Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Judging the PGE Member Show

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Dorothea Schulz of the Pastel Guild of Europe to be the judge for their "Get Dusty" Online Member's Show for the month of April.  I was honored to accept! Past judges from the shows include Jacob Aguiar, Adrian Frankel Giuliani, Jude Tolar, and Christine DiMauro, among many others.

April's theme for the competition was Baby Animals. Awww... who could resist? And based on my own work, I guess I was eminently suitable for judging. Dorothea sent me the link to the entries last weekend, and I enjoyed viewing them for a couple days before making my choices.


There were only 16 entries. They are a small group - but very talented!! It was quite as difficult to decide on the placements as it would have been with 10 times the entries, mainly because almost all of the works were of equal quality, with a variety of strengths in different artistic ways. 

I wanted to share with you here my picks for First, Second and Third Places, and the three Honorable Mentions that were allowed. All of the entries demonstrated strength in values and draftsmanship, so I'll be commenting on the additional qualities that made these six stand out in my viewings.

First Place - "Harley" by Claudia Chimenti
The composition was the first thing that struck me about this precious puppy portrait. The variety of flowing diagonals, enhanced by the strong warm light and the relaxed and trustful pose of the puppy make this a powerful painting. Chimenti is also wise in her choice of a limited palette, using shades and tones of whites to set off Harley's brown patch. The reflected light blues in the shadows are very well done. The simple, un-fussy handling of the background and sleeve fabric are the perfect frame for the more detailed rendering of this adorable face, while the bits of warm salmon-brown color pervading the entire painting allow his brown patch of fur, as the one main area of vibrant color, to still harmonize with the whole.

Second Place - "Explorer" by Dolores Saul
Light, color, texture, and a moment captured in time are what I see first in this little wild Explorer. The subtle handling of the warms and cools within the various tones of fur are masterfully done! The wonderful textural contrasts of the finely detailed fur, to the ripples of the water, the middle-ground grasses, and finally the very loose, gestural rocks in the background, create a convincing sense of depth. I like the unconventional pose withing this otherwise traditional portrait composition (the subject centered within the area of the painting.) The cat is looking off to the left, as if something there has caught his attention, and in a moment he will leave the frame. But this doesn't encourage our eyes into leaving; the sunlight streaming on the cat's face holds our eyes, and the bits of dark along his shadowed side and in the background bounce our eyes around and down the right side, and back up the sunny side to his face...

Third Place - "Triplet" by Elisabeth Blass
This one got the "Awww!" response right off the bat for me, but I might be a sucker for ducklings in the light. Then the more I looked beyond that initial cuteness, the more I liked. The arrangement of shapes and patterns within this square come across as refreshingly spontaneous without being awkward, which makes me suspect they may have been very carefully composed. Even though the two ducklings closer to us are offset in high contrast by the shadowed rock, our eye still jumps back to the duckling above, who, in spite of being mostly the same value as the water, appears to be more strongly bathed in the bright warm light because of the temperature contrast of the blue around him.
Fresh and spontaneous describes the pastel application as well!


Honorable mention - "Ducklings" by Karin Kießling
Balance, contrast and harmony. Incredible color harmony for one; the entire painting looks like it may have been done with shades and tints of just three colors. The balance in this composition is sweetly calming, just as the visual of these ducklings are for our eyes. Almost symmetrical, but not quite. Held in place by the reflection which touches the bottom edge. The amazing detail of the wet feathers is contrasted by the smooth, calm surrounding water.

Honorable Mention - "Guarded Childhood" by Eva Schläfli
Yes, baby animals -- what's not to love? This painting perfectly exemplifies a mother's love and a baby's safe haven. Once again, wonderful color harmony. Excellent detail without looking overworked. The close cropped view with the chimp's face centered is another almost-symmetrical composition, but the subtle variety of angles created by the hand, arm, and head create a sweet cocoon of comfort for this baby chimp, and pull us back to the expression in the face, and most especially, the eyes.

Honorable Mention - "Puppies" by Ute Farr
Speaking of expression... These are the happiest puppies I've seen in a long time! This one's all about the JOY and the FUR! In fact, in spite of there appearing to be no discernible light source (the reference may have been a flash-front photo?) Ms. Farr was able to create a wonderful depth of fluffiness within the subtle varied tones of warm and cool whites, blues and violets that make these coats so believably thick. The simplicity of the background and the sofa edge support the strength of this traditional portrait pose.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed the show, and check out the rest of the Pastel Guild of Europe's site!

.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How to Start Pricing Your Artwork


So you want to sell your art, but don't know how much to ask? 

I recently had a question from another artist who wanted my opinion on what price she should put on a particular painting. It took me a few days to get back to her because I didn't have any ready answer to her question. The short answer is, "It depends."

What is it worth to you?

The long answer is complicated, and might not tell you what you want to hear. There are a lot of variables that can go into the pricing factor. If you're new to selling work, and you have no other examples of size/quality/price from any sales you've already made, than the simplest way to go is to ask yourself what is it worth to you? Make sure you are getting a return on your supplies and your time, and then add a bit more for how good you feel this one is compared to other work you've done.

What's the size?

Once you have a few sales under your belt, you can begin to price on size. For example: You sell an 8x10 acrylic on canvas for $200. Then any other similar paintings (genre, level of detail, etc) in 8x10 will be $200. You can then set your other price sizes based on this price per square inch ($2.50.) When demand begins to exceed your production, you can raise your prices a bit. 



What's the Venue?

It can also depend on the selling venue, and what other artist's paintings are selling for in that same venue. For example: If you are in an art festival or gallery where the average painting in your genre/size is selling for $800 to $1200, then your $200 8x10 is at the risk of being viewed as inferior by the collectors shopping there, because most collectors at a certain level believe that artwork is worth what they pay for it, and they'll think you must not value your work if you price it too low, and that there must be something wrong with it. (This mentality took me YEARS to finally "get"!) 

On the other end, if you're in some small town crafts fair where the range of merchandise price points is between $10 to $75, then $200 for an 8x10 panting might be out of the customers' price range. However, that wouldn't necessarily mean you couldn't still have the $200 price tag on an 8x10 original there, but you'd do better selling simple, small paintings, and prints in the lower price ranges.



If you're not selling in any venue that includes other artists, it becomes more subjective. For instance, if you're just selling to a friend, you need to weigh your need for an income with how close is this friend, and how much can they afford? In my experience, friends and family usually want a really good deal* (*i.e.: free.) In essence, you'd need to weigh the value of the friendship against the value of the painting. Some fortunate artists have wealthy friends who appreciate the value of the artwork. ;)



What about Online?

If you're selling online, the venue (some kind of art-selling site? Or just off your own blog? Facebook?) can sometimes have an impact on price, but not so much I don't think, because of the sheer volume of public out there that can have access to your art if they know where to find it. Online art buying does tend to be lower priced than other more traditional outlets (gallery, art festival, brick-and-mortar art show). Usually because of the high level of competition that artists face on the internet, and the low overhead (almost all of the sale price goes to the artist, except for payment fees, like paypal, site fees if listed on a subscription-based site like DailyPaintworks, etc, and any other brokerage type fees, if in a web-show that takes a cut, for example.)

How to price your art on the web, if you haven't sold your work before? 

I would recommend one of two methods:

1) Fast method: What did the materials cost you? How much time did it take? Consider materials plus $20 - $50 / hour depending on how fast you work. Then round to the nearest "easy amount". Example: the 8x10 canvas was $6. You bought the paints for $60, but expect to get a lot more use out of them, so maybe just factor in $3 of paint. You put a $50 frame on it. The painting took you 4 hours. So that's $80 - $125, plus supplies is $139 - $184, which you can round to $150 - $185.


2) Time-consuming method: Research! Look around online at other artists work that is similar to yours in genre, medium, style... When you find artwork that has prices listed, read up on the artist's website to determine their level of experience. Collectors might also be looking at this data to determine whether this artist's work is a good value. Artists with more experience, awards, shows, commendations, gallery representation, etc, will have a higher perceived value. When you have come up a list of artists who's work is similar to yours, and have noted their prices for certain sizes of work, you can make an estimation of value for your own work, comparing to your experience level to theirs.


