Category Archives: Business of Art

Purple Cow… A Cautionary Tale

Once upon a time, as most stories tend to begin, there lived a Farmer and his Wife in a tiny wee cottage on a tiny wee farm with a tiny wee barn near a small village in a viridian green countryside.

For the most part, this was an ordinary farm, with a tiny wee garden and a good number of apple trees.

But that is where the ordinary part ends, and where the story of the Purple Cow and Purple Bull and the Purple Calfies begins.

Now, the Farmer’s Wife, being of Unusual Ancestry, was imbued with the ability to conjure. She was able to make colorful things from thin air and bits of other stuff, just by concentrating, but not too much, and blinking her eyes, but not too hard.

There wasn’t a single thing on the farm that didn’t carry a mark of her colorful conjuring and blinking.

The Farmer asked that she not fiddle and daub at the apple trees or the potatoes, seeing as how he wanted those to keep their original appearance, but he was very happy to have her fiddle and daub anything else she chose.

Her choice was to fiddle and daub and conjure the Cows. They were regular brown cows, and she thought they needed a wee bit of color.

So she concentrated and blinked, but not too hard, and made one of the brown cows into a Purple Cow, and, to go with it, one Purple Bull. The Cow and The Bull were both lovely shades of grape and aubergine and plum, with amethyst highlights, and a delight to admire.

The Farmer and his Wife were tickled to have the Purple Cow and the Purple Bull.

They put them in the wee pasture next to the wee barn, and fed them lots of sweet hay. The Farmer’s Wife conjured up a little Purple Calfie to keep them company, and all three Purple Creatures were very happy together in the wee pasture next to the wee barn.

The neighbors heard about the Purple Cow and Purple Bull and Purple Calfie and came to admire them.

“Brilliant!” and “Amazing!” and “Colorful”, were what the neighbors said in admiration.

“I would be proud to own that Purple Calfie,” said one neighbor, and a deal was quickly struck with the Farmer’s Wife. The neighbor bought the Purple Calfie for a small bag of gold coins, which would help the Farmer’s Wife to buy more sweet hay for her Purple Cow and Purple Bull.

As the Farmer’s Wife took the bag of coins from her neighbor, she gave him a stern warning, saying, indeed it was a special Calfie, being purple and all, and that he could have the Calfie to admire, but that she was the only one ever, allowed to make another Calfie. If he wanted another, she was the only one to make it, and he would have to come back to buy it from her. Only she could make the Purple Calfie right. The Wizard Himself had made that rule, and everyone was to follow The Rules.

And to remind the neighbor, who was buying the Purple Calfie about the Wizard Himself’s Rules, the Farmer’s Wife added a special circle shaped mark with the letter “C” inside it, (which is the first letter in Calfie, right?) which the Wizard Himself had given her, and she put the mark on the Purple Calfie’s ear where the neighbor could see it.

The neighbor agreed to never make another Purple Calfie, and proudly walked his Purple Calfie with the special mark on his ear home to his own wee pasture and wee barn. The Neighbor stood and admired his Purple Calfie every day, except for the time when he was busy tending his own apple trees and potato garden.

Word quickly spread around the small village about the Purple Cow and Purple Bull that belonged to the Farmer and his Wife, and villagers began to travel to see the magically colored animals that lived in the Farmer’s tiny wee pasture. Soon people were coming from many miles away, and even from other countries, to admire the Purple Cow and Purple Bull and to tell the Farmer and his Wife how clever they were, indeed.

It soon became apparent to the Farmer and his Wife that the tiny wee pasture near the tiny wee barn on the tiny wee farm was not big enough, being all tiny and wee, to accommodate the throngs of Admirers happy to travel to the tiny wee farm to lean on the tiny wee fence around the tiny wee pasture to admire the Purple Cow and the Purple Bull.

The Farmer and His Wife decided that they needed a much bigger pasture with a nice long sturdy fence for Admirers to lean on while admiring the Purple Cow and Purple Bull, and which was closer to the village and easier for Admirers to find.

