Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Finding Your Art Market


I had the privilege yesterday morning of carrying on a small discourse with Artist Mentor Online (AMO) artist, Linda Fisler on Facebook.  She published a blog yesterday titled "Starbucks Anyone?" Here is the link if you would like to check it out: Linda Fisler Blog.  Now if you know me at all, you know that while I don't frequent Starbucks, I am a McDonald's regular for many of the same reasons that Linda discussed in her blog.  Good coffee, good service and free WiFi are just part of the reason that I am a loyal fan of the Golden Arches.
Morning, i Pad and my Nevada map

I loved that she discussed the 4 P's of advertising that any student of business has memorized (Product, Price, Promotion and Placement).  When I was in the business world I was required to read a number of books on marketing that talked about creating raving fans, flipping the funnel to retain your customer base and on and it's not a topic that it foreign to me.  Linda talks about knowing your collector in  her blog and since I am new to  the whole art  scene I can't say I have any collectors.  Well actually, there is a old dear friend of mine from Oklahoma that has purchased 4 paintings from me in the past two years so if old dear friends count as collectors, then I guess I have one.

Now that I am trying to make a little mark in this world with my art, I find that many of the same business principles apply, but most artists don't stop to consider a marketing plan.   In my short experience I told Linda that my marketing plan basically consisted of "Keep painting and blogging and they will come." I loved Linda's encouraging words back to me...

Linda Riesenberg Fisler-Artist "Collectors---cultivating them is hard work Julie--gee no new news there!  You aren't alone in your belief. We just need to keep doing what we are doing, being fearless, entering shows, talking with galleries when we are ready and not let anyone stop us from doing what we believe in! Onward!! xo."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Distractions of the REALLY Good Kind

This week has found my studio empty and rather neglected but occasionally that isn't a bad thing.  My mother-in-law turned 80 years old yesterday and to celebrate that huge milestone, I have taken the time to plan a surprise birthday party in her honor.  All my six children came to be with Grandma and with them came their wives and those precious grandchildren that they have blessed me with. Family and friends gathering together to share a meal and laugh is a good thing.  Actually it is a REALLY good thing!

We have heard over and over that our families must take priority over work and since I'm trying to become a serious artist, family responsibilities must come first.  It also doesn't hurt to step back for a short time when you are having a pivotal learning crisis in your creative world.  That is where I find myself as an artist because I was told that my all important light source in several of my paintings is confusing.  Obviously, I am not fully understanding how light and shadows interact and that is due to years of not truly observing my surroundings with the artist eye.  Your brain processes all of your surrounding but often we just take in information and never really consider what it is that we are looking at.  Only until we present conflicting images do we stop and think about the fact that something just doesn't look right.  So a little study of light and shadow is exactly what I need to do right now so that my paintings become more realistic and I'm not confusing my friend and instructor, Lily Adamczyk anymore with my "Your light coming from all direction" compositions.

Since no one is awake in the house yet, I have a lovely cup of hot tea and free access to the computer I decided to do some research on the subject.  I found a helpful blog titled "Making Great Paintings-Understanding the Light and Shadow Families."  Well making GREAT paintings sound really good to me so I started reading the article.  I found myself thinking how familiar some of these suggestions were and to my surprise I noticed that the website so appropriately called "Artist Mentors Online" is the creation of Kevin Macpherson. (AMO)  Well can you believe, that I am currently reading a book called "Putting More Light and Color in Your Oil Paintings" by none other than Kevin Macpherson.  I love to see artists that spend their precious time helping new artist like myself learn the secrets of the trade. I have only begun to scratch the surface of the treasure chest of knowledge that this website contains but I am loving his book right now.

So if you are like me and you find yourself needing to spend some in depth study on a specific trouble spot in your artistic journey, I would greatly suggest two things....1.  It's time to put on your walking shoes and go observe first hand the relationship that light and shadow have with each other.  This might require you coming to the same spot several times in that day so that you can see how the shadow changes in relationship to the sun.  2.  Find someone that already knows the stuff you need to learn and become an informational processing sponge.

Holding my Newest Grandson, Jonas

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Passionately Blogging About My Passion To Blog

When I first considered the possibility that painting might actually be something that I could become successful with, I knew that I would have to become proficient in self marketing.  I started by networking with artists that I found on Facebook that appeared to be successful and that inspired me.  Tim Gagnon and Nancy Medina were artists on the top of my list.  After all, it was Tim Gagnon and his online 12 week painting lessons that I give credit to for allowing me to regain my confidence, lost after so many years of idle brushes.  His style is unique and no one can paint a tree or a cloud like he does.  Check his website out at Tim Gagnon Studio .  I would recommend his lessons if you are wanting to learn painting and not be intimidated by having an instructor looking over your shoulder.  With today's technology Tim allows you the ability to replay, rewind, pause and fast forward your way to a beautiful painting created by your own two hands.

