Monday, April 24, 2017

Shouting Above the Waves

Chris Polson, who makes my excellent canvas stretchers- has been telling me to try Instagram. The New York Times says that Instagram is de rigueur for artists- in a previous editorial however, they had said too much social media is bad and a waste of time. You can get lost in the weeds as it were. Eh!
My 20 something model says blogs are out, Instagram is in -young people don't read blogs anymore, so in total terror of being even more obscure than I am I took the plunge.

I know the internet is saturated with artists but after opening the Pandora's box of Instagram I feel bludgeoned by "art": rich artists, starving artists, bold artists, figurative artists, animal artists. landscape artists, abstract artists, post everything artists and artists who do things with doilies that would never have occurred to me. Much of the work I see, at first bite looks inviting, though after some consideration becomes as tasteless and artificial as a Twinkie. Instagram is like digging through a landfill, now and again you find treasures and reconnect with artists you admire and share an affinity,

People have been urging me to put more stuff , more 'drama" into my painting. More bits flying about.I see succesful young artists painting mountains of flowers and butterflies surrounding their figures, compositions so complex they rival the historical paintings of the French Academy. I am not that clever. I do feel drowned, submerged, but the thought of attempting one of these "masterpieces" fills me with - oh well- boredom. I do not like painting acres of flowers, plastered on butterflies ( the pictorial glop du jour). I can get through maybe a posey or two, maybe a bouquet but you have to strap the brushes to my hands. I love faces, I love figures , I love hands and feet. I know I have to occasionally put something between those extremities and around them. I love color. I like good design and simplicity.

It our fractious times it seems to me so many artist find the need to shout, louder and louder, to try more and more extreme measures to get attention. This does not condone timidity, the willingness to try something that is not stale, to go out on the limb of failure. I have always in retrospect found that there is power in the seemingly effortless and simple. Both John and Twachtman share a delicious delicacy of design and color. Delicacy, oh delicacy!

Gwen John are John Twachtman are two examples. Gwen John was overshadowed in her lifetime by her bombastic and famous brother Augustus John. Today she is more highly regarded- even though she died in obscurity. I could live with either painter's work on my wall.

This is actually Carl Fabritius' wonderful painting of a yellow finch, what power in a tiny painting.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Finding Artist's Health Insurance post ObamaCare. SAVED BY THE BELL!

Van Gogh Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear
Now that ObamaCare has been issued a reprieve there are still some suggestions in this post that might help you. I will post them in blue.

One of the blessings of ObamaCare was that allowed many artists to set up shop on their own. 
There was a great deal of lip-service before the election about spiraling student debt, and with the almost certainty of a Clinton victory, little worry about having access to health insurance for the self-employed artist. Both of these hopeful scenarios have been blasted out of the water. As a self-employed artist, before ObamaCare I know how difficult and expensive health insurance was. I, like many others mostly went without. A hairdresser I know, who could not afford health insurance had a plan for this. She put everything on her credit cards, food. a new car and doctors visits and went bankrupt. They could not take her home, and her car nor her food- so she felt she had a cushion until she was eligible for  Medicare.

Now it will again be a HUUUUGE problem as El Trumpo and the Republicans are "retooling", "dismantling", (pick your poison), the ACA, there is no guarantee artists will have any. My suggestions are of course besides leaving the country ( if I were young enough it would be a consideration) I would consider countries of the EU or Canada. In the US look to states that have expanded Medicare under ObamaCare. Those are the most likely to have affordable policies. Massachusetts is a safe bet because ObamaCare is modeled after its program and I think it will continue there, If you are unmarried and living with a partner you can get on his/hers in states that accept common-law marriage.
You can of course stay on your parent's insurance until you are 26 (currently) but if you get married you cannot. You can stay on your parents plan even if you are not living at home and in another state, even living with but NOT MARRIED to your companion. Another option is finding a local Chamber of Commerce and joining for their group plan. That is what I did for years.

This is an informative site for health insurance for self-employed artists of all kinds though it says music. As I said because the portending changes in ObamaCare things will change.

Your best bet- move to Massachusetts:

Here is  list of great places for artists to live more cheaply and thrive, one of them is New Bedford Mass, much, much cheaper than Boston and its surrounding cities.
Listed also  is Providence- home to one of the best bargains in art schools- RI college (has its own health insurance program while you are in school). A Massachusetts site

I will try to update this as this painful scenario unfolds. One take-away from this is try to keep art school debt under control. I have tried to outline some reasons and tips in this post:

Monday, March 6, 2017


New studies for a proposed painting: "Absence of Time"

My model is a professional ballroom dancer from Moldova with amazing cheekbones. He can hold a pose and is so elegant and a really good sport! This is a riff on the traditional  trois crayons style of classical drawing. It is done on one of my last pieces of cornflower blue TwinRocker hand-made paper- no longer made unless you order some.$$$$ but worth it.

My husband tried to rescue him from the floral headpiece but both decided this was a more original approach.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Art to Inspire You in a Dystopian Age.

Shattered by the election of Trump, many American artists are casting feverishly about for appropriate imagery or maybe not imagery, no that's not it, maybe some grip on artistic sanity. no not sanity, maybe  insanity- no perhaps a new anti-ism that has not been done to death or perhaps an old comforting ism in an age of uncertainty or art as nothingness- been done! art as somethingness, yes that's the ticket- no too solid, need something with a void, no it has to be void-less. no that's been done- perhaps post-void-less, or post-anti-transcendentalist or post-objectivist - better post woman objectivist- no too gender specific, no! crackpot art!

 To address these crippling, creative conundrums I have been casting about the internet gathering inspirational imagery that might inspire those who are deeply affected by this truly nasty turn of events,

Ronan the Pug 10" x  24"
Provenance: Trash
Charlie and Sheba 18' x 24" Provenance Boston Thrift Store

Mom and Babe  20" x 30" Trash acquistion
Lucy in the sky with Daisies.
Trash acquisition

"Gilded Nude" The viewer is struck by the youthful female's subject over-sized arm..

Annies Downstairs Secret 18" x 24"

Julian Schnabel-add pretentious title.

The top five images are from that delightful Museum of Bad Art
in the basement of the Somerville theater in Somerville, Mass.

The bottom image is from a fancy schmancy gallery that disposes of Julian Schnabel's art which apparently after being in the art doghouse (where it should remain) is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. There is no underestimating the power of a new York Art Critic's goobydegook in resurrecting him. .  The cognoscenti would rather DIE that admit that it was a lot of impenetrable bullshit.

In all honesty I find these so refreshing and fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Painting on Plexiglass- Maybe Not!

I think it is a tendency for artists to want that certain something, that technique, material or magic potion that will distinguishes their art from others. God knows I have tried a lot of crap. Lately painting on acrylic panels seems to be one of them. I noticed in a recent issue of an American artist's magazine "The Artist's Magazine" an artist mentioning painting on acrylic panels. It set off a warning light in my head as I have had talks with my husband over the years about this practice. He is a physicist ( Brown/ University of Rhode Island) specializing in the development of new materials and has run product tests for me over the years. He has debunked and confirmed manufacturers claims about their painting materials. (Micheal Harding's stuff is the real deal) One thing he has cautioned me me against is plastic as a painting support. Many artists painting on Plexiglas" and recommending it cite no scientific studies as to its durability.

I excerpted the paragraph on 'acrylic' substrates from a paper from the The Department of Art Conservation at the University of Delaware on painting supports. It covers all supports and though not Jane Austen is an informative read. It  does give some good advice as to its safest use.

"Polymethyl Methacrylate (e.g. Plexiglas) Plexiglass is one of several trademarked names used to market clear sheets of polymethyl methacrylate, a material that is a popular support among artists. These sheets tend not to contain potentially problematic additives such as those found in polyvinyl chloride- and polycarbonate-based materials. However, Plexiglass will expand and contract in response to changes in temperature and humidity, leading to eventual warping or bending of the support. This can be problematic if very brittle materials are used in the paint and/or ground layers (e.g. oils, alkyds, certain resins) as delamination and cracking may occur as the support expands and contracts. Watercolors, tempera, and most gouache paints should be avoided. The glassy-like surface of Plexiglass makes for a surface that can be easily scratched and can build up a static charge that can attract dust particles. Plexiglass is prone to yellowing if exposed to UV light and can be extremely sensitive to certain solvents; artists should avoid bringing acetone, aromatics, and other solvents to surface of Plexiglas, sticking instead to water or mineral spirits-based products. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Plexiglass supports are inherently brittle and easily shatter or crack if dropped or damaged. If an artist insists on using a polymethyl methacrylate support, the best procedure is to initially sand the surface in order to provide some mechanical tooth to improve the adhesion of the paint and ground layers. Artists should consider painting and priming with acrylics if using Plexiglass as they do retain some degree of flexibility. Avoid installing inflexible hardware directly into the Plexiglass, choose thicker rather than thinner sheets, and use a channeled frame to house/display the Plexiglass."

