A Positive Spin on Negative Thoughts

According to psychologists, in any day a person will have an estimated 60,000 thoughts and many will be negative. Why is this? Well, I don’t know and neither apparently do psychologists. What I do know is this: negative thoughts do seem to prevail.

Here are some of the negative thoughts of the artist:

  • My art is not good enough to be shown here (insert whatever place)
  • I can’t make money at selling art
  • Artists have to be dead to be popular
  • My art is not worth much
  • I’ll never be as good as (whomever you are competing with)
  • I’m too shy to talk to people and promote my art
  • I can’t write a good artist statement
  • I don’t have time or resources
  • I live in the wrong place for success
  • There are so many other artists I’ll never get noticed

The bad news is that this phenomenon seems to plaque most if not all people.

The good news is that you don’t have to listen to the negative thoughts or treat them as important. A good practice is to dismiss them as soon as they arrive and replace with a positive thought. You can also remember Mark Twain’s humorous quote:

“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” -Mark Twain

The reason for this post is that I have been struggling to paint to a theme for an upcoming exhibition. Time is running out without any progress but I am not throwing in the towel. Three things can happen:

  1. I paint what inspires me and if that should fit the theme then I have an entry.
  2. I don’t end up with an appropriate entry for the theme so I don’t enter this particular exhibition.
  3. I find something that I already have and that I think will fit and take my chances.

Rejection isn’t the end of the world.  I’ve had success and failures and life goes on.

on the farm

It’s Elemental – I love to paint landscape

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Acrylic Color Mixing Tips

color wheelColor Mixing tips:

Tip # 1 Add Dark to Light

It takes a lot more of a light color to lighten a dark color. If I had known about this rule I would have avoided making so much paint that ended up going to waste; therefore, always mix the dark paint into the lighter in small amounts.

Tip # 2 Add Opaque to Transparent

Add a little opaque paint to the transparent because opaque paint has far greater strength than the transparent.

Tip # 3 Mixing Grays

You can buy various gray shades but mixing them using other colors is often better. Mix 1/8 black plus 7/8 white with a tiny bit of cadmium light or crimson red for a warm gray or thalo for a cool gray. Thalo blue and black also makes gray.

Primary colors which are red, yellow and blue when mixed make secondary colors. ( yellow and red makes orange; blue and yellow makes green; red and blue makes violet )

Secondary colors orange, violet and green mixed neutralize each other to make a gray.

Complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel. Mixing complementary colors produces gray.

Tip # 4  A Little Black Neutralizes

When black is mixed with a color it grays that color to neutralize it. I often add a speck of black to red to get a darker shade. The same is true for a bit of black to green which tends to make the green a more olive hue.

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Is It Cheating To Trace?

How to Transfer an Image to the Canvas


There are several ways to get an image to the canvas. The first and the most controversial is to trace the image. The disadvantage is that the paper must be large enough to trace the image. Obviously if you are painting on a large canvas this method is challenging unless you are lucky enough to have an overhead projector.  Then you can size your image to fit your canvas and trace the image projected on to canvas.

Print Out

This is also a quick method but again limited to the size of paper your printer can handle. if your image is so big that it will take several sheets of paper to print then this method is awkward.

Like the tracing method, you can blow the images up to the size you need on the computer and trace using tracing paper from the screen. You can also cut your print out if it is just the shape and size you are after.

The Grid Method

Art Tutor Grid Image

Art Tutor Grid Image

The grid method is the preferred way to get a preliminary sketch on to  the canvas.  Above is an image from the Art Tutor program that lets you upload an image and apply a grid.  This way you can break the image up into little pieces that are easier to draw to scale and much less overwhelming than trying to figure out where each piece belongs without the grid lines.

You can lightly draw grid lines right on to the canvas.  Light pastel pencils work well for this or white conte chalk after you under-paint the canvas with a color that will let the white lines show.

The reason I don’t consider tracing as cheating is that I am not learning to draw but wanting to paint and tracing is a quick solution to getting my object to the canvas in proportion. If you’re doing portraiture then this method ensures accuracy.

Do you think tracing is cheating?

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Creating Great Impact with Gray Scale Images

Using a Gray-scale

The best way I know to check that you have the correct proportion of light, mid-tone and dark in your paintings is to convert them to a gray-scale.  The optimal ratio is 3:1 and not equal proportions. Ideally, your painting should have one dominant tone, one other tone and a bit of the third.  Here are a couple of examples of paintings that convert well to gray-scale:

grayscale tour boatTour Boat





Below is an excellent example of good ratio.

old barns

gray Barns

When a painting makes a vivid black and white image you know your tonal values are good.




Below is one that does not convert as well.

gray scale barn barn

The reason this does not convert well to gray-scale is that there is too much mid-tone and not enough dark.  The dark could have appeared in the trees and more variance in the field.




