Not for sale but a picture of my cupcake tins


Not working on a painting today but for the next few days getting reacquainted with my watercolor supplies. In the picture above you can see what my watercolor tins look like. Many of you are familiar with my work and understand that I like big bold color. Choosing the cupcake tin for my watercolor paints wasn’t my idea but when I saw other artists doing it I knew it was for me. I had been trying to come up with a palette that would hold at least one large tube of paint. The cupcake tins actually hold two if I fill them to the top.

Lately, I’ve been busy but when I find the time to paint I’ve been oil painting. I’d like to start my daily painting regime again with watercolor so I’ll start by giving you a re capp of my supplies and my process. Check back and I’ll post this information as the weeks go by.

Since I’ve been painting for a number of years I have a pretty large inventory of paintings and of course many are of my favorite subject…KOI. Its interesting when often I’m asked about my Koi paintings. It seems some people think I should always paint them while and equal number of folks thinks it would be boring to paint the same thing over and over.  Although no two of my paintings are the same the subject matter usually centers around water and Koi.

This leads me to ask how often should we change our art, style or process? Is it better for artists to cultivate variety or consistency?  Galleries tend to encourage artists to keep creating the same thing (that sells) over and over again. While artists, in general, like variety to stay motivated and inspired.

There are two schools of thought here. The first is consistency. Consistency in our work allows us to keep experimenting on one theme and to go deeper. Many artists paint one type of painting and become “known” for their Portraits/figures, or landscapes, and even wildlife. They continue to explore the endless methods and palettes until they approach what they believe is their own style. Usually an Artist will get very good at what they do using this approach.

Variety, however, is an important ingredient in our work, helping to keep our ideas fresh and our approach on the leading edge of the trends and new materials available to us.  This is another important aspect of being an artist. If we are so consistent that our work is repetitive, we do not grow as artists and the work will suffer. Yet, when we are so insistent on variety that we will not allow ourselves a chance to see the things from every angle. We don’t allow ourselves the permission to paint the “thing” over and over.  Then work may suffer as well. Sometimes it is important to continue in a series until its right for us. By using or incorporating and throwing out ideas without fear of poor paintings then we may find what we are looking for. Rather than bouncing around from style to style and never allowing ourselves to take a concept deeper. we may find it difficult to “find” our style.   If this sounds like you, allow yourself the PERMISSION to work thru a subject if only to explore the thing until you have tried everything and thrown out what doesn’t work for you and hopefully  you’ll find a more personal or meaningful way to express yourself.

Of course “balance”, may be the key here and the key to successful personal balancing is paying attention to how we feel. As our needs change, our feelings will let us know. Sometimes we may need to allow variety and experimentation to take us out of a rut, and re-energize our work. At other times we may hit on something that really gets us excited. These are the times to stretch 10-15 canvases ( or paper) all at once and create a series to see how far we can take that one idea. We can be anything we decide or so they say, we can also paint anything… anyway, this is your choice, we have the ability and the freedom to either be consistent or ever changing.

Here is an interesting take on our ability for variety, taken from a quote from Robert Anton Wilson in his book “Prometheus Rising” (New Falcon Publications, 1983, p.125). Just prior to this, Wilson describes the human survival instincts that involve both consistency and variety;

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

so with that said….Buzz off…

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Cooking and Movies…. Julie, Julia

I went to see Julie Julia today and enjoyed it. I laughed frequently and cried more than once. It was a touching story of two women and their relationship with food and the men in their lives. I knew I would like it even before I saw the movie because even though I’m not a foodie, I love to watch people cook. I watch the food channel while cleaning house or doing paper work. I also liked the Sat. night live parody of Julia Child’s cooking show. She was quirky and so “real”.100_1499

Clayboard verses paper, a watercolorist’s dilemma.

