Archive for November, 2010
“Some of us loved to draw when we were very young and many didn’t, but we are all capable. There is something to be said for innate abilities, but talent alone will not help us to advance. You might inherit Grandpa’s artistic genes, but every talent needs continual development to become skill no matter what it is, and drawing is no different than learning to play an instrument or climbing a mountain in that respect…” (excerpt from the article “Extreme Drawing“).
My father was a wood carver for most of his life, and his love for drawing was crucial to designing all the different things people ordered. Any time he taught woodcarving, he first insisted on lessons in drawing.
As it provided the funds necessary to build a house after a career the Canadian Armed Forces, there was almost nothing he wouldn’t carve; an entire range of subjects from detailed Armed Forces crests, modern abstract pieces, as well as birds and animals. My favorites were the custom designed doors, cupboards and headboards made for clients in Canada and the U.S. before retiring in 2002. Well, artists never really retire, they just keep moving on to try new things!
Photography has always been one of his passions, and he’s the “real” die-hard kind that will sit in mosquito-infested forests waiting forever for the right shot. One time he climbed a tree to capture photos of a porcupine, then fell out and sprained both his ankles. I was about nine years old, and I remember my Mom, my brother and me holding him up while he hobbled back to the car! Here is some of his recent photography, and lately he’s been taking the time to enjoy drawing again.
My Mom was an equal and supporting partner in the creating and finishing details of all the wood work they sold. Though my mother claims to not know how to draw, they have both been, and continue to be, huge influences as far as my being an artist. When I was quite young I would ask my Mom to draw anything so I could color it. I did care what it was. It was not refined and professional, but I would coax her, “Yes, you do so know how to draw! Pleeeeeaaaase!”. Children don’t seem to have the same hang-ups we adults do about drawing.
Now they see my two young neices often, one of whom drew her own interpretation of “Stellar’s Jay” after watching her Grandpa. Andra is 5 years old. Don’t you just love love the addition of hearts on the branches?! I feel so inspired by childrens’ work. It is pure and staight from the heart. In fact, she is so nonchalant about her abilities and unaware of how keen she is, she did not even show it — my Dad found it after she left.
If Andra chooses to be an artist, it’s due to Nature and Nurture, and also not so much about what she’s been given, but what she does with it.
Limoncello is a new lemony soda drink that will be available in stores soon. I was approached by the entrepreneur who saw Monte Lemonlisted on Google and asked for permission to use it about a month ago. He has cleverly renamed the character “Montecello”. Read more about Monte in The Monte Files.
It’s as easy as cut and paste for anyone surfing the internet to exploit artwork for personal use, and the artists who create the originals would never be wise to it. As creators of art we have virtually no control over who uses images of our work, including any associated writing, once it’s posted anywhere on the internet. Personally, when people ask, especially if the image is of older work or that which is otherwise not being seen, it’s a pleasure to say “yes”. If you are an individual who has found a picture that helps complete the concept of a blog post or furthers a good cause, then more often than not, the artist may allow it to be used free of charge, so as a professional courtesy, if you wish to use someone else’s copyrighted images or written material, please write and ask permission first.
Lending imagery does not release all rights to it; unless stated otherwise, all rights remain the property of the artist. Agreements made via email are like handshakes; they are an exchange of trust. Art needs purpose. Work that’s hidden away in computer folders or between pages of a sketchbook might as well not even exist if no one sees it. Sharing images is an excellent way for artwork to get free exposure while helping someone else express themselves at the same time. Ideally we aim to sell, but it’s mutually beneficial to share it, within reason of course. Researching the interested party is only wise, then if a simple picture can help them progress with their ambitions, my view is that sharing is a positive thing to do.
It’s standard practice to list links to other websites without asking, and link exchange encourages traffic all around. For example, I wrote an article on one of my other websites to accompany some fantastic photos I took of the 1500 year old Angel Oak in South Carolina. A blog entitled Gardening in Virginia referred their audience to that page, so in response to that, I added their website link to mine.
When Therese Pereault of Arts Marketplace asked to use the article, “Basic Pricing Strategies: Artists and the Economy” as a handout at one of their meetings, it was an honor to contribute. As their mission they state that they are “…a non-profit program for individual artists and creative entrepreneurs providing training and tools for professional development, mentoring, networking and money management.” The same article about artists and the economy also caught the attention of L7 Art Mall, and in exchange for an Artist’s listing on that site I agreed to submit six more over the course of the next year. This offer is also open to other artists by contacting Carrie on the L7 website. Bartering is another way to promote business while in turn helping another company do the same.
