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What I Learned from Doing Festivals – Part 2

When participating in art festivals, especially the outdoor ones, you’re going to need a tent. Tents provide shade from the sun and protection from the elements. They also clearly mark the boundaries between your space and that of your neighbors. There are many tents out there, so choose the one that best suits your needs. Wal Mart and sporting goods stores have really inexpensive ones designed for use in your backyard, however these don’t come with walls. During inclement weather, you want to protect the contents of your tent.

Personally, I prefer to buy a tent that was made especially for festivals. These already come with walls that fit the frame. You can zip them down in bad weather and at the end of each day of a weekend long festival. They are more expensive than the backyard variety, but worth the investment. Mine is on the cheaper end of the spectrum. My walls are a thin, but functional nylon. I have seen others that are made of a heavier canvas, but so far mine does the job.

Now let’s talk about weights. One of the challenges of having your tent walls down is that sometimes your tent turns into a kite. The walls fill with air from the wind and your tent can blow over or blow away. My tent came with these sandbags, but at the moment of truth, they were no match for Mother Nature. After scouring the blogs, one solution came up again and again: PVC piping filled with concrete. The great thing about concrete is that it is really heavy without taking up much space. Have you ever seen how small a 50 lb. bag is? I had some fierce wind to contend with at the Black Arts Festival. Because of these bad boys, my tent held its ground.

The last thing I want to talk about is securing your walls. The cool thing about tent walls is that you can choose how many to keep down during a show. They zip at the corners, so you can keep the back down while the front and sides are rolled up for access and air flow. Now, the problem with my tent is that the velcro straps it came with are practically useless. The slight breeze makes them lose their grip. At the hardware store I found this industrial strength velcro. With one small square in each corner, I can secure my wall right to the tent post. That thing is going NOWHERE!

This velcro also comes in handy for the walls you roll up. I cut some strips of canvas and stuck a piece to each side. Using four of these per corner, I was able to snugly secure the walls to the top of my tent. These straps release quickly so that when the rain does come, my art is in minimal danger.

If you liked this post, please let me know in the comments below. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. And stay tuned for Part 3: Putting Together the Display. Also, stay posted for photos. I didn’t have a chance to set up and take more, so I’ll have mini posts as time goes on.

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What I Learned from Doing Festivals – Part One

Hi everyone! It has been AGES since I’ve written to you here. I will admit that I had a bit of a writing slump this past year. I had a hard time putting words together. But I am back now and I have some things I am excited to tell you about!

For now, I want to talk about art fairs and festivals. Now, if you have been following me on social media, you will have seen that I have done a few this year. The most recent of these was the Colorado Black Arts Festival this past weekend. Three days in the hot sun, sharing my art with my community. This was my fourth year and, as always, it was exhausting and exhilarating.

During these things, I get to connect one-on-one with hundreds of people, a few minutes at a time. I get to learn what people value in my work and what they wish to see. Likes on social media don’t quite convey the same thing. I can see where eyes linger, breath is held and bodies react and I know instantly which pieces resonate with which people.

I also learn about pricing. If I put a painting up for sale on my website, I don’t get much feedback. I don’t know why someone didn’t buy it. When someone tells me, “someday I will be able to afford your art”, I get a better understanding of what is going on. In the beginning, I brought large paintings for high prices, thinking that with one or two sales, I would meet my financial goals. This thinking was not wrong, per se. It’s just that there is a barrier to entry for many people. Now, I take prints, posters and smaller works of art that I am happy to keep under $200. Sure, I now have to make more sales to see the numbers I’d like to see in my bank account, but I am building my patron base.

It being my fourth year at the Colorado Black Arts Festival means that people who go every year now look for me. They say things like “I hoped you’d be here this year”. Often, these are people who bought something from me the year before and are looking to add to their collection. This is incredibly valuable. Any business owner knows that your best customers are the ones who come to you again and again. Now I have repeat customers.

In watching the older artists, I learned the value of nurturing these relationships. A woman who has been going to the Black Arts festival for over 30 years told me that she sold 18 paintings in a single day! THAT is where I want to be.

Check out some of my photos and videos from the weekend. Feel free to ask me any questions about getting into festivals, booth setup, or anything that comes to mind.

