OK, before I get into this Monday morning rant, I will say that I have nothing against Marilyn M. She is an icon. But there lies the dilemma. I do or at least have come to have a mental fatigue when it comes to art pieces of her image. (This would be a good place to upload a picture I’ve done of her, but I haven’t, and I won’t.)
It seems to be a right of passage for many artists, to create some image of Marilyn. They then post it to whatever social media of their choice, to a rousing chorus of pedantic accolades. I’m not covetous of their work. Without sounding conceited, I have gotten to a point in my own artistic career, where I feel I could do a reasonably good image of the great lady. I choose not to. I get this ugg, rolling my eyes kind of feeling of tedium when yet another artist’s rendering of her pops up. Good grief. I do apologize to any artists who have done so, I’m sure you’re a great artist. And I also choose to be the kind of person that praises and uplifts other artists, so it somewhat pains me to reveal this abhorrence.
So please, for the love of all that is holy, and unholy, stop! Just stop rehashing images of Marilyn M! There are millions of other possible options to use as inspiration for your wonderful art!
When I was very young, my parents, Mae and Tony, owned a small corner grocery store in Albany NY. I remember it well, even though by the time I was almost five, we had moved on from it. It was my earliest home, and even though it was hard times, (beginning of the Civil Rights movement, as well that my parents had to work early in the morning until late at night.) We lived over the store, in a flat, and didn’t have much, but I still look back on it with very fond memories.
I mention this, because, my mom, when she wasn’t running the store, helping customers, restocking etc. would sometimes read a magazine. I remember she loved Marilyn M. Years later she would mention Marilyn fondly. But not the movie star Marilyn, the Norma Jean, Marilyn. She must have felt a kinship to the real Marilyn. The one that was misunderstood, as she too had been in her own life. So I get the fandom, maybe at a deeper level than a lot of people.
Details of a painting I recently completed. You guessed it, not Marilyn.
Norma Jean had wanted more for herself, and sadly fell prey to the enticing life of a star, and the sometimes horrible people surrounding her. At heart she seemed like a really good person.
We all know her story, and can find out information about her, probably by the boatload. But in the end, I like to think that she would have wanted to be remembered for more than just her looks. The constant reiterations of her image, to me don’t do her or the artist justice. End Rant.
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I’ve never been one to be overly nostalgic about anything. It’s always been my nature to push through, onward and upward. At least since I was twelve and my father died. We had been very close. After spending a year of non stop crying and grieving, my personality changed somewhat, except in as far as art goes. I was always an artist, and always will be. It’s not really something that I chose, so much as it being an intrinsic part of who I am. It has saved me in many ways on countless occasions. Compelling me to push through the good and the bad. That’s why it’s weird for me to be getting nostalgic. I have a sneaky suspicion that the plague may have something to do with it. I find myself listening more often to music that I connected to in my youth. Which is, unusual to say the least.
It started with me looking for upbeat music to listen to in the morning because I was feeling a little blue, which is also something that I tend to push down into the depths. Unlike a lot of people who feel the need to bond with others over their angst, problems, or if they stubbed their toe, that’s just not something I ever liked doing. ( Except for with my ex, because that’s a given, and even then not nearly as often as most people.) And I can say this with some acumen, simply from observation in life and social media. In any case this reticence on my part, is mostly because to rehash things that have happened, or how I’m feeling, just seems to make it worse for me. So there you go. Yet, now here I am, listening to music that meant something to me when I was young and wading through the struggles of being a kid, growing up, having kids, raising kids, etc..
I put Pandora on, starting with the upbeat… I chose early Beatles, and it’s algorithm or whatever, starts scrolling through a universe of songs I haven’t heard or thought about in decades from groups I loved and felt I belonged to at different ages of my life. And other than scents, music is one of those rare things that can instantly transport you to that second, that hour, that day, that decade that you lived, grew, regressed, loved and hated, in.
From Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, to Led Zeppelin, to Sgt. Pepper, Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Foundations, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and a host of other memories. Some better than others. And this was just the ones that came up from that first group I picked that Pandora was scraping my heartstrings with.
