Hurricane Irma happened. We stayed in our island house, hunkered down and rode out the storm, even though we were told to evacuate. We stayed awake through the dark hours, listened to wild wind and rain, and jumped when the heavy thumps of trees came down around us. It was frightening. With the morning light, we surveyed the remnants of our universe. The old trees that had hugged my property for so long snapped in half. My now-treeless sand dunes have become a barren alternate reality. So strange.
I have always accepted hurricanes as part of living in paradise. But they are never easy.
I’m finding it hard to get into my painting studio while I’m shell shocked. I want to sleep more and eat too much, and I think I’ll give into it. I forget sometimes that I’m not a machine – I can’t just whip out new paintings every week forever. I believe that after a major stress, you have to give yourself a break. Read a book. Swim. Take a day or two or twenty to catch up and pamper your soul.
What: Mary Hubley Artist’s Reception: View new paintings and enjoy free wine tasting and light snacks.
When: Reception: September 1 2017, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Exhibit remains for the month of September.
Where: Tim’s Wine Market, located on A1A, in St. Augustine’s SeaGrove Town Center.
I’m pleased to invite you to my art opening: my small works exhibit at Tim’s Wine Market. As Tim’s September featured artist of the month, the art opening will be held on September 1, 2017 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. during St. Augustine’s Artwalk event. I’ll be there to introduce my new small paintings collection, while Tim’s Wine Market will pour free wine tastings. The public is invited the opening. The exhibit will remain throughout the month of September.
About Artist Mary Hubley
Mary Hubley is a St. Augustine-based artist who is known for her modern contemporary landscapes. Her style is dramatic with soft edges and a dreamy feel, and moves between semi-abstract to loose impressionist. Much of Mary’s work is completed en plein air – outside, at the edge of local marshes, beaches, and around old St. Augustine’s scenic streets and historic sites. As an award-winning artist, she shows her oil paintings in prominent art galleries throughout the South East.
About Tim’s Wine Market
Tim’s Wine Market is located on A1A, in St. Augustine’s SeaGrove Town Center. Featuring over five hundred selections of quality wine, owners Michael Sally and Kathryn Vaughan offer advice and suggestions in the casual hip atmosphere of this popular local wine shop.
I live through artist eyes in a world of vivid color and abstract shapes. My mind breathes in a transcendent tangle similar to Alice’s Wonderland. My mind perceives people as super-animated, grays as radiant purple, and trees actually dancing.
I dwell in this alternate reality when I paint every day. Regular practice keeps me completely engaged with a living surrealism. Here, blank white canvases are not intimidating, but inviting. Rather than being sucked in by mundane distractions of clothing that goes unwashed and tonight’s dinner potatoes still unbought, I pick up the brush and jump single-mindedly down the rabbit hole.
The Big Jump
When I begin my painting frenzy, the landscape vibrates with invisible brilliance as it plays out across the canvas. While I’m so completely engrossed, it’s a trick to not go overboard. I try to capture raw intensity while keeping it from being distracting. I balance perfection with hodgepodge. As my painting emerges over the next few days, I observe before-unnoticed nuances; this is when I soften overenthusiastic edges, fix unfortunate shapes, and tone down the purples and oranges.
The Wonderland of the Mundane
The magic lives on when I come up for air. I notice exotic tree contours as I drive to the supermarket for tonight’s potatoes. Unusual color combinations insinuate themselves as I fold the wash. Few of my non-painting friends understand my strange consciousness. They call it eccentric. It could be madness.
Sometimes, I find myself staring at a bush or a sidewalk. It’s the color. Or the shadow/light.
If you’re an artist, I’ll bet you know what I mean.
I’ve been excited about creating more impressionistic, even semi-abstract landscapes lately. A foray into sharper lines and brighter color. Diverging from true photographic reality. While I’m still creating plein air paintings that are more realistic, my heart yearns for contemporary minimalist and abstract. So, I’m combining the best of both. I’m now breathing color. Here is one of my new whimsical landscape creations:
By the end of May, Florida gets hot. Week-long organized plein air events aren’t even offered during the hot months, and the most intrepid plein air artists migrate northward to paint in cooler climates. I’ll still sneak out to paint with my local group occasionally. But mostly during the warm months I morph into a temporary hermit as I duck inside my summer studio cave.
But oh, while the weather was cooler, I created some awesome paintings out in the marshes and in the oldest city.
Flagler Beach Paintout
I was honored to take first place in the Flagler Beach paint out with my painting, “Still Water Reflections.”
It’s always a surprise and delight to receive recognition, as there are many talented painters out there. I kind of float on a cloud for at least a week after a win. This was painted at the side of an alligator-filled marsh, under clear skies and a sizzling sun. Thank goodness for thermos bottles of ice water.
