Saturday, May 14, 2011

Self-Portraits, Commissions, and Social Media

Summer, 1989, I recall waking up on a sunny summer day and the music of John Mellencamp over the radio. I was young, eight to be exact, and the summer had just started, it was not too hot or humid. We did not own a nintendo and I didn't care to have one. I just wanted to get outside and play! Yet, most days I found myself drawing in the living room or on the floor of the dinning room in our home on Lakemont Dr. in Culpeper, VA. My dad would say "one day you will sell your work everywhere."

As an eight year old boy I found that hard to fathom since I only knew a few people and the world seemed like a big place. However, in the recent years we have seen the growth of Social Media in so many ways. Most of us wrote it off as another gimmick or as simple entertainment. Yet, for some of us we see Social Media as a way to get free exposure for our artwork.

Galleries are hard enough to get into, let alone trying to sell a piece. Fortunately for us, we have used mySpace (Not so much anymore), impNow, Facebook, Blogspot and now deviantArt as a way to share our work. We have reached over thousands of people with these sites and they have led to very profitable sales. We have landed commissions through Facebook and most recently on Tuesday we landed a sale off of one of our posts "Cody".

Above: "Cody", Watercolor on Paper, 11"x15", SOLD

Who would've know that back in 1989 we would such technology to do something like this? Through facebook I have sold painting via US Mail, landed commissions and sold our own work (non-commissioned). So perhaps my dad wasn't kinding when he said you are going sale work everywhere.

I think sometimes as artist we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by technology and the realization as to how big this world is. Yet it is technology that shrinks the world, it brings us together leads us to newer heights and to make sales that we'd never imagine before.

My world has changed and I cannot be happier. Change is something that as artist must embrace. It is like the business owner who resists going online, at some point you go online or you go out. As a side note, as an artist you are a business owner (You Inc.) and if you fail to realize that you too will be slave toyour job and not your passion.

Speaking of change, I have noticed so much about watercolor that I never saw before. My work has grown and my level of realism has soared to new heights. I started off using oils and then switched to acrylics, with each change I saw that my work kept getting better and then ultimately I saw a vast improvement when I went to watercolor.

In oils, you would work your values from dark to light and then layer your colors on. Yet, for me I never followed that too well as many of my paintings were too dark and would turn out flat. As I moved to acrylics I didthe same but since the paint dried so fast I was able to see how the layering worked. Then once I made the jump to watercolor I noticed a big change.

In watercolor you work from light to dark values and add colors as you go. I have reached so many milestones with watercolor and for those following me you have seen the change in my last several posts.

Well, recently I reached a new milestone. I completed a whole painting without blending or smoothing out the paint! In fact I did two of them. The first painting was an attempt to do a self-portrait with my hair down:

Above: "Self", Watercolor on Paper, 11"x15", $225

I like the textures left by the paint strokes, they add a fun characteristic to my painting. The response for this piece was strong on Facebook and on deviantArt (1 in 5 people according to dA "favorited" it). Yet one of points brought up was how this piece did not seem to match my persona. I look angry, depressed and as my wife said I "look agressive". I milled about looking at more pictures of me and finally found one that I really liked:

ABOVE: "Thoughts", Watercolor, 11"x15", $225

The above painting "Thoughts" has been favorited 37 times on dA for an average of about 1 person in 4.8 people who view it. On Facebook many people really saw the likeness and stated that this is "the Jerry I know". I really enjoyed this piece and utilized some new techniques like the rubbing alcohol in the background to create some nice effects.

In the end, this week has been a great one. I was able to sell two painting and get more exposure through free online media. Yet, despite all of the technology and social media the passion of the little boy on the floor drawing still remains and that is the most important thing! Happy drawings! :)

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

What a week!

So over the past week we have seen so many things happen. So many historical events in a short span of time: The Royal Wedding (I'm so sick of that) and the death of Usama Bin Laden. Top that with my busy life and all of the excitement of finals week! In the end it has been a long month yet it is a good month. My watercolors just keep getting better and to me that is all that is important to me.

I have just recently finished a painting of Gary Bowlings(a legend as far as I am concerned) and Jody Queen - great friends whose tireless efforts in the Bluefield, WV community has made so many opportunities available to artist like me. For those who have been following my work over the years you know that the Iraq Art show held at the Bluefield Arts and Science Center (Bluefield, WV) was possible because of Joe and his wonderful wife Vicki who not only got the show scheduled for me but also provided the food, promotion and countless hours of sharing my work with complete strangers. Also, last May he and his wife helped my wife's show with the same. All in all I cannot be more grateful for these folks and I felt a painting coming on.

Gary Bowlings, like Joe and Vicki, has been instrumental in our development as well. During our first year at Bluefield College we were seriously thinking about transferring yet I felt that God was telling us to stay - I really think part of that was to give us the opportunity to know Gary and thank God we did. Gary is not just an artist he is a force, something that not every artist has or will ever attain. Gary works on a different level and watching him and seeing work ethic is something else. Over the last two years we attended Bluefield College we found ourselves more and more involved at Gary Bowling's House of Art in Downtown and it was because of this we became better artists and it is what gave us the belief that we could make it as artists.

So as I reflect on these two people I think about how I came to this point.

In the recent months I have been developing a series of paintings about my friends. My wife was watching me work on a portrait and said "Jerry, people are important to you". At that moment I thought "she's right" and that comment gave birth to this new series. Dana pointed out that when the students leave in the spring for summer that I get depressed and I am always trying to get connected to them. I suppose that this is a sign of the "Facebook" era. Being connected is everything. Yet, it is not about the number of "Friends" you have on Facebook it is the stories behind each person and the reasons why you are friends that count and perhaps that is why I am and have always been interested in painting people. So this new series: My Friends.

Above: "Joe", Watercolor, 11"x15", $225

"Gary", Watercolors, 11"x 15", $225