Friday, July 27, 2007

Standing on the shoulders of giants

As an artist I work alone creating my paintings in my studio, and when the work hangs in a gallery all eyes are on me. People ask me questions about technique, color, titles, education, and influences. While my work receives attention and I receive praise, there is a silent web of people that stand behind me that are always in the background of each success, each show, and each opportunity.

Today's blog is a thank you to all the members of my team. I definitely stand on the shoulders of giants, and I am grateful.

My wonderful and patient husband never blinked when I said "okay- I am quitting my day job and focusing on art." He lets me dream big and then act crazy and difficult when obstacles to my dreams come up...He has been my web designer, brochure printer, photographer, driver, art transporter, art packer, proofreader, and a fixture at art openings. He believes in me and my art, and he deals with me when I face all the ups and downs that come with being an artist. He helps me seize every opportunity that comes my way.

My entire family is incredibly supportive of me and my art. I am lucky that my family supports me in this way. They have never questioned my reasons for being an artist. They give me feedback when I ask for it, and praise. They acknowledge that this can be a crazy and hard business, but that I have the skills to make it. They are freely giving of their time and particular skills if they think can help me. Some of the services my family has provided: materials, financial support, proof-reading, editing, a sounding board for ideas, legal aid, critiques, connections, enthusiasm and interest in my work.

Teachers over the years have always focused on my creative side and made me feel smart even if I was almost failing math. I am not talking just about art teachers, I am talking about any teacher that I have ever come into contact with that pushed me and stood behind me and encouraged me to go for it. I am especially grateful to my mentor Ron Graff at the University of Oregon. His strong style of teaching, encouragement, and support got me through school. He was a beacon of light for me at the University, and I am so grateful to him.

There are many artists that I have worked with and have known over the years that have helped me tremendously. While still in school, one classmate bought a small piece of my art that was a part my BFA exhibit, before I even thought about selling my art; I was just in love with making it. When she tracked me down at my apartment and wrote out a check for $50.00, I had goose bumps. I felt like I had just won the lottery - this small thing was so monumental. There is another artist, Wendeline Matson who helped me get my foot in the door at the Blue Moon gallery and for that I will always be thankful. Sometimes, that is all it takes and can change things dramatically for years to come.The Blue Moon was the first gallery to represent me on an ongoing basis.

Gallery owners who have represented me have taught me so much, and they have stuck by me through thick and thin. They have helped me believe in myself, and have gotten my art out to people who may never have seen it otherwise. I have been lucky to work with such professionals who really are invested in art and the artists they represent.

There are so many friends over the years that have helped, supported, and purchased my art. There are friends that have helped me to celebrate my milestones, as well as friends who push me to push myself harder, when I am sliding. I don't tell them enough how lucky I am to have them in my life.

Since this post can't last forever, I will just have to summarize but this is dedicated to all the people who have talked about my art with their friends, published my art, written about my art, bought my art, offered me opportunities to show my work, took time to advise me, and have been generally supportive of me. You are my heroes. I could not do what I do without all your help, love, and support. So, thank you, I am truly grateful.

I realize that I am fortunate to have all this support and that some artists do not. I hope that this post might encourage artists out there to start counting all the forms of support that they do have in their lives, most of the time we are so busy we don't see what is right in front of us. If you still feel you lack support and encouragement, I want to give you a little. Being an artist is an important, meaningful, and valid path to take in life. We need your art in the world, and only you can make your art. I hope success, happiness, and many opportunities come your way, you deserve it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Creating Inventory 101

As an artist, you create with passion, perhaps boundless energy and freedom. Untouchable, you flow deeper into your work. You think you have left the mindless paper work at the office far behind to pursue your true calling called ART... Well, what if I told you that your true calling also requires a paper trail. That there are Excel files to create, mailings to put out, and numbers to crunch. Before you turn your iPod all the way up, or switch back over to YouTube, please realize that this is something you can handle. Keeping an inventory of your work is not going to taint its integrity, it doesn't turn you into "the Man," and it may even bring you more peace of mind and greater financial gain. Today, I am covering the basics of inventory and what it means for your art career.

