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Who’s Britain’s best amateur artist? Press Release from Flavours Holidays For New Competition

Information from the great team at Flavours Holidays in Scotland about Their upcoming Big Painting Competition


"While there are many painting competitions available for aspiring professional painters in the UK, it is very difficult for amateur artists to exhibit their work. That’s why we’re running our Big Painting Competition – we want to give a platform for these artists to show their artwork and want to find Britain’s best amateur artist!

The competition will open on the 28th September and close on the 31st October. 5 winners will be selected by our art tutors and selected participants will be invited to exhibit their work here in Edinburgh."

For more about the competition: 


Flavours Painting student in Tuscany

With a team of inspirational art teachers our Italian painting holidays are great for all levels.

Find out more about our painting holidays:

Read what Jenny Eclair wrote in the Daily Mail here

About Flavours

 Our painting holidays offer a unique blend of expert teaching and free time where you can be inspired by Italy’s dramatic colorful landscape. Flavours offers week-long stays in Tuscany, Venice and Sicily with our inspiring painting tutors.

Flavours Holidays - Authentic. Inspiring. Passionate.



Four Realities for the 21st Century Artist

1. There will always be gatekeepers.   Some are obvious, some you might not expect.  The least expected gatekeeper is money, keeping artists away from their work, short on supplies, and limited in their ability to learn. 

2. Art is not a linear progression.  What art has always been is a partial reflection of the culture of the time. As an organizing concept in Art History, we like to connect one epoch to another in order to project into the future, but that is all it is – a way of organizing.  The same could be said for the 4 by 6 file cards used when researching a topic: the cards are not the finished writing.    

3. Technology provides convenience, but does not provide human emotional connection.  At the end of the day,  computer generated images do nothing to aid in our basic desire for self-realization.   As humans, we crave moments of spiritual beauty and calm, found through music, dance, writing, and visual art.  If this were not true, how would you explain the flash mobs  that suddenly evolve into a full symphonic orchestra, stopping busy commuters in their tracks?   

4. Knowing why you are an artist is far more important than convincing others to see you as an artist. 

So what realities would you list?


My deep thanks to Thad Allen of Beard's Framing.  Read the interview here.

Here is a teaser from their 4 Inspiring Quotes About Framing page:

"4. “An Ebony frame can enrich a poor canvas, and make it look or sell as well as a good one.”
- Constantin Huygens

Unless you’re a professional art historian, you can be forgiven for not knowing who Constantin Huygens is..."

Why They Win

What if you asked yourself, why do they win? 

Would you say, because they are men?

Because they’re young and exciting?

Or because they spent years teaching art or working as commercial Illustrators?

Would you say it’s because of who they know? Who they married? Or who approves of their work?

And what if you realized that self-motivation and confidence can be the two most powerful tools in accomplishing any goal?

Would that change your answer in any way?


Living in The Between Revisited

*This is one of my favorite posts, written in 2010 - although the art coaches I respect have evolved into more than event planners.


For artists, the Internet can provide access to up-to-date advice by industry professionals on how to develop our careers. Over time I've come to think of these coaching sites as event planners - providing information on how to conceive, plan for, and then implement a strategy to reach specific goals - the markers of our success.

But, over time, I've also discovered a problem with this approach.  While Event Planning is useful, the narrow focus upon preparing portfolios, or writing artist statements, or approaching galleries emphasizes The Event instead of the non-eventfulness of everything else.  Sort of like living an entire year focused on planning your next birthday party.  All those months of opportunity lost by misdirected attention - living in the future when our lives are lived - must be lived - in the present. 

I prefer to live in The Between.  There is a grace that comes from learning this - living in The Between.  There is a story about Agnes Martin that I love.  She had been dragged out of her southwest studio and back to New York for a gallery show -  a pretty big deal to those in the know.  Her response to the question "how does it feel?" was to say that New York critics had already "discovered" her two or three times before and then had promptly forgotten her. I suspect Agnes knew how to live in The Between. 

Sylvia White often says that being an artist actually describes who you are and not what you do.  In that same vein, developing an art career should be thought of as living the art and not the other way around.  Every day brings a new opportunity to find the unique insights bestowed on those who perceive through an artist's eyes. 

This is living in The Between.  Between the big events.  This is time spent in your studio, or in your imagination.  Caught up in your perceptions and, yes, in your frustrations.  It's living in your confidence and facing your envy.  It's your generosity, and self-conscious reluctance to let other people see your work.  

