Friday, July 26, 2013

One day perhaps...

It is 8:51 in the evening here in Edinburgh and the sunlight is illuminating the chimneys in the deep warm glow of impending night fall. The gulls are flying about and the pale blue sky is marked with lavender, grey and pink clouds stretching across. This is the last Friday night in July. I can't believe this month has come and gone so quickly.

I have 48 or so more days here in Edinburgh and I can't bear to think of it but I do all the time. I can't imagine leaving here or making myself get on a plane on September 12th but I do imagine it until tears come to my eyes and roll down my cheeks. It feels like home here.

The character of Mary Ann Singleton from Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City comes to mind when she arrives and decides after a week that she is not returning home to Cleveland from her vacation to San Francisco. I wish it could be that easy for me to move here. I spent 4 months here last year and 6 months here this year and have very much settled into the city's rhythm and clamor. I have a small set of lovely friend here now too. It really does feel like home. There is still so much to discover. I would love to relax even more into my place here. One day perhaps...

Worries, nostalgia, and government red tape aside, I know it is most important to live in the now and take each moment as it comes and that I still have quite a few Edinburgh moments in my future. I am so grateful for this time here. I will never not be grateful for this time in my life.

In other news Steven Heaton, the curator and director of Cross Street Arts in England came up and returned our work to us on Wednesday and we showed him as much of the city as we could in less than a day with his returning to England on Thursday. It was a lovely visit full of art, a ramble through Dean village along the Water of Leith, curry, beer, a cute breakfast place, the royal mile and even more art before he caught the train back. I am grateful for all the support my work was given by Cross Street Arts and the opportunities there. He brought us a copy of a delightful spread in the Wigan Evening Post about the exhibition. It was a great visit and it is good to have the work back under my wing as I begin to create more pieces in the series beginning next week.

Besides the entertaining and tourist activities, I also relaunched my Etsy shop on Monday. You can visit my new and improved shop here. Please consider buying something for yourself or a friend. My small Etsy items keep me going. When a small work on paper sells from my shop it is always like getting a high five, a hug or more honestly, it is like paying a bill or buying my meals for the day. I am grateful for the recent spate of sales, keep them coming!

Next week the serious work returns but I have some fun things planned as well. Never give up. Live the life you are here to live... and remember to keep fighting.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Life is beautiful

Hello Dear Readers,

It's been a good week of taking care of lots of little things and big things. A strange week that I can't quite put my finger on. Really all I am thinking about right now is the adventure I took myself on this morning. I had been wanting to go to the beach again for quite awhile but hadn't quite gotten around to it but today I did. I left the house just before 10am and walked to catch a bus for a solo seaside adventure.

This is the first time I have ever been to a beach alone. It was wonderful. After I returned to the flat I wrote a dear friend that my beach excursion "felt like freedom and peace and inspiration and endless possibilities..."

I have had so many little excursions and adventures since I have been here and I am grateful for each and every one of them and I always make note of them as to not forget. I'll tell you about art stuff again next week.

Life is beautiful and dreams do come true.

She walked through rows of houses and side streets and as the sky opened up to the beach and to the sea beyond, she knew that everything was possible.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Out on a limb...

New in my Etsy shop

I could just catch you up on my week as usual but I feel I have something more to say. I will say I have had a productive week in the studio making progress on the final 12 patron rewards paintings for some of the sponsors of my project. I hope to finish them up this weekend or early next week. I also launched a new limited edition print in my Etsy shop. Okay now for the serious stuff...

Today while I was working in my studio with my headphones turned to loud, I noticed my brush strokes were getting looser and perhaps even restless. A voice in my head said, "who is my advocate?" As a professional artist, who is my advocate as I walk this path?

As most art students know it is not your institution, most schools teach art and theory but not how to get into a gallery or make a living. It is almost as if it is top secret and the professors are either too exhausted from teaching as they would really rather be painting full time or they are keeping the strange magic that is navigating the gallery system a secret because ultimately you are their competition.

I must confess I was very lucky and I got everything I asked for from the University of Oregon and more specifically from my mentor Ron Graff but as far as the business end of things, I learned it on my own through trial and error and reading lots of books on the subject.

Back to the question, as an artist who is my advocate? If not your institution, it's probably not your gallery either (if you are lucky enough to get representation through a reputable one). Galleries can be amazing and open doors and gain you and your work exposure and if the relationship is a healthy one you can hope to feel a partnership about your work. A gallery might give you a show, promote your work and garner more money for your work than you could have hoped for on your own. If you are unlucky, you might find yourself in a gallery with questionable motives, they may forget to tell you a painting sold, pay you late or not at all and perhaps even play games with your head all while taking 50% of your sales.

Are my patrons my advocates? I would like to think so and if you have a good relationship with a reputable gallery they will usually give you the names of your patrons so you can thank them personally and expand on the relationship your work has forged and keep them interested in your work and career. Many galleries don't really want you to know your patron because they don't want to be cut out of any sales. Why can't we all just get along? Why does art have to be this way? I am lucky that I have been able to have such contact with my patrons over the years but from what I hear from my peers mine is a unique experience.

Am I my best advocate? Probably. No one can sell my work better than me. I know the place where the work comes from intimately and I can articulate this to strangers and regulars quite well. However, society has been taught to look for art in galleries and museums and that artists are only as good as the galleries and museums they are found in and most of the public doesn't know about the gallery/artist relationship or the 50/50 split. They just wonder why the work costs so much and why they feel uncomfortable or under dressed or out classed when they go into certain galleries. We seem to be getting nowhere fast.

Is the Internet my advocate? In the feel good department and relationship building sense it probably is. I love being able to have direct and regular communications with my friends and patrons of my art. I like to share with them who I am, what I believe and what I am doing and seeing and where the inspiration is coming from. Social media and blogs seem to be an effective way to do this and sometimes it also yields money to pay the bills.

What am I trying to say with all of this? I am saying that I have been at this art making thing for seventeen years. I have been out of school for fourteen of those. I am now 41 years old and my serious practice of art making has been with me most of my adult life. I am considered a successful artist by many and for this I am grateful and I would agree. I have been in some 27 featured and solo exhibitions and 40 some group shows and I have been represented by 12 galleries over the years. I have sold hundreds of paintings all over the country and world and do not have a back log of inventory hiding in a painting shame closet. All my paintings live with people eventually and they live all over the world in private and corporate collections. This is what every artist wants; to work, to be appreciated and to be collected.

If you add to all of that my recent fortune of raising funds to visit Scotland for six months and paint a new body of work and have a studio here, you would think all my dreams have come true and you would be right, they have. I am living the dream as they say, however I am not making any money. I rely on the kindness of others for so much. I live with so many things that are up in the air all the time, there is no security, no savings and no safety net. Last year's net income after expenses was what most people make in a month. Who is my advocate? When things got dire, I did the "right thing" and I got a part time cubicle job. I was beyond miserable but I couldn't complain because I know that many people are miserable in their jobs and they just stick it out and do the best they can. Here is the thing, I have a job that I give 100% to every day and I work evenings and weekends and it is a job I can't quit. I think telling an artist to get another job is a bit like telling a depressed person to cheer up.

I want to live in a society that understands and values my passion and pays me a living wage for it. I want artists to get real world business training at the institutions they attend. I want galleries and artists to coincide peacefully with trust and the common goal of the love of art and the relationships it creates to be the main principle that guides them. I want to be able to have a bad day at the office without feeling like some spoiled child. I want my patrons to know that I am grateful for them and that they are feeding me, clothing me, buying me more materials and inspiring me. I never take my patrons for granted, I may thank them too much at times but the gratitude is overwhelming and true. They have been the closest thing to advocates. I have some of the best patrons in the world but I also know that the same 100 people can't sustain me forever.

I see so many variations of my life and my work before me and since we don't leave in a barter and trade world just yet, many of these variations will require money that I don't yet have. I have to believe I will figure it out and stay on the path and over time more advocates will come out of the woodwork and some how I will manage another year of being an artist.

Thank you for being along for the ride and for your support along the way.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Secrets revealed in mountains and fields.

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It was a week of creating, making, doing and sightseeing; a week of being productive, inspired and very busy. So much happened that it is hard to focus on what to write about. So, I think I will have to tackle it creatively.

Monday's visit to the Highlands was amazing and really that word is too quaint to describe it. The mountains told me secrets and let me see the art that will be in my future without even trying. The mountains showed me the work and presented it plainly as something that could be accomplished with ease and I believe them. From a glass windowed bus I listened as they spoke and my camera did it's best to capture a 10th of their magic.

megan chapman 2013 all rights reserved

On Wednesday I was given another gift, a journey out to the rural countryside. Taking the train from the city through the green swaying fields on one side and with a view of the sea on the other I noticed my breathing changed. We were off to visit a family home of a fellow artist, filled with a distinct style yet also buzzing with the chaos of children. It was a great escape. We gathered around a big wooden table as biscuits, toast, jam, butter, cheese and a big pot of tea all was laid out in front of us all. I love sitting around a table.

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There was talk of art, life, love, loss, new adventures and broken washing machines. Children stuffing their faces with ice cream and jaffa cakes, telling me "I like your accent." My memory of the day is a swirl of the following: the perfect light, flowing fields, a new garden stocked with sprouting veggies, flowers, big skies, clean air, white laundry on the line blowing in the wind. All of this creating a beautiful picture of rustic bliss in the Scottish Countryside. Wild and free yet with it's own distinct brand of domesticity; I could have stayed there forever.

We explored ruined barns with perfect shafts of light coming in through the ceilings, we walked through the fields with the high grass threatening to swallow me up until we relented and lay down watching the clouds and talking. After a while it was back to the house for more tea and then later to the studio, a perfect room filled with projects and inspiration. A house that could be in the pages of a home fashion magazine but this one's beauty hard earned and more real, filled with a comfortable elegance. There was an exchange of art, more photographs taken and a mad dash to the train and then back through the fields and into the city.

Being an artist is a mixed bag, rich with experiences and sadly little money. When I am troubled by this, I like to focus on all the brilliant artists I know. I think of their work, their lives and how we all come together to be stronger than ourselves. I remind myself that I am rich in dreams and beauty. I am rich in my fellow artist's genius and in how we speak a language together that doesn't need explaining. This is the real currency of a life less ordinary and I am grateful.

Thank you Louise Blamire for a wonderful day out. Please check out this extremely talented artist's website and facebook page.

megan chapman 2013 all rights reserved