Monday, December 16, 2013

Onward and upward (again)!

The building we're renting for our gallery/living quarters has been sold. We're moving on and the feelings are bittersweet. There's great energy here: history, ghosts, the spirit of many ethnic groups who have stamped their presence on the neighborhood to infiltrate our milieu. Ah, but change is good and we'll look forward to new opportunities.

The art biz has changed so much in the past few years. Is it due to the recession? Or the way our clients purchase art? Or that we as artists have had to take on the role of self-promotion that wasn't required a mere few years ago? More than likely a combination of all of the above. Remember the days when we hooked up with a prestigious gallery that sold our work for us, freeing us to joyously create?

With that said, we won't be searching out a new gallery space. I've been working this career a long, long time and the majority of my business is repeat customers who contact me via phone or email. I also reap the benefits of internet marketing from my website and a bit from (dare I say) social media. I also have a mailing list that I've honed and cultivated to represent those who have either purchased from me or very likely will purchase. Included are those who are sincere fans who may or may not purchase yet hopefully endorse and recommend my artwork. When we put the pencil to paper to determine the profit ratio of the gallery space...well, the numbers didn't justify.

So, as I assess the past two years here in the so-called Historic Arts District on Beekman Street, I will say that our participation in the entity has been a disappointment. 'Nuf said. There are some individuals and organizations who have worked tirelessly to promote Saratoga Springs as an arts destination. God bless them. A tourist town is a tourist town and those six weeks in the summer prove it. Another curious factoid for the business minded here in Saratoga: if you're not located on Broadway - you're screwed. Just my opinion.

If you'd like to see all my original paintings in one place, make haste. We'll be moving at the end of December and my artwork will be designated to places afar. Also, my dear friend Robert Stebleton is sticking with me to the end. I'm extremely honored to have his nationally renown paintings in my gallery. The chance to savor his artwork is reason enough for you to visit the gallery in the next few weeks.

The gallery/studio in pretty times.
Working on yet another new business plan,
Sharon

Thursday, December 05, 2013

WARNING - Nude Drawings

One of the requirements in art school is attendance at life drawing classes. It's a discipline of the ages and practiced by the masters for hundreds of years. Throughout my career, I've joined artists groups whenever available that offer life drawing. It's sound practice to maintain drawing skills. Some of these classes have been arranged by a group of artists chipping in for a model and some are hosted by art centers/organizations. All are interesting...it's the nature of the study.
During my time in California, artist's models formed a union and received a decent union wage. Most are well paid for an unusual task. Sometimes we can talk family members and friends into modeling for us. I tie old reins around a doorknob and ask Michael to lean back and pose extreme jockey hands. Make 'em white knuckled and gnarly, please. In fact, almost all of the hands in my racing paintings are his.
To be an artist's model, one must sit still for long periods of time while vulnerably naked. We do our best to keep them comfortably warm and not insist on any poses that would cause cramping.
The model above is holding a doll that had been modified into a creepy "Chucky" character. Another artist created this cottage industry of doll customization to make extra money. It was Halloween and an absolute hoot to pose the female model with the demon doll. When creatives get together, imaginations run rampant!
The models will often fall asleep as the one above. Or they have an itch and never put their hands back into the same position. Or they put themselves into an uncomfortable pose and fidget. Most of us do our best to remain patient and professional, after all, it's not an easy job.
Some models are innovative and will show up in costume. Some have a sense of humor that we artists thrive on. Yes, we do have our favorites. One time a very plump girl posed with a bridal veil and beautiful white silk gloves up to her elbows and of course, nothing else. Some models are naturally graceful and slip into elegant poses. The model above was eight months pregnant and announced that this was her last gig until the baby was born. It was a beautiful and sensual session.
There are some instances where an artist won't find a model inspiring. No one's fault, just one of those vague energy things. Then we turn to studying body parts, as above.

It's a classic,
Sharon

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Patriot Guard Riders

In time for Veterans Day, I'd like to introduce you to the Patriot Guard Riders. Perhaps you're already familiar with this organization - I wasn't until my brother's funeral this past weekend.

They originally formed to protect families of deceased and fallen heroes: be they law enforcement, fire fighters, first responders or any active duty or veteran service member of the armed forces. The impetus was the Westboro Baptist Church, who claimed that the deaths of American troops in Iran and Afganistan was God's retribution for homosexuality tolerance in the U.S. These motorcycle riders would block the Westboro protesters with their motorcade replete with large waving American flags and by revving up their engines while singing patriotic songs.

