Friday, 25 July 2014
Village Street, Auribeau sur Siagne, 22 x 18 in., oil on canvas, £2,000.00
I’m now finished with the materials I brought with me to work with, and have decided that it’s time to stop painting for awhile – until I get into the USA. Since my last entry, things have been moving forward at tremendous speed (for shifting one’s life from 2 countries to one “across the pond” at any rate!). I been faced with difficult decisions.... all a result of the decision to move home to paint, and the inevitable questions of what comes with you and what stays behind. No-one should have to make these hard choices, but it seems, we can’t get away from them!
I’m about to, once again, temporarily (I hope) leave my beloved mare, Dancer, behind while I return to make sure that life in the USA still suits us, after living abroad for so many years. THAT was a difficult and necessary decision, made apparent by sudden shifts in the USA around importing livestock into the US from Europe. I’m starting to spread the word that I’m selling my car – my mid-life crisis purchase that I’ve enjoyed immensely in the last 2.5 years I’ve had her; and then there will be the inevitable questions once I’m back in Glenfinnan for a short stay, about what is left, what is sold or given away, and what is shipped home. My little Ardnamurchan cat, Ceilidh, is returning home with me this time....she has her passport, and is young enough to deal with the challenges ahead. Right now, in Brittany, I’m focusing on Dancer. Spending as much precious time with her as possible, making sure she’s completely integrated and accepted in her new herd, and as trouble free as possible for my very generous friend who has agreed to look after her with her own horses.
Sadly, I won't be able to make the longed for drive across France to visit the caves at Lascaux, or on to the Cote d'Azur. But, I'll make sure it's part of my agenda when I return to check on Dancer in 6 months. I needed to finish my work, needed to help Dancer, and take care of business...
I finished the last painting mid-week last week, a lovely view down one of the streets in Auribeau sur Siagne, in the Cote d’Azur. It’s the last main canvas here in the studio, and all that is in front of me is Waltz Across Texas and possibly a painting I’ve put off for 2.5 years – one I saw in a moment of clarity right after my Mother passed away in 2011. I’m working now on those very difficult sketches of the obvious crowd of beloveds, a host of kachinas (absolutely!) and well-wishers that surrounded her and helped her move on in those last, very powerful yet difficult days. Art is therapy, and we artists are closer to it than most, as we struggle every day to allow inner images, feelings, passion, and struggles, to flow through our hands into the world....whether it’s by written word or through paint, music, dance, photography, sculpture, or any other medium. This image may take a very long time to finally produce. For me, it’s like very carefully lancing a sore; making sure its healing well and that there is only love behind what is left.
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Well, since my last entry here, plaintively saying, “I need to go home!”, things have been moving in that direction steadily. Don’t get me wrong, I need to raise a lot of cash to move home with a clean slate financially, much less just move me, travelling Dancer, and timid Ceilidh (a soon to be travelling cat from Ardnamurchan) home. Artists are continually moving from feast to famine; and the feast times are usually paying off the famine. But that’s NOT what I’m thinking about right now. What I’m thinking about is the rush that as soon as I put it out there that I needed a certain amount to make it home, a large chunk of that was offered to me in the form of either a commission based on, or a major painting from my series, Waltz Across Texas. I always DID want/hope that Waltz Across Texas would generate some commissions, and it seems that it might just be doing that! And THAT is what I want to talk about.... COMMISSIONS.
Floore Country Store, Study 9x 12 in., oil on board, £700.00
I LOVE doing them! I love connecting with a client who has a vision, based on work of mine they’ve already seen, and wants me to put that vision into reality. I love the research for a commission; getting to know a place/person, being able to take zillions of photos without worrying, sketching and sketching until I know I’ve come up with what I think the client is looking for, and in the case of Waltz Across Texas, painting the studies necessary to make sure that the client and I are on the same page before I ever put paint to canvas in a larger piece. I do this for all commissions. It makes it worthwhile for them because they can be pretty sure they’ll love the finished piece; and for me, because I know the finished piece will be what is expected – even though it’s my own vision, really. And, unlike my usual work which is always on spec, it’s paid for.... There is a relaxation in my life when I’m working and know I’ve got money in the bank for food, supplies, etc.
So, from the bottom of my heart, I’m saying a huge thank you to the client who has come forward to help me make this move, to give me a focus to work on immediately once I return, and for believing in and trusting me and my work!
