Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seeing As A Collector

Swirling Seas 24x24 O/C

Several years ago I bought the book, "'Starving' to Successful" by J. Jason Horejs.   I bought it, but like so many things in my life, as soon as I got it, I put it on a shelf and never got around to reading it through -- much less implementing any of the suggestions in the book.

Finally, due in major part to Horejs' great terrific email marketing campaign, I decided to read it and to include his suggestions in my action plan for continued improvement.  Of course, it turns out I've already been doing many of the things suggested.  That's great.  But I had been feeling like I had reached a stall and wanted to break out.

The initial chapter deals with QUALITY.  Quality is such an elusive and ever-moving target.  We are all familiar with having an artwork declined by one juror and go on to win a prize in another show juried by a different juror.   I do know I'm moving in the right direction though.  I can see that my work gets better every year.  But one suggestion in the chapter really caught my imagination.  I thought it was an excellent idea and have already started to implement it.

I am fortunate to receive fairly regular critiques of work that I take in to David Gallup's Master Class.  But Horejs' suggestion was a bit different than a critique of individual pieces.  His idea related to a body of work.

He first suggested we perform a self evaluation of 5-10 of our most recent works and ask ourselves "What are three things I could do to improve the quality of my work?"  -- To try to see our work as a collector would.  I then realized that much of my work is designed to please me....  It gets better all the time related to composition, value, brushwork, and color but perhaps I am too blind to see it the way a collector might. 

Then he suggested that we ask trusted advisers for a similar evaluation.  We should not ask what those advisers think of our work -- we should ask for three specific changes we could make to our work to improve the quality. 

I began trying this idea out yesterday and found that it is a very difficult task for someone to do.  After arranging for a meeting - a favor (to discuss my artwork) - and offering lunch as a way to smooth the way, I started out with this experiment.  I took in eight pieces of my recent work including "Swirling Seas"   All were landscapes / seascapes / skyscapes -- although some included figures.  Then I read the section of the book about quality to my adviser, who runs a gallery and who has known my work for many years now - even has some hanging there right now.  I got my notebook out ready to take notes.  That's when I realized that this is a VERY challenging task -- to go beyond critiquing individual work and to envision what it would take to improve overall quality of someone's body of work.

It was an interesting afternoon.   It was one that didn't have any great "ahas" but one which will help me continue on my journey to create paintings that are unique and powerful visions that will attract collectors.  

When I returned home and shared my afternoon with my husband, he felt that quality was not my problem.  He would like to see fewer landscapes and more "lively" subjects.  Perhaps genre is an issue, but it's the landscapes that I love, so I will continue to paint landscapes AND to continue to commit to a life-long pursuit of ever-higher quality.

I will also find other advisers, somehow, and try it again and then again.  It's probably something that all of us should be doing on a regular basis even though it turns out to be more difficult for the advisers than I had thought it would be!

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Tangled Color and Playful Paint

Peeking Through  12x16  O/L
It's amazing how our interpretation of people's words or actions can influence our moods and sometimes change the course of behavior.   This is based on recent events in my "art life" AND on a chapter in a book I'm reading about Monet.   (The Treasures of Monet by Michael Howard)

The chapter is called "Evoking "Mystery":
"... In the early months of 1888, Monet spent several weeks painting on the Cote d'Azur in the South of France.  His paintings, inspired by that landscape, were an immediate success with his regular buyers and collectors, but his fellow artists and the critics were less sure of their quality.  "Monseur Monet is a spontaneous painter," wrote Felix Feneon in La Revue Independante, in July 1888.  "Well served by an overdone bravura of style, the productivity of an improviser, and a brilliant vulgarity, his renown is growing, but his talent does not seem to have made any strides since his Etretat series."
Monet appears to have taken such criticism to heart......
..... Like his contemporaries, Whistler and Degas, Monet's work shows over his lifetime a move from exactitude to evocation -- and thus reveals the influence that Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme had on them all.  ...... Mallarme believed that "everything sacred must surround itself in mystery" and that the purpose of writing was to describe "not the thing, but the effect it produces".  According to Theodore Robinson, an American artist at Giverney, Monet had once used that word "mystery" in connection with his own painting. 

So it appears, that even Monet, with all of his success was not immune to the words written about his work.  It affected what and how he chose to paint.

Now, you ask, what does this have to do with Marian Fortunati (me) OR with the title of this blog post?   Here's how:
If you follow my blog, you know by now that I study with Master landscape and undersea artist, David C. Gallup who is always trying to expand our knowledge of historic and contemporary painters and their methods.  When demonstrating for us or critiquing our work a constant theme is the goal to obfuscate and create mystery in our work through the use of solid design, tangled color and playful paint.  I continually struggle to align my desire for a more traditional realist's look with that of a bit more abstract contemporary look. 

The painting "Peeking Through" looks fairly realistic from 15 or 20 feet away.  I believe I achieved that sharp area of sunlight knifing across the cottonwood trees which are lined up against the distant cliff of Canyon de Chelly.  However, when you get up close to the painting there is a great deal of abstraction through the use of tangled color and playful paint.  I was happy with the painting and proud to include it in among the paintings of our inaugural PAC6 group show at Segil Gallery last month.

One afternoon while the show was hanging I received a call from the gallery.  While we were chatting, the person started telling me how "Peeking Through" was the painting she could see from the spot behind the desk.  She said that she really loved the painting and was always showing it to potential collectors who walked through the gallery.  THEN she said that from far away it was absolutely stunning but when she got up close to the painting it was a "hot mess".

Ummmmm...  I was a bit taken aback ... I was hoping she might have used words like playful color or tangled paint... but that didn't happen.  Okay... you guessed it.  She had said nice words about my work too, but all I took from that conversation was the "hot mess" part.  I didn't think she liked the painting. 

Mind you, this is a person who is a fabulous painter that I truly admire, so her words have lingered with me for several weeks now as I've been working on a large seascape.  I was feeling a bit rebuffed -- off-track.   I'd go outside to paint and couldn't produce anything that I wanted to bring home, much less share with others.  And my favorite parts of my newest painting have tangled paint and playful color too.... lots of interesting texture trying to create just a bit of mystery within a traditional landscape. 

But I kept thinking.... "Am I fooling myself?"  Is this really just another "hot mess"?

Although those words have hung with me, I did decide to go with my own vision and continue with as much of the mystery in paint as I can manage for the large seascape I'm working on.  I put on my "Popeye attitude" and continued on... "I yam what I yam."

And guess what?  
Today she bought the painting, "Peeking Through".   I guess she really DID like my work after all...    (She liked it, she really, really liked it.)   ----. hot mess, playful paint, tangled color and all.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nocturnes and Sunset In The San Gabriels

Sunset In The San Gabriels 8x8 O/L

Seeing In The Dark
As you may remember, I have lately had a fascination with nocturnes.   However, it is difficult for me to go out to paint at night.  Occasionally I get to go out with a friend but that doesn't happen often.  Also it's difficult to leave the family behind in the evening.  During the day they are all out and about doing their own thing so it's easy for me to get away to paint outside.  Not so in the evening. 

So in order to get a bit of advice and information from an expert as well as to have some companions while painting at night I decided to take a nocturne workshop from Eric Merrell.  Eric's work intrigues me.  It's different in a way that goes beyond subject matter and I really like it.  PLUS he is one of the few artists around who offered a nocturne workshop.

The weekend of the workshop was the weekend the temperature was over 110 during the day.  We met at Eric's house in the late afternoon.   Eric talked about his work and showed us lots of wonderful examples of both his field studies and his studio pieces.  We stayed there at the house reviewing this work while he talked about how he takes notes about his feelings and the mood of the scene.  He showed us studio pieces that were based on his field studies.

He also helped us with our lights.  We attached filters over the lights he had suggested we purchase. 

We drove to the Cobb Estate about sundown.  I was so absolutely surprised to see how many hikers are still out in the fading light.  Amazingly there were hikers on the trail until quite late at night.

Eric took us to an area surrounded by trees, hills and trails.  As light faded, he helped us see the shapes and shadows still there in the night.  The moon is an amazing light that castes beautiful shadows.  It was clear that at night there is quite a range of values.  Color, however, was not as clearly seen.  The filtered lights did help with seeing the colors on the palette.  They didn't help at all with seeing color in the environment. 

It was all quite challenging.  I tried like mad to see color but I couldn't.  Also every time a hiker went by with a headlamp or flashlight, I had to shield my eyes so I could still see the surrounding fields and trees. 

Eric did a demo both nights.   I thought it was interesting that he uses chipboard to do his field studies.  It underscores his feeling that these are studies... not finished paintings.   He talked about color temperatures when doing nocturnes and demonstrated it in his demo. 

