Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Field Trip

I decided to take a little time and make a "field trip" to El Paseo in Palm Desert, CA. This street is the equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and features many different boutiques, restaurants and -- most importantly -- art galleries. (The gallery I'm in is located on El Paseo).

First, I stopped by the gallery I have paintings in to see how the owner is preparing for Thursday Art Walk (tonight), the last of the season. I was especially curious to see if he had rehung any of my work which, as of Valentine's Day, was mostly stashed away in a back room. Yesterday, only ONE painting was out -- and it wasn't hanging but was set on the floor leaning against a wall. In the back of the gallery.

It's obvious that people who come into this gallery aren't that interested in what I paint; otherwise, my work would have had its former places of honor in the front window and on the walls toward the front. Besides that, I asked if there was any interest in the last paintings I brought in, and he said no.

Maybe I'm not in the right gallery, since everything else the owner has in there is more contemporary and VERY colorful compared to MY stuff. I mentioned I might remove the excess paintings from his backroom during the summer, but now I'm leaning toward pulling out altogether.

But where to go after that? I don't know. Most of the field trip was to see how the other galleries are doing, what they've been selling (if anything) and if I'd find a "good fit" somewhere else.

Well, most of the art I saw was contemporary, whether or not the paintings had recognizable subjects. Most were blindingly colorful -- pure reds and other warm, almost fluorescent colors. Apparently, the buyers have been people from extreme winter states like Minnesota and the Dakotas and -- especially -- from the plains provences of Canada. The Canadian dollar has strengthened considerably as the US experienced monetary problems, and people who spend so much time in a long-lasting season of gray, featureless winter want COLOR in their homes and offices. Traditional realism isn't about zonking color. So what's an artzy one to do?

Only two galleries had works that made me feel like I might fit in. One is headquartered in Carmel, and they seem to like my work, but I'm not pricey enough for them. (Understandable -- they pay a lot of rent for their locations!) The other gallery has a long list of artists who want to get in, and besides -- their work was rather colorful, too.

Conclusion: maybe this area just isn't my market. I may have to go further east -- maybe all the way to the East Coast -- to find buyers. Other classical painters have told me the East seems to be populated by art lovers who are more sophisticated in their taste than the West Coast, where people want to be cutting edge and trendy.

How does an impoverished artist fight a situation like that?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

La Quinta

La Quinta is one of the towns east of Palm Springs, CA. It's considered a well-off community and a desirable place to live. For me, one of the main attractions are the hills to the south of the town.

The photo shows a distant mountain range (the Santa Rosas) with smaller outcroppings in front. The outcroppings are incredibly attractive to me. I love the rugged, jagged edges of those hills, and they're as impressive up close as they are in the distance.

I've taken many photos of these hills, from far away to being in the midst of them -- and from points in between. While the California desert doesn't feature many hills like these, there's something about them that exemplifies the California desert. Foregrounds can range from sand dunes to ocotillo-studded rocky bajadas. As you might expect, springtime color can add even more to views of the mountains.

Even though I'm slowed considerably in painting the desert these days, I predict I'll be making more paintings of the La Quinta area and those fantastic sawtooth hills!

Friday, March 26, 2010

During the Aftermath

I wasn't sure how I would continue making paintings during the aftermath of getting my P/T teaching job. But I've found that while I'm not working on art as hard, I'm making art that I might never have gotten around to if I tried to continue making money exclusively with my paintings.

It's actually nice not to have that pressure, especially considering art just isn't selling around here. My gallery hasn't sold anything of mine for almost a year, and it sounds like his sales are pretty low overall these days.

Meanwhile, other artists have suggested using this time of financial recession/depression to try new things. Then, if/when things get better, I'll be positioned to move forward with awesome work that I could complete without the pressure of cranking out artwork that may not be my best.

So, during the aftermath, what painting I've done is some of my best ever. In addition, I'm convinced staying focused on desert-themed paintings is probably not the best way to go. I don't think the market for desert landscapes is that big anymore.

