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Artists and Self-Doubt: A Perennial problem and what to do about it

What is Self-Doubt?

 In my last post, I talked about some marketing techniques for artists, such as: why artists need to create a portfolio, but this week, the topic that resonates most with me is self-doubt. I know it sounds kind of depressing; however, I am trying to be more authentic in what I write about on this blog and not just what seems popular or trendy. And I promise I will end this blog post on a positive note. I believe that having self-doubt as an artist can really create obstacles to making more artwork, or having the confidence to step out and show the world your art.  Sometimes it can cause an artist to stop making art altogether, whether it’s for a few days, weeks or sometimes even years. I know this from personal experience from several bouts of artist’s block and countless doubts about my abilities as an artist. Somehow, though if you want to get your artwork into public spaces and out of your studio, you have to find a way through this issue, because without artwork artists cannot promote themselves, period. In her own words, Alyson Stanfield states: “If you are not consistently producing art, then you have nothing to take out of the studio and market. Remember you are an artist first and foremost. Your career starts in the studio.”(Source: “Alyson Stanfield Shares Her Ten Best Art Marketing Tips,”Artwork Archive, https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/alyson-stanfield-shares-her-10-best-art-marketing-tips, retrieved, 03/15/18).

What is an example of Self-Doubt?

 Here are a few examples of self-doubt, which I am citing from an article, entitled, “5 Fears that Can Destroy an Artist,” from the Skinny Artist website, https://skinnyartist.com/. For example, one common type of self-doubt that artists face is, “I’m not good enough.”(ibid)   In the interest of space, I am just going to focus on the first type of self-doubt, listed in the above-mentioned article. According to the author, Drew Kimble, the first type of self-doubt, describes an artist’s doubts in their craftsmanship and skill, and this is one of the most common types. (ibid) For example, as artists we are creating items that are not entirely essential, and that meets basic needs such as food, water, shelter, health, etc. (ibid) For instance, when times are tough and money is short, items that are not considered a necessity are often the first to be cut back from one’s budget. (ibid) Things like, “books, music, movies, art, performances,”are frequently considered to be an indulgence. (ibid)

What Causes Self-Doubt?

 You might ask what things can cause self-doubt for artists. This is a question that has many answers…Sometimes it may be a rejection form letter that comes in the mail for an art show, and it’s not the first one you’ve gotten. In fact, the number of rejections is beginning to grow. You will most likely get some sort of form letter stating something to the effect, Thank you for applying to this (blank) art show, but unfortunately, we were unable to select your work for this show. Please apply next time, etc. Or maybe, your cherished dream of getting into a graduate school program to study art did not work out, and it has made you wonder why you were not selected. Questions begin to swirl in your mind and you wonder, “Am I just not good enough?” or,” Why didn’t they choose my artwork, or why wasn’t I accepted to that particular art program?” The worst part about this type of situation is that you often can’t know why your art wasn’t selected unless you take the plunge and ask the art gallery director or dean for some feedback about your art. Sometimes, jurors or other decision makers might answer your question about why you didn’t get into the show, or the dean of the graduate school might give you some feedback about why you weren’t accepted into the graduate school program. If you can find out the reasons why for these types of rejections, especially if it’s in the form of constructive feedback, it can be very useful, to getting unblocked in your art practice, and start making progress toward your goals.

What can you do With Constructive Feedback about Your Art?

Maybe it means that your artwork didn’t fit with the style of that gallery, and you need to find a gallery that is a better fit. On the other hand, maybe you need to work on your portfolio some more and your artist statement to be sure that they both re-enforce each other. For example, I did get the chance to ask the admissions office of James Madison University why I wasn’t accepted into their painting program, and they were very gracious in their response with some specific guidelines about applying again. The dean suggested that I show my ideas and artwork to some art faculty members first, to get some feedback before re-applying for the art program. Ultimately, I decided not to re-apply for a number of reasons, but the feedback was helpful. So, what is an artist to do? Give in the feelings, press on anyway, take a break from painting and go on a vacation to Tahiti and avoid the whole problem until it hopefully, magically goes away?

What Can Artists Do to Alleviate Self-Doubt?

