I Want to Be An Artist When I Grow Up . . .

yardwork I said that to Mark this morning before he left for the gallery.

He gave me one of “those” looks, but I think he really does know what I mean by that.

I have not been “being an artist” because I have been mostly “being” a business woman and teacher of art. My focus has been on your art, not mine. That’s a weird thing, but it’s true.

During this time of soul searching, I am also searching other people’s blogs, and finding that many of the most widely followed artist’s blogs concentrate on the artist’s own work, and story, and progress and process.

I am not talking about craft and DIY blogs here – they are full of teaching, and they are directed at hobby artists for the most part.

I am talking about the blogs written by practicing artists who are creating and showing and selling their artwork.

That term “practicing” artist is one that I will want to explore sometime soon. It’s a very interesting term when you think about it.

I honestly don’t think that I would be any less interesting of a blogger if I talked about my own story. In fact, statistics show that my tutorial posts get fewer comments than the ones that are about “story”.

There are two things that get said to me all the time.

One is a question: Where do you get your ideas?

The other is a statement: I wish I could follow you around for a day to see how you do what you do.

And maybe that is what this blog should be about.

So, here’s my interesting story for today . . .

Something has happened to my art journaling process.

I have always embraced a couple of ideas about art journaling that play into this change.

My journals are “illustrated” journals based on drawing and watercolor.

I can take as long as it takes to finish a page. I have given myself permission to do that because it’s the only thing in my life these days that is not in a hurry. There is no hurry in my journals, and if I want something perfect, I will take the time to make it perfect.

To that end, I thank my iPad for its help. I ALWAYS shoot a reference photo, even when painting from life, because, by the time I finish the page, the subject will likely be changed or gone altogether – Orchids in the studio for example.

I recently ran into a new brand of watercolor (new to me), and I will share all about that in another post. I fell in love so hard that I went from owning 1 tube, to 33 tubes in one month.

And these watercolors used in the Stillman & Birn Beta and Zeta sketchbooks is something like heaven.

So, what I realized is that I have been creating some of my “real” art in my journals – instead of just preliminary studies.

This creates a big question – how do I sell them?

The originals are not going anywhere because they are in my journal and you would have to tear my arm off to get me to tear a page out.

I am going to have to sell reproductions of these paintings.

That’s ok.

I am a big fan of prints, actually. I think it allows art to be owned by people who can’t afford to own originals, and that’s a good thing.

But, in my opinion, the reproductions can’t be mass produced if they are going to hold their value as art. The artist must produce the reproduction and even sign the prints – the signature should not be printed.

Making a good reproduction is not an easy thing as those of you who have tried it know. You need archival ink and archival paper and you have to get that paper to go through the printer. And there is sizing and trimming and a bunch of other concerns.

But the end result is still a product of the artist’s hands and it’s worth the trouble.

My latest paintings are of strange neighborhoods.

I live in a strange neighborhood to begin with.

And I LOVE houses in art. Not the fancy detailed ones, but the ones that look like a grown-up version of the ones we drew in first grade.

European artists depict houses that have a mystery to them, and I love that. It keeps the houses from being too “cute”. I have been fighting my “cute” gene all my life.

In the ’80s, I was registered with the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) as a Surrealist, which is definitely what I still am for the most part – even though I love painting realistic flowers.

So, painting “strange” neighborhoods is right up my alley.

My true love is narrative art. There is a story in the painting, and I love to figure out what it is. Even in my own paintings, I have to figure out what it is, because I don’t know what’s going on either.

Also, like Rene Magritte, I think titles are an important part of the work. His titles didn’t necessarily make sense, but mine usually do – and give you a clue to the story. The titles just show up at some point while I am creating the painting.

It’s like a voice says: “Here is the title. Figure this one out.”

I am showing you my two latest paintings today. Both were done in watercolor in my Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook, so both will be sold as reproductions and I will share that process with you too, as I go through it.

Both paintings are part of a series called “Strange Neighborhoods”. That’s another thing I often do – paint in series.

The painting at the top of the post is called “Gathering” and your guess is as good as mine what that means. Whatever it means to you is what it means.

This one is called “Mending Fences” . . .

mendingfencesAgain, you can make up your own story.

I think that is the weirdest fence I’ve ever seen anyone put up, and somebody is sending somebody a message. And, it’s not like they won’t be running into each other. But, I’m not sure whats going on exactly.

I have to admit I love this series, and may even try to make those houses in glass one of these days.!

14 thoughts on “I Want to Be An Artist When I Grow Up . . .

  1. Eileen

    Hi Jessica,

    I, too, find blogs that infuse the life of the artist, crafter, etc. into the blog rather than just tutorials more interesting. I do enjoy tutorials and product reviews but I also enjoy hearing snips of the blogger’s life and philosphy, etc.

    Love your house paintings especially Mending Fences. That one really lends itself to a story. :) I personally prefer to buy prints, reproductions of art because they are less expensive but still wonderful. Most people that I know can’t afford originals or even feel guilty spending so much money on an original these days. Plus the cost of prints allows a person to collect more art. I have just started collecting ACEO cards and I love them because I can afford to buy more which allows me to buy from more artists and different themes. I can see purchasing an original as a possible investment but I buy art just for the pure joy of it.

