Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Importance of Archiving Artwork

Armand Cabrera

                                  The Spring House                                                                        Newell Convers Wyeth

Archiving work is an important part of an artist’s workflow. Whether you work traditionally or digitally archiving finished work helps you to keep track of the amount of work completed year to year. You see your progress or lack thereof and you have a chance to generate passive income from images that have already been sold depending on the original use and contract.

 Over time older worked can be re-purposed if you have it saved. I now derive about ten percent of my income from licensing deals from images old and new. This is passive income, it doesn't cost me anything other than the space I need to store it. 

Archiving has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years. Things have shifted from physical to digital and not always for the better but with a little effort and a reasonable expense you can save most of what you have created over the years.

There is no such thing as a permanent archive system some are better than others but all are susceptible to time and damage from external and internal accidents and decay.
I keep the highest resolution available to me at the time and I store it in a safe place that I have easy access to. It’s important to store and check your archived work from time to time making sure it hasn't been corrupted and lost. Redundancy is important but nothing is fool proof.

I have a tiered approach to my archives I start  and end with optical media like CD or DVD. While the stuff I am using is current, I save them to magnetic media like external storage drives when I am working. I keep nothing on my computer; everything is stored on some form of media. This way if I do get a virus or I’m hacked I have at least a raw original version of the work. I do not yet use cloud services for storage although I do use them for transferring work to clients and other artists.

Next week I’ll talk about what is available, the issues with permanence for each type of media for you to archive work and the relative costs associated with the different methods of archiving.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas and best wishes for the holidays.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lady Elizabeth Butler (ne’e Thompson)

By Armand Cabrera

Elizabeth Thompson was born in Lausanne Switzerland in 1846. She was the oldest of two daughters of Thomas James Thompson and his second wife Christiana Weller. Her mother was an amateur artist and Elizabeth showed an interest in drawing at the age of five. The family spent their summers in the Italian Riviera and the children were home schooled. After formal studies in England the family returned to Italy where Elizabeth began study with Giuseppe Bellucci in Florence in 1869. By 1870 she was painting religious subjects and portraits of friends. She also sketched in pen and pencil and watercolor. Here sketches were mostly soldiers and men in battle.

In 1874 she submitted the painting Roll Call to the Royal Academy. The painting became a huge success for the young painter with critics and the public alike. Huge crowds gathered to see it and it was so popular the Academy sent it on tour. Multiple people bid to own it and the painting was eventually purchased by Queen Victoria. The Queen allowed engravings to be made of the image and prints were sold to the public.

Almost overnight Elizabeth became a much sought after artist. She continued to paint military subjects to great acclaim. Elizabeth made sure her paintings were as accurate as possible. Because of her fame and success many of the men who had taken place in the battles she depicted would pose for her paintings in their uniforms.

Her career changed the view of women painters and the idea of what military paintings should be about. John Ruskin who had proclaimed he thought no woman was capable of painting to a professional level publically recanted his statement after viewing Elizabeth’s work. Her paintings were not just action scenes of battles but focused on the human elements of suffering and bravery and the individuals taking part in the conflict.

In 1877 Elizabeth married Major William Butler. She had six children. Elizabeth traveled with her husband through Africa, the Middle East and Europe as he carried out his military service. After the Boer Wars (1880-81 and 1899-1902) the interest in military painting dwindled and though Elizabeth continued to paint, twentieth century taste turned away from realism to modernism.
Elizabeth Thompson Butler died in 1933 at the age of 87.

A Dictionary of European Genre Painting
Phillip Hook and Mark Poltimore
The Antique Collectors Club 1986

Lady Butler Battle Artist 1846-1933
Paul Usherwood and Jenny Spencer Smith
Sutton publishing LTD 1987

An Autobiography
By Elizabeth Butler
Constable & Co. LTD 1922


I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism.
~ Lady Elizabeth Butler

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Business of Fraud

Armand Cabrera

Fraud is big business. Companies in other countries steal American intellectual property, counterfeit goods and violate copyrights all the time and this costs Americans and American companies 500 to 700 billion dollars a year in lost revenue. Counterfeiting and piracy are a growing problem that translates to almost a million American jobs lost each year. People think that stealing content doesn't affect them directly but it does.

