Friday, August 26, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Being an Artist

Current work in progress...
For those of you who have read my blog regularly, you know that there are times when being an artist  feels like I am banging my head against a wall. Nothing seems to be working out in the studio or nothing seems to be selling no matter how many pieces are in a number of galleries. It is really hard to stay positive during these times and not let it affect your self-esteem, but this is what it's like to be an artist sometimes. There are highs and lows, especially when it comes to sales.

We have all seen me write about the lows and the insecurities that come with it. I am very open about my feelings here. There are also some entries where I write about a new gallery that has chosen to represent me or show my work or some site that is featuring my work. I have also listed numerous shows so we know there good days too. But, like most people, I wish for more highs. It's human nature. I want to avoid the lows if at all possible despite knowing that it's just part of doing this job, and life, really.

This past week has been a good week, and what I would hope is an upswing, a trend with more highs to come. Just in the past two days, I have sold 4 paintings at two different galleries, had a gallery from Toronto inquire about showing my work at their establishment, had a vodka company want to feature my work during an event, and found out that a local magazine will be doing an article about me and my artwork which will be shown in a gallery this October. It was a great two days, the kind that we all dream to have.

It's days like these that I need to keep in mind when I hit a low and start to wonder why I am an artist. I realize that it's hard to do when I am in the depths of self-pity. Sometimes I need to just wallow in it a bit before I tell myself that this is just a dip in the roller coaster of my art career. But, good days are always on the horizon and positivity is the key to getting through the not-so-stellar days. The important thing is to keep doing what I love to do, which is paint.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Getting Into the Groove

It is the second week of school and I can already feel myself getting into a groove. The lessons are going smoothly and my classes don't feel as chaotic as they did last week. I still don't have as much time as I'd like to paint during the day, but at least now I don't feel so overwhelmed. Being a lot calmer, I am now able to get right to work once I get to my studio.

I have found that I like working on at least two paintings at a time. While one is drying, I can work on the other. Or, if I get frustrated or bored on one section of a piece, I can work on the other painting. Here is what I started over the weekend and worked on today:

I started this painting on Saturday and finished the
 underpainting yesterday.

This painting continues the "men in bathing suits" theme
I've been working on. I don't paint very often and
decided to add a few to the series.

You can see part of the reference photo in this shot.
The panel is 24"x24".

Guy number two. 

Almost done with the underpainting. I'm hoping another hour and
that will be done. I'd like to have these two paintings done by this
weekend, if all goes well.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Not Enough Hours in the Day

There never seems to be enough hours in the day. Even when I didn't have to go to a day job, there didn't seem to be enough time for everything I wanted to do. Now that school has started and I spend my days teaching, it feels like I have even less...probably because I actually do have less time. Part of it is that I haven't quite gotten my "teacher legs" yet. I am still getting used to my new schedule, my new routine, wearing heels again... Usually I leave work feeling completely exhausted. Teaching high school students takes some getting used to, I guess. When I finally get to the studio, if I am lucky I get in two hours of painting. This is mostly because I am too tired to paint any longer. I am so exhausted that I have gone to bed 2-3 hours earlier than what I normally do. Yesterday I was asleep by 8:30pm! It was a Friday night!! Yeah, I'm feeling pretty old right now.

I do know that it will get better, though. I will get used to this and have more energy to paint afterwards. I will survive. I always do. After all, I only have to teach 172 more days (and yes I am counting!).

In the meantime, here are the latest two paintings that are finally completed. The first one took so long because I was agonizing on whether I should cover her eyes. I kept her unwaxed for almost two months trying to get myself to cover them. I almost covered them three days ago. I was ready to do it, then got distracted. By the next day, I had already lost my nerve to do it. Fortunately for me, the Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery saw the painting and decided it's fate for me. They want her as is, with no bar over her eyes. Done! The second piece I finally finished kept getting interrupted by smaller pieces I had to get done sooner for the JoAnne Artman Gallery, so it kept getting put on the back burner. But they are now done and I can move on to the next two paintings planned.

"Entranced", 2011, 16"x16", oil and encaustic wax on panel

"County Fair" 2011, 30"x30", oil and encaustic wax on panel

My latest work in progress. Final size is 24"x24"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Makes a Full-Time Artist?

Recently, while reading Alyson Stanfield's blog,, I came across a passage she was quoting from Julia Cameron’s Letters to a Young Artist  regarding being a full-time artist. Here's the quote:

I don’t know where we got the idea that being a full-time artist meant no day job. Being an artist is a matter of consciousness. Having a day job doesn’t alter that. I have seen more artists damaged by unlimited time than limited time.
"Sunday Best", 2011
10"x10", oil and encaustic wax on panel
In the post, Alyson asked her readers what they did as their "day jobs" and had over 100 comments. It was obvious that very few of them were creating art exclusively and most people had other jobs in order to pay the bills. This got me thinking about my own battles with wanting to be a full-time artist and I asked myself the question "Is it important to have art as the only job you do or is it really just the state of mind of being a full-time artist that is more important?"

