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Fantasy inspiration could also come from real life

Fantasy inspiration could also come from real life. It doesn’t have to be totally random.

We’re not rich. I drive a piece of crap car with tons of miles and a big ass dent that I never fixed. We live in an apartment barely bigger than a shoe box.

Every dollar I get, we spend on travel. And travel is where it’s at for fantasy inspiration.

Of course my models, Allie and Roxy, model for me in real life so I get their poses down. But then I turn them into femme fatales. I get that list from historical fiction since for my fantasy inspiration, I want to be somewhat historically accurate. Well, mythologically accurate. (Is that a real term?)

Traveling for fantasy inspiration

You don’t always have to go far. We had some really cool caves about an hour from our old condo. Of course, I took tons of pictures as I knew I’d end up drawing them.

But if you live in Europe, you’re blessed. You got all these buildings you can use for dark fantasy. Disney probably got half his ideas on a European vacation. I have no idea where Frank Frazetta got his ideas from though.

Romania has Dracula’s castle and it’s a great resource! Sure, it’s super touristy now. But you can take lots of pictures, then let those pictures inspire you when you get back home.

Europe has great architecture for fantasy inspiration
Some architecture in Brașov, Romania

Pretty much every country in Europe has magnificent castles, cathedrals, and other architecture you could use for fantasy. I just picked Romania since we were just there.

Nature

Whereas Europe has the really old architecture, America has nature, and tons of it! The West Coast, the East Coast – tons of scenery. Montana has breathtaking mountains. Nevada and Utah have magical deserts for days.

Arizona’s got the Grand Canyon. So many states have magnificent forests you could use.

You already know I’m leaving out a lot and there’s no way I could make a comprehensive list of every awesome spot for fantasy inspiration in America.

Mexico has tons of cool spots. They had both the Aztecs and the Mayan civilizations who both built some pretty spectacular sites that you could still visit to this day. Same with Central America, although we haven’t been there yet.

For tropical fantasy, if you’re rich, there’s the South Pacific. If you’re not, there’s Hawaii. I’ve done a tropical mermaid before. I drew the background inspired by our trip to Maui. We haven’t been to the South Pacific yet.

You also already know I’m leaving out a lot of countries. We only got the travel bug recently so there’s so much more world we have to see.

And let’s not forget Alaska and Canada. Two places with endless unspoiled nature.

People

Some artists could draw human or humanoid subjects without a model. I’m definitely not one of them. I need Allie and Roxy for reference. I hired Jin n Tonic one time too. She’s super nice. But Allie and Roxy are local and we’re really close friends as well.

If you can afford it, you can always hire professional models to work with. If not, ask your friends. A lot more people want to be in paintings than you realize.

From there, I just draw the pose. Then later, I’ll get an inspiration and suddenly, Allie will be a witch or Roxy will be a mermaid. It just happens.

You might want to look into cosplay. You’ll find a lot of people are heavily into it, and will more than likely model for you. Cosplay would be great for fantasy. They already have the outfits! You just need to draw then paint them.

These are all just quick ideas. I’m sure you can come up with a lot more. I’ve intentionally left out a lot. It’s up to you to fill in the rest.

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Why a porcelain watercolor palette is better

When it comes to palettes for watercolors, I prefer a porcelain watercolor palette. But a caveat. I don’t paint when I travel.

When I travel, I take a sketchpad with me. I sketch only. A porcelain watercolor palette won’t be ideal for travel purposes. If you got my luck, you’d get an angry baggage handler who will throw your suitcase as far as he possibly can and crunch! So much for that gorgeous piece of porcelain.

However, it rules for at home use.

I won’t get into plastic watercolor palettes because for one, you shouldn’t be using them unless you’re so broke you have to beg to eat. Seriously. They’re garbage. They bead something terrible and after a lot of use, they stain. At worst, plastic watercolor palettes should be a last resort.

So, in reality, we’re really talking about a porcelain watercolor palette vs a metal watercolor palette. But I’m not about to get into a squabbling match with metal watercolor palette lovers. I think both camps can agree to just thumb our noses up to those plastic palette people and be done with it. Rather, I’ll just argue why you should get yourself a real nice porcelain (also called ceramic) one.

Colors are exactly as they should be

Why do we paint in the first place? It’s because we have something to convey. And when it comes to watercolors, you want to get the most out of your colors.

For this, a porcelain watercolor palette rules over all else.

You pour some paint from your tubes into the palette and they paint exactly how you want them to paint. The next day, they’ve dried and you simply re-wet them. No extra steps are needed. They will perform the same way the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Cleanup is easy

Porcelain doesn’t stain. When you clean it up, it looks brand new. After you’ve painted over a hundred paintings, it still looks brand new.

