Straightforward advice

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Carolyn H. WarmSun of Montclair, California asked, “Do you ever do telephone consultations with artists? If so, at what price and how are they arranged? I am imagining us both on the phone in front of computers where you can see my website as we talk. I’m looking for straightforward advice. With all these paintings around here, I feel like an orphanage matron — I need to get these kids out in the sun and find them a good home.”

“California Cavern 3, v. 1”
watercolour painting, 20 x 30 inches
by Carolyn H. WarmSun

Thanks, Carolyn. I’m sincerely sorry, but I don’t arrange telephone or computer consultations and, when they happen, I don’t charge for them. I’d love to consult with folks this way, but I’d need two weeks tacked onto every day. Carolyn’s paintings exude the colour and warmth of the American Southwest. Broadly abstract and Zen-like, they are loaded with texture and commonly-found materials. Glass beads, fiber paste, tissue paper, even Halloween spider-webs add to the mystique. You can tell she’s the kind of artist who likes to look at her work-in-progress and see what’s happening — watching the paint going here and there. A seeking, exploratory and curious worker, she’s having a lot of fun.  Some examples of Carolyn’s work are below. Requests for straightforward advice come to my inbox every day. Many are wondering what to do with the buildup of orphans in the studio. Like the art of poetry, where there are more poets than readers of poetry, the art of painting is heading in the same direction. My job, as I see it, is to try to give tail-wagging encouragement and informed comment on our miraculous vocation. My suggestion to reconsider chartered accountancy is a last resort. It’s not just a North American phenomenon, but people often feel the need for green feedback to justify their actions. In painting, this concept may be unsustainable. Perhaps the best advice is, “Keep at it and let the joy build your proficiency. Fall in love with your own unique processes. Don’t hide your stuff under a bush. Know in your heart that there is no such thing as an undiscovered genius.” Best regards, Robert PS: “My goal as an artist is to be seen as relevant, unique, and excellent by artists whose work I respect and admire. I also hope to help people experience their connectedness to Mother Nature.” (Carolyn H. WarmSun) Esoterica: Artists generally need a lifetime to build acceptance. Painters like me coast on a legacy of not deserting the ship. Periods come and periods go, times are up and times are down, but someone is always in the engine room. My heart goes out to true-to-themselves painters like Carolyn, and there are millions. Still, things happen to those who keep a steady hand on the tiller. And it’s human nature to keep buying the tickets. I had a good friend, now deceased, whose path through life was unfocused and lackadaisical. He lacked gumption. “When my ship comes in,” he said, “I’ll be at the airport.”   Carolyn H. WarmSun

“Net Work”
watercolour painting
20 x 30 inches


“Oak Creek, Red Rocks”
acrylic painting
15 x 22 inches


acrylic painting
15 x 22 inches


acrylic painting
18 x 24 inches


“Limantour Creek”
acrylic painting
22 x 15 inches


“Cavern 7”
watercolour painting
14 x 11 inches


“Vernal Falls, v. 2, Yosemite”
watercolour painting
30 x 22 inches


“Grandfather Rocks”
mixed media painting
22 x 15 inches

              The secret to success by Shirley Peters, Putney, NSW, Australia  

“In the Cool, Mahon Pool”
acrylic painting
by Shirley Peters

I think I know the secret to success. It is to not give up. Keep painting. I have spent almost a lifetime looking for a gallery to represent me. Now in my 60th year, a gallery owner, looking at my web site, made the comment that I am ‘prolific’…! And that seems to be the clue. My first show in his gallery will be in July. By continuing to paint, you make two things happen. 1. You get better. 2. People start to believe in you because you obviously believe in yourself.       There are 6 comments for The secret to success by Shirley Peters
From: Mike Barr — Apr 22, 2013

Great comments Shirley and so right. Congratulations on your gallery representation.

From: Anonymous — Apr 23, 2013

This is so right, and I’m so glad I read your comment. I agree with everything you say. Just like you I have found a gallery after some years, I’m so glad I never gave up.

From: Anonymous — Apr 23, 2013

Thank you Mike! I’m a big fan of yours!

From: Shirley Peters — Apr 23, 2013

Oops. I didn’t mean that comment to be anonymous. The box where you fill in your name was almost invisible. And having to add these numbers …. :-/

From: Ingrd — Apr 23, 2013

I am so happy for you Shirley. I love to paint, but the canvases are starting to pile up. My husband is complaining about running out of space. Perhaps, someday, I will experience your good fortune. I would like to donate some paintings to the college at which I teach, but they would like them independently appraised. Perhaps, someday…

From: Nan — Apr 24, 2013

Thank you Shirley. Your comments are inspiring. I hope you have a blast at your opening. And I love your Mahon Pool! Nan

  The art of self-reliance by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

“A Moment to Compose”
oil painting
by Rick Rotante

Much of what artists search for can be found from within, if they take the time to look. It’s a hard lesson for any artist to be told to be self-reliant when it comes to guidance, but the fact is this is the best advice one can give. Throughout their lives, artists are advised on what to paint, how to paint, what is acceptable and what is not. While we all seek advice and guidance in our work, ultimately it is we alone who decide these issues. If, at some point in your life, you are lucky enough to come across a person who is trustworthy and knowledgeable about art and painting, someone who is honest and truthful, then maybe you may have found someone from whom you can ask advice. Even then, be careful what you ask, for you may not get the answers you seek. There are 3 comments for The art of self-reliance by Rick Rotante
From: Richard Mazzarino — Apr 25, 2013

Your last comment -“ careful what you ask, for you may not get the answers you seek” is prophetic to me. Thanks

From: Barbara B — Apr 25, 2013

More artists need to get guidenace from within. We are an insecure lot on the whole and when we reach out for acceptance we but don’t always find an understanding ear.

From: jen whiteley — Apr 25, 2013

Absolutely brilliant.. i love the 1st prize card.. memorys :) do you still have the artwork from that time.. i too won 2nd prize when i was at school i still have the painting and it took years before i entered art for i am in my 50th years and only now after kids and stuff have started serious art again… amazing how art resurfaces throughout the journey of life…by the way..i love you emails too

  Lower your prices by Jerry Palmer, St. Petersburg, FL, USA   I do plein air paintings, on the small side, and sell them for $50. Of course I think they are worth more than that, and my artist friends do, too, but I don’t have room in my condo for orphans. I want my paintings to be enjoyed by other people, and the reality is a painting will sell for what others think they are worth, not necessarily what the artist think they are worth. A lot of people walking through art shows and farmers markets can spare $50, including myself, but not much more. I went to a watercolor demo a few years ago and bought a glorious painting for $40 that would normally have sold for $300, but the well known artist had brought a slew of his orphans. So for anyone with lots of orphans, I suggest lower your prices. There are 11 comments for Lower your prices by Jerry Palmer
From: Brigitte Nowak — Apr 22, 2013

Art, like any other marketable commodity, is worth what the market dictates. But I think that I would rather burn my “orphans” than sell them for such a demeaning price. I have to think that if I don’t value my work, why should anyone else?

From: Jim van Geet. — Apr 22, 2013

Wholeheartedly agree with you Brigitte. How can we expect collectors to respect our art if we don’t.

From: Marta Brysha — Apr 23, 2013

Absolutely – when you devalue your work you devalue yourself. Often if you are not selling and your work is of high quality the key is actually to raise the price.

From: Shirley Peters — Apr 23, 2013

Good for you, Jerry. I often sell small watercolours on eBay, and rarely do they go higher than $50!! This is the market… a truly democratic way of selling. If the alternative is burning them, then why paint? So many of us are influenced by seeing the thousands of dollars that the great and rare artists achieve.. and think that our art is worth more than it really is. In reality, nowadays, every second Tom, Dick and Martha is a ‘painter’… or they are married to one. Art is not as rare as it was even in the 50s. Blame our great education… turning out painters by the zillion every year.

From: Mike Barr — Apr 23, 2013

I occasionally sell on eBay too with paintings that take less than half an hour, often for not much, but having said that if you stick at it you can get quite a following on there which has led to gallery representation for me years ago.

