As an artist, I'm often asked my advice on choosing a painting for a space. I'm asked all sorts of related questions, most often, the question is, "my room is blue and beige, do you have anything that matches that?" My answer to this type of question is two-fold, one, yes, everything I have matches your room; and 2, you're asking the wrong question. Let me explain:
You've taken the leap, you've set your budget and now you're on the hunt for a beautiful piece of original art for your space, something that will be a focal point, something you'll enjoy looking at for years to come. Then you ask what will match your curtains and throw pillows. It's the wrong question. You're spending a lot of money on this piece, you want it to stand out, not blend in. You want your guests to say "wow, that's amazing," not "hmmm, I never noticed that before, has it been there a while, it sure does match the drapes." Plus a good piece of art matches any décor, it just does. It's like the person who can play piano, it's welcome everywhere.
With that said, there is only ONE question you need to ask yourself at this point - do I love it? Or said a different way, does it speak to me? or does it mean something to me? You're going to be sharing your space with it for a long time, you're going to want to enjoy it. Stop over complicating things for yourself, it really is that simple. Not convinced? Check out the slideshow below of my art in people's homes and offices and how beautifully it pops, without matching the curtains or sofa.
I've been a busy beaver, painting, writing, thinking. Might as well work, what with the wind, the cold and the snow squalls, I can't really go out. And by "can't" I mean "won't". This is my latest piece, I call it Up All Night. I'm quite pleased with it. I haven't painted my signature crows for a while, so it was nice they decided to come back to me.
This painting makes me think of Misty and I. It's been almost 5 years to the day that we both made the decision that a love like ours deserved a third chance. Good thing we did, huh? As it turns out, we're pretty much exactly the same as we were as teenagers. Two peas in a pod. And our favourite thing is still staying up really late and chatting and drinking coffee (or wine, or beer) and just enjoying the wee hours of the morning. Turns out Baby likes it too, he tends to wake up around 11:30 pm every night and absolutely loves when we stay up with him. He knows it likely means more food, and it definitely means more play time!
As I look at this piece, it makes me realize how lucky I am, to have that one person in the world that I can be with all day and still want to be up all night with. It's a rare and wonderful thing.
I received an interesting question via email last night, and all in good timing too as I was wondering what I'd write about today. Erin wrote, "Carl, I am an aspiring artist and I was wondering, has anyone ever said or done something incredibly rude to you in relation to your art that just left you confused and stunned? And if so, how did you deal with it?"
Well, thank you for the question, Erin. I've been very fortunate in my career thus far. Most people I encounter have been nothing but positive and respectful. That being said, there are always the exceptions to the rule. I've of course had people here and there say things like, "what's your real job?" or "how come this or that doesn't look exactly like "whatever"," but those types of comments roll off my back pretty easily because they come from a lack of knowledge rather than disrespect. That being said, there is one person who stands out and even now, 2 years later, I'm left scratching my head, but much wiser for the experience. There was a woman that found me via social media, we'll call her "A", she seemed nice enough, loved my work and we became fast friends, she even added my better half as a friend (red flag number 1). She bought a piece or two, paid promptly and paid my asking price, and soon she was sending me messages to chat every day, several times a day, like 12 or 13 times a day, before work, at work, on the way to and from work (red flag number 2). It all seemed harmless enough, she was married, and I was happily paired as well. She asked me to do a commission, and as a friend, I neglected to ask for a deposit, did the piece and ... nothing (red flag number 3). Okay, so, there hangs the commissioned piece, on my wall, but she continues chatting with me constantly and I figure, well, maybe the piece wasn't quite what she had in mind. Fast forward about a month, she asks about 3 pieces I had displayed. I worked out a deal for her, knocking a considerable amount off because she was getting 3. She asked if she could pay me in 2 weeks, when she got paid. No problem, right? She was good for it and at the time, I didn't want to jinx a good sale, especially because I needed the money, painting is how I eat. The 2 weeks pass as normal, chatting, etc. Payday comes, nothing. All of a sudden she's just gone, no messages, nothing (red flag number 4). I wait a couple days, then send a message following up, reminding her of our agreement. I wasn't rude, in fact, I know I wasn't because my better half reviewed my message prior to me sending it. Still nothing. A few more days pass, I poke her a bit, not even mentioning the paintings, just saying hi. Nothing. Then out of the blue, about 3 weeks later, I get a long and rather nasty message from her accusing me of all sorts of crap like pressuring her and I can't even remember what else. The kicker, she blocked me so I couldn't respond.
