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Archive for January, 2008

Budda the Amazing Fetching Cat!

Budda fetching a toy mouse

Budda returns the mouse to me.
Budda’s two week “trial” period is over as of today. Mike kinda rolls his eyes at the “trial period ” part. Like, after day one I would ever just toss him out into the cold. He has come through with flying colors, with the exception of one time pottying not in the potty box. Since he is my second cat I am unsure how common this might be. It was early on and it was the first time we spent all afternoon out of the room containing his litter pan. Other than that one time he has been faithful to use his box.

He seems to be a fast learner. He had picked up what “No” meant almost immediately. He doesn’t challenge my authority as much as Oliver did, which is kind of nice. Ollie would do the naughty thing, (say… bite into a shrinkwrapped print) I’d say Ollie NO! He’d stop look at me, then open his mouth and put it over the print in very slow motion, as if to bite. All the while making eye contact with me. I’d say Ollie? And he’d MEOW loudly and stalk off, tail switching in annoyance. I say Budda No! And he just makes a little mew, stares at me wide eyed and innocently and then saunters over for cuddles. That being said, as every day passes he seems to be getting a little more Ollie like.

And now for the amazing Budda!
Last week, I was throwing a mousy toy and he would return to me with it. Now, I am sure to start out with this was just because he is really attached to me and planned to play with it, by me. But I would keep throwing it and he would keep bringing it back. Now 5-10 times might be a fluke but he retrieved it almost 30 times, at that point I got tired of the game. (I tried to take photos to illustrate, but oddly enough they just look like a cat carrying a toy. Somehow the amazing part is lost in the pictures.) Anywho, by the next day he was dropping the mousey in my hand. Such a clever, clever kitty. (See, I told you I’d be bragging about how bright he is.)

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Painting Fur in Oil Pastel

Current state of 'The Gladiators' draft horse painting

I thought I would address how to paint hair (in this case a horse’s coat) with oil pastels. I plan to also blog about doing horse hair in water soluble pencil in the near future. I tend to work with oil pastels in a more impressionistic way, than I do in water soluble pencils. So creating a fur coat is less about putting in every little hair and more about directing line and color to achieve the visual effect of hair. I took a few WIP (work in progress) shots of my current painting for illustration. (I apologize for the lousy dark photos. I am still new to using Mike’s digital camera.) Since I am a sectional painter, (meaning, I like to work on one small area at a time and finish it, before moving on) the photos are of a small section of the whole painting.

To begin with, I need to have a fairly comprehensive drawing. Oil pastels stain my substrate (which is 100% cotton rag museum board) so I need to have a good idea of what I am placing where, to avoid complications from having the wrong color in the wrong place. It is possible to scrape off a certain amount of color, but in general it wouldn’t work to have too great a color shift. The underlying stain would show through any similar value color as well as anything lighter, placed over the top.

Also, I don’t use turpenoids for blending. You get can get some great effects with turps. Like subtle blending or for painting with a brush. However, I love the mark making that using the straight oil pastel gives. I rely on laying color next to color to achieve my goals. Nearly all of my blending is done with the pastels themselves.

First Thing: I do is lay in my darks. In this case, black and darkest grays. Though it has a random scribbley look to it. I lay my lines in the direction that the horse’s hair coat runs.

Painting Fur/Hair step one

Step Two: I add the mid-tone ranges of grays. I also add the periwinkle and ginger colors now. (one of my favorite color combinations) In this applications the gingers add warmth and the periwinkle provides pop.

Painting Horse Hair/Fur Step 2

Step Three: This is where I put in the lightest grays, creams and sparingly … white. White, much like black, when used in excess can make a painting look flat and lifeless. However when used properly, you can achieve great contrast and highlights. Some blending and overlay is good. Too much though and you’ll have mud.

Painting horse fur/hair step 3

Lastly: Go back in and do whatever needs to be done. Often this is re-establishing the darks, if they get blended out too much. In this painting I added royal purple in my darks to again add zing. Also, there are always little bits of board showing through where I didn’t get the colors completely blended. So I rub these out using a shaping tool or my finger. Then I move onto the next section.

