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How not to achieve fame and fortune

American Gothic Reducks

16x16, oil on cradled birch panel, this is "American Gothic Reducks".

You will, of course, have previously seen the painting this piece is spoofing - American Gothic by painter Grant Wood. It is one of the most often parodied paintings in the American modern art canon. This is my own take on it. I'll leave the interpretation of the image up to you. Suffice to say the choices here are deliberate.

Why do some images enter the collective mind and make a lasting impact while others fade away as quickly as they surfaced? What fuels 'staying power' in art? Fame and fortune await those who can crack the code. Or so we are led to believe.

It's the sort of conundrum painters sometimes like to muse about when their muse has just about run out. DaVinci's Mona Lisa, Munch's The Scream, Warhol's Marilyn(s)... Is it the work itself that captivates the imagination or is it the mythology that is built around the artists and their work? Or some combination thereof?

This painting came at the end of a period of utter madness in the studio as I prepared for what is my largest event of the year - a four day summer fair that affords me the opportunity to have my work seen by thousands of art lovers. Just the sort of lead up that makes me want to hold on tight...

I felt completely tapped out when I did this piece. Exhausted physically and creatively. That this season of heavy lifting closed with something a bit more light-hearted is probably my attempt at purging the remaining feelings of impending doom that I always feel in the run up to big events like this. I mean, I'm just some random guy putting a bit of paint on some pieces of wood. Why would anyone want to buy this stuff?

Ah, self-doubt. Thou art an ugly and mouthy albatross.

There's a rhythm to being a full-time artist that takes some getting used to. The mind doesn't normally offer ideas full-tilt 24/7. Creative interstices happen almost daily. Creative gaps are hard to avoid. And creative chasms do engulf many artists.

Part of learning to paint, I've come to understand, is also learning to let go of the urge to control things. Ugh. It's when you think you're going to tame creativity by holding on tight that it bucks hardest and you suddenly find yourself flat on your ass in the mud watching it run away at top speed.

Inspiration may or may not drop by the studio for a cup of coffee on any given day. But the work has to continue regardless. The work is all there is. If it doesn't exist anywhere but in your mind it is of absolutely no consequence. Yes, there are going to be bad paintings coming off the easel. Statistically, it's impossible to hit it out of the park every time. Or even most of the time, for that matter. But embracing the failures encourages growth. Not just as a painter but as a human being too.

And so, to be honest, I'm not sure how fame and fortune find an artist. I am fairly sure however that they are both utterly beside the point. Call it a lack of ambition or some such but most days I'd rather just lock the door, paint and watch what happens.

And, yeah, some days it'll involve a rubber duck or two.

Ain't life grand?

See you around the studio.

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