7/28/14

Watercolor: Atlantis [and musing about making a living as an artist]

Atlantis 7x10 Watercolor on paper Sold
Thanks to everyone who emailed me words of encouragement and camaraderie after reading last week's post about artists' rejection. I enjoyed the shared stories, historical anecdotes and like-minded scenarios. I also loved hearing about how so many of you slogged through the rejection, and had really good things sprout from your perseverance.

I had an accomplished art instructor years ago (before social media) who gave a small group of artists a lecture about being industrious in the art world. He said if you took all the artists in America with abundant talent, and put them in one place, you might potentially populate the island of Manhattan in New York. Then, if you removed the artists who didn't prioritize the passionate practice of their craft, and the artists who were too "thin-skinned" to handle rejection and criticism, and the artists who lacked the social skills or desire to meet patrons, and talk about their work, and the artists who couldn't focus or stay on-task to meet deadlines or work in series, you might reduce that group to a quarter of the original size. So, the world of "working artists" might not be such a big swath of the population after all, and there was potential space in the crowd for you too.

Talking to patrons about process while painting at an Art Festival

None of his theory was based on fact; his calculations were conjectural, but his point was to not be swayed by populous competition in the art world, and to be aware that many of our talented peers want to make art as a livelihood, but they might be missing some of the parts in the toolbox that he felt was crucial to make a living at it.  His lecture was encouraging at the time, as a newbie painter. It's easy to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of showing your work, and everything that entails related to marketing, inventory management, presentation skills, etc. Especially now, when social media gives us a telescope to see into so many uber talented artists' studios. But show it anyway. Post your work, share it on facebook, instagram, twitter and pinterest.  Make an art blog and post every painting, sculpture and photograph. Take every opportunity to practice talking about your art, and encourage your peers to do the same, so maybe, with diligent habit, we really might have enough friends to occupy all of Manhattan. :)

Art Quote
As Flannery O’Connor said answering a similar question [why are you drawn to uncomfortable or dark subjects], “It is the nature of my talent.” That does not mean, however, that I do not enjoy the lighter side, because I do—and I find a great vent for that nature of my talent in children’s books. It’s yin and yang. To explore the dark, one must explore the light as well, and vice versa.

 As William Faulkner said, the only thing worthwhile is failure; but failure coming in the striving for perfection. I seriously believe that. So, therefore, all I ever strive for is perfection. But knowing that perfection is elusive at best, and impossible in fact, is the internal “fuel” that keeps me going day in and day out.
Barry Moser, interviewed by Becky Crook for The Other Journal, 2009

7/24/14

Intaglio Etching: Sure Temptation (and a great video tutorial for a cloth & hardboard portfolio)

Sure Temptation, 6 x 9 Etching & Watercolor


Available in my Etsy Shop.  This intaglio etching & watercolor was the result of a print-exchange with 12 fellow printmakers. We clipped the alphabetical headers from the upper corners of the Los Angeles Yellow Pages, and tossed them into a box. Each artist pulled a slip from the box, and created a print inspired by their selection; I pulled Sure Temptation - the boundary page between the S & T listings. The word temptation conjures Eve in the Garden of Eden.  I hadn't pondered Eve's story too deeply before that print exchange, but after researching the details, I imagined Eve, with innocent demeanor, and naive carriage, in the seconds before her first exchange with the serpent at the tree of knowledge.

Sketches around the yellow pages clip I pulled from the box
The Artist's Proof, getting some watercolor

Sketches and the beginnings of the drawing on a coated plate, headed for the acid bath


Beveling zinc plates so the edges don't cut paper, or felt blankets on the press
If you've participated in a print exchange, and you have a pile of beautiful prints to store, or you have art and photos you'd like to keep safe and protected from light, I found this wonderful tutorial online by printmaker Graham Stephens of Diode Press to make a cloth & hardboard portfolio. His instructions are clear and concise, and the end product is beautiful. (If you get this blog via email, you can watch the video here.)



