Sunday, December 12, 2010


"On Sale" 
© J. Licsko 2010    6"x6"    oil on canvas

      After you are sure