Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Week of Painting

Cloud Spinner by J. Binford-Bell
29 x 20 Mixed Media on Canvas $1300

I realized when I set down to write this weekly blog that it has been more than a week since I wrote a blog for here. It raises the question of what have I been doing with my life lately. Painting. Cloud Spinner was at last completed this week though I will always think of it as January's painting. Some compositions just take longer. And it was not just the detail in Cloud Spinner which ate up time but that the image was not totally formed in my mind, but seemed to develop through the month.

Sacrifice, however, was begun this week and will probably be finished today. I had been giving half my mind to it while finishing Cloud Spinner. The photo below is of it not totally finished but close. It seemed to almost jump onto the canvas. Especially the Raven in the opening for the celestial window. Through the drawing and painting of Sacrifice that window was empty. There is empty as nothing but sky and empty as there should be something other than just sky.

Almost finished Sacrifice
36 x 21 mixed media
Sacrifice is based on the ruins of Las Mesitas San Isadore Church. It has no roof and no windows. When I first discovered it on a photographic expedition with my friend during a fantastic aspen fall I took more pictures of it than aspens I think. There is something haunting about it. Church ruins often make me wish to see it as it was before it fell into disrepair. San Isadore did not.

Obviously the Catholic Church had been "retired" and striped of its bells and its windows and even it roof but to me it looked more whole as it was. It seemed to be a gateway to another world. Or gateways. So many openings to beyond it. I love the photographs I created in my dry darkroom but they are also a bit empty like that celestial window before the Raven flew in.

Yes, I think the Raven put himself there. So us artists are a bit crazy? But I was at the stage of waiting for the paint to dry (with oil sticks that is necessary before adding pen and ink details) and when away from my studio I kept seeing a Raven in the painting. Maybe on top of the wall? But after a trip to Taos yesterday to swim laps in the indoor pool I knew it had to be the window. And it had to be the Raven I met at the Petrified Forest with the shiny rock in its beak. I did mention us artists are crazy, didn't I?

The Raven is perfect because he brings the beliefs of the native peoples into the painting. They that sacrificed in the building of the churches to the will of Spanish masters and priests.

Have already walked into the studio this morning and added some detail work to the glow of the candles. And my mind has already been working on my next painting.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

To Donate or Not to Donate

Been reading several articles about art pricing while the Artists Guild of Northern New Mexico has been debating the donating of art to nonprofit organizations. A couple of the articles I was researching addressed what your work goes for at non-profit auctions. We are all a bit depressed if our art does not sell for what we feel it would in our studios or galleries at these functions. And the non-profits are depressed about what our art brings at auction these days, and the reluctance of artists to donate and have their work devalued by what it sells for.

Your art can sell for less at a charity auction for the following reasons:

1) No non-profit is as concerned about the display of your art as a gallery or you are, so chances are your donated piece is not being shown off to its best. Charity events are about how much they can cram into a space to raise money. Too much art in the conference room makes it look trashy. And a poorly run live auction can look like an estate sale.

2) If support for the non-profit is waning it also effects how your art sells. What a patron spends is not always based on the work they can buy, but how they are feeling about the organization. If they are a bit put off by them or feel they are not doing as well as in the past what the patron buys and how much they spend will also be lessened.

3) What any artist donates to a non-profit they have supported with their best pieces in the past depends on how they feel they have been treated by them. See number 2. It becomes a real catch 22. If artists feel their work has not been displayed well, sold for too little, or warehoused if it does not sell, they will not give again or not give their best pieces.

4) Non-profit organizations can go after too many donations and ergo lessen what they get for each unique piece. Not always good to put a $500 piece of art next to a $50 discount at the local hardware store either. It is Walmarting your art. Not good for the organization or the artist. And while it is good for a charity event to have a reputation of having an opportunity for a good deal on quality art, that reputation hurts the artist and future sales for both the charity and the artist. No artist wants their work at a substandard cut rate Gallery.

5) Buyers value a piece of property or art by the neighborhood. Artists should go to the auctions that they have donated to in order to access the neighborhood as it were. If expensive pieces of art are going for under their value do not give expensive pieces. Once artists would be given tickets to the charity event so they could do this and maybe even up the prices because of the personal touch. That is not being done as often any more. Instead an artist can hear how their $500 piece went for $50. That is not going to get you increased sales. Or any sales. I once had a prospective buyer in my studio tell me they were going to wait till the next charity auction and actually point out a piece they wanted to see me donate.

6) Too many charities. Too many art auctions.  Those that have the money to buy art have to dole it out to too many worthy causes. And that means less spent at each of those charity events and also less left over to spend at galleries and studios. Some charity patrons also believe the artists that donate pieces get something in return. We do not. Bush even ruined the tax deduction. I get a bigger tax deduction if I give money or a gift certificate. And that is what more and more artists do. 

I personally have been really hard nosed about donations the last few years. I used to enjoy donating art 15 years ago but now I just feel used and abused. When asked for a donation I ask what the charity can do for me. Am I getting advertising? Do they set a minimum? If my piece does not sell am I getting it back?

I want to know how it will be displayed? Will it be in a silent auction or live auction? What is the reputation of the charity organization among other artists and the art buying public. Who else has donated? In short I take the same precautions on donations I do for placing my work in a gallery or picking an exhibition to enter.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Time Moves On

Time by J. Binford-Bell

The last few days have been most interesting. Nothing monumental by itself but memorable taken together. It was all a bit too much for a status message on Facebook (they once limited them to 400 characters) but perhaps not enough for a blog. But here I am anyway trying to unmuddle my feelings.

