Alice Neel Would Be Painting

Picasso’s oeuvre includes more than 1,800 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 2,800 ceramics and 12,000 drawings, not to mention prints, rugs and tapestries- only a fraction of which have garnered acclaim. -Adam Grant from Originals.

At work in the Bremerhaven studio. Photo: Andreas Muenchow

That quote is the first thing I read when I open my sketchbook/ journal every day. Written on every other page hidden in the doodles, quotes and messages to myself is the sentence; Alice Neel would be painting. When I’m stuck, uninspired or feeling like what I’m producing is undervalued or unsaleable I say Alice Neel would be painting and get back to work. Alice Neel was a portrait painter born in Merion Station, Pennsylvania in 1900 and died in New York in 1984. She created a huge body of work painting consistently and unapologetically throughout her life. Her family and living conditions suffered for it, which I’m not willing to do, but she made being an artist her plan A and stuck to it no matter what. That I admire greatly. For more on Alice Neel I enjoyed this blog post:

alice-neel photo by Sam Brody
Alice Neel Photo: Sam Brody

The most frequent questions I’ve been asked since moving abroad are, “Have you gotten any artwork done, and What new things are you working on?”

My first inclination is to say why I haven’t completed more than I have in the last three months, but my previous blog posts explain the busy weirdness of adjusting to a new country. I chose to quit my art teaching job to follow my boyfriend on his sabbatical to Germany for a year.  I have given myself a year’s worth of time to be a full-time artist. Being a full-time artist is my life goal. I have been trying to figure out how to successfully, monetarily do this since I was fifteen. Now, finally at almost fifty I’ve saved up enough money and have enough gumption to create this year.

How many of these do I need to paint to fill a gallery? Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

I put a lot of pressure on myself to produce something amazing. Not only do I want to use my time to practice my skills and learn new ones to become a better artist, but I want to cross over to another “level” of being an artist. When I left the U.S. I was creating small pieces. Craft show, quick show pieces and commissions that sometimes materialized into short series, but mostly were one offs. I want to create world class work, I want to create a body of work that I can write grants for,  a body of work to apply for art residencies, I want to have one woman shows in galleries outside my small town. I want to create a body of work that has a little more to it than just a pretty something that tames the blank space behind your sofa.

Would you hang this behind your sofa? Is it art? Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum
Landscapes and portraits. practice practice practice Graphite and colored pencil 28cm x 21cm by Dragonfly Leathrum

I have some ideas in mind directing me where to start and I’ve been practicing some of my known elements like landscape and portraits, but I’m still seeking that image. What does the culmination of 45 years of being an artist look like? What body is born? Will this work be relatable, saleable and sustainable? Also, in my sketch book, “It’s not a torment to be an artist, it’s a privilege – Louise Bourgeois. So, no angst, no excuses, just work.

Looking for inspiration in the local art museum and not finding any. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum
I’m a brat in an art museum. If I get really bored with the “modern art” I take selfies with it to make it more interesting. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

I began my time in Germany painting tiny wooden pallets I picked up in the Tiger store because they appealed to me, then I was on a ship in the Arctic for five weeks where I took a few thousand photos and produced five watercolor paintings of the landscape. Since returning to Bremerhaven I’ve been practicing portrait drawing. Pieces, bits and pieces of what’s to come. Stay tuned art fans…..

What inspirational quotes do you keep to motivate you? What fuels your desire to keep going? I want to know.



3 thoughts on “Alice Neel Would Be Painting

  1. I have three that have stuck around for a while:
    Doubt is not the end of wisdom, but the beginning.
    – George Iles

    If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.
    – Gen Eric Shinseki

    If it’s not fun, why do it?
    – Ben and Jerry


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