 Although this type of self-doubt may always be an issue for artists, there are some things that artists can do to challenge self-doubt, and re-evaluate how they think about their abilities. For instance, artists can complete a short-term art challenge, such as the Draw this Again meme, which was posted on the website, Deviant Art.com. This challenge charts the progress of several artists’ skills over time with photos of past and present artwork of the same subject, i.e. portraits. These artworks can be completed in whatever medium the artist wishes to work in, some of which include drawing and digital art. It is truly amazing to see what some time and practice can do when you look at the before and after photos. I’m going to try this challenge myself, between blogging, custom art orders, and building up a new portfolio in my “almost” daily sketchbook.  I’m hoping this challenge will help me to get out of my own pit of self-pity and passivity, and start picking up the brush more often, to see that change is possible and that growth in my skills as an artist is up to me. It’s been a week since I started writing this post, and I just completed a self-portrait painting to compare it to an older self-portrait that I painted as a student at McDaniel College in 2005, to do more own version of Deviant Art meme, Draw this Again. Next week, I will elaborate some more on other types of self-doubt that artists experience and hopefully, I can provide you with some helpful tips for overcoming these hurdles, especially the negative self-talk that seems to fuel the artist block and self-doubt.

self-portrait 2005, flat
Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, 2005, Jodie Schmidt.
self-portrait 2018m flat
Self-Portrait, oil on prepared paper, 2017, Jodie Schmidt.

 

 

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Portfolio Formats: Which is Right for You?

 

 

Being an Artist: An Unconventional Career Path

 

As promised, I am elaborating about marketing techniques as part of a series which will feature artist portfolios. Part 1 of this series will be about artist portfolios, and subsequent parts will follow as I research and discover content that I deem to be helpful to other artists as they travel this unconventional career path. For example, in my limited experience of this being a professional artist is a path like no other career, in that it is often difficult to navigate and make decisions about how to advance you. There are countless books, articles, and blogs that promise instant success or even urge you to quit your day job and do art full-time, or seem to imply that notion with titles like, Starving to Successful. Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t really make about its value to judgment artists. 

It’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, and know what to believe or apply to your career. In addition, other career paths such as Nursing, Social Work, Teaching, etc., seem to have a more definite path, which includes: obtaining the degree, often a masters degree, procuring experience in internships, volunteer opportunities, etc., learning to network, writing a killer resume, learning to sell yourself, etc. It is my hope that these articles will bring clarity and direction to your journey as an artist, in whatever form that may take, whether you are a hobby artist, an amateur artist, or a professional artist. But I digress. Ok, so to the topic of the week “What portfolio format options are available to artists?” More importantly, what are the pros and cons of each format?

Artist Portfolios: Why are they Important?

To investigate this topic in greater depth, I read an article entitled, “How to Create a Powerful Art Portfolio,” from Lori McNee’s website, Art and Fine Art Tips. This article was written by guest blogger, Jason Horejs, who is the owner of Xanadu Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, and an astute art business consultant.  Horejs states that, for artists, their portfolio is their resume and that it helps them to gain the attention of gallery owners, potential collectors, etc. (Horejs, 2009).

What Types of Artist Portfolios Exist? An Overview

According to Jason Horejs, there are three main formats for portfolios. They include, but may not be limited to 1.) The CD; which is inundated with “digital images,” of your art, and an affordable option, 2.) the printed book, published by an online provider such as Blurb.com, and 3.) The Presentation Folder, which is a binder that you fill up with clear plastic folders to house prints of your current artwork.  All have both pluses and minuses, although Horejs’ favorite format is the presentation folder. (ibid) In his view, this option makes it easy and inexpensive to update, plus gallery owners don’t have to even open up a computer program to view your artwork, and perhaps, find out to their dismay that your images on CD are not compatible with their PC or Mac computer. (ibid) In the interests of length, I will just discuss two options for portfolios and they are the published book and the presentation folder.