So what's rude about this, you might wonder? Well, the rude part is ordering something and then backing out without any word whatsoever. Artists, just like anyone else are people, hard working people who rely on sales to eat. But as people, we also understand that circumstances change and we're reasonable. If something happens and you have to back out of a deal, step up, say so, I'm well aware that life happens, but to just ghost me, then attack me, that's not only rude, it's childish.
The lessons I learned from this were many. First, when my wife says she thinks someone is off, listen to her, she's right. Secondly, beware of those who are what I call friendship tornadoes, you know what I mean, you hardly know them, but they're all of a sudden swarming you with compliments and messages and fawning all over you, there's a reason it feels too good to be true. Third, always get a deposit, whether it's a commission or an existing piece, if someone can't pay outright, get a deposit and set out and agree upon the terms of payment up front and in writing. Finally, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT mix business and friendship! I have always maintained, and have yet to be challenged in my assertion that art is a tough business in which to make a living. To that end, friends are friends and business is business. If a friend wants to buy your work, hold them to the same terms as you would anyone off the street, after all, if they actually are your friend, they wouldn't want to rip you off, now would they?
I finished this piece, I call it Soul Rain and I'm very pleased with it. As you can see, it depicts a woman, kinda just leaning, quietly thinking in the rain, the only things distracting her from her soul's voice are the sound and the rain. That peace and quiet is so wonderful, and I think now, more important than ever. Have you ever noticed that we, as people, rarely take time to think anymore. Every second of every day is filed with noise, the t.v., the radio, cell phones, constant social media. There's never a moment where we can just reflect. No wonder so many people seem to feel lost, to not know who they are or what they should do; they never sit in silence long enough to allow their true essence to reveal itself, rather they allow social media, how many likes they get, or t.v. tell them who they should be. Lately, I've been making a conscious effort to just be still, to turn off everything and just listen to my inner voice and maybe have a little quiet chat with him. It's a wonderful feeling and absolutely essential.
Well, if this isn't the story of my life painted on canvas, I'm not sure what is! I guess I'm still in the "New Year" introspective mode. I call it The Knowing and as I said, it really does describe my life. I'll explain:
Have you ever known something, about you, what's best for you or just what was right or true in a more general sense, yet everyone else insisted you were dead wrong? I mean everyone! You say left, they insist on right, you say black, they say white? Even the wind is against you, blowing in your face as you walk in one direction, only for you to turn around and get that same wind in the face. You're alone, different and seemingly in the middle of a strange city without a soul.
I've been there several times, and it's not a great feeling. When I decided to walk away from the 9-5 grind in favour of painting full time is just one small example. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had a problem with it. Get a job, Carl. Keep a job, Carl. You can't just paint and nothing else, Carl. What will people say, Carl? And on and on. The pressure can be overwhelming because you know you can't please both yourself and these other voices.
