Post-Show Blues

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Shaun D. of Switzerland wrote, “I recently had a relatively successful solo show but now I’m having trouble getting back into my work. I want to continue but can’t proceed. I need some new ideas to get energy flowing again. I don’t want to start something completely new but want to enlarge or deepen what I was doing. Can you share some thoughts on this problem?”

Thanks, Shaun. You’re not alone. It’s called PSB — Post-Show Blues. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to either eliminate or lessen the condition. A show’s success or failure has little to do with the severity of the problem. While there are lots of causes, it’s often the fallout from stress in the period leading up to and during the show — and the psychic vacuum that follows. PSB is as old as Adam and Eve.

Many artists begin to feel empty and somehow vulnerable, asking the sad question, “Is that all there is?”

Artists need a “divorce” from their previous commitment so they can proceed with a new love. A quickie divorce is better than a drawn-out one. It’s actually possible to start the new love before the old one expires. That way you’re not stepping off into unknown territory after the event. So as not to become jaded, depressed or even impressed with yourself, make it a point not to revisit the prior show or pay much attention to its denouement.

It’s like moving to a new town and starting all over as a virgin. While you may be in pretty deep in one place, you need to be noting how you might do things differently next time around. There’s often an uncanny bombardment of ideas just when you’re winding up a show. Potential new loves are precious. You need to jot down their numbers.

Another common problem is separation anxiety. Some artists find it hard to part with what they consider their best work. This is a career killer and needs to be neutralized with the knowledge that works of art are always yours no matter whose walls they’re on — and they’re best off on someone else’s.

Our imaginations are wider than we know. Our capabilities are far greater than the length and width of a single show. When you trust where your feet may take you next, you will fall in love again.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “What’s the use? The people are too stupid. They do not understand.” (Winslow Homer) “I must discount the show since I had nothing worth showing.” (Claude Monet)

Esoterica: Both of the painters quoted above rose to show again in variety and diversity. “I am pleased with the exhibition,” wrote Claude Monet. “It has been a long time since I believed that you could educate public taste.” Shaun, perhaps a clue to your particular dilemma is your wish to enlarge on what you were doing before. If you were to choose something quite different, the effects of prior explorations will creep back in anyway. The important thing is to grab your brushes and start again with your heart’s desire. Powerful love-boats are difficult to turn around or get stopped.

 

Adrenaline withdrawal
by Fred Hulser, Houston, TX, USA

 

Terlingua Ocotillo oil painting by Fred Hulser

“Terlingua Ocotillo”
oil painting by Fred Hulser

The symptoms you describe are not limited to the art world in general or to exhibitions in particular. As a lawyer in a former life, I noted the after-effect of a major closing and it felt a lot like what was described. I called it “adrenaline withdrawal.” In the days leading up to the event, one is so focused and driven by a particular, time-oriented thing that bodily systems are affected, and when it is over, it is time to pay the piper. Depression is part of most withdrawal syndromes.



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From: Karuna Jay — Apr 17, 2009

So well said. This let-down is a normal part of the cycle and truly not limited to the painter’s world. Currently a student, I find the end of quarter break is always down time. Wild plans and ambitions for that time, even if they involve plans for creative time, simply dissipate as my bodymind and spirit need simple physical and mental rest. I’ve learned to anticipate this so as not to disappoint myself with unaccomplished goals. As someone says below, awareness mitigates the downside.

 

Depression from repetition
by Murilo Pereira, Brazil

 

I am myself right now in some kind of depression because of the continuity of my work that seems only repetition and repetition. In the past ten years I was full of hopes and was totally enjoying painting and engraving… and then it began to decrease over the years and the results just now are nothing. Your letter make know I am not alone…but what can I do?



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From: Lisa Chakrabarti — Apr 17, 2009

Snap out of it!! It sounds to me that you need to try something a little different. You have lost the ‘beginner’s mind’ when everything is fresh, new, exciting, challenging. And you are right, it happens to everyone, including those who aren’t artists. Try a different medium, different palette, different subject. Go outside and start filling up a new sketchbook. Give yourself a new challenge to consider. Put together a book of your work and add captions that make you think about/analyze what you create. Keep a notebook of random thoughts. If none of that works, then try depriving yourself of working for two weeks. That usually is torture to most artists, and you will be craving a return to your desk/easel.

 

Ego management
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA

 

Janice Garden Pastel painting by Paul deMarrais

“Janice Garden”
pastel by Paul deMarrais

A show involves putting your neck on the line and facing what, in my area, is usually indifference by a public not much interested in painting. Selling is the false god of success at a show. It is natural for an artist to feel that sales are the indicator of the quality of their work. Artists must take the route of the professional athletes who speak often of not getting too high or too low based on their performance at the moment. It’s ego management. A show is just a snapshot of what I can do at the moment. None of my critics are half as tough on me as I am of myself. I’ve learned to get off my own back. Painting has an inertia of its own. All of my slumps come to an end. The joys, problems and challenge will bring me back to the drawing board if I just let it happen. Forcing the action for me is a dismal failure. I am aware of the post-show blues syndrome and that awareness takes away the fear. Another day will come and so will another painting binge.



