For some reason, many people seem to think artists are somehow different. There's some sort of romantic notion of us being tragically tormented, chronically impoverished vessels of raw talent and sex appeal. Along with that notion sometimes comes a strange way of interacting with us. I was thinking about this last night and with that thought in mind, I think it's time to revisit the myths and realities of the artistic type (or at least this one) and the do's and don'ts when dealing with same.
First the do's:
1. DO ask questions: Most artists I know, myself included, love to talk about our work. In fact, we're honoured that you're interested and will gladly discuss inspiration, technique, colour, etc. with you. Who doesn't love to talk about what they do?
2. DO ask if there's wiggle room: If you see a piece you love, but you can't manage the price, remember, there's normally a bit of room for negotiation, within reason. If you see a priced at $550.00, I'm not going to flip out or be insulted if you ask if I'd take $500.00. I might say yes, I might say no, but as Misty's mother used to say, "don't ask, don't get." Just remember, when negotiating a deal, use common sense, don't insult an artist by offering a ridiculous lowball offer, it's embarrassing to us both.
3. DO Share: IF you see a painting you like, please feel free to share it with your friends. There's nothing better than seeing someone post one of my pieces on their wall. The more people that see the work, the more potential sales there are.
And now, the don'ts:
1. DON'T CONFUSE THE MYTH WITH REALITY: I'm going to say this once more. I shouldn't have to say it at all, but I've had to many times. When you take the leap and decide to collect a piece of my work, I am honoured. I am more than happy to discuss the piece with you. I'm more than happy to hear how it makes you feel, what it reminds you of, where you're going to hang it. I'm even happy to hear about your day. However, I am not the tragic tortured, lonely soul just waiting in my studio, shirt off, covered in paint waiting for the next female amour. When you buy a painting, you buy a painting, that's it, that's all. You are not, I repeat, are not, purchasing a chance to hook up, you aren't buying a boyfriend or a guru. The image of the artist as an over-sexed lothario who takes you to his studio and gives you the ride of your life is, at least for this artist, a myth. I am taken, it's obvious to anyone who has even glanced at any of my social media. So please, don't clog my inbox with inane chatter 12 times a day with flirty little suggestions and "bed head" pics of you. Do you try to pick up your local mechanic when you get your oil changed, or your accountant at tax time? No? Well... Along the same lines, you are not buying a say in any part of my life. I share parts of my life with my fans because I want to. It helps you understand both me as an artist and my work, but don't get it twisted, I'm not looking for your advice or approval. And if I am, you'll know, because I'll ask. Now, there are those handful of special people that either I, or Misty find we connect with, and those special few do become treasured friends. You guys know who you are, and you get more leeway.
2. DON'T S&*t Where I Eat: I've said it a million times, but it bears repeating, this is how I eat! If you've made a payment arrangement for a piece, please stick to it. I am taking you at your word, holding back a piece for you, sort of on layaway; a piece that I could have sold outright, based on your promise to make small installments every couple of weeks or months. If you can't meet that obligation, be up front and tell me. If it happens once, I'm okay, I get that things happen. However, repeated late payments, me having to chase you, etc. will result in frustration all around. I have the same bills as the rest of you, I eat, I need to maintain a roof over my head, and I buy supplies. Also, if you've negotiated a price, and I've agreed, then that is the price. Don't turn around when the time comes to pay and say, "oh, darn, I need to buy groceries, would you take this amount instead?" NO, no I won't! First of all, don't you buy groceries regularly? The need to buy them couldn't have come as a surprise to you just after you agreed to buy the painting, I mean you do eat every day. Do you go into the grocery store to buy milk and then ask the cashier once it's run in if they'll take $2 instead of $4? Didn't think so. So, please don't play that game with me.
3. DON'T Tell Me How or What to Paint: If you like a piece and want to buy it, great, I'm happy and honoured that you do. But please, don't offer to buy a piece then ask me to alter it. It's insulting. The piece, once finished is finished, it's a complete expression of my artistry at that given point in time. If you feel the piece needs more blue or more defined crows or whatever, then the piece you're looking at isn't for you. If you want something painted specifically, that's called a commission and I'm more than happy to do them.
