Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “beach combing

Spring Newsletter

Cloud over Castle Deel, 30"X36".

Cloud over Castle Deel, 30″X36″.

The winter abundance in my studio is heading out for various points East, West, and North. Not only am I hard at work during the colder months, but also usually have work  in the studio that comes back from my seasonal galleries in the Northeast. Then, in the spring begins the exodus, to both buyers and galleries.

All busy career artists find that sometimes work needs to move around to a few galleries before it sells. Some galleries like to keep a piece they like—and have gotten a good response to—indefinitely, while others, especially those that close down during the off-season, prefer to have all new work each year. This is typically a combination of brand new work and some pieces that have previously been in other galleries.

One galleriest who I have been showing with for many years is in the former category, feeling a devotion to certain pieces  such that he wants to keep them until they sell, whether that happens in a day or a decade. “Art is not meat—it does not go bad”, he has been known to say, if someone questions the date on a piece.

There is a good deal of randomness in why a piece sells sooner or later. With my work, there are a number of variables. Size, format, palette, and locale of imagery are among them. Who stops by which gallery when, with what size wall in mind…or with an open mind? What is their budget? Do they have strong color preferences? Are they buying the piece that slays them, or a locale that they are fond of? Are they looking for a gift, trying hard to get it right?

Some of my work that I consider more accessible—often a little brighter—appeals to a broader spectrum and so has a larger pool of possible buyers. The moodier work draws from a smaller pool, but often so forcefully that they feel that they must have the piece. So, which one is more likely to sell?

Lucky for me, my studio process allows for a number of concurrent explorations, making it easy for me to ignore all such considerations while working. This is key for any artist.

Mists off the River, 12"X36".

Mists off the River, 12″X36″.

In recent news, I did a pop-up show in Chicago in early March, partnering with the Asher-Neiman Gallery, which included the work of Jill Ricci (see work on the gallery website, http://asherneimangallery.com/ ).

It was held in the beautiful Lincoln Park home of family friends. (See my blog post on how these home shows work, https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/open-studio-house-party/ ) Our hosts threw a lovely party, very well attended , with excellent food, wine,  art (of course!), and conversation enjoyed by all.

Winter Brilliance and a small Affinity in the living room.

Winter Brilliance and a small Affinity in the living room.

Changed Integrity in the second floor stairwell.

Changed Integrity in the second floor stairwell.

Rivergimplse and Extravagant Sky in the dining room.

Rivergimplse and Extravagant Sky in the dining room.

Lightening Storm, one of the pieces that sold in Chicago. This one going gave me a pang!

Lightening Storm, one of the pieces that sold in Chicago. This one going gave me a pang!

"October Saltmarsh", 24"X48", looked so perfect  where we hung it that it ended up staying.

“October Saltmarsh”, 24″X48″, looked so perfect where we hung it that it ended up staying.

I am happy to again be  showing at the Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY, with  seven pieces included in a show titled “Slow Down Make Space”. Below are a few pieces that are in the show.

_Slow Down Make Space_ - invite - back

Spinning Clouds, 20"x40".

Spinning Clouds, 20″x40″.

Sunset Roofline, 24"x30".

Sunset Roofline, 24″x30″.

 

I am newly represented this year by Van Ward Gallery in Ogunquit, Maine. They, along with Dragonfly Gallery in MV and Chace-Randall in Andes, NY, are opening for the season the weekend of May 11, each with a fresh collection of my work. Final picks have not yet been made, but here are some new paintings that will be off to these galleries, as well as to the Julie Heller Gallery in Provincetown.

Seaview Mists, 12"X12", another in my Oak Bluffs morning fog series. Off to Dragonfly Gallery on the Vineyard soon!

Seaview Mists, 12″X12″, another in my Oak Bluffs morning fog series. Off to Dragonfly Gallery on the Vineyard soon!

Continuing Progression, 24"x48", $5,000.

Continuing Progression, 24″x48″.

Sandflats in Red/Purple, 11"X14". Since folks who have not experienced extreme tidal flats have trouble making sense of these images, this piece will most likely land at Julie Heller Gallery in Provincetown.

Sandflats in Red/Purple, 11″X14″. Since folks who have not experienced extreme tidal flats have trouble making sense of these images, this piece will most likely land at Julie Heller Gallery in Provincetown.

I taught two workshops in March, a two-day painting workshop at the Woodstock School of Art and a Mentoring Seminar in my studio with six artists from NJ, Louisiana, Westchester, and our area, working with their diverse styles and aspirations to further both work and career.

