Friday, November 18, 2011

Working Hard In the Studio

dThought it was time to unveil the yearly hysteria in the studio as I get ready for the 2012 Celebration of Fine Art opening in Scottsdale, AZ Jan 14 - time to confess to how messy it is to be an artist (at least that's my excuse!).  And just one more thing - if you enjoy this blog I would so appreciate it if you would forward it to your friends - word of mouth is the best for artists!

3 waiting for varnish

    
Beginning a sculpture


Early stages of standing Salmon Poppies


Primula in process




Waiting to Become



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wine & Art: The Perfect Pairing

Recently I had an opportunity arise in the form of an invitational exhibit at our local winery here in NC.  Cauble Creek Vineyard invited several artists working in several mediums to show up to three pieces with the only stipulation being that one of them should have something to do with wine.  I have had grapes on my list of sculptural gourd pieces to do for years and have never gotten around to!  This seemed like the perfect time.  And so it was.  I am happy to say that it sold at the opening and will be residing right here in Salisbury.

Here are several views of "Full Bodied".  It has lead to another piece, almost finished, for the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale, as well as a request for drawings for a totally different "wine piece" for the wall.



                             


Sunday, October 30, 2011

In an English Garden

A big project is finished and ready to deliver this week.  It is a companion piece to a peony and butterfly piece I did a number of years ago.  They are both 44" tall and In an English Garden will be a gorgeous mate.  The first piece is all rose reds and pinks with butterflies zipping through them in shades of yellows, blues, lilacs and whites, and perched on shades of green leaves and sunlit blooms.  This new piece is a rambling garden of a variety of blue and purple iris, peach and cream lilies, deep green hosta with delicate white blooms, some roses peeking out.  Dragonflies are here and there and a few other surprises as well.

I was asked to do this with the utmost trust that I would do something "just right", and I hope these lovely clients will be as pleased as I am.  That is always the thing, with commission work.  Will the expectations be fulfilled?  Will the artist understand the request?  Will the client be so nervous that the artist feels constrained and indecisive about the end design?  It really all is a delicate balance between them, and often hinges on how much each knows of the other.  The artist, being the artist after all, will have a strong vision of the work colored by her style.  If the client isn't very familiar with that style, or if the artist isn't solid in a particular style, the visions can be drastically different - sometimes not even in the same park.  The client may have a strong vision too - perhaps something he seen in a photograph or a place visited, a memory.  But if the client isn't able to tell the artist some particulars about that vision - something beyond a color palette or medium for example - then there's a good chance that a problem may arise.

How do we avoid such a mishap?  Artists need to be certain that the client understands her style and has seen several examples, preferably in the flesh as well as in the portfolio.  And I believe the artist should ask many questions - questions dealing with the more subtle aspects of the request - questions like, what is the angle from which you will view my work?  What other things are in the peripheral view?  What other artwork is near?  What is the overall "feel" you are wanting to create for that space?  Conversation that is more ephemeral perhaps, but the answers may get to a deeper place from which the client may clarify his expectations.  If we take a little extra time to distinguish these things, I think commission work can be exciting and very satisfying for both the artist and the client.

Then, every once in while, some wonderful people will say to you, "Do what you think is best - we love your work!"

Detail
In an English Garden


another view
another view


another view
and another


I can't decide which I like best!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sculpture finds perfect home!

This is so exciting for me to post!  Check our this ArtPrize sculpture by my friend Bryce Petit!  I have loved Bryce's work ever since he joined us at the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale many years ago.  And this piece is so much who Bryce is as a person - I hope you'll come to the show and meet him - he's just the best!  Congrats Bryce!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beginners - A Review & Comparison

Last post was about our experience seeing A Tree of Life.  Tonight we saw Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent in Beginners.  Touching, melancholy, sweet with wonderful expressive actors.  It was, as an experience, exactly the opposite of A Tree of Life.  By that I mean to say that I was always the observer in Beginners - appreciative, sympathetic, engaged - but never did I actually experience the emotions as my own.  A fine film.  I recommend it.  But not a film to experience, to be in.  And not a film that will stay with my conscious or unconscious mind.

Now, as we wend our way to Colorado for this coming weekend in Edmonds at the Vail Valley Art On The Rockies show, we take our art critic hats off and become our artist selves again.  Fun to live another life for a while.  Whitney and Syed and Roger Ebert.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Tree of Life - A Review & Varied Opinions

Syed and I went to see A Tree of Life, Terrance Malick's new movie starring Brad Pitt, this past week.  I had heard it was a "visual experience", and being into that sort of thing, we wanted to see it on the big screen. Yes, it was that, absolutely.  But it was so much more.  It was, in my opinion, the most exquisite meditation of what it means to be human that I have ever seen.  And the most deeply refined explanation of the metaphor of "tree of life".  I would not, could not, saddle it with easy phrases - "spiritual" or "religious" or "new age" or  "meaningful".  All of that seems to completely miss the elegance and totality of the concept.  The film was, in fact, a true experience of being. Yes, it is a difficult film because it asks of the viewer to give him/herself over - to suspend disbelief, cynicism, guardedness - and just experience what you are seeing.  Once one allows the mind to enter the abstract visuals without conscious criticism, one is able to simply open to whatever is coming.  And when one opens one's mind in this way (and the clue is given by the mother in her first audible thoughts when she tells us that there are two ways of being in the world - the natural way and the way of grace), the experience of being human in all it's history, it's development, it's complexity, becomes something we are able to actually experience while in our role as audience.  Quite amazingly, we can feel what they are feeling, become who they are, without judgement.

This film is so fully conceived, so delicately executed, that it is possible to exit the theatre with greater sensitivity to life than when you went in.  And, because I have read that many people have left early, asked for their money back, and have even been angry, I would invite them all to find other viewers with whom to have conversation and dialogue and above all, to go and try again - go gently, go alone, go without hostility or expectation - and then, let me know if your experience changes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Love Things Italian?


