The Birthday Boy!

The Birthday Boy
Oliver, the miniature dachshund I rescued from the shelter, was born on September 4th.  So we are celebrating his birthday today.  Happy Birthday, Oliver!  Woof!  Woof!
"Oliver's Portrait" Oil on Canvas


The Gentleman

"The Gentleman"
This painting is now hanging my Drawing Room which I also call in the Import/Export Gallery.  Essentially, it is my living room with very high ceilings set up as a gallery.  I just had a home full of house guests.  You can only imagine how much I resented having to try to describe my work and their meanings... People always ask me to describe the meaning of my works.  Honestly, I do not like to describe my own work with words, especially before they are completed because then there would be no need to create art.  Besides, visual intelligence is a primordial sense we have as humans.  I prefer that people look at the painting and have a dialogue with their own senses.  I find that words actually can defeat the purpose of appreciating a work of art, and I run the risk of shutting off the communication of the emotional intelligence in the visual cortex of the human mind.  

As an artist, I need to keep an open channel of mystery, intrigue, discovery, and sense of wonder in the process of creating a work of art. That said, once the work is complete that does not mean there cannot be interpretations.  In fact, I like it when the painting finally speaks to me and reveals the meaning and the original source of inspiration.  For this reason, when I paint I find the experience of creating art most rewarding when I do not think at all.  In fact, I prefer to remove my own ego altogether and align myself with the creative life force that exists in something much greater than myself.  This life force is much like electricity that always exists and I simply must turn on the switch for the light to appear to illuminate and brighten the room and my ability to see where there was once darkness.  I prefer to enter the realm of creation as the blindman who for the first time is being given the gift of sight. 

Only when the work is complete, do I dare to even begin to allow myself the freedom to contemplate and begin the process of interpretation in terms of words.  Naturally, every artist is different.  This is my personal truth.  I know many artists strive to copy exactly what they see.  That never works for me.  My process is the exact opposite.  Again I strive to surrender my own ego to the creative spirit and just let the wonder of nature takes its course. 

Now that this work is complete, however, suffice it to say, I believe this work of art is abstract self portrait that embodies my feelings rendered with purity of primary colors that represents not only the influence of my experience and time in France, particularly the landscape from my time in the countryside of Brittany, but also with the the tradition of French artists known as the Fauves.  I do like that this work of art is abstract, as I believe the spirit's intention is not to necessarily represent me personally in terms of reality.  It's only my own interpretation, but I believe this work of art is a depiction of the universality of the gentleness of manhood, an essence of man as "The Gentleman". 


An Essay For Aspiring Artists

An Essay For Aspiring Artists

Periodically, I love responding privately to aspiring artists who are always writing to me from different parts of the globe asking for advice about how to break into the artworld to achieve success as an artist.  Last night was no exception.  So this morning I resolved to take time out of my morning to write a brief essay for all you other aspiring artists out there.  Honestly, I love to write.  Besides, writing is just another tool in our the artist studio for interacting with our audience.

If I had time, I would love to write an essay every day on one of the topics I receive.  But, in my old age, unfortunately, I no longer have time for that.  Nonetheless, today I'm making an exception because I don't ever want to forget what it was like for me entering the art world during the early years as an artist.  Fortunately, from the beginning there had always been people who believed in me while others were also very rude to me, especially during my "photographic" period.  That's true for anyone striving to achieve success be it in the arts or otherwise.

Believe me, in the early years I made so, so many mistakes.  In fact, I really wish I had had someone who understood my own dilemmas as an creative artist who had been there to help me avoid all the pitfalls before finally finding my way.  It sure would have saved me a lot of wasted time and unnecessary aggravations...  So if I can offer advice to aspiring artists, periodically I may be moved to take time out of my day to write an essay about it.  Naturally, an essay a day isn't realistic, but I thought I'd at least take time from this morning to write an essay on the topic of achieving success in the arts.