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From: Nancy Wylie — Apr 17, 2009

Well put.

 

Watch for the next spark
by J. Bruce Wilcox, Denver, CO, USA

 

 untitled art quilt by J. Bruce Wilcox

untitled
art quilt by J. Bruce Wilcox

Here’s the deal, Shaun. Energy moves in waves. Mounting your show was a BIG WAVE — but the wave has passed. It is completely and entirely natural to feel a bit un-nerved after an event — but it is un-necessary to be too concerned by it. If you have no further immediate deadlines to work towards, now is in fact the very best time to just step back a bit and catch your breath. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you or this phase you are going through. It too will pass. Distract yourself for a bit of a while. Do something else. Go look at art. Explore museums. Go to the country. Climb a mountain. Go on a photography spree. GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD. Rest up. Sleep late. If you’re like many of us you are presently judging YOU because of your burnt-out state. It’s OK. There’s absolutely nothing wrong here. You took on the responsibilities of manifesting a big show and it’s time to stop for a brief moment. If you’re purposeful about your creativity in general then this phase will soon pass and you’ll discover the inspiration and the next spark for where your pathway will lead you. Attn: Winslow Homer — Thank god somebody else thinks the way I do…



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From: Helen Tilston — Apr 17, 2009

Bruce, this is excellent advice and you have delivered it with empathy and kindness. Your art work is also beautiful

Helen

 

Do nothing
by Eleanor Blair, Gainesville, FL, USA

 

Dudley Farm oil painting 24 x 30 inches by Eleanor Blair

“Dudley Farm”
oil painting 24 x 30 inches
by Eleanor Blair

After years of experience, I know nothing much is going to happen at the studio the week after a show. I may paint, but mostly I hang around the house and catch up on all the things that fell through the cracks in the pre-show marathon. That’s what I’m doing this week. Paddled my kayak around Newnan’s Lake at sunset, planted roses, cleaned out the wading pool in the yard, pruned back everything that died in the last freeze. I may go shopping tomorrow, or watch a movie. I used to feel guilty and lazy when I found myself caught in a week like this. Now I just relax and enjoy myself.



There are 5 comments for Do nothing by Eleanor Blair

From: Anonymous — Apr 16, 2009

That’s great Eleonor, that’s what I do too the first week after, and the second week, maybe the third…but what to do when a month passes and all is still blue?

From: v — Apr 17, 2009

Paint BLUE!

From: Susan Burns — Apr 17, 2009

What to do after a month?…scrub the floors and toilets.

From: Karuna J — Apr 17, 2009

Newnan’s Lake? I used to live near a Newnan’s Lake in Florida. It’s between my parents’ home and the UF. Nice work on the farmhouse. And yes to all your suggestions of how to wisely use the downside of an up cycle.

From: Anonymous — Apr 19, 2009

I love you v!!

 

Do something
by Annika Farmer, Mentor, OH, USA

 

Something is out there watercolour painting by Annika Farmer

“Something is out there”
watercolour painting
by Annika Farmer

To all the artists who feel “stuck” or “Is that all there is?” after a successful show, try a new perspective.

Whenever I get frustrated and feel that my work gets kind of “stale,” I try to paint on a different surface. For me it is like trying yupo paper, or gessoing my regular 300# watercolor paper, or painting on a smooth board instead of my regular cold pressed surface. Another thing that also works is painting using a completely new color palette.

Yet, another option might be to attend a workshop by another artist. That often gives a new perspective on the whole painting approach, because we all use different techniques, even if our subject matter is similar. There are many ways to get over that “bump” in the road. Keep painting.



There are 3 comments for Do something by Annika Farmer

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Apr 16, 2009

I agree on the trying of new surfaces…my favorite “get out of a rut” surface is adhering sandpaper to a hard board and applying gesso to ready the plane for my oils. Since I am a “one-hair brush” painter, this forces me to be a little looser and not so structured in my application. Frustrating…but it puts me in a different place (for the moment!)

From: Anonymous — Apr 16, 2009

Unfortunately this doesn’t work for me. When I am already feeling down, having a new element that I am not used to, bumping into new materials, flopping over strange shaped tools etc. gives me a fit! I guess it’s all in the head – perhaps we need to find a way to get out of our own head?

From: Anonymous — May 03, 2009

Annika, I really love your work, congratulations!

Where can I see more of it?

I went from 10 years of painting realism to abstraction, to be more precise, concrete art and loved every moment of it, change sometimes works wonders.

