My FaceBook page memories says I painted “No Hat #90” on this day’s date last year. It’s one of many I’ve done from a photo of transgender model Andreja Pejic, who I first painted in May of 2016 with “No Hat #21”.
“No Hat #90” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14”) September 6, 2016.
$100 USD plus shipping.
“No Hat #21″ (acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14”) May 12, 2016. SOLD
I return periodically to work from the photo of Andreja for various reasons. It’s soothing and stabilizing to paint the familiar — and it’s a barometer of my technical evolution in the ongoing series. I may consciously apply newly honed skills to it, aware of higher levels of brain-eye-hand activity that doesn’t always mean a better painting in the end. It’s still mostly about knowing when to stop. Each painting has thousands of micro-expressions (in the mouth and eyes in particular) that are in constant motion until I find a point where they hold a pronounced amount of personhood and attitude. It seems to be about inventing a fully fledged character that has obligations to me (and to you) — and possibly beyond that in terms of social philosophies and a history yet to unfurl.
Andreja Pejic is not just a well-lit face with lovely bone structure. Her story of personal and public evolution — and her professional understanding of what her face reveals — inform how I paint. I’m not overly-interested in making paintings that look like her. Obviously, as a very vocal feminist, I’m not using sex to sell art. I’m not subjugating women, but I think about these things. I worry about these things. What if I wasn’t a known feminist? Would my paintings of women be suspect?
Because I’m not beholden to the subject, I am free to change eye and hair color which are often based on other colours in the work, but I admit I am wary of painting too many blue-eyed blondes and what people will think when I paint African Americans. It was a truly strange week in my mind when I painted “The Party” without yet knowing of the uproar surrounding Dana Schutz’s painting “Open Casket” at the Whitney Biennial. Internally, I evaluated my motives and felt uneasy about how my painting might be interpreted, but it also gave me cause to realize nobody actually cares what I’m doing in any big way because I’m not in the “Art World” — I’m just some random painter who perhaps thinks her work is more important than it actually is. Having a history of being regarded as important in music has not translated to importance in writing and painting (yet).
People who see my work more or less know (and hopefully trust) my intentions, but is that good? I don’t essentially want to rely on that understanding. Anyway, it was a weird week.
“The Party” (acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14″) March 20, 2017.
$100 USD plus shipping.
While I’m painting, I’m physically advocating for a strong personality to evolve in spite of — and because of — how things are (in my life, in your life, in the world at large). Yet, there are paintings with unmasked vulnerability, sadness, pain too. And paintings that are all mask — whether its paint, make-up, a lack figurative clarity or part of a traditional costume (the Kabuki series… which are men wearing white make-up portraying women).
“Kabuki #1″ (acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14”) March 1, 2016.
$100 USD at John Doe Records Hudson, NY.
In many ways painting is like playing music or writing for me. I allow myself to be influenced by excellence, to connect my work to history without being thwarted by all that can be known, I infuse work with idiosyncratic stances — some of which have been in place from the beginning, other facets of which are just turning up now.
That Mecca Normal and my great creative partnership with David Lester are running concurrently makes this a nearly collaborative endeavour. Dave’s encouragement and understanding of me as both an artist and a human fuel my resolve to work, building my confidence and tenacity. I admire his discipline (work on a graphic novel about Emma Goldman), motivation and generosity. When his book is published, we’ll likely do some Mecca Normal-based events that will also include what I’m doing with the painting project. As with much of or work, there will be over-lapping themes and exciting ways to collaborate.
Drawing by David Lester – Graphic Novelist for his graphic novel about Emma Goldman.
I must admit, it suits my personality to be able to show people my paintings as soon as their finished. It’s integral, of course, the overall project. Books and records, tours and events all take so much time to complete and set in motion. It’s a great luxury to have an audience for my work here on FaceBook.
Thank-you for paying attention and for buying my paintings. This is the most exciting time of my life, but it would not be so without all the other incredibly exciting things that have happened (that I thought were the most exciting times).
My paintings featured at Nick and Gayle’s place in Brooklyn! These four represent the members of their family. What a thrill to see them featured in their living room. I love the way the light on “Nick’s” nose works with the light in the room! And with the light in the photo (?) above! Nick says, “They are like tattoos: now I want more.”
NOTE: Gayle as in New York Times-bestselling novelist Gayle Forman (straight up name drop).
The Hat #30
No Hat #126
The Hat #2
No Hat #119
All Jean Smith’s $100 USD portrait paintings from the beginning of the project (January 7, 2016) to March 14, 2017. Music by Mecca Normal.
Currently Available: Slide Show
Jean Smith’s $100 USD currently available portrait paintings from the beginning of the project (January 7, 2016) to March 14, 2017. Music by Mecca Normal.
Currently Available: Slide Show
“No Hat #138 B aka Gloria Steinem, CIA” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14″) January 21, 2017 (not posted until today, February 25, 2017). SOLD
I referred to this painting in a post earlier today, in which I was writing about “No Hat #133”. I mentioned that one of the big skills I possess (in painting) is knowing when to stop and both #133 and #138 B are excellent examples of that.
#138 B (at top) was one of the rare times that I set a painting aside because it felt finished well in advance of what I was intending to do, but I wasn’t entirely sure. With #133 there was no question that it was totally finished. In this case of #138 B, I still wanted to think about it. So it’s been sitting here since mid January and I haven’t had any inclination to add anything to it. Selling “No Hat #133” earlier today (to a radio journalist in Stockholm) has inspired me to call “No Hat #138 B aka Gloria Steinem, CIA” finished as well.
I started painting from a screengrab of Gloria Steinem speaking at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, but… I stopped here because, as I say, I liked it at this point. This is a good example of how I use photos of actual people to whatever degree I need them as a starting point.
After I set the painting aside I ended up doing some research on Steinem, just to refresh my memory on her history. I’m pretty sure I never knew she worked for the CIA. This kinda killed my interest in doing a portrait of her, not that it would necessarily be representattional to the degree that she’d be recognizable, but the CIA connection fortified my interest in halting my involvement with her.
Additionally, a novel I wrote a few years back (The Black Dot Museum of Political Art) has a segment in it about the CIA’s involvement in the abstract art movement in NYC in the 1950s and 60s, so this issue of cultural icons being willing and/or unwittingly participants in CIA activities was unexpectedly back in front of me.
So, while the is painting (#138 B) is at face value a solid composition made up of fairly similar tones with the suggestion of what might have followed (the shape of the head) for those that know my work, the backstory provides intellectual content that can be factored in.
Earlier today “No Hat #133” sold to a radio journalist in Stockholm, Sweden who found this website and fell for this painting!
I’m really excited about another painting going to Europe! Also, this is a great painting. Am I even allowed to say that? I wasn’t sure it would sell (for obvious reasons) – so, it’s a total thrill that it has, within the context of the overall project, been selected.
One of the big skills I possess (in painting) is knowing when to stop. This painting is an excellent example of that. I’m inspired to post a similar one with even fewer features that I painted a month ago. It’s one of the only ones that I’ve stopped and put aside to consider. I haven’t found a reason to add anything else to it, so I’m going to call it finished. Or maybe I’ll call it Swedished in honour of the radio journalist in Stockholm.
I paint start to finish, in one event. I think this comes from my upbringing around watercolour painters – my dad mainly. With watercolour, you keep moving forward after committing paint to paper. You don’t keep messing around with the paint once it’s down. I don’t follow that part of the process; I continue working with the paint for up to 4 hours.
It’s interesting to me when paintings sell from pages other than on my FaceBook page, because that group is part of the project. They see the work first – sequentially, as it is created. Each new painting falls into an ever-evolving context in progress that is being created for over a year. Within this linear context, I’ve recently demonstrated that the images can be used for additional purposes long after they’ve been posted for sale (or sold).
It’s interesting to me that a painting that is now hanging in someone’s home can be on the internet saying, “No one is illegal.” Winnipeg artist, art critic and educator Steven Leyden Cochrane documented this over on Tumblr when he collected all the “No one is illegal” images in one post. Actually, for my recent project, I photographed paintings that have yet to sell, but, in theory, I could have used jpegs of work that has sold.
FaceBook reactions (likes, shares and sales) accumulate in the time immediately after posting paintings. I’ll be saying more soon about how using FB as a studio component and a venue affects me and the work.
It’s exciting to have had two recent sales in Europe. Shipping to most places in Europe is reasonable. I’ve sent paintings to France, Austria and the UK without tracking for $15 USD. Tracking seems to run an additional $20. In the 145 paintings I’ve sold, I’ve never had to use tracking.
Music by Mecca Normal (featuring Rat Bastard on guitar in the first song).
Studio Visits are done, resulting in 7 (and possibly 9 or even 11) sales and a handful of strategies to think about. Bigger panels, higher prices, scarcity, merch potential, cultivating my Instagram, a show in LA, prints!
The “c” word got used for the first yesterday. Collector. As in a collector is sending someone over here to select three paintings.
All this action in an otherwise ultra-reclusive life could send some artists into a tailspin, but not me! I love it! This kind of thinking replicates what I have done with Mecca Normal for 30+ years. I love making things happen along these lines! Working with fabulous people!
With my FB painting sales tanking in January, now is a good time to consider other avenues. I don’t think I’ve lived above the poverty line since the mid-80s; I might wanna give that a try!
Favourite interactions with a total of 5 people I didn’t know:
– David Lester coming over for the Friday Studio Visit with Ronan and Tom. Things always go better when Dave is around!
Upshot: contact with humans IRL proves interesting
Thanks everyone for participating!!!