The Thing about Art (and Artists)

This scene is based on a view near Halls Harbour NS. It’s a beautiful scene of the old house house contrasted with brilliant musk mallow flowers. Available on my Etsy shop. Please click on image.

‘Just read someone’s heart-felt, out-pouring lament about the despair that sometimes seems to cloud over artists.

To be honest I identified with what this woman was saying. All her life she wanted only one thing and that was to be recognized for her art.

The problem seems to be less with ‘money’ as  she says, but a lack of recognition and understanding among family and peers as to her ‘being’ an artist.

Also she says she only started showing her art when she was 48 years old and soon she will be turning 50. She says her “time is running out.”

On her facebook post she gets lots of comments of sympathy and encouragement. So obviously it is an artist thing. Okay I’m kind of mad at myself for thinking in a similar way at times and I’d like a good honest attack on what the heck is really the problem with ‘us’ (artists)! I’ve heard everything from creativity uses up so many ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain ( therefore leaving us depressed) to we were all just raised with a silver brush in our hands and therefore don’t know just how good we have it i.e. ingratitude.

So what’s the problem and what’s the answer?

I’m going to give it my best shot.

I want to dissect her lament (without compromising her anonymity).

First let me work backward and deal with this age thing.  These will be profoundly redundant truths but truths, none-the-less.

  1. Age is meaningless really. Most likely she didn’t start being creative when she was 48. She likely has been creating her whole life in some way; at least ‘seeing’ like an artist. We are always growing!
  2. Chances are she will actually have more time to create now that she’s 50 than since she was 16 ! Maybe not. Maybe she will have to look after an elderly parent or ill ‘child’. But if you factor in the time just spent making a living and raising kids between , say, 25 and 45 it likely took up most of her time. So a year of solid creating or painting is more time than she would have had spending an hour a week for most of her life. ( You do the math..I’m an artist, lol)
  3. She says her time is “running out”. Well I can empathize however a lot of people don’t make it to 50 and a lot more ( in our western society) are making it to 85 ! So the simple fact is WE JUST DON’T KNOW! ha ha ( maniacal laugh). So why even bother to pretend to see the hour glass that belongs to an invisible Creator? We don’t know.

Next she confesses discouragement is part of this creative life. I get what she’s saying. I’ve known (and continue to know) that too. But is it really? Aren’t there hockey players that thought they were just that good and wanted to make it to the big league but now ‘just’ coach the minors on a volunteer basis? Punch! Slam! Pow!  That must have been one big Holy Batman Bag of Hurt!

Then there’s the returning veteran who struggles with scars of night terrors and perhaps horrors that have robbed him of the very limbs he or she needs to lift a paint brush.

So maybe we are just whining and sighing and sounding like a rusty saw.

She says she finds herself often waiting and waiting (the unrung phone, the empty inbox) for someone to ask her to paint something.

Why?!

She , like myself,is looking for Permission! Seriously. What else can it be? Who can ultimately give us permission? I think you know the answer. I think I know the answer. Sometimes she questions herself  as to why  she ever wanted “it” so badly. I take that to be the issue of recognition as an artist. So that’s a whole ‘nother thing. Let’s tackle it. ( Hey I’m expecting you to comment and flesh out whatever I’m missing here).

One last thing about the age thing. Art ( the pursuit thereof) is a lifetime thing…it NEVER stops. It takes years, even decades to become proficient in one’s skills.

Recognizing recognition.

Okay so further on in the comments on her post she mentions a spouse that is “very supportive” and is able to pay the bills. I don’t know about you but this is sounding pretty ideal. In fact I confess to a space of time where my wife was able to pay the bills and I was able to paint and pursue artistic venues full-time.

Recognition is going to come in this life in one or both of two ways.

  1. You will sell your work.
  2. People will tell you in some way that they like/love your work.

Selling Out

This artist, all artists, myself as an artist has to ask one question. How far do you want to go with selling your work? Is that what this is really about I wonder?  We want the phone to ring? ” Hello, I see you are a great artist and I want to buy your work”.  GONG!  It don’t work that way. If your goal is selling out ( of stock) then it means creating, finding, marketing your work and that itself is a freakin’ full time job! Nobody is going to save your a$$. Really.