I have found that the  National Gallery of Art Department of Conservation a wealth of accurate information. You can call them and email them- a fine example and one of the few examples of taxpayer money going to help artists.  When I have a question they are my go to source.
Much of what is online about artist materials is for amateurs and often wildly incorrect. It is best to find a source like our National Gallery and the University of Delaware's School of Conservation for the most unbiased information. There are others like the Metropolitan Museum, Fogg etc.  I have contacted them as well as others.The jobber of said Plexiglas said it would last forever. 

This is an updated version of the book I already have. A lot of new research and information has gone into it.

"Unfortunately, “plastic objects are among the most vulnerable found in museums and galleries.” "

Here is a discussion on WetCanvas- an online painting forum on acrylic supports.
From WetCanvas 08-17-2004, 09:29 AM
As a sign manufacturer, I have great deal of experience with 'plastics' - acrylic, lexan, styrene, pvc etc. I would be very skeptical about using acrylic as an archival board. You not only run the risk of your paint delaminating, but also face the fragile nature of acrylic which leaves it susceptible to cracking. Also, depending on whether it is cast or extruded acrylic, the chances are that you bought extruded, the plastic will warp with larger sizes. Acrylic gesso may not be the proper ground for the initial priming because it doesn't have a proper chemical bond...the acrylic gesso (as a ground) should be applied after the plastic has been primed. The only primer I know that can be used properly for acrylic priming is a lacquer based primer similar to automotive paint primers...anything else is a temporary paint job. Almost any substrate can be turned into a suitable ground with proper preparation and priming, but I personally wouldn't use acrylic for archival fine art. No problem for experimenting, studies and personal projects.

Do your own sleuthing, don't take my word  on this, make sure the materials and practices you employ have scientific backing.

Monday, February 13, 2017

"The Absence of Time"

A study for a new painting "The Absence of Time" I love beginnings as they are more hopeful that when you get stuck in the inevitable weeds. This is done on one of the few remaining pieces of Twinrocker's cornflower blue handmade paper that I found. Working on really high quality handmade paper is going from a Yugo to a BMW. This paper is pigment dyed and light-fast and will not fade. Mi-Teintes says it is light-fast but it is not. Also the surface is subtle and takes a beating.
Handmade drawing  paper used to more common- but these paper makers are dwindling and rare and their output more limited. I am not talking about the novelty paper makers that embed flowers or whatever but high quality artist papers. Twinrocker also makes larger sizes-up to 33" x 48" now only custom. I am having some 30' x 40" Simon's Green Paper made. It is a lovely celadon.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Eye Candy for a Snowy Day in February

When ever I think beauty is not enough- I see a painting like this that takes my breath away. From a recent Sotheby's auction catalogue of important Impressionist art.
Klimt Blauringarten 1907

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Art School in the Age of Trump.To Go or Not to Go!

Should you go to art school? That depends on how wealthy your parents are and not minding using art school as as tool to prepare yourself for a career as an Uber driver.

The only reason to persist is that you love to do it. It rarely is a path to wealth, nor has it ever been unless you are like the lucky artist who discovers lucre in the pickling of hapless Australian sharks for hedge-fund billionaires. Very few in each generation survive. In the flowering age of the Impressionist movement there were 5000 artists in Paris alone when The Prix de Rome was the summit of artistic recognition. Here is a Wiki list of the winners over the years, it is astonishing how many of these painters are totally forgotten. My husband overhearing me said being an artist was for masochists.

Following is a 2013 study promulgated by concern over high levels of art school debt.
A National Survey on the Lives of  Arts Graduates and Working Artists.

Some findings:
10% of art graduates are working artists and 16% of working artists are art school graduates.
Art school graduates earn on average 36 K per annum, a bit more than those without a degree- 30K
Art school debt is one of the highest with the least amount of return.


One young man, an acquaintance of mine (BFA RISD, Pratt) is suffering under the burden of over 100K of debt. He had a job with Deborah Turbeville, a renowned fashion photographer until her death. She would get 2 million dollars for a Valentino campaign. Ms. Turbeville never went to art school. Marilyn Silverstone went to Wellesley but learned photography on her own with the help of Henri Cartier-Bresson. I knew her only in her later years.

