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August 2009
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October 2009

September 2009

The "Perception and Inspiration" Show at High Desert Gallery

I thought I would share some images that I took just after I put up this show at High Desert Gallery.  They asked me to hang the work early, so there are a few empty spaces that I filled a week later with paintings that were not quite dry when the rest of the work went up. 

The space is wonderful, very high ceilings with the original tin ceiling tiles from 1914.  The light floods in the front windows and the gallery lighting is excellent.  There's enough room to step back to see paintings from a distance as well as up close.  This gallery likes to hang work "Salon Style", so I knew that I would have to plan for arrangements that would flow not only logically but color-wise and stylistically, too.  I was so relieved when the work was finally up and I could see it all together, instead of strung out in bits and pieces in my living room.  The paintings all seem to be living nicely together.

You can see all the images here

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The gallery claimed to have "lots" of empty walls right now so I was invited to put up anything I wanted.  I added some of the still life paintings I've been doing - here are a few, sorry that the smaller ones are partially cut off but you get the idea.  You might think that it would help because I work at this gallery part time, but no.  The pressure was actually worse because they have finally offered me exclusive representation and I didn't want to either embarrass myself or let their expectations down.

So far the public has been very supportive in their comments and appreciation.  I've found it's easier to pretend that the artist is someone else when I talk about the work.  I don't admit it unless I'm asked because I don't want to make them uncomfortable in case they like one of the other artist's work more than mine.  Anyway, enjoy this virtual exhibit. 

Things a Gallery May Never Tell You

There are things a gallery may never tell you, but you need to know.  They can make a difference to your success.

Framing your own work isn't always a super idea.  

Some galleries take on the responsibility of framing, but many galleries ask the artist to provide the art framed.  If they haven't given you specific guidelines as to what they want, you are on your own. 

Many 2-D artists struggle with framing costs and turn to on-line sources for special order frames.  But unless you have a background in framing, including the craftsmanship to do a professional job, you might be wasting not only your time but your money -- because poorly framed art generally does not sell.

If you opt for the do-it-yourself route, beware these common pitfalls:

Your frame does not complement the artwork, the width is too narrow or too wide, or it's too "difficult" to hang comfortably in a group setting.  Overly ornate frames can be awkward to place on a wall that must accommodate a grouping of different artwork in different frames.  Not only must the artwork "flow" but the framing must also "flow" for the eye to move comfortably. And for clients to visualize it "living comfortably" in their home. 

If you're re-using a frame, give it a close inspection before asking someone to sell it for you.  Be sure it's in the condition you would demand if you were being asked to pay the retail price.

Don't forget the back - it's just as important as the front.  Make sure your backing paper is evenly trimmed, not dried out or torn, and firmly attached.  Your wires should be tightly and neatly twisted, with the sharp ends either crimped under or wrapped in tape.  Don't forget the wall bumpers.  Before the sale is finalized, many clients will hold the artwork, turn it over and look at the back.  Don't blow the sale with a sloppy finish.

Your drawing flaws make the piece a white elephant.

A lot of sales have been lost due to drawing flaws.  If your work is intended to be representational, the public has little tolerance for anything that seems "off."  In fact, if they spot something that doesn't make visual sense it immediately becomes the subject of conversation and you can't move them off it.

Often these drawing flaws are overlooked by the artist who "already knows what it is."  Sometimes they are intentional.  But if a prospective client sees a painting that just looks wrong, there's no amount of brush work or great color that can get them past their belief that the river "flows uphill."

Your style looks too easy.

People buy art that impresses them, inspires them, or affects them emotionally in some way.  And many women - who are the primary purchasers of art - are creative people themselves.  If it looks like something they think they could do on their own, they won't buy it.

However, people are always impressed by superlative technique, whether the work is realistic or abstract.  Set the bar high and don't settle for "easy."

The secret reason why your bio is important. 

The purpose of your bio is to concisely demonstrate the professional level of your work and the consistency of your output using one paragraph and a listing by date of your accomplishments.

Write clearly, not extravagantly. Describe your style and influences in a single sentence.   State how long you have been working professionally, and explain your background and training. Explain what distinguishes your art from that of others, and augment this with a brief description of your artistic philosophy. By adding a quote and/or mentioning where you live, your family, or when you were born, you add a personal impression to the facts. 

Your consistency is demonstrated by the number and professional level of the juried and solo shows you've participated in, by your membership in professional organizations, and any awards and honors you've received, collections (sales) and gallery associations.  This information is usually listed by date, most recent first, in a standard format.  One or two pages is usually enough, although if you feel the need, you can add the words "additional information upon request."

If you don't have a long list of accomplishments, include what you do have in the listing.  Keep in mind the real purpose and work toward fleshing out the missing pieces as quickly as you can.  In the mean time, have a really strong, extremely large body of work to show. You want to communicate that if your work starts selling, you'll be able to consistently provide new work at the same technical level.

Extras that mark you as a professional.

