Obstacles

Linda-Blondheim-art

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….

Collectors Be Safe

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Collectors Be Safe Notes

Collecting art online is becoming more acceptable. I sell small paintings on FB frequently. Collectors need to be careful about buying original art online. If you are going to buy art online, use common sense.

Don’t buy from artists who have no contact information or who won’t answer questions about their work. Contact the artists with questions on how paintings are shipped, what are the materials used for the painting, what is the refund policy?

Look for artists who have been online for awhile, not overnight. An artist who has a professional web page, a blog, a FB page, etc. will have been around long enough to have a reputation. Fly by night art is not what you want to invest your hard earned dollars in. Ask for referrals from other collectors or read the collectors comments on the web site. An established artist will have many collectors who will be happy to tell you how happy they are with an artist’s work and their ethical  business practices.

Many established artists will have multiple sizes and price ranges. I sell my 8×10 studies for 100.00, and my refined 8×10 paintings for 400.00. The studies are my practice paintings, done quickly. Many of them are demonstrations for students, or preliminary paintings for larger works. My prices range from 10.00 miniatures to 6,000.00 so multiple price points are a nice bonus for collectors. You will find this flexibility with many artists.

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Check to see if the artist has a payment plan or excepts layaway. My mission is to see that anyone who wants to collect original art will have a way to do that. Offering payment plans, layaway helps my collectors to own real art, not copies.

Spend a little time getting to know an artist online. Like their FB page, or Instagram. Post comments on their blogs. Join their newsletter list. If they live near you, ask for a studio visit, or go to see their work displayed.

Avoid factory artists. There are many disreputable artists who copy art by others to sell cheaply online. That is copyright infringement and illegal. These artists rob legitimate artists and steal their reputation and income.

Some artists line canvases up and paint the skies, then trees, then water, down a line and sell these paintings cheaply. Their only goal is to turn out art as fast as possible and make money.

Look for artists who have a  profound love for the work they do, not through ego or thinking their work is superior, but artists who love the process of painting, love and understand their subjects.

More to come…….

Learn Stuff

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Learn Stuff Notes

I like to try to learn stuff from every situation I find myself in.  Sometimes I get into an annoying and irritating encounter with a person who could be helpful and kind, but is not.  Not long ago I was in my teaching place, needing some supplies, asked for help and found the staff member  to be less than enthusiastic or cooperative. She could have made my job easier will little effort, but chose to let me work harder than I needed to accomplish my mission. At the time I just shrugged it off and continued with my day.

 

Thinking back on it now, I realize that the incident forever changed my attitude toward her to a negative one. I will never feel she is a particularly nice person. I will now avoid her whenever possible and have no trust toward her.  One, small incident caused me to forever want to avoid her.

 

The larger picture here is one of how easily we can turn people away, with thoughtless behavior. It woke me up to the necessary quality of thoughtfulness and kindness to others in our lives. Have I offended others through thoughtless behavior over my long career? I’m sure I have.  We probably all have. I would like to do a better job of being patient and kind to everyone I meet. It is harder to be nice than it is to be careless of others  feelings. You have to stop and think. You have to think of ways to be helpful for others.  You have to take more time to nurture the people you know and those who are simply passing you in time.

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I want  to be a successful person. I want to nurture other artists, students, friends and collectors. I want my life to be positive and meaningful. I learned from this situation that one small unimportant incident can destroy relationships so easily.  I’m glad that I paid attention to this  because it taught me a valuable lesson.

More to come….

 

Sacrifice

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Sacrifice Notes

Artists have a lot to sacrifice. Most of us are not high income earners. Art is not highly valued in our society, unless it is dead artists’ work.  The thing is that we should be willing to own up to our life choices, knowing full well that the job is very hard and not lucrative. I meet artists all the time who complain about their lot in life, and complain that collectors should be buying their art. They feel a sense of entitlement about being an artist, as if what they do is of a much higher order than careers others have. This is just silly to me. We all make our own choices to be artists. No one owes us special consideration. The artists who survive simply work harder, understand business better and have more discipline than artists who do not succeed.

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We sacrifice income and prestige, but we have wonderful advantages over our friends in other professions. We are self employed, so there is great freedom in time management and independence. We are allowed to choose the subjects we like to paint. That can be a plus or minus in that some art doesn’t sell well. If we choose to do art that is not marketable, we are responsible for the results. No complaints please. Either find a niche market or change your focus.

We must learn to control our budget, taxes, timing, and goals. Self discipline and good business practices are the most important thing for a professional artist. if you are making a living from art, you have to be serious and act like a grown up!

