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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What are your goals for 2019?

If you’re talking about more paintings than you’re making, you may have a work-habit problem.
Christmas Eve, by Carol L. Douglas
I’ve been texting back and forth with a few friends about our plans for the coming year. These all involve metrics: how many shows, how many social media hits, sales volume, number of students, on-line vs. bricks-and-mortar sales. Artistic goals seem to play no part in this. Yet, without them, what’s the point of being a painter?

I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution-maker. I give myself one task on January 1, and that’s to remove myself from all the junk mail lists I’ve gotten on in the past year. That’s less a resolution than a reminder, like having your annual physical on your birthday.

Christmas night, by Carol L. Douglas
I address the things I want to fix in my life when they first appear as a problem, not on an arbitrary date in Christmastide when I’m already feeling sluggish from too much holiday. So yesterday when someone asked me about my artistic resolutions for the coming year, I was unable to answer.

But to say I don’t have artistic goals would be wrong. They include doing more abstraction, more small studies, and more forays into the world of magical realism. But don’t hold me to them. By midsummer, I may have abandoned these ideas completely and be fascinated by Kleig lights and cougars.

Schoolbus, by Carol L. Douglas
If that’s you, too, don’t despair. That’s the artistic temperament in a nutshell.  When it works successfully, an artistic temperament is a great intellectual curiosity coupled with very disciplined work habits. A lot of people have that backwards: they see undisciplined work habits as a sign of being ‘artistic’, and don’t seem to notice the paucity of ideas in the work being churned out. Or not being churned out. If you’re talking about more paintings than you’re making, you may have a work-habit problem.

I particularly respect my old friend Cindy Zaglin in this respect. She’s survived cancer and Hurricane Sandy. Her answer to every bump in the road is to trudge over to her Brooklyn studio to make more art. If she was worried about sales numbers, or critical reception, she could never have gone down the artistic path she has. (She was sort of a realist when I met her many years ago.) Whatever the question, the answer for her has always been to sort it out by making more art.

Nautilus was my last 'serious' painting of 2018, and even here I couldn't get the magical realism out of my mind.
I took last week off to spend time with my family. You’d think that with all that spare time, our house would be immaculate, but it’s the other way around. Without routine, it rapidly disintegrated into a mess. I myself was restless and fractious. By yesterday I was anxiously drawing in my sketchbook, eager to get back into the studio. And so today, between visits to my dentist to get a tooth fixed (ah, Christmas!) and my physical therapist to work on my back, I’ll do just that. The metrics and plans will just have to wait.

2 comments:

Nina said...

I love the paintings featured. What is your definition of magical realism?

Carol Douglas said...

I don't think that's an easy question to answer, Nina, but I'd say it has to be something equivalent to the magical realist writers like Haruki Murakami. Given my penchant for bad jokes, this could end really badly.