Sunday, October 15, 2017

The importance of framing

Every now and then I get the chance to show my work in Belgium, one of our neighbor countries. Great people. They like (and sometimes buy) my work and that makes me very happy. But lately I'm getting the impression they got a thing with frames. More and more Belgian buyers like to purchase their paintings unframed. Gallery owners can't stress enough they have no objections if you drop off your work unframed.

I'm not sure what the reason is, but I hope it doesn't spread. The purpose of a frame is not only aesthetic, it's for protection as well. The surface of my paintings consists of very thin layers of paint that easily damage, a bit like enamel, so I want them to be properly framed.

And to be honest, I like my paintings better when they're framed. Frames are a visual buffer between the painting and it's surroundings. The picture below shows the standard frame I use for my work, a so called 'floater'. It's a simple frame that underscores the landscape format of the painting and says: "This might be a realistic painting, but it's still a work of a contemporary artist."




And here's the same painting in it's actual frame. The Edgartown Art Gallery (where it's currently on display) asked me to ship it unframed, so they could choose a frame that matches the atmosphere of the gallery as a whole. An old English kinda feel. I went for the experiment, curious as I was how my work would look in a totally different frame and I was pleasantly surprised. It looks great with the wonderful warm-cold color contrast between the frame and the painting. 




If you want to take a closer look at it, please go to my website www.paintingskies.com. It's the first painting that comes up in the Portfolio section (at least for now). When you hit the 'detail' button below the picture, guess what happens...


Rain Clouds, oil on panel, 5.9 x 19.7"

Friday, September 29, 2017

5 tips for a successful exhibition

This week I started working on a one person exhibition early next year in De twee Pauwen Art Gallery. De Twee Pauwen means 'the two peacocks' and the gallery honors it's name. Exactly 10 years ago they hosted a solo show of my work for the first time. It was quite successful and after that I was invited back every two years.

Most of the exhibitions I'm participating in are group shows. Since the economic crises galleries are reluctant to take the risk of a one person exhibition, so I'm really glad with the Two Peacocks. It illustrates the importance of a gallery that believes in your work. Nothing worse than driving home after an exhibition with the same paintings you dropped off a few weeks earlier...

Foggy Sunrise, oil on panel, 15 x 50 cm


So to prevent that I'll give you my 5 tips for a successful exhibition (apart of course from doing brilliant paintings):

1. Make sure you're in the right gallery.
Duhuh, I hear you think. But it's is not as self evident as it seems. If you don't get a lot of opportunities to show your work, you maybe tempted to be content with the mere fact that a gallery invites you at all. Still it makes sense to do some research to find out if your work fits in. Look at their artists and maybe write one of them an email to find out what the gallery is about.

2. A prompt answer says a lot.
When I receive an email from a gallery I try to respond the same day, or the next day at the latest. I like my galleries to do the same. When it takes them a week (or sometimes more!) to answer they should at least apologize for their late response. Otherwise: forget it. It takes a lot of effort, time and money on your part to participate. The way a gallery communicates with it's artists says a lot about the effort they're going to put in. Some of the worst experiences I had could have been avoided if I just paid attention to their reaction time.

3. Do the paperwork.
When you're working with a gallery for the first time it's a good idea to have the gallery conditions on paper. At least have them confirm by email the most important points: their percentage, the exhibition period, the number and sizes of the works, insurance, that kind of stuff.

4. Do the numbers.
When you've done your homework you know which price range the gallery is in. For a successful exhibition it's important to stay within that range. If you have to change your prices to fit in, remember: once you raised them it's a problem to lower them when times get hard. Galleries hate it when that happens. It sends a message to their buyers their artists are overpriced.

5. Enjoy the ride.
With all these do's and don't's you'd almost forget the reason for all this: painting. For an exhibition like this I like to focus on a certain aspect of my work. Last time I did a lot of reflections, this time it's going to be clouds, my core business. I enjoy visualizing the gallery filled with my works, each one of them absolutely brilliant of course. Can't wait to turn my ideas into actual paintings. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

New oil sketches

Don't feel like writing a lot this week, so I thought I'd do a little self promotion. 

A week ago I put 4 new oil sketches on paper online. Two of them already found a new owner, two are still available for a friendly price, passe partout and shipping included. If you're interested, please go to my webshop at http://www.janhendrikdolsma.nl/paintings/. Thank you!

(If you read this in, let's say, October 2018 there is a possibility the above is no longer valid...)


Clouds in Backlight, oil sketch on paper, 8.7x15.7"

Cloud Mirror, oil sketch on paper, 11.8x15.7"


Friday, September 1, 2017

Little lies

Every time I put a picture of my work online I'm not totally telling the truth. Not totally lying either, but still. Let me explain. At first sight the two pictures below seem to be photographs of the same painting, but one is a small oil sketch on paper and the other is the finished painting on panel.