In reality, it doesn’t make me feel sad. Picture one of those movies where the wise older person is reminiscing, narrating about times past, with love. This is not to say that my past was rosy. It was actually very difficult. But I am also not one to look for sympathy when things happen. Other than when I was very young and had lost both my parents. But even with that, I eventually came to realize that that was not how I wanted to see myself, or for others to see me; a Dickens-esk orphan. I had to be strong and make a lot of tough decisions. The only difference from many other people, is that I was doing it at a much younger age. For example. I didn’t have much family left, and those I did, well, I just couldn’t imagine having to live with them. At fifteen I became an emancipated minor, and got a little apartment. How this played out, is a story for another time, heheh. Don’t want to overwhelm you all. If it were to be made into a TV show, it could either be portrayed as a drama, with love, loss, and intrigue, or a dramedy, with the aforementioned, and a comedy of errors, and maybe some slapstick thrown in. (Not much though as slapstick is basically the lowest form of humor, other than puns. Except of course through the genius of Chaplin. Chaplin, who despite some really bad personal choices, was the epitome of slapstick.)
I continue to grow with my painting. I do, (rarely) have nostalgia for my earlier paintings and scribblings, but always with a very critical eye. Ask any artist, and for the most part they don’t like their past works. That’s because art is one of those things where by it’s very nature, is ever changing. Most of us artists feel that we have improved over time. I can only speak for myself when I say that I prefer people to see my most recent work. Maybe it’s a bit of an ego thing, where we want people to see what we are capable of now, as opposed to then, Like, “oh god, my work now is so much better! Heheheh. Musicians too, are artists, and if they are dedicated and good, they evolve, as well. I think for them sometimes, it’s harder because so many fans will love a certain piece of music so much that any changes are abhorrent to them. They have my sympathies.
Nostalgia, a wistfulness for the past, can be a funny thing. It can become a rabbit hole that folks fall down, and find hard to climb out of. Or it can be something that we look at with wonder of how we survived it all, and pride that we did. We can take a look back for a little while, and then move forward.
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It seems odd to me, that even at this stage of my life, it still takes me some time to realize things, or to have an epiphany about something that should have been pretty obvious. It could be that I’ve always been more of a leap before you look sort of person. Something that has gotten me into hot water and situations that unfortunately take a lot longer than the leap, to climb out of.
In April, due to covid19 and the situation I found myself in at my place of employment, I had decided that living outweighed the very real threat of the other alternative of staying there could. So feeling pushed to make a choice, I chose life, and never went back. I say it this way as I don’t feel that I quit, I feel I was forced to make a drastic decision. But this isn’t what this post is about. It’s about being aware. Taking the time to think.
“When” I create my art, has always been a tricky subject. Life has ultimately decided for me the when in most instances. For example, as a young mom, although I would have preferred to stay home, reality stomped its often large, dirty boot, on my plans. As they say, the kids had a nasty habit of eating, and wanting to wear clothes. So I took whatever jobs I could get. For my husband’s work, we had to move, a lot. This meant I had to start over every time. From finding a home, to packing, to getting the kids enrolled in new schools, to finding new doctors, this was always on me. Add to that, finding work, and then working. Well when would I cram in art? Art which is the very air I breathe.
Somehow, I always found a way. One of our first apartments, was a two family flat. We were upstairs. Each flat had a bay window in front, and attached next to it was an enclosed porch. It really was a pretty little apartment. On one side of the bay window, one of the windows opened on to the porch. My boys were young then, and leaving paints, and mediums around wasn’t such a good idea. When you stepped out of our apartment door, there were stairs that led down, and a landing that led to our front porch. This porch proved to be the ideal place for a tiny studio for me to work. Most of the time, I would simply open the bay window, and climb over into the porch. Now that I think of it, I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t just go around. Hum. It must have been that once my youngest was napping, or they were settled watching TV, it was easier to just clamber through the window. My little porch “studio” worked well also because I could keep my eye on the boys while I painted.
But that nagging question, of “when”, still dogged me. When we first moved there, I set up the studio, but I had my boys to care for. My husband had a job painting overpass bridges. This job often took him away for weeks at a time, and we still needed more income. I had made a few friends, and with their help, (watching my boys), I was running around going on job interviews. (At this time, non of my friends worked, so they thought I was bonkers.) And with all of this, when would I find time to paint?
