Tag Archives: Juried Shows

Saving the Best for Last

In two days I will likely attend my last art festival for the season, unless my wait listed status for the 4th Street Art Fair in Bloomington Indiana changes, which I doubt, as it’s the 4th year in a row I’ve been wait listed.

Actually Lincoln may be my last festival in the Midwest.  This festival has been good to me over the three years I have attended.  I’ve enjoyed decent sales, a great booth location and most surprising two wonderful awards I was given by the jury.  The first; a Best of Show, and the second a First Place in Fine Art.  Last but not least was Marty Ahrends who organized the show the first two years I attended and was a wonderful host.

Looking back at my July blog post, I was in much the same place as I am now, a few days out from the next art festival hoping for good weather and crowds.  Sugar Creek ended up being great.  The crowds were wonderful as was the weather.  Topping it off was a First Place Award in Fine Art.

2013 Award Winners

2013 Sugar Creek Award Winners

So after five years of banging away at watercolor paintings I think I’ve established myself locally with a solid body of work, a handful of notable awards and some great opportunities to teach others my craft.  Now there is a strong possibility I will be packing my bags and moving to Oregon.  Getting roots down somewhere else won’t be as difficult, but I will be leaving behind some friends and a community of artist and patrons whom I’ve enjoyed working with and painting for.

Tonight the tent gets packed and we drive to Lincoln to setup.  The weather forecast looks good, my booth spot is the same as last years and I’ve knocked my prices down a bit on my originals.  I have not moved one in a long time so we will see if I’ve adjusted correctly.   If you’re reading this, it may be your last chance to walk away with an original

Leave a comment

Filed under Watercolor

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!

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Paintings

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.


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.


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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Watercolor

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Watercolor

Paying to Play

If I’ve learned anything about art festivals it’s this:  Juries are fickle, shows unpredictable and having high expectations, No! Having any expectations is foolish.  The only consistency I have observed is inconsistency.  Last year I applied to six, maybe seven art festivals and about five exhibitions.  I was juried into four festivals and one invitational.  Not bad really, but not great either.  It was my first year doing festivals and I really didn’t know fully what I was getting into and it really wasn’t until the last show rolled around that I really figured out the nuances of showing outdoors and knew exactly what I wanted to do the next year.

I was very energetic back in January, the entire show season was ahead of me.  I made my lists of festival and exhibitions I was going to apply for.  I had a short season of experience and was showing improvements in my painting, so I figured my chances were better than hitting four out of eight festivals and a mere one out of five exhibitions.  I labored off and on for six months on a painting I thought was amazing.  This was going to be my centerpiece for the big art shows I was hoping to get into.

I started in on Zapplication ( https://www.zapplication.org/index.php ) first rounding up the local shows list first and then extended my tour to places where I could stay with friends.  Columbus Ohio, Bloomington Indiana and Kansas City Missouri were the furthest shows I was looking at.  I reapplied to the watercolor society exhibitions I was a member of, joined  new one and was waiting to join more.

Queue the rollercoaster….

I guess the details aren’t really worth going into, lets just say I keep paying and am not getting much playtime.  The exhibitions and festivals come and go, and I sit and watch, observing the company of artists I am in or not allowed to be in.  I look to see who’s art gets juried in, who win awards, who’s getting coverage in magazines, blogs and other media.  Why? Well it’s in part my way of self-assessment, after all the goal is to reach a sustainable living by 2021.  If my art is good it should start taking me places or at least provide me the opportunity to display my craft either in a festival or show.  Yes I have expectations to present more than 50% of the time, call me crazy.

So there I am in line, waiting for my turn to get on the roller coaster.  I’ve paid for my fee, got my ticket and hand it to the ticket man.   More often than not I have paid to play, yet the gate closes right in front of me, and I am left wondering what it is I did, or could have done to get that last seat on the art ride I’m wanting in on.

The worst thing about all of this festival and show stuff is not knowing why you were excluded or even included.  I guess making it in a show one assumes “They liked my stuff, yay!”  See exhibitions and festivals are not art schools where you get a grade, it’s an opinion you will never know, The opinion of a single juror, or perhaps a team of them.  It’s a flash card moment of exposure to those who decide thumbs up or down.

