Some day in a nearby gallery…

My frustration at photography is increasing exponentially. I have very strict parameters for photographing my work, I have used them consistently, but the results are deteriorating. Or else it’s just what I posted a while back–that this particular painting is only going to look good in real life.

I will admit that shades of blue are difficult to reproduce exactly. I will also admit that there are extremely subtle nuances in this painting that even the best lighting chooses to ignore. Finally, the truth is that this painting just looks better from at least 10 feet away, and even more so at fifteen feet. I am still waiting for that app that magically makes a painting appear to be several feet away no matter what device it is displayed on. It doesn’t help to be looking at a 46″ x 38″ (117cm x 96cm) painting on a tiny laptop screen either.

So now that I’ve made all the excuses possible in the real world, here’s the final version of Sky Pads 16. Maybe not the “final answer”, but definitely the final version.

More contrast, more color saturation

News flash: Sky Pads 9 was accepted in this year’s Box Factory for the Arts Michiana Annual Art Competition. It will open on June 15. I find it interesting to compare #9 with #16. A similar palette, a somewhat similar overhead perspective, but a huge difference in the light and intensity of the colors. I’m thinking about returning to this series’ nebulous roots for #17.

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Sweet Sixteen part 3

Third iteration–one wash and two paint layers

The lily pads amazingly enough still look like they’re sort of “flying” over the background. I was hoping to keep that effect rather than having them blend into the surface texture like the previous paintings in this series have portrayed them. There are probably a couple of more layers to go–I need to get more variation in the values (contrast) and also change the color of the pads a bit, nothing radical.

It’s kind of unfortunate that photographs don’t do most paintings much justice. This one is a lot more luminous and blended than it appears here. Also a lot of my paintings only have their best effect when viewed from a distance. This one is no exception. Maybe someone can invent a “make your blog post painting look far away” effect…LOL!

Posted in art, landscape, light, oil paintings, painting techniques, photography challenges, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

An old dog learns new tricks (a photo-free post)

So I went to this seminar on Saturday about how to increase your sales at an art fair. I knew I didn’t know everything, but I didn’t know there were some rather obvious things I should have known. Don’t want to start sounding like a lamer version of Donald Rumsfeld  here, so I’ll stop the “knowing” thread.

Anyhow, I took several pages of handy notes in addition to the printed pages they gave us to take home. In the interest of brevity, I’ll only go over the interesting points that were new to me.

First off, the all-encompassing point of the seminar was to show the many ways you can and must look professional if you wish to have a lot of art sales. The more professional and business-like you and your booth look, the more willing the public will be to accept the idea of higher prices for your work. Being sloppy and haphazard brands you as unbusinesslike and can make people uncomfortable dealing with you.


Plan your display to catch the attention of passers-by. You only have about 4 seconds to present yourself and your product before they walk past your 10 feet and on to the next booth. How you hang your work so it will be instantly seen is very important. “Hot spots” for viewers passing by are the two inside front corners of your booth and the center of the back wall. Put your best, brightest, most attractive art pieces there. The back wall is extremely important–put something large and attractive right in the middle, then symmetrically place other pieces up and down alongside it. Make sure everything hangs level and stays that way…otherwise, “sloppy”…

Have a very short, prepared speech about who you are and what you are selling memorized. Repeat it to every person entering your booth. No detail about how you do your work or why you are an artist or what your work means. Just name, I’m the artist, these are (name your media). It was already known to me that over and over again visitors will ask the same questions (are you the artist? did you do all these yourself? is this oil? is this watercolor?) so if you have the right intro prepared you can take care of all that right at once. We worked on these intros individually in front of everybody and got feedback shown by the audience raising their hands when they started to lose interest. That was really an eye-opener! My intro eventually got pared down to: “Hi! I’m Alli and I’m the artist. I painted every one of these lily pads myself. They’re oil, but they fool people sometimes because they can look like watercolors.” End of story.

What you do after your “intro” is leave the person alone so they don’t feel you’re hanging over them like a vulture and they can look at your stuff in a relaxed way. Straighten out paintings on the other side of your booth, rearrange stuff on your table, do whatever housekeeping makes it look like you’re still available but not pushy.

Title your work! I always do, but a lot of people just put “Untitled 21” or whatever. “Untitled” is not a title! Having titles helps people develop a relationship with your work. You want people to relate to your work! In the same vein, NEVER put a price sticker on the front or side of your actual work. Make nice professional looking labels with title and price. They can be hand made or computer printed, but they must be on the tent wall separate from the work. Why? Stickers on work look cheap. Having official-looking title/price labels will also help reduce the haggling. If your art isn’t cheap, why make it look that way? Also why–because nobody wants to have to ask the price, look for the price, or worst of all, have to go to the artist and ask for the price list where everything is numbered and then they have to find the piece they’re interested in on this huge list.

Don’t ask for a booth space with access to electricity. The organizer will most likely put you next to a noisy smelly generator and you won’t be happy–or able to easily communicate with your visitors. A marine battery should easily take care of basic electric needs such as lighting, laptops, phone charging.

