Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The HVAA Show and my Trip to Connecticut

My painting "Audrey with Flowers at Seven" is in the Hudson Valley Art Association's 81st Annual Juried Exhibition. I was notified last week that I won the Art Spirit Foundation Dianne B. Bernhard Award for Excellence in Pastel (which is the highest pastel award they give!) and since I had no other event on my schedule for the weekend, made a spur-of-the-moment decision to use the award money to fly up for the reception, which was Friday, June 21.

I invited my daughter along, which, I admit, pushed the expenses over the award amount, but it was worth it. After all, without her there would be no painting!

The reception was well-attended with many guests who looked like serious buyers. I took many more photos of the show; you can see them all in my Facebook album here.

 Saturday we relaxed in the best way we could think of in a place with 80 degree temperatures and 60% humidity. We took a walk in the park!
Well, two walks in two parks actually.

 The first was Wadsworth Falls State Park. The falls were nice, but I was more excited about the water close-ups with rocks and reflections. I might have enough shots now to continue an old series.

 We didn't see a lot of wildlife, except for the hundreds of baby toads that littered the pathway, trying their best to trip us up. We had to step carefully!

 We saw two trees that had been marked as popular memorials. They were eerily beautiful. There were only two that we saw.

A pretty park with a funny name, Machimoodus State Park began with a lily pond.

Everything's bigger in Texas.. ...except for the trees, which are bigger in Connecticut! (Or taller, anyway.)

 I found many more lovely references for my ongoing "Park Trail" Series...

...And while looking out for the baby toads, my eyes were intrigued by the patterns of leaf shadows on the path... Perhaps food for a new series? Hmmm.

All together a creative weekend for me and my camera. Now back to the easel!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Studio - Then and Now

Way back in March of 2009, I started my first blog. it was called Rita Kirkman's Art Journal, but it wasn't this one. In June of 2011, I had been into the 'Daily Painting' movement for five months, after taking a Carol Marine workshop, and had decided to limit my blog to daily paintings. So I changed the name of my blog to Rita Kirkman's Daily Paintings, and created a new blog with the name Rita Kirkman's Art Journal that would host all the other stuff besides Daily Paintings.

Well, what I'm leading up to is that my very first post on my first blog was some photos of my studio-in-progress:

Here was the pic of my future studio from that post. (More info on the post here.)

Well, 4 years later, I've been reluctant to post photos of the studio, because I have yet to arrange everything to my ultimate satisfaction. I began working in the building in 2012, long before everything was completed.

Here's a shot from move-in week in 2012:

Here's a shot from last week:

This is a panoramic image that shows all four of the walls of my studio; I was standing in the doorway when I took the shots. Along the left wall, I plan to have some french hanging system to hang finished, framed artwork. (Meanwhile, there's a b*#load of stuff just leaning against the wall..) Along the right wall, I have some molding converted to short shelves for unframed work. Here's a better shot:
This is NOT what it looks like today. There's even more clutter along the baseboard and every inch of shelving is filled! But then, I am in the midst of preparing for 2 art fairs and a solo show.

Here's a close-up of where I do my work:

Darn it, this is also an old shot. I know I have more recent shots, but just can't find them! Aarrg! Fie on technology! Well, it looks pretty much the same, but I've been working on larger stuff lately.

Thanks for reading! Please share!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Packing Small Unframed Pastels for Shipping

I'd been meaning to create this post for a while now. I've had these pics since last summer!

Now and then I get asked how I mail unframed pastels and keep them safe. I've actually been sending unframed pastel commissioned portraits for years, most of which are on paper, and matted, usually 16x20. In the case of those, I put a piece of glassine or wax paper between the portrait and the mat, slide that into a Clear Bag, and wrap the whole thing up with plenty of thick cardboard until I have a flat 'box' about 17x21x1. I've never had any arrive damaged.

For the small pastel paintings that I post (almost) daily and auction off, I have a approach that I modified from Carol Marine's method of shipping her small oil paintings. I just add glassine and skip the little tabs that hold the lid off the painting.

