Hillside Fine Art welcomes my work!

I am very happy to announce that my work is now represented by Hillside Fine Art in Claremont, California.
I am the only watercolor artist in a gallery that is full of oil paintings. There are many big name artists of the California Art Club on the walls and I am quite honored to have my work exhibited with them! I hope I can do well; I have no idea, only time will tell!

I will have my first ever solo exhibition at Hillside in September! Very excited about that. Reception is scheduled for September 5, 2015. Details will follow. Please come on by if you’re in the area!

Understanding Fine Art Pricing


It is wonderful when people get in touch with me to tell me that they love my work and would like to purchase a painting. Often, those are people who don’t know much about fine art or the art world in general. Many are on facebook and come upon an artists work they like.
I decided to do a blogpost to explain why buying original art from a professional artist can be more expensive than most people think.

Most collectors are very familiar with the art world and visit galleries and art auctions. For the lay people, the whole business is sort of mystifying and strange.

Firstly, the operative word in art is: business
Art is a business. That means, everybody who’s involved strives to make money, even the collectors sometimes. How does an art buyer make money? As an investment. They are constantly out looking for new talent and many try to buy an artists work early in their career. They know once the artist is established, the work will be worth ten times as much.
The value of a painting is therefore a perceived value. If an artist is unknown, nobody will buy their work (except maybe family members and friends) If an artist is well known and has a big reputation, the paintings will be sold for a much higher price.

Emerging artists sell work for a lot less than professionals with a long list of accolades. It’s only fair. Getting established is a lot of work and takes years and years, even if you’re exceptionally good!

Secondly, there are the galleries.
Galleries are a great thing. It is the only place where we can truly admire art work.( aside from Museums) No, the internet does not work. A photograph of something in this day and age can’t be trusted at all. Sadly, there are artists out there who embellish their work with photoshop applications. I know first hand because I was on the board of a big watercolor society and saw a few cases of this with my own eyes. Too bad one can’t name people on here! That’s another issue anyways and maybe worth another blogpost.
Collectors usually don’t buy on the internet. They might look but then they need to see the art. Of course, the do!
Would you commit to buying a car just from a glance at a picture? No way. Art can only be judged in real life.

When it comes to pricing, most galleries take upwards of 50% of the money for a given painting. In San Francisco, there are galleries that take 70%. Yes. The thing is, they do a lot of work for us artists. They promote, they sell and they build our careers. They deserve half the money. Maybe not 70%, that is certainly excessive but 40 or 50% is commonplace. That means the artist only gets 50% after framing, shipping, insurance and other costs. Galleries don’t pay for the frames, artists do.

If I get an email about a certain painting, even if it’s not in my gallery’s possession and I could sell it directly, I cannot undersell my gallery! I will have to charge accordingly. If I undercut them, they will stop working with me.

Lastly, there’s the value of an original. All my paintings are unique pieces unless otherwise noted. That means there’s only one!
It is not mass produced. It’s not available on etsy or ebay. Nothing inherently wrong with places like that, you just won’t find serious artist’s work on there. That’s my opinion. It implies ‘bargain’ and ‘craft’. Not Fine Art.
Speaking for myself, my art does not go ‘on sale’. It’s not available everywhere. It’s exclusive and it will stay that way. For $200 you get a print, not an original.
I am aware that there are some of my colleges out there who give away their paintings cheaply. That is on them. I think it will hurt them in the long run but everybody makes their own decisions.

I hope I shed some light on this topic. I haven’t even mentioned expenses like studio rent, fees for exhibitions and advertizing. All has to be financed somehow. Overall, the job of being a pro artist is not an easy one and most cannot survive without teaching, myself included.

Final tips:
If you’re in a gallery and see a piece you really like, it’s ok to ask the gallery sitter or artist about a payment plan. Most galleries are open to that.
If you buy more than one painting, you can usually ask for a small (10 percent) discount.
If you want the artist to do a commission, be mindful that the price will be around the same (or more) than his or her regular work. Commissions are even trickier since the artist is trying to please the taste of a person they don’t know.

As many art collectors would confirm:
Buying art is an art in itself!

Plein Air painting – why do it?

There has been a strong move back to painting on location in the last couple of years. Many painters do almost nothing else, so 90 percent of their work is done outside. Why would anybody want to subject themselves repeatedly to painting in the heat, cold, wind, surrounded by flies, passers-by with lots of questions and get sun stroke? Why not just take pictures and paint in the comfort of the studio?

The answer is obvious, but also more complex than it seems. Cameras record a place but don’t do it very accurately. Values are usually off but also the subtle color relationships within the subject matter are not captured well. Our senses are just so much more keen than a mechanical or digital ‘thing’.
Unless we do a completely value based painting, it’s important to pick up on all the subtle color nuances that the camera can’t see.It’s up to the artist to interpret them in their own way, put their own spin on it and turn it into art.
It’s a very different experience to be on location as oppose to just go by a picture of it. I think painting outside will ultimately improve an artists studio work as well.

Having said all that, I personally think painting outside should only be one part of what an artist does. The studio work is at least equally important! In the studio, working from a plein air sketch is invaluable. You can attempt a bigger painting and while working, the memory of the place will come flooding in and go into the studio piece as well. Ideally, that’s what should happen.

