Monday, April 2, 2007

Left Ear or Right?

Tilting, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

Well, after the pride I expressed in my last post about how well things are going lately (and thanks so much to all of you who were so pleased for me about all of that), I was brought back down to earth this weekend. In a very gentle manner, at least.

Saturday morning I loaded up my car with 19 paintings and my daughter and began the five hour drive to Cape Cod to deliver work to the Salt Meadow Gallery there, and then a second delivery to The Harrison Gallery on Sunday on the way back home. Generally, if it's possible, I take one of the kids with me on my short trips, alternating each time. Thankfully, because this was a lot of driving, it was my quieter daughter's turn to come with. Now of course, I dearly love my youngest, but she NEVER stops talking and I confess to some irritation with that, most especially in the car. So this particular trip was rather quiet and harmonious. We listened to music, worked on some crossword puzzles (she did the reading and writing and um, got most of the answers), and we stopped and did some shopping at the mall in Albany on the way back on Sunday.

Anyway, we got to the gallery in Cape Cod on Saturday afternoon, no thanks to the seemingly incorrect mapquest directions and I spent some time visiting with Glenn, the owner. I had a solo show there last summer (read about it here) and will have another one this July. He has sold A LOT of my work over the last few years, however I have also given him many pieces and so we had finally agreed that I should take some work back this time. Of course this makes sense (I am the one who offered to take some back, conscious of possible storage space issues) and he had 12 paintings ready for me. My practical mind is fine with taking back work from a gallery that shows it, and I generally make the suggestion if it seems that sales have slowed or if it's been awhile since they have received new work. But I admit to still feeling a bit demoralized when a stack of paintings return to my studio.

So I try to look at it like this: it's a good reality check to learn, once again, that not everything I do is so fab that it immediately flies out the gallery door. I think my work really suffers when I fall into thinking how great I am. Not much to strive for when I start doing that, you know? So these reality breaks are good and will help me in the long run I think.

Now if that urge to cut off my ear would just go away. Heh.

PS. I should add here that personally, I do think that most of the returned paintings are pretty dang nice, which only proves how subjective art can be. A piece that I am proud of doesn't always translate to one that touches someone else. Or perhaps for a myriad of reasons and circumstances the painting doesn't find the person for whom it is meant for. These are things to remember too, especially when the ear cutting thing flares up.


Deb Lacativa said...

Have you ever considered repainting returnees?

I used to haul my two teen boys six hours to FL to see their Dad every weekend. We discovered books on CD.

It takes a little homework to get a crowdpleaser but there were times when we pulled into the parking lot and sat five minutes to finish a chapter!

Chris Rywalt said...

Just don't fall into the trap, Tracy -- which I suspect is easy for you -- of giving yourself lower grades than you deserve just so you have somewhere to go. That happened with our son when he was in first grade; his first report card wasn't as stellar as we'd hoped, but then the teacher admitted that she'd deliberately given him lower grades so he'd have an upward curve going into the next report card.

This struck me as enormously stupid. You should know the true value of your work, even if it seems like it'll leave you nothing to strive for. There's always something just out of reach, and unless you find something inside you that wants it, nothing outside of you will get you there.

Casey Klahn said...

I'll be talking about self-criticism (positive, mostly) this month.
Some artists have felt the freedom to destroy their works that they don't like (better than an ear, but I hope like crazy that you don't do this - I love your work too much!). It's just a fact that some do.
Degas once said that he wished he had enough money to buy back all of the paintings that he had sold. Wrong, Edgar. So wrong.
I am glad that you know the give and take that goes with gallery life. For my own part, I have taken out work and replaced it, just to keep the public's view fresh. Remember that the gallery has a job to do, here, too. I am over-good at communication with my gallerists (when I have them :)
Also, are you ready to add another gallery? Or other venue that may pop up? Isn't it good to have a body of work ready to hang?
Just some random thoughts.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Deb, The ones that I consider to be really bad, I put into the sand down pile, but there aren't too many of those that get so far as to go to a gallery. If they are really good they get sent out to another gallery or show and others stay put to be sold at the occasional studio clearance sale or donated to an auction.

Once a painting is finished I rarely go back to it.

My kids like books on tape but I have problems with them: a. I can't follow the story very well. I am a visual person and need the words in front of me and b. I get sleepy which would be bad:)

That's a good point Chris, and I have written about a hundred responses to your comment but I keep deleting. I have to think about it a bit more and figure out how to explain how I can feel value my work, which I do, and yet be critical about it all at the same time. Maybe that's a whole new post.

I think a teacher giving lower grades to your son for those reasons is awful and I'd be having a total hissy fit in the principal's office over that!

Casey, the returned work will be put to good use and in some ways will really lighten my workload leading up to a solo show that I have in May. So it's good. And I agree, it's good to exchange art for the gallery's sake, which is definitely my big concern here. It's just still a drag to get work back, no matter what ends up happening.

I don't destroy work that I think is good, but I do have a sand down pile and see my response to Deb concerning what I may do with other returns.

gary rith said...

sensitive artistic soul, I hear ya

Chris Rywalt said...

Tracy sez:
I have to think about it a bit more and figure out how to explain how I can feel value my work, which I do, and yet be critical about it all at the same time.

It's good to be critical. I just wanted to warn you away from being too critical. You know? I mean, Stephanie -- for example -- is unlikely, I think, to become so critical of her own work that she becomes paralyzed. I feel that you and I, though, can slip into that. More me these days. I used to be confident, but....

Anyway, I just wanted to remind you. It may not mean much now, but pull this note out on the darker days and maybe it'll help a bit.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Gary, sometimes sensitive, sometimes not though, thank goodness or I wouldn't be able to get through the day sometimes!

Chris, I actually think that confidence is more paralyzing to me than being down about my work. When I am feeling critical, I have a urge (which is newly found, I might add) to improve and work harder. When I am feeling like the best painter ever, I can easily become complacent and not do everything that I can to make a painting work. This is one of the problems I have in getting back to work after a successful show. I think I am so great!:)

jcitybone said...

We looked at your paintings at the Enderlin the week before, and he loved them all. I picked the one I liked the best (though it was a hard decision!) We haven't met, but we may have been in the same room. We go to the openings at the Enderlin when we are in town--our house is right up the street. We will definitely say hi at your show in May.
First really took notice of your paintings after friends of ours bought "Spirit in the Sky" from the Enderlin (another birthday gift) It appears that your paintings and birthdays go really well together!

Steppen Wolf said...

Is that a winter day or just overcast in summer? The fact that these paintings leave a lot to interpretations fascinates me... Or is it Fall judging by the color of the leaves in the background?

Tracy Helgeson said...

I look forward to meeting you at the meeting Brian!

Sunil, I am going to be really coy here and tell you that the time of year is whatever you think it is:) I am glad that there can be different interpretations to my work, since to me they seem so simple (minded).

I could tell you that the reference photo was taken recently on an overcast spring day though!