In my fantasy world owning contemporary fine art would be commonplace. The public would obsess about artists the way they follow the careers of musicians, movie stars and athletes. The press would report on local artists, young and old, celebrating milestones like changes in style, important awards and acquisitions. Parents would teach their children that collecting art is a luxury to crave. They’d prioritize collecting contemporary art over clothing and accessories, cars, travel, concerts and gadgets. People would compete to own the newest work in a series by their favorite artist, like they stand in line these days for the newest tech innovation.
It’s not difficult to imagine a world like this. Today digital communication and mass production have made individuality rare. How often do you receive anything hand-written these days? Hand-made and unique items are prime for a renaissance of popularity. What else can you buy today that no one else has? I’m sure that one reason that our former home sold so quickly is that artwork was displayed throughout. It created a comfortable atmosphere in every room, not just above the fireplace.
I celebrate artists and their collectors: those who make the world more beautiful. It is great to be able to self-publish here on my blog, not because I want to glorify my own talent, but because it gives me an opportunity to share ideas. I hope that by sharing my dreams about the future of contemporary art, you’ll start to see it as something attainable, cool and sophisticated!
“As entrepreneurs, we must constantly dream and have the conviction and obsession to transform our dreams into reality – to create a future that never existed before.”
– Clara Shih
Below, please enjoy contributions from a few folks who took me up on sharing their art for this 9th anniversary post. It’s fun to look back and see the growth and changes. You can see other anniversary posts by clicking the links below.
First, Margaret Stermer-Cox is an artist from Southern Oregon. We connected on the internet through our blogs. I’ve also had a chance to get to know her a bit in person through the Watercolor Society of Oregon. Here is her work “Hang up and Read Me a Story.” Visit her website here: https://stermer-cox.com/
Finally, I want to share an interview I did with one of my friends: art collector Kim Madey. Kim definitely makes the world more beautiful! She shares her lovingly curated home and collections with friends and family. Her parties are legendary, and I’m looking forward to an Elvis-themed bash this summer. (Costume suggestions appreciated!)
I so appreciate Kim’s support of my work. We share a common bond through the art that makes me feel understood. There is no compliment higher than a return customer! I hope you’ll enjoy this peek at some of my work hanging in her place, and getting to hear why and how she came to collect contemporary fine art. You can explore more videos here!
My new painting, Breath of Spring, began as an experiment with line in my workshop at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. One can’t help being influenced by the landscape there. However, in keeping with my series, this work was inspired by memories of the landscape on the farm. Spring breezes always brought out scents of the season…. Mud, blossoms, fresh grass and a chilly breeze are things that I thought of as I worked on this painting.
The gold colors of the background remind me of bare winter branches covered with lichen and moss. Linear elements refer to tree branches and wetlands.
A New Discovery
One of the things I love about teaching is that because I am not trying to make a finished painting, I often take more risks than I would normally take. In this particular painting, I had borrowed a ‘coke bottle’ pen from fellow instructor Rebecca Wild and I tried using it with sumi ink. That wild experiment was so chaotic that I used a brayer to roll the light gold color over most of it, allowing only hints of it to peek through. The resulting texture was so attractive to me. Another discovery occurred during one of the line exercises I set in class. The small, staccato-like white marks grew out of that exercise.
Give it a Try
If you enjoy painting, you might like to try the same exercise.
Assemble as many mark-making tools as you can find: brushes, pens, pencils, sticks, pastels, crayons, graphite, charcoal, black and white paint, etc.
Begin by making marks that vary from thick to thin.
Experiment with clustering the lines together, and then letting a few stand alone.
Vary the direction of your lines.
Use some broken lines and some continuous.
Try for a wide variety.
As you work, you might consider veiling or obliterating some of the lines that stand out too much.
Restate some of the lines with a different media.
Change medias frequently.
Listen to music as you make lines inspired by the rhythm.
Make lines that imitate letter forms, but are not legible.
Use your non-dominant hand to draw several lines.
Make a few lines to convey anger, calm, confusion, movement, etc.
After about 15 minutes of work, step back.
Decide which lines felt most comfortable to you, and which ones are new to your vocabulary.
This exercise is adapted from Steven Aimone’s Book “Expressive Drawing.” I seem to have misplaced my copy 🙁 If you have seen it, please let me know!
Finally, last call to submit images for the reader’s gallery! I appreciate your time and readership.
Teaching students what art IS often involves me teaching them what Art Isn’t. One of the reasons I share my process through demonstrations is to make it clear that my decision making process is driven by the ideas behind the art. Students start to see that I’m not thinking about what the right way to express something might be. Instead, I’m considering how I feel about the paint and the story behind the art.
I love this quote by artist Phillip Hicken. Perhaps he and I think along the same lines because we both might be considered colorists. Phillip Hicken (1910-1985) was a painter and printmaker from Nantucket. He worked as a printmaker in Boston and for the WPA. His work shows subtle color nuances inspired by the Nantucket area. You can see several examples of his prints and paintings on my Pinterest Board on Color.
Although I had a clear idea for the painting below, I’m trying to decide on the best title. I’m considering both “Where There’s Smoke” and “Conflagration.” Please leave a comment below to vote for your favorite title!
One of my jobs in summer on the farm was to ride on the tailgate of the pickup holding a lighter. I used a drip torch of diesel fuel, lighting the dried straw as the field was burned to rid it of pests, diseases and straw. It was a dangerous but thrilling job, and I’ve tried to express the chaos and movement that I witnessed as the flames raced toward each other in the center of the field.
There were also accidental fires in the fields, which were even more frightening. Having been this close to the power of fire that is out of control, I have been a keen and somber witness to the London conflagration this past week. I cannot imagine the agony that those who died there endured. It is even more dismaying considering the economic status of the victims. We can only pray for change as a result of the tragedy. I rarely get on a ‘soapbox’ here, but it is not a coincidence that fire has been on my mind in the studio.
Reader Appreciation Gallery
Finally, don’t forget to send me images of your work or work you’ve collected for the reader appreciation gallery coming toward the end of this month. Email images to: Artist Ruth5405 @ (gmail.com) – removing spaces and parenthesis. I’m excited to see work by many artists and friends. Your comments and responses keep me engaged in this forum and I appreciate you!
Portland Open Studios: Save the Date!
The Portland Open Studios board has been hard at work and Guides are available now! New this year is a section about artists who teach – a great resource. Mark your calendar now for two consecutive weekends: October 14-15 and 21-22, 2017, 10-5 pm. I’m excited to participate again this year and hope you’ll stop by to see what’s new in the studio.
Though it may not seem like it to others, my work has been undergoing Slow Growth in the past year. This is a bit like seeing people’s kids once every six months and marveling at how they’ve changed. Only the parents know the infinitesimal daily changes that have added up to one big growth spurt. Because I pick and choose what to show on my website, one might think that these changes happen easily, or overnight. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I found myself mentioning to recent workshop students that one reason I teach is to force myself to become more comfortable with not KNOWING how a painting will turn out. I practice not KNOWING whether a decision is the correct one as I make it. Demonstrating for my classes forces me to pretend to be brave, and to make brave decisions. I have to stick to the plan as a good example for my ‘kids.’
About this painting
This piece grew out of a blind contour drawing that I used to create abstract shapes. Perhaps you can see the more geometric shapes near the bottom that were inspired by a building on the Sitka property. Maybe you can also see some of the foliage and limb shapes that move upward. This is not a realistic painting though, so it is ok with me if you don’t!
I rarely leave the white of the paper in my work, so this painting is unusual. I loved using some of the more spontaneous marks scratched into the wet paint, and the beautiful textures in some of the collage papers. Cutting out some of the strong black shapes from paper was more challenging, but I like the strength of those shapes in contrast to the more nebulous texture and color.
Sometimes I think we don’t even realize our own growth in art. We get wrapped up in the immediacy of the current work. It is difficult to see our current work in perspective. I think it is also difficult for students to see our work in perspective. They don’t often see the failures that led us to the point of a lesson, how we have struggled or where we’ve been influenced. As always, I appreciate those who add to the conversation by leaving a comment!
Send Me your Images
Don’t forget to send me your images of art you own or art you’ve made for the Reader’s Gallery blog celebration! I need them by June 25th please. Include your name, media, title and size. You can email them to me at ArtistRuth5405 (@) gmail (remove the parenthesis and spaces and add .com at the end.) You might even include a sentence about change and growth!
I have been interested in the idea of intention for years. It indicates focus, committment, and drive. I have not thought of it as an agent of growth before though. I have been looking back over the history of my website and blog this month. It’s my 9th year of blogging, and my 10th anniversary of the website. I am amazed, looking back, that I stuck with it. When I first began, I was lucky to have 10 viewers per day. Those statistics went on for over 5 years. I rarely recieved comments, and facebook was not a phenomenon.
Now, 9 or 10 years later, this blog and website sees an average of 500 views per day! That is not much, compared to some of the huge sites out there, but it is progress! I’m still mostly interested in keeping it up as a record of my thoughts and intentions for my art. I love looking back over the changes I’ve made through the years. I am able to search for dates and events when I need them, and revisit inspiration that sometimes comes up again in a new way.
My intention for the blog and site continue to be one of the strongest drivers of my business. It is both a record for me, and for my collectors. The blog also serves as a reference for my students. Though it hasn’t gained as much ‘traction’ as it could have, I’m pleased with its progress.
I invite you to help me celebrate this anniversary. I’m planning a blog post to thank readers of Art is Truth. Send me your image of a painting, either one that you own or one you’ve made. Let me know the title, media, etc. and I’ll post a gallery of readers later this month. You can use the Contact form to send the information.
Intention is also interesting to me because of the content of artwork. I’m always interested in the difference between the artist’s intent and the viewer’s perception. In abstract art, especially, the two can be very different. What fascinates me, is how often viewers get it right, given very little information.
Sharing My Intentions and Inspiration
I taught 3 workshops this month, and time after time, those watching my demonstration paintings seemed to intuit my feelings about the works in process. I’d like to thank Sitka Center for Art and Ecology and the Astoria Art Loft for hosting me as an instructor. I felt supported and encouraged to share my work and methods with students. And they were very enthusiastic!
Here is one of my recent paintings that resulted from one of those demonstrations. I’m interested in your comments… and please feel free to share with your favorite social channel.
Gaining success in your art business without “selling out” requires common sense, organization and a willingness to think of others first. I often put myself in the shoes of my customer or collectors in order to figure out how best to reach them. My customers should feel like I do when I’m shopping at a classy store like Nordstrom. I want them to see all the wonderful things I have, I want them to feel important, I want to help them in any way I can, and I want to be friendly. This is a far cry from a street hawker who cries: “Buy my work, Buy my work!”
Here are 5 of my key business guidelines for artists:
Don’t be shy: Even if you feel shy, project a confident demeanor. This doesn’t mean you have to be outgoing, but greet people with a smile, listen to them, ask questions. Talking about others can be a great way to divert attention away from yourself. Asking questions can break that awkward silence and let people know you’re truly interested in them.
Let people know what you’re doing. Talk about your work; send newsletters; send postcards; maintain a website & blog. This isn’t pushy. People who know you want to know more about your professional life. Any personal insights you can share just help them to understand you and your work better.
Get Out. Be sure to attend fellow artist’s events and classes. Bring friends. Maybe they will return the favor. Make friends beyond your artist circles. Join Gardening groups, book clubs, church groups, athletic teams, bridge groups, whatever you have a genuine interest in. Make sure people know you are a professional artist. Hand out postcards or business cards to people you meet. This is not because you want to sell them something, but because you want to maintain a connection.
Pay attention to those who support you. Offer to help hang new purchases, photograph and publicize recent purchases, offer payment plans, keep in touch to make sure they are satisfied. Offer gifts during holiday seasons or birthdays for VIP’s. Share resources such as framers, galleries, decorators or any other professionals. Referrals are a true gift.
Finally, put your best foot forward. Make sure your presentation and work are top notch. Don’t show everything you’ve ever made. Curate your show, making sure your prices are in sync with the market and your abilities. If anything, offer a price slightly below market value, but try not to undercut other artists. Let your clients know they have good taste and are receiving a good deal.
What’s New In the Studio?
I’ve spent the last week finishing a painting that began at the Clackamas Arts Alliance’s Art Extravaganza. The new work is Oil & Wax on Panel. I love working in oil, because it allows for lots of adjustments as I paint. This work is a case in point. It began with a landscape feeling, but became much more abstract as I worked on it. I’d love to hear your response! Leave me a comment, or start a dialogue on Facebook or Twitter.