The Future Meaning of Art

Throughout history artists have been compelled to create and recreate the beauty and pathos surrounding them in their daily lives. We are often awed by the discoveries of art found on walls and in caves in remote and nearly inaccessible places around the world. They are stunning and mysterious.

A personal favorite of mine are the caves of Lascaux. The beauty of these works of art is astounding. And we wonder what they were for, what they meant to the ancients who went deep into these caves to create these incredible works of art. Often in dark and not easily accessible places. One of the images of bulls, in the “Hall of Bulls” is 17 feet long and almost as tall. This meant that these ancient peoples had to build some kind of scaffolding. This was important to them. They were cognoscente of a future. Or was it just that inborn need in some of us, at it’s most basic, to draw, or paint the things that grab our attention? I feel it’s not just a mental thing to recreate or create, it’s physical.

Around the world we see examples that have transcended time. And then those that have been lost to evil and misguided men, such as the once World Heritage Site, and treasure I had dreamed of seeing in person, The Buddhas of Bamiyan. (My heart still aches over this.). I was born a little too late for the “hippie silk road”, and now they are gone. There are other astounding examples of ancient Buddhas around the world and I hope they never suffer the same fate.

The history of art is complicated and vast. And now during this world wide pandemic, one side effect has been the staggering amount of people showing up with their art. I am on a well known platform, and made a separate one to post and highlight my artwork. In the last year, I feel that the amount of people on this platform alone has grown astronomically. How does one not get lost in the noise? The styles, forms and levels of skills, knowledge and choices is endless.

Then there are what might be considered fads. One example, is “pour painting”. I suppose every new form of art has to be scrutinized to gain acceptance. Today most of us think of Impressionism as a classic form of art. But when it first started to become popular, not only were the practitioners of it, considered poor artists, but they were banned from exhibiting them! I have to say, that although I think pour painting looks like it might be fun to try, and some of the finished products look pretty good, it doesn’t sit well with me.

There are a few things about it that bother me. First and foremost, I find it unacceptably wasteful. In most cases, more than three times again amount of paint is used to make the picture. This extra is then literally poured down the drain. As someone who has tried diligently over the years to find better, safer, and more environmentally safe ways to create my art, I find this distressing.

Normally I would say that ‘there is room for everyone’. But during this pandemic between unemployment and social media, the ‘everyone’ has grown exponentially. The ratio of art lovers and buyers to artists has always been a problem, but now it may be a crisis. This could force artists to do their best, or it may be forcing the truly great artists out of the game, leaving only the mediocre.

Then there is the fact of having worked, suffered blood, sweat and tears, and upheaval to continually improve my art and there are now thousands of people using this simple, wasteful technique, and forming a further glut in the artworld. There will always be some artists better than other artists. And as an artist, I learned a long time ago to only compete with myself. I know when I’m happy with it, and that’s what matters. But it is getting harder and harder to be seen.

I wonder what the “world of art” will be like in the distant future. I hope that despite the glut of mediocre artwork and fads of today, that the great artist’s legacies of our time will shine through and future people will be in as much awe of what they have done, as we are in awe of those past great artist.

Thank you for reading this. Please visit my art IG page susanm.l.mooreartist. DM me if interested in any of my work, or if you would like to commission a piece. I would love to work with you!

Stay safe and well.

Monday Memories; “Mrs. Heelis ‘O The Fells”

Some time ago I became fascinated with the life story of Beatrix Potter. A story that had for the most part become forgotten amidst the mythos of her popular children’s stories.

At the time I had been writing pretty much non stop. Writing stories for magazines, and small publications. I did a lot of research into her life, and the more I read, the more interesting it became to me. I also had a thing for sheep, heheh. I had always wanted to live in the country and loved these funny, sweet creatures.

I began to write a feature about her, and her life before she became known only for her children’s books. It was sad, and interesting, and sometimes weird. She overcame a very lonely childhood, and was able to study her passion for science at a time when women were considered unintelligent children. She had actually begun her study of science as a child, doing some things that today especially, would be considered bazaar and even grotesque. I wrote my feature in a fictional, and sometimes humorous style.

She eventually married, and as she got older she began raising a certain breed of sheep, called Herdwick sheep, on her farm. She became a well known figure in the town where she lived, and then known as Mrs. Heelis ‘O the Fells. And this is what I named my article.

I had done some sketches in pen and ink for the article, which, though small, are some of my favorite art pieces. I think this is because I really fell in love with her story and these fuzzy, beautiful sheep.

I never got sheep, I guess other things were meant for me. But looking back at this article is a nice memory.

I hope you and yours are well, staying safe and are able to make happy new memories every day.

