Artists don’t make art in order to make money.

Artists make art because they love to or feel a deep desire to which can’t be ignored. And then in order to support themselves, they need to sell their work.

Of course there are some artists who give art a bad name by charging exhorbitant prices: and don’t get me started on the whole art/gallery scene.
But even in the millions being given for art at high-end art auctions these days, there is a hidden truth that in its essence,  art is priceless.

So why is art important?  Why should you consider sponsoring art and artists?

  1.  Because art and culture are essential parts of being human. Without them we would have no inner life.
    When Winston Churchill, was asked to scrap art grants during WW2, he said in effect, ‘ A society without the arts would not be worth winning the war for’.
  2. The arts can initiate dialogue and create an environment for healing through communication
    (J. Smiers)
  3. Our society is dominated by left-brained principles such as logic, science, intellect. The arts are the repositories for myth, symbolic language, intuition, emotion, stories, magic, chaos, and many right-brained functions we need to live whole human lives.
  4. Artist visionaries provide commentary in the present society and first imagine, then bring into form new possibilities: for example, notice the entrance of spirituality into mainstream films.
  5. Artists keep alive the imagination. For example,  in a society starved for stories, enter a writer such as J. Rowling with Harry Potter, and filmmaker Peter Jackson with the Lord of The Rings movies.
  6. J.Smiers again (see previous post), Artists creating works of art with integrity are, ‘….our lines of defense against sloppy and dangerous exploitation of language, cruel misuse of images, and sad degradation of musicality into aural wallpaper’.
  7. (ibid) ‘The arts are where in every culture deeply felt sentiments of joy, sadness, violence, beauty and crucial feelings about human life and relations between people are stored….’They are also decisive battlegrounds on many issues’.
  8. And why should we as individuals take it upons ourselves to support artists? Because artist are in a tenuous position in society, their work is exploited and underpaid and unprotected, there is no financial or social infrastructure to support them, and everywhere grants  are being cut. 

  These are only a few points out of an entire body of information and thought on the subject.

One more point for consideration. And if you are reading this, I don’t think that this is directed to you because you are obviously considering some questions about life and the meaning of life. But a lot of people will say, ‘I don’t have the money for art, it is an unnecessary luxury’.

Replying to them I say, um, let’s see. How about your newest cell phone? And the box of new clothes you just brought to the Goodwill because they were no longer in fashion?  What about the redecoration of the living room, the new kitchen, the fancy bike for the 4 year old, the new toys the new porch furniture, the new barbecue because the one from two years ago didn’t have the ‘time save grill’ function. The stuff for the garden, the new this the new that.

Are these needed? How much does an average family in the Netherlands, for example, spend on party goods, fireworks, and most recently orange clothing and accessories for the football games. Quite simply billions.

An art work that connects with something inside of you becomes part of your home and life permanently. It gets passed from generation to generation, often increasing in both financial and subjective worth as it collects stories through time.

The choice is up to each one of us.





 ..the largest subsidy of cultural life,  ‘comes not from governments, corporations, or other patrons, but from the artists themselves, through their unpaid or underpaid labour’.
-Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists.

(The above was quoted in a unpublished English translation of the book, ‘Confrontaties’ by Joost Smiers).


This is a favorite hobby horse of mine, so hold on, I’ll just plunge right in.

10 easy ways to support artists:

1 If you visit an artist’s studio during a gallery walk or art fair, and you spend more than 5 minutes talking with the artist, BUY something. It can be a card, a print, a catalogue, but return some of the energy that has been freely given to you.

2 Learn what your taste in art is. Collect cards, prints, small drawings from different artists, and after a year or so, review your choices and pick your favorites.

3 Buy directly from the artist or from artist co-op galleries. Galleries add as much as 100% to the cost of the piece. This percentage often goes into fancy gallery space and expensive catalogues. Most often buying directly from the artist will be considerably less expensive, but even when prices are comparable to gallery prices, the money you pay to the  artist will go into supporting them and not the gallery.

4 Learn what goes into pricing a piece of art. An artist pays all her expenses herself, materials, studio rental, living expenses, promotional material,social security, health insurance, etc. These will be reflected in the prices.

