Early on Easter morning a fire broke out and burned down an iconic old building in my home town of Clarion. The building housed Bob's Subs along with a few other businesses. Bob's Subs is legendary in the region. I worked there as a teenager and anyone who’s attended Clarion University has eaten many a Bobs Sub. I usually have one whenever I go back home…they are just so good and it's tradition as well.
I happened to be home visiting, so Easter afternoon I walked downtown to see for myself. When I saw the smoldering embers, I thought of the loss, all the history of the place and of course how lucky that no one was hurt. Then I thought how grateful I was that I had done a painting with Bobs in it!
The Jackson Inn where I live in Delaware is a landmark tavern and has been on my list of places to paint. Just 2 weeks before heading to Clarion Easter, I heard it was closing it's doors for good and possibly being razed to the ground. Blessed with some early spring weather, I got a couple good painting days in over there and painted 2 views of The Jackson Inn before any damage was done.
All this got me to thinking how paintings really are a recording of a moment in time and place. That that can be very specific for some, like Bob's Subs on the corner of 5th and Main and The Jackson Inn OR just the feeling of a small town street that reminds you of a trip to grandmas, a town you grew up in, or a place you used to hang out in with friends.
I’ve balked at that definition of my paintings in the past. It seemed trivial to me. I have to say....I’ve changed my mind! I feel profoundly honored to paint these places and glimpses of time that will never exist again. In essence, that is every painting isn't it....?
Be Safe and Please follow me if you enjoyed this.
A slow start...
After painting several of my studio paintings with my go-to regular palette, I came up with the idea of painting the same subject but with a limited palette...just to see what the difference would be. Using a limited palette is something I’ve wanted to try. This seemed like a great time to experiment! Right away, I was surprised at the versatility within the limited palette. It forced me to think more strictly in light/dark and warm/cool terms which, I think, is good for me. Editing and simplifying never hurts and the limited palette made me think differently. I was definitely happy with the results and folks on Social Media seem to like the results too...whatever that means.
Studio Study Gallery
It's been a fun experiment and something I will carry with me into my plein air work this season. I'm definitely considering how to limit my plein air palette. It's not an extensive one to start with...8 colors, but it may be time to experiment a bit with that this spring!
When I'm doing these challenges, I like to alternate doing different things; so one day I'll paint a small studio study and the next I'll play with some abstraction. Some days I may do both, especially if I've had a couple days off, but it helps keep it fun and interesting for me to mix it up a bit.
Gouache studies plus...
A number of years ago I took an online class from Larry Moore. He introduced me to this idea of many small gouache studies, one building off another and just building the layers of them too. You can add collage, markers, pencil drawing, whatever you want to the process. I enjoy the intuitive-ness of this process. Sometimes it ends in a disastrous mush or a chaotic blur but sometimes a gem pops up. Even in the messes, often there's a little something…and you add another layer once again to "fix" it.
Anyway, one sheet of gouache sketches is 2-3 days of short work sessions since it is layered.
After I was working with these shapes for a couple weeks, I decided I wanted to try painting them with a limited palette. That’s where the 12” x 12” paintings happened. Some successful. Some not.
Then I wanted to get even bigger! Would it work to enlarge the gouache studies or would something be lost in that translation? Let’s try! My 1st attempts went quite well. It helped that they were done over old paintings. I LOVE working over old paintings. I’ve started a few on new panels. They are coming along but it’ll take a bit more work to get them to a similar level to the first two.
There was no "final destination" in mind when I started this challenge. I've created paintings I'm happy with and I'm definitely inspired with ideas for more and that is what I was hoping for. I have learned new things AND I have more work to do. That feels terrific. The challenge served it's purpose.
Please consider following me on Instagram at @sbaptistart and signing up to keep on top of things like this challenge by signing up below. Sarah
My February Art Challenge...
