What I've Been Working On (June 2020)
by Anne Kostecki
We are almost halfway through 2020. I think for a lot of us, that’s good news. This month has been a whirlwind - notwithstanding all of the events that have been going on around the world, the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shocking amount of police brutality, racial justice movements, and more things I have no idea about. Since I’m pregnant, and there’s not much I can do at all (I’m part of the immune-compromised population) other than stay home and create, that’s what I’m doing.
This month, I received a commission for a custom watercolor pet portrait. I had painted two other dog portraits as gifts, and those were very well received. Since I am putting a lot of time, work, and expertise in creating an entirely original painting, my pet portraits are over $200 for 8 x 10 in. watercolor painting, depending on level of complexity. If you are curious about all of those unbelievably cheap “watercolor pet portraits,” you see through Google and Etsy, I have a previous post explaining why those are too good to be true!
My client loved the painting, and said she “literally had tears in her eyes.” Commissions are likely one of the most meaningful things that I do. I love hearing the client’s reaction to the final piece. Maybe I became an artist because I love getting these reactions, because I also love it when I share my work with new people. They are usually surprised and impressed - it’s an awesome feeling!
I roughly sketched the dog, then very lightly just blocked out background elements. I painted the dog first, and I was surprised that it only took 2 or 3 sessions and it was done! For the fur, I layered burnt umber, a touch of yellow ochre, and Payne’s gray watercolors. For the eyes, I amped up the bright yellow and orange to make them stand out.
The background trees and grass took much longer than I originally estimated. My usual method, and the traditional way to paint watercolor, is go lightest colors to darkest. I washed the landscape in yellow ochre mixed with a sunflower yellow color, then I gradually added light greens and oranges.
Arches Cold Press paper is very resistant to warping, but I decided to stretch the paper anyway. I’m kind of a rebel and almost never fully stretch my watercolor paper: which may or may not be a bad thing (?). Anyway, after I stretched it, I couldn’t get it to lay flat with my painter’s tape to my art board. It was super frustrating: I would lift and press out the trapped air underneath, over and over, trying to get it to lay perfectly flat. It would not cooperate. Oh well…I just worked with it. Since this paper is so absorbent, I wasn’t too worried about it messing up the painting, I just wish I could get a nice flat painting to give my client!
Collaborative IG Contest
I was asked to participate in an art contest with other artists over Instagram this month, and since I hadn’t done that before, I gave it a shot. Since it was June, Pride month, we decided to make it rainbow themed. We had a fair number of entries, and funnily enough, two of the final ones used the same reference photo. We decided three winners on June 21, and shared them via our Stories.
To introduce the contest, we were asked to create a rainbow-themed piece. So, I made this painting of a sunset over a mountain. It was a lovely reference photo I found in my free reference photos for artists Facebook group.
It was strange working with so many artists as collaborators (15 total). Especially since we were in all different points of our careers and practice, different ages, and different styles (realistic, cartoons, anime, digital art, and more). If I do another contest with collaborators, I think I will do one with fewer participants. It was a good learning experience though.
I did not devote as much time to Minted this month as I did last month. I only submitted two entries: one for the corporate card challenge, and one non-photo. Earlier this year, I had painted a snow-covered lighted tree, and worked around that to make a simple design. To be honest, I have this problem where I make an illustration first, then I don’t really design the typography until the illustration is done. I do not recommend anyone do this! The process is more difficult, and I don’t think the design is as strong as it could be. I wish I had more time to do this one again.
For the non-photo, I had seen a beautiful still life photo of many types of plants and evergreens arranged in a playful pattern, and I wanted to emulate that. Whoa, I did not anticipate how long this would take!
I drew each branch on an individual layer, and wanted to distinguish the branches through differing colors. Instead of drawing one corner and mirroring it, I wanted to draw unique branches around the border to create one image. This drawing did not turn out how I expected, and in fact I paused on it for a week before I finished it. The first version I submitted needed fresh eyes, so I asked for feedback from the Minted community. This feature is a godsend! I received great advice, changed the design 2 more times, and I’m much happier with the outcome. I just hope I get a pick (fingers crossed).
This year, since the pandemic, I’ve applied to 4 art grants to make up for my lost income. Three of them were an “enter once to find out” scenario, and another (Artist Relief) has multiple rounds. I’ve applied to each round, and have been rejected 3 times so far. The grant has only been able to provide funds for around 1 percent of applicants: which ought to tell you how desperate the situation is.
One of the grants was through my alma mater, the Sam Fox School of Art & Design, and that one rejected me. I know why: my husband’s income is preventing us from having any sort of financial trouble. We are not having trouble paying the mortgage, food, healthcare, childcare, or any other necessary costs. But in regards to my projected income, that has definitely taken a hit.
My primary reasoning is that not only have I missed lots of potential income this spring due to cancellations, but since I am pregnant, I will basically be missing the rest of the year too. If I’m lucky, and if there are holiday fairs this winter, I might be able to do one or two. I can say with confidence that missing an entire year of income is reason enough to apply for a grant! But, I will not be too sad if I don’t receive any funds. I know there are lots of other artists who need it more than I do, so let the committees decide.
I was so shocked to hear that I was one of two (!) artists of all the participating artists to be selected for the Outstanding Artist Award at this year’s Laumeier Art Fair! It includes a $250 gift card to Artmart, and an automatic invite to the 2021 Annual Art Fair, so no need to go through the jury process (and the jury fee is waived). I’m so excited, and I will be more than ready to be back in business next year!
I have been thinking a lot about what I’d like to offer my audience in the future, and what kind of value I can provide. Many of my Instagram followers are also artists, and many of those are just beginning in their practice. I have three years of art teaching experience from college, and I took art lessons from age 14 until age 18. I have attended art classes for most of my life, and I’ve taken several workshops. And, I’ve led and taught my own workshop, plus I’ve been working on a drawing course with current students. Teaching is not only the logical next step for me, but a way I can feel useful. Capricorns like myself love practicality.
I’ve noticed that I like to follow artists who offer tutorials, freebies, and how-to’s that explain their process. In fact, there are only two ways for me to sign up for a newsletter: for a discount code or a freebie. I will only stay subscribed to newsletters that are concise, honest, and have the occasional free downloads or advice. I know I need to start a newsletter, and I’m starting to accumulate material for free downloads and tutorials.
For the first time, I recorded a video tutorial: for watercolor floral rings. The artwork was easy, and so I didn’t really plan out the tutorial, because I knew I would overthink it and never end up recording it. I used my Canon DSLR to record, and immediately realized that I needed a microphone. Oh well, that means just work with what you have. My setup was not ideal either: I snaked my arms through my tripod to paint, so I could keep the camera in the same spot the whole time. I really hope the lighting ended up ok: I have perpetual bad luck with getting the lighting right in my studio.
Digital Art Practice
I did two Art With Flo tutorials this month, one of a mountain, and one of an Earth in space. I’m not quite finished with Earth yet. Whenever I have some spare time at the end of the day and I don’t feel like painting, I try one of these tutorials. They are great! I always learn a new technique, or how to use a new brush. I’m always on the hunt for free brushes too, so let me know your favorites.
That concludes my month. I have a separate post here about all of the painting I did for fun. My monthly recaps are getting LONG, and I apologize for that! I want to separate them into useful, shorter posts. Please email me if you have any ideas!