Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fan Mail: Be Careful What You Wish For

I've been working in oil pastels for over a decade. And, in that time I have traveled across the country to juried art shows. I've advertised in national magazines and have been featured in regional ones. I've been represented by top-notch galleries. I do get "fan" mail from clients. And those emails, notes, phone calls and fb posts, I truly enjoy.

But, I received these drawings a couple of days ago, along with the cryptic note:
To Whom it May Concern Enclosed are
4 Images of Drawings. Sincerly, Roger Seria
Seria is a Country in the Middle East
Also Known as Oil Country and like Your Pastel.
(He also enclosed an email and phone number.) Although the name and return address on the envelope were totally different.

And, this is not the first one I have received. Generally, though, there is no email included because email contact is generally not allowed in PRISONS! Yep. I get letters on a regular basis from prisoners--(or used to). Usually, they tell me they like to draw and request permission to copy a piece they have seen in Southwest Art Magazine. They then proceed to say they can only work with pencil --nothing else is allowed. Kinda hard to copy a colorful oil pastel in pencil, I would say. I also had someone send me a picture of the house he had built, inviting me to come live with him and paint in his beautiful neck of the woods. So, after I figured out where these people were finding me and my work, I stopped putting my PO address in my ads. That seems to have worked. But there must be some old Southwest Arts lying around out there. All I can say is I am glad that I don't publish my physical address! I can only imagine what truly famous people have to go through.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

All I do is Paint?

The van as it is positioned now and before loading!
Some of my long skinny panels with their first layers of fixative

Although I haven't been posting as often as I thought I would this winter, I still am working diligently. It is just that in addition to actually making art, working on experiments (which, aside from the oils, have not been attempted), taking inventory to new places for display and sale, there is still so much more to do.

When people ask me how long it takes to do a complete a piece, I really don't know how to answer. Do I mention the 4 to 8 hours it takes to complete the drawing part of some of smaller squares? Then, immediately they calculate that if I work an average 2000 hours a year I make "x" number of dollars. Or, do I mention that that is for completion of the art part of it. That those hours do not take into consideration the hours of record keeping, photographing and documenting (which I realize needs definite improvement and should be subject of another post), framing and packing. Then there are show applications, website updates (Rees does a lot of this but I still need to let him know which pieces to put up...), making sure all my forms are in order for upcoming shows, hotel reservations, actual travel to the shows, packing for the shows and unpacking--you get the drift.

For example, my first show of 2011 is in Scottsdale, put on by the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. It is a great show and a pleasure to do. I need a state permit and a city permit. And the first time I got the city permit I actually had to mail my original birth certificate to them to prove I had the right to do business in AZ. I wonder what my Israeli friend, Yoram Gal, does when he wants to do a show in Scottsdale. Or maybe he isn't allowed? Then the center asks for a donation, which I don't mind as their auction has definitely directed new customers to my booth. But, they also ask for digital images in very certain sizes for their website. So, I have to pick a piece for the donation--in advance, find or take an image of it, email the very specifically sized images to the show. Then I have to pull the piece so it is readily available at check-in, before I've unloaded the van. It is no wonder not everyone participates. Then we'll have to file tax returns in Scottsdale and AZ when we return--for the sales tax.

Before leaving, I'll have to decide which pieces to varnish and frame and then actually do this part. This part is actually fun this time of year because I have a lot of new work and definitely not enough room in the booth or the van for all of it. And, while this little glimpse of things to do beside make art is no where near complete, I'll also have to shovel out the van in order to move it closer to the studio for loading......or maybe the snow will melt by then. Ha! And that reminds me, we need to build out the inside of the van again. We dismantled that a while back so we could use the van to pick up a door....

Monday, February 14, 2011

First National Bank Featured Artist

This is the article that was published in the local Sangre de Christo chronicle. I couldn't access the article online but that is probably a good thing. I looked super dorky in the picture! So, FYI:

First National Bank Featured Artist: Jennifer Cavan, Painter.

Jennifer Cavan is the next artist to be featured at the First National Bank of New Mexico.

You may think you know Jennifer, and her work, but how she goes about creating those vivid Northern New Mexico images may surprise you.

Jennifer and husband Rees put down roots here in 1996. It wasn’t that hard to choose, after many visits with Rees’s family, the love affair with Angel Fire had already ignited.

Leaving the corporate world behind in Chicago, we wondered if Jennifer knew she was destined to become a much-loved artist. “Well, it was in my hopes, I think. I knew I wanted to do something creative.” (Jennifer Cavan) She first explored the creative in the more traditional craft of creating Retablos and Bultos (She called them Bultos because she stuffed them with sawdust, find carving not her bailiwick.) Not long after she began to show them at the Angel Fire ArtsFest.

Along the way she picked up a set of oil pastels and began to play In 1999, she included three of her now famous oil pastels, and sold them all at the Premier Reception of the 1999 ArtsFest. That was all the “sign” she needed. The rest is history. Fingers colored with pigment, “smooshed” oil pastel occasionally making its way the bottom of her shows and all over the studio floor!

Now a bit about her process. Did you know her painting surface is pre-colored, whether it is paper, panel or canvas. Panels and canvas are prepped with colored gesso. Many papers come pre-colored, though she’s been known to color a large sheet of watercolor paper, with watercolor.

Once on her easel, she roughs in a chalk sketch. Yes, chalk, and no that is not the same as oil pastel. Once that is in, she begins to block in large areas of color, generally working from the top down, or even just from the horizon down. Working that way helps to keep colors “clean” and reduces the risk of “mud” that can occur when complimentary colors (colors across from one another on the color wheel) get too acquainted.

