Saturday, February 28, 2015

Formula for Success

Well, I am beginning to find a fairly accurate formula for which of my works sell more than others after all these years.

However, don't be fooled.  I enjoy painting either of these themes and may eventually combine the two into paintings of sexy mountain men with painted faces holding a Victorian shotgun.  But for the time, I am leaning towards simply expanding my series of woman with painted faces.  The model for this piece is Kate's sister Jill, who, as a plastic surgeon doing her residency, has plenty of down-time to model.  I tried to document more of the beginning stages of painting, which I tend to forget to do, hence why Kate's step by step typically kick mine in the proverbial groin.  The painting needs perhaps one more day of work from the last documented image. 


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oh Really? Creepy Dolls Don't Sell?

I heard from one of my galleries that "Poison" has sold.

Everyone--artists, galleries, and laypeople alike--have ideas about what's "sellable" and what's not.  There are certain things that we take for granted are going to be a hard sale (for example creepy dolls), and things that we take for granted are going to be an easy sale (pretty young women looking all pretty and young).  Even I had thought that the above painting, in spite of its bantam weight price tag, would be a struggle to sell.  It just goes to show that you can't know what will sell and what won't, so it's important to just paint what you want to paint.  At the very least, even if the painting doesn't sell, you will satisfied with being true to your artistic vision.

I'm a sucker for making unsellable paintings.  I mean, I made this unsellable painting too.  Creepy doll missing an arm, again with the bird wings, ratty quilt, obscure symbolism.

Oh but, wait, it sold too.  Perhaps it's time to launch a series dedicated to dismembered dolls with bird wings?  The painting above is called "Icarus Ascending."  It is 27.5x17" and was painted on one of my home prepared dibond panels.  The influences that inspired it come from all directions and can be read about in the PDF below if you're interested.

The only really new thing about my approach with this painting is that I tried out the use of a grid to get the set up drawn out.  I assembled some very large stretcher bars, carefully marked off ticks along each side, and strung the stretcher bars with thread to make a grid.  I hung this up in front of the still life set up and drew a grid on my drawing paper too.  It went very quickly--about five times a fast.  And I can say that with authority because I actually had to draw this exact set up twice--once in my old home studio, and then again when I packed up and moved into my temporary studio while our new studio was being built.  It was a pain to have to disassemble and restart a still life, but it gave me the motivation to come up with a better way of drawing out a large set up.  Small ones are easy, but I find large ones just drag out.  Of course, the grid is just there to help.  It's not the boss of me.  After plotting out the set up I had to take the grid down and give the whole drawing a critical look compared to the set up.  Following a grid mindlessly can lead to stupid mistakes.

Below are some in progress shots.  My temporary studio was my parents' basement, hence the concrete walls and dim lighting.  It was kind of hard to get any work done while I was there because it was so easy to just wander upstairs and sit down in front of the wood stove and have my parents pour hot chocolate into me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

International Artist Magazine Article

I am the last person in the world to see my own article in International Artist Magazine, so this hardly merits a blog post, except, YAY ME.

Now I don't know what it is with IAM and Canada.  I think the magazines get sent on donkey back over the Rockies and then upriver with a team of coureurs du bois, and then floated across to Vancouver Island strapped to driftwood raft.  But MAYBE I'm just searching for explanations of why I get this magazine a month later than everyone else.

Emily and Paul's mum has told me that they will be bringing in their copy of the magazine to school for show and tell.  *blush*

My Uncanny costar Teresa also had an article in the same magazine.  It was almost like a reunion except...oh, sorry Dave.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Open Letter to an Art Student

Dear Art Student,

You find yourself now standing at the beginning of a long and arduous road, struck through with joyful milestones, confusing side tours, and misguiding road signage.  You will learn much and create some nice work (which you will hate within the year, but love again in five years when you can look back upon "Past You" with some affectionate condescension only made possible by the passage of time and the acquisition of greater skill).  People will ask you how you plan to make money, what your fall-back is, and, if you're a woman, what your husband does for a living.  But at this important moment of lacing up your boots and swinging that rucksack on your back, I would like to share some words of wisdom, words that I can spit out at any art student with certain confidence that they apply:

Your brushes suck.

Your brushes really, really suck.

You have, like, ten brushes.  I have almost two hundred, and I still some days don't have the right brush for what I want to do.  But it's not just that you only have ten brushes and not a single one of them is the right size for the thing you want to paint.  It's that your brushes really, really, totally suck in every way possible.  I ask myself a lot of questions when I teach students.  Is this actually a brush or a chopstick with some lint stuck to it?  Did you use this one to scrub out the grouting in your shower?  Is this filbert homemade out of Great Aunt Tabitha's chin hairs?  And how did you acquire hand-me-down brushes?  How does that happen?  Did someone say, "Oh, I heard you were an artist, and I have this ratty old homemade chin hair brush in my purse that I used to clean my bathroom with.  Want it?"  Does that happen?

Your brushes are specimens of the worst that the world of art supplies has to offer.

If your brushes were food, they would be store brand spam discounted for dings in the can.

If your brushes were a car, they would be a belly-dragging Chevy Cobalt on loan from your older brother.

If your brushes were a haircut, it would be the bowl cut your mom gave you in the second grade.

Your brush bridges the gap between you and the canvas.  Your brush is the extension of your very fingers.  Your brush needs to be capable of transmitting every nuance that your eye detects.  Did you know that when you use a tool, your brain rewires to accommodate it as if were one of your own limbs?  I don't want my brain to rewire to accommodate crap.

