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Tree Time

We had our first bout with cold weather here in Syracuse, NY,  enough to constitute school delays for some – minor flurries and icy conditions.  We usually win the trophy for the most inches of snowfall in New York State, but I will be more than happy to concede to Buffalo this year because the alternative of catching up to them is something I don’t even want to fathom.  Nothing here really even stuck and I’m hearing a weather forecast that I’m liking for Monday – sixties!  So it was like a Braxton-Hicks.

This false holiday weather tricked me into a desire to decorate my home for the holidays.

Yes, you heard.  I put my Christmas tree up.  In my defense, I will probably trim the tree at my parents’ house again this year and it’s kind of like putting the oxygen mask on yourself first, so that you can calm down and breathe your way through the chaos of it all.  Or in this case – me.  So I can breathe.

My house always looks messier at first until I decide where to put everything.  I rearranged furniture then put it back and so it pretty much ended up looking like it did last year with minor adjustments.  This took all day for some reason, a lot longer than I remember taking in previous years, but maybe that’s because it is like a pregnancy.  Labor intensive then you (not me – I’m just guessing the analogy fits) tend to forget all the annoying parts and all that’s left is an aesthetically beautiful thing.

christmas tree 2014

I love the way the house looks with this extra bit of decor.  I am partial to reds and greens in here anyhow so it all looks as harmonious as a Christmas song (I played the Sarah McLachlan Wintersong CD about a dozen times during the process – I ❤ her voice).  The trick now will be to try to prevent the kit-cats from climbing it.

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The above picture was taken in 2011, their first year with me.  They were launching themselves off my great-grandmother’s chair and hurling into the tree despite my protests.

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For about fifteen years or so (give or take), I’ve donated a Christmas tree to the Everson Museum of Art for their annual Festival of Trees event.  It’s a fundraiser for the museum.  They used to give the donors free tickets to the patron party and so that was the best part.  Create an artistic tree that pretty much cost well over $200 to put together and enjoy the glamour of sipping champagne and eating little roast beef sandwiches and slices of sage-infused cheddar while traipsing through the galleries until you found your creation then hovering around it waiting to eavesdrop on someone saying something complimentary, allowing you the permission to think they like me, they really like me! 

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Of course, the point of the thing is that someone buys your tree.  Many corporations simply do it for the publicity – here’s a tree from blah, blah and now they will buy it back insuring the Everson actually makes money instead of the hoping way that I used.  I’m not sure how many of my trees were actually purchased and enjoyed, and how many ended up in the museum’s archives collecting dust (or thrown away?).

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They don’t give artists the golden ticket anymore.  They offer one for 1/2 off the hundred dollar fee, which is still too expensive for me.  This year the Everson Museum Festival of Trees runs from December 5th- December 14th, 2014.

http://www.everson.org/events/fot.php

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I’ve done many trees with my students throughout my teaching career as well, the most recent was last year when we created a card tree based on George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog paintings.  A few of my students and I had interacted with his wife Wendy on his Facebook like page after I had posted student artwork on his website based on his beloved blue dogs.  He died last year, coincidentally, on the final day of the festival.  I still don’t know if that tree sold or not and to whom.  I hope it found a good home.

 http://www.chittenangoschools.org/teacherpage.cfm?teacher=3110

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Retrospective Reflection

My mom is not a hoarder.  Everything she has is organized – she just keeps a lot of stuff. In her defense, it’s a lot of our stuff, my sisters and me, things we left behind when we moved out.  I can ask her for the most random thing – a super-ball for playing jacks for example, and she will produce it in thirty seconds or less.

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I went over there today to hunt for vintage bridesmaid dresses for a Halloween costume idea I have and found a dress from 1978.  Yes, it still fits, which is hilarious because it just feels so weird to put something on that I wore when I was fifteen.  More so because it even exists, lol, and is actually in decent condition.

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I started looking at the old photo albums stored in heavy duty plastic bins in the basement, which took the better part of the afternoon – all the bad hair and bad posture pictures that make me cringe and think thank God we didn’t have Facebook then.  I’d rather be the keeper of my own image and so I brought the albums home with me.

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Yesterday I went to visit Linda Bigness in her art studio at the Delavan Center in Syracuse, NY.  We did a video interview and as soon as I can figure out how to send her the video through email- it’s about 45 minutes long – she will edit it for a future post.  Watching her work made me wish I had a studio like hers and that I was as compelled to paint everyday as she is.  I used to be.

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In 1997, I worked as a Master Teacher at the New York State Summer School of the Arts.  It was held at Cazenovia College that year.  I was thrilled to have been hired by former Syracuse University professor James Ridlon because at the time they were looking for high school art teachers and I taught elementary  (although my certification is K-12) and I didn’t even have tenure.  I taught one class in the morning and spent the rest of the time in a studio space painting 36″ x 36″ canvases.  This was right after my first year at my job.  I was still living in my parents’ basement (cellar dweller) and right after that two-week stint complete with living in the dorm, I got my apartment on Woodbine Avenue where I ended up existing for nine years.

