Hershey Area Art Association

Promoting, encouraging and perpetuating the fine arts and fine arts education in the region

Since 1995.

Art Matters


She is an Artist!

by MB Barrett

October 2016

This morning I ruminated on a recent conversation between my siblings. It seems that whenever I do something considered unusual or different they say “Well, she’s an artist.” They also believe that this fact is solely responsible for me “getting away with things” where they might not have. Sometimes it is said in a complimentary way as in “ask MB to make the centerpieces, she’s an artist.” Occasionally it is not complimentary as in “What is she wearing? Good thing she’s an artist.” Throughout my life I have heard my parents say to other parents, “She’s artistic.” Now I realize it was their code word for “behavior issues”. Whaaaaat?

Well they’re right. I am artistic. But imagine my surprise when I began to write this article and googled “artistic temperament” only to find this passage from The Free Dictionary;

“Artistic temperament: personality profile well described in writers, artists and composers, which, in the extreme case borders on mental illness. Artists may suffer major depression, bipolar moods disorder or cyclothymia (the latter two of which are thought to be 10-20 times more common among artists), and may commit suicide (18 times more common in those with artistic temperaments). Episodes of hypomania may for the “substrate” for creative bursts.” (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/artistic+temperament)

Again I say, Whaaaaat? But wait it gets worse… In an article in the year 2000 Dave Kelly wrote about Ernest Hemingway and the PTypes description of the traits and characteristics of the Artistic Personality Type.

“The basic trait of the Artistic personality type is a pattern of alternation between hypomanic, or irritable, and depressive moods, cognitions, and behaviors.

The Artistic personality type:

  • has a decreased need for sleep alternating with hypersomnia;
  • has shaky self-esteem: naive grandiose overconfidence alternating with lack of self-confidence;
  • has periods of sharpened and creative thinking alternating with periods of mental confusion and apathy;
  • displays marked unevenness in the quantity and quality of productivity, often associated with unusual working hours;
  • engages in uninhibited people-seeking (that may lead to hyper-sexuality) alternating with introverted self-absorption;
  • becomes excessively involved in pleasurable activities with lack of concern for the high potential of painful consequences alternating with restriction of involvement in pleasurable activities and guilt over past activities;
  • alternates between over-optimism or exaggeration of past achievement and a pessimistic attitude toward the future, or brooding about past events;
  • is more talkative than usual, with inappropriate laughing, joking, and punning: and, then, less talkative, with tearfulness or crying;
  • frequently shifts line of work, study, interest, or future plans;
  • engages in occasional financial extravagance;
  • makes frequent changes in residence or geographical location;
  • has a tendency toward promiscuity, with repeated conjugal or romantic failure;
  • may use alcohol or drugs to control moods or to augment excitement.

Ernest Hemingway fit this description almost exactly - he's my epitome of the Artistic Personality Type, which corresponds to the R7w6 and the ISFP”. Dave Kelly’s words, not mine. (http://www.9types.com/movieboard/messages/4136.html)

In case you’re unfamiliar with the ISFP (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perception) it’s an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of sixteen personality types. The MBTI assessment was developed from the work of prominent psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in his book Psychological Types.

The ISFP is called “The Adventurer” and includes celebrities like Michael Jackson, Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, Kevin Costner, and the aforementioned Ernest Hemingway. At 16personalities.com the Adventurer is described as:

Happy to Be Who They Are”

“ISFPs live in a colorful, sensual world, inspired by connections with people and ideas. ISFP personalities take joy in reinterpreting these connections, reinventing and experimenting with both themselves and new perspectives. No other type explores and experiments in this way more. This creates a sense of spontaneity, making ISFPs seem unpredictable, even to their close friends and loved ones.”

I’m taking offense at some of these characterizations. To me these descriptors appear to be formulated by the most “un-artistic” of minds.

This differentiation of the artistic mind starts in infancy and rears its head to the notice of others in grade school. While other children are practicing reading, writing and arithmetic (do they still have arithmetic?), artistically inclined children might be drawing people reading, may enjoy writing in 5 colors, and might like to embellish the numbers on their arithmetic homework. I believe they see the world in a profusion of beauty and color. There is excitability in wanting to show others the world they see. Unfortunately our education system wants conformity. Conformity is easier to control.

I’m a big fan of magnet schools. Heck, as an adult I would have started over in kindergarten if I could go to a creatively based magnet school. While I was a good student and loved school, the amount of artwork seized by my teachers and relegated to “my permanent file” probably cost the schools some bucks in file cabinets. I want to see more art in schools, not less.

I will admit to manifesting some of the characteristics of “the artistic temperament”. My extravagance at buying art and craft materials is legendary. I work odd hours because I can’t let it go when I’m creating something. I have lived in 6 states and the longest I have lived as an adult in any particular house is 5 years. I talk a lot even when alone. I’ve been married a couple of times.

I’m also 61 years old. I don’t sleep well and neither do my same age friends. At any one time I will have on hand enough art materials to make the perfect gift for a friend. I like decorating homes. My Dad once said that I move often because each home offers new blank walls for my personal canvases. These days it’s not unusual to be married a couple of times and I’m pretty sure the vast number of failed marriages are not because of artistic temperament.

I’m an ENTJ/INTJ on the Myers-Briggs test.

In conclusion, let it be said I will do everything in my power to let my grandchildren express their artistic temperament even if it means scrubbing the crayon off my front door 100 times. I hope all children have the opportunity to have art in school and I will fight for creative expression in education. I do not agree with Mr. Kelly or the Free Dictionary and if you call my personality “Artistic” I’ll consider it a genuine compliment.

“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.” – Oscar Wilde

By MB Barrett

After reading the results of the 2016 TEFAF (The European Fine Art Foundation) Art Market report I have a better understanding of last year’s global art market. Though I must say the results weren’t much of a surprise and confirmed my suspicions. The Fine Art market is suffering some setbacks.

