Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Week in Review

Like all artists, I go through the frustration of people around me assuming that I have a lot of "free time" in my hands since I "work" from home. Mostly I have gotten around to ignoring comments like "you are painting as a hobby" or "its not like you have a job", sometimes I put my foot down and say, well it might be easier if I have a job, but instead I run a business! This week in review - actually just the last 3 days and this morning, is to give an idea on what it takes to be a professional artist these days.

Monday was cleaning day in the studio: I moved all the stuff around that needed to, filled up the trash can, cleared all the tables so I can start my coasters project next week, organized all the paints, cleaned brushes & palettes. When S got back from work, he helped with vacuuming the place & re-do the carpets and floor coverings. 

I had to finish a large 36"x48" commissioned painting & ship it this week - I was waiting to hear from the client for the go ahead to put the sealant coating and when it came through, here are some of the finishing steps:
Drying on the Easel
  • On Monday, I removed all the sketch lines that were still visible
  • On Tuesday morning I did a second coat of black gesso on the sides and did one coat of sealant
  • On Wednesday morning I did a second coat of sealant, & signed on the back
  • Tonight I have to buy hangers with double screws for it and attach them
  • Tomorrow I have to cling wrap it and take it to UPS for more packing & shipping.
  • I also spent time FB messaging with the client

I have also re-started and finished this painting of a name on a cabinet door for a little one, a much delayed present, and need to have it ready by Monday. As of now, it is waiting for a second coat of sealant and needs to be wired on the back.
I had another friend bring by this Krishna statue for a little fixing that took a good chunk of an hour on Tuesday. This is one of those instances when a good 2 days worth of work for which I get paid, could restore this beautiful piece. But this is the best I could afford to do during a crazy week. (I have a policy of not doing unpaid professional work, but sometimes find myself making concessions for friends).
  • Time spent on phone calls and chatting with the friend during drop-off

Here is another commissioned painting that is in progress that I have hardly managed to make much progress on in the last couple of weeks. I did put two base coats of gold color on the birds this week. It has been staring at me from the table evoking a little guilt every now and then! At least I am not on a deadline to get it done in the next week or so.

I was hoping to get this dragonfly painting completed for my last outdoor show of the season this weekend, but that's not going to happen! Oh, dragonfly has to wait a couple more weeks for some flowers & leaves to appear.
  • Time spent messaging with a potentially interested client regarding this painting

And on Tuesday I painted these two wooden planks with black gesso (as I was working on the large piece) and yesterday they got these color coats. Now they are also staring at me from the table, waiting to be painted with geckos.

In addition to all these - I applied for two holiday shows (filled out applications, wrote checks, mailed them, worked on editing and sending pictures for jury by email), followed up on another application from 2 weeks back, posted a few pictures on FB, updated my website with the Sugar Skull painting finished last week (, planned for a holiday open house at my house -- for this I researched printing door hangers and distributing in the neighborhood / using the USPS small business promotion options to send out postcards -- all till S came home and vetoed the idea of the open house! Not to mention the 200 notecards I ordered this week during a sale at the printers, updated my inventory of notecards & prints, updated my newsletter mailing list and work on a template &  a plan to send one out next week (you can sign up here:

I am not complaining, but trying to explain that in addition to the time I actually spend holding a brush or playing with paint in the studio, there is a ton of other responsibilities that goes with being a professional artist. Unless I invest time in marketing, I cannot put my art in front of people who appreciate them or can afford to buy them. Then there is the element of networking - though I am not doing much of it offline, there is still time spent online to connect with people. There is always social media that takes a good amount of time for promoting the works. I also have to spend time researching what I am going to work on next - ideally creating sketches for the flowers on the dragonfly painting, and ideas for the geckos. 

Hopefully I have now managed to convince you a little bit to not ask me about my "free time" or "hobby" :) 

Off I go to prepare lunch!

Monday, June 30, 2014

First Oil Painting

Wanting to learn something new, and a reason to leave the house during the week, I signed up for a couple of classes offered by the Elk Grove Park District. The first one is a Oil Painting class and the other, an open studio for artists. I have been to two of the oil painting sessions and finished a small 9" x 12" painting on canvas panel. I was told that the panel I took was too textured and I had some trouble having to push hard to get enough paint to stick on it. The final painting turned out to be a lot darker than I wanted it to be, but it still looks decent for a beginner's effort. 

Progress after week-1

Finished painting from today

I started a second painting today, from a photo, and the project is, to put it mildly, very ambitious. Two more weeks before I know how it is going to turn out. I also need to buy a new set of oil paints in the mean time, as I have been working with a very old set bought from someone off of craigslist a few years back. Even with pliers, we can't seem to open some of the tubes! I am beginning to actually like painting with oils (though my preference is still acrylics), to want to invest in a new set of paints. Shopping time next week :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Best Palette

When I started painting, I used the cheap plastic trays with multiple cups as a palette. And soon discovered that the tiny amount of paint they hold is mostly useless and they are hard to clean. I then switched to the wooden gesso coated palette boards. It worked mostly well, but it was hard to leave it on a surface while painting. It felt like I have to hold it! 

Once shopping in Ikea, I found a large window piece with glass that worked really well as a palette. I just left it on top of a cabinet by my easel, it was easy to clean with a spritz of water and a wipe with a wet sponge. However, if I forgot to clean right away, it was messy to move it to a sink and give it a full wash.

Recently I found a stack of 12 porcelain dishes - pasta bowls that I have been using for the last 2 months. One of the best finds ever! They are awesome in letting the colors stay true as I mix, I can either hold it or leave it on the table and the best thing, they are easy to clean even if the paint has completely dried! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unexpected Award

It is not often that I paint on a theme that is given to me. I suppose the only time I do that is for commissioned paintings. After the big move however, I joined my local artists association and they had a show on 'Trees' starting in two weeks. I wanted to use that opportunity to show my work to this group and started working on a tree painting in my henna-style with lots of texture. 

Native Roots, 2014. Henna-style textured acrylic painting on canvas.
12" x 16". (c) Bala Thiagarajan, 2014

I was pleasantly surprised to find out a week after the show opened, on a random trip to the library, that the painting got a honorable mention. I am thrilled and looking forward to the next show with a Spring theme!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Studio Sneak Peek

Almost a month after our move to the new place, my studio is all set the way I want it. We have converted our second bedroom to be the studio, thanks to a friend's suggestion! Not only do I have a much bigger and better space, but it is also brighter, with a big window and two tube lights. What an upgrade after the last space I had in our basement. 

We were also able to furnish the studio with three tables and a book shelf from thrift stores and they are perfect for the space. Since it is a rental unit, I am trying to be very careful about not getting any paint splatters on the carpet & the walls.

In addition to the painting spots, I also have a corner for bead work, storage space under the table for canvas. I have three bins - one for blank canvas, one for work in progress and another for finished ones. I am so happy with the new set-up, I have been spending so much time in there and being very productive! Kalki totally approves the studio and has half-claimed it for himself too :)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Fling

Last Sunday was the first show for this year and it was a small vendor fair at a local bar. It was good practice to pull out all the fair gear after the move and also do a quick indoor set up. I have another similar event coming up this weekend for a fundraiser. 

Unfortunately the event was not well attended and I barely made up the booth fees. I did three sets of henna - two for other vendors and sold three note cards. Still it was good to be out and about, making some contacts. Luckily, the event was only for four hours. 

Doing the henna was really fun especially since two of them had never done it before. The paste I used this time turned out to be very good. The stain below was after almost a day - a sample test I did on my palm. A week later, in spite of innumerable hand washes, the stain is still there. I hope the clients were happy with how the stain turned out for them!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A move and A Task

We moved to the suburbs of Chicago last week and the move was uneventful. However, the daunting task of unpacking awaits. We have downsized quite a bit and now the second bedroom is going to be my studio space. However it is filled with boxes from the office, guest bedroom, studio, rest of basement and the garage from the old house. I have started unpacking but it surely is going very slow! 

I was able to buy three new tables for the studio space before leaving Madison, in lieu of the counters I had in my previous one. Hoping to have a functional studio space here in the next week.