“I have a large and lovely very green pasture,” said their neighbor, Mr. Wardpresser, to the Farmer and His Wife, “ that I would be very happy to rent to you for a very small fee, where you could keep your very admirable Purple Cow and Purple Bull. The pasture is very green and is surrounded by red and orange colored trees, and I think your Purple Creatures would look splendid there. The pasture is right by the road, and there is much cart traffic that passes by and plenty of places along the very long fence for Admirers to prop themselves against while they do their admiring. “

The Farmer and His Wife agreed that indeed the Purple Cow and the Purple Bull would look splendid on the green grass, surrounded by red and orange colored trees, with lots of room along the fence for Admirers to admire them, and the Farmer and His Wife also thought that the possibility of selling another newly conjured Purple Calfie would increase due to the amount of extra cart traffic and Admirers that would see the lovely Purple Cow and Purple Bull and a newly conjured Purple Calfie.

A deal was struck with Mr. Wardpresser, the rent was paid, and the Purple Cow and Purple Bull went to stay in the big green pasture. There was, indeed, lots more cart traffic and more Admirers. The Farmer’s Wife conjured not one but two new Purple Calfies, as Purple and lovely as a little conjured Purple Calfies can be.

One of the newly conjured Purple Calfies was quickly purchased by an Admirer from the next village for a small bag of gold coins.

As the Farmer’s Wife took the bag of gold coins from the Admirer from the next village, she warned him that, indeed, it was a very special calf, being purple and all, and that he could have the calf to admire, but that she was the only one ever, allowed to make another calf. If he wanted another, he would have to come back to buy it from her. Only she could conjure the Purple Calfie right.

And to remind that Admirer who was buying the Purple Calfie about the Wizard Himself’s Rules, the Farmer’s Wife conjured the same special mark as she’d put on her first Purple Calfie, a circle shape with the letter “C” inside it, (which is the first letter in Calfie, right?) and put the mark on this Purple Calfie’s ear, too, where the Admirer and everyone else could see it.

And off went the Admirer with his new Purple Calfie to his own wee cottage, where he could admire his Purple Calfie to his heart’s content.

Years passed, and the Farmer and his Wife sold other conjured Purple Calfies from time to time, all with the circle shape mark in their ear, and they received enough gold coins from selling them to buy sweet hay for the Purple Cow and Purple Bull, and sometimes even enough for a night of dancing and a wee dram at the local pub. Life was good, thanks to the Purple Calfies.

One sunny day, as hundreds of Admirers leaned against the long fence that surrounded the very green pasture, admiring the Purple Cow and Purple Bull and the three newest Purple Calfies that frolicked in the very green grass, a big man in a very expensive carriage stopped on the road. As he stepped from the carriage, he unrolled a Long Parchment, and nailed it to an interesting Pine tree that stood at the edge of the very big green pasture.

“How very interesting,” said an Admirer. “I wonder who that man is and what’s on that Long Parchment?”

“I am Mr. Nipperest, “ said the very big man from the very expensive carriage, “and I see that all of you are admiring this colorful Purple Cow and Purple Bull and the frolicking Purple Calfies. Wouldn’t you like to have them at your own wee cottages to admire whenever you’d like and not have to inconvenience yourselves by having to travel many miles to do your admiring?”

“Oh, certainly,” said all the Admirers. “We would all like to have them at our own wee cottages, next to our own wee barns, but they belong to the Farmer’s Wife, and while she does sometimes sell the lovely Purple Calfies, not all of us have small bags of gold coins to part with in exchange for a Purple Calfie to admire at our own wee cottages.”

“What if I told you there was a way,” said Mr. Nipperest,” for you to admire the Purple Cow, the Purple Bull and all the Purple Calfies at your own wee cottages, and you would NOT have to pay the Farmer’s Wife any gold coins at all, and besides that, you could do your admiring without having to leave your own wee kitchens and cozy hearths?”

“Not possible!” exclaimed one Admirer.

“Can’t be done,” grumbled another.