Many moons ago I would challenge myself in January to do 30 paintings in 30 days…My January Paintings Challenge. This was created to get me back into the studio and “working” after the holidays. The past 3 January’s there have been deaths or crisis’ that have kept the January challenge from happening and that’s ok…getting into the studio isn’t an issue like it used to be, but I admit that this year I’m feeling that a little structure or focus could be helpful.
Sooo, I’m modifying my challenge. I started on February 1st and promised myself to work every weekday. I always pick two themes to work on and usually swap them out every other day. This is a personal preference and keeps me interested. I always enjoy painting my studio but this year I may expand into the house. We'll see what happens there.
Some works in progress...
The 2nd theme will be my abstract studies in gouache. These have been a lot of fun for me and I can see that they may be inspirations for larger paintings down the line, so I'm excited continue with these. Here’s an example of one sheet I've done. Check out my You Tube Channel for videos of me working on these abstract gouaches sheets.
I am limiting myself to weekdays because I know of a few conflicts already. That gives me Saturdays to catch up if need be. I reserve Sundays as a day-off these days.
This does not preclude me from working on other things. I have a few other ideas I want to develop also but this is bare minimum. When I originally did this type of challenge, just getting into the studio was a challenge. That is not the case so much anymore. This is more to help me focus on something in particular. Feel like I am accomplishing something, have something to show after a few weeks in the studio. I think it will help. We will see.
Also check out my Instagram at @sbaptistart. I post regularly what I'm working on. And SIGN UP for my email list. My subscribers got a video and sneak peak of all this before it hit social media.... !!
And here we go...2023...
My 2023 is starting out a bit slowly and that's just fine with me this year. For years I've done a painting on January 1st and then tried to do paintings every day or regularly there after, just to be in the studio after the holidays and get back to working. This year i just couldn't do it. On January 1st, all day I kept thinking ..."I should do a painting" but my heart wasn't in it so I let it go. It felt odd but it also felt OK to let to go this year.
Here are a couple more shots of my studio and what I'm working on. Mostly urban abstracts right now. I'll be working on this word/urban series this winter with "walk" and "yield" being integrated into the paintings...or that's the plan at the moment.
We are all our own Creation Story. Right now I'm feeling the need to slow down and listen, read, fill my well. Slow and steady is the course right now. What's your story/year looking like?
Tis the season….Here we GO!
How’s this all come about anyway?
As August and September roll around, I start thinking about IF I want to do a holiday series. Usually that dependents on if there’s something I want to paint; something that I think will be fun and interesting that people will enjoy. That is half the battle because believing in what I’m creating is essential.
At first this year, I really had nothing. No ideas that excited me, so I figured I’d sit this year out. But I was still mulling things over, trying to decide if that was the right decision. Something was nagging at me saying…you can think of something fun…come on. Then I remembered a Sock Monkey painting I did a couple years back; he was with a bunch of art supplies and was a big hit. I got a couple requests for him in other situations but because of the holiday time frame, I couldn’t deliver. But this could be a series…
It’s definitely playful, quirky and something different…. PERFECT! Yep, Good ole’ Sock Monkey paintings! I knew I found my answer. THIS was IT! I was thinking about Elf on the Shelf and then started thinking I could substitute Sock Monkey into all kinds of Holiday situations in kinda the same way. The rest is history…well …sock monkey paintings actually.
Now I just had to think of a counterpoint. I think that makes it all more interesting…mixes things up a bit. This was easier for me. I’ve been working on these “mash-ups”…These start as plein air paintings that I re-work with collage, painting and maybe some drawing to create a new artwork. part plein air and part abstracts. That fit the bill.
Some folks say they like the original painting better but the fact is that these paintings have been around for years. I can't hold on to everything forever, so the paintings I feel I can add new life to are the candidates for me to re-work. It does not always work out but luckily, so far, it's worked often enough.... PLUS I have a blast doing it! I love a challenge too and it's such a joy to take a rejected, tired old painting and re-energize it...give it new life. So that is what the Merry Mix Ups are!
