http://www.artcalendar.com/home.asp Art Calendar is a very helpful business magazine. My favorite writer is Jack White, to whom I refer occasionally as my “guru”. Three plus years ago the magazine carried an article by him that bluntly stated pencil was almost a guarantee of poverty and oil was the road to success. After I came to and remembered to breathe, I began considering this. It took considerable conversations with my husband, other artists, God and myself before I was willing to even picture myself painting. (To quote my friend S, I had “anal myopia” – just couldn’t see my arse going there!) There were many signs that it was the logical next step, and many offers of help. After a number of attempts to find a teacher, I gave in to Jack’s wisdom that there is not a thing wrong with being “self- taught”. The truth is that I have been taught by friends, books, videos, lots of practice and 2 teachers whose classes I quit halfway through!
These are some of my earliest oranges.
I suppose if you could see both in person or if my photography was more consistent, you could see the difference in the level of skill. But, here’s a bit more myopia for you, in these photos I can only see the difference in my signature!
In case you were wondering, I am still painting like a maniac. The Art Co-op grand opening on August 7 is fast approaching so I am making lots of new pictures for the occasion. See?This is layer #2.The top columbine is upside down because sometimes I mess up like that. When it dries, I will reverse the wire! It will hang in Sequoia Village Inn (right-side up) in the chalet called Columbine. Duh.
This title isn’t the description of a good computer and a bad car; it is the title of a terrific colored pencil drawing by one of my drawing students! Look at this:
Char has been drawing with me for 3 (or 4 or 5? time flies!) years. She works in graphite, and has a unique way of finding photos and then using bits and pieces to make the design her own. As she draws during lessons, she listens to those around her learning to work in colored pencil. The amount of pencils, the cost of those pencils, the decisions required to select the correct pencil – it all added up to a conclusion that colored pencil is too much trouble. Then, we got talking about using just the primaries as I do in oil painting. We discussed doing colored pencil drawings with just a box of 12 pencils. Char was interested and ordered a box of Faber-Castell Polychromos, a very fine brand. We talked about the color wheel; I showed her some techniques and we did some color matching. I recommended a subject that had as few colors as possible, and this drawing is CHAR’S VERY FIRST COLORED PENCIL PIECE!! It is true! Isn’t this wonderful??
The Road to Alta – oil on wrapped canvas – 8×10″ – $85
Because of the internet, keeping in touch and getting found is much more likely than in the “olden days”. About four years ago, I caved in to the pressure to keep up (who keeps moving that cheese??) and had a website designed by http://www.mvwebdesign.com/. People who don’t have websites or who are new to websites often ask how sales are from the web. The answer is that the site acts as a catalog and brochure rather than a store. Sales do occur, but usually I am doing business with people I know who simply contact me to make purchases. (If I were one of the Big Boys, it would probably be different, but I am content to stay local.) In this current era, having a website lends legitimacy to a business. Weird that such an intangible is so necessary to appear bona fide! http://www.cabinart.net/index.htm
Did you know that public speaking is most people’s biggest fear, ahead of death? Wow! That isn’t my greatest fear; in fact, I enjoy speaking about my artwork. (Such a narcissistic person!) In the past few years I have been asked to speak for several different groups, most recently on Saturday.The Mineral King Preservation Society had its annual Picnic in the Park. A historic person, Mary Trauger, spoke first and filled us in on life during the mining days. Then a current person, me, spoke about the Mineral King Mural. Despite the bridge being closed, there was a great turnout! Look at these folks:We dodged the rain bullet – a few drops, but nothing measurable. I forgot to say that my paintings were for sale! What a missed opportunity, but Exeter, A Festival of Arts did quite well on the mugs, mouse pads and tee-shirts! 😎 I make funny faces when I talk, but we all had a good time!
I LOVE working at my own address, but there are a certain drawbacks to having a business at one’s home. The temptation to do other things, the NEED to do other things (like laundry, watering, paying bills) is always in one’s face. There is no driving away from home and focusing on work.
Another consequence of an at-home business is the reality of “out of sight, out of mind” rather than “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. The marketing efforts need to be stepped up, because no one is going to wander into the studio by accident. About 4 years ago, it became apparent that more change needed to take place. I’ll tell you about that in Growth, Part Seven!
After about 9 years and on the fourth address for cabinart, it became apparent that notecards were fading fast, and the local market for house and cabin commissioned drawings was getting saturated. The next step? Portraits! I had skirted around this subject for years, refusing commissions, terrified of not being able to capture a likeness. This was and is a reasonable fear. If someone pays you to draw Steve, they expect you to draw Steve, not his cousin! Faces are so subtly different; we all have the same components, and yet we most definitely do not look like one another. (However, I do tend to get all the cookie-cutter blondies on The O’Reilly Factor mixed up. . . )
What to do? This was a brick wall on which I had been bashing my head for years. A wise friend said, “Why don’t you pray about it?” Duh. So, I did. Within the year, the CPSA offered 2 separate workshops on colored pencil portraiture, and the principles definitely crossed over to graphite. I was on my way in portraits! However, this will always be a difficult subject for me; unless I pray through each and every portrait, I do tend to draw the guy’s cousin. The subtle differences can just divert a face from the intended person to a stranger or a distance relative with a slight mis-stroke of the pencil.
Just Picked – colored pencil – 18 x 21″ – $550
Just when I thought I “had it made” and was settling in to The One Way To Do An Art Business, several of my students wanted to learn colored pencil. In high school, my friend Lisa thought watercolors were for babies, and I had the same opinion of colored pencils. First, I had to find a new attitude toward colored pencils; second I had to learn to use them correctly. This happened through books and the Colored Pencil Society of America. They offer seminars and workshops that are phenomenal in their variety and scope – this is a wonderful organization. http://www.cpsa.org/
The next step in the saga of growing an art business was teaching people how to draw. It has always been a very rewarding challenge to help people learn to see, to break down the process into manageable steps and to spend time with wonderful people that I might never have gotten the chance to know. That grew, and eventually I had to move somewhere that gave me the flexibility to teach more classes. Over time, the list of people wanting to take lessons expanded to 85 people! I had as many as 50 students at one time in classes of 4-5 per hour.
Pencil drawing by S. Brown – private collection