Making Money and Creating Art (sometimes simultaneously)

I do not make my living at art.

I think it’s important to state this, because too often artists feel ashamed of not being able to live off their art. Many artists (especially on social media) allow viewers to assume art is how they earn their living, while in truth they may make the majority of their money by teaching art lessons, by being a landlord, having a day job, or through the support of a spouse.

Some schools of thought dictate that you should NOT try to make your art carry the responsibility of supporting you- that it taints creativity to put financial pressure on the art. Though I appreciate the sentiment, I disagree.

I have a job because:

  1. My family could use the money now, not some time in the future when my ship comes in.
  2. It makes the time I have more precious, motivating me to paint faster AND smarter.

That being said, I plan to grow my art sales to the degree that I may no longer require a day job (and I trust that when that day arrives, I will recognize it. That process of discernment may be the subject of a future blog post…). I am doing a number of things to improve my art income- primarily involving: tons of research, some networking, and as much easel time as I can manage.

I do not have a day job because my creativity is fragile. As William Faulkner said:

 

I only write when inspiration strikes.

Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.

 

I will sit down and do the hard work at the easel, and I will do my day job. For now….

 

 

such a fan

“Vintage Fan” 2017

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Quick Sketch in the nude… Wait no- OF! Of the nude.

The human figure is generally considered the most difficult things to paint and draw. Many representational artists study anatomy as a scientist or doctor might, and it has been a practice used for centuries. A couple of months ago I was doing a LOT of drawing and anatomy sketching and decided one day I just could not pick up the pencil one more time. Paint won’t let me ignore it for very long- it gets impatient, jealous even! So  that eventually, I’m obliged to indulge it.

So I sat down and did two quick figure studies in paint. It felt so easy and so natural after all that drawing. Maybe I should remember to make paint wait every so often….

 

*Reference photos courtesy of the amazing New Masters Academy image library!

 

figure1

 

figure2

No big deal

Being “high-quality” is the best… supposedly. You know the good old “quality over quantity” adage. But man that word “quality” throws me off my game some days. I can sit down at a painting (or drawing) and think “I’m not going to stop until this baby is perfect.” But then, it’s never quite “good enough” to stop.

When I’m disciplined enough to call it quits on a piece more quickly, I find that my skills improve faster. I also enjoy the process more because it’s less drawn out and agonizing. I recently stuck a bright pink post-it next to my easel that reads “FAIL MORE. FAIL FASTER.” In fact the QUANTITY of art created will beat an attempt at QUALITY (or more accurately “perfection”) any day.

My skills are constantly changing and after every piece I think how much better I want my work to be. The best painters never sit back and think “Ah yes, I have arrived. I have won at art!” Which means I need to be able say, “Hey, this is where I’m at, and that’s good enough for now” and then set the brush down.

Expecting paintings to fail doesn’t mean I stop thinking critically- it’s not a sad or pessimistic experience. It means I work my butt off (for a reasonable amount of time) take a few risks, try to learn a lesson or two, and then move on.

One of my favorite artists, Carolyn Anderson wrote this list of “everything you need to know about painting.” I particularly love numbers five through eight:

5. When Your Painting Doesn’t Work – Identify the problem and find a solution.

6. When Your Painting Still Doesn’t Work – Take a break. Drink coffee. Read No. 5.

7. It Still Doesn’t Work – Never beat a dead horse.

8. How To Know If Your Painting Is Finished – You have a run out of time or have nothing else to say.

It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. Painting is incredible- but it’s not everything. It’s just a thing. A thing I like too much to take too seriously. I want to make a painting and move on like it’s no big deal.

 

IMG_20160421_131907

And in the spirit of “failure” here’s a piece that I did in a workshop with Sean Cheetham recently. It took my three days to paint this portrait. It’s not a successful or finished piece- but hey, I learned some things in the process.

Kicking it up a notch

Things are settling into place now. Unpacking and setting up the new home is essentially done. It’s been 5 moves in the past 3 years, and I must say I’m loving the warm fuzzy feeling of a year-long lease.

The studio space is set up. I’ve unpacked all my supplies and flipped through old paintings (some worse than I remember, some better). I’ve cut back my day job hours to the bare minimum, and I’ve signed up for a weekend workshop with Sean Cheetham at BACAA (Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier) in April. I feel like a total ass-kicking artist ready to take things to the next level.

Mostly.

The rest of my brain swings wildly between “THIS IS TOO MUCH. I CAN’T DO IT. I’ll just stick with the day job, thankyouverymuch.” and “AAHHHHH!!!” (*AAHHHHH roughly translates to: extreme fits of excitement akin to the ravings of a three year old on a sugar high). Both make it very difficult for me to get shit done.