Just as the richest color lives in that space between the light and the shadow, so do we find the richest experiences in living the art.  In The Between. 

PS:  Clint Watson also posted an interesting article in his Fine Art Views Blog today (1/08/2010), called "I am the Contrarian Art Marketer,"  that also speaks to this topic.  If you don't already subscribe, I would recommend it.


IMG_0571 sm copyRoses, oil, 20 x 16

The painting Roses will be part of the First Annual Artists Guild Exhibition at Scottsdale Artists School.

Initial Exhibition Dates : January 27 through January 31, 2014

The Award Winners of this juried exhibition will hang alongside some of the most prominent painters of our time at the Legacy Gallery.

I am most excited, though, to be attending a 5 day workshop where I will have the opportunity to learn from David A Leffel, Sherrie McGraw, Jacqueline Kamin, Rose Frantzen, and Gregg Kreutz.



I would also like to express my gratitude for your comments and interest in this blog.  It is hard to believe I have been writing it since 2007.  This past year the frequency of the posts has lessened, but I hope you found the content worth reading and that it helped in some way with your own artistic aspirations.  The key, as always, is to believe in yourself, and never give up. 

Wishing you a prosperous, artfilled 2014. 

Do You Use Risk as a Strategy?

The idea of a risky strategy makes you clench up.  The words are full of negativity, of dire results or parental condemnation, or at the very least a moment of staring into the mirror and wondering how you could have been so stupid.  As humans we avoid risk as a general rule. So we might not see it as anything useful in our daily art practice.

Risk, of course, is just a word.  We put our own emotional attachments to it, and then we use the knee jerk response to turn anything uncomfortable into the monster in the closet.  Don't try new subject matter.  Don't challenge the status quo.  Don't waste precious time and materials on something that will not come up to our expectations.

But growth is an ongoing process.  And it isn't easy.  So I've turned risk, despite the uncomfortable associations, into a strategy I can use. 

Risk allows you to put all your anxiety into one bucket.  And while you're worried about the awkwardness of your attempt, you don't worry about the other things - such as your drawing skills, or your paint application, or whether or not you're repeating yourself, yet again.  And when the paint is dry, when you study what you accomplished or did not accomplish, there are some things that will become immediately visible. 

Like the fact that you can either draw well, or you can't.

That your brush marks are sloppy or more expressive than you thought.

That your ideas are lost beneath your stilted compositions.

For me, there are only a few ways I can progress as an artist.  I can show up, practice, and educate myself.  I can find a coach willing to point out missteps in my technique. 

What I can't do is let the scary idea that I do not have enough talent keep me from looking at what I actually accomplish.   

It takes bravery to face our greatest fears, but only from that place of honesty can we grow toward our best work. 


A Not-So-Traditional Conceptual Realist

So this post is just for fun and to show you some of my process - both painting and conceptual.  I privately think of my style as conceptual realism, although it bears no connection to what is known as Conceptual Realism in the mind of the general public.  That's okay, it's merely a way to describe what and why I paint, and to evaluate the results.


The set-up:  Almost the view from my easel.  The print of a Paul Cornoyer painting works to create an interesting pattern that repeats the lines of the copper pot and the carpet.  I was interested in creating a sense of calm with added exotic/antiquity elements to describe a sense of a by-gone era.  I also wanted the compositional eye movement to build in an oval/spiral pattern using the light falling on the figurine, the drape, the top of the pot into the background lights on the print. The primary movement is a downward calming angle from the upper left to lower right, which counters the rising energy in the implied angle from the cat's head to the top of the pot.  So lets see if I can do this.


IMG_0382After a period of time drawing in my sketchbook, I felt like starting to place the initial forms.  I am using a warm toned canvas and starting to place the dark shapes using a wash of raw umber - I often go to raw umber for a darker neutral but I am now making an effort not to take this short cut because the umber will dry as very dark and colorless.  For the next stages I mixed up a dark using several of the paints that went into the rest of the painting.  This stage was to evaluate the placements and as you can see the wash is of the consistency of watercolor.

At this point I am starting to define the darker areas to see how this pattern will ultimately connect throughout the painting and support my idea of the descending and ascending diagonals, balanced by the verticals.




