Have you ever found yourself in the situation of being told that the venue you booked for a show call you and say: "We're sorry, but we double booked, and the other person was first, so you'll have to wait"? This happening a month before christmas, and you had hoped that some of your tenderly created "babies" would find new homes, and that you would get some money so you could invest in more outrageously expensive art-materials? What do do, but to accept?
Comment on or Share this Article >>
Well, you could take the matter in your own hands, and use your home as a venue. Let me tell you about what I did.
Sticking to the same weekend
Although I'd not sent out invitations yet, I decided to go for the same weekend as originally planned. It was convenient, and gave me time to prepare.
Priority one was to get the invitations out. People are usually extremely busy before christmas, so I wrote an invitation to be sent out in good time. Where, when, and how. "How" means I wrote clearly that the purpose was to show my paintings, and that they were for sale there and then. I also told them hey'd be served some mulled spiced wine, chat, have a nice time, and maybe find a christmas gift for themselves or for somebody "who already has everything". That was important, as maybe I'd help them find a solution to a problem of theirs. The other important point was to indicate that it was fine to just come and look, and leave without making a purchase, no pressure, no strings attached.
Who was invited?
Collectors, customers, friends, family, aquaintances. I asked them to bring friends, as I didn't advertize publicly, but would trust their friends in my home.
How many were invited?
As a rule of thumb, 20 people will show up if I invite 100. If I want 40 people to come, I need to invite 200. Of those who do come, about 20% will buy a painting. Maths, it is all maths -- a number's game.
The week before the even I sent out the invitation again. Emails tend to be easily forgotten, so cheerfully reminding them of the event was necessary. Also, they got the directions again. Most knew where I live, but it is easier to actually go somewhere if you have clear directions, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them.
I took down and put away anything that wasn't for sale: work that wasn't mine, old oils, workshop paintings I will keep, inferior work. On my walls hung only available quality paintings. And they hung on every available wall, including the side of a wardrobe.
I did number the paintings, and wrote a price-list with thumbnail images. They are really popular, so I printed out a lot of them. People keep them as mementos of the shows. It was on sheet, printed on both sides, and contained a line about commissions: "Like what you see but want a special subject? Contact... ". Another piece of paper had my bio and statement, but most of them were still lying on the table when I closed the show.
I had everything prepared in advance. The mulled wine (and coffe and tee) were in thermoses on a sideboard, with some gingerbread cookies and cold beverages. Fresh towels in the bathroom. Lots of seats for people to rest and chat in. And as I put the burning torches by the entrance to the house, I could see the first guests walking up to the house.
Every guest was greeted by me or my husband, at the door. They were showed where to hang coats, where to find beverages, and given a pricelist. I made it a priority to be ready to talk with anyone who wanted to ask questions, talk about art in general, and my paintings and pastel in particular. I only relaxed and chatted when there was a lull, and then I joined the social group in the livingroom cosy corner.
In a folder, I kept my pricelist and red dots to put on sold paintings. I wrote the name of a customer next to the thumbnail picture of the painting (being visual), and if their purchase was paid in full. I also noted down relevant information on delivery (when/where/ address. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep track of it in my head, so I really needed the memory aid.
To have change, in cash, is professional.
The house was open from 2 pm to 6 pm for both Saturday and Sunday during the chosen weekend. It was good for both me and my guests to have these boundaries. Another idea would be to have the Open Studio one single evening, or one afternoon. However one chooses, it is important to state a starting time, and a closing time. During it, I'm the professional painter hosting a show -- and when it is over, I can relax, let down my hair and kick off my shoes, and have a meal with Hubby and some friends.
Time to deliver
I called them in advance and made or confirmed appointments. People's plans may change between Sunday and Wednesday, and of course I'm flexible and can come two hours later than originally said.
What to deliver
A crisply clean painting, with no numbers or red dots attached. Free from fingerprints on the glass. I print out a folder for every painting, with some info on materials, care, reframing, and such. There is a printed picture of the painting, with title and size and year, and a paragraph on why I chose to paint the motif. I sign it, by hand. There is also the URL to my website printed on it.
When delivering the painting, I hand over an extra business card, telling my customer that if their recommendation will get me another customer, they'll get the next painting they buy 10% cheaper, as thanks for doing the job of networking for me.
I had fun, met people, could talk a lot about art, made very decent sales, and had the joy of seeing people falling in love with my creations. In the comfortable environment of my home.
If you haven't tried it, I can really recommend having your own Open Studio.
Soft/Dry Pastel landscape by Charlotte Herczfeld
Comment on or Share this Article >>
Needing a ”cityscape” for my all too quickly upcoming show, I contemplated choosing one from Stockholm’s Old Town. As Stockholm is called “the Venice of the North”, I grabbed the chance to paint a reference I got from a WetCanvas colleague, Joel (aka jlloren). Thank you, Joel, for the use of a ref from “the Stockholm of the Mediterranean”.
