Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bonus Day... otherwise known as Snow Day!

I know, I only work two days a week so a snow day isn't that big of a deal, but I did sneak in a little work. My husband and kids had a snow day too so it is pretty energetic around the house. I usually spend snow days out in the snow shoveling, snow blowing, sledding etc, but with my injured knee the family had to do that without me, leaving my tasks to filling the crock pot (with butternut squash soup) and readying the hot chocolate.

I also had some bonus time for my drawing. Before you say there isn't much more finished, keep in mind the size of this puppy (and please try to not notice the falling duct tape on the side of my paper). I started the girl in the back's pants and had to go back in and deepen the shadows on the shirt to work with the pants.

This had me thinking about the debate between people who work their picture's "as a whole" and people who work piece by piece like me until they are finished. The thing is... I think we are both really doing the same thing. If you work on all parts as a whole you put in basic color shades in large shapes around the paper then go back in and refine until you get to details. I would imagine as an artist put down those large shapes of color in the first step they may have to adjust a shape/color somewhere else on the page to work together (or maybe that is done in the refining steps).

When you work piece by piece its not that you work each part to conclusion and move to the next... you are always refining the parts you  put down to work with the rest. Just like in this instance where I put in the pants leg and had to deepen the shadows in the shirt.

I just trudged out into the snow to get the mail and found out that I did not get into the Thorne Sagendorph show this year. This is a regional biennial show that is a big deal in my area. At the last one my piece Zen won Best of Show and People's Choice. I was nervous this time about my piece getting in... I entered the ballerina from my Norman Rockwell series. I'm not sure how I feel about that... it does make me question this series... is it not "artistic" enough? Is there a place for humor in the gallery world? Maybe I need to use polychromos like in my Zen piece because it comes out more painterly and less illustration-like? Not sure.....


Anonymous said...

Hi! I found your blog a while ago while googling coloured pencils. I've been looking through it a bit, and your work is really amazing! I really like your first Norman Rockwell inspired work. It's definitely my favorite of your pieces. I thought it had a really great humour to it, and really makes a comment about modern life. I think you did a great job capturing that Norman Rockwell spirit, while still making the piece contemporary and yours.

Anyways, all of this is to say that if it's something you're interested in drawing (painting?) I think you should go with it! You can't please everyone all of the time. The art world is funny about hierarchies and categorizing "fine art" vs. "illustration" which I really think can be short sighted and silly. I hope you don't let this discourage you from a project you're interested in. Norman Rockwell himself is a contentious subject with many critics :-)


Katherine Thomas said...

Oh dear... don't start doubting yourself and second guessing why the judges made the decision they did. Just shrug and move on with the kind of art you want to make. Your work is gorgeous and you're incredibly talented. Who knows what he/they were looking for this year. I love what you wrote about working whole-to-part or part-to-whole. I like doing one small part at a time, but like you, I go back and refine parts I've finished, because I have time to notice things in those finished parts, while I'm working on new parts.

Melody said...

Wow, Nicole your work is extraordinary. I've been spending quite sometime browsing through some of your older posts....looking at your beautiful work. I've been thinking of purchasing some color pencils and really like the polychromos. Just wondering if it's possible to use them on pastelboard and not frame them under glass and what you would use as a fixative for them. Thanks..really enjoy your blog

Nicole Caulfield said...

Thanks Katherine! I know I shouldn't self-doubt, but sometimes its tough!

Melody - Thanks so much!!! Polychromos are great - but you can not varnish them. They quite literally disappear in front of your eyes. If you use polychromos, then you need to frame with glass. On pastelbord I use Derwent Coloursofts, Prismacolors, or Caran D'Ache Luminance. :-)

Nicole Caulfield said...

Thanks so much Sarah!!!

I think I wouldn't second guess it as much if I weren't doing them so large! They take longer and cost more to make.

I may have to just start working more than one piece at a time... work on these big NR ones, while also working on a still-life. :-)

thanks again Sarah - I appreciate the sentiments!!!

devil dog said...

Hi Nicole, I've always admired your work, my favorite being Zen, but if I were on the judging panel at the Thorne I wouldn't have chosen "Ballerina" to be in the show. While I admire the skill level it required to create, the subject matter, while humorous, left me feeling a bit cold and thinking that it should have gone no further than the sketch pad.

You must always paint or draw what inspires you, what compels you to create in the first place. It doesn't necessarily mean everyone will like it. I honestly think that you just made the wrong choice in what you offered the Thorne.

I don't like being the devil's advocate, but it's how I feel.

Continue to do great things. I think you're terrific!

Nicole Caulfield said...

Thanks for the constructive criticism Devildog. I would love to know a bit more on why it left you cold if you have time? Is it the colors/composition, or just the idea of the piece?

Although it wasn't completely a failure as it was meant to be cold as well as humorous. I chose a less funny pose than I could have because I wanted to point out how families have become too busy.

One thing I find humorous is how popular Zen is... although I find it a pleasing picture to look at, it was one where I did not try to give any meaning (it is the juxtaposition of random elements)but people often like to tell me what they think it means.

What I am wondering is if that is what is appropriate in the art world... creating pieces of art that others can attach their meaning to instead of artists trying to get across a story or meaning that they want to share.

Luann Udell said...

Nicole, what any particular judge or curator decides is "good enough" to get into a show will vary by a factor of a jillion. Especially a show with such broad parameters as a "Regional Show."

Qualities of "warmth" or "left me cold" have very little to do with selection for a show this diverse in theme. Usually selection is based on what will make a cohesive show. Even the diversity of the region is a cohesive element. And a thousand different jurors, given that criteria, could put together a thousand different selections to create a show. Quality is important, but not the only criteria. Appeal, the same.