SOLD!!
SOLD!!
SOLD!!
SOLD!!
SOLD!!
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Vote for me – Small Business Grant

Hi everyone,

I’ve been taking a break from blogging for a while. I am far more visual than I am wordy, so at times, I just focus on the images. There are some new ones I want to share with you, but first, I have something to tell you about. I recently applied for a small business grant.

FedEx is offering to award $25,000 to the small business with the most votes. With that kind of money, I could create some great new products for you guys. I have some ideas for my Women Behaving Badly series that would help women and girls everywhere learn more about their place in history. So many women have contributed to the building of this country and our way of life. We should know who they are.

To that end, I want to print posters, informative postcards, collectible card decks (like baseball cards with stats and all), basically beautiful educational tools. Ideally, some would be for sale while others will be distributed to school aged kids. I want to inspire our young people, especially our young girls to enter high power, high paying fields like STEM, politics, business… fields in which the feminine touch is in short supply.

I am asking for your help. Please vote for me so that I can make my plans a reality.

 

 

UPDATE: The ballots have been cast and unfortunately, I have not been chosen this time around. Thank you to everyone who took time to vote (and help me troubleshoot my buttons). I will let you all know about any future opportunities that arise.

 

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Battling Unconscious Biases with Art

I may have mentioned this before but I love listening to podcasts. My list seems to grow every month as more, interesting series come to my attention. I stared listening to Radio Lab a few years ago and it was like my gateway drug. Podcasts allow me to insert information into my brain while I am working and inspire me to apply new concepts to my art.

It was through podcasts that I learned of some of the women I painted or my Women Behaving Badly series. I heard their stories, learned of their deeds and asked myself, why have I never heard of these women before? So, I set myself to the task of using my art to teach others. I felt as though I had finally found my purpose.

Listening to Hidden Brian today, I heard an episode which added to my motivation. The topic of the episode was unconscious bias as it relates to women, particularly women in leadership roles. Women who have the “masculine” traits necessary to be seen as good leaders are often considered overbearing and unlikable. When women display the expected “feminine” traits of being caring and compassionate, they are assumed to be weak and incompetent. The podcast calls this the “double bind”. It is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

The end of the podcast suggests that if we are to get women out of this double bind situation, we need to change society’s perception of women. I have chosen to showcase women in history as my way of changing that perception. I highlight women leaders, inventors and healers of nations. Not only do they inspire me, our society needs to see them as contributors to who we are. We need to let go of our unconscious biases and see value in the feminine.

Check out this episode of Hidden Brain to learn more. And go to my Women Behaving Badly blog to learn more about the series.

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Creator Spotlight: Urban Arkanum

Despite how we are portrayed in movies, we artists do not exist inside a vacuum. Often, we are surrounded by other creative individuals whose work inspires and encourages us to be our greater selves. We discuss concepts, techniques, and tools. We critique each other’s work. Artists have the ability to look at styles completely different from our own and have those styles inform how we approach our newest project.

I have long been a lover of comic books. I see them as the perfect marriage of the written word and the image. A beginner in the art of sequential storytelling myself, I am intrigued by those who are able to blend story and art so seamlessly. I have recently joined a group of such individuals who create comics and graphic novels. Their tales range from sci-fi to slice of life, fantastical to personal.

And then there’s Urban Arkanum. When the owner and founder Anubis Heru-Cole and I met, he was pushing his clothing line: ancient Egyptian symbols emblazoned in gold and silver on t-shirts and hoodies. As we got to know one another, he shared with me his plans to write a graphic novel. It would be an Afrocentric fantasy story about kings and gods. Of course, I was intrigued. This is not the kind of story I usually come across in my perusal of bookstores and comic shops.

The world is falling apart. A massive horde of genetically engineered creatures systematically stalk and terrorize the people of the planet.  Their only aim seemingly, to hunt and kill every last hue-man. Fortunately the powerful Kingdom of Avaris has the military might to thwart this evil menace.  But there is more at stake, environmental weather anomalies have begun to surface and cause substantial damage to the planet.  A young prince and three unlikely heroes must join together to find an ancient artifact that can bring balance back to their world. In the midst of conflict and danger lurking around every turn, will they find the artifact in time?

Don’t miss the action packed Sci-fi/Fantasy Acid of the Godz, created by Anubis Heru and Theo Wilson. Comic book Illustrated by Ryan Best.

