Cheap Talk

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Talks is cheap and accomplishes little.

Talk is Cheap Notes

Talk is cheap, money buys the beer is a favorite saying for me and my pal Mary Jane.  It is so true. There seems to be a lot of inertia and wringing of hands in the art world. I talk to artists all the time who spend a lot of time in regret talk. They regret that someone is staying at their house so they can’t paint. Why not include a guest in your studio experience? They express regret that they have no sales, yet how long has it been since they changed their work in the galleries where they show? They are worried about the slowing summer season, but they haven’t save anything back, during the shopping season for leaner times. You get the picture.

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If you want more than cheap talk, make a list of possible actions that will boost your career. How long has it been since you looked for a new gallery, contacted collectors, run an ad on FB or boosted a post, gotten out in the community to meet potential collectors who share your interests? Have you given away a little art to friends and complete strangers, carried your cards to hand out, set up your paint box in a public place to attract interest? Have you asked other artists not of your genre to spread the word to friends, galleries and collectors? Have you studied with an advanced painter to improve your work?

This inertia spreads through every part of life. We might not like the political party in charge. Talk is cheap. We wring our hands, march and wear funny hats. Should we instead, spend the money on organizations who protect us like the ACLU? Should we instead support the environmental agencies who support our wildlife and our land and water? Should we get the vote out for the candidates we believe in in two years?

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Perhaps we live in an old house or drive and old car. Does that make us less of a person with nothing to be proud of? We have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and we can have a clean, well organized place to live, no matter how old or ugly.  We can save one penny at a time until we have enough to buy a new car or fix up our space. No matter the obstacles we face, there are productive ways to improve the situation other than talk.

More to come…

Business Art

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Business Art Notes

The business of art is a critical component of success for an art career. Many artists have the idea that if you make good art you will succeed. Many artists huddle up together with their time, feeling that the world doesn’t understand them. Safety in numbers is their mind set plan. Sadly, this is not the best road to success.

 

Though many artists purchase art, we are a small minority of art buyers.  The corporate world, many small industries and professionals are the real art sustainers. Artists need to understand the business world.

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I listen to finance and marketing podcasts regularly. Their world relates to artists  too. Artists must learn to manage their money well, particularly if they are like me with only one income stream.

 

One of the the best moves I ever made was to get a business mentor. Not an artist. My last mentor was a banker. Having a mentor to meet with for coffee once a month is such a great idea. Business people have a very different and practical mindset. They will steer you away from rose colored ideas. They think in terms of profit and loss. A mentor will help you avoid costly mistakes.

I am currently looking for my next mentor, who is in small business and willing to spend an hour a month throwing around ideas at the coffee shop. Most mentorships last about two years and then it’s time to find another.

 

Artists might want to think about the practical side side of their career rather than hiding out with their artists friends in the studio.  Managing supplies by buying in bulk or on sale, using utilities wisely, keeping studios presentable, taking care of collectors and being completely and sincerely grateful for their support, and marketing effectively are essential. Rotate work in studios and galleries at least quarterly. That is so important. I rotate paintings in and out of my studios and galleries regularly.

I use social media every day, not just to show work, but also to check on my friends to see if they are thriving.  They might need a favor, a kind work or a prayer from me. My friends are the lifeblood of my career. They are my referral team and assist me in every way they can. I’m grateful and dedicated to their success.

 

More to come…

 

 

 

 

Career Flexibility

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Career Flexibility Notes

Career flexibility is so important for success. I used to make one year and five year goals for my business. After 2009, I threw that out the window. Now I make plans for a few months and then review and revise as needed. Working hard is not enough. Most professional artists work very hard. I work 7 days a week. I love it so it isn’t like work. It doesn’t matter how much I work if what I’m doing is no longer helping me. That’s why flexibility is so important.

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I pay attention to marketing trends, social network trends, what sizes, price ranges and subjects I do that sell the best. When I know that summer is on the way, I take the time to do fun art pieces, like plant stakes, puzzles, miniatures, and wearable art pins. These are items that many people will buy because they are fun.  More tourists are in town in the summer, and college kids’ parents.  I change my low end work frequently. Each year brings a new series or fun art item. I rotate these in and out of my inventory, repeating the good ideas again every few years. I never want my art fun items to be stale or repeated too often, unless they are selling out regularly.  I keep that part of my business fun and interesting but separate from the focus of my serious paintings, which are thematic and well thought out.

