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