I am happy to report that not only is the project underway, it is gorgeous! Check out the pages below and follow Acid of the Godz on Facebook and Instagram.

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Teaching at Girls Inc.

New Year

Happy new year everybody! I know, it’s already been a month since the year started. I just been so busy working on projects, I’m only now finding time to gather my thoughts. I would love to show you what I’ve been working on but I want to make sure I respect the privacy of my clients.

Teaching at Girls Inc.

What I can share with you is something I’ve been waiting months to do. I have moved my Women Behaving Badly paintings to Girls Inc. of Denver, where they will hang until March 3rd. When I started this series I wanted to inspire young girls with the deeds of the women who have helped to shape our society. I wish I’d had these women as role models when I was young. Now the students of Girls Inc. can see these paintings every day and read about the lives of these amazing women.

Classes

In addition to showing my work in their halls, I’m also teaching three classes a week at Girls Inc. These classes are combination of history lesson and art lesson. I begin by walking through the halls with the girls, looking at the paintings and telling each woman story as I know it. Then we had back to the classroom to review and I find out which woman inspires each girl and why. I ask if there’s anyone else they find inspirational and take note of their responses.

The younger girls are given handouts of women they can research for their own paintings. The older girls get to do independent study of woman of their choosing . I asked him to tell me a story. By day 3, we take a break from academics to do art class. The first day is all about collage where I teach about technique as well as ways to think about color, shape and subject matter. The next day we do some acrylic painting with the same ideas in mind. These will be the key elements of their final project.

The last two classes are where we put it all together. Each girl is given an 18″ x 24″ wooden board to work on and is given the task of telling the story of the woman she is selected through image, word and color. I want them to work on wood so that they see it as a final piece, not just another throwaway school project. I wanted to feel special.

The Final Product

Over the course of eight weeks, I will have worked with second grade through fifth grade. The third-grade class is already finished and the fifth-graders are halfway through. At the end, we will hold an exhibition showing off the girls work to family and friends.

I am loving this opportunity to work with young girls and to hear from them what traits they admire most in the women they’re learning about. I love their openness, their enthusiasm and their spirit of exploration. I can’t wait to see what the next five weeks will bring.

Third grade collages
Third grade collages
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The Last Painting of the Year

Happy New Year everybody! That’s it, 2016 is over and it’s time to ring in 2017. It has been a wild ride, full of ups and downs, pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow. As we move into this new year, it helps to reflect, but let’s not forget to look forward.

This is the time of year to set goals. January is when we change the things we don’t like about ourselves and improve upon those things we love about ourselves. I have never been good about making and sticking to resolutions. I find that plans have a way of changing or falling through if there is no accountability.

The thing that works for me is setting a theme for the year. Last year’s theme was “Growth”. I worked to grow my business and grow the relationships most important to me. I think this year’s them will be “Learning”. There is so much information that I put into my head on a regular basis, but to be honest, it doesn’t all stick. This year, I want to be more intentional with my learning so that I actually retain the information I take in.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the Realistic Portraits course with Jason Seiler on schoolism.com. Just doing the first couple of lessons has showed me where I have become complacent with my art. Doing the assignments will (hopefully) make me more deliberate with my artwork and help me improve my skills. With any luck, that deliberateness will leak into other aspects of my life, making me a better person as well as a better artist.

What is your theme for the new year? I’d love to hear what motivates you!

Harriet Tubman watercolor study.
Eye watercolor study – my last painting of the year
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Last Chance ATD Holiday Shopping

Tonight’s the night! The Spring Cafe’s International Holiday Market opens tonight at 5. This will be the last chance before the holidays to buy a gift from Afro Triangle. Last night we went out and bought all the alcoholic beverages for the evening and our international food vendors have been cooking up a storm, so get ready to sample some authentic Burmese and Syrian cuisine. The gift baskets with goodies for the auction are all wrapped up (and look pretty good if I do say so myself).

In case you missed my last post, the Spring Institute is a non profit organization that works with immigrants and refugees. Their new cafe (which is celebrating its first anniversary) employs refugees and helps them to build their resumes so that they can contribute to our economy. There will be a silent such auction as well as a live auction hosted by the one and only Debbie Scheer. There will be food, drink, and gift items from all around the world. If you happen to be a coffee drinker, you will have a chance to win a year’s  supply of coffee from the Spring Cafe. That’s a LOT of lattes! So come out, bring your wallets and prepare to support a good cause and have a great time.

Spring Cafe
1373 Grant St,
Denver, CO 80203

This guy is going up on the auction block tonight.
This guy is going up on the auction block tonight.
Women Behaving Badly stickers
Women Behaving Badly stickers
Itty bitty drawings and paintings
Itty bitty drawings and paintings
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International Holiday Market

The Cause

This Thursday the Spring Cafe is hosting it’s first annual International Holiday Market. The mission of the Spring Cafe is to support immigrants and train refugees to work among us. Many people come to this country and work in factories because of language barriers. They work among other individuals who also don’t speak English which makes it almost impossible to learn.

Spring Cafe recognizes this and employs refugees for six week training courses. They learn about customer service in the US, get to practice their English and learn other job skills that add to their resumes. Spring Cafe gets these folks out of the factories and into the American workforce.

How Afro Triangle fits in

Some of you may not know this about me, but I am actually an immigrant. I was born in Barbados and was naturalized as a citizen in 1999. I came over with my mom and we had the help of my grandmother and aunts as we got used to living in the US.  The folks at the Spring Cafe were kind enough to include me in their holiday market. I get to join the ranks of those whose journey to this country was far more difficult than my own.

In addition to the market, there will be a live auction, a silent auction, and food and drinks available by donation. The proceeds will go toward helping the Spring Cafe continue their mission. I will be donating one of my paintings to the cause.

Dicitonary.com’s word of the year is xenophobia, the fear of the foreigner. Don’t let that be this year’s legacy. Come, participate, donate. Show our new friends that this country was built on inclusion. Come and support them as they learn how to contribute to our country and our economy.

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I will be donating this piece to the auction at the Spring Cafe this Thursday. If you want it, come get it.
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Holiday Jubilee at the Boulder Creative Collective

Hey All,

This weekend I will be returning to my old stomping grounds. The Boulder Creative Collective is hosting the Holiday Jubilee, a holiday market, on Saturday. All sorts of artists will be selling all sorts of things, from paintings and prints to clothing to cocktails.

It’s the perfect time and place to get a little something for someone you love. Here are some of the things I will be bringing with me:

I look forward to seeing you there!

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Working with Clients – Portrait Commissions

I haven’t done a process post in a while, so here goes. This piece is for a client of mine who has commissioned a few paintings over the years. She always sends me high quality photos, which I appreciate. Blurry or low resolution photos always make my job more difficult.

tinas-grandkids-mock-upIn any case, I started with this photo here. I took it into Photoshop for a little pre-treatment. The first order of business was to crop the photo to the size of the final painting, making sure I was pleased with the placement of the boys within the frame. I then blurred out the background so that they really stood out.

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Once I completed this mock up and got approval from my client, I sketched in the figures. Next, I went to work on the background. In order to simulate the blur effect in Photoshop, I utilized the wet on wet technique. With a brush loaded with clean water, I soaked the whole background area. Then I got some pigment on the brush and started dropping in color. Because the paper was already wet, the colors began to run into one another, causing them to blend smoothly.

After I was satisfied with the background, I moved to the foreground. You may have noticed this ugly greenish-grey on the boys’ shirts and hat. That is masking fluid, used to preserve the white of the paper. It also allows me to freely paint large areas of color without having to paint around small details. I built up the folds of the shirts to my satisfaction before removing the fluid.

Although white, there are still some shadows in the numbers and logos on their shirts, so I added these with some bluish-grey. I have also done some significant work on the older boy’s face.

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When I got close to done, I sent a photo of the painting to my client. She felt that the legs in the background were distracting, so I got rid of them. I darkened the background while I was at it, using the darkness to cut out the younger boy’s hair. I sent a photo to the client again and she pointed out that I had aged the older boy too much with heavy shadowing on his nose and around his mouth.img_20161122_153522

Back in Photoshop, I applied a black and white filter to the original photo. This helped me to examine the shapes more closely and discover where I had gone awry. I changed the nose and adjusted the mouth while I was at it and sent it off to the client. This time she loved it.

This is how I work with all my clients. I take pains to make sure they end up with the painting they want. The process is fastest when the reference is clear. If you would like to commission a portrait for the holidays, place your order by December 13th. If you live outside of Denver, allow time for shipping. Click here to order.

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