Monday, February 13, 2017

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

I haven't got much time because I'm heading in the city for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I go every year, and this year is no exception. I wanted to share some information with all dog and animal painters out there.
If you can't make it to the show, you can stream it live on your computer. Go to www.foxsportsgo.com to watch the individual breed judging all day today and tomorrow. For the evening events, it's being shown on the fox sports channel in your area.
The great thing about the live streaming is it puts you right in the middle of the ring. You'll never get a seat this good no matter how much you pay! I spent all day sitting in front of the computer sketching from the live stream last year, when I couldn't make it for one of the days.
You can order programs and posters from the Westminster Kennel Club website, www.westminsterkennelclub.org
Have fun!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Painting White Horses

I recently checked out some artists' websites who paint animals, and I was dismayed to see how often they use white straight out of the tube. It seems to me too many painters out there are using white without mixing it with other colors. The white pigment is applied without any thought to shadows or form.
Here's a reality check. Look at the painting of hounds (below). Although there appears to be a wide range of colors and values, including white and black, there is no pure white in it. I never use white straight out of the tube, even in the areas that are the lightest, i.e., the white areas in direct sunlight. My white is always mixed with blue, yellow, red or a combination of all three. I never use black. Straight out of the tube or even mixed with other colors, it has no place on my palette. One of my workshop students once asked me, "What have you got against black?" Well, I just don't see the color black when I look at nature. I mix Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber for the deepest blacks, so that I can control the "temperature" of it, but that's a post for another day.


Hounds get very dirty when they're out hunting, caked in dirt and mud, and anybody who's ever owned a white horse knows that they never stay white, not even when they've had a bath and been put in their stalls with a sheet to keep them clean for a show! So why do I see such glaring white stars, stripes, snips, blazes, spots and socks? I think the reason is pretty simple. What the mind "knows" and the eye "sees" are two different things. Until an artist can separate one from the other, he/she will continue to paint whites that are too light and too clean. The mind dictates that the area is white, even though the eye sees the light and shadow on the white form. It's too easy to misjudge the shadows in the white parts. Beginners, and even some intermediate artists, think for some reason the whites won't "read" properly unless they're painted in pure, almost unadulterated white. Invariably, the bigger problem in these paintings is the darks aren't dark enough, which forces the artist to continue painting in an ever increasing spiral of lighter and lighter whites. But let's tackle the problem of painting whites correctly for now, since that's the title of this blog. Here's an example: Let's say you're painting a white (grey) horse. I'm going to use a plaster cast of a horse I have in my studio for this demonstartion. You can buy these online (or make one yourself). I found this one at a flea market! Although the anatomy isn't great, it's an invaluable reference source for me while painting. All the planes of the form (top, sides, bottom) are clearly delineated in a very broad way, making it easy to see the big forms - head, neck, chest, legs. It's perfect for this exercise.
White plaster model of a horse with the light coming from the right.
Let's have our horse facing to the left. The light is coming from the right (i.e., somewhere behind him). His rump or backside will have a nice highlight, as will his withers (shoulder) and neck. The back of his legs will be the lightest since they are being hit by the direct sunlight, and the front of his legs will be in shadow. His face will also be in shadow. Carefully observe the pattern of the light and shadow in the plaster model. (Munnings had a particular fondness for painting this sort of lighting. His riders' faces were often in shadow because the light was coming from somewhere behind them.) Next, look for the reflected lights, especially the one underneath the horse. The reflected lights are what make the shadows luminous and not heavy. See if you can identify the reflected lights in the Munnings' self-portrait (below).
Munnings Self Portrait. The light is coming from the left, behind the horse and rider.
Okay, now let's reverse just the light source, and place it on the left. We'll keep our horse facing to the left. The light and shadows on the model are now completely reversed. The front plane of the horse's face is light, as well as the front of his chest and legs. The back of the horse's legs are in shadow, as are the horse's hindquarters and tail. Generally what was in shadow is now in light, and what was in light is now in shadow.
White plaster model of a horse with the light coming from the left.
Tony Neville of Frost and Reed once told me, "You need to know how to paint a horse in sunlight, even on a rainy day." What does he mean by that? That we have to see the bright side of everything? No, he means it literally. Even when there is no light source, the artist has to know how light will affect his subject in any situation - from the left, from the right, from the back or front, from above or below. Until one learns the physical laws of light and shadow and how to apply them, he/she will continue to paint what he thinks he sees, rather than what he actually sees.
If you change the horse to a dark bay or brown horse with a white blaze and four white socks, the same rules can be applied to the white markings. The whites in shadow will be darker than the whites in sunlight. But even the whitest parts will never be pure white.
Once these lessons have been thoroughly absorbed, the painter can go further and begin mixing more sophisticated colors. For instance, the white stripe will never be just plain white. The top part may be mixed with some yellow ochre and a teeny amount of blue. Farther down his nose it may loose the yellow tint and become just blue and white, giving it a slightly cooler look. The area near his nose may become mixed with red because of the pink tinge of skin, or mixed with blue and umber to give a cooler gray color around the horse's nostrils and muzzle. There are endless possibilities.
Study of a Grey. Note the blues, pinks and yellows in this "white" horse
The other problem I see with artists' work, which I referred to earlier, is the range of values in the picture, or rather the lack of a wide range of values. The study of values (light and dark) is instrumental in helping artists see the true value of any color, without the chroma (color) getting in the way. I suggest working like the Old Masters and do at least one black & white study of the subject first, to establish the pattern and relationships of the lights and darks. This can be done in pencil, charcoal or gray paint, and can be very rough or more detailed. The point is to see the painting with its overall scheme of values. Some shadows should be very dark, some lights very light and middle values are everything in between. Too many paintings look "overexposed," like photographs with the aperture wide open on the camera or something. And all the whites have little or no shadows in them! Once the artist learns not to be afraid of painting shadows, he/she will see a marked improvement in the tonal balance of the painting. This takes time and practice, but darkening shadows even a notch or two will instantly improve most paintings with this lightness problem.
I suggest doing a painting of several white objects - a still life with eggs, white flowers, potatoes, rocks, cups and saucers, etc. on a white cloth background. Have a strong side light, so that you create some nice dark shadows, and use a palette of five colors - white, ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, yellow ochre and burnt umber. Experiment with how many cools and warms you can create with these five colors. You'll be amazed at the range of colors and effects you get with these white objects and five tubes of paint!
Or paint clouds. Clouds have a full spectrum of color from warmest lights to coolest darks. Use all five colors on the palette. Clouds are pink, purple, golden yellow, white, blue, cool gray, warm brown and anything else you care to mix up. The secret is understanding their form and why they look like they do. It's the light of course! Good luck!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Rejection and New Year's Resolutions

