Monday, September 27, 2010

Something for Nothing

Despair - waterborne on titanium, 2.25"x4"

Think about the last time you brought your car into the shop and smiled at the mechanic and said, ‘Look, you replace my transmission for nothing and I will show everyone how good your work is and you will get a TON of business!’ How about sitting down at a fancy restaurant, eating your meal and then when the check comes say, ‘Ooohhh, that is a little more than I wanted to spend. I am sure we can work this out, the place down the street doesn’t charge as much as this. There must be a special deal for me somewhere here.’ Most people would never think of doing something like that, especially when dealing with a small business owner that clearly has everything they have invested in the company. Unfortunately as artists, especially emerging artists, it is something that we hear all the time. ‘Paint my motorcycle helmet for me. I go to all the rallies and everyone will see your work and you will get tons of people lined up!’ or ‘Give me a painting, I’ll see how it does and we will go from there.’ It is surprisingly common but what is more disheartening is that so many artists feel that this really is their best shot at getting seen. Our two most valuable assets are the work itself and our time. The manner in which we give either one of those things up needs to be treated very carefully.

Let me begin by saying that rarely (if ever) has a donated work of mine generated any more future work than a piece I was compensated for. If you want to get your work out there and be seen, there are far better ways than fulfilling someone’s empty promises. The first step is to fully understand the value of what you are producing. Look carefully at the time that you spent on the piece, the materials and overhead that was used to create it and the investment that you have made in education (time and money) to get to the point of being able to create this work. You may be surprised when it is all totaled up how valuable your art actually is. If you are having difficulty giving yourself and your art this proper credit, try treating it as if it was not created by you. Treat it as if you are being asked by another artist to estimate the value of their work.

Now that you have a clearer idea of the value of your art, you can start thinking about the way that you will be compensated for it if it leaves your possession. To give yourself the proper credit and to protect your fellow artists, you need to do everything you can to get full compensation for everything that leaves your studio. Full compensation does not always mean money either. Donating a painting to charity is a fantastic way to receive compensation. You have made a sizable donation and you receive the compensation of a great feeling that your work is helping someone. Bartering your work is another great way to make sure that you are compensated. That gives respect of time and talent to both parties. Even when you give that artwork away as a gift, don’t treat that lightly. Understand the value of what you are giving as if it was not yours to give.

It boils down to respect. You cultivate a respect for the work that you do and in turn you build respect for all other artists in your field. You help the people that interact with you to understand the true value of what all artists put into their work. The scam artists that are looking for a free ride will always be there. When you are armed with the understanding of your work’s true value though, you can then be more creative with him. ‘Hmmmmmm sounds like you come in contact with a lot of people and can really get my work shown around. That’s great. So here is what I’ll do for you. I’ll paint your helmet for full price. Then for every customer that comes in and says that they were referred to me by you, I will give you 10% of that new job.’ You will weed out the people that want to take advantage of you pretty quick.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tying the strands together

Beautiful - Wicked Colors on Titanium 1.75"x5.25"
Each painting is the result of so many different elements coming together all at once. It starts with a simple idea. Sometimes the inspiration for that idea is born from a specific color or a story or even just a texture. Next, visual elements are drawn together, images that act as the reference for the new painting. The images that are used need to fit into the original idea for the work, however occasionally these bits of reference can also change the direction of the final piece. Several photographs can be used to create a single photographic image that did not exist before. Ultimately though, their job is to supply the details in order to tell the story. Even the substrate, paint and finish play a role in the final work.

Take for example the painting ‘Beautiful’ This painting started its life with a call for entry of an art show that featured the human form. That was the first strand in what would create this painting. Over the last few weeks I have been working on a series of paintings using titanium panels as a substrate and that became the second strand.  I had planned on painting an updated portrait of my daughter Emily and that became the third strand. Finally, samples of Wicked paint from Createx arrived to try out. This painting would be a great opportunity to use them. From there it was a matter of pulling together the photographs needed for the reference. The trick here was to get Emily’s eyes lit up by the sun. Not an easy photograph to take in that the only real way to get someone’s eyes lit up by the sun is to actually have them look up at the sun. Not very comfortable and squinting was certainly not the expression I was looking for.

