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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rediscovering Self Expression During Chronic Illness, Art as Therapy

Over the last two plus years, I have developed often debilitating pain and fatigue. My plans to start showing my art regularly, along with painting in my studio and a host of other things that rely on a consistent store of personal energy went sailing out the window, along with much of my creativity and self worth. Finally a year ago December, after more than a month of averaging around 2-4 hours of sleep I quit my job after a big blow with my boss, ending a thirty year career in Veterinary medicine (my day job, most artists have one) and opened a disability case.  What ensued after has been a period of very low creativity, and a very dark depression.

My sketches of my pain and fatigue, not pretty but cathartic
After finding relief for the depression, and modest relief of some of the pain via taking a handful of medications morning and night I have found that periods of creativity can sometimes be gently cajoled out of hiding. For me the hardest thing  has been subject matter. It is difficult to paint cheerful floral pieces, animals or pretty much else when ever particle in your body is screaming out, so my work has drifted more to abstract, and sketches that depict pain, or my current emotionally state. Although these sketches will never be framed or displayed, they have led to a re-awakening of my creative drive, I feel more able to consider other subject matter, now that I have begun to express my inner feelings about my illness. My sketches have drifted from subjects of pain and fatigue, to that of my surroundings; pets, mundane objects and scenes, etc.
Once I expressed what was bothering me, finding other subject I wanted to sketch came easier

If you are finding that you are struggling with your art due to a chronic illness or disability, It might be worthwhile to stop focusing on making something beautiful that you will share, and spend time expressing what you are feeling from your current condition. It may not be pretty, but that is o.k. Art is after all about self expression, and it is important ultimately to find a way to express what is bothering you so that you may reconnect with the creative source.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Flowers, Juried Art show, No fee until accepted

"Flowers" Juried Show - No Submission Fee

at Arterie Fine Arts
190 E. Fifth Avenue
Naperville, IL 60563
Entry Deadline: 2014-07-05
Call for Entries

"Flowers" Juried Show
August 5 – August 30

Opening Artists Reception
Awards Ceremony
Saturday, August 9th
6:00pm - 9:00pm

Critique of Artwork

“I must have flowers, always, and always.” - Claude Monet
Flowers in art throughout the history: from a minor decorative addition to other subjects like in Egyptian tomb paintings to representations of medieval religious symbols to large, abstract close-ups of Georgia O'Keeffe – these marvels of beauty have been fascinating artists over and over. Is the art of depicting flowers an art of the past? The challenge for the artist is to capture and to revive the essence of the flowers.

Submit: Your art in any medium, painting, sculpture, ceramic, jewelry, fabric, video, installation...
Images must be in jpg format (max. 10mb 4000 pixels longest side) & include title_dimensions.

Submit: A writing piece (50 words or less) optional

Submit: A short one sentence description of each piece.

Juror: CJ Hungerman, originally from Pittsburgh, has a Masters Degree in Fine Arts: Painting/Design from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL. He has completed many public art projects in Chicago such as one of the large-scale Ryder Cup golf balls displayed on Michigan Avenue in 2012. One of CJ’s pieces won the Alice & Arthur Baer Award in October 2013. Currently his work can be seen at the new Fulton Market Kitchen hanging with artists Erik Debat, Hebru Brantley, Franklin Riley, Erni Vales, Rory Coyne, and Dominic Sansone.

First Prize $50 and a certificate signed by the Judge.

Second Prize $25 gift certificate usable in the gallery and a certificate signed by the Judge.

Special Mention $10 gift certificate usable in the gallery and a certificate signed by the Judge.

Gallery Pick $25 gift certificate for display fee in future show.

Rules for Submission

Eligibility: International

Deadline for Submissions: July 5th, 2014

Email Submissions with title of the show in subject line to:

Submission Fee: None, display fee on acceptance.

Notification of Acceptance via email: July 7th, 2014

Size of Artwork: Artwork size may not exceed 36” x 36" x 18" for each piece.
Contact us for any oversized artwork submissions.

Display Fee*: Due by July 11th, 2014
Upon acceptance you will be expected to pay a display fee* at the rate of $25 per painting or $60 for 3 paintings. Contact gallery for pricing on over-sized pieces.
You will receive invites, webpage, inclusion in press releases & a page in our art book (available for purchase).
You will pay 30% on your sales as commission to the gallery.

