Guest Post! Undive/Middle River: Salvador Dali Tribute


It’s that time again! My best friend and fellow blogger, Naomi, are teaming up this week to celebrate her favorite artist, Salvador Dali. This week will include posts inspired by her love for the passionate and eccentric surrealist. Be sure to check out her blog, Embrace the Crazy, for more poetry and musings about the events and people in her life! Here’s day 1 one of Dali Week – Enjoy!

Happy Birthday to my favorite artist, Salvador Dali!

To honor and celebrate this day, each year I try to collaborate with my best friend (another favorite artist and painter) Traci, and I’m really excited about our plans this time around!

Tune into the blog all this week as we combine the world of creative writing with modern art, as I’ll be sharing poetry and writing pieces to go along with her visuals. I feel honored to be involved in this collaboration. Traci is an up and coming artist who produces bold works that never cease to pull at my heart strings and inspire me to be better, work harder and feel all the things. Please please follow her blog: A Purple Paintbrush, and visit her website to view and purchase more of her works.


Undive ~ Traci L. Turner

I swim, to the middle of your river and
Let me drown
In my own expectations and frivolities– all the lies you’ve said to me
The scent of you all over me
Washed in these waters; I can’t get clean
Or rid of the stink of reality
If the illusion of truth lies on the surface
I choose to sink
Never to emerge from underneath
Too broken and damaged

Why Their Art is on the Wall


A still from Art School Confidential. CLASSIC movie about artists and the art world. Please see this if you haven’t yet.

I thought it was worth taking time on here to mention a topic that might be a bit controversial, but is something that most (if not all) of us can relate to. Have you ever looked at a work of art and thought anything along the lines of,
“Damn, a 3 year old could do that.”
Or, “That’s not really art!”
Or even, “My work is way better than this!”
“How is their work worth THAT much?”
“Why is their work in a gallery?”

Well, I’ll attempt to address some of that in the best way that I can based on what I’ve learned and observed over the last few years. I’m definitely not an expert, nor am I an art history buff or anything like that, but I’m happy to enter the discussion with what I do know.

I think the first point I have to make is to keep in mind that art is subjective and comes in an infinite number of forms. Not everyone’s definition of what is good will match up. That’s ok. Personally I think the only type of “bad” art is insincere art. If an artist lacks authenticity in whatever they’re doing, then it’s not worth my time to experience. No matter the execution, or whether I like the way it looks or not, above all I’d like to know that an artist truly stands behind their work and their message. Even if the message is, “I like to take nice-looking photos,” I’d rather have that than look at work that even the artist doesn’t consciously care about.

Another thing to keep in mind is that everyone’s path is different. Some people are lucky enough to be born into close proximity of the art world so their rise won’t be the same as someone who has to start from scratch with making connections and getting their work seen. Also, some artists don’t want to go the traditional gallery route so their idea of how to achieve success will trend towards a more independent mindset. Gallery showings (traditional and non-traditional) add credibility, but it’s not necessarily the only definition of what success is for artists anymore. You can consistently show in galleries and not sell much work, while someone else may not show much in traditional venues but make a killing on Etsy. It depends on what your endgame is.

So here are a few reasons that I hope can help explain why sometimes certain artwork gets shown and praised, while art that would be viewed as “real art” by other viewers may not get as much shine:

They Know How to Network
So they say it’s “all in who you know”, right? Well, these artists most likely took the time to do that and put themselves in the right scenes. They’ve learned how to approach the right people and promote themselves. A lot of creative types struggle with engaging strangers and are more introverted in certain social situations. I’m inconsistent about that too so I know how tough it can be sometimes. Please know that you’re not alone! However, even the most awkward or shy of us all can still find a way to make sure they’re visible and make new connections. If you continue to talk yourself out of those opportunities you’re only making it easier for everyone else while you remain unseen. An easy way to start getting out there is by attending art show receptions. Add yourself to the email lists of local galleries or join online groups of art communities in your area so you can stay in the loop of when and where things are happening. At art show receptions, usually the most important people will be in attendance – the artist(s) in the show, gallery curators and/or directors, other local artists, potential buyers and art lovers. So many possibilities in one space, and usually there’s free wine and refreshments! I’ve found that if you really don’t know what to say to someone, a very easy opener is to ask someone admiring the same piece as you, “So what do you think of this piece/show?” You can’t go wrong and most of the time it leads to a productive dialogue.

