This weekend I had the opportunity to display my work during Artober at the Oakhurst Fall Festival in the Yosemite Sierra Artist booth. I wasn't sure about participating-- it was a little last minute and I was out of town when the opportunity arose. The week was already wildly busy, and I just wasn't sure how well it would work.
Luckily, I recently read SELL OUT: The Definitive Guide To Selling Your Art Online Without Losing Your Damn Mind by Rachel Wilkins. In one chapter she discusses taking opportunities and making the most of them. So I decided to stop worrying and just make it happen.
I am so glad I did. I met some truly lovely people and made some great connections and new friends. The weather was absolutely beautiful, there was a great turn out, and I even got to meet a duck in a stroller... in my book that is pretty fantastic. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is easy to make excuses, to worry about how things will go, and to just decide to skip something. It is certainly more work to put yourself out there and do things that you aren't quite sure will work out, but the reward can be really great in the end. I think when we shift our goals and mindset a bit to base them on the specific opportunity the outcome can be wonderful.
How about you, do you struggle with taking a leap like this? Do you struggle with trying new things, or feeling overwhelmed with all the tasks required for events? Maybe you have a great tip or trick that you can share. Let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.
Sure you can run down to your local Target and buy cheap, mass-produced art, but why do that when you can have something unique for your very own? Is price a factor? Make sure to read number 1 and 5!
1: Don't think of buying art as a purchase. Think of buying art as an investment. Art inherently adds value to the spaces around us. A piece of art can literally bring us joy. Art is often what brings life into a space. Art is also an investment because it can also increase in value. As an artist becomes more well-known and their work becomes more desirable, the value of their past work increases. If price is a barrier for you consider purchasing from an up and coming artist.
2: Purchase originals if you can. Original art is one of a kind. It is unique, and when you buy it you get to enjoy it in ways other people can't. There is just something special about being with the original, and something really special about having it in your home or office.
3: If you can't purchase originals purchase high quality reproductions. When purchasing reproductions, make sure they are high quality, limited edition, and signed. Try to get the lowest number in the edition you can get. High quality reproductions can last a lifetime, and while they aren't as valuable as originals, they can still increase in value, and be valuable.
4: Consider commissioning a piece of art. A lot of artist will create a piece just for you. Make sure to clearly communicate what you are looking for, but know that an artist can not see what is in your mind's eye. For this reason make sure you love the artist's previous work and feel confident they will create something you will love. An artist should provide you with a contract that describes the artwork being commissioned, price, payment expectations, and timeline (at the very least).
5: Consider financing. Some artists, myself included, offer 0% interest financing. This is a fantastic way to begin growing your collection. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of the financing agreement and that everything is in writing. For detail on my financing plan click here.
When you purchase art you are supporting a small business owner, and contributing to our economy. Whether you purchase from me or another artist, I want to thank you. Thank you for supporting an artist.
In 2018 I went to a prestigious yearly western art exhibit. This show was exhilarating. There is something special about standing in front of an original piece of art. I was lost in colors and brushstrokes, interesting compositions and heartfelt narratives. As I walked through the exhibit of nearly 100 artists something else started to become very apparent. Almost all of the artists were men. Sure they were all incredibly talented, but there are incredibly talented women artists too. Where were they? Before I left, I got a catalogue of the show so that I could get the actual stats. They were bleak-- out of around 95 artist there were approximately 5 female artists. (I still have that catalogue as a reminder and motivation). I recently decided to take a look at the catalogue of artists for the 2021 exhibit and discovered that after 3 years the stats were almost identical.
Total Artists (2021): 95
Male Artists: 86 (91%)
Female Artists: 9 (9%)
In addition to the lack of representation of female artists, there was a lack of representation of women as subjects. When represented, women were statistically more likely to be young, with a child, or with a man when compared with male subjects. In fact. there were only 28 representations of females, 83 of males, and 77 of animals.
Don't get me wrong, I clearly love animals as a subject. But the stats on representation of women artists and women as a subject (and the way in which the are portrayed) in this nationally renowned exhibit should make us stop and consider what is going on here. It's really nothing new. It's an issue that female creatives have dealt with for a long long time, but why are we still accepting this as the norm? Maybe it's just so common that people don't see it. It is like being nose blind. But it is time to expect more.
Making measurable gains is going to require a conscious effort and nuanced approach. It's going to require organizations and shows which are by invitation only to be more aware and make conscious efforts to bring more women in. It is going to require us to be conscious and vocal viewers and connoisseurs. And, it is going to require grassroots efforts, like Cowgirl Art Rodear, to increase representation and support female artists.
With that being said, I am excited to introduce "Cowgirl Artists of America." The mission of Cowgirl Artists of America is to cultivate a community for and promote the work of cowgirl artists. It is in its infant stage right now, but I see so much potential for our community and I really hope you join me.
Cowgirl Artists of America will will evolve as an organization. Right now the focus will be on sharing art by cowgirl artists on Instagram and growing the community on facebook. I don't have all the branding down. I don't have all the businessy things set up to make everything look official and perfect, but I also know that few things compare to the powerful force of a determined group of women.
