Tag Archives: contemporary portrait paintings

Solo Show in the Spring

With a solo show in a proper gallery in the spring, I admit I kinda winced when these two all-time favorites sold this past week. I haven’t held any back for myself (or the show), but if I was doing that, these two would have been marked not for sale.

“The Scarf #2” is from 2018 and “No Hat #705” is from October 2019.

The Scarf #2 800

No Hat #705 800

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How I made $90,000 selling paintings online

 

I’m living my dream. After years of living other dreams (singer, novelist) I’m now living my original dream. To make a living as a painter. I always imagined this would require a gallery, but, as it turns out, it doesn’t.

I started painting faces in my room as a young teenager. 11 x 17″ watercolor self-portraits in the mirror. Over the years, I showed them to special people in my life, but then, when color laser copying became viable, I showed them in a limited way at events I sang at with my voice and guitar rock duo.

What was more important than being technically incredible was the emotion on the faces. My face. My emotions.

My parents were both painters and I picked up a lot from them in terms of composition and technique, but neither of them painted people. All of this is uniquely complicated in the way that every teenager feels overwhelmed by their relationships as they emerge from childhood. I went to art school for a while, but I was so keen to leave home that I opted for a full time job in a newspaper production department and painted in my spare time. Life unfurled for the next 40 years, twisting and turning in ways that I had not expected! Releasing albums and touring with my band. Which brings us to now.

How I Made large NEW 1200 Word Press

“I’ve sold 900 $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″) online in 4 years.” – Jean Smith

I don’t have a million followers, but of the ones I do have really appreciate being able to buy good art for an affordable price. I have 2667 friends on FaceBook, 815 followers on Twitter and 1161 followers on Instagram.

It certainly helps that I am in a band that has a reputation for creating work that intends to create progressive social change, but I’d say most of my customers didn’t know my band before they started collecting my paintings.

Dealing with elderly parents and housing issues while painting almost every day has resulted in me revealing what is going on in my personal life. This came easily enough to me because I’m a writer and a public person. I would say that allowing people to know me is part of the appeal for a buyer of work online.

The housing issue I’m facing isn’t unique. As the economy changes and drives artists away from urban centers cities become less culturally vital. This is very unfortunate, yet it holds potential for structuring life in places that are conducive to creativity that doesn’t necessarily rely on external stimuli. Often where there is peace and quiet, there is less pressure to earn the astronomical amounts that city-living requires. Maybe lowering overhead results in being able to quit a part-time joe job.

The possibility that I may have to leave my rental unit and find a place in uncharted territory in western Canada has become something of a group project, which is perfect, because once I’m set up I don’t want to sit alone in some small town where I don’t know anyone. I want artists (painters, film makers, writers, musicians) from all over to come and stay for free while they work on projects that intend to change the world.

Friend me on FaceBook to see paintings first. It would be great if you mentioned seeing this article.

Below this example – my most recent painting are tips for selling  paintings online

No Hat #754 800

“No Hat #754″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) December 8, 2019
$100 USD plus shipping

1. I paint and post new work almost every day (4 years in January, 2020).
2. The work has always been good, but is advancing by leaps and bounds.
3. The price is low at $100 USD (11 x 14″) and has never gone up.
4. I ship for a flat rate of $15 that includes tracking and insurance.
5. The theme is consistent: emotions on women’s faces.
6. My personal stories allow customers to know me.
7. I emailed one pitch and got lucky when the Jealous Curator posted my paintings saying: “First, oh my word I love these portraits so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story.” This promotion tripled sales (to 50) that month before settling at about twice what they were before.
8. I track my sales by month and post how many have sold (which has been a gradual increase aiming for 30 a month) to create engagement in the process.

9. Once I was earning more than I needed I created a goal for what I intend to do with the money from sales above my expenses.
10. My paintings are inherently collectable (size, price, theme) and I encourage owning more than one by creating a repeating post called “There’s something about these three together.”
11. I always show the painting again when it sells and say where it’s going and sometimes to whom.
12. I maintain albums of currently available, all paintings, SOLD, various themes (astronauts, scuba divers, aviators, angry women in rock, ruff collars) that allow viewers to engage in ways that suit their viewing proclivities.
13. I post new work around the same time every day.

Scuba # 800

“Scuba #6″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) October 24, 2019
$100 USD plus shipping

help me

I have gone out to community events like Art Walks and Car Free Days, but this didn’t really pay off in an way as far as sales. I’m on the left. Met some very nice people though!

