Ramblings on Been There Done That

I have recently been working on the fifth iteration of a painting that has never been to my liking. I would show the progression to you from the first to the last evolution, but I am afraid that I would be embarrassed if I see the first couple tries were much better than the last. It has happened before. 

I get into these situations because I have not really done my homework. Just because I have reached a comfort zone in any of the many themes I have explored, does not mean that I will continue to be able to achieve the same emotional involvement I used to have.

Comfort zones involve the ability to do anything, not just painting, with less physical and mental effort.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of the work continues to meet my personal expectations.

We are not talking simply experience levels.  Creativity is different. If I intend to continue to paint a theme, I know I must change something. Change could involve my approach, my technique, maybe my canvas size, maybe even changing the medium.

But you all know what happens. By the time the public catches up with you, and trust me that takes a while and lots of pieces of art, boredom has already set in. The series continues in its same way because of many factors including (and quite high on the list), the ability to sell those works or to win awards with them.

I cannot criticize those artists who have to sell their work in order to continue to paint and make a living doing so. I have been there.

The problem – boring repetition, same ole color palettes, even same sizes all leads to worrying that you will never again do anything new and exciting. You remember how great it felt even when you were stumbling around learning how to paint. Then embarking on a newer series and seeing that evolve. Then after many years it seems the excitement well dries up.

People suggest changing media- try oils or go back to watercolor or what about ceramics, clay, 3D and sometimes it works for a little while. Great artists do it. Paul Simon cut Songs of the Capeman, Neil Diamond The Jazz Singer, McCartney an Oratorio.

I created a small 3D shoe series, some black and white paintings, and a few collages using computer parts. I will publish my cartoon series called Equal Time. I am now blogging as well (as you are now reading).

But there is a part of me that feels that there is something else -a painting something else- out there that I am meant to do. The activist in me wants to make a social or environmental statement, but my skin is too thin. So I hold back.

Well, take these thoughts and we can all stick them where the sun don’t shine. However, something positive is bound to happen. I have to make it happen. So l will persist. Stay tuned for how that something might happen. 

Not my mother's shoes

How My Music Series Started

Now that the novelty of staying at home has worn off, I can honestly say screw cleaning and organizing! Even the idea that I will actually do any of it, including cooking from scratch, is gone. So I may as well just sit in the sun, read, and blog.

Life in the time of Corona Virus comes close to what I imagined life in a retirement village without the socializing might be like.

I wake up late, have breakfast, read the newspaper, and amazingly it is almost lunch.

I don’t have to run errands. In fact I am told not to by authorities and family – although I have joined the masked brigade at Costco.

Maybe now is a great time to tell you how I started my music series.

Letting Loose Jazz After Midnight 36x48 from my Music Series

Letting Loose Jazz After Midnight 36×48

For years I dabbled in watercolor and my subjects were from my environment. I took a class while Luke was at Duke University. There I learned the variety of colors and tones I could make from French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber to Payne’s Gray. I painted boats, barns, beaches, etc. That worked for a while. As did all my drawings for the Daily Press. A subject for another time.

Then I launched into acrylics because I was too impulsive to plan my moves to achieve my painting goals. Besides oils messed with my asthma. With acrylics, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to paint and repaint and scratch out and gesso over.

It was the 1980’s and I had campaigned for women’s issues. This led me to think about doing art related to women of accomplishment.

But who to paint.

I didn’t personally know anyone outside the newspaper industry. I finally decided on JoAnn Falletta, music director for the Virginia Symphony. I knew about her and how well-liked and well-respected she was (and still is today!).

So how difficult could it be to ask her if she would be my first subject. A lot. Well it was difficult to even get in touch with her. I left messages at her office that were never answered but I persisted.

Eventually one evening I got a call from Long Beach, California and it was JoAnn on the line. I tried to impress her with my art credentials and I guess I did not appear to be a total deviant. She invited me to take photos of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra onstage at the Chrysler while they rehearsed the Buckner Fourth. No flash of course. This predated the ease of the iPhone camera so I tried to be unobtrusive with my non-digital, old school film Nikon.