The New Year always brings New Year's resolutions, not matter how resolved I am not to make any.


This year I've rejoined the American Academy of Equine Art (AAEA), after many years of being one of those full members who let their dues lapse because the dues were too high ($350/year) for the benefits received. The juried shows were uninspiring and the venues were often the same dreary facilities (with poor lighting and limited access) as previous years. They went through some difficult times with their leadership, and the Academy lost its way as a vehicle for attracting new and/or established artists. They've recently appointed a new president, Booth Malone, who is as talented and professional an artist as you'll ever find. Under his stewardship, I'm sure the AAEA will regain its former glory and even surpass it.


The main mission of the AAEA is to teach, and through the years they've offered many outstanding workshops by some of America's best equestrian artists. That, combined with the juried shows, is what makes the AAEA a great teaching organization. Aspiring artists can learn a great deal by going through the process of having their work juried by established artists in the field, and attending workshops to improve their craft. It might seem like a trial by fire, but that's a process artists have to go through on their journey to become better painters. Think of Munnings (and every artist before and after him) who submitted their work to the Royal Academy each year. Must have been a harrowing experience to wait to see if you got into that year's show.


Many years ago, I was accepted to a juried show of the Pastel Society of America (PSA). It was when they juried the entries physically, i.e., you took the piece there and left it there to be judged. It was a portrait I had done of some young black fellow named Robert. I forget where I did it or who Robert was, but it was an excellent portrait. Encouraged by my past success, I tried to enter four or five PSA shows after that, always got rejected, became disheartened and stopped submitting entries. My New Year's resolution for 2017 is to apply for membership to the PSA, as well as the Society of Animal Artists. Might as well. Don't ask, don't get, right?

