14 December 2013

The "shuttle" job and the season.

Time for another rant... Not attractive.  I'll try to make it funny.

It's been a rough December. I'm keeping all the fires burning by updating my computer graphics skills through unemployment grants (not nearly enough time or $$ but I love Concept art and Photoshop now) , trying to bolster my plan B which is becoming a paralegal (One more semester) and, oh yes,  painting. I'm the busiest unemployed person you'll meet. Why so much, well,  you never know. People say you have to be ready when opportunity knocks -or luck strikes- either way. Also, you are supposed to create your own opportunities and cultivate your talents and what not....

What, you don't believe I might become a paralegal? Perish the thought! Here I am on a field trip  of the Phi Alpha Delta paralegal fraternity to the Richard H. Chambers 9th Circuit Apellate Court in Pasadena  posing  with judge Paul J. Watford in his chambers and looking at the view from his window instead of the camera. I asked if I could paint from there, he said no, politely.

Don't you just hate bumper sticker advice. I think they complicate things actually. I hate bumper  sticker "wisdom". One favorite..."Follow your passion".  Should come with a warning, flashing lights and a picture of ALL of those who did and are strewn in that path to their passions. It's grim.  Have you noticed only successful people quote that every chance they get?

Food for thought 1) May be your passion is what you learn to be good at. It s not handed to you, it is something you discover you can do well. And then, it becomes your passion, not the other way around.

So I am busy as hell but the most relevant realization came to me through my very depressing search for jobs. In the form of an epiphany. One uttered by Sylvia, a friendly face in the unemployment office.  Epiphany comes from the Greek "manifestation".  So this Sylvia, who became  a very nice lady once Armando met her because my Armando can charm a rock into  pudding,  "manifested to me"  that I was using my former job to support my painting like the Boeing carried the Shuttle to Los Angeles. So while painting looked like a "hobby" because it wasn't the main money producing enterprise, it really was what I was aiming  to protect. Even if it meant being miserable at work. 

See, I don't see me doing anything but painting so it's hard to gather up the enthusiasm to keep sending resume after resume. My former job looks so remote now . It's quite unsettling because to make things worse  I was cursed with a fabulous job with some very special attributes, people that bordered genius  and made you feel inept all the time  and good money. How do you follow that up? Still, it was just holding the metaphorical shuttle. It was a"shuttle job". Plain as day.

Food for thought 2) Being fulfilled in your job is quite a new concept. People didn't use to be able to afford to think in those terms. If your job makes you unhappy you probably suck at it, seriously. If you were good at it, you would be passionate about it. So either it is supporting something else  that makes you happy or you can quit now and get to be good at something else.

 People stop in the street and say "Oh, what a blessing to have that talent. I wish I could paint. " Or something of that sort. Of course they are just trying to be nice and it is great  that they feel that way. But my answer lately goes more like snapping "I wish I had a talent to make money, then I would actually be able to paint." or " I wish I had an entrepreneurial bone in my noggin' , sir,  just one."  No one can accuse me of *not* being dramatic. But it bugs me a little that people think that someone gave me this talent and that I had a say in the matter. I cannot not paint unless forced by chains, get it?

Food for thought 3) If you truly fully believe in God and you believe that this God gave you enough talents to succeed and has a plan of some sort,  you have the advantage of that belief and neither hunger nor homelessness  nor lack of health insurance should scare you because death is not the end.  I don't believe in a God, I want as a good a life as I can get while I'm alive  and I recognize this is my disadvantage because all my risk taking is measured but I could not pretend otherwise.

So the bottom line is that I still search for  another Boeing to carry this shuttle. I'm committed to keep the shuttle flying until it can do it alone.  Or just crash. What that means is that I don't really care what job I do or how I make money as long as it s not too illegal, too unhealthy or too demeaning (even though I'll make exceptions if the money is good :)  ). There are things I'd enjoy for sure like Concept Art, Paralegal work of substance, Museum assistant, etc... but I wouldn't be opposed to cleaning toilets. I have a great respect for people that clean toilets actually. In my view, they beat hedge fund managers  at societal usefulness. If you are a hedge fund manager, relax, you can handle a slur thrown in your marbled living room.

Food for thought 4) If you pursue just one thing, you are very likely to obtain it. I think people that have this type of monorail ambition are the luckiest people.  The second group of luckiest people is the people that do not regret abandoning pursuits the moment they get boring.

