What do you do when your gallery doesn't want your new style?

TRINITY 36x36 oil on gold canvas

My husband and I own DaVinci's Gallery in our local downtown area, (that we used to operate but now lease to a co-operative) so we know the incredible pressures gallery owners and operators have in sucessfully marketing art.   I have been extremely well represented for my equine and sporting works by Sportsman's Gallery Limited and Paderewski Fine Arts for over 18 years and cannot fault their business ethic in the slightest.  They know their market.

As I grow and change as a painter (it's not for me to say I'm an artist - only time can tell that), I yearn to pour content and meaning into my work not necessarily having anything to do with the representative image; using the image as a sort of  icon for something more.  This painting is just such a piece.  I painted the canvas with Daniel Smith's gold gesso before beginning (also symbolic for me) and poured out my deep intention, sometimes carving it into the background.  (I'll leave you to guess at the meaning.)

My main gallery did not feel this was something they could represent, probably not wanting to confuse my collectors.  I completely understand, yet the rejection hit a nerve as  I realized that my gallery was not representing me and my artistic journey, but a certain brand of image I may not forever be able to furnish.  (Probably a little deluded and narcissistic to think otherwise all these years, but there you are...) A a certain amount of soul-searching took place when I realized this truth.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with one of my teachers Alex Powers when he said "Drop your galleries and do Art".  I suppose I am at a crossroads; I suppose it's time to choose...

What does one do?  Lick my wounds for sure.  Buying an ice cream (oink) helped.

You may have experienced synchronistic events in your life, well I felt that I did on this day... I received an invitation to enter an international equestrian art competition called Ex Arte Equinus with my new pieces.  I decided to see if everyone felt the same way about new works and entered "Trinity" and other like pieces.  Trinity won first place in painting, and my Appleby Flasher won third in drawing.  Evidently I will receive some goodies, works published in a lovely book, but the real gift is the whisper from the Spirit of Art that says "Keep going....."

You may view the competition Ex Arte Equinus at: http://www.arthorsemagazine.com/art_competition.html

A Pivotal Moment: Painting a waterbucket?

Now I know this isn't the masterpiece of the modern world (far, far from it...) but I felt something "shift" while I was doing this painting. Like everything changed in an instant, possibly forever.

As is often the case, when helping students, someone else understand painting, you learn so much yourself.  One of my students was having a miserable time with these constantly moving Norwejian Fjords (they must have been self-conscious of all the strange, oily-smelling predators lined up at the fence line).  I encouraged the student to relax, to paint literally 'everything' from the greyish hill behind, stubby trees, fence, two Fresians looking over the fence (yes....that's what they are... Rubbish isn't it?)  I remember saying "Yes, even the red and yellow plastic water bucket!"  And I did.  And I loved it... And I realized, from that moment on, something "clicked".

I would never sell this little 5 min. painting.  In fact, I've glued it into my art sketchbook (so there).  All the funky, bright, contemporary-looking paintings that are showing up now have been because of this "shift" and the little painting journal I showed you before.  The following painting was the first on stretched canvas.  I think I did it the week I came back from Kentucky...

My beloved mentor, Dick Turner, in his studio smoking a cigarette. KINDLY OLD TEACHER. 18 x 14 acrylic on canvas. November, 2008.

Painting models from life... Why paint a human still life?

Shawni. 16x12 acrylic. November, 2008.

What do you do when you find yourself in a model group... They have posed the model, often in a position no human would ever sit in for 2 hours (and it often shows on their face and posture), and you've been there, (yawn) done that so many times before?  I have begun to find patterns in the environment just as relevant to a painting that creates a feeling within me, like this one, a two-hour sketch of a model called Shawni.  I love to feel totally connected with "All That Is" (at the risk of sounding biblical...)  when I paint and so, instead of struggling to get a likeness of the model, everything else that intrigues me becomes part of the painting.  Just in the moment, seeing everything; quite Zen really, I should imagine.  (And no... I'm not sitting cross-legged humming all day!)