People write to me often and ask me why I paint on surfaces other than paper. Some folks have always challenged my methods because they are not traditional in nature. The use of heavy pigment at times almost straight from the tube, the use of spray fixative and of course the use of non traditional painting surfaces. First, I would mention that this is nothing new, people have been painting on gessoed masonite for over 40 years. I’m sure canvas, wood and other supports have always been available to watercolorists and have been used as well. I started painting on other surfaces for several reasons. I’ve painted on paper for more than 20 years and feeling like i was missing something, wanted to branch out. I’ve always like experimentation & now that I’m confident of my painting skills, wanted to see what else is out there for the watercolorist. There is a lot of work in the area of water media, which is exciting and fresh and not limited by the traditional restrictions of watercolor on paper. Even our state (SC) watercolor society changed their name to watermedia society and this made me realize that things were changing. The South Carolina watercolor society has always been at the forefront of new artistic avenues and being a part of it was important to me. I also found that sales of my paintings on clay board, canvas or gessoed masonite were selling for a higher price than the works on paper. These surfaces are actually easier to paint on once you learn their limitations and yet give the artist many ways to express an idea. Without having to plan ahead, and the ability to correct mistakes easily it helps the artist be more in the moment. It also allows the artist (especially the new artist) a certain amount of freedom that watercolor on paper can only do after many years of experience. I still love watercolor on paper and probably always will. It not that one is better than another but they offer the artist variety and a challenge. Also… why is it that we watercolor  artists feel we must restrict ourselves for traditional methods. Some of these methods aren’t even traditional but have just recently ( within the last 40 years) become rules. For instance the forbidden use of white paint, Turner, Homer, & Sargent all used white paint. I love the look of white paper but don’t see anything wrong with using white if the painting calls for it.

Here are three examples of very similar paintings on three different surfaces. Fom a distance they look very much the same but up close they have a slight variation in texture.  The one on the right is traditional 140 lb paper. The one in the middle is gessoed masonite and the last is illustration
(#100 )board.
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DSCF2190 Gessoed masonite illustration board

watercolor paper

Day at the beach

dogs at the beach 7 by 10 watercolor on watercolor paper $50.00

This is part of my dog series. I’ve been painting groups of dogs looking out at the skyline for a few months now. I guess you can say its a series. Some things aren’t planned but they can be a lot of fun. I’ve had a bit of fun painting these pups.

Probably its because I like dogs and I “know” their mannerism so its easy for me to see these dogs carrying on a conversation amongst themselves. I can only imagine what they would say. One line that always comes up is…. “do you think we ought to tell him he’s adopted?”

I know I have a sick sense of humor.

have a nice day…

The Struggle

Most artists struggle. Either they can’t seem to get down their vision of what they want or they don’t know what they want, (they’ll know it, if they see it). I think this struggle is part of the process. Its too bad because of this constant push/ pull it sometimes seems not to be worth the effort. Its why some people give up doing their art. Also, I see people giving up their art because they don’t have enough buyers. Buyers equate “good artist”. No buyers (not counting family and friends) means not a good artist. This definitely is not the case.

We live in an age when people will buy a Persian rug for their dining area, cover their sofa in silks, and import tiles from Italy to decorate their home tastefully and expensively, yet these same people will have pictures of art rather original art on every wall in their house. They will pay more for a custom frame and mat then for an original piece of art. Go into any model home these days, same thing, prints everywhere. (Please, I have nothing against prints.. so don’t write me justifying your print purchases) Most from 18th and 19th century artists. I guess they feel pretty good or safe rather, that this art cannot be denied as good art. It has stood the test of time. The truth is… I think people don’t trust their own judgement when it comes to choosing art. They need someone to tell them what is good art. All they have to do is trust their inner voice that says “I love this” but they don’t trust that little voice so they listen to experts…But who? do you trust Gallery owners? Especially when they are getting 50% of the profits? Do you trust your own decorator who is going to choose a piece of art because it matches a sofa? You have to admit, even I may not pay some of the high prices for some art, especially when it appears to have been painted with a stick or a rag. People don’t like to be taken advantage of and they don’t like to admit they don’t “know” art. The other problem is a simple one, people don’t appreciate original art in the US as much as in many other cultures around the globe. Now as in the past, Art was OK as long as it was something to do as a hobby but not as a career. It isn’t real work. We have a very strong work ethic in this county and some parents often put creativity in the back seat while encouraging productive hard work, left brain thinking.

So, if we don’t buy original art and we encourage our kids to do anything but become artists, and we don’t support the arts in schools what we are we saying?

Its no wonder today’s artists may feel as though it isn’t worth the effort, that the struggle to produce good art is just that, a struggle. As an artist I’ll remind you, of a few important things.

1. Its takes a very long time to become proficient at something as complex as art.
In fact, if it were easy, would you still even want to do it?

2. Don’t take the advice from lay people. They won’t help you, even if they have good intentions.

3. Be a lifelong student, don’t plan to figure it all out right now. It really is about the journey not the destination. Its a journey for one, just you.

4. Do whatever you enjoy doing, even if no one buys it. Hey, its cheaper than therapy.

Studio Tour

4-by-6-online.jpg Here I am sitting for a minute before I start the painting…..probably wondering what will I paint next. Often, I plan, plan plan, but once I start, I usually forget the plan and just let the painting decide what it wants to be.

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 Here are some small pieces of paper waiting for me to just get a few minutes to start a painting.    I think I was gessoing these .. I usually do the priming in an assembly line  because it can get messy. 

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I don’t like to store all of my seldom used items in my painting area preferring to keep it tidy. Especially since My painting area is small.
Behind all these completed paintings are several things, a big box of mat board, slides, a light box and related equipment ( some things I can’t seem to throw out even though I haven’t used them in years) and framing supplies. Also framed bios which are ready to be hung with my photo for outdoor festivals or street shows.

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I have a small TV in my work area that I can watch. Often I will watch DVDs or videos of other artist’s painting or giving instruction. Its a good way to learn and its very easy to trade DVDs or videos with other artists so you can always have something new to see and possibly learn a new trick of the trade.

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This is a walk in closet that I keep most of my frames and also larger framed paintings.   Many of these paintings are stored here after being in a show or in a gallery.   As you can see…  I also store my Bike here to keep it dry and clean.

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Here is a sneak peek at many of my small paintings just waiting for someone like you to buy.  They are stored flat and by size. I have four big drawers full of Daily painting.

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This is my little area that I use to pretty much do everything from painting to shipping.  The green cabinet straight ahead is of course my flat files with all of my stored paper which I buy in bulk, all of my customer information and my daily paintings, also many larger works and drawings.  I got this flat file at a newspaper that I used to work for because as most of you know newspapers now use computers. Of course I’m old enough to remember when back in the day they did something called “cut and paste ” these files were used to store all of their materials for this job.  These flat files became obsolete and if your lucky, you’ll get one for next to nothing from your local paper. These large files are sold for $500.00 in most artist’s catalogs.   On top of the flat files is my mat cutter ( I highly recommend the Logan 650) but from this distance you can’t see it very well… also along the sides of the flat file are stored all types of supports and foam core.  My router is on top of the flat file and my computer is across the room on a small table I use to package the paintings and get them ready to ship out.

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This  large cabinet is full of art books, sketch books,  video tapes  and DVDs of art instruction and art history books.  I really love these books and go thru them on a regular basis.  

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This is a photo of my daily painting table with my dog SAM lying underneath.  I have three large dogs and there is always one under the table as I’m painting.  
If you go to watch my video on Utube this part of the video is bascically black because it’s evening and a black dog in the dark is a dumb thing to video unless of course he opens his eyes.

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This is a table I use for pressing the daily paintings. I also do most of my own framing and matting for the watercolor paintings.  I will usually send out larger works for shows but most smaller paintings I’m comfortable with matting and framing myself if I have time. The square item at the-top right is what I use to flatten out the small paintings. I place the painting right side down in between paper towels inside the little press. Then I use books or heavy objects to keep it weighed down till it drys.. the final result is a perfectly flat painting, ready to mat. All you need are two boards connected with a hinge. This was my brother’s idea, I used to just put a lot of books on top of the paintings which were placed inside of paper towels.chubbs.jpg

My cat is my best critic… she watches  and comments..  Everyone’s got an opinion!

I had a plan to up load a video with music or some fancy editing but as luck would have it no time… so if you would like to see my work space you can go to YOU TUBE and I uploaded a soundless video of my painting space you can look for it by going to youtube.com and putting in “Shantiartist” and my studio tour should come up. I was really under the gun today so I didn’t have time to really put much together. I hope you have enjoyed this slice of my life and a view of my work area. 

 HERE IS MY PAINTING FOR TODAY….  DID YOU THINK I WOULD FORGET?
<a koi piggyback 2