My point is, rejection is hard to take no matter where you are in your career. What you do with it makes all the difference. You can shrug it off and look for other shows to enter, you can shrivel up and never do another work of art, or something in between. There's always something to be learned from entering juried shows, and how you cope with rejection provides an opportunity to grow. It can be tricky because the curators don't often give you a reason why a work was rejected. I'm always looking for answers; a detailed laundry list of why my painting didn't get accepted. That's never forthcoming! Sometimes, if you have a personal relationship with a gallery or museum, you might be lucky enough to get some sort of blanket response, which is supposed to assuage your feelings of inadequacy. They don't have the time or inclination to tell you why you didn't get in. Of course, they don't usually tell you why your painting's been accepted either. You just assume it's because they recognize great art when they see it. I certainly never question a judge when my work gets in, do you? I remember last summer I entered a show on Long Island, Animals In Art or something. I was so sure I'd win first prize, I was already planning on how to spend the prize money. The judge seemed to like pictures with my painting style, and I had some lovely new works to show. Imagine my shock when I got the rejection notice! I never got a reason why my work didn't get in except for the usual, "Due to the large number of entries, blah, blah, blah." I used to scour the works that got in whenever I got a rejection notice, looking for clues or answers as to why they got in and I didn't. It was very frustrating. "THAT got it and mine didn't?!" It just seems like an exercise in futility now. The only way one can possibly know why something got in or not, is to be inside the judge's head, which is impossible.


One should never paint to please any judge or enter any show. This seems self-evident, but as a professional artist, I have lost sight of that. I seem to paint only what I think will sell these days. I've lost the ability to separate "painting to paint" from painting to sell. (I wonder if Munnings, et al, painted pictures with the intention of entering them in the Royal Academy show.) I'm trying to find my way back to the days when I was a fresh young art student at the Art Students League and all that mattered was painting and talking about creating art. I hope I can find my way back there. The first step is to keep painting. The second step is to repeat step one, etc., etc.



I hope this will inspire you to get into the studio today. I'm heading there now. I'm working on a painting of leaves on the water. It's very relaxing and fun to do. That's just what I need right now. No commissions, no deadlines. Just an abstract painting with no anatomy to fret over. Five colors - the Anders Zorn palette, white, ultramarine blue, Cadmium red light, yellow ochre and burnt umber. Amazing how many colors you can get with just those five colors. Keeping it simple and fun!


The current work in progress. As I look at it, the leaves begin to resemble gold fish.
For more information on joining the American Academy of Equine Art, please go to their website: www.aaea.net