It’s not just Asian countries like China that are stealing from the USA there are US companies and businesses that are complicit in the theft of copyrighted material.  They profit either by reselling pirated or forged materials or they are hosting internet sites for the sale of these violators. Galleries and art brokers buy this stuff wholesale and then resell it. If you are an artist in a gallery and you have seen or know about this going on in the gallery then you are as much a part of the problem as the people doing it directly. As Edmond Burk said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Watch this video about an aspen gallery allegedly using Chinese made copies of known artists works to sell to unsuspecting buyers whose only concern is a cheaper price than the original.

Places like the city of Dafen in China copy thousands of works of art a year selling them at a penny on the dollar to unscrupulous galleries in the USA.

 Look at this company selling large paintings by known artists that would normally sell in the tens of thousands of dollars for less than 100 dollars.

Artists need to contact their representatives in government and tell them that these kinds of business dealing must be stopped. We must hold the American companies that are complicit in these thefts liable and shut them down and expose them for the criminals they are.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Giving Thanks

by Armand Cabrera

I hope everyone is safe and rested after their thanksgiving holiday last Thursday. After all the food, friends and the start of the Christmas/ December holiday shopping season for many people, sometimes it’s hard to take time to reflect on the things we can be thankful for.

I know with the economy here in the USA and many people are still struggling financially, especially artists. I know in many places in the world the struggles of Americans seem petty in comparison to their daily lives. No matter what our individual challenges are, its good to take stock and appreciate what is good in our lives.

I started an art career late in life compared to some people. For many years I worked in construction, electronics or factory jobs to pay my bills and I painted at home when the urge compelled me. I was in my early thirties before I could make a living as an artist.

I think in some ways this was a good thing because it gives me perspective. I know what it is like to do hard physical work for a living and I am always grateful for the life I have now. I know what it is like to struggle as an artist in obscurity and what it is like to have recognition and the respect of my peers and patrons.  My art has given me many things to be thankful for. I am especially thankful for the friends I have and the opportunities to continue to practice what I love.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bad Dreams Volume 1

Bad dreams is the title of my friend Gary Winnick's graphic novel.He wants to get it published in hard copy and has a Kickstarter campaign to help him accomplish that goal.

  Here  is a link where you can read more about what it is and all of the really cool stuff you can get for supporting its publication.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding a personal view

Armand Cabrera

The question about what makes good subject matter for a painting always comes up in my classes. I my view painting breaks down into two basic philosophies that are polar opposites with many variations in between them.

One idea is the Subject with a capitol S this is usually something grand, dramatic or very complex. In these types of paintings everything is in service to the subject and handling is secondary. You see realists mostly in this camp. Their focus is on illusion and not so much stylistic interpretation in their mark making. Even though this is the case it is still a personal view and the individuality manifest itself in other ways.

The opposite idea is the handling is the goal and the subject is secondary. The handling takes an ordinary subject or no subject at all and makes it interesting. You see looser representational painters and nonrepresentational painters fall into this category. These painters like leaving visible marks that call attention to the process not the subject. The complexity is in the abstract arrangements of surface quality and color and edge.

Of course these are the extremes and there is everything in between too. Most people fall somewhere toward the middle of these ideas, where either subject or handling dominates but both are integral to the paintings success.

 The importance of understanding this is to help the artist decide what kind of painter they are and guide them to what they love to do. To help them find where they fit between those philosophies if at all?  Finding a personal view makes a better painter because a painting that is heartfelt and honest in its approach and interest will find some aspect of the truth of a thing. In my mind that is where all good painting comes from.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Honoring the Social Contract

Armand Cabrera

I've noticed some interesting ideas floating around now about what I've always thought of as work ethic and what I was thought to believe about the social contract. I was taught growing up that I could have whatever I wanted as long as I made it myself or paid for it. I don’t need other people’s ideas or talent or stuff. When I honor others right to make a living from their work, I protect my own right to the same. The social contract is secure. It’s a philosophy that is pretty straight forward and simple.

Yes, some people had better advantages than I did but their lives didn't affect me and I just needed to work and focus and if I was smart enough I would achieve my goals. I would rise to the level of my abilities.  I was taught my desire or perceived need does not give me a license to steal from others.

That idea seems to be broken now. Many people seem to think that the world owes them something. These people think they are special just because they exist and that everything and everyone out there is fodder to help them achieve their goals. They would never pay for something they could steal.
 In the art world these entitlements manifest as stealing other peoples work and using it without permission or compensation. Allowing the thief to pretend to have skills they don’t actually have. With digital technology there is absolutely no excuse for using another’s work that isn't your own since everyone is carrying at least a still camera and can shoot their own reference.