“Ah, but, Yes it can!” said Mr. Nipperest, “All you have to know the Secret Word!”

“But we don’t know the secret word,“ said one Admirer to the other Admirers.

“I know the secret word,” said Mr. Nipperest, “And I will tell you All!

“All of us?” questioned an Admirer.

“That would be very nice”, exclaimed the rest of the Admirers. “Please do tell ALL of us the secret word! “

“First, “said Mr. Nipperest,”you each should mark this little square at the bottom of this parchment, agreeing to what is written, and I will immediately tell you the secret word! Then all you have to do is just look at the Purple Cow, or the Purple Bull, or the Purple Calfies, or at ALL of them, say the secret word, and a Purple Cow, Purple Bull, a Purple Calfie, or ALL of them, as you choose, will be in your own wee barns near your very own wee cottages, no matter how far you live from here! Aren’t you amazed?”

“Amazing!!” said all the Admirers.

It took only a moment for all the Admirers to rush to the interesting Pine tree and all make a mark in the box at the bottom of the long Parchment.

“Did you read what’s on the Parchment” asked one Admirer of another? “Nah, it’s all the same to me”, was the reply from the other Admirer.

The Admirers finished marking the box on the long Parchment, and crowded around Mr. Nipperest in eager anticipation.

“We have all marked the box! Now tell us the secret word! We all want a Purple Cow and a Purple Bull and maybe even a Purple Calfie…yes,why not ALL of them?…in our own wee pastures, so that we can admire them whenever we want without having to travel all the way here where the Farmer and His Wife own them and let us admire them.

“Tell us! Tell us!! We ALL want a Purple Cow!”

Drawing himself up full height, Mr. Nipperest proclaimed in a booming voice, “The secret word is… NIP!”

All the Admirers looked at one another in amazement. “That’s it? That’s all we have to do to have our very own Purple Cow? Just say Nip?? How easy can it be?”

The Admirers then turned to the Purple Cow and the Purple Bull and the Purple Calfies and began to shout, “Nip! Nip! Nip!”

“Nip! Nip! Nip!”

When every one of the Admirers had shouted Nip at the Purple Cows, they all hurried home to see if they actually did have a Purple Cow or Purple Bull or Purple Calfie of their own.

Sure as certain, when the Admirers arrived at their own wee cottages and wee barns and wee pastures, there stood their very own Purple Cow or Purple Bull or Purple Calfies, and in most cases, ALL of them, to admire whenever they felt like it. It wasn’t the original Purple Cow and Purple Bull and Purple Calfies, but they looked exactly like them, some even had the special circle mark with the letter “C” inside in their ear, so that was as good as, plus you didn’t have to travel to admire them.

The Admirer’s Neighbors came to see their Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and proclaimed that they wanted some for their own to admire, so the Admirers told them about Mr. Nipperest’s secret word, and how if they just marked an x on his Long Parchment, no need to read what was written, really, just mark the x, and then look at any purple Cow, and say the magic word, “Nip”, and that Purple Cow or Purple Bull or Purple Calfies, or all of them, they would instantly appear in their own wee pasture, too.

“That’s it?, the Neighbors asked. “Just say Nip and I get a Purple Cow, too?”

“ Just say Nip”, replied the Admirers. “That’s all you have to do.”

So the Admirer’s Neighbors tried it, and as quick as you can say Nip, sure as certain, More Purple Cows appeared!

Nip Nip Nip Nip Nip Nip Nip nippity nippity nippity Nip

The Farmer and His Wife visited the Purple Cow and Purple Bull and Purple Calfies every day, bringing them sweet hay, and all seemed well with them, but they couldn’t understand why no one was there leaning on the long fence admiring the Purple Cows “Where are all the Admirers? “ The Farmer asked his wife. “I don’t know,” she replied.

Many months later, one lone Admirer stopped by at the very green pasture where the Purple Cow and The Purple Bull lived with the Purple Calfies. The Farmers Wife, who was there feeding sweet hay to the Purple Cow, asked the lone Admirer, “Where are all the other Admirers? These are some very admirable Cows, but no one seems interested.”

