A Day in the Life of an Artist

 

 

A few weeks ago, I was visiting McDonald’s and I noticed an advertisement about artists where the tag line was, “Play like an Artist.” The advertisement featured a picture of a young child with art supplies in its mouth and surrounded by various artwork pieces, wearing, of course, the inevitable beret hat that defines a stereotypical vision of an artist. This advertisement highlights the prevailing beliefs in American culture that one, art is for kids and two that artists just play all day…

And what are some other common artist stereotypes? I did some research online to find out. On one blog called Endpaper, The Paperblanks Blog, the author listed a variety of so-called traits that all artists share in common. For example, all artists are out of touch with reality, perfectionist, a Casanova, moody or flakey.  Source: http://blog.paperblanks.com/2016/04/the-top-20-artist-stereotypes-you-cant-avoid/. Where did these stereotypes come from? My guess is that many of the celebrated artists that we have heard of from books or movies fit this stereotype, like Van Goh, who was mentally ill, or Picasso who was a lady’s man, or Monet who lived an impoverished lifestyle,  (before he was discovered by American art collectors).  And these stereotypes are continually reinforced by popular culture such as the well-known TV sitcom, Friends. For example, in one episode of Friends, the character, Ross, talks to his girlfriend Rachel about baby names and she suggests the name, Rain.  Ross responds with the following comment: “Hi my name is Rain. I have my own kiln and my dress is made of wheat!” Source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/who-art-thou. So if you are an artist, then you must be eccentric seems to be the message.

While there is some truth that art is an important part of child development and education and that there is some element of play in the life of an artist, it is not all fun.  For instance, according to, author, Grace Hwang Lynch, the art classes teaches children a variety of skills such as “fine motor skills, language development, decision making and visual learning.” Source:http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development/.   Also, regarding the element of play in art, there are times when art can be considered fun, like that light bulb moment when I get an inspiration for a new art series and feel excited about getting in the studio and making my vision come to life with paper and pencil or oil paint and canvas. However, it is not called art work for nothing. For example, in the case of a hobbyist artist who is trying to imitate a certain style of painting or get into an art show, or a professional artist who is trying to make a living out of their art, or someone who straddles both worlds as a semi-professional artist, who still works a day job to support them, there are many tasks involved in getting your art work ready to be viewed by the outside world in art shows, art festivals, etc. For example, in addition to juggling everyday demands, the artist must contend with a variety of other things such as: bad days in the studio when the artwork is not going well, difficult art clients, rejections for art shows or grants, working the day job, marketing yourself, perfecting your craft, etc., etc.  And if you want to become a professional artist, there are many, many hats to wear.

According to Art Business Coach, Alyson Stanfield, who is the author of, I’d rather be in the Studio! (2008), if you are trying to sell your artwork “You are no longer only an artist. You’re a businessperson as well.” For example, in my experience as a semi professional artist, I have found that there are many other administrative tasks that do not come under the category of “fun”, like accounting, marketing on social media, setting up online commerce sites such as Etsy or Shopify, writing custom art contracts, keeping time sheets, etc.  And with so many demands on my time, making time to actually do the art can be a real challenge.  I personally have struggled to make time to make art every day, and am currently participating in a 100 faces in 100 days challenge, where I am drawing one celebrity portrait a day, for 15 minutes a day and then posting the results on Instagram. I’m hoping this practice will enable me to be a better portrait artist and that it will help me to build the skills of discipline and time management.

By the way, the BBC has created a documentary tv series entitled, What Do Artists Do All Day?, which features several well known artists , such as Norman Ackroyd, and Michael Craig-Martin, which went live in 2014. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/49j3ZhwyXyPq703lDJzrNfc/what-do-artists-do-all-day. I haven’t seen this series yet, but I am wondering if the series will simply reinforce commonly held stereotypes of artists or hopefully, offer some more balanced insight into all the work that goes into making art.

 

How to Finish a Custom Art Piece (or any art for that matter)

Last week I posted about a custom art portrait I have been working on for my neighbor. It is a group portrait and has it ever been challenging! It is like painting three separate paintings rather than just one painting. What I didn’t share in last week’s post was how difficult it has been to finish this project, which I feel has been dragging. Although the project started out to be deceptively simple, with the colors and the drawing coming together in a few days, once I got to the smaller version of the painting, the trouble began.