Before going on she steps way back and takes a good long look. Any “mud” or other frustrating mistake is generally not fixable with oil pastel. “Oil pastel is rather unforgiving. If an area is too dark, it is tough to lift or lighten it.” (Jennifer) If that’s the case (We think this doesn’t happen very often anymore, thankfully) it’s toss it and start over. Ouch. If all looks good (great) the next step is to refine, clarifying buildings, roads, windows, trees etc. Technically speaking, oil pastel differs from its soft pastel counterpart radically. Soft pastel blends like a dream, oil pastel really doesn’t. Some blending can be executed by a skilled artist like Jennifer, but for the most part, colors sit next to or on top of, other colors, but not creating a third color. “Smooshing” the pigment together can have its risks, and namely that would be the “mud” we referred to earlier. If you’ve seen Jennifer’s work you know she doesn’t have a problem with that!

Here’s a newsflash….Jennifer is now playing with Oils, Oils not oil pastel. That means using brushes, which is quite a different experience if you’re accustomed to the straight application of color with your hands. There is another difference. Oil pastel is straight color, while oil paints require mixing of colors to make variations and even other colors. Jennifer commented, “It’s challenging to mix color on a palette and not really see what it will look like on the canvas.”

We don’t see that in the result. Her oils on canvas are as clean and crisp as the oil pastels, though seem to be a bit softer in their effect. Either way, Jennifer’s work is unmistakable….and growing in popularity across the country.

Jennifer’s work will hang in the lobby of the First National Bank of Angel Fire from February 1 through the month of April. Stop by and take a look. You can also find her work at Angel Fire ArtSpace Gallery in Angel Fire and at her home studio (plan ahead to catch her there!) Visit her website at for her show schedule.

The Featured Artist Program is a partnership of the First National Bank, the Moreno Valley Arts Council and the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle. If you are a visual artist and would like to be considered for this program, please contact the Moreno Valley Arts Council.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Representation at Leslie Flynt

I'm excited to announce that my oil pastels will be available the the Leslie Flynt Gallery in Santa Fe. I brought some pieces down this last week. I'm really excited about this development as I have been without representation in Santa Fe since Blaire Carnahan Fine Art closed several years ago. Don't get me wrong, I love doing art shows: meeting the people who like my work, finding out what they like about it, and selling it directly. But, as a New Mexico artist who paints a lot of New Mexico scenes, I think it is really good to have some representation in Santa Fe. Because, let's face it, Angel Fire is a good 2 hours from Santa Fe and not everyone wants to make that long drive to see me. Plus, I'm gone a lot. So, when Leslie called, I jumped at the chance.

Her store is full of vibrantly colored folk art, painted furniture, and textiles. I think my oil pastels are a great complement to her current product line. If you like color,you will like her place! Her store is located at 225 Canyon Road--at the lower end of Canyon, in the complex with the parking lot. It is actually the same building that Blaire Carnahan Fine Art occupied.

I know this is going to work out well. I'm really psyched about the arrangement! If you are in Santa Fe, please stop by and take a look!!!!

Oh, her website is

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

30 inch Oil: Just the Beginning

I finished another oil earlier today. A night time. So, I figured it was time to try something a little different. This will be a dusky one, once it is finished. These are pretty fun to do! So glad I'll get to exhibit some of them at the Cottonwood show in May!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So, yesterday, after I'd posted about getting lots of art done, I had brain farts. I started a piece, albeit one that was going in a different direction than all the fun stuff I had been doing. And, the result was SO AWFUL that I burned it in the wood stove. While I do occasionally cull through my work and pull things that no longer seems right to me, I rarely toss things on the flame. But, nothing was going to fix that one. So, burned it was. I came in the house and pouted a while--actually listened to a webinar about shipping art. But, I made myself go out and sketch out a new oil. And fill in the starry part. Got that done last night. Then, this morning, I went out full of energy and managed to get this far on this piece. A few highlights to be added once it is a little drier. But, overall, I am pleased. Glad I didn't have to burn this one!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Studio Time

My goal for February is to get a lot of art done. And, so far, I'm on schedule. And, I'm really pleased with what is getting transferred from my brain to the paper and panel. I've got other goals, too, for February--like getting my paperwork from 2010 done, starting a better exercise regime (walking the dog and the occasional ski day just isn't cutting it!), working on my website, redesigning my blog and facebook page, but I want the focus this month to be on creating. Because when I'm on a roll, I am really on a roll. Other stuff be damned!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Scary Cold!

Here in the mountains of New Mexico, we have been experiencing a very mild winter. So mild, in fact, that we'd all been discussing "fire season" already--that time in spring, before the monsoons come, when the forest we live in is most susceptible to fire. We'd had hardly any snow and we do live in a ski resort. And we'd had very little really cold weather. The dog was getting good walks, our boots barely muddy. And then the monster storm hit. We got the predicted 18 or so inches of snow, at least here at my house. And then the cold settled in. Yesterday the high was 4.5 degrees and the temps were below zero when I went out to the studio and when I came in at the end of the day. And then it got colder. According to a friend, the village was reporting 40 BELOW! Knowing it would be cold this morning, I chose to sleep in. When I finally went out to the studio to get a fire going in the wood stove (thank goodness for the supplemental propane heat), it was a balmy 17.5 below. The forecast is for low 20s above zero today, which will seem balmy in comparison to our last few days of hovering around zero and below. I'll wait to walk the dog until this afternoon and I'll enjoy that sunny warm weather! And I'll thank my lucky stars that my commute to the studio is only 8 steps!