Studio Makeover! Let There Be Light!

The studio at our old house began in the sun-room, then flowed over into the garage, and finally into the big barn.  So when we purchased our new home a little over a year ago, one of our goals was to make the bonus room over the garage my art studio.

Studio, art, makeover
North end of studio after moving in.
studio, makeover, art
East end of studio

I finally got everything set up and organized, but after working for a few days I quickly realized the lighting was absolutely horrible.  Yes, the large window allowed for an abundance of north light, which is most desirable if you are in the northern hemisphere such as we are.  It was actually perfect light for working on my pastel pet portraits as the drafting table/easel was in the corner by the window.  However, if I was working on the benches, the window cast huge shadows on one side and the light from the ceiling fan was almost useless.  Small candelabra incandescent bulbs that did not have enough lumens for reading let alone doing artwork.

Working in the studio prior to new lighting.
Working in the studio prior to new lighting.

The photo above shows me working in my studio with the original lighting.  You can see how dark it is on the side opposite the window, and what light is there makes things more yellow, which can throw your colors off completely.  I have worked in improper light quite a bit, so I am used to adjusting for it.  I decided over the winter to research the issue.  I was fortunate to find a blog post by Will Kemp, a wonderful artist and instructor in the UK.  In his post about studio lighting, Will describes in detail the ins and outs of what kind of lighting you need, what to look for in the ratings and measurements found on the packages, etc.  I decided to see if I could find something that would work and came up with track lighting using spot light bases.  I also found the perfect daylight range in LED and CFL bulbs.

studio, art, makeover
Track with daylight range bulbs in place.
Studio with proper lighting.  Notice the cooler and brighter affect.
Studio with proper lighting. Notice the cooler and brighter affect.

I was completely amazed and elated at the transformation!  I can actually see what I am doing!  The room is so much more friendly to work in, and it should mean better production times too.  Although the bulbs are a bit pricey compared to incandescent, it was much less expensive than I thought it would be, and the bulbs use less energy and should last for a very long time.  Below is a photo of a project I worked on after installing the new lighting.

After installing the new lighting- notice how much brighter and clearer the colors are.
After installing the new lighting- notice how much brighter and clearer the colors are.

Hats off to you Mr. Kemp!  I am glad I stumbled across your article.  If you would like to read Will’s post about proper studio lighting,  you may do so by clicking here.  I wish you every success in finding just the right light for your work, and happy painting!

Website Construction with Weebly

Under_Construction_clip_art_smallWow, I cannot believe I have not posted anything since New Years!  My how the time flies!  I have been busy though, with commissions for a couple of pet portraits, painting on some metal tubs and a few wooden cutouts.  We have also been working on the house, having moved in just under a year ago, and our horse is settled in nicely to his new place, now that he is home.  We had to board him until the first of the year and he didn’t like it at all.  Great place, great people and horses, he just didn’t like it, but that is a whole other story!

Anyway, one of my biggest projects and my New Year’s resolution has been to do a new website.  I have had a good one for a few years, but recently it seemed to be more time consuming as I had to constantly spend time updating the workings of the site as opposed to adding much in the way of content.  I became more and more frustrated so I vowed to find a better way.  I wanted one that not only looked nice, but was easy for the viewer to navigate and for me to operate.

Over the years I have started following a few art coaches and must give credit and thanks to them for their endless information they have shared with artists on their blogs, websites and podcasts.  Cory Huff of The Abundand Artist, Tara Reed of Art Licensing Info, Jason Horejs of Xanadu Gallery/Reddot Blog, Leslie Saeta of Artists Helping Artists, and Bonnie Glendinning of The Thriving Artist Academy have been a wonderful source of information, resources and encouragement.  They have a plethora of information for artists of all levels, some of it free, plus tools, books, podcasts, courses, and even personal coaching sessions are available.

Over the past year, I noticed some of the coaches would mention numerous places to build your own website, and one of the places that kept coming up was Weebly.  I finally decided to check them out and am glad I did.  It is very user friendly, and allows for integration with social media, Pinterest, etc.  There are three different levels: Basic (free), Premium ($) and Business ($$).  I chose the Premium, and the price is nearly the same as I was paying before.

Working on a template format, creating the site is rather quite easy.  Just click on items you want to add, such as Title, photo, link, contact form, etc. and drag and drop where you want it placed.  Another great feature is the range of fonts available.  This makes it much more aesthetically pleasing to have different fonts for say, the title, text boxes, and menu bar.  With my old site, there were font sets that were not changeable unless you paid another monthly fee for customization.  For artists, 0r any business for that matter, every fee adds up rather quickly.

