Thursday, February 26, 2015

Good Medicine

The winter is limping along, and my immune system apparently is giving up.  Last week I had something like food poisoning that left me horizontal on the couch most of the day, content to watch the shadows move across the hillside across the street, and this week the worst cold sores of the century are making my mouth look and feel like I ran into the doorjamb.

But, I have been working a little on my newest mixed media piece - two men and their dog.  There will be a simple white farmhouse in the background, eventually.  So far I have some collage pieces of wallpaper adhered to my canvas, have a thin layer of gold acrylic paint over that, and have begun the first layers of the dog and men.  It is fun to work a little at a time, watching the image develop before my eyes.

And it does make me forget that I feel punky. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Then and Now

Painting over scraps of wallpaper, using old found photographs still holds my attention, and I think I finished up with one last evening.

The original black and white photo featured five people, but the two who caught my attention most were an older woman and a very saucy little girl, so I focused on them.

The process involves drawing the figures on canvas, then adding the wallpaper with a soft gel medium. I only used three styles of wallpaper this time, and I used a larger floral motif to tie the two background pieces together.  In the original photo, besides more people, there were houses, some trees, and a horizon line.  The horizon survives behind the figures, but nothing else.  I learned the hard way that being very careful to press out air bubbles behind the paper, and making sure he edges adhere securely is crucial at this point.  Once the papers are in place, I coat the canvas with a clear gesso, so that the ground is unified. On this painting I also added a thin layer of gold acrylic paint, which will peek through a bit later.

Then I just dive in, painting the flesh tones, the clothing, and trying to paint thinly enough that the pattern from the paper shows through.  A stumbling block as I went along on this one was the woman's left foot, which was lost in shadows in the photo, apparently behind the girl's left foot.  I ended up creating a foot angled out more to the left, distinct from the girl's, but minimized by shadows.

This is about finished, I think. I warmed up the skins tones, darkened the shadows cast by their hats, and added a background that is mostly Indian Red, more opaque near the bottom, more transparent near the top.  I like the results quite well.

A side note here.  The internet is a way to make friends that I never imagined when I was young.  Some people turn out to be nobody I feel the need to every meet in person, and others reveal themselves over time to share all sorts of interests and attitudes.  My online friend Monique Jacobs died recently.  Monique lived in Belgium, was a keen reader, traveler, photographer, and artist. I met her in an online sketching group and discovered we also knew each other on Shelfari.  Over time we began emailing, sending each other small artworks and cards, commiserating when life threw curve balls, and celebrating when life was good.  While we never met face to face, we were friends, and I will miss her for a long, long time.  Rest in peace, my friend.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

This small display is what I currently have available at the local art gallery/framing shop here in town.  It's a nice place, lots of light, a fine array of mostly local wall art, original jewelry and scarves, pottery and wood and glass objects.  The owner is a congenial woman who works hard at getting people to support the local art scene.

In the past her business model was to have artists sell their work on consignment, and lots of work came and went, especially seasonally.  This past summer she decided to try a different arrangement.   Artists rent a space for six months at the time, and she does not take a cut of the selling price unless it is featured in a different part of the shop.  There are things I like about the new arrangement.  The primary thing being that all my work is grouped together, easy to find.  The is an artist statement with the work, and I can easily tell potential customers where to look to find my work. 

There are a couple downsides, however.  The expectation is that the art will stay for six months, unless it sells.  For me, this prevents switching a lot of work out seasonally.  And I have always been of the opinion that work that stays in the same place too long becomes stale - essentially invisible. The other downside for me is that based on what I sold the first six months, I came out even to the rent I paid.  The easy answer is that I should raise my prices, but I have a strong belief that local people should have access to original artwork that is affordable.  I also don't think the local market supports wall art very vigorously.  I make every effort to do quality work, and frame it nicely, but inexpensively.  I mostly cut my own neutral colored mats and use craft store sectional framing.  I use coupons all the time.  But looking at how this turned out for me the last six months, I did not come out ahead.  At all. 

So, I am searching my soul a bit, trying to decide what to do.  I need to decide why people don't buy more.  Is the subject matter of my work not what local people want on their walls?  Not good enough?  Is the market here too depressed to support even my modest pricing?  Am I working the wrong size?  Should I be selling online?

I just do not know.  I do know that the mixed media work I have been doing lately, which is not currently at the gallery, appeals to me very much.  I am trying to work out the kinks in my process, and attempting to get at least a dozen ready to put in area shows, and eventually offer for sale.  For now I think I will just concentrate on getting the work done - and think more about sending it out into the world later.