Morning Hits the Rocks 16x20 2011 National OPA Exhibition
Quality Prints are Available/Original SOLD
Controlling my business expenses is always part of the equation but looking at how I spend my money, I don't find many places where I can cut back. I need my supplies, reference materials, camera equipment and my website so there seems only one obvious spot to consider cutting; art competitions. Because entering art competitions is also a valuable part of my marketing strategy, I don't want to eliminate them completely but I do want to get the most for my bucks. Here are a few tips to help you decide what shows to enter and which ones to pass.
First ask yourself some questions.
- Where are you in your career?
1) If you are not sure where you are in your career you are probably a beginner. As a beginning artist, local art shows are a great place to start. Join a local club and enter the shows that the group sponsors. This will teach you the basic ins and outs of how to enter art competitions. There is no up side to entering national shows until you are ready.
2) At mid-career an artist should be selling on a regular basis and showing in some local venues. It is the right time to enter national shows to see how your work compares with other artists on a professional level. Competition is one way to push yourself further and improve your work.
- Which national shows should I enter?
1) Do you work in one medium? What is it? There are groups who are dedicated to specific medium; Oil Painters of America, Pastel Society of America, The National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic, you get the idea. First see if there is a group that targets your medium.
2) Do you work in a specific genre? What you paint and your style, will lead you to different shows. Don't enter an abstract painting in a representational show. If you paint western themed art, find shows that cater to that genre. Abstract artists don't need to waste their time or money entering shows that are strongly representational.
3) Look at past show winners and compare your work with them. Is your work as good, not in the same league, better? The use of photos for judging has changed some of the shows. I notice that more awards are going to photo-realism. Is that true of the show you are thinking of entering and how does your work fit in with this trend?
- What's in it for me? Why enter a show?
1) The prize money is great and you have a shot at winning an award. If your art is competitive on a national stage the money incentive can be reason enough to enter.
2) Prestige. Many shows garner top name artists, acclaimed judges and just being accepted into the show is great for your resume.
3) Sales. Exposure to additional markets and different venues can lead to new collectors and maybe even representation by a gallery.
4) Don't just enter a show because you where sent the entry form. Have a good reason.
Once you have decided to enter a show, there are several tips that will increase your success rate and some important things not to do.
- Often jurors view several images at a time so enter work that is consistent. Don't enter a figurative with a landscape. Have your entries relate. A judge may decide to include one of your works based on the strength of all your entries.
- First impressions count so enter a work with impact and drama.
- Be original. There are tons of artist who have great technique so think outside of the box to stand out.
- Get others opinion. Sometimes a little input can help with the process.
- Don't use a bad photo or one that includes the frame, isn't color correct or is distorted. Because of the use of photos for judging the national shows, good photographs of your art is more important than ever. Take the time to understand the basics of photography and the use of a photo editing program.
- Don't forget to include all your information and the details about the painting. Follow the directions for entering the show.
- Don't get excessively romantic or cute with your titles but try to be original. Numbered paintings don't show an investment in the work. If you didn't care enough to title it why should the judge care about it?
- Don't imitate the judge and think you will make extra points.
- Don't contact the judge. It is bad form.
- Realize that there is always the element of chance with these shows. Did you enter a painting that the judge thinks looks like his ex-wife? Is that scene near the spot where the judge had an artistic breakthrough? Who knows? The judges are supposed to rise above their own prejudices and be impartial but as humans they too are influenced by their feelings. A painting that won first place in one show can be rejected from another.
I have become more and more selective of the shows I enter and have set a budget for my yearly entry fees. Maybe you should do the same.
Fine Dining California Style
Fine Dining California Style 12x12 Oil
Inspired by the class I am teaching called The Figure in the Environment, I have been painting some local scenes with people and really enjoying the results. My goal is to be so comfortable with the figure that when I decide to place it in my landscapes, I can do so with complete confidence. But the figure is intimidating, so I approach it as I do any other element in my painting and reduce it into simple shapes. If it is just another piece of the composition puzzle, the figure becomes much more approachable. As an abstract shape it is much easier to handle.
Seeing the abstract shapes when dealing with the figure can be challenging so I like to reduce the image into a Notan or a simple black and white image. If you are not familiar with this technique see my blog, Painting the Figure Using Notan.
In Fine Dining California Style, I zoomed in on a family grabbing dinner at a local taco stand. The cropping was a key decision for this painting. I wanted to have the figures form distinct shapes against the lighter background. In addition, the silhouetted people create a wonderful tension and contrast with the straight diagonal of the building. The fantastic colors of the cool turquoise and lime green are perfectly offset by the warmth of the concrete and highlights on the skin.Comment on or Share this Article →
Boats on the Canal 10x8
Last week I took my Friday class to the Venice Canals. No, not the ones in Italy, the ones in Venice, California. This is one of those spots you do not expect to find in the middle of the craziness that is LA. The canals where built in 1904 to mimic the beautiful canals of Venice, Italy but when the car took over LA many of the canals where filled in to make roads. The few that survived where restored in 1994 and a real treat to visit.
