Being an artist is a privilege regardless of how poor you are, or, how little interest there is in the work. The ability to view the world from the vantage point of beauty and fascination is remarkable. Teaching affords me the perspective of seeing the possibilities of many different outcomes. For example, parents who encourage their young children to make art then in the later years do not encourage it as a profession, children taken out of art class because they must focus on the more important subjects (i.e. math, reading, etc.) I also have some who are planning to become artists, however, limit themselves because they already know more than the instruction given. The scenarios are endless and specific. Confession, I did not want my children to be artists, I'd hoped I'd be like Alice Neel and my children be scientists (doctors) or great debaters ( lawyers), but, I gave this thinking up after I took my girls to view a local contemporary drawing exhibition.
At lunch afterward the younger one, then about 10 says, “that show was pretty good, but I didn't like the piece with the big shape in the bottom," Hum, I thought, you actually looked at that show and thought about it, then the 12 year old replied, “What? I thought that was the most interesting piece in the show. The amount of space around the objects made you think about what the other things were." Wait, I thought flabbergasted, these two are actually having an intellectual discussion about art. Where did they learn how to talk about art like that. We all know they learned from me always sharing my opinions aloud. It is impressive when children follow their family business ours is art and education. I will admit it was fascinating when I watched Elizabeth Murray's daughters on video talk about their mom's work in such a serious way. My girls do this with me, to these girls I have a profession. I should take what I do more seriously.
Who would have thought at this age, I would still be making art, by now I should have moved onto something else? People still ask me, "You used to make art. Do you still do that?" This weekend I am building by guess my 100th set of stretchers. I like to work in sets so I am beginning to build stretchers in threes. While in undergraduate school I did not take the idea of being a painter seriously, I even majored in Illustration because painting was sheer nonsense. Do not get me wrong I loved the act of painting and the smell and feel of the paint (still do) I even had relatives who painted seriously. My dad took us to the Philadelphia Art Museum regularly we always stopped by my Cousin Barclay's painting and paid homage to his greatness. However, when my girls started to take my paintings seriously, I realized whoa I better buckle down and start being serious about this painting thing... first step, craftsmanship.
Today I am stretching canvases, unavoidable for a "serious" painter. I always think I will invest in the premade stretchers, but when I compare cost it just isn't feasible, especially since for me 30" X 40" is a medium size work. I also like to control the tightness and smoothness. Over time I have invested in my own equipment, I own a miter saw and a biscuit joiner. The mission, to make good quality stretchers, the problem my corners never fit snuggly. I get one or two to fit, but, the fourth always (and I mean always) throws the others off. I watched a Youtube video called, Make Your Own Canvas, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eav0sCv7txs bought the metal triangle, too. Then, I repaired my saw which was out of alignment, the current set of stretcher I finished prior to my serious endeavor. I will keep you posted on the outcome in the next set of stretchers.
A good stretcher surface is the sign of an artist who believes that the work he/she will produce will be valuable. Whether we like it or not the painting is a product, which has value, even if the value is respectability rather than monetary. Respectability has more value than money in my book. It is important to choose to equate respectability with responsibility, thus, choosing quality surfaces, good paper, etcetera a well stretched canvases not only feels good, it gives credence to the fact that the seriousness of the work is in its production. Believe it, we do not produce for ourselves, everything we make should be made with the idea that the viewer will be involved. My dad said to me once, "I wouldn't want to pay that much and have the work fall apart on me," Recall the fin coming off the shark in the formaldehyde problem.
In every profession there are parts which maintain a level of difficulty. For me the initial outlay of the surface is tedious, it is my nature to want to get to the result immediately. My new plan is perfection in surface production. If I am without limits to the amount of canvases I am able produce there will be no limit to the amount of work I produce, more production equals more work it is as simple as that.
Next time I want to touch on materials and the alignment of idea and medium.