This Is, After All, the Year Of the Horse

“Season of the Equus” will be the largest museum exhibition of equine fine art in recent memory. It opens at the Customs House Museum November 14 and continues through January 4, 2015. This is, after all, the “Year of the Horse.”3-DeltaTheBuckskin500x333

My project Blood Rescue, consisting of 22 pieces, will be shown in the Crouch Gallery. A collection of equine antiquities, My Kingdom for a Horse, will be exhibited in the Orgain Gallery; and a selection of paintings from the American Academy Equine Art in the Kimbrough Gallery.  There is also the Planters Bank Peg Harvill Gallery that will showcase another equine exhibit, and The Hand Gallery will feature art depicting the Tennessee Walking Horse. Memory Lane will showcase a tack shop, carriages… equine art in total will occupy 35,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Our relationship to the horse is iconic, embedded in the collective conscience since the beginning of our time. At first we hunted the horse as a wild animal for food, hunting in packs with the wolves. Much later on the steppes of western Asia, we learned to ride the horse: At first as transportation; then for hunting; later to do battle; for work; and finally, for recreation. By the time domesticated horses arrived in the British Isles, they had become our close companions and friends.

Today, ‘Horse person’ or no, at some level we share a common knowing. Our relationship to the horse is embedded in our identity as members of this human race. We resonate with these animals. They are our companions in life.





Blood Rescue

Blood Rescue is a series of cave drawing from the 21st century. See them all here. Our relationship to the horse is iconic, embedded in our collective conscience since the beginning of time… 1-Pocahontas1

it is 20,000 years ago with our hunter/gatherer forebears in the French caves at Lascaux and Chauvet. Outside our big cave it’s ice-age cold. Inside, the Sage sings and dances. He draws the outline of a horse, on the cave wall. Light comes from oilstone lamps. He takes horse blood from yesterday’s kill and mixes it with ochre to make his paints. He renders what he sees. This night, we celebrate here, deep in the big cave, by the light of the lamps. There’s drumming, flute music, dancing, storytelling and fermented beverages. In the flickering light, the horses on the walls seem to move. We summon them, we honor their return to us, we feast on their flesh. We give thanks.

 From that time on and for a long time, we continued to hunt the horse as a wild animal for food. Much later on the steppes of western Asia, we learned to ride the horse: At first as transportation; then for hunting; later to do battle; for work; and finally, for sport. By the time domesticated horses arrived in the British Isles, they had become our close companions and friends.

 Today, ‘Horse person’ or no, at some level we share a common knowing. Our relationship to the horse is embedded in our identity as members of this human race. We resonate with these animals. They are our companions in life.

 So the Blood Rescue images are 21st century cave drawings. Some explicitly reference the originals in Lascaux and Chauvet. Others allude to the mammalian organic and skeletal structure of the horse, identifying it as potential prey for carnivores and omnivores.  Still others show the horse as a beast of wonder: Powerfully swift and mystical, inviting us to explore, re-imagine and re-create our own relationship to these beings.

 The twenty-four horse models you see in Blood Rescue run free on a ranch in Middle Tennessee. Most of them are rescues from kill buyers who would ship them to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. The images themselves are over-photographed paintings. I draw and paint the backgrounds. In this practice, I usually mix horse blood with the paints I use. Then I overlay the paintings with lens-based materials, and then over-paint that. I make what I see. 


be a trust fund baby?

Artists like me, we are passionate about our work, we have a vision, we “get it” that making art is about the process. It’s what we love, what gets us up in the morning, our reason for being here in this now. So then, how do we do the basic life stuff, like paying the rent and buying food?guestsArrived_4041_2_3_fused

We have four ways to go:

 Number 1: Be a trust fund baby. We could be born into a wealthy family that believes in us and our art-making so they support us financially. We’ve got it made. This only happens to me in my dreams. Next?

 Number 2: Partner up with someone affluent enough to support us. Our grandmothers might have said, “Marry well.” So for as long as our relationship holds together, we’ve got it covered. OK, I married a poet. I wouldn’t change anything, but even great poetry doesn’t pay the rent. Next?

