other people’s art

I’m having an interesting exchange with someone this week about a painting in his collection that he thought might be mine. It was a good guess.

The signature is “Carol Joy” and the colors are colors I adore. It’s a really nice impressionist piece, and I would be proud to claim it! But it’s from 1974.

I wasn’t painting in 1974. I wasn’t even thinking of painting. I was living in Monte Carlo and singing songs in a private club on L’Avenue de Princesse Grace.

the “other” Carol Joy

I started painting 3 decades later, first as a form of therapy to stop going to Happy Hour, and then because people kept buying them, and it was exciting to create things that total strangers liked and hung in their homes. It still is!

It was exciting and humbling.

Because it’s so unexpected! I had a lot a success in my two decades of painting professionally. My work hung in the North Carolina Museum of Art. I had solo shows in dozens of venues, and was represented by a number of respected galleries in a half dozen states. I have paintings in the permanent public collections of cities, banks and corporations all over the country. In a few other countries, too. And in thousands of private homes. I even won awards.

You don’t really grasp the success of that as you’re painting and exhibiting full time. You’re too busy! There are people who certainly worked just as hard as I did, without that level of reward, and that is part of why it is humbling to be collected on that scale. I assure you, it didn’t feel like any kind of “scale” when I was just trying to buy groceries, either. But the little pieces that fix the van, along with the bigger ones that pay the dentist, all add up.

The amount of painting you can do 6 or 8 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week is amazing! And that’s how I painted. But I was still shocked at how many paintings it added up to.

When I retired in 2019, I spent the following year (you know 2020 — the year we ALL organized our archives and painted the attic!!) putting together my portfolios, in the understanding that no one really cares about this stuff except me, and when I am gone, it’s only real value would be to my son and grandson, perhaps, and to authenticate my work, if that became something of interest to someone down the road.

Like this person who has a nice piece by a different “Carol Joy,” for example.

Which brings us back to the title of this musing. I have always collected other people’s art, long before I created my own. I usually bought inexpensive paper prints. But when I started painting myself, I started collecting small originals from artists I knew and enjoyed, or artists I crossed paths with at exhibitions and was just taken away by their work….

some of my little collections, the one with the crosses is in the kitchen and the stormy ones on the lower right are in the hall to the laundry; my pieces are mixed into a few of the groups – why not?!

I bought art for the same reason we all do — beautiful things I wanted to be able to continue to look at in my home. So, I have little clusters of little pieces, everywhere. They make me smile and continue to inspire me. (Because I do still “paint” — just not 6 hours a day, 6 days a week!)

Over the years, especially when I had a public studio and gallery of my own, people would come to me with other people’s art and ask if 1) I wanted to buy it [the usual question!], 2) if I knew anything about the artist, and of course 3) if it was “valuable.”

The answer to the last question, even if it is a Van Gogh, is “if it is valuable to YOU.” Do you like it? Because that’s the first best reason to acquire art. Because you absolutely love it and want to be able to look at it again and again. Investment art is more for the brag value and the hope your bet pays off.

There was a fourth question, only from other artists or their relatives — would we show it?

The answer to the fourth one was rarely, almost never, and especially unlikely on a cold call. That only happened once, that I was so taken with some work, and I was wrong — I was the only one who really liked it!

But, because of the frequency of the first three queries, I found some useful online links to give people, and because of the internet, researching other people’s art became easier, and certainly more fun. Every once in awhile, I’d take on a project for a relative, or an older friend who wasn’t internet savvy, and it often yielded fascinating stories. But equally often, older artists had little or no online presence at all.

The person who queried me about the lovely impressionist piece may have one of those artists who don’t show up in internet searches. We’ll see. The signature is a beautiful old-fashioned cursive, and there is both a prefix and a notation at the end, which I think denotes a professional title, or guild. Those things used to matter.

Professional societies of skilled craftspeople …. probably not very much any more. The particular skills of watercolorists are now a niche, for example. When I did juried festivals, they were recognized by jurists, but increasingly less so by the buying public. (But if anyone out there knows what N.R. stands for, please share, because I think that’s what it is, a professional status of some kind.)

Art today is created online!

It is instant and disposable.

You can invest digital currency in some unique forms of it, but NFTs (see link) are probably a ways away in real value. Digital artists use software and stock images and photos pulled from the headlines. The art that is trending among young collectors these days is like ad art from the 50s and 60s. I doubt there are “guilds” of digital artists, but “authenticating” contemporary digital art is going to be an interesting exercise down the road!

In the meantime, I’m going to go look up a lovely impressionist named “Carol Joy” who was painting in 1974…..

Thank you, Dustin!

About Carol Joy Shannon

A former sailor of the seven seas, living in my beloved Lowcountry, between the blackwater swamps and the saltmarshes, surrounded by pre-revolutionary history.....thinking about current events....painting dinosaurs and other whimsical animals for children, with the occasional abstract or new cityscape for my delightful collectors. The best thing about being a seasoned old salt is sitting down not running around, so...
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