Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Hyperbolic Stratospheres

LEI DAY 2013
The “Silver Bullet” only kills….it is NOT the quick fix the hyperbolic press would portray.

I am consistently amazed about the misconceptions of art making. The concepts that art is easy, can be achieved overnight, or that there is no sweat involved drives me nuts……….to say nothing of disrespecting the 50 plus years I have been working at my passion/job.

(This is not to address whether anyone thinks that my work is good or bad…..we are talking process here.)

As most of you know I teach a materials class that is a beginning course of pastels through the University of New Mexico’s Continuing Education division. CE had the MOST wonderful people to work with.

I am consistently reminded by my students (many with no art training at all) how frustrated they are that after 10 minutes of picking up a piece of pastel they don’t understand why they are not whipping off great masterpieces.

If art was that easy EVERYONE would be doing it AND be bloody millionaires.

I am not sure if it is the press and just that people don’t get a chance to see the workspace of artists to comprehend the discipline and dedication it takes to keep working.

It is understandable that after 30 years of working at a job that someone paid my students a wage on a 40 hour week where they probably got a lot of on-the-job training AND GOT PAID FOR IT! And my guess is that these people are very good at those profession jobs.

Is this a place to point out that as a full time painter one doesn’t get paid vacations or health insurance from your employer?

Where are the equal signs that after 6 hours any student would get something on paper that they envisioned would be perfect?

The role of art and art making is another discussion for Philosophy of Aesthetics 101 class. However if you are not willing to keep going and push on then possibly the reason you could be involved with art is to ENJOY THE PROCESS happening right now.

In the process of art I promise you will travel through all possible emotions you can muster. Since I am an eternal optimist (proven by the fact that I train and show my own horses…talk about gambling) not only do I keep heading back to my studio, the printing atelier, and classes too but I also spend about 40% of my time marketing.

That marketing includes not only advertising (doing my own layouts and researching where I think the best venues are for that advertising), entering shows, contributing time to arts organizations, getting class lessons ready to teach, framing and shipping art, writing articles for magazines, writing thank you notes to collectors, and last year self-publishing a book.

Imagine what I could do if I had a wife!

The point is that since art is a journey, a process, then to pass judgments on a few minutes or even a few months is really not productive. Take that emotion of discouragement as a chance to sit down and have a cup of tea and think about the next class you might want to take to address where you think your problems could use help…..or even find a mentor.

Don’t listen to the popular press that makes you think that this is an easy gig. I have an interesting piece of how the press can diminish art:

Opening the display in Daugavpils, Christopher Rothko says his father would be less happy about auctions that value his works as being among the world’s most expensive (the record for a Rothko so far is $86.9 million).

“He would think it’s a distraction,” Christopher says in an interview at the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Center. “When you have prices that are not simply large, but make headlines, people don’t look at the artwork but at the dollar figures, the pound figures or the euro figures.”

Monday, May 3, 2010



Here’s a reflection to ponder from Damien Hirst: How could they call it “Arts and Entertainment”? There is not all that much that “entertaining” about making art.

I have been organizing a conference, showing my geldings, teaching pastels, and building websites. Pretty much everything BUT painting.

However that doesn’t mean I am not thinking about painting all the time.

In March I headed to England for the Easter Invitational Art Exhibition at Woburn. This was my second year to be invited (I have been invited for next year too!! YAHOO!). And going back to England to see family and friends is always an eye opener since we moved back from there in 1993. Amazing what has changed and what remains the same.

Happily I did get to some galleries and museums and have come back with some ideas to get into the studio and get to pastelling. (Nothing like a long flight to help cogitate and incubate and hopefully formulate new ideas.)

I found it interesting that the number one draw for a majority of folks is colour to a painting. And if this is the case then it shouldn’t matter in what medium one paints.

The second thing that drew people to my art was the monoprints I had pulled of horses. People enjoyed the motion or the gesture of the horses.

Gathering even more information: bird portraits need to be painted for those that are looking to be reminded of their bird or a bird they have had a relationship with or even seen in their yard.

(I am thinking that might be the same case with many portraits of people too.)

The abstracted pieces of birds seem to be more interesting to people that just want to own and appreciate art…for art’s sake.

Either way is good…and I am just glad to have gotten closer to understanding it. It does change the thought process of composition! Non objective paintings versus portrait paintings require quite different rules for composition.

That brings me to yesterday. I have been cleaning the studio for two days…or excavating it as a good friend suggested. I have been brutal in throwing stuff out and really enjoying it.

And as I started to get on myself for not having painted in awhile I had to laugh. “Let me understand Nance. You have unpacked and stored unsold paintings. You have updated your inventory lists and cleaned your studio and that is a BAD thing? Or do you embrace the process and know that you will have a much better studio in which to work?”

I find myself, many times, working in the “OH GOD the movie situation”: Thinking about a painting for 5 days, doing it in one, and taking the 7th day off.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008


Happy New Year for 2009!! AUGURI !!

The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.

Francis Bacon

I am always in such a hurry to “cut to the chase” when it comes to art books. I head straight for the part where the artist talks about process….if I like the image that is.

