Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tulip Fields

In Washington we have several places to get up close and personal to fields of tulips. What an amazing array of colors!

I have always been intrigued by the bands of colors and have wondered if I could capture the feeling in a watercolor painting. Here is my first watercolor painting of the tulip fields in Woodland, Washington.

How did I do?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Artists' Garage Sale

Every year the Olympia Arts Commission organizes a huge artists' garage sale at the National Guard Armory. I am not certain how many years this gathering has been happening, but this was my first time attending. It is an event where you can find materials to make art and finished art ready to take home.

The Artist' Garage Sale is open to all artists and a booth space cost of only $10. I heard there were lines to get in this morning as they say the "best" stuff goes first. I do not subscribe to that philosophy as I did not get there until afternoon and found some ideal items. It is my belief that what you want or need shows up no matter what time you arrive.

What I really enjoyed was talking with other artists. It was a great social gathering of artists and an opportunity to make some money. It was FUN!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Renee's Five Keys to Success

Over the years, as Renee Phillips, author of Success NOW for the Artists A Motivational Guide for the Artrepreneur, has studied the behavior of many artists, she has observed certain traits that are consistent with artists who attain their goals with fewer difficulties.

The traits she finds to be most valuable are not talent, education or wealth. Instead they are confidence, commitment, persistence, courage, and the ability to develop and manage change.

Think about it...

Whatever you can do, or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I recently purchased a book called Success Now for the Artist A Motivational Guide for the Artrepreneur. I like the term "artrepreneur." The book is by Renee Phillips who has written several books, gives motivational seminars, a keynote speaker at art institutions throughout the U.S., and a career consultant for artists world-wide. I figured I could definitely learn something from this book!

So far my favorite part is the dedication: this book is dedicated to every artist who knows that being an artist is a life force, not a career choice. YES!!!

Success, according to Renee, should not be measured by external events - when you sell your first work, or have your first one-person show, or get a positive review by a critic, or when your work is collected by a museum. It should be a constant flame that glows steadily and triumphantly within you - originating from the knowledge that you create your destiny. You don't need anyone - a dealer, an agent, an art critic or patron - to give you validation or approval. Success - is yours - Now!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hobbyist or Professional Artist?

As a general rule, successful artists are prolific. Many professional artists produce between 100 and 400 pieces per year. Sounds like a lot, but stop for a minute and think about the realities of creating a sustaining income from your work. By producing this volume of work and distributing it you greatly increase the possibilities of generating sales.

If we break the numbers down a bit and think in terms of weekly production, it only takes two pieces per week to reach 100 works per year. What if you work in a variety of sizes? Piece of cake!

So how is this done?

Here are some tips from Xanadu Gallery owner and artist, J. Jason Horejs:

1. Set a goal that works for you. If you only produced 10 works in the last year, set a goal to produce 20 in the next twelve months.

2. Put yourself on a schedule. Successful artists are in the studio every day (or at least five days a week!) This consistency is what marks the difference between a hobbyist and a serious, professional artist. Even if you are only able to devote a couple of hours a day, make it a priority to work religiously at your work every day during those few hours.

3. Start streamlining your production process - think in terms of buying your supplies in bulk, online, this way you can spend less time and money at the art store and more time in the studio.

4. Never compromise the quality of your work in the quest to increase your quantity. In the long run, however, you will find that there is no better way to improve the quality of your work than to put yourself through the rigors of creating consistently.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Painting, A Practice of Self-Exploration

The creative process itself is the perfect dance of yin and yang.

Jeanne Carbonetti explains that when we can truly be with ourselves in the practice of painting, we feel the dance instinctively--- that special moment when we have discernment but are without judgment, when we have "vision," but are without expectation, when we are playful, yet hold a reverence for the sacred mystery of the creative process.

The experience goes to the core of self and you become one with the world. How it happens is a mystery. One simply must be willing to be there, painting. One must be open to the experience.