I move through my life often like those around me thinking it is a stream which goes from birth to death, and then like an Ohio leaf caught in an eddy on the lower Mississippi life just begins going in ever widening circles and back to the center of the whirl just missing the current. And suddenly you are speeding downstream again.

The eddy which is winter has caught me against the shore. I have painted and blogged and put one foot before another and then yesterday began with a couple friend requests on Facebook. One was my ex-brother-in-law. Kevin is Marc's brother. None of Marc's relatives, once related to me by marriage, contacted me when he died. What I knew of them ended with Marc's death. Since Marc and I had remained good friends after the divorce I was current with their lives. And then it was as if I was to blame. He wasn't even in mine as he died. Wife one had become wife three within weeks of my departure as wife two. It felt strange to respond to Kevin's friend request but I did in the positive.

Kevin's friend request might not have even merited a remark but I had just the day before gotten a letter from another ex-in-law from another marriage. Ann and I have remained friends decades past me leaving Bruce, who was the sister of her in law, the wife of her brother. She keeps me current on all the family I was once a part of at least on a yearly basis. That card arrived on the same day as the one from Sue, an ex-stepdaughter of the same extended connections. For a single person who never had kids is sometimes amazes me how large my "extended" family is. Sue's sister, Kris, died some years back and I can still cry over that.

And then my sister informs me her ex-husband, father of her two grown children is on a ventilator in Dallas fighting for his life - or is it his death - against the H1N1 virus. Texas has been the center of this deadly flu. Twenty-five people have died from it as of January 6th in Texas. Debbie expects George will be added to that list. All of which reminds me of the seven weeks our dad spent on a ventilator in Kansas City before his death. Debbie was still married to George then. Marybeth and Patrick where babies. My niece and nephew have some tough decisions ahead.

It seems, when I think about it, I have been in attendance of entirely too many tough decisions in my life. The living should not be punished because they remind me of the dead. Time to at last send Sue that late Christmas card, maybe plan that trip back to Kansas and Missouri to see Ann, and my one remaining cousin I would like to see - the one that calls me when there is another death in my late mother's extended family.

You cannot hide out forever in eddies even in drought plagued New Mexico.

Anyone know why these things always seem to come in bunches? Queuing theory?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Whew! Made it to week two

Magique and me

It has not been a spectacular first week of 2014. And that is good. After the storms of 2006/2007 which buried our community in six feet of snow I have been thrilled we only got a few snow flurries. It has been entertaining to read about the Arctic Vortex that gobbled up most of the United States. My friends and I have debated just what it is Chicago does with all that snow.

Some things are easy out here in the mountain west. Nobody actually has to remove snow. You just push it into a pile beside the county road or off to the side of your driveway (actually with a front in loader during 2006/2007) and wait for the next warm days to begin to melt it low enough you can pile more on top of it. But off the road in Chicago is a roll of parked cars or the sidewalks people expect to walk on to the bus stop.

And when the temps really dip we just bring in more firewood and keep the wood stove going all day. Crisis is staring at your diminishing wood supply and wondering if you will make it till spring. Yes, the electric bills do go up. Always wonder why when they are the highest the electric coop adds this fuel tax. It is as if we are being punished for using too much.

Biggest crisis of the new year as been the internet and cell phones. There are too many people in town with their smart phones and tablets and laptops trying to stay connected to the people they went on vacation to escape. Some of the internet services have slowed down the feeds for us full time customers. Just wait a minute there!!! We are the ones that pay you month after month, and year after year. Already all us locals avoid all the restaurants, stores and coffee houses because they have been occupied by aliens. And yes, Texas bought up all the snow tires because of their ice storms. I have rediscovered my chains from a couple vehicles ago and they fit my sized tire, but have not needed to use them as I have honed my snow driving skills and we haven't gotten a lot of new snow.

My food supply has lasted. Only needed eggs and a local chicken owner has been selling fresh eggs at a local business where we can sneak in before hours or at lunch, grab our eggs and run. I did run to Santa Fe one day with a friend. It was busy there too but we knew enough about the town, where we shop periodically, to avoid the real trouble spots. I grabbed art supplies and came home to lock myself in the studio. That has proven quite productive.

No significant snow in the future which frankly works for me as long as we have a very wet spring and summer. Christmas tourist season must be over because the power has not gone out in the last few days because of blow dryers. Internet is still loading rather slow, however. Probably us locals making up for all the updates on computer programs we have not been able to do in the last three week.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome 2014

Bright New Year

So the New Year arrived. Hello 2014. And on the 31st comes the Chinese new year; the year of the Horse. I wish we would name our years beyond just numbers. Us humans are so keen at demarcating time but not real good at trying to make them memorable.

So here I am again trying to set some goals for the year. I keep changing the name. Gave up resolutions decades ago. I think I am going with focus this year.

Biggest focus is my upcoming one woman show in July. And I also want to work harder on the artistic development of my photography. Those are the creative focuses.

Financially I want to market my creative products more and take on more odd jobs so I can support my house without renting out the apartment. I am looking at doing a reverse finance also so I have more access to my equity and can make some improvements on my home and on my transportation. I want a new to me used four wheel drive pickup.

And of course I do want to lose weight. Again. And I am planning on being serious with my yoga, and exercise.

But most I want to recenter on my spiritual core and celebrate my life as it is.