  2. Diana in Texas

    I love your story(ies) and the drawing in a theme. The houses are wonderful. I also prefer to buy a reproduction by an artist whom I know. It’s very special to me. When I talk about the online classes I take from you, I so enjoy telling people your story as you’ve told it to us. You’re a very interesting person and I for one appreciate your sharing yourself with us.

  3. Vivian

    I do love a painting that is about a
    story. This one you created with the two houses
    has quite a bit of action in it:
    a letter of inquiry (no email here..this is a slow delivery and no
    doubt they thought about what they wrote first,)
    the discomfort they might feel (picket fence),
    and the cross roads they need to contend with.

    If I was having a riff with someone but did
    not know how to approach them, I would
    show them your painting and start there.

    Anyway that is my interpretation :-)

    Art = story = healing

    Lovin it!

  4. Bonnie

    I really like both paintings but the one at the bottom REALLY resonates with me! I have more dogs than the city allows. (6) I am home all day and I don’t let them bark on and on ad nauseam……..I do however have to let them out to do their biz. and they ARE so excited to chase each other and lots of barking takes place for the first 2 minutes. So, I send my neighbor Bill (who is single and works different hours all the time) a note reminding him of my phone # so that he can get in touch if they are bothering him. The deal I made is if they bother, let me know and I will bring them in right away. I never see him but I want ALL of my dogs AND I wish to be a good neighbor as well. So far he has only asked me twice IN 10 years and that is when he was out grilling and the dogs were all huddled in that one spot by the fence. I understood everyone’s feelings on that one! :-) I love, love, love that last picture.

  5. Marilyn

    What is it with houses? My 5 yr old granddaughter nearly always has a house in her pictures, In fact often they are just a house, usually with her and her sister(s) or parents looking out the window or walking on the path to the door. She will ask me to draw with her and say I can draw whatever I want, but she will draw a house. A happy one.

  6. Jeanne from Austin

    Your houses, which I adore, remind me of the ceramic houses a local artist makes. They are surreal and beautiful and happy. I too do not like cute. Worse yet: cutesy. :-P

    I am another of your readers who absolutely loves what you write: your journeys, your thoughts, your experiments, your decision making…. You are one of those rare artists who are able to write interesting stories as well as create visual art. Thanks for sharing this with us, and I will continue to follow your writing in whatever form it takes.

    I have often bought the kind of greeting cards that are small works of art. Some have been originals, while most are printed on good paper, like watercolor. Then I have framed them and hung them in groups. I know you have had (have?) cards in your shop, so this seems like it would be a good thing to do.

  7. jessica Post author

    Hi Jeanne! Would the artist be Mary Fisher? I am trying to get her work for our gallery.

    The card idea is a very good one and I am going to do that with several illustrations.

    For now, the houses will be $20 prints like most on Etsy, and I am also going to frame a version which will bring it up to about $50 but it will be ready to hang in a beautiful whoite shadow box frame.

  8. Jan

    Jessica, whatever you decide to do or not with your life and art, I’m So very grateful to have had the chance to take so many of your classes and follow your blog for so long. My hubby recently had to retire and we’re in the boat so many are these days with $$, no insurance for me etc etc. Enough of that…as long as we have internet your blog is the main one I visit. The first time I saw your work it was like an old friend, coming home, a warm blanket. :) It does have a “cute” or whimsical note to it, but these days that’s so refreshing to me! So many try to keep up with all the lastest and greatest products, techniques etc etc that it makes my head spin. I just want to be able to use what I have and draw and paint like Jessica! That is exactly the type of art that’s in me! I’ve always admired that you take simple ideas and tools and create such masterpieces! I have learned so much from you…and wish you the very best at whatever you decide to do.

  9. Shel

    I would love a box (or two) of Mending Fences notecards…for every time I screw up. LOL


  10. Izzy (deb) cleary from AZ

    I really enjoy these two pieces. In such a chaotic, complicated world, your “story” paintings inspire simplicity, humor. Yet if one meditates with them enough, there’s a real edge to it. Love the balance. I’ve been accused of creating sentimental/cute art all of my life. I say… “and so?”

  11. Jeanne from Austin

    Sorry it took so long for me to reply, jessica. I couldn’t remember the artist’s name…. I finally found his name: Todd Vanduren. He apparently doesn’t keep up with his website, but Googled his name to find images (only the first two pages!) http://tinyurl.com/occ8rjc

  12. Patti Wojahn

    Hi Jessica – Love your work so much that I am interested in discuss the possibility of using “Mending Fences” as a book cover for a book I co-edited with Barbara Couture (former New Mexico State University president). We have a book at the publishers called “Crossing Borders/Drawing Boundaries: The Rhetoric of Lines across America.” When visiting a wonderful little Santa Fe gallery (is it yours?), I saw the “Mending Fences” print and thought it might be just right for our book that focuses on how people build and can overcome bridges/fences they create between one another. I think, purchased a glass house wall hanging that you might have done. Haven’t been able to find an email contact for you, so I apologize for contacting you this way. I hope you can directly email me to explore cost, and so on, if you are interested in having your work on an academic book cover??? I’m a prof in the English Dept at NMSU in Las Cruces and would love to discuss this with you! “Mending Fences” and your other work makes me smile!

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