Saturday, February 24, 2007

Over the past two days, I've been doing a series of photo shoots with my two dogs, Peanut and Bailey, and it occured to me that Peanut really is a peculiar little animal. It's only because I've lived with her for 5 years that I'm used to her weirdness. If dogs really are like their masters, I'm in trouble, as Peanut has more eccentricities than an A-List actress.

For starters, Peanut is neurotic. I have mentioned previously in my older blog ("Why I Would Die in A Natural Disaster") her tendency to bark at her own farts, so I'll pass over that. I've also mentioned already that she barks in her sleep and that said sleep-barks sound like laser gun fire. So today I will instead talk about another of her many quirks, her DAAS.

DAAS stands for Domestic Abuse Awareness System. Peanut possesses a very finely tuned one. Though she cuddles with my husband and finds him to be highly suitable for tummy rubbing, she deeply suspects that he is the wife-beating sort. If he lays a hand on me and raises his voice, no matter how big his grin, Peanut swings to immediate barking action. How useful. Imagine the scene: I prance into the kitchen, Peanut on my heels, and say, "I got into that posh exhibition! Whoo hoo!" My husband shouts, "We'll be rich!" and claps me on the back. Peanut goes wild. Her bark indicates that I should forego Social Services and call 911 immediately.

And the problem is now my husband has caught on to her latest neurosis and thinks it's hilarious. He'll begin picking me up and shouting while spinning in a circle to make Peanut bark. "Am I being bad now, Peanut? How about now!" Bark, bark, whine, you're killing her, etc.

Maybe that does count as domestic abuse. Officer, please, my husband was hurting my sanity. See the bruises? Right here in the part of my brain that used to do long division.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Interview with a Gallery Owner, cont'd.

"Luxor" - 6 x 6" acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
$200 - available through Chasen Galleries.

This is the second half of the interview with Andrew Chasen of Chasen Galleries -- this half is for artists.


1. Traditionally artists have been told to approach galleries with informational packets and portfolios, but of course the internet and sheer number of artists out there has changed things. How do you find most of the artists that you represent?

Artists contact us via the internet as well as through US Mail. The internet has truly simplified the process and I prefer receiving initial photos via email. If there is question about actual quality, then I may ask to see the artwork in person. I have also sought artists I have read about.

2. What is the biggest mistake you see emerging artists make when approaching you? Is there anything in particular that screams "don't take me!"?

I think the biggest mistake emerging artists make is to not have enough of their artwork for me to judge. Another error is to have too many different styles or techniques to choose from.
Too big an ego is also a turn-off. When an artist guarantees me their artwork will sell, I am scared off. I do not care how successful an artist has been selling their work. What matters to me is how effective I feel we can be in selling their artwork.

3. On the flip side, what makes an artist attractive to a gallery?

Showing me a concise yet appropriate body of quality artwork makes me take notice. Something new and different is always intriguing.

4. How many pieces should an artist have before looking at gallery representation? Framed? Unframed? Is "gallery wrapped" canvas the new black?

The number of pieces an artist has depends on how many galleries they want to approach. I will take on a new artist who has at least 5 or 6 pieces I can display. Art buyers want a choice, they want to see what the artist can do. They want to see consistency in style and technique and they want to see variety of imagery.
I prefer framed artwork for the gallery, however, it has been my experience that most artists are unwilling to spend enough on the framing. Artwork in unattractive frames makes the artwork look cheap. If you won't spend the money on good looking frames, then consider the gallery wrap. A gallery wrap gives the art buyer the choice of framing the painting or leaving it as it is with no further expense. The gallery wrap, while appropriate for some artwork, is not necessarily the look that a very traditional client will appreciate.

5. Do you think the gallery scene has changed in the last five years? Ten years? Do you think it will change substantially in the near future?

The gallery scene is definitely changing. While limited editions (giclees and serigraphs) on canvas have been extremely popular, the trend now is toward original paintings. The art industry,not unlike other industries, goes through cycles. The print buyers of the last several years and newer collectors now want moderately priced original paintings.

