Writing Art

I am in my studio. I have been painting/experimenting for the afternoon. Nothing I have created today has excited me, but one at least, shows promise. I am close to something.

That’s the way it goes for me. Painting things has never done that much for me. I started my art drawing, as many of us did. And it was things. Castles. Boats. Ancient homes. All in painstaking detail. I learned so much about pen, ink, papers, and the use of my tools. I started in college and kept it up for maybe 20 years, well into my forties.

But I never thought of myself as an artist. Never mind all the people who had my drawings framed and hanging in their homes. Never mind that people paid me for them. I just felt like a scribbler. Kind of advanced doodling.

I began to paint about a decade ago. The woman I had moved up to Vermont to be closer to was taking a painting class and invited me to join her. It was something new to try and so I thought “Why not?”

We began with the basics. Layers. Colors. The idea was to learn to paint things. Where I live in Vermont is full of great things to paint and we have some amazing artists who capture the landscapes and towns. I have several near me: Harry Orlyc. Matt Solon, Chris Smith, Roy Egg, Ruth Frost. Each in different styles but in their own way, wonderful. And that is just the tip of the creative iceberg around here.

But, the painting of things? Even if I did a decent enough job capturing the thing, I never felt it. I began to experiment. What I wanted to do is capture feelings. But you can’t see feelings. They don’t have defined shapes. What color is a feeling? So I experimented. Toyed with. Messed around. Here and there I began to sell a few. And a few more. I developed a style.

Well, several styles actually. And a few recurring themes. I mix and match the styles and have become fairly good at capturing the feelings I am trying to express. I used to call my paintings poetry in paint, each of them a shorthand in line and color and white space to create a feeling. But in a way, that was a cop-out. Even if I could not describe exactly how I got to what I got to, there was an underlying set of emotions and tools and techniques I used. I just didn’t think it matters.

Evidently, it does. I am learning that many galleries want something called an “Artist’s statement..” Now, I had heard of artist’s statements before, but I always kind of thought they were pretentious and anyone who knows me knows that I am so not a pretentious guy. So I always ignored the whole artist’s statement thing.

Shows what I know.

As we emerged from Covid and all the isolation that was part and parcel of that epidemic, I decided to begin to grow the sales of my art again. I had done pretty well before the Pandemic. And I love to sell my art. The thought that something touched someone enough that they will pay to put in in their house or in their office, to be a part of their everyday life is wonderful. I have a big collection of my art in other people’s walls and I love them. To share a feeling, however it is, and know someone else felt it too. Glorious.

So, I began to read about selling art, thinking to myself that I had a lot to learn and that maybe this time around I should be a little more purposeful in how I did it, rather than just sort of trusting to fate and dumb luck about who showed up on this site or at my showings, or the odd person who stumbled into my studio while I was working. And what did I learn?

People pay attention to what art is about. And process. And the whys. And the thoughts and emotions that leads to the creation. In other words, I need to learn how to write about art.

Now, I write constantly. I have spent years and years writing ad copy for other people. I write poetry and prose almost every day. I have written books that people buy and a blog on personal development with a spiritual bent. So, I write a lot. But I was at a loss about how to write about art.

So, I am learning. It may seem strange for a writer to have trouble writing about art he makes. In a way it reminds me of when I began therapy a zillion (OK, 15) years ago. You think your know yourself. But often there are so many layers and we have trouble finding the core things. My therapist likened it to peeling an onion. Yeah, like that.

It’s a little harder for me. Readers of my poetry blog know that for me, poetry is kind of like therapy. I am a slow processor of my own feelings. I could go into all the psycho/trauma reasons, but they even bore me at this point. It’s just a fact. Poetry, and yes art, is part of how I pull those feelings out so I can articulate them. I rarely know what I am going to write or paint when I start. It comes out and when I am done I can sometimes say “Oh, that is what is on my mind today.”

Other times I shake my head and wonder where THAT came from.

All of this is a windbag say of saying in the weeks ahead you will see not only new art but my attempts to explain what the art is about. I have mixed feelings about that as I always feel my art and poetry take on a new life when I write or paint, and that it takes on the meaning a reader or viewer assigns to it from their experience. And I like that.

But evidently, I need to do this. And likely it is good for me too. Do you have any idea what it is like to create something, even something you really like, and have no idea how you got there? I’m 67 years old for heaven’s sake, I should know more about what I am doing..

So bear with me as I stumble along. If it helps you appreciate something more, I would appreciate hearing about it. If it bores you, tell me that too. As Oscar Wilde once supposedly said, the only unforgivable sin is to be boring.

Thanks, guys!


PS – The painting is called Diagnosis. Yes, one of mine.

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