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Holiday Rush


This is not a commissioned portrait, but one of the small pieces I create for notecards.

Where does the time go? A few days ago it was 98 degrees and we were lazing away summer.

Now, I'm working hard to create new art for the last of the fall shows and the upcoming holiday sales.

 

As much as I love exhibiting in outdoor festivals and meeting art enthusiasts and their pets face to face, I also look forward to doing the inside shows where I don't have to haul my canopy tent and display racks, plus worry about wind and rain.

Many of the holiday shows require smaller items, so that means painting in smaller formats, having reproductions and notecards printed, and perhaps exploring other medias. 

 

If you are local to the North Carolina Triad area maybe I'll see you at one of the events. If not, check out my giclees listing or visit my Etsy Shop - http://www.etsy.com/shop/GinnieConaway?ref=search_shop_redirect

Remember, if you're looking for that very personal gift, consider a portrait of a loved one, two or four legged.

Contact me to schedule a custom painting.

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Why Are We So Resistant?


I don't often do abstracts, but occasionally it's fun to try something different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a child everything is new and wonderful, but as we mature and form opinions and responses, we no longer embrace experiences and thoughts as readily as we once did. New artists just starting on their journey will eagerly absorb all proffered knowledge and new techniques. They have not yet developed a style of their own and their work might reflect each recent influence.

As many artists mature and solidify their style, they continue to reach out taking workshops and classes, but often they do so with a less than open mind. In spite of good intentions, they find themselves resistant to trying the new and different. Perhaps they are afraid of appearing less than proficient in front of their peers, or their own standards are set too high. They might be uneasy putting themselves in the hands of another, or their minds simply refuse to embrace that which is unfamiliar and challenging. A few are bent on demonstrating their skills in their own style rather than being receptive to something new. I must say that I'm guilty of some of these traits.

It can be scary to try something new and much more comfortable to stay with what we know. But if we don't move forward and constantly seek to improve our skills by exposure to new ideas and techniques, we become stagnant and bored, or at the least boring. Growth should be a constant. That doesn't mean changing our style or subject matter constantly, but rather, being open to outside influences. The challenge and excitement of discovering something new to us is what life's journey is all about.

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I'm BACK!! Winter Slump

Like Arnie, "I'm BACK!" The activities and hype of the holidays are behind us, the post holiday blues have come and stayed much too long. It was all too easy between class semesters and shows to curl up with a good book, several in fact, and read the icy, snowy days away.

Now it's time to get back to work. Just like the tiny snowdrops trying to peak through the leaf litter in the frozen ground, I'm poking my head out and getting on with my artistic life. Sometimes we need some down-time, but it's way too easy to let it go on too long. It's always easier and safer if you don't put yourself out there.

An artist friend of mine has taken a vendor's booth at a large cat show, and as an agent is selling cat art for various friends. I've always extoled the benefits of working with an agent, so I agreed to create a few pieces to send along. I painted four 6x8" minis that will be turned into notecards, and one framed piece 15x22". The larger painting started as a study of negative painting for my watercolor class but has morphed into something else.


   
Many of us, are like my students who tell me they repeatedly sign-up for my classes so that they have the structure and are pushed to paint. Now that I've gotten back into the grove, ideas just flow and I wish for snow days so I can stay home and paint.

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Get Kicked Out of Your Comfort Zone

Here I was happily painting, showing and selling my watercolor florals and pet portraits. I knew what I was doing and almost every painting I started turned out well.  I was comfortable in my watercolors, besides it had taken me years to arrive here. I'd started in oils, migrated into acrylics and then been challenged to try watercolors. It's an accepted fact among artists that watercolor is 'the most difficult medium', but I loved the luminosity, intensity and smooth blended colors I could create in my flower paintings. Once in a while I'd be asked to teach a class, conduct a workshop or offer a demonstration of my techniques. Being a self-taught artist, I didn't feel qualified to teach, after all, I'd never taken art history or even basic drawing. I just picked up techniques and ideas as I went along.

