Saturday, June 13, 2009

My current work in progress...

He called himself Lorenzo the Gigolo. He had a big, gruff voice and a friendly demeanor. I don't know his circumstances, but I guessed from the well worn look of his clothing and the way he wore his hat slightly askew, as if he rarely had need to consider his appearance, that he probably wasn't walking home to a house on a hill with three cars in the driveway. But he couldn't have been homeless either. He was unkempt but he was not unclean. Whatever his story was, he had cast himself in the happy, and perhaps even heroic role of Lorenzo the Gigolo, the sort of character who, more than likely, took enjoyment wherever he found it.

But how did that character look in his mind?

Not how he looked on the tiny screen of my camera, evidently. One glance at his grainy self and he said, Throw it away!
I didn't, thank God. I wanted to tell his story, one which is probably worth a novel, at least. But since he lives in Seattle and I'll probably never see him again a painting in which I can only hint at the sort of life that created a character like him will have to do. I can get setting and features well enough. Capturing humor and dignity and a sense of a life that, in many ways, has not been easy is far more difficult.I had planned to finish the painting in a flat, comic book inspired style, with muted colors and a heavy use of outline. It's a style I've been experimenting with lately. But midway through the process, before I started on the background, I talked again with a Seattle gallery who may or may not show some of my work. They might be interested in my comic book inspired stuff. They'll need time to consider it. But, if I could do more work like this...which currently hangs in a gallery in Sausalito, CA, where it has resided for the last two years. And, if this work should still be available...

I had seconds, a moment really, to consider two things:

1. Should I remain loyal to my gallery in spite of how disappointed I've been in their ability to sell my work? Will I be labeled as fickle - and therefor not worth the risk - in the fine art world? Or should I take back my paintings and offer it to this other gallery which, as far as I can tell, seems far better able to sell work in general? The afternoon I walked in there they'd sold five paintings the day before. Last I heard from my current gallery things were not going so well but they remained hopeful. And, from what I've heard here and there, I would not be the first artist to take back my work due to lack of sales.

2. Should I deliberately work in a certain style because a gallery feels they would be better able to sell works like these rather than to continue experimenting? How will this affect my natural progression as an artist?

Well, whatever I should have said, what I did say was, Yes! I will be glad to remove that work from its current space to instead show in their gallery. And, yes, I have many works planned in a similar style....

After that I took a very long walk where I happened upon these chalky bits of encouragement and direction, sidewalk art drawn by three young (?) artists...
The next manhole cover (which I wish I'd taken a photo of) reads, Pause and sing a song.Back home, I worked until the wee hours to finish my painting. I was on a roll and didn't want to stop. But it still needs many more hours of work before I'll feel satisfied with it. Some things need correcting, others need to be brought forward, or to be toned down. And the background and foreground, since they were done in two different styles, need to be balanced out somehow.

A part of me thinks, sell out. Another part of me thinks, well, this is just another challenge. How to incorporate an older style with what I'm trying to do, whatever that is, now. And I'm tired of being a struggling artist. Oh, Lord, I can't tell you how tired I am of that. Lorenzo and I might have a lot in common. If this is a mistake I will deal with it. I will learn. If not I will say thank God I jumped at the chance.

But...working last night...I remembered what it is about that style I loved so much and still do. What I had been striving for was the sense of music translated into color and brush strokes, long soft passages flowing into quick staccato notes, people lined up on a platform, notes on a page, my hand playing the sounds quickly, evenly, then slowly, until it leaves the canvas....

God, I love painting.


  1. i like the painting, and love how you captured him.

    art seems to suffer sometimes because the artist has to make compromises in order to make money. this is a struggle, but maybe a fair compromise/balance can be achieved. i sure hope so!

    i paint sometimes. it is so very hard to get everything right and to be satisfied. it can take so long. sometimes it works. sometimes it doesn't. or maybe your experience is different?

    i need to paint tomorrow. i dread it and i love it. i never know WHAT is going to happen, and that is frightening and exciting!!

  2. That last line really is your guiding light. As long as you love what you are doing, then even if you are struggling, it will stay with you like a beacon. Your work is beautiful and intriguing. The chalk artists have also made a good start.

    I cheer for you from my little corner of the world.

  3. I love this post; the Lorenzo the Gigolo painting and the narrative you have given to it. Then, there is your own story of how the painting came to be and with your struggles with the gallery. Also the serpendipity of the chalk artists and your reflection of being a struggling artist (which I totally identify with, by the way).

    Great post. :)

  4. A captivating and moving post, Cheryl! The creative journey is always so full of challenges. I hope the way forward unfolds magically for you. Your work is evocative and full of story. I love what you do! And those chalk messages - Wow! It's as if they were created just for you. xx

  5. I am so impressed with your work!
    I write for literary journals – which pleases me. I also write for $. The $ pleases me – but I’m not quite as proud of the writing. I don’t think of it as compromising my integrity – it’s a matter of practicality.
    I think you made a wise decision – confirmed by that wonderful sidewalk graffiti!

