an artist, and hope for the best. Different shows have different submission processes, but most now charge an application fee just to have one’s work considered. Then there’s the show fee, often a fee for electricity, travel costs, hotel costs, food……..and so on. As an independent artist, I am both the creator of the artwork, manager of the business, and the art dealer.
My 2017 show schedule is beginning to take shape and will be updated on my website soon. But, the process is just at it’s beginning and I am updating my image selection for applications. The image above is one I selected for this year. It is part of a series I am doing on meadow grasses and other botanical subjects. For this series, I have been primarily using a few antique lenses made about 60 years ago. Using an adaptor to fit the lens on my Fuji camera, I’m creating images that are quiet, peaceful, reflections of my feelings while in the field and my personal aesthetic. My work may be seen HERE
This month started out with me still in the midst of a 9-day long event – the Kutztown Folk Festival. It ended with the news that a show I had been producing with other artist friends would have to be cancelled. In between I did two other events, one out by Penn State, the other in Wilmington, Delaware. None of them went exactly as I had hoped, all of them were great fun and important learning situations.
It has been a long month, a second full moon (“Blue Moon”) in a way symbolizes that. A lot of good came from this July – good sales, good times with friends, good ideas from collaborations. Even with the cancellation of Art Melange for August, I am moving on with the work I would have presented there and with the idea of artists taking control of their own exhibitions and sales.
I spoke with a newspaper reporter yesterday by phone about our cancelled show and after hanging up with her I felt even more determined to make it happen some time in the future.
I’ve been back from Acadia National Park for about a week and beginning to develop a new body of work from that trip. We had a great time in Bar Harbor, the park, and a couple of nights spent with good friends who have a house in Maine.
Our first 7 nights were spent at the Holbrook House , a B&B in bar Harbor. Run by Michelle and Eric Allvin, we immediately felt at home. Our accommodations were comfortable and the house was welcoming. Michelle and Eric are friendly and accommodating (they adjusted their menu for my daughter who is a vegetarian). The biggest problem I faced staying there is that Michelle made great breakfasts! So, how is that a problem you ask? Well, I’m up early to work sunrise light (4:30 AM) and normally would stay in the field until lunch. And, as unprofessional as it may be, I could not stay out later than 8:00 AM for fear of missing breakfast! These meals were different every day and were each probably the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. That was a big problem!
I am however, quite pleased with some of the work I did manage to do in Maine and will share it soon. For now, here’s a picture of one of those problematic breakfasts.
Typically when I speak of being in the studio, I mean the space where I print, mat, and frame my work. But in some respects, the natural areas where I create new images is also a studio. In the October issue of Professional Artist magazine, I write about getting away from both kinds of studios and getting involved with other aspects of being an artist.
During the last several days, I’ve been able to get away from the printing/matting/framing studio and into the image-making studio. That’s pretty important also.