HANNAH. 16x12 Oil on panel. November, 2008

So.... I was in a model group and the model, lovely lady, was propped-up looking stunning (as usual), and my heart sank a little.  Meanwhile, whilst getting out my paints, drinking cups of tea trying to get motivated, I watched this wonderful woman called Hannah really "getting after it" across the room.  Hair and arms a-flailing, tongue poking through her cheek; her face expressing such a wide array of emotions I think she was painting a vampire one minute, and an angel the next, no vamipire... No angel.  Well... With such an interesting lady, it was no choice for me.  I was painting her, plus the doors and the air conditioning vent behind her, her bags below her, etc.  When she finally decided to walk around, about 2 (20 min.) sessions later, she walked behind me and said "Well I like that.... OH MY GOODNESS!  IT'S ME!!!"  Great for me is that she bought it, so everyone was happy.  Well worth my $5.00 model fee.

Painting Horses from Life: Kentucky Workshop

Fjord pony. 9x12 oil on canvas. 10 min. sketch

Cold, (I mean, frigid...brrrr).  What was I thinking!  Scheduling an outdoor painting workshop on frosty mornings.  Not only were the poor students terrified (always are when painting loose horses from life), but they couldn't concentrate with the cold.  Some just sat in my car and didn't bother.  (You have to know, this was extremely difficult for me and my "need to please" also.)  Anyhoo.... They had to push past their fears.  The day we painted this little fellow was warmer.  By now,  I had given them so many exercises about how to get, not just a "good picture", but the gesture of the moment.  It's always astonishing to me how afraid we are to explore and just be in the moment.  We're so desperate to create an impressive image, yet Art is not "how the thing looked" as much as "How I felt when I was here... In this beautiful place with this magic little horse from Norway".  We can get photos of the Fjord, it's YOU that we may never see again.  It's YOU that we want to see all over the canvas... terrified or not!  This was done on "Yes" canvas taped to a board, with oils.  Boy, does that stuff dry fast outside!!!  Faster than acrylic... I really mean it!

Travel Journal - Home Made

I thought about how sturdy those little baby books were... You know, the ones that you read to your kids when they were 2 or 3?  Chipboard construction, I think it is... Anyway, I sanded the pages, gessoed them, and painted them with acrylics so that they would already have fun, exciting backgrounds.  This one is about 5x6".  Like miniature canvases.... So portable and sturdy.  All you need is this, three tubes of acrylic, plus white, one or two brushes, and you're good to go....

As my kids will tell you, I have a thing for "mack" ladies...As in "mackintosh-wearing old ladies that trundle around the streets and shops of the northwest of England, usually with a shopping back, a sensible pair of shoes, a scarf and a plastic hood over the perm, if it's raining.  (They get extra marks for a short-legged dog of unknown origin).  I will unashamedly pose one of my children close to them and take photos of them going about their business.  This is one of my daughter (on the left, looks a bit like a pole dancer in ski jacket) and winter shoppers on Lord Street, Southport.

When you can find mack ladies sitting having a sandwich, like on Blackpool Pier, you can draw them from life if you're discreet.  I have found that, when people are eating, they literally "zone out".  That's why I do most of my figure drawing from life at Macaroni Grill, drawing on the table cloth with crayons!

Response to Gail Re: Jurying

The Question:  Is the artist (being juried) entitled to the judges' full comments on his/her work?  

My response:  Gail, first, thank you for even wanting to know my opinion.  Clearly you do not take judging lightly, and for this I am grateful, as so many so-called "experts" tromp rough shod over often budding talent.

I was not there; I did not see the work; I do not know the organization you judged for.... However, I can tell you that I always try to do what is best to ensure the positive progression of the artist and their art.  As a judge, I should be completely comfortable with the fact I have given the art and the artist the respect the entry deserves.  Also, I always ask myself the question in such circumstances "Am I serving the ego (i.e., hierarchy, establishment, sales, power, fear, etc.,) or am I serving the highest Art?"  I always want to serve Art and give 150% toward encouraging those aspects that serve this purpose.  If this means staying behind, meeting an up-and-comer who is sincerely interested in knowing more about his/her work from "experts", or giving them extra critique, then absolutely, I will.  Otherwise, why jury at all? 

The prizes and awards given speak for themselves.  It's those that didn't get the prizes that need our help.  I hope this helps, and I wish you all the very best with jurying shows in the future.  My warmest regards to you.

What a fine friend I have in Marjorie Holden...

