We leave Budapest in a few hours. It’s been an amazing stay of almost three weeks – the city is more than I hoped or expected. But I did learn a lesson and that is, you can’t do everything!
I had planned on finishing up my online project as well as seeing the city. I had also planned, along with the daily sketches (Project 365) that I post on my Facebook Page, to do some plein air pastelling. I brought four sheets of mounted Wallis to work on plus a couple of sheets of mounted UArt paper.
Well, I am disappointed to say I only did one pastel. And that was done yesterday, in the apartment, from a photo. And the reason that one got painted? This blog! I wanted this post to be about work I had done here in Budapest so I was highly motivated!
This Budapest pastel isn’t complete and later, I’ll talk about what I want to work on. Let’s take a look.
So, there you have it – my one and only in-Budapest pastel! I’ll work on it at home and then either update this post or create another. I have to say, I think, in the end, it’s gonna be a good one!
Now I am off to pack – the taxi picks us up in six hours for our 6:30am (ugh) flight.
Always, you know I love to hear from you. Let me know what you think about this pastel or anything else going on here on the blog.
For some time now, I have admired the work of Daggi Wallace. I featured one of her paintings in my October pastel choices. Here’s another example of her stunning work:
I knew Daggi did a lot of commissions and thought info on doing commissioned work would be a great topic for a blog. Happily, when I asked Daggi to write a guest blog, she agreed. And as you’ll find, she has a lot of valuable information for you!
Daggi Wallace bio
First, a bit about Daggi. You can click here to read an in-depth bio but let me share a few highlights. First off, Daggi has her own blog full of fascinating and useful info and I encourage you to have a look at it.
Born and raised in Berlin, Germany, and now living near Los Angeles, Daggi specializes in contemporary realism. She’s a Master Circle Member of the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) and a Master Pastelist of the Pastel Society of America (PSA). Daggi has won numerous awards in regional and national juried exhibitions and her work is in many American and European collections.
In 2010 Daggi started Moni’s Kids, a non-profit project, painting portraits of children in need and using the proceeds to deliver aid to the children portrayed.
In 2012 she was selected as Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Camarillo, CA, where she maintains her studio and has served on its Board of Directors. Her studio is open to the public every First Saturday of the month or by appointment. Naturally, Daggi accepts commissions
Take it away Daggi!!
When Gail asked me to write a guest post about commission work I was thrilled but also realized just how much there is to say on the topic after many years as a portrait artist! So, let me start right in with the Pros and Cons of accepting commissions in the first place so you can decide whether they are right for you or not.
A guaranteed sale before you even start! Well, almost guaranteed. If the client is familiar with and likes your usual style and work there should be no problem getting their approval when it’s finished. I have never not gotten paid for a commissioned work. But DO protect yourself with a solid contract (more on that later).
No out of pocket expenses for framing! As a pastelist my non-commissioned work has to be framed to be exhibited and the cost of framing can be huge. With commissions, the client covers the cost of framing.
New collectors. Now that you have established a relationship with a portrait commission client, they may just become a new collector of your landscapes or still lifes. Many clients turn into repeat customers not only for portraits but other non-commission work as well.
Emotional Rewards: There’s no job satisfaction like seeing a client burst into tears of joy at the portrait of a loved one! Especially when it comes to posthumous portraits, it’s very rewarding that our work can bring comfort to people.
Unexpected opportunities: You never know what a portrait commission will lead to. In 2007 I was commissioned by a friend to paint a portrait of Grammy winning Blues legend Buddy Guy. She was a close friend of his and wanted to gift him with the painting for his 71st birthday. You can read more about the resulting painting, Legends, here. I presented Buddy with the portrait backstage at one of his concerts, took lots more photos of him and his band during the show and at subsequent performances at his Chicago club. The result was a series of blues musicians and a two-person exhibit (the other artist painted jazz musicians) which garnered very positive press coverage. One of the paintings, Passing the Torch, won several awards and now also hangs at Buddy’s renowned club in Chicago.
Difficult clients. In over twenty years I have only had a couple of difficult clients and they were male! While we tend to think of women as vain, it’s often men who see themselves as younger or more handsome than they are. I amended my standard contract after I had to repeatedly rework the face of a client’s husband even after the piece had received final approval from the wife (my client) and had been framed! This went on for a couple of YEARS until I finally had to refuse because the paper could not take any more reworking without permanent damage! The wife knew I had captured his likeness in the beginning but the man simply did not believe he looked like that! As you can see in my contract further down in this post, I now limit the amount of reworking I will do.
Lack of creative freedom. Often while working on commissions artists can feel more like laborers for hire than creative artists but you should try to add as much of your own style and creativity to the project as you can. (This also gets a mention in the contract below.) Don’t accept a commission unless you think you can get excited about it because it will show in the final work no matter how much you may need the money!