4. DON'T Ask Me What Else I Do: For some reason people love to ask artists what else they do, as if art isn't enough. What else do I do? Well, aside from painting, which takes hours, I maintain a website and a blog and a social media presence and I package and ship paintings and I order supplies. I spend time selling work and promoting my business. Oh, and in between all that, I have a life too. You wouldn't ask a secretary or a teacher what else they do, so please don't ask me, what I do, as an artist, is plenty, thank you.
I could probably go on for ever, but that's all I can say for now. We artists are not really temperamental or unreasonable, nor are we the romantic characters immortalized in literature, just approach us as you would any other professional, any other person, in fact and it will all go fine.
This is my latest piece; I finished it last night. It's called The Simple Life. I have to admit, I really like how it turned out. It's got a very serene, peaceful vibe that I enjoy. I find looking at the piece, I can easily imagine myself there, walking along the countryside, pausing every so often to turn my face to the sun when she pokes her head from behind the clouds. There's not another person in sight and the only sounds I hear are my own thoughts. I can see for miles all around me. As I walk, I realize how small I am, how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things, yet I also realize how big I am, and how utterly significant and marvellous I am. It's an oddly pleasant feeling and after all the excitement, challenges and hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's exactly what the doctor ordered.
I've been asked time and time again where I get my inspiration from. Sometimes it's a general question, but more often than not it's asked in respect of a particular piece. The question, while seemingly simple, is quite a difficult one to answer. I know what you're thinking, "come on, Mr. Artist Man, clearly, you know what you're going to paint before you set brush to canvas." Yeah, well, you'd think so. Seems logical, doesn't it? And sometimes, I do have a vague idea of what I might like to paint. However, more often than not, inspiration is sneakier than that. It just sort of "happens". For example, this piece, which I completed today and call Our Majestic Winter, didn't start out with me thinking, "hmmmm, today, I shall paint a winter landscape with birds." I got up, had my coffee and sat by my window, canvas and paints at the ready, and just began painting. After it was finished, I looked out the window and realized that what I had just painted nicely matched the day as seen through my window, some ice and snow on the ground, melting more and more in the strength of the warming sun and a few crows perched and/or flying in the bright blue sky. I guess that's more "reverse inspiration" in that it doesn't directly present itself up front, it just sort of seeps quietly into you, undetected until the work is finished and you examine it. Inspiration is a sneaky mistress, indeed. ;)
This is my latest piece, I call it Crow Defiance and I am very excited about it. I love how it turned out. The crows in the piece remind me of a couple of crows in my neighbourhood. They're big, fat, shiny and brave! Every time I walk past them, even if I'm only inches away, they stand firm, turn briefly to me, then resume their activities as if to say, "big deal". I admire that, probably because I've been known to be pretty damned defiant myself. I was never one to listen, not even when I was a kid, not to my parents, not to teachers, not really to anyone if I felt the instruction or advice was wrong for me. I was more inclined to do as I pleased. That's probably why I moved out at 17. I haven't changed much, I'm still defiant and proud of it, just like the crows in this painting. They're sitting there, atop the umbrellas, rain pouring down on them, completely unphased, saying, "Rain? So What? People? So What?" They're living life on their terms, no fear, no apologies and true to their nature and that's a pretty cool way to go!
This is my latest piece, Magnificent Winter Shine. I just completed it. It was inspired by the beautiful anticipation of this time of year. You all know by now how I feel about winter, I'm not a fan and granted, mid-February is still winter, but something begins to shift this time of year. Sure the cold days continue to outnumber the ones you can reasonably call mild, but the sun is stronger somehow. Yet, despite the fact that the wind still bites, the sun begins to gain some strength, you can feel her warmth just enough to know the cold won't last forever. There's still snow on the ground, but it melts some, in the light of the renewed sun, leaving behind hopeful slush and puddles. And the days begin to get longer, it's still daylight at 4:00pm and by 5:00pm, the sky displays a breathtaking combination of blues, pinks and purples that makes you smile. It's nature's promise that this too shall pass and with a little patience, we will soon awaken to the rebirth that is spring.