 

A trip or volunteer project
by Nancy Bea Miller, Philadelphia, PA, USA

 

Photo of Nancy's son Henry in front of a painting of his brother, Hugh by Nancy Bea Miller

Photo of Nancy’s son Henry in front of a painting of his brother, Hugh

I liken it to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (no disrespect to PTSS sufferers intended) and call it Post Traumatic Show Syndrome. The trauma probably comes from the weeks or months of intense preparation and single-minded focus which is bang! suddenly over. The fit of lassitude that follows does eventually lift! Some people report a few weeks of PTSS, some a few months. It mostly depends on what else is happening in your life. Robert’s tips to combat this scourge were all excellent. Preparation (knowing it will happen and preparing for it) is key. Two suggestions: volunteer work and/or travel. Switching the focus off yourself, stepping back into the bigger world picture really helps. A short term volunteer project (help paint the walls of the local soup kitchen for instance) or if it is possible to schedule a trip (the more distant the better), either during the duration of your exhibit or shortly after it comes down… this abrupt change of focus can jolt you out of PTSS a little quicker than you might ordinarily be able to manage.



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From: Larry Johnston — Apr 21, 2009

Thanks for the name! I’ve been afflicted by the “syndrome” for years, but I never knew what to call it. LOL

 

Let the babies go
by Robin Shillcock, Groningen, Netherlands

 

Backhoe mixed media 16 x 24 inches by Robin Shillcock

“Backhoe”
mixed media 16 x 24 inches
by Robin Shillcock

We tend to forget that making art is not easy, not a trick you shake out of your sleeve. In Shaun D’s question and reply, it’s not so strange that once the battle has been won there’s a need to recuperate, to mark time. You need to take a deep breath before jumping into a new project. In my case ideas are always revolving in my head, pushed to the back when I need to finish paintings for an exhibition, but always on the verge of demanding my full attention. It’s automatic: an idea comes forward as soon as another has been realized, like a shark replacing one lost tooth by another. To start anew an artist needs the ability to let his babies go. I call it the “gentle art of letting go.” It is essential for an artist to master this art. Just as it is essential for one’s art and peace of mind to be able to keep several ideas bouncing through the air like a juggler.

 

PSB afflicts gallery professionals too
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA

 

Two Pyramids oil painting by Peter Brown

“Two Pyramids”
oil painting by Peter Brown

I worked for many years as a curator/exhibit designer in a rather large (10,000 sq. ft.) city-sponsored gallery. We ran on a ten day turn-around schedule. I worked with a great crew of both hired and volunteer help. We would break down an existing show on a Monday, and then open a completely different show ten days later, on a Thursday evening. Needless to say, those ten “installation” days were intense. I often took a bedroll and slept in the gallery. We presented six exhibitions each year while maintaining museum standards. Some of the transitions were amazing. An exhibition of 400 ceramic pieces would segue into a show of 250 watercolor paintings, and that into an historical presentation of the guitar in America illuminated with the actual guitars.

My Post-Show Blues manifested itself regularly with a few days of mental and physical collapse. During the week after an exhibition opened, I often stayed home and took my comp time. Then the cycle picked up for the next exhibit. It was show business, and I was a much younger man.

 

Exhibitions the least important
by Jeffrey Hessing, Nice, France

 

West Bank original painting by Jeffrey Hessing

“West Bank”
original painting
by Jeffrey Hessing

Exhibitions and paintings themselves are the results of our work. The paintings are the traces that are left from an exploration into what I call the creative consciousness. The exhibitions, though useful and even fun, are the least important part of what we do. The process, the act of painting and the love of that creative act is everything. Post-Show Blues is largely due to an over emphasis on the results. Stop thinking and worrying about what to do next. Stop thinking, period. Go back to the pure pleasure of the creative act. DO anything, don’t look at the result; turn it to the wall. Make bad paintings. Just paint for the sheer joy of it. www.jeffrey-hessing.com



There are 2 comments for Exhibitions the least important by Jeffrey Hessing

From: Helen Tilston — Apr 17, 2009

You have so succinctly said it when you say “the exhibititions,though useful and even fun, are the least important part of what we do”…that should be the first commandment for painters.

Jeffrey as an aside, I saw your art work many years ago at Cygnet Gallery Scollard St. Toronto and I was very impressed with your artistic talents. I see you are creating even better masterpieces. Continued success

From: Margo Schopf — Dec 10, 2011

Your insight into PSB has comforted me greatly. I agree the ACT of painting is the thing that feeds my soul. The only thing with painting BAD paintings is that it becomes expensive eventually.. how many times can you overpaint the bad ones when inspiration strikes?