Expect to see lots of non-desert items appearing on this site. The aftermath appears to be a good thing for my paintings!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Vast Spaces

Yesterday I spent the day in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is northeast of the Palm Springs area. I had two items on the agenda: look for wildflowers, and visit an art show that I've done myself a number of times.

Flowers -- well, not as many as I was hoping for, but there were a few spots with color (as well as other petal peepers!):

The art show was fun. Many of the people I've met over the years have been other art show folks, and often the only times I see them are at art shows. And since I wasn't set up there trying to sell paintings, I was free to roam around, visit friends and do some serious catching up and networking.

By the time I left, the sun was getting low in the western sky, and I passed the spot in the Park that beautifully illustrates my tagline: The Vast Spaces of the Southwest.

In late afternoon, the textures of the distant mountains, the miles of open landscape peppered with ocotillo display much of what I love about the special places called the desert. I've never seen this area colored with the blooms of spring, but the spaces say all that needs to be said. Black-and-white infrared was more than enough to archive the moment and the feeling.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


"LQAF" stands for the "La Quinta Arts Festival." (La Quinta is a town east of Palm Springs, CA). The Festival is going on this weekend and is generally considered a good show for artists to be in. It's located in a high-income area and sales are often good for the artists. The economy has hit this show as it has others, and I'm not sure where it rates today compared to other shows.

The Palm Springs newspaper featured an online photo gallery of the show, and the CBS affiliate broadcast a story on the LQAF. As you might note from the images, the art one sees there does NOT look anything like the traditional paintings I make (see my Website). This is one of the reasons I don't enter shows like this anymore -- I don't fit into these contemporary art festivals.

And in the case of the LQAF, I have other, more personal reasons why I won't enter, or even pay to visit, this particular show. In fact, I know a number of artists who feel the same way -- we have the same axes to grind, I suppose. I can't say how many of us have already burned bridges with the Festival folks.

Still, for the locals, it's relatively inexpensive entertainment and (hopefully) OK profit for the artists who are showing there.

Good luck to all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Creation of "First Light: Yosemite Valley"

"First Light: Yosemite Valley" is one of the few paintings I've done of Yosemite National Park -- so far. Yosemite is one of those places that has been painted and photographed to death, and trying to come up with an original concept just ain't easy!

But one June when we were camping in Wawona Campground, it occurred to me that the sun would rise somewhere behind those distant monoliths of granite. I wanted to get out to Tunnel View at dawn so I could see what the Valley looked like.

So one morning, I awoke when the sky was just starting to get light. I crawled out of the tent and raced like a madman (well, everything I do is done like a madman!) to the parking lot on the valley side of the tunnel and set up the camera and tripod.

I wasn't disappointed after making the effort. I was set up for picture-taking when the scene almost looked like the painting: the sun was barely clearing El Capitan (I painted the sun as it appeared a few minutes later) and was projecting a narrow beam of golden light through the valley floor.

The photographs didn't accurately show the place as it looked -- the shortcomings of photography rendered much of the valley very darkly except for the distant Half Dome and beyond. But the light beam was there, so the photo helped me remember what I saw. I was able to fill in the details with pictures I took with "normal" lighting, and thus was able to accomplish one of those tasks that is completely unsuited to photography -- I could get past the limitations of film and show Yosemite Valley as it actually looked early on a June morning, featuring the magic of the rising sun on a magical place.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

At Long Last -- A New Painting!

It's taken a while -- chipping away at it for an hour or an hour and a half, but it's finally done:

A painting I started in early January!

I logged approximately 40 hours of painting time on it, so in theory, I should have been able to start and finish this piece in a week. But, with the teaching gig, it took a little longer than that.

Not that I'm complaining about my P/T job as a microbiology instructor at Copper Mountain College here in the high desert. It's nice to have an income! (Unfortunately, I have to consider the art market here dead for the time being). But frankly, it's nice to have this painting over and done with, as well.

This scene is of Balboa Park in San Diego, CA; size is 11" x 14" / 28cm x 36cmcm.