As for size of paintings, how many and when to launch the series, past experience, how much time I had to paint and the number of frames I had dictated my decisions there. Honestly, these types of projects can get weighty and not so much fun at a certain point but I have really enjoyed this one. It’s been the perfect size and a joy to create. I am glad I didn't just throw in the towel, say NO to the whole Holiday series idea and not give it another thought. I'm glad I listened to that little nagging voice inside. Do you think it was my inner Sock Monkey..poking me? hahaha
To Subscribe to this years Tis the Season Click right here and hop on my mailing list...or check out the gallery page which will be up for the month of December.
Have a Fantastic Holiday season. I wish you Joy, Happiness, Peace and Many Blessings......
Tis the Season - is coming!
Every year I say, "I'm not ready" for the holidays but this year...I'm REALLY not ready! I feel like the world spins a little faster every year because we seem to get to the holidays before I seem to catch my breath from Open Studio. But it will be OK! I know I just need to keep chipping away at my to-do list. I love my to-do list!
For me the Holidays also brings up the question of whether to launch a Holiday series...or not. Quite honestly I was leaning towards the NOTuntil I had THIS one idea; the more I thought about it, the more it made me laugh and smile. It just seemed like SO much fun, I figured I had to DO IT!
Soooo, I'll be launching "Tis the Season" on December 1st.
What does that mean, you ask? Good question! Starting on December 1st my subscribers will get an email at 6AM with 1 new painting featured. This will continue for 10 days. After 24 hours each painting will go public, so Subscribers have that 24 hour window to see and purchase paintings first.
I am very excited about these paintings. There are 2 series. Both have been a joy to make...getting me back into the studio after feeling a bit "flat. The larger series is VERY playful and I think you'll get a real kick out of them. It's hard to keep it all a secret but I also think that's part of the fun...the suspense, the reveal... kinda like opening a present every morning when you get that email!
So Sign up now to get your Tis the Season 6 AM email to get exclusive access!
No more bon-bons Sarah....
Okay…Sarah… stop your lounging around eating bon-bons. Well, that’s not exactly what I’ve been up too but it is time to get back into the studio on a regular basis. It’s also time to set a schedule and some goals. I DO like a to-do list!
This couple weeks has been a much needed time for me to breathe and reflect. A transition period from plein air to studio time. I was sitting in my studio this morning, looking at this bridge series I’ve been working on and thought… Bridges are transitions! They get you from one place to another.. how apropos. Although my take on bridges isn't of the tradition view...the sort that actually shows you getting from one place to another...I still like the analogy.
Here's my bridge series. Click images for more pictures and information.
Anyway, I’m feeling ready to finish the year out now. I have an idea for a small series of paintings for the holidays…something very different and like I said…just FUN. My subscribers will get 1st dibs on these paintings delivered right to their email inboxes BEFORE I release them to the public 24 hours later! If you'd like to be one of those people...Subscribe Now!
Till next time..... Sarah
Since my Open Studio is in late September and that is when the weather also is cooling off...ie I'm tapering off on plein air painting, I find that afterwards is a natural time to take a break, reflect on the past year and consider what’s next in the coming months and even the coming year. The input I get from people who come to Open Studio is key in all this too and is part of what makes this a great time to take stock.
I want to take this opportunity to Thank everyone who came to Open Studio and those who cheered me on from a distance or on social media. We tried some new things like the paint demo and Wendy Mitchell from Talleyville Frame Shoppe who came and did a framing talk/demo. We met some new friends (yeah!) and as always LOVE visiting with old friends. Thanks to ALL!
So it's September...
September. For many that means the kids are back to school or vacation time is over. For me it means…Open Studio.