You can even clean it by putting it in the dishwasher. Yes, I’m quite serious. I’ll wash it though under the heavy cycle since I’m not into eating my watercolors and I’m washing it with other dishes. It’s just like a ceramic dish. You know why? Because it is!

Porcelain mixes perfectly

You’ll find that plastic beads something terrible. For mixing, porcelain is where it’s at.

Sure, I’ve heard you can “treat the plastic.” I don’t want to treat the plastic. That’s one more extra thing I have to do. I’m too lazy to stretch my watercolor paper. Do you think I want to treat some cheap plastic palette?

You don’t lose anything when you mix with porcelain. You get exactly what you get. And when the paints dry, all you need to do is re-wet them.

So easy. After all, we want simple. We want our tools to behave exactly as they’re supposed to behave because the artist is supposed to do the thinking, not the tools. They’re supposed to do their jobs.

porcelain watercolor palette
Working on a Selkie painting

Above you see the next morning. The paints dried from the night before. All I have to do is re-wet the paints and I’m ready to get back to work.

If I remember correctly, that palette went through the dishwasher a few nights before. Look how brand new it looks. That’s after literally over a hundred paintings and it still looks brand new.

I’ll have that thing until I either lose it or one of my students drops it (I only drop my phone, never my watercolor equipment). And you know what? It will still look brand new after it goes through the dishwasher.

The above palette is the one I used to get Roxy’s hair for a previous painting. (She’s my brunette model).

(Also about that image, you probably don’t want to share two colors you don’t want to mix in the same well like I do. But I live dangerously!)

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What are your favorite mermaid paint colors?

Everyone has their favorite mermaid paint colors. Because after all, we all love to paint mermaids. Right? Right?!

Alright. Not everyone is as cool as you or I. There are some weirdos out there who don’t paint mermaids. I stopped returning their calls a long time ago.

Her skin

I wrote a whole article on how I get skin tones in watercolor awhile back. To keep it short, I use the following four colors to get either Allie’s (my blonde model) or Roxy’s (my brunette model) skin color – Titanium White, Burnt Sienna, Hansa Yellow Medium, and Perylene Red.

I paint seven total layers and I always paint in the same order. The reason I do that is to really play to watercolor’s strengths. Watercolor is absolutely tantalizing for layering. Since it’s transparent, you get to see the layers of paint under the fresh layer of paint you just painted. They all show through each other.

You generally paint light to dark, but always with some exceptions. My very last layer is kind of a white wash where I gloss over her entire body with Titanium White. I found this out by complete accident and have been doing it ever since.

Her tail

I only learned about Daniel Smith’s Iridescent paints very recently. And you know what? They’re downright magical!

I aim for lascivious when painting mermaids. They should be seductive, since in some of the myths, they’re cursed femme fatale creatures that lure men to their doom. In other tales, they’re more innocent. Totally depends on the set of myths the writer chooses to follow.

I’m intentionally vague. I want you to decide for yourself what you see.

To be honest though, I’m pretty much copying what I see Allie or Roxy doing. They often initiate the poses. Or, we’ll work on an idea together.

But back to her tail – I use only two colors, both by Daniel Smith. I use Rose of Ultramarine and Iridescent Electric Blue. The latter paint is actually a mix of several other paints and when you look closely, you’ll see it. It’s like buying two or three paints in one. Almost scandalous how awesome these paints are!

mermaid paint colors
My mermaid paint color

Her hair

This comes down to my subject. If it’s Allie, I’m using Hansa Yellow Medium and Perylene Red.

If it’s Roxy, I create my brown from mixing Perylene Red with Hooker’s Green, about 50/50. Those two colors make a luscious brown.

I love both of their hair in real life. Allie’s is currently past her shoulder and Roxy’s is all the way down to her waist.

Anyways, for blondes, I use watered down Perylene Red for where the shadow will be. Then, I do a layer of Hansa Yellow Medium over everywhere.

For brunettes, I use the same brown mix except thicker when I want it darker and more watered down when I want it lighter. That’s yet another thing I love about watercolors. You can change the color’s tone simply by adding more or less water.

Her eyes, lips, nipples, and eye shadow

I’ve been gunning for realism in the past. However, these are mermaids we’re talking about. So I decided to make them more fantasy.

