Apparently I can’t K.I.S.S.

Last evening I began a marathon framing session. My $200+ order for frames and mats came in and I set up the living room… and dining room… and kitchen… to get some matting and framing done.

Finn and Bob are on hand to supervise...

Finn and Bob are on hand to supervise…

Two hours resulted in three framed pieces and one matted image. I have four more paintings to do tonight, plus the hanging wires.

My mom called during this mess and I talked to her while defending my piles from the cats. I said to her, “Why can’t I have a simple hobby. Or at least a cheap one?”

She laughed and said, “Because you’ve turned your hobby into a business.”

This got me thinking. Do I want my painting to be a business? Is my end goal here to make my living from art?

Short answer for the last question: no (unless I win the lottery, which I’m totally open to.) For the first question, however, I’m a little less sure.

When artists paint, they create paintings. At a certain point the paintings sort of pile up. Yes, they make handy gifts, but sometimes your friends don’t want your experimental abstracts or another horse painting. Even your mom has limited wall space. That’s where “the public” comes in.

Artists lament lack of sales. People seem willing to go to Ikea or Fred Meyer and buy a print for $50, but unwilling to invest $200 in an original by a local artist. At shows like the ones I’m going to this summer, jewelry and other small items under $20 tend to do really well, but larger pieces, no matter how well-priced, don’t sell. Many artists get around this by offering prints or cards; for myself, however, I’ve found I invest quite a bit in printing and get the money back in a reluctant trickle. I’m focusing on displaying original paintings and seeking commissions. The investment per piece is just as high, but when I do get a sale my profits look like $20, not 20¢.

$20 you say. Surely more than that! I guess it depends on your numbers (and remember, I’m a numbers person by profession.) We’ll assume I produce 10 paintings a year and use that to divide the cost per painting.

  • A sheet of watercolor paper: $6.75+ (usually divided in half) = $3.38 per painting
  • Paint: $10-18 per tube = $3 per painting
  • Brushes, equipment, other: $250 (I’ll divide this over 100 paintings) = $2.50 per painting
  • Marketing (website, booth fees, etc.): $200 per year (divided over 10 paintings per year) = $17.10 per painting
  • Classes (workshops, regular classes, critique groups, conventions): $1000 per year (divided over 10 paintings per year) = $100 per painting
  • Transportation / commute /etc.: $100 per year = $10 per painting
  • Mats: $15 per painting

In short, to get a painting from idea to the hands of a buyer takes $150.98 (matted, without a frame (with a basic frame add $35.)) One could argue that that price would be reduced some without marketing, classes, and transportation. But I do want to take classes and improve, and I like the experience of meeting the public and hearing what they think of my art.

I’m not complaining or lamenting the state of art. I’m just wishing I didn’t feel like I had to worry about all this. Keep It Simple Stupid. That would seem to be the direction I want to go, but apparently it’s going to be complicated for a while.

Postscript

If anyone is interested in learning “how” to buy art, here is an interesting article.

5 Ways to Learn About Art

Lazy Sunday, but busy bees

I didn’t do a lot today, though I did make it down to Canemah. At church, our new pastor commented that everywhere in the United States they say “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” But, he said, “Here you live it!

The skies when we started into Canemah.

The skies when we started into Canemah.

The skies when we left Canemah

The skies when we left Canemah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I mentioned the bees and today I saw even more kinds.

I tried to identify them, and even found a good site: Bees of Oregon. But I’m not good enough to figure it all out.

Other things I can’t figure out are the myriad variety of little flowers that pop out along the trail.

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

The birds were making full use of a view minutes of nice weather. I saw a red tailed hawk chasing a pigeon and heard the result. Lots of sparrows were out. And on the home front, I saw a migrant Yellow Rumped Warbler on my back patio.

Work in Progress

I haven’t had a lot to write about this week because I have been concentrating on other matters. On Monday I joined Weight Watchers. I announced this on my Facebook account, but I (weirdly) wasn’t sure about putting it on my blog. It somehow seemed so permanent, but I need to find ways to hold my feet to the fire, so on the blog it goes.

I may occasionally write about various things on my weight loss journey, but I’ll try to keep it to art talk in the main.

