Recently I stumbled upon these old photographs and was reminded how often I'm asked how I found my métier, or heart-knowing, in this creative life and I have to admit that it found me. I studied Art & Design in Red Deer College in the mid-80's, met my husband and moved to Manitoba, got a 'real' job as a Practice Administrator of a dental office and kept painting. The job was good as I got to be involved in design for renovations and all business related items and there was so much variety which was a perfect fit for me. I also got to create new filing systems, change all the manual processes into computerized ones and to learn how to design a website at a time when everything was written in html, not an easy task for me, but the challenge was fun and, oh how I love to organize.
At the same time I had the odd opportunity to share my paintings but I really felt inadequate so usually I just kept painting for myself and for friends. There were certain things I was drawn to, those things I wanted to paint over and over again. Granted, I tried other things...assisting a potter, stone carving, wood carving and print making...but I always, always painted. I tried watercolour and oil, but kept coming back to acrylic, and acrylics just seemed to get better and better over time. Because I have the most energy in the mornings, every day I got up especially early to paint, which wasn't always easy as I began at 7:00 am but it was well worth it to me.
When my husband and I first married, I taped garbage bags onto our apartment wall with one hook to hang the canvases I stretched for painting. In our first tiny house, we had a large bay window in the kitchen and he surprised me with a large drafting table that fit perfectly. It was a great perch to watch the squirrels and to dream. When I had our first daughter I was glad I had developed the habit of getting up early as I was still able to get my daily painting in. Eventually we moved to Alberta and I had an actual studio in our basement. The ceilings were a little low but I'm not that tall so it worked for me. When I had our second daughter we moved a playpen into it so that she could sleep and play while I painted. I kept getting up early but found that during her naps I could get a lot done, which led me to my first exhibit.
At this point I had painted a series of large chairs which were beginning to sell right out of my house. I wanted to approach galleries, though I was terribly frightened, and knew that there must be a professional way to do it. This was before the online world we know today, so I purchased a book titled 'Taking the Leap' by Cay Lang in which she described preparing an artist's package. She began with discussing the value of creating a body of work (around 20 pieces) that read well together and writing an artist's statement about it. There are many different schools of thought on artist's statements, but I find that writing in my own voice, speaking about my personal experience and inspiration works best for me. Then I had to invest in a good camera and slide film to photograph the work using natural light...I'm so glad we've turned into this digital world as the slides were expensive and I never knew how they turned out until they were developed.
Along with the statement and slides, I had to include my Curriculum Vitae, my artist's resume...which was small at the time, but I had worked with other artists and taken workshops so I made sure to add every little thing I could think of...and a cover letter to introduce myself and my work. Now I have two, one that holds everything I've done related to my art and the other just with highlights for gallery submission. But before I could do that, I had to do the research which meant a lot of gallery visits. I checked out spaces to see the kind of work they represented and to see if my work would be a good fit in that environment...I also wanted to meet the staff and get a feel for the space.
At that time I sent out six packages, all with return envelopes, and was contacted by five of the galleries. I couldn't believe my luck as I sent them to the best galleries in the city, on the advice of the book. Believe me, I was intimidated. Even though I knew I was stretching and wiring my canvases properly as I learned in school, I wondered if they would be good enough. And, of course, bringing in my work to be discussed and criticized by someone who I felt knew so much more about art than I did.
I ended up being able to choose where to exhibit my work and my first show was amazing. Though I was stressed about sharing publicly what I had been doing privately for many years, I was also very happy. Bernard Callebaut supplied chocolates and the gallery served champagne...I was interviewed by A-Channel (so glad I didn't know about that in advance), my friend Tim Tamashiro and his quartet performed, another friend who is a professional photographer documented it for me as a gift and all my friends and family came, along with so many people I had never met before...and I actually had fun.
Since then, I've learned not to take rejection personally, because it does happen a lot but it just means that the opportunity or space isn't the right one for me, or not right for me right now. And also that sales don't equal success...to keep my focus on doing what I love every single day. Every opening since then has been different, but all so good. As nervous as I am about sharing what I spend so many hours investing my heart and soul into, it is good to get feedback. And the thing that never ceases to amaze me is that there is always someone who connects with what I do. That is definitely the cherry on top.
P.S. Yes, my first name used to be spelled with a 'k'...I changed it because it's just easier this way. :)
AIRdirondack Art Project