“Economics professors at the University of Luxembourg have concluded that the international art market is overheating, creating the potential for a “severe correction” in the postwar and contemporary and American segments.” (As reported in an article in The Guardian in January 2016.”https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jan/17/art-market-mania-phase-bubble-report)

According to the TEFAF report the Fine Art market fell in 2015 for the first time since 2011.  Globally sales were down 7%. Overall art transactions were down 2%. Some speculators say it will get worse. Surprisingly the U.S. market increased by 4% although the growth was significantly less than in 2013-2014.  The U.S. was responsible for 43% of the market. But remember this is by value.

The art market by value means that the top percentage of sellers sold art pricedatover 1 million dollars. But that’s still less than 1% of the market.

The big winners in the art market last year were Modern Art, Post-War and Contemporary Art with Old Masters third in line.

So how were Fine Art sales made in 2016? 47% of the sales were made at auction houses. Private sales by auction houses and sales by galleries and dealers made up the other 53%. Online sales grew by 7%. Alexander Forbes in his article on the TEFAF in March of this year says “A greater number of existing collectors are buying art online or are buying more expensive works online, and/or new collectors and art buyers are entering the market through these less intimidating and more seamless marketplaces.(https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-the-10-most-important-takeaways-from-the-2016-tefaf-art-market-report)

The bad news? Art Fair sales flatlined.Forbes says this may be due to economic uncertainty more than a lack of interest.

That’s a look at the global market. It’s important for me as I hope to one day be in the global market. Until then, here’s my view on the local and the online market.

Personally, I sold very little in 2015 and all of my sales were private. The attendees at HAAA shows where I exhibited tended to look, not purchase. Their feedback was positive but their wallets stayed closed even though I offered art at prices lower than I have in my exhibiting history. Consequently I asked a number of fellow artist friends in several states about their 2015 sales. Most had the same experience as I did. My artist friends who have work that crosses the art/craft market fared a bit better.

It is my opinion is that the “print on demand” (POD) market is taking sales away from Fine Artists. Anyone can take a photo and upload it to a print-on-demand service. I have heard people say that they can spend $59.95 on a “canvas” print and get art for their home so why should they buy a $200 painting?On a recent trip to Home Goods I met an interior designer who was buying canvas prints (usually made at POD shops), most of which were under $100. At one time interior designers had their favorite artists (often local) whose art they showcased for their clients.

From my experience, in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s (and probably for 100 years prior) having an original painting was a big deal! Investing in art was considered a safe and worthwhile investment. Now with on-demand printing, Etsy, online art and craft “shop” sellers, online galleries and pop-up stores, people seem to be happy with prints on paper or canvas.It doesn’t seem important to own an original.

I am frequently asked if I have “prints” of my artwork. Getting good quality prints as many of you know can have a prohibitive upfront cost. Using print-on-demand services only works if you have excellent scans. At a professional Giclee print shop, scanning large artwork on canvas requires removing the art from the canvas. For a 24”x48” painting of mine the estimate was over $1000 for removing the work, scanning it, reattaching it to the stretchers and making a few test prints.

Online galleries that offer print-on-demand services may lack the quality of local services. In his article on issues with online galleries offering print-on-demand services Brian Sherwin says,“I have ordered prints from various POD services only to find that I did not like the quality of the print... Let's just say that 'museum quality' does not always translate, physically, to museum quality. I've found that 'museum quality', concerning POD services, often translate to nothing more than a mere glorified poster.” For more great information on this subject read his full article at http://theartedge.faso.com/blog/62725/my-problem-with-print-on-demand-pod-services-or-12-reasons-why-i-loathe-print-on-demand-services.

Where does this leave those of us selling art in the “less than $1,000,000 category? In 2016 I will concentrate on quality original artwork for sale at reasonable cost. Undoubtedly I will need to use various marketing strategies to compete with POD services and offer prints at online galleries and for sale at shows. It is unlikely that I will offer prints of my larger works as I’m unwilling to shell out the cash for large scale scans.

Personally, I will continue to make and purchase original artwork for my home. I consider these investments for my children and grandchildren and delightful for me to enjoy now.


Letting Go

            By MB Barrett

Sometimes you just have to let it go. Perhaps you have a number of canvases scaling your walls like I do. They haven’t sold, they aren’t a part of my personal collection and they are not scheduled to be in an exhibit or show. Some use a technique I was trying and though I didn’t really like the outcome I’m still holding on to the work. Others are inferior work, after all not everything is a masterpiece! But… they’re on canvas, canvas board, watercolor paper, etc., and it’s expensive. I put some valuable time into them. They’re my art!

But sometimes I have to let them go.

Artist Eugenie B. Fein  says "One painting instructor told us to destroy all inferior work annually, if not more often. He would say, "Cull the bad, keep the good, and exhibit your best." Now I’m not a fan of destroying any art though I believe it is very important to exhibit only your very best work.

A long time ago I met a woman named Georgia. She was the most exuberant, vital, smiley, joyful person I had ever met. Her backstory would break your heart and she rose above it. Not only did she rise above it, she conquered her trauma. And this is what she told me…

“If you’re not enjoying something, you’re keeping someone else from enjoying it.”

I have taken these words to heart. Not just in the items I choose to keep in my home, but with people and with my artwork. If I’m not enjoying something or someone, I let them go. There are a number of bestsellers out there now with the same message. One of my favorites is “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. In this books she suggests that you put all of your things (by category) in a pile then pick each one up. Then “keep only things that spark joy.”

This includes art materials. In a recent “house-purge” I wanted to let a cedar chest go that has been in my family for generations but no longer suits my décor or my space. I offered the chest to my family members and began unloading it. It was so full of art materials that I began to wonder where to store them. It contained 40 felt squares, a box of fake flowers all pulled apart, at least 3 lbs of papers some beautiful, some not-so-much, old broken jewelry in several containers, beads, baubles, colored pencils, crayons, chalk, paints, scraps of fabric and yards and yards of tulle.

