A family trip and a brand new tent!

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It's been a busy summer around here! We were able to get out of town for a lovely vacation the week after school let out for the year. This was our second trip to Hilton Head, SC, and we just love the area so much. It's a VERY long car ride from Wisconsin, two 10-hour days, but it is really worth every minute. We ride our bikes everywhere, spend a lot of time on the beach and in the ocean, floating and splashing around. Last year we took a day trip to Charleston to tour the naval ships so this year we took the short drive to Savannah and rode the tour bus around the city. It was a super hot day, we almost melted on the open air trolley, but we had a great time and would love to go back on a cooler day when we can spend more time walking around. We also spent one morning on horseback and on our last day we took a boat ride to "vanishing island" which was a fabulous way to end our much needed vacation.

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Now that we're back home, it's time to focus on my next art fair on August 11th in Paoli, Wisconsin. Paoli is a tiny little town but it is a very creative, artistic community so I'm hoping it will be a great fair experience. The most exciting part of this fair will be getting to use my beautiful new Trimline canopy tent with mesh walls!

The EZup tent I used at my first fair worked well, but the grid walls are so heavy to transport and a little clunky to set up. And because I only have 9 panels, I'm just not utilizing all of the space available in my booth.

I was lucky enough to find an artist who was retiring from the art fair circuit and had an amazing booth for sale. He really wanted his entire set-up to go to an emerging artist and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I feel so incredibly lucky! This tent is really going to showcase my art in such a professional way. It was a big investment for me, especially with only one art fair under my belt, but taking this plunge is a great motivation to keep me going, finding more art fairs to apply to for next year.

I spent several hours learning how to set it up in my backyard so the process will hopefully go smoothly on fair day. I was able to do the entire build by myself except for the part where you add the last two legs and do the final raising of the canopy. It's an 8 foot tent and I am not a tall gal, so my son had to come out and give me a little extra help. Once it was up and the mesh walls were in place, I played around with hanging some of my art, trying to envision the best use of the space. I cannot wait for the big day! It's going to be a great fair!

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Art Fair Catastrophe 101: Advice from a Newbie

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Yesterday I was a vendor in the 36th Annual Sun Prairie Taste of the Arts Fair. It was my very first experience as an exhibiting artist and I was incredibly nervous from the moment I dropped off my  application to exhibit. Can I really do this? Should I really do this? How much money am I going to have to spend to get a booth pulled together? Do I have enough art to display? And the real source of all my anxiety, Is my art good enough? 

When I received my artist packet in the mail, it contained a list of rules (including the requirement of having a 10lb. fire extinguisher in every booth), my booth assignment (#137) and a map of the layout. There are 140 booths total on the map. My location is adjacent to a drive that connects two parking lots. The city Chamber of Commerce is organizing the fair and they claim they've had 4-5000 attendees at this fair in recent years. I'm pretty sure their advertising budget was $28, because I saw ONE sign in town this week, and High school graduation was the night before, which means lots of grad parties on the same day as the fair. I'm feeling very skeptical about attendance but I don't want to be a pessimist, so I hope for the best.

Last week the weather people were having a really great time changing the forecast every 4 hours, from scattered rain, all-day thunderstorms, scattered sun, temps in the low 70's, temps in the mid 80's...seriously, how is a girl supposed to make critical decisions when she doesn't know if there will or will not be water pouring from the sky? On the afternoon before the fair, the forecast was actually looking pretty decent but they were saying there could still be some showers in the area during the load-in.

So, Friday afternoon I packed everything that couldn't get wet into my Explorer. That meant A LOT of stuff had to go in my car. Framed paintings were in a giant plastic bin and the canvas paintings were in another large bin, but there was no way I could put the lids on the bins, so they weren't weather-proof at all. I also had two large boxes of the pieces that were matted and in plastic envelope-y things, also not technically weather-proof, so add them to the car. By the time I added in the display materials (including a cool, antique wood ironing board) and other essentials, I had played a pretty decent game of Tetris to get it all in there. My plan was to load the trailer in the morning with the grid wall, tent weights, tent and table, and off I'd go. 6:30 a.m. arrival was my goal.