Not so easy when I really wanted to be a part of the orchestra. Even behind the violins, crouching on the floor,I just wanted to do nothing but be a voyeur. But I had a self-assigned job; To capture a diminutive conductor guiding a hundred instruments played by a hundred professional musicians.

And me with a film shutter speed of 400 using only available light so I could not freeze frame. When JoAnn waved her baton the camera captured the motion, the sweep of the baton through space.

When I finally developed the film I saw photo after photo of blurs and darkness. Very little detail and little to work with or so I thought. However the loss of the crutch of detail forced me to use whatever my imagination could generate to fill in the blanks.

Motion became my signature.

Joann ConductsAction and emotion grew more important than defining my subject.

My work with VSO lasted several years. My series began and ended with Ms. Falletta. But it was my start. I carried the blurriness of motion into other subjects including other musical forms like jazz and bluegrass, and then sports, and people in the street. Even now when I find myself leaning towards harder-edged realism I look back at those early paintings and tell myself that just because one learns how to technically achieve painting realism, maybe it should not be one’s ultimate goal.

Such a Time as This

I assume like us you are at home.

I accessed a global virtual site and traveled virtually to London and Paris and the streets were filled with tourists and city sounds. Of course the tours predated 2020.

Then I checked webcams in different locations today and feel like I am living in an episode of Twilight Zone. The beaches are empty. The streets also. Times Square! Rod Sterling at his best would not have written a more bizarre scenario.

Just as I thought I could not emotionally stand any more politics, garden variety election year politics has been replaced by life and death issues-people sick and dying, joblessness, mental breakdowns, shut down businesses- all with no end in sight. Alcohol flowing quite well.

There is a personal bright side. I have my husband -and best friend- with me in our stay at home life. At least we have a gorgeous view and as of yesterday a new firepit on our deck. The great blue heron continue to fly back and forth over the marsh and our bird feeders attract an incredible variety of birds including bluebirds.

Nobody uses the “busy” excuse anymore.

My grandkids are communicating by text. I am talking more with friends from all over. I am cooking a lot (but then again I am a foodie and have always cooked) And so long as the entire world does not try to watch Netflix at the same time, I can binge watch come of my favorite shows.

On the other hand while I do have time, I have not even started my project of using more social media to showcase my art. However working on going through my photos  is just not on my real to do list. In fact I am avoiding reorganizing and deleting my 17000 photo images. Sigh.

I have done several cartoons that you can see on my Gloria Coker Fine Art Facebook. But my followers though loyal have not shared their enthusiasm. (That is a little joke) But I will persist.

Eventually this will end. Then we can figure out what permanent changes we will face. We won’t go back to business as usual. I hope many changes will be for the better, but we shall see.

In case you missed them, click on the cartoons below to see each one full sized.  Enjoy!!

Enjoy the Show

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had prepared and hung a lovely show of my paintings at the James River Country Club.  Sadly we were social distancing before many folks were able to enjoy the show.  So I thought I’d share my own commentary with each painting for everyone to enjoy from the comfort of your own home.  All of these paintings are currently available for purchase.  If you are interested, please contact me and we can make safe and socially distant arrangements.

Blues Guitar and Horn 23.5x29.5

Blues Guitar and Horn
23.5×29.5

I have been painting jazz musicians for many years.  My first renditions were more delineated.  As I got more comfortable with the subject matter and how musicians held and played their instruments, I have gotten more willing to create more abstractly. I wanted the emotion, color, and essence to attract the viewer rather than the specifics.

End of Autumn 24x36

End of Autumn
24×36

I am from New England and though this painting has a particular reference to Maine, it could be anywhere in the north. It is called The End of Autumn, because I see and feel the chill, and some iciness, along the shore. There is considerable texture in the painting because underneath, it is another painting and maybe even a third!