After doing a few notan-studies (which I’ve lost in the frenzy of hanging a show), I decided to work out the composition with two colour sketches. They are reversed compared to the original (which is right). In the first, I kept the overhead arch, and the gondola is in the distance. This sketch felt too crowded, as if there were barriers for the viewer to pass. While it gave a sense of narrow canals, I was not entirely happy, as I “hit my forehead” on the arch, and the darks were not connected, but scattered:
In the second sketch, the arch is gone, the building on the left side is gone, and the darks are joined. I moved the gondola closer, and kept more of the tricky architecture of the canal-side part of the Doge’s Palace. While this has more space – more room to breathe – the bridge was not anchored on both sides, and I had a strong object leading out of the picture. On the other hand, what leads out also leads in. But no, this was not it:
I decided to combine the best of the two sketches, flip the picture back to the original so I would get a strong diagonal leading up towards the right – a cheery and dynamic vector, in a tranquil scene. I also decided the painting needed greater depth, as the canal is long.
Then came the funny part: I discovered that I’d edited out the Bridge of Sighs, the Ponte dei Sospiri, which was that bothersome overhead arch! So I named the painting after the visible bridge, Ponte Canonica.
First, the light and shadows were blocked in, underpainted – establishing the quantity of light --with a greater amount of dark details than I usually start with, as I wanted really deep shadows in the white-ish vertical foreground. (Forebuilding?...):
Next, colour is worked in on top of the underpainting, in order to become more “right” – working on the quality of the light:
Next I focus on using colour temperature to build depth and volume:
More colour variations, working on details, almost finished:
Lastly, I work on details, finishing the painting. Here's a close-up of the brightly glittering water in the right foreground, showing layered strokes, and broken colour.
And the finished painting can be seen at the top of this post, and in the Works section in the navigation bar.
Yes, it sold, hot from the easel! Sometimes the old and well used motifs are the best! It was really fun to paint my take on it. A common enough motif, interpreted in my personal unique way.
Comment on or Share this Article >>
During the past month, I’ve been teaching a class on painting light and colour in pastels. Obviously, that has given me less time to paint, and to keep up with this blog. Why would one teach – for free – and not create one’s own art?
For me personally, there are three main reasons:
First, it is a Challenge, and I thrive on challenges. It wakes me up from complacent couch-potato lethargy. It is also great fun, plain and simple. I enjoy interacting with the students, and it is a nice feeling to be “the guru” for a short while.
Some of the challenges are:
To plan lessons , do research, and find a good enough structure to work within. I’ll only mention this, as there could be pages written on that subject alone.
To really remember how it was to be a rookie, in order to not throw jargon around and take understanding for granted.
To find good visual examples that illustrate the points. Luckily, I’ve had the habit for a long time to take photos of the development of each painting I make. I did it for me, so I could chart failures and progress, but those photos sure came in handy when teaching, as they are all mine, and no copyright issues involved.
To find the right balance between praise and encouragement on one hand, and to give helpful hints respectfully on the other hand. Many of us (definitely including myself) do not thrive on critique alone. It is very important to stay out of criticism altogether, as that is a form of putting down people. Relevant critique, and lots of praise and encouragement will make students to want to learn and grow. I think the ratio needed might be 1 critique per 10 hoorays, just to give a feeling of neutrality, and more than 10 praises to be perceived as positive.
To teach accomplished artists and beginners in the same class. Basics have to be covered, but there also need to be some real challenges for those who have painted for 30 years. One way to solve it is to mark some tasks as “advanced”, or “very advanced”. Rookies are told to skip those.
The second reason has to do with developing people, and developing people-skills:
To learn how to respect people's needs: They will try things out, and not listen to my golden words of immense wisdom. They will try things I tried when I was new at it – those things I know, all too well, won’t work. I may tell them it won’t work, and they’ll say ‘yes’ and go ahead and do it anyway. And I remember that only by doing will they really know. After all, they are just like I was, and to be honest, am.
To learn from my students: As they try things out, they will successfully pull off something I thought would never work. So I say to myself: “Be humble, admit you were wrong, and ask them how they did it. Your credibility as an honest person who is to be trusted will be firmly established by your willingness to learn.”
I know it is important to model how to learn.
And the third reason is to give on a gift:
As I was given the gift by my teacher to really see the glory and beauty in light and colour, I want to give that onwards. In one way, I do it in and with every painting that finds a new home. But when a struggling student suddenly sees, and the pure delight of discovery and understanding is lit in their souls, shining out through their eyes – that is when I get my biggest reward. I know that for the rest of their lives, they’ll see beauty everywhere around us, even in the most mundane settings. To be instrumental in sparkling true joy is a great gift given to a teacher. Hoarding the ‘secret’ would’ve left me poor indeed, but now I’m vastly enriched, and I could only get this richness by giving the gift of seeing colour and light onward, sharing it with others. Shared joy is multiplied joy!