Why doesn’t my art sell better?

Most of us ask ourselves this at one time or another if our intent (or part of it) is to create work that other people want to buy.

Of course, the art market has been affected drastically by the COVID-19 virus, and those artists who depend on gallery sales are hurting, as are their galleries. We hope for better times very soon.

anggun-tan

photo by anggun tan

But selling art is always an interesting topic, and these days we have some extra time to speculate about why people buy art, what sells, and how we feel about it. (I’m not talking about the international art auctions where work goes for millions to collectors, just local and regional artists and their art practice).

Let me turn the question around and ask, “Why do YOU buy art?” Here are some possible reasons:

  • A friend painted it and I want to support her/him.
  • It matched the décor in my guest bathroom
  • It was cheap
  • When my friends see it, they will be envious
  • It reminds me of my own work
  • I bought it so I could figure out how the artist did it
  • Looking at it makes me happy
  • It’s a “conversation piece” that will intrigue guests
  • If I didn’t buy it, I’d always regret it
  • It is incredibly detailed must have taken hours and hours to complete

When you buy art, where do you usually buy it?

  • Gallery openings
  • Walk-in visits to galleries
  • Craft fairs
  • Online

Do you tend to buy on impulse, or do you spend several days or weeks thinking about the purchase?

Here’s another question. If someone gave you $10,000 and you had to spend it on art, which one of these (below) would you buy? Each cost $10,000, and you have to choose one of them:

  • A small signed and numbered etching done by a famous artist whose paintings have sold for several million dollars, as an investment?
  • A museum-quality 15” tall sculptural figurative artifact from Africa that is purported to be 4000 years old that is being offered by a collector’s estate?
  • A large abstract painting that you really like by a relatively unknown regional artist whose work seems to have great promise?
  • A series of ten small still life oil paintings that are startlingly photorealistic in their depiction of fruit and cost $1000 apiece.
  • A self-portrait of your favorite celebrity

Remember, you have to choose one – and justify why you chose it 🙂

Most people have limited budget and limited space. Have you ever made a list of why  someone should buy YOUR art for their personal space over someone else’s? It’s an interesting exercise. I can come up with a few reasons why people should buy MY art, but most of them are not that different from anyone’s reasons – “it’s original, it has a story . . .”

What are your thoughts on selling your art? I’ll write a follow-up to this next week.

Take good care, and go make some art – Lyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstraction/Non-Objective: the emancipation of the mind ?

I had the great pleasure of working with five friends, all whom create artwork that I admire, in an abstract painting workshop at my Studio last Friday.

From left: Pamela Ferguson, Bibi Saidi, Carolyn Royall, Robin Gara – not pictured: Nancy Vandenburg

Part of the fun was sharing thoughts about abstraction and non-objective painting. Here’s one of my favorite quotes written by Arshile Gorky:

“Abstraction allows man to see with his mind
what he cannot physically see with his eyes…
Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible,
to extract the infinite out of the finite.
It is the emancipation of the mind.
It is an explosion into unknown areas.” 

Emancipating one’s mind is a tough assignment. It’s human nature to try to direct the outcome of our work, and it’s difficult to let go of that control. We followed a “map” of steps to an unknown outcome. You can download the workshop outline here to see how we painted our abstract studies.

I try to develop a slightly different plan of attack for each painting workshop. Individual students react in different ways to techniques that get them to break the ice on a blank canvas. But we almost always start with mark-making, usually asemic writing.

It’s super-important to agree at the beginning that we will not create a masterpiece in three hours, but we might learn some new approaches to making meaningful paintings. Here are some of the first stages or our warmup:

And here are some in the second stage:

When you watch the video, you can see what some of our results were – all interesting! Several of the artists said that they were out of their comfort zone, but pleased with the final outcome, which may be the whole point!

Video Link

For further study, you can read a good explanation of Abstraction in Art from the Tate Museum.

Thanks for reading SHARDS – and remember, if you and a group of four or five friends  would like to organize a workshop at my studio, just send me an email!

Convoluted combinations and creative decision-making

Have you ever gotten part-way with a piece, loved it so far, but were afraid to continue for fear of messing it up? Every artist has probably been there. I sure was this week when I worked on this earthenware “shard woman.”

Here she is before being fired – “leather-hard” clay:

After I fired her, I decided that a patina finish would look good, particularly since she has a fish design that seemed rather ancient Asian-y. I added coral and trade beads and sinew.

So far, so good. I loved the coral beads and the way the finish look both like earthenware and old metal. Then I got stuck. The proportions seemed off. Should she go on a piece of wood? Get sewn to a canvas? I tried those and they weren’t right. Argh!!

So I went to a file of photos that I keep on my desktop called “Do This Now.” It’s not a real to-do list, but rather a collection of art I like that help to un-stick me because of the way the artist solved problems in painting, construction, whatever. Here’s what part of that file looks like – no rhyme or reason to the names or selections.

I got a new idea from two of the images, one of an anonymous talisman and one by Shannon Weber:

Shannon Weber: Burnt Offerings (one of my favorite art pieces ever)

They somehow worked together to help me figure out what to do with my own earthenware piece. When this kind of process happens, you don’t copy ideas, you sort of synthesize them into your own solution.

So this is how the piece turned out. It’s finished now (I think!), and it has some nice inspiration found in both the anonymous talisman piece and Shannon’s assemblage. Can you see the influence?  But it’s still my very own creation.

Lyn Belisle
Woman Shard: Patina
2018

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”

I would agree, and would encourage anyone to start a random collection of photos of work that is NOT categorized (because labels just limit you). Save a photo because you like it, and because you never know when you might need someone else’s nudge to help you get unstuck.

Thank goodness it’s over – NOW what??

I have been working on writing a major grant request for the San Antonio Art League for two weeks – and that means no art for TOO LONG! But it’s finished and submitted and fingers are crossed. Hopefully, this will all be worth it, but I’m feeling rusty and stale and need some inspiration, a kick in the creative backside.

Coincidentally, an email just came in from Stampington publications about their upcoming challenges. My friends Lesta Frank and Lisa Stamper Meyer are often published in those magazines, and I am so proud of them! But I don’t want to jump back in to work too fast by trying to come up with an article. This challenge, however, caught my eye:

  • Miscellany
    Sometimes, an image of something lovely is all we need to feel inspired. Have you taken a photo of something that makes you feel inspired? Perhaps it is a photo of your collection of vintage handkerchiefs. Or an old stack of books. Or your treasured stash of ribbons. Please submit your favorite digital images (5″ x 7″ @ 300 dpi) to be considered for Somerset Life’s special Miscellany department to the Editor-in-Chief at somersetlife@stampington.com.
    Deadline: Ongoing.

So this morning on my first day of freedom from grant writing, I took my phone and went around the house finding little shards of collections, tools, ideas – well, “miscellany.” Not sure whether I’ll submit any of these photos to Somerset, but it sure was fun reaffirming the things that make me feel creative. Here’s a photocollage of nine of the pictures I took while wandering around my spaces.

Little shards of stuff around my house and studio

I found this to be a really good exercise for several reasons:

  • It makes you really look at stuff you walk by every day and take for granted
  • It makes you think about what you like – and why
  • It helps you revisit old ideas that have new potential
  • You don’t actually have to make something – you’re curating what you have with a fresh eye.
  • You can think of it as homework, and you feel like you’re accomplishing something –  plus, it’s fun

I encourage you (especially if something has kept you away from your creative self for a while) to try this. Heck, go ahead and submit those photos to Somerset – what’s to lose?! A kick in the creative backside is a good thing.

Some other challenges from Somerset:

Somerset Life aims to demonstrate how easy it is to add a touch of beauty to our daily lives, whether it is through a simple craft project, or an inspiring essay that shares how to find the beauty that already exists. Our mission is simple: make the ordinary extraordinary. For those looking to be a part of this bestselling publication, we have a number of ways to do so. We are currently looking for artwork submissions in the following categories:

  • Life Creative Spaces
    Where do you create? Whether it’s a small table or breakfast nook, cleared-out closet, or an actual room dedicated as your creative studio, we want to peek inside. If you think your creative space is something that Somerset Life readers would like to learn more about, please submit digital images of your space with a brief written query to the Editor-in-Chief at somersetlife@stampington.com. If the submission is accepted, you will be asked to furnish professional hi-resolution images (300 dpi at 8″ x 10″).
    Deadline: Ongoing.
  • Artful Kits
    We all love to collect papers, ribbons, embellishments, and other bits and bobs. More fun than collecting specific elements is finding creative ways to juxtapose the pieces together to create unique kits. Whether you create them to give away or to sell or offer to students in a workshop setting, we’d like to see your favorite kits. Please send in kit samples directly to the Editor-in-Chief as outlined in the Submission Guidelines.
    Deadline: Ongoing.
  • Creative Living Ideas
    In each issue of Somerset Life we share 10 Creative Living Ideas, and we show quick and easy ways to add a touch of beauty or creativity to your life, or perhaps someone else’s. Maybe you have a clever way of packing a sack lunch, or you have a developed a creative way of saying “Thank You” to a friend. Please send in samples directly to the Editor-in-Chief as outlined in the Submission Guidelines.
    Deadline: Ongoing.

Click here to download our guide for submitting photographs. It will also show you how to convert images to the correct size and resolution for this publication.

 

 

In retrospect . . .

