Thursday, 28 July 2011

Getting into the Marketing Habit Part 2

So, there I was in the supermarket and the lady at the till commented on the boxes of chocolates I was buying. I explained I was leaving work and they were for my colleagues. Then she asked if I had another job to go to and I took a deep breath and said I was going to paint for a living. Then she said that she and her husband were art lovers and often visited art exhibitions. Now, this is when I should have presented my card to her, with a flourish. Except I didn't have any on me - AGAIN! Hopefully, the penny will drop sometime soon.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Natasha WIP and discovery of the "philtrum"

Natasha let me have her thoughts on my WIP. She was a little concerned about the virtical indented area between her nose and mouth, which she felt was too pronounced. She didn't know what it was called, and neither did I, which is simply not good enough for a portrait painter! So I looked it up and it is called the PHILTRUM - a new word for my portrait painter's dictionary.

Anyway, I hope I can convince Natasha that my depiction of her is reasonably correct in this respect. It was the strong shadow thrown from her nose, rather than the philtrum itself which was causing the problem, and I hadn't painted the underside of her nose at that stage. So here is the updated WIP. I hope Natasha's features look a little clearer now. It's not quite right yet - but progressing in the right direction.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Getting into the Marketing Habit

On a number of occasions over the last few weeks, I have been in a position where handing out my card would have been a perfectly natural thing to do. The opportunities were missed because either I didn't have any cards on me (as I haven't yet got into the habit of carrying them) or I was embarrassed. Clearly, this has to change.

This morning I received an unexpected boost to my confidence and a timely reminder that cards are an important part of my new business. A gentleman who had called to give me a quote relating to my imminent house move expressed an interest in my work. It never occured to me to give him a card, until he asked for one. So thank you, Steve, (just in case you are reading this) for a much required kick up the business backside!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Lucian Freud - RIP

I would imagine that many people have strong views about the work of Lucian Freud. It's a bit like Marmite - you either love it or hate it.

I have to say, hand on heart, I'm not in the "love it" camp. I find some of his paintings make for rather uncomfortable viewing, which doesn't mean I think it's bad art, but which means I probably wouldn't want it on my walls. Also (in my extremely humble opinion) he didn't always get a good likeness. I can barely recognise Kate Moss in his "Nude 2002" portrait of her (although it sold for £3.9 million, so what do I know!) and, be honest, would you have recognised Elizabeth I if he hadn't stuck a crown on her head?

Having said all that, I admire the way in which he handled paint and that he approached portrait painting with absolute integrity, and I have no doubt that he was one of the greatest artists of our time.

Paint a portrait, lose a friend?

John Singer Sargent, who knew a thing or two about portraits, was reputed to have said "Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend". You would probably need to be a portait painter to understand that, in all likelihood, he wasn't being flippant.

Most people have an opinion on how they appear to others, and most of us would like to be presented in the best possible way in a portrait, whether that be a painting or a photograph. However, for some sitters, how they appear in a portrait is important for reasons other than personal pride or vanity.

Elizabeth I well understood that how she was portrayed and the use of symbolism could convey essential messages about her reign and the nature of kingship. (I haven't yet worked out how I can show images of paintings without breaching copyright or the rules of the internet, so if you want to see portraits of Elizabeth and other kings and queens, take a look at this fabulous site - Oliver Cromwell, on the other hand, wanted to show himself as being a man of the people and is reputed to have told Sir Peter Lely to paint him "warts and all".

So, how does the portrait painter work out whether she is dealing with a Cromwellian sort of client, or a Hello Magazine's photoshop-me-silly sort of client? And how does she deal with a client who has less than realistic expectations of what he or she will look like in the portrait?

To be honest, I don't yet know the answers to these questions. I have been advised to underplay wrinkles, which I suppose makes sense, but which seems a great shame. What can be nicer than laughter lines? A while ago, I painted a lovely lady of a certain age who liked her portrait but asked me to take out some of the wrinkles. When she saw the result, she asked me to put them back in again, as we were in agreement that it no longer looked like her.

