Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Marketing: Emerging Artist Tips

• Recently I was contacted by a young, fresh out of art school "artist" who specializes in illustration. I put "artist" in quotes because he's currently working at a Starbucks in New York City and trying to succeed on the side. A hard-working, very talented person who just can't seem to break into the field, and finding that the information given in art school just wasn't enough.
• Although it's been many years since I've had to start out attempting to become a successful artist, and though the tools have changed, the basic principles remain the same. I'm still marketing all these years later, so I'm going to occasionally post edited versions of the questions asked, along with my responses. 
Q: "My marketing strategy at this time is what I would consider bare-bones, but definitely not unknowledgable. As soon as I graduated from art school, I set to work gathering a long list of potential clients. I started at the magazine rack at Barnes and Nobles, and moved on from there to the internet. I find mastheads wherever I can, I grab the names and addresses for Art Directors, assistant ADs, Creative Directors, and so on, and I add them to the list. I do this whenever and wherever I can. Every three or four months, I then mail postcards with my work to everyone on this list. I feel strongly as if I need more diversity in my marketing strategy. I do not email because I can't be convinced that it's remotely effective or even worth the time that it would take to gather the few email addresses I could find (people seem to protect these better than their mailing addresses). I also believe that it's too easy to automatically get sorted into junk folders, whereas with a physical mailing, at the very least there's a good chance that someone will take a look at what I can do, at least for a few seconds. If I can grab their attention in that time, I win. If not, at least I had that shot."
A: Gathering contact information whenever and wherever you can is a great start, as is creating and mailing postcards. Your take on emails is correct; they're often lost, forgettable and viewed as somewhat lazy and intrusive.
• I have known people who've spent a large amount of money on creating show-stopping, die cut, expensive mailers. I'm not convinced that's a good investment. If you're already getting some calls from your mailings (and they're not mega printing dollars to do) then your talent speaks for itself. 
• From my experience, the same goes for purchasing (what are often hugely expensive) ads in the big advertising books like the Black Book. Before I would do anything like that, I would talk to some illustrator agents, art directors, other illustrators, etc. to try to judge whether the investment is worth it. I've spent thousands of dollars on ad books and sometimes gone for a long time with no results, although some claim consistency of your message (over the years) is critical.
• The world has changed a great deal, but you need to start doing cold calls. Mailings are not enough; they're too passive. You need to constantly get to the front of people's minds, and you can't do that if you don't talk to them and happen to connect with them the moment they have a need for your work.

Multiple samples of medical art
• Here's a sample of one of my early marketing pages which was published in a specialized medical art marketing book:

Monday, June 25, 2012

SPCA Auction Statue Progress

Starting the first layer of freehand painting in purple. Acrylic paint, Dick Blick Master Stroke Brush, & Q-tips

Starting work on a dog statue, now named "Chance" that will eventually be auctioned off at the "Dogs and Cats Around Town" Charlottesville Area SPCA.

Critical things needed to do this kind of work: a very steady hand and a very good brush.

It's a truism that this kind of work often looks much easier to do than it is. After wielding brushes for many years, I can tell you that practice is essential before you start the final work. Judge how easily the  brush becomes "loaded" or filled, with paint. Then, glide it across a practice surface similar to the final piece. I actually went outside and got some rocks, which really helped me understand what paint consistency was best, and how fine or thick a line I could easily make.

Spend some time stroking away and realize that no matter how much you practice, when you get to the real, final work you're bound to make some mistakes and you'll relax as you move along. Mistakes? Later I'll show you some custom-made mistake erasure paint. Not that I ever make mistakes. Ever.

On this particular statue, because I can't move it (150+ pounds?) I became a contortionist. I'm right-handed, which means my most controlled stroke is from left to right. Just imagine how I had to move around the statue - crouching, sitting, bending, leaning - to get the straightest, most beautiful thick and thin strokes. That was about 3.5 hours of painting and yoga!

To get clean, thick and think strokes, I had no caffeine, lots of patience and a pretty expensive Dick Blick Masterstroke Kolinsky Sable #4 brush. The acrylic paint brand is "Folk Art" for projects like this, and was purchased at Michael's. The colors are all liquid and pre-mixed, so I knew exactly what I was going to get.

And the Q-Tips? One of the most essential tools in my magical box. I dip them in water and can easily wipe away errors in the finest details.

Chance will be standing in front of the Happy Cook this summer, so the colors I've chosen reflect some from Happy Cook place settings that were just beautiful. I started out with multiple layers of Krylon Primer followed by Satin White Paint, also by Krylon, also from Michael's.

