Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One the Eve of My First One-Man Show, A Chance to Say Thank You

This week, as I am nearing the January 16th opening of my first one-man show at the Max Gallery in Tucson, I wanted to take this moment to write a few lines to say thank you to those who helped me along the way. Not some academy awards roll the credits sort of thing, but name the people who I could not have done this without - and tell you why they have been important.

First and foremost is my wife Jelena. Many days I have worked alone in the studio all day, then she would come home and I would hear her reactions to the days work, unedited and honest. I always hope to hear that "heeeyyyyyyyy" that signals a good painting. And I land with a thud sometimes when I hear a hesitant "not bad...." as she quizzically sizes up a painting. Often I would feel insecure about some aspect of a work, a tree, a few brush strokes - but I would try to exercise a little painterly denial and put it out of my mind. Then Jelena would march right in and say "what's up with that tree?" And she would see the weak spot immediately. This criticism hurts sometimes, but a painter profits from it. The kind of loving, honest support that says you can do better. And another great gift my wife has given is the mere ability to do the work, the time to develop as a painter and the freedom to chase a dream that doesn't frequently make the one chasing it a rich man. I often tell people that we all know Vincent Van Gogh, but fewer people know Theo Van Gogh, his brother - who supported Vincent financially and emotionally, without whom he would not have been able to the beautiful paintings we all revere. My wife Jelena has been my Theo, and that freedom to paint has been the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. Thank you my dear wife, I love you very much, and I will always work as hard as possible to earn the faith you've put in me.

To my parents - I am sure that the fathers and mothers of lawyers and accountants never have to ask themselves the hard questions that the father or mother of an artist does. It is a difficult thing to assent to your child going into one of the most difficult ways of life that is out there. It would be easier to have a child do something conventional, and acceptable - and it is only great character that allows a parent to see that they have a little artist on their hands, and there is no use in fighting it. We should be thankful that Michelangelo's dad didn't steal his brushes and chisels, and instead sent him to study art. My study was my own, but my parents allowed me to do it. Thanks to my dad Billy Myers for always caring enough to make sure I was fed and out of trouble. For putting a few bucks in my pocket and some gas in the car and offering his encouragement. It was my dad who told me that "nobody who never quit ever failed" and I remembered it. Thanks dad. Thanks to my Mom also who allowed me to make my first sketches in her old sketchbooks from the 1970s. My mom was my first exposure to art, and she was never more at home than when she had a charcoal pencil in her hand and a sketchpad in front of her. My mom drew people too, not just silly sketches of stick figures. She did fine portraits that I still remember and look back on. Her paintings of flowers are always in my mind as I do my own. And in my studio, just above my easel is my mom's version of Van Gogh's famous Irises.

Thanks to my lovely grandma, Shirley Hoyle, who actually was brave enough to buy the first works that anyone ever paid me for. According to market prices on my paintings now - I dare say she made a pretty smart investment :), but she indulged my love of art and she introduced me to the fine feeling one gets when they learn that someone has paid their hard-earned money for one of your works.

To my brother, Will Myers - thanks for not killing me that day you rammed my head thru the bedroom wall. (In all fairness, we were fighting and I'm sure my big mouth had something to do with it) I've since been accused of being hard headed and can't really dispute that. It might just be that when I look at the world around me and see skies carved and brushed in thick paint - that I may be experiencing after effects of breaking a wall with my head. If so, I guess I should thank you Mr. Will. I may owe it all to you and not even know it :)

One a more serious note, I would have to make a special mention of thanks to my friend and mentor M. Jean-Claude Quilici. Jean-Claude provided the most useful thing a man in his position could have - he offered encouragement, support, good humor, and the shining example that painting is indeed a craft, which one learns over time, and often with difficulty. He clearly understood how much I loved his work, and did all he could to send me books, show invitations, posters, letters, cards, and much more. When I got the distinct feeling that other people felt that being an artist was a dead end deal - I always had the example of Jean-Claude to think of as a counterbalance - a man of great success who persisted in the search for his own path in the light of the Provencal masters. I am here to declare that I think that Jean-Claude Quilici is the greatest living artist, period - and I can not be convinced otherwise. Jean-Claude helped me to understand that something could be both beautiful and original - and that painting could be a great exultation of life and the world around us. I have been a very privileged person to actually know and be friends with my favorite artist I've ever discovered. What a great privilege to be able to say that.

Right next to Jean-Claude I must thank the other Quilici, M. Augustin Quilici, French professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University. He did more than just introduce me to his cousin's work, he also became a great friend and mentor. He offered his own generous but critical eye in the formative years of my experiments in oil painting. He bought some of my earliest works that were decent enough to look at, and I was greatly encouraged by him. He also nudged me to go to Europe, which I did in 1996 - an experience which I was not prepared for, but which I am very happy that I had. Because of that, I walked the streets of Arles, and St Remy, Paris and countless other amazing places. I saw works that blew my mind in the Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre. Most of all, what I learned from Augustin Quilici was a devoted passion for the creative arts, literary and artistic. I am also convinced that Augustin Quilici has a painter hibernating inside him - because I will let the world know that he too paints. His "Pont Neuf" that hung in his office at Lenoir Rhyne in North Carolina was a fine piece. And perhaps one day he will take up his palette and show us the other Quilici - artiste-peintre, that I know is out there.

Two other professors at Lenoir-Rhyne also provided great encouragement and friendship; Dr Bohdan Kuropas, and Dr Werner Schultz. I thank both of them for their friendship and love of art that they were all too kind in sharing. Both of these gentlemen have early Neil Myers works in their collections, and I hope they still enjoy them.

To Steven Morse; many thanks for the countless long conversations about art, for your passion for creativity and our friendship that has lasted since the 6th grade! Some artists are craftsmen with a hammer - and some with brushes.

To Judy Murphy; my entire Southwestern art career goes back to that day in 2003 when I showed a few images to her at Rosequist Gallery in Tucson, and she said immediately "Can you bring me these paintings this afternoon?" For all the "No's" that one gets in the art business, Judy had the foresight to say yes, and my success all traces back to her belief in me, when I was nothing but one more newcomer artist who had just arrived in Tucson.

I have to also thank the countless gallery directors who have shown and sold my work, who have supported me and offered me their encouragement and backing; firstly Max Mikesell, of the Max Gallery, who took me on board in 2005 staring at the works for a long time and saying "I would like to represent your work." Thanks also other gallery directors, Mesia Huttner, from Cobalt Fine Arts. Linda and David Sherer, from the LeKAE gallery, Drew from the LeKae Gallery, Anothny Sobin from Taos Fine Art - and others who have show my work around America.

One can have all the talent in the world, but they will not get all they can from it if they don't realize that their success has a lot to do with other people. When I look back over the last 6 years, that is the one thing that stands out. Time and time again, other people stepped forward and supported me and my work - and I dare say much of what I have done would not have been possible without all this wonderful support.

And I must save the last thank you for the collectors who have bought and supported my work. I once told a collector from Casa Grande, AZ, that the greatest gift someone gives the artist when they buy his or her work is that they put a little bread on the table and that allows an artist to keep working. I appreciate the passion of all the collectors around America who have been there for me year after year. You allow me to continue my work, and to me, there is no greater happiness that the new world created on blank canvas. Thank you all.

I hope everyone will come join me at the Max Gallery from 5-9pm on January 16th. This will be the largest group of works I've ever shown, and I'll be very happy to meet everyone and thank them myself for their support.

For a full online preview of the Max Gallery show, log on to http://www.neilmyersart.com/ .