From: Rob Mathers, Lindsay ON — Apr 23, 2013

I’m with jerry and Shirley on this one. Many of us paint because we love to, not to make a living (granted, this is an enviable position to be in.) There is nothing more satisfying than to know someone of meagre means, is enjoying one of my works. To those of you that have to sell to eat, my condolences, you’ve chosen a very difficult path; to those that paint for the love of it, share your love.

P.S. I won’t give my paintings away, some token (cash) must be made to show the receiver’s interest.
From: Sharon Wadsworth-Smith — Apr 23, 2013

I sometimes think that as artists, our one big roadblock to being successful as business people is our ego. The market can only handle so much great art and after that there is just decorating. When I went through art school, our profs used to tell us that the subtitle to being an artist was to always have another job to support our career! I now teach art, and make most of my income doing that, however, it leaves you very little time to paint! People used to tell me that I was pricing my work too low, but I was selling. I changed the prices and yes, sales definitely dropped but my prices were more in line with the quality of work. Was I kidding myself or just massaging my ego. Recently I encouraged a fellow artist to raise his prices on a few paintings. I wonder if I did the right thing however as I learned that he had lowered a price for a specific client, in order to make a sale.

From: Dave Crowell — Apr 23, 2013

“I would rather burn them than sell them for such a demeaning price.”

Why not give them away instead of burning them? Then you can take joy in knowing you have made the world a more beautiful place and that people are able to enjoy your art. Burning also demeans and devalues the people who might love to own a piece of your art but be unable to afford any more than what you consider a “demeaning price”, or are they of such lesser value that they don’t matter?
From: Jackie Knott — Apr 23, 2013

Wow, so much is in this letter and the comments. “Farmer’s markets and art shows.” Both included together? I go farmer’s markets for produce. If the price range of that art show is $5-$50 you have immediately classified and limited your work.

Not that time necessarily guarantees quality, and there is great value in the painting-a-day followers, but try aspiring to painting something that could demand a higher price. I have had success in offering terms on occasion: remember lay-a-away? We arranged monthly payments and at the end of 4-6 mo., they happily went home with my painting. Yes, we typed out a one-page agreement and we both signed it. Neither is there anything wrong with going back to that orphan and reworking it to improve it. The experience of “what is wrong with this painting” is a great personal teaching tool.
From: laura reilly — Apr 23, 2013
From: Anonymous — Apr 24, 2013

It is fascinating to learn how much variety there is in people’s motivations to make art. What’s a business model for one person is demeaning for another, and yet enviable and appreciated for someone else. I guess in that sense art world isn’t different than any other profession or activity. Warm thanks to everyone who shared their story and gave the readers an opportunity to appreciate another person’s perspective. I often feel stress between the need to be less precious, more prolific, and disseminate works to many people at any cost – and being (as is my nature) slow and overly attentive to each piece and its value and destiny.

  Physical evidence of failure by Jill Charuk, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Fresh start”
acrylic painting
by Jill Charuk

What do you do with the orphans? A gallery owner suggested that only 40% of your yearly output would be sold. Reasonable. So in producing $100,000 to get $40,000, what do you do with the ever increasing number of pieces? Not all are dogs… sorry Dorothy. But as we paint and get better or at least stronger, many of the works are not indicative of our style and can demand the price point. Donate a few… but even then, I want it to be a decent piece, reflecting current work. The more orphans, the more unmotivated I become. PEOF… I have called it “physical evidence of failure” Do you have a shed, a burning day, a HUGE house? There are 6 comments for Physical evidence of failure by Jill Charuk
From: JEdenstrom — Apr 23, 2013

I usually paint with acrylics….and when I have a painting that no longer works for me, I paint over it. I now like painting on used canvas better than new canvas. I happen to love layers and texture, so the painting underneath peeks through in a variety of ways. Good fun.

