It was a wonderfully fulfilling and intensely busy 10 1/2 years managing the Bothwell Arts Center, helping creatives learn, teach, practice and create. On March 8th, I handed over the reins to the ever-capable Anne Giancola, and am now off pursuing my art and teaching.
It’s been 3 weeks, filled with everything from updating my portfolio, creating new work, doing some private classes, developing a business plan and, well, catching up on sleep and long-neglected friends.
As I write this, I’m in our camper van at Caspar Beach, between Mendocino and Fort Bragg, California. We’re surrounded by redwoods and the ocean is a heady block away. I’ve been doing some research on residencies at the Mendocino Art Center, a lovely and amazing center dedicated to fostering the arts. I’d really like to stay here and absorb the headlands, the amazing tide pools and the feel of the place, and infuse it in my art. The painting above is based on memories of my first trip to Mendocino a while back, staying in a B&B in Elk and wandering solo along the shoreline. We’re headed to Mendocino in a couple of hours, gonna check it out.
A while back, four pieces arrived from a Miami gallery show, the surface totally damaged due to ignoring the shipping instructions I’d sent. Pouring medium stays somewhat soft, kind of like encaustic.
This was the biggest piece I’d done with this new series, 36″x36″ – I’ve done way larger with paints, but not with pouring medium. The larger the piece, the more complicated the logistics and the more challenge it takes to create actual art. It took at least 7 pours, countless hours, several interval layers, and a ton of medium. Ok, more like gallons. A lot of waiting and looking time in between each pour.
There is a beautiful state you get to when a piece is done, when you’ve listened to yourself and stopped yourself from over-working it, and just enough is there to invoke that magic.
I’ve been represented by some really decent people. I guess I was lucky. This was my first experience with a gallery not paying attention about many things, not the least of which was shipping instructions. The first time I’ve been really badly represented in several ways (they had it hung sideways and I didn’t find out about it until two weeks before the show was over, really??? didn’t include me in the show catalogue, etc.)
I think I lost my innocence. Or at least my naiveté.
To unpack a box and see it so messed up is like a kick in the gut. No, worse. At 5 years old, I once took my red cape to the top of the school bleachers and jumped off, sure that I could fly. The impact took my breath away for so long I wasn’t sure I was getting it back. That’s more like what this was like.
I fixed it. Took some work and money, but it’s just fine now (and really, really heavy).
So. As in all things that hit us hard, it’s time to look for the lessons in this:
1. All busy galleries can get too busy to follow details, but some are worse than others. Check out your galleries ahead of time. Read the reviews. Wasn’t possible, really, with this one because it was new – but the main guy had been in the business and pops up with negative reviews. I should have dug deeper.
2. If you have special shipping needs, make it as easy as possible for a gallery to follow them but remember they may not. Better yet, consider protecting them so well (i.e., higher side framing for pours or encaustics), etc.
3. If you can, deliver and pick them up yourself.
4. Make sure to attach a “How to Handle this ArtWork” statement on the back of each piece. Remember that, as in 1. above, this may get lost or ignored.
5. Finally, seriously consider using Art Resin on your work. It fixed all of the scratches and dents, maintains the luminosity of the pouring medium layers, and isn’t toxic or nasty. I’ll write more about Art Resin and how to use it later, but generally the info is all over their website. It’s pricey but worth it.
Some people can’t, or won’t sell their art. It’s just too hard to let it go.
I’ve never been that way until this year.
Most people that know me, know that I’ve been working hard on my art business this past year, focusing on learning the business end of it. Often, they ask, “so how are sales going?” and I usually reply with, “Just fine!” and don’t go into it much. Sure, I’ve had some nice sales during this time, but really I’ve been focused on building a super portfolio.
Many times in the past, especially while living off my art and supporting my then high-school aged daughter, I was painting so fast and furiously in order to pay my bills that my earlier plans to build an inventory and shop for galleries was simply not feasible. Luckily (or not), the paintings were selling right and left. My gallery was simply amazing at that, before it closed.
But this time around, and with the places I’m going with this new medium, I’m determined to do it right. I’ve been studying the business (ask me about a great course I recommend) and putting what I’ve learned into practice.
So, other than the gallery in Laguna Beach, I haven’t offered many for sale since the two art fairs in 2015, and my sales this past year have generally been through clients and word of mouth. In fact, one sale I wouldn’t have made at all except that they were friends and longtime collectors of my work. It was one of my favorites that I felt would be a great gallery calling card piece, but they were good customers and deserved it. Another sale of a really strong piece occurred through entering a few exhibitions that I chose to enter to get some notice of my work. These were exceptions.
This year has been all about building inventory, to have a consistent, concise and large enough portfolio to be effective while I’m out shopping for the right galleries, and not continually shooting myself in the foot by selling all my work. Sometimes, great sales just isn’t the right goal.
So, while I plan to participate in the Open Studios our art center is hosting early in November, and I will be offering several (especially smaller works) for sale, there will be plenty of NFS on the tags.