I discovered that working small on a 5 x 7 canvas was extremely challenging. I am used to working on medium sized canvases of about a 9 x 12 size and using large brushes, either a one inch flat or a 2 inch bright. For this project, I have had to use tiny brushes and it has made it take all the longer to complete. Also, working in acrylic rather than oil has been really difficult because the paint keeps drying faster than I would like and I have to keep squeezing out more of it and spritzing it with water or adding slow dry medium to the paint.  When the paint dries too fast, I get really hard edges which aren’t good. I’m worried that this project might fall into the realm of being overworked if I am not careful, but I want both the client and myself to be happy. So far, neither of us are. I’ve set a deadline for myself and I hope that works! Yesterday I painted out the middle person’s face in frustration because the proportions were off and the paint values seemed to have been too dark. So I am starting from scratch with the middle figure’s face. I re-measured the head and drew a new oval and repainted the whole in flesh tone.

In an effort to finish this painting by the deadline, I have been scheduling in time to work on it every week, and have been taking pictures of it after each painting session to make sure that it is really progressing and not just getting overworked.  When will I know if the painting is really completed? I looked up an article on ThoughtCo. to try and get some more perspective on this subject. According to the author, Marion Boddy-Evans, the answer to when a painting is done is as individual as each artist who completes the work, based on their individual skills, and their vision for the work. Source: Boddy-Evans, M. (2017). How Long Should it Take to Finish a Painting?ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/duration-to-finish-a-painting-2578835. For me, it will be a difficult tightrope between not finishing it and over working it. Diane Custom Art Tanya face painted out

Custom Art Portrait, in Progress

This week I have been working on a custom art portrait for my neighbor. These photos represent stages 1 and 2 of the custom art process. The first stage is stage 1, the three value pencil sketch, and stage 2, the color sketch. The first stage helps to define the lights and darks of the piece and the composition. And the second stage is a chance to explore different color schemes for the final portrait. If you are interested in ordering a custom portrait of your family member, celebrity or pet, email me at

jsjschmidt2@gmail.com or visit my Etsy site: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtofSchmidt to learn more about the process.

Art of Schmidt Blog Post: Dealing with Rejection as an Artist

 

 

Rejection is something most artists deal with, especially when attempting to take their artwork to the next level of professionalism, i.e. entering juried art shows. It happens to all of us, and especially to artists who are brave enough to put their artwork out there into the world of juried shows. Often times it comes in the form letter, which is worded something like this: “Dear Artist, Thank you for participating in our show”, etc, etc. Bottom line, for whatever the reason, your artwork wasn’t selected. Maybe it didn’t fit the theme or style of the gallery you submitted it to, maybe it was just one person who didn’t like it, or maybe (gasp), it might be a sign that you need to up your game art wise. Whatever the cause, not knowing why your artwork wasn’t accepted into a juried show can cause a lot of insecurity, even making some artists want to give up making art or submitting it for further review.

I have certainly had my share of rejection, be it from art show jurors and I have even had some cutting critiques from people who have critiqued my art. Sometimes it makes me feel like giving up, and I need to take a break to re-group and think about why my work wasn’t accepted. On the other hand, at times these setbacks have led to further growth. For example, after one harsh critique from a well-known artist and teacher, I rebounded by asking myself if there was any truth in what the person said, and if so, how I could improve my artwork. Ultimately, I started trying to paint in a more colorful and impressionistic way, and I took a drawing class which helped me to improve my drawing skills. But it took several days and some encouraging words from an old friend and trusted art teacher to “shake the dust off”, so to speak.  I’m still working on not taking it too personally when I get a rejection letter for an art show because unless I talk to the actual juror, I can’t know why my work was rejected. And trying to figure that question out on my own, can lead to filling in the blanks with negative thoughts such as, “Maybe I don’t have any talent,” or something along those lines. This line of thinking is rarely helpful or productive for me.

I recently faced a rejection email from an art gallery where I had submitted what I thought was one of my finest portraits ever. I had gotten a lot of positive feedback about it on Instagram and put in many hours of work. I had carefully selected the theme, trying to make sure it would “fit” with the call for art motif of Inspiration. My expectations were high. Unfortunately, the jurors didn’t agree with me.  It’s been a few months since then and I just submitted another piece of artwork to a different gallery for review. A few years ago, that rejection would have taken me out of the game for several months, maybe even years. But now, I am trying to step back from the experience, process the emotion and see what can be learned from it.

