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Get Creative or Get Nuts

I was holding my head in both hands, sobbing. Again. Alone. Always alone…

I was sitting at the only table in the little guest cabin I was staying in behind my uncle’s house in Applegate; where I was rapidly wearing out my welcome by being there much too long. But I was still only barely functional in the world. Depression can be a pretty terrible thing.

But no. I wasn’t just holding my head, I was pushing on it, tightly. Moving my hands around to different positions, trying to find a spot that would equalize the pressure, as a powerful wave of ‘energy’ was building up inside it, again. It wasn’t pain. It was pressure, but it felt really weird. An extreme discomfort, that had been happening more often lately, and in that moment was making me seriously miserable. The depression had been bad enough, and was lasting so long. More than three years had passed since the actual breakup, and a year since the divorce. And yet still I could only barely function. It was awful. But occasionally, and now more frequently, there was this ‘pressure thing’ too. And this one was a lot more puzzling.

No, I didn’t see a doctor for the pressure. (And no, I didn’t accept their drugs for the depression, though they tried). Because deep down I actually did know what it was. It was Chi, Ki, Prana; whichever term you prefer from whichever cultural tradition you resonate with. Well India is my personal favorite, so ‘prana’ it is. And what the hell does an American medical professional know about a prana? About spiritual crisis? They don’t teach that shit in their medical schools. At least, not in this country.

Yes, I knew the ‘what’; I just didn’t know the ‘why’. And these episodes seemed to be getting stronger, and more frequent. So once again, I asked it “What is this? What do you want? What are you trying to do to me, other than drive me nuts? And what do you want me to do, if anything?” Maybe that last question was a new one, or maybe it was just time, because finally, slowly and very gently, I started getting an answer…

It was subtle. Vague images forming in mind. And with them came a desire. A gentle sweet and rather familiar desire, that started whispering in my heart. Colors. Swirling, mixing and dancing. Playing together, without form. And with that I started getting a vague feeling that I might want to start painting again…

What I learned that day was that like everything else in life, talent can be a two edged sword. It’s prana. Life energy; and lives inside as a a kind of fountain. The more it gets to flow and express, the clearer and cleaner it becomes. But when that fountain gets suppressed, ignored, and ‘capped’ inside, so it can’t flow, in time it can build up a serious amount of pressure. And, like water, can turn dark and stagnant and morph into a swamp. A swamp named – depression. (And eventually even physical illness.)

We all learned the first law of thermodynamics in school: “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another”. Well, the main thing I discovered was that my talent is an energy. And as an energy, it has to go somewhere. But I wasn’t using it. I wasn’t ‘letting it flow’. So it was turning into, or at least feeding the depression. And then, once that was saturated , building into these ‘pressure episodes’. Which now had become so strong they were pushing their way into consciousness, and as such, could finally tell me what was happening.

So at least, and at last, I had my answer. I finally understood, and knew at least something I could do to help myself. I’d like to say that I burst out into ‘create blossom’ from that day forward, but I didn’t. After several years of severe depression the progress was slower than that. But at least from that point on there was progress. That was something.

It’s now about two years later, and despite the slowness of my plodding I’ve still come a long way. I’m much more functional now, and at last feel ready to step up and ‘own my truth’.  I’m a creative. I have a deep talent inside me. And it demands my attention. It wants – no, requires – me to use and express it. And the time has come for it to flow again. Because it seems it comes down to ‘Get Creative, or Get Nuts’. And so, given that choice, creativity it is!

So What The Hell Is A Vignette?

Not to worry, I didn’t know either. My complete lack of formal art education does sometimes have its down sides. But I do know a fair amount about internet marketing! So I know that the best way to launch my new business, as a full time professional portrait artist, is to grow myself a large email list – and to do so as quickly as possible. And the best way to do that? To Hold a Contest of Course!

******

But, a contest needs a prize. And not just any prize. It must be a prize that will directly appeal to the exact people who are interested in portraits. My ideal ‘niche audience’.