The group has evolved to establish a mission of RESPECT. They are a non-profit 501(3)C dedicated to ensuring respect and dignity for our fallen heroes. Check out their website for more details: Patriot Guard Riders.



They'll perform this selfless ministration for any family of a service hero who requests it. ANY. This is regardless of political or religious affiliation. I'm humbled by their beliefs, values and dedication. They didn't know my brother personally, yet showed up on a cold and blustery November day to perform a duty of utmost RESPECT. Some rode from sizable distances to assist us. They accompanied our procession from the agreed upon meeting place to almost an hour's drive to the Veterans Cemetery.

The first of our Patriot Guard Riders arrive.

While we waited for a prior funeral observance to finish, our Patriot Guard Riders rode ahead and established themselves into their sentinel positions:
The Patriot Guard Riders surround my brother's final resting place.

They held their posts steadfast until every last one of us departed.

My brother was a decorated (Bronze Star, Purple Heart) Communications Officer of the U.S. Air Force and served in Vietnam and other countries. He was also a VFW Post Commander for several years and volunteered his time and talents generously. I'm so proud that his life and service was honored by this illustrious organization. There are no words to describe my gratitude, awe and how much I'm moved by it all.

Patriot Guard Riders, I salute you.
Sharon








Sunday, October 27, 2013

Not a Social Butterfly

Every once in a while I grow weary of all this tech stuff. Like everyone else, I need it, it will never go away, but at times - enough is enough. I'm sure it's my age. Call me ancient, but I grew up in a time when we had to physically move across a room to change TV channels, run through the house to answer the phone and drive to the drug store to drop off film. Not that I ever want to go back to those days.

As artists, we're told how fortunate we are to gain control of our careers via the web and it's multitude of opportunities for self-marketing. No longer reliant on brick and mortar galleries, this has created a new kind of pressure. It's now up to us to determine what and how to promote ourselves and our art. And how often.

It often feels like a popularity contest. Social networking, websites, SEO, blogs, subscribers...the list is endless. Who has the most friends, likes, comments, shares or whatever. There is no shortage of marketing gurus roaming the internet to help and advise...for a fee. Where was this gang when I was fresh out of art school? Right, no internet back then but where was the emphasis on constructively managing an art career? The pervasive belief was that the creation of art superseded all else. Read that line again, my dears.

So here's my grumpy take:

I gave up on Twitter. How can a meaningful dialog be established in 140 characters that scrolls off the screen in less than a minute? The more you follow the faster it scrolls. Great if you're a celebrity yet some artists figured it out and reap great benefits. How, I can't fathom. Facebook feeds last longer, sometimes a day or two. I like FB and I have made some great connections and genuine friendships (not just adds). But here's the thing: on my personal page I have 1,464 "friends" that I've cultivated to find people with similar interests to mine. And some have found me. I try to post often but sometimes I'm just busy and immersed with my work and have nothing interesting to say. Do you want to hear what I had for breakfast or pray for my relative with a medical crisis? Now, Michael hardly ever posts anything, preferring to be entertained by others and he has 1,781 "friends". Huh! My business page which I was advised was a MUST by one of those art marketers has a paltry 337 likes. In my personal account, there are 218 pages awaiting a "like" from me - not to mention those I've "liked" that I did so just to be polite but really don't care about. My blog used to be cool. I've been posting since 2006 and used to at least a couple of times a week. At some point I wondered if anyone read it and why was I wasting my time? The positive about blogs is that bloggers own that bit of real estate and are not subject to another's rules and arbitrary advertisement. But again, in order to maintain readership the posts should be regular and engaging. Or edgy and controversial. Or regularly give away free stuff. There were many blogs in the recent past that I loved and eagerly awaited updates...however they have unfortunately fizzled out too. Or wandered over to Facebook.

Forget about the other new and hip sights such as Pinterest that we're told are the latest mandatory marketing sights. I'm too busy painting.

My website hosting service is very adequate and easy to manage and created specifically for artists. But their daily newsletters sent to subscribers contain contests, favs, featured artists, lists of latest exhibitions of accomplished artists, hot artists to watch, etc., etc. etc. making me feel miles out of the loop. Another popularity contest.

So my dear friends, like me if you agree and feel free to retweet (not retreat).
I'm poking you,
Sharon

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oil City, Pennsylvania

The ads were in artist's trade magazines. Oil City Artist Relocation Program. 100% Financing.

When a city experiences decline for whatever reason, it's akin to calling in the troops (artists) to save the day. Some of these projects have been extremely successful like Paducah, Kentucky, serving as a program model. Other attempts to attract artists to an area have experienced varying degrees of realization.

I love long, boring road trips where my wandering mind can clear out the daily pressures and open up to fresh ideas and inspiration. So it was after making a delivery in West Virginia that we decided to return home via western Pennsylvania to satisfy our curiosity regarding the Oil City program.
Beautiful countryside
It's a city struggling to survive after major oil companies pulled out in the early '90's. If you look past the numerous buildings that have fallen into decay, the city is really quite beautiful. Situated on the Allegheny River (right on it, the river splits the city) and bordering the Allegheny National Forest, the central downtown is surrounded by steep, scenic hills. We met with the relocation administrator, Joann Wheeler, who graciously provided information and her time as she showed us around the National Transit Art Studios. It's a grand old structure erected by John Rockefeller and restored by Ralph Nader. Yes, that Ralph - it's a great story. Joann is also a wonderful artist renting a studio in the building. She was quite frank about what we could expect. Basically, many of the artists who have relocated to Oil City have established outlets and venues to sell their art. The migration is to cut overhead...a lot. Don't expect tourist or any other kind of traffic. Oil City is basically in the middle of nowhere. The closest metropolitan area is Pittsburg, about an hour and a half drive south.
Stairway in the Transit Art Studios
Did I mention that an artist can rent a gorgeous light-filled, high-ceiling studio here for .49 per sq. foot?

We met with realtor Bill Moon at an empty home for sale. The real estate prices are in the cellar...it's astounding. We looked at a 3 bedroom 2 bath home that was in very good condition, needing just a bit of cosmetic work in the kitchen - $50K! Bill told us that 150K would buy us a decent Victorian. After living in Saratoga Springs, NY where real estate prices are off the charts, this was jaw-dropping!

Is something like this in our future? I never say never anymore but for now, no. I love this snobby town I'm living in and the Adirondacks and Lake George and, of course, the race track. Saratoga Springs would be just another dot on the map, struggling like so many other small cities of former glory were it not for those six weeks of horse racing every summer.

This gypsy stays put for now,
Sharon

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I survived another racing season at Saratoga Race Course. Now it's time to decompress from a brutal schedule and ponder the highs and lows of this yearly roller coaster ride.

Aside from an opening weekend of steamy and sweltering temps, the weather was lovely. A couple of days of on and off showers was an annoyance at most.

Sales were off. The slowness at the beginning of the meet made for sleepless nights and lots of hand-wringing. Thankfully, momentum picked up during the Alabama weekend and continued to the end. Theories were offered as to causes and effects from those who were honest enough to admit the actuality. I'm amazed at the spin some of my peers engaged in to make themselves appear fabulously successful. It's was really quite amusing to observe as they went to great lengths to create this fake aura. I guess it's the perceived competition and pressure to lure the money. What works and what doesn't is a complex tightrope walk and probably a subject for another post. Anyway, a long time merchant friend from Broadway told me sales were also off downtown. Broadway, really?

A big perk of showing at the track is the all great people I meet that I wouldn't have the opportunity to otherwise. I enjoy a captured audience everyday of anywhere from about 15,000 to 50,000+. Most people are very kind and generous with their admiration of my artwork and I appreciate their often candid comments. Yes, I suffer through the "my aunt (brother, mother, next door neighbor, ex-wife, whoever) is an artist" stories people feel compelled to relate. I'm also compared to other artists. As irritating as these remarks can be, I remind myself that these people were attracted to my booth because of my artwork. Overall, it's an amazingly positive experience and can often be an absolute hoot! Many people make a point of stopping by to visit every year - collector or not - and those relationships are priceless. And then there are the precious ones who visit every summer with the intention of adding another Sharon Crute to their collection. Bless you all.

The 150th Anniversary Celebration seemed to fall flat. I wish it had been marketed more aggressively to create an attraction not to be missed. Spin it. Hype it. Play it up to the max. The city did more to cash in on the opportunity than the track and that was a big disappointment, making it feel like just another race meet. It's was their party to be savored.

I did some plein air painting in the mornings on the backside and in the paddock during the races. Nothing like jumping into the proverbial fire! It attracted lots of attention and I was unsure that my skills were up for the challenge. I did it, I'm glad I did it and I'll be better at it next year. I did sell a couple of those pieces so I guess I wasn't too terrible.


