Saturday, April 26, 2008


Lucien Freud's painting "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" is expected to fetch more than $32 million dollars at May's Christie's New York auction. This sale will be the most paid for an piece of art by a living artist.  This bit of news got me thinking about my personal art buying guidelines, my collection's value, and being an artist myself - how to make sure my artwork holds its value.

For the beginning collector, there are some simple guidelines that one can follow.  The first step is to Establish Your Purpose.  Are you collecting art for fun, for a future investment to create a legacy and inheritance, or simply to decorate your home, office, or second residence.  Your available space may dictate the size of the artwork you eventually purchase.  Making that decision to buy an original piece of art can feel very overwhelming.  It is intimidating to part with a substantial amount of money, especially in today's tightening financial atmosphere especially because we feel obligated to be accountable for our spending actions. 

Decide What Medium You Prefer; photography, painting, drawing, sculpture. Understand the formal aspects; light, color, line, mood; and choose a subject matter; humor, landscape, portraiture, political; that appeals to you.  Do you want abstract or realistic work? ( Since I'm an abstract painter I hope your answer is this style! )  Know that an art collection that is cohesive becomes more valuable.

Set a Budget for art purchases and be flexible.  You must allot an appropriate sum to purchase good artwork.  Choose original oils, acrylics, or watercolors over prints.  Get authenticity papers.

Know the Artist.  "Online" research possibilities makes this step easy, at least for the computer savvy person.  Credentials and references are the cornerstones of an artist's reputation.  Look for awards, solo exhibitions in galleries and museums, and corporate collections.  Whenever possible, meet the artist.  Creating this relationship gives access to the artists' latest works; the best work is often reserved for prestige and loyal collectors.

Art as an investment is a long-term investment.  This is a reason to like what you buy. Investment value will depend upon the artist's reputation, the rarity and uniqueness of the art piece, and its authenticity which is proven through paperwork, the aesthetics of the piece, the work's condition, and the current financial market environment.

Advance Your Art Education.  Join museum collector groups, art schools, to become part of a networking opportunity, and take advantages of special lectures. Subscribe and read art blogs and arts coverage in major newspapers like the New York Times.  Attend artist receptions and art fairs.  See as must art as possible.  Take an Art history class to build context and knowledge.

Collecting can provide a lifetime of fun, a focus to travel, and an opportunity to be enriched by the creativity of artists, some of whom you will get to know personally.  Believe me, we are an interesting lot.

As Picasso once said, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life".  And for this reason alone, to be surrounded by visual images that evoke thought and emotion, there is no better reason to be an art collector.

( image above : Reclining Nude 408 by J. Behman )

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Puppetry is a form of performance and manipulation of objects.  It originated 30,000 years BC and then was used as an art form and also for religious rituals.  

Today is it rare that this art form is selected as a business and sole source of income.  It takes a dedicated individual to derive pleasure from delighting his audiences.  Don Wallis, a San Luis Obispo resident, has been doing just this for over 24 years with more than 8,000 shows under his belt.  He is a hand puppeteer, hand puppets, not Marionettes.

Hand puppets take as long to learn to master.  Both involve story telling.  Hand puppetry requires not only head and body movements, but also a well planned entry and exit strategy ( stage blocking ) in order to bring on more than two puppets.  The famed "Punch and Judy"  offered up to 9 puppets per show.

His background as an Actor, Screenwriter, and Stage Director all adapted themselves to this art form.  Also being a graduate in International World History as a literature historian he incorporates actual historical events into the plays he writes.  There is something basic to world humanity that moves the child within the Adult human being, along with delighting children.

Many child birthday parties offer puppetry entertainment.  Puppets have been used by psychotherapists to  facilitate role playing and to help in diagnosis for mental disorders. Puppets can teach children important lessons.  Employed by the State of California, Don has toured public schools doing a production with the underlying message being Anti Tobacco.

So remember, when someone asks you directions to...your pointing finger tells a story. 

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Point of Conception


As it pertains to the art world; rather than stem cell research; the topic of “conception” is quite interesting. When is the point of conception? When is the idea realized? Is it critical to begin a visual or performance art piece using a preconceived notion, and stick to it? As opposed to genetic manipulation, we artists can plan and redesign our works to reach a vision. But, the original intent may alter along the way, simply because of inspirations.