I’ve tried a bit of what I can glean about SEO (following bits of random advice including adding the phrase “contemporary portrait painting” to my blog posts), but it hasn’t changed anything noticeably. I try to let go of ideas that aren’t working (direct emails to interior designers) and stick with what does work. Paint every day and post on FaceBook. Some people tell me to raise my prices, but I think I’d just sell fewer paintings. I like the pace of painting every day and selling about half of what I do. I’m working on increasing that, but as I’m doing this alone, I need to make sure I keep painting, and then there’s the packaging and shipping. All very time consuming.

There are elements that would be difficult for anyone else to re-create, such as being in a band that has put out records and toured a lot (mostly in the 80s and 90s) as well as having an existing ease with revealing my personal life due to having done a ton of interviews over the years. I imagine that a painter could use social media to let people get to know themselves, but there’s also something to be said for being private and mysterious. I probably don’t need to tell you that cultivating an image of some sort might be helpful.

Mecca Normal (Jean Smith & David Lester)

My band Mecca Normal rocking out at a literary event at the library.


TERRY

Fantastic display by one of my customers, an interior designer in Ontario.

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Interior Designer Special

$100 USD // $130 CAD
11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel
800+ SOLD

INTERIOR DESIGNER SPECIAL:
FREE shipping 4 – 6 paintings (USA & Canada)

Hundreds of Paintings Available

“Oh my word, I love these portraits so, so, so much.”
The Jealous Curator

CUSTOMERS:
– painting instructors from the Yale School of Art, the University of British Columbia and the Art Institute of Chicago
– painters whose work has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Biennial, 2014 in New York City
– art critics for Artfourm Magazine and the Winnipeg Free Press
– interior designer in ‘cottage country’ Ontario
– architect in Atlanta
– a few indie rock luminaries including (Kathleen Hanna and Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill, Tara Jane O’Neil, Julie Doiron, Johanna Fateman)

SHIPPING:
up to 6 for $15 USD to USA //$15 CAD in Canada – email me for Interior Designer Rate! Vancouver – delivery or retail pick up at E. Broadway and Victoria Drive

CONTACT:
meccanormal@hotmail.com

 

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The Phone # 800

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Interview

“When we make things, we find our associates and allies. We find our communities, and everything that comes along with that, including the power to resist and reasons for actual joy.” – Jean Smith interview with Jes Reyes

I’ll be opening the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change in 2020. I had hoped to buy a place outright, but now I’m considering a mortgage situation because the location I want to be in is more expensive than simply buying the crappiest house in the province outright. There is very good reason to be on one of the gulf islands off the west coast of Canada. Basically, it will be for artists in any discipline who are working on projects that intend to change the world. I need space for the writer’s cabin. Soundproofed rehearsal studio. Painting studio. Accommodations, etc. I’m getting very close now! I’ll be the owner and it will be legally bequeathed to an activist art group yet to be named.

When I realized I was making more money than I needed, I decided to bring my Facebook audience into the process, making them aware that first, the paintings are both very good and very cheap, and, at this point, only available from me. They want to see the residency program realized. Many of them will want to come and stay there.

All sales above my $1000 USD monthly expenses go towards buying property and opening the facility.

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Video: $100 USD paintings currently available

Midway through every month I put together a video of all the $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″) available. Music by Mecca Normal with part of a CKUT interview near the end.

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Video: Currently Available

$100 USD portrait paintings available (14 x 11″ acrylic on canvas panel and paper). Music by Mecca Normal (Jean Smith and David Lester).

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Notes on Four Paintings

No Hat #373 800“No Hat #373″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD plus shipping

This was probably around the time I started considering each eye as a distinct way to convey different emotions simultaneously. I think prior to this I thought of the eyes as matching. Having said that, I don’t set out to convey specific emotions. They emerge, evolve and eventually stabilize based on how they jive with other elements in the painting — including color and composition. There are a few other things going on here — likely because I was thinking about the eyes differently. The mouth and nose are from a straight on perspective while the eyes are more from a semi-profile. There’s a weird pop art realism about the mouth that doesn’t carry over into the other feature, but it affects how everything else is seen. I think I’d been adding highlight for a while, but in this one it’s quite prevalent — especially how it’s used beside the nostrils to give the nose its length.

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“She’s No Picnic #2″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD plus shipping

I did the first “No Picnic” around 2003 as a self-portrait. It was something someone said to me (you’re no picnic either) during an argument in the late 1990s and I think we both laughed and likely stopped arguing. The somewhat charming nature of the comment stuck with me and when I did the original painting I was angry about something specific (interpersonal dynamics) and the old-timey expression brought up both the long history of oppression and how idioms surface in a pinch to squelch rogue female outbursts.

