In this final installment of Suzie Baker’s interview, she shares her color theory, how to achieve atmospheric perspective and color harmony. Finally, she addresses the subject of art marketing. As I’ve stated before, Baker’s paintings are lively and full of joy; with that in mind, I wondered how she knows when a painting is finished. “It’s finished when it looks the way I intended it to look in my head before I started painting. Admittedly though, I’ve got a box of paintings in my studio that merit some more attention. As time passes, it’s common to come upon solutions to old problems and want to apply them to good paintings that could be better.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview with Suzie Baker. (Click on images to enlarge)
What colors are typically on your palette? This is often a sticky question for me to answer because my palette grows and shrinks in various situations. Here are the usual suspects though. Transparent Red Oxide (this replaced burnt sienna a while back and I love it for it’s color and transparent quality), Quinacridone Red, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Blue, Indian Yellow, Cad Yellow Light or Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ocher, Titanium White, and Solvent Free Gel.
Do you have a color philosophy? When I began to teach, I realized that I did a lot of things intuitively while painting that I needed to put into words in such a way that students could understand and apply them. The color section of my workshop lecture is full of information about color theory, how light and color relate, and how that knowledge allows artists to understand what they are seeing in order to make intentional decisions about color. I’ve been asked in the middle of my lecture, “Can’t I just paint what I see?” My response was, ‘Of course you can’, but for me, and many others, it’s helpful to know why it happens so that you can look for it and push the effect, if you choose.
How do you achieve color harmony? There are lots of ways to achieve color harmony. I may use some or all of these techniques in a single painting: Toning, limited palette, a limited number of brushes, and making use of those palette greys and mother pools I referred to earlier.
How do you achieve atmospheric perspective? Understanding how light affects color and knowing how atmospheric perspective works, allows the artists to make color choices that benefit the painting. I apply atmospheric perspective by making a background, or even a middle ground, cooler, less distinct and lighter in value. This is an effective way to direct the viewer’s attention and imply depth and distance on a two-dimensional surface.
Please put these words in order: color, composition, framing, drawing, technique, value, concept. Can I put them in a triangle instead? These elements work together to make a masterful painting. Notice, I left off framing – framing is two things; it’s the first four lines of your composition, and it’s presentation. The perfect frame should be like a good bridesmaid, she makes the bride look good without drawing too much attention to herself.
How do you use your website to sell your work? Currently, I don’t sell my work online. I use my website to sell myself rather than specific paintings. I use it to showcase my work to galleries, collectors, event planners, magazine editors, workshop students and the public in general. If you are going to be a professional artist, you can’t do it without a website. I use a site builder called Good Gallery, which happens to be owned by my exceptionally talented brother, Rob Greer – google him, he’s a fantastic photographer. He designed the site specifically for photographers to be an image forward platform. I’m very pleased with it. Thanks Rob!
How do you promote and sell your work other than through galleries and website? This is a good time to ask that question. I just wrapped up my financial year from 2017 so it’s easy to tell what generated income. 72% came from painting sales and 19% from workshops with the remaining 9% coming from prize money and various sources. Those painting sales came from: plein air events, workshops students, direct sales, commissions and galleries, in that order. On the expenses side, travel took the top spot at nearly 30% with art supplies (including framing) at 20%. File that under the category, “It takes money to make money.” Making a living as an artist is a bit of a snow ball effect. You start small and build up as you roll along. Sometimes you have a nice slope to roll down and sometimes it’s more of a slog. As far as self-promotion goes, I have my website; I stay active on social media, including Facebook and Instagram; I send emails out to my distribution list; I have a public profile through Artwork Archive, and I run occasional ads. I enter competitions and consider the cost of submitting to shows a marketing expense. I think attending exhibitions and conventions is a significant element of self-promotion too. These events allow artists to meet and network with magazines reps, vendors, other artists, all while seeing great artwork and presentations.
Here is a quote that, years ago, my mentor Rich Nelson shared with me, that his mentor shared with him. I hope it strikes home with you too. “Making it in this business is a two-step process: Step one, get good, step two, get out there, the better you are at step one, the better step two will go.” Bart Lindstrom
Have you set career goals; is that an important thing to do, and how do you go about achieving them? Yes! I cannot overstate the importance goal-setting has had on my career. Starting in 2010, I began setting yearly goals related to making progress in my business and artistic development. Early on, those goals revolved around getting my digital house in order and advancing the weak areas of my artistic skills. I set goals to enter shows and attended openings and conventions. In doing so, a quick glance at the level of work being produced on the national level in shows such as the OPA National Exhibition and the Portrait Society let me know that I needed to raise the bar in my work. I took a sober assessment and asked myself what was between me and that bar, then set to the tasks of lifting the level of my work. Even now, I look at the year ahead and develop some strategic objectives to complement those earlier goals.
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE
His work may be found in the following fine galleries: