Monday, November 9, 2015

Permission To Be Passionate - Teaching in The Atelier Method

"The virtue of an atelier school is its complete authenticity, its appropriateness to the purpose it serves. There is no compromise. For the study of art, it provides an artist’s domain and involves the focus on work which is an artist’s way of life. "  I recently ran across this article on Frank Hobb's blog and found it amazingly readable and worthy.

I'm sure my thoughts will be a pale comparison to what Mercedes said but here goes.

Tesia Blackburn's Painting Group at Ghost Ranch
One of my painting trips with students to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico
Teaching for me, as an artist, is about learning.  I learn from my students as much as I impart to them, maybe more.  It also keeps me on my game in my own work.  After all, how can I blather on about composition in front of my students if I'm not thinking about it in my own work?

Secondly, or maybe firstly, many of my students are people who are coming to art after another career or in conjunction with another career.  There is a certain stigma attached to being "of a certain age" and starting an art career, especially at an art school.  If you are amongst a group of 20-30 year olds, it can start to feel like you're out of the loop and can hamper your joy with making art.  Let's face it, we all want to belong to the group, right?

 But what if you are really passionate, longing, craving to make art?  You have a full time job or maybe some kids still at home. Where will you find the time? How can you make "real" art if you don't have an art degree?

You just start. Twenty minutes here, thirty minutes there. I wrote an entire book about it. 

Many of my students, most in fact, don't have art degrees and make beautiful, moving, authentic work.  They have shows and sell their paintings.  They take classes with me, either in the studio or online.  They come every week, sometimes for years.  They want to know color, shape, texture, paint chemistry and much more. 

And I can help them.  Do you have any idea how good that feels? It's the highest high. It literally makes my eyes fill up with emotion.  When a student sees the painting come together and gets that immense feeling of satisfaction, I get to witness it! That's my job!?!

In small studio classes, in the old "atelier" method - outside of the mainstream of academia, I teach people to paint.

But what I'm really doing is giving them permission to be passionate.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Friend

Sweet Angel Soxx RIP October 4, 2015 

I can write this blog post now.  It's been almost a month since my darling boy, Soxx the Wonderdog, left us.  I cried again last night.  I'll cry again tonight.  I'll keep crying until I don't cry whenever his face comes across my mind.  I don't know when that will be.

Soxx was my dog for 15 glorious years.  We went everywhere together.  He was my muse at the studio and my companion on car trips. He was the star of many, many Facebook posts and had a band of followers.

He started slowing down about a year ago.  He'd had a bout of cancer about three years ago and went through chemo and radiation.  It was horrible but he seemed to come through it relatively well.  But in the past six months he had been losing traction in his back legs.  We started him on water therapy and that seemed to help a little.

A pretty serious family medical situation intervened and we had to stop water therapy. 
Circa 2009 being silly.

Through all of this I continued teaching and had to be gone from home for ten days.

The night I came home, Soxx did not get up to greet me. My heart sank.  We valiantly hoisted him up to go outside.  He promptly fell onto the ground.  I called my son who has been a vet tech for 15 years.  He told me what I knew was true. It was time.  Soxx had just waited for me to get home so he could say goodbye.

I made the hardest phone call I've ever made.

Soxx the Wonderdog
2013 Finished Chemo!
Surrounded by love, at home with his favorite toys, Soxx left us two days later.

I now know that it is possible to live with a broken heart.

Soxx taught me something very important.  He taught me the meaning of living in the present.  Dogs don't know time like we do.  Every time I went out the door without him, he looked at me with an expression of bewilderment.  When would I be home? What if I never came home? He always looked a little worried when I left the house. I made sure to pat his head and tell him what time I'd be home.  "Well, okay," he'd say. "But just this once."  At least that's what I heard in my head.

And when I came home? Oh my gosh.  He kissed me, he wagged his stubby tail, he circled me and sniffed me and pawed at my purse.  "Where ya been? Who'd ya see? Tell me all about it. You are the center of my world, Mom, and I've been waiting all day just to see your face." He would follow me from room to room while I unloaded the groceries, changed clothes, made dinner.

Have you ever received that kind of unwavering attention at the end of a long day? It's like manna from heaven.  It heals the soul.  

So I would tell him about my day. How much I missed him now that he couldn't climb the stairs to the studio anymore.  How hard it was to be in the studio all day without his friendly, fuzzy face next to me. 

I started going to the studio less often.  Yes, the work suffered but who cares? I wanted to be with my pal, my buddy, my best friend.

He never expected anything from me.  He was well fed and loved dearly but every time I fed him he looked overjoyed, as if it was completely unexpected.  Wow! That's for me? He was delighted every time. He never pushed his food away and acted uninterested.  It was the same thing day in and day out, but he was excited about it nonetheless.

I wish more people were like dogs.

Can't you imagine it? If every time you saw someone, stranger or friend, you ran up to them and greeted them with a big hug and kiss? Okay, okay, we can skip the sniffing the butt part - but seriously, what if we all just greeted each other like we were dogs?  Excited, friendly, interested? I know there are some mean dogs out there, and they don't greet nicely, but I don't think that's the dogs' fault.  Don't get me started on that.

At any rate, I'm going to try to be more dog-like from now on. I may not run up to strangers and hug and kiss them, but I am definitely going to try to be more present in the here and now. 

Soxx the Wonderdog
Soxx the Wonderdog Christmas 2014
And more focused on the people I'm with, right here, right now.  Not texting, not surfing the Internet, not pretending to listen just so I can talk next.  I'm working on being laser beam focused. "What did you do today? Who did you see? What's on your mind?" 

I'm going to try to live in "dog time." 

And for a little while longer,  I'm going to cry.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wow, summer is here!

Catching up on what I'm reading, looking at and more....check it out:

StudioVox blog: Powerful Words from Inspiring Photographers

Some really great Ted Talks: How to be Happy

Have you checked out the Google Art Project? I'm blown away...

Scientists are recording the sound of the whole planet in order to learn more about the state of the environment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Master Class in Acrylic Painting

Take your painting practice to the next level.  Join me for a week long in-depth class at my fully equipped studio.

Develop a series
Deepen your 'Painter's Voice'
Gain mastery over acrylic painting techniques

Learn new and innovative approaches
And so much more....

A week with me, in my paint filled and light filled studio at the Shipyard.  What are you waiting for?

Get more details and register at my Eventbrite page.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Acrylic Painting Studio Tips - Brushes 101

I'm using a DaVinci Top Acryl brush to get a crisp line over 18" long.

Of all the things you spend money on in the studio, let brushes be at the top of the list.  This is a quick overview from an acrylic painter's perspective. 
  • Buy good brushes for the important stuff and cheap brushes for the rest. What does that mean? If you really need to get a good line over two feet of canvas, a cheap brush will not do the job.  However, if all you need to do is slather soupy paint all over the background, any old brush will do.
  • Take good care of your brushes and they will last a long, long time.
  • Never leave your brushes standing in water or thinner. 
  • After washing your brushes, lay them flat on a paper towel or cloth to dry. This will prevent water from getting into the ferrule and loosening the glue that holds the bristles.
The Anatomy of a Brush
A brush has three main components; the handle, the ferrule and the bristles.  
  • Watercolor brushes have short handles - apparently so the artist won't poke themselves in the eye because they tend to work closer to the paper than artists painting at an easel. 
  • Easel brushes are so named because they have longer handles and are useful when working at an easel, giving the artist the option to work at arm's length. 

Brush Shapes 
There are many types of brushes, both in shape and type of hair or fiber used to create them.  The four main shapes that I use the most are: 
Although the last time I checked on there are at least eleven different shapes of brushes.  Check out the chart here.Each shape has a particular use. Rounds are good for curvilinear lines, filigree types of marks and flourishes. Flats are useful for long straight lines.  A good flat brush can be loaded with paint and make a very long straight line, depending on how big the brush is. Brights are great for short, choppy paint strokes like you might see on an Impressionist painting. Filberts make rounded paint strokes and are very useful for filling in rounded shapes.

Brush Hair or Fiber

Brushes come in two main types of hair: natural and synthetic.  I like and use both.  The natural hair that I use the most is hog bristle. The Robert Simmons Signet hog bristle is my favorite brush line. These are durable workhorses and really take a beating in my studio. They clean up well and come back for more.  I can't live without them. 

Of the synthetic brushes that I use, I prefer the Robert Simmons White Sable brushes for softer washes and more delicate work. 

There is an excellent article here by Will Kemp about brushes. I highly recommend it! 