Thanks again. Margo Schopf

 

Up, then down
by Delores Hamilton, Cary, NC, USA

 

Wildfire art quilt by Delores Hamilton

“Wildfire”
art quilt
by Delores Hamilton

My first — and, so far, only — solo show of 26 of my art quilts went up… and then I went down for 11 – 12 months after that. It was a successful show, but getting ready for it was overwhelming. Deeming several unfinished pieces worthy, I finished those, but not without spending an enormous amount of time on extreme quilting to make them special. I also had a number of designs in my head, so I created many new pieces.

I did set up a schedule for preparing for the show but forgot to include time for “catastrophes,” such as getting a staph infection in my thumb (the drug for this caused hallucinations). I’d never had postcards of my work printed, never developed a mailing list, and never advertised or marketed my work. The exhibiting space included a hanging system foreign to most quilters, requiring even more scrambling. Doing all that took more time than I expected. In fact, everything took three times longer than I’d allowed in my schedule.

After the show came down, I promised myself that before I agreed to another solo show, I would want at least 75 — 90% of the work already completed. And, for the next year, I strung beads for jewelry, the perfect art therapy!

 

A star no longer
by Barbara Boldt, Glen Valley, BC, Canada

 

Barbara's exhibition by Barbara Boldt

Barbara’s exhibition

I closed a very well attended Museum exhibit on January 15th, “Barbara Boldt, THE JOURNEY.” It was a “journey” back to my ancestors and their artistic talents, back to my childhood experiences, some of my early works from the start of my painting career in 1975, and a lot of current works.

My art is my livelihood, however this exhibit was not aimed at selling. It told my story. I spent 7 months working on this exhibit, then 2 1/2 months being available to be on site to talk and walk visitors through. Since the Museum is close to my home studio, it was not a hardship to attend. Public response was wonderful, yet the coming-down from this experience was emotionally and physically affecting me and still continues to this day.

My works are back home, where as many were still on display and in my storage. Yet, my painting has to be started again, new ideas, new works, new themes, whatever I will feel exited about, I will paint. I think it is very important to continue the ACT OF PAINTING, rather than being concerned about the marketing at this point. The effects of the exposure a successful exhibit provides, will keep working, I am sure. Considering the current difficult worldwide economic situation, one has to be content to keep producing and managing carefully.

Now we are not “the star” anymore. The show is over, we are back in our little studio without an audience! Yes, the easel is there, the canvas is bare, now what?!? I really understand this feeling, and it will pass! Now we are “back at work”! The work isn’t just the act of painting, we know that!

I will walk into the woods this morning and check out the trilliums!



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From: Karuna Jay — Apr 17, 2009

What a lovely mini story you have told here. Yes, trilliums, my favorite wildflower (or is it foxglove?)

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Marianne Broome, Toronto, Schomberg, ON, Canada  

'Wish I Were There by Marianne Broome, Toronto, Schomberg, ON, Canada

Wish I Were There

acrylic painting 16 x 20 inches by
Marianne Broome, Toronto, Schomberg, ON, Canada

 

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 Dave Wesson of Osaka, Japan, who wrote, “You may well be finding the mailbox full this week more from potential divorcees (rather than advice-seeking painters) thanking you for walking them through their pending divorces!”

And also Laura Wambsgans of Santa Clarita, CA, USA, who wrote, “The divorce is final, I am going to start flirting and making love in puddles of paint!”

And also Sandra Donohue of Robson, BC, Canada, who wrote, “I haven’t regretted parting with any of my work from my recent show. However my husband was not happy about one painting I sold. It was of his nightshirt, and I didn’t realize how fond of it he was. I rationalized to him that at least he still has the nightshirt.”

And also Cameron Elder of Everett, WA, USA, who wrote, “That’s me! Sort of a hollow feeling and unable to really ‘get into’ or have a ‘fire’ about painting. It is nice to know I am not alone. That is the best part. I am not alone — that I’m ok, it will pass.”

And also Mary E Whitehill of Newburgh, NY, USA, who wrote, “I found that doing small inconsequential images just for relaxing soon fired me up with enthusiasm again.”

And also Timothy C Tyler , who wrote, “I find doing deep cleaning of my studio is very helpful to get me ready for fresh start. It’s important to get moving and creating.”
 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Post-Show Blues

 

 

From: Suzette Fram — Apr 14, 2009

After all the excitement, stress, and hard work leading up to a show, comes the letdown, the anti-climax. Whether successful or not, you are still likely to feel this letdown. It’s the same after a major event such as a wedding. Whereas you did not have time to feel the tiredness before the event, you now feel it full blast. There’s an emptiness and a sadness at seeing the end of your efforts. Fortunately, it passes, hopefully fairly quickly.

From: Valerie May Douglas — Apr 14, 2009

No matter what kind of major event you can come down hard. I feel this sometimes and its hard to start again. I usually like to do something fun with my painting not something I may do all the time but its enough to refresh me and give me that excitement again.