 
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Some artists reject fun art as being for hobbyists or housewives. I don’t share their mindset. The fun art pays for my gas and groceries, and my collectors love these fun art items. Art is art in whatever form one wants to use. I don’t consider a big reputation to be a part of my business plan. I must make a living. I have no one else’s income stream to support me. I’d rather have fun as a painter than to work in another career, so any art that I do is a good plan.

The most successful business people are able to use flexibility in their plans. If an idea doesn’t work for me, I move on to another.  I make lots of mistakes and a few of them have been really significant financially, but I do learn from them. I don’t wring my hands over the mistakes. I accept them as part of my learning process and try not to repeat them. This is the true key to an  entrepreneurial life, as well as treating the people who love your work as the royalty they truly are!

One thing I have learned is that I am much better at captaining my own ship than working in partnerships. I don’t play well in sand boxes. It took me many years and may angst filled times to learn and accept that I am a loner and do well on my own.  I don’t follow well or lead well. I’d rather step off onto my own path in business.

More to come…..

Part II Choosing

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Part II Choosing Notes

Part II of choosing art is about getting to the studio or gallery. When you find an artist who’s work you love, it is often difficult to decide on the right painting. If the artist is like me, he/she will have many paintings to choose from. There are many emotional reasons for buying art. I leave out the investors here who simply buy art as a commodity to resell at a future date.  The collectors I know buy art because it fills an emotional need in their lives. Some buy art of a favorite place to remember the fun and adventure of that place. Some buy art to enjoy it as a mini vacation. They can gaze at the painting and it takes them to a place they love immediately, though they are in their office on a rainy day.  Some collectors buy art as decoration. I have done many commissions over the years with swatches of paint and rugs to match for a decorator.  Some buy art on the spur of the moment. They see a painting and can’t leave without it. It speaks to them instantly.  many of my collectors will study a painting for many months before purchasing. They enjoy the visiting time first. Some collectors come to the studio and get overwhelmed by art.


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The best way to select art if you are in love with more than one painting is to use a process of elimination. I advise my collectors to place two paintings side by side. Of the two, select the one you love the most. Put the other away. Select another painting for the side by side and choose the one of two you love, repeat this process until you are down to the one that you can’t let go. Then you know it is right for you and have no doubts about what works best for you.

Another method is to choose genres and select from those possibilities. You might like water scenes, marshes, fields, ocean, etc. Pick from those limited themes and the work will be easier. If you are going to buy paintings to hang together, framing and theme come into the selection. Will they hang well together? Are the color palettes compatible? Should they be reframed?


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You might want to have custom  framing for your art. I give a standard 25.00 to 50.00 discount for paintings taken out of the frame. All artist will have their own system for that. I recommend that collectors use the framer that the artist recommends as the artist’s framer knows the work well and knows what kind of framing will look best with the artist’s work.

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Do a bit of thinking and come into the studio with size, genre, style, palette and framing in mind. You will choose art with confidence and enjoy the process. In my opinion, original art is part of our culture, history and heritage. It is vitally important in our sometimes dreary, monotonous world. Choose with care and enjoy for a lifetime, passing it on to others.

 

Choosing Paintings

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Choosing Paintings Notes

I often meet collectors who are anxious to buy a painting but unsure of which one. Choosing a painting is a long term commitment and it is often important to make the right choice the first time. There are some things you can do in advance to make the process much easier. You might want to think about your preferences in style such as, home décor. If you have a traditional décor, you will be happier with traditional framing and representational art. If you have an industrial, modern space, minimal framing and more contemporary art would be more suitable. It is also very acceptable to frame representational art in contemporary modern framing to have it fit in a more minimal space. If you are unsure of the size you need for your art, take craft paper or newspaper and construct the size you think you will need, taping it to the wall. This is much better than measuring. You will have a visual cue to stand back and look at. Remember that framing will change the dimensions from 2 inches in each direction to 8 inches in each direction.