I know it is a struggle for some to find the time to create art, let alone properly document it and manage an up to date inventory, but it is something that needs to get done. There are many ways to tackle this task. The reason for doing inventory isn't to show off your business smarts or exercise your left brain. I believe the act of counting all your work and knowing where it is and where it has gone is comforting, and frees up creative energy that is spent trying to keep up with all this chatter in your head. So, I highly recommend taking the time to start an inventory, or if you already have one, make sure it is kept up to date. The process will actually free you and create more time to do what you really love.

I must say that the job of inventory is much easier to accomplish if you do this regularly and break it down into small chunks, so that you will not have to spend a whole day, week, or month trying to remember who bought what, which gallery has that, and how much you got paid. If you are a professional artist, you must keep up with all of this. Come tax time, you will be so pleased that you kept such good records.

I highly recommend beginning this process even if you are just starting out. For example, when you sell a painting to a friend or at some "under the table" art event, even if you trade/donate/or give art as gifts, keep up with where it is going. These records will help you build faith in yourself, and the information that you record will help your career in many ways. This information can be used to create : a mailing list of your clients, thank you cards, keeping track of how much money you are making per month, and how many paintings you are selling. Keeping an inventory of all of these details helps you note trends as well, you can see which paintings are selling or what pieces clients' gravitate toward, who makes up your client base, and how the galleries that represent you are doing as far as selling your work. Another surprising benefit of documenting and keeping inventory of your work, is that it serves as an unbroken link to the work, and it may help you part with your art easier, especially if you are just starting out or are very emotionally attached to a particular work.

So lets get into the nuts and bolts of keeping an inventory. It can be as simple and old school as pen and paper or as hard and technologically savvy as you want it to be. Some basic elements of inventory are:
  • Title of art ( or you can assign a number or both)
  • Date of completion, ( year is about as detailed as I get)
  • Medium, Size
  • Price ( and how much you earned from the work)
  • Where the work was exhibited ( this could be several places)
  • Who purchased the work ( name, address, and phone, email and venue they purchased through)
  • If the work is in your studio take note, when it leaves your studio take note of that as well
  • If you are really savvy you may include a photo of the work in your inventory records
  • You may also want to digitally archive your exhibits, by burning all the images onto a CD, with the date of the show, curator, location etc.
These are just some of the details that are good to record in your inventory, how you organize them is a personal matter, and I encourage you to make it a system that works for you and can be easily updated. You might feel comfortable using a spreadsheet program on your computer, or writing in a composition notebook from the dollar store, that is up to you. Also, there are many art software packages available online to test drive and then purchase. I have tried one of those, and I always think somehow that the software is magically going to do all the work for me but that is never the case, so don't go that route unless you are sure you will see it through and spend the time necessary to get to know the software.

Being an artist is a wonderful and fulfilling career path, and with any job come the responsibilities that aren't always fun but are necessary and vital, keeping an inventory of your art is one of those tasks. It might seem unpleasant and arduous but if you can keep up with it you will be richly rewarded creatively and financially.

Good Luck!

Some resources that have helped me are:

Art Marketing 101 : A Handbook for the Fine Artist
by Constance Smith

Art Office: 80+ Business Forms, Charts, Sample Letters, Legal Documents and Business Plans by Constance Smith and Sue Viders
affordable, computerized art inventory data base

Paper, pen and my mind

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tiny Virtues

Today, I want to delve into the creative process and meaning behind my painting, "Tiny Virtues." I think it is important to have an opportunity to discuss a work of art with the viewer and for the artist and the viewer to have a dialog about the work. This is not always possible, actually most of the time, this is not possible. Art openings are usually crowded, and it is hard to have an intimate discussion with the viewer about the work, or the work is being shown away from the artist, and unfortunately the artist and viewer will never meet. I am excited to have this opportunity to discuss this piece and my painting process with you.

When I go into my studio to paint, I know a few things for sure. I know that I am an abstract painter. I know that some of my paintings may have an implied horizon line, and organic shapes that resemble a known object, but that my main goal is for my work to be intrinsically abstract in nature.