“Oh, they are Very Interested,” answered the lone Admirer, “but they all have their own Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies at their own wee farms to admire now!”

“Their own Purple Cows at their own wee farms?!” exclaimed the Farmers wife. “How can that be? I am the only one who can make and sell Purple Cows,” said the Farmers Wife, “and I’ve only sold a rare few of the Special wee Purple Calfies, and certainly none of the Purple Cows or Purple Bulls! The Wizard Himself made the rule that I am the only one to make and sell the Purple Creatures, and everyone is to follow The Rules! I even put the special mark on the Calfies, right?”

“Oh, but the admirers do have their own Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies. Not these original Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies that you own, but ones that look exactly like these, except the admirers don’t care as long as they don’t have to travel to admire them. “

Mr. Nipperest told us all the secret word, and when we say “NIP”, Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies just magically appear at our own wee cottages! Everybody has a Purple Cow now! Your Purple Cows are so wonderful and colorful that everyone wanted one and now they have one! Aren’t you happy to share the Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies with everyone and get all that nice exposure for them?”

The Farmer’s Wife was rendered speechless, which was actually saying something.

And sure as certain, Purple Cows, Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies were everywhere! People had them in their own wee barns, wee pastures, and wee yards. People gave them to their neighbors who gave them to their friends, who then gave them to their cousin’s friends, and so on, until everyone had their own Purple Cow. There was no need to ever visit the original Purple Cow and Purple Bull and Purple Calfies ever again.

The Farmer’s Wife became distraught. What was happening? Only she was supposed to make Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies! The Wizard Himself had said only she had permission to make Purple Calfies, right? Hadn’t he given her the special circle mark with the “C” in it for just that reason?

How was she going to feed sweet hay to her own Purple Cow and Purple Bull and Purple Calfies if no one came to admire them and no one bought the occasional Purple Calfie, because they were all at their own wee cottages admiring their own Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies and didn’t need to admire hers?

What could she do to stop this?

She decided to go to talk to Mr. Nipperest herself, and see what could be done.

So off she went.

“Oh, there is nothing to be done,” said Mr. Nipperest to The Farmer’s Wife. “Everyone is doing it, “Nipping” Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies. They are very popular. They make people very happy to have them. Don’t you want all these Interested Nippers to be happy? And, by the way, I call them Nippers, not Admirers”

“I want you to stop it this instant!” stormed the Farmers Wife. “Stop telling people the secret word and encouraging them to nip my Purple Cows! The Wizard Himself said I was the only one could make Purple Cows and he had me put a special mark on them to remind everyone that it was only me to make them” exclaimed the Farmer’s Wife. “And if Admirers keep nipping my cows, and no one buys a Purple Calfie because they already have one they’ve nipped, then I won’t be able to buy sweet hay for my own Purple Cow and Purple Bull and the Purple Calfies that live on my wee farm! And the Admirers will forget who I am, and they will forget that it is me alone that can make these Purple Cows!!”

“Not my problem, really,” said Mr. Nipperest. “Oh, indeed, they will know who you are because I asked the Nippers to leave a magic trail of breadcrumbs behind every Purple Cow and Purple Calfie when they were nipped from your large and lovely very green pasture. Granted, some of the breadcrumbs have been eaten by crows, and run over by carts on the roads, and lost to the wind, but it’s not my problem, really.”

“And furthermore, “said Mr. Nipperest, “if the Nippers want to find you, I feel certain that they will give it a try somehow, though it’s not my problem, really. When the Nippers put their mark on the Long Parchment, they agreed to find you themselves, and not bother me about it, so it’s not my problem, really.”

“But I insist you stop the Nipping!” shouted the Farmers Wife. “Those are my Purple Cows and Purple Calfies and Purple Bulls and you cannot have them without my permission! The Wizard Himself has said so!”

By this time, Mr. Nipperest was becoming agitated at all the Farmer’s Wife’s insisting.