Perhaps this method will leave you more confused and unsure than ever. I've not done any research like this online, but can imagine, especially having seen sites like DailyPaintworks.com, which has pretty huge pricing variations between artists, and an endless variety of artists from beginner through professional. (That site might be a good place to start a research actually. Many of the member artists have their own websites as well.)
Just know that for a beginner, you have to start somewhere, and it's easiest to start low, and increase your prices as your experience, quality, and clientele increase.

A place to start..

I've just touched upon these pricing concepts from my own viewpoint, but hopefully have given you a place to start. There are more aspects to be considered, such as when to increase your prices, how to be flexible and still be consistent, and pricing commission work. You can read more thoughts about these topics and more concise info on pricing at these great sites below:

http://www.agora-gallery.com/advice/blog/2016/03/29/how-to-price-your-artwork/
http://www.artbusiness.com/pricerealistic.html
http://theabundantartist.com/5-art-pricing-lessons/
Read more about pricing artwork per square inch on this good blog post I found on artistrunwebsite.com.
And this post on artworkarchive.com explains about three good formulas for pricing your art.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Scan Pastel Paintings for Better Prints

A recent question from an artist friend asked about how I get good image files for making prints:

"I wanted to tell you that I think your art is beautiful and inspiring. I work with pastels also. May I ask you a question: If you do giclees, what is the best way? Is there such a thing as scanning the art, do you take a photo?"
Here's my answer (with a few revisions to make a better blog post!)

Yes! Scan it!
I do scan all my artwork, whether I make prints or not, so that I have an accurate, high-resolution image file for my records. I highly recommend scanning artwork (and pastel is perfectly fine being placed down on the glass.) My current scanner is an Epson V700; it's been the best one I've had so far, and has lasted the longest.
Scanning small works are easy, as they fit well in the scan bed:




I've also learned not to be TOO picky with getting an exact color match on the print (I had a cheap little hp scanner years ago that really captured exact color - except couldn't separate the very darkest values [has to do with D-Max rating]) Every scanner will be a little different and you just get used to learning how to get the best out of it. This Epson came with Silverfast SE software which I really like.

Scan vs. Photo 

Sometimes I will just photograph a painting if I'm away from home and need a quick post. The best way, in my opinion, to photograph artwork (if, like me, you don't have all the expensive photography lights and meters to balance everything perfectly) is to set the painting on a shady porch in daylight and, standing right over it, aim straight down with your camera and zoom in to just around the painting, making sure the edges are squared with your viewfinder. (If the painting is too large to stand over, lean it against the house instead.)
Cameras with better lenses will capture better quality images of your art, but there can be variations in temperature that are hard to manage without professional lighting and know-how. And, in my own experience, the clarity and crispness of the tiny details always seems to fall short through a camera (at least with pastel anyway.) Usually, a good camera photo will be sufficient for an image posted online, what with all the variances in other people's monitors anyway, but I really prefer a scan when I want to make a print.
To show you an example of a painting that I photographed and also scanned, here's "BFF" (16x16 in.) in both images. The slightly warmer image on the left was from the photo. The other is much more accurate tone and clarity (scanned.)
This is even more noticeable at full resolution, which you can see in the cropped images below (click and zoom in for a better comparison.)

Large Pastels on Small Scanner?
And yes, the scanner is just a normal desktop size, but with larger work I scan in sections and splice it together in Photoshop. I actually lay the scanner on the floor, move the painting carefully between scans without dragging, and wipe off the glass every few scans. (A heavy book comes in handy when weighting edges and corners to keep the large painting on the scanner bed.) It is labor intensive but still MUCH cheaper than going somewhere that has one of those huge flatbed scan things. (It's also much easier when working on a stable surface like gatorboard or some other board. A large work on paper would really need to be mounted on a firm surface to keep it flat over the scanner.)
Here is what one of my large paintings look like right after I scan it, and before it's put together. Each of the separate parts is one scanned area. In Photoshop this would be 16 separate layers.
The extra section with the nibbling ear is the first section I scanned. I always start with an area that has the highest contrast so that the scanner can get the greatest range of lights and darks accurately metered. I also overlap each section to give myself leeway when assembling the whole. (And also because when the painting is face down on a scan bed, it's hard to see where its scanning! So I move it in short increments to be doubly sure I'm not missing any parts.)
Then, after it's all put together (that might be info for another post...) ...Voila! A 300dpi full-sized image ready to print.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Breaking out of the Creative Rut

"Lennui" (Boredom) by Gaston de La Touche, 1893
A friend sent me a message last month abut what to do to get out of a creative rut. It was a timely question, as I was just then trying to pull myself out of a 5 month dearth of creation.

