Friday, September 17, 2010

Some questions, answered

The grave of John Singer Sargent in Surrey, England from

I get a lot of e-mailed questions (thanks!) so I think I will catch up on a few of the more interesting tonight. The questions are in italics.

I looked at their primers online and they make several different oil primers. I was wondering which one you used specifically. I tried one a while back but I don't think it was the right one because it melted when I put a turpentine wash on my board. Hope you can help.

I had that happen too. It seems that Sherwin Williams has reformulated their primers, to be low VOC. I have been using Zinsser, oil based interior-exterior Cover Stain Primer. It seems to work fine and I haven't had any problems with it. They also make a lot of shellac based primers, they are NOT what you want.

As an emerging artist with no gallery representation and only Facebook to show my stuff to the world, I realize I could get out there more by setting up a blog. But I want to be very clear about my motives and goals. So far, I think those are: 1. Use it as a tool to become more daring, productive and skillful; 2. Focus and articulate my thoughts about the creative process; and 3. Generate some sales. What do you think are the main reasons for an artist to have a blog? Do you think I should use Blogger, or as my techno-nephew recommends, WordPress?

I see a lot of artists blogs that show a painting and then tell about why the artist painted it and then ask for money. Maybe they work, I don't know, but it doesn't seem like a good business model to me. If your prices are low enough, it might work but you need to generate some interesting narrative for people to read. I don't think you will generate much of a following just showing your paintings unless you are REALLY, REALLY good. I know there are some "painting a day" people who have become very successful, but I think there are a million others who have not. Still If your work is very inexpensive it might be worth a try. My friend Renee Lammers has a blog you might want to emulate, she generates interesting text about what she is up to and her readers can feel like they know her. Here is a link to that. I think Renee is doing what you would like to do, and she is selling paintings from her blog.

I don't know that it will make you more productive either, my own experience is that it takes time to do this and that time has to be subtracted from something else. I don't have a TV for instance. I sit down and write every night the way most people sit down to entertainment. In order to have a following, I think you need to write routinely and constantly update your blog. People will not return many times to a stale, unchanged blog. So doing it is a discipline. Writing about what you do will clarify your thinking, I know it has for me. I also have to stay one lesson ahead of the class, which means I have to study up to write the blog. A lot of things I write about I know well enough to talk about but I have to double check everything when I am committing it to writing. I spend as much time doing research as actually writing.

My main reason for doing the blog is to give away the things I have learned. I keep the self promotion to a minimum. People read my blog because they learn things that are useful to them. I am able to do that because I have been painting a long time and have had some exposure to older more experienced mentors who have passed on. The payoff for me is that a lot of people know who I am and that is useful up to a point. It is like advertising, I guess. It does fill workshops. But mostly I like to feel that I am useful.

I do my blog on Blogger, but I am moving to wordpress soon as my techno-wife thinks (insists) I should. The beauty of that is my archives are on our own server and not Googles. It is supposedly a better platform, I will let you know if I find it that. You might check out this article by Clint over at Fine Arts Views He is in the business of providing artists with websites that include a blogging platform. Their sites are user friendly and I think they provide a good service. They are inexpensive and I recommend checking them out. You can quickly have a web-site and a blog and they will be linked and easily found by anyone looking for you.

If you want a lot of people to buy your art a blog might help but I would recommend you get VERY good at painting. There are lots of galleries (there didn't used to be) perhaps you should find one that will show your work, a local coop perhaps. If you were taking piano lessons you would play recitals. Part of the art gig is showing.

Showing art on Facebook is weird. I see dreadful things followed by twenty comments from their friends saying how great they are. There are some great artists showing on Facebook, but they are generally in galleries too. Usually I knew who they were before joining Facebook. I think there is no substitute for actually showing the art on a gallery wall. I don't think showing on Facebook will hurt you, but it is not the same.

I'm new to oils and have only learned to paint alla prima. If I want to add to a painting (Want? I need to!) how long do I wait / can I wait / should I wait to add more color on top of what I have down? There are a lot of times when I try to add my next layer but do nothing except smear what's already there.

