Friday, March 30, 2012

Iron Maiden Part III

I figured out that I can smoosh all my photos together in photoshop onto one canvas, thereby freeing myself of the necessity of coming up with something witty to say in between photos.  Here's today's work.  It was tonnes of fun.

I've been asked about what the goals are for each stage of painting.  I'd say that my goal for ebauche is to create a convincing likeness of the sitter's second cousin.  In first painting, like today, it ought to look like the sitter's sister.  By the time the painting is done the model and the painting should be like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.  One is prettier, but the other is thinner.  Or one had a slightly better nose job, but the doctor's wrist slipped during the botox injection.  I don't usually try to take the likeness further than this.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Iron Maiden Part II

After letting the drawing languish off in a back room for several weeks the concept is sufficiently ripe for me to go back to my discount lyre easel for a colour study. I have a policy of making my colour study, my preparatory sketch, and my finished painting the same size, which makes everything a whole lot simpler and I waste less breath swearing. The purpose of this colour study is to determine my palette, which, although it is usually only about five to seven colours, changes with every project. I like to know before I start the painting proper that my red will hit the right notes, that my cools are adequately represented by my black (I try to use neutrals mixed from black to stand in for my cools whenever possible), and so on. If I can't quite hit the right note in my colour study, I will have to change my palette a bit. Lately Dave has been talking smack about Cad Red Medium in favour of Vermilion, so I'm taking that colour for a spin in this study. The other colours on my palette are Titanium White, Ivory Black, and Yellow Ochre Pale. Raw Umber makes an appearance for the drybrush.

This is day one on the study. I like to think that day one should just be an attempt to turn the white of the canvas into something closer to what the finished colours on top of it will be.
After working on a painting right way up, it always ends up looking better upside down. I did a lot of this painting upside down so that it would look nice right way up. The flesh tones today have a much better range of warm to cool.
And I know colour studies are like newborns in that nobody finds them as interesting as the people who created them, but here is a close up that I think shows the exaggerated highlights on her nose nicely. At this point I was happy with the colours and ready to move on.


I played around with composition and lay-out in Photoshop before creating tracings from my drawing study and transfering them to my canvas. My preparatory drawing had tiny carny hands, so I slapped my sketch down on a photocopier and enlarged them. Why make things more complicated than they have to be? In the same spirit, the reason I use Photoshop is because thumbnails can be really inaccurate. You can make an arm a millimeter too wide and in the thumbnail it looks fine and dandy but when you try to translate that thumbnail to a full size piece your subject suddenly has big ol' thighs for arms. It makes it really hard to get an accurate picture in your mind of what the finished painting will look like. I prefer to do thumbnails in the earlier stages only. Now, I could have done a full-sized drawing and worked it out, but the powers that be seem to have decided that no drawings shall exceed the size of 20x30" or whatever the standard size of paper is. The little rectangle of white paper is a piece of 4x6" photo paper, which, in absence of a ruler, I used to measure out my canvas so that I could accurately place the head and hands according to my mock up in Photoshop. For some reason artist studios never have rulers (only tape measures) or regular pencils for writing with (only pencils sharpened to a maniacal point that snaps painfully when you try to write down a phone number).

I started with the eyes, which is not normally something I do, but in this case came easily because I had the colour study to guide me. I think she looks kind of like a pulp-novel barbarian priestess a la Frazetta here.

Here you can see that I have my colour study handy to help me. I have my laptop with the original reference photos out too, but I'm hardly looking at them.

Cue creepy clown music. Sometimes when a face begins to peer out of the canvas like this it feels kind of diabolical, even if it is a beautiful woman.

This is where I called it a day. If I had had more time (rather, if I had wasted less) I would have put a little more description into her fingers, probably indicating her fingernails. I didn't actually hit any of my darkest notes today, not even in the eyes. She has black hair, black clothing, and the background will be quite dark, which will make her white skin really pop. I will have to put in some of this before I rework the flesh tones again, but to put it in now would result in a lot of buildup of paint when really I would like to keep the finished look a bit transparent and washy in my darkest areas. I'm hoping this will keep them from looking flat.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

David Gluck reveals it all



That's right ladies. I show it all in my full page spread in this month's issue of Fine Art Connoisseur.

