Epiphany #1

Back in January, I took a plein air painting workshop and I had an epiphany: I really am not a landscape plein air painter and am not enjoying trying to be one. I have no idea why my brain didn’t register that fact until I was in the class and talking to the instructor at the end of the workshop. My actual comment was “Great workshop but I think I really hate plein air painting.”. I said it and surprised myself because that wasn’t at all what I intended to express. I think I meant to just say “Thank you, great workshop.”. But as I said what I said, this pressure lifted off my brain and I knew it was true. I had forgotten this monumental foot-in-mouth comment until the opening of the show of the students’ paintings from this plein air workshop. But no worries, more than a few people who overheard me that day were going to remind me.. They laughed. I laughed. And then I thought about crawling under a rock.

Don’t get me wrong, I love plein air landscape paintings and creating art outdoors but it’s not my love. If I had to put my finger on why, it’s all the gear: pochade box, tripod, umbrella, panels, panel carrier, paints, mediums, brushes, towels, wet wipes, bug spray, sunblock, hat, and other stuff to keep me going while I stand on the scene for 2-3 hours. Not to mention all the pressure: “Is this a good spot? Should I spend another 30 mins scouting compositions? The light is changing!”. You know what’s easier? Sketching with watercolor, paper, ink, and markers. Everything fits in your bag and you can do it just about anywhere. Not to mention, who cares if light changes or colors are off…it’s a sketch. Just do another.

Photo for this blog entry is of me, age 8. I think it properly captures my internal mind struggle.

Finding a Market

Here in Orlando we have one of the oldest (and best in my opinion) Fringe Festivals. I love this time of year. For two weeks you can binge watch plays and meet artists and creators from all over the world. Over the last ten years, I've gone to see theater and to buy art at the Fringe. This year, I decided to submit three of my own pieces to the Visual Fringe and to volunteer to sit at the Visual Fringe arts table. It was one of the best decisions I've made so far.

Knowing your market is something that every business needs to know and it can also be the hardest to know when you are starting out. "Your market" is more of an educated guess. Who do I think will buy my work? What's the demographic/price point/purpose? I've received advice that the best way to find your market is to think of your perfect client and find the places where those people are (although that sounds even harder). Art is business and finding the market for a piece is how you sell.

So, when I picked pieces for my submission this year, I thought about what I bought previously at the Visual Fringe (my price point for buying), what sold, and who is going to the Fringe. I took an educated guess that most of the attendees would be locals, that they would be hip, and they may like local sentiment. My price point for buying at the Fringe is $250 and so I figured the price point of the market would be less than $250 . The three pieces I submitted were an oil painting of Kappy's (a Maitland, FL local landmark), Bakery with the women sitting in the window with her cool sunglasses (not local but I thought hip), and Coin Laundry ( sign from Winter Park, FL).Prices were $150, $225, and $85 respectively. 

My educated guesses paid off. Kappy's sold immediately and I received two requests for commissions and got to meet the owner of Kappy's which made my night. I've noted to self to make prints of this piece for future local shows. Bakery took a bit longer to sell which I think was because the price was close to the top of the price point. Coin Laundry did not sell and I think this was because it was too generic and not local or hip enough. If I submitted a painting of Beefy King, it would have sold in a heartbeat.

Not all my guesses of the market paid off though. When you volunteer at the Visual Fringe, you can bring in additional small work to sell. I had made 5 x 7 inch  original gouache and ink paintings of local places within Central Florida. The price was $10. While I sat at the table, I took the suggestion to create work and made a few others. Interest in work- ZERO. Sales of work- ZERO. My guess was wrong.

Here's what I think were the issues: 1. People didn't realize the work were original paintings and possibly thought they were expensive prints. 2. I didn't have a lot of selection- just 7-10 pieces. 3. I didn't display them upright so people could see them without walking up to the table. If I had possibly put a simple frame on them, I might have sold multiples at a price point of $25. Maybe I missed my market but random luck can't be discounted from the equation either. Shifts at the volunteer table are two hours long. My "market" would need to have been walking by and noticed my work within this short window. Using zero math, I figure my chances were 10% of making of sale in those two hours. Many of the artists that did sell works at the table brought in a lot of work and volunteered a couple shifts in a row.

