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Monday, March 30, 2015

Flying on Half-Finished Wings

Night Hawk, salvaged objects and materials with polymer clay, oil paint and wax.
Tracie Thompson, 12.5" h x 8" w x 5.25" d
I hope you'll click this photo to enlarge it; the pared-down-for-fast-loading blog version loses so much. 

This was finished last night, and in a sense it was 5 years in the making: that's how long I've had the main piece, which was once part of a wooden planter but which, when I found it, was debris along the tracks in Robbinsdale. I took home several of these slats, and have now used all but one.

The "2437" piece, I picked up in a parking lot on Ford Parkway about 3 years ago. It was night, and I had a fever, but I was out walking anyway. I recall that I had a reason for that, but not what it was.

Originally the plan was to truly finish the bird's wings. There were going to be more feathers and I thought I'd paint them black. Yet the longer I worked, the less I wanted to do that, and the more I liked the feeling of the wings half-constructed yet still somehow working: It felt like life as I know it, and so it stayed.

This piece is available, $350. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Charm for Hope and Comfort


About seven years ago, when my Grandma Thompson was still alive and I was still in Florida, I found several of these little bluebirds half buried in her back yard. I'd been making art with rescued materials for a long time by then, so I plucked the little birds from the dirt and took them home. They came with me to Minnesota, and since the move I had used all but this last one, whose tail was broken when I found her and had to be glued. Over the past couple days I worked out this design and assembled it; it's one of the smallest of this series of works at about 6" high. 

All my salvaged-object pieces are about hope and comfort, even when they're also about a lot of other things. There's a meaning for me in choosing to use materials and items which have been deemed 100% worthless, either by being abandoned, forgotten, or outright discarded. It feels like a way to honor all the parts of our own selves which have taken a beating or been neglected or deemed unimportant. 


Monday, March 16, 2015

Still in Art School

If you make art, and you want to do it really well, you're a student. You're always and forever a student, even when you're the instructor sometimes, even when you're getting into galleries and making sales and impressing your family and friends. This is because the moment you decide you know enough, is the moment you stop making really good art.

Red Coffeepot, 9 x 12" oil on canvas board, study from class. $60.

So here's me, being a student. This still life experiment is from my class with Derek Davis last week, where I'm continuing to learn about color and about how to loosen up my work and let go of some of my tendency to nitpick and to make edges too well defined. Is it a masterpiece? Nope. But it's a fun study that makes me happy and will probably end up brightening someone's kitchen. 

And I learn from each of these. For this one, I learned a little more about how much I could get away with blurring the edges, and how much form I could create with a big, shabby brush. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Remember the Owl?

I finished it last night, quite late, like the owl I've always been.


Any time there are owls in my art, it's got something to do with my dad, who could call to them and get them not only to respond but to come close. This is a barred owl, the kind he could talk to. I haven't titled it yet because there are so many associations I have with these birds that I'm having a hard time narrowing it down. Its working title has been Owl House, and it may just stay that way.

This is 17" high and -- I say this because I've had a couple folks ask if that was an actual, stuffed owl -- no owls were harmed in the making of this art. The owl is oil paint and black pencil on a thin piece of tin I found discarded around an old barn.


I salvaged the wire, both the heavy copper and the fine stuff, from a friend who had scrap she was throwing out. The central spire is a surveyor's stake I found while walking around Saint Paul. The heavenly bodies are bits of found-on-the-street jewelry, gears, washers, and punched-out pieces of metal from the mill district along Minnehaha Ave near 38th. 


I want to thank Bob at Front Yard Video in Florida, for giving me permission to use still images from his owl videos as reference photos. 

This piece is available, $500. I will have it on display in April at Saint Paul Art Crawl, at J.A. Geiger Studio, provided it hasn't yet sold. 



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Upcoming (small) Show!


I've been honored with an exhibit at Saint Paul's East Side Arts Council! If you come out on the 10th for the opening, you'll find me there creating art on site. The Arts Council Gallery is a compact space, so I'll be exhibiting a couple large paintings along with many smaller original works -- as well as some reproductions and greeting cards. These will be on display through the end of April.

Opening and Art Demo: Tuesday, March 10, 6 to 8 p.m.

East Side Arts Council is at 977 Payne Avenue, Saint Paul, 55130

Monday, February 23, 2015

Can it be Spring Yet?



I miss drawing flowers. 

Can't wait to curry out my horse's winter coat and come home covered in horse hair. 

Lilacs. I want lilacs. And tulips, and daffodils. 

Meanwhile, I've got a huge canvas of ranunculus flowers that's been lingering unfinished on my studio wall for almost a year. Perhaps this week I can get that started again, and feel a little warmer. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Storybook Portrait Project: Characters Wanted

Robin of Dogwood Forest, 10 x 8" mixed media on paper, based on a snapshot. Sold.

I began painting animal portraits at the end of 2008, after Robbinsdale --without so much as issuing a snow emergency-- towed my truck from its parking spot on the street, and charged me $200 that I really didn't have at the time. I had just moved from Florida, I didn't have a good job, but I did have the Internet. I told my online friends I would create custom art for them, small works at a small price, and at least half of the requests I got were for dogs and cats. One was a guinea pig. One was an actual pig. Then the inquiries about larger and more complex portraits began coming in. I've been doing this ever since.

Queen Ruby, approx. 13" x 11", mixed media on paper. In the reference photo, she was lounging on a beige carpeted kitty condo.  Sold.
Thing is, lots of artists do traditional animal portraits. And lots of them are very good. And meanwhile, my one-step-sideways brain has kept pulling me toward portraying these creatures as heroes of their own stories. The response to the handful I've done so far has been remarkable, and I want to greatly expand my portfolio of these storybook portraits. So I'm going back to where I started, to the Internet.

His Coat Reflects the Sky, 11 x 11" mixed media on paper. Available unframed, $350; framed, $500

I am seeking photos of dogs, cats, horses, birds, any creature you'd like to see as part of this alternate world of mine. All species will be considered, so if you have rabbits or lizards, I'm still interested. I will choose ten characters, and they'll become part of a calendar for 2016. They will also be available as prints and greeting cards.  

Purchase of the originals is optional. If you'd like to commission yours, the cost is $250 (I happily accept payments) for 8 x10" to 9 x 12" works on paper. Larger paintings can be done upon request. This is an introductory offer, and ends May 1st, 2015, when the price for commissions goes up to $400. 

Interested? Use my contact link here, or send me a message on Facebook. 

Patron Saint of Storytellers, 10 x 8" mixed media on paper.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Owls in Kindergarten

That's when I first remember drawing owls. I was five. My owl lived in a hollow in a big, dead tree, in the middle of a flat, open, kindergarten landscape. That drawing was the first time I stopped coloring the sky as a band of bright blue across the very top of the page. I was very proud of it, and I wish I still had it. 

 

37 years later, and I'm working on this piece. It's about 12" high, made of wood and metal and other salvaged items I picked up off the ground. What you see here is the point at which I've got the design figured out, and am about to start applying oil paint. The "house" part, which was a discarded surveyor's stake, will be shades of blue and green. The owl is a barred owl, and I'll paint it fairly realistically. 

When it's finished, I'll post more photos, and tell you why I've loved owls all my life.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Beyond "Yes" or "No" to Charity Auction Requests?

Today, I got yet another well-intentioned request to donate my art.

Once the initial flash of irritation passed, I had to acknowledge that this charity auction trend, and the damage it does to artists, is in large part our own fault.

Wait, what?
This pretty little landscape in oil on a wood panel, 9 x 12" sold in a silent auction for $35. Heartbreaking for me as the artist. It was the Last Straw for me and silent auctions; I never have or will put art in another one.
No, I mean it. We artists have helped create this monster. We've been complicit in this scenario in which, if you want original art, you stand a good chance of snagging it at 50% off retail just by waiting for the annual charity auction -- so why get it from the gallery, or directly from the artist? We've allowed the perceived worth of all our work to be driven downward by every piece that goes for 20% of its value on a "silent auction" table.

Most artists understand all this. Most of us (myself included) still donate to a cause or two each year, simply because we believe in and support it. Most of us complain to each other about the endless stream of donation requests. Then we say yes or no to the next one, and the next, and the next, and complain some more. We talk to each other about this problem all the time.

What if we started talking to the people who ask us?

Today, I did. My reply is below. It's a drop in a vast ocean, it will likely go unheeded, but it sure did make me feel better. Anyone else who thinks it will make them feel better is welcome to adapt it for their own use.

_________

Hello, [Donation Requester].

Thank you for contacting me. Like most artists, I do work with a few charitable causes each year, and have done so for a very long time. And, like a great many artists who have donated for years, I am having more and more trouble continuing to do this under the current operating model.

To be clear, I am not necessarily saying no. I am inviting the leadership at [Charitable Organization] to consider having an honest discussion with the arts community about the trend of charity art auctions, why they are almost always a bad business move for the artists involved, and what can be done so that artists can continue supporting causes we care about without undercutting our own livelihood. These auctions, especially because there are now so many of them, are actively harming artists. Very, very few of the organizations who ask us to donate understand this. I believe that if they did, the fundraising model would change in many ways.

If you'd care to learn more, I can put your organization in touch with resources such as [Local Arts Group], to help come up with better ideas for fundraising that, if it doesn't help the artists, at least doesn't hurt us.

Thank you so much for your consideration,

Tracie Thompson



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It Must be SO NICE to Make Art All the Time!

That's what I often hear from people when I tell them what I do for a living. Surely we artists spend most of our time in creative bliss in our studios.

In the words of the internet, LOL NO.

Want to know what it's really like? Here's my current white board, which I stopped writing on when I ran out of room.

I wrote this half an hour ago and have already added five more items.
This is a mere fraction of what's on my plate as an independent small business owner. Just for starters, the stuff about show proposals, doing my taxes, getting more greeting cards printed, buying frames for things to sell at Crawl, creating a new mailing list, and a couple dozen other items, aren't on here.
 
A professional artist who manages to spend even 50% of her working time in her studio is an exception and the rest of us want to know how she does it. Generally it involves hiring out a whole lot of items, which I intend to do just as soon as possible.