Friday, 13 April 2012

My Artistic Journey: Prologue

There's something about nearing sixty. Something that says, "Stop. Go back a bit. Look at your early work again. Remember the beginning of the journey. Why you started out in the first place. What made you take brush to easel, or pen to paper. Why did you want to make a mark at all."

That day that once seemed so far away is now just around the corner. For the past few months I have been feeling so tired, so down, so lost. I seem to have been going in all directions. I have been running around in my head like a rat in a maze, directionless, joyless, meaningless. I want it all to stop and make sense. I don't like the work I am doing at the moment. I am painting for the market, mostly- doing studies of trees on perspex using the reverse technique. Last year I started selling my work, making money. It began at the beginning of last year, 2010. I sold a small painting of a tree against a silvery blue sky.

I got a lot of positive comments from the people of SASA. It was the first painting that sold at the Merit exhibition.
I even got an award at their annual September judged exhibition.I felt enormous relief and happiness. People liked my work at last. After so many years trying different things, different subjects, different techniques, I had finally found my niche.  And with my landscapes. One of the judges, Hans Fransen had recognised my work.

I had made a lot of mistakes along the way, battling to find a subject matter that I could truly relate to and express well. It happened quite unconsciously, really. I began to just do trees. I did one, then another one, using the same photograph of the same tree.
Just trying it out with different colours, using a lot of transference paint which gave it a kind of translucence- I liked them. It felt good doing them. It wasn't easy at first. I was frustrated a lot in the beginning but gradually they began to coalesce into a body of work with a recognisable style. And they were well received. I sold 3 at that exhibition and then another 3 at Jill Fearon' exhibition in October.
In a bead shop one day, I was chatting to the saleslady and she said she "knew me"- she had seen and liked my work at Kirstenbosch. It felt quite wierd. Someone outside my close family and circle of close friends knew my name. I wondered if this is what fame felt like. Strange. Didn't affect me much, Just went back to the studio and did another tree painting, had a cup of tea and did the shopping. Nothing changed.

Except that as the year progressed I began to feel more and more lost and depressed. What if I had to do tree paintings on perspex for the rest of my life? Is this what you had to do to get a "name"? Just produce the same painting over and over again to make lots of money. Not that I was making lots of money- far from it- in fact when all the costs of framing and exhibition fees were taken off, I found that I had not made much profit from my sales that year. I think it came to about R4000. That small amount still felt good, though. I felt that I was more worthwhile somehow- I was not such a drain on the family finances. I could contribute in some small way.
This is all besides the point, I know, but yet it puts into perspective for me what is important in my particular journey. It seems that once I become "popular" I feel that I have made my point and don't have to prove myself anymore. It's like I'm saying to my Mother: "You see, I am good enough!"

The feeling of uselessness did not go away though. I tried to do more tree paintings, but they wouldn't come. The end of the year approached and I knew I had to produce 5 paintings for the SASA Merit exhibition on the 28th January. We were going away for 10 days at the end of December and I knew when I got back it would be hot and I would not feel like working. I dreaded the start of the New Year when I would have to produce new work. I had some paintings over from 2010 but I felt they were "stale" already and I was putting pressure on myself to do 5 new paintings. When I got back from the holiday I forced myself to go into the studio and work. Eventually I managed to produce 3 new paintings. The exhibition was nearly at an end and I had still not sold anything. I went in to do  my "stint" and that morning a woman from British Columbia stood in front of my painting of the red olive tree.
Red olive. reverse painting on perspex. 700 x 370mm

I went up to her and described the tecnique of reverse painting on perspex and took it off the wall to show her how light it was. She then asked me if I had painted it and I said yes. She was very interested. My stint ended and I thought that was the end of it but apparently she came back after lunch and bought it. I had done all the "sales" work, which I found rather annoying, especially as I had to pay SASA for the exhibition and they should be selling my work, not me! However I let that pass and was just grateful for the sale.

Now I have those same paintings up with Jill Fearon's exhibition and have sold one. But I am still bored, tired and passionless about my work. Today I went into the studio and decided some drastic action was needed to get out of this dead zone. I found myself taking out my old portfolio of photographs from 1993 and looking back at what I had produced since then.
I have decided to blog about my first painting, how I started, what went through my mind at the time and how I motivated myself.

Go to Chapter 1

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