Monday, July 14, 2014

Great Falls Workshop

My workshop in Great Falls still has a few more spots open if anyone wants to get in at the last minute. The workshop helps raise money for the Great Falls Foundation for the Arts.

The class is for every level of artist and will focus on improving all aspects of the students painting while maintaining their personal style. All my instruction is individualized for each participants level and personal vision. I demo everyday and make sure everyone gets plenty of attention while they work.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Uninterrupted Time

Armand Cabrera

If you are serious about being an accomplished artist uninterrupted time is important to the success of any painting endeavor.  When you have a series of interconnected problems to solve like you do with painting a picture your undivided attention is paramount.

 This goes double for people learning how to paint or those trying to improve their painting ability. If you want to be a painter you have to put in quality time and effort not just go through the motions in a haphazard nonchalant approach.

No matter how good of a painter you become you never want to coast on your ability. Each painting should leave you mentally exhausted and emotionally and spiritually drained at the end of each working session.  As one of my workshop instructors used to say if it doesn't do that you aren't doing it right.

For me carving out enough time to accomplish my painting commitments means not answering the phone, staying off the computer and just getting down to the business of picture making. Inevitably this usually means late hours when our busy house is at rest the rest of the world is asleep and no other living thing is competing for my time and focus.

This applies to outdoor work as well as studio work. While I am willing to be pleasant to people who  show an interest in my work  I politely remind them that I have a limited amount of time to finish my painting while the light is changing and I really can’t talk too long while working. Most people are respectful of my time and understand the situation I'm in.

Technology seems to be the biggest distraction for people these days. All of the information that is available to us scatters our thinking and breaks one’s concentration. Of course personal devices are set to chime or beep to let you know some new useless piece of drivel that could have waited is available to you right now if you would just look. I also believe that overuse of these conveniences trains a person to not be able to focus for long periods of time.  The only cure is discipline and the knowledge that unless your Warren Buffet or Bill gates what you’re doing doesn't necessitate that much importance and actually keeps you from achieving your goals in the long term. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Cult of Ignorance and Entitlement

Armand Cabrera

"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."~ Isaac Asimov

Nowhere do Asimov’s words wring truer than in the visual arts.
I have had a few discussions with friends lately about being an artist and the difficulties that choosing that lifestyle entails. The years of work that goes into developing your own voice through style and applying that to your own properties. 

How sad that gaining recognition invites theft by people with little or no talent for real creativity beyond mimicry. Those who can’t or won’t study enough to stand on their own. Instead that lack of ability giving them humility, it gives them a sense of entitlement; that is the culture we now live in.

This is  the real cult of ignorance. The people who think other creators hard work is just something for them to pirate and exploit without paying for the privilege of its use. These people are nothing more than parasites and don’t deserve any ones respect or support.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Split Rail Fence Demo

I had a few people show up for the Free  demo yesterday Out at the old stone bridge in Battlefield Park Manassas. I painted a 16 x 20 painting from start to finish. Total painting time just under two hours. I am crunching on an art deadline right now and will not have process shots from the demo until a later post.

Some people wanted to know what instructional books I would recommend for landscape painting Here are the books I mentioned yesterday. While there are many books out there on the subject this is my short list for people serious about painting landscapes from life. Jim Gurneys book is not a landscape painting book or how to book but has lots of information on representational painting and should not be missed.

All are currently available in print except the Trevor Chamberlain book which can only be found used and the landscape painting book by Birge Harrison  (this book is available free in electronic form) There are bad print on demand copies of the Harrison book out there but don't buy them they aren't worth the price.

Hardings Lessons on Drawing  by J. D Harding

Perspective for Artists by Rex Vicat Cole

Composition by Arthur Wesley Dow

Carlsons Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Calrson

Landscape Painting by Birge Harrison

Oil Painting Pure and Simple by Trevor Chamberlain with Ron Ranson

Color and Light A guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Competitions and ­the Business of Art

Armand Cabrera

I get asked to do a lot of competitions; these days for the most part I politely decline. I find most of these shows poorly run and badly structured for an artist to make money at. The prize money is always a gamble and while I have my share of ribbons from past competitions, a shows worth isn't measured by prizes, it is measured by sales and exposure for the participating artists. Professional artists need consistent clients.

Steady income is a must for professionals; I make my living from creating art for clients. As such I have criteria that shows must meet before I will apply or accept an invite from.

What percent does the venue take from sales and what do they do for that percentage?

When I was doing Plein Air competitions and other shows the percentage for the venue was 35 to 40%, sales were good and there were ad campaigns purchased by the venues in all of the major magazines and local news coverage. This was paid from their percentage of fees collected from submissions. Now venues want 50% for that they better have a good track record of sales for all their artists not just a few.

Is the number of artists limited and is the show really juried for quality?

I like being in shows of my peers or my betters the converse is not beneficial to me in anyway. When you are starting to establish a career entering lots of competitions is good. As your career matures though its better to be more selective about where you show and who you show with.

What percentages of paintings sell at the show?

 If it’s lower than 40 percent it’s not a good venue for sales. It’s geared toward making money from the artist’s submissions and participation, not selling the artist’s work. Its also important to know how many of the participating artists sold work. Its easy to skew that number with one or two popular painters while the rest sell nothing.

What is the average price point for sales of paintings at the show?

 Before I say yes to a show I need to know that my price point is well represented? There is no good reason for me to travel across the country to be in a show where the average 12 x 16 painting is sold for a quarter of my price for the same size work. This is not pretentious this is practical for a professional.

Can you as an artist break even or make money at a show?

When you add up jury fees, shipping costs, travel expenses, meals lodging, supplies and framing do you still come out ahead? 

It’s easy to figure what you need to make to break even or turn a profit. Say you have a five day painting event and to get in there was a $50 dollar jury fee. It’s a  distance you can drive, so you take your car. $200 round trip to the event, $200 for gas while you are there, $100 a night for hotel and $40 dollars a day for meals.  Say $1000 dollars for the trip when you figure art supplies and frames too.

The venue takes 50% so you need to sell 2000 worth of paintings just to break even. How many paintings is that at your price point? Say it’s three. Does the venue allow you to show more than three paintings for the weekend or one day sale? If not, the best you can do is break even, even if you sell out.

But I’m sure I can win a prize. Great, let’s look at prizes, most venues now only give cash awards for the top prize, all the other prizes are gift certificates for products. So say you get a prize worth $500 but you don't sell, you just got $500 worth of art supplies for a $1000 of show expenses. Warren Buffet you are not.

Competitions can be fun. You can make new friends and get a chance to compare your ability to other artists in your field but if you’re in this as a professional you have to treat it as a business and look at your bottom line. Make sure the competition venue offers you something you and your career need before signing up.