Perhaps this seems like an obvious point, but you’d be surprised at how many artists could stand to clean up in this area. Aside from skill, the smaller habits that go unnoticed by most people can go a long way. This is where having a little bit of business savvy can help separate you from the pack that embodies the flakey artist stereotypes. Professional artists commit to deadlines. Professional artists have a substantial body of work, or are actively building it. Professional artists have websites or mobile portfolios on hand (I have a folder in my cellphone gallery with some pictures of my work). They invest in themselves by taking classes or workshops, purchasing quality supplies, having professional-looking business cards and hi-res photographs of their work. Professional artists prioritize their time effectively, making sacrifices as needed. This means that sometimes you may have to lose sleep or pass up on social activities. A professional artist possesses a work ethic that debunks the typical artist image. If you’re like me and work a full-time job, you already know that all of the tasks that go into the pursuit of a fine art career can feel like a part-time job. Because it is a job! When you work for yourself and are your own brand, you have to take yourself seriously or no one else will. Unless (or until!) you become one of the artists that can sell your art mostly on your name alone, having strong professional habits is definitely one way that a lot of artists get booked. Those artists make it easy for establishments to want to work with them because they have their ducks in a row.

Their Story
Most artists that can book spots in shows have a really good story or vision to share with their audience. To be able to express that in a compelling way is an essential skill to have as you progress in your career. It doesn’t even have to be a unique vision, which I think is a common misconception. It’s not always about dreaming up some grand, new idea. A lot of times it’s more about what YOU have to say and how you present it. It’s also valid, and provocative, to allow viewers to form their own interpretation of a piece of art or body of work. Whether you choose to be more upfront about your message or leave it up to the viewer, people need to attach some kind of meaning to the art. Some artists are really good at telling an interesting story. At times, that can be the only difference between one artist getting put on versus another. Having a well-developed and concise artist statement, an “elevator speech” for those impromptu inquiries in random conversations, even a short caption when you post your work on social media or your website offer a little bit of a peek into who you are as an artist. These things are just more ways of hooking people in beyond what they see, whether your goal is to achieve more engagement or sell more work.

Maybe it should go without saying, but yes, sometimes it comes down to the dollar dollar bills y’all. Most of the traditional venues that display art (i.e. galleries) take a portion of your sales and that percentage can vary from place to place. The criteria by which they judge artwork varies as well. Sometimes it depends on the trends in the market. Sometimes it’s about fitting the type of artwork that falls in line with the gallery’s mission. There are a myriad of factors that are considered. But you best believe that they wouldn’t accept artwork unless they were confident that they would be able to make money from it! Maybe that sounds a bit soulless, but it’s part of the business. If none of us wanted to profit off of what we were doing, then we would never charge for our art or creative services. It’s true that nowadays one doesn’t have to wait to get into a gallery to get their work seen, but booking gallery slots and selling work adds a lot of credibility and that may never change in the art world.

These were just a few reasons that I was able to come up with through lots of reading and from my own experiences. I’m very curious to hear what you think about all of it. If you’ve shown work before, what factors do you think helped you the most? Do you still find yourself frustrated by some of the artwork you see displayed in galleries and other venues?

Simple Reasons Why You Should Share Your Artwork

Photo credit:

Photo credit:  Painting: John Sonsini

Ever since I became more focused on being visible and sharing my work, I realized that there is a lot that I have to know about myself as an artist. I thought knowing myself as a person was more than enough, but there’s really another level to it. Something that is more acute and focused.  What inspires me, what motivates me, what I like, what I don’t like…what do I even do? People who are interested in you and your work are going to be asking you those kind of questions, and you better know the answers if you want to be taken seriously. Otherwise you may be creating an unnecessary barrier between yourself and viewers. I can’t tell you how often I talk to other artists who really can’t explain why they do what they love and can’t have an extensive conversation about their work. It’s interesting to me because it’s something that no one else can tell you, YOU have to know it. Why do you create what you do? I think that knowing the answers to these deeper questions can strengthen your work and keep you grounded throughout your artistic journey, maybe even build your confidence. And that’s something we can all use.

