Do I have a treat for you!! Lisa Ober is this month’s guest blogger. I’ve admired Lisa’s work for sometime now. She does these large, often colourful (that appeals to me!), super realism pieces in pastels. I featured “Blue Vases” in one of my monthly round-ups. Click here to see it and while you’re there, notice the size! This is what Lisa had to say about the piece:
It’s good to do the dishes. In my attempt to load the dishes from the sink to the dishwasher, I noticed a brilliant blue reflection from the vases on my windowsill in the silverware on the plate I was moving. The intensity of the color, the challenge to paint the details in the silverware and water droplets, and the prospect of the complimentary gold background appealed to me. How to make it more interesting? I chose a far larger than life format which gives the painting a abstract quality and carefully arranged the silverware to move the eye through the painting.
And in case you don’t know Lisa’s work, take a look at this beauty!
And here’s another:
I was lucky enough to meet Lisa Ober at the last IAPS Convention in June 2015. After that meeting and in subsequent emails, I discovered that not only is she a talented artist, she’s also a delightful human being! 🙂 Recently I asked her to guest blog, giving her some ideas for writing topics. Well, Lisa came up with her own and I know you’re going to love it!!! Before we get to Lisa’s words, let me introduce her further.
Lisa Ober Bio
Extraordinary people. Ordinary objects. These are the subjects of Lisa Ober’s pastel paintings. Her goal is to captivate her audiences, encouraging them to explore the subtle nuances that make each person or still life object so unique. Ober is also a workshop teacher, Signature Member of the Pastel Society of America and owner of OA Gallery in Kirkwood, Missouri, a representational fine art gallery in the Midwest. She regularly leads painting workshops across the U.S. in still life and portrait painting.
Go to her website to read more and to contact Lisa Ober.
Okay Lisa, you’re up!!
I couldn’t have been more excited and flattered when Gail asks me to write as a guest blogger. I’ve sent students to How To Pastel more times than I can count because of Gail’s enthusiastic way of conveying insights, tips, tricks, and encouragement. Her love of pastel just echoes throughout the blog and I adore that about her. Thanks, Gail!
Portrait of an Artist
I build and work my business in much the same way I build a portrait, from rough sketch to completion. Like most artists, my days aren’t entirely filled with painting but rather with other business-related tasks like planning, computer tasks, client meetings, networking opportunities, and sometimes teaching workshops.
Decades ago as a young person dreaming of having a career doing something I loved, I never would have guessed I would wear so many hats: artist, mentor, workshop teacher, gallery owner, marketer, sales person, social media court jester (not queen), graphic designer, web designer, photo editor, and computer tech. And I’m leaving out attention to spouse and kids, friends and family, and most of the gallery work I do because if I included those responsibilities I’d have to write a book instead of a blog post.
Join me as I “paint” a portrait of this artist. You may learn a little about how I paint (if you look at the progress shots of the little girl’s portrait at each stage), and you might just see yourself in the word-painting I create of myself.
Step 1: Very Rough Sketch – Laying the Foundation of the Portrait
What are my goals either for a day, a week, a year, or a career? What kind of artist to I want to be? What kind of person? What is important to convey in my work? How do I want to interact with artists, with clients?
No, I don’t sit down and calculate with precision, but I do think and often write down goals and plans for my business. And it is a business. For the detailed stuff, I have a paper calendar. Really. If I don’t see it, it won’t happen or I won’t show up. The calendar is for things like client meetings, appointments, travel dates, returning phone calls. If I lose this calendar I am totally doomed and have to scrap my rough sketch and start over.
For tasks that have a little time flexibility to them, I wish I could say I have a nice neat little notebook. Instead, I text myself lists using an app called Cozi for general to-dos, email myself notes, and jot things down on paper napkins, sticky notes, or empty envelopes (you can see I like commas). I have a pen and scrap of paper by my bed so when something I don’t want to forget hits me in the middle of the night, I scribble blindly in the dark only to discover in the morning that I can’t even read what I wrote the night before. The portrait may need some re-working!
Step 2: Putting in the Middle Values
Applying the middle values is where the real work begins. This is the nuts and bolts business part, and it’s important to the whole portrait. Much of it is enjoyable, but most of the tasks are simply required to keep a business going and they take up most of my non-painting time.
