Tag Archives: Art Studio

Treading Water and Watercolors


Well I’m overdue again for some news but better late than never right?  🙂

Ed

High School Graduation

Let’s see, since my last post here, our basement flooded and our upstairs bathtub drain decided to leak into our kitchen all on the same day!  The basement sump stopped working during a torrent of rain and it only took one hour to flood our entire basement with about one inch of water.  That ordeal set me back about 30-45 days in cleaning up and getting the basement back in order.  Such a pain in the butt.  The icing on the cake was the fact that after my first art show back in April I brought all my paintings to the house and put them in the basement… Yes, the basement.

Fortunately I had them wrapped in plastic wrap with bubble corners on all of them so nothing got wet.  Anyways, after a lot of wall painting, new carpet and a new sump everything is back in order.  Then we tackled the upstairs leak and decided to gut the bath and remodel.  Add another 30-45 days of tear out and work and contractors and we have our new bath upstairs.

The next big deal was the decision to move out of my downtown studio and setup the garage so that I can paint from home.  With the kids being older going back to a home studio makes more sense.  Before I could consider that, we had to get a shed built to make room for an art studio in the garage.  Thanks to Jenny; who deftly handled that all by herself, it got done in between two weeks of almost daily rain.  It saves some money and gives me enough privacy to work yet be close to my kids.    Speaking of which, my oldest son Ed is leaving us for college in about 40 days and it bums me out a bit that he is going to be gone.  😦

I’ll adjust but it will take some getting used too.  Ed graduated last May and now my boy has become a fine young man, who must figure out his own life and destiny, without me hovering over.  We will always be there for him, but we are both entering a new stage in life.  Thinking about an empty nest has been on my mind a lot lately, even though I have two younger children still at home.  It’s weird how quiet the house has been on days when they are all out socializing and visiting friends or swimming.  They are all pretty active and I already miss them.

Anyways, lots of new painting projects going on.  I have a big car piece I’ve just finished drawing out, two new little paintings to bring to the Sugar Creek Art Festival this coming weekend.  Booth N27 if you care to stop in to look.  Three commissions I am starting on: Gayle’s glass piece, Dr. Dave’s piece and Daniel’s book cover.  I also plan on going back to a glass piece I started before the floods, and yes that shelved Raven painting to see if I can salvage it.  If only the garage would clean and organize itself so I can feel like I’m working in a functional studio.

See you after Sugar Creek!

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Acquired Inspiration


Canyon RoadIn my recent travels to Santa Fe New Mexico and Siesta Key Florida, I had the opportunity to immerse myself into Canyon Road and fill my nearly empty cup of inspiration until it was overflowing.  In Santa Fe, I managed to walk through twenty five or so art galleries before I had to catch the train back to Albuquerque.  Watercolor art had a modest presence.  Even less represented were the ‘hyper-realism’ still life paintings I have accustomed myself to painting.  But I already knew this, and my speculations over a year ago about moving towards figurative work were spot on.  Gallery prices were through the roof too, some upwards of 60k  Were any of these selling? Who buys $60,000.00 paintings these days?  The middle class art budget has all but dried up since 9/11.

There was one artist that sticks with me still.  I was very fortunate to see a few  Steve Hanks originals hanging in the Rio Grande Gallery.  Simply amazing!  Yet I feel that it’s in me to render people as well as I can glass, perhaps in time, as well as he does.

Santa Fe was great to visit and I definitely would recommend this cozy little town to anyone interested in art.  I will be returning someday so I can take my time and spend several days in this western art mecca.  By the time I hopped the train back to Albuquerque I had reached art overload an still hadn’t seen even a quarter of what was there.

My BoysThanksgiving in Florida helped me refresh from a long summer of shows and a nearly absence of painting in the early autumn.  Just sitting in the sand, soaking up the sun on Siesta Key with nothing to do was great.  I got to just listen to the waves crash ashore in the warm sun.  It really helped wipe the slate clean and renew my affinity for nature, family and just being.  Sometimes the simple things in life like waves on the shore, amber and crimson sunsets or listening to trees creak in a gentle wind can remind us of our humanity and affinity with mother nature, all we need to do is stop a minute to listen.