And then there is the people factor. Every year as we go thru all the prep and cross off the items on the lists, we wonder who, if anyone will show up. When we finally get to Open Studio, one of my favorite parts is seeing familiar faces coming through the door AND new ones too. It's a joy to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. It’s also fun to see which paintings people respond to, what questions they have or just hear their stories about how Art has been a part of their lives. It always restores my faith in the power of Art to connect us, even when I don’t feel it needs any restoration, it gets a good boost anyway.
We are just a few weeks out from this years Open Studio as I write this. I hope to see you this year. If you aren't local Check out my webpage because we be Live streaming the demo and framing talk.
Apology Not Accepted...
Perhaps this is not new phenomena but it is something I have noticed a lot recently; it is the art apologizer. Countless times this summer, at various venues…be it a gallery show, out painting plein air or if I meet someone and they find out I’m an artist I get the “oh I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about art”.
First of all, I don’t believe it. Everyone knows a little something about art because it is everywhere! It’s surrounds you from the clothes you wear to the design of the coffee mug you use, the car you drive, movies you watch and music you listen to just to mention a few obvious things.
I understand that the visual arts intimidate some people but I’m here to say…RELAX. There is no reason to be scared or intimidated. You know what you like right? Do you think you need a Ph.D to own art or view art? NO! An appreciation for the sincere effort the artist put forth is good place to start. If you like their art- Great! Sometimes it may take a while for you to absorb it and that’s fine too…you can even say that…”I need a while to look at this!”. Or you can always ask the artist why they created something...that can be a great conversation starter, but do not apologize.
Perhaps you don’t have much experience in going to art shows, museums or viewing art and the lingo is intimidating. Artists I know love to teach and if you ask what something means, they'd be happy to explain. Listen, if I’m talking to a lawyer or a financial person and they start talking…I sometimes have to say..yo…what’s that mean? We can’t all be experts in everything so enjoy the art and ask questions. Look and ask yourself what you like. Just as important, ask yourself what you don’t like but do it when you are looking at art and it’ll help you. If you do it enough you may surprise yourself in the range and type of art you are open to. I’ve seen this happen many times and I think it's fantastic; as people get curious and look, look and look they see more and more which just opens more doors. We continue to grow and learn. Art is so cool.
But please, Don’t ever apologize. I’m simply not going to accept it.
Here are few paintings I've done, en plein air, recently. Please enjoy and click on images for for information.
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Winning Isn't Everything...
The painting that won was one that I tried a different design idea. I wasn’t sure it would work but I decided to give it a try. The dark bridge with the bright light through to the other side was key. Part of doing these events is pushing yourself to paint more than usual and really looking at things around you. The award is a fantastic validation. Nice that an urban landscape can win!
I want to say something to those who didn’t win anything or maybe didn’t sell anything either, because I have been there too. It’s hard to not take that personally. Really hard sometimes. I saw some wonderful paintings that did not sell and when those are yours, you ask why? There is no good answer. Just not the right time, the right person but it is not a reflection of your talent!
Remember why you’re painting, keep painting, keep learning and keep enjoying your creativity.
I am Thankful to Marietta Art Alive for putting together such a wonderful event and having 4 days to paint and be inspired. It’s a great way to jump start the plein air season and I look forward to next year! And YES, Thanks for the award…it’s definitely nice but no, not everything.
still available (when written) - click image for more images and info
Everything Old is New Again
There is always a dilemma with what to do with older paintings...of course, some you want to hold on to but you can't keep them all! Some get sanded out to be become newer, better paintings, but I've been looking for another answer...sanding them out seems so extreme. You’ve surely heard the phrase “Everything old is new again.” This has come to mind as I’ve decided to rework a few older plein air paintings. The idea is to keep some of the original painting but apply some of the new collage and abstract techniques I’ve been doing recently and see what happens. I like the idea of merging the old and new in this way.
The creative process kinda mirrors life here. You go off past experience; search for what works. You don’t always know what you’re looking for but when you see it; find it, you know it. There’s satisfaction and joy in that space and so, you continue on. OR, you don’t like it and make another, different choice, BUT you still continue on.