"Sandflats with Seagrass", oil on beach-weathered fiberglass, 4"x18".

“Sandflats with Seagrass”, oil on beach-weathered fiberglass, 4″x18″.

Coming up, that I know of? The Shandaken Art Studio Tour, July 20-21, always a busy weekend for me, by which time I will have created new abundance in my studio. A painting workshop at the Woodstock School of Art June 24-26; another at the Provincetown Artists Association September 9-12; and a Mentoring workshop May 5th, also at the PAAM. Gold Gallery in Boston needs a new infusion of larger pieces, so I am about to embark on another big triptych. I will be bringing new work to them at the same time I deliver to the Vineyard and Cape Cod, the first week in May.

So…stay tuned, keep in touch, and happy spring!

Affinity/Watertower, 20"X20".

Affinity/Watertower, 20″X20″.


Vintage Boxes, Slates and Sifters/The Occasional Found Object

When I work on or with found objects – antique boxes, distressed cupboard doors, old slate blackboards with lovely stains and unravelings at the rim, vintage sifters, and the like — I adjust both my choice of imagery and the way I compose and lay in the paint to honor what is already there. I see these pieces as a collaboration between my accumulated skills and the accumulation of history that is manifested in this unique object. This feels like process that is both conceptual and deeply intuitive.

My interest in this series began some years back when I was looking for a new exploration. I had, quite some time before, realized that for me, to stay fresh required more than just to find new subject matter. Reflecting my background in contemporary art, the presentation, process, and/or materials can also all be up for grabs.

And yet, I always want there to be at least an insinuation of a landscape within. How to get both of theses things—a newly painted landscape and an object full of the marks of its own history, to look as if they were made for each other?

Once I have my vintage or scavenged object, I generally have to look at it for many months. It drifts around my studio, claiming my attention from time to time. I examine it…free-associate…put it up, aside, or away. Come back to it…sift through possible images…think some more.

Often, I have to find just the right sized board to go inside of a box, drawer, or sifter, generally preferring that this be distressed as well. I have ridiculously good luck with this—serendipity after serendipity.

Finally, the way forward in terms of imagery emerges and I can begin work, trying to keep myself in a hyper-aware state while responding to the suggestions of the vintage or distressed object I am using. I am following, not leading, and the dance is intricate, even if the piece looks simple in the end.

I recently completed these three new pieces.

"Red/Green Fields", oil on drawer slats in antique box, 7.5"x30".

“Red/Green Fields”, oil on drawer slats in antique box, 7.5″x30″.  An example of serendipity—I spotted the collapsed drawer slats on my friend Jenny’s porch and basically pounced on them; had them in my studio for some months; and then saw that they fit beautifully into the box. The shapes of the edges helped determine the choice of imagery.

"Sandflats with Seagrass", oil on beach-weathered fiberglass, 4"x18".

“Sandflats with Seagrass”, oil on beach-weathered fiberglass, 4″x18″. This one came together quickly—I just found this piece of fiberglass on the tidal flats on the East End of Provincetown a few weeks ago.

"Gleam over Meadowlands", oil on vintage blackboard, 9.5"x13".

“Gleam over Meadowlands”, oil on vintage blackboard, 9.5″x13″.

The below are several others completed in the past few years.

"Smokey Sky", oil on a child's vintage slate, hanging in my downstairs bathroom.

“Smokey Sky”, oil on a child’s vintage slate, hanging in my downstairs bathroom. Often the color in the slate pieces is warm, reflecting the wood, but this time I used only hints of red in an otherwise tonal palette.

Vertical Road/Contained,    (ASFA)

Vertical Road/Contained, a distressed board in an old file drawer. (Courtesy ASFA)

Winterin6

“Winter in 6”, a vintage tin  tray, use unknown to me.

"Hilltop Contour", oil on a vintage child's slate. (Courtesy JHG)

“Hilltop Contour”, oil on a vintage child’s slate. (Courtesy JHG)

And finally, a few favorites that were sold several years back.

Crossings copy

“Crossings”, a weathered board (probably a barrel-bottom) in an antique sifter. (Sold by JHG)

"Smoke in Four",  a distressed, compartmentalized box that was a lucky find. (Sold by ANG)

“Smoke in Four”, a distressed, compartmentalized box that was a lucky find. (Sold by ANG)

IrrigatedFields

“Irrigated Fields”, an object (heavy!!) found on Overlook Mountain near the ruin of the mountain house. Someone once told me exactly what this is, but now I don’t remember! (Sold by ASFA)


Mentoring Retreat for Artists

Last month I led a retreat for six artists on Cape Cod, using the cottage where I have been vacationing with my family for 18 years as our base for making art, meetings to discuss the artists bodies of work and career direction and, of course, exploring the tidal flats (see my first post, “Back on the Sandflats”). I also had private discussions with each artist, following up  on their accomplishments and contacts with ideas for further progress in exhibiting and selling their work.

