Tag Archives: artwork

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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0″ – 4″ x 6″ in 5.97 Hours


1957 MG RoadsterNot bad for a quick little painting is it?  Some might argue that 5.97 hours is a bit slow for the 4″ x 6″ class but who’s racing?

I decided my first car painting would be donated to the Post Card Art Show sponsored by the Friends of the Arts at Illinois State University, my Alma mater.  This will be my 3rd year participating in the show.  My previous paintings have raised a good deal of money for the program.

Want to see the finished original before it gets snapped up by someone else? Then you best head down to the CVA Galleries on the 27th of April for the opening.  You will get a shot at owning it or many other fine originals while raising money for the school of art.  Your ticket to the show guarantees you will walk away with one original painting.  Oh did I mention there is a plethora of hors d’oeuvres, wine, live music and yes a boat load of postcard art.

The first Lotus car painting is drawn out now and I’ll be starting that this week.

I’ll be attending the Skip Watts Memorial Exhibition & reception on April 20th in Springfield.  This was a watercolor show open to Illinois artists only.  Paul Jackson AWS, was the juror of selection and awards.  Paul has had considerable influence on my work and I look forward to seeing him at the reception.

I will also be traveling up to the IWS 29th National opening in Dixon on May 11th at the Next Picture Show Gallery. One of my favorite pieces: ‘The Collector‘ was finally juried into a major show,  by Ratindra Das AWS.
The CollectorEven better than going to an art show in Dixon is driving there with Jenny, and having some dinner with our friends Tony Armendariz and his wife Virginia.  Tony tirelessly keeps the Illinois Watercolor Society going and is a great painter and wonderful promoter of the art and the IWS.

OK now back to some 80’s Spotify and finishing this 57 MG Roadster.  See you later!

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Painting ‘Lotus’ Style


My foray into owning an impractical car has been an expensive yet surprisingly fun experience.  My racing green Lotus Elise is a glorified street legal go-cart.  It’s so much fun to drive!

My CarWith a Lotus, the journey has become more important than the destination.  Jenny, my co-pilot and navigator in life and on the road, always finds the best curvy two lanes to drive on.  Our date nights are often precluded by great drives with the top down, feeling the rush of the wind and the roar of the engine, as we hug the deserted country roads.  Long gone are trips on the semi clustered interstates, littered with tolls and asshole drivers.

I take pride in owing this little exotic, it’s surely no Ferrari or Porsche but it’s my piece of fiberglass, aluminum and plastic, that won’t be traded sold or neglected.  I’ve never owned a car like it and I probably won’t again, so it gets pampered.  He’s my garage king.  :-]

Yes my car is a guy, named after the emerald ring Barahir in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to open my car door.   Well my little Lotus has opened a few doors for me.  I’ve met a plethora of good people whom I’d never have crossed paths with in life.  Guys like Moto44, SwingLo, Gunpilot and !Me from the Lotus Talk forum.  Then there are the fine young chaps and ladies from the Illinois Flat Land British Car Club, and the guys who keep these cars running and looking great like T.J. from the FVMC, Chuck over at C.A.R.S. and even the ‘Junkman‘, who knows more about detailing a car than I do about watercolor painting, which reminds me.

It just so happens that my home town Bloomington IL,  is hosting the Champagne British Car Festival (May 31-June 2) and an art show themed around British cars!  Come June, while I’m showing off my paintings inside the historic David Davis Mansion, my Lotus will be parked out on the lawn, soaking up some sun and giving others the opportunity to see these rare vehicles.

I really have come to appreciate the Lotus Talk community.  The wealth of knowledge there about Lotus cars is unsurpassed.  Everyone shares and seems willing to exchange ideas, answer questions and talk about their car experiences.  So after mingling around for about a year usually asking way more noob questions than I could ever answer, I reached out and asked if anyone was willing to submit their car photos for me to use as reference for painting some new original art.  I was overwhelmed with hundreds of photos, more than I could ever paint in a lifetime.  All of the guys were excited about the prospect of a professional artist painting their ride. The best thing is, for the first time on that forum, I’m an expert at something.

I hope I don’t let them down…

The photos I have been given to use are gorgeous, and the pieces I chose play right into my strengths as a painter.  Here is a sneak peak…

Lotus Badge

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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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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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Moving Targets


We are well into 2012 already and I’ve had to shift gears and make some adjustments art wise.  The first batch of show applications went out and came back with nothing to report other than try again next year.  I just don’t think still life holds much value to jurors in comparison to other subjects.  I’m going to give ‘Made in China‘ one more shot at the IWS National, which I have to submit to today.  After that I think I’m going to shelf the idea of entering my still life work into national competitions.  In order to counterbalance this I have begun to focus more on commissions that I’ve needed to get started on.

Locally I seem to be getting more traction with my art.  I was invited to speak at another artists’ gallery and show some of my work there.  The city of Normal has a new large construction going up and they have invited local artists to submit work for the building.  I put in three pieces for my submission and hopefully something will come of that.

Speaking of submissions, my son Ed has some art talent and entered a local amateur art show through his high school art class and was juried in.  The show opens today with the awards ceremony at the McLean County Art Center.  I remember several years ago applying to this show myself.  I’m looking forward to going today and it makes me proud to see my son get into his first show.  Maybe he will continue with art and get many years of enjoyment from it.  I’ll have some photos of this for my next post.

Where the pigment meets the paper has been frustrating me lately.  I started this full sheet painting of another still life focused on an Edgar Alan Poe theme of books, glass a skull and a yes a raven.

I drew some inspiration from the 16th and 17th century Vanitas styled European paintings.  I’ve ran into some technical challenges and ended up scrubbing and lifting out a book that turned out pretty awful after the first attempt.  The problem I’ve had is the golden/yellow light hitting the black spine of the book.  There are several swiftly graded value transitions that I just over worked trying to get the look right.  The book lettering didn’t turn out well either so I ended up taping it off and sponge scrubbing the paint up.  The paper is slightly eroded but workable.  I decided to just simplify the book and make it entirely black without lettering.  Mentally I’ve checked out of this painting and I decided to pull it off the table and start other work.  I sat stagnant staring at it for hours and hours wondering if I should just start over, or not.  For now I’m done with it but I do plan on getting back to it at some point.  It is perhaps one of the more difficult paintings I’ve attempted.  The subject matter of this painting has a wide variety of surfaces, textures, patterns and shapes to deal with collectively and I may have bit off more than I could chew.

Time will tell, for now, it’s on to a surreal landscape commission.

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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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