As a young man I painted many still lifes, frequently on a very dark ground. During those years my approach evolved continuously. Composition and the harmony of muted colors were my primary interest. I endured a good amount of ignorant criticism for my still lifes, but not for the qualities that were important to me. “Why would I buy this?” one wag questioned. “Who’s hungry?” Another friend whom I respected very highly chose to make no comment about one of the still lifes but to laugh derisively--on more than one occasion. He was an accomplished artist and I would have considered any of his suggestions seriously, but I had no way of knowing if he even saw what I had been trying to do.
All but two of those still lifes sold, but there were too few of them, too modestly priced, to significantly augment my income.
In 1974 I moved to the middle of nowhere in the high desert of Southern California, surrounded by mountains and huge rock formations. Naturally I focused on landscape, returned to my beloved muted colors, and continued to investigate composition and shape. Now bright colors were in fashion and I was told that my carefully balanced tonal compositions were “not colorful.” Isolated as I was, I sold very few of these; but also refused several offers.
And now I am in south Texas in my eighth year of retirement.
For years my dream had been to travel around the country and paint landscapes. Toward that end I converted from oil to acrylic so that I would not have to worry about a car-full of wet paintings. The conversion has been a challenge which I have enjoyed. Any dissatisfaction I have experienced with those acrylic paintings has been over bad composition and not anything that would have been ameliorated by a return to oils, so when a friend tells me I would be a better painter if I did go back to oils, I know better. Oils are easier for me, and perhaps there are aspects of my work that would be more attractive to some, but I can do pretty much whatever I want with the acrylics. If those paintings fall short, it is due to my limitations, not the medium.
In the last two years I have been producing reams of drawings and a couple dozen paintings of the nude figure, and posting them on Instagram and Facebook.* A couple of friends have made “humorous” (but not to me) remarks and I notice that I don’t see many nudes on Facebook, at least not on my feed. So no more nudes on my “family” page. And that’s okay.
For every period of my art “career”— (I should be so lucky as to have had a career) —there have been comments, criticisms, and even kudos that completely fail to address what I am legitimately striving for. That can be painful, irritating, even amusing. But it hasn’t stopped me.
*You can find them on Instagram @georgerhysusa or at the George Rhys Artist page on Facebook. Some day many will even be visible here on this webpage.