art paid my bills, once

This is my favorite time of year. Where I grew up in Maine
it’s still cold but here we’ve gone from 30 degree days to record setting 91
degrees. Combine that with a cool ocean breeze and, well, I’m a happy camper.
Spring lasts only a short period of time here. The trees get that haze of buds
and then suddenly there are a bright yellow green leaves everywhere. Sometimes,
it even happens over night. In some areas, like coastal Maine, spring lasts
longer and you can savor the look of the budding trees, the bright red brown
branches as sap runs into the trees. A week from now I’m sure all the trees in
my yard will be fully engulfed in blossoms and leaves.

This weekend I plan on heading to the beach or the park,
maybe even walking the dogs there and doing some drawing and painting in my art
journal. I hope to fully enjoy this spring. Many times spring is full of
running around, getting this and that done, fixing the garage door, scraping
the paint on the house or some other spring rite of passage. This year I don’t
need to paint the garage or the house, I have a door to fix and a shed to
repair but overall the yard work is not overwhelming and I’m waiting another
week before I mow the lawn.

Last year was a bust for me as every day I had off, it
rained. It was the wettest spring and summer on record in my area and I’m
hoping that this summer is the opposite, not too dry but that when it rains it
rains during the week and I have my weekends to enjoy. I’m determined to work
in my art journal more en pleine air.  This
past week end I did 4 quick studies of Dane Street Beach and I greatly enjoyed
the work. I forgot how much I enjoyed working outside.

The summer of 2002 I had a part time job, 20 or less hours
per week and I had been pink slipped from my special education job. So I did
what any artist at the age of 26 would do and I spent a good portion of my last
paychecks on art supplies. I was selling books on eBay like crazy so I was
partially self-sufficient. I started getting up at 6am and traveling to various
places in the area that I loved, West Quoddy Head, Cobscook, Roque Bluff, various
areas in Jonesport, Machias and a few other places in Maine. I started drawing
and sketching like a mad woman. In particular I was obsessed with the tearing
down of a bridge in Machias. I drew the bridge every week at least once. I amassed
a huge amount of sketches, works in ink, ink wash, watercolor, pastel and other
media of that bridge.  I drew it from
every angle I could find a spot to draw it from, east, west, north and even
south.  I sold many of those images on
eBay for peanuts. I loved making those images but loved seeing them go out into
the world just as much.

Some people may look at what I was doing as selling out.
Hell some of those images went for a mere $5 or $10. The most I got for a large
painting at that time was about $50. I’m tempted to start painting images like
that again. Find a place I love and start painting and drawing it like a mad
obsessed woman, scanning and documenting, but putting the images up on Etsy for
peanuts. I have paper pre-torn from a failed art journaling experiment (loose
sheets are not for me!) it would take me nothing to do it.

The thing is when I was making these images and selling them
at auction for nothing I enjoyed it. I felt like an artist. I was partially
supporting myself on art. People kept buying my work, the little ink drawings,
the gouaches and the watercolors. Some wanted a set to match, some just liked
the subject.  The important thing is that
I was SUPPORTING myself on my bookmaking and art at least partially. My 20 hour
a week job provided me with some security but little to nothing in terms of
income. I paid my rent out of that but the rest of the bills were paid with art
money. I’ll never forget the first time I went grocery shopping and used my
PayPal debit card to pay. Art paid the bills that week and it was awesome.

I think about that time in my life, while personally it was
hard, artistically it was a time of awakening and personal growth. That summer
I realized that I needed to work on art to be happy. I also grew up that
summer. That is a whole other blog post.