Friday, October 29, 2010

Girls, Girls, Girls

I started a small commissioned painting today even though I haven't finished my turtle racing girls. It has to be done and delivered by November 13th so I figured I should start it as soon as I could. Here is the underpainting, which I finished today.
The mark on her face is not a mistake. She actually has a scratch on her forehead. It's looking pretty good so far but it lacks the slight "smirk" she has on her face in the photo. We'll see how it goes once the paint dries and I can really get in the details.

Despite not working on the turtle race today, I did get quite a bit done yesterday. Here are some photos:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pretty Girls Get All the Attention

One of the turtle racers in my latest painting.
I'd like to think of myself as an artist who gives all women of all sizes equal attention in my paintings. I'm more interested in an interesting picture that will make a good composition rather than just focusing on whether the woman is pretty or not. I have painted some overweight women, older women, and some pretty darn plain women because it made a great painting. Have I painted pretty women? Yes, I have on several occasions. Do they sell quicker than the other paintings? Yes, that seems to be the trend. One may then say that I should focus on just pretty girls since they sell so well. If this was just about money and making sales, I probably would, but we already know that I won't. I haven't so far.

It's not that I don't want to sell my paintings. It's not that I have anything against attractive women. I just don't like to be told what to do! Okay, I'm only half kidding on that last statement, just ask my husband. But what I mean is that this is my creative expression and I have to follow my muse. If I feel the need to paint an average looking woman because the picture speaks to me, then I will. If the picture happens to be of an attractive woman, then so be it. I paint whatever inspires me not what I think is more marketable. I don't want to be known as the artist who only paints pretty women.

That being said, I recently had the request for pretty women and bathing beauties from a new-to-me gallery that wants to represent me. The owner was really attracted to the ones that I had already painted and wanted some more for her gallery. Do I just paint attractive women to satisfy this gallery director? Part of me wants to be a "rebel" and just say no just because I don't like people dictating what I paint. But when I look at the next few paintings I have lined up, they all contain fairly attractive women in them. Did I purposely pick these images out for their subject's beauty? I don't think I did. Is this any different than when a gallery requests larger paintings from me? It's still a request, right? Maybe, maybe not.

Galleries are always going to request things from their artists. Most of the time, they are reasonable requests. It's the artist's job to decide what is reasonable to them and what will compromise their artistic vision. I don't feel like painting a few pretty women that were already in the queue to be painted is an imposition and I don't really fault a gallery for requesting what they think will sell. As long as I am still painting pictures of people that I like and am inspired by, I'm happy. If some of them turn out to be attractive and make my galleries happy, even better.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making Progress, Making Enemies

Okay, maybe "enemies" is too strong of a word but I know I upset at least one person by covering the eyes of the two little boys I just painted. As is my usual M.O., I painted these figures and included their eyes. I find that painting the eyes helps because it enables me get the expressions just right. I also tend to post my work in progress on Facebook and Twitter (I get less people thinking these are just photographs covered in wax by doing this).  Sometimes this causes people to request that I not block out the eyes. Sometimes it's more like begging than requesting. It happened with this painting. Unfortunately for that person, I have to be true to this series, the concept behind this series, and my own artistic desires and cover the eyes. Not everyone may agree with what I am doing but I am the artist and this is my work.

Here is the image without the bars over the eyes. It's a nice enough painting (even though it's still not done) but that's just it. It's a nice painting. There's really nothing special about it for me. Yes, the second boy has some pretty intense eyes, in fact, he looks downright annoyed, but the point of the bar is to make  him anonymous, to make his memory "anyone's" memory. That's hard to do when it's a "recognizable" person.

Here is the image with the bars over the eyes. Some of you may disagree, and that's okay if you do, but this painting is much more interesting. The bars never fail to start a conversation with someone seeing my work for the first time. It turns a nice painting into something more interesting, something with a bit more edge. It may not be what you would do as an artist but I am still happy painting bars over eyes and calling it my art. 

BTW, this painting is still in progress. I think one more day on it should do the trick.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TeePee Boys

It felt unbelievably awesome to be painting again yesterday. After two weeks off from the studio, going back in with two new pieces in mind was a more than welcome change. I started the underpainting of the teepee boys and have to say, I'm impressed with myself. The painting is off to a great start. Now before this sounds too egotistical, what I mean is that I feel like my skills have improved tremendously since I first started this series in January of 2009. Back then I had never really painted people before and wanted to challenge myself with doing something that pretty much terrified me. After more than a year and a half of this series, and about 100 paintings, I like to think that I have grown a lot and am no longer afraid of tackling the human form. I don't think I could have painted the underpainting as well as I did yesterday, a year ago. My work and technique is getting stronger and I am very pleased with myself for the progress. I am hoping this trend continues.