Merging the old and new. is a way to try to make sense of where I’ve been and perhaps where I’m heading.
Prior to doing this collage work, I was working with gouache...also working from older plein air paintings but mostly as inspiration rather than directly on them. I'd look at the painting and do small drawings that were very loose, then add layers of paint, marker, whatever...again the point was to play and disconnect from the "thing". It was about responding to shape, line and color really. I did a whole series called Market Riffs off one painting. It was fun to see just how far I could go. I imagine I could go farther, really.
To see some of this newer work, check out The Art Trust show REFLECTIONS which opens on April 27, 2022 and closes June 10. May 6th is the Opening reception-5-9pm.
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I'm headed up next week to paint for a few days. Tune into my instagram account to follow along with what I'm doing! It's been a while since I've done one of these events. Getting all my panels ready...just being tuned up and ready to paint is a lot to do. Well, I've gotten out this week and I admit to feeling a bit rusty. That is about normal though and the only remedy is PAINT MORE!
Here's what I've done so far this week. It's a start. I'm happy with that. :) Click images for more info
One year ago...
One year ago today my Father died. January 25, 2021 at 9:30 AM. I miss him and am sad sometimes but I do not doubt, he is not only fine but soaring with angels.
It was my intention to write a wonderful tribute to him on this occasion. His role in me being present in this world is obvious. His influence on my art I have always known, but this past year I have begun to FEEL the depths of this gift and there are no words to describe the love and gratitude it has graced me with.
A few weeks after Dad's death I wrote a Valentine's Tribute to him. On reading it again, I don't think I can improve on it so I re publish it again here:
Oh What FUN !!
The holidays are coming and we all wanna be ready, right?....
known for. Half the paintings will be abstract paintings, inspired by urban scenes or past plein air paintings I've done. So a little something for everyone's taste! It's such a joy to create these paintings and think of the joy they may bring to others as well.
Subscribers to my Newsletter will get 1st access to these paintings - delivered directly to their inbox 48 hours before the public sees them so SIGN UP NOW! Don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity! When you sign up you'll get some welcome emails as well as any news about this upcoming Holiday Celebration!
As for my Plein Air Painting this summer, I scheduled my painting time and limited my painting area to mostly downtown Wilmington. This helped me to focus on my painting and not the extraneous, getting ready, finding a spot etc, parts. I also went from painting 6 sizes to just 3 sizes. This simplified decisions on location as well as framing and pricing later on down the line.
I think this work in combination with the figure work made for a unique and fun Open Studio experience. It was a joy to do the work and a thrill to get to share it ,finally.
At the writing of this blog, the Open Studio Gallery page in not accessible via my website BUT YOU CAN GET THERE via the special link below ! Here are a few pictures taken during Open Studio this year:
Now, can you just enjoy my painting for a painting? Absolutely, but this layer of insight has added a new dimension to my work for me and I wanted to share it. I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the future.
Now let’s talk Open Studio....
Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter so you don't miss any the details...especially for my annual Open Studio which will be coming up in late September! There will be a virtual component for those who are not local.
In case you are interested in seeing more of my expressive figures, feel free to check out my Etsy shop, Sarahs Art Scene
It’s mid-June. Usually by now I am well into my plein air season, I’ve been out multiple times painting, feel “tuned up” and it’s really just a matter of painting, painting, painting. Generally there are a couple events lined up and I know what the next couple months will look like. This year is off to a much slower start. With no events to jump start the season and a fairly cool spring season…it just has been lagging a bit.
But Enough of that! No more excuses.
The weather is now almost too hot. Funny how that can seem to happen SO quickly. I have re-dedicated myself to painting plein air this summer and am determined to GET OUT THERE and PAINT! It is the only way to get back into the swing of things…the only way to get better at painting!
