I’ve been listening to the fantastic podcast called Start Up by Alex Blumberg – American Money-, it is something that I connect via Cory Huff’s The Abundant Artist, one of my favorite websites and advisers in my journey to become a professional artist. Start up is about the story “that happens everyday in America, but it is rarely told in real time”, it is a candid recount of how Alex is creating a start up company about pod casting. It is so authentic, realistic and has had me completely enthralled, listening to podcast after podcast, following the adventures, misadventures, tribulations and triumphs of his idea. So why to talk about “art-preneurship” or the inevitable combination of art and business? How to retell stories that are not visible, that happen in our lives, the tribulations of all of us who try to make our story with art. I agree with Alex Blumberg, we are all made of stories: Just recently I was trying to rewrite my profile for my blog and I thought that as an artist and educator I am basically a story teller: in my classes I try to engage students with stories, sometimes risking the ridicule when telling them episodes of my own intercultural mis-encounters; the same with my paintings, each of the paintings tell a story. During this year I’ve been documenting my own process of becoming an artist, my “coming out of the closet”, my first exhibition, my creative process, my impression of artists and exhibitions, and my own love affair with gardening: something that started out as a way of rescuing my own soul from the nervous breakdown of the Year of the Serpent, has become a way to telling stories, talk about my lovely friends, feelings and values that I hold highly. Each of the flowers is part of many people’s stories and this is perhaps one of the reasons why I am keep on doing it.
Chillies and Fucsias – Our Garden of Everyday (NEW!)
So what’s the story of this post? Last weekend I went to visit my dear friend Lesley Longworth, who moved from around my corner to almost 170 miles away in the wilderness of Wiltshire. A difficult decision, the move has been successful and she is nicely settled in her new home…moreover, it has opened her the possibility of painting full time and empowering her to live the life she wants. We went to a “still life” oil painting retreat in the Cotswolds with Mike Skidmore, a great artist, who found his call after years of working as a graphic designer. He is a successful -selling artist- whose portraits and still-life command good prices by collectors. In his studio in the middle of Cotswolds we had the opportunity to dedicate time to the genre of “still life“.
Artists Lesley Longworth and Mike Skidmore
Mike took us through the whole process, from setting scenes of still life to drawing, sketching and painting with oils. It was revelatory, in the sense of being able to learn techniques that can enhance my own art. Indeed, as a self-taught artist there is always a niggling voice of “academic painting”, but long time ago I resigned the idea of going back to Uni (I’ve accumulated enough titles so far and being back to basics was not part of my journey). However, I relish the opportunity to learn new techniques and realise that I can do it. I enjoy the patient encounter with the object/subject (in the case of the portraits of Frida, nicely aided by the instruction of Lesley), and the observational skills. In the workshop I chose to do some lemons and a prawn (apparently a suggestive combination based on the naughty conversations of my friends in Facebook) over a dark classical background. These are different stages of the process.
Still life, prawn and lemons (Wip-Beatriz Acevedo)
Firstly, the sketching which basically needs to place objects in the space and perhaps identify some shades and lights, then the process of coloring and getting shapes and shadows in place by using acrylics, this is a precise process in which even the glass is painted. Finally some good layers of oil painting defining the contours, brightening the light in the glass surfaces, giving body and depth to the lemons, polishing the wood and adding texture and definition to the background. I was very pleased with my prawn and lemons and although it is not finished yet, it looks pretty good!
This is not the type of painting that I normally do, but I thought this process of acquiring new skills and techniques definitively can inform and improve my own search for my voice in painting, something that I’ve become more aware during this year. I think that it is possible to find ways to tell my own stories: a way of subverting or transforming the language of realism with the inclusion of dreams and playfulness. Watch this space as many ideas are brewing in my mind after this workshop.
Prawns and Two Lemons – WIP Beatriz Acevedo
Oil on Canvas
Moreover, I think that this has been an amazing year, I’ve come so far from the very first posts of this blog in which I’ve been trying to keep a memory as candid as possible of my own process. Because in this journey of becoming an artist, I’ve discovered that at least I have to play three different roles: the artist, creating and painting in the studio, facing the empty canvas and enjoying the messy table; as a researcher, keeping updated with exhibitions and trends, while talking to colleagues and reading; and as a manager: planning, creating strategies, designing marketing campaigns, setting systems, doing financial accounts… and some would say this is the most boring of them all… I would disagree. It is only when feet are well on the ground that I am able to dream. I remember how at the beginning I thought I could do so many things: my list included mugs, and tea towels, and posters, and don’t know how many more things… but then it come the reality: how much time do I have, what are my priorities, how much money will that cost, where should I store that? These are similar questions that business people have all around the world. How to start up my business, how to find my collectors, how to keep them engaged with my art, how to enjoy what I am doing, how to combine my skills, my enthusiasm for strategy, creativity, leadership… in other words, how to make a living of my dreams!
Back on the studio I got a renewed enthusiasm in my work. I finally started my commission of some botanical drawings and I am starting to realise how many things I’ve done… and how many I have still to do. While working on the studio I usually listen to podcasts: history of the world by the fantastic Diana Uribe, the Book of the Week and Desert Island Discs in BBC Radio 4, and recently the podcasts of “Start Up”, which have proved quite addictive. During the whole week I’ve tried to catch up with as many podcasts as I can following the story of Alex Blumberg: his original idea, his intimate conversations with his wife -a great anchor & practical support for his dreaming-, his doubts, his clumsy attempts at pitching his idea, his search for a partner: a process of dating, disappointment and finally a proposal, the process of finding a name – from Orello to Gimlet (the final one!), to his road in finding investors and convincing them, to the last episode in which all of that explodes in fireworks as they do crowd funding and exceed expectations about the initial investment and support!
And although a complete different business from mine in art, I found that we both are telling stories, and his story -nicely rendered with authenticity and charm- is also my story and my fellow artists’ stories…. we are all chasing a dream, doubting, getting happy, finding obstacles, getting advice… and by recalling all the conversations of this year, the comments of my collectors, the advice of my gallerist, the ongoing conversations with friends, the support of my family, it is not that different. Perhaps I am so into the “Start Up” story because in his very own way, this is a story of hope and possibilities, a way of making dreams come real.
Good luck Alex and Matt, and to all of us following our own dreams!