Thursday, January 07, 2016

An Artist's New Year's Resolutions

It's a new year, and like many other people, I'm thinking about the resolutions that I want to realize during 2016. My brother-in-law, who runs a successful insurance business out on the West Coast, scoffs at the idea of resolutions, saying that if there's something he knows he should be doing, then he's probably already doing it. Why wait until January 1 to start?

But I like to take this time of year as an opportunity to plan for the year ahead. As I've written in the past, I regard winter as a quiet season of restoration and reflection. When I'm not so busy at this time of year, I like to pause and consider perhaps not resolutions so much as professional and personal goals. Believe it or not, many of my professional goals as an artist are closely linked to an important personal goal of good physical fitness. Because I travel throughout the eastern half of the United States each summer and fall to exhibit my artwork at outdoor art shows, I have to be in reasonably good shape to get through those events because they are very physically demanding, especially during the hot summer months.

Photo Credit: Nabil K. Mark, Centre Daily Times.

So far, I'm off to a good start. Earlier this week, our local newspaper caught me working with my trainer, Gbolohan, at my local gym, One on One Fitness, in State College. I'm convinced that I was born with hamstrings about a foot too short for my body, so you see me here doing a warm up stretch.

Photo: My "cross bike" with bright orange panniers for carrying my plein air kit during a summer evening painting session near Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.

Although this may seem unrelated to the artwork that I create, it's actually pretty integral. I discover many of my landscape subjects either during road bike rides through the rolling hills of Centre County, or by hiking through some of the rugged state parks of Pennsylvania. On many occasions, I carry my plein air painting kit on my bike panniers or in a backpack on the trail so that I can set up and work on location. If I don't work at my fitness, then I won't be able to enjoy the spoils of gorgeous scenery hidden off the beaten paths of civilization. And it's those hidden gems, those moments of fleeting light, that make my work as an artist most rewarding.

Photo: The Guardians, 10 x 14 original oil painting on paper. This piece will be available for purchase through the Clearwater Conservancy's "For the Love of Art and Chocolate" fundraising auction on January 29, 2016.

Beyond the basic foundation of physical fitness, I like to look at the year ahead and break it up into (hopefully) manageable exhibition opportunities. I know I'll be busiest in the summer as I travel to outdoor art shows, so during the winter months I focus on creating new artwork and on local exhibition opportunities. For example, later this month you can meet me at the Clearwater Conservancy's "For the Love of Art and Chocolate" annual fundraising event for local environmental conservation efforts. I'm donating an original oil painting called "The Guardians," a subject that I caught while riding my bike along Old Gatesburg Road during a summer evening last year. See? There's that whole physical fitness thing again...Anyways, I've ridden my bike along this route for many years, and there are these two old pine trees that keep watch over the farm fields. I love their windswept nature, and when I noticed them with this beautiful sky as a backdrop, I was smitten.

In February and March, you can see my newest landscapes and cityscapes at the Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, Pennsylvania. And later this spring, I'll exhibit my recent oil cityscapes at the Yellow Springs Art Show in southeastern Pennsylvania. Keep an eye on my web site schedule page for more information about my 2016 events throughout this year.

The reality is that I don't have a ton of control over my schedule because each year I apply to various shows and events, and then I wait to see where my artwork gets accepted. It's an arbitrary process. Really. And sometimes, this makes the notion of planning or goal setting difficult. But each year, the fundamentals remain the same for me: Spend as much time painting in my studio as possible, read broadly and visit art exhibitions to keep my creativity flowing, and exercise to keep Pennsylvania's delightful scenery within my reach.