 Number 3: Make commercial art. Graphic design, illustration… or try to figure out what kind of art someone would buy and do that. Make products with our art; coffee mugs, T-shirts. Make our own art when we’re not doing the commercial stuff. Now we can pay rent and buy food, good job! But here’s my problem: Starting in the 2nd grade, I always flunked “follows directions well.” In fact, I generally don’t follow directions at all. Making commercial art is not possible for me. Next?

 Number 4: The day job… get a non-art-related job that pays our bills, and then make art when we’re not working. OK, this was my route!

 There is a more or less Number 3.5: Halfway between commercial art and day job; that’s teaching art. We have to deal with a lot of art stuff that isn’t self-generated; and we have hours that we need to work when we’re not making art. I hear a lot of art teachers talk about how their own work takes such a back seat they’re not so happy.

 Damn that’s discouraging! Well, not really. Practically all of us begin our art-making careers one or more of these four ways; that is, until we make it financially selling our work to collectors at price points where we can live. If we’re willing to put in the time, don’t give up, don’t get discouraged, don’t quit; sooner or later we will most likely arrive at a financially viable future. OK, I pulled this off. It took some years, but I pulled it off. I know how to do this.

 Even better, I can show you the shortcut to your financially viable future selling your art. It’s a to-do list of just five things. If you do them, you will get your work in front of collectors who will want to buy your art at good price points.

 Now here’s the bomb: I’m giving this away, for free. To get your hands on it, click here

this is the BOMB

Do these 5 things, and collectors will find you and want your art. But FAIR WARNING! Proceed with courage. This is agalleryOpening-3 four-hour workshop  or an eight week coaching block condensed into 8 blog posts, each around 450 or so words; a step-by-step, how-to-do-it reference manual!

Photograph your work to look your best

Write your bio so it shows your story Part 1

Write like you’re Holden Caulfield Part 2

How’s your website today?

Show your art to the big tribe Part 1

Have a big celebration Part 2

The social media trinity? What’s that?

And finally a footnote about  engineers and artists


Why Are Artists Like Engineers?

You mean all that math and science? Nuts and bolts? Really?

 Well, maybe not exactly the same. But this last weekend I mentored at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center for an event called 3DS. Around fifty mostly senior Vanderbilt students spent three days in breakout groups developing ideas into concrete plans to start a business. So I sat in with one team, they have a really cool idea for how to use technology to create something environmentally green and lower our costs. So far so good, until we got to the marketing part… figuring out who would buy their new product?20140314_195759dcropped_600x354

To my horror, all five team members were engineers. They actually believed their product was so wonderful that people would seek them out. This is a true recipe for failure, one that’s repeated over and over. It’s called the “better mousetrap” way to fail.

 In the same way, an artist who believes collectors will seek them out truly has discovered the path to poverty. We could call this the “better art” way to starve, and it’s repeated over and over. There’s nothing wrong, indeed there’s everything right about becoming an engineer. Same with artists. I am one, and I’m proud of it. I make the art I see, I follow my vision, and I’m totally passionate about that. To me, it’s “better art.” I’m sure you do the same. It’s what we all do. So in the world, there’s a whole lot of “better art.”

 But then, we need to learn how to get our work out there where collectors can see it and want it. I say that’s part of our job too. When we signed on to make art, we also signed on to show art. It’s the only way to enrich a viewer’s life to the point they become collectors.

 Like the engineers’ “better mousetrap,” this only happens when we do something to make it happen. And like engineers, it doesn’t come naturally to us. We have to learn how. 30,000 years ago our ancestors made the cave drawings at Lascaux and Chauvet, and showing their work was easy. They threw big parties in the caves lit with stone oil lamps, with drumming, flute music, dancing, storytelling, and fermented beverages. Could this describe a gallery opening today? But it’s up to us to make it happen. Collectors are not going to come find us. We have to go find them.

 Here’s how… click

Errr, the what… the trinity?

Now you have awesome photographs of your art, a killer bio, you’ve started the process of building your resume of juried shows and awards, and your artist’s website/blogsite rocks! You’re ready to launch the trinity.

