The Downward Spiral

Today was a rather awful day.

It really shouldn't be so bad, having a full day to explore Santa Fe with no real commitments so to speak of, but I made the mistake of going on a gallery walk. 

I walked from one end of Canyon Road to the other, stopping in the few galleries that seemed to hang at least some sort of representational art. I didn't intend to do any sort of business; it was just a chance to get acquainted with the Santa Fe art scene.

 You can't make this stuff up...

You can't make this stuff up...

I didn't feel welcome. Maybe it was my look, maybe it was my general discomfort in 'nice' places, but for whatever reason it made me feel like more of an outcast from the art world than ever. The art market often makes me sick; perhaps that's just an indictment of capitalism in general.

Representational art that lacks any sign of mastery leaves me annoyed and disappointed.

Unremarkable art of any flavor priced in excess of $25,000 makes me angry.

Reading about artists who were rabidly collected only after their death makes me nauseous.

 "Too Broke for Meow Wolf" / 14 x 11 / Availiale

"Too Broke for Meow Wolf" / 14 x 11 / Availiale

Walking in and out of almost every gallery on the street and seeing everything in combination left me terribly depressed. It didn't help that I received another event rejection letter the day before, and despite working up the courage to write to a gallery recently, had received no reply.  The last time I was invited by a gallery to ship work to them, I was informed they were closing less than a week after they received the work. Don't even get me started in Minnesota galleries. Last year I was asked to delay framing pieces so a gallery could take a selection of them, and then the owner completely forgot about the conversation and nothing ever materialized from it. Others have simply never bothered to reply to any inquiries.  Years ago I had to request that my work be shipped home from a gallery in Atlanta because I received a report from the gallery manager that the owner's dog had recently taking to pissing on low-hanging art. I even vividly recall a conversation with a gallery owner in Chicago, where upon offering her a card, she declined saying "I'll just add it to the stack of other cards I'll never read".

Times like this I'm prone to feeling too depressed to even paint. I know intuitively that it usually gives me hope when I need it most, but fear of failure is also most severe when you somehow convince yourself it's all you've ever known. There's not necessarily any logic to it. It's just been bad timing for the recent improvement of my art. I feel like my work in the last month is the best I've produced, and it coincided with a cascade of rejection letters for all the events I wanted to participate in this year. Even though those letters were a response to my portfolio two or three months ago, it's hard not to associate it with the present. And it's disappointing that I won't reap the benefits of my new body of work until 2019. Nevertheless, I move onward.

I went from Canyon Road to the railroad district to check out "Meow Wolf", which could perhaps be described as an interactive and immersive art experience. But after spending more than $30 on new detail brushes, I couldn't justify almost that much for a ticket to enter. Once again, I felt the frustration of having to choose between being a creator of art or a consumer of art. I felt downright awful after multiple friends encouraged me to check out the space, but I thought that - judging by the crowds and the food trucks - it was marketed as entertainment that I couldn't really justify the cost of for the time being. So I did the next best thing, and painted from the distance.

"Too Broke for Meow Wolf" - at least it required the use of the new detail brushes I just purchased. And as always, I felt better as the sun set on a rather challenging scene.

PS - It's not all doom and gloom. If you're in the MSP area, check out both Framestyles in Minneapolis and Frameworks in St. Paul.  These two shops have been cool enough to host shows of my work, and have both treated me with way more respect than any other shops / galleries I've worked with for years. 

 

 

Moab, Part II

 Painting on the Colorado River

Painting on the Colorado River

The title is a bit of a misnomer. I've been back in Moab, Utah for a few days now. Although it's only my second stay here this Spring, it's actually my sixth trip here to paint. Since 2016 I've now spent almost ten weeks painting in the Moab area, and it still feels more like home than any other place I've had the privilege to explore.

Unlike my mid-March trip, I'm not sick and I actually have a bike again - a major perk while staying in the mecca of mountain biking.  I've learned that no matter how well I paint or how many other measures of success I might experience in life, if I can't get out and occasionally engage in adventure, then nothing else is particularly satisfying.

In other words, I find myself troubled if I ever feel as though I'm sacrificing my health for my career. Moab is a place where I can usually balance it all perfectly. It also helps that it's 75 and sunny here, while the forecast back in Minneapolis calls for lows in the single digits and a few inches of snow.

 "Last Light on the Moab Fault" 12x16" / Avaliable

"Last Light on the Moab Fault"
12x16" / Avaliable

My goal upon returning to Moab was to finish a few paintings I started in March, and to take my time on scenes rather than rush to maximize a single session painting. Instead, I'm trying to allow myself to start paintings without any intent of finishing them that day. Because I'm painting things very close to camp, in places I genuinely enjoy being, It's actually quite delightful knowing that something will compel me to return to the same place again. 

 

 "Dead Horse Point"   20 x 10" / Avalabiel

"Dead Horse Point" 

20 x 10" / Avalabiel

In the past I've largely avoided big vistas for various reasons, and admittedly one of those reasons was inexperience. There aren't many opportunities to paint atmospheric perspective in the Midwest. In fact, it wasn't until I was a 20-year-old college student studying in Italy that I first witnessed endless hills receding into faded blues in evening light. Now I chase those colors; Moab is perfect for it. I've never been anywhere so vibrant; my palette reflects that.

Color choices aside, successfully rendering some of these big views requires accurate values, and I've been intrigued this week looking at completely de-saturated images of some of my recent work.

Sometimes I'm a bit... self conscious about the saturation of colors in my paintings. I feel a bit more justified in my color choices when I look at the values and realize I was still observing with some sort of accuracy. If an image reads in black and white, it's built on a solid foundation.

In other news, I managed to finally drop my brushes off a cliff. I'm not particularly proud of the episode, but the painting from the day was still quality and I consider it an amusing - and inevitable - experience. At least I had a friend there to laugh with me.

 "River Play" / 11x14" / Avaliable

"River Play" / 11x14" / Avaliable

 "The Undeniable Dangers of Day Drinking" / 12x16" / Available

"The Undeniable Dangers of Day Drinking" / 12x16" / Available

 "When Life Gives you Lemons, Get Tacos" / 9x12" / Available

"When Life Gives you Lemons, Get Tacos" / 9x12" / Available

 Sometimes I don't bother to paint, and would rather just absorb the view. You really can't beat sunsets at Dead Horse Point.

Sometimes I don't bother to paint, and would rather just absorb the view. You really can't beat sunsets at Dead Horse Point.