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The First Month as an AIR MAC (Artist-in-Residence, Mendocino Arts Center)

I almost wasn’t going to post this – it seems so personal.  But posting anything else about this experience will feel false, if I don’t admit the truth, and I want to post about the rest of it as I go along. Being an AIR is a worthwhile experience – but the start can be rocky.

First, I should tell you that like many artists, I’ve dreamt of doing an Artist-in-Residence program for, well, since I first started really painting.  To have time to throw yourself into your work, to have your total goal to be to develop as an artist, to isolate yourself for months on end and find out what you really can do, to stretch to your limits … wow.  What artist wouldn’t want to do exactly that?

Once I was selected to participate and began telling everyone I knew (if you didn’t get the telegraph perhaps you saw the message on the blimp?), most friends and artists cheered me on, but some gave some strange feedback, like, “You are so brave!” and “I could never do that!”  At the time, I brushed those comments off, thinking that they wouldn’t apply to me.

My partner caravanned up here with me on October 1st, helped me set up my studio and studio apartment in the Mendocino Arts Center, in the lovely village of Mendocino, where we are in walking distance of bluffs and crashing waves on three sides (okay, the third is a bit more like a hike).  The night of October 3rd, I was alone for the first time in my new place, but Duane would return in just a few days with a load of finished paintings, in time for the AIR (Artists-in-Residence) Presentations, where this year’s AIR’s would present speeches and a slide presentation about what our work was and what we intended to do during our stay here.

The first week was all setup and focus on the speech, and a little sightseeing, all soaked in a thick layer of poignancy around parting with Duane.  When Duane left on Sunday the 8th, all of the sudden I was really alone.  And that’s the night when the California Wildfires ignited.

I always enjoyed time alone before.  I thought I loved being with my own thoughts.

But – I’ve never lived alone before. I always had either a child depending on me or a partner to share life with, or both.  Being alone occasionally is very, very different from really being alone.

And, being in a place where no one has any idea of who you really are, what you are capable of and what you’ve done is both familiar and new, like re-breaking a bone but not as painful.  It’s like moving to a new school, except you can hole up in your studio and avoid people completely, here, instead of having to interact during classes, lunches, all that.

Getting to know others, and others getting to know you, well, it takes time. It’s really impossible to bring up your accomplishments without being a braggart – and after all these years of being who you’ve grown into, and having a sense of confidence around all that – wow, having arranged your life so that you lose all that is, in the beginning, a bit terrifying.

Add the wildfires to the mix, and to say that first few weeks were a bit anxiety-ridden is an understatement.  Even though the fires were many miles away, there were tens of thousands of acres ablaze in this County, my new home for six and a half months. It was my new neighbors that were losing everything. I wasn’t touched except emotionally, but I had repeat evacuation dreams, night panics that felt so real but truly were nothing like what those poor people had gone through, were going through, are still trying to get through.

Plus I missed Duane. And the cats. And my son. And knowing my friends were so close.  Oh, and my crockpot and our really nice knives with edges sharpened by my partner, especially the one my best bud Marj gave us for Christmas. And the bathtub and a bunch of easy conveniences. My own studio, where I knew where everything was and how it worked (even if it was so much smaller than my space here). I missed my life. Boy, I normally had it so good.

I took a trip home and took a bajillion baths, saw my son and my cats and Duane.

Let me expound on the absence of Duane, my partner. I missed him with the keen intensity of realizing that we are both approaching old age rapidly, that anything could happen to either of us any day and the chances of that increased exponentially with each midnight … WHAT HAVE I DONE?  We could lose each other any day!  Yes, this was one of the night panics, as I’m sure you can tell.

And, I felt strange here, like I didn’t fit.  I’m so not used to this. Even tromping around the Headlands, I just didn’t fit. The beautiful pounding surf just didn’t feel real. Like a pretty backdrop without the power I normally feel around crashing waves.

It’s not just that, either. A confident Linda Ryan can be a little hard to take, I know, but it’s who I am, or at least I thought it was. Once I started painting, I’ve generally known my worth.  And that I’m a pretty decent artist. Usually. An insecure Linda Ryan? Once in a while, sure. But – every waking moment? It really made me question where that confidence comes from. From things? Paintings? From people knowing what you’ve done and can do? It should be a thing that is anchored inside you… What does it all mean, if just being isolated can change that?