“How would we know that the Wizard said it is YOU who are the only one to make Purple Cows?” he snarled at her. “What right do you have to say you are the real one? It is up to you to Prove Yourself to us! You can’t just say it!”

“I am the only real one that can make the Purple Cows, and I will prove it! ”declared the Farmer’s Wife. “And I am going to tell the Wizard Himself! Maybe he will convince you to stop all this nipping of my Purple Cows!”

Mr. Nipperest snorted as he looked down his nose at the Farmer’s Wife. He looked only slightly worried.

Then he handed her a Shorter Long Parchment. “If you make all the Marks necessary for me to believe you, I will show this Shorter Long Parchment with your Marks to my denizens, and maybe, just maybe, if all the Marks are in the right place, and we are satisfied that you are who you say you are, and you show us where you think your Purple Cows are, then maybe we will take them away from the Nippers that have them. We won’t take all of the Purple Cows away from the Nippers, mind you…just the ones that you find for us and prove by marking a Shorter Long Parchment.”

“If what you want to do with your good time is to find ALL of the Purple Cows and have us Un-Nip them ALL, then you will have to keep looking all by yourself” Mr. Nipperest continued. “We won’t do that for you.”
“And if you choose to do this, you will make quite a few Nippers very angry with you, you know that, don’t you?” he sneered.

“If you need more Shorter Long Parchment,” continued Mr. Nipperest, “we have plenty here. That should make the Wizard Himself very happy about us”.

“That’s all.” he finished. ”You must leave now. You are not my problem, really.”

And with that, the Farmer’s Wife found herself holding the Shorter Long Parchment.

The Farmer’s Wife returned to her wee cottage and began following the magic breadcrumbs to find and un-conjure her Nipped Purple Cows and Purple Bulls and Purple Calfies that were all over the place.

The Farmer’s Wife wasn’t able to find all the places where people had placed her Nipped Purple Creatures. Most were lost and wandering deep in the hills and forgotten. Some days she thought she’d found them all, and then another herd would pop up. It became very tiring, marking certain that all the necessary marks on Mr. Nipperest’s Shorter Long Parchment were correct. Un-conjuring Nipped Purple Cows was a far more exhausting magic than conjuring them in the first place, and definitely harder than just Nipping.

And because Nippers just kept nipping each other’s cows over and over, over time, everyone who had nipped a Purple Cow forgot who the Farmer’s Wife was, and that it was she who conjured the original Purple Cow and Purple Bull and Purple Calfies in the first place. The breadcrumbs were long gone. And anyway, there was no need for the Nippers to remember the Farmers Wife, because there was always a Purple Cow handy to nip from another Nipper whenever they felt the need.

To this day, the Farmers wife finds lost herds of Purple Cows wandering the wee villages, lost deep in the hills and long forgotten. They are her Purple Cows, really, and she loves them, so she fills out Mr. Nipperest’s Shorter Long Parchment every time she finds a lost Purple Cow or Purple Bull or Purple Calfie, or ALL of them in a little herd, making certain all the Marks are in the right place to Prove Herself to Mr. Nipperest that she is indeed who she says she is, and that the Wizard Himself gave her the right to make Purple Calfies and no one else unless they asked, and gets them un-nipped so they can stop being lost and wandering or totally forgotten.

The Farmers wife doesn’t conjure Purple Cows or Purple Bulls or Purple Calves anymore. There is no need because Nippers have grown tired of admiring something that everyone has already seen. They seem more Interested in other things.

These days, the Farmers Wife contents herself with conjuring thalo green goats with pink tails and cadmium yellow legs, and chickens with stripes of alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue. But she keeps them to herself in her own wee pasture, by her own wee cottage, on her own wee farm near a small village in a viridian green countryside.

The Farmers Wife is hoping that one day soon a Magician will weave a spell that she can place on all her Colorful Creations before she shows them to admirers, that will keep them all safe and hers and not able to be Nipped, ever.

Until that time, the Farmers wife is a content creator, but does not conjure for anyone but herself, and the world is a bit less colorful because of it.

