Sunday, October 26, 2008

Making Money as an Artist

Since I am fortunate enough to be supporting myself as an artist, I am often asked for advice. Here is a list of things I do, not in any special order, but they all help me stay profitable and create a life I enjoy.

(1) Have a Variety of Revenue Streams: Its more stressful to have all my money come from only one source. If I relied solely on painting sales it might put pressure on me to compromise my art. Instead I have money coming from teaching, book royalties, commissions and speaking engagements.

(2) Stay Open for Possibilities: My portfolio is small and portable. I carry it with me everywhere I go. I use the on-line publishing sites to create an inexpensive and dispensible book.

(3) Continually seek New Venues: I am always on the lookout for good galleries, dealers, and agents who are interested in selling my work.

(4) Do the Best I Can: I strive to make the best work I can. Not only with my painting, but all aspects of my business, such as website, writings, my portfolio, showing up on time for appointments, following through with commitments, etc.

(5) Get Advice From Experts: I like to work with specialists involving areas I need help. On occasion I like to hire a coach to keep me clear, focused and expand my current business ideas. Recently I enjoyed a session with art coach Renée Phillips, Here is a link for more info on her coaching:

(6) Stay in Touch with My Dealers: I keep in touch with those on my "team", people who help sell my work. I like to visit, or at least call or email periodically.

(7) Have a Vision: I recently gained a lot from reading "The Answer" by John Asssaraf, who encourages readers to create a vision. Here is a link for his book:

(8) Stay Positive: This is more work than it sounds. It takes a lot of effort to keep from whining, complaining, getting stressed and being negative. But once I created a habit of positive thinking it gave me an enormous amount of energy, confidence and power.

(9) Meditate: This helps me to stay positive and have a strong focus.

(10) Eliminate TV: By not watching television I am able to get plenty of time to make art and take care of the business end. It is also the best way to stay positive.

(11) Be in Control of My Money: I read Suze Orman’s book "Women and Money", and followed her plan exactly. I also started putting 10% of all I earn into an emergency account. Here is a link for her book:


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Outdoor Painting with New Slow Drying Acrylics

On a recent outdoor painting trip I decided to try out the new slow drying acrylics from Golden called Open Acrylics. Usually I use oil pastels when working outdoors for portability and ease. However, I was surprised to find painting with these new acrylics even easier and much more fun! I spent time preparing and planning, and since it all worked out so well, I thought I would post my list of supplies and a few things that worked for me to see if anyone else might want to try it.
I bought the following items (I went for inexpensive here, so feel free to go all out – but these worked perfectly fine.)

(1) A Masterson acrylic palette (12" x 18" or 30 x 46 cm) with airtight lid. I took out all the insides (sponges, etc) and just used the bottom as a palette. I followed directions and put Vaseline around the lid edges. It kept the paints wet for days. I even left globs of paint on the palette in between sessions, and placed the palette vertically in my back pack, and the paint did not run. I attached 4 small 1 oz. plastic containers with lids (the cheap kind you get from restaurant supply stores) on the inside along one side of the palette with masking tape. I labeled each one as follows: water, thinner, medium, gel.

(2) An easel. I bought a lightweight portable very simple metal easel. The only drawback to this one is that it only works well with thick (1” depth) canvases. To remedy that, I bought one masonite cradled panel that was 1 ½” thick. I used this as a backing board, and could tape paper or cardboard surfaces to this.

(3) A folding umbrella. My umbrella (not pictured here) folds compactly and I keep it in the zipper pocket of my folding chair.
(4) A folding chair with carrying strap. The chair has zipper pockets to hold important items like sunglasses, tissues, drinking water bottle.

(5) A medium to large size comfortable back pack. This was big enough to place the Masterson palette inside. I also put the following items inside the pack: apron, camera, small container with a bar of soap (to wash brushes), paper towels, masking tape, some brushes and a palette knife in a fabric brush carrier, a baggie of paints (I kept my colors to a minimum of 10 paint tubes), a baggie with Open Medium, Open Thinner, Open Gel. A small fine spray bottle with Open Thinner inside. An 8 oz empty jar and lid for rinsing brushes while I work. A 12 oz container of water to refill the brush rinse jar, several small plastic grocery bags for trash (I tied them onto my easel hooks while working for an easy to reach trash can).

(6) Painting surfaces. As I mentioned earlier, I used canvases and panels that had a depth of 1” or 1 ½”. I also used one of those panels as a backing board for inexpensive surfaces like paper. I painted a bright red color on all my painting surfaces before I left. This was very handy – to have a medium value and bright color already on there.

