Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Artist's Business Plan

To the prepared, even a small wave can be ridden
The reason I haven't gone anywhere in the last couple of years is because I have not been following a business plan. Instead I have been chasing one rainbow after another. While driving to a family reunion at Virginia Beach, we were able to thrash out the bones of something that will need to be fleshed out in the next week or so. I have to gain artistic credibility if I am to have my work accepted into credible galleries. To do that takes time. I am planning to be a full time artist by the time I am 65. That is not much more than 7 year. In that time I need to become a master member of both the Oil Painters of America, and the American Portrait society. To do that I first need to establish a record of good entries in their annual prizes and been a finalist at least twice. I will be up against thousands of hopefuls, so need to only enter master pieces that have to potential of being a finalist every year. I also need to produce enough to have at least one solo exhibition every year with mostly new material. For the first couple of years this will seem as though it is going nowhere, but I have to stick with it. I have a new style that I also have to consistently stick to so that I can get the recognition I need. Even with the portraits I need to be fresh an different. I think that the new style does it. The picture is of an idea I am formulating for a painting based on material I collected during the beach visit.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The secret and painful art, pricing your painting

My hole in the wall studio
Joining McGuffey Art Center has brought me into an unknown art market.  If I can make it, my first chance to test that market is on Sunday, the drop off day for the Summer Members Exhibition.  In order to try and get the prices right, we are going to a few galleries in Richmond to see what comparable paintings are selling for. 
Setting a price is never easy.  The most straight forward way would be to tally up the costs plus the time, and come up with a figure.  An example would be the current beach painting I am working on. The cost of materials would be a follows.
-           Materials, canvas $40 , paint etc. $20, equipment i.e. depreciation on brushes furniture computer etc.  $20, studio space for 55 hours $30 , simple aluminum gallery frame  $40.  Total $205.
-          Time, Hours painting 55, R&D how does one put a figure on 43 years of experience.  Let us say 20 hours that is mainly taking and processing photos, working of concepts, and marketing.  A bit conservative but lets go with it.  How much per hour?  I could go with minimum wage,  @$7 = $525, or I could consider my education @$14 = $1050.  If I am well known and in demand, and have a large rented studio space the hourly rate can clime.
-          Gallery commission, This can be anywhere from 30% to 60%.  Lets take an average of 40%  and the total price comes to $1255 + 40% =1757 plus tax of $87.85 shipping $40 = $1884.85  But then you have the problem of selling on line or personal puck up etc. you subtract what is needed. The price can obviously be much less. 
This price is seldom what is actually charges for the painting, but is a good base figure to make judgments by.  Variables can be:
-          what comparable work is selling for in that market.  That can increase or decrease the price by up to a factor of 4. 
-          The frame is very important.  A small work valued this way presented in a plush gallery, and an expensive looking frame can have the price jump from $150 to up to $799.
-          Productivity also come into play.  When you are working full time every day, each decision of each stroke is shortened, and you develop short cuts.  A work that used to take 50 hours may now only take 20, but you do not decrease the price, rather you take a pay raise due to increase in productivity.
-          What will this make me look like.  A price that is too low for the market will make the buyer think that the painting is not good, and that an overpriced one is a pretentious want to be.
So today we are off to Richmond to see what a more sophisticated market is doing.  Don’t tell anyone what I have just told you.  It’s a secret, mainly explaining why we have a term, “starving artist”.  I have included a picture of my, hole in the wall studio.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gaining membership of Art Center, Filling in color

Blocking in color of 24"x36" canvas
When I got home from work, I was thrilled to find out that I had been accepted by the McGuffey art center in Charlottesville VA, as an associate artist in their group. I have worked very hard for this since a stranger strongly suggested that I seek membership. Many apply, and few are accepted. This will give me opportunity to gain exhibition exposure to a more serious art market. For days I have been depressed because I was sure that after all the work, they would reject me. If you wish to find out more about them, their web site is http://wwwmcguffeyartcenter.com
I got some more color filled in on my current work. This stage of a large work is tedious, and not very rewarding. I am laying down base colors, mostly just flat, and not a very close match to what they will end up as. The color is very thin, mixed with mineral spirits (terpoid) There will be a number of layers of paint layer over this, working from this that we call lean, toward fat on the top. The reason for working this way is because the paint thinned with mineral spirits dries relatively quickly, and is less flexible. The fat layers thinned with oils and alkyd mediums harden more slowly. (The alkyd I work with is liquin, a winser & newton. It remains fat, but sets up within a day) If lean is applied in large quantities over fat paint, the top surface will eventually crack. I don't always enjoy painting through these middle stages because I find little reward in the immediate results. I have to keep my mind focused on what I know from experience, the finished painting will be like.  I mostly work thin like this rather than slathering on gobs of paint with a knife because the paint is very expensive, and this way I can get the best results with the least paint.