I wasn’t sure how to get past it, either.  But, sometime in my fourth week, things started to click.  I began to make friends with some locals. The art started to work.  I cooked myself a real meal instead of a can of soup or a sandwich or something grabbed downtown. I tromped the headlands and it started to become real. I wish I could explain that better. And, when I headed home to help with a Halloween event, it wasn’t with my mental tail between my legs.

It’s easier to look at a wave of low self-confidence when the tide has shifted again. I think it’s probably necessary if you are going to do some serious work, to strip down to skin. Maybe even shed some skin. Get some light on who you are, underneath.  Mixed metaphors and all.

When I got back here after the Halloween Haunt, and passed the first Highway 1 amazing coastal view of those waves pounding the bluffs, the power of it took my breath away. Yes. Next day poured a big 30×30 painting that is gonna really rock when I get it done.  And I’m excited about the work and happy to be here.

Mostly. I’m still a little off.  And I still really miss Duane and the cats and my son and the bathtub. I’ll get along without the crockpot, and I did bring one of the knives with me, to make cooking for myself a more pleasant experience. It’s the Christmas knife, the one Marj gave us.

Glad to have some confidence back, too. But I think the lesson here isn’t fully realized yet. I have work to do – painting, sure. The rest of it may be more important.

Linda

Arguments Amongst Pour Painters

There are so many cool ways to pour paint out there right now – cells created from silicone and alcohol inks, lots of ways of producing beautiful, intensely different work, using materials across the spectrum – from expensive pouring medium and quality paints to PVA (think, Elmer’s Glue), latex house paints and Floetrol, and more. There are many artists out there enjoying all of these creative explorations – and some artists who see these explorations happening and cringe.

 

What’s the issue, and why the arguments on the web? I think the answer to all of this is that both sides are right. It all depends on what artists want to do with their paintings.

 

First, consider longevity, and degree of salability of the work. If a pouring artist wants to explore, give free voice to their creativity, or give paintings to friends or relatives, sell them on Etsy or festivals where the sales price isn’t going to lead a client to believe that the painting will last, in my opinion, it doesn’t really matter.

 

And, the fact that archival or lightfast materials are much more expensive than, say, white glue, means that glue is just a lot more affordable for artists on a budget to explore pouring.

 

However, artists who want to sell at galleries or at gallery prices, or who want to create work with longevity, will probably avoid using nontraditional materials that haven’t been tested. They have to worry about the long-term, and while it’s not definite, tests still haven’t determined whether a water-repellant like silicone might create delamination down the line and cause an eventual flaking of the painting; that house paint, craft paint or glue might yellow or fade, etc.

 

On the other hand, the innovators in art have classically used materials that were often questionable. But their work can lead to trouble, too. Jackson Pollock is a prime example – he used house paints and enamels a lot, and museums are having a heck of a time keeping his paint on the canvas, and keeping the colors true. But that’s really the museum’s problem – he needed to throw that paint, and drip it, and it’s what worked for him.

 

Just because a piece might not have a super long shelf-life doesn’t mean it isn’t art. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy. There is always a place for something that’s a bit ephemeral, and beautiful to look at, and maybe intensely fulfilling to create.

 

So.  If you have money issues and need to work more cheaply, or if you just love the cells silicone leaves (make sure to read the materials bullets below), there’s no reason you shouldn’t create this way.  Like I said, there’s Etsy, festivals, lots of places to sell art where you can’t guarantee a shelf-life – but also consider making prints of your work and not selling the originals, or sign onto one of the many websites that will print for you like Society6.com, redbubble.com, fineartamerica.com – the percentage of profit can be low but far less hassle and expense. They can print them on demand for the paying customer, and be aware that they may end up on coffee cups, pillows, shower curtains.

And some just want to create, no matter what.