I suppose the best teacher is life itself, because here's what I learned. If you know the truth and you know deep down what's right, and the choice is between pleasing yourself and those voices, choose yourself each and every time! You can tell those others to get lost, they may mean well, and it may be hard, but either they can get on board and support you or they can go. The only person you're ever truly stuck with is yourself, and no one wants to be stuck with a miserable S.O.B. 24 hours a day! In fact, it turns out that strange city, population 1, with the wind blowing in your face, is an awesome place to be. So awesome in fact that a funny thing happens, those same nay-sayers, once they see how happy you are there, they begin to move to town too. ;)
I was looking at this piece this morning. I've walked past it countless times and it really struck me today that the painting is "so me". It's called Full Moon Fever, for obvious reasons. But as I considered the piece, I realized, or remembered that I really like the night. I'm what you'd call a night owl. I suppose that's not uncommon for us artistic types, but for me, especially as a person who can be prone to anxiety, the night, that dark velvety backdrop, is calming somehow. The hustle and bustle of the day, phones ringing, people scurrying to and fro, all under the bright glare of daylight, they're all gone, replaced by soothing, gentle moonlight, twinkling stars, and quiet. You know that nobody's going to show up unannounced at your door or assault your ears with a call at an "ungodly hour" just to chat. I like that.
I do my best work at night, when the house is silent, when everyone else is sleeping, when it's just me, my thoughts and my paint. Yeah, the night time really is the right time for me. :)
Well, the festivities are over, 2018 is gone and 2019 has begun. I've already reviewed the past year with you, and as you know, 2018 was a mixed bag, but it ended on a great note. I'm determined to keep that wonderful momentum going this year. To that end, I've been toying with resolutions, I never make them, in fact, I find them pointless, but hey, why not keep an open mind, right? So I googled "New Year' Resolutions For Artists" (you'd be surprised how many hits you get). From my reading and from what I've been thinking about anyway, here are my Artist Resolutions for the new year:
1. I AM NOT going to set aside a scheduled time to paint every day: Yeah, that was a popular suggestion, and I suppose I can see the merit in it. The way the conventional thinking goes, if you're a professional, you should treat your "profession" as such and have office hours, I guess. Well, if that works for some, great. Not for me, I don't work that way. Time and time again, I've been told, and I tend to believe it's true, that what sets my work apart from others is the emotion evident in it. The reason for that is I only paint when the mood strikes, when inspiration hits, and only then, I take to the canvas. That can't be scheduled and I have no plans to disrespect my work or my collectors by trying to schedule it. One of the reasons my blog is called Life In Paint is due to the way I produce my work - each piece really is a slice of the life of Carl at a particular moment in time, what I'm thinking, felling, experiencing, etc. That being said, I certainly can and do have "office hours" of some sort for other business related tasks, blogging, correspondence, etc.
2. No, I WON'T Clean Up My Studio: This another popular suggestion. I have my space to paint, it's my space. I know it's chaotic, but if you think that's bad, try being inside my head! I have everything where I want and like it. I understand that the experts say you should have a tidy workspace for optimum efficiency, and in other areas of my life, and home, it is neat, organized and bordering on the minimalistic. However, my studio is different, I throw paint around, I drop things, I hang sketches around all over the place. It's just how it is. It's not dirty, it's just a very busy workspace. When it gets too crazy for even me, I'll tidy it up. Oh, and along the same lines, I will also not stop playing my weird music. I'm aware that 80's alternative isn't everyone's cup of tea, but in the studio, what Carl wants, Carl does!
Those are the things I'm not doing, but there are things I do plan to do as well, such as:
3. Getting Out More: The best way to become inspired is to get out there and see and experience life, to meet new people and to see new things. To that end, there will be many more road trips and little excursions for me this year. This will also mean not being tied to the computer and social media all the time, so if I'm not replying to you the second you message me, it's okay, I'll get back to you, I just choose to spend more time in the real as opposed to the virtual world.
4. More Shows: Along the same lines, I, along with my management team, will be working toward getting my work out there more by doing/participating in more shows. This will be a huge focus area for this year, so stay tuned, I may be coming to a city near you very soon. As always, dates and details will be announced as they become available.
So, really, I'm not changing much of anything. I'm going to do more of what I've been doing, and I'm still not doing the things I don't want to do. So, I guess the only resolutions I really have are to continue being me and to continue painting and having fun.
