All content copyright 2011, 2012, and 2013 by Keith Russell.

Any copying, downloading, etc. of any portion of the contents of this blog--including photographs and artwork--without written permission from Keith Russell,

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17 December 2011

Finding My Way...

The year is drawing to a close, and like many people do during this time of year, I've begun to think about what I hope to accomplish in 2012.

One thing that I've been working on, but which could still use more work, is being more focused. I need to spend more time to create more of the kind of art I really like--which means I need to figure out a satisfying way to incorporate the human figure into the next spider paintings.

This means I need to spend less time wasting time. The studio needs to be more organized, and I need to try to keep it that way!

Another thing I've recently realized is that I've been collecting wood-working tools for a while, but haven't really explored wood in my art--not nearly enough. Yes, I've built several of my own panels, and have done several recent paintings on these panels, but I haven't done much else.

I really want to dovetail the corner joints on the next panels, which means I need to [learn how to] sharpen my chisels--and build a stand for my dovetail jig.

I'm also planning to have at least one hand-carved frame around one of my painting next year, too!

Lots to do (as always!)

Happy Holidays!

07 December 2011

Beneath, Between, and Behind...

As usual, things haven't gone quite the way I'd hoped--or planned.

I accepted a couple commissions last month--I needed the money, and didn't think the two paintings would take as long to complete, as they have. Because, like so many of my projects, they've taken longer than I expected, I'm not much further along with my own work than I was at the time of my previous blog entry.


But, I have started another mid-sized painting (approximately 24 x 30 inches), and another small (4 x 4 inch) painting--and White Widow is close to being finished.

I plan to finish the first commissioned piece this weekend, and the second one is due before Christmas. That leaves the last week of December, and most of January, for my stuff. I'm definitely going to finish the pieces I've started (including another re-work of Bone Spider--a sculpture I've exhibited, but which I've never really liked.

So, I'll be left with the same dilemma I think I've written about before; do I work on another "major" painting (like The Presentation of Spiders) which I may not get finished in time for the February opening of my solo show, or spend my time on a painting or two which may not be as involved (nor as interesting), but that I know I could complete in time?

And, just yesterday, I was asked to be in another show--thankfully, a group show this time--in...

...wait for it...


12 November 2011

Caution: Live Spiders...

Arriving at work this morning, I noticed that someone had left a fountain drink cup on the framing table. I picked it up, intending to toss it into the trash, when I saw the writing on the lid: "SPIDER FOR KEITH".

Here we go again, I thought, as I set the cup--gingerly--back on the table.

When I first began painting spiders during my juniour year at KCAI, I would often arrive at my studio to find that one of my fellow students had left a box, or cup, or some other type of container (each with a live spider inside) for me.

One box had a memorable label: "Spiders for you. There were two, but the little one ate the big one last night. Sorry." (The "s" at the end of "Spiders" had been crossed out...)

My studio space was situated against the outside wall of the room divided into the various studios for each of my classmates. There was a "main door" into the room, as well as a "side entrance" which went right through my studio.

After the spiders started arriving, I put up a sign that read, "Caution: Live Spiders" on the door to my studio. I thought of the sign as a bit of a joke, but the foot traffic through my studio into the main studio area was greatly reduced.

Spiders that don't spin webs usually sit in corners, under leaves, etc., folded in on themselves, rarely moving. They aren't much fun to draw, because the poses aren't interesting; in these positions, they don't really look like spiders. So, I usually let those spiders loose the morning after they were delivered.

I did keep one rather large black spider alive for nearly a week. I actually bought a bag of small crickets at a pet store for it to eat, but it still didn't survive it's captivity.

After that, I tried to spread the word that I didn't have the time (or the talent?) to keep live spiders in my studio; I could find plenty "in the wild" to photograph as references.

I left the sign up, though, and folks continued going the long-way round, through the main door, instead of through my "spider-infested" studio...

14 October 2011

Ethics 101

I received a phone call the other day from a gentleman who is looking for someone to make a painting from a photograph. I told him I was interested, and we discussed the project briefly, working out a size for the piece (36x60 inches), and a price.

He phoned me yesterday, again and we agreed to meet today so he could give me the canvas, and a downpayment. Over the course of this second conversation, though, I realized that the project was quite a bit different than what I assumed after our first conversation.

It's not "his" photograph! It's a photograph he took, of a painting by a local artist hanging in a nearby gallery. The artist apparently quoted a much higher price than the man was interested in paying, to paint her image onto such a large canvas.

When I see him today, I'm going to turn the project down, and I'm going to tell him why. Just as I don't want another artist copying one of my paintings, simply so that someone can have (something that looks like) one of my paintings at a lower price than I am asking, I do not want my name associated with such a practice, either.

Sure, he will probably be able to easily find an artist who is willing to copy another artist's work. And if that artist can live with the knowledge that they've ripped off a fellow artist, that's their business.

I couldn't live with myself. I want people to respect my work, and that means I must respect others' work, as well.

Although I could really use the extra money right now, my reputation and self-esteem is worth far more!