Don’t have a particular reference for a thing? You can model it. Need something more complex than you have the ability for? You can pay someone to make it for you as a 3d model or physical model. Can’t afford to pay someone? Then go without. 

It’s lazy and immoral to take other peoples work without asking and or paying for it, always. No one should be asked to or expected to work for free. Need is not a justification for theft, ever.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Painting Autumn Color

Armand Cabrera

Painting autumn color can be challenging. It is important to remember the relative intensity of color and not get caught up in using pure pigments for representation unless it is actually needed to describe the scene. Back lit scenes in sunlight  are very intense but again, think of everything in relation to what’s around it. For that intensity to be effective there must be areas of less saturated color or the intensity is lost.

To help find the proper intensity of a color it is important to consider its other attributes, hue and value. All three parts make up the color you are seeing and so all three aspects should be carefully considered in relationship to the surrounding areas and the rest of the picture as a whole. 

It also helps to decide through careful observation in general, where the intensity lies. Is it in the shadow or the lights? By deciding this ahead of time you are keying the pictures intensity to one or the other giving you a stronger arrangement to work with.

Sometimes the limitations of paint call for a creative solution to translating the scene to your canvas. In cases where it is impossible to get the color accurate in all three aspects, I make a design decision about which attribute is most important and then hold that as close to what I am seeing in nature as possible and shift the other two aspects to give me a closer representation of the effect.

This may mean shifting the hue of a red, green or yellow to preserve its value and chroma so it reads correctly in the scene. Or it could mean shifting the chroma to something less intense while preserving the value.These decisions need awareness so a little extra effort on our part is called for to get the most from our painting during this time of year.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

In Search of a Perfect Palette

Armand Cabrera

An artist’s palette is their life’s blood. In some ways your palette defines your style more than your mark making does. The perfect palette has been searched for since artists started applying pigments to cave walls.
I think an artist’s palette should be organic and morph as our artistic tastes change. It should also reflect what we believe about painting. Whatever palette you choose as an artist it will serve you better if you make conscious decisions about the pigments you include.

When I started painting I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. I was given a set of acrylics for my birthday. I never questioned the pigment choices in the set and just began painting immediately. This type of palette is most artists’ first introduction to painting and I call it a stage one palette. A palette is chosen for you by someone who is hopefully more knowledgeable about painting than you are.  All of the pigments are there because someone told you to put them there and it doesn't really matter who that person was. Many people stay in this stage for years never questioning their palette.

A stage two palette is an augmented stage one palette. It usually occurs when an artist’s ability catches up to their philosophy and they start to question their art to improve it. One of the ways we improve is by changing things up and the palette is a prime target for change. You start to see colors and values in other peoples work that you don’t see in your own. This usually leads to an inclusion of more colors to the palette, and more influences from videos, books and workshops and other artists as you expand your abilities with other pigments.

The final stage for an artist is a personal palette. A personal palette isn't static and unchanging but it is self-directed. The artist through study and practice decides to include every pigment on their palette. The palette allows them to express themselves to their full potential as an artist. The palette may be limited to just a few colors or not, but all the colors are there for reasons the artist has decided upon, not anyone else.

My palette comes from years of exploring stage one palettes. I use a piece of glass on my studio table. My palette is a prismatic palette consisting eight pigments which are: Viridian, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Permanent, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Yellow Pale, and Titanium White.  I not only use this palette for landscapes but also still life and figure painting. By removing earth colors and pure black I am forced to mix my grays which give me the opportunity to find more vibrant color choices than pure neutrals allow.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Digital Media Dilemma

Armand Cabrera

Digital media allows a lot of things not possible or not practical with traditional media. Nowhere is this more apparent than animation. Animation has been completely revolutionized by  digital tools. Same with a number of other artistic endeavors, matte paintings, story boards and pre-visualization like concept and pitch art.  In publishing all the costs associated with printing have been lessened dramatically with digital tools. No more type setters or shipping and warehousing thousands of copies of an item that potentially won’t sell. Print on demand allows fast turnaround and low costs. There is no doubt that computers allow for a greater flexibility and fluidity when it comes to a finished product. At any stage of the production of a creative endeavor the work is easily changed; sometimes dramatically, and the work is always at the whim of the entity paying for it. This is not true of traditional media where expertise is not such democratic process. 

