Looking Behind

St. Edward's Church, Rear View, edited So often all we see is the front side of a structure we plan to paint.  This is especially true of buildings.  How often do we photograph or paint only the front of churches, downtown structures or farm buildings.  I’m glad I had an art teacher in college who taught us to look at what is behind.  She had us take our sketch pads into the alley behind some commercial buildings.  There was a lot to see, weathered doors, brick walls, trash cans and the alley itself.

I have done several paintings from the back of churches, which to me were more interesting than the front of the building.  I have a painting on exhibit now of a historic building in Lawrence, KS, as seen from the side where one can see the stairs leading to the upper level and a bit of the community garden that was next door,  “Vermont Street Garden” is now on exhibit at the Phoenix Underground (the lower level of the Phoenix Gallery) on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, KS.  This exhibit features artists who will be in Art in the Park on May 6.

Spring seems to be a time for art exhibits.  I also have two paintings in the Lawrence Art Guild exhibit at Landmark Bank on 6th Street in Lawrence.  You will see the work of a lot of talented local artist at both of these shows and at Art in the Park.


Still Arting


Sunflower Bouquet, acrylic, 16″ x 12″

This past week I participated in the Art is Ageless show at the Presbyterian Manor in Lawrence.  This art show is an annual event and anyone who is a senior citizen can enter, not just residents of the Manor.  There are a number of categories including needlework, such as quilts or embroidery.  The categories for paintings are either amateur or professional.  But all professional means is that you occasionally sell your work.  This year I won a second place ribbon for the above painting.  The person writing their newsletter interviewed me before this show because I had won a best of show ribbon last year.

As a senior citizen this was a good show for me to enter because it was near where I lived and only required me to deliver two paintings.  Best of all, although I could have entered by computer, I didn’t have to.  I could just hand in a form filled out by hand when I delivered my paintings.  They didn’t even charge an entry fee.  Of course there was no prize money either, which may be whey there are not very many entries, although I’m sure Lawrence must have many senior artists.

Often artists keep making art long after the age of 65.  In fact some take it up in retirement.  The Artist magazine also recognizes this with an annual contest for senior artists.  A problem for senior artists is not so much the making of art but showing it.  The time when I could lug many paintings to an outdoor show that might last a couple days, find help to put up a tent, and sit out there in all kinds of weather is past.  I now only do one outdoor show, Art in the Park in Lawrence, which does not involve long travel and only last a half a day.  Also, this show still allows people to enter by submitting photographs.

A major difficulty for senior citizen artists is entering art shows.  They almost all require computers not only for the form and to pay the fee but also to submit images of one’s art work.  Some seniors don’t even have computers.  Others, like me, have them but only use them for a few simple things.  I haven’t found the help categories on my computer very helpful.  Sometimes my husband can figure it out.  My son who knows the most about computers lives too far away.

If you are planning an art show in your community, also make it friendly to older artists.   Let people enter either by computer or by snail mail with photographs and a check.  If the show, either indoors or out, is the kind where each individual brings a number of paintings, maybe have a few younger people available to help those who are less able.  As we share what we are creating we may also encourage others to keep on keeping on.

Large or Small


Peppers, Acrylic, 6″ x 6″

As the holiday season approaches, small seems to be in when it comes to paintings.  There’s a very practical reason for this, of course.  They cost less and when it comes to holiday art shows they are competing in price with items like scarves, earrings and other jewelry.  I am in three holiday art shows this year.  The Southwind Gallery Miniature show in Topeka asked artists to paint six inch by six inch paintings which the gallery then framed all in the same way.  That show just opened and will run during November and December.  The Topeka Art Guild Gallery asked artists in their December-January show to contribute art selling for $100 or less, which means that the art will be of small size.  The Holiday Art Fair at the Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence on Saturday November 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. did not specify size but when competing with jewelry and other small items I plan on bringing smaller, lower priced paintings.

What can an artist do in a small space?  The painting above will be in the Southwind Gallery Miniature show.  When I am faced with a small canvas I tend to focus on small items.  My other painting in that show is of one water lily.  Not as impressive as a whole pond of them but I think there is something to be gained by limiting one’s focus to just one or a few simple objects.  I loved all the different colors in that one pepper.  Also, if the painting doesn’t work, not so much time and effort have been wasted.

I remember some years ago when I had some paintings in a local gallery, the gallery owner urged me to paint very large paintings.  I think they were in style at the time.  I was told that art majors at our local university were also encouraged to use large canvases.  Well, I tried one that was, I think 48″ x 30.”  It took a long time to paint and then the gallery owner didn’t like it.  I never tried another one that large.  I think smaller paintings have come back and that suits me just fine.

Ready, Set, Go

Tis the season when multiple art shows will be popping up all over the place.  As you look at the work of the artists, you may picture a painter at an easel, brush or palette knife in hand, and think, “Oh that looks like such fun.  I wish I could do that.”  I’ve heard similar comments.  What they don’t realize is that there is a lot more involved in being part of an art show than painting a group of canvases.  They have to be framed, of course, and a record of them kept that shows when they were painted and where they have been exhibited, so as not to keep showing the same paintings in the same annual shows.

My painting are in five shows this month.  Two shows are in Lawrence.  Delivering two paintings to the Phoenix Underground, the lower floor of the Phoenix Gallery downtown, was no problem.  The next local show will be Lawrence Art Walk, Saturday Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday Oct. 23 from noon to 6 p.m.  There will be a map showing where the various participants are located.  (Check for details online.)  My paintings are already hung on the walls of my basement family room but I will still have to make sure each painting has a card listing its title, media, and price, which means printing cards for the newer paintings and placing cards with each painting.

I made a special trip to Topeka to turn in three paintings to Warehouse 414.  That business is having a show honoring the Topeka Art Guild, of which I am a member, on their 100th anniversary.  Two of my paintings will be in the Kansas Artists show at the Topeka Art Guild Gallery  and two or three from the last show there will go on to the nearby Eagle Car Wash.

After preparing for all those shows I wasn’t sure I wanted to enter another.  But an email message said more artists were needed for the Lawrence Art Guild Holiday Art Fair at Lawrence Art Center November 19 and that that day was the last day for entries.  Oh well, why not?  I printed a copy of the online entry form and could see that this was going to be more work than I expected.  Not only were three photos of my work required but also a photo of my proposed exhibit.  That meant getting my screens out of the garage, setting them up, going to the basement and bringing up enough small paintings to fill them, finding the hooks and hanging them on the screens so I could photograph them and then putting everything away.

Next I had to transfer the photo of my exhibit to my computer and print it on my color printer, plus finding photos of three of the paintings on the computer and printing them.  Then I discovered that I didn’t have a padded envelope to put all this in for mailing so I had to go out and buy one.  Next I addressed  the envelope and added the photos, entry form and a check.  Artists not only have to pay to enter shows.  If they sell anything, they have to pay a percentage of that as well, which is why art sold at shows and galleries my seem high priced.  So finally, I have entered and am glad for this season at least, to have places where others can see what I’ve been doing.









Getting Ready for Art Walk

Kentucky Street, Acrylic, 14" x 20"

Kentucky Street, Acrylic, 14″ x 20″

Now that fall has arrived with cooler days that encourage folks to be out and about, it’s time to get ready for Lawrence Art Walk, which is scheduled for October 24th and 25th, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.  This is the 20th year that Lawrence artists have opened their studios to the public and I have participated many of those years.  It’s a great way for artists to introduce their friends and neighbors to what they create without having to pack up paintings, screens, tent etc. and haul them to another location.  But it does take a certain amount of preparation.

I want to make sure some of my most recent paintings are framed and ready to hang, although since I have quite a lot of wall space in my exhibit area, there will also be paintings from past years.  Most will have a Midwestern theme but there will also be paintings based on my yearly trips to Colorado and also from places farther away.  With each of those paintings I will include a card listing the title, media, and price.  I still have quite a few of those to print.  The last few years I have also been making cards with photos of various paintings and those will be for sale too.  I need to make some more since I have been using up the cards for birthdays of my large extended family.  I’m also going to have a stack of unframed paintings from past years for sale at garage sale prices.  But those still have to be chosen and removed from storage.

Maps will be available at each artist’s location and there are 21 of us this year.  We are painters, photographers, and those who work with ceramics or glass.  Since I have to be here with my work, I can’t see what those other artists have on display in their studios.  But if you and I want to see some examples of the creations of the Art Walk artists, the Phoenix Underground Gallery in downtown Lawrence has an exhibit of paintings by those artists that will continue during October.

I’ve had some good news recently.  My painting, “Kansas Hay Bales,” which I entered in the Topeka Art Guild’s current Kansans Paint Kansas juried show, won an honorable mention.  That show will continue until the end of November.

What Might Sell

Sunflower Field, Acrylic, 16" x 12"

Sunflower Field, Acrylic, 16″ x 12″

Fine art, as opposed to commercial art, is supposed to be all about the artist’s inspiration, the artist’s choice, what he or she feels like creating.  And we do have that freedom.  But art supplies are expensive and entering art shows has become ever more costly.  Galleries take from one third to one half of the price of what they sell.  So it is nice to sell something once in a while, both to pay for the costs of being an artist but also just for the feeling that someone cares enough about my work to pay money for it.

