Story of a Commission

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by a client in California to create a large oil painting. It was a piece in reference to one I had completed earlier that year. Here is the process from start to finish. 

If you are interested in commissioning a custom work from me, please contact me here and give me some details on your project. 

 Starting out with base layers of color in oil. 

Starting out with base layers of color in oil. 

Before the start of a project, I ask the client a series of questions about their project. Specifically, I ask for color palettes and compositions they would like to see, plus size of the work. This client wanted a piece with lots of light blues, pale teals, and greens, with accents of yellow and orange. This project was based off of a previous painting I had done that they enjoyed, so I had a good jumping off point. I cannot create the same thing twice, but can work "in the style" of an older work.

 The completed work, after many layers! I named it "Finding the Flow." This work is oil on canvas, 40" x 40.

The completed work, after many layers! I named it "Finding the Flow." This work is oil on canvas, 40" x 40.

This piece took about 4 weeks to complete, with another 2 weeks needed for the oil paint to dry completely. Project completion varies by size and materials used.

 Installed in the client's home.

Installed in the client's home.

It was a joy to complete this special piece for the client, and I received a message after installation of the work that warmed my heart:

Your beautiful piece was installed yesterday, and we are all just crazy about it. The kitchen truly is the center of our home, and we spend hours here every day. It’s such a treat to have this special piece in our home. Thank you again for sharing your talent with us!

I look forward to future custom projects! Let me know if I can complete one for you. :)

Longevity

 My studio at Pratt Institute, 2002.

My studio at Pratt Institute, 2002.

It was my grandfather who told me to pick something as a career that could be done for the rest of my life. I felt instantly smart in my choice of becoming an artist, even if at times I still question it. It is, if nothing else, something I can do for the rest of my life.

I joke often that “life is short, art is long.” Art is history- not dead, but really ishistory. It lasts; it is forever, good and bad. Worse than a terrible comment on Facebook, art doesn’t really ever go away. You make something, you make more, you go back to that first thing and wonder what you were thinking. And so on, for decades.

I am thinking about legacy, and also about the act of creating. The long slog that is being an artist- the daily struggles, the agony of failure and the joy of success, in all their forms. I wonder if my work will end up in thrift stores when collectors grow tired of it, or if they will love it enough to pass it on to their children. In the grand arc that is an artist’s career- their oevre- what is their message? What am I saying in painting after painting after painting?

A year or so ago, I sat crying over a painting I thought I had ruined. My daughter and husband came downstairs to the studio to check on me. I looked at my daughter and said, “Painting is just really hard, honey.” I looked at my husband and said, “I could quit, but you’d have to heavily medicate me to get me to stop thinking about painting.” In that moment, like so many moments before, I knew I was stuck with this choice I had made in my life, this artist life. There was no going back.

But it is something that I can do forever.

When opening a show of my work at Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in Lafayette, California in February, I met one of my fellow exhibiting artists, Michael Rizza, a 90-year-old sculptor. At the artist talk, he said that his granddaughter had asked if he was famous, to which he had replied, “I’m not famous- I am undiscovered!” We all laughed, recognizing that fear all artists have of obscurity. (“Help, help! I’ve fallen into obscurity and I can’t get up!” joked a recent New Yorker cartoon.) Yet many of us keep creating, out of that primal need that art-making is, going back in history to the very caves of our ancestors themselves.

Art is history.


Julia Rymer is an abstract painter and writer based in Colorado, where she creates work inspired by nature, science, and color theory. Learn more at juliarymer.com.

An Ode to Pink

 The Elements at Work, mixed media on paper, 25" x 25", 2014

The Elements at Work, mixed media on paper, 25" x 25", 2014

What is pink? Pink is a movement. Pink is gender identity. Pink is femininity. Pink is therefore off limits to some people. Pink is embraced, reviled, and worshipped. One thing it is not is ignored.

Pink is a color phenomenon at this juncture in American culture. Everyone has an opinion on pink, and a personal interpretation.

In 2000, I created 21 pink paintings as part of my BFA Thesis at the University of Denver. Why pink? I wasn't sure- I just loved this pale pink color I could create with titanium white and alizarin crimson oil paint. I went wild with brush strokes and texture, and was told that I had "made pink look tough" by one of my professors. Which, I thought, was a rather odd comment. I had never thought of pink as weak, but there it is.

