Trees Win

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Trees Win Notes

I have painted many different subjects over the last 58 years, but trees win. Trees are my favorite subject of all time.  Trees make our lives wonderful. Many people pass by them without a thought, but think about how much they improve the lives of humans and other animals. I began my long love for them as a young child. There was a huge water oak living in my yard, stately and all by itself. it had deep pockets around the trunk on the ground between the roots. I used to pretend that the pockets were stalls, where I sold vegetables and fruits to the birds and animals around the neighborhood. I would gather acorns, berries and twigs, separating them into the pockets. I made tiny signs and pushed them into the dirt in front of the stalls with names and prices. I was that kind of kid. I spent hours out in the yard playing around the trees. When I got a bit older, I made forts up in the trees.

In my early 30’s I began to paint the trees that I love, first as part of landscape scenery and later as portraits, which I still do. I discovered how difficult they are as subjects. I see many  paintings that are really just symbols or cartoons of trees. There are  very fine tree painters but not many. My good friend Charles Dickinson is one, a man in England is quite good (can’t remember his name) and Stapleton Kearns, who has done a great deal of research in trees, and is a very fine painter.

Landscape Paintings

Painting trees takes a lot of patience and practice. They seem to be easy in a superficial way but to paint them well, takes knowledge of their characteristics in each species. They are not all brown. Their limbs branch in different ways. They behave differently as a solo tree or in groups in their growing paths. Their canopies differ, and some host moss or ferns, others not.  They must be studied independently and in groups, as they grow differently in each case.

I have a notebook  where I keep samples of leaves, twigs, pieces of bark. I press leaves to study them at length. I have discovered some amazing things about them. Remember, they are living creatures and respond to their environment just as we do.  They host many creatures and give us clean air and shade. We owe much to them, including the respect and care  they deserve.

More musings for artists and collectors to come….

 

Bird Island Three

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Bird Island Three Notes

Bird Island has had extraordinarily swell weather this year. I believe it is the best I’ve ever seen in the years I’ve visited here. Painting while the waves lap at the dock is so lovely and peaceful. There is no place like Bird Island.

This morning we did a short burn, gathering some cedar limbs and palm fronds. Then Patsy got busy making key lime pie and I got busy painting.  I got two paintings today and will perhaps have time for one more before happy hour and sunset watching.  I’m watching Patsy  paint right now.

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Patsy Painting

Tonight we will have Patsy’s steamed shrimp for dinner. She makes it in a big pot with a strainer. She uses Zatarain’s Crawfish, shrimp and crab boil, salt  and a lemon for seasoning, Boil crabs for 5 minutes and shrimp for 1 minute. Yummy! We have enjoyed pressed Cuban sandwiches, steak, pizza, boiled peanuts, peppermint ice cream, key lime pie, banana bread, sausage, and tonight shrimp. Don’t tell my Dr  what I have been eating!  I am so spoiled by the generosity of the Nelms family and very grateful to them.

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I will miss the island as we depart tomorrow. I always leave to go back to the real world with a tiny bit of regret. When I come again the island will have healed and there will again be a boardwalk to enjoy walking on. I’m so glad the house was not damaged.

More musings for artists and collectors to come….

 

 

 

