Friday, October 30, 2009

peas in a pod, tweaking my art and the business of art

peas in a pod, work in progress, coloured pencil on Stonehenge, 6 1/2" x 20 1/2"
copyright Teresa Mallen

So here are the peas in their pod, as they look now. The next time you see it, it shall be finished. I will definitely have a better photo. The sky has been overcast for days and it makes taking photographs difficult. Even if we do get some sunny weather, I will probably have to do some Photoshop work to adjust for the large amount of white in the background.

It has been a joy to log in some serious studio time in the past two weeks. We have closed up the farmhouse and it has been pure bliss not to have to go out of town a couple of times a week.

I haven't been working on the peas that much. In fact, I have been revisiting several completed pieces.

I shall be participating in a studio tour in just four weeks and that means that I have to get busy framing art. Before I frame a work, I revisit it. That means that I put it on the drafting table and I start looking it over very closely. Then I grab my pencils and I start to tweak. Sometimes I just need to crisp up an edge or two or slightly deepen a value. Sometimes I do more than that. The advantage to living with art for a while is that I can be more objective. The distance of time helps me to see if I captured what I had intended to. Once this stage is done, I sign my name and then the art is ready for spraying, scanning and the framing process. Perhaps this is my own oddity but I find I do not like to sign a work until I am completely satisfied that it is done, 100% done.

One piece that is getting some significant tweaking is my peony stamen picture. I finished working on this piece early in the summer and I placed it in my studio where I could see it. I didn't feel that I was quite done with it but I wanted to sit with it for a while. In the end, I decided I would take the risk of bumping the whole piece up a few notches. When I left it, the piece had an overall soft quality to it. While the stamens did pop, the whole piece seemed lower key than I eventually felt I wanted. So, onto the drafting table it went for some serious tweaking. I deepened all the shadow values, strengthened lines and enriched colours. I also lifted some veiny bits that I had put into the petals. I didn't like them so off they came.

Now it is taped to my white board that I have out for teaching. I have moved into the tweaking standing up stage. This position allows me to step back from the piece which I am doing a lot! It is almost ready to sign. :-)

I have had some interesting conversations with folks since declaring that I am running with the wolves in 2010. It would seem that my decision to stand my ground for studio time and not teach was interpreted by some as meaning that I was "taking a year off". I am still chuckling over that one. No I am not retiring, nor am I taking a year off. In fact my goal is to work lots and hard but just not at teaching.

Running a business takes time, a lot of it. Unless you are fortunate to be represented by fabulous galleries that manage to consistently sell your art (which isn't the reality for the majority of artists) you end up doing the business stuff yourself. In a given 40 hr work week (most self employed people work more than that), lets say that 50% of an artist's time is spent on business. That means that the artist has just 20 hours to throw pots, carve wood or work on their reference photos, drawings and colouring. Humm...a bit sobering isn't it?

The business stuff for me involves correspondence (student inquiries, registration receipts, art business related email, writing newsletters), doing my accounts (managing my income and expenses), marketing (creating print ads, writing press releases, designing and getting business cards and media cards printed), buying supplies (for creating art, for teaching art classes, for matting and framing, for displaying art, for the office), doing research (keeping abreast of art information, art business trends, how to keep marketing strategies current), networking and selling (being involved in art groups, both local and international, participating in shows and doing volunteer work for a couple of these groups), having an internet presence through a website (which involves designing the website, learning software, obtaining quality scans of work as well as maintenance through regular updating) and a blog, entering work into juried exhibitions, continuing to learn new computer skills, creating product beyond original art (notecards, reproductions, designing and printing off kit material, creating teaching curriculum), etc. etc.

My new fangs bared approach is my way of claiming those 20 hours a week in the studio. I am also striving to get this number higher. Without fresh new work, the rest of the effort doesn't make much sense. Like most self employed people I work weekends and evenings. For example last weekend I taught Saturday, had my mother-in-law visiting from out of town and still managed to attend an important local arts group meeting for two hours on Sunday. Tuesday night I wrote a new bit of press material that the coordinator of the studio tour requested. Wednesday night I updated my accounting ledgers. Last night I designed and printed off 16 full page, colour ads, again to be used in conjunction with the studio tour. Tonight I shall get ready for tomorrow's teaching session.