Now I’m the McGyver of costumes. Give me a half hour and I can make you a complete costume from the items in my house. But really, do I need this stuff? Am I enjoying it? No. Could someone else enjoy it? Yes, and I know the place. Caitlin’s Smiles. http://www.caitlins-smiles.org/. Caitlin’s Smiles in Harrisburg accepts donated art materials and makes kits for seriously and chronically ill children. That makes me smile and I am enjoying the thought of giving it to them! (Again).

Some artists have separation anxiety with artwork that sells. I do. Sometimes I love something I’ve created so much that I don’t want anyone else to have it. I over-price it. Or I don’t put it up for sale. I once had a commissioned piece that I liked so much I almost didn’t go to deliver it. Loving your own art is fine as long as it has a place in your everyday life and brings you joy. If it’s stacked in a closet, that’s a problem. Sometimes you just have to let it go.

For my artwork I have another plan. Once upon a time I thought the worst thing that could happen (art-wise) would be to find my artwork at a thrift store. Now I relish the idea of putting it there. It’s all in the perception. Sometimes even though the work is beautiful it doesn’t sell. Often I give it to friends or family who express an interest. Or I give it to charity stores. Why? Because I remember being a young, single mother trying to furnish a home with limited resources. Everything was used or hand-me-downs. I scoured thrift stores (still do) for decorations. It was those finds that made my house special and mine. Now when I donate a painting I hope that some family will find it and put it on the wall in their home.

That’s the joy of letting it go.


Taking a Break from Art

By MB Barrett

As many of you know, for the last year I have been forced to take a break from painting due to medical issues. For one reason or another many of us have taken a break from art at some point in our lives, whether it was to pursue employment, family or other areas of our lives. Occasionally we just get “blocked” and can’t overcome inertia to continue creating.

Some people believe that a break from art can help us find new meaning in our work. In an article by Brandon Schaefer entitled Taking A Break Is Vital for Creating Art; (http://www.brandon-schaefer.com/2013/12/20/taking-a-break-is-vital-for-creating-art/) he states: “We are programmed by society to think that taking a break is not productive to creating anything and that we should work non-stop, but upon further inspection you will see how valuable it may be to take a break from your work.” 
He relates a time where he became so frustrated with his art not going the way he wanted it to, the negative emotions started to make him dislike that which he loved to do. To combat stagnation he decided to take a break from painting and hike for a week. On the hike he took lots of photos and videos for inspiration when he was ready to resume painting. 

Mr. Schaefer also gives some ideas for activities to do when you are in a funk. Here are a few of them (for more, see his article at the site posted above):

  • Go outside. Getting back to nature can be a huge inspiration.
  • Look at some of your favorite artist’s work – Dissect it
  • Read GREAT BOOKS from Great Artists
  • Read some stories. Using your imagination to envision scenes can supercharge your creativity.
  • Meditate. Sit in silence for a while.
  • Take a walk. Find the beauty in everything you see.
  • Clean your workspace/living area. Clutter can add to stress which makes it harder to work.
  • Draw more often. Buy a sketchbook and start sketching what you see.
  • Try different mediums. Anything from markers to pastels and beyond, give it a go!
  • Always remember that painting should be for fun and enjoyment first and foremost.

Another artist/illustrator Carla Golembe (http://carlagolembe.com/blog/sometimes-you-have-to-take-a-break) says: I paint.  That's what I do.  A painter is who I am.  Painting is my joy, my solace, my meditation, my challenge, the axis upon which my planet revolves.  I'm prolific.  When I'm not painting it's like I'm missing something as vital as food or water or air.  As soon as one piece is finished I begin working on sketches for another one.   Sometimes I have so many ideas it feels like the paintings exist in my mind queue, lining up waiting to be brought into the world.

But sometimes it's good to take a break.  Not a long one, a week or maybe two.  It's important to recharge the batteries, to get the desire back in full, to feel like you miss the act of painting so much you're just burning to get back into the studio.  Usually I break about once a year.  The other 50 or 51 weeks I paint just about every day.  It's hard to give myself permission to pause.  It's difficult not to think if I'm not painting who am I?  What value do I have to the world? 

I have insight and balance when talking about this with other artists and with my students.  "You're not a vending machine," I will say.  "Don't be so hard on yourself."  Yes, balance is important and creative ideas like the tides.  When I allow it my work always comes back more evolved and my love for and involvement with painting is stronger and deeper.

I feel much like Carla. My head is so full of ideas that there wouldn’t be time in to finish them in an entire year working every day. So not to have the physical ability to paint is like staring at a fabulous piece of chocolate and not being able to eat it! On the other hand, it has enabled me to be creative about being creative. I have watched a plethora of YouTube videos on painting and photography techniques. I took numerous photos. I have taught myself to make balloon animals which I must say is really fun. I have done some small sculpture using materials I found around the house (I can’t drive so I can’t go the art store, but thank goodness for Amazon!). In fact, without planning it, I have done something creative every single day.

Most importantly, I have spent many, many hours thinking about what art means to me. I want my art to be truly my own, not to try and turn out work just to have something to sell. Though taking a break from art was not by choice I now have an irrepressible itching in my fingers to begin painting with a new vigor.

To paraphrase Earl Wilson,

A break is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.




                                              by MB Barrett

There are many things I do well. Photographing my artwork is not one of them. My large scale work is particularly problematic. Having good quality photographs of your art is essential for exhibitions, publication and promotion. It is also vital for making prints and selling online.

Researching the subject I have discovered some recurring threads of advice. The following is a synopsis of various articles.