So how am I going to do this? First off, every Sunday I am looking at my week and the weather and sketching in which mornings I’ll paint plein air. If the forecasters get it wrong, I have backup plans to paint in the studio.
It can be tough to go paint by yourself. For me it helps to know when I get up on Monday (or whatever) morning that I am going out to paint that day. I do my morning stuff then get my paint clothes on, gear together and off I go.
The nerves are always there. I have gotten used to that. Sometimes they are worse than other times but I just have to remind myself that this is my job now and I get on with it. Once I start getting set up and painting, the nerves go away.
2 WEEKS LATER
I’ve been out painting. Yes, the nerves kicked in. I find I just have to override them and go with my plan. Once I am set up and painting a wonderful thing happens; folks smile at you, give you a thumbs up or stop by to see what you are painting and really applaud your efforts. It’s a joy to see their eyes light up; they get such a kick out of seeing an artist at work and that reminds me how lucky I am.
In the early days of my plein air career the idea was to paint fast and get inventory. Now I try to take my time a little more. Plein air is still a quick painting genre and always will be but I do take breaks, walk away from my painting to get perspective and also take time to interact with anyone who stops by to ask questions. It’s made painting a more enjoyable experience for me even if the painting doesn’t turn out....and yes that happens.
Here are my paintings from the last 2 weeks. They are not on the website as of this writing, but if you see anything you like, contact me. My goal continues to be painting plein air 3 days a week. Obviously weather is a factor and life sometimes gets in the way but so far, so good!
I went out to paint plein air painting this morning.
It was in the mid 70’s at 7AM. The goal was to be out painting by 9, at the latest. I have to tell you that even plein air painters don’t ALWAYS feel like painting...and this was one of those mornings for me. But, the rest of the week looks overcast and rainy and sometimes, you just have to make yourself DO IT!
Some days inspiration abounds and others you just paint. Today I just needed to paint! I got started and of course the subject of my painting, a car, moved. Luckily I had sketched it, but I hadn’t taken a picture of it yet. These are the things that you have to re-learn when you start plein air painting again, early in the season. I shook my head, laughed it off and kept plugging away.
BUT that’s not the best part of my story today! I started telling this story because today I was hi-jacked. Often people will talk to me, that’s no problem. Downtown, people often ask for money and that’s a bit uncomfortable, but today I met Myeshia. When I left the house this morning, I said a small prayer that I didn’t want to be hassled for money today...I was just not in the mood but I try to be open to others when I am out there no matter my mood.
As I’ve said, I was struggling with my painting, color mixing was off a bit, things just not “flowing”. A few people stopped to chat but I was not hassled for money. :) Then Myeshia stopped and was just so happy to see me painting and loved what I was doing. She does mosaics and was headed to The Creative Vision Factory in the next block and wanted me to see her work. I politely declined but she kept asking. She was just SO excited about her work and wanted to share it. I could tell it would mean a lot to her for me to take a few minutes and look at her work so ...I decided I could take a few minutes and check it out!
The Creative Vision Factory was full of people and there are still some covid restrictions in place so I got a quick tour. There is lots of space for people to create and there is a schedule for people to sign up for times to come in too. It is full of art that people have created and they sell it help support their non-profit efforts in keeping the place going. Myeshia has a really good eye for color and design and had many mosiacs that were very vibrant and quite wonderful. I am glad I got to see them!
Isn’t that what art is? Sharing our talents and our time. Give and take. A little humanity for each other. I wish her well in her creative endeavors and I know the Creative Vision Factory will be there to help her and many others along the way.
I got back to my car and headed home. I finished my painting in the studio, which I rarely do but hey, ya gotta go with the flow, eh? Now when I look at this painting, I’ll think of Myeshia
The Creative Vision Factory
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The Creative Vision Factory fosters the creative potential of individuals on the behavioral health spectrum in a studio art environment that cultivates integration with the local art community through a program of exhibitions, workshops, and communal workspace.
