This afternoon the art club from New Auburn WI visited my studio, as part of a day they spent learning about art life beyond graduation (they also toured the art department of a local university. ) So, 21 students and their teacher shuffled through the mud and melting ice (yes, it's lovely!) to my studio. I had put up a few older paintings so they could see something of my progress over the years, talked a little about abstraction, and did a short demo with my various tools and materials.
I was impressed with the eagerness on the part of 5 or 6 of them to ask questions...everything from what kind of music do I listen to while painting to inquiring about my favorite color. One guy got right to the point, within the first five minutes--how much do you sell these for? (Gasps and murmurs all around at my reply.) There was a also a general buzz of appreciation when I showed them a poster put out by the Ampersand
company (manufacturers of Gessobord panels that features my paintings. This is a career that can even include product endorsements!
But they also responded well to the work itself and to what I explained of my process, with thoughtful questions about whether I have definite ideas in mind from the start and if I ever change course as I work on the painting. They seemed to "get" that the work was created intuitively and expressed something personal to me. Overall it was an interesting half hour or so. I didn't have much of anything planned out to say, which is just as well since I ended up letting the questions take over.
Afterwards I wondered what they may have gained from this experience... if maybe a few would be motivated or inspired in some way. Besides the ones asking questions, there were also a few quieter students who seemed drawn in, and several kids offered comments and thanks to me on their way out. It made me remember times during my own growing up years when I was able to clearly imagine an art-centered life after meeting someone who had one.
A bigger wonder was if I'd given them at all a realistic impression of this life. Of course, I didn't have a lot of time...but still...I know I left out some important points. Like about the hard work, the strong commitment and of course the thick skin and focus that it takes to keep going. And about how hard it is to beat the odds and make an actual income. And about the down times and discouragement that most of us feel at some point. Oh, it could have been dark!
Of course, had I gone on like that, it would have made for a rather odd field trip, if field trips are meant to open doors of possibility...I do hope that instead I conveyed the joy and excitement of doing what I love, and maybe that's enough. Only experience can really convey the rest of it anyway, and if any of those kids do take this crazy path in life, they'll go through it all.