Then, as often happens, my life took a major turn, and I found myself living in a different state, making a new start. When an unexpected teaching offer came along, I decided to go for it. I'd just come through a rough time, and my self-confidence had improved. What did I have to loose? No one knew me, so there were no expectations to live up to. In preparing my teaching materials, one great benefit became immediately apparent. For the first time in my artistic life, I was forced to consider the thought process involved in creating a painting. Setting it all down in print clarified many of the steps I took intuitively and created an awareness of the processes that I'd lacked before. I found, much to my surprise, that I loved to teach, to share the knowledge I'd gained bit by bit with students young and old. I strive to give them a solid foundation upon which to start their artistic journey, not demand that they paint as I do. I want them to be able to explore and find their own style, but with a well grounded basic knowledge of color, composition, design, and painting techniques.

Many of my students return semester after semester and quite a few have developed into good friends. I don't kid myself that they stay in my classes strictly because of what I teach. Some attend because they find the structure of signing up for a class valuable. Being part of a class compels them to set aside the time to paint, and gives them the permission they need to 'indulge' themselves. Some enjoy the social aspect of being with a group of fellow artists. Thankfully the majority do want to learn a new medium, new techniques or new styles of painting.

One of the many benefits I've received from working with my core group of students for several years is that they demand new material, new lessons, and new challenges. They push me out of my comfort zone into painting new subjects in styles that differ from my norm. In order to challenge them to try something new, I have to become adept at the technique or medium in order to illustrate it to them. This stretches my boundaries and causes me to grow, perhaps much faster than I might on my own. 

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Art and Business in Unlikely Places

Would you expect to sell watercolor portraits among tomatoes and cabbages? Would you expect to find fine art in a cattle barn? Well, let me tell you a story.

North Carolina has several state sponsored farmer's markets open seven days a week, with produce, landscape plants and cut flowers. They also sell homemade breads, soaps, and fresh farm grown meats. Our closest is near Greensboro, but we do have several smaller versions around Winston Salem, open on different days. My favorite local farmer's market is on Saturday mornings at our regional fairgrounds, in one of the cattle barns. Here they also sell baked goods, honey, and a few little handmade items. One Saturday morning this summer I was surprised to find Bob and Jane Holtje, a wood-turner friend and his potter wife set up and selling their wares. Bob told me who to contact about renting a space, and the next week two friends and I were set up selling our small paintings and notecards.

Across from us was a man selling honey. James Calhoun is a real character and a great tease. At the end of the morning, I took a couple of photos of him in his floppy hat. That week, because no one expected it, I decided to paint Mr. Calhoun, and the portrait turned out great! The next Saturday I hung it in my booth, and although he wasn't setup across from us, James came around and saw the painting. He teased me that I'd made him 'uglier than he really was', but in the same breath he said he wanted to buy it. We agreed upon a price and the next week his payment included a jar of honey. He told me that if his wife asked me what he paid for the portrait, that I was to tell her, 'A jar of honey'!

Since we were to be setup by 6 am, and I'm the only early riser of my group, I usuall was setup before either of my friends showed up. We didn't sell much in the way of framed art, but we did well with the notecards and I sold several portraits and one commissioned painting of garlic for a grower. When the produce season slowed down, so did the farmer's market, and since the barn is not heated, I'm back in my studio, but I made some new contacts and friends, and I'll be back next spring.

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Share Art For Breakfast

Creating art is often a solitary occupation. Artists need a quiet, peaceful environment in which to conceive ideas and create their work. Many hours can be spent researching material or finding an inspiring subject, working up sketches and designs, choosing view points, colors, format, and focal point. The actual painting can take hours or days depending on the artist's style, medium and degree of detail. Usually all this is completed without outside influence or feedback. It's very easy to be so close to the work as to loose objectivity. To concentrate on details or parts of a painting and loose sight of the whole. It's helpful to step back from the work, view it from a distance, or put it away for a day or two and view it with fresh eyes. Getting a constructive critique from other, knowledgeable artists is also valuable.

 

                               

                                  Andrew Wyeth's home, Chadds Ford, PA

 

Belonging to art associations and societies is a good way to meet like-minded people, but most of these groups meet only once a month. Each meeting usually starts with a few minutes of meet and greet, settles down for the business meeting, then perhaps has a speaker or demonstration, after which it adjourns and everyone goes home. There is very little time for networking, conversation, questions or discussion among the members outside of the business of the organization.

 

As an artist in Wilmington, DE I belonged to several artist's associations and organizations, but felt the lack of community or social connections. Being the pushy soul that I am, I organized a Breakfast Group that met once a week to share thoughts, insights, news, and to critique the artwork brought in by the members. We met in the last Howard Johnsons in the state where we took over the back room. There might be six or fifteen gathered. There were often several conversations going on at a time, we laughed a lot and even got a little loud sometimes. We shared show info, and art tips, family news and vacation photos. We viewed each other's artwork in progress, made suggestions, and even on occasion sold a piece to other breakfast customers. Shortly after we started meeting, a splinter group began on the other side of town on a different day to cut the travel time. Some artists attended both groups.

                         

                Walker's Mill, Brandywine Rv. Wilmington, DE

 

That all started several years before I left Wilmington, DE, and the groups are still going strong after more than a decade. I started the same type of group here in Winston Salem, NC. We meet on Mondays, and again, the attendance varies, but we begin each week with laughter and fellowship. We plan visits to shows, painting outings, and group exhibits, forming a close-knit community of artistic friends. I recommend joining or starting such a group if you are looking for connection with fellow artists.

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My Artistic Journey, part 2

While I lived in Delaware I was fortunate to be able to exhibit my work in galleries within a four state area. Through membership in several artist organizations, I met wonderful painters and made many dear friends. Somehow I usually became secretary to every organization I joined, but the one that won my heart and to which I gave the most time was the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts.. DFVA raises funds to provide scholarships to high school students pursuing an advanced arts education. They hold three highly respected art sale events each year, along with numerous workshops and teaching activities, both for their members and within the school system.

 

During that time I took part in outdoor art festivals and booth shows from Connecticut to Virginia. Anyone telling you that the show circuit is an easy way to sell art, hasn't tried it. There is the expense of the canopy tent and display racks, plus the entry fees of the shows, which can be $200 to $450 per show. Travel time and expense, plus motel fees, and the wear and tear on the artwork, all adds up. Then the weather comes into play. Shows can be rained out, or work lost to a sudden thunderstorm. Sometimes you spend the day shivering, other times you roast, but you always need to maintain a cheerful demeanor for the public. On good days you make several times your expenses, but at other times it can be a wash out.

 

The up side of doing the festival circuit is the friends you make among the other artists and the clients you meet. If you're lucky, a gallery owner might be impressed by your work and invite you to exhibit. Since I do pet portraits, and so many people drag their dogs through the shows, I often receive commissions on the spot.

 

Delaware and the south-eastern corner of Pennsylvania are areas strongly attuned to the works of the Wyeth family. There are a large number of artists who paint in a similar fashion, sere colors, old stone barns and stark snow scenes. At that time, another artist friend and I painted bright, large,bold florals, and we showed together frequently.. We loved the comments of the patrons making the rounds at a show, ?Wow, COLOR! Not another snow scene!'

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So Much Art in North Carolina


Bethania Mill

North Carolina continues to surprise me. There are art venues and art events everywhere.

 

Bethania, founded in 1753, is one of the first historic communities the Moravians settled in what was to become Winston Salem, NC. It contains a wonderful old mill that until a just a few years ago was still producing flour and feed. The mill now houses several gift shops on the lower level and The Artist's Loft on the upper two floors.

 

I was recently invited to display some of my paintings in their holiday show. The reception for the show was held Sunday, a week ago. As artists, we’ve all attended receptions where the exhibiting artists are the only ones there. Imagine my surprise to find cars filling the parking lot and lined up and down both sides of the road. It was an amazing turnout! The Artist’s Loft has an impressive group of artists, and is well worth a visit.

 

Another surprise was the Hickory Museum of Art , in Hickory, NC. I took a small group of students to the museum to see the Watercolor Society of NC’s annual show. The museum blew me away! What a fantastic resource to find in a small town like Hickory! The museum shares the old middle school with the Catawba Science Center. Bright open space really sets off the amazing art displayed there. The WSNC show was well worth the trip, but in addition there were five other exhibits equally impressive. Carl Moser’s wonderful photography of natural scenes filled two rooms, plus there was an exhibit of the museum’s permanent collection of NC folk art. I understand that there is an aquarium on the lower lever, and three gift shops filled with locally made items and more.