One note: I plan to spray the entire dog statue with a semi-gloss clear acrylic sealant when it's finished. Until then, I'm careful not to rub up against the colored paints.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Back In The Saddle

Me & Kiwi the horse, of course
The Happy Ms. Kiwi & Me, Cover Girls

The hospital where I had my total knee replacement at the end of Feb. somehow decided I'd been the "ideal" patient. Clearly, they did not talk to my (Dear Husband) Rick or my PT Jana. So here are the results of a two hour photo shoot and 1/2 hour airbrushed makeup session. And the beautiful girl in the photo with the kind eyes and perked ears? Kiwi, now known as Kiwi-dashian. It IS great to be back

Note that I ride Ms. Kiwi in the sport of Dressage (United States Dressage Federation/USDF), which Steven Colbert has officially declared "The Sport of the Summer." I am not a rich or fancy person like Ann or Mitt Romney; I'm in the 99%* that love horses and riding, and put horses among the top of my priorities. I try my best to ride in correct biomechanical form, for the good of the horse.

*note the Virginia-clay colored Ariat boots, and though you can't see them, while cleaning them for this shoot, I found two holes in my chaps! Just went and got a new (washable - cool!) pair at Dover Saddlery

— with Bethany Wood in Earlysville.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Horse of a Difference Color

Wickers the Warmblood getting towards the final painting.Labels showing what's going to be done next.

The portrait of Wickers is coming along. I'm starting to be satisfied with the masses that have been built up. On the right the labels show where I have concerns and more work to do.

I've grayed some of the areas away from Wicker's face, such as the mane area and lower shoulders and leg. I'm going to add more color into the face to draw more attention.
It's fun to look at the progress:

Notice also that I've taken the liberty to reduce the size of Wicker's eyelashes. They really are long and beautiful, but cast in the sunlight they made her look like she was sleeping. Artistic license.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dogs & Cats Around Town Auction

Working on the dog design for the Charlottesville Area SPCA Dogs and Cats Around Town auction in the fall. I kinda like this one.

This pup is going to stand in front of The Happy Cook at Barracks road in Charolottesville, VA for three months before the auction. These are the colors found on some of their plates that I just loved. 

Input welcomed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Learning By Comparing

Two images, one of the oil painting and the other of the skull, comparing bony landmarks.

Ok, don't jump to conclusions, I am NOT finished with the Wickers portrait on the left! It is, however, slowly getting there, so I thought I'd take a break and show some anatomical landmarks from an actual equine skull, and where they are showing up on the oil painting.

The skull on the right is not Wicker's skull!! She is still alive and happily sleeping since at this moment, here in Virginia it's pretty warm & humid, so the horses are outside grazing overnight and sleeping in their stalls during the day. 

You can see that the skull (right) does not line up perfectly with Wicker's head. For example, Wicker's eye is lower down on her face, whereas her infraorbital foramen is higher. Of course, different ages, sizes and breeds of horses can all influence where features turn up. In addition, there can be anatomic anomalies (see "biology") that get thrown into the mix. 

When you're aiming for accuracy and believability, it helps to identify major bony landmarks to make sure you've included them and to also judge whether or not you are seeing and placing them correctly.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

SPCA Charity Auction: Dog Name?

-  Up for a challenge? I am taking part in a fundraiser for the SPCA. They've asked me to use my artistry to paint this large cement hound to be auctioned off in the fall.

- Until then, after it's finished being painted it will stand in front of the Happy Cook on Rt. 29 in Charlottesville.

But I need a name!!! By tomorrow!! I was going to name her Lady or Queenie, but she's a boy!!! Being a Board Certified Medical Illustrator, I can recognize these things. Anyway, suggestions welcome, in the name of fun and animal charity!!!

- Oh, and I'm not painting the real, very nosy pup behind the statue; that's Moxey.

- Charity: CASPCA; Charlottesville Area Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

- Auction: "Dogs and Cats Around Town"

- CASPCA contactc: Cynthia Viejo

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wicker's Portrait: Building Volume

Another stage in the portrait process. This one has more hard edges.Oversmoothing on the Wicker's portrait. Color changed background.

Here's a link to the previous stages of the oil painting. The next steps are above.

These are still relatively thin oil layers. I'm trying to work all over the canvas so I don't get too bogged down in one place. The image on the left is made up of mixed flat colors, whereas on the right they've been blended together. Too much.

Painting is a very strange process, especially if you're in The Zone. Right now I'm in The Zone, but I'm not at all happy with the portrait (right). I do, however, have enough experience to know that if I just keep going and don't panic, there will suddenly be a lightbulb moment and I'll know I'm on to something good.

So as I keep working away, often I step BACK away from the painting or leave the room for a break. The new perspective really helps to see what areas need more work. For example, I wasn't happy with how warm the lower background was (left), and how it was competing with the portrait. On the right you can see it's been cooled down with blues, whites, greens, etc. However, doing that has also made the face appear too cool and too flat. That too will be adjusted.

Every painter has their own approach and habits. One of mine that I constantly fight against is over-smoothing edges. I'm pretty sure that habit comes from years of using an airbrush!