I would venture to say that even though realism painters, authors of autobiographies, and documentary filmmakers edit their works through to completion, the original concept remains the ultimate goal.

Is there a non-objective painting, or a jazz melody, or a modern dance performance that begins and ends with the original concept?

Abstraction artists may approach their work with an initial concept, but along the way, something happens. Action painters such as William DeKooning and Jackson Pollack certainly could not visualize the ultimate outcomes of their process. The Gutai painters using their bodies to make marks on canvas could not plan out their strokes. Yet, these artists have left a legacy of color, form, and masterful mark making.

Maybe it is important to begin a piece with an initial idea because it sets up an agenda for what one may want to do, or explore, in the media. It is a starting point. The artist’s path is found and eventually unearths the perception by working, as opposed to starting with a preconceived notion.

What about the viewer’s experience? Must the artist’s concept that results in intent be the same as the viewer’s interpretation? Intent and Observation are often unrelated. The observer interprets the vision based on personal experiences and cultural history. For example, a red wedding dress is very appropriate in Asia but USA brides wear white.

The painting’s title or words embedded in the composition can insure that the viewer understands the artist’s intent. Authors use graphic book covers to illustrate inside characters. Many non-objective paintings are untitled leaving the viewer to ponder and experience the artist’s method of paint application, choices of color, and compositional design.

Fellow students and respected professors at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco have bantered this subject. Looking at a painting by Clifford Still or Motherwell, both non-objection artists, there is a consensus that although an initial concept was acted upon, during the process of the painting (its actual application of products) the concept and the painting were developed simultaneous.

During this month, HBO will air “The Gates”. This documentary is about a public artwork in New York’s Central Park. The artist’s concept was to turn the dark winter park into a garden of light and color with the installation of over 7,500 fabric panel gates. It took 26 years to finalize his concept.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Glass Shoe

“Hello Lover”, an exclamation by Carrie Bradshaw a “Sex and the City” character, as she covets a pair of Manolo Blahnik sandals in a window display.

Shoes like precious stones are collectable, cherished, and you can never have enough. Former Philippines’ first lady and political figure Imelda Marcos’ extensive shoe collection was 3,000 pair at final count.

There are books about Shoes as Objects of Art and Seduction. The Shoe has been a subject in Andy Warhol paintings. Wearable foot art comes in well thought out compositions from faces to places. Yes, there is a shoe museum, The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada, that hosts an extensive collection of designed footwear.

And if you trust in fairy tales, then you believe that Cinderella wore glass slippers. Larry Le Brane, a SLO fused glass artist, has perfected the Shoe in glass. He admits that his men’s shoe fetish sparked his creative shoe juices. Shoes offer a sculptural feel to this schooled artist.

Beginning with a “flip flop” two and a half years ago, he has challenged himself to perfect the Stiletto, both in fused glass.

Why high heels” Because they are “charged with sexual innuendo”, says Larry. “Wearing it (the high heel) emphasizes the curves of the female anatomy, making it visually appealing to men. I decided to emphasize this height to a 7" heel on a 2" platform. I added touches of "man stuff" (the cable ties for straps, and the diamond plate aluminum base), thus the title "Diamond Plate Stiletto". Larry’s art form is delivered as a whole package paying attention to details, form, color and design. Each pair is displayed on its own stand.

Earning his BA and MFA at Otis Art Institute, Larry was the Professor of Art at Orange Coast College from 1971 to 2003. He then moved here where he produces his art and teaches drawing for the Cuesta College emeritus program.

Each pair of LeBrane’s shoes is unique and hypnotic. These glass shoes always have a "Wow" reaction. They will be featured in “Caution: Art Zone”, SLO Art Center’s upcoming exhibition and sale that begins January 19th through March 16th, 2008. His studio is a glass artist’s Disneyland and open to the public by appointment only. Call Rhonda, wife/manager, or Larry for a private showing, (805)528-8791 or (805)748-6935.