Jeanne says that it means opening yourself to the mysteries of the whole you, allowing parts of you that are often hidden to the world to surface through the practice of painting. What emerges naturally, even organically, then turns every painting into an act of discovery, and the partnership of painter and medium more easily becomes a dialogue. Each painting begins to be a mirror of a larger self than you had expected. Once the self is present, all the specifics of personal technique, style, and vision fall into place.

Paint and dance to your heart's content!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Portrait of Cecilia

Cecilia is a lovely Mayan woman who walks the Isla Mujures beach in Mexico carrying items for sale. Sometimes her husband joins her when he is not tending their baby boy. I love her gracious smile and colorful image which inspired me to paint her portrait. I do not consider myself a portrait painter, but every once in a while an image of a person draws my attention. Cecilia is definitely one!

I have not decided if I like this version better or not?

How do you feel?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Starfish On The Beach of Budd Inlet

Today my dog, Ebony, and I took a walk along the beach of Budd Inlet in Olympia, Washington. Brian and Jayme along with their dogs, Brinkley and Ginger, joined us.

We saw an array of wildlife! Jayme screamed when she was squirted by the oysters hiding in the mud. We found starfish, live sand dollars, large snails, and saw blue herons.

I was intrigued by the red color of the starfish we found here as oppose to orange color starfish along the ocean beaches of the West Coast. I also like the poses of the starfish.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


In creating art, the spirit of balance is best exemplified by the concept of composition, the arragement of elements in the space within the borders of the paper. Every mark changes everything. One must learn to be mindful of the whole picture when composing a painting.

Some artist begin each painting by "blocking." Think of your painting as a big jigsaw puzzle, then block in all your major shapes. If it looks right, chances are good that your painting will work. Once the major shapes are taken care of, the little pieces will fall into place.

Blocking is probably what Paul Gauguin meant when he referred to being "plastic" with painting shapes.

The Wave
Paul Gauguin

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sound Advice on Pricing Art

Pricing one's art is challenging.

I came across some good advice from Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Did you know that one of the most common mistakes artists make when approaching a gallery for representation is not having a concrete pricing structure for their work? No matter how strong your portfolio is, or how much a gallery owner likes your work, if you show the slightest hesitation or uncertainty about the value of your work you risk your professionalism in the eyes of the gallery owner you are approaching. When you are asked the value of your work you need to have clear and concise pricing structure that you can easily explain to your prospective clients and gallery owners.

When you are ready to start approaching galleries there are three steps you should take to establish the value of your work:

1. Do your homework. Spend some time on the internet and visiting galleries. Find artists who are at similar points in their careers, and, if possible, who are in similar genres. See how they are pricing their work and see if you can find their formula (are they pricing by the size of the piece, by the complexity of the work or by the time they are investing in the creation of the piece?). Understanding your "competition" is an important first step in arriving at a price for your work.

2. Build a strong track record of sales. Find ways to start selling your work. Ideally you will start selling in a gallery, but if that is not possible find an alternate path to collectors. The internet, eBay, art festivals and interior design professionals can provide you with opportunities to begin to establish the value of your art. Remember, the value of art is a perceived value - so as you begin to sell your work you have to create demand to justify the price of your work.

3. Develop a simple, consistent pricing strategy for your work. Come up with a formula that you can easily apply to all of your work, whether you price by the size, or by your material costs, or some other easily measured factor - the key is keeping it simple.

Other considerations when pricing:

You are better off setting your price a little low and then raising it as artwork begins to sell than you would be overpricing and valuing your work out of the market.

Avoid pricing by emotion - your emotional connection to your work is different than that of a collector. Sometimes an artist's least favorite work is the first to sell!

When discussing pricing, either with galleries or collectors, always speak in terms of the retail price. The price you are getting for your work when you sell it yourself will be the same price the gallery will be able to sell it for.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Spirit of Balance

Getting back into reading Jeanne Carbonetti's book The Tao of Watercolor, I came upon her thoughts in regards to balance in a painting.