NOTE: This method is for paintings that are done on a board, or on paper mounted on a board. The same method can be used for a pastel on paper; just hinge-tape the paper to a backing board, cover with glassine, and follow the rest of the steps...
 First, trim a piece of glassine to the height of the board, and carefully place the painting face down on the waxy side, and tape the glassine to the back.

 Cover with a piece of foam board the same size as the painting (or backing board) and tape it in place.

 Now cut 2 larger pieces of foam board for the top and bottom of your outer package, and some 1/2 inch thick gatorboard for support around these over-sized edges. Tape the gatorboard supports into the edge spaces with double-sided tape.
 (NOTE: If your painting is on the 3/16" gatorboard, and your foam board topper is also the standard 3/16" size, the 1/2" gatorboard supports will be just the right height. If your painting is on 1/2" gatorboard, or some other size, you'll just need to adjust your formula and to build your edge supports the right height to support the lid, without leaving too much wiggle room.)
 Tape the lid in place.

 Now you have a sturdy 'sandwich' with the painting safe inside.
Wrap this sandwich in some small bubble wrap and slide into the mailing envelope!

NOTE: I've since gotten into the habit of ordering the 9.5" x 12.5" sturdy Priority Mail Flat Rate envelopes, and use those for all 5x7's and 6x6's, and if I make the sandwich edges narrow enough, even the 6x8's will fit. I also purchased a roll of the slightly-sticky bubble wrap, the kind that will wrap around an object and hold on! I love it!

If you're shipping a larger unframed pastel painting, I would follow all these same steps, but I'd use the large bubble wrap instead of the small and then wrap in cardboard. OR make an investment in some Airfloat Printpads. They're designed to protect and would probably last through a few uses.

Let me know if this is helpful!

Monday, January 28, 2013

What Inspires?

I received an email request from a young student of art named Rosie today, and my reply became something I thought I'd like to share. Here's her email to me, and my reply:

Hello, I am year 11 student at the Kings Academy, and I am currently studying gcse art there and the topic I'm doing is based on close ups. When I came across some of your work it inspired me to base my work on animals. I would like it if you found the time to help me, my question to you is, what inspired you? Why did you choose to base your work on what you did? Thank you for your time, I really appreciate you took your time to read this.

Hi Rosie,

I'm glad you found my work inspiring!

I consider myself one of the lucky people who can find inspiration in almost anything. In fact I frequently wish I could live several lives just to have enough time to paint everything I've ever thought about painting. My current and recent subject matter evolved as a result of a lot of things, but mostly from some specific advice of an experienced artist mentor, and a lucky client purchase.

The artist Sara Eyestone gives the advice in a 'business of art' workshop: to work in a series. She says pick a subject/genre and a consistent dimensional size (ie: 2/3 ratio rectangle, or a square, etc) and create at least 20 paintings in this similar theme. This way, when you have an exhibit, it will all look great hung in the same room of a gallery, or at an art fair. And since the dimensions are the same, you can choose the best 12 and print a calendar.

Well, I hadn't yet really chosen my subject for a series when a large (24x24) longhorn painting sold to a client at an art fair. I told him about another cow painting the same size that I had at a gallery in a nearby town. He went to see it that same weekend, and bought it. (These were the first cow paintings I had ever done!)

Well, then I thought, "I'll have to paint more cows!" And I've been painting cows for the past 3 years or more. Being a practical sort of business-person as well as an artist, I do find that my subject matter is driven by what sells. But I do believe that choosing a specific subject or genre and creating a unified body of work creates an appeal with clients, looks much better at shows and fairs, and can also indicate a seriousness of purpose as a dedicated artist that more serious collectors will appreciate.

I haven't limited my subjects to just animals; I also do portraits and landscapes. I do like to work in series whenever I can, especially when working small (you can see a lot of my 'mini-series' of small paintings throughout by blog posts of the past 2 years) I've done seagulls, sunsets, ranch roads, Renaissance portraits, small watercolor road sketches, etc... and of course, the 5x7 cows and other animals - over 200 now!