I have been working with oil pastels for a couple of years now. At this point, a lot of what I do is almost done without thought. Working quickly, I just let the creative energy flow through me while I put in colors. Then at some point I just realize that it is done. It looks like it is supposed too. Anyway, that is how it is supposed to happen (when the stars are aligned and all is right in the heavens.) Sometimes, I can work it and work it and it still doesn’t come out right. Then, the wisest course of action is to either stop for awhile or move on to a completely new area. That is what I did with this painting. The left hand dark horse hasn’t worked out the way I envisioned it. So, I moved on to the gray horses. Now that I am happy with them, I feel more confident to go back in and rework the dark horse.

In the next few days, I will cover oil pastels further. What they are, where you can get them and offer some tips for using them.

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Doubley Blessed

Today in the mail I received the mother of all Christmas gifts from my brother. A Game Cube. But thats not the best part. It’s a Game Cube complete with about a dozen games. And not just any games mind you. But my kind of games. First person shooter types with all the violence and bloodshed that would change a less balanced minded person into to some sort of axe weilding, gun toting, grenade throwing sicko. (Or so the hype goes.) Personally, I can’t get enough. I think they are a great destressor. Anywho, despite being quite late (as far as the xmas thing goes) I am totally thrilled. I got the best brother ever! Truth is, he got himself a new XBOX 360 and his kids a Wii so the cube was just sitting around collecting dust. So he packed it off to me with all his games.

I think I’ll take the Game Cube into the gallery. As I mentioned earlier. There is something about taking a break from painting and playing a little. The games actually require all my focus whereas if I took a break to do something else, I would still be looking at, and pondering the work in progress. But after a bit of gaming, I can go back and see everything from a fresh perspective. I got both a PS2 and a GameCube for Christmas. WhooHoo! Make that a double whoohoo!

So I gotta wonder. This bloodlust thing must be hereditary or something. Until recently I didn’t even know my brother was a gamer. (Since we are both in our 40’s thats saying something.) And like, all of these games are something I surely would have picked out for myself. Several versions of Medal of Honor (Cool!) Ghost Recon. (Oh, I so wanted to get this one for my PS2.) Okay so heres the strange thing. As I paw through the selection of misc. war games and gunfighters I come across Sponge Bob Square Pants. I’m like Whaaa? … Ummm … Hmmm… Okay. Maybe I’ll have to ask him about that one.

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I just finished reading How To Profit from the Art Print Market; Creating Cash Flow From Original Art; Practical Advice for Visual Artists, by Barney Davey. (A bit of a mouthful really.) View the Table of Contents.

Mr. Davey was a salesman for Decor magazine and its trade show Decor Expo for 15 years. Much of what he says is geared toward using those avenues of promotion. He suggests that to launch yourself in this way would require an investment of at least $100,000. I would think that for the average artist, (myself included) this is an unrealistic plan of action. However, once you get past that, the book is pretty good.

I gleaned more than one good idea from it. Like, when at an art show and you have someone who is really on the fence about purchasing, and they say those three little words made classic by Arney, “I’ll be back.” You discreetly slip them a postcard that offers something special upon their return (i.e. A free box of greeting cards, a free mini print or a 10% discount.) Since I am not the hard sell type, this strikes me as a great alternative to being more aggressive or appearing desperate (Like … by falling to my knees, clutching their pant legs and begging.)

Also, I particularly enjoyed reading about the strategies used by some of the current top selling print artists like Moss, Wyland, Doolittle and Kinkade. For instance for over 15 years, P. Buckley Moss made no less than 100 appearances for one-woman shows at her dealer galleries, per year. Wow, now thats commitment.

Though, I can’t say that this is a must read for every artist. I do think this book could be a valuable resource. It is crammed with website urls on nearly every aspect of the art business. This book is a great starting point to explore the various avenues for furthering your artistic business goals.

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Should I Make Prints of My Work?

Wild Faces Gallery as a business, is made up of three parts. The bulk of the business is made from the sale of my artwork via art fairs, my collector base, website and ebay. The balance of income is divided between custom framing and our printing house.