Over a year ago I quite my day job to paint full-time. I was a middle school math teacher and needed a break from the hustle and bustle of teaching and grading papers. I saved up enough money to support myself in months of low sales and I busted my ass getting my work into five galleries, along with the necessary marketing I needed to do. It was a great nine months of waking up whenever I felt like it, going to the gym, and then heading to the studio around noon to paint for at least 5 hours a day. It was my dream job and I was enjoying it immensely.

"Smile for the Camera", 2011
10"x10" oil and encaustic wax on panel
Then January came along and I was asked to fill in for a teacher who was going on a leave of absence. I was to teach pre-calculus and advanced algebra at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco. Despite the perfect schedule (I would be done teaching at 12:30), I was conflicted with the decision that was in front of me. Could I give up my dream job of painting all day, everyday and take the job which would mean I would go back to painting once I was done teaching? It was a hard choice. Ultimately, I decided to take the job since my husband had recently quit his job go into free-lance audio engineering and audio/ video editing, which was his dream. One of us needed to have the steady paycheck that included benefits for the both of us and I decided that would be me.

Turned out that taking the job didn't really impact my painting much. I was still getting in the same amount of hours in the studio but now I had health insurance and the security of knowing that my bills would be paid at the end of the month. My  mentality of thinking that I was a full-time artist didn't go away. I still felt like THAT was my primary job and teaching was something I did on the side, rather than the other way around. When people asked me what I did for a living, I said I was an artist FIRST, and if I felt like it, I mentioned that I taught math also. I stopped identifying myself as a math teacher and started identifying myself as an artist, which I had never done previous to quitting my day job. I was a full-time artist and believed it regardless of what I did on the side to pay the bills.

"Beach Bar", 2011
10"x10", oil and encaustic wax on panel
Would I love to go back and paint all day, every day? Sure. I'm not going to lie and say that wouldn't be ideal for me. But now that I know that being a full-time artist is more of a state of mind, I don't feel bad about teaching in the mornings instead of painting (the School of the Arts asked me to continue teaching there and I have decided to take the job). I still go in to my studio every day and I am as productive, if not more productive, as I was when I had unlimited time to paint. I am still living my dream of being a full-time artist.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Featured Artist on

Check this out! I'm one of the featured artists on the homepage. This is actually the second time they have featured my work. I'm guessing they must like me...

In other news...Here are a few images from the summer group show at Blue Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Painting While Sick

Today was not a good day for me. I woke up feeling feverish and achy. I'd love to say I felt better after a few naproxen (my drug of choice), but unfortunately, I didn't. In fact, later I got the added bonus of dizzy spells. But being the trooper that I am, I did manage to get to the studio for about three hours. As my studio-mate, Lani Tanaka, says: "I suffer for my art". Boy was I suffering today! It was hard to resist the urge to curl up on my couch in my studio, but I did.

I'm kind of surprised I didn't ruin my paintings, actually, considering how I felt. It's a risk to paint while sick. Fortunately for me, it seems to have worked out. I got my two little paintings mostly done. I may add some bright whites on some spots, perhaps some really dark spots to punch up the contrast, tomorrow.

After looking at this some, I may need to shorten the bars over her
 eyes.  Her hair needs more highlights too.
Can you recognize who she is?

This guy originally had a girl sitting next to her. She
didn't have much contrast and didn't seem to add to the
composition so I took her out of the picture. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Making Room for the New

One of my current paintings I am working on. She is mostly done.
I have to add the veil to her hat still, which should be pretty interesting
 to see how I manage a see-through veil on her.
Every year I go through my closet and dresser and pull out the clothes that no longer fit, are no longer my style, or are too worn out to wear. Occasionally I find something that I love but I can't wear anymore for one reason or another. I know I should just get rid of it, but I always have a debate in my head as to whether I should keep it. I could wear it to bed or to the studio, right? Surely it's okay to wear then? But alas, I know that it's good for me to purge the item and just get rid of it. I know that I am making room for something new in my closet, perhaps a new favorite item, and without this purge, I wouldn't have enough space for this.

I think this is a good metaphor for life. Just like cleaning out your closet, you sometimes have to purge the old/ stale in order to make room for the new and more appropriate things to enter our lives. I was contemplating this yesterday in my studio as I was getting ready to ship two paintings to a new gallery that had approached me this weekend about possibly representing my work in their Hampton's gallery.

Another work in progress...
Some of you may recall my somewhat recent post "When it's Time to Jump Ship", about my leaving a gallery because of some shady dealings. Truthfully, I was hesitant to leave this gallery. In my head I tried justifying why I should stay. It wasn't that the gallery was a favorite or even made a lot of sales for me, and we know from that blog post that they weren't exactly treating me the way I should have been treated. So why was I hesitant to leave this gallery? I guess I was afraid that if I left, I wouldn't find some place else to show my work. I was afraid that no one else would want to represent my work and sell it in their gallery. I started thinking "this gallery is better than nothing, at least my work is showing somewhere", which is probably the kind of thinking they were counting on. It was silly thinking on my part, to be sure, and ultimately I decided that I just couldn't let this gallery get away with what they were doing to me. I left the gallery, and just like cleaning out my closet, I opened myself up for something new to enter it.

