Thursday, July 27, 2017

How I set that crazy World's Record!

In July 2017 I set a World's Record for the Most Original Acrylic Paintings on Canvas by One Artist. I have painted 20,000 paintings.  Yeah -  it's hard for me to wrap my head around too - that's a whole lot of paintings!  But I did do this thing - I painted every single one of them over a period of eight years.  The paintings are 4x4" acrylic on canvas and are mostly images of my beloved hometown of New Orleans.

Here's the story of how this came about.  It started when I moved away from New Orleans years ago to study, work and live in other cities and countries.  I loved traveling and the adventures I had but as any New Orleanian can tell you, this city is in your soul and never leaves you.  So sometimes I just plain got homesick.  In those moments I used to do little sketches of things that reminded me of home - restaurants, gumbo, pelicans, beignets, schools, parades, parks and people.  They weren't in any particular format - sometimes they would be on napkins and sometimes on scrap paper or in the margins of notebooks.  I wasn't painting back then so they are all little drawings.  The images became somewhat of a doodle habit with me.

Then one day I knew it was time to stop moving around so much and I came back home to my city.  After living here awhile I ran across some of the little drawings I'd done and decided to try painting some of them.  I hadn't had any formal training in painting so this was stretch for me.  But it was one of those things I always wanted to learn.  So after a lot(!) of experimentation with paint I made up a technique that gave me the effect I wanted on the little paintings.  I sculpted the images with palette knives on canvas, then inked them, glazed them, painted and finally, varnished them.  There are quite a few steps to my mini paintings but I like the results from this technique and refuse to take shortcuts.  I liked how those first paintings came out and hung a few up in my house.

Then after some friends and family told me how much they liked the paintings too I wondered if other people would feel the same way.  So I painted up a bunch of them, entered my first little art show in 2009 and the mini paintings just took off.  From there I entered bigger shows and then approached my first store.  After that other stores and galleries started to find me.

I kept careful sales records over the years and one day I realized that the quantity of paintings was really mounting up.  At that point I had reached about 5,000 paintings.  From then on I kept an ongoing count.  When I hit around 19,000 painting I got curious about the World's Records on paintings.  I didn't find a lot of records in the field and the ones I found I realized I could beat.  I decided that I would go for a record when I hit 20,000 paintings because it sounded like a nice round number.  It wasn't easy to get that record.  I didn't just call up people and say, "Hey send over that certificate OK?  Ok then, bye."  I had to take photos and do pages of descriptions and make videos and hire an attorney and an accountant.  Each round of requirements met was followed by another round.  I jumped through many hoops.  But this was as it should be.  It shouldn't be easy - records needs to be provable or else everyone would be doing this, right?  So the hoops I was jumping through were comforting in a way, although time-consuming.

Then one day it just happened very suddenly.  The record was announced and put up on the website and announcements were made before I even knew it was happening.  A large framed certificate showed up at my door the next day and a whirlwind followed.  A slew of fun if not slightly embarrassing interviews ensued.  Truth be told it was a bit of a relief when it all mostly died down. (it's actually still going on but it's under control now - thank God)   It was a hoot while it lasted though.

The best part of about setting the World's Record was the day I got to tell my four kids that their mom set a World's Record. They were convinced at first that I was playing a joke on them.  Then slowly their convictions turned to realizations and then pure celebration!  They actually bragged to their friends about their mom (c'mon how often does that happen?! lol)   That was truly priceless and for that alone - I'd do it all over again!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Who is that Person next to you?

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While ordering my vanilla latte at my local coffee shop I started talking to my favorite barista - Brad. He knows my drink, yells hello to me when I walk in and makes my latte to perfection.  He's used to seeing me shamble in most mornings in yoga pants or something equally enticing haha.  But this morning I was gussied up and he noticed.

Brad -  "You look terrific, Miss Jax, why are you all dressed up?"
Me - "I just came came from doing a TV interview at WWL.  Had to get there early."
Brad - "What was the interview for?"
Me - "Well believe it or not, I set a World's Record last week"  I always feel weird saying this - like I'm talking about somebody else.
I went on to explain about the World's Record for Painting and he looked completely surprised.
Brad - "What?!  You  know we see people everyday and we have no idea of who we are talking to."
Me - "That's  right.  For instance I don't know anything about you except that you make a great latte. Now you tell me something about you."
Brad, smiling shyly,  " Well OK - I'm actually a Drag Queen.
Me - "What?  Really?"
Brad- "Yep.  I'm putting together a new act right now.  I studied piano in college and I'm putting together a piano act wherein I play and act."  He pulled out his phone and showed me his pictures.
Me -   "That's pretty amazing!  And now that you've said it  -  I can see it  - you've got a really great face, pretty eyes  and adorable dimples. Now where can I come see you?"
Brad - "I'm all over right now but when I get the act together, I'll let you know when you come in for another latte."

I was thrilled because I loved his story.  My barista has this completely wonderful other life outside of  just serving me my morning addiction.

Note to self  - you don't know who's standing next to you in this city - or what their story is.  Ask and be astounded more often.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Running through Museums

People walk slowly through museums, gazing at the works and reading descriptions.  That is, of course, what the museums and artists delight in.  But that's not what I usually do at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  (I do have a story I'll tell another time about running through the Louvre but I'll save it for another time.)

Actually I do gaze and saunter at the new exhibits but for the old ones -  I usually look like I'm running to catch a bus.  No doubt I miss stuff  and catch the ire of other visitors and museum guards, but the reason I go to NOMA is for the RUSH that art gives, pun intended.  Now keep in mind that I've been in the place hundreds of times since I was about fifteen.  So I know the lay of the land.  I know the new from the ongoing and I definitely have my favorites in the latter that deserve a visit.  

Now if you see me in the museum, you'll note that I have on my museum uniform.  This consists of dark clothes that make me invisible so people won't be able to describe the 'museum runner' to annoyed guards.  I've always got some sort of shawl or pashmina with me since it's always freezing in that place - even in a New Orleans July.  I also wear rubber soled shoes - all the better for sprinting.   These same rubber shoes make an exciting squeak on the terrazzo floors when I come to a sudden stop upon finding something that delights me.  And I always find the delightful.  The provocative.  The divinely colorful.  The ingenious.  The satirical and, sometimes, the deliberately comical.  Artists can do that - stop you cold in your rubber soled shoes.  

The 3rd floor of the museum is always a  bit of a challenge.  There are African and New Guinea masks and carvings in there that I have been seeing since I was a kid.  They are obviously haunted (as any fool can see).  I have to ask myself how many times does it take for me to stand in front of an old medicine man's mask full of porcupine quills and monkey fur before its spirit settles in for a ride in this native girl's soul.  There's no telling.  So I'm usually running full tilt on the 3rd floor and I advise you to do the same.  

When I leave I always stop and say hello to El Greco's St Francis in the room by the admission desk.  I gaze into those liquid, ecstatic eyes and get the art goose bumps that come from viewing a truly fine work.  It's a never-fail delight on  my way out, well worth the squeak from my shoes.

Then I recycle my admission pin, say goodbye and, once again, consider myself lucky to live in my favorite city in the world.  
Mama Jax

First Saturday!

I woke up so excited Saturday morning.  And then I did something I have been dreaming of doing for years.  I walked out of my apartment early, early -  got on my bike and rode up the street and entered beautiful City Park.  For years I've wanted to live near this park and I've recently taken a small extra apartment near it.  You will come to realize if you stay with me that I tend to move a lot!  The idea of being able to leave the house on a bike and be that close to the park was something I thought of so often.  And it was surprising - the park on Saturday mornings is busy!  It's full of people running, walking, biking, skating - you name it.  It feels healthy, lush and full of life.  I've always loved this park!  I rode on my old bike with its half-flat tires (guess I have to fix that!) and felt like I was flying - like I was ten.  Like pure life.  So happy! 

One of my art clients had me paint a mini of District Donuts and Sliders on Magazine St.  She made it sound like a wonderful place so that was my next stop and the one I chose for breakfast.  Yeah health food!  I don't actually like donuts very much but I was curious about this place, so off we go.
Well good luck parking!  It is a popular place!  I drive by and could see a long line at the counter inside.  So I illegally parked, walked up and got in line.

There was a glass case full of donuts - biggest damned donuts I've ever seen.  And interesting flavors - Horchata, Cookies and Cream, Miso Praline - odd donuts!!!  You could also order sliders and they smelled awfully good but I couldn't see eating sliders at 9 in the morning.  So I ordered a Horchata donut and coffee.  The coffee was good and strong and lovely.  The donut weighed five pounds (OK exaggerating just a little) but it tasted great!!!  Filled with cream center.  Started not to eat the whole thing but decided 'the hell with it' and did.  Fun place - lots of folks, inside and outside seating, music - feels like the urban young enjoying themselves.  Definitely go try it.

Since I was down that far on Magazine St, I decided to stop in at the Saturday morning Farmer's Market at the 700 block of Magazine.  Cute little market!  Fresh fruits and veggies, more coffee (yes coffee!), cheese, baked goods, pesto.  Everyone walking around feeling good and buying fresh healthy food.  Felt good to be there after eating a five pound donut!  Kid Chef Eliano was there giving a cooking demonstration - talented little fourteen year old chef.  Good for her!  I love entrepreneurs and when they start young, it's just fascinating.  I wish her luck! I sat and sipped my coffee, watched the Chef and listened to the music of Saturday morning.  Aaaaaahhhh!

A friend of mine told me that I should go to a little Italian market on Esplanade called Terranova's. Supermarket.   He said that he used to go there as a kid and remembered that they had the best Italian sausage in the world.  I knew I would have to paint that night so I thought some Italian sausage and a salad would make a good dinner.  I found this little market and there were Italian women behind the counter.  That made me happy right off the bat.  I made my way back to the meat counter and asked the man for his Italian sausage.  He told me that he was out, but to come back the next day.  He said, "Don't come back too early - not before 11-  I'm gonna party tonight."  Cracked me up.


Mama Jax from New Orleans, LA.
Jax Frey is an artist who creates bold, colorful, super-textured paintings of all things New Orleans. Look for Jax's line of New Orleans mini paintings, her favorite painting series of New Orleans women called the Gumbeaux Sistahs (I love those chicks!) and other favorite Jax products on her website - I hope you enjoy your visit here and your comments make my day!

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