I met some very talented and generous artists while volunteering. The opportunity to pick the brain of other artrepreneurs was priceless. Will I volunteer again next year?-hell ya. Do I know "my market"?- sort of. I know that my thought process on figuring out the market for a piece isn't flawed. The Visual Fringe is just one market and is truly one of a kind. Finding my tribe that will follow my work and buy, is going to take a lot of time, a lot of educated guesses (thought), and experimentation.



Finding a Groove

It's been exactly 50 days since I started the "getting out of idea debt" daily painting project and I have done......drum roll....19 paintings. That should be a depressing number but it isn't. I started off this project with the goal of clearing out the clutter of ideas I've been harboring for years. I felt like all the painting ideas that I've accumulated were all a disconnected mess with no connecting theme, style, or vision. What I've realized from just the 19 paintings and seeing them hanging on my wall in a beautiful grid is that they all have something in common and I'm liking how they are coming along.

Seeing the paintings together, I could see the forest and not just each individual tree. I found that the beach painting of the Dania Beach pier looked great hung in an array next to the parking lot paintings. My sign paintings also looked pretty good next to the solar eclipse series. I could start to see what the commonality that attracted me to these visuals and to start to see a "brand" and potentially a market and marketing strategy. When I look at the groupings of my paintings,  I see theme's of "memory/reflection/sentimental", "story", and "subtle". However, what I see may not be complete or even accurate.  What do you see? ( I really want to know- even if it's a criticism). 

After 19 paintings, I see where I want to go and I think the next 31 paintings might actually be done in no more than 45 days. Honestly, a 10 x 10 inch painting a day was a lofty goal. Day job, commissions, and my kid all take time. I heard this phrase concerning time management and projects at a seminar: "We all have a four burner stove and maybe an oven". You can have two items cooking in the front, two items simmering in the back, and maybe something baking in the oven. If you have a family and a day job, they will take up two of your burners and will alternate between cooking and simmering.  So, really I have only two burners- a cooking and a simmer (almost like every actual stove I've owned until recently).

Thanks for following along, Oh and if you see one or two of these (I personally think 3 to 6 look awesome) that you like- 10% discount on multiple paintings. 



Daily Painting: Five days in

I finished the first series in my 60 days of daily paintings: I wish I was at the beach.

What I've learned:

Painting the beach is almost as relaxing as being at the beach. I also realized that it's my favorite subject.

The paintings that I like the most and think turned out the best took the least amount of time to paint. I didn't let myself overwork or think too much. On average each painting took about an hour and half but some like the painting of my friend's daughter running towards the beach took half that time. Moving faster and being less precious with the painting had some good results.

My next series of 5 will be Signage of Central Florida. 

5 down, 55 to go.


Idea Debt

Idea debt: when you spend more time planning in your head an awesome project than actually creating it. The further into debt you become on an idea the more overwhelming it can be to start the project.

I've been in idea debt for years.  Hundreds and hundreds of quick photos, sketches, and scribbles -all of them painting ideas. Each idea honed while I was doing nothing in particular -like getting ready in the morning, driving to my day job, driving home from my day job, grocery shopping, waiting in line, and so on.  There's a lot of backlogged ideas that at this point, I don't even know if they are good ideas any longer. They might just be crap. However, I feel like I can't move forward until I clear up the backlog. 

To get out of idea debt, I'm going to clear out the backlog. Over the next 60 days I will paint one 10x10 inch painting daily. There will be 12 themes with each theme consisting of 5 paintings. My goals for this exercise are to clear out all the old ideas, to hone my painting skills and to generate fresh ideas. 

The first week began yesterday, March 19th. The theme for this first series is: I wish I was at the beach. 