She claims that the spirit one brings to the practice of painting is the ability to respond with a fresh outlook to the dynamics of brush, water, and paper. It is not to force anything but to respond to everything---without getting caught up in details too soon, which can be a fatal mistake in painting.

Rembrandt said, "We should view a painting, not 'nose' it."

Jeanne reminds us to see all the space, not just painted space, as being worthy of your attention---and when you think of empty space as being full of potential---that just may be the secret to success in painting as it is in life.

Thoughts to ponder........

Summer Reflections
by Jeanne Carbonetti

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Irises and Vincent Van Gogh

Irises are blooming now which makes me think of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings. Here is one of my favorites and its story.

Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, Saint-Rémy, France, 1889
Oil on canvas
28 x 36 5/8 in.

In May 1889, after episodes of self-mutilation and hospitalization, Vincent van Gogh chose to enter an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. There, in the last year before his death, he created almost 130 paintings. Within the first week, he began Irises, working from nature in the asylum's garden. The cropped composition, divided into broad areas of vivid color with monumental irises overflowing its borders, was probably influenced by the decorative patterning of Japanese woodblock prints.

There are no known drawings for this painting; Van Gogh himself considered it a study. His brother Theo quickly recognized its quality and submitted it to the Salon des Indépendants in September 1889, writing Vincent of the exhibition: "[It] strikes the eye from afar. It is a beautiful study full of air and life."

Each one of Van Gogh's irises is unique. He carefully studied their movements and shapes to create a variety of curved silhouettes bounded by wavy, twisting, and curling lines. The painting's first owner, French art critic Octave Mirbeau, one of Van Gogh's earliest supporters, wrote: "How well he has understood the exquisite nature of flowers!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sand Mandala and Deconstruction

This evening for the last class of the Create Mandalas for Personal Expression and Awareness which I taught at The Evergreen State College, I brought colored sand. We talked about the Tibetan Sand Mandalas and how the Native American Indians create sand mandalas. Then we let loose ourselves.

I watched as different techniques were invented; from paper tubes such as decorating cakes to dispersing sand from the palm of your hand. Of course every mandala was unique.

The mandalas were created on a large, thin piece of cardboard. After we discussed our mandalas and found the significance in our lives, one of the students began to tap the edges of the cardboard and the mandala transformed. We all tried this technique and were fascinated with the process.

I know that the idea behind sand mandalas is an exercise in impertinence, but I did bring my camera. We were so intrigued with the transformations that I documented them. Here is my sand mandala and its deconstruction.

What FUN!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Beautiful Chehalis Western Trail

I have been talking about the Chehalis Western Trail in my previous blogs. It is there where I meet interesting people and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

My favorite spot sit for a break.

This is the scenic view from the bench.

Ooddles of yellow water lilies flank this favorite spot.

Here is a fun picture where I caught a red-wing black bird in flight.
It looks like two red headlights!

What a treat; I got to enjoy four days in a row on the Chehalis Western Trail before the rains returned to our gorgeous green state of Washington.

And here is Ebony.......

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Observations on the Trail

This morning my dog, Ebony, and I went on the Chehalis Western Trail; I was on skates and Ebony ran beside me. It was a gorgeous morning and we saw and met an array of people.

Here are some of my observations:

Firstly, people are very friendly; everyone I passed said "hello" or "good morning" to me. I met two little girls about 5 and 7 years old on bicycles who each greeted me with "good morning!" Dad was riding behind them with his ear to the cell phone.

I passed a gentleman who was riding his bicycle and in the front basket of his bike was his dog. Dr. Jon would probably not approve of this combination. He believes skating or biking with a dog is too dangerous for both pet and pet owner.

I received several comments about my weird skates as well as my method of exercise which is typical when I skate with my dog. One lady commented, "That's the easy way!" I have no idea how she believed that what I was doing was easy or that my dog was not working hard to keep pace.

