I've been in Taipei for a month now. I arrived without art supplies, reasoning that part of the art experience here would be finding inspiration and materials in my new city. Early on I discovered a modest selection of art supplies at a fancy bookstore chain and I nabbed up some watercolor pencils and paper. I hammered out a small series of abstract landscapes. But I didn't feel like the watercolor pencils alone were a fit for me. So off trekking I went, to find a real, bonafide art store. I had been told art stores abound near the Guting subway station, so I began my search there. And it wasn't long before I stumbled upon my first real art store in Taipei. It was cramped and stocked to the gills with every wonderful thing an artist could want. In addition to all the standard art fare was loads of inspiration. There is something magical and marvelous about art stores. The possibilities, the tubes of paint, the various sized and shaped brushes, all call to me with their own siren's song. An art store is a place I can lose myself, relishing the inspiration and endless creativity that is stoked in me. It is a place where I feel at home, even in a foreign land, despite any language barrier. I restrained my purchase to three brushes, gouache paint (a new media for me!) and some nice paper, so that I would have plentiful reasons to return to browse and buy inks and other supplies. It is a field trip I plan to make often.
It happened, as I knew it would. I hit the wall, slammed into head on. I've been living in Taipei, Taiwan for only ten days now, but apparently that is enough time to push me to my outermost edges and collapse into a state of despair. You see, I came here with some very basic Chinese language skills, and the resolve to learn more. Much like when I moved to Mexico quite some time ago, everything that was once easy and mindless becomes laborious, nerve-wracking and puzzling. Simple things like speaking, reading, taking the garbage out, shopping for groceries, ordering food in a restaurant, using appliances, every little thing you can think of gets converted into a monumental task overnight. I know this from experience, and there is just no way around it. It is the price I am willing to pay for a cultural and language immersion experience. But it doesn't cushion the impact when I hit that wall.
So I took the day off today. Slept in, lounged around, and didn't venture out into the world even once. Didn't try speaking Chinese, didn't try to procure food (yes I'm starving!), didn't even try to study. Feeling like my situation was dismal and wondering if it was even remediable, I turned to art. Art has always been there for me to pick me up and dust me off. I started working with the watercolor pencils I had purchased last week. I jumped in and without thinking and started making marks and movements. Next thing I knew I was in the zone! Hours later, when I stopped and reviewed my work, I realized I had created the beginning of a series of abstract urban landscapes.
I'm currently and temporarily living in Taipei, Taiwan growing my Mandarin Chinese language skills. This experience is sparking new ways of seeing the world, as any time spent living in another country and learning a new language does. I am particularly drawn to the art of Chinese calligraphy, with its varied styles fusing art and language. The abstract pictographs have for millennia been the visual representations of concepts in the world's oldest living language. I look forward to the unfolding of new directions in my painting as a result of this experience. I never know what will emerge. Art, like life, is a wondrous adventure!
Thanks to everyone who attended the First Friday Santa Cruz reception on December 7th, and a special thanks to Dave Kumec and the staff at Mission Hill Creamery for hosting the event. This was my first First Friday, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was a fantastic way to gather and celebrate art before heading to Taiwan for a couple of months. The paintings will be on exhibit until the end of this year. More photos of the event to come!
In 2011 I began to exhibit my artwork in my home studio, turning the space into a gallery for the evening and hosting my own art shows. In the beginning, this was a way for me to "come out" as an artist to my friends and family. I didn't know anything about approaching galleries or exhibition spaces to show my work, so I decided to do my own thing. It was a ton of work, but I enjoyed every minute and people always stepped up to help. So from the first event, I began a gratitude ritual.
It seems that at each show there has been at least one key person who contributes their assistance in some way that is invaluable. Perhaps because they are a fundamental part of the event, or because they want to support me, or they really must own a piece of my work, these individuals have always come forward as collectors with money in hand to purchase their favorite artwork. It is only after they have proven this level of commitment to a piece I then gift it to them. In every case there is a lot of insistence on their part to pay. But in the end I convince them that by accepting my gift, they are giving me something much greater than money by allowing me to express my wholehearted gratitude to them for being instrumental in the fruition of my dream.
Please understand, I don't encourage artists to discount their prices or give away their art. In part because I believe it undermines the value of one's work. I also believe that a person's relationship to a particular piece of art is intimate, and foisting an undesired artwork on someone actually burdens them. Now they have this piece they perhaps feel obligated to display but aren't crazy about. Instead of a symbol of gratitude, it becomes an awkward reminder that their aesthetic taste was imposed upon by their artist friend. Just because they say they like it or it is their favorite piece in the collection, does not mean they want to own it. Unless, of course, they are willing to pony up the money for it.
My friend Sam, pictured above, has been helping me learn Mandarin since last June. He has also worked with me to name all but one of the paintings in the 我畫畫 Collection. I credit the titles to his deep understanding of the language, as well as his poetic and artistic sensibilities. Because of our collaboration, I was able to unite my love of art with my love of language learning. When he approached me about purchasing the painting 右, I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to gift it to him. Thank you, Sam!
As an artist, it's pretty exciting when someone takes the time to comment on my art. Sometimes it's in person, or a few handwritten words in an event guestbook, or on my Facebook page. Most of the time people stay silent if they dislike something, and the great majority of feedback is positive. That feels nice, but doesn't represent the entirety of viewers' reactions. But once in a while, I get a negative comment, such as "It's easy to do that, what's the art in that?" And after the initial sting subsides (it lasts less than a minute), I celebrate. The person who forms a negative opinion and takes the time and effort to share it represents a milestone in one's art career. It's not every day that you capture someone's attention with your art. Especially when the piece evokes such a strong reaction of disdain that the person feels compelled to share their experience of it with you. Throughout history great artists have been criticized by their contemporaries, art critics, and the public. An artist's work cannot be pleasing to all people, all the time. It may seduce, or fall flat, or even repulse. But when there is a reaction of any kind, the art is speaking and it is alive. Celebrate criticism. Thank the person for their thoughts. They may not feel as "nice" as the kind words, but whenever there is discussion about your work, it is an asset to your art career.
I began to exhibit my artwork in my home studio in 2011, turning the space into a gallery for the evening and hosting art shows. After a number of successful events, I felt compelled to open the space to other artists and exhibit their artwork. Thus, I have created Art Revór. An alternative space to bring together artists and art enthusiasts to celebrate art in a friendly, social atmosphere. At Art Revór events you can meet the artists, browse the gallery walls, indulge in light refreshments, and shop for art. I personally manage and curate all Art Revór events. If you are an artist and would like your artwork to be considered for a future art show, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to be notified of future Art Revór events, you can sign up on the mailing list here.
Did you miss my event on September 28th? Check out what blogger Eric Michael at the SCAB: Santa Cruz Arts Blog writes about Art Show: 我畫畫.
Art is a universal language. It is expression without words, it is the language of color, texture, and form. In addition to expressing myself through painting, I'm an aspiring polyglot. I love learning languages. Speaking multiple languages offers access to different world views and cultures. More languages create more depth and range in my ability to perceive and express myself. There are words for concepts in other languages that do not exist in my native tongue. I enjoy accessing expanded thinking and emoting. Multiple languages beget more freedom and allow me wider breadth of expression. In addition to my native English I am also fluent in Spanish and can get by in Italian. I'm now learning Mandarin, hence the inspiration to title my new series of paintings 我畫畫. Chinese characters are not phonetic, but rather they are depictions of concepts. Over time the characters have become abstract, but they are rooted in pictorial representations. This new series will be exhibited Friday, September 28th from 5:00-8:00pm at my downtown home studio.
Did you know that art has a profound impact on your biochemistry? Viewing art powerfully alters your state of mind, mood, and feelings. Maybe you have experienced this before? You see a particular artwork and feel that it "speaks" to you. Your feelings are stirred up, or perhaps the mind steadies and new thoughts emerge. Brain scans reveal that people experience an immediate increase in blood flow in the brain when looking at art. Specifically, "reward circuits" of the brain are activated, even if the viewers lack art expertise. Simply looking at art creates a physiological pleasure response similar to being in love. Apparently, even if viewers don't perceive a dramatic effect, art stimulates brain activity and promotes a deep sense of well being. Rad!