Ask the Expert…Haidee-Jo Summers

Question: How do you know when to stop working a painting?

Answer: How finished is finished?

allotment hens

“A fine suggestion, a sketch with great feeling, can be as expressive as the most finished project,” Eugene Delacroix

When I’m teaching I often come across artists who say “I liked it better before but now I’ve finished I’m disappointed with it.” I certainly can relate, and I think we’ve all experienced those feelings of heightened excitement and possibility in the early stages of a piece of work, only for that work to then come to an end borne of our own limitations to satisfactorily take the work further and a sense of frustration at not quite fulfilling the early promise, an opportunity lost.

Old milking parlour

I’m sure you’ll understand me when I say I’ve seen many a piece of work lose all it’s vitality and freshness when “finished,” and ending up with a range of malaise from muddied colors to having lost sight of the drawing. Usually an overworked painting is recognizable by being too stiff, somewhat lifeless and lacking in recognizable focus. Despite what anyone else thinks, as an artist we just know when we’ve gone too far.

fishermans shelter

Is the real problem here that we get too precious and the longer we work on a painting we may get quite defensive about all that time we have put into it and soldier on with a grim determination? If you find this happening I suggest you put it away for a while and when you come back to it be prepared to make a radical overhaul using your largest brushes or a thorough scraping down with a palette knife or a good “tonking” with paper. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Guard against being precious and working to tried and tested formulas. We learn far more by being daring and trying new approaches, and are more likely to recognize when something isn’t working and make the large changes it needs. To get a fresh view of a piece of work when you know something is wrong with the drawing but are unsure what it is, try looking at it in a mirror. Or turn it upside down and consider how the colors and values are working together as an abstract arrangement. Is there discord where you were seeking harmony?

Beach boys

When I was a student I read a quote by an American artist which said, “Say what you need to say in the painting then get out. There is no use chattering on after you have made your point.” I don’t remember who said it or where I read it, but I have never forgotten it. It struck a chord with me and has been my mantra for the past 24 years or so. Always I am striving to say more using less means. It’s important to ask yourself before you start “What am I trying to say in this painting?” If you can’t answer that then you can’t expect to know when you’ve said it.

penelope rose 1

My painting approach is to work on all areas of the canvas throughout, considering the entire composition right from the beginning rather than working section by section in a piecemeal fashion. I concentrate on bringing the painting along as a whole, and am always alert as to when I might have said enough. I may start a painting with quick linear marks positioning the subject but I am keen to soon move on to large areas of tonal value. I believe this approach helps me to form the main structure of the painting before getting involved in details that don’t add very much impact. I aim to make a concise statement.

If you suspect that sometimes you go too far in your own work I have a few ideas that may help.

When working plein air or from life, turn away from the subject from time to time and regard the painting rather than the subject. Ask yourself what’s the biggest difference you can make to move from where you are now with the painting to where you’d like it to be when finished. Go on from there to asking what else the painting needs to improve it and keep in mind the initial inspiration behind it or the feeling you are trying to convey.


If working in the studio consider taking more breaks. A break is either a time to think and absorb ideas about the painting or to get away from it altogether and come back to it with fresh eyes. Looking at a painting in progress in a mirror can help you to see any inaccuracies with the drawing. Desirable as it may be to achieve a loose impressionist look to the work you still need the underlying structure or drawing to read well, otherwise you will lose the believability and it will be difficult for your viewers to engage with the piece.

Another idea for self-training purposes is to take regular photos of a painting during the stages of its production. You might find afterwards when looking at the series of photos that there came a point where you continued working and actually lost more than you gained from there on. This can be something of an eye opener and can help you to spot when and how you might bring future paintings to a different conclusion.

GracieAlso consider timed exercises. Painting en plein air is terrific training for getting an idea down quickly and developing a short term visual memory. Even when working from a static reference it is a good project to set strict time limits to train yourself to get a complete idea down quickly and with minimum fuss.