Please don't misunderstand. I am in no way complaining. I love what I do and I feel privileged to be self employed. I even enjoy the business end of it. I also appreciate that many artists do this business stuff, create art and work at a full time job! I just wanted you to know that I am not retiring! :-) When that time comes, I will do art just for fun. There won't be any business related tasks and there will be no teaching.

I shall leave you with a couple of fall foliage shots, but not of trees. And yes, despite my rant above, I do find time to be in the garden. :-) I love how the plants start to take on different hues in autumn.

Like this hosta...

and this clump of solomon's seal...


Valerie Jones said...

I enjoyed reading your post today. Thanks for sharing everything that goes into the business of art. :)

Christine said...

I think your painting of the peas in the pod will be terrific once finished. I pulled out a tape measure to see the size you are working with. This painting will make a gorgeous and impressive framed piece, and quite elegant.

Jennifer Rose said...

a lot of people don't realize the time that is put in, that its not all about drawing. most people think thats all i do and are surprised when i tell them otherwise.

your peas are looking good :D love the greens

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Valerie. Thank you. As you also teach art classes, I am sure you know how doing this art thing is work! :-)

Hey there Christine, yikes a tape measure, I try to avoid them. Only rulers allowed in my studio! :-) Joking aside, yes the pea piece will be more than two feet wide once I have the work matted and framed. I am so glad you see potential in my 'cave peas'! Thank you for your lovely comment.

Hi Jennifer Rose, I love the greens too! :-) Keep spreading the word sister! I assume people just never think about what all of this takes. People comment to me that I am lucky to get to do my art all day! LOL Maybe we need a 'week in the life of an artist' reality TV show!!!

Lynda Schumacher said...

Hi Teresa!

I understood exactly what you meant about your need to step back and reclaim your time, and I applaud your decision. Over time I have heard so many artists discuss how they gradually get so wrapped up in the business end, that they suddenly find their art is taking a back are not going to let this happen!

Those peas are looking yummy! When I was growing up my dad always kept a very large garden, and I loved peas right off the vine.

Jennifer Rose said...

thats a great idea! we should do a week in the life of an artist posts (i could tape it, but don't think college would like me running around with a camera lol). would help show people its not all fun and games :D

Jeanette said...

The peas are exquisite. I love the greens you've captured here.

I'm sure your open studio will be fun. I need to instigate something similar here. Just need a bigger studio!

I am glad you mentioned the 'other side' of art. You're right, people don't consider the hard work element of art, marketing, sales, etc. I always consider the painting or drawing part the icing on the cake and do have to push myself to create so that the other side doesn't take over.

A week in the life of an artist....good idea for a blog post!

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Lynda, yes I am standing my ground and bearing my fangs. The wonderful thing is that I am the one that takes on the commitments and I am the one that creates my schedule so if I don't like it, I just need to start saying no. And I agree peas eaten fresh from the garden,(heck, while you are still in the garden) are simply the best!

And yes ladies I think we may be onto something with this 'a week in the life of an artist'. Of course I would be tempted to be a wee stinker and pick an absolutely horrid week as my example. :-)

Jeanette, studio tours are a great way to get exposure! As for space, I have seen people set up displays of their art in garages, barns, hallways, family rooms, etc. Just about anywhere you can set up and where you are comfortable having folks come through will do. And thanks for your comment on the peas! :-)

Paula Pertile said...

The peas are still lovely. :~)

A studio tour! You're very brave. I like the idea of revisiting pieces before they're framed. I hope the tour goes well for you. I'm impressed with all you're doing to prepare (the brochures and all).

And yes, "a week in the life" would be interesting to blog! Whenever I have one of those "running with the wolves and doing my art" weeks, the housework suffers miserably, then I spend a whole day catching up at the end of it all. It definitely hard to do it ALL, I agree!

Teresa said...

I love the translucent glow of the top half of the pea pod... beautiful job on the peas!