There are numerous how-to videos that walk you through step by step, covering everything from page creation to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to adding available products.  If you are having trouble or just have questions, you can also email them or actually speak to a live person for help.  In my opinion, this is a huge factor right there, as a lot of us artists are not necessarily web techies.  Trust me, I would rather just paint.

With all of the tools that are available on Weebly, you can create a site that is also easy for the user, whether they are viewing the site on a desktop, tablet, or mobile phone.  One of the features I love is they are ad free, so you don’t have worry about junk interfering or distracting your viewer from your content.  This also adds to your site being able to load faster because you don’t have any of those annoying pop-ups slowing your site down.

I have hosted my website through three different site builders, and all have been very close in price.  So far, Weebly has been by far the easiest to use, and I am looking to have some prints and greeting cards available in the near future.  If you are looking into building a website, you might want to check Weebly out.  Feel free to share this article, of course telling where it came from ;-), and let me know if it has helped you or if you have any questions.  Happy building!

By the way, you can check out my new site by clicking here, or in the sidebar above.  The address hasn’t changed, it is still www.MartindaleArtworks.com

Denny

Made to Create

As artists, musicians and other creatives, we often question ourselves and our abilities.  We listen to the voice of the one who is against us and after a while we begin to believe the lie:  “What difference does my art really make?”  I create it, then what?  Even if it sells, it doesn’t change anything.  That is where as creatives and believers we are wrong.  Dead wrong.

Last month along with 20 to 30 other artists, I attended the ‘Made To Create’ workshop given by Deborah Gall of Abide Studio Ministries and hosted by Grace Chapel in Franklin, TN.  It was a wonderful time of worship and learning, all while giving glory to God the Father.

Deborah is completely in touch with God and listening to and doing His word.  She is passionate about reinforcing to the creative person the fact that we as artists were made to create, its in our genes and we are to go about it with purpose, passion, and as artistic warriors.

Made to Create, Denny Martindale,
One of the exercises at the Made to Create workshop

Taking us through a series of exercises over the course of the day, Deborah revealed how the scriptures not only give affirmation to craftsmen, but also command us to use the artistic gifts the Creator has given us to further His kingdom.  She offered scriptures, book references, as well as break out sessions for artists to worship and create in whatever form they desired.  Many painted, some played instruments and/or sang, while still others wrote poetry or in their journals, while another even danced.

Made to Create, Denny Martindale
One of the breakout sessions of free artistic worship

By the end of the day, each of us was filled with the Holy Spirit and a renewed sense of purpose for our art and life itself,.  We were deemed ‘artistic warriors’, and charged with Deborah’s mantra, “If you want to change a culture, change it’s art”.  Sometimes just hearing truth to the fact we are on the right path helps us to take the first steps to making change happen.  Thank you Deborah!

Art and Taxes

Art, taxesIf there is one topic everyone dislikes (except CPA’s) it’s taxes.  It is one of those necessary evils in life and most artists disdain them.  You have to keep all of these receipts, none of which are the same size, and it is often best if they are separated into categories.  Then you need to have recorded some place your income, mileage, and other expenses, which translates into being ‘organized’.  Seriously, all I want to do is create art!  If your paperwork is not in order, either you or your tax preparer are not going to be happy, and if you are doing it yourself, the last thing you want is a letter from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).

Since we are creatives, we also tend to not be the most organized folks around (I do know some who are very organized).  We don’t like having to keep up with paperwork, and we may even procrastinate a bit, which makes the situation even worse.  So are there any solutions out there, to help us get organized and not take up all of our time?  Yes, many people have created programs and spreadsheets to help in this area, although some are costly or may be more than you really need.  Fortunately a couple of years ago I happened to come across an article on artists and taxes by Robert Reed, PhD, CFP, in the magazine, Professional Artist (formerly Art Calendar).  He has done a wonderful series of articles on artists and their business, and he also has a website, www.YourArtIsYourBusiness.com.  There you will find a spreadsheet program for Excel he wrote called ‘ArtBooks’, and it is fantastic.  It is designed for artists specifically, although you could change the categories and use it for any business.  It is has pages for income, expenses, mileage, home studio, etc. and has formulas already written into it.  It also gives you a nice profit and loss statement so you can see the shape your business is in.