The piece published was completed this last summer and is currently at M Gallery of Fine Art in Charleston. I took quite a few step by step photos of this painting in progress which I was going to post, but instead I just had some beers and reflected upon how much "The Walking Dead" is starting to piss me off. Seriously, where are all the zombies and apocalyptic cityscapes in season 2? Its like all of a sudden they ran out of zombie effects makeup, so they decided to make it like the show "Big Brother" and focus on petty drama, but set on a farm. If this show goes as downhill as "Lost" did, there will be hell to pay.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Shipping work from Canada to the US

Okay Canadians. Listen up. There's a right way and a million wrong ways to ship work to the States. I am an authority on the subject because I have never had a shipment go wrong because of something I did, which means that my shipments still go wrong about 50% of the time because of something someone else did; but if you've been in the business for a while I think you'll appreciate a good statistic when you see it.


1. Packaging: Click this link, drool all over the place, and then get over it. Airfloat boxes are amazing, but the cost is prohibitive for Canadians when you factor in the expense of having them shipped up here. If you want to ship in a cardboard box, you can probably find a local business that makes cardboard boxes to your specifications and have it delivered within a couple of days. Otherwise, cannibalize the box your neighbour's flat screen TV came in, or even better, offer to fight your framer for the boxes her glass or Foamcore comes in (she probably won't want to give them to you); avoid the flimsy mirror boxes at moving supply companies. Don't waste your money buying foam to pad your work. Scrunched up newspapers are free and what do you think people used before foam, anyway? You can also get a crate built and have your work professionally packed by a bunch of attractive young men in uniforms by a company called something predictable like ArtCrate or BuffDudesMakeBoxes, but when I had this done I was amazed to see them use chip board and MDF. Of course, the crate burst open during transit and the box arrived at my gallery caved in and cinched with a belt to keep its guts from pouring out. Best bet: make your own crate. If you don't have a table saw, either get one or get someone at your local hardware store to cut down your boards for you to the correct size. Use plywood for the narrow sides and if you must keep the weight down, MDF for the larger top and bottom panels. Drill your holes carefully to avoid splitting before you sink your screws. If you want to be really slick, attach metal handles so that the delivery boys have no excuse for dropping your crate, and to make it impossible to rest the crate on one of its wrong sides.


2. Carriers: Canada Post doesn't like packages over a certain size and they don't help you out by providing all the necessary documents. Brown uniforms make me depressed so I go with FedEx. They're pretty terrible, but terrible's still better than a lot of other options. Open an account so that you are eligible for reduced rates and home pick up. Cardboard boxes can be shipped either ground or express, but cargo is cheaper and takes the sturdier wooden crates. In Toronto, before Dave and I graduated to crates and cargo and home pick-up, I would go to the FedEx/Kinko's near the U of T campus because they were open 24 hrs and at 10pm the only customers I had to compete with were bleary-eyed frat boys on red bull printing their sociology essays. There were two representatives working the FedEx at the time and I kid you not they were identical twin sisters. Every time I said anything like "But the last time the computer crashed and you had to re-write all my info by hand, you did it this way...", whoever was helping me would say, "I think you're thinking of my twin sister..." HOLY COW. I wish I had a twin sister I could blame everything on. After two years of this nonsense I graduated to preparing my shipment for pick up at home and I strongly recommend that everyone reading this skip dealing with the unaccountable twins at Kinko's and do the same.
Tip for dealing with FedEx: you need to know that the truck drivers are not employees of FedEx; they are contractors and are not accountable in the same way as employees and the level of communication between FedEx and these contractors is done using tin can phones or something. That's the only explanation I can come up with. Also, the customs broker, although affiliated with FedEx, regards fellow FedEx workers with complete disdain and when she encounters any problems with your shipment because of an internal FedEx problem, she will tell you to complain to FedEx independently and sort the problem out on your own (they're not on speaking terms these days).