  6. Hi Drollgirl, Some of my paintings can take way longer than I expected them to. I spend days trying to figure out what's bothering me about it, and then the painting over or correcting. Usually that only happens when I'm unclear at the beginning what I want to do. That's why I was a little worried about changing direction halfway through. I worried it might mean I'd spend more time correcting than painting. But, I'm forming a pretty clear picture of how I want it to look. Now, just comes the messy work...

    Hi Sophia, you're so right! I think...whatever happens, I'll find a way to make it work! I'm pretty determined that way. Maybe some works will go to this Seattle gallery, and I'll find a home for my other works, and I'll have the best of both worlds. Why not? And if I experiment even further and my style takes a wild turn towards bizarre abstractionism or mythical realism, then I'll find a home for those works too.

  7. thats awsome that you found what your ment to do. at least you know what you love and your good at it. & that is so faith that you stumbled across the the chalk path. glad it gave motivation!

  8. Yesterday I asked for samples of your work... and here they are!! Love to see your work; you REALLY are a gifted artist! Haven't been in Sausalito since 1965, so I may have missed your street painting there :-) but if I would have found it I could have been the lacking buyer ... although I guess I was seriously lacking funds those days.

    You may have your own doubts about your style, but I defintely like this one!

    I appreciate how difficult it is to find the right gallery; I have a few painting friends. But at least one of them seems now to have find the relatively long expected opening! Insist!!!

  9. Stay true to yourself. You're a great artist, don't let anyone tell you the contrary.

  10. I love the feeling of warmth and affection you bring to the portrait. I also like the light fog of distance I feel when I look at this piece. That fog feels to me to symbolize that even if we connect with a stranger for a moment there is a mystery, a distance and so much unknown that lingers between us.

    To your questions 1. Should I remain loyal to my gallery in spite of how disappointed I've been in their ability to sell my work? I think your answer is in this question. Are you more loyal to them then they are to you or to yourself?

    2. Should I deliberately work in a certain style because a gallery feels they would be better able to sell works like these rather than to continue experimenting? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Uh, did I make myself clear? ;-)

  11. Thank you everyone for your wonderful, and very thought provoking replies! I so appreciate you all for taking the time to consider my little artistic dilemmas. It makes me fall in love with all of you even more! I'd planned to reply individually, but find my mind is as muddled as ever on the subject. So, I'm going to spend the day staring at Lorenzo. (And maybe a few pixie drawings I've been working on.) How does he want me to tell his story? I can see him in my minds eye, now this way, now that. Lorenzo living in a chorus of colors, or Lorenzo among grey and dark lines. Or something else I haven't seen into being yet. He is elusive. But he will not shut up until I've done him justice. Will post how he turns out, hopefully sooner than later.

  12. Hello Cheryl!

    Love the work in progress, the look on Lorenzo the Gigolo's face (he looks quite happy to me), and that you're sharing this aspect of your life. Very interesting and satisfying!

    1) Loyalty to what? I'm sure you were grateful that they hung the work for you in the first place, and that it feels good to be in a Sausalito gallery, but maybe it's a bit stagnant there and your art deserves to be in fresh circulation... let it breathe (oh, yes, I see that you've decided to do so!)!
    2) I would say work in that style for the sake of exposure... something attracted you to that style in the first place... tap back into it (oh, I now see from the last paragraph that you've already done so)... there's nothing stopping you from doing other things as well. I do things that get people's attention... they are then drawn in to see my other works, the ones that I have a current passion for, etc.
    3) I Love the happenstance of your chalk journey!
    4) Selling out??? What does that even mean here? You're doing your thing... "A little more do and a little less think" always works for me...

    Happy to see you in circulation, Cheryl... Keep that heart pumping, and keep on believin'!

  13. wow - I love your painting! And it is AWESOME how there seems to be someone looking out for you and sending you signs when you need them... gots to love this crazy universe don't you?

  14. Very nice painting. Good luck with the new gallery.

    And your writing is always a pleasure to read.

  15. Trying to catch up here...sorry for the mix of mass and individual responses. Anyway -

    Hi Sharon, a new friend! And a fellow writer! Thank you for stopping by. I"m so glad you found me!

    Thank you Carol Anne, you are a magnificent soul!

    Hi Beth, Thanks, I think so too. I need to be practical, and like David says, theres nothing stopping me from doing what I like.

    Hi Courtnie, thanks. I'm glad too. And I hope the same goes for you!

    Hi Peter, I was thinking of you when I wrote this post. Sausalito in '65? Were you taking photographs then? I'd love to see them if you were. Good advice: insist. I will. No more settling for galleries that don't know how to sell my work. No more.

    Thank you Dedene!

    Hi La Belette Rouge, I love your responses! I don;t know if you consider yourself an artist or not, but you definitely have the artistic eye! In fact your response has helped me a lot in deciding how to finish the painting...

