Exit Within: the Gallegos Blog

The musings of a fantasy illustrator. Artwork, art-talk, and randomness.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Favorite Week

For my fifth year now, I have the pleasure of spending a week in October working. Well, more than that--I work the rest of the weeks of October, as well. But one week a year I've ended up tucked away in a barn somewhere with a few other (well, mostly that is) illustrators. We all sit around and do what we always do. But it's a lot more fun than usual.

I came in and set up this year, at a new location but just as beautiful. I then just sat back in my chair and stared out the window for a few minutes. My actual working space is no larger or smaller than back home: a table, my easel, a chair. But the view out the window, and the nice clean air coming in...well, it promises to be another great week.

As work-weeks go, this has turned into my favorite week of the year. As I sat there staring off (something I don't do really), it occurred to me that though I live in my head most of the time, there is something very unnatural about living in a cramped studio apartment, my only windows facing into the entry courtyard, the neighbor's windows about 20 feet across the entry walkway. The window in my living room / studio never receives any direct light, and the air certainly isn't clean.

That I spend most of my time living in my head makes this more bearable than it might for others, I suppose. New York does have its share of cuckoos, after all. But really, faced with a nicer option, it was quite a relief to just sit and enjoy.

But even as I type, others are arriving. It's a genuinely fun and talented group of people, among whom I'm just another guy. We're all going to set up, and then get to work. And it's usually a pretty productive week, apart from the laughing, talking, eating and (for most) drinking. The cast of characters varies a bit year by year, but those here this year are pretty much part of the core of regulars.

Four out of five years, I've worked on uncommissioned work while here. It's nice to not do assignments (while some folks do or need to). The level of inspiration is so high that I find it very conducive to doing my own thing. Last year I did about half of "A Fractured Mind." The year before, "Exit Within 5." This year is a little unknown: I came with a mental map but not even a sketch. I have a model coming in tonight and we'll play with photos and I'll commence tomorrow. Seat of my pants. On a week like this, it's just how I like it.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Amish Paste Tomatoes

You'll note that the signature here reads 2013. While I've continued doing occasional still life paintings of fruits and veg since my first recent attempt a year ago, I haven't made much of them here. The chief reason is that it's not my main business, and I don't want to cloud the perception. So I've held off a bit, thinking maybe showing 2-3 a year might be a good idea, so they become fun little extras to those interested in my work, without worries that I'm leaving my first loves behind.

Amish Paste Tomatoes, 8x11.5" oils on canvas
(Reproductions available here in various sizes and formats)

I am not entirely sure that these are Amish Paste Tomatoes. There are 2-3 names that come up when you find these. One variety comes to a very sudden and sharp, often elongated point. This doesn't seem to be that one. If any green thumbs out there wish to correct me, I'd love to be corrected! As with others in this series, the goal has been a single sitting, working wet-in-wet or alla prima. Like the Pattypan Squash, this one also features a sort of unfinished border because why not. It's the nice thing about these that I can play around a bit.

Because I don't want to confuse folks, yet because I am an artist who earns his living by his art, I have decided to make these images available as reproductions via Fine Art America. They are, after all, general-purpose decorative pieces. Having uploaded hi-resolution scans, you can order prints, canvas prints and other types of reproductions, including frames there. At the moment, you'll find there the pieces I've shown and an unassuming pumpkin I haven't.

A friend of mine is a fairly well-regarded voice instructor, and it struck me to hear him recommend that singers should (if they wish to) jump back and forth between various vocal styles: rock, opera, jazz and the like. He considers it, "Cross-training," of sorts. That resonated with some of the work I do, which I've categorized as, "Extracurricular." Certainly it is extracurricular, but the cross-training analogy is also apt. Imaginative Realism requires some of the broadest ability of any genre of art, so taking time to practice drawing and painting almost anything will eventually become useful.

Monday, September 22, 2014

From the Collection of... pt.8

IlluXCon 7 has come and gone. A lot of artists came with mountains of boxes containing paintings, drawings, sculptures and so on. By the end of the show, a long train of collectors carrying boxes removed a lot of them from the show and took them to homes around the world.

An art collector is a very special breed of person with regards to his impact on others. As a music fan, I might purchase the entire catalog of a band, purchase many concert tickets over the course of the band's career, and maybe even some branded merchandise. But my support is distant, and my impact relatively small, even if I buy as much of the above through the artists themselves, at a merch table or their website. Doubtless, large numbers of folks like myself allow the band to continue to make music, but the scale is relatively small, and any one of us can't help too much, though I know it is appreciated.

An art collector however has a very different impact. Spending larger sums of money on original art, and sometimes very large sums, the art collector can have profound effect on the life of a visual artist.

