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June 2011

Sunday Salon: Architectural Sculptor Patrick Gracewood and His Inspiring Manifesto

Architectural Sculptor Patrick Gracewood recently emailed with the following observation: “I’m a sculptor in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog, especially when I saw your manifesto link.  Sadly, not too much there yet.”

ST-Francis1Well, no, I admit, I haven't worked on the Ancient Artist Manifesto, so the page is rather pathetic - especially in light of what Patrick wrote.

 I’d like to share my manifesto with you,” he added.  “A manifesto is by definition (mine anyway) a public declaration.  Here’s the background setting.  For the past 20 years, I’ve been working creating architectural sculpture for historic restoration and new construction. Sadly the business closed last year, another casualty of the recession.

I was so angry at the lack of paying work, the competition for new sculpture, which is done on computer and machines, and my own loss of earnings that I wrote my manifesto.

Writing it was good, because it helped me get clear on what mattered, and what I wanted to do.  Artists need to be skilled at re-inventing themselves!

 Image: "St. Francis" cast stone relief panel on steel frame 56 x 24 x 24 inches, © Patrick Gracewood, used with permission. 


Here is Patrick's Manifesto.


I LOVE creating architectural sculpture. For 20 years I’ve helped restore historic terra cotta building facades and designed new architectural ornament for new construction. Most of the relief sculptures were of plants: grape vines, laurel, oak, acanthus leaves, swags and garlands of fruit and flowers. 

All these are symbols of living nature. They represent patterns of wholeness that have been with us, on our buildings, for thousands years. Think Roman, no, think Greek, think Egyptian art. This long tradition is art about nature, art that says we are directly connected to nature, still a part of it. I believe there is still a need for this kind of art.

In a sterile world of steel and glass buildings, concrete, and increasingly virtual experiences, I want this tradition, this art and craft of making buildings that reflect nature back to us, to survive.

I want to see and make art that bears the direct handmarks of its making.

I want to see and make art that might not be flawlessly perfect (because machines are now doing that) but is much more humane, because it's made by the living - and so stands a chance of becoming a living work of art that will speak to future generations.


Surprisingly,” Patrick adds, “the manifesto was much easier to write than an artist's statement....nothing like the juice of real emotion for fuel. If I can’t work on architecture," he adds, " I'll create my own architectural fragments (I love Romanesque art).  The good news is that as artists we get to create new realities for ourselves and the world.  Hopefully some new financial ones too!"


I really relate to Patrick's statement about wanting to create a living work of art, reflecting nature back to us.  I'll be adding some his thoughts to the Ancient Artist Manifesto page.  Please click here  if you would like to contribute your thoughts to this growing Manifesto. 

Here are links to Patrick Gracewood's Website and Blog:

Shadows on Stone 



Recently the emails indicating updates to Sue Smith's Studio have gone awry.  Feedblitz says it has to do with an incorrect RSS code, but after hours spent click-and-pasting codes and trying to follow the instructions provided I found it necessary to delete the email delivery for that particular blog. 

I know that receiving these emails with "links to nowhere" has been frustrating and irritating to quite a lot of you and I apologize. Sincerely.  I have always appreciated your support and the interest in my work by fellow artists.

I hope you will choose to follow the blog either in a Google or similar reader, bookmark, or as a "follower."  Here is the link to Sue Smith's Studio for your convenience. 


The Best Non-Art Art Tools

Here are some of the best non-art art tools that I've come across:

  • a carpenter's level to make sure your easel or work surface is in fact level 
  • wooden carpenter shims to stabilize wobbly table legs or easels
  • 2-tier chrome metal shoe racks - attach two sets, turn up on short side, and use for vertical canvas storage.  These fit beneath drafting/watercolor tables.  use other sets for wet canvas drying racks.
  • rolling kitchen type three shelf cart for supplies, move where you need it
  • tape several small coffee cans into a honeycomb configuration and use to store/sort colored pencils
  • small glass condiment cups for mediums, large wash batches
  • old cookie sheet to cover your palette 
  • cake/pie spatula or frosting spatula to spread gesso thinly and evenly
  • freezer paper, taped to work surfaces, then remove when dirty or at end of day
  • adhesive shelf liner to protect work tables, remove when dirty
  • box fans, one for each window, to bring in fresh air, exhaust bad air
  • baby oil to remove oil paint from your skin 
  • latex exam gloves so you don't have to use the baby oil
  • Murphy's oil soap if you get paint where it shouldn't be - works best if paint is wet, can also use in the washing machine but spot treat instead of pour in
  • make your own palette using a large sheet of glass, backed with a medium gray piece mat board, and tape edges with duct tape 
  • razor blade paint scrapers to clean palette


What non-art art tools have you found to be most useful?


Hey - Was That A Door You Just Slammed in My Face?