Sunday, 15 June 2014
I’ve been out in the bigger world, outside the home cushion of the USA, for 11 years now; and I have come to realize in the last few weeks, that actually, it’s time to go home. Not because the world has become too big or too difficult – believe me, it might just possibly be MORE difficult to be “home” – but because much as I love my life in Europe, I miss New Mexico, I miss my family, my loved ones, I miss relating to friends on a daily basis who have the same life experience as I. I want to spend time with my Dad while he can still remember me (he has Alzheimer’s). It was really brought home to me this past week as I read Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton. I had tears in my eyes many times as through the pages of that incredible book, I relived times that had been my own experience, HOME! I am painting intensely in my 16th century Braeton house for the summer, listening to music that reminds me of home, and planning just how I’m going to achieve this huge shift. Once again, it’s time to leap off a cliff – one equally as big as the one I leapt off of when I moved to Scotland! I have to raise a large sum of cash to achieve this as soon as I possibly can. I have to move my horse, my cat, some paintings (some will stay in Scotland or France because let’s face it, I have a global business!!), a few boxes of books and the family mementos and photos that made life away from them easier to bear (my Navajo rugs, Apache baskets, pueblo pottery, my Mother’s apron, and my childhood panda bear).
In the meantime, I intend to keep painting furiously; to make the best of this time I have in France; to explore a bit more as I get ahead of the financial game just a little. Leaping off cliffs into the unknown to make my art sing is part and parcel of living as a full-time artist for me. This leap back home – as soon as my finances will allow – is another big step forward and will, I hope, make it easier for me once again to travel the world to paint, to find new and better markets for my work, and to maintain those markets I have worked so hard to create in Scotland, England and the rest of Europe. Made possible, I know, by making a stable place for me to be. And with all this change, there will still be the terrible wrench of leaving my friends and family in Scotland (I know, I know, I’ve already left, but not really.... not until the last box goes, and the cat is back with me and Dancer in our new home).
When I first began this blog about the adventures of being a full-time artist in this difficult world of 9-5 jobs and consumerism, hard times for living without a tough outer skin, I’d not realized how much of the inner journey I’d feel the need to write about! But the inner journey of an artist is actually MORE important (to me anyway) than the outer! In the meantime, enjoy a few more images from my incredibly productive summer!!
Old Nice, Like a ripe melon... 14 x 11 in., oil on board, £1,000.00
Thunderstorm approaching olive groves, Le Castellet, 16 x 24 in., oil on canvas, £2,000.00
Thursday, 5 June 2014
St. Agnes, Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azur, 12 x 16 in., oil on board, £1,250.00
It’s already June! Where has the time gone!?! I’ve been struggling lately with my choices, I’ve also been driven to keep painting; it’s an interesting conundrum! I’m living in a gentle, rolling paradise, in a 16th Century Bretton house – every artist’s dream. But, the landscape doesn’t inspire me – it doesn’t get in my way either. And, I knew when I moved here for 5 months that I WASN’T inspired. I knew it wouldn’t get in my way either. And, it hasn’t! But what has stymied me more than anything is the IDEA that I’m not inspired by my very environment. I paint from my photos and sketches of other places – mostly from my journeys to the South of France, or back to Scotland.
I’ve just finished a lovely little piece from Le Pouldu, a coastal town south of here, just to prove this wrong. I CAN be inspired, but I’ve got to travel to get to it, rather than stepping out my door. As I look at my photos from my journeys , I realize that I literally was able to step out my door and feel inspired – I often am inspired by the view from Le Rouret, across the city covered plains to the ocean in the distance, or out the door in Glenfinnan across the fields and eternal mists and rain to the hills, and feel inspired. Yet here, in this gentle place, I am not. I am grateful because my beloved old mare, Dancer, has settled in nicely, so the distraction and worry of my “little sister’s” difficult transition from Glenfinnan to France has gone. However, I’m now able to focus on what is working for me and what is not.
Le Pouldu, Brittany, 11 x 14 in., oil on board, £1,000.00
It’s never easy for an artist, to live with uncertainty; yet, it’s part and parcel of our very lives. I had imagined being able to travel across and explore France during my time here; and I’m not able to. I have to scramble so very hard just to keep food on my table, and petrol in my car that any thoughts of exploring further – to the Perigord (one of my dreams to see the caves at Lascaux – rather the duplicates since people are no longer able to go inside in order to protect them), a mere 4 hour drive from here; to explore other parts of the Southern French coasts, and on down to the Cote d’Azur to the rugged hills above Nice and Menton, to again live in and capture the famous Provencal light. I am painting that light, but from my photos, from my sketches, from my memory, and at the moment under the influence of an energy saving, daylight (really???) bulb, because the best light comes into the studio in the evening, and my best work happens in the morning.... Always, always, there is the need to adjust, to work with what is in front of me!!
Auribeau sur Siagne, 11 x 14 in., oil on board, £1,000.00
I’ve more exploring to do though. I hear there are beautiful rose colored rocks just an hour north of here (though not the deep red of the Corniche), and I’m saving my pennies (now THAT’S a euphemism!!! Saving – I have to just make the decision to fill the tank and not pay something else, or pay a card, and use that just paid balance to fill the tank, etc., etc. This is the OTHER side of a very blessed and romantic life as a painter!!), and will make the journey. Red rocks – visions of my desert home return to me, making me more homesick than ever, but inspiring nonetheless, as they meet the blue ocean.
Friday, 16 May 2014
St. Agnes, Alps Maritime Cote d'Azur 12 x 16 in. oil on board, £1,250
Sketch, St Cezaire sur Siagne, pencil on paper, approx. 11 x 16 in., £200.00
sketch, Bergemon, pencil on paper, approx. 8 x 6 in., £100.00
I am writing this on the back side of a period of quiet, after an intense period of work. I don’t know about other artists, but THIS one needs time of quiet between projects, after time of intense creativity, or worry, or just about anything requiring a modicum of focus. I don’t acknowledge weekends; I tend to work when I can, regardless the day, because I feel inside my deepest, darkest place that if I stop, I’ll never be able to start again. (This much, I know other artists’ suffer from!) Utter nonsense, I know, but there it is!
Just as I need to work whenever the muse strikes, no matter what’s going on outside the studio, I also need to pay attention and NOT work when my inner artist says, “enough!” I call it my “inward” time. I read a book, for hours, or watch movie after movie, or even sometimes just sit in the sun, absorbing the warmth. (To be honest, those days have been few and far between these past 10 years in Glenfinnan....so to absorb ANY sun is to be treasured!) The point is to completely detach – from everything. The only souls who claim my attention then are my cat, Ceilidh, and my horse, Dancer. I’d include my partner in that, if I weren’t single! Friends, of course, but they distract me from the detachment and take me into the world many times – which is what my detach time is asking to hide from. Sometimes I don’t even want to have a coffee with someone other than my book or movie! Make any sense?? And those of you who love me, I KNOW will understand this and not take offense. I AM a gregarious introvert (a descriptive phrase so aptly coined by a very dear friend who is very much like me), with a distinct need to take care of that introvert sometimes.....
What does this mean in the studio? Well....it means that whatever is on the easel has to sit and wait for me to pick up the brushes again. It means that sometimes my brushes sit in turpentine for a few days. It means that I’m not good at answering emails, don’t want to look at my bank statements, or have ANYTHING to do with the world for at least a day or two. If I’m lucky, that’s as long as it lasts, and I get tired of inactivity and sloth and pick up the brushes, the balls, look at my email, and right now, go out and weed a section of my garden.
I must be coming out of my sloth now because I’m writing! So, more paintings on the way (two on easels for 2 days now), sketches to do and show, people to contact, etc., etc. Still focus is on the South of France, but there is focus! The painting above was finished just before my little break; and the sketches are what is currently on the easel. More sketches to publish, but I want to start the work!!
Saturday, 26 April 2014
I’ve just finished two paintings – the first in 6 months! Interestingly, while the little piece is of a Mill less than a mile from my studio, and I’ve spent time sketching it, looking at it, and lusting after its open space and windows, I the bigger painting by far – thus most important? Not really – is the one I’ve done of Loch Shiel, looking north to the Glenfinnan viaduct and Glenfinnan Estate. I looked at that view three times a week on my run, and FINALLY got it finished! I thought you’d like to see the process, just a bit.... Sketch, interim painting – as yet unfinished -, and the finished product.
Part of the distraction of this past 10 days or so, when I finally started working, has been errands – those things that keep taking time.... and the last was finding a post office in which to post two letters I’ve put off posting purely because of the hassle of finding and dealing with in French, the local post office! I did it. So, perhaps we’re in a period of no longer putting off what can be done today! Dancer presents the ever present distraction and much needed anchor that she has always presented....perhaps her tales from this period should have their own page... The latest was magnesium deficiency, which manifested in her in neurotic, needy, panic’d behaviour. Sorted, but not before we made ourselves a little unpopular in our local barn....Whew! Poor thing!
Its good to be up to my elbows and eyebrows in oil paint once again; music of all types blaring on the stereo – helping me feel the places I’ve either taken photos or sketched, or both.... I’m still very much all over the place in my interest.... but I’m finding that ever so elusive focus.
midway on the Loch Shiel painting... the sketch is in the last post!
Early Autumn, Loch Shiel 12 x 16 in., oil on board, £1,250.00
Mill at Pont Morvan, Brittany, 6 x 8 in., oil on board, £700.00
Thursday, 24 April 2014
I have now settled into my temporary residence in a mostly 16th Century Braeton house, courtesy of the generosity of a friend. The plan is to stay here, use it as a base to explore from (should a painting or two sell), and paint. If you’re trying to find it, Lézélé en Plouyé, Huelgoat, Brittany is west of Carhaix....set in the middle of the finger that is Brittany and on the edge of the Finistere. After spending hours every day working with my beloved mare, Dancer, helping her feel secure (still an ongoing process these days) and settled in HER new home, this past week, I began to paint.
After a 6 month hiatus, the sense of relief was palpable, when I got out the oil paints. Coaxing the tops off of disused tubes of paint, the jar of liquin, and finding my turps substitute (legal to take on a car ferry...) was nearly a religious experience for me on the first day! Yet the two paintings I started have come along slowly as I picked my way through the image, trying to work with different light, an image across the room (electrical outlets being a challenge here), etc., etc.
I first found myself sketching not Brittany, once I’d found the image I wanted of the local disused mill, at Pont Morvan; but Scotland and my beloved Glenfinnan, and also, the beaches of Normandy and even more so, the markets and landscapes of the Cote d’Azur. I also found myself suddenly aware that the sketches themselves might be, must be interesting to clients! I had to tell myself not to be silly, to ignore that voice, because as soon as I paid attention to it (that voice), my sketches became stilted and awkward and DEFINITELY less loose. Lots of laughter ensued; thankfully, I managed to quell the critic fairly rapidly. The sketches are for ME and my work, and if a few of them get into the larger world, then fabulous – but not the other way around!!
Some of the effort of the last few weeks, and continues in this completely new (to me) place, has gone to sourcing materials, solving problems, finding the market, necessary things for my horse, my painting, my sanity! It’s nice to be able to run to a market and back in 20 minutes (!!), but the other side of that is that I’m finding that I’m more isolated here than I ever was in Glenfinnan. It’s harder to get out into the world here - Even to the rest of France. Brittany is just that isolated in its little peninsula world. So, a hard realization has been that my beloved cat, Ceilidh is best left with her next best friend, my neighbour, until I am able to move to a less transient home (I miss her terribly!); and that at the moment, any spare cash is necessarily used on exploring my new world, to find my rhythm, to see if this part of France ‘fits’ me.
I’m now alone in the house for the first time. Not alone as in “going to the market”, but on my own. To fill my day however suits me, to not share conversation with someone over dinner one or the other of us has cooked, to not say goodnight to anyone. I like that part of life! In fact, I’m realizing that this is the first time since I left my studio at the Steading in Glenfinnan that I’m truly alone in the biggest sense of the word! And this timing here now, is pretty much when I thought I’d be ready to leave that studio for the larger world! Whew! What a journey! My own devices, bar the very welcome interruptions of new friends or visiting loved ones, completely – answering to no-one! Rhythm indeed!
Vuellettes sur Mer, sketch 2, charcoal on paper, 6 x 8 in., £100
Vuellettes Sur Mer, sketch, charcoal on paper, 6 x 8 in., £100
Mill at Pont Morven 2, Sketch in Pencil for painting, 6
x 8 in., pencil on paper £100.
Loch Shiel sketch for painting, charcoal on paper, approx. 11 x 16 in., £200