Consider An Alternative Space

 

As an artist I’ve had the pleasure of exhibiting in typical artsy places like art galleries and universities but artists, and those looking for original art, might consider alternative spaces.
For another two weeks my artwork will be on display and for sale at an artisan distillery near downtown Indianapolis. The place, Hotel Tango in Fletcher Place, is in an old brick building and has a large tasting room that brings in a lot of people. Are those people coming in to purchase art? Of course not, they come in to meet people, socialize and enjoy craft cocktails. But alternative spaces, particularly like Hotel Tango, often have a high volume of continual traffic, and traffic is what the artists needs. Exposure is the name of the game. In the case of an artisan distillery (again like Hotel Tango), the draw for people is partly due the fact they are enjoying something locally produced. All of a sudden it appears some in the crowd are inching toward your artwork because of their appreciation of supporting something local. Will this (or any alternative) space guarantee sales? No way… but keep in mind art galleries don’t either.
Now to get pragmatic. It’s been my experience, more often than not, alternative spaces do not require a commission on art sales (which can be as high as 50% in art galleries). Theoretically this allows the artists to offer their works at a lower, some might say more reasonable, prices. Good for the artist, good for the buyer. Additionally, artists getting exposure of their work instead of having it in storage until the next art gallery opportunity is a plus. In other words unless potential buyers regularly rummage through your stored artwork, having the work up anywhere is a plus.
So there you have it. To those looking to purchase original art, consider stopping in an alternative space to start, or add to, your personal art collection. You’ll be glad you considered supporting the local art scene in this manner. As for artists, ask yourself which you’d prefer, the potential of a sale of your work in an alternative space, or the guarantee of no sale with your work hidden while in storage?

 
~ John Essex II is a retired art teacher, a two-time Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow and an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow. He is also artist/owner of EssexArt ABC, LLC through which he keeps busy creating his own fine art, creates commissioned art, does caricaturing by commission and at special events, conducts private painting parties and is contacted regularly to play the bagpipes (yes… play the bagpipes). Essex also maintains an online print-on-demand store where patrons can acquire gallery quality giclée prints of his art as well as other products that feature his work.

To view what Essex does, and/or to shop at his online store, go to: https://www.facebook.com/EssexArt,

 

John Essex II will be exhibiting and offering for sale his artwork at artisan distillery Hotel Tango, 702 Virginia Avenue, Indianapolis, throughout November.
After a successful First Friday opening in November, the exhibit/sale continues to be available for viewing and purchases daily during regular Hotel Tango business hours.
Free parking lots located in front of, and behind, the building.

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Extend The Vacation Feel

The Cliffhanger, St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies

The Cliffhanger, St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies, watercolor on paper.

 When on vacation, it’s always nice to have a souvenir that serves as a pleasant reminder  of your time away from the hubbub. Usually that means T-shirt purchases, special photos taken while away, acquiring post-cards or a special something picked up at a nice gift shop. All are fine and pursuing those acquisitions can certainly be a fun activity in themselves. However, might I also suggest another fun activity? Create some artwork.
When I travel I always take along art materials in the hope that I’ll be able to spend some time creating something I (or someone else) will consider worthwhile. More often than not the materials I choose are watercolors, professional watercolor markers, artist quality ink pens and acid free paper. It’s surprising how much of the above can be packed away in luggage (carry-on included) and not take up any noticeable space.
After arriving at the designated get-away, the art materials can then be tossed into a backpack, beach bag, messenger bag, etc. (whatever the preferred carry-along) and taken with you as you enjoy your destination. Then, when the chance to sit and soak it all in presents itself, whip out those art materials and create a treasured keepsake, inspired by the surroundings, that will be enjoyed for years to come and will probably even become someones favorite heirloom.
The ink and watercolor painting accompanying this blog was done while my family and  I visited a beach on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Time had been spent snorkeling, swimming and gathering beach glass and next it was time to chill. Out came my watercolors, ink pen and watercolor paper. From my spot on the beach I did an artwork as seen to my left as I sat on the beach, and one as seen to my right. Not only did this provide wonderful souvenirs from that time in the beach, but it also provided enhanced memories of that time. One of those works is now in someones private collection, the other hangs in my house continually reminding me of yet another wonderful vacation experience. As a side note to that beach painting time, I still have some sand from that beach in some of my paint colors. Even that brings back great memories every time I use those paints and see that sand.
Keep in mind when creating vacation artwork, one does not need to be a professional artist. All that is really need is to have the place to create artwork and the materials with which to create it. Just because a professional artist packs professional quality art materials, those are really not needed at all. All one really needs are materials that amount to things as simple as paper and pencil and those can be found (more often than not) at the destination. Do a drawing on the hotel stationary that is available in hotel rooms. Drawing on the side that has the name of the hotel on it will only add to the souvenir attraction to the artwork.  Once upon a time I did a beach scene on a small admission ticket to the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. It has been in a frame ever since and it brings pleasant memories every time it’s viewed.
So the next time a you find yourself enjoying a favored vacation destination, and wish to extend the vacation feel, do so via artwork you’ve created on-site while away. Chances are you’ll be glad you did… and even more glad as time separates you, more and more, from that pleasant vacation experience.

~ John Essex II is a retired art teacher, a two-time Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow and an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow. He is also artist/owner of EssexArt ABC, LLC through which he keeps busy creating his own fine art, creates commissioned art, does caricaturing by commission and at special events, conducts private painting parties and is contacted regularly to play the bagpipes (yes… play the bagpipes). Essex also maintains an online print-on-demand store where patrons can acquire gallery quality giclée prints of his art as well as other products that feature his work.
To view what Essex does, and/or to shop at his online store, go to: https://www.facebook.com/EssexArt,

 

A Lasting Impression

Jesus Icon

Icon of Jesus, 11″x 14″, prismacolor on illustration board. Something I am interested in is Orthodox icons. I’ve been involved in a few icon painting (writing) workshops with a local Indianapolis based iconographer, Mother Katherine, who is a Nun associated with the Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. She does some fantastic work with the traditional medium of egg tempera. Since I enjoy working with Prismacolor artist color pencils, I decided to paint (write) an icon in that medium. Interestingly enough (to me at least) some of the earliest icons were done with wax and pigment, which is essentially the ingredients Prismacolor color pencils.
This icon is now in the possession of my son and his wife. I gave it to them as a wedding present. They were getting married in Ohio and I was in Indiana where almost all of my family resides. At the time of their wedding my late Father was going through chemo and radiation treatments and consequently was not able to attend the wedding. Before the wedding I took the icon to my Father, told him I was going to take it to Ohio give to the newlyweds and asked him to say a prayer over it. He did and in doing so, even though he could not attend the ceremony in Ohio, has made a lasting impression on what occurred there. 

~ John Essex II is a retired art teacher, a two-time Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow and an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow. He is also artist/owner of EssexArt ABC, LLC through which he keeps busy creating his own fine art, creates commissioned art, does caricaturing by commission and at special events, conducts private painting parties and is contacted regularly to play the bagpipes (yes… play the bagpipes). Essex also maintains an online print-on-demand store where patrons can acquire gallery quality giclée prints of his art as well as other products that feature his work.
To view what Essex does, and/or to shop at his online store, go to: https://www.facebook.com/EssexArt,

Art Is The Flower

Flower From A Stump

Late this summer I came upon something from which I knew I was going to have to create a painting. A sunflower growing from a tree stump. It was such an unusually beautiful sight that I had to take a picture as a reference for the painting I immediately knew I had to do.

Later it dawned on me what underlying message I captured with my camera. The world we live in can often be rough and ugly… but art still grows from that rough ugliness

~ John Essex II is a retired art teacher, a two-time Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow and an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow. He is also artist/owner of EssexArt ABC, LLC through which he keeps busy creating his own fine art, creates commissioned art, does caricaturing by commission and at special events, conducts private painting parties and is contacted regularly to play the bagpipes (yes… play the bagpipes). Essex also maintains an online print-on-demand store where patrons can acquire gallery quality giclée prints of his art as well as other products that feature his work.
To view what Essex does, and/or to shop at his online store, go to: https://www.facebook.com/EssexArt,

 

Some Quiet Time With A Pelican

John's Pass Pelikin

A blast from my past.
This 11″x 14″ ink and watercolor pencil was the result of a trip to John’s Pass, Florida near Madeira Beach and Treasure Island.

One early evening, while vacationing with my family in Treasure Island, Florida, I took my pad of watercolor paper and pen and went across the south bridge to John’s Pass.  Going by myself, I was intent on drawing something though I knew not what. At that time there was a neat little cafe with a Jamaican feel to it across a small street from the backside of the shops on the south end of the boardwalk. Since it was a place I liked, that was the direction I gravitated in my search for subject matter.

Upon arriving in the general area I thought would provide something interesting to draw, I spied this pelican. It appeared to be wanting some quiet down time like me, but I was wanting to draw… and it seemed interested in posing (at least to me). And so we danced.

There we both were, away from the hubbub, under the boardwalk below the shops on a pleasant Florida evening, one observing, one being observed. The pelican didn’t seem to mind me doing this sketch but I still sat with minimal movement so the quiet time we both had could be preserved… and I didn’t want to scare the pelican off. Being able to do the entire sketch on the spot, I added the watercolor pencil back in my hotel room.
Some quiet time well spent.

~ John Essex II is a retired art teacher, a two-time Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow and an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow. He is also artist/owner of EssexArt ABC, LLC through which he keeps busy creating his own fine art, creates commissioned art, does caricaturing by commission and at special events, conducts private painting parties and is contacted regularly to play the bagpipes (yes… play the bagpipes). Essex also maintains an online print-on-demand store where patrons can acquire gallery quality giclée prints of his art as well as other products that feature his work.
To view what Essex does, and to shop at his online store, go to: https://www.facebook.com/EssexArt,

By the way, though the above Treasure Island Pelican is not currently available as a print, but other prints by Essex can be acquired at:
https://society6.com/essexart/s?q=popular+prints

 

 

 

It Makes Sense To Be Nice

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Cabin in the Forest, 8″x 10″, oil on canvas, 2017. Done en plain air in the Hoosier National Forest.

It seems to me, more and more, the general culture in the US (which could just as easily be read “us”) is leaning toward a mean spiritedness. Whether it’s “he said-she said” in politics, road rage while running errands or traveling, mass harassment of people just trying to have dinner at a restaurant or any of the other examples in between… it’s mean-spiritedness. Sadly even the arts, which I have always believed should carry the torch of real diversity of thought, peace, love and understanding, is not exempt. There are artists and galleries (I like to think just a few) who wish to make a political point by choosing the brutish way of depicting bloody violence against those with whom they disagree instead of creating something that causes a deeper thought process by presenting a different mindset. I myself was the victim of some mean-spiritedness by someone (perhaps several) in the arts community in the last year at a juried exhibit where I was awarded First Place. At the closing ceremonies of the exhibit someone ripped my ribbon from the wall, stole it and replaced it with someone else’s ribbon. True, that example of mean-spiritedness is not on the same level as the more outwardly vocal and bullying examples of mean-spiritedness… but it is mean-spiritedness nonetheless. Things need not be this way.

If ever there is a place for creating peace, communication and a general niceness, the arts is it. Of course I may be showing my age by promoting an idea that was big in the 1970s… I’m okay – you’re okay…  but it’s true. It is possible to differ in thought, opinion  and what should be without jumping feet-first and immediately into mean-spiritedness. People can have a difference of opinion and approach and maintain peace between them. It is possible, and should be encouraged, for civil discourse on differences to occur. What better place for those discussions than in the thought provoking environment the arts are supposed to be where diversity of thought is actually encouraged. The kind of  place where the concept of an open mind is not just falsely mouthed while all present are actually in the same mind-set lock-step (you know what I’m talking about… I suspect you’ve been there… I know I have), but a place where peace and genuine communication occurs. That place, I firmly believe, is in the arts. Of course being a visual artist myself, I generally think of the visual arts when I make these statements but the other arts fall into this as well.

How can a community of artists start to turn the tide of mean-spiritedness? It starts with baby steps. Individual artists doing something nice is great way to get the ball rolling. Kind of like that old proverb (Chinese I think) concerning the way a single drop of water can do little, but when combined with enough other drops to make a tsunami, they create a force that cannot be ignored. So artists, be nice. What’s great about that simple notion is you probably are already involved in being nice as an artist, but aren’t as cognizant of the benefits as maybe you should be. That is quite understandable, nice people take for granted their nice deeds and don’t ponder the positive effects of being nice. My call to action for those artists is simply for them to ponder their nice deeds. Dwell on them some so your body gets full advantage of the endorphins and serotonins released as a result of your niceness. As a result… you’ll want to be nice again. No, I’m not talking voodoo here, there are articles (here’s one) on this (just not bloggers like me  being verbose about it). So keep up the good work of being nice, but also let your body reward you for doing so.

Tired of being an angst-filled artist in a world full of angst-filled artists (after all, if everyone is angst-filled… no one is)? Try using your art to be nice. How? Something of which I recently learned was the concept of the Art Drop. Sure, we’ve all given our art to someone before but we usually have a face-to-face during the presentation. Art Drops are a fun way to be nice and not even know (initially) who you were being nice to. To be honest I was a little nervous on my first “Drop”. I probably over-wrapped the painting as if it were the baby Moses and I was putting it in the Nile. Nevertheless, like Moses, my baby was found and I received a nice note from the person who discovered it. Yeah, I enjoyed those endorphins and serotonins.

As an artist you’re not sure if you want to set your work free in a proverbial Nile? Not a problem. Another way to be nice via your artwork is to use it as a response to someone who has been nice to you. I suspect, even in our current mean-spirited culture there are people you know who are periodically nice to you. Let’s face it, there are, in spite of current cultural trends, people who are just super nice and have always been that way. Let your endorphins and serotonins run free by surprising that nice person with a piece of your artwork. Maybe you’ve thought to do that and just haven’t… or maybe the thought never occurred to you. Truth is, there is no time like the present so just go ahead and be nice to that person (or surprise someone else), present them with your artwork.

If each visual artist used just one or two of their creations to simply be nice, it might be like the individual drops of water… that become a nice tsunami and changes the tide of mean-spiritedness. It just makes sense to be nice.

Note: The artwork above was one of two works I surprised the cabin owners with as an unexpected gift. The owners of the cabin pictured allowed me to enjoy a get-away time at the cabin. While there I painted and framed the cabin and left it behind for them to discover.

~ John Essex II is a retired art teacher, a two-time Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow and an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow. He is also artist/owner of EssexArt ABC, LLC through which he keeps busy creating his own fine art, creates commissioned art, does caricaturing by commission and at special events, conducts private painting parties and is contacted regularly to play the bagpipes (yes… play the bagpipes). Essex also maintains an online print-on-demand store where patrons can acquire gallery quality giclée prints of his art as well as other products that feature his work.
To view what Essex does, and to shop at his online store, go to: https://www.facebook.com/EssexArt,

By the way, though the above Cabin In The Forest is not currently available as a print, but other prints by Essex can be acquired at:
https://society6.com/essexart/s?q=popular+prints

Your Point Is Valid Too

The Storm
Many artists are known for portraying a particular environment. A landscape once visited or a place that brings on a fond memory. Then there are times an artist creates something that exposes something from within their deep inner being. Something that causes a viewer of the work to ask, “What might be troubling that poor soul?” This work of mine, The Storm”, oddly enough, falls into the former category.

The Storm, is an Inktense watercolor pencil on watercolor paper work I did in 2012.
It was done during my annual stay in Villa 36-A, Westwind II Club, Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas. There was a big storm on Sunday, the day after my arrival, and I had a huge headache. To top things off, my villa had three slow leaks in the kitchen and living room. So, though this work looks as if it was done by a tortured soul… it’s more “situation descriptive”. The bad headache and stormy weather are both easily seen in this expression. What is not so readily noticeable in this Inktense watercolor is the fact that all of the water used to create it came from the rainwater that had leaked through our kitchen ceiling. Well… I had to do something with it.

   If you, dear reader, thought this painting was an expression of the inner turmoil of one who is deeply disturbed… I’m sorry if the image has mislead you. It’s just a guy in a storm with a nagging headache and a leaky ceiling, during what was otherwise a wonderful vacation in the Bahamas. You’ve heard it before… don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Having said that, I must also communicate something my decades as an artist and art educator have taught me. The act of viewing a painting is a real communication between the artist and the viewer. Just as a group of people leaving a theater, having all just viewed the same movie, walk away with different impressions of the same film… a group of viewers of a particular painting can also perceive the work differently.

   The various experiences in your life have helped create who you are and how you see the world. Those experiences also have an influence on what you perceive from a particular painting, regardless of what the artist worked to communicate. It is unquestionably important to learn about an artist and what they were working to create in a particular piece. But equally important (if not more so) is the feel, or emotion, one perceives while participating in a communication with an artist through that artist’s work. That is what causes an individual to be moved by a painting. That is what causes an individual to decide to continue the communication by acquiring the work… it spoke to them.

   Even after one learns what an artist intended to communicate with a painting is much different than what an individual viewer perceives from it, the viewer is best served by going with their perception. It is real with them, not just an academic notion. Much like many wine experts say don’t waste your time avoiding white wines with red meats if it pairs well for you and adds to your culinary enjoyment… don’t lose your part in what’s real for you in your experience in viewing a work of art just because a third party say’s, “but, but… but you’re missing the point the artist was trying to make.” 

Remember, your point is valid too.

~ John Essex II is a retired art teacher, a two-time Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow and an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow. He is also artist/owner of EssexArt ABC, LLC through which he keeps busy creating his own fine art, creates commissioned art, does caricaturing by commission and at special events, conducts private painting parties and is contacted regularly to play the bagpipes (yes… play the bagpipes). Essex also maintains an online print-on-demand store where patrons can acquire gallery quality giclée prints of his art as well as other products that feature his work.
To view what Essex does, and to shop at his online store, go to: https://www.facebook.com/EssexArt,

By the way, to specifically acquire a print of The Storm, go to:
https://society6.com/product/the-storm1490583_print?sku=s6-9557410p4a1v45