Monday, June 13, 2016

Collecting Fine Art - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about different places you can go to see art in person. Today I'll go over how to search for art online. As I am sure many of you know, searching the web can be difficult in that you get too many results, unless you know the name of a particular artist you already know and like. So, as an artist, where do I put my artwork?

For me, my primary web presence is my website. I also have this blog (which I need to update more regularly), and Facebook is an increasing resource for me. I have sold pieces by posting them on my Facebook page, even though I don't list my prices there or push for sales. Many other fine artists use Etsy, Instagram, Pinterest, and even eBay to show or sell their work.

Of course, the trick is finding the right artists' websites, blogs, social media pages, or Etsy shops in the first place. Here, it helps to narrow your focus. Take, for example, wildlife art. When I Google "wildlife art," I get 14.9 million results. No one is going to sift through all of that (though I am proud to say that, as of this writing, my website is on page 6!). On the first page of results, after the ads, I find the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Artists for Conservation, Fine Art America, Wikipedia, Wildlife Art Magazine, John Banovich, eBay, and Art Saving Wildlife. The National Museum of Wildlife Art is a physical building, so you'll get all the museum's goings-on in addition to images of artwork. Artists for Conservation is a collection of many artists who donate a portion of their sales to wildlife conservation, something which may or may not be of importance to you. Fine Art America is a non-juried collection of artists from all over the world, including myself. This Google link takes you to the results of a "wildlife" search on their site. From FAA, you can buy prints online, or contact individual artists for original works of art. Wikipedia is just an article defining wildlife art, and so on. Several of these are great places to start looking, while others may be interesting but won't get you anywhere.

If there is a particular medium or style you like, you can look up organizations such as the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, the Colored Pencil Society of America, or the Art Renewal Center for realist art. Most of these organizations will have an online gallery, or at least a list, of their members that you can view. In fact, part of the membership fees of these organizations typically goes toward setting up an online listing for the artists - we are paying for that exposure.

Searching for art online has its own advantages and disadvantages. It's easy to do from your own home, or on your phone while waiting at the airport. But it truly is overwhelming unless you know what you want. So take a look at a large, searchable collection like Fine Art America, Red Bubble, Etsy, and the like to see what sparks your interest, and refine your web searches. You can also search for galleries, online auctions, and other kinds of art dealers.

For some other tips on collecting fine art, take a look at this post:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Collecting Fine Art - Part 1

I was recently asked if I would write a post for beginners on how to go about collecting fine art, from an artist's point of view. Two of the best ways to view art are in person and online.

Let me first explore viewing art in person. Seeing art in person involves more than just looking at a painting on a wall. You can see it in all its detail, the texture, the brush strokes, the subtle change of color that computer monitors or phone screens don't do justice. Three-dimensional art by nature is so much more appreciated in person. You can look at it from any angle you wish, not just the one or two provided by the artist. You can get up close and marvel at the fine details you miss in a small photo. In both 2D and 3D, you get a real sense of the size of the piece. On the computer or in a catalog, a 5"x7" looks pretty much the same as a 48"x60". But in life, you have much more appreciation for the detail in that miniature or the time invested in that mural.

So where can you go to view fine art? One of the first places I went to show my work was the local art center. They have several themed juried exhibits during the year, and artists do not have to be a member to enter. Juried exhibitions require a panel jurors to review each entry and accept or reject it to the show. Typically work of low quality is rejected, but high quality work can be rejected for lack of space or just not fitting with the other accepted pieces. After having my work in a few local shows, I started looking online for similar opportunities in other areas.

Not every artist belongs (or wants to belong) to a gallery, but looking at galleries with a set list of exhibiting artists is another place to look. Many of these types of galleries have a theme, such as "contemporary art" or "southwestern art" or "photography." Artists that belong to one or more galleries are usually mid-career to established artists, rarely emerging artists.

So if you are not an artist, how do you go about finding these exhibits and galleries? Just open the Yellow Pages or Google. Search for "galleries" or "art shows" or "art exhibits" in your area. Local newspapers often have show openings or fairs or other such events. Some big art areas put out publications dedicated to art listings. In New Mexico, for example, there is a weekly paper (Pasatiempo, part of the New Mexican) with upcoming art events, and a yearly book (The Collector's Guide) which covers most galleries and many artist studios in the state.