IMG_0385Since the figurine is the focal point and probably the most critical shape in terms of accurate drawing, I wanted to get it in first, painting very thinly and establishing the lightest light available to me in this painting.  All the other lights need to be balanced against this form - not as light, or as much contrast, but with the intent of supporting the conceptual ideas relating to the mood and movement.

I originally had the jaguar sitting on a broken tile I picked up in Italy, but discarded it as the painting progressed. 


IMG_0386At this point I have established the shapes and some of the major and/or implied lines and repeating elements such as the tree branch repeating the curve of the spout on the pot, which repeats the curve of the handle.  The angle of the cat's back is repeated in the drape to the right and the street angle on the left. 

The real problem solving that went on with the painting actually begins at this point.  The primary issue was the color harmony and values that I was seeing in my set-up, and how to translate that using pigments.  Since I was interested in the visual contrast of the warmth of the copper against all the cool grays in the print,the carpet, and the vivid contrast of warm and cool in the cat, I decided to find the pot colors first.  Of course this was also the easiest - but the first color choice is always the easiest, while getting everything else to work well is the hard part. 

After this point, I was concentrating so hard on solving these visual problems that I neglected to take more photos.  My colors were selected as warm and cool versions, keeping with a red-orange base and it's compliment of a dark greenish blue. 

IMG_0397 sm blog copy

Paul Cornoyer Print with Pot and Figurine, 24 x 20, oil on canvas

This painting was created using both transparents and opaques: transparent earth red, yellow ochre burnt, oxide yellow, yellow ochre light, burnt carmine, hansa yellow medium, brown oxide, Vay Dyke brown, cobalt blue, modigliani ochre, raw sienna, prussian blue, raw umber, titaniam white, and Gamblin's solvent free gel. 

The Partners We Want

Most artists realize - sooner or later - that we can't do it alone.  We need partnerships, people who support what we do, and to whom we offer our support in return.  This form of generosity is best when it comes without strings, when it's given in an attempt to support a relationship, or to see what another artist thinks.  These are the forms of generosity - the unconditional partnerships - I appreciate most.

I recently encountered a problem when varnishing my paintings.  I have been using Gamblin's product, Gamvar, with great results, but encountered an issue I couldn't resolve.  After posting on another social media site, I was connected to Scott Gellatly, from Gamblin Artist's Colors, who not only identified the issue (it had to do with the brand of lemon yellow that, when fully saturated, tends to green) but followed up with a tube of Gamblin's Hansa Yellow Light, as well as a sample of their new Solvent Free Gel

This is a level of customer support that we don't always see.  It goes beyond the desire to defend the brand.  And while it is not remarkable that a company might offer to solve a problem, it is remarkable when a company actively chooses to cultivate a relationship with one of it's customers without expecting anything in return.




I use Maroger's medium in some of my paintings and like it, other than the odor.  I compared  Maroger to Gamblin's new Solvent Free Gel.  The gel is clear from the tube.  It does not have the little puddle of solvent that  usually accompanies the Maroger. There was absolutely no odor.  The transparency and workability were identical, with only the slightest bit of difference with the Maroger's seeming to be 'creamier" as the paint left the brush, but I also felt it was inconsequential.  If you like the benefits of a Maroger type medium, try Gamblin's Solvent Free Gel and compare it for yourself.  

I also recently received an email from Jennifer Becker, offering to send me a copy of Living The Artist's Life, Updated and Revised, by Paul Dorrell.  Paul Dorrell is a well known gallery owner, founding Leopold Gallery in 1991.  I remember reading Paul's book years ago - this updated version is just as supportive as what I recalled, but I was also able to appreciate his insights at a much deeper level. 

Experience - our own, or that of others - is not static.   What I found particularly valuable in Paul's book is two-fold.  First, he writes as one artist to another, as someone who has dreamed, struggled creatively, faced rejection and success, and can articulate what perseverence is with a unique voice.  Second, he provides great insight into the art world from the retailer perspective - what it takes to make a sale, how small, and how large the art world is, and what challenges can at times seem insurmountable. Paul has shared his insight with the San Francisco Art Institute, the Art Students League of New York, the Boston Arts & Business Council, the Art Center of South Florida in Miami, and Pratt in Seattle, among dozens of other venues and artists.  And I recommend this book.

Not because Jennifer Becker sent me a free copy (which I appreciate.)

I recommend this book because, throughout the years Paul Dorrell has been the kind of partner we want, just as Scott Gellatly of Gamblin Artist's Oil Paints is the kind of partner we, as artists, want.  

And I choose to support them in return.

Click here to learn more about Scott Gellatly and Gamlin Artist's Colors

Click here to learn more about Paul Dorrell and the book Living the Artist's Life

Click below to learn more about my book Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist

"I could sure hear you in the book, very upbeat and encouraging...I also loaned your book to my Tucson art teacher and she let another friend of hers read it, too..."  TB, Tuscon, AZ

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist


Meaning Making

"Earth" photo by pschubert


There are times - no matter how strong we are, how successful or talented, we wonder if what we are doing really matters.

But take a moment. 

Just sit in silence and imagine the world. 

Imagine it spinning, with the outlines of all continents, the oceans.

Now think about the people who have purchased your art. See pinpoints of light shining in the dark, lighting up in the cities where these people live.

Think about the visitors to your website, for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, it doesn't matter. They saw something in your art that intrigued them, caught their attention.  Held meaning.  See their lights flickering on, blooming out around the world.

Think about the readers of your blog. Those who just scan the hadline, others who comment, even those who disagree with what you have to say.  See their lights.

Think about those you help through the sale of your artwork. The galleries, salespeople, framers. The people who create your magazine ads or work behind the scenes on the juried shows. I support Kiva with every art sale, so I see lights blinking on in Mongolia, Peru, El Salvador, Kenya, Turkey, Cambodia, on and on. 

Think about the random acts of kindness you perform, the donation in the red kettle outside the department store, the extra large tip you left the harried waitress who still managed to refill your coffee, the artwork you donated to the pre-school fundraiser. 

More lights, flickering on. 

You, your thoughts about art, your creative energy - more powerful and full of meaning than you think.

Just look at that earth shining in light. 



"I just purchased and read your book. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the info and will be following up on your blog. I turned 50 this year. I started my art career 3 years ago. I read as many art business and marketing books as I can but yours is the first I have found addressing starting out at 50." ~ RT, Oregon

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Old Sai Loses a Horse (or a Taoist Fable for Artists)

I was recently reminded of a Taoist (pronounced Dow-ist) fable.  There was a farmer, Old Sai, who had a horse to help him plow the fields, but one day the horse ran away.  All the village came to console the farmer on his loss, and the farmer said, "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?"

A few days later the horse returned, bringing with him several wild horses.  Everyone in the village gathered around the farmer and congratulated him on his good fortune.  But the farmer said, "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?"

The farmer's son decided to train one of the new horses, but was thrown to the ground, breaking his leg.  Again the villagers came to console the farmer, who only shrugged and said, "Good luck, bad luck, who is to know."  War broke out, and all the able-bodied men and boys went off to fight.  All were killed in battle except the farmer's only son, who had remained behind because of his broken leg.  When the villagers came to sadly congratulate the farmer he again merely nodded, and said, "Good luck, bad luck, who is to know."

This story is often used by business motivation experts, but it resonates with me because it describes my studio experiences. At any given hour my painting will have a "good luck" or "bad luck" point of view. Take, for example, my internal conversations that go something like this: "Brilliant block-in," followed a few hours later with "I can't believe you didn't see that design flaw."    Believe me, it's a big relief to realize that over two thousand years ago, Taoist teachers were trying to get their pupils to understand the same thing -  Yin Yang is everywhere.

The real difficulty in the Yin Yang aspect for me is that the more I learn, the more likely I am to identify with the villagers rather than the wise Old Sai.  I notice when I've done what seems like a poor job.  And because I notice, I want to fix it - which is just as likely to lead to more noticing of those bits and blobs that the fix has now thrown into obvious relief. 

It's really quite frustrating.

But not hopeless. With hard work, teeth-grinding patience, and a friendly nudge from the Taoist teachers, it is possible to wait a few hours (no, oil paint won't dry) to decide if that oops isn't really a stroke of genius in disguise.  Things are not always what they first appear to be - and in our fast-paced, highly competitive, being-in-the-moment artistic lifestyles, it's probably all right if you stop a few moments and just breathe. 



For what it's worth, it is possible to adhere to high standards and take a patient approach.  Chef Keith Floyd says this about cooking - which also applies to artists trying to follow the Taoist way:

"Cooking is an art and patience a virtue.. Careful shopping, fresh
ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need.
There is one more thing.. love. Love for food and love for
those you invite to your table. With a combination of these
things you can be an artist." ( from Art Quotes )