Friday, July 24, 2009

My Most Precious Studio Supplies

I know this is a slightly out of focus photograph (maybe more than slightly), but the brushes are more than slightly worn, so the fuzziness may be more flattering. These are my favorite brushes, Windsor Newton Lexington II's. They're not expensive. The bristles have just the right amount of stiffness combined with springiness for my style of working. The bristles are just the right length. I love the rounds and the flats and the filberts and every other style they make. I'm very hard on brushes. I scumble a lot. This means that I scrub the brushes over the surface of the painting. It wears the bristles down. I don't particularly like a brand new brush. One that is well broken in is just perfect. It's wonderful for awhile and then suddenly, it's just too worn out. Kind of like a good haircut that is best after the first few days, great for weeks, and then all of a sudden almost overnight, way too shaggy.

Which brings me to a little paranoia. It seems that my brushes break down in a group. I'm going along just fine and then suddenly one day, a bunch of my favorites have just had it. I panic. Lexington II's aren't the easiest brushes to find. My favorite art supply store, Arizona Art, carries them. But only at the store in Phoenix, a 2 hour drive away. If I think ahead, I can order them from the local Tucson Arizona Art Supply and the brushes will arrive in a few days. Somehow, I never get around to going online to figure out where else to get them, probably because I don't think about it unless I'm in crisis mode. None of the catalog stores I use carry them. I've looked at other art stores, to no avail. This is when I get real nervous. What if Windsor Newton has stopped making them? Then what will I do? It's the stuff of nightmares!

On the other end of things are the feet. Mine hurt. They hurt a lot. It's probably because I taught art in a facility with a concrete floor. And I lived in a home with a concrete floor. Then I moved to an apartment with a concrete floor and acquired a studio space with, yes, a concrete floor. Now my brand new studio, which I love, also has a concrete floor. A normal person would just sit down. I rarely sat down when I taught art. I even more rarely sit down to paint. Sitting just isn't something I do well.

What you see above are a pile of life savers. They are FitFlops, a sandal from England, sold in the USA. I'm not sure what it is about them that works so well. Believe me, I've experimented with just about every shoe style and brand known to man. I discovered FitFlops last year via an add in the New York Times. Having been burned too many times to count by shoes that feel great for the first 1/2 hour and then no longer hold the promise of comfort, I was dubious but curious. I bought my first pair. It was like a miracle. No more foot pain. And the comfort continued on, month after month.

Paranoia kicked in again. What if the company goes under? What if they repurpose the style or change materials? Hence, the pile you see in the photo. I currently have 5 pairs of FitFlops. They are worth their weight in gold. I'm thinking I'd better get to the store to pick up just a couple more pairs, just to be safe.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Balancing Act: I Can't Wait! Working in the Studio vs. The Business of Art

I try to create a post for my blog twice a week. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. This past week and 1/2 has been busy with visitors. When we lived in Ajo, way, way in the boonies of the desert of southern Arizona, a (very) few intrepid friends made the trek to see us.

One of the things I hoped for when we moved to Oracle, is that our friends might be more inclined to visit. In reality, Oracle is the same distance from Phoenix, but because it's just north of Tucson, there's the appeal of a really interesting city nearby. Plus, living at 4500 ft. elevation means that we're cooler here, a real incentive for Phoenicians, and less of a disincentive for other friends from cooler climes, to come visit.

So, my wish is coming true. Which brings up the title of this post, Balancing Act. And yes, it is. A balancing act.

The act of entering the studio and getting to work can be daunting. So much rides on the success or failure of every creative attempt. It's hard to ignore the cost of the materials required to do the work. Studio work has to go hand in hand with figuring out how to manage an art career, which includes marketing and selling art, and many other tasks. And then there's doing the laundry, cleaning the house, and making time for friends and family.

A true juggling act.

The photo above is a beginning and a finishing. I just started the painting on the left. If you look back at previous entries, I've been working on the painting on the right for some time. I'm not sure how long, because while I intended to track my time on this one, it didn't happen. Yesterday, when I entered my studio, I thought a few small touches would complete the painting. Hours later, I was still working on it. When I go to look at it today, I hope I'll be able to call it done, and begin to concentrate on the painting you see below.

I've just finished the fun stage of this one, where everything seems possible. I literally dash paint onto the canvas, keeping it loose and experimental. Next step is to look at proportions and angles and begin to work with color.

The next step for the painting above (assuming it will stay finished) is to sign it, title it and photograph it. (A real, James Cowlin photograph, professional and accurate). Then I enter it into my Bento record of paintings, with dates, size, title, media, price, location. Next I'll enter it into my various on-line galleries and websites. This, too, is time consuming and not so fun. But necessary in keeping track of my work.

I'm grateful to Alyson Stanfield, my guru of all things art business related. Her book, I'd Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist's No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion, has been instrumental in my progress in balancing the art in being an artist with the business aspects. I have an accurate record of my work, thanks in large part, to the suggestions in her book. Her weekly newsletter helps to keep me on track. You can view her website and subscribe to the free newsletter at Alyson Stanfield's website.

A new book, The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love, by Jackie Battenfield is a great companion book to Alyson's. I just finished it, and I love her approach. Now I need to start at the beginning of the book and follow her advice!

The reality of being an artist is that more than 50% of time has to be spent on the business aspects of the art practice, in order to move ahead in an art career.

Which brings me to the point (at last) of this blog post: I'm continuing on the theme of what it takes to be an artist. It's not just all fun and games. It's lots of hard work and like any job, includes plenty of stuff that you'd just rather not do. The difference is that because it's completely self directed, it takes buckets of determination both to make the art, and to promote it. Balancing the art making, art promoting, and the rest of life is an art form in and of itself!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Procrastination: Painting Progress Report

After many hours of work (too absorbed to track my progress with my camera), this is what I have so far. You can check back a couple blog posts if you'd like to check out where I started with this painting. It's still far from complete. It's at the stage where I think it'll take a few hours to finish, but ends up taking days. It always happens, and I never seem to learn.

Documenting my progress is part of my resolve to learn to explain my work and my method of painting, so that when people ask questions, I have worked out some logical answers. This, instead of stammering and telling them that I really, really need to think about how to describe my paintings and process.

Actually, the reality is that I'm stalling. We were on the road last week, working on the US Route 89 project, After being totally absorbed in that, I find it difficult to switch gears and get back into my studio. I know that once I force myself to enter that space, I'll get right to work and wonder what the problem was. It's the getting in there that is hard. It's like a brick wall I have to force my way through. You'd think someone was waiting to torture me on the other side of that door, when in reality, what waits is what I love to do.