An Artist’s Toolbox Must Include Self-Promotion

What I love about January is that it always brings the promise of a fresh start.

It’s a chance to look back and to look ahead and to take stock of life.  And this is true for artists too.

Last year's wishes and dreams are carried away by the wind.
Last year’s wishes and dreams are carried away by the wind.

I spent 6 years on two continents at art schools in the 1970’s. I practiced weaving, printmaking, painting, life-drawing, sculpture, and pottery;  but there was one subject that NEVER came up. That subject was Art Promotion which could include grant writing, approaching galleries, planning a show, finding venues for art and craft, pricing the work and more. It was all a big mystery and I now believe that many graduates abandoned hope and went into other fields. I hope art students today graduate with tools for promoting their work.

Playing with watercolour on a slippery yupo surface.
Playing with watercolour on a slippery yupo surface.

Fortunately we have the internet where there are many resources on the web to help artists learn marketing and promotional skills and today I want to tell you about 3 of my favorites.

The studio is a marvellous place to be.
The studio is a marvellous place to be.

THE marketing and organizing guru for artists is Alyson Stanfield. I used her ideas to good success from her book I’d rather be in the Studio when I organized my own pop-up art show a year ago.  Alyson is very practical in her advice. She recommends a purposeful tracking of the previous year’s art income.

I did this recently and broke it down into income streams – galleries, online, markets, holiday shows, teaching. The results truly astonished me. I discovered that the galleries are doing the hard work of selling my paintings because even with their 35% – 40% commission, over 60% of my art income is from galleries. But also surprising is that 40% is self generated through sales at the studio, a self organized art show and to a very small degree, sales through markets and craft shows. I’ll use the data to strategize for this year.

Enamel pendants I made. I love the colours and textures.
Enamel pendants I made. I love the colours and textures.

My other planning method comes from British writer and artist Susannah Conway who shares a workbook to help artists plan their art direction in the coming year. The focus isn’t about income, it’s about what feeds the soul, the mind and the spirit so it’s a nice complement to Alyson’s suggestions. I wrote in my workbook yesterday and by the end of the afternoon, I had a clearer sense of  my art path this year. There is a very cool exercise where you imagine the advice your future self will give your present self.

One of my art goals this year is meditation that is focused around imagery.
One of my art goals this year is meditation that is focused around imagery.

Another supporter of artists is painter Keesha Bruce who divides her time between Paris and New York. Her tweets are full of links with great articles about support for artists.

All three women also teach classes and seminars off and online. Their newletters are free and each of their websites have signup forms.

In progress.
Acrylic painting in progress.

I think that anyone who is self-employed or is self-directed could benefit from these exercises. Are there January rituals that help you plan your new year? Please share.

Two paintings in the studio.
Two paintings in the studio. “Good Vibrations” and “The Green Table” © Flora Doehler, 2014

PS: A shout out to artist and beekeeper Shirley Langpohl who let me know that my youtube video on monoprinting was mentioned in last October’s Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. What a lovely surprise that was! Sometimes promotion comes from unexpected places.

wc monoprinting

Paint Like you Mean it

I had an epiphany. I was listening to a woman singing. Her voice was lovely and so was the music.  She obviously had great technique.  But, something was missing. After watching her for a while, I wanted to send her this thought:

I need to sing like I mean it. I need to let the emotion that led me to write this song come out and be expressed.

Perhaps through fatigue or shyness, she was just going through the motions that evening.
And then it occurred to me that the same is true with painting or with any creative pursuit. It must be injected with some confidence, some passion and some Raison d’être.

Do I paint like I mean it?

Painting by Flora Doehler. c2010
Painting by Flora Doehler. c2010

I certainly try to. When I paint it is because I get a feeling of inspiration when I view a particular thing or scene. It sends me to my art materials and I have to work on it right away. Sometimes it all goes wrong, and in my opinion the work falls flat. But unlike a musician, a painter can revisit her work and overlay it with more of the energy and feeling of the initial encounter.

What makes a great painting or a memorable song is more than technique. It’s an expression of a deep energy and feeling. So embrace that passion that inspired you in the first place and use it as the seed of a new creation.


And please, if you can, join me in a celebration of my recent paintings. I would like to share my inspiration with you.

Summer on Brier Island, by Flora Doehler, c. 2012.
Summer on Brier Island, by Flora Doehler, c. 2012.

 Saturday, January 26 – February 3A BRUSH WITH LIFE: paintings by Flora Doehler 

@ the Rebekah downstairs location (1890 Clementsvale Rd.) in Bear River.

Gallery opening with refreshments on Sat Jan 26, 1 – 4 pm.
I will be at the gallery from 1 pm to 4 pm (or by appointment) on the following days:
• Sat. Jan. 26, Sun. Jan. 27
• Thur. Jan. 31, Fri. Feb. 1, Sat. Feb. 2, Sun. Feb. 3
I’ll be painting starting on Thur. Jan. 31. All welcome.

For more information, please email me at

Mixed media by Flora Doehler. c 2013.

