Spring cleaning

April 8, 2011

Dear Rodney,

Yesterday, Laura Tovar Dietrick of Portsmouth, Virginia wrote, "I'm spring 
cleaning. Sketches, old matted drawings, paintings that aren't my best, oil 
studies, unimportant works, etc., have finally found themselves in a big pile. 
Some, if properly matted and framed, could sell. The problem is that I don't 
want to invest in the time, energy or frames. Would slipping them into poly 
bags with backing be appropriate to move this stuff? Right now, I feel like 
throwing them into the dumpster, but I have been told not to do so. What do 
you do with your studies and sketches? What do you think of having a fire-sale?"

Thanks, Laura. Don't have a fire-sale; have a fire. Don't use a dumpster. Even 
if your work is broken up like Humpty Dumpty, people can put it back together 
again. While burning outdoors is illegal in many places, a household fireplace 
makes an excellent memorial pyre where substandard work can be sent off with 
some terminal dignity. 

Personal note: As a chronic disposophobiac, currently short-listed for "The 
Hoarders" television program, I'm excellent at giving "throw out" advice, and 
excellent at not doing it myself. 

But I really don't approve of the idea of slipping things into poly bags and 
selling them at lesser prices. Artists need to offer only their best work and 
to be consistent. Your personal integrity is worth more than the few bucks you 
might put in your purse.

Keep a few for yourself and your family. I have a separate building dedicated 
to this weakness. I call it my "Salon des Refusées." Sometimes I like to just sit 
in there amid my stuff. It feels good all 'round.

Keep a few because you need to refer to them. Sketches, good and bad, are the 
stepping stones to your better work. Dig them out from time to time and refresh 
and rerun your earlier trials. It feels good all 'round.

Keep a few better ones to give as gifts. Studio visitors are often thrilled to 
get sketches, particularly when signed and dedicated. Very often I find people 
think so much of our friendship that they go to a lot of trouble with framing.
When coming upon such gifts in friend's homes I'm often surprised by my 
generosity and thoughtfulness. They are too. It feels good all 'round.

Best regards,


PS: "When a picture isn't realized, you pitch it in the fire and start another." 
(Paul Cezanne) 

Esoterica: Burning may be necessary for the progress of the muse. Cremation, 
the most final disposal method of all, permits the artist to move on. There's 
nothing like an extreme failure going up the chimney. The Welsh poet Dylan 
Thomas noted, "The burning of bridges makes the nicest fire." Looking back at 
a productive life, the Victorian novelist George Meredith wrote, "Not till the 
fire is dying in the grate, look we for any kinship with the stars."