There are all kinds of envy — including the kind that Freud thought he detected. The kind I’m talking about is called professional jealousy. Some artists have it bad. Salieri had it for Mozart. Who wouldn’t? It’s supposed to be one of the main sins. I’ve had lots of confessional letters from artists. They’re jealous of the success and talent of others. It happens everywhere — at art schools, with the artist next door, even sharing the same studio. One woman wrote to say that the envy she felt for her friend’s paper tole drove her to stop working in the medium.
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The quiet town of Jokkmokk (pop. 8000) in Swedish Lapland has been the subject of considerable study. It seems that most of the schoolgirls there are smart and most of the schoolboys are not. Experts have taken a look at the gene pool, relative brain capacities, corpus callosum deviations, family dynamics, even teaching methods in the schools. Things seem about the same as most other Swedish towns. But for several generations now the girls get the marks and the boys drop out.
Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) was the son of a celebrated furniture designer of Nancy, France. Suffering from heart problems, he came to Marrekesh for his health in 1919 and immediately saw the painterly potential of southern Morocco. In 1924 he acquired land, called himself a “gardenist” as well as an “artist” and began the lifelong project of creating a unique botanical expression around his studio. He opened his garden to the public in 1947. Upon his death in a car accident the property fell into disorder — until it was rediscovered by couturier Yves Saint-Laurent and his artist-friend, Pierre Berge. Majorelle’s Art-Deco-inspired studio, painted the original bright blue, is now a museum and gallery of Majorelle’s work. Travelers wander among exotic plants and spectacular cacti.
One of the interesting things about Ed Hughes is the deal he cut with his dealer in 1953. The dealer was Max Stern of Montreal’s Dominion Gallery. Ed lived in a bungalow on the west coast of Canada. Ed and Max met only four times. Their deal was done by mail. Ed’s deal was this: “I’ll give you everything I make and you pay me a salary.” Ed was a pretty slow worker — about a dozen paintings a year during his good years. Gradually, his annual salary edged up. Then a new Jaguar was thrown in for good measure. Ed insisted on that. He liked the classics.
I’m laptopping to you this morning from the Tate Modern in London, England. I’ve a confession to make. While I dearly love seeing quality paintings, and love even more trying to make them, I’m a bit of a junkie when it comes to contemporary installation art. This place is screaming with the stuff. Glazed gallery goers, their minds numbed by the visual challenges, wander in the ambience of this renovated power station on the south bank of the Thames. To the many who snicker and snort, it’s sort of an intellectual curiosity and freak show.
Just for today I’m going to try to make a better painting. We’re not talking Sistine Chapel here, just a piece of joy begun and ended between sunup and sundown.
Just for today I’ll be happy with it. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Today I’m making up my mind to be pleased.
Just for today I’m trusting in luck, intuition, chance and happenstance. Today I’m going to fit myself and my work around some of these minor miracles.
A question I’ve been asked is, “What is often a problem for me is choosing subject matter. How do you go about it? Is it because you are often inspired by what you see?”
It’s interesting to note that many of us simply “feel a painting coming on.” Subject matter can be almost secondary when you feel the urge. Relegated to a minor role, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.” But by and large we generally start with “something.” My experience has been that professionals have to learn how to get gold from all of their mines:
Yesterday, I received an email: “I began my journey at the University of Toledo in Fine Art. Lacking confidence, I switched to Art Education. I felt I couldn’t take the rejection from galleries and shows and what it takes to be a real artist. I just wanted to paint beautiful things — I wasn’t looking for angst or meaning or whatever it is that the experts say makes art. I actually won a scholarship for ‘student with the most promising portfolio’ but, nevertheless, my work wasn’t accepted into the annual student show. I was defeated. I didn’t pick up a brush for seven years
Having heard from many of you with juror experience, a theme has emerged around the very basics for artists submitting to a juried show. While one regular juror may hinge all on technical merit and another cruises for signs of imagination, a few fundamentals stand out as universal. They’re so simple they serve as a gentle reminder for anyone at any stage of the submission game:
As well as providing important archival protection, most paintings benefit visually from a coat of final varnish. For acrylics, this means UVLS varnish cut 50/50 with water and brushed on or poured and then wiped off with a lint-free rag