The retreat was modeled on the mentoring groups that I lead in the Catskills, often with a mix of artists in different stages of work and career development. There are many things that the artist likes to think about, and other things that the artist needs to think about. Below, a discussion of our week, and some of the issues that surfaced for the artists in this group, Polly Law, Loel Barr, Sylvia Weinberg, Sue Desanna, Helen Kohler, and Maureen Burr.

Maureen, who took my painting workshop in Provincetown last summer, is returning to making art from a long absence. A pressing question for her: is it all right to be exploring many different things, or should she be narrowing in on one or two?

A recent sculpture of Maureen’s.

Early on, the artist should be following her interests wherever they lead. Being “all over the place” is ideal, much as a young art student will typically try different styles and media for years before finding a mode of working that is of abiding interest. Nothing else matters but the process. Creating one’s own style is partly a function of limiting alternatives, so this should not be forced, but allowed to happen through exploration. As the inner voice and eye hone in on an individual expression, other options drop away naturally.

 

Loel has been sifting through permutations of this question for years. Multi-talented, she has found satisfaction in slices, each media or style scratching a different artistic itch.

With new realist drawings and paintings of subject matter that explores the rhythm of folds and draping fabric, Loel finds satisfaction in the process of a realist technique that has always anchored her.

After years of working with this variety, it would be more satisfying to find one or two directions that focus all of her talents and ways of seeing the world. At this stage, “all over the place” can feel overly scattered. Honing in on a focused direction still should not be forced—ever—but the mind, both conscious and unconscious, can be alert to paths that present themselves that will unify the work.

I also first met Helen in one of my painting workshops. It turns out that she is pursuing two bodies of work, one landscape painting and the other fiber art. In this case, the discussion of multiple directions takes a different turn.

Helen’s landscape in oil.

If you are an artist working happily in two completely different veins, you are lucky indeed! The only challenge in the marketplace is that you will probably have different exhibition venues for the two bodies of work. Years ago, an art consultant told me that when I submit to galleries, I should pick one or the other of the bodies of work I was doing at a time, because galleries would get confused, and then think that I was.

 A little tongue-in-cheek, but good advice. The artist in this position has to research venues with a dual intent, but there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, you may find a gallery that likes and establishes you with one body of work, and then takes an interest in what else you do later on.

The fiber piece that Helen was working on during the retreat, with leaves that flutter away from the backing.

“I am just processing all the information I got last week from all of you and it will keep me busy for weeks to come,” observed Helen in a follow-up email.

Artists in the mentoring groups learn from each other. I have observed repeatedly that when a group of artists is discussing a body of work, they might disagree on a particular passage in a painting, for example, but will invariably agree on what is working overall. While looking at Sylvia and Sue’s landscapes, the group unanimously preferred the looser, more open,  interpretations. This meant not that the group all had minimalist taste, but that those were the pieces that stood out within their bodies of work.

Sylvia’s loose, understated plein air watercolor of nearby Paine’s Creek, one of my favorite places to paint on earth.

 

Artists can also be the most important contacts of all for each other. Currently, with so many galleries closing and their artists searching for new ones, the best way to get the attention of a gallery is to have an intro to the owner or director, which one artist can provide for another. Artists can also support each other by sharing information on exhibition opportunities, consulting with each other on thorny questions of conduct, and critiquing each other’s work.

Sylvia, an accomplished watercolorist, has been focusing on finding a technique in oil that is equally satisfying. She is also returning her energies to finding new venues for showing her work after a period of years during which personal matters took up much of her attention.

Aonoher view of Sylvia’s of the salt grasses in front of Paine’s Creek.

Sue was also looking to refocus, and just bump up, in general. An experienced pastelist, she is always honing her voice, and is currently looking for new venues to show her work.

Sue’s plein air pastel of Paine’s Creek.

When looking for a new gallery, make sure that you are a good fit, both stylistically and in terms of resume and pricing. If you are an emerging artist and there is no mention of that in the “about” the gallery, look at the resumes of the other artists. If they are all international art stars, your time would be better spent looking for a more appropriate gallery. On the other end, if the gallery charges artists to show, check to see if they curate, or if it is just “pay to play”—a vanity gallery. Sometimes an artist needs to share expenses with a gallery early on in the resume-building process, but a straight vanity gallery has no collector base, and no prestige.