Art Portfolio Option 1: Published Book

Another option for art portfolio formats is to create a published book of your best works through online printing. (ibid)  Web sites such as Blurb.com and mypublisher.com can reproduce your artwork in a book format. (ibid) On the other hand, this format can quickly become obsolete as you develop your body of work over time, and if you want to use it, you will have to keep updating and re-printing it to stay current. (ibid)  This option can be a nice addition if you have a booth of your work at an art festival. (ibid)  For example, having a book about your artwork on hand can serve a talking point for potential customers who may ask the question that I dread most, “What is your art about?” (ibid)

Art Portfolio Option2: Presentation Folder

A final option and Horej’s favorite is the “Presentation Folder”. (ibid) This type of portfolio can be purchased at stores such as Staples, Office Depot and others. (ibid) These can be duplicated as many times as you need for the distribution of your portfolio to art galleries or other decision makers. (ibid) To illustrate your portfolio, print your digital images from a “high-quality inkjet printer,” and put the printed pages into your folder. Be sure to include details about the work in your portfolio such as title, medium, etc. (ibid). Remember, not to include every piece of artwork you’ve made since your first art class! Horejs recommends 20-35 images maximum to be included in your portfolio. (ibid) If you are in doubt about what pieces to include, consult a trusted friend, teacher, mentor, etc., to give you an objective opinion.

Dad and I
Dad and I, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
A Life Remembered 034
Dad and Phyllis, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
Dad and I (Birthday)
The Gift, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
Dad and 1929 Ford
Dad and his 1929 Ford, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.

Also, it might help to spread out various works of your artwork and look for patterns that define your style and subject matter of choice as an artist. Is it color, Texture, Line, Repetition, or a specific subject or topic that lights you up? What things do you like to draw paint or sculpt the most? Is it animals, architecture, landscapes, still life or portrait? Defining these attributes about your artwork will ensure that it has a consistent look to the portfolio, and it will help you know how to share your artwork when people ask you about it.

What has been my experience with Artist Portfolios?

As for me, it’s been many years since I have assembled and distributed a portfolio for an art show or for anything else. The first example that comes to mind is, my senior year at McDaniel College, in which I created a senior art project based on self-portraits painted in oil. The format I chose to organize my art was a PowerPoint presentation on CD. My second experience with building an art portfolio was when I applied to graduate school for a masters degree in Studio Art. This time, I used 35 milimiterFuji color slide film to record my artwork because that was the method that the schools had required in the application process. Both examples were from many years ago, in 2005 and in 2006 respectively, and obviously, the options have changed. I confess I haven’t kept current with all the new options for displaying portfolio work, for a variety of reasons. For one thing,  I’ve had an ambivalent relationship with art for a long time, going from being fully engaged and filled with dreams and ambitions, to self-doubt, and even extended breaks from making art, and exploring other career paths through college classes, volunteering, etc. Somehow though, I always end up returning to making art.

I am still figuring out what level of involvement I want to have with art. I think my current level of involvement is now an amateur artist, as I have been trying to move in a more professional direction, by requiring that clients sign contracts for my custom art pieces to secure my services, as well as asking them for a non-refundable deposit of 50% of the custom art price.  However, I have not yet been able to make a living from it yet. The earnings are always inconsistent from month to month, even when I really hustle and do lots of art shows, and events to advertise my art. I’m keeping my day job so I can focus on making art and not be worrying about paying the bills.

So what’s my next step? At the moment, I am working on reassembling a new and improved portfolio that reflects my current style, medium and subject matter of choice. A big part of meeting that goal is working in my sketchbook, Draw Every day, Draw Every Way: Sketch, Paint, and Doodle through One Creative Year, by Julia Orkin-Lewis. Here’s a link that describes the book in more detail, in case you are interested: http://augustwren.com/draw-every-day-book/. I’m including some of my sketches from this book that I made with pencil and colored pencil to give you an idea of how the book is structured.