So my next step is to try and submit my artwork for review and not the rejection keep me from moving forward and making more art. Below I attached the latest artwork I submitted,  for review, To Catch a Thief at The Artist Angle Gallery in Frederick, MD. The entry deadline for this latest show is June 10, 2017, so I should know whether the painting, To Catch a Thief, Reimagined was accepted. This newest painting is inspired by classic cars and the theme of driving. In addition, I used the movie, To Catch a Thief, as a springboard to get the composition and setting for this painting. I combined multiple photos from the movie, based in the French Riviera and stitched them together in Adobe Photoshop as a reference for this painting. This work was painted with acrylic on Ampersand board.

 

 

 

To Catch a Thief, Re-Imagined , Art Show Entry

Hello friends,

I am working on a new painting, To Catch a Thief, Re-imagined. This piece is acrylic on Ampersand board and is based on the Alfred Hitchcock movie, To Catch a Thief. I wanted to capture the feeling of movement and speed, so I blurred the paint strokes in the front to make the car seem like it is in motion. And I wanted to capture that vintage, the 1950s vibe, so I went wild with a bright color scheme of blue, blue-green, red, pink, and blue-violet.  Stay tuned and I will let you know what happens with my entry. If accepted into the art show at the Artists’ Angle Gallery in Frederick, MD, I will be sure to post the details about the time/place that the show takes place. To Catch a Thief, re-imagined

The Art of Finishing

The Art of Finishing

      This week I am returning to a favorite topic of mine which is the importance of completing a painting or work of art. I have several unfinished paintings and sketches pilling up in my studio lately. They are the remnants of ideas not fully thought out, false starts, or brick walls I didn’t know how to climb. In trying to figure out what caused this to happen, I have a few theories…Maybe life got really busy, I got stuck and didn’t know how to fix a problem with composition or color, lost interest in it, etc. I call these paintings and sketches, UFOS, unfinished objects. They clutter my studio, and remind me reproachfully that I have unfinished business. What to do, what to do?

       About two weeks ago, I tried to break this trend in my work flow habits, and I returned to a sketch that I have been working on and off for about a year. Facebook reminded me of this event this week with a post about the sketch, And Still I Rise.  The sketch is called, And Still I Rise, and it is based on a Maya Angelou poem entitled, And Still I Rise. This poem describes the struggle that African Americans have endured as a legacy of slavery, prejudice, and Jim Crow Laws of the South, and the power that they ultimately exercise when they rise above it. I’m sorry to say that my own ancestors played a part in the history of slavery and plantations.

        I’ve been looking at my various attempts to finish this sketch and make it into a painting, and the below photos demonstrate my struggles to complete the painting. Some of these struggles include: breaking out of old habits of just putting things in the middle of the page, or not really thinking about art as a story to be told, or not knowing what medium and color choices to use in telling a complicated story like this one. Ultimately, I decided to limit the color palette to burnt sienna, black, and white, with tonal values, so that the focus is ultimately on the symbolic content of the painting’s story line, such as:  the slave ships, slave manacles, (all to symbolize slavery), the phoenix bird (re-birth), and the sun (which rises every day). Two other central figures in this piece include a Caucasian woman, to symbolize the legacy of slavery and white prejudice, and the other, an African American woman, in this case, Maya Angelou, who serves as a representative of the African American population. She has risen above her circumstances and refuses to be beaten. Here are a few lines from the poem, which demonstrate Angelou’s indomitable spirit:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” (Source: Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org).

                 So why is this important? I feel that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and saw some growth happen, despite the frustration. Sticking with this sketch and making it into a tonal watercolor painting, forced me to re-think my art process and habits, and it has been helping me to define my unique voice as an artist, by making work that is content based and tells a story. It’s also been a good lesson in problem solving and determination. And I felt great when it was finally finished! Here are some progress photos, starting with the three value graphite sketch, oil painting, pastel, and finally the mixed media watercolor painting. The biggest inspiration I had in bringing this painting to a conclusion was Pablo Picasso’s, Rose Period. These paintings are limited in color and feature narratives about various characters, such as circus performers. Without the inspiration I received from this work, I doubt I could have brought it to a conclusion. All of which reminds me of an earlier post I wrote about the importance of copying master art works, in this case, they can provide new ways of thinking about value and color. I definitely want to keep studying the masters as I continue in my journey to define my voice as an artist. What about you? Do you have any tips for completing unfinished art?

 

  

The Girl with the Pearl Earring and the Phoenix Legend

A phoenix is a mythical bird that is a fire spirit with a colorful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet (or purple, blue, and green according to some legends). It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again.

Source: Wikipedia

 

I’m stealing this tidbit about the Native American legend of the Phoenix, from blogger, Julie Fan-Fei Balzer of Baltzer Designs because it seems so apropos to the struggle I am facing about how to start again on a failed painting that I started last week, Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Vermeer, painted in 1665. Source: Fan-Fei Balzer, J. (January 3, 2011). Like a Phoenix. Retrieved from http://balzerdesigns.typepad.com/balzer_designs/2011/01/like-a-phoenix.html.

In some ways, beginning a project over again after you are dissatisfied with it is like a death and re-birth. You have to let go of what isn’t working in your artwork (death) and be open to letting in what will work in a new piece of artwork, (birth). This process might include a new approach to the painting or a more positive mindset. I also feel that this symbol of the phoenix that lives, dies, and is reborn is a powerful affirmation, and I feel in need of that kind of empowerment this week to make the plunge and actually get to work on starting this new painting…

It seems that this week I have hit the wall on several creative fronts, whether it’s in writing this blog or maintaining a daily painting practice and finishing the projects I start. I have a collection of unfinished paintings and drawings that has been accumulating in my art studio. The process starts out something like this, I will see a reproduction of a painting in an art book and feel excited about the prospect of re-creating it myself, begin the work, and then get stuck because something isn’t working and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Then, out of frustration, I start up another painting just to try and move forward and not let too many days go by without painting or drawing.

All of this stagnation has brought me to a standstill and made me ponder some deep questions, such as: “What am I hoping to accomplish with this master copy series?”, “Why do I paint?, and “Who am I as an artist?”. Recent disappointments in my creative life and in my personal life have also contributed to my doubt and stagnation as an artist. I’ve had to work hard to dig myself out of this mire I have found myself in… And I have been opening myself up to other artistic sources in blogs and documentaries, such as artist/blogger, Julie Fan Fei Blazer’s blog, and a recent documentary by musician John Mayer, called Someday I’ll Fly on YouTube, to fill the creative well inside me.  Both have shared their journeys in the creative process, talking about their trials and successes, and most importantly about their craft. In his documentary, Someday I’ll Fly, Mayer talks about creativity as a battle to be fought, which all artists are fighting, and it definitely feels like a battle this week!

I’ve also started a new weekly drawing practice, working in a sketchbook with pre-planned subjects for each day so I won’t have to think about what to draw/paint, while I am trying to get up the courage to start this painting again. I’m hoping this forward motion will propel me to jump off the diving board and start this painting after a week of procrastination.

So here is my revised version of Girl with a Pearl Earring, ca. 1665, by Vermeer, painted with Gamblin 1980 oil paints on prepared canvas. I started with a brand new canvas for this painting and focused more on checking the proportions to the original painting as often as I could. This stage is called the under painting and it concentrates on the three main values in a painting of lightest, middle, and darkest. I used a burnt sienna oil paint and mixed it with titanium white for lighter areas while adding a mixture of ultramarine blue, viridian green and alizarin crimson to create my own black. To thin out the paints, I used a non-toxic, Solvent Free  Safflower Oil Gel made by Gamblin.  When this layer dries, I will be working on blocking in the local colors of flesh tones, the blue and yellow turban and the yellow ochre coat with fur collar. I will also be delving into some of the questions I asked in this blog about why I paint and what I hope to accomplish with this master copies series.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, After Vermeer, re-do
Girl with a Pearl Earring, After Vermeer, Jodie Schmidt, 2017

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Meisje_met_de_parel
Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer, 1665.

 

 

What to do When a Painting Goes Wrong

I was hesitant to write this blog post for a number of reasons. For one, I wasn’t sure what to write about after last week’s blog, and for another, I wasn’t pleased with how my painting turned out. And so I didn’t really want to post photos of a painting I wasn’t pleased with. Despite the many hours I put into this painting, it didn’t look like the painting I was copying, Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Vermeer, ca. 1665. I researched Vermeer’s techniques and palette colors online, practiced my sketching, both freehand and with a grid. Painstakingly I mixed up the paint colors and compared my color mixtures to the reproduction images of Girl with a Pearl Earring. And yet, something was off…Was it the colors, the painting techniques, or the drawing that was wrong?