Can you imagine having a friend who visited your sister for 8 solid years in a nursing home, every Monday, come rain or shine?  Marjorie's own sister, Janet, became ill with a mysterious disease, and Marjorie, true to form, never left her side even for a day.  I wondered... What could I possibly do to show I care?  I asked myself, what do two sisters need in such crises?  The answer was... their mother...

16 x 12 oil on panel. 2008. "MAGGIE & PIT BROW LASSES"

Knowing what a "Lancashire lass" I am at heart; knowing I come from a family of Wigan coal miners, some years ago Marjorie gave me an old, blurred photo of her Mum "Maggie" (middle),  a pit-brow lass of the Wigan coalfield way back when.  She said if I ever wanted to paint a pit-brow lass, would I consider painting Maggie?  I painted this for her while I was in Wigan, in September.  I thought Marjorie would faint when I gave it to her!  All she could say was "Oh Lesley!"  She then hauled it around as if it were a wallet photo for the next few days.  I heard Maggie even went to Bingo and met Marjorie's friends there!  I LOVED doing this painting.  I LOVE Marjorie (and Sam); cherished, beautiful people in my family's life from way back when.  A good use for Art!

Horsing around in England...

No.....I wasn't doing my Cecilia Bartolli impersonation!  It's me getting excited about painting a pony at Penny Hill Farm, Blackpool.... The site of my 2008 workshop for the horse painters of Lancashire (some from the Northwest Society of Equestrian Artists and others from Absolutely Animal.)  There's Zoe in the background with my model.

We started off with a charcoal/erase method first to learn to identify the planes quickly...

Then we rapidly sought shapes in shadow and light...

Continuing on...

De- derrr. These some of the smashing studies the students did from life. Each painting was about 30-45 minutes. We had a fabulous ex-police horse that stood for us; a massive bay. (I can't believe how much I express with my hands!)

How to Find a Beautiful Model for Figure Painting

CRYSTAL: 18x14 oil on linen. 2-hour sketch, 2008.

A group of local art friends and I, (Howie Doyle, Dawn McKelvy, Liz Hill, Marty Hatcher, Fred Hulser and Susan Sheets) meet at least every two weeks to paint the model from life.  It's a vital component to painting competently, even if you paint horses!  This week was the lovely Crystal G., a lovely, exotic young lady I found at Sephora!  You have to be careful how you approach beautiful women, but generally it helps when you're female, like make-up shops (I bought some bronzer from Crystal), and go in with a lovely daughter.  Now Fred and Howie are a little shy about asking (and so they should be!  Two middle-aged guys, one with a beard, both looking like artists a.k.a. scruffy most of the time.  I'd be leary...very leary..)  Not to say Howie hasn't managed to find us younger models, it's where he finds them that has us rubbing our chins from time to time.  All I'm saying is "Peruvian native attire".  (J.K.  You know I love you Howie and very much appreciate you setting things up for us.)  I've found fabulous models at the grocery store, horse shows, hair dressers, restaurants, (chefs and waitresses).  You just have to be nice and show them some work so they no you're not too loopy.  It's always a good idea to tell them they don't have to model nude, and tell them the address of your studio so they can tell their mums and dads where to come if they go missing!  (I'll have to tell you a funny story about the gorgeous male waiter I hired for us once and was hunted by his drama-queen girlfriend; I'll look for that painting to show you.)  Until then, by for now and have a brilliant day!  Go find those models, and if you can't go to Macaroni Grill, draw all the eaters on the table cloths.  Some of my best sketches were done while drinking Chianti!

Saratoga Springs Offering 2008

"IRISH" 16x12 by me. It's about my ancestry. These wonderful jockey silks contained a shamrock which had me romanticizing about being of Irish descent, and remembering those fabulous Irish Thoroughbreds of my youth. It was painted in oil on gold panel...

"GOLDEN TICKET" by Lesley Humphrey. 16x12 oil on panel....Painted again from Saratoga references. This time, I was excited about how my life was going and I felt like I had been handed the golden ticket....at birth! Lucky me!