While painting in the paddock, I was gifted with a few private minutes with master painter Peter Williams. He's been painting plein air in the paddocks of major race tracks for years and he's so, so great at it. Surrounded by admirers and an entourage of adoring fans, Peter is a down to earth delight. He critiqued the piece I was working on and imparted a few gems of sound wisdom. Priceless.

Now for the ugly. A writer stormed into my booth one day to confront me with untrue accusations. He had made up his mind about this situation and was looking for someone to blame. He wrote about it in Bloodhorse Magazine and you can read it here. Obviously, he was clueless as to the entangled dance we do with politics on multiple levels. The whole ordeal was vastly complicated and was the low point of my summer. Unfair and biased.

But speaking of the media in much better light, I did a fifteen minute live interview on the cable OTB program with Seth Merrow. Nerve wracking but Seth put me at ease. Numerous people viewed it and made a point of stopping by my booth to tell me how they enjoyed it. I also had my picture taken while I was painting at the Oklahoma training track early one morning and it was published in the awesome Saratoga Special which is an enjoyable staple at the track every summer.
I really must find jeans that fit...


And of course there were the best of the best: trainers, owners, jockeys and great horses to be experienced as they made history. Tod Pletcher won yet another training title, the Ramseys slayed the owner's title, Javier Castellano took the jockey win title but it's all about the champion horses that make the meet for me. Palace Malice, Wise Dan, Cross Traffic, Princess of Sylmar, Royal Delta, Will Take Charge (and the surrounding controversy) plus a bunch of two-year-olds to watch as they impressively broke their maidens and scored in stakes. While the Graveyard of Favorites waved her mighty scepter (Verrazano, Orb), this is the cream of the crop and what makes Saratoga reign supreme.

The Grand Old Dame still stands strong through 150 years of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Regardless, I will always love her dearly and am honored to be a part of the milieu every summer.

Happy racing everyone,
Sharon

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Saratoga News

I'm starting to get excited. At first it seems surreal, so far off. Then the realization that opening day is less than two weeks away nervously raises the anxiety level. Am I ready? What needs to be done? A LOT! Then I get panicky and go into overdrive. It's okay, I work well under pressure.

The artists have purchased their own tents this year and we have a new contract with NYRA that offers some pleasant unexpected perks. Here's the new tent installed today:
We'll have an opportunity to paint in the paddock on a rotational schedule. That is so cool! We'll also have an opportunity to have our artwork published on the program cover. Way cool!

This coming Sunday, July14th is the Open House. Admission is free and all are invited. My tent is located directly across from the jockey silks room... so stop by and check it out.

I'll also be exhibiting at the Equidae Gallery located in the Holiday Inn on South Broadway. Terry Lindsey presents a beautiful, elegant show of equine art. We're going to attempt to hang my huge piece Diagonal even if we have to configure the space and/or piece. I've also painted a couple of new pieces that will be included in the exhibit. Click on the image for more info.

It's going to be a great summer at Saratoga.

Happy 150th Anniversary!
Sharon

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Remaining Drawings

My Kickstarter project "Renderings of Historic Saratoga Race Course" for the 150th Anniversary is nearing completion. Four of the eight original drawings are available. They're 11"x14" and created with pen and ink followed with a wash of watercolor on paper. They can be purchased framed or unframed.

Sanford Stud Farm
The history of this farm and Saratoga Race Course are closely woven together. Located just north of Amsterdam, New York, three generations of the Sanford family bred and raced some of the country's best horses beginning in the 1870's. On the Oklahoma side of the barn area is a section named “Sanford Court” in honor of the farm. The Sanford Stakes is still run today (the only loss for the great Man O' War by a horse aptly named Upset). I visited the few remaining buildings and took this reference photo of what were once the mare and foal barns, adding my own horses and grooms in period dress from my imagination. It's said that the horses were walked from the farm to the race track...about twenty-six miles...and people would line the streets to watch them go by.