From: Darla — Apr 14, 2009

I feel that way pretty much every time I complete a painting that I like. Maybe it’s time to figure out a way to not get so obsessed with a painting while I’m doing it — but if I could do that I probably wouldn’t be painting at all. Guess it’s just part of the process.

From: Dwight Williams — Apr 14, 2009

Maybe the answer here is to keep things going. I mean, always have something in the offing. The idea above to start a new “love” before the old one is gone is the best cure.

If there is nothing ahead, no new show, work as if there is and seek some place for the new things while you’re working.

Maybe that could be called always being ahead of the game.

From: sittingbytheriver — Apr 14, 2009

oh,indeed I am familiar with PSB. I find it useful to continue to look forward towards the NEXT show. If I already have it scheduled, the end of the first show is not so sad, because now I will be showing at a different space. And maybe it is different work, too, because it’s amazing how curators’ tastes differ. As I work, as I exhibit, I am continually submitting images to galleries and consultants.

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Apr 16, 2009

I think the “success” is in the completion of the piece, not the exhibition of the work. :)

From: Esther J. Williams — Apr 16, 2009

I had a show that was unsuccessful and that I over-prepared for physically, mentally and emotionally. It was exciting to see 18-21 of my works of art together on my display on the first day and I did have some serious nibbles, but due to the economy, collectors were holding back. I got that from the horse’s mouth in fact that day, a top art collector spent only $250 on one piece from another artist. It was a tough show for most of the 58 artists in the show without sales. I became very ill on the last day of the show, art sales were way down and I felt an art death come over me all at once. It didn’t help that I was placed next to an artist whose realism/impressionist plein air works were selling a little and I couldn’t help but think my works were inferior. That’s a whole different subject to write about, trendy styles. Our styles were similar, but his work was “pretty” and mine were more fundamentally artistic I felt. We were trained in two different parts of the world also. There should be a missionary person walking around saying, never ever make yourself feel inferior or compare yourself to another artist for it will only depress you further and invalidate your being a particular artist. Artists need to follow their own path of feelings even if it means making less money at times.

In this society, artists who want to survive sometimes need to sacrifice their direction to please the people who want something realistic or figurative to hang on their wall. I have succumbed to it many times before. The people attending were not privy to the contemporary impressionist plein air art, and it was not the best place to hold an art show either. It was at a location where city people who are more cultured in art were just not there or aware of the art show. So, several different problematic factors hit me on a day when I didn’t feel so great and I went downhill like a rolling stone and hit the bottom of the hill hard. I wanted to give it all up admittedly.

I decided to rest for a week, hit the books at home on art fundamentals and old masters, revisit the meaning of art and journal why it is I am an artist. The act of writing down my feelings, beliefs and facts in my journal helped me crawl out of the hole. I critiqued my recent works after brushing up on a college level school of art book and found that I am truly following the right path in artistic knowledge. Several other spiritual and co-incidental triggers gave me further validation. Resolve: It is possible to grow further in artistic quality and style without tending to the popularity trends, and by sticking to the fundamental roots of ‘art form’ that will carry through the ages and cultures across the world. I am not through the gaining of art insight, no artist ever is done. But I have renewed my mind with theories that became vague somewhere between college years and this style I had acclimated myself towards for the sake of being in a group. I am resurging with a strength and energy that wants to go forth like a powerful force on the canvas.

Our lives are a learning process, there are hills and vales, sweetness and sour tastes. It’s good to be alive and be an artist, no matter what.

From: Judie Popplewell — Apr 16, 2009

Robert, Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate the letters and advice every week. I prefer to think of the post-show blues as exhaustion from art. Leading up to a show can be a hard drive to get work done. Then the show is an immersion into the world of art and other artists ideas and works. I love exhibiting, but after a show, my brain needs a rest for awhile so I immerse myself something else I feel passionate about, i.e. riding/gardening.

From: Sandy Gorski — Apr 16, 2009

Yes, I have experienced this every time too. I’m new to exhibitions/ shows but I have found having a good tidy-up of my studio a good way to refresh. I find ideas I’ve put away for another day, notes I’ve made or items I have kept to start a sculpture, and that begins the process, getting worried doesn’t help at all. Also a good way is to work in the garden for a while…back to earth…as it were. I get inspired by nature.

From: Bonnie K — Apr 16, 2009

I really appreciated “Post show blues”… the last pieces I put out were last year… from a box of paintings I’d kept from where I’d lived two moves ago. I got the chance to “start over” at 50, to live in an 80 year old cabin in the woods…to learn to bring in wood for the fire, to learn what cold really meant, to be completely enclosed in nature in winter, and got to play many games of scrabble during the winter months…while taking many photos of the natural beauty around me. It was a year of my life where I was evaluating my past marriage of 22 years, my two children leaving home, having a young grandson while my daughter was still a teenager, and leaving my island home where every day I’d get to walk on a beach, each tide bringing in something new, or returning something to the sea.