What. You don't believe I'm learning Photoshop? Here is a  painting  fully generated through Photoshop.

Being the depressive type  Christmas is such a f-ed up time - excuse my French-  but it is. One good thing is Los Angeles is actually bearable this time of year. It is the best time to paint in Los Angeles right now. Sorry Minnesotans. California in general, actually. So to switch the mood a little, here are some of my favorite things I painted recently in this wonderful weather we are having.

First , San Francisco. I HAVE to go back to see the Zorn show but I was there early November and managed to paint a few pieces that sold very well to great people.

"Fillmore" 9x12 sold.

Octavia, 14"x11"
"Lyon Steps" 8x10
 I should mention Vayermo, CA next. What a great location to paint in  Autumn. None of the heat, all of the desert color. I visited it twice.

"Valyermo" 11x14

The Ballona wetlands. I went there as part of a commission. Great location with a bit of water.

Balloan Wetlands. 11x14

As an aside. some lessons learned  about commissions. Especially large ones:
1) Draft a written agreement of what you will do and what you won't and for how much.
2) The agreement should include price, deadlines, approval of preliminary work procedures, delivery date and payment arrangements.
3) Your client should know your work and know what to expect.
4) Keep your client informed at regular intervals, even if you did nothing. Keep the commission fresh.
 5) Spell out details like framing, transport, delivery,ownership of preparatory work, budget.  It will save you many headaches.

 And here are some pics of a commission that had none of that and -because of that- might or might not ever end.

"Bruin Walk" 30"x40"

Selfie with Royce Hall painting 38"x46"


 In my next post I will declare how much money I actually made from painting based on my accounting this year. 2013  I will reveal how much I sold, how much it cost me to sell and purchase materials, pay fees and  pay gallery and show percentages.  I bet you can't wait. Some might think this is tacky but how on earth are people going to come up with an art business plan -remember I said gazillions of years ago I was working on one? - if you can't put it on paper.

28 October 2013

Laguna Plein Air 2013

"Outcrop" 12"x16" SOLD

This is the first year I was  invited to this event and I hope it's not the last. It's also the first year the event didn't take Place at the Laguna Art Museum. The organizers decided to move the venue to Aliso Creek Resort with the burden of having to transform the place overnight for the occasion. But they did rise to the challenge with flying colors and it was ..well, spectacular.

Looking at the roster of artists is enough to make anyone nervous. This is the big leagues so to speak. Once I arrived and once I was (luxuriously)  accommodated I proceeded to the Orientation and  Quick Draw which takes place at the very beginning on Sunday Morning. ( Note to event organizers : The Parking Tag they gave us so we could park anywhere in Laguna without time limit was insanely helpful.) We were shuttled to Treasure Island/Montage Resort. I didn't walk far. My bit of experience tells me that too much searching can be counterproductive. So I settled for a beach scene very quickly.

"Crashing" 12"x9" SOLD
This decision proved to be a good one. Karen,  who bought this painting and upon the insistence of her friend Barbara,  invited me to visit the community where she lived: Three Arch Bay, and gave me access to its beach which is mostly closed to the general public. I am somewhat cautious when people invite me to paint something because what makes a good painting is not always a good view. But I couldn't have hoped for better scenery. The beach was absolutely beautiful with great rock formations and light.  I spent the next two days and a half in this secluded beach painting away with no incident beyond being trapped by the tide.

"Three Arch Bay" 12"x16" SOLD  Winner of the Sennelier Award
"Three Arch Morning" 11"x14" SOLD
 I also managed a few downtown scenes in between. Laguna's main subjects are the coast, the canyons and the human environment. Ok, everything. The weather was phenomenal. I soon noticed that all the painters were going for large formats. Sometimes VERY large formats so I decided to up the ante and stayed close to the higher formats I normally paint with which are 12x16's . I think I enjoyed it so much more I might reserve the smaller formats for really quick sketches from now on. Paintings that would become larger paintings but not necessarily be up for sale.

