Sunflower Bouquet, acrylic, 16″ x 12″
This past week I participated in the Art is Ageless show at the Presbyterian Manor in Lawrence. This art show is an annual event and anyone who is a senior citizen can enter, not just residents of the Manor. There are a number of categories including needlework, such as quilts or embroidery. The categories for paintings are either amateur or professional. But all professional means is that you occasionally sell your work. This year I won a second place ribbon for the above painting. The person writing their newsletter interviewed me before this show because I had won a best of show ribbon last year.
As a senior citizen this was a good show for me to enter because it was near where I lived and only required me to deliver two paintings. Best of all, although I could have entered by computer, I didn’t have to. I could just hand in a form filled out by hand when I delivered my paintings. They didn’t even charge an entry fee. Of course there was no prize money either, which may be whey there are not very many entries, although I’m sure Lawrence must have many senior artists.
Often artists keep making art long after the age of 65. In fact some take it up in retirement. The Artist magazine also recognizes this with an annual contest for senior artists. A problem for senior artists is not so much the making of art but showing it. The time when I could lug many paintings to an outdoor show that might last a couple days, find help to put up a tent, and sit out there in all kinds of weather is past. I now only do one outdoor show, Art in the Park in Lawrence, which does not involve long travel and only last a half a day. Also, this show still allows people to enter by submitting photographs.
A major difficulty for senior citizen artists is entering art shows. They almost all require computers not only for the form and to pay the fee but also to submit images of one’s art work. Some seniors don’t even have computers. Others, like me, have them but only use them for a few simple things. I haven’t found the help categories on my computer very helpful. Sometimes my husband can figure it out. My son who knows the most about computers lives too far away.
If you are planning an art show in your community, also make it friendly to older artists. Let people enter either by computer or by snail mail with photographs and a check. If the show, either indoors or out, is the kind where each individual brings a number of paintings, maybe have a few younger people available to help those who are less able. As we share what we are creating we may also encourage others to keep on keeping on.
Last year was not a good year for me artistically. There were less places locally to exhibit paintings than there used to be. And no one seemed to be interested in my work. I signed up for Art Walk in October, when people visit local artists at their homes or studios. In addition to the numerous paintings on the walls of my basement gallery, I put out a stack of older work I wanted to get rid of at greatly reduced prices. The only painting I sold all year was one from that stack.
It made me wonder what was the point in painting if all I was doing was piling up art nobody wanted. But for some of us not being creative does not seem to be an option. We are simply programmed to be artists. We can’t help it. The same seems to be true of writers and musicians. So I gave a few paintings as gifts and kept on creating.
Then came more bad luck. My computer stopped working and went away for repairs for almost a month. Computers are vital to just about everyone these days, including artists. I couldn’t add photos of new paintings to those already on the computer or print them. The records of my work were on my computer. And I couldn’t write on my blog or enter art shows that these days have to be done on a computer. When my computer finally returned I found a new Microsoft system on it and even more frustrating a whole new picture system, Adobe Elements 14, that is probably a good system if I could understand how it works.
But then suddenly things began to change for the better. My daughter referred a woman to me who wanted a painting of a dog, now deceased, that had been her husband’s favorite. She provided a photo. I hadn’t done a dog in years but I rashly said yes and agreed to do it in pastels, a medium I don’t usually work in. The result is below. (I wanted to put it above but somehow couldn’t.) The woman was pleased with the portrait of “Benny,” which was to be a gift for her husband.
Several more sales followed. I participated in Art in the Park and sold a painting of a Bradford pear tree. I joined the plein air painters at the Overland Park Arboretum spring event and sold a painting from it. A relative bought a painting to give as a gift. So I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on. The process itself is irresistable.
Sunflower Field, Acrylic, 16″ x 12″
Fine art, as opposed to commercial art, is supposed to be all about the artist’s inspiration, the artist’s choice, what he or she feels like creating. And we do have that freedom. But art supplies are expensive and entering art shows has become ever more costly. Galleries take from one third to one half of the price of what they sell. So it is nice to sell something once in a while, both to pay for the costs of being an artist but also just for the feeling that someone cares enough about my work to pay money for it.
Therefore as fine artists we are going to be thinking somewhat about the tastes and the pocket books of those who see our work. For instance, during this recession, which is supposed to be ending, I’ve been painting on smaller canvases because people have less money for luxuries. I also think about which paintings to put in which show. Since I travel to Colorado every summer I have accumulated a number of Colorado paintings. But I have found they seldom sell here in Kansas. A relative advised me to concentrate on flower paintings and I have sold a number of those over the years but I also still have quite a few. Some years I have sold paintings of sunflowers, such as the one above, which will be in Art in the Park in Lawrence this weekend. Other years they remain unsold. I am fortunate to have a friend whose family plants a whole field of sunflowers every year, so I have plenty of opportunity to paint these symbols of Kansas.
The style of frames also has changed through the year, and that is something an artist who hopes to sell has to consider. When I began painting seriously frames usually had linen liners. I still have some of those. Then the style went to various kinds of gold frames, usually without liners. The current fad seems to be for black frames. I don’t really like them as I don’t think they go very well with landscapes but I have a few.
At the Topeka Art Guild Gallery I have sold a painting in both the previous show and the current one. I almost didn’t enter the painting of Potter’s Lake in the previous show because it was of an iconic Lawrence landmark, Potter’s Lake, on the University of Kansas campus. I had shown it probably half a dozen times in Lawrence without selling it. Then it sold in Topeka. The painting I sold from the current show was an 8 inch by 10 inch painting of two pink seated flamingos done from a photo I took at the Topeka zoo. I had originally painted it four years ago for an exhibit at the gallery promoting breast cancer awareness. We were asked to do small pink paintings. I even put it in a black frame but it didn’t sell then. I decided to try again with it in the gallery only because the theme of the show was Journey Through Topeka and I only had one other painting of a Topeka scene.
On Sunday I will be in Art in the Park in South Park in Lawrence. My tent will be along Massachusetts Street. So come and have a look. Maybe once again I’ll be surprised at what someone will buy.
April on Schwarz Road, Acrylic, 20″ x 16″
The Lawrence Art Guild’s annual Art in the Park took place the first Sunday in May, a cold and dreary day that saw artists wrapped in blankets orcoats while they sat with their exhibits. In spite of the weather there was a fairly good sized crowd, many walking dogs of every description, others pushing strollers containing warmly dressed toddlers. I sat shivering in my chair at the entry to my tent as people complimented my display of paintings and then purchased either a $2.50 card or nothing at all.
When I returned from a short break, a fellow artist told me someone had photographed one of my paintings. Soon husband called saying he had given my number to a former neighbor who would call me. She was interested in the painting pictured above.
I had painted that scene two years ago at a time when my painting group was meeting only sporadically and I was eager to be outdoors painting, since I think Lawrence is at its most beautiful in April. I decided to do what Monet did as a senior citizen, paint on his own property. So I sat in my front yard and painted. To me it was a so so painting, but to the young woman who called me it had a much deeper meaning.
The brown house behind the hedges was where she had grown up, being raised by her grandparents who were now deceased. She told me her husband had taken their daughters to Art in the Park. When he saw my painting, he recognized the house and photographed it. “I cried when I saw it”, she said. “I have to have that painting. Please save it for me” She came by that evening to buy it. I had not seen much of her in recent years, but I remembered the little girl who lived next door. I am glad that she has a painting that means so much to her.