Starting out again with someone new after being on my own four years. Again, however, I fell into the belief that “this was it”… as I always do… each place I’ve painted at was always going to be there for me. Each home I lived in would be “forever”… I spent a year with my new companion and alone roaming the forest paths, learning to fish, create rock gardens, collecting stones and driftwood and other natural finds, and walking with dogs and standing knee deep in the glorious roaring,self-renewing river , watching tiny American Dippers hopping along stones looking for food, and photographing all of it. But I found out that it was not to be forever…

Would I change anything… no. Was it painful to leave these wonderful places I’ve been able to live at… absolutely. But I grew so much more, especially in the deep pain of leaving, and I am now able to realize that it’s in the present moment we can choose to be and create what we’ve been given to share in our dreams, paths, places, people we meet along the way… our creations… are, as you wrote, not to hold on to. We can hold on to our memories, and move on…. As I write this I am now in an apartment, contentedly alone for the most part, and grateful to know that wherever one goes, there are always others to be a support along the way, and that it is such a gift to be able to give back… in my case, I like to acknowledge others in the form of hand-painted cards, sometimes even collaged cards, taken from old paintings and added on to with pen ‘n ink, to show that everything moves on in a different form. Tonight I was missing my places at the ocean, my place in the woods, and feeling a bit down about being alone and yet, an even smaller space. But I have the power and pleasure to be able to walk, smile at people on the street and perhaps bring a bit of joy to someone’s day through a shared joy of nature we both witnessed. I had dreamed and painted of deserts… and now I am living in a desert… in the Okanagan. The colours are not as vivid as my ocean, or forest, more naples and viridian in hue, the trees not as bright or abundant, the buds much slower to appear. But I will again find peace and create again and will be able to slowly discover the myriad wonders of this place, too…

From: Frances Stilwell — Apr 16, 2009

This is a practical and sensitive letter, Robert, about separation anxiety… My gallery owner recommended I keep all my “turning-point” pictures so as to learn from them. Someone else recommended keeping my very best, for some reason not clear to me. But since he is more experienced I’ve paid attention. My very fuzzy boundary is based on which ones I like to have on my own walls.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Apr 16, 2009

How timely! I am having a rather severe PSB myself. One thing that you didn’t mention is that that I tend to feel an amplified fear of time and death at a time like this. Maybe it is a realization how slow my progress is – how little are the steps of becoming a better artist, how huge and time consuming are all the needy tasks of life which I was able to ignore while chasing the show deadlines. This fear can be paralyzing and I am trying to self-correct in a similar way that you suggested. I started three new works, each one having something different from what I did before, in concept, language or technique. It’s not working very well unfortunately, I find myself slowly killing the two and neglecting the third. The muse has left the building. You once told me that courage is what’s needed; I am not sure if I just misplaced it or if it left together with the muse.

From: Judith B Jones — Apr 16, 2009

Boy do I know about this one… I was very uncomfortable after my first couple of shows. I just didn’t know what, where or why, I should paint. Now I keep a sketch book, where I complete a drawing to the best of my ability. I work in it every morning, no matter what. I have something ongoing, no matter what events there are in my life. Sometimes I take a page from the sketch book to paint. Sometimes I just keep right on drawing, and become involved in the drawings for the love of it.

From: Jan Ross — Apr 16, 2009

All of the comments by these other artists have really helped me understand those ‘fuzzy’/ ‘out-of-focus’ feelings after an exhibition!

For a number of years, I’ve strived to have my work exhibited in various new venue across the USA on a monthly basis. The time leading up to those shows requires much preparation and strict adherence to guidelines. Once the shows conclude, I feel the let down one has after opening all her gifts on Christmas morning. I think the suggestion of redirecting one’s energy towards other activities outside the studio for a brief period of time is ideal. After all, it was the joy of creating that got me to the exhibition in the first place, so it makes sense to go back to where I began, and start the process over again.

From: E. Garneau — Apr 17, 2009

I find it interesting that many good artists also teach classes and workshops – in the hopes of “spreading the love of art”. But in that action – are we not also cutting off our own heads? What other profession chooses to teach their livelihood to everyone and then expect to not gain additional “competition”. I’m pretty sure lawyers and doctors do not hold evening classes on how to put through an easy divorce or how to do your own liposuction. Why would they encourage people to learn how to represent or heal themselves? It’s lost business for themselves!

My husband carves into glass and does incredible work and it’s amazing how many people ask him if he teaches classes – his response – “Nope, I don’t want anymore competition as it’s hard enough to make a living at this artform.”