She wrote, "My hubby says YOU SHOULD DO SOME PAINTING... I know, I know... I don't know what to do to inspire me... What methods would you use to get yourself out of a rut?"

I replied:
GOOD QUESTION! Especially now when I'm kind of in a painting drought myself. However, mine (or so my excuse goes) is not a creative rut, but a lack of time. Weeks ago there were other variables involved, but now it's become an unfortunate habit to fill in the days with 'necessary life functions', previously-ignored household and business chores, and newly-developing family obligations. Couple that with getting older and moving slower and the days seem like they're each about 2 and a half hours long! Before I know it another month is gone.

But I'm not helping much in that last paragraph! Sorry!

When I'm in a creative rut, the best thing to do is something different. When I was tired of painting cows etc one summer I did a little series of road sketches from photos out the windshield on vacations.

If you're having difficulty actually getting started, then start with a list. Over wine (or coffee, or your favorite refreshment, or bubble bath) have a little relaxation time and let your mind wander. Think about "what ifs..." what would you like to paint/draw if there were no obstacles, scheduling conflicts or painters block. This is easy to imagine because you can let it be a fantasy... When you're not actually in front of your blank canvas there's no pressure! Just imagine.

Now, write down all your ideas and go to bed.

If you're lucky you'll dream about actualizing your art ideas, and the next day you'll be excited about getting into some of them!

If you still can't just jump in, let your list of ideas brew for a few more days while you make a schedule of 'drawing/painting time' and put it on your calendar (put it in all the empty places after all your immovable priority necessary life stuff is written in). Then go back to your list and start planning. Visualize. Set goals.

Then, when it's time to jump in, you'll be a little bit more prepared. It still might be difficult but the starting is the hardest, as you probably know is true of so many things in life. Once you start the rest is easy and you'll wonder what took you so long!

A favorite quote from James Wyeth: "I do more painting when I'm not painting; it's in the subconscious."

Some other anti-rut ideas:
Visit a museum, walk in a park, browse art magazines, see a ballet or symphony, visit a zoo (my favorite!), take a road trip, watch a demo, take a workshop, browse youtube art videos, join a plein air group, enter a theme-specific art show, browse through your 300+ gigabytes of photo files (my other favorite!)

Well, sorry for the book here. But thanks for giving me an excuse to exercise my creative art-writing brain! (And I might actually use this as a blog post... multi-tasking, yea!)

Good luck, hope this helped!
Rita

PS: this post might have some helpful info also: http://ritakirkmanjournal.blogspot.com/2013/01/what-inspires.html

Friday, June 3, 2016

Does an Artist Need a Website?

I had a conversation with a friend the other day, about whether a professional artist really needs a website.

Kira asked: "Rita, may I ask you a side question? Does a professional artist need a website? How can I argue that I really need one? My husband is software engineer, so I can use his help, but he is not sure that a website is more useful than a couple of social networks."

I replied:

Kira, that's an excellent question! I suppose one's attitude might depend on one's budget. But in my opinion, an artist can't afford NOT to have some online presence where they can showcase their work. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to pay for a professional site. There are many free or low-cost options including blogs, etc.

(Tip: Google "free or low cost websites for artists")

Another important point is that if, as an artist, your goal is to sell your work and make a living as an artist, then you will do better to take advantage of ALL avenues of exposure that are available to the limit of your budget and time. After all, as marketing genius Eric Rhodes (of Fine Art Connoisseur and Plein Air Magazine) says: "No one will know who you are unless you tell them!"

