Abstract Expressionist Painting comes from a deep, raw and vulnerable place in the soul. Survival means being able to detach and be patient.
Long before I was an artist, I worked in restaurants. First in Boston and then in my home-town of New Orleans. If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, there are some truths that you are familiar with.
- Service industry people are the hardest of workers who are brilliant with timing and efficiency while dealing with hyper-stimulated environments. They work long double shifts even if burning themselves in the kitchen or taking abuse from drunk customers and hungover managers/co-workers. And the good ones do all this with a smile and a kind of grace in team work that is mesmerizing to watch. On a good night, it’s like being a part of a symphony.
- Cooks are artists. The people in the kitchen are practicing their art and it is the most delicious form of mixed media abstract expressionism. They compose using a plate as a canvas so people can first eat with their eyes. Then they combine taste contrasts and complements that make mouths water. The culinary arts are practiced and mastered by some of the most creative people in the world. They are crazy creative. And speaking of crazy…
- …did I say crazy? Yes, there is a lot of that in restaurant kitchens…and front of house…but there is something about that kitchen. A cast of characters they are, and I must admit I love those crazy fuckers who choose cooking as a trade. Truth be told, I’ve always had a thing for a guy in a sexy white chef’s coat. In fact, I had a baby with one of them. But that’s not the point.
Wave God Honu, by one of my favorite ocean inspired artists, Ross Mcdowell.
Being a West Coast Artist is about as opposite as being a restaurant server in New Orleans as you can get.
The point is that now I am a painter alone in my studio, and while historically I have liked working in fast pace, high energy environments where I would ride the curve of a dinner rush, I now have to BE THE TORTOISE. Let me explain. I like, no LOVE, the efficiency found in restaurant work. If you’ve worked in the service industry you know the bottom line is “turn and burn”. The way to make your money is to turn your tables. Get them in and get them out! The way to do that is through that well-oiled efficiency machine.
Now that I’m an artist by trade, I realize that in a lot of ways, it is the exact opposite of restaurant work. My next steps are not as clear as knowing I will need a steak knife for table 9 because she ordered the filet mignon. There is no “dinner rush” to get through. I have to be slow and thoughtful and have patience with the art. If I get impatient, the mixed media piece I’m working on just gets…well…mixed and sloppy looking. I also have to be the tortoise while making contacts, building my mailing list, educating myself about marketing and SEO, building websites and social media followings and literally waiting for paint to dry. It isn’t easy for me. Plus, as discussed in previous posts, I’m an emotional person which brings me to my second directional: BE THE DUCK.
Dribble (Mallard Ducks Feeding in the Ohio River), Falls of the Ohio, Indiana, 2015 © Scott Gilbertson
As an abstract expressionist painter, I have to tap into my emotions which doesn’t always feel so great. I’ve got to let it roll off.
When I worked at a well-known steak house Boston, the chef was a large French man whose name I can only remember as “Chef”. He liked to yell in French and having come from New Orleans, I was one of the few that understood what he was ranting about. He seemed unhappy a lot and directed that at the wait staff, usually during the busiest hours of the night. The only way to make it through? Let it roll off my back like water from a duck. My first waiting job I fled in tears during the first shift. 5 years later, I just yelled Oui Chef!!!, Non Chef!!!!, or Pardonnez moi Chef!!!! all the while focusing on getting my shit done. It’s the same now except the one yelling expletives at myself is usually me or else it is someone giving well-intentioned advice. It takes a lot of courage for me to put my artwork out there in the world. It takes even more to not react to everyone’s opinions. I just have to say to myself “Come on girl. Be the duck and let it roll on off!”
I love what I do. I love being an abstract expressionistic artist. Even though it’s challenging for me, I love working alone in my home and yes, I even love watching the paint dry (albeit with a hair dryer sometimes when I’m antsy). So…quack quack and *whatever noise a tortoise makes. I’m in this thing for the long haul and slow and steady really does wins the race, even when it’s raining opinions that are often hard to take. So, now that I’m moving too slow to create dust, eat my lack of dust! I’m just cruisin’ here!