From: Dave Crowell — Apr 23, 2013

I have a painting I commissioned hanging on the wall above me right now that is the direct child of one of those “PEOF”. I had visited the same artist’s studio regularly for several years and been struck intensely by a particular painting. It was perfect in every respect except one, it was too large for my low ceilinged old house. Finally I commissioned a smaller version to fit my house. I believe the original remains unsold, but it is now a “Model and Inspiration for Success”

From: Kath Schifano — Apr 23, 2013

My studio is organized, but absolutely full, I needed to frame new work so I removed older pieces from storage and reused the frames. After a while I had a collection of unframed panels. I realized that these were experiences on the way to today but not my best work so I puzzled them together into a giant rectangle and took a photo of all at once. Then the surfaces are sanded back to smooth and I have a new selection of toned painting surfaces and a little bit of storage is recovered. The photo works as a record of what is gone so I don’t go looking everywhere for a particular one of them. When a customer later asked for one of my sanded pictures, I said it was gone and they bought another. Sand outdoors with a mask and don’t remove too much!

From: Tom Semmes — Apr 23, 2013

I have been thinking of taking my orphans and just leaving them in random places around town. These are paintings that are too heavy impastoed to paint over and not so bad that they end up in the trash. But I just would never put them in a show and there is no market for them. Maybe someone will discover them, fall in love with them, and take them home. I would paint out my signature of course. Sort of like leaving the baby on the doorstep I suppose.

From: Kathleen A. Johnson — Apr 23, 2013

Why not donate them to a local charity or fundraiser? With or without your signature.

From: Anonymous — Apr 25, 2013

The problem with many charities is that they are turning into an opportunity for the organizers and their friends/family to get excellent art for peanuts. Many demand certified valuations and some treat artists poorly – e.g. kick them out from events if everyone on their list already acquired that artist’s paintings. Hate to be negative, but it’s just something I observed in the past few years.

  Start small by Linnette Johnson, Austell, GA, USA  

“Morningside and 17th”
acrylic painting
by Linnette Johnson

I had not painted for about nine years after I first started dabbling at the Edna Manley School of Art in Jamaica. You could not tear me from a canvas when we went plein air painting. I brought all my painting stuff with me here, but did nothing. One day the ‘painting spirit’ hit me and I said aloud, ‘Where do I start Lord?’ and the Holy Spirit’s immediate response was “Start small.”      

Every community should have one by Beth Kurtz, Manhattan, NY, USA  

“Early Macoun”
oil painting
by Beth Kurtz

There is a charity in NYC named “Housing Works,” which helps homeless people afflicted by AIDS. They have a sharp group of managers, who know what’s good from what’s bad coming in the door. Often over the years I have needed to clean out, and have taken big piles of my work to Housing Works (not the best of it, naturally!), including studies, sketches, & the like. There they are priced from $5 for a small drawing or quick sketch to about $150 for a large (24″x30″) painting. The place seems to sell everything I bring them. By virtue of those sales I figure I have given thousands of dollars to Housing Works. I have the satisfaction of knowing that somebody, somewhere who can’t afford to pay “real” prices is enjoying my work on some level, and somebody else, somewhere else, in dire straits, is benefiting by it in a material way. It doesn’t get better than that. Every community should have such an organization. There are 3 comments for Every community should have one by Beth Kurtz
From: Jill Paris Rody — Apr 22, 2013

Such a good cause, and satisfying on all counts. I have been “asked” to give donations, but much prefer to give “gifts, unsolicited. This I do often; to charities, as well as unsuspecting friends.

I have some favorite pieces I keep around the house. AND, hopefully, there will continue to be new ideas to “transform the orphans” into New Images. So far, not very many for the burn pile!
From: Win Dinn — Apr 22, 2013

Lovely painting – it fairly glows.

From: Anonymous — Apr 25, 2013

nice job with the edges!

