What a morning... picked up a caramel macchiato on the way to work and was saving it until I arrived at school as I had hallway duty. Had a large box of already flattened, cut-apart cardboard for the new project of "cardboard relief sculptures" to carry into the building. Placed the coffee securely in a corner of the box...squeezed my purse in with everything...and tried to lug the box from the parking lot to the school. Operative word: "tried". Right in the middle of the street, gusting winds danced maniacally around me-- a sedan came at me from one direction/a school bus drove toward me from the other -- one corner of the box decided to part ways. EVERYTHING went flying. Cardboard cartwheeled gaily across the parking lot and street. My hair writhed, Medusa-like, around my face. The macchiato poured down my body from my knees down. My purse regurgitated all its contents into the street.
One of the secretaries and a student helped me get as much of it together as I could, and I rushed into the building and barely made it to my duty station before my appraiser showed up to talk to me about an AP Portfolio issue.
I smell heavenly.
Eau de Caramel Macchiatto
Flux. That’s what my life is in….flux. I woke up yesterday morning all out of sorts but not quite able to put a finger on it. I’m not depressed, although my personal emotional rollercoaster is on the downswing rather than up. The season doesn’t give me the blues, although my excitement with it has changed dramatically over the years. But Christmas is but one small part of it.
Because: two years ago I moved into a rent house near my job. I chose to rent for several reasons: one, because I really don’t know where I want to live long-term; and two, because there really aren’t any homes in the school district in which I teach within the price range I want, or even where I want. Okay, those aren’t the only two reasons, but they are pretty high on the list. The owners of the rent house still had the garage full of boxes and belongings as well as a few things still randomly around inside the house. They contacted a local church to clear out the stuff, but in the process, the local church took all of the various Christmas Santas I had collected over my adult life, my full size-fully lighted Christmas tree, the ornaments I had collected for my children each year which I was going to give them when they got their own house, plus many more. When I contacted the church, someone assured me I would at least get my Santas and the ornaments I had collected for my offspring back. That was two years ago. And no, I didn’t; someone from that church had a windfall and knew it. Now, I know that they are material things, and I have to a great extent “let it go”. But this still plays a part in my “flux”.
Because: my youngest son is a senior in high school, and this is his last year at home. His last full Christmas with me. I know he will be back for Christmas next year. Already, because it is natural for children to leave home and create their own nuclear families and homes, my small family consisting of myself, three sons and a daughter (and now a grandson) are already on a holiday schedule which began a few years back. In even years my children (and spouses and now grandson) have Christmas morning with me and Thanksgiving with the “other side” of their family. In odd years, it is switched – Thanksgiving with me and Christmas morning with the “other side”. It is how it should be. But it isn’t just about Christmas. Flux.
Because: all of my adult life I have been raising children or “raising”/”dealing with” the bad decisions I’ve made in relationships. And, maaaaaaan!, have I made some doozies of decisions. Always there has been someone or something to take care of; some fire to put out. This year my three oldest are all out of the house and “adulting” on their own, and my youngest is 17 and well on his way to being an adult. He doesn’t need me like before. Oh yes I am proud! And full of gratitude to have my children turn out as well as they have. But already, even now before he has moved out, I am now just “one” – at loose ends. Some of my married friends are envious, as in “Oooh, all the freedom you have to do what you want when you want…” and other such nonsensical comments. Seriously? As it is, I am a single female, and those same married friends are uncomfortable inviting me to things that in their eyes require “couples”. I'm not uncomfortable with it…I’m actually very comfortable right now in my own skin, thank you very much. And going out to bars isn’t what I do because I’m not trying to get “picked up” or “find a date” or anything else ridiculously unfulfilling. (Okay, I do wish we had Irish pubs close to my house. As in I wish I had Ireland and its pubs, period.) I’m not going to lie; I am a little excited about finding out what I want to do socially concerning things I’m passionate about, or maybe not even passionately but slightly interested, but again, right now I am in flux there as well.
Because: I’m at a crossroads in my career. Do I stay in teaching public school? Do I begin my own studio complete with workshops and classes? Do I try to do both? It’s terrifying retiring from the one, watching my pay scale drop dramatically, and jumping off into the unknown hoping for the best. Flux.
Because: ….and this goes back to my reason for renting in the first place…where in the Hell do I want to live? I need a “nest”, a place to land, somewhere I can retreat. But do I want a full-blown house with yard and everything that comes with it? Do I want a townhome or condo which I can lock and leave for weeks on end without worrying about whether the grass needs mowing or the mail picked up or packages on the doorstep or, or, or…….. and WHERE? I’m tempted to get rid of all but the very basics, put it in storage and just float from pillar to post – live in Ireland for a month or two, maybe France, maybe Scotland, possibly Italy….
I had the best summer vacation ever: June 26 – July 10 I led a student tour to London, Paris, Switzerland, Venice, Munich, Heidelberg, and Amsterdam. Even though the trip began with a weather delay, resulting in a loss of our first day in London, and two of the students’ luggage decided to take trips of their own – one for three days, the second piece of luggage for 14 days (not showing up until the day before we returned to the USA!), it was a fabulous, wonder-filled trip for both myself and all of the students. Then when we returned home on the 10th, I immediately began washing laundry and repacking because the second half of my summer was an eleven day trip with other teachers (no students) to Ireland for a Teacher Convention tour. I boarded the plane for Ireland on July 14th and didn’t return until July 25th. In fact, I didn’t want to return! I am head over heels in love with Ireland.
