On a grand scale, the paintings become enveloping; overwhelming in a wholly different sense; that impression of a vast universe with secrets and intricacies just waiting for discovery.
I'm excited to finally bring this series to view at the Urban Ecology Center in the Menomonee Valley later this winter (more info coming), and hope to continue the project and hopefully find that open wall where I'll finally be able to execute a large scale version.
Keep an eye out for more info on the show, check out the shop as I continue adding the artwork as it comes to life, and reach out with any interest in a painting or mural of your own!
I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don't have one, then you are never disappointed.
- Peter Lefleur.
Taking the advice of a fictional character whose main feature was the inability to run a profitable business is questionable, but the point stands.
I've been feeling a bit apathetic toward some art, illustration and freelance. When the point was to enjoy the process of creation and maybe get a few virtual high-fives from friends, it was easy to succeed. One simply spends endless hours making art, design and illustrations without questioning the value or validity of such a practice and, whatever the result, you've won. You'll get the occasional bonus of a commission or sale, but you've already succeeded without that.
When you turn your attention more toward the business side, it becomes easy to fail. All of the sudden that drawing you thought would sell starts looking a bit lackluster as it sits on the shelf without any orders, that painting you thought was meaningful seems a bit more self-indulgent, and that ever-growing pile of art (aka inventory or storage) becomes less promising and more evocative of a delusional hoarding situation than a valuable asset worth keeping.
On one hand, I know I can't stop making art...on the other I question the ultimate value if the eventuality is it sitting in a storage unit for eternity. I've always felt that art is a somewhat self-indulgent practice. You have to believe you have something valuable to put on canvas, otherwise why would you take the time, why would you think anyone would want it, and why would anyone want it if not? But when faced with realities that counter that belief, do you persevere or take heed? Do you ignore superficial goals and acknowledge there's a deeper value or do you address the failure head-on and make changes accordingly? And what would those changes even be?
If my passion was making concrete monoliths and had a backyard full of them, would it be advisable to continue using resources and space for objects that have no inherent value? If my passion was playing poker and I never won, would I keep entering tournaments? When it comes to the creative side of things, there's a value to the maker that is hard if not impossible to quantify, but does that value outweigh the perceived lack of value the rest of the world seems to give it? Should that matter?
Like I said, I know I won't stop making art...but I also don't want to ignore reality when it comes to measurable real-world goals. I suppose, whatever the answer, I'm just not entirely sure where addressing those realities leads and if that, in some ways, negates the other kinds of success one might achieve.
Oh the joys of being an artist...on to the next painting.
When I am trying to unwind I usually take the scale down a few notches, pull out a paper pad and markers and play around with color and composition. The size and media relieve some of the pressures that come with a larger surface (wanting it to be good, for instance) plus getting to complete a composition and cover a surface in 30 minutes rather than 6 hours is a lot of fun. Occasionally these smaller drawings will vaguely inspire a painting or, even rarer, get reproduced in large-scale, but I'm just not much of a planner when it comes to painting and that's really not the point.
One goal I have is focusing a bit more on showing off the smaller-scale side of the studio, as I've rarely shown any of the hundreds (if not thousands) of works on paper I've done over the years in between larger paintings. It's not that I didn't think they were worth it, I've just always been a bit more excited to show and make larger scale stuff. But as i've been drawing more and more lately, I'm rediscovering the passion for the smaller scale and there's something unique that comes with the immediacy of drawing.
Awake in the Shallows.
Acrylic and water on rough canvas.
There's a moment when emerging from a dream where reality and imagination mix. For a split second the real world interacts directly with your subconscious, but even in the dream-state one can usually determine that something is amiss. The dream begins to fall apart as something rather than everything grabs your attention.
Light the Way.
Acrylic on recycled canvas.
Sometimes you have to let art be your guide.
This painting was born by the one before it. I took the canvas for "Jugglers" off its stretcher bars and the backing canvas had this great abstract composition created from the last painting leaking through. Deep blues and greens covered the majority of the surface in these varied patches that looked more like worn siding than acrylic paint. small pops of yellow and red peaked through in the top portion like little balls of light. Sometimes the hardest part of moving forward with a painting is taking the first step in covering up a background you like...
"Light the Way" references the image ultimately created and the background that inspired the resulting composition. Sometimes you need to relinquish your power and allow an outside source to reveal the path before you.
I Can Do It All Without Help or Hustle.
Acrylic and ink on loose canvas.
Meant to be one in a series that never got beyond the first two paintings, although there's always a chance to bring it back, this painting and the series were about stubbornness and our inability to hand off responsibility, despite a full plate before us. Not stubbornness in a selfish way, but the type of stubbornness that leads you to take on more than you can chew. A stubbornness built from self-confidence, pride, ability, and the desire to accomplish and help rather than a distrust of others.
Sometimes we CAN do it all on our own and keeping things in-house is the easiest way to go. Sometimes a burden is too heavy and you have to admit that the load needs to be lessened. I Can Do It All Without Help or Hustle, along with its companion, were meant to display this blind stubbornness in an obvious and somewhat comical manner; here depicting a figure literally weighed down by their task, attempting to wade through the encroaching water. Any viewer or participant of this scene can easily recognize the figure is in need of help, or at the very least, should not be tasked with solving this problem on their own, but our figure silently floats by, somewhat controlling their flock but adding to the predicament with each passing wave.
We readily recognize the skill required when watching a juggler perform their talent, moving from 2 to 3 to 7 balls, introducing fragile, sharp or flaming objects, dazzling the audience as they defy injury or embarrassment by keeping their chosen objects aloft. Much less obvious, if not willfully ignored, is the skill required by each of us as we navigate our ever-changing landscape and hoist countless responsibilities onto our shoulders hour upon hour, day after day.
The danger may not be as immediate as a collection of knives flying overhead, but the consequences could be more severe. Juggling debts, relationships, work, schedules, family interests and personal goals, while not as life-threatening as a flying, flaming sword, certainly carry their potential for damage, both short and long-term. Despite this, each of us plods through our plight, many times graciously accepting new challenges while refusing offers of help. If our responsibilities were as obviously perilous as a juggler mid-performance, perhaps we’d give each other a little more space, allow ourselves a bit more forgiveness, and realize each interaction is infused with an unseen mountain of influence that each person is impacted by in unknowable ways.