I don't know how many of you saw the post by Jack White on the Fine Arts View Blog last week, but it's worth the read, including the back and forth in the comments between several industry heavy weights.  It was like watching the Casey Anthony trial on cable, either you hate her or pity her or wonder why you care - except it's so damn compelling. 

Why advertise? 

Well, at some point you feel like you need to show your art to other people, people beyond your immediate sphere of influence.  In 2006, before the crash, I shared an ad with a gallery in a locally published glossy lifestyle magazine.  At this time Central Oregon housing prices were increasing faster than those in any other metropolitan statistical area in the nation because of the resources here, the life style, and people couldn't wait to plunk down their money on new homes and furnish them with fine art.  That ad cost me half the amount of a group ad in one of the national art magazines, reached a fraction of the demographics, but they were the right demographics for the times.  We sold the artwork featured.

But.  There's always a but and in this case the bottom fell out, magazines faded, galleries closed, and home prices dropped by fifty percent.  I still advertise. And here's why.

Last week I received an email through the contact form of my FASO website, which is always featured in my print ads. The couple wanted to tell me they had just purchased one of my paintings.  They were thrilled, they had been following my work for some time in an art magazine, and felt honored to have obtained one of my paintings, so could I tell them something about it?

The title did not sound familiar.  I emailed back suggesting that perhaps they were thinking of another artist with a name similar to mine.  No, they replied, the signature is very clear: Sue Smith.  And they repeated, they had been following my work for some time in the art magazine, and were thrilled to have finally obtained a Sue Smith painting. 

Could you send me an image then, I suggested, since it was always possible someone was reselling an early painting and had changed the title. 

The image was of a lovely painting.  The signature looked like mine, but then, I have a very common name.  I told them it was lovely, I was sorry to disappoint them but did not paint it, and offered to send them a small study I thought they would enjoy in appreciation for their interest in my work.  They, too, were disappointed, but thrilled once again to have two Sue Smith paintings. 

Advertising.  In the back-and-forth between Jack White, Eric Rhoads, Clint Watson and Barney Davey there was a lot of talk about artists with unrealistic expectations, artists not being strong enough for the big leagues, or the inability of print ads to generate sufficient results.  All true. 

But please don't slam the door on the idea of artists advertising before you consider this.

Advertising is a requirement for membership in one respected national artist organization that I belong to, and as such, members receive attractive rates and award support at the national shows. By advertising, the artist not only supports the organization, but supports others in the industry who in turn support us, and we all achieve a level of credibility in the eyes of the buying public.  As for the demographics argument, it was first suggested to me to apply for membership in this organization by a Gallery that subsequently went on to represent my work - until they closed as a result of the bursting housing bubble.

When I place an ad with one of the major art magazines, they send me pre-publication complimentary copies of the magazine.  I forward half of these on to the gallery that currently represents me so they can then make contact with clients who have previously purchased my work.  The gallery has a reason to touch bases with client, the quality of the magazine reaffirms the client's good decision to buy my art, and perhaps the gallery can generate another sale.  I also send out copies to people who contact me - permissive marketing, as Clint Watson would say - like the couple who had purchased the painting that wasn't mine.

And so for me the argument comes down to this: Overcoming buyer's remorse both before and after the sale is one of the major obstacles no matter what your industry.  But it's far easier to demonstrate your credibility as an artist through other sources than your own braggadocio. 

Print advertising can do this.  In our area, and perhaps in yours, the economy has eliminated most of the local or regional magazines that could be used to communicate with potential clients. Mailing lists, newsletters, free publicity - well, these seem more "self promoting" as far as the credibility factor goes.  But having someone else - say, a magazine writing an article in conjunction with a national show - that puts a little more weight in the credibility bucket from my perspective and seems like an acceptable reason to participate.  So what if I pay for the ad and get the mention in the article? At least with print advertising I know that the person who bought the magazine wanted to look at it and will probably keep it around for a few weeks or months.  The postcard -  which I paid for, wrote the copy for, and mailed out - might not even make it past the recycle bin in the garage. 

So all in all Jack White's post produced an interesting debate, if only because it felt - at times -  like they were all talking about some lofty artist world, in the same way politicians talk about flyover country,  as if we're all just like those inside the beltway.  And in many ways they are right. There are segments within the art hierarchy, and understanding where your work places you is essential.  You don't place yourself there - the quality, creativity, passion, and connectedness of your artwork in the public mind places you there. And for many artists this can be painful. Whether justified pain or not.

If you are like me, you may have found Jack's initial premise, and the subsequent back and forth, somewhat disheartening, particularly the part about most artists not being strong enough to participate in the larger dialogue. 

But I would urge you to go back and read through the information carefully.  Think about the reasons why you might choose to advertise.  Think about ideas I've posed here.

And get back to creating art.