Still, this week was hard with a lot of dietary and habit changes. Friday was the first day I didn’t have a raging caffeine-withdrawal headache and today is the first day I don’t feel anxious. In fact, I feel pretty good. Progress is being made…

New Paintings

"Follow the Leader" - Masking fluid only

“Follow the Leader” – Masking fluid only

On Tuesday I started a couple of new paintings. I sketched out “Strike a Pose” based on a photo of sandhill cranes I took in March on Sauvie Island. I also sketched and applied masking fluid for “Follow the Leader”, a painting of tundra swans seen on the same trip.

For “FTL” I will apply a pour, similar to my 2011 egret painting. I am still deciding about colors, but I’m leaning toward oranges to indicate energy and maybe a little fear.

rosesThe week before I decided to experiment a little with Yupo (a kind of plastic paper.) I drew four sketches of the same rose on squares and applied my first coat of paint. Because of its surface, Yupo can be pulled clear back to white and the textures are really unique. I’m looking forward to some experimentation, but I need to find my reference photo first (the original got run through the laundry by accident).

I also continue work on a few other paintings.

Volunteering at SEO

Today I went out to the barn for my volunteer shift at Sound Equine Options. While I mucked the stalls, the horses went into the arena for some exercise, then I took them out for some hand grazing. Everyone got cookies.

Mocha

Mocha

The last horse I did, a cute little mare named Mocha, gave me a scare! When she was out in the arena I heard a loud thumping like someone was kicking a stall. A couple horses currently in the barn will bang their stalls doors for attention, so for a little while I didn’t think anything of it. But then it went on and I looked into the arena. Mocha had cast herself! When a horse gets “cast”, it means that they rolled over and go their legs so close to a wall they can’t get them under them again in order to get up. Horses can break legs and have other kinds of serious injuries from this, though usually it works out okay.

She didn’t look frantic or terrified, so I went over and gave her a pat. She stopped kicking immediately and gave me a very cute look, like “Oh, it’s nice to see you. I was lonely.” I wondered if she was really cast or just wanted company. But she laid there with her back legs against the wall and I decided that something should probably be done. I tried to help her tip back over. She seemed to enjoy that (I rubbed her tummy a lot) but I decided her legs would move before she did.

I climbed out and was going to drive up to the house for help when she gave a big shove and got up! I hate to say this… but I think she did it for attention and was never actually cast. She’s a devious one… but very cute.

Hike at Canemah

Last I took Finn for a hike at Canemah. Today (well, this week really) has been windy and rainy, but our hike was between showers.

europeanbee1The camas are still in full bloom and the honey bees were hard at work. There were also bumble bees cruising around like little bombers.

Two male Anna’s hummingbirds were having a contest. I tried to get a picture of this one flashing, but I only got one partial of his throat color.

Male Anna's hummingbird flashes at another male

Male Anna’s hummingbird flashes at another male

 

 

 

The stories I tell

About a year ago I went out to the Woodburn Tulip festival with my family. We had a good time, but they wanted to do more shopping than I did, so I staked out a nice shady spot and people watched for a while.

People watching is a delightful sport. It’s a lot like watching clouds for shapes or the waves for horses; the stories are only limited by your imagination.

DSCN0177During this period my imagination was captured by this couple and their dog. I particularly liked the dog who showed various levels of contempt for all the lounging about by his humans, but stretched out under the bench for a good nap.

I took some reference shots and then concocted a story.

In my (imaginary) story the man and woman were in a new relationship and the dog was disgruntled because of all the attention his human paid to the new hotsy-totsy girl.

I started to wonder… could I portray this story visually?

My first attempt got distracted by the tulips, which initially were the most interesting thing to paint. Once I realized that I was more interested in the tulips than my story, and that neither was coming together, I abandoned the attempt. Unfortunately, I cannot find the abandoned painting to show you.

DSCN0180After taking Beth Verhayden’s class I was inspired again to try to paint the story in my head.

For this attempt I abandoned the tulips and started with a neutral-to-green base, thinking that green with jealously might be the way to go.

I’ve labored long and hard over this painting and there are things about it I like. I like the background. I’m pleased with the tenderness I see between the couple. I love the jeans and shoes on the man.

But the story hasn’t emerged for me. I could live with this, but I find myself also disliking the painting for its morbid tone. I’m more used to painting bright colors and this painting feels subdued to the point of death.

"That Sunday" - 2014 - To be destroyed.

“That Sunday” – 2014 – On the shelf for further evaluation.

One thing I didn’t do that I wish I had is that I painted my background over everything instead of saving certain areas for purer color. The result is definitely a certain color consistency, but it’s also a result that doesn’t match what’s in my head.

I’m ready to accept this painting as a failure, but I’ll put it on the shelf for a few months and then take another look. Occasionally things change with time, but usually when I’m this unhappy the only real solution is to start over.

I’m not sure I have the strength. This just may be a story that goes untold.

I’m trying to console myself that I did the best I could and that I was trying something new with this painting.

Art Talk

Last Saturday (a week ago) I went to “Art Talk” with Patricia Schmidt. This is a new series of classes that Patricia has designed, intended to help artists like me move to the next level with guided critique and analysis of our paintings.

I brought two paintings: “Sizing Up the Competition” and “Delight” (title possibly to be revised). After all the various critiques last week, I really thought “SUtC” was finished, and “Delight” had been sitting on my drafting board so long with no changes that I assumed it had finished.

I should have known better.

Sizing Up the Competition

Patricia is an award winning artist whose works have appeared in the Splash series. She worked for years as an illustrator before moving into fine art. Her works (I can’t show you, you need to follow the link) are incredibly detailed and thought-out. While I have no aspirations to paint in her style, I find her analysis to be thought provoking.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 (after critique adjustments)

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 (after WSO critique adjustments)

I started with “SUtC”. The first comment came from one of the other attendees; this person asked “what is that white thing up there” (meaning the area above the grey’s ear.) I had studied that myself, wondering if it was too much contrast for a low-impact part of the painting. This comment settled that!

Patty then suggested a variety of other very subtle changes:

  • Darkening the white reign that leads out of the picture.
  • Darkening the chin of the grey
  • Lightening (or possibility) the brown behind the chestnut’s mane (to create more impact and depth of field)
  • Darkening the interior corner of the shadow role on the bay.
  • Adding a suggestion of body definition to the lower part of the bay (similar to the chestnut).

I also decided to add a little definition to the chestnut’s ears.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 - after Patty's critique

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 – after Patty’s critique

These changes took less than 10 minutes; but the result is an even better painting. In fact, Patty complimented me on the intensity of the horses’ eyes.

Delight

After everyone took a turn, I brought out “Delight”. For six weeks this painting has sat on my drafting board and I haven’t found a thing to critique. I almost didn’t bring the painting. I’m sure glad I did.

Patty, who does a lot of flowers herself, immediately suggested bringing up the drama by adding a dash more darkness to the interior curves. The outer tipped petals on the right back would be better with a little more red wash. The left-most dark petal needs a dark wash on the bottom to increase the intensity.

Again, these changes took less than 5 minutes, but the results are stunning. Patty also suggested a final cropping mat the resolves the lingering tension of the outer tipped petals.

I’ll order my mats for these this week. I truly believe that this time we’re done and they are ready to make their debuts.

Saturday in the life of an artist

Today was too rainy and windy to spent much time outdoors. I was going to title this post “Random Saturday” because that is what it has been; however, I have done a lot of arty things, so this title does seem apt.

Video Watching

At the WSO convention a few weeks ago I checked out two videos which are due back to the WSO library on Monday. I had already watched “Water Media Collage Workshop” by Carrie Burns Brown (and even written a short review for our newseltter.) I still needed to watch “A Designed Approach to Abraction” by John Salminen produced by Creative Catalyst Productions.

John came to WSO as our juror the convention before I joined, and his influence as a teacher is still felt; he’s that good. In the WSO workshop he apparently did an abstract workshop as well, and those who took it mention what are clearly his trademark phrases even after seven years.

In the video, John demonstrates creating the basic outline for an abstract, choosing the designs, and then spends most of the video manipulating the values to create a painting. I was a little disappointed when he added a little collage and acrylic in the end, but that is because I prefer true transparent.

It gave me a lot of ideas to try (I’m always saying I’m going to do more abstracts) but what I truly admired was his deliberate shape creation. He’s fearless.

With these videos watched, I headed out to the post office and to run some errands.

Booth Prep

With the Open Studios of Beavercreek event in about six weeks, I am working hard to make sure I am fully prepared. Last evening I placed an order to frame and mat eight new paintings. Today I worked on making decisions about booth display.

I’ve been spending FAR too much time on Pinterest looking at booth examples. Today I set up my pop-up tent in my garage and made a list of the items I need to find.

While I’ve been to events before, I’ve always gone pretty casual. This will be my first event where I’m really doing some marketing. I want to make sure I’m preparred.

As a trial run, I’ve decided to go to the Sound Equine Options Ride to Provide event (May 3-4) as a vendor. It should help me identify any flaws in  my booth and develop a checklist. It’s an additional level of deadline to meet.

After setting up my tent I went to several thrift stores and craft stores looking for either bargains on what I need or ideas. Nothing popped, so I may end up buying through ebay.

Second Video

Upon arriving home again, I headed to the DVR to watching another art video. Each week I record Robert Wyland’s show on PBS. Though he works in acrylics, which are the opposite (process-wise) of watercolors, I’m always inspired and threaten to work on my own water paintings. This week was the sea lions swimming through the kelp forests which I really liked.

A little weeding

The wind and rain broke, so I decided to run outside and weed. If the rain hit, I wanted to be okay leaving it, so I did the flower beds in the back yard. I’m proud to say I got them done.

While this is certainly satisfying, I also accomplished another goal in this process.

Last week I won a iPod Nano and a Nike Fuel from a work promotion raffle about fitness. Last evening I tested the pedometer function on the iPod at Canemah and discovered my little hike is 1.5 miles and 3000 steps. Today was the first day I wore the Fuel; I set it up with the recommended first fitness “goal” and the weeding has put me well over my daily goal.

A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to be her Weight Watcher buddy at Thursday Knit` Night. That added to my winning of these fitness gadgets, I’m feeling like the universe is giving me a nudge.

Final Section (Photo Essay)

I will finish with this post with a gallery of the Canemah wildflowers. I went down Wednesday and Friday evening this week and it’s gorgeous! The camas are in full bloom, and there are still the last trillium, first rosy plectis, and new false Solomon’s seal. A recent article in Portland Monthly named the eight best wildflower hikes in the Northwest; Canemah didn’t make the list. I disagree!

 

 

 

Trash Artist

Last Friday I went for a quick walk at lunch. On my way back to the office, a piece of pink surveyor’s tape lodge in the branches of a tree caught my attention.

bling2I thought the sheer pink tape blowing in the wind was pretty and had a flight of fancy where I imagined the tree deliberately catching the object and adorning its branches with it… like a 6-year-old wearing her tutu to church.

In a split second I wondered if I could paint this story. So I spent 10 minutes trying to get a good reference shot with my kindle camera.

I had a good time in this endeavor, partially because I was amused by the non-looks of passer-by. Downtown Portland is full of… unique individuals and suddenly I had become one of them as I danced around the tree with my kindle up in the air trying to get a picture of trash. People walked past, studiously ignoring my wild antics.

bling1This got me wondering about my identity as an artist.

Most days (we’ll overlook Mondays) I have some creative burst. It’s usually damped by my pesky job or other commitments. But I do think of myself as an artist and most times even admit it.

A lot has been written about artistic confidence and why artists should be proud to identify themselves as such. Artists work just as hard at their profession as the average banker or doctor, often with less remuneration. But often we’ll dismiss our works: “I just do watercolor.”

Over the years I have learned to take a compliment. When someone compliments my art, I try to say “thank you.” I am still learning to take criticism… but you’ve heard about that.

Still, an identity as an artist where I do bizarre things such as twirl around a tree to get a picture of a piece of trash is a little new. Usually I say “I paint watercolors” or “I paint horses.” I don’t generally admit that I wander the streets of Portland in search of trash to photograph.

Maybe I should?

Walking through an edible landscape

I talk about Canemah a lot. It is right down the road from my house and offers a wealth of what an artist friend of mine once called “salient detail.” It’s also gorgeous. This is the time of year when Canemah really shows off with flowers and bloom.

But I think it’s also the time when its history is most evident.

An Oregonian article from several years ago gives me an idea that Canemah was something of a meeting place. With the obstacle of Willamette Falls, preventing easy navigation (but providing good fishing) I can see the area being something of a rest stop.

Canemah comes from “canim” or “canoe” in Chinook. Situated just upstream of the rushing Willamette Falls, the riverside area of Canemah is where hundreds of generations of Native Americans beached their canoes to portage around the falls. – Metro website

I’ve done a little research to improve my knowledge of Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest; like all cultures, Native Americans have dramatic cultural shifts from one region to another. My immediate area is where four major tribes and bands called home. I love to research stories and know the landmarks they are referring to.

For example. this story about the Kalapuyas:

One day Crow entered the house of a poor family, according to an old Tualatin, Kalapuya story. He told the woman, “make and sharpen a stick at the end and dig a hole. Get these camas, and get these potatoes and get wild carrots, and all these edible things in the ground so that they may be eaten,” because, he explained, “you will be well off.”

camas1

First days o the camas bloom. In about three days the whole field will be purple.

