Deep thoughts by Xavier Oldterp
That's my new nom de plume or at least it is for the next few minutes. I've been thinking about a bunch of different things from a variety of conversations about painting. It may be a tad rambly and disjointed but walk with me a while and lets chat. It'll at least give me a chance to post some better shots of the studies I did while out there in Cali-walla. First up is my last, semi-whiny post about flailing in Carmel last week. A bad day there is better than pretty much anything, it's one of those places that reminds me why I do what I do. I have a drive, a passion, to get that mother nature on canvas, even if these things have been painted a thousand times before. I want to simply put down in paint that mountain, to borrow from George Mallory, because it's there. It's a combination of honoring the beauty that nature has to give and engaging in the honorable pursuit of the art of art, that and to make a few bucks on the side. So maybe I didn't deliver when it mattered. I showed up and I did my best. So I didn't win something or make a few bucks, it wasn't my turn. Paint outs in general are great training, wonderful learning experiences and a chance to make great new friends. I can't tell you the number of times I have thought, upon viewing another artists work, "I didn't know you could do that!". The Carmel event, while it has changed over the years, is still a good event if only for the chance to paint the area, an excuse to go there and write it off. It's more like a sporting event because you have only two days to paint enough decent paintings to hang. It ramps up the adrenaline and makes us really focus on doing good work. Just doesn't always go that way. I often wonder though about things like the quickdraw, yes they bring in more buyers, people see the work in progress and bond with it like a newborn. But, at the same time, these people see that it takes only a couple of hours to do what we do. Is that the right message? You and I know it takes a lifetime to pull this stuff off. But it's like watching eggs boil. See? Only a couple of minutes and they're done. Forget the fact that it took the chicken a couple of million years to develop a convenient way to deliver our tasty breakfast. I think in a way it cheapens not the work but the process. It takes a little of the mystery out of it.
Also, the events themselves aren't really a big source of income so much anymore, people come, I think, to get a deal. Some artists price their work down a little, or maybe lower the opening bid such that, with only one bidder, the painting sells for less than its actual value. I like the events that encourage the artists to price the work to it's full value and they either get it for that or they don't. Many buyers have told me that they have experienced regret after the fact for not buying a piece because at the time it seemed to expensive. A good painting will stick with you. I know. I think I'm finally getting to the place where, as much as I hate to say it, it's time to just focus in on doing a serious body of work. Ever see the big dogs at these events? Not so much anymore. They are doing private shows with Sting and riding in limos with hot Russian escorts and sporting gold lined Javan Tiger fur coats. Yes....maybe it's time for me to get serious. Right after I finish making this fake license plate that says "SML PNS" that I will stick on the back of whatever Hummer I find at the grocery store parking lot.
The other topic is this.... Scrape, toss, sell or save. I was going to do this as a separate post but I'm trying to come up with enough words to wrap around all these pics. I've talked with a number of artists about this, people I really respect, except for that one guy with the outstanding warrant for stealing women's underwear from Kmart, the guy can paint though. What to do with all of these studies. For me, if someone wants to buy a small plein air study, by all means. I'll just take a pic and put the study up on the ol compooter screen. But many do the studies just for that purpose, as studies. Then they do larger versions directly from the studies. What that does is allow for another level of interpretation, removed from photos, the artists voice really gets to come out. I never like my photos anyway. So it seems to be the consensus to keep and paint from the good ones. Maybe sell a few here and there when mommy needs new shoes.
What about the ones that suck? Some keep them as a reminder of how far they've come. Not me. I paint over them, though I still haven't found a good solution for that, whatever I use to cover up the paint scat, like baloney in my shoes, it just feels funny. There are people who are drawn to some crudeness in the bad ones and want them, sometimes even for money, but do I really want that crap to show up with my name on it? No.
And what about the ones that are beginning to suck? I'm an hour in to a P.O.S., do I just keep attempting triage or as my mother used to always say "stop touching it!!". John Burton calls it rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (and no he's not the one with the underwear problem). Here's a lesson I never learn because I want to win. If I have to add a friggin unicorn in the corner to make it work, I will. But I scraped a few last week when I realized it was just unsalvageable and went for a walk to clear my head. Scraping does give power back to the artist.
And speaking of tossing out old work... I have been thinking for years of having a kind of art based burning man thing. Build a tower with old art, maybe a big fort shaped gizmo or some kind of effigy and just let it go up in flames. Better yet would be the proper Viking funeral for all these old illustrations and crappy paintings... a raft built up with piles of art that no one will ever want and send it up in flames. I wonder if I need a permit for a proper Viking funeral on my lake. It would be very cathartic and I think I'm ready for it.
So, now that I'm almost out of pics, I'm saving the other 5 or 6 for the new website that is about to go live... Yay.... I will sum up. It's okay to suck, it's okay to scrape, it's great to use your studies as studies and only sell a few here and there. Paint outs are fun but are they serious? In a way, of course they are,especially the ones held in the museums, but to really get serious, you gotta go it alone. I'm going to get serious. and Quick draws send the wrong message.... still gonna do em. I just won't be too quick about it.