Again, as I said, I have made a lot of mistakes as a young artist.  Truth be told, I needed to go through this.  In fact, even in my old age, I still continue to hear the reverberations coming back to me from people in the arts who think I'm a clown saying: "who in the hell does this Zermeno think he is?" Nowadays, that only makes me smile because believe me: I've learned a thing or two about success in the arts.  Keep in mind, my essay only pertains to things that are true for me.  Unfortunately, in the beginning, many aspiring artists like myself sometimes start out by focusing on the wrong things. In my case, for example, when I started out, I wanted to be famous.  I was hanging out the all the artists who were doing everything they could to get attention.  Fortunately, I've evolved.  Now being successful in the arts for me is about the quality of life and being a genuine inspiration.  And I'm not only interested in inspiring others in terms of success but also in terms of stressing the importance of taking risks and making mistakes, falling down, and learning from our failures.  Nonetheless, many artists define success as simply selling their work or gaining the recognition of others.  There's a few things I want to say about this.

Fortunately, we are all constantly evolving not only as artists but also as human beings.  So that's something to consider.  In other words, what matters to you today, may be the last thing you want come 10, 20, and even 30 years from now.  Thank God for that!  Besides, there are great benefits to being an unknown artist.  You have complete freedom.  It allows you to have a normal life without people judging and criticizing your every move.  Being unknown also allows you to experiment and stay focused on your work without the distractions that goes along with the false sense of security by gaining notoriety, criticism, and attention. 

Lesson number one. 
Generally, the art world is not a pretty place to be. Heidi Klum says it best.  Just like the world of fashion, the art world is no different: "One day you're in and the next day your out".   So keep this in mind.  During the slow periods, be grateful.  It will allow you to stay focused on the day-to-day of creating images, regardless of your choice of medium as a practicing and committed artist.  One question I constantly hear is this:

How do I know how much should I ask for my art?  
If you're not getting the results you want, perhaps you may need the learn the importance of having good solid relationships.  If you're just starting out, I highly recommend that you partner with a gallery or an art dealer and let them do what they do best.  If you're not at that level, don't be discouraged.  Just walk down to your local café and propose an exhibition of your work.  A good café never goes out of style and you'd be surprised who frequents them.  In my case, for example, it was the Esterhazy family, who were also the long line of patrons of Hayden the composer who happen to be visiting Boston.  That said, generally there are three types of buyers.  In the beginning, there will be a lot of collectors trying to buy your early works and the price they pay depends on several things.   For example, there are the serious art collectors.  Some of them are stock broker types who are strictly looking at your work as an investment because they think you will go far and want a good return on their long term investment.  Keep in mind, they are paying good money for your work, so they have a right to expect a return on their investment.  Then of course there are the art dealers and representatives who play an important role as the intermediary between you and all types of other collectors.  They will also be investing in you.  So you will need a representative like a good real estate agent, who is there to advise you when buying and selling your first home.  Then there are others who know you personally (like friends of friends, associates, and even family) who will be wanting your work because they genuinely like your work and believe in you.  Naturally, what you create is meaningful to them, but they do not see your work necessarily as an investment.  They simply enjoy and want what you have created.  So they will be less likely to part with your work.  In my early years, I even bartered works of art for goods and services.  There are attorneys, for example, who absolutely love to barter for your work in exchange for their legal fees and making sure you preserve the reproduction and copyrights to all your work.  This will become important later in life when it comes to earning royalties from your images. You can also barter with professional photographers, web and graphic designers, etc.  Naturally, in each case, the prices and circumstances will vary. There's nothing wrong per se with any of this.  After all, they are your supporters.  But it's good to know what category they fall into.

In most cases, know what you need and be grateful that you have people who believe in you.  That is one of the most important points as you start your journey into the artworld.  I never actually priced my own work.  Collectors were the ones setting the prices with their offers.  For example, my first small pastels were selling for $1,200, that was before I started working with oil on canvas which were fetching much higher prices.  In fact, I didn't even want to sell them because I was very attached to them.  They were like my children and I didn't want them to leave the nest.  But suddenly, I was receiving calls from Europe, particularly London and Switzerland offering me up to $1,500 for my small pastels.  At the time, that was a lot of money for me.

Needless to say, if you have the right partnerships, there's definitely money to be made in the arts. So I did end up selling many of my first pastels, because I was a young artist and needed the money.  As any artist knows, creating art is very expensive.  So this financial backing allowed me not only buy more art supplies but also supported me on my journey as an artist.  Even though, those early works are now worth much more to me, letting go of those early works was the price I had to pay.