Up by 5:30, dressed, partially caffeinated and ready to load the trailer, I walked into the garage, pushed the button for the door to go up. It went up an inch and then back down. So I pushed it again. It went up an inch and then back down. Repeat. REpeat. REPEAT!!!! I go grab my husband, I'm starting to sweat a bit, he pushes the button and gets the same result. REPEAT. Oh. My. God. Is this really happening? We do the next logical thing, pull on that rope that hangs down from the opener, the one that's supposed to disengage the mechanical opener and let you lift the door manually. Simple. 

No it is not.

The door doesn't budge.

Now I'm in full hot-flash mode, husband is staring at the door with his hand under his chin. What. Is. Happening? "Looks like the spring is broken. That door is not going to open". 

Kill me now, please.

Son #2, who is up and ready to go, runs upstairs to get son #1 out of bed and we quickly and carefully empty my vehicle of it's content, but it all has to come out of the partially open passenger doors because the back hatch can't open without banging into the closed garage door. It is now past the time I was planning on arriving at the fair and I am quickly watching my set-up time go down the drain. We transfer all my crap to a smaller SUV that is thankfully parked on the other side of the broken garage door, along with the trailer that still has to be filled with stuff that is, you guessed it, in the garage. 

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Truthfully, I'm pretty much losing my shit at this point. No one is moving as fast as I think they should be even though they are really moving as fast as they can. Not my best mom moment, not my best happily married moment, either. Thank the Universe I have very, very understandable family members who know me well enough...The other true bright spot in the story to this point is that it is NOT raining. If it had been, I think I might have headed straight back to bed.

So, we finally arrive at the park with a full trailer and a full (back-up) vehicle. There are lots of tents already going up, lots of hustle bustle, many very focused artists scurrying around. I find my spot in the grass, my art fair mentor and lifesaver, KJ, shows up on time and the five of us, somehow, get it all set up and ready with at least 12 minutes to spare. Miracle. 

The rest of the day is a bit of a hot, sticky blur. My lovely booth neighbors were VERY disappointed in the attendance and many artists barely made back the booth fee in sales, some didn't sell anything the whole day. I really felt bad for all of them. That was my worst fear, before I knew a garage door could break on your most important morning. As for my sales, I honestly did better than I expected, due entirely to the fact that I have some truly amazing friends who showed up to support me by purchasing art for their homes. If I only count the art I sold to complete strangers, I also didn't earn back my booth fee, but I most certainly earned the most in pure experience. Here is a list of the "what I learned":

  1. Park outside the garage. 
  2. Get up an hour earlier just to be sure (fill in the blank)
  3. Don't get frustrated when your booth neighbors use your spot to throw all of their crap before you arrive. It happens.
  4. Art Fair organizers should NOT LET PEOPLE DRIVE CARS THROUGH AN ART FAIR ALL DAY LONG. They make road block signs for a reason.
  5. Don't wear that cute skirt with the cute attachable purse-thing. You look really fat in it.
  6. Also, leggings are really hot. Temperature hot, I mean.
  7. Just say no to the straw cowboy hat. It doesn't look as good as it used to and it made you really hot and then your hair was icky.
  8. People are really, really nice.
  9. No one asks if you have a fire extinguisher in your booth.
  10. I have the most amazing friends in the world. Some even travelled a great distance to support me on a day when they certainly had other very important things on their minds.
  11. My art is good enough.
  12. I made smart purchases for my booth set-up that should last me until I decide I want to quit or do more.
  13. I really am a badass in the making.
  14. Listen to KJ when she tells you to eat, even if it is her juice that looks like the inside of a diaper. One street taco doesn't get you through an entire art fair day.
  15. The Square reader thing is smarter than I am. Thankfully.
  16. Zip ties.
  17. My family will never understand how much I love them.

Art Fair on the Brain

Boy, I have fallen off the Blog Wagon again! It's a really busy time of year for me (for everyone, right?) and even though my I haven't been writing, that doesn't mean I haven't been working!

I have been crazy busy getting ready to do my first Art Fair and there is so much work to do, I can hardly believe it's going to be worth the effort. Not a winning attitude, I know, but it's a lot of work for only one or possibly two shows this summer. Building up an inventory, pricing, labelling, figuring out how I'm going to display everything in the tent, creating marketing materials...the list goes on and on!