Along with paintbrushes, shoes are my next favorite compilation. My salvation has been living in a tiny home offering little closet space, and in a walking town. It would definitely be a problem for me to walk my streets wearing four-inch heels. Lucky for me Prada and Stuart Weitzman, designer shoes that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, don’t make tennis shoes. Dolce & Gabbana does.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Before last week I knew nothing about Artist Trading Cards. A local artist talked to me about these miniature works of art and I was instantly intrigued. So I did my due diligence via the Internet and found an abundance of information regarding this art genre. Artist Trading Cards are a contemporary phenomenon that is attracting collectors.

Known as ATCs, this is an idea born out of baseball and other trading cards by the Swiss artist M.Vanci Stirnemann in 1997. Artist Trading Cards are original works of art that meet a precise dimension. There are rules.

The qualifying dimension of an ATC must be 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. They cannot be sold, only exchanged. The exchange must be made at a “trading session”. The trading session is a face-to-face meeting between 2 or more artists to switch a minimum of 2 cards. More cards can be made and traded as called for in the trading session.

The real meaning of these tiny works of art is about artists meeting other artists. Not only is it meant to exchange works but also ideas. Over a period of time Artists create a working network that can become worldwide. Because ATC’s are original works of art, they also expose artists to different artistic styles. This movement has made a positive impact in the world of miniature art and has increased interest in it from art patrons.

Cards can be made using any media, but the card must be sturdy. It is recommended that the artist use card stock or a simple playing card as its base. Balsa wood, metal, heavy watercolor paper, and clay can also be used, so long as the size requirements are met. This small canvas is then covered in artwork. Cards can be completed in collage, fabric, colored pencils, stamps, beadwork, watercolor, acrylic, string, airbrush, and many others. Traders want unique cards that are made with care and that will last.

The back of the ATC must show the artist’s name; preferably in signature; artist contact information, and it’s title. If the art is part of a series, the card must also to be identified by the edition number. Although by definition ATCs are one of a kind, sets of identical ATCs are called editions and so are ATCs made in sequence.

Trading sessions can be between 2 or more artists with 2 or more cards to trade. Sessions are meant to be face-to-face because of the underlying purpose to get artists together, but because of the growing popularity of ATCs, trading sessions are also conducted via mail. Since it’s origination, several hundred people are trading ATCs. In essence, this is a form of performance art.

Themed trading sessions can be fun. Artists who participate in themed sessions are required to meet topic restrictions. Famous Musicians Past and Present was one theme identified on the Internet. I would like to see this ATC collection.

The Internet is loaded with sites pertaining to this art form and offers templates for making ATC cards and envelopes, tips on storing cards, and ATC display suggestions.
There are also post and trading sites (ATC swaps), art galleries that specialize in exhibiting ATC collections, and quarterly magazines. ATCs are even showing up on Ebay!

Anyone can call an Artist Trading Card Session. Try it, you’ll like it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Automobile as Art

Of all the twentieth century artifacts none is more typically American than the Automobile.
Because Morro Bay’s car show is this weekend, I thought it would be appropriate that my column focus on how the automobile has been used as a subject d’Arte.

Cruiser art images trigger memories and emotions. They bring us back to moments in our lives. In my case it’s the 1958 Ford Fairlane. Automotive paintings are examples of the beauty of the classic and the modern automobile.

As still life subjects the Automobile offers challenges in drawing and painting. The Artist is required to depict body styles in proper perspective, to illustrate the car’s sleek lines and bumper to bumper shapes, to create tone value changes to illustrate mass, altogether to properly achieve a three-dimensional feel and quality to the final work. Countless paintings and photographs have been made using “parts of” automobiles rather than the full car to make the composition appear more abstract. Nothing smiles wider than a 57 Buick. Imagine the goofy character of the 1961 Peugeot caught on canvas.

Some artists use thick paint while some thin, others apply paint with heavy handed bold brush strokes when some artists feverishly dry brush to blend all texture. Artists depict automobiles in different ways. A composition placing a Ford Woody in the middle of a city would not suit the car best compared to it’s natural surroundings on a beach with its 4 doors open and surf board set on its top. Even bumper stickers can become an interesting part of a painting.

The artwork can even be more engaging when the classic automobile is depicted in its aged and rugged form, rather than tricked out. Metro active, or Digital Art, can create superb stylized images of automobiles, Andy Warhol like.