With camas, a flower that was dug in the fall for its tubers and eaten like potatoes, in abundant supply I can visualize families setting up here to rest and stock up on stores. While camas are abundant in our area, this is the only place where I have seen an entire field covered in them.

The oak savannah of Canemah is pretty rare for Oregon as well, but treasured because it is evidence of a lifestyle.

They slash burned just to make the country an open pasture. To make the habitat more conducive to elk, deer, camas, tarweed and hazelnuts,” says Zenk. “The way they managed their land is something they had to work at. They were almost like a pre-agricultural society.” This rare pre-agricultural land management not only ensured that lush meadows would attract, game and produce traditional plant foods every spring. According to Hudson, “When they burned the land they burned the grasshoppers. And the women gathered up the grasshoppers, and they ate those grasshoppers, it is said.” Similarly, Zenk adds that the freshly burnt fields left camas seeds loosened from their pods and ready for harvest. “The women would go out into the fields and use seed fan (baskets) to beat the seeds from the parched pods.

 

Wild strawberries putting out bloom

Wild strawberries putting out bloom

In the spring you will see wild strawberries and salmon berries, as well as other edibles like miner’s lettuce and bracken, even I can dream up a gourmet meal featuring spring Chinook.

It’s this kind of mood that makes me want to do a series of paintings inspired by the Native Americans of my region. The closest I have dared come is my painting “Thunderbird.” But I do dream about it.

 Resources

Metro – http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id/42533

Willamette River Trail – http://willamettewatertrail.org/map/canemah/

Clackamas Native American History –

What will I do this summer?

One interesting thing about starting this blog has been that I am actually reading more blogs and paying more attention to what others are doing to market their art (or other business). The downfall is that I now have even more things to distract me.

A few days ago I found a blog called Art Biz Blog. As I was perusing this site, deciding if it was worth my while to follow, I came across a post about what the site and author were trying to accomplish. The advice for using the site suggested the following steps:

  1. Decide what you need
  2. Ignore what you don’t: “BSOS” (Bright Shiny Object Syndrome)
  3. Pace yourself
  4. Trust yourself

This is good advice for a lot reasons and especially applies to deciding my summer schedule.

Summer is not my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons.

  1. Summer is my busy time at my real job (the thing that pays the bills).
  2. Summer is hot. I am not a fan of hot. Over 65 is hot. Over 75 is really hot.
  3. Summer has grass. My allergies object to this.
  4. Did I mention it was hot?

Therefore, it is my feeling that summer needs a plan. It is supposed to be a time of enjoyment. A plan could help with that.

Summer is when a lot of art events happen. Shows can happen outdoors and most people are tempted to leave the house instead of sitting on a couch wearing layers of wool or driving from mall to mall in a frenzy of holiday-related despair. (I love the winter. I don’t shop and just sit on the couch knitting. Good times.)

At the beginning of the year when I sat down and determined a few goals, one was this website. So far, I’ll give myself two thumbs up. I am enjoying the process of blogging and I think I’ve been positively impacted by putting up my work in an organized fashion; at least I feel like I know what kinds of things I focus on.

Other goals:

  1. Beavercreek Open Studios event
  2. WSO show acceptance (still can try for fall show)
  3. Equine Art Show
  4. Oregon Society of Artists / Rose Society show
  5. One summer event

Last week I was definitely notified that I will be in the Open Studios of Beavercreek sale June 6-8. I will have to invest in some booth signage, new business cards, and a hanging system of some sort. This will translate well the First City Celebration Event in Oregon City. This event is scheduled from 11am-9pm; the last day made me hesitate, but they just announced an option for a 7pm pack up.

I also just sent in my free to be a vendor at the have my eye on being a vendor at the Sound Equine Options show in May to possibly get some more portrait business.

There are artists who spend all of the traditional summer weekends at shows. These artists look on summer as their time to make some sales, attract customers, and add to their mailing list so when the holidays roll around customers know where to find them. I’m not there yet. but I do want to add a few items to my artistic agenda.

New Theme

I have been getting various reports about the theme not working correctly. As well, I had problems viewing the site in Internet Explorer. So… I’ve changed!

P.S. I’ve now just spent two hours updating all my social media stuff. The world is too much! So small but so big!

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