Friday, September 25, 2015

Who Inspires Me?

Patience Brewster is an artist I've liked for years for her delicate and detailed drawings & paintings, and for her whimsy. She uses color and captures the character of her figures in ways that I find wonderfully inspiring. She is currently best known for her Christmas ornaments.

Trying to Find the Words
by Patience Brewster

Serendipitously, her team recently contacted me to collaborate in an online Artist Appreciation Month event, where they have asked several folks to talk a little more about what's behind their work.

In an effort to go deeper with you, my devoted blog readers, I want to share my answers to her questions. I'd love to hear your own stories and thoughts in the comments below if you're inspired. :)

1. As a child, do you recall a significant moment when you felt truly affected or inspired by any particular artwork or artist?

This may sound funny, but my early inspirations were mostly in music. My mother is a strong musician and brought me and my sister up in an environment where singing and listening to music and watching musicals and attending classical concerts (as well as ballet and opera) were the norm. The day I found myself as one of four trumpet players in the prestigious Portland Youth Philharmonic during our first concert on the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall stage, I almost burst into tears, I was so inspired! It was in this moment, during the swells of a Brahms symphony, that I realized how art moves people, and how everyone has skills and a contribution to make in this world, no matter how young one may be.
Trumpet section of the PYP with
conductor Jacob Avshalomov (1919-2013)
and me just to the right of him,
1995, Portland, Oregon
 2. As an artist, what do you hope to convey with your work?

Up till quite recently, my aim has been to express whimsy, love, relationship, meaning, and hope in my art. I like it when people are enchanted or intrigued when they see a piece I've made. I like it when I can come up with a twist that makes people see something in a new way. In moving forward from here, I want to add to that: how can I express some of the things that I think about outside the art studio (culture, race, class and gender, identity, privilege) in my work, and in a way that isn't dark? How can I find the courage to say something in my art that may challenge the beliefs of my viewers without alienating them? I am so community-oriented as a person, I want my art to start a conversation, not shut someone down.

3. What memorable responses have you had to your work?

The first thing that comes to mind is when I actually sold something at an art show. Talk about feeling legitimate!  One of my very favorite artists is Barbara Gilhooly, who also happens to live in Fort Collins (and you should visit her website). She bought my piece and has since encouraged me to keep on keepin' on.  More recently, my dad has been talking about me to his friends and our family members as the one who seemed to be born with the talent and skills and the ability to persevere to make something of it, like a career. That has really meant a lot to me.

Me with Barbara Gilhooly and the piece
she bought (to the lower-left of us)
4. What is your dream project?

Since taking a feminist art history course in the spring of 2015, I have tons of new ideas. I'm still working on working out how to actualize these ideas, but my dream for now is to make a body of work that could be exhibited in a gallery show that is not in my own town. I mean, it could be here too, but I always appreciate any opportunity to travel.  :)

5. What artists do you admire?

There are just so many, and for so many reasons! To start, you can click on any of the links to the right and you will see a fair sampling of the artists I admire, especially in Fort Collins. But allow me to expand!

Sofonisba Anguissola was a prolific 16th century painter whose work I just love--it is vibrant, thoughtful, and addresses the occupations and confines of women in her day in subtle and intelligent ways. 

The Chess Game, Sofonisba Anguissola, 1555
Maria Sibylla Merian brought science alive in her botanical illustrations, making science accessible to everyone. 

Plate LX from Metamorphosis insectorum
, by Maria Sibylla Merian, 1705.
Rosa Bonheur was a 19th century French artist who poo-pooed the notion that women could only wear dresses. She got a doctor's note allowing her to wear pants, which made it easier for her to go to the slaughterhouses to study the anatomy of the cattle and other animals she so skillfully painted. 

Rosa Bonheur

Harriet Hosmer was a sculptor who was brave enough to articulate her thoughts on being a woman and an artist. She never married, and said this: 

"Everybody is being married but myself. I am the only faithful worshipper of Celibacy [sic], and her service becomes more fascinating the longer I remain in it. Even if so inclined, an artist has no business to marry. For a man, it may be well enough, but for a woman, on whom matrimonial duties and cares weigh more heavily, it is a moral wrong, I think, for she must either neglect her profession or her family, becoming neither a good wife and mother nor a good artist."

Hosmer’s own thoughts about women’s rights, written in a letter of March 1861, were that “every woman should have the opportunity of cultivating her talents to the fullest extent, for they were not given her for nothing….” Not only do I admire that she said these things around the time of the American Civil War, but her words encourage me to this day. I so very heartily agree.*

Harriet Hosmer working on her commissioned
statue of Thomas Hart Benton
I also admire the women of the 1970s feminist movement, who paved a path for women artists who came after them.

I could go on and on, but in an effort to edit, here is a list of some artists who have lived in the last hundred years--indeed, some are alive and working today--whose work or approach I greatly admire and who are not already linked-to on this blog (click on their names to be directed to their websites or info pages about them):

Wayne Thibaud
Kara Walker
Miriam Schaer
Ajean Ryan
Willem de Koonig
Cindy Sherman
Alexander Calder
Hung Liu
Ingrid Siliakus
Charles M Russell
Su Blackwell
Wes Hempel
Wolf Kahn

Thanks again to Patience Brewster and her team for including me on this thoughtful and fun blog project.

*Citations available on request.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Art Blogging: How To Be Better

I subscribe to the blog and newsletter of Alyson B. Stanfield, an art business coach in Colorado. Her book, "I'd Rather Be In The Studio" is great and her advice, delivered to my email inbox every week, is always relevant to things I’m constantly thinking about. 

Alyson’s most recent blog post is about art blogging. Some of my favorite lines:

“If you are a working artist seeking a larger audience, your blog should be about your art and your life as an artist.”

“The primary purposes of art are to delight, question, confound, and document. Some would argue that art is for decoration. I’m not one of these people.”

“Please delight, question, and confound us! Document your world, and the world we live in.

Most people cannot imagine what it’s like to live the artist’s life. Tell them. Show them.”

Then, she linked to a great post written in 2010(!) by a person named Hugh McLeod, who wrote about why art blogs fail or succeed. It's short and worth a read. What resonates with me most about what he says is that "the real job of the artist [is] to be a leader."

To be a leader!

I love to lead. I love to inspire. I love to be a part of people’s journeys to be better, to innovate and create, to help them attain a sense of accomplishment in ways that mean something to them.

I am a leader and an artist. How can I represent both in my blog? How can I lead through art? How can I better inspire you to do the things you want to do and be who you want to be?  These are questions I’m considering today. Meanwhile, I want to show you more than just my work; I want to tell you all about what it’s like to be a working artist (at least in my own experience). I promise to keep showing you what I’m making, but I want what I do to be meaningful to your experience too.