I’ve always believed in sacrifice and hard work.  My favorite sacrifice is my Lenten sacrifice each year. I give away 40 pieces of tiny art randomly each year. This year I am making little plant pot stakes to decorate potted plants. They are hand drawn popsicle sticks. I’ll be giving them away at Paddiwhack to visitors during lent.

More to come……

Survival Summer

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Survival Notes

Why would I be thinking about summer survival in February? Now is the time. Waiting until summer is too late. I don’t know about other artists or their situation, but summer is the worst time of year for me. It is brutally hot, my energy level is lower, I drive a car with no air conditioner, so I basically have to hunker down for 5 months a year in my studio. May through September is no man/woman’s land in my part of the world.

How do I prepare?

I save every bit of money I can between January and May. I steadily build up a fund to live on for 5 months a year. I buy no art supplies from May through September. I take no trips. I eat at home, few dinners out. I think thrice before spending any money. I only drive to my town studio twice a week, so my gas expenditure is very low.

I don’t get bored. In fact it is a good studio time of year. I do a lot of experiments and do lots of paintings from May-September. It is a respite from the crazy schedule I keep. The world slowsss down for a few months and I get to catch up.

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I also spend a lot of time thinking about my career, what I want to change in marketing or add to my schedule. It is also the time I think a lot about what I need to get rid of. I don’t always choose wisely. It bothers me when I make bad choices for my career and I tend to stew over it for some time.  The summer is when I tend to come to some solution or to simply let the bad choices expire. Sometimes it is a matter of having joined a group or supported an organization who does not support me in return. I’ve given them donations or renewed my membership with hard earned cash only to find that it is of no value at all to be involved or that they have little appreciation. I know a few dollars here and there should not matter, but working as hard as I do for my money, it does. It all adds up when you are a business person and I must be smarter about how I uses my money and time, my most important resources.

More to come……

Run Down

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Run Down Notes

I feel myself run down like an old clock you have to wind up. I have definitely run down this afternoon.  I could go out and work on my current blocked in painting, started before my private student arrived this morning, but I’m not going to. Somehow, I always have the attitude that I must put in a full day every day, that goofing off is bad form. I’m 66 years old and still have the schedule I kept at 40. I know it keeps me young and my mind busy. I am a definitely mission oriented painter. Service to others, hard work, self discipline, and purpose each and every day is my mantra. Sometimes I simply run down. I was up and out in my studio at 8:30 AM, putting it all back together after a fun party yesterday. My private visiting student arrived at 10 AM. Two hours later she was away and I was back in the house for lunch. Now exhaustion has set in. It’s time to stop!

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Fatigue is something we need to pay attention to. It’s not a crime to take an afternoon off and it won’t make or break your painting career. A hard and too busy week means  it’s time to rest. I don’t process well for painting if I am too tired. I tend to make a lot of mistakes and get frustrated in front of the easel. I never want to make important career decisions when I am overtired. I try not to make commitments for future events when I’m tired. Having made commitments in the past without a clear head for the pros and cons has costs me in valuable time and resources. Many of the events available to artists are frankly a waste of time and resources. Artists must ask themselves, what is really in this for me? Will the publicity attract the right target market for my genre’? Is this going to sell my work or help the event chairman? Is this just a social situation or truly promotional? It is hard to make good decisions when you are over tired.

I should have given up paint outs and other events long before I did. I was simply not thinking carefully because I was exhausted and on a treadmill of doing events because that’s what I always did. Not smart. The same for outdoor festivals, or any other regular event that an artist does. Has your business grown due to this event, or are you simply part of the machine that engulfs artists and then spits them out? The first two years I did paint outs I sold an average of 11 paintings at each event, at top prices. The longer I stayed, the fewer paintings I sold, the fewer amenities were offered to the artists, etc. The more it became about the event itself, and the less about the artists. The only paint out I ever did that was top notch consistently over the 8 years I was there, was the Wekiva Paint Out. They started with great treatment of their artists and as far as I know, they still treat the artists like royalty.

Think about events and career decisions with a clear head, not exhausted and run down.

More to come…

 

Loyal Friends

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Loyal Friends Notes

My loyal friends drove out to the studio today to join me for the chili party. When you throw parties out away from the city, you never know if folks will show up. I didn’t have a large crowd, but I had a loyal group of friends who came and almost always do. I met a couple of new friends too. We started small and ended up with a good group toward the end of the afternoon. We went through a pot of chili, so all were fed.

I really enjoyed seeing everyone and we had a lively discussion of literature, including spy novels, sci-fi, Shakespeare, then shifted to various films we have loved over the years. We talked about comic books, werewolves, super heroes and transformers. What an interesting group. The room filled up emptied out and the talk continued like musical chairs with people moving in and out of the discussion. It was a blast! Friends purchased everything from art puzzles and pins to small paintings. Good friends, new friends and art sales. I call that a good party! I’m grateful to all who came.

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The work is yet to come. Tomorrow I must put my studio back together again as a working studio. I have a private student tomorrow at 10 AM. She is visiting from another city. I do have one table ready and set up for her. I decided to get up in the morning and reset the studio enough to paint, and take my time next week putting it back together.  Truth to tell, I’m tired. This has been an incredibly hard week and I’m looking forward to doing several underpaintings next week to glaze for my students, show and tell. We are going to work on Notan studies in two weeks. I’m ready for a bit of down time next week without any students, just painting fun. I’m so lucky to have a career as a painter, so blessed.

More to come…..

 

 

Party Time

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Party Time Notes

It’s party time tomorrow. This has been a very busy week. Two classes at the studio, lots of busy work and my to do list has been endless. I love a studio party. I never know if anyone will come or how many, but I always have fun as long as at least one person comes.  I consider the parties to be my thanks to students and collectors who do so much to support my career. They are a huge amount of work. Lots of cooking a few days before and a total gut of the space the day before. My studio looks so much bigger tonight without all the tables and I put the chairs in an oval right in the middle of the room. I want free space for visitors to stroll and see paintings. I use my three easels to place paintings on the shelf and the bottom legs, two per easel. I’m a  country painter, and I live in the woods. My studio is old with concrete floors. There are no frills at my parties. I have little time to prepare, so a good dusting and sweep out is as far as I get. I cover the work bench with brown craft paper to make the food table. Paper plates, canned drinks, bottled water. They come for the food and conversation, not high roller style. The studio is full of art, and I will have my fun art puzzles, cards, and art pins available too.

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I never expect parties to produce big sales, though I have had that good fortune. I think parties are more about fun and adventure. Folks come out and walk the trail, sometimes they bring friends or spouses, so I enjoy meeting new friends. Sending out post card invitations reminds people that I am still around. Any time you can get people to look at your paintings is a winning idea. I have found that my affluent friends love it out in the country. They don’t mind that I live in an old place with no landscaping and a swamp behind my studio. I know many painters who are afraid to have home studio parties because they don’t live in mcmansions.  They shouldn’t worry. True friends and supporters don’t much care about how you live, they are interested in you.

I have me three parties each year and that is just about right. After tomorrow, I’ll start thinking about the next one in May. My cake party is always the Saturday before Mother’s Day. It is my most popular party. Who doesn’t love homemade cake?

More to come…..

Marketing VS Selling

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Marketing VS Selling Notes

Marketing is a different animal than selling.  Good salesmen have formulas for sizing up a buyer. They know what buttons to push, how to overcome all objections, and to close the sale. I know several painters who can do just that. I have been up against them at many art openings, and paint out events. They will gently steer collectors away from one artist to their own work, subtly making viewers think that their work is unique and stands out above all the other artists. They wear collectors on their belts, and don’t hesitate to brag to other painters about how many paintings they sold.  They will block their neighbors work, engage other’s collectors and they work the room relentlessly. It does pay off in sales, at least in the short term. It is the perfect method in a room, crowded with strangers, who want to show off their  jewelry, taste in art and who want to be seen as big patrons. Good sales skill is perfect for this environment.

Good marketing is a different skill entirely. Good promotion is a true skill, just as selling, but produces very different results. Artists who market effectively build long term relationships with their clients. It is a long term trust that one develops, and a more than likely, real friendship between painter and collector. Good marketing puts your work in front of potential and current friends consistently. It is not pushy, not formulaic, and it is genuine if done properly and with a real spirit of love for others. A salesman will try to make you think you need the painting, and will ask if they can wrap it up for you. A marketer will ask you about your family and what matters to you in your life. They will actually care about your answers.

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Who gets more sales and makes more money? The salesman I expect. Who has a life rich with friends and supporters who would do anything to help you? The marketer I expect.

Painters wear many different hats. We must be salesmen, marketers, painters and entrepreneurs.  The big difference is that some like to sell and some prefer the friendships and long term relationships that gentle marketing achieves.  You have probably guessed that I am the marketer, not the salesman, but each has merit. I wish I were more evenly balanced, I’d be richer.

More to come…..

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