From Ferrari, to Ford, cars themselves have even been used as a canvas. Art car artists are sometimes referred to as “Cartists”. Well known artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Ernst Fuchs, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney and more have had their work reflected on BMW Art Cars. (The BMW Art Car Collection is a series of BMW production models transformed from automobile to art by some of the world's foremost artists.)

Be it with stickers or bobbing figurines, cars have always become a tool to express individuality. During the late 1960s, singer Janis Joplin had a psychedelic-painted Porsche 356 and John Lennon, a paisley Rolls Royce. Counterculture of the late 60s and 70s decorated their cars with day-glow paint and often glued and bolted on various appliqué’s. Jan Elftman decorated her pickup truck with thousands of corks she collected over a 15-year period when she worked as a waitress in an Italian Restaurant. Decorating one’s car is another way to say, “Look at me”. Art car artists usually drive their own work and often dress to match their automobile.

While we stroll down the boulevard this weekend admiring more than 500 car show entries, I don’t think we will see anything like I have described. But, surely we will see exotic customized paint jobs. These are hugely expensive.

I am not a Cartist nor do I dress to match my car. The only thing my Ford needs is a good bath!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Have you ever attended an Artist’s Reception? There is a feeling of excitement anticipating the night’s festivities. The Gallery and Artist hope for customers and sales. There is no shortage of food and drink. Guests saunter about the room, stopping in front of each painting; they huddle in small groupings and murmur their observations. Communicating the underlying concept that motivated the Artist to create this body of work is the ever-repeating dialog. Who will break the ice with the first sale this evening?

Being in the spot light for a meager four hours is the culmination of hard work. Take it from an Artist; by the end of the party our hair has flattened our clothes droopy, we are pooped; despite the number of sales.

The “Reception” for my new works entitled LIQUID SYMBOLISM was March 1st, 5-8pm, in Palm Springs, California. Allow me, on behalf of my fellow artists, to educate you on the labors it takes that lead up to the Artist’s Reception.

Most Fine Art Galleries do not accept artists that are unknown to them. Exhibiting Artists have an established relationship with the Art gallery, offer a sales record and guest list. Planned a minimum of one year in advance, the date for the Reception is set. The initial meeting sets the groundwork for marketing strategies, time lines for effective public notice via mailings and press releases, and designated exhibition space is decided upon. The Artist and Gallery have a clear understanding of their responsibilities.

Unless the show is a “retrospect”, the Artist develops a new body of work. Artists test new products. Ideas are first thumbnail sketches, and then more refined sketches. Color palettes are thoughtfully chosen. What feeling and narration the artist wants to convey must come through the artwork. Shall it be soleful, provocative, or startling?

If you saw the movie “Jackson Pollack” you must remember the scene when he sat for days in an empty room in his apartment staring at a blank canvas. All the while, his mind was planning out the composition. He was working out the kinks in his head, developing the ultimate plan for the painting. Artists visualize final paintings in their dreams before executing the work on canvas.

Assigning a title to each piece is easier said than done. Titles can detract from the work and deprive the viewer of his own observations.

The professional Artist paints day and night. It’s our job, not a hobby. When we price a painting for sale we don’t consider an hourly pay…that would be depressing! Many times we price a painting based on what we want to do in the future, such as bills we need to pay and supplies we want to purchase. There may be travel and shipping costs involved. This is a difficult step. If pricing is too high or too low, sales will be affected. Pricing is a joint effort between the Artist and Gallery.

The day before the opening we hang the work, prepare our artist’s statement, and place the printed Tags that show the title, measurement, media, and price of the pieces. The lighting must complement the work. This takes hours. Of course there is always something that doesn’t go right and something forgotten…don’t tell me I am the only one who needs drywall bolts at the last minute. So the next morning its back to the Gallery for the finishing touches and photos of the show. Then back “home” to bathe, put on the perfect outfit, some lipstick (for me), and be ready to shine.

We meet and greet with the perfect smile. It’s not dissimilar for the Performance Artist who rehearses for the concert, recital, or play. Their Sold out performance and Standing Ovation is equivalent to the attendance and sales at Artist Receptions.

As Dr. Laura might say…Now, do the right thing – attend an Artist Reception AND purchase a piece of the Artist’s work.