Friday, November 20, 2009

Time for Art of the Carolinas!

So it was the second weekend (and the two days before) in November, and time for ART OF THE CAROLINAS!

Jerry’s Artarama likes to bill this as the biggest event of its kind in the world. What it is, is 4 days of workshops, lots given by famous artists and/or artists who really know their stuff (and some not so much), and 3 days of a trade floor that is pure Christmas for artists. We get to see all the latest products--and they’re coming out with SO MUCH these days--and we get to see people on the floor demonstrating them, or barring that, get to talk with experts about technical stuff.

Last year after being completely ignored several times by Winsor & Newton’s website as to a technical question, I was able to ask a guy at the W&N booth about how to make sure that when I reworked an old oil painting the new paint wouldn’t cause any problems. (You know, flake off or something.) A relatively high-ranking member of the company, he had a definite opinion about that but also leaned around the corner to his right and caught the attention of two other folks who knew even more about the chemical makeup of oil paints. I was able to walk away with a confident game plan! That plus he took my story of not getting feedback off the website extremely seriously and said that he would take it up with the people who needed to improve things when he got back.

This year, Thursday began with me getting a late start from the house for my 9:00 class. I don't speed. I kept recalling how a psychic lecturer had once told us how she liked to “time” herself--slip around regular time--when she drove. She said she had driven to our class (this was back when I was in psychic school) from the deeps of Quebec to Durham, NC in 8 hours. A couple of times in my life it had seemed that I’d been able to “time” drives, so I tried to do it now.

And I pulled up at the hotel with 15 minutes to spare. You tell me.

Amazingly, AotC wasn’t quite ready for business yet. Usually they’ve got schedules up on the wall: which classes are meeting where, etc. This time: zippo was ready. This year the hotel opened up two small ballrooms (which are usually part of the trade floor) for classrooms, and we arrived to find a few tables in place and plastic on the floor, but nothing else. Staff, teachers and attendees had to work quickly to get things organized and separation walls put up between us and the next classroom.

Anyway, the all-day class (until 4) was “Abstract Impressionism” with local artist Joe DiGiulio. FABulous!!! It took me deeper into the techniques than I’d gotten so far and gave me a lot of confidence to experiment. We students luxuriated in having entire tables to ourselves (usually Jerry’s crams us 3 to a table, and the tables are only about 24 inches deep). Guess it pays to have an instructor who’s married to the lady who puts the show together?

Anyway, great fun and I got 3 solid paintings out of it. The last one was the largest and on canvas. While I painted the first layer background I kept getting a certain impression of what it reminded me of. “Uh oh,” I said, but went for broke anyway.

Halfway through the spangles Joe came around to look. “Channeling Jasper Johns?” he asked.

“Wonder Woman,” I replied.

Needless to say, this is the painting at the top of the blog. It's 20" square, painted on wrap-around canvas. Here are the two others I did during the morning session, both about 12x9 or 9x12, depending on which way you look at ‘em:

The drive home was horrendous. We’d been under Tropical Depression Ida for a few days, and she wasn’t letting up. It was driving rain, wind, darkness, exhaustion, and rush hour all the way across three counties. Ugh! Let me repeat: ugh, ugh, ugh!

Friday I attended my job, which was knee-deep in (sale!) catalog as well as our regular packages. I’d come in the previous Sunday to work, and with that managed to finish everything that had a deadline that day. Whew!

Saturday I ran a bit early leaving from home, despite having to pack for an overnight stay. (It’s my once-a-year luxury.) I stopped for gas and debated the time. I was going to drop by Lowe’s to return a bit that my gas man hadn’t needed in installing the new gas logs, but decided that I shouldn’t push my luck. I arrived at the hotel a very comfortable 25 minutes ahead of class time and snagged a staff person to tell me where my class was.

This time was also an all-day class, but now was something like “bold acrylics as watercolor using interactive acrylics.” I was interested in both acrylics used as watercolors (I’m terrible at watercolors and desperately need more practice!) and in interactives, of which I’d purchased a sample pack last year and never opened.

On Thursday I’d run into an expert in acrylics who told me that (1) he hated interactives, (2) he hated the interactives manufacturer, and (3) he hated the interactives salespeople. Uh oh! I tried taking it with a few grains of salt.

There were only two of us students in this weekend class. Weekend classes sell out first. Always. That little alarm at the back of my head began to buzz even louder.

Our instructor had laid out several sample paintings. They looked like third graders had done them, blops of color placed across the page in a line. At one point during the class our instructor told us that in his whole life he’d sold maybe two paintings. I asked myself, “Why am I shelling out big bucks for this guy to teach me?”

I’m sorry, but even if it were true and I was teaching a class, if they asked me how my art business was going, I’d tell ‘em that I’d recently had a one-woman show at Windsor Palace. I mean, let ‘em fact-check me afterward. I have a professional impression to make as I teach!

Needless to say, my acrylic watercolors looked like crap, though I got praise for technique and color. The final painting was pretty much copying off of what the instructor had done as he tried out a completely new kind of board to him (and made us do the same!) (ca-ching down the drain! I mean, having your class try out materials you’re unfamiliar with when you’re trying to teach them? Ooh, such a rotten idea!). That painting I might be able to salvage and sell, I dunno. I haven’t finished it yet:

The instructor seemed to be a really nice guy. He told amusing stories and was the kind of person you like spending time with just talking. He was very enthusiastic as well. An excellent sketcher. But he needs to come up with another way to present his class. The only thing I really learned was (1) never ever to use that kind of board again, and (2) that interactives, used in a watercolor manner, stay wet a little longer than regular acrylics and that’s IT. You can’t really “open” them (the whole point of interactives, right?) on watercolor paper the way you can on canvas when you’re painting in an oil paint manner.

Whatever. I raced out of class to pick up my goodie bag (which I hadn’t gotten on Thursday), an event tee shirt, and to do a quick recon of the trade floor before it closed for the night on Saturday. Sundays are always the best day to shop. You get bargains, though you also run the risk of things selling out.

Tried Bahama Breeze next to the Hilton for dinner. Got in right away and had a nice meal if a tad pricey. Was able to demonstrate my Kindle to a curious waitress who had one on her Christmas list. Went back to my hotel room, which meant I also avoided the last of the night rain on I-40, hurrah!

AotC is the one consistent time of the year when I spend a night in a real hotel and order room service for breakfast. I get a clean room, clean bathroom, a mattress that doesn’t come in the shape of a “U,” lots of pillows, and a TV I can watch from either a comfy chair or the bed. The North Raleigh Hilton was certainly classier than the Homestead Inn I’d been staying at up to last year during AotC, and it was handy being just above the show.

I hadn’t noticed anything wrong with the room when I checked in. When I returned from dinner there was a definite chill in the air. On rare occasions I get these chill episodes, so perhaps it was that, but I never heard the heat turn on that evening but the constant fan from the heating unit meant that something was still functioning and maybe the heat itself was completely silent. I turned the heat up. Nothing. Since there was nothing on TV (why didn’t they carry Comedy Central, which I’d counted on for Saturday entertainment?) I curled up in a cold bed and read a very good Dave Barry book on my Kindle. Thank goodness there was a spare blanket in the closet. At one point I considered using the extra towels as blankets as well.

COLD! I kept hitting the thermostat and zippo happened. Finally about 2 AM there was a click at the thermostat, an answering click from the heater, and suddenly the room went equatorial. I had to throw off all covers, as well as the sheet.

By 5:30 AM the heat was finally acting normal. Whew!

One of the perks of an annual hotel trek is ordering room service for a nice fattening breakfast. The hell with price; bring my breakfast to my door! And make sure there's a cute metal dome over the main plate. Mine arrived right on time. They got part of the order wrong, but not the main part. They did eventually bring me tea (I’d used up all the tea that came with the room the previous evening) but forgot any sweetener. Good thing I’d packed some. But the eggs were flat and tasteless. It should be a crime to cook bacon so it tastes awful. The cranberry juice was definitely watered down. I was surprised it was still red. Good tea. I hate to think how much I paid for a little over a cup of hot water, which was all they furnished with the tray. (Heated up some more in my room’s coffee maker.)

Took a nap to make up for the night before and just because I could. Ah, decadence!

Well, that claim to luxury eventually ran its course. Checked out, packed the car tightly so as to make sure I had as much room as possible for what I was going to buy, and waited a few minutes for the trade floor to open. Went through and grabbed the stuff I’d zeroed in on the night before.