Why do people scoff or worse, recoil, when a little boy is dressed in pink? Why does every little girl I meet tell me her favorite color is pink? Why do I have so many conversations with fellow artists, collectors, gallerists and curators about the color pink?

 I love pink. Light pink, dark pink, fuschia, magenta, rose, salmon, opera, quinacridone- give me one of each. Let me fill a painting with pink. I add the color, in some form, to nearly every painting I make. If you look closely, it is there.

Pink is love. Pink is passion. Pink is beauty, softness, grace, power. Pink is here to stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BIG Announcement...

I've got a BIG announcement!

 

After almost 8 years living in Northern California, my family and I will be returning to Colorado next month!

Leaving California is bittersweet, as we have made wonderful friends here, and I was able to devote my time to my art and art business, as well as start a family. But Colorado is home for me, and I am thrilled to return to my family, friends, the mountains and the art community we love. We have found a home in Littleton, which is about 20 minutes from Downtown Denver.

I will have a dedicated studio space at our new home, and will get it set up as soon as possible. My plan is to continue building my body of work, creating larger scale paintings on canvas and paper. If you are in the Denver area and would like to arrange a studio visit, let me know and I will contact you once I am settled in.

My relationships with Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in Lafayette, CA and Serena & Lily are continuing. My work will be included in the December show at Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery. Also, I will be back in March 2017 for an exhibition at Danville's Village Theater Art Gallery called "Color Play." The show will feature work by many talented abstract artists, including Elise Morris, Ellen Levine Dodd, Karen Olsen-Dunn and Sharon Pastor. I will keep you all posted as we get closer!

Lastly, thank you to all of my California supporters and art collectors. This journey has been amazing. Please keep in touch with me!

(Photo courtesy of Elise Morris.)

Every painting is a journey.

One of the most common questions I am asked as an artist is how long it takes to complete a painting. This question does not surprise me. The process of making art is foreign to many. And abstract art, despite existing in the cultural lexicon since at least the late 19th century, remains mysterious in its meaning or worth, leading to the dreaded declaration, "My kid could do that."

It's true. Kids make great art. But, I'm going to show you how I make art.

I don't know how a work starts. Something strikes me- a word, a color, an image from nature, a shape I feel like making, a composition that has been flashing behind my eyes as I drift to sleep- that incites a need to create. I head to the studio. I prep the canvas or paper, lay it out on table or easel. I mix up my color, dip my brush, and I start. Immediately I react to what I just did, adding new color, a charcoal or graphite mark, or a shape, repeating the process until I built up to a composition that feels like it has balance.

The process can take minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. I never really know. Sometimes I sit with a piece for months, photograph it, market it, and then a few months later, paint over it.

This is a painting I began months ago. I painted it at the same time as two other pieces, and had some extra paint to use up from those paintings, so I quickly did began this one. Then it sat in my studio until two days ago, when I finally decided that it wasn't finished.

I initially liked how fresh it felt, and the lightness of the marks. I love simple paintings. But this one didn't last as a design. It needed more. Here is the story of where it went from there.

 

At first, I added some drawn charcoal lines and shapes, and started painting in more colors: turquoise, green, navy blue, gray. I turned the piece upside down to take a look at how the design drew the eye through it, and how "balanced" it seemed (did the parts on one section relate to parts on another section). Did the parts relate to the whole? Did some stick out, or become distracting? I decided to keep going.

I actually forgot to photograph the step in between these two steps, but no matter: it was terrible. WAY too much pink. I had nicknamed the painting "Miami." Yikes. Here's where I went from there, subduing the warm colors, and building up the surface more.

More blues, more grays, more greens, more layers. I turned the piece around again, and covered up quite a bit of the underpainting with cool colors. Shapes begin to connect through the middle, creating relationships in the composition, moving the eye around the piece like guideposts or bridges, from one section to the next.

I felt like the piece was at a stopping point, or almost. I just needed one more thing...

BitsandPinks-Progress3.jpg

More blue.

Where will it go from here? I'm not sure. I'm sitting with it for awhile longer...

What do you think?

Celebrating Women Abstract Artists

 Pictured here at the Denver Art Museum, in front of Joan Mitchell's painting, from left, some amazing women artists: Bonnie Ferrill Roman, Danielle Hicks, Julia Rymer (and baby Liam), Tonia Bonnell, Mindy Bray, Veronica Herrera, and Anna Kaye.