That is all you get, maybe thirty seconds to a minute.   Most people form an impression within the first five seconds of meeting someone.  I think the same applies to art.  You know immediately if the piece interests you or you like it… for whatever reason.

So I’m at this festival and I spot the the juror for awards.  I saw her coming from a few booths away.  She was slow moving, and it was late in the afternoon as I was one of the last artists to be judged.  I took a cursory glance at my space to make sure everything was in order… and it was.  My art was hanging even, tags nice and visible, I had my business cards out, my booth ID was hung along with all the other little things one needs to have presented in a clean and professional fashion.  So Juror X strolls in, she barely made eye contact with me, and took a 10-15 second drive by, smiled and walked out.  She had already decided who was getting something before she even walked into my tent and just went through the motions to check me off as ‘judged’.  I don’t care if you’re Picasso you can’t assess a dozen paintings in ten seconds, at least fairly.

It’s funny.  I see a lot of the same artists all over the place.  They get into the same shows, frequent the same festivals and many keeping piling up the accolades.  I sense a bit of the Ivory Tower syndrome going on.  Judges who’s paintings are in the shows they jury, the same artists winning nearly 40% of the time they enter certain shows, yes 40% and I’m not exaggerating.  I try to rationalize it all, and I can’t make heads or tails out of any of it.  On a bad day, all this contradicts all the positive things like a tsunami wave cleansing the friends and family  coastline of well wishers and praise.  I feel like an amusement park attendee who lost their ticket.  Oh but the best part of all of it is:  “We encourage you to apply again next year”.. and the year after and so forth and so on.  As Charlie Sheen often says “I’m WINNING!”  HA HA.

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Thoughts

Losing Momentum

Well January is gone and I missed all of my art goals for the month.  The first painting: ‘Reflections in History’ is not done, nor is the book I’m only a hundred pages away from finishing.  On the show and festival front I have mixed results.  I was accepted into the Spring Bloom Arts Festival, which will be my 2011 show opener and second appearance, but I was turned down for a big Kansas City show in Missouri.  I applied to two more fine art festivals, one near St. Louis the other in Columbus… still no word yet.  I still am waiting on jury results from the Missouri Watercolor and Transparent Watercolor Societies Nationals as well as Splash 13.

Coming up fast is Sugar Creek and about three to four more fine art festivals I need to send applications out for.  Lastly I have not even been close to drawing daily.  I do have some legitimate reasons for not getting the painting done.  I am working with a photographer to develop a time lapse video of me completing the painting I’m presently stalled on.  I lost about a week to week and half because the battery died on the camera I have on loan.  Had I had that in my hand I could have continued the photos and painting but I just managed to meet this evening to get a fresh battery from the gentleman.  I should be on track to finish by Sunday.

Next up on the workbench will be a commission piece and a second swimming painting followed by a large batch of smaller works.   Other than that, things are good.  I’m a bit disappointed that in my first month I didn’t complete what I set out to do.  I can still make good on this and press on with new art.  Until then, keep the paint flowing on the paper.


Filed under Watercolor

First Salvos

Sitting back at my command post, ‘the studio’, I ponder over my mental battle plan for this year.  Spread out on my table in front of me is the arsenal I will use.   My first offensive opens with a 22” x 30” still life watercolor.  Flanking this rests an assortment of Kolinsky Kayak brushes (See Paul Jackson if you want a set), two Tom Lynch porcelain palettes well oiled and ready, each loaded with Winsor & Newton Artist Watercolors.  Nestled between the painting and the paint rests three large vessels of water.  The rest of the room is a mess: receipts everywhere, extra paints, folders, notepads, sketchbooks, pencils and just about everything else that has something or another to due with the business of making art.

Late last year, I began to formulate how 2011 would be a more successful year for me.  This meant I needed to produce qualitatively better paintings, which exhibited something more than a journeyman’s grasp of mechanics.  All my paintings are personal, but sometimes I think they are lifeless and don’t hold the attention of a viewer near as long as someone who paints more compelling subjects.  We’ll see how that goes this year.  My first painting, “Reflections in History” is hopefully a step in that direction.

