Yvonne Branchflower's Art Blog

VMRC 11th Annual Juried: An exhibit worth entering

This is a well-run art exhibition that consistently sells my paintings.  While the venue might be surprising (a senior-citizen’s development), bear in mind that seniors have children, grand-children and friends.  In the senior community in which I live, residents buy paintings as holiday gifts, and sometimes they buy for themselves.  So don’t dismiss the venue.

 

 Here is why I recommend you enter this exhibit:

 

  • NO COMMISSION on sales
  • $35 for up to 3 entries (pretty standard fee)
  • 37% of the artwork sold last year (2013)
  • Over $5,000 in Merit and Purchase Awards (I’ve won a couple of them)
  • Well organized, pleasant people running the exhibit
  • Jurors with highly respectable qualifications
  • Over 2,000 people visit this annual exhibit

 

March 15, 2014 is the deadline for receiving entries.

 

Prospectus:  http://www.vmrc.org/files/vmrc/29/29064c43-6389-4c52-a6c8-edcb897a5782.pdf

 

Images of last year’s exhibit:  http://www.vmrc.org/files/vmrc/44/44fb95d1-3631-4c3f-b9cb-97a179030fa1.pdf  (Red prices indicate sold.)

Comment on or Share this Article >>

The Problem with Plein Air Painting is...


Challenges in plein air painting

Last summer a friend and I scheduled a painting day in Portland’s park blocks.  We chose a great location with red bistro umbrellas in the middle-ground and plenty of diners and strollers.  The park was in deep shade, light was somewhat greenish as it filtered through thick leaves, and the red umbrellas were mostly in shade.  Heavily tinted bistro windows appeared stark black.  I painted what I saw and was predictably disappointed in the dark result.  This is the problem I have with plein air painting:  Local color does not always match mood, and mood is the driving force in my paintings.

 

When Portland Art Museum Rental/Sales Gallery invited a baker’s dozen of its artists to a paint-out in the same park, I approached it in a wholly different way.  I preselected a site, photographed it, did multiple pencil sketches, and studied the values.  The monument of Teddy Roosevelt, which I wanted to feature, was lost in background foliage of the same value.  Altering the surrounding foliage to a cheerful light value created the center of interest I wanted.  The artist in my painting was actually facing me, but turning her toward the monument created a link between her and the monument.  Had I painted her the way I saw her, she would have been the subject of the painting, and Roosevelt, superfluous competition.

 

I wanted to portray a cheerful, busy day in the park.  And while that was exactly what the day provided, it was not what local color and real values provided.

 

Such high-key oil sketches as these are abnormal for me:  I am a landscape painter enamored with shadows and low-contrast.  Entirely out of my comfort zone with urban/people painting, I find it necessary to dig deep into the principals that govern my meditative landscape paintings:  Composition, color, value—and most of all, mood—pushing one reality to create another.

Comment on or Share this Article >>

Compact Art Studio Revisited


Compact efficient art studio

In 2011 and 2012 I posted 4 illustrated blog entries about my compact efficient art studio.  Artists continue to find them useful, judging by the web stats.  The simple uncluttered style of my studio remains very functional.  However, I made one tweak:  To prevent paint from spattering as I work on 18x24” panels, I got a new 22x26” pressed board support that goes on the easel tray behind the panel (or canvas).

 

To read all four posts about my small art studio, scroll down to December 2011 and March 2012.

 

My efforts were not very productive to find links to other bloggers who describe their space efficient studios.  However, these were interesting:

 

www.finearttips.com/2011/05/creating-art-in-small-studios is Lori McNee's article on small studios, her own and those of other artists.

 

http://www.emergencyresponsestudio.org   This is just too good to ignore:  A converted FEMA trailer does not fit my definition of a “compact art studio”, but the provocative concept may work for some artists in a modified form.  The huge skylight would cause difficulties for artists working in color because of variations in light intensity caused by clouds passing the sun.

 

http://pinterest.com/apidraper/creative-art-studios  Some useful storage ideas.  When purchasing storage containers, realize that square is more space-efficient than round.

 

For all you bloggers looking for a valuable topic, compact and efficient art studio is a worthy subject.  Even if you have just one thing in your studio that makes it work efficiently, post it.  A friend of mine lived in her van, which was also her art studio.  It was a very efficient (but not too comfortable) microcosm with floor-to-ceiling well-anchored storage.

 

May 28, 2013 Adding ideas as I find them:

Pinterest is a surprising resource.  This link is for revamped armoires: www.pinterest.com/notyrone/revamped-armoires

While these armoires have been converted for craft use, they provide plenty of ideas for painters. 

Comment on or Share this Article >>

Oil Painting Demo--my approach to painting


Spring Storm

Click on the DEMO tab to learn how I paint in this step-by-step illustrated demo of Spring Storm.  In this start-to-finish demo I will tell you what materials I am using and what I am thinking about at each stage of the painting.  Brushwork, color theory, botany--it's all covered.

Comment on or Share this Article >>

Make it Easy


My first foray into plein air painting involved a Jullian French easel.  Once it is set up, a French easel makes painting a true pleasure.  However, it is heavy, and it does not protect wet oil paintings.  When pochade boxes first began making waves, I bought one.  It made plein air painting much easier.

 

An 8x10” pochade box holds quite a bit of stuff.  A homemade adapter for smaller panels increases its versatility.  It is light-weight, compact, and best of all—it fully protects 2-4 wet oil paintings, depending on the thickness of the panels.  My box is a prototype made by California artist John Budicin (the box is a work of art!)  Guerrilla makes very well-rated pochade boxes, with the 8x10” running around $100 at www.aswexpress.com

 

ArtComber, a canvas cart, further contributed to making plein air painting easy.  It is capacious enough to hold everything I need when painting out—including a hefty tripod for the pochade box.  Water container, lunch, extra jacket, 12x16” palette keeper—it all goes in.  If that is not enough to recommend it, it comes with a fold-down chair which can also serve as a low table.  The ArtComber handles smooth to moderate terrain, such as uneven dirt paths and packed sand.  It would probably bog down in loose beach sand, and you would not want to drag it up the face of a bluff, but in my normal painting environs it works perfectly.  ArtCombers are about $60 at www.aswexpress.com

 

I don’t buy many art gadgets.  But these two items have really made plein air painting more accessible for me. 

Comment on or Share this Article >>

How to Make Your Home Page Stickier


"Autumn Patterns" 5x7 oil painting

A few months ago I decided my home page bounce rate was too high.  Google analytics showed my home page bounce rate routinely above 65%.  One month it was 77%.  This is the page the majority of visitors first land on—and I was losing them.  I did an on-line search and found many articles that helped me recognize strengths and weaknesses on my home page, and with a few modifications, lowered the home page bounce rate over 10%.  You will want to do your own research, but these tips will get you started:

 

Heading or Title

As an artist, your name is your brand.  It should come first, followed by a summary of what you do.  Example:  Yvonne Branchflower, oil paintings.  It should be big enough to see easily, but should not dominate your work.  (Using “artist” is too general, in my opinion.)

 

Subheading

This should concisely summarize the second most important facts about your work.  Example:  Small Landscape Paintings of Oregon and California.  People use search terms like these—and find me.  It may seem redundant to use “paintings” in both header and subheader, but when I used an abbreviated subheading of “Small Landscapes: Oregon and California” a search turned up lots of landscape gardeners.

 

Image

Changing or not changing the image is a personal choice.  I change mine every 2-4 weeks.

 

Call to Action

I really got hung up on this.  It is just not cool to shout “Buy my incomparably fabulous paintings NOW!”  Eventually, I decided my website is about more than selling paintings.  It includes my thoughts on art, and sharing information with viewers.  I decided on three calls to action:

  • Read my Notes From The Studio…. (my blog)
  • Subscribe to The Palette Keeper….(my newsletter)
  • See more paintings at….(my best selling gallery)

 

Each call to action has a link to the appropriate page on or off my site.  These calls to action improved the stickiness of my home page.

 

Readability

There are a lot of black background sites with white text.  They are very hard to read.  If you want your site read, use a light-to-medium background with black text.  Yes, black makes the paintings pop.  It also makes your text fall flat.  Keep the fonts simple and large enough to read.