So I’ve chosen a fun experimental painting to work on for the next day or so (pictures to come). And I take little breaks to calm my crazy-self down before getting back to business. Because my crazy self isn’t a great painter, let me tell ya.

In other news, if you’re in the bay area make sure to stop by the 56th Annual Lodi Community Spring Art Show at the Woodbridge Winery April 15-17 where several of my paintings will be on display. Including these two:

 

A Move & a Masters’ Study

I just moved (from LA to the San Francisco area) and boy did that slow down my art-making! It’s not a good excuse but it happens to me every time. As a way to make painting seem fun and manageable after the emotional and physical ordeal that is moving, I pulled out a little series of masters studies that I started ages ago.

The best things about this project:

-I already started it (there was less to do)

-They are tiny (and seem less scary)

-As masters studies they don’t require a high degree of creativity

-The excitement of looking at Masters to choose from is highly motivating

-As a selection of different artists, the project allows me to switch rapidly between styles (which keeps me excited)

And it worked! I feel enthused about finding my own style and growing as an artist. And I’m excited to visit new galleries and meet the local artists I might learn from!

Here’s my little master’s study sampling project so far (Masters: Sargent, Liepke, Sargent, Burdick, Anderson, and Zorn) I still need to add that little Sargent face on the upper left. Compositionally this was a weird way to lay it out, but I have a better idea of how to handle that next time. And the important thing is… I painted!

IMG_6812

Rosemary Brushes

Instagramentry

Well, I’ve been working the good ol’ day job pretty regularly for the past couple of months, which means my painting & drawing time has been less than ideal! But I did manage to whip up this fun little photo entry for an Instagram contest in a desperate attempt to win some amazing brushes from Rosemary & Co. (The BEST brushes). Fingers crossed!

Another Workshop

I recently had the great joy of attending a 5-day portrait painting workshop in Encinitas, with the amazing artist, Meadow Gist. I love portraiture, and I have had several classes with Meadow in the past, so I knew it was gonna be good. Some teachers really resonate with me when they explain things (and others sound like they’re speaking a foreign language). Meadow is one of those teachers who speaks a language I understand, and I feel like my growth during this workshop was largely due to her skill as a teacher. Here are two of my more successful pieces from the workshop.

Portrait1(GistWorkshop2014)

Portrait2(GistWorkshop2014)

New Brushes for me!

Having good brushes is important… an yet only now do I own some Rosemary & Co! I have some other decent brands, but I had such a hard time deciding I was worthy of purchasing Rosemarys. Rosemary brushes are the ones those good artists use… ya know, not people like me. People like me are meant to chug along with low quality things… OH MAN. *BRAIN LYING ALERT!*

Luckily this workshop coming up challenged me with a grown-up-artist supply list. Stuff I should have ordered months ago, but have now finally said, “Yeah, I’m committed to this path. It’s time to invest a little in it.”

And it feels good.

Rosemary

Beginner’s Mind

Wow. I am facing some serious “not good enough” stuff this week! It seemed to crop up after getting a spot in the (much coveted) Morgan Weistling painting workshop in Pasadena. At first I was just on the waiting list… which felt safe. But suddenly I get the email: “We’ve got a spot for you!”. And then… panic set in. And this is what it sounds like in my brain:

“Oh no. The website said this workshop isn’t appropriate for beginners… am I a beginner? My drawing skills still need serious work. But… I’ve been working on art for the last 5 years– I must not be a ‘beginner’ anymore!… Puh-leeze, you’re so lazy, you basically did nothing to improve your art in that time.”

And the voice goes on……. and on….. and on………….

The thing is, I want to be an artist because I love to make art. And (call me crazy) my self imposed emotional beatings makes the whole process a hole heck of a lot less fun.

I recently watched this video about that uncomfortable place just outside of comfortable where all the learning happens. But the scared part of my brain says “beginner” like it’s a bad thing. Because I want to be there, in that uncertain place where I am eagerly trying and failing with such gusto that I’m always moving forward.

So essentially, I am still a “beginner.” But always want to be a beginner, even if I become the cat’s pajamas, I want to think like a beginner. Always risking, stepping into the unknown, moving forward. I always want to be the worst artist in a classroom so that I have huge leaps to grow before moving to the next level.

Here’s some Morgan Weistling work to blow your socks off:

from: morganweistling.com

from: morganweisling.com

Shame & Vulnerabiltiy in Art

This talk (below) is one I watch again and again and again. The times I don’t “feel” like painting or drawing are usually the days I feel most afraid of failure and ashamed. They are the days I fantasize about choosing a different career path… maybe one with a boss who tell me what to do every day, and I just get to check off a list.

But really, if I can just “put on some galoshes” and walk through the shame, I can get back to the place where I love what I do and I’m eager to fail again. Because failure is just useful information about what to try next time.