Themes for upcoming series (in no particular order): Views from 7th floor parking garage in Orlando, trees, animals, tourist trap, shop windows, children, signs, construction, nostalgia, cityscapes/buildings, and flowers.

These paintings will be listed on my Daily Paintworks gallery (link on my page under Art for Sale) and will be posted daily on my Facebook page and Instagram.  




A day at the beach

My son and I took a weekday trip to the beach for some playing in the sand and painting. My favorite spot to paint the beach is Cape Canaveral National Seashore. The National beach park is the only beach I know of in Central Florida that is still natural and uncrowded- no condos, no houses, no restaurants, no piers, and no jetties. There are the dunes, beach, and the ocean. And if there's been a big storm-  a great place to find seashells. 

I set up my Open Box M paintbox and easel along with our beach chairs and towels. I dug the easel down to keep it from flying away in the wind. As I set up my paints, I placed the panel for the painting on my beach chair. Just then, a huge wave came up and washed into the chair and over the panel. Luckily, the panel didn't float away. It just got a nice priming of sea water to give it that authenticity of a seascape. 

It was a beautiful, sunny day with a cool breeze near the water and just a few people on the beach, mostly fishing. My painting buddy kept busy looking for shells and running down to the water to chase the waves out. It was a perfect day: painting, the beach, and my son.

You are a long time dead

Hi, my name is Margaret and I want to be a professional artist. Specifically, a painter. WOW! That feels amazing to say. Just typing out what I actually want into actual words for others to see is very freeing. Why have I never done this before? Oh right...because it's scary and big and difficult and the path isn't clear and if I fail, how will I afford food and clothing and put a roof over my head? What a ridiculously unrealistic career! (just ask anyone). 

Like anyone that declares they want to be an artist, I have a passion for art and creating. There's where it begins...passion. I see something, think something, dream something and then create. Voila...artist! There is a problem with passion though because it sets you up for disappointment and soul crushing depression if it turns out your passion doesn't sell and no one likes it. Maybe you aren't good enough. Maybe you should keep this to yourself. Maybe you should just go off and eat worms. Or maybe you should become an accountant. 

Well, I am an accountant. I have a Bachelors in Science in Accounting and I am an IRS enrolled agent . For 10 of the past 15 years that I've been an accountant, I've worked in tax (specifically corporation, partnership, trust, and high-net wealth individual taxation). Prior to becoming an accountant I took lots and lots of art classes. Lots of classes and not one about how to find a career in art. Accounting though, you get a degree and you have a career. Accounting has a very clear and direct path (except in the cases when it doesn't). In accounting, you get the degree and you work. The more you work, the more experience you have, the more your work is valued, and the more people know you as an accountant. It's a lot of work and I'm a pretty good accountant (I know stuff). But there's this thing...

I got good at being an accountant because I worked and worked and worked. A good chunk of my career was learning under pressure. Now, I'm at a certain point in my life that the learning curve isn't so steep and I can't help but think, is this what I want to do? Is this what I want to keep working for? I know, kind of sounding like a mid-life crisis. Well, it sort of is.

"You are a long time dead. So enjoy life." This comes from the artist bio of Sharon Muldoon and it is the truth. I'm borrowing this as my new mantra. (in case you are wondering, my old mantra was "not my problem, not my problem."). I like creating art. It's my happy place and after 15 years in the business world, I can see what I really want is a business of my own. I know to be successful you work, you persevere, you learn, and eventually you get to where you want to go even if the path wasn't so easy and clear as first thought.

Thinking of this as a business is still scary but freeing. I've seen many business start from an idea and grow. I've also seen those without a vision or plan fail. Why should being an artist be any different than starting any other business endeavor? Sure, I may still have a little bit of my heart on my sleeve when it comes to my dreams and passions but this is a business. I'm going to work and work and work. I can understand this. So, will I succeed? I think there is more than a 50% chance I might. Like anything you want, it comes with just beginning and then just continuing.

On this blog I will post my work-in-process, stuff I learn, my triumphs and my setbacks. Enjoy!