As you might have noticed from our Facebook page Gallery M is still finding it's place in our community. We are slowly getting more people in to see our new location. In addition to exhibiting amazing art from the region we have branched out to offer a variety of classes and even offering the gallery as a space for events.
Several people have told me that our lower level location is not ideal and perhaps I should even move the gallery to La Crosse. But I have lived in La Crescent for over 20 years and it is my community. I am learning to embrace my lower level location. I honestly couldn't continue to do what I'm doing while paying street level rent even in La Crescent. I really feel like the gallery is what I am suppose to be doing. Meeting artists, art teachers and art enthusiast is a joy. Gallery M is definitely my "happy place".
I have recently met with a few gallery owners from around the region and I love to hear about what they are offering and see if some of their ideas will work here. The gallery is becoming more of an art center and I really like that idea.
Our list of teachers is forever changing. We are always looking for artists who have different areas of expertise and are willing to share their knowledge and skills.
We are also adding a few Open Studio Saturdays (when time allows) for people of all ages to come in and work with our materials for a small fee. We hope this provides residents with a creative and relaxing environment.
La Crescent is changing. I am starting to see it more everyday. Change can be hard but also very very exciting.
Wow, it's been a year since Gallery M opened, and what an interesting year it's been. We've learned a lot in the last 12 months. And we've met some really fantastic people, including some artists who took a chance on having their work at a new gallery. Our initial inspiration of having artwork for people to view and purchase has slightly diverted into some other directions, in part by doing a survey on Facebook of people who have been into the gallery and those who have not. The feedback was really interesting. We are finding that people want to have experiences and learn new things and meet people. Technology has given us so many new outlets but at the same time has isolated us in our homes and offices. We are happy to provide a community location where people can gather, learn and create. We started off a little slow but are seeing an increase in activity with the changes that we're making. As we have added more classes and activities, we are seeing more people coming in. A sense of artistic community is growing and really inspiring us and helping us modify our vision. So this coming year you will see a lot more classes available for adults and kids, including some sip-and-paint classes. Some of those will be offered through La Crescent Community Education while others will be directly from our website and Facebook postings. Cary Wyninger and I were both hesitant about a guided painting class, but we think we've come up with some creative ways to make those classes more personal and meaningful, including a Bob Ross–inspired class. We think that will be tons of fun. We have talked to a few other artists as well about teaching classes and hope to get many people with special interests who are happy to teach and share their knowledge. So let us know if you or someone you know would like to join us.
You might have seen on Facebook that we have rented a new space just down the hallway. It's going to be much larger. We are in the process of renovating and hope that it will be done for the Push It show in mid-April. This will be a celebration of first anniversary and the expansion into a new space. We hope to really kick it off with an engaging reception on April 21st. We are working to get the word out that art is for everyone; it's not exclusive. We know that it’s important to create and share art, and art can totally change your outlook on life. So this next year you'll continue to see new exhibits coming in as well as new art classes. Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for all the new offerings.
Until we can get things off the ground a 100% we have been applying to several small business grants. If you see any grant opportunities please share with us we would appreciate it.
Thanks to all who have been supporting us this year. Starting a new endeavor is not easy, but it sure helps to have good friends to lean on along the way.
Some photos to show what we have been doing this past year.
Do Artists Dread Doing Commission Work?"
A question I hear frequently...'What do you like doing better; the pet portraits or your own personal work?'
It is a good inquiry. I hear other artist's tone change when they talk about commission work and the challenges they can present. You're having to in a sense, guess what the client thinks is good art, guess what it is they're looking for, work from photos that might be less than ideal. But I honestly think that if they've seen your work and you ask good questions, it doesn't have to be that challenging.
I think doing both types of work offers greatness! When I get a commission order I am instantly excited for what is to come...I get to create! ESPECIALLY when I get to do a pet portrait, because if you don't know me already I am in LOVE with animals. Win win for me! I get to paint AND stare at someone's adorable and loved soul companion.
Some things you do need to work out with the client to make a portrait they're happy with (because that's the goal...it's to do something artistically that is yours but it's mainly to create something they're happy with):
1. What size and price range are they looking at?
2. What color(s) are they interested in the background? (If they say they don't know, I ask if they know where they're going to hang it to get ideas of what will look nice in that spot. I also like to recommend a few colors that will complement they're fur and/or eye color.)
3. Having a main photo to work from is great, but getting multiple photos of their pet is ideal as well as getting a little information about their personality. It's really great to find a pose/color etc. that reflects the pet's personality.
