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Archive for January, 2011

todays lesson

I learned a big ass lesson today, and this lesson is so true and so simple. Uniform presentation. With all of my experience as a professional artist, you think I would know better, but I’m a slow learner. Over the years I have tried a variety of frame styles: Omegas, Glaser frames, king of frames, framer frames, deep dish contemporary frames, no frames for paintings on deep wooden boxes, black, gold, silver, yada yada. What I found today after a two day gallery run, going to 3 galleries for the drop off and pick up, is that when you have mixed frame styles and presentation styles you lose consistency and consistency=credibility. 12×16’s and 30×30’s and 36×48’s all in the same painting style but in different frame styles is confusion. I’ve always known this but somehow it didn’t apply to me. The trick is finding an affordable frame style and sticking to it. I think I may be on to a source but I’m going to wait to tell you once I’ve ordered a few. Scott Christensen said, in a workshop long ago, to only put your painting in the best of frames. He used a custom frame builder called AU at the time. REALLY nice and REALLY expensive. That makes sense if your paintings are selling for $10,000 to $30,000 each. But I’m not there yet. And I won’t be if I don’t start presenting a unified front. I know this from my days as a graphic designer, consistent presentation makes for good brand awareness. So I’m starting over with my whole presentation (again) and I’m tossing out a bunch of frames that are incompatible with the new look (again).

The frame shown here is a sample… it’s about a third the price of the frame that I had on it. It’s decent looking. I’m going to order one or two and see how they look. I’ll let you know how it goes. Now, I do need to say this one thing and that is, there’s always an exception to every rule. If I’m putting a great painting in for a high-end show, like a museum thing or the Laguna Plein Air event that is held in a museum, then higher quality is the rule. And if I’m going for a high end gallery in New York, then quality is important but the price point for the work should be higher. But for every day regional gallery stuff go with good and consistent. I’m thinking. Which leads to the topic of pricing consistency throughout various markets… and whether or not painting prices can fluctuate, but that is more blog fodder.

Nancy Marshall of Walls Gallery, if you are reading this, I know you and David have an opinion here and I would love to hear it. I’m callin you out sister.

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look west twice

Another recent painting. This one has kind of a story. The pic on the left is in the mid stage from my iphone and the one on the right is the finish with my fancy doorstop of a camera. My gallery in Richmond called me, Brazier fine art, and said we have someone who likes your work, do you have something in a 30×40 with trees? and I said what I would always say as an illustrator when I was asked, can you paint a car made up of a bunch of different types of cars? Why Yes!!! Sure. I busted out a 30×40 and looked for images to paint from, went through my studies and found nothing, but did find a nice piece of reference from Wyoming. So I launched into it not really thinking about it. I sent a pic to the gallery and they said “Too western” so I thought, Crapadoodle. Gotta fix that. One thing I have learned is that if a terrain represented in a painting isn’t within 50 miles of the gallery, its chances of selling are reduced (depending on the gallery).

As I looked at it I realized that I didn’t really like the sage anyway, it was too lumpy. Looked like a herd of grazing sheep. I repainted the ground along with everything else and was really pleased with a few things, namely the big green bush on the mid-left it’s about 4 or 5 strokes and I left it. Wish I could have done that on everything else. Baby steps. I also recarved the tree a bit to give it better shape, repainted almost everything including all the clouds, twice. I banged it out in a hurry and shipped it wet, not in a frame either. Let me tell you it’s a trick to ship a sopping wet canvas. I used a trick I learned from Glazer Framers when they ship their frames they screw them to big pieces of card board and put large washers in to keep the screws from popping out. Then I used chunks of foam and cardboard around the painting to keep it from hitting the box on the butter side. It might be of interest to let your eyes dart back and forth from one spot to the same spot on the other to see what changes were made.

One of these days I’m going to borrow a video camera and do one of those stop motion films on the evolution of a painting. I love those. This one, for example, is friggin genius.

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the quarter milestone

Bragging is kinda lame but sometimes we have to toot our own horns because it’s good marketing. This isn’t tooting really, more like just feeling a little proud. Today I hit 200 posts and some of them are not too bad. I particularly liked my use of pie charts to explain art stuff. I need to do more of that. I thought the awards for artists was pretty funny but nobody else did. By far the most popular post was the snappy comeback reference planner. That gets a hit or two everyday but it went through the roof on a couple of days. I also hit 30,000 views which sounds like a lot unless you compare it to Perez Hilton who gets about a million hits a day. Peanut Butter has 70 times more friends on facebook than I do. But still I’m proud to have stuck with it. I kinda lost my mojo there for a while and felt like I had nothing to say. So I didn’t. Good thing I didn’t commit to posting twice a week like Robert Genn. But he has like a billion people writing in to him every week AND he has a staff to handle all of the mail and post the artists paintings and so forth… so he gets more questions about shtuff. I really like to see what is getting searched for, too. And medieval knight wins that one, followed by cave painting and eric aho. Thanks to those of you who posts links back to this blog. I’ll try to be better about writing in about things and stuff.

