Sunday, January 31, 2016

Looking Back - and Another Gallery Experience

Looking Back
Oil on canvas, 16x16, $450

This Pony Express rider (click here to find out what I'm talking about!) lives in the Arizona mountain town of Heber-Overgaard, and has been participating in the Pony Express rides for 18 years.

 He was dressed in wonderful period garb, with a big black hat, a red bandanna and a cowhide tossed around his shoulders.

I love this painting!  I love the rawness of it, the simplicity, the abstract quality. I love that the horse is looking back.

Here's the photo from which I was working.

IN MY MOST recent blog post, I told you about an excruciating, embarrassing, mortifying experience I had in Xanadu, a gallery in Scottsdale. I had a second experience at the K. Newby Gallery here in Tubac.

This experience was not excruciating, and in fact, I think it will help my painting. But in the moment, ouch, it hurt.

The Newby Gallery is an amazingly beautiful, glorious gallery that has a special place in my heart because it's where I first saw paintings by the late Louisa McElwain, who used a palette knife like no one else on Earth. I've wanted to be represented by this gallery since I walked in there.

This year, finally, I thought my paintings were good enough. I thought I could muster my courage and make a legitimate attempt.

In light of my recent experience at Xanadu, I first made sure that my paintings were clean, that the black backgrounds were solid and unmarked, and that the pieces were dry. Then I chose one - a big one, Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum - and headed to the gallery.

I walked in, scared, finding it hard to catch my breath, and in a moment, I found Leroy, who accepts or rejects work. I pulled the sheet off the painting and watched as he looked at it. My life held in the balance.

"I like it," he said, "but it lacks.... maturity."

My first reaction, "OK." My second, "ouch." I spoke neither aloud.

I shook his hand, got his approval for me to show him work in the future, and left. Sitting in my van, I momentarily sank low. Very low. There are many things someone can say about a painting. A lack of maturity is a pretty telling critique. It's not "your composition is off," "I don't like your palette," no. It's a much deeper comment, speaking to my heart, my progress, my future - and yet, it is a comment of details, as well.

As I sat in the van and pondered, my inner artist wailing a little, I felt myself begin to lift. While the critique hurt, it is valuable. This is a man with a great eye. He's filled the gallery with art that moves me, makes me dream and hope. And so his comments matter.

I thought more, and began to know what he meant, what he saw. The painting I showed him - which I love, and continue to love - has an exuberance, an optimism, a sunniness that is not mature. It has swirls and whirls that I love, and yet they imply tightness that speaks to a focus on detail and technique, instead of overall character - and there, I think, is at least part of the tension that spoke to Leroy. Combined with the rest, I understand the assessment, and will use it as a place from which to grow.

I love my bright, cheery, exuberant paintings, and I'm going to keep painting them. I am going to continue to reach for the things that make me happy, and that I know make others happy. But I'm going to do this now with the thought of "maturity," too.

Maybe I will have the honor of being represented by the Newby Gallery. Maybe I won't. Whatever happens, I am grateful that I had the courage to have this experience, to hear this man's insight, and to continue with the process.

Dog of the Day
Here's Nick! I met him while I was painting a couple afternoons ago. 
He was a nice dog, patient and kind to his much younger, much bigger dog pal. 

A Final Thought

"Life obliges me to do something, so I paint."
- Rene Magritte


Unknown said...

Wow, "ouch" is right! But what interesting work you did with his comment.

Hmm, what a challenge - I look forward to seeing how your work continues to evolve in light of this recent experience.

And again, bravo to you for going for it!

carrie jacobson said...

You and me both, Ellen... I do love a challenge, that's for sure.