I started a painting about 2 weeks ago and I know where many of my weakness’ lie which is the reason I paint very few landscapes.

So the first thing I did was to write to, the brilliant, Deborah C. Secor ( to ask how to avoid my most typical mistake (whilst painting from photos especially): how do I make the trees not look like big black blobs?

Of course she got right back with: Keep the values of the trees much the same as the surrounding values. (Sometimes the obvious just escapes me.)

Then I pulled out John Carlson’s wonderful book (Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting: ISBN 0-486-22927-0 from 1929 that Dover Publishing has re-issued since 1973 and, this time, instead of jumping to all the tabs I have put through-out the book I started reading: 1. HOW TO APPROACH PAINTING.

It is probably the first time I had ever read the first chapter and I must quote a few paragraphs here because he has summed so much up of what I have been trying to say, and live, so for long:

”It is true that all great works of art are simple (as is a child’s work), but the simplicity in them is not born of ignorance. Real simplicity is engendered by the insight of the artist into the abiding qualities in his motif, and an ability to choose these qualities for his use, omitting the dross. His is a superior sensitiveness, if you will.

But if mere “feeling” or sensitiveness to beauty would produce a work of art, artists would be legion. Such is not our fortune.

Power, whether physical or mental (or “artistic”) comes with the exercising of the God-given faculties. It is difficult to go forward, but the backward slide comes with no effort. Or, to put it differently, when effort is relaxed, we retrogress, whether we will or no. All this does not mean that by mere hard work, or by merely growing old, one can become anything desired. There are men who work and grub incessantly, work so hard that they have not time to see! A deserving but pitiful state. The inspirational and impressionable moments are shut out.

The true artist works rather in great gusts of effort, and in smaller gusts of apparent lassitude. He is not lying about “waiting for some inspiration”. He is in the travail of the dreamer entering into expression.

Now when you see the artist sitting thoughtfully before his blank canvas, don’t call him lazy. Realize what huge gulfs exist between a thing of dreams and the exact science of mathematics. Know that the dream is as necessary to the birth of any idea as mathematics is to the exactness of its consummation. An artist must neither be too dreamy, nor too mathematical. He must dream and he must paint.”

I rest my case………..Happy New Year!!!! Nance is the new website...have a look!!!

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Thursday, April 3, 2008



People sometimes see a person working at art and say: “Oh…you are so talented. I can’t even draw a stick figure….or even a straight line for that matter.”

Well, for one: L.S. Lowry, the Mancunian English painter, hit on an idea and painted match-stick figures. One of those paintings sold recently for 602,400 (Pounds Sterling) at auction recently.

And I don’t know an architect who doesn’t use a straight edge if they want to see straight lines.

Do people listen to what they are saying? My guess is that they “think” they are being kind…or chatty. However what happens, in fact, is that they bring the process of art down to only one level. With one statement they negate all the hours and hard work people put into their aesthetic attentions.

I wonder if they realize that many artists (me included) have studied and worked at art longer than most of their doctors have worked in medicine.

The word “talent” is defined as: a person who possesses unusual innate ability in some field or activity. I think there are very few working artists that feel like they have “talent” that they can just fall back on when their art is not “working” in the studio.

I can believe that one could have a talent to:

A. dedicate a life to learning.
B. dedicate a life to learning through disappointment, inductive, and deductive reasonings.
C. understand Phi and other mathematical applications for a better composition.
D. understand composition as having real laws and they apply to 2D as well as 3D art….not just a chocolate box cover “feel good” approach for a sale.
E. dedicate a life to understanding materials (and long for some that aren’t made anymore).
F. understand that, should they decide to make art their career path, that the proportion of artists that are making money is even more disparaging than the screen actors guild.

“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” Vincent van Gogh. (And by the way…thank you Kevn Lambson for creating such a brilliant book ARTSY QUIRKSY – Seeing Things Sideways, through Idear Studios… for that referenced quote).

Understand that after an artist has died his work becomes distilled and hopefully all the bad stuff has been destroyed (unless it has been stolen out of your trash by “an adoring fan”….I am sad for Robert Rauschenberg having to sue over his trash…however free advertising in the form of editorial is not THAT bad). And then the art historians can get on with their gig of explaining art and its place in history.

"Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

I have a new “talent” for working on more than one painting at a time. I am finding it MOST useful in not getting frustrated or focusing too much on what is NOT working and just getting on to the next pastel with the hope that something will work.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Thank you Scott Adams (American Cartoonist).

So do some artists have talent? I don’t think talent has ANYTHING directly to do with art. Having talent as part of the passion and dedication to the process of art…maybe.

And my new mantra (I would like to thank the great writer Steve Martin):

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Monday, February 11, 2008


Branding as Acceptable Baggage

Branding is the baggage or preconception people bring when they meet you (that could be in person or in an article…or a blog)…sometimes the baggage is a Louis Vuitton or maybe a plastic grocery bag.

Branding sounds like such a harsh term when it comes to a creator of aesthetic appreciations.

However…one of the ways artists are branded is not being great business people and, if one plans on making a living from art, artists have got to make ART their business.

