Next Wednesday, September 11, at Art Walk in downtown Elkhart, IN., I’ll be displaying my art again, but this time instead of displaying my art by myself at a downtown business, I’ll be participating in a joint effort with other artists at the Elkhart Art League. I’ve slashed my prices to clear out space in my studio and make room for new creativity. I’ll be volunteering to help “mind the store” all evening (apart from a quick visit to Hotdogeddy’s for some supper), so come down to the train depot building — west end — at 131 Tyler Street, and say Hello while you check out a great variety of affordable original art. A portion of the proceeds go to support the Art League which promotes the arts in the community.
So, my first experience as an artist vendor for Art Walk, my home town’s monthly art event, was both good and bad. They assigned me to a great location for April, The Bookworm, an amazing book store. The owner and staff were fantastic — very welcoming and helpful. The only problem with that location was that the books are so impressive (like the library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) , so that people who walked in were so awed by the display of books (just like Belle in the film) that they looked right past the art. But I digress. (Seriously, if you read and you live in Michiana, go to the Bookworm.)
The bad part was the weather. It was barely above freezing, windy, very gray, and raining off and on. There were about two dozen people who came in while I was there, and only about a dozen who were there to look at the art. Also the Art Walk sign that was supposed to be right outside the door may have been moved a bit so that it wasn’t obvious that the store was one of the designated art displays. I did make one sale, so there was one goal met for the year. It was a small sale, but that counts. It was to a young acquaintance (now I know what her mom is getting for Mother’s Day), so I still haven’t quite met my next goal of selling art to someone who I didn’t already know. And I spent a lot on frames and display easels, so the goal of breaking even is a long way off. Those business start-up costs are considerable.
Now I’m gearing up for the next Art Walk, which is May 8. Come and see me if you’re in the area. This time my art will be on display at MisFit Fitness, 515 S. Main St. The extended weather forecast is more hopeful for this one. In addition to artists displaying their work at a variety of local businesses up and down Main Street, there will be live music. There are a lot of great food choices downtown too. I recommend Hotdogeddy’s at the south end of downtown across Main St. from the train depot — awesome hot dogs and the nicest staff you’ll ever meet. Usually they’re only open for breakfast and lunch, but on Wednesdays they’re open until 8:00.
It’s been a rough winter weather-wise and we’ve used up our allotment of “snow days” at the school where I work for my day job. I didn’t sleep away my extra days off. Well… not a whole day, anyway. I did the taxes, and then I did art.
The picture on the left is three of my great-grandfathers sisters. I never met them; neither did my father. We only have the one photograph of them, but it caught my attention among all the other old family photos. They seem like people I would like to meet. They also seemed like people I would like to paint… and so I did — in ink and watercolors. It had been about thirty-five years since I used that medium, but I think I’ve got the hang of it again. I titled it, “The Smith Sisters, Circa 1935.”
The middle picture is the result of not being able to decide what to paint. I eventually decided that I would ditch all of the possible reference photos I was mulling over and just paint a face entirely out of my head. At first she looked a lot like me. Then, for a while she looked a lot like the actress Leelee Sobieski. I think, now that she’s finished, she looks a lot like one of those fictitious princesses created by a certain film company that also owns a few theme parks. Because she’s monochromatic and I “carved” her out of paint and my imagination, I titled that one “Cameo.”
The fish is just a little sketchbook practice, made with Sharpie pens and Sharpie markers, but I had a lot of fun with him. I drew the fishy and painted the fictitious portrait while listening to audio books from the Library. I recommend Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman. It’s an account of the lives of Vincent Van Gogh and his younger brother Theo, and of their very close relationship. It was intense. I mean the book, but their relationship was definitely intense too.
I will be going on a weekend road trip to visit relatives in a few days, and I’m taking my sketchbook along. The family visit may be all that we do, but if there is some “down time,” I want to be ready with some art supplies. I’ve never sketched in a moving car, but I might give it a try. Artistic confidence comes from Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!
I don’t want to leave this until it’s one of those long overdue posts. There are some people who deserve my thanks. It’s only been a few months since I began working toward art as a vocation (that is, since I’ve been making serious attempts at getting paid for my art), but I have already received so much priceless help from some phenomenal people – people who I haven’t even met. I want to bring much-deserved attention to their amazing work and acknowledge them for what they’ve done to help me get started.
First, there was Robin Sealark. I found her on Youtube when I was looking for an instructional video on mixing flesh tones. She had a great video on that topic, and so much more. Robin is young and full of energy, witty, charming, and adorable. Her paintings are full of vibrant color and she dares to experiment and reinvent herself. Watching her videos made me feel like I already had a friend in the business. I would like to spend the first profits from my own paintings to purchase one of hers.
Next, there was Stefan Baumann. Wow. Just wow. I may have watched all of his lectures on Youtube (there are a lot) and I know I’ve watched at least a dozen of them a second time. I’ve never seen, or rather heard, art classes taught the way he teaches. I am so amazed that instruction this valuable is available for free on Youtube. The gift that he has given to the artists of the world in these videos is enormous. If you are a painter, you need to watch them. Even if you don’t paint in oils, you need to watch them. Even photographers should watch them. You won’t agree with everything he says, but you need to watch them. I’ve added attending one of his workshops at his Mount Shasta ranch to my bucket list.
Finally there is Patrick at Art Storefronts. He does their podcasts. I have determined that I am not quite ready to purchase their software/services to set up an e-commerce website with “Live Preview” (a super-cool feature where you can see what a painting will look like on your own wall). But they have so much genius advice available in those podcasts on the topic of marketing art. I’m so thankful that they offer it for free.
Besides the great people I’ve found online, I’ve been encouraged by some great people I’ve met face-to-face: church friends, friends at my day job (which I’m not quitting any time soon), old friends that I only get to see on social media, and especially my new friends at our local Urban Sketchers group — it was phenomenal to sit down with a group of strangers, talk and laugh like we’d known each other for years, and walk away friends. I look forward to getting to know you better. I’m so glad I live in a city where people care about art and artists have the means to find each other.
Most important of all, there’s my family, not one of whom ever told me that I would starve if I tried to make a living as an artist. Really. Not one discouraging word from one relative ever. Not when I was a teenager considering attending an art school instead of a traditional college. Not now, after I’ve had other jobs for decades and decided to get back into art and make it a profession. Not even one snarky comment. How rare is that?!!
More art tools … or, more precisely, framer’s tools. But most artists get good at framing too, because doing it yourself saves a bundle. Also, a lot of us wouldn’t let a professional framer touch our work, because our work is like our babies or a piece of our own souls. (Or we’re just control freaks.)
I just used these to frame “Bridesmaid in Pink,” (see my Gallery page) which I am about to enter in the 40th Annual Elkhart Juried Art Show at the Midwest Museum of American Art. If I get it finished soon, and if I can find a frame within my (currently very tight) budget, then I will also enter the still life painting that I’m working on.
One of my favorite Youtube art teachers, Stefan Baumann, says artists need to put their work out there for the world to see, even if they’re not trying to sell it, because it keeps them motivated. It also gives you the opportunity to see your work on a gallery wall next to other artists, which let’s you see how far you’ve come as an artist… or how far you need to go to achieve the level of art you are going for.
A fascinating portraitist whose blog I just discovered, Gwenn Seemel, provided the encouragement (in a video she shared) to get me over the dread of having to talk to people at an art event, should my work be accepted for the show… or even win something. It’s not that I don’t like people, I’m just one of those awkward introverts who has a knack for saying the wrong thing. That’s why I like blogging; I can edit the awkward out before I click “Publish” and put my words go “out there.”
They begin accepting submissions for the exhibit this week. Wish me luck!
Two days ago I spent the day at the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, which really gave me the itch to get on with painting. Today, I finally opened up the new set of water soluble oil paints that I’ve been planning to try. It didn’t go quite as well as I’d imagined. Half an hour into the project, I was wrestling with a cat in the bathroom, trying to remove Viridian Green from her paws. I’m glad it was the water-soluble type of oil paint because Turpenoid® probably isn’t safe for kitty to be licking off of her paws.
The next problem was that there was no brown paint in the set and brown tones are more square inches of the picture than any other color. Yes, of course I know that you can mix brown from red and green, but there wasn’t a true green either. (Viridian is a blue-green, in case you aren’t familiar.) I wasn’t having much luck coming up with brown, but I did come up with a lot of interesting grays. I’ll need to go back to the store and get a few more tubes in more basic colors.
The next problem was too much linseed oil in my glazing mixture. The blue was amazing, but it started running down into the unpainted areas and staining the white parts. (I may or may not have said a not nice word when that happened.) At that point I decided that it should lay flat to dry and I should continue working on it later.
The final problem is me. I am apparently completely unable to get near a wet canvas without sticking my fingers in the paint. With acrylics, watercolors, or gouache, that isn’t a problem. I even managed to keep my fingers out of the latex paint I used on the studio walls until it dried, but not this stuff. I need an angry doberman to guard it out there in the garage and keep me away from it until it’s dry enough to work on again.
It wasn’t all disappointment. I do REALLY appreciate the fact that oils don’t dry out on the palette before I’m done using them. I didn’t do much thinning with water, but when I did, it worked beautifully. It’s weird mixing water with oil, but it works.
So, my new drawing tool — a proportional divider (also called a scale divider) — arrived from Amazon on Friday. It’s the X-shaped tool on the left, and it’s used for enlarging a reference photo or increasing your accuracy when drawing from life.
When new art supplies arrive in the mail, it’s just like Christmas. I was tracking the shipment with Amazon, and I also signed up for that “Informed Delivery” service with the postal service, so I was ready to ambush the mail carrier when she arrived. (I may or may not have startled her a bit.)
I found it to be very useful. I am grateful to Stefan Baumann and his Youtube video for letting me know about something I didn’t even know I needed. I may have over-used it a bit on this canvas, but it definitely helped my drawing accuracy, and probably saved me some time too. The longer you use it the less you are supposed to need it, because it doesn’t just measure for you, but trains you to measure visually on your own.
I will also be trying out a new set of oil paints that have been sitting in my studio waiting for their first squeeze. That’s why I’m doing a nice, simple still life — don’t want everything in one project to be new and/or challenging. Also, I’ve heard that when you can’t decide what to paint, you should paint your lunch. The cherries were delicious.