Why does a painting sell? What element distinguishes an image from others and connects with a client? Is it color, subject, or that intangible emotion you feel when viewing a work of art? Last night I sold two paintings at the California Art Club "Iconic California" reception and I started to think about why those two paintings sold and what was my vision as I painted these two paintings.
"Strawberry Fields" was painted from a photo I took in Carmel at the 2011 Carmel Art Festival. Searching for subjects to paint the next day for the plein air event, I drove by workers in this field. I stopped to take a photo but several people rushed over telling me I couldn't take pictures. I told them I was just an artist not someone who could get them in trouble but they where adamant that I could not stay there. Needless to say, I found other scenes to paint for the plein air event but I didn't forget about the workers I had seen in the strawberry field. In the short time that I saw them, they had made an emotional connection with me, so when I returned home I decided to do a painting from the one photo I had taken before being run off.
I loved how the painting evolved but not everyone felt the same way about it as I did. My husband told me he liked it but admitted he didn't think it would sell. I disagreed. I saw not just workers in a field but I could sence the farmers love for the land, the solitude of the workers and the eternal struggle of survival. This little painting had captured the feel of the place and I was thrilled that someone had been moved by my painting too. Sharing a fundamental emotion with the buyer through my work is the ultimate achievement.
It is the artists job to see the extraordinary in the everyday, to see the beauty in the common place. The solitary farm workers among the regimented rows of strawberries evoked a strong emotional connection with me. That emotional link lingered long afterward and I called upon that connection when I painted. The scene was both beautiful and simple, the design distinctive and familiar but, I am convinced, it was the emotion I transferred to the canvas that sold the painting.
High Sierra Snow, Along the Kern River, and Orange Grove in the Late Afternoon are still available at the California Art Club "Iconic California" Exhibition at the Altadena Town & Country Club. The show remains open through May 15 and paintings can be purchased through the California Art Club.
2290 Country Club Drive
Altadena, Ca 91001Comment on or Share this Article →
Whitewater (Original Above)
Below is Cropped Image of Whitewater
The spot where I painted Along the Kern River held a surprise. Looking north only a few feet from my spot was a cascade of rushing whitewater rapids. Other artists painted the rapids while I chose the calm beach but I knew I wanted to try the frothy brew at a later date. My chance came when my friend Marian Fortunati posted a photo of the rapids on Facebook and several artists asked if they could use it for a painting so I joined the group and painted Whitewater.
I originally thought to paint the scene on a 12x12 panel but now that I can step back from the subject I am considering cropping the painting like the second image. After all the water is the important element and the sky and hills my be distracting. What do you think?
One of the many good features about painting on panels is how easy it is to make these adjustments. The panels are glued onto the board so changing the size is only a matter of waiting until it is dry and then cutting the panel.
If you don't use panels I recommend that you try panels for your smaller paintings. Advantages include:
- Take up a lot less room that canvas: Besides the convenience when carrying them into the field, I can stack a few dozen in a storage box to take with me in the trunk of my car. You never know when a chance meeting could result in a sale. I have sold several painting from my trunk.
- Light weight: When you are carrying all your supplies to paint plein air, the weight of every item is a factor.
- Indestructible: Depending on the backing most panels will hold up to rain, snow, extreme heat and cold without stretching, sagging or being punctured by a palette knife.
- Sunlight Doesn't Show Through: Canvas allows light to shine through it. This is usually not a problem in the studio but outside it can be a disaster. The light shining through will distort the colors on the canvas so values and hue become impossible to see accurately.
- Size adjustable: I have cut several panels after analysing the composition of the painting later. It is true that this can be done with a stretched canvas but it is a lot more of a hassle taking the canvas off the stretcher bars cutting it and then restretching it onto a different size.
Panels are not appropriate for large paintings but for anything 16x20 or smaller think of using this canvas alternative.Comment on or Share this Article →
I was scheduled to go up to San Francisco for an art seminar this past weekend but bad luck, I came down with a sore throat that developed into a sinus infection which needed antibiotics. After seeing the doctor, I reluctantly decided to eat the cost of the plane ticket and cancel the trip. Bad luck but wait, it seems that not going was the wise thing to do. You see because of the uncharacteristic bad weather this last weekend, the flights where horribly delayed and what should take one and a half hours took well over 7 hours up and 5 hours back. If I had gone, I probably would have returned with pneumonia. So after the fact, I was lucky to have cancelled.
My motto is "If you don't try you can't succeed," but making the decision not to do something can be just as important.
Juried Shows: You don't want to enter every show since not all shows are appropriate for your genre. First check award winners from previous years. It is the easiest way to see if the show is compatible with your work. Another clue is the judge. I will look up the judges work and if I like what I see, it is usually a good indication that the judge will like mine.
Joining an Art Co-op: Showing your work is the only way to make sales so it is very important but every venue needs an evaluation of the cost verses exposure. Art Co-Ops are springing up all over but not all are created equal. A good location is essential, costs need to be balanced by the possibility of sales and many require a time commitment. You may not mind sitting the gallery but you need to factor that into your costs.
Art Walks and Sidewalk Shows: Many artists make a living doing these shows but they may not be right for you. The initial cost of the setup, tent, panels, etc. will cut away into the profit from any sales the first year. The show fees are high so that will also subtract from any sales you make. In the current economy climate, trying just one would be unwise so think more long term. You need to make a commitment to the show and decide to do it for at least two or three years. Find more insights into this venue at Art Fairs: Another Scam or the Best Way to Market Your Art?
Studio Tours: The only down side to this venue is the chance that you will not sell enough to make back the application fee but many local studio tours have very reasonable entry fees. Clients come to your studio and someone else does the organizing. The most you can lose is a weekend and the admission fee.
Plein Air Events: One of my favorite venues but be warned it is not for everyone. Painting in strange locations, under unknown conditions is stressful. Being able to adapt to any situation is an imperative. You'll be away from your studio for a week and there are travel costs. Some of these shows have great sales while others struggle. I love doing these because even if I don't sell, I still learn a lot from every show. You can find more information on plein air events at Painting on Location.
Website, Blogs, Facebook, etc.: A wonderful promotional tool for every artist. There are long discussions on FASO about all the different ways to use social media and the internet so I won't get into it all here. I know only one artist who sells consistently through Facebook. I agree that you need to have some online presence and I love my website through FineArtStudioOnline. My site is easy to use, has a built-in audience and is reasonably priced. I enjoy blogging but it is time consuming and you should post at least twice a week. For me, the return is well worth it but again it is not for everyone. Don't let this one venue take over your life, because it will if you let it.
Galleries: You walk into the gallery and they need to replace an artist. Your work is a perfect match. What luck. You are thrilled but... Worst case; you find out from other artists who have work in the gallery that the gallery is a year behind in paying their artists and the reason they need new work is because many are pulling their pieces out of the gallery. Usually the red flags are not this obvious but take the time to find out some information about the gallery. There are many reasons to overlook problems in order to have your work in a gallery but there can be good reasons to pass when a gallery calls.
I want to restate that you will never sell anything if you don't have your work in front of buyers so always be open to new venues. Just make sure you do your homework before making the commitment.Comment on or Share this Article →
Shadow on Half Dome
Shadow on Half Dome 11x14 Showing at "Iconic California" at the Altadena Town & Country Club in Pasadena, CA
I just received my first rejection letter for 2012, so this week has been one of extremes. Monday, I was way up (see my last blog "Out of the Blue") and on Tuesday, the rejection letter. Of course, this isn't the first one I have ever gotten nor will it be the last and no matter how nicely they phrase the rejection, it still hurts. So how to deal with rejection. There is no easy answer when an artist's fragile ego is involved but there are steps to take when that dreaded form letter comes. Here are a few things I remember:
- It isn't personal. There are many factors which can lead to a rejection. Every judge has their own individual criteria which influences their choices. The judging process is very subjective and doesn't confirm that you don't have talent, it just means they liked other pieces more.
- Don't place too much importance on any one event, show or club. Keeping your art life balanced is very important. Take satisfaction from a variety of sources so when (note I didn't say if) a rejection comes it isn't devastating.
- Don't do yourself in by rehashing all your past failures. We all have them, but they are history so forget it and move on.
- Review your successes and focus on your strengths. It is always a good idea to stay positive so do this often.