This is Liana Sofia Tumino's latest video showing the inspiration behind the incredible real frescos she creates.  It's a marvelous mix of music, art, dance and love!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sketches

Working on smaller and more casual pieces now - somehow the summer heat and humidity make me want to work quicker and on paper - perhaps the fan blowing on large pieces makes for problems with proper drying of the highly textured work I usually do.  Whatever it is, it's a nice change for me, and I hope interesting to you.  I am not a fan of highly developed portraiture - I think I lived with enough of those in my childhood - or perhaps it's just the times that make me want to see work that is more in the matrix somehow.

Girl With Red Scarf ©Whitney Peckman 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Recommended Reading

I want to take a minute to suggest a site for thoughtful and gently provocative reading - William Kenower at authormagazine.org.  I am very unclear as to why his name isn't readily obvious on the posts or the home page of the site, but in any event, when you click on the Twitter button on the site, it will lead you to him.  Follow him on Twitter.  Follow the mag.  He is skilled and if you are a writer, he will stimulate your brain.  If you are a reader, he will soothe you, lead you, open you by opening himself without sentimentality.  Look through the archives for June and find Gift of the Night - remember and go forth into your day refreshed.

Friday, June 17, 2011

CreAtive Sparx in McCall, ID

Registration is now open for all the classes and workshops at this exciting ART week in McCall, ID - Syed will be teaching glass fusing and his newest multi-layered work will be on exhibit; Ken Newman has three full days of in-depth sculpting; Deb Newman will be offering a class in social media for artists; Deb Fachin is offering a special class for teachers - and there is so much more!  Time is short - check us out and please forward this to your friends - we don't want anyone to miss out!  See you in beautiful Idaho in July!



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Week of CreAtive Sparx in McCall, ID This Summer!

We are all so excited to be participating in the first summer of art events at the brand new McCall Art & Commerce Center in McCall, ID!  

Classes, events, exhibits and open studio time - something for everyone!

Don't miss the Art & Wine Pairing because it's a  delectable, delightful and delicious way to tickle your tongue and your eye!

The CreAtive Sparx 20/20 Vision will let you peek into the hearts, minds and souls of some artists in a stimulating and unusual way!

Visit the exhibit in the Gallery and see sculptures, paintings, glass, pottery, jewelry...and maybe even some surprises!

Join us for this inaugural event at MACC (and if you are a member, don't forget to ask for the discount on the class fees).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Here is the flyer for a week of great workshops and events we are offering in McCall, ID at the new and very beautiful McCall Art + Commerce Complex (MACC) this summer the week of July 18-25.  The idea for this began at the Celebration of Fine Art this past winter.  A group of us, the NW Salon, who have been working cooperatively for a few years to enhance our audience's art experience, generated CreAtive sparx when Donna and Dave Armstrong told us about MACC.  Since all of us either live in or have lived in the northwest, we loved the idea of spending a week bringing our ideas, our work, and our energy to beautiful ID.  We are equally excited to join with McCall artists in the development of what may become the Art Event of many summers to come.  So, join us!  Besides the classes/workshops here, there are other curiously delightful events for you to attend....I will post more about these soon, so keep in touch!

And check this link out for other classes held on the campus all summer long - www.mccallarts.org

As for our road trip on the way to McCall - it's going to be a busy summer.  We start out in Chicago where Syed has a show over the July 4th weekend.  I'm taking a few days to visit family in Iowa City and a trip to the University art galleries and the wonderful  Chait Galleries Downtown where Syed has his work.  Then it's back in the van to Vail for the Art On the Rockies show, July 9-10.  We haven't been to Vail in several years, so this trip to the Pacific NW provided a timely opportunity to spend a couple of days in the Rockies again.  Then we go all the way to Salem, OR for the Salem Art Festival, a show we did many years ago - I love this festival!  They have great music and it's the annual fund raiser for their Art Association - so if you're in the area (and who wouldn't want to be in Oregon in the summer?), join us.

And finally we get to McCall July 18 for a meet-up with a bunch of great, inventive artists for a week of fun - teaching, sharing, sipping, tasting!

Monday, May 23, 2011

art ponderings today: Is THAT Art? An Answer

art ponderings today: Is THAT Art? An Answer: "I love this question. I love it when I hear it. I love it when I ask it. Because if something elicits that question, it has intrinsic val..."

Is THAT Art? An Answer

I love this question.  I love it when I hear it.  I love it when I ask it.  Because if something elicits that question, it has intrinsic value.  The work by Argentinian artist Marta Minujin written about in Escape Into Life blog post begged the question.  In my opinion, the answer is a resounding YES.  I hope you'll take a look at this large tower made from books, read about the cultural connections and meanings and finally, the plans for it's deconstruction when the exhibit is over.  


If every piece of art was as deeply thought out as this one, as environmentally conscious in regards to both materials used in the creation as well as spiritually conscious in the universal importance in it being archival, we could all enjoy the question, "Is THAT art?"


Would I feel the same if it had been done in metals or stone, relatively "permanent" for ages to come?  I don't think so.  Its impermanence is part of the spirituality, or universality, of memory, paths of understanding, and need for connection and at the same time asks, by virtue of its temporality, to be remembered, recalled, carried into the future consciousness.


