Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tall Grass - Part 2, The Gathering

It seems like a lifetime ago when I took a bearing and set sail on my career as a painter, pushing aside my "regular" job (or getting fired to put it bluntly) to focus on my "real" job. As with any extended voyage, there have been many times of uncertainty, fear, and yes... even triumph. Though fear and uncertainty still patrol these waters, they don't seem to board my ship as often as they used to. Triumph, on the other hand, seems to regularly fill my sails with victories both large and small.
There is a great deal of solitude in what I do, both in the studio and the field. In my little creative vacuum, there's very little opportunity for personal interaction with other artists. That lack of creative feedback is often amplified when I'm mired in a project that seems to be draining all my energy without much sign of progress. It can be a nasty cycle of depression and self-doubt when things aren't going well.
This year's crew of usual suspects: Cindy House, James Coe, Jim Bortz, Sue Adair, Stephen Quinn, Michael DiGiorgio, Sean Murtha, Barry Van Dusen, Lucia deLeiris

So I was both honored and excited when renowned New England painter, Jim Coe, invited me to attend the "Gathering." Not really knowing what to expect, I cleared my calendar for the proposed dates. I couldn't possibly pass up the opportunity and the 7-hour drive to the Catskills was a small price to pay. From the beginning I knew I'd likely be the first to arrive and the last to leave.
Break time!
I've written before about the energy surrounding a group of likeminded people. It's both exhilarating and exhausting. As it turned out, this was basically a show and tell session for artists... and pretty damned high level artists at that! This included thoughtful critiques and helpful advice... all of which I took to heart.

The entire time I was there, I kept thinking back to a conversation I'd had with Paul Rhymer more than a year ago when he told me, "You've been walking in some tall grass, my friend!" There is however, danger in that tall grass. There is a rush of pure joy that comes from being included with such accomplished artists, each with their own specialties and areas of expertise. Along with the inspiration of talking to and getting advice from such a proficient group, there is a humbling sense of admiration and an almost paralyzing fear of inadequacy. It's easy to take a look at Barry's sketch books and wonder what the hell I'm doing! Tall grass indeed.

I expected to come away with a need to pause and reassess my plotted course, but seem to have instead caught a wave and good wind for my sail. I'm sure my course will shift... as it should... but the direction is "forward"... even if the destination is unkown.




Barry van Dusen said...

GREAT summation of our weekend together, Jim! As you say, after long, solitary hours in the studio, a gathering like this one really re-charges the batteries, and supplies renewed conviction! Best with all your endeavors - Barry

Mike DiGiorgio said...

I was a wonderful opportunity to meet you and see your great work. Every one of the artist has a different language to say the same things. We are all challenged to think outside our comfort zone when painting, and gathering as a group shows us different ways to do that. But nobody can tell you what to paint, and how your source of inspiration will be reflected in your work.
It's always inspiring to be with like minded artists.

Sean Murtha said...


You put so well that same feeling I have of working in solitude and the need to energize with like-minded folks. We are each carving our own path, but it helps to see how others are doing it- and to get great advice, encouragement, and inspiration. I'm glad I got to spend time with you and all the other fantastic artists who gathered this weekend!