Stylistically, you don’t want to be too close to any artist already in the gallery, but too far away from anything that they show. Above all, you need to like their aesthetic.

 

Polly has been in a unique and mature voice phase of her work for a good number of years. This can raise the issue of staying fresh, stimulated, and challenged—the opposite problem of following too many paths. “I had closed myself into a box of what was allowable and what was not in the way of my work. Incorporating the bits & bobs of beach combings would not have been allowed before. As you can see I had really been closing down artistic opportunities- egad. Well, just walking out onto the tidal flats that first evening was like opening a window and taking a broom to the dusty, fusty, tired, stale attic my brain had become. I became fascinated by the wabi-sabi of the elements on the beach (wabi-sabi is a Japanese term to describe the reflection of the history of an object onto its self.) Ideas came to me when I picked up objects and held them in my hand- I could see how they could be used. It was very exciting.”

A new piece of Polly’s using some storm-tossed feathers she found on the beach.

Some artists work in quite different series every several years. Others shift a bit from year to year. I tend to work in concurrent series, maintaining bodies of work with small tweaks and changes to interest me from piece to piece, and then every so often bring in a new series when I feel the need for a really new challenge. In any case, change is necessary to stay stimulated, and the mature artist (especially one with an identity and a following) has to find his/her own path to that—looking deeply inside your process can provide clues, as can looking way outside of your habitual references and patterns. Inside/outside—look in, look out. If you have been doing too much of one, try the other.

We also did a gallery crawl in both Wellfleet and Provincetown. The artists split up and made rounds, looking at art, assessing galleries with information that we had discussed beforehand, and chatting with gallery staff and owners. Maureen later observed, “I was really comfortable talking to the gallery owners and feel like I made a couple of good contacts for sometime in the future.  For now, I will plan on popping in again the next few times I am down to continue our conversation”.

This is a good way to get to know a gallery and for them to get to know you—keep showing up. If it is the gallery of your dreams, you might want to do this for years—I know of someone who finally got into the NYC gallery that he coveted after a decade of showing up, and repeated submissions!

I had introduced Polly and another friend, Jenny Nelson, to Julie Heller, my Provincetown gallery, over the summer. During our visit to P’town, Polly met Julie and her staff and brought new work (which drew attention immediately from gallery-goers), and I was able to nail down details of a show I will be co-curating with Julie of my, Jenny’s, and Polly’s work next summer.

I am often asked by artists if they can use my name when approaching a gallery. I have no problem with this, but it will not provide any real connection. The only way to help another artist is to make a strong personal recommendation to your gallery, and that only works if you have a relationship of trust with them. Then, of course, they have to fall in love with the work.

Further, many galleriests have told me that when choosing from the big talent pool out there, they are looking for artists who are professional and easy to work with. I see this as a quality of life issue. So many stresses seem unavoidable, so why wouldn’t a gallery owner or director try to circumvent that of a difficult artist?

I know a great number of artists through my galleries, the community, mentoring, and teaching. The only time I intro them to one of my galleries is when I feel that it is as beneficial to the gallery as it is to the artist to do so. Otherwise, I would lose the ear of my dealers, and thus not be able to help anyone at all.

When I said goodbye to Julie after our day in Provincetown the last thing she said to me was, “thank-you for Polly and Jenny”.

A very new twist for Polly, using beach-combined bits as well.

 

Finally, from Maureen, I will include a lovely commentary on the week. “I think the next retreat should be called, “Things they don’t teach you in Art School”, because I left Brewster armed with so much knowledge. The experience of being able to speak to other women artists who have the same insecurities and similar perspectives was incredibly helpful.  I left the retreat with much more confidence, and between the class I took with you at PAAM and the retreat, I have found that it I have lost that old paralyzing fear of “what if this piece isn’t perfect?”. I am better able to play with ideas and if they work out, then great.  If they don’t, I can try something else.  It’s not the end of the world. That in itself is worth everything to me.”

My very recent version of Paine’s Creek at dusk, wending it’s way out to the sandflats at low tide, where it disappears into the sand.

Me striding up the jetty that runs parallel to the bay at Paine’s Creek, having walked across the tidal flats to meet up with Sue and Sylvia, who were preparing to paint there.

Polly at work in the cottage.

The seven of us enjoying dinner at the Lobster Pot in Provincetown.