Artists need to be mindful that their work may be around for a while. Quality work — if history deems it quality — tends to endure. Artists need to give thought to the future, for their work may be repeatedly cleaned, relined, touched up or given the whole nine yards of restoration. Quality supports and media, knowledgeable application and final protection go a long way toward helping out.
In the sacristy of the San Martino Cathedral in Lucca lies the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto who died while giving birth in 1405, aged 26. It seems that the beautiful Ilaria was the second wife of local entrepreneur Paolo Guinigi. Paolo engaged the up-and-coming Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia to carve his tribute. Immediately admired and praised, the tomb was soon moved into the cathedral. Unfortunately, Mr. Guinigi was shortly expelled from Lucca for some shady dealings. The Church had the tomb dismantled and moved to another location. Pieces became lost, reworked and relocated. Only with the passage of time was it brought back by popular demand. The main chunk of marble has been so well loved and admired that it has taken on saintly auras.
John Ruskin, the English painter and critic, wrote home to his dad in 1845: “It is impossible to tell you the perfect sweetness of the lips and closed eyes, nor the solemnity of the seal of death which is set upon the whole figure. It is, in every way, perfect — truth itself, but truth selected with inconceivable refinement of feeling.”
Today, folks file by, having paid a few euros to see beauty, love and fidelity. Except for slight blemishes from iron incursions within the stone, and the effects of 602 years of fingers touching her nose and mouth, she’s in all her purity — at her feet her little dog still wondering what happened.
In Italy, today’s experts, scholars and conservators are greatly endowed by the effects of tourism. Who was to know that houses of worship were to become museums? Who was to know that amazing modern scholarship would be applied to preservation? Every cathedral now has its scaffolding. All is in a state of restoration. There’s something worthwhile about permanent love.
PS: “Ars longa, vita brevis.” (Hippocrates) In its long form this is translated as, “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience misleading, judgment difficult. The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants, and externals cooperate.”
Esoterica: Fine artists, like physicians, need to realize they are part of a greater brotherhood and sisterhood, both living and dead, who have an obligation to take care of certain aspects of their businesses. History is the obligation. Respect is the key. “Art,” said W. H. Auden, “is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.”
by Valerie Norberry, Kalamazoo, MI, USA
Money can not buy happiness, but perhaps it can somehow preserve a semblance of such. I admire greatly my Amish friends’ memory-frames with their wedding invitations and preserved usher’s and “puppies” (young Amish people who serve at a wedding) gifts from the bride for helping out; items such as letter holders, mirrors with acid-resist roses on them, and other hand-crafted beauties done in love. Each Amish home I’ve been in is somewhat of a museum of their relationships, which they prioritize above material items (except maybe land). The grandfather clocks, the wall art, all are gifts, bringing loving memories and stories, as well as questions of “How is so and so?” There is very little room on their walls for “worldly” art; their lives are so full with friends and family.
Capturing eternal beauty
by Hans Mertens, The Netherlands
The story of Ilaria Del Carretto truly moved me. I studied art for 6 years ago and I know some people tried to find a definition for art some ages ago. Also these days we try to find descriptions for what art should be like. Not so long ago, opinions appeared like art has to be shocking or provocative. Everything is allowed these days in the art world, however, the story of Ilatia Del Carretto says something else.
The ultimate goal for a creator has to be trying all over again to reach out for eternal beauty. We artists have to paint with love and perhaps, there’s just that one true moment we catch a glimpse of God that lives inside of us. Some artists will never find it and only a few will!
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by Vanessa Davisson, Arizona, USA
I am a professional artist and art historian, finishing up my MA in Italian Renaissance Art History and have been a career artist for thirty years. I have worked in graphic arts for twenty five years. Having painted nearly 90 theater sets, hundreds of cacti and tens of Tuscan landscapes and countless ceilings, I am at a turning point in my career, and wonder if you might have any advice on the best way to introduce my personal paintings, which are colorful, tactile and fit in the category of contemporary/Color field painting. I want to get them into the hands of a gallery, (I live near Scottsdale) either through personal contact or through an artist’s representative. I want them to be accessible and relatively affordable. I also want to highlight my expertise in art history and use it to make my art better. I feel a great sense of urgency to have these works be seen as soon as possible. There is a strong feeling in my gut about it.
It has been difficult to embark on more of these personal paintings in a “purposeless” manner, that is, without a patron. I do need a plan because people have come to rely on my income from art, but my years on a ladder/scaffold are numbered. I have no doubt that the paint will fly, I just want to point the explosion in a profitable direction.
What do you think?
(RG note) Thanks, Vanessa. Sounds like you are a painter with a great deal of practical experience. And you are looking to transfer to the easel-painting-gallery-route for better cash flow and less stress. I’ve just spent a day looking at Italian church ceilings, and I know why those guys wanted to come down off their scaffoldings and do stuff for walls. But making the switch to galleries is not like petitioning the Medicis. You’ll have to let a variety of target galleries know you exist, and bring them around to seeing your actual current work. While I think I have a fair eye for quality, galleries look to what they can readily sell. But the fact is I can’t seem to find an easel painting by you online. Maybe it has something to do with the funny Italian Internet — but I don’t think so — google immagini seems to work fine here and shows 126,000 other items for yours and similar names. You need to gather your latest and best and either put them on a simple, not too commercial, website or get yourself a premium link on Painter’s Keys. Then drop your name here and there and the appropriate galleries will at least have a chance to sneak a look. I’ve asked Samantha, who prefers to be known as Sam, who is currently holding the fort back home on the studio computer, to have a really good search and put a painting of yours up with this letter, so others, including art dealers who read this material, can give you further direction.
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Deed of love
by Helena Tiainen, Berkeley, CA, USA
I think art is love. I feel art is love. It is an expression that comes from deep within the perceptions and understandings of the artist. If fine art is not love, the interest to complete the piece may not be there. Sometimes this love is beautiful and other times not. Sometimes it is deep. Sometimes it is shallow. But making art is definitely a deed of love from the part of the artist. It is love seeking expression in material form.
by Philip Koch, Baltimore, MD, USA
My students often perplex me with their art work. Many of the most talented seem drawn to the impermanent like moths to a flame. The young artists I know love to do sculptural installations in busy school hallways. These can be projects that were just thrown together (and they can look it) but other times they are thoughtful, carefully crafted things. Sometimes they are very beautiful. But their shelf life is a few days or weeks at most.
Of course there is a place for such ephemeral musings. So much of experience comes to us in just a flash and disappears just as quickly. Yet for someone like myself who so loves the idea of my paintings lasting longer than myself, and who loves the art of the painters who have gone down the path before me, this seems odd. Maybe it is the boundless optimism of young artist who sees her or his energy as something that is nearly unlimited. This is something I wonder about.
The end of watercolours?
by Ruve Laidlaw, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada
Why did you change from watercolours to acrylics? I have your latest book Love Letters to Art and I think those paintings are breathtaking. However, I’m wondering just why you changed from watercolours to acrylics? Are watercolours passé? (I was told by a local gallery owner that ‘anything under glass is no longer in fashion’ but I wonder why?) Personally, I just love watercolour — with its soft blending (and its challenges!), but maybe, just maybe there is another world out there?
(RG note) Thanks, Ruve. I didn’t really change from watercolours to acrylics. I changed from oils to acrylics, mainly because I was getting neurotic about the odours. I quit doing watercolours because I was lousy at them. You’re right, though; well managed watercolours are in many ways the very height of pictorial beauty. I saw that beauty in the work of others. I still do. Pulling them off somehow didn’t suit my personality. The fact that work under glass is less saleable these days is only coincidental. Incidentally, the reason they don’t sell so well is that most people can’t distinguish between great originals and inexpensive prints or reproductions.
