Plein air painting is a real treat for me. This week I had some time to visit a spot called Mermaid's Pool in East London. I enjoy painting there because of the dramatic rocks, clear pools and various viewpoints to choose from. On this occasion the tide was up so the clear pools were missing, but it was still a good challenge to make something out of the scene.
Congratulations to Sheila Barratt of Kwa-Zulu Natal! Sheila will receive one of my paintings in my newsletter subscriber's Pinterest competition.
Thank you to all those subscribers that entered.
The most beautiful images in the world are not on Google. They are on Pinterest. Artists need to be part of this phenomenon.
Where do most people go to look for images online? The answer is of course Google images. Lets narrow that down. What if you wanted to find paintings by watercolor masters? Would Google images still be the best place? There is a better service called Pinterest. There are good reasons for this too.
The fact is that Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site. If Pinterest was a supercar and it lined up on the grid with the other big media services (Facebook, You Tube, Google+, Twitter) it would be Pinterest that reaches 100km/h first by a long way. Pinterest is the Bugatti Veyron while the others are family sedans. Will Pinterest grow to be the biggest of them all? Give it some time. For artists and collectors Pinterest has much more to offer and here is why.
1) Pinterest is a curated search of top quality images. Images posted have been selected by real people because the image is beautiful or interesting and of high quality. Google image search is an algorithm at work - a big impersonal net. Pinterest images are repinned and liked according to the opinions of real people too. If an image is offensive it will likely be reported and removed quickly. Pinterest images are the images people want to see. Pinterest's co-founder, Ben Silbermann, did work for Google so he knows what he wants to improve.
2) Pinterest boards are beautifully turned out. If you want your images neatly organised, easy to view and relevant right before your eyes then there is no better place. No sifting through poor or irrelevant images, suspicious websites and commercial riddled pages. Pin boards are exciting to view because they are immediate, attractive and accessible.
3) Pinterest is a positive environment. Tired of cynical social media? Snarky posts from disgruntled trolls getting you down? Not on Pinterest. Pins are inspirational, helpful and great to look at. The members are fussy about great content and this sets Pinterest apart. Positive environments are good for artists to share their work with collectors.
4) Repins lead to more visits to artists websites. The beauty of Pinterest is that it is generous with links to the original website that the image appeared on. These links are carried forward with every repin. The potential for new visitors growing just from one image is huge. No other media has this potential at present.
5) Pinterest is open to non-members. Visitors can search and view member's profiles, view pins and click to the member's websites from those pins. No other social media site has this open approach. This makes Pinterest an amazing resource for search and inspirational art.
6) It is social. Yes the ability to share, like and comment is there for members too. The sharing is not just for images. Video, articles and services can also be marketed and found. The great part is that the focus is razor sharp. You get what you want and in excellent quality too.
7) Time suck? Sure you may spend too long on any website. The good thing is that you are not getting sucked into posting and responding to comments all the time. Banal comments are not part of the way the site works. If anything artists will be inspired to get off the site and start doing more art!
8) Art marketing is classy on Pinterest. Your work looks great and is appreciated for what it is. The good thing is that art sales are done on the artists own website and not on Pinterest. It is wise to have your shop on your own domain, but use Pinterest's marketing potential.
There are other reasons to use Pinterest, but these eight stood out for me. Pinterest easily integrates with other big social media platforms too. Most importantly art collectors and artists can meet, share and be inspired. Try it.
What will trip up any artist no matter how good the art work is? Avoiding this one trap will make your art life much easier.
There are many obstacles and challenges that every business person has to face. An artist also has to run a business in which the artist has to cover all bases. Not only must she be business savvy. but also produce work of sufficient quality and supply to make a living. However this is not a retail business where stock can be purchased and sold. This points to the problem that we all have to face.
The biggest stumbling block is where you, the artist, measure your self-worth against the quality of your art. This is not the same as trying to produce good art. If your self-worth is attached to the perceived quality of your art then you will be riding a roller coaster of emotions.
The result is never good. Think about extreme mood swings, stress, despair and creative blocks to mention only a few consequences. What about the good moments? They are never enough since you will always have your eye on the next punch to the ego. You are no longer in charge of your feelings nor your art career.