6. What should an artist expect from a gallery, marketing and sales wise? And conversely, what does a gallery expect from an artist? Is there a period of time after which you decide to drop a non-selling artist?

An artist should expect the gallery to present and display their artwork in a professional, expert manner. The gallery should be able to speak easily and convincingly about the artist and their background. The gallery expects the artist to provide artwork on a continual basis as needed. If the flow is disrupted, it is possible to lose the momentum the gallery has worked so hard to develop.

7. Tell me about medium. Oil has traditionally been king of the hill. Do galleries prefer oil? What about more "fragile" media that have to go behind glass: pastel, colored pencil, watercolor?
Oils and acrylics are treated almost equally. Some purists only will buy an oil, but that is rare. I have avoided other media on paper. My preference is artwork without glass so as to avoid and, therefore, eliminate any difficulty with glare.

8. Artist-Gallery contracts – good thing? Bad thing? Necessary thing?

Any business relationship should have a reliable source of information in case of dispute. Hence, the artist-gallery contract. Although I have rarely had to refer to a contract due to a dispute with an artist, it is a safety precaution nonetheless.

9. If an artist markets themself well, what's the advantage to the artist of having gallery representation? In other words, what can galleries offer an artist for the commission they extract?

For an artist to make major marketing impact, they need gallery representation to enable exposure to a wider audience. They need to deal with reputable, established gallerists. How long have they been in business? What is the gallery reputation? Ask around. Ask artists who have exhibited in the gallery.

10. I see a lot of big name artists with multiple galleries representing them. How many galleries should an artist have, anyway?

There is always the danger of having too many galleries represent an artist. If an artist cannot keep up with the demand (not necessarily a desirable problem), then it is time to begin reassessing which galleries are working best. It may also be a time to consider raising prices. There is also the danger of diluting the artist's work by seeing it everywhere. It can kill the demand for the work. Thomas Kinkade is a good example of this marketing over-saturation. How many Kinkade galleries are still around?!!

11. Describe your perfect artist. How many pieces, what sort of style, what sort of behavior they exhibit – what does this perfect artist do to make your life as a gallery owner easier?

My "ideal" artist would have a style with broad appeal (does anyone really know what that might be??), and should be eager to provide us with new, updated work when necessary. The artist should also be open to suggestions from the gallery and its clientele. An artist who can speak with clients and promote their own artwork in a gallery show setting is always a plus. Buyers like to meet the artist and learn more about the artwork and the methods. An artist who provides marketing materials is also extremely helpful to the gallery by providing information for their collectors and prospective buyers.

12. And finally, every artist has a dream gallery they'd love to represent them one day. Do you have a dream artist that you would love to represent?

It would be my dream to represent the work of Wayne Thiebaud. I have always loved his work. My clientele, however, may not appreciate his prices!

Interview with a Gallery Owner

"Luxor, Cary Street" - acrylic on canvas.
Copyright 2006 Maggie Stiefvater
Available through Chasen Galleries.

I know that I have a lot of both artists and art buyers in my readership, and I know that both those sorts of folks are curious about the artist-gallery relationship so I asked the owner of Chasen Galleries, Andrew Chasen, if he'd do an interview with me. They represent my Richmond streetscapes and a lot of other beautiful work. My sister came with me to their gallery last week while I dropped off new work and she told me after she left, "That was better than going to the art museum." It's true; Andrew has impeccable taste. (Obviously, he represents me.)

So I'd like to post the rather long interview in two parts here for all to peruse and enjoy and please, visit their website or ask Andrew (andrew at - use a @ in place of "at") if you have any questions about the work they have there. Especially mine.

This first half is about Andrew and about the buying process; the next post will be for artists.

ABOUT ANDREW CHASEN, owner of Chasen Galleries:

1. Why did you open a gallery?
I have collected art since I was a child. I have never really studied art, but I have always loved it - my passion. In 1983, I began in the art industry by selling posters out of my car on Saturdays. Eventually, I quit my full-time job and began selling more expensive artwork. In 1994 I decided to open my first retail gallery. I wanted to try retail after having been on the road,selling wholesale for almost 12 years.