I’m scared that there is not enough wall space in the world right now for all the art that will be created by the newly retired babyboomers. These individuals have worked hard all their lives and are used to making money for their efforts. Now that they have the time to finally follow their artistic dreams – they are the ones filling the art classes and they will be the ones who will be filling the galleries, the internet and all their friends and family homes with their new passion.

Should there be a special binding contract out there that students would be required to sign – preventing them from taking one workshop and then painting like crazy with the intent on selling?

I don’t think so – but Tom Lockhart should think twice when he’s asked to teach another workshop.

Isn’t that sad?

From: Sherry J. — Apr 17, 2009

Why in the world would you want to put constraints on anyone learning art. Were they put on you, were you told you could only show your work after you’ve painted for 10 years, or 100 paintings. We live in a free society and competition, though we may not like it, is there and it is there for a reason. How do we know what to strive for if we only have ourselves to test against. Painting, for me is like life in itself, it is self sustaining and I do not do it to please the public, nor do I do it from competition from other artists. We all have God given talents, some more than others, but who has the right to tell one that they cannot show their work because they haven’t been doing it long enough.

I also, teach, especially during this time of need. I mostly teach seniors who want and need to feel creative. I give this back, without pay, as I know how important it is to have something or someone that means a lot to you.

I think we should all be careful of the jealousy that rears its head, when we see others excel, without knowing how they got there.

From: David Oleski — Apr 17, 2009

It’s been 10 years now that I’ve been doing outdoor festivals. I’m very serious about my painting, and the notion that each piece should be a path to education, not merely a process of production. The simple component for me is stamina. No matter how tired, just pick up the knife and start mixing. Arrange things, be ready to get nothing done, but get busy doing it. The first mark needs a second mark, the first piece finished is only the beginning of the next series. Stamina, don’t lose the momentum, just paint. All the ideas that assault me after staring at my work for another weekend are just part of the fuel. Don’t be paralyzed by thinking too much, be enabled by being challenged by your own work, especially after a show.

From: Dani Tupper — Apr 17, 2009

Concerning sales by not so great artists: I too teach classes and workshops so I guess I am helping my students to compete with me in the market. The way I look at it though is they are selling to ones that probably would not buy from me. In return, many who paint with me also purchase a painting from me.

I take real pride in the handful of students that have really blossomed and end up making a career of art. So instead of sour grapes when I look at poor work in galleries; I think about when I was one of those just starting out and thankful that some people saw some merit in my work and made the first few purchases.

Indeed, we artists are truly blessed, my motto is to try to create the beauty of our world that the Master Creator gave us. My avocation is my vocation and how many can say that! Not a lot are blessed doing what they have a passion for and getting paid to do it!

From: Patricia Neil Lawton — Apr 17, 2009

Like Bonnie K. and many other artists, I too live and paint in the Okanagan. I am a portrait painter and the portraits are of people and ‘things’…. (boats, etc.). I find that I mostly have bits and pieces of our ‘soft’ hills and sparkling lakes, Ponderosa Pines and so on, somewhere in all my outdoor portraits, yet I insist that I am not a painter of ‘scenery’. I am at this time immersed in a two year period of paintings for a show that will be coming up in November…… Two years is a long time to keep enthusiasticly painting one theme; luckily it’s a theme I’m totally committed to. The title of the show is “Girlfriends”…… The subjects are involved in many occupations with one another…… I believe the show will be popular and a success as it’s in aid of my favorite charity “Hospice House Society”. I find painting to raise funds for needy causes is very uplifting and very energizing. When I get tired or feel ‘painted out’…… I start on the next work and since it’s all planned out…… and the photos were all taken months ago, I find that each subject recharges me brilliantly. I do take off now and again for two or three days. Not often and I keep goals ahead of me……. So as not to feel “done in” when this exibition is on display. Right now I have exciting ideas for two new solo shows……. and will go to Vancouver next week to photograph Finn Slough in Richmond ….. for their upcoming 2010 show in March. It’ll be boats for me.

Tom Lockhart should count his many blessings and not be a bit concerned re other artists such as myself coming on the scene. We all have ‘paid our dues’. I’ve been painting and teaching for over forty years….. Teaching children since I was a child of eight years, myself. I never am concerned if someone emulates my style….. I am the only “me”…….. and if my students can overtake me so quickly, then I must work with more gusto. Time to move onward and upward and improve. In my teaching I have never kept back any secrets re my techniques and am always willing to share. I’m in this art scene for the long run and I’m loving it. Sell or don’t sell……. I’m an artist. I don’t really care.

P.S. by the way, no I’m not wealthy. I’m a starving artist in my underground garret. Most of my traveling is done in my headspace and my friends are my many subjects.

From: Patricia Neil Lawton — Apr 17, 2009

P.S. again !

I told my doctor that when I retire from being a painter, I’m going to take up medicine !

