Falling Off the Cliff

"Karma""Good Karma"No, not the fiscal cliff, the artistic cliff. Have you ever been asked to create something you have no history with? Did it make you have flop sweat or feel slightly sick?  You are not alone.

Recently I was asked to paint a portrait of a dog. Having never painted or drawn a dog, I was nervous.

I wasn’t sure I could do it or if they would like it.  But, I chose to step outside my comfort zone and am glad I did.

For many people a dog is a member of the family.  Trying to capture the personality that they know and love can be tricky, especially if you have never met the dog.  I worked from pictures and made it clear to the client that there was no obligation to like the painting.  I felt that gave us each an option to walk away if things did not work out.

The first painting was well received and someone else saw it and asked me to do their dog (the one pictured here). That became a surprise Christmas present and the person receiving it was delighted.

I captured the heart shape spot on the nose and it was (unbeknownst to me) a special feature on their dog.
I now have two more paintings I am going to do.

Stretching your abilities is very scary and thrilling at the same time.  I guess the lesson here is that you should never be afraid to try something new. And in trying it, you may find there is an area of Art that you enjoy doing.

Keep making Art.

Selling You and Your Art

You cannot seperate you from your art.  You are the one who creates the art, so your soul and personality are front and center whether you are in the room or not.  Get used to the idea that you become part of what is being marketed.  Marketing is a multi-level effort, so I will first talk about the one piece of advertising that every artist should use, your business card.  It is the first impression people get of you as a professional artist and if it is not inspiring, it may be the last.

A representation of your art on your card becomes your “logo” that reminds people of your art.  I recently went through some artist cards I had saved and found one with no image.  I have no idea what the artist does or why I was interested enough to save his card.  I could probably find out by visiting his web site, but in this busy world can you blame people for just dumping it?  So, be sure to show your art.

When I first needed cards, I tried to save money by using the computer paper that pulls apart into cards.  Of course my computer skills were less than perfect and my Photoshop knowledge was non-existent.  But, even if I had all the skills, these cards would not have impressed.  The paper quality is too light and the finish has to be printable, so it cannot have a nice coating..

I started collecting other artists cards and seperated them into successful and non-successful cards.  Things started to stand out.  Whether you print on both sides or not is up to you.  If you print on the back, you lose the spot you can write a note such as the name, price , and size of a piece a client is interested in.  On the positive side, you get more coverage; more information out there.

Putting your image on the card with lettering over the top can be problematic.  If your letters get lost over part of the image because the colors are too similar, you defeat the purpose.  Keeping the image and the lettering seperate works the best, although it decreases the size of the printed area.  One way to make this all look good is to stick with one really easy to read font and change the size or boldness to highlight information.  Keep it simple.  Pick out the most important information, you name, perhaps a phone number, e-mail, or website.  If in doubt, leave something out.  This is not your entire resume, just a way for people to contact you.

Start small with a few cards.  Good sources of cards in small numbers are www.vistaprint.com or www.overnightprints.com.  They both have great deals on a small number of cards.  250 business cards for $15 plus shipping or some variation.  The great part  is you can keep the general layout each time you print and simply change out your image.  I have seen artists lay out several piles of business cards with a different image used for each stack.  It can work as an opinion poll, the image that gets taken the most is a winner!

The most important thing is to get a card!  Everyone expects you to have one, live up to those expectations, keep it professional and keep making art.


“Table Vase”   Acrylic on Canvas

For years, I was the one in control, I could adjust the Horizontal and stop the Vertical from rolling.  When I first approached a Gallery, it felt like I had entered the Twilight Zone naked when everyone else had clothes. The Gallery owner has all the power, especially when you are just starting out.  You have no history with showing your work; no reputation to fall back on.   I had no control over the situation or the outcome… or so I thought.

Lucky for me, I had two things going for me.  First I was fearless and simply did not know any better, and second I had a body of work to show.  I approached a Gallery that I had admired and visited often.  This was a Gallery that carried pieces of work that I liked and seemed like a good fit for my Art.

I was so new to this process that I packed my pieces into the car, drove to the Gallery, and asked the owner if he wanted to look at my work.  I guess I figured I could live with the rejection if he said no on the spot, but did not want to go through the telephone calls.

He looked at my work, gave me some advise on matting the pieces that I have never forgotten and took some of my work into the gallery immediately.

I surely did everything wrong and it worked out anyway!  I would not recommend anything I did as a template. Learning by stumbling around is not only inefficient, it can make you look unprofessional.  I had no business cards; no artist statement.  Later I learned to have a representation of my work.  Initially it was slides as expected by Galleries and now digital images.  I also carry a small photo album (most art supply houses carry them as a “professional archival presentation book”) with images of my work so I can show to a Gallery on the spot, if the opportunity arises.  It would also be optimal to make an appointment, but if you are there and engage the owner in a conversation….

  • Rule #1   It is not productive to approach a Gallery that you have not done your homework on.  A Gallery of Western Art will not be interested in your Abstract.
  • Rule #2   Take your time to get all your ducks in a row.  That includes cards, an artist statement (no matter how brief) images of your work to show and e-mail for juries, and all of your pieces ready to go into a Gallery or Show.  By that I mean an inventory list of your work and a label on the piece with the same information.

All of these things take time, but it is worth the effort.  And if at first you don’t succeed,  Keep Making Art!


           “Blondie” Acrylic on Board

So, the big question is,  how does a ‘cop’  become an artist? 

The answer is that you were always an artist!

I studied Art, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree, but still found myself in need of a job.  I started work as a Police Officer where the job was so intense it left little time for the art to have any space.  When I became a Detective I found that the profession did really have a creative side to it;  sitting across the table from a suspect required a certain amount of acting skill and a creative way of opening a conversation.  

For without a conversation, there can be no confession!

I think that I enjoyed the work because it gave me an opportunity to really observe people up close and personal; which is some of what an artist does.  Looking at the small details has always intrigued me and it is probably why I enjoy painting close-ups instead of landscapes.

I am glad to move back to my first love of creating art.  I feel at times that I have experimented with every medium that is out there (and still feel the pull to try new things)  but I quickly found a true love of painting with Acrylics.

So, I hope to talk about all I have learned in trying to reinvent myself as an artist and all the techniques I have tried.  Perhaps you can use some of the information for your own creations or find my trials informative.  Keep making art.