Neptune's Daughters
Neptune’s Daughters – Allie modeled for all 3 of these sisters

For their eyes, I decided to use that Iridescent one for Allie’s eyes and the same brown mix for Roxy’s eyes as her hair. As for Allie’s eyeshadow, Rose of Ultramarine, slightly watered down. I love how that color really makes the blue pop. For Roxy’s eyeshadow, I use Burnt Sienna slightly watered down. That really brings out the brazen brown of Roxy’s eyes.

Both of them have beautiful nipples in real life. The funny thing is you can get nipple pink from watered down Perylene Red. You’ll use less water where you want the color darker and more water where you want the color lighter. It’s all technique.

And for lips and fingernails? Perylene Red, of course. I can’t possibly compliment this color enough. It’s one of my favorite colors to paint with. It can play so many roles.

I won’t go over the backgrounds. That all depends on whether I have them in regular underwater, deep water, or above water on a beach or a rock.

Let me know if you have any questions. And I’d love to hear from you what colors you love to use for your mermaid paint colors.

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M Graham Gouache smells good

M Graham gouache smells good. I mean, really good.

No, I don’t expect you to sniff the paint while painting. But I’m a special case.

I’m nearly blind without my glasses. I cannot legally drive without corrective lenses. Yeah, sure are a lot of people. But, I’m even worse. My eyes are so bad that I should get arrested for driving without glasses.

My glasses are like coke bottles. They’re really thick.

However, I’ve reached that age where when I want to see something close, I have to take my glasses off. I get dizzy when I have my glasses on and I’m seeing something close.

I literally paint on the floor while painting. So here I am, painting on the floor, and painting with M Graham gouache. And you know what? M Graham gouache smells good.

Made with honey

No, I’m not an uber geek when it comes to gouache and watercolors. I know enough to get by.

I did read though that M Graham gouache is made with honey. Which is probably why it smells so good.

I know that nobody 100 years from now is going to buy my paintings because of the smell. They’re going to buy them because they think they’re beautiful. Or at least I can dream, right?

But for a guy like me, smell matters.

When you got a real bad sense, your other senses will compensate for that weak sense. In my case, my hearing and smell are both top notch.

I’m not one of those guys who can tell a $500 bottle of wine from a $50 bottle of wine. But I can tell you if your perfume or cologne is awesome or awful.

So how does it paint?

Oh you want a real review rather than just the smell? Fine. I guess I have to write for my audience.

I’ve been using watercolor with gouache for months now. I was almost exclusively watercolor at first. Then I started fooling around with cheap gouache. And let me tell you, huge difference between the cheap generic gouache and M Graham gouache. It really is night and day.

Pigmentation

What’s the most important thing about paints? Well, why do people buy paints in the first place?

We all know the answer to this. It’s for the color. You intentionally go to the store with a certain blue in mind. And you purchase that blue.

Another pigment may catch your eye. You may buy that too. Or you may look at your wallet and say “shit, I only have enough money for one” and you put the second paint away and just buy that blue.

Regardless, you bought the paint for its pigmentation.

So most importantly, how are the pigments with M Gouache gouache? First rate! I absolutely love Daniel Smith for watercolor. But M Graham gouache is top notch for gouache.

The pigments do exactly what I expect them to do. They look exactly how I expect them to look. They perform exactly how I expect them to perform.

All these things matter, actually first and foremost, when it comes to pigmentation.

Let’s keep in mind, we use gouache for its qualities. We use watercolors for their qualities. Both have strengths and weaknesses. So I intentionally use a combination of both.

Where I expect a gouache to behave like a gouache, M Graham fits the bill. It’s like the Al Pacino of gouache. You know you’re going to get a top notch performance.

Combining with watercolors

This matters second to me. For someone who is straight gouache, you could probably skip this.

When I paint, I use a combination of gouache and watercolors. I don’t want the viewer to be able to tell the difference. In other words, they need to blend together.

My watercolors are almost all Daniel Smith but I did pick up Winsor and Newton as well. But mostly Daniel Smith.

When I used the cheap gouache, you could tell what was gouache and what was watercolor. The cheap gouache had spotty pigmentation and looked, well, cheap.

With M Graham, you can’t. They blend really well together.

Anyways, I’m not a kiss ass. If I don’t like something, I’m not going to recommend it. For instance, old Gibson SGs were fantastic. The newer versions are awful. I mean, really, really bad. I don’t know what happened to that company. Someone told me that they had to cut corners to stay in business and I believe it.

I know that has nothing to do with painting but when I’m stressed out, I pick up an electric guitar and just start playing. I had to sell my Gibson SG because it was such a piece of garbage. If someone asked me which guitar to buy, I’d ask them how much money they had. $800? Paul Reed Smith SE 24.

You see, I’m brutally honest. I might get some Gibson employee on here calling me every name in the book. I don’t care. My integrity means everything to me.

