Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Self Portraits Drunken Horses

Ron Ehrlich

Self Portraits Drunken Horses

Ron Ehrlich, Drunken Horse Series

Opening reception for the painter:

Thursday, October 25th 5-7 p.m.

Roger Williams University
School of Law
Atrium Gallery, 2nd Floor
Sponsored by Art On Campus
and in coordination with the ArtNight Bristol/Warren schedule

You can see more of Ron's work at his representative's gallery website:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Dharma of a Life in Art

Michael Rich in the Studio, Photo: Will Morgan
Asked to give a talk to the Intersections group last night on galleries and the ins and outs of the profession, I settled instead on giving a more expansive talk on a few things I have learned in my life as a painter.  I've long thought about these ideas but rarely have the chance to expand on them in the context of a class. I'll call them, my Dharma.

1. Make the work that you love.
Making art is a lifelong practice.  You should find great pleasure in the act of creating - in the daily search and journey that you are on.  If you contrive to make work that is “hip”, “fashionable”, “contemporary” or in the “current trends” - you may, in fact succeed.  But today’s trend is in tomorrow’s dustbin and will soon become tired, old-fashioned and out of style.  Worrying about what is contemporary is like trying to play the stock market, buying and selling frequently to catch the upward trends.  This is art as strategy and is not authentic.  Art is long-term.  Make what is authentically you.  Don’t worry about what is cool.
Michael Rich, Lotus, 2012, oil and wax on canvas, 26 x 22 in
2. All art is local.
Only a very small percentage of the world’s art is made and sold in New York.  The Chelsea gallery scene is not the center of the universe.  As an artist, you can live and work anywhere.  Find the place that suits you best, and find a community to support the work that you do locally.  Connect to real people and cultivate a home base.  Show your work in the community, get involved in the local arts scene.  Join a cooperative or an artist’s association.  Start where you are.

3. Create a community of artists.
Cultivate friendships with artists around you whose work you admire - begin today.  In school, people interested in art are in close proximity every day, in classes in the studio building and on campus.  In life, that changes.  Working in the studio can be a lonely business.  Your artist friends will be there to offer criticism, talk about the joys and struggles in the studio and share in the journey.  Start today making those friends and work to keep them over time.

One of my First Galleries, the South Wharf Gallery on Nantucket
4. Have a support system.
Keep track of all of those who have offered encouragement, come to your exhibits or possibly purchased your work (though this is not a requisite quality of true admiration).  Involve these people in your artistic life.  Social media only goes so far - send direct notes, invite people to your studio, let them know what is going on creatively with you.  As admirers of your work, they will be invested in you and your success.  Start with your circle of friends and family and keep widening that circle.  Keep a mailing list and use it frequently - but not too much.  You never know where the next helping hand may come from.  For that matter, be the same for someone else.  Artists are not in competition - they can’t possibly be - as each of us as individuals is on a very different path

5. Be generous with your work.
I believe in art karma.  If you authentically search every day in your studio for real depth and meaning to your work, the work will become a personal record of the path that you are on - like a trail of breadcrumbs left behind as you walk through the deepest woods.  Give your work away - to friends, to family, to your fellow artists - to your compatriots and comrades.  I’m not talking about undermining the business model of selling the work that you do but in deepening the friendships that you have through sharing the work that you make.  When the opportunity arises to make a trade with another artist or to offer something up to someone who admires what you do or helps you along the way - take it, be generous.

6. Professional is an attitude.
Having a degree in art does not make you a professional artist.  There are no certificates that can be hung on your wall or exams you need to take.  You simply decide that making art is more than a passing hobby.  You believe that what you do has value.  Being a professional does not mean selling out.  See #1.  If you make work that is authentically you, then professional is the way in which you comport yourself.  Act the part.  Treat your work professionally in everything that you do and how you represent yourself.

7. Get a studio.
Maybe the most important point here - have a place designated for working.  If you can afford to have a small space away from where you live or can share a studio - for some people this is ideal.  My first studio cost 100 dollars a month - there are places like that out there.  It allows you to bracket your time spent there as working time.  But even if you only have a room or area in your apartment, it’s important that you have a place to be messy, to hang up pictures of your inspirations.  Have a place where you can sit and think and look at your work.  The studio is your cauldron of ideas.
Michael Rich Summer Studio, Nantucket 2012

8. Be the master of your craft.
What is your craft?  If it’s painting, learn everything there is to know about color and mixing and supports and grounds - know the history of the craft of your medium.  If you invent your own process or way of working as many artists do, then become the greatest master of that process.  Know what is going on in your medium in the art world today.  Continue to learn the technology that you embrace and push the medium to its limits.
Mixing Paint, Pawtucket Studio, Photo: Ashleigh Carraway

9. Value your time and the work that you do.
One thing I have learned the hard way, is to not say “I’m going to the studio” instead to always say “I’m going to work”.  People who aren’t artists - friends or even your significant other - may equate studio time with “play time" and may not understand how valuable this time is for you.  They may ask you to do something or go somewhere in a way they never would if you were at a normal job.  If you treat your time as valuable, only then will those around you do so as well.  Value the work that you make.  When it comes time to put a price to the things you do, remember the time spent.

10.  Be more organized than anyone you know.
Artists are notoriously difficult to deal with.  If you are courteous, professional, organized and easy to work with, you are already way ahead of your competition.  When dealing with galleries or in any professional setting, be the most prepared and present yourself in the most professional way.  Your portfolio, website and all business correspondence should convey the attitude that you know what you are doing, that you’re not a student or an amateur.  This alone will often be the difference between getting a shot at having a show or not - making a sale or not.  Doors will open for you because of how you comport yourself.

11. Have a plan B.
Here’s the hard truth: most artists work some other job to keep food on the table.  I don’t know any artists - save a few who have trust-funds - who don’t have to work.  Even the most successful artists I know teach, wait tables, have a side business, build houses or fish for a living.  This can be a good thing.  Find work that is satisfying and can fund your artistic habit.  The good news is that if you have a job, you may not have to rely on art sales.  This can be liberating - meaning your work can grow through experimentation and the kind of play that is so necessary to the creative process without the pressure of having your work be of salable quality.  When sales come, it’s a bonus - you can buy more paint, pay the studio rent.  But it’s important not to lean on your work for money in it’s early stages of development.  This makes time management an invaluable skill as you figure out ways to make work on a daily basis.
Lucy, in the studio

12. The first rule of business.
Simple - bring in more in income than you spend in a year.  Budget.  Don’t run up credit cards.  Don’t overspend.  Be resourceful.  Look for funding through grants and awards.  Be frugal.  Even when you are successful, continue this attitude.  Putting yourself in a financial hole only serves to put more pressure on you and your work than is good for you.

13. The Van Gogh Rule.
Be prolific.  Van Gogh made the equivalent of a painting a day for the ten years that he worked as an artist.  No artist ever accomplished greatness without being prolific - with the notable exception of Vermeer who only left us with 32 paintings.  You are not Vermeer - sorry.

14. Up the ante.
This was a favorite saying of one of my graduate school teachers who overused this phrase - but it works, so I’m stealing it.  What it means is how do you raise the stakes in your artistic work?  It means taking risks, challenging yourself to go further than you ever thought possible.  Give yourself room to fail.  But mostly, think bigger, get ambitious, don’t settle for what you have done before.  Get out on the frontier of Art and live in the wild places.

15. Read right.
Sketchbook Page with Thumbnails for a 2004 exhibition at the Old Spouter Gallery
Most of us need to learn how to read.  Not that we don’t know how - but we don’t know what kind of reading we ought to be doing.  Once out of school, the assigned readings stop.  So where do you go in reading and how do you read?  Your work, at the heart of your life, is an extension of who you are, what you know, how you feel about the world and your response to it.  Read in a way that feeds your inner creative monster.  You need to read not to learn facts but to get ideas - not to solve problems but to find them.  The most successful among us read broadly to understand a wide range of idea.  In studio practice at a high level, one needs to blend an awareness of art history, critical analysis and general education.  Read everyday - make this your continuing education.
Exhibition at George Billis Gallery, New York, 2006

16. Gallerists - blood sucking vampires or your biggest fan - you choose.
If you work and show your work locally, if you cultivate a fan base and if you make good personal connections over time, you will make better choices about who represents your work.  Never go into a gallery situation blindly or without knowing the people involved.  Take the time to get to know them.  Gallery directors speak for your work, when you cannot.  Their enthusiasm for who you are and what you do is what gets others interested in your work.  The most you can ask is that a gallery supports you when your work is going well and when it isn’t.  That they care about you as a human being and that they treat you with dignity and decency.  This is rare but it doesn’t have to be.  Don’t be naive.  Keep your eyes open.  Never pay to show your work with someone.  You are providing a gallery with a rare and unique commodity - your work - for no cost, then splitting the sale 50/ 50.  Be smart use your personal connections to find the right representative for you.

17. Success is as you define it.
My Daughter, Tess on the left at the exhibition, 2006
This may seem an obvious point.  But it's important.  Financial success is not the only measure of happiness in one's life.  Keep things in perspective, understand what is important - friends and family.  Measure the success of your work not by sales but by the depth of authenticity and the contributions it makes to the human spirit.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jessica Lundberg Installation - Boston City Hall

Jessica Lundberg (VARTS 2011), is part of a great new exhibition at Boston City Hall. On view through November 30.  Way to go Jessica - you rock!

Jessica has a Tumblr page here: - though it's a little out of date.  C'mon Jess, update that bad boy - you're as bad as me!  We want to see this new work!

Beautiful Work - title Jess?

Jessica Lundberg (right with Professor Tayo Heuser in 2011)

Jessica adjusting the lighting on her installation, Franklin St Warehouse, 2011

Monday, October 15, 2012

Amy Animates!

RWU Digital Media and Drawing Faculty, Amy Lovera, has work in:
Beard & Weil Gallery
Wheaton College

Opening this Wednesday,
Oct 17 from 6-8 PM

You can catch the show until Nov 20. The gallery is open from 12:30-4:30
Go Amy - You Rock!

Check out Amy's Vimeo page: HERE

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We're Still Here!

So I fell off the social media bandwagon over the last semester.  Not that the Spring was any busier than any other semester - but it was busy, nonetheless and our Blog suffered for it.  Fall is off to a great start!  The RWU Art Club is coming back to life, Art on Campus is in full swing with major exhibitions by Denny Moers, (longtime RWU adjunct faculty) and Providence artist, Ron Ehrlich.  VARTS faculty have bee showing their work around the world this Fall season - Professor Tayo Heuser is just back from an exhibit at Chateau de Fernelmont in Belguim and I my work is currently hanging at Chace-Randall Gallery in Andes New York.
With so much going on, there will be lots to post here - so, I'm back - stay tuned!

Denny Moers, Prairie Farm IV, 1996
Ron Ehrlich, Lace, 2011, 70 x 80 in, oil, mixed media on panel - Image Courtesy of Stephen Haller Gallery, NY