If you keep all your framing simple and consistent you can also keep it looking neat and fresh by bringing a black or white paint pen with you to touch up incidental scratches that are inevitable when you are part of a traveling art business. Keeping your frames consistent in and of itself is important. You want people to concentrate on the art and if you have a different frame for every piece then they start “frame shopping”, adding to the confusion. Confused people don’t buy. Keep it simple and eliminate the variables. Also, consistency promotes a stronger body of work.

What to say once a conversation has started; and what not to say. They comment it’s too expensive. Reply, yes it is expensive, but it is one of a kind and may not be for everyone. They ask how long it took to make. Reply, for example: This piece took about 3 months but also many years to work up to this level. The entire series has been developing for 20 years. They ask how much it is. Reply, telling them confidently in dollars (“four hundred fifty dollars”, not four fifty…some will invariably assume you really mean $4.50). They say they’ll have to think about it. Reply, adding some more interesting information about your work–don’t take their statement as an end point. And, never say “thank you” until a sale is completed, even if they give you a compliment. If they say they like your work, ask which one they like best and what about it makes them pick that one. Hand them a card and ask them to tell their friends about you. They make a lowball offer. Reply, I wish I could sell it at that price–and give some value added, such as delivering and installing a large piece if they live nearby.

Lastly, the appearance of the artist in his/her booth. Wear neat, clean, but very simple clothes. If your audience starts talking about your clothes, they’re not talking about your art (if you’re a jeweler or wearable fabric artist this obviously does not apply). Solid colors are best, and colors that harmonize with the rest of your booth. Wear a name tag! For added emphasis, you can even put a ribbon on it that says “I am the artist”.

There was a lot more to the seminar, but I can see your eyes glazing over already…😊

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Photo imitates drama queen

I keep thinking the pads are floating around a planet…or something…

My painting as “drama queen”. I say this because the colors aren’t nearly so dramatic in person. All I can say at this point, since none of the background has been touched yet, is that in real life it will get darker and more dramatic. But unlike most of my paintings, the lily pads will not be smothered in anything. We’ll see how this plan goes.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to an interesting experience at an upcoming seminar this weekend. Having been an itinerant art seller for years now, one would think that I would have my sales spiel down pat. I have no trouble talking about my art or art in general but I do struggle to engage visitors to my booth in the first place unless they also happen to be of the chatty type. This seminar is geared at those of us who somehow manage to let a lot of potential sales walk away. So the point will be to practice engaging folks to discuss their interest in art (and my art) without sounding like a used car salesman (how much do you want to pay for this art???). We’ve been asked to bring a piece of art to “discuss”. Hoping one of my Sky Pads doesn’t dwarf everybody else’s selections.

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Sweet sixteen

Sky Pads 16, first soupy paint wash

Yesterday it finally got warm enough (60 degrees) to go outside and pour some paint on the next Sky Pads canvas. It will be warm for another couple of days, which will make me a bit of a happier camper, but then back to snow. At least that’s what says.

So this one looks kind of like what happened to the very first one–a big unintended but serendipitous circle of paint–

I know how this first one happened–there was a low spot where the canvas didn’t get fully stretched, so the paint settled there. On #16, however, it seemed to be stretched tight as a drum, so I don’t know how it decided to gather in a circle. The only downside to this is that if I wanted to do it on purpose it would just be a throw of the dice as to whether or not it happened.

So I’m going to try to go for simple and elegant for number 16. I believe I made some sort of predictive hint of that in a previous post. Anyway, I’m sure you readers will let me know if I’m getting too complicated. Meanwhile, I’m going to head outside and start digging up the vegetable garden while it’s still nice and warm out there.

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Into the dark

Don’t say you weren’t warned! I had comments on the last post about how lovely the lightness and softness was in the early stages of this painting. I may have to go there in the next one (good thing this is a possibly endless series). In the meantime, please try to enjoy this finished piece in spite of your expectations.

Sky Pads 15, peering into the shallow depths?

This is a large piece, the same size as #14, which is 50″ wide and 32″ high. It reads best from a distance, so you may want to back away a bit from whatever viewing device you are reading this blog with. This time around there wasn’t much cloud reflection on the surface, but a lot of murky vegetation just underneath it. I find it interesting that the strong vertical lines caused by the coagulated paint in the first wash now look like they might be stems coming up from the bottom of the pond. You just never know how something’s going to turn out when you employ randomness as a technique!

To see the earlier versions of this painting click here



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Allow me to mislead you

So here we have the first two passes in the ever-evolving Sky Pads series. The first one surprised me, even though I have previously poured thin paint over what now seems like countless canvases. I used paint thinner again, just like in #14, but this time the pigment congealed in vertical stripes! I suspect it settled in very slight indentations which did not get sufficiently smoothed out when I stretched this canvas. It came off an old roll that had been sitting around for some time, so–who knows? I have never been one to discard a first layer just because it did something illogical or unexpected. I just view it as another opportunity to be creative.

Anyhow, I do have plans for this one which if I am successful will be something quite unlike what the second pass seems to illustrate. However, since I never know ahead of time if I’m going to be successful it is quite likely that the finished product will surprise both you and me. The waiting game begins…

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