This posting has been in draft form for several days but, following the death of Lucian Freud yesterday, I have been trawling the web looking for images of his work and I came across this article written by Neil Tweedie in The Telegraph in 2008, which tells it much better than I could - . Do take a look at what Jonathan Yeo tells potential clients who asks him to paint them looking slimmer!!

Going back to portraits and friends, this is a pastel portrait of Julie, a very close friend of mine. Of course, I didn't have to do anything at all to flatter her, as she is quite lovely as she is!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Meet the Parents

A funny thing happens when I paint someone I know well enough to also know members of their family. At certain stages, I may see a relative making an appearance in the face of the person I am painting. Once, when I was painting a friend's daughter, the face of the girl's father kept popping out at me - very strange! Sometimes, it is just a fleeting experience and this has happened several times when I have been painting my mother in this portrait. I have seen glimpses of her own mother, one of her mother's sisters and even myself.

Something isn't quite right with the features of my father's face. I haven't yet worked out whether it's the eyes or the nose, but I suspect I'll need to move things about a bit, which is always frustrating! However, I have softened the lines a little, so I feel it looks more painterly now and less like a illustration.


This is a fairly quick oil sketch of my goddaughter, Natasha. It seems quite flat to me at the moment. I tend to use thin layers of paint and glazes, but I may use this one to experiment with applying fewer and thicker layers.

I am looking out for high quality oil painting classes and workshops, to help me progress in this medium, so if anyone can recommend any in the UK, please let me know.

Why I need a new studio

Enough said!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Photographing Elizabeth Taylor

One of the tasks I need to master over the coming year is to photograph and present images of my paintings which more accurately reflect what they look like in real life. It is always a problem when people are viewing images on screen, as the colours will inevitably vary. What I would like to achieve is to learn how to take the best possible photos of my work, and also to learn how to check my computers and screens in order to ensure they are not distorting colour or form.

As an example of why all this matters, here are two photographs of my painting of the young Elizabeth Taylor. When I posted the first photograph on a number of people commented that my skin tones were a little on the pasty side. I knew they were not, so I took another photograph. You can clearly see the difference.

By the way, the painting is on a 30x30cm (12 x 12ins) deep edged canvas, which gives it a contemporary look.

Third lesson - Blogging may make you crazy!!

Sooooo, I can now see my followers (waves happily) but, unfortunately, I cannot respond to your comments! The only way I can see that a blogger can respond to comments on Blogger is to make a further comment. Okay, not as easy as I would like, but it worked perfectly well until this morning. Now, it asks me to sign in when I am already signed in, then it asks me to recognise and type a word (so far so good) and then it asks me to sign in again and we are into Groundhog Day territory.

I found an article which supposedly would help me to respond more easily. I was heartened when I read that if I didn't understand Chinese, I could follow this advice rather than the more advanced advice note, but frankly I have more hope of learning Chinese!!

Anyway, enough of this nonsense. I am reading your comments & I'll respond asap. In the meantime, let's concentrate on the art, shall we?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Second Lesson - Making Blogging Work

Yesterday, I received an e-mail telling me that there was no followers button on my blog and, true enough, it had disappeared from my blog and from my own control panel. Apparently, this is a common problem on Blogger. I spent a considerable amount of time, trawling though various bits of advice and, remarkably, I was able to fix it.

But that was yesterday! Today it has disappeared again and no amount of fiddling has made it reappear. I'll have to have another look later. In the meantime, my apologies if you did want to follow this blog and have been scratching your heads trying to fathom how to do it.

The lesson I have learned is that technology is as frustrating for artists as it is for lawyers and lecturers. Google - this problem has been persisting for years. Why on earth haven't you sorted it out??

Saturday, 9 July 2011

I want an i-pad 2!!