And you know what? I’m so glad I bought M Graham gouache. I’ll probably give the cheap stuff away to a student.

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What is a warm color vs cool color?

These articles on what is a warm color vs what is a cool color are always the shittiest art articles because every time you ask someone to explain it to you, they’re still confused on the topic. So my goal is for you to be able to answer a child. If a child comes up to you and says “what’s the difference between a warm color and a cool color?,” you should be able to answer.

So here goes. A warm color can burn you. You use the cool color to cool you off. How’s that for simplicity?

Artists. Always making things more complicated than they have to be.

I’m the opposite. If you can’t explain it to a child, then you need to go back and relearn it.

Now, here’s where it gets a little bit more complicated. There’s also a part II of this definition. For the warm color vs cool color, it’s not only burn you or cool you off. A warm color will pop forward in a painting whereas a cool color will appear farther back.

So in addition to perspective, you’re theoretically supposed to take color theory into account.

Should you?

Keep in mind the magic word – theory. If you go up to 10 different artists who studied color theory, you’re going to get ten different cutoff points between warm colors and cool colors. So instead, let’s keep it simple.

warm color vs cool color
Warm colors can burn you. Cool colors cool you off

Traditional cutoff

I don’t like to argue. If someone says that I’m slightly wrong, then I’ll let them believe what they want to believe. I paint for things to look good and not to argue points that buyers could care less about. After all, I’m not trying to look good with other artists. I’m trying to look good with the people who actually buy art.

There’s so much snobbery in art that sometimes, I think a lot of artists need to get a life.

Let’s just keep this simple. If it burns you, it’s warm. If it cools you off, it’s cool. Part I of this theory trumps part II. By far.

Reds, yellows, and oranges are warm. Blues and grays are cool. Greens are generally pretty cool but some greens will start heading into the warm direction, but on the cool side. Same with purples.

Arousal vs relaxation

Now let’s add a part III. Let’s get into psychology. Cool colors are supposed to relax you. Warm colors are supposed to fire you up.

Psychological studies have been done that claim cooler colors are better if you want to relax, and warmer colors are better if you want to get shit done. How accurate are those studies? Well, do you really want my 2c? I think the person’s work ethic has more to do than the color of the room they’re doing the work in.

Take everything with a grain of salt. You should know color theory. Then break it. I don’t like rules anyways.

The truth of it all is that you should use colors that fit the painting. Knowing all of this may or may not help your artwork. Before I studied color theory, I had a painting that I showed to a beautiful woman and she absolutely loved it. Then an unsolicited art critic came by and said I need to study color theory. Take a guess whose opinion I valued more.

If you’re already making a living selling your artwork and you don’t know shit about color theory, then you can dismiss this whole article as artistic masturbation. If you aren’t yet, it’s probably helpful.

To be honest, I’m just sharing it with you because I learned it. I thought “what the hell” and did my homework. Now I’m sharing it with you. And as the immortal Bruce Lee says, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”

That especially applies to art. Your eyes are significantly more important than theory. But knowing an extra trick or two can’t hurt.

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Keep the child alive

The child draws. Not asked to. She just does.

And she gets good at it fast. And her parents smile proudly.

She continues to draw and gets considerably better. But, she starts to reach an age where that gets discouraged.

Grown ups will tell her to focus on other things. Other kids will join in on it and start to make fun of her. Because drawing is just dumb.

Decades later, the kids have grown and the world has been traveled.

She tries to rekindle that old passion of hers. Nothing good ever comes out of it because that child is dead.

If that girl is you

If that girl is you, don’t kill the child my friends. No matter what the grown ups say. You may need the child someday.

I have an infinite supply of ideas. I never tire. I could write a song a day or a damn good drawing a day.

Easily.

All because despite everything I’ve been through, I kept the child alive.

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When Creatives Can’t Create

Are you a creative person? And are you going through a period where no matter what you do, it just plain out sucks, or you’re totally blocked?

Well, the good news is it’s the same problem. We can fix it.

The bad news? To quote RuPaul – supermodel? You better work!

That means getting out of the daily grind and changing some things up. Yeah, you’re burning the candle at both ends. Or the opposite. Nothing is happening in your life. Either way, same result. We need to fix that.

Explore life more

I know today is crazier than it’s ever been. I get it. Looking back, I’ve never seen people around here so miserable.

When I grew up, a lot of people would smile for no reason. I almost never see people smiling nowadays. Everyone looks like they’re either stressed out or zoned out. But no smiles.

So what do I suggest? Explore. Break out of the ordinary. Do something you don’t normally do. Go somewhere you don’t normally go.

