when your art takes you where it's supposed to go

I was told in art school that my work would take me where it was supposed to go. At that time I had dreams of being able to support myself with my art alone. I was thrilled when I sold a painting or drawing at an outdoor art show. I did them all (Greenwich Village, Atlantic City, Mystic, etc.) I was still naive and thought I would be discovered on the street. Of course that didn’t happen, but it gave me experience and made me a lot wiser about marketing my work. I watched other artists sell their artwork, work which had a more universal appeal. While many of the artists who sold had professional skills, much of what they produced was cliché. I became friendly with a couple of these artists and they professed to love their life as they traveled from state to state doing the outdoor exhibits. They spent their winters in warmer climates and summers in the northern states. I must confess, I was jealous and if things had gone better for me, I might have tried doing the same thing.

But alas, I couldn’t compromise my paintings to what was selling and spent most of the early years working without an income. However, I did discover the juried exhibitions and fared much better there. I not only won prize money, but also sold one or two of my watercolors. I did this for years getting my work into good collections and building a resume. Still, I couldn’t send a child, much less two, off to college on what my work was earning. It was my teaching that would eventually give me an income and the freedom to explore what I really wanted to do with my art.

I look back on this now and realize my art, did indeed, take me where it was supposed to go. I ended up finding a collage technique that opened my eyes to new and unusual ways of seeing subject matter. While my work may not be for everyone, I’m enchanted with the fact that I am being taken along on this journey and have no idea where the destination will take me.


the reach of art

When I was ten years old my father took me to the Modern Museum to see a surrealistic exhibit on display at the time. It was then I saw the painting “Hide and Seek” by Pavel Tchelitchew, an American artist of Russian birth. This large oil painting with its vivid colors and its hidden imagery of children’s figures integrated into a tree was to haunt me thereafter. It was a strange painting. Yet, I never forgot the painting and the day I spent with my father, who is now long deceased. What I also didn’t realize was how that painting would become part of my future.

I recently went to the Modern Museum to see the Matisse exhibit and was surprised by the crowds of people that jammed the lobby. I was overwhelmed to see an artist celebrated like this. The place was filled with school groups, families and people from all over the world. It seemed as if very little English was spoken here and it was an eye opener. I’m used to seeing this kind of crowed at sports events and movie houses, but not so much for an art exhibit. There were families with young children spending the whole day here. It took me back to that time so long ago when I came here with my father and learned to appreciate art at his side.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the painting “Hide and Seek” on display in the hallway on the 5th flour leading into the Surrealist’s exhibit. I felt my father beside me as I looked at it. In a way it brought me back to that ten-year-old girl. I can’t help thinking how that painting may have been the catalyst for my own surrealistic works today. It also made me think how important it is to expose our children to the museums and art galleries at a young age. It's true not all the children will grow up to be artist’s, but they just might grow up to be art appreciators.


listening to the creative voice

If you saw my studio you would think a bomb went off in it. It’s not just  the mess but the explosion of art that has taken over the room. In pushing myself out of my comfort zone I have discovered a new way of reaching for ideas. It’s so simple, I’m almost too embarrassed to say it. For the first time I started listening to that voice in my head that has the far fetched notion that anything is possible. It’s that voice that keeps saying “what if you tried this?”.  It’s the experimenter, the manipulator of materials, the problem solver. It’s that voice that is positive and unafraid to take risks.

It all started with my love for collage. Something was awakened in that creative part of my brain that allowed me to understand how to tap into my most uninhibited self. You might say I finally started listening to my instincts. It also awakened a new kind of trust in myself and the way I allow myself to seek out inspiration. The trick was to act on an idea and not put it off for another time. If I didn't move on a thought at the moment I had it, I wouldn't act on it at all. It seems simple enough, but this is an important point in unlocking creativity.

It’s been an interesting journey this past year with my artwork. While I may have complained a bit about how hard it is to keep bettering myself, it’s in tenacity and perseverance where the breakthroughs lie. To work towards an illusive goal, one that isn’t quite clear, yet remains an aching underbelly to everything I aspire to is what motivates me. I’ve come to understand through working a system with my collages how to let go of conscious will and let ideas come to me without forethought. It’s as if my brain is now on fast-forward, something very new for me. I can’t turn off the ideas.