I was sitting on the bench near the pond observing the wildlife and Ebony was lying at my feet. A husband and wife each walking a daschund passed by. The woman complained she had the wrong breed. I think she really meant that she wished her dogs would behave.

People say the strangest things!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Eagle Sighting

Today Washingtonians rejoiced in sunshine. I decided instead of my morning walk with Ebony we would go skating; I skate she runs beside me.

I like to skate the Chehalis Western Trail in Olympia to Woodard Bay which is a nice 7 mile trip. Along the trail there is a lovely area where both sides of the trail have ponds and the yellow waterlilies are in bloom. I was wishing I brought my camera. We usually stop there on the way back for a break. Ebony drinks and goes for a swim and I gaze at the beautiful views while I drink my water.

I noticed in the distance a large bird splashing in the water. I am glad Ebony did not see it. It was a Bald Eagle! I watch it bathe in the water for at least ten minutes. Then it perched on a rock and proceeded to dry itself by flapping its wings several times. When it took off, it circled over my head for a grand view before it departed through the trees. Where was my camera!

I felt honored to be privileged to this intimate bathing ritual.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Art Supplies

My friend is moving and in the process of packing came across some art supplies she purchased but feels she will never use. I was the luck recipient.

Why is it that getting new art supplies is like getting candy?

There they sit in their shinny boxes with sharp points with the never been handled look. To top this off, they are cleverly boxed for children and all the writing is in Japanese. One contains an array of oil pastels in a nifty carrying box that swivels to view a second layer of colors; seventy in all! The other box contains watercolors in little tubes with pop-up caps. Deliciously inviting!

This sweet treat needs to be shared. I am looking to temp a little artist.

Do you know one?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finished Painting?

Last evening one of my students who was introduced to painting in the Discover the Artist Within class at The Evergreen State College asked,

"How do you know when a painting is finished."

GOOD QUESTION! One which challenges me on a regular basis.

Then she asked, "Can't you ruin a painting by over working it?"


In my attempt to answer, I realized these questions are probably at the heart of every painter. The fact is there is no set really is hit or miss.

When I believe a painting is finished, I place it in a prominent spot in my house where I will walk by it often before I decide it is truly done. I also photograph the painting for my website and see it from another perspective. I might make changes, then again, I might not.

Here is my latest, I believe finished, watercolor painting.

How do you feel?

Monday, May 11, 2009

To Sign or Not to Sign?

I read an interesting post by Katherine Tyrrell about signing a work of art. Instead of a signature she uses small initials in a box on the front of the piece; very small and as unobtrusive as possible. Her preference would be for no signature at all - and she believe that's the way all the pieces that are "keepers" are 'signed'. She prints and signs her name on the reverse of the work and dates it. This means that it can always be identified as hers and overcomes the reservations about the use of initials.

She gives a checklist of things to think about before signing:

1. Make sure you sign your art - that makes it your art and not art that somebody else can claim as their own. If copyright is important to you, you really need to sign your work
2. Have a legible signature - if you want to be known by your name and not as "that artist with the funny scrawl".
3. Keep your signature consistent - that way people know it's you and not somebody trying to be you!
4. Don't overpower your art with your signature - artists with enormous egos seem to have enormous signatures but do remember that the purchaser is buying the art and not your ego.
5. Do you want a multi-purpose signature? - seriously, in these days of identity theft, think about whether you really want to use the same signature as the one you use to sign contracts, bank cheques and hotel chits?
6. Think twice if you sign with your initials - on the basis of how many other people share the same initials as you! Do your initials actually indicate that you and you alone are the artist?
7. Use a monogram or create an icon which means it's your work - in the past a number of artists signed using a monogram or icon. This means that anybody who knows you use a particular symbol knows it's your work. To anybody else it's completely meaningless!

What are your thoughts about signing art?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Teahouse Kuan Yin

May 9th seven of my watercolor paintings will be on display at the Teahouse Kuan Yin.

