Fun fact, when you buy art off of my site, you’re getting used art. Most of the time when I do a painting, the piece ends up on my bookshelf until it’s time to go to a show or fair. When show season ends, however, the painting doesn’t, and, having a fairly small studio/office, ￼I hang the surplus art in our halls and rooms, and it lives there until Etsy makes the little cash register sound on my phone.
￼Sometimes I feel a little sorry for my husband. Sure, plenty of wives come up with redecorating ideas here and there, but living with an artist, he often comes home or wakes up to a new house. On good days, it becomes a rotating art gallery, and every bit of wall space is fair game. On the more chaotic days, there may be plans brewing for a better way to use that guestroom at the end of the hall (a bigger studio? or maybe not).￼
Whether the chaos is a small rotation or a major room organization, my husband’s defining goodnatured smile will appear, reminding me of my mom’s observation, “You found yourself a good man.”
I’m guessing that next to a lot of productive artists is someone with a good natured smile.
Back in November, not being able to convince my husband of the wisdom of adding a new wall between our kitchen and dining area, I up-cycled a bifold closet door by painting a mural on one side and some herbs on the other to make a screen.
Fortunately for everyone else’s sanity, I was elbow deep in a teaching certificate program and didn’t have time to act on the logical next step-painting actual doors around the house (and step risers and furniture and…), but a seed had been planted.
For some reason, teaching full-time has reignited a need to paint, and that little seed has been sprouting, despite the best efforts of my common sense to smother it. The painting spark is setting back fires that get my easel out every night and leave in-progress paintings hung in the bald spots on the walls around the living room.
It’s summer — art fair and farmers market season — so the paintings are never there for very long. The only one that doesn’t rotate out of the lineup is the screen.
A few family members innocently have suggested painting screens to take to the art fairs, turning a middle-aged artist’s thoughts to all the impromptu canvases in the world still waiting to be painted. But I think I’ll just start with a single screen (with a promise already made to the husband not to sell the one that started at all).
I had about two hours before we were heading to the movie, so I went looking for a place to paint. I’ve done this spot at the Wilcox Dairy ice cream stand before, but I sold the painting and wanted a bigger one. The new one isn’t done yet, but I have still got something good out of the afternoon.
I got some water from the ice cream stand and chatted with the woman who is running it now. Fifteen years ago a friend of ours ran it, Planting a beautiful herb garden nearby so customers could sit and enjoy the flowers as they eat their Sundays. Her son and my son were friends when they toddlers. Now the son of the new ice cream lady is helping mind the ice cream stand.
He noticed me setting up my easel and asked his mom if he could come over to watch. I had the sky started and had blocked in the outlines by the time my new companion arrived.
We chatted about how to paint and where to get paint. He said he wished he could pay for lessons. I reminded him that once he started painting, someday he would show somebody else the ropes. Then my young “apprentice” pointed out a crate in front of the ice cream stand that belonged to him. He asked if I would put it in the painting, and I agreed.
I hadn’t got that far by the time it was time to go to the movie,but I’m coming back to it now. When it’s done I think I’ll take my new pal a copy.
Looking at paintings is like touching an artist’s soul – even if the artist lived 400 years ago. Most of my art is about finding a constructive outlet for anger or depression and not much of a soul to touch, but every once in a while I think, it would be great to create a painting or piece of literature that people are still enjoying in 400 years (even 30 would be awesome).
I think the drive to create legacy lives in most people. It drives a lot of parenting decisions, it creates careers. Some people leave behind buildings or stadiums. Others leave behind Love Canal. Most of us leave something in between. But, as I’ve been tossing out the things in my life that don’t ‘spark joy’ (my diet, my treadmill, my bills), I also think about the things I’m leaving my kids.
In 40 or 50 years Thing1 and Thing2 will still have to do a hefty excavation job (I don’t expect to develop a commitment to cleaning at this stage of my life), but as I try to make sure my unwanted items find new homes somewhere besides the landfill, I’ve started thinking about the things I acquire or keep and about the burdens I’ll leave behind.
Once you go down that road, the first lie you tell ourself is that you won’t ever buy anything brand new (except food or a new pack of underwear every once in a while). If you’re plus-sized like me, that’s not always an option (most second hand shops seem to stock lots of pre-shrunk size 8s), but you can make things last or (for the truly delusional) diet.
Dieting is tough, but the real tough stuff is the things I create.
My art is my outlet. Art, for me, is process and processing.
Art is also a pile of plastic paint tubes. It’s books. It’s covered canvases that may be recycled or hang on a wall or someday end up in the miscellaneous pile at a thrift store with the rest of the aging ‘masterpieces’ that served as someone else’s outlet. It’s something I’ve been considering more carefully as I think about the world I want to leave my kids.
Thing2 is a natural packrat and a sentimentalist to boot, so I know some of my unwanted art will end up on his walls someday, but I do worry about the plastic tubes and the chemicals. I think about the resources used to produce a book that will end up in the library tag sale room and wonder if my creating is taking something more important from Thing1 and Thing2’s futures.
Ultimately, I think it will come down, not to not creating, but rather being mindful about creation. And, mindfulness is what art is really all about.