The Campsite, watercolors, 24 x 30 inches watercolors on 140 lb cold pressed paper
I finally brought my watercolor paints back from my son’s place in Canada, where I left them so they wouldn’t freeze on the 5-day drive back west last November. Driving again, I’ve just returned from this year’s visit, when I gave my grandson a one-of-a-kind fabric book hand-made for his first birthday (details posted next). I plan to make him something special every year.
So, a couple of new brushes and 12 x 16″ paper block, and now with the rainy season upon us back in Oregon, I look forward to establishing a routine of painting again. Invigorated by a summer full of gardening and flowers, the stunning scenery across America this time of year, plus reviewing archives of work I haven’t seen for ages, I’m all set to splash out some new watercolors. Our Portland house is a renovator’s dream (nightmare?), and we’re not out of the woods yet, so to speak. Attempting to gain back the focus more on art than house, smaller paintings are more manageable, and less of a production than my typically large canvas paintings…however, I’m curious to see how watercolors dis-behave on primed canvas at some point!
While I was in Portland two weeks ago, starting the Texas-Oregon relocation process, I completed five new Zen Gardens, filling a request for one. All five are smaller, slightly different versions of ones made previously. Four are shown in thumbnail images below.
The very first Zen Garden was created in 2000 as part of a four-painting commission. The ideas established in that set foreshadowed new routes to trying methods I hadn’t before, like enhancing my paintings with 3D elements. That set is also the origins of the “box frame” design that I’ve used on several other paintings since then, where each main canvas is mounted on a wood platform, framing the work with about four inches of extra play-space.
Whereas some frames have the effect of abruptly ending a composition, this type of frame enables space for the subject to continue, softens the edges and adds an interesting twist to the overall impression. When items related to the main subject are placed in that area it adds dimension, not just in the physical sense, but also in the conveying of any abstract or symbolic stories beyond the presentation of the main painting inside.
Because of the challenges acheived in those paintings, 1) a series was born that I’ll continue with for the rest of my days. In 2) Prickly Pear Cactus, pins were applied around the main central frame, then painted. The smaller canvas done during 2005 (left) borrowed this technique, and the same principle of attaching things to the main frame can be used with any number of objects.
In 3) Alpine Meadows, I learned to use all the qualities acrylic paints offer by watering down the consistency for the distant mountains, then sculpted the flowers and grasses with a palette knife on the lower portion. Finally, the theme of 4), The Evolution of Communication has intrigued me ever since, but I still haven’t fully pursued the possibilities. This is the perfect means to learn about Art History hands-on by attempting to recreate it in some form, then to share that adventure and ideally, inspire interest in the topic at the same time. Two old keyboards have been collecting dust in my studio closet for a number of years, yet to be disassembled and incorporated into a new series of work with similar associations.
Some of our peers advocate that if we don’t concentrate our efforts to learn one medium well, we will never excel in any. They are right of course, in many respects, but scores of artists are not content with singing just one note. Some simply cannot. To be fair, what works for one does not work for another. Each of the above paintings are examples where a combination of skills and different media in one piece can be very effective. I’m here to say that integration is possible! It’s a longer, meandering road..but it is possible.
There are so many different paths artists can take, long and short term; opportunities every day. There are endless kinds of subjects, ready-made and unconventional materials, always something to start or finish, new methods to explore, and an overabundance of ideas to attempt in one lifetime. Self discipline is the order of every day, either to start working or know when to stop.
My philosophy is that doing something, unless naturally in need of rest, is better than doing nothing. However, being overly ambitious in too many areas is also how I, along with millions of other artists end up with a variety of different kinds of art (or just stuff!), and the arguements endorsing one type of study come into play. Should we restrain ourselves when it comes to making “stuff”? Why is consistency given more support than variety when it comes to showing and selling art?
Whatever choices we make; whichever direction we take depends mostly on the intention for the finished products. Who is it for, do you want it to sell it, where, how, and how quickly? Was work done as a personally cathartic process, as a lot of art is? …or is it just a thing with no emotional attachments or brainy messages? Artists who support themselves by offering a range of services, satisfied and busy enough by word-of-mouth sales, do well jumping from medium to medium. If the hope is selling work through galleries and art dealers though, what some call “too many voices” are apt to be a disadvantage.
In one of his recent articles, Robert Genn writes sensitively about multi-media artists. While he supports that “for artists, exploration is like oxygen” and that ”the nature of our game is to be distracted by our muse”, he also recommends that artists must present consistency in our approach if gallery exhibition/sales is what we pursue.
When a gallery represents an artist, they expect an overall consistent look and a clear statement. Where venues sell a number of artists’ work, the ambiance cannot be one that resembles a yard sale. If potential buyers view too many styles, subjects or media in one place or by one artist, they tend to lose interest, resort to window shopping, and walk away empty-handed.
I can relate to that: the effect is like standing in the toothpaste isle at the pharmacy, where the senses are bombarded with colorful packaging, alluring titles and fine-print promises. Assuming beforehand that the choice would not be anything but simple, there have been times when I’ve said ‘forget it’ and gone back another day. With art sales though, you don’t want buyers to come back another day, because it may not be your art they choose then.
Gallery owners and dealers do not do us any favor if they display too much variety in typically limited spaces, so Mr. Genn has an excellent suggestion: bring art done in different medias to different galleries.
He also says to keep working no matter what.
Artists have a strong sense of mission. Periodically it needs reevaluation, and with that bigger picture clear, we create the way as it unfolds before us. If we are serious about selling, we first need to become familiar with what we are best at, what we love, what works and what doesn’t. We need experience in order to learn – that takes time – and there’s no getting around it. Experimentation is fundamental to this profession, but if it’s intended to be sold to others and by others, simplifying the look and clarifying the purpose of our art is crucial.
A viewer at one of my exhibitions commented, “You’re all over the place, arentcha?!” As disturbing as that was, it’s true and I needed to hear it, eventually concluding that I do need to clean up my act, but at the same time this is how I work. This is how my stuff works. Every so often there are paintings or a series of works that encompass all that’s been learned and all that I’m capable of; breakthroughs that define a solid new direction or validate the existing one. The commissioned set of paintings described above were like that, and their significance is still an influence on today’s work and will be on tomorrows’ too. They verified that I’m on the right path even though much of the time is spent off of it, experimenting. I call it serious play and paying attention… “playing attention”! Once in a while the bits and pieces come together in one big rewarding “Eureka!”.
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.
Poplar/Aspen, 1993 50 x 28 x 1 inches, 1993 Acrylics on wrapped canvas, framed. Price $550.00
Spruce, 1993 24 x 24 x 1 inches1993 Acrylics on wrapped canvas, narrow frame is an extension of the painting. Price $450.00
Bald Eagles, 1996 44 x 30 x 1 inches,1993 Acrylics on wrapped canvas, framed. Price $550.00
Updated Bald Eagles:
Bald Eagles details, update Dec. 2007
Loosestrife , 1996 58 x 41 x 1.5 inches, 1996 Acrylics on wrapped canvas, framed. Price $550.00
|Beeing A Mom, 11 x 14 inches print or set of six cards|
|MomArch Butterfly, 11 x 14 inches print or set of six cards|
|$10.00 set of six cards|
Two from the Mommy Nature series, 2004