Figured out that the way to tell if that Steven Quiller DVD was the same one that I had on VHS, was not to ask the staff at his table--they had no idea--or try to track down the artist himself (though I did pass him in the hall when leaving), but rather to look at the copyright date. Bingo: 2003. I passed on that one and bought the other. After all, Steven Quiller is a god. When I grow up, I want to paint a lot like him. Not exactly, but with the same kind of color ‘tude, simplicity and ease.

Went over to the Matisse brand table and found Joe DG there working (it was in Jerry’s section). Bought some Matisse colored gessos that he’d recommended and he pointed out the cheap but nice Titanium White from Lukas that he likes to use especially for large projects.

In his workshop we’d done his “Black Bag” exercise, in which he gives students a small bag with a few implements and brushes, and then dishes out two colors and a bit of white and tells them to paint. We got a goldish-orange color that was named after an Australian tree (or maybe that was another color), and a bluish green that was called “Southern Ocean.” You see, Matisse is located in Australia so everything is named after Australian stuff. Joe pointed out that “Southern Ocean” had the same color formulation as Thalo Blue (Turquoise), so it’s all marketing, right? The Australian tree sure looked and acted a lot like Quin Gold to me, though I didn’t get a chance to compare formulation codes (which are listed on labels by law).

Hint: Joe told us he liked to use opposite colors on the color wheel but tweaked the idea to use the ones that are just off being primaries. This adds subtlety to paintings. So instead of blue and orange, he kicked the color to a greenish blue and a reddish orange (that turned goldy when diluted). Worked terrifically!

Then I aimed myself at (1) mats. Joe had told us to think of the entire process of framing from a cohesive economics standpoint. Buy the pre-cut available mats to determine (2) what size paper you’ll work on, and then buy (3) frames to fits the mats. So I got a few packs of cheap ones and larger ones as well, hoping they’d fit what I’ve already done at home. Got a block of W/C paper (from Steven Quiller, who was having a very nice sale) and some cheap but okay frames.

Over at the Burning Tree Studios desk they were doing BOGO DVDs. It was difficult to find a second one. I’ve already got a handful at home of good ones, plus a handful of just awful ones, I mean, ptui! Told them that they needed to make sure there were “next” buttons in the gallery sections of their DVDs (the girl was astounded that there weren’t, but there aren’t, not always) (she dutifully took notes to pass along to TPTB) (I love AotC! It’s the direct line to God), and found a second DVD that looked interesting.

Grabbed a few other things and began to think about lunch. The hotel dining room was finishing up brunch and didn’t serve lunch. The hotel’s sports restaurant wouldn’t open until 12 (it was almost that), at which time the entire convention crush would descend along with overdressed Sunday outsiders. Went out to walk and stretch the legs that hadn’t seen much exercise in a few days. Walked past Bahama Breeze, but didn’t want to do that two days in a row. The next place was Denny’s.

Ordered a breakfast from Denny's despite having had a similar one at the hotel early that morning. Did I say “similar”? This one was lovely! Delicious! Cheap! Ahh. I’m so glad there’s no Denny's near my house. I’d go broke and gain about 100 pounds in no time.

Got back to the hotel in time to read Dave Barry a few more minutes and then staked my claim for my place in the afternoon class in Art Marketing, given by wild n crazy Bob Burridge and his wife.

(Sorry, Bob. Next time I'll bring my non-blurry camera and wait for a good pose.)

MAAAN! OMG! They stuffed us full of marketing know-how and hints of how to step out into the Real World of Art as a true Professional. I bought the updated version of their marketing book that I’d bought years ago. When they come through Raleigh again (they usually hit us a couple times a year) I hope Bob will be giving his two-day version of the workshop because it seems there’s an AWFUL lot more I need to know!

So the Burridge and DiGiulio classes were abfab, completely worth the price and more. I should be able to sell significantly more than I have after taking these classes. And (hee hee) Bob told us that we should never, EVER sell off eBay. When I arrived home (kitties were fine!) my computer informed me that I’d just sold a painting there. Think I’ll try selling the early, not-quite-up-to-snuff stuff there until the end of the year, at which point I’ll become a Professional Arteest and turn up my nose at the site in relation to fine art.

How long is it until next November? I loves me that Art of the Carolinas!


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Dean Grey said...

"Halfway through the spangles Joe came around to look. “Channeling Jasper Johns?” he asked.

“Wonder Woman,” I replied."

Love that line, Carol!

The Wondy inspired painting is great and the one with the duck and the duckling is cute!