The duel: Paint brushes or back brushes

Posted on

Better known as the Royal Brush Off.

Banners and flags welcome visitors to our show at the Highlands Art Gallery in Lambertville, NJ.


Cheryl Macdowall, owner of the Highlands Art Gallery in Lambertville, NJ, said we would have fun…and boy, was she right. “He Said, She Said” is my first show with the gallery and runs through 24 November. Cheryl’s way of introducing me to a new audience in the Northeast was to team me up with one of the gallery’s most popular artists, Elizabeth Robbins. (Click images to enlarge)

Banners and cards helped promote the show.

Clowning under one of the banners.

Elizabeth Robbins, John Pototschnik, and gallery owner, Cheryl Macdowall in front of the gallery.


Cheryl, being the creative person she is, saw in the two of us some significant contrasts which prompted the show’s title. Here are a few of the contrasts I noticed: Liz is female, I’m male. She has long hair, mine is receding (to say the least). She is young and cute, I am older, wrinkled, and graying. She primarily paints flowers, I paint landscapes. She paints rapidly with little preliminary drawing, I paint slowly with careful preliminary drawing. She gets right into color, I generally begin carefully with a monochromatic block-in. She uses an extensive palette of colors, I most often use a limited palette of just three primaries. She has her opinions, I have mine.

Liz and I had so much fun with the “He Said, She Said” theme. The opening on the 19th and 20th was a fun filled paint brush duel that she easily won. She completed three medium size demos, selling two of them, while I managed two smaller paintings, completing neither, but selling one of them when it’s completed.


Here’s a link to a short video of Elizabeth’s demonstration:

Elizabeth Robbins at work on one of her demos.

One of the beautiful demos, Robbins completed and sold.

One of two uncompleted demos I worked on during the opening.


Here’s a link to a short video of me you might enjoy:

A wonderful and very funny tangent to our show, which we played to the hilt, was when Liz sent me an email expressing how honored she was to have a shower with me. Responding, I told her that I did not realize our show would also include a shower together. She posted that titillating bit of correspondence on Facebook and it took off from there. And, what happened next? Cheryl, ever alert to an opportunity to have some fun, created this photo.

Shower caps and back brushes.


During the opening, one of Liz’s friends showed up with shower caps. We just had to try them on.


Kenn Backhaus, Oil Painters of America Master Artist, who lives about 30 minutes from the gallery, was in attendance for the opening. He was so kind and generous with his time, as he helped Cheryl unpack paintings, hang the show, and gladly lent his help to Liz and I whenever needed…even promoting our work to those that visited the gallery. There will be more about our time together coming over the next two weeks.

Cheryl Macdowall


Cheryl Macdowall is a pretty savvy gallery owner, so I’ve asked her to share some of her expertise with us. I know you’ll appreciate this.

How did you get into the gallery business; when and why?  I have always been interested in art.  Because of my attraction to the visual arts, I began collecting at the very young age of 19.  During that time period I would travel often, which gave me the opportunity to discover pieces of art that I ended up purchasing and sending home. This interest of collecting art continued to a point where I wanted to have the opportunity to share my passion with others. I came to the realization that the best way to accomplish this was to open a gallery that would not only continue to feed my passion, but give others the opportunity to collect art as well. My dream came true in 2006 when I opened the doors of Highlands Art Gallery.

What qualities must a good gallery owner possess?  Communication skills are paramount in this profession. Communicating, not only with prospective collectors but the creative sources…the artists themselves. Business management is an obvious skill that is tested time and time again. One’s skills as a gallery owner develop over time as various situations arise and are resolved. Developing creative ways to market artwork in an ever changing world is no different than any other business. Success comes with passion, dedication, creativity, fortitude, perseverance and continual education.

What makes a good gallery great?  First and foremost, a gallery’s stable of artists is the key. Representing professional artists that create a consistent quality of art makes a lasting, favorable impression on all who visit. Having a good sense of mixing various styles of art without confusing the viewer is also important. Displaying representational works alongside abstract works, for example, can send a confusing message. Since my gallery displays only representational art, I feel that blending not only a diversity of subject matter, but a variety of approaches to the subject matter, creates a wide spectrum of artwork attractive to collectors. Providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere to all that enter the gallery and offering a wide range of price points are also helpful in enticing new art purchasers and seasoned collectors alike.

How do you select your artists?  My artist selection process includes the following key factors: experience, proficiency, knowledge, integrity and creativity. Serious collectors are interested in whose work they are placing in their collections. Searching out artists that can consistently deliver high quality works, backed up with an established and credible pedigree, should be of importance to the gallery owner. When adding artists to my gallery roster, many have come through referrals by existing gallery artists. I do take into consideration whether a potential new artist can add more variety to the gallery’s present body of work…creating interest for collectors without compromising existing artists.

What suggestions do you have for artists searching for gallery representation? 

1 – When considering various galleries, the artist should compare their artwork with other gallery artist’s works in a most honest fashion.

2 – Where and how do you feel your artworks are best placed and marketable?

3 – Recognize your work as to genre, style and price points when searching out gallery representation. Try to select a gallery where your artworks would not only blend in but that your pieces would add to the gallery’s selections!

4 – With your prospective gallery list finally narrowed down, call first to see if the gallery would review new artist’s works. Be professional in every sense – make an appointment. Self-appearance and the presentation of your work are very important.

5 – Produce a biography and keep it current with your accomplishments. Create a leave behind brochure or card that shows an image or two representing your work.

6 – Research ahead to see what visual mediums are best when showing your works to prospective galleries, eg. images of your work on a thumbdrive, etc.

What do you, or what should, galleries expect from the artists they represent?  As a gallery owner, I expect the artists to the best of their ability to:

1 – Have a proper understanding of the materials used in producing their works for archival proposes.

2 – Frame the artworks appropriately for sale in a gallery setting.

3 – Have a good sense of professional business ethics, such as establishing pricing that is consistent across the board with all venues that represent your work, including your own studio sales.

4 – Periodically replenish with new artworks.

5 – Be willing to participate in some of the gallery’s marketed events and shows.

6 – Keep your biographies current, including the addition of major accomplishments. The gallery uses this information for marketing purposes.

These are just a sampling of topics that should be addressed and dealt with between the artist and the gallery.


Next week: Our visit to the Met.

***If you would like to receive this weekly blog automatically, please complete the simple form to the right of this page.


I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest teaching video and book. The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, “Limited Palette Landscape”, include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)

To own an original painting from the book, please click HERE


John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master. To view his art and bio, please click HERE.


Please Note - You must be logged into a Facebook account in order to write comments. We highly recommend using Google Chrome, Fire Fox, or Internet Explorer since some individuals have not been able to leave comments on the Safari browser. If you have any issues, please email me.