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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.


First Friday Open House

Join us on First Friday for Helikon Gallery and Studio’s open house. The artist studios will be open to the public, so you can see where the magic happens.

Here’s a sampling of what you will find.

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Good morning all! I thought I’d share with you some pieces I no longer have because I sold them last night. If your favorite is not on this list, come see me at Mini Comic Con at the Sam Gary Branch Library. I will be there today from 10am to 4pm.

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It’s Show Time!

Tonight’s the night! I know you’ve been following the progress of this show since April. Now come check out the full exhibit of Women Behaving Badly. I’ll be at Coffee at The Point (710 26th ave) from 7pm to 10pm, or until they kick us out, whichever happens first.

There’s going to be live music, spoken word and a question and answer period about the art itself.

8pm – Marthe Ndongala – Spoken Word

8:20 – Zainab – Live music and vocals

8:40 – Pardees Goshtasb – Live music and hip hop

9:10 – Adri Norris – Q&A

Follow the link below for the map and more details.

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Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Who is she?

Rigoberta Menchu Tum is a K’iche’ political activist, an indigenous Guatemalan woman who promotes indigenous rights and fights for the rights of women in her country. After losing most of her family to the Guatemalan civil war, which lasted form 1960 to 1996, Menchu worked tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of that war to justice.

What did she do?

In 1982, she dictated the book “My Name is Rigoberta Menchu and this is how my Conscience was Born”, winning international acclaim and calling attention to the ongoing conflict in Guatemala, as well as the ill treatment of its mostly Mayan people. Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for “her work in social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.” She created the Rigoberta Mentu Tum Foundation, which helped indigenous Guatemalans in exile return home.

Why does that matter?

Rigoberta Menchu Tum gave a voice to the indigenous people of her country and paved the way for justice to be served. There is still a long way to go before the country is completely healed, but many people are dedicated to the task.

You may be thinking to yourself, “those look like shell casings….” Yes, those are shell casings that I glued to the piece to enhance the violence of the time. 30 years is a LONG time for a civil war.

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Katherine Johnson

I’ve been so busy getting ready for this show, I’ve forgotten to post my last few paintings. Time to rectify that little oversight.

This painting is of Katherine Johnson.

Who is she?

Katherine Johnson was a computer for NASA, back when it was a job description, not a machine. She and a number of other Black women answered the call when NASA was looking for women to work in their fledgling space program.

What did she do?

One of the West Area Computers, Katherine Johnson did the calculations that astronauts relied on for some of America’s earliest space travel. She was so good at her job, even after the electronic computer had been invented, astronaut John Glenn requested that Johnson personally check the machine’s calculations before he took off for his mission on Friendship 7.

Why does that matter?

Katherine Johnson and other pioneers in her field are living proof that women have a place in science and technology. Without her efforts, American astronauts would not have left this planet when they did, and humanity would not know as much about Earth’s place in the universe.

I pushed myself a bit further on this one. I even managed to hunt down a toy space shuttle to indicate Johnson’s importance to the Space Program. I’m enjoying the 3D elements and will definitely be playing with that more in future paintings.

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Shirley Chisholm


I may or may not be done with this painting, but I’ve been sitting on it for two weeks now, so I’m showing it to you. If you have any suggestions for how I could make it better, I’m all ears.

Who was she?

Shirley Chisholm was an American politician, educator and author who became the first African American woman elected to the United States Congress.

What did she do?

The child of Caribbean immigrants, Chisholm was an educator in early life, working as the director at daycare centers in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She was known as the authority on issues involving early education and child welfare. Running these centers got her interested in politics. She became a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly where she helped to pass legislature that granted unemployment benefits to domestic workers and introduced the SEEK Program (Search for Education, Evaluation and Knowledge) which provided disadvantaged students a remedial education and the opportunity to enter college. In 1968, she was elected to the House of Representatives, becoming the first Black woman to do so. While in office, she worked to expand the food stamps program and was integral in the formation of WIC, which provides food and milk for poor mothers. In 1972, Shirley Chisholm ran for president.

Why does that matter?

The programs that Shirley Chisholm promoted and founded are still integral in helping poor people today. Although she didn’t win her bid for the presidency, the mere fact that she ran as a woman and an African American paved the way for the diversity in the field today and the fact that we now have a Black president.

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Hedy Lamarr

Who was she?

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian actress who became an Hollywood film star from the 1930s to 1950s.

What did she do?

Often cast at the sexy starlet with very few lines, Lamarr became bored with her acting roles, so she turned to invention to keep her mind occupied. She began with an improvement to traffic stoplights and a tablet that would dissolve in water to make carbonated drinks, but soon turned her mind toward World War II. She and her partner George Anthiel realized that the radio controlled torpedoes could be easily jammed and sent off course, so they set themselves to the task of creating a jam-proof system that was based on the way player pianos work. This system would allow a torpedo’s radio signal to hop frequencies continually, making it impossible to block. Although it was patented in 1942, the US Navy didn’t implement this technology until 1960 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Why is that important?

This technology became the basis for Wi-Fi, bluetooth and CDMA (code division multiple access) technology which powers our mobile phones, computers and gadgets, today.

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Women Behaving Badly-Leymah Gbowee

Hey all. I want to let you in on a little secret. For the past year I have been brainstorming and researching for a project that, I believe, will be the most meaningful body of work I have created to date. The show will be called “Women Behaving Badly – Because Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History”. I know, it’s a mouthful.

I am doing this series because as I’ve gotten older, I have come to learn of so many achievements women have had over the ages that I never learned about in school. Some of these achievements are still stitched in the fabric of our society, yet we have no idea who these women were or what they did for us. I want to shine a light on these individuals and tell you who they are/were, what they did, and why they matter. The plan is to span the timeline and the globe to tell their stories.

The first woman I painted is Leymah Gbowee. I learned of her when I was invited to do a live painting at the Afrikmall this past weekend in Aurora. The woman who invited me asked me to paint an African leader and Ms Gbowee’s name was on her short list. After reading a short bio on her, I knew I had to find a way to tell her story.

After participating in a program in Liberia to help those traumatized by war, particularly the child soldiers, Leymah Gbowee realized that it was the mother, who would be able to heal the country ravaged by civil war. She joined an organization called Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) which focused only on women and only on building peace. Through that organization, she led protests, sex strikes and sit-ins to convince the president to hold peace talks. She and hundreds of other women then went to those talks between warning factions and put pressure on them to end the war. Through peaceful protests, the war was ended in 2003 and Leymah Gbowee won a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.

I found her story absolutely inspiring and used my new collage technique to tell it as best I could.




To find out more about Women Behaving Badly and to join in the conversation check out the Facebook page I created for it. If you have any suggestions of women who should be featured, please leave a comment. The way pages work, each comment needs my approval so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t appear right away. The show will be in August at Coffee at The Point. I will let you know when I set the opening date, so stay tuned.

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Interactive Art Night

What were your Childhood Dreams? What wonderful adventures did you imagine yourself going on? What did you want to be when you grew up? Where did you want to go? Who did you want to meet?
The First Friday of December, I will be at Integrative Health Denver, a massage acupuncture and holistic healing center, doing a little audience participation work on the subject of Childhood Dreams. I plan on having two collage stations, one for two 18×24in. pieces and one for smaller 4x6in. pieces. Visitors will be able to rip and shred pieces of paper and glue them down onto these surfaces to create works of art. You can take the smaller pieces home with you or put in an order for a custom painting by yours truly (for a fee, of course). One of the larger pieces will be turned into a watercolor painting right before your eyes, so stick around and see how it turns out.
If you are one of those people who thinks they don’t have an artistic bone in their body, come out and surprise yourself. If you know that you are an artist and haven’t taken the time to get your creative juices flowing, definitely stop by and indulge your inner child. Whichever camp you find yourself in, it’s going to be a fun night.
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How I Painted Save the Coffee Bean

Save the Coffee BeanWhen I decided to paint this piece, really wanted to use collage. I had been ignoring the process because I am stuck on painting. I love the brushes, the pigments, mixing colors… all of it. However, lately I have seen the merits of collage. I love the subliminal nature of the process, how the papers you choose inform the final piece.
20151013_191711_N River Ave
 In Save the Coffee Bean, I used local newspaper pages to create the background of the painting.

Then I sketched the design on top, first in pencil then in permanent marker because I couldn’t see the pencil marks through the newspaper ink.

 After getting the sketch down, I applied several layers of diluted absorbent ground to where the cup and liquid coffee would be. I knew that I wanted the most vibrant colors to be in the cup and the coffee, so I made sure to build up enough white so that the colors would pop. From there, I painted as usual, building up my colors slowly, discovering the subtle color shifts in the liquid and forming the contours and reflections in the cup. Of course, I also built up the background elements, the hands and the figures holding the baskets of of the berries almost becoming collage elements themselves.
I would love to hear how you use collage and absorbent ground. Message me in the comment space below. If you would like to receive these posts in your inbox, be sure to check “Add me to mailing list”.