A poor craftsman blames his tools.  Said no artist ever.

Are you not worth two hundred dollars in new brushes?

Because here's a secret: the quickest and easiest way to become a better painter overnight is to get yourself some good brushes.  I promise.  If you don't understand what's so important about a good brush, it's because you've never had a good brush.  Really, you're an innocent.  You're the victim here.  You need to know that there's simply more out there, waiting for you.  And it pains me to watch you chase paint around instead of actually painting.  There's a rich and vibrant world of sable, and mongoose, and long-handles, and cat's tongues.  Chungking.  Egbert.  Someday these words will cause your heart to speed up.  But for some reason right now, you don't think brushes are important.  You will shell out hundreds on paints and canvases.  You ask me what special mediums I use.  You rifle through artist forums for Old Master Secrets.  In the meantime, I'm here with an pitying heart, waiting for you to come around.  I am your voice of reason, echoing unheard like a phantom siren call luring you across the stormy waters of your mis-allocated student art supply budget.  And my siren song is this:  Nice brushes: get them already.

An Art Teacher

Friday, February 6, 2015

Kicking it new school

I am often asked what school, if any, a person should attend in order to pursue a career as a professional realist oil painter.  To start, lets just knock any college or university out of the running, so we don't have to go into some long winded rant about modernism or how their professors are stupid faces etc, etc.  Let's just say college is great if you want to study at a place that offers a sports team, drunken karaoke parties, and a 3 credit course on snorkeling.  So, this leaves academies and ateliers up for discussion.  But which one is the right for you?  (I was thinking of just leaving the article finished here to make it all existential but I guess I'll answer the question)

The short answer is I don't have an answer.  It's really up to each individual student and what they hope to achieve.  If you ask most people which place is your best option, they will simply rant and rave about whatever school they attended because they drank the proverbial cool aid of artistic dogma, and therefore their school is the bestest ever.  However, just because this was their experience doesn't mean you will have the same experience.  Only way to find the right one is to do your own research (and by research I don't mean posting questions in the comments section of this article).

What to look for?

I would say, first and foremost, is an ideal location.  Expensive cities are expensive, and uprooting and moving to a new city isn't all that easy and definitely not all that cost effective.  If cost is not a factor, then give me some money and stop being selfish.  There are so many academies and ateliers nowadays that you can't throw a stone without hitting one.  Most of these schools are listed on the Art Renewal Center's website, but not every single one of them is, so make yourself familiar with Google to find the rest.  I know, this is hard.  Another important factor to consider is whether the aesthetic that is being taught at the school agrees with or conflicts with your own vision for your future work. If you want to be a photorealist, don't go to a painterly school and vice versa.  You should admire the work of the students and teachers who are there. Most likely, how and what you want to eventually paint like will be built on this foundation.  Next, the environment of the school and the overall warm fuzziness of its ambiance is integral to having a positive education.  All it takes is a couple bad seeds to ruin the environment of a school.  Don't believe me, go read "The No Asshole Rule."  You may be at the school for a long time in order to complete the program, so make sure you get along with everyone, students and teachers alike.  Some schools out there get pretty pretentious and lack a good hearty amount of "that's what she said" jokes integrated into their teaching pedagogy.  If you want to find out what the environment of a school is really like, go visit and talk to the people there.  Corner a student and pester them with questions when the teacher isn't there.  A good school will have the same energy as a good episode of "Saved by the Bell."  Another vetting strategy in choosing your school: do some research to see the success rate of how many of their students and graduates go on to make a career of it.  A school producing a lot of pros will brag about the success of their alumni somewhere on their website.  Lastly, do they have a built in all you can eat Panda Garden buffet.  I have yet to see a school like this, but you bet I would have gone there had it existed.

Things you may not get.

Any program will only offer you the basics of how to make a realistic picture and may not delve into how to sell an art (though some touch on this).  Business is its own separate entity that has to be learned with time and dedication just like anything else, and you can't really fault a school for not teaching this stuff.  They're busy running a school.  That's the business they know, and besides, the art market is changing so fast it's hard to keep up with it.  Your art career really starts after you leave any school and your student work is just that, student work, and is not really intended for sale (I am referring to Bargue copies, figure drawing, etc).  DO NOT approach a gallery with this stuff or your career might suffer coming out of the gates.  Going from student to professional is a hard transition, so get ready for it, and no school out there will do this for you. A second issue of concern is the fact that most schools offer very little in the way of full scholarships and grants, (though they do exist.)  However, if you think about it, most of them are small business that simply cannot afford this luxury.  But there may be other options. Some schools will trade tuition in return for services like modeling, cleaning, monitoring, and possibly teaching beginner students.  Now although these jobs suck compared to being something awesome like an assassin for hire, they may be your only option, especially if you are traveling abroad to study and have no legal status to work.  Lastly, if your expectations aren't realistic for what you are going to learn, you will most likely be disappointed.  Any program out there guarantees nothing if you aren't willing to put the work in on your end.  There are no magical secrets taught at these places, just a system of drawing and painting that takes time to master and excel at and not all students are created equal.  For a rounded education, you should be reading stacks of books about art, supplementing your studies with your own projects, and seeking out other learning opportunities.

In the end, I am not going to make suggestions on where you should or shouldn't go.  Keep in mind my training was eclectic and I never actually graduated a program because my mumma said I ain't none too smart...