Impressions Count

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Fish Prairie-SOLD

 
 Impressions Count Notes
 
Impressions mean everything when you are in the business of selling art. I visited a studio on one of my painting residencies. It was called a gallery and it was in a very upscale building. In fact, it is one person’s studio so I would not call it a gallery. I was greeted at the door by, the artist’s wife though she did not introduce herself as the wife. I was ushered in with attention from her but was ignored by the artist himself, who obviously could see that there was a guest present. As soon as she knew I was a visiting artist, her greeting turned off like a faucet. She answered a few questions and then turned away, anxious for me to leave. I did not have  good impressions of either.
I thought to myself that both of them could learn a bit about how to run a gallery, though I’m sure he does very well with selected clients. His work is very nice and traditional. He had no originals in the front room, evidently they are in another room. He must make his living off reproductions, saving back the real work for high end buyers.
The thing is, that you never know who is a serious buyer and who is a casual browser, and frankly, that shouldn’t matter to you if you genuinely like people and want to build a relationship with collectors. Making positive impressions on visitors matters.  I am quite delighted when people come  to browse in my studio. I offer them coffee or tea and encourage them to stay and chat, because they are often quite bright and fun with interesting careers. I might make a potential friend, whether they collect art or not. I have met some of the most interesting people because I am truly happy to have them as my guests. Some buy my work and some don’t but many of them become my friends. Friends have friends too. Even those who simply walk past my work deserve a nod or greeting.
Because I got a negative impression from these studio owners, I will probably not go back again. I buy a few paintings for gifts each year, so I consider myself a regular collector of original art. Artists are sometimes collectors too.
If you own a retail studio, think about what kind of impressions you make to a visitor. My friends and collectors are vitally important to me. I could not have this wonderful life without them. I was raised in the South. I watched my mother receive guests into our modest home with grace, and genuine joy to have them. She always offered a beverage and a snack to visitors. She focused her full attention on them and their stories. I try to run my studio that way. It is my real home. My time and money are poured into it. My house is where I sleep and eat.
Your visitors won’t care about whether your studio is upscale. It can be a warehouse. They will care about how they are greeted and treated during their time there.
More musings for artists and collectors to come…

 

Bird Island Two

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Bird Island Two Notes

Bird Island day two has been wonderful. I spent most of my day teaching my two new friends Shannon and Jenny how to paint from a photo of Bird Island. They were the best of students. They listened carefully and did great paintings. They have many talents.

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The Painting Lesson

I did manage to get an 8×10 finished, between lessons. I love these trees. They grow in front of the porch. Patsy told me that one of them grew through an old boat early in its life. They are quite tall now. The larger is tall with lovely twisted limbs near the top. I left out the boardwalk, which is currently under construction.

We found a skeleton of a Florida Gar fish, left on the front porch. It is really cool.

 

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Gar Fish

The girls went walking outside and had a rat snake slither over Shannon’s foot! Glad I was on the porch painting at the time.

Lunch was delicious with pressed Cuban sandwiches. We will have pizza tonight. Good eats and great company at BI.

Tomorrow Patsy and I plan to do a burn and then a painting together. I am hoping for Shrimp and her wonderful key lime pie.

More musings for artists and collectors to come…..

 

 

 

Bird Island One

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Bird Island One Notes

Yippee! It is time for my annual trip to Bird Island for my painting residency. I always look forward to this wonderful adventure, kindly provided by the Nelms family, who own the island. This year I’ve come with Patsy Nelms, her granddaughter and her friend, both cute college girls, full of energy and fun.

It is always a treat to be around bright young people. It is a glimpse into the future of science. They are so smart. I learned from one that cattle egrets are not native to North America. She is studying their migration and parasites for her masters degree.

We arrived with boiled peanuts and shrimp from Kights Shrimp Company. What else would we need? We did bring other food as well. After settling in and sorting ourselves out, I set up my gear to paint. After a walk around the island, I realized that the photos from last year were better than what I saw today. The island and nearby town of Horseshoe Beach was hit by a terrible hurricane last year. The island is trashed, but the house was unharmed, thank goodness. Patsy said the plants will grow back and the boardwalk and dock are being repaired. Our favorite restaurant was destroyed but it has relocated to a safer building and will reopen soon.

It is still so pleasant to be here and sit on this lovely porch. I will paint the big cedars while I’m here.

More Bird Island adventure to come….

Emerging Artists

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Emerging Artists Notes

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from emerging artists about how to get started. Really, the main difference in being an emerging artist and an established artist is brand name and price point. That is a bit simplistic but still valid.

