Serious Art VS Fun Art

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Serious Art VS Fun Art

When I was a young painter in art school, serious art was the only acceptable art. My professors guided me to only pursue museum shows and gallery affiliations. Fun art was considered to be inferior and something only hobbyists would admit to doing.

I did political cartoons for small Florida papers as a sideline during art school, hiding this from my friends and professors. I’ve always loved drawing goofy pictures in a cartoon style.  I started doing a  cartoon in art school called the Studio Door and it has been a signature drawing for me for many years. I don’t know why. I’ve done hundreds of them over the years. it is my favorite silly drawing. It is usually out of proportion with skewed perspective. Sometimes in different colors, open or closed, with wall paper, tile floors, wood floors, whatever I’m in the mood for at any time.

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After years as a gallery artist with many museum shows behind me, I set out to be an independent painter in 2009, relying on myself and my whims to provide my livelihood and my joy.

I find that I enjoy the puzzles, art pins and hand drawn cards, for the process and the humor, much needed in these dark days. Happily, I have found that it really is ok to do serious painting and fun art. They are traditionally different markets, but not as much as I thought. Many of my collectors delight in both the serious paintings and the fun art.

When is art legitimate? I say it is legitimate whether in the studio, struggling to get the landscape right, or at the drawing table having fun with colored pencil, markers, pop sickle sticks and mat board. Whether art is admired hanging on a wall framed, or worn on your shirt, it is still art.

More to come……

Love Old Work

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Love Old Work Notes

I love my old work. I saw a post this morning on Facebook by an excellent painter who called his old work rubbish. I read this from time to time by many painters, anguishing over their older work and how poor they feel the quality is of their past paintings.

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I couldn’t disagree more. I feel love for my older paintings and honor them. When I see a painting in someone’s home from long ago, I feel wonderful that they gave it a place of honor in their home. Are my current paintings better than ones from years ago? I think so, but that shouldn’t make them more valuable. I have simply learned more than I knew 20 years ago.  I wake up every day with the will and sincere prayer that I will do the best painting I can. That was the case 40 years ago as it is now. Every stage of my career is the same, in that I am doing the very best work that I know to do. Why would I dishonor that by thinking my old paintings are rubbish or inferior? My old paintings are a road map of effort and love for my craft, honed for 50 years.

I have saved a few paintings from different stages of my career. Some of my favorites are from middle and high school, and then college. They are indeed amateurish, but much loved. We don’t always need to have top quality or whatever the latest trend might be in art. Art is far more than decoration. It is truly the window into our culture and times. Artists are historians, we record our environment, our politics, our pop culture, our moment on this good earth. We learn much about past generations and cultures by viewing art from their time. Art should be honored, not rejected, even our own work from past efforts.

More to come…….

Puttering Around

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Puttering Around Notes

I’ve been puttering around the studio today, getting ready for the chili party on Saturday and finishing up some framing and painting. I finished the pine tree painting that I started about a week ago. This was the third session and I got it done. I had done some experimenting on my process with this one, changing up the way I usually paint sky area. Normally, I wait until nearly done with the painting to plug in the sky around trees and such. That allows me to have a nice clean sky, not muddy. The only time I usually start the sky work early in the scene is if it is actually an important part of the painting, like a cloud or sky  scape.

Now I know why I wait until near the end of the painting. This painting I put sky work in very early, during the block in stage and it was a mess. I had to completely redo the sky in the last session to make it look good. I am not one who likes messy work. I like to refine the painting just a bit at the end, correcting light and values, fixing here and there, cleaning up any areas that are not clean. I don’t mean tightly rendered or illustrative, as that is not my style. To me fresh and loose don’t mean messy. Fresh should not be messy.

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Tomorrow I’m out in the field on my trail with my plein air students to study again. We are working on started paintings we did last month. We will also get a bit of practice on painting foreshortening of limbs. I see so many paintings with side limbs and not limbs front and back. Trees are three dimensional. We need to know how to add limbs coming to us and away from us to make full trees.

