Maria Williams-Russell Art Blog
by art_review , March 26, 2008—12:00 AM
On ArtId, we talk a lot about marketing artwork through the Internet and other venues. We talk about the difficulties of doing the marketing oneself and oftentimes of the need to ___just paint___. While artists have varying goals for the art they create, at some point there comes a desire to step out beyond the pack and be recognized. In the midst of working on this goal, it is easy to feel that only a lucky few ever get to make a name for themselves in the more elite art community. Recently, I spoke to one of those ___lucky___ artists and learned achieving this goal is much less about luck than it is about determination, talent, and smart planning.
ArtId member Barbara Groff is a well known still life pastel painter who recently won The Pastel Journal__™s Ruth Richeson/Unison Pastels Award for her painting Bittersweet with Blue. In the April 2008 issue of The Pastel Journal, you can read a feature article about Barbara and her award winning painting. In 2002, Barbara made the decision to phase out her thriving graphic design business and to devote herself to her fine art full time. Though she hates to boast, all of her work in the last several years have been major competition winners.
Barbara believes that often the reason many artists aren__™t successful in competitions or in their daily art business is that the work they produce is ___not consistent and the level of quality varies___. She says that oftentimes artists get caught up in doing all kinds of styles and genres and can__™t settle on something that works and is unique. In other words, they haven__™t yet found their signature style which can then be developed and refined. In turn, collectors want to see a high level of quality carried throughout an artist__™s cohesive body of work. In many ways, having a signature style is like creating a brand and then marketing it.
Finding her own style was what Barbara described as a ___eureka moment___. Like many artists, Barbara__™s earlier work spanned the gamut. ___I painted landscapes and other things and in fact, I didn__™t like still lifes, I thought they were boring. Until one day in 2001 when I got very excited about a still life concept that had popped into my mind. I remember making a quick thumbnail sketch with detailed notations around the sides and feeling very excited about it. I thought this concept was unique and intriguing. It was a composition with grapes and marbles where I used the marbles in the foreground to carry through the round shape of the grapes in the background. I then went a step further and considered how grapes turn into another form as wine and so I painted a wine glass tipped over inside a clear glass marble. The spilled wine flowed out onto the table and into the cast shadow of the marble. I called this approach a ___transition___ because one object turns into something else and is represented as a different form. From that point on, I__™ve painted a series of transition pieces that have kept me very engaged and in general have changed the way I think about my still lifes.___
Barbara__™s transition pieces started her on the road to success in the art world. While not all of her paintings are transitions anymore, she continues to paint in her signature realist style. And since she has been successful with it, she knows she can depend on her style to continue to sell her work.
Planning has also been a key ingredient to Barbara__™s success. ___I have always been a person who figures out how a thing is going to go before I start it,___ says Barbara. ___That__™s just how I__™ve always been. When I start a new painting, for example, I think it through very carefully before I ever put pigment to paper. I do a small sketch first to make sure the concept is going to work. If I__™m not sure it will work, I don__™t bother to paint it.___ !IMAGE200!
Barbara has also used her planning nature in the business area of her life. As a young woman just starting out, she landed an entry level job doing graphic design and worked her way up the ranks to the point where she decided she wanted to go into business for herself. ___You know, I had to make sure I could get the clients on my own, that I had enough money to start off with, that kind of thing.___ The planning paid off. Barbara__™s graphic design business flourished. But, after Barbara__™s eureka moment in 2001, she decided to phase out her graphic design work to concentrate on her art full time. Again, she did some planning, calculated the costs and earnings, and made sure she had enough product to make the numbers work. Since then, she says her worked has continued to grow and the pay off has been more than she could have imagined. ___It__™s amazing what happens when you devote yourself full time to your art.___
To be able to work full time on art is a dream many artists feel is unattainable. Before turning ___pro___, Barbara was always working on her art in the moments she could find after work or on the weekends. ___That__™s the other thing,___ she said. ___You just have to keep at it when you are an artist. Most artists know that they will always be working on their fine art no matter what they have to do to pay the bills. You just can__™t give up. That__™s the most important thing.___
As for the competitions, Barbara says ___When an artist submits a piece to a competition, it can__™t just be any OK painting. It has to be a painting that really stands out. There is so much that gets judged in these competitions, artists have to make sure this is their best work before submitting. It has to be good technically, conceptually, and have a strong overall structure.___
She also advises artists to submit pieces to local group shows and competitions to see how their art compares to the work of others. This helps artists determine the level of quality they need to achieve, and in some cases realize what it is they already have.
Even with many competitions won and living a fruitful artist__™s life, Barbara admits that being a professional artist still means doing other things beside art to make ends meet. Many artists teach workshops, give demonstrations and lectures, jury competitions, etc. ___Your life becomes a combination of a lot of different things. You just don__™t just work in the studio all day.___
What I find so motivating about Barbara__™s story is that she is a realist about her artwork and about the business world. She combines her talent for art with strong business sense and hard work. Even non-artists can heed her advice. And while this might not be everyone__™s way of living the artist__™s life, it certainly is one to be admired and learned from.
Please stop by Barbara__™s ArtId gallery at http://artid.com/members/bsg43/ to see more of her award-winning paintings.