Bass Player 30x24

Bass Player
30×40

Another paint-over. When I find myself getting a bit too “tight” meaning the images are too delineated for my taste, I live with them for a while and then I paint over them. I added a musical score collage and random brushstrokes.

Break From Fishing 24x24

Break from Fishing
24×24 

I has a solo show in Manteo. NC in 2019, and I wanted to have a painting that reflected the waterfront. But I found myself “over” boats and marine scenes.  Instead I used my made-up young musicians along with a few added items from a photograph my friend Cyndi took for me.

Dalmatians 11x14

Dalmatians
11×14

I have never owned a Dalmatian, but I know a cute pose when I see it. These two had such a bond I could not resist painting them.

Dance in the Garden 48x36

Dance in the Garden
43.5×32.45

This is one of my larger paintings in a series of dancers that endured for many years. Luke and I took ballroom lessons for 3 years.  It was a great time to not just experience the dance, but to see others actually perform. As always, the background becomes whatever I want it to be.

Dancing At the Festival 24x30

Dancing at the Festival
24×30

I have painted women for decades and my ladies all seem to move and wear colorful garments. This painting, like many others, includes imagined or made up figures.  They’re based on my feelings at the time of the environment and the relationship of the women. The hula hoop looking circles of color are added to create more visual action.

Man With A Horn 20x16

Man with a Horn
20×16

I am still playing with this piece. Particularly the hat area. But not right now. The horn player is based loosely on musicians I saw and photographed in New Orleans.

At Least I have My Phone 30x24

I Still Have My Phone
30×24

My thanks to the young woman in Hampton who let me photograph her sitting in a shop window.  I loved her clothing, pose, and the fact that it genuinely reflected the young people in my family with their “devices”

Jittery Jazz 24x16

Jittery Jazz
24×18

This painting has at least two paintings beneath it. When things don’t work sometimes one must just destroy the painting to make it better; either by just painting a new version on top of the old or gessoing the whole thing and starting from scratch. I usually chose the former. He has a 50’s flair that reminds me of “the Fonz.”

Letting Loose Jazz After Midnight 36x48

Letting Loose the Jazz After Midnight
36×48

A large painting that I literally attacked. Keep throwing paint on until I finally evolved some forms that resembled musicians. There are many other ways I could have handled the design and colors but I will save them for another day.

Qualifying Time 22x28

Qualifying Time
22×28

My family has always cycled. Luke and I did a lot of tandem biking as well as bike tours that go inn to inn in New England and Barbados. These riders are racing.   I used my brushstrokes and sometimes brush stem to add choice of color so that you, the viewer, would feel the motion.

Sax, Horn , Guitar 30x30

Sax, Horn, Guitar
30×30

Another expression of my feelings watching musicians in the clubs on Bourbon Street. I did a quick sketch while we were inside one of the clubs.  Al Hirt actually signed my sketch!

Seaside Park 24x24

Seaside Park
24×24

I grew up near Long Island Sound in Connecticut and after school we would all troop down to the beach and the seawall. There really wasn’t much beach so this is improvised as well as my placement of a Tidewater oyster boat.

Sketch Artist 30x24

Sketch Artist
30×24

It is quite uncomfortable for me to draw in this sitting position, but others are not as stiff! Doing preliminary sketches is the best way to formulate an idea. I have spent too many hours trying to fix the unfixable because it was just a bad design.

Dare County Arts Council Show Wraps Up

Dare County Art CouncilThanks for everyone who came out to enjoy the “Let’s Go and Enjoy” show at the Dare County Arts Council in Manteo, NC over the past few weeks.  I was pretty excited to see it was written about in OUTER BANKS NOW.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Physicists teach that life is motion. All life. Even a sedentary rock.

Gloria Coker reveals the motion of everyday scenes, people and objects in her paintings to celebrate the underlying rhythm of life. In her own words, Coker’s paintings of musicians, dancers and beach and street scenes appear more like videos than static images.

