Art – My “Sanctuary”

Sanctuary, Acrylic, 24×24

I have been doing acrylic studies on paper for over two months now. Rarely on canvas. Today, I chose one of those studies to enlarge onto a canvas. Keep in mind, abstracts are very difficult if not impossible to replicate stroke for stroke. Rather, I was recreating areas and colors. If I were to place the study and the canvas sided by side, you could see the similarity.

 

As my title indicated, Art is my “Sanctuary.” More specifically, painting is my “Sanctuary.” In 2006 suffering from depression after my poor health knocked me out of commission, my younger son encouraged me to paint to ward it off. I hadn’t painted for over thirty years. Painting became my saving grace… my lifeline… my “Sanctuary.” Today, it remains just that. My favorite quote is by Cecile B. DeMille, “Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.” If I don’t paint everyday, I become depressed.

 

Not only is my “Sanctuary” an emotional support, but I have created a sanctuary in my home where I can retreat and share my soul.

 

Recently, I have been sharing my soul through the written word (duh, you’re reading some of it, and I hope you follow my blog, “Studio Scoop”). Creating with words is now just as important to me as painting… my “Sanctuary.”

 

If I Can, You Can – Accepting Challenge

As a kid, I had a bad habit of ripping off my fingernails.  I would start with a hangnail but usually I would work on a jagged edge until I could get a hold on it and then just rip it off.  It was a nervous habit.  I was always picking at my nails and my parents repeatedly told me to quit.  Why did I develop this habit?  I don’t know and would probably have to go through psychoanalysis to find out.  Not worth it.  It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I challenged myself to quit.  And I did.  At some point, I challenged myself with minor goals.  I thought that if I could accomplish these goals, I could do anything.

After I conquered the nail-ripping-habit, I knew I could quit smoking.  It was 1973.  I had smoked since I was a sophomore in high school, and smoked at least a pack a day.  It was a nasty habit.  I would wake in the middle of the night just to have a cigarette, and that’s the first thing I would grab upon awakening each morning.  Smoking affected my weight…  at that time, I was a mere 120 pounds.  Once I accepted my self-imposed challenge, I quit “cold turkey.”  Actually, I have to admit that I did not have even one quarter to buy a pack.  I had to quit, and it was not easy.  But I persevered.  I developed restless leg syndrome and my legs ached painfully.  You know how people say, “Oh, food tasted differently?”  I don’t remember experiencing that.  During that first year of snuffing out that last butt, I gained about forty pounds. A nice benefit.  After some time, I smoked a cigarette and my reaction was “What did I ever see in this?”

Now, I was ready to tackle the World.  I had been an unhappy teacher for some time.  I was only earning $13,000 annually after having taught for thirteen years.  I could see a bleak future.  I had always wanted to be a professional singer.  That’s another story, but I had to try.  From there, I applied with a major transportation company.  To be hired for a ground-level administrative position, I had to pass a typing and shorthand test.  Typing was a breeze, but shorthand?  I had two weeks to learn it and had to pass a test at 90 words per minute.  I made it.  I applied myself and advanced from a clerk, to a secretary and then to a management position.  In the final years of my career, I had a nine-state territory.  I flew somewhere almost every week.

Wait!  I had some intermediary challenges.  I was forced to give presentations within the company as well as to the public.  I was a horrid public speaker, but I joined Toastmasters and not only became a proficient speaker but also an accomplished trainer.  Having overcome my weaknesses was very satisfying.

Fast forward to 2006.  I suffered two heart attacks and two strokes.  The nature of my challenges changed.  I was dizzy 24/7 from August until December.  I walked with a cane during that time and when I did I was taking baby steps.  I took physical therapy and speech therapy.  The most difficult challenge was overcoming depression.  My youngest son encouraged me to “take up my brushes and once again paint.”  I did, and I have been painting over ten years now and consider myself a professional painter.

Have I completed all of my challenges?  I hope not.  Recently, I had open-heart surgery and all the resulting challenges.  My latest is writing this blog and also writing a newsletter.  I want to build my email list Studio News.  I go to the gym six days a week.  The list of challenges gets longer.

The take away for you… it’s in the title of this post.  “If I Can, You Can.”  Start with a small challenge.  It will give you confidence to move on to a more difficult one.  You will eventually become the person you were always meant to be.

 

 

 

Painting a Super-Series

The Quiddity Series of 5 grew to four series, hence a Super-Series

quiddityQuiddity, Acrylic & Resin, 24×24.  A series of five paintings started with this painting, Quiddity.  By the way, “Quiddity” means “the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing.”

To call a group of paintings a series, it should have from three to five paintings in the group.  The Quiddity series actually has five paintings.  I did not, however, stop with just this one series; I created three more… you might call the four series together a super series.

I created the second series as a daily painting campaign to attract email followers, “75 Paintings in 75 Days.”  The series became the “MiniQuids”(a word I coined).  I enjoyed it so much that I continued painting past the original 75.  I believe I stopped at 94.  I was very fortunate to have sold over forty.  Pictured here are a few of those still available:

  

MiniQuids 58, 94, and 8, Acrylic on 8×8 Canvas

Next came the daily painting series, “29 Paintings in 29 Days.”  This one became the “Kwid” series (another word I coined).  The paintings in the series are again acrylic and are 10x10x1.5.  Several are still available:

 

Kwids 23 & 27

Finally, the MaxiQuids have been painted at random.  There are only four in the series.  They are 12×12’s on canvas.

MaxiQuid 4

I enjoy challenging myself with new and ever-changing goals.  Challenges are invigorating and inspiring.  Now, I am doing “60 Paintings in 60 Days,” all on paper.  You can view the MiniQuids, Kwids, and MaxiQuids on my website under Artwork, go to http://jerryhardestystudio.com. To view the paintings on paper, please subscribe to my newsletter, also through my website under “Studio News.”

Hiding Under My Desk to Paint

My love of painting was born

My resume includes thirteen years as a choir and band teacher at a public high school. Can you believe after thirteen years, my highest annual salary was $13,000?  Poverty level.  Obviously this was several years ago and times have changed for the better, or have they?

It was during this time that I began painting with oils… wasn’t aware of other mediums. On my salary, affordable housing for my family and I was a mobile home. As you can imagine, an art studio was out of the question. When passion takes over, however, there is always a way.

I made do. I had a tabletop easel that I squeezed under a desk. I sat on the floor with my legs crossed and painted from photographs and magazines. My favorite subject was clown paintings. To this day, I still have three of those paintings. Each of my three kids have laid claim to one of them. I enjoyed clipping black and white photos from magazines and newspapers and imagined the colors for those clowns and their costumes. Additionally, I created still life paintings and gave them as gifts.

When I left teaching, I chose a different career path as a manager with a large transportation company. Having sacrificed my need to be creative and the stress of corporate demands may have contributed to failing health and I suffered two strokes and two heart attacks. I survived but lifestyle changes I made caused major depression. It was actually a blessing as my younger son encouraged me to once again take up painting. I did. I now consider myself a professional artist and I no longer have to “paint under the desk.”

Art Does Not Speak for Itself – It’s Our Job As Artists

Not only do we Artists need to write about our work, but we also need to be able to speak about it as well.  Writing  “Artist Statements” and “Bios” are part of the creative process.  Add stories behind the work and communication becomes a challenging and essential skill that we need to hone.  Several years ago, I was exhibiting at a garden show when I was approached by a collector who asked me to tell him about my work.  As I stumbled over my tongue, I realized I was in trouble and would not make a sale to this gentleman – needless to say, I was embarrassed.

Since that time, I studied with a young artist who insisted that I talk about my work.  I have learned the value of a story to accompany each piece.  Many artists respond that the art speaks for itself.  What does that mean?  Viewers may have different interpretations of a piece?  That’s certainly true, especially for abstract work.  However, that does not mean that the artist should not have a story or reason for creating a piece that’s meaningful and not just eye candy.  Allow me to illustrate the story I developed with the painting “Going Under:”

going-under

Going Under, Acrylic, 20×20

“Going Under” is my expression of a journey that I was somewhat reluctant to take. Imagine that moment when you jump into the deep end of the pool and realize you’re going under! Or perhaps going into surgery and the anesthesiologist asks you to start counting backwards. All the colors of your reality come together as the sedation envelops your consciousness and blackness is your new reality although you don’t know it. Upon spewing that nasty chlorinated pool water or opening your eyes as if you were reborn, there is the first glimmer of light, and you’re grateful to be alive.

Are representational artists able to create their stories more easily?  I wonder.  I suspect a landscape artist’s story would include a location.  Was it painted “en plein aire” or from a photograph.  What time of day is represented?  Colors used?  Textures?  Portrait artists can certainly tell about the model.  Why this particular model?

As artists, how can we prepare ourselves to write and talk about our work?  I suggest five steps:

  1. Join a Toastmasters Club – I joined a number of years ago and have become a proficient public speaker.  Find a local club through toastmasters.org and join.  The organization allows you to progress at your own rate in a non-threatening and supportive environment.
  2. Develop your stories as you create; it’s part of the process.
  3. Write and write and write and write.  Write a blog.  Write a newsletter.  Write out questions to yourself that you have often received.  Then write a suitable answer.
  4. Speak at every available opportunity.  Practice addressing the questions in #3 above and learn to ad lib your answers.
  5. Create a new Comfort Zone by doing these five steps.

I challenge you to create your stories and answers.  It’s time-consuming, but well worthwhile.  I’m still working on mine.

 

Two Cents’ Worth of Art Advice

5 Phases for Growth – Loraine Requested My Guidance

Recently, I was contacted by Loraine seeking guidance in reference to her art career.  She wrote, “…for many years I was too afraid to go for it.  I thought that I wasn’t good enough.  I have now decided to give up that belief and learn rather than assume that I will never get better.” Kudos, Loraine, for this positive step.  The best way to conquer fear is to practice and practice and practice.  It will build your confidence.

Before we go further, I have to preface any guidance with the fact that I have been working on my own art career over ten years and I am still learning.  My advice is based on my accumulated knowledge through my trial and error.

First and foremost, Loraine, don’t quit your day job.  At least, not yet. Your strongest assets are determination and persistence.  Expect delays and rejections…  it’s part of the game. Stay positive.  With this in mind, I suggest you approach your career with baby steps and in phases.

Phase I – Creating Artwork:

  • Practice daily – not every piece should be for sell, you’re developing your style
  • Materials – use the highest quality of materials that you can afford
  • Create in Series – need 4 to 5 pieces for a series

 

Phase II – Goals

  • Set Goals – choose three to five goals and master those before adding more:
    • Studio Space – devote an area to your artwork where you don’t have to set up and clean up every time you work on a piece – you need to be able to leave your mess and come back to it later…  the dining room table is not an option
    • Build your Portfolio – you will need at least 25 to 30 pieces in a cohesive style to begin
    • Photograph your work – I photograph my own.  Since I cannot take a photo without it being blurred, I use a tripod for the camera.  Clear images that are cropped are mandatory.
    • Your Name is your Brand – you want people to remember you. Create your email address using your name, e.g. I use jerry@jerryhardestystudio.com.
    • Stories – create stories to go with each piece.  Potential buyers want to know about you and your artwork.  Give people an emotional connection to your work.

 

Phase III – Promoting your Work

Until you build your portfolio, you may not be ready for this phase yet.

