Jul 28, 2012

Making Art is a Lonely Business

Artists spend a lot of time in their studios, often alone. For social people this is definitely unpleasant. But, even for relatively reclusive people, this is not really healthy.

Human beings are social creatures, like it or not. Even if you think you don't like being around people, the fact is, you really need to be sometimes. It's just human nature.

I am not an outgoing person. I am not particularly social. I don't like big crowds or parties. But, even being relatively reclusive, being completely alone is not always fun. I don't necessarily want to socialize, but I like knowing someone's there ... somewhere.

I have a husband, and a dog. My dog keeps me company while my husband is at work all day. She's a wonderful, sweet dog. She'll lie by my side all day while I paint. That's great. But she's not a human.

Sometimes I just need to be around people. Sometimes I want to interact with them, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I just want to have them around somewhere, even if I don't necessarily want to interact with them.

So, after hours and hours of work in the lonely studio, what do you do when you need to get out and be around people?

Artist associations are a good start. In many areas, there are lots of local art associations to become members of that have monthly meetings, as well as occasional shows and outings.

Unfortunately, in some areas there are not a lot of active associations, so what then? For me, it seems, there are a lot fewer active artist associations in the Seattle area, where I now live, than there were in the Los Angeles area, where I used to live. So what now?

Well, what other things are you interested in? Think about other things you like which may be art related in some way. I am a wildlife artist so I can look for groups in my area that are interested in wildlife. For example the Eastside Audubon group in my area has weekly bird watching outings.

There's also the local Sierra Club for nature lovers.

If you're not a wildlife artist, what is related to your art? Do you do landscapes? Join a plein-air group. Do you do portraits? Many local art supply stores, schools, or art associations have weekly life drawing sessions. Do you do florals? Join a garden club or your local botanical society.

If you can't find something related to your art, consider other things you like. I know many artists feel if it's not art related, they shouldn't be doing it. They need to be living and breathing art 24/7. But you can't, and shouldn't, live in an art bubble. You need to be around people occasionally, whether it's art related or not. So consider groups that have things you're interested in, even if they aren't art related. If you're not sure where to find groups in your area that have similar interests, there's always Meetup.com. You can find groups of just about any interest there, from book lovers to tornado chasers.

And remember, sometimes being around non-artists is a better way of networking. If you're a landscape artist and only spend your free time around other landscape artists, you're not likely to meet new buyers there. The other landscape artists already have their walls full of their own art. You need to connect with people who love landscapes but aren't artists. Groups like the Sierra Club, or your local botanical society, are more likely to connect you to people who love landscape art and might actually want to buy yours.

If none of this works for you, remember you can always just go sit and draw or paint in a park by yourself. Sometimes just watching other people walking, talking, laughing, and playing can be uplifting.

Jul 27, 2012

Online Art Sales Only for Small Paintings?

I've heard a lot of people say Etsy is a good place to sell artwork online. But looking around there it seems those doing the most sales are selling crafty stuff such as knitted yarn toys, jewelry, pottery, or vintage items, mostly under $50. I don't see many painters selling much there. And if they are selling paintings, it's mostly small inexpensive work.

I've also heard people say DailyPaintworks is a good place to sell paintings. But even those artists who sell frequently there only seem to be selling tiny works for $100 or less.

Same with ebay. Those who sell any at all seem to sell mainly very small paintings for a couple hundred dollars or less....usually on the "less" side.

Is that pretty much what you have to stick with to sell online, paintings 8"x10" or smaller so you can sell them dirt cheap? I haven't seen sales for larger pieces priced at $500+ on any of these sites.

Many artists supposedly use the strategy of selling lots of small, inexpensive works in order to build a following, some of whom eventually move on to buy larger works. But I don't see the sales of these larger works there.

I'd wonder if artists aren't selling larger works by other means. But it appears even those who do paint small and large are still using DPW and ebay, etc, as their shopping carts for their larger works, and those sites just don't show large works in the sales history. So even if they paint small ones to build a following it doesn't seem to result in sales of larger pieces, only more frequent sales of small ones.

Am I right?

No, not necessarily.

Why? Because I've also heard from artists who say buyers don't like to purchase larger works through these third-party check-outs. They usually contact the artist directly and make purchases behind the scenes. They like direct contact with the artist. They want a more personal interaction and communication about an expensive piece in order to feel comfortable with spending more money.