  Inspiration by tragedy by Carolyn Newberger, MA, USA  

“Martin, Rest in Peace”
watercolour painting
by Carolyn Newberger

In one terrible instant, a young boy’s life was lost. The lives of other boys and girls in Boston have changed as well. For the boys in this painting, the innocence of play gives way to a new awareness of vulnerability. I began this watercolor before the 2013 marathon bombing, thinking about the uncertainty in the lives of these developing boys. With the bombing and the loss of eight-year-old Martin’s life, this painting became very specific for me. I finished the painting absorbing the pain of his loss, and with a new and very personal fear for the children in my life and in others’ lives. This painting will be shown in the exhibition, “Violence Transformed 2013, Discovering the Transformative Power of Art,” at the Massachusetts State House, Doric Hall, from April 22 – May 3, 2013. The opening reception is April 23 from 3 to 5pm. There is 1 comment for Inspiration by tragedy by Carolyn Newberger
From: sus — Apr 23, 2013

A beautiful painting and wonderful story.

  An intense week by Nancy Schempp, Bristol, RI, USA   Having spent these last many days watching the challenges as the result of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, and not being far from the Boston community, I was so grateful that the search for the second young man has ended. But it has been an intense week and just now felt led to watch your video “Shenandoah” once again and can’t tell you what a sense of peace and quiet came to me. I just wanted to thank you again for doing such a beautiful job with this video and for sharing it with so many of us.   Wrong choice? by Robert Bissett, Naples, ID, USA  

“Zodiac Under Sail”
acrylic painting
by Robert Bissett

I was invited to jury a student art show at the local library — first grade through eighth. I was presented with two dimensional art in a wide range of subject matter, media and ability. A careful viewing turned up several nicely done realistic pieces from the upper grades. Of those, probably the best was a rendering in colored pencil of a deer’s head by an eighth grader. Obviously, a talented artist had spent a lot of time copying a photo and had everything just right. Being more interested in emotional content than accurate reporting, my eye returned again and again to a depiction of a snowman. In what appeared to be tempera on colored construction paper, it communicated freedom and joy with the confident strokes of a master. No reworking or refining here. Just honest, bold painting from the heart by a painter in grade one. Nice composition, too. It grabbed me like nothing else in the show. I gave the snowman first prize and the deer second prize. No one said anything, but I could tell they were not pleased with my choice. I’ve never been asked to be the juror there again. There are 4 comments for Wrong choice? by Robert Bissett
From: Brigitte Nowak — Apr 22, 2013

Gorgeous painting: lovely atmosphere, courageous perspective, beautifully composed.

From: Wes Giesbrecht — Apr 22, 2013

That’s hilarious! I had a similar thing happen to me in a grade 6 art contest. I worked long and hard on a colour pencil picture of a horses head. I got second. First place? The girl who had a new box of coloured pencil crayons and scribbled many little dabs of colour all over a page.

From: Anonymous — Apr 23, 2013

That’s their problem isn’t it? They would have better served the children had they divided the prizes between elementary school (gr. 1-5) and middle school (gr. 6-8). That way there would have been 2 first prizes.

From: Anonymous — Apr 23, 2013

I agree with you. Copying from another picture is good practice, for form and shadows, but original pieces of art work, that are very created are to me a better picture.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Straightforward advice

From: Linda Jolly — Apr 18, 2013

I think your paintings are wonderful, Carolyn. They are already out in the sun. Now they just need to find good homes.

From: Pam Cunningham — Apr 19, 2013

This could not have arrived at a better time, since I finally summoned the courage to have a few REALLY talented artists critique some of my paintings, some of which went back 5 or6 years, at least. The experience was very positive… I think the only thing I was afraid of was myself!

From: Ron Unruh — Apr 19, 2013

Carolyn’s work is vastly different from my own realism, yet I thoroughly enjoy her design, shapes and vibrancy, and am convinced that they would enhance a living space considerably. Fascinatingly Good work Carolyn.

From: anonymous — Apr 19, 2013

Make. Good. Art.