Pictured here at the Denver Art Museum, in front of Joan Mitchell's painting, from left, some amazing women artists: Bonnie Ferrill Roman, Danielle Hicks, Julia Rymer (and baby Liam), Tonia Bonnell, Mindy Bray, Veronica Herrera, and Anna Kaye.

I just returned from a lovely trip to Denver, CO, visiting family and friends, and checking out galleries and museums. Many were exhibiting women artists in celebration of the Denver Art Museum's Women of Abstract Expressionism show. A large group of my friends and I met up to see the DAM show and revel in the magnificent work (pictured above).

Some of the most influential artists of my work were on display, including the inimitable Joan Mitchell. At the Center for Visual Arts, "Colorado Women of Abstraction" featured good friends and artists Amy Metier, Tonia Bonnell and Skyler McGee. It was lovely to see the work of so many strong women artists on view.

It is wonderful to see the women of abstract art recognized for their work, from the trailblazers to those working today.

 

Everyone can be a collector

Art warms a home or office space. It engages people, draws them in, as an element of comfort or of interest. It energizes an otherwise drab space, provides a sense of peace, or provokes conversation. Original art is not boring, and art collecting is not something only the 1% can participate in.

 Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery May Exhibition. www.jenniferperlmuttergallery.com for more info.

Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery May Exhibition. www.jenniferperlmuttergallery.com for more info.

In a world where the latest smart phone or device is obsolete within a few months, art has staying power. It lasts, possibly generations. It creates a tradition.

Art collecting is for everyone. Whether a big painting, a dynamic photograph, or a small print, art gives light and enjoyment to one's life.

This month, Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery is featuring work at all price points for the emerging collector to start their art collecting journey. Please take a look! You won't regret it (or the art you'll buy). I have a large number of pieces available: big and small, framed, works on paper, prints, paintings, and works on canvas. Stop by! The artist reception is on May 12th from 7 to 9 pm.

 Covalent, mixed media on paper, 12" x 12" framed.

Covalent, mixed media on paper, 12" x 12" framed.

Art and Motherhood, Part One: Thoughts on Balance

I will start by saying this to all the young women artists out there starting their careers: It is not easy to be an artist and a mom. Yes, it is hard to be a mom and be anything else, but the delicate dance of being a creative soul before you even experience motherhood is its own special challenge. Get ready to push your boundaries. (Something to remember: it is a good thing to push your boundaries when you are an artist.)

I recently had lunch with a good friend and fellow creative, the writer Cheryl Dumesnil. We talked about the particular struggle of pregnancy, birth, the day-to-day care of a child, and finding within that very full world a place to write, or paint, or sculpt, or dance. My takeaway from the conversation was that "going with the flow" takes on new meaning when you are an artist and a mom.

Creating again did not come easy in the beginning of my parenting journey- or even for years after my daughter was born. It was a near daily struggle. After days, weeks, months of not painting, I would start a painting or even a series of work, lose momentum easily, beat myself up, and then try to get back to the studio, again and again and again. I spent too much time on the losing momentum part and the beating myself up part, and it was only when my daughter was about 4 years old that I developed a strategy for creating and balancing parenting.

That I had trouble figuring all this out is no surprise to me: I had only one role model. At the start of my art career, and until I was a mother myself, I personally knew of one- yes, one- working female artist that had had children. All other women artists in my orbit either preferred to focus on their art and build their careers, or had given art up completely. There was no room for both in their minds, hearts and lives. Unlike the many male artists I knew, almost all of whom had children (and wives at home to raise them), the women artists I knew at the start of my career felt that the creative life precluded motherhood- that it would be undone by motherhood, subsumed under its weight- and some simply let that happen.

As I have gotten older, I have met and connected with numerous women artists with children, to the point where they are no longer unicorns. Though all struggle with balancing their responsibilities to their children and their art, they all have somehow made it work. Most took time off after having their kids, but all eventually got back into the studio. This is heartening: Your artistic life is not over just because you choose to have children!

But balance between art and motherhood is not the goal. There are times when family and home responsibilities take over, and art gets put on the back-burner for a time. There are times when you can focus on creating, without distractions. There are times when you will struggle to do both, if only for sanity's sake.

Now I have a newborn son, in addition to my daughter. Art-making has become even harder. I have been slowly, over the past two months, easing myself back into the studio. It became a necessity after a certain point so that I can feel like myself again, and use my brain for something besides diaper changing and feeding. Some days are good. Some days are horrible. I muddle through, finding space for my work along the way.