To escape this cycle of highs and lows you will have to be aware at all times. Awareness is a process of recognising vulnerable moments. This may be when you show off a new work for the first time. Approaching a gallery or online sharing. Will the community out there appreciate your work or will it remain anonymous? Do you rely on sales or merely responses to social media as a yardstick? Whatever form of attachment you have to the outcome will only bring uncertainty.
A healthier approach is to revel in the creative process. Quality is subjective at best. The fact is that with regular output of work and a positive approach to learning and creating, the quality of your work will follow a natural upward trend. This is inevitable. This alone should inspire any artist to give regular attention to creating.
It helps to include your business development as part of the creative process. After all every e-mail, blog post or social share is a creative act. You are making something that was not there before so use your creative soul to be authentic. With care and attention you will have a growing art business over time.
Yes not every day is a fantastic day. So what? It is the consistent focus on growing your art and business over time that results in success. The only failure comes when you do not try.
As for your art. Well that is your forte, but the response from potential collectors is beyond your control. Release yourself from attachment to other people's reactions. Trap avoided!
It was probably my turn to be visited by a scammer. Fortunately the tale ends happily, but the story may be helpful to you.
I recently received an order for a few paintings via e-mail. The person posing as a collector requested an invoice which I supplied. Shortly thereafter I received a proof of payment that looked exactly like a Standard Bank EFT form.
With hindsight I should have felt something odd about the deal. Buying and selling art is always an exciting event for both artist and collector. But this time there was none of that. Too clinical!
The collector asked for overnight delivery, but I had to frame the paintings first. The next morning I received a mail asking for the tracking number for the paintings. Red flag! This was looking strange since I had not received notification from my bank that the funds had cleared.
I let another day pass and still nothing. It was now clear that this tirckster was looking for a quick overnight delivery based on his fraudulent proof of payment. Fortunately my paintings remain safe and sound with me.
The moral of course is to never release goods until the payment is cleared and in your own account. Never trust a proof of payment alone no matter how authentic it looks.
On a lighter note it reminded me of a Fawlty Towers episode where Basil is conned by someone posing as a lord. Basil Fawlty's reaction at the end is how I felt too! I found part of the show - good for a laugh!
So our government has given the go ahead for drafting fracking rules in South Africa. The Business Day article calls it the "green light" but there is nothing green about it. Of course this is simply another step into the inevitable downward spiral chasing after easy billions no matter what the cost to our fragile environment.
What has this to do with art? For me plenty. The karoo region is loved by South Africans for diverse reasons. For artists and other creative minded people it is a well of inspiration that has helped to produce profound art over the years. Of course there is prehistoric art too not only modern work.
I have spent wonderful moments in that silent and peaceful place. No surprise that many paintings have been created from those experiences. They always seem to be my most popular works, because there is that emotional content that comes through. For residents in the region the idea of fracking is disturbing. Would we not all feel this way when we realise how brutal the process is. No it is not about jobs for the unemployed. Fracking is not sustainable. Once the deed is done the foreign companies will move on leaving all sorts of social and environmental scars.
Fracking is safe they say? Look at this recent spill in North Dakota and tell me that anyone wants to see that in the karoo. We need to remember that the karoo's water comes from ancient springs underground. It is not being replaced. Once contaminated that is it! Gone. I took the picture above in Niue Bethesda. The village is a wonderful green oasis with spring water running through furrows to small farms. Will this water be safe when the spills take place?
What can we do? Continue to voice outrage. Boycott the services and products of the oil companies behind the project. Write to the minister and make your votes count in protest. Support organisations like Treasure the Karoo. You can also share this article and hopefully we help spread the word.
Some years ago Lewis Gordon Pugh gave a moving speech protesting fracking in South Africa. It is worth watching again and reminding ourselves that this is our country. Not Shell's or any other foreign corporation. Ours! We do not have to roll over.
Many South Africans had the pleasure of a long weekend to tie in with Heritage Day on the 24th of September. I was one of them and it did not come too soon. The spring light and earlier mornings torment me with outdoor painting potential! An early riser by nature I am ready and out the door before the rest of my family. Fortunately with great weather and picturesque settings a good painting spot is often within walking distance too.
