art show

On Ribbons

Artists are known for their big egos and I have a little bit of that. In general, though, I tend to downplay my achievements. Last year, I received several awards for my art: two at the San Bernardino County Fair ( 1st place for Plein Air at the Fair and 2nd place in watercolor painting) and 1st place in watercolor painting at the Lake Arrowhead Art & Wine festival. I didn't think too much of any of them.

Just this past Saturday, I received an "Award of Merit" at the Watercolor Artists of Sacramento Horizons (WASH) annual member show. This feels like a better achievement that I can actually brag on my blog about :). I think it's a nice intro into my artist life in Sacramento.

If I had an award acceptance speech, I'd say thank you to many of you who have been following my art, collecting it, and supporting me for years now. You know who you are and I am happy to have you in my life. And most of all, a seriously huge thank you to my husband who has encouraged me to push myself and put myself out there. I love you :) (and Happy Birthday!)

Well, Hello from the State Capital!

I cannot believe it's been over a month since my last blog post. Since we found out that my husband got the job in Sacramento and we decided to move, it was like someone pressed the "forward" button. Things moved fast.

We have lived in the new place for a week and a half now. I like it quite a lot...quiet dead-end street; a bunch of trees in the front yard; big kitchen; living area with windows, one of them huge and looking into the green backyard shaded by a spectacular oak tree; a tree house that my kids love in that same backyard; and, most of all, a wonderful garage-converted-into-a-room space that I immediately claimed as my studio. That, unfortunately, means there is no garage for us to put all of our stuff that filled a 2.5 car garage in our old house. And my poor husband doesn't have a real workshop area (the shed we have is pathetic). So it's a trade-off. Seeing that I am the one spending most of my life in this house, though, it's probably a smart trade-off. Oh yeah, and the studio can be completely locked out of the rest of the house and has a separate entrance :D . Ah, the possibilities...

Our breakfast nook window.

I am yet to set up an easel but I already have two shows on the schedule. I just got a call that I received an Award of Merit at the Sacramento's watercolor group (WASH) annual show for this painting:

Curiouser and Curiouser. 30x22" watercolor on paper.

...which was cool. This is my first award at a show that may mean anything (vs my ribbons from the San Bernardino County Fair, where I felt I had no competition to speak of). I feel good about it :) The show will run April 1 though April 19 with a 2nd Saturday (Sacramento's monthly art walk) reception on April 12 5:30 - 8:30 pm. Location is the Sacramento Fine Arts Center. You are invited!

The second show opening in May at the Kennedy Gallery Art Center is the 20/20 show and I'll tell you more about it soon :)

Day 19 - Impressions from LA Art Show

Miss me yet? "Life" won over again in the last few days and I have made only very slow progress on my Harvey House painting. My head, however, is plotting new paintings since my visit to the Los Angeles Art Show on Thursday! It was good. An artist friend of mine came along and I enjoyed a dialogue on all things artistic and artful. We spent several hours absorbing the beauty and studying the skill of top artists throughout the world. We discovered new favorites. Quite often, I found myself wondering why a particular piece was selected for this show.

It was fun to hear a lot of languages along with English spoken with all kinds of accents. I even began feeling not accented enough :) Obviously, to be interesting in the American art world, you need to be a bit exotic.

It seemed that oils, other than in the Chinese section, dominated the show. The Chinese had a large percentage of works on paper and I found their large abstract ink paintings on rice paper fascinating. I saw a couple of watercolors in traditional/historic art section (plus a gouache by Van Gogh). All of it rubbed in the (usually unsolicited) advice that I get from people: 1) switch to oils and 2) paint big.

I found myself drawn to figures (mostly in contemporary traditional and modern sections) and to abstracts. Of course, I already discovered that I like both last year when I went through an exercise of clipping images that resonated with me. Now I just need to figure out how to reconcile them in my own work...

Oceanside Days of Art 2011

oceanside california church watercolor painting Oceanside is one of those things that I must confess I did not appreciate enough until I had to leave it. Going back there for two days of art fair was a treat (and getting a break from watching the ball of energy that is our son 24/7 was nice, too ;))! The show itself went ok - with gas and babysitter, we almost broke even. At least 50% of all the visitors at our booth were artists or art students. I was quite glad to explain my techniques and share my knowledge with them, along with receiving some tips back from them.

I met a couple of old friends and was amazed to learn that they follow my work and read my newsletters. It made me feel wonderful :) THANK YOU!

I also made many new contacts, including these fantastic artists:

Igor Koutsenko (who presented us with a poster of his woodcut Victory II, St. George on a motorcycle :))

Annie Aldrich (who lives in Big Bear Lake and makes amazing ceramics pieces that I was really hoping I would have made some money to spend on)

Catherine M.S. Cowles (who makes light fixtures to die for)

- and many more talented Southern Californians. It was worth it just for the opportunity to be there among all those creative people.


The painting above was done using a not-so-popular method of working from a black-and-white sketch made on location. The idea is for you to be there and experience the surroundings while making an abbreviated version of what you see. Your sketch, then, gives you a framework, a recorded idea that you interpret drawing from your memories and intuition rather than reproducing a photograph. This painting could have been much better, of course, but I like it :). Here is the sketch it was based on:


Just for comparison, here is a plein-air painting of the same church that I did in 2009. This one belongs to my "how not to paint in the future" bin.

oceanside church watercolor

And to complete your Oceanside experience, Decemberists :)

Outdoor Art Show Necessities

I have something different today,

a guest blogger (who is my very own husband) :). This is a post he published last year, after creating out own art fair setup. It has served us faithfully through something close to 20 art fairs, farmer's markets and other events and it is still in good shape (unlike the Aaron Brother's frames that we got at the same time). Warm welcome to

The Artist's Husband!


I mentioned in a previous blog that I'm not really a huge fan of most art.  My wife and I have been married for over three years now and I think I can count the number of art events that I've attended with her on one hand (I know.. I'm a bad husband).  But, I'm a changed man.  No, I still don't care too much for the majority of the art, but mention a show and I'm in.  Why's that?  The booths.

I think my wife and I make a pretty good combo.  I don't think that she could do, or would do, the business side of art by herself and I certainly can't make the artwork, but together, we're on our way towards making this a real business (granted, a very slow-growing one).  So, whenever we do attend any kind of art event, or even just a street fair or swap meet, I've got my eyes open for new booth ideas.  How to display product, how to interact with customers, what might sell and why, and try to apply those ideas to our own set-up.  It was also through looking at other booths, both in person and online, that we found out what all we would need in order to create a professional looking booth of our own.

"One must have money to make money" - I always thought this old adage was more true than is convenient, but in this whole process, I've found that there is a loophole nowadays that goes something like this... "One must have CREDIT to make money"..  I'm not sure of the financial wisdom of our business creation process, after all, we've basically taken a 9.9% APR loan for most everything that we've purchased.  A smarter person with a more structured business plan might have simply applied for a small business loan but we used credit.  Either way, here's what you can expect to spend to get started with a set-up similar to ours.

Canopy - the first and most important (and expensive) part of the set-up.  Though you can buy a standard 10x10 pop-up shelter for quite cheap, the quality will be quite cheap as well.  For the random event and light use, it may be fine, but we opted to go all out and get the professional version for durability (and to remind ourselves that this is a business, not a hobby).  Our frame is the EZ-UP Eclipse II model which is $675 from EZ-UP Direct.  Since we bought our frame from a friend without the top, we went through California Palms for the top and sides.  Their prices are great, the fabric they use is thicker than most others and they offer their "four-seasons" top ($140) which has air vents in the fabric.  This helps a bit with the heat but primarily allows the wind a place to escape without picking up and tossing our canopy.

Sidewalls are not a necessity per se, but I believe that it really completes the booth and gives it that professional look.  They also block the sun, wind and rain, keeping your booth somewhat protected from the elements though they can increase the temperature inside the booth a bit.  We leave one of the back corners open a bit to facilitate air flow.  Our sidewalls ($280) were purchased from California Palms along with our top.  Though their sidewall prices seemed a bit higher than the competitions, I am quite satisfied with them.  They are flame-retardant.  Each panel zips to the neighboring panel, but there is also an additinal strip of fabric that velcros the two together, providing extra strength.

Most fairs, shows and events require that you have a canopy and many require that it be white, so be cautious of buying one in a different color.  Many municipalities also require that it be fire retardant.  A typical booth space at an event is 10ft x 10ft so I recommend sticking to that standard size.