Learning to See Color- An Exhibition

Is color the same everywhere for everyone?

What does color “mean”?

How have artists attempted to control color?

These questions are just a few of those posed by a rich and varied exhibition at the Victoria Myrhen Gallery at the University of Denver’s School of Art & Art History, opening next week, January 14th.  Contemporary artists from throughout the United States as well asmodern masters like Josef Albers and Helen Frankenthaler will have work on display that explores the complexity and nuance of color in art.

This show is co-curated by Jeffrey Keith, a renowned visual artist, color theory expert and University of Denver professor (and my former mentor), and Dan Jacobs, the Director of the Victoria Myrhen Gallery.

For those of you in the Denver area, or with plans to travel there soon, this show is a must-see! For more information, go to http://vicki-myhren-gallery.du.edu/.

What is Color Identity?

(Or, what makes a color feminine or masculine?)

My former mentor and art professor once gave me an exercise to push through a painting block I was experiencing. He said, “Make two paintings that are the most ugly paintings you have ever seen. Use every color you hate, and put them all into the same painting. Really go for it- try to make these paintings so hideous you cannot stand it. Get ugliness out of your system.”

I love color challenges. This was not my first from him- I had studied with him for many years by that time, and was fresh out of graduate school, stuck in the series of paintings I was working on, and needing something new. His challenge propelled me into another series, one very different from the work I had completed for my master’s thesis.

Years later I learned to pose color challenges for myself on a regular basis. I usually do this by limiting the palette I am working with, or trying to create a “mood” through my color choices in my work.

The past year has been an exploration of feminine and masculine color schemes.

As an artist I bristle at being called a “female artist”— why is there an indicator of gender needed; no one calls an artist a “male artist” — yet we live in a culture that places meaning on color. I call these Color Identifiers, also known as Color Analogues. Color can identify as masculine, feminine, or it can be both, depending on the contextual colors around it. This dichotomy compelled me in the studio, and my work evolved largely because of it.

After making what I call “pretty paintings”, which felt incredibly feminine, I found myself pushing into the masculine world of color in 2015. I noticed that so-called “male artists” that I admired had very different approaches to color, allowing the ugliness of colors to co-exist with the beauty of color— and within the same piece. This is a complex and sophisticated undertaking, and a huge color challenge. As examples I look to artists like Tim Hussey, Brian Coleman, and John Wood, whose works dance that line of beautiful and unattractive, a visual exploration of the French term “jolie laide,” in which a person is seen as “attractive but not conventionally pretty.”

Interestingly, I am not the only one exploring the color juxtaposition of “male” and “female” colors. Pantone chose two colors for the Color of the Year in 2016, a pale rose pink and lavender blue, to express our culture’s current obsession with gender identity and dynamics.

What also interests me about this process is the relationship I have with "feminine" colors as light, pale, pastel, warm, beautiful or pretty, and "masculine" colors as harsh, dark, muted, cool and unattractive. Where does that subconsciously come from?

Let me know what you think of my work- does it seem “feminine” or “masculine” to you? Does it bridge that gap as I intended? What are your “color identifiers”?

New Endeavors

While working on a recent commission, I was given a challenge: don’t use the color blue. Or purple. OR PINK. Let me tell you, it was not easy! My first 15 paintings were absolute failures. On the first go around, I created paintings with purple in them, and on the second, the red paint I was trying to use bled terribly and dried in strange ways. (Between the technical and professional failures, I was grateful for patient clients!)

But then, after a reboot with supplies and direction, I got it together, and created a strong series of work inspired by the colors and memories of New Mexico. The project was a great exercise in restraint, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I had so much fun, I thought, why not do an entire series of paintings exploring my memories of the natural world?

And that’s what I am working on right now, along with furthering the Entanglements series.

All before my second child is due in one month!

Gotta keep it interesting, right?

Being the Artist You Are

One of the most profound moments of my artistic career happened not with a great mentor or inspiring artist. It happened, instead, with a professor I quite detested at the time for their negativity, cynicism, and angst. I never took another class from her, in fact. But their advice to me in that moment was one that has stuck with me to this day, and I still think of it often.

In my first semester of graduate school, I struggled to find my voice as an artist, flitting from style to style and media to media like a toddler exploring a room filled with new toys. I did not stay with any one thing for long. My lack of focus was frustrating, for how do you get a grasp on creating an entire master’s thesis when you cannot commit in the span of one artwork?