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I had lunch every day with a Cazenovia art professor, Corky Goss, who later offered me the opportunity to exhibit in their gallery. Bring everything you have is what he said, because the space was so big.  I took that literally and framed a heck of a lot of paintings for the show the following year.

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I found pictures from that show in one of the photo albums.  I think they were pictures Mom took because you can see the reception spread and Mom always documents the food.  Upon reflection, it’s so funny because I still look at that show and remember how much I thought I had arrived as an artist and how I thought I was going to be phenomenally successful and all I would need to do is wait passively for the accolades and the next step to just happen to me.  The rollercoaster ride, you know?  Like it would just happen.

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I wonder how many other artists have had that same feeling.  Probably everyone of us at one time or another.  The moment arrives and you are so sure it is a turning point but then it isn’t, wasn’t.  Art is quite a ride, whether it is visual or performing arts.  You have to have a thick skin to deal with the rejection.  Maybe nobody has a thick skin.  It’s more that we try to focus on the positive experiences and remind ourselves of them when things are not going so well.  In my career, it was never so much about not going well, it was more success-nothing-nothing-nothing-success-nothing-nothing, etc.

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Maybe things will change, maybe not.  I’m not discouraged because I do feel very lucky.  I have my family and memories complete with decades old paraphernalia.  Reflecting on the past makes me realize that there have been so many good chapters in my life and a great many goofy ones.

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Creating Links

I joined www.linkedin.com.  It’s like Facebook, but without all the personal stuff.  People only post things regarding their jobs.  I connected with a lot of people I don’t really know because it tells you that someone is a shared connection with someone else so you just press connect and they usually accept.   There are groups you can join so I joined a bunch of art and art marketing ones.

What I learned is that for every opinion about how to do something, from making art to selling it, there is a counter opinion and factions of people who start arguing opinions, and soon we have an occupation with no concrete way to assess it.  It reminds me of the family that airs their dirty laundry in public.  Art and artists seem to make other people uncomfortable.  I get the sense that people don’t respect art as a profession.  Mainly because they don’t understand it.

Non-artists need concrete information to understand things and the truth is, there is concrete information, but some people, including artists, just don’t know it.  A woman had asked one group to share how they know a work of art is a quality work.  I said I use the art criticism format – description/detail, formal principles of art, and emotional content.  She replied that she was surprised (read appalled) that details should go first.  I’m all, what?  The order is just the format used in the textbook I use at school called Art Talk.  I am surprised that more professional artists don’t know how to criticize art properly – how do they know if their own art is good?

The problem is that some people do not give equal weight to the three components (ultimately four because using the other three you determine if the artwork is successful, the fourth component being judgment).  This woman felt that emotion was the key to art and should have top billing.  (Later she revealed that she was, in fact, a self-taught artist).  Naturally, people in mathematics or the sciences, or any kind of non-art related business don’t think highly of emotionalism.  These are the people who call artists artsy-fartsy.  It’s all just very frustrating.

I connected with a gallery owner through Linkedin who viewed this website then asked me to bring a few things to the gallery so he could see them in person.  Naturally, I was very excited that it took only a day to receive an opportunity and I felt like the universe was finally cutting me a break.  When I did meet with him with a bin of paper collage pieces and two 18” x 18” paintings in tow lugged through the rain, he proceeded to share his opinion of why he didn’t think my artwork would sell in his gallery or this town for that matter, which was to do with price-point, materials, subject matter and pretty much my entire aesthetic.  His advice was I should find out what the customer wants and make that.  Landscapes would be a good choice, he said.

Funny that, because a few months ago, one of my students told me she was going to have a booth at the Ozstravaganza Fest in Chittenango, NY.  I asked her what she was going to sell.  She said she planned to take some fantasy drawings and make them into prints.  I told her she should draw Dorothy and the other Wizard of Oz characters.  That’s what people will be looking for – because locals tend to forget that this festival is international.  People do find their way to that yellow brick road from all over the US and Canada and I think there were even people from the UK there this year!  After the event, she told me she’d taken my advice, made the Oz art and ended up making over $500!  Not bad for a thirteen-year-old, right?

So, I understand the gallery owner’s advice.  I’d given the exact same advice myself to successful results.  When I told the Oz/student story to my dad he said, “Why didn’t you do that?”

I think you know the answer to that.  I can’t do that.  I can’t make art that satisfies a need.  Not now, not ever.  I’m peddling the art I’ve already made, not trashing it in favor of a fickle customer’s whim.  My whole belief system regarding art is that you put a piece of yourself in everything you make, kind of like a Horcrux in Harry Potter but without the negative part.  You educate the potential customer about who you are…and they see you.  They understand you, connect with you and believe in you.  I feel like I am speaking a visual language, one you may or may not understand fully, but you might walk away feeling like you know enough and fill in the rest with your own context.