Tables & Chairs - We spent a surprising amount of time looking at various tables and sizes.  Do we go with two 8 ft tables and one 6 ft, four 6 ft, etc.  We wanted to have some freedom to mix and match so we could change our set-up as needed and neither of those options seemed great.  Also, most tables were 30 inches wide, much wider than I thought we needed.  Having one such table on each wall would mean that our "floor" space would be greatly reduced, making the booth feel smaller than it is without really giving more display room.  Eventually, we found some great folding tables ($30) at Target and Walmart.  They were 48" x 20", so they could be re-arranged however we wanted.  They were narrow enough that they didn't take up too much floor space.  They are light and fold down quite thin, yet are strong enough for what we are using them for.  We even found a matching smaller folding table for my wife to place her easel and art supplies on for the shows.  For table cloths, we went to the local fabric store and browsed their remnant and clearance racks.  We found a wonderful blue fabric that my wife then made the tablecloths with.  They look great and bring a bit of class to the set-up.

Chairs were easier to chose of course.  We bought two folding chairs ($60) and a folding stool ($20).  My wife usually works on the stool at her little painting table while the chairs are used for myself and anyone who stops by for an "on-the-spot" painting.

Print Racks - We needed a way to display our prints so we began searching the popular art catalogs.  I was astounded by the costs of print racks!  To be such a simple piece of equipment, the cost was really high.  So, being the cheap (wait, I mean "money-concious") person that I am, I decided to just make my own.  I went to Lowes and purchased some 1" x 2" Redwood boards, some brass screws, brass chain, stuff to make the pivot point and stopped at Wal-Mart to buy some black canvas (should have gone with white).  A few cuts and screws later and the frame was made.  Genia was sick of sewing table cloths by that point, so I cut and made the canvas part myself and affixed it with brass screws.  Easy job (about $20 each).  We made that one large enough to hold our largest prints which are 24" x 30" matted.

For the smaller prints, I decided that an elegant display solution would be to use tempered-glass display cases.  The glass panels are available for purchase individually so you can create whatever size you want.  Here is a website that lists the available sizes and prices.  Overall, they were cheap and easy and do a nice job and displaying everything up to 16" x 20" matted. ($15-$20 each).

Side-wall Display - Since we wanted to display framed originals and some of our larger prints on the walls of the booth, we had to come up with an easy way to "build a wall" to hang stuff on.  While I was browsing through the Calfornia Palms website, I came across some frame-rails ($50 each, must request rail only).  These are basically a "T"-rail that connects between two canopy legs.  My first thought was that this could be a great way to provide some stability to the canopy to help deal with the heavy winds we get here, so I bought three.  Then, I came across a product called grid panel ($11.50 each) which we could

affix to the canopy and the frame-rails to give us our "wall" to hang pictures on.  Grid panel, being steel wire, is quite heavy, so it was nice only having to buy 2' x 4' sections which sit on top of the frame-rail.  We purchased 12 panels total, four for each wall.  Lastly, we bought some grid-panel hooks that are great for hanging pictures from.

After a few uses, we found out that putting the grid-panels up and taking them down took longer than any other part of the booth set-up.  So, I decided to simplify things a bit by using zip-ties to connect each set of two panels together.  This meant only having to make six trips instead of twelve.  I also bought a roll of Velcro One-Wrap to make some velcro fasteners for the grid-panel.  I used two where the grid-panels connects to the top of the canopy, and three where it attaches to the frame-rails.  Now, I can take the grid-panel off and leave the fastening system attached.  Saves quite a bit of time and zip-ties.

Other Stuff - We decided that fine art greeting cards might be a good product to sell, so we purchased a 48 slot card rack ($49) from  Its nice and light, assembles and disassembles very quick and does a nice job at displaying our cards.

We bought our picture frames (appx $250) from Aaron Bros, using their 40% off-coupon.  Unfortuately, those coupons are only good for one item, per person, per day so we spent about three days going to all of the Aaron Bros in town to get the amount of frames that we needed (did I mention that I'm money-concious?).  We still aren't sure we like the ones we bought however.  They look pretty good, but the frames have a tendancy to scratch easily.  Regardless of what you get, I recommend cutting some cardboard "spacers" to go in between frames when they are packed for storage or transport.

