Last night I learned about a paintbrush I’ve never used or even knew about — a feather paint brush. Wow. It seems so obvious. I don’t think I can use any of my feathers for that — though the turkey feather I found last year would work pretty well according to what I’ve learned so far. It’s too beautiful. I’m a little embarrassed because the feather is one of the oldest painting tools. I should have known since I see myself as a minor god of Medieval Painting, but OH WELL.
As confirmation of discovering this new tool, THIS turns out to be the prompt for this morning.
My tiny bit of research tells me that it’s the best tool for painting grass — well, I’m painting grass right now and while I’m more or less happy with what I have so far, it’s not exactly what I want it to be. Sometimes a painting is like a friend. They might not do or be exactly what you think they should do or be, but you like them a lot and they have the right to be who they are. Considering that most brushes are made of animal fur or synthetic animal fur it will be an unearthly experience to paint with a feather. If I end up painting grass with a feather — wow, that’s kind of a nice metaphor. Grass reaches as far into the sky as it can and then? Loosens its seeds to fly away in search of fertile ground.
My thoughts about being an artist while I was in the throes of Covid brain — well, they boil down to this. An artist like me who’s not a great artist, will never been “known,” but who does decent work with love and dedication, and then wants to sell their work is basically a small, local business. A VERY small local business. Since I live in a kind of “arty” place with few galleries it’s complicated and 2020 complicated it further. The few galleries around here closed.
After my reading last week I spoke to one of the county commissioners about the annual holiday art show. He pretty much let me know that ship is no longer coming to port at the museum, that they want to get away from being an “art gallery” (once a year?) and focus on history. I mentioned it to the new director who backed up what he said.
It was easier in California (obviously) because there were more opportunities (obviously). With so many people, there was competition, but it wasn’t personal. I belonged to an Artist Guild that had two unjuried shows a year. To be in the show, an artist had to be a member of the guild AND pay a $25 entry fee. The shows were hung in the historic town hall of Julian, CA, a historic mining town in the Laguna Mountains. I sold paintings that way. Another was the guild of the San Diego Museum of Art which had themed juried shows every year. Also, the San Diego County Fair has a huge juried show. In California, an artist doesn’t have to be a personality behind the art, necessarily. The work is there for people to see, speaking for itself.
When I first moved here, there was an artists guild that showed work, but that is gone. This is a feature of being an old person. The people who were members of the guild were all older than I and maybe we all reach a point in our lives when we don’t have the interest or energy in supporting “causes.”
Many people don’t understand what goes into a painting. Materials are expensive. Good materials are more expensive. The museum is pondering the idea the artists should “give” the museum something to hang their work. Well, OK. The director mentioned 30% which is what galleries get. I think a lot of time people have the illusion that we make a lot of money from what we do (no one in this place makes a lot of money except maybe potato farmers) and that we sell a lot of work. We don’t. The market here in winter is very limited, no one is wealthy and to sell anything, our prices are the minimum. I sold a painting last year for $75 because I wanted to get rid of it and the buyer loved it. The irony is that the buyer gave me $100 and told me to “keep the change.” I almost broke even on that painting. The most anyone has paid for a painting at that show is $250. The frame was barn wood, so not expensive — $60? The painting was on a panel, $40. Then there was the paint which is pretty difficult to quantify, maybe $20? Then the hours of work — another $100? So I possibly made $30 on the painting. If the museum took 30%? I’d have to raise the price so no one in this place at that season would look at it.
SO… I have to expand my horizons and decide what matters to me. I like being here, but to sell my work, I’m going to have to (gasp) travel to places like Denver and Santa Fe. Well, I feel too ragged to think about that now. I think my job today is finding out how to paint with a feather and now I’ve seen this video. How cool is that? I can’t use my hawk feather for this. I can’t use any of my feathers, though my Harris Hawk feather is leaning over me right now saying, “Why do you think I was there, right in front of you?”
“No, I can’t cut you up. I can’t.”
Thanks for the encouragement and good wishes in the Covid moment. It’s not “gone” but it’s much better. I see a few days of fatigue and brain fuzz ahead of me, but that can happen anyway.