You don't need to wait. You will find that with practice you can add a new note into or onto the existing paint. A delicate touch is the key, that and not having too much paint already on the canvas. If the paint gets too thick, pull it back with your palette knife. If you want your paint to dry more quickly, use an alkyd medium, like Galkyd or Liquin. The reason that oil paint is so great is that it doesn't dry quickly. That long open time is an advantage because it allows you to manipulate it. I think that if you practice you will find that working into wet paint is just as enjoyable and maybe more so than working on a dry painting. You have far better control of your edges and you can meld the new paint to the old better than on a dried painting.


Celeste Bergin said...

thanks for the discussion about selling from the blog. I have done it--but I can not bring myself to put the big pay pal button up. It just does not feel correct. I also appreciate what you wrote about facebook. Yes, they loove everything I post! haha. That is sort of true about blogger too. I am interested in if you will wind up liking wordpress and if so why. I'll check back!

jeff said...

I agree Stapleton, it's pretty hard to sell paintings from a blog.

The painters how do are few and far between and were among the first to do it. That said there are a lot of painters using social media to promote themselves and their work.
Facebook is one of them, although it is use more as advertising things like shows and workshops with links to blogs.

One person who does this well is the painter Marc Hanson who links to his blog from FB. Marc does a great job of documenting what he's doing. Right now he's painting at night with this contraption using a battery powered reading light that he figured out the right height to illuminate the canvas and palette without causing night blindness.

The best of the daily painters for me is Julian Merrow-Smith who has the good fortune of also living in Provence which is a great selling point. His blog is called Postcards from Provence. It also helps that he's one hell of a good painter.
The thing I like about his site is it's just the work and he has also does not use EBay. said...

There is no substitute for painting very good paintings. That's the given. Or as they say at MIT "there is no hocus pocus that takes the place of focus".

So whether you try to sell this way or that...don't loose the focus of painting to the best of your ability and to your high standards.

I write a simple blog ,once a week, mostly to keep my website more dynamic and updated. It's not a selling tool for me.

Molly said...

I just started a blog and I want to use it as a way to get to know other artists. When I am ready I will take my paintings to local galleries and try to sell from there. I don't plan on trying to sell from my blog.

I set up a twitter account too and I follow artists I like. Sometimes they follow me back. So I get page views and the only thing I would want beyond that is maybe some comments & critique on what I post.

I also like feeling like I am part of an artists network.

I think a blog is good to keep in touch (see Linda Blondheim for someone doing it well too) with your audience.

I use posterous because it's easy to update and link with facebook and twitter.

I'm of two minds, on the one hand if I see an artist whose work I like, it's nice to know right away that I can't afford to buy a painting (ha). On the other hand I hate feeling like I'm being SOLD TO. If a blog is interesting and not just a storefront, I follow it.

Stape I know this blog is a lot of work for you but THANK YOU for all your wisdom & passing it along!!

billspaintingmn said...

I'm a blog hopper! I enjoy seeing new art,(paintings) from an ocean of people.
I can learn things, comment, or just browse.
There are so many artists I admire,
they have taken the front row of my entertainment.
So my aim with my blog would be to give back what I recieve, or at least try too.
In the end, being useful is the bottom line.
Now pick up that brush!

Mary said...

I'm the oil newbie - thank you for answering my question. It's the one piece of information I've not had answered in a workshop or found in books.

For the other, because I'm new at oils, I enjoy looking at blogs to see paintings. There just aren't that many galleries around where I live and they show a whole lot of acrylics. Not saying acrylics are bad but they're not oil which is what I want to see. I appreciate the time you take here - I've learned a LOT.

Carol Nelson said...

I started blogging in 2006. After joining an online gallery ( the readership of my blog and website really picked up.

I often give technique tips and sometimes show paintings in progress. Occasionally I post photos of my dogs, but I try to keep the posts art-related.

All this chatting gives collectors a sense that they KNOW me. It makes it easier for them to purchase an expensive painting they have only seen on their monitor (that still blows me away.) They know I'm not a scammer out to fleece them.

I greatly admire the vast knowledge you freely share with all of us, Stape. I've learned a lot from reading your blog. I try to be somewhat amusing on my blog, but you regularly have me laughing out loud.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will let you know what I think of Wordpress.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't think it works well for high ticket paintings.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The blog thing can get WAY out of hand.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thankyou. I agree a painting that is just a storefront isn't very interesting. I want to learn something.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Perhaps a good blog is one that is useful?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. We all are in the learning process. It gets harder not easier, by the way.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. I like to know that people enjoy the blog.