If I the weather cooperates and I end up having a great time (and actually sell some art), my plan is to step up my game and try to get in to a few bigger 2-day shows next summer. But, no matter what the results are, this is going to be really great experience for me on many levels. Hopefully I will increase exposure to my website and online presence, and, most importantly, boost confidence in my own abilities.

Three weeks to go...wish me luck!!

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Make Your Mark

So, one of the techniques that I believe can really elevate abstract art is the process of mark-making.

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Mark-making is exactly what it sounds like, adding random marks, scratches, textures, anything that adds depth, interest and character to a painting. These marks typically hide out in the layers, sometimes barely there, but they are definitely doing an important job. A good example can be seen in a detail shot of my most recently completed piece, Getting the Hang of This:

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Every artist that incorporates marks into their work has their own style. It's like a signature - you get to the point where your muscle memory takes over and the marks you make are yours alone, totally recognizable as a style belonging to that artist.

My mark making begins at the beginning - I cannot dive into a big, white space without first starting with marks. Even though I know these early marks will never be seen in the finished painting, they help guide the emotion of the piece. I always start with my Lyra graphite stick. It's water-soluble graphite and it's available in a couple different degrees. I prefer the 9B - it's really dark but also soft. I scribble with reckless abandon over my paper or canvas, give the surface a couple good squirts of water and let the drips happen. I also use a large paint brush to make random strokes all over.

Throughout the process of building layers of paint, letting the colors and shapes guide the composition, I often get stuck. Adding more marks at this point is a great way to break out of whatever trap I've set up. I sometimes break out the Derwent Inktense Blocks and use them in the same way as the Lyra stick. Scribble, using the flat side for a broad, bold stroke and using the corners to make sharp lines. Add a couple more sprays of water, brush it around or let it drip. It's lovely! Stabilo Woody Pencils are also great to use in the same manner and give a more subtle, but similar look.

To keep me moving forward when I get frustrated, I also pull out the handmade stamps and stencils and create more dimension in the composition with these and other household items. I have a few squares of drawer liner and rug-stay rubber that make fabulous texture when pressed into wet paint. If I feel myself struggling to stay loose, I will use scrapers and brayers to either add or remove paint. Because these give me less control than a brush or my fingers, it forces me to let go of the outcome just enough.

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When I start to feel that the painting is close to being done, that's where the marks I make really get a chance to take center stage. I love to pull out the oil pastels and add dimensions with shading, small bright spots of color and emphasize the round shapes I've come to use in all of my pieces. I use a variety of brands of oil pastels, they are all great for different reasons, I even love a super cheap box of Crayola pastels. Some brands are more creamy than others, some don't blend as easily, but I've learned ways to make their qualities work for me.

Depending on the painting, one of the very last steps is to create borders and dots using the  FineLine Tip and either white or black Golden High Flow paint. The FineLine tool combined with the white High Flow paint is really a must-have if you want really thin, consistent white accents. Love those two together!

You could keep making marks until the end of time if you don't have any self-control! They are so much fun and can really change the look and feel of the painting. Give it a try, find some cool things from around your house to use as tools, stamps and stencils, and see if it works for you!

Supplies! Supplies! Supplies!

When I was first starting out making art, I watched A TON of videos on youtube and purchased a few online tutorials (thank you Juliette Crane, Jeanne OliverMystele, and Artists Network!). One of the things I love about creating art is all the amazing art supplies out there! It was overwhelming at the beginning, I didn't have many supplies at all and I definitely couldn't afford (and still can't) to buy masses of expensive paints that I see other successful artists use. So, I started buying what I could afford, tried not to impulse purchase every time I saw a new shiny tool, and did my best to collect a bunch of stuff that works for me. It really helped me over time to see what paints, tools and mark makers other artists use every day and I especially love when they write blog articles or videos about they're favorites. Artists are inherently a very giving community - we love to educate and share with others - and I would love to join in that movement by sharing some of the supplies and tools I love the most. 