~the end~ or…to be continued


Midland Arts Association Spring Show 2011

“Would you be interested in being the juror for the Midland Arts Association Spring Art Show at the Museum of the Southwest ? “,  I thought I heard the voice asking from the top end of the phone that was tucked between my ear and my scrunched up shoulder.  My little cordless phone is so difficult to hold that way, slipping down so I’m not always  sure I hear what is being said.  I wiped my hands on the dish towel, took hold of the phone properly with my dry hand, and held it close to my ear.

“Me ?”, I asked, not certain if I had heard correctly, or in entirety.

“Yes. We were hoping that you would be our Juror for the show “.

Well, wow, I thought.  I did hear that right.  How exciting is this?  I felt a little thrill.

I switched to ‘professional’ mode inside my head, keeping the ‘thrilled’ part in semi-control, and discussed all the particulars.  I’d drive to Midland, stay for about 5 days, hotel accommodations taken care of, and mileage.  Could I do a workshop or a demonstration? Certainly…  Do the preliminary judging of entries from my computer, and award $4000. in prizes to the artists at the reception in March…  The voice saying she would call back as she got more information, was pleased that I had accepted…

The phone clunked into the holder. I stood next to it for a moment letting everything sink in.

“Holy Smokes. They asked me.”

Nobody but the dog saw me do my little happy dance.


I joined the Midland Arts Association in Midland, Texas in the late 1970’s, shortly after having moved to Midland from Austin.  The Midland Arts Association sponsored two juried shows then, one in the Spring, one in the Fall.  I entered both shows each year, sometimes having work accepted, sometimes not, sometimes receiving an award, sometimes not.

The Midland Arts Association Spring Show was first exhibited at the Museum of the Southwest in 1987, in the Stables Gallery, with Kathleen Cook as Juror.  I was delighted to have a work accepted that year and to receive an honorable mention.

The MAA shows were some of my first professional competitions.  I have saved in my “MAA  file” a printed program from the 1979 MAA Fall Regional Art and Craft Exhibit, at the McCormick Gallery, Allison Fine Arts Building at Midland College, that I believe was my first MAA show.  I kept all of my programs for the other years I had entered, with the last one being the Spring Art show at the Museum of the Southwest in 1993,  the year before I move away from Midland to Tucson, Arizona.

I have stood many times in the crowd of artists at the receptions, hoping to hear the juror explain why a piece of my art was selected, or why another’s art was selected and not mine. I have felt myself fumble with a check or a certificate taken from the hand of the juror, heard myself stumble over the words ‘thank you’.  I recall the self-conscious feeling of stepping back into the crowd, looking down at the envelope, wondering what to do with it that would appear gracious, feeling other artist’s eyes on me.  Or remember feeling disappointed at not winning any prizes, thinking that I was just going to swear off competitions, and what did that juror really know, anyway, when it was obvious that my work was as good as this one or that?

Finding myself in the position of being the one doing the judging, I approached the job with genuine awareness of what it feels like to be the artist in the crowd.

My first experience of the art to be judged was determined by the photo files viewed from the CD of entries and displayed on my computer screen.   I spent many hours looking at and familiarizing myself with each and every piece, and feel that I came to know each artwork intimately.

It was not easy for me to want to eliminate any artwork from the entries. I found something creative in each piece.

But there was one weakness that I came across on more than one occasion,  often the subtle determining factor for elimination.  It was the small miscalculations in composition.  A piece might be generally pleasing, well crafted, and “almost” there with composition, but I could mentally crop something closer, or eliminate an element in the composition, or reposition the center of interest to make the composition stronger. Sometimes it was a matter of the tiniest of increments.  If I found myself doing that mental cropping with a piece, I inevitably, eliminated that piece.

When I viewed the actual art that I had chosen, displayed in the Museum in preparation for awarding the prizes, most pieces exceeded my expectations.