Have you ever met someone in passing, or heard a story that just stuck with you? You can't figure out why, but it just does and for some reason, they, or it, have a profound effect on you? Well, that was my day yesterday. We were out doing our usual errands and decided to grab a coffee in the mall. As we sipped our drinks, an older man, likely in his 80's approached, asking if he could sit with us. We agreed, the food court was full and we, the two of us, were seated at a 4 person table. He nodded and sat and of course, as people do, we got to chatting. He seemed so grateful to have some company, like he hadn't spoken to anyone in weeks and this was the highlight of his day. He spoke of his wife, long since deceased and when he did, the mix of profound love and sadness was evident in his face.
I thought about that old guy all day. And when I decided it was time to get to work later in the day, even though I thought I had finally put him out of my mind, he was still there, and as I painted, a story developed in my head. I called the piece Last Stop and the reason for the title will become evident from the story. It's not his story exactly, but it's what came into my mind and out onto the canvas, so I figured I'd share it, what the heck, they say a picture's worth a thousand words, so let's have a go:
I remember the first day I saw her, it was in September, 1951. I boarded the bus for school and there she was, a vision in a crisp white blouse and a blue skirt, her dark hair neatly tied back. I remember the blood rushing to my face as she wrinkled her nose at me in disapproval. She was obviously from "in town" and well out of my league. Here I was, all of 16, scrawny, clad in my very best new to me hand me downs, getting on the bus on the very last stop out on County Road 39, The Dregs, they called it. It wasn't a bad place, really, it was just "not in town", you know? It was about 20 minutes out, consisting of family farms mostly. And I was as far out in The Dregs as one could get, in fact, had I lived a mile further out, I would have had to go to school in the next county.
As for me, I can't say I was poor. In fact, my dad had the biggest farm in the area and we did okay, but my mother believed heavily in thrift. Waste not want not. New clothes for me, the fourth boy in the family, were just not on the cards. I mean, why waste money on that when there's perfectly good clothing my brothers were rapidly outgrowing that hadn't lived a full and useful life? And of course, my father, well, he believed in hard work, and my chores began each morning before school. Looking back, I imagine I was quite the sight, in ill-fitting pants and likely smelling of a mix of light sweat and cow dung. That and I lived out in "The Dregs".
Well, on that day, I walked past "her" to find a seat. There were none. I came back toward her, she sat there, perched like a beautiful statue, her books on the only available seat. I stood there, looking like a fool until she moved her books, inviting me to sit.
I won't bore you with all the details, but her name was Dianna Jenkins and as it turned out, she was as beautiful inside as she was outside! She was smart, funny, spirited and kind and we soon found ourselves dating. Well, fast forward 4 years, and we married. We made our home out in "The Dregs" for at least 50 years, raising 4 boys ourselves before we sold the homestead and moved into an apartment in town. It was just easier to manage as we got older. Life wasn't perfect, there were hard times, lean times, times we both thought of just calling it quits, but somehow we didn't. As tough as it got, and I mean it got tough (like the day the tax assessor came calling intent on putting the farm on the auction rolls for unpaid taxes), it was always Dianna who somehow dug deep down into herself and found a way to save our behinds. I'm pretty sure that day she used a mix of her beauty and a few tears to get the county official to turn around and walk away. She'd never admit it though. No matter, whatever she did, it worked and we were given the necessary time to get caught up. I still laugh about the day I broke something on my relic of a tractor and she came out and cobbled something together, told me to try it and then beamed with pride as it, yet again, puttered along.
The bus hasn't come out County Road 39 since 1962, I guess people all have cars now, so there's no need. The old wooden shelter is still there though, the very same one I stood at that September day, I know, my brothers built it. I find myself going out there from time to time, since Dianna passed. People keep telling me I shouldn't go, that it's too upsetting, too sad. Yes, it's sad, it's always sad when the love of your life, your soul mate, that person you've shared everything with, is no longer there, at least physically, but what these people don't understand is that she is still here, for me, she is, and that's where she is, at that old bus stop. I go there, to that place where we first met, and I talk to her. I tell her about my days, I reminisce, I give her the community gossip, and for a brief moment, it's like we're together again, young, full of fun. I see no harm in it, so I'll continue coming out as long as I'm able; I should probably bring flowers next time, a gentleman always brings his lady flowers.