But what? At first I thought of making them a custom one-of-a-kind sweatshirt. But then realized that would only attract people interested in custom one-of-a-kind sweatshirts, and not necessary at all interested in a hand-painted realistic portraits. No. I’m a portrait painter, so it pretty much has to be a portrait. But how do I make that work? My portraits are too time consuming and too valuable to be giving one away every month. And at least for a while, I really want to do this contest thing monthly!

After pondering for a while, my intuition starting pulling up a vague memory. I’d occasionally seen these portraits that were realistic in the center, but then sort of ‘blur out’ or have an ‘unfinished look’ around the edges. And I always really liked them, and would think “I really need to try that someday.” So now my intuition is going “Hey! If I keep it small, and use this style, it should take a lot less time than usual. So maybe, just maybe, this will work as my prize? Only one way to find out – I have to make a sample.”

Thank you Google. After some searching, I found that these portraits are called ‘vignettes’. Who knew? So now that I have the name, I can look up a bunch of them. Enough that I can just look them over real well and figure out how to do that. (Self taught, remember?) So – here’s my sample. I just finished it today. Good timing, as it’s Valentine’s Day! The model is my ‘Grants Pass best friend’ Dawn Hillman.

So my friends, it seems that the Renée McGlothlin Portrait Artist Monthly Contest & Newsletter can now be born! It will officially launch on March 1, 2017 and run until April 1, 2017 – at which time the viral marketing software will randomly pick a winner, who’ll need to supply me with a photograph to get their very own custom vignette portrait done. A $350 value!

And remember, it’s a ‘viral campaign’, which means that the more you share the link, (and yes your can share it on Facebook multiple times) the more chances you get to win! So now go to my home page and click on the button on the form at the right to sign up for my newsletter – and you’ll be one of the first to know when the contest is launched!

And oh, by the way – Happy Valentine’s Day!  ♥

Turning Pro

“ This young woman recounted to me that one afternoon, after his poetry class, Jack (Gilbert) had taken her aside. He complimented her work, then asked what she wanted to do with her life. Hesitantly, she admitted that perhaps she wanted to be a writer. He smiled at the girl with infinite compassion and asked, “Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” ”  –  Elizabeth Gilbert, from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

***

I hadn’t done a portrait in six years. Between my last portrait (my ‘Witchy – self portrait’) and this one, divorce had put me through the greatest period of upheaval, loss and depression of my life.  Then, in 2015 I got a phone call from one of my oldest and dearest friends. Her second granddaughter had recently been born, and she wanted me to do a portrait for her. This is the painting that came from that call.

Despite the long period since I’d last painted, strangely, I’d improved. The quality of this painting was at a whole new level from most of the ones I’d done before. I realized that much of this was because I now have a 24” monitor. With this painting I stopped working from a photographic print, and started working directly from the computer screen. This way I lost none of the detail in the digital photo, and am able to zoom in.

Because my friend was in another state, I’d decided to take a photo of the project at the end of each ‘painting day’. This way I could email them to her, and show her how it was coming along. (I now use these to make videos.)

I was so impressed with the outcome that I took some short video clips with this painting before I shipped it. And also bought a ‘tablet’ so I could show it off in digital form, along with the rest of my portfolio, to my co-workers at my part time job as a Walmart cashier.

Then around a year later, showing my portfolio to my co-workers lead to this painting. Which was commissioned by one of those Walmart co-workers. And this one too was quite impressive! “Damn. I’m really gifted at this! I wonder… if I did this all the time, just how good am I able to get?”

Then on January 2, 2017, in yet another long conversion with the same friend that bought the Grandbabies portrait, I was telling her about yet another harebrained business idea I had (I have a strong entrepreneurial streak) and she stopped me and gave me a good talking to. The kind that only your best friends can. “You need to drop all this other crap and paint portraits! Stop scattering your energies all over the place. Do this, and this alone. This is your gift. Own it, and do it!” And this time, I took it in. I knew she was right, and changes started taking place inside me…

It’s an odd fact of human psychology that we are far more frightened by our inner beauty and greatest gifts than we are by our shortcomings and inner darkness. And besides, in the long ‘dark night of the soul’ I had just been through along with my divorce, I had already traversed and integrated my darkness. And now I was suddenly confronted with the greater fear. What the Jungian’s call our ‘Inner Gold’. So please, wish me luck.