Large portions of my day are spent in this middle place (more than I usually estimate). Middle values include everyday tasks such as checking and answering email from 4 different email addresses, running errands, returning phone calls, preparing for appointments, updating my website, posting or responding on social media. I might need to order boxes for packing portraits, replenish business cards, buy more pastels, or buy more pastels. Did I just say that twice? Yes, you know how pastel artists are :-)!
Step 3: Blocking in the Darks
The darks help shape the portrait. They’re not very exciting but if placed correctly, a rudimentary artist/business person shape will begin to appear. Dark isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just necessary.
For me, this category includes (here come the commas again) photographing new artwork, editing client photos in Photoshop for color and exposure, uploading client photos to Dropbox for sharing, entering competitions, updating my website, paying bills, reviewing my inventory sheet, adding email addresses to my newsletter list, planning newsletters, writing thank you notes, framing paintings, cleaning the studio so I can get into it, learning new apps or programs, preparing or packing for workshops, or reading articles on the business of art.
These things usually don’t involve the fun of dealing with people but rather are important to the substructure of my business and can only be done by me. Some days I can barely get myself to tackle this ever-growing list, but eventually it somehow comes together. Often, things fall through the cracks usually because of unexpected or unrelated priorities. It’s a work in progress.
Step 4: Adding the Lighter Values
I love this more lighthearted part! Applying the lights allows the whole three dimensional portrait to take shape right before your eyes. Just these four components – the sketch, the middle values, the darks, and the lights – come together to form a pretty realistic three-dimensional figure!
During this stage I meet with clients (which I love), have lunch with other artists I admire, meet with budding artists to mentor them, jury or judge, or finalize details for a new workshop. I also spend time actually painting! Of course, the painting part is the whole point of all the other steps, right? By this time on most days it is usually around 8 pm and I work until about 4 am. Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s quiet and I get a lot accomplished. The real painting part is the reward I use for doing the other more business-related things from the previous steps. It’s a bit ironic that my favorite parts of this stage involve meeting with other people but also working alone.
Step 5: Finishing Highlights and Details
This is the “icing on the cake” stage. At this point the foundation has been laid. My portrait has been sculpted and shaped and the rewards are in sight. This is the time for the real fun! I finally get to attend to the details that make the portrait come alive.
Highlights for me can include attending a dream workshop, teaching a workshop, representing a manufacturer of a product I love and use, working in my town’s art community, connecting with admired Facebook friends, receiving an award or special recognition, or getting my work into a magazine or publication…maybe even on the cover (hopefully someday). If I’m really lucky, I might even be asked to write a blog post for someone I admire!
I’ve invested as much as possible in my portrait with the hope of producing quality artwork, managing a small business with sincere effort, and being a kind person. If it all comes together as hoped, I enjoy a career as an artist, learn a lot, and make good friends along the way.
And Finally: The Critique
Portraits are a combination of layers that form the likeness of a person and that is what I have painted here. Stepping back from the portrait, I almost want to laugh. Or cry. True, I have a created a two-dimensional impression of myself, but painted portraits don’t tell the whole truth, whether they are painted with words or with pastels. I left out some of the blemishes and wrinkles. I may have minimized my double chin. My word-portrait isn’t a perfect representation of me.
The lists of tasks to be completed, the requirements of running a business, and many of the rewards reaped are all true. What I didn’t mention is that sometimes I am overwhelmed…to the core. I get off schedule frequently. I often sleep in beyond my two loud alarms because I was up so late the night before. I have running lists of things I’d like to do (or need to do) that never seem to end. I sometimes miss important emails. And I might even ask for extra time to write a blog post that requires me to apologize (sorry, Gail). All in all, I am probably recognizable in my portrait. Have I “painted” you too?
You can watch a time-lapse video of this portrait being painted here
Wow, thanks Lisa. Loved the way you weaved together the process of painting with a look at the business of art. I’m exhausted reading about all the things you do in your life as an artist!
Lisa and I would LOVE to hear from you so please leave a comment below. What was the most surprising thing you learnt about Lisa? How does what Lisa describes as her life as an artist compare to yours? Leave us your questions, thoughts, insights.
Until next time,
PS. I couldn’t leave without sharing a couple more pieces by Lisa Ober. Here are two animal portraits, one of which was a demo (!).