 

Chili Party

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Chili Party Notes

It’s time for my annual chili party. These studio parties sneak up on me. They are initially planned months ahead, but when the week actually arrives, I find I am far from ready. I have students on Tuesday and Friday this week, so I will have Thursday to cook and Friday after 12:30 to get ready for my party.  Making a painting studio into party headquarters takes quite a bit of effort, especially in one afternoon. I will help myself by storing my acrylic station tomorrow. My Tuesday students will be working out on the trail, so I won’t need my station for that. Happily the studio is not in bad shape. A quick dust, tables put away and sweep and mop will take care of most of it. I will want to hang some paintings where the wall  tables were, just for  the party day.  I will bring home my art pins and cards from my town studio just for the party.  I always keep the menu simple, this time chili with toppings, corn bread, and brownies. Sodas/bottled water in the fridge. No worries.

These parties are a way for me to reach out to my collectors, students and friends with friendship and admiration. They do a lot for me every year, so I like to thank them with a fun food party.

Hope ya’ll will come!

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Michaels went well last weekend. We had a lot of fun and my students are always wonderful. I’m so grateful that the managers kept my Open Studio Classes and saved my schedule. Kudos to them for always being there for me.  Now if we can work out some of the new policy issues, all will be well.

Teaching always teaches me. I had to do a fairly complex demo painting this time, with lots of trees, various colors, big rocks and a stream. It was a good lesson for me and my advanced students. They did a spectacular job.  next moth they have requested two of my favorite subjects, a Hereford cow painting for the advanced class and a Live Oak tree with windy moss. They both will be excellent lessons in painting animals and wind.

 

Encouragement

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Encouragement Notes

I like to send encouragement for my painting students. They work very hard, but every last one of them is frustrated as a painter. None of them feel a relaxed joy in painting. They all feel as if they are letting themselves down, not painting as well as their favorite artists.

Encouragement only goes so far. I will admit that it took me some long years to be comfortable in my own skin, aware and accepting that I would ever be the student, not the master. This insight turned my whole career around. Suddenly it was ok to play at painting, ok to not do great paintings every time I pick up a brush. Perhaps I don’t need to be great. I just need to paint. I do improve and I see my students improve too, as they practice and learn new technique. They don’t see the improvement but I do.

As painters, we reach plateaus in our skill level. We stay there for awhile feeling great about our new found skills. Then we must reach up and begin to study again. We do experiments, make mistakes and feel frustration when we watch another, more skilled painter, who makes it look easy. I assure you that there is nothing easy about painting. The painting almost always gets the better of us, not the other way around.

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It  all starts again with each new palette we try, each new subject that sparks our interest. Sometimes we spend a lifetime studying subjects, thinking that the next painting will be just right. I’ve studied trees, fields and agricultural lands all my life. I’ve never gotten it quite right yet. There is always tomorrow, in front of my easel. A fresh start, and the masterpiece just out of sight, tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow.

More to Come…..

Routine

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Routine Notes

Routine is a big part of my career. I am firmly convinced that routine and self discipline is essential for a successful painter.  I have a morning routine of walking first with Henry, my French Bulldog. Then I make coffee and do a bit of exercise while that brews. I sit down to my computer, write my newsletter for collectors, students, and then my daily blog. I post on FB, answer email and do whatever marketing that comes to mind. I keep my web site updated constantly and tweak it all the time. At 11 AM, I head for the studio, work until 1:30, come into the house for lunch, then naptime to watch TV, then back out to studio for an hour or so, then to making my evening meal and back to computer.  I am lucky to paint pretty fast, and so I can paint a lot in a few hours a day. Two days a week, I am at my town studio from 11AM – 7PM, and five days a month, I teach. On Sunday night, I make my to do list for the next week, fitting in these tasks as they come up on the list. Besides this routine, I visit my galleries occasionally, do some PR for one of them, and explore the area for reference photos. I have a few residencies around Florida for 5 to 10 days occasionally.