Delaware artist Rebecca Raubacher at her retrospective exhibit, Rehoboth Art League

What is a “retrospective”? In art-speak, it’s an exhibition showing the development of the work of a particular artist over a period of time. I met Rebecca Raubacher last Friday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, at an event honoring her and her retrospective show at the Rehoboth Art League. Here’s one of her early drawings.

Debby, Rebecca Raubacher, 1976

Talking with her got me thinking about how our paths as artists change and build over the years. Rebecca has always been a consummate draftsman, and her current paintings have a lot of mixed media drawing techniques with oil sticks and metallic inks. Her themes of faces and figures has continued throughout her career.

Rebecca Raubacher, 2015, Watercolor, graphite, sepia ink, and metallic and opaque markers on paper 11 in x 14

So here’s the question for you – have you gone back recently and looked at your earlier work? (This is not a “have-you-gotten-better” question – who even knows what “better” is anyway.) And it doesn’t matter if you’ve been making art for one year or fifty. All of us choose what to keep and what to leave behind. That choosing and abandoning gives us our “style.”

Thanks to a house fire in ’83 (arg), I don’t have much of my earliest undergrad work back in the 60’s. I did take a photo of this piece called “Datachip” which I did in 1979. It’s hard to get a good photo of a drawing behind glass, but you get the idea.

Lyn Belisle, Datachip, graphite and PrismaColor, 24×30″, 1979

Shortly after that, I abandoned drawing for a while and started making a series of large-scale origami kimonos and other large collages which sold well in the ’80s and ’90s.

And like a lot of other artists, I was doing commercial art along the way, like these covers for the NEISD Community Education program – they were mostly collages, too:

And my love for clay has always followed me around – here’s a bowl I did in the 80’s – faces and clay!

So the things I’ve kept are clay, collage, images of faces, and earth colors. I’m still experimenting within those areas. And, overall, the idea of “shards” – constructing new things from small found objects, images and clues from the past, connects the dots for me.

Go back and look at your own work. What colors and themes and images predominate? I read a lot of those advice-for-artist blogs that say, “Get out of your comfort zone! If you like neutrals, go wild with color! If you like watercolor, try oils!” I don’t necessarily agree. Our style develops from our intuition about what we do best.

Our personal retrospective journey is just that, a journey. We take what we discover along the way and build on it. More likely than not, the work of other artists influences us but it doesn’t define us as we keep what resonates and forgo the rest.

So your homework is to find the oldest piece of personal artmaking that you have, and give it a good look. Post it on Facebook if you like! See what changes you’ve made. Think a bit about your personal retrospective. It’s fun and enlightening.

Georgia O’Keeffe, drawing of hand, age 14

 

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Wednesday all-day workshop with NEISD art teachers

The workshop schedule/format at my studio has changed for a number of reasons – smaller space, my increased responsibility as president of the San Antonio Art League, and just general life changes – but I’m always happy to accommodate special groups like yesterday’s art teachers from North East ISD.

They had requested an all-day session that would give them six hours of CEU credit and jump start their school year with some new ideas for themselves and their students. We decided on a workshop that was similar to the one I taught in Provincetown. It has a little bit of everything – composition, storytelling, photo manipulation, mark-making, encaustic and collage.

We worked hard from 10-4 in the studio, and each participant created a beautiful portfolio of four five mixed media works, one of which was chosen to be matted. Want to see photos from the day’s workshop? Start scrollin’ down and see it step-by-step!

Mixed media stash ready!

We prepare the substrate by taping the edges with blue painters’ tape for a clean border

Once the composition is in place, we veil with white paint

. . .and then use an old credit card to scrape off and reveal chosen sections

Notice how the placement of the objects makes a unified composition

Some quiet work time —

First works are pinned up to the wall for discussion – lookin’ good!

Suggestions are marked up on one of the example handouts

Melissa adds her work to the critique wall

There’s a lot of good image alteration in this one

One of my favorites – subtle and painterly

Although these pieces are studies rather than finished works, they are quite lovely

After lunch, we start working with beeswax, incorporating some simple encaustic techniques

Book foil is a bright addition to the wax layer

Remember this piece from the morning session? It’s layered with beeswax.

This mixed-media collage uses family photos and letters enhanced by beeswax

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and you can make art without messing up a studio!

Each person chose one piece to may and display at the end-of-class critique

This is Melissa’s strong work that you saw earlier, this time with beeswax added – notice the vertical blue line and the fantastic marks

Grizelda pulled together a lovely collage of vintage family photos and memories

S’lena’s work is perfectly balanced between image and pattern – the faint writing in the background is a secret layer of history that only she knows

Susan’s work evokes Renaissance themes . . . it’s horizontal rather than vertical

This piece is mine, and is the demo piece I did as I worked along with the others

Happy art teachers, beautiful work, and proud teacher –

I think this workshop format is perfect, at least it was for us. It worked because:

  • We had all day to really explore and immerse ourselves – we even ate lunch at the work table and discussed the process
  • Four to five people is the right number for this space – good dynamics, intimate atmosphere
  • The workshop topic had lots of structure, but also lots of room for exploration with many techniques that could be extended into individual work

This may be the new workshop model at Lyn Belisle Studio. Let me know if you have a small group who might like to spend a day with me making art.

In the meantime, I’ll be teaching a “Postcards to Myself” workshop at the San Antonio Art League on Sunday, August 29th as a fundraiser and introduction to the Art League. I’ll put the details up this weekend and post it on Monday.

Special thanks to all of the teachers who worked with me yesterday – art education is in good hands with you to guide and mentor creative kids!

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Studio visit – James Wyatt Hendricks, SAAL&M 2017 Artist of the Year

James Wyatt Hendricks has been named the 2017 Artist of the Year for the San Antonio Art League & Museum. Lucky us!

And lucky me to get to visit his Alamo Street studio yesterday. Wow! I encourage you to mark your calendar right now for the opening of his exhibition at SAAL&M on Sunday, September 10th, 3-5 pm. It’s going to be a blockbuster!

James’s sculpture in progress for Laurel Ridge Hospital – huge sheet of metal balanced by incredibly detailed birds

James’s works ranges from mammoth steel sculptures to incredibly delicate Prisamacolor drawings. With 30 years of experience as an artist and craftsman his art is expansive and eclectic.

Frida lamp by James Wyatt Hendricks – I’m in line for the next one!

In a recent interview, James said,

“I work at my studio on a wide range of mediums that include oil painting, stone carving, forged steel, cast bronze, printmaking and traditional welding. I am considered a master craftsman, and I take my work very seriously.”

We talked about the fact that both of us share a background in commercial design – and that both of us worked as illustrators for the Express-News. James has an amazing ability to switch from teeny tine detail design on his Mac to welding huge sheets of steel.

It’s impressive to see him at work in his studio. Here’s a short video of some of the cool things I saw yesterday during our visit.

Studio Visit with James Wyatt Hendricks from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

James is so engaging and talks about his work with an insight and sensitivity that is totally authentic – you will enjoy meeting him. You can read more about his work in this article from the Express-News.

As I said, this is going to be a blockbuster exhibit at the San Antonio Art League & Museum on September 10th. Invitations will go out later in August. Email me if you’d like to be on the list.

And you are not to late to catch the last two weeks of “Visions of Summer”, the current exhibit  at the Art League – through July 30th!

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Thoughts from SAAL&M Juror Bill Eiland

Did you enter the 87th San Antonio Art League Exhibition?  I did, and my fingers are crossed that I got in! We will know in a couple of days – however, I did get to meet the juror, William Eiland, at a dinner at our house last night.

Sorry, I have no inside track about who was accepted, but I did learn that the juror is absolutely delightful. I think you’ll agree when you see the video, below, in which the charming museum director from Georgia discusses everything from fried chicken to what makes a good submission to a juried art show.

 

Here are some photos from last night’s very informal, very enjoyable dinner.

Cappy and Suzy L:awton, SAAL&M's 2017 Art Patrons

Cappy and Suzy L:awton, SAAL&M’s 2017 Art Patrons

2 copy

Doris Walsh, Vikki Fields, Bill Eiland, and Richard Tietz

3 copy

SAAL&M President Helen Fey with Clarence Fey and David Johle

  I loved Bill Eiland’s advice to artists who enter juried shows:

  • Avoid sentimentality
  • Avoid cliches
  • Be true to your personal vision

Now, back to crossing my fingers that we all were accepted!!

A new website – and it’s mine, all mine!

TAH-DAH!! New studio, new website - life is bueno!

TAH-DAH!! New studio, new website – life is bueno!

Whew! My new website is finished (or as finished as those things ever get – tweak tweak). Take a look!

coverweb

I built it myself so I could include things like links to my Etsy page and a “Your Page” place to show video tutorials for you guys. It also has a super easy link to the Behind the Veil encaustic collage ebook, which makes downloading a snap.

Creating a new site was hard, but worth it! And it works sooooo much better than the old website, which had been around since the dawn of the Internet.

SHARDS readers are the first to see this, and I would greatly appreciate any feedback or suggestions, positive or negative (sometimes negative is a very good thing).

Yeah, I know the studio workshops aren’t up yet, but they will be soon, and the check-out process should be simple and easy.

So here’s the link – thanks for checking it out!! And stay warm and dry this weekend – here in South Texas it’s gonna get nasty – brrrrrrrr.