I’ve found that if you don’t know the deep-seated reasons for your motivation to create your art, a good way of discovering this is by actually sharing your work. When putting your work out into the world, even if you only end up showing just a few friends, you’re almost forced to actually say something about it. That reason alone will get you thinking about some deeper points about your creations. It’s scary, I know. We put ourselves in a vulnerable position once our work is out there for viewing. However, if your goal is to build an art career it’s necessary to start sharing! The more that you do it, the easier it becomes.

With the rise of social media and the ever-growing emphasis on using it to make connections, I don’t think we artists can afford to be so shy or reclusive all the time. If you can do all of your marketing or networking offline and still amass followers, then I applaud you (and please share your tips on this blog!). But to me it seems that if you’re in the beginning stages of your art career, it might not be the best idea to be mum about your work. People want to know who you are. Collectors want to know who you are. People need to feel some sort of personal connection to you. People want access to you. They want good reasons to follow you. If you are one of those people that is opposed to social media, then I’m sorry you’ll have to get over that! At least create an artist facebook page or instagram account and start allowing your work to be findable. Use the tools and resources that are out there, many of which are free by the way, and connect with other artists and potential followers.

You don’t have to reveal intimate details about your life, unless that’s your thing, but whatever you’d like to share is better than doing nothing and continuing to go unseen. People love pictures and video, so start there. Sharing progress pictures or your thoughts about a particular piece of work can go a long way. These are the types of things that non-artists usually don’t get to see, and typically it’s non-artists who are most likely to buy your work. So give ’em something to see! Build relationships with other artists by commenting on their posts and share each other’s work. If you’re REALLY brave, post your mistakes or discuss your struggles through a piece. I did just that for the last painting I worked on, check out the post on my personal blog.

The more opportunities that you can give people to connect with you or understand what you’re about, the more valuable you become to your followers and the more in touch you will be with your own work. Below is a screenshot of artist John Wentz’s instagram page. I think he does a good job of managing his page by sharing interesting pictures of his artwork and promoting upcoming shows. And every now and then you get a cute picture of his sweet dog. It may not seem like a lot, but I wanted to show an example of just how easy it is to get the ball rolling for yourself.


Artist John Wentz’s instagram. @johnwentz

Trust me, I know it can be daunting to put yourself out there and subject your artwork to judgment. It’s a tough thing to do, but if you want to embark on a path of a professional artist in this day and age it’s a necessary evil. I encourage you to challenge yourself, get over that fear by starting small. Share some things with your friends or supporters. Tell them what you like about your piece and what’s important about it. Then when you’re ready, move it to your social media spaces. It really is that simple. The more eyes you can get on your work, the better. No one will know what you do unless you show them!

Thoughts? What has been your experience with sharing your work? What holds you back from putting yourself out there?

Recap, Regroup, Restart

Traci Turner_art_Hemorrhage_Distance

“Distance”, oil on canvas. By Traci L. Turner

Coming to the end of another year, it’s about that time again for reflection. I hope it has been an eventful and productive year, Creatives. Personally it’s been the best year yet in my own art-life. I had my first solo show, set up my artist website (finally!), sold some original work and prints, and I’m closing the year with an art schedule set up for the first half of 2015 already. For the most part I’ve been able to fulfill goals I projected at the beginning of 2014. How about you?

If some of your goals weren’t met, it’s ok! I didn’t hit all of mine either, and some of those goals were stupid-easy so I had no real excuse for dropping the ball. All that means is that we now have a jumping-off point for 2015. These types of lists and aspirations are on-going, so cut yourself some slack if some of your goals didn’t get the attention that you meant to give them. To help get you back on track, here are three steps that I hope will motivate you as we close out 2014 and enter 2015 with renewed energy.

This is the stage of reflection. Take an objective look at what you’ve done in the previous months. What did your creative life look like this year? What goals did you reach? What worked? What didn’t work, and most importantly, why? Asking yourself these questions (and being honest!) should help set the framework for the next step. I understand the inclination to want to maybe bash yourself for being inactive, or compare yourself to others who have more going on, but don’t. It’s not productive and it’s discouraging. Acknowledge where you fell short, yes, but try not to get stuck in it. The flipside is that you should also be looking for the times when you excelled. Overall, the point is to reassess and make necessary adjustments moving forward. That brings us to the next step.

Now that you’ve reviewed the year you’ve had, it’s time to regroup. This is a planning stage. This should also be considered a resting stage. Yeah, take a bit of a break from life.

“But Traci, how can I be productive if I’m taking a break?”