I am trying to divide my painting time into 30% outside and 70% inside. For me, a perfect balance

When painting outside, one of the worst distractions are people who linger to watch and ask me lots of questions, constantly reiterating that they ‘do not intent to disturb me’. Luckily, most people are great. I have no problem with someone watching me, just don’t strike up a lengthy conversation. I am here to paint!
We had a new one the other day. Unprecedented. While painting in a small park near the ocean at Morro Bay, some guy came up and asked us if we knew why the restrooms are locked. My painting buddy looked at him and actually answered that he doesn’t know. I pretended I am deeply involved in painting but had to really hold myself back and not say something rude!
It never ceases to amaze me what questions you get! We couldn’t believe it, but it also made for comic relieve once he had sauntered off.

The 148th Annual International Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society

Borrowed Freedom

Borrowed Freedom

I am very honored and happy that my painting “Borrowed Freedom, Yosemite”, was selected for this year’s Annual International Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society in New York City

The Exhibition will be held April 6-25, 2015 at the Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

Techy paintings and general musings..

 

Some of my favorite paintings of 2014

If you listen to a music piece you are first pulled in by the melody, and, depending on the piece, the voice or instruments. But there’s much more: the thing you can’t explain! It grabs you, it touches you, it makes you hum along and gives you chills or a general feeling of elatedness. Good music does that! Never does it occur to you to think about the craft, the notation, the hours of practice or how the song is structured.

Visual Art can do the same thing, a performance or a painting. In my opinion, that should be the goal of a fine art painter. To create something more than a techy painting. There are so so many artists out there doing a really fine job of copying photographic reference, creating super accurate work, solid forms and… boring paintings, devoid of any life.

The problem is that, in order to become solid painters, we have to put big efforts into our craft and it’s mostly all left brain, techy. Washes, blending, edges, color mixing, palettes-brushes-paper. Many painters create hundreds of color swatches, whole sheets of them. What is that good for? Now you know what happens if you mix x and y pigment. Great. While I understand the desire to learn about color mixes, I think a better approach would be to arrive at your signature color mixes during actual painting time. It’s a bit like practicing a guitar solo ‘dry’, without the music that has to go with it. If it’s not within the context of music, it is worthless! Same goes for color mixes! Ok, now that I have offended just about everyone, it’s time to move on ;)

Balance is the key word between the craft and what goes beyond (see, there’s not even a word for it!) You won’t find the rhythm, the lyrical nature of the subject if you copy what you see with your left brain. You’re missing the deeper message. So a balance of both worlds is in order.

Being connected with the subject matter is important.Focusing on the beauty and strength of the subject is another. In the end, all your senses have to be involved or else you’re just pushing around pigment on paper. Don’t get suckered into the techy parts too much but let it happen on autopilot. Go with the gut, get into the zone when it’s done and you step away, spent but happy, looking at the result and you ask yourself: How did that happen?

I want to wish everyone who’s following my artistic journey a Merry Christmas and a happy and successful 2015. See you all next year. My workshop schedule is here

The 4th Annual Plein Air Convention, Monterey California

Frank Eber

Frank Eber

I am happy to be invited as a contributing artist at the Plein air convention!
This is the fourth event and according to the webpage, it is going to be big:

‘Join over 700 artists for the Woodstock of plein air painting.’

April 13-17, 2015 in Monterey-Carmel at the Monterey Conference Center.

In April 2015, join over 700 hundred painters of all levels, including over 60 of the world’s best, for the 4th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo on the dazzling Monterey Peninsula. The next event promises to be the best yet, with full program tracks focused around three of painting’s most popular media — oil, water-based, and pastels. You’ll work and play with your favorite painters while attending lectures and demos, and this year, you’ll have more opportunities than ever to paint with them, as we’ve scheduled ample time each day to paint Monterey’s extraordinary scenery.

Positives and Negatives

Subject matter like this stable scene is very inspiring to me, simply because I love horses. But from an artistic standpoint, there’s more to it that made me want to paint it.
We have a brightly lit backdrop and horses with riders in the deep foreground shadows which creates contrast and lots of positive and negative patterns.
As a painter, that’s what I am looking for. It is almost more important than the subject itself: Light, shadow, positives, negatives and pattern. What exactly do I mean by P&N?

If you have a shape, any shape, it has an outline thus creates the space that makes the shape. It is filled with a certain value and color. It distinguishes itself from other shapes by value, color and form. Most people see only positives, for instance the tree on a hillside or a vase on a table. Artists see differently. I look for patterns. I am more interested in what the shape does than what it actually is. Sure it’s a horse, a vase or a tree. But how does it interact with shapes around it? What is it’s overall effect on the compo, the design, the line work, the energy it creates.. These are the important parts!

A tree has lots of branches, foliage etc. and we can easily see the sky showing through all the gaps and openings. There’s your negative space!
Oil painters often layer the sky into the tree and get the branches like that. Watercolor painters paint the sky first and are careful to leave gaps within the tree to get the same results. Or else, you work a darker value around and get the branches to appear that way. If you have problems ‘seeing’ negative space, try to look at a picture in black and white. The values will be easier to spot as well!

So, the enclosed spaces and openings between the branches of a tree are ‘Negatives’. Negative space doesn’t mean ‘ no pigment there’. It just means there are gaps with a big value discrepancy. (foreground dark, background light or vise versa!) In painting, it often develops a focal point!

If you want to see a true master of negative painting in watercolor, go visit my friend Brenda Swenson’s blog, take a look at this post ( http://brendaswenson.blogspot.com/2013/05/negative-painting.html)
I posted her floral painting above. Can you see the negative space that makes the stems and petals? A great example of the art of negative painting!