I’m not a patient person. My lifetime plan of attack has been to go for it and make it happen. Keeping my eye on the long-term is different for me, but I’m doing it. I’m going to hang onto a strong portfolio and enough paintings that will help me as I explore gallery options. A few sales, sure. I’m not doing it the wrong way again, the constant shows, sales, etc., until I’ve reached my goal. I’m keeping the inventory intact until I land a few more galleries that are right for the work.
My art is in Kelsey Michaels Fine Art in Laguna Beach!
I first delivered one of my underwater series paintings to a small juried gallery exhibit in Laguna Beach 9 months ago and fell in love with the town. You can’t swing a vegan burger without hitting a gallery in that town, or at least some cool original art. This became my goal: I want representation here, where gallery shopping is a destination point and art is a reason for going there in the first place.
It took some work, but now five of my underwater pieces are happily on a “test drive” in a cool contemporary art gallery, Kelsey Michaels Fine Art, right on Pacific Coast Highway.
I don’t often write about musicians, even though I know and cherish many of them and love their music. But, this past Sunday, I experienced musical magic in a coffeehouse.
The extremely talented Michael Mullen, formerly “the Mad Fiddler” of Tempest fame, has become a master of “looping”, a technique where tracks can be laid down or sampled by a musician, replayed, and played against.
Mullen steps it up a big notch. Nothing is pre-recorded. Each track is laid down in situ, right there in front of the audience, then layered upon each other to create an exciting multi-performance ensemble.
In his “TriaSoli” performances, Michael constructs a duet, then a quartet, and then a small chamber group before us with each song. He begins with one beautifully rendered track, masterfully bringing the next instrument to life, and moves on to the next. From viola to cello to bass to violin, the anticipation builds until finally, he fills the room with a full-on chamber group that gives you goosebumps.
We got goosebumps on Sunday. And it wasn’t just that he performed Bach, Beethoven and Haydn solo. It wasn’t just that he has clearly mastered his instrument and the crazy amount of effects boxes in a semi-circle at his feet. It wasn’t that he was deconstructing symphonic works at all – rather, he gave us the gift of getting to experience each part in its own beautiful way, and the experience of what each instrument added to the whole – and then the whole itself.
That isn’t all, either, but I’m not sure how to describe it. That’s how art that affects you renders you mute – words can’t possibly engulf it all. So, I ask you, if you get a chance to see Michael Mullen perform in live looping mode, go. Listen. Watch. And let me know what you think.
Michael Mullen donated his performances at Panama Bay Coffeehouse, 2115 First Street, Livermore, to help kickstart the new “Sunday Afternoon Matinee”, devoted to performers with original and traditional music, produced by Duane Gordon. The series has since shown the works of over 22 regional musicians, many of whom performed their own original music – including Steve Kritzer’s music students ranging from 8 to 16. You can find more information about upcoming shows at valleysingout.com, scheduled in bursts throughout the year.
Update: Michael performs at the Bothwell Arts Center on October 22, 2016, 7:30 pm. You need to see this.
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She was a working found–object artist when I met her, a veteran of the craft. She found potential in twigs, inspiration in a red candy wrapper tossed to the sidewalk.
This adorable, 76 year-old sprite of a woman was an inspiration. She made sculptures from driftwood and seaweed, the dancers my favorite. She did mobiles, baskets, so many artful things.
Then Virginia sort of disappeared.
I got busy, but would think of her often, when I would see interesting seed shells or twigs that looked like dancers’ legs. And, when I grabbed a few minutes to email her, the emails bounced back.
I saw her again many years later at an art reception. A friend had brought her because she no longer drove at night. To connect with her again was wonderful.
She was doing no art. She was afraid of making a mess in the beautiful retirement apartment she was renting – her husband and soulmate had passed on and the house was just too much to take care of.
A few days later I was hosting a Jackson Pollack painting party at the Bothwell and I knew she would love it, so invited her to come try her hand at action painting. Duane, my partner, made sure she got there and back.
She had a blast throwing paint around, and came up to me at the end of the night. In true Virginia form, she said, “can I come back tomorrow and pick up the dried paint?” with that found-object-sparkle in her eye.
She came, right on time, and bent at the waist, over and over again, delighted with peeling off her “found objects”.
She took those blots and specks home and played.
And so it began.
My friend Virginia turned 86 this year.
When I’m done with a long painting session, I’ve got splatters and splats and drips and dots (there are lots of dots) from my pour paintings all over my tarps. Virginia peels them off and makes “found art” collages and cool stuff without making much of a mess.
She gets so awesomely excited by the colors and the metallic encased in the drips and drabs and the possibilities in these ”found objects”, it does my heart good.
What would you expect of the great-great granddaughter of a Circus Strongman and a Russian aristocrat who fled to marry her love and perform as the Circus Snake-Charmer?
That she would be strong? bold? That she would grow up to cherish powerful, rebellious women?
Absolutely. Meet D.O.M., (Dominika Zurawska), a strong, capable woman who has found a way to share of all of this through her powerful art. Her strong coloration and bold women full of life are impossible to pass by in an exhibition without feeling their impact.