04 October 2011


Worked on White Widow over the weekend, and had hoped to work on it last night, but the evening had its own way. (Watched Life as a House, visited a neighbor, and picked up the step-daughter from work...) I had hoped to have the spider (except for the abdomen) painted before leaving for Detroit (we're flying up Thursday morning, seeing the Tony Levin Band Friday night--yes!--and spending Yom Kippur with Liora's family Saturday and Sunday), but that was not to be.

I'm still hoping to have this painting done (yes, I'm probably dreaming!) by Hallowe'en.

Stay tuned.

28 September 2011

Confronting Beauty...!

I've spent the better part of three (non-consecutive) days, recently (including today) working on White Widow. It's coming along nicely (if I can be forgiven for saying so, myself) and I've been thinking quite a bit about what this painting means.

I've never intended the spider paintings to be scary (any more than actual spiders intend to be frightening...hmmm), and Liora has remarked several times that this painting looks more and more "beautiful", the longer I work on it. So, I'm beginning to seriously consider what it might mean, to depict spiders as "beautiful".

Further, White Widow represents only one approach to painting "beautiful spiders". I have another, different idea in mind, which I plan to explore in still other, future paintings.

And, those paintings might lead to still other ideas (and I certainly hope they do!) other ways to explore "beauty", and what it--and it's opposite--mean, and can mean.

I spent many hours during the second semester of my juniour year at KCAI (Spring 2006) discussing "meaning" in art with my instructor, Marcus Cain. Specifically, we talked about what my art meant (at the time), and Marcus gave me a great deal to think about with regards to what my work might come to mean.

It was with Marcus' encouragement (and guidance) that I first began "exploring" spiders, in both sculpture and in painting. I felt then that I was only beginning to understand, in the smallest way, what my work might possibly be able to "mean".

I am starting to feel, now, that I'm finally "back" to where I was at the end of my juniour year at KCAI (Spring, 2006).

And ready to move forward...

16 September 2011

Quality and Quantity...

I spoke to an artist earlier this week, and he said that he's working on combining screenprinting with his acrylic paintings, in order to create (hybrid) prints based on his paintings, which he will offer for sale at prices far lower than what he charges for his original paintings.

His said, "I think I can sell a hundred prints for $60.00, much more easily than I could sell one painting for $6,000.00."

He may be right--

--but, I've had really nice (photo) prints made from my paintings in the past, and while I have sold many of the prints, I doubt that I've made much of a profit. (Of course, today's digital technology might reduce the initial investment if I were now to start having prints made from my current work...)

Still, my focus remains (and I believe, needs to remain) on creating the absolute best paintings I can. While I've been fairly happy with my "work-ethic" over the past year or so, I am trying to focus even more on being in the studio as much as possible--along with staying focused (working) while I'm in the studio. (There are always distractions: magazines and art books to thumb through, reference photos to organize--and reorganize, etc. Resist, resist...!)

While I haven't (yet) sold a single painting for six grand, I have sold a couple paintings for more than three grand, each. I haven't sold close to a hundred prints of a single image. (Of the dozen or so images that I had printed, I think I'm in the thirties on one or two of them, and below twenty on the rest.)

Rather than making and marketing prints at this time, I feel that I need to find an audience (and, hopefully, a market) for my new paintings. When (I can be optimistic, here!) that happens, I'll know whether there's also a demand for reproductions.

But, I think (at least for me, as regards my work) any demand for prints will have to be based on how well the actual paintings "connect" with an audience.

I would love to hear your thoughts...

09 September 2011


This is not a political posting.

The ten-year anniversary of Nine-Eleven is in two days. Since I'm working all weekend, I probably won't have time to write, yet I felt compelled to write...something.

Now is as good a time as any.

Random thoughts:

My ex-wife and I were renting a room at my boss' house, and he woek me up on the morning of 11 September 2001, right after the first place crashed into the Tower. I thought it was an accident--a thought which lasted only moments. The instant we saw the second plane hit, I knew it was deliberate, that someone somewhere had arranged for this to happen.

We spent the rest of the day, basically in our pajamas, watching the news on his big-screen TV.

Shortly after Nine-Eleven, on, someone posted (in the Debates forum) that she "no longer felt safe". I replied that "you have never been safe". I stll agree with my (admittedly rather cynical) comment; I still believe that we have to overlook/forget/blank out a great many facts in order to "feel" safe.

And, it is only a feeling. One probably "feels" safe right until something happens that lets one know--in no uncertain terms--that one was not nearly as safe as one felt--and the new feeling of "not being safe" probably lasts (I guess, if one is lucky!) a great deal longer than the danger itself...

I've thought many times about creating a work of art based around Nine-Eleven. The closest I came to actually creating something, was a painting I started (but abandoned) my seniour year at KCAI (2007). It was a painting of Condoleeza Rice holding the head of Osama bin Laden (based on Carvaggio's David with the Head of Goliath.) I titled it, If Only. I'm glad that bin Laden is dead, and angry that it took so long to find him. Unlike some folks, I don't view bin Laden's death as an assasination, nor as punishment or retaliation--certainly not as murder--but simply as security; IMO the US simply could not risk letting him live to plan any more attacks. He'd lived and recruited and planned for far too long as it was already (again, IMO.)