So, if the voice in my head says yes I can do it, I listen. However, the minute that voice turns negative I turn it off. There are no mistakes. A failed idea only forces me to find different answers. Either way my work benefits. The bigger the problem solved, the greater the art.




art play

Just because I want to innovate and work past my last painting or collage, the reality is, it doesn't work that way. I spend hours in my studio trying to push past what I already know, and yet, the next step doesn't come without the hours of play that dominates the process. My husband accuses me of playing too much. To him it appears as if I'm just puttering around wasting time. I find myself defending what I do, even though, I often don't know why I'm doing it as well. There's neither rhyme nor reason for the impulse to create. All I can do is step back and give into it.

I like the concept of play. It sounds less ominous and less predictable. If I'm allowed to play, it doesn't matter what I do, there's no one waiting for results. I have no expectations of what can happen, except the knowledge that deep down I'm onto something. The underlining fact has to be that I know I have the talent and ability to find my next step. This is not arrogance. If I felt I was wasting my time, why would I continue putting myself through all the ups and downs of being an artist? Finding that subconscious state of freedom where nothing is impossible and anything goes is a gift I give myself every time I let myself play.

When I go to the galleries and see art that I've never seen before, I get excited. Great art has an ambitious obsessiveness about it which is not taught in classrooms. It comes from hours of experimenting, and yes, playing with a kind of childish freedom. In school I was told everything has been done before and yet it is up to the next generation of artists to reinvent what's already been done.

So, as I play with collage and push the imagery into a more three dimensional composition, I'm seeing new possibilities. My art is becoming more sculptural and that opens up a whole new way to express myself. 

the wangechi mutu influence

I’ve locked myself in my studio these past months working with blind faith that in time their will be a new kind of clarity to my work. I’m absorbed by it. It’s what I think of day and night as I continue to determine the direction I want my collages to go in. It’s a journey that has no map or blueprint, just pure trust in allowing my impulses to guide me. To find a new way of seeing takes patience and determination…a tenacious will that won’t give up. Most days I feel as if I’m just playing, which does have it’s moments of fun.

To fuel my imagination even further, I was fortunate enough to have seen the Wangechi Mutu exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum last week before the show closed. To say I was overwhelmed by the scope and imagination of her art is an understatement. She’s a Brooklyn based artist born in Nairobi, Kenya who has developed collages that have paint and found objects incorporated in them. She combines the female body with animal, plant and machinery parts using cut magazine images. These collages done on mylar are large with themes both political and sexual in nature. I can only imagine the hours of play and discovery she had to put into them to come up with such imaginative work. When imagery comes together like this it becomes an experience rather than just two-dimensional art. It made me proud to be an artist.

What I take away from this is the joy of creativity. Every artist who has achieved any kind of status in the art world has at some point worked through the growing pains of finding a next step. So when I see the end product of another artist’s struggle, it encourages me to keep working. And by the way, I hope I’ll always have that sense of curiosity that keeps my work changing. Only the limits I put on myself can stop me.

what mindset are you?

My art is struggling along with moments of breakthroughs, but mostly it’s hard work with much anxiety. This experimenting is expensive and there’s no guaranty about what results it will bring. Still, I forge ahead knowing in my gut I’m moving towards something that will change the way I see and make art. My experience tells me the more open to experimentation, the more likely I’m going to discover something new.

I wasn’t always this way. I have always been a rule follower who tried not to make mistakes. I studied what was being written in the art magazines and tried to emulate what was being shown in the New York art galleries. While this might be a good way to find inspiration, my own art lacked that sense of urgency and originality. There was definitely more to this process I wasn’t getting as a young artist.

I recently came across an article taken from “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D which talks about the two mindsets people develop and the way they determine personalities. This article really spoke to me when it talked about a “fixed mindset” as opposed to a “growth mindset.” I know well what it feels like to have a fixed idea in my head, because, as I said, I was a rule follower and knew how to avoid failure by following what has already been proven true. I found it very hard to change this mindset, which showed up in my skilled but uninspired art. I wanted to work smart and not make mistakes, or maybe, I might be deemed untalented. In my defense, this is how I was taught as a young child to fit in.

