Tag Archives: artists

A Day In The Life


    “I read the news today, boy
    About a lucky man who made the grade” 

John Lennon

There is a false sense of security one can wrap themselves in when accolades start coming your way.  This year has been very good to me in the awards department.  I pulled in $1650.00 in prize money in three out of four juried shows I attended.

Lincoln Art Festival Best of Show

Lincoln Art Festival Best of Show

Make no mistake, winning awards is great, they are confidence builders and nice annotations to the art resume.  They don’t equate to sales; 2012 was far better for me.  I think of what new paintings I had showing compared to last year: only four small 5″ x 7″ marble paintings and one 5″ x 7″ fruit.  The latter was only on display for my last show in Lincoln Illinois.  Ultimately I feel my booth presentation improvements have helped considerably.  It’s a bit easier to spruce up a tent than it is to churn out 20 new paintings.  Consistency  and uniformity in frames, mat quality and cutting as well as professional signage are all important elements to having a good both presentation.  Yes the art is what matters most.  I feel as if I am riding on the coat tails of my older paintings.  Why?  Let me explain.

Working a full time day job sometimes makes painting after hours seem like a second job.  Often I get home and simply don’t feel like painting.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to paint, I just don’t feel motivated to start after working all day.  Ever feel like that?  Yes I know, the picture isn’t going to paint itself, you’re right.  I want to paint but I simply don’t start.  I’m sure there is some pill for that.

Don’t let me fool you, I don’t dig ditches, throw trash or haul bricks all day.  I don’t even walk uphill to work.  Quite the opposite actually.  Rather I sit on my ass in a shared office, doing a tech job that isn’t very fulfilling.  It’s a paycheck; a good one, but one that I do because I must.  I am one of those guys who works to live, not vice versa.  I wish I liked my job, but I don’t.

Ultimately my art must be able to completely replace my 9-5 income, before I quit my daily grind.  I guess that’s my dream, to wake up being my own boss, and yes, get paid for it.  Sounds ambitious right?  Perhaps, but who wants to work a long day and not get paid?  Wouldn’t you rather do something you love to do and make good money at it? Isn’t that the dream, getting paid doing what you love.

Staying motivated is the key.  Having discipline to work regardless of motivation is the answer.  Regardless of talent hard work is the difference between success and failure.  There are no less than 20-30 paintings in my head that are worth painting.  How long is it going to take?  I don’t know, but none of them will get finished unless I get my butt in front of my stretched paper and start.  I have to make the grade, by my standards.  I’m lucky to have accomplished what I have since taking up the brush back in 2006.  Right now I feel like my output is sitting at a D.  So I’ll leave you with a bullet point list of helpful thoughts.

  • Paint at least two hours a night, five days a week
  • Sketch Daily
  • Blog twice a week
  • Start using a art calendar
  • Read more art related material
  • Have short term, mid term and long term goals written out
  • Take a workshop from another artist
  • Open my Amazon store front
  • Sync my FB/Blog and website with updates
  • Get my website redesigned using a WordPress theme
  • Daily Painter
  • Seek out quality galleries
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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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Busy as a Bee


Well it has been many weeks since I’ve checked in here, so I’m going to cover some ground and get caught up.  Life have been hectic!  Work has been busy and frustrating over the last month or two.  Things at home seem just as busy and in between all of that I manage to squeeze in some art time.  :-\

The Raven painting got shelved… I got so irritated with the center black book that I had to stop before I killed the entire thing.  It’s been sitting facing the wall in timeout at my studio for about as long as I’ve been neglectful of my blog here.  People ask me about it, and I’ve finally got back into the mood to continue work on it.  My time will be split between The Raven and some commission work I’ve started.  I need to dig in and really get some painting done.

Image

Speaking of art, I was recently invited to speak about my work at the Eaton’s Studio & Gallery http://www.eatonstudiogallery.com/  Herb and his wife Pam have been most generous in giving me the floor during one of their Wednesday Gather at the Gallery meetings.  I enjoyed talking about my art and how things have evolved over the last four to five years for me.  In addition to this opportunity I was able to whip up a few small paintings for the Friends of the Arts 5th Annual fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University: http://finearts.illinoisstate.edu/support/postcardart.shtml  I donated two small postcard sized watercolors:  ‘Sunglasses‘ and an untitled painting. Both are 4″ x 6″ postcard watercolors.

ImageImageI’ve come to enjoy working smaller, but it is very difficult to develop the details I savor in my larger work.  I have to truncate a lot of the subtle variations in light and color while trying to achieve the effects I love to show.  I was unable to attend the opening so I don’t know who went home with my work, I hope these little paintings find a good frame and a cozy wall or corner to reside in.  I also finished another smaller painting which is the fifth of my fruit series.  I named it “Intermingling”.  I’m pretty satisfied with these smaller pieces but its time to move on to other subjects.  I’ll probably work in more smaller paintings while I hammer away at large works I have to do.