The good news is, I believe, if you’re willing to put in the time and the good Lord gives it to ya then you can make some kind of living from your work. It means uncovering a market, it means finding your niche. It means study, study, study and work, work , work. Yeah like a mad dog. That’s what it takes. It means getting a thick skin and thinking of the veteran who just took a bullet for you and stop feeling sorry for yourself

The next great news is that with the invention of the internet you can paint while listening to free podcasts and Youtube vids on everything from marketing to creating work. Listen and listen. Replay the best ones until it gets stuck in your head how to do a thing and then practice it.

Falling in Love

After you’re dead and gone and if you could be ‘a fly on the wall’ you would hear a litany of praise on how great an artist you were. People will remember and think of how YOU made them feel better. Young nieces and nephews will say ” Gee Aunt so-an-so was an artist. It means I can be one too. maybe it runs in the family”

Every time your name passes over parting lips you will be remembered as someone who had a great gift, ” a natural God-given talent”. They’ll say stuff about you that will make you smile. They won’t say “she wasted her time”. They just won’t. The few that are saying it now have their own internal,emotional crises and it’s bitter water coming from a bitter well. Why drink from it?!

Fall back in love with your work and that part of yourself which is a special gift to others. It doesn’t have to be sold to be appreciated but it can be. Just remember that creating the art and the business of art are two different things that happen simultaneously. The artist is one who gives- not gets. This giving attitude , I believe, is what it takes to get.

To Be Continued…

 

 

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Those Three Beautiful Words ( or 4 )

I opened up my email this morning to those  three , or rather four, beautiful words.

With a head full of sleep and eyes not quite focused it took me a waking moment to realize that someone was saying they bought 3 of my prints at a local gift shop.  They said they were “very pleased”. Wow, I thought. Am I still dreaming? Then came the four beautiful words:

“We love your work”.

To an artist that is almost as good as the three words, “I love you”.  Almost. Hey let’s not get carried away right?

In all sincerity it made my day! No not in a Clint Eastwood kinda way. More like when Martin Landau received an Oscar for a role in ‘Ed Wood’ after having worked so hard in acting to be appreciated. Well he was a little long winded in that so I won’t duplicate an error.

It’s a sweet thing to have some one like your work no matter what it is you do. It’s even sweeter if they say so.

Sure it’s always nice to get some money back but I think someone taking the time to write a note and send it along makes it all so much more special.

All I can say is Thanks and I am Grateful…

…cue the exit music, ha!

 

…thanks for visiting!

Where’s All The Paintings?!!

PrintsAtHennigars

Hall’s Harbour Series Prints-Mine are on the left and right of center.

“Where’s all the paintings she said?

Recently I met and was talking to a nice woman who works in a local art supply store. She seemed interested in learning about my art so I shared a business card with her and asked her to look at my website.  A few days later I was back in again buying paint and we had a brief conversation.

She expressed liking my art but at the same time seemed disappointed that there wasn’t more to see. Describing her experience perusing my website, etc she spoke in third person and said under her breath …”but where are all the paintings ?”

Since I’m older now and life has naturally subscribed to me some maturity ( without my earning it, lol) I did not take any offense to this. In fact any criticism ( not a bad word) is a tool that anyone , especially artists, can use.

Twenty years ago I may have went home and paced around in a tornado-like  circle until I had worn the earth down to a pillar like Superman. All the while I would be muttering …”doesn’t she know how long it takes for me to paint one picture..doesn’t she know how much work it is, etc.?”

She has a point. I fully agree and if she’s reading this I can honestly say that my reaction is that every artist has a duty and a pleasure to create beauty to the best of their ability for God, Queen and Country , Themselves and not the least importantly , their fans.

If you’re anything at all like me , you’ll have a tendency to find any excuse not to do the work. The famous Texan artist James White spoke about this.  He once said something like, “Artists’s will use the size of their studio, their ability, they don’t have enough money, what’s the point, whatever..” to find a reason not to do the work. This was one of the main reasons for their lack of overall success, in any sense of the word, according to him.