Brush Sizes
This gives me a headache! There is no standard sizing for artists' brushes.  Eeek! Imagine shopping for shoes and the manufacturer just randomly uses any old size they like.  Sigh.  About the only thing you can count on, is that a larger numbered brush (8) will be bigger than a smaller numbered brush (4) from the same manufacturer. This is probably the reason I've been using Robert Simmons brushes for so long, I know what to expect from their sizes.

Caring For Brushes
If you're an acrylic painter, take care not to let the paint dry on the brushes.  That's deadly.  You can bring them back with some really strong cleaners, but the brushes will never be the same.  I like to clean my brushes with this soap from Masters. This is actually the hand soap that Masters makes but I like to hold the soap in my hand and then rub the brush on the soap to get it clean. This gets my brush clean and my hand at the same time. And the brush never touches my skin.

Do me a big favor. Never, ever, ever, wash your brush in the palm of your hand. Why? Because you are grinding the paint right into your skin.  Not a good idea. 

Although this is not a complete look at brushes by any means, this overview will get you started.  Send me your questions and comments and I'll be glad to answer them. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How do I price my artwork?

From the email bag: I'd like your help figuring out pricing for the two unusual commissions I've done recently. How do you price artwork? 

*************************** My answer below******************

For artists, pricing artwork is one of those icky topics we never want to deal with.  We're just so grateful anyone would buy anything from us. Right? Wrong!

If you take the romantic notion that we are "artists" out of the equation and look at your art practice as a business, it makes pricing much easier.  Remember, we are manufacturers of a product.  When you manufacture something you take into account, overhead, labor, materials costs, etc., and then you figure out a reasonable, fair price for your product. 
Tesia Blackburn - Monoprint
Tesia Blackburn "Live, Laugh, Love" Monoprint

I can hear you saying, " yes, but how do I price inspiration or creativity?" You don't. You take into account your training, your peers' prices and perhaps add a little for that elusive creative spirit.   Most artists I know don't even cover their overhead, much less their training and labor!  So I've listed below some items you should take into account when you price your work.  And then, like I say with almost everything else, trust your gut.  This is just a starting point.  The rest is up to you.

Start with your overhead. Whether your art practice is full-time or part-time, you should treat it like a business. Businesses operate with overhead items like; rent, insurance, materials' costs, labor costs, car and/or truck expenses, delivery and/or shipping fees, professional associations' dues, and specific things related to your industry like museum entry fees, continuing education and so on.  This is not a complete list but will get you started.  Add all of these items together and get the complete cost of your overhead for a year.  Now sit down. Whew, right? 

It goes without saying or maybe I should say it strongly, you should be registered with your city as a business and have a separate checking account for your art business.  All of your expenses should be put through your business checking account.  I'm not a tax expert (nor do I play one on t.v.!) so invest in some expert advice when it comes to taxes.  Be sure you get someone who is familiar with art business practices.  Incorrect tax advice for your given industry can cost you big bucks! 

Now let's look at overhead again.  Shocking, right? How many pieces do you do per year? Don't know? Hmmm. Figure it out. Pay yourself an hourly fee for making the work.  Be reasonable.  Are you just starting out? Then pay yourself minimum wage per hour for each piece.  Feel like you have some experience under your belt? Give yourself a raise.  Imagine that you are working in a corporation for X number of years (the number of years you have been painting). What would your job title be? Manager? I've been painting for nearly four decades.  I'm  the CEO of my studio. My painting prices reflect that. I also do a lot of work over the year, probably 50-100 pieces if you include all the work on paper.  Simple math will tell you, the more work you do, the less overhead you have.  

So here's a quick equation: Overhead divided by number of pieces = overhead price per piece.  So for instance, your overhead per year is $20,000.00 (stop rolling your eyes, you don't want to know what my overhead is!).  You make 100 pieces.  Each piece costs $200 to make. That's the base price. You have to add labor into that.  It takes you an average of 10 hours to complete a painting and you pay yourself $20.00 per hour.  That's $200.00. That makes the wholesale price of your painting $400.00.  But some pieces are 8"x10" and some are 60"x 60".  Hopefully, you make the 8x10 in 1/10 the time of the 60x60!  So less hours, less cost.  Get it? Then I add 20% to the cost just because I know I forgot something somewhere. 

After you get all of the above figured out, and the shock has worn off about how much it costs you to make art, you'll have a better idea of what it takes to run an art business.  And the next time someone asks you why that painting is so expensive, you can give them a concise answer.