The business of art includes simple things like keeping a good inventory (you don’t want your heirs to have to pay for someone to catalogue what you left). And it will save time for your studio if you know where your different pieces of art are….as in shows entered, hanging in galleries, or just under the bed.

I have several friends that keep art under the bed. I wonder if there is more to this thought process than “it was a safe place to keep them flat”…..I digress……

The business of art includes more complicated things like marketing and advertising and WHAT SELLS!!!

Creating art itself has a lot of learning and education and it ALL takes time in development to become so WELL saturated that the good stuff becomes a “tool” that your brain just reaches for to move through the art process.

All of this acknowledged, by those of us that create aesthetically, I wonder why a majority of people still brand artists as lazy or as people that “only work when they are moved to do so”?

Art is hard work! In fact, there is a great book written by screen writer Steven Pressfield called THE WAR OF ART. Not a truer book, in my opinion, has been written about the dedication and focus it takes to create.

I have a theory that when a person is addressed by a mass communication medium, their branding is taken over by the public and voila, there is new baggage brought for the artist’s image to carry.

Recently, I have felt that my paintings are just starting to get to a more public level and it’s time I address my own branding. I had honestly thought that I was going to “let” the public hang a description on me, after enjoying my paintings of course, however I have just recently seen several interviews with artist and director Julian Schnabel.

I have never met Mr. Schnabel however I found it very interesting that when asked how people perceived him that he gave several different views of how people have responded to him and, I thought I heard in his voice, that NONE of those descriptions seemed to be telling the truth.

My guess is that he doesn’t have much intention for EVERYONE to know his inner thoughts however the falsehoods seemed to slightly bother him.

Folks used to say: “It doesn’t matter what they are saying about you as long as they spell your name right.” Well, I think with the advent of instant messaging that message is past.

Correct branding of an artist and their work is important for the artist to acknowledge so that the right emphasis for sales and sales pitches is aimed. No one has time to find out that if you live in an area that typically buys non-objective abstract art it’s a waste of the artist’s time and money to pitch absolute realism in still-lifes.

And one of my main concerns is to not be so narrowly branded that I can’t move on to the next exploration and keep evolving. If I am bored, the paintings are boring, and the buyers get bored and aren’t interested anymore in my art.

Today, I am trying the thought of my “branding” as “a pastel painter (that is the given) who paints fabulous in-situ animal paintings where birds and horses are featured and, many times, to the abstraction of the images.”

Okay…too long for a title however it IS place to start…..and as we all know: Life IS an adjustment.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Studio Time and What's REALLY Important

Want to make me mad with your being trite?
Tell me, “I have given myself permission to paint”.

Permission?? With REAL passion one doesn’t need permission. One grabs every opportunity and paints.

The point I am making is that if you REALLY want to do anything…you will. It’s what gets done that was important to you at the moment…really. And that’s fine and good.

However don’t whine about not doing other things. Learn to move those desired things up to the top to where you can get them accomplished.

In examining New Years resolutions I tried “somethings” new this year:

First, I thought about the idea of resolutions or changes back in the summer of 2007 and then I started to fine hone them over the year.

Second, I wrote them into a set of goals. There is a fine balancing act with goals. One needs to make them attainable without setting the bar too low. Also, once you set a goal (and it is MOST important to write them down and acknowledge them daily) you MUST let go of the outcome.

If one focus’ on the goal too much then the nerves of failure can easily become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Most importantly to me is that I needed to make the goals a gradual thing over the weeks. I didn’t just wake up on the 2nd of January and say: TAH DAH!!!

I put those goals down in increments that would help me incorporate them into a daily/weekly/monthly routine.

So far so good…….dang that feels good to say three weeks into the year.

Getting into the studio should be something that happens everyday that you plan. And I have just found out that it doesn’t need to be an 8 hour day to make a difference.

I have planned to paint 3 hours a day on 5 days a week. That still gives me time to do the marketing and also research reference materials for images…’s all about the business of art.

If you don’t treat your art as a professional why would anyone else treat your art any differently?

Eugene Delacroix:We work not only to produce but to give value to time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Investing in Art now

As a full time painter (in pastels) I am always thinking of ways to get art out the door. And it seems to me that now is a great time to invest in smaller format original art.

At Daily Painters New Mexico ( there is a group of us that get, at least, a painting a week posted on our website. These paintings range from 4x6 to 10x10 inches and are less than $500 unframed.

All of us are in brick and morter galleries. Many of us have had museum shows. I am invited back to Cowgirl Up! at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg ( the last weekend of March this year.

We paint a painting a week as part of the discipline and rhythm of the artistic life....a commitment to our art.

This also gives the investor another chance to purchase art from painters in their mid-career.

I am reminded of an investor (note I am not mentioning collectors here....many collectors just buy because they HAVE to have a certain painter or painting) who used to enjoy buying/speculating on artists BEFORE they were famous.

This guy had educated himself in art and had confidence in his taste and ability to find good artists and didn't really care if other folks approved of his selections.

When he asked his niece what she would like for her wedding present she pointed to one of the paintings. It turned out to be a very early Jamie Wyeth. Good choice all around.

Here's to good taste, moderation, and creative work all around, Nance

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