From: John Ferrie — Apr 19, 2013

Dear Robert,

I look at people’s work all the time. While I am not shy, I will always steer someone towards their strengths. Sometimes this can seem harsh as I will also point out a weakness. What I always wonder when I am looking at a painting or paintings is, what is this artist trying to communicate to me. That being said, I think this Carolyn womans work is really something. What I like is what I call a through-line, that all the work is nature driven and the focus is natural textures shape, light and form. There is a delicate and intricate quality to these works. And while nature is forever evolving and changing, she has captured a moment in suspended animation. The only advice I would give, it to increase the scale of the works, do something on a larger format. The other thing, and I say this to all artists, it to make sure to always be working beyond what they know. And endless series of the same thing can become predictable and the response can diminish. I would say try working this subject at different times of the day and night, different seasons as well. This way, the love of nature still comes through and yet, the works are fresh and vibrant. I would welcome discussing these works further and I don’t charge a penny. John Ferrie
From: Jackie Knott — Apr 19, 2013

Carolyn, your work is stunning. I don’t usually gravitate toward abstracts but your paintings have a lovely organic quality that lean to realism, but with your particular twist.

Whereas none of your paintings are too small I also might suggest going even larger. A moderately sized image may be wonderful but can pack tremendous punch as an even larger painting. You don’t need a critique as much as you need to keep your individual vision and press on. I don’t know why, but looking at your collective paintings here, the word virtue strikes me.
From: Suzette Fram — Apr 19, 2013

Like the art of poetry, where there are more poets than readers of poetry, the art of painting is heading in the same direction.

I have felt this way for some time now, but to hear Robert say it, means that it’s not just my imagination. It’s kind of sad really, because even if we paint without sales, we must still have our work seen. I believe that the process of creating is not finished until the work is shared. We may paint for ourselves and our own pleasure, but it is a necessary part of the process to have others see our work and for us to see their reaction to it. At least it is for me.
From: Dwight — Apr 19, 2013

John Ferrie is right about Carolyn’s work, she might try doing the acrylics larger. I notice that some of her watercolors are as large as a standard sheet of watercolor paper. Bigger watercolors are possible on some of the “elephant” sheets. And possibly more color in these natural settings would catch more eyes. But, again I agree with John, these are indeed really nice!

From: William Burrell — Apr 19, 2013

I too have noticed the high number of really good artists on the Internet. And the gazillions of those who do the work out of love and dedication, but have not found their voice, or perhaps their audience. And the numbers of artists who “succeed” is a very small percentage of the whole. As I have often told my students, “you had better be doing this because you love it, because often that is the only reward.”

From: Normande Besoin — Apr 20, 2013

When my ship comes in, I’ll be in bed.

From: Henry Cao — Apr 21, 2013
From: Patricia A. Anderson — Apr 22, 2013

Where are the hummers?

From: Marti OBrien — Apr 22, 2013

Loved the story about the hummers.

From: scotti ruhlman — Apr 22, 2013

Where’s the hummingbird????

From: Ann Tardiff — Apr 23, 2013
From: Edna V.Hildebrandt — Apr 23, 2013

I think that is indeed the best advice. Every artist has his or her own belief of what is best for his own art .Some artist are stickler for color ,rules and technicality.Some claim they have instinctive feeling of what make good art. When their art is not sold they are discouraged and give up.I think that there is always room for improvement and one should not stop being inspired and find joy just by creating.

From: Patti Morris — Apr 23, 2013
From: Susan Easton Burns — Apr 23, 2013
From: Betsy Randel — Apr 24, 2013
     Featured Workshop: Diane Overmyer
042313_robert-genn Diane Overmyer workshops Held in Indiana, USA   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.

Canyon Walls

oil painting, 9 x 12 inches by Cody DeLong, Jerome AZ, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Jane Crick of FL, USA, who wrote, “Alyson B. Stanfield has a very good book on marketing artwork called, I’d rather be in the studio!  Now I am taking her Art Biz Bootcamp which has already given my art career a big boost in sales and exposure.” (RG note) Thanks, Jane. Several artists have written recently to say that Alyson Stanfield’s Art Biz Bootcamp was very useful. And also Patti Morris of Red Deer, AB, Canada who wrote, “I’m a fabric artist. When I’m not sure of something I ask my husband or my girls, ‘Is this art or is it a placemat?’ If they say placemat, I cut it up.”    

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