Today I'm going to focus on paints. There are SO MANY to choose from and so many places to find them, it can be really overwhelming. You can spend very little, say $1.29 per bottle on craft paints, and up to $30 or more on a nice bottle of artist quality acrylic (I am definitely not there yet!). When I started out, I focused on buying up bottles of craft paints from places like Target, Hobby Lobby and Michaels. Without question, these products are not up to the standards of the more pricey paints, but when you're just starting or simply playing around for fun, they are absolutely good enough. I actually still use craft paints every single day. I love the piles of colors they come in, they are affordable, easy to store, and I don't mind one bit that they aren't professional grade. I slap so much paint and layers on my pieces and I have come to know which brands I can rely on to give me the opacity or transparency I need in a particular layer. I am not a skilled "mixer" of paint, and every time I try to mix colors on a palette, I end up wasting so much paint and that stresses me out so much! I also paint very quickly in the early layers and don't want to have to take the time to mix up colors and worry about using them before they dry up right before my eyes. I love the way the paints mix and meld together on the paper or canvas, and that's the style I prefer for me. 

 Craft paint brands I use every day, including  Americana ,  Folk Art ,  Martha Stewart , and  Handmade Modern (from Target).

Craft paint brands I use every day, including Americana, Folk Art, Martha Stewart, and Handmade Modern (from Target).

I really love the Handmade Modern paints from Target. They come in lovely colors, they are thick and creamy and I really like the little pots they come in. I can get either a palette knife or brush in there with no problem. Just love these little guys. Favorite colors are the Goldenrod and Leaf Green.

Folk Art and Americana are really the mainstays of the craft paint world. Millions of colors, not quite as thick as the Target paint, but I use them every single day. My favorite colors are Citrus Green (Folk Art), Vivid Violet and Sweet Mint (Americana).

Martha Stewart makes a really nice craft paint but I'm not a fan of the container. It has a tiny little hole, even when you unscrew the lid, and I cannot get my tool in there to scoop the paint out. I'm a big scooper, so this bottle is not helping me out. Also, I've over-tightened some of the caps and broke off the top. Big bummer. Favorite colors are Beach Glass, Wild Blueberries, and Hydrangea Purple. 

 

Acrylic Paints from Golden, Jo SonjaUtrecht, Liquitex, Sennelier and Chroma.

Acrylic Paints from Liquitex, Dick Blick, Jo Sonja and Masters Touch.

Occasionally I spend a bit more money on a paint with a higher quality. They typically come in bigger bottles so price per ounce, many are really still in line with the affordability of small bottles of craft paint. Others, not so much, but it makes me feel like a genuine artist when I use them!! 

I have several tubes of heavy body paint, Golden and Liquitex brands, and the Golden heavy body paints are really thick, almost too thick for my techniques. They have great coverage though, so you can really count on them to cover up something ugly! Jo Sonja is a relatively new brand for me but so far I've been happy with the results. The "background colours" was a gamble, I wasn't really sure why a paint needed to be so specific for just background, but I really like it and it was on super sale from Dick Blick when I grabbed it. I am crazy in love with the Sennelier paints. Love the pouch it comes in, love the colors and the price can't be beat. The Liquitex Basics, Dick Blick Studio and Nature's Touch are all very nice, similar quality paints. Favorite colors are Light Ultramarine Blue from Golden, Light Olive Green from Masters Touch and Light Blue Permanent from Dick Blick.

ArtMinds brand Acrylic Paint from Michaels.

This is my most recent purchase from Michaels and I LOVE this paint! Again, super affordable, love the tubs and the paint is a big hit for me. I'm a sucker for lime green and this paint delivers a really vivid, beautiful color. Both brands are somewhat matte finish, the Decor paint is more matte than the eggshell, and I love the subtle contrast I get between these paints and the more satin finish of other brands I use. I definitely plan to add to my collection of colors soon!