One of these professors said something to me at a studio visit towards the end of the semester that encapsulated what I was struggling with quite succinctly. During a weekly studio visit, the professor looked at all the work I had created, and said, point blank:

“At some point, Julia, you will have to just make the art you are going to make, and you are going to have to be OK with that.”

Say that again?

You will just have to make the art you make, and you are going to have to be OK with that.

Both revelatory and a shock, this was a lesson that has slowly sunk in over the years. What this professor meant was: be the artist you are. Don’t be someone else­– not your famous professor, best friend from art school, or that guy who randomly picked up a paintbrush one day and now sells paintings for $20,000 a pop. Not the Pop artist, or the friends whose art involves tagging the neighborhood. Don’t make someone else’s work; make yours, and be OK with that.

It has taken me decades of work as a painter and printmaker to hold my focus, creating abstract paintings and prints that explore my fascination with science and nature.  Only once I stopped flitting about in the studio, and buckled down to a series that could sustain me for years, did I start to feel my confidence as an artist grow. These years of dedication were affirmed recently, when I met with a gallery director, who said to me, “You just keep your style, your palette, your vocabulary.” She said that if I don’t, my work is not authentic. And authenticity is something I value as much as beauty and craft.

So, be brave, artists. Just keeping making YOUR art.

 

Southern Exposure

 The fabulous painter Britt Bass at Gather Workshop in Atlanta

The fabulous painter Britt Bass at Gather Workshop in Atlanta

The past year has been one of serious ups and downs, personally and professionally. The life of an artist is never easy, as people LOVE to tell me, but there are times when one needs guidance. As I searched for artists I could connect with online and in real life, I discovered a workshop for creative professionals called Gather. It seemed like such a special program that I signed up for it as soon as possible, and my husband and I planned an entire vacation around a trip to Atlanta and the Southeast for the workshop.

Gather is an intensive two-day experience that aims to inspire, educate and connect creative professionals of all levels and backgrounds. It is the brainchild of branding and design master Mattie Tiegreen of Green Tie Studio and photographer Kaitie Bryant in Atlanta. But it is so much more than branding, design, social media management and business practices. It is connection with other creators, people working with their hands and minds to create lovely images and objects. It is learning about how to transform your passion into a business- and how to set boundaries and manage it so you still have a life. It is encouragement to keep trying new things, exploring new ideas, and taking risks to become a better artist.

When I arrived in Atlanta for the workshop, I had been feeling pretty down about myself as an artist. I wasn't sure that what I was doing was the right "type" of art for success (whatever that means). As one of only a few working artists I know in California, I was feeling isolated and alone. When I left the workshop, I had new friends and connections; I had gained wisdom to help build my art business; and I had renewed inspiration to keep making abstract paintings and sending them out into the world.

On top of all that, I just had a lot of fun.

And Atlanta is a wonderful city to visit. We loved visiting the High Museum of Art and the Aquarium, and spending time at Gregg Irby Gallery as well! There is amazing food there too- we had our welcome dinner at Sun in My Belly. It was YUM.

After Gather ended, we (meaning my husband, four year old daughter, and father) road tripped to South Carolina for a week at the beach. We rented a place on Seabrook Island, and swam and ate ourselves silly, with a couple of days for sight-seeing in Charleston as well.

Charleston is fantastic. It is filled with history, beauty, and if you look in the right neighborhood, killer contemporary art. We visited the oldest Reform Jewish synagogue in North America, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, wandered around the gallery district, and ventured to midtown to see Redux Contemporary Art Space and Studios, The George Gallery, and Mitchell Hill Gallery and Interior Design. The food at Lowcountry Bistro and Virginia's was excellent as well.

I really enjoyed visiting the Southeastern United States. I hope I get to return soon. It was a trip that renewed me and inspired me as an artist, and fed me, body and soul.

The Entanglements: a series of paintings

For the past several months, I have been hard at work on a series of paintings I call the "Entanglements." These paintings on paper and canvas were inspired by my discovery of quantum entanglement theory, which posits that when any two particles come into relationship with one another, they become irrevocably “entangled.” Even after they separate, when one particle is observed, it begins spinning clockwise, while the other begins spinning counter clockwise at the same time, no matter how many light years apart they may be.

This scientific theory is- for me- a metaphor for human connection and interaction over space and time. It is the idea that we- humans, flora, fauna- are interconnected no matter our distance from one another.