Bad reference photos/unavailability of the subject. I’m not a great technical photographer but can usually overcome any shortcomings because of years of experience of life drawing and observation. Some portrait artists hire a professional photographer to shoot the photo references, but this would be an out-of-pocket expense. If you go this route, be sure to be there during the shoot to direct the photographer so it still ends up being your own ideas, poses and compositions and you can interact with the subject. Posthumous portraits are especially difficult because you’ll have to work from the photos provided by the client. Make sure you feel confident that you can create a good portrait from the images before you accept the commission. You may be tempted by the money but it’s not worth the stress if you struggle too much working from a tiny snapshot. You won’t be happy with the results and neither will your client! More on the topic of photos later.
Lack of time to spend on your personal work. If you are successful and have a standing list of orders you may become frustrated about not having enough time to work towards an exhibition for example. While this is a good problem to have, be sure to schedule time off from commissions in order to pursue your other artistic goals. Some artists only accept commission work part of the year. You will return to the commissioned work with new vigor and enthusiasm if you create balance during your studio time with other work.
Meeting deadlines. Some artists work better under pressure, others not so much. Know yourself well and set realistic deadlines for your clients. While I can at times accommodate short notice requests for special occasions, I have also learned to say ‘No’ to unrealistic expectations.
Types of commissions
If you decide you would like to start accepting commissioned work, think beyond the traditional portrait! You can specialize in animal/pet portraits, home/house portraits, landscapes (favorite vacation spots for example), still lifes (make a special flower arrangement last forever or paint a display of heirlooms), abstract and decorative works, maternity portraits, or corporate, professional and retirement portraits.
To avoid one of the Cons mentioned above (boredom, lack of creativity) decide which type of commission you can get excited about and make that your specialty.
Below are some examples of the variety of portrait commissions possible:
Make it your own!
It’s important to find your own style of portrait painting for a client, not only to set yourself apart from the many other portrait artists out there, but also to be authentic and true to your own aesthetic. Again, if you are not excited about using your own creativity and style, it will show in the results. I have very little interest in painting formal portraits of professional leaders, for instance, or children in their Sunday best sitting perfectly still. While I won’t turn down such a commission, of course, I also want to find a way to a make portrait less stuffy in order to appeal to a broader audience.
My Up Close & Personal series of portraits has been very popular with modern families because of its contemporary look and budget friendly prices. (I include framing costs for these to make it as easy as possible to purchase and hang the finished piece.)
I have also added text to portraits which was something I was exploring in my personal work and was fortunate enough to find clients who were open to trying something unconventional.
Where to find your clients
Think outside of the box! While there are agencies such as A Stroke of Genius to connect potential clients with artists, I have never used one. Most of my clients have come through word of mouth, building up a network slowly, starting with family and friends, then my day job years ago through colleagues, then friends and family of theirs. (Build up a body of work by offering to paint a few portraits of family members and friends for free or very reduced prices if you have to.) Now with social media, it’s so much easier to get your work seen and passed on so take advantage of it! Be sure to have an updated website which acts as your portfolio. Make it as easy as possible for potential clients to know what to expect beforehand such as your price range and procedures. I have a separate page on my website for this. It saves time answering questions (I can just email the link) and there are no surprises.
Depending on the type of commission you decide to pursue, find your potential clients where they congregate and offer a small commission to the venue if necessary (20% would be appropriate).
Here are some ideas:
Pet portraits: Advertise in animal shelters, grooming salons
Children’s portraits: Place your brochures, business cards, and work examples in pediatricians offices, high-end baby boutiques, school PTA newsletters
Maternity portraits: OB/Gyn and ultrasound offices, maternity shops
House Portraits: real estate agencies, title companies, historical home tour organizers
Abstracts: small home furnishing stores, interior designers
Landscapes: golf courses, vacation rentals
Charitable organizations: while artists are often bombarded with requests for donations of art to a variety of charities and fundraisers, I have found that donating gift certificates instead of finished paintings can lead to commissions. For example, I have offered one free Up Close & Personal Portrait (client pays extra for framing) or the equivalent value discounted off a higher priced portrait. I have then had clients who chose the free portrait ,order an additional one later. On the discounted higher priced ones I still came out ahead anyway, of course.
So, now that you have decided to take on commissions and have found a few clients, be sure to type up a standard contract! You can always make concessions under some circumstances (for instance I don’t always request that second 1/3 payment halfway through but will just accept the balance on approval, especially if it’s a repeat client) but a signed contract lets your clients know you are a professional and conduct your business accordingly. Most clients’ confidence in you will increase and if they balk at signing then maybe you should rethink whether they’re the right clients for you!
I call it a “Commission Agreement” instead of a contract (seems a little friendlier). Here’s what you should include:
Between whom is this agreement? (artist’s and client’s name and addresses)
Agreement of Artistic Style
This assures that the client understands it will be in your typical style, unless otherwise agreed upon.
The Commission Process
Do you require live sittings? If so, how many? what length each time? At the client’s home or your studio?
