Monday, February 23, 2015

The Best Things to Ask (and not to ask!) an Artist, Part II...

A much happier dog today...better weather, time to play frisbee!

Last week I posted Part I of  best things to ask (and not to ask!) an artist.  Now this week, Part II!  Hope you enjoy and that it helps to make you look suave and knowledgeable in front of your favorite artist!

6. What does your daily work day look like?
Instead of: It must be so nice to be free all day!

This is a great question to ask, especially a full-time artist.  It may be hard to quantify since working for yourself means never really having a set schedule, but it's a great question for a couple of reasons.  First, you're acknowledging that it's a work day.  Working for yourself (in any business) is especially tough because while you make your own schedule, if you aren't productive, you don't get paid!  I, like many artists, keep a pretty strict schedule out of sheer force, which means no time for putting the paint brush down to go out and about during the day.  Second, it's just an interesting question, and I bet you'll find most artists don't automatically say "paint."  There's so much that goes into a business itself and into a finished piece of artwork, it's amazing how much time it will consume!  It's a great question and usually what you'll get is some wonderful insight into all that goes into getting a painting on a wall!

7.  Want to grab breakfast or a quick lunch sometime?
Instead of: We should hang out during the week!

Courtesy of The Oatmeal

I know that sounds counter intuitive to the last question, but all small business owners also need to see other humans.  It's easy to hole up in the studio and not get out or see anyone all day.  The Oatmeal has a great cartoon about the joys and downfalls of working at home, and I love the part above where work-from-home guy's English starts to fall apart (sadly this can be true!).  While it's tough to get away for a long lunch, an early morning breakfast, or a quick lunch somewhere is great!  It's a wonderful opportunity to practice grammar (kidding, kind of!).

8.  What is your favorite color palette?
Instead of:  Wow, that painting is really (insert color here)!

This is a quite impressive question to ask coming from a non-artist since you're using art language in the question.  While it may seem obvious from a visual perspective that an artist favors a certain color, you may get an interesting response as to why an artist has their favorite colors.  A lot of artists love to use a certain palette, or are extra inspired by certain colors, or have just begun using a few new shades!  I have a few favorites in my arsenal that I use frequently, but I am always trying to explore new colors.  This is also a great alternative to pointing out the usage of a certain color, since sometimes this can throw an artist off.  I went to a demo once where the artist said she was called out by a group of students for using a lot of purple in her landscapes...she didn't really realize it and I think to this day wasn't sure if it was meant as a compliment or a put down (I say compliment, her works are breathtaking)!  Point is, you never know!

9.  What are your favorite scenes to paint?
Instead of:  What is your favorite painting?

Surprisingly, it is considered a no-no for an artist to tell you what their favorite painting is.  I know it sounds odd, and while an artist totally has a favorite piece or two, you are never allowed to know which ones they are.  Why?  Because to a working artist, it can lessen the quality of the other pieces to a buyer when in reality all the pieces are going to strike viewers in different ways for different reasons.  Also, some pieces just flow, others have to be constantly worked at, etc. etc.  So the process can make an artist love a painting more than others, which bears no reflection on the finished product.  To ask what their favorite scenes are to paint gives great insight into an artists personality, style, and passions, and is just an awesome question!

10.  What is your dream for your career?
Instead of: When's your next show?

There are a million paths an artist can take, and there are a lot of different reasons an artist paints.  Some for love, some to pay the bills, some for both!  It's neat to see where an artist would love to be in their career eventually, it gives a lot of perspective on the artist, too, and it's a really thoughtful, open ended question.

So, what kinds of questions do you love (or hate!) to answer in your job?!  And for the artists out there...what did I miss?!  Anything you love to answer (or cringe at)?!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Best Things to Ask (and not to ask!) an Artist, Part I...

We are all awaiting the snowstorm to come tonight, and so right now it's just a little gray and very, very chilly (even the dog has retired for the day!), and since I just finished a painting, I thought I'd jot down some quick thoughts on conversing with an artist about, well, art!  