 

 


Notes re: Products, if you are concerned-

  • Craft paints and student-grade paints don’t have a high lightfast rating, meaning, they will fade over time, much more quickly than a high grade paint.  
  • Elmer’s Glue yellows over time, as do most non-acrylic resins.  Through an email conversation, a rep for the maker of Floetrol says that while it hasn’t been tested for this application (pour painting), it should not yellow.  
  • Silicone, or the treadmill lubricant pour painters are using to create cells, repels water, according to the Liquitex rep I queried.  Acrylics are water-based, which is how the cells happen – repelled by the silicone.  The rep also stated, a bit cagily (probably considering that the demand for Liquitex Pouring Medium (LPM) is high now, and due to the pour painting craze) that silicone won’t help it be more archival – and ended with the caution that it could create delimitation in the future (meaning, the acrylic could peel or flake off).  A few artists I know are trying to remove the remnants of the silicone with things like talcum powder; two are simply encasing the paintings in several layers of resin.  Others are sticking with alcohol and alcohol inks, which the rep said was fine to use with LPM as, while it repels water, it evaporates quickly and shouldn’t cause a problem with flaking.

YouTube is ripe with how to’s on all of the above – Good luck!

 

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The investigation into the Mendocino Art Center was super fruitful.  I’m honored to report that, starting October 1st, I’ll be one of the Artists-in-Residence at MAC, staying in walking distance from the ocean, through late April of 2018.  My painting studio will be right next to one of the main classrooms in the building next-door.

My intent, in this 6.5 months, will be to work to bring my ocean paintings above-water, infuse the force, spray and tide pools where the North Pacific crashes into the rugged headland rocks into the art.  I don’t intend to leave my underwater/ saltwater aquarium works behind, either, as they satisfy something “deep”.

I think I’m going to try doing a Video Log VLOG thingy about the residency.  I’ll let you know.

Woot woot!

 

 

 

Art, Full-Time

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Morningtime, 2017 Acrylic Pour by Linda Ryan

It was a wonderfully fulfilling and intensely busy 10 1/2 years managing the Bothwell Arts Center, helping creatives learn, teach, practice and create.  On March 8th, I handed over the reins to the ever-capable Anne Giancola, and am now off pursuing my art and teaching.

It’s been 3 weeks, filled with everything from updating my portfolio, creating new work, doing some private classes, developing a business plan and, well, catching up on sleep and long-neglected friends.

As I write this, I’m in our camper van at Caspar Beach, between Mendocino and Fort Bragg, California.  We’re surrounded by redwoods and the ocean is a heady block away.  I’ve been doing some research on residencies at the Mendocino Art Center, a lovely and amazing center dedicated to fostering the arts.  I’d really like to stay here and absorb the headlands, the amazing tide pools and the feel of the place, and infuse it in my art.  The painting above is based on memories of my first trip to Mendocino a while back, staying in a B&B in Elk and wandering solo along the shoreline.  We’re headed to Mendocino in a couple of hours, gonna check it out.

I’ll keep you posted!

Protecting Your Art

4. The Calm Ryan L 36x36
A while back, four pieces arrived from a Miami gallery show, the surface totally damaged due to ignoring the shipping instructions I’d sent.  Pouring medium stays somewhat soft, kind of like encaustic.
This was the biggest piece I’d done with this new series, 36″x36″ – I’ve done way larger with paints, but not with pouring medium. The larger the piece, the more complicated the logistics and the more challenge it takes to create actual art. It took at least 7 pours, countless hours, several interval layers, and a ton of medium. Ok, more like gallons. A lot of waiting and looking time in between each pour.
There is a beautiful state you get to when a piece is done, when you’ve listened to yourself and stopped yourself from over-working it, and just enough is there to invoke that magic.
I’ve been represented by some really decent people. I guess I was lucky. This was my first experience with a gallery not paying attention about many things, not the least of which was shipping instructions.  The first time I’ve been really badly represented in several ways (they had it hung sideways and I didn’t find out about it until two weeks before the show was over, really???  didn’t include me in the show catalogue, etc.)
I think I lost my innocence. Or at least my naiveté.
To unpack a box and see it so messed up is like a kick in the gut.  No, worse.  At 5 years old, I once took my red cape to the top of the school bleachers and jumped off, sure that I could fly.  The impact took my breath away for so long I wasn’t sure I was getting it back.  That’s more like what this was like.
I fixed it.  Took some work and money, but it’s just fine now (and really, really heavy).
So.  As in all things that hit us hard, it’s time to look for the lessons in this:
1. All busy galleries can get too busy to follow details, but some are worse than others. Check out your galleries ahead of time.  Read the reviews.  Wasn’t possible, really, with this one because it was new – but the main guy had been in the business and pops up with negative reviews.  I should have dug deeper.
2. If you have special shipping needs, make it as easy as possible for a gallery to follow them but remember they may not.  Better yet, consider protecting them so well (i.e., higher side framing for pours or encaustics), etc.
3. If you can, deliver and pick them up yourself.
4. Make sure to attach a “How to Handle this ArtWork” statement on the back of each piece.  Remember that, as in 1. above, this may get lost or ignored.
5.  Finally, seriously consider using Art Resin on your work.  It fixed all of the scratches and dents, maintains the luminosity of the pouring medium layers, and isn’t toxic or nasty.  I’ll write more about Art Resin and how to use it later, but generally the info is all over their website.  It’s pricey but worth it.
If you all have other ideas, please let me know.
Linda
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Building an Inventory of Art: Why it’s Sometimes Important Not to Sell

