What spirit are you portraying in that piece? Are they seeing a part of them they don't like?, Are they seeing a part of them that they, um, you know, see themselves in a new light,
Welcome to the Bold Artist Podcast, Summer Sessions, where we're talking about hot topics for the season, that'll make a difference to your art. I'm your host, Marijanel joined by my co-host, Charla Maarschalk. Let's get to it.
Welcome to the Bold Artist podcast. I'm here with Charla Maarschalk, and we're in the summer sessions talking about all kinds of hot topics for artists. Recently, we've been talking about the process of taking commissions, what that looks like. And we got talking about... Charla, we got talking about something that just triggered a question that I have for you that I think is something that artists really want to know and understand, particularly those who are just starting out, and that's the whole topic of gifting, gifting our art. So, when you are beginning and you're practicing, you have to make an awfully lot of art to find and discover your style. And then especially if you are, uh, experimenting and learning portraiture, um, you are an amazing, bold color portrait artist. And there has to be a whole lot of practice and multiple repeat, repeated kind of paintings. You have to make a lot to get good. How, you know, you can't just accumulate all these paintings in your studio. Maybe you can, but eventually you wanna practice likenesses and you want to paint someone's newborn, or you want to paint someone's child, and yet they're not necessarily commissioning you because you're new. And, how do you see or think about the idea of paintings as gifts?
I think there's quite a few, uh, parts to that discussion. For one, okay, I'm I'm gonna try and, like, list out my thoughts. Number one is don't assume people are gonna want the gift, um, because there's a lot of, there's a lot can come from that.
I have a funny story about that, but I'll tell it later if the time is right.
So, don't assume they're gonna want the gift, and don't create, um, an expectation that you give stuff away for free because this is a really big problem with artists that we are expected to give stuff away for free. Um, and then, well, that's probably the, the two big, main points that a lot, a lot of discussion can kind of come around.
Because you might think you're doing a wonderful job, and you might be moving along in your practice and these wonderful little newborn babies, and you hand it over to somebody as a gift, and they just aren't into your style.
And the baby might not have the expression they want. It might not be the, the spirit that they see their baby in. So, just don't assume that you are going to create all this wonderful work and give it away.
And everybody is going to be super, um, honored by, by those gifts. Art is very subjective, and I think I'm a good artist. I have a million people, maybe not a million, but I've had a lot of people tell me I'm a good artist and love my work. They buy my work. They learn from me, but I have a lot of people who aren't interested in my work, hanging on their walls and who say things like, why would I want that on my wall? That's weird. So, just don't assume it doesn't matter how good you are. Don't assume somebody wants your work.
That is actually, that is not what I expected to hear in some ways. I don't know what I expected to hear when I asked you that question, but I love your answer. I love the approach you took to it. I thought it was gonna sound different to, you know, I think I thought you were gonna say something more, like what you said in your second point was like, don't be giving away everything for free.
Yeah. And I think that's the bigger one, but yeah.
Yeah. Well, in, in my life, as an artist, I have, if you wanna call it guilty, I have been guilty of giving away a lot of art and not just, we're not just talking paintings, but I'm a multi-form artist. So, almost everything I've put my hands to. I have given away a lot. And I do it because I'm like one of my number one love languages is gift giving. And I just love to give gifts, love it. I, I think I've even given you art.
Yes. And I loved it. I loved it. You gave me a piece that was so meaningful. Like it wasn't just, yeah. And yeah, I think some, like, I think you are very intuitive to these things from my experiences with you. You've been very intuitive with what you've given me. But I'm not sure everybody has that same sense. And I think a lot of people think because even because it's people say they're a good artist, you're gonna want a portrait. Like a portrait is, is, is different. You know, you gave me a piece that was reminiscent of my, my homeland, and you know, it was all of these types of things. And it created a lot of, and we had talked about some things even beforehand, but a portrait of a loved one can be very, very, and I, I always talk in portraits 'cuz that's what are we teach at the school. Mostly at this point, anyways, is what I paint. It can be very specific in, in bringing up feelings to people and experiences to people. And if that portrait doesn't portray what they want to see, it can almost be offensive to them to have to look at that portrait. And if they don't wanna hang it on their wall because of the feelings, it gives them, then everything is gonna get really awkward and uncomfortable.