I'm not the sort of person who has to have the latest gizmos. I can guarantee that if I am teaching a class of 20 students, I shall be the only one in the room who does not possess an all-singing, all-dancing mobile phone. But...I really, really, really want an i-pad 2. I can just about justify buying one on business grounds. For example, it would be useful when dealing with commissions to show clients the photographs I have taken of them straight away on a larger screen ........although I haven't yet established that the i-pad will let me do that!

The truth is that I want to paint on it. If you haven't see David Kassan's video of him painting a portrait from a model, you must watch it now. His talent is mindblowing!!

Of course, acquiring an i-pad won't make me paint like David Kassan, but I can dream!!

If you have an i-pad 2, do let me know if you love it or not.

Meet the Parents

I have spent just a little more time on this. I'm reasonably content I'm moving in the right direction with the likenesses.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

First lesson - Making Blogging Work

I'm the first to admit that I have little idea about what I'm doing with this blog. I know what I want to achieve, but I am nervous about the technology. What is available out there, how to use it and the potential advantages / disadvantages is something of a mystery to me, and a mystery that I am going to have to get to grips with asap!

I have already made some progress with blogging, in that less than 24 hours after I set up my blog on Artspan, I have jumped ship to Google. I like the format better, there are more options and facilities, and it all seems more straight forward to me. No more trying to size the images correctly, as it is done for me at the push of a button. Brilliant.

Now I need to work out what all the twiddly bits do. Please bear with me...I could be some time!  

Meet the Parents

I am going to be moving house soon, and I would prefer not to move all the partly finished paintings I have hanging around, as there is a high risk of damage. I have an opportunity to put a few in a gallery window and some could go off to their new owners, but I need to finish them first.

Here is a WIP of my parents. I haven't spent long on this one as it came together fairly quickly, but there is still plenty to do. I don't do any preliminary drawing, but rather I prefer to get the paint on the canvas and move it about until it looks right.  

Also, I am breaking one of my own rules about not using reference photos with toothy smiles. It isn't that I have a problem with painting mouths, (in fact, ears are my bugbear), but cheesy grins don't make the best portraits. However, I have truly put myself in the position of someone who commissions portraits here, as I like the two separate photos of my parents and I think they go well together.  

New Life, New Blog

At the end of this month, I am quitting my job as a lecturer to become a full time artist. I took voluntary redundancy, and the pay out means that I have a year or so to see what I can do with this so-called talent of mine, to see if I can make the transfer from hobby artist to professional artist. I have been warned on numerous occasions that it is difficult to make a living as an artist and almost impossible to succeed as a portrait painter, but the deciding factor for me was the prospect of lying on my death bed regretting that I didn’t give my art a fighting chance.

So this is where I am now. I have thrown myself from the belly of a plane and I have no idea as to whether or not I have packed a parachute. I can tell you that from where I am floating at the moment, it all feels terribly exciting, but I know I have limited time, and I have no intention of crash landing.

My main plan for the coming year is to paint as much as possible, as I feel I have the capacity to improve if given enough time, to study the work of past and contemporary master portrait painters, to visit galleries and exhibitions, and to rub shoulders with fellow artists. I also need to get to grips with how the art world works and the ins and outs of running a business. Believe me; I am starting from a pretty low base line of knowledge.

My first challenge is learning how to write a blog (!), but in due course I shall be grappling with issues such as setting up a studio, writing a business plan, keeping accurate records of artwork and sales, tax implications, copyright, marketing, dealing with clients and galleries, maximising website traffic, virtual social networking, real-life networking, IT resources, photography for portrait artists, finding the right models,  entering competitions, getting the pricing right, etc, etc. I shall also need to develop a more robust attitude regarding the value of my work, and a thicker skin to withstand the rejections I know I shall face along the way.

So welcome to The Portrait Painter’s Progress, which will track what I imagine will be a very steep learning curve – my challenges, my successes and my failures. If what I write leaves you a touch uninspired, please feel free to just look at the paintings!