Other elements of my battle plan are to schedule myself three times as many festivals, and participate in several national shows.  I didn’t get into the AWS National, but I am waiting on jury results for the Missouri Watercolor National, the Transparent Watercolor Societies’ National, and Splash 13.  Later next month I will be sending something down to the Louisiana Watercolor Societies National show and later this year my art will hit the jury’s of the IWS and the NWS.   That’s seven contents that I can think of.  I fully expect to get into three maybe four, which would be three or four more than I was accepted in last year.  2010 was a year of member shows for me.  I tried the MOWS and TWSA National’s last year and didn’t make the jury cuts.  I’ll keep painting, and keep entering… eventually something will give and my persistence will pay off!

In Progress image of my first painting of 2011

So far I’m on schedule.  I will have this new painting done in the next week tops, and I will move onto two other pieces and start my drawing commissions finally.  I wanted to get more into the process of this painting I’m working on now, but that will have to wait until my next post.  For now, you will have to settle for a photo.


1 Comment

Filed under Watercolor

Laying the Foundations

It’s lunch now, and I’m sitting here in the studio on a brisk Monday formulating this post in my head.  I just got an email from the Illinois Watercolor Societies’ Tony Armendariz, informing me that my painting ‘Reading Time’ was juried a merchandise award at the 2010 Members Show in Chicago this last Friday.  That is a pretty wonderful thing, but it made me think of how many 1000’s of other artists are competing for attention and recognition just in Illinois alone, let alone the rest of the country.   How can I rise up to be noticed?  I don’t think I have reached far beyond my family and friends as far as my trade name goes in the art world.

Is it luck that some artists become up and coming on the national scene, is it ambition, or perhaps it is pure talent, or could it be knowing the right people at the right time?  I think from where I am standing, looking up from the first rung on the ladder of art success, is that success itself is easy to talk about, difficult to visualize and exceedingly tough to make a reality.  Art has never been a necessity for people, it’s a luxury and in tough economic times, even my art budget suffers.

I believe the ingredients to art success, ought to start with some technical ability first, followed by creativity, discipline, business smarts and last but not least, exposure.  I’m sure there are plenty of ‘closet’ artists out there who are brilliant, yet their work is remains unknown and unappreciated by others because of a lack of exposure.  The art world seems fickle; some artists are embraced by the critics, the masses and even fewer reach fame, all for a variety of reason.  Other artists are overlooked, perhaps undeserving so the question remains why?  I don’t have the answers, so I can only speculate.  There is a wealth of information out there if your willing to look for it, which I have made every attempt to do.  I do think timing as well as knowing the right people along with a bit of luck along the way helps a great deal.

After the twenty year art drought ended for me back four years ago, the notion that I was not good enough began to erode away, but it took four years, a few awards and a lot of compliments from strangers to really break free of that mindset.  Today, on this cool Monday, I no longer think that my work is substandard to my peers, or that I should give up my dreams.  Rather I am beginning to think more positively and pursue opportunities that are sitting there waiting for me.  The AWS and NWS organizations come to mind, as does the plethora of artist magazines who sponsor calls to artists every year.  The watercolor societies I’m already a member of have great shows, which I have been privileged to be part of, at the national and membership levels.  Then there is the festival circuit, which has been a nice revenue generator for me.  Toss in a web site, maybe a good blog, even a studio and the willingness to travel to shows in larger cities and I think I have all the necessary ingredients to continue to grow and take a few more steps up the ladder.  No one is going to promote me other than me, and the notion that some rich patron will sweep me off my feet and carry me to the New York art scene is ridiculous.

Yet, there is still doubt…  When I dropped off my painting to the IWS show Friday, I had the chance to walk the show and view all of the 42 paintings there, and by god many of them were damn good.  I immediately picked out my favorites and knew that ‘winning’ something would be a challenge for anyone in the show.  Yet I felt I was in good company, and had a competitive chance at being noticed.  So when that email from Tony arrived in my inbox, it put a smile on my face.