  1. When possible photograph your work outside on a light but not sunny day. An overcast day works best and avoid direct sunlight which may cause “white spots”. If working indoors use natural light whenever possible, light bulbs have their own color cast. Make sure your artwork is against a simple background, preferably white or gray. Saatchi Art has a great website with tutorials at http://www.saatchiart.com/artschool.
  2. Try to get your work as upright as possible. Using an easel can leave you with a bit of the substrate cut off at the bottom from the tray. Put a small piece of wood on the tray to compensate. Hang your art on a wall if not using an easel. If you can’t get the work upright, match the angle of the camera to the angle of the work. Focus directly on the middle of the art and don’t use a wide-angle lens. In the viewfinder make sure the edges are straight and the camera and art are both level.
  3. Use a tripod or other stable form to steady the camera. If you don’t have access to something, here’s a little trick I learned, just before you take the photo, take a deep breath and hold it. Don’t know why this works, but it does.
  4. Zoom in or out a little on your camera. The lens will work better if it is not in the preset mode.
  5. Setting up the camera. Here are some tips from the University of Colorado Boulder. You can read more of this document at http://cuart.colorado.edu/resources/vrc/tips/photographing-2d/

Camera settings

  • Set the camera to shoot in RAW (this will give you the most digital information)
  • Set the ISO to 100 (this will reduce “noise” in the digital image)
  • Set the camera to “aperture priority” (this will keep the aperture locked)
  • Set the aperture to f/8 or higher (this will put more of the image in focus)
  • Set the white balance if shooting in jpeg or tiff (Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Custom, etc)
  • If you have mixed lighting you can create a custom white balance or just shoot in RAW
  • Set the camera to timer mode (this is to minimize camera shake)

Even though I was a graphic artist for many years and know the importance of setting the white balance on a computer screen, I never thought of it with regards to my camera. It’s not complicated and a great website to learn to do this is http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/05/23/how-to-set-custom-white-balance-for-perfect-colours/.

  1. Take lots of photos of each piece. Try changing settings and take a couple of shots with each setting. This will allow you to choose the perfect photo.
  2. When saving files use 2 formats, high resolution and jpeg. The jpeg will smaller and will be better for the web. Make sure you don’t overwrite the hi-res file! Use SAVE AS and make sure you add JPG to the file name so you know the difference. (See tips on naming files in this article).

Despite all the right settings and light you can get photographs that look “warped” at the edges. Using a photo editing software can fix the issue. A great step-by-step instructable can be found at http://emptyeasel.com/2008/01/03/how-to-square-up-photos-of-your-art-in-photoshop-with-free-transform-liquify/. Any photo editing software that has “crop” and “straighten” will also work. Here’s another tutorial on using these features. http://photoshop4artists.blogspot.com/2009/04/photoshop-tips-cropping-and-fixing.html. A list of the best FREE editing software includes: GIMP, Photoscape, PaintNet and Picasa. Online tutorials for these programs abound.

Sometimes it’s best to bite the bullet and have your work professionally copied. If you know a great photographer who will shoot art, you’re lucky. Though often expensive, you can get work photographed or scanned at very high resolution at companies that make high-quality prints, like giclee. They will give you a disk with your images. If your work is flat (paper or board) it is less expensive because it can be scanned directly. If your work is on stretched canvas, you will need to remove it from the stretchers or pay to have it removed by the company doing the work (scanning is less expensive than photographs). Otherwise the edges will skew. The good thing about having these companies doing the work is that they are responsible for making sure the finished product matches the original and is free of defects of any kind (like spots from dust on your camera lens, don’t forget to wipe it with a lint-free or microfiber cloth or a lens cleaning wipe.)

Be fastidious in storing your photos. Make sure you label the photos with names that make sense to you. The last thing you want to do is have to go through hundreds of photos on your hard drive or removable drives looking for the one you want. All cameras use a sequential number to identify the photos as they are taken. This leads to descriptive file names like DSC0190 and IMG_8097. When you look at these photo file names later on, it is almost impossible to tell what the contents of the photo might be. If you name the files yourself, this won’t happen.

A suggestion is to use the name of the piece and the date created, perhaps using the year, month, then title as in 2014_8_pearsinabowl. Using the year first will organize them automatically in the hierarchy of computer lists, and having the date may help should you ever need to file a claim with insurance (for loss during shipping, theft or damage at an installation). Also be sure to add JPG to your low-res files so you know the difference, 2014_8_pearsinabowl_jpg. Use the underscore (“_”) between the words. File names are tricky and some programs don’t like names like 2014/8/pearsinabowl.

Lastly Make A Backup! Make Two! Keep one in a safe. Losing photographs of your artwork is catastrophic! I have lost the disk containing pictures of the jewelry I made in 2004. People ask me if I can make them one like my “blue stone with the gold leaves” and I have no idea what they’re talking about. Make A Backup! And when technology changes, make a copy on the new type of storage. It’s hard to get the files from your 3.5” floppy if you have a computer built since 2011.

If you have tips or techniques for photographing artwork, please share. If you are a photographer who will shoot work for HAAA artists please let us know.  Click on button below to share your information with other HAAA members.

I’m going to try again using these tips. I’ll keep you posted.


March 2015

Writing Your Artist Statement/Bio

By MB Barrett

Why do you need an Artist Statement or Bio?

The artist statement and/or bio is often needed to submit for gallery exhibitions, juried shows, newspaper or magazine articles, and grants, scholarships or other funding opportunities. Writing your statement and/or bio can also have additional benefits in your growth as an artist.

What’s the difference between the two?

The Artist Statement

The artist statement usually accompanies an exhibit, portfolio or article and explains your body of work. It’s a supplement to the visual information in your exhibition or portfolio and provides a better understanding of your process and/or motivation.

When crafting your artist statement think of your reader and try to construct a document that can help them imagine your work even if they haven’t seen it. Although many of us are more visual than verbal, being articulate about our art is important for generating conversation and discussion regarding our work. Engaging with our audience encourages conversation and as I’ve said before, conversation is what often leads not only to sales, but to great interest and reviews. However, writing a good statement can be challenging.

It doesn’t have to be difficult. There are some guidelines. Consider these questions when writing your artist statement:

  • What am I doing, what is the basis of my work?
  • How am I doing it, how do I construct, what medium?
  • Why have I chosen the medium, the imagery, the color palette?
  • What factors, artists, techniques influence me?
  • How does my art fit into the world of art now?
  • What do I want others to take away after viewing my art?

Keep your artist statement between 100 and 500 words. A longer statement is suitable for publication in magazine articles or journals or to accompany submissions to curators. Some artists profess that if your artist statement is powerful, the shorter the better.

