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Hang Tough and Other Artistic Feats

Dear Friends:


For those of us engaged in the work of botanical art and illustration, we have come to realize the demands this precise form of art asks of us.  There are times I remember the many artists before me who were often ready to throw in the towel but persevered to claim another victory.


New students to this beautiful art form probably ask themselves what they were thinking when they took up their paints to accomplish a botanical work of art.  As I watch the faces of those who are hanging tough, I often see frustration, despair, delight, and sheer joy of accomplishment.


This summer the Tour de France, the Olympic Trials, and the Olympics are bringing individuals, before the eyes of the world, who understand what it is to hang tough for the joy of accomplishment.


Many of these athletes will fall and get back up again – quickly.  It is a lesson for all of us not just in our pursuit of art, but in life as well.  As I cheer along for these chariots on fire I think it is not enough to shake ourselves off and start again, but we must also remember that 1) when we stumble and fall, persecute no one including ourselves; 2) if we fumble, we must get up and regain our momentum quickly; and 3) grumbling along is never as pleasant as humming along. One thing is for sure that these “roll” models convey is that it sometimes takes more elbow grease than others.


God bless. OM

Congratulations  to Bradley Wiggins – Winner of the 2012 Tour de France.  And Cheerio to all the Olympians.  We wish you a safe and great journey of success.


Oh, and something else to think about……


Several questions have come up with regard to signing, framing artwork, exhibiting artwork and selling artwork.  The following information will certainly help artists who mat and frame their work, but also those who purchase art.  After all, an educated consumer is our best customer…hmmm…. catchy phrase.


Signing Your Art: Signing your name can disturb the composition.  The signature can also make the image appear larger if you place the name too far from the art.  This is a consideration in framing because every inch will cost you money in the framing process.    There are those who sign their art with graphite pencils, colored pencils, permanent ink in light gray, brown, sepia, black, watercolor, acrylic, or oil.  Generally, paintings are signed in the lower, right hand corner.  If your particular composition creates a problem for this positioning and you are not sure where to place your name, lay a piece of tracing paper over the artwork. Begin with a pencil and lightly sign your name in various positions ON THE TRACING PAPER and move the signature around to different positions to help you decide where the best place for the name should go. Initials are not good for name recognition.  If you must use initials, then also sign the back of the painting.  On the back you might also want to put the year, medium etc.  Today, fewer artists are dating the front of their work.  If you can sign your artwork in Pencil – 2H with the tip rounded so that it does not scratch the paper …or…. if you sign your artwork in watercolor use a small paintbrush (0 or 00) over your pencil signature and then when the paint is dry, erase the pencil.  If you are adding the name of the plant, be sure that this information is spelled correctly and all the writing is level.  Please don’t make the watercolor color stand out over the color of the artwork. If you don’t want a straight-line signature, then sign so that it is noticeably slanted or it will just look cockeyed.  If the framer frames it so that your straight-line signature looks cockeyed, then have them open up the art and straighten up the line to the mat.

Photographing Your Art:  If you intend to exhibit a lot, then you will want to create digital files of your art pieces.  If you have the correct equipment and can take your own photos, then that is terrific.  If you go to a lab ask them to create FULL SIZE “one to one” images of the work and to give you two CD’s of the photos they take.  Keep one CD in a CD CASE and label it.  Use the other CD for downloading.  When you download these images into your computer, make sure you label the file PERMANENT.  From the permanent file you can make copies of this work in various sizes.  Also be careful to save the new file with a different name to maintain the integrity of the PERMANENT file.  Taking photos of your work is an important step in record keeping.  If your art sells, goodbye…. so best to do this before you start exhibiting.

With regard to record keeping, be sure you keep a log somewhere of every new painting and include its year of completion, medium, size, and price.  This list will be helpful when entering exhibits and for keeping track of what sells.  If you sell, be sure to add the name of the buyer to the list and keep that as a record.


Framing Your Art…. Select a frame to enhance your art.  Not your home decor. For exhibiting, select a neutral mat as close to the paper as possible.  If you double mat for exhibits, make sure both mats are the same color. If you select a double mat with a color mat underneath, remember to make sure BOTH are ACID FREE.  The bottom one will become contaminated from the top mat if it is not acid free.  Regardless of what some may say, this is very true.  I have this on very good authority…experience!  In most cases, your mat should be about 3″ wide.  Usually, the bottom of the art receives a slightly wider mat — 3 1/2″.  For botanical art there is usually some distance from the edge of the mat to your artwork – perhaps 1 1/2″ to 2″ all the way around.  — You may choose to move your art off center.  Just be sure to give the necessary space around the subject where required. It is also fine to intentionally cut off some of the artwork or to draw or paint some of the art onto the mat.  This is more of a “fine art” technique and one not usually seen in traditional botanical artwork. And by all means, please keep artwork level as you have designed it.  Never let the framer take control of mat placement.  This is your choice based on how you conceived the artwork.  The mat and all materials should be archival — this means either conservation or museum quality.  Museum is the top of the line and includes an acid free dust cover on the back and museum clips, which are plastic clips with a bar of tape on the top.  The clips clip on the art on the top edge only and then the glue strip affixes to the mat with acid free glue.  No glue should ever touch you original – ever.   Whether graphite, watercolor, pen & ink, color pencil, pastel, gouache, tempera, acrylic, always use a UV glass and in this case and in most cases for exhibiting UV Plexiglas is required.  You need a special cleaner for UV Plexiglas.  Be careful if you wipe it down.  It scratches easily — fingernails can create quite a groove. When you clean your painting, never, ever spray the cleaner onto the painting.  The liquid can run down into the frame and the mat will soak up the liquid leaving a watermark.  Simply direct the spray away from the painting and into a cloth.  A little dab will do you! Be sure to wire the back of your painting with a strong wire.  If you are not sure, double the strand of wire.  Affix your name tag by folding it over the wire of the back of the painting.  Do not glue it to the back of the painting. If you use a framer, you can ask them not to affix their store label or any other label to your artwork.


Pricing Your Art: To keep your pricing schedule straight, it is a good idea to keep a journal of your artwork.  List the name of the piece, the year the piece was completed, the places the artwork was exhibited, the price, the name and contact info on who purchased the artwork, and how much was paid for the art.  It’s never too early to begin this, for once you’re career is in full swing it is very hard to find the time to back track. When pricing botanical art, artists might consider size of image; rarity of the specimen or hard to find specimens; simple vs. complex composition; skill; level of achievement; popularity; notoriety; framing and other costs.   When you sell, give a Certificate of Authenticity. Your Bill of Sale should say you maintain all copyrights. This will prevent the buyer from making reproductions of your art. You might also add a note that asks the purchasers to agree to “loan” the art for exhibition  – at least once.  Hope this all helps!

God bless. OM

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