 

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The Parade, 2016, Acrylics and Pouring Medium on Cradled Board, NFS

Some people can’t, or won’t sell their art.  It’s just too hard to let it go.

 

I’ve never been that way until this year.

 

Most people that know me, know that I’ve been working hard on my art business this past year, focusing on learning the business end of it. Often, they ask, “so how are sales going?” and I usually reply with, “Just fine!” and don’t go into it much. Sure, I’ve had some nice sales during this time, but really I’ve been focused on building a super portfolio.

 

Many times in the past, especially while living off my art and supporting my then high-school aged daughter, I was painting so fast and furiously in order to pay my bills that my earlier plans to build an inventory and shop for galleries was simply not feasible. Luckily (or not), the paintings were selling right and left. My gallery was simply amazing at that, before it closed.

 

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Back in the frenzied heyday of my abstract dancer series, hiding behind a commissioned piece designed to bring energy up a stairwell

 

But this time around, and with the places I’m going with this new medium, I’m determined to do it right. I’ve been studying the business (ask me about a great course I recommend) and putting what I’ve learned into practice.

 

So, other than the gallery in Laguna Beach, I haven’t offered many for sale since the two art fairs in 2015, and my sales this past year have generally been through clients and word of mouth. In fact, one sale I wouldn’t have made at all except that they were friends and longtime collectors of my work. It was one of my favorites that I felt would be a great gallery calling card piece, but they were good customers and deserved it. Another sale of a really strong piece occurred through entering a few exhibitions that I chose to enter to get some notice of my work. These were exceptions.

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The Approach,  2016 Acrylics and Pouring Medium on Cradled Board, Sold

This year has been all about building inventory, to have a consistent, concise and large enough portfolio to be effective while I’m out shopping for the right galleries, and not continually shooting myself in the foot by selling all my work. Sometimes, great sales just isn’t the right goal.

 

So, while I plan to participate in the Open Studios our art center is hosting early in November, and I will be offering several (especially smaller works) for sale, there will be plenty of NFS on the tags.

 

I’m not a patient person. My lifetime plan of attack has been to go for it and make it happen. Keeping my eye on the long-term is different for me, but I’m doing it.  I’m going to hang onto a strong portfolio and enough paintings that will help me as I explore gallery options.   A few sales, sure. I’m not doing it the wrong way again, the constant shows, sales, etc., until I’ve reached my goal. I’m keeping the inventory intact until I land a few more galleries that are right for the work.

In a Silken Sea
In a Silken Sea, 2016, available through Kelsey Michaels Fine Art in Laguna Beach, CA

 

 

Five Paintings at Laguna Beach Gallery

My art is in Kelsey Michaels Fine Art in Laguna Beach!

I first delivered one of my underwater series paintings to a small juried gallery exhibit in Laguna Beach 9 months ago and fell in love with the town. You can’t swing a vegan burger without hitting a gallery in that town, or at least some cool original art. This became my goal: I want representation here, where gallery shopping is a destination point and art is a reason for going there in the first place.

It took some work, but now five of my underwater pieces are happily on a “test drive” in a cool contemporary art gallery, Kelsey Michaels Fine Art, right on Pacific Coast Highway.