Yesterday at my sister’s garage sale, I sold four paintings.  (Needless to say, I proved that gallery owner wrong – I can sell work in this town!)  I sold one of my encaustic horse paintings to an elementary school-aged boy.   I explained to him my decision to mount the work onto chalkboard painted masonite.  The intent is that the new owner could write on the board with chalk, maybe draw horses themselves or name the horse – really anything.  And in this way, he would be contributing to the meaning of the work and we would essentially be making art together.  I feel that art makes that transformation even without an actual physical change – once it leaves the artist, it takes on new meaning, the one its new owner attributes to it. For example, a playing card can mean gambling or it can have something to do with fortune telling.  Most likely it is a symbol of the spirit of gaming, which may be a nod to childhood, bringing along with it happy memories.  And a horse is a horse, of course, of course.

I want to believe that I am right about all of this.  Well, I am right.  I’m just not making hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove it.  But this woman is.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/04/story_n_5440513.html

She was a music teacher but something possessed her to start painting.  An empty wall in her house provoked her to think she could paint well enough to fill the space.  This led to her quitting her job and painting full time.  She then kept going to see a Manhattan art dealer for critiques.  The dealer’s advice was to paint something that no one else paints.  Be unique.  She kept at it for months until she happened upon a cityscape idea that the dealer liked and now she’s selling paintings for $100,000 each.

When I told my dad, he asked, “Is this a real story?”

I’m like, “Yeah.”

So he said, “Why don’t you do that?”

I don’t watch Glee and I’ve never actually seen the High School Musical trilogy, but I am forever breaking out in song at work.  I don’t seem to care that I am not a trained singer and never participated in chorus once I hit middle school.  Someone will say something that triggers the first lines of a song I know the words to, and off I go in what I believe to be the same perfect pitch Mrs. Firth said I had at Tecumseh Elementary circa the early 1970s.  I like the idea that life could be a musical, so maybe I will find success in music.  Wouldn’t that be funny if me and this lady criss-crossed and I became an unlikely pop star?

But that would mean that no one should go to school for art or music.  And that’s the other debate I’m finding on social media.  The factions of self taught artists are against formal training because they think it’s hokum while the educated artists virtually roll their eyes.  I think you know where I stand on this matter, being that I teach art and believe in the creative process, as well as a strong need to develop creative thinkers for all career professionals.  The time-traveler in me doesn’t plan to go back and reverse my decision to become a trained artist any time soon.

 

Hello…hello…hello…(hello)….

I spent part of the day photographing my Echolalia series – twenty-four 18″ x 18″ paintings I created in 2005.

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I began these oil and collage paintings by gluing rough textured canvas to the stretched canvas then applying gesso to the surface.  I used pencil to draw the composition – I used two different stencils (I drew) of cats as well as a ruler to create the geometric field.

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I always draw thumbnail sketches before I begin the actual paintings to map out the direction of the series.  I used chalkboard paint in both black and green, and oil paint.  Then I added the collage items, which included text, coins, starfish, ribbon and wooden toys.

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A rune is a mystery and echo alludes to the repetition of the devices.

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You can see more of these works – I uploaded the entire series – in the portfolio section of my website.  They are for sale for $200 each.

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A Watercolor Welcome

Black Walnut, 12" x 9", 2002, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Black Walnut, 12″ x 9″, 2002, watercolor + colored pencil
Lilacs, 10" x 7", 2001, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Lilacs, 10″ x 7″, 2001, watercolor + colored pencil

I should have done this a long time ago.  Well, here I am!  I recently took pictures of some of my watercolor paintings.  These are not framed – I’m selling them for $50 and $75 each – they are 7″ x 10″ and 9″ x 12″ and constructed on Arches watercolor paper.

Iris, 12" x 9", 2002, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Iris, 12″ x 9″, 2002, watercolor + colored pencil
Ocean, 12" x 9", 2001, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Ocean, 12″ x 9″, 2001, watercolor + colored pencil
Bulb, 10" x 7", 2002, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Bulb, 10″ x 7″, 2002, watercolor + colored pencil

My favorite thing about these paintings is they represent how my hand moves.  I would say I’m a formalist since these paintings are abstract expressionist in style; however, they do evoke a feeling of bliss, happiness, joy…and so, I am very connected to them emotionally.  I still remember what I was feeling and thinking when I made them (between 1999 and 2002)!

Daisy, 10" x 7", 2001, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Daisy, 10″ x 7″, 2001, watercolor + colored pencil
Blue Star, 10" x 7", 2002, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Blue Star, 10″ x 7″, 2002, watercolor + colored pencil

Hopefully I will be able to navigate my way through the wordpress directions and have this website up and running within the month.  I was going to say within the day but I’m not that computer savvy.

Doorway, 12" x 9", 2002, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Doorway, 12″ x 9″, 2002, watercolor + colored pencil
Box-16, 9" x 12", 2001, watercolor + colored pencil
Karen Tashkovski, Box-16, 9″ x 12″, 2001, watercolor + colored pencil