Hush, because planning and chillin’ out IS productive as long as you’re intentional about your time and set a time limit. Setting a limit is important because deadlines push us. Maybe you can commit to 2 days to get your head back on straight. Or maybe you only have time for about 2 hours to yourself. Whatever time you can force yourself to spare, do it and make it count! You have to use this time wisely or you will fail yourself before you can start the final step. In the regroup stage, you should be taking the information from your recap of the year and using it to help loosely plan out your goals for next year. I say “loosely” because it’s more realistic. Nothing is permanent and you have to allow yourself some wiggle room for your goals and timelines or else you risk stressing yourself out and losing motivation. From the goals you were able to meet this year, extract what you did to reach them and plan to reinforce those good habits to meet new goals. The goals you didn’t meet should be high priorities for next year, unless other things prove to be more pertinent. Recall the habits that hindered you then resolve to avoid those pitfalls as best as you can. I suggest doing this during a planned period of downtime so that you can truly focus on this stage. The end of the year is usually a great time to do it because most people are already in a mindset of reflection and will be able to have some time off because of the holidays. And personally, I think having that kind of break to rest and visit loved ones, or being on your own, will allow you to return to everyday life refreshed and more prepared for what’s ahead. So once you have some goals in mind, have a good idea of what has worked for you this year, and are more refreshed, you are set up for a better position to do the final step.

The execution stage. Here is where everything comes together and plans can start to be put into action. The beginning of a new year is a prime time to build the momentum you’ll need to accomplish whatever you’d like to do. At this point so much looks possible, right? If you’ve done the work appropriately in the planning stage, you will already have a personal roadmap and a forward-thinking mindset by the time you are ready for this step. So follow it! Ride the flow of that renewed and refreshed energy you’ve taken the time to store up and finish off your tasks one by one. Just like with an exercise regimen, once you start to see results and make progress you will have more incentive to keep it up. But the trick is to just DO it – that’s it! Any little bit that you can do is way better than nothing.

That sums up my suggestions for figuring out your creative goals for the coming year, but I would love to hear any tips that you have to share in the comment section. Let’s keep this conversation going! What are your thoughts? If you end up trying out these tips, come back and let me know how it went!

Painting Workshop – Sean Cheetham Portrait Painting Alla Prima

Earlier this month I took a short painting workshop at the Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier in San Carlos, CA. It was taught by Sean Cheetham who is one of the most incredible painters out here right now. BACAA_outside

The goal of the class was to complete at least one painting with the alla prima approach. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, alla prima is a painting technique usually associated with oil painting in which you are working wet paint onto wet paint. The idea of it is to paint fairly quickly, while the paint is wet and fresh, usually finishing a painting in one sitting. I love this technique because I think you can come away with a piece that looks painterly and spontaneous.

The workshop was for three days, the first day being a demo by the instructor. The palette was reviewed and the class was given step-by-step insight into how to use the colors and how to break down your approach to an alla prima portrait. Maybe to a lot of people that sounds boring, but to an artist it’s such a valuable step in instruction. It helps to be able to get the visual of color mixing and application from beginning to end. I always come away from watching a demo really hyped up and thinking that I will be able to produce something just as good as the instructor. Never happens.

From left to right: Permanent Green Light, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow, Titanium White, Maganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Olive Green (M. Graham)

The color palette. From left to right: Permanent Green Light, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow, Titanium White, Maganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Olive Green (M. Graham)

The final two days were for the rest of the class to paint. We all tried our best to follow the approach that was showed to us in the demonstration. It was definitely challenging! At least for me it was. I just want to do great work, have confidence in my abilities and push through the hard parts of the process. But even with that in the back of my mind, I still get stuck! Luckily our instructor was very involved and helpful. He painted with us each day and walked around to each artist and guided us through different stages of our paintings.


One of the demo paintings by our instructor, Sean Cheetham

Overall I liked the workshop and the way it was set up. I liked BACAA, the staff and its mission. Even though it was only a 3-day workshop, I could tell that the school fosters an environment conducive to learning and mastering the human figure.


Some anatomy pointers from a different class


More anatomy instruction from a different class


A message on the main door as you exit the studio

My finished piece definitely didn’t turn out as great as I had hoped, but I still think that I did alright. Especially considering that I haven’t been in a classroom environment in a long time and have changed my style considerably since then. It was a fun learning experience and shined a light on the areas where I need improvement. I was also able to see things that I’m getting right, that’s progress in itself! Here is my work:

My initial sketch of the model

My initial sketch of the model

The final piece

The final piece

It’s certainly not what I would consider my best work, but better than what I expected! I did a full 2 part entry about it on my personal blog so definitely check that out too:

Sean Cheetham workshop at BACAA part 1
Sean Cheetham workshop at BACAA part 2

I will be keeping an eye out for another class that I can take at BACAA, it’s not that bad of a drive from Reno and it felt good to be in a classroom for a little bit. If you were ever curious about taking a course at an artist atelier, I definitely recommend trying it out. I think you will be challenged! You really can’t beat the experience of working with a live model and being surrounded by others who are serious about their craft. Any chance you can take to learn, improve and share is worth taking.

Spring/Summer 2014 Recap!


Gahdamn, yes it’s been a while! The summer has been a busy one and I’m glad that things are slowing down a bit. My hope is to now get back to more of a structured posting schedule on Purple Paintbrush, though it will probably be more like a post once a month while I’m working on other projects for the time being. Either way, I wanted to share a bit of what has happened in the last couple of months so here’s a recap!


Standing in front of a couple of my paintings from the show

I had my first solo art show! Mannnn, what a whirlwind. Most of my free time in the early part of this year went into preparing for that show. There were a few things that I picked up that I think are worth sharing here, but that will be for a future post. All in all, I think everything went well. In about 4 month’s time, I had 8 brand new paintings with a central theme to present to the world. It was bitter work, but it has been worth it! I took a bunch of pictures leading up to and at the show, and you can see them all in this photo album!

DSC_0786 (1)

No, not twerkin while I werk – just trying to work against the glare of the light!

At the opening, 5 out of the 8 paintings sold and I received a lot of praise and a few inquiries throughout the show’s run. Not bad for someone just starting out and learning along the way! Here’s a video that I put together of the opening night that basically captures the whole vibe of it (viewable in HD):

Another great thing about the summer was that some of my best friends flew out to visit, just to hang out and see my art show in person! Such a warm gesture.


So cute and polished


Yep, that’s more like us…


Vatos locos 4 ever

It was a much needed break for all of us! It was almost a straight week of art, music and goofing off. Plus it was a great feeling to be able to show them around my new home, Reno, and introduce them to some of my new friends.


10402776_10202904001175615_4684120358255087968_n 10527840_10202903991055362_974581603403916454_n



Outside of that, I made sure to take a little time off in between projects to chill out. I traveled a little bit, checked out new spots around Reno, indulged myself in a little bit of debauchery (hehe) and saw a lot of great art shows and live music.


Visiting an art gallery in LA


Silliness downtown


The Foreign Exchange in Sacramento


Mark Sexton Band at Wanderlust, Squaw Valley


24 hour Mural painting competition at Circus Circus in downtown Reno


Mixed media artwork and installation by Alex Fleiner


Paintings by Bryce Chisolm


About to head out to start my birthday weekend!


Well…it certainly ain’t apple juice


Helping out at the June Art Walk!


Going away party for my dear friend


Dancing so hard the picture’s blurry

Now that everything is winding down, I’m more than ready to get back into some planning and new projects. Can’t sit idly for too long! I’ve been getting the itch to create. I have to stay motivated, especially with the momentum that I’ve been able to gather for most of this year. These days I’ve been working on more technical tasks, like updating my artist website to include a shop where visitors will be able to purchase prints and original artwork of mine. It’s a tedious process but I’m happy to say that it’s almost finished! I’ll also share with you what that’s been like. As I mentioned earlier, I want to return to posting regularly on Purple Paintbrush as well. So I’ve been brainstorming a bunch of content to share in the coming weeks. It’s been a chill yet productive year so far and I’m sorry that posting on here had to suffer along the way, but I’ll try my best to get back to some sort of consistency. I hope you were able to have some great moments over the summer too! I can’t wait to jump back into writing more art-related posts.

Thanks for checking in! ~~<3

Art Walk Reno, May 2014

Last night I was lucky enough to be able to visit a few of the venues that participated in Reno’s first official Art Walk! I’m still getting the hang of making videos like this though, so excuse me if it’s a bit rough. It was a perfect evening to take a stroll around the city, connect with locals and support local art. I’m really looking forward to going to the next one!