I think anyone is capable of success in the art print market, if they have the right attitude…

To Print or Not To Print.
WFG is self publishing. We do canvas and paper giclee printing, (pronounced zhee-clay) for ourselves as well as other artists. We have started quite a few artists on their journey to expand their sales by making prints. I thought I would address here the most commonly asked question of us regarding printing, “should I make prints of my artwork?” This really is a question that every artist must answer for themselves. But here are a few things to think about that may help you decide.

When NOT To Do Prints

  • If your originals aren’t garnering interest, then why do you think your prints will? (Hone your craft or find out why your work isn’t moving.)
  • Is your work commercial or is it too esoteric to be sold en masse.
  • Sure it’s a great painting, but can you sell it over and over again?
  • Do you have a marketing plan, and the ambition to implement it? The build it and they will come mentality, will not work here. Artwork will not sell itself in your closet or under your bed.
  • The glory days of prints being seen as an art investment are just about over. Indeed there is a great deal of discussion about whether to even produce limited editions or just run everything as an open edition. Be sure you see prints for what they are, a more affordable copy of your work, created for volume sales.

When You SHOULD Do Prints.

  • Your originals are outselling your ability to produce more work.
  • Prints allow you to appeal to a broader audience by making art that more people can afford.
  • A customer commissions a piece and then wants multiples for friends and family.
  • Prints can cultivate collectors. People may buy a print or two for a few years then step up to an original. This has happened more than once for me. In fact I have sold an original to someone who had purchased a note card. She had it hung on her fridge for over a year, then returned for the original. This happens because having your print in their house is a daily reminder of you and your work.
  • Most Importantly! It will expand your earning potential per image substantially. Most of my paintings take several weeks to complete. Add to that, the day to day running of the gallery. I can only get, (If I’m lucky) a dozen originals out a year. Though they fetch reasonably high prices, that alone just isn’t enough to pay the bills. Creating prints is what took my art from an extra income hobby to a full time business for both my husband and myself.

So there you go. Be honest with yourself and your abilities both as an artist and as a business person. In my opinion being successful with prints is far more about your ability to sell, than it is about being the best artist out there. Quality of work definitely matters. And I believe an artist should always strive for improvement and growth. But in the terms of making it or not, it’s your ambition and perseverance that will get you the farthest. I think anyone is capable of success in the art print market, if they have the right attitude, and the ability to follow through.

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Our Art Gallery Tour

The Front Room Gallery

Looking north in our art gallery
The room is long and narrow and because the front counter cuts it in thirds it is hard to get a good length shot. Though it doesn’t show, the length of the west wall is all windows.

Looking south in our art gallery

My Studio Space is located behind the front counter.

My gallery drafting table
Note: the all important soda. The small wooden table that holds my pastels was something Mike made me when I first moved to the gallery. It is rustic and I love it. And if I’m not carefeul I can get a splinter.

Table nearby that holds important artist supplies like oil pastels and soda pop
The Framing Room. Again it is hard to get an idea of the size of the space. We had been renting the gallery since 2000. As of July 2007 we now own it. This space was added then. It is wonderful to have a seperate room for all my framing needs.

Our picture framing room
The Printing Room Mike does his tecnical genius stuff here. He is the one who handles our web presence and does giclee printing. He has even written some of the software we use.

Facing east in our printing room
This building is nearly 100 years old. It was originally built as a car dealership. The wooden railing and large wooden doors are original to the building. They would drive their cars in through those doors and park them in our front room. Which of course, was then a showroom.

Facing west in our
printing room

The printing room again. The Wild Faces Gallery building is a very large brick building. Currently we occupy the front third. So we have loads of room to grow.

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Small But Significant Changes


Mouse over the image above to compare them.

I am on the whole more pleased with the new composition. The image went from a 17 1/4 x 25 1/2 to a 16 x 30. I always try to work on a board larger than what I think my image will be so that I can choose to change things. This is especially important when I am still working out a composition. I have never really been the type to do thumbnail sketches. I have tried them but it just never gave me enough information to make any real decisions.

The plan for today is to begin to lay in color. I also have to finalize my plans for the tack. I have to say the new kitten has been a boost for my state of mind, but not so much for my productivity. He keeps me on my toes and yes it’s worth it.

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