Throw Back Thursday Tidbit

Bicky-Bear

This is a color pencil portrait I did years ago of a much loved cat that we had. When we adopted him, he was about a year old. Out of all of the cats that we saw, he was the only one that wasn’t reaching toward us, or shrinking away, he was just…watching and was so cute. But also there was just something different about him. When I walked up to him he let me pet him, started to purr and rubbed against my hands. We brought him home to our other pets. He was so interested in them, and calm. Someone had named him Bic, (after the pen?), kind of silly. Being a Tuxedo cat, I get it but… We were going to change it, but eventually decided that it suited him. He was very human like, and even people who said that they didn’t like cats, loved him, and his strong personality. He was smart, and sweet, and welcomed anyone to our home, human or otherwise. Years after he passed, when people would get together, they would still talk about him, everyone loved him.

At the time that I did this portrait, I was very into using color pencil. It can be slow, and tedious, but also somehow satisfying. I used Prismacolor pencils which have a rich, creamy texture. Looking at this, it gives me the feeling that revisiting color pencil would be fun.

I hope you and yours are doing well, and as things “open up” again, remember to continue to be careful as you enjoy getting back to it.

Going Down To The Crossroads

No, not that crossroads. Though the “devil is definitely in the details”. Being at a crossroads with your art, or writing, or whatever creative things you do, is always a nail biting, angst ridden moment. And hopefully that’s all it is, a moment, a short period of time in your life where you may be questioning your creative ventures, your style, inspiration, or if you even want to continue. It can be a confusing and scary time.

OK so zombies may not be the best example, but they are scary and confusing.

In the course of my career as an artist, I’ve had many of these crossroad moments. In particular ones that in hindsight seem to coincide with that seven year evolution we all go through, uh, every seven years. (Proven, look it up). Not that I don’t have other “moments” in between, because I do, and have. But the big ones do fit that pattern. Currently I am going through it again. I should have realized as I have had a hard time concentrating, and finding inspiration, or ambition. At first I blamed it on this last, long year of Covid19 and isolation. You have to feed the beast, and being home all the time is not conducive to that. Hence my thinking that that was the only reason. It is a huge reason, but not the only one.

Recently, one of my adult children mentioned during a conversation about eye glasses, that she was “old” and her “eyes are sensitive now.” What the what?! She’s 35. And when I said that ‘I never really felt old until this year’, she sent a shocked face emoji. Humm. At any rate, that got me pondering, as us old folks will, that perhaps it isn’t just the plague causing my lack of inspiration. And doing some calculations, I saw that yes, I’m starting a new seven year cycle. I’ve embraced and been known as being an artist, nearly my entire life. If I don’t paint, or sketch, then who am I? Just another faceless person in the crowd?

Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to the point of no return. As a matter of fact, I never really stopped painting or sketching. It just hasn’t been at the same level of intensity. I have been feeling somewhat directionless and all over the place. I’m sure I’m not the only person feeling this way. It has been a tough year for everyone, and many of us must be feeling at loose ends.

As with everyone else, I have been impacted in ways I didn’t foresee. Plans, important plans have had to be put on hold, possibly for a few years, possibly to never happen, and this has been difficult. Many toxic things happen on a daily basis in the world. As an artist, in a family of artists, I know that the impact of this toxic world hits us deeply, making creativity that much harder to attain. It’s hard not to be affected. It’s hard not to engage, or see it. But for us creatives, it is vital that we learn to do what we can to help, and not absorb all the toxins, because that causes us to become immobilized. Add to that the seven year metamorphosis, and you can see my dilemma.

As I sit here writing this, it feels a bit cathartic, like getting it out, writing about it helps. Yes, I have been painting and drawing things aimlessly, but maybe that’s good. I’m still working at it, and perhaps after I’ve had some time to just play around with it, something will kick in, and I’ll know which direction on that crossroad to follow.

Thanks for visiting and reading my blog. Stay well. If you are interested in any of my paintings or would like to commission a piece, please DM me, or go to my Etsy site, at etsy.com/shop/omordah I’d love to hear from you!

Some Thoughts On Creativity

Creativity, where to even start. Although I am, and have always been an artist, I’ve never really thought of myself as “creative”. I see all of the things that people come up with, the different ways they express their art, and I think, ‘wow, I wish I’d thought of that.’ For many years I considered myself more of an illustrator. Shinning a light on human activities, and foibles, and in particular painting portraits.

Putting a subject in a setting that fit with them in some way, made the portraits more interesting to the viewer, but faces in particular, have always intrigued me. Eyes being the “windows to the soul” and all that. But is it “creative”?

About, well let’s say a long time ago, I started taking commissions for portraits, most often of people’s kids. At that time I was honing my skills in the medium of color pencil, trying to learn how to make them look as real as possible. Humorous fashion choices aside, with each portrait I tried to become more proficient.

