Frequently Asked Questions
Thanks to everyone for all the great e-mails on our website and paintings. Susan and I do read every e-mail and it's an inspiration to know how much excitement for art there is out in the world. It's especially fun to have gotten so many e-mails from across the globe -- isn't the Web a wonderful way for artists to connect and share their passion across all national boundaries!
Because we can't always reply to all our e-mails (especially after they've added up over a month-long trip!) I've decided to answer the most common questions here.
I recently purchased and viewed your DVD:
"Photographing Your Artwork", which was wonderful and very
informative, especially the discussion and demonstrations of the
cameras. I would like more information about the actual lights that
you use. On my DVD I was unable to clearly hear what type of lights
you used. I believe you said: "...tungsten 500 watt? with polarizing
gels in front. Could you please recommend a model, manufacturer and/
or vendor for similar lights and more specifics about whether they
come on stands and the type of gels I should ask for when ordering
them either from a camera store or online.
For photographing paintings, I use two, Lowel Tota 500 watt tungsten lights (which use quartz bulbs). They come with a protective screen for the bulbs and you should also buy the add-on frame for hanging the polarizing gel in front of the light, as well as a tripod stand for each light. Lowel Tota lights now come with up to 750w bulbs and can be purchased at B&H Photo online (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/).
They also sell the polarizing gels in sheets -- just remember to ask for the linear polarizers for both the light and camera. This is just the particular light I'm using, but any tungsten light will work, just be careful to get one with some means of hanging the polarizing gel far enough away from the light so that it won't melt. www.polarization.com sells a 17" wide linear polarizing gel sheet by the foot ($15/foot). This material is 0.006 inch (0.15 mm) thick and can be cut with scissors.
but these gels are sold in many other places as well.
You can get away with just one 500 watt light if you aren't shooting any very large paintings, but I find that I need two for large paintings since they have to be far enough away from the painting to keep the light evenly distributed to avoid fall off (when one side of the painting is getting more light than the other.) You can have the lights on both sides or just one side. I've lately been shooting most of my paintings with both lights on one side since this gives a more distinct shadow on the brushstrokes and shows the texture of the paint better. Just remember to have the lights at a 45 degree angle from the painting or they won't get rid of the glare.
With the polarizing setup, you should be able to eliminate all the glare, so I generally shoot the paintings once they've been varnished.
For lighting models in the studio we use an Arri 650 watt (with Fresnel lens) tungsten spotlight with a 24" x 32" Chimera soft box attached to it (you can remove the front screen if you want more defined shadows. This light is mounted on large boom tripod with wheels so we can move it around the studio and even have the light coming from directly above the model if we choose. This is a very large setup and requires a very high ceiling so we use this light only in Susan's studio. In my studio, which has a lower ceiling, I use and Arri 300 watt light without any soft box and have it attached to a wall mounted boom so I don't need the tripod. This way it can be swung around 180 degrees on the boom without taking up any floor space. I believe I ordered all of this from Calumet photo though their website. I'm not sure of the exact name of the booms, but you'll see them on their site and there are several to choose from. Just remember, this sort of setup is expensive and only something we could afford the last couple of years so don't think it is essential for doing good paintings!
How far should you be from the model? I read something about Sargent putting his canvas right next to the subject's head when he did a portrait but in a class most students are more than 10 feet from the model, so what are they really learning about the painting process?
You are completely right that if you are too far from your subject when doing a large painting that you just don't see enough information and will end up "faking it" as my teacher used to say. The basic rule of thumb that I follow is to be close enough so that the subject and the painting are approximately the same size relative to each other (many artists call this "sight size"). This simply means that if you position your canvas to the side of your subject and hold up a horizontal line from your painting to the model, everything will line up. Many artists even use this method to measure the proportions by drawing a line across from the top of the head, chin, etc.; directly across from the model to the canvas.
Though I don't use this method to measure, I try to get myself positioned so that I am as close to sight size as possible. If I'm doing a life-sized portrait by myself, I sit very close to the model in a similar way to what you mentioned Sargent doing. When in a group situation this isn't possible, so I usually sit on a bench so that other artists can see over me and that I can be as close as practical.
When working smaller than life-size, I do the opposite, moving back from the model until I have approximately the same proportion on both canvas and in reality. If I'm doing the entire figure about 9" by 12", for example, I might be between eight to ten feet back. It can be just as difficult sitting too close as too far since our tendency will generally be to draw things sight size and I often see paintings drifting in that direction when forced to work too big or small for the position you have. Of course, in the real world there are times when you simply cannot get to the ideal distance or viewpoint (landscapes especially), but with portraits in particular it is essential not to work too far away since accuracy is critical and what you can't see you can't paint! If I find that the only available spot is ten feet away, then I will do a smaller painting, the whole figure, or simply go to the movies!