Taking pictures of my paintings

Portrait of Tanya - by Bruce Skillicorn

I don't have a lot of time this morning to post so here goes. I spent much of my spare time last night fighting with the social media thing. There is a lot to learn since we were for years on dial up. I was good though and got some of the color blocked in on the beach painting though. I will talk about what I have done there next time after I have taken pictures of it.

For all they say about using two daylight flood light etc. I found that I usually get very good results by just laying the painting out in the sun so that the direction of its rays are coming at about a 45 degree angle.so that there is no reflection. I use a Sony DSC H9 camera usually set on automatic, and try to center as much a possible with a little zoom so that the edges of the painting are at least straight. I also place a piece of white paper next to it so that I can do a white balance on the computer. I have two small programs I use for all my digital work. The first is a free beta program Microsoft image composer 1.5 that came out around 2000. A wonderfully flexible little program without all the automated bells and whistles of new cheap, or expensive photo shop type programs. The other is ACDSee 12 between them I can do anything I want. On ACDSee I do white balance and get the colors right. Then I crop it down to the slightly twisted image. Then on MIC I can morphed the painting the get it squared up and exactly the right proportions before doing a final crop. It sounds like a lot, but it really only takes about 5 minutes per image, and the results are superb. The dogs want to be put out and be fed, so I will leave you with a painting I did of one, Tanya.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Long term planing

Fawn on Blue Ridge Parkway oil, 8x10
I was able to at last do a little more painting. It is always time that has to be made. I have now finished the drawing part of the paintings and am ready to start blocking in. The drawing usually takes up the bulk of time. We have also picked out what I will enter into the annual Oil Painters of America competition (see picture ) It is small, only 8"x10" but I feel that it shows good handling of the oils. I actually rather work in acrylics, but they do not for some reason hold to aura of owning an original oil painting. I need to keep entering into these competitions, so am now starting to plan what I will enter a year from now. To be a finalist in one of them, a painting really needs to be a master piece. I am also looking for venues for a traveling exhibition of my latest body of work. For that I have to be working 18 months or so in the future. This planning I have let laps somewhat to my detriment.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

consept in digital sketch

Rough conceptual digital sketch
I have had a concept going around in my head for the last week and was finally able to put it into a digital sketch yesterday. It is the idea that the "wild" life we see are really not living in the wild at all, but in a construct environment. So I made a light box looking thing out of pixelated "natural" setting and placed a squirrel in it. I think I need to work on it a bit more ... make the pixels a bit bigger so that I can paint them more easily ... but the idea is there.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No Gallery representation.

Spring Driveway 8" x 10"

Yesterday I went and picked up my paintings, about 12 or 14 of them from the gallery that has been representing me. I had only sold one from there and they were not being displayed, which explains a lot. They had been there for quite a long time. My stile most certainly has changed over the years. Now the search begins for a gallery that will truly represent me, and will be a good fit for my work. Much of what I was doing was trying to fit into the under $80 range. the direction of my heart though is not churning out pretty little trinkets. I am no longer aiming for a dollar amount market. I do have to come up with a clear business plan though. I shall do that as soon as I have time. I was able to do a little more on my beach painting yesterday, but the two days off were rather full. Oh for the ability to paint full time! I share one of the little paintings I picked up yesterday. It is a small oil sketch of a forested drive way in spring. The problem is ... what to do with them now? When I was painting this lot I intended to put them on E-Bay for more than a dollar. Maybe it would be good to go ahead with that to clear my back stock of paintings.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Re thinking my direction in art

Yesterday I picked up the paintings I presented to the McGuffey Center.  I became very pessimistic about my chances.  I took my eyes off truth and started to believe the lies my mind was telling me about who I was.  The blog is helping me to center again
A dimensional realist portrait done for my BFA
Earlier I promised that I would continue my discussion on the direction my art focus is taking me. As I had said, an attempt at reproducing what I saw and experienced on the natural world was like taking something alive and vibrant and killing it. It was enough to cause me to loose much of my enthusiasm for painting. In looking for new direction, I seriously considered undertaking a Masters of Fine Art at VCU's highly regarded art school. In order to get in, I had to put together a body of work with convincing intellectual content. It didn't take much to find what has been inside me all the time. In the nineties for the senior year thesis, I produced a body of work that looked at layered realism. There was the immediate visual layer, then the deeper level of the real person; personality, spirit, experience, idiosyncrasies etc. In order to express that, I used deformed text to form the image. The image was actually formed by the text. I was expressing the fact that there is more to a person than what we instantly see, But you can only get to that if you make a connection with them. In the paintings, you could only discover the deeper things I was saying if spent a lot of time deciphering the text. The text though was also somewhat deconstructed, so that when you were finally able to read it, the meaning was not what I experienced, but became a catalyst to what the viewer was feeling while connecting to the painting.

