Communication

Annual Newsletters about Art by Jeannine Cook

Writing a newsletter about one's activities in the art world is an interesting exercice, I have decided. For many years now, I have written one every summer, mostly just to touch base with my friends and art collectors. Many people who have collected my art have become friends, which is one of the nicest bonuses of all.

When an artist sits down and reviews what has happened during the previous year, it is sometimes instructive. You can assess clearly whether you are making an effort to put your work out in the marketplace and what the results have been. Measuring yourself against your peers is another important aspect of trying to grow as an artist: acceptance in shows that are juried or curated by respected authorities in the art world is always a plus, particularly for one's resume. But more than that, it is a benchmark in the quest to improve one's artistic skills.

A review of a busy year can yield clues as to what activities have been the most successful; it can also show up what lacunae may need perhaps to be attended to in the future. Outreach can take many forms, from exhibits to talks to articles in the press, or - as with this blog - on the Internet. All these can help foster the image/brand that you are endeavouring to present to the world as an artist. The philanthropic side of art shouldn't be forgotten either; art can help people and causes in many different ways.

Over the years, however, I have also realised that the personal side of being an artist needs also to be alluded to a little in a newsletter. Artists are human beings, with a personal life, and it influences hugely what sort of art is produced. I found that out very clearly earlier this year when illness and my husband's illness almost obliterated any energies for art for a while.

Gerard ter Borch  in his famous painting:  Woman writing a letter , oil on panel, 1655, (Image courtesy of the Mauritshaus, The Hague)

Gerard ter Borch in his famous painting: Woman writing a letter, oil on panel, 1655, (Image courtesy of the Mauritshaus, The Hague)

Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing (c. 1665); oil on canvas. Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer. National Gallery of Art

Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing (c. 1665); oil on canvas. Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer. National Gallery of Art

Lady writing a letter with her Maid, c.1670, (oil on canvas) by Jan Vermeer,(Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland )

Lady writing a letter with her Maid, c.1670, (oil on canvas) by Jan Vermeer,(Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland )

It can be very encouraging to see that despite the feeling that one has accomplished little in the previous twelve months, there are in fact exhibitions, actions and results to reassure one that, yes, I am a professional artist. Somehow, twelve months rush on in headlong fashion and it is easy to forget what has been accomplished. Try doing a yearly review and share your successes with your friends and collectors. It can be a worthwhile exercice.

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.

Playing in art - revisited by Jeannine Cook

I talked in an earlier blog about the insights into the value of play in our daily lives and the role that play has in allowing artists to develop and create. I was reflecting again on the way artists can play in creating art, and realised that there is another aspect to this activity of play.

When I am drawing or painting, a private game that I play with myself is seeing how I can convey the essence of my perceived reality - be it landscape, flower, person - with the minimum of lines (in drawing) or colour (in painting). I try to distill the subject to the absolute minimum of detail which still allows the viewer to recognise (more or less!) what is being portrayed. Each work is an endlessly interesting challenge in this respect. Organising abstraction as visual elements that convey reality is really a game to see how best one can succeed in minimalist depiction of the subject matter. Artists have done this since time immemorial - think of the essence of bison galloping across the walls of Altamira or the aurochs of Lascaux. Dolphins cavorting across the frescoed walls of Minoan palaces and octupii reaching around their painted ceramic jars come to mind too. In all these cases, the imagery is distilled and organised almost to the point of abstraction, yet utter realism results - powerful, arresting and memorable.

Altamira Caves, rupestrian art

Altamira Caves, rupestrian art

Dolphin Fresco, Knossos, Late Minoan Period (ca. 1500 BC)

Dolphin Fresco, Knossos, Late Minoan Period (ca. 1500 BC)

Old Masters, from Renaissance times onwards, also skilfully selected and simplified design elements to make their compositions more successful and beautiful. They used the abstraction of closely related values joined together in massed forms, which allowed the viewer's eye to be led to the focal points which are depicted realistically. Abstraction was certainly not the "invention" of the 20th century. If you carefully study any good drawing or painting, of no matter what era, that is purportedly realistic, you can see all sorts of amazing elisions, squiggles, blobs and lines that seem to have nothing to do specifically with the subject being depicted. Yet, when looked at as a whole, the art is convincing. I am sure, too, that the artist was probably having fun and enjoying playing as the work progressed.

What flows from outreach by Jeannine Cook

I have been occupied in the other facet of being an artist - reaching out to my collectors by doing my annual art newsletter. It has been an interesting and - in many ways rewarding - exercise as I decided that sending the newsletter by e-mail was far more practical and less costly. The most time-consuming part has been getting all the up-to-date e-mail addresses, an amazingly complicated process in this country. I found that overseas e-mail addresses were far easier to find on the Web.

The rewarding part of this job has been picking up the telephone to many people who own my art, and talking to them. The reactions have been heartwarming and positive, with many mentions of how people like living with my art. When an artist is told such things, it is a wonderful affirmation. Suddenly, the self-doubts that every artist has on occasions are (temporarily, at least!) swept away and the knowledge that somehow, what one has created is enhancing someone else's life – that is pretty wonderful.

The week of work in this change-over for my newsletter confirms again that interaction with one's collectors is so important for an artist. I have more friends whom I met though art that I can count, and many purchased my art before I knew them at all. An enrichment beyond price in life. It is a gift too, in that the give and take between someone who is interested in your art and you, the artist, allows for dimensions and insights that perhaps otherwise would not come about. Usually those moment happen completely unexpectedly. It puts me in mind of a statement I read recently by Pico Iyer in his New York Times blog on "The Joys of Less", a propos of a slightly different context. He wrote that "happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn't pursued". It is the same in art. Even when I am busy collecting e-mail addresses, I am given happiness that was unexpected, and thus all the more appreciated.

Blog Followers by Jeannine Cook

Threading one's way through the multiple options on a blog site, let alone anywhere else on the Web, takes time. As an artist, it seems to be the eternal tug of war about allocation of time between art and the Web.

Nonetheless, the icon of "Follow Blog", up on the top left-to-middle of the top bar of the blog is apparently the easy way to ensure that you can return to my blog if you want to. Just follow the very simple instructions and you can then find the blog again without difficulty.

I would be delighted if you did. I love starting conversations with old and new friends.