A shorter statement is a good introduction to your work and may be used as a preface to a letter or entry submission.

A very short statement (a few sentences) is what I call the “social statement”. It’s what you say about your work when you meet someone at an event, party or social gathering. It’s perfect for shows where you have a short time with attendees. This is the one you should practice until you can say it very naturally in any conversation. Practice with your friends and some other artists to be sure you’re getting your message across clearly. For example, here’s one I’ve been working on for a show opening:

Hello, I’m MB Barrett, from Hershey, PA. Thank you for your interest in my work. This series of paintings is an attempt to show how people perceive color differently. The titles of the paintings are the words for the color, and the short poems are my impression of the words.

(As I’ve mentioned in previous articles I often let people know where I live should they want to find me later. Try googling your name and town and/or state and see if there is link. One person who had been searching for me for many years found me online by doing this and being directed to an online artist website)

Be absolutely certain your statement is well-constructed, grammatically correct and has no misspellings. Check your punctuation. Have a friend or friends read it to make sure it is clear and concise. Try not to use buzzwords, “art speak” or descriptors like “beautiful” or “excellent”. This is not the place for flowery speech or saying “I have been painting since I was a child.”

Use powerful, thought provoking statements but with care. For fun, go online and read some artist statements. Many of them will make you roll your eyes. On quite a few I lost my interest after the first line and wondered if the artist actually spoke this way in real life. Others captured my attention and I wanted to know more about the work.

Here’s an example of an artist statement for Jodie White-Gordon, from Smithfield, VA who makes exquisite art dolls;

The Original Trinket Doll ventured out of mystical existence over 15 years ago. This unusual doll is truly an American treasure, being a rare species combining art, function and ‘handcraftery’ in a way that ignites the imagination and sends it spinning into fantasy. Each Trinket Doll is chock full of secret pockets, treasures, and stories that unfold upon examination. 

Remember finding a 'lucky' coin, a 'magic' stone, a 'mystery' key? The Original Trinket Doll has emerged to remind us that those first imaginary seeds we planted as children are indeed precious keepsakes for future generations.

The newest creations, Trinket Angels & Mermaids are for adults looking for the same Trinket Doll philosophy in a smaller scale to suit their home. These wall hangings utilize Trinket Doll materials: a combination of interesting fabrics, trim and trinkets, and convey unique stories of blessings for the cherished people in our lives.

An artist's work always tells a story about who they are ... we grab the tools that comfort us, while we toil away trying to create an emotional connection. I hope my creations speak for me.

For more information on artist statements, the following websites are good sources:




The Artist Bio

The artist’s bio is different from the statement. “An artist bio is a summarized, narrative version of your resume, but shorter and with more personality. Bios are used in your professional package, as part of a catalogue at an exhibition, in publicity and printed programs, and other promotional materials. Your artist biography should integrate portions of your resume and artist statement. In general, bios are more factual about you as an artist, whereas statements are more about the ideas, concepts and techniques behind your work.” (The Maryland Institute College of Art - Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development).

In certain circumstances your bio should also include a list of exhibitions, galleries, websites, etc., where your work is or has been shown.

The artist bio should include:

  • Where you currently live
  • Education and/or training in art
  • Art related experience
  • A summary of the artist’s philosophy
  • Techniques employed by the artist
  • A short description of what you would like to accomplish with your art

Keep your bio short, 1 to 2 paragraphs. Have your list of exhibits and galleries with dates where you have exhibited your work as a separate page but make sure you include any notable events into the body of the bio. Write about yourself in the 3rd person.

Here’s an example: (from http://www.centralartwalk.com/2012/07/artist-bio-vs-artist-statement.html)

Phillip Estine is a contemporary abstract painter and part-time curator for the Foo Gallery in Waterloo, ON. He received a MFA Degree from the University of Waterloo, and has participated in over 20 group shows and 10 solo shows in the United States and Canada. He has lived in Toronto, New York, and San Francisco, and is currently residing in Kitchener. His paintings are mostly oil on canvas and his signature work consists of bright, bold colours, with heavily-layered impasto effects.

There are several great websites to help you. Try:

        http://www.bakerartistawards.org/ - Click on a work of art and read the profile of the artist.



Be sure to update both your statement and your bio each time it is warranted. Also, be sure to follow instructions to the letter when submitting either document to exhibits, contests and journals. If the submission requires 500 words, that’s what you’ll need, no more, no less. Having the documents ready will be a good starting place and updating them periodically will help you evaluate your progress.

I would also suggest you have a good quality photograph of yourself to submit with either document. In some cases you will be asked to provide one. Cropping yourself out of a family photograph will not do. Consider how you might like to look represented on a gallery wall next to your artwork and update the photo as your look changes. Be certain the background of the photo is not distracting and that you are the focus.

Most of us have written our CV’s for work or have sent resumes countless times. As an artist it’s equally important to represent ourselves as professionals. For me evaluating my “body of work” by updating my statement and bio gives me insight. I sometimes find that I have been painting very randomly almost as “exercises” and my work does not show as a group. I then have to determine if it’s time to focus on a strategy or theme or to continue working on a technique. I also find that as some of my work sells, the “body of work” is no longer cohesive as portrayed by the statement or bio and the documents may need to be rewritten. In fact, that’s what has happened now and writing this article has brought it to light. Ah, serendipity!

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

 – Edgar Degas

December 2014 and February 2015

ART as a Career

By MB Barrett

There are few of us who make a great living from our art right from the get-go, and many, if not most of us work other jobs to fund our passion.

I’m not a big fan of the term professional artist as it sounds as if the rest of us are “unprofessional” artists who are less dedicated or talented, so let me say that if you’re planning on making art your sole source of income (or even as a part-time business), then “planning” is the number one first step. Starting any business requires a business plan and art as your business is no different. Every business needs a road map of where it intends to go. Here are steps 1-5 of a 10-point plan (pilfered from Helen South’s Kick Start Your Career on How.com).