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Polasek poster painting

The Polasek Museum in Winter Park, fl sponsors a paint out every year, or at least it has for the  last three. It’s called appropriately, the Winter Park Paint Out. Each year there’s a call for art for the poster, the criteria was that the image needed to include a piece of art from the Albin Polasek collection and or the grounds at the museum. The winning artist, who has not yet been picked, gets a $1000 and the poster. I created this 16×20 for the competition around this back view. I think it turned out pretty good. I started it on site but since it rained the next three days, finished it in the studio from an iphone pic. Being an ex designer I created a space for type… not sure if it’s what they will be looking for but the $1000 would be nice.  One thing about this is the money. Do I give up a 2,000 dollar painting for a thousand? But in thinking about it, if I sold it in a gallery, I’d get the same amount. If they pick something else, it goes into the show, if it sells I get the same amount, if it doesn’t it goes off to a gallery somewhere. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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a couple of new ones

Two new Florida paintings, both 20×20’s.  I’m in a place where I’m not sure what to paint next. Never really been there before. Maybe a transition is coming or maybe I should explore a subject I haven’t really explored. One gallery said I should do more paintings of flowers, which I don’t really do. Dunno.

And here’s an addendum, if that’s the right word, to this post. In a way it relates to the last post. One of the great things about being in a studio with multiple artists is having access to whatever one of the other artists might say about a painting. Matthew Cornell, a truly great painter and the subject of my next painting (more to come on that) came in today and said about the top painting, “That’s a good start.” And I said, “Start? It’s finished.” But I knew there was something bugging me about the sky so I asked if that needed something and he said “Yes”. So, once I figure out what that is, I’ll fix it.

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Default patterns

I was thinking, what if we all have a default pattern in painting, a kind of lazy way of solving different problems in the same way. Maybe I tend to put my horizon line in the same place every time, or maybe it’s a straight line (I am in Florida after all) or I have a tendency to  place the bulk of the weight on the right side of the painting or the left. Or maybe I tend to leave the center open. One way to see a discernible pattern in your work is to line up 10 or so paintings and get an art buddy or two to come by for beers and look for repeating tendencies. We all have them. Same brush work everywhere, same pallette, same shapes, same subject, you name it. I’m all about thought exercises… too much really. And it occurred to me, that if I took a random sampling of paintings and layered them transparently in photoshop (like putting two slides together) what patterns would start to show? If I had CLD, Compostitional Laziness Disorder, I would be able to see what my habits are. If there’s a certain leaning toward an easy way to solve the problem time and again… it’ll show up as an open spot in the layers. If not there should be a fairly uniform field. It’s a tad like stars in the sky, if all the stars were clumped over on the right side of the night sky, something is amiss. If they are spread uniformly throughout, no matter which way you look, all is perfectly normal and perfectly natural.

So I grabbed these 7 paintings at random. Layered them in photoshop and came up with this……

Not too bad. Pretty uniform pattern considering. It means that every time I go out to paint I’m looking for a  new way to solve the problem. Compositionally that is. But this is a random mixture of subjects and motifs. What if I tried to skew it more?  So, I took only the nature stuff and no boats, flipped anything weighted toward one side or the other and adjusted them all to one side. Similar subjects, with similar weighting. What would happen?

Not so bad. I skewed the input a bit so of course the results would show a general pattern but still not too shabby. No gaping holes, no same-same horizon. I think this exploration has great merit and I’ll apply it to other aspects of picture making just as soon as I figure out how. But is it good or bad to have a pattern? After all what is it that separates one artist from another but our innate tendencies? If every thing I did was completely different from everything else I did, who would know it was me? One of the artists came in to my studio a few years back and held up an ad with a painting in it. I didn’t know the magazine, it was a painting of a chicken on a solid color field, never seen it before fo-sho. Somehow I knew right away it was Grant Wood (yes I’ve mentioned this story before) , but how did I know? The subject matter was not his usual, the palette was somehow different, composition was centered. How did my brain know and why would that even be important? Because there is a thing that separates one person from the next, one artist from another, it’s the voice that is hard-wired in, the collection of skills acquired and nature and nurture and the ability to be unique if only in a small way. That small way is our personal tendencies and patterns.

Maybe the moral is, it’s okay to explore because your voice will come through either way. Not sure, it’s till a thought exercise… and there will be more to come on this.

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