Practicing Art

The Process of Painting

The Process of Painting

I always start a new quarter by explaining to my students how important it is that we develop a practice of simplification and analysis before beginning a drawing or painting. I have them do an exercise to find large simple shapes based on value within a reference image. This helps tremendously!

The Best Artist's Database!

Just as I prepare to make this transition to self-employment my laptop sizzles - joy...

Since I am no longer tied to the old data I've collected over the years.... I'm looking for a number of inexpensive and agile solutions to get back on track.

Many artists use spreadsheets to document their  work but I'm a database kind of gal. So in searching for a new solution, I found ArtworkArchive. This is a cloud-based database so you can access your info from any device - which I really like! And - it looks good! The reports it creates are clean and attractive - and very professional looking! The user interface is modern and, partly because it looks so good, I really enjoy working on it. 

Over the past umpteen years, I had used WorkingArtist but grew wary of it as the company stopped showing signs of upgrading the software. WorkingArtist was great - it tracked everything quite well - it even assisted in pricing artwork - oh well....

Then I imported my info into GYST - honestly, that was way too cumbersome to work with. They really want to be an all encompassing resource for artists in all aspects of their business - but I spent way too much time lost in all the info and convoluted report-generation.


I looked at a number of other options that could work but when I tried ArtworkArchive I decided the convenience, simplicity and clean, good-looking reports out-weighed the yearly $99 subscription. If you are just starting out, they have a $49/yr version that offers a limited number of pieces and locations you can track. 

I recommend you test it out for yourself - you can sign up for free and add (a very limited number of) records so you can see how it works before you buy it.

Are you adding file info to your images?

I have been migrating my website over to SquareSpace and in the process realized that I have not taken the time to update the file info for most of the images on my old site! "So what?" you say? Well... there are several reasons you should always make a practice of filling out the "file info" (aka metadata) form for each image.

  • SEO - The search engines will index that information - so by all means, you need the information attached to your image!
  • Copyright - "file info" contains your copyright notice for the image - need I say more?
  • Info about your work - "file info" comes along with the image file - which is a huge help when a curator is looking through the images you sent and needs to know the title, or the size of the painting, etc. - it's all there - IF YOU ENTERED IT IN!
  • Searchable - Need to attach an image to an email? Just search for the title! Need to find images of all your plein air paintings? You can, if you put "plein air" in the key words section of "file info" ! Key words in the file info form become tags that help you find things.

You find the File Info Form in your photo editing software.  You should really take the time to enter this info - you will thank yourself later!

Below is how it looks in Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

You can also edit some of the info in Windows while in file explorer - See the image below. The red arrows indicate items you should edit for each image.

We’re all in this together!

Get to know your arts administrators!

The inspiration for this bit of sage advice occurred while I was upstairs in the school gallery a few days ago, taking some time to really look at the work of Gage instructor, Larine Chung. As I stood in contemplation of Chung's use of color and space, one of the atelier students walked by and, in devilish good humor, said "Hey, what are you doing up here? This floor is for artists". I gave him a screwed up look, he said "just kidding" and we laughed. After he had tromped down the stairs, I got to thinking – he may not actually know that I am an artist!

If you are a student/emerging artist, you spend a significant part of your day in the studio in pursuit of your craft. You interface with the people working in the offices of various organizations to take care of things like registering for classes, submitting work for shows, applying for grants or residencies, etc. Much of this is done through email and online and you may never even see the people helping you grow your career, much less get to know them!

Many arts administrators are probably more like you than you realize. It takes passion and sympathy for the cause to keep the wheels of the art world turning and while it is not necessarily a requirement, most art-related organizations hire people who are actively engaged in the arts for this very reason.

So – get to know your arts administrators. You may find that the art world is much wider and deeper than you thought.

Caring for Pastel Paintings

Pastel paintings created with artist's quality pastels on acid-free grounds are very stable. The dry colors are applied directly to the ground which is an acid free paper with either a rough texture or a coating containing pumice that grips the pastel. And grip it it does! When I complete a painting I give it a couple of thumps on the back to remove any loose pastel dust then frame it behind glass to protect the surface. Properly framed pastels are very sturdy, long-lived paintings.

Some things to remember:

  • Avoid hanging any art in direct sunlight.
  • When transporting a pastel painting, keep the painting face up and avoid sharp jarring.
  • Do not spray cleaners directly on glass or frame - moisture can seep under the glass and cause damage.