What do you think?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Website Update

Finally updated my website www.whitneypeckman.com, so hope you'll take a peek - time to build inventory after our great winter - so thanks everyone for your continued support of my work.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Artists and Commissions

Note: This is a post I wrote for NWSalon.com and was originally published there in Mar 2011.  I am reprinting it here as a response to a Twitter stream.  Thanks . Whitney
For a variety of reasons, some artists dislike working on this basis, preferring instead to sell only what has already been completed.  Others of us enjoy the challenge and the conversation to balance and coordinate our ideas with that of our client.
Final touches
What contributes to getting a commission? (And here I am speaking only of private commissions, not public or corporate ones.)
Listening is the first and, I think, most critical.  We listen for that which impresses the viewer, because, after all, it has to be more than just a “that’s nice” reaction to our work to interest them in a specially made piece.  Each artist has a gut feeling about the strength of his own work.  Is it born out by the viewer?  Or, can you hear a potential problem – perhaps, “I love that piece, but not the colors” or “Beautiful colors! Too big, though.”  There are hesitations to listen for, and tones, and casual comments – “Hmmmmm” and “That would look great in your bathroom, Alice,” and “Good colors, but not so much for the bedroom, do you think, Honey?” or “Hmmmm, not quite."
So is a positive comment always a positive?  And is a negative one always a negative?  No, to both questions.
Loving someone’s work doesn’t automatically mean anything.  It is, however, an invitation to ask your own questions.  “What is it about the piece that you most like?”  (Appreciate that they may be in awe and inclined to burst out with “Everything!” but encourage them to be more specific.)  Now here is the place where sales books tell you to begin inquiring about their home and “qualifying” them.  I HATE this approach. I’m not a car salesman.  This person who is standing in your booth or studio or gallery is most likely responding to your work on an emotional level.  For me, that is the signal that we have a place where we might relate to one another. Instead of assessing her shoes and asking, “Do you collect original art?” I might ask if she gardens (because she is staring at my garden painting) or “Are you from here?  Are you watching for the hummingbirds to come back?” (because I have some in another piece).  Take a few moments to find what moves this person, because what moves her in her role as viewer, as potential client, is what may move you, motivate you, inspire you.  A piece of your self, your being, your soul can make a difference in a client’s life.  Learning a bit about who she is as an individual can open the door to the possibility of a long and successful artist/client relationship.  Finding spaces for relatedness connects both ourselves and our art to other human beings.  Relatedness never happens in isolation 
Similarly, “Nice colors, but it won’t work,” may sound negative, but in actuality is not at all.  Acknowledging their appreciation of your colors is the open door.  “Thanks – I’m glad you like my colors!  But what is it that won’t work?  I’m always interested in people’s difficult spaces.”  Your interest in their space is personal and caring.  I have had this conversation many times in my career.  Sometimes the resolution I see requires a different kind of artwork, and I am able to suggest artists who might be a better fit.  Often it is just an issue of position or shape or pattern – basic design principles of which they may not have a working knowledge.  It’s a great feeling to see their eyes light up when they see the possibility of one of my suggestions working for them.  And what better way to develop trust but to help in a generous manner without agenda.  If you don’t get the immediate sale, I guarantee that you will see the benefit down the line as they tell their friends all about you and your work.”
After you have developed the seeds of a relationship with your potential client, what comes next? 
Instead of announcing that you do a lot of commission work, why not suggest looking at their problem space together – maybe try a few pieces in the space to see what kinds of shapes/colors/sizes might work?  “Perhaps we’ll come up with some fresh ideas – then we can go from there.  I’d love to be part of the solution!”
Artists have good eyes.  That means if we use them, it is easy for us to take in a great deal of visual information, assimilate it, and generate many possibilities to solve spatial and design problems.  Are you approaching commission work with your eyes wide open, or are you just looking for a quick sale – no fuss, no muss?  It’s perfectly ok not to be interested or inspired by collaborating with the client.  If this is the case, just be clear about it within your own mind, be generous – give the client some artist’s names who might better be able to meet their needs.  Be clear about boundary lines –“I can incorporate this idea of yours, but not that.”  But, if you like this type of problem solving, then enter their home, eyes open to the myriad of details in their surroundings.  Why is the problem area a problem?  Listen to why they think it’s a problem.  Are they looking at your sculptures which are clearly not going to fit into the 4” deep niche?  Should they be considering a painting or shallow wall sculpture instead?  Can you see a place where they might be able to place your large sculpture?  Suggest it.  Perhaps you are a painter and they like garden paintings but have four broad-view garden paintings already in the room.  Suggest to them that perhaps they would like to consider a close up of the iris – one bloom in fine detail – to set off their wonderful collection of garden paintings.  Do you hate the other paintings?  Do not be insincere, but look at their home from their viewpoint.  After all, you are not the one living in the home.  They have paid you the complement of loving your work.  Respect their other choices.
Listening. Seeing the fun in problem solving. Respecting your audience.  Require 50% deposits and gurantee your work (they will be less anxious and, after thirty years of being an artist, I’ve never had to return anyone’s deposit).


Sunday, May 1, 2011

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark

Oh, the grim reality exposed in The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson! 

Are you an artist? A collector? A lover of art? Or do you just like an occasional expose?  If you are interested in how the contemporary art market works, this is the book for you. 

A word of caution – if you are an artist with aspirations of fame and fortune this book might 1) depress you, 2) discourage you, 3)stimulate your more cynical side, 4) completely alter your style, technique, raison d’etre, 5) save you tens of thousands on art education. 

On the other  hand, if you are, like me, someone who has made a modest living for a few decades on art, this may be 1) an incredibly refreshing dose of truth, (heretofore hidden in the private conversations of fellow artists) made public, and thereby validating many of our opinions previously referred to as “sour grapes”, 2) an opportunity to thank those who have collected your work out of love for what you do, 3) a chance to reconsider just why you do what you do, and perhaps to rekindle your own passion, because, after reading this book you may re-evaluate “value”.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Assessing Value: More Than “I Know What I Like”

In my postPricing Artwork: Thinking, Making, Marketing + Vision.” I addressed value and pricing from the artist’s perspective.  Today I’d like to approach value and price from the collector’s perspective and talk about Intention, the Educated Buyer, Experience & Knowledge, and Tradition vs. Trendy.

