Life Of An Artist

Well, the weather outside is a special blend of occasional sunshine and dreariness, but I’ve caffeinated myself to happiness, so life is fairly good.

Coffee | Saltwater Birch Studio

I know a new year usually spawns a reflection, or a series of highlights of what your past year has been like, but honestly, it’s been (on the surface) very uninteresting. Slowly building a career from scratch doesn’t sound fancy, and involves no exotic vacations or roadtrips. It’s a lot of saving, and spending wisely, and writing applications, and hoping you’ll catch a break. It doesn’t sound very appealing, so instead, I’ll share a story.

Contemplation by Vanessa Pesch | Saltwater Birch Studio

Contemplation, oil on 9″x11″ canvas paper

Over the holidays, my sister mentioned to me that she couldn’t do what I do. To create paintings, that hold a part of your soul, and leave them open for the public to see, judge and criticize.

I honestly never thought I’d be able to do it either.

Hanging paintings | Saltwater Birch Studio

It took me a long time to sell my first painting – not out of lack of interest, but because I was emotionally invested in every one of my pieces. To sell one, would be like selling a memory – something personal, but intangible.

Then, something changed, I learned the person who was interested in one of my landscape pieces, said it reminded him of a place he always used to go to as a child, and would really love to have it if I could ever part with it.

Hogs Back Falls by Vanessa Pesch | Saltwater Birch Studio

Hogs Back Falls, oil on 9″x12″ canvas (sold)

It took me close to a year, but I began to realize that the painting is an entity outside of myself. That it’s become a thing in the world that others now form attachments to, find meaning in, and this meaning can be entirely different from my own.

Now, internally, I think there’s a little switch, where you pour your soul into a painting, and look at it critically, and once you declare it finished, or open to viewing, then the switch is flipped and it’s no longer a part of you. It becomes a product out in the world, instead of the raw, pictorial, emotional manifestation of your unvoiced thoughts. I’ve learned to detach after a certain point, usually once I think the painting is finished (which happens when I can see no way to further improve it). And it sounds strangely cold, or unartistic, but there’s no way you can put your work out there without some form of detachment, at least not without losing a part of your sanity in the process.

The Leap by Vanessa Pesch | Saltwater Birch Studio

The Leap, oil on 20″x24″ canvas (sold)

I should mention it also helps when the response from people who buy and view your paintings is almost entirely positive. There aren’t many trolls in the real world. Just people who, even if they don’t like your style, appreciate the art, and the work that went into it. And that’s all you can really ask for as an artist.

Sidenote: I want to include a description I wrote for The Leap, as it’s rather fitting: “It’s a figurative interpretation of a feeling that arises from rumination about my life situation: that pursuing a career in visual art most of the time feels a lot like jumping off a cliff – you hope that the dream is large enough, that the water is always too far away. With its saturated and colourful hues, the painting is hopeful, even as her toes leave the precipice.” 



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