These two books, by Dinotopia author James Gurney, are a wonderful resource for the realist painter. Formerly an illustrator for National Geographic, Gurney discusses a wide range of painting techniques to create imagined realms, from the utilization of maquettes, to the physics of light and its interaction with objects at different times of the day. I am including links to these books above – check them out!
The Craft Show Circuit – Selling Your Work
The holiday season is fast approaching, and many artists and artisans will be looking for ways to sell their work. I’ve participated in many different types of craft shows over the years, with many different price points and types of work available.
Craft shows that have been around a while seem to gain a following – one of the best shows I participate in is a high school craft show in its 26th year. The PTA and all of the students participate, and word of mouth for this show draws a huge crowd. I’ve also participated in shows that are new and haven’t been advertised well, with the resulting crickets.
Make sure you have several different price points available. I find that $20 is a comfortable price point for most people. Also, don’t underprice your work. Your time is valuable, and giving yourself a $3 hourly wage doesn’t benefit anyone.
Items that people can use or wear seem to do well. If people can justify the purchase by knowing that the item will be used, the item will be more likely to sell.
Items with meaning seem to do well. Products with symbols of the local city or state, birth or anniversary years, or meaningful sayings do great.
Art, unless the fair is specifically an art fair with wealthy clientele, doesn’t always do well. It is a hard purchase to justify on the spot, and usually more expensive than most people are willing to spend at a craft show. If the show I’m doing is just a local craft show, I’ll leave the art home or just bring a few small pieces.
Every so often, I’ll post some links to products I like, with a short description of each. Here’s the first.
Anyone who has talked to me about painting knows I love these panels and have used them for over 10 years. These are pre-gessoed masonite, with a slightly textured surface. Much smoother than canvas, they allow me to get a lot of detail into my miniature paintings, without being so slick that the paint slides around. For framing, they are thin, so you can actually use regular store-bought frames with these, and just pop out the glass and pop in the panel.
Sketching in Museums
A few months ago, I visited the Art Institute of Chicago with a few fellow artists to view a medieval art exhibition there. We all brought our sketchbooks and wandered around the hall looking for subjects to sketch. I sat down on the floor and sketched the model of knight and armored horse for the next two hours.
Finding unusual places to sketch, such as museums, may offer you a chance to draw unusual and complex subjects. The foreshortening, the angle, and the costuming all presented challenges that had to be solved within a relatively crowded environment. People would walk in front of the subject constantly, and my angle was limited to where I could sit unobtrusively to draw. However, working through these challenges all provide growth opportunities as an artist, and I left feeling a sense of accomplishment in having drawn this complex subject.
By giving yourself the opportunity to try challenging subjects in less than ideal conditions, you will develop resiliency and grit as an artist, and you will open yourself up to the possibility of expanding your ability and subject matter.
Sketching from the Masters
We all know the work of Leonardo Da Vinci and other acclaimed Old Masters. His drawings and paintings have stood the test of time and are now hailed as some of the best work anywhere. What better way to learn to draw than from Da Vinci himself?
Select a sketch that you find particularly appealing, and pull out your sketchbook. Observe the construction lines that might still be visible – those light initial tentative lines that artists make when first starting a piece. Decide what type of medium was used – chalk? Graphite? Will you decide to use the same medium, or will you try to reproduce it with something different?
Work from large shapes to small. If the sketch is of a head, observe the shape of the sphere that forms it. If the hair is in a complex braid, sketch just the basic forms initially. All of these initial forms should be done very lightly as they just provide the structure. Details will come later.
As you add more detail, start to strengthen and darken the form. Build these up slowly as it is easier to add more graphite than it is to take it away. Switch to softer, darker graphite as you move to areas that need to be dark.
Finally, add your details. Pay attention to the direction of wisps of hair, or other details that make this sketch special. Ask yourself what qualities drew you to that particular sketch in the first place, and make sure you are working to replicate those qualities in your piece.
Finally, don’t just stop with one sketch! The first one might not have all the qualities that you are looking for, and that’s ok! The more you practice this technique, the better you will get.
Daily Painting – Finding your Subject
The other day, I working at the local co-op gallery that I am a part of, and was scheduled to demo oil painting for customers that stopped by. There was one problem – I had all of my painting supplies, but I didn’t bring anything to paint! Luckily, my lunch came with a lime garnish that then became a lovely little painting. Another day, all I had on hand were some extra tubes of paint from my kit, which then became my subject.
Alla prima sketch paintings are great for practice because they pull you out of your typical subject comfort zone. When I go in search of subjects for these small paintings, I usually don’t know what I’ll end up painting that day.
I highly recommend doing these small paintings from life as they allow you to observe objects in varying lighting conditions, with varying shadow qualities. Replicate what you see as best as you can, but feel free to put some artistic personality in these works. Because you’re not committing to a large, extensive painting, you can try out new colors or application techniques.