Galleries are kind of an obvious place to start. Arts and crafts fairs have fine artists that you can meet and talk with. If you like their work, grab their business card. Restaurants also often hang local artists' work. Next time you're in a non-chain restaurant or coffee shop, take a look at what's hanging on the walls. If the art has a little tag next to it with a title and price, it is likely a local artist's work. Other places to view work in person include live art auctions, estate sales (hit or miss), college class exhibits, and of course, artist studios. I'm not a big fan of doing art fairs, but I really enjoy participating in my town's annual Studio Tour. Local artists set aside one weekend to open their studios to the public. Many people enjoy trying to visit every studio on the map, while others carefully choose just a few. This is a great opportunity to meet an artist and see how they make their work, and while things are for sale, there is usually no pressure to buy.

I will talk about finding art online next time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


"Glistening" hippo, 8"x8" scratchboard
"Hippopotamus" means "river horse." The fact that hippos spend most of their time in water lends credence to part of that name, but other than being quadrupedal herbivores, I fail to see the resemblance to horses. Hippos belong to the order Artiodactyla, or even-toed ungulates, which also includes deer, sheep, and bison. However, their closest living relatives are actually whales and dolphins.

Hippos actually have very little fat. Their rolls and wrinkles are formed by their very thick skin, which serves as a defense against predators. The skin produces a natural sunscreen, but still must be kept wet to avoid drying out. Hippos spend most of the day in the water, but emerge in the cool parts of the day to graze.

While hippos tend to graze alone, in the water they form loose groups. Females stay near other females and calves, young males stay with other young males, and the dominant bull stays nearby on his own. Battles for dominance use the hippos' long, sharp front teeth.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Musk Ox

"Arctic Soldiers" 12"x16" scratchboard and ink

The musk ox is a phenomenal creature, perfectly adapted to living in the harsh Arctic year-round. Their dense fur traps heat and blocks the wind. Their native range is northern Canada and Greenland, but they have been introduced into parts of Alaska, Russia, and Scandanavia. Musk oxen are part of the Bovidae family, making them related to bison, buffalo, sheep, and goats.

During the rut, males excrete a strong, musky odor to attract females. This, of course, is their namesake. Males butt heads to determine dominance and mating rights. Dominant males will make off with a harem of females, while the subordinate males will spend mating season alone or in bachelor herds. After mating season is over, herds recombine for the winter.

For this drawing, I used a large clayboard, which I airbrushed with black ink to create the background shadows and basic ox shape. I then went in with a paintbrush to paint the details of the animals. I used the fiberglass brush to scratch the fur, face, and snow details. Photo references from the USFWS (public domain).


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Red Phalerope

red phaleropes, 8"x10" scratchboard and ink
Phaleropes are shorebirds, related to sandpipers. They eat insects and small crustaceans from shallow waters. About 6-8" long, they spend their summers in the Arctic and migrate to the tip of South America or Africa for winter. In the drawing above, the individual on the left is actually the female. The females have bolder colors, defend territory, and seek out mates. She lays three to six eggs, which the male incubates while she starts her migration.


Thursday, March 03, 2016

A Return to Blogging

It seems it has been almost a year since I posted anything here. I keep saying, I need to update my blog! I need to write more posts! But somehow, it has not happened. This time, I am determined to get back into it routinely.

This being World Wildlife Day, I made a decision. Beginning next week, I will write a weekly post called "Wildlife Wednesday." I will write a post about some uncommon species of animal, whether or not I have actually drawn it. This will be in addition to posts about my completed work.

To get things rolling again, here are a few scratchboard drawings I completed in the past year.

"Was That You?" great grey owls, 12"x16"

"Silverback" western lowland gorilla, 14"x11"

"Sol" turkey vulture, 7"x5"

"All About Attitude" green iguana, 9"x12"

"Alone in the Universe" snow leopard, 20"x16"

"On Target" leopard, 10"x8"

"Reassurance" tiger 9"x12"

Monday, March 16, 2015

Portfolio Book

Today I am going to plug my new portfolio book, Scratchboard Artwork of Heather Ward.

sample page

The 7"x9" book consists of 33 of my best scratchboard drawings, each on its own page, with captions as in the sample page above. It is available from for $24.99 (plus tax if applicable and shipping).