Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To Show, or Not to Show: That is the Question (My Grappling with Juried Shows...)

... Last night, as the clock on my computer screen ticked closer to 11:50 pm, I was frantically trying to finish, resize and upload my images to OnlineJuriedShows.com for entering Randy Higbee Gallery's 2012 6 Inches Squared Show. And tonight, I opened my emails -- and happily found out "April's Passing" and "Island Beauty - White Plumeria" are accepted. I've just learned several days before that "Peppermint Rose" was also accepted into Debra Huse Gallery's Holiday Treasure Salon 2012. So, it looks like I will have a bunch of small paintings shipped down southern California for the holidays...

April's Passing,  Watercolor on Ampersand Aquaboard, 6"h x 6"w, 2012 #52

Accepted into Randy Higbee Gallery's 2012 6 Inches Squared Show

Bid in my DPW Auction (Starting Bid $95)

With all these great news, I do not want to sound ungrateful. But after the initial ecstasy faded, the practical side of me cannot help but wondering -- should I really be working against the clock to enter so many juried shows?

Asking a full-time artist who is trying to make a living making and selling their art, you are likely going to get a very passionate answer about this question -- and ask a hundred, it's likely you'll get fifty yes and fifty no, with very good reason on both sides. I've had quite good luck with juried shows this year, getting into many and sold quite a few works with much higher price tags than selling online (mostly because juried shows often requires a minimum size of 10" x 14", much larger than what I usually sell online, and these larger pieces are also framed). However, doing the hard math often suggests such sales are not necessarily economically viable, contrary to my initial belief: take "Peppermint Rose" as example, its label price in the Holiday Treasure Show is $400. If it is sold, Debra Huse gallery takes 50% (which I think they fully deserve for spending time, efforts and money putting on such a great show and doing all the marketing for it, not to mention the huge gallery space a show like this will need also costs money), so what I will get is only $200. Now if we calculate the framing cost (I used a $50 frame from Randy Higbee frames shop for this one, since they have great quality frames, and they also do all the fitting for the paintings juried into the Holiday Treasure Show for free), entry fee ($45 for three images), shipping ($15 each way), handling fee (a very reasonable $10), packing material -- you can see the profit quick go down the drain on my side. So, is it truly worthwhile to spending that much time photographing, uploading, submitting my artwork, and packing/shipping it hundreds of miles away to exhibit in these juried shows? Is there any real benefit for me as an artist to sell my artwork this way versus simply selling by myself online, or in local galleries?...

Island Beauty - White Plumeria,  
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140# Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, 2012 #12

Accepted into Randy Higbee Gallery's 2012 6 Inches Squared Show


After almost a year's exploration, experimentation and contemplation, I think the answer to that question is more likely "yes", but the reason does not lie in the economic side. In stead, I think it maybe worthwhile to enter juried shows for the following two benefits:

-- Exposure. Juried shows in different regions of the country may expose your work to local buyers, who may not have a chance to see your work otherwise. Often it is not practical or even possible for an artist, especially artists who are just starting their career to have representations in galleries across the country, therefore, juried shows can bring your work in front of potential customers in the regions far from your normal reach. Juried shows also often showcase larger-sized works whose scale is hard to fully comprehend until the viewer is standing in front of it, instead of looking at it on a computer screen. Some work are definitely more powerful and awe-inspiring when viewed in person. I think this is why my larger work are often sold in juried shows instead of online. 

Peppermint Rose, 
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140# Cold Press Paper, 8"h x 8"w, 2012 #36

Accepted into Debra Huse Gallery's Holiday Treasure Salon 2012


-- Recognition. For artists who are just starting their career, getting into juried shows, and getting awards may open a few doors leading to wonderful opportunities. Art magazines, art book editors and curators may see your work and approach you for potential possibilities of writing an article about you, using your work in one of their art books, or even suggesting a future show opportunity. Art communities may see your work and invite you to give a demo, teaching a class or even a workshop. Adding national juried show acceptances and awards to one's resume also definitely make that road to gallery, artist-in-residence or grant application a bit easier. What's more, it is a demonstration that you are continuously making an effort presenting your work as a professional artist, which serves as a strong evidence in case you file your tax return as a professional artist, but cannot generate profit three out of five consecutive years. (Often, tax agents are quite flexible regarding applying this standard to artists, as long as you demonstrate the "continuous effort" toward becoming more professional and making steady progresses.)

Crimsonscape - Red Poinsettia
Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 2

Of course, one can also add that simply putting one's work "out there" to compare with all the wonderful professional artwork submitted to a juried show can serve as a measure of one's current level and progress through time. However, I would definitely caution taking this measure too serious, as more often than not, acceptance or rejection in a juried show with only one juror reflects more on the juror's taste and preference than the absolute quality of the artworks entered, and it can (surprisingly) be quite subjective. Therefore, whenever I am accepted into a show I really like, I would always caution myself that this by no means is a certificate that I have "made it" and better than all the artists that did not get in. Instead, it more likely just means that I am lucky enough that my artistic expression happens to fit in the vision of this particular juror...