1. Develop a Business Plan

A good business plan can be as easy or complicated as you choose. There are MS Word templates available and plenty of others you can download for free. Be realistic about your plan. Determine how much money you need to live, the price you expect from your artwork (recently I’ve noticed a large number of artists using “square inch or linear inch” pricing rather than the hourly or by piece methods) and calculate the number of works you need to sell to achieve the yearly goal minus the cost of materials, marketing, and business overhead.

You may be familiar with a Gantt chart but if you’re not, get familiar with one. A Gantt chart illustrates a project’s schedule. There are plenty of templates on the web and don’t let them overwhelm you. A timeline for your work is a necessary. Determine goals for your business. Where do you plan to be in 12 months? When will you have a body of work ready for a gallery show? How many paintings must you paint in one month to be able to place work in multiple locations?

Determine the avenues you will use to market your art. Will you be showing only in galleries? Will you join an art website where you can post your work for sale or will you have your own web address? Will you sell prints as well as originals? Will you have business cards, go cold calling or join groups who have juried and non-juried shows? Will you submit to magazines and contests? What are the goals for the next year, 2 years, 5 years? Use your Gantt chart to remind you of submission dates, show dates and meetings.

Here’s a good example: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/write-artist-business-plan-56745.html

2. Write your Artist Statement/Bio

Though you may communicate in pictures, your audience and buyers need words. One of the saddest things I see artists do when trying to sell their work is not engaging with people who are potential customers. Here’s something you should remember, people buy art because they feel a connection to it, a resonance of subject or style. Many people buy art when on vacation or visiting an area because it is a reminder of the experience. That’s why landscapes sell so well. Telling a potential buyer the “back story”, why you painted a particular piece, how you chose the subject or the colors, the feelings that were inspired and your connection to the subject cements the experience for them.

While this is crucial at a live event, it is also the goal of your Artist Statement or Bio. In 3-5 paragraphs you let people know your motivation, what inspires you, how you approach your work, and what’s unique or special in your style or method. Use a good photograph of yourself and write your statement/bio in language anyone can understand, as if you were explaining your work to a friend. There’s no need to be technical, metaphysical, philosophical, emotional, moralistic, socially relevant, historical, environmentally responsible, political, or witty1 but write it more like an introduction to a book, enough info to grab their attention but leave them wanting to know more. Use “I” statements and be specific. There are a multitude of good websites that can help you with language and when finished ask some friends/colleagues/other artists to read it and give you feedback. Here’s a great site 1 http://www.artbusiness.com/artstate.html.

3. Get Working

Sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many artists don’t work regular hours. This is your business, fortunately a business based on doing what you love, but a business nonetheless. It requires regular hours of making a product. It also requires regular hours of marketing, business administration, bookkeeping and all the other requirements of running a company. Being your own boss means being tough on your employee. I speak from experience. For many years I ran a graphic design business in Washington, DC. I loved 2 aspects of this business, meeting new clients to discuss their needs and doing the work. I did not love bookkeeping, filing, or cold calling. Quickly I learned that when I didn’t do those things, the meetings dwindled and the paperwork became overwhelming. I also realized that my artist brain was not a bookkeeper’s brain and so I hired one which was worth every penny. I learned to be organized and disciplined and life and work were both manageable and lucrative.

The discipline began with making a schedule. I scheduled artwork for 10 am to 4 pm four days per week. One day each week was dedicated to administration, making calls to set appointments, cleaning the work area and getting supplies. Meetings were set for before 10 am and after 4 pm or on the lunch hour. This worked well though there were plenty of late nights and weekends used for finishing up big projects. I still use a modified version of this schedule today.

A Cautionary Tale: I learned early that when you work from home your loved ones may feel that you are always available for phone calls or visits. It helps to suggest that they reach you during your non-business hours – just sayin’. Also when cold calling galleries, don’t make it a Monday or Friday. Try midweek and make sure you check their hours. DO NOT call on the 1st day of a new show or 1-2 days prior.

4. Get good slides and prints of your work

Excellent representations of your artwork is vital as there are a host of times you will need to send slides or prints. The quality of the slide/print can be the reason for acceptance or rejection for a number of venues. You need both hi-resolution and low-resolution depending on the specifics required for entry. Trying to send large hi-res files on the web is frustrating and sometimes impossible. On the other hand sending a low-res portfolio to a gallery by mail is not going to get you in.

If you have a good camera, you can try photographing your work by yourself. However, some camera lenses tend to warp the edges of a square or rectangular painting and you will have to use a photo editing software to manipulate the image to square it up. If possible photograph in natural light on a neutral background so you can crop the photo more easily. If you wish to have a professional photographer, try looking on Craigslist or contact your local art chapter. There are wonderful photographers who are just starting out who can make a deal with you if you allow them to use your images for marketing. Just be sure to have them sign a contract that establishes that YOU hold all copyright to the art. Keep your portfolio current but also make sure you have copies of work that has been sold or is on location for insurance, authenticity and legal issues.

5. Document Your Work

Keep photos of all of your work both current, past and sold in a safe location whether it’s on a DVD, removable drive or in a file. You can keep it by date, by subject or by medium. Make sure you keep this up-to-date. Make sure you have backups in a safe location. Having all of your work digitally available will allow you to group work for specific venues, and to send, print or upload images as you need them. Make sure to also keep a client list of people who have bought your work. Sending a card with a photo of a new piece they might like is a great way of getting repeat sales. It’s also a nice gesture and good customer service. If you know how to use a database, create one listing information for each work and the image. If you don’t know how to make a database, google “art management database”, there are a number of examples and products.

Think about providing “provenance” when selling your work. In my case I print out a Certificate of Authenticity showing the name of the work, the date it was painted, the size, medium and an image of the artwork. I also have an area for the name of the purchaser, the price and the date. Included on this certificate is the copyright notice showing I retain full copyright of the image. You can buy nice “certificate” paper at Michaels or Staples and set up a template in MS Word. I like to imagine that on the Antiques Roadshow of the future, my provenance will net some lucky person a large sum.