I think in many ways, Nine-Eleven was simply too (big? Complicated? Real?) for anyone (who survived it) to truly understand it.

I certainly don't have any plans to make any art in the future that deals with it, certainly not directly.

I'll be at work Sunday, wearing my father's "Remember 9-11" pin. I'll probably listen to Mozart's Requiem at some point over the next three days--

--and keep working on the new paintings.

Have a good weekend.

06 September 2011

Another new drawing/painting

I spent the weekend drawing; working on White Widow. I'm trying to use the time I have now to get the drawings done for several new paintings. Honestly, I expect the drawings to take longer (we'll see...!), so I am going to work on the drawings now, so I can concentrate on painting, as it gets closer to the show.

I'm going to make the homepage on my site a sequence of views of this painting as it progresses, so keep checking back at:

The larger drawing (in charcoal pencil) is the actual painting: a 24x36 inch aluminum panel, primed with Gamblin's "Traditional Gesso". The smaller drawing was my reference drawing. No computers or projectors were used to enlarge the drawing; I used a 24" ruler to measure bits of the smaller drawing, then make some proportional marks on the aluminum panel, then the spider was redrawn, 2x, freehand.

Stay tuned. Thanks.

23 August 2011

Slightly more rhan FIve Months to go...

August is rapidly drawing to a close, and I actually feel good about what I've accomplished so far this month. I've been re-drawing The Presentation of Spiders, and I'm pleased at how it's looking. I'm still hoping that the drawing will be finished, transferred to the panel, and I'll be ready to start painting sometime around September 7th.

I'm working the drawing for a "larger" spider painting right now, too. It's going to be (roughly) 24x36 inches, and painted on a honeycombed aluminal panel, that I've primed with Gamblin's Traditional Gesso.

(Several people at my two most recent shows have said they wanted to see some larger, I'm planning to make at least three 24x36" spider paintings for the fall!)

Last night, I painted the legs on a small spider painting. (See picture, above...) The background was painted quite earlier this year. I had started painting the spider's body a little later, but I wasn't happy with it. So, I repainted it about a week ago, making it large enough to cover the earlier attempt.

There's going to be a bit of a "surprise" to this painting (the first "hint" of something I'm planning to develop further in several of the next spider paintings);

EDIT: I finished this piece late in 2011, and never got around to taking a "final" photograph of it--and it was sold at the APEX show in March. So, the finished piece doesn't appear at my blog, and I can't post it here as I'd originally promised.

This was sold to a friend, so I should be able to snap a photo of it at some point...but still, I really must be more dedicated about documenting all of my work!

10 August 2011

Website Updates...

I added a few more of the "older" (airbrushed, science fiction) paintings to the website:

Tin Man, 20x30 airbrushed acrylics on illustration board, 1997 (Sold).

(Check 'em all out!

We've had out-of-town guests this week, and we've spent most of our evenings visiting with them.

I've done a bit of drawing, but have not been as productive as I would have liked.

I hope that enough of the new drawing is done, that I can post portions of it next week.

'Til then, at least there's something new to look at, here!

04 August 2011

2011 Fringe Festival Ends...

We brought my paintings (and one sculpture) home yesterday, all of them.

It felt really strange.

I guess I had hoped that one or two pieces would sell, at least the two small spider paintings. (Honestly, I was hoping to sell one or two of the larger pieces...!)

Now the clock is ticking down the six months to my next show, and I'm already hard at work on "the new stuff"--and I'm pleased, so far--which is helping to ease my distress that I sold nothing at the Fringe Fest!

It's tempting to think of a "no-sale show" as a failure (and, it's tempting to blame the event, the gallery, etc.) I try very hard never to do that. My work was exhibited, and people saw it! Most of the fifty or sixty people who came out for the "Iron Artist" event were folks I didn't know--and I think it's always a plus when my stuff is seen by new eyes. (I'll definitely be leaving some postcards for the February show at the Wine Gallery!)

There's no way to know how many of those folks will see my stuff at a future show, and remember it (and hopefully, remember that they liked it!) No way to know how many of them might operate their own galleries, or be artists looking to invite other artists to exhibit with them in a group show, etc.

So, I'll have a much better idea how this show went, after I see the response to my next show.

The bigger question I've been pondering is, am I interested in participating in the Fringe Festival next year?

I haven't decided yet, although I am leaning towards, "Yes". I suspect that the Fringe attracts a different art crowd than most of the other art events around town. If so, showing with the Fringe for the second year in a row will help that audience see me as an artist who is "still here"--still making and exhibiting new work.

And I don't think it's ever a good idea to give anyone the impression that an artist has "given up".

'Cause I certainly haven't!