4. Finalize the details such as when do they need it finished, the size they need, main pose/photo to work from, any specific colors for background, when payment is due, and what you offer if they're not happy with the finished product.
5. I typically send a picture of the work in it's almost finished state...asking for the client's input and if there are any adjustments they'd like to see.
My own personal work is different in that it is a much more freeing process...I choose the subject matter, I choose the canvas size, I choose the color palette...and I do what I want as I work! There's the inner critic that gets in the way from time to time, but I'm getting past that. I'm coming to terms with being okay putting myself out there in such a vulnerable way. It's okay if my art doesn't groove with everyone :-)
So while commission work doesn't always allow the artist to have complete artistic freedom to do as they wish, you are still trying to make the piece artistic in your own way/style. I also look at it as the ability to get paid to practice and fine tune my skills. On top of that, it gives me an opportunity for give a client a sweet memory of their pet if they've lost them...which is a majority of the ones I've done.
In the end, I feel both types of work offer something positive and that's what I love to focus on. I truly enjoy working on personal pieces, but I also truly enjoy taking on commission work as well.
Art N' Soul
"Otis" 11x14 Pastel on paper
Then on to middle school. A fresh start? The two art/home economic teachers were not very encouraging either. I remember making a design for a latch hook piece. It was pretty basic and geometric. One of the teachers told me it was "Trite and Redundant". No advice, no suggestions. I don't think I really knew what that meant (I was 12 or 13) but I knew it was bad. I'm pretty sure I threw the project away when it was done.
So I continued on. Never thinking art would be apart of my life and not knowing what I would want to do. When I got to high school I didn't take classes in art until I was a junior. I was able to take photography classes at the Des Moines Central Campus. It was a school full of programs for students who longed for something different (computer programming, art, languages....). I took photography for 2 hours a day for 2 years. And that's when I met a teacher that changed my life. The very unassuming man was Mr. Greenwood. I doubt he has ever known the affect he had on my life (although I have written and talked about him often). He didn't necessarily love my images but he gave me encouragement and direction that I really needed. I learned how to develop film and make prints. He taught us about composition and encouraged us to show our work. Art is something you can learn. It's always been strange when people tell me that I'm a talented photographer. I don't think it is talent. It's been hard work. I still work at it all the time.
After high school I went to a technical school for photography. I quickly discovered that I wanted something different. As much as I loved photography I wanted to learn about other art forms. So I went back to Des Moines and took several classes at Des Moines Area Community College then I applied to the University of Iowa and amazingly enough I was accepted. I had many wonderful teachers and learned how to work with different materials and studied Art Education. It was such a great experience and helped me to develop into a teacher who cared and encouraged rather than embarrassed or belittled students.
You might have had a similar experience but maybe it was music or writing. Good teachers make a BIG difference. Continuing to make art is important. Although I haven't taught in awhile I know some days it's more about grades, lesson plans and classroom management. It's important to remember why you started teaching in the first place.
Why an art gallery?
I have been working with various forms of art since I was in high school, starting with photography taught by Mr. Greenwood. He was a patient man who worked with a lot of students who didn't always deserve his kind words of encouragement. It was one of the few things I really liked doing and it gave me a sense of purpose when I really didn't know what I was doing or going to do. Eventually I went to community college and then art school at The University of Iowa. I loved Iowa City. The people and the atmosphere really motivated me to learn more. I was always showing my work in school galleries and coffee shops. I just liked the feedback. Viewers would ask how or why I created a piece and we would talk. Not everyone liked my work, and that was okay. My teachers taught us to make art with our stories. Most of the time the idea was emphasized over technique. I'm sure that could be debated but it made us think.
So it's been more than 20 years since I went to art school, and I still enjoying looking at artwork, both mine and others'. It surprises me when I see bare walls in people's houses. If you find a piece you love it can add so much to your life. Just a little bit of hope, beauty, surprise....I'm happy when I walk in my house and see strange drawings and figures. I think back to how I acquired each piece; each has it's own story.
You may not walk away with the awe I feel when I see a piece that strikes me, but you never know - you might grab a moment of inspiration.
Janet (on right) taking a photo during Des Moines Art Center photo class. Circa 1987.
Just a few artists that have always inspired me:
Barbara Krueger http://www.barbarakruger.com/
Cindy Sherman http://www.cindysherman.com/
Alexander Calder http://www.calder.org/
Diane Arbus http://www.artnet.com/artists/diane-arbus/