Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brush or knife?

 Deeper Water
8" x 10"  acrylic on panel

Available through Daily Paintworks  $95 + shipping

I made a transition to palette knife a few years ago and haven't really used a brush much at all since then, aside from sketches in watercolour.  I had some acrylics out for a value exercise in a class over the weekend and thought it might be fun to further test my brush skills.

Any tool that is used to transport paint to a surface has similarities.  The difference is more in the way you put paint on the support than the vehicle for getting it there.  Palette knives provide texture and cover canvas more quickly but brushes can have a similar effect depending on how thickly paint is applied. The process of building any painting is the same, starting with large shapes, blocking in colour and working down to detail.
I use the same technique with this brush work as with all paintings, with little blending, and colour placed one stroke at a time on the surface and keeping the edges soft.

 I don't enjoy using acrylics for palette knife work, even with a thickening agent.  For me, they don't have the same buttery feel that oils contain.  Of course either can be used, but acrylics are more challenging to use with a knife, especially on a larger support, because of their quick drying tendency - both a good and bad thing.

So will I return to brushes?   Unlikely.  I like the texture of painting with a knife and the loose impressionist quality I can get.   I think brushes will remain for some demonstrations and for adding colour to sketches.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fast and loose

I ran a three day palette knife workshop this week on boats and water and it was great to spend time and concentrate efforts on the subject.  Every workshop, no matter what, I learn something new, I test myself and meet new people of all levels of expertise.

Like all my paintings, I start with an initial sketch and colour study before moving on to the painting.  Studies are fast (30 minutes to an hour) and loose.  Detail is NOT on the agenda.  It really does help to familiarize yourself with the subject shape, composition and test your palette colour choices. 

Here are some of the colour studies demos done during the workshop.  These are in oil paint on sized paper.  I could use acrylics for the same purpose, but my colours would be slight different than those in oils and the paper holds up well to the oil paint.

Friday, May 15, 2015

10 Needs of Working Artists

Terns - Salmon Cove beach

To be an artist you have to have many qualities. Like an iceberg many qualities are hidden from view but still present to make the whole. Here are 10 qualities of working artists that I have found to be true. 

Which of the qualities can you identify with?

10 Needs of Working Artists

You need to be entrepreneurial.  
You call the shots on what you produce, how long your working hours are, how you communicate with others about your work and how you judge forward movement.

You need to be determined.
You need to want to do this more than anything else.  You need to really want to make it work.  You need to eat, sleep and live art.

You need to be thick skinned.
For every piece of art you produce there will be someone who loves it.  And someone who hates it. Whether rejection comes in the form of not getting into a juried competition, being turned down by a gallery or someone in person making a harsh statement about your art, you need to rise above it and take it as input to improve.

You need to have some money.
It is expensive to get a piece from concept to showing to the public.  There are fees all along the way an artist must pay before work ever reaches the public eye.  Materials, supports, framing, entry fees, shipping, insurance, gallery fees, promotion...  It adds up, which is part of why art is expensive at the consumer end. 

Whether you have a nest egg in the bank, a credit card or line of credit or a supporting partner, you need money, plain and simple, to carry out the business of being an artist.

You need to be an extrovert.
This is always the opposite of most people's thinking behind what an artist is and in reality its true.  Artists do usually shy from the limelight and are limited in their ability to be comfortably immersed in crowds for periods of time.

However, at openings, artist talks, and in media interaction, the artist needs to be an extrovert.  At least on the surface.  Its a skill that is learned over time and can be turned on and off as required.

You need to be an introvert.
Artists spend a lot of their time alone.  That alone time is a requirement to produce good work.  It can't be done in a crowd or not easily.  And many artists prefer that solitary existence or become used to it as it provides a time for creativity and analysis.  If you are a social butterfly and need constant interaction with others, being an artist may never quite fit.

You need to know the rules.
You need to have conversations at many levels as an artist.You need to know the art world and its players and know how to play the game. You need to know the protocol of dealing with galleries, granting organizations, framing shops, print houses, museums and collectors and how to present yourself as a professional.

You need to have financial and business skills.
Art is a business.  It is no different than a restaurant or dress shop, you simply produce and sell a different product.You need to create business and financial plans, use a wide range of computer programs and accurately track and maintain the business side of art.

You need the tools of the trade, such as business cards, a biography and artist statement for each body of work as well as an up to date art resume.

You need to have excellent communication skills both written and oral.
Communication is crucial to getting thoughts across. A newsletter, website, a blog, social media, email, grant applications, reports, media releases - there is a lot of writing as well as painting.  Attention to detail and ensuring that what is produced is seen as professional and well written is important.   Often a written word is the first introduction made to the world and you will be judged on it.