This past weekend I was in the lovely seaside village of Port Alfred. There are stunning beaches to paint with little disturbance from crowds of people if you are a bit shy of painting outdoors. My first stop was a little bay near Kelly's Beach.
This was a good opportunity to warn up and try my first painting for the day. The thing about plein air is that there is a tendency to tone down colours (values) due to the bright light. If you can use a umbrella to work under then do so as your painting may end up looking a trifle dark when viewed indoors. Since I was painting in early morning light I did not worry too much about this and I tend to have adapted to this issue.
I was happy to notice that I had company in the form of a little penguin. This fellow settled down to my left about fifteen metres away and warmed up in the sun. I am not sure of his attitude to painting, but he seemed unimpressed with my pedestrian activities. The poor thing's rest was later interrupted by a boy who tried to pick up the penguin. The lad received a painful peck on the lip and learnt a nasty lesson about wild animals. Let sunning penguins ... umm... sun themselves in peace!
One of the pleasures of outdoors painting is the occasional person who stops to chat. I know some artists get annoyed by this, but I enjoy it. If I am concentrating hard I may not even notice people watching, but when there is time for a break then we have a chat. It is fascinating how many people respond positively to art and take real pleasure in talking about something other than dreary news and politics.
I then moved to the Kelly's Beach carpark to overlook the beach for a different viewpoint. I liked the strong diagonals of the steps leading down to the beach, which made a nice lead-in to the scene. If possible I like to add a figures into the scene for scale and a touch of lively interest.
To capture a feeling or mood it is often necessary to jump right in and make a quick, bold start. So get the main shapes in with a large brush (no.6 or 8) and get shapes placed all over the board. Things change so quickly that one can lose a potential light effect or ideally placed figure if you do not react in time. Refinements can come later.
Another lesson learnt is that you do not have to include everything. It is also okay to move an object if it improves composition. What you leave out can be just as important as what you leave in. Make decisions first off and then go for it. It the scene still does not work then try another position.
It can be difficult to pull off a painting outdoors. The object must never be to produce a gallery piece or there will always be frustration. Outdoor painting is a great teacher. Lessons learnt under pressure are seldom forgotten. They make us better studio artists as decisions about colour, values and composition become better developed.
An added plus is the pleasure of enjoying nature first hand. There is no way that a quick photograph will imprint itself on your mind quite like the keen observation of your artistic eye and senses. You will never see your surroundings better than when you are painting them.
Anymore long weekends coming up?
Camille Pissaro (1873)
Mention impressionism and usually the first name that comes to mind is Claude Monet. Yes Monet was the giant of impressionism and he was faithful to the idea for his entire career. Who else can compare to Monet? To my mind the next name should be Camille Pissaro.
Pissaro was the epitomy of steady progress through the impressionist period and beyond. Wise beyond his years and always willing to pass on his thoughts . Many famous artists of the late 1800’s sought advice from Pissaro. Most famous of his collaborators was Paul Cezanne to whom Pissaro provided much moral support.
“Precise drawing is dry and hampers the impression of the whole. It is the brushstroke of the right value and color which should produce the drawings.” (Pissaro)
Pissaro sought truth in nature. He was passionate about painting from real life. The rural scenes, common folk and hardships of everyday life were typical subjects. Pissaro was influenced by artists like Corot and Courbet who started painting from real rural scenes. However Pissaro went further and followed the entire progression of impressionism until the movement began to give way to new directions in the early twentieth century.
Despite the appearance of a conservative patriach Pissaro was very much left leaning in his beliefs. He had no time for the aristocracy and elite classes. Yet his dedication and work ethic was unquestioned. In his later years, despite an eye infection and old age, Pissaro continued to work outdoors or from hotel windows when necessary to express himself through the natural world.
Pissaro left a major contribution to the art world for others to learn from and enjoy.
Do not be timid in the presence of nature; one must be bold at the risk of being deceived and making mistakes. One must have only one teacher – nature. She is the one always to be consulted.