  • Social Media – Use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – post daily, if you can.  Post an image along with Title, Medium, Size, and Price (more about price later)
  • Website – build your site using a free service.  There are a number available, Square Space, Shopify, Saatchi.  Personally, I use FASO for which I pay.  I like to have control over any changes I need to make and FASO provides that.  Remember to use your name as you create the site, e.g. my site is JerryHardestyStudio.com.  Note I use my name in my email address and my website name.
  • Bio and Artist Statement – Create your Bio in the third person and an Artist Statement in the first person.  You will need these for your website and for any submissions to contests or galleries.  These are not static documents, but change as your work improves and as you change.

 

Phase IV – Other Art Business

  • Pricing – be consistent.  Do not price pieces that are the same size differently.  You will lose buyers.  Create a price list.  When I began, I used $1 per square inch, width x height; therefore, an 8×10 would be 80 square inches or $80.
  • Business Cards – create a basic business card.  Include an image if possible and basic information, your email address and website address.  Don’t leave home without them and pass them out wherever you go.  I use Vistaprint and Moo.
  • Internet – review other artists sites, bios and artists’ statements before creating your own.
  • Read – in addition to the Internet, the Library is a great resource.  Read about favorite artists, books about technique, and books about art business. I have an extensive personal library and have used the city library as well.

 

Phase V – Art Gallries, Contests, Organizations

  • Join organizations such as Art Societies
  • Visit Galleries and Museums
  • Attend Gallery Strolls
  • Enter local contests (some charge for participating)

 

Overwhelmed?  I was.  I am.  Loraine, you can work on much of this simultaneously, however, do not attempt to do it all at once.  Decide what’s most important, and I cannot emphasize enough that building that portfolio is the most important.

Creative Blast #2

Be Creative!


Happy New Year!  Did you celebrate?  If so, did you celebrate too much? I cannot even stay up past midnight…  I hate to admit that it’s an age thing.  No, wait!  Getting up at 5:00 a.m. has to be a factor.  All that aside, let’s move on to creativity.

You got your mojo on?  In other words, have you exercised and had that warm shower that I wrote about in Creative Blast #1?  If so, you’re ready to meditate and be creative.  Where can you find a nice, stimulating place in which to have that “eureka” moment you’re seeking?

I’m going in here.  It’s warm.  There are others here doing the same thing I intend to do.  Therefore, it’s stimulating.  Besides, I could use another cup of coffee.  Now, do you know where I’m going?  Starbucks, of course… maybe you would prefer a local coffee bar/shop. Not all are stimulating… depends on the environment… the noise level.  It also depends on customer service.

I’ve been here so often that some of the Baristas know me by name.  I call that good customer service. After getting my order, I find a table, munch on my pastry and sip my wonderful latte.  I want it to last as long as possible.  Many of the patrons are on their laptops.  I prefer to take a sketchbook.  Not only can I sketch, but also use it as a journal and write.  I compose outlines for some of my best posts in Starbucks.

Back to the environment.  It can be frustrating if you cannot find a table.  When in Rome, Italy, I ventured into a coffee bar expecting the same service as at home.  I ordered my usual latte which came as steamed milk.  The Barista happily replaced it.  A group of middle-age men were standing around quickly indulging their caffeine addictions. For me, it was not very pleasurable.

Back to Starbucks, many tables are taken with just one patron when it could seat four. Most of the time, it’s not a problem.  I believe most patrons find it inviting and stimulating.

img_1244

Today,  a couple of guys bond over a game of chess.

Every Thursday at the same table, a group of six guys gather and try to top each other’s stories.  It’s refreshing to hear them raucously laugh and get excited. At times, I feel a bit envious that I’m not part of that group.  In a corner, a homeless guy naps as the warmth of the shop envelops him. Then there’s the young father and son spending quality time together. At times, I’m that father with my youngest son; although he’s now an adult.  Additionally, there’s the occasional, informal business meeting.  All these disparate personalities contribute to the Starbucks brand.

Starbucks not only sells tasty pastries and coffee, but also pop culture at its best.  It’s coffee time!  It’s creative time! I challenge you to make creativity part of your day. It’s a Blast!