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I have kept that routine for several years. I also have a money management routine. I save 15% of every cent I make for my salary, to do with as I wish. I save 5% for savings. The rest pays bills and maintains my business. This has been the best budget I’ve every had. it is ridiculously simple. I’ve been using it for about 7 years now and it has never failed me. I added another saving routine to it this year. I save all of my 5.00 bills in an envelope. When I get 100.00 worth of 5.00  I transfer them to my emergency fund. They are easy to save and give me the emergency fund I might need to get through the summer, which is always the worse time of year for sales.

I have run into countless painters who seem to be rudderless in their careers. Their websites are terrible, they have little work to show, they miss deadlines, have not purpose or theme for their work. They always ask me why I can run a successful business in the arts? My answer is routine and discipline. Being a painter is having a real fulltime job.

More to come….

Find Common Ground

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Find Common Ground Notes

Find common ground with artists, friends and collectors. In the current climate of divisiveness this becomes essential for artists to survive. By only spending time with like minded friends and artists, we feel safe, but insular in our art and thinking process. We can find friends who differ in their politics, their art taste, and lifestyle.

Why cut off half of the people you know? There are things we can learn from those who have different views. I’m not suggesting that we change our core beliefs. Those should be rock solid. I am a progressive, but I share many things in common with my conservative friends and artists. I have a great love for farmers and ranchers, who are almost always conservative in their view. I respect them and hope they feel the same for me.

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You may do paintings that I don’t care for, but I can admire you and respect your work. I can celebrate your success with you. Art shouldn’t be a contest or a battle. Who cares how many awards we win? The less time I spend, worrying about what other artists are achieving , the more time I have to take care of my own business of making art. Friendship should not depend on like minded world views.

We have much to do in our studios, in our neighborhoods and our communities. We can help the artists coming up behind us. We can mentor each other. We can teach our children to love culture and art. We can love our land and our business. Life is ever shorter and more precious. We have all lost dear ones. Should we waste our time trying to best each other? Let’s not depend on government to behave as adults. Let’s behave as adults and friends ourselves.

More to come…..

Overcome Handicaps

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Overcome Handicaps Notes

Professional artists have many handicaps to overcome. The first being that our society as a whole puts little value on the arts. Compare the  sports industry to the arts industry and you will see what I mean.  We don’t really need sports and we don’t really need art to survive. Our citizens want sports and many fewer want art. Sports education receives a great deal of money. Art education does not.  I love sports as much as anyone, but we are handicapped by a lack of funding for the arts.

Artists have to wear many hats to succeed. We must be savvy marketers, very service oriented, charming to potential collectors even on our worst days, highly skilled at our craft, and understand the basics of small business. We spend a lifetime learning to paint well, gradually building up our craft and business. About the time we reach our peak of performance, we begin to decline in health. I was diagnosed with RA when  was 32 years old. I managed to hold it off pretty well until my 50’s. Now it is a day to day struggle to keep at painting. I was born legally blind in one eye. I have found a way to compensate for that handicap of not seeing as well in 3 D as others. Many artists suffer from depression and bi-polar disease. It is a tough world for artists. I don’t feel sorry for myself, in fact that is the reason for this post.  I know many successful artists with handicaps to overcome.

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I want to encourage artists to push onward and overcome their handicaps. There are ways to do this:

Ask for help- Ask friends and collectors to lend a hand. I have friends who bring supplies to my studio, who boost me up when I need it, who encourage me in every way. Join a support group and make friends with others who share your situation.

Be strong- I refuse to give in to these little problems. I rarely think much about them. In the morning, I get up and go out to my trail and walk it off, sometimes with a cane, but I make it. I keep a weekly to do list and methodically check off the tasks as they are done. I paint every day, even if just for 10 minutes. I do some marketing every day, even if it’s just a blog post or newsletter.

