Friday, July 30, 2010


An artist friend sometimes makes references to "potboilers," which he defines thusly: "pictures painted with sales as their motive, to keep something in the artist's soup pot... "

I think all artists paint potboilers; in fact, some well-known artists produce nothing BUT potboilers, essentially making the same artwork over and over and over again ad infinitum because they know they will sell.

Other artists, myself included, prefer to branch out a little more than that, perhaps to our detriment, professionally speaking. But I do have a few potboilers of my own.

These are scenes I've painted a number of times, albeit in different sizes and atmospheric conditions. I even once painted the piece on the left as it appears by moonlight.

The scenes are in Joshua Tree National Park. These images tend to be well-received, especially if they are "suitcase-sized" -- small enough for a visitor to pack into a suitcase to carry home, wherever that is. In this case, both paintings are 8" x 10"/20cm x 25cm, and if they're unframed, they could easily be packed and carried away.

I painted these views from pictures I took in the early 1980s. These sites look a little different today:

The spot in the painting on the left is now a fenced planter surrounded by a parking lot. The largest of the Joshua trees has long since fallen over (they do that, unfortunately), and trash dumpsters are now between the clump and the rocks.

I haven't had time to go back and locate the other scene, but a paved road now exists in that area, and I'm sure it also looks different today.

In any case, scenes like these seem to speak to Joshua tree lovers, and as long as I keep sizes and prices reasonable, I normally can hope these potboilers will sell. We'll see: they'll be in the September show at the Twentynine Palms Art Gallery.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Needin' a Break

I belong to a number of online forums for artists. One of these leans toward artists who do most/all of their selling at outdoor art shows.

Several times on this particular forum, I've expressed dismay at how the art business in general is going downhill, but especially in this economy. Others have since joined in, but this post sounds very much like some I wrote a few years ago:

I am 50+ and due to the art SELLING business I feel like an old old 50+. I never thought I would be making less money with 2 refined mediums then I did with my crude art 30 years ago.

For the first time in many years, I am worried about paying for booth fees ... Like most artists, I am a survivor and an optimist. The problem is I am not sure any more if I will survive and pessimism has started to creep into my soul. For the first time, I do not think our industry will bounce back when the economy gets better. I just don't see people buying "situms" and "wall pretties" with any sort of enthusiasm again even when they have money.

My last art show effort was early in 2007. After that, it became obvious I was essentially flushing my money down the toilet. (In case you never heard, we artists rent our spaces at $200-600 or more for the duration of the show). And at the last outdoor show, I didn't sell a thing. I lost the entire bundle.

For a variety of reasons, I think I need a serious break from art. Not that I want to quit art, but I do need to get away from it for a while.

I had planned on doing that this summer, but I was offered two separate one-man shows in September. So I've been trying to make enough paintings to fill both shows, but it's been tough to face those blank canvases. I'm burned out these days -- I'm sure it hasn't helped that I've been painting full-time for almost ten years, and the sales, slow in the beginning (as I'd expect in any new business), have dwindled to almost zero.

A break will be a good thing -- at least I hope so. I did offer to make some bibically-themed paintings for our church, and I still want to do that. But I won't put myself under pressure to crank out paintings any more because a show is coming up and I've just GOTTA work myself into the ground to get ready. Enough!

I expect, too, that I'll still produce paintings, but at a much slower and comfortable rate. No more working far into the night, all day, weekends and holidays -- which is how it's been for me while in, and since, grad school, which I finished in 1986, for cryin' out loud!

Most importantly, I want to improve my quality and work at doing figurative work, which is definitely a weak area in my background.

Here's to better art -- and art buyers. Someday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Mojave Spaces"

Another day, another week, another ...

It is SO easy to get sidetracked by other things. Unfortunately, sometimes those "other things" are still necessary and must be done, but it's hard when an artist dude needs to get paintings done for two one-man shows and that artist sometimes has trouble getting motivated to paint, anyway. The hot and muggy weather we've been having lately doesn't help, either. (A "dry heat." Bah! Humbug!!)