Will you work from photos? If so, who will provide them, you or the client? If you take your own, is there an extra charge for the photo shoot? Where will it take place? How much time is required?
What will you discuss during your first meeting? For example: image size, pose, general color scheme, and any special features to be included in the painting. I recommend requesting a deposit at this time, usually a non-refundable deposit of 1/3 of the total price (this covers the time you already spent traveling to and meeting with the client, discussing the project, taking the photos or making sketches).
Explain your next step, such as creating sketches of the overall composition, design and colors that you will send to the client via an email for approval before beginning work on the actual portrait (this will save you later!). I add this footnote: “It is understood by the client that any given commissioned work is a lasting representation of Daggi’s work, and therefore, Daggi must be granted the freedom to create a balanced, artistic design.” (After all, the painting will have your name on it and will be seen by many other potential clients (hopefully) and must therefore meet your own high standards.)
Will you send a digital image when the painting is at a point of almost completion or invite them to stop by the studio? This is the time when the client can give feedback in regards to the likeness. (The earlier agreement of the photo and pose, however, must remain intact at this point. This is why you sent an initial sketch. Too much work has gone into the piece by now to make any major changes.) At this point, I require the second 1/3 total of the total price.
If the client is local I ALWAYS insist on a studio visit for final approval (in some cases I take the piece to them if necessary). Do NOT rely on their approval through email only if they can see the piece in person! I have had clients unhappy about colors because their computer screens were not calibrated the same as mine. Once they see the painting live, there is usually no issue. The balance of the total price PLUS sales tax (if local, or plus shipping costs) should now be paid in full. Provide a receipt to the client. Put all of this in writing so there are no surprises, including preferred shipping method and who will pay for it.
Decide beforehand how many changes, if any, you will agree to make after FINAL APPROVAL, if there will be any additional charges and what is the time limit on such requests. I learned this the hard way (see story above).
State what will happen if you cannot satisfy the client. (I state that if I’m not able to create a work to the client’s satisfaction, either one of us may cancel the agreement but that the initial deposit of 1/3 of total price will not be refunded.)
Include details at the end, such as subject matter, image size, total price, approximate date of delivery of completed work and general color scheme.
Both client and artist sign and date the contract
Add your contact information: Your name, studio or mailing address, phone number, email address, website.
Make two copies – give one to client, keep one yourself.
Tips on photographing your subject for portraits
I love painting spontaneous moments and emotions that are too hard to hold in live sittings so I usually work from photos but one of the most difficult parts of being a portrait artist for me is the photo shoot itself.
I prefer taking my own photos so I can meet the subject, see their movements, mannerisms, coloring, etc. but I still get nervous before a shoot. I don’t use both sides of the brain well at the same time, so speaking and connecting to the subject in order to put them at ease and bring out natural smiles and gestures while making creative decisions behind the camera is very difficult for me.
An artist friend recently suggested that I try using a tripod and remote shutter so I don’t have to have my face buried behind the camera and which will make the models less self-conscious. While this may be a good idea, I actually like seeing the person in the square of the viewfinder and worry about not being able to judge whether everything fits into the frame when the person moves.
I spend many hours later on my computer going through all of the images, cropping, rotating, editing until I get a variety of images that best capture the sitter’s personality.
I then email about 5-10 images to the client without telling them my personal favorite because I don’t want to overly influence their decision. However, later I will offer my top choice if asked and more often than not it matches theirs.
Camera: use the highest resolution setting you can on your camera in order to be able to see all of the details later.
Lighting: Natural light is best, whether outdoors or by a window. Strong directional light with distinct shadows can create dynamic interesting portraits but may not be what the client likes (especially older women who may prefer the more youthful look of even lighting). Avoid flash lighting!
Look for and avoid things such as shadows covering the eyes too much, double chins (due to shooting from a low angle), heavy bags under the eyes (angle and lighting issue), weird shadows from trees across the face, etc.
Poses: Write down some poses beforehand especially if you are photographing multiple subjects together. Let your subjects move naturally and observe. I take lots of pictures while just chatting with them and it’s often the shots that happened BETWEEN the poses that will make the final cut. Pay attention to severe foreshortening and placements of limbs (hands especially can look very awkward if you don’t pay attention to their pose).
The wonderful thing about digital photography is you can check it right away and adjust the pose as needed. I usually show my clients some of the images on the viewfinder so they can add their own ideas to how to adjust the poses and facial expressions.
I also recommend learning as much as you can about how to pose people to their best advantage (google it and you’ll find tons of resources!).
If I have to rely on the client providing me with the reference photos, I send them a pdf of tips on what to look for among the images or how to take some photos themselves. If they insist on using professionally shot photos, I make sure I have the permission in writing from the photographer to use their images and I request unedited images. Pictures that have been photoshopped make awful looking paintings! I WANT to see all the imperfections and nuances of a face and decide for myself what to leave out.