If you don't have a bag for your canopy, I highly recommend one.  Our canopy bag ($50) is one of the rolling type, which I also highly recommend, especially if you followed my example and bought an expensive, professional canopy.  It turns out that "expensive" is synonymous with "heavy" as our canopy weights in at over 75lbs.  Wheels make transporting it much easier and it also protects the top from damage.

We purchased a canopy awning ($88) along with our the other items we got from California Palms.  While it is not an essential item, we felt that it would entice more people to visit, or at least loiter in front of our booth by providing a bit of shade on those warm days.  It does seem to work for that purpose and it also provides some extra sun protection for the artwork, especially since the print rack and card rack sit out from under the main canopy.  With concerns of wind damage, I made some braces for the awning that should help to hold up to most of what we get up here.

Oh!  Almost forgot the sand bags... If you will be showing in an area that occasionally gets even moderate wind, you'll definately want to invest in some good sand/weight bags for your canopy.  There are a number of different styles out there.  We opted to go, yet again, with California Palms.  Their weight bags ($50 for 4) are made of heavy duty canvas with velcro on the sides to hold it to the canopy legs.  What I like about them is that they already have the straps attached to fasten them to the top of the canopy frame.  This means that you don't have to worry about bringing extra straps along and with these being nylon, they wont stretch and allow the canopy to move like bungie cords do.

Two more things that are helpful, though not essential, are some big storage boxes ($20 each) that we bought from Lowes and a hand truck ($100) we bought from Costco.  The storage boxes provide an easy way to keep all of our prints, cases, accessories, etc together in one place, and makes for only two trips to the van instead of half a dozen, and the hand truck is great for those events where you can't drive up to your space to unload.

One last thing... The van.  We have Subaru Outback that we used once to transport all of our stuff with.  Granted, we had our son with us, but even without him, we would have had to strap stuff to the roof.  As such, we've invested in a 1997 Chevy Astro Van.  They are pretty reasonable to find used, have a great amount of cargo space (we leave the middle bench seat in and still have enough room) and drive pretty much like a car.  We considered getting a full-size van, but my wife wouldn't have felt comfortable driving and parking something that large.

Art shows, fairs, swap-meets, exhibitions seem to be a part of life when it comes to starting out as a professional artist.  While it can be boring and tedious, not to mention discouraging at times, you can improve your chances by having a professional looking booth set-up.

So, there it is,  all (or most) of what you'll need to create a decent looking booth set-up.

Total Cost (minus the van) - appx $2,000

A portrait a day

I had a fabulous idea yesterday: what if I paint one 30-minute portrait a day for a...week? I would have 7 paintings, 3.5 hours of painting practice, and possibly an unnoticeable improvement in my work. What if I do a month? 30 days x 30 minutes gives me 15 hours and 30 paintings! Tangible, eh? You can even do a show with 30 portraits. And then I was looking for a good number of days to commit to, between a month and a year. I found the number 206 - which is the number of bones in the human body. It ties nicely to my focus on portraits and will also remind me to turn to my anatomy book more often. Here is the math (and prepare to be impressed :) : 206 days x 30 minutes x 1 painting = 6180 minutes, or 103 hours of painting, and 206 portraits to show for it!

So here is the project: I will paint 1 portrait every day for the next 206 days!

I will post the results here. I also invite you to join me in on this journey if you would like to improve your painting/drawing skills or just need something to work on. The rules are these:

1. The project will run for 206 days. I started yesterday Sep 2nd and will continue until March 27, 2011. Feel free to join at any time and continue for however long you decide to. You can do every day like me or every week, or twice a week. It's up to you. For best results and for peer pressure, I recommend every day ;)

2. I will paint both from life and from photographs. Right now, my sources are my own photos, those of my friends and relatives, Julia Kay's Portrait Party, WetCanvas reference library, and Flickr Creative Commons. If you would like me to paint from your photo, please email it to watercoloredhands AT

3. I can paint the same person more than once, use any technique and any size. If taking pictures is your thing, I welcome photography, too.

4. I intend to spend 30 minutes plus/minus 10 on each painting. I found that for watercolor, it makes sense to break the 30 minutes in 10-minute intervals  to let the painting dry in between - and to give me an opportunity to step away and take a look at my work from a distance. Plus, I can rarely have 30 minutes straight of uninterrupted me-time. So, the idea is to spend 30 minutes total a day.

5. Art is not about following the rules, so...take it easy :)

Depending on how it goes, I might post other people's submissions here or include links, or maybe create a Flickr group.  I also intend to take an occasional video of the painting process and post a mini-lesson on anatomy for artists.