Evening Clouds, 11.8x17.7", oil on paper
Evening Clouds, 35.4x47.2", oil on panel

A little over a year ago I made them for an American buyer. To give her an idea of what I intended to do I made the sketch. It's about a third of the size of the finished painting. When you see them like this on your screen they seem to be almost identical. I'll show you some details to demonstrate they're not.





Now I seem to be telling you the truth, but am I? Displayed like this the two details are still misleading, because you see them at the same size. If you really want to compare the two I'd have to show them in a 1 : 1 ratio .

Like this:





And even now these pictures are only telling part of the truth, even though they're the size they have in reality. You're not seeing them in the totality of the painting, they're isolated fragments. And of course you're missing out on the reality of the painted surface. You can't look at it up close and then step back. 

Only way to overcome this problem is go see one of the exhibitions I'm participating in (http://www.paintingskies.com/exhibitions/) If you can't make it there, well, you got to make do with the little lies I tell you...






Thursday, August 17, 2017

The brush and the saw

Lately I've been struggling with a 12x20'' painting. Never got to the 'now-we're-getting-somewhere' point. In the same period I sold a 6x20'' painting to a buyer who didn't care for the frame, so I had a spare frame. Of the same width. One plus one is two, eh? I digitally cropped the picture of the original painting to a size that would fit the spare frame and I really liked the result. But there is a difference between Photoshop and reality: cmd z. Once the panel has been sawn in two you can't restore it with a simple keyboard command. 

The 12x20" version, before cropping

I slept over it a few nights and then decided I would go for it. I don't have the tools to get the job done, but I live in a town where they have something called a 'stadswerkplaats', a city work shop. It costs next to nothing, they have all the tools and if you're a bit clumsy (like me), they're always willing to help you.

I just got back from the work shop and placed the new painting in the frame and I must say I'm really pleased with the result.

Which goes to show that a painter needs more tools than just a brush.

Sun & Mist, oil on panel, 6x20"

Now I have a new problem: what to do with the leftover part...



Thursday, August 3, 2017

the marouflé technique

As some of you may know I often make oil sketches on paper in preparation of larger works on panel.  I sell them for a friendly price on my website. My frame maker produces wonderful passe partoux to protect them during transport. They look great behind glass. 

But every now and then a buyer wants a proper frame instead of a passe partout. In cases like that my frame maker applies the so called marouflĂ© technique. The word 'maroufler' is French and it sounds quite poetic, but it actually means 'to rub'. The painting (or the drawing) is fixed to a solid ground, such as MDF. When it's done properly you can't see the difference with a panel painting. 

Beach with Clouds in Backlight, 9.8x15.7", oil on paper, marouflé

A long time ago I used to do it myself, but to be honest, I'm not a real handy man, so the results often left to be wished for. But if you insist on doing it yourself, this is how it goes:
- The ingredients: acrylic binder, a solid surface (MDF, masonite), a spalter, a credit card, books and a sharp knife
- The paper must be slightly larger than the panel you're going to mount it on. Later on in the process you'll have to cut off the parts that stick out.
- Thin the acrylic binder with water 1:1
- Bring it on with the spalter on both surfaces, the board as well as the back side of the paper. Be sure to have a smooth surface. No humps and bumps. Use the credit card to even out irregularities.
- Now gently put the paper on your board and rub (there it is!) the paper surface from the center to the edges
- Let it dry under pressure (this is where the books come in) for about 24 hours.
- Cut off the parts of the paper that stick out with your sharp hobby knife. And when I say sharp I mean razor sharp. A blunt knif will completely ruin your work.
- Done!

I'd try the frame maker.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Theory

Probably every artist and certainly every gallery owner always wonders why one painting sells and another one doesn't. They're hoping to find some kind of secret rule that predicts success or failure. Quite useful in an unpredictable environment like the art business. Now take a look at the paintings below and in particular at the year in which I painted them.

Passage, oil on panel, 35.4 x 47.2", 2007

Shore Line, oil on panel, 15.7 x 19.7", 2011

Sunset with Storm Clouds, oil on paper, 11.8" x 15.7", 2016

The first painting is not exactly  a happy painting, with it's dark sky and the suggestion of bad weather. Now look at the date: 2007, one year before the economic crisis. Sales went through the roof and everybody was quite optimistic. The second painting was painted in the middle of the crisis (2011). A bright sunny painting, while the overall mood was pretty down. The third painting is again a rather dramatic, dark scene. The date is 2016. The crisis is over and our ideas about the future are much brighter than five years earlier.

My idea is that people only buy paintings with a dark mood when everything is fine and the mood is optimistic enough to stand a little drama. During the crisis people had enough trouble of their own and they weren't about to pay good money for more gloom & doom. No chance I would've sold a painting like the first one. Sunny works, like the second one, still sold, though  sales went down considerably. Now in 2017 the crisis is over and there is again room for paintings with a dark atmosphere.

Of course this is not an entirely new idea. During the crisis of the nineteen-thirties the great American  show movies with song and dance did very well. Probably the same mechanism. Maybe I should try my luck with a couple of heavy skies again...