The work of the Virginia artist is on display at the Dare County Arts Council through Wednesday, Nov. 6.

Thirty-five acrylic paintings fill the upstairs gallery of the Manteo venue. They call to the viewer to listen to a saxophone, watch as children splash in the ocean, feel the rhythm as a tango unfolds and sense the air rushing by as bicyclists race through an explosion of color and lively brush strokes.

Some works appear fully abstract while others merge abstraction with impressionism to reveal swirling dresses, strumming hands, and collective and contemplative faces of performing musicians.

Figure and background merge as blurred edges and a cacophony of brushstrokes create a moving moment rather than a still snapshot. Couple these choices with vibrant, complementary color, and you have myriad celebrations of life enlivening the staid, wooden-walled gallery that, ironically, once served as a courtroom.

Coker never thought she would be an artist. She earned a degree in psychology and another to be a counselor. Eventually — and armed with a talent for drawing and an excellent visual memory — she went into illustration in the newsroom at the Daily Press and also did courtroom drawings. Over the years, she photographed life creating a morgue of images from which she painted.

“My family was involved in biking, ballroom dancing, tai chi,” she said. “I had access to those things. I did art for the Virginia Symphony for four years.”

While she may start a painting — she works in acrylics — using a photograph as a reference, she may turn what once was an oysterman into a bicycle mechanic.

“These are all made up,” she says of her current work. “I do not have something I copied from a photograph here. They are invented.”

What matters to Coker is accuracy, how fingers are place on a keyboard, how a musician is holding an instrument.

While Coker can paint a realistic portrait, she is more interested in engaging the viewer in what a person is doing. Her figures may have minimal features to keep the focus on their actions.

As a result, she presents universal happenings to which a broad swathe of people can relate. She keeps them attracted, as moving things do.

“Motion and emotion,” she says. “If I can get someone to feel it inside, I have accomplished something.”

Replicating a pulsing sense of life is not easy unless, as in Coker’s case, the paint runs through your blood.”

You can see the entire article at:  OUTER BANKS NOW 

And don’t miss my 5th Annual Show and Sale tonight (Friday, November 8, 2019) beginning at 5:30pm at Associates in Dermatology.  Hope to see you there!

2018 Art Show Success and More

Getting ready for the 2018 Art Show and SaleThanks to all who made my 4th Annual Art Show and Sale last night at Associates in Dermatology enjoyable and successful. I had an opportunity to meet and talk to everyone who came.  I am looking forward to next year’s party already!  

In the meanwhile, excepting the small pieces that were exhibited in the reception room on display panels, the remaining art will continue to hang for the holiday season or until they are needed elsewhere. If you were unable to attend the showing last night, contact me for an appointment.  We can schedule a time for you to see the paintings after regular business hours or on the weekend.

Thanks again to all who came out!

 

4th Annual Art Show and Sale

Annual Art Show and Sale

As hot as it has been in SE Virginia this fall, I’m working hard to think about the coming holidays and gift giving.  I’m sure many of you are as well.  So…

Get ready for some super prices on my paintings for the 4th Annual Art Studio Show and Sale!!!

When:  Friday, November 9, 2018

Time:  5:30 – 7:30 PM

Where:  Associates in Dermatology office,  17 Manhattan Square, Hampton, Virginia (map / directions)

Come by, browse, shop and bring a friend.  Delicious hors d’oeuvres will be served.  There will be many paintings offered in addition to those hanging in the Aiderm offices.

See you at the 4th Annual Art Show and Sale!

Starting 2018 – Desire for Change

Summer Thoughts Sketch and Desire for Change

I think there may be a general misconception by the public. They see artists like me, who tend to get involved in what we loosely call creative pursuits, simply plodding along.  We go from one brilliant idea with a beginning, middle, and end.  We pause.  And then proceed to the next brilliant idea. Well, obviously most ideas are not brilliant.  However when we are in the inspiration phase, sometimes we feel that it could be the best work we’ve ever done.