Around the same time that I finally found a job, (which came with it’s own craziness), my husband got accepted into the Post Office. However, he had to pass a test where he was required to know every address in the city, and it’s zip code. I kid you not. He was given cards to study. So we would go over them relentlessly every spare moment, for weeks. Thankfully he got the job, but with two boys, and the hope of one day owning our own home, I still needed to work. Again his job required odd hours, He had to start out working nights. This was tough on all of us, but it allowed me to work. Our oldest was in school, and that left the little one. So not being able to find anyone to watch him, (this was back in the day, not many daycares), my husband “watched” him. That’s another story.
When I got home, I cooked and cleaned, cared for and played with the boys. I had to be really organized, but I was young, and had a lot of energy. I set up lights in the studio, and would work on a painting two evenings a week for an hour or so after they went to bed. This is just one example of how I fit in the “when”.
Each time we moved, with each new job, and each new situation, and with each new child, I found a way to fit in the “when”. But I was always rushing. Rushing through getting kids ready for school, through work, rushing through being there for my husband, through family outings, through life, and through working on my art, and honing my craft.
This brings me to my “epiphany”. After I left my job this past April, I found it hard to concentrate on my artwork. I was going at my usual pace, and getting some things done, but considering I now had “all the time in the world”, my kids are grown, I’m basically on my own, and I have set up a nice studio area, it was weird, I was struggling. Not really accomplishing what I thought I should be.
Then it hit me, that the rushing and speed that I kept up for decades, that, that was my pace! It was the force that kept me going, that made it almost a desperate act to create. Not “having the time” is what forced me to make the time.
Let’s not also forget that what is happening in the world right now, the pandemic, and how the daily fight for our very lives politically, socially, and mentally, is affecting all of us.
It took me months to settle enough after leaving the job, to really work on my art and writing. That feeling of being lost and alone, (which is not new, but is now affecting the entire world), caused me to hesitate, and falter. Then of course there is “social” media, which has been and is getting darker by the day.
For what they call creatives, (a fairly new way of describing artists, and craftspeople, which for me the jury’s still out on), anyway, for creatives like myself, it can render those who have historically been the most sensitive among us, mute or frozen. That’s another loaded word, “sensitive”. It can imply that the person is weak. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being sensitive means aware, means feeling, and caring. Its often what pushes us to create, to make others feel, to envision great things, something, anything. And that, that takes courage.
Now I have this other dilemma, to reinvent my pace. Sometimes lately, I feel like I have too much “when”. I need to balance it more. But the state of things makes that harder now. I hike or walk every day, and that’s good. But I miss seeing my family, easily, or at all. Every move has to be carefully weighed against the possible danger, as I am high risk. I also live in a small town, so there was never a lot going on to begin with. It’s gotten to where, when I stopped at my local library, (I put books on hold and they brought them out to me), it felt like an adventure. Having to have my books brought out to me shouldn’t have been such fun! I rarely see people that I don’t live with, and Zoom, or facetime is difficult for someone with anxiety issues.
Add to all of this the fact that for the first time in my life, I began staying in bed later and later. I was definitely faltering. And it wasn’t that I was actually sleeping more, oh, no, I was checking the social media beast. The beast that will suck up half your day when you fall down one of the cajillion rabbit holes that it opens to you. It left me feeling even worse. I couldn’t save everyone, or change hearts. I felt less productive, and less motivated. I had the “when”, but I was allowing the world to dictate my daily fate.
About two weeks ago, I decided that enough was enough. I set my alarm to six thirty a.m. , not to wake me, because most days I would wake around then. No, I set my alarm to remind me to get the hell up. Out of the bed. And I have been. Over the last four months, I have actually been painting steadily. But I’ve had a lot hanging over my heart, exacerbated by social media. Which I do have to follow to a certain extent, (this blog, posting my art on IG, on Etsy and FB and trying to find outlets for my art to bring in some income, which has pretty much dried up.) Since I started forcing myself back on track so to speak, I am feeling better, and have more energy. But it is a tentative change, one that I have to be aware of every day.
I know the “when” is entirely up to my whims now. This means no excuses but can also mean no pressure unless I put that on myself, say by entering competitions, or taking on commissions. Either way it will be mostly at my own, new pace. Epiphany!
Thanks for reading my blog. Please visit my gallery, and check out my work on my Etsy site, etsy.com/shop/omordah or visit susanm.l.mooreartist on Instagram. Please “follow” “like and share” here and at these sites as this helps to grow my art life.