The Paddock
Circa 1910's, notice the paddock is comprised of gentlemen only, all wearing straw-type hats (very in-style) as they observe the horses entering for saddling. African-American grooms walk their charges through thick grass with no gravel paths such as those that exist today. The trees in front of the stalls are mostly gone now, and the few that remain are fairly large. The red and white striped awnings were added much later.
                                                              Harrowing the Track
Before it was mechanized with tractors, the harrows that comb the surface of the track between races were pulled by draft horses. The starting gate was also moved around the track with teams of horses. Many years ago when I was a young teenager, my dad would take me to Narragansett Park in Rhode Island and I remember being awe-struck by the massive size of these reliable horses. Take note of the trees in the infield. Most are gone now but there are a few left that have grown huge and momentarily block out the field of horses from the cameras as they race down the backstretch.  

The Loose Horse 
This is my take on a drawing that appeared in the Daily Graphic newspaper in 1877. Long before photography became a staple tool in news reporting, illustrators had to quickly sketch out the day's events. Note how all the horses are all in the same extended stride and the two horses with riders behind the loose horse were drawn much smaller, a means of creating spacial perspective. I think these artists did a great job back then, drawing quickly and effectively to capture the essence of a story. 

If you are interested in acquiring any of these, please email me: sharon@sharoncrute.com

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Truths and Others Vagaries

I subscribe to Seth Godin's blog. Seth just published an impressive 5000th blog post. He's also written twelve marketing best-sellers in a thoughtful, philosophical voice that I personally resonate with, especially when he intentionally includes us arty types who tend to be a bit remiss regarding our business savvy (or woeful lack of). Here's a link if you'd like to subscribe: Seth's Blog.

I hope I don't get into trouble but I'm re-posting a particularly apropos piece from a few days ago on Seth's blog:

"The tried and true is beyond reproach. It's been tried, and of course, it's true. True because it worked.
In times of change, though, most of the tried is in fact, false. False because what used to work, doesn't, at least not any longer.
Sure, it might be what you've always done. But that doesn't make it true, or right, or best. It just means that you already tried it.
The nature of revolutions is that they destroy the perfect and enable the impossible. Seeking out the tried and true is the wrong direction for crazy times." - Seth Godin, June 2, 2013

I am not just an artist. I'm not just a painter struggling to recoup from a disastrous economy that harshly impacted all of the arts and then some. I'm in the art business and I've made it one of my priorities to educate my clients and potential clients about what that means.

As a business person, I've become a bit aggressive. Okay, very aggressive. I have something to sell that I believe is a desirable, quality product and I'm not shy about getting the word out. Art is a tough sell during good times, never mind the "crazy times." Some admire my determination and others are repelled by it. Most fall somewhere in between.

No, this is not a hobby. Yes, I deserve to get paid well for my time, my ability and my now vast experience. It's been said that to create art is a gift from the heavens. No, it isn't. It's more like a lifetime of perseverance and never-ending study and a burning desire to achieve excellence. The pro shows up in the studio every day and gets to work. There's no time to wait for heavenly inspiration to strike.

So, if I've come on like a used car salesman and you've been offended, I'm no longer offering apologies. My tried and true is also false, spurring a search for new truths.

Hey you! There's no better time to buy a painting!
Sharon

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Derby Pining

This is the time of year that I really miss the track life. I don't miss the grind: the seven day work week, getting up way, way before sun up and the constant physical demands of very hard work on a human body. But man, do I miss the horses.
Moi on the shank, Bay Meadows
I hold my stories sacred...and I have lots of them. Spending twenty-five plus years in the microcosm of this community yielded a perspective of life in extreme. Now that I view this milieu from the outside I honor the membership I once held. My participation is from an artist's viewpoint and I'm okay with that as I was privy to this demanding lifestyle for over half my days.

Ponying at Bay Meadows, 1993

But I still miss the horses. Their beauty humbles me. The chiseled, cocked heads, the streamlined movement and poetry of an innate intelligence. Like a ticking time bomb, their power and danger vibrates perilously, barely contained, seeking release. Exhilarating and terrible combine to create a thrill undefinable.
Running a nervous filly, Golden Gate Fields
There are several directions I can go with this. Oh yes, I have an opinion about every facet, nook and cranny of this game. As I grow older, I prefer to simplify and be grateful for my time spent in this exclusive club. Aging often makes one yearn for the past, a past not applicable to present conditions. So I'll stay here and paint.
Michael & I in the paddock, somewhere on the California Fair Circuit. Great times.

But man I miss the horses.
Sharon

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fundraising in Our New Economy

As artists, most of us have learned to manage our own careers out of necessity as a result of all this economic turmoil. Fortunately, there's lots of marketing advice targeted to our field that's readily available. Social networking tools are a godsend for getting our work "out there" and we're quickly learning the value of engagement. And best of all, most of it is free! We're making these changes out of necessity if we want to keep making our art and keep making sales to support our efforts.

We're only a tiny part of the huge shift that's occurred in most business practices and models. Life as we know it has changed and change we must if we want to survive.

May I suggest that fundraisers and charities embrace the changes as well? Silent auctions and $150. a ticket soirees (most are comped) are quickly becoming passé. It's the same old, same old. Very unfortunately, most attending these functions are bargain shopping instead of sincerely supporting the cause of the fundraiser. I get requests for donations weekly and I'm usually amiable about helping out. However, when my donation is "purchased" at an underpriced bid, it's hurtful to my clients, my pricing structure, my life-long career of building my reputation and my efforts to continuously pursue excellence with my skills as a painter. Also, the fundraiser is usually unaware that we as artists cannot write off the retail cost of an item...only the materials used in it's production. So, let's see, I've had this brush for X years at a cost of Y and used it Z times.Get the picture?

A bill introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) called Tax Fairness for Artists and Writers  has never gotten passed the introduction phase. Why? I realize the pressing nature of this bill is far down the list of priorities for the greater good of this country. However, with all the funding cuts adversely affecting charities, it's a win-win situation for both artists and fundraisers. In a nutshell, an artist would be able to deduct a fair market value for a donation of their art enabling such artists to generously give something of much higher value thereby enhancing the fundraising capabilities of charities.

And as an aside, I personally believe that fundraisers must now also embrace the said changes. I think creativity in fundraising is necessary to generate renewed interest in their efforts from would-be supporters. Instead of the tiresome silent and live auctions with the same predictable items offered, why not try to create something like an online treasure hunt where registrants participate (for a fee of course) in a game similar to a poker run. They could be directed to websites of like causes to obtain "keys" (purchased, of course) that over a set period of time ultimately ends with a grand prize for the winner. This could also create partnerships and networking opportunities with similar organizations. Hey, I'm just brainstorming...the point is: get out your thinking caps and do something interesting and different and fun to attract the givers. The auctions are not working and in any business, when something isn't working, it's trashed to allow new ideas to come forth.

Just offering my humble opinion,
Sharon

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Studio Expands

My new work space is larger. I now have room to exhibit and help promote a few special artists whose work I admire. I'm very excited about this new direction as I now get to play the role of gallery director.

Let me introduce "my" new artists!

Robert Stebleton

Fresh Snow, acrylic on panel, 11"x14"

I have tremendous admiration for artists who are adept with acrylic paints. Bob's masterful control of the medium creates an exclusive style of fluid brushwork that builds on multiple layers of transparent glazes. With a wide range of subjects, he skillfully documents his observations. This is the artist that mentored me this past year as I diffidently stepped out of my equine-only paint box. So there you are. Check out Bob's website here.

Sue Clark

I Can Read! print photograph, 12"x18"
Sue is a multiple award-winning photographer (really). In this series, she examines the macabre world of dolls and mannequins...those plastic objects that are meant to mimic humans, mostly female. These strange effigies become subject for her exploration that creates an edgy and provocative exhibit: "Valley of the Dolls." To visit her website, click here.

Jools René

Forest Fire, oil on canvas, 11"x14"
Jools lives in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas. We met several years ago when I was exhibiting in Hot Springs. Over the years, we've stayed in touch as Jools' paintings have evolved into abstractions of harmonious, sumptuous color and painterly form. His compositions appeal to my sense of movement and intensity. Oh yes they do.


Welcome to my gallery dahhhlink,
Sharon

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Process

The process of making art is as infinitely varied as the art itself. Every artist has their own way of finding inspiration and transforming it creatively. That's the magic spark, the beginning. From that moment of scintillating insight, a series of actions follows that will eventually produce a piece of art - be it a painting or a theater production of whatever the end result is desired.

Many people are not aware of the tremendous work the process often entails. It can be a long road from idea to completion. There is the preparation of materials which includes lots of trial and error in first choosing the supplies that suits the artist and at the best price. Highest quality paint is not cheap.

I prefer to stretch my own canvas simply because commercial pre-stretched canvas is awful. We begin with a textured 11 or 12 ounce canvas that has adequate tooth to hold my thick paint application. I say "we" because my husband Michael has blessedly taken over stretching duties at this point. He pulls the canvas over wooden strips, or stretcher bars and staples it in the back leaving the sides of the canvas smooth (known as a gallery wrap). Once he's finished, I begin applying the first of three coats of gesso creating a barrier between the paint and raw canvas. Coat one is mixed with a bit of water to penetrate the canvas fibers and given a day to dry. Coat two is mixed with an acrylic medium to provide flexibility and given another day to dry. Before applying coat three, I lightly sand the surface to create a bit of tooth and then apply gesso full strength. After another day of drying the canvas is ready for a ground (a neutral wash of color to eliminate the stark whiteness). Yet another day to dry and then I'm finally ready to paint! It's a labor of love...really... but you get, um, the picture.


Before beginning the painting - and this is assuming the artist is clear about what they want to express - there is usually some preliminary sketching. Sometimes a lot of sketching. Perhaps the artist requires photographic material or is compelled to research the subject that further demands untold hours at the library or on the internet. When finally proceeding into art-making, that process often takes on a life of its own that doesn't always cooperate thus requiring the artist to make time-consuming changes and other adjustments throughout.


My point is that making art is diligent work. A beautiful finished piece is a joy to behold but know that it doesn't gracefully manifest by divine intervention as some have naively intimated. Yes, we've all heard it. This is about process and I've haven't even mentioned the time (years) and effort (extraordinary) to develop skills and techniques that continues throughout the career of an artist. Please consider this before gasping at the price of an artwork next time you're in a gallery.

With a heavenly sponsored talent (!),
Sharon

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sanford Stud Farm

This short road trip was inspired by my latest project - creating eight historical renderings of Saratoga Race Course for the upcoming 150th Year Anniversary.

I heard that a few barns of the original Sanford Stud Farm remained intact. Formally Hurricana Farm, the impressive facility was established by Stephen Sanford in the 1870's. Located on the Perth/Amsterdam border here in New York, I can't believe that I've driven Route 30 right past the huge mare barn without noticing it. Sadly, it's now surrounded by encroaching strip malls and parking lots.

The result of his physician's urging to buy a peaceful place in the country with a couple of horses, Sanford built a farm of over eleven hundred acres with an impressive roster of thoroughbred champions. That would include the 1916 Kentucky Derby winner George Smith and the first American winner of the Grand National Steeplechase, Sergeant Murphy. I guess some people are not wired to do things in a small way.

This was the mare barn, looking more like a factory, as viewed from the parking lot of a store I can't remember.

The old feed bins are visible through a window.
This lone barn sits behind the mare barn, possibly once housing a stallion. Notice the Walgreens in the background. Constant traffic travels an access road.

I'm walking down a row of mare and foal barns that have remarkably weathered the years. Even the paddock fencing still stands. This is on the other side of the access road. 
If you look further back behind the row of mare and foal barns, neglected remains of other buildings are visible in the distance. We could feel the ghosts of so many horses, hear their calling and footfalls as they're led to and from the barns. Can you imagine the tales and secrets contained within these sturdy walls that stubbornly hold fast against the ensuing years? It eerie and bittersweet but it's hallowed ground to me. I'm grateful to the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm who work to preserve what's left of this very historical farm.

It's been said that the horses were walked to the Saratoga Race Course. That would be almost thirty miles!

A little history for my horse peeps,
Sharon

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Deed is (almost) Done!

My studio has successfully been moved across the street to:
73 Beekman Street, Saratoga Springs, New York.

We've hung my paintings, set up the office and tested the printers and computers. It's presentable and we're open for visitors on the weekends. This week we'll empty the storage unit (my exhibit tents, grid walls, display tables, etc.) and haul all that stuff to the new place. After that chore is completed, we'll tackle the living quarters, moving from the apartment we now occupy to upstairs over the gallery. After settling in, the visiting days and hours will be expanded. As always, if you need me for something - I'm always available.

There's good energy here. I'm feeling very optimistic.


I've selected a bright, sunny room upstairs to use as my workspace. It's a bit smaller than I'm used to but the big canvas is completed and I've got ample room to work on my Kickstarter project.

So clean and uncluttered. Consider this a "before" picture!

Embracing change and moving forward,
Sharon

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Relocating (again)

Across the street from my studio on Beekman Street in the Saratoga Arts District, a live/work space became available. We grabbed it - enabling us to combine the gallery/studio and living quarters in this good size house. Apart from the obvious fact that we'll save money, I'm excited to be so physically close to my work. Just think of what this insomniac can accomplish into the wee hours!