Therefore as fine artists we are going to be thinking somewhat about the tastes and the pocket books of those who see our work.  For instance, during this recession, which is supposed to be ending, I’ve been painting on smaller canvases because people have less money for luxuries.  I also think about which paintings to put in which show.  Since I travel to Colorado every summer I have accumulated a number of Colorado paintings.  But I have found they seldom sell here in Kansas.   A relative advised me to concentrate on flower paintings and I have sold a number of those over the years but I also still have quite a few.  Some years I have sold paintings of sunflowers, such as the one above, which will be in Art in the Park in Lawrence this weekend.  Other years they remain unsold.  I am fortunate to have a friend whose family plants a whole field of sunflowers every year, so I have plenty of opportunity to paint these symbols of Kansas.

The style of frames also has changed through the year, and that is something an artist who hopes to sell has to consider.  When I began painting seriously frames usually had linen liners.  I still have some of those.  Then the style went to various kinds of gold frames, usually without liners.  The current fad seems to be for black frames.  I don’t really like them as I don’t think they go very well with landscapes but I have a few.

At the Topeka Art Guild Gallery I have sold a painting in both the previous show and the current one.  I almost didn’t enter the painting of Potter’s Lake in the previous show because it was of an iconic Lawrence landmark, Potter’s Lake, on the University of Kansas campus.  I had shown it probably half a dozen times in Lawrence without selling it.  Then it sold in Topeka.  The painting I sold from the current show was an 8 inch by 10 inch painting of two pink seated flamingos done from a photo I took at the Topeka zoo.  I had originally painted it four years ago for an exhibit at the gallery promoting breast cancer awareness.  We were asked to do small pink paintings.  I even put it in a black frame but it didn’t sell then.  I decided to try again with it in the gallery only because the theme of the show was Journey Through Topeka and I only had one other painting of a Topeka scene.

On Sunday I will be in Art in the Park in South Park in Lawrence.  My tent will be along Massachusetts Street.  So come and have a look.  Maybe once again I’ll be surprised at what someone will buy.

An Artist’s Life

Tranquility, acrylic, 15" x 10"

Tranquility, acrylic, 15″ x 10″

Unlike some other professions, many people don’t really have much idea about what being an artist is like. First, there is a lot going on that makes the actual creating of art possible.  Let’s start with subject matter.  For an artist whose paintings attempt to look like what inspired them, that means learning to see among the innumerable images with which we are surrounded that one central image that could make a painting.  That could mean being outdoors and looking thoughtfully around.  Indoors it might mean gathering a few everyday objects and placing them so that they make an interesting still life.  But in this age of digital photography and computers it can also mean taking a lot of photos and storing them on a computer.  Then, depending on one’s level of computer skills, there are things the artist can do to photographs to give even more possible ideas of subject matter.  I took the photo on which the above painting is based several years ago.  Since I recently discovered posterizing, I tried that with this photo until I liked the results and then painted from that.  Computers make possible things I would never have expected.  Not long ago I received an email from a relative I had not seen or heard from in many years.  He had seen and liked my art that he saw on his computer.

Then one must put together the materials and try to acquire them as inexpensively as possible.  I cut out Hobby Lobby coupons that appear weekly for 40 percent off one regularly priced item and also look at the sales.  Frames are a big expense.  I look for sales of oddly sized frames at places that do framing.  I used to be able to occasionally find very inexpensive frames in good condition at Good Will or Salvation Army stores but that is getting harder.  I recently saw two old frames at a Salvation Army store that I wanted to buy but didn’t because in my opinion the asking price was more than what they probably sold for new.  Someone also told me that some of these stores are selling their more desirable items on E Bay.

But after a painting is completed and I like it and think it is pretty good, what do I do with it?  It seems to be getting harder to find places to show them.  Some of the places here in town where I used to show art are no longer available.  I applied to several art shows since the first of the year and recently received two rejections.  Our church is having a rummage sale so I have given them two older paintings I no longer show.  I was a bit surprised to hear good comments about one of them.  Maybe it will find a home.  Then there is a recent painting of mine that I really like but won’t keep because it seems to belong to someone else.

A good thing about being an artist is that there is no retirement date.  Artists of any age can and do continue to learn by taking classes, studying art in books and art magazines, museums and even using the computer.  Recently on my email I was offered, without having to pay, a series of lectures by various artists.  I think it was one each day for 21 days.  I’m a little behind on watching them but I intend to listen to them all.  As long as we can physically continue to create art we are free to do so.  It is a frustrating and joyful experience we are unwilling to give up.