Change your methods-  If you can no longer stand to paint, sit down. If it is difficult to paint outside, become more of a studio painter. If you have hand tremors and lose motor skills, become an abstract painter. That will be my future at some point, as I have begun to have some mild issues with motor skills.

Career change: If you can no longer paint due to handicaps, become a mentor or  consultant for beginning painters. Research and write tutorials or online teaching. Become an art agent and sell work for other painters.

My point here is that we can do little about our handicaps. We must shove them out of the way and keep working.

 

More to come……

Acrylics VS Oils

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Acrylics VS Oils Notes

There are lots of pros and cons between these  mediums and I constantly go back and forth in my journey with them. Right now acrylics are working better for me. I know that will shift, as I seem to paint better with one or the other at various times.  I find them easier to do line work than oils. I think part of it is the thickness of the oil paints. I am finding it harder to do good edge work with them. On the other hand, for knife work the oils are much better for me. I tend to have less patience with the oils with alla prima work. For letting the painting dry between sessions, oils are perfect. I am enjoying the glazing with transparent oils that I am studying with my oil painting students.

There are some tricks with acrylics I’ve learned over the last ten years that I’ve been using them. The biggest trick is to not try to blend acrylics. They need to be layered instead. Mixing slight variations in value and color temperature provides great results that look much more like oils as finished paintings. I also learned recently about airbrush medium, one of my best discoveries. I talked to an expert paint rep from Golden, who told me about it. It is a truly great medium for acrylics. Very thin and runny. Not gel or thick plastically like other mediums. It dries flat, so no shiny spots or uneven texture. It is the best for toning canvas with a thin wash.

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I use a lot of different mediums and like to try out stuff. I like neo migilp made by Gamblin for workable texture in oils. I also like the old standard medium of varnish/solvent/stand oil, which I use most of the time. I’ve used that one since art school, back in the stone ages.

I like Gamblin, Old Holland, Windsor & Newton, and Daniel Greene oils. I like Windsor & Newton, Old Holland, and Golden acrylics. Old Holland’s acrylics are the closest in color to their oil counterparts. For studies, I like Grumbacher acrylics. They are a really good student grade paint.

More to come…..

Dreams VS Reality

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Dreams VS Reality Notes

I’ve been looking for the right studio space for a long time. I’ve had many over the years of my career. Some good, some derelict, none just right. My own studio space is swell, but it is about 15 miles from the city, so it is not practical as a retail venue. I have a tiny one inside a gallery in town, but there are territorial issues there and no space for teaching. I found a studio I like last week, but it is a higher rent than I can afford, not in a retail area, so I don’t see much foot traffic as a possibility. It would mostly work as a teaching studio, but I can not make enough money teaching five days a month to justify that kind of expense. It could eventually work for retail, but it would take a great deal of marketing, putting shelving, major signage, better parking, and improvements into a rented space. This makes no sense from a financial standpoint. My ideal studio space would be in a popular strip center with lots of foot traffic, anchored by a good restaurant or grocer, AND I want to pay 300.00 a month. Alas, you can see the problem here.

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My dream of renting the studio I found is not realistic really. I live low on the food chain. That gives me complete freedom to paint for a living but also leaves me with very little disposable income. I have to justify all of my business to myself and there is very little room for mistakes. A too expensive studio just because I have the dream to have one, is not smart. I’m very attracted to the studio I found because it is nostalgic for me. It is just the kind of space I had as a young, art school painter. I love warehouses and industrial spaces. I always will. Another dream for me is to buy an old warehouse and make it into my home/studio. I could teach there, hang huge paintings, have fabulous studio parties, and be in the studio all day and night. It would have all the space for framing, storage, supplies and lots of room for collectors to come and visit, with a piece of it as private living quarters. Dreams are wonderful, but reality is necessary.

More to come……

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