Like-minded individuals, companies, and organizations can help each other out, and it doesn’t need to be complicated by legalities. Art educator, Stacy Sturgell at Stephens Elementary School in Denton, Texas, in cooperation with Oxide Gallery, has created a website-blog where her students can comment on art. When it comes to education, I never say “no”. Recently, a college student wrote to me asking for a high quality file of “Marie Lake” to use as the study illustration in his Art Appreciation course. I only asked that he please send me a copy of his essay when it’s finished, to add to my resume. Whether or not he’ll send it remains to be seen, but I’m happy to help him out anyway. It’s also interesting that he asked for that particular piece, because it’s not listed as art for sale, and he had to have searched the depths of the nikkiartwork blog for a while to find it. Even though my blog is more or less a journal to document thoughts and see work progress and processes from a different perspective, I like knowing a little about the people who are interested enough to take time to browse through it.
Last year a representative for an online travel magazine asked permission in advance to use photos from my FlickR album of the Sweetwater, Texas Rattlesnake Roundup. She was not positive they’d be used, but it was respectful of her to cover all the bases beforehand. Sometimes articles are written and I’m unaware of it until someone finally tells me, like the piece Salt Spring Island Fog that was published in Denton Times Magazine, but I only learned about it a year later – what a nice surprise! The Oil Pastel, “Eucalyptus Tree” is being used in a poster competition here, by a participant who designed first, then asked permission to use it. It’s impressive that at least he wrote to inform me.
Then there’s the fine ethical line where credit is given while still posting the copyrighted material, as this person did in using one of my photos of an oak leaf. It took some extended browsing-time to find that photograph here, so I suppose he earned the right to use it! I also appreciate that he did mention the credit. Fortunately even if an art image is not publicly credited to the creator’s website, at least it is automatically embedded in the image and will inevitably send some traffic back to the original post.
It takes extra effort and time to write for permission, so many people just don’t do it. It’s a little scary knowing how little control we have of the work we post. On one hand, we need to advertise and open the doors of opportunity, but by doing so we are vulnerable to all the unknowns. If I were to give in to that helpless, greedy sort of feeling that overcomes me once in a while when I discover someone is using “my” pictures without respectfully asking, it would stop me in my tracks and I would shut down the websites completely. My goals are all about creativity and productivity, so how productive is that? There are ways maintain or regain a sense of empowerment. For example, rather than sit and stew behind the scenes, since this doctor did not offer any credits for using Coconut Palm on her blog, I posted a comment there to let her know that I knew she was using it. It’s surprising that a doctor – a professional herself - was not more conscientious, but in the grand scheme of things it’s all fine, because her blog was built around good intentions.
Honesty…it still exists, but sometimes we have to look beyond appearances in order to see it. If artists are willing to consider “freebies”, the benefits received may be subtle, but echo through the generally friendly way business is handled, and even the way the art is created in the first place. The most reliable source for trust is in myself; in the potential for plenty more of, and better work to come in the future. I’m not going to waste precious energy worrying about people stealing my art online. In fact, writing this has been very cathartic. Past work is done, and as long as I’m alive, there’s a lot more where it came from.
Zen Garden 10, 40 x 60 x 3 inches mixed media on canvas.
The final stages of paintings are often finished as they hang on a wall. As seen in a realistic room setting, it will be easier to spot a clearer path for the eyes to follow and make the composition more interesting. Some colors need to be re-enhanced to add more depth and definition. The texture continues around all 3″D edges. All paintings in the Zen garden series are wired to hang in any of 4 orientations; vertically or horizontally. Below: details of left central portion as seen in the above .
Zen Garden 09 work in progress, 48 x 21 x 2 inches Mixed Media on canvas
The perfect painting in a room can elevate the atmosphere of the whole floor, and sets the tone for showing off the entire house. With selling the house in mind, I’m trying to choose a decent painting for our living room, but the only one that really looked good there was Zen Garden #2. It sold, so I decided it’s worthwhile to make two more for the series - even though painting walls is the order of the day.