All that ease of use and better cost benefit should be enough but it isn’t for some digital artists. I recently had a discussion on line where a digital artist was trying to make the case that digital prints were originals because with digital no original exists in the computer. Well that is only half right. No original exists in the computer or anywhere else either. A digital print is not unique by its very nature it can never be an original like a traditional painting can; that is why no one will pay the same prices for digital pieces compared to hand made things. If an artist doesn't like this they can always learn to make art with traditional materials. I have a friend who is a very successful artist and he has always said your real level of  ability as an artist is your level of ability when you work from life. 

You would think this is obvious. As obvious as dressing up like a bird and stepping off a building and trying to fly. Wanting to fly like a bird won’t make you a bird  any more than calling a machine made poster an original piece of art. People want hand made things. In most instances with quality craftsmanship,  the more hand made a thing is the more people are willing to pay for it. The more unique a thing is the more people are willing to pay for it. 


Before people write and tell me I hate digital; I've been making my living as a digital artist since 1990 so not only do I use digital tools I think digital art can be just as good or better than traditional art. What it can never be is a physical original. So stop pretending it is.

Monday, October 7, 2013

2014 Maine Workshop

Armand Cabrera
                                Fields of Goldenrod             9 x 12                            Oil on Linen

I will be teaching again in Southwest Harbor Maine at the AcadiaWorkshop Center. The program will be focused on outdoor and indoor work for oil and acrylic painters. The dates are September 8 through September 11 2014.

                                 Low Tide near otter Cliffs          12 x 16                  Oil on Linen

The locations for this workshop are beautiful and offer plenty to paint. My teaching style is to help each student achieve their immediate goals as a painter and help them find a strategy for more successful paintings in the long term. Whatever the difficulty, there is a solution for it with a little patience and perseverance any problem can be overcome. I make sure my classes are noncompetitive and fun with lots of time for individual instruction. Last time I taught there I sold out the class so sign up early. Remember a workshop is a great gift for the artist in your life, Acadia and Southwest harbor are great getaway places and have plenty for spouses to do. Class is limited to 12 students.

                                High Tide Evening                   11 x 14                      Oil on Linen

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kate Elizabeth Bunce

By Armand Cabrera

Kate Bunce was born in Birmingham England in 1856. She was the second of five daughters. Her mother was Rebecca Ann Cheesewright and her father was John Thackray Bunce the editor of the Birmingham Daily Post.  Kate attended the Birmingham school of art in the 1880 and 1890’s. During her years there she won a bronze medal for her work.

Her father’s standing provided for her financially and she did not need to marry. She pursued art and never left the family home. Kate showed her work at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and Royal Academy starting in 1887. A devote Anglican, she stopped producing work for galleries and focused on religious work for churches instead. Kate Bunce died in 1927 at the age of seventy one.


Women Artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement
Jan Marsh and Pamela Gerrish Nunn

Verago Press Limited 1989

Friday, September 20, 2013

Illuxcon 6 Demo

Last week I was at Illuxcon 6. I had agreed ahead of time to do an alla prima painting demonstration using traditional oil paints. I finished a 24 x 30 painting from a traditional 8 x 10 sketch and a digital study. I don't have process shots but here is the finished image. The painting was touched up a little once I brought it home to the studio but it was effectively completed in a little over three hours.

The turn out was pretty good considering all of the other programming going on at the same time. It looked like audience peaked at about 25 people with people coming and going the whole time.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Illuxcon 6

Armand Cabrera

I will be attending Illuxcon 6 starting this Wednesday, the 11th of September. Illuxcon which is being hosted by the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown PA. is the premier event for imaginative traditional painting and sculpture and I am very pleased to be a part of the show.

Patrick and Jeanie Wilshire have built a show that respects traditional narrative painting. Illuxcon displays quality work created by artists who choose to work in commercial fields and sets  high standards for excellence.

You can find samples from the participating artists on the Illuxcon website

as well as information on show times and programming tracks for the week.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Small Works Show October 15- December 31 2013

Armand Cabrera
                 Ediza Lake Inlet            9x12             oil on linen                

This year the time seemed to go by so fast and here it is September already. I am in the process of finishing the paintings for my small works show this October. After the success of last year’s show we decided to make this an annual event. The show is run by us and is completely online through my website.  