2. Tell us about Chasen Galleries -- what sort of work do you represent?

Chasen Galleries represents artists, sculptors and glass artisans from around the world. Our large variety of styles and techniques enables us to appeal to a broad audience. From photorealism to abstract, our goal is to have something for everyone.
We also strive to continue to provide high quality original artwork and to provide unprecedented customer service for our clients.


1. Why go to a gallery?

A gallery is not unlike using a realtor. An established gallery assures consistency and the reputation of the artist. They stand behind what they sell.

2. I've stayed away from galleries because I don't have thousands to spend. Is that an erroneous conclusion?

Not all galleries only sell expensive artwork. At Chasen Galleries we have artwork from $200 to $42,000 in the gallery. Don't feel intimidated, check out the ambiance of the gallery. If the gallery appears stuffy, avoid it until you find one where the client is appreciated and made to feel welcome.

3. I have a very particular sort of piece that I'd like. Could I ask a gallery owner about something like it, even if they don't have anything like it on their walls?

A gallerist with experience has resources to find all types of artwork if they are willing to do the work. I try very hard to please my clients - to match them with the perfect artwork they will fall in love with!!

4. The gallery I visited has a huge painting that I love but I can't afford it all at once. I'm afraid to ask the owner about layaway or financing - do galleries do that sort of thing?
Many galleries do offer payment terms. Just ask! The worst they can say is no!!

5. Can I go to the artist and get their work for a lower price?

If a gallery represents and artist and a buyer tries to go directly to the artist, trying to circumvent the gallery, shame on him (or her)! A gallery has developed (usually)an exclusive relationship with the artist and expends its energy and spends its money to market the artist. Those walls are not free and to try to avoid the gallery is not the right thing to do. On the other hand, if the artist agrees to deal with a buyer after the buyer has seen the work at the gallery, shame on the artist!! That is not reputable and the artist should refer the buyer to the gallery.

6. Why should I buy an original instead of buying a print? If I tell my husband that I'm buying it as an investment, would I be lying?

An original painting by a class A artist will always hold more value than a print by the same artist. Prints can definitely appreciate, especially if they sell out. Again, supply and demand dictate. On the other hand, A print by a class A artist likwely will be worth more than an original by a class C artist. But whether or not an artist is a good investment, largely depends on the breadth of marketing and the public's acceptance. This requires a very delicate balance that most artists are unable to achieve. None of us possesses that crystal ball with all the answers. If I did. . .
I always tell my clients who question artist pricing, that it is a function of supply and demand - a very basic economic principle.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Van Gogh Project Continued Even More


"The Secret Wood"
15 x 30" I think - acrylic on canvas.
Click here to buy.

Okay, I've finally gotten around to the Van Gogh Project again. If you aren't a regular reader of the blog (and why the heck wouldn't you be, anyway?), every month in 2007 me and my friends from Fine Line Artists are learning all we can from one safely dead and very famous artist. January was John Singer Sargent (great stuff!) and February is Vincent Van Gogh. And of course any other artists who blog are always invited to join in and we'll spread the links around. Good times, good times.

I admitted previously that I didn't find Van Gogh as artistically energizing as Sargent. No, it's not the ear thing. Or the relationship with the prostitute thing. Or even the whole shooting himself thing. No, it's an entirely artistic roadblock for me: I found I didn't really like a lot of his paintings. I mean, some were really good, but it didn't speak to me in that thrilling way Sargent did. Hence my stalling until nearly March to do my Van Gogh painting.

Before I talk about what I learned, I want to give you two links that I was perusing this morning in my research of Van Gogh.

Both of these explain a bit about his techniques.