I have put this ongoing series of paintings together into book form, which I invite you to download, enjoy and share. The link to download it is here. It is free for now- I just want to get it out into the world.

How does your Ikea poster make you feel?

Recently a friend of mine asked if I ever made large paintings. She had been staring at the same IKEA poster on her wall for a few years and had suddenly realized she hated it. It had a picture of the Eiffel Tower, but she couldn’t relate. It meant nothing to her, she realized, and she was starting to figure out that maybe she wanted something she actually liked on the wall.

A few weeks later, another friend, who had recently purchased a painting of mine, confessed that she still hadn’t hung the work. In fact, she said, she and her husband had not hung virtually any work. She asked me to come over and help her hang my painting- and few others too. The  walls were pretty bare, and it was driving her nuts.

What these two stories have in common is a sense that what we look at on our walls affects us. Blank walls can feel empty, and make a home feel temporary or transitional. It makes it hard to “root” ourselves in an empty home. At the same time, when we have images on our walls that we don’t like, we can feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied in our homes. They don’t feel authentic to us, but feel fake and disconnected.

It doesn’t really matter what you put on your walls as long as it resonates with you. Art and design is completely subjective, and what works for one person won’t work with another. You might like Pop Art, Street Art or Minimal Art.

Tastes can also change over time. What thrills you one year looks dowdy or outdated the next.

This can cause one to fear making a choice about what to put on the walls of your home, or to not be sure where to put the work. But have no fear- trust your instincts.

Some things that might work are:

    • Think about your taste. Where do you like to shop for clothes? Are there brands you like? What do they have in common? Try to find art like that style. For example, if you like shopping at Anthropologie, you might like vintage or folk art.
    • Look at your space and think about where your eye naturally settles. Those are good focal points, and places for art.
    • You can mix and match styles of work. Go vintage, modern and expressionist all on one wall, hung “salon style”. Put different styles throughout your home for an eclectic touch.
    • Don’t worry too much about art “matching” your colors or space. That can be in the back of your head, but don’t let it drive your decisions. This is a home, not a hotel lobby.

Most of all, think of how the work makes you feel. Spend some time with it. Make sure the work makes you feel good.

On Failure and Success.

To be successful as an artist has no exact definition, much like in any profession, but there are several clear indicators that one is successful. Your work sells, you are featured in shows, you are written about, you as asked to do commissions, etc. You can have all of these happening or just some and be very successful.

Or, there’s another way to analyze an artist’s success. An overlooked item that indicates success: being a master of your medium and making art because it comes from an inner drive to create.

There are not a lot of true masterful artists. I know a few. They are epic in their talent, hard work and dedication to being really good. They pursue their work with gusto, with chutzpah, with gal. But the thing is, I know is that even the masters struggle. Perhaps they just struggle better than the rest of us. I cannot know.

All I know right now is that my days in the studio, working away at my art, are a huge struggle. And they feel held down by the weight that many artists seem to languish under: fear, obscurity, ego, expectations and a profound sense of failure.

I walked into the studio this week for the first time in quite a while and actually felt like I knew what I was doing. OK, kinda sorta knew what I was doing. I made a piece I am so proud of, because it is truly beautiful. But it doesn’t fit in with the series of work I thought I was working on, the series of work that is now going to go to the dust heap of history, the literal trash, because I cannot stand to look at it or even think about it. This is a common occurrence for me: I think I will do a body of work that looks this one way, that explores this one thing, and them make a few pieces, realize it was a dud, and go back to making the work I already was making. Waste of paper, waste of paint, waste of time, waste of energy, waste. Then I feel like I’m wasting away as an artist; I need feeding.

I am told by other artists that process is never a waste, that, as one of my artist mentors once said, “Those paintings had to get made.” But that doesn’t mean the art was good, it was just necessary. (Oh, lord, NECESSARY? Like a vaccination or a physical or going to the dentist, it has to be done, for the maintenance of the artist? Get it over with and move on?) Like that, really?

Yes, really.

As this sinks in as my reality, I am reminded that I because I don’t really feel like I have a choice except to be an artist. If I don’t make something, a part of me is not created. I don’t move, I don’t breathe, I’m just a robot. It is not just a part of my identity but how I interact with the world. Perhaps it is and is not a choice. I could stop doing this, but the thought of that seems horrible and crazy. Who does that? Who throws this away? I can’t.

