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Looking Ahead…

November 2, 2011

Recently, I had a brief exchange with an artist friend who is only 3 or 4 years younger than me.  It was only a quick comment by him and a short response by me, but it said a lot.  He has apparently begun rethinking his priorities in life, and his thinking appears to be a reflection of what I’ve been working toward for the last couple of years.  At a certain point in life, the pursuit of fame and big bucks begins to have a diminishing return.  That doesn’t mean the idea loses its luster, because we all have respect for those who make it big.  But since I’m pushing 68, and I haven’t “arrived” yet, then it’s time to think a bit more about the meaning of the pursuit of happiness and things that generate a lot less stress.

Now, my friend is very active in his local art scene, teaches, does workshops, and has gallery representation.  I don’t think he’s really going to give all that up.  I think he’s just going to pursue those things with slightly different goals in mind.  Besides, he has way too much to offer as a teacher to just stop doing it altogether.

I’ve been asked about teaching and doing workshops, and to be honest, I’m just not sure I know how to teach what I do.  The best I’ve managed so far is a few two-hour demonstrations.  I’ll continue to do those in the future.

I’ve not pursued gallery representation for several reasons, which would take up far too much space here to explain.  The time may come when we physically can’t set up a booth at a festival, and I may have to reconsider the gallery issue.  For now, we prefer selling directly to the public at street shows, festivals and markets, as well as online.

But I love to paint, and I love to draw, and those are things I’ll do for as long as I am physically or mentally able.  And, like my friend, I like to sell my work.  I just have to find that good balance between work (selling) and play (seeing the country, enjoying my wife, drawing, painting, blogging and just plain relaxing).  Things appear to be on track for us to ride off into the sunset in our 13-year-old 36foot motorhome in a few months to do just that.  I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how I’m going to organize the things I want to do, so I get the most enjoyment from all of it without some of it feeling too much like a job.

For example, I’ll need to figure out how to do both the art blog (the one you’re reading now) and the travel blog (Back Roads & Brushes).  So far, the travel blog hasn’t taken up much time, but that will change dramatically when we begin chronicling our adventures.  I’ve thought about combining them into one all-encompassing blog, but I’m not sure that will work.  I’m not sure the folks who are interested in the art are going to care much about the adventures related to plumbing maintenance on the RV, and RVers probably won’t be terribly giddy about a step-by-step demo of a gouache painting.  It could make for a pretty big, unwieldy thing for people to navigate.  I’m open to suggestions on this subject, by the way.  I truly enjoy writing this stuff, so I may just keep it the way it is and call it a “hobby”.

Then there’s the “showcase” blog which serves as my website.  It has to be maintained, but I think it’s a bit overloaded right now.  My thinking is to a) reduce the number of pieces displayed in the galleries; and b) move everything smaller than 8×10 to the Etsy shop.  We do hope to sell more from the website, but I believe the Etsy store will see more sales, simply because it will showcase the smaller, lower priced artwork.  But I first need to start spending some time getting it set up again (it’s been dormant for a few months), and then will have to maintain it.  The intent is not to depend on the people who browse Etsy, but rather through the blogs and social media to direct our own collectors and customers there as a convenient place to purchase our artwork.

Nell and I have already talked a bit about how we’ll need to balance the desire to draw and paint with the fun of seeing new places and things.  We don’t intend to spend days at a time on the road, treating this like a vacation where we have to squeeze as much as possible into a short period of time.  We’ll stop, plant our little “house” in a nice location, then spend some time seeing the surrounding countryside and taking time to sketch, take photos, and paint.

We also plan to just spend some time hiking, bike riding, sitting and looking at the view from our “porch”, listening to the breeze in the trees overhead, or dozing off while reading a book (Nell’s personal favorite).  Right now, most of my waking hours are consumed with art, whether sketching, drawing, painting, reading or just thinking about it.  That’s one of the benefits of getting older.  One can narrow one’s focus a whole lot.  But I also enjoy learning, and discovering places and things.  Sure, I’ll always be looking at things with one part of my brain composing a painting, but that’s simply who we are as artists.

I’ll probably paint a bit less, although not much.  And I’ll probably keep my focus on small paintings, both from a logistical as well as marketing perspective.  Storage is limited in a 260 square foot home.  And now maybe some of my oil painter friends will finally understand why I made gouache my chosen medium.

We’ll figure it out.  We do need to give all of it a little more urgent attention now, though.  We just got a contract on the sale of the house.

The Plan is on schedule.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2011 3:49 pm

    Sounds like a great plan Ralph. I never did think I had a hope of making it big. I just wanted to create art that people liked well enough to purchase. I’ve been president of a co op gallery and art association but decided it was too much work being the responsible adult and sales were never that great. I’m happy for you, doing what you love.

  2. November 2, 2011 4:45 pm

    Wonderful, Ralph. And great picture of you, btw 🙂

  3. William R Moore permalink
    November 2, 2011 5:34 pm

    RalphI,
    I am looking forward to you bloging about your art, travel and RV-ing. Soon as I read: “I’ve thought about combining them into one all-encompassing blog, but I’m not sure that will work. I’m not sure the folks who are interested in the art are going to care much about the adventures related to plumbing maintenance on the RV, and RVers probably won’t be terribly giddy about a step-by-step demo of a gouache painting. It could make for a pretty big, unwieldy thing for people to navigate. I’m open to suggestions on this subject, by the way. I truly enjoy writing this stuff, so I may just keep it the way it is and call it a “hobby”.”
    I thought of Ree Drummond, “The pioneer Woman”. She sometimes has over 10,000 hits.

    Don’t see why you can’t do it all by combining on one site: Painting,Gallery/Sales,Travel and RV-ing.

    Might generate some extra income later with ads. Take a look and browse the Pioneer Woman http://thepioneerwoman.com, who writes about many different topics: family life on the ranch, cooking, photography, homeschooling, gardening and organized with very convenient menus and navigation. Since beginning the blog she has had a Novel, Cookbook (a second one at press), Children’s book published and a taped a cooking show credited to her talent and blog exposure. A very busy lady. I think if you need it and have the passion to share your talents, you will be able to swing it. Some readers may be interested in it all and some may be interested in only a portion of what you have to offer.

  4. Steven Sellers permalink
    November 4, 2011 8:06 am

    don’t you love it when a plan comes together !!!! sounds like 1 hell of an adventure lies ahead for you both. I could not be happier for you and Nell. You are doing exactly what Sonia and I want to do, and within 5 years we hope to be following in your footsteps !

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