St. Augustine Paintout
A couple of weeks later, I participated in the St. Augustine plein air paint out. The city was energized by over 50 artists who painted the scenic streets and historic buildings. I managed to finish these three little paintings. The last one, Quiet Pathway, came home with a lovely award from the St. Augustine Art Association.
Artists are obsessives. We talk about art, live art, breathe art. Plan, research, create. All the time. Even on vacation we’re snapping reference photos and stopping by galleries and museums.
However, having a razor-sharp obsession on art doesn’t always equal success. The art world is a very big place. It’s easy to get lost.
And listening to “experts” makes it worse. They command us with “101 Important Things You Need to Do to Be a Successful Artist.” It’s crazy. We’d need to hire 10 assistants to do everything. So, we try to explore different media, subject matter, and techniques. Sell online, through galleries, festivals, direct to customers, and shows. Social media, blog, network, P.R. It’s overwhelming.
And going in too many directions creates superficial art. We risk never reaching our potential because we’re too busy chasing everything.
Instead, I try to stay with the basics. Simplify. Focus. Create art every day. Market only to outlets where it makes sense. Don’t do everything. Spend quiet days in my studio and just paint. I work with just a few important galleries and have a simple online presence. And when my “must do” list gets too crazy, I brutally slash out the dead weight.
Someone mentioned in my class today, wouldn’t it be fun to paint with your eyes closed.
We had been talking about how you should paint what you feel. Monet and Van Gogh painted impressions of their surroundings. They painted with emotion. It was about the air and light rather than rendering a perfect photographic image.
I have found impressionist painting to be intensely meditative. Quiet. You breathe in your surroundings. Taste the bold shapes and intensity of color and optimism in the atmosphere. That’s the important part. You breathe out by placing informed paint onto the canvas.
Today the class painted sky and field. One of the students went very minimalist, with a simple blue sky and a yellow field. Uncomplicated. Palette knife work. So expressive. As if he were painting with his eyes closed. As if he were in prayer or meditating while his hand reflected what he felt. This student smiles while he works.
For me, it’s almost a form of yoga practice. Close your eyes. What do you feel? What do you hear? Feel the sensation of breathing in and out. Now open your eyes and quickly get those sensations down on the canvas.
This idea of painting with your eyes closed can be used as a warm-up to painting, or as an actual on-going practice. It will make you relax. It will loosen you up. And you will end up smiling the entire time you paint.
Last week, I painted in the gardens of the historic Fatio House in downtown St. Augustine, Florida – a museum surrounded by beautiful Spanish Colonial-style buildings. I often paint small when I’m in the field to get the basics quickly. If I like the painting after I get back to my home studio, I’ll often repaint it in a larger size. Here’s my progress on a tiny study:
Most of my professional artist friends are overwhelmed by their growing amount of art. Even many of the highly successful artists who make a nice living and paint beautiful work suffer from an overabundance of old and unsold work. Artists hoard, stuff into closets, line hallways, 10-deep sitting against the walls in bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms. Old art, new art, multiple prints/giclees, good, and bad. A predicament.
The solution? Sell it.They try. But many artists’ finest paintings have already been shown and failed to sell.
The problem is the art market has changed. The current generation of art purchasers have grown up in the era of minimalism, Ikea, and Target. They don’t want grandma’s old Hummel collection or the china closet that held it. This is the era of living lightly, buying small homes, and owning less.
A couple of months ago, a local auctioneer told me she’s experiencing a “glut” of original art. She said that she’s getting $25 for the gorgeous paintings that had been in galleries for $4,000. I am not kidding. She said there are too many artists and too few buyers, and the result is too much art.
Is Art Dead?
Art is certainly not dead at the top of the market – the big New York auction houses are selling major pieces at unheard-of highs. And it’s still alive in the middle of the market, but now collectors want investment pieces that create a statement rather than clutter.
What Do Artists Do?
Successful artists adapt to changing lifestyle trends and sell their best work. And they get creative with the leftovers.
Robert chooses to live in the clutter of his paintings; his estate will have to figure out how to dispose of his paintings after he dies. Emily sells old/bad pieces in garage sales for next to nothing, but wrestles with undercutting her galleries, putting bad pieces out in the market, and devaluing her art. Others donate, gift, and paint over old work.
My Personal Solution: I sell my best work through galleries or online. I keep a few. And then, gulp. I bonfire. Burn and release. Watch the smoke carry away the last sparks of one-time hopeful masterpieces. It’s a sad moment. Then I walk away. Back in the studio, clutter-free, I replace old dogs with new hopefuls.
I’ve just created a lovely group of minis – small plein air landscape studies of trees in the wind. More impressionistic than abstract, these trees have a soft energy, blowing leaves and shimmying, dancing in the breeze of the day. It’s been quite a nice winter in St. Augustine, Florida and I’ve been out and about doing these quick landscapes more often.
These landscapes are small – 5 x 5 inch studies, and very affordable. They are for sale online at my daily paintworks page.