4. The Calm Ryan L 36x36

Just had to Write About this Musician

Live Looping, violin, music, Michael Mullen
Michael Mullen starting up one of his TrioSoli loops. Artist Dan Riley’s work is his backdrop.

I don’t often write about musicians, even though I know and cherish many of them and love their music. But, this past Sunday, I experienced musical magic in a coffeehouse.

The extremely talented Michael Mullen, formerly “the Mad Fiddler” of Tempest fame, has become a master of “looping”, a technique where tracks can be laid down or sampled by a musician, replayed, and played against.

Mullen steps it up a big notch. Nothing is pre-recorded. Each track is laid down in situ, right there in front of the audience, then layered upon each other to create an exciting multi-performance ensemble.

In his “TriaSoli” performances, Michael constructs a duet, then a quartet, and then a small chamber group before us with each song.  He begins with one beautifully rendered track, masterfully bringing the next instrument to life, and moves on to the next.  From viola to cello to bass to violin, the anticipation builds until finally, he fills the room with a full-on chamber group that gives you goosebumps.

We got goosebumps on Sunday.  And it wasn’t just that he performed Bach, Beethoven and Haydn solo.  It wasn’t just that he has clearly mastered his instrument and the crazy amount of effects boxes in a semi-circle at his feet.  It wasn’t that he was deconstructing symphonic works at all – rather, he gave us the gift of getting to experience each part in its own beautiful way, and the experience of what each instrument added to the whole – and then the whole itself.

That isn’t all, either, but I’m not sure how to describe it.  That’s how art that affects you renders you mute – words can’t possibly engulf it all. So, I ask you, if you get a chance to see Michael Mullen perform in live looping mode, go. Listen. Watch. And let me know what you think.

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Michael Mullen donated his performances at Panama Bay Coffeehouse, 2115 First Street, Livermore, to help kickstart the new “Sunday Afternoon Matinee”, devoted to performers with original and traditional music, produced by Duane Gordon.  The series has since shown the works of over 22 regional musicians, many of whom performed their own original music – including Steve Kritzer’s music students ranging from 8 to 16.  You can find more information about upcoming shows at valleysingout.com, scheduled in bursts throughout the year.

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Update:  Michael performs at the Bothwell Arts Center on October 22, 2016, 7:30 pm.  You need to see this.

Click here to return to Linda’s website – thanks for stopping by!

Found Object Artist Gets Back to Work – at 85 Years’ Old

Meet Virginia.

She was a working found–object artist when I met her, a veteran of the craft.  She found potential in twigs, inspiration in a red candy wrapper tossed to the sidewalk.

This adorable, 76 year-old sprite of a woman was an inspiration. She made sculptures from driftwood and seaweed, the dancers my favorite. She did mobiles, baskets, so many artful things.

Then Virginia sort of disappeared.

I got busy, but would think of her often, when I would see interesting seed shells or twigs that looked like dancers’ legs. And, when I grabbed a few minutes to email her, the emails bounced back.

I saw her again many years later at an art reception. A friend had brought her because she no longer drove at night. To connect with her again was wonderful.

She was doing no art. She was afraid of making a mess in the beautiful retirement apartment she was renting – her husband and soulmate had passed on and the house was just too much to take care of.

A few days later I was hosting a Jackson Pollack painting party at the Bothwell and I knew she would love it, so invited her to come try her hand at action painting. Duane, my partner, made sure she got there and back.

She had a blast throwing paint around, and came up to me at the end of the night. In true Virginia form, she said, “can I come back tomorrow and pick up the dried paint?” with that found-object-sparkle in her eye.

She came, right on time, and bent at the waist, over and over again, delighted with peeling off her “found objects”.

She took those blots and specks home and played.

And so it began.

My friend Virginia turned 86 this year.

When I’m done with a long painting session, I’ve got splatters and splats and drips and dots (there are lots of dots) from my pour paintings all over my tarps. Virginia peels them off and makes “found art” collages and cool stuff without making much of a mess.

She gets so awesomely excited by the colors and the metallic encased in the drips and drabs and the possibilities in these ”found objects”, it does my heart good.

I am loving this.

She’s really going to like this latest batch…

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