That makes sense to me.

I was wondering if I would spend much money through some third-party checkout myself and decided I would probably want to contact the artist first, too. In fact, being an artist myself, I would probably deal with them directly to save them the fees and commission associated with these third party sites. :)

Maybe even non-artist buyers sometimes think this way too.

What's your experience been with online sales? Do you only sell small works? Or have you had successful sales of larger works online?

Jul 26, 2012

Two Hour Paint Sketch - Elephant

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm trying to force myself to do mini paintings within 1 hour as an exercise to loosen up my tight style a bit. So far I've not been able to complete a painting within 1 hour. My previous post took 1.5 hours. This one took a good 2 hours. But, even so, it's been a good exercise. It's still forced me to let go of the nit-picky details and focus more on color and form.

I must also point out that I have only painted an elephant once in my life before this one, and that was like 20 years ago, so I figured 2 hours for a subject I never paint isn't too bad.

6"x8" oil on canvas

Available for purchase here.

Jul 25, 2012

One Hour Paint Sketch - Elk

There was a debate on a FaceBook page recently about hyper-realism vs "painterly" in wildlife art. Tight artists sometimes can't see the forest for the trees, so to speak, and need to step back sometimes. That's a whole topic in itself, so I won't go there. But somewhere in the responses someone suggested trying to finish a mini painting within one hour to force yourself "loosen up" a bit.
So I thought I'd give it a go. I didn't quite make it. This one took me about an hour and a half. But it is definitely more loose than my normal painting so it was a good exercise. Here's what I did:

"Fire in the Mist"
5"x7" oil on canvas.

Here I was focusing more on gesture and complimentary colors instead of detail. Movement and contrasting orange against blue.
Have you tried the "One hour" exercise?

This painting available here.

Jul 23, 2012

Colorful Daisy Fawn Painting

Finished up my little colorful fawn mini painting. This painting is not as realistic or detailed as I usually paint. It's not very detailed because, not only is it a very small painting, but I was trying to focus more on getting vibrant colors instead of detail in this one.

Oil on Gessobord

This painting is available for purchase here.

Jul 22, 2012

Coloring Book Page - Red Fox Pup

Another coloring book page for the kids!

As with the previous coloring pages, have your kids download it, print it out, and color it or paint it any way they want, realistic or wild and crazy! (Click on the image to see a larger version. Then right-click on the larger image and select "save image as..." to save it to your hard drive.) If they want to color it realistically they can use the image below of my original painting as a reference and try to match the colors.

Jul 21, 2012

Photographing Artwork

I was going to write a blog post about photographing artwork properly ... if and when I ever figure it out! lol

But I don't need to. This article by Mark Pemberton says it as well as anything I've read. I suggest you read it if you are struggling to get good photos of your paintings.

Jul 20, 2012

New Colorful Deer Painting - Work in Progress

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my favorite artists is Julie Chapman because she can paint a brown animal without actually using any brown paint. For example, what color is a bison? Brown?
Now what color is Julie's bison here?

What colors do you see? I see pretty much every color of the rainbow. I see various shade of blue, red, orange, green, yellow, and purple. Almost no brown. But I'd bet if you asked most people, "What color is that bison?" they'd say brown. We know and recognize this bison as a brown animal despite the fact that there's almost no brown in that painting. I think Julie's an amazing artist for being able to pull that off so beautifully!

Inspired by Julie Chapman's colorful art, I'm attempting to use less brown, and more of other colors, in my painting. In keeping with my anti-brown-painting movement, I'm working on a little colorful practice painting of a deer using no pre-mixed brown. (Sorry Burnt Sienna! You don't get to play this time!) I'm using only the three primaries and white, and attempting not to mix any of these colors to the point of brown. This is more difficult than you'd think!

This is what I have so far.

I still haven't, obviously, mastered the color technique as Julie has. My little deer is still a lot more "brown" than Julie's bison. But, it's also a lot less brown than some of my other paintings so at least it's progress!

But, my deer painting's not done yet, so who knows. And, she's actually supposed to be a cute little fawn, so I'll add some spots as well as some other details as well as, hopefully, some more color.

Check back for the finished painting soon!

Jul 18, 2012

Mosquito Bite Relief

I'm a bit off topic today. This post isn't about art. But, since we like wildlife art we probably enjoy being out in nature. Some of the down sides to being out in nature are pests like mosquitoes.