3. Preparing the Shipment: There are three things you need to include with your shipment: A. a Commercial Invoice B. a barcode, and C. an Original Works of Art Statement. The commercial invoice is pretty easy to fill out. Really important: when describing the commodity, INCLUDE THE TARIFF NUMBER, also known as a harmonized tariff. This number has been kept secret from artists for eons but I am about to share it with you. Paying attention? It is 970110 for paintings and drawings. Once you have successfully filled a commercial invoice, I suggest you keep a copy. Start a folder that says something like "Artwork Shipments" and keep your prototype, along with your copy of documents every single subsequent shipment you make, inside. You'll need to keep track of things like how long a gallery has had a painting or how long it actually took the package that was supposed to arrive in five days, to get to its destination (probably closer to two weeks). The second item, the barcode, is printed off from your computer once the FedEx website generates one. The final element is vewy, vewy important. It is called an Original Works of Art Statement. Go steal a million copies from FedEx because they're free and printing new ones gives the twins something to do. Under the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), we are entitled to ship work made in any North American country over any North American border free of duties.

Final tip for dealing with FedEx: call them up on the phone to double check that your documents are in order. Pretend you are not now an expert from having read this posting and ask them to explain how to complete the paperwork for your shipment from scratch. Then hang up, and call back and interrogate a different representative. If her story matches the first guy's story, you're good to go. If, more likely, it doesn't, call back a few more times and go by the best out of five.


4. Ship your painting by the fastest method you can afford. This is easiest to do with small cardboard packages, and harder to do with heavy wooden crates. The faster the box needs to get to it's destination, the less likely the customs officer will open your box, shuffle the contents around, and then strip the screw holes when she tries to reassemble it. Also, if your box is in transit for two days instead of two weeks, it passes through fewer hands and has less opportunity to meet with total destruction.

5. Insurance: what's that? I never buy insurance for our work for two reasons: 1. I don't declare the actual value of the work because frankly, it doesn't make any difference to customs fees, but it does mean that the customs officers HAVE to open your package, which causes delays. 2. If your painting is lost, good luck proving to FedEx what it was worth. You have to prove the item's value to be reimbursed, and unless you already sold the painting and have a copy of the receipt, you probably won't get a dime.

Finally, expect to pay around $30 in brokerage fees. This fee is thrown in as a bonus to lighten your day and put a spring in your step.

Attention American artists shipping to Canada: all of this applies to you too. The tariff codes are the same and the paperwork is too. Only real difference is you can afford the Airfloat boxes so you have a lot less to worry about when it comes to customs agents manhandling your package and reassembling it upside-down and backwards. Randomly, certain packages are selected and slapped with Government Sales Tax, which is 5%, which either you or the recipient must pay. Discuss this possibility with your gallery/collector beforehand. If you're really lucky, you may get dinged with Harmonized Sales Tax, which varies from province to province but is as much as 15%. And as a representative of Canada, I would like to thank you for helping to pay for our universal healthcare.

Monday, March 5, 2012

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Giclee Prints


If you are a fine artist, you know that one of the elephants in the room that comes with the profession is the question of whether or not to make prints.  Why it's an elephant in the room, I'm not quite sure.  I thought we were in this business to make a living and to bring our artwork to an appreciative audience no matter their art spending budget, and yet it seems that somehow prints are a taboo for 99% of artists.  Some phrases I have heard over the years:

"Prints devalue the original work."
"Prints are tacky."
"Prints turn artwork into a commodity."
"Prints don't have any value themselves so I feel weird selling them."
"Wahhh."

 I'm further alarmed to have experienced this attitude from galleries.  I'm not sure who started it--the artists or the galleries or some other invested party--but it certainly couldn't have been art-buyers, who would love to have affordable art or a print of a painting that they missed their chance on.  It also probably wasn't the framers or the printers or the people who coordinate art fairs or PayPal with their 2.9% plus $0.30 per online sale.

Let's break this down.



"Prints devalue the original work."
If prints devalue original work, I would like to know how much Daniel Greene and Duffy Sheridan's work would go for if they weren't selling prints.  Because I know right now that Daniel Greene has broken the six figure barrier.  Has selling prints hurt the value of his work?  What about Kinkade?  Painter of Bud Light aside, people do value his work in spite of the fact that he pisses out prints like ninety proof urine.  If prints, and for that matter coffee mugs, purses, and posters, devalue original artwork, then perhaps someone should let the Louvre know that they don't need full-time security guards watching their now-worthless Mona Lisa.



