February Update (part 2)

So, I asked my partner to look at my website and tell me what my posts needed. He looked. He pondered. He wracked his brains. And the answer was… clickable footnotes1. I should probably gen up on my html anyway, since I’ve apparently volunteered to take on Bricket Wood Art Club website. In addition to helping out with St Albans Art Society website and Treasurey stuff. Hmm. Well, I’m sure that was sensible and I will in no way end up overloaded.

Anyway, on with the update:

Pastel grounds.
In light of the expense of Pastelmat and other addictively velvety papers, which eat through pastels and money with equal gusto, a fellow artist from St Albans invited me to experiment with creating new and exciting DIY pastel grounds2. In between cups of coffee, we employed a washing-up sponge and some gimungous interior decoration paintbrushes to apply:

    • Roughly equal parts cheapo acrylic paint, white acrylic gesso and ground pumice to pale-coloured mountboard (no idea what grade the pumice it was but it looked very fine to me)3.
    • Liquitex clear gesso to black and red mountboard (memo to self: next time *don’t* slather it on by the bucketload; velvety surfaces are good for pastels; small mountains of paint, less so).

I’d like to give the DIY grounds a mark-out-of-ten, but… I haven’t actually started applying pastel to them yet. Give me another year and I may get round to it… Anyway, in addition to providing all the mountboard and Liquitex, my friend also loaned me a rather spiffy white seashell for my next still life, as shown below (mainly because it’s more interesting than posting images of blank mountboard):

ShellFIN

Pretty in Pink (2019)
Pastel & coloured pencil
18 x 23cm

Card designs
The end of February (yes, OK, I know it’s mid-March already) signals the end of the usual slew of Christmas/New Year/why-is-everyone-born-between-November-and-February-birthday cards and, this year, some sadder things.

Slightlymassivecardbanner3

Keith Hornblower’s workshop
St Albans Art Society ran this workshop on 23rd February. I love Keith’s work, and so jumped on the bandwagon even though watercolour boat-themed landscapes are… quite far out of my comfort zone. However, despite a rocky beginning, and taking forever to complete my painting as usual, I very much enjoyed the workshop and (goodness!) am even moderately pleased with the result. Points of note:

    • A big thank you to the lady who kindly gave me her photo (shown below next to the final painting) to work from, without which I would have been a bit stuck. Next time I will bring my own reference material JUST IN CASE4.
    • Also grateful to Keith’s suggestion about moving the middle boat to improve the composition. And the fact that he never changes the water he washes his brushes in either. Hah! I feel so vindicated…
    • Of course, all of my watercolour tubes have dried up. Again. I don’t generally consider this a problem because watercolours remain soluble5. However, since I was using a very large paintbrush and tiny, dried-up pigment containers, I couldn’t get very strong darks – hence the lack of contrast in the painting below. Oops…

FIN Keith Workshop

Chris Christoforou’s talk on ‘How to Sell Your Work’
I’m glad I made it to this one… quite apart from being entertaining, there was a lot of advice I’d not heard before in the mix, particularly geared towards trying to arrange and physically show your work, and then make a living off it.

    • Firstly, he advised specialising your style and subjects to a few key areas – because if you’re too diverse you won’t easily become known as a go-to person for a certain type of work.
    • Conversely, the range of products you offer – framed work, small sketches, greetings cards, prints and paraphenalia such as T-shirts (good advertising) – should be as wide as you can make it to try and cater to as broad a range of wallets as possible.
    • He also commented that – if you’re aiming to live off your art – you ultimately have to price your work against for the total overhead of ‘time spent living at home’ until the picture is complete. Good point. I’ve been charging sub-minimum hourly wage for the time directly spent painting my pictures because… it’s hard enough getting that to sell. But how much does one spend over a 12-month period? For a painting that takes a month to complete, it needs to sell for over £1,000 for most artists just to break even6.
    • So, if you’re making a living on your art, tailoring your subjects to wealthy clients7 with oodles of disposable income is a good idea. Suggestions included birds of prey, dogs, koi carp; exotic big cats; potentially portraits, maybe even flowers… music to my ears. However, getting good source photos for some of these without violating copyright can be tricky.
    • The next step is finding an event – country fairs can be a good – that might both a) show your work and b) contain lots of wealthy clients.

