I was asked to help with the holiday tradition of “getting the Tree” by two very dear friends of mine. Both reside in restored Connecticut properties. One is a good ol’ barn and the other is a circa 1700 cider mill.
Walking through the threshold of the cocoon-like barn, Scotty beams you to a deep-forest campsite in Montana. It’s mood changing. Complete decompression. The first step in forces your diaphragm to expand and contract and your shoulders drop. You don’t want to leave. You almost can’t.
The Mill seduces you. As you descend down the tree-lined driveway, your searching eyes find evidence of a nestled rooftop within a chiseled stone wall. A moat of playful plant life greets you with a wave of country garden scents of lavender and roses. America’s board room, the kitchen, where laughter sometimes meets tears is already at second base. Soft lighting mysteriously glows to balance the cool marble tops with the wide-planked floors. You’re naturally drawn around third to enter the living area by a small opening pulling you in to meet low hanging, dark hand-planed beams lit by a soft green hue projected from an arena of windows.
Now, both love gardening and cooking, are green-minded organic and chat up an auctioneer paced wild prattle. Demographically, pigeonholed…..but…..
Hunting ground: Large brush pile.
Species: Needleless, gnarly, bleached 8’ aged cedar.
Lighting: Trunk wrapped multi-color with neon white shell.
Location: Outside-fire pit.
Hunting ground: “Destination” tree farm.
Species: White Pine-postcard.
Lighting: Soft white.
Décor: Popcorn/cranberry string, local hand-crafted ornaments.
Location: Inside, left field.
Every time I ask these same three questions (below-to more than 50 artists), I’m reminded of one of my personal, constitutional doctrines of life…know your audience. And as seemingly predictable the answer to the question of “your first art piece sale” would be, there is a continued diversity of answers ranging from “I practically had a f#c&ing heart attack” to “I never thought about my first sale”.
A marketing strategist might feel comfortable putting an “artist” in a box…a tight niche. But we’re all as unique as our thumbprint.
Check out these thumbprints….
Renee Prisble, Chicago, IL
When did you first discover your creative talents? My creative talents were never discovered, they’ve been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories from before I began “real” school was an art class dilemma. I’d made a pinch pot at workshop at our local art center and I was given the opportunity to fire it if I wanted. I remember clutching the four quarters my mom gave me to pay for this extra step as I listened to the instructor explain to me the possible risks of the object exploding in the kiln. The funny thing about this story is that I don’t remember what I decided. I was fortunate that my mom was also an artist and she very much spoiled me with extra courses and all the supplies I could ever desire.
For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold. Selling work hasn’t been a big part of my practice since much of my work has been installation based. I once sold a piece of jewelry I designed, cast, formed and fabricated for $300. I immediately regretted it. But for the most part I enjoy selling work now because I like that it has a life of its own and that someone likes it enough to exchange money for it. I make so much work now, that the sentimentality of that first sale doesn’t occur anymore.
Who are your favorite artists? My favorite artists are Janine Antoine, Doris Salcedo, Anthony Gormley, Ernst Haeckel, Lucy Lewis, to name a few from the top of my head.
Artist: Renee Prisble
Title: Thunder Cell Pods
Dimensions: 6” Diameter
Blanche Serban, Storrs, CT
When did you first discover your creative talents? Being creative is part of being human. We are all creative, at any age. We are creative in what we make with our hands and with our minds. But we are also creative in the way we look at the world, in the way we perceive and assemble and “bend” in our mind the reality around us. We are creative in the way we relate and communicate with one another. Artists are people who value creativity to a high degree. As my daughter keenly noticed: “We always improvise.” It is a great joy to try new things, to invent new things for oneself, to push this unbelievable body that can think, feel, sense, imagine to get a new experience of this reality. I guess I never discovered my creative talents – they have always been with me, just as they are with all people. I take great pleasure in making art, I can spend all my hours working, and it feels like a party.
For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold. I have never thought about my first sale. Let me see. My father was my first client. It was a Sunday afternoon, in Bucharest, Romania. I was about 10-years old and very opinionated. I was drawing as I often did, and my father stopped to watch me. He said that I should draw something more classical, like the subject of an oil hanging on the wall across from me. I challenged him. “Do you think that painting is so good?”. It showed a blue lake where a woman was washing linens. In the background was a village spread under fall trees. “Can you do it?” he asked me. So, I drew the image in pencil. My father was very pleased, and he bought it from me for the equivalent of $100. I remember seeing the money in a drawer of my table for a long time. Then I sold drawings and paintings to friends of my friends while I was in school. Each painting that I sell acts like a marketing agent, because so many contacts of the new owner see the work. And the more people see the work, the better. The more paintings I sell, the more I paint, and this works great for me. Of course, I do have some paintings that I will not sell, like the cityscape that I painted after my first child was born. I was very busy with the baby and very tired, and I worked at this canvas every day for three months to complete it. I remember how much I enjoyed painting it, even though some days I had only a couple of minutes free to paint.
Who are your favorite artists? I love Vermeer‘s paintings. They are like polished gems, perfect worlds. If you look at them this way, you might notice that some do not match – and it is hard not to wonder if there are still some fake Vermeer’s hanging in museums… I love Rembrandt’s portraits, he is a magician. Look closely and the brushwork is simple, ascetic, spontaneous. Step back and it comes alive. I love Matisse for his color and craft. I enjoy Gerhard Richter‘s technique and breath, and Wolf Kahn‘s colors. I enjoy children’s art … I obsess with Marc Mellits‘ music, and contemporary Japanese pottery…There is no way to make a good list of favorite artists… There are many artists whom I admire, and they are unknowingly my teachers.
Artist: Blanche Serban
Title: Place de la Marie, Aix-en-Provence
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 30x24x1.5 inches
Jan Geoghegan, Tolland, CT
When did you first discover your creative talents? “Artistic talent” is hard to define so I can’t know if I have it any more or less than anyone else does. I do know that whether I have “it” or not, I have a persistent need to create. When people remark that I am talented, they usually mean it as a sincere compliment.. but it could also be a polite way to avoid saying anything negative about my artwork. It’s not something I dwell on.
For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold. When I began painting in my 30’s, I sold most of what I produced and felt a personal need to break even with the cost of art supplies and framing. I painted in oils and watercolor; house portraits, landscapes and local scenes. When I began experimenting, my work changed and appealed less to the general public as it garnered recognition via juried shows and gallery representation. My work restoring oil paintings helped to balance the books. I recall showing one of my newer paintings to my father. He commented gently,”You used to paint so well, dear.” So although I have always been encouraged and appreciative of sales, it’s especiallgratifying when I sell my recent work.
Who are your favorite artists? Paul Klee is among the artists who hold my interest as well as Mark Rothko, Joseph Cornell and Mary Cassatt. But closer to home, I am influenced by my artistic peers who, for the most part are, like me,”little fishes in a big pond.” I look to the artwork of contemporary encaustic artists, not for imagery, but in order to become more familiar with the endless ways in which the medium can be used. My studio is a place for discovery…challenging, frustrating and exhilarating!
Artist: Jan Geoghegan
Title: Studio Time Line
Medium: Encaustic Mixed Media
Dimensions: 7 x 27 inches