So I took some time off and made some revisions to the color choices and the drawing. And I am still not pleased. I feel I have not captured the “look” of this painting. So I am giving myself permission to start over, from scratch and not try to keep “fixing” the old painting. Meanwhile, this process has made me think of the question, What should you do when a painting goes wrong? Should you, trash it, start over, cut it up into smaller pieces and create something new, make it a mixed media piece, take a break, etc? To investigate this topic, I did a google search and looked up a few articles. One article that stood out for me was, a blog post from Painting My World: Daily Pastel Paintings by Karen Margulis PSA: What do you do when a painting goes bad? Thursday, January 19th, 2012, http://www.kemstudios.blogspot.com.

The artist and blogger Karen Margulis listed a few tips for revising a painting that isn’t going in a direction that you like. Some of her tips include 1.) thinking about what things you want to change in the painting, 2.) Take the paint completely off of an area you’d like to change, 3.) take a drastic measure, such as painting a wash, and 4.) Use a viewfinder and crop out sections that you like. Source: Margulis, 2012. How about you? Do you have any tips to share about what to do when a painting goes wrong? As for me, I am starting over again from scratch, starting with the drawing of Vermeer’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring, ca. 1665. After taking time away from the painting, two things stand out for me that bother me about this painting, and they are the drawing inaccuracies and the skin tones. My version does not resemble the original girl’s features and the skin tone looks washed out instead of glowing, like the original.

Vermeer Copy Secondary Color Lay in
Girl with a Pearl Earring, After Vermeer, Jodie Schmidt.

 

Master Copy, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tutorial: How to Mix colors

Last week I demonstrated how to start a master copy of the painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Vermeer, ca. 1656. I demonstrated the initial stages of selecting a color copy reference of the painting, explained how to draw a grid, described a method of tracing by using a window and finished up with a demonstration on how to paint a three value painting including white, gray, and black paint. Today I will explain the process of transforming a three value painting to an initial color lay in painting.

Step One: Use Three Value Painting as a Guide to Identify Lights and Darks

Now that the painting has three values, white, gray and black I can use that as a guide to finding the lights and darks in the painting. I began the initial color lay in by trying to break down the main colors I see in the color reproduction of, Girl with a Pearl Earring. The seven main colors I noted in this painting were: Blue, Yellow, Yellow Ochre, White, Black, and a light flesh tone. I got the idea to do an initial color lay in from the book I mentioned last week, The Complete Oil Painter, by Brian Gorst. I laid out these basic colors from Liquitex Acrylic Paint brand on my palette: yellow ochre, titanium white, ultramarine blue, napthithol crimson, burnt sienna, ivory black, primary yellow. I added tomato red to my palette as a substitute for alizarin crimson. Using a palette knife, I began mixing up the colors I wanted using large amounts of paint to make nice large piles of paint, which I call a color string.  I began the painting by starting with the darkest value which was a bluish black in the background of the painting. To create this dark value, I mixed ultramarine blue and ivory black.

After I had established the darkest value and painted in the background area or negative space, I started painting in the middle values such as the blue turban, the gold robe, the light yellow scarf, and the fairly light skin tone. For each color, I mixed up two values one was darker and the other was lighter. To make lighter values, I added small amounts of white to the pre-mixed initial local color. And to darken a color, I added ultramarine blue or burnt sienna. I reserved using black for the darkest colors. Periodically, I sprayed the canvas and the palette with water to keep the paints wet, so they wouldn’t dry out. I saved the lightest lights for last, such as the whites of the eye, the fur collar and the highlights in the eyes and mouth. To keep the edges between each value soft, I painted quickly, using two large brushes with light and dark values painted right next to each other and allowed them to “melt” into each other. This technique is called painting wet into wet, and keeps the painting from having harsh outlines. After I had painted out all the white areas, I began painting in the shadowed areas of the painting, including the face, the turban, the scarf, and the robe. Important: Remember to wash out your brushes in a water jar every time you switch colors and use a paper towel to dry off the paint brush so it won’t get too watery. Also, make sure that the paint doesn’t dry on your brushes and be sure to clean each brush thouroughly in water after you complete a painting session.

Step Two: Take a Break from Painting

This next step of taking a break, may seem counterintuitive, but I find it helps me to be more objective about a painting’s progress. After I completed the initial painting session, I took a break for several days to get a fresh take on it. When I returned to the painting, I wrote down a list of things I would like to change and I checked the facial proportions to be sure that the drawing was correct. In the next session, I corrected things like proportions, added shadows with a glazing technique,  and tried to make more accurate color matches. To help obtain more accurate color mixtures, I researched Vermeer’s palette and painting techniques. And to create the glazed shadow areas in this painting, I used a Slow Dri blending medium by Liquitex in my darker paint mixtures to thin out the consistency of the paint.