While preparing the folio for VCU, I tapped into my the thoughts that I was having about connectedness and disconnectedness. I still want my paintings to have visual impact. I want them to be beautiful, breathtaking in the skill level demonstrated, and yes even decorative. But I also want them to be a catalyst. I want them to simulate the viewer to start thinking about the importance of our connection to all things.  In the end I didn’t persue am MBF, but the process has me on track again.  I have renewed the connection between where my spirit is, and what I am expressing in my paintings.

Monday, June 13, 2011

not much

I have had to get up early to write this because I also have to go to work full time in Wal-mart. But today was my father's birthday, so after talking to him there is only time to get breakfast feed the animals dress and leave. No painting yesterday either what I would give to be able to work painting full time. I am working at it, just have to jump sales a bit. I will try to do some painting tonight. I have a lot of pictures that I have never finished here is one of them. I am contemplating adding text and changing the background that is not working at all. It is very small, 8"x10". Animals I photographed in a Texas park. I would appreciate any input, after all that is part of the connection I would like to have with my audience.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Using reference photos

Detail from original reference photograph
How I changed them in the digital sketch
The drawing on canvas to start painting
The use of reference photographs is becoming increasingly admitted to. I use them extensively. It allows me to capture accurate moments in time. But there is also a danger in using them, especially using prints. In traditional old prints, the colors become averaged out. Greens especially get unnaturalness to them. When you look at them carefully, trees and grasses have a rich diversity of color which a photo will often average out. Slides are much better. When I first started to use photographs, I had a simple viewer I frequently referred to. It was very clumsy though. Now I work digitally. I can manipulate and enrich a photograph. I can also compline several different exposures, so that the detail that we normally see in shadows and is normally lost in photographs is not lost. While I am working I can change the exposure constantly to see what I have in my minds eye. Photographs are a tool that are best used when you are constantly observing and analyzing the real world. Until recently I was trying to paint a moment captured in a photograph without changing anything. I felt that I was honoring God for the way he had it. I was trying to recreate nature. This caused no end of frustration because what I was actually doing was taking vibrant experiential life then flattening and killing it. I could not really reproduce reality, so why try. This has led to a total rethink of my purpose in painting. More on that next time. I have included A reference photo and what I have done with it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Drawing of Vicarious Vacation

Vicarious Vacation - 24"x36" with most of the drawing painted in
Detail showing grid and pencil drawing
I spent about 8 hours yesterday and today drawing in my latest painting. For now we are calling it Vicarious Vacation. I started by toning the canvas with an acrylic yellow ochre thinned with medium and water so that when I start painting in, the lights and darks will both show up. Though I plan to be rather loose with much of the background, I am still tight with the drawing. I find that the looser I get, the more important accurate drawing becomes. Most of the figures, (couples) in the picture were very grainy in the reference pictures because they were extremely small and had to be blown up. In the drawing I had to do a lot of interpretation from my knowledge of anatomy. I am happy with the way it is progressing. I will not get a lot more done on it for another week. The basic drawing was done in pencil. I have then gone over it with raw umber oil paint made very thin with turps. When I have finished the drawing, I will establish lights and darks using a monochrome of raw umber and white, and then block in basic colors using oils made very thin using turps.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Drawing from the lap top screen

It was quite exciting to have actually started this blog.  It has already achieved 2 things.  Firstly it has made me feel energized to actually paint.  I have found that when I have a lot of work sitting around doing nothing, I get a kind of creative log jam.  I believe that the blog will permit me to unblock that.  Today, a day off from work, I have been busy drawing up the latest painting.  At 24” x 36” it is, what is now my standard larger work.  Today I got most of the pencil drawing done, and have started to paint the drawing in.  I will have some pictures of that tomorrow. 
When I am drawing, I first grid up the canvas.  With this one I have used a 2” sq. grid.  I then transfer the picture straight from the screen of my laptop.  I do most of my photo manipulation with basic software, not Photoshop.  I mostly use ACDSee.  When I want to transfer more detail than the grid will allow, I crop a grid square.  The crop tool has its own grid that I can use as a guide.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A beginning at blogging

In this blog, I am going to share in real time what I am doing with my art. I am also going to share some of my philosophy connected and disconnected with my art. At the moment I am in a very changing and creative time. I have 4 paintings currently being juried to see if I can join the McGuffey art Center in Charlottesville VA. as an associate artist. I should know by the end of the month. I now have the base color painted for my next painting. This is the photo sketch for it. The motivating thought is of the disconnected lives we live. The vacation can become about the pictures rather than the event in its self. I will start painting tomorrow. I want comments, because I think art must be not only self-expression, but it must make a connection with the viewers.