 

Miscellaneous Home Page Additions

Based on web guru’s recommendations, I added:

  • My name and phone number
  • Copyright information
  • Last updated on….  (shows you keep your website current.)

 

Summary

I learned the hard way not to streamline my home page too much.  It is not enough to rely on one image to carry the burden of interesting viewers to look deeper into your website:   Entice the viewer with a few calls to action—with links.

 

I refuse to obliterate my paintings with a big copyright mark.  A general statement will suffice.

The value of “last updated on…” is up for grabs.  Some gurus say the search engines don’t see that.  I say, the viewer should, and perhaps search engines do, because I make changes often, record them, and rank pretty high in searches that don’t include my name.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to show the last update.

 

Make a note of your home page bounce rate for a few months leading up to your revisions, then see what happens.  This assumes, of course, that you read your analytics.  If you don’t, get with it!

 

Comment on or Share this Article >>

6 Easy Ways to Improve Your Art Website


"Dry Creek" 5x7" oil painting on panel

Getting the most out of your art website is crucial in today’s marketing climate.  Your website does not have to be extensive to impress viewers, but it must be current and easy to navigate.  Following are some tips for tuning up your website—go through the steps at least once every six months (quarterly is better.)

 

Check your outbound links

Check every outbound link on your website, including your prior blog posts.  If a link has broken, try to re-establish it (the URL may have changed.)  If it cannot be reestablished, give your reader a searchable phrase by which he may be able to find your source.

 

Check your internal navigation links

Don’t take for granted that your internal links always work:  They can fail for a variety of reasons.  If an internal nav link opens to a blank page, either get some interesting content on the page or delete the navigation link and page until you have material for it.

 

Use your spell checker

Spelling errors make you look unprofessional.  Give your entire website a baseline check.  An easy way is to copy-and-paste your text over to your word processing software and run it through spell and grammar checks there.  I do all my writing and editing in Word, then copy-and-paste to FASO’s templates. 

 

Use your grammar checker

This is harder for many people, especially those for whom English is not their first language.  Do your best.

 

Check your contact info

Sometimes we forget that the web doesn’t know we just moved, changed our phone number, or the phone company changed our area code.

 

Check location of your art

If you list the work’s current location in the description be sure to update the location as you move your work from studio to gallery to another gallery.  Since that is easy to neglect, make the verification of locations part of your tune-up.

 

 

Every time I give my website a tune-up I find a few quirks that need to be corrected.  Rather than commit them to memory, I make a list of what needs to be done and tackle it all at once.

 

When visiting other artist’s websites I do more than look at the art:  I look at presentation and learn.  Most artists maintain their websites nicely, but a large minority don’t.  Would you be favorably impressed by an art gallery that had filthy floors, loaded ashtrays, stinky bathrooms and crooked paintings?  Of course not!  You assume that if they don’t take care of their stuff, they won’t take care of yours.  Keep your website clean—take good care of it.  Be assured, you get judged by it.

 

Next week:  Some bigger improvements to your art website.  These may take a little longer, but they are worth it.

Comment on or Share this Article >>

The Compact Studio, Part 4: Untried Ideas


Judging by the spike in readership during the compact art studio series, there is a lot of interest in art studio design.  I hope other writers pick up on this and publish their successful solutions for efficient use of space.  Meanwhile, I apologize for dropping the ball—I was going to list a few untried (by me) ideas.  Here they are:

 

Remember those huge television armoires?  For an artist who has inquisitive toddlers and no designated space in which to work, I would think the interior of a big tv armoire could be converted to easel/painting space without too much difficulty.  Under-counter lighting could provide necessary light.  A tabletop easel could sit in the tv space.  Attach some wire or plastic racks to the interior walls to hold supplies.  A lock on the cabinet would make it child-proof.  For artists who sit, an old computer armoire might be better.

 

For artists lucky enough to have a room in which to work, but challenged by kids or pets, a Dutch-door (the top half open, bottom half closed) can allow contact and communication with less under-foot distraction.  There are other types of door barriers that are more transparent and can accomplish the same thing.

 

That’s it for my compact studio ideas.  Next blog is about my all-time favorite art blogger.  Find out who that is and why!

Comment on or Share this Article >>

The Compact Art Studio, Part 3


Shelves for picture frames

Frame storage should be designed to allow frames to set on end, not stacked.  I built shelving in the studio closet, which has 2’ of inaccessible space at one end.  Were it being used as a bedroom, that is where you would stuff your off-season clothes.

 

Materials:

  • Two 1x12”x5’ pine boards
  • Four 6’ standards
  • Clips for the standards (four for each shelf)
  • Enough 1x12” pine to make as many shelves as you need
  • Wood block (scrap) the same thickness as your floor molding—use the block as a spacer between the wall and the board at the top, so it stands vertically.

 

I went cheap on these shelves, using materials left over from another home.  It would be a more useful system had I purchased plywood and made the system two feet deep, completely filling the available space.

 

One nice thing about these shelves is that they fit in their space by pressure.  Nothing is attached to the walls, so if you rent your home you can install this without damage.  In a different home we used this same system running the width of a 5-6’ closet—that held lots of stuff!

 

I specialize in paintings 8x10” and smaller.  12” deep shelves accommodate frames this size.  If you work larger you will require deeper shelves made of plywood.

 

While on shelves, keep your frames padded.  I sew old bath towels into bags, and while you cannot see which frame is inside, that frame will never get scuffed.  If the frames are new, the corner protectors are sufficient.

 

Many artists will frown on this, however I currently paint in only two sizes.  This is very economical in both space and money:  My frame inventory never needs to be as large as my painting inventory.  Paintings can be shifted in and out of frames as needed for exhibit.  During good economic times, and when I had a grand studio, I worked in more sizes.  That just doesn’t fit my life now.

 

Next week:  While I wrote this series on the “Compact Studio” I thought of other ways artists could make extremely limited spaces work.  I’ll write about those in case you find them useful.

Comment on or Share this Article >>

The Compact Art Studio, Part 2


Behind-the-door drying rack

In my last blog I wrote about the choice of easel and furniture in a small art studio.  Today is about “the drying rack”, which serves several purposes.  In many ways it is the nerve center of my studio, and it really helps me stay organized.  In this studio the shelves are on the wall behind the door.  In a prior studio (when I was young and willing to climb ladders) I had one long shelf near the ceiling.  Behind the door is much more accessible.

 

What the shelves do:

 

  • They keep the oil paintings fully visible/accessible, making it easier to determine needed adjustments
  • They offer a clean and safe place for paintings to dry
  • They provide a sorting area for paintings that need to be photographed, varnished, or selected for exhibit.
  • It is handy storage space  for unframed paintings.

 

Location:

Behind the door on that otherwise wasted expanse of wall with 4” of available depth.

 

Materials:

  • 4” brackets (not available in any of the big-box hardware stores.  I found these online at www.cabinetparts.com     4” brackets are a little pricey, but they allow the shelves to be adjustable.
  • Two 6’ standards from Lowes or Home Depot.  Brackets and standards are usually interchangeable between brands, so buying standards from Lowes or Home Depot saved a lot of money.
  • A doorstop in the door hinge guarantees the door cannot bash the shelves and paintings.
  • 1x4”x5’ oak was used for the shelves.  Oak is expensive, but it does not warp like pine does.
  • ½ x1” cheap trim was glued and tacked to the front of each shelf to keep things from sliding off.

 

Prior to installing these shelves, I stored my small paintings in little plastic letter organizers from Office Depot.  It worked well as an extremely compact drying/storage device, but I could never see the paintings.

 

I cannot concentrate in a cluttered environment.  However, I know many artists who would go nuts unless they could have all their artsy stuff scattered about, exuding creative energy.  How you design your compact studio has to be determined by how you work best.  Google “art studio design” and you will find sites that offer many more ideas.

 

Next week:  Frame storage in the closet.

Comment on or Share this Article >>


Artist Websites by FineArtStudioOnline
Mobile Site | iPhone Site | Regular Site