Trine Churchill, Piano in The Night, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16 inches
Trine Churchill is a Los Angeles-based, contemporary painter from Copenhagen.
Inspired by old photos from her family albums, she creates paintings between the lines of memory and dream.
You can see more of her work on her website.
I would imagine everyone has had to reflect on their own mortality during this pandemic.
But, as it was, I spent significant time at the end of 2018 and a good part of 2019 thinking about my own impermanence. Not that I was ill or anything like that. But, my father, who was a cartoonist, passed away in 2018 from a long battle with cancer. As did my brother-in-law that same year, also from cancer.
Maybe it was part of the grieving, but my husband and I decided it was time to think about our own “not being here anymore.”
What would happen to everything?
That meant for me as an artist, specifically, I had to think about what would happen to all the art I had created over the years.
One of the first questions you inevitably ask yourself thereafter is, does it even matter?
This question is, on the one hand, very humbling. Perhaps all of your artwork isn’t exactly going to be looked at in the future as something of great importance. From this perspective, you have to consider your own artwork in a way that a parent has to make a judgment call on just how many of their very drawing-happy child’s drawings get to stay on the fridge.
On the other hand, measuring up your contribution to society as someone who shared in art, is an honoring moment and a realization that you do leave behind a legacy well beyond money and fame. From this perspective, documenting and preserving your art becomes important.
Luckily, I was already using Artwork Archive to organize my inventory.
I had an advantage in the sense that this tool was already in my life and would be the first go-to place for my next-of-kin.
I knew that here they would be able to get a quick and organized overview of, if not all of my artwork, at least most of it. They would also be able to see if something was sold or not, where it is located, and what I considered to be the value of the piece. They would even be able to see the history of the piece, and where it had been shown, should that become of interest in the future.
Additionally, I could also upload my will and Letter of Instruction here, which is where you tell the Executor of the Will what you want to see done with your art (and more).
Print-on-Demand will help continue my legacy.
Another tool that has become very valuable to me in not only for selling my artwork presently, but also for this inevitable future, is my website with the artists’ platform, Artstorefronts.
Here, I list both my original artwork for sale, but it is also set up for selling prints on-demand, with a printing vendor taking care of printing and shipping. Since my heirs will inherit the copyrights of all my artwork, even artwork that has sold has the potential of earning them some income.
This felt especially reassuring in the case they were unable to hang on to my physical work.
Again, Artwork Archive could assist in this as you can store quite large files in the archive, fit for printing. So, any artwork not already on display on my website could always be added at a later point in time.
Trine Churchill, Dreamer, 2018, color pencil and ink on watercolor paper, 7 x 10 inches
I would be lying if I said this process of creating a directive for your artwork was easy.
It is undoubtedly a daunting task.
First, is the emotional part.
You are having conversations with yourself about your own ending while you are still busy actively writing your life's story. Dialogue about your own importance—and fear of lack thereof could arise—along with a lot of other emotional “stuff."
You are going to have to be the moderator between your own ego and your perhaps sensitive self-esteem.
The challenge is being objective with your art.
I have this exercise I sometimes do when I have completed a painting. I step back and start to describe it to myself as if I were not the person who had just painted it.
What do I see in the painting, literally?
A drip here, thick paint there suggesting something new to the narrative I didn’t see earlier. It has taught me a level of objectivity that surprisingly I was able to make use of as I was going through this process.
I had to apply a level of non-attachment to my artwork and career in order to move forward.
It helps to take baby steps.
What inventory do you have?
Where is it?
Is it photographed or not?
How do you make it easy on your heirs and next-of-kin to manage and access it?
It can feel very overwhelming if you think of all of this at once. Basically, it will render you a deer stuck in the headlights. So, the only way I can think of doing it is a little bit at a time.
This is most definitely a situation that calls for applying the baby-step technique.
Trine Churchill, Solstice Night, 2015, oil on canvas, 48 x 72 inches
Additional advice for inventorying your artworks.
Put aside a block of time at whatever interval you can muster.
Be consistent. I didn’t always follow my own advice here, but this is by far the easiest way to get it done faster.
If you have not yet created an archive system for your artwork, you could consider making this the priority—as it does really create a great structure for the rest.
But, if you are just wanting to get your will taken care of, then you could start with shaping a picture of what you’d like to see happen to your artwork. Ask yourself:
- What should be done with my art?
- Who should benefit from it?
- What is important to save?
A wide range of services to make your decisions and wishes official can be found online.
The process surprised me.
From the process, I discovered a very rewarding outcome beyond the huge sense of relief of having a plan in place. Spending time revisiting my older works and memories gave me a much better understanding of where I am today, both personally and artistically.
This realization made me want to go straight to the studio to keep on creating.
Trine Churchill, Lisa, New York, 2020 (The Together Now project), acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16 inches
What will happen to your artworks after you pass? Start taking baby steps towards preserving your artistic legacy. These art inventory tips will help.
About Trine Churchill
Trine Churchill a painter from Los Angeles, but grew up in a small town just outside of Copenhagen.
In the early 90’s she moved to LA to attend Otis College of Art and Design, from where she received a BFA. She also studied at the école nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris.
She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including solo exhibitions in New York, Frankfurt, and Los Angeles. For the past several years, she has shown her work in other venues such as college galleries, art museums, and produced her own gallery exhibition.
Churchill's work is oftentimes based on memories and dreams—as photos from her family albums, once forgotten, make for a great source of her inspiration. She mimics this duality of what is real and what is vaguely remembered in her painting style, combining realism with a looser application of the paint as a suggestion of those memories.
She is currently working on a painting project called, Together Now where she paints people’s portraits from their lives with the pandemic. In the project, participants sent Churchill their photo to paint and she returns an archival print of the original.