The gallery is closing, we still have to pay rent and all Summer festivals in Santa Fe are called off. We were beyond discouraged. I had no motivation even to paint knowing I was just stacking them in the corner of my make shift studio at home. Nothing but closed doors as far as the eye can see through the Summer. I did have a commission to do and it got me thinking. Is there a way to do more of these? Then I had a thought that seemed to come out of no where. What if I could paint things that I know people would enjoy, like their favorite scenes and memories? Get them involved in the process but still only paint things I knew had a chance of selling if they couldn't afford them or didn't like how they turned out. A win, win and I would be interacting with potential clients just like the gallery - a new door opens.
"I might paint YOUR landscape photo next!"has become a whole new way of working for me, meeting people and making enough to pay the rent, even without the gallery! I think we are all endowed with the ability to hear a voice, have a thought, see something new that becomes that new open door. I believe in a God who is with us, for us, loves us all. But, we have to be open to the possibilities that lay beyond our past, and even beyond our imagination. In my experience, these possibilities often seem to come out of no where. Open people usually find the open doors. I am grateful every day that this kind of grace finds me!
This may be the most purely impressionist piece I've done to date. "Superstition Snow" is a playful acrylic painting that emphasizes light reflecting off very different surfaces (clouds, cliffs and snow) in similar ways. By simplifying shapes, I can highlight the similarities of all three surfaces, just atoms with different densities! Our universe is amazing and in constant motion no matter how solid it appears.
I was in awe of the breadth and variety of Monet’s work. But what struck me most was how he let each scene speak for itself. Doing the same subject over and over, it was not just the palet that changed with the seasons or time of day. His brushwork changed from bold strokes to light wispy flicks of the tip. The thickness of the paint, amount of contrast, no formulas that had to be repeated in every painting.
Our show, "Great Things Come in Small Packages" is in progress now, in the middle of last minute shopping season. Yes, I am hoping someone buys the small painting above, but mostly I am hoping all the giving and receiving accomplishes one thing: reminding those around us of the value of our relationships with each other. It is not the size of the gift but the smiles, hugs, words of gratefulness and encouragement that we need on the journey that make all the difference. The receiving end is just as important as the giving end. Don't evaluate whether it was a good gift, think of the goodness of the person giving it and richness they bring to you, and smile in some memory. Blessings, Tom
I did not show work in progress on this large "Grand Canyon" piece because it was supposed to a surprise for some long time friends. But as you see, it is very similar in approach to the commission work I did, "Wonder." As we approach the holidays, art occupies a seldom thought of but very significant place as a gift. Yes, it can be expensive, but the lasting value can be immense. Art can be a constant reminder of the beautiful possibilities of life in a world filled with beauty and mystery. It can also be an encouragement of some past achievement or blessing. I gave a friend battling cancer a painting of Denali, one of 6 continental highest mountains he had climbed in his lifetime. I gave the above painting titled "Deep and Wide" to remind my friends of the impact they have had by loving others deeply for a long time in the same place. Art speaks beyond words directly to the heart, providing encouragement each time it is encountered.
Consider art as a gift this season, and don't just think about the color of their decor. Think about what is in your heart and what their heart might need more of over the years ahead. 7 Arts Gallery will be having a show of smaller, affordable artworks in early December hoping to encourage art lovers to share their love with others!
Ok, when the client’s name is on the artist’s proof, it is pretty clear who the art was made for. Right? Not so fast,.. even in a commission, an artist with integrity is trying be true to the values and vision that inspire (breath life into) their work. Without that, the work is literally life-less. I actually like the challenges of commissions where I have to blend the client’s needs and desires with my vision and values. Their vision was to further the creation of art by investing heavily in children’s art programs like our own Art Smart organization in Santa Fe. I see art as a light shining in our world, revealing truth of our place in it as those who reflect the beauty infused into Creation itself by the Creator. In the end, I make art not so much FOR someone (God, myself, others), but to BE something, light that brings something of truth, beauty and inspiration (breathing life into) to all who experience it.
My art is known for it’s sense of motion. I started painting on a rotating display stand a while ago to add some actually kinetic energy to my composition and brush strokes. However, many of my paintings can move from “kinetic” to frenetic” at times, leave no space for the eye to rest. I am reading a book by Pico Iyler titled, “The Art of Stillness.” (Look him up on Ted Talks). He is challenging our “frenetic” culture of instant messages, unending interruptions to slow down, breath and actually become aware. Early in the book he makes this insightful observation, “Movement makes richest sense when set within the frame of stillness.” That sentence stopped me.
I began to reflect on my work as an artist, “was my art telling me the I need more stillness and motion?” “Would my artwork make “richest sense” if the kinetic energy was set within a “frame of stillness.” Using the spiral as a motif in this painting helps a bit, creating a focal point of movement and contrast. But would it be even better with more places to rest like the water. I don’t know. I tend to the let my work speak what ever it wants to. However, I do need to stop, be still and listen more to what it is saying!
Artists have always pushed boundaries. What "can be" is more interesting and challenging than "what is." At the beginning of the year, I had a simple thought, " I wonder what painters are doing with 3D printing technology." I found little on the net. Partly because it would confuse categories, is it still a painting or is it hanging sculpture? Sculptures are not supposed to be painted are they? But I would rather explore "what can be" and figure out what to call it later!
What I wanted to do was "re-imagine" landscape painting. My process is generally - Painting - Photo - 3D Print - Painting. It begins and ends with painting. I won't go into all the challenges and dead ends, but after trying a number of software approaches, I ended up using Photoshop for the conversion to 3D. Every piece I do, ends up unique in some way because of unexplained interruptions in my plans! Kind of like life. But, I am having fun exploring some new territory. I hope you are finding some space to explore "what can be" too instead of being stuck in "what is." Blessings, Tom
nThe last few months have held many challenges, most of all assisting dying parents. Many times my sis and I would just look at each other and say, "It is what it is" or "Everyone is doing the best they can." These simple phrases helped up to accept life as it comes and people as they are. In the midst of life's turns over the past few years, I have found another silly little phrase - Things have a way of working out - on my lips and in my mind more frequently. It too is way of pressing into an attitude of acceptance, positive anticipation and openness. It is not blind faith in good outcomes. Neither is it a passive stance, waiting for a miracle to change things to conform life to my wishes and hopes. Nor is it a phrase to use on others to help them in their grief. Most often I have used it when things have not turned out as I planned or hoped, but someone I have still gained something for which I am grateful. However this has happened so frequently, that I am now seeing it as a way I can process life as it come with that sense of gratitude, acceptance, awareness and openness.
It is like knowing there will be a sunrise after the darkness. I think this is why people are drawn to sunrises and why I like to paint them, "Enchanted Sunrise," show above was my largest painting at 7 Arts Gallery, and did not sell all summer. Honestly I thought many times, perhaps it is too bold, too simple, too big, too expensive. After a summer of slow gallery sales, I sold it last week to the right people at the most encouraging time possible for me. The phase did come to mind! But more than that, I think the attitudes of acceptance, openness, and positive awareness and influencing my art work and my approach to art. I more open to experimenting, more patient with myself and others, less anxious when challenges arise, seeing them as opportunities to grow or learn something.
I wrote something similar to this a couple of days ago and hit the publish button, but it got lost before it was posted on the blog. I am hoping the mess up turned out to be good timing for someone! It was good for me to think about this again and make some mental edits!!! Blessings!
Etty Hillesum was a Jewish Dutch girl whose war time diaries and letters from 1941-1943 we just published a few years ago. Her life ended at Auschwitz at the age of 29, but her remarkable mystical journey was miraculous preserved. As she began her inward journey that prepared her for her ministry of love to those headed for a certain death, she wrote this:
"The inner world is as real as the outerworld. One ought to be conscious of that. It too has it's landscapes, it's contours, possibilities, it's boundless regions. And man himself must be a small center in which the inner and outer worlds meet. These two worlds are fed by each other, you must not neglect one at the expense of the other, You must not deem one more important than the other. Otherwise you will impoverish your own personality. A great many persons strike me as divided in half and thus more or less disabled." Etty Hillesum:Essential Writings, ed. Kidder, Orbis 2009.
I find that using this rotating platform in my studio paintings is enabling me to compose landscapes that capture some of this interaction between the spiritual and phyliscial, the inner and the outer worlds. This swirling scene was the first landscape in this series and sold immediatly to someone who saw some of this mystery in it. Meditating on a painting that invites you to explore your inner landscape is a way to find your own center where these two worlds meet and feed each other.
Tom C. McGee, Jr.
Musings about mystery, art and spirituality.