Art Life

The Highs and Lows of Artists by Jeannine Cook

I have a suspicion that every artist, writer and other creative person knows that there is an inevitable pattern to life. By pattern, I mean that there is an excitement, almost euphoria, when there is an event to prepare, such as an art exhibition. Then, after everything is over, there is a let-down, a flatness and almost, sometimes, a short depression, before life reverts to a more even keel.

This has certainly been the case for me over the years, especially with my Art-Tasting events. Lots of work to prepare, hang, exhibit the art, and ensure that the wine-tasting and party are organised... a week of steady preparations before the date. Then the day of the Art-Tasting comes. This year, the weather was perfect, the marshes were magnificently golden and wide-flung and the garden still unaffected by freezing temperatures. Lots of people came, at a steady tempo, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, the main objective of the party.

The hours fly past, the table empties of food, artwork disappears out of the house under people's arms... and then it is all over.

Clearing up is made easier by wonderful help, and in the subsequent days, I put the house back together, and take the art down from display. Slowly, slowly, the world returns to its more peaceful rhythm, and I recognise that I feel flat and devoid of creativity. Luckily, this is only a brief period, I now know, and suddenly, I will get excited again about something I see or think of. Then I become a practising artist once more, and life will flow into other channels. The period of highs and lows passes once more.

I wonder if this happens with writers who launch a book, composers who hear their music played for the first time, ballet dancers in a new performance – a hundred versions of launching one's creativity into the public arena.

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Putting one's creative soul out into the wide world is exciting, challenging – but then there is the counterpoint, the emptiness, the let down. I suspect that everyone learns with time about the yin and yang of creative life, just part of the whole process of being an artist.

Art Blog thoughts for the New Year by Jeannine Cook

As January starts to gather speed, I have been trying to catch up on e-mail and the art programme I have ahead. Tomorrow, about thirty-six of us, art-lovers, will be joining Curator Holly McCullough to tour the exhibition, Dutch Utopia, at the Jepson Center of the Telfair Museum in Savannah. I had asked Holly, a dear friend, if she would lead this tour if I got together a group for January 6th. The response has been marvellous. Holly McCullough has been the lead Curator in preparing this exhibition for about five years, and she is thus an expert on this interesting collection of art created in Holland in the late 19th century by expatriate American artists.

 Canal Scene, Holland, 1881, oil on panel, John Henry Twachtman

Canal Scene, Holland, 1881, oil on panel, John Henry Twachtman

Next week, it will be my turn to talk about art, when I join my friend and art colleague, Marjett Schille, to discuss our art at the North Georgia College and State University's Bob Owens Gallery. Having created art on Sapelo Island, thanks to the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve staff allowing us to be there as Artists in Residence, we want to tell the college students about creating art plein air. We also want to talk about the ecological importance of such barrier islands as Sapelo, quite apart from their magical qualities.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to catch up on wisdom of fellow art professionals that they share on forums sites in Linked In. They have so many ideas and tips about how to increase traffic to art websites and art blogs. However, I have privately decided that other people must have found how to stretch their days more than the regulatory twenty-four hours! A presence on Facebook - yes, definitely, but the time to tweet on Twitter, post to YouTube, peruse StumbleUpon, discuss things on WetCanvas, scroll through Squidoo, create a store on Etsy – I don't know if 2010 will push me into all these avenues that so many other artists have already explored.

"Treat Life like Art" by Jeannine Cook

Maya Angelou wrote that we should "treat life like art" and to "remember that we are all created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed". I had been going to write about the interconnection of life and the visual arts, but as I was opening up this blog site, I began reading Tyler Green's entries in Modern Art Notes about Considering Torture through Art and Bruce Nauman's Double Steel Cage Piece. It seemed an ironic reversal of what Maya Angelou said. The recent and increasing discussions about the Bush-era issues of torture and abuse remind one that many people do not, in any way, see life as potentially beautiful or noble or even ethical. As Tyler Green said correctly, artists are among the few people who can address such issues as torture since they are "independent contractors", able to "embrace ambiguity rather than reject it" and address it through art.

Not all of us, as artists, feel equipped to tackle such important and weighty subjects, but thank goodness there are many who are the conscience of a society. However, I also feel that each artist is particularly passionate about some important issue and thus will marry life and art as eloquently as possible. In my case, it is the natural world and the need to respect and care for it that move me.

To that end, often, I find that the choice of what I paint or draw is, consciously or subconsciously, guided by environmental concerns and observations. Even when one works plein air, there is a constant "invention of new scenarios" by pruning and editing of the scene in front of one to achieve better the desired effect. Life and art are so closely allied that it is hard to separate them out and the art of living, or living for art, are both full time occupations, requiring practice and thought, a code of conduct and a very necessary sense of humour. As Ms. Angelou reminds us, there is always that gift too - the option of inventing new scenarios, in our own lives, or on canvas or paper - an option to grow as an artist, as a person. She also said, "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." A good thought for an artist to remember!