Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pumpkin 3 (finished)

Now the pumpkin is done, and off to Argyle Gallery in Halifax tomorrow. I try to find that balance between detail and freshness. I guess that is code for areas that are painted quickly and have the feeling of realism while still allowing bold brush strokes show through.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pumpkin 2

A few more days work here. There is still quite a bit of pure white. That will get washed over latter on.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Painting Stages

I would not post an unfinished painting on my web site, but I know some people are interested in what the process looks like. I will post a start-to-finish series of photos at a later point, but here is a shot of a pumpkin that has about 4 hours work on it. My work usually looks good very fast, and then looks bad for quite some time. Once I get close to finishing it I start to like it again. So this piece is not quite half done, that doesn't mean it will only take me another 4 hours to finish it, it means that as far as refining it I am only half way there.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Painting

"Spring" 20 x 36 in. Acrylic on Board

I have just finished this painting, it's out on approval at the moment with the paint just dry. It's the first painting I have done of Lily. We have a very large swing attached to a high maple branch. It feels a bit like you are up in the trees.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Washington Auction

I am just finishing up a piece for an auction for Candlelighters. This one is interesting, they are auction off hope chests to raise funds for dealing with childhood cancer. We were all give various types of wooden boxes/chests to adorn as we see fit. Holly is doing one a well. I am actually doing a group project on this. My brother John is a woodworker and he is making a small cabinet with spots for two panels. My father and I each paint a panel and they become part of the cabinet. Here is an example of one of our past works that sold at Masters Gallery in Calgary.

This was the first one we did for a gallery on Saltspring Island.

So how this works on my end is that dad sends me a picture of a painting that he has started for the box, then I try and come up with a complementary design that uses my style and subject matter. Here is what dad has sent for this one.

I will post my addition once it's done and then post the picture of the completed piece once its assembled.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Oh, Auctions

I am a pretty slow painter, so over the years auction requests have dropped off. I should back up a bit. Most artists who have some sort of public profile are asked to donate their art to auctions of all sorts. From local hospital auxiliaries to Amnesty International. Most all are worthy and some would suggest a symptom of cuts in social spending of all sorts. Some artists I know are asked up to 50 times a year to donate original work.

I am going to try and outline what to keep in mind if you are interested in raising money with artists as one of your revenue streams. I am only speaking for myself and support any artist that wants to participate, without qualification, in projects that they feel committed to.

From what I can tell the average income for Canadian visual artists seems to be somewhere under $20,000. It is often touted that artists get a receipt for the donation that they make, but my understanding is that Revenue Canada says that I f you want to give away $1000 worth of art you must first declare that as income. So you get a tax receipt for $1000 donation, as well as having to declare income of that amount. (I am not completely clear about all this and you can look here for even more confusing info.

So the work needs to be framed? Shipped? Photographed? All of these are expenses that artists may be out of pocket for in real cash terms, on top of the time spent producing the art work.

In a perfect world I would ask those wanting to use artists as part of their fund raising efforts to try the following.

1. See if you can secure a deal with a large framing company to frame all work for the artists. You may be able to get this service donated or at a reduced cost.

2. Try to offer a shipping or pickup service for the art.

3. Try to include all biographical, web links, and contact info. that the artists would like. Part of the persuasion for donating is that you will get "great exposure" so make sure this is in place so clients can easily find artists after the event.

4. What type of auction is it?
Silent auctions are not great for an artist's career, or work value. These are often places to get good cheap deals. This is ok for the ski lift tickets and hotel packages but not for an artist’s career.

"Backwards Auctions" are a bit of a nightmare as well. This is where the auctioneer starts at a high price and counts down. The first person to speak up gets the work at that price.

A good auctioneer makes a huge difference. Many people can now go to a fund raising auction and get a "deal" on art work, and never enter an art gallery to buy work. An auctioneer can help to keep the prices up, which is good for the artists career. It is trouble if, either the painting has no reserve price and the piece goes for way under retail, or if it doesn't make the reserve and is withdrawn. Both are hard on an artist’s career.

5. Lastly I would suggest that all organizations insist on giving the artist 40% of the value the piece goes for. Most artists will offer to donate back this amount (partially out of embarrassment and even though they may need the money). The artist can always write a cheque after the fact if they wish to donate more.

All this sets up a better relationship between artists and organizations that rely on them for fund raising. Almost all professional artists I know are very generous and socially involved people. Charitable organizations should have a vested interest in an artists careers. There may be a little less money in their coffers in the short term, but in the long term helping artists to maintain healthy careers will be good for all. And lastly treat artists with dignity and respect, learn their names, get to know their work. Treat artists like you would any other professional in the arts that might be helping your organization such as actors, musicians, writers. We all put part of our selves out there for scrutiny. The donated coffee gift certificates and paintings do not come from the same place.

I think I have blathered enough for the moment. I am naturally a bit of a muckraker. Being provocative is good for dialogue.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Safe and almost sound

The paintings arrived on time, although I thought my opening was Thursday night, but it is actually Saturday. This is probably wise misinformation on my gallery's part, knowing that I leave things to the last minute. One painting popped out of it's frame a bit but that can be easily fixed. There are always last minute changes to prices. You never know until you see all the work together and framed if the prices seem even. It's is loosely based on size and past show prices etc. and something that I do not enjoy doing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cross Country Checkup and Cross Country Shipping

I have packed up 8 paintings in two boxes. The larges of which was 3 x 4 feet. Now they have to arrive on time and in one piece. If the past is any indicator the odds are about 50/50 for both variables. Couriers wont insure original art, they claim the value is to intangible. And they wont insure frames if they have not witnessed them being packed. So my 48hr. shipping costs around $360.

I heard a tease for CBC's Cross Country Checkup and was surprised to find it was dealing with dad, art and critics, whether or not the art establishment is out of touch. I had not heard the controversy dad's McMichael show had caused, too popular to be real art it seems. To dig in you should first read Sarah Milroy's review of the show and for a little more fun read the web forum comments.

This prompted me to send the note below to CBC, alas is was not read on air.

Hi Rex, I thought I should throw in my two cents worth, I am a second generation Bateman artist, although not a wildlife artist. I have seen both sides of the of the art world. I spent five years at art collage here in Nova Scotia, an institution that puts you on the “High Art” track, and I have watched my father’s career. My wife and I (an artist as well) have supported ourselves and family for 20 years on our art sales. I have not used the grant system, and understand that the perception is that public funds are there to support artists whose work is not about earning a living, but about exploring the boundaries of art; stuff that wont hang above your couch. In my opinion all art is worthy of discussion, and as in literature some art is good for you, although subjectively unpalatable. What people in the High Art world need to understand is that everyone is allowed in to the discussion. If someone thinks their kid could paint like Jackson Pollock then the art world has not done its job. We humans love to have our clubs and hierarchies, we all have someone we turn our noses up at and for the Art establishment my father is that person. I am afraid that this judgment is no more noble than fashion, and as a working artist with friends in all areas of the arts we admit that sometimes the emperor has no clothes. Shame on those who are so sure they know better than the pedestrians who find my father’s or any other artists work below them. Glass ceilings are unhelpful to the future of all the arts. And public collections of art should represent a cross section of ALL art. Sarah Milroy’s article is a stunning example of what not to do, divisive and unhelpful, no cause is furthered, where my father’s work could be used as a launching point to a deeper understanding of art any “Bateman” fans will find their intelligence insulted and surely not venture to the
Unionville show.

Yesterday Birgit (my dad's wife) sent me a copy of a letter to the editor that Ross Bateman (dad's youngest brother) sent to the Globe and Mail (they published it) I have pasted it below:

Dear Editor

Re: Sarah Milroy’s A tale of two shows.

In her criticism of the Bateman show at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Sarah Milroy has a point-of-view that neatly wraps a common anxiety of her profession. Her challenge is so over-the-top that it provides an easy target for rebuttal.

Her worry… a hackneyed one at that… is that the public is ignorant, and if it is unfortunate enough to stumble upon an art show that panders to this ignorance it becomes bewildered and confused. If true, good that this was brought to the public’s attention. I don’t think it had noticed.

As a younger brother of Robert Bateman (and an art educator in my own right), I am intimately familiar with his influences and development from earliest times. The most interesting visual artists notice things in their own environments, and take the time to represent some of this in various materials of their choosing. In drawing, painting, and print-making, colours, textures, actions, emotional representation, and/or compositional elements are recreated, often with the purpose of sharing these points-of-view with others.

Robert noticed his environment… what was to be seen around our backyard, ravine, and summer cottage… and was seriously painting from these images from the age of twelve. Later, he was impressed by the compositions of artist such as Franz Kline and Clyfford Still, who had stripped away much of the easily identifiable specifics in their subjects, and created works that almost stand on their own, in isolation from the obviously seen.

After experimenting with this more pure abstractionism, Robert returned to representations of nature, carrying with him some influences of what he sees as gifts from those artists who exercise interpretations with plenty of the personal larded in.

I believe that Robert is known to be the first nature artist to have taken back something from the abstractionists, and to have been able to paint, not just animals, but with his decades as a geographer and naturalist, create pictures that uniquely represent environmental specifics. This has indeed “pushed the medium forward” (using a Milroy phrase), and with his countless imitators, Roberts influence is surely seminal. He has achieved fame and fortune, truly not by design, but as an offshoot of being dedicated and true to his vision.

It must be hurtful to your critic to observe the crowds that seem to have noticed these qualities in his prolific display (as well as in his photomechanical publications: the usual way artists share their work widely). Although Robert does march alongside Sarah Milroy, loving the works of many of the same painters, Ms. Milroy doesn’t seem to notice that Roberts work is also art, and much of it provides a new vision, and illuminates the world in a useful and happy way.

Your critic seems to hope-against-hope, through the pages of this newspaper, that the public’s perception will narrow down to her outlook, and sadly, she expresses this in a really unfriendly way.

Ross Bateman

Rocky Point

RR2, Minden, Ontario

K0M 2K0

705 489 3114­­

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Getting ready

I am just finishing up a few paintings before they are all shipped out on Monday headed for West End Gallery in Edmonton. I spray all my acrylic paintings with a gloss finish to protect them and enhance the colour. It's a little nerve wracking with so much dog and cat hair in the air. I have actually wrecked a couple of paintings at this stage, essentially finished and then it all goes wrong.