"School on a Day Like This" 10"x8"
"Greeter's Corner, Laguna" 9"x12" SOLD

As my "quota" was being filled I decided to take some risks and capture more unusual scenery. The paint out at the Aliso Creek resort  was great. It is a golf resort but it is nestled in a canyon with beautiful rocks, trees and a creek.  This was the birthplace of Laguna.  I had the good fortune of painting the piece bellow with Thomas Kitts who is always fun and instructive to have around. Thomas is an innate teacher and always had great advice. I also attended the Heisler Park paint out with students from the Laguna School of Art.

"Eucalyptus Drama"11"x14" SOLD.
"Heisler Mood" 12"x9"
The day of the Gala we were greeted by a giant tent erected to display the  artwork and provide a generous meal to collectors and patrons as well as the artists. I was awarded the Sennelier/Savoir Faire Award by the delightful Vanessa Rothe of Savoir Faire  and I sold seven paintings in total. Not bad.

Me and the award.

Me, Greg Vail and Vanessa Rothe.
After all the awards and selling, I  was pretty much done but I rarely visit this neck of the woods so two more paintings were in order. One for the owner of my (did I say luxurious) dwelling, Nancy, and one for kicks. I also visited the Irvine Museum with none other than Jean Stern ,the director, and Debra Huse. The Museum's show on California Impressionism is a must. Here are my last two paintings and a group photo of the massive talent gathered by this one-of-a-kind event. Big Thank you to Rosemary Swimm, Greg Vail and EVERYONE that contributed to this amazing moment in time and art.

"Capistrano Arches" 11"x14'

"Treasure Hunt" 12'x9" Nancy Patch collection.

23 September 2013

Sonoma Interlude

As in all the plein air events, after all is said, painted and done, the statisticians in all of us come up and start wondering, why didn't I sell more, why did others sell more? etc..  Useless exercise if there ever was one but unavoidable. Each one takes their own conclusions home and a few intimate their findings. It's always an algorithm with evanescent variables between  weather, name recognition, size, subject, local fame, price range, etc... My conclusion: warm muted paintings in the 5x7 to 11x14 range mostly of agricultural subjects by painters with a record (not criminal). Immediately after that, I throw my conclusion to the wind. My intention from the start was to challenge myself to larger pieces and avoid the obvious. Water was a big attraction to me stuck as I am in a waterless place....Oh , I did pander, yes i did, I painted the Sonoma Square, I admit it. And it didn't work as I expected. So there you have it.

So don't expect me to say you should paint this or that in this event because it will be as useless to you as it should be.  The out o'sight paintings sold and many of the very good ones sold if they were attached to painters with a history. The quality of everyone's work was outstanding and there were many watercolorists which I found refreshing.

Moving on, this was my second year doing this event and even though the organizers changed the dates to minimize the chance of rain, it rained, on the day of the sale... oodles. That didn't deter the brave souls actually interested in buying artwork so I think it was success overall but numbers will tell. 

The organizers did an OUTSTANDING  job yet again at providing lodging, booths, lunches and plenty of occasions to mingle. I do think this is one of the best plein air events in that regard. 40% of the profits go to support art school programs in the county so it is a very worthy cause too which pushes artists and collectors to make it work. Sonoma is a wealthy county with breathtaking landscapes so it's a perfect conspiracy of sorts. Well, except for the rain on the sale day but I'm sure the farmers were delighted.

At the gala reception with "Petaluma reeds" 9"x12" sold.

Gala dinner and silent bid at the Fairmont Resort.
  In a brief summary of my brilliant location scouting (not at all) this year I decided to venture to Petaluma - which wasn't too far - in hopes of some river scenes. Petaluma is a bit of a suburb with a charming town but not the sweeping river vistas I was hoping for. It's a convenient painting location and I did a couple of paintings while avoiding the "too quaint" city center. May be I went overboard with the grain elevator piece below. It was the contrast of the huge shadow mass against the wisp of smoke and the water that made me decide on the subject.  The fact that I added a guy in a canoe tells me I was concerned about  the stark industrial theme even though it is the light/shade pattern that originally motivated me. 

Petaluma grain elevator. 14"x11' Jacobson collection.
One of the luncheons was provided at Quarryhill Botanical gardens. It is commendable that the organizers talk to places like these beforehand into letting us camp there. They make sure the locations  are also very scenic. Quarryhill isn't only lovely but it has ponds and a vineyard as well. That's where I painted the "Velvet Juice" piece below attracted again by the play of light and the contrast with the velvety grapes.

"Velvet juice' 10"x8" Quarryhill Gardens.
On a couple of occasion I decided to aim for the coast as Bodega Bay was in everyone's mouth. Aiming as I did, the ditch by the road, barely a mile away from where I was staying , was what I ended up painting. It has water in it, of course. Never mind the dead raccoon stench, the steps going down into the creek were too much to resist in a "create your own metaphor" way. 
" In the ditch" 10"x8"
Ah, but the dead raccoon was nothing compared to the troubles that I endured painting this idyllic apple orchard in Sebastopol. Looks innocent enough doesn't it? It was a day of gorgeous clouds and a premonition of weather coming our way. I arranged for permission to paint and no sooner had I set up my easel, strong, persistent winds started kicking the thin dust and making it swirl all around in little tornadoes that toppled my easel twice, covered my car and kept me sniffling for the remaining two days. This painting is oil ...and soil, on canvas. I'm sure a few flies also left their lives and opinions on the surface. The trees were covered in apples because it is apparently not profitable to pick them these days and farmers prefer to let them rot instead of incurring a loss.

"Them apples" 12'x16"

 But the Sonoma landscape is like a pillow for the senses. It's the farms that accent the mellow hills that make it into a visual church. I was driving around Petaluma when I came upon the clean geometry of this landscape. This painting falls into the category of artwork I was talking about at the beginning, that sales algorithm . It happens to be one of my favorites and it went to a collector which I hope will enjoy it as much as I did.

"Pointing to heaven" 8"x10" Petaluma. Sold

Right after the golden farm, I started chasing the harvest moon around. It was late and very dark when I settled for a nocturne. I painted "Stagger back home" also in Petaluma. It represents a liquor store by the side of the road. No light other than a headlamp was used. I was situated across the store in a pitch black junkyard. I kept hearing a shufflle of bushes and smelling intense whiffs of marihuana but never saw anybody. I finished this one fast but it turned out pretty interesting.

"Stagger back home, Jack" 10"x8"

This piece below was painted on Lakeville road south of Petaluma. On a rickety old river harbor. It took me a while to render the intricate latticework of the dock. It's a wonderful place to paint and the owner of the place is the chihuahua Rosie which made it to the painting as well. She has plenty of work in this derelict spot without us painters coming around to  cause trouble.

"Dock owner" 9"x12"
Twelve paintings total. Some of theme are here. A quick draw piece, And  this one also done close to where I stayed in Glen Ellen. Sonoma has become one of my favorite events. The artists and the organization are fantastic and a model to follow.

"Morning Breat" 11"x14" Glen Ellen

New Friend and phenomenal ukrainian artis Anton Pavlenko
Daniel Aldana and Dan Schulz paint at Quarryhill.
Chuck Kovacic, unable to pose without flair.

My soggy booth.

01 July 2013

Business Plans (2)

As predicted, the heat is on and I am stuck in Pasadena trying to work. I talked about coming up with a business plan in my last posting. It's taking a bit longer than I expected. But with extra time some things are getting done. I finally finished this little painting "The truck Wash". I had a feeling I would like it and I do. I might make a larger piece based on it.
"The truck wash" 8"x10"
I also mentioned I was going to visit Eric Merrell's studio since he offered very kindly to show me how he build his frames. We took a whole lot of time from his day but I came out with some good information that I intend to put to good use as soon as possible. Eric is awesome.

Eric demonstrates gold leafing.

Eric goes to buy moulding.
My commission for Tri Delta in UCLA is going well. I created about 10 small studies and the client seems very happy. She will be choosing the pieces she wants in a larger scale. I went to UCLA fro 6 Sundays in a row trying to find the most emblematic views without falling for one discipline or area of study in particular, so no Music building, no Law or Medicine, just general views.

One of my UCLA studies. 8"x10"

Sculpture Garden Study. UCLA 8"x10'

In order to create a good business plan, I spent $50 and took a class at the Small Business Development Center (Pacific Coast Regional, SBDC)  in Los Angeles. This is a very convenient tax-supported one-stop center that will help small businesses get started. I certainly do not fit the typical profile of the guy or gal that wants to open a Salvadorean restaurant, market a new kind of diaper or open a beauty salon but I thought I could benefit from putting some numbers down.