I hope this post is helpful in getting you started on the path of a commissioned artist. I’m sure I missed a few things to pass along so if you have any questions or helpful feedback yourself, please leave them in the comments below. Commissions can be very rewarding but have many challenges as well. Give it a try and let me know how you do!
Whew! What a lot of information on getting started doing commissions!! Thanks so much Daggi
Has this post inspired you to take on commissioned work? What was the most important thing you learnt? Do you have any questions? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Until next time,
PS. And because I wanted to end with an image, here’s a sneak peek at one of Daggi’s Berlin Series pieces:
Here I am, a week into September, and because I’m travelling (now in Budapest), I’m only now getting to August’s awesome pastels.
As always, sigh, a difficult decision. I had 57 pastel paintings to choose from, ones that I’d collected over the month of August, and after much humming and hawing, whittled the choices down to the self-imposed ten. As always, they’re very personal choices showing a range of technical experience. I just select what jumps out at me as I wander through the internet.
I love the vastness of landscape here and that moment when the sun pops out from behind the clouds and lights up the scene, spreading a warmth unseen in the cooler cloud-covered areas. We all know that experience – it lifts the soul and fills us with the wonder of nature. Our eyes circle from the sunlit distance to the trees on the right then to the foreground of snow and grasses and then on to the shadowed hills on the left. I love the full range of colours used from yellow and purples to greens and blues. See more of Kahne’s work here.
Don’t be fooled. This gem of a landscape is only 5 x 7 in! Bonnie uses the texture and the warmth of the paper to pull all these various greens together. The simplicity of this piece just goes to show that often there’s no need to be fussy and detailed to make a statement about the landscape, to capture an impression of a view. Half close your eyes and you see a field of colours and beyond that, trees with deep shadows below, and then more fields in the distance, all with a cool sky overhead. Check here for more of Bonnie’s work.
Here’s another tiny awesome pastel! You can’t help but think of J.M.W.Turner’s work when you look at this pastel, paintings like The Slave Ship or The Fighting Temeraire. But those are huge and this is small. This moody little piece, with full value range, contrasts warm and cool, with the light of the sun contrasting with the cool of the clouds. And what do we see (ships? buildings in the far distance?) and where are we? Venice perhaps? A story lies waiting here with only a hint indicated. I love the way the blue pastel dragged over the texture of the paper gives us the sense of the clouds. Check out more of Rob’s work here.
Speaking of moody, this dramatic painting by Andrzej Siewierski of roiling clouds and rolling waves certainly fits the bill. It’s called ‘Wind’ and you can feel the wind blowing wildly as well as feel the dampness of the water in the air. I like the way Andrzej has kept the colour choices limited – blues, blacks, whites, small hints of purple, and a wee bit of ochre warmth in the foreground. I also like the simplicity of the composition divided as it is between sky and water. The line of the cloud at the top swirls us around and down to the water on the right while the diagonal of the beach moves our eye back to the left side of the painting. There’s something about this piece that reminds me of the work of Lawren Harris. I couldn’t find a website for Andrzej but here’s a good article on him and his work.
Continuing the moody theme, check out this painting by Jana Volkmer. I love the way she has repeated the blue colour in areas throughout the painting – eyes, hair, earrings, cloth-covered chair. This is a cool painting enhanced by the warmth of the voluptuous lips and other parts of the face. It’s not detailed and yet there is so much we can read into this painting. This woman looks as if she is about to speak, to give us her thoughts on something.There’s a tenseness in her shoulders. The surrounding colour seems to reinforce the feeling of unease. See more of Jana’s work on her website.
I recently discovered the work of Nathalie Picoulet. Her drawing skills are immediately evident as she renders the human figure so accurately and so sensitively. The way Nathalie vignettes her painting is unusual and distinctive as is her subdued colour palette. I like the way Nathalie hones in on what’s important – here it’s the girl’s face resting on her hands and also a part of the gown of orchid-printed material that inspired the title. Nothing else is required. We see this young woman and wonder what occupies her thoughts.
From the quiet of the last painting we move to one of warm colours and bold strokes. This is a direct and spontaneous capturing of the model yet done with a careful accuracy where it’s needed, particularly the face. I like the way Vishni has set off the pure and saturated colour on the model with a greyed yet still colourful background. Notice how the grey is repeated in the left and cooler side of the model’s face. Vishni leaves the white of the paper almost pure and repeats the white in the necklace and the eyes. Somehow the glaring white doesn’t overwhelm the painting as we keep coming back to the beautifully rendered face of the model. Lovely! Vishni doesn’t have a website but you can see more of her work here.
Moving from the warmth and vitality of the pastel above, we come next to Suzanne Godbout’s quiet contemplation of a pitcher with a bowl of blueberries floating in cream. There’s an elegance here that with detail and looseness, captures the solidity and sheen of ceramic, the lustre of metal, and the soft lushness of fruit. The painting has an old-fashioned sweetness that appeals to me – a reminder of the simplicity of childhood, a memory of being in my grandmother’s kitchen, a suggestion of abundance, a recollection of how good a bowl of fresh berries and cream taste. Yum! I love the way one of the blueberries has split open – you see the stain it’s produced on the cloth and the green colour inside. I could pick these blueberries up and eat them right off the paper! I couldn’t find a website for Suzanne but you can read a bit about her here.