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Now you have a size in mind that will work and a style preference in framing for your home or office. The next decision is price range. Many artists, me included, are happy to take layaway payments for paintings. I keep the painting for my clients until it is paid for and they can visit it anytime they like. It saves the high credit card fees. Art is priced according to its market value, in other words, what people are willing to pay for it. This has to do with the reputation and skill level of an artist. An established professional artist will have higher end work. Some artists choose to sell at wholesale level. They paint quickly and depend on volume to sell enough. My work is just about in the middle of the Florida artist price range. Many high end artists have to teach workshops to really make a living. Their work is too expensive for many buyers and so they depend on teaching for their income. Their reputation is more important to them than actual sales.

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More on this topic to come…

Repetition Paintings

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Repetition Paintings Notes

My students were with me today to paint Notan and values. I asked them to give me some topics they would like to see on the blog. They asked about repetition paintings. Why do artists do them? There are more than one motivation for repeating themes and paintings.

Some artists will take an exact copy of a painting and simply change the colors or back ground. Obviously, this is simply a way to make money off of the same design.

I do two kinds of paintings that are repetitive. One method is derivative work. I have done several paintings for art consultants and galleries with this theme. Most of the time the request is for a much larger version of a painting they might see on my web site or in a gallery. The next painting is of a similar theme and color palette, though not an exact copy. It is more a feeling of the original painting, changing to make sense in a larger format. There are often changes from the original in object placement or color changes to fit their needs, but the same theme remains.


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My other repetition paintings have to do with themes I just can’t let go of. There are certain places, trees, flowers that I am very attached to. I tend to revisit them over and over again. The paintings are spread apart over time but the scene is the same. It might be winter or summer.  Perhaps from different directions. I will sometimes have a basic theme for repetitive paintings. Two themes I have used for about 40 years are red trees and night palms. I don’t do them frequently but I go back to them from time to time, doing current versions.

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When I was a young painter, I couldn’t understand why painters did the same themes over and over, year after year. Monet did this, among others. I finally understood that they needed to study themes over and over again both because they loved the scene and because they wanted to get it right. I suspect that I never will finish the themes and studies of objects and places. I’ll never get them right, thank goodness! They are my oldest and dearest friends.

More to come….

Studio Routine

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Studio Routine Notes

Studio routine is very important if you want to be consistent and productive. I get emails from artists frequently asking me how to become motivated. I think that blank canvas must be intimidating to an artist who is not used to completing paintings regularly.  Painting is my job. It is just like clocking into the studio at 11 AM, Clocking out at 2 PM, clocking back in at 4PM and out at 6PM. It is what I do day after day unless I’m at the town studio two days a week, or at an artist residency for  a few days.  I keep that schedule all the time.

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One of the ways to ease into a painting routine is to use a design table. My DT is in my office instead of the studio, but it can be anywhere that you can use it regularly.  I keep colored markers, colored pencils, ink pens, gray scale markers, index and copy paper on the table with a ruler as well. It is always ready to use. A lot of my time is spent doodling and playing with art. I usually start my day with that around 9 AM and goof around with mock ups for paintings or designs for my art pins, cards and bookmarkers. This puts me into the mood for more serious effort at 11 AM when I get into my studio.  I don’t have to start cold turkey, I’ve been relaxed and having fun with art for a couple of hours first.


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Another way to warm up to painting in the studio is to do a couple of small chores first. Gesso canvas, sweep up the floor, frame a painting first, then start the real work. There can be a danger to this if you are undisciplined. Don’t use studio chores to put off painting.

The reality is that you simply must paint if you want to be a better artist.  Have an idea in your mind first before you approach the canvas. Have the palette for the work settled in your mind before you begin. I always use preselected palettes and I stick with them throughout the painting. The last thing you need is to be rummaging through your supplies while already  involved in the process. Preplanning is everything. If you have your idea, reference, easel, palette, paints, brushes, mediums ready before you start, you will feel much more confident about your process.

More to come……

Describe Process

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Describe Process Notes

Every five years or so I describe my current process of painting. I write it down step by step. I first started this about 20 years ago when I started teaching workshops. My students asked me to do it and I found it harder than I expected. They meant every step from start to finish and why I used this process. I had to think very carefully be for the assignment. For painters who have painted many years, it becomes so automatic that we often paint intuitively rather than thoughtfully and with precision.