Drop Off/Receipt of Work: July 29th – August 2nd
You are responsible for dropping off your artwork, ready for hanging (wired). If you are outside of Chicago, you are responsible for shipping, insuring the package, requesting a delivery signature and for a reusable package plus a return shipping label. Please package fragile items properly in oversize boxes to prevent damage by shipping carriers. We will refuse delivery of items damaged by the carrier. Shipments via FedEx should be standard overnight, or ground, do not send priority overnight or 1st overnight. Do not send as home delivery, check business, or leave it blank.

Pick up/Return Shipping Date: September 2nd - September 6th
Artwork which is not picked up within 30 days becomes the property of the gallery.

Insurance: 100% Insurance of your work on our premises at the fair value you declare. You are responsible for insuring artwork in transit. Artwork will not be insured after September 6th.

Why Buying Quality Watercolor Products Matters to the Beginner

It is extremely tempting, especially in the beginner stages of an artists career to select cheap products, however these products almost always fail to perform. Cheap papers will have too little sizing, and cause the paint to soak into the lower layers of the paper, making it impossible to create uniform washes.  Poor quality paint is often made from chalky, opaque pigments that are neither light fast, and make more than one layer of paint impossible. Additionally even the best painting will look flat and lifeless due to the pigments poor quality, and you can pretty much forget mixing unless you want to make mud.  Many people worry about spending extra money on a media they may not be willing to pursue in the long term however, failing to buy quality products can set the budding artist up for failure. Many would be watercolor artist abandons the media altogether without ever getting a chance to appreciate the wonderful possibilities that quality watercolors can create.

All About Paper
Sizing on watercolor paper is the product applied to the paper to keep the paints from being absorbed into the paper in an uncontrolled manner.  A properly sized paper will allow multiple layers of controlled washes. cheap paper allows the watercolor to soak into the layers of the paper itself, causing unsightly bleeding.  Avoid student papers for this reason, more often than not there is little to no sizing, and the final result is a painting with paint that has leached into the paper itself.

Paper Weight
The weight of the paper is translated as how much a ream of that particular paper would weigh.  140 lb paper would weight 140 pounds per ream.  The higher the paper weight, the heaver the paper is itself, and of course the more expensive it is.  Avoid using watercolor paper lighter than 140lb, as it will buckle and perform very poorly, make it difficult to paint even if it is taped down.  The heavier the paper, the more it usually costs.

Types of paper
Paper may be purchases in tablets, blocks, loose, and in large sheets that can be used as is, or cut into smaller sheets. They may have deckled edge, created when made in a mould, or hand made, or cut edges.  High rag papers are made of cotton. Arches, one of my favorites is an all cotton paper that performs well even with multiple washes. Look for archival, high rag papers to ensure that the paintings will be around for a long time.  There are also good quality recycled papers made of a combination of wood, cotton, and other recycled products. When shopping these always look for products labelled archival. Also look for artist and professional in the labeling.  Avoid student papers like the plague, the hassle isn't worth it.

There are lots of reasons to avoid cheap brushes, but the biggest reason is that you will spend a great deal of time picking brush hair out of your work, an act that can damage the surface of the painting and cause a great deal of aggravation.  I have addressed this in a previous post "know your brushes"
which explains the different types of brushes and their care.

As with many of the products, avoiding poor quality paint is crucial, yet unlike the often poor quality found in student paper, there are some perfectly good quality student paints. Windsor and Newton has their academy paint line that is usually of good quality. Their professional artist line is also very good, and not overly expensive.  What makes the difference is  lightfastness of the paint, intensity of the pigments, and transparency.  The best bet for anyone starting out is to choose a paint that is both light fast and transparent.  The cost of the paint rises with the intensity, which is created by introducing large amounts of finely ground, quality pigment into a binding agent. High intensity artist paint lines like Sennelier and Old Holland (to name a few of the many many excellent artist paints) are wonderful to work with, and very cost effective despite the expense as you need to use much less to create a vibrant wash.  

For those looking to try paints out, here is a list of colors that can be used to try watercolor out.
Cobalt blue, 
rose madder, 
These are a basic transparent palette that can be used to mix a very large variety of colors.  Their transparency means that multiple washes can be created without the worry of mud.

The last most important artist must have is not a paint or a paper, but a library of reference books that can be referred to in moments that need inspiration, or when there is confusion on mixing a particular color.  One of the books I cannot recommend more highly is Janie Dobie's book "Making color sing" which I will include a link here. She can help a young artist create a highly sophisticated palette, while choosing the right color to make paintings "pop"   This is one of my favorite and most referred to books in my personal library, and I still even after 28 years of painting look to it when I feel my paintings could use help.  For the beginning artist I would say this is a must have for your private collection.