- You can learn from a rejection. A serious evaluation of your entries may lead you to understand why you were rejected and how to improve your chances in the future.
- Like the song says : Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). Rejection goes with the territory. If your fear of rejection takes over, you have a big problem, so take a deep breath and relax.
- Keep things in perspective. One rejection isn't that important. Just because you were rejected by one judge doesn't mean that tomorrow you won't get that acceptance letter from another show, gallery or event.
- Think of all the other artist who received that same rejection letter. You are not the only one. There is some consolation in numbers and we all take satisfaction in knowing that others are in the same situation.
- Get back on the horse and create. There is no better way to leave a rejection in the dust than to get up and create something new and amazing.
Today, after getting this rejection, I applied to another national show. I am optimistic that the next envelop will contain an acceptance letter. May all your letters be fat with acceptance and remember to:
Paint from life; live to paint.
Hoping to Go Sailing
This morning, out of the blue, I received a wonderful email from an artist I don't know, but who gets my newsletter. I think it is worth sharing.
Just a note to let you know, this morning I woke early, feeling a little down. When I checked my email, your newsletter was there and upon opening it and viewing your paintings I was transported to another place. I am an artist, so when I see what you are painting I am reminded to start again, pleinair painting, go out to nature and uplift my spirits. I have so much to learn, There is a possibility to grow and, perhaps travel and paint. To put my attention to something that can bring light and joy back to the forefront of my days.
Too look at the art that inspires me and get exited about experimenting and trying to keep painting and learning.
We have never met, I'm not even sure how I found your web sight. I am attracted to the way you mix color and your compositions look so effortless. Just thought that you might like to know that what you do touches people in different ways.
thank you your inspiring me this morning."
You can see why I felt great after reading her email this morning. Not only have I inspired another artist but that person took the time and made the effort to let me know that my work has helped her. Sitting at the computer, I often wonder how many people are out there listening, reading or seeing my work. Positive feedback sure does help motivate me with the marketing aspect of my business, an area that needs as much motivation as I can get. So thank you to my artist reader who I have touched with my art and words. How crazy is it to write to someone just to say thanks. Not crazy at all.Comment on or Share this Article →
Among the Rows
Among the Rows 11x14
Camarillo is a farm community not far from Los Angeles. There are rows of fruit trees and vegetables planted just off the freeway. It is part of a coastal valley ending at the sea with Ventura. Some of the fertile farms are backed into the mountains forming a magnificent frame. At harvest time, the migrant workers are a familiar sight working the fields.
I was pleasantly surprised to be juried into the 25th Annual Open Competition in Venture. My research showed that much of the work shown is abstract, it isn't one of my usual galleries and I wasn't familiar with the judge but I took a chance and got in. Although a local show, the competition was fierce with 400 paintings entered and only 80 juried into the show. I hope to see you at the reception tonight.
25th Annual Open Competition
700 E. Santa Clara, Ventura, CA 93001 • 805.648.1235
January 10 - 28, 2012
Reception & Awards:
Saturday, January 14
4 - 7 pm
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Across the Valley
I just discovered a local hidden treasure called McGroarty Arts Center. It is nestled in the Verdugo Hills and was originally the home of a former Pennsylvanian, John Steven McGroarty. It is now the site for a non-profit organization known as McGroarty Arts Center. In partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles they offer "access to the arts through in-depth arts instruction and experiences. Affordable or free multidisciplinary arts instruction is offered to at-risk youth, children, and families, as are performances, exhibitions, and events that engage the greater public."
I am inspired to see this local organization striving to make a difference in their community. In the current economic times, it isn't easy to create an environment where artists and students can come together to exchange knowledge. With art departments being eliminated throughout the school system, it is even more impressive to see a place where children can come and be introduced to the joy of creating through art. I am forever grateful to the small art department in my home town school of Hellertown, Pennsylvania where I made my first sculpture in clay, tried pen & ink drawing and learned about color theory.
The painting Across the Valley is one of the plein air paintings completed in October in Sedona. My love for painting outdoors seemed a likely candidate for the art center so I submitted a perspectus to McGroarty and am hoping to hold a plein air workshop on the property. It may not happen but I am taking the steps to share my love of plein air painting with others. Perhaps there is a local non-profit near you where you can make a difference. Paint from life, live to paint.