21 July 2011

2011 Kansas City Fringe Fesitval Under Way!

View of my work for the KC Fringe Festival
Wine Gallery
19th & McGee, Kansas City, Missouri
Through 31 July, 2011

Bone Spider
Copyright 2011 by Keith Russell
polymer clay over wire armature
10x10x5 inches (unframed dimensions)

I worked on the sculpture Tuesday night 'til after midnight, and worked on a new painting last night 'til around 2:30 in the morning. I finished the sculpture at work (off the clock) around 4:45 today, and installed both pieces in the gallery shortly after 6 PM.

Nothing like working 'til the very last minute!

The sculpture was basically a "do-over"; I had made [i]Bone Spider[/i] in time for the April show, but it broke inside the frame just as I was taking it out to the car, so it didn't end up in the show. I didn't really like the way the spider's body turned out, so decided to start over fram scratch.

The new version almost didn't make it into this show!

I'm far more pleased with the second version of Bone Spider than I was of the first attempt--and I'm more pleased with it than I am with the new painting. It's not that the new painting is necessarily bad...but I know I can do better!

But it's done, and hanging at the gallery.

(And, being that I'm my own worst critic, the painting is probably fine, and--with my luck--will be bought first!)

Anywa, now I can concentrate on working on the stuff for my next show; six full months away.

As I think I've expressed here before, I feel that I have some very solid ideas for the next six or so paintings, and the next few sculptures. I'm going to be in the studio for a couple hours tonight, at least, drawing. If all goes well, I should be ready to start airbrushing the background on a new painting, in the next week or so.

And, as I've written before, when most of the problems are worked out at the drawing stage, the painting part shouldn't take "too long".

That's the plan, anyway!

16 July 2011

Another day, another spider...

I will most likely be hanging my art at the Wine Gallery, 19th & McGee, on Monday night. I'm hoping to have at least one new sculpture, and one new painting, for this show, which opens the Visual Arts part of the Kansas City Fringe Festival, Thursday night.

The sculpture, Bone Spider, was originally sculpted right before my April opening. One of the spider's legs broke inside the frame as I was putting pieces in the car to take to the gallery, and there wasn't enough time to open the frame, repair the sculpture, and re-frame it, and get to the gallery on time.

Over the past couple of days, I've completely re-sculpted the piece (I thought the spider's body in the "April attempt" looked cartoonish...rushed), and I'm hoping to bake it tonight. If all goes well, I'm going to put an acrylic glaze over it, and get it in the frame tomorrow.

And I'm going to need to spend several hours this weekend painting, too.

I have a frame for a second sculpture, but I don't know if there will be time to sculpt another one in time to hang it, too, Monday night. I still might try to get it finished this week, and if nothing else, I could hang it right before the show opens, Thursday night.

The photo shows the progress on the sculpture last night; the two sections of the body, and three of the legs. I have seven of the eight legs done now. I still need to sculpt the pedipalps & chelicerae (mouth parts), and add the eyes.

If I can get a good photo of the sculpture in the frame (glare from the glass may pose a bit of a problem) this will be the image for my new business cards.

I'm really excited about the Fringe Fest. That the Visual Artists are all exhibiting together, and in an "actual" gallery, is terrific. And it's a short show, only about a week and half. If anything sells (hope, hope, hope), I shouldn't have to wait too long to "get paid" (always a good thing!)

And, I'm really anxious to get to work on the "next" stuff; the stuff for my second solo show in February. I have 50 lbs of porcelain in my studio now, and five or six decent-sized (24x36 up to 36x48 inches) traditionally-gessoed panels ready. (Better still, I have a pretty good idea what I'm going to end up painting on most of them!)

Lots to do.

Have a great week!

10 July 2011

Making the Hard Decisions...

I decided to do some more work on The Presentation of Spiders (see the January entry) Friday, and I noticed that an area in the upper right corner was scratched, revealing the "old" background colour. I didn't remember the painting bumping into anything hard enough to scratch through a layer of dried oil paint, so I took an Xacto knife and "scratched"--very lightly--into an unobtrusive area of the new background layer, and it peeled right off.

Not good!

I've visited with a couple other oil painters, and received the same advice from them both: start the painting over. Perhaps the new layers were not "fat" enough, or perhaps there was something chemically "wrong" with the first layers--but, clearly, something isn't "right". There doesn't seem to be any way to "fix" the problem while insuring the long-term durability of the painting.


I was really hoping to exhibit Presentation at the Fringe Festival later this month, and there's no way I can re-do this painting in less than two weeks--not if I'm going to have any other new work in the show. So, I'm putting Presentation on the back burner, and will concentrate on finishing the other new, smaller and less complex, in-progress paintings.

But I am going to start the new drawing for Presentation this week, along with drawings for two or three other "conceptual" spider paintings, all of which should be finished in time for my next solo show, which opens in February.

As always, pictures coming soon!

25 June 2011

Nothing to see here, move along (well, not really...)

...but, sometimes it really seems that way!)

I feel that I might have used this title before (but, I really don't care.)

It's been a strange week, and today is stranger, still. It's not been a bad day--straightened the studio, worked on a painting, worked out, sat in the hot tub with Linda for a while--but I had a "free" hour (or so) tonight, and I didn't feel like doing...anything.

