You're intrigued by the title. I know this because I know I would be. It's human nature, I think. You will only be slightly disappointed that I've chosen not to release this particular boyfriends name as this is not a smear campaign against this particular person. Also the title is slightly deceptive as I've had a few boyfriends in my time. Nothing crazy. But this post is about one in particular. Or, moreso about one particular interaction with this one.
I'm going to skip a lot of the details because, quite honestly, they're a little depressing. And that's not the intent of this particular post. When I thought about writing this blog post it made me smile a bit. The kind of smile that only time and perspective (and mild pettiness) can bring about.
I was 20 years old. I hadn't yet given much thought to selling my artwork. I had given a lot of thought to creating but I was still just muddling around, trying to work on techniques, figuring out what I liked and what I didn't. I was fairly directionless. This particular boyfriend was also directionless but was fantastically talented with art. I had never been around someone with his skill. Maybe to see it now I'd feel differently about his work but back then I thought his work was amazing. He was a bit older than me so his life experiences were quite different than mine. His experience with art alone made that glaringly obvious. He had stacks of books of all these artists I had never heard about before. We connected with art because we both loved the fantasy genre - just wildly different ends of it. While I was enjoying the work of Amy Brown, He was head over heels for Brom. If you've never seen Amy's work, it's all of these wonderfully fantastical fairies and mermaid beings, many with their creature familiars, some of which have found themselves in the most adorable yet precarious of situations. Whereas Brom's work was dark and moody, more demon-esque at times and sinister. It was incredible. I had never seen anything like it. At this stage in life, we did not have the internet in our hands 24/7. Searching anything on the internet at this point would age you at least 5 days because it was so slow. So you used your internet time wisely, searching things you actually were interested in, familiar with, or needed to know. I never delved into the world of Brom or anything like it before because I just never would have thought to.
Left: Amy Brown's "Attitude"
Right: Brom's "Bluff"
This boyfriend introduced me to a darker world of art that I actually also fell in love with. Quite unexpectedly, It expanded my curiosity and made me feel inspired just as Amy's work had done. He introduced me to comics like The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. We listened to Joni Mitchell and Tool interchangeably. To be around someone who loved art this way was a new experience for me. However, someone sharing a passion for art does not a healthy relationship make.
We used to spend some of our time just sitting and drawing together. Separately, working on different things, but at the same time. So, in my path of figuring out styles and techniques, I decided to draw a Superhero. A female superhero. Sort of Poison Ivy-esque. I wanted her to be strong and powerful. Unfortunately at the time, my only real references were misogynistic versions of female Superhero's. So I found myself heading down a similar avenue.
When it was finished I was actually really proud of it. I knew it wasn't perfect or anatomically correct. But it was a new style for me and as far as what I was able to achieve with the skills I had at the time, I felt it turned out pretty good. Now to show someone!
Above: The work in question that I kept all of these years as a reminder of strength and resilience. I call her "Red"
I remember feeling comfortable in showing my boyfriend at the time because I was confident he'd see my progress and potential. I mean, I did. I was a no one and I could still see I was working towards something. I was building a skillset. So when I was done I said "When you have a minute could you take a look at this please.". I left my book open and when he was done doing what he was doing he took a peek over at my work. He sat there for a few seconds going over it. All the while I was dying of curiosity to know what he was thinking....as skilled as I thought he was I felt he was someone I could rely on for constructive critique. I also, since we were dating, assumed he cared about me enough to find it necessary to lift me up in a positive way if he did, in fact, find flaws in my work. However, the only thing he did say was "It's not good."......
Just like that.
It's not good.
I didn't know what to say. I didn't cry or get mad. I didn't ask anymore questions. He didn't make anymore comments. Just.....it's not good. And then he went back to drawing as if nothing had happened. I was embarrassed. Imagine having felt like you were on some kind of trajectory to eventually making some good art and having it shot down in half a second. By someone you looked up to as an artist, no less.
I don't remember drawing another piece of art around him. If I drew anything at all it was when he wasn't around. If he was drawing I was reading The Sandman books. It might have been a different set of circumstances if he had given me pointers or said why he thought it was no good. But he said it and just let it hang there. Like a thick drippy cloud of disdain. And I absorbed all of it.
I can't exactly pinpoint the reasons I never gave up on art. I had every reason to. We lived in an entire world where we were told that being an artist wasn't a viable choice. I had an art teacher in college who seemed to dislike both me and my work. And then this interaction with my then boyfriend.....It felt like I had the whole world staring down at me telling me to quit. Expecting me to. Maybe it was because in this sea of unfeeling numbness, art was the one constant thing in my life and the one thing that made me feel the most alive. It made me feel inspired. It was there for me when it felt like nothing else was. It made me feel like I was going somewhere. I didn't know where at the time but somewhere. And somewhere was so much better than numb directionless nothing. Or maybe somewhere inside of me I knew enough about myself to know that I'm the type of person who would eventually figure it out.
