I’m participating in a new joint show with a fellow watercolorist Bernice Wood at the Artists Attic in Downtown Lexington. This event has made me consider all of the shows I’ve been involved in over the years, along with the changes I’ve witnessed. Recently my shows have taken place in areas where I’ve just moved and know virtually no one, at least in the adult world.
As I look back at the 80’s and 90’s in Austin TX, I realize how fortunate I was in my youth. At age 24 I joined the Capitol Art Society, a wonderful group who welcomed me, mentored me, and cheered for every success. Our group shows were magical, and took place in stunning venues. We had a coop gallery too. Artwork sold well for all the artists. Ironic for me since my work at the time showed a lack of experience. Before I left Austin in 2007 I enjoyed art shows where lots of hand-colored limited-edition prints of birds sold. Austin was filled with bird lovers. It’s hard to say which was more enjoyable: The engaging bird-related conversations, or the art sales!
After moving to Concord MA in 2007 I met new fellow bird and art lovers. I had a show the first year I lived in the area. It inspired two commissioned pieces and sales of several small hummingbird paintings. Before I left the area in 2013 I’d had several shows. More importantly I taught watercolor and drawing to dozens of students, many of whom became friends and soul mates. I learned new skills – How to paint landscapes and flowers in order to teach my students. This learning/teaching experience made me a better colorist than I’d ever been. During my seven years in MA I definitely witnessed a drop in sales for all artists, and was thankful to be a passionate teacher.
Fast forward to 2013 and our move to Lexington KY where horses, not birds, rule the roost. Oil paintings are much more common and popular than watercolors. I’ve met a group of delightful and talented artists at the Artists Attic. Out of 26 members only two of us are watercolorists. Artists in all media have seen a drop in sales over the past decade. The reasons are numerous:
- The economic downturn
- A flood of competing visuals on social media
- Modern digital cameras allowing easy creation of personal and inexpensive artwork
- Mobile devices and apps which allow easy creative manipulation and sharing of photos
Sadly at the peak of my ability as a teacher and painter, I’m struggling to find students in the area interested in learning watercolor and drawing.
The current exhibit at the Artists’ Attic has given me an opportunity to show my best work. Compliments abound! Like all artists I appreciate the sentiment, but these days such sentiments rarely turn into sales or opportunities.
The one thing moving through the U.S. has shown me: Change is the only constant and I need to adapt in order to survive and thrive.
To that end: Horses, UK, and the beautiful Kentucky countryside will join birds and people in my paintings. A love of learning has always been one of my biggest passions, so bring it on in the Bluegrass State!
Loved your retrospective article, Barb! I am also reviewing my past wrt my passion for art and calligraphy, and remembering my solo calligraphy show in Harvard, MA when we used to live there and during the time I was studying calligraphy at the DeCordova Museum School in Lincoln, MA. Life has pulled me in many new and good directions and I still have my lettering pens and inks. After the First Parish Benediction project of 15 (?) years ago, I have done some projects along the way, most recently the First Parish Fine Art Photography Club annual show signage. But I must get back to more lettering. You have truly inspired me to do this:)
Thank you Lois! I’ve just taken up lettering using watercolors and find such joy and frustration with it. Once I’ve mastered the process, I plan to do it with favorite quotes 🙂 I can’t wait to see lettering from you; so glad you’re getting back to it.
How beautiful your watercolors are. You are such a talented artist and teacher. Enjoy!!!
Thanks so much Sherri! Your support has always meant more than you know!