Please join me on instagram @cowgirlartistsofamerica
and on the facebook community group The facebook community group is meant to be a place to ask questions, learn, share calls for art, and support one another-- a real community. It is a private group so you will have to answer the membership questions.
Leave me a comment if you have any questions and please help me get the word out. And if you are part of an organization that is under-representing women please join us in this effort. We don't want to fight with you, we want you to join our team to create positive change.
(Note on stats from exhibit: Paintings with subjects in the distance were not counted as they were more of a scene scape and less of a focused subject. There were a couple of paintings that were obscured enough that it was not completely clear if the subjects was male or female. I made my best judgement. As there were only a couple of these it would not significantly alter the conclusions if I were wrong.)
Just because it is public land doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. It means that it is your responsibility to help take care of it and its inhabitants. It means that you are responsible for your behavior and making sure that these beautiful spaces are intact and healthy for the next generation.
It is an honor and privilege to live in Yosemite, and as a wildlife artist it is an incredible opportunity to photograph and learn more about the wildlife in the park. Black bears, like the one above are frequently seen in the park. Contrary to popular belief, black bears come in a variety of colors. People often think that we have grizzly/brown bears in Yosemite, but we do not. Black bears are (generally) smaller, with a straight face, and have tall pointy ears. Grizzly/brown bears are (generally) larger, have a dished face, round ears, and a hump on their shoulders.
For a while there were a lot of bears in the valley, and I'd see them most of the time I went out looking for them. This is a really awesome experience for people, but it also comes with a lot of human responsibility.
Often humans approach bears, let bears approach them, or let bears get human food. This is dangerous for the human and especially for the bear! Never let a bear approach you. You should make yourself as big as possible and make a lot of noise to try and scare the bear away. It is imperative, for the bears own safety, that they remain afraid of humans and do not get human food!! I can not emphasize this enough. Bears that become too used to people and used to getting human food can become aggressive to humans and are sometimes euthanized. As one of my friends says, "If you feed a bear its blood is on your hands." JUST DON'T DO IT. As a mater of fact, it is required by federal regulation to store your food properly.
This means that it is important to keep you food within arms reach during the day and to lock it in a bear box at night or when you can't keep it with you. When camping in Yosemite you must store your food in a bear box, or bear canister 25-50 ft away from your tent. I once saw a ton of food placed in a bear box with the doors left wide open. It does not take much to know that this defeats the purpose of a bear box. Always secure the doors and use any additional latch or locking feature on the box or canister.
Another way to keep bears safe is to drive the speed limit and pay attention to the road. Bears are often hit by cars in the park. Bears do not look both ways before crossing the road, and I have personally seen a bear take off running across a wooded area and across the road without a pause or moments notice. A tragic story shared by one of our bear team members about a baby bear being hit by a car made a huge impact this year and was picked up by news-media outlets like USA TODAY.
In general it is a good idea to read and learn about the places you are visiting. Just because it is public land doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. It means that it is your responsibility to help take care of it and its inhabitants. It means that you are responsible for your behavior and making sure that these beautiful spaces are intact and healthy for the next generation. I've only been here for about 7 1/2 months at the writing of this, and could write a book about some of the ridiculous things people do here, whether out of ignorance or arrogance it doesn't matter. We all need to do better. We can all continue to learn more and hold each other accountable. Often people feel shame for doing or thinking something and then later finding they were wrong. Instead of changing they dig their heels in. There is no shame in learning something new and realizing you were wrong; but it is a terrible shame to learn something new and keep doing the same thing.
If you want to read more on black and brown bear identification check out Get Bear Smart Society's article.
Check out this article from Yosemite on "What to Do if You See a Bear."
For more information about food storage visit Yosemite's article "Bears and food Storage While Backpacking."
I hope you have a chance to get outside, have fun, and make good choices!
The final stages of my painting are about finesse. At this point I'm adding the final bits of texture, and enhancing the shadows and highlights. The colors have settled where they want to be, but I'll fine tune them as well. In the photo below you can see the texture of the hair and horns, and the depth in the eye. Depending on the piece, I don't always worry about every singe portion being finely detailed. As you will see in the last photo, this painting is a mixture of loose and tight painting styles.
The full photo below does not do the painting justice. This painting is very vibrant (as seen above). It has a sharp contrast between the darks and lights, and the lights really shine. In person, you can also see the subtle shifts in the shadow, such as the soft highlight on the bison's right eye).
It was challenging to keep going forward, not feeling totally confident about the dark background and shadow, but it just felt right, and I'm really happy with the way it came out.
The very last things I do on a painting are to clean up the sides, take photos, add varnish, and put on a wire. At this point, if I have not already named the painting I will do so. If you are interested in the specific naming of this piece take a look at this post on my Instagram account.
And if you want to read about the first steps of this painting visit Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 on my blog.
This is when painting starts to get really fun for me. I feel like in the previous stages, there is a lot of remembering to just trust the process, because the painting can often feel sloppy and ugly in the early stages. Sometimes the blocks of colors blend in with one another and the painting just feels flat and boring. But I just keep going, I just keep trusting myself and the process, and then, as I say, "the colors start to sing--" and that can happen very suddenly. I'll be working away and out of the blue, it's like, "oh, there you are!" Each layer had been building up and up and up until really beautiful things begin to happen and all the colors start to play nicely together.