In the time that I left this gallery, which was at the end of May, I have gotten two galleries to represent me, one in Aspen, Colorado and one in Laguna Beach, California. I also now have a new (to me) San Francisco gallery showing my work and today I will be shipping my work to the Hampton's to another gallery. In addition, my Laguna Beach gallery will be taking my work to the San Diego art fair in September and I have a featured artist show with them in October. Not bad considering it's the beginning of August!

One more... All three are 10"x10", which is A LOT
smaller than my usual size. 
By getting rid of a gallery that was causing me stress and emotional turmoil, I opened myself up to four new galleries finding and showing my work. I got rid of the negative and now have some pretty terrific galleries that believe in what I do. Sometimes, even if you don't want to, it's good to evaluate what is and is not working for you and purge the things in life that no longer are. It's not an easy thing to do, but usually it is worth it!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Frenemie" or Just the Push We Need?

Have you ever found yourself having this conversation?

Another work in progress to add to my pile of half
completed paintings.
Your artist friend stops by your studio "just to chat" and in that conversation she just happens to mention how many paintings she sold this month, which happens to be significantly more than what you sold in the last TWO months. You congratulate her and counter with mentioning the new gallery that is now representing you. She congratulates you, yawns, then mentions that she couldn't sleep last night because she was thinking about the two commissions she just received and how she just doesn't have enough time in the day to meet all of her deadlines. Your head starts to spin trying to come up with something to top that. You mention the three art fairs your gallery is taking your work to and how you need to supply these galleries with SO much work that you may need to sleep at the studio for the next few weeks.

While the conversation is very polite, and both of you are congratulating each other on your successes, inside you can't help but feel competitive. You can't help but feel catty and "one-up" her whenever you can. You are comparing yourself to this "friend" and you want make sure you are more successful than her.

Now, in all likelihood don't feel this way about all of your artists friends. You are genuinely happy when they make a sale, or get a new gallery to represent them. You are a supportive friend when they feel stressed or panicked about a deadline. But for some reason, whenever SHE walks by, you can't help but feel a sudden rush of cattiness and need to show her just how successful you are. It's not really logical either. Both of your work is completely different in technique and genre, so why the need to "compete" with each other? Do we really need to have someone like this to "compete" against in order to push us into being more ambitious?

This one is almost done...just a few touch ups left.
Most of us have that one "friend" (or more likely, a "frenemie") that we compare ourselves to, whether it's the success of our art, the success in our personal lives, the accomplishments of our kids, or any other number of things going on in our world. It's the friend that pushes you to do more, not because they are so supportive, but because you want to do better than them. You can't help it. It just seems to always happen whenever you see or talk to this person. 

On the upside, sometimes this "competition" does make you more successful. It's the added push you need in order to submit your work to one more gallery or paint just one more painting for your upcoming show. On the downside, it can make you feel bad about yourself when you feel that you aren't measuring up. When self-doubt starts to creep in, it can be downright detrimental to your creative process and productivity.

So what do you do when you can't help but feel like you just don't measure up to the person you are comparing yourself too? You remind yourself that this is not a competition between you two. You tell yourself that there is plenty of room for the both of you to be successful and that we all experience success on different levels and in different ways. You stay positive and focused on what YOU want to accomplish. You do what you love because YOU love it and shut out the voice in your head that wonders how it will compare to someone else. And when none of these things work, you stay away from this "friend" because really, who needs to have someone in their lives that makes them feel bad?

I'm thinking this one is done. I may touch up some
parts, but I am pretty happy with where it's at.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Featured Artist on Brooklyn Art Project!

My artwork featured on the banner for Brooklyn Art Project for the month of August
Awhile ago (and we are talking one of my first blog posts here) I wrote a post on art networking sites. I wasn't sure whether or not it was worth my time to sign up on these sites or if it was worth the trouble to upload artwork there. I was going to try a few of them out and see what happened though since networking is a big component of getting your artwork "out there".

I registered my work on five different sites: Blue Canvas, Brooklyn Art Project, Artslant, Myartspace, and Artist File Online. It was an experiment and I wanted to see if any of these sites would drive traffic to my website or blog, or even bring more attention to my artwork. I loaded up a bunch of images and pretty much left it at that. I never "added" other artists as friends, didn't post comments, and truthfully, I didn't even update my photos since the initial sign up. That was back in 2009! Recently, and I'm not sure why I suddenly got the urge, I decided that I should update my profiles on all of the sites I was registered on. This was less than a week ago.

This morning I received an email from the Brooklyn Art Project stating that they were making me the featured artist of the month and my artwork would on on the banner for all of their website pages, including their blog through the end of August. They would also be sharing links to my work to their 15,000+  Twitter followers. Not bad, eh? I can't say the other sites have garnered me any success or whether or not it was worth the effort. It has been mostly quiet, although I did get a few inquiries (less than 5 in almost three years) from these sites, I was a featured artist on a different site, and I get a lot of glowing comments from fellow artists. So is it worth it? Are art networking sites worth the effort of registering your work on? I'm still undecided but I think this time I'll keep my images updated just in case...