In fact, the curator may have LOVED your piece--but may have thought it didn't work well with other pieces selected from the submissions.

A potter friend learned this with an actual "black and white" example early in her career. She entered a piece in a juried show, a very beautiful piece. It wasn't selected.

She fussed and fumed and made up all kind of stories about why her work wasn't chosen. But when she actually got to the show, she understood. For whatever reason--the pieces submitted? The judge's preference?--the entire show consisted of light-colored pottery. Her submission just "didn't fit" with the rest of the pieces submitted.

She never second-guessed her work or her aesthetic again.

Years ago, a well-known juror wrote an article for ART CALENDAR magazine, supporting the same idea. Juror can't act on just what what they admire or like. First and foremost, they have to put together a cohesive show.

In fact, she suggested that people submitting artwork to such a show contact the juror (if they had a gallery or represented a museum) after the show--EVEN IF THEIR WORK WAS NOT SELECTED. The reasoning? These people often accept opportunities to jury a show to see what new work, and what new artists are out there. Even if your work was not selected, there's a chance they liked it. Perhaps even loved it.

Anyone who suggests your work wasn't "good enough" or was "too outside the box" may not have much experience with the jury process. I myself have submitted work to every Thorne Biennial for the past 12 years, and I've been rejected every single time. This year, one of my pieces was accepted. Is it "better" than the work of the last ten years? I doubt it. Either it "fits" with a lot of other work selected for the show, or the juror liked something about it that past jurors did not.

You have a wonderful theme going on with the NR work, a very po-mo reworking of an artist who was much criticized by "real artists" in his time. Can't wait to see what comes next in the series, in the year ahead.

You GO, grrl! :^)

devil dog said...

Hi NC,

I was thinking last night about why I enjoy art. Why do I collect what I collect, why do I frequent museums and galleries, and the answer is quite simple, because art makes me feel. Art for me arouses beauty, fear, happiness,inspiration,melancholy, pain, delight, anxiety,intrigue, paranoia and sometimes it even whips up a little passion. The feeling that I felt after seeing "Ballerina" was indifference.

As far as what made it cold and indifferent was pretty much everything. The colors, the composition, the execution of the child, nothing really hit a chord with me.

Afer reading Luann's comment about being left cold has nothing to do with judges choice selection, I believe she couldn't have been more wrong. If the judges felt any degree of indifference that the ballerina made me feel, it has everything to do with their choice. How can you appreciate a piece if it makes you feel empty?
I don't mean to discredit Luann, I know she's a talented artist with a great deal of experience, but I'd like her to tell me that "Ballerina" is 1/10th the piece that Zen is.

It's wonderful you have such support here from your bloggers, they seem like wonderful people who take great pleasure in your work and your experiences with the art world but sometimes I think they may be a slight detriment to you. (unintentionally of course)

Your bloggers at times have rationalized situations, such as the Thorne omission, as being just one of those things, the judges were looking for a cohesive grouping, blah, blah, blah. Well, truth is, Ballerina wasn't a good piece no matter how you shake it. While I appreciate the effort it took to create it, I believe it to be nothing more than an attractive advertisement for Adidas or Danskin.

My question for you NC is why did you get away from the technique that you used to make "Zen"? Here's a piece that not only won you regional praise but national praise as well.

You're a very talented artist NC, but I believe you have the potential to be something quite extraordinary.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I do wonder at people who have the nerve to make extraordinarily personal and negative comments but don't have the nerve to identify themselves to the world at large.

Nicole - in 2008 a piece by Jeff George got rejected from the CPSA Annual Exhibition. In 2009 the very same piece won the premier prize for the very same exhibition. Same audience, different juror.

What people commenting about pieces always need to be remember is that what they like or do not like has got absolutely nothing to do with what went on in the brains of the people selecting work.

The idea of rationalising your own views to be "the explanation" for why a piece got rejected is not helpful - whether you are the artist or an observer.

On the topic of comments, can I commend to you my comments policy which has served me very well over the last five years.

Particularly paragraph 4

"My journal is a virtual extension of my living space. Consequently, in this journal we will discuss things as if we were speaking face to face in my living space. Comments will always try to be on-topic, informative and polite. Discussions should always be thoughtful and respectful of others – this is not a debating forum."

I don't allow anonymous comments on my blog. You can only speak up if you say who you are and don't hide behind pseudonyms.

vivien said...

I think you should continue with working on what interests YOU, without limiting yourself to pleasing anyone

- I have to say I love Zen, your paper bags and red shoes, the self portrait with pencil shavings and that stuff best of all your work (and the more contemporary moodily lit offbeat still lifes) - but I really like the Rockwell idea, a contemporary twist. The ideas and story that's going on and the wit and imagination.

Not everyone will 'get' all or some of your work. People will relate more strongly to some elements. Different galleries or juried exhibtions too. I think you need to continue to explore and not produce loads of 'pretty' pictures that don't satisfy you, simply to please others, and develop your own unique 'voice' as you have been doing. (it's a variation of being able to 'fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time' - same thing with pleasing them with art work, literature, music ....)

Just show each series where it will be appreciated.

'A pot of paint thrown in the face of the public' Ruskin called Whistler's fantastic work - one person's opinion is only that. Their opinion.

That's my two pennyworth!

Nicole Caulfield said...


Thank you all for your comments.

I did however take Katherine's advice and I switched my settings to exclude anonymous comments.

If anyone would like to comment nonpublicly please feel free to email me direct.