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 DickBlick.com 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. 

Check out my webinar!

I had a great time doing the Author Webinar with Artist Network. I had a chance to talk about my new book and answer some questions from artists. Thanks for joining me if you made it! If you didn't make it, here's the recording of the talk. Enjoy!


Tesia Blackburn - Acrylic Painting With Passion

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I am not stalking Austin Kleon, really, I'm not.

I have a girl crush on Austin Kleon. There, I said it.  Granted I'm old enough to be his mother, but who cares? I love him, love his books - heck I even like his beard.  No, Austin, I'm not stalking you. Well maybe a little.  I just think you're a boy genius.  Or, to put it in your own words, a boy scenius.

For those of you who have been living in a cave on a remote island, Austin Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of "Steal Like an Artist."
Austin Kleon Steal Like An Artist

I just finished his second book "Show Your Work." Brilliant. To the point, workable and no fluff. An easy read, but oh so deep.  And this guy has heart. We are sympatico on the whole issue of giving yourself away. Give it all away. Ah, but you have to read the book to understand what I'm raving about.  If you are a "creative" (I kinda hate that word, but I can't think of a better one) you need to read both of these books. Not just read but memorize. Sleep with them under your pillow so you can get all the goodies by osmosis. 

Then make stuff and show it to people. 

 Austin Kleon Show Your Work

Austin is coming to Flax Art Store in San Francisco on April 1 and I plan to be there.  I might gush a little, but hopefully I can keep my girl crush in line. Wish me luck!