Since we moved from our "city" house to our "rural" house we get to enjoy a lot more of nature. Besides a lot more birds here, we also have deer, coyote, fox, rabbits, and beavers. Unfortunately, we also have more mosquitoes.

I need to use a repellant if I spend much time in the yard in the evenings, which I often do now that we have a garden to water. It's not like we're swarmed with mosquitoes here. But if there is even one mosquito around, it will find you.

I don't use DEET. I find the natural eucalyptus repellant works pretty well. But once in a while I miss a spot. And, sure enough, any mosquito around has a radar zeroed in on the one spot I miss. It's hard to get repellant everywhere. There's always some tiny spot not covered. And mosquitoes are determined to find that tiniest spot! It's incredible. I've even had them bite me between my fingers!

So, no matter how hard I try, I get bit sometimes.

It really sucks that mosquito bites have to itch incessantly for days on end. Couldn't they itch for an hour or two and go away? Really!

I have tried many over the counter items to relieve the itching without much success. I've tried hydrocortisone, ointment, Benadryl™ cream, and After Bite®. None of those really helped much.

I once had a bee sting and tea tree oil worked great on that so I thought I'd try that on my mosquito bites. It helped some. But not a lot.

Aloe vera is known for relieving skin irritations so I tried that too. It also helped some, but nothing dramatic.

Then once I put the tea tree oil on and, frustrated with the lack of significant relief, slathered on the aloe vera shortly after. About 5-10 minutes later I felt so much better! The combination of tea tree oil and aloe vera together seems to work so much better than anything else I've tried. For me, at least, there is significant relief within 10 minutes. Within a half hour the itching has pretty much stopped (unless I scratch it again!).

So, there's something for you to try. Of course, it's best if you can avoid getting bitten in the first place. But, no matter how careful you are, it's just not possible 100% of the time. So, if you do get bit, and none of those anti-itch ointments seem to be working, try the tea tree oil and aloe vera combination. You just might notice a difference!

Jul 17, 2012

Inexpensive Art Paint Tube Organizer

For a while now I've had my paint tubes in a box on my new workstation. I thought that would work fine since they're all right there within easy reach. But I soon realized it wasn't working well. Somehow, Murphy's Law I guess, the color I wanted always seemed to be hidden somewhere at the bottom of the heap, even though I'd just had it on top a short time ago. I realized I needed a paint tube organizer so I could see all my paint tube colors easily and find the one I want more quickly. Digging through the pile every time was getting frustrating. I needed a better solution.

I didn't have the table top space to just lay them all out side by side. I needed some sort of display stand. I looked around online and couldn't find anything that was really what I had in mind. I'd heard of artists using jewelry door hangers for their art tube but I had nothing to hang it on near my workspace, so that wouldn't really work. I wanted some sort of desk-top rack sort of thing where tubes could stand on end with their colors and labels clearly displayed but couldn't find anything like that on art supply websites.

One day making breakfast, when I was about to toss the empty egg carton into the recycle bin, the idea of it serving as a tube rack came to me. I flipped it over, looked at it, and wondered if cutting holes in the bottoms of the cups would work. Interestingly, it's the perfect size for your standard 40ml paint tube. Here's what I came up with:

It's just a simple cardboard egg cartoon, the top removed and the bottom half flipped upside down, with holes cut out of the egg cups. Now I can easily see the colors on the tube to find them quickly and keep them organized.

And, the best part is, it's free and easy to make!

Jul 16, 2012

Eagle Painting Background Revision Progress

I got a bit more done on the background revision of my "too-brown" eagle painting. I darkened the sky a bit from my previous revision. It just seemed more dramatic with a darker, almost stormy, sky contrasting against the eagle's highlights. The golden color of the eagle's neck feathers contrast nicely with the blue sky.

Yes, I really did redo the whole sky from the previous revision, painting around all the feathers yet again! Maybe I'm crazy, but the first sky revision just wasn't exciting enough. I wanted more contrast.

Here's the last revision for comparison.

And here's the original version again.

Tomorrow, more work on the mountains and trees below. It won't be long now, I hope!

Jul 15, 2012

Artist Associations

Today I'm just going to rant. Yes, I'm in that kind of mood. Today has not been a good day for a number of reasons and this is just one of them.

