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Anita: Gallery Demands

Hi everyone, you may remember me from the recent Breakfast interview. Miranda kindly invited me to be a contributor here and I was most excited to accept. The response to my interview was such a warm and flattering one (Thank you!) and a couple of the responses stirred some emotions in me that I felt would make an interesting subject for my first post here.

Juliet wrote: ‘I love your artwork, especially the wonderful pen and ink, watercolor drawings. They have such charm. In a society where recognition is still largely in the hands of galleries who continue to insist that one’s work be “limited to one or two styles” (quote from a recent gallery rejection), it is especially pleasing to see such a great variety of styles displayed in your work – all so well done and so pleasing to look at. Congratulations, and thank you!’

Juliet’s experience got me all fired up…
I paint with my heart and, as I do, I drift away into my very own piece of Heaven here on Earth. Style, rules, and gallery’s requirements don’t even enter my head. I paint with my changing moods, sketch through my changing days and refuse point blank to be told how to express this by anyone. If that means I remain forever a ‘poor artist’ so be it. In my opinion it would be far poorer for me to sacrifice the one area in my life where I can fly and be totally free from what the rest of the world demands of me. Sometimes we have to keep a little something just for ourselves, for me that something is art and it’s far too precious to me to be compromised by categorisation, cash or someone who believes they have the right to restrict my emotions and dreams. I guess it’s a matter of deciding what your art means to you, it’s such a personal thing.

Miranda wrote:
‘It’s a very interesting question…in the art world, an artist is expected to have a “voice” in the same way that a fiction writer should, correct? Although a writer’s voice can change dramatically from work to work. Hmmm – I need to mull this over some more.’

Miranda is so right, it is an interesting question and I mulled it over too…
My own voice changes, as I grow, as I breathe. My opinions alter as I learn. My approach differs as I discover. My emotions display themselves in a rainbow of colours. I am ever changing, learning, exploring…

A thought then:

If you held the same ‘voice’ through your entire life, would that make you colourful or stagnant…clever or ignorant?

Art, for me, is a personal adventure where I can take risks, pour my heart out, become part of a fantasy and drift. It’s the messy cupboard under the stairs in a world of order, a tardis of magic in a world of restrictions, a mirror where I appear clearer to myself each and every day and to me…
…That’s priceless!

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. cathy #

    oh great! i’d love to hear more from the visual artists here anytime..we writers tend to monopolize in the word dept.

    now, i just want to know where the musicians are hiding…

    thanks for:

    ‘In my opinion it would be far poorer for me to sacrifice the one area in my life where I can fly and be totally free from what the rest of the world demands of me.’

    i’m putting on my wall of quotes that keep me on track.

    November 13, 2008
  2. Well said Anita… very well said. I think I’ll snag that Anita quote as well…. it’s time for a new banner quote except I’m picking this one…
    “Sometimes we have to keep a little something just for ourselves, for me that something is art ” ANITA DAVIES…

    LOVE IT !

    November 13, 2008
  3. anitadavies #

    Thank you Cathy and Elaine, so pleased you found something positive to connect with in my post. 🙂

    November 13, 2008
  4. Anita, I wonder–have you ever encountered this kind of feedback yourself? That you should focus on one particular style or another? Clearly, you wouldn’t be fazed by such feedback — for all of the excellent reasons you outline above — but I wonder if you’ve ever been pressured by the artistic “powers” that be…?

    November 13, 2008
  5. Juliet #

    This is a wonderful discussion. Your joy in what you do clearly shines through your work.

    I have certainly heard the buzz (and believe it) that as more artists sell their work through the web, the establishment takes on a lesser role in choosing for the buyer what he or she should value. During my recent struggle to conform, with an eye to finally producing a body of work deemed gallery worthy, I received a warning from my father, Peter Bell. He is a well established and award winning artist (in Scotland). His remarks were specific to my taking tutoring lessons from an artist who excels in teaching ‘method’, but his remarks have some relevance to this discussion, so I thought others might like hearing what he had to say. Here are his remarks:

    “…about your instruction in oil painting, I hope this works out well, but I have to confess to some concern in this. I may be completely off the mark in what I may say, and I hope you will dismiss anything which seems nonsense to you…as it may well be!
    You are an established artist. In yourself, that is. As an incoming artist one gathers information and ‘tips’ and these strongly influence how you develop… If, at a later stage, you go out of your way to acquire new skills, this may derail your established practices, your style. This might be a tragedy.
    I try to put myself in your position, I was fortunate in not really going to art school. I developed an enthusiasm for painting under the collective guidance of a group of independent artists, all of whom befriended me during a bad period in the war. They gave me mini lessons, opportunities to draw and paint under varied guidance. From that I developed my own techniques and style. Had I, for example, after the war, gone to art school and done all the prescribed courses, I would never have arrived at the peculiar methods and techniques I now have. I might never have become the artist I am. I might just have become another anybody’s artist, blowing up landscapes for an ignorant market. Some instruction in oil painting is fine, but you did seem to have accepted more than the information you sought…I’m not against learning…if what you learn is relevant, and if you don’t lean on it too much. [When you are] a skilled and competent artist, anything you take on from there MUST be a case of filling up holes, not building new roads. That is what my feeling is.”

    November 14, 2008
  6. cathy #

    juliet, this is wonderful advice! my late fil was a fantastic artist who put aside his painting after art school over 40 years ago to start young raising 3 kids as provider and, later with mil as breadwinner, he was the primary care parent for the kids when they were older. his struggles creatively mirrored ours we discuss here so much.

    when my husband and i started dating, he was already very ill with lung cancer and unable to work, broke out his easels for his last 2 years, and what he created in that time, is astonishing. what he learned 40 years earlier, certainly informed his work, but what he produced was informed by the 40 years since and by his immediacy in knowing how ill he was. they are mostly simple watercolor landscapes, but they flicker with light and shadow, with a love for and attention to life i’ve rarely seen. these last paintings ended up being a gallery show, within months of his passing, at Yale.

    there is a photo of him, obviously very ill, but full of pride at that show, that encapsulates what we all feel when we are truly creative at our very best – what anita says above about the one thing that makes us fly and be totally free. I feel so lucky to be able to see these paintings everyday of my life.

    November 14, 2008
  7. Juliet #

    Cathy, what a lovely portrait of your father-in-law. How wonderful that he was able to be creative at a time when some of us (at least I) fear will be a time spent just dealing with the knowledge of imminent death instead – what joy it must have given him, and how inspiring for all those around him. Thank you for sharing this.

    November 14, 2008
  8. cathy #

    thanks, i hope it wasn’t just a rumination, but that it reflected some of what your father said and clued into anita’s take on enjoying the unschooled eclectic nature of art.

    November 14, 2008

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