First, please go checkout my art takeover at Frothy Monkey in 12 South if you want! I am excited to announce that my work is going to be visible in more spots around Nashville…and not on canvas or paper or mylar in frames, but on walls, crosswalks, and some more surprises! Mural plans are in the works and I owe it all to my friends at Native magazine and my new friends at Nashville Walls Project and Tinney Contemporary as they’ve helped guide me into finding some street art opportunities and have given me some valuable advice. Beau Stanton was in Nashville over the last couple of weeks, painting an incredible mural on 5th Ave and I highly recommend going over there to see it. His process is pretty amazing. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to paint on walls, having done so without being asked many a time as a child. Working large scale is always my favorite way to paint. I got to learn from the best two weeks ago, getting some great pro tips from Beau Stanton himself, and I am so grateful to be in a city that has one of the most incredible collections of street art, and to be surrounded by truly inspiring work and artists.
I’d like to discuss what defines a “truly inspiring artist" to me. A reader (I was really excited to have a reader p.s.) reached out to me a couple of weeks ago worried about bothering people by asking for advice or mentorship. This hit home because I often feel the same way about approaching literally anyone #socialanxiety and I reminded her that flattering someone by seeking out advice from them is never annoying, and if it is, then you don’t want advice from an arrogant person anyways. I kept thinking about this, though. If I am confident about my work and what I am doing, then this fear I have really shouldn’t exist. I always have trouble approaching artists or gallery owners, etc. and a lot of it is out of respect, awkwardness, fear of being annoying, social anxiety, etc., but I think another reason behind that is a lack of true confidence in my work and what I am doing. Maybe I shouldn’t share this, but it’s all in the spirit of HONESTY! This feeling has been incredibly paralyzing, hence the extremely delayed blog post and serious artist block, but I am going to work through it and explain how! (bare with me)
Right now, Joel Daniel Phillips’ newest work is up at Tinney and not only is it some of the most thoughtful and engaging work I’ve seen, but hearing him talk about this series and conveying a message that is so universally relatable, made me want to take a step back and think about what I am really trying to achieve with my work. To summarize, his exhibit entitled Welcome to the Orange West is a collection of photorealistic graphite and charcoal drawings of abandoned, decaying signs along Route 66, oil rigs, and historical depictions of Westward expansion and the effects it had on the land and its inhabitants. Our romanticized and nostalgic emotions toward this part of our shared history is convoluted, to say the least, and this work forces us to question the cost of our actions or “the sociological factors surrounding Manifest Destiny.” It explores layered histories, classism, environmental and emotional damage that took place, and still take place, to get to where we are today.
So, not only is the work incredibly skillful to a point of actual mastery of graphite drawing, the message is clear, the themes are relevant, thought provoking, and relatable, but the artist is also incredibly articulate and knowledgable on every aspect of this work, ready to literally answer any question that may come his way regarding what this work means to him and to all of us. The amount of research and work that took place before he even picked up a pencil is evident, and on top of that, some of these pieces took upwards of 340 hours to complete. It all speaks very personally to him as well, documenting his move to Tulsa, OK and familial connections to Westward expansion, evoking an emotional response from the artist and viewers. Basically, this is my goal as an artist and what defines an inspiring artist to me. These were all the essential skills we learned as art majors that we needed to master if we wanted to succeed; work must be skillful, thoughtful, personal yet evoke an emotional response in others, it must be well-researched, clear, and artists should be knowledgeable, invested, and articulate about their work. I think recently I have gotten a little swept up in the commercial side of it all. With so much constant competition, mostly pressures I put on myself, to “post a new piece everyday”, “get more followers”, “apply for more shows”, “make more money” it’s hard to produce truly thoughtful work. While there is definitely value in practicing, and “painting what you want” and just painting to paint, taking time to research and finding some true inspiration in something personal is critical.
I recently went up to Sewanee and ran into my favorite professor, who I always seem to run into him when I need direction the most. He reminded me to not lose sight. We discussed my work and my plans, but I think saying out loud that I need to think more critically about what it is exactly that I am doing, was euphoric. I needed a push and a reminder of what I love about what I do. I read a post by an artist recently, and I can’t remember whose it was, but she said “I am so grateful that there are people that connect to my work, even when I don’t”. We can all relate to that, but we shouldn’t. If there’s one thing I want to be fully connected to, it’s my work. I think everyone wants that.
Thanks for reading!