Amanda and Nikki “At The Beach”
Maureen and her sister

I was commissioned to do the above portrait for a friend, way back in the day. It was one of my first color pencil portraits. (A little bit “uncanny valley”, but hey, practice and all that.) It was a bit more difficult given that my friend didn’t have one recent photo of her two daughters together. I had her give me as many photos of them that she had, and basically cobbled it together. I didn’t have people actually “sit” for me, especially kids as I was slow. Although, I often had to do things like this for commissions, most of the time, I was using photos, and this is the opposite of creativity. But maybe, not entirely. “Cobbling things together” took some creativity I suppose.

As I’ve mentioned before, art had to come after, and sometimes between life, raising kids, work, moving, (a lot), pets, etc.. But I worked on my art as often as possible, as well as finding ways to incorporate it into my life. So I guess, that took some creativity, heheh. For example, for a few years, I worked as a visiting artist at schools all around my area. I did this a few days a week, after my “regular” work, often times picking up my youngest daughter a little early from school, to assist me with the after school art classes. I also taught an adult color pencil theory class in the carriage house of the arts center near me, as well as a short class for a convention of teachers at a local hotel. That was fun. (Not sure if the sarcasm translates.)

On one occasion, I joined a group of people at our local arts council, and set up some of my work on the lawn of their site. An older woman approached me to ask if I had any paintings of old barns. Apparently she grew up on a farm locally, that no longer existed. I told her that I didn’t but would be happy to paint one for her. This turned into an extremely large painting incorporating, her family’s farm, the barn, cousins and other family riding high on a hay wagon, her mother in the garden, the “main house” across the road, and “Petunia the Cow”. Again this was done in color pencil. It was quite large for a color pencil portrait. It was 4′ x 3′. I finished it, feeling proud of what I had accomplished, and also gained a total of six other portraits for her family. The photo isn’t very good, as I took it at the framer’s and as it was heavy tried to get a photo while it was lying down, hence the distortion.

I began to do fairly well, and was getting commissions on a regular basis, including doing multiple portraits for some of the same people, as well as doing portraits of people’s pets. Though working with color pencil on large portraits, was difficult and sometimes tedious. I did feel that I was accomplishing something in what I felt was my chosen field. Yet I still had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t working to my potential, or with enough creativity.

Eventually, I transitioned away from color pencil, and returned to my roots of working with oils.

We moved often which meant that I had to find new clients. It wasn’t easy, especially as at that time social media wasn’t what it is now. I did gain new commissions, again painting multiple portraits for some of the same people. I also tried to stretch my painting chops. The above painting was completely from imagination. That may not seem like much but for me it meant a step toward more spontaneity.

I’ve noticed that there were distinct periods of my art. In between these “periods” occasionally, for whatever reason, I didn’t work on my art for long stretches of time. And after each period of time, I emerged feeling better able to “create” in I what felt was a more proficient and personal way.

At one time I was also a working writer. Nothing fantastic, I never published my fantasy mid grade reader, called Skara Brae. But I did finish it, and I had various articles published in magazines, as well as worked for a newspaper for a summer. (That’s another story).

Creativity, I have found, comes in many many forms. I realized that the book I wrote was creative. But maybe just not creative enough. After five years of nonstop work, I set writing aside for a while, and concentrated on my painting.

Along the way, after one of those break periods, I decided to try something that I had always admired, but felt that I just wouldn’t be able to do. I decided, what the heck, if I’m not happy with it, at least I tried. This was the beginning of my abstract period.

This painting is the first of what I consider abstract, that I did. After my son took me and my granddaughter to New York City for our birthdays, (both in April), I painted this city scene for him.

“Midsummer’s Night in The City”

Looking back I see now that this was creative. I did it entirely in one sitting, from my imagination. I felt really good about this, and he loved it.

I then did this painting of a Romany Cart, and a Vanner horse. It’s done in a more dreamy fantasy style. These paintings made me feel a new freedom with my art, and I was hooked. (Unfortunately, the photos I have of it are somewhat blurry.) There is quite a bit more detail on the cart. Which may make this a blending of styles.

“Dancing in the Moonlight”

Abstract art could be considered one of the most creative of arts. Having been an artist for so long, I do feel that I have an “eye” for if something is “good” or not. Of course everything is subjective, and what appeals to one person, may not appeal to another. However, I do know what I like. Throwing caution to the wind, I got some acrylics. I figured, I could work in a quicker and more spontaneous way than I was used to, while pushing myself to be as accurate and true to what I envisioned, in a more flowing, and natural way.

I still strive for that elusive “creativity”, and I suppose I always will, but I do feel I’ve gotten closer.

“Glass Longhorn” from my Glass Menagerie series

Thank you for reading my blog. If you’re interested in any of my paintings or wish to commission me to do a painting, please DM me, or check out my Esty site. etsy.com/shop/omordah

Bye for now, and stay safe, while waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.