I bartered a portrait of Katherine Mansfield for an iPhone 7. It will live in my desk drawer, except for times I need to Square-read your credit card. It happened because a reader of this newsletter read about my struggles at Printers Row processing credit card sales. I wish I could fund my whole life through barter. Cut out not only the middlemen, women, and children, but also all currency other than the kind I can make myself. What a world that would be.
I was on the radio the other day and the host asked how I get by off my art. I told him about having to humble myself and accept commissions and other art-adjacent gigs that would have horrified the younger me.
Now I spend a significant chunk of my days painting and drawing people, animals, and places I would have never chosen or even imagined choosing on my own. It’s actually a good thing and probably has an effect on my “real” work.
One of the current jobs is a series of twelve paintings marking the high points of a guy’s relationship with his girlfriend. He plans to give the pictures to her for Christmas. The photos he sends me to use as reference show places I’d never go. A lot of remote nature scenes, alternating with vacation good-time beach/golf/resort spots.
I don’t know that I can pinpoint what I think about as I work on these things. Maybe it’s mostly formal/visual concerns. Solving compositional problems. There’s likely more too it. But it ain’t envy or even curiosity.
I don’t want to go to the beautiful places or have the good times. I don’t know why people go there or do that. But all these years of looking and painting have taught me how to portray beings and locations I have nothing to do with. It’s a strange thing to find out. I used to think I could only make art out of what mattered to me. Not anymore.
And now, if you see me on the street and want to give me virtual money to paint a memorial portrait of your beloved hamster in an exotic locale, I can accept your payment on the spot. Thank Katherine Mansfield——a writer I haven’t even read.