To show, or not to show, that seems to be the eternal question for an artist struggling to establish his/her artistic career. To answer it, one really has to reach deep down, and ask oneself -- what is the purpose and driving factor for me to enter this show? What are the biggest benefits? What are the draw-backs? How much time and money am I likely to spend for it? Can I afford such time and monitory expenses? What can I get in return? Who is likely going to see this show? And are these people who I would like to show my work to at this stage of my career?... It is not an easy answer, and only you -- the artist can answer it for yourself...

Friday, November 16, 2012

2013 Calendars! (Different Designs Available...)

With the holiday season approaching, I am preparing my first calendars to offer for sale -- both online and in my galleries. Currently, I have three different desk calendars (8" x 4" in size) and a wall calendar (8.5" x 11" in size) for sale. Two of the desk calendars and the wall calendar uses the best floral paintings I did this year, and the other desk calendar contains images from my plein air paintings and sketches from this year. I am selling the desk calendars at $12 each (plus $3 shipping) and the wall calendar at $20 (plus $5 shipping), and if you purchase more than one, they will be packaged together at reduced shipping costs. If you purchase more than five (they could be either five of the same design or a combination of different designs), I will provide free shipping (I will refund your shipping cost after your payment)! Here's a sneak peak of the cover images of the different calendars:

"Garden Glory Desk" Calendar Cover

"Days of Roses, Nights of Tulips" Desk Calendar Cover

"Season's Impressions" Desk Calendar Cover

"Garden Impressions" Wall Calendar Cover

I've also revamped my blog to add a page which includes all the images of different months for each of the calendars. But you can also purchase any of the calendars by selecting the corresponding item in the drop down menu below, then click the "Add to Cart" button. If you want to purchase multiple calendars, you can simply close the paypal checkout window after adding one item to the cart, and select the next item you want to purchase, then click the "Add to Cart" button again. To purchase multiple copies of the same calendar, you can modify the quantity in the paypal checkout window, then click "update".

Purchase My 2013 Calendars:

Also, I've added links to my website, my Daily Paintworks Gallery, my Etsy shop, my available prints and note cards for sale (at Fine Art America), and a little blurb about myself to the blog -- you can now access them through the page tabs right under the banner image of my blog!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The "Love" Part of a Perfect Love/Hate Relationship: Me and Aquabord

I Admit at times this all look like slow motion (to all the incredible fast painters out there who makes me feel like a snail...), but, a love relationship just cannot be rushed, especially when it's facing some significant difficulties... Ok, ok, before your thoughts go astray, I am actually talking about this new surface I have been continuously trying (and tucking away out of frustration) for about a year -- the Ampersand Aquabord. And I think I am finally making real progress in understanding how it works...

You see, the problem of painting on Aquabord mostly come from the fact that it seems to have a will of its own -- washes laid down on it does not seem to go to places you want them to go, smooth washes are next to impossible for large areas, surface dries in a heartbeat and wet-in-wet applications almost always fail -- despite all of which, once you have tried it, it's hard to put down: colors do not sink into the surface and the brilliance of hue you can achieve on this surface is almost unsurpassed as far as watercolors go. Just like a perfect lover, it's wild, hard to tame, but your heart always goes back to it after every painful fight and every separation.

Remembering June,  Watercolor on Ampersand Aquaboard, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 2

Like any other love affairs, it only start to become better and the two parties involved have "broken in" with each other. After much trial and frustration, the beauty of handling quality of this difficult surface start to reveal itself little by little:

-- Glazes of color merge seamlessly without revealing where the rewetting starts and where it ends. On paper, when applying a glaze to an area, despite out best effort to fade color back to clear water on the edge of shapes that requires a soft transition, often than not a "watermark" show up at the edge of the area that has been wet if the glaze is applied on areas that already have heavy pigment applications on them. This is because water would almost always loosen the pigment lying underneath and redeposit them on the edge of the wet area, no matter how light your touch is. I've tried soft squirrel hair brush, it helps but still does not totally eliminate the problem. On this surface, though, the surface texture of clay seem to break the obvious "ring" appearance of the rewetted areas, and glazes merge without a trace into existing color passages if you apply them lightly and avoid to disturb the existing pigments too much.

April's Passing,  Watercolor on Ampersand Aquaboard, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 2

-- Delicate layering of colors truly "GLOWS" on this surface. If I apply washes that are so faint only a trace of color can be detected when applied directly on white paper, the color seem to stand out with more integrity and shows up more. So, if you are patient, the colors on this surface can almost be infinitely modified by applying a very thin, watery glaze over any existing passages, like the shadow areas on the petal in the details shown below -- the Cobalt Blue glaze I applied would totally disappear had I try to do this glaze on paper, but here, a very lovely subtle purple tinge shows clearly on the glazed areas.

-- Lifting from very dark to near white can be easily done with a synthetic brush, while lifting from pale passages would result a pearl-like glowing stain that hints the original color. The lovely surface texture also gets emphasized and adds surface interest with these near-white liftings and thin glazes, as shown in the lifted white shapes in the detail below.