I tried using the chipboard each night.  The chipboard really sucks up the paint, but I sort of liked using it.  While painting my own study, I had to fight my inclination to use color that I "knew" rather than color I could see.  Since I really couldn't see color, or temperature most of what I painted was my best guess.

Here are the two studies I did during the workshop -- they are pretty sad.    However, I really enjoyed Eric's workshop and I think his advice will help me with future nocturnal adventures.  I've decided, though that I will use my nocturnal studies as experiential and if there is anything I like about them when I see them in daylight, I may use them to do studio paintings -- but I'd never use them as final products.

The painting you see at the top of the page was started in about a 15 minute window while we were waiting for dark.  We were standing in the field talking about equipment and color temperature and seeing in the dark when I looked up and saw the most magnificent light on the mountains and across the field.  I sat down and put as much down as I could before it all disappeared.  I finished up at home.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

September Moonrise

September Moonrise 18x14 O/L

So Much To Learn
Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying.  I will never be able to achieve all I want to... but hey, I guess in a way that's what life is all about isn't it?  Continually learning -- always setting new goals.  Well, at least for me that's what it's all about.

I must admit, though, that there are times when I get pretty frustrated. 

Lately I've been working on nocturnes.
I took a great night painting class from Eric Merrell and discovered that you can see almost NO color in the dark.  (duh!!).   It was a great class.  There were several rather hilarious moments of stumbling around in the dark while trying to see color in the landscape and on the palette.   I'll write about it on the next post, as I am still assimilating the information.  Sometimes (actually... most of the time) it just takes me time for information and skills to sink in and make sense before it manifests itself in the work that I do.

I created this painting from the view from the balcony in front of my house/ bedroom studio.  I am extremely fortunate because I have wonderful views from both sides of my house.  

While working on it, I tried hard to apply interesting brushwork and color like  David Gallup continually demonstrates and explains.  (I so wish I was a faster learner...)

The front of my house faces the hills and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountain range.  I once (only once) walked from this side all the way over to Will Rogers State Beach Park.   It took all day and I had to call my husband to come pick me up.  But although it was really a dumb thing to do all by myself without telling anyone, I was glad I did it.

The back side of my house overlooks the San Fernando Valley.  -- Yes, we are lucky to live here.

Sometimes the moonrise is absolutely spectacular and calls out to a viewer.  This larger studio piece is my attempt to share the silvery glow of that September Moonrise. 
September Moonrise was one of two of my artworks selected as part of the inaugural exhibit of the Valley Arts Alliance at a new venue called the San Fernando Valley Arts and Cultural Center.    John Paul Thornton juried the work which is included.   Since our Valley has very few public arts venues, many different arts groups support this venture. 

Quite a few city dignitaries are expected at the grand opening this Saturday, October 25th between 5:00 and 9:00.  If you wish to go to the grand opening, you must RSVP.  (See the attached invitation for details.)

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Subject Matter and Venue... Does it Matter?

Last Saturday was the opening of the show of our Canyon de Chelly paintings.  The show, "Canyon de Chelly:  Spirit of Land and Light" is a terrific exhibit.  My painting, "First Light" is in the center of the main wall in front of the gallery.

The six of us who traveled and painted together have been working on our studio paintings since April and we all did a great job creating a great show.  The paintings were all from the trip but they were varied and interesting and well done.  We advertised with post cards, through Facebook, email and through our own individual networks.  We purchased a page we all shared in Southwest Art Magazine about the show and the editor even did an editorial.  It was all great.  There were inquiries from as far away as New York as a result of the ad.  It was quite a thrill!

We knew that perhaps Monrovia, CA was not "the" venue for our Canyon paintings, but we had a connection so we took the opportunity and we were hopeful.  All in all I'd say that the show is a success.  We have sold a few paintings already and we certainly had some great fun at our opening.  A wonderful crowd came and it was gratifying to hear the nice comments and to see the faces as they contemplated the work.  I enjoyed talking with so many people I hadn't seen in quite a while and also met many new people.  I will follow up with as many as I can in the days to come.

However, the show didn't sell out on opening night. ( Not surprising, perhaps, but somewhat disappointing. )  -- and yes, the show will hang for several more weeks, so more work could find great homes hear in sunny California.