I was stopped in my tracks when I came across this unnerving, apocalyptic pastel with its heavy texture and its simple statement and uncluttered design. I was fascinated by the dichotomy of feeling I derived from the subject and from the style – one bringing a sense of doom and gloom, the other a delight in the colours and texture and light. There’s a story to be interpreted here. The low light source – the sun? – could reveal a metaphorical change – if it’s a setting sun then one of oncoming catastrophy, if rising, well then there’s hope after cataclysmic disaster. Are we to be disheartened by a chilling story or inspired by a hopeful one? Check here to see more of Tomonaga’s work.
And finally, after the darkness and possible foreboding of the previous painting, I thought it would be desirable to end this blog of awesome pastels on a bright example. This one by Tim Fisher fits the bill with its cloudless turquoise sky, radiant white buildings, colourful summer grasses and flowers of greens, blues, and red. It’s so expressive of place. With it’s clean saturated colour, one can’t help but feel uplifted and joyous when looking at this pastel painting. I also like the abstract nature of its composition. See more of Tim’s work here.
And there we have it – another month of awesome pastels. I’d love to hear from you. Did any of these strike you to the core?
Until next time (when I have a nice surprise for you!),
Saturday past I was set up at Peninsula Gallery, in Sidney, BC for an ‘art encounter.’ From 1-4pm I worked on a still life set up in front of me. It was fun and although it wasn’t busy (the good part of that was that I got to get some work done!), I had some ardent admirers. There was one woman who sat and watched me almost through the whole process. Now that was commitment!
Basically I worked the entire three hours and at the end, I came out with a painting of a still life that I’m pleased with. Peninsula Gallery’s manager Vivian liked it so much, she kept it for exhibiting in the gallery. Yay!!
Luckily I remembered to take a few photos as I worked. Have a look…
A limited palette really challenges you to work with values and broaden your colour range. It can get frustrating at times for sure but it’s also a great way to push yourself out of any comfort zone you might be in! Try it and let me know what happens.
Well that’s it for me until next time. I’d looooove to hear from you!
Well after last week’s hair-pulling experience, I am DELIGHTED to present my newest Pastel Painting Tip video: How To Store Pastel Paintings.
How To Store Pastel Paintings
A couple of things I didn’t mention in the video:
– Glassine and acid-free tissue are generally available at art stores.
– Another reason I don’t use acid-free tissue anymore is that it tears much more easily than the glassine. For instance, when I’m removing the tape to unwrap it, the paper will tear. Not so with the glassine.
– Never use cardboard as a mounting board. You may think you’re going to store a painting temporarily but it’s surprising how often ‘temporary’ turns into long-term. The acid in the cardboard will eventually affect the pastel paper you worked on. This is especially a concern with thinner paper such as Canson Mi-Tientes. Use an acid-free board only.
– I mentioned briefly about the glassine and acid-free tissue being anti-static. This is very important. Do not be tempted to put your pastel in any sort of plastic or cellophane bags. If you do, you’ll find bits of pastel all over the bag next time you look. Also, removing the pastel from the bag without smearing it can be quite a feat! If you feel the need to put your pastel in a bag, make sure you first wrap it in glassine or acid-free tissue.
– You can store your stacks of work on a shelf (see picture below) or in drawers. If you need to access a piece, best is to remove the stack from the shelf or drawer and then look through the stack. It’s much easier to do this than trying to do it while the stack is on the shelf or in the drawer.
I think that’s everything about how to store pastel paintings. As I think of other things, I’ll add them to the blog. I also hope you’ll join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Some Cool Things About My YouTube Channel!
I’m pretty excited that my YouTube Channel subscribers now total 952!! Whoo hoo!! Closing in on 1000 subscribers – that will be a celebration day! You can help make that happen by sharing the video and/or this blog post.
Also, one of my videos now has over 10,000 views!! (YouTube sent me a notification about this so obviously it’s a milestone, even in ‘its’ eyes!) Click here to see that video.
Demo At Peninsula Gallery Next Saturday
One more thing….I’ll be demoing in pastel at Peninsula Gallery in Sidney, BC next Saturday 22nd August from 1-4pm. I love that it’s called an Art Encounter. I’m looking forward to that!!
Hey that’s it for this time. Such a relief to actually get that video up. Last week, I didn’t have a hope it was going to happen. Funny how things turn out
As always, it’s a great pleasure to hear from you. I know your time is precious so believe me when I say how much I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.
Until next time,
When plans go sideways, what to do? You write a blog post about it.
