Even Without Sales

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Being an artist is different for everyone. For me it meant not having a real job. I let friends and family plant that idea in my head. Whenever someone needed help I was there. Moving friends into new homes, remodeling those homes. I was there stripping wallpaper from walls, sanding floors, putting up drywall, putting up walls for the local art league. I remember helping a friend rebuild an engine for his car. Had no idea what I was doing there, I just was there to help. I was a nurse to my Aunt Kay once too, treating an open wound on her leg and later taking her meals twice a day. 

One day I got a phone call from a friend asking me to help him move again. I finally woke to the fact that I had a job and a boss, me. I set a work schedule for myself - 40 hours of painting time in front of the easel each week and 10 hours of taking care of the business side. Walking my Aunt's dog meant working till 7  instead of 6. Every Saturday I added up the weeks hours and worked Sundays if I was short of my goal.  Soon I was putting in 60 hours a week on my art , it was then it began to pay off. I treated myself to 22kt gold frames, hired models regularly. My sister treated me to a brand new car which I drove for 14 years, when it finally fell apart, then I bought my own car. 

I am telling people how it was for me because every artist has their own story. A fellow artist had a factory job for 10 years before he could support a family with his art, another raised six kids on her own, delivering mail during the day and painting an hour each night for a card company. She designed cards in her head while walking her mail route. It takes a determined person to be an artist. We love what we do no matter how hard it gets at times. I remember a friend nursing her son while drawing out a design for a commission piece. Another, hanging wash in the yard, then doing a painting of his wash hanging there. Yes, a him. We have this need to create art whether we sell it or not. There are rewards, the best being the satisfaction of seeing our own art created by our own hands. Sometimes sales do come our way but even without sales we'd be in front of the easel or out in a field among biting bugs - painting. 

I got a letter a while back from the daughter of one of my collectors telling me her dad loved my painting of a pond so much he took it with him on long business trips and to the nursing home when he took up residence there. The painting reminded him of the pond on his grandfather's farm and spending time with his father and grandfather there, fishing and singing. That letter was an award better than any gold medal or ribbon. 

The Model's, Mine, and the Collector's


Painting the figure from life determines how I portray it. Relaxed and resting under a tree, napping on a sofa under a window, nude and dressing for an evening out, or feet up reading a book after a day's work running her own business? Only a small part of the story gets to the canvas. "Day's Reward," at Marshall Gallery is a painting of a young woman resting with her little four-legged companion after a day of seeing to her boss's every wish. Music playing and a tail wagging removes the tensions of the day.

The real story, however, is a model resting on my model's stand after a stressful day in classes, followed by a few hours waiting tables. I hire college students in need of money for new text books. I hire young mothers with sick kids in need of special medication. I love getting to know my models, hearing about life from a very different point of view. Some go on to become lawyers - corporate lawyers and criminal lawyers, one just retired from a veterinary practice, while another is a retired college professor. Some posed nude for the dreams of collectors and others fully clothed.  

Working from life and in a tiny studio determines the pose, my imagination fills in the story. A neighbor girl laying out on a blanket with a book and a transistor radio. Memories like these of the neighbor girl, inspired me to do a series of paintings of models on the floor of my studio, putting each in a different setting. During summer months I photograph models out in different places, but my love of working from life always has me hiring them for my studio too.

I find these young ladies so interesting. One takes her 8 year old son to different religious services so he gets an understanding of others faith. Another volunteers in a nursing home, while another dances topless raising money for a group home for the mentally handicap. Hearing these stories is part of the pleasure of working from life. There is more than one story to each painting - the model's, mine and the one the collector sees.