Monday, December 21, 2009

Inspiring the Uninspired

It's the end of December and the major holiday flurry has passed us by. With this, I am finding that it is hard for me to get motivated to get into the studio. Last week I had the excuse of holiday shopping and preparations so I didn't get to paint much, but now I really don't have much of an excuse. I find that as the days get shorter and it's darker earlier, I am less motivated to go into the studio. It's cold out and staying home underneath a warm blanket really sounds much better than shivering while trying to paint, right? So what do you do when you aren't motivated to paint? Here's my list...

1. If I'm going to stay home, I may as well get the admin side of art done. Things like updating my website, writing my next blog post, emailing galleries, and cataloging my paintings for my own records are good things to get done since I can do those things on my couch, underneath my warm blanket, while watching some seriously bad television. Currently I am watching the "Wendy Show" as I write this (Who is Wendy and why does she have a talk show????).

2. Organize and go through your "box" of inspiration. For me, that is going through all of the old photographs that I got for Christmas and deciding what would make good paintings. Before I started working on this series, I would go online and look at other artist's websites and see what they were painting. I also have many art books to look at. A few hours of this usually gets me revved up to start a new painting.

3. Visit a gallery, museum, or interesting retail stores. My favorite is Paxton Gate, a taxidermy/garden/weird curiosity store or Pearl's Art Store. Who doesn't get excited around new art supplies? Okay, maybe that's just me. Julia Cameron, author of "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity", calls these art dates. This is time that you spend by yourself looking at things that inspire you or finding things that can inspire you. Going to see art always inspires me, whether it's cause I see something great and I want to emulate that, or I see something that isn't as great and I think I can do better than that. Sometimes just walking around to different stores gives me ideas and I find interesting supplies to use. Now this means I would have to leave the house and go out in the cold, but sometimes that's the price you have to pay for inspiration.

4. Make a date with a fellow artist. Sometimes just talking about art with another person is all I need. Getting excited about what you are doing or listening to someone else talk about what they are doing and getting excited about it is contagious. Talking to other artists gives you a sounding board to bounce ideas off each other or work out problems you may be having with a painting. Having support from a fellow artist is extremely important to my art making process.

So there you have it! Now I am done writing this blog, I'm going to go organize some photos before meeting up with my writer friend, William.

Image: "Doug", 12" x 12", oil and encaustic on wood panel. This is a commissioned painting I did before Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Things I've learned...

We recently had our holiday art sale and I have come to some conclusions for shows like this. Here is my list (I seem to be really into the list format of writing lately...):

1. Small and REALLY affordable (meaning under $150) sells. Is this a result of the declining economy or do people just like smaller works? It's hard to tell. San Francisco homes tend to be on the smaller side and wall space is sparse. While most galleries want to see larger paintings from artists, the average home in this area can't accommodate paintings larger than 24" x 24" so it would make sense that smaller paintings sells easier. My average painting sizes are 30" x 30" but I try to do a bunch of smaller pieces, usually 8" x 8", at lower prices for open studios and sales like this. These smaller pieces are usually the first to sell. They are affordable and gosh darn people like them.

2. Place refreshments inside your area, close to your work. My studio space is in a giant warehouse and our spaces are more like cubicles. During the Fall Open Studios I set up my drinks and snacks outside of my space so that it wouldn't get in the way of people seeing my art. The area looked nice but some people would walk straight to the snacks, eat, and then keep walking without so much as a glance at my work. Now the snacks and drinks weren't that expensive so it's not a money issue, but would it hurt to take a look at the art of the artist that is so graciously feeding you? Just a look, that's all I ask. They don't have to buy anything, just look at the art. This time, I placed the snacks in my "booth" and people had to walk in and, hopefully, see the art in order to eat. I got a lot more people commenting on the work and "appreciating" what I do.

3. Having a painting in progress enables people to see your process and this enables them to understand your work easier. For the Fall OS, people were constantly asking me how I got my photographs so big and how did I transfer the images onto the wood panels. Now, while it is flattering that people think my paintings look good enough to be photographs, they are in fact oil paintings. When I would explain the process of how I uses old photographs as references, draw the images, and then paint them, I got some skeptical looks and some people just didn't believe that I actually painted the images. I had a work in progress this time so people were able to see that yes, I do paint the images. It answered the question of whether I paint the eyes of each figure and then block them out (yes, I do) or do I just start off with blocked eyes since only one of the three figures were completed. People were also able to see what my paintings looked like pre-wax layer.

4. I need to work on my people skills still. I find that I am still shy when approaching people and talking about myself or my work. If I'm going to do this full time, I need to be able to feel comfortable with talking to people. I need to have my 30 second elevator speech perfected and ready to go. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a 30 second explanation of who you are and what you do as an artist. During one of Jeff Schaller's presentations he talked about the importance of this and how you should be able to explain your work in that amount of time. I've got mine down pretty good but it still needs work. Another thing added to my list of things to do.

This is it. Thanks to those of you who were able to stop by!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It has begun...!

"Three Swimmers", 30" x 30", oil and encaustic on wood panel
As you know, this past year I have been seriously contemplating becoming a full-time artist and have been trying to figure out how to go about doing that. I have talked to a few fellow artists and have gotten their advice. I have also been discussing this with my significant other to get his thoughts and feedback since, if I fail, and I don't plan to, he would be supporting the both of us. After all of this talking, I've come to the realization that I was never going to take the plunge since I still had the safety net of my day job. It's easy to talk about quitting and just painting in theory and do little to nothing about it when I had a steady paycheck coming in. So yesterday, I finally got the nerve to do something about it. I walked into my Principal's office and told him I was quitting at the end of this school year! It was terrifying and thrilling all at once. I was tired of thinking "what if I fail...?" and other such similar thoughts that kept my dream from becoming a reality. I am now ready to take the plunge.

Now granted, quitting my job in June isn't as scary as quitting it now, but I have a plan. I have figured out how much it would cost to pay my bills for a whole year (in order to be safe, I did not take into account Ben's paycheck contributions or potential art sales and just figured out what was needed as a household to survive year one). This is the amount of money I have to at least have saved by the time my last paycheck comes in, in August. I subtracted the amount from what I already have saved and divided it by the number of months I have left until that dreaded last check. Once I took a look at that amount, it did not seem as overwhelming. I figured I could worry about year two another time.

Next was to come up with some monthly goals that were easily attainable. This is a working list that I will be adding things too as I come up with them. For now, here are my goals/ list of things to do EVERY month:
1. Research and email 5 galleries a month that I think would be a good fit. I have a compiled list of galleries to contact that keeps growing but have yet to email them. 5 seemed like a workable number to contact and not feel overwhelmed.

2. Write and post on my blog at least twice a month. I haven't been very good about chronicling my adventures into artworldom partly because, a) I haven't been doing much to promote my career, and b) I kind of felt like I had to write a masterpiece each time. I've decided that I should just write. Yes, keep the information useful, but write about as much as I can regarding what I am doing with my art. I promise to never write about what I ate or about what movie I watched unless it is revelant to my art career!

3. Go to as many gallery openings as possible. There's nothing like networking to get your career going, and getting inspired by other artist is nice too. While I am at it, I should also get on the mailing list for these galleries and also on the lists of artists whose work I like.

4. PAINT, PAINT, PAINT. With my full-time job I realize that I can't paint as much as I'd like to but I should paint a minimum of 15 hours a week. 20 hours would be preferable.

So far, this is it. It seems very doable and I am excited to actually be starting the path to becoming a full-time artist! I'll keep you posted on my adventures, I'm sure.