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Your Job is in the Studio

Your Job is in the Studio

If you don’t make art, you have nothing to market

I stole borrowed this saying from Alyson Stanfield at http://www.artbizblog.com/2014/02/studio-job.html.

In this blog Alyson talks about how the artist’s job is in the studio making art and that; although, we do have to take care of the business end, our primary work is to make art so we have something to market.  Makes sense?

Have you ever been so overwhelmed with all the other work surrounding an art career that must be attended? Is it any wonder that art making gets pushed aside or worse – comes to a grinding halt while we worry about posting to various accounts?

I only post once a week but if I haven’t completed any art in that week I will have no image to add to my post. A block of text is so boring!

It is only Monday morning, usually I don’t tackle posts until Thursday.  However, when inspiration hits and I think I have a blog post then it is a good idea to record my thoughts when they are fresh.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some art to create!

Small Paintings:

Fall Walk

Fall Walk

This painting is lovely but it didn’t photograph well.  The reason, I believe, is that I didn’t under-paint with a dark enough color so that the camera picks up the lightness.

Fall Path

Fall Path




The next image was under-painted with a very dark green and although there isn’t much dark showing the result is that the camera recorded the painting much better.

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Why I Like to Paint Small

Painting Small – Great Marketing Material

Recently I finished a 16 inch by 20 inch fall painting that just didn’t come together the way I had hoped. I’m still in the fiddling stage with this one.

Fall at Tiffany Falls

Autumn at Tiffany Falls

It is disappointing to spend a whole week or more carefully crafting a large painting only to discover that it missed the mark. Frustrating actually. However, that is a fact of life and as long as there are lessons to be learned then it wasn’t a total waste. In this case, possible a smaller version to test out the idea first would have been good?

And that’s why I like to paint small. These lovely little paintings can be put into matting, placed in plastic and sold inexpensively. Each of these only took an afternoon or so to paint, not that I was in a hurry, but let’s face it how long can it take to cover 5 x 7 inches of mixed media paper?

fall hills

Fall Hills 5 x 7





Recapping the advantages of small paintings:

  • Less time to seeing results
  • Smaller investment of time and materials if dissatisfied
  • Make lovely inexpensive painting to sell if satisfied
  • Test out ideas and techniques

    sailing Hamilton Bay

    Sailing the Bay

  • Handy example to follow should you decide to paint larger
  • Creates great marketing material to use as giveaways or other promotional opportunities
  • Feeling very productive!
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Where Are Your Business Cards Ending Up?

The Problem With Business Cards

On a trip to Las Vegas, I saw people on the sidewalk handing out business cards to tourists

trail bridge acrylic painting

post card – acrylic – 5×7 inches to use as a handout.

for upcoming shows and (other things).  A block away all these cards were carelessly discarded by the hundreds.  So, is it sensible to hand out business cards randomly to anyone who is polite enough to accept them but who will likely ditch them as soon as they are out of sight?  Seems like a big waste of money to me.

Why not wait until someone asks for a  business card?  Chances are then that they may keep it.  Only once in 3 years has anyone called me using my business card and that was a card taken from a stack of cards that I left with a painting at an exhibition.   Again, if people want the cards let them ask or offer them for people to take.

Having said that, maybe there are other ways to give out our contact information.  Instead of the business card you could hand out greeting cards, post cards, mini calendars or bookmarks.  These handouts would naturally feature your art.  People are more likely to keep a “little gift”.

I don’t know about you but I have a drawer full of hand painted calendars, you know the ones you get when you give money to certain charities.  These are beautiful so I keep them for when I want to frame one someday or whatever.  But business cards collect in drawers or purses only to be trashed after a time.  Often I don’t even remember who gave them to me but calendars and greeting cards stay around forever — just in case.

I’m sure business cards are important in some cases but I wonder if it is profitable to hand them out indiscriminately.  What do you think?

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Appreciation as a Marketing Strategy


I’m a bit of an introvert so when someone tells me they find it hard to talk to strangers I can relate. That said, if you want to sell art you really are the best person to promote your

postcard collage of my art

postcard of my art – Sample post card

own work, are you not?

Several of my pieces have sold in auctions in my absence but an artist statement accompanied each work. Therefore, whether in person or not, the buyer has some information about the artist and/or the artwork.

The preferred way to get to know your customers is face to face where a prospective buyer can ask you questions that you might not think to cover in an artist statement.

collage of new art

Collage of art – Sample post card

When you open yourself up to chatting with people it becomes easier to ask them for their

contact info so you can keep in touch. Creating a profile of people interested in your art is a

great way to get the demographics you need for future marketing strategy.