All of the paintings in the show are 12 x 16 inches or smaller with the smallest paintings being 8 x 10 inches. We are offering free shipping anywhere in the United States.
You can see a preview of some of the paintings

The rest of the work will be posted by the beginning of October.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Salamander Resort Project

Armand Cabrera

I've just finished a corporate project for a resort here in Virginia. The Salamander Resort and Spa will have two of my originals in the public spaces of the Hotel and prints of my work in each of the 165 rooms. I licensed the prints for a one time use.  I will be offering the images on my Fine Art America Page.

I have been lucky to get these kinds of projects every year or so. This is the largest so far. Most of these projects are for smaller boutique hotels and Bed and Breakfast inns where they are purchasing originals for the rooms instead of prints.

With jobs like this it’s important to have contracts in place. You will be dealing with groups of people during  a usually long approval process and a contract protects and informs both parties about what is expected and required by them to complete the project. 

Your contract should include an upfront deposit of 50% of the total project and milestones for payments and kill fees if the project is cancelled or the client changes their mind about the direction of the artwork. Just because they change their mind or the project falls through doesn't mean you don’t get paid for any work you've already completed. That can't happen without a contract in place.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Protecting Copyright

By Armand Cabrera

An artist’s work is more than just the image they create whether it is digitally or traditionally made. It is also the rights to use that image for print, publication, advertising.  Artists need to be aware of copyright and how valuable it can be to them as an income stream in addition to the making of art.

Every artist I know has at least one image they have created that they could have sold 100 times if it was still available. By keeping good digital files of all your images you can create an image bank that you can then license out for money long after the original has been sold.

Passive income streams are not just for digital artists. Traditional artists can and should do the same with their work. Just make sure when you enter into agreements with people for gallery representation or commissions you retain the rights to your image.  I have licensed my images for use as decoration in hotel rooms, books, magazines, corporate brochures, movies and television shows. In some cases the compensation was equal to the price of the original painting.

I have recently heard of problems with people thinking they could license images without the artist’s permission just because they sell the artists originals in a gallery or act as the artist agent in other capacities.  This is not the case and US copyright is very clear on who owns the rights to an image. All rights are retained by the image creator unless they specifically give up those rights in writing. Here is a link to the government website followed by the actual clause.

202: Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including the copy in which the work is first fixed, does not of itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object; nor, in the absence of an agreement, does transfer of ownership of a copyright or of any exclusive rights under a copyright convey property rights in any material object.

With the slowed economy galleries and other artist venues are taking advantage of artists by not compensating them for the use of their images. Artists are being stupid not insisting on payment for the use of their image in any for-profit display. Artists need to insist on payment for use of their work and to not do so is hurting the environment for professional artists.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Charles Harold Davis 1856-1933

Armand Cabrera

Charles Harold Davis was born in 1856 in Amesbury Massachusetts. Davis left school at the age of fifteen to become an apprentice carriage maker. After viewing a show of Barbizon paintings Davis decided to pursue art. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for three years from 1877 to 1880. Davis then left for Paris to continue honing his ability.

 In Paris Davis studied briefly at the Academie Julian under Jules Joseph Lefebvre and Gustave Clarence Rudolphe Boulanger but after a year of study he left the academy which focused on figure painting to pursue painting the landscape outdoors. Davis decided to devote all of his time to landscape painting after painting in Normandy and the forests of Fontainebleau.

Davis moved to the small village of Fleury near Barbizon and began to show at the Salon starting in 1881. In the Paris Salon of 1887 he won an honorable mention. He also exhibited his work at the Pennsylvania Academy, the Society of American Artists and the National Academy of Design. He had his first solo Exhibition in America in 1887 at Reichard and Company New York. In 1889 he won a silver medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.

  In 1890 Davis returned to America permanently and settled in Mystic Connecticut. In 1895 he changed his style to a brighter palette and more vigorous brushwork.  He won the Lippincott Prize from the Pennsylvania Academy in 1901 The Altman Prize from the national Academy in 1917 and a Gold Medal at the Pan pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. In 1913 he started the Mystic Art Association.

Paris 1889 American Artists at the universal exposition
Annette Blaugrund
Abrams 1989


 I do not think that a piece of nature in a frame though wonderfully well done is very desirable as a picture effect; eloquent arrangement, I may say is for me the first thing to strive for.