I had a plan. Really I did. And it was a good one. Shoot video, edit, upload to YouTube, and write a post. No problem right? Wrong! I shot the videos alright but the problem came when I tried to upload them to my computer. I got this message: “Unreadable File.” Really? Really? I’ve uploaded from this camcorder many times so what was the problem now?
Luckily my computer is under warranty so I called Apple. The first person I talked to hadn’t heard of this problem before and so after an hour of trying this and that, she decided it was better to pass me on to the photo support dept.
The next person, same thing – hadn’t ever run into this before. We were on the call trying various things for over an hour. Nothing’s working and when I look at the clock, on top of all this frustration, I see that I’m going to miss my dance class (which by now, I desperately need!).
Finally the guy says he’ll soon be leaving work so suggests continuing the detective work tomorrow. Great. No videos to edit so no blog post with video for you. But it did mean if I hurried, I could make my class and dance out all this arrrrgghhhhh at Nia.
That was yesterday.
Today I realized one of the last things we did on the call was update my computer system, one of those eensy weensy updates. But heck, why not try the camcorder again. And wouldn’t you know it, that wee update made all the difference and the videos started uploading.
But hold your horses, don’t count your eggs before they’ve hatched. For some reason 6 of the 15 video clips wouldn’t upload and a new error message comes up. Here we go again.
Walk away Gail before you do something you’ll regret (like beating up your computer).
So I do that. I go water the garden, take in the lovely warm weather and return, sighing, to sit in front of my computer. And try again. I open the camcorder but this time it doesn’t do anything – it won’t shut off, it won’t record, it won’t upload, it won’t do anything. Good thing I was by myself in the house so I could swear a blue streak and yell and stamp my feet. Yes boys and girls, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
I then had the brain wave to take the photo card thingy and try it in an older camera. Yay – it fit! So, I go to upload. And this is the message I read: No Photos. Yup you read that correctly. No photos on the photo card. How had I erased everything?? At this point, I could have cried if I wasn’t so, you know, such a cool cat (right!). I just said, “Well, that’s that work down the drain” and went off to the library to pick up some books and some movies with which to console myself later.
It was on this outing that I decided that I would write this very blog. And you may ask, what did I learn from all this?? And I’ll tell you.
First, it’s good to have a way of working off steam – that’s dance for me! Also, a good fast work around the block helps too.
Second and third, don’t put all your eggs in one basket and have a back-up plan. Here’s the scoop. I didn’t have an idea for the blog that followed my end of month favourites. So then I thought since I hadn’t made a Pastel Painting Tip video in some time, that I’d make one. I put everything into doing that without having a back-up plan. So then I was caught with my proverbial pants down and found myself in an even more desperate situation. So desperate that I’m writing this and hoping it will keep you reading and some good comes of it.
Fourth, no matter how much I work at it, letting go is hard. It’s an ongoing process. It’s so easy to get attached to the effort and hard work and even when I know I cannot use or access it, I still try to find ways to do so. That was me today and yesterday.
Fifth, computer updates can be useful!
And sixth, get back on that dang horse even if it feels scary and useless and whatever other negative things you can tell yourself. Just get yourself up, dust yourself off, and do it all over again (hey that’s a song isn’t it?). The easy way out is to give up.
So how’s that for a blog post? Did any of this resonate with you? How do you cope when plans go sideways? I’d love to hear so please leave a comment.
Thanks for hearing my rant!
Until next time,
PS. Good things come to those who let go, have patience, move on. Tonight after writing this blog, I decided to pick up the camcorder again. I had unplugged it so let the battery ran dry. I plugged it in then reinserted the video card. And surprise surprise, the camcorder came alive and did its normal thing ie. I could record, touch the screen, and when I pushed the display button, all my videos were there!! Hallelujah!! So then I clicked on the missing videos one at a time and uploaded them. And it seems, right at this moment, they are all on my computer. So…look out for that video in my next post!! All’s well that ends well…..
It’s time to share my pastel picks for July. As always, a difficult decision to choose just ten pastels but here they be. They’re chosen from the many delightful pastels I came across over the last month.
I was blown away when I came across this pastel by Elaine Despins. There’s so much I love about it – the figure’s expression, the colour of the background, the deceptive simplicity of the pose, the accuracy of the drawing, the subtle shifts in values and temperatures of the skin, the daring use of black clothing, the amazing depiction of the hands, the capturing of personality and pose. See more of Elaine’s work here.