Do you have a sibling you haven’t seen in years. Why not call them up and tell them you’re coming over? Or where does your best friend live? When was the last time you saw them?

You could always plan a vacation out of the blue. Go somewhere you haven’t been to before. You’re broke? Don’t worry. Check out some places close by that you can drive to. Get a cheaper motel if you have to. Heck, you can even camp if you’re totally broke. Just get out there and do something.

Sunset in Maui
A sunset in Maui

For years, my wife and I were too broke to do anything. It took years of budgeting and aggressive investments to get us into the middle class. When we finally made it, we decided to travel.

I can’t tell you how great this has been for an inspiration. After getting back from our now yearly vacations, I have so many ideas for paintings. And so many references as well.

Don’t be afraid to get hurt

Imagine your favorite song of all-time. Now imagine if you found out that it was all a lie. That the person who wrote the song never felt anything about anything and just computer generated the words.

Imagine how betrayed you’d feel that something you were so attached to was nothing but a lie.

Now, flip this around. Imagine that your favorite ten songs of all-time were totally real. You got the backstories to all of them. Wouldn’t that make the songs way, way more genuine? For me, it definitely would!

Same with art. You need to feel. I mean, really feel.

People who feel something – it shows in their art. The art looks totally genuine. Because it’s from the soul.

That’s how you create the best art. By feeling.

Those afraid of getting hurt will never get their hearts broken. But, will they be able to create art? Sure, but not good art.

A confession

I have a confession for you. I don’t like to talk about this because it makes me a bad guy. Unfortunately, it’s true.

All artists have had their hearts broken. In my case, I was the breaker. I had a perfect girlfriend who was super nice to me and treated me great. She went through a bad time period of my life though. My band was about to breakup and I felt my life was going nowhere.

I felt like a complete loser and I took it out on her. Why? Because she was there.

Eventually, she had had enough and cut me off and I made her one last promise that I’ll never ever contact her again.

She’s been the subject of over 20 of my songs. No, no exaggeration. I’m happily married now, but when I need to write something sad, I think back of her. That was almost 30 years ago.

Another bad thing – I’ve stayed in touch with most of my friends from the past. No, not Facebook. I don’t even have that. I mean real life. And I found out a few years ago that she went through a divorce and never had any kids.

Very sad. I really was rooting for her. Rooting for her was the least I could do.

Alas, that’s what I mean about feeling something. Don’t be afraid to get hurt.

Let the creative juices flow

For a songwriter it’s easy. You just strum chords on the guitar or play some chords on the piano and sing a melody that goes with the chords. A song will come.

You know why that works? You’re literally flowing. You’re letting your creative juices flow.

Now for writers, you start writing stuff. It could be random gibberish. It doesn’t matter.

Once the words start coming from your brain onto the paper (or nowadays, computer), your creative juices will flow and you’ll create.

Now as an artist, just start drawing something. It could be a picture from your vacation. It could be anything. Doesn’t matter. Just draw.

when creatives can't create
Fixing when creatives can’t create

The ideas will come. Lucky for me, I got two beautiful models I work with. Well, technically three now that Jin came by for a solid session. But really two – Allie, the blonde, and Roxy, the brunette. Half the time, they end up selecting the poses and I draw accordingly. Those drawings transform from beautiful young ladies into mermaids, femme fatales, dryads, sirens, selkies, succubi, or whatever. Since I’m letting the creative juices flow, it just happens.

It’s all about movement, my friends. Don’t stay stagnant. Rather, you need to move.

The physical movement for the creative types will cause the creative part of the mind to move as well. You simply use your creative medium. The guitar or piano for the songwriter. The typewriter or computer for the writer. Or the pencil or paintbrush for the artist. Move those fingers!

Morning routine always helps

I’m extremely predictable. Every morning, you know as soon as I wake up, the coffee brews. It magically happens. I drink a cup and immediately do 50 push-ups, 25 body weight squats, hold a plank, then start to draw. I stretch when I remember. That’s admittedly not as often as I should.

The whole thing about drawing every morning, it really helps. If I can’t find anything to draw, I do an image search for Game of Thrones. I can always find the best images that way. Beautiful women. Dragons. Exotic landscapes.

Every morning, I get my warmup drawings in. And needless to say, I’ve improved way faster than I thought I ever would.

Same thing if you’re a musician. Start off every morning with coffee and practice. (If you don’t drink coffee, how in the world do you wake up?)

Do these four things my friends and things will just work out. A consistent morning routine. Physical movement. Feeling something for someone else. And exploration. I listed them backwards this time but the point is to remember those four magical ways to get yourself into a creative mindset.