Several people have written with questions about checking oil paints on air flights and a few have have their paints confiscated.
I've run into several airport security workers who also called me back to the check-in gate after searching my luggage and telling me that oil paints are flammable and not allowed to be checked. In each case I asked to talk to a manager and had them correct the person and tell them that it is ok to check oil paints and that they aren't flammable. However, it is quite a hassle to get called all the way back from the gate and have to go through security a second time, so what I do now is include the following print outs in with my packed paints.
You're welcome to print them out for yourself. Just highlight the part you want to print, copy it to your clipboard Cntrl-C, the paste it into Word or another program Cntrl-V and you'll be able to print just the part you want. The sample data sheet is from Windsor Newton, but most manufacturers will have one on their website. I just include the one since it is enough to prove the point for the rest and I have never had a problem since doing this even with other brands of paint.
Air Travel with artists' colors made from vegetable oil.
The US Department of Transportation defines "flammable liquids" as those with a flash point 140 degrees F or below. Artist grade oil colors are based on vegetable oil with a flash point at or above 450 degrees F. THEY ARE NOT HAZARDOUS.
If you need to confirm this, please contact TSA at 866-289-9673 or their HazardousMaterials Research Center at 800-467-4922
Packed with the paints is the MSDS data sheet from the paint manufactured with the exact flash point info.
WINSOR & NEWTON COLART AMERICA -- 089 ARTISTS OIL COLOR CADMIUM ORANGE
MSDS Safety Information
MSDS Date: 11/17/1994
MSDS Num: BWVSS
Product ID: 089 ARTISTS OIL COLOR CADMIUM ORANGE
Name: WINSOR & NEWTON COLART AMERICAS INC
Address: 11 CONSTITUTION AVE
City: PISCATAWAY NJ 08855-1396
Info Phone Number: 908-562-0770/800-628-3385
Emergency Phone Number: 800-628-3385/908-562-0770
Review Ind: Y
Fire and Explosion Hazard Information
Flash Point Method: CC
Flash Point Text: 446F
Extinguishing Media: CO2, DRY CHEMICAL, FOAM
Fire Fighting Procedures: KEEP COOL.
Unusual Fire/Explosion Hazard: BLACK SMOKE MAY BE EVOLVED WHICH EFFECTS EYES
& LUNGS. AUTOIGNITION TEMPERATURE: >572F.
Stability Indicator: YES
Stability Condition To Avoid: EXTREME TEMPS
Materials To Avoid: COMBUSTIBLE MATTER, COTTON WASTE
Hazardous Decomposition Products: ACROLEIN
Hazardous Polymerization Indicator: NO
I can only paint for two to three hours each morning as I then have to go off to a day job. When I get back to the easel the following day I find that my paintings have often become 'sticky,' as they start to dry, especially in the darker areas where I have used more earth colors such as burnt umber. I have tried adding safflower oil or poppy oil to slow the drying time down, but this has a limited effect.
Susan and I tend to paint every day so don't have as much of a problem with the paint drying. On large works I just work on it section by section to keep from having to work into dry paint. If you are doing smaller paintings, my suggestion would be to get a plastic container with a sealable top (like something you'd use to store food) and put your painting in that so it will keep fresh air from circulating and drying it. This will make a big difference and the thinner the container, the better. If it's small enough, you can also put the container in the refrigerator, which will further slow down the drying time. I'm not really familiar with the types of oils used to slow down drying time, so will leave that to someone more knowledgeable!
I'm wondering what your advice would be regarding framing artwork. Do
your galleries provide the frames for your paintings, or do you buy the
frames from another source? And does the price you've set for your work
include the price of the frame? What if someone wants to purchase a
piece unframed? Do you take some money off the regular price?
We used to make our own frames, but stopped a while ago due to the time. Now we order our frames from many different framers. We're always happy to have a collector buy the painting unframed if they'd rather get their own frame and we just deduct what we paid for the frame and use it again for another painting. All the prices on our site are framed, unless specifically noted as unframed, which is rare. The amount deducted from the painting for the frame depends completely on the size and type of the frame -- from $200 for a small painting, up to $2,200 or more for large paintings. If you have a gallery that you really trust and like their frames, you can have them frame it, but I try and stay away from that since it's rife with complexities and opportunities for bad feelings. What if the painting doesn't sell and you want it sent to another gallery, for example? Are you stuck with the frame they chose, and what if you start to think they're charging too much? It's easy to switch framers, but may be more difficult when it's your gallery.
What kind of overall florescent lighting do you use in your studio?