I cannot praise the tour company I use enough: EF Tours. The EF people who traveled around with the 42 teachers who toured Ireland were so courteous, so fun, and so very accommodating: Hélène Vincent, Josh Gosdin, Cameron Mansanarez, and Emily Roy. Our tour guide, Cathal from Cork, was equally amazing. And the teachers I met? I hope I have them as friends for life.
BUT… Ireland…. I so love Ireland.
And then school started. And teaching. And workshops and writing of lesson plans and learning new students and….and…and…..
And my creativity hit a wall. Hard.
But it’s back! I was introduced to a Russian painter and installation artist’s (Valery Koshlyakov) work by a student, Sarah Modisette. Immediately I thought of a photograph I had taken of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney, Ireland. (Actually the official name is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, but is better known as St. Mary’s.) I need to work on the more abstract manner Koshlyakov uses, but I like the feel of the freedom the paint marking uses with this style. And now I am starting another…because when the creativity is flowing… RIDE THE WAVE!
Music - the listening to AND the making of - reaches in and squeezes my heart, making my soul somersault-happy.
My entire family of siblings and offspring all play at least one instrument and sing; while on road trips and driving, my radio would be blasting and many times all of us in the car would be singing along with it. I was given a child-sized learner's guitar a few years back, and up until now had used it as a still life object for art students. Then one day - epiphany! - my young grandson loves doing things with his Zio (my son #3), so.... I have begun repairing and reconditioning the guitar and am now in the process of completely repainting it with Smaug, the dragon from Tolkien's The Hobbit. My grandson is enamored with Smaug and dragons in general. When he receives it for this upcoming Christmas, he also will be getting basic guitar lessons from his Zio.
First I used a wood-burning tool to etch the drawing and the two names into the wood before I applied color. And, even though it is a child's beginner's guitar, I still didn't want the weight of paint to change the tone, so I elected to use Speedball calligraphy ink as it is almost weightless when applied.
This is only the front of the guitar...stay tuned for Part II: the back!
The slide show below illustrates the progress of the work from the beginning to being glazed at the end.
I wish I could magically imbue everyone with the realities of being a freelance artist. The biggest issue I feel artists face is their work being taken seriously as “work” and not a “hobby”, but that is a difficulty I will discuss later on. I decided I wanted to talk about the problems artists face in hopes that some understanding would be gained by non-artists, but as it will take more than one posting to cover it all, I will only talk about two or three at a time.
One of the main things all artists struggle with is how the majority of people, without consciously meaning to, make light of the work that goes into creating a final piece. For example, a recently commissioned landscape I’ve been working on sold for over $500. This is a specific landscape of a man’s grandparents’ farm which is slowly deteriorating now that it is no longer a lived-on working farm. His wife specifically wanted it painted to be a memory, frozen in time, for not only him but for their children and grandchildren. The main reaction from people who know what I sold it for is, “Wow! That’s a lot of money for that!” Really? One of the trees – just one of the many trees – in the landscape took three solid hours to paint. And I’m not finished with that tree; that was just time spent painting the limbs and branches against the sunset. Now I still need to add the green spring leaves emerging from said limbs and branches. (Thankfully, this customer DOES understand the time, patience, and – yes – talent/gift that goes into creating such an artwork.) Factor in the cost of the paint used, the cost of the 24”x36” stretched canvas, brushes, palette knives, and various and sundry other miscellaneous tools one uses while painting, and the hourly income made shrinks considerably. And, since it is a painted memory of a specific house, shed, barn, trees…..farm!... then extra care must be taken for it to be exact in how it looks and not just a “similar to” painting. It is very important to me for this to be an artwork that inspires a comment such as “Hey! That’s (insert name here) farm! Man I loved that place…” because that person has an immediately triggered memory upon viewing it.
Which brings me straight to a second battle an artist faces: how does one set a price for a finished commissioned piece? Ideally an artist should be able to charge by the hours actually worked plus the cost of materials, etc., but then the costs would vary from one artwork to another of the same size, and those who really do not have an idea of what all goes into the creation of each piece would question “why this one at this price, but not this one?” and the resulting conversations turn argumentative and serve no one’s purpose. The pricing must make sense to the buyer in order for the art to sell, so a set price for sizing with appropriate fluctuations for perhaps differing materials/techniques must be determined. Personally, I finally decided on set prices by size for certain medias (example: portrait painted in coffee, 14” x 18”, is $210, but the price changes as additional people are added to the portrait) but by the linear inch for paintings (example: acrylic painting – per linear inch is $9.50. The formula would be as such for a 14” x 18” painting on stretched canvas: 14+18= 32. Then, 32 x $9.50 would make the price = $304) Of course the down side to this for the artist is that sometimes more time is expended on one artwork than the other so the actual hourly rate one would ultimately earn would vary a bit; but as this type of pricing makes more sense to the buyer, this is what helps to sell the artwork.
I will write more about additional artists’ struggles, but for ease of keeping the train of thought, I’ll post them as Part I, II, etc. as I have a sneaking suspicion that the installments will be interrupted with other thoughts and discussions.