Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Create a Gallery Wall in Your Studio

One of the hottest trends in home decor right now is the "gallery wall." What's a gallery wall? It's a collection of prints and paintings all hung on the same wall to create a "gallery" look. Think of the old salon style way of hanging art and you'll get the idea.  I remember seeing pictures of Gertrude Stein's home in Paris with the typical nineteenth century salon style gallery wall.  Yeah, a few Picassos and a couple of Matisses will do nicely, thank you.

Many years ago I sold a framed pastel painting to a wonderful collector here in San Francisco. He asked me to deliver the piece to his home the following day.  I arrived at his home at the top of Twin Peaks and entered the expansive living room filled with light from the huge windows overlooking San Francisco Bay.  On the largest wall in the room there was a gallery wall collection of framed pieces by artists the like of Lichtenstein, Hockney, Picasso and Thiebaud.  A framed Picasso print was resting on the floor, leaving a blank spot on the wall.  The collector looked at me and said, "I thought this would be a good spot for your piece, what do you think?" "Oh, yes, that's perfect," I stammered, looking at the Picasso print that my work had just upstaged.  Take that Pablo!

My beloved dog, Soxx, in the studio circa 2014.
I often set up a gallery wall in my studio for visits from art consultants, potential buyers and during Open Studio sales.  It can greatly enhance the way your work is seen and in fact, can generate sales. Framing and presentation of the work is often seen by the artist as the sole responsibility of the buyer. You could be missing out on sales by overlooking presentation.

Gallery style wall for a visiting art consultant. 
At the left is a typical gallery wall setup that I use for a visiting art consultant.  There's a school of thought that says you should not offer the buyer more than three choices.  I don't think that's the case with wholesale buyers and art consultants fall into that category.  That idea may be true for the single-purchase buyer, but in my experience, a gallery wall presentation works great for art consultants.

By the way, I sold six paintings that day.

And let's not forget online presentation. So many artists are selling online it's difficult to stand out in the crowd. You can take advantage of presentation and staging to sell work online too.  Check out one of my typical online listings here. You'll see that I show the work installed in a typical home setting. I use Adobe Stock Images to create images for  presentation.

Whether it's a gallery wall or a stock photo, use every tool available to present your work in the best fashion. After all, the work deserves it, right?

Friday, August 26, 2016

My Top Three Rules for Abstract Painting

"Lovers on the Sun" Tesia Blackburn 2016
36" x 54" Acrylic on Canvas
When I'm painting, I have one goal in mind - to create an experience for the viewer. By the way, the viewer is me first and everyone else second.  I'm basically painting to make myself happy. If everyone else likes it, cool, but my first goal is to paint for myself.   So before I ever start a painting, I decide what my intention is - what I want the painting to "say."  Now this may seem like so much new age gobbly gook but it's not. It's an actual, action-oriented way of painting that narrows down my focus so I don't get distracted. I stay focused, the painting stays focused and I can accomplish something.

I often hear students stay, when I ask them why they did something in the painting "I don't know, it just happened." This really irritates me.  First of all, unless you have magic painting fairies in your pocket YOU painted this. Take responsibility for it.  Take responsibility for the good and the bad. It's your painting. You did it.

So the first rule is - own it.

Next, even if you are a beginner, have a point of view.  Be able to answer the question, "what do I want the painting to say?" Can you describe the feeling you want to create in one or two words? No? Then you will have a heck of a time getting anywhere because you will have no focus.  Do you want an energetic painting? Somber? Funny? All of these words are descriptive and there are hard and fast design rules about what is and isn't funny, or moody, or heavenly.  Look at El Greco. Are his paintings funny? No. Why not? Explain a painting or two to yourself using words like color, shape and texture and you will soon see that you know the answer. (Hint: it has a lot to do with dark colors). Look at Mark Rothko. Are his paintings moody? Why or why not?  Spend some time with artists you like and want to emulate. Reverse engineer their paintings in your head. You'll soon discover that you know what you want in a painting. Start with a particular point of view and paint a few paintings with that in mind. You can always move on later to anther topic.  But at first, one topic will do.

So the second rule is - have a point of view.

And that brings me to my third and probably most important rule. Keep it simple. I am continually amazed by the plethora of ideas that artists bring to class.  One good idea will keep you working for years.  Look at Sean Scully. One great idea, hundreds of great paintings.  Or Joan Mitchell. Laser focus. One great idea. Many, many great paintings.  It may take some time to find your one great idea, but hang in there. Try out a few ideas, but don't get crazy!  Stay focused and give yourself some limits. Of course you can paint one thing one day and something else the next day, but you'll never know the joy of digging deep into a topic, an idea, and creating a relationship with an idea that will last for years.  It's like a great love affair. The longer you are with that one person, the greater the love becomes.

The third rule? - Keep it simple.

So those are the three big ones for me. What's your take on it?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The True Story of How to Clean Your Acrylic Paint Brushes

There's a lot of information out there on the Internet highway, some good, some bad, some so-so. But I don't recall ever seeing The True Story of How to Clean Your Acrylic Paint Brushes. I thought I'd relay it here and put to rest some of the rumors around this ancient myth.

First my pet peeve is the rumor that you should clean your paintbrushes in the palm of your hand. What?  NEVER CLEAN YOUR BRUSHES IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND! Why? Because you are embedding pigment into your skin. Duh.  I see this over and over again. Please don't do this. I believe there was an entire tribe of Ancient Artists who lost the ability to sing falsetto because they intentionally cleaned their paintbrushes in the palm of their hands. But this could be another false rumor.

It is a well known fact that cleaning your paintbrushes under running water will send the Muse screaming from your studio for at least two weeks.  She's really fussy about this one. So beware! NEVER CLEAN YOUR BRUSHES UNDER RUNNING WATER! Why again? Because you are sending paint solids down the drain. Bad for the fishies, bad for your plumbing.

So, how should you clean your brushes? Read on my darlings. This is ancient knowledge, handed down over the generations.  Guard it carefully!

First of all, regard your paintbrushes as the friends and helpers that they are. They are kind and willing to work for you, don't abuse them! Don't beat them up! What did they ever do to you except help you make fabulous art?  Love them and they will serve you well. Until you leave the studio and then they use up all of your cell data and order pizza. But I digress....

Okay, but really....

Number one: Don't let acrylic paint dry on your brush. If you do, kiss the brush goodbye and make a sculpture with it. And feel really, really guilty about killing a paintbrush. They scream you know.

Next, put aside the time to clean your brushes when you paint. Don't just stand them in the water and haul ass out of the door to meet someone at Starbuck's. When you come back your paintbrushes will be a limp, soggy shadow of their former selves and perhaps will be going bald (losing bristles). The bristles of the brush will wick up the water into the ferrule (that metal thingie that holds the bristles in place) and loosen the glue that is also holding the bristles.  Then the paintbrush will lose its hair. Really embarrassing for a paintbrush. Don't put them through this. Their paintbrush friends will point and laugh.

Proper cleaning of your paintbrush:
1. Wipe off all of the paint solids possible from the brush. Use old telephone books (do they still make those?) paper towels, old rags, whatever.  Don't be lazy, really get all of the paint off of the brush. No, that's not enough, do it again.

2. Next, rinse the brush in a BUCKET of water. We will refer to this as Bucket #2. You may want to write this down. You have to keep track of your buckets, you know.  You will have two to three buckets of water so get prepared.

3. Now get a bar of artist's soap like The Masters Hand Soap-4.5 Ounces and rub the brush across that a couple of times. The brush really loves this! If you listen closely you can hear the brush giggle when you do this.

4. Now swish the brush back in the water (Bucket #2) a few times. LOL, swish.

5. Back across the soap. Swish again. Brushes love to swish. They're natural born swishers. It comes from being bunched up in that old peanut butter jar on the studio table. Once they get outta there they swish like crazy!

6. The brush should be fairly clean now. You can examine it with your fingers, but be polite!

7. Now gently lay your brush down on a clean paper towel or bath towel. Perhaps one with the brush's name embroidered on it. Never leave your damp brushes standing upright to dry. It really wrecks their hair! And again, they could lose bristles from the water going down into the ferrule and loosening the glue. It's a lotta work being a paintbrush!

8. Put aside Bucket #2. It may be slightly soapy. That's okay. Use it the next time you clean your brushes.  Once it gets all gunky with paint, pour it off into Bucket #3  that will be reserved for "dirty water". Let this water evaporate. Yes it will take days to evaporate, maybe weeks. But you don't have to stand there and watch it! Go paint something! When the water is all gone, wipe up the sludge that is left behind and put it in the trash.

9. No paint down the sink and no fishies turning Quinacridone Magenta!

10. Keep a bucket of clean water as your first brush "dunking" station. This is Bucket #1.

11. Once Bucket #1 gets too dirty, pour it into Bucket #3 the dreaded "dirty water" bucket. Don't wash your brushes in there! It's for pouroff only! Stories abound among the older brushes about young brushes that mistakenly fell into Bucket #3, never to be seen again. Then came  time to clean out the sludge. And there, laying in the bottom of Bucket #3, the young, foolish, brush -  bristles all gunky, paint chipped off the handle, name no longer readable. Oh the horror!

So Bucket #1 becomes Bucket #2 and Bucket #2 goes into Bucket #3. And then Bucket #2 becomes Bucket #1 - follow? No? Well find an old paintbrush that knows the ropes and have it show you the way.

That's the story the way I heard it. But granted, it was an Ancient Paintbrush that related this tale to me. She had a bit of Matte Medium stuck to her so her memory could have been cloudy. That paintbrush has passed on into the other world, where paintbrushes are always young and clean.

Sometimes, when I'm leaving the studio, after I turn out the lights, I stop at the door and listen. I can hear the brushes singing their Ancient song, summoning the Muse to my studio for the next day.

They can only sing when they're clean you know.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bridget Riley at John Berggruen

One of my favorite artists. I can't wait to see this show!

"Bridget Riley (b. 1931) is one of the foremost exponents of Op Art, a style that plays with human perception to produce optically illusionistic works of art. The English painter studied art at Goldsmiths College (1949-1952) and at the Royal College of Art (1952-1955). Her early work was executed in a semi-Impressionist manner, in the late 1950s, she adopted a pointillist technique. A 1958 exhibition of Jackson Pollock’s work at Whitechapel Gallery had a major impact on the young artist, but  it wasn’t until the early 1960s that Riley began to develop her signature Op Art style consisting of black and white illusionistic patterns. She explored the dynamism of sight through her art, often producing a disorienting perceptual effect and deceiving the viewer’s eye. Riley began incorporating her characteristic bold, vivid colors in her work from the late 1960s onwards. The celebrated artist has been honored with the Sikkens Prize (2012), Rubens Prize (2012), Praeminum Imperiale for Painting (2003), and the International Prize at the 1969 Venice Biennale, among numerous others. Riley’s works have been highlighted in solo exhibitions around the world, including at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2014); Stadtische Galerie, Schwenningen (2013); and National Gallery, London (2010).

Monday, April 18, 2016

Chuck Close is my hero.

Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself, like I've had a hard day, or I'm tired but I can't stop working yet, I think of Chuck Close. He's an amazing artist that has been through a very challenging event in this life.

In 1988 at the so-called height of his career, Close suffered a spinal cord aneurysm that has left him wheelchair bound, a paraplegic. Add to that the fact that he suffers from prosopagnosia. Sometimes known as “face blindness”, prosopagnosia is a disorder where the ability to recognize faces is impaired. The pre-eminent portrait artist in America, or perhaps the world, cannot recognize people's faces.

Ironic isn't it?

So whenever I start to feel sorry for myself. I think of Chuck Close. Working hard, every day, staying true to his own vision and creating art while surmounting not tremendous obstacles.

Here's a documentary worth watching.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Here's a short video on using Google Image Search. I think it's a spectacular tool that all artists should take advantage of!