You need to have marketing skills.
And lots of them.  Art doesn't exist if it is not seen.  To be seen, people need to know about the art.  Approximately 50% of a working artist's life is marketing and 50% in producing art. Marketing takes many forms from the now nearly obsolete posters to electronic and social media which includes newsletters and e-blasts.  Unless you can afford to pay a graphic designer and social media firm to promote your work, you will need to learn how to do this yourself.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Artist block

 Bed Thief - charcoal in sketchbook

I am finally coming out of the fog that is lack of inspiration.  I know it happens to all artists and its happened to me before, but never for this long.

I keep sketching and browsing through art sites and galleries, but when I come into the studio - nothing encouraged me to pick up the paint or pencil and get at it. 

Life drawing
But in the last week or so, inspiration is creeping back and I've been painting a bit, as well as continuing to attend life drawing sessions and ideas are flowing again.  The well is filling.  Its a horrible feeling being almost paralyzing, wanting to paint, but your brain not letting you paint.   But the good news is that eventually it does come back.  Sometimes it takes awhile.

Tips for overcoming blocks

1. Don't force it.  There is absolutely nothing you can do to make inspiration come to you.
2. Play around with other mediums, sketch, draw, move things around, anything that keeps you in the studio and makes you receptive to inspiration.
3. Visit museums and art galleries.  Look at art that you wouldn't normally look at.  Try modern or abstract if you usually like representational.
4. Do something entirely different.  Knit, sew, embroidery, reading, walking and let that take over your concentration for awhile.
5. Eat chocolate.  Okay, that may not be true, but it helps.  So does wine.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Ugly ducklings turn into swans

 Paths of Communication
15" x 30"  mixed media

Time has a way of providing fresh eyes and insight into what has gone before.

For paintings, you do what you think is good work at the time, but it could be weeks or years later when your revisit a piece, you know you can do better.  There may be lessons learned, techniques honed and more experienced hands and eyes to influence and enhance the past.

As artists we have the ability to use that experience and time to look again at a painting and see how it can be improved.  It is what I have done with this piece.

On my learning curve back to colour and painting, I was a bit timid with colour, but now I use it to my advantage. I took a rather subdued jellyfish and turned it into the star of the ocean.

This is the original piece.  I'm almost embarassed to show it now, as it looks so insipid in comparison to its makeover version.  But, at the time, it worked for me and it does have many good points.

The original was done in mixed media on a  15" x 30" panel and was custom framed.  But it lacked pazazz.  I grabbed a palette knife and oil paints and pushed colour and contrast and layers to give it impact.  I have some fluorescent oil paints that are amazing.  Not for the fluorescence,which I have not seen under a black light, but for their intensity of colour.  I wish a camera and computer screen could show the vividness of the yellow, orange and red touches in this painting of this paint.  No, it won't glow in the dark under regular lighting, but it will have impact in a room.

Don't hesitate to revisit an old painting and analyse it truthfully.  I believe we see through somewhat blinkered vision at our own work and need time and/or other eyes to see it, warts and all.  Armed with that knowledge we need to have the courage to just do it and see what the end result is.  Good or bad.  In this case, I think its good.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The benefits of pressure

I've been a bit in limbo for the last couple of weeks, trying to find something to inspire me and make me wake, anxious to get to the studio.  I think its finally breaking after some small paintings and a remake of an old piece. I still sketch each day whether I want to or not.  I believe part of the process is the process of just turning up and trying.

I've thought about what inspires me and what makes me produce and have come to the conclusion that it's pressure and deadlines.  I've just completed the work for my solo exhibition, framed, ready to go, done the marketing plan, made the book, created the postcard invitations.  Now what?  There's a slump at the end of any project even if this one isn't complete until after the exhibition and artist talk in June.

Now I need to refocus on the plans I set out in January, my "Closer to Home" plans for creating work based on familiar places and things.  But without a plan, a deadline and pressure to work towards it, its easy to get sidetracked and go down any number of rabbit holes that may or may not be related to art.

For now I'm getting ready to put some pieces in a seasonal gallery and also a new gallery on the west coast, but once that is delivered, I can flesh out my plan and set myself some goals to move ahead with.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

High Tea

High Tea
 6" x 8"  oil on panel

Isn't it funny how even water can taste better if its in a beautiful container?

Tea is the same.  Nowadays you don't see china teacups very often. I'm sure there is probably a whole generation who have never seen the ornate teacups that were commonplace years ago.  I inherited a number of china teacups from my grandmother and still use them from time to time instead of the usual mug.  The gold on this teacup is beautiful and with my love of reflections, it had to be painted.

I believe beautiful things are made to be used, not stored behind glass in a cabinet and admired from afar.

What is your favourite cup/mug/glass?  Have you ever drawn or painted it?