Not only do I appreciate how Gail Piazza has captured the sense of this boy, I’m also delighted by the monochromatic colouring of this piece with the paper itself being used as an important element of the whole. I enjoy the simply yet so effectively shaded face with all the contours revealed in a minimal way. Also, look at the fine hatching in contrast to the more thickly applied stroke. And don’t you just love the red accents on the nose and lips? In the course of locating Gail’s website, I discovered that she is an illustrator of children’s books
I like the close cropping of this pastel by Sylvia Laks. It, along with the contrast between the warmth of this woman’s skin and the cool colour of her clothing, make sure we focus on her face. We create a story based on what little we see, a story that is coloured by our own cultural background and bias. The painting compels us to ask questions, for instance: Is this woman upset? Or does she instead exhibit curiosity? What are her thoughts, her feelings? The subject is an individual and yet, almost iconically, she represents all women who are in the same situation. You can see more of Sylvia’s work here – you’ll be surprised when you get there
Drawn to the contemplative pose of this woman, I enjoy the way her smooth flawless pale face sits in contrast to the colourful and vigorous marks surrounding her. Leoni Duff’s skill at combining the perfectly rendered face with the more impressionistic interpretation of the clothing and background gives me great pleasure. Check out Leoni’s website for more of her work.
We now move to the landscape with this deceptively simple demo piece by Terri Ford. The subject is a fairly nondescript patch of land yet Terri, with her skill in composition, value, and colour, has created a pastel that excites and moves me. She effectively and masterfully moves our eyes easily around the whole. She’s unafraid to apply the pastel thickly and directly, with confidence and vigour yet with consideration. Click here to see more of Terri’s work.
Look at this pastel by Jorge Gomez close-up and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an abstract. Step back and you see water that moves over hidden rocks and splashes against the outcropping. I’m fascinated by this dichotomy between what is evident from afar and what disappears and becomes much less representational at close quarters. Jorge manages to achieve an almost magical feeling with this piece. There is also that lovely feeling of imagining jumping into cool water on a hot day. Check out his facebook page for more.
A mostly monochromatic painting in saturated blues, Michele Wells uses the pinkish accents judiciously, just enough to create that warmth that remains in the sky at the horizon and tinges the clouds after the sun has set. We are drawn deeply into the far distance only to be swept outwards, back to where we stand, as our eyes follow the clouds up and out. Such a beautiful impression of an elusive time of day. See more of Michele’s work here.
A similar time of day as Michele’s pastel yet Suzanne captures a totally different cloud effect. Rather than being swept into and then out of the painting, this time we stand still as we witness the majesty of the effects left by the setting sun and feel the peace settling in at the end of the day. There is a beautiful texturing of the water as the remaining light glints off it. I enjoy the quiet simplicity of this piece. Check out Suzanne’s website for more of her work.
I love that time of day when the sun has set but the sky is not yet fully dark and still, it’s dark enough for lights to be needed. This painting by Linee Baird certainly captures that time of day. The pastel balances out the blues of day end with the warmth of the glowing lights. The vibrancy of this southern French city at night is fully conveyed as is the dampness in the air found in a seaside metropolis. I love the expressive energy of this painting. See more of Linee’s work here.
And for a complete change of pace, we have this piece by Neva Rossi. I was totally charmed by this painting – by its bright combination of colours, by the impressionistic rendering of this man engrossed in playing his stringed instrument, by the feeling it evoked in me. See more of Neva’s work by clicking here.
So what are your thoughts about this month’s pastel picks? I’d love you to leave a comment – please let me know what you think!
Thanks for being here with me on this pastel journey,
I’m home from my wonderful trip to Ontario where Cam and I visited various family members. Kicking myself for not taking more photos! However, I did have time to do one pastel en plein air It’s one that I did of a beautiful view of Big Rideau Lake from Cam’s Mum’s porch. The weather was changeable, rotating from heavy cloud and grey skies to blue sky with white clouds. Ahhhh the unpredictable delights of painting on location!
The Plein Air Progress
Here’s the view through the screen. (Yes, I was cheating a bit sitting inside a screened porch but I still consider it a plein air piece!)
I was so happy to have done any work en plein air while away. It would have been nice to have done more but since the main reason for our trip was family visiting, I put all my focus and energy into doing just that! And I’m ever so glad as I had an amazing time first with my sister and her partner, then with Cam’s family (I have now met them all!), and finally with my cousin Alex and her partner. All very special times.
Look forward to hearing from you. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think of my newest plein air work.
At the beginning of June while at the IAPS Convention, I met Donna Yeager. In conversation, she began to tell me about her experience of going back to art school and how it had affected her work. I asked her if she’d like to saw a few words about that experience on camera for my YouTube interviews. She accepted but we found when she began to speak, she had so much more to say. It occured to me that the video could become the basis for a guest blog.
Donna also wrote up an account of her artistic journey to date and you’ll find that, along with the video interview and images that illustrate her words, below.
Take it away Donna!
My life as an artist has had many changes throughout the years. This is not going to be a diary of my life, all “drawn” out, but a highlight of the journey.
Drawing–I love it! Always have. I have drawn all my life. It is so natural to me. My first real art class was taught by a former New York illustrator, Harry Fredman. His claim was: “I can teach anyone how to draw.” It was a technique based on measurement but working with live models and later, just photo references. It was very formulated and I caught on fast. I could draw anyone to look just like the photo – boy could I copy.
