So.Much.Art.Work by Carolyn Wright

Recently, a new acquaintance asked me: “Full-time artist--does that mean you get to paint all day, every day?”

I couldn’t answer at first, I was laughing too hard.

The answer to the question is: No, in fact, I spend at least as much time each week on other work that has to do with my art as I do actually painting.  There is a lot of art work that has nothing to do with painting.  That is, if you want to show and sell.

Finding shows to enter, finding work that fits those shows, entering the shows (which involves writing artist statements and descriptions of your work), preparing for the shows (matting, framing, label-making), delivering to shows, advertising shows, attending shows, picking up from shows…

What’s getting matted? What’s getting framed? It may look chaotic to the uninitiated, but I do know what I’m doing.

What’s getting matted? What’s getting framed? It may look chaotic to the uninitiated, but I do know what I’m doing.

And then there is the self promotion on social media--keeping up the website, writing blogs, having art professionally photographed, regularly posting on Instagram, on Facebook…

It’s a lot of work. 

These past two weeks, the focus has been on show preparation, which is ongoing.  I’m excited for the big days, please put them on your calendar and plan to attend at least one:

  • Art, Hope, Love 2: October 17, from 7 to 9:30, to benefit the Catherine Elizabeth Blair Foundation.  I have LOTS of work in this one, but TICKETS ARE REQUIRED! Here is the link for more info: https://www.blairfoundation.org/art-hope-love-2

  • Organica II: Opens October 19, runs through November 17, Falls Church Arts.  I have two pieces selected for this show about art that is inspired by or made with organic elements.  Opening reception on October 19 7:30 to 10, https://fallschurcharts.org/

  • Explorations in Watercolor, 2019 PVW St. Andrews Fall Art Show and Sale: November 9 & 10, at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Arlington, VA.  Depending on what is left after the Art, Hope, Love 2 show, I will have a good amount of work showing here. https://www.potomacvalleywatercolorists.org/content.asp?contentid=407

And now, back to getting ready--I have a lot of labels to stick on today...


That was a long time-out... by Carolyn Wright

Those of you who read this blog are aware that it’s not unusual for me to go for a stretch between posts.  Mostly, it is just that life distracts me, and then I feel guilty for not posting and that guilt pushes me to procrastinate even more (anyone out there who can relate?).  

This time it’s different.  This time, I have a real, honest-to-goodness excuse.

“Daylilies”, the first painting in my Concussion Series. This was before the deer ate the lilies…

“Daylilies”, the first painting in my Concussion Series. This was before the deer ate the lilies…

On May 13, I sustained a severe concussion.  Just an accident in the home, involving a puppy and the corner of the coffee table.  At the time, I had no idea how long it would take to approach a normal life again.

It was seven weeks before I could pick up a paint brush. 

And even then, it needed to be very simplified.  There was only stamina for about half an hour of painting.  Decisions -- type of paint, colors, paper, subject matter -- had to be made ahead of time.  

The art that resulted is a radical departure from any I’ve done before.  Plein aire watercolor sketches of the world directly around me, they have an immediate and ethereal quality.  I did about one a week. They are called the Concussion Series. There are thirteen of them, two have sold already.

Today, I was officially discharged from my last vision therapy, begun due to the damage from the concussion.  Though still not completely healed, I am most of the way there. Far enough along to declare that I have painted the last of the Concussion Series, and am now ready for what’s next on the horizon.


Rejection Update by Carolyn Wright

In case you’re wondering about how this whole rejection project is going, I thought I’d give an update on the results so far.

But before I hit you with actual numbers, a few notes about what I’m experiencing so far:

1.) It is very freeing to apply for art shows when you are anticipating rejection--it’s a total mind re-set! I don’t angst back and forth about whether or not to enter. If it’s within a reasonable distance, not too pricey to enter, and the dates are such that I can get art there and back, I’m doing it! I do have to angst a bit about which paintings to enter, but that’s coming along.

2.) I’ve had more success than I expected so far--you’ll see in the numbers below.