D.O.M. cherishes these female rebels with each big fat paint stroke.
And who was the bold woman who inspired her the most? Madonna – first as her inspiration in life, and then as her muse.
“When I was young, I had to be the strong one. I had to support my parents and younger brother, it was a difficult time,” says D.O.M. Back then, even her art was difficult. “I went to Art School, and my teachers told me I should never paint. They said I could sculpt or do other art but my paintings were worthless.”
While working in a coffee house, she finally really listened to Madonna’s messages. She realized how strong Madonna really was, what a rebel she’d been, and found a hero in spirit that has helped support her own bold spirit through hard times. Madonna made a huge impact on her life.
After a leg injury left her disabled for a time, she decided to paint on the canvases she’d bought for school to pass the time. Her Manager saw them and suggested that she hang them at the shop and have an exhibition. D.O.M. said, “but my paintings are worthless!” The Manager hung them anyway. There were 9 of them. 8 sold.
D.O.M. married, and eventually took an office job to help support her young and growing family. Thirteen months ago, with a one-year-old baby, D.O.M. was laid off. In a bold, Madonna-like move, D.O.M. decided that she should pursue her artwork. And that she had one year to make it.
Since then, she has been in 8 different exhibitions in 3 countries,with another coming soon in Glasgow ( January 2016 ), the next in Lost Angeles (April 2016) and after that, New York (November 2016).
I met her at the Parallax Art Fair in London, where she was showing several of her Rebel Women series, http://bit.ly/1TPMskN all based on her muse, Madonna. “I didn’t want Madonna to think I was using her to get publicity and sales, so I changed them”, says D.O.M., of the Rebel Women works, “but she (Madonna) inspired them all.”
D.O.M. was the busiest of all of the 200+ artists at the Fair. We joked about making up t-shirts that say, “Buy My Art so I don’t have to go Back to the OFFICE!”
She didn’t need the t-shirt. She’s now selling well and has several commissions lined up. Her art is now collected in 6 countries. She has won awards. But is that enough?
Nope. “I really want Madonna to have my painting of her,” says D.O.M., “and I want to be there when she sees it! She changed my life.”
When we Skyped to interview for this piece, D.O.M. was busy painting a masterful Madonna, whose eyes dare you to see her as anything but powerful. Madonna’s just gotta see this one.
Help her out! If you have connections or have connections that have connections, pass along the word, would you? Help this talented painter meet her hero and her muse, and give Madonna the painting.
I recently posted a YouTube video (link below) where I demonstrate how I created this underwater painting using Liquitex Pouring Medium, acrylics, a spoon and my (gloved) finger … ok, and a couple of tarps and stuff like that.
It was one of those magical afternoons when, after four days of painting mostly bottom layers, it all came together and just flowed. Sometimes, in the words of Audrey Flack (Art & Soul, a wonderful book), everything disappears in the room except the art and you … and then it’s just the art…
I happened to get lucky enough to get that on film!
Once in awhile it’s just you and the art, and then…
ARTISTS: If you are an artist and want to try it, please spend some time exploring the medium on a smaller scale, first! It took me a couple of years of experimentation to get to a good understanding of how each different pigment is going to react to the medium. Some float, some like to sit on the surface, some like to be by themselves and some overpower everything around them.
Nowadays there are a lot of videos out there that demonstrate how to use the medium, and you can also use my earlier “DIY” blog to get a little grounding in the medium.
Then, be brave, get your gloves on and start pouring!
Delivered the art today to Art San Diego (in cool Balboa Park). Walking through there, I felt incredibly proud to be exhibiting amongst all the amazing art. This is a stellar show.
I know I’m a good artist. I know I can express in a unique way. And I know I’m not the best, but sometimes I reach the best I can be. That’s a good thing.
But some of this art, today ... well, let’s just leave it at a big wow. A couple of pieces left me feeling humbled before exposed humanity, and all I had time for was to walk by them. I’m gonna love exploring all this cool work over the next several days.
I should suggest this more often: Get out and get in front of some art that gets you in the gut, gives you goosebumps, gives you that thrill in the chest like a deep bass beat – but better, more deeply – a thrill that hums inside. Art reminds us of things we’ve forgotten, tells us things we could never get in any other way. It makes us soooo much more human than we often remember to take time for in our everyday lives.
You don’t have to buy it if you can’t afford it. You can just remember it, and the experience of it.
I’ll never forget a Nathan Oliveira piece I saw at John Beggruen’s Gallery in SF well over a decade ago. One of his red-figure silhouettes. I couldn’t talk afterwards, it hit me so hard.
I don’t have to own it to remember it and how it affected me. I’m not even sure I could handle that affect everyday. Not even sure I’d like the experience of starting to ignore it … could that happen? Point is moot, could not have afforded it. But I will always remember how it affected me.
Can’t wait til tomorrow night, when the VIP reception hits and there’s amazing art to be encountered in the halls … and I come home exhausted from either talking or engaging with the art. So thankful.