The thaw, Drove allotments

The level of detail and finish that you aspire to is a personal choice and it would be a boring world if we all responded the same way. What excites me is that people perceive a level of detail in my paintings that isn’t really there, and I love them to get up close to the surface and see the abstract marks, dots and patches which led them to believe that they could see a whole village on a mountainside. Knowing when to stop is hard, but think of your painting as a collaboration with the viewer and try to leave a little something for them to work on. Notwithstanding all of that, the very best way to finish a painting is to start on a new one.

pGpH_TyyTo learn more about Haidee-Jo Summers, visit her website.




Adobe Spark-20

Allan Duerr, publisher of Art of the West Magazine, is the July judge for Art Muse Contest.

You don’t have to enter a western themed piece of art in this month’s contest, however, if that is a genre you enjoy painting you should really consider entering.

Watercolor, pastel, oil, acrylic and mixed media 2D artwork are eligible to enter.

Compete at your skill level for the chance to win $500, $250 or $100.

Plus the opportunity to win 6 months of gallery representation and participate in the winners show in 2017.

Deadline is July 31st.

Click here to enter ArtMuseContest.com

Art Muse A with Logo

#westernart #westernpainting #contemporarywesternart #cowboyart #nativeamericanart


15 Minute Challenge…Publicity

I would like to thank everyone who is following my 15 Challenges and telling me how much you like the information being shared. These 15 Minute Challenges are going to be for a limited time. For more information about these topics, watch for my Easel-ly Successful Guide that will be coming out this fall. These challenges are just the tip of the iceberg of information.

Sharing your news with your community and gaining publicity takes more than just posting on Social Media. Ever picked up a local publication to see an announcement of an artist event or an article highlighting an artist and his/her work? How did that happen? I’d hazard a guess that a lot of those started with the publication receiving a press release.

There are so many opportunities to get your work in front of the public. It doesn’t have to be about a show or a 1st place prize. Here are a few ideas that you could generate a press release. Example: Doing a demo at local art organization or event, painting a series about a historic or conservation area (highlighting the how that impacts the area) or inviting the public to come watch your monthly, local plein air group. You have a lot to share but takes some thought, so get busy.

Providing topics for writers is a gift to them. So wrap it up and sent it out.

15 Minute Challenge

  1. Click here for a basic press release template and customize it. I find it much easier to write one when all I have to do it simply add the specifics.
  2. Make a list of local and national publications and find out if there is a specific person who should receive them
  3. Make a list of potential events or ideas

Artist BFF Logo White Background
For expert help with your art marketing needs, contact Kelley Sanford, Artist BFF and see a list of my services, visit my website.

Check our monthly Art Muse Contest. Great cash prizes, opportunities for gallery representation and exhibition plus other cool prizes.

Art Cafe…First Art Sale at 89

Carmen Herrera, at the age of 101, is finally getting some recognition. In the 1950s and 1960s, she watched her male counterparts work gain notice, her work was mainly overlooked. However,perseverance has paid off with an exhibition of her work at the Whitney Museum in September. Here’s the a short NPR Weekend Edition podcast about Carmen. Hope it inspires all of us to keep working at our craft.


#carmenherrera#barnettnewman#pietmondrian#whitneymuseum#limitedpalette#moma#tatemuseum#artcafe #npr


Art Muse A with Logo

Check our monthly Art Muse Contest. Great cash prizes, opportunities for gallery representation and exhibition plus other cool prizes.



Travel Art Kits


Summer is here and we know many of you are going to be traveling far and wide. Taking a break from working in the studio sure sounds like a great idea, but, you know in a day or two you’ll spot something that will have your painting hand itching to grab a brush and create. In this post we’ve included several ideas for travel art kits to help you scratch that creative itch while you’re globetrotting.

Each photo includes a website link for more information about how they were created, so click away and as you near the end of the list you might decide to hang onto all those Altoids tins you’ve been saving.

Everyday Artist Travel sketch kit

Everyday Artist Watercolor Kit


Billies Craft Room Kit

Billie’s Craft Room Drawing Kit



Mary McAndrew Watercolor Kit


Daniel Smith Sketch Kit

Daniel Smith Artist’s Materials Altoids Tin Kit


Altoids - Art history

Art History Essays and Art Gifts from Irina Altoids Kit


Altoids Content in a Cottage

Content in a Cottage Altoids Kit

Art Muse Contest’s July judge is Alan Duerr publisher of Art of the West Magazine. Don’t miss your chance to have the publisher of a major art magazine see your work, click here to enter today!

AMC Banner AD April

#onlineartcontest #onlineartcompetition #artcontest #artcompettion #alanduerr #artofthewestmagazine #westernartmagazine #travelartkit #traveldrawingkit #urbansketchkit







Art Cafe…Freud and Bacon

Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon saw each other daily over a 25 year friendship, an interesting one at that. Here’s an interesting article that describes the times spent together.

CLICK HERE to enter Art Muse Contest for your chance to win cash and gallery representation! Allan Duerr, publisher of Art of the West magazine is our July judge.

Easel-ly Successful 15 Minute Challenge

Create your Own Tribe!

Today’s post is just the starting point for gaining followers/subscribers. Over the next few months, I will be discussing how to gain followers, the best platforms for communicating and what/when and how to engage your audience.

Let’s start with “do you have your own personal art tribe”? Do you know who is in your tribe? Who do you want to be in your tribe? What is your goal for your tribe? It’s not just about collecting emails, it’s about what you want to communicate to your audience. So let’s dive in.

15 Minute Challenge

1. Do you currently have a mailing list? Is it post-notes or do you use a email marketing service?

If not, please go sign up for MailChimp (it’s free up to 2000 subscribers). Then install a subscribe button on your website and Facebook page. Don’t know how, MailChimp has lots of tutorials and guides available. Don’t say, I don’t know how…learn how. I’m not a computer code writing artist…I just took the time to learn and gained the knowledge. It’s your art business. This will be more than a 15 Minute Challenge if you don’t currently have an email marketing service but it’s a necessity if you want to gain followers.

2. Answer the following questions.

  • Do you want to just share your work with friends and peers?
  • Do you want to sell your work?
  • Do you want to be in galleries?
  • Do you want to teach?
  • Do you other art related goals?

3. Answer the following questions.

  • Do you paint primarily one subject? i.e. portraits
  • Would you describe yourself as a realist, impressionist, abstract or expressionist painter? Or how would you describe your art?
  • Do you do both plein air or studio work? More or one than another?
  • Do you consider yourself a hobbyist or do you consider yourself a professional (or working toward) becoming a professional artist?
  • How do you sell your work? Through your website and/or galleries?

3. Who should be in your tribe? That comes from your previous answers in Question 2 & 3.  If you are just interested in sharing your art but not selling, then email marketing probably isn’t worth your time. Just use social media. However, if you want to sell your art, then who should you target? Think who would be the most interested in purchasing your art. If you paint fly fisherman, then your audience should probably include fly fisherman (we’ll talk later about how to get in front of a specific audience). Each response has a different solution but you have to understand where you want go as an artist before you begin the journey.

3. Think about social media. Do you know who your followers are? Are they primarily other artists? If you don’t know, go look at your FB and Instagram followers. How can you communicate effectively if you don’t even know who you are talking to?

4. Last but not least, begin to think like a potential collector or student (if you teach). We are all consumers in other aspects of our lives, we need to learn to apply it to our followers as well. As they say, walk a mile in their shoes.

Keep your answers to this week’s challenge, you will need them as we dive more into how to gain more subscribers.

Check our monthly Art Muse Contest. Great cash prizes, opportunities for gallery representation and exhibition plus other cool prizes.


Ask the Expert…Gone Paintin’

Ask the Expert is hanging up the “Go Painting, Fishing, whatever sign” for the next 3 weeks. We will re-post some of our favorite guests.

Adobe Spark (1)

Today, it’s Stanka Kordic’s post “Going Beyond the Representational Figure”. It’s fabulous read from a fabulous artist.

Click here if you missed the post the first time around or just needing a few reminders, it’s well worth the read.

CLICK HERE to enter Art Muse Contest for your chance to win cash and gallery representation!