Cathedral Rock Reflection
Cathedral Rock Reflection 14x11 Oil on Linen
Learning how to paint is an important part of an artists education. We admire how another artist renders the ocean or the sky so we try to emulate the same technique. We spend hours mixing colors, watching demos and taking classes. We practise with different brushes, brands of paint, texture surfaces and every other trick of the trade, trying to master a technique. Using the same materials as an artist we admire, we hope that his skill will rub off on us. But even if we could clone the technique, would that ensure good art? No, because good technique does not necessarily produce good art. The truth is technique alone can result in art that is sterile and without emotion. So, developing a health relationship with technique is one of the necessary lessons all artists must learn on the way to becoming a good artist. The combination of technique and emotion together are a formula that will produce good art. An artist's success comes from melding the right technique along with the artists vision.
Achieving balance between technique and emotion is a classic struggle. Being a plein air painter, I always attempt to complete a painting on site, believing that the emotion of the moment usually makes up for the lack of time or the best technique. But sometimes, that just isn't the case. Some paintings need to go back to the studio and be reworked.
"Cathedral Rock Reflections" is one of the latter. Originally painted on location in Sedona last October, I knew it wasn't the strongest of my paintings but only recently did I have the insight to make the necessary changes. I was happy with the composition and with the water reflections. I knew I could turn it into a strong painting. Working without a photo, I changed the clouds over the rocks, darkened the water, refined the the rocks and added more shadows in the mid ground.
Old image of Cathedral Rock Reflection
There are times when emotion just isn't enough and technique must be called upon to make a better work. For me the end justifies the studio work I added to my plein air piece. If I must choose, I choose good art over technique or emotion.Comment on or Share this Article →
Storm Over the North Rim
I admit it; I'm a sucker for dramatic light. I love the contrast, the awe inspiring effects. I know, I know, I should try to find more subtle images; not paint those picture postcards, but painting a scene with contrasting light is so much fun that I just can't resist. I am especially attracted to a scene when the drama is caused by an unusual weather pattern which makes that moment in time unique. The random nature of these moments makes luck a main ingredient.
I was lucky on a recent trip to the Grand Canyon when I captured this storm as it moved across the North Rim. At first, I was overwhelmed with the scale of the view. It is a vast expanse of uninterrupted beauty looking across from the Watchtower. When faced with so much input, how do I decide what to paint? I look for interesting shapes, unusual contrasts and a strong composition. Instinct, along with a trained eye, combines to eliminate the infinite number of ridges, rocks and shadows to synthesize the scene into manageable shapes. Once I found shapes I liked, I considered how to convey the scale of the Grand Canyon. I realized I needed a distinct background, mid-ground and foreground.
One factor which clinched my decision to paint this view was the unusual series of shadows. Most landscapes have a lighter background as it recedes into the distance but in this painting the shadows cast by the clouds formed a dark backdrop highlighting the sunlit bluffs in the mid-ground.
The final key was the cloud darkened shapes of the foreground which bracketed the soft colored valley.
To show how every piece fits together like a puzzle, I eliminated the bluff on the right foreground. Without that dark shape to stop the eye, the viewer is pointed off the right edge of the painting by the diagonal lines. Experimenting with the shapes helps me confirm the strength of the composition.Comment on or Share this Article →
High Sierra Snow
Starting the new year off with a bang, I will have five paintings at the upcoming California Art Club exhibition called "Iconic California." I can't think of a better way to inaugurate the new year than with a celebration of our wonderful state, California. Yosemite, the Kern River, and the Eastern Sierras are only a few of the places that will be represented in the show. Come to the Altadena Town & Country Club at 2290 Country Club Drive in Pasadena. The reception is on Sunday, January 29 from 4-6 PM. Seeing all the varied and creative interpretations by all the talented artists of the CAC will be a treat you won't want to miss.
|I am tackling several new marketing ideas which I have read about from other artists. First on my list is having more paintings in more venues. Starting off the year with this show puts me ahead of last year and I am looking forward to many other events. I will do my best to inspire and touch your imagination. I hope you have a successful, exciting and interesting year.