"Prints are tacky."
Are we just saying this because for most of us our exposure to prints is limited to the atrocities on hotel walls?  Because I haven't seen an amazing work of art suddenly become tacky just because it was hanging on some layperson's wall in a discount IKEA frame.  I don't care if it's a poster hanging in some dorm room wall, I will always stop to take a good look at Klimt's "Kiss."  I will then turn around and spend an equal amount of time looking at the Johnny Depp poster on the opposing wall.


"Prints turn artwork into a commodity."
Wrong.  There is still only one original.  The original is a collector's item.  The prints are the commodity, and this is a good thing.  Commodities are things that people can sell to make an income so that they can continue doing what they're doing.  You know what's really funny about painting as a business?  It is pathetically limited in scope when it comes to generating money.  Actually, that isn't funny.  It's sad.  Let's look at some other, more business-minded art forms:
  • Sculpture: Did you know that sculptors make editions of their pieces so that they can sell a number of them and make more money?
  • Music: And did you know that musicians sell CDs and perform the same songs over and over again in concert?  Did the second live concert devalue the first one?
  • Dance: Like musicians, dancers perform the same piece night after night to new and appreciative audiences so that everyone who wants to can have the experience.
  • Literary art forms: Finally, did you know that if a writer sells a million of the same book, the book's perceived value increases?
No other modes of art are limited in their commercial success by their own unavailability, only by the demand of the market.  When a painter paints a painting, only one person buys that painting, and then the artist is out of inventory again.  Meanwhile, EVERY other art form is allowed to keep up with market demand by printing more CDs, books, DVDs or what have you.  Why are painters dumped with a double standard?


"Prints don't have any value themselves so I feel weird selling them."
You know what else is printed and definitely has value?  Money.  So if you feel this way then the entire capitalist paradigm flew right over your head.  You're probably also too embarrassed to raise your prices annually or charge friends of friends your full rate.  By the way, since every opportunity is a learning opportunity, this is Canadian currency and the man pictured is our king.


 The reason I'm tossing the elephant out of the room is because I'm ready to supplement my income with print sales.  Dave and I have been operating under this mysterious and oppressive standard for a while now and there's just no sense to it.  I have had gallery owners flat out tell me I could not sell prints.  That was another way of saying that I was not allowed to pay rent on a studio or luxuriate in New Traditions canvas panels.  Are the nay-sayers of prints aware of how little artists earn?

I am now making prints of my "Vanitas" painting available.  The original will also be available for sale at Principle Gallery in one month, but in the meantime you can buy a very affordable, high-quality print.  By placing an order for one you enable me to continue making a living at art and enjoy a reproduction of one of my more popular paintings.  Besides, artists don't get good benefits and I really need to see the dentist.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Women Painting Women: The Expedition and Beyond



I am honoured to be participating in an upcoming show at Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia, with the crew who brought us Women Painting Women, and a gaggle of other prominent American women artists.  In 2010, at the same time that Robert Lange Gallery hosted an exhibition inspired by the blog, a dozen of the participating artists got together and rented a beach house and painted together for a week.  Several cases of wine and seven days later we had all formed some pretty rock-hard friendships and even I got pretty blubbery on the last day when we had to say good-bye.  It was a watershed week for me, not only because I got some photogenic photos taken but also because it changed the terrain of the art world for me, to be a part of a large and energetic network of artists.  Before then, I was kind of stuck alone in my studio smothering my loneliness with chocolate and believing the realist artist population to be about 12 globally.

Anyhoo, a year and a half later we are all participating in a show, mostly because there are some amazing party-whips in our group who had the vision and the discipline to make it happen.  The exhibition is called "The Expedition and Beyond" and runs April 13th to May 15th.   The paintings are phenomenal and a large number of them are directly inspired by the getaway and features other members of the group.  Here is a list of the ladies in the show:

Alexandra Tyng – Narberth, PA
Alia El-Bermani – Cary, NC
Catherine Prescott – Harrisburg, PA
Cindy Procious – Chattanooga, TN
Diane Feissel – Philadelphia, PA
Linda Tracey Brandon – Phoenix, AZ
Mia Bergeron – Chattanooga, TN
Rachel Constantine – Philadelphia, PA
Sadie Valeri – San Francisco, CA
Terry Strickland- Pelham, AL
Shannon Runquist, Charleston, SC


One of our group has a designer for a daughter, so we managed to get an amazing catalogue put together.