Zen Garden 10 outline, 40 x 60 x 3 inches Mixed Media on canvas
Painting is always meditative, but I find it especially so when creating pieces in the Zen Garden series. This kind of work does not present the same kind of emotional concentration or intellectual challenges that other paintings do. There are few struggles and hardly any decisions to make, except to find cooperative materials. Once the outline is accomplished it’s pretty straightforward compared to other forms of painting. The outstanding difference is that each stage in these 3D paintings requires time and patience to allow areas to dry before proceeding. The Zen Gardens can be drying in stages while other work gets done too, and the multi-tasker in me is quite happy to be accomplishing many things at once!
Art supplies are expensive. Most will last long enough to justify purchases, and much of the time you get what you pay for, but some items are ridiculously overpriced. Keeping material costs down is essential so they aren’t reflected in the final price, but quality should never be compromised. Still, there are ways to get around any dilemma, and there are alternatives for everything.
When I started the Zen Garden series ten years ago using modeling paste and textured gels, jars were about $15 for 250 ml. Since then I’ve experimented with various unusual materials, and shopped everywhere to compare prices. It’s still more economical to purchase brand-name products in larger quantities – if you can find them. There are some fun mediums available now too, like gel with tiny glass beads in it. Prices for art supplies do not seem to waver over time in either Canada or the U.S., so I reserve the brand-name mediums to sculpt the rocks and highest quality paints do the finishing touches. Here I’ll share a few of the trade secrets I’ve discovered over the years, and you can create your own Zen garden painting.
As a base for the raked sand mixture, it’s worth purchasing a large 2 gallon (7.58 L) pail of textured paint. I purchased Behrs at Home Depot in Canada, and it looks like Ralph Loren has the market cornered in the States. Watered-down drywall plaster can be used also, but I recommend attention to how heavy the piece may be when it’s finished. Mix in copious quantities of white glue, large containers of white or light-colored acrylic craft paints, and anything water-based that will extend the liquid mixture and bind well with the dry ingredients. Sand, even popcorn kernals and/or rice can be added for texture. Other objects can be incorporated too…just use your imagination. For example, and this is my most valuable secret, unscented kitty litter from the dollar store, the non-absorbant kind, looks exactly like tiny stones and is light in weight.
Zen Garden 09 details: applying mixture with a knife, sculpting rows
The mixture can be put in a ziplock bag with one corner cut out, but I discovered that it’s more efficient – however messy – to spread small portions out onto the surface with a knife and hand-mold it. Keep a wet cloth handy to wipe your hands and the utensil often.
Drywall plaster makes nice-looking rocks, plus it cracks well for a parched-earth look, use sparingly because of added weight. Wood filler is a lighter alternative, much less expensive than professional brand gels and mediums. Modeling pastes do not lend well to sanding or carving when dry, but wood filler can be sanded and re-shaped. Also, if it dries out completely, chop it up, add water then seal the container for a day or so. This is where you can experiment with whatever helps acheive 3D effects. Art, craft, hardware, department stores and dollar stores carry generic brand basics, so it’s worth researching and shopping around.
When it’s all dry, rocks and other details are outlined and painted with pure colors, then all covered with a coat of primer. The colors are all reapplied to further enhance rocks, then brushed white, skimming across the entire surface. This process is repeated until you are pleased with the results by a final coat of white with remnants of the layers of colors poking through underneath. As far as acrylic paints, you do get what you pay for, but price differences are mostly due to pigment quality and viscosity, which, until final stages is not really an issue. Inexpensive acrylic craft paints are perfect as a filler (only).
Zen Garden #10 (above and left) is already quite heavy, so about 1/4 of it will be painted rocks, keeping the sand patterns to a minimum. There is enough mixture that could dry out if it’s not used right away, plus it’s great to make multiples while all the mess, materials and utensils and are out, so I’m doing two simultaneously. There may even be enough for 3!
The neccessity of work, especially if it’s at home, seems less like a chore if you dangle some kind of carrot for yourself every day. Sometimes having too much to do is more exhillerating than exhausting. Each day, though work as an artist can be considered by others as play, the energy, motivation and circumstances are unpredictable.. It takes self-discipline to find a way to go with the flow and still get work done. The good thing about this occupation is that it is flexible in every way. The creative compulsion seeps into every other activity, and there is almost no way to not add a little something extra.