But I did manage to finish a new painting of Joshua Tree National Park. Mojave Spaces is one I'll put into the "surreal/mystical landscapes" show this September. Size is 11" x 14"/28cm x 36cm.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

College Art Auction

This past January, I started a part-time job at Copper Mountain College (Joshua Tree, CA) as a microbiology instructor. Soon after I started, I received a request to donate a painting to the College for an auction to raise funds for art scholarships.

So I did! I heard it sold for $500 and was one of the most bid-for, and highest priced, pieces in the auction.
The College's Website homepage features a slideshow of different scenes of college life. And it just so happens that the one picture of the auction in the slideshow includes the painting I donated. (You can't miss it -- look for the red arrow):

So I hope some art student at the college will be learning some good stuff because of the auction!

Friday, July 9, 2010

All Ate Well Tonight

I sometimes take a camera outside with me when I put goodies out for the wild bunnies and birdies...uh, birds. You just never know what you might see while you're out there. And sometimes I kick myself when I don't take a camera along and wish I had. This evening was such an evening.

I was near a bush on the side of the house, and I heard a rustling of leaves. I took a peak to see what was there, and I saw a cat. A large cat. Then I realized it wasn't just any old cat -- it was a bobcat.

We saw each other at the same time. I spoke to it as I often do with critters: "He-e-e-y, Bobcat!" It started to walk away, but then turned back to pick up a dead bunny I didn't see before. The the bobcat calmly walked away, bunny in mouth, went across the street and into a lot that is still natural desert.

It happened too quickly for me to have gotten an up-close shot of the bobcat under the bush, but I could easily have taken a picture of it as it left with its dinner. Oh, well.

It left me wondering how it all happened -- if the bunny was captured and killed right there under the bush, or did the bobcat carry the bunny to that spot to devour after catching it somewhere else? Was the bunny one of the ones that was relatively bold and friendly with me, or was it completely wild and distrustful of me?

I'll never know. I'm glad I didn't see the kill itself: I know the circle of life must continue, but I always feel sorry for the prey critters.

The birdies, the bunnies AND the bobcat ate well tonight.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Trouble with Facebook

One of my Facebook Friends, also an artist, brought up his shyness which he described as being painful at times. I responded that I'm the same way and that it's difficult for us artzy types to be social butterflies; after all, if we were, when would we get our art done?

Shyness is my natural tendency, and although I've worked hard over many years to overcome it, like cancer I'm not cured of it. It's in remission and can (and often does) return and slap me down.

One day I discovered Facebook -- mostly because a friend from Colorado suggested I get on it. So I did, and once I was there, I discovered a number of Colorado friends who were also on FB. It was great -- I could stay in touch with people I knew all in one place.

I had other motives, too: I made sure my Website URL is in my online profile. When one's Website is mentioned on other Websites, the search engines think YOUR site must be important, and it'll come up sooner in the listings when someone does a search. So FB was another place where I could get inproved SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

I confess...I'm one of those people who gets addicted to Facebook -- on and off addicted, anyway. And as an essentially shy person, it's easy to interact with people there -- not only with people I knew, but with people I met online, either on FB or on other sites and blogs. Some of these are other artists, and others are networking contacts.

Sometimes, though, I have trouble accepting the limitations inherent with FB Friends, especially those who are far away. As one might expect, we can't interact with "virtual" friends unless we make plans to get together and do stuff in the real world.

That's the predicament I'm in. Like the friend I mentioned before, sometimes I'm just too shy to reach out that way, although simply identifying people that I have things in common with has also been difficult. As a married dude, I know I can't get together with other women (whether married or single) unless I'm part of a mixed group. In other cases, I often don't travel much outside of my immediate area anymore due to a chronic lack of $$$ during these down times.
My FB interactions tend to be joking around with the others. But it's hard to form real relationships with people when that's all there is. That's the trouble with Facebook. I often log off feeling disappointed and empty. I'm looking for something I can't get there.

And there's the art thing. Pretty much -- all I do is paint, except for this last January-late May when I was teaching. Then I was focused on science. Geez ... have I turned into a total geek?

Art is often a lonely lifestyle. Maybe I just haven't gotten used to it yet. Facebook isn't the solution, but maybe I'll stumble across something else that is.