Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm Just About Ready for a New Adventure

Being in a creative field is a strange kind of existence. On one hand, there is the constant feeling of humility and awe just thinking about the nature of the living world and the way it connects to the sun and the eternal vastness of the universe. On the other, there is this hilariously overblown confidence that anyone would want to look at what your human hands have created, much less find it so compelling that they are willing to trade the energy they put into earning their money for the thing created.

I've talked to authors, dancers, sculptors and photographers about it and they either agree wholeheartedly or look at me like I've just grown three new sets of eyeballs in the course of five sentences.

When I apprenticed under one of Canada's finest goldsmiths, I was often shocked at the asking price for his creations. After all, the cost of the materials, while prohibitive, wasn't nearly as astounding to an apprentice as what people were willing to pay for the finished work. It took years for me to understand that people weren't buying the gold and the diamonds, but they were buying something even more rare.

Here I was being taught by a master craftsman yet remaining completely blind to the fact that his work was one of a kind. So unique and skillfully rendered that one would be hard pressed to find an equal to each of his pieces. Of course, many of those techniques and abilities he passed on to me, but into our work we poured the sum of our lives to that point. All the experiences that made us who we were translated in subtle and beautiful ways into the manner in which we sculpted the metal, set the stones, melted the alloys to create the ingots we eventually hammered into shape. I contrast that experience to the rush and tumble atmosphere of working for a jewellery company in Edmonton, and the way everything was in and out with little consideration for what I call the "process", and what they called "wasted time". The results were of good quality, but were they weren't the serious art I was used to. I finally understood the value of my master's work.

I find this same philosophy applies to my paintings (albeit at a much lower cost for the next couple years, or so). At first, I was dumbfounded whenever someone bought one of my lovingly painted works. Also, heartbroken. I love every painting I make and I feel the little rip in my heart whenever a sale is made. I always want to know about the person who bought it, and why they bought it. It has become easier, though, now that I realise that I'm not going to run out of ideas, and that the work I pour my energy into brings so much satisfaction to whoever has taken it home.

No, I've come to a point where I understand the value of my work, which is a remarkable thing.

For so many years I undervalued myself atrociously. I won't even tell the stories, they're so hard to think about!


I currently show at the Willock and Sax Gallery in Waterton Lakes National Park. It's a beautiful little two story gallery and they represent some really amazing artists. My only regret is the trouble I have keeping them in stock with the kind of work that suits their location.

My other gallery is the internationally renowned Bearclaw Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta. They're the first gallery to have taken a chance on me and I've been with them ever since, growing my career under their tutelage.

I've been shown in the Art Gallery of Alberta, have a few pieces in a current traveling exhibit with that gallery and Guest Curated an exhibit myself under the guidance of Fiona Connell. I had a one man show to inaugurate the new gallery space in the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium thanks to Jennifer Alabiso.

Of course, all this preening has a purpose. I'm starting to feel a little wanderlust and I'm trying to build up my resolve.

I am considering expanding my work out of Alberta and into some other venues. Perhaps Toronto, Vancouver, or even a nice international gallery. Where and how to start?

Any suggestions?

I think I'll write a few letters to artists who are shown across Canada, see what tips they can give me. Maybe it'll simply be, "keep painting". That sounds suspiciously like the advice I give to young artists who write to me. (Note to self, come up with a more helpful response from now on) I'll keep you up to date on their replies (if they reply) and we'll see where this new adventure goes.


andrea said...

Great post, Aaron, and I recognise your concerns and 'revelations' well. I need to start thinking along the same lines re. representation, and have had oddles of trouble valuing my work properly. I am beginning to realise that I need to relax a bit -- pushing too hard can be frustrating and the payback does not equal the effort -- yet I can't become complacent. Like everything else, it's a balancing act.

Good luck!

andrea said...


like poodles


Aaron Paquette said...

doodles of poodles?

sounds like a series...



I was lucky. The gallery valued my work for me. Very low at first until the demand grew. What a lot of new artists don't know is that the Art World is extremely conservative and moves very slowly. A sudden shooting star is pretty rare, and the problem is they can burn out just as fast as they appeared. As you know, being a visual artist is a very serious career decision and requires a person to wear many different hats. It's no cakewalk, and the various demands, stresses and sheer effort to get things rolling is probably more on par with starting a business from scratch than it is getting a job as a barrister or accountant.

You kind of have to be half-mad to start out in the first place, and stubborn as an ox to keep going year after year of putting yourself out there for judgement.

On the other hand, if it's your passion, how can you think of stopping? I never even consider it. Finishing a painting is so fulfilling that it makes everything else in that moment...simple.

G Lawrie said...

A gallery I would suggest is Gary Farmer Gallery in New Mexico. They show art by artists with backgrounds similar to you such as Carl Beam's daughter Anong Beam and one of Arthur Shilling's sons.
Their web site is still in development. If I remember correctly it is P.S. My husband and I love Grandfather Rabbit which purchased from your Bear Claw Gallery show.

Aaron Paquette said...

Thank you!

Well, I've sent out an email with some of my work and now it's just waiting to see the response.

ps. Now that you have it in your hands what do you think of it live?