Saturday, March 26, 2011

artist statement

Jennifer Cavan
PO Box 388 Angel Fire, NM 87710
facebook page: Jennifer Cavan artist

For the last dozen years, I've created whimsical oil pastel drawings of the landscape. In addition to being represented by several select galleries, I have participated in numerous juried art shows throughout the country.

My travels across and through the American countryside inform and influence my art. The subject is about an appreciation of the simple--whether it be a grace of an old adobe building melting back into the earth, a grand old barn standing guard over her fields, or a winding road leading around a bend. My work is loosely based on photographs I have taken and memories I have brought back from my travels across the country and through my state of New Mexico. I have no interest in making an exact replica of a real location--rather I strive to capture the essence of those places. I hope to make the drawings into places people would like to visit.
I start with a colored background--typical colors include burgundy, red and indigo. I work on various surfaces. I am partial to Canson Mi Teintes pastel paper (the flat side), gessoed panels and fine tooth canvases. I color these substrates using a colored gesso--Matisse Derivan background colors.

Oil pastels are much like buttery crayons--and I use them that way. I generally start with a loose, light sketch to make sure I am happy with the composition (oil pastels are a little unforgiving). After I've blocked in most of the color (I work from top to bottom), I blend some of the colors using a clay shaping tool or a piece of wadded up shop cloth. I will also scratch out areas with various exacto knives to get sharper, cleaner lines. My favorite brands are Holbein, Sennelier and Caran d'ache.

Once a piece is finished, I use several layers of a spray fixative to set the oil pastel. If the piece is on paper, I frame behind glass with a 100% cotton rag mat. If the work is on canvas or panel, I generally use a few more layers of fixative so that the piece is no longer tacky to the touch. Then I add several layers of a brush on matte acrylic resin varnish.

Drawing vs. Painting

Mostly, I am a draw-er. A color-er. I use oil pastels like crayons--no brushes, no solvents. But, sometimes I draw on paper and sometimes I draw on gessoed panels. Rarely do I draw on canvas--too much give. Those drawings done on paper I frame behind glass with a mat. Those drawings I do on panel either remain unframed or receive a simple frame to finish them off. All of my pieces start with a colored background. And all are finished with spray fixative. The only difference between the panels and the paper is that I use a brush-on acrylic resin "varnish" to protect the works on panel. But, my works on panel look a bit like paintings. And, I am pleased that I have found a combination of fixatives and varnishes that protect my drawings yet allow them to be displayed without glass. But, with my oil pastels, I am in the drawing category. I draw. I do not paint with oil pastels.

And, sometimes this poses a problem at juried art shows. Sometimes my collectors can't find me because they are looking at the show brochure in the painting category. And sometimes the judges refuse to look at my work on panel (this happened recently)--only the works on paper. This I would not mind if the show prospectus stated that the "drawings" must be works on paper. Other times judges at the shows tell me they think I am in the wrong category. And, frankly, I don't know what to do. I draw.

I could add a tad of oil stick and graphite and apply in the mixed media category--but really they are still drawings. Or, I could continue to apply in the drawing category and continue to educate the judges and the collectors. Or, perhaps, over time, I'll do more real painting and just apply in that category. It is a bit arbitrary. Isn't it?

By the way, the top piece is an oil pastel. The bottom an oil. Both definitely my work.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Revisit the visit

Check out Jeb's (of junky trinkets fame) review of his studio visit here !

Jealously, I'll concede his photos of the visit are way better!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Limited Palettes

I'm having so much fun with the limited palette pieces! I sure wonder where they will lead!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break Visitors!

My studio got a wonderful visit this week from Jeb & Meredith. I met Jeb through his blog: (which is actually what spurred me on to actually starting one, so thanks, Jeb.) and through some of my Dallas area shows. Through our conversations on our blogs, on facebook, and at the shows, I learned that he, too, has a penchant for color, a love for alt country (hate that description) and great dive food. I've tried some of his restaurant suggestions and I must say, he has great taste! I'd follow his food recommendations any day. And, while my art is a bit more New Mexico-centric where his has got a Texana bent, there is a definite sense of place in both. You should check it out. He's also got an etsy shop for his photographs (something that is also on my list to get started).

He and his family were up here in Angel Fire for a ski trip but they took a little time out to try out my studio. I had fun. I hope he and his daughter did! Maybe they'll come back next time!

Request for Donation

It is that time of year again. My mail box is full of requests from a variety of great non-profits (and some not so great) to give them art so they can sell them at auction to raise money. I expect the phone calls will start soon. Rarely do these auctions end up selling the art at full retail value. So, it ends up that benefactors of these non-profits get the art at a great deal. While I receive nothing but a thank you for my donation. Okay. Sometimes I get to attend the event. But a lot of times I'm asked to pay for the opportunity to sit and watch my piece be auctioned. But our tax laws are written so I do not get to deduct the price of my donation from my taxes--only the cost of goods in that piece, which, if I have done my accounting properly, has already been written off as a business expense. On the other hand, if a patron decides he/she no longer wishes to keep a piece of art, he/she can donate it to a non-profit and deduct the full retail amount. Not exactly fair.

I never minded art shows asking for donations. In fact, I've garnered clients from some of these auctions. Almost another marketing expense for exposure in a market. And I haven't totally decided what to do about these requests. I've had several customers acquire the auction piece and in those years have chosen not to purchase directly from me. So, I'm realizing that this "donation" is actually cutting into my sales. If it keeps me in good stead with the show, then maybe it is worth the price. Although maybe I should just offer them some money. "I don't make donations of my work to shows but I'd be happy to make a small monetary contribution"?

As for other causes, I've decided on a new approach. Should someone inquire about a donation I will politely tell them that I'd be happy to donate a piece if they will agree to purchase a piece of at least equal value. We'll see how that goes. I'll keep you posted. And, of course, I still reserve the right to say no outright to causes I don't care about or don't feel like supporting.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's day!!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Scottsdale Arts Festival

I'm back from the first show of the year. Scottsdale. It was a really nice show--it always is. Really high quality art and good crowds of locals, snow birds and vacationers! I was in my spot near the triangular sculpture--I had great neighbors, perfect weather and good sales. I got to see my cousin Linda and got to visit with "Burk", the retired Sears Executive VP who I wish had been my boss, back in the day. I've spent today packing up paintings and frames for shipping and sending images of other pieces via email. And unloaded the van. Went through my sales receipts so Rees could input them. Unpacked and started the laundry. Walked the dog. Stained the edges of one of my cradled panels for a customer. And, still, I haven't approached the easel. I've got a piece already started from before the show, my specially sized panels arrived for a commission I'm itching to get started, and I've got a list a mile long. But, isn't that always the case. Better than being bored. For sure.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Onward, to Scottsdale!

I haven't been posting lately. I like to be positive when I'm blogging or posting and just haven't felt that way. But, things are looking up--so I'm back. I've been fighting a lingering cold--but feel much more like myself and a lot less foggy than I have been. In addition to getting a painting done today, I rewrote my artist statement (about time, Miss Procrastinator), I finished --correction, we--finished loading the van so we are ready to leave early tomorrow. And, I am so ready! We haven't done a show since Thanksgiving and I am always feeling house bound by this time.

But, I had tempered my enthusiasm due to a jury summons that arrived last week--for both of us! The summons is/was for tomorrow. And, for those of you who read this and don't live here, jury duty is a convenient 74 miles away in Raton, our county seat. And, the summons was dated February 17 but not mailed until the 24th and we didn't get it until the 28th. We immediately wrote back (not allowed to call) explaining why we'd like to postpone service. But, of course, we heard nothing. But, luck was with us, as we called as required and we do not have to report tomorrow. YIPPEEEEEEE!!!!!! I had these visions of pleading with the Scottsdale show people (who are really great) to let Rees drive and set up while I did jury duty and then would fly to meet him. Even though the artist's presence is required at the show. I figure these would be extenuating circumstances. But, all my musings and checking on flights etc were not necessary! We have to call back again on March 28th. But, I don't have a show that things work themselves out.

And, so, while we've had winter weather advisories, a few inches of snow last night, the forecast for Scottsdale is mid 80s and sunny. Every day. Yes, I've got the spf45 already packed. I'm so excited for the show. It is a beautiful show, held on the very lush civic center grounds. There is a great variety of very high quality art. There is a great mix of locals and snow birders and it looks, from the booth map, that I am where I want to be and have some great neighbors. I've got lots of new work and am excited to see how it is received!!!! Wish me luck!!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Departures from the norm?

All winter I planned on doing some experiments. And while I did do some successful oil paintings--one of the things I wanted to work on, I managed to leave my venetian plaster and headful of new ideas alone.

And, so, with less than a week before we leave for Scottsdale, I felt the urge to try some different things. Most probably it is a procrastination technique to avoid the framing part of my job!

I'm really pleased with the bright but simple color schemes of these pieces. In fact, most of these were so successful that I actually broke out the venetian plaster and prepped a few panels and canvases, thinking some more texture would be fun to play with. But, I know from working with the oil pastels on canvas that too much texture is not a great combination (at least for me) with the oil pastels. So, time to pull the oils out again. This time I worked with the simple color scheme on top of a burgundy gesso that was painted on top of a layer of venetian plaster. Very fun. I don't yet know if this piece is finished. I'll let you know after I look at it tomorrow. (And, I apologize for posting one of the pics twice. Blogger won't let me delete it....)