Boats on the Canal was painted for the class demonstration. I wanted to show how color can also be important in the dark areas of your painting, not just the light. Since a majority of this painting is very dark, I used walnut oil with all the colors to give them a rich, translucent quality. In addition, the painting is almost all cool colors (blues and greens) so I added some warm purples to the shadows in the foliage and on the canal bank.
Doing the demonstrations for the class these last 6 weeks has forced me to paint faster, make quicker choices and simplify my compositions to the bare minimum. It has been a great exercise that has helped me further refine my plein air painting. Try this challenge by timing yourself and paint an 8x10 in 45 minutes.
Footnote: I did do a little refining at home on the boats to improve the perspective so total time was one hour.Comment on or Share this Article →
Lake in Franklin Canyon 14x11
Teaching a plein air class has given me some important insights into the process. With my students, I compare painting plein air to building a house.
1) The foundation is the composition. If the composition works the rest of the painting process will be on solid ground.
2) The frame-work of the painting is made by establishing the darks. Establishing the shadows quickly before the light changes is imperative. Once the framework is in place don't change it by chase the light. Only clarify the darks as you add information.
3) Blocking in the other values putting up the sheet rock. It can be cut, tweaked and changed as the need arises to make the painting work but simplification is the key to success. Simplify and mass the shapes to achieve this very important step.
4) Putting in the highlights and details for the designer touch. Everyone wants to skip to this step immediately because this gives your painting definition but resist painting the flees before the dog and wait until the last half hour of painting to add this final step.
The plein air class that I teach on Friday mornings has helped me clarify my process. I have learned as much as the students, who have already produced some wonderful paintings during the class. It is very gratifying to see them struggle through the basics of composition, value, blocking in the colors, simplifying the shapes and come through the day with a painting that they are proud of. Their sense of accomplishment is evident and makes my heart sing to see them come through triumphant.
I wanted to post a few of their works which were painted in Franklin Canyon on the third week of class. Pretty good even if I do say so myself. Thank you to everyone in the class for being such great students. You can see my version here, Lake in Franklin Canyon and read my blog post about this class here, Teaching Plein Air.
Franklin Canyon Reservoir by Chelley Maple by Erica Marshall
by ME Loree by Gloria JacobsonComment on or Share this Article →
I just received an email from the California State Parks to purchase one of my paintings. This bit of good fortune was not something that just happened but instead was the result of a series of unusual circumstances.
It all started because it was hot, very hot. My original location for my Friday plein air group wasn't going to work in this heat so I decided to head toward the beach. I looked and looked, not wanting to drive over on the 405, but finally decided to meet at Will Rogers State Park located in the Los Angeles hills above Sunset Boulevard. The traffic over was not pretty but five of us made it and where painting away when Ranger Lynette Brody came over to talk. Lynette must have liked what she saw since she became very animated about an opportunity with the State Parks to submit artwork. She explained that they were looking for paintings of the local area that would be included in a visitors center display. It seemed like a long shot to me but I gave her my card and asked her to email me the information.
She did and luckily I immediately emailed some of my images to the contact at the State Parks Service. I later found out that the CA State Parks had a meeting later that same day to decided what paintings to include in the project and Trail to Echo Mountain was one of the paintings that was picked.
How sweet is that? Seize the moment. You never know what will happen.Comment on or Share this Article →
Dragon Stance 14x11
When painting the figure I find it helpful to not think of the figure as a separate thing but instead concentrate on shapes and how the figure is just another part of the scene. I have come up with several ways to help me do this. One is the use of notan. For those unfamiliar with this idea, a notan is a Japanese method of reducing all the values in a scene into two color values. Everything in the light is white and everything in shadow is black. This simplification forces me to see the shapes of the composition with great clarity.
Two Color Notan
For more subtle value nuances, I will use a three color notan by adding a midtone grey. This additional refinement really helps me to see how the composition comes together. I find that if I think only of painting shapes, not the thing I am painting, my painting is more believable, and I can paint with a freedom that escapes me if I am trying to paint a figure. Painting shapes sets me free from self imposed restrictions and expectations.
Three Color Notan
As I paint the shapes, the figure emerges from the composition with a confidence that I can't achieve if I am worried about "painting the figure." Artist see things differently than the average person, but some artists see better than others. Notan is one tool that has helped me see the figure in a simplified and less intimidating way.Comment on or Share this Article →
Lake in Franklin Canyon 14x11
I am in the third week of teaching my summer session at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. Friday is my Plein Air Class and I have a wonderful group of talented, enthusiastic artists. I have been concentrate on a different aspect of plein air painting every week and the last class on values was a great success. In the first weeks, I discussed composition and the importance of a view finder to zero in on one area. Painting outside can be overwhelming without the proper discipline so figuring out what to paint is the first priority.
Meeting at the upper lake at Franklin Canyon this last Friday, I talked about values and the importance of the dark shapes in the composition. I demonstrated how to block in the dark areas, establishing the shadows right away before the light changes. Once those darks are on the canvas, I told my class, "Don't chase the light by changing that first impression. Only refine and clarify." It is one of the most important lessons to learn and will vastly improve your plein air paintings if you can make it a habit. I was very impressed to see my students following my instruction. The paintings they did were impressive and everyone left the canyon smiling.
Lake in Franklin Canyon is my painting from that class.Comment on or Share this Article →