Welcome to
Transactions with Beauty.
Thanks for being here.
I hope that this is a space that inspires you to add something beautiful to the world. I truly believe that 
you are required to make something beautiful.

– Shawna



No Hope of a Lunch

No Hope of a Lunch

Lately I’ve been thinking about women artists, as I suppose I have been forever. I can’t remember not thinking about women artists and what they are and how they managed to persist and make space for their practice and how in some cases they also managed to have families and social lives. I always wonder how it was they allowed themselves to be eccentric which is harder to do than you might imagine. You see, I know this because I long to be more eccentric. I long to say things like Clarice Lispector did in a story:

“I’m not going to call anyone. If someone wants to, they can come look for me. I’m going to play hard to get. From now on, no more fooling around.”

In the same story, she says,

“Ah well. Who knows if this book will add anything to my works. Damn my works. I don’t know why people attach so much importance to literature. And as for my name? To hell with it, I’ve got other things to think about.”

still life by shawna lemay

In an articled titled “The Daily Routines of 10 Women Artists, from Joan Mitchell to Diane Arbus” there is a passage about the photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White which reads:

“When she was home in Darien, Connecticut, she went to bed at 8 p.m. and rose at 4 a.m. She often wrote and slept outdoors, enjoying solitude as she isolated herself from others. When another Life photographer, Nina Leen, asked her to lunch, she recalled that Bourke-White told her “she was writing a book and there was no hope of a lunch for several years.”

There was a time when I vaguely, super-vaguely, entertained the idea of becoming a painter. Growing up there was no art to speak of in our house. My parents had left school in junior high and made their way in the world. And so when I took art in high school, I had zero background. I remember my first assignment was some abstract thing, mid-way between a Picasso and a Miró (I mean, not really but you know what I mean). My teacher was very excited about it and asked me if I had studied the work of Miró. I had no clue. I was pretty okay at art, but it would have never occurred to me to continue studying painting. At the end of the last year, one of my classmates would make what seemed to me then a huge painting. It was probably 30x40. I found her courage amazing. To reveal herself at that scale. Wow. I continued to dabble after high school and in my crumby bachelor pads I had a drafting table where I did my writing but I usually had some kind of art thing happening, too. Then I met Rob, and well, he was a pretty great artist and had been to art school. I wanted to be a writer though, and it seemed insane to want to do that and also paint. I also enjoyed taking photographs, still do, apparently. If you’re wondering how Rob felt about all this, he once bought me the most lovely easel and was very encouraging about well, everything I wanted to do artistically. He’s the first person who reads everything I write. He looks at all my photos. He has bought me multiple paint sets over the years.

There was a period before our daughter was born that I was really obsessed with self-portraits. He took countless photos of me that I could work from. And I had a huge stack of paintings (some of which are still buried in our basement I think). But when you have a small child and books to write, something has to go, and so that side pretty much went though was replaced by photography ‘ere long. Also, blogging. Also working part-time. Somewhere back there I also did a Masters in English degree. So I don’t think I’ve been slacking. Though it still strangely always feels like I should be doing. so. much. more.

All that said, once in a while, I think to myself, how does anyone manage to be an artist? And how could I become more eccentric? (Some people might already think I’m there, but I’m not really). I’m not famous or rich enough to become eccentric. If I were to win the million, you bet I would be, though. I would be able to say things like, there is no hope of a lunch for several years. Although, in all honesty, I might have more lunches with friends. I happen to like lunch, but again, you know what I mean.

still life with books and fruit by shawna lemay

Do I regret not also becoming a painter? Well, no. I see how difficult painting is on a daily basis, and to do it well, I would have had to give up my writing and spend 10 years learning to draw. Instead, I’m enjoying watching our daughter do that.

But I am happy learning things about photography, about seeing, and I enjoy thinking about how images work. I like thinking about how we compose things and then how the compositions act on our thinking.

What I really meant to write about today in this post was how I took a photo I like, for a change. The one with diet Coke, fruit, and books on still life.

But that’s how blogging goes. You never know what you’ll ramble on about.

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20 Pieces of Advice for Writers

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Five Women Artists