Monthly Archives: August 2014

Lessons from an Art Show


Today I did the art show for Pawlet on the Green – an annual local event held each year as a fund raiser for the Pawlet Scholarship Fund. Local and regional artists of all sorts come and display their work on the Saturday before labor day, and a percentage of what is sold goes to the Scholarship Fund.

I don’t do art shows. But I do this every year. It’s for a good cause. It’s only one day. And it gives me a chance to meet and catch up with a lot of my artistic friends.

Often we artists are not a social lot. We do our work alone in a studio or out somewhere in nature. But we do enjoy company, and the company of other creative people  is a joy most of us don’t really get enough of.

So I do this one.

It actually began late yesterday. I had ordered an inexpensive (re: Cheap) tent to use, but it did not arrive till late Friday. I scooted over to Edie Mach’s green to put it up. Let’s see – no directions? Check.  Pitiful little pegs that can’t stay in the ground? Check. Missing a section of the center pole? Check. Yep, the tent was a disaster. Big Thanks to Jeff Hamill, his wife Heidi (who is an artist at Dry Brook Studio) and their two girls, who saved my bacon helping me out. I ran and got some decent stakes, and an old trunk to take the place of the missing pole and I was ready for today.


I got there early to finish setting up. And after I finished I helped some of the others set up. There was Dew on the grass and it was clear and sunny with a wind. I walked over the the creek and listened to water a while, enjoying the light playing on the reflections before the water poured over the dam near Mach’s store. The clouds were fascinating (I will post some of those another day)  It was a perfect day to do this. The show started about ten.

It was a slow day. Far slower than in years past. In the end, I sold one painting. Most everyone there didn’t move a lot of art either. A few things, but not like years past. The lack of traffic however, meant that I got to watch people and listen and see more, and I learned a few things.


If you love something, Really love it. Get it. 

The one painting I sold, however, was crazy gratifying. Maybe the most gratifying painting I have ever sold.

You see last year when I did this the first time, there was this one man from New York City. A real “captain of industry” type. Absurdly well dressed with his equally absurdly well dressed wife. He came back to my tent half a dozen times to look at a particular painting. As the day was winding down, I saw him striding towards my tent with a “I’m gonna buy something” look on his face. Just as he got to my tent, his wife grabbed his shoulder and said “You don’t need any more art.”. And like that he was gone. I remembered his face. It had the disappointment of a child denied and they walked to their car.

Today he was back. And I had brought that painting back. He stopped, did not hesitate and pointed. “I want that one.” Bang. Ten O five and I had my first sale. The look on his face when the picture was there, and he bought it, was priceless. Totally worth the day to see his joy. He had thought about that painting all year. He was just lucky it there. Most of the time I don’t show things twice at the same gallery or show. If you want it, love it, get it. Or suffer the sadness.


Young people love abstract Art. Old people do not. 

Ok, it’s a generalization, but boy did it play out. My booth was full of kids all day (more on that later). Most of the people who lingered, who loved the work, were under 30. They didn’t buy much, but they loved the art and wanted to talk about it.

Most of the older people walked by me without even looking. They already knew it was not something they cared to look at. That’s not a complaint, just an observation. I know abstract is not for everyone. But at 59, I never thought of it as young people’s art.

My favorite was a woman with her daughter in tow who walked past my tent. Her maybe six year old daughter was like a puppy on a leash she wanted to come look so badly, trying to drag her mom over to look close. “You don’t want to look at that.” the mom said. “It’s Abstract.” (said with appropriate demeaning snear. Fortunately later the girl got to come look.


Give stuff away. Give stuff away that kids like and they will bring their parents. 

Did I mention kids love abstract? So when they came, I gave them all a bookmark. I make these out of painting that I don’t like so much. And sign each one. The back has my name and contact information. It’s free art you can take home and use. And once a few kids got them, every kid in the place got one. And then they brought their parents and grandparents. No, none of them bought anything, but I had some delightful conversations, and the chance to show some work in a gallery not far from here. By day’s end, I could look around and about half or two thirds of them were carrying a bookmark in their hands. It made me smile.


Good neighbors count. 

One side I had Chris Edmunds ( an folk artist) and his wife Nancy, and on the other side I had Christoper Smith, a friend and artist from West Rupert. They were all pleasant, made the day fun, and were easy to work with. And it made the day fun. Good neighbors count, even when they are your neighbor only for a day.


Bare feet and good lemonade make any day a good day. 

It was a perfect barefoot day. And it got kind of hot by day’s end. Without a lot of people to talk to, it could have been brutal. But bare feet cooled me off, and the Barn Restaurant had some killer fresh lemonade that kept me going all day. Made it downright pleasant, in fact.


Best two quotes of the day. 

1)  “I don’t get that abstract shit at all.” – said by an old man who was nice, but truly seemed baffled at what he was looking at.

2) “Finally! A real artist not in thrall to the almighty landscape!” said by a woman whose small daughter, bookmark in hand, had dragged her to the booth. (yes, she was under 30.)

In the end, an art show like this is not a way to get rich or make a living.

But it’s good exposure, for a good cause, and there was a host of great conversations. I met some great people I’ll make a point of getting to know better this coming year. So worth doing. Not everything’s about money, after all. Now I am home, tired, and I still have a sermon to write. But what a joy filled day. Mark your calendar now for the Saturday before labor day next year and join us. Even if you don’t like abstract, there’s a host of other great art, and people, all around!


