Friday, February 15, 2019

Beginnings, middles and ends



Paintings are almost like books or films with predictable processes - and unpredictable results. 

They have a beginning where I have an idea, some thumbnail sketches and a colour study.  It's like starting an introduction to the characters and setting the scene if it were a book.

The middle is where the action starts.  I put down paint, change ideas and colours and sometimes even scrape back the whole piece and restart! It can be unpredictable.  I know that sounds odd but I often don't know just how the painting will turn out as it evolves so much over time.  The plot thickens as the paint is applied and decisions are made and reversed.

Finally, the end is in sight, where I can see the goal.  Suddenly one day, after hours and days of work, that "light bulb moment" happens and things all start to fall into place.  My favourite part is the end.  At that point I can forget form and values and concentrate on details and touches of colour that bring a painting to life.   Once I can add no more and am simply fiddling with paint, I know its time to call it finished.

This painting is at that final stage now where I can start adding detail.  It is a restart over an previous work (Recycling) and has gone through its stages.  Each stage has its own challenges and rewards but for me, the end is sweet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Gallery Insider - Rejection is a good thing

Bottoms Up
36" x 36"
oil on canvas


It's not until you own an art gallery that you truly appreciate the work that goes into making art available to the public.  Running an art gallery is not for the faint of heart, but that is true for any entrepreneurial undertaking. 

Artist partnerships are the backbone of the business and developing relationships over time is crucial.  While hard and firm contracts are not always the norm, especially in a seasonal gallery, quality is and with the curation of what goes on the wall comes rejection of paintings or artists whose work doesn't fit for a variety of reasons.


Rejection is often seen as a terrible thing and I've seen (and heard) lots of complaints about gallery owners who decline artists' work.  I've been there too, believe me.  I don't think there is an artist on the planet who hasn't been had a rejected application or painting for a show.  While it may sting a little at first, rejection sends artists a message and an opportunity.  In many cases, rejection of a piece of art provides the artist with the opportunity to reflect on their technique, process, subject and style and look at ways to improve it.   With so many people dipping their toes into the art world these days, Pareto's Principle applies:  20% of artists will be saleable; 80% will not.  Producing art that the public wants is subjective of course, but good art and good materials are objective from the gallery perspective and non-negotiable.

I see work submitted on inferior supports and materials and off the shelf framing that sends me the message that the artist does not take their work seriously.  If I can tell if you have dollar store canvas and whether you know technique or colour theory, so will a potential buyer.  Yes, it is expensive to paint and to frame with quality supplies.  But supplies are the tools of the trade and to be represented at a fine art gallery and have the public spend money on your art, it needs to be the best quality that you can afford.  If  quality products are not used to create, artists may need to rethink where they want their work will hang.

So, how do you improve your chance of getting into a gallery?

1. Read the (usually downloadable) information on submitting work to a gallery.  It is there for a reason and usually answers most questions that you may have about responsibilities of the gallery and the artist, as well as financial transaction information, intake dates, etc.  Follow the instructions, provide the necessary information and don't turn up at the gallery with a car load of paintings that you expect will be approved on the spot.  "I didn't know" doesn't sit well for gallery owners and may well get you a rejection.  Again, its about professionalism.  Your art is your business.  If you don't care, why do you expect someone else to?

2. Use quality materials.  Quality shows in everything, from the painting to the framing.  It is your representation to the world.  Make sure it is the best you can offer.

3. Research the gallery genre and make sure your work fits in.  If you've never visited in person or even been to the website and you make X when the gallery only sells Y, you'll be rejected.

4. Don't cut and paste your cover letter/email to the gallery.  Sure, its quicker if its very generic, but if you don't take time to tailor it to the curator/director, your professionalism is judged immediately.  Cut & paste also runs you the risk of adding details of another gallery or show in the body of the email.  A sure fire way to be rejected.

5. Find your own style and stick with it.  Hopping from medium to medium and subject to subject confuses buyers and galleries.  The gallery is there to sell your work and be your spokesperson.  If four of your pieces look like they are from completely different artists it is a problem.  Also if your work looks like ten other artists' work, or the work from an artist at the latest workshop you've attended, that is a problem too.

6. Hone your technical skills.  Poorly executed art shows lack of knowledge and technique.

7.  Don't take rejection personally.  It is an opportunity to study your work, where you want to go with it and how you want to improve it.  Take advantage of that so when you apply to a gallery again, you'll have some more meat on the bones of your art.

For information on  2019 submissions to The Baccalieu Gallery, Heart's Content, NL Canada, click here to download gallery information and submission form.







Friday, February 08, 2019

Recycling



A couple of times a year I do a clear up and purge of art supplies and old paintings.  I throw out or burn unusable things, give away what I know I'll never use and recycle what can be saved.  I also vow to not buy more supplies than I know I'll use.  Well, I try.  To be honest, I don't buy a lot of random art supplies any more.  I have a pretty strict art supply list that I stick with that consists of oil paints and canvasses and tend to buy in bulk twice a year.  Of course a few "treats" find their way into those orders, using printmaking supplies and a nice fountain pen and ink.  See how easily I get waylaid?

Among the usual stash of pencils, paints and papers that I part company with, there are always starts on canvasses.  They were ideas that never took shape or simply went in the wrong direction.  If they're not textured and if the medium used can be painted over, I reuse them for another piece.  Sometimes, I gesso over the piece, sometimes, as in this one, I draw directly over the old start then paint over it.


This was a start of a flooded path in the woods that didn't inspire me so I turned it upside down and created this dory.  I rather like how the boat form envelops the previous work in its initial stage.

So what does your stash look like?   Do you have a sampling of everything or do you stick with materials that you constantly work with?

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Puffins


Mind Your Head
12" x 12"
oil on cradled wood panel
Available for purchase online  Click here for details

Puffins are the Atlantic version of parrots.  Colourful, stocky and low flying, they seek shelter and homes on outcropping on the edge of land or on islands just offshore.  And in Newfoundland, we are lucky enough to have them close by and see them from land or on a boat just off shore.  At present, about 60 percent of the North American population breeds on four islands in Witless Bay off the east coast of the island of Newfoundland

There seems to be a universal appeal for these birds, especially in their breeding season when their beaks are brightly coloured.  After the breeding season, the beaks change to a dull grey, making them almost look like an entirely different bird.

They aren't elegant and if you've watched them take off and land you'd see their lack of grace as they crash into other birds as they land or fall into the sea when taking off.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

The Road Less Travelled


The Road Less Travelled
oil study on canvas paper - 6 x 9

The Baccalieu Gallery is located in Heart's Content, about a 130km drive from my home in the city.  Although the building is empty during the winter/early spring, I have technology on my side so that I can view every part inside and out through remote cameras, with motion activation alarms and smoke detectors on 24/7 alert. 

But, I still like to visit the property every couple of weeks to double check in person.  Part of the drive to the gallery is my favourite, across the Heart's Content Barrens.  This is a stretch of road that can have a completely different climate from down by the ocean or in the city, but the roads are kept well sanded and plowed, making travel pretty straightforward unless there is a major snowfall or snow squall.

The views across the barrens is, to me, always spectacular and always interesting, no matter what the weather.   This view shows a front of snow coming in fast on a cold day in December.  The almost monochrome palette gives drama to the scene and the snow was flying by the time I got to the other end of the road.