From: Terry Mason — Apr 17, 2009

Perhaps you have forgotten the times you were selling your work and you were happy to sell anything at all. Everyone is at a different level Tom. And everyone gets to try to sell their paintings. I am as overjoyed for myself and my artist friends when they sell whether they have 25 year careers or 6 month careers. The buyer buys what they like, not what you want them to buy. Since they are the ones with the cash, they get to choose! And if what they can afford is a beginning artist, well then, isn’t it great that beginner gets that “rush” of a sold painting and a little money for the next painting which he/she hopes will be better yet!

You did not get to 75,000 -100k a year without starting at 0. And your first works are not the ones you are churning out today. There is room for everyone at the table even when the table is hit by a bad economy.

Do remember, all those emotions of feeling cheated, or that the public is stupid, or that anyone should tell the public what to buy, or that somehow someone else’s journey hurts yours…all that hits your paintings. And it will show.

Maybe take a breather and get a little grateful? It might make churning into painting again.

Just a thought.

Thank goodness no one gets to “tell” the public what to buy. And thank goodness there really is room for the person who just got back to painting after 20 years in some cubicle along with someone who spent 20 years building a career. One is, in my opinion, not more worthy than the other. All journeys are good ones if you are the one in the journey.

From: Julie Trail — Apr 17, 2009

The joy of creating a vision of the landscapes I paint is the great reward of being an artist, yet it is the thrill of sharing that joy with a true collector of original art that carries me through the long slow periods between sales! I refuse to do giclees and discount what I do because I so value the process of creating original pieces. By only creating originals I feel true to myself, and the rest of the tacky world of cheesy cheats be damned! I don’t want to see 100 copies of my best paintings hanging on dusty walls where there is no regard for the spriritual aspect of creating art.

I ignore those who denigrate art by recreating it cheaply, as those people are not even on my radar. Call me a snob if you want, but I’m always driven to do a better job of creating something special and unique! Every day is a joy!

Julie Trail, watercolor artist

From: Liz Reday — Apr 17, 2009

Learning how to paint is an education in art, always a good, positive and enriching experience for all humans. The more one learns about art, painting, sculpture, etc., the more appreciation one has for a painting done well. As an artist, I often fall in one with other artists’ paintings, and there’s been many a time at a show that I say “if I sell today, I’m going to buy that one of yours”…with that, I have a wonderful art collection on my walls, and I’ve never regretted buying any other artists work. People ask me why I don’t trade paintings, but that’s because I usually fall for work that is different or better than mine. The karma is great; more than once, I have bought another artists work after a day of no sales only to promptly sell one of mine before the show closes. It’s all a web of interconnecting reciprocity, and as artists, we of all people must be aware of all the wonderful, simple, human connections we make every day. The public is not so foolish all the time, and quality will win in the end, one way or another. The seniors who take art classes get great joy from the act of creating and increase their appreciation for our work; many do not have the wall space and the budget for collecting our work. It feels pretty good when someone comes up to you and tells you how much they love your work. It’s nice when it sells too, but we can’t always equate respect with financial success. Making reproductions of one’s paintings is time consuming and not always lucrative when everything is added up. Better to just paint more paintings!

From: Tom Lockhart — Apr 17, 2009

Hello E. Garneau,

I never teach unless asked. So it’s not sad, but, many of you are right. It’s a catch 22, teach and create your competition? Probably, but look back several hundred years. Have you forgotten history? No one did art except by way of the master, the apprentice learned and then went on from there. Today it is different. We don’t have to be rich to paint, we are not supported by the aristocracy. It is my purpose to teach correctly, and the best that I can. I am not perfect nor do I have all the answers. I learn everytime I teach. But like to doctors and lawyers that you think I’ve scorned for entering the art field. They wouldn’t expect less from there students, I have many that are encouraged to continue. It’s just that everyone wants to be an artist until they realize how difficult and competitive it’s become. Lawyers & Doctors don’t have artists retiring wanting to be them. Think about it. I teach because people want to learn if they create quality work it will show and people will respond. It’s up to us as artists to educate people about our work, style, interest, etc. etc. I never expected to be defending my comments but that’s how I feel and I’m done.

Thank you

From: Rick Rotante — Apr 20, 2009

Liz Reday – I tried to answer your email. I guess your watchdog blocked it. I tried several times. Your not answering tells me you didn’t get it.

You need a better system.

From: Rick Rotante — Apr 20, 2009

I understand PSB, I guess we all do, artist or not. One thing I do is have another project (show) in the making. If you line up several shows, you won’t have time to sit and feed your PSB. Try and always work on new work for the next show.

Of course, I’ve also said there needs to be some down time to recharge the engine. Take that time and either use it to think of new projects or get away from it altogether and go to a museum or read a book or better yet, get to know your significant other again.

 

 

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