ImageThe first quarter of 2012 has brought me a few festival and exhibition rejections.  This has been the third year I have applied to the Peoria Art Guilds Fine Art Fair. That is $105.00 in application fee’s out the window.  I won’t be applying again, enough is enough.  I don’t know what they are looking for, I wish I did.  I have friends who get into this show year after year.  I have been around long enough to know my craftsmanship and technique is just as strong, my booth shots just as clean and professional looking.   My work should speak for itself…  I didn’t make the Missouri National nor the AWS.  I missed the Transparent Watercolor Societies deadline, so I’ll still keep trying next year.  I think it’s time to send in some portrait type of work instead of the still life subjects I’ve been shopping around the watercolor society shows.  Just ahead is the IWS’s small waters exhibition, the NWS and Watercolor West’s  juried exhibitions.

“Yes John you can apply to all of these shows, you just need to produce some new work!”

Next weekend is the opening of the Illinois Watercolor Societies 28th National Watercolor Exhibition.  My painting “Made in China” was juried in.  I took a little road trip up to The Next Picture Show Gallery in Dixon IL last Sunday to drop it off.  I got a sneak peak of the other paintings and I must say I am pretty impressed.  I have a few favorites I think are going to pull in some awards.  I’ll be in good company for sure.

The SpringBloom Art Festival came and went.  It was in a new venue this year.  It is a small local indoor show I like to attend because it gets me back into the festival mindset.  I re-learn how to put up my erector set of a tent up while I get insights on improving and tweaking my presentation for later shows in the year.  I am thankful for the help my wife Jenny gives me every show.

Image

Without her and some muscle from Ed and the other kids, setting up and tearing down would be an ordeal.  My festival agenda is spotty at the moment.  I am on a few wait lists and may get moved onto another.  I hope things pan out so I can attend my hometown outdoor festival and perhaps the 4th Street Festival in Bloomington Indiana.  I was close to the wait list in Columbus this year but I’m getting short on time and unless they call soon, I won’t make it there in June.  Time will tell.

By next post, I hope to have finished a new large commission and have resolved the challenges with The Raven.  More to come!

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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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Picking up the Pieces


The Columbus Art Festival http://columbusartsfestival.org/ came and went.  The best part of the trip was the fact that I spent some great quality time with my son Ed.  He was a great help during the show, and it makes me proud to be his dad.  I received many great compliments about him, so I think Jen and I did something right in raising him.  I forgot to take some photos of him and I together.  Next time I’ll remember to do that!

           

I walked the show a few times and was overwhelmed with quality art everywhere.  There were some amazing glass sculptures, awesome photography, wood crafters, mixed media illustrators and of course traditional painters.  Best of all, Leah Alters was a gracious host and show director.  She was helpful, personal and went out of her way to make sure my needs were met while attending.

During my days exhibiting at the festival, I was particularly impressed with some stand out artists.  I’m not going to plug them too much but I’m going to list them here so that you can also enjoy their work.  First and foremost in the list was my booth neighbor, Daphne Covington  http://www.daphnecovington.com   She does wonderful abstract oil paintings and was a hoot to hang out with all weekend.  I hope we can be booth neighbors again someday.  If it wasn’t for her and Ed, I would have lost a lot of art or worse when the deluge hit Saturday night.  Before I get to the other artists, I want to talk about tent weights.

Good tent weights are like good insurance, you will wish you had them when it’s too late.  Last year I reluctantly spent the money on a set of Happy Feet weights:  http://happifeet.com/  They’re not cheap, but they look great and are by far; hands down, the best tent weights money can buy.  Made by artist Cindy Gordon, for artists, they kept my tent on the ground against some very severe wind gusts somewhere around 50-60 mph.

Also if you are thinking about exhibiting, be sure you’re insured as well.  There were some artists who lost everything at the Columbus show.  Have a backup plan if your willing to risk your heart and souls work on the randomness of weather.

Ok back to the artists I wanted to mention.

            Robert Flowers –  http://www.robertflowersart.com

            Geoffrey Harris – http://geoffreyaaronharris.com

            James Petran – http://www.artsiowacity.org/artist/jpetran/jpetran.htm

            Phillip Nolley – http://phillipnolley.com/

All of them do fantastic work, and I enjoyed talking art shop with each of them.  I plan on beginning my personal collection with work from each of these artists.  I did buy a few small glass pieces from Nolley that I will be incorporating into a few new paintings.  Hopefully him and I can continue to work together to bring his 3D glass into my 2D watercolors.  I hope to get some transparent marbles from him soon.  :-]

Columbus also showed me what superior booth presentations look like.  I saw some very amazing looking setups and you can tell what people have been doing this for a while.  Good festival tents look uniform, neat, and are very inviting to look at.  I’ve picked up a few ideas to continue to improve my setup.  I think every show will be better as far as presentation goes.  Sales continue to be the low points in the shows I attend.  The bad economy isn’t helping anything either.  I have four shows left, maybe a fifth if I get into the Bloomington Indiana festival and that will end the season for me.  I feel like I’m pulling a boat anchor up hill sometimes.

It’s hard to keep doing things when the effort has no payoff.  The next four shows need to put me in the black or I’m going to re-examine and re-prioritize for 2012.  The festival venue may just get shelved.  There is still hope though.  I’ve been contacted by The Galiara in San Francisco http://www.galiara.com/   They are interested in showing my art there, so I’m pretty excited about that.  I have plans to send them a good body of work in the early autumn and keep it there or a rotating stock if they will allow.

More on this later.

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