Galleries : Daily Brush with Creativity
A long-time Island resident, Thaw Malin has been a familiar presence on Martha's Vineyard, and his paintings, a familiar sight at Island galleries.
But three years ago, he and his wife, Karen English, began to divide the year between Martha's Vineyard and Texas, where his elderly mother and siblings live. (His father, Thaw Malin Jr., died last month in Dallas, Texas.)
Mr. Malin, who divides his time between his two homes, spending fall and summer on Martha's Vineyard, says he's still a "year-rounder in spirit." But, especially for an artist, it can be difficult.
Photos by Adrianne Brown Ryan
"I said, 'Here I am in Texas - what am I going to do?" recalls Mr. Malin. "I know my family. I don't know anyone else. I don't know any galleries."
Then he read an article about Julian Merrow-Smith, a British artist who had moved to Provence, France in 2004 and found himself in the same predicament. He emerged as one of the early artists in the "painting-a-day" movement, painting postcard-sized oils of Provence and selling them on eBay.
Mr. Malin says he perused the website and thought, "I can do this!"
And so he did.
No, it's not a race, and he's not aiming to make the "Guinness World Records." Instead, Mr. Malin is a part of the "painting-a-day" art movement, which, as the name implies, involves creating a new piece of art work each day and then selling that work on the Internet using eBay, or a number of other websites, including the artist's own.
Starting in 2006, Mr. Malin began creating a six-inch by eight-inch painting each day. But that was just one part of his new project. Mr. Malin also had to confront the technical issues involved that would make that daily work available to potential buyers on the Internet.
Type "Thaw Malin" into the search engine on eBay, the popular online auction site, and four or five images of Mr. Malin's original oil paintings will appear. They may be still lifes, landscapes, or other scenes - wherever Mr. Malin happened to paint. Each of the paintings being auctioned is "fresh off the easel" and represents the latest in a series that has been going for over two years. Several times a week since mid-2006, Mr. Malin has uploaded images of his oils for auction as soon as he has finished them. By his own estimate he has now uploaded nearly 500 paintings, about half of which have been sold.
In July 2006, after wrestling with website design, email lists, web hosts, color matching, and payment processes, Mr. Malin was ready to upload his first work for eBay auction. His website designer recommended setting a low starting price. "He told me it was much better to start out at a low price and then people will bid them up," says Mr. Malin, "and I thought, 'Okay, I'll do $9.99.' So I posted it for $9.99 and at about 2 am that morning I woke up and checked - I had a bid. But over the course of the auction it never got bid up - so I actually ended up selling the painting for $9.99." He laughs. "The buyer [a Vineyarder] was so in clover about that."
Now the minimum bid for his paintings is set at $100. On a regular basis he'll also post larger works that aren't part of his "painting-a-day" series - but his daily paintings take priority. Says Mr. Malin, "Some nights I'll have dinner and I'll think, 'I haven't done my painting yet,' and I go lock myself in my studio."
All of the paintings in the series to date are archived on his website, thawmalinart.com, and browsing through Mr. Malin's work from 2006 to the present feels like pleasantly wandering through someone's life. Indeed, his business card reads "Follow me while I paint..." Since Mr. Malin usually paints en plein air, his work generally reflects something of his exterior environment at the time - whether he is on Martha's Vineyard, in Texas, or on a trip somewhere else.
The archive also reflects Mr. Malin's development as a painter during the same period.
Asked what he had found to be the greatest benefit of a "painting-a-day," Mr. Malin replies without hesitation: "Growth. Growth as an artist. I've been doing art since I was in college and I have never had the growth that I've gone through in the last two years - except perhaps in the beginning. Of course I'm still evolving, but I've found I just have this sense - that I have my vocabulary down. I know how to write this, I know how to speak, I know how to put the marks down. There's a shift in me that I started noticing this year where I feel like I've really found my voice in what I do."
Freelance writer Niki Patton is a resident of West Tisbury.