Teepee boy number one still needs high-lights and accents, and of course, the eyes need to be blocked out. I'm really enjoying painting the feathers in the head pieces. I have never painted feathers before so it is a nice challenge.
The underpainting of the second boy will hopefully be done today. He is not a happy looking one. Wait until you see what he is doing with his hands. I bet this was one of those pictures that this guys wishes was never taken and that he cringed ever time his mother showed it. Hehehe, and now I am painting it. Good thing the eyes are blocked out in the final piece!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to Work!

Sometimes you need a vacation in order to appreciate what you do for a living again. This vacation refreshes you and enables you to go back to work with renewed vigor. Now it doesn't actually matter whether or not you actually went somewhere or if you stayed at home (although I always prefer actually getting away...perhaps someplace sunny, with a beach). The point is to have a vacation from  your work, which is what I did for the past two weeks.

Week one was spent at home catching up on some sleep and general resting. It was a busy three day Open Studios and I needed the recovery time. Week two I took an "art vacation". I purposely stayed away from what I normally paint in the studio and spent a week just "playing". I worked on some "texture" pieces using a bunch of methods I hadn't used in a long time. It was a fun time of not worrying about anything other than just playing with different materials and seeing what they could do.

But now it's Monday and I am all revved up and ready to start on two new large paintings! The time away has made me appreciate what I do and how I paint. I am excited to start the next two pieces and see how they turn out. Here are the images that I will be working with this week:
Even though I told myself I was not going to paint anymore children, I couldn't resist this picture! That kid on the right is HILARIOUS, with his hand grabbing his crotch area while his little brother shoots him with one of those popping noise maker "thingys". I don't normally paint backgrounds either but I think it's important to get the teepee in the painting. I've already drawn this out and I think it's a strong composition. It will be a 30" x 30" painting when it's finished.

This is a turtle race. If you look closely you can see turtles in their hands with numbered flags on suction cups that attach to the animal's shell. Once again, a pretty funny picture. In order to make it work compositionally on my 30" x 40" panel, I separated the girls. The first three on the left are still standing together but the girl on the far right is separated from the rest and has a bit more space between her and the other competitors. It works this way because it gives the painting more white space and "rest", visually.

I will be sure to post the progress of these two paintings as I work on them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Artists Collecting Art

I love art. I love making art. I love seeing art. I love collecting art. Having beautiful art around me makes me happy. People sometimes assume that just because I am an artist, I don't buy art. Just ask the gallery owners/ reps who, once they found out I was an artist, automatically assumed I wasn't going to buy anything and moved on to the next potential client. During the San Francisco Art Fair I was ignored A LOT once they figured out I was "just an artist", as if I couldn't possibly afford art. It has happened at a couple of galleries too. It happens often enough to bother me. But I have bought art. I do have an art collection.

Granted, I can't afford to buy very expensive art and often times I acquire my pieces through trade or I am given it as a gift. This doesn't negate the fact that I do collect art and sometimes I am moved enough by a piece that I will buy it, even if I can't really afford it, even if I have to make payments on it. So gallery owners pay attention: Artists do buy art, at least this artist does, so don't ignore us when we walk into your gallery. Not all of us are looking to hit you up for representation.

Here are my latest three acquisitions of art from this past month. I am very happy to own these and be showing them, along with the other paintings I've collected, in my home. (I apologize for the bad photos taken on my iphone. Please visit these artists' websites for better pictures)
Untitled- Rebekah Goldstein
Mixed Medium on Panel

"Round One"- Jeff Schaller
Limited Edition Screen Print

"Green Bean"- Lucky Rapp
Mixed Medium, Resin on Canvas

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Need for Change

It has been four months since I started painting full-time and I am already feeling the need for some change.  I don't know if this is normal and happens to all artists, but I'm trying to see it as part of the "growing as an artist" process. Right now I have an itch to do something different. I have the urge to experiment and break free from my now, very tight, painting style. I want to explore and let loose, the art equivalent of letting my hair down.

This feeling has left me feeling a bit torn though. How do I explore and still meet my obligations with the galleries that represent me? Do I give up my current work and do a complete 180? What do I do with these pieces that I create once I feel like they are completed?