This is my latest piece, I just completed it and I call it Beautiful Despair. It tells a familiar story. Rather than explain it, I'll just tell the story:
He spent his whole life in this town; from the day he was born, right up to today. Everything he has ever known has been here, friends, school, jobs, loves won and lost. A walk through the streets is like a tour of his life. His first job at Jeb's Grocery, the willow tree where he first kissed a girl, the corner where he fell off his bike trying to escape some local hoodlums. It was a great place to grow up, a great place to live.
When he first got word that the plant was closing, packing up and moving overseas, he was disappointed, of course, he'd give 19 years to the place; but he wasn't all that worried. Something would turn up, he was sure of that. I mean, everyone knew him here, if there's a job going, he'd be sure to get it. However, as the days turned to weeks and the weeks into months, no job, not even the hint of one, in sight, his optimism turned to despair. His severance was long gone, yet the bills kept coming. The whiskey tasted better and better, a tiny liquid reprieve. Then the bank came knocking on his front door. Well, it wasn't really ever "his" front door, he quickly learned, and now it sure wasn't. He knew, it was time to move on. Some of the guys from the old gang had told him about a place a few towns over, they were hiring, the money wasn't great, and the hours were shit, but it was work. He looked around, heartsick at the thought of leaving the familiar embrace of the town he had known and loved his entire life, but he knew he had to do it.
Standing at the bus stop in the dim light of dusk, he felt a soft sense of pride growing within him. Mama and Daddy didn't raise no quitter, he thought to himself. He'd just go on over there, get himself one of those jobs and he'd rebuild, start his life over. It's not the end of his story, just the beginning of a new chapter.
It's snowing to beat the band here, but there's no "storm day" for artists; the commute isn't long enough to justify it. That being said, and the prettiness of the falling snow aside, I'm missing summer and anxiously awaiting spring. As I continue to wait, I paint and this piece, which I just completed combines two of my favourite things, rain and night.
I've never been much of a big city guy, but for me, there's something very appealing and calming about this piece. I feel like I'm right there, walking in the rain, side-stepping puddles as the last moments of daylight are competing with the bright lights of the city. A group of businessmen walk by, dressed in what I term the standard issue corporate uniform, dark slacks, black shoes, short to mid-length trench coat and an umbrella. I imagine they're all accountants or lawyers, maybe stock brokers, as they chat about the goings on of the day. They're the office stragglers. They last ones to leave, judging by the time of evening. As I stop for a moment, watching them go by, I catch a glimpse of the shimmering city lights in the rain. It's so beautiful! I'm in awe of how simple street lamps and office tower windows, largely ignored during the day can grasp hold of each individual rain drop and turn it into a shimmering falling rainbow, transforming the concrete jungle into a magically peaceful spectacle of light and colour.
This beauty has recently returned to "available" status, so I thought I'd talk about what it meant to me as I painted it.
I haven't always been the nicest guy in the world... Asperger's, me being a general jackass, you know, I've been a jerk. As I painted this, I thought of those people I hurt, and then, those that hurt me... and here's what I felt. Feeling alone in the world, with rain pouring down really sucks, it hurts to realize your friend, lover, whatever, really doesn't care at all. It's the big lie in life that cuts your heart and scars it forever. But you know what, you're not alone, and neither is the guy in the painting..... the crow is there, a faithful, non-human companion. Maybe he won't answer you back with words, but he'll listen, and why do you need words anyway, if they're all going to be lies? This piece is about loyalty, a trait that seems to be lacking in today's society. I was raised in a time where a person's word meant something, where "I love you" meant something, where being a friend meant more than a casual social media encounter. What I've learned is that we're not truly alone, there are good people out there, those that will forgive your past transgressions, those that truly do care, those, that like the crow are steadfast in your corner.... it's just a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff. Old fashioned, perhaps.... but I long for the world where I'm not surprised by being left in the rain, where I can separate the wheat from the chaff. Social media is a reality in this world, but don't sacrifice the human niceties that make relationships worthwhile and real. Whether it's online or in person, if someone shows you who they are, believe them, you're better off in the rain with the faithful crow for a while than allowing yourself to be repeatedly hurt by fair weather pals. Best to stand in your truth alone, with the crow, than to stand in a lie with someone else. I've often been left feeling sad and ashamed after believing in someone, and here's the think, to trust in someone with an open heart only to be disappointed says nothing about you and everything about the jerk that saw your kindness as weakness. I may still be too open and trusting, but at the end of the day, I'm honest and I can live with that.