 

 

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Why Do Artists Need a Portfolio? Part 1

Time seems to be getting away from me lately; working long hours at my part-time job, keeping my house clean and neat, cooking, running errands, etc. I’ve had precious little time lately to do art, or even to blog, or think much about the when/how/what, I want to blog about. My thoughts have been scattered like so many leaves on the wind, and my content ideas for this week’s blog post have ranged from marketing tips for artists to ideas for making time for art, and finally to the reason why artists need a portfolio. And I have come to the conclusion that I might have put the cart before the art because before artists can market their artwork, they need a substantial body of work to choose from with a concentrated theme and a style. However, before I get into a lot of detail about why artists need a portfolio to help market themselves to galleries, etc., I want to provide a definition of an artist’s portfolio. What is it? An artist’s portfolio is a visual reproduction of an artist’s work, often displayed as photo reproductions in a removable file folder, and other formats may include a printed book of an artist’s artwork, or a CD with jpeg images, or other formats such as online portfolio, “which showcases an artist’s style or method of work.” (Source: Wikipedia, “Artist’s Portfolio,” retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist%27s),  a portfolio can be used by artists to show employers and gallery owners the artist’s collection of best works, often limited to a specific medium and theme for clarity and cohesiveness (ibid).

To investigate this idea more fully, I did some research via my favorite source, the World Wide Web. According to an article entitled, “6 Things You Can Do To Promote Your Art”, by Agora Gallery staff, A compelling  portfolio will help artists to create “branding and packaging.” (www.agora-gallery.com) In addition, a portfolio paves the way for artists to enter art competitions “post on their website,” and create marketing materials (ibid), such as brochures, business cards, fliers, etc. Furthermore, a crucial aspect of an artist’s portfolio is the “visual reproduction,” of an artist’s art, because the quality of your art reproductions, (ibid) whether it is in photographs or prints,  will play a crucial role in capturing your potential fans and customers and turning them into followers. This is especially true of visual heavy sites such as Instagram and Pinterest.

High-quality photography is a must for an artist’s website, social media postings, portfolio, commerce shops or online galleries, etc… To stand out from the competition, Artists need their artwork to shine above all, not for their followers to focus on bad photographs, with fuzzy or blurred images that are dark and badly composed. These flaws will detract from an artist’s work. Although some experts will advise artists to hire professional photographers to exclusively document their work, I have a different take on this issue. I think artists should do whatever works best for them, rather than a hard and fast rule like this one. I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to afford the fees from professional photographers as an emerging artist. For example, one of the choices I have made in order to make time for art is to work part-time. There are both pluses and minuses of this life choice, and while it affords me additional time to work on art while I am at my best, (during early afternoon hours) it also limits the amount of money I have to spend on art supplies, marketing, etc.  My solution for photography is to take my own photos and learn how to do this skillfully. If artists want to learn how to take their own photos, they can learn this skill through a variety of avenues, such as reading photography books from their library, taking photography classes at their local community colleges, and experimenting with different cameras, lighting, and tripods, etc. I also recommend an article called,” 4 Steps to Photographing Your Art”, by Art Archive, which can be retrieved at https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/4-steps-to-photographing-your-art-like-a-professional.

If you can afford a professional photographer, by all means, do some research and seek out professional recommendations from trusted friends and family. But be sure the photographer in question has experience in taking photos of art. Here are some tips from Agora Gallery offers regarding the content of an artist’s portfolio: 1.) Use high-quality photos to document your art, 2.) Include a brief and compelling description of each artwork, include information such as: “size, title, media”. Also be sure to include a succinct description which describes the art. 3.) Tell a story about your art if you can, what inspired you to do the work, etc. 4.) Include a strong biography which describes your backstory as an artist, such as your journey as an artist, etc. (Source: Agora Gallery, “6 Things You Can Do To Promote Your Art”, retrieved from www.agora-gallery.com).   Make sure it isn’t generic, and that it sets you apart from other artists. As you write your biography, think about the first page of your favorite book and why it moves you or grabs your attention and makes you want to turn the page to find out what happens next.

Please note that it is very important to limit the number of images that you include in your art portfolio and be sure that there is a consistency in style and theme, as part of your branding. (Source: “Artists: Are you Consistent? A Gallery Owner’s Perspective,” Jason Horejs, November 3, 2017, retrieved from http://reddotblog.com/artists-are-you-consistent-a-gallery-owners-perspective-3/).  Do not attempt to include every item of artwork you have made in your portfolio. (ibid) Only include your best work. To narrow your focus, it might help you to write an artist’s statement, which describes the themes and context of your work and what makes it unique. To learn more about an artist statement, go to the following link:  http://www.saic.edu/media/saic/pdfs/lifesaic/careerco-opcenter/workingartistsseries/Handout_WorkingArtist_WritingYourArtistStatement.pdf.