In this day and age, if an artist doesn't have a place online where prospective clients can go to see their work, they're missing out on a huge chunk of possibility, because really, where else is someone going to see your work without traveling to a gallery, a show, or your studio? ...The internet is the queen of convenience!

Another thought... professional sites such as FASO.com may seem expensive to someone who's never paid much for a website, but a site like this pays for itself in the life of a professional artist by saving time, ease of use, and a professional image which many collectors respond to.

As for a couple of social networks being more useful... Personally, I think blanketing the social media sites on a consistent schedule (daily! or almost daily) is a LOT more valuable that just having a website alone. But I also think having a place where people can go to see all of your work easily in one place is a valuable tool. I think that could be done with a blog too... I've seen blogs that have various 'pages', but I've never looked into that with mine (from Google Blogger) since I also have a website. I think most blogs are free? I know Google Blogger is free and very easy. 

I think a website is like a business card. It's something to give people (a link to) where they can see your work and contact you, but also read about your accomplishments, see what you're up to (like the sites that have integrated blogs), and even sign up to receive emails (newsletters, or website updates) from you.

You should be the judge of where you are in your career and whether it would be justifiable to add the effort/expense of a website. You may want to start a blog at least. Lots of people like to browse through blogs, and that can also be a way to interact with your public with demos, and casual conversations about art and how you do what you do. Prospective clients love being able to get into the mind of an artist, through writings that you can make about your work.

I like to use my Daily Painting blog as a 'jumping-off' point for all my social media posts, and frequently include a link back to my blog so people can see progress shots of the work I'm posting that day. And then, on my blog I have links for my books, workshops, and other sites.

There's no such thing as too much free advertising, and IMO, every avenue of social media / online posting/sharing/blogging that there is, is one that you should to try to fit into your schedule.

As an added reference, you might want to read another of my posts, which includes a run-down of most of my marketing habits...

Good luck!
:)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Barbara Jaenicke demo


This weekend I'm fortunate to be taking a workshop from artist Barbara Jaenicke, at the Coppini Academy of Art in San Antonio. I absolutely LOVE her landscapes! Click on her name to visit her website!
She first does a thumbnail sketch from her photo, to nail down the basic value patterns, then does an underpainting with pastel washed in with isopropyl alcohol.

These are just a very few of the photos that I took. but she worked so sparingly that most of the pics I took didn't seem to show much progress, but somehow, magically, the painting got finished!

These are the colors she used for the underpainting...



She washed in the underpainting with  isopropyl alcohol.




She tested what colors she would likely use in the painting, and then got right to it!











My painting for today was from a photo taken at my home town Landa Park, and it looks pretty good in my camera, and others in the workshop liked it, but I don't feel like it's done so I'm not going to show it yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

3 Marla Baggetta Workshop Demos at IAPS 2015

Sunday June 7, the final day of the IAPS pastel convention, I had Marla Baggetta's one-day workshop. I had seen a painting of her's at the 2011 IAPS pastel exhibit and wanted to learn from her ever since! Marla is well known for her series of 100 variations of the same landscape (done on a dare, she says!)  Well, what an incredible learning tool that is! In her workshop she demoed another landscape done with three different preparations. The first one was direct on a solid ground (paper). The other two had quite different underpaintings.

 She starts her paintings with simple thumbnail breakdowns of the basic shapes and values. Then chooses the size and shape she wants for the scene. (These thumbnails were for a different painting, but you get the idea..)









Demo #1 (on Art Spectrum Colorfix paper I think..)





 This second demo had a "notan" underpainting of graphite washed in with alcohol.





Demo #2

 Demo #3 started with a vivid watercolor underpainting. (#2 and #3 are on Wallis Professional paper - yes, the old good stuff! Marla very graciously had some sheets that she offered to the workshop students for their paintings that day if they wished..)







Demo #3
It was amazing to see how very different the three paintings came out. But she was using the same reference photo for all three!

Here are some of her handy teaching tools; color scheme charts and tiny sample landscapes painted only with the colors shown on the swatches...







Lastly, a glimpse of the back table and some of the paintings she had for sale!

I bought one of her smaller paintings. This one's about 9x5 inches. Dreamy!