In the fall of 2000, I found myself really needing a win somewhere: I was rather broke with no prospects and getting really tired of the starving artist stereotype. I found an exhibition opportunity close by without entry fees that would afford the possibility of my work being seen by many people who probably didn’t know me or my work. I jumped at the chance, hoping that at least new eyes would see my work and at most, that I’d make a sale.
Instead, I saw my work in a new light. And that’s made all the difference in how I approach my paintings.
That exhibition was held in conjunction with the Eucharistic Congress for the Catholic diocese of San Bernardino-Riverside, CA. It was titled “Christ for the World” and was held in the Ontario Convention Center. While not an especially great venue for exhibiting art, it did give me a chance to really see what my work looked like – especially as an expression of faith. I’ve always been attracted to matters of the spirit, but before this exhibition I’d never considered my artwork and spiritual content together. As I sat there in the lobby of the convention center and looked at one of my paintings in particular, I noticed the beautiful light I was always attracted to … and suddenly it was more than I dreamed, and it was also less than what I could say. Although I went home with all my inventory, I knew I would not be the same person who created those pieces. I was now on a slightly different path, one I’d not noticed before.
copyright Anita L. Rodriguez, Christmas Past, watercolor, 12×16 inches
I remember as a child looking at the lit decorated Christmas tree in our living room when everyone else found something else to do. I loved gazing upon the beautiful tree, especially these 2 ornaments. I’d dream, wish, pray for the new year soon to arrive.
Fast forward to my college years. I was still living with my parents and my mother decided we needed new ornaments. She asked me if I wanted any of the old ones and I said I wanted the shiny green and the red one. I then went off and forgot about them, Mom got new stuff and I figured she threw the old ones out. I simply decided that they were gone.
Not long afterward, I went to the garage to my father’s work bench in search of a tool. I was stunned to find my 2 ornaments near a window, out of harm’s way. They were dusty and less colorful, but no less cheerful. Like old friends, they waited for me even though I’d forgotten them for a time. And my father – like my heavenly Father – kept my dreams for me, out of harm’s way until I should come to my senses.
I still have those 2 ornaments, carefully stored in tissue within a sturdy box…but I think they need to come out. Dreams and wishes can’t stay hidden.
Copyright Anita L. Rodriguez, The Last Beach Day, watercolor on paper, 5×12 inches
The above was painted from memory (atypical for me). I wanted to picture my last visit to the beach in Oceanside, CA but not a literal picture. On July 27, 2007 I wasn’t wearing this outfit nor did I have this hat and I was there with my 2 kids; however, I might have looked into the horizon or the sky and wondered what was going to happen now. We were moving to KY rather against our will; events had intervened that made it necessary and we wouldn’t be making our annual end-of-the-school-year trip to the beach anymore. My native Californian heart was heavy and I didn’t think I’d ever get over the loss…
But it’s been 10 years! I’ve accomplished a LOT in those years with paintings, exhibitions, travelling outside the immediate area, learning more technological stuff – more than I did in CA where I felt complacent. My attitude has changed and this one shift has been a game changer; negativity and a poor self image simply will not do. I sometimes do find myself wishing I could get a natural pedicure of sorts from walking on the beach but I have a new life and a new attitude now and I can’t go backwards.
Here’s a snapshot of a couple of my students at the local art and craft store working on a landscape painting. I love seeing a person gain confidence through some creative activity! And that thought spun off into this: what do artists like to collect? What captivates a person (especially someone involved with creating images) to obtain another’s work?
My other part-time job is painting instructor at one of the local arts and crafts stores. I had a student a few nights ago who, in the course of conversation, said that people who have nothing give of themselves (or words to that effect). Her statement struck me into considering something else.
A few days before that class, I volunteered to help serve lunch at the community kitchen. I chopped fruit, then served up the resultant fruit salad. I didn’t look at the people I was serving, mainly because I wanted the fruit salad to land on tray and not the counter or the floor. But I was also thinking of my Mexican grandmother who counseled to do what needed to be done and don’t look at who you’re helping – that is, don’t judge – and don’t worry about who’s watching you (don’t tally up brownie points). And anyway, I felt I had nothing to give but my time, which is why I was there.
Something happened to me on the inside while just doing what needed to be done. Years ago, I wrote a kind of credo that stated I had found my wealth in no thing. Nothing. What do I really have?
About a week ago, I made pancakes for the family (yes, it happens sometimes). After I ate, I cleaned up like I remembered my dad doing after he finished baking. As the goodies baked – usually oatmeal cookies for our school lunches – he’d put the dry ingredients away and wash the dishes (no dishwasher in my childhood home), leaving the kitchen clear and ready for the next meal-making adventure.
What’s that got to do with studio practice? Well, it got me to thinking: what if I put things away when I finished using them – I mean more than just putting some plastic wrap on my palette and turning off the lights? What if I spent more time cleaning or clearing a little every time I went to the studio? Wouldn’t it be easier to start new projects and even create more space to dream?
And all those little things I’ve acquired over the years that just take up space – do I really need them? Earlier this summer, I donated a lot of stuff and I have more things I want to clear out of my closet. But I want to get my studio under some kind of control – it’s vital to have a clear space for the next adventure.
Just about every artist I’ve ever known has a day job. Mine is part-time instructor in Art History and Art appreciation plus one art history course online. Last semester, it seemed that I spent most of my time – in and out of the classroom – making sure that everything worked which brings me to technology. Last year, I heard the term “digital immigrant” for the first time; it describes those folks born during the baby boom and earlier who aren’t fluent in digital literacy. Until rather recently, I was digi-phobic; I saw the world around me change but was reluctant to change with it. Then I started teaching lecture classes and so much depended on my having some fluency that I realized I needed to learn more than just some minor word processing. It seemed overwhelming until I remembered two things: first, take small bites and second, I reminded myself “If I don’t know, I’ll find out.” There’s so much information available on the Internet, it’s a great time to be alive!
I’ve always been a fairly quiet person. One on one meetings always felt more genuine, but it helped to know that individual rather well already. True, as a college instructor I’d meet a new crop of faces every semester, yet outside that setting I wasn’t very comfortable. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become imperative to reach out more often…how else could I assert myself as an artist in the community? Well, here’s a big help, both in making my presence known and for getting me to talk to people: the city of Paducah is hosting Meet the Artists 2017 in the historic City Hall building on Thursday, June 15 from 4:30 – 8:30 pm. Looking forward to meeting and greeting!
©2013 Anita L. Rodriguez, Beyond the Fall, acrylic on canvas, 18×24 inches
I’ve loved writing for a long while but painting always wins out; maybe there’s something about telling a story without using the written word. When I worked on this piece, I knew only that I wanted to relay my view of the pond we share with our neighbors. It was late fall when I worked on this canvas; the pond was half frozen and some of the invasive vegetation was locked in ice while the stuff near the shore was still thriving. As I painted, I thought of people suffering from some terminal and/or degenerative illness and those close to them who can only watch helplessly…like the vegetation in the pond, the leaves near the shore are vibrant but related to the fading leaves near the center of the water body. The softened shadows and reflections add to the uncertainty of the watch.
I recently spent a few glorious days in Golden, Colorado attending an artist business conference. It was a rich and fulfilling time away; it offered time to refresh and reconsider…to refill the well, as an elementary school teacher friend once told me. I met and befriended many other artists from around the country and beyond; we shared many ideas, plans, suggestions and considered new marketing strategies. There are many things I’m grateful for, some incredible breakthroughs, but the one that really moved me was one from artist Lucy Yanagida: after looking at my website and noting all the images of water and rocks, she reminded me that in Jungian analysis, water always represented “a loosening.” Indeed. More to come…