The approach and career path between emerging artists and established have to be quite different. Our age and status as an established professional will often be different from a new professional so there are many gray areas for established painters too. For example, early in my professional career, it was vital to build my resume by doing juried exhibits, being in gallery shows, museum exhibits, paint outs having a visible high end collectors list and so forth. At this stage for me, that becomes far less important than painting and selling my work.

I’m older than dirt in terms of the art industry. Anybody who is still a working artist after 30+ years in the biz has little left to prove. “I yam what I yam” says Popeye Blondheim. The hubris of youth gave me big ambition and dreams of being the next superstar of the art world. Now I am very content in being a full time artist and making a living, while exploring the mysteries of landscape painting. A far different goal than I may have had even 10 years ago. It’s a bit sad that I figured out that painting is a goal itself so late, but I will make the most of my time left in the studio. I plan to learn a lot in the next 30 years and retire at 96 a winner :>)

One of the most important elements of success for an emerging  professional is to have a game plan firmly in place. Unfortunately, I did not. In fact I was clueless for a long time, randomly trying this and that.

Pick no more than 5 main goals each year and focus all of your energy on them. As you tick them off as successfully completed, you can add new goals to replace them, but they must be re-addressed often to keep them afloat. Here is an example:

1. Mailing List
Spend a year building your list. I normally have around 500 names on my list at any given time. I used to add anyone and everyone to that postal list but in the last 10 years, I add actual collectors to the postal list. For email, I can add all kinds of folk whether they are collectors or not.

2. Spend time and money getting your biz cards and promotional materials sorted out and professionally done. Don’t scrimp on biz cards. Have a good one made with a nice image of our work. Your biz card may be the only impression you will ever make on a potential patron. Do you really want to give him a cheesy homemade card? Biz cards are not that expensive. I use Moo, who makes a spectacular biz card, one that folk will keep on their refrigerator. There are dozens of companies out there. Now you have to actually use them. Put them in every letter you send out, pass them out at every event. Put them up at supermarkets on bulletin boards, any venue you can think of. At every party, keep them in your hand, give them out when you are introduced. Take them to gallery openings. Leave them as bookmarks in books you lend out or return to the library.

3. Study and paint regularly. This can’t be emphasized enough. There are lots of excellent online lessons and of course, lots of books. Also workshops and classes in your area. Get all the mentorship you can from professionals you respect and admire. Volunteer to be a studio assistant with an artist you admire.

4. Make a decision between the gallery route or the self representational route. You can always switch after a time, but it’s hard to start out with both goals at once.

At one time the gallery route was vital but these days perhaps not. With the Internet things have changed. The most successful way to take the self rep path for me is a combination of Internet and utilizing your own studio space. This method allows you to be attractive to both long distance buyers and local/regional buyers who will come to your space to purchase. This has worked quite well for me. Galleries have become a tertiary income source for me not a primary or even secondary one. I am still selling in galleries but not in significant numbers and I am outselling galleries greatly through my own studio. Frankly there are just so many hours in the day and I don’t have time to tend to galleries as much as I once did. I tend to nurture markets that sell my work and neglect those less successful.

Once you make this decision, you will have different methods to obtain your goal.

Gallery Route:

Start with a review of your work by a professional who will be completely honest about the level of work you are doing. Frankly, you may not be ready for the gallery scene. Galleries have to be very competitive in this economy and they are becoming more selective, choosing painters with proven track records. Be sure you are ready before you start. You should have established a solid body of work that is coherent and consistent, revealing a clear style. You will need to be producing work consistently. You should have a completed body of work with no less than 25 paintings.

Painting Clouds Tutorial

OK, You have done the work and you are ready to gallery shop. First do some Internet surfing to find likely prospects. Take a gallery tour of regional galleries. Look for galleries who are showing work at your level or slightly above but not with a huge discrepancy. Look for a gallery who has interest in the subject you like. Not one with too many in that genre but at least one or two painters who like your subject. Check their submission policy and follow it to the letter. If there is no policy, send out an image postcard with your contact information. Choose the best image you have and ask professional artists friends to help you choose the image. Send out these cards to the galleries you like. If you get a response, follow up immediately with whatever request they make. If you get no response don’t be discouraged. Once I pursued a gallery for about two years before the finally took me. I sent them an image card every six months with a new image and they finally decided I was a good fit. They wanted to see how long I would try and they began to like my paintings as a body of work. In other words, they wanted to know if I was serious or just a flash in the pan.

