How It Is Painting at the League

four canvases at the league 2009 oil on canvas                                                                              

In New York City, I paint at the Art Students’ League, where I share space in the abstract studio.  It’s pretty good to have a place to go everyday to paint.  That’s what it takes really, is getting into a routine and just doing it.  Being with other artists is so much better that painting alone - although ideally it would be nice to have a big studio all to myself too.   Walking into the league, into the abstract studio, one thing I know is that I will be respected and taken seriously.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging.  Let’s face it, painting, especially abstract expressive painting is extremely personal.  Sometimes I feel like “the league” is a bit like group therapy - where you are thrown in to a space with a bunch of other vulnerable people and you have to fend for yourself.  My best friend used to tell me I needed to develop a hard outer shell - well - the league is a good place to do that. 

The first time I went to the ASL, I had just moved to NYC from living abroad for over ten years.  I knew absolutely no one in the city except for my husband, who had a built in community of sorts with his business.  I attended a life drawing class, which I have always loved as a means to loosen up before painting.  The entire time I was there not a soul spoke to me, including the “instructor”, an ancient old geezer who drew all over my drawing with pen.  I don’t think I even saw anyone smile the whole time I was there.

I often ask myself what is was that made me go back?  I think it was the feeling that when I walk through the door, I am with people with whom I share something in common.  God knows, when I summoned enough courage to go back, and I signed up for the abstract studio, having a desire to be more feeling when I paint, my  experience was certainly not any more welcoming.  After setting up and getting started on a new canvas for quite a while without a word from anyone, I approached a self-important looking geezer that I thought might be the advisor, saying, “Hi, I’m new.”   All he said was, “I never would have guessed.”   Wow!  These New Yorkers are tough!  More about him another time!

originally published: August 19, 2009

© Trixie Pitts 2009