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Artistic Influences

Today, I'm going to write about artistic influences, which to me is one of the most important aspects of an artist's development. I've long admired the works of the Old Masters, especially Peter Paul Rubens, Van Dyck, Thomas Lawrence, Henry Raeburn and the more contemporary painters, Sargent, Sorolla, and Munnings. There are countless other painters I admire, but these artists represent the core of my artistic influences. I also want to emphasize once again, the role of the subconscious. We may or may not be aware of what inspires us to paint what we do.
As I've stated in earlier posts, I studied portraiture at the Art Students League with John Howard Sanden. Sanden is a slick, brilliant painter, with soft colors and attractive people in his canvases. I could have studied with one of the more classically trained artists at the League, but I liked the fresh quality of Sanden's portraits, and his excellent draftsmanship. I had just come from Aviano's atelier, where students were required to paint the same thing for weeks at a time, so I was ready for something different.
I learned a great deal from working in Sanden's class. Sometimes I'd paint the same pose for the entire week, sometimes I'd pick a different view each day. Sanden's lectures were lively and informative and I never needed to take notes. I remembered most of what he said, even to this day. He was lavish in his praise for his students' work, and was one of the biggest influences of my life. Although I didn't end up painting portraits of people, the training I got from his class was invaluable.
About ten years ago I attended one of his lectures at the Salmagundi Club in New York City. He was giving another of his memorable performances, telling of his world travels and famous people he's painted over the years. When he stated that he never copied other painters or paintings, I thought perhaps I misunderstood him, but when someone in the audience asked him about other artists' influence, he reiterated that he's never been influenced by anyone else's work or ideas. I find that quite remarkable. Why would any artist want to eliminate a source of inspiration, no matter where it comes from?
For example, I went to see the Joachim Sorolla exhibit at the IBM Gallery of Science and Art on 57th & Madison in 1989. It was a very large exhibition, with many paintings never before seen in this country. We all know about his gigantic murals up at the New York Hispanic Society in the Bronx, but this was a show of his astonishing pictures of children on the beach, women in cool interiors, and the unforgettable "Mending the Sail," a magnificent, life-size study of sunlight and shadow.
"Sewing the Sail" by Joaquin Sorolla
Back in the 1990's, when Thomas Hoving was turning every exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art into a mega-media event, with lots of hype and PR, here was an important exhibition that was flying below the radar. People were overheard asking, "Why haven't we ever heard of this painter before?" Several of the paintings made a deep impression on me. Of course "Mending the Sail" was a marvelous tour de force, but another, smaller and unpretentious painting titled "Picking Raisins" also caught my attention. It shows a dark interior with women performing some unknown task. A broad diagonal slash of yellow light cuts across the plane of the floor, neatly slicing the picture in two. A very thin sliver of light indicates the door, the only clue as to the light source.
Years later, when I was visiting friends in Kentucky I was taken to the Kentucky Training Center, where horses were being walked along the shed row. A thin stream of sunlight was shining on the floor, coming from an open door. As the horses walked through the light. I was mesmerized by the effect. It immediately brought to mind the painting by Sorolla. Of course, when I got home I worked up a canvas of the subject. It's still one of my favorite paintings, although now I'd like to make the edge of the light less square at the end, a la Sorolla.
"Morning Sunlight"
Sometimes we're aware of these influences and sometimes we're not. I recently made a discovery about Munnings and Charles Wellington Furse, one of my favorite unknown horse painters. He was an extremely precocious painter, painting some of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen (alas, only in books). He was in poor health his entire life and died at the age of 36. I can only imagine what he would have accomplished had he lived as long as his contemporaries, Munnings and Sargent. "Cubbing With The York and Ainsty," a life-size painting of the children of the M.F.H., Lycett Green, Esq., was painted in 1904, the year he died. A large group of children on horseback sweep in from the left, two boys and two girls and a few stray hounds at their horses' feet, with the huntsman and his hounds off to the right. It's a masterpiece of atmosphere and light, even more remarkable considering much of it was done in his studio. Even the size of the canvas, 7 feet x 9 1/2 feet, belies the effort it must have taken, given the extreme frailty of the painter. In 1908, four years after his death, the Burlington Fine Arts Club published the "Illustrated Memoir of Charles Wellington Furse, A.R.A." It's a lavishly illustrated, over-sized catalogue of an exhibition of his work held posthumously at the Club in 1906.  Along with thirty-five black and white reproductions of his paintings are Furse's lectures and letters, including one where he describes working on the picture to his wife. "The picture moves. and the children are almost finished, and to-day I get a bay horse into the room, and hope to get ahead with that. It is exciting as he will have to mount half a dozen steps, and I am a little alarmed lest he put an erring hind leg through the canvas. I am staying on (in London, I'm assuming) to finish as far as may be - the hounds and the bay horse and the head of the little girl's horse, part of which shows." The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy the year after his death, (as far as I can ascertain), since the catalogue states the painting was exhibited at the R.A. before being shown at the Burlington Club in 1906.


There was another young whipper-snapper exhibiting at the Academy in those days - Alfred J. Munnings. Now you can't tell me he didn't see Furse's painting. It's a gigantic masterpiece, one not easily missed or overlooked. One can just imagine the impression seeing it must have made on the young Munnings. He was exhibiting two pictures that year, "Leaving the Fair," and "The Low Meadows." He was only twenty-seven at the time and quite impressionable. His influences were still tied to the German painters of the late 1800's, as Brian Sewell notes in his article in the Evening Standard, "These (paintings of gypsies and horse fairs) were a response to the lively, even urgent, compositions and fluid brushwork of Heinrich von Z├╝gel, a now forgotten animal painter long established in Munich, where Munnings was again in 1909; it should not be forgotten that Munich was then still one of the great European schools of painting, particularly of academic realism."
http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/exhibitions/sir-alfred-munnings-an-artists-life-richard-green-w1-8319257.html
Fast forward twenty years to 1924, when Munnings was in great demand as a portrait painter. He was asked to paint a large group portrait of Lord & Lady Mildmay of Fleet and their two children on horseback. The painting has remarkable similarities to the Furse painting. I discovered this likeness while perusing Christie's sporting art catalogues in my library. There on the cover of the December 1999 sale is a detail of the Mildmay painting. Because of the way it's cropped on the cover, its striking similarity to Furse's "Cubbing With the York & Ainsty" is clear. The turn of the girl's head, the positioning of the riders and their mounts, even the horse with his head lowered, have their origins in the Furse painting. Now, I'm not saying Munnings deliberately copied the composition, but I am suggesting that the influence of Furse's picture is clearly evident. I think Furse's painting has more movement and is exciting to look at, while Munnings' portrait has a stiffness I associate with commissions in general. We never seen to be able to paint the picture we'd like to paint, but rather have to defer to some degree to the wishes of the client.