Some students were better than others but all looked like we were cut from the same cloth. Knowing exactly how my drawings and later oil portraits would look like before I even started was reassuring–at first. Later it felt unfulfilling. Where was my creativity and spontaneity? Granted, it is very important to have skills and to keep them sharp but that should not be the end all but the basis for my growth as an artist.
So, I let go of that successful formulated way of working and began studying shapes, value, light, and working in a loose suggestive manner with master painter, Phil Starke. I used big brushes and lots of oil paint. My paintings were not good. I had to think and interpret instead of relying on a formula. It was so hard to let go of my comfortable ways and successful work but I knew I had to in order to grow. I needed to be willing to look bad, to embrace the tenuous, the unknown, the big non-formula. It took a long time and never was success guaranteed. But I did begin to grasp what I was searching for.
I also began doing figure drawing and in the first session, fell in love with it. My drawings were raw and not very good but it was so exciting – capturing the moment and connecting with the model. The lessons of proportions I had learned in my formulated class came forth. My eye/hand coordination grew. I could see how the figure drawing made me a better painter in all aspects.
Along the way, I began working in pastel. It was a medium to which I connected – it felt like a part of me, an extension of my hand. My first pastel painting was a home run. It was accepted in the Pastel Society of America Exhibition, the Kansas Pastel Society Exhibition, and even The Artist’s Magazine competition.
It is still one of my favorite paintings – simple, direct, and engaging. You’d think after that I would just be knocking them out of the park. That was not the case. I equate it to a beginner bowling a perfect game the first time up. It was trial and error after that.
I stayed with the medium and eventually became skilled in it. I excelled in it rather quickly and developed a style. I have become an award winning artist and instructor.
When I moved to Kansas from Missouri, I started taking figure drawing and painting classes at the Johnson County Community College. I loved being a student. Working alongside young people was energizing and fun. I learned as much from them as the instructors. Never having a real college experience, I gave it my all.
Going to school, doing homework, teaching, painting, entering competitions, exhibiting – all this happening at once – was exhausting and exhilarating. The art department knew I was a serious artist and it showed in my work. My painting professor, John Carroll Davis, and the head of the art department, Larry Thomas, suggested I take a class called “Digital Imaging for Artists.”
I knew I was not a computer expert by any stretch of the imagination but I somewhat knew my way around a PC. So I enrolled in the class. I walked in and all the computers were Apple computers. I had never been on a Mac. I couldn’t even follow the lingo. I was lost. The professor was patient and since there were only eight students in the class, so I knew I had a chance. It was up to me to make something out of it. It was a tough class. I couldn’t “draw” my way of this.
“Nothing is sticking in my head,” I said to my professor. He responded, “I know – I thought you would do much better.”
Well, that didn’t give me much encouragement, but I was determined not to quit. I heard God’s voice in my head: “I’m giving you this gift. It is free but you will have to struggle. It won’t be easy. It will be very hard. Will you take my gift? Be strong. I am with you.”
I stayed. I went to every lab, every class. I struggled through homework with deadlines. If it wasn’t for an angel named Danny Ashley who was the lab tech (and also an instructor in computer classes), I could never have made it. He tutored me, he became my friend, and he never gave up on me.
I started combining the digital with drawings and paintings. My new pieces were good. I re-enrolled in the class and kept going.
In the next three semesters, my work was published in three of the “Mind’s Eye” student catalogs. It was also selected to be included in the school’s calendar. The Nerman Museum purchased my abstract assignment entitled “Guardo-Sol”.
Because of this journey I have done work I’d never dreamed of before. I think differently now. I now consider content as well as style. My composition skills have increased. And I am more creative.
I’m not sure where this new language will take me but I know that it is unique and special.
So what do you think of Donna’s artistic adventure? Have you thought of going back to art school? Are you inspired to do so? I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment!
Until next week,
At the beginning of June, as you know, I was at the wonderful bi-annual International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Convention. I was fortunate to be asked to demo twice using Schminke pastels at their booth.
What to paint? Well, if you know me, you know I prefer working from life, so the first demo was a no-brainer – I’d do a still life set up. And if you’ve been following my YouTube videos you know I’m a big promoter of using quality pastels in a limited palette. (This is to help show beginners that they only need to start with a small selection of pastels which means they can afford to purchase good quality rather than mediocre pastels!)
And what did I decide to do for my demo the following day? Well, wait and see!
Let’s have a look at the first demo.
One down, one more to go.
I decided that since I had recently begun offering a workshop called “Reality to Abstract,” I’d have my second piece use the first demo as a base from which to go abstract. And even though Gary was kind enough to offer me the use of a larger set, I decided to stick with the smaller set to see what would happen.
I enjoyed trying out new papers and can certainly recommend them both – UArt 320 and Pastel Premier 320 Italian Clay. They both took the layering of soft pastel very well. And of course I loved using the Schminke pastels!
Look forward to hearing what you think about these pieces! So please leave a comment
Until next week,