I have a couple freelance projects due soon, and a painting for work, and (of course) several of my own in progress pieces, as well as a couple drawings I'm polishing--and I simply was not motivated to work on any of it.

I did work on the piece for work this afternoon, and (it's due Thursday) it will be done on time. But, it would have been nice to have worked on it a bit more this evening.

Oh, well.

The drawing for the 24 x 36 aluminum panel is coming along nicely. I (still) think it's going to be an amazing painting. AND, I plan to purchase some porcelain this week; hopefully, there will be at least a couple new sculptures in the show next month!

I bought another box of the Gamblin Traditional Gesso last week, and hope to get at least one more 24x36 inch panel this week, so I can prep a couple panels with the next "batch" I cook up. (I don't want to waste the stuff!)

I need to draw a lot more often than I have been, lately.

The photo is of some "practice" sketches I've been doing. They're more like "warm-ups", actually, than "real" drawings. (I mean, they're real, but...)

And, yes, the spider in the lower left is a real preserved female garden spider, freeze-dried. (If anyone knows where I could obtain more specimens like this--of various species--please let me know! And, thanks!)

18 June 2011

I think...

...I'm finally heading in the right direction, and have lots of new ideas for the next several paintings. (And I'm drawing again! It feels really good; I kind of haven't drawn in a long, long time, other than working out ideas directly onto canvas--which I can force into shape, but not really "develop" to my full satisfaction.)

I made a quick sketch on the primed aluminum panel a couple weeks ago. After looking at the anemic thing for a week or so, I realized that it was far too simple, too basic--

--so I erased it.

And, I'm starting it over, and "doing it right" this time! I've found several good reference photos, purchased some "reference fabric" (!), and I'll be making at least one original sculptural reference, and probably a small 3-D model of the entire scene (a "compositional" reference) for this piece.

I want this to be the absolute best painting I've done, so far.


I really appreciate everyone's patience. Late May and early June were crazy, and not in an "artistically productive" way. I house-sat for a friend (who had to unexpectedly, and all-of-a-sudden, take an out-of-town weekend trip) and I helped a client hang around 40 paintings in her home last weekend, in time for a party she was hosting.

And, there are still a couple freelance projects I'm wrapping up this weekend.

But, I will have new photos of the new stuff, as soon as it all moves past the sketchy, "conceptual" phases it's in right now. (Basically, as soon as I feel I have something worth posting--worth being looked at.)


Take care, everyone!

21 May 2011

A fun and sexy aside...

A friend of mine has been planning to have me do some body-painting on a model he's been working with for a while, but the three schedules (his, mine, and hers) haven't "meshed" 'til today.

Liora and I (along with his girlfriend, and a couple of the model's friends) got together at his studio this morning, and I did some body painting, and my friend did some ropework, and the ladies took pictures.

Everyone had fun, and we vowed to do it again, soon.

Don't know if this is going to lead to anything "professional", but it sure wasn't a bad way to spend a Saturday morning!

20 May 2011

out of the blue

I opened my FaceBook account today, and there was a message from the curator at a local gallery, asking if I would be interested in exhibiting there next February - March.

I said "Yes", of course--but it really hasn't sunk in, yet. (This could be really good!)

Several years ago, I approached a local gallery about scheduling a show, and they wanted to see all of the work I would be exhibiting, before they would put me on their calendar. Now, it's always easier for me to "get to work" if I have a deadline. Yes, I'm always making art, but I am far more "dedicated" about it, if I have an "event" looming ahead.

So, this is amazing. I have seven months to prepare work for this show. (And, it's a BIG space; I'm going to need as much work as I can possibly create!)

And the best news is, I talked to an artist this afternoon who has shown in this space several times, and (at least according to him) the gallery is cool with "edgy" stuff. I've been wanting to take at least some of the next "spider" paintings in a slightly creepier direction, so I'm relieved that I won't have to put those ideas aside, to do this show.

I know there are artists in this town who seem to have trouble finding places to show their work, as well as artists who pay to exhibit in cooperative galleries (or other types of "vanity" spaces), etc. (And, until the last year or so, I was one of the ones having trouble finding places to show!)

But, the universe and I seem to be aligned (at least right now), and I'm going to take full advantage of this, and create some amazing stuff over the next seven months.

(And yes, you'll see it here, first!)

I (for one) can't wait!

03 May 2011

Think first, draw next, THEN (and only then) paint!

I can't believe it's May already. I really can't believe my show closes in three days!

As always, mucho work to do; poco time to do it.

I've known for some time (but the point was driven home to me unusally hard as I was working on--OK, struggling mightily with--a section of The Presentation of Spiders Sunday) that the reason it has taken me so long to finish this painting, is that entire sections of it were not drawn before I started painting!

I have a couple other paintings lying around the studio that have similar problems, and although I'm sure I could struggle through with them, too, I'm seriously considering if they're worth the effort.

Honestly, it would be easier to simply start them over, and do it right this time!