I believe what specifically led to the small cow 'portraits' was the continued sales of cow paintings, and the knowledge that smaller, less expensive paintings are what sell better. I had first tried a couple of 6x8 cow paintings, but to work that small with the entire body didn't appeal to me, so, being a portrait artist by nature, I settled in to doing some 4x6's of just the 'portrait' area of the cow - head and chest. These migrated to 5x7's and stuck! At some art fairs I would paint new ones at my easel to pass the time, and would sell them almost before they were finished! Nothing like instant sales to inspire more paintings!

A funny thing happens when you commit to one subject for such a length of time and through so many paintings. What began as a business decision because of good sales, became slowly over time a real fascination with the cow. I've learned more about cows (like what breeds are what) since I've been painting them than I ever knew before. And there's something about them, their curiosity, their various personalities (Longhorns will ignore you; large herds of Brahmans are skittish; small mixed herds are the best because they're friendly and curious.) And since I take all my own reference photos, my experience of 'being there' watching, observing and learning has been able to add something to my experience of painting them over these years.

Well, maybe this is more than you needed, but I hope it helps! Good luck with your art!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Resolution - First Do the Work!

       An artist friend of mine sent me a nice New Years email to compliment my 'pencil work' from recent posts of portrait drawings, and was asking for a bit of advice on how to draw so well. She really answered her own question by admitting she needed to draw/paint more and had set a new resolution for herself to paint at least 3 days a week.

       In replying to her email, I found myself in just the right mood to get out some good advice, so I thought I'd use it to help with my own goal of posting more often and share it here! It's nothing I haven't said before in conversation, and you've probably heard variations of the same advice, but I believe it's human nature to need to hear certain things over and over before they start to sink in...

Hi friend,

Great to hear from you!

Yes the 'pencil work' is all about years of doing it... One project I've left half-done from earlier last year is to scan in all my photos of portrait drawings from '85-'92, from my pre-digital era, and combine those with the images I have in my computer from '93-present, and create a time-lapse kind of fast slide-show zipping through all the hundreds and see how long the video would be at one image per half-second or something. And those would just be the ones I actually took a picture of... I estimate that's only about 25% of all the ones I've done, and that's not counting the profile sketches in amusement parks from '86-'97. =O

So, yes, the BEST goal you could possibly set for yourself and KEEP is to paint/draw/do art every day, or at least 3 days/week. But I gotta tell ya, when I'm away from the easel a few days or more, it takes me a day to get back 'into' the swing if it, so your second and more consecutive days of painting will be more successful most likely!! The subsequent days are also easier and more exciting BECAUSE the work looks better, so keep at it, when your first paintings of the year look icky, just see them as 'practice' and keep going!!

An amazing thing happens when you COMMIT to painting/drawing every day (or at least creating several small paintings a week) -- it gets addictive! I think an important part of the process is to POST them (at least speaking from the standpoint of a 'daily painter and online blog poster') When I'm actually able to post an image on my blog for a week or two of consecutive days, I almost physically miss it when I have to skip a day for whatever reason, I get VERY disappointed in myself, and it's mostly about breaking that good 'run' of posts. The posting almost becomes the end goal, and the painting enough to create 7 things per week to post just becomes the 'assignment' I give myself so that I can do the posting! 

In a strange way, this attitude makes the painting easier because instead of getting to the studio and moaning about "what do I want to paint today?" it's more like "it doesn't matter what I paint, I just need seven things to post this week, and If I can get 3 done today, and 4 done tomorrow, I'll have the rest of the week free!"

Ha, I do think that way, but realistically, I'll get 2 small paintings done, then break for lunch, then get tied up on the computer, then it will be time to take Audrey to her gym class, then it will be dinner time, etc etc. So life does intrude, it's a fact. 

But as I was told by artist Sara Eyestone in one of her Art Marketing workshops, "First thing is, you must DO THE WORK!" She says to fill out your schedule in a datebook, put in all the immovable obligations, classes, appointments, 'real job' work, meals, etc, and put 'paint' or 'studio' in everywhere else. Be flexible whenever possible; delegate some chores, push dinner back an hour so you can get an extra hour in the 'studio' that day, etc. But most of all, stick with it! Make painting a habit! For some people, putting it on the calendar makes it real, so this works.

Happy New Year and Just Do It!

Thanks for reading, and please share!

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