  16. Thanks Awesome Sara, you are undeniably awesome!

    Hi David, thanks! 1. I know. I've already decided to break with the gallery. 2. I do love that style. It's another tool in the toolbox. 3. me too! It's what Chopra would call a synchronistic event. 4.Well, I meant that there's my public art (animation, storyboards, etc.) and my private, fine art paintings. And though I've done commissions, fine art is my visual refuge from having to please others. But I know what you mean. I have to be practical, esp. if I don't want my fine art to remain what I do on the side.

    Hi Shanster, doesn't it? It's like it was telling me, Cheryl, you worry too much. Point taken. Now back to work!

    Hi Chris! I love all your new work! You'll be working for one pf the big film companies one day for sure! I just know it!

  17. Fate gave you the answer in those chalk drawings and writings. Do not sell out - your paintings are movingly beautiful!

    Thank you for your truly sweet comment about my wedding plans, and for following my blog. I'm so glad that you happened upon me through the always Awesome Sara, so that I could find your beautiful blog!

  18. Hi Cottage Cheese, - movingly beautiful(!!!!) - Wow, thanks! I love your blog and look forward to seeing your wedding photos. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and struggles with this phase of your artistic life. I especially, also, liked the chalk words on the streets.

  20. Thanks Sallymandy! I appreciate you stopping by.

  21. beautiful post! love that painting of lorenzo too!

    try out all options and settle for the one that suits you! way to move ahead!

  22. Thanks, Magiceye, good advice! And thanks for stopping by, I love your gorgeous photo blog!

  23. You should only be loyal to yourself. Always remember that. There is no place for a partnership with someone or something, if souls and hearts aren't seeking the same sunsets.

    Great work, you are very very talented, and today you made a new follower.

    Daniel Romano
    Street Art & Graffiti Blog

  24. That last paragraph sums it up neatly, why you are not a sellout and why at times it may be good to "stick" with a style which was after all developed out of all your prior experience!

    a) a gallery feels they would be better able to sell works like these

    There is always a fine line between sacrificing income and nurturing your art, no matter how many years to spent developing your style. It is legitimate to think about material needs too. Remember, Caravaggio was not a devout Catholic, yet how did he fund his painting passion, after all?

    b) rather than to continue experimenting?

    Who says you have to stop experimenting?

    c) How will this affect my natural progression as an artist?

    Is there a "natural" progression? You have already taken the step towards the next phase, no matter what.

    Good luck! :-)

  25. Thank you Daniel, thank you for your spot on advice. 'if souls and hearts aren't seeking the same sunsets' - I love that! That is now one of my all time favorite quotes!

    Hi Merisi, Thank you, your advice makes a lot of sense and makes me feel a lot better. I have taken the next step, like you said, and I can't wait to see where it leads me! You (and Daniel) are definitely kindred spirits!

  26. I love the painting of Lorenzo, I have to say, I'm incredibly jealous of your talent! Thank you for another lovely post!

  27. Hi Feist, thanks! Oh, but when I first started you should have seen my drawings! I thought I'd never learn.

  28. Wow! All those pics are fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing your Seattle adventure.

  29. Thanks Theresa, glad you stopped by. Hope you come again.

  30. Thanks for visiting my blog. It is exciting to find a neighbor blogger, Do you know the our oakland blog? I just found it yesterday

    As for the galleries, my experience is that they like a body of work in a consistent style. Sometimes the narrower the obsession the better - 500 paintings of Saint Bernards with Ming vases balanced on their heads, for instance, is much more respectable than one. Have you read Tom Wolfe's "The Painted Word?"

    I'm also going to recommend another painter's blog to you

    I think you might like his work. He is quite an interesting character.

  31. Hi Artsparker, I've been coming to the same conclusion about galleries myself. Oh well, it makes sense really. The more one specializes the better one gets at that one thing. I haven't read Tom Wolf's book but it sounds intriguing. And thanks for the links! I'll check them out.

  32. Hi Cheryl, I first want to say thanks for finding my blog and your lovely comment. It is great to know that this whole blog thing actually reaches people.

    Second I want to say that I love what you're doing, and commend your decision to pull your art of of the "non-selling" gallery. Loyalty is a wonderful thing, but as an artist you also have the right to earn a living. Don't feel guilty.

    Also so glad you made it up to beautiful BC. Victoria is a great city. Next time you are up this way, pop into Vancouver -- we'd be happy to have you!

  33. Hi Lianne, thanks for stopping by. I know, how do we ever find each other, with the millions of blogs out there.

    Thanks, I am pretty ready to move on, whatever it takes. I hope Seattle works out.

    And thanks! I love Vancouver, and hopefully I'll get to meet everyone in my blogging community one day!

  34. I like what you do. Enjoyed the post. Do what you is too short to do otherwise!

  35. Hi LDWWatkins, thanks, I appreciate that. And I agree with you, life is too short to waste on what we don't enjoy.

  36. WOW! You are extremely talented - I am so happy I found your page!! When you get a chance, come by my blog and maybe follow too :)


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