To begin, let’s distinguish Intention. Are you someone wishing to purchase a casual piece of art, perhaps something to brighten the breakfast area or children’s bedroom, or are you someone looking for a piece that you expect to own for a long time and place in a main living area?  Perhaps you are both. 

Unless we are buying solely for investment purposes, most of us buy art because we love the piece or the final look of our space when it is in place. Rarely does one have the luxury of not considering their budget, so Intention, is something to be intentionally clear about.

If you are going to buy a casual piece and you know your budget, you may easily find just what you want in the giclee of a fine original that would otherwise be too expensive for the end use. Perhaps you would find a good choice of an original piece at a student show (where the prices may reflect promise but lack of experience & skill), or at a weekend street show (where there is usually a wide range of price and quality available). There are many retail stores selling inexpensive prints framed and ready to hang.  Of these sources, only in the choice of student work is there the possibility of an increase in value as time goes on, but it is very uncertain at best. 

If, on the other hand, you are looking to make a more serious investment in art (and here I am not speaking about the upper echelon of collector who may be buying Famous Dead Men art, but of the person who loves art, wants to buy work that has lasting value, is well crafted and which he/she feels is good value for the money.  If you are this person, there may be some homework to do before you decide on a purchase.  Homework? For art, you ask?  Well, would you run out and buy a car or washer, a computer or flat screen without doing your homework first?  So, yes, there is homework if you want to be a confident and educated buyer.

Years ago, traveling in Italy, I fell head over heels in love with olive oil.  Returning home, I found myself disappointed in the olive oil I would buy in the supermarkets.  It just never tasted the same.  Then, there were not the myriad choices, only two or three brands and not the interest in olive oil as a health food as there is now.  My disappointed palette adjusted.  It wasn’t until a good friend gave me some olive oil she had brought from her mother’s village in Calabria that I remembered the glorious taste of Italy.  My friend began to educate me on the differences in olive oil.  Like the distinctions in fine wines, an olive oil can make or break a salad of fresh spring greens or crusty rustico bread.  It is the same with art. 

It doesn’t matter if you are choosing an oil painting in the traditional style, a contemporary abstract, a mixed media assemblage, mono-print or serigraph, ink drawing or photography, glasswork, bronze, wood, or clay sculpture.  What does matter is how much you know about the medium you want to purchase, and what determines the value, both in the marketplace and by your own personal estimation.  Without having a clear idea of how value is assessed in the marketplace, how can you know if you are paying a fair price?  And how can you feel good about the price you pay if you don’t know to what you, personally, assign value?

A word about market value: schizophrenic.  Are you in New York?  Salisbury, NC?  Boise, ID? Santa Fe? Minneapolis or Detroit, Paris, Hong Kong or Killeen, TX? Or are you on the internet, Craig’s List, Sotheby’s auction or your local flea market?  If you are buying original art, not commercial reproductions or work produced in mass for a commercial market such as many quite large “cottage industries” produce, you would be well advised to understand that where you are buying the work can be almost as important as what you buy.  Are you buying directly from the artist or through a gallery? And what is the relationship between the artist and the gallery?  Does the artist undercut their galleries? Have you seen the artist making deals with other buyers or is he/she firm and consistent with pricing?  Does the artist or the gallery have sales where the prices are slashed? Does the gallery have an open relationship with their artists such as would enable you to meet the artist or does the gallery want to keep you and the artist as far apart as possible?  Do you think your conversations with the artist or the gallery about pricing are straightforward or manipulative, suggestive, or uncomfortable?  These are subjective questions, but I believe they are questions worth asking yourself as you shop for art.  You may be a person who is comfortable with dickering and dealing.  You may not be.  Either is ok.  It’s only important that you understand who you are and what you expect, accept, or refuse in terms of making purchases.

Other more obvious factors of which you want to be aware are high pressure sales techniques, half-truths, exaggerations and outright attempts to disguise or mislead the buyer.  These things seem ubiquitous in our consumer culture.  The pitfalls can be avoided with a little time doing your homework.

Let’s take a look at what makes an educated buyer in regards to art.  I am assuming you don’t want to be taken advantage of.  I certainly don’t!  So, if you know, for example, that you will be looking for a painting for your home, perhaps learning about materials and techniques would be a good place to start. 

Experience and knowledge will cultivate a discerning eye, making you a wiser collector. What is, in 2011, the intrinsic value of oil versus watercolor or acrylic?  In certain parts of the country one sees more of one than the other.  Does that availability have anything to do with the tradition of the area, i.e. traditional east coast and southern towns value oil most?  I see more acrylic used in Chicago, LA and Florida.  Is it because there seems to be more contemporary and abstract work shown in galleries there? Have you been told that it is more difficult to paint in one medium than the other?  I have often been told that of watercolor.  There are so many factors to consider in assessing skill that I find it hard to believe one type of paint should affect the value.  Perhaps then, it’s time for us to find out what other things we should look for.  Drawing ability, composition, color development, brush or palette strokes, and certainly expression are some of these.  Does the work look stiff, is the composition awkward but the color luscious?  Is the draftsmanship of the body graceful but the expression on the face stiff and unnatural?  Are one or two of the artist’s works quite wonderful but the remaining six only mediocre? Lots of questions often lead to more questions and the more questions you ask yourself, the greater the opportunity for you to learn what makes an educated buyer. 

Now that you have decided to better educate yourself about techniques, artists, galleries and materials you can begin to refine your choices of what to actually purchase.  Hopefully you have found a reputable gallery with a sales staff trained in techniques and styles so that when you question a work, you will get an honest answer about the difference, for example, between traditionally done frescos and work which is fresco-like; between a “print” that is a limited edition stone-ground litho and a giclee print of a painting; between gas fired pottery and wood fired pottery; between encaustic paintings and paintings with an encaustic finish.