I'm over smoothing/blending now in the right image. I'm about to start getting pretty thick with the consistency of the paint, so I know I can go back and adjust. Since the sunlight on Wicker's face is bright, I can leave some of the edges hard, keep the strong color and still keep the volume.

One final thing: I'm going to have to play around more with color and depth to get the right side of Wicker's face to really stand out from the background. Oh, and I hate the hard edges in the trees at the top. They're next on the agenda!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What's Below the Surface?

Three important areas for the artist to understand horse's anatomy
- There are three areas needing refinement. The artist will see how their location, size and shape affect the horse's surface anatomy (also see photo below).

- The top illustration is the original, and was introduced here. Circles on the above left illustration show the most important areas needing clarification.

- The top red circle (left), the temporomandibular (TMJ) joint,is the hinge between the horse's jaw and skull. On the right illustration, you can now see where the Coronoid Process of the mandible (lower jaw) passes behind the zygomatic arch, thus completing the joint. Take a look at these two images to see how this joint works.

- The lowest circle, where the upper and lower teeth meet, illustrates the meeting of the upper and lower teeth where the upper and lower teeth have been defined. Compare the hardness/boniness  of the area around the mouth to the softer skin of the nose and lower face. 

- In the medical illustration on the right above I've labelled other landmark features that can influence the artist's work. We'll get into their importance later; but here you can see important arteries, veins and nerves travelling through these "holes" (foramen) in the skull that can appear on the surface of a painting.

- Some common anatomy terms to help the artist recognize what their function is: 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wickers Gets Oiled: The Final Thinner Layers

Image of Wickers at the last thin layer of oil paint.Close of wickers  

These are the final thin layers of oil before I get into the serious thicker paint. I've added more colors and deepened some areas of contrast. I'm not happy with the colors; they're not exactly what I wanted yet and they're too separate from each other. That, however, can be fixed in subsequent layers.

I'm going to need to go in and concentrate more on the area of focus - Wicker's eyes and face. Now, however, I have a decent foundation upon which to build. Note: there is some glare from the flash especially in the neck area, but that will be eliminated as more layers go on.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Never Finished Learning....and Photo Shoots?

I took another hard look at the skeleton/bone illustration I recently posted; the one of the horse's head and neck. It was drawn back in December - February, right before I went into surgery for a new knee. Therein lay the problem! I can see now I rushed and wasn't careful.

Looking closely at the image, I see several anatomical errors, and they drive me crazy! I'll mark them up and post the image again for closer scrutiny. That's the good thing about stepping away from a piece for awhile: everything that you thought looked just fine before takes on a whole new perspective, and in this case, it needs fixin!

The hospital where I had my surgery (Martha Jefferson in Charlottesville) has decided that I was an ideal patient. They clearly did not talk to anyone involved in my recovery.

Tomorrow Martha Jeff is flying in photographers and a make-up artist to do a photo shoot. That's not something I've ever said before. They want to show me riding Miss Kiwi, a lovely mare at the farm next door, to show how well my knee works and how quickly I've been able to recover. Sure didn't seem that way at the time! Ms. Kiwi will be getting some serious bribery carrots.

Anyway, as evidenced by the photo left, clearly I am used to photo shoots with Brad & Angie, which was taken right after my surgery, at the Academy Awards. Gosh, I love Photoshop.

Hoping to post tomorrow, but it's going to be a busy day, what with make-up artists and all....

Friday, June 1, 2012

Painting What You See and Know

Medical illustration showing the correct positioning of the head and neck in the horse.
- At this point I want to examine the horse's head and neck anatomy. When I'm painting something I want to be accurate and realistic, it always helps to understand what I'm painting beneath the surface as well as on top.
- I've gotten some real bones (C1 - C3; "C" is cervical) from a great horse buddy to add to the horse skull I already have. 
- I want to know what the shapes are that I'm starting to paint on Wicker's portrait and make sure they're in the right size and place.  
- Compare the oil painting stage of the Wicker's portrait below to the bony landmarks labelled on the left. Although the view is lateral, whereas Wicker's head is slightly turned, I can still see bony landmarks that are important to show and paint correctly.
- To make certain I'm doing this kind of research accurately,I've referred to many equine anatomy books as well as real bones to do the medical illustration above. What's difficult about it is that the reference books are all over the map! I realize all horses are different, so I'm trying to find an acceptable standard.
- Note the location of the poll (occipital crest and C1; anatomically the occipital crest itself is the "poll") labeled above the C1/ atlas. Wickers the Warmblood is an upper level dressage horse, and I can see that she has been ridden correctly because her poll area is well developed and muscular. 
- Incorrect riding ("rollkur") can be seen in the poll of the horse at this link; note that the neck "breaks" further down the neck than it should. This kind of riding can lead to many problems in a horse's anatomy and physiology.