 I had some success (albeit no awards) at Plein Air San Clemente. This is an expensive event since it doesn't provide for housing and sales are pretty dismal always but I decided to have a booth of sorts for one day and got a possible large commission from that.

"Pier Radiance" 9"x12" Painted and sold  in San Clemente

And I did a few demonstration/class session at Westridge school for girls in Pasadena. I really enjoy teaching even though the girls went from interested to talking about TV shows to interested again. I actually just painted a portrait of one f them because it was too hot to go outside.

But back to the Business Plan. Here is my Executive Summary:

Jose De Juan Fine Art is a business that will aim to enhance people's lives with unique, original artwork and art-making activities. Jose is a full-time artist and painter dedicated to provide his clients with artwork that relates to their life experience and aspiration of beauty as part of their surroundings. He produces traditional oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings depicting landscapes, portraits and scenes people can relate to and keep as reminders of a more meaningful sense of self and community. Jose is committed to provide his clients with quality artworks made to last whether on commission, through galleries or sold from available inventory. As part of the same guiding principle of life enhancement, Jose L De Juan Fine art will strive to provide individuals and groups with instruction and ideas that enable them to further their own art making effort and success in achieving a  life of beauty.

And my Mission Statement:

To provide people with ways to recognize, capture and materialize the beauty of their lives.

29 May 2013

Business Plans

In my 7th week of unemployment/being an artist I have started to get over the initial shock and nasty  depression. I apply for jobs but companies aren't hiring in visual effects, not cg hair groomers with little knowledge of commercial software anyhow.  On top of that, the lovely Los Angeles summer will start to fry my brains soon so I better get some things done before that happens. Los Angeles in summer is hell and don't let anybody tell you otherwise.  I need to pull myself together and go for it, basically. I need commissions, sales, workshops, marketing....I need a business plan.

So a lot of ideas have been gathering steam. Ideas to save money (materials, framing!,  website and marketing would be good places to start, not that I do that much marketing at all but I need to start.)
Ideas to make money. Ideas to promote myself. Ideas to educate myself.  In the meantime, I've been painting, applying for events, doing some commissions which I can't post because the people that commissioned them haven't given them as gifts yet, sigh.

"Eden Roses" painted at Roger's Garden's. 12'x9"


One thing I've done is visit two local artists that I admire a great deal. Junn Roca and Eric Merrell. Junn Roca makes a living out of painting, period. His wife Frannie is his devoted promoter and cheerleader. They have put 4 kids through college. All on art and scholarships mind you. That , I think, is being a professional artist. No arguments. On top of that Junn and Frannie are extremely nice people and Junn makes a coffee that could wake up the mummies in Egypt. My visit to his studio was eye-opening. We talked about the business and hard work of art.

Eric Merrell. Well, I'm seeing him tomorrow so I'll just say that he is an awesome artists that builds his own frames and seems to have quite a calm and well tuned demeanor that I admire. It shall be interesting to know a bit more about him.

I also befriended Ezra Suko. A young artist recently back from Iraq where he was stationed. He already has three galleries representing him and is painting full time. Now that's the way to go. 

Some good news as well. I got a  big nice commission I'm working on and I became a signature member of LPAPA and I finished my series of classes at Willard Elementary as part of the "My Masterpiece" program of PSUD and the California Art Club.  That was a very satisfying experience. So not all is waste and wow-is-me.

In the meantime, I did paint. Here are some things that I produced. I scheduled a few shows locally and I'm keeping busy.

"Jacaranda Glow" 8"x10" Pasadena


"San Pedro Bluffs' 8"x10'

"Garden Gate" SOLD.

I've even decided I might need to start my own business with a friend. But that's also very preliminary so I won't talk about it. What I have decided is to make a Business Plan so that everything is taken into account as much as possible. And to stir things up a bit I am reading Leslie Saeta's 30 marketing ideas in 30 days  to get things moving. She is a slick operator Mrs. Saeta.

"Mauve Clouds" 8"x10"

The essential part is this: My art adventure is now real. Whether I fail or succeed is entirely up to me and what I am sharing in this blog now is "the thing", not tips, not digressions on composition and beauty. Like Voltaire's Candide, I'm over this being the best of possible worlds but I'm leaving Eldorado. (what did I just say about digressions?, I guess I can't help it.) BUT, the first thing I'll share is my new spanking business plan for everyone to tear apart. Keep you posted.