3.) Given #2, I need to be a little more prepared, framing-wise, with the pieces I enter.

4.) This project is getting kind of expensive, what with the cost of the show entries AND the framing (see #3). I just paid $125 yesterday to buy a frame for a piece going into the TART show--hopefully, it will sell!

5.) Even though my mind is set for rejection, and I’m making that a goal, it still stings a little to get rejected…

Ok, now on to the numbers!

# of Shows Entered as of 3/19: 8

# of Shows Heard From 5

Total # of Works of Art Entered 25

# of Works of Art Accepted as of 3/19: 6

# of Works of Art REJECTED as of 3/19: 9

A ways to go till I reach that goal of 100 rejections!

One other idea that may belong up in that numbered list: I can’t just rely on entering art shows in order to rack up my rejections. There aren’t enough of them around!

So I am actively thinking about other ways in which to get my art rejected, for instance, approaching interior designers to see whether they might use my work with their clients. And sending images to venues to suggest showing my work. It may be difficult to quantify those rejections (if I don’t get a response to an email, is that a rejection?), but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Next time I post about rejections, I’ll hopefully have more to report on that front.


Rejection Redemption by Carolyn Wright

Rejection--used to be, no one wanted that!

Lately, it’s become popular, lucrative even.  

Accepted? Rejected? We’ll find out soon! Either way, it’s a win for me!

Accepted? Rejected? We’ll find out soon! Either way, it’s a win for me!

Just Google the word and you’ll find out about the man who determined to be rejected 100 days in a row, beginning by asking a perfect stranger to give him $100.  And then there is the woman who has made the concept of seeking after rejection part of a year-long coaching program. For them, and for others, the experience of being rejected has become a game-changer, a way to expand your life and livelihood.

Me, I’m still  stuck back on the playground at age eight, waiting to be picked for a kickball team when I think about rejection. Last to be picked, that’s one of my earliest and most painful rejection experiences.  Which set me up for attempting, thereafter, to avoid that pain by avoiding rejection.

Fast-forward to the present: as an artist, I want people to see my work, and I especially want them to see it in person, because no matter how wonder the latest iPhone display is, nothing compares with being there.  So how do people see my work?

In art exhibits.

And how do I get into art exhibits?  I have to apply--along with hundreds (yes, sometimes thousands, depending on the show) of other artists.  

Guess what?  

I get rejected.

Used to be, I would decide to enter  a show (or not!) based on whether I thought my work would be accepted.  As in, not rejected.

But this year, based on what I’ve read about all these people who have been using rejection for good in their lives, I’m striving for my own record number of rejections from art shows.  One hundred works of art rejected by the end of 2019 (Not 100 show rejections--at $40 or so a pop to enter, that gets too pricey).

So far, I’ve got three rejections--and one acceptance!  You can see the accepted piece in the TREE-mendous show at the Hill Center in Washington, DC, now through the end of April.  Eight more pieces are out there, waiting to be judged, and I’ll enter three more shows (another eight pieces) in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for more venues in which to be rejected.  Switching up the mindset totally switches up the energy and drive.  I’ll let you know how close I come to reaching the goal!


New Work, Winter 2019: An Explanation by Carolyn Wright

Some people say art needs no explanation.  I’m not sure who those people are, but I disagree.

Is this a floral? Or a still life? Who knows? But it got over 1,200 likes on Instagram!

Is this a floral? Or a still life? Who knows? But it got over 1,200 likes on Instagram!

Because if you look at the six paintings I just put up on my “New Work” page, you would be forgiven if you were a bit confused.  Three still lifes with berries, ok--but what’s with the complete abstracts? And then a very realistic piece with flowers (is that a floral? Or a still life?). What’s going on?

Turns out, I haven’t posted new work on my website or a new blog since November (how did THAT happen?). But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working hard on my painting, and learning a lot.  And my focus hasn’t been so much on WHAT I’ve been painting as what I’ve been painting ON. I am learning to paint on canvas (and also on aluminum panel, but not so much).