From nearly the beginning of getting on Facebook, I found an adorable artist that can paint flowers like none other and let me tell you she sells paintings before she even has time to clean her brushes.  Nancy Medina from (If you can believe this coincidence) Flower Mound, Texas must keep her local florist very happy because she is a proficient daily painter that produces beautiful still lifes that are shipped around the world.  Right away I fell in love with both her website and blog.  Take a minute to be impressed at Nancy Medina and her online presence.

So viewing the success of these two artists I realized that both had  (1) a professional looking website and (2) kept a consistent blog presence.  Nancy has also set herself apart with her constant references to her two little pug dogs that are her studio companions.  This makes her seem real and personal and that is very important as an artist.  People not only purchase art because they like the way it looks but also because in many cases they feel a connection to the artist. 

In my short experience, I find that I spend as much time talking to the public about all the places I have visited in this very interesting state of Nevada as I do about the painting itself.  Because I paint so many desert or Nevada scenes, I have referred to myself as a "Nevada Artist".  I live in the hottest (I'm not talking about temperature even though it often applies) tourist destination in the country so why not associate myself with that fact.  If anything they might remember that I'm that artist from Las Vegas.  So find something that sets you apart from the rest and really work it!

So my advise to you if you are seriously considering following your passion is:
     1. start a blog using either Blogger or WordPress.  Both are free and in the beginning FREE is GOOD!  Blog at least once a week.  Even if you think no one is reading, KEEP with it.  Also check out as many blogs as you can and make notes of things you like about these blogs.  I also read a couple of books on the subject too.   
     2. Build a website to showcase your passion. I found Weebly to be a perfect fit for my zero website design abilities and again Weebly is FREE!  I really only update my website if I have a new painting to add or if I'm showing at a new location. So once you have found the template you like and have built each page the time spent maintaining the website can be minimal.  I do like to check out my statistics each day to see how many unique visitors I have had.  In this past month I have had 265 visitors and on Jan 23, 2013 I had a record 36 visits.  For some reason on that day it was like having a mob visit my little world!
     3.  Take advantage of finding Facebook friends that have your same passion and let their energy keep you inspired and focused.  Each morning when I log onto my Facebook account it is as if I am being treated to a personal tour at the finest art gallery on the planet.  The talent and work being done by these amazing artists keep me running to my little studio.  Now they don't buy your work but you can certainly learn a great deal from just listening, watching and imitating them.  I love Facebook for that reason so I have created my own page so that my personal world and my professional world can have a separate face.

Obviously, you have found my blog or you wouldn't be reading this, but I encourage you to check out my website at Julie Townsend and take a peek around.  I'll leave the "OPEN" sign in the window just for you.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Who Knew Talking About Landscapes Could Be So DEEP

When I took my first painting lesson back in July 2012 with instructor and friend, Lily Adamczyk the concept of creating depth in your landscape was stressed from day one.  Prior to taking lessons, I would work on my backgrounds by adding almost as much details as I did with the foreground. 

This earlier piece I called "Nevada Dreams" lacks that distance and transition from foreground to background that I am now learning is so important.  I still like elements in this piece, but now I'm learning there are several things that I should have done to make this composition better.  I now know that I should split my canvas in 1/3's rather than making this 1/2 sky and 1/2 landscape.  I also believe I could have better accomplished the impression of distance if I had made the mountains end  at either 1/3 or 2/3's of the canvas and give the impression of a distant range far in the horizon.  After all, Nevada has more mountain ranges than any other state so there are always mountains in the distance no matter where you look.  I will one day revisit this shack located east of Tonopah and give it another go around.
Nevada Dreams- 24 x 36 acrylic painting
This next painting that I call "Fallen" was completed as I took my first lessons with my accomplished instructor.  It clearly gives the impression that the forest path continues.  Your eye is drawn there because you can see the impression of trees and sunlight in the distance.  You know that your hike isn't finished but rather this is only a stopping point as you ponder this giant of the forest that fallen.  Good landscapes must engage the viewer, causing them to stop and consider the whole canvas.  A simple glance would never do.   So I have tried to remember that lesson with each of my painting since then.