Surprisingly to some, there are a lot more lengthy pauses where we feel, not just uninspired, but scared to death there will be no more brilliant ideas.  That the best we can hope for is to regurgitate the things we’ve done before, the tried-and-true, the successful (monetarily speaking).   I say we and I probably should not. Because this is just the way I feel.

So that was a lengthy lead in to the feelings I am having right now. I can always go back to painting the themes that people seem to recognize from me. But that is playing it safe. And you don’t learn and you don’t excel by playing it safe.  I’ve got a desire for change.

Then a painter like myself sits back and says, “All right so how do I not play it safe? 
What do I do differently?
Do I change my theme, my subject?
Do I change my technique?
Do I get more rigid or more exuberant?
Do I paint larger or smaller?
Do I tell a story or paint a feeling?
Do I paint more abstractly or with more representation?

Is the best really yet to come? I don’t know those answers right now, but I have to believe that the best is yet to come.

Fear not! I will continue to paint, because I can’t not paint. And you will be the first to know if I succeed in becoming inspired again. And it may be in the realm of technique and approach rather than subject.

I know where I play it safe. I know when I am painting for the public. But I also know that I am not getting any younger and I do not want to be merely spin my wheels.

If I want meaningful I have to give myself permission – to experiment, to waste paint, to fail.

Wish me luck!

Join me on Friday for an Evening of Art

This week has been a whirlwind getting ready for my 3rd Annual Studio Show and Sale on Friday, November 3rd.  Yes, that is THIS Friday already!

I’ve been busy changing and arranging the paintings at the Associates in Dermatology offices and getting my smaller animal painting ready to hang that night.

Evening of art - Prepping for the Art Studio Show and Sale

In addition to great prices on original paintings, I’ve got a few surprises planned for you!

I hope you can stop by on Friday evening.  The fun kicks off at 5:30PM.

To get the whole scoop, go to my invite.

See you soon!

 

 

 

Artist Sketch Rambles

Artist Sketch RamblesI keep a folder of 8×10 and smaller incomplete sketches and carry it around with me. Many times they spark something and I will often paint over them. Over and over.

When I am feeling ambitious, I organize them according to category:  women, women and the beach, women at a wine bar, women on cave walls, women in cave walls playing musical instruments. You get the picture.

I also print out photos of my paintings in progress. Sometimes I realize (too late) the best work should have been left alone.

Rethinking and painting over a work is something I do when I am second guessing what others might think. This is always wrong.

Yet many times, even I, at late middle age (I am an optimist),  paint with someone looking over my shoulder  – metaphorically speaking.   Like my husband suggesting, “It needs more red.” Or perhaps a friend commenting, “What’s that curvy line all about?”  But I’m just considering what they may remark.

Then I look at art painted by others that works for me.  I know I could critique the heck out them, but my corrections would only make the spark disappear.

The answer is to paint until I feel that any more intellectual effort will deaden it and then stop.  Then check back a few days later and any real problems will shout at me. But if I still like the painting, I will leave it alone. Art (unless you were hired to do something specifically) is for you and not the world.

Once in a blue moon, I haul out some art books to try to understand color better.  You know.  Fill in the blanks of info I never learned. because I did not go to art school.

Primaries,

tertiary,

split tertiary,

squared infinity (just joking) and it all looks so mathematical.

I look at the paintings shown as examples and frankly most are so boring. Maybe I am just too critical, but it seems to me once you have painted for years, you should have some intuitive feeling about what clicks for you.

One story sticks with me…

The widow of a famous painter (whose colors were incredible) was asked what color theory he used. She responded that he did not have one.  He just kept painting until it felt right. Bingo!

So after several hours of painting color sketches using the books’ suggested pigment combinations I put it all away. They sucked.

No real lesson here.  Just a nudge to fellow artists who struggle with color to just persist.

(Love that -just persist- SHE PERSISTED – might make me a t-shirt)

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