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Quirky Existence

I went to a used bookstore today. The proprietor that sat behind the counter had roamed the alleys for over 25 years. He knew every volume in the store. “Quirky existence,” I thought to myself.

I stood in the first isle. It contained all of the art books; large, beautiful volumes. I delicately pulled each one off in alphabetical order and thumbed through them. Some quickly enveloped me, others I brushed off as someone made famous by a blind congregation.

I found a hardcover of Manet, a small volume of Degas’s work, and a book on Russian painters. I didn’t know any of the Russian artists, but that didn’t make them any less impressive. Interestingly, the fact that I didn’t know who they were, and that their work made me hungry for more, drew me in even further.

I’m at an odd point in life. I am more inspired and creatively charged than I have ever been. I am so thirsty for more knowledge and better work that it borders on unquenchable. I see myself progressing. I see my work develop. I know that the 40 years of aching to understand is finally being fueled, and my appetite only grows. Like an addict of sorts, I guess.

Friends and clients reinforce my development with gestures that spur me on: sales, commissions, blog posts… but the academia of fine art – the ‘societies’, still reject what I put out. I’d like to pretend that it doesn’t matter. I tell myself that they are swayed by politics and social media. I once heard a master painter quote a fellow juror – “it’s a brilliant piece, but it just isn’t big enough so therefore it can not win”… Perhaps he had heard that reasoning before, and couldn’t let go. Perhaps he was just a putz.

Or…there is the reality that my work just wasn’t good enough. I may never know. Or more likely, I may just choose to disagree.

I do not want to wane on here or sing the song of the sad rejected romantic. I want to shout it. For those that persist, though their tune may go unnoticed, are the ones more likely to make an honest statement. No regrets for my voice, just a bit of sadness for the ears it fell upon.

“Quirky existence”… I think to myself.


11 Responses to Quirky Existence

Hey Kelly!
Saw this blog post on fine art newsletter in my mailbox. Did you move back east? No longer in Idaho? It is a nice post, very open and honest, good for you:)

Posted by Kim Casebeer · via · 125 months ago

Thanks, Kelly, I enjoyed this.

Posted by Margo · via · 125 months ago

Hi Kim – great to hear from you! I saw your newsletter this morning – your work looks great – and I want to come on your next paint out! Yes, I moved, and it’s been good for me. Long story, but working my way through it. Cheers.

Hi Margo – thanks! I’m pleased that you enjoyed it- really. Hope to hear from you again.

Posted by kelly sullivan · via · 125 months ago

Kelly, I read your article and It made me think of a movie I recently saw: ” The Impressionists”.
WE are not doing art to be recognized. The important is to get up in the morning and be exhilarated by a day in the studio. The rest will flow. That is my perspective. I do not want to stress about what people think of me. It is actually none of my business!
Thanks for writing.

Posted by Irene Salley · via · 125 months ago

Very beautifully said; and if I might add: the artist life is fundamentally solitary. We are, however, generally, social creatures and require contact with others. Like producers of most products and services, we appreciate feedback instead of indifference. I personally find the pursuit of creation in art inexhaustibly fertile. From technique to subject matter, from color to texture, from ideas to sales, so much to learn! It IS a quirky existence, but only when compared to a contrived culture which has been and is terribly distracted by ‘business’, technology, aging, etc. Fortunately for me, and you, this quirky existence feels like well-worn boots, a favorite flannel shirt, faded jeans, and a hot bowl of soup on an overcast and chilly day.

Posted by Robert Sesco · via · 125 months ago

BRAVA Kelly!!!! Very well said. Am sure there are more than a few of us who agree with your article.

Posted by Gigi Genovese · via · 125 months ago

Irene, Robert Gigi, thanks for commenting. I am always inspired by a day at the studio, but I must still pay the rent there – and flow is so much easier when I’m not thinking about the rent.

“Fortunately for me, and you, this quirky existence feels like well-worn boots, a favorite flannel shirt, faded jeans, and a hot bowl of soup on an overcast and chilly day.” – love this, makes me want soup.

I will keep painting, and keep writing, and I am thankful for everyday that I get to wake up and do it all over again. -is also really nice to know there are so many others out there juggling that same creative spirit that is not easy to quell. Cheers, Kelly

Posted by kelly sullivan · via · 125 months ago

Hi Kelly, this article is me. I find myself wandering into the used bookstores for more and more info, devouring everything I can about art and painting. I also get frustrated with rejections but tell myself it’s all in the improvements you make in your current painting. Every painting is a little better and the fun of painting for me is that the learning curve is never ending. There is always something I can reach for. I am not crazy about being alone painting so much but once I get into painting I lose all sense of time so hours alone fly by. Thanks for the post. It’s nice knowing their are others out there like me.

Posted by Beth Winfield · via · 125 months ago

Why should anyone buy your paintings? Your paintings are a mirror of your mind not their mind. Would it be an exception for someone to relate to the images that are roaming around in someone else’s mind? I have sold ugly paintings by well “recognized artists” who died years ago for tens of thousands of dollars. Why would anyone pay thousands of dollars for a few dollars worth of paint on a canvas? Because the buying and selling of art is no different to professional collectors of art than the buying and selling of stock is to serious investors. The aesthetic value of the painting rarely enters into it. They look for underpriced bargains that they can buy cheap and sell higher for a nice profit. What they look for in buying a painting is the froth – the artists track record in selling their paintings e.g. price at auction, one man shows, collections the art appears in, museums they hang in, etc. Supposedly a MBA helps you get a head in business. Having a fine art degree or other professional training puts you ahead of an artist without any “professional training” in the art collector’s check list. Sticking to a specific theme in your paintings enhances their value. Whatever you do, never deviate from a theme that sells because it confuses art collectors and they avoid confusion because it reduces the odds of a profitable sale of your art in the future. Painting larger paintings helps because collectors can make more money for a large painting than a small painting. It is B.S. industry. Some artists are very good at playing the game. They are great marketers and salesmen and know how to play the market by giving THEM what THEY want. However, if every image is the best that YOU can create then is that not where your real fulfilment should come from? If you do not want to play the art game then find a job that pays the bills but gives you lots of free time to paint. You may find that being part of the “real world” is stimulating for your paintings. It is hard to paint in a vacumn.

Posted by Ian MacDonald · via · 125 months ago

Hmmm… I shall think on that Ian. Navigating life is a game – and you must play if with some finesse or you’ll find yourself alone and without shelter. I also think that perhaps I may cater to a different kind of collector. I have bought art -not for the sake of profit, but because it moved me and I chose to live with it. I believe that the verve of the painter creates the “froth”, not the degree. I sell because I engage, not because I have a good resale value. That may change, but for now – emotion and a sense of pleasure are my leading sales tools. Anyone that knows me or buys my work also knows that this is my “real world”, and it’s quite full. Painting in a vacuum would be poison. You live as an artist, or not. I play the game, and I know the rules – but sometimes I choose to break them.

Posted by kelly sullivan · via · 125 months ago

Hi Beth – yep, plenty of us! Thanks for the comment.

Posted by kelly sullivan · via · 125 months ago


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