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Most artists who fail don’t fail due to lack of talent

I know I’m going to offend a few people by writing this article. I’ve been buying art for quite awhile now and I have amassed quite a collection. Some of it is actually worth something. Some of it we bought because we just like it and want it up on our walls.

The thing is, artists are a weird lot. Most artists are just like musicians. They think they can write some songs and everyone will magically discover them.

Hate to break it to you. That’s exactly not the case. Your audience doesn’t have to look for you. Rather, you have to look for your audience. You have to do the work, not them.

Whereas Walt Disney gets all the credit since he had the big vision, he’s lucky he had his brother Roy to handle the sales, marketing, and finances. Unless you got a promoter, you’re simply going to have to do your own promotion.

I’ve seen so many artists with gobs and gobs of talent fail and quit, then go back to doing a job they hate. Meanwhile, their art collects dust and ends up in a landfill.

The hands down most naturally talented artist I’ve ever known hung himself. You’ll never know his name because he killed himself and his parents keep his art for obvious personal reasons.

Most artists who fail fear…

Most artists who fail fear the sales and marketing side of art. Or, they’re in denial that it’s important.

Once again, your audience doesn’t have to discover you. You have to discover them. It’s your job to find them, not the other way around.

most artists who fail
Most artists who fail don’t fail due to lack of talen

Of course, get really good at what you do. Don’t produce complete shit and expect it to sell like hotcakes, even if you have the best promoter in the world. It still has to ring a bell with someone. It still has to touch someone. In other words, put your best foot forward and hide your mediocre stuff.

Don’t worry, we all produce mediocre stuff. Pick your top five bands of all-time. How many of them produced excellence in every single album? Two? One? Zero?

The thing is, until you build your audience, you can’t show your mediocre stuff. More on that later though. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.

Talent and self-promotion

Talent refers to innate ability. Some artists have it. Some artists don’t.

That said, some artists have so much passion that they end up passing up artists who have natural talent. I’ve seen this happen in real life. There is something to be said about work ethic. If I were running a company, I’d rather hire someone with a solid work ethic. There’s a reason for that.

How does that apply to art? Well, for the artist, you have to have a bit of both. Whereas talent is innate, laziness will get you nowhere.

And that ties into self-promotion. Artists have to get over themselves. You need to realize that your artwork may be downright awesome, but if nobody knows you exist, you’re simply not going to sell your art.

That’s where self-promotion comes in. You have to figure out a way to self-promote without sounding desperate. There’s a line in there. You learn it by interacting with people. Read their faces. Are they interested or are you turning them off?

These are all things you learn with experience. Artists should know the sales and marketing side.

What are you doing for sales?

Are you selling at an art fair? Do you have a pretty nice webpage? Are you in an art gallery? Or an art auction? Do you have a distributor?

I sincerely hope you have at least one of these and whichever one or ones you pick, you’re good at. The good news is you only have to be good at one. I got a chance to attend a selling lecture from a successful artist who makes a lot of money. She has a shitty website, but her sales skills are top notch. It doesn’t matter that her website is garbage. She sells in person and shows you her value immediately.

There’s more than one way to sell your art, my friends. This is good news. Find the route you’re best at and go that route.

What are you doing for promotion?

File this one under marketing. How do people know you exist?

I’ve done sales before so I do talk to people about my art. People who matter. People with money who buy art.

Don’t waste your time with people who don’t buy art. It’s like if you write Country and Western music, don’t go to a Goth show and expect to sell your CDs. You need to go to a Country and Western club.

Today, you can promote online. You have social media. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be on all of them. Find the one or two that you find actually getting results and get really good at them. There are no wrong answers. We have different personalities so what works for me might not necessarily work for you and vice versa.

I have an online store. It’s been open since January. It’s already getting some traffic because I’m currently working with two traffic coaches. Yes, not everyone can afford to do that. I get it. But you can still learn how to generate traffic through other means. You can buy books or courses. Or you can figure out how to do it yourself.

Regardless, take the marketing side seriously. Unless you have someone else handling for you.

Artists who fail don’t take sales and marketing seriously. Artists who succeed do. Be the latter.

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How to write a memorable artist statement

artist statement
How to write a memorable artist statement

If you’ve ever been to an art gallery where paintings are for sale, you more than likely saw an artist statement before. They’re the pieces of paper by the artwork that tell something about the artist and his or her intent.

Artists may ask if they really need one. They may question its relevance.

That’s totally fine. But think of it this way. How well do you know yourself? Do you know why are you an artist in the first place? And if anyone asks, how will you respond?