However, the “growth mindset”, which sees failure as an opportunity doesn't allow for mistakes. These people only see challenges that force them to conquer and advance beyond what already exists. To them it's in trial and error where real inspiration lies. 

I for one don’t want my art to have a “fixed mindset” and that’s why I’ve opened myself up to share what I’m going through. By working with collage I’ve discarded all the rules I once followed as a painter. There are no guidelines for what I’m doing now, except the immediacy of the art process. I keep repeating in my head, “There are no mistakes, just opportunities. There are no longer rules to follow, just instinct and experimentation."


art out of chaos

If you walked into my studio right now you would not see the floor. It’s a mess. And while I try to clean it up, I’m distracted by what’s going on in my work. I’ve always considered myself a painter, but I’ve become addicted to working with collage and it has taken over everything I think and do. I’m obsessed with looking for materials, thinking of new ways to reinvent imagery and finding new ways to put it together. It’s no longer about the paint as it is about tapping into something that is so different from what I’ve ever done before that I’m surprised by what I’ve done. Truth is, how do you outdo yourself?

I’ve decided to write about this period of chaos to help me document the disorganization and distracted mental state that has overtaken me. It’s been months since I’ve felt comfortable with my work. I’m experimenting with gels, glues and varnishes that don’t always behave the way they’re supposed to. It’s frustrating to work on a collage for weeks only to find the work yellowing or clouding up. I keep telling myself there are no mistakes, just opportunities. If something isn’t working, I know I have nothing to lose but to work into it. At this point I’ll try anything, even to paint into the collage. I keep telling myself to keep my mind open and let things happen.

While I’m excited to push my work forward with new challenges, there’s no roadmap to where it’s taking me or even where I want to go. Just look at my studio, you can see the stubborn disorder that plagues the whole process. I’m obsessed at the moment without knowing what it is I’m searching for, and yet I feel the answer is there, I just can’t see it yet. It’s as if I’m in this bubble and everything else is noise around me. Even when I’m not actually working in my studio, my mind is always on the work. It’s the best and worst of times for making art.

behind a juried show

I recently juried an important art exhibit and was reminded of how tenuous and arbitrary an art career can be. To have a career as an artist is somewhat of a miracle when you think of how much works against it. First off, the competition is fierce amongst young students to get into the best colleges or art schools just to study art. Many of these students come from art savvy homes and have grown up with an appreciation for the arts long before they even knew what they wanted to be.

Having said this, I was one juror on a panel of three. I can see how this would make for less confrontational decision making since it would take two jurors to push an artist’s work through, but the problem with this system is finding a middle ground for the jurors to come together...and this doesn’t always happen easily. First off, my view of art and what I responded to was very different from the other jurors. I come from an illustrative, photorealistic background and value sharpened skills. I also value, since I have become a surrealist in my own work, intriguing concepts that are not cliche or ordinary. I want to see something I haven’t seen before.

No matter how talented the artist, there’s a skill level that comes only by working at his or her craft. I can usually tell how long an artist has been working by the finesse shown in their pencil or brush work. Talent plays a big part when it comes to the depth of an artist’s vision, but it’s the commitment to the work that develops skill and a unique technique.

I found it hard when an artist I wanted pushed through didn’t make it into the show due to taste differences between the jurors. This happens more times than not, which is not necessarily the fault of the jurors since they are entitled to their own opinion and shouldn’t be criticized for it. Perhaps having one judge is better for consistency in taste, although this also has its problems.

I write this blog because I think it important for every artist to understand this is a flawed system and being rejected from a juried exhibit is not an indictment of your talent. It’s just one of the many obstacles that helps season an artist. The biggest enemy to the art world is when an artist stops making art. Just don’t let that happen!

the artist's life

I’m amazed with how many wonderful, innovative, extraordinary talented artists there are around me, and yet, none of them have been discovered by the greater art world. In fact, there’s maybe one percent of one percent of the artists graduating art schools that ever make it to the big time. I’ve spent most of my life aspiring to become an artist, yet the dream was not just to make art but to be appreciated with a self-supporting career.