Label the back of your artwork with the title and your name.  Many artists include a document with an image of the artwork, the date of creation, materials and other technical information (such as how to clean it), perhaps a small artist statement regarding the work.  You can use a clear plastic page protector, attached to the backing paper with double sided tape, then slip the document inside.

Prepare an artist statement that fits the work and include it on a separate piece of quality resume paper.  Include a quote from yourself, usually one or two sentences in quotation marks within the body of the statement.  Think about what you would like the gallery to say about you in any press release or publicity piece they might put out. If the gallery uses a blog to promote new work, get an idea of what they traditionally post. 

Include a CD with your images - last name and title -- at high resolution 300 pixels per inch (ppi).  The gallery can resize down for web applications or easily send an image to newspapers or magazines for print.  Try to anticipate what a gallery might need.  Don't expect them to contact you or hunt down the information on their own because they won't have the time and will move on to an artist who did provide the material. 

Why you might be accepted by a gallery in spite of "all the above."

There is no one-generalization-fits-all for art galleries. Some galleries are more flexible than others on what they accept.  Just as there are all levels of galleries, there are different reasons why an artist might have his work accepted.  It could be that the gallery director sees something worth exploring.  Or perhaps they don't really know what will sell now so they're putting everything up.  But regardless, you, the artist, should be doing everything you can to make sure that no matter what the reason why, once you're there you put yourself in the strongest position possible. 

Painting with Sharp Knives

Red Mesa sm
Red Mesa
30"x24" oil on panel

The development of the Mesa Series came about from an earlier series called Ancient Walls.  I have a continuing fascination with textures and layers, adding and removing paint passages, and pretty much torturing my surfaces.  Where the Ancient Walls were non-representational abstract, the Mesa Series has taken on landscape and sky forms and is fairly recognizable as to a sense of place. 

As in the process of Monolith, described here, I started with gesso.  Red Mesa began life as a totally different painting, thick with galkyd pours.  But galkyd can be a tricky medium.  Too thin, and the color fades away, too thick and colors turn muddy.  When that happens, there's nothing else to do but scrape it off.

Normally, scraping is not an issue.  I have some very sharp canvas scrapers.  But with a surface this large it can take more than an hour to scrape back the paint.  And therein lies the problem.

Did I mention that I have very sharp scraping knives?

Yes, well, when I first learned about scraping knives from a fellow art blogger and fabulous artist, Margret Short, she warned me to be careful.  They!  Great for removing dried paint. 

Also great for slowly shaving the layers of skin from your fingers without noticing until the blood starts gushing.  Literally. When the green paint I was scraping off started to turn red I realized I had ignored Margret's advice to be careful.  Several bandages later I finished the job and had a great ground for Red Mesa. The red color is transparent oxide red - no blood added.

Red Mesa is part of the "Perception and Imagination" show currently on exhibition and sale at High Desert Gallery & Custom Framing of Central Oregon, at the Redmond Gallery.  The show will be up until October 30, 2009.  866-549-6250.

Haiku and Paint

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Autumn Mist
16"x20" oil on panel

Part of the "Perception and Imagination" show.

Winter Solitude --
in a world of one color
the sound of wind

~Busho, from The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass

Eruptions, Grasslands, and Elephants - More Images from "Perception and Imagination"

Oregon's volcanic history is rich and varied - the evidence of ancient violence is everywhere you look.  During the middle Miocene period, explosive caldera eruptions created the massive rock formations that mark our landscape today.  Grasslands and mixed deciduous forests covered the dry lowlands, supporting animals we would recognize, as well as exotic species like -- elephants!  Yes, a compact species of pachyderm called Zygolophodon once rooted for food in Central Oregon.

Sometimes I feel like an archeologist when I am painting, scratching at the surface of my panels, adding material and then taking it away. 

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12"x12" Oil on Panel

To create "Monolith" I began with thick layers of gesso. Paint went on, then I scratched it off with scraping knives.  Sometimes I used sandpaper to "erase" paint, then I would lay on another transparent layer to build up the texture of rocks eroded by time.

But with "Summer Run-Off" my painting approach was the opposite.  I began brushing on thinned oil paint, adding thicker paint with quick, gestural strokes, using brushes and the palette knife.  I was trying to capture the sparse, dried out feeling of the high desert overlaid with the golden grasses that currently support elk, deer, and pronghorn antelope. 

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Summer Run-Off

12"x16", Oil on canvas

The location  of "Summer Run-off" is the Crooked River Grasslands, where small ravines catch the run-off from summer thunderstorms that sweep through with violent rumbling, lightning strikes, twenty minutes of torrential downpour, and then - sunshine, as if it never actually happened. "Monolith" represents one of the many rock formations found throughout the Oregon Outback.  I often wonder what this land looked like before civilization settled in here. 

These paintings are part of "Perception and Imagination," my solo show graciously sponsored by High Desert Gallery of Central Oregon. 

"Perception and Imagination"

September 29 through October 30, 2009

High Desert Gallery & Custom Framing of Central Oregon

Redmond Gallery

453 SW 6th Street

Redmond, OR 97756