Moving is such a chore, even if it's just across the street. As a former race tracker, packing and shipping is a routine part of the biz. Let's say I've grown weary of it...really, really weary. And where did all this stuff come from? Amazing what material things we accumulate. A mere year and a half ago we moved into the old studio with my paintings, art supplies and a few computers and printers.

"A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff." -George Carlin
 I swear I had no stuff-collecting intentions. I despise clutter. But there it is, all sprawled out and spilling into three rooms in the new place, requiring lots of effort to organize and find a place to put it.

In other news...

My Kickstarter campaign will end on Friday, March 22nd. I'm overwhelmed and humbled that I not only surpassed my goal, but that so many are willing to support my artistic efforts. What a blessing to have believers in me and my artwork. FYI...there are still four of the eight originals available: Click here: Kickstarter if you're interested.

With deepest appreciation,
Sharon

Friday, March 08, 2013

Studio News

My monster of a canvas is finished.

Phew!

There were effects that I wanted to play with after acquiring interesting new skills with my landscape experiments. However, because this piece is commissioned by a great client who loves my racing work and has certain expectations, I thought it best to be reliable in that respect. The entire background was applied with a palette knife providing some interesting texture that I further rubbed with thinned pigment. A very difficult angle to portray, I couldn't find any reference photos except for one very dark and blurry pic. That said, I enlisted Michael to model and did lots of preliminary drawings.

Oil on canvas, 7'x5'
In other studio news, my Kickstarter project is almost completely funded. I have only $125. more to go to reach my goal. If there are any art angels out there who would like to help me get there, please click here. Did I mention there are rewards?

More studio news: We'll be moving the entire kit and caboodle across the street on Beekman and will be in an authentic live/work environment combining the studio/gallery with living quarters. This workaholic is thrilled! Stay tuned for a more detailed update.

Mwah!
Sharon

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kickstarter Newsletter

My Kickstarter project is now live and I'm off to a great start (thanks to all my art angels)! I explain my project and why I chose to create it in my newsletter (it's pretty). If you'd like to sign up to have it delivered to your inbox, there's a link in tabs to the right. For now, here's a direct link to the online version here.

And here's a link that will take you directly to my Kickstarter page. You'll also see a video of myself in my studio as I explain the project. If any of you would like to make a pledge toward my project, there are rewards. And mountains of gratitude!

Hugs,
Sharon

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kickstarter

I have some big ideas in mind for the future. I mean BIG which also means expensive to produce. These would be projects on the level of my experimental piece Diagonal. Accomplishing these ambitious efforts requires some creativity in the logistics of funding which led me to explore Kickstarter. My first attempt to familiarize myself with this platform will be with a much smaller project.

One of the requirements of Kickstarter is to create a short video presentation describing the project and why I'm seeking funding. Perusing other artistic project videos I'm confronted with some that are very, very professional. Cool music, integrated graphics, well-scripted and slick -  I'm intimidated. My video? Michael shoots with our modest camera perched on a walking stick for stability while his other hand holds a cue card taped to a stretcher bar. We tried to have background music but I  struggled with this so much that I thought it was a distraction.


Okay, so it took 11 tries and it's still crude. But it makes a case for myself and my artwork and not for an app to send someone a flaming bag of poop (yes, really).

Take three...

video

Seriously,
Sharon

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Back to Basics

After spending the last several months experimenting with different subject matter, I'm delighted to return to the loyal and patient muse. Don't get me wrong, my foray into street scenes, ocean, snow and a bit of plein air has been a welcome change - reassuring my brain that it can still concentrate with dogged focus and even learn a few new tricks.

It was a return to the basics of value and perspective. My equine paintings are closely cropped into somewhat abstract compositions. Spatially, here's limited depth of field and the angles are as unorthodox as I can convincingly portray. It's difficult to choose a focal point when the entire surface is so in-your-face.

My artist friend Robert Stebleton generously sent me a cd of images that he scanned from one of his Richard Schmid landscape books. I drooled over these paintings. And I stared at them for hours. What impressed me the most was Schmid's simplification of some very complex masses and his suggestion to perceive these areas as patterns. Also noteworthy is his effective technique with edges, something I really need to work on.

It will be interesting to see if my return to a large-scale, motion-infused canvas will be affected by the time spent painting scenes that were definitely outside my comfort zone.

7'x5' canvas with preliminary charcoal sketch and color washes.
I think it will.
Sharon