I decided to try it out and set aside an afternoon to set it up.  I downloaded it, looked it over, and dug out my receipts to get started.  I was amazed at how quickly I was able to get everything in and organized!  I even found out on my profit and loss statement that I was actually making a profit!  I have used ArtBooks for three years now, and my profits have gone up each year.  One factor for this is I am finally organized and am able to spend more time creating as opposed to digging for receipts and really not knowing where the money is going.  I usually enter the information once a week so I am always up to date.  When tax time comes around, I just print out the pages and give them to my tax preparer, who also loves ArtBooks as it also saves her time.

P. S. You can also like Your Art Is Your Business on Facebook.  I did not receive any sort of payment for this article, I am just trying to help fellow artists!  Happy painting!

Pay It Forward

I am usually in the studio by myself, so I enjoy it when a fellow artist or maybe a friend or relative is able to join me in being creative or just discuss being creative.  I occasionally have a student in, and enjoy seeing them learn and discover their own creativity.  However, if I sit down to be creative too, I have noticed they tend to stop what they are doing and either watch me or just sit as if waiting for me to get done.  I think as artists we must keep in mind that we just might be intimidating to some, especially those trying to learn from us.

Recently my cousin was in town for work, and since his son, Matthew, was on spring break from high school, he decided they could take a road trip and stay at our place for the week.  Matthew is a very intelligent sophomore, and truly enjoys the arts in many forms.  He takes a dance class at school, and has been learning about art, primarily on his own.  When they arrived, he eagerly showed me his two acrylic paintings, both of which were done quite well.  He explained his paints and techniques, and said he would like to do a watercolor while he was here.  After some thought, he decided to paint a small still life of oranges.  We set it up and he mentioned he was concerned with getting his drawing on the paper just right.  I showed him the grid system for transferring a drawing and he remembered they had done one in school a few years back.

He set to work on drawing the oranges, then began the painting.  He was not impressed with having to wait for certain areas to dry before he could start another, but he soon found out it is just the nature of watercolors.  After a couple of days, he ended up with a very nice painting of oranges.  I felt he did a very good job, and we decided to go to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville to see if Rembrandt and the Dutch Masters were as good ;-).  Of course, we found that they edged us out a bit, and thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit.  The Early Americas exihibit was good and Matthew had just studied some of the cultures that were represented so he was thoroughly engaged with it.

watercolor, still life, oranges
Matthew’s Oranges, watercolor

We then stopped by Hobby Lobby where Matthew discovered a set of gouache paints.  He asked me about them and I told him I had never used them, but I thought they were like a cross between watercolor and acrylic, so he decided to try them.  Later in the week he asked if we could make some bread, and I told him I did not have bread machine.  He is very creative in the kitchen and said we could make it from scatch.  I had always wanted to do this, so he got out the recipe book he had brought with him and we made a Poppy Seed something or other loaf.  After much kneading and more kneading, it turned out wonderful.  I loved the fact that we were both able to share in our areas of expertise, and have fun while learning too.

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens
Denny and Matthew at Cheekwood

We topped the week off with a visit to the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Art Museum, where we had a special treat to the beautiful spring day in the 70’s.  We were a little early for the flowers, but the weather was great and the museum had some wonderful exhibits.  I am glad I was able to pay it forward and help an aspiring artist, who helped me learn how to make bread!

Antiques Road Show

I enjoy watching the Antiques Road Show on PBS.  As an artist, I am always interested and amazed with the artwork shown and their estimated values.  Many pieces are beautiful masterpieces, such as landscapes, portraits, you name it.  Others are things one might wonder (depending on taste) how they survived through the years.  The values are astounding, and the owners are either overjoyed or in shock. 

Tonight, a lady had a painting on that was beautifully done by a lesser known artist that had been in her family for many many years.  When the appraiser gave the value, it was probably the lowest value I have seen on this show for that size artwork.  The only problem with the piece was not actually the piece itself.  It was the fact that the artist was so prolific, meaning he produced a high number of paintings.  The value was still good, and the owner was pleased, as she was aware that he had quite a few pieces out in the market.  She said it would still hang above their fireplace to be passed down to her heirs.

Many artists are very prolific, and this does affect value.  However, artists don’t create art with the value in mind, even though they would probably like to sell it.  It is the process of creating, as the artist will probably never see the so-called value.  If an artist is capable of being prolific, I personally think that is wonderful, and they should create to their hearts desire!