Q: How do you determine what size to make your pastel paintings? (Question from Prince North via Facebook)
A: For three decades I have been making pastel paintings in two sizes: 26” x 20” and 58” x 38.” These sizes are dictated by practical considerations.
The smaller ones are because 28” x 22” sheets of acid-free sandpaper are what’s available. (I mask off an inch all around for mats so the paintings are 20″ x 26″). For large paintings I buy rolls of acid-free sandpaper that measure 54 inches wide by 30 feet. I cut this down to 40″ x 60″ for paintings and mask off an inch all around on these, too.
And why specifically make them 58” x 38”? This is the absolute largest size I can make and I prefer making big paintings!
Again, practical factors come into play: the size of my truck, the cost and size of mat board, and the weight of the frames.
My pastel paintings need to lie flat when they are moved. Framed paintings are 70” x 50,” the largest size that can fit flat in the back of my Ford F-150. 58” x 38” is the largest size that will fit in a 8 feet by 4 feet sheet of mat board. (60 inch wide mat board is available, but the cost goes up considerably). Lastly, I’ve never weighed them but my large framed paintings are already rather heavy. It takes two people to carry them.
Comments are welcome!
Pearls from artists* # 123
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
We artists should not underestimate the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about how our art will make a difference. These motivational fictions describe the ways a work might interact with the world to justify our extravagant, and potentially narcissistic labors: that our art has transformational potential. A work might be understood as being critical of society or sanctuary from it, for instance, or a Trojan horse sent to the enemy as a nasty gift to unsettle their deeply entrenched frames of mind. We need renewable encouragement to make fresh work year after year in the face of uncertain rewards.
David Humphrey quoted in THE ART LIFE: On Creativity and Career by Stuart Horodner
Comments are welcome!
Q: Would you speak about the practical realities – time and expenses – involved in making your pastel-on-sandpaper paintings? What might people be surprised to learn about this aspect of art-making?
A: I have often said that this work is labor-intensive. In a good year I can complete five or six large (38″ x 58″) pastel paintings. In 2013 I am on track to make four, or, on average, one completed painting every three months. I try to spend between thirty-five and forty hours a week in the studio. Of course, I don’t work continuously all day long. I work for awhile, step back, look, make changes and additions, think, make more changes, step back, etc. Still, hundreds of hours go into making each piece in the “Black Paintings” series, if we count only the actual execution. There is also much thinking and preparation – there is no way to measure this – that happen before I ever get to stand before an empty piece of sandpaper and begin.
As far as current expenses, they are upwards of $12,000 per painting. Here is a partial breakdown:
$4500 New York studio, rent and utilities ($1350/month) for three months
$2500 Supplies, including frames (between $1500 – $1700), photographs, pastels (pro-rated), paper
$2000 Foreign travel to find the cultural objects, masks, etc. depicted in my work (approximate, pro-rated)
$3000 Business expenses, such as computer-related expenses, website, marketing, advertising, etc.
This list leaves out many items, most notably compensation for my time, shipping and exhibition expenses, costs of training (i.e. ongoing photography classes), photography equipment, etc. Given my overhead, the paintings are always priced at the bare minimum that will allow me to continue making art.
I wonder: ARE people surprised by these numbers? Anyone who has ever tried it knows that art is a tough road. Long ago I stopped thinking about the cost and began doing whatever is necessary to make the best paintings. The quality of the work and my evolution as an artist are paramount now. This is my life’s work, after all.
Comments are welcome!