I have a very bad habit of thinking that, becuase--occasionally (OK, rarely!)--a shoddy process "works", I can "get by" doing it the same way, again (and, maybe even, again). One painting in ten (painted without a "tight" preparatory drawing) might turn out all right, but I should consider myself lucky (and--oh--the time I've wasted on those other nine!) that even one made it through such poor studio practice.

So, it is possible that Presentation won't be finished in time for Friday's closing.

That's too bad; it's going to be one hell of a painting!

But, c'est la vie!

I want the painting done, but only if it's done right. Further, if I truly learn my lesson this time, and start the next three to five paintings off the right way, I'll be better off, in the long run.

So, next week, I'm going to start some new drawings. And, I'm not going to put any paint on them until I'm satisfied that I have a solid foundation in place, to take the painting straight through to completion, without any unecessary "detours".

Wish me luck.

26 April 2011

It seems like forever since I last blogged.

It's been a busy three weeks, and the "closing" of Arachnaphilia is right around the corner. I've been working steadily on The Presentation of Spiders, and hope to have it (at least) finished in time for May's First Friday.

It's coming along, but still needs quite a bit of TLC.

The check I wrote to the Fringe Fesival finally cleared, although I haven't heard from them since I mailed the check. I'm assuming that my work has been accepted, and that I thus will be exhibiting with them this summer. I'm hoping to create (again, at least) three new paintings--three larger, slightly more elaborate paintings--for the Festival.

I'd like to create them all on panels, but I only have two panels prepared right now, and one of them is rather large. As tempting as it is to produce two or three new panels (and the next ones will have dovetailed corners!), I have plenty of stretched canvases ready to go.

It would be better to spend my time drawing and painting, rather than woodworking, right now.

The studio is a wreck; lots of magazines and CDs need to be organized. I'll get around to it, eventually.

Anyway, to the studio!

03 April 2011


Here's what I am calling the "first finish" of Arachnélégance. At this point, it could be considered "finished" (it is on display at the MRP Gallery thru the First Friday in May, after all).

But (you knew there would be a "but", didn't you?!) I might put one more layer of transparent oils over the spider (to make it a bit more green-brown, and--hopefully--help it stand out even more from the background) after I remove it from the gallery next month.

I'll keep everyone posted, here...

02 April 2011

Last Night's Opening...

Wow! It's over!

The past week has been a blur, finding me in the studio (almost) every night for at least four hours a night, working furiously to finish as many projects as possible.

liora had a wonderful suggestion earlier in the week; I had spent quite a bit of time trying to finish The Presentation Spiders (of course trying to keep up the quality I had established so far), when she suggested that my time would be better spent working on smaller pieces I could actually finish.

I immediately flashed back to my years at the Kansas City Art Institute (2003-2008) when I would often start a complex painting early in the semester, only to find myself with two or three weeks left before critique, a bit more than halfway through an elaborate painting that would never get done in time, and without enough time left to start (let alone complete) anything else.

Unfortunately, I found myself in this position more than once during my time at KCAI.

So, taking her advice, I put Presentation aside, and was able to complete Arachnelegance, one other small spider painting, and a new sculpture (the latter of which was slightly damaged as I was loading it into the car. I didn't want to exhibit a broken sculpture last night, but I'll get it repaired, and it will be at the closing reception on the First Friday in May).

I'm going to try to have The Presentation of Spiders done for the May closing, as well.

The opening went well, with about a hundred people coming out to see the new stuff. I had twelve piece in the show, including two sculptures, three small spider paintings, and most of the work was from this year.

There was interest in a couple pieces, but no sales. There are several events going on at the gallery this month, though, plus the closing reception next month. So, there will be several opportunities for folks to see the stuff and--hopefully--a few of the pieces will be sold.

We'll see.

At least it's over. Until next time...

10 March 2011

hang on tight...

Here's the progress on the "Elegant Spider" (working title) painting.

12x16 inches, oils and airbrushed scrylics on GessoBord.

April First is getting closer!

I met with the owners of the gallery, and the curator, last Monday night. We measured the space. Fortunately (given that I'm not going to have a ton of work on exhibit) it's not a huge place, and I should have enough pieces so that the main display wall doesn't look too crowded, or (worse) empty.

I have several things to take care of tomorrow. They're probably going to take most of the day; I'm not expecting to get much done in the studio. But, Saturday and Sunday will be heavy studio days (they've gotta be!), and I hope to finish at least two paintings this weekend, and get two more much further along.

And, I started a new sculpture tonight!

(25 June 2001 edit: the sculpture referred to, above, has been destroyed. It was in Sculpey, and I plan to sculpt only in porcelain from now on.)

01 March 2011

Getting Personal...

I haven't blogged much about my "personal life", mainly because I want this to be an art blog; a record of my progress towards becoming a full-time fine artist. As a person who is trying to approach my art as a "professional"--working on my art regularly, regardless of my moods, health, etc.--so I try not to let the "personal stuff" interefere (too much) with my art.

I found out today that my father has (roughly) six months to live.

This was not a shock; my father has been in a nursing home for two years, and his health has been declining rapidly over the past several months. But today was the first time any his medical staff have put any sort of "time-frame" on the remainder of his life.

My solo show opens one month from today. I have a ton of work to do over the next thirty days, and I am feeling confident that I can stay focused, and create some really cool stuff to exhibit at the show.

And, there isn't much that I need to do for Dad; between the Hospice folks and the staff at the nursing home, he's getting the best care possible.

But, the meeting with his "care team" this morning brought back lots of memories of similar meetings for my mother before she died in 2005.

And, I have also been thinking a lot lately about the many times my father helped me set up art shows in the past. I don't think my Dad ever really "understood" my art, but he could not have been more supportive. Time and again he helped carry paintings, lights, extension cords, and displays, to and from various exhibition spaces: across parking lots, down long shopping mall corridors, up and down hills (at outdoor shows); in rain and snow, baking hot sun, and the dead of night.

And he, the consummate complainer about nearly everything, never complained about anything to do with an art show.

Not once.

I'm not doing outdoor shows or mall shows these days. At the galleries I've worked with lately, there's always a few folks around to help carry something, steady a ladder, or keep an eye on my tools while I grab a couple more paintings from the car.

I'll have plenty of help when I set up my solo show at the end of this month.

But it won't be the same. Ever again.

This show's for you, Dad.

(And, thanks!)

27 February 2011

Progressing slowly...

Elegant Spider, 16x20 inches, oils and airbrushed acrylics on GessoBord...

I've been working on the Elegant Spider painting over the weekend, and it's coming along nicely (I think). I had actually started painting the background earlier in the week, only to realize that the background really needed to be (at least partially) airbrushed.

So, I removed the paint (using a scraper followed by a paper towel soaked in Gamsol), and--once the area was more or less dry--began airbrushing Friday night.

I think this is going to be one of the nicest "spider paintings" so far.

I (basically) have one month to finish up whatever stuff I'm going to have in my show. There are (at least) four other paintings I'd love to have in the show, but they haven't even been started yet. The chances that I could start and finish them in time for the show is rather slim; and working on them would take time I could spend finishing work in time for the show.

(I did spend some time--too much time, actually--working on the drawing for a new painting. While its nice to regularly work on new ideas, I probably should have spent that time finishing paintings for my show...)

A month is not very much time (and I've never been highly skilled at time-management!) so I'm trying to focus on finishing the six or seven paintings that I've already started, in time for the show--and leaving the new stuff to get started once everything else is finished.

If there is time to work on (and hopefully finish) something new before April First, fine.

If not, I have applied to exhibit in this year's "Fringe Fest" in July, so I'll have three full months to work on "new stuff" before that show.


12 February 2011

The Inward Spiral (of doubt)...

I started work on a large (36 x 60 inches) painting recently. This painting will might end up taking several months to complete--though I hope it gets done much sooner than that. (Of course, I'll be working on several other pieces during that time as well...)

I'm more than a little nervous about this painting, for several reasons. The main reason is that, except for reworking The Presentation of Spiders, I haven't created a narrative (large/major) painting since I was in college. (I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, with my BFA in painting, three years ago.)

When I started college in 2003, I felt that I had scores of good ideas I wanted to develop. By the time I reached my seniour year in the Spring of 2008, I had been through so much second-guessing (via some fairly harsh critiques from both my instructors and fellow students) that I had begun to doubt whether or not I wanted to paint (and/or was able to paint) at all. n fact, I came very close to dropping out of school after finishing juniour year. A painting major, I nonetheless created only two paintings my entire seniour year; both at the beginning of my first seniour semester. The rest of my work as a seniour were sculptures!

Questioning one's self can be a very good thing. But, questioning one's work to the point of becoming "artistically paralyzed" isn't good at all. It was a struggle to finish school, and I fell really good about how far I've come--as an artist--since graduation.

With the work I'm preparing for my upcoming solo show, Arachnaphilia: For the Love of Spiders, I'm starting to feel much as I did when I started school. I feel that I have quite a few really good ideas once again--and I'm really ready to start work on them, and see them through.

Still, I've set aside the large painting (for now); the priority from now through March 31st is to finish the stuff for the show.

After that, though, I want to start work on the next "series" of pieces, and I want them to be physically larger than the paintings I've been making over the last two and a half years, and I also want them to be more developed, conceptually.

There will be more spiders...!

08 February 2011

Picking Battles...

Elegant Spider (in progress), 12x16 inches, charcoal, graphite, & oils on GessoBord.

Every choice to do one thing, is also a choice to not do all the other things that could have been done, instead.

My solo show is less than two months away. I expected to have many more paintings finished by now.

(In other words, I'm way behind!)

Last month, the Kansas City Art Institute announced an upcoming alumni auction and exhibit. The juror is the new director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

While it would be very cool to have one of my paintings seen by the director of the Nelson-Atkins (!) the deadline to submit something to the auction is March 1. It would take me the entire rest of February to produce a decent painting--and I would not want to submit anything less than my best--and I really need the rest of this month (along with next month, too, of course) to prepare for my solo show.