What I have decided to do is give myself the week to just "play" with no expectations of creating anything spectacular. I've been wanting to work a bit more abstract and play with textures, or "implied" textures, by using different papers, perhaps fabric. I'm not really clear on what I want to do other than not worry about figures or forms. I miss working abstractedly and just experimenting with techniques. I am giving myself this whole week to get this out of my system and see what develops, if anything develops.

Am I giving up my regular work? No. I actually really enjoy my current series but I feel like I need to loosen up some. My style went from pretty loose to very tight in a short amount of time, and while I am very happy with how my skills have grown, I miss my former ability to "just see what happens" as I paint. I feel like I'm a bit on auto-pilot lately and I am hoping that this week will give me a much needed creative jolt. This work that I am playing with right now may find it's way into my current series, maybe it will morph into a new series that combines both styles. Maybe this is just what it is, fun and a creative vacation from my work. I don't know what will happen until it happens and I step back and see how I did.

These are really bad photos of what I worked on today, which are 5"x5" panels with multiple layers of paper, wax, and gesso. These pics don't show the subtleness of each piece or the true color of the wax that was used. In fact, they look pretty plain and awful on this site. I am actually really happy with the way they turned out. Are these masterpieces or ready to be shown in a gallery? No, probably not. But what I can say about these pieces is that it's a good start at my week of playing. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Next Step...

Now that the flurry of activities have slowed down, I finally have time to think about my next steps in my art career. I haven't had much time to think about or work on marketing and gallery submissions since the beginning of April, when I suddenly had MANY shows and had to start thinking about planning my wedding.  Even if I had had the time, my paintings were being shipped out as fast as I could paint them. It was a great time, but extremely busy. I have one more show at Aqua Miami, an art fair in Florida, in December with Stephanie Breitbard Fine Arts to think about, but other than that, I am free to paint what I want and start promoting, promoting, promoting!

Thinking about what my next steps should be, I've decided that I really want to focus some time on getting my work in Los Angeles. Each city seems to have a trend in art, in my opinion. Urban landscapes seems to be the trend now in San Francisco after a few years of pop-surrealism being very popular.  From what I can tell online, figurative work seems to be the new "it" art in Los Angeles, which just happens to be the kind of art I create. I think it's a good time for me to start looking for galleries to show my work there. My work is the strongest it has ever been (although I hope to continue to grow in my skills), people are starting to notice my paintings, and I am in a good place to really pursue opportunities.

So what will I do in order to accomplish this goal? I will continue to research Los Angeles galleries online. I plan on making a trip out there and visit the galleries that I feel would be a good fit. It's  always a good idea to try and make as many visits as possible and since I have family out there, that shouldn't be too hard. Once I've established where I would love to show my work, I will submit my promotional packages and keep my fingers crossed. I will continue to paint, blog, and update my website with new work. Marketing is important and I have decided to devote one day a week to just that. Wednesdays will now be "marketing Wednesdays". I know that these things take time, but if I don't start now, then it may never happen. I know as an artist that it is unrealistic to think that I can sit back and galleries will find me. I know that I need to make things happen if I want my career to be successful...and I do. So watch out Los Angeles, cause here I come!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Disappointing Sales and Self Worth

This past weekend was open studios, a three day event that enables artists to sell and promote their work directly from their studios. Normally, for me, it is where I make most of my money for the year.  I have sold many pieces in the past and it always felt good to see and hear that people like my work. This year, all that has changed and I am finding it hard not to tie my self worth as an artist in with sales during these events.

In April of this year, I was "picked up" buy two galleries and an art consultant who now represent me. Because of this relationship, my prices for each painting has doubled, and in some sizes, more than doubled. It's what happens when one's career starts to move up and it's a good thing, I don't deny or begrudge that. But because of my price increase, I find that my sales during open studios has dropped DRASTICALLY. No longer am I selling a majority of my paintings and having people become upset that the painting they wanted has already sold. I am still getting lots of people telling me they love my work but no longer are they taking out their check books and writing me checks with such ease that they have in the past.

This past weekend I didn't sell one major piece. All of my new work was admired but will not be finding new homes anytime soon. I still made some money off of some tiny pieces and older work, but I would hardly call this weekend a success. From what I hear from other artists in my space, it was a disappointing weekend all around.