This is where appreciation comes into play:

  • Get into the habit of saying hello, get the person’s name and then use it.
  • Ask the person how they are and pay attention to the meaning behind the answer. (Some people are shy or skittish about getting into a sales pitch so be authentic).
  • Find out as much as you can about them drawing the person out so that they are doing the most talking and you the most listening.
  • When there is interest in your work make the sale easy by telling them what you will do when and how.
  • Always thank them for their interest.
  • When you get a contact make sure you send a thank you note soon afterwards.
  • When you make a sale make absolutely sure you follow-up with a thank you and offer further help.
  • It might be a great idea to offer freebies such as post cards or some other small item like a bookmark, a free greeting card all with your art featured.

People don’t always remember what you tell them but they do remember how you made

them feel. Make your prospective buyers

feel like royalty and they are sure to remember you and more likely to tell others. Appreciation can go a long way!

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12 Simple Tips to Promote Your Art

The best way I know of promoting your art is to make use of every social media and every avenue available to let people know who you are and what you do.  It does take patience and time; however, if you have something of value you will get noticed.

A few weeks ago I put 3 – 8×8 inch paintings in the Festival of Friends celebration at the Ancaster fair grounds.  This seemed like an unlikely place to sell art but I figured that there would be exposure to a new audience and I was rewarded with the sale of one painting.


  • Add an image of your art to every post to keep the focus on your art and not the web page design. The page design should promote your art above anything else.

    Yellow cabs

    Yellow Cabs

  • Meet more people because the more you know the more people there are to buy your art.
  • Remember people’s names and use them.  Build email lists and keep in contact.
  • Focus on building trust and relationship instead of just selling.
  • Get your own name and signature down and use them consistently.
  • That goes for your business cards and website as well. Consistently use the same fonts and general appearance on everything.
  • Define your target market as narrowly as possible to focus on your best prospect.
  • Publish your blog consistently. A neglected blog looks bad.
  • Place your name prominently at the top of each page.
  • Use as many social media platforms as you can being consistent in posting to each of them.
  • Enter as many exhibitions as possible.  Donate art where appropriate.  In short get your art in front of people wherever and whenever possible.
  • Give people something useful so they will want to return.
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12 Ways to be More Efficient in the Studio

We all have days that seem to go off the rails and stay there all day.  Sometimes the silliest things create extra work that further derails your day.  Here are  12 ways I use to stay efficient.

12 Ways To Organize and be more Efficient

  1. Try to set your work area up in the same way each time so that everything has a place. If you don’t have the room to leave your art supplies out then try to put them away in the same place each time.  I keep painting knives in a cardboard shoe box; short paintbrushes in one glass and long-handled ones in another.  Pencils are in a shoebox while erasers and sponges (for painting) are in a plastic tub.  All of these are on a shelf by my work area.
  2. Keep a list of supplies you are running low on or items you want to add and keep this list handy so you don’t forget to take it when you go for supplies. Although I have not done this yet, sometimes it can be convenient to order supplies online and have them delivered.
  3. Let the answering machine take those phone calls when work is going well for you. You can always get caught up on a break.
  4. I used to paint in a loft over the staircase. One time I knocked a glass of water over spilling water through the railing to the steps as well as the floor below.  Even though it was only water, the carpeted steps were soaked as was the hardwood floor. Now I place water in a place where I may have to reach for it but it is safe from being knocked over.  Could be a disaster if it hits the laptop or even the canvas.
  5. I try to make use of my easel so that both my hands are free. For small work I have been known to have the canvas on the table surface holding it with one hand while painting with the other. This is not such a good practice because sometimes I accidentally dip the canvas in wet paint. Eating and painting are seldom a good combination. Chocolate and coffee are hard to get off white canvas. Take a break.
  6. If I am using a reference photo then I save a copy in a folder called temp. This is where I keep the images that I plan to use for a painting so it saves time trying to find it in among hundreds of images in my photo albums.
  7. Have everything you need to complete your artwork at hand like chalk, pastel or pencils and an eraser for drawing your composition on the canvas.
  8. Keep a wet cloth or paper towel handy for wiping paint off your fingers or even wiping paint off the canvas if you get some where it wasn’t intended.
  9. Plan your day around painting to allow for appointments, meal preparation, walks and so on. Track your time like any employee and don’t forget to take a break to stretch or stand back to check your progress.
  10. If possible mix enough paint to get the job done. This will not only save time but avoids the frustration of not being able to mix exactly same color twice.
  11. Sometimes it helps to have more than one project on the go so that if you hit a road block you can switch jobs and keep working.
  12. Set a time to paint where and when you will be most productive and don’t  let anything else interfere with this time.

Showing up is half the battle to being productive; efficiency is mostly common sense and organization.  How do you stay organized?

*********************** When Things Go Well ************************

The Old Barn was a painting I did in one afternoon where I started out using painting knives but finished off with brushes.  Although not a masterpiece, when the time is used efficiently productivity is the result.

old barn

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