Well, it's a short couple of days before Santa arrives, which means my sweetie will be making delicious treats all weekend for our Christmas Eve soiree. It also means she's probably going to try putting me to work on some cleaning task or another, so I figured I'd better get this blog post written now before the orders start flying in.
This is my latest piece, I completed it last night and I'd like to talk about it a bit because it reflects, at least to me, both the state of the world and the state of my mind. I call it Transmutation, which is a term that describes the state of changing from one form to another. Let me explain:
They say we're always in a state of constant change (yes, I know using "always" and "constant" is somewhat redundant, it was intentional, for emphasis). Some say change is exciting; others say a change is as good as anything. Well, I suppose all of that's true, but change is also scary and confusing. Think about it, when babies change from babies into kids, they go through that strange little phase where they have this weird head that's too big and that big belly, all on a tiny little body, then they're cute. Then, we go through puberty and we go from cute kid to awkward mess or arms and legs and acne until we emerge as pretty darn cute adults. Things change all the time. I think the entire world is in the midst of a change, right now, as you can see, everything seems, and is, in a state of confusion. Rhetoric is high, everything seems to be a huge mess that makes no sense whatsoever, and everyone is pissed off at everything and everyone. But if you look closely enough, amidst all the chaos, all the confusion, there's a beauty, a symmetry. Change is never easy, but somehow, you know it's going to happen, and even in the middle of it, there's a nugget of comforting certainty.
I find this apropos on a personal level too. There are a lot of changes in the works over here, both in my personal and professional life. Some of these shall be revealed over time, others maybe not. In any event, even though I can intellectualize the good and bad of change, I don't necessarily deal with it in such an elegant fashion. This piece is a culmination of my being caught up in the blinding, swirling insanity and coming out the other side of it to be able to see that beautiful symmetry I mentioned above. That's the thing about change, you have to go through it to see the beauty, just like a moth has to sleep in that slimy cocoon before he gets to emerge as a beautiful butterfly. I'm transmuting the nervous, frantic uncertainty of change by recognizing the inherent order in it, seeing the beauty.
As Santa begins to put the finishing touches on the toys, the rest of us tend to look back at the year as it draws to a close, and of course, we look toward the future, anticipating how things will be better in the coming year. I'm no different. And boy howdy, 2018 has been quite a year for me! I moved to a new city, made some wonderful new friends and added a new member to the family (Baby, the wonder cat).
I published my first book (well, the "technical" publication date was December 31, 2017, but, we're not splitting hairs), which is available on Amazon here: www.amazon.com/gp/product/1983471097?pf_rd_p=1581d9f4-062f-453c-b69e-0f3e00ba2652&pf_rd_r=8EQ6HT35GYBM7CEQXNVX or Barnes and Noble here: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/carl-parker-carl-b-parker/1127757165?ean=9781983471094
There, shameless plugs out of the way, the book is something I'm very proud of and it was a great way to start the year. Moving on from that, I was accepted to partake in an exhibition in Barcelona as well as in an artist residency in Belgrade in the upcoming year (my dates are pretty loose, I'll let you know when that'll be happening as soon as the necessary funding has been finalized). My blog was named one of the top 25 art blogs in Canada; that was unexpected and really cool. And finally, there was finding out the fact that my piece, Rustic Place, was accepted to be part of a year long exhibition at the Ontario Provincial Legislature (in the In Camera dining room). Not too bad, and a huge improvement over 2017, HUGE! Hey there's even a few days left of 2018, so although I'm incredibly grateful and humbled over everything that has happened this year, I'm wide open for some more good news.
So far, 2019 looks like it's going to be great. I'm going into it happy, healthy, grateful and anxious to roll up my sleeves and get to work. In the meantime, to all of you that read the blog, share the blog, appreciate my art, have collected my art, or bought my book, thank you, you make it possible for me to continue doing what I love. And to everyone, have a safe and wonderful holiday season. xo