For now there are some paintings I have to get done that were supposed to be done months ago.  Five small marble paintings, a glass piece, one swim painting, a surrealism building picture and then I’ll be diving into figurative work.  Anyone interested in modeling for me?

New Glass New Glass (zoomed)

See you next year!

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A (cold) day of firsts…


My friend John Stoeckley ( http://www.stoeckley.com ) invited me to attend a Plein Air event in his hometown of Louisiana Missouri late last month.  My initial thoughts were, “I suck at Plein Air, I’ve never done it.  My watercolors are about control and planning… how could I get that kind of painting out side when the light changes by the minute?

I could not pull this kind of loose painting off on the fly.  So I told John “Yes, sure I’m interested.

So I packed my art stuff up, trying to stay as portable as possible and drove to Louisiana.  It was very cold for outdoor painting that morning. The temperature was somewhere in the mid 40’s and very windy.  It didn’t warm up anywhere close to where my hands and fingertips were not tingling until around 2:00 PM or so.  I was really stressed about producing something that would not look like some amateur slop poured onto a piece of watercolor paper.

Mississippi River, looking south from Louisiana

The plan was to stay away from water, as it has been a subject that has brought me some frustration in past paintings.  So I drove around good old downtown Louisiana for about 30 minutes,  looking for the right spot.  All this while I was worrying about starting too late and not finishing my painting on time.  I ended up on a hill overlooking the Mississippi river, which was exactly where I went first, but skipped since it was overlooking the river (water).  As I drove around the little town, I kept trying to find something that topped that location, and nothing came to me as I scanned around.

So I went back to the hill again, to have a second look.  The sun was blazing over the water, almost a white out light, it was beautiful and nothing matched the view.  So I unpacked and started painting the scene in the photo above.

At no point was I happy with my progress.  I almost called it quits a few times.  Several people came up to watch and complimented my work.  It was hard not to make up excuses to the friendly strangers, so I just smiled and thanked them.  By the end I was cold, tired and had just about enough of this plein air stuff.  I put about six hours into this picture and just could not see what anyone would like about it.  If you know me well enough, you know that I’m my own worst critic and perhaps one of the better pessimists around.  >:-]

Boy was I wrong…  At the end of the days painting there was to be an art show for all the participants.  Thankfully John has his frame shop just down the street so we framed my painting and I took it to the art show.  The painting sold for $200.00 and I also received a peoples choice ribbon.  What a great ending to a tough day painting outdoors for the first time in my life.

9″ x 12″ Watercolor or Arches 140LB.

I learned a lot that day, and I know I will be doing more plein air painting, albeit when it’s warmer out!  Painting this way really forces you to paint loose and fast and it has provided me with some counter balance to the tight representational work I normally do in my studio.  Next time I paint outdoors, I’ll be better prepared and have a better, more positive expectation for this type of work.

Doing this makes one really appreciate the masters in the craft.

Until next time…

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Past Present & Future


Fourteen blog posts in 2011. Not bad I guess, but not good either:

New Resolutions:  1/5/2011
First Salvos:  1/20/2011
Losing Momentum:  3/1/2011
The Good the Bad & The Disappointments:  3/31/2011
Paying to Play:  4/15/2011
Small Watercolors, Small Steps:  4/18/2011
A Little Art Exhibit:  5/3/2011
Reading the Signs:  5/25/2011
Picking up the Pieces:  6/11/2011
Art that is Personal:  6/29/2011
A Short Break:  8/12/2011
Making Time:  8/26/2011
Art Galleries are they worth it?  10/19/2011.

I just skimmed over everything I wrote from 2011.  Looking back I have to say it was a tough and expensive art year for me.  My festivals were hit and miss, mainly miss.  The exhibitions, contests and shows I applied to were mostly filled with rejections.  I managed to complete twelve original paintings of which seven sold.  I made it into the TWSA National and won a Juror’s Choice award at the McLean County Art Center’s first local watercolor exhibition.  I even found an artist roommate to share the studio space with which has helped on costs.