Lastly, two supplies I simply could not live without - Anita's Acrylic Craft Paint (Hobby Lobby) in Antique White and Daler Rowney's Acrylic Gesso (I get this at the Walmart down the road). My specific technique of painting involves many layers and these two mainstays are key ingredients in building layers and textures in my work. The Anita's paint is the perfect off-white color and is transparent when I brayer it on and more opaque if I spread it on. I love how it lets the paint below peek through in places, sends some layers to the background and allows other areas to stay forward. I use the Daler Rowney Gesso in similar fashion - I have tried other gesso brands and while I also love the Dick Blick Artists gesso for areas I want to be REALLY white and crisp, this one gives me the perfect amount of coverage I look for when building layers. I have tried the Artist Loft brand of gesso sold at Michaels and two tubs in a row developed the MOST FOWL smell and orange colored scary stuff floating on the top, I had to return them. Definitely Beware!

I think that just about sums up my experiences with different paint brands. Please let me know if you have any favorites I haven't mentioned here. 

Next week I'll focus on Mark Making Tools, oil pastels, and pencils. 

Have a lovely, art-filled week!

Cirque

Cirque -  noun

 

1.  a circular space or arrangement

2.  a circle; ring

3.  a circus

4. a steep, hollow excavation high on a mountainside, made by glacial erosion; natural amphitheater

 

Spring Break has finally arrived and, miraculously, the planets that are high school and college have aligned and both of my sons are home during the same week. I usually have trouble staying focused creatively when there are people around, but I am so happy to have my boys home that I won't mind one bit. We don't have any big trip planned, we usually save that for early summer, so we will just hang out and have a good time around here. Maybe I can drag them to a museum or two...

The painting I have been working on this week, "Cirque" has been true to it's name. Really like moving a mountain inside a 30-ring circus, I have been pushing and pulling, adding layers, taking some away, changing direction, regretting decisions and trying to re-create the past, all on one 24 inch square piece of canvas. The challenge I gave myself was to stay in one color palette, this time purple, blue and green. During the painting process, when I hit a wall, I reflexively do one of two things - draw a circle or cover something up. So, I have a lot of circles. And a lot of layers. I also usually paint pretty fast, from start to finish in a day or two, but this has been on my easel for over a week and I keep coming back to it. I'll think it's finished, set it aside, and in the morning the annoying little critic inside me finds one area that needs "a little something more". I kinda wish I had put down the brush when I reached the point of the painting that's below in the bottom left corner.

Bygones.

And now I'm thinking there's something not right about the upper left corner that's gonna drive me crazy if I don't fix it...just one more little tweak...

More Than One Way

Reflecting on a good, productive week. I have quite a few paintings in progress right now, I think there might be 5, all different sizes, some on paper, a couple on canvas. I also finished "More Than One Way" and I love the energy of this one. I took a few photos along the way to give you an idea of my process. While I'm painting I'm not really thinking about what I want it to look like in the end, I just keep adding paint, marks and shapes until it suddenly speaks to me. I also turn the painting constantly while I'm painting, re-orienting so I have a different perspective frequently. At some point I finally see "the way" it should stay, and then I add a final layer or two of color and marks, highlighting, pulling forward, pushing back until it's done.

Day One

Welcome to my new blog!!

Launching rebeccadodsonart.com has pretty much consumed my life for the last week and I am so happy it's finally live and running pretty smoothly! The first time I tried to play around with a template on Squarespace I really struggled and almost gave up. I have managed a blog on another platform, had an Etsy store for years and also sell my art on Saatchiart.com, so I felt like I had a decent amount of experience to get my website started, but I was getting so frustrated! After a couple days of dinking around looking at other web hosting options, I came back to Squarespace, found a different template that was much better suited to my needs and skill level, and the rest, they say, is history!

I'm not typically a goal-setter but I am a pretty good list maker. In my mind there is a difference between the two! I see list making as more of a "baby-step" approach. Setting goals seems way too "big picture" for my style. However, it's a new day here at Rebecca Dodson Art, and I'm going to try my best to keep a consistent work ethic which will include blogging here at least once a week, more if I'm having an unusually exciting week. I will blog mostly about my art making process, but I hope to also throw in some "human interest" type stuff when I have some. I really like to cook, so you will probably see some of that here, including recipes. And hopefully I can convince my family to be a part as well.

Thank you for stopping by! If you are interested in keeping up with what's going on in my world, please click below to stay connected. And please, do leave me your comments! I'd really love to get to know you!