Coop Galleries

This is sort of starter gallery way to get a foot in the door, but unfortunately these galleries are not always respected in the art community. There are exceptional coops of course. It’s a way to get a gallery experience and get your foot in the door. Be prepared for lots of compromises and babysitting the store.

The self rep route:

This is the direction I’m gradually headed in for myself after having done the gallery route for years. Self rep is not for everyone. It takes a great deal of self discipline and self confidence to be successful. It is harder but more satisfying for me personally.  I don’t paly particularly well in sandboxes. I am fiercely  independent and don’t compromise very well. We all have faults, that is one of many for me.

There are lots of ways to go when you sell your own work and you are the captain of the ship. This also means if you fail, it’s your problem and no one else’s. Planning and experimentation are the game for self represented artists.

Consistent marketing and good paintings are necessary to succeed. You must get your work out in the market place in every way possible at least in the beginning. Alternative spaces work quite well for an emerging artist because you can fit your prices to these lower end markets. Good hair salons, book shops, and good restaurants are all good markets for these shows. Parade of Homes, Dr offices, banks, community theatre lobbies and libraries are also possibilities but with less success for sales. The can be simple ways to get exposure when you are starting out. I have actually sold small paintings in hair salons and restaurants, though I am now priced out of that market.

Don’t leave out the possibilities on the Internet. They are many. Web sites, blogs, and sites like Etsy.com are all possibilities.

5. Communication

This is really important whether you self rep or go with galleries and it is a blog post all by itself. You must establish a friendship which is genuine and comfortable with your patrons. Never forget for a moment that they are directly responsible for your lifestyle. My patrons are the best friends I will ever have. I am grateful to them beyond measure. Never take them for granted. Outside of your biological family, no one else in your life is more important. Take the very best care of them and they will never allow you to fail. This year, my patrons kept me alive because they care for me and I for them. I care about their lives and their ups and downs. They are my friends, not strangers.

More musings for artists and collectors to come…..

Plein Air Studio

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Plein Air to Studio Notes

Plein air to studio seems to be an ideal method for me. This is the painting I started recently, when I had Henry with me. It is outside of my yard, looking in across a fence. It is a perfect example of what you can do starting a painting on site and then moving into the studio. It was just a mess when I brought it in. After having let it sit for a day to dry, I went back into it in the studio. I never would have seen the problems and solutions, by continuing out side.

Having some time to study it and to muse over the possibilities, I am now more pleased with the end result. I simply do not see what needs to be done on location after the block in stage. It’s not that I can’t pull off the paintings, making them respectable, I just know they will be so much better when finished up in the studio. I’m so glad I have made this discovery about plein air work. Of course, If I had time to return over and over to the location for multiple sessions, I could do that on location successfully. That would take much more time than starting on location and then finishing in studio. The end result would be quite similar, so I See no real advantage to painting for multiple sessions on location over the studio finish except that it is fun. I’ve always thought of my plein air work as research for future paintings. They are studies in my view. I will often start multiple paintings on site and take them into the studio to finish at my leisure. This works especially well when traveling. You can complete many more paintings by starting them in different areas and bringing them home to finish, rather than trying to complete alla prima. I painted plein air, alla prima exclusively for about 10 years. I really had fun but it fostered terrible painting habits. When I look back on those painting, they were rough and messy. I didn’t really learn good brushwork until I went back to studio work.

Most painters think it is the drying time between sessions which improves the work, but I feel it is much more than that. Most experienced painters are well capable of painting wet on wet successfully. It’s really more about the percolation of the work over time and seeing things I miss in the heat of the moment if you will. Perhaps I have lost my taste for alla prima painting. I need to think and focus over a period of time to get the maximum from a painting session.  Blocking in a painting on location and finishing it in studio seems to be the optimal way to combine two interesting and fun techniques. I just now am learning the method of plein air painting that actually works for me, so I am grateful for that.

I’ve always thought of my plein air work as research for future paintings. They are studies in my view. I will often start multiple paintings on site and take them into the studio to finish at my leisure.

More musings for artists and collectors to come……..

 

Collectors Information

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Collectors Information Notes

Collectors of art fall into three basic categories. The first is the collector that  lives with art, buys it until all the walls are filled, and then stops. The second is committed in the experience of collecting, and like the artist, feels compelled to continue with this passionate relationship, regardless of the decorative or functional aspects. The last is the investment collector who buys art as a commodity like stocks or gold.

What many collectors don´t realize, is the process is not over once the piece is hung. It becomes more important to become a responsible collector if you are collecting museum quality artists. There are three basic areas that require attention from all collectors.

Documentation

It is important to document each piece of art in your collections. This could prove to be an invaluable resource for restoration, or damage. The best and most economical form of documentation would be digital images. They should be properly labeled to include artist´s name, title of work, date of completion, media, and dimensions. Also, an indication of top and front is advisable. In most cases it is a good idea to follow up with hard copy prints.

Biographical Information

It is also important to keep yourself informed about the artists´activities and save related materials. Write-ups and reviews, as well as exhibition announcements should be kept on file for each artist in your collection. This will increase the value of the work as an artist´s career develops. Minimally, you should keep an up-dated biography or artist resume. Several collectors also ask the artist to write a brief statement about their particular work. This is not always possible, but if you have contact with the artist, it is an additional luxury that only collecting living artists affords. Many of my collectors like to have my notes about a particular painting, either attached to the back of the painting or written on the back stretcher bars.

Provenance

If you have purchased a piece directly form a gallery or the artist, the artwork doesn´t have a history of having been in prior exhibitions or collections. But, occasionally if a specific piece you own has been previously exhibited or owned, this should be recorded accurately, and is referred to as the “provenance.”

Keeping accurate records regarding your collection will allow for immediate access to current information for future exhibitions and catalogs. It is necessary backup for insurance and tax purposes. As your collection grows, it is a good idea to get a periodic professional appraisal.

Finally, as a courtesy to the artist, it is always a good idea to contact them when you move or sell the art. Artists need to have access to their work for retrospectives or survey shows.

I am always happy to provide information about my career, resume, and statement if requested by my collectors.

More musings for artists and collectors to come…

Sucessful Internet Artists

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Successful Internet Artists Notes

I keep an eye on successful artists, not for their paintings, but for their promotional skill. Some are top drawer artists with great skill, some have marginal skill. They are successful because they are excellent marketers, and successful on the Internet. Many of them have bypassed traditional galleries and have taken up their own career direction without the middleman. That is the path I have gradually moved toward in my own career. I still show in a few local and area art galleries but have stopped showing my work in far away galleries. I prefer the direct sales on the Internet to out of area galleries.
Here are a few reasons for artists’ Internet success:

These artists produce good quality and consistent work. They are not fly by night or throw it together painters.

They are professional in their dealing with clients and have a professional approach to their art business. Whether artists like to admit it or not, art is a product like everything else and must be sold in a professional way.

They present their artwork well using good quality images and good design. They have a consistent style, making their work recognizable and collectible.

They use well known mediums and a variety of sizes, framed and unframed, to allow people to buy at least some of their work at reasonable prices.

They display new work regularly on a blog/website/Internet/art site.

They communicate well, giving patrons and friends a sense of what an artist’s life all about, engaging their viewers and readers in friendship and camaraderie. They talk about their work, explaining the vision for their life’s work. The viewer understands the passion behind it. They share their life with viewers in an open engaging way. They build up a personal relationship with their customers, many of whom go on to become personal friends. A successful artist never forgets that the client is a true friend, who allows them to survive in a very unfriendly environment for artists. A successful artist is always truly grateful to those who make their work possible. There is no room for arrogance as far as I am concerned.

They make purchasing very easy with pay pal or another shopping cart system immediately available. The sold painting is well packaged and arrives promptly with good shipping information sent to the buyer, so they know when to expect their painting. All complaints are attended to immediately. The artist stands by their work willing to exchange or refund if needed. Remember, the customer is always right.

They use their mailing list religiously, encouraging referrals and testimonials from satisfied clients.

Some of this may bother you. You may feel resentful that I have made art a product and that the customer is always right. You may feel that the artist should be in control, not the client. If this is true, you are not thinking as a business person. You are being led by your emotions rather than your business sense. I think it is important to say that a professional artist who desires to live off their paintings must learn to separate his/her job into two different jobs. While at the easel, I am an artist 100%. Once the painting is completed, I must be a business person 100%. I must separate myself from the painting emotionally and go about the business of selling it and paying my bills as any other business person would.

The exception to this is commissioned work which is all about business from start to finish. Commission work is my day job, not my love as an artist. Rarely does a commission client allow me the free reign to express myself artistically, though some do. It is about their dream 99% of the time, not about mine. That is not to say I am not grateful for the commission work. I wish I could get a lot more of it. I love doing it because it pays well and it is a total challenge to discipline my own nature as an artist. It also improves my painting skills, so bring it on!!!

I can only tell you what works for me and others in terms of selling on the Internet. Whether you choose to use the techniques or not depends on you. For myself, whatever creative autonomy I give up is worth the price, because I get to paint all day and work for myself. That is worth any inconvenience to me.

More musings for artists and collectors to come….

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Artist Collector Connection

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Artist Collector Connection Notes
I’ve been thinking about how people relate to my art. Artist collector connections can be hard if you are a beginning artist. I can’t speak for other painters at all, but I know my collectors. A high percentage of my collectors purchase art from me because they know me or about me. They are interested in the same things I am, agriculture, nature, trees and the rural, undeveloped part of Florida. We might share recipes, have raised kids together or know each other through mutual acquaintances. Perhaps they have followed my career for some time through a friend or by subscribing to my newsletter or blog. I sometimes meet them at my painting residencies, at farms where I paint, even in my studio. I almost never meet them at grip and grin gallery openings. Many artists believe that if they go to all the gallery openings in town, with their business cards, they will find their collectors. Some artist may have success in that way, but I don’t.
How do you find your collectors?  Look no further than your areas of interest. Do you like horses, dogs, animals? Go to those events, get to know veterinarians, grooming facility owners, fox hunters, etc. How about flowers? Garden stores, nurseries, garden clubs, flower shows, florists.  Whatever you area of interest for painting, look for matching industries and events. Truth to tell, I’ve never depended on galleries or museums, art clubs for my livelihood. I have done museum shows, countless gallery shows and have a long resume, but that is not where I found my collectors.
  Some artists only pay attention to their actual collectors. This is a mistake in my view. I have many followers who have not purchased my art. They are a very important part of my life. I feel a deep kinship with them, as they boost my confidence, they refer my work to friends, and they write notes and speak encouraging words to me. They are my cheerleaders just as much as my collectors are. They are one of the reasons I work so hard every day to improve and be a better person.  Anyone who cares about me and my career is vitally important to me. A successful art career is not only about money. The people who follow me and stop in for a chat, enrich my life beyond measure.
My point is that our commonality of interest or friendship speaks to my collectors as well as my art. This has always been my way of selling art. My friends care about me and my mission to paint the best of Florida. In return, I care about them and their lives just as much. We have a partnership. All of the post cards, ads, and business cards in the world will not help me make a living without the work it takes to make personal friendships. Yes, PR is important, but not as important as the personal relationships I am lucky to have. Loyalty and care are priceless, and must be shared with kindness and interest in the people who support me. They make my vagabond life of adventure possible and I never take that for granted.
More musings for artists and collectors to come….
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