Right, many years ago.
So portraits are so hard.
I'll tell you the funny story.
Many years ago, I, I requested permission from a photographer. I won't say the subject matter or any details because I wouldn't want to, you know, share overshare. But, I requested permission from a photographer to paint, um, what that photographer had had captured, and got permission, and I did a piece that I thought was decent. It was a practice piece, but so much was accumulating in my studio that I felt like I needed a clear out and I contacted, um, the photographer and said, would you like this piece? And they said, no. And I was like, what? But you took the picture, don't you want a painting? And I'm not, I wasn't offended one little bit. It's just, maybe you need to learn to laugh if that ever happens to you.
But I just realized, okay, I guess they don't want my practice painting that I did of their photography. So, um, anyway, it, it does, it is a source of humor for me thinking about that moment, 'cuz I got the response. No, I don't want your painting. Oh.
The work feels very personal to you. You've had an experience with that piece.
But it's like people who love my work don't love all of my work. They buy one piece. Sometimes they buy two or three, but a lot of times it's only one, and it's not always because they don't wanna spend more money or they can't afford it. It's usually because that piece spoke to them and all the other pieces though, they may be wonderful pieces of art that they enjoy. They don't want them all on their walls. The way, one way I look at gifting, and I don't have a ton of experience cause I don't gift them a lot, but...
I don't know what that says about me, but one way I look at it is I pay attention to who is really interested in my work. So, somebody, you can kind of tell, like they're always asking when I come over, can I just see your new work? Can I see your studio? What are you working on? You know, they're genuinely interested. This will be people I have personal relationships with family members and friends and whatever. They're genuinely interested in my work, and maybe they can't afford a piece. So they've never purchased one, but they're always thinking about my work. Then if I have a relationship with them where I'm willing to gift a piece, I'll think about what is it, which pieces are they drawn to when they come over? You know, what is the piece? Is there a piece like there's one person in my life in particular that talks about this one specific piece all the time, but I'm not really close enough with that person to gift them a painting. But I know if I was ever to, I know what piece it would be, you know? Like I kind of keep these things in my mind. So if it's a family member...
Or if you ever printed cards or had prints, you would know what cards you would give them.
Yeah. So just be aware of that. So, this came up because we're talking about commissions, and you're practicing. So, say I wanna, I wanna paint bearded guys ,and I wanna practice bearded guys. So. I think about the bearded people that I know, and I just decide to paint them because I wanna get good at likenesses. Then I would just be... For one, you need to be careful because if you're painting people and you haven't really asked their permission, that can get awkward. So, you wanna ask their permission to paint them and then show them the work and gauge their response. Don't show it to them because you're like, I'm gonna give this to them, show it to them, to see how it feels, because it will also give you an idea of how successful you are in that piece. What spirit are you portraying in that piece?
Are they seeing a part of them they don't like? Are they seeing a part of them that they, um, you know, see themselves in a new light? Show, their loved ones, their wife, their children, see how they respond. Is it with tears in their eyes? Because if they get tears in their eyes, it means you've really brought out a special part of that person.
And then maybe that family or one of the family members would enjoy that piece. But if people are like, oh cool, nice. That's great. Uh, you know, like don't gift it to them because it's just gonna be a lot of awkwardness.
And I wanna insert this too, because Charla and I have talked in the past about people pleasing and where to receive your critiques. Someone seeing what you've painted or practiced of them is not the same as a critique. And it's not something, it's hard to separate personally because you're gonna feel sensitive. Artwork is always vulnerable. Being an artist is vulnerable. But when you get that kind of response from someone you've painted or practiced, it's really important that you don't receive it like a critique or let it hold you back from trying again.