The tea house is in the Wallingford district which is north of downtown, on the other side of Lake Union close to the University of Washington. It is a cozy little shop that has been around since 1990 and sells bulk teas, tea ware, light meals, desserts, and hot or iced tea in a fun and relaxing atmosphere.

Michelle, my daughter, loves to hang-out there. You can find her every Friday sipping Jasmine tea and doing some creative writing. She inspired me to contact the owner about displaying my art.

Apparently this tea house is very well known because I have mentioned it to several different people from Olympia to Shoreline and they are familiar with it. So, if you are in the neighborhood, stop in. Marcus, the owner, asked for some of my "bright" watercolor paintings of flowers to liven up the place. I will oblige!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mandala Class

A small group of students signed up for the Mandala Class I teach at The Evergreen State College extended education program. Actually, small classes are fun and more intimate.

The other evening I brought the medium of craypas to explore and had the students create a mandala for an hour and fifteen minutes. They were amazed by the meditative quality of the process of creating a mandala. The students were open and able to gain insights into their art and their process.

"This is fun!" rang in unison when the class ended.

Usually I do not create art myself when I teach class as my tendency is to go off into my own creative world and neglect others. Feeling the desire to create a mandala, I asked the student's permission to join them.

I found myself enjoying the flowing shapes and tried to reframe from a blossom flower type image that appeared, but then I gave in to it. I have not decided if it is above ground growing or in water..........what is your feeling?


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Crocus Watercolor Painting

In my opinion the first sign of spring is seeing the crocus pop up from the barren earth. This spring I was excited to see this lovely patch of crocus which my neighbor planted a second time after my dog dug them up. I was amazed they grew considering they were chewed on by my dog, and their beauty was exquisite! I took several photographs and found the shapes and stripes compelling to paint. I finally sat down to put this feeling into a watercolor painting.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Maple Blooms

Lately I have been fascinated by how quickly the leaves of the Big Leaf Maple grow. The other day they were mire sprouts with long beautiful chain of blooms and today they are actual leaves. I believe if you spent the day watching, you could actually see the leaves grow!

They make a pretty picture, wouldn't you agree?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"The Lilac Lady"

I mentioned taking a road trip to the Hulda Krager Lilac Gardens in Woodland, Washington yesterday, but I did not give you the insight into this spectacular place and remarkable woman.

Hulda Klager came to this country from Germany with her family in 1865 when she was two years old. She spoke often of her love for flowers and how as a little girl in Wisconsin she would wander through the woods near her home looking for wildflowers. Her family moved to Woodland, Washington in 1877 when she was 13 years old, purchased farmland and built a home.

Even though she was busy with the demands of marriage, home and family, she continued to find time to work with flowers. While she was recovering from an illness in 1903, some of her friends brought her a book by Luther Burbank, a renowned hybridizer at the time. After reading his book, she was anxious to begin her own experiments with hybridizing plants — especially apples. Her interest in apples came from a desire to save time making pies, because she felt it took too long to peel all those little apples! So she set out to develop a bigger apple by crossing the mild Wolf River apple with the sour, juicy Bismarck apple, and was delighted with the result.

In 1905 she began hybridizing lilacs and by 1910 she had created 14 new varieties. By 1920 she had developed so many new varieties that she decided to hold an open house each spring when the lilacs were in full bloom to share her efforts with other lilac enthusiasts. This practice caused her to become known as “The Lilac Lady.”

To find out more about this remarkable lady and Lilac Society which mantains the gardens read further and be sure to visit in May.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lilacs and Tulips in One Day

It was a glorious Washington spring day (sunshine & warm), and my good friend and I went for a road trip in Lily to Woodland, Washington to see the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens.

To our surprise there was a tulip festival, too.
What a day to feast in lilacs and tulips!

A picture is worth one thousand words.

Can you smell them?

Maybe three thousand words?!?!