Perhaps our North American culture, having thrown out the baby with the bath water when it comes to Puritanism threw out the Puritan Work Ethic. Problem is we haven’t even adopted the child of certain other cultures to simply get to work and stop whining about it.

Maybe when we can accept being and working as synonymous will make more progress.

So the sun is up as I write this morning. In the words of singer Bruce Cockburn:

Sun’s up, uh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on

In other words, the world did not end over night..time to get on with it.  We may just have another day to get on with it so…Get to work.

Dwarfartist2

 

 

Art for What it’s Worth.

hallsold5x7new

5×7 acrylic painting of Old Hall’s Harbour NS  can be purchased HERE

“Notions, Goods, Accessories!” yelled one of the cartoon characters in the ship’s crows nest as he plummeted past the stunned, angry pirate below.

The  goofy cartoon character I’m referring to is one of two known as Heckle and Jeckel.  Perhaps not so known today but really popular years ago.

So what if they had said, “Notions,Goods, Accessories plus Fine Art?”

Does Art and especially fine art fall into that category?

Why does art have this *funny* association with money?

 This is something I’ve given a great deal of thought to but the answer seems to be still very open ended.

Then there is the question of worth. For a lot of people a painting that costs 400 -1000 dollars is hardly affordable.  So most people aren’t going to buy your originals. That leaves only  certain people or collectors that will purchase originals.

Just a footnote as a friend of mine has pointed out.  The real worth of art is not it’s market price. (save that for the next post)

Art, in my opinion  primarily falls into two categories:

1. ‘Art made for art’s sake.’

2. Art produced for the market.

I think ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ is quite self explanatory.  One creates art for their own soul to be shared -or not- with others; possibly even sold.

Art produced for the market is art that was intentionally created for the purpose of selling.  Once you step into this arena , in my opinion, you must have as much desire to make money as to make art!  Then again can we call art made for the market really the same kind of art? It all reminds me of the typical sci-fi stories of AI’s or advanced androids having human characteristics but wondering if they have souls.

Many disagree and say one should create their passion and then focus on selling afterward. On the other hand just creating one’s passion may or may not guarantee a sale.

The question is: Is there a middle ground?  Does there have to be an either /or?

How do you feel about making art for the market?

Since art is sold I’d like to explore these questions further.

“I say ole’ chap”, if you’re an artist then what do you think?

*Heckle_and_jeckle_promo

The Cat named Art

hallsharbturncat

Round the Bend Halls Harbour, NS by K.Cameron

ART can’t be contained.

No matter how much an artist tries to stop being an artist it always comes back.

Like the cat that leaves but keeps on showing up on the doorstep ( an old Muppet skit comes to mind) the artist for whatever reason can’t ultimately stop being true to their nature.  Perhaps you’ve experienced this too.

For what reasons artists find to take a hiatus depends upon the artist however it’s often linked to a dissatisfaction with their results or even themselves.  Yes a kind of perfectionism that haunts us.

Life can get too busy with jobs, social expectations and a myriad of good things. At the end of the day , though, there is a hunger to do more.  The warm, caring nurture of time spent painting  beckons us back to the easel, the canvas or preferred medium of your choice.

The shelter from the howls of cold wind and life itself once again calls us home to safety.

In this way Art cannot be contained.  You may be a creative who thinks they can put off your inner call until retirement or until that list of home repairs needs to be finished but in the end you’ll find that spark of creativity is a hard thing to dowse .

The call to be creative leads you back over well trodden hills and forest paths to a home you keep hidden in your heart.

Isn’t it time you came in from the cold!

Have a creative day!  Thanks for visiting.

A Little Favour

4Paintingswp

I’m doing a kind of survey to see which paintings of mine would be best to have made into prints. If there is a painting that you prefer more then please just reply with the A, B, C, or D. This is *not* an order form or a sale- just a survey. The prints will be around 8 x 10 on photo quality and professionally printed. Also I will post this and others on my fb biz page as well which some of you already follow. Just trying to get various input…Thanks in advance!

Style

SeasideS2014

Style:  Every artist has it, needs it and wants it.  So what exactly is it?