One of Chris’s comments – after a couple of throwaway lines about nearly getting eaten by some of the big cats he paints in a few of the catalogue of exotic countries he’s exhibited in over the years – was that we should aim to sell ourselves as much as our artwork, because artists are never boring. And there I was, thinking to myself about how I can’t drive, never fly; how I spend half my time baking8 and watching DVDs, and the other half asleep.

Ah well, we can’t all be eaten by big cats…

LIONS


1
Ta-dah!

2
May be less exciting than advertised.

3
In my role as experienced hypochondriac I actually went and looked up how hazardous pumice dust. Not very, apparently, although inhaling the dust is still a bad idea.

4
The tutor accidentally prepares for the wrong workshop and has no reference material to hand out. Not that this would ever happen, right?

5
Unlike my poor neglected tubs of student-grade acrylics which are slowly dying off one by one. Or perhaps that should read ‘drying off’.

6
Assuming roughly £12,000 yearly expenditure. And in my case, how much of that yearly expenditure is spent on desserts from the Pudding Stop? I shudder to think…

7
Apparently judging by one’s shoes is a good way to tell. Although – I’m not 100% sure I’d be able to identify a designer shoe, given my own choice of footware…

SHOES

8
Mmmm… sticky toffee pudding…

February update (part 1)

All right, yes, it’s March. But only just!1

To prove I’d not only learned nothing from my previous mass-framing escapades, but also had the capacity for new and exciting blunders, this month I had to co-ordinate (within a four-day period):

1)    Picking up unsold work from the Pastel Society2 in London.
2)    Ordering the frame for, picking up, framing, and safely posting a commission *bites nails*3.
3)    Ordering (from a separate place) a frame and mount – and then framing and delivering – two pictures to a local art exhibition courtesy of Bricket Wood Art Club.
4)    Attending an all-day workshop of St Albans Art Society’s by Keith Hornblower… more on this later. It was brilliant, but the workshop – and evening visitors – meant I clearly wasn’t going to get any of #1 to #3 done this day.

So. First issue. There wasn’t a lot of time left before I needed to post #2 (the commission), since it was a birthday present. In fact there was so little time I ultimately had to manage both #1 (collect pastelsoc work) and #2 (collect commission frame) on the same day. Logic dictated that I:

    • Zip to London in the morning to pick up the pastel soc work4.
    • Dump the pastel soc work at home.
    • Zip out again and collect the commission frame before the shop (Artscape in Harpenden) shut for the day at 5:30pm.

A good plan? Why yes. Except I overslept and had no time for step 2. My arms were pretty tired by the end of that day. And of course, due to the cunning location of Artscape (which keeps getting shifted further away from the Town Centre)…

Comic v2 FIN

…it made my arms feel even tireder.

To add insult to injury, I then had to run5 for the train on the way home (with three frames in my folder). Fortunately the running was all downhill. Less fortunately it was muddy. More fortunately again, I did not end up tobogganing downhill on the frames.

Second issue. Yet again, I did not factor in enough slippage time when ordering the frames for #3 (the local art exhibition). There was just over a week of delay after the estimated finishing date – not a huge amount, and hardly unprecedented – but it left me just two days to collect and frame the things. Also it so happened that the one day the frames were available for collection, I was on #4 (the workshop), forcing me to lean heavily on my long-suffering partner to drag the frames home for me (and the groceries. After all, if he’s going to the market anyway he may as well pick up the weekly veg).

However!

This time I did get all the frames and mounts the right size. So maybe I have learned something after all…


1 NB lest you think this post’s image is just a random tree, it is in fact the tree outside the Harpenden Public Halls, through which I walk to reach the awesome shop Artscape (see later whinging within this post). Well… at least there is a connection, however tenuous…

2 If it sounds like I’m name-dropping The Pastel Society into my blog at every opportunity; why yes, yes I am. Look – they even paraphrased me in one of their blog posts: https://www.mallgalleries.org.uk/about-us/blog/emerging-artists-pastel-society-exhibition-2019

3 It arrived safely! I was a tad nervous posting it, and therefore smothered the commission in several hundred layers of (probably not strictly necessary) cardboard and bubble wrap. But well, there is no kill like overkill…

4 While concurrently obtaining a bribe of posh tea for my partner in return for him picking up all my other frames on Saturday, when I was away due to #4 (the workshop).

5 All right. More like ‘waddle swiftly’.