So now it is the day after a disappointing weekend and I am having a hard time not feeling depressed about how low my sales were. I KNOW that I do good work. I KNOW that people like my paintings. I KNOW that the galleries that show my work have gotten good responses. I KNOW that people are buying these paintings at their current prices. I KNOW that I am good at what I do. So why do I feel so horrible about this weekend? Why am I tying my self worth with my dismal sales from the past three days? It's hard to separate what I know to be true with what I feel, despite logic and reasoning from my brain.

I understand that the more successful I become, the higher my prices will be. It's something to strive for, not be upset about. It may be that I am no longer in the price range to do an open studios in the area that I am in and make the money that I used to make. I may be out of the price range of my previous clients but with that, hopefully I will acquire new clients in a different price range, who will appreciate my work as well. Ideally, it would be great to have ALL sales dealt through a gallery so that I can focus on what I do best, paint. In the mean time, I need to remind myself that one weekend's sales doesn't define me as a good or bad artist. It's a hard thing to understand emotionally though.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Kind of Scam?

The other day I received this email with the attached photo:

Hello Jhina Alvarado. My name is Joshua Simpkins. I believe I found a piece of yours and I was wondering if you would like to see it or have it.

sent from my AT&T Smartphone by HTC

Now, having had a few people try and scam me and say they would like to purchase my paintings and are sending me a check for more than the amount quoted (oh, and can you ship the painting to some other country where I happen to live?), I am a little skeptical when I get an email regarding my art. There seems to be a large amount of people who are trying to launder money, steal money,  and in general, screw over artists out there lately. So when I got this email, with the subject header "your art", I was immediately suspicious. 

Now, if you are reading this post, you've probably seen my work. You know what my art looks like. This sculpture isn't even close to what I do. I don't make sculptures or boxes or whatever this is. So how does someone think this could possibly be my artwork? Also, why would I need to see it? Or have it? If I created it and sold it, wouldn't I already know what it looks like? And why would I want it back?I'm wondering if once I email him, he somehow gets my personal information and steals my identity. Or maybe he robs my house after delivering it to me? There's a scam there somewhere. Then again, I could just be super suspicious and this is some guy just being nice. I choose to believe the former. Guess I'm just suspicious by nature...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Work Available for Open Studios!

My new paintings are waxed and ready to go! To purchase, please visit me at open studios this weekend (2425 17th st. @ Potrero in San Francisco) or email me at

"Puppy Love", 16" x 16" $900

"Manly Men", 16" x16", $900

"How Many Fingers...?" 16" x16", $900

"Picking a Puppy", 16" x 16", $900

"Pensive Friends", 16" x 32", $1,750

Here's a preview of what my studio looks that it's all nice and clean:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm Ahead of Schedule!

Open studios is this weekend and I wanted to finish three more paintings by Thursday night for the event. I started all three of them on Saturday. I am happy to say that I finished the painting portion of all three pieces TODAY! I am way ahead of schedule! I still need to wax them, in addition to 3 other paintings, tomorrow, and I am not looking forward to that.

I "varnish" every piece with 8-10 layers of encaustic wax in order to add that antique feel to my work. It's a great look and feel to my paintings but boy is it a pain in the ass to do. Applying the wax isn't too hard. It's super hot and liquidy, which makes it easy to apply. Blow torching it smooth and even is the part that I hate. Making sure there are no pock marks or bubbles isn't fun and usually makes my wrists and hands hurt. That blow torch can get pretty heavy after awhile and in order to get it smooth, you need to blow torch it a lot. Most of the time I don't get it perfect, but I spend a lot of time trying. I am not looking forward to tomorrow.

Once the waxing is done, I just need to clean my studio and I am ready for this weekend! I have a TON of older work on sale and really good prices. I also have one painting that will be raffled off. Please stop by if you are in the Bay Area! If you aren't, check out my website and blog in the next few days for my new work.

Open Studios Reception: Friday, Oct. 8th 7-11pm
Open Studios: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 9th and 10th 11am-6pm
Art Explosion Studios
2425 17th Street @ Potrero
San Francisco, CA

Monday, October 4, 2010

Men, Men, Men, Men

I don't know if you've noticed, but I don't usually paint very many pictures of men. I'm not sure why that is other than I find more interesting photos of women and girls that I think would make a good painting. It's not that I have anything against men, in fact I kinda like them. Just ask my husband. I like him A LOT. But one would think I had something against them if you looked at the total men to women ratio of paintings I've done. Considering that men have so many more advantages than women in life as it is, let's just say this is my own little way of helping women catch up. (Okay, I realize that women are all over the place ON paintings but few are seen/ heard of AS artists, unlike men, I'd still like to think that my paintings of women of all ages and sizes helps get a better picture of what real women look. A girl can dream, right?)

"Manly Men", 16" x 16", Work in progress. 
Just because I haven't painted any men in awhile, I just started this one today as part of my three painting challenge of the week. Hopefully it will be done tomorrow. So far, I have two out of three done and it's only day 3 of my 6 day challenge! Yay me!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Making Progress...

16" x 16" oil painting. This will be finished tomorrow.
Open studios is this coming weekend. It is an Artspan sponsored, city-wide event. The opening reception for Art Explosion Studios, where I work, is Friday, October 8th from 7-11pm. It's a great way to get in before the regular crowds and see our art first. All the artists will be there and it's usually when we break out the good alcohol and treats to share. I will have all of my older work at a discounted price and it looks like I will have at least ten new paintings to show. 

I got a lot of work done on two of the three paintings I set as a goal to finish by Thursday. These two paintings will be done tomorrow and all of the underpainting for painting three should be done. It's looking good for me to meet my goal and I may even have time to complete a fourth painting. Stop by my studio space this weekend and see what I've accomplished. The studios will be open from 11am to 6pm this Saturday and Sunday, October 9th and 10th. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can download the app "Swerve" which gives you a map and links you to every artist who is registered through Artspan to do open studios. See you this weekend!

16" x 16" painting. This is about 90% done.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Open Studios Challenge: 3 Paintings in 6 Days

San Francisco Open Studios for the Mission District is next weekend. For those of you who don't know about this city's open studio, it's a month long event where different neighborhoods are assigned a weekend to show off their art and artists in the area. It's a HUGE event with a preview show, map, and catalog put together by Artspan. People from all over the Bay Area come out to San Francisco for this event.

Usually this is my main event and big source of income for the year, where I show off all my new paintings, but since I now have a few galleries representing my work, I don't have as many new pieces as I usually do. Many of my paintings are out at galleries so I am left with older work and some empty walls. I also took two weeks off in September to get married and go on a honeymoon. I hate the idea of empty walls and not having new work so I have been busting my ass trying to finish as many new paintings as possible.

I have five new pieces that I completed before the wedding and I just finished two this week. This is a good amount of work but I still need more. I decided to try and get three 16"x16" paintings done, starting today (Friday). In order for them to be dry and ready to hang, they have to be done by Thursday night. So, can I do it? Can I complete three paintings by Thursday night? That's six days away, which means at least two days per painting. I have completed 18 paintings in 30 days before so I know I can work well under pressure. If I keep a good schedule and don't get distracted, I know it can be done. I completed the sketches for all three pieces and started painting one of them. If I can work at least 5 hours a day, including this weekend (which I usually don't work), then I think I can do it. I even have a 12"x12" panel, just in case I have some extra time. You never know, it could happen!

Image shown: This is the painting I started today. It's the first time I have ever painted an animal. They are very cute beagles! (At least I think they are beagles.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

All Over the Place

Yesterday I was all over the place. Concentrating on just one thing seemed almost impossible. I was able to finish the painting portion of my diptych. Now it just needs to be waxed. I worked on the older lady that I started the other day. All of the underpainting is done and waiting to dry.

So while I was also working on these pieces, I decided that I needed to hang up my old "Nature" series in the studio gallery. Open studios is coming up next weekend and most artists are assigned a wall in the studio gallery to show work. We also have our studio spaces to show our work so the extra wall is kind of a bonus space. Once that wall was hung, I decided that I didn't like the way the wall looked in my studio so I spackled and painted that. I also rearranged some pieces and cleaned a bit around my space. All of these things needed to be done before next Friday but suddenly I felt the need to get them all done yesterday. I couldn't stand the way my studio looked one moment longer. I felt kind of guilty that I wasn't painting, but with the underpainting still wet, there was little for me to do. I wanted to start a new piece but I left all the reference photos of the new paintings at home. "House cleaning" was the only thing left to do. I'd like to think that cleaning my area and getting things in order will help me in the long run. I'll be able to thing better, and well, actually move around in my studio better. My space isn't very big so it gets cluttered pretty easily.

Even though very little time was spent actually painting yesterday, I still feel like I was being productive. Things got done and my space looks and feels better. I have to remind myself that all that I did yesterday is part of my job and it's not just about constantly painting and producing work. Having a good work environment is important too.