What you want to look for in getting florescent studio lighting is something between 5000 - 5500 Kelvin. Degrees Kelvin is the temperature of the light and determines it's color. 3200 Kelvin is tungsten light and 5000 -- 5500 is equivalent to north light. I use Sylvania 5000 myself (also called Design 50s) and have also used Vita Light, though those are about twice the price. You can even shoot with daylight film under such lights since they are the same as daylight. In our studios, we have north light windows as well as the daylight balanced florescent lights so the light is consistent under all weather conditions as well as at night.
Any suggestion on what color to paint studio walls?
Susan and I painted our studio walls a kind of medium gray-green (Benjamin Moore #1490). This color seems to work especially well with painting people since their warmer skin tones stand out nicely with this as a background and it keeps too much light from bouncing off the walls and lightening up the shadows, giving you a more dramatic light effect. It's just a lot easier to add a white board to bounce light if needed than to block a whole bunch of light walls to get rid of bounce light. It seems that many artists use this color; I first saw it at the Scottsdale Artist's School in one of their north light studio that David Laffell requested painted this color.
Below is a photo of my studio. The deer's skull is one I found in the woods on our property. You can see the gym mat that I stand on while painting (I bought it used from the YMCA when they were getting new ones). My easel is a Hughes, counterbalanced one, bought from Wind River Arts. The black portion of the wall is where I hang paintings to photograph them. Then there are flat files with the green cloth over them for storing drawings, paper, and prints; with vertical racks for paintings above them. The florescent lights are mounted onto 2 by 4s so I can move them easily. Although, not visible in this photograph, I also have a spotlight on a swinging boom arm that I use for setups with models. My studio is 24' by 30' and is just a converted storage building that I insulated and added lighting and heat when we moved into.
Here's some photos of Susan's studio below. This building we built as a studio so it has 14' ceiling and much bigger North window, though we wish we could have put the window even higher than it is. In this first photo you can just see in the upper left corner, the 650 watt light with a soft box on it that Susan uses to light models. It is on a large boom with wheels so she can move it around the studio and even have the light from directly above the model if she chooses. The model stand is also on wheels and and I built it with storage underneath for draperies, etc. The model in this photo is Hope Clure, one of our favorites!
Some of your charcoals appear to be done with a brush, how is this effect achieved?
For a more painterly effect, I sometimes do my charcoals on watercolor board or paper. I pour a pile of ground-up vine charcoal (you can buy a jar of pre-ground charcoal for a couple of dollars at most art stores) onto my watercolor palette and then use a brush and water to "paint" with it in exactly the way I would with watercolor. Once it dries, you can soften edges by rubbing it with a paper towel or your finger, erase out with a kneaded eraser (more so on watercolor board, and less so on paper, which absorbs the charcoal into the paper and won't lift as easily), and draw on top of the dried brush strokes with vine charcoal in the traditional manner. I've even done a few of these on gessoed boards. The nice thing about this method is that you can cover large areas very quickly as well as more painterly than with a stick of charcoal alone.
I've also tried using acetone to apply an initial abstract tone to the paper and then work into this (Richard Schmid uses this technique to great effect). The advantage of acetone is that you can use it on thinner paper since it evaporates so quickly that it won't warp the paper and can be lifted off more easily when dry. The disadvantage is that it is very toxic and you have to use it outside, which makes it only appropriate for an initial tone. I switched to water so I could use the brush throughout all the stages.
Of course, this is just one technique and is mainly suited to the studio. I'd say the vast majority of the charcoals I do in the field and of figures are still simply done with medium vine charcoal and a kneaded eraser.
Why do you both do so many more small paintings than large ones?
Actually, I'd say that Susan and I spend about fifty percent of the time working on larger paintings. But because larger paintings take between one to two weeks to complete and a smaller painting just a day or two, the actual number of small paintings we complete far outnumbers the larger paintings. Plein-air landscapes are even faster, and it's pretty common on a trip to do two or even three a day. For example, I'm now finishing up a 44" by 42" painting that's taken me all week, as opposed to the previous week we spent painting in Maine, where I did eight small paintings on the spot.
Do you use a medium to create thick brushwork?
Susan and I use odorless mineral spirits to clean our brushes and to thin our paint down a bit for initial washes, but just use the paint straight without any medium for the rest of the painting. The way I get such thick brushwork simply has to do with laying out lots of paint and really loading up my brush. I will even mix up large piles of the various colors I'm using in a painting with my palette knife so I will have plenty of paint to work thickly with. I'll also save all my palette scrapings and make piles of grays that I'll use in mixtures in subsequent paintings.
What brand of paint and colors do you use?
