Rainy days and Mondays do NOT always bring me down, as the song states, but do bring a sense of return to the routine. This weekend I spent on a quick overnighter to attend an art exhibition in Dallas that featured dozens of emerging artists. One of them, Charles ‘Randy’ Sherrod, is also Gingko Leaf Gallery’s first emerging artist. Randy and I go way back to pre-Randy existence. His mother is my cousin and he was her first child. Memories flood me every time we see each other, but I’ve a new perspective now. He is now an artist. Who knew? I certainly didn’t, but then, we’d known each other mostly before he graduated high school, and hardly at all for the last 20 years.
As a gallery owner I see myself as a sort of artist encourager. Okay, some artists don’t really need encouraging, but for the most part artists have intense insecurities ranging from constantly comparing their work to others more schooled or experienced all the way to giving up when overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of trying to share work with the world. Someone is needed to nudge them along with either a gentle hand or an abrupt shove to snap them into full attention of the potential they have. I had one such person about 9 years ago; an artist named Dennis O’Bryant.
Dennis was already an established artist with experience and a following. He never flung compliments at me like confetti. In fact, he once remarked about a piece of my sculpted clay, “It looks like something from a flea market.” Well, crap! That hurt, but guess what? I tried harder and got better. I worked and worked at my art trying clay and painting. Another time I asked him to help me on a painting, but he only gave me one piece of advice. “Look over the whole thing and make lights lighter and darks darker.” Did it and it worked. When I had my first solo show he offered to come down and “help”, but when he arrived I was greeted with, “I’m not going to do it for you. You have to learn how to do this for yourself.” He helped a little, but true to form, backed off at precisely the right moment leaving me to figure it out….and I did. He has never let me down, but was always an encourager by showing me how to be independent without being needy. Today, he is represented in my gallery and wowza! If that isn’t a compliment to me I don’t know what is! To this day he’ll still slip in an occasional reference to Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid by calling me Grasshopper. Yes, he taught me by unconventional methods but it was effective.
Now I’m guiding Randy, the “emerging artist” by making suggestions here and there, but frankly he’s already exceeding my expectations. It’s exciting to watch this man explode onto the art scene so my current advice is tempered with a lot of “don’t be disappointed if sales don’t follow. Create for YOU and if someone else wants your work, then good for you, but don’t live for it.” I say that because most artists will tell you how hard the art market is. They live for the big sale and it never comes, or when it does they expect it again and again only to be discouraged. I once listened to a bunch of artists discuss a competition coming, how much the award amounts should be and what they’d worked on all year just for that show. It occurred to me while listening that some of them were merely painting to win a check, not painting because some driving force inside them was desperate to create. How sad that they’d lost the passion to the almighty dollar. Yes, I must sell art to keep the door open for these artists (including me), but I don’t want to represent art that has no passion. As I sit here writing I can look up and see passion in the work; cool shadows cast along an adobe wall, lifeless stone with a longing face, mysterious Caddo Lake with hanging Spanish moss, and fiery red planets hurtling through space. The urge to create pushes artists to extreme measures and that’s what I’m here to do, inspire them to never stop.
Today the gallery door stands open and it’s quiet. I can see the rain drifting by the doorway, a breeze gently moving it along in billowing waves. Artists are like the fragile rain, easily blown too far off course, sometimes torrential, sometimes sparse. I want to be a breath that blows them toward a search for the visionary existing within their soul. It may be a rainy Monday, but we’re not down. We’re here and know this is where we need to be.