Errr, the what? Well, I call it the trinity because it has three moving parts: Your Facebook page, your website, and either a blogsite or some written material space on your website.HeronInFlowers-2000Hi

Here’s how it works: You post something on Facebook, anything you want to put out there, such as a new piece of work, a show coming up, an idea about something you think people will find interesting. You are a visual artist, so almost all your posts will have a picture of some kind.

Now here’s the thing: Keep your post on Facebook very short, maybe three lines, and very engaging with a picture. Then, end the post with a link to the rest of what you want to say, and put that on your website or blogsite.

There are two really good reasons to do it this way. First, if you put a 300-word post on Facebook, they’ll bury everything after about the first three lines. So if someone wants to read what you wrote, they have to click on the fine print to open up your full post.

But the main reason is this: You want people spending the bulk of their time in your world, on your website and/or blogsite. You want to take charge of what people see, rather than leave it to Facebook. And when people do spend that time in your world instead of Facebook’s, it boosts your search engine rankings. It makes you easier to find in a Google search.

For example, here’s a short post I put up on Facebook a few weeks ago:

“Show your art to the big tribe! Here’s how:,”

and I included a picture from my series Blood Rescue. That short post got some serious attention, I could see the stats spike on my blogsite over the next few days. Plus, some number of people clicked from my blogsite to my website to see the rest of my work. Either way, anyone who’s interested can read more about me because my bio’s in both places. A lot of people spent a really long time, like over an hour, going through my stuff. This is way better than a Facebook post.

About blog sites: If you’re not going to write a 300-500 word post maybe once a week, it’s probably better not to have a blog. Instead, incorporate your occasional written pieces into your website; which means you want to design that capability into your website. Here’s one example of a website that does that. The artist had some favorable comments about her work. Instead of putting them all on Facebook where they’d be buried, she could have a Facebook post like, “Look what all those people said about my work, OMG…” and then a link to her website

A lot of people will see the comments and then want to see her work. They’re already on her website, it’s too easy. Whichever way you decide to go: Combining writing with your website, or separate platforms for writing and visual; Remember you’re an artist. Make your visuals really great!

How’s Your Website Today?

If you are a visual artist, your website should do one thing and do it really well: Show your art. Does that sound like a no-brainer? But wait… it’s really not.

When someone goes to your website, will the first image they see fill their monitor? Will that image enlarge or shrink to fill their available window? Can they select a body of your work and see all of it full screen, one piece at a time, with just one click?

I kind of like my website, so try going here to see an example of what I’m talking about.



The first thing you see is one of my images; a slide show starts. There’s a pale gray tag on the far left that says “menu,” but it’s pretty inconspicuous. Basically, you see art, and that’s pretty much all you see. I’ve gone to the extreme that you don’t even see my name until you hover over the menu. I figure by the time you get to my website, you know where you are; I don’t have to tell you again. You just came here to see some art.

Notice that the images fill whatever window you have open. So try grabbing the lower right corner of your window with your cursor and drag it to make your window smaller, then larger. Notice how the images you see expand or shrink to fill the available window.

Now hover over the menu on the left. You don’t even have to click to see the list. Pick any portfolio, say for example, +Fusion. Bam, an image appears and fills your available window. If you want to see more, you can use your arrow keys to go right or left; you don’t have to click anything. So yes, you can land on my website, select a portfolio, and see all of it, one image at a time, with just one click.

I’m emphasizing 1) desirable visual qualities, and 2) ease of navigation for an artist’s website because a lot out there don’t. Often, there are colored borders on both sides of a page with a relatively small image in the middle. If you expand or shrink your browser window, the small image in the middle stays the same size. Only the colored borders expand or shrink. Then often, I see a fair amount of writing on the same page with the image. IMHO, an image stands or falls on its own, with or without writing. So, why the writing? It just distracts from the image.

Navigating many artist websites requires you to click to enlarge an image, then click back and click again to see the next one, then click on it to enlarge it, and so on. It gets to be enough clicks to stop many viewers from seeing all of your work.

An artist’s website needssome ability to display written material. But remember: Your art is visual. Writing should be tucked away someplace where it’s easily found but not a distraction.