Some of you may have heard me whine and kvetch in the past--I want to paint bigger pieces, bigger, bigger! And paper only goes so big--unless you pay outrageous sums for highly specialized pieces that are hard to come by.  But I didn’t enjoy painting on canvas, it’s different, it feels scratchy under my brush, and the canvas kind of bounces when you paint on it, and then, it’s so big, where will I store it?

Hear the whine?

But this summer, I bit the bullet and began working on canvas, gradually getting bigger and bigger.  I’m learning. I’m getting accustomed to the bounce, to the scratchiness, to the greater amount of paint I need. I’m getting there. Now, back to the paintings.

I had such fun with the circles and straight brush strokes in this painting, I had to do more!

I had such fun with the circles and straight brush strokes in this painting, I had to do more!

So, the top row of paintings on the New Works page is all 24” wide and 36” tall.  Kind of bigger, but not that much different…And then I loved the “Cherries Jubilee” painting so much, with all the circles and straight brush marks that I ended up doing a very festive painting, of just circles and straight brush strokes.  It looks a little like how going to the circus feels, and it makes me so happy to look at, that I felt like singing, which is why it is called “How Can I Keep From Singing”. And then, I wanted to keep going a little in that direction, which is why the next painting took that idea on.  “Joy Goes Viral” is a square (notoriously tough, compositionally) on canvas, 24” by 24”.

But then I took on a larger canvas, 30” x 40”, with a table full of spring flowers in vases in front of me, and for the life of me, I could not make an abstract painting from them.  I tried...but the more I painted, the more it looked like what I was seeing--which is not such a bad thing, really!

So now you know a little more about the why’s behind these works.  I’ve got a 36” by 48” canvas waiting for me this week…

Jane Austen Art by Carolyn Wright

A view of the garden behind Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, England.

A view of the garden behind Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, England.

The quick scoop: if you are interested in purchasing items with my watercolor paintings on them, go to:

https://www.zazzle.com/janeaustenart

There you will find all sorts of lovely products available with watercolors I have painted, inspired by locales where Jane Austen lived. Notecards, planners, mugs, trays, prints--all sorts of great swag.

One of the best recommendations came from my daughter, who looked at the website and said “Good thing you told me you made these, Mom, or I would have bought some of this for you for Christmas.”

Now here is the background, in case you want more history:

Several years ago, knowing my love for Jane Austen, another one of my daughters gave me a wonderful book for Christmas (do you sense a theme here? Daughters + Christmas + Jane Austen) called A Walk with Jane Austen, by Lori Smith.

I loved the book, and in reading it, realized that the author actually lived in Northern Virginia; then I discovered that she actually went to my church! After hearing her speak there, I introduced myself, and a friendship was born that has grown deep, as we relate to one another not just as Austen aficionados, but as artists digging deep into our vocations.

A view of the city of Bath.

A view of the city of Bath.

This past summer, Lori approached me with the idea that we collaborate on this project: I would create lovely paintings of places relating to Jane Austen from the photographs Lori had taken while traveling and researching her book. Lori would work with the website Zazzle to have my paintings made into beautiful products, and she would do all the marketing (thank you, Lori!). And so it was launched just a few weeks ago.

I’ve made six different paintings so far. And there will be more! Hopefully, this will be lucrative enough to allow us to go back to England, where I can make even more paintings, on site!

You can follow Jane Austen Art on Facebook, or on Instagram @jane.austen.art.

Don't Forget Your Hat! by Carolyn Wright

My list, scribbled early one morning after a sleepless night--note that "hat" is underlined, but I still almost forgot to pack it!

My list, scribbled early one morning after a sleepless night--note that "hat" is underlined, but I still almost forgot to pack it!

Plans to go the Giverny were made months in advance, so I had plenty of time to worry--er--plan.  Like the sleepless night I spent trying to decide which paint colors to bring (both Cadmium Yellow Medium AND Cadmium Yellow Light? Burnt Umber, yes or no?). And the afternoon spent wrestling with the new portable easel to make sure I could put it together (there were no directions, eventually I had to call the supplier). The list of supplies needed  to paint “en plein air” (a fancy way to say “outside”) grew longer. In the midst of the list, emphatically, was HAT.