Every now and then, I write a post in response to a question that has been posed to me. The following question, asked by someone who wishes to remain anonymous, is actually one I've been asked a few times, so I figured, I'll answer it right here on my blog. The question is, "Carl, I've noticed that several of your paintings contain swirling circles, what do they mean?"
The answer to this question required some thought. Sometimes, I don't really even know why I do the things I do, at least not until I've given it some consideration. I have done several pieces with "swirling circles, vortices, as I call them, and each one of them are unique in their own way, but as I thought about it, I realized that they had something in common - that feeling of being swept up and carried away. It's that feeling of being pulled into or toward something, or someone; a feeling so powerful, so wonderful, so exhilarating, maybe even a bit scary, that you just can't resist. It's that whirlwind of feelings that picks you up, and takes you for a ride, whether you think you want to go or not. It's that awesome feeling of "maybe I shouldn't, but I can't help myself." I've had that feeling many times in my life. I felt it when I rediscovered my first love. I felt it when I was drawn, actually compelled, to walk away from the work-a-day world in favour of paint filled days. I've even felt it when I'm painting, on those days, or nights, when I stand there, at the canvas, brush in hand, completely captivated by the paint, sucked into her charms, knowing there are a million other things that a more logical, a more organized or responsible person might be doing, laundry, cleaning, making something to eat, and not being able to stop myself. Those instances, those feelings, are what I call "being in the vortex" and sometimes, that vortex is an awesome place to be.
I was sitting here this morning, tweeting about my book, which, as you know, I am very proud of, and I got to thinking about how I got here (shameless plug here: https://www.amazon.com/Carl-Parker-Paint-Aspergers-Through/dp/1983471097/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516377406&sr=8-1&keywords=Carl+Parker%3A++A+Life+in+Paint ). It's no secret by now that I was diagnosed with Asperger's in my 30's, but it's really only now that I'm beginning to understand what that diagnosis means.
For me, it put a lot of things right; it made much of my behaviour make sense. That being said, given the time in which I was growing up and the circumstances of my family, I'm thankful that I wasn't diagnosed as a child. While my childhood and young adulthood was fraught with frustration on all sides, at least I wasn't assigned with a "disorder" and treated accordingly. This gave me freedom, in a sense, to explore a world without limits, without preconceived notions of what I was, or wasn't capable of achieving. For that, I'm grateful.
Times are different now and I'm pleased that there is more understanding now for young people coming up, but I do think that understanding is still limited. To that end, I'm going to explain, at least from my point of view, what a "spectrum diagnosis" is and isn't. First, it's not a professional proclamation that you, your child, whomever, is Sheldon Cooper. I loves me some Sheldon, but we are not all socially awkward science guys. I know a couple people like that, but that's not who we all are. What we are, to me, and if you open your eyes and pay attention, you'll agree, are people, people with needs and feelings like everyone else, even if we don't express it the way you do. We're people who are, generally speaking, highly intelligent and we see and experience the world in a way that is different than the so-called neuro-typical person. But different isn't bad; in fact it's great because without a different point of view, where would we go? How would humanity progress without someone, not willing to, but just naturally, thinking outside the box? Inside the so-called "box", I could probably paint, according to the standards and schools of thought that dictate what art is. But without those constraints, without the ability to perceive, or even give a crap, about the "way things are done", I'm free to create whatever universe I please, in whatever form I please, with my brush and for that, I'm truly grateful. So, for all my fellow "Spectrum Dwellers". be you, be proud and change the world!