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Describing the process of painting makes you think a lot and also justify in your own mind why you paint as you do. Obviously, there are  many ways to approach painting. You can line a dozen professional painters up in front of a tree, and you will get a dozen different looking paintings. Some painters tend to be more linear in their approach, some mass oriented like me, others like a cool palette, and some like warm colors like me. Some paint background in first, some like me, paint main objects in first. Some approach values in the mid range, some, like me like high contrast.

Describing your process about every five years helps you to see where you are now and helps you to note where you were years ago. You will see many changes in the approach you take now from the one years ago. Sometimes method we used then was a good idea, and we might have strayed from something important. We get a good reminder to take op that process again and wonder why we stopped? Sometimes we see that we have grown greatly and have a much more sophisticated approach now. That would be ideal. If you find that nothing about your process has changed in five years, that should be a huge wake up call that you have become very comfortable and stale. You haven’t learned anything new in a long time. You may be very good at the style you developed, but it might be time for a change in your process.

You can share your new description of your method or not, but be sure to do it if just for your own information.

More to come….

Obstacles

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Obstacles Notes

 

I have discovered that obstacles are simply challenges and they create new problem solving skills. Painters have many obstacles along the path of their careers. After painting for more than 50 years, I’ve run into more obstacles than I could count. The early years of my career brought much hand wringing and poor me angst. As I matured and became more confident in my work and business acumen, I had a change of heart about roadblocks to my success.

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I believe we grow and becomed seasoned by learning that obstacles are tests for our cognitive and physical limitations. I tend to become more creative in my thinking and think outside of my norm to make progress.  I have learned to be calm and think of possible solutions instead of becoming angry or throwing in the towel. I have also learned that some problems simply can’t be solved. When realization comes to me, I can accept defeat and change my direction, letting the dissapointment go, or biding my time until a solution emerges.

 

In all cases it is wise to be open minded and always focus on solutions rather than being paralyzed by the problem. It is always amazing to me that there are often alternatives to problems, and sometimes the obstacle is there to save me from a ghastly, expensive mistake. That doesn’t mean I should give up my dreams and hopes. It means that better ideas may come along in the mean time.

 

It is often a great idea to talk over a problem with someone who understands and may help with a solution.  I don’t mean a conversation with whining and negativity. Start the conversation with the problem at hand and ask for help in finding a solution. A friend or advisor may have a clearer vision than you because you are too close to the situation.

My example is my wish for a town studio.  I’ve looked for years. I’ll find it eventually. I came up with an idea to make it affordable by asking my collectors to donate one month’s rent in exchange for a painting. I’ve had three good friends come forward so far. I’m saving the donations for the future studio, so I’ll be ready when it comes along. I only need 9 more donations to pay the first year’s rent.

Thinking of solutions is always the best way to overcome obstacles.

More to come…….

Technique Fun

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Underpainting

 

Technique Fun Notes

I’ve been playing with glazing technique this week. I’ve been using four color underpaintings for some years in oils and using transparent oil glazes over them. It is a lot of fun, but a slow and deliberate technique, with lots of drying time between layers. This is something my students have been working with for a couple of months.

I decided that it would work equally well with acrylics and be so much faster. It does. I’ve done two paintings this week, one on canvas with the four color underpainting and one on birch wood. I used a clear medium on the wood instead of gesso, because I love the wood surface, and unlike oils, the paint is not likely to rot the wood without a gesso barrier. On both paintings, I used the four color palette to do the underpainting, letting it dry. It only took about a half hour for the underpaintings to be completely dry.

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I used a limited palette for the top glazing layers, about 5 colors on each painting. I used Golden glazing medium for the top layer to make the paints very transparent. I really like this process with acrylics better than with oils. I think I am less patient now and eager to try technique quickly. I will continue to practice this with both oils and acrylics but I am having more success with the acrylics. I believe it might be that acrylics are simply easier to control in these multiple layers, drying quickly to add more layers. I do love my oils but like them better with opaque technique.

Next I want to try some temperature shifts between underpainting and glazing layers, just to play around. First I’ll try warm underpainting with cool top layers, the reverse with cool underpainting and warm top layers. Technique building is so much a  part of my love for painting. Many artists get a formula they like and they get very good at it, but they don’t learn anything new. I am constantly changing palettes, studying technique in many ways. I don’t always succeed but I learn for the future.

More to come….

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