 

Red Dog is a new art gallery in Winston Salem on Trade Street. created by Julie and Harry Knabb. This is an offshoot of the group Art For Arts Sake that holds events every Sunday afternoon on Trade St. in May and October. The gallery has a wonderful array of eclectic creations including handmade clothing, jewelry, sculpture, pottery and of course paintings and other two dimensional wall hangings. The gallery is a co-op, so I’ll be working there at times. Come visit.

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My Artistic Journey

MY ARTISTIC JOURNEY

 

            Remember the kid in school who was only a fair student, but could draw anything asked of them? Well, that was me. Growing up on a small farm I was surrounded by animals and nature. I loved to read, walk with my dogs through the fields and woods, and above all else, draw. I never cared for dolls, but like so many little girls I was horse crazy. Horses, ponies, dogs and cats filled my sketch pads.

            I had a favorite great-uncle who had served in World War 1. He worked as a draftsman and drew for me when ever I visited him. I remember a drawing he had, on a very long sheet of paper, of a six horse-drawn caisson, or gun carriage. Oh, how I wanted to be able to draw like that!

            All through high school I hung out in the art department whenever possible. Always got my best grades in art classes, but of course never considered art as a career. It was never an option in my school. Like so many others I went to work, got married and got on with my life.

            For a short time I even had the horse I longed for, but I always had dogs. I started showing Dobermans in the early 70's and spent many weekends sitting at dog shows waiting to compete in either conformation or obedience. While doing all this waiting, I started sketching the dogs around me, and soon began to receive requests for portraits.

            Not having any serious art training, I decided to work in oils since, historically, that is the ?legitimate medium'. People liked what I did and the commissions came in. One serious problem with working in oils was the drying time. Clients were impatient to receive their paintings, so I switched to acrylic. Again, not having any experience in the medium, I didn't know anything about using acrylic mediums, and missed the smooth flowing texture of the oil paint. After working in acrylics for several years I discovered Ampersand panels finished in marble dust. Ah, here was a surface that allowed the paint to glide on!

            It wasn't until 1992 that I met a ?real' artist. I read a newspaper article about a new gallery opening in Wilmington, DE, my home town. The article made the owner, Jeanne Safar, sound very approachable, and she also did pet portraits, in colored pencil. It took me several months to get up the courage to phone her and ask if she would look at my work. Up until this time I'd never spoken to another artist, nor read an art instruction book.

            Jeanne is a very dear lady, a truly gentle soul. She praised my portraits, but pointed out that with commissioned paintings, if the client doesn't like the finished product, the artist is stuck with a painting that probably won't appeal to anyone else; after all, it isn't their pet. Well, I'd been very lucky up to that time, in that the issue had never come up, but I saw her point. She asked me what else I liked to paint. I'd never done anything but pet portraits; dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, and a cockatiel. I told Jeanne that I was a Master Gardener and loved to grow flowers. ?Ah ha,' she said, ?Everyone loves flowers and they sell well. Have you ever considered painting in WATERCOLOR?'

Not knowing any better, I told her no, but it shouldn't be very hard to learn! Boy, was I about to eat my words.           

            Jeanne kindly became my mentor and introduced me to watercolor and to the artist's community. It took me about two years to become proficient enough to paint pet portraits in watercolor, but much less time to make several lasting, wonderful artists friends.

 

to be continued:

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Why A Blog?

Many artists, including myself, who approach their art as a business, have at least one website. We show the art we create, list the galleries we’re in, and perhaps list upcoming shows or classes. All very straight forward and useful, but the personal aspect is often lacking.

 

So, this blog will contain some of my thoughts and musings about my art, the art world, life as an artist, and life in general. Through it, I hope you will come to know me better; the person and the artist. My students tell me I can talk; you tell me if I can write. I do hope you find it worth reading. Please feel free to email me your reactions, questions, and suggestions.



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