So, you see my Van Gogh painting above. How did I arrive at it? Well, I learned the following things about good ol' Vincent's work:

  • he wanted viewers to learn something about him from his paintings; they had emotional attachments/ meanings
  • his colors more often found their basis in emotion than in reality; objects were the color he needed them to be to convey his message
  • his painting technique was fast -- sometimes as fast as one a day towards the end of his life
  • his painting technique was sculptural. in one of his letters to his brother, he notes that he squeezed paint directly out of the tube onto the canvas to achieve the 3D effect he wanted
  • he used a lot of the new lightfast paints that were being developed at the time -- bright yellows in particular
So keeping this in mind, I decided to paint an image out of a dream I had a few years ago -- a birch wood that had no other features other than pale birches as far as the eye could see, all in shades of yellow, peach, and orange. I used some photographic references for the pattern of the birch bark, but the composition and colors are entirely out of my head.

I used a ton of paint for this. I really hope I sell this painting quickly so that I can afford to buy four gallons of white paint to replace what I used. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I really slapped on that paint to emphasize the birches.

And I did this fast. Once I knew what I wanted to do and had the composition basically mapped out in my head, I sat and painted for four hours straight.

So I know it's not perfect Van Gogh style -- more like a love child between my style and Van Gogh. But now it's out of my system . . . though I have to confess, it's still not quite like what I imagine that birch forest to be like. I'm going to have to do another version, maybe with next month's artist . . .

So if you're not sick of Van Gogh yet, these are the artists who participated this month, you can check 'em out:

Katherine Tyrrell

Rose Welty
Wendy Prior
Lisa Bachman
Casey Klahn
Rita Woodburne
Robyn Sinclaire
Kate Hummel
Nicole Caulfield
Gayle Mason

Casey is making the best of it so far, I think, followed by Katherine. They get the GUNG HO award from me. That and a buck will get you a cup of coffee.

Oh, and I also painted Moose again today:

"Homecoming" - 6 x 6" acrylic on canvas.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
Click here to bid.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Van Gogh Project Continued

"Between the Lines" - 6 x 6" acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
Click here to bid.

Well, I've been very slow to get started with the Van Gogh Project this month (see the first of the month's post or round about there) because I have to confess now that I was not initially overly inspired by the Tragic Painter of the Peasants (hey, he said it, not me)(well, not the tragic bit).

And actually, I found it surprising that I was not entirely lit on fire, given what I remembered of his works and how excited I'd been during my Sargent project last month. But Sargent was an entirely different sort of painter - methodical, formally trained, and far more representational than Van Gogh. Easier to like, one might say, both artistically and as a man.

Van Gogh, on the other hand, was self taught, struggling through mountains of sketches and chasing after some sort of self-revealing style that would make his career. To me, he seems less skilled than Sargent and I (this just my opinion here, please don't lynch me) find his style to be forced and heavy handed on many of his pieces. In short, I thought I'd seen a lot better contemporary painters than 90% of Van Gogh's work.

It took a lot of hunting for me to find the pieces that spoke to me. And I did, finally. Just a few. But enough for me to settle down, stop chafing, and get to work on learning what I can from him. I wanted to show you the piece I've liked the best so far:

And then tell you what I've been planning on doing. I have had an idea in my head for a long time, an image from a dream, that I've wanted to do as a piece of art. It's of a birch forest all in peaches and golds, and I think I could use Van Gogh's broken color and interpretive color methods to pull it off. We'll see. More study is needed, and I guess the next step for me is to do a sketch in Van Gogh's style.

I should also let you know who else is in on this project, too, while I'm at it. Here's Katherine's post with all the participants so far (email me or comment if you want to be added in!)

I have to admit that now that I've studied him more, I have high hopes for what Van Gogh might do for my cityscapes. Okay, VG. Do you stuff. C'mon!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Casualties of the Late 80s

"Reflected History" - 8 x 10" ish . . . colored pencil on paper.
Copyright 2006 Maggie Stiefvater.
Click here to purchase.

As you may have read in my last post, my husband and I recently acquired a new dog, Bailey, a terrier with a penchant for eating children's toys. The list of toys he fancies grew today to include a small plastic tree, an orange star toy which has no discernable use or value as far as I can see, and a stuffed Spot dog. And while my husband and I were talking about his teething habit, I recalled another terrier of my youth, Paddington, and how she had chewed two toys of mine. The conversation went like so:

Me (sitting cross legged in passenger seat and turning heat setting up to "death ray"): "Yeah, my dog Paddington, she only chewed two toys that I remember. A Lego tree and my Popple."

