Saturday, May 28, 2016

Eliminating the Unexpected

©Theresa Grillo Laird - On the Tip of the Island - oil on linen - 18x24"
I stood in front of my chosen painting spot and turned slowly around 360 degrees. The abundance of possibilities was overwhelming. I was suddenly flashed back to the time when I was 4 years old and had been given a bewildering task with no clue of how to complete it.

..."Give this to your cousin George" the unfamiliar lady commanded me. It was Christmas time and I had just been handed a present and given my marching orders. The only problem was, I didn't have a cousin George. "You mean my cousin Eddie?" I asked, tossing absurdity back to her since I knew my cousin Eddie wasn't there. "No! George!" She turned away and I sat with the present on my lap and pondered the problem. Once again these troublesome adults weren't making a bit of sense. I knew better than to argue or disobey and obviously I was expected to know how to do what I'd just been told to do. People were gathering around me excitedly ripping open packages. One after another they held up their treasures shrieking "look what I got!" A smiling lady urged me to open "my" present. I hesitated.

What has this all got to do with plein air painting you might ask? Standing out in nature surrounded by an abundance of possibilities, can leave you feeling as bewildered and paralyzed as that 4 year old. How many times have you set out to paint, full of high hopes? You know you want to paint and the possibilities are everywhere. You set up and rush in hoping your painting will capture some of the kid-in-a-candy-store excitement you can barely contain. But too often, you fall short. You take all the steps you think you're supposed to but the result is not what you expected. 

..."Go ahead! Open it!" the lady repeated. I tore into the package and held up it's contents. "Look what I got!" I exclaimed, faithfully following the example of everyone else. Though I held up a pair of boys corduroy pants, I didn't expect was the chorus of laughter that followed.

When I decided to spend the year painting the National Park in my home town for the centennial year of the National Park Service, I realized I needed to get a bit more organized with my thoughts if I was going to get the result I anticipated. On my first day out, I stood at the ready surveying the beauty of white sand and emerald water, coastal marsh and live oak forest. The multitude of choices temped  me to open my paint box, but instead I used the day to walk around making rough sketches, and taking photographs. The sketches, like this one used for the painting above, were barely more than scribbles

but they were enough to know whether the scene would work in paint. The photos were to study at home to compare with my initial impression. They were disappointing because they flattened the scenes compressing the sense of depth. They were so different from what my eye saw that if I had to judge the worthiness of the scenes from the photos only, I wouldn't have painted them.

For the rest of the year, I'll take the time to walk, choosing spots and sketching first. It definitely helps eliminate some of the unknowns of outdoor painting.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Eureka! I've Found the Secret!

You remember how it was when you were a kid and the first day of summer vacation inched closer and closer. You could barely sit still at the thought of being freed from the dusty smells and confines of the classroom. Swimming, running free out in nature, family camping vacations - visions of all the possibilities of the coming months crowded each other out in the rush of joyous anticipation.

I feel like that right now!

©Theresa Grillo Laird - Sun Dance - 12x16" - oil on canvas panel
contact me here for information 

Is the change of season responsible for this expectation of good things to come? Or is it the gift of time that has given me renewed optimism? Like the school child released from the demands of study and exams, I've been relieved from responsibilities that took much more of a toll on creative energy than I expected. Yet even this isn't the reason for renewed energy. Neither is the excitement of returning to a project I had to abandon last fall of a year of painting the national park that's practically in my backyard. 

My joy comes from a lightening bolt of crystal clarity that hit me when I chose to listen to the voice quietly speaking from deep within, rather than heeding that insistent voice that seems to exist just to goad me with all the things I'd be missing if I didn't follow the course I  thought I needed. 

Freedom! Now with the enthusiasm of a 10 year old on the first day of summer vacation, I've again headed out into the national park, excited to take up work, confident of my path and certain that I'm not missing anything I need. I'll show you some sketches of possible painting spots I found last weekend, in my next post. Above is a plein air sketch from the day. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

How I Got into My First Gallery... and several since

Before I get every gallery owner howling, I need to preface this post with "kids, don't try this at home!"  
Galleries and marketing gurus will tell you that you can't just walk into a gallery unannounced with your paintings tucked under your arm. But that's exactly what I did. Well, almost.

I live in a casual coastal environment where big city rules of engagement often don't apply. There's a slower pace of life here, an unrushed gentility, and business is often still conducted with a handshake.

©Theresa Grillo Laird -Dunes and Fences -oil on canvas-30x40"
to purchase contact the Studio Gallery

When I started looking for gallery representation, I chose a city about an hour and a half away that had a reputation for being art friendly. I spent the day walking around visiting galleries to get a feel for each one. I wanted to see what kind of art they carried, how it was displayed and how the staff approached me, a potential art buying customer. I also wanted a gallery that didn't depend on a side aspect, like framing, to carry the gallery.

The first gallery I walked into almost looked like a garage sale. The paintings hung on dividers scattered about in a haphazard maze, and were so closely spaced that it made me dizzy to look from one to the next. The next gallery had beautiful art nicely displayed, but the staff, framing works behind a counter, didn't even look up to acknowledge my presence. The gallery I chose looked like a gallery. It had enough space to walk around and to step back to view the fine art . The art was hung in a way that had a kind of flow to it. Nothing was jarring or haphazard looking.Within a minute of walking in, the owner walked up to me, smiled and introduced himself. I knew I'd found the place I wanted to represent me.

When he learned the reason for my visit, I asked if I could show him a couple of pieces I'd left in my car. He agreed and accepted the pieces for the gallery. I wish I could say that this wonderful start to our relationship which resulted in sales to good collections, is carrying on to this day. But over time the owners started spending less and less time in the gallery leaving me in the embarrassing position of sending clients there just to have them come back and tell me the gallery was closed. I eventually pulled my art out. I guess that's the downside to casual environment galleries.

I've had my work in several galleries that I approached in a similar manner. For some, I followed the route for submission that they requested on their website. Others I just walked into. Of course I know better than to stroll into a big city glitzy gallery and expect the same thing to work.

The point is that there's no one way to achieve an objective whether it's finding your artistic voice, carving out a living in art or gaining gallery representation. Everyone's art journey, like their spiritual journey is unique and deeply personal. It's useful and interesting to see how others have done it, but ultimately you're on a solo path. And to me, not knowing what vistas will open up around the bend is what makes this fascinating journey so exciting!

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