Despite knowing this, the ego bears down on the artist with its fear and expectations, like a bully at the playground. The voice hammering, Why didn’t you sell anything? Why aren’t you represented by a gallery? Why is your work crap? Why doesn’t anyone write about you? And more questions. There are no answers to these questions, because we only have so much control over how the world perceives our work. You cannot force people to engage. They will do it if they want to.

I want to ask a better question. I want to ask, rather, does that artist need to make art? How hard do they work? How good have they gotten over the years, slogging away?

For if we, and I mean I, equate the worth of my work with only its ability to sell or gain recognition, it will lose something.

I will lose something.

Therefore, I keep going. I keep creating. I will fill my closets with art, hoping someone, someday buys it, gives it a home. But I cannot stop.

Guess I’ll just have to go back to the studio.

Happy painting, friends.

Art on the other side of the tunnel...

I live in Danville, a town on the other side of the Caldecott tunnel by about 30 minutes from Berkeley, without traffic. It is a pretty little place, but very suburban. OK, extremely suburban. And in this part of what is called the East Bay, there is a bit of a dearth of cultural ANYTHING, especially for the visual arts.

To be fair, there are some local arts associations made up of primarily painters of landscapes and still lifes, who show their work at a few local non-profit spaces. These are also host to performing arts shows and some juried art exhibitions. I have nothing against any of this, except that I start to crave seeing lots of art, especially contemporary art, and there is not a lot of it our here. In other words, we don’t exactly have any gallery districts, much less a gallery walk on a Friday night or an open studio tour. If you want those things, head your bum through that tunnel or over the Bay Bridge, and get your art fix in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco.

Then again, people don’t live here for the art and culture, they live here because it is safe and clean and pretty and has good school districts. It is great for raising kids- one of which, I have. But if you are an artist, or an art-lover, you start to miss having something interesting and beautiful to look at.

Imagine my surprise, then, when at my place of work in Walnut Creek, a friend mentioned that there is an art gallery in the town of Lafayette! Just two towns over from Danville.

 Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in Downtown Lafayette, CA.

Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in Downtown Lafayette, CA.

On a Saturday, my husband and toddler and I drive all of 17 minutes to Lafayette to see this gallery, a cooperative space called the Lafayette Art Gallery. After checking it out (and it was really nice), I stumble upon another art gallery up the street, the lovely and gorgeous contemporary space Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery, named for the fabulous owner of the gallery herself.

Filled with Jennifer’s bold, expressive, and colorful abstract paintings, the space glowed with color. The gallery is clean and simple in design, allowing the art to pop! Nothing is overhung as well- each piece gets its own place on the wall. (No salon walls here!)

Jennifer opened up in February after lamenting the lack of art on this side of the tunnel. (She apparently read my mind.) She plans to rotate shows of contemporary artists throughout the rest of the year, and has some great events planned, one coming up in just two weeks. Learn more here.

I highly recommend checking it out, locals. It is filled with beauty!

Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery
Address:
 3620 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette CA 94549
Hours: Mon-Sat 11AM-5PM

Harnessing Chaos

AtWork-1 Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. ~ John Lennon

For the past month or so, I have been wrestling with a painting. I tried all my usual tricks- sneaking up on it with white paint to "cover up" the parts that were not working, simplifying it, making it more colorful, making it more complex- none of which worked. I ended up with a bit of a mess.

OK, it was down right ugly.

The colors were, frankly, atrocious: acid yellow with earthy teal green, pale pink, weird beige (is beige ever weird? Well, I figured that one out!) and baby boy blue. Their dissonance haunted me for days. In yoga class I would find solutions to the problem, only to not have time to act on them. Finally, this past weekend, I attacked the piece. I knew it needed red, but not just any red: CORAL. That almost-orange-and-almost-salmon color that is gracing all the home decor blogs and catalogs this season.

Oddball

 

So there I was, painting some circles on this piece, with each one thinking, oh, crap, there's another thing I'll have to fix.

But I kept going. Trying to relate the halves of the work, add points of connection, reference and movement, and balance the color scheme so it stayed weird, but not unnervingly so.

This painting is really about trying to find structure in chaos... at some point making peace with the chaos. Therefore the work is not "pretty," but it has a jolie laide quality that makes it work. It is not at all what I set out to do, but somehow, I found a way to harness the chaos and coalesce it into a loose sort of structure. That's why I named it "Oddball."

 

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