There were some pieces that I had felt very positively about when I chose them, that missed receiving awards based solely on  the framing.  That might seem an unusual criteria for judging an artwork, but a frame, or the condition of the frame, is an integral part of the entire piece.    As a juror, I did not want to notice a frame, see anything broken, soiled, or busy so that it interfered with the art.  I didn’t want to see a frame too cramped around the art, where an expansive frame would have enhanced.  I didn’t want to see a colorful mat where a white one or a museum grey one would have set the art like a jewel.

That being said, the condition of framing could not be determined before the work arrived. Displaying an artwork in a museum setting is a privilege that should engender respect. It behooves the artist that enters an artwork into an exhibit to insure the work and framing is pristine.

What surprised me most of all was work that was accepted was not shipped or delivered to the Museum to be shown.   There were some very strong pieces that I accepted for the show that did not arrive. I am sad about that. I really was curious to see them.

I did say in my juror’s statement, “… my choices were those pieces that immediately caught my attention, drew me in, and then held my interest.   The artworks that I chose are strong, sure and direct.  They showed me characteristics of intense desire to express creativity, masterful technical skills, or that spark that satisfied my visual curiosity.”  I think the show reflects that statement.

I loved the experience of being your juror. I was inspired to work hard to make my selections.

Every artist that has work showing at the Museum of the Southwest should feel very proud to have work there. The Museum is a treasured venue for artists.

Please visit the show often, and bring friends to see your work! Please enjoy the results of many hours of work and preparation from artists,  museum staff and members of the Midland Arts Association.

Thanks to Sara Drescher, Karen Lanier, Diane Newland, Mark Cox, Jenni Opalinski, Cristi Branum, The Museum of the Southwest, and The Midland Arts Association.


Don’t Quit Your Day Job


There was a time when I fantasized about being a rich and famous artist.

I was going to live in a brownstone apartment or a loft in New York City, and cut the artistic figure, walking my harlequin Great Dane down the city sidewalks with my portfolio tucked under my arm.  I would stop by the Gallery that showed my work exclusively and pick up my check for my latest sold out exhibition, stop off at the quaint little bistro for a cup of coffee, sign autographs for the adoring fans that recognized me (they probably know it’s me because of the dog), and then head over to the Johnny Carson Show for my interview.

When the reality of the cost of keeping a Great Dane, harlequin or otherwise, finally hit me, I gave up the whole idea.

Fast forward some thirty years.

I decided to give this artist thing another shot, sans the big dog, and the brownstone, and the famous. I was shooting for “making a living”.

 I have never been a proponent of the whole “starving artist” mystique. I had always preferred the idea of eating at regular intervals, and having a roof over my head and keeping the wolves away from the door.  I sat down with paper and pencil and tried to figure out how much art I would have to produce, at the average cost at which I was actually selling it, to cover the amount of living expenses I was accruing at the time.

The numbers, once crunched, were abysmal.

During my most financially productive artistic period, before the turn of the century, I was making the grand sum of about $1.29 an hour.  Even by 20th Century standards that was pffffffft.

I vowed never to do the math, ever again.

 Until now.

I have been keeping fairly productive with my Drawing A Day project, and I like the little drawings that I am creating. I have priced them in a reasonable manner for the talent/effort ratio required to produce each one.

For those of you who might wonder whether making art is a good career choice for me, here’s the math:

If I make one $100. drawing per day, for 365 days of the year, I have the potential of earning $36,500. 

 That’s  before taxes.

That’s also if  I sell anything. That’s also if I actually do make one a day, no stopping for weekends or holidays.

To date, I have given away 4 pieces from my Drawing A Day project,  sold four,  kept three of them for myself, and I have my eye on a few more that I’d like to keep.

At this rate, I might break the $500 mark for the year.

I am not going to break it down by the hour. I am just  not  going to do that.

But  I do have a new fantasy.  A nice house in the desert, a very understanding husband who keeps the wolves from the door, and a black and white dog of a much more economical size.

If you need an autograph, I’ll meet you at the Starbucks…


someone elses photograph

How often has this happened to you?

You are flipping through an art magazine, or a National Geographic, or looking on Flickr, and you come across a photograph that is so great that you can’t wait to pull out your pencils and spend a relaxing afternoon making art using that inspiring photograph.