Floral Fusion painting

This is my newest painting which is living at the Flight of Fancy gallery right now. I love the cerulean blue in it, especially in combination with the orange. All of the flowers in this bouquet were grown in my garden. I am so happy to see their smiling faces every day and I hope this painting shows that joy. Continue reading

Dyeing with Rust on Fabric

Rust on linen and photo transfer by Flora Doehler.
I’ve been experimenting with dying rusty objects onto fabric. Fabric artist friend of mine, Marilyn Preus, used this technique in one of her beautiful wall–hangings and I had to try it out for myself!
The key ingredient for this is to find rusty objects and we still have quite a few of those in our barn. Thank goodness I didn’t throw everything out when we moved in last year.
Suddenly all those funny bits of nails and who–knows–what seemed like a pirate’s booty and I was so glad that we haven’t quite got to sorting things out in the barn.  I was also glad that we saved so many of the handmade nails that came out of our house during renovation. They have all rusted at this point and could be used for my project.

 Iron nails that are more than 100 years old.

 Rusty nails, hooks and buckles.
 Rust dyeing works best on natural fabrics so I used cotton canvas,  linen, and silk for my experiment.  I also tried dyeing a piece of polyester-cotton but the results were very poor.

After placing my pieces on the fabric, I squirted the entire pieces with vinegar until the cloth was saturated.
 Rusted pieces laid out on poly cotton and silk.
 I slipped the plastic board that held the fabric into a large plastic bag and let everything sit for 48 hours.
 Vinegar dissolves rust.
 My art room smelled like a fish and chips store for a few days!
 I wanted to use a ribbed pattern to dye the cotton canvas  and I found just the thing in an old wood stove pipe that is resting in the backyard.

 Thankfully this old stove of ours missed the dumpster.

 I brought the stove pipe into the house, and wrapped the cotton canvas around it. Then I poured vinegar all over it and place it in a bag where it sat for 48 hours.

I loved the result when I unwrapped the cloth but unfortunately I washed it before it had a chance to really set so I had to redo my steps again. I learned to rinse in cold water and then let the cloth dry and sit for another 2 days before attempting to wash with soapy water.

The shapes that the ribbing in the stove pipe made are reminiscent of a birds wing. I am now looking for donations of rusted rebar because I think that would be very cool.
 Rust dyed canvas from rusted stove pipe.

Why this experimentation with rust dying?  I am working on a piece for a show here called “Pirates and Outcasts”. This art show will be part of a Bear River Winter Carnival event. Both are wonderful opportunities to have fun in February.

I have been working with an image transfer as well. It’s an abstracted photo of young men sailing to this new world in the early 1930s. These men were in their 20s and are probably all dead now.  One of them was my father although this isn’t a portrait of him per se.  In the piece I create, I want to suggest the impermanence of all our situations as well as suggesting that immigrants are both casting out and are outcasts.

 I have ideas floating around in my head,  but there are still the technical details to master!

This piece was on linen and although I liked the placement of the metal pieces, for some reason I had difficulty getting enough rust on the cloth.

After a couple of attempts I decided to roll up the cloth with those rusty pieces and spray the heck out of it and shove it in a bag for three days!

 When it was finished it certainly had a lot of rust marks on it! The shapes weren’t as controlled as I would’ve liked them to be and in retrospect I wish now that the photo image transfer had been larger.

I also rusted a piece of silk and discovered that the most interesting results happened in rusting this piece. Look at the detail in this piece of fabric, especially where the spring was placed.

It is back to the drawing board for me or to the rust heap!  I am also experimenting with the image of my young men with paint on a canvas which I may show you next… and there is also the landscapes  that I continue to work on… plus I just dug out my weaving books and am considering threading the loom again….  so much to do–lucky me!
Posted by Picasa

Painting Winter Fields

Charcoal sketch of field patterns.

It’s absolutely gorgeous outside right now. There is a thick blanket of snow covering the fields, and the  hills. With all the leaves gone it is really easy to see through the trees to the hills on the other side of the river.  What I see is long stripes of trees that border fields, slashed diagonally by roads that wind their way down the hills.

Looking from the Annapolis side towards Riverview Road.

The colors now are so muted that it is a challenge for a color-loving painter like me to actually paint that scene in a monochromatic way.  in fact it would be easier for me to use brilliant colors to depict the snow scenes around me–but I want to try an abstracted approach using muted colors.

Acrylic on canvas.

I start with charcoal drawings to get a sense of the shapes in the distance.

Charcoal sketch of snow scene.
Larry is immersed in creating a pendant and is listening with me to a podcast from This American Life about the fictitiousness of money, starring the Federal Reserve.
I discovered, quite by accident, that if I put my paper on top of the hot wood stove, and draw on it with crayon that the wax melts instantly and leaves a very dramatic line.This must be what encaustic painters experience!
Melted crayon on paper and charcoal.
I chose for my palette:
  • anthraquinone (blue )
  • burnt sienna (rust)
  • raw umber (brown)
  • titanium white
  • carbon black
These canvases are 16″ x 16″. I’m using fluid acrylics mixed with matt medium. This one was my favorite as far as the intensity of colour.

I rarely use burnt umber and I never use black. In fact I hardly ever use white either. So all of these choices amount to a complete departure for me. But I was determined to give it a try.
This was my favorite of the 3 canvases as far as paint texture goes.
I will work on them tomorrow with the objective to create a more harmonious look and feel to the 3 canvasses. Although I really like the intensity of the colour, it is more than I intended. But, a reduced colour seems to go against my very nature. I may try to mute things anyway. Stay tuned!
Canvases drying on my new cushioned mats. (I stand when I paint).
This is a good exercise to work on while winter is upon us!
The studio is like a giant playroom for Larry and me.