At those amounts, the collector is most certainly sponsoring the creation of more art, and fostering a more secure life for a tangible amount of time. When an artist goes home from a show with days, weeks, or even months worth of income, they have been afforded the freedom to create more. I and some other artists I spoke with, spoke in these terms over the show: about the time that such purchases were allowing us to try new things, to create pieces unconstrained by our very necessary clients who fund much of our year by assigning us projects. Apart from that, the purchases literally pay rent and expenses that we live on.

Artists want to create, and that desire to create is so deep-rooted that it often is the last thing an artist clings to, even if the rest of their world is falling apart financially, indeed even if it would be wiser to quit for awhile and do something else to earn a living. Perhaps worse than the financial difficulties are the psychological ones faced by people who are constantly unable to provide a secure income for themselves.

As I walked around the show, filled with artists well-known and those just beginning their journeys, I was struck by how little I knew about some of the folks there. What difficulties, what challenges were there, what weight of anxiety haunted the artist? Hopefully none, and certainly I know that many are in fine places in their lives currently, but among so many, certainly there were a number of artists shouldering incredible burdens: illness or family with illness, soul-crushing doubt, 6-figure college loan repayment (a whole other topic), and so on. Each puts forward their best face, no one wants to burden others with their challenges. All artists want every purchase to be about the art--that's why they make it. And it occurred to me that even those who we think have "made it" may in fact be among those most afflicted.

(L:) "Oh, hai!"

For this reason, I also find it interesting how subdued artists can be in talking about their sales with each other--even though we constantly ask one another! We all want each other to do well, we want to celebrate with our friends at their accomplishments. If one of us has a great show, the others want them to enjoy that because we care about them and love their art. And yet we're all a bit bashful in expressing the happiness that accompanies our successes when we have them, because we are well-acquainted with the other side and what that feels like.

But those who collect should know that while money cannot buy happiness, it can buy relief from the tremendous weight and pressure of many worldly worries for some length of time. And it does. Sometimes, the length of time is long enough that an artist is able to finally clean up persistent life issues plaguing them. Sometimes, it gives them the support needed to strike out in a new direction, which can utterly transform their work. Sometimes, at the right moment, it might literally save a career about to end.

Collectors owe none of us these things, of course. It would negate the point of why we create to think otherwise--we only want our work to connect with others. But what I am trying to do is to connect collectors further to the true importance of what they do in the world.

There is one other, smaller effect that they may not realize they have, and that is, "The trickle-down effect."  Obviously, we artists are huge fans of art. Those who are friends with lots of artists present at IlluXCon on Facebook saw a steady stream of posts by artists who did what they always do: having sold some of their own work, they took a portion of this, however large or small, and then went on and purchased the work of others! Whether a collector intended it or not, a little of the money put into the hands of one artist was immediately handed over to another. Collectors therefore not only benefited the artist they purchased from, but in a tangible way benefited many others, as well. I can say from experience that the percentage of artists who do this on any basis is very high.

I picked up three small pieces this year. One of them is the meat of this post, and is by the incomparable Omar Rayyan. Omar holds the distinction of not only producing excellent work, but also being one of the artists in this field that my own wife has hoped to have a piece from. Actually, I own another black and white ink drawing of his, a decorative-border illustration which I haven't featured yet. But Omar's signature work is done with animals, and we had yet to pick one of those up. So, having sold some artwork, I had the distinct pleasure of talking with my wife about a few pieces I photographed and sent her to consider (with Omar's permission), and then purchasing this one directly from Omar and his wife Sheila:

Perhaps I was able to think more about all these things because my life and career have honestly been fine of late, as the rollercoaster goes. And part of that is due to collectors who have supported my work, who maybe don't appreciate how special they are. Omar may have thanked me for my purchase, but at a distance he was also thanking those who came and purchased my own work this year, whether he or the collectors who purchased my work realized it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

IlluXCon: Sept 17-21st, Allentown Art Museum, PA

8/29 UPDATE! I received word that I will no longer be in the Weekend Salon but have taken up residence in the Main Show! This means I'll be upstairs this year in the main museum area, and will be present the entire length of the show, which starts Wednesday 9/17. I'll still be present on the weekend as I would have been, but now this adds 3 extra days to say hi.

Well, here it comes again, and I managed to post notice one week earlier than last year! I am once again honored to be a part of this wonderful juried show, probably my favorite of the year. Spectrum Live is similar, but IlluXCon is just super-intimate, and the fact that it's closer to where I live helps :-)

This is its second year at the Allentown Art Museum; a legit museum venue and close to major airports. I'll be a part of the Weekend Salon again on Saturday and Sunday (although you'll find me ogling other artists on Friday in the Main Show which is a few days longer and starts earlier).

I won't have a giant 4x6 foot painting taking up my entire wall, which is nice in one way but is going to be a come-down after last year! My display this year will be a standard mix of various recent original illustrations many of which you'll have seen on my site in the past year. See you there!