I know that I love color. I am drawn to deep, rich colors that include blues, greens, deep yellows, golds, oranges, deep rusty reds, and olive greens. I know that I love texture, whether the paint is thick and craggy or creates a subtle texture that resembles those found in nature, such as lichen, mold or rust, these patterns have always appealed to me. I know that I love gritty pencil lines, and charcoal smudges. I know that I love oval and smooth rounded organic shapes. I like how colors can float on top of each other to produce something new, create depth, and illumination.

I know that I work fast, and that I work on several paintings at a time.

So, these are some of the basic things I know before I paint. Everything after this is usually intuitive, and process based. It is a journey of sorts, and many problems come up along the way, and the fun is solving the problems. I work with the materials as I maintain balance and intensity, as well as creating works that will connect with one another in a series while not being too repetitious.

My actual painting process varies some from one painting to another, but there are some basic aspects that are common.

The process behind the painting "Tiny Virtues," started off with a ground color. I cover the whole canvas with a yellow ochre or gold acrylic paint and then allow it to dry.

My next step in this process is to take a dark oil color, a rich brown and cover the entire painting. I use walnut oil in my paint and make rich earthy brown syrup that glides over the canvas. When the whole painting is now brown, I then spray it down with water, and let the water bead up on the oily surface. I then take different types of paper, sometimes newsprint, sometimes heavier drawing paper and cover the wet painting, to let the paper absorb the paint and the water. As I pull the paper off the canvas, the paint is lifted as well and leaves behind a texture and the yellow is now glowing from behind the brown surface. There are shapes left behind from the water and the paper, due to the amount of pressure I applied to the surface. If I like what I see I leave it to dry for several days, or I keep working until I have the surface that I desire.

The next step in the piece "Tiny Virtues," is the ovals. I have created these ovals by a stencil (an index card where I drew and cut out the shapes I desired) I wanted to regulate the shapes, and making my own stencil seemed to make sense. I have dubbed these ovals "comfort shapes." I feel compelled to make these shapes, it seems like the most natural and comfortable shape my hand wants to draw. I have always loved pods, ovals, and any rounded organic shape. It seems like the shapes brings a peace and comfort to those who see them as well as those compelled to draw them. Sometimes these shapes represent feelings or hold the essence of something unspoken. I view them as little sentient beings; sometimes they can be isolated or flock together. Sometimes they are solemn or ghostly, while other times they are playful. I painted in the oval shapes with gold, and they have a texture of brush strokes with a bit of relief. I let these shapes dry.

The final step in the painting is the blue horizontal swaths of color across the piece. This is my favorite blue, and is created by mixing a blue and a brown together to create a luscious blue green that is rich and mysterious (I am always surprised that all my paintings aren't this blue as I love this special color so much). The blue paint is brushed on in a way that the stripes aren’t perfectly filled in, creating a sense of urgency. When this final step is done, I look at the painting and make sure it "clicks" for me. For me, the work needs to feel balanced, with all the elements involved getting their due and yet there is a mystery still unfolding. I like all my paintings to have a mysterious edge about them.

As the painting process ends, the titling process begins. I have to get to know the work awhile before the title emerges. I love words and I love atmosphere- and I try to convey that in my titles, while also alerting the viewer to an element of the painting that they might have missed just under the surface. I use the titles to create another layer of the mystery. This piece is titled "Tiny Virtues," and is all about the ovals. The painting is large, and there are lots of areas and textures that vie for the viewer’s attention, yet the ovals hover in the space caught by the blue bands, they are suspended. They are the tiny virtues. We often just see the larger picture, but floating in front of us are the tiny virtues. The little gifts in life, like fireflies, or some dark encapsulated beauty that is unnamed floating around us without our knowledge.

I hope you have enjoyed getting to know a little about my painting process and the piece "Tiny Virtues" as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you.

"Tiny Virtues" is currently on view at Lacuna Modern Interiors located at 620 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville, Arkansas along with three other of my paintings. This piece is for sale through the DDP gallery in Fayetteville.