Packing was a long and careful process, and in the end I almost forgot the hat...  A cloth one that had belonged to my mother, I had kept it mainly out of sentimentality, but it was light and squishable, so at the last minute, it was stuffed into a corner of the suitcase.

Second day of painting--I've learned to stand and put the palette on the folding stool, but I'm still forgetting my hat.

Second day of painting--I've learned to stand and put the palette on the folding stool, but I'm still forgetting my hat.

The first painting session in Monet’s gardens felt a bit like a scene from the Three Stooges.  Once again, the easel almost bested me.  I sat to paint, with my palette on my lap, dropped a brush and put my shoulder into the palette when I leaned down to grab it, so splat went paint all over the front of my new painting shirt.  And I forgot my hat.

Eventually, I learned to stand to paint, and put the palette on the stool.  I showed the easel who was boss and it responded meekly.  And I began to remember my hat, because I learned:

 

No shade in Lavacourt, looking across the Seine to Vethueil--the hat was vital! Note how I am nonchalantly sticking palette knives in shirt pockets in order to have them handy.

No shade in Lavacourt, looking across the Seine to Vethueil--the hat was vital! Note how I am nonchalantly sticking palette knives in shirt pockets in order to have them handy.

Plein air painting is OUTSIDE and

  1. Outside can be really sunny and burn your head or

  2. Outside can be a little rainy but you can still paint if your head is covered and

  3. Outside can be windy and a hat keeps your hair from blowing in your face and you don’t get paint on your face from trying to keep your hair from blowing in your eyes when you wear a hat and

  4. Outside can have bugs--well, actually, the hat doesn’t really help that much with the bugs.

 

The list of what to bring for plein air painting is long, there is lots to remember--whatever you do, don’t forget the hat!

 

Last day of painting and I am a pro by now; there were a few raindrops but the hat them off my glasses and my gaze focused on my work.

Last day of painting and I am a pro by now; there were a few raindrops but the hat them off my glasses and my gaze focused on my work.

The Struggle is Real by Carolyn Wright

So I painted in Monet’s gardens in Giverny, where, of course, Monet himself painted. And I was duly inspired--more to come on those times! But as part of the workshop, we explored other small towns of Upper Normandy. One day, we visited Vethueil (and don’t ask me to pronounce it, I have only just managed to learn to spell it), where Monet lived prior to Giverny, and where, legend has it, he left with his family in the middle of the night when he couldn’t pay the rent, leaving paintings for payment.

From there, we took a small ferry across the river Seine to Lavacourt, where, on the banks of the river, we set up our easels to look back across the river and paint the view of Vethueil--the same vantage point Monet painted from, over a century earlier.

 A small cafe, moss growing on its thatched roof, overlooked the riverbank where we painted, and was probably where Monet grabbed a bite of lunch, as did we.

Not much has changed of the village view, except that the trees are taller, and the boats that ply the river have motors instead of sails.

What was it that so caught my imagination about painting there, right there, where Monet worked?  What made that day, that spot, different?

Somehow, a deep connection grew as I focused, concentrated, and yes, struggled, to find the right colors, the right shapes, the right brush strokes to convey this moment in time, this place.  The same type of struggle, perhaps, that Monet felt, that so many artists have felt and still feel, as they dig deep into themselves.  It is a struggle that frustrates us, that stymies us, that won’t let us go, and that rewards us like nothing else.  

That is the struggle out of which my painting, Vethueil View, was created.  
 

"Verthueil View", acrylic on paper, 10" wide by 13" high

"Verthueil View", acrylic on paper, 10" wide by 13" high

On the right, the house Monet rented...and abandoned.

On the right, the house Monet rented...and abandoned.

  

The ivy-covered walls and moss-covered thatched roof make the cafe look as though it grew out of the riverbank

The ivy-covered walls and moss-covered thatched roof make the cafe look as though it grew out of the riverbank