In this post, I have included some oil paintings I completed during my senior year at McDaniel College as part of my senior studio final project. These help explain the concept of consistency in style, subject matter, and medium, as they are all self-portraits, executed in oil paints in an impressionistic style. The theme of these works was to illustrate different feelings expressed in the lyrics of songwriter, Sting. Some of the songs that inspired these works are: Lithium Sunset, Secret Journey and Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot. Many of these songs express struggles with failure, depression, making choices,  getting back up again and making sense of the world. Here is a brief lyric from Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot:

When you’re down and they’re counting
When your secrets all found out
When your troubles take to mounting
When the map you have leads you to doubt
When there’s no information
And the compass turns to nowhere that you know well
Let your soul be your pilot (Source: http://www.sting.com/discography/lyrics/lyric/song/176)

It is also important to do research about potential galleries you would like to exhibit your artwork before you send out your portfolio to galleries. For example, you might want to read their website and look at the work of artists that they already represent to get an idea of what style, mediums they gravitate towards, the gallery’s philosophy, etc. You might even want to make a drive to visit the gallery in person and meet the staff

Lithium Sunset, self-portrait
Another self-portrait from my art student years. Lithium Sunset, 2005, Jodie Schmidt, Oil on Canvas.
Self-Portrait in red
Self-Portrait with Red Shirt, 2004, Jodie Schmidt, oil.
Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot, Self-portrait
Here is a self-portrait I painted during my years as an art student at McDaniel College. Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot, 2005, Jodie Schmidt, Oil.
Self-Portrait with scenery
Self-Portrait with Scenery, Oil on Canvas, 2004.

if that is possible. This will give you an idea of what their customer service is like, and if you might mesh well with the gallery staff or not. Remember to be strategic about your choices for art competitions and gallery submissions, and look for opportunities that will be a good fit for your art.

Thanks for stopping by! I am planning to write about the topic of how artists can market their work as a series, to follow up this week’s post on why artists need a portfolio. Next week’s blog post will describe the concept of artist portfolios in more detail and all the different formats which are available.One final thought before I close, before you can make a portfolio, you must be putting in the hours in your studio and make art as much as possible, nights, weekends, etc. Also, it is important to invest time in learning and developing your specific medium of choice and style. This may not happen overnight and it takes time. After all, if you aren’t making art, you have nothing to promote.

 

 

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How Can Artists Protect Their Art Online?

In a follow up from last week’s blog post about copyright infringement and how to avoid it, I am looking at the other side of the coin and investigating how artists can protect their work from being stolen online.  However, I must offer the caveat shared by Drew Kimble, author of the article, “Stop Stealing My Sh*t,” that there is no foolproof guarantee that any of these measures can protect an artist’s work. Indeed, according to Kimble, if a thief has the technological know-how, they can steal an artist’s work. However, in the words of Kimble, there are strategies which can be used in an effort to deter thieves from unlawfully using an artist’s content.

One of these methods which artists can use to protect their artwork is called watermarking (Kimble, https://skinnyartist.com/stop-stealing-my-images/   . This approach involves creating a mark in a photo editing program, such as PhotoShop, often incorporating your name and the year in which you created the art. (ibid) I first learned about this technique when I was taking a Business of Art Class, taught by local photographer and art business coach, Rebecca La Chance, of Thurmont, MD. Previously to taking this class, I had not thought about protecting my artwork very much, as I had viewed it more as a hobby than a business. However, since 2017, when I made the shift from hobby artist to art business entrepreneur, I have been thinking more about the issue of copyright, both with regard to avoiding copyright infringement, and also how to protect my artwork from being stolen. As I started to do research about copyright infringement, I was shocked about how much art online has been copied wholesale from celebrity photographs and is for sale as handmade art on websites such as Etsy. And there is no way to know with certainty that the artist who made this artwork actually asked the photographer for permission to use their source as a reference for their art.

It is one thing to copy another artist’s work in order to learn from it and to give credit to that artist, as I have done with my master copies. However, it’s quite another thing to steal another artist’s work and take the credit for it. I’d like to think that some artists are ignorant about this issue, and to give them the benefit of the doubt. I hope that is true, but I don’t know if that is true in all cases. Copyright infringement certainly wasn’t a topic that came up in my art classes at college. However, I think it should be addressed, since these college courses in graphic design, painting, illustration, and photography are supposed to prepare artists for the professional world after they graduate, as graphic designers, animators, photographers, professional illustrators, and artists, etc.

More to the point, I think artists who steal others artwork are robbing themselves of the opportunity to create their own work and grow as artists. Although it may take more effort to take your own photos, the hard work is well worth it, because you get an opportunity to learn about the principles of composition, light, etc., and these fundamentals are critical components of making art in any medium.  These principles can help you make higher quality art in general, as composition and lighting are important aspects of making attractive artwork.

On the other hand, I admit that when I was a teenager, I used celebrity photographs to learn how to draw portraits from magazine covers. The truth is, I had no clue about copyright laws at the time. But, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t offer these drawings for sale or display at an art gallery or any of my commerce shops, such as Etsy and Red Bubble. I have also used the celebrity photos as a learning tool in my 100 faces in 100 days drawing challenge, but these drawings were not for sale, and I frequently gave credit to the photographer’s name in my Instagram posts. I feel now though, that I want to step it up a notch, and not even use copy written photos at all as a reference, but to search for public domain photos, or better yet, learn to take good photos of my own, so that the artwork I create can be more original.

Of course, the issue of artistic theft is not a new one, because, in the past, art was stolen by artists who made forgeries of other artists work such as the famous case of the so-called Vermeer paintings, (i.e. Amsterdam vs. Han Van Meegren (1947). Source: “The Essential Vermeer,” retrieved from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/misc/van meegren.html. So with all this being said, should artists stop making their art available to others through the World Wide Web or not? And if artists decide to post their art online, what are the options to protect their art from thieves? To make this decision, I think artists need to weigh the pros and cons of posting their artwork online to decide how to market their art. And they also need to look at the options available to them to safeguard their artwork online by researching different methods, such as watermarking, slice and dice, disable right click, and shrink wrapping, (Kimble, https://skinnyartist.com/stop-stealing-my-images).

On the benefits side of posting artwork online, artists can gain a wider level of exposure for their artwork than ever before, on a worldwide level, (ibid) by using the world wide web to post their artwork on social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram. They can also sell their artwork online through online galleries such as Art Fire or Daily Paintworks. In the past, such opportunities did not exist and artists were completely dependent on currying the favor of art gallery owners in order to obtain a platform for their artwork. Now, any artist can get their artwork into the public eye without having to pay for application fees. If you have electricity, an internet connection, computer, and cell phone, you can post your artwork to a plethora of websites, for a minimal expense. Added to the social media channels I have already mentioned, are online art galleries which are subscription-based, such as Art Fire and Daily Paintworks, at www.dailypaintworks.com,  created by artist Carol Marine. Many of these require only a small monthly subscription fee with an unlimited amount of posts for an artist’s artwork, which can be linked to commerce sites such as eBay and Etsy, so artists can control their sales completely. Best of all, there is often no jury panel involved to become a member of these online art galleries.

On the other hand, if artists opt out of posting their artwork online, they are much more limited in their ability to gain new followers or control their sales. It can also be more expensive to get your artwork in front of influential decision makers such as art gallery owners and art jury panel members. In this instance, you are limited to the gallery shows you are accepted into and more traditional art events such as art festivals and fairs, which often involve the traditional jury system to gain admittance. Moreover, it can be discouraging to artists (especially emerging artists), to receive one rejection letter after another, especially when they don’t know why their artwork is being rejected. To be successful with this approach, you need a thick skin, perseverance and a specific plan to find galleries who will be a good fit for your art. It can often be like trying to find a job, in that you are trying to make a match between the artwork you create and the artwork that a specific gallery already promotes. This process cannot be random to be successful.

