I don’t try to paint pretty pictures.

I actually dislike how pretty my pictures seem, now that I’ve seen them tiled together after editing my Oil Painting page.
It’s like cotton candy, saccharine and.. I don’t know.. nice. I could write an entirely separate post analyzing why I seem to take scenes that go largely unnoticed, and paint them in sugary, saturated colors. I see beauty in things which I assume others interpret as ugly, or don’t bother to notice or interpret at all, and then I turn them into candy.
It’s like I’m a kid with a sugar addiction when it comes to mixing color. I try to muddy my palette down, but the finished painting still appears so saturated and vibrant.
Ok, I’ll stop with this, and get to the point.

I visited my Alma Mater yesterday, with my dear friend and colleague Sara.
We viewed the current Faculty Exhibit at the campus gallery, then visited with our old professors. It was perfect timing; there were students working in the studio, but neither of the professors had any formal classes in session.

Part of the conversations from yesterday are still resonating with me.

Here is a little recent history I should explain before going on:
Just this past February, I had my first solo exhibition at the local University of Wisconsin extension gallery.
Despite my nervousness in anticipation of the opening, the show was very successful for me, because out of it I was able to sell four of my paintings.
Aside from a few commissions and one trade, this was the first time anyone had actually purchased my artwork, which meant more to me than any commission, because this was work I chose to do for no other reason than to document my interactions with the world around me.

This reference of selling paintings came up in conversation with Bill and Denise, our professors.
I didn’t think about how, subconsciously, the sale of some paintings has had any bearing on the work I am producing now, until Bill said something about making sure it didn’t “mess with my head.”
Overall what that means is that every artist has to balance between producing good work, and surviving.
And, should we sell our work along the way, we must fight the urge to pander to whichever desirable trait we think contributed to the sale of that painting, or risk stagnation in our creative processes, and compromise the integrity of our art. More simply put, we must resist the temptation of “selling out.”

{to exemplify, Thomas Kinkaide}

At first, I dismissed the idea because I thought I was immune, that I paint what I like and don’t really care about what will or won’t sell. I purposely avoid my interpretation of cliche subject matter, meaning no barns, no bucolic scenery, no shoreline paintings, and definitely no wine-bottle-themed still lives.
I thought, “that’s great advice for younger artists, but I don’t give a crap what people think of my work,” which is untrue, otherwise I wouldn’t post any of it on the internet.

So far I feel like the paintings I have been doing out of college have not been as ambitious as those I had been doing toward the end of my schooling. I have been focusing more on exploring what it is in my environment that I am drawn to, what I like, than pushing the quality of my work. I do think I still produce good paintings, but I don’t think every painting I do is up to its full potential.

I have a habit of executing and detaching from my work, and if I can’t finish a painting the same day I start it, it takes me a very long time to finish it, in part because I will set it aside to do other artwork, and tell myself I’ll work on it later.
I suppose part of my reasoning is due to my desire to complete more paintings in a year’s time. I have goals that I never meet. I would like to be able to start and complete 1-2 paintings per month, but over the course of a year’s time, I might only finish 5.

I’m straying from my topic again.

I wanted to reflect on the perception of my work.
Every artist wants to be satisfied with their own work. And, as Bill indicated, it really is difficult to go on creating work that is purely yours once people react to a finished painting.

Even if you never sell your work, as long as there are other pairs of eyes looking at it, and mouths voicing reactions to it, and fingers typing vernacular about it, you can’t erase the dialogue from your mind.

An artist’s viewers are every bit a part of the work they produce as their own hands are.

I think we already know these things, but until we take the time to really think about it, we sort of keep trudging along, doing what we always do, not really thinking about it, not really examining it, and neglecting to ask ourselves why we make these particular decisions while designing our next composition.
I seldom think it has anything to do with what others have reacted to in my work, but that is a misjudgement on my part.

The viewer is the invisible component, and the most obvious one.
The viewer ultimately guides the artist though both are oblivious of this at most times.
The viewer and the artist, such a symbiotic and fragile relationship, full of variables and unpredictable outcomes.

I will probably continue painting the things I like to paint, although now I may develop a slight neurosis in the process.

I would like to close this post with a quote I encountered this morning, in my copy of Elaine de Kooning’s The Spirit Of Abstract Expressionism: Selected Writings.

“The beautiful Frank O’Hara, who now lies a few feet away from [Jackson] Pollock in the graveyard at The Springs, East Hampton, wrote of the artist in 1959 in answer to his own proliferating questions and insights:
“This new painting does have qualities of passion and lyrical desperation, unmasked and uninhibited, not found in other recorded eras; it is not surprising that faced with universal destruction, as we are told, our art should at last speak with unimpeded force and unveiled honesty to a future which may well be non-existent, in a last effort of recognition which is the justification of being.” “
-quoted from Elaine de Kooning’s writing,
Jackson Pollock: An Artist’s Symposium, 1967.

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