Recently, I was listening to a Carolyn Myss post on Facebook and what she was saying really struck me. I couldn't find that exact post so I have linked to her youtube channel...but anyway...She was talking about Covid, of course, and how everyone keeps referring to getting back to “normal”. As many say now…”new normal”. I’m a bit sick of that term myself but what struck me and what she so simply pointed out was how everyone was looking back when they said that. Even the words when you say that… I wanna go BACK to the way it was …. is well, back-wards! That “normal”no longer exists! We can’t go back and do we really want to?
It really got me thinking; such a simple thing but very powerful. Looking forward....
I catch myself looking back, not so much wanting to go back but just revisiting things and sometimes that can inhibit moving forward. As all this has been rattling and circling in my brain, I’ve also been looking at my art and my art business. There is no getting around the fact that as soon as you sell a painting or two, you are a business. Usually I spend December and January looking both backward and forward; looking at what the past year was like, what was successful and what wasn’t; what got lost in the noise or what I didn’t have time to deal with? What was in balance and out of balance? What was I happy with and what was I uncomfortable with? Then I look at what I want to improve; what I want to accomplish and try to come up with a few goals to work towards. Did I paint enough? Do i want to try a new technique or improve an existing one? How do I want to accomplish that? The list goes on.
This year I didn’t have December or January to look back or forward as I was helping to care for Dad as he was in his final days. (read tribute to Dad) Those months and days were about those moments and what needed to happen…then. We decided that this 1st quarter of 2021 I would not push it. I needed to take a little time.
Now it is spring. A season of renewal and rebirth. My favorite season.
I love the feeling of the sun on my skin again. Oh, how good that warmth feels. It’s time to start again, to plan and set some goals; to look forward. (Thanks for reminding me Caroline Myss.) I endeavor to be grateful and cherish the moments as they come and keep trying to move...forward.
I am remembering some of the things I was thinking about for 2021. Everything seems hazy but it’s coming back to me. It’s like the fresh air and sunshine is clearing out the dusty attic of my brain a bit and I can look forward, be hopeful. I know I wanted to have some fun with my urban plein air painting, experiment with technique and perhaps my palette a bit this season. I know I wanted to start working with the figure again. I miss it so much. And I know that the abstract work I’ve done recently strengthens both my urban landscapes and my figurative work so…that must continue also. The challenge is in prioritizing and balancing all this with being a selling artist...an Artrepreneur. Hahaha
For now I need to set some goals and just get back into the swing of being a working artist again. I know that drawing and painting regularly will help get me back on track. It is plein air season, so I need to get myself out there! I have an idea for an abstract series…I’ll need to flush that out a bit…..and of course I need to plan some time to deal with “the biz”. Social media, ect....
Years ago when I started out as a full time working artist, I thought that I’d figure out some system in the first few years and then it’d be all smooth sailing from there. Now I realize that this looking back and moving forward; this renewal and reinvention is and ongoing process, much like life. Since I do believe that art and life are intertwined, I guess that only makes sense.
So as I start out this year, re-inventing myself again, I leave you with these two poems. I hope you'll stick with me for the adventure of what's to come. If you've not signed up for my email newsletter, you can do that right here and now!
HEAR John O'Donohue recite Beanacht - Nothing like hearing him recite this poem....
Commissions used to SCARE me......
Making peace with commission work
Not too long ago, if you’d asked me if I do commissions, I’d of answered with a resounding “NO”. But to even my surprise, this past year I have done THREE! What’s up with that? What changed? Am I softening with age? Am I so broke I’ll do anything for money? I’ll answer that first. No, I’m not so broke, I’ll do anything for money. And I don’t think I am softening with age either but I do think, with age comes wisdom. Perhaps, sometimes timing helps too.
Two of the commissions I did this year were based on my Urban Landscapes and one crazy couple trusted me with some abstract oil paintings as well! What all of these folks taught me was that commission doesn't have to be scary after all! That has come over time and with both successful and a couple unsuccessful experiences…learning from each one. These three 3 clients, in particular, really helped me fine tune my “machine” and that meant I could deliver the best paintings possible FOR THEM! After all, that’s what we want right?
But let’s go back a bit. My first problem with painting commissions was the way I perceived them and it was MY problem. I thought of commissions as my performing for the person who “hired” me. Paint what they want, exactly how they want it. Jump through the hoops, ask for their approval along the way as well as at the end of the project. I think that goes back to my scenic artist days when that WAS what I did. Someone would show me a picture or a faux finish they wanted and I reproduced it just in a larger scale. That was my career for over 20 years and I was good at it but it skewed how I later thought of commission work.
Perhaps some commission work is actually like that too. If you hire someone to paint a portrait of your family or your dog, you'd expect that portrait to look like that person or pet. That is a reasonable assumption. I used to think that was the ONLY type of commission that existed. I was wrong and am happy to admit it! I have found that there are commissions where people are happy to hire an artist they trust, to deliver a painting they know they will love, because they know that artists work. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
I have dabbled with a few commissions over the past 6 years. I started out doing them with no formal agreement with the caveat that if the person didn’t like what I produced they didn’t have to pay anything…it’d just go into my inventory. The subjects were such that that worked. Talk about inferiority complex, eh? Well, all those worked out and the people bought in the end. But we would talk at length about what they expected, what I could deliver, what the time frame would be, size, pricing, all that good stuff.
What this gave me was the freedom to create in my own style. Since they weren’t “buying” up front I didn’t feel beholden to them. That freed me up creatively. What I learned by doing these early commissions was that some people weren’t hiring me to copy something…they wanted my painting style, my touch. Whoa - Epiphany! Ok…but they still had a subject or idea in mind. Yes, but as long as it interests me, I’m ok with that. Otherwise I can say No! Hmmmm. Interesting.
Fast forward to 2020. Early in the year 2 things happened. First, I had an unsuccessful experience with a commission…wah wah wah…because I forgot that I was not “hired”. I kept asking for approval rather than just doing my painting style and trusting my instincts. A valuable lesson learned and I’ll never do that again! Luckily she was very understanding, we mutually agreed to stop working together and she’s still a fan. Second, I got a sizable commission, which went well but I did not have an agreement yet! BAD Sarah! So when she got nervous right before I was going to ship, I realized I hadn’t protected myself…even though things were spelled out in emails. In the end she was thrilled but that was learning moment!
Believe me when the next commission came up I started researching and writing an agreement right away! This made me realize I needed to understand what the client was asking for and make sure we were on track with each other, but also that they understood how I worked and how this whole commission thing worked. How we’d communicate, how often they’d see progress, and how and when they'd have input; when and how payments would be made; when and how the painting would be delivered. It made me think about communicating all these things to my client at the beginning of the process!
So when the next commission call came. I was ready! Hahaha… at least so I thought! Someone always comes along to find the gaps in your thinking. Luckily that was Martha and Rich who wanted three large abstract paintings for their dining room which Martha was redecorating. This was going to be a very different process. Abstracts were a new market for me. I had painted them but not sold that type work. Martha and Rich were willing and flexible to work with me on this. They sent me pictures of the new decor and I decided I’d provide some thumbnail sketches for them. They could pick a few sketches they liked and that would give me a starting place for the larger paintings. It also gave us a common understanding of what the color palette, texture, “feel” would be. They understood the larger paintings would be different than these small thumbnails. Once we agreed on this process and a price, I wrote up the agreement and we were off to the races, so to speak!
All these experiences helped me define what painting a "commission" means and now that word doesn't scare me anymore. They also have made me a better communicator and helped make the process better each time. The clearer the communication, the better the project will go and the happier everyone will be in the end! That bodes well for the next person in line!
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