I’m often asked by parents of young art students, “Can you make a living as an artist?” Well-meaning parents push their children away from an art career with good reason. It’s a hard, often unreliable way to live. When the work doesn’t go well, it has a way of influencing everything around me. I’m tense, easily frustrated, walk around as if in a daze, don’t want to communicate with friends, and more times than not, come down with a nasty cold. In the end the work becomes everything. I often stay up late into the night working on a painting that isn’t going well, only to work over what I did in the morning. I learned never to destroy work before going to bed. And still, I continue to create art with a willing and grateful heart, knowing there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. The truth is when a painting or collage passes my expectations, there’s nothing like it. The high I get is worth all the low points I’ve suffered through.

So my answer to all those young students who want to know if you can make a good living at art, if you have to ask, you should find another means to support yourself. The call to art is something that can’t be explained, but when you have it nothing can sway you from doing it. I supported myself by teaching art. I waitressed and cashiered to keep myself in paint. My point is if your child can be talked out of pursuing an art career, then chances are they were meant to appreciate art as a Sunday painter. 



the november art shows in chelsea

I get excited walking the streets of the Chelsea art district. The connection to the area has become important to my development as an artist. When I go to the galleries I never look ahead to plan where I’m going…not because I won’t take the time to do it…I just crave the element of surprise when I walk into a gallery and am struck by something unexpected. I love that first impact when I see a work of art that makes me gasp. True, this doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it makes me so excited to be an artist. I usually can’t wait to get back to my studio to infuse my own work with some of that excitement.

This November’s shows were not as exciting as last month’s overall, but it did have it’s element-of-surprise-moments for me. First off, Pace Gallery on 25th Street showed the work of  Raqib Shaw, a London-based artist whose work “Paradise Lost” took up the entire wall of the gallery. When I first walked into the space all I saw from the door was a guard and white walls. However, when I turned the corner there on the wall that ran the entire length of the gallery was a single painting done in twelve sections. It took my breath away. According to the press release, Shaw begins by outlining the composition with gold stained glass paint. He uses porcupine quills to apply enamel paint it and oil paints to model the images. Then he applies precious and semi-precious stones to the composition. It was an astounding work that had me standing in front of it for fifteen minutes. This exhibit continued in two other locations in Chelsea.

The other surprise for me was in Galerie Lelong on 26th Street. The artist Jaume Plensa’s instillation of stainless steel sculptures made from letters of nine international languages created an exciting environment of floating orbs with human figures riding them. These figures where suspended from the ceiling of the gallery in a circular configuration casting these incredible shadows over the floor. I was able to walk through this instillation making me part of it. I just loved it.

Seeking out artwork that excites me is what has me going to the galleries. To see an artist reach a level of excellence is something we should all celebrate. To witness this fills me with ideas on how to push past my own ordinary instincts, sort of giving myself permission to reach beyond my own expectations. How else does art evolve? 

how we learn

I admit to being someone who has problems with spelling. What’s interesting about this is that I love the sound of words and the way they come together to create meaning. I also love to write. So when I recently asked my husband how to spell a word, which no matter how I typed it into the computer I couldn’t come up with the correct spelling, he didn’t hesitate. What got me thinking was how easily he came up with the right letters, while I struggled with them. When I asked him about this, he told me he visualizes words first in his head before writing them down. Now I’ve always considered myself a visual person, but when it comes to words I realized I hear them…I don’t visualize them. It got me thinking. I wanted to know why my brain processes words the way it does and what effect it might have on my artwork?

As it turns out there are three types of learning: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual learners are people who need quiet to study, are good at spelling, like charts, are list makers, use colored highlighters, read maps well and take time to think out what they want to say. What’s funny about this is how accurately it describes my husband. He is definitely a visual learner.

On the other hand, I’m an auditory learner. I learn by talking and listening to what is said. I tend to think out loud to hear my thoughts. I feel sometimes I’m a sponge soaking up sound. I can’t paint without listening to a recorded book on my IPhone. It seems 20 % of the population are auditory learners.

A kinesthetic learner is a person who is tactile and learns by touch. They are active and their work is more physical such as dancers and surgeons. These learners need to move around while learning and make up 5% of the population.

As a teacher of art I see all the different types of learning and what makes this interesting to me is how art is created by these different artists. The way an artist learns must have an effect on the kind of art produced. It makes sense that the way you learn gives you a certain proclivity to the way subject matter is processed.


learning from mistakes

My need for perfection in my art started when I was young and was a big inhibiting factor in my advancing as an artist. It’s in the fear of making a mistake that became the single most crippling element to my creativity. In elementary school I learned not to waste paper, not to take chances, and by fourth grade, I learned apples were red and round. In effect, I was learning how to conform. I had become afraid to express myself. This kind of teaching is damaging to young creative minds. I often have adult students in my drawing classes who are afraid to make a mark on paper when they first start with me. They’re afraid of embarrassing themselves. What if they mess up?

I’ve become an observer of other people’s mistakes. In a way it’s become a short cut in learning for me. When I see something that isn’t working, I’m not likely to repeat it. We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.

One of the most common errors I see amongst my artist peers is how hard it is to leave their comfort zones. These artists tend to repeat themselves without growing from the experience. The work becomes stagnant and predictable, and while the art might have been unique once, it isn’t anymore. What I take from this is to reach beyond what comes easily and continue to strive for new ways to advance my art. Great art never comes out of the comfort zone.

Another mistake, which I find the most egregious, is when an artist closes off their mind from any discussion on how to improve their work. What I take from this is the importance of surrounding myself with artists I respect so I can brainstorm with them. It’s important to listen to what is said even if it hurts. I want always to have an open mind so I don’t get in my own way.   

Most of all, when someone says something isn’t possible, all I hear is someone who is too afraid of failing to take a chance . There’s always a way to solve a problem and pushing through the impossible is where true innovation lies.


chelsea galleries

I am so impressed with what’s going on in the Chelsea art galleries. There’s an excitement on the streets I haven’t seen in a long time. The construction of galleries goes on at record speed with new European and American spaces opening up almost weekly. The art world has come together with it’s best artists, and I for one feel extremely lucky to live so close to it.

While there’s no distinct art movement as in earlier years, there’s a sense of something new and fresh in the air. I found the galleries busy and friendly, and if I saw any theme overall, it was a sense of exploration. There was an equal amount of abstract art as well as realistic work. Much of what I saw seemed to be influenced by collage and photography, although I was also taken by the art that explored process with an obsessive usage of materials.

For example, at the Von Lintel Gallery, Rosemarie Fiore’s large works on paper are created with brightly colored smoke from live fireworks. She uses rolling devices to distribute tinted smoke to the surface of heavy paper while the fireworks burn inside these machines. Fiore adds cut and torn paper as a second layer. The effect is visually exciting. This exhibit is on from Sept. 5- Oct 19, so there’s still time to see it. The gallery is located at 520 West 23rd Street.

Another of my favorite shows was at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery at 531 West 26th Street. The exhibit Money, Power, Sex & Mark Wagner, is an intriguing exhibit of work using a dollar bill as the source of inspiration. The dollar is reproduced in various sizes and used to create these complicated compositions. This gallery shows primarily collage inspired art.

A day in Chelsea is not enough to see all it offers, but it is enough to inspire and fill the mind with ideas. We are very fortunate to have such an art scene so close by.



waiting for inspiration

I recently read the statement by Chuck Close, “Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work.” This hit a cord with me as I continue to show up in my studio everyday as if I have a deadline. I’m driven to the work without understanding why. It’s not like I’m preparing for a show. And still, I don’t know how to turn it off…nor do I want to. So it surprises me when I talk to other artists who say they can’t get to their work this week or next because of other obligations. All I can think is, there will always be obstacles out there to boobytrap us.

To wait for inspiration can have you waiting forever. It’s an idealistic fantasy to think an artist is suddenly struck with the magic of original ideas. Art is hard work and should be looked at as a fulltime job. It’s the commitment to show up in the studio every day that gives the work its power. I look back on my body of work and while there may be some similarities in my past work, such as color preferences and design esthetics, still the work itself has changed significantly over the years. By putting in long hours, I worked through many problems, and while I have had many false starts along the way, I don’t think of them as mistakes. There’s no gain without reaching for some deeper meaning, or why create at all?

None of my gains would have happened if I waited around for inspiration to hit. There were times where I just went to the studio to clean it. This is what I call showing up. The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is if inspiration isn’t there, don’t give up, don’t give in to it; read about art, go to the galleries, change mediums…anything that keeps you engaged. Sometimes you just have to fill up again with new ideas.

why public art?

I just came back from Venice Beach, California and find I can’t get the essence of that place out of my head. It wasn’t just the great weather or food that got me, but the vibrant, colorful and energetic public art that covered most of the buildings and walls of the area. The paintings were born from the graffiti culture, although it has evolved into something much more. I found it exciting and fresh, giving off this creative vibe that seemed to hold the area to a different spirit than any other place I’ve visited. It somehow became part of me. It made me proud to be an artist.

While the city of Venice Beach issues the permits to artists, it’s ICU Art, a graffiti advocate group, which curates and manages the walls. Their purpose is to preserve and present a higher level of graffiti art for the public to appreciate. I for one found it so inspiring I couldn’t wait to get back to my studio to paint.

What a great way to bring art appreciation to the public. I could feel its influence in the people as I walked along the boardwalk. There’s a kind of playful wonder in the air that seems to hold everyone to a different standard. It reminds us that we are creative souls under the terrorism and fear mongering that has become part of our daily lives. I can’t help but think that if we expose our children to an environment of creative thinking, whatever the discipline, we are nourishing the better side of our nature.



what is stardom?

I recently saw “20 Feet From Stardom” and was touched by the depth of longing and commitment in the message of this movie, which was more of a documentary than anything else. It was about these wonderful singers who spent a lifetime perfecting their voices, and still remained backup vocalists. This was a documentary about black female singers whose names are associated with top stars like Michael Jackson, Sting, Mick Jagger, Ray Charles and the list goes on, yet no one actually knows their names. Their voices are every bit as good, if not better than the stars they backup, so what’s going on here? What makes one artist rise to greatness, while the rest of us struggle for any kind of recognition?

When I was younger I entered every juried exhibit possible, joined all types of art groups and aligned myself with artists whose work I admired…and we all struggled to get noticed. Years later I have less energy for the art groups and juried shows, but still obsess over the work, which is the good news. In fact, I can’t think of any other way to live. Everything I think about is art related. But I do understand how artists become discouraged after years of hard work with little recognition. It’s especially harder for woman artists who at some point give up and compromise themselves into life.

The message of the movie was how women with great talent tend to underestimate the gift they have, for whatever reason, and often sell themselves short. This really resonated with me as I often see my female peers putting household and family obstacles in the way of their work. Female artists tend to be more compromising than their male counterparts and it makes me angry. In some cases it’s self-imposed. It’s as if female artists are more fearful of success than male artists and that needs to stop. We need to instill in our children, both male and female, to excel equally and not settle for anything less.





the connection between creativity and insanity

I recently read an article about how some scientists who study the mind feel creativity has a connection to insanity. Apparently, brain scans of highly creative people and people with schizophrenia have thought pathways that have similarities. It seems they both lack filters to direct thought, which allows the creative mind to reach beyond the obvious. This is an interesting take on creativity. I know for myself, I can’t help the way my mind processes an idea. It’s just there. This also explains how I never fit in with most popular thinking. 

Since the age of six I’ve been learning with a quiet sense of purpose to distinguish myself as an artist. I’ve spent most of my life immersed in the act of creating, which made me different from other members of my family. I seemed to learn in a different way than other people and had a problem with friends who didn’t think the way I did. Even the educational system let me down by not recognizing a more creative way to educate its students.  

For years I wondered what made me so different from many of my peers. I have now come to realize my need to create is not just a choice but an actual physical phenomena. I obviously can’t help the way my brain is wired, which explains why I think the way I do. This makes my creativity feel more like a gift than something I should curb in order to fit in. It’s strange how creative thinkers are admired, yet often feared and left out. I take comfort in knowing what makes me different is what makes me special…and I see this in my fellow artists. I tell my students to embrace their quirkiness and allow it to filter into their art.


taking risks

I recently had a discussion with a friend about how she wanted to get her art to the next level. She’s an accomplished artist, well known locally, but wanted her work to reach a broader audience. I made the comment she needed to break out of her comfort zone and try something different, which got us into a heated discussion about just what that actually meant. She felt getting her graduate degree in art was as much out of her comfort zone she wanted to get. It was tough on her and her family and she was proud of herself for accomplishing it. While I agreed with her on some level, I had to differ with her about the kind of risk she took to get it. I feel a master’s degree has a predictable result. I don’t want to minimize her efforts, but she knew from the very beginning she would get a degree and a good job after she graduated. It had an expected outcome.