Good Dram -  Createx on board 20"x24"

The answer comes in what can be done with the combination of several reference photographs. It actually happens in my work quite frequently. One painting is actually the result of grafting several different photographs together. Sometimes I leave hints of this as in ‘Good Dram’ which is made up of two different photographic references. The clear Glenfarclas bottles to the upper left and right of the green bottle in the foreground are in fact the same bottle. You see two different angles of the same bottle. Emily’s portrait offered a similar challenge and solution. I needed the pose and expression from one image and the coloring and lighting from another. Here are the two photographs that were grafted together in order to come out with the final image that you see at the top of the blog.

The creation of every painting has these threads flowing though its creation. It is what becomes the translation of the original idea. The level of challenge comes with tying all these threads together into an image that seems as if it had always existed. That is always our challenge as artists.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Painting in Miniature

Painting in Miniature

'Smoke' PPG Envirobase on razor blade

It started for me a few years ago in Norway. I was fortunately enough to be assisting Mike Learn in a class he was teaching in Skein. Mike’s airbrush, The Mojo, a custom, hand tuned airbrush was available for the students to purchase. Among the people to pick up the brush was a new student that was just learning the art. He was eager to see what his new airbrush could do so he asked me to paint something small for him during a break. Since it was an automotive airbrushing class, there were plenty of single edge razor blades that the students had been using to cut masks for their work. This tiny flat piece of metal seemed to be a perfect canvas to put the new brush through its paces. The brush worked perfectly and allowed the little blade to be covered with skulls. Here is a quick video.

From there the seed was planted with me. It became very artistically exciting to push the control boundaries of both myself and the tools. The razor blade became a great canvas for these new miniature paintings. Unlike some of the other small paintings that I am producing, there is never any doubt with the razor blades in regards to the scale of the art. ‘Rebirth’ is a painting that measures three inches by four inches yet if there is no visual reference like in this photo, it is difficult to understand how small this painting really is.

Rebirth - PPG Envirobase on board 3"x4"
So the question arises, why paint on such a small scale. There are several reasons that create excitement for me in working this small. As mentioned before, the challenge of pushing the limits of control has advantages and rewards on its own, yet I find there is more to it. The impact of these micro paintings on the viewer surpasses all but the most intense of my larger paintings. I believe that something in our human nature often causes small objects in our everyday life to demand attention from us. For example, think of how quickly we notice a shiny coin on the ground or the impact of a single jewel hanging against skin. This juxtaposition is what makes that impact. I am witnessing this same impact as someone looks at a motorcycle painted on an object as common as a razor blade. There have also been a couple of other small advantages to working this size. Paint usage drops considerably as well as the reduced cost of shipping and framing. Not bad bonuses at all.

The challenge now comes in helping people understand the value of a piece of work like this. Traditionally, the size of the painting can affect the value of the work. This requires a change in perspective in regards to looking at miniature work. These very small paintings need to almost be thought of like jewelry rather than hanging art. When thinking about the work and artistry that is involved in cutting a diamond or creating a fine watch, those aspects add to the value of these tiny objects. In addition, the rarity and quality of a precious stone or the limited number of handmade watches also increases the value of those pieces. Miniature painting needs to be thought of in the same way. It is not the substrate that determines the value of the art, rather it is what that substrate is transformed into. The value of the painting comes from the effort, skill, quality and talent that went into the creation of the artwork. The responsibility in helping the viewer understand these things falls on the artist. Fortunately, as it always is, the paintings will have a far stronger voice than my own.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The new blog!

Thanks to a great amount of help and talented designers, the new has gone live! The idea and drive for the new web site was to clean it up and create more of an online, dedicated portfolio. In addition, we were looking to create a place where media support could be readily available. Filling those goals however, left no room for some of the educational and personal aspects of the old site that I liked so much.

Enter the solution! Up in the Air. With this blog, I plan on weekly updates of the new art that is in the works, tips and tricks as well as having the opportunity to answer questions and respond to comments. The website will be the walk through the gallery of artwork and the blog will be more like a visit into the studio.

The schedule looks as if Monday updates will be the plan however, I will certianly update it more frequently if things come up.

I hope you follow along, jump in with suggestions and comments and most of all that you enjoy the content!