It has been a long time since I have even tried to exhibit my work. A friend came to the house and saw my paintings. True, no one around me actually knows that I paint. It is one of those things I am quiet about as I ask myself: Do my neighbours need paintings? Do they have room? Do they even consider painting work?
The exhibition would be for one day. I was allocated a room with a huge window onto the road, it was the room I had been looking at with a certain amount of envy. It was adjacent to the only gas station in town. To be honest, I have always wanted to show my paintings in places that you don’t expect artwork to be. So, for me it was perfect.
We cleaned the room, a year or so worth of dust and deteriorating colored paper in the window. Cleaned the window, huge, shop front glass. Set up the paintings. All of this took a day and a half.
I sat with my paintings on the day of the exhibition, a Sunday, there were not many people around. Perhaps they had heard about the rain, or as I discovered after a walk around, there was not much parking space for any visitors. The organizers had allowed the usual sellers with their cheap goods from outside of Italy. The food included the usual sweets, nuts, someone was selling baked goods. There were a few other artists displaying their work. Photographers, of local wild flowers with the Latin, local and common names, to be found on Facebook and Instagram and not on Twitter … a beekeeper and his wife selling honey, and a man with hundreds of carved wooden toys.
Elsewhere, although I never got there and I should have made the effort, was an exhibition on the history of the woods and the people who work there. Some of the coffee bars were open. A tent was set up in the small piazza near the church where beer and food was to be sold.
Sitting with my paintings, I saw that two elderly men had stopped by to look at my work and were commenting to each other. They took my business card. My companion had advised me against putting my phone number, which I am not convinced was a good idea, but they had by gmail and the website printed on the card. Children tried to come and look but were hustled away by their mothers who were worried about lunch or getting to the church on time.
It seemed that people were afraid to drop by once they saw that a human being was sitting inside the storefront near the paintings. In fact I had most positive comments from people who had gone to see my work when the door had been locked and I had left for the day to let the horses out.
The horses live in a muddy paddock and they are let out to eat grass in the morning, and again in the afternoon until early evening. That day I was generally more anxious about the horses, rather than whether or not people were going to stop by to look at my paintings.
I was actually very pleased with the location. This is because, when people stopped at the gas station to fill up, while we were setting up, they were obliged to look ahead and could see the glass front of the little shop and my paintings. However, on the day of the exhibit, the gas station was closed, it being the day of the festival and a Sunday, and women were selling cyclamens for a charity. They smiled at me, but they had work to do.
I am one of those artists who actually don’t know how to sell my work. I set up this web site to give everyone the chance of downloading my paintings for their personal use at a very small price. This will shortly be changed, as I have decided to offer high quality prints in a format that someone can put on the wall of a small to average sized home. Or even to offer sets of greeting cards. All this is to be investigated.
I notice that I have the same restraints as another friend, who told me she didn’t draw anymore because she had to earn money. When I was at art college in Canada (now the Ontaria College of Art and Design in Toronto) I remember being told by an instructor that we didn’t have to ‘look for work’ because we ‘had work’. We were artists and, as he continued, “art was our job”. I could feel a shift occurring in my deep being, but already by then it was perhaps too late.
The rot had set in where I was anxious that people wouldn’t see me as ‘only’ being an artist. It seemed that I had to prove that I was something else, that I could earn my money and stand on my own two feet with the rest of the crowd in a restaurant, a cafe, looking after horses, as a farmer, and today as an Italian to English translator and illustrator.
Why is it that it still embarrasses me when people find my work beautiful, intense, magical? Why don’t I know how to capture the moment and invite the speaker to buy the work they have admired? Or to offer to paint something they would love to see in their homes?
What is it? Why? When I know more I will tell you. For now … it is nearly time to put the horses back into the paddock, and almost time for lunch.