Tag Archives: art classes

Same scene – different media – different times of the day

As you can see, I am experimenting with my art a bit right now. The fact is, I am always experimenting. I try to never get complacent, to fall into a rut and do the same thing over and over. Before you know it, as an artist, you are known to paint certain things in a certain way.
You become a ‘one trick pony’.

I avoid that at all cost. I don’t want to be put into such a drawer. I think it is important to never be static and to always change, to evolve, to move on. Artistically speaking, I mean. (Although you could make that argument for life in general as well, but that’s another blogpost… LOL)

On our last plein air outing near Bishop’s Peak, I felt I messed up my painting. At least, I didn’t like how it came out. Being there at the wrong time with the wrong light, I didn’t feel inspired but since my friends all painted I felt compelled to paint as well.

It took another trip to get better references and I feel good about the two I posted here. Both of them are not done plein air. To be honest, I had problems painting this mountain. After a few plein air attempts I figured I needed to move this into the studio to understand what it was I didn’t ‘get’. In the end, I think it was a combination of wrong light and lack of vision. I just didn’t really know how I wanted to see this painted.

The appearance of this peak changes dramatically during the course of the day, so it’s very easy to get lost. Despite all my years of painting outside, I made the cardinal mistake to follow the light. Not so much in the foreground but the light on the peak itself and promptly messed up the painting.

Repainting it in the studio made me realize what had happened. The sunrise piece is done in water-soluble oils. I used to paint lots of oils in the ’80s and ’90s and lately I have been getting back into it more. I apologize for the bad pictures, you can find a better version of the first one here. I need to learn how to take good pictures of oil paintings!

Visiting Artist at Yosemite Art Center

Last week I worked for the Yosemite conservancy again. This is my third year in a row and I enjoy spending time in this magnificent place and paint. I taught for four hours every day, helping fellow painters. I do not get paid for it, it’s a way to give back to the community and I gladly do it.

Once again I spent time at the stables and sketched horses. Yosemite is a peaceful place and I love sitting in a remote location, paint and re-charge my batteries, so to speak.
This year we had sun, clouds, rain, snow flurries and temperatures between 31 and 80 degrees (0 – 25 C) I enjoyed every minute of it!

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!

Abstraction in realist painting

What is abstraction? Webster says: ‘..expressing ideas and emotions by using elements such as colors and lines without attempting to create a realistic picture.’

There is a lot of abstract painting in my work. During this exhibit some people commented about how realistic my work looks until you take a closer look. I pointed out to them that most scenes have very little to do with reality. It just feels that way.

There are a few different methods that can be done to achieve this.

One is the exaggeration or manipulation of values contrast. Here’s an example in my work. The buildings appear very soft and ‘tonally wrong’ compared to the rest of the picture, i.e. the contrasty figures up close. In real life, the figures would not be as strong and the buildings would not be as weak as I painted them.

A NewYork minute

Andrew Wyeth was a master of this. Here’s an example. Notice the dark background hill? It feels like a ‘realistic painting’ but has very little to do with it.

wyeth

Colors can be altered within an object or shape. A shadowy white building might have blues and pinks in it. Here’s an example of an oil painter who achieves this within the girl’s hair (Daniel Gerhartz)

Daniel Gerhartz

Others introduce a different color scheme to an already existing light situation, blue juxtapositioned with orange/red, the way Van Gogh did.

Van Gogh

‘Loosely painted nothingness’ in backgrounds or unimportant areas, is another. If you look at the background in this painting (Paso Robles Acorn) the lines and shapes make no sense. They don’t have to because I established what it is by painting the middle ground more defined, so the background ‘reads right’.

downtown Paso

My friend Josh Clare, another oil painter,  did this so well with the close up of his cow painting: Can you see the second cow on the left? It works because the first one is all there.

josh clare

All this illustrates how much abstract painting so called realist painters actually do. More than we might think!

Yosemite valley

rangers horse stables, Yosemite valley P1030241

Last week I was teaching at Yosemite valley’s Art Center, operated by the Yosemite conservancy. This is a non-profit organization which means I didn’t get paid, but i think it is important to give back to the general community that helped me get where I am today. It wasn’t easy to tear myself away and not make any money for a whole week, but staying in Yosemite for free is a treat and I am happy I did it!

I want to thank Aline Allen at the Art Center for welcoming me and her efforts to fill up my classes. The only adverse conditions during the past week was the ongoing heat and extreme dryness that makes watercolor painting oh-so difficult!

Next year I will have to pick an earlier or later date!

Above paintings are sold at the Yosemite Art Center in the Yosemite village, California

Simple shapes and values

breezy day, by frankeber 2012       breezy day, detail by frankeber 2012

Another painting that relies on values, almost exclusively. Having said that, the full color spectrum is present. Look at the background and you’ll see blues, purples, reds, even yellowish brown. The only ‘real’ color is the red dash that represents someone sitting on the sail boat.
The water is mostly dry brushed. An effect that the watercolor medium is especially good for! Imagine, you’re a poor oil painter and have to do all this dabbling with white paint to get the water to look like this! Not with watercolor…three ripping brushstrokes and you’re done!

This is a classic H composition. I had to put the trees left and right fairly strong, to push the background further back. The sails are painted around (negative painting) to preserve the white of the paper. The have a few accents with warm grey (raw sienna and cobalt blue, mostly) that hopefully gives them the billowing effect.

There are almost no details in this painting, it is all an illusion. Your eyes are finishing the painting.
Simple shapes and values do the trick. thanks for looking!

Adventures in plein air painting, Part 2

Prague_pleinair1, by frank eber 2012 Prague_pleinair2, by frank eber 2012 Prague_pleinair3, by frankeber2012

In the last two weeks, I have painted on location in Prague, Dresden and Nuremberg.

This blog post is about comments that you get while painting outside. I don’t know what the motivation is for someone to comment on what an artist is doing, but I find it quite fascinating. I think this morning, I had one of the best ones yet–therefore it is time to put them down in writing!

While painting in Prague: (no particular order)

“Excuse me, do you know where the post office is?”
“I am looking for a pub where they serve ‘black beer’, do you know it?”

While painting in Dresden:

“Can we auction this off once you’re done?”
“Are you from here?”

While painting in Nuremberg:

“Do you think I can park here?” (The guy even made me take my ear buds out.)

and the best one yet:
“Did you paint this from a photograph?” (Remember, this is on location, looking at the subject matter right in front of us.)

Random Comments (Can’t remember the location.)(Not everyone is a moron, right?)

“This is lovely.”
“Did you paint this?” (I am still working on it.)
“I can only paint by numbers.”
“I stopped doing watercolors, now I do mixed media.”
“Did you make this paper yourself?”

And lastly, my favorite by elderly Germans, after looking at the piece and watching me for a while:

“Hmmmpf.”

Let’s see what happens in France…