Whatever it was, I kept going. I eventually broke up with this boyfriend and found other people who loved art as much as I did. I found my way out of the numb nothingness. I found a style and genre I loved and kept working at it. I didn't need school for it, I didn't need shitty boyfriends, and I didn't need anyone else's permission. I didn't even need for the art I was making to always be 'good art'. I just needed to keep doing it. I surrounded myself with artists who were leaps and bounds more skilled than I was and it made me want to work harder. They inspired me without hurting me. Most of the time they inspired me without having any idea the impact they had. I've had some of these artists friends for 18 years now. And I've just kept accumulating more as I go.
In a wildly ironic twist, I not only kept going with art I'm sure this boyfriend would, to this day, say isn't good, and found success in it, I also somehow, through mutual friends, became Facebook friends with Gerald Brom's wife, Laurie Brom. Who is, in her own right, insanely talented and successful. And while I am not a petty person on a grand scale, there is a small inconsequentially petty corner of my heart that delights in the idea of how this all came around from a point where I could have chosen a completely different and much darker path. While I enjoy Laurie's art (an incredible amount - she truly is amazing) and her as a person from the little window I get to see into her life via social media, she's also a small reminder of the path I ended up on and how life sometimes has a wickedly strange sense of humour - one I've grown to appreciate immensely.
Above: Laurie Lee Brom's work "Summer Time Blues"
Quit on your shitty boyfriend, not your art. Art will open so many more amazing doors into worlds you never dreamed of and opportunities you never expected. Shitty boyfriends just leave you feeling shitty.
--- As an end note, I feel it's also important to note that, at the time, both this boyfriend and myself were not in good places mental health wise. And because I have not kept in touch with him I have no idea how his life has turned out or who he's become. I wish the best for him, as I do anyone who's ever been in my life even temporarily. I also know we were not a good fit and that's perfectly fine. I learned a lot from being with and around him - both good and bad things. The point of this post was not to blame or shame him. Moreso to portray the resilience in a moment that had the potential to steer the course of my life in a completely different direction. One person cannot be summed up as good or bad in a singular moment.---
A few days ago, Jasmine Becket Griffith, a world renowned fantasy illustration artist, announced that she was releasing some of her work into the public domain.
This has never been done before by any living artist in the history of the world. Ever.
You can probably imagine the gasps that rippled through the artist community - my own among them.
But if you want to talk about divine timing......let me tell you a story....
Imagine a much younger Maigan Lynn, about 25 years old, on a leisurely forest walk with my husband. This was around the time when the 2008 recession had hit, forcing me to take some stock in my future as an artist. I had lost a lot of my former clients. Art was not a thing people were spending money on while they were trying to keep their homes. I maintained a few clients but not near to the extent it had been. I was essentially starting from scratch, as were so many others at the time. But on this walk, of which there would be many more like it, my husband and I started talking about dreams. Not necessarily anything we were working on right then and there....but eventual stuff, even if we didn't currently have the know-how to bring these things to fruition. And It was the second time I remember having a very clear goal to my life - the first time happened years before when I was making an actual list of all the things I was looking for in a partner, vowing to not date again unless that person came along.....and then lightning struck when my now-husband came home from an overseas tour....but I digress. The second very clear goal fell out of my mouth in a "I would like to one day own a studio/gallery where I can support myself and the work of my artist friends" kind of way. I absolutely had no way to make this happen at the time. It was just a dream I kind of threw out to my husband and the universe that would stew around in my mind for the next 13 years.....Every so often my husband and I would come back around to these types of conversations. So many things happened and changed in that time frame that my quiet dream never felt like it really had a concrete space to come to life. It just floated around.....waiting.....
Enter the summer of 2021. At this point we were all a year and a half into the greatest global upheaval we had ever faced. For a safe small summer getaway, the three of us (my husband, my son, and myself) had rented a cozy little cottage for a week-long vacation - one which we had all desperately needed. This was our third stay in an air bnb rental within a years time as it proved to be the safest way for us to get away from the city and reset. At each stay my husband and I always found ourselves having discussions like "Maybe we could just buy a place for ourselves...." and with each new rental it started seeming less and less like a far-fetched idea. To be fair, during our first rental for my sons 7th birthday nearly a year before this trip, I was already hooked on the idea and spent the next year daydreaming about it quite often, every now and then looking into the details to find out what it would take. I apparently wasn't alone in this thought because during this particular summer stay, we actually went and looked at a couple listings in the area that had popped up while we were there. The ball was rolling.
I know you're probably wondering - what in the world does this have ANYTHING to do with selling another artists work?!? It does....I promise.
Anyway, By August 2021 we had found it....the cutest, sweetest little cottage. This bright yellow little beauty a 300m walk to the nearest body of water, along a main route through a quaint touristy area, tucked sweetly into a cove of trees, was going to be ours by Labour Day weekend. It came with a separate bunkhouse in the back that allowed for an additional 4 more persons to sleep in addition to the 5+ sleeping spaces inside the cottage itself......but what in the world would 3 people need an extra 4 sleeping spaces for if we already had more than enough inside? So my brain started to spool around.....We could maybe rent it out like our own little air bnb.....or we could convert it into something...but we don't really need more space......I could use a place to have a little studio space while we're there so I could work....
.....and then the lightning hit again.....
"OH MY GOODNESS I COULD USE IT AS THE STUDIO/GALLERY I'VE ALWAYS DREAMED OF!!!!!!!!!"
The way it happened was the most bizarre. A studio/gallery space wasn't the intention when we started looking for cottages. In all honesty, we had legitimately thrown around the idea of running our own Air BnB but we also knew that if we owned a cottage we would want to use it as often as humanly possible. It wasn't until we had put an offer in on the cottage that we started talking about this as a possibility. I was a little apprehensive at first as I didn't want to railroad my family if they saw a different need for this space. But my ever supportive husband went from the studio/gallery being just an idea to "This is happening!" in about 3 seconds flat. It wasn't even a question for him. In all these years being a military spouse, in all the moving around, never getting a say in what happens or when, just rolling with whatever his job needed us to do, he's tried to sneak in any opportunity he could to support me. Whether it's been helping me with shows or running to ship off mail or pick up printer ink....he's found things he could do to be supportive in a lot of little ways....but for the first time....this was a REALLY big way. This was a thing he was on board with from the second it came out of my mouth....it barely had enough time to be an idea before it was happening.
So January 2, 2022 rolls around. The second day of this very New Year. I've already started working on new projects to sell in the gallery this coming summer. Things are already rolling along because I have no time to waste. I'm still toiling around the best options to try to get other artists work in the shop...trying to figure out the best way to go about it and what's also manageable for me to start ....when I happen to see Jasmine's husband, Matthew, share a post from her art page......and it states that Jasmine has decided to release 625 of her images out into the wild. She's allowing personal and commercial use for some of her images.
Jasmine is an artist friend of mine....
I have a gallery space I can share her work....
There's no red tape in order to be able to do this....
WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING?!?! And this is what I mean by divine timing. This piece of a puzzle that I've been working towards, slowly but surely, for the better part of the last 14 years, in tiny little bits and pieces, recently stewing on how I was going to make it happen......this piece has just fallen RIGHT INTO MY LAP!
I don't think a lot of people fully understood how gobsmacked by all of this I was when it initially started coming into place. It genuinely feels like magic for me. It hasn't just happened out of thin air. I've worked, in one aspect or another, for years to make all of this a viable option....but there are also some things that just can't be explained.
So with all of that being said, I got as quick a jump on it as humanly possible and started right away on creating her own space in my web shop. And despite not having a contract or legal obligation to do so, I will be sending a percentage (fair market value) of the print sales of her work through my shop directly back to her. Because supporting an artist and their work is really important to me - whether payment is expected or not. It's something I've wanted to be able to do for most of my professional career. I also opted to sell her work in my shop immediately instead of just having it in the gallery this summer because as far as I'm aware, there haven't been any print shops that sell her work in Canada until now. Being able to offer quality prints, made in Canada, with Canadian prices, of Jasmine Becket Griffith's work is such an incredible opportunity that I didn't want to let pass me by.
To sweeten the pot a little here, Jasmine is not only an incredibly kind and wonderful human, she is also exceptionally successful, having contracts with companies like Disney and The BradFord Exchange, to name a few. Her catalogue of work goes far beyond the images she's released....and she keeps painting more. To be able to start a dream of mine with an artist idol such as Jasmine is beyond what I could have hoped for. To have her work listed in my shop alongside my own is THE MOST surreal. I honest to goodness feel so incredibly lucky that all of this has fallen into place this way.
Jasmine has many MANY paintings, prints, and merchandise that are still only available through her site or those of her licensed companies. So if you would like to support her directly or you're looking for something I don't have, please visit her Strangeling website. Alternately you can support her on Patreon and have access to new shows she's doing and new work she's working on!
When you support living artists you're directly contributing to the hopes and dreams they bring to this world. You're nurturing the seeds of great things to come and I can't begin to say enough 'thank-you's' for that.