Thank Goodness for My Patrons and Collectors
Last night I went to the opening night of the 5th annual Seattle Art Fair. The crowds were abuzz with excitement, and the people watching was as fun as the art.
Every year at the Art Fair I discover an artist I’d not been previously aware of, someone whose work is so good it excites me, thrills me with possibilities and puts me in a fantastic mood for the rest of the evening. Last night was no exception.
It’s not particularly important who was the artist who caused me so much excitement; art I like may leave you unmoved. However, all we art lovers respond the same way when we encounter something we really love: a feeling of total bliss. And I just love that feeling! It gives me hope. Hope for the future- my future, humanity’s future, hope for the world. Funny how good art can have that effect on the viewer.
Okay, I’ll tell you who got me so excited: a painter named Jillian Denby, represented by Barney Savage Gallery in New York.
She does large-scale landscapes embedded with human figures, and her composition and paint handling is pure mastery. I learned that Jillian Denby is a 75 year old woman who’s been a professional artist her entire life (I love that part right there). Her work is in museums and she’s known in the art world, but because women painters have historically been underrepresented and less recognized than male painters, probably not as many know about her as should.
The gallerist was gracious with his time in discussing her work with me, even though I let him know I was an artist and not a buyer. It’s been my experience that gallerists are usually delighted to discuss their artists’ work with anyone who’s genuinely interested, even if you’re not a potential collector. Gallerists love art, after all, and are great advocates for the artists they believe in (one of the reasons why a good gallerist- like a good doctor, lawyer or accountant- is worth her weight in gold).
In seeing Jillian Denby’s work last night, I was struck again by a recurring realization of how LONG it takes to get really good at art making. I don’t mean “mere” technical proficiency (which takes about 10,000 hours). I mean the skill level required to make really good art; the sensitivity, the familiarity with materials, the experience at the easel, the time in the saddle. Regardless of one’s initial talent level, it takes years and years of painting to accomplish this. And it shows when you look at Jillian Denby’s work. In it you can see the richness of fifty-some-odd years of painting, of working things out on canvas, of experiments and failures and learning what works and what doesn’t. Her large paintings may take her 2 years to make, but they actually have taken 75 years. As a painter, I can see what has gone into her work and it makes me wistful, because I know that I don’t have enough time left on this earth to get where I want to be.
But- and this is an important but- there’s a whole lot I can accomplish artistically in the time I have. And this is why patrons and collectors are so important. For an artist to get where she wants to be, well, all that takes a long time. And how does an artist survive during the journey? By the grace and patronage of her collectors and patrons.
So to each of you reading this, I want to express my gratitude. You may have hosted art shows of my work in your home, commissioned work from me, attended my shows, given me “likes” on social media, or sent me kind words of encouragement. Your patronage enables me to stay in the game, to keep on my artistic journey, getting closer and closer to achieving what my mind’s eye imagines and strives for.
As Gerhard Richter famously said, “Art is the highest form of hope.”
You keep hope alive.