Another option is for artists to choose to combine their art gallery shows with an online presence in social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. In this case, you can probably attract more fans and customer and the instant feedback you receive from your posts can be encouraging and help you to create more art. So, if you decide to go this route, you have several options to protect your artwork from unlawful use. These options include watermarking, slice and dice, shrink wrapping and disabling the right-click option (Kimble). The different strategies I mentioned are described in detail in Drew Kimble’s article, “Stop Stealing My Sh*t,” with an analysis of each method involved. A tutorial for watermarking is embedded in the above-mentioned article. If you are interested in learning more about these techniques you can click on the link, https://skinnyartist.com/stop-stealing-my-images/.

Robert Frost in wooded landscape.
Here is a photo of my box project in progress. I used Liquitex acrylic paints to create a monochromatic underpainting. I plan to complete the box in color, and it will illustrate the poem, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.
Three dimensional cube with portrait and landscape painting.
This photo shows the box from a higher vantage point and shows the other sides. I plan to include text on the lid of the box from the poem, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Night, so viewers can make the connection between the poem and the illustration.

 

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Art Movements: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Today I am taking a leaf from another earlier blog post, which featured an artist I admire, Richard Diebenkorn. He painted in an abstract expressionist style with oils, featuring the human figure and landscape. An identifying feature of his artwork was his use of bright colors and shapes in both painting subjects. This style branded his painting style and made his work instantly recognizable. I painted two copies of his paintings to accompany the blog post, of a figure and an abstracted landscape. Since last week, I have been pondering other art movements that I find inspiring to my art practice.

One of these art movements is the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. In particular, I love the color and emotion I see displayed on the faces of the portraits and figures. In a similar way to a play, they are figures on a stage, acting out various dramas. The PRB group was founded in 1848 in England by young art students and they included: Dante Gabriel Rosetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt, who studied at London’s Royal Academy of Art. (ibid, and Smith, 2013)

According to Roe, 2014, author of “The Pre-Raphaelites”, the Pre-Raphaelites were composed of a disparate group of “sculptors, painters, designers,” who were frustrated by the limiting strictures that the London Royal Academy of art imposed on art, such as an emphasis on idealization, and balance. Instead, the Pre-Raphaelites sought inspiration in the work of other artists such as Van Eyck, Memling, and Giotto. (Roe, pg. 2) According to the author, Roberta Smith, who wrote, “Blazing a Trail for Hypnotic Hyper-Realism,” some of the subjects which the PRB enjoyed painting were medieval themes such as King Arthur’s, Guinevere, and Shakespeare’s Ophelia in Hamlet, and stories from the Bible. (Smith, pg. 2)

Smith states that these artists characterized their work by emphasizing painstaking realism and “Technicolor” palettes. (ibid) In addition, Roe, states that the Pre-Raphaelites used a line, and flat perspective and bible stories. In particular, William Holman Hunt’s A Converted British Family, Millais’s Christ in the House of His Parents and Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850) evoked virulent criticism from art critics, who disapproved of the highly realistic treatment of religious figures. ( Roe, pg. 2) However, according to Roberta Smith, (2013), although the Pre-Raphaelites challenged the art establishment of their times and “introduced a new painting style” it does not necessarily follow that these painters were “avant-garde.” Furthermore, Smith states that they did not make radical changes like Manet, Cezanne or Van Goh. In addition, they did not have a strong interest in painting “modern life.” (Smith, pg. 4) Instead of “embracing the people, fashions, and activities of their time, as their French contemporaries did, they escaped into fantasy.” (Smith, pg. 4)

Whatever the case may be, Smith, 2013, states that their work played an important role in influencing other important art movements to come such as “Symbolism, Art Noveau,

and modern design, in children’s literature and Photo Realism, and also contemporary art”. (Smith, pg. 4) For instance, “Tom Uttech’s dreamlike views of wilderness (on view at the Alexandre Gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan), Ellen Altfest’s detailed yet painterly realism, Ron Mueck’s disturbingly lifelike sculptures, Mark Greenwold’s intrinsically twisted narratives and the equally finicky if more surreal images of Anj Smith.” (ibid).

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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.