Sound familiar?

Hold on a minute!   Put down that Prismacolor! Drop the Derwent!

Whose photograph is it?

I know, I know…why does it matter?  You’re just going to do a little sketching, and it’s such an inspiring photo, and who’s going to notice? All you are going to do is spend a nice afternoon doodling…

That’s fine. You certainly can use the photograph to practice.  It’s a perfect tool for that. Using a photograph lets you take as much time as you need because you don’t have to be concerned with a model moving or growing tired.  You don’t have to worry about a still life set-up being eaten by folks who might stop by to watch you draw.

Here’s the deal…

What if all your hard work practicing making art all comes together in this one piece of art?   The shadows are just right, the perspective is spot on, the orange looks like an orange. You are so proud of it, and rightly so. It’s a real work of art!

Your result is so grand that you want to show it at the next gallery show, and maybe make and sell some prints of  it to kick off your art career. Your drawing is a winner and you know it. You can almost see the red “sold” dots at the gallery, and hear the cha-ching of the money rolling in…

Wait a minute. Go back to the question, “Whose photograph is it?”

I don’t want to say this, but better you hear it from me than from the copyright lawyer that represents the photographer, or the artist whose winning painting in the arts magazine you used for practice.

Here’s my little warning lecture, and then you can get back to your drawing…

If you make a great piece of art from someone elses photograph, without permission, you can’t ever sell it.  Period.  Really.

And you can’t display it as yours.

And you don’t want to risk selling it or displaying it in the hope that you won’t get caught. Caught happens.

It doesn’t matter that you drew the piece of art. You did not take the photo. You would be “infringing the copyrights” of the photographer. That sounds so technical, but think of “infringing” to be exactly like you opening that photographers wallet and taking out a few bucks without him knowing.

Be warned… if you were to take one of my photographs, draw a picture of it or from it, without getting my express permission to use it for your own personal gain, or to sell in your online store, or display it at an art show,  I would have to hunt you down with my lawyer in tow (he’s got a cute little briefcase full of documents, and he wears a bowtie) and extract my money from your wallet.

You could of course ask permission from me, the photographer. You might get a “yes”, and if you were serious about wanting to reproduce and sell the art you make from the photograph, you and the photographer could reach an agreement about you paying him a flat fee for use, or a percentage of sales for the privilege. That would be called a licensing agreement.

Can you never use a photograph to draw from? Are you destined to have to worry about the model having an itchy nose, or the apple being too tempting?

Not  at all.  Here is what you can do…

Buy a camera, and take your own pictures!  Then you can use your own photographs to make works of art to your ‘arts content.

And you won’t ever have to meet my guy with the bowtie.


Copyright Act of 1976

Harvard Law School

Rogers vs Koons

If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

It is a classic question, and I expect those with a more scientific bent will have an answer.

But I have a different question, albeit similar…

Would art galleries exist if artists didn’t display art there ?

On the re-read, it does seem like I loaded the question, but it is a question I had to formulate to examine the premise. I have postulated the question before, and it resurfaced recently in a discussion I had with a friend. We were discussing why I didn’t show my work in galleries, and I told him my position.

I explained that galleries typically require between 40% and 60% of the selling price of a work to be retained by the gallery. I object to that percentage on a number of levels, but mostly because I am greedy, and want to keep all the money my art would command all for myself.

OK. I am not greedy, but doesn’t that seem as if it renders the artist a “manufacturer”, or less, of art that is sold as a product in the gallery?

Some of the discussion was:  Galleries have upkeep. Galleries do all the promotion and locate buyers. Why do they have to charge so much? Do they require exclusive rights to the artist, preventing the artist from selling anywhere else?

My position is that if artists didn’t allow for such high percentages, that galleries would have to come in line with lower percentages or stop existing as galleries for lack of artist participation.

Of course, me being the only one that feels this way renders me powerless, and gallery-less.

I invite you all to contribute your views to enhance this discussion.

Extra points if you agree with me.