Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From Turf to Surf

I'll admit I'm going through a boring spell with my painting. A trip to the beach one evening last week provided a little inspiration to step out of the box. This painting is approximately 12" x 32", oil on canvas.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The New Reality?

Old Town finished up this evening. What started as a dark wet Saturday morning finished in full sun and low seventies. A perfect Sunday. Though once again a show returned little reward for the great majority of artists. I heard of a few zeros and most talked of expenses made but not much more.

I was lucky today and made a little money after a dismal Saturday. The mood among artists is definitely downbeat. More of my friends are sleeping in their vehicles and cutting other expenses to the bone. And you can see it in their faces when you talk to them. The future is very uncertain and many are in fear of watching their livelyhoods disolve.

All of us live under the curse of increasing travel costs and show fees combined with diminishing show revenues. One artist recounted the days of regularly making ten to twenty thousand dollars in a weekend show. He says he now struggles to make fifteen hundred dollars in some shows. The new economy bites.

When do things get better? I entered this career when spending was scaling back so I wasnt spoiled by the good old days. But I'm guessing we may not return to those days of extravagant spending anytime soon. More than likely our profits will remain modest. We are going to have to be adaptable and patient as we wait for a rebound.

Even with all the downside to the business, the things we take away are the friendships and camraderie of those that we get together with year to year. Old Town is a bit different from other shows in that we are guests of a residential neighborhood. Our storefronts are nearly on the front steps of someone's house. We usually have the same space each year so friendships and aquaintances are renewed on each return.

It has been fun to watch neighborhood children grow up in once a year weekend glimpses. The young girl that played on the sidewalk behind the booth and delivered water to the artists in her Radio Flyer wagon is now graduating from high school. And a new bunch is coming along. Today three or four of the kids on the block chalked on the sidewalk and drew on my guest book. I'm going to keep that drawing and show it to them next year. Money is important but its not necessarily the thing we remember.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Road Trip, Day One

An early start for Chicago. I wanted to get to Clarksville TN this evening and I did it - just an hour before a huge thunderstorm hit. This same time each year the Bonnaroo Music Festival kicks off in Manchester TN. http://www.bonnaroo.com/ and each year I get caught in the traffic. Its hard to avoid. This year the state troopers have moved Bonnaroo traffic to the shoulder. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Off to Chicago

The night before a show trip and my body feels like it should after returning from one. Worn out. Loading a van full of all of the stuff that it takes to run a portable business on the street for two days is mostly drudgery.

There are only about a hundred large tasks and tiny items that will bite you in the butt if you forget to do them or take them along. Charge machines, tax permits, toll transponders; I usually forget at least one personal item. I have supermarket toothbrushes from most of the large chains. Shampoo, shaving cream, yeah -forgotten those. Of course my belt frequently doesnt make the trip or maybe a sweater. It's hard to fantasize cold when its 91 degrees as I pack. I tried a checklist once but it didn't seem to fit my groomed inattention to detail.

The biggest jobs before a show is getting updates to my webmaster Jill Tocco so she can post new work. Then Janet and Melinda at Flamingo Frame have to get all my frames finished in time for me to mount and wire the paintings. Since I always seem to be painting on pieces till the very last minute, I am usually framing at the last minute too.

Anyway the first stage of show drudgery is complete. Tomorrow, stage 2. I hope to drive as far as Nashville. Anything after that is icing on the cake. The goal is to arrive in Chicago before Friday afternoon rush hour, which realistically is impossible since it begins just as the morning rush hour ends. Still, earlier is better. The Old Town show is on the north side where I need to check in with the show volunteers, get a Chicago neighborhood zone parking permit, then head to the suburbs for an affordable hotel.

Saturday morning its up before 4am to come back into the city, get parked and unloaded before the artist rush hour around 6am. You sometimes have to wait for the police to tow a car out of your space if one was left from overnight. This whole show procedure at Old Town is insane but the atmosphere and the show itself is so alluring, people like me keep trying to come back.

Tomorrow and Friday will be a busy time. Check back to see what's going on.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Common Beauty

Picture books are perfect for someone like me who is so visually oriented. Until I did an informal study of those artists around me, I thought I was the only painter whose reading comprehension was stunted by books without pictures. When it comes to art books or periodicals, I spend all my time looking at the paintings instead of reading about what the art critic thinks. I think it is far more interesting studying how a brush stroke was made or how a color relates, than where an artist was schooled or what his or her philosophies are. Some of us like the nuts and bolts of our craft, I guess.
Recently though, I caught myself reading an article featuring an artist that simply painted trees in groupings. Composition-wise, they were not so different from my paintings. I was struck by the focus and the simplicity in those paintings, and I saw expressed in words what I had always thought to be true. Paraphrasing -take a moment at this one place, not one of spectacular beauty, but common beauty. A place we look at but rarely see. Light and color expressed in everyday terms.