So now what?  Well I need to paint more as I have already preached about here in the past.  Some paintings come easy, along with the ideas to create them; other times, everything becomes a struggle and it feels as if the work will never get done.  Therein lies the discipline to work through the lulls and keep focused on goals and improving with each piece I paint.  I still remember my New Years resolution to paint one painting a month and read a book a month.  I have failed both, but marginally with the paintings and significantly with the reading.  If by December I can finish another five to six pieces, I will have been successful.  Presently I’m still working on ‘The Collector’, (see below):

In Progress photo of my latest watercolor painting

I’ve considered renaming this to “Lord of the Books’ but it sounds a bit cliché.  What do you think about the names?  Do they matter really?   Post a reply here with your choice of name or if you have another in mind by all means say so.  Wow… that was two posts in two days, what the hell is wrong with me.  >;-]  Maybe I should take a blog break until December!  Just kidding, I’ll be back around here soon.  Cheers.

1 Comment

Filed under Watercolor

Self-Imposed Deadlines

Have I gone commercial before really opening my doors ‘officially’? Some would argue yes, “John you’re a sell out.”

Sometimes I feel that my desire to be a successful artist has pushed the cart in front of the horse.  For the most part art has been an expensive hobby, though I admit I have seen some successes, yet with the taste I have had I know for certain it’s far from where I would need to be to walk away from my 9-5 job.  I’ve really only had one career in life; so far, and I have enjoyed the field I work in and the people I work with. Yet I don’t love my job, nor do I live to work.  I would like to live as an artist some day soon.  Without self-imposed deadlines and goals, I don’t think I could ever achieve that end.  I’m 40 years old already, and I should have come to this realization when I was 20 but life took me in other directions.

To date, I’ve painted about ten serious watercolor paintings and approximately an equal amount of graphite illustrations since deciding art was something I wanted to pursue.  I’ve been through 27 hours of higher education art classes spanning from community college work to masters level classes, collectively spread out over three different educational institutions.  I’ve found a master painter whom I’ve had the good fortune to learn from and I have built up a wealth of knowledge about the industry in the last four years.  I’ve sought out the advice of other artists, read books, subscribed to magazines and have had a lot of encouragement from my family and friends.  Yet with all that knowledge and support, it comes down to the time commitments required to keep painting watercolors.

You might ask yourself, where the hell am I going with all this, so it comes to this:  the art festival season is about to go into high gear and in order to really get my feet wet and find out whether this hobby has some financial merit, I need to be prepared professionally to present my wares to the public.  The next show is a mere 23 days away, and it’s the hometown show.  A lot is riding on it, as it will be my first real display of work to the public.  Sugar Creek Arts festival, which is run by the McLean County Arts Center is a great art venue.  It draws 1000’s of people annually and is a quality juried show.   Presently I have but seven originals, my tent and prints to sell.  I want to have three additional new paintings done in the next 20 days.  That leaves me a mere seven days for each and little to no time to get prints made let alone the framing taking care of.  Despite this I think I have a good shot at it but I need to focus.

Another caveat to all this is the mounting expense of operating a working art studio.  I quickly out grew my basement and have been working out of a 2nd floor, well lit studio space for a few years now.  I had anticipated being open to the public long ago but I just didn’t pull things together.  I’m out of time now and the art really has to start providing income to cover my desire to remain in the studio and participate in the festival circuit.  If opening the studio up in the evenings, or participating as a vendor in the three festivals I have scheduled for 2010 produces little to no return on my time or investment, I must abandon the studio and return home and figure out how to work out some space to paint from.   I’ll remain vigilant to the festival circuit and expand this to about eight to ten summer shows in 2011.  I’ll know for certain by then whether this would be art career was launched precipitously.  In the end, I’ll know at least I gave it a good try and will have done so without regret.    I was planning on publishing two new images of the two paintings I’m working on, and explaining the process but I need to get back to the painting instead of typing.  So it will have to wait until my next update.   I will post the images I guess so you can at least see the early stages.



Leave a comment

Filed under Watercolor