I am an Artist in my 60’s, who has been building a body of work for some 40 years in the realms of both Art and Music. As an Artist I have always loved nature, people, horses, and the surreal. Like most Artists, I originally needed realism to prove to myself I could perform the magic of replicating a picture or image – I enjoyed doing many portraits of people, animals, sunsets… even architecture. I still enjoy replicating reality, but now I’m stylized… my strokes are my own. My Art degree is oddly in commercial art, but back in the early 70’s that was comparable to fine art training today. We studied what was called Illustration: we learned how to make art look real and where to place copy… what color does to the viewer’s eye. It wasn’t too many years before the things I learned in college were able to be done on computers just as well, but not the fine art aspect of my education. I often related to Andy Warhol who was a commercial artist (in fact, he was a window dresser in Manhattan) with a similar education. He, too, dabbled in realism in his earlier career. Education is a means to an end, and can take you on quite the serendipitous journey… the important thing is how it all comes together in your own personal Universe – the talent and the training but also your instincts and your heart.
One day in my studio, I put a canvas on my easel with nothing in mind but to express myself, and started a journey that began my style. At first my art rambled… lots of thing like birds, ballerinas, and castles floating about… till one day I began to paint from my heart and my passion for romance – it was then that I found the path to a powerful expression. This is how I would approach my style: I would paint an expressive line in the canvas, then begin to create a scene of lovers, dancers, dark characters, and strong or vulnerable women. Then I would create their settings (a ballroom or an Island paradise, etc.). Soon I began attending the Ballet Oklahoma dress rehearsals. I loved to capture Ballet in movement – sketching the dancers in motion, my work gained the attention of the Ballet Director and Administration, and became a poster for the World Premier of the ballet, “Tango’s”. Creating from your imagination sounds unattached, but really you are creating from your soul… a power that can almost paint by itself. Your soul sees and feels, it directs an artist, in its own way. It’s all in the doing.
My body of original work was growing, and I was accumulating collectors, doing art shows, lining up commissions, and enjoying being a working artist. I felt like I had an identity but there was something missing – real commercial success. Whenever I went to Galleries, they would look and my work and say, “your work is too stylized” – have me look at their walls of art and say “give me more of this”. I would feel discouraged, angry and frustrated. Being original has it’s price. I would say I am an ‘old school’ fine artist, I have always loved working from real life over photos, loved having my patrons model for their portraits, or to paint from my imagination. My strokes were original, my technique was my own, so it was always different. Art is culture – a unique creation of the individual, not the art. In other words I’ve had to make myself different – let myself do different things – and it has become my Art.
I worked (and still do) mostly in casein, pastel, and oil; with romantic, colorful, stylized tropical settings, or gazing lovers. Soon my art was accumulating, piling up… like most artists, I painted more than I sold. Artists love their work like mothers love their children, knowing someday the right match will come along. When I moved to Nashville for my music, I was loading the truck with my artwork when a friend who was eyeing a painting said,” I just love this painting”. I said, “Take it for $100.00.” “Oh, I don’t have a hundred dollars” he said. He lived in Dallas, so I said “I’ll make you a deal… when you get the money send it to me”. He agreed and took the painting, and off to Nashville I went. At that time my work was selling in the $1,000 range, but I needed to trim down my body of work. The piece I gave him was called ‘The Butt Sisters’ (it was two women looking at each other and their butts facing the viewer).
The move to Nashville encompassed lots of dreams and ambition for my music, but no set plan for my art – but one thing I did have was a large body of my dreamy paintings in my romantic style. We rented a Baptist preacher’s home: there was myself, my girlfriend, the keyboard player and his girlfriend, the bass player and his girlfriend, and our sound engineer. The home was large enough to house us all and to also give me the luxury of a small art studio in the laundry room.
I soon got into the art scene by placing my work in small but upscale restaurants and nightclubs. Soon I was creating lots of art with music as the subject. I took over the art at a night club called Mere Bulles where my band, Art for Ears, was also the headlining musical act… I must have had 75 paintings in the place. Mere Bulles was also a favorite on the Nashville music scene – our band would play on Friday and Saturday nights. Many times I would be singing a song, only to have someone interrupt me with a check and buy a painting off the wall (nice surprise!). Soon my market included a few galleries (Bennet’s in Nashville, and Eaton in Memphis) and I was finally getting the prices I thought the art should fetch. I also had interior designers placing my work. A year or two into my new life, one of my patrons was looking through my Portfolio and noticed a painting that intrigued him. It was a painting of two girls with their butts showing, and asked “Is this for sale?”. I asked, “how much would you pay for it?” and he answered, “$1,700.”. Well, two years had passed since I had given it to the guy in Dallas, with the understanding he would send me $100.00 (which he never did). So I called him! He was gracious – apologized for not sending the money – so then I gave him a proposal: “If you will meet my Art rep at the Dallas airport with that painting (on this date at this time) in Dallas, I will paint you a new piece and give it to you FREE… forget the hundred bucks.” Happy to say, he went for it – the transfer happened without a hitch – and we sold ‘The Butt Sisters’ for $1700.
I think the moral of the story is we have to believe in our work for tomorrow, and that includes today. Though I have come long way, I have much farther to go. I am asking more for my work now than I ever have, but I know it’s worth it, and I also know that I may have to wait again for the value of my new work to be realized. You may not realize it but you’re a work in progress… not just your Art, but most important, “you”. Don’t just give your art away – believe it will bring its value. We as Artists can get desperate – we can’t see what’s around the corner – and I’m saying keep your art and be ready for what’s around the corner. My success comes in waves: some 5-year periods are amazing and some are lean. I’ve had patrons buy everything I can create, but then suddenly I pile paintings for months before I make a sale. If you’re really original it’s going to be harder, because it must develop with culture – and that takes time. If I wanted to just sell art I would walk into a gallery and paint what’s selling… but I paint what’s in my heart and that takes faith – faith that it is good work, and faith that people will one day covet it.
Nowadays I find myself in a new era… I have people saying, “I like what you used to paint better” because my new work is different… it has (again) evolved. Not being accepted is what’s to be expected. My new work makes you think it’s interactive and goes against tradition. But the time for something new is now! Thanks to computers and blogs I feel I’m entering an exciting journey beyond the local scene… my new work will have a new audience. Social media is the key – we can now be original to so many more people and get that vital feedback. I never imagined when I was in college – before computers and when I hadn’t really understood my own work and would just give my art away – how things would be today. I have gained a lot of culture over these past 40 years, and it reflects in my work in ways I could never have anticipated and opened my Universe to marvels that flow from the end of my paintbrush to canvas that astound even me. I am still on the journey, trusting my instincts and my heart to continue to guide me, putting no limits on myself – and now with these New Age magical flying carpets called computers, I am able to share my creations with the world. Care to join me?