It's, it's just really important that every time you go to show your art, like Charla just suggested, show them the piece, which I think is really wise, but prepare yourself for whatever response that you will not let it, um, you know, make you stop or slow you down or take it too personally.
It's okay to sometimes laugh at ourselves a little and just, and just receive whatever response we get. I've, I've attempted to paint my kids before, and their responses are never good. They don't, they don't like how I make them look. And I'm like, what? And so it becomes a bit of a family joke. I'll be like, I'm gonna paint you.
If you're not getting along I'll paint, you. Um, but you know, you can have some fun with it and, and not take it too seriously as you practice these things. But preparing yourself to receive other people's impressions is, I think, really important. Uh, and I, you're hearing this from a very sensitive person. I tend to be very, you know, I'm sensitive to these kind of things. So, I can take it hard if someone gives me the wrong reactions. But I've taught myself to learn, to have fun with it, and have more humor, and kind of laugh about the fact that they said, no, they didn't want my painting. Okay, I guess it's staying here in the pile.
Paintings are emotional, you know, like they elicit an emotional response. It's different than even a photograph. And we all know that photographs can elicit emotional responses, too, depending on what you look like in a photograph.
Well, paintings are more emotional than a photograph. So, when you show somebody a painting of themselves or their loved one, and this is why commissions can be so tricky and hard.
They're expecting to see a certain spirit come through, and you need to be able to not just capture the likeness, but a spirit of somebody. You may see them as a really fun, crazy personality, but their loved one might, might want to see their nurturing side come out. So, when you... Actually, I have a really good story of this from one of my really good friends, I, I decided to paint to her, and I had photographed her tons in her life together as a photographer.
And I was really, she was like, yeah, paint me. I can't wait. I can't wait to see it. So, I painted this huge portrait of her and it looked like her, but something about this piece was just completely off, and I couldn't figure it out. Everyone knew it was her. I asked like, do you recognize this person? Yes. Everyone knew it was definitely her. It looked just like the photo. I overlaid the painting and photos and Photoshop and everything was aligned. But I'm like, what is it about her that it's, this is just wrong. And it took me a while of studying this painting. And I recognized that I painted her in a very melancholy expression. Like she wasn't smiling. She was just looking into the camera. And as a photograph, that was fine. But her personality was always so much joy exuding from her face. Always.
And it's not that she always had a huge smile on her face, but she exuded an energy that always lightened up a room. When I painted this huge portrait of her, it didn't exude the joy that she always exudes. And when I looked at it, I was like, that's not her. I don't see her in it. It is her, it looks like her, the photo is her, but it's not who she is when I see her every day. What I recognize was that I wanted to paint the joy in her face, but I didn't. And so it didn't come across as her to me, and I didn't like it. And I've never been happy with it.
So, it's not...It's not just about capturing a likeness. It's about capturing the expression and the spirit of the person, too. There's so much that goes into it. And there's so much to practice. That's just the layers and layers and layers that a portrait artist would need to develop and explore. And, um, I'm so thankful that there's Bold School to teach artists to do that. And, um, what we offer inside the community and inside of our class premium forums is just incredible training for the, like for all artists, but particularly the portrait artists, because Charla, you have truly mastered this. You have taken bold color to a new level, started a whole movement. It's so exciting. So, I hope that all of our watchers and listeners have gotten on our newsletter list through bold school.com and made sure to be checking out our classes that we offer and our, um, our online community, which is like a new social media for artists.
It's amazing. It's amazing. I love the community. So, all of you who are listening from the community, just all my love and gratitude to you all. And if you're not part of the community, we would love to open our doors and have you be part of what we're doing and learning on the inside of bold school. And so here on the podcast, we're on all audio apps, including Spotify and right here on the YouTube channel. So, make sure to click subscribe, hit the follow button and get all of our podcasts that come out weekly. And until next time, keep creating.