Friday, June 9, 2017

"You're Fired!" Thank Goodness!

"Huntley" one of my early pet portraits
If  you've ever been through this ordeal, you know that being fired from a job can be a humiliating and demoralizing experience. But, sometimes it turns out to be the best thing that could have happened to you. 

Right out of art school I got a job with a billboard company as a keyliner. As it turned out the job entailed more than that. My boss also gave me billboard design jobs to do along with the keylines for billboards. Keylines are boards that contain the type and artwork that are used by the painters when sizing up the designs onto huge billboard panels to be painted. Everything has to be accurate and precise because any tiny mistake on the keyline is magnified many times on the huge billboard panels. 

Designing and doing the layouts is much more exciting and rewarding. We were given a few guidelines, like the text to be included and the images wanted and then it was up to us to arrange everything in an eye catching design. A billboard has three seconds to grab the attention of drivers passing by. We used a type setting machine for the type and created color layouts of the designs using markers, just as I had been taught in art school. I loved working with markers.

There were only three of us in the art department in a tiny upstairs studio at Dingeman Advertising in Traverse City. We listened to NPR on the radio a lot, and I particularly remember one day listening to a reading of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" as we worked. It was one of those mesmerizing magic moments that you never forget. 

It came as a shock, then, when my boss's boss instructed her to fire me for being too slow. It wasn't that it wasn't deserved and that I hadn't been warned, but it was still a shock. 

It took me maybe half a day to get over the shock and to embrace a new way forward. Being fired gave me the freedom to do freelance design work which quickly broadened into a pet portrait business. 

When I returned to riding after a thirty year absence and bought a horse, pet portraits expanded into horse portraits. It wasn't long before I was creating equine fine art too, going to horse shows and horse expos with my booth and entering juried art shows. The rest is history, as they say. 

After several years of doing freelance design work, I realized it wasn't where my heart was nor where I was most skilled. I gave it up and concentrated on using my graphic design skills to design my  own marketing materials and a website for the fine art business. 
"Lavender Light" a college art still life

If I hadn't been fired all those years ago, all of this might not have happened, or at least it would have been delayed for who knows how long. So, today I am grateful for being let go from a job that I wasn't suited for in the first place. Today I celebrate my long career as a fine artist and occasional illustrator. 

Today I am fulfilled.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Stepping Stone Art #2; "Spring Lamb" painting

"Spring Lamb" 8x10 oil painting on linen canvas panel

I guess by now it's no secret that I've been in a bit of a creative slump for some time now. There is no need to dredge up the reasons for said slump; something akin to airing one's dirty laundry in public; so we'll just proceed as if there hasn't been one. 

This little painting was recently completed and is now in an art show at a local restaurant. I started it several years ago as just a quick study, worked on it a little last Fall, but then holiday duties took precedence and it was set aside - again. After that came end of year business tasks and then tax season which left the little painting once again languishing on the studio wall.

Several weeks ago I was asked to donate art to an art show benefit event for the animal rescue from which we adopted our dogs two years ago. I jumped at the chance and immediately thought of the lamb painting which was sure to be an appealing image that would hopefully earn some much-needed funds for the rescue. Down from the wall came the painting and onto the easel it went. 

Where I started from to finish the painting
Now, many artists will tell you that most paintings have their difficult moments during creation when nothing seems to be working and the artist considers junking the whole project. Being an artist is not all Fun and Games as the general public seems to think. But once in a while a painting almost paints itself. The studio is in harmonious abandon, and there is much joy in the heart of the artist. 

Such was the case with this little painting. The lamb was partly painted already so I proceeded  to finish it while making a few corrections as I went. Even the corrections went smoothly. I didn't have to wipe out and redo any troublesome areas. 

All the while I had no idea how I was going to finish the background. Should I leave it as an unfinished toned area or should I try for a full landscape? Up until the very minute I started on the background I wasn't sure what to do. Taking a risk, I decided to try for a full background and see how it went. After all, I could wipe it out if it didn't work. 

Wonder of wonders, the background practically painted itself! At every moment it told me what it needed, and when it was done the result was very pleasing and complementary to the lamb. Over all, I am very pleased with this painting, the first one I've finished in a very long time. 
Close up of the lamb

I think my creative block has finally broken, and I'm ready to move forward once again. Perhaps that polar bear I started last year? That should be a challenge!