First, if you're reading this, I applaud you.  I love it when people go out of their comfort zone to ask others about their passions, especially when it's a subject matter they are new to.  At the same time, though, it can be hard!  What kind of questions do you ask?  What could be taboo that I don't know about?  So many people just choose to stay mum, but if you're reading this, fear not!  Here are the first five things to ask (or not to ask!) the artist in your life...and if you find you have asked the "taboo" questions, fear not!  This post is not intended to shame!  Most artists know that it's the heart that matters behind the question, and none of the "taboo" questions are actually even that bad!  So! Here they are...

1.  What was the Process in Creating that Painting?
Instead of: How long did that take you?

Color blocking (the blue is where the water will be).  A very important step in the process!  

It's very natural to ask an artist how long it took to create a painting (I certainly have asked it myself), but an even better question to ask is about the process.  Why?  Many artists tend to balk when asked how long a piece took them since they are unsure of the motivation behind the question.  Many times it's benign curiosity, but a calculation of the artist's hourly rate and a judgment on the value of the artist's time can be quickly done if provided the answer to "How long did this take?"  This calculation is especially deceptive when considering costs, which typically includes a 40-50% gallery commission, and what adds up to hundreds sometimes in framing, paint, canvas, and transport.  In addition to being a more insightful question, asking about the process gives the artist the opportunity to tell you about the amount of time it took in his or her response if they choose and you'll learn something new about what it takes to create a masterpiece!

2. How is the Show Going?
Instead of: Did you sell anything?

Shows are a big deal to an artist.  Artists will paint pieces specifically for the show, and it requires a large investment in both time and money.  Ultimately, the goal is to sell something (or lots of somethings!), and it doesn't matter if this is the first or five-hundredth showing, sales are extremely exciting.  So asking the simple question of how a show is going allows the artist to sidestep the sales aspect of it if they are disappointing.  This then enables the artist to generate a positive (if fluffy) response to the show overall, and you both can avoid that awkward "No (insert sad face here)" just in case it isn't going so hot!  Ha!

3. What Are You Working on Right Now?
Instead of: How's your art going?

Mid-process painting

Sometimes it can be really hard to sum up how an artist is feeling about their "art" at any given moment.  That said, there's always something on the easel, and it can easily springboard into a larger conversation about why it's being created, what the art is intended for, etc.

4.  What Artists Inspired You to Paint?
Instead of:  You remind me of this artist, don't you think?

Howard Behrens, my inspiration to begin painting.  Courtesy of HowardBehrens.com

This is a great question for a couple of reasons.  First, it's a really interesting question, and is really sincere and thought provoking.  In addition, you will get a brief glimpse into what an artist dreams about for their career, and if you do a little research about that artist, you will definitely earn some brownie points!  Second, it's a great question to ask instead of telling an artist what their work actually resembles.  Has anyone ever told you that you look like someone and you just cringe?!  Art is the same way.  There are some very famous artists out there in the world who artists actually intentionally avoid trying emulate.  So if you just so happen to bring one of those up, it may come across as an insult when it's never intended to be one!

5. Ask: Do You Sell Prints?
Instead of:  Your work is really expensive!

It's definitely not an insult to admire an original and ask if there is a print of it available.  And bear in mind, asking the question does not obligate you to buy a print if available either.  Said correctly it could come across as a high compliment, "Wow, what a masterpiece!  Do you sell prints?  It seems only fair to share it with more than one person."

Hopefully that was at least a little insightful!  Stay tuned to Part II next week!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Victory along the Wasatch

If you've seen some of the work on my website, you'll see that I love doing stadium scenes.  I'm not sure if it's just because I'm an extrovert or if I just appreciate all the excitement that game day brings, but I tend to jump into stadium paintings.  The picture above is my latest scene, "Victory along the Wasatch."  The original, painted for my Cougar friend Matt (who also provided the photo - thanks Matt!), is a 24"x36" oil on canvas.  If you are interested in a print or an embellished giclee, check out my shop here!  

And if you want to check out what the embellished giclee looks like, watch the video below!