Sharing Art

A common problem many artists have who have been creating for a long time is what to do with the products of their labors.  We may exhibit at art shows, a gallery or in places such as restaurants, theatres, offices, etc.  For most of us this results in occasional sales while the rest of our output simply accumulates.  Eventually storage becomes a problem.

Many people simply don’t think about acquiring original art.  It may seem too expensive.  They decorate their walls with posters, reproductions and décor purchased at a local hobby store.  A question we as artists have to think about is, should original art belong only to the well-to-do or highly educated?  Some artists say yes, that giving away original art or selling it at greatly reduced prices reduces the chance for artists to make a living at what they do (which is really not a possibility for most of us.)

I don’t agree.  I would like my art to find a home with someone who appreciates it, regardless of their financial status.  I keep records and I think I have given away as much as I’ve sold.  Some have gone to charity auctions.  Many others have gone to individuals, some as appreciation, and others to recognize special occasions.  Recently two of my paintings found homes, one to a newly married couple, and the one above as a graduation and engagement present.

When I am giving to individuals, I like to let them choose.  I have numerous paintings on the walls in my basement and it is fun for me to watch them try to decide which one they will choose and why they like it, sometimes for reasons that would never occur to me, such as the high school graduate a year ago who chose a painting of a Norwegian Fjord because it reminded him of Narnia.  The one above was chosen by an aspiring filmmaker because, he said, he liked the light and shadows, which was what he tried to capture on film.

So I’ll keep on painting and giving but selling one occasionally would be nice too.

Painting from a Photo

Photo of Prairie Tree

Prairie Tree, Acrylic 18″ x 14″

It’s always good to be offered a commission, but it usually involves painting from a photo someone else has taken.  Recently I was asked to do a panting from the above photo, which the woman was very enthusiastic about.  A friend had let her family stay at their country place while work was being done on their house.  What she wanted me to do was to paint from the photo they had taken while there so she could give the painting to their friend.

I said I would do it but I didn’t tell her what I thought of the photo.  The tree in the photo was directly in the center, and artists are taught never to put the center of interest in the middle of the painting.  Secondly, the size of the foreground was too near the same size as the sky, another no no.  Also, the foreground in the photo was so dark that it was difficult to see the vegetation.

The painting above shows how I handled these problems.  I moved the tree a bit to one size and shortened the foreground and made it lighter.  I thought this preserved the  essence of the scene while making it more pleasing to look at.  She was a little concerned that the painting did not look exactly like the photo, but did buy it.

Still Arting

sunflower-bouquet-2

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-3-1

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.