The degree to which we're influenced doesn't necessarily depend on whether we choose to be influenced or not. At times we make a deliberate choice to use something in our work, but there are often times when we're unaware of the source. Earlier in this post I stated that Furse was an "extremely precocious painter." Imagine my surprise when, checking some of the information, I came across this description of him in the introduction to the catalogue, "precocious artist." I know I must have read this intro before, proving my point!
All the information for this post has come from books in my own collection. It's quite a luxury to be able to research what paintings Munnings was exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1905. Thanks to Jean Goodman's, "What A Go! The Life of Alfred Munnings," I was able to find the complete list of paintings he exhibited at the Royal Academy, starting in 1899 and ending sixty-one years later. After I finish writing this, I'm going to go back and count how many paintings Munnings exhibited at the Academy. It's rather impressive!
Books are a great resource for me and one of my greatest pleasures is to peruse volumes long out of print. I urge everyone to maintain as large a library as possible. There is so much information to be found in books. Of course, the Internet is a great resource too, but there's nothing like a thumbing through the pages of a good book to find just the information you're looking for.
I'd love to hear what influences you. Please write a comment below.
Reading List:
"Illustrated Memoir of Charles Wellington Furse," Burlington Arts Club, 1908
"The Painter Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida" by Edmund Peel, 1989
"What A Go! The Life of Alfred Munnings" by Jean Goodman, 1988
Christie's New York, Sporting Art Sale Catalogue, Wednesday, 1 December 1999

Friday, September 9, 2016

Should You Discount Your Work?


I'm back from my summer in Saratoga Springs, NY, after spending a week in Colorado with our son, who's out there studying mechanical engineering. Colorado is breathtakingly beautiful. I'd love to spend some time out there painting the mountains and skies. The lack of oxygen at that altitude though is alarming. I'm in decent physical shape, but hiking up the mountains was difficult because I couldn't breathe. It's a little frightening at first, but in moderation, you can acclimate yourself to go a little farther each day. Someone told me taking aspirin also helps because it thins your blood. Hopefully I'll be able to spend more time out there in the future, and make it all the way to the top of Horsetooth. It's a funny looking rock, and is the iconic landmark associated with the college town of Fort Collins. I love the name. Sort of like when I had a doctor named Dr. Withers. Hee haw!
The thing that really struck me on this visit was the lack of overweight people living in Fort Collins. Everyone seems to be on a health kick out there - even pregnant women were climbing up the mountain like goats! Lots of health food stores, restaurants and juice bars. Cars equipped with bike racks, kayaks, fishing and camping gear, tons of half ton pickups, RVs and campers going up or down the mountains to get to that favored camping/fishing spot for Labor Day. Bikers were everywhere, cycling up impossibly steep roads, undaunted by the summer heat or slope of the mountains. They take their fitness very seriously out there. I go to the gym three times a week and walk a lot, but those people take it to a whole other level. Pun intended.
The instant I set foot on the ground back in New York (Newark, actually) I was shocked to see how many people still smoke on the East Coast! I went outside the terminal to look for the shuttle and the smoke was so thick it smelled like the inside of a bar! EVERYBODY was puffing away on cigarettes, e-cigs and cigars. Nobody in Colorado smokes - at least not tobacco anyway! I couldn't help but notice all the smoke because I'd been in that clear mountain air for a week. Although I don't take my personal fitness to quite the same level as Coloradoans do, I think people would be a lot healthier on the East Coast if they just gave up their ciggies.
But let me get back to the Saratoga saga and my success, or lack thereof, with the gallery. I'd say all in all, it was a successful venture, but I'm not sure I'll be doing it again next year. The amount of work involved is staggering. I'm getting too old to do this myself or even with the help of my husband. Hiring people to set up the gallery is expensive and a bit frustrating. I had to design the layout of the gallery on the fly because the walls were so heavy that once you put two of them together there was no moving them. I actually had to figure out how a thousand square feet of space would flow from a small piece of scrap paper with X's and squares on it. Once the walls were set up (with the help of two hired hands), it was a simple matter of deciding where every painting would hang and every sculpture would go. Only kidding! It's never a simple matter; it requires a lot of thought and planning. It takes a few days to hang even a small show like mine. Then we had to hang the lights to properly light the paintings. I installed some extra fixtures myself after the gallery was set up, because it was essential that people could see the paintings properly. The space was always evolving too. A friend gave me some extra print racks, so I had to improvise a way of displaying them so people could browse through them all. Finally, I had to print and cut out labels, order posters, and hang up my shingle announcing I was open for business.
Traffic was spotty at best. People staying at the hotel seemed to be in a hurry - checking in or out, going to or from the track, going to the pool or parking garage, going out to dinner, or coming back from dinner too inebriated to look at paintings. I used to hear stories about a certain gallery owner who loved that sort of client - especially in the wee hours of the morning!