Fallen- 16 x 20 Oil painting- See how the forest trail continues on further giving this painting depth

Newest acrylic called "Galena Creek Birches"-  again I have continued the trail on into the forest drawing your eyes up the hill.  For a better picture you should check out my website at

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pretty as a Picture

You have probably heard of the old saying "Pretty as a Picture".  Up to this point in my painting, I have spent most of my time using reference photos to base my composition on and that has worked pretty well for me.  I really like using 5 x 7 photographs and normally will take a number of different images and use them as my inspiration. 

I recently used a photo taken by a fellow artist that was posted on facebook (very important that you obtain permission from the owner prior to copying a photo) and I painted it as a close rendition to what I saw on the photo.  I was so taken by the brilliance and color of this photograph.  It is an amazing shot full of cheerful bright colors.  There is just something about sunflowers that warm the heart of any country girl.

Original Photo taken by artist Janet Paden of Ohio
This was my original oil of the reference photo

My corrections so far have been removing the dark center under the butterfly and adding more blue to the background

The adjustments I made from my original painting was to remove the dark center that overshadowed the butterfly causing him not to stand out like I had intended.  I changed some of the background tint by adding more blue and lightened the centers of each flower by covering the paynes gray that I had over used in my first rendition. Still with additional critiquing done by a friend and an accomplished artist more changes are apparently needed.

    1.  The spent sunflower in the upper left corner has to go.  It is obvious that my intended focal point of this piece is the butterfly and yet the dark center of this sunflower draws your attention away from the butterfly.  My options are to paint it out completely or to reduce the size and add some petals of it's own so that it blends in with the rest of the composition.  
     2. I also plan to make the sunflowers less orange and more yellow so that the butterfly stands out even more.

As an artist, I needed to take a little more time considering the focal point of my composition.  Take the time to really look at your composition and consider your focal.  Ask yourself if there is there anything else in this composition that is overpowering or taking the attention away from that point?   A good suggestion is to have someone else take a quick glance and find out what they first noticed.  Which is what I did yesterday when I took my painting over for my friend to see.  I have also seen it suggested that you can also view the composition in a mirror and by seeing the image that you have grown so accustomed to backwards that it allows you too see the image from a different prospective.

The photo was an excellent start but my goal should always be as an artists to make my end result- PRETTIER THAN A PICTURE!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Nut Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

This week I was completely blown away by my oldest son's political drawing and all of the issues he has so accurately addressed in this sketch.  From a technical standpoint he has done an amazing job even down to the headlines on the newspapers.  Look you can even read the title "The New York Times." Mitt Romney's discouraged look is obviously the center focus of this sketch.

A large portion of this nation feels that same way.  I believe Jared did an excellent job of capturing that emotion that many of us may feel as the nation we love seems to be headed to a uncertain future of debt, defeat and the diminish.  

No matter your political view, the artistic skill displayed here can't be denied.  I immediately shared this photo on my facebook wall so that my friends could also see his work. As a parent I felt pride that two of my son's appear to have inherited some of my artistic genes.  You would have to ask Jared about that because he is also a microbiologist and REALLY understands how all that DNA stuff works.  I did have to chuckle when my one friend replied on facebook by saying, "The nut doesn't fall far from the tree."  Wait a minute! Do you think she is calling me a NUT?

Sketch done by Dr. Jared Townsend (my son)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

There is a BUG Stuck in My Paint

I have been reading a book by Kevin Macpherson called "Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color".  Mr. Macpherson is an accomplished En Plein Air painter.  (That is French for "In the Open Air")  This is an excellent book and I'm learning a lot about color, light and shadows from it's pages.

From someone who is a "Studio" artist, painting outside has a unique set of challenges as I experienced yesterday.  This style of painting is definitely something I want to learn and so I was very excited when my friend Lily asked me to accompany her along with few other artists with the Nevada Plein Air Group to Hemmenway Harbor at Lake Mead to spend a few hours painting in the fresh air.

I actually did learn a number of things and am anxious to improve my "En Plein Air" techniques.  The real truth is that yesterday I was basically pretending to paint and Lily is the real McCoy!  While she didn't finish her little 10 x 20 piece, she got a good portion of her painting completed and I was dually impressed. I spent a great deal of the time watching her ability to paint quickly so she could  catch the essence of the moment, not worrying about exact detail but rather reflection, light, color and shadows all come together so that she could catch the emotion rather than the exact image.

So different from painting on my beautiful new easel with all my supplies surrounding me and listening to either Willy Nelson or my new piano praise CD.  This will definitely take practice on my part but I'm anxious for the challenge of bugs stuck in wet paint, working in big floppy straw hats, dirt in my teeth and the sun in my eyes.