And so, the question is, " Can you find 30 minutes a day to spend on something that is enjoyable, useful, and is NOT physical exercise?"  ;)

Art in the Village review and my interview

art in the village poster

A couple of things happened since my last post. First of all, we participated in our first real art fair last weekend - Carlsbad Art in the Village. Here's the poster with my "Cherry Blossom II" on it :) :

Unlike with our local markets and swaps, we actually had expectations for this one. It was supposed to show whether or not we are ready for large regional events and whether it is worth paying $200+ to participate. Well, when it comes to generating interest and attracting visitors, I think we are ready. A lot of people stopped by. It is the beauty of an art-dedicated event: all who come there come for the art. It was great to have an "audience" with a genuine interest in and appreciation of my work and art in general.

When it comes to wasn't that good. We did make our money back with a very small profit on top which disappears when you count things like gas and food. We didn't have to pay for a night's sleep (our friends at Camp Pendleton were kind enough to let us stay with them AND they came to the show AND they bought an original painting and a print) or for childcare (my family was visiting and they were more than glad to watch the kid while chilling at the nearby beach). Still, we didn't lose money, and that's something, right?

Some of the highlights of the show:

  • being in Carlsbad. Perfect weather. Beautiful streets. Intelligent people. Don't ask me why I moved to the high desert, it's too prosaic...
  • seeing our friends and family who came to the show and made me feel special :)
  • the smell of the ocean! And almost getting soaked in cold water when I was sitting on the sand breastfeeding Elijah and didn't notice a particularly strong wave sneaking up on us. We were saved by my husband :)
  • some comments people made...Like, coming from a dark-long-haired young man with a guitar, "All these colors...This is just too happy for me. I like Gothic...And why so many babies?" - the babies (five of them) are on the wall with examples of my portraits.
  • being a Yupo-evangelist. I even gave a little piece of Yupo to one lady.
  • a friend of ours buying an original painting. I didn't feel like I was giving my baby away, but it was still very special. The painting is the "Cheeseburger in Paradise", I mean, "Lahaina, Hawaii" ;)

For my husband's review of the fair, go to

A few days before the fair, I was email-interviewed by Jennifer The Milk Mixer. Jennifer is an artist herself, and maintains a blog where she writes about creative people she meets. She found me through Twitter (@YevgeniaWatts) and liked my paintings. She asked me if she could feature me on her blog - and of course, I was all for it! You can read the mini-interview here.

Helendale swap meet - our test run for art fairs of the future

Some of you may know about my plans to participate in art shows and street fairs. Well, last Saturday was our test run. We got everything (or, rather, almost everything) together and went to a local swap meet. It was great! No, I didn't sell anything - but it was still nice to have our own booth, to talk to people, and to paint outside. A small local news website mentioned me in an article. Here we are(minus my husband who took the picture) in the morning, just finished setting up:

And me painting our dog from a photo:

We still have some things to add: a print rack (my husband is making it), a card rack, table cloths (I am making those), and other details. Next Saturday we're in Barstow, and the Saturday after that...who knows ;)

Art Impressions from Sacramento

So I am back in the land of hot sun, strong wind, snakes, and non-existent art stores. Regardless of the fact that this place sounds so horrible, it is good to be home :). Sacramento was nice, especially those few precious mornings when I was treated to an hour or two of extra sleep! I also managed to attend the Second Saturday Art Walk. If I had a thousand dollars on me that night, I would have spent it without regrets. I fell in love with dreamy and foggy abstracts by Bernie Weston, a Citrus Heights artist who is, alas, practically absent from the web. He uses a unique process where he builds up multiple layers of plaster and wax colored with dry pigments. I'd love to know more about it and see how it's done... Here are the pieces that I covet:

The 20/20 show at the 20th Street Art Gallery was also rather engaging. The idea was for 62 artists to "create a body of work consisting of 25 small square panels, 20 of which will be displayed at one time. Each 8"x8" panel will incorporate a cohesive theme in the artist's chosen medium." I was pleased to see some good quality art (and even one series on Yupo - although that one, in my humble opinion, would not qualify as good quality art).

I also met with Sandra, a fellow EDM (a sketching/art journaling Yahoo group) artist and a nice person who allowed me to sketch her: