Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Making sales: creating realist oil paintings is hard work.

"How long does it take to make this oil painting?"

This is the most notorious question artists get. Viewers really have no idea what it takes, and artists don't even know where to begin answering this question, because it involves a thorough explanation of not just ONE piece of art for us. By getting this question often, it took me a while to understand that people just want to open up a conversation with us, and they often don't know how to do it differently. Like many artists I used to get confused, intimidated, and even angry at times being bumped by it. What it meant for me back then that people didn't see much value in my work and thus questioned me. I think of it quite different now.
In general, viewers try to calculate or connect the objectivity of high pricing with the time artist spends painting the particular work. On the surface it looks expensive, overpriced, too much money, you get the idea. Artists, on the other hand, think of a lifetime of EFFORT, misery, bills, and COST associated with the ART-making chosen as a career that can't be quantified into a certain number of hours spent on one work.
So here is a partial list or a breakdown if you will of some costs artists accrue producing realist painting:
·       Education
Besides the obvious tuition and living costs most students have (that run into many thousands of dollars), artists don't become artists in four to six years after college graduation. This profession starts with zero job prospects or security, and builds up to something meaningful over a very long period of time of hard work and dedication. That means a continued struggle, a reconciliation of the need to paint and to make money to pay the bills and to buy a ton of art supplies, until the one glorious day. Waking up on that sunny morning, knowing that the artist is good at his job and can begin selling his/ her artwork. 
·       It takes A LONG time to learn how to paint realistically.
There are no cute formulas or shortcuts.  No one learns it overnight! It's a skill that takes an artist's continuous effort and focus. Until very recently, there were no realist schools available to get a comprehensive education from, which magnified the problem and effort to achieve a certain skill level. Of course, there are exceptions. There are super talented artists who haven't spent as much time learning, but such instances are rare.
Those who have no time to do their art don't become artists. Fear of instability takes away their need to paint from them.
·       Artists don't just hang out at art festivals, fairs, or their shows enjoying the limelight of attention.
Well, maybe for a little bit but... It also involves a lot of effort, persistence, and investment. On average, a popular festival's booth fees run around $450-$500/per a 1-3 day show plus application fee, hotel, gas, rented van, and finally the cost of a good booth itself with professional walls that costs around $2,500 on average. Many artists hit the road for months doing such shows and festivals traveling from one state to the next, working way over 8 hours a day.
Work at the festivals includes not only the artist's time present at the booth all day, but also the time and effort to set up and to break down (usually early in the morning and late in the evening,) time to carry, pack, unpack and pack again a number of heavy, framed paintings. Costs paid to enter juried shows and festivals run anywhere from $10 to $45 per artwork, $35 on average.
·       Custom framing costs a fortune, it can literally cost more than an artwork, but many artists invest into their frames because it gives them professional presentation that is often required, by the way, to display their work in juried shows.
·       Time to market artwork (emails, presentations, social media, research, writing, contacting galleries and editors) takes A LOT of time and effort to do it consistently.
      Model fee.

·       Art supplies
First, artists spend hundreds of dollars on art supplies every year as we keep learning and practicing for years. This is a continuous expense like going to a grocery store each week. Second, when the time is right, the artist transitions to professional, durable, lightfast materials that cost a lot more that cheaply manufactured canvases and paints. The result is different. Expensive art supplies let artists create long lasting, museum-quality pieces, unlike the junk that would fall apart quite soon. Do you know what you buy? Often times if artist doesn't share this information with you, you can't tell visually.
·       Other ordinary expenses, like the office costs that include professional photo equipment, a storage file for artwork, a scanner and a printer, often a video camera and tons of inks and photo paper.
·       To stand out from the crowd, some artists chose to advertise that accrues to yet another hefty expense.
·       Artist's price of an artwork includes the 50% mark up, sometimes 60-65% that galleries take selling artist’s work.
·       Attitude towards artists in our society: not that much respect, stereotyping, and generalization.
“Lazy artists,” “starving artists,” “stupid artists…” We have become the 2nd class citizens because we often allow it to happen, and because art is sort of everywhere today. Sometimes we don’t even pay attention to it, it’s just there. This is one of the hardest costs artist encounter. As the society has moved from scarce products production to consumerism, artists got pushed to the side. A lot of work got devalued by, being in a direct competition with the Chinese cheaply made goods and mass-produced items. This trend multiplies by people's needs and desires that include purchases of a new piece of technology rather than a small artwork, for example. Even the multitude of options of buying art prints has cheapened the value of art even further. As a result many folks don't see that much value in an artwork, which can only be seen as valuable when buyers understand how hard it is to produce an exceptional piece, and that's the only one available. The ONLY ONE. The only one that gives you JOY and may even be HEALING. The one that connects with you emotionally and often intellectually. When we look at history, we often study it through art, as artists improve lives in meaningful ways and make powerful contribution to society.
·       What is an exceptional piece?
I think the word ART has lost or changed its original meaning, evolving into many facets of artful creations that redefined the uniqueness and value of art. Moreover, there is plenty of bogus "art" that receives attention due to smart marketing campaigns, and many get lost trying to understand what's really valuable and what is not. It's rare to see someone admitting that he or she doesn't get art.

Finally, I get to that original question. "How long does it take to make this oil painting?"
It involves: sketching and planning, a color study, hand-stretching and further preparation of canvases, a set up creation, a precise drawing, and yes, painting... Painting in layers for many days, depending on size and detail. Varnishing. Framing. So the time spent painting one piece equals to two weeks of work plus 10 to 15 years of learning the craft of painting, including everything else listed above. Do I answer your question? ;)

If you'd like to hit a meaningful conversation about painting, feel free to ask these questions:
"What's the process behind your work?"
"Where does the inspiration come from?"
"Where do ideas come from?"
"How do you achieve this or that?"
You get the drift.

*This list also applies to many abstract painters who often spend the same time and effort to produce and sell art.
*I dedicate this blog post to all the brave artists out there who have the courage to stay on their path.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Movies worth your time

Big Eyes
Amy Adams puts her soul into this role, depicting the real life of an American female artist Margaret Keane. What's interesting here is not only the depiction of her family drama and the status of women held in the 1950-1960s, but also the show down of many marketing tricks, working wonders in art sales.

Gone Girl is a riveting drama with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike playing the leading roles. While Affleck lacks good performance, in my opinion, the story of disappearance is intense throughout the movie. The last minutes will leave you terrified and surprised.

The Theory of Everything is a true story of theoretical physicist Steven Hawking and his wife Jane. After Steven receives his diagnosis of motor neuron disease, the movie takes viewers on an unbelievable roller-coaster,  Eddie Redmayne got the Oscar for his amazing performance.

Still Alice is another drama, showing how life of a very successful and intelligent woman quickly goes downhill because of the deteriorating Alzheimer's disease. Her relationship with all family members gets tested as the woman goes through sad and emotional transformation in a short period of time. Julianne Moore won her Oscar for this role.

The Imitation Game is a drama set in England during the World War II. There was plenty of publicity for this movie, and I was afraid I wouldn't like it that much, but it's worth your time. It's a true story of the cryptologist and the founder of modern computers Alan Turing, who broke the Enigma code used by Germans to encrypt their messages for war operations. A superb performance by Benedict Cumberbatch will leave you speechless. 
The Continuum is the sci fi Canadian TV series (available on Netflix streaming). It's an emotional, complicated, and a smart story of a female cop traveling from the year 2077 back to our time. After few first episodes the series grabs your attention as we see how today's societal problems would change the future. The female police officer shines in a remarkable performance and is a pleasure to watch.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015


Surprising to some perhaps, social justice takes a very big part in my heart. While it has no visual connection to my art, I can’t remain silent today. Although my artistic goal solely aims to highlight the beauty of this world, I can’t mute myself from violence, prejudice, and inferiority I encounter. So today I make a public note of my thoughts. You might not agree with me, but my views could prompt some discussions changing the future.

What America as a nation doesn't realize is how steeped it is in gun violence. It's the only highly civilized country in the world that shows consistent outbreaks of violence. It's “free” and democratic society where people can shoot on the streets, in movie theaters, college campuses, schools, and even in a church. I've never seen so much violence in my life as I encounter it here in the U.S., considering the fact that I have neither lived through the horrors of war nor resided in shady neighborhoods. Streams of violence don’t just come from the media’s twist on sad news. It rather stems from the deep-rooted psychic of the gun ownership and the American culture of violent movies, games, and magazines, where the depiction of "cool" men with multiple weapons somehow justifies their actions, raises them on a pedestal of manliness, and often shows them as singular and the most just defenders of American freedom.
The Hollywood movies impress with reality and cruelty happening on screen. Why does “the Game of Thrones” receive such accolades when every few minutes someone is violently killed or mutilated? Of course, there is an argument that it’s the reality of our world and humanity, but I have to say that teens live and learn within the family unit to be accepting of horrific events instead of learning and appreciating the acts of kindness, love, and forgiveness.

While viewers get horrified and sob over the innocent people getting killed in the movies like “the Hunger Games,” we-as a nation have no problem sending our children to war. Just getting out of school, so naive and unknowing they become the “army proud” and “army strong”, serving our country or maybe serving the views of the elite controlling the end game. In the school awards ceremony this May, I became a witness to complete insanity. After all students got their academic awards, only two of them received the loudest standing ovation. Those students stood together on a podium so sincere and  young, like two birds knowing nothing about the cruelty of this world, ready to take off their parents’ nest. Those were the students going for a career in the army. Why are we so proud of sending children to fight? No academic achievement caused even a quarter of that stir and applause the two students got.
This country is my home, but its actions make me shiver. Currently America is the only power in the world constantly fighting with other nations, thinking that wars and drone attacks will become successful fighting off terrorism, but the terrorism rises in response to ill or malicious actions of the country that sabotages and interferes with other countries' life. Wars simply help to rearrange the natural resources and powers to control the world. The inconvenient to the American world domination, foreign rulers are labeled as "tyrants" on TV and other news media. In fact, the role of the media is so paramount, it can create hype and hysteria out of acts of terrorism, yet it's very quiet mentioning the victims and refugees, simple people who get caught between the war zones and countries' politics...
I get the idea of bearing the arms for protection, but why did the president meet so much opposition trying to pass the law asking for the background checks? The stats show that almost all shootings happen because some crazy people have no problem buying a gun. Despite their history of mental illness, no one alerts the authorities or puts them on the list of possible shooters. Why do we have a “no fly list” and no “no weapons” list? Is it also the obstruction of freedom?

Finally, I get to racism. Yes, it still exists along with our stereotypes and quick judgement. We all label each other once in a while, me included. But being aware of our actions makes the difference. As the most diverse country on the planet, America has made considerable steps towards equality I’m personally very proud of. This is where I see the crystal clear difference between the U.S. and many other countries I’ve been to, but the last shooting in black church has highlighted the truth: people of color still live under the Confederate flag in South Carolina, flying over the state capitol in Columbia, the very symbol of slavery for many. How is this possible in the country that celebrates diversity and racial blindness? It beats me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fat-over-Lean rule in oil painting

To create a stable, long-lasting oil painting artists should follow the 'fat-over-lean' rule described in the pictures below. (the pic is taken from Natural Pigments website, I believe where I buy lightfast paints). Otherwise, your art may crack or fall apart a lot faster than the surviving artworks you see in art museums. 

The fat-over-lean rule means that the painting is build in layers, and with each new layer the artist adds more oil/medium to his/her paints. While the first layers have no medium at all (but a little bit of Gamsol to dilute/thin out the paint), the following layers receive more medium.
It's best not to go wild with the use of painting mediums and keep it simple: add just enough to make the paint flow, as the mediums weaken the paint film.
The most stable medium is linseed oil. There are many other alternatives that affect the drying time of the paint, such as poppy oil, walnut oil,etc.

The process is described in my most popular video here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgyu9Tvzr20

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Thursday, January 8, 2015


I've been tempted to go and to try yoga for several years. I would meet people occasionally bragging about their yoga experience but not being able to formulate what exactly it meant or did for them. Some would say that they found "the previously unknown muscles" in their bodies that hurt after practice. Others felt nice relaxation. But no one gave me any specifics WHY it was worth going. So one day I decided to try it out for myself, thanks to my friend-Tatyana who brought me to one of local classes. I wanted to understand what was so special about the practice and why there were so many yoga studios popping up in every town. And so I went.

I did a new client special for a month where I could try any kind of yoga and any instructor offering the class. (@ YogaLoft in Mercato, Naples http://yogaloftnaples.com/ ). Here is the result. While Yoga includes partial mediation and relaxation practice that might look like a Lamaze class to some active adults, it's actually good for body and soul. It lets you be in the present and quiet your racing mind. Yes, even relaxation can be a challenge. It takes me a considerable effort to let my body and mind go into the la la land during the session.
It stretches my body in a different, new way. I'm a runner who also lifts weights 3-4 times a week but yoga does something different to my body. While some poses might look easy to do, they are not easy to hold correctly for a required length of time. All poses require "how-to" knowledge of shifting or redistributing your weight, so that you can hold yourself working and stretching your muscles. Some seniors  manage to stand on their arms and the head. (Yes, this blows my mind too! This is definitely something to work on for me) Yoga teaches me balance mentally and physically, giving lots of positive energy.
Deep breathing is vital to yoga practice. I've realized that I don't breathe deeply but tend to hold it, making my breathing very timid. Deep, exaggerated breathing is very important to mastering the technique.

Lastly, an experienced instructor makes all the difference in understanding yoga to practice it correctly. I was very lucky to meet Meredith Musick. She is serious about teaching and correcting positions. My fellow-yogi might not agree with me and I’m very tempted to know what they have to say to enrich my experience. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lightfastness of oil paint: what’s in your tube?

While I'm not an expert in art conservation, I am the artist who paints full-time. After years of painting, conversations with other professionals and some research, I can offer my basic guidance choosing oil paints. Feel free to research this topic further via my references or by contacting products’ manufacturers, or any other way you may see fit.