(7) Other items good to have: a hat for sun or hat for cold weather, (also if it is cold - ski liners or gloves you can paint with), lunch and/or snacks, a watch.
I was able to hike about half a mile carrying all this stuff, before I realized the view looked fine, and if I kept walking I might get too tired to paint. I had on the backpack, with my chair strap on my shoulder, and carried in my hands my painting surface and easel. I set up in the shade (which kept my paints wet even longer and was easier to see colors and what I was painting). I put a few folded paper towels on my lap, then the Masterson Palette on top with the paper towels still accessible in front of it. I put all the brushes I wanted to use at first in the empty 8 oz container, filled it halfway with water. Then filled the small 1 oz containers with each of their fluids: water, thinner, medium, gel (I didn’t actually use the gel – so next time I might just skip it). I squeezed all my paint colors out, going from light to dark along the outside circle of the palette, leaving room in the center to mix.
One day it was humid and slightly drizzly, so I painted under a porch. The paints stayed wet all day. The next day it was very hot and dry, and the paints stayed wet for my whole painting session, but did get a bit tacky (still usable, though) after an hour or so.

After painting for awhile, the areas with paint on the canvas dried to the touch, so I could layer paint on top without a gooey mess. However, if I wanted my second layer to blend into the first, all I had to do was to place some Open Medium on top of the dried area and let it sit for a minute. Then the layer got usable again. I could do this for up to about 24 hours.
That's it for now. Please feel free to add anything that worked for you.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Do Something Different

I was reading an article about Robert Rauschenberg in last month’s Art in America (Sept issue page 38) and it left a lasting impression. Charles Stuckey, who wrote the article, mentions …”that he made something odd and extraordinary nearly every day for 60 years” and that “Rauschenberg had fun.” Now here’s my type of guy! I remembered it slightly different, and it became my motto for the week….”make something different every day and have fun”. Well, OK, just a slight rewrite. But it really gave me a new boost in my studio work. When I got to my studio each day last week, I gave myself as a first task to do something different. It took the pressure off of finishing my current work for a bit, and I got to take a creative break. I definitely had fun coming up with new things. I painted some bold shapes over a very languid peaceful seascape that was boring me. I drew on top of gold leaf panels, then poured transparent paint over them. Even though I am not sure about the results of those experiments, I highly recommend trying to surprise yourself, as a first task routine for a few days. This week I am heading up to Ghost Ranch, Georgia O’Keeffe’s old hang out in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The fall leaves are still brilliant, and I am going to try something different. Instead of my usual plein air (outdoor landscape painting) gear of oil pastels and small sketch pad, I am bringing along the new slow drying acrylic paints by Golden, called Open Acrylic. They have a long open time, staying wet for over 24 hours. Here in DRY New Mexico under the hot outdoor sun I am guessing I’ll have a few hours instead. But, hey, thanks to advice from Robert - its something DIFFERENT!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An Easy Way to Think About Acrylic

I often get asked the same type of question regarding acrylic paint, whether to use mediums or water, and how much of each. A good way to think about acrylic is to organize all the techniques into two categories. Almost all techniques deal with acrylic sitting on TOP of the surface, or sinking DOWN INTO the surface. To use acrylic on top, or to layer, keep the use of water to a minimum, and only use mediums and gels. This way your acrylic paint will not be diluted, so the “plastic” binder will still “plastic coat” the surface, and your paint skin will be glossy and rich looking. To use the acrylic sinking down into the surface you need TWO components. The first component is to add lots of water to your paint (about 70% water to 30% fluid paint) and the second component (and this is the important one that most people skip or don’t understand) is to apply this washy paint onto an ABSORBENT surface. Gessoed canvas is not very absorbent and so using washes on this will not look that great. However, if you first apply a ground to your gessoed canvas, then washes will look more interesting. Some of my favorite grounds to create an absorbent surface are Golden’s Light Molding Paste (not to be confused with their other product called Molding Paste), Absorbent Ground, Coarse Molding Paste, and Coarse Pumice Gel. Using a palette knife, apply a layer of any of these products about 1/16th or 1/8th inch thick on any surface. (If you apply this too thinly, acrylic shrinks down in volume by about 30%, and will not be substantial enough to make a difference - so apply the grounds liberally). Let this dry overnight. Now the ground is ready and you can apply the diluted washes of paint. With some of these grounds I like to spray them with water first before applying the paint, to increase the bleed effect. If you don't have my book, Acrylic Revolution, I highly recommend purchasing a copy. It has a whole section on grounds to apply to create an absorbent surface. Click here to purchase.