Towards the tale end of 2011, I started teaching watercolor classes at the McLean County Art Center and also began individual lessons at my art studio.  I have always thrived on learning from other artists and it has been nice to give back and teach others what I know about painting.  It sort of feels like I’ve come full circle in some respects.  I’m still clawing for success and validation with my work but whether that manifests itself now, later or never doesn’t really matter.  It is the journey that is important right?

What will this year bring?  An end to the Mayan calendar for sure!  Other than that, probably more of the same, but maybe there will be a show or two I get into this time, or an exhibition I’ve been hoping for.  Maybe I will be able to paint thirteen paintings this year and post more on this blog without letting almost ninety days go by without a word.

I want to thank those of you who I have interacted with over the last year.  To my seven followers, you have my sincere thanks.  I will always look up to Crystal Cook’s Blog for inspiration, she rocks the blog scene and does a great job of conveying the good artists message.  Dan Vangeli, you’re the man and we are overdue for a phone call.  May your 2012 be even sweeter than 2011 was for you.  Many thanks to two of my mainstay supporters, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Stoeckley.  You both have been great sounding boards for me over the years and I appreciate it.  I also want to shout out to Doug at the MCAC, thanks for doing what you do and looking out for me this last year.  I want to express my gratitude to Natalie and Bekah at The Pod for entertaining my son on his weekly visits and for selling my art!  Last but surely not least, I want to thank my family for putting up with the trials, tribulations and moments of success I’ve experienced and shared since this all started.

Ok, let’s roll.

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Art Galleries, are they worth it?


If my blog was one of my kids, it would have died from neglect.  I can’t count the days that I had passing thoughts about writing something insightful or interesting but the moments passed and I guess I just got caught up in the day.  Days fade into weeks, weeks into months and before you know it your online journal is old and dusty.  It is not just being busy that keeps me away from blogging as much as one ‘ought’ to.  The fact is, at times, I don’t think anything I may write is worth reading.  I guess it’s better to say nothing than to just vomit out posts on the basis of being regular.

Regardless I’ll press on from where we left off at the tail end of August,  galleries.  I really don’t have much experience as an artist interacting with the art gallery scene.  Initially I thought galleries to be a waste of commission money, but I have come to learn that a gallery can be worth the money.  Promoting yourself as an artist requires many different hats, all of which require time to wear.  Most painters I know just want to paint and we all wish the rest would just fall into place, but it doesn’t.  To be successful as an artist, you have to be a marketing manager, a publicist, a web designer, blogger, a tax adviser, business manager as well as the crafter.  Good galleries can wear a few of these hats for you.

Galleries and artists have to possess a symbiotic relationship in order for both to be successful.  I  have found such a gallery, The PodIt is co-owned by artists Bekah Berry and Natalie Wetzel.   The Pod opened last July during our local fine art festival which I was showing in.  As it was a good show for me, I know the The Pod did very well and business was booming those first two days.  Since then, I have established an art presence there and become friends with Bekah, Natalie and their great families.  I have even learned a bit more about what a good gallery can do for an artist.  Hold that thought, I’ll get back to this in a minute.

If you are an artist, ask yourself this:  How do I get my art out there to sell?  Online? Festivals? Contests and exhibitions?  If you have read my blog enough, you will know that festivals are the most labor intensive and risky.  The costs an artist bears is considerable and the ROI is as unpredictable as the weather.  How much online sales have you garnered assuming your website/presence is even capable of e-commerce?  Art exhibitions can also be expensive and usually require original work only.  You have to give up a piece for the duration of a show.  Often the exhibitions will take a little cut of your proceeds if your piece sells.  You have to pay to apply, pay to ship and you wait.  Sales during these events are uncommon if not rare and the competition is tough, so having expectations to take home some prize money is a foolish notion.

Exhibitions are a great way to get exposure.  Often they are covered in national circulated magazines and can draw the attention of galleries, collectors and customers.  They are also a great way to meet and greet other artists, patrons and society organizers.  Most nationally ranked shows such as the AWS, NWS & the TWSA are located in very busy venues that get lots of traffic.  Some even have traveling exhibitions where the show is displayed in several large cities around the country.

Now back to the gallery.  Some offer a co-op where you pay for wall space or rent and keep 100% of your proceeds if something sells.  Others take a commission and still some do a combination of both.  Over the long haul I find the renter type of gallery to be cost prohibitive and in some sense counterproductive.  Think about it, a gallery that is a wall rental operation only has to worry about getting the rent check.  They don’t have to know you, your art,  or even really value your craftsmanship.  Their first concern is paying their rent from the rent checks they collect from the artists.  There is less motivation to sell and often the more art this type of gallery can cram in, the better.  I like to call it wall sprawl.  You will know it when you see it.   Art starts inches from the floor and will go inches to the ceiling, around corners and in places that are not really idea for display.  Pushing maximum density comes to mind!

Combination galleries who charge wall rent and also take a commission tend to be even more costly to the artist.  Often the rent and commission fees are cheaper but together they often surpass the other two types of galleries.  If your art sits in a rental gallery for too long, you are more or less giving it away or losing money.  This forces artists to either up their prices to compensate or bring in larger expensive pieces that can afford to depreciate over rental time and still make the artist some money on the back end of a sale.  Given the economy, who wants to add yet another monthly expense?

When I first considered galleries as an option, my first thoughts were, “50%…. really?  The hell with that.”  Then I got myself going with festivals, and found that not only was I putting in travel expenses and the time and costs of showing at a festival, it was hard work and often unrewarding.  Rinse and repeat this process and soon, 50% seems more appealing.  I don’t have to setup a tent, sit in blazing heat for 12-20 hours and hope sales are enough to warrant the effort.  There is far less risk in damaging my art in transit and I don’t have to worry about inclement weather, setup and tear down difficulties, hotels and all the other intangibles that spring up during a festival.

Alternatively I can walk my paintings down to The Pod gallery, and have them nicely displayed in a place that has far more foot traffic than my studio at a cost I can afford.  The best thing is, Natalie and Bekah are honest, friendly and very energetic about my work.  It’s an honor to be included in their repertoire of artists and I know they have my best interests in mind.  Their rates are very fair and they are flexible enough to allow me to call the shots on what art I hang there and for how long.  I’d go as far to say that they have bent over backwards to accommodate me.

I’m fortunate to have such a gallery just a block from where I paint.  Not all artists are so lucky.  The important thing to remember is what works well for me may not for you.  You may find the festival circuit far more appealing, or the rental gallery option.  Just be sure you cover all your bases before you risk your original art to the hands of strangers.  The risks need to be shared, and if you feel your being steered into a deal that puts everything on you, then just say no.  There are always greener pastures to find, just keep looking.

The Collector hanging in The Pod Gallery: Uptown Normal IL.

Made in China hanging in The Pod Gallery: Uptown Normal IL.

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Making Time


I don’t often take the time I should to just do nothing.  Life these days always seems busy and I feel that I lose touch with the things that I enjoy a lot.  Obviously painting is one, but I often find myself longing for the outdoors and nature.  Right now I’m sitting out back on my patio… it’s dark out, and there’s a refreshing cool wind blowing from the north.  Considering it is still 83F out at 10:00 PM, the breeze is nice.  There is a choir of crickets and every other nocturnal bug singing in unison as if under the sway of some conductors baton.    Stars twinkle overhead between passing clouds and the world around me prepares for sleep.  Some soft music is playing while my faithful companion, Sam lounges just out of arms reach watching over me and the yard while I tend to this blog.  Topping this off is a fresh glass of red merlot.  One could argue it doesn’t get much better than that, and frankly I can’t see much in the way of disagreeing.  I can only ask myself, why aren’t you out here more than once or twice a month?  The answer is time.

Sam

Just as much as I would like to sit out after a long day and soak up the evening I don’t.  Our family is very busy.  Our house in a total disarray due to some remodeling, and Jenny and I are blessed with three active kids.  It seems like the choir list and  running never stops.  Perhaps I will miss these days, when the nest is empty and I have only time on my hands.  I miss my art too, much akin to the feeling of being constantly late for something.  I’ve not been in my studio doing any new watercolor painting for almost two months.

The last piece I completed: “Made in China” a 22″ x 32″ watercolor, was the last and largest of a triptych of still life paintings which have done rather well for me.  The first painting: “Firestorm” won the Juror’s choice award at the McLean County Art Center’s first watercolor exhibition back in July.  This painting, along with the sister piece; “Facet“, sold rather quickly.  The last of the trio will go to the Lincoln Art and Balloon Festival tomorrow.

 

Firestorm

Made in China

Facet

Art festivals four weekends in a row don’t give you much time for anything, especially with a full time day job.  My short festival circuit has felt like a crap shoot.  So far only one show has been profitable and worth the time, expense and effort of setting up and operating in the summer heat for two days.  The rest have been break even endeavors, plagued by bad weather, poor attendance and little to no sales.   It really digs at an artists’ self esteem and makes one feel like they are just walking in circles.

Walking in Circles

For me there has been no way to predict sales, set any type of goals or have any expectations.  Doing so only results in disappointment.  Working at McDonald’s has more stability than trying to sell art in this economy, and even at minimum wage, is more profitable.  This begs the question whether festivals are even worth the time and effort.  What is the alternative?  Galleries? Ebay? Book Covers? If you have any ideas do tell.  I’ve often thought about doing book covers, but how do you get a foot in that door?  I’ve always thought about showing in galleries, and have had some recent offers.  One comes from a downtown San Francisco establishment called the The Galiara and the other; The Pod,  The latter is just down the street from my art studio.  And on that note I’ll see you all on the next post, where I will be discussing my short experiences with The Pod and my hopes for a presence at the Galiara on the west coast.

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Reading The Signs


Tracking your own growth and success is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks one can undertake in self-assessment.  If you’re not on a rocket ship to the top of the art world, it can be difficult  to read the signs of success.  Getting outside your own art box can help.

Generally speaking, I tend to underrate my art by being over critical of myself.  By doing this I also tend to diminish others perceptions of my art and me.  Taking compliments used to be as difficult as criticism.  “They are just being nice…” I would say to myself.  Hell I do that, everyone does.  For example, when your girlfriend or wife asks you if they look good wearing the jeans she has on.  A wise man will smile and say “Yes”.  Pause even a moment and you have failed.  Overdo it and become a zealous yes man and you have failed again.

Image from www.tonedeafcomics.com & John BogenschultzDespite the social politeness and courtesies we extend to one another, it has a tendency to fog the lenses a bit, especially when it comes to art.

Lets rewind a little.  2006: I’m 37 and I’m sitting in a evening watercolor class at Heartland Community College.  Nineteen years had passed since I held a paintbrush that wasn’t intended for a wall.  I was the oldest student in the room, I wasn’t sure about much of anything as far as art went.  Was it like riding a bike?  I’d find out in a hurry with another dozen peers to compare to.  Sign number one:  My end of the semester watercolor painting won the best of show at the student art show.  Big deal right?  Not really.  I chalked it up as good luck.  The story goes on… Acceptance into a bachelor’s program three months later, then into a masters program at a fairly prestigious art school twelve months from the day I started at Heartland.  Then comes the first year of art festivals.  Four shows and two originals sold and a best of show to boot.  Yes there were some Dear John’s along the way but considering I was a festival virgin, things went well.

Moving forward to my last blog post two week ago.  I dropped a few names in that post.  It was a huge surprise when I received a thank you email from one of the artists I mentioned.  Small world it seems.  How on earth did he find my blog?  I guess it was the magic of Google.  That means people do read it, and care enough to write – Thanks Dan! –  http://www.danielvangeli.com/

So my blog is sputtering forward, I’ve been juried into more shows this year, as well as a local Watercolor exhibition hosted by the McLean County Arts Center  http://www.mcaart.org/mcac/html/index.html  Commissions are trickling in, and I’m getting some foot traffic at the studio as well as a sale or two.  Which reminds me that I need to be painting instead of typing.

So if you are reading this and are wondering to yourself  how you are doing as an artist take a bit to reflect on where you were a few years ago and where are you today.  What are the signs telling you?  My signs are telling me that my ship has sailed, and made it out of the bay, ahead is a vast ocean waiting.  Hopefully I’ll be heading into calm waters and red skies.

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