Symbol for a City

Dillard's, acrylic, 16" x 20"

Dillard’s, acrylic, 16″ x 20″

The Topeka Art Guild’s April and May show will be titled Journey Through Topeka.  I am a member of the Topeka Art Guild and try to put something in all of their shows.  But I live in Lawrence.  I have lots of paintings done in Lawrence and the surrounding countryside but I usually don’t paint in Topeka.  So what could I contribute to this upcoming show?  This got me thinking about what kind of images symbolize a city.

I’ve painted most of the sites that people think of as symbolizing Lawrence.  There’s Potter’s Lake on the KU campus and the bridge at one end of it.  I’ve done several paintings of the Kansas River both in winter from photos and on site in summer.  The restored Depot in North Lawrence and the flower gardens in front of it are a good place to paint.  So is South Park with its bandstand, fountain and surrounding gardens.  I’ve also painted neighborhood scenes in either autumn with colorful trees or in April when the city bursts into bloom.

But what symbolizes Topeka?  The most obvious answer, I suppose, would be the newly restored Capitol building.  There is also Gage Park with its zoo and rose garden.  I’ve done a few paintings there in the past but with one exception they have been sold or given away.  The above painting is what I came up with as my symbol of Topeka.  I think it must be the same for many people who live in smaller communities.  When we drive into the city our most likely reason is shopping.  I often go to the Westridge Mall in Topeka before I go to work at the Topeka Art Guild Gallery.  On a visit to the mall this winter I liked the way the stormy sky looked as a backdrop for the cream colored exterior of one of the mall’s major department stores so I took a photo, which led to my painting symbolizing Topeka, the entrance to a shopping mall.

If you attend Theatre Lawrence’s production of “Other Desert Cities” which opened last night, don’t miss the photography exhibit by D. W. Gates in the lobby.  Here is someone who can really see artistic possibilities.  His snow scenes look as if they were photographed in the Rocky Mountains but the captions say they were seen in the Lawrence area.  I asked him how he did it.  He said after a heavy snow in the country that had drifted he would lie down to take his photo so that the drifts look like mountain peaks.

Santa’s Thinking Art

Highpoint Corner, acrylic, 12" x 7"

Highpoint Corner, acrylic, 12″ x 7″

Of course all artists, me included, are hoping Santa will swoop down and choose one of their pieces for a Christmas gift.  The Topeka Art Guild Gallery is making that a little easier by having a big selection of paintings selling for less than $100 in their current show.  The show will run through January, so if you receive a monetary gift for Christmas you might want to pay the gallery a visit.  The above is one of my contributions to that show.   Art is more lasting than the latest electronic game  or that trendy piece of clothing that you won’t want to be seen in next year.  It is something you an enjoy in your home or office for years to come.

But as artists we can use this season of gift giving to further the cause of art in another way.  Think about the people you’ve heard say they have always wanted to paint.  Remember the young person who is excited about an art class they are taking in school.  And what about the struggling artist who is wondering how to afford the supplies needed to continue.  The gift of art supplies may be just the inspiration someone you know will appreciate.  A painting is more than just something to hang on the wall.  Creating it may give the artist the chance to sit in a beautiful natural setting and really see it in a new way.  It may help someone think outside the box.  Or it may simply give someone struggling with overwhelming problems a needed respite.  We who know the benefits of art can choose in this season to share it with others.  It can indeed be the gift that keeps on giving.

A Successful Art Walk

From the Barn Door, 12" x 9"  acrylic

From the Barn Door, 12″ x 9″ acrylic

October 29, 2013


Art Walk turned out very well for me this year.  More people than usual came to view the paintings that cover the walls of my basement multipurpose room.  And people seemed to like them, even some that were not favorites of mine.  At the last minute I decided to also set out some cards that each contained a photo of one of my paintings.  I didn’t have very many on hand but when people started buying them, I began making more in between visitors.  Fortunately, I have a good color printer and they are easy to make.

Better yet, I sold three paintings, including the one pictured above.  Before Art Walk begins, those who are participating may pick up postcards  advertising Art Walk to send to those who have purchased a painting in the past or to anyone else who might be interested.  I don’t usually get much result from sending the post cards but this year a couple who had purchased one of my paintings a year or two ago did come and they bought three more.  So this year was one of the few years I earned more at Art Walk than the high fee charged to be in it.

I have paintings depicting a wide variety of locations and it is interesting which paintings people are drawn to.  To my surprise Kansas rural nostalgia seems to be popular.  I paint a lot of rural Kansas scenes, since I paint with two artists who live in the country.  Sometimes it is hard to think of something new to paint when I have been at those locations so many times.  But I gues it will be worth while to take another look.