Questions I've been asked over and over, to help you understand me.
Why do you paint?
I never expected to be a painter but from the time I was old enough to remember, I knew I would be an artist. Not that I wanted to be one --that I would. Fairly confident for a 4 year old it turns out. I think artists come in all forms and not just painting but for me, it is what works. I did go to school for painting and so learned many technical things there but will freely admit that mostly I learned to paint by painting. I painted a whole whole lot. A lot of terrible paintings, until one day they were less awful and then 20 years later, pretty good. It takes a lot of years to really understand painting and be able to consistently paint things you feel like are you.
When did you start painting?
I probably picked up my first paint brush in college. I was a true newbie to painting and certainly oil painting. My professors painted with bristle brushes so I painted with bristle brushes and my paintings were just awful. And to be clear- I also think bristle brushes are awful, so there is that angle, too. No, in all seriousness, when I started painting I could not "see as a painter." It was just not there. So I had to coax that out with years of painting until one day I could.
What is "seeing as a painter"?
Seeing as painter is sitting down to paint a tin can minus its label and instead of just seeing a tin can minus its label you see a vessel that is alternating with color horizontally and vertically because of the ridges in the can, and you realize it is 1,000 colors because it is reflecting everything around it and not “grey” which is what you reach for when you are a beginner. That is the simplified answer.
How long have you been a professional artist?
I quit my last day job in 1996. I had 2 jobs for 6 years and really since I graduated from college. I also worked as a waitress in college. I have lots of experience with restaurant work and that needs to be considered if you want to do this for a living. I was a bartender or waitress (the constant) and a graphic designer at the same time. I quit the day job and kept the bar tending job for another 6 months but eventually quit that as well. That long ago, I needed less money to survive but figured I should stop taking all my energy and put it into working to sell my art and so I did. Looking back, that was stressful too, but life is not stress free. It did work, but to do that I had to really do anything at all I could to sell a painting. That is why the open studio was born.
How do artists determine how to price their paintings?
Back before the Internet (now I feel like the old wizened wizard talking about the far past, not less than 20 years ago) and cell phones, the art business was a lot more rule driven and path friendly. In some ways it is great that it isn’t as much now, but it was nice to have a path that has gotten more confusing and less straightforward. I think pricing is falling in this category. When I was finally thinking I had a style of my own enough to approach a gallery with some success, I did so. The way it worked back then (early 90's) was the gallery owner would come to your studio and look at your work and determine if she thought you were "good", but of course, also if it fit with their gallery vision and, of course, if she thought she could sell it. The main thing. You would get a studio visit and give them a resume with all your accomplishments on it and she would price your work with her idea of what was fair and smart with what you had accomplished. So, this was your first pricing blueprint. From that point forward, if you are going by the rules, you just go up % wise in small increments until you get mega famous and only sell for millions. Obviously, I am joking since no one gets mega famous painting. My point here is there used to be a way it was down and it was restricting but it kept you honest. Beware of the expensive paintings that do not come with an extensive resume. Or not- that is what I mean- the rules have changed. Like any job, when you are old you hope you are making more money than when you are young, the only way for a painter to ever get there is to raise their prices as they sell more work and become more established and so they do. But the honest ones are not charging big bucks unless they can tell you why. In my opinion. And another thing is I price by size. I found over the course of my career that it is the best way to do it. If a painting is discounted it is not any worse than any other one, it has probably just been around a year or two. My paintings are priced now by size. Every size, unless it is discounted, will be the same price.
Why are you not showing in galleries now?
That is an easy one. I have three kids and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease a few years ago. Between the two of those things to work around, I am far more comfortable just painting and selling myself. I am an overachiever and when I work with galleries I really want to give them my very best work and when you can’t be sure you are going to feel well, or feel just terrible, that can be super stressful and that is one of the things that make any autoimmune issues worse. So I am trying to dial down the stress. Most galleries schedule a year or more in advance and with my children, it just kept being opening night was the same night as prom or something as awful. So for now, I am just laying low and painting and will get back in the scene when I am less conflicted about committing. Maybe. I am and have always been more interested in just painting and less so in the art scene. It is something I would change about myself, To be more of a scene person and less of a closet introvert.
Do you paint every day?
No but I used to paint every day like and was militant with myself about it. I think when you are starting out in this kind of career you better do that or it can slip away fast, But I am seasoned at this stage in the game and know that I work in blasts and fury. I will paint like a maniac and then take some time off. I think, for me, the time off is really important and that doesn’t mean I am never working, I just am processing and getting ready to go back in the studio. You will notice the series that I paint. Nothing is more amazing than the times of manic painting and knowing that tomorrow it is another day of a series is the best. I love it. But then like a shoe dropping, I am done. Shut the studio door, call a friend and be normal for awhile.
Are you glad you have a college degree in art? Do you think it is necessary to be an artist?
Yes, I am really glad I have a college degree. That is for certain. I think it is a necessary part of becoming a grown person vs a kid person and the years you learn in college will stay with you for a long, long time. Whether you really like it or not. I was a split major, with graphic design and studio art and this was before computers. Yes, I used to have to draw type and fonts by hand. It was 100% torture. And I resented all the graphic design rules and I was far too cool for that, and just let me paint, dahling! But here is the reality. The design background has been huge for me. You cannot compose a painting without understanding design. It might be the most important thing I learned in college. I did learn to paint but I was terrible. But you have to be or you won’t paint all the time every day trying to not be terrible. It is a motivator. My sister recently admitted that when we were in college together she was a little like-Uh oh. She better keep her day job. And she was right, I was awful! But something was in there hiding and whatever it was it had a work ethic. Thank God. Because a work ethic is key in being an artist.
Why Does Original Art cost so much?
The art degree mentioned before is one of the reasons, how long you’ve been at it is another reason and then there are far more concrete reasons. Art supplies are painfully expensive. If you buy a professional canvas or board that is prepared correctly to paint on then it will cost you. Let's get a size- say 30 x 40. The canvas alone can be $150. Or 17.99 but trust me on this, when you know the difference, there is one. In its longevity, too. So brushes. They can vary from 2 bucks to 200 bucks for one brush. I mean you can actually pay way more for a brush, but my point is that brushes are expensive. Paint. One tube of paint ( a smallish tube like a small lotion for your purse or something) is anywhere from $20 for a brown mineral color to $150 for a cobalt or cadmium color in the same brand. Then there are brands just like everything! You got the low end student grade paint and the ultra high end paint and what do you do? If you are me you stick with a professional grade paint that you love and just kind of stay brand honest. So for me a tube of what looks like RED and is called Cadmium Red Light is around $48 for a one inch by 5 inch tube of paint. So. You have maybe 10-15 paints on your palette if you are normal and 30-50 if you are me and you get my drift. It is not cheap to do this. Especially on a large scale, but even on a small scale there is investment. Add in the college degree, student loans, studio costs, etc. etc. It is an amazing profession but it is just like every single product in that it costs money to have it made. Don’t even get me started on framing….
Why do you frame the way you do?
When an artist has a show at a gallery they expect the artist to arrive with the art painted and framed. So, I frame with an exhibition frame that is very simple. I also paint edge to edge which makes a floater frame the logical choice. That is what most galleries want and it works with my art. When you buy art you buy art not the frame. The frame is a gift. Change the frame to suit your setting because that is financially driven decision by most artists. I used to be freaked out by framing costs when I did not sell work because you have a show and have to frame 15 pieces and each frame is 50 bucks and that is $750 and that is a lot of tables you have to wait on. Now, I can shake it up sometimes and I do for the fun of it, but buy the art, not the frame. You can change the frame.