5 You obviously pay more than the price of the canvas and a layer of paint. Understand the ‘added value’ in art prices: An artist may work in series, but every original work of art is unique and unrepeatable.  For every work that soars, there have perhaps been 10 or more made that didn’t take off. The artist’s BEST work will be higher priced. Take into account, too, that a work that has specific value for the artist will also have a higher price-tag. Less important to this discussion but a factor all the same is that some artists will have more recognition, which also drives the price up. But ….. If you want to get the most out of your art purchase, buy from the heart.  If you are looking for an investment, go buy a house or a boat instead.

6 Support local artists. Check out what studios are in your neighborhood and go visit. Get to know the artist and their work, it will gain in value and significance for you if you are familiar with the conditions in which it was made. You are actually buying a little moment in the artist’s life.

7 The next time you want to donate to a charity, think instead of ways you could help a local artist. It may not be tax deductible, but it is an act of giving and will bring you fulfilment just the same. Here are some suggestions for how you or your business could help out an artist:

  • donate studio space, either in exchange for art lessons for you or your kids, or just for free
  • sponsor printing/publicity for the artist
  • hang their work in your restaurant or school or other building, encourage people to buy
  • donate used furniture or other goods to the artist for his workshop
  • give money for a specific goal, ie for an easel or more materials or part of the studio rent or an upcoming show
  • become a patron, buy work from this artist regularly
  • lend a car or help in other ways to transport art to a show or elsewhere
  • show regular interest, especially if the artist is having a difficult time. Invite them over for a cup of tea

8  When you next consider buying a business gift, birthday or birth gift etc, think of artists. In artist co-ops you can often find totally unique gifts such as handmade books, small scultpures, mini-paintings, prints, painted furtniture, light fixtures, clocks, mirrors, you name it. These are generally not more expensive than good brand name objects and they can sometimes be personalized.

9 Bring friends to meet the artist, buy or borrow one piece by the artist and hang it in your home or office. Help spread their name around.

10 Try your own hand at painting or drawing, at best it will give you a rewarding hobby, at least it will give you insight into what skills are needed to create art.

Wishing you inspiration!







I had a great insight this morning. But first some background:

For at least two years I have felt dissatisfied and stuck with my oil pastel drawings. I’ve felt a new impulse pushing to get through, but have not been able to give it form.
After copying several of Krabbé pieces in different media, and through that study, being educated in certain aspects of form and handling paint, I am actually looking at my surroundings differently.  Actually, any serious painter could have led me to these changes. I am basically a draughtswoman and seeing like a painter does literally open my eyes to new perceptions.

So now, enough copying, how to translate what I’ve learned into my own work?
That is where I had the insight. Several times now I have sat down at my drawing table with the attitude of, ‘OK, now it is time for my new work to reveal itself’, and crashed in flames. Duh. 
What I did this morning, which led to the breakthrough in thinking, was to simply start where I was. And I got it,  and it is so obvious!  Your new work has to grow out of your old!  Just sitting down with my familiar materials and starting work in a way that feels good and familiar to me gets the energy flowing- and energy has to flow first before it can reach a new place. Of course. 

It isn’t that simple, though. If it were, my work would have already changed and grown to its next step. I’ve sat down countless times and only came up with the same old same old. But still, the thing is to keep working.

So let me augment the original insight a bit; your new work emerges when there is adequate new input to shake old habits and form a new order.  And the way to get there is to approach from the framework of your old work.

I’m working on an oil pastel on dark blue Canson paper that is a partial copy of a favorite old piece of mine. Starting this way gave me just enough structure to hold onto while seeing if anything else wanted to happen. I am seeing different colour combinations and feeling a slightly different emphasis, that I know wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t gone through this intense exploration of someone else’s work beforehand. 

I am back in the familiar world of my own mark making, composition and colour sense. It is like using a trusted vocabulary, but  to write a new story.

Variation in work

May 16, 2008

Moving between two projects today, I experienced very clearly the diversity of the work I do.  These two were a particularly strong contrast and drew on different skills and attitudes.

The first was an underpainting I did as preparation for a study of one of Jeroen Krabbé’s oil paintings.

I chose this painting basically because I love it and also wanted the experience of working with the warm reds he used. Ironic that what I could see through the surface strokes was a blue underpainting; although painters often use the complement or one close to it to provide contrast for the top layer. I pulled out my old oils and the minute I filled up the brush and started working I realized how much I love this medium. It is so creamy and sensual, the colors are so rich. In contrast to this aliveness, acrylic feels like plastic. Which it is. I enjoyed the freedom of brushing on the color with a large brush and being a little messy.

Still with acrylics you can work in layers quickly since it dries so fast, now I have to have patience before I can go on.

The afternoon I spent rounding off a monogram I had designed and hand lettered.

I tried unsuccessfully to upload the grey scale version here so all the touch-ups could be seen. Anyway, this was drawn freehand, quite large (around A-4, 81/2 x 11 format) with pen and India ink then retouched with white gouache. No computer work on this whatsoever. Cross my heart…
It is extremely exacting work, drives me nuts actually. Still the result is nice and it will be used on a gold signet ring.

If you want to see a real wizard when it comes to flourishing, and someone who manages to lift  letter decoration out of stuffy tradition right into super kewl, go to Marian Bantjes .


Krash course Krabbé

May 14, 2008

Seeing the Krabbé show set up an irresistible longing in me to get seriously down to my own image making. I made a few false starts of my own, then finally gave in and started making studies of his work. I realized that to jump-start myself out of my normal way of seeing and working, I needed to try something radically different.

Making exact copies of his watercolours I was able to see how he approaches colour and form. To get the same results, I had to change the way I apply washes, change my thinking around, and let go of all my

Copying one of his oils was harder. I used acrylics, and the Tuscan landscape had to be underpainted first with dark colours to offest the beautiful morningsun drenched palette he used. As he  says in the DVD from the show, a lot of his underpainting is detailed, realistic form, and he works on the painting constantly rubbing out detail and  simplifying until he gets the results he wants.

So copying just the end result is like skimming off the surface of a deep and complicated story. The painting, any painting, is a layer of stories. Spending time revealing the layers of one painting was more valuable than a year of painting courses. I learned where he used the brush and where he preferred the palette knife. I saw how some colours were mixed right on the painting. Sometimes I could sense what he might be thinking when he made certain choices. Of course copying all his serendipitous accidents in such a studied way, lost something, but still the learning experience was great.

What’s more, spending time inside his colours was an intimate way to get to know the art and artist.

And I realized that this way of getting truly inside his art is a way of finding a path to my own.  

Today I travelled ‘by train to see a retrospective of one of my favorite artist’s work.

Yes,  Jeroen Krabbé is the actor, but I saw his work on a postcard 15 years ago and fell in love with it immediately. His color sense spoke directly to me, as did the play between decorative and figurative in his compositions. They communicate a pure joy in the act of painting. 

I had never seen any of his originals before, and they were a revelation. There are areas of exposed canvas, thickly applied paint, watercolor-like glazes, beautiful rhythmic brushstrokes and scratches all on the same canvas. There are truly transcendent moments of certain color combinations that are obviously products of flow during the creation process. You could never premeditate those slivers of magic that appear, they are pure gifts.

My favorite pieces of his are where the color speaks first- warm washes of yellows and salmons for his French and Spanish landscapes. And cool greens and blues for Malaysia. In the DVD I bought of him giving a tour of the show (over 200 paintings), he mentions that form makes him nervous. He feels that the way he uses color actually builds form.  I often feel the same cramped feeling when having  to ‘get something right’ gets in the way of the pleasure in painting.

In Krabbés work I see how he claims the freedom to do what he wants to do; and striving for a purely representational painting would be a real damper on his boundless joy in putting down the colors and strokes- his colors and strokes. And obviously his current level of mastery is the result of consistent hard work over several decades!!

Spending all that time with these paintings today has opened up something for me in relation to my own art though I don’t quite know what it is yet.

Krabbé mentioned how artists get inspired by ‘great’ artists and ‘use’ certain techniques of theirs- strokes, color combinations, etc.; he emphasized that this is not stealing. I agree, I see it as one more stepping stone to finding your own way of painting and seeing. Just as Gaugain, Cézanne, Klee, Matisse and other masters have been models for Krabbé,  his paintings now are models for a new generation of artists.

Rice paper calligraphy bowl

I used to make a lot of these out of paper maché. Recently I attended an exhibition where an artist had made a series of these rice paper bowls with writing on them, and I got reinspired.

So I used the same technique to make a baby gift for a friend’s daughter’s first birthday.

It is about postcard size and nicely transparent when held against the light. It is wafer thin. I love working this way.