Artists have many choices. Picking the right brand of oil paint can be a challenge. Some brands are promoted so heavily by art supply companies that artists buy their paint without a second thought. When I was a student, the quality of paint hardly ever mattered to me and my most common determinant was the price. Today as I take care of my art, however, my buying choices are strongly influenced by the quality and lightfastness of oil paint.

There are several important properties of oil paint artists should pay attention to. The most necessary information can be seen right on the tube. Don’t buy paint that doesn’t have the following data printed on it.

1. Transparency vs. opaqueness of your paint.

An empty square, half-empty, or filled square-gives artists information about the paint’s transparency. While some colors are transparent, others are opaque or semi-opaque. Some brands just say “Transparent” or “Semi-opaque” as opposed to assigning a specific symbol to it. So when I chose my paint for glazing-applying transparent layers of paint-I look at the square/ or a note on transparency to determine if my paint is naturally good for glazing. Some transparent colors are Gamblin’s ultramarine blue, Michael Harding’s bright yellow lake, or Charvin’s transparent yellow ochre, etc. Opaque or semi-opaque colors are often good for scumbling.

2. Pigments used in oil paint determine the lightfastness (resistance to light) or longevity of your art.

This is the most important principle in choosing your paint. While some basic colors have just one pigment, there are many colors that consist of several pigments mixed together along with oil, fillers, and binders. These “new”, not historical colors give artists a lot more color choices but each pigment present in such paint tube should be checked for lighfastness separately. For example, Winton flesh tint has 4 pigments in it (PW6, PW5, PY42, and PV19).
The pigments are described by letters and numbers. For example, PB15-phtylocianine blue is rated lightfastness I. PW1-lead white is lightfastness I. PR2-Napthol red G- lightfastness II, etc.
Here is extensive pigment information database that lists oil paint properties including lightfastness: http://www.artiscreation.com/
Each company performs its own tests on lightfastness of the oil paint. This information is included on the tube too. It reads either as +, ++ or +++, or lightfastness 1, lightfastness 2, or lightfastness 3 and so on. The higher the number (3-4) the less lightfast the paint is. By nature, browns and ochres are often more lightfast than some funky colors, like alizarin crimson or turquoise. Those colors that have lightfastness 3-4 are fugitive and fade pretty quickly. If you paint professionally, those colors should be avoided painting with.
Artists can perform their own tests as well by exposing 1/2 of paint to the sun (while the other half is covered by black tape or cardboard). Lift the tape in a month of continuous light exposure to see the change in color of your pigment. Artist Virgil Elliott has tested numerous colors of various brands and he included a lot of information about painting in his book "Traditional oil painting." http://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Oil-Painting-Techniques-Renaissance/dp/0823030660/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414806712&sr=1-1&keywords=traditional+oil+painting

3. Type of oil mixed into the paint.
All paints have some oil premixed into the paint. Linseed oil-is the most stable oil that is also used widely as paint medium by artists. It’s long-lasting and dries quite quickly.
Safflower oil, poppy oil, and walnut oil are other, less stable oils often used as vehicles mixed into tubed oil paint.

4. The amount of fillers and binders present in oil paint.

Various amounts of fillers and binders are mixed into oils as well. They dilute the pigment by “stretching” the paint and thus making it cheaper to the consumer. Fillers and binders greatly affect the consistency and texture of paint. It could affect the drying speed of paint as well. Rublev colors, manufactured by Natural Pigments, don't have any filler in their paint making the oils more stable and with high tinting strength. Like other professional-grade paints, they give artists a lot more pigment placed in a small tube as opposed to cheaper oil paint manufactured in a much larger tube.

Professional brands of oil paints include:

-Rublev colors by NP
-Old Holland
-Michael Harding
-Chroma, etc.

These are great resources for further research:

The atelier movement- a closed group on Facebook-exists for artists interested in classical painting. The group’s administrator is classically trained artist-Graydon Parrish.
-Artist Virgil Elliot:  http://virgilelliott.com/
-Beth Sistrunk's blog: www.bethsistrunk.com
-Douglas Flynt' blog: http://douglasflynt.blogspot.com/
-"The artist's handbook of materials & techniques" by Ralph Mayer: http://www.amazon.com/The-Artists-Handbook-Materials-Techniques/dp/0670837016

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Friday, October 10, 2014

NEW Step by Step Colored Pencil Demonstrations

My new demonstrations in colored pencil & oil are available for download from www.VeronicasArt.com

Portrait of Sasha, 12 step colored pencil demonstration

Yellow Rose, 6 step colored pencil demonstration

Still life with glass and shell, video and digital file bundle, 12 step colored pencil demonstration 

Thank you for your interest!

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