Art Quote
One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe, and find ashes.
Annie Dillard

7/22/14

Watercolor: Rieke's Bowl & a question about artists' studios work surfaces


Rieke's Bowl 3x6 Watercolor Sold
I've been working on a large painting on the floor because it's too big for my easel. It reminded me that I had a display board in my apartment a few decades ago, mounted to the wall in the living room, and it was terrific to pin or tape large sheets of paper - for charcoal drawings, pastels & watercolors, etc. The ability to have several pieces up at the same time, in process, had a big impact on how I looked at my work. Standing back to survey drawings & paintings from across the room, or from the adjacent kitchen was incredibly informative, and I could walk over and make adjustments on the fly. It was also helpful when trying to work in a series. See some examples in other artists' studios below:

Alexi Duque's studio

Andy Frost's studio, with his pal Woody
Narangkar Glover's studio
I didn't know till recently that quilters use display walls to lay out patterns and colors for their quilts. The benefits are exactly the same as a painter's - squinting to see values, checking the path of the eye through a color way, pattern or composition, etc.  They're just using fabric instead of pigments.

Here's a video (below) about using 2  4'x6'  $11 sheets of foam insulation to make a quilting display wall covered in flannel, so that fabric pieces stick and can be moved around.  (If you get this blog via email, the video can be seen here.) I'm thinking about making one for my studio with this same material, minus the flannel. What do you think? Have any of you made a display wall in your studio to work larger, and if so, what did you use as a support?


Art Quote
One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.
Albert Einstein

7/17/14

Watercolor: Alverno (& some thoughts about rejection in the art world)

Alverno 6.5x4.5 Watercolor on paper Sold
Good news & bad news; yesterday, the bad news came via email that my work was rejected in two juried printmaking exhibits I applied to earlier this summer. The good news arrived via email as well: a new client bought a woodcut and a watercolor. That's the way the art business works - you pull up your socks, tighten your boot straps, cinch your belt and march-on.

Alverno in process
The art world is rippled with contradictions related to what qualifies work as good, or collectable. I believe most art has a potential collector somewhere, and it's a matter of bridging the distance between the art & patron. Social media gives artists a hand up on the ladder, but that only helps if the artist perseveres, and puts his/her work out there, consistently.

I've attended art festivals where nothing sold, which is a kick in the shins after the time and dollars invested to plan, promote, pack, drive, build the booth, hang the work, pitch to crowds for two days, and then break it all down and drive home.  No sales doesn't mean the art is bad - it means you didn't reach your collectors at that show. Maybe they weren't there, or maybe you need more practice at conversing with them when they stop in your booth. So you regroup, and do it again.

Scottsdale Art Festival
The lessons learned over time, by painting a lot, framing, arranging & hanging, titling & pricing, choosing best subjects & sizes for different shows, and talking about your art are priceless. While every show is a crap shoot, and you have no control over whether your patrons will attend, you *do* have opportunities to polish your game, and get rock-solid at making your art, and perfecting your presentation. You get better at all of it.  Practice makes perfect.

If you sell your work, I believe it's important to remember this; each time you display the fruits of your creative efforts, the shift of attention & affinity moves  from you, the artist, over to the collector. It's not about you anymore. Each person looking at your art is searching for something, whether it's simply inspiration to get back to their own art, or a large piece to match the couch in their new Aspen vacation home.  If they walk away without purchasing a piece of your art, they are simply not one of your collectors. You don't have time to take it personally, because there's work to do. You have to get busy finding your patrons.




Art Quote
Art isn't only a painting. Art is anything that's creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? I don't think is has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren't artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.

That's why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer. That's why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artist, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.

Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artist, even though his readers are businesspeople. He's an artist because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn't care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it's important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn't matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” 
― Seth GodinLinchpin: Are You Indispensable?

7/15/14

Watercolor: Stay Here

Stay Here 3.5x3.5 Watercolor on paper
While working on a big painting in the studio, I took a break last night and made a very small painting. It was like a little cat nap for the size & scale section of my brain.  (It's available in my Etsy shop.) Now, I am back at work on the big one, large brushes in hand, mixing flood worthy puddles of pigments and water, trying not to drip & splash. What's the largest painting you've ever done?

In a hand for a sense of scale

In progress on the studio table
Art Quote
If the painter has clumsy hands, he will be apt to introduce them into his works, and so of any other part of his person, which may not happen to be so beautiful as it ought to be. He must, therefore, guard particularly against that self-love, or too good opinion of his own person, and study by every means to acquire the knowledge of what is most beautiful, and of his own defects, that he may adopt the one and avoid the other.
Leonardo da Vinci - A Treatise on Painting