So, I've decided not to worry about entering the alumni exhibit.

I think being ready for my solo show is more important.

24 January 2011

Art Full-Time...

An artist friend of mine, who quit his job several months ago to become a full-time artist, posted on Facebook today that he's looking for another job.

He has been one of my best "cheerleaders"; he's been very enthusiastic about the "spider" paintings, and has really encouraged me to get my latest stuff into galleries and shows around town.

I was really hoping he'd be able to create art, full-time, from now on. (I'm sure he was, too!)

Times are tough, my friends. Really tough!

Ever since reading his post, I've been thinking about what it really means to be a "full-time artist".

A while ago I posted something in the "Art Business" forum at about creating 'a decent year's' worth of art. Basically, artists who wants to make (for example) $30,000.00 (net earnings) from art sales, need to create and sell! around $75,000.00 worth of art in a twelve-month period (since galleries take--on average--forty percent, plus there will be taxes to pay, as well)!

This is not an easy task! First, it means creating (on average) around $6,000.00 worth of art every month for an entire year.

To put this in perspective, last year, I made $4,500.00 worth of art--total (at my current prices). Now, last year, I did start several pieces which will be finished this year, but the work that went into them, will be added to this year's total.

I do have about a dozen pieces available that were created before last year. But, even if everything I started last year was now completed, and if we added the older stuff in with the new, I still wouldn't have anywhere near $70,000.00 worth of art to sell.

And then, even if I had $70,000.00 worth of art "in stock", I'd only earn (forty percent of) it, if every single piece was purhcased.

And that's only if one wants to earn the (rather modest) sum of (roughly) $30,000.00 a year. Any artist who wants to earn more than that, is going to need to create and sell a correspondingly larger amount of work. (Or, be able to charge correspondingly higher prices!)

I think I have a good idea of what makes a good painting. I think I have some decent original ideas. I know my materials fairly well, and know something about how to use them. I am starting to get into local gallery shows, and I've sold several pieces in the past few months.

But, there is still a TON of stuff I don't have any ideas how to do. I don't know how to make enough art (while still working a full-time job) that I'll have enough art available to be purchased, that I can sell enough to feel comfortable quitting my full-time job, to become an artist full-time.

And, I don't yet know how to consistently sell my work, so that most of what I make, is bought in a reasonable amount of time.

My goal is for me to be able to create art full-time. I know that this means I'll have to become much more business-savvy than I currently am. (I suspect it may also mean that a percentage of the art I am going to make, will be made primarly for the market, rather than for "art's sake". What percentage, I have no idea. Hopefully, not too large...!)

Anyway, maybe this information will help someone out there--and I hope it hasn't been too depressing. It's not sexy, and it certainly isn't fun, but I may touch on this subject again from time to time, because it is a huge part of what it means to try to make a living as an artist.

13 January 2011

The Presentation of Spiders (in progress)
20x40 inches, oils on panel.

Well, the group show in February seems to have fallen through. The gallery owner is remodelling the gallery, and doesn't expect the work to be done in time for a February opening. His March show will be an exhibit of tattoo art, so...that's that.

But, it looks like I'll be hanging the six unsold "Face" paintings at at yet another gallery in the popular, downtown KC "Crossroads" arts district--

--tomorrow night! I don't know much about this place, other than it comes rather highly recommended. I know they have "First Friday" openings--only occasionally, but well-attended.

So, I'm hopeful. It's odd, that in little over four months since the first show of my work post-college, I've now worked with three different Crossroads galleries!

It feels good. Really good. I'd love to sell the completed "Faces", buy more paint, upgrade my computer (visit the dentist, fix the cars, take a real--our-of-town--vacation...)

The image is a painting I started my seniour year (Fall, 2005) that has haunted me ever since. It was never completed during school, was harshly critiqued by my instructor, and is one of those paintings that I've always felt needed to be done.

So, I'm doing it. I'm hoping to have it ready in time for the April opening.

04 January 2011

Stronger and less sticky...

I started re-working the tarantula tonight, and it's slow-going (but going well). A couple of the legs had some small stress-fractures, and having it back in my care allowed me to repair them (before they worsened).

Once the cement has set (overnight) I can remove more of the tacky clear-coat.

The mineral spirits I have to use to remove the old clear-coat (that I shouldn't have used in the first place; hindsight, don't ya know!) is some nasty stuff, and I have to take frequent breaks.

Anyway, when it's (re)done, it's going to look (and last) better than ever!

Here's another view...

01 January 2011

Not quite finished...

Here is the latest sculpture, Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula, 13x13x9 inches--finished (but not quite finished).

Apparently, this was a big hit with its recipient, but parts of it remain tacky. So, I'm going to carefully remove the rest of the tacky finish (which will probably entail re-painting part of this yet again), then finish it with a more compatible clear-coat.

This project was a huge learning experience. I'd love to make more of these, but I'm not ready to face another project quite like this--just yet!