I love this quote by Ray Bradbury: “Living at risk is jumping off a cliff and building wings on the way down.” To take a risk means something has to be at stake, whether it’s pushing an idea beyond limits of the ordinary, or using a medium in a new unknown way. It means forging into new territory where the outcome is not predictable. It’s about not knowing what the end result will be until it’s reached.

The debate with my friend reinforced my opinion of just how becoming comfortable with your work may actually bring it to a dead end. To take risks means leaving everything you know behind and allow yourself to explore a new direction. It means not knowing where it might take you. The key is not to give up when you jump off a cliff, but to build wings that will carry you down.


the art critic

By definition, the art critic is someone who specializes in evaluating art. Their writings can be found in newspapers, magazines, books, television and web sites, and while the backgrounds of these critics vary, their influence on the art world is legendary. An art critic can make or break an artist by just using words…and this gives me pause. In history many great artists have been overlooked or panned because their work wasn’t in favor at the time. The Impressionists, for example, received bad reviews because their work just didn’t fit the norm of the day. Since art is so subjective, why have we given these critics so much influence over our culture? Many of them are failed artists themselves and have an inflated sense of arrogance about what they do. It’s not only the art world, but also movie, theater and literary critics.

I know first hand how the opinion of one man can put fear in an artist’s heart and even detour a career. Years ago when I was just beginning my art work, I was offered a show in one of the more prestigious library galleries. It was a big deal to me at the time and I invited everyone I knew to the opening. However, it must have been a slow week for the art critic from a major South Jersey newspaper. He came to my exhibition and wrote about my work with words like, “ad-nauseam, ad-infinitum.” I had to look up what it meant. I was embarrassed for myself and for all those people who purchased my work.

But soon I became angry. Who was this man anyway? He wasn’t an artist, yet presumed to know all there was about making art. Still, in some way he was the fuel that later energized my art. I set out to show him he had no clue what he was talking about. It was a lesson that served me well my whole career. There will always be people out there with negative opinions. In order for me to move on with my art, I needed to surround myself with people I trusted…people who had a good understanding of what kind of art I aspired to and were honest but constructive about their criticism.

In the end, no one should have the power over your art, except you.  


breakthrough art

I’ve written about plateauing as an artist before, but it’s frightening to be going through it, yet again. I’m up half the night working with little to show for the hours put in. While on one hand my work has become comfortable, on the other hand the excitement to start another painting just isn’t there anymore. I’m procrastinating away the time as I stress out over not starting a new painting. While I’m excited about the actual imagery, I feel as if I’ve hit a wall about how to execute it. The work has become too easy. Not exactly a terrible problem to have, but if I’m not excited about my art, the work reflects it. Recently an artist friend told me how solid my work appeared to her. She didn’t realize how that comment triggered off something in my head. She meant it as a compliment, but struck something deeper.

Last week I went to the galleries in Chelsea looking for inspiration. It’s the one place I can regenerate and plug into when I’ve come to a dead end. It’s good to see through other artists eyes. I use the galleries like a library. It’s a form of research I do to find some path that might open a door into a new direction. Even if I don’t see something exciting, since it’s all so hit or miss, I’m still able to absorb an energy that fuels hours of work later. The art I found myself gravitating to this time was large, visceral paintings with a spontaneous explosive quality about them…work that felt fresh and honest without being self-conscious. It’s art that doesn’t take itself so seriously and reaches for a childlike abandonment.

On some level I knew this is exactly what’s missing in my own work. While it’s important to have good skills, innovation needs to distinguish itself in the way the art is executed. After looking at work in gallery after gallery, I’ve come to the conclusion if a painting doesn’t work, then collage over it, throw paint at it, use your hands, your feet on it...anything that pushes the art further.

I must admit I came back to my studio no longer just a painter. The canvas that made me sick with a stress cold last week, suddenly has taken on a new feel. I just collaged over what wasn’t working, used a pallet knife and finger painted into it. I call it art play now, which gives the work a whole different set of expectations.