"THE DARK HORSE" 2008 Watercolour by Lesley Humphrey. I painted this on gold prepared watercolour paper with watercolour. As you can see, the style and application is exactly the same as my oils. This time though, it's not about the horse really... It's about the remarkable race to the White House that's going on this year. The filly is out of the running and this guy has an old grey to beat! Let's see who wins. Mmmm.

Jurying Art Shows & Critiques

To be honest, I feel that Art cannot be judged.  What causes one person to paint this image over that is a very personal choice in matters of Art, and one choice no better than the other if offered from a place of authentic need to express.  One person may paint the darkness that has befallen him/her as an 'exorcism' or means of communication and this can be construed as Art; and it does not need to be attractive or marketable.  Others (my favorites) paint something 'beyond', something intangible and unknowable, like icons for 'what might be'.  Many paintings offered in traditional representational galleries are celebrations of the artists' reality, hopefully containing 'expressive marks' of the creator, telling us as much about how the artist felt about the subject as a two-dimensional representation of 'where he/she was'.  Others are actually craft created by people who have become very good at 'wiggling the brush' and paint attractive representations of the world in 2-D  for fun, to earn money, or just because they can.  It's all fine, just don't expect me to call it 'Art'.  (This applies to myself too, of course....In truth, I'm guilty of all of the above. When I do agree to jury an art show, often I will think about what the painting tells me of its creator; who is a left-brained, hard worker, who is courageous and painting from the heart, who is having a tantrum on the canvas and calling it art, etc., etc.  In trite horse paintings I often see the ego; in wonderful realism, the dedication to craft (technique is, after all, craft); I love to see courageous, expressive paintings and willingness to think 'out of the box and communicate something of the artist's authentic nature aside from her ego.

Yesterday I received an email from CB asking "would you please look at my paintings and tell me why I didn't get in this national show?"  I answered her personally, but the following is the list I think is the only fair way to evaluate art for a show.  I developed a system that starts off with quantifying those elements of visual arts that I feel can be evaluated and judged, and I assign each a number out of ten.  I then total the list and those paintings that score the highest in the show, all are evaluated more personally.  For those of you who want to know what those categories are, I list them here....

  1. COMPETENT USE OF MEDIA:  Craft, skill, technical competence and confident execution of media.
  2. DESIGN COMPETENCE:  Proficient use of design elements i.e., shape, colour, line, value, texture to support idea.  Abstract appeal and composition.
  3. EMOTIONAL IMPACT:  Does the work invite scrutiny, thought & feelings beyond obvious visual pleasure/interest?
  4. CREATIVITY:  Has the artist thought 'out of the box'?  Is there an element in the work that is new, unexpected, brave?

Summer Journal: Painting in the rain

Poor Johnny!  It was pouring down rain at Myerscough college when Johnny, his father Clive and the Vail of Lune hunt came to pose while I painted.  (I'm not stupid...There's me, jet-lagged yet dry in the tent).  I was doing a painting demonstration initially in the rain, but the rain soaked my clothes and my paint wouldn't move, so I chickened-out.  Johnny let the rain drizzle down his neck for a full 20 minutes.  (The resulting painting is in my studio and will be uploaded soon.)

Summer Journal: A Feast for the Heart & Soul - Chatsworth, Derbyshire

The sunlit hills of Derbyshire hint of something wonderful around every bend.  One can never be prepared, however, for the feast for the eyes that is Chatsworth, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Derbyshire.  The beauty of the place, the splendor of its countryside was in fact eclipsed for me by the art collection inside.  Chairman of Sotheby's, the Duke has secured his beloved collection and heritage from the clawing hands of governmental tax laws by ingenious trusts, set up to preserve his precious history.  One cannot help but be thankful for him and his family who, while they reside still it the family seat since 1600's, now rent the 1st floor apartments as custodians of Chatsworth.  I imagine the Duke feels deeply in his soul that we are only custodians of art and beauty, and he has done everything in his power to preserve beauty, heritage, and history; all things good about being British, for us all to enjoy.  I admire him to the root of my being.

Here I am in the Duke's sculpture room.

I have to admit, I was still reeling from encountering two beautiful Rembrandts (purchased by the Duke's family in the 1700's when they were still affordable) and fabulous Lucien Freud's paintings when I walked into this marvelous gallery.  All these treasures to be viewed in someone's home was a rare, unique experience for me.  It gave the art more presence; it seemed more real, more visceral when viewed nestled in its own private setting.

