Last week, I painted in the gardens of the historic Fatio House in downtown St. Augustine, Florida – a museum surrounded by beautiful Spanish Colonial-style buildings. I often paint small when I’m in the field to get the basics quickly. If I like the painting after I get back to my home studio, I’ll often repaint it in a larger size. Here’s my progress on a tiny study:
Most of my professional artist friends are overwhelmed by their growing amount of art. Even many of the highly successful artists who make a nice living and paint beautiful work suffer from an overabundance of old and unsold work. Artists hoard, stuff into closets, line hallways, 10-deep sitting against the walls in bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms. Old art, new art, multiple prints/giclees, good, and bad. A predicament.
The solution? Sell it. They try. But many artists’ finest paintings have already been shown and failed to sell.
The problem is the art market has changed. The current generation of art purchasers have grown up in the era of minimalism, Ikea, and Target. They don’t want grandma’s old Hummel collection or the china closet that held it. This is the era of living lightly, buying small homes, and owning less.
A couple of months ago, a local auctioneer told me she’s experiencing a “glut” of original art. She said that she’s getting $25 for the gorgeous paintings that had been in galleries for $4,000. I am not kidding. She said there are too many artists and too few buyers, and the result is too much art.
Is Art Dead?
Art is certainly not dead at the top of the market – the big New York auction houses are selling major pieces at unheard-of highs. And it’s still alive in the middle of the market, but now collectors want investment pieces that create a statement rather than clutter.
What Do Artists Do?
Successful artists adapt to changing lifestyle trends and sell their best work. And they get creative with the leftovers.
Robert chooses to live in the clutter of his paintings; his estate will have to figure out how to dispose of his paintings after he dies. Emily sells old/bad pieces in garage sales for next to nothing, but wrestles with undercutting her galleries, putting bad pieces out in the market, and devaluing her art. Others donate, gift, and paint over old work.
My Personal Solution: I sell my best work through galleries or online. I keep a few. And then, gulp. I bonfire. Burn and release. Watch the smoke carry away the last sparks of one-time hopeful masterpieces. It’s a sad moment. Then I walk away. Back in the studio, clutter-free, I replace old dogs with new hopefuls.
I’ve just created a lovely group of minis – small plein air landscape studies of trees in the wind. More impressionistic than abstract, these trees have a soft energy, blowing leaves and shimmying, dancing in the breeze of the day. It’s been quite a nice winter in St. Augustine, Florida and I’ve been out and about doing these quick landscapes more often.
These landscapes are small – 5 x 5 inch studies, and very affordable. They are for sale online at my daily paintworks page.
I have had my art stolen in many ways:
- by galleries who “lost” my work
- by gallery customers who pocketed my work in their handbags
- by one particular gallery who recently went out of business without returning my paintings or sending me a check for sold work
- Finally, by online art thieves
Heartbreak of Online Art Theft
One day, I happened upon a lot of my work on Amazon.com. I had not placed it there. My online art stores did not place it there. The new thieving “owners” of my art were companies based in China. They had found low-resolution, bad copies of my art on the internet, copied it, and were now reselling it on Amazon. Some of those copies were even watermarked.
So, I researched. I joined a couple of online groups of artists who were facing the same thing. Amazing what we have to put up with – all we want to do is create, only to have others steal steal steal.
Through my online groups, I found out how to send takedown notices to Amazon, and they removed the products from their website. For a while. Two weeks later, the works were back up under the name of new companies from China. I kept sending takedown notices, but they reappeared. Since then, I’ve found lots of my things on other websites. These Chinese thieves simply wear you down. For a while, I was all-consumed chasing thieves rather than painting.
While I’m painting again, I still send occasional takedown notices, although it does little good. I’m also watermarking photos where I can and post low-resolution images, but it doesn’t always protect my work.
So what can you do to help? If you purchase art or printed art on the internet, I urge you to be wary of things that just don’t look “right.” Better yet, purchase directly from the artist.
Also, you can read more – Here’s a wonderful recent article about another artist who went much further than me:
It helps to do a quick 30-second 2″ thumbnail sketch before starting a painting. With a quick thumbnail, you can work out the composition, play around with different cropping, and indicate the lights and darks before you ever put paint on the canvas. I refer to my thumbnail sketch often as I start a new painting. It’s a plan. It keeps me grounded. And it speeds up that paint process.
A great thumbnail makes all the difference in creating a successful painting. I don’t get lost as much. It’s become a critical part of my process.
But I’ve found over time that I needed more than just a black and white sketch. It just wasn’t enough. I needed to include color in my initial design. Without a good color plan, my larger paintings got lost in grays and browns and mud. These setbacks could take weeks for me to muddle through. So, while I still do pencil sketches for everything, I’ve also started painting small 5×5 color studies in preparation for large-scale work. It saves loads of time, and just like the pencil sketches, they keep me on track.
My new 5 x 5″ small color studies are really full-blown mini paintings, and I’m selling them on my online gallery at Daily Paintworks.
Changes… While my roots are in soft impressionism, I’ve been going in the direction of abstract for years. I’ve always appreciated and used techniques of abstract landscapes – painting very high horizon lines, graphic shapes, and unusual compositions. But recently I took a surprising leap into exploration of more abstract forms.
I’d gotten into a rut. Take trees, for example. I’ve done lots of plein air painting, and trees are always there. Trees and more trees. Again and again. They’ve become, well, boring. I desperately needed to find something different to do with trees.
Breakthrough: Out by the marsh painting with friends. I didn’t want to paint another marsh scene. Not another tree. I sat there. I couldn’t paint it. I was frozen in my painting chair as I gazed out on the familiar scene. Then, the trees moved in the wind, as if to say, look again. That moment, I started to really see them. Something changed.
My hand started moving on the canvas. The trees were moving. Fun. I gave them a party. That day, they threw confetti into the wind. They stretched. They danced. And my whole world shifted into something different. I’m seeing in semi-abstract now. And the fun begins again.
This is a new painting that’s in a semi-abstract style. This landscape shows a stormy day at the beach, with a path leading you toward the back. Grasses blowing. Subtle pops of orange and blue.
I call it “The Path”. I have been creating lots of paths in my landscapes lately. I’ve always known that a path is a fabulous way to draw the viewer into the picture. It’s a way to naturally move the eye from the foreground and lead it inward. It beckons the viewer to come closer. Stay a while. Explore the painting. To further pull the viewer in, I added my little “pops” of color, added at the point of interest at the end of the path.
Here’s a brand new painting in my semi-abstract style. You still know they’re trees. But they’re in a new reality landscape, shifted reality. This one shows my little trees having a great party at the bottom, throwing confetti and blowing in the wind.
I call it “new way” for two reasons – first, because it’s a new way of my looking at the world – in a semi-abstract way. Second, because the path, or road, in the painting will take the viewer, or the traveler a new way into the distance, through color and light and pattern.
This is the first post in my very new blog. Here, I’ll be adding new paintings, my process, and things I’m learning and teaching.
But don’t think this is a new thing for me – I’ve actually been in the blogging business for years, on another platform. But I’m finding that it’s now the perfect time to switch from my old “blogger” posting to make it easier and faster to get you the most current updates about my art world. You can still see the oldies – just swing on over to http://marypaintingaday.blogspot.com.