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Art on the Green


Labor Day Saturday, I will be showing art at Pawlet’s Art on the Green.
You’ll get a chance not just to see (and maybe buy)
some of my more recent art, but also work from artists all around the region.
There’s painters, sculptors, potters and craftsmen.

Participating artists will be donating 20 percent of their proceeds
to the Pawlet Scholarship Fund, which helps recent high school graduates and other adults
from Pawlet and West Pawlet in furthering their education.

At this long running community event,
you can see the art, buy presents for yourself or others,
and meet the artists You can also buy lunch!

I hope I see you there!


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Bad Art

February Hope

I had the chance to paint a couple of hours tonight. Nothing turned out well. Bad art lives.
But that is the cost of experimentation. Of trying things. You fail.  And that’s OK.

Because you don’t fail forever.

Not if you keep at it.


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Autumn Fire

Autumn Fire

Autumn Fire

Oil on canvas
12″ x 24″
Currently unframed


You may purchase the original by contacting me. 

You may purchase museum quality prints and cards here.

A note – some decorators have taken to matting my paintings tightly,
giving a completely different twist to the painting.
This painting lends itself to that treatment.
Below is an example of how this might be reframed:

Autumn Fire alternative

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Odd Light

odd light

Taken near Hebron NY.

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Pilgrimage - painting by Tom Atkins


Oil on canvas board
14″ x 11″
Currently unframed


You may buy the original here.

You may buy museum quality prints and cards here. 

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Filed under Abstract, Blue, Christian, Fushia, Jewel Tones, Oil, Purple, Spiritual, State of Mind, Yellow

Artist’s date: The Clark

I haven’t had an “artist’s date” for a few weeks now. Life and work has been a little out of control. So today I looked at my schedule, realized it was quiet, and ran away to Williamstown, MA to visit The Clark Institute of Art. People who have been around here for some time are familiar with The Clark. The study art, and have a fine gallery of classic and famous artwork. They have been closed for a while however, building new facilities, and updating their existing ones. They just reopened a few weeks ago.

I got there early, just as they opened, and got the chance to take in the new buildings before the crowds arrived. That was particularly nice since, when they are not crowded with people, the new spaces have a striking mix of modern architecture and nature, and I was able to savor that contrast to it’s fullest.

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One of my favorite exhibits allowed no cameras – cast and forged items from ancient China.


These were ritual items – holders for wine, water, spices, both strong and elegant with amazing workmanship. It was hard to believe they were more than 2,000 years old. The highlight was a set of temple bells. Each tuned to scale. They had a recording playing music from these bells – it was haunting and lyrical. Far more lyrical than I think of when I imagine oriental music. I stood and listened, immersed in the music of them for over a half hour. I am sure it made the guard nervous. But it was that beautiful.

Then it was downstairs to the opposite end of the scale. Modern Abstract art. Again, no cameras (so I had to shoot from outside the galleries.)

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BIG paintings, which got me thinking about what is possible on a large scale that is not possible on the scale I paint. Suddenly I was envious and wanted a huge, sprawling loft with windows to paint in. Yes, space envy.  Many of the great names of this century’s art were there, and I had a chance to just stand and gaze and let them sink in. One of the advantages perhaps, of going alone. I didn’t have to worry about whether the person with me was bored or tired. I could just sit with them. For the first time, I felt like I “got” Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. I’ve always admired their skill, but I never felt the work before. Whether it was the setting, having more time with them, seeing the originals in their full scale instead of in books and shrunken prints – whatever the reason, today they resonated with me.

Then, off to the original galleries, with their Degas statues, their impressionists, icons and other classic art.  It’s funny how, when I go to a museum, one time one artist will jump out at me, and another time a different artist will sing to me. Today, It was Renoir who held my eye and brought me back again and again.

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There are walking paths at The Clark. They have paths that wander through woods and pastures. Here and there there are artistic insertions into nature. But mostly they left the spaces alone, and let you wander, the nature a beautiful counterpoint to the controlled beauty of the museum itself with it’s architecture, space and light.

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After my walk, I came back to the museum, to look at a few of the paintings that had sung to me a second time.  Then, I went back to the pool outside, found a bench, and just stared into the water. I had planned to spend some time to day thinking and feeling and letting the emotions of the week wash out of me. I had NOT planned to do that thinking and feeling at The Clark, surrounded by people. But after a time gazing and letting my mind and heart wander, tears came, unbidden. Floods of them. I was near the water’s edge, so the crowd as a whole could not see the tears, but I sat, for perhaps an hour, simply letting them flow in this odd, private, public place.

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But (and isn’t there always a but?) there were two small kids playing in the water near me. And they saw. Compassionate and wise as only kids can be, they asked me what was wrong.

“I am just sad.” I said.

The girl nodded her head knowingly. “Do you have a broken heart?”

“I do.”

“It will get better. The world is a beautiful place.” and then back to the water.

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Yes, I thought. The world is a beautiful place. I have tears left to cry. But the day ended beautifully. I had been inspired by art and nature. My mind was filled with ideas and thoughts, things I want to try and experiment with. I have a moment of kindness from a stranger.

There is work to be done now that I am home. But it was a good day. Something I needed. More than I knew.



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