I advertised in the only paper worth reading up there - The Saratoga Special. The Clancy brothers - Joe and Sean - started it 16 years ago and have turned it into a very successful publication. They're terrific writers - smart, funny and they really know their horses. They were jockeys before they became writers. I got most of my visitors to the gallery from the advertising I did in The Special. I was very impressed with the response I got from my 1/4 page ads.
I came away with several commissions, some sales and some contacts. I don't know if that will translate into enough sales next year to make it worthwhile. The old adage, "You have to spend money to make money" is true, but spending money doesn't always guarantee that outcome, and one has to be savvy enough to know when and where to draw the line, so to speak. I think the perception people have of the galleries in Saratoga has changed. They don't seem to understand the long tradition it represents. An art exhibit is no longer a destination; it's just a diversion on the way to something else - dinner, drinks, the track. People would walk through the gallery like they were going to catch a train - hardly bothering to stop to read a label or look closely at a painting. I'd hear people out in the hallway, commenting on the beautiful paintings inside, but they rarely took the time to come in and take a better look. I just couldn't understand it.
So let's tackle the question posed in the title of this post - Should you discount your work? The answer is a complex one with no "one size fits all" solution. I'm sure you've all had the experience of putting your work in a gallery and painstakingly writing out a consignment list of the work, title, size and price, and the commission taken by the gallery. When you get your first check from the sale of one of your paintings however, you're surprised to find that the price was reduced by 15% before the gallery commission was taken out. When you ask the dealer what happened, he tells you a client bought four paintings, one of which was yours, and was given the usual 15% discount for buying in quantity. Or just that the client asked for a better price and the dealer gave it to him to "help the sale."



The day before I closed the gallery, I got a call from a prospective client about a painting he was very interested in. I was a bit surprised to hear from him. A week earlier he and his wife had come in and seen a painting they really liked. They were effusive about it. They discussed where it would go (their home or his office), how they could fit it in their car, etc., and said they'd be back the next day to pick it up. They didn't come back and I put it out of my mind. It happens a lot in this business. "I'll be back" or "I'll be in touch" is a phrase which often means just the opposite. This prospective client was now back home on Long Island and wanted to know if the painting was still available. I told him it was and we discussed the price again. I had given him a very good discount when he asked if that was my best price in the gallery. I wanted (and needed) to make a big sale. It's a very large painting and it was priced at $9,000. I offered him a 15% discount, thinking this would seal the deal. But they walked out without the painting and didn't show up the next day. It was now even more tempting to accept his cash offer over the phone. Here was my chance to make the sale. But at what cost? Essentially he was asking for a 44% discount! I told him very politely that perhaps we could discuss it in the future when he could meet my best price of $7,500. I thought that was a good way to phrase it. I hope he does call again, to tell me he has the money to buy it. It would put me in the black. But if he doesn't, that's okay too. There's a difference between negotiating a deal and giving away your work. "Suppose it never sells?" you ask yourself, as you weigh your options. That's a chance you'll have to take. It's been my experience that serious collector's who have limited funds will often ask to work out a payment plan on a work they want, rather than pass it up. Some artists don't want to negotiate at all, which I used to think was a bit unreasonable. People like to haggle. Especially in this economy. Price your work accordingly and then add 15%, so you can give a discount if requested. They do it all the time in business. Why can't artists be savvy business people too?
The bottom line is, I didn't sell the painting, even after I gave the client a very substantial discount. What does that tell me? It tells me he doesn't want the painting badly enough. I have no way of knowing whether he can afford it or not. Perhaps there are other things he'd rather spend his money on. Or he likes playing the game. Haggling is a game I'm not terribly good at playing. Perhaps I just don't know how to close the deal.
What I came to realize is that my work has a value, and selling it for way less than what I think it's worth would make me feel worse than not selling it at all. Even when the bills are piling up. An idealist? Maybe.
Jonathan Shepard, one of the most successful trainers ever to saddle a horse, came in while I was on the phone with my client. He'd overheard my conversation and when I got off the phone, he asked me if that was somebody trying to "beat me down" on my price. When I replied yes, indeed it was, he gave me some solid advice. "Stay firm!" he declared in his impeccable English accent. By Jove, I think I will!