So how to get this done? Please, don’t pay someone to build a website for you from scratch; especially if they don’t specialize in artist’s websites, and especially if it’s your friend who’ll do it for less than $400. Here’s the good news: There are platform templates available from various vendors with an almost infinite variety of looks and feels. Then beyond that, they can be customized. I use Foliolink, but there are others as well. Think about it. Just saying…

The Big Guy Is Safe… For Now.

“Orangs In Flowers,” from Fusion, merges Oriental and Occidental aesthetics in an over-photographed painting.

 But orangutans are the real story. Males reach maturity around age 15. Then, they can develop flanges around their face; cheek pads, throat pouches, and long fur. This is supposed to make them more attractive to females. And it works! Females strongly prefer flanged males. These lucky males generally consort with one to three females and dwell with them in a stable, defined range.OrangsInBlue

 But this is a Catch 22: To get flanges and become attractive to females, solitary unflanged males have to first consort with females. Otherwise, no flanges. So in the end, they have to kill a flanged male to gain access to his females. Rapes ensue. If they succeed, they’ll grow flanges almost immediately.

 So males without flanges travel alone, looking for social groups with weak leaders. They lurk until the time is right. Killing and rapes are common.

 OK, at least flanged males don’t kill their young, like many other male primates. After all, it’s eight years before a female becomes estrous again after giving birth. A flanged male can never be sure he’ll be around long enough to sire again. Unflanged males can appear suddenly, and then… who knows.

Confidence Soared, Do-It-Now Jumped Up, And The Plan Rocked

Last Saturday fourteen visual artists, all at different career stages; from new, to emerging, to mid-career, to mature; showed up for a condensed and distilled four-hour intensive: “From The Studio To The World: How To Get Your Work Out There.” I’m the kind of coach/facilitator that wants to know: Did this work for you? So at the beginning of the class, I asked everyone three questions about where they stood with getting their work out to collectors.NoStarvingArtist

The first of the three questions looked at their long-term ideas: “How’s your plan to get your work out there where collectors can find you?”

The second question looked at the short term: “Are you clear about what to do next to get your work out there where collectors can find you?”

The third was a confidence assessment: “Overall, how confidant are you that you know what you are doing to get your work out there where collectors can find you?”

Everyone answered on a scale from one to ten, where ‘one’ is “I have no clue”; all the way to ‘ten’ “I’ve got this nailed.”

At the end of the class, I asked everyone the same three questions on the same scale.

Looks like a lot happened in four, mash-up, hours. Confidence soared on the one-to-ten scale, from 2.3 before the class to 7.0 at the end of the four hours; a 300% improvement. The short term, what to do next, jumped up from 3.0 to 7.8. Having a long term plan rocked from a pre-class 3.1 to post-class 7.0; it more than doubled. Nice!

Remember that this was a four-hour intensive with a group of fourteen participants plus the coach/facilitator. To see actual results getting work out there and purchased by collectors, there are still things to do. For all five action items, each participant self-assessed how to get it done: 1. “I’m ready to do it now,” or 2. “I’m going to seek out some coaching for skills where I need more hands-on,” or 3. “Either I don’t want to do this one, so I’ll make arrangements for someone else to do it for me.”

Now fourteen artists have a plan for how to get their work from the studio to collectors. So guys, pause… celebrate this important event. And then? Do it, keep track of your progress, and remember to celebrate some more, as you rack up accomplishments one after the other!

“Prosperous Artist Now,” Sunday March 23, 12:30-4:30 PM at Plaza Art Supply

My workshop “From the Studio to the World: Getting Your Art Out There“ at Art and Soul was a sellout! Confidence soared, Do-It-Now jumped up, and the Plan rocked on! See more here

The next class is now available, exactly the same, on Sunday afternoon, March 23, at Plaza Art Supply here in Nashville, same price $50! Plaza calls it “Prosperous Artist Now.” Click and scroll down to March 23. The class is from 12:30PM until 4:30PM. I encourage you to register right away, click to find the instructions from Plaza. It may fill quickly! Or, just show up!


If you are new to the workshop, you can find out more about it here!