Here are 5 of the 10 steps in helping you establish Art as your Career. There are many wonderful sites online that can further your reading and preparation, such as Artbusiness.com and AbundantArtist.com. The most important step in creating your business is to commit to the dedication it requires. I will continue with the next 5 steps in January so please come back and read the next installment. In the meantime remember these famous words by Maya Angelou:

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

Just remember that it is also said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master of something. So start with ideas, inspiration, and your personal style and add dedication and perseverance. The total equals success.

6. Show Anywhere and Everywhere


In the beginning of your art career, just like in the beginning of any career, it’s important to get your name out there. In fact, this is essential at any time in your career. So how do you accomplish this? Beat the street. Get out there and look in coffee shops, lobbies of the businesses you visit, restaurants, tourist attractions, anywhere you see art hanging and notice the type and size of artwork you see. Talk to someone there and ask how they find their artists. Spend $10 for a booth at a weekend market, just make sure you display your work in a visually appealing manner. Support your artist friends, if they are showing, ask them to give your information to the person who booked them. Offer to speak at schools, retirement homes, go to art events and shows. Wherever you go, make sure you have the next item on the list…


7. Promotional Items


I don’t mean pens with your name on them, I mean the essentials, starting with a good quality business card preferably with some of your artwork featured on it. I recently got 500 for about $10 from Vistaprint. The card shows 2 of my favorite paintings, and limited information; my name, my email address (and I heartily suggest you have a separate one just for your art), my phone number, and where I reside, in my case Hershey. I put this on the card so that if I’m in an art show in another city or state, the potential customer or booking agent is aware of where I will be when I leave. Sometimes this helps them make a decision more easily. If I am in town only for the day, it may be their one chance to purchase or to book. For years I put a business card in every bill payment I sent. Now that I bank online I don’t have that opportunity but I send a card in donation envelopes, business letters and even hand them out to doctors that I visit.


Another good promotional item is a photo book of your work. Make sure you have good photographs (as mentioned in Step 4) and get one on Snapfish.com or even from Walmart. Often you can find a Groupon for a photo book. These are similar to the photo books you’ve seen of family or wedding photographs, it helps your audience see your body of work in an easy format. A good one might cost you $50 but it’s worth it. If you can get a few, do so, at a crowded venue it will allow several people to browse at once.


Have a website where your work can be viewed. Webs.com, GoDaddy, and many others specific to artists such as PaintingsIlove.com are inexpensive or even free. One of the bonuses of a site like PaintingsILove.com is that people give you feedback on your work, it’s a great morale booster. Make sure that you put a watermark when allowed, it prevents your work from being pilfered. Read the website guidelines carefully. In fact, post your work on our own HAAA website. Put the link on your business card.


The number one tool you have for promoting your art is not the artwork itself but your personality. I have attended many very high end art shows where the artist sat in the back of their booth as people looked at their work. Guess what? Unless they were very well known, they sold considerably less than the people who were engaging with their potential customers. People buy art because it evokes emotion, whether it is a pleasant memory or a specific feeling. Be able to discuss your art with a narrative that is intelligent and compelling. Practice with your friends. Have them ask you some questions about why you chose to paint a particular piece and discuss your inspiration and technique.

8. Connect with previous customers


The best customer is a current customer. That’s the same for all businesses except maybe divorce lawyers. Keep accurate records of your customers and send them a note and photograph of any new work you think they might like. Keep a mailing list of people who have shown an interest in your art and let them know of any upcoming shows. People like to feel special so make sure you add a personal note not just a form letter.


9. Keep Growing


While it is important to continue with a successful technique or subject, especially if sales have been good, it is important as artist to experiment with new ideas. Continuing to show the same type of work because it’s popular can make you feel as if you’re selling out and stagnating. Even if you choose not to promote the experimental work, engaging your artistic senses can make you feel alive and can lead to wonderful discoveries.


Try using your painting technique to design for other media. Try designing fabric, wallpaper, or wrapping paper. Paint furniture or a rug. Techniques for doing so can be found online. There are a number of websites that will print on a variety of substrates. Try a new medium. If you have always been a painter, try sculpting or papier-mâché. There are a number of new clay types you can make at home including cold porcelain and paper clay. Recipes can be found online. Youtube is my go-to for learning anything. Watching speed painters or sculpting techniques in short videos inspires me. Hey! There’s a good idea, try making a video of your technique!


10. Being an Artist is about making Art. The Business of Art is about Happy Customers.


Whether you’re in it for financial gain or not, the Artist brain wants to make Art. The good news is that all the people who aren’t Artists want art. Use the ideas in this article to help them get what they desire. The number one goal of any successful business is happy, satisfied customers.


Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.

Making money is art


working is art


good business is the best art.”


Andy Warhol



Where to Find Inspiration

by MB Barrett

We’ve all been there, eager to paint but nothing is coming to mind as a subject.  It’s all been done. We feel stifled.  At times we become so disenchanted we stress about our lack of ambition, talent, popularity, ability to sell, etc.  WHOA!

First of all this is the most important thing you will ever have to remember about your art.  Yes, there have been millions of paintings of trees, barns, flowers, buildings, animals, and people.  But when you paint your subject remind yourself that no one has or will paint that picture exactly the same as you with your perspective, your passion or your insight.  That’s pretty powerful stuff.

It’s easy to get bored with the same old, same old.  That’s when it’s time to try something new.  If you’re typically painting realistically, paint abstractly.  If you always use acrylics, try collage or assemblage or sculpture.  Additionally, if you tend to work on small pieces, work on a really big canvas, if you work large, try a 4”x4”.  One of the best ways to stimulate your artistic sensibilities is to sketch.  Sketch anything, set a timer and try some 3, 5 and 10 minute sketches.

