Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shooting out the windows


I often shoot photographs while moving at the speed limit along the interstates. When you flash by a field at nightfall that shouts paint me, driving to the next exit and looping back isn't practical and by the time you get back, the light might be so different you wonder what grabbed your attention to begin with. These glimpses of opportunity at speed don't last long so I keep a digital point-and-shoot camera on the seat and shoot without using the viewfinder. The results are unpredictable but I get the occasional shot that plants the seed for a good painting.

Friday, February 27, 2009


It's the end of the week. Five days 9 to 5 painting this week and two night sessions as well. I got some good work accomplished but since it still resides here at the studio, I won't feel the sales benefits until later. I soon need to sort and ship or deliver to galleries and reps. That's sometimes hard to do since you want the work to go where it will give you the fastest return in sales. I need to call my dealers to discuss who needs what based on what they have, how long since work has been exchanged, and which paintings will work best for them individually. Still, knowing where to send work is a guess.
The painting above, Beginning Anew, has been a problem child, but I feel good about it now. Last week I painted until I thought it was finished. After a couple of days I decided to re-work it. It's a process I'm famous for among the other artists around here. And I think a source of amusement to them. I'm known to work and re-work a painting until I'm happy. If there is something left in that image that I feel I haven't found yet, I'm going to keep painting. My process isn't a linear path to completion. I work in circles until color, composition and emotion merge as one. The real trick is recognizing when the puzzle is solved.
Beginning Anew, oil on canvas 40x40, stretched and framed, $4,200.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On to what's next

Finishing up a 36x48 painting. The title will be River View. After a few hundred paintings, titles become a challenge. I've almost resorted to using GPS coordinates for titles based on where I photographed the reference but some of the romanticism goes away with that. And since so many works are made up from imagination or changed from the photo image, I'm not sure how to represent those coordinates.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Business mixed with pleasure

I'm blessed that I like to go to work. Most artists feel that way. It wasn't always like that for me. For awhile in New York, while going to Pratt Institute, I drove a cab. When I got out of Pratt, making a living as a artist in Florida was a long shot (for me, anyway). So I drove a truck during the day and painted at night. I wanted to be an illustrator but jobs were hard to come by. Things were bleak until Olive Garden called.
I was asked to paint a mural in one of their first restaurants. What started as an occasional pay check grew to be a monster assignment that required me to travel nearly every week for 12 years. I learned more about painting there than art school could have taught me in twice the time. It wasn't glamorous work, but it changed everything about what I thought it was to be a painter. And I remember that was when I started loving to go to work. But more about that later.
Today was spent doing little things that in total, seemed like a lot of work. Photographing paintings, titling and numbering them for inventory, e-mailing images to my webmaster. And my gallery owner stopped by to pick up something to pitch to a client. A large wet unstretched painting tacked to the wall. I finished it up and laid it wet on the rear deck of the SUV.
"Good luck! Dont let it touch your clothes."

Home delivery

My gallery owner and I delivered a large (48x60) painting of mine yesterday evening to it's new owners. They have recently moved to a beautiful new home on a lake here in the Orlando area.
I always enjoy seeing the places my art goes to hang. You get the real experience of viewing it in proper light and it's ultimate surroundings.
The other fun part is seeing what artwork the clients have collected. It's interesting if not much of a mystery that if they bought my work, they might have other paintings by artists I like and admire. They were kind enough to give us the tour. In this case the western landscape artist Jim Wilcox of Jackson Hole WY had several pieces on the walls along with Ken Auster of Laguna Beach CA who does wonderfully colorful and atmospheric urbanscapes and interior scenes. The art was the finishing touches on a beautiful home.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Faith is what you have when you send an $800 entry fee to an outdoor art show which will take place half way across the country in unknown weather conditions in 5-7 months, where you will be attempting to sell artwork you haven't yet created in an economy which may implode anytime between now and then.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hope dashed

My local gallery called to say the works we left in a prospective client's new home last week are being returned. This is always a bummer but when I think of the times before this has happened, the painting or paintings have always later found a home. It just has to be the right fit and at the right time.
Theres always a small part of my mind that wonders how anyone would pay money
for something I paint on a white piece of canvas.
Im gratified when they do.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Trip to the mechanic

Today was pretty productive. Seven hours of painting. Finishing a small one and starting a large one. I have mild anxiety about the state of the economy and how we as artists are going to be affected. Or have already. I'm spreading the work to more outlets in hopes of recouping better sales from more places. We'll see if that's good strategy.