Instead of beginning with an authoritative quote from the dictionary I’d like to propose a few ideas of my  own about artistic style.
Style is that seemingly elusive yet nearly tangible quality of an artist that sets him or her apart from other artists.  Style reflects or manifests an artist character, integrity, mind, experience, decision and summarily their ‘soul’.  Do all artists have style?  Yes I believe they do no matter if they are just starting or have years of experience. A beginning artist often worries about having or discovering their style. Perhaps, really, the concern should be to develop their style.
In real time Style appears to be about things like the artists choice of colours ( her favourites), subject matter, support ( canvas, paper, brick wall, etc) ,medium, brush strokes, detail or abstract, etc.  However these all come about ( in my opinion) as the artist’s inherent and instinctive style is developed through learning , practice – trial and error.  We are all conceived as human beings but given the time to grow we develop our own character.
Style is our own approach.  It is our way in which we think and do. Style is like developing our own signature.  One person writes -almost prints their name in bold. Another person writes more cursively ( stylistically, so to speak). The style is not necessarily the final product but our approach to the problem or challenge at that point in our lives.  I think this is why a child may have a different apparent style of writing than they will as an adult.  In each case along the timeline of our artistic lives we have our own style and it develops or evolves by choice and chance and practice. I see style as more of a verb than a noun.
Let’s take Elvis as an example.  Yeah, THE Elvis- Shake , Rattle and Roll ! Most everyone knows of Elvis Presley to some extent or has heard his music.  Even though television often refused at first to present him fully legged from the waste down his fame increased all the more.  When we think of Elvis we may think of his style as the sway of his hips or how he held the microphone.  To say this however would be to ignore the lyrical antics of Elvis’ musical countrymen  like Chuck Berry , who had his own “sway” and movement.  In fact a recent viewing of Tom Cochrane’s guitar swaying in  No Regrets  is not completely unlike Chuck Berry’s movement sometimes in Maybellene (at 2.19 mins in).  I suspect Chuck was a little self restrained for Television.
So my point here is not to say that all of these gents had the same portion of talent, vocal range or genius.  My point is that although style will never be  unique due to our physical limitation it is really the fighting spirit or the ‘soul’ of the artist that shines through in what we call Style.  It’s really all about how bad you want it. Your vision as an artist will be expressed through you own personal style in which driven by your ‘spirit’, love for the art, need to communicate are realized.
The only real way to develop your style is to work it out.  What appears easy often takes a lot of work.  A bird usually must work it’s wings hard and fast in order to reach a point where it can soar on the highest currents.  Work for the artist is mental and physical.  You must decide as you go on what your best medium is ( what feels right, what you like). Then you must practice and experiment.  Then the act of creation seems  more spiritual. Suddenly you will find your self from time to time, soaring as if all of the universe has come together in you in one brief moment. My contention is that the entire process is ‘spiritual’ in that we involve our spirit and our pysche even during those times when we are literally slugging away, dragging ourselves into the studio or in front of the easel.  This is not to say that moments of euphoria or excitement aren’t desired to motivate but I think this is a different topic saved for a different day.
So these are my thoughts on Style. Likely there is much more that could be said.  Is it possible to perfect a style?  Or again, is the emphasis to be placed more on perfect as a process than as having actually achieved or arrived at a point of perfection?  My take away from all of this is that every artist has style.  This is comforting especially to a beginning artist.  You already have a style that is uniquely you!  In time , with practice, that style will  become undeniably apparent to others. Your work will stand beside you like your very own offspring having it’s own identity but sharing a marked resemblance in features to you , the parent.
Now I suppose I should go look up the definition of Style.  I tend to do things in reverse order sometimes.  I guess, though, that’s just part of my style.
Thanks for reading.  What do you think?
“Every artist dips his brush into his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures” – Henry ward Beecher

 

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Work

I’m one of those guys that was not born into an ‘artistically inclined” household.  I inherited some artistic/creative skills from my Mom’s side.  Her brother Bob Mackenzie was an artist but it wasn’t his main source of income. My mother encouraged my imagination as a young boy by making me toys from cardboard and other such things.  It amazed me how such a simple thing as cardboard could be used to make a dump truck that actually’dumped’ and a Tarzan jungle house complete with even a swinging rope (likely some twine or string).