Save Some For Yourself!
Keep in mind, we all get much older and wiser as we age.  So my first advice to all of you aspiring artists is make sure you also keep some of your early works.  In the future, you may want to organize a retrospective or keep a private collection like I now have in my "American in Paris" Gallery.  So make sure you also keep some of your original works because they will become even more valuable and important to you as you develop as an artist at different stages of your artistic career. Speaking of career, here is another question I get a lot.

Early Works in my "An American in Paris" Gallery

Do I think art is a profession, a calling, or a career?  
Great question.  Here's the answer I always give.  Basically, each of us must answer that for ourselves.  For example, as an artist, there was a time when I was using my works of art to participate in art auctions, galas, and fundraisers for social causes I believed to benefit such things as the homeless, AIDS, youth empowerment, cultural enrichment, and even violence prevention programs, particularly against women.  In fact, my success as an artist supporting social causes in the community eventually lead to my becoming an Executive Director of the Arts.  So I can honestly say that my life in the arts has been not only a "calling" but also a professional career.   Even when I was an Executive Director, though, I was still an artist, except that at that time I was primarily focused on creating and overseeing community art programs and supporting others in the community, including other artists.  So, as artists sometimes it's important to get out of our studios and interact with our audience.  Again, I can't stress this enough:  Having good, solid relationships is very important!  At other times, we may need to withdraw and be introspective to see what we your made of.  So, when it comes to art, you really can have your cake and eat it too.  Here's another question I get a lot.

What do I do if no one is interested in buying my work?
Start by changing your thinking.  No one paying attention to you and your art is actually one of the most absolutely wonderful things that can possibly happen for you as an artist.  First of all, it allows you to use that time to sharpen your skills, experiment, and work without any unnecessary distractions. Keep in mind, that these views are only my own.  Besides, learning is a life long process. In fact, I never cease to learn from great art teachers who specialize in different styles, techniques and approaches than my own.  There is no shame in continuing to grow.  If you're not growing, your dying.  Besides, just because people aren't interested in your work, doesn't mean it doesn't have any merit.  Look at Van Gogh.  He spent his entire life without selling his works.  No one would take him or his style of art seriously, including his own family.  I can totally relate to him. With the exception of his brother Theo, Van Gogh's family didn't care about his art or ever understand him as an artist.  It was only when he finally fled his family in Holland and left for Paris that he came into his own.  In fact, Van Gogh's family considered him a complete failure because he did not follow his family's choice of profession for him to become a priest.  Van Gogh has been one of the greatest inspirations not only to me personally, but also to the entire world.  Clearly if there's been an artist who has taught the world that art has value it's Van Gogh!  So don't ever forget that.  Can you imagine what a loss to the world if Van Gogh had become a priest and not followed his true path?  There's no doubt the world has finally come around to appreciating the value of Van Gogh.

Define Your Own Success
Don't let others determine what success means to you.  We all must define what success means for ourselves.  For some artists, selling works of art is their priority.  That's totally fine.  For other artists, being a master of your craft is what's important.  I think both are important because you are planting seeds that will continue to grow long after you are gone.  Again, the artworld is not a pretty place to be so don't be shortsighted in you perspective on the arts.  Success manages to work itself from the inside out.  Some days you may find yourself in New York, Paris, Tokyo, London, Germany, or France, while other days you may be struggling working with a new medium.  Fortunately, some days you will be "in the zone" and there's nothing like the experience of being at one with yourself and your divine creator.  For me, that's not something anyone can give me or better yet, take away from me!

Success comes from being clear about who you are and what you stand for.  So I advise for aspiring artists to create a mission statement and define what success means for you personally.  Of course this will change over time, but writing it down is a great exercise and I highly recommend it to anyone pursuing life in the arts or any other career for that matter.  Here's one thing that is definitely true for me.  Success as an artist is the process of creating that make me feel inspired and fully alive and at one with my creator.  For me there's nothing like making a mark.  So I enjoy the pure act of expressing my creativity and using my image as an artist to be an inspiration.   Inspiration is who I am and what I stand for.  I've been to Paris, I've been to Rome.  But trust me, for me, there's just no place like "home".  So have faith in yourself.  Home is where the heart is.  If you don't know what I mean, let me try stating it differently: Don't go without, go "within".  I hope this essay makes perfect sense and is useful to you.   


