Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sell, Create, Grow, Sell, Create, Grow...

I'm in a place right now that is often elusive to artists...Art is Selling and new ideas are coming to fruition.  To have some of my favorite pieces heading off to new homes is, as always, bitter sweet.

This beautiful and sensuous nude in Crimson is making a trip across the country.  She was part of a National Juried Competition last year, but has been hiding in my closet ever since.  Now, she will be gracing a wall, where she deserves to be. (Prints are available)

I had received an e-mail about this drawing of the ballerina in the striped stockings before I had even finished the piece.  I had turned down the sale, knowing that I wanted to continue the series, and felt like I needed to "live with" the pastel for a little while.  But as I started preparing for the next drawing/paintings in the series, I faced the usual dilemmas...the need to buy supplies and the need for space!  So...I e-mailed the collector and she bought it almost immediately.  (Prints are available!)

And, the second drawing of the ballerina is heading for a long journey as well.  It sold within 5 hours of listing it in my on line shop.  Almost a little too quickly for me!  I'm finding it difficult to say good-bye...

I saw a quote from another Etsy Artist, Panchromatica, that sums up what I am feeling, and asked his permission to share it here...

"Unless you are content to let your work pile up at the back of your studio or in the attic, you need to sell your work. That puts you in business and the ultimate purpose of any business is selling a service or a product to someone willing to buy it at a price that makes you both happy.

Being in business as an artist is of course different to a degree. Selling art and selling cars may share some characteristics but they aren’t identical. When you sell a painting or a print, you are partly selling something of yourself. Paradoxically though, you don’t lose anything when you sell. Each painting, each print you make takes you one step further towards being a better artist. So, in a strange way, selling your work, by giving you the capacity to make more, can be an integral part of your development as an artist – and let’s be honest - who doesn’t get a buzz when somebody likes your work enough to pay over cold hard cash for it?"

For more from this artist, please check out his blog.  This quote is from a future e-book on Business Planning for the Working Artist.

So, I'm saying good bye to some pieces that I am very proud of, but my sorrow, thankfully, will be replaced by new energy and the need to continue creating.  This morning I met with a beautiful young dancer who continued the theme of Classic meets Quirky, like the ballerina above.  Here is a teaser from our photo session, and I look forward to sharing new work with you very soon!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Start your own Mini Art Gallery right on your fridge!

I have just listed my first Art Magnet in my Fine Art on Etsy shop!  "Grace and Light" is a beautiful 2" x 3" lightweight and flexible magnet that has been professionally printed to capture all the colors of the original drawing.  Limited quantities are available!  Enjoy :)

Art Magnet - Ballerina in Striped Tights - "Grace and Light"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Top 3 Tips to Better Paintings

Over the years I have had the opportunity to teach artists of all ages and skill levels.  Young 4 and 5 year olds just learning the color wheel, to 80 year olds who wanted to learn portrait painting.  Just last week I was approached by an artist for some advice on a painting she was working on.  I have been thinking about the tips I gave to her, and felt that they were probably 3 of the most important tips I have consistently given over the years to all of my students.

Tip 1 - Have good reference material.
            One of the first things I noticed when the artist presented her painting and her reference photo to me was that her photo was blurry and a little faded.  The pose, of a ballerina, was lovely, but a lot of detail was lost because it was out of focus.  It's difficult for any artist to invent the small subtleties in a person's profile, or the quirks in the folds of fabric, or the specific shape of the cast shadow of a foot on the floor.
            Start out with a GOOD, large, sharp, reference photo.  5" x 7" or larger works best.  This is a lesson I learned as I began my Custom Portrait business.  No matter how cute a wallet sized photo is, there is just not enough information to blow it up to a 2 foot by 3 foot painting.   For this pastel portrait of my son, I used an 8" x 10" photo that was taken outdoors.

Tip 2 - Use A Variety of Brushes
            Looking at her paint application, I asked the artist "How many brushes did you use for this painting?" and she showed me 3 - all flat, all pretty close in size.  The reason I asked was the flowing fabric of the ballerina costume, her warm skin, and the hardwood floor were all approached with the same size and style of brushwork.  This gave the painting an over all sense of flatness.
           One of my favorite artists, Joan Mitchell, had a particular dislike for what she called "one brush paintings".  I'm not saying it can't be done (a beautiful painting with one brush that is) for in Art, if no where else, there are no Absolutes.  But I encouraged the artist to work with a variety of brushes and to use a broader painting language.

           And you may be thinking "what does an abstract painting have to do with a painting of a ballerina?" The truth is at the end of the day it's all paint on a canvas.  It's how we use that paint that's important.

Tip 3 - Learn from the Masters
          This is not earth-shattering information to most of you...almost every book or teacher will tell you to "study the Masters".  But do you know WHY they are telling you this?  Because even with a natural ability and instinct for drawing and painting, you still don't know it all.  (I thought I did but have been repeatedly told otherwise.)
            Buy some good Art magazines, go to the bookstore and grab a few books, and have them with you when you are creating.  I am not saying COPY their work - but look for how they solved problems.  How do you make a wood floor recede into space?  How do you depict folds of fabric?  What color should I use to show the reflection of daylight on her shoulder?  It's incredible how having books, pages from magazines, even my fellow Artists paintings around me infuses my work with different ways of seeing and problem solving.  They are a never ending source of information and inspiration.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicken with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes. Awesome, tasty slow cooker recipe!

My friend made this dish at a birthday party a while back and I have made it several times since.  It is SO tasty and super easy.  You can use bone-in or boneless skinless thighs.  I did not add the red peppers at the end, and it's great with or without the addition of the lime wedges.

I served this at a couple different parties and it goes very far - such a filling dish, with a little salad or bread you will be pleasantly surprised at how many servings you get out of this one recipe.

Slow-Cooker Latin Chicken with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes

This was a perfect pairing with Jalapeno Cheese Dip and Green Tea Mojitos!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reading List - Recommended Books for 2011

As you may have heard we had quite the snow storm here in Atlanta last week.  Due to the amount of snow and lack of plows, the kids had a whole week of snow days.  So I did a lot of reading while on mom duty last week. I finished a couple of great books that I highly recommend.

"Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett is an incredible journey from beginning to end of the first World War.  Five different family stories across several countries.  Having forgotten 95% of what I learned about WWI in school (sorry teachers!) this was a fascinating read about politics and the treachery of war.  I have read other books by Follett - "Pillars of the Earth" being my favorite - and was equally drawn into this story.  I'm looking forward to reading the 2nd and 3rd books of the trilogy.

"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen hooked me right away, talking about a young mother who was trying to do everything "right" for her family.  (What is right to one POV is wrong to another).  Marriage, infidelity, politics, conservation, all interesting topics that come together provocatively.  Like "Fall of Giants", you have characters who follow all the rules yet still get hurt, and others who poses the charm and good fortune to have luck smile upon them in any situation, regardless of their own shortcomings.

I really got excited about "An Object of Beauty" by Steve Martin.  Taking place in the Art World, spanning decades when the idea of WHAT makes a piece of great art "great", it was like revisiting all of the work I studied in Art History, only from a different perspective - in Art History, we understood it was "art" and therefore "worth" something.  But this novel gets down to the Value of Art, and why it suddenly can be worth more today than it was yesterday.  With some pretty sexy story lines mixed in, you can easily by-pass some great passages about defining Art and what appeals to different people.  I am looking forward to reading it again, because I found myself questioning my own work, my own intentions, and how others define it's value.
(PS - I ordered my copy on Ebay, a paperback, only to discover that it did NOT come fully illustrated - be sure to buy a copy with the images of the Art)

I started the series by Steig Larson almost 2 years ago, and I am sorry to see it come to an end.  A massive finale, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" was at once thrilling, and disappointing.  I won't say why, but I didn't find it as satisfying as the first two books - "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played With Fire".  Read them all - it's an incredible journey.

Well that list should keep you busy for a while!  Do you have any great reads to recommend?  I'm searching for my next book!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kind words about my work

I can't help but share...this note from a collector just made day :)

"Your beautiful pastel drawing has arrived safely. It is more than I could have hoped and imagine for. I absolutely admire and cannot stop looking at this delicate drawing. Through the use of your energetic marks on the page and the use of your layers of beautiful colors, you are telling a wonderful story of the lovely lady  sitting in the garden. ( I can only image what the model was feeling as she was posing for this drawing. I feel that you have captured her beautiful spirit.) Every mark and color in this drawing has meaning and importance and creates an emotional response that is very personal to me. I feel as if you created this drawing just for me. The moment I saw this drawing it whispered to me and I knew I must have it. And now I have seen it with my own eyes."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Black Bustier, Ballet Dancer, and Busted by the Cops

I feel like I have a million things to share with and show you!  I'll start with some progress on a couple of pastel figure drawings...

First, the portrait of one of my Zumba instructors.   I loved this outfit - the combination of the leather bustier and hat, with the filmy black mini skit/tutu, the striped socks (it was Christmas!) and the high boots.  The boots are, actually, giving me the most trouble right now.  I can't seem to get the shape right.  I'm also struggling with her lip - there's such a small amount showing, so if it's not exactly right, she seems like she's scowling, and she's actually smiling.

I also worked for a while on the new ballerina with striped tights sitting in the window.  I spent a lot of time adjusting the position of her head - she was, at first - staring directly out the window, and it felt a little stiff and unnatural.  So I tilted her head down a little, using one of the reference photos from our drawing session.  Now that it's in a better pose,  I'm trying to build up the colors!

Working on these latest figures, incorporating more pattern and fabric than I normally do, made me realize something today - I've had these photos in my inspiration pile for quite a while.  I guess I've been drawn to stripes for a while, and now I'm finally getting a chance to play with the theme!

And I drew this beautiful figure Wednesday night at our drawing group.  She brought along these gorgeous fuscia and turquoise fabrics, and the created a beautiful reflection on her skin.  We had one artist painting and one artist sculpting, so we set up one long pose in order to get as much work done as possible after a short warm-up.  

So, while we're in the middle of drawing, I hear the studio door open and somebody walking in.  Now, we are on the second floor of a very quiet building, so we don't get very many non-artist visitors.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a cop standing in the middle of the room!  So I walk over and introduce myself and ask if there's anything I can do for him (while our lovely model sat in the middle of the pose in the middle of the room!) He said he was just checking things out, since he had seen the lights on.  Anyway after chatting for a few minutes, he left.  We're betting now that the Wednesday night Main Street shift will be covered by a new cop every week...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Figure Now 2011 - Two Works Accepted!

I was thrilled to find out that two of my original charcoal figure drawings, Immersed and Absorbed have been accepted into Figure Now 2011.  Pieces were selected by juror Michael Grimaldi.  The show will take place at Fontbonne University Fine Arts Gallery in Saint Louis, MO. February 4th thru March 5th 2011.