Friday, November 8, 2013

Rejection and Discouragement: An Artist's Life

If you are an artist, you have probably experienced the sting of having your artwork not make it into a juried show or maybe you have been within earshot to hear critics verbally dissect your piece. This is disheartening for sure!

But that doesn't mean that you have to swallow a "despair grenade!"

Sinking into the downward spiral of "questioning your skills," losing the motivation to paint, and vowing to never paint again is a common pitfall for artists. I'm not saying that you should never experience these feelings as an artist, but once you recognize that you are in the middle of a downward spiral, acknowledge it and take steps to move on!

Last month I found myself driving to Logan, Utah to enter two paintings into a juried show. I had just spent a boatload of money on frames, I over-structured my day to include dropping two paintings off to a Salt Lake City gallery, stopping by an Ogden gallery to pick up several pieces from a previous show, and then beat it back to my studio to meet a prospective gallery owner.


I ended up pulling off to the side of the freeway to sit and cry. I found myself saying things like, "I'm nothing, I haven't had a sale in months, I should have been a secretary, I should just do a U-turn and go burn my studio down."

It was so bizarre that five minutes into my cry, I stopped and whispered, "wait a minute, I need to stop this self-talk."

I quickly eliminated two of my errands, stopped by a 7-11 to purchase an apple and some nuts, wiped my face and drove on to Logan. As I drove, I processed my emotions and tried to analyze what had happened. And for what it's worth, here's my advice to you my fellow artists:
  • Always schedule time for meals and snacks! Think of this as the power behind the brush.
  • Schedule time to paint! We are beings of expression. Painting time = sanity. 
  • Have a business plan. Stick to it.
  • Keep yourself balanced professionally, emotionally and financially.
Understand and accept that there is an ebb and flow to art sales. It's always inconsistent. Face it, you have to allow time for the right patron to be paired with one of your paintings. So, pick up your brush and paint while you anticipate your next sale.

Society doesn't treat artists as the professionals that they are.  Often our work goes unnoticed and is frequently under valued. We are the only people that we can count on to reaffirm to ourselves that we are valuable. Change your self-talk to be productive.


One month after my "car meltdown," I won a Best in Show, two First Places and had managed to sell enough work to pay for all of my framing. Geez...If I had just held on a little longer during the dry spell, I could have avoided my glorious meltdown.

Who knew?


This painting of mine received First Place. "October Harvest," 24 x 24 oil on canvas.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spring City, Utah - A Real Sweet Spot!

 Labor Day weekend I traveled to Spring City (central Utah) to participate in a "Quick Paint." Every year Spring City sponsors an arts festival from Wednesday through Saturday with various painting competitions for artists. Each day each artists selects a spot and completes paintings that are hung in a local gallery (on Main Street). At the end of each day the work is judged and awards are given. The work stays in the gallery and by the end of the week, the gallery is full and the paintings go on sale. 

 I chose to paint in the Saturday morning event: "Quick Paint."

 After checking in, I drove around Spring City to scope out a place that seemed appealing. The rural town is verdant with lots of meadows and tall trees. The morning echoed with the bellowing of cows and the occasional crow of a rooster. After driving for several minutes, I finally spotted a pretty yellow house with a lovely garden - and set up my easel.

 When my painting was finished, I drove 2 minutes away to the park behind the church where I signed in for the silent auction. I priced my painting, registered it then hung it on the designated pegboard.

 People began to gather, artists chatted and laughed and the patrons viewed the work.

 My painting never did receive a bid, but that often happens in the art world. Eventually, someone could connect with my painting and it could be love at first sight!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Plein Air - What's The Verdict?

Does plein air painting live up to it's reputation as being simultaneously
challenging yet romantic? Yep. That's the conclusion we reached at our
workshop in Alta, Utah on Saturday, July 20.
We were bathed in sunlight, surrounded by late
Spring flowers and refreshed by a cool mountain
breeze. What's not to like?

Well, for me it was the annoyance of buzzing
black  flies. But once I turned my focus to
painting, the flies were easy to overlook.
We set up our easels, selected individual views then began painting
preliminary value studies with black, white and gray paint.
Here is Cory's value study.
This is Jean's value study.
Here is David's value study.
Cory begins his work.
Blocking in the chunks of local color.
A great beginning block-in with oil paint.
David laying in his initial black and white values.
David is nearly finished with his full-color painting of Devil's Castle.
David's finished painting is rendered in acrylic.
Diana, working in watercolor, blocks in her value study.
Diana's watercolor is not quite finished and yet she has
successfully captured the energy of the scene.
Jean swats flies with one hand and paints with the other.
Here is Jeans finished oil painting.
Susie starts laying in a composition.
Her view of Devil's Castle.
Susie's finished oil painting.
Having to work quickly enough to capture the essence of a scene
and at the same time create a painting that is worthy of praise, is no
easy task, and yet each artist at the workshop went home with a
feeling of accomplishment and a successful painting in their hand.

The verdict is in: Plein air painting is worth the effort!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Plein Air Painting - A Respite From The City

This weekend I selected a sunny spot down a dirt road in Midway, Utah and decided to set up my easel for plein air painting (French for painting "outside")

Each year the Midway Art Association holds a week-long festival that has several plein air competitions and events.  I participated in two of them.

My first event was held on Monday morning. I checked in at the Midway Town Hall at 8:30 am and began searching for a spot that "spoke to me." My instructions were to stay within Midway town limits, complete my painting (including having it framed), and have my finished work hanging in the exhibit at the Town Hall by 12:00 noon.

Midway Town Hall

So, back to my sunny spot off the dirt road...

Part of the plein air experience for me was the smell and sound of my surroundings. The perfume of flowers filled the air. Bees were humming, birds were singing and it was a pleasant 75 degrees. The hazy air bathed the distant hills with soft pastel colors. In the nearby fields, the grass and trees still wore touches of bright Spring green while the deeper greens of summer peeked through.   

"Pathway To Summer," 8 x 10 oil on panel, completed with a combination knife/brush.

Wednesday's event found me painting securely beneath a tree at the "Cafe Galleria" across the street from the Midway Town Hall. I listened to the conversations of the patrons as they carved their way through waffles and sipped their coffee. It's funny how far sound travels when there is no traffic and big city noise...

A beautiful woman and her companion sat down at the exact table that was the focus in my painting. I could hear her French accent and I bravely entered the conversation by uttering a few words in French.  She smiled and responded. She told me she was a "cheese maker" in Midway and that she used to live in Colorado where she owned a herd of goats. Wow. That's the kind of story that brings a painting to life!

 "Morning Cup," 10 x 10 oil on canvas

Plein Air painting is different from studio painting, but once you get the hang of it, you are hooked! If you like the great outdoors and you like the challenge of having to complete a painting (warts and all) in a short time, then you might like outdoor painting.  Get yourself a good teacher, some willing art companions (misery loves company) and bring along plenty of snacks!
Here's a link to two upcoming plein air events that would be great for beginners. Why not attend a workshop to see if plein air painting is a good match for you!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Utah Music & Arts Magazine

There's a short piece on me and my artwork in the May-June issue of Utah Music & Arts Magazine.  It's an online magazine (often referred to as an E-Zine).

This magazine publishes articles on local Utah talent.  It's fun to read and follow if you like learning about emerging Utah artists.

To read the article, go to, on the homepage you will see the magazine cover on the right, click "view magazine" underneath that and it should take you to a new site to view the magazine (just want to make sure you aren't looking at all the "read more" articles that are listed on the left side on the homepage of our website, those are links to past issues.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

KSL News highlights Sugar House Art Walk

Instead of waking up to a soothing harp-music alarm this morning, I was jolted awake at 4:30 am by the clamoring of a marimba. I had accidentally selected the wrong ring tone for my alarm. With my heart pounding, I tried to remember who I was and why it was still dark outside...

After slamming down a quick bowl of oatmeal and blackberries, I sped to Sugar House Coffee to meet the KSL news team at 5:15 am for a live interview about the upcoming Sugar House Art Walk. My job was to stand with my canvas and easel and paint an image of the interior of Sugar House Coffee. Simple, right?

I set up my easel, laid out my brushes and began blocking in a rudimentary drawing of the red side table along the north wall of the coffee shop. Jen, the news reporter, came and told me to move down about 10 feet (I moved). 

I wiped my canvas clean and began to sketch in the new view of the side table.

15 minutes later she suggested that I back up 5 feet as she began moving the tables to accommodate my new position. 

I wiped my canvas clean and began to sketch in a newer view of the side table.

10 minutes later, Jen moved the other artist (there were two of us) and had him place his paintings on the side table, blocking my view completely.  Ah, well.  I can certainly flex...

I wiped my canvas clean, turned my gaze to the dessert counter and began a new sketch.

A crew of people entered the coffee shop and stood as a group in front of the dessert counter.  Two of them pulled up chairs, opened their laptops and set up camp. I resisted the urge to shout "down in front! This was not going to be easy. 

Wiping the sketch of the dessert counter off my canvas, I finally settled on blocking in a view of the east end of the coffee shop! Voila! Success at last!

This was an opportunity to stand as a proxy for all the Sugar House Artists - a token plein air painter. Once I figured that out, I really enjoyed myself.

It really didn't matter what I painted today. What mattered was that I was participating vicariously for all those closet plein air painters - who might feel inspired to paint when they see this blurb on TV.

Besides, there were some entertaining moments. At one point, Jen tripped over the leg of my easel and muttered "Jesus" under her breath - which caused me to giggle on the

When the barista handed Jen a freshly blended shot of carrot/apple juice from the coffee shop bar, the reporter took a drink, smiled and said something inane like, "Mmmm, this is very healthy." As soon as the camera turned off, Jen pulled a nasty face and did her version of a hairball hack.

If you would like to view the live video clips of our Sugar House Coffee experience, click here.

This truly was an adventure.  I have a new respect for the reporters and their crews. Filming on location is a lot of work. They have to move furniture, plug lights in and adjust microphones and headsets. They make it look easy. Would I like to be a reporter for a living? Nope! I would rather be an artist!

The best part of my morning? I got to paint!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Grab Your Camera!

Want to take great pictures? Learn how to use your camera!

The new point-and-shoot digital cameras make it easy to get a good shot, however
a few tips and pointers can make a difference in the quality of your photography.  

Notice the shape of your subject and determine
whether a vertical or horizontal shot would be best. 

Compose your shot. Centering your subject can be boring. Try shooting off center. 


Zoom in for interest.  Remember: "the eyes reveal the soul!"

Take some action shots.

Keep the background simple so that it does not detract from your subject.
Below, the background is a little too busy.
This is simpler.

Shoot some images from various angles and positions - not just at eye level.


For a more contemporary look try zooming in and cropping the image.

If you are going to create a painting from a photo image,
make sure it is a good one! Chances of getting a great
painting from a bad reference photo are slim.
Good photo = good painting.

Now, go grab your camera and have some fun!