Both Susan and I are always trying new colors and brands, but, for the most part, we use Windsor Newton and Rembrandt oil paints. On trips we sometimes use water-based oils, acrylics, or gouache (usually only a red, yellow, blue, and white to save space in our backpacks). Even in the studio, in fact, I'll often do limited palette paintings where I choose some sort of red, yellow, blue, and white to work with. One of my favorite combinations is Ivory Black (which works as the blue), Yellow Ochre, and Cad. Red. It can be very instructive to try different combinations like this since it forces you out of your habitual color mixing patterns. It is also fun to choose a pure color for one of the three primaries and then a grayer version for the other two since this will automatically force your painting to have a harmony.
Here's a list of what I and Susan most often use in the studio.
Oils (Windsor Newton) - Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Red, Permanent Rose, Alizarin Crimson, Viridian, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Ivory Black.
(Rembrandt) - Transparent Oxide Red, and Titanium White.
The linen I use is Clausen's double primed Belgium linen - medium-all purpose texture. I order this canvas glued to Gator Board, both for plein air painting and in the studio even for large paintings. For overseas painting I sometimes get the canvas applied to a very thin media board so they take up less space. I get these panels from Wind River Arts and SourceTek these places also sell the acid free glue and everything separately if you want to do it yourself and save some money.
When money used to be a big issue as a student and for a few years after, I commonly worked on gessoed or shellacked massonite and various canvas panels. I used to take illustration and watercolor boards other students had thrown out and gesso these to have something inexpensive to paint on. Susan likes a smoother textured linen. On trips we work on Shellacked Museum boards of various colors because they're so light and easy to pack, or the canvas on the media boards.
You can seal museum boards with either shellac or polyurethane. Make sure they're museum boards and not matt boards (which are acidic). Museum Board is just like matt board and is mainly used to create mats for museum quality artwork that needs to be framed with materials that are acid free and who's colors won't fade. We order them through art supply catalogues but if you're in a big city with a good art supply store, they'll probably carry them. These are so thin and light that you can easily take as many as you want, plus the fact that they come in many different colors, which can also be fun to experiment on. With a razor and some tape you can easily construct a cardboard slot-box to hold the wet sketches and then simply stack the ones that have dried. I've also occasionally used gouache and acrylics with this setup and then you don't even have to worry about them drying. You might think that 6" by 8" is very small, but you can easily get all the info you need to do a larger painting in the studio. Besides, if it's the choice between nothing and 6" by 8", which would you choose? Nowadays we mainly work on canvas that is glued to a thin media board from Wind River Arts orSourceTek
Brushes - mostly flat and filbert bristles with several long, soft-haired smaller brushes for details. I have no particular brand that I prefer and mostly just buy whichever is on sale.
Various sized palette knives from giant down to tiny.
Watercolors (Windsor Newton or Rembrandt) - I use pretty much all the same colors as in oil with the addition of Sap Green, Olive Green, Burnt Siena, Burnt Umber, and others depending on what the subject. The reason for this is that the colors on the oil palette above are sufficient to mix just about any color necessary while in watercolor this is not always possible.
Brushes - my oil brushes (thoroughly cleaned with soap and water) as well as some flats watercolor brushes of various sizes. I think you will be surprised at some of the wonderful effects you can get with the use of bristles for watercolor!
There are so many great surfaces to work on in watercolor that it's hard to pick just one - my favorites tend to be cold press boards, heavy weight papers, and Bristol board.
Pastels - I use both Rembrandt and Senelier and work on watercolor board, sand paper, or pastel paper.
Varnish -- after at least 3 months of drying, we varnish our paintings primarily with brush-on or spray Liquitex SoluVar, gloss varnish.
I use a Hughes easel that is counterbalanced in the back with weights so you can move large paintings up and down without the use of cranks. They are a bit expensive but worth it especially for large paintings. I ordered mine through Wind River Arts
Do you have any specific suggestions on equipment for travel and painting in the field? e.g. a minimal list of oil paints, size of canvass, a paint box.
There are basically four different setups I use on painting trips, each one becoming progressively lighter and simpler. Which one of these setups I choose basically depends on where we're going to be painting. The first one consists of a full-sized French easel, a large palette that folds up onto itself like a suitcase, and a backpack that holds about twelve oil colors, my brushes, palette knives, solvent jar, paper towels, and canvases. I use this setup when we're painting within the US, have a rental car, and aren't going to be hiking long distances to find our subject matter. This is perfect for plein air shows like the Laguna Plein Air Painters of America and the Plein Air Painters of America show in Catalina. In both instances I simply pack everything up into a large cardboard box and ship it UPS to the hotel I'll be staying at, avoiding all the hassles of checking it through on the airplane. This first setup is also ideal for local landscape painting or driving trips. It's nice having all my brushes, colors, and a large palette when doing larger on-the-spot works.
My second setup is for places where you can't ship your gear ahead and where you might be doing quite a bit of walking to find your painting spot - National Parks, Europe, etc. For these sorts of trips I usually substitute a large poshade box (Susan and I use the Open Box M model) that holds all the paints, brushes, canvas panels, and other equipment compactly in one, easily carried unit. Sometimes I just take the palette section alone in my backpack to save weight. The palette itself attaches to a tripod on the bottom so I can stand and paint with it, or simply sit with it on my lap or at a table (this is perfect in Europe where you can sit at a cafe and paint while sipping tea!). I don't usually do anything larger than 12" by 16" with this setup and most of the paintings tend to be around 9" by 12". Everything fits nicely into a backpack with just enough room for a camera and jacket.
Now for places that are a bit off the beaten path like the trips we've taken to China and Nepal. Since you really need to travel light in such places, I use our third setup which consists of a very small pochade box, three or four brushes, and only four tubes of water-based oil paint (red, yellow, blue, and white - Hobein's DUO brand). We use the water-based paint since it is nearly impossible to track down acceptable paint thinner in such places, plus the fact that you'd then have the extra weight of carrying a jug of it around with you. Each time you fly to a new place within the country, you'd have to find a new source since paint thinner isn't allowed on planes. Water can be found everywhere and it makes cleanup especially easy. This box can also be attached to a tripod, but I just set it on a table or my lap. I have several pochade boxes, but the one I use the most is made by Alla Prima Pochadehttp://allaprimapochade.com/
This is the 10" by 12" "Bitterroot" box from http://allaprimapochade.com/ with a 6" by 8" painting on it and can handle up to 12" by 16" canvases. I also use the open box M setup which has a bit larger of a palette and can hold larger canvases, and a very small 6" by 8" box that is very small and is good when you are traveling by backpack alone.
Here's Susan using one of the Open Box M setups. Open Box M
Artwork Essentialsalso has a nice, inexpensive plein air easel and tripod as well as other art supplies, panel carriers, one of the best umbrellas for your easel, and frames.
For plein air painting, this website sells a very good umbrella for attaching to your easel. It folds up very small, can be bent easily in different directions and has vents at the top to let wind through so it doesn't take off into the air as easily. http://www.pkorch.com/
My last setup isn't really even a setup, just my sketchbook, a few pencils, and an eraser. This is great when you want to do some serious hiking or are just sick to death of carrying all your painting gear. For most of the time in Nepal, for example, when we were trekking up into the Himalayas at high altitude, my sketchbook was all that I needed or wanted.
As to what specific easel or pochade box, etc., I'll leave that up to you. I have been lucky enough to paint with many of the best plein-air painters around and each has their own quirks and equipment that suits them. Most have a few different setups like I do, with the common element being smaller and lighter for far-flung trips and more elaborate setups when doing large paintings within this country. When in doubt, I'd go with the smaller and lighter setups since there is nothing more frustrating than struggling to haul all your equipment down street after cobble-stoned street, with that magical aura of old-world beauty obscured by the sweat pouring into your eyes. Believe me, I know!Other tips.
Lay out your paint before setting out and, if at all possible, at the end of each painting. That way you can just open up your box and get started when the creative juices are flowing. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how frustrating it is to be fussing around trying to lay out paint while that gorgeous, magic-hour light is disappearing!
Wear a dark, neutral T-shirt if painting out in the sun since the strong rays can bounce off a brightly colored shirt and either color your canvas or create glare on your darker brushstrokes.
If the wind takes your finished masterpiece and dumps it into the grass, gravel, or sand, wait till the painting is dry to brush all the dirt and gravel off - it will be a lot easier then and you'll be surprised at how little damage will have been done. Heck, I think a few bugs and gravel in the paint makes it that much more authentic.
Who hosts your website?
Can you critique other artist's work through e-mail?
I just can't give critiques over e-mail for many reasons. One is time, but the main one is that it's too easy to confuse someone when you aren't in front of the actual model and I can't illustrate my points with paint. Just saying the values are wrong or something else is meaningless unless I can show you in detail the proper way of analyzing the subject to solve the problem. I am trying to give as much info through the demos on the website and plan to add a lot more to this section when I get the chance.
Several questions on shows -- what judges look for, how to deal with the depression of loosing, etc.
Just remember that whether you win or loose a show, the painting hasn't changed. If it's good, it's still good, and if it has problems, no amount of awards will fix it. Concentrate on those things you can control, like drawing, value, color, edges, and your creative vision -- the rest will eventually come if that is your focus. When you do get into a show, it can certainly work as a motivating factor to do something especially ambitious, knowing that so many people will see it, but just ignore the awards since they are merely one person's opinion and, had someone else been the judge, there would have been a different winner. Personally, I prefer shows without awards myself, since it's more about simply showcasing everyone's uniquely personal paintings without trying to turn art into a sporting event.