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Caring for your work
by Nicole Hyde, Denver, CO, USA
I have no idea if my work will be relevant or even exist down the road, but I use the best quality materials I can afford and employ sound methods to ensure longevity to the best of my knowledge and abilities. I do that because it matters to ‘me’ in the here and now. It’s as much a part of my process as anything else is. Oddly enough, I was sneered at when I said that in a group of artists once; I was accused of egotism and pride. Oh well. I just carry on.
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Artwork for the bereaved
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA
Many of us will never be put into a position of creating monumental artwork for the dead. Some of us will be called upon to create work for those who survive. I had one opportunity when a cousin asked me to paint his late loved wife whom I’d never met. Reluctantly, I said yes. He supplied me with numerous photos. Some from their honeymoon, some from daily life. He also gave me items she loved and owned. He told me stories of them together. After thinking on all this, I came up with an idea on how to approach the work. It was filled with symbolism from all he told me. I also got hold of a dress she wore and had a model pose in it for me. I composed the painting half in light and half in shadow. She was in the shadow section while a window, in the light, showed a balcony scene in Italy from one of their trips. Around the room were the items he gave me that were dear to her and significant to him. In the end, he, along with her parents were moved to tears. It was a very difficult but satisfying project. It still hangs in the parents’ home today.
Taking subscribers on painting trips
Your letter from Lucca captured my interest. I am envious of your continent hopping and wonder, have you considered taking some of your interested readers on a painting trip from time to time? I would be most interested, as the places you describe seem to be ‘out-of-the-way’ and far from tourist throngs, where a reasonable expectation for serious working time and production may be anticipated.
(RG note) Thanks, Rosema. Many of our subscribers offer just that sort of service. If you check in our Studios Worldwide section you will find some out-of-the-way opportunities — many of them with truly brilliant on-the-spot mentors and instructors. Artists who conduct workshops or who take people on creative tours both at home and abroad are encouraged to list in this section.
Obstacles in our heads
by Madison DuVeau, Wilmington, NC, USA
“Perfect may be taken out of the dictionary.” Quote by Michael Wicket, motivational speaker Church of Today Warren, Michigan. He uses W.I. T. Whatever it takes. Is there ever really perfect harmony? I love harmony. I will be painting on my ceiling soon: red, yellow blue, and titanium white only “muted, soft, thin” sketch first on paper, notes with purpose. Organic fruits, leaves, some shaped with hints of symbolism. Basic palette so as not to confuse me. Should I use reference? Or have I seen enough? if I use what is in my head now. It will be organic. I can you books, but not picture books?
Our father was a master painter in oils. He painted but one painting …hummm. How can this be? John Lawrence Patterson painted twin white cats looking to the heavens, both had blue eyes. Later in life, filled with fear,oxygen tank hanging on the back of his wheel chair he watched as I wheeled him to painting and drawing college classes. Father did not graduate 8th grade and worked as a house painter there after. I enrolled him in college. He said to me, “I can’t go to college, I did not graduate.” Oh yes you can dad. Just put down you did and the high school you went to.
Johnny did it, he has a bachelor degree. They welcomed our father. I carried him the first few classes and then asked mom to take him there. He studied life drawing. The instructor let mom draw the nudes also. Mother and father enjoyed. I have the sketch book.
Then after painting classes in Mt Clemens, Michigan, he painted at home in his office alone. By this time, just in his late 50’s he had coclcoma and could not achieve balance. His ability with color never left him. I think of Monet and Piccaso. Our father was said to be a legend in his own mind. I say this is a good place to be, think good of yourself. The obstacles are in our heads.
Enjoy the past comments below for Permanent love…
Powder King, McKenzie B.C.
acrylic painting, 30 x 40 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Paul Kane of Bloomington, IN, USA who wrote, “What lasts what doesn’t — in the end it’s determined by love.”
And also Mary Moquin of Sandwich, MA, USA who wrote, “A friend of mine shared a quote with me that she found carved in the massive oak door to the Inn. It is so related to your letter that I thought you’d enjoy it: ‘The love you liberate in your work is the only love you keep.’ — Fra Elbertus (Elbert Hubbard, founder).”