Details of April's Passing,  Watercolor on Ampersand Aquaboard, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 2

-- Very interesting diffused edges where a dark area meets a light area can be achieved by laying the dark pigment thickly (almost like cream or paste consistency), then immediately teasing out the edge with a wet (not just damp) brush. I used a small (size 4) brush with synthetic hair to do this, laying water droplets next to juicy dark passages, then push and pull color with the brush and water on surface, lifting if necessary, to create all the interesting shadow shapes on the leaves shown in the detail below. Since lifting back from near black to near white is not hard on this surface, once I let go of the fear and allow water to push and pull pigments with its own will to areas I have not expected, some very interesting edge effects and texture appears miraculously...

Details of April's Passing,  Watercolor on Ampersand Aquaboard, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 2

In the end, what did I learn from this very difficult yet extremely rewarding relationship? I discovered that once you stop the dire effort of trying to control every aspect of it -- making every shape, every edge, every color passage to go exactly as you imagined -- and let go a little bit to observe what happens on surface as you lay down the colors, half in panic (always), half in expectation, beautiful surprises lies in every corner. A partner with character may be hard to handle, but never will there be a dull moment or boredom in the relationship that comes along...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Throw in a Little Play Time... (Have You Played Today?)

At times we can all be so busy -- busy producing work to enter competitions, to send to galleries, to list online for sale. It may seem that we are under constant stress to create, create, create more artwork! We feel the need to update our blogs often -- if not with a finished painting each day, at least some great progress shots (that actually shows progress)! At times we wish that the first reference photo we lay our eyes on or the first still-life setup we place on the table would just make a brilliant composition, that every brush-stroke we put down on paper or canvas would work magnificently toward the beautiful vision we had for the piece in our mind, that we could speed up this whole process of drawing, painting, sculpting into a linear progression along a single line aimed straight at a splendid finish ---

... And if it doesn't, if there are much time spend agonizing setting up a still life, cropping  a reference photo, if there are many passages scraped, scratched, lifted out, washed off, and repainted, if for a little while we seem to have lost in the process and not sure where the piece is going, we feel anxious and sometimes even guilty that we are not "productive" enough --

Fire Dance,  Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico #140 Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 1

... But, are we really?...

-- What if you allow yourself some time every week to just play with that set up process, substituting familiar and tried items with ones that just does not seem to work, and find out why? What if you try to center the entire composition around that problematic object, using other items with complimentary or analogues colors and patterns, contrasting or similar textures, and try to design shapes that make the problematic object the center piece? What if you try a totally different point of view -- such as setting up the still life above the eye line to emphasize the majestic quality of ordinary, day-to-day objects?...

-- What if you spend a day to just look through the lens of your camera, pointing it at random angles and shooting found objects that you may never intentionally try to take a reference photo of? What if you crop these photos dramatically, using super close-ups to look at only the surface texture, or very small details instead of the entire object? Instead of cropping yet a other head-and-shoulder shot for portrait, what if you cropped off the head and focus on hands, feet, chest with shirts and legs with torn jeans?...

April's Promise,  Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico #140 Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 1

-- What if instead of going straightly at that beautiful wash, that light underpainting, that carefully drawn details that you know would lead to a successfully painting in your typical style, give up your normal procedure, and try something new, something different, something that may be way outside your comfort zone? What if instead of painting light to dark, general shapes to details in watercolor, you put in bold darks and wash light colors over them, and let the darks bleed out? (No panicking please!!!) What if you just take out the work (or its photograph, in most cases) of an artist you admire and never has a chance to study with, and imagine how he or she achieved a particular passage in the painting, and try out that method? What if you just try a new type of material, a new surface, a new painting tool and try to redo a painting that you have done and liked, or for that matter, something that you have tried to do and never worked out?...

-- What if you take the photograph, and turn it into black-and-white, instead of painting true to the color of the photo, just choose a color scheme from a painting by another artist that you feel greatly inspiring, and try to design your painting using that particular color scheme? What if you try a limited palette of only primary colors, only warm and cool earth colors? If you are used to painting with a limited palette, what if you try three new colors and add them to this new painting to just see how they work with your old palette, and how they work (or does not work) with each other?...

Waiting for Spring,  
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico #140 Cold Press Paper, 10"h x 7"w, WIP 1

Guaranteed, most of these "experiments", or as I would like to call them, "play time" products may never turn out to be master pieces -- they may never be finished, but I believe they are just as important as the beautiful finished pieces we enter shows, win prizes, sell across the ocean or to the next door neighbors, and post on our blogs, facebook pages and websites to gain all the "wow"s an "ah"s. Because it is for us, for the artist within, for the growth of our paintings and ourselves, and for the wonder of the activity we call "creating" that lured us in the constant ecstasy and agony of being an artist --

... So, maybe today, among all the "serious" work we do daily as artists, we can throw in a little, just a little... "Play Time"?...

(I would love to see your experiments and excursions -- post a comment or a link to your adventure and the fabulous -- they by definition all are -- results of it here, I will share it on my facebook page!)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...