Think of it like an elevator speech without a 30 second time limit. You can make it as long or as short as you like.

However, not everyone who buys art wants to read a book. They’re coming for the art.

Who is it really for?

You can use your art statement to better know yourself and your purpose. You also use it to differentiate yourself from other artists when applying for a gallery.

“But my art speaks for itself.” I’m sure it does. Remember though art gallery owners are sales people. They may or may not be artists themselves. So even if it’s only a 5% importance thing, that’s still 5%. You want to create an air of professionalism and competence. At the very worst, a good artist statement will appeal to those art gallery owners. Keep reading.

“So what do I write in an artist statement?”

Make it reflect yourself. Are you whimsical? Make it whimsical. Do you love painting the Scottish lochs? Well, tell me, the buyer, why your paintings of Scottish lochs are different than your competitors.

I’ve bought a lot of art over the years. We have so much art that most of it is in storage. We will keep our favorite works and resell the rest.

Buyers buy art, and the hardcore ones often want to know something about the artist. I can tell you a lot about Olivia de Berardinis and Craig Tracy. I haven’t even met either of them.

So yes, an artist statement is important and it should be easy to find online. I had no problem finding the links for either of those two artists I just mentioned.

Make it memorable

Are you a good writer? If so, you already know how to make something memorable.

The problem is a lot of people, even damn good writers, have problems writing about themselves. They’ll expose their soul through particular characters in their fiction but when you ask them directly who they are, they often freeze.

Hot tip – if you’re one of those people who has trouble writing about yourself, then write in the third person. You’re totally allowed to do that!

Yet another reason to have an artist statement prepared.

Make it reflect yourself. If you have to, start off with a short biography. You’re divorced, remarried, and have two kids? That’s great. Put it in there. You love dogs? Well, what’s your favorite breed? Put that in there too.

You had the most romantic time of your life in Venice? That’s great. I like Venice. So does that rich old lady there who buys art. Hopefully she’ll read that line.

My son served in the military. A lot of art buyers have also served. You can bet your ass that’s in my artist statement.

Commonalities my friends. Become relatable.

Your process and your materials

You will find a lot of people find the art process fascinating. You don’t have to discuss your process. Some people love to keep how they did their works a secret. That’s perfectly fine.

But, I can guarantee you that someone will ask. You have the choice of discussing your process or keeping it a secret. Totally up to you.

If you do, make it interesting. Don’t just say “I paint with brushes I like.” Make it interesting.

Art geeks may ask which tools you use. Or even what kind of materials. You can mention that. You can even mention why you choose certain materials over others. Some people love to hear stuff like that.

As an art buyer, I hear those conversations all the time. Totally up to you though if you want your process and your materials in your artist statement.

The art

Now, talk about the art itself. That’s a pretty amazing painting of a lady’s nose. But why did you paint a lady’s nose?

You can talk about your muses. You can talk about your influences. So much could go here.

Maybe you paint because you have chronic pain and art is the only thing you can do to help you focus away from it. Tell me more.

Or maybe your past haunts you and you paint it for therapy. I met a UDT once. Very few people will know what a UDT is. Anyways, he painted islands from the air. They were awesome.

This was 30 years ago but had I met him today, I’d love to interview him and help him with his artist statement. I’m sure I could help him make it fascinating.

Memorable and relatable. You’re human. So is that guy with the big wallet who wants to buy a painting or two. Sure you have a 20 year old beat up car and he drove here in a Ferrari. But did you know his grandma was the biggest influence on his life?

You have commonalities with everyone, even if it looks like on the outside you come from different worlds.

Be yourself. I’m sure the art buyer and you have overlap. And you even have overlap with that art gallery owner who asked to look at your artist statement.


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How to mount watercolor paper on wood

Do you need to know how to mount watercolor paper onto wood

The good news – it’s easy. The bad news – it’s time consuming and a lot can go wrong. But don’t worry, we’ll walk through the process step-by-step.

Afterwards, we’ll tell you how to preserve your watercolor painting. That’s another article though. I’ll put the link at the end of this article as well.

(Note that this works for both watercolor and gouache, assuming you’re using watercolor paper).

The benefits

After you mount watercolor paper on wood, assuming you’re using a cradled piece of wood, it’s already ready to hang up. You can decide to frame it later. Or, you can hang it up as is.

Either way it’s going to look great. Some folks prefer art framed. Some don’t. It’s personal opinion.