Learning the why of all these distinctions is what will help you assign value to work.  The distinctions will have certain value in the marketplace.  They may also have a lesser or greater value for you personally.  For example, many years ago I wove a type of tapestry work.  There are traditionally woven tapestries done in the Aubusson or Gobelin style and there are contemporary weaving styles such as the Theo Moorman technique which can result in a painterly finished piece similar in some ways to traditional work.  If you are a textile traditionalist you might assign a greater value to the traditionally woven work, regardless of the finished image.  Every technique and style can be distinguished in a similar way.  A collector may be a person who only buys Aubusson style work.  Another collector may buy only textile work and can encompass traditional and contemporary.

So, how does one decide between contemporary work and traditional work?  Is one more valuable than the other?  Again, think about your intention as a buyer.  Most likely you know immediately if you prefer contemporary work over traditional work, or if you prefer transitional work.  It doesn’t matter – tradition or trendy – or something in between.  The same steps apply – educate yourself as a buyer – ask questions – form opinions based on knowledge of medium, style, skill, emotion and existing market value.  You’ll be headed in the right direction and on an exciting road!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Artists Working with Commissions

Final touches on Loretta's Poppies - a 2011 commissioned work



Our show in AZ, the Celebration of Fine Art, is coming to a close on Mar. 27.  Many of the artists are finishing up commission work to be delivered by the closing.  Others are just finalizing designs on to be completed during the year.

For a variety of reasons, some artists dislike working on this basis, preferring instead to sell only what has already been completed.  Others of us enjoy the challenge and the conversation to balance and coordinate our ideas with that of our client.

What contributes to getting a commission? (And here I am speaking only of private commissions, not public or corporate ones.)

Final touches
Listening is the first and, I think, most critical factor.  We listen for that which impresses the viewer, because, after all, it has to be more than just a “that’s nice” reaction to our work to interest them in a specially made piece.  Each artist has a gut feeling about the strength of his own work.  Is it born out by the viewer?  Or, can you hear a potential problem – perhaps, “I love that piece, but not the colors” or “Beautiful colors! Too big, though.”  There are hesitations to listen for, and tones, and casual comments – “Hmmmmm” and “That would look great in your bathroom, Alice,” and “Good colors, but not so much for the bedroom, do you think, Honey?” or “Hmmmm, not quite.”

So is a positive comment always a positive?  And is a negative one always a negative?  No, to both questions.

Loving someone’s work doesn’t automatically mean anything.  It is, however, an invitation to ask your own questions.  “What is it about the piece that you most like?”  (Appreciate that they may be in awe and inclined to burst out with “Everything!” but encourage them to be more specific.)  Now here is the place where sales books tell you to begin inquiring about their home and “qualifying” them.  I HATE this approach. I’m not a car salesman.  This person who is standing in your booth or studio or gallery is most likely responding to your work on an emotional level.  For me, that is the signal that we have a place where we might relate to one another. Instead of assessing her shoes and asking, “Do you collect original art?” I might ask if she gardens (because she is staring at my garden painting) or “Are you from here?  Are you watching for the hummingbirds to come back?” (because I have some in another piece).  

Take a few moments to find what moves this person, because what moves her in her role as viewer, as potential client, is what may move you, motivate you, inspire you.  A piece of your self, your being, your soul can make a difference in a client’s life.  Learning a bit about who she is as an individual can open the door to the possibility of a long and successful artist/client relationship.  Finding spaces for relatedness connects both ourselves and our art to other human beings.  Relatedness never happens in isolation

Similarly, “Nice colors, but it won’t work,” may sound negative, but in actuality is not at all.  Acknowledging their appreciation of your colors is the open door.  “Thanks – I’m glad you like my colors!  But what is it that won’t work?  I’m always interested in people’s difficult spaces.”  Your interest in their space is personal and caring.  I have had this conversation many times in my career.  Sometimes the resolution I see requires a different kind of artwork, and I am able to suggest artists who might be a better fit.  Often it is just an issue of position or shape or pattern – basic design principles of which they may not have a working knowledge.  It’s a great feeling to see their eyes light up when they see the possibility of one of my suggestions working for them.  And what better way to develop trust but to help in a generous manner without agenda.  If you don’t get the immediate sale, I guarantee that you will see the benefit down the line as they tell their friends all about you and your work.

After you have developed the seeds of a relationship with your potential client, what comes next? 

Instead of announcing that you do a lot of commission work, why not suggest looking at their problem space together – maybe try a few pieces in the space to see what kinds of shapes/colors/sizes might work?  “Perhaps we’ll come up with some fresh ideas – then we can go from there.  I’d love to be part of the solution!”

Artists have good eyes.  That means if we use them, it is easy for us to take in a great deal of visual information, assimilate it, and generate many possibilities to solve spatial and design problems.  Are you approaching commission work with your eyes wide open, or are you just looking for a quick sale – no fuss, no muss?  It’s perfectly ok not to be interested or inspired by collaborating with the client.  If this is the case, just be clear about it within your own mind, be generous – give the client some artist’s names who might better be able to meet their needs.  Be clear about boundary lines –“I can incorporate this idea of yours, but not that.”  

But, if you like this type of problem solving, then enter their home, eyes open to the myriad of details in their surroundings.  Why is the problem area a problem?  Listen to why they think it’s a problem.  Are they looking at your sculptures which are clearly not going to fit into the 4” deep niche?  Should they be considering a painting or shallow wall sculpture instead?  Can you see a place where they might be able to place your large sculpture?  Suggest it.  Perhaps you are a painter and they like garden paintings but have four broad-view garden paintings already in the room.  Suggest to them that perhaps they would like to consider a close up of the iris – one bloom in fine detail – to set off their wonderful collection of garden paintings.  Do you hate the other paintings?  Do not be insincere, but look at their home from their viewpoint.  After all, you are not the one living in the home.  They have paid you the compliment of loving your work.  Respect their other choices.

Listening. Seeing the fun in problem solving. Respecting your audience. That's my mix for getting commission work.  Require 50% deposits and gurantee your work (they will be less anxious and, after thirty years of being an artist, I’ve never had to return anyone’s deposit).





Friday, March 11, 2011

Some Artist's Views On Pricing

Here's a ink to the comments on my blog post that was reprinted in FineArtViews -  http://bit.ly/hN1RE3.  This is an excellent site to subscribe to for all kinds of info art-related.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reprint of valuable blog post by Luann Udell via FineArtViews

I found this to be a thoughtful post for both artists and collectors - enjoy the read.  Whitney

Respect Your Collectors Part 7

by Luann Udell

This post is by  Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews.  Luann also writes a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft.  She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry).  Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.  She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art.  She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Your collectors rely on your artistic integrity

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”  “Always do your best.”  We hear these comments from the time we’re very young.

Me?  I try not to get too hung up with perfection.  Being human means sometimes “good enough” is…well, good enough.

However, I do try to have integrity, in my art and in my dealings with my collectors.

Integrity means you strive to do your best work.  By ‘best work’, I mean all aspects of making, exhibiting and marketing your work, including who you are as a person.

Have integrity in your creative process:  You keep your skills sharp.  You take classes from time to time to update your techniques, or learn new ones.  You will find inspiration in the work of other artists.  That’s normal and expected.  But always strive to keep your own unique vision at the forefront.  Try not to be easily swayed about pursuing a subject or style that’s selling like gangbusters for another artist.  Find a way to make it your own.

You can have integrity with your materials:  Use the best materials for the project at hand.  Unless the art is by nature conceptual and fleeting, make art that lasts, using quality paints and archival materials.  When a collector buys my work, I want them to be assured it will give them many years of enjoyment.  I make repairs to items that get damaged without making too much of a fuss.  In fact, when customers bring back a beloved necklace that’s come apart for whatever reason, I thank them for the opportunity to set things right again.

Have integrity in where your work is exhibited, and how.  Years ago, I had an opportunity to participate in a huge gift show with our state craft guild.  I met a newspaper reporter who’d done an article on me years earlier, who had also purchased a wall hanging from me.  I’ll never forget her look of astonishment, and her words.  “You’re HERE?!  At the gift show??!!”  I explained I hoped to make contacts with buyers and curators from the city’s art museums.  She thought that made sense.  And I did meet those people there.  But I’ll never forget the look on her face.  She thought I was pursuing a path that could water down my vision.  I never want to see that look on a collector’s face again.  I think carefully about where I want my work to be displayed now, and what company I want to keep.

Oh, gosh, I hope that doesn’t sound snooty!  But just as your credentials can be raised by participating in high-quality shows, they can be compromised by your participation in less esteemed venues.  You may hope you’ll be seen as the ‘best artist’ there.  But you may also be seen as someone who doesn’t know better.

Not all small, modest shows are beneath us, either.  Sometimes our participation supports a worthy cause dear to our hearts—a fundraiser show for the Humane Society or our child’s school, for example.  But “dress appropriately”.  Bring work related to that cause, or priced for that venue.

Have integrity as a person.  As a collector, I don’t care for artists who “let their art speak for itself.”  I want to have a relationship with the artist, as well as with the work.  Someone who’s being snotty or snobby, trying to make me feel uncouth or unlettered, isn’t really elevating themselves, in my book.  They are not respecting me as a fellow human being.

Have integrity even as someone seems to be insulting you or your work.  Even if someone says something rude about your work, remember—you don’t have to respond.  So many discussions among artists revolve around snappy retorts we can make to the ‘stupid things’ customers say.   I hate that. “Putting someone in their place” says as much about you as it does about them.  Let it go.  Understand that some people mean well, but just don’t know what to say about a work of art.  Other people in your venue are listening to you, and watching your response.  Show them you are gracious and can rise above the moment.  (If someone is being deliberately rude, a) they usually aren’t your collector anyway, and b) being gracious can be even more irritating for them.  Personally, I like to move such people on to other artists I don’t like.)  (I never said I was I was a better person than you.)

Likewise, deal honorably with collectors.  If you have to lower your prices during hard times, find a way to do it that doesn’t devalue the work they’ve already purchased from you.  (Introduce the prices only with new work, smaller work, simpler work, etc.)  Understand that they want to feel your work is still worth what they paid for it.

If you do commissions, respect that it may be as tenuous and scary for them as it is for you.  You’re afraid they won’t like the finished work?  They’re afraid they won’t like the finished work, too.  Especially if this is their first commission.  Guide them through the process gently, find out what gives you the best results.  For example, some artists find that sending images of the work as you go works well.  Others find that making it a complete finished piece works best.  What works best for you?

Lastly, have integrity as an artist and being yourself.  Take care of yourself.  It’s hard to make the work of our heart and then put it out in the world for all to judge.  Protect yourself from people who are envious, from people who are so damaged, they can not celebrate your work and your successes.

No need to be smug about what we do, either.  Everyone has a gift.  Respect others’ gifts.  But demand respect for yours, too.  Oprah says we teach other people how to love us.  That means we have a choice when we encounter people who don’t love us, or our art.  Know that you and your art have a place in this world.  It’s up to you to do the best you can to make that place for it.

We have a gift.  We are put on this planet to use it.  We have an obligation to share it with the world in some way, whether with the art itself, with what we teach about it, with what we cause we support with it, with the example we set for others.  We have a chance to be a hero, sometimes to our collectors, but also to people we may never meet nor never know.  Someone is watching us as we make our own unique artistic journey through life.  Be that hero.

As a new dog owner, I finally get to say, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Maya Angelou and Inspiration for Madonna of the Swallows

Inspiration is a full and varied thing, sometimes young and twitching, other times a vibrational note struck on a crystal glass.  It is a muse dancing in your dreams, a wood nymph catching your eye from behind the twilight lit forest.  It is shattered light from a glass clad urban high rise tossing itself across the candy apple red of your car hood.  It may be a grand philosophical book, read in fits and starts, embedding something unforgettable in your brain, or something inconsequential – a scrap of paper caught on the breeze, landing in your lap like a message from a parallel world.

Last fall I was reading Maya Angelou’s poem, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings.  I had, at the time, been struggling with unresolved ideas for a series of large paintings about women and the patterns of their lives.  The original idea was not coming clear for me.   About to abandon the whole concept and taking a few days to get away from what I was feeling was a stuck spot, I closed the jars of paint, cleaned my tools and left the studio.  Landing on the sofa with a pile of books, I settled in for some quiet time.  Maya showed up. 

The measure of a good metaphor is how well it connects to the human condition.  The caged bird seems nearly limitless, as does the meaning of “singing” or voicing what is within.  The voice of inspiration nearly deafened me.  Books fell from the sofa in my rush to the studio.

Who knows why the Universe graces us with taps on the shoulder?  Not I.  But I do know, after 30 odd years of being an artist, that these gracious or raucous or accidental taps are better acknowledged and noted than ignored.

                                                                     **

Begin.  The surface lies before me – the caged bird sings of freedom -  I scoop texture paste onto the board and with the largest trowel I have, spread it in quick broad strokes, leaving trepidation behind – the free bird leaps on the back of the wind – trails and rivers, paths and raindrops show up under the tool, taking me somewhere, bringing someone to me – I feel a door opening – light? Quickly I mix a wash in creamy pale yellow – pour it on, catching it in the river/paths/raindrops – the free bird thinks of another breeze – and warm lemon curd yellow floats into my world.  Are you there?

Waiting.  Slow drying, but surprises appear.  I tape the poem to the wall, print big enough to make out as I work.  So many images surface in my mind’s eye, call to me, then drift only to be replaced, crowded out by others.  Returning to my work, I see a delicate head wrap, in tiny pattern, and then a sleeve, richly embroidered.  She’s here.  Waiting for me to give her voice.  Where is the window from which you watch?  A swallow brings you an offering of berries.  You gaze at me, Madonna of the Swallows.  I hear your voice.
Madonna of the Swallows
48" x 84"

                                                                     **

The universe sends Muse and Inspiration to whisper in your ear that there are fantastic things for you to do – soulful songs to write, luscious colors to mix into unpredictable combinations, elements and molecules to construct the never before seen.  There are birds to be let free and voices to hear calling.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Anniversaries and Other Reminders

Happy anniversary.  People say it every day, I suppose.  An anniversary - something memorable - a time to be marked, to be celebrated, to be counted as a measure of commitment or love or perseverance.  And sometimes it's a measure of strength and survival.

I have friends who celebrate their wedding anniversaries with much symbolism, sometimes elaborate gifts and surprises, trips, jewelry, getaways at romantic places, and some ways which are too private to disclose. I wonder what that means.  Is it like a birthday?  A cultural event? An occasion for gift giving and getting? Is it sometimes inspired but often merely the habit to do the socially prescribed?

I don't know the answer to these questions because Syed and I have almost never celebrated our wedding anniversary in the usual ways.  We've been married for almost 23 years.  We work and play together and always have.  We travel happily, laugh a lot, love many of the same things, and are what any psychologist would call "happily married."  So, why do we not celebrate our anniversary?

We used to laugh at ourselves and how weird we were to have forgotten, only to be reminded by our friend, Frank, who "gave me away", when he would unfailingly call to wish us the "Happy Anniversary!" that we had let slip by.  Early on, I would wonder what our forgetfulness really meant.  There must be some reason, some psychologically imperative reason, because, after all, didn't everyone who was happily married remember their anniversary for pete's sake?

Every spring, in March, I silently "celebrate" an anniversary.  One I never forget though it never appears on my calendar.  It is an anniversary that resides in my bone marrow.  In my heart.  In my soul.  In the pit of my gut from which the memory rose, in the early years, in a kind of bile, threatening to swamp me, bursting out of my body in sweat and shaking and voiceless sobs.  As the anniversaries passed of my mother's death, when I was fifteen, the joyous Springs of chubby hyacinths, pregnant with sunburst perfume, of daffodils and tulips shouting candy reds and yellows against the last whites of winter passed me by.  So lost was I in the anguish of not being able to bring forth her face, the pain of waking from the dream of her voice, that Spring was a lingering dark void.

An anniversary, not happy - but a remembrance, a marking.  Even now, fifty-three years later, an undeniable seasonal sadness flutters on my shoulders.  It no longer settles there.  Life, if one chooses it, actually chooses it in all it's vagaries and surprises, brings gifts of allowance - allowance for others to choose their own path, allowance for sadness as well as happiness, allowance for anger to pass and something like grace to enter in, allowance for pain and for loss.  And then, Life brings you the balance of itself.  It brings you views of horizons you didn't know were there, opportunities to love, to imagine, and then to create.

This Spring, the remembrance of the time of my Mother's passing will be somehow sweetened, imagining her at my shoulder as I greet my newest grandbaby.  Quietly I will say, Mom, here we all are - we have survived, we love, we choose Life.  Know that we love you.

And my wedding anniversaries?  I think that Syed and I don't mark them on a certain day because our days pass lovingly, filled with simple happiness, long philosophical talks, good music, comfortable silences, lots of laughter, busy creativity.  No trauma jars my memory of these nearly 23 years.  I choose him each day and believe he chooses me each day.  No need to send a card.

Thank you, Daisy, for your blog at http://bit.ly/evQGg7.  May your silent time be filled with grace.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Distinguishing Value/Original vs. Reproductions

NOTE: I'm posting this piece again because it doesn't appear in my stats.  Anyone reading it?

Following up on a comment left on my last post by Liana, let's continue the conversation about price and value of an art work.  Liana injects the subject of original work versus reproduction, so let's start with a couple of artists, Griselda, who sells only original (one-of-a-kind) work, and her sister, Prunella, who sells reproductions of her originals.  For argument's sake, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they are regarded equally in the art world, both sought after and collected.  Let's also paint them as on equal financial footing in regards to their work.

So, what is the difference in actual value of the work, in perceived value, and in the mystical "Vision" value, which I suggested in the last post.

Is the "actual value" the price set or the price paid?  Does "perceived value" affect "actual value" (of either type)?  How does the "vision value" affect actual and/or perceived value?  Hmmmm.  I sense a snake pit.

I see Griselda coming from her studio now.  Gris, I know  you've considered these questions over the years.  Could you give us some insight based on your personal experience?

Sure, Whitney.  I've been painting for a couple of decades.  Painting is both my job and my love.  It excites me to think and work in new and fresh ways, and, for me, painting versions of the same piece is not satisfying, and ultimately is not stimulating for my clients.  So, I sell only my original work.


Yes, I can understand that feeling of excitement about new work, but, Gris, you do a lot of work.  Do you mean to say that each and every painting is a new idea?  How can you keep up your output if every piece has to be an absolutely new idea?  And what about the stress of selling those expensive pieces, when reproductions can be sold for much less and with little effort on your part?

Perhaps we need to talk about what "original" means.  If I paint a particularly exciting piece - a piece that, in the process of painting, generates several more ideas, I go with it, and it becomes a series, perhaps following a theme or a color palette or form, but each one furthering the original thought.  This series may be, for example, about movement.  To the viewer, it may appear to be the "same" painting done over and over with very small changes.  To the artist, it may be movement itself.  You paint, Whitney.  How many paintings could you do about "red"?  Would the viewer say, good grief, does she ever paint anything else?


OK, I get it.  But, what about the issue of money and the increased income you would, or could, have if you sold reproductions of your work?

Mmmm.  Another bird altogether.  First, I am fortunate that I don't have to make any more money than I already do.  My financial needs aren't great.  If they were, perhaps I would consider selling prints.  Until then, I believe that reproducing my work lessens the value of all original work, not just my own.  Philosophically, I believe it is better to buy bad original work than to buy a reproduction of the best painting ever done.  Art, in its purest form, is a communication between artist and viewer.  A reproduction, no matter how skillfully marketed, is nothing more than a facsimile, an impersonation of that.  In effect, it is a counterfeit, an ersatz conversation with the artist.  The subtleties of experience, which Liana mentioned, cannot exist other than in the original piece.  Here comes Prunella.  She thinks quite differently than I.  Pru!  Come give us your insights as an artist.


Prunella, what's your view on selling reproductions of your work?


I sell a lot of reproductions.  Some are good.  Some less good.  But I have a huge audience because of the affordability of prints.  I believe my work is good.  It has been validated in the appropriate circles.  I have collectors who buy my originals.  And, because I sell reproductions well, I can actually have time to do something other than paint.  I like to swim and hike, play a little golf.  Unlike Gris, I think it's important to get good art out to as big an audience as possible.  That way, there is good contemporary work available to look at, right beside the ubiquitous Monets and Picassos.  And, if  the artist is in the very early stages of a career, reproductions can gain an audience much quicker then if he sells only his originals.


It seems, then, that we are facing a wide philosophical gap.  How is the audience of potential buyers to make an informed decision?  Obviously, there are as many answers as snakes in that pit, and some of them are just as slimy.  


Many have experienced the fallacious marketing of print editions of 10-20 years ago.  People were duped into buying prints from "limited" editions of 5000, and sometimes that meant 5000 in each size offered of the same print!  Then the naive buyer would try to sell his "limited edition" print only to find it had no value at all.  Very sad.  Very bad!  For the buyer, and for all artists doing reproductions, be they honorable or not.  Next came the early giclees, many of which had terrible integrity of material, fading almost immediately.  After that, prints were touted with the "artist enhanced" moniker.

Time passed. Giclee printing improved.  Texturing became possible.  The quality of reproductions has gone sky high.  Marketing them is an art in itself.  But, in the end, the buyer must remember that it is still only a reproduction of the original painting.  The value to the buyer must be that he is able to own something done by his favorite artist that he would otherwise not have been able to afford.  The current reproductions are not hand pulled lithographs, or monographs, or true limited editions (usually not more than 25).  They are facsimiles - likenesses of the original.

I have absolutely no objection, either philosophically or commercially, to selling reproductions.  I do categorically object to implying to a potential buyer that this reproduction is, in any way, an original.  Hedging words is misleading, and in a world of false and misleading advertising, we owe it to our clients, whether they spend $100 or $100,000, to be crystal clear about what they are buying.  A client may indeed be thrilled with the fact that you have reproduced his $20,000 painting so that he can say, "I have the original!"  But would that client be so thrilled to hear that his secretary bought "an original hand embellished limited edition" version of the same painting for $100?  Perhaps not.

In the end, it is an issue of personal ethics and communication.  These are large concepts coloring every part of our lives as artists, parents, teachers, employers and employees, mates and partners, medical professionals and politicians.  We have only limited opportunities to consciously  confront them in an academic way - a way in which we might better understand what ethics are and how to communicate.  It is up to us, individually, to continually ask ourselves the important questions - to not simply fall in line with the current market fashions of white lies and partial truths.  It is up to us, individually, to embark on civil discourse about matters which affect us all.  Through the discourse, we achieve clarity - even if we only become clear about that which is unclear!

And, by the way, thanks to my fictitious friends, Griselda and Prunella, for joining us.