Food As Art

Food As Art
When I saw this fresh loaf of artisan bread in one of my favorite bakeries, I couldn't help being inspired by this "food as art".  So I immediately brought it for my family to enjoy.  I hope this loaf of bread is inspirational for you too.  Who's to say that bakers aren't artists?  I hope you agree.

Yes, that's it

There's a time to laugh
A time to cry 
A time to shout
A time to live out loud
A time to rest
And a time sigh

There's a time to stand out and glimmer 
like wild berries on the branch
That's what we were destined to be in a crowd
Like the cliché of all the shining stars shimmering in the night sky

Likewise, there's a time to paint pictures for others to see
A time to answer questions about art and me
But there's also a time to escape all the inquiries too
A time to just get away and set ourselves completely free
There's a time to be joyfully insignificant and unusually normal 
A time to buy vegetables from John the farmer
A time to pick our own fruit without a care to be formal.

And, yes, no doubt there's a time to come back to inspire the world
That is one's destiny even if it's after we are gone.
For we must answer the call of duty to the gods
But how truly liberating for a performer to completely withdraw from the audience.

So, too, there's also a time to retreat 
A time to get old and fat
 A time to fill one's belly with summer foods we love to eat.
A time to taste clam chowder, fried clams, oysters, and wet our tongue with summer ice cream.
A time to enjoy something sinful, be it sugary and sweet.
These are the days of summer's end
Yes, indeed, this has been a delicious dream
A dream that has already come true 
Not only for me but also for you.

But right now is a time to completely withdraw
A time to go unnoticed in a muddy marsh filled with unreachable dragon flies
This is a time to replenish the needs of the inner soul
A time to go unnoticed
There's a falling leaf in the breeze without any human eyes
So today, let there be no fanfare
Just natural light
Not a flash of a single camera.
Only the reflection of the summer sun on apples dangling in flight
Eating a burger on a paper plate full of french fries

Even Charlie Chaplin deserved a day off
Imagine the joy of him not having to put on a show
To just be Charlie.
Let the pictures entertain
And the human remain
That is the beauty of the art of life
So, yes, there's a time to withdraw from being an inspiration
To be alive is to go unnoticed until one's death
while inside spending our days being genuinely happy and fully awake
Enjoying the sweetness of one's own breath
Yes, that is it.
Life for life's own sake.


Femme Fauve

A Favorite New Nook

As many of you know, I've been really busy embracing my inner "interior designer" curating the interior design spaces of my homes.  I especially love creating nooks as fun living spaces as places for inspiration filled with furniture, unique  fabric and creating spaces to draw, read, listen to music, dance, eat, and socialize with close friends.  In fact, I'm smiling right now, because one of my closest friends is now begging me to come and redesign her entire home.  Sometimes I wish I had 10 other lives so I could also make everyone as happy as I am being a creative artist.

When Life Imitates Art

As a creative artist, I always love wearing different hats and switching gears in the realms of art and creative expression.   Right now, for example, I am having fun channeling my inner "interior designer" as a curator for the galleries in my homes.   I especially love it when life imitates art.  For me that's what the joy of life is all about.   As you can see, this oil painting was inspired by the interior design of my home environment (Close up Seen Below).  I hope this is inspirational to all of you in what I like to call "The Art of life".

My Sister's Dog

My Sister's Dog
Can you tell that everyone in my family love our pets?   My sister took her dog to the salon and just sent me this hysterically funny picture of her dog.  After seeing his photo, I was laughing so hard my ribs hurt.  So I thought I'd share it with all of you.  And I thought my dog Oliver, the miniature dachshund I rescued from the shelter, was spoiled... Animals give us an endless amount of unconditional love and joy, so I hope you will also consider adopting a sheltered animal in need of a loving familiy.  When I have time, I am going to use this image as inspiration for a new oil painting.