I hope you don't mind my asking but how would I go about applying to some good galleries.
This is a complicated one, but since we've gotten so many e-mails on this subject, I'll do my best to answered all the ins-and-outs of getting into and dealing with galleries!
Approaching galleries. The first thing to keep in mind about this is that most galleries have several dozen artists a week asking them to look at their work. If you're mailing in your slides and want them back, then make sure to include self addressed and stamped envelope and even then there's no guarantee they'll be retuned so never mail off slides that are your only copy. Some galleries have a specific day and time set aside to consider new artists, while others have no problem looking at work if things aren't busy at the time. Slides are a good, portable medium, though hardly anyone ever bothers to actually put them in a projector and see them larger, so I personally prefer a few larger printouts as well as one or two originals if you have any available that aren't too large. (I wouldn't walk into the gallery with the originals, however, but wait until the gallery owner agrees to see them).
It's a balancing act, really. Galleries need work to sell, but would all prefer to have the most established artists possible since they already have a name and can sell for higher prices. There are a limited number of such artists, however, so most galleries try for a couple of these and then look around for the best up-and-coming artists to fill in the rest. It's kind of ironic. I've actually had galleries asking me to go with them when I told them that I just couldn't go with another gallery (even without them having heard of me or having seen my work!). They must have figured that if I didn't need another gallery I must sell well enough for them to want me in their gallery. Had I approached them and asked to show my work, they probably would have been much less excited. What I'm trying to say here is not to seem too desperate. You are interviewing them as much as they are you.
Finding the right gallery for your work is not always obvious. The first gallery I sold work at was called the Paintin' Place in Oak Park, IL. I sold my work there from $75 up to $150 while I was a student at the American Academy and they did very well for me. At that time in my development it would have been counterproductive to have been in a bigger gallery. Even if I could have convinced one to carry my work, do you really think they would have tried selling a painting for $75 when they had paintings for $7,500 on the wall? To that small gallery my paintings were expensive and a good profit so they hung them in a prominent place and worked hard for me. When first starting out in galleries I see many artists make the mistake of going too big too soon. Assess where you are honestly -- what is your name recognition, your price range, what galleries your work will fit in with according to style, medium, and subject, etc. The number one most important thing is how excited the gallery owner is about your work. Even once you're well established, if the person selling your work is cool to it, this will be conveyed unconsciously to the buyer and you won't sell. Better to be in the frame shop down the street with someone who loves what you do.
One final tip. I would check out the art magazines or ask the galleries you're interested in if they have any group shows (many have annual miniature shows with artist that aren't normally with their gallery) that you might send them one or two paintings for as a try-out. If your work is received well, then you can talk about possibly going with the gallery on a more permanent basis. This is much easier for a gallery to do since they aren't committing so much space and time and money to ten or twelve paintings. If their collectors don't buy one painting at a show it's much less work to ship back than a dozen so you have a good chance of them saying yes to such a limited proposal. I've known many artists who started out this way.
The Business End - Once you've found a gallery that you like and that likes you, the negotiations begin. First is commissions, which run the gamut from 50-50 and all the way down to a 15% commission for the gallery for really high priced and well know artists. Most artists I know give 40% or one-third to their gallery. Sometimes this will depend on whether the gallery is paying for the advertising or splitting it with the artist. Generally, the higher your prices and the more in demand you are, the lower the commission, but this should never be your sole criteria when choosing a gallery since there are so many other factors to consider. I feel that the galleries I'm with earn their commission and I'm happy to pay it.
After your schooling, what did you do to become popular?
Was it mainly applying to shows, or trying to get articles written in
magazines? Or was it because of the shows publicity that magazines
discovered you? I am currently an art student, and there really doesn't
appear to be a lot covered on this aspect of art.
To be absolutely honest, I think that the key to popularity as an artist is mainly devoting yourself to your craft and improving your paintings. Everything else will follow from that. "Popularity" is a fickle thing and something you cannot control. Don't try and change your style or subject matter to simply get into shows or magazines that you think will help you. In the end, the most important thing is that you are happy with your work.
As to getting into magazines, it is entirely up to magazine editors who they choose to do articles on -- sometimes they see your work in ads, or at shows, or in galleries, or hear about you from other artists. My advice is to not worry about things like that which you have no control over. Once a magazine asks you to do an article, then it is very important to be professional. Get your materials in on time, have professional quality photographs at the ready, etc. I've known several artists who've actually turned down articles because they had neglected to shoot photos of their paintings and deemed it too much of a hassle to try and track down the paintings to have them shot for an article. Magazine editors have an enormously complex job so if you make it easy for them to do an article on you, you'll likely be asked again. But, again, if your work isn't what it should be, then no amount of lobbying or anything else will get you into shows or magazines.
Below is a standard gallery contract with some of my comments in red. Feel free to copy and paste this contract into your word processing program and use it as a starting point for your own contract.
Agreement is made between ***** (hereinafter refereed to as the "Artist"), and the undersigned Gallery or artist's representative (hereinafter to as the "Recipient").
1) The artist appoints the recipient as an agent for the sale of his/her paintings and promises to supply the recipient with a sufficient number of paintings to satisfy demand. The recipient wishes to represent the artist under the terms and conditions of this contract.
2) The recipient will supply a consignment agreement to the artist each time new works are received by the recipient, showing paintings title, size, and the artist's given retail price (gallery may not raise this price without written permission from the artist). This last part is particularly important. Don't let your different galleries set different prices -- keep them consistent no matter where they are and don't discount them if you sell them yourself, either. The Art world is a small place and collectors and galleries will find out and feel cheated. The couple extra bucks you'll make won't be worth the long-term damage to your reputation. I've had galleries try and sell works above my price so they could simply keep the additional amount secretly, so it is a good idea to have someone go in and check that the prices are correct if you aren't certain of the gallery.
3) The artist's retail price, less the recipient's commission of one-third (33.3%) will be remitted to the artist within thirty (30) days of the date of closing the sale. The title of those works remains with the artist until the works are sold and the artist is paid in full, at which time the title passes directly to the purchaser. Even after sale, the artist retains all reproduction rights to the painting and it is the responsibility of the gallery to advise all buyers of this fact.
4) In the case of installment sales, the artist's two-third (66.6%) of payments shall be forwarded to him each month. Layaway sales shall not exceed six months without the artist's written consent. The painting will remain in the possession of the recipient until full payment has been received.
5) A copy of the sale's invoice on each painting, showing the name, address, and phone # of the customer and the retail amount paid, shall be attached to the remittance of the artist, who agrees not to share this information with any other gallery. Galleries might be reluctant to give you the collector info until you are established, for fear that you'll try selling directly to their clients behind their backs (sadly, there are some artists that have done this), but I think it's essential to have a record of where all my paintings go. Once you establish your reputation, though, it shouldn't be a problem. One added bonus to this is that you can send out a thank-you note to the collector that includes the Title, size, and price of the painting, insuring that if the gallery did jack up the price, you'll get a call from the collector.
6) The recipient will assume full responsibility for the painting as well as the frame. It is the responsibility of the recipient to repair or replace any frame that is not in the condition it was received.
7) In the event that a customer declines the frame, a maximum of five percent (5%) may be deducted from the artist's given retail price or whatever price in specified in writing on the consignment agreement. The recipient's commission is then calculated on the retail balance. The frame remains the artist's property and it is the recipient's responsibility to return it to the artist.
8) The recipient will assume full responsibility and be strictly liable for any consigned works lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed while in the recipient's possession.
9) Works by the artist owned by the recipient shall not be displayed for sale against works by the artist on consignment. This keeps the gallery from buying your paintings themselves and then putting it up for sale at a much higher price, effectively getting a much higher percentage commission on the sale. I once had a gallery owner's son buy a painting and try and sell it for four times the initial amount. The collector called me and I left the gallery. Some artists like to stipulate that the gallery cannot carry resales of their work in galleries that represent them, since collectors might not realize they are resales and be fooled into thinking they are buying a work at the artist's current prices.
I sometimes have galleries request to simply buy my paintings directly for the 60% up front, which I won't do because I know they will simply sell it for much more than I would have and I will ultimately end up with a lot of cheated and angry collectors. Once again, think long term! Galleries do still buy paintings from us at full price from our other galleries and then resell them for more, but this cannot be avoided and buyers simply have to be aware of buying resales from galleries not representing you directly.
10) The artist may withdraw any or all works consigned on thirty days notice. The recipient may return to the artist any and all works without notice. The artist shall be responsible for shipping works from his/her studio to the recipient. The recipient shall cover the cost of returning and properly insuring unsold works to the artist's studio.
11) The consigned works will be held in trust for the benefit of the artist and will not be subject to claim by a creditor of the recipient.
12) The artist represents and warrants that the consigned property is the original work of the artist and that sale of the property does not violate any property right or copyright and does not contain any libelous or unlawful matter.
This agreement will terminate on written notice of either the artist or the recipient.
Upon termination, all of the artist's paintings will be returned to her studio within thirty (30) days at the expense of the recipient. All accounts will be paid in full within thirty (30) days.
Consented and agreed to:
Gallery or Company
controlled by Recipient:____________________Artist's Signature:__________________
One further note on having a painting on Consignment with a gallery.