I had been a member of several local artist associations in the past when I was living in CA. They were in every city, literally, and very active. They had monthly meetings, frequent shows, social gatherings, photo-shoot and exhibit outings, etc. When I moved to WA I was expecting to find something similar. Sadly, artist associations are few and far between here. I finally did find one local one and joined it.

Finally, I thought, some artists to interactive with!

Yeah, so I thought.


This association (I won't be mean enough to mention the name) appears to be less than worthless. They say they have a newsletter. Three months now I've been a member I've not received one. I emailed about this 3 or 4 days ago and have received no response so far.

They say they have weekly plein-air outings. I've never been notified of a single one so far.

I asked if there were monthly meetings. I'm told, "No. There used to be. But no one came so we quit having them."

Huh? Why? What's wrong with your meetings? Do they suck that badly? If no one's coming, how about changing things around a bit then? You'd rather just throw your hands in the air and give up?

I asked if there is an email alias or forum where I can interact with other members. "No, we don't have anything like that set up."


I explained I would like to interact with other artists. I'd like to say, "Hey, I'm going to ___ art show next weekend! Anyone want to join me?" But they tell me there's no way to communicate that.

Is that too much to ask?

I'm like, Ok, what do you offer then? What are my membership benefits?

Well, so far all they offer is a weekly life drawing session ... for $10. Uh...what?? I can get that at the local art supply store. Seriously. They have life drawing classes I can pay for that I don't also have to pay a membership fee for. Why am I paying for an art association membership when I have to pay extra each week to attend the one and only activity they seem to have? Shouldn't that be included as a membership benefit?

I am so frustrated with this group I'm seriously considering asking for my membership fee to be refunded.

Is that unreasonable?

In CA I found artist associations fun, inspiring, and educational. Here I feel like I just bought a dead horse.

Are you a member of any local artist associations? What benefits do you get from them? Are they worth it?

Jul 13, 2012

Produce as Artwork

Tonight I wanted to talk a bit about produce ... fruits and vegetables ... in artwork. What made me think of this is the fact that, for the first time in many, many years, I have a vegetable garden. I was out harvesting some of my delicious home-grown produce today and it got me thinking about all the still life artwork I've seen. Much of it is of produce, particularly fruit. I love a beautiful bowl of cherries as much as the next person but, why would I buy painting of it when I already have a lovely bowl of real cherries on my countertop? I see it, right there, in reality. Why wouldn't I rather have art that is something I can't have in my house, like a waterfall, or a covered bridge?
Mind you, I am not dissing still life artwork in any way! I actually like it. I'm just trying to figure out why. It just seems odd to me that I'd want a painting of something already in my house. You'd think we'd all prefer to have paintings we can't have in our house, like landscapes, seascapes, wildlife, trains, planes, fantasies, etc. Yet still life is one of the most popular art subjects, both as what artists create, as well as what collectors buy. Why is that?
Again, I am not saying still life is not good art. I do like it. I'm just wondering why we want a picture of lemons on our wall when we already have them in the fruit bowl on the counter. What is it about such still life artworks that appeal to us so much?

Jul 10, 2012

My Anti-Brown Movement Continues!

Oh, no! I'm at it again! Revising old paintings!

In my effort to eliminate mostly brown paintings I couldn't help but be bothered by my most brown painting of all, this golden eagle painting!

I think when I originally did this painting I was experimenting with a monochromatic color palette. I think I achieved that! Unfortunately, it's not the prettiest palette. It needed a makeover. So I took out some non-brown paints and a brush and went at it today!

The fun part was painting in between and around all the feathers!

Uh, no. I'm being facetious here. It was a pain in the bum!

Anyway, I plan to have blue sky and clouds throughout most of the background, mountains and trees in the lower background, something like this:

What do you think? Is it crazy to revise an old painting this much? Is it better to go just learn from it and move on? Or is it good to go back and right your wrongs?

Jul 9, 2012

My Anti-Brown Movement

I have decided many of my paintings from the past just have way too much brown in them. It makes sense. I paint brown animals in brown dirt with brown tree trunks behind them. It should be mostly brown, right?


One of my favorite artists is Julie Chapman. She can paint a totally brown animal without using any brown and, yet, we still see it as brown. I think that's brilliant! I'm not quite sure how she does it. But rather than jump in too deep and try to paint brown without painting brown, I figured I'd start by just painting things that aren't brown, like green grass and blue sky. That's a good start, right?

Anyway, here's something I'm working on that's not all brown. It's a meadow scene with deer, reminiscent of Bambi's mother trying to coax Bambi out onto the meadow for the first time.

So far I only have the grassy meadow and misty morning sunshine. Here's a quick Photoshop mock-up of where the deer would be. As you can see here, we have a doe and two little fawns. One is bold and ventures out onto the meadow with its mother. The other is a little timid and needs some coaxing.

I think it will be a cute scene. But the point I'm actually trying to make here is that I'm trying to avoid an all-brown scene. The background is mostly blue and green. The deer, of course, are brown animals. But I'm going to try to avoid painting them with just brown. Perhaps a more golden hue will contrast nicely against the blue-green background. We shall see. Stay tuned!

Firefly - Flower Foal

My little flower foal mini painting was sold and mailed off to his new home today. I hope he will be happy there! LOL

Actually, what I hope even more is that the new owner enjoys him!

I named him "Firefly" because of the sunlight glow around his tail.

Oil on Gessobord

Jul 8, 2012

White Tiger Painting - Finished

In my previous post I wondered if the tiger painting would be better with more grass, less grass, or no grass. After pondering it a day I finally decided it needed just a little more grass. But not too much more! I didn't want the grass to become too dominant an element. I think it just needed to taper off rather than drop off suddenly. And there needed to be a few blades of grass in front of his chest to make it feel like he was brushing up against the grass instead of just walking around it.

I need title suggestions for this painting! I don't know what to call it. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

White Tiger
Oil on multimedia board
Fine Art Prints & note cards available here.

Jul 7, 2012

White Tiger Painting - Almost Finished!

My white tiger painting is almost done!

I always had the intention of putting some grass in the foreground. But now that I did, I'm not sure I like it. I can't decide if it's too much grass, or not enough. Maybe a few more blades in front of his chest and a few in the background between the rocks? Or maybe it was better with no grass. Ugh. I can't decide!

What do you think? More grass? Less grass? No grass?

White Tiger
Oil on multimedia board

Jul 6, 2012

Art Runs In The Family

Because of the holiday it's been a few days since I got any painting done. On the 4th I spent the day at a friend's house having some good food, good conversation, and good wine. Can't complain about that! :)

On the 5th relatives from out of town came over. More good food, good conversation. But instead of good wine, we had good art. My sister, and two of my nephews, are also artists. My nephew brought me some prints of his recent works. I love them! Take a look. He has a much more "imaginative" approach to wildlife art I'd say!

He didn't tell me what they're called so I'll just call this one "Whale fishing".

This one I'll call "Elephant Tree" I guess.

Very creative stuff!

But that's not all. My other nephew is also an artist. Here's a mural he did.

Then, of course, is my sister. Hers is a more whimsical style she uses for children's book illustration.

Here's her recent book, We Eat Food That's Fresh:

To see more of their work visit their websites:

Sam Arneson's Art
Dominic Arneson's Art
Cathy Arneson's Art

Jul 4, 2012

Artists for Conservation Festival 2012

I'm happy to announce my artwork below was accepted into the 2012 Annual Art of Conservation exhibit!

Title: It's a Big World Out There
Subject: Red fox pup
Size: 12"x16"
Medium: Oil on Canvas

Jul 3, 2012

Book Illustration Originals - Northern Refuge

It's time to let some artwork go that I've been hanging onto for years. Doing children's book illustrations gave the artworks some sentimental value and I was not willing to part with those originals for a long time. But, times have changed and it's time to let go and move on. So now my book illustration originals are up for sale.

Due to copyright limitations, these images will never be available as fine art prints or on licensed products. So if you want one, other than the books, the originals are the only way to get them. You will own a one-of-a-kind!

I illustrated a total of three children's books. The first one I'm offering up for sale here is called Northern Refuge, written by Audrey Fraggalosch, published by Soundprints for The Nature Conservancy.

It follows the life of a mother moose raising her baby. A good book for ages 3-7.

Jul 1, 2012

White Tiger Painting -WIP2

Got a bit more done on my white tiger painting today. More work on the face. More stripes, toned up the eyes a bit. I still need to finish up the left side of his face and left ear. Need to add whiskers. I might put some blades of grass in front. Then he should be done.

Here's the previous version for reference. The colors are actually more accurate here. In the most recent photo it was night and I had only artificial light. In the earlier version I had natural daylight so the colors are more true.

This guy should be finished up very soon!

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