My Dad, although  a benevolent and kind man, was always the dominate personality. His understanding of art  and aesthetic appreciation involved the application of hard grease to tractor fittings.  His senses ‘filled up’ on things like cords of firewood that disappeared into the horizon line rather than  vermilion sunsets ;the perfect ping of a revved up engine as opposed to the swift stroke of a script liner brush. This is all fine , of course. Everyone has a right to their likes and dislikes.  However for a young boy with artistic and imaginative leanings I was on my own.  Such pursuits were secondary, even tertiary to things like sharpening a chainsaw or fixing a motor. My creative inventions seemed to dumbfound my Dad as if he were hit by some shock-and-awe military venture.  Don’t get me wrong.  My parents thought highly of my skills but it left them somehow speechless.  In their world NO ONE made a living at art.  Art was not work because it was not considered paid work.

When I did get paid art jobs the best sympathy they expressed while viewing was to say ” too bad you couldn’t get that on America’s Greatest Home Videos or something…”  Then the awkward silence…

Yes I am lamenting a little.  Okay.  Why hide it? If only I had had the encouragement to get to it earlier in life. One wonders but it’s best to pick up where you are and move forward.

The crux of the problem is the mixture of business and pleasure.  Only recently in the history of humankind have we come to realize that to be given the opportunity to do what one likes for a career is in fact both WORK  and PLAY!

There is an element of “play” involved even in the fixing of motors or chopping of  firewood if you like that sort of thing.  Somewhere the idea of WORK in PLAY got lost in many a child’s upbringing.  This leaves the child confused and holds on to the one dictum they know for sure –“Please your parents and you will please yourself”.

I do remember years ago spending weeks on a painting and hand crafting  a large decorative frame only to have someone say’ ” Wow! I’ll give you 50 bucks for it!”   Heavens people!  Fifty dollars for a good painting that took 80 hours to create!

Yes, even if art is work we don’t need (so to speak) it is still work!  This is true of all kinds of artistic things like writing and music, let alone painting or sculpting , etc.  Just because work has an element of personal pleasure attached to it ( at times) does not make it NOT work.  Just because a work brings little monetary return does not make it NOT work.

The amount of blood , sweat, tears and premeditated thought that goes into a creation is work enough to scare off many a grease coated mechanic or fly-bitten woodsman ( yes you can be an artist and a woodsperson, etc) Creating art will always involve work.  It may seem like play…and it is.  However it is no different than tinkering with a gas motor or shingling a roof ( I’ve done both , thank you) when it comes to classifying art as work.

Let’s not kid ourselves and think that art is in demand in the same fashion as coffee, baked goods or firewood.  Everyone needs their car fixed but not everyone needs a painting do they.

Let us establish this here and forever though:  Art is work and work is play regardless of the pay.

Children, teach your parents well.

Halls Harbour

There once was a Man who told Jokes at the Bay of Fundy.

You could go and hear him every Sunday.

His Lyrics and Rhymes   were good for Local Lore,

Though everyone thought his Humour was really a Tidal Bore!

K.C.          

Tidal Bore.  Do you get it?  I know it needs some work and it’s totally fictional as far as I know. Well I’m a painter not a poet. After all this is kevincameronartist not kevincameronpoet! ha! Anyways..moving right along..

This little painting ( 5 x7)is based on the Bay of Fundy. Quite a few years ago I took a couple of pictures of the old Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia before it got government money to fix it all up for the tourists. It’s still beautiful and much more functional for the boats that come and go there.  However the old version had it’s charm only touched by nature.

Once one is finished then both it and a photo are used to quickly paint another one.  These are just small paintings to go in frames that I finished and decorated. Both will be for sale soon on my Etsy site – OceanSky Crafts. The one on the bottom is almost done.  I’ve got a plastic ziplock bag on the finished one. You know how those slips and spills happen when least expected!

Here  are pictures with two different frames. Do you have a preference?

               

With a nine volt battery for scale.

I have one  frame with crackle finish and little sea shell in each corner but I don’t have a photo of it. I’ll post it later.

Thanks for viewing!  Visit again soon.