When it’s finished, it will look like this. I used my leather couch as the backdrop.

mermaid after I mount watercolor paper on wood
Mermaid pulling her hair back

Item list

You’ll need the following tools:

  • Something to cut the paper on (I simply use a real large cutting board)
  • An X-Acto knife
  • Cradled wood so it could be hung up immediately
  • An adhesive
  • sandpaper
  • An old brush

The cutting board, you can pick up at a garage sale or a secondhand store. You probably don’t want to use the one you’re eating from. As for the brush, either use an old one or a cheap one. This brush won’t be usable for painting any more. You might already have sandpaper lying around.

Planning

There’s an old saying in carpentry. Measure twice, cut once. You only get one chance at this so you have to make it right.

You’re going to cut your painting and you may lose an inch of margin. I’ve already planned out in advance as I’m actually painting, so I don’t lose anything of value.

You should actually measure with a ruler your painting area vs the piece of wood you’re going to put it on. You’ll have to do this if you decide to frame it anyways.

So have a plan in advance where you’re going to make the cuts. It will save you heartache in the future.

Measure

OK, the fun part. Measure the wood vs measure what part of the painting you’ll be keeping. Note that when I actually make the cut, the painting is already glued to the wood. But I know in advance what I’m keeping and what I’m losing.

This is a very important step. Do not neglect this. You may lose a piece of your painting that you’re emotionally attached to if you don’t plan and measure correctly.

For instance, for a 9″x12″ painting, you’re probably going to buy the 8″x10″ piece of wood. You’ll be losing one total inch horizontally and two total inches vertically. Or vice versa, depending on whether your painting is landscape or portrait.

Clean, then glue the wood

Before I even glue the wood, I make sure it’s pretty clean. You don’t want dirt or dust interfering with the glue. After all, you’re an artist and you want this piece to last for hundreds of years. I can’t speak for you, but I take that mentality quite seriously. I assume you do too.

adhesive used to mount watercolor paper onto wood
I use this as the adhesive and you see the wood in the background

Now, I assume you already know in advance where you’re going to cut. So now glue the wood. I use an old paintbrush.

Very important! Err on the side of too much glue rather than not enough. Trust me on this one. Nothing more annoying than the next day to see a corner pop up because you didn’t use enough glue.

Make sure the edges are glued well. Also make sure you’ve glued the corners well.

What’s the brush for?

The brush is to even things out. If you have way too much glue, you’ll see a little glue bump in your painting after it’s glued and dried. Whereas this may not be a big deal to some folks, it may drive you nuts. Thus, the brush.

So be sure to brush it down and even it out. Make sure there’s an even layer of glue throughout the wood. And do this relatively fast as we’re dealing with glue.

Stick the painting on

Fun part. I hope you planned well.

This is where you actually stick the painting on the glued wood. Like I’ve mentioned already, you’re going to lose the parts of the painting that don’t fit on the wood. We’ll be cutting them off with your knife.

Once you’ve stuck the painting on the wood, make sure it’s on there well. This is where I hope you’ve had preschool experience. Remember preschool?

This isn’t a joke. A lot can go wrong at this stage. If you’ve never had preschool, you should practice gluing paper onto something else. And once again, this isn’t a joke. You can ruin your painting at this stage. You only get one chance to do this.

You’ll need the painting to stick for the next few hundred years. We’re using pretty good adhesive. This is what professional artists use, and it’s the right formula that it won’t damage your watercolor paper either.

The cut

You’ll need to let your painting dry overnight. I put the painting on a wood table and put heavy books over it because I want the gluing stage to work. I’ve made the mistake once of not gluing a corner correctly. Note, once. I’m telling you this so you don’t make the same mistake.

The next morning, grab your painting. It should be glued on the wood well. Congratulations! You’ve been successful at the hardest part. However, before we pop open the champagne, we still have to make the cut.

This is where I hope you’ve had high school art. If you’ve never used an X-Acto knife, you need to practice first. Don’t take this step lightly because if you screw up the initial cut, you better be really good with sandpaper.

Now put the painting face down onto your cutting surface. Cut with your X-Acto knife around the edges, as close to the edge as you possibly can. Once again, if you’ve never used an X-Acto knife before, practice on something that isn’t important first. You get one chance to do this.

Once this is done, simply sandpaper the edges and it’s ready to be preserved. Oh, wipe away the dust with a soft brush. I assume you already have plenty of those.

After you mount watercolor paper on wood

You’ll now need to preserve your watercolor painting. I wrote a separate article for that since I don’t like to cram too much information into one article. I don’t know about you, but my head hurts if I get too much information. That’s why I like to break things down.

After I’ve preserved my paintings, I make a cold, hard decision. If it’s an A, I put it on the store. If not, I give it to a friend.

I sincerely hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions.