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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
Visit their website to learn more or to support them.
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!
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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Photography courtesy of Sue Faraone Gourley
I hope you'll enjoy this little video of me explaining and showing you examples of my 3 series WITH IN my 25 Days of Minis collection this year. That's Right!...3 collections. One is my tried and true Urban landscape alla Plein air. One is my new Urban Abstract and the third is a fun and playful series I did of toys in my art studio. Take a listen and I hope you'll visit my website to see all 25.
The page will come down on Jan 1, 2021...
Just FYI but any unsold works will be seen on my site at a later date.
Enjoy and have a fantastic Holiday season!
I am a pretty good secret keeper but it is getting tough now. To think that I started thinking about doing 25 Days of Minis back in June! Once you decide to apply for 25 Days of Minis, you have to apply. Then you wait to hear if you are accepted. Once you get the word that you are 'in"...Yeah!... the question is, what will you paint? Some of the 45 artists decide to paint 1 subject or 1 genre. I am one to mix it up a bit. Leave it to me to complicate matters. :)
To do 25 paintings, the framing and all the photographing, editing, etc. you HAVE to plan and start early. I started painting in July but I couldn’t post or tell anyone! See, I can keep a secret…but now that I have them all done, I am excited to get this show on the road. BUT, I have to wait until December 1st when 25 Days of Minis kicks off.........
What I can tell you is ........ this year I decided to break the 25 paintings into 3 subjects:
The urban landscapes I chose to do are all 6" x 6" and will be at a $225 price point. That will be framed and include shipping in the US! I had fun choosing scenes that made me smile. Doing that many paintings can be a chore at times but this was NOT at all because these were all places that I found fascinating in some way, shape or form.
Last year I did Urban Abstracts, assuming they might not do well since it was something new from me. To my surprise they did very well, so I continue to play, learn and explore this avenue. So, this year I wanted to expand on this theme again. I was lucky to take a class this summer in Painting Abstract Art by Larry Moore. The class gave me a new way of approaching the painting of abstract art and I have been having fun exploring this new method as I have created this new series for 25 Days of Minis!
I have been thinking about my fascination with abstraction lately. I know it confounds many and it used to completely confuse me as well, so I understand. For me there's a purity of expression involved in the making of abstract art. The fact that it is so open to interpretation by the viewer is also really compelling....that two people can see completely different things in a few varied strokes, I think takes us all to our most human, basic selves. Anyway, that is what keeps driving me to explore and delve into this thing called Abstract Art.
Lastly, I am not quite sure why but, I had the crazy notion to do a 3rd subject to round out my 25 paintings. Something a bit Holiday, a bit fun, but not cliché….but it still had to reflect me. What would that be? I really struggled with this and went round and round numerous times. Nope, I am not telling you what I came up with. You will have to wait just a little bit longer....sorry! Again, more secrets, I know… but Holidays surprises are part of the fun, right?
So, have you signed up for my email list to get my updates and weekly summaries of releases AND also signed up for the daily 25 Days of Minis email that will get you all 45 new artworks every morning in December?
It’s gonna be Epic! See ya in December!!
P.S. It might be fun for you to read about last years 25 Days of minis. I did a couple Blogs about getting ready and the whole program which of course I did not repeat myself here. If interested you can catch them here:
What's this 25 Paintings in 25 days about anyway....
25 days, 2 series and a Partridge in a Pear Tree….
October is coming to a close, the election of a lifetime is about to occur, the world seems to be spinning on its head, upside down and yet life goes on. There are days it is hard to motivate but evening comes, I go to bed and another day starts. That is when I find solace in routine, making plans, looking forward to the things that seem ‘normal'.... that I can control. I go into the studio, paint something, read, watch an old familiar movie, take a walk, listen to an uplifting podcast!
Lately it is 25 Days of Minis that has kept me on track. This is my 2nd year participating. I suggest you read last year’s blog about it, if it's new to you. This year 45 artists from across the country will reveal 1 new painting a day from Dec 1 through Dec 25. It's a fantastic way to meet new artists and find unique gifts! Last year I did Plein Air and Urban Landscape. My plein air series was specifically steeples. I thought that would strike a holiday note. I really enjoyed doing that series and was happy with how they turned out but they were not as successful as I’d hoped. I was advised not to try anything new but decided to do the abstract series anyway and it was quite a success. Go figure!
What a wonderful Open Studio!
I fully admit to being a bit more anxious than usual this year. I simply did not know what to expect....if anyone would show up, either in person or virtually. I think I can speak for many artists in saying, I don't need crowds of people knocking down my door...I just need a few to let me know that what I'm doing matters...is striking a nerve, stirring a memory, making someone smile.
It's a joy to share art and experiences with each other. I didn't realize just how much I missed that till this past weekend. I thank those of you who came by in person and also attended my virtual sessions on Facebook. The comments and thumbs up I look forward to when we can do these things with out such precaution in the future.
In the meantime, if you want to check out Open Studio #5 replay you can do that on my You Tube channel ! Enjoy and feel free to share!
Open Studio gallery Tour Part 1
Open Studio Gallery Tour Part 2
In the Studio - plein air set up demo
In the studio - what I'm working on and what's coming up