My faithful cargo van sprung a radiator leak over the weekend. I got the courage to take it to the shop today. A big bill is on its way. Ouch. But no choice in this case. I tell people my van is as important a tool as a paint brush or a tube of paint. It has gotten me to countless shows and galleries through the last 9 years. Trips to California, Idaho, about a dozen times to Chicago, New York, St Louis, Kansas City, Dallas Ft Worth... a lot of the US has passed under the wheels of that van. There have been great adventures and fun times. So I guess I owe it a new radiator and anything else it demands. Up to now it's been kind enough to break while I'm at home instead of leaving me beside the road on the way to an out of state show.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Painting without a trip-tik

It's Monday - back to work day and I resumed working on a small painting I started last week. My local gallery owner came in and bought it outright - unfinished. I warned her it was still underway but she insisted. That was dangerous because I'm just sure she'll want her money back when she sees it finished. I can hear her now. "That's what I saw the other day?"
I often work from photographs I take, but still it seems every painting I do is a half-out of control adventure. It's as if I'm hurtling down a road sliding off one side backwards and skidding across to the ditch on the other side. Somehow I usually gather it up in the end, but when the dust settles, I'm not always sure I'm at the destination I was heading to. Nothing looks familiar. As I have answered some people who want to know about a painting's inspiration,
"No, I don't know where that place is and I don't even know if I meant to do that, but I like it".
Oh, today I also committed to another gallery show in April in North Carolina.
I'm sure I will regret this later. I'm overbooked.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Setting a routine

Sometimes the normal Monday through Friday work week doesn't apply to being an artist. What we do doesn't require or even allow a 9 to 5 schedule. Frequently our evenings or weekends find us working at shows or openings. Sometimes the deadlines for gallery shows or commissioned work require long days. For me, travel is thrown in every month or so and my on-duty hours become long and jumbled. So how do we handle the disipline of studio time? Should we wait for inspiration to fill our sails? Should we be on call like a fireman waiting for smoldering ideas to burst into full flame sending us running to the studio? Or do we show up, move the paint around and see what happens?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sometimes painting is the thing you do least

Today was a busy day at the studio. My local gallery owner called wanting to know if I could assist her with a delivery to a local prospective client decorating a new house. My studio is part of a group of studios under the name of McRae Art Studios here in Winter Park FL. Since the gallery handles a couple of other artists' work as well, I loaded most all of my available work, large and small and a couple pieces for two other artists. These expeditions are like big show and tell events. I drag in paintings and try to hold them up on walls while the homeowners and designers look. Too much blue, not quite big enough, just a smidge too red. Doesnt look good with the rug. Whatever. You hope you are rewarded in the end.
I'll say right here I like my gallery people. They work hard so I don't begrudge them their half of the price. Even when I deliver. I guess it's a price I pay for owning the largest van.
I ended up leaving two paintings for the couple to mull over. Plus one that had already been delivered for approval. Now we wait.
Later a call came from my gallery owners in Seaside Fl. They were in town and wanted to stop by. This was our first meeting in person. They have recently bought the gallery and are giving it a go even as the economy tightens in that resort town. Most of their customers are two and three home owners. We are all hoping there is still a budget for art in these homes. They are enthusiastic and experienced in retail so they seemed to be ready for the challenges.
They picked three paintings from my building stock in the studio. Lucky for me a business associate of theirs is picking up the work in two weeks for delivery. No shipping costs! The bane of most artists. I painted with what was left of the rest of the day. The last couple of weeks has been productive. I'm hoping I can keep this up. The creativity and ambition isn't always consistent. But I just took on my fifth and sixth gallery. It's like going from a rifle to a shotgun. I'm going to have to spread it around which means lots of work.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009