I think decent art training can be had on the cheap as it were. There are alternatives to the 50K super star schools. No-one has ever asked me if I had a degree, Basquiat did not have one.

A partial list of the cheaper schools offering degrees.
Now a BFA  degree does not mean a secure job as a professor or an art teacher, you usually need an MFA. Most adjuncts, even those with MFA's from Yale make only $3500 per course.

RI College has a fine arts program and the  wealthy owners the Alex and Ani jewelry firm have committed millions to the art school. They share the same adjuncts as RISD and RIC is 8K plus  per annum instate tuition as opposed to RISD's 47K plus. Both offer scholarships. RIC was good enough for Oscar winner Viola Davis!

MassArt is a bit more but doable: about 12K

Lyme Academy ( for those interested in contemporary realism) is about 30K

PAFA is about 35K
If I wanted to study under a teacher in America it would be this guy!

 The biggest bargain! Spend a year learning Spanish then go to the finest art school in the Caribbean: Escuela de Artes Plasticas Y Disenos in sunny warm San Juan Puerto Rico! $2000 per annum! It is part of the US and Spanish if you don't speak it already it easy to learn. The courses are not in English.

Community colleges are an excellent way to start- again, in Rhode Island- my home state adjuncts float from RISD to RI College to Brown to Rhode Island College. Check out your local schools- many wonderful unsung artists are teaching,

For those interested in Classical Realism- the Ateliers that are springing up all over America and Europe are relative bargains. The upside is that you will really learn the discipline of drawing, but sometimes it is hard telling one artist from another. However, if I had a choice to make for me, that is where I would go and bring a supply of magic mushrooms as an antidote.
 About 17K  for an education in Italy! Whoohoo!
I like the Gage's approach as it grounds the student in classical drawing and painting skills but offers them more contemporary alternatives. This is a school that I would have KILLED to go to.
A review: The tuition prices are out of date,

The Academy of Realist Art in Boston is quite reasonable and has an online course.
It also has two affiliates one in Toronto in Canada
The benefits of Canadian Art School are twofold, their tuitions are lower AND
instead of this in your morning newsfeed:
you can wake  up to this:

The Art Renewal Center has their list of "approved ateliers". I think this site often promotes some of the most ossified of contemporary realists ( those Fred Ross buys)  but here it is.

This is just a sliver of options for the intrepid artist, going abroad (and I mean really abroad) is another option. I think among the worst things that can happen to an artist is crippling debt from the getgo. Let go of that I gotta go here or there or I am never going to "make it"then  define for yourself  what is "making it" and go from there.
A don't go to art school plea with some excellent alternatives.

An alternative art career-in  art restoration at the University of Delaware.

Naropa offers courses in studio art and art therapy ( probably a growth industry under Trump). I have attended Naropa in the past. It is not a bargain per se but it is not the most outrageously expensive either- and Boulder Colorado is fabulous.


 The financial bottom line: this is perhaps not a great time for taking on HUUGE debt in the arts. Here is another cautionary tale:

Great areas to live and work as an artist. One of them is San Juan Puerto Rico, home of their bargain art school:
 Although amazing as it seems,with little in the way of standards in the plastic arts, many young people ( and some older- sad!) overrate their abilities, I probably did. A cautionary tale!

Knowing all this, would I choose again become an artist. Oh yes! I belly-flopped my way through an "art career" that was more an experiment in curiosity, or desperation than an organized plan. There were many horrifying years, but in retrospect it has given me great satisfaction but I could afford this artistic floundering as I had no student debt, nada, not a peso not a centime.

One caveat, clients with money, disregarding for now, Uncle Ed's request for a portrait of his dog Bingo, are usually well educated. You must read, everything, history, government, philosophy. Learn a language.
I did have one specific advantage, I went to an excellent private school in Connecticut. Many of my classmates skipped their first year of college. My art school was affiliated with Tufts for our degree program, They had a hard time finding an advanced enough course for me to take in their first year offerings so I took medieval French.

However there is one encouraging area of growth that is promising- protest posters!

More depressing reading:
This is a thoughtful article on Art in The Age of Trump;
an extended riff on Voltaire's,"Il faut cultiver son jardin.".

Something to consider in the future- the cost of health insurance when you are on your own in Trump's America.;postID=3913412570719598730;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=postname

ally, only
10 percent
, or
people, make their primary
earnings as working artists