Patriarchal conditionings strongly encourage women to look certain ways’ (pretty, sexy, calm, loving, approachable, passive, interested) and when episodes of injustice occur we might always be somewhat mindful that we are not supposed to look angry.

The kind of anger in this painting, is when you feel you’ve been unfairly dealt within a protected system that supports injustice to ensure that some other group benefits. This anger is hinged to understanding, but not accepting that you are unable to correct the misconceptions that other person apparently holds and really, showing them a display of anger like this might actually work against you, but since it’s all hopeless anyway, you go for it. That kind of anger.

Rarely would I delve back into the emotional landscape of a specific event to dredge up an emotion, but this is isolated within both the painting and my history, and yet highly transferable to anyone who cares to relate to the intensity.

Also, as far as titles (and other text) go, I don’t usually include language-based information. Obviously, as a writer, I could — and it seems popular to weight art with a titles as an informative element — but within the parameters of my online project I feel that because of the depth of my art-making history, working without overarching conceptualism is part of what I’m doing. This has to do with trusting me and trust is an important part of the project.

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“No Hat #501″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD plus shipping

I’d say this is mostly about the various amounts of specific colours and how they work together within the composition. The photo I’m working from is lit with a gold light on the left and a blue light on the right. With the face being mostly a yellow (to which purple is the complementary colour) I adjust the amount of the cooler colours (blue and purple) to push the yellow / the face adequately into the featured position. This is also accomplished by the use of the splayed / distressed brush I use for the hair — I suspect all those little parallel lines are interpreted as a singular plane of representation — a solid thing. And, considering how we regard hair culturally as a a unified shape rather than individual strands, i have that working in my favour as well.

It feels like a great luxury for me to have the bangs resonate with the ribbing of the turtleneck. One of the handful of things my mom taught me was that if you’re going to have something running off the top, you need to have something running off the bottom. Same with sides. Sometimes when I paint the top of the head and obviously the neck runs off the bottom, I consider other ways to achieve a compositional ‘running off the top’ whether it’s in the colour or texture of the background — or almost the reverse of the rule: neck and shoulders so pronounced, so overtly weighted on the bottom, that the sense of it being a human subject overwhelms the compositional rule. It also helps that blue recedes, pushing the face forward.

 

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“No Hat #368″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD plus shipping

The interruption in panel of reddish brown on the left (aka the hair) would have been done with the side of my hand sweeping left for whatever reason. One quick swipe on the edge of my little finger and down the hand. Obviously I knew the paint was still wet enough to move, and I would have been aware of what was beneath it, knowing it would be revealed — that is to say, I knew the background was dry. Why was I swiping away paint? There may have been a build up of paint, a bead of raised pigment that I avoid and remove as necessary. Some soft and or long brushes, depending on how much paint they’re loaded with, create a line on both traveling edges as opposed the their travelling breadth. It’s like a snow shovel that pushes snow to the outside as it scrapes along the sidewalk — and let’s face it, sometimes brushes are moving paint more than applying paint. So let’s get that out of the way (pardon the pun).

Anyway, I swiped and I guess there was a surplus of wet paint above the swipe. It looks like I held the painting upright to get that surplus to trickle across the newly exposed surface. I wasn’t essentially trying to achieve what was achieved, but since it’s there, let’s talk about it. I very frequently create a strong line on the right side where the hair meets the background, then, on the left side, I create a less strong line. In fact, I almost always do this since I watched a YouTube video of a convicted art forger who was demonstrating some of John Singer Sargent’s tricks. The right side, being a crisper line, pushes forward, while the blurrier line on the left recedes. It would be like taking a photo with a short depth of field (the are in focus), so that even a line set back by mere inches would be blurrier than the where the lens was focused. Doing this in a painting serves to inform our brain that we’re looking at something convincingly realistic. I like creating this in the brain to then work with looser features that are fortified by a touch of realism in various ways. So there is almost always some place on the surface of my paintings that works this way — in conflict or colluding with realism, foisting it forward to disagree with it in abstract nuances — all within the face and hair, a heightened arena of emotional revelations.

So, the hyperrealism of the drips (without any help from me… I did not articulate drips of paint; they arrived as themselves) pop out at us thus creating a good deal of space between them and where the reddish brown hair was wiped away, which is now even farther back than the farthest point on the painting (thanks to Sargent).

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