A great trick for getting past inspiration block is using one idea and painting it in several styles.  I’ve always been a fan of Tamara de Lempicka.  Her artwork is exciting and different.  As a big fan of the 1930’s and 1940’s I’m enamored by the interpretation of her subjects and when I find I’m looking for a great idea I spend time scrutinizing her work, her use of shadow and light, her composition, the colors she chose and her technique.  I also like Modigliani, so using the same subject, I can try painting as both of them would have.  It’s an exercise and a challenge, my neurons are firing, my curiosity is engaged, and I’m learning how I can incorporate this knowledge into my own work.

If you need subject matter there are a number of copyright free websites where photographers share their work hoping you’ll use them as inspiration.  My favorite is www.paintmyphoto.ning.com.  It’s free to join (though I suggest you send the requested donation to keep it going).  You can post your artwork when finished and link it to the inspiration photo.  It’s a great place to get feedback and to see how other artists interpreted the subject.  There are monthly challenges which are fun and a good exercise.  Occasionally there will be opportunities to have your work in group projects and collaborations.  Remember that in certain instances you cannot submit your finished piece in a juried exhibition if you did not take the photograph yourself, even if you have permission.

Another site is www.morguefile.com.  This is a little less easy to navigate but for “studies” it’s a good resource.  For the sheer joy of painting and trying new ideas, these two sites are great.

In researching this article I discovered that stagnation of ideas is as common as the flu even for the elite in the art world.  A number of websites can help when you’re stuck.  Artpromotivate at http://www.artpromotivate.com/2012/03/20-art-inspiration-ideas-for-creativity.html, is a great resource.  So is About.com, the pages http://drawsketch.about.com/od/inspiration/bb/drawingideas.htm and http://painting.about.com/cs/inspiration/a/artistsblock.htm have great ideas.  If you’re simply lacking motivation, I recommend the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and the article in Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201310/lacking-motivation-and-inspiration-5-secrets-get-unstuck or get out your copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards and do the exercises, there’s a website if you don’t have the book (http://www.drawright.com/).

In all of the articles I read about inspiration, several key recommendations to get over the “I don’t know what to paint” hurdle were consistent: 1) keep an idea notebook, 2) Don’t Stress-artist block happens to everyone, and 3) work on your art DAILY.   Setting aside a block of time to work is important with a capital “I”.  Even if it’s only an hour a day (which I can easily waste watching television) it forces us to concentrate.  In one hour we can sketch out an idea, gesso a canvas, cut up paper for a collage or research what’s happening in the art world.  Setting aside time for your art should be a balm to your soul.  As Pablo Picasso said, 

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

October 2014

How to get the most out of your Art Association

by MB Barrett

In the U.S. there are art associations from the small, like HAAA here in Hershey, to the large, like the College Art Association with over 13,000 members.  These organizations have a few things in common regardless of the size of the membership.

For most art associations the mission is to promote the arts; to encourage and support artists and their development; and to facilitate communication and cooperation among artists, arts organizations, and the community and to provide benefits which cover at least the following:

  • The rewards of being part of a community of artists and art lovers
  • Eligibility for submitting work in member-only exhibitions
  • Workshops and classes
  • Discounts on supplies from local or national art supply houses
  • Invitations and announcements to special events, trips and tours, and exhibitions
  • Publications and/or websites where the artist can post their work
  • Helping to promote the local, state and federal funding for the Arts
  • Scholarships for local students

Some art associations provide even greater member benefits such as studio space and even buy-ins to insurance plans.

Being a part of an art association gives the individual artist a wealth of opportunities to show their work.  If you've ever tried peddling your art at a craft fair or sidewalk fair, you know it can be hit or miss with sales.  It can also be quite costly.  A local art co-op paid $800 for a 

10 x 10 at the Christmas show in the Farm Show Building and sold less than $100 in the three days of the show.  While touted as an “Art Marketplace” it was really more of a commercial vendor market with mass produced craft items selling like hotcakes.  For this small group it was an expensive learning experience.

Showing at an independent gallery as an individual can also be costly.  Artist’s often need to display pricier work to compensate for the 15%-30% commission.  It can be difficult for newcomers to get the best wall space as often gallery owners keep the prime locations for their best-selling artists.

Member shows through your art association can provide a way for newcomers to see what works in the local market and to sell smaller works and prints, if allowed, and to show both new pieces and older works.  A wide range of styles, sizes and prices can draw art lovers who want to purchase.

Art shows are not the only way to get the most out of your art association.

Many art associations have guest lecturers and visiting artists.  Seeing the work of another artist can inspire us to be more productive and can introduce us to different techniques and styles.  Hearing others speak about their process or their history can help us learn how to talk about our own work.

To make the most of your membership you need to get involved.  There are a number of ways to be an integral part of the success of your art association.  Try each of the following at least once and determine the best fit for your time and talent.

  • Membership Services:  Help maintain mailing lists, websites, newsletters, and invitations to shows.  Offer aid with record keeping and general office duties.
  • Greeter:  Welcome guests and members of HAAA during the member meetings.  If you’re a new member, this is the best way to learn everyone’s name.
  • Intake/Pick-up:  Help receive paintings for upcoming exhibitions.  Paintings need to be hung and labeled.  This is a great way to match the artist with their style of work.  Offer to help when artists pick up their work at the end of the show.  It’s a chance to see what was sold.
  • Hospitality:  Help decorate, greet and answer questions at opening receptions.  This gives you an opportunity to talk about the art association and your artwork.
  • Refreshments:  Help arrange and pass out refreshments at receptions.  Offer to coordinate food and volunteer to bring food for events and openings.
  • Set-up & Clean-up:  Help with the set-up & clean-up of opening receptions and events.
  • Fundraising:  Got a knack for persuasion?  Help with fundraising, writing grants, news releases, advertisements and other activities. This will help you learn about media outlets in your community.
  • Events:  Some offer other events offered by the art association.  Attend movie nights, charity and outreach events, and workshops.

For the nominal fee for your membership, an art association can offer a great deal.  Your participation can help you grow as an artist and get your work in the public eye.  Put some effort into being a member and you’ll have the chance to enjoy a community of like-minded folks dedicated to promoting art and artists in your area.