On this bison I did two things that really moved the painting out of the "sloppy stage." First of all, I decided that I would go forward with my inclination to push some darker shadows across the left side of the face. I was a bit anxious about doing this because I was worried about the painting feeling too heavy. Instead laying in more shadow straightaway, I continued to play with the colors on the bison more before committing. I finally decided to just go for it. I think it turned out well! What do you think?
The next thing I did was begin to add more vibrant colors. I try to get the colors to play on one another, but also give them the space to breath when they need it. It's about knowing when to really push something and when to back away. At this point the bottom layers start to pop as well.
This painting is big-- 48"x48", so there is also a lot of leaning in and stepping back. With big paintings it is really easy to get into the grove of painting and forget to step back and view it from a distance. Often this leads to messed up proportions or misplaced elements.
Each layer had been building up and up and up until really beautiful things begin to happen and all the colors start to play nicely together.
At this stage the colors I choose are very important. I'm past the stage of blocking things in. There isn't going to be a whole lot of covering up what I lay down, so paying attention to the way each color interplays with the colors around it is high priority. I'm also paying attention to the finer details of where things are, what the texture is like, and making sure that proportions don't get out of wack. At this stage the subject really starts to get more personality.
I've mentioned elsewhere that my approach to painting is conversational. What I mean by that is that it feels like the painting lets me know where it wants to go. Sure, I have put in the time and work to learn the skills, and sure I am making conscious decisions; but at the same time it is an act of communicating with what is on the canvas. I also find that as the painting progresses the subject begins to tell me more about itself. Often the animals in my paintings are symbolic, and this is where that symbolism takes shape.
Previously I discussed how I start a painting, and then about laying down the base layers. The next step is to begin putting down something more solid. Every painting is different, but for this bison I began to work in some more solid colors and textures (as seen in the video).
At this point I'm still looking at things in terms of generalities. I have not started putting in much detail, but what I am adding in this layer refines what was put down in the underpainting. My approach is to slowly refine, layer by layer, while allowing the colors to guide the way. At this stage the colors are still not "singing," but they are laying the foundation for my signature style.
Do you have questions about this stage of the painting? Let me know in the comments.
[Painting] is an act of communicating with what is on the canvas...
It's all about that base.... actually, for me, it is not. The base does play an important part though. It is like the map for where things are in general terms. An underpainting is often a thin, monochromatic base layer of paint that helps to determine value. I take two different approaches to my underpainting. Sometimes I use very washy paint to lay out the background, subject, and major shadows. The other approach I take is to lay down a (not washy) layer of paint for the shadows. I then add thinner layers of paint to the subject based on what colors I think I will be using.
I rarely paint monochromatically in my underpainting, and my approach is not the traditional one. However, I often have areas where I want my underpainting to shine through with more vibrance, or to not be covered at all. Traditional approaches usually cover the entire underpainting with thicker layers of paint. My approach is to build up my painting with many layers, with the intention of various layers shining through. For this bison I did more of the first approach, but did not include quite as many shadows as I normally would. This was in part because I am considering making the painting a little more "moody" with more shadows across the face. However, I have not decided if I will do that yet, and it is always easier to go darker than it is to go lighter.
To see Part 1 of this series on my process, click here.
Artistic processes can be some of the most fascinating things about artists. Artistic processes can vary widely from artist to artist, even within the same medium. When we learn about the process and thinking behind the artwork we love we often discover incredible intricacies that we might have missed. Sometimes, it is the process that makes us love the art itself!
On the surface my artwork is animal portraiture, but that is only part of it. In the next few posts I'll be discussing my process and taking you along for the journey of this large bison.
Pro tip- when you visit an art exhibit read the signage about the artist. It often reveals interesting facts about the artist's process that will make you love their work even more!
There are so many things in life that can make us fee like failures, like we aren't good enough, like we are small and unimportant. Sometimes people get stuck thinking about all the things that make them feel less than, but today I want to ask you what makes you feel strong? I think that if we focus on the things that make us feel strong, and if we do those things, we will start to feel more strong in other areas too.
For me running makes me feel strong. Even if I don't run fast, even if my face turns tomato red, even when I have asthma. I'll admit the asthma makes me feel frustrated because you can't just push through not being able to breath, but I still feel strong, and when I feel strong I feel more brave, and more capable to put myself out there in ways that I would normally hold back. So tell me, what makes you feel strong? And if you don't know go find out!
Something that I used to be afraid of doing when I first started out was commissions. I always worried that my client would not like what I created or they would be disappointed that my vision did not align with theirs. Over the years I have gained a lot more confidence in my art, but I've also gained a lot of knowledge for how to approach commissions in a way that give me and the collector enough information. The following three paintings are from my 3 most recent pet portrait commissions. These three dogs were beloved pets that have passed on. It was such an honor to be able to commemorate them.
If you are interested in commissioning a painting visit the commissions page for basic information and to get started. Commissions are a really fun process and there is no better way to make your home unique than art made just for you or your loved one.