Here is my newly graduated daughter Lauren in the lawns of Chatsworth. As an art history major, she was equally stunned by Chatsworth.

Well, as you can see, I live a charmed, artful life. I am still digesting our June in the U.K. and France and I am utterly grateful to my husband and to all our friends and relatives who mad our travels magical.  See you back on earth!

Summer Journal: Family and France

My wonderful husband (pictured below at Chateau de Chaumont) took us to Paris and the Loire Valley for a fabulous holiday filled.  We stayed at a hunting lodge in a Chateau that boasted a 2 Michelin star restaurant (oh, my goodness, words cannot even describe how delicious and magical that was.)  We LOVED touring Paris again, this time with our children.  Seeing them marvel at the beautiful sights on the River Seine at nightfall, enamored with the Louvre and the beautiful Mona Lisa, strolling through the places our children have studied in art history courses.... What a rare, wonderful treat the entire trip was...

My wonderful husband at Chateau de Chaumont

In the evenings we would seek the local fine wines and select the brasserie to sample local delights.  In the days we would travel through centuries visiting our local Amboise...

Here is my son Chris at Amboise castle being a gargoyle

We were rather shocked at the sheer magnitude of the ego and narcissism that would permit one to build the Palace of Versailles when people were starving all around.

Here is Ashley, my second daughter at Versailles...

Summer Journal: Boar's Head pub, my local.

So what do you do in Standish when you're all nice and dry?  Whet your whistle, of course!  I took my children to sample beer and crisps at my local pub, the Boar's Head in Standish.  It's old.  I mean, it was mentioned in the Magna Carta old.  I've passed it thousands of times growing up, and stopped in once or twice as an adult.  (I can't go anywhere without doodling something or someone.  This was done in my travel journal with watercolor and a Bic pen.)

NEW this week.....

I finished the Northwest Art League demo I called "Passion".  (Herewith).  Also, Racing Colours (herewith), and a model Thursday with a white t-shirt, blue jeans and conservative haircut...(Soon to be herewith.)

RACING COLOURS 30 x 20 Acrylic on board

PASSION 16 x 12 watercolour on panel

Summer Journal: Hung out to dry in Lancashire...

When the kids won't get up and you want to paint something, what do you paint?  I thought I'd do what Sargent did; paint the first thing you see when you walk out of the door.  In my case, my clothes from the day before hung out to dry (thanks mother.)  Painted directly into my journal on gessoed watercolour paper, in oil (13 x 8).

Getting Ready for my show at DaVinci's...

It was the first time I'd ever shown my "Maya series" which are the paintings that reflect my deeper, more expressive nature.  I often sign these paintings "Maya Humphrey" which is the name my daughter Lauren gave to me.  It was a matter of finishing the last couple of paintings to hang....

"FREE TO DANCE" (36 x 20 oil)

"APPLEBY RIDERS" (12 x 12 oil)

"Getting ready" in the traditional sense was really no big deal; not difficult, since I'd done so many in the past when Larry and I ran the gallery ourselves.  "Getting ready" emotionally was quite another matter.  My dear friend and fellow artist Howie Doyle had sent out an email to the community (he's a publisher and editor of a regional magazine) sending out such remarkable messages about my Art that sent me quaking, losing sleep, questioning my abilities to the core.  The comments seemed unreasonably glittering and could not possibly fit into any image I had of myself.  It literally took me the rest of the week to corral my ego again and not be attached to the outcome!

How feeble I can be at times.  Thank God that, while I'm painting at least, I am happy and free.

NW Art League demo 4-15

I was going to do oil (better for large groups), but the advert. said I was doing watercolour!  So I did both.  I pondered what would be meaningful; to encourage people to paint from the heart...

I thought about the questions raised with recent polygamy cults.  I decided to paint an icon for a free woman responding to the spirit of life in dance; I decided to paint a flamenco dancer from a 30 sec. gestural sketch I did from the telly watching Riverdance.  The oil was done on gold gesso-primed oil panel (30x 20), and the watercolour was from a similar sketch of the same woman.  I am finishing them this week, and I'll load them up then.  Those who attended, thank you for your warmth and graciousness.