After reading many articles and listening to several recorded information / instructional sessions with people like Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery, about finding the right gallery, approaching galleries, and selling artwork in general,  I think I am learning some valuable and practical lessons.  I am getting my work out there to be seen and I'm proud of what I'm producing, but perhaps it's time to consider taking a show like this with the canyon theme to an area more in tune with canyons. 

Before the show opened we had already decided to take the show on the road.  We took stills of each of the paintings and I made a little video of the show after we hung the show and before the show opened.   I've been practicing using I-Movie and came up with a rather hilarious "trailer" for the reception, but hopefully I'll be able to develop a more professional presentation to use for our future prospects.  The plan is to market the entire body of work to galleries in the Southwest.  Just like Goldilocks, we need to find a gallery that is "just right" for us and for our paintings and which believes that all of us and our work is a good match for them.

If any of you have any suggestions, we'd all love to hear your recommendations.

In the meantime, we'll all keep on painting.  I'll let you know about several other shows which will include my work in future posts.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What are YOU doing this Saturday from 5:00 - 7:00 pm?

I hope you'll be at Segil Gallery in Monrovia, CA for the opening reception of our show this coming Saturday:

Opening Reception:  Saturday, October 11, 2014, 5:00 - 7:00 pm

"Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light"

Golden by Marian Fortunati     Dancing Skies by Marian Fortunati
"Golden"  18x14                                                 "Dancing Skies"  12x16

On Sunday we spent the afternoon hanging the show at Segil Gallery. 
There are six of us and we each did our best to share the spirit of our adventure in Canyon de Chelly with you through our work. 
It is a gorgeous show which does well to honor a very special place in our country.


The PAC6 artists are Linda Brown, Marian Fortunati, Nita Harper, Debra Holladay, Laura Wambsgams and Sharon Weaver.
Each of us has a unique style and outlook and this provides the show with wonderful variety, vision and vitality.

Dawn by Marian Fortunati     Chasing Sunlight by Marian Fortunati
"Dawn"  8x8                             "Chasing Sunlight"   18x24

Sixteen of my paintings will hang in this exhibit. 
The almost eighty paintings in the show will present you with a teaser of the wonders of Canyon de Chelly.

Segil Fine Art Source110 West Lime Avenue
Monrovia, CA  91016

Gallery Hours:  Tuesday-Saturday 1-6 pm

I hope you will come on Saturday evening to enjoy the show and meet all of the artists.  Please make sure to find me and chat for a while.  I'd love to hear about some of the special places you save in your heart.


If you cannot come to the opening reception to see the show and meet the artists, please plan to spend some time with the paintings during the month the show is hanging.  Perhaps it will help you get your adventure on for a trip of your own to this magical place.

October 11 through November 8, 2014Tuesday through Saturday 1-6 pm

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the show.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Peaceful Pride

Group Show
I am sitting here on my bed tonight surrounded by the paintings I have been working on for the last several months in anticipation of our group show,

I've purchased the frames and now have all the paintings leaning against the walls as I go through the process of installing the canvases and panels into the frames and wiring the frames so they can be hung.  Aside from the relief I feel at having almost completed 16 paintings for this show, I realize now several other emotions.   Hopefully, I won't sound arrogant or boastful, but darn.... I feel proud of myself!!

I have to say that the women I traveled to Canyon de Chelly  with are amazing people and wonderful artists and I was feeling a bit intimidated.  When I was at the canyon, I was afraid I couldn't paint a thing, but heck, it turned out that I did just fine.   Then when one of the gals was able to arrange a group show for all of our paintings, I was thrilled, but I also almost panicked! 

Goal:  Don't Embarrass Yourself
Initially, my one aim was to paint some studio pieces well enough not to embarrass myself.  I really worked hard to use color and texture and design which is unique, interesting and different from that of my talented colleagues.  Of course, we're all painting the scenes we experienced together from the same canyon, but I was hoping to differentiate myself a bit -- (and not in a bad way). 

We all went together to arrange an ad in Southwest Art Magazine and the editor decided to write a piece about our show.  I was really pleased when we got the "collector" copies of the magazine and I discovered that she had chosen one of my paintings for the editorial!!   (She selected "First Light" which was painted from a small study I called "Dawn".)

Whoo Hooo!  What a thrill!


Right now I am surrounded by my Canyon de Chelly paintings and they make me feel proud. 

And that gives me a sense of peace.

"Peaceful"  is the last painting I created for the show and it's fitting that both the painting and my state of mind are in sync.

If you're anywhere near Monrovia, please consider coming by to see the show!!!

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