When a gallery sells a painting that is been consigned to them by the artist, the law states that they are not allowed to use the artist's percentage of the sale for anything either personally or in regard to their business. The money is just as much the property of the artist as the painting had been. I've had times when galleries have told me they were struggling and just didn't have the money to pay me. I've known other galleries that went bankrupt and tried to get the artist to deal with a mediator to accept less money than they were owed.
Don't let yourself be fooled that you are in the same position as other creditors. If a gallery went out of business you would expect to get your unsold paintings back from whomever seized the gallery since they are still your property, just as the money from a consigned sale has always been your property. If the gallery claims they don't have the money to pay you, it is no less than an admission of theft of your property (exactly as if they'd stolen it from your bank account). Such an admission is grounds for criminal prosecution of the gallery owner. Make sure they know you are aware of this and will be pressing criminal charges against them. There is nothing like the threat of criminal charges to focus the mind of a gallery owner and get them to find the money they've stolen from you. Do not sign any agreement from a mediator and let yourself be treated like a normal creditor because you will have given up your right to press criminal charges and may never get paid at all.
Do you have models sign release forms?
We haven't always done this in the past, but I now have models sign the form below (mainly so I don't have to track them down in the future if I want to use one of the paintings I do of them in a book). In fact, we just got a release form for Susan and her niece, Erin, to sign since Richard Schmid is going to use a couple of paintings he did of them at the Palette and Chisel for a new book. Of course it is impossible to get releases from all the people we take photos of in Africa, Tibet, etc. but such is the risk of trying to paint in the world of Land of the Lawyer. Feel free to copy and paste the below form into your word processing program and print it out if you need a Model Release for your own use -- just don't forget to change the names from ours to your own!
Model Release Form.
I __________________________________________ , hereby consent and authorize ___SCOTT BURDICK and SUSAN LYON__________________ and his or her successors, legal representatives, and assigns, to use and reproduce one or more photographs, drawings, paintings and/or portraits of me and to reproduce my name (or any fictional name) for any and all purposes, including publication and advertising of every description. No claim of any kind will be made by me. No representations have been made to me.
I hereby warrant that I am of legal age and have every right to contract in my own name; that I have read the above authorization and release prior to its execution and that I am fully aware of its contents.
Signature (Parent or guardian if subject is under 18) Date
Witness Signature Date
Here's some books bellow that Susan and I'd recommend. Some are simply names of artists we like and some are technical painting books. If we knew the name of a specific book and where to get it, we included that info, if not, we simply gave the name of the artist. Please don't flood us with e-mails asking where to get all these! I'd suggest doing searches on Amazon and used book sellers since many of the books in our own library are out-of print and we're always on the lookout as well. There are no doubt lots that we're forgetting and we'll try and add them to this list as they occur to us.
Dean Cornwell- Bud Plant.com
Carl Von Marr- West Bend Gallery of Fine Art, West Bend, WI
Frederick J. Mulhaupt- North Shore Arts Assoc. Gloucester , MA
The Art of Scott L. Christensen- www.christensenstudio.com
Edgar Payne 1882-1947 and Edgar Payne Composition of Outdoor Painting-Debuis Gallery Laguna Beach , CA
J. W. Waterhouse
The Art Spirit- Robert Henri
Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting- John Carlson
George Carlson - www.georgecarlson.com
The Paintings of Richard E. Miller "A Bright Oasis"- The Jordan Volpe Gallery ,NY
"Fill your Oil Paintings with light and color" as well as his book, "Reflections on a Pond"Kevin Macpherson www.kevinmacpherson.com
The Paintings of Edmund C. Tarbell- Terra Museum Chicago , IL
"Figure Drawing, Head and Hands" and "Creative Illustration"- Andrew Loomis
John Singer Sargent
Anders Zorn - www.nordicartbooks.com
Carl Larsson - www.nordicartbooks.com
Dennis Miller Bunker
Sorolla- Hispanic Society, NY
Nicolai Fechin- Fechin Institute Taos , NM
The Art of Thomas Wilmer Dewing - Brooklyn Museum and Smithsonian Museum
Alla Prima, Figure Painting and Landscape Painting- Richard Schmid RichardSchmid.com
Sacred Paint- Ned Jacob Scottsdale Artist School
Constructive anatomy, Bridgman's Life Drawing, The Book of a Hundred Hands, Heads, Features and Faces- George Bridgman Doverpublications.com
Drawings of Mucha, The Art Nouveau Style of Alphonse Mucha and Mucha's figures- Doverpublications.com
The Gibson Girl and Her America- Doverpublications.com
The Human Figure John Vanderpoel- doverpublications.com This is a must!