Also if you feel inclined, you can “Buy Me A Cuppa Tea” by going to PayPal and donate the price of a cup of tea/coffee to firstname.lastname@example.org Your encouragement of my art and this blog, means the world to me! For those of you who choose to give a monthly donation of $5.00 or more for the year, please contact me to let me know, and I will SEND a piece of art to you!
How is everyone? Doing OK? Hanging in? Let’s be honest, things could be much better. And as we head closer to November, things, not so good things are ampping up all over. My response has been to begin writing my pov, only to delete, delete, delete. I’m an artist, and although I have very strong opinions about the shite show hammering away at us every day, I am also prone to get high anxiety over the whole mess, and really don’t care to get sucked into the bottomless pit of negativity that most social media has become. My answer has been to post a lot of my art. I figure it’s my little contribution to some positivity and beauty, which is sorely needed right now.
I know it has to be getting to most of us in one way or the other. For me I figured it had reached the boiling point, when my first reaction to an asteroid possibly hitting the earth on the eve of the elections was; “good” and a sense of relief. I have had a habit of reading and watching dystopian media since I was a kid. And although on the surface there is that feeling that it’s a nightmare, there is that underlying feeling that maybe it’s not such a bad thing. I by no means have a death wish. It’s just with this type of media, one tends to feel as if they are on the outside looking in, that it won’t affect us personally, even with the real stuff, like an asteroid. Other than to cause a major reset on life.) Which considering everything right now, doesn’t seem so horrible. Unfortunately many writers of this type of thing, seem to find it necessary to turn it all into a military style takeover after a while to “keep people in line” or whatever, and that is bad. Not to mention cliche and trite writing, and thinking. That’s usually the point where I get bored with it. Sadly we’re living through all of this right now.
We get warnings about asteroids and comets once in a while, and have dodged that particular bullet in recent times. I’m sure my reaction has more to do with needing something bigger than us, literally and figuratively to give us a reset, not to harm anyone.
I’ve been keeping busy painting, and sketching, and trying to keep my household together. Like everyone else, there are things that I miss. A quick lunch downtown, just stopping into a store without major planning, the movies. Oh I really miss going to the movies. Being the optimist that I am, I know that there will be a light at the end of this stifling, drowning under water tunnel, eventually. I know that I am luckier than many. I am able to go for walks, and to go kayaking once in a while. It may not be an asteroid, but I know that we will get our reset, sooner or later.
Keep doing what you’re doing, and stay safe, for yourself and others.
Continuing with the theme of my last post about having been asked to showcase my art at a local Juneteenth event, I managed to get two other paintings done in time to show along with the first, “Beautiful Son”. It’s always gratifying to be acknowledged as an artist, and this is especially so.
The second painting I did, I simply call, “Story Time”. It depicts a young father reading to his baby. Here are some photos of it, and the process of creating this piece. As you can see in the second photo, I drew up a sketch of what I had in mind. In the second, I filled in the background shape of a map of the USA, and began working on the figures. I continued from there, adding color and finishing up the figures to my liking. Once the painting was dry, I gave it a thin coat of acrylic gloss medium. This serves two purposes, it helps to protect the painting, as well as to highlight and maintain the bright colors. This is quite a bit smaller than the first painting, “Beautiful Boy”, for a few reasons, mostly concerning time constraints and having to use what I had on hand. It’s still a good size at 16″x 12″.
The last piece I call, “Grace Under Pressure”. I didn’t get as many photos of the process of this as I was short on time, but I used basically the same process. I did a few quick sketches, (sorry they’re very light, but you get the idea.) From there, I then drew up an approximate sketch on the canvas, arranging, and changing features as I worked on it.
I hope it doesn’t sound egotistical, or worse, silly ( heheh), but I tend to fall in love with my paintings and these are no exception. I think I have even more so, because I feel that I have gotten to a place with my work where I feel more confident about it, as well as am able to create what I envision at a quicker pace. Not that that is important in and of itself. But for me as an artist, it is, as I feel these representations wanting out of my cranium, and am compelled to create them, to get them on the canvas. And now being at a point where I can do so more readily, makes it more of a joy and less tedious. I’m thinking that, in my next post, I may go over some of the tools I use, and give some pointers on my own process. Let me know if any of you think that you might like that, or not. (I’ll still probably do it. 😉
I wish everyone joy, and to stay safe, and I hope you join me next time!