My husband: "What the hell is a Popple?"

Me: "I don't remember."

The truth was, I have been carrying the memory of Paddington the dog chewing the back of a Popple's head off, and I really had no idea what the front of the said head really looked like anymore. I just remember that a Popple was from the 80s and I had not seen them since. Clearly, they were a casualty of the late 80s.

Luckily for my naturalist side and unfailing curiosity, google came to my rescue, and I was able to find a site completely dedicated to preserving the memory of Popples. To my bemusement, it has an .org suffix . . . I thought that was nonprofit organization? To save Popples? Anyway, I visited (you can thank me later for the web address) with high hopes of jogging childhood memories and basking in the fond light of nostalgia.

But to tell you the truth, I still don't know what the heck a Popple is. There was no blazing flash of memory when I saw their strange animated little faces, other than realizing that Puffball Popple was the unlucky 80s creature to get the terrier-induced lobotomy at our house. No, perusing the Popples site (obviously the theraputic creation of some sketchy programmer born in the 80s), I had more questions than answers. What is a Popple? Why did I have one? Why did I have just one? Was someone trying to set me up as a Popple Lover? Why did they need to do that to ruin my reputation? Couldn't they have just revealed my 50 My Little Ponies to the world and accomplished the same thing?

Whoops. I have said too much. I must leave before I let slip any other casualties of the 80s that haunt my troubled past. I'll leave you with the Popples theme song, which some even more troubled soul bothered to transcribe:

Popples...pop-pop-pop-Pop Popples they'll make you smile
Popples pop-pop-popples.. Popples livin' just for fun
Laughter and good times too when the Popples pop up for you.
Pop up just for you!

You just can't say it any better than that.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Vincent Van Gogh Project

"Beauty II" - 8 x 10" colored pencil on colorfix paper.
copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
Click here to bid.
Okay, the suspense is over. The artist for Fine Line Artists' February project is none other than Mr. Vincent Van Gogh. As in last month's John Singer Sargent project, the aim is to study what makes our chosen artist great and see if we can adapt any of that to our works. And also as before, any of you fellow artists are more than welcome to join in, blog about your progress, and send me your links so that I can post them here as we go! I learned a lot from Sargent so I have high hopes.
Now, I started my study of Van Gogh this evening by reading Van Gogh's Van Goghs, which is about the pieces in the Van Gogh Museum in , and also by surfing this huge site: (on dial up -- now that's dedication, people). And I've learned a lot already, such as:
  • Van Gogh is the sort of son I hope I never have, the ne'er do well was living with his parents when he was thirty.
  • He was self-taught
  • He voluntarily checked into an asylum after cutting off his ear lobe (sort of like voluntary artist rehab) -- who knows if he meant to cut off his own ear lobe, after all, he had the razor blade out to threaten fellow artist Gaugin. Dummy.
  • He was almost 3D with his paint. Note to self, buy more thick, globby paint and plan on using a lot.

But so far, I'm sort of . . . well, disappointed. That site I mentioned lists 854 paintings, or something like that, and his quality -- to me -- seems rather uneven, in comparison to Sargent. With Sargent, I felt like I could really learn something from every piece. Not so with Van Gogh. And plus, Sargent seemed to have a sense of humor, which I appreciated. Van Gogh decided to dress like a poor dude and wander around telling people that he was the painter of the peasants while having epileptic seizures that caused mental disorders. He must've been great at dinner parties.

But I still found some fodder that interested me, such as:

I know, I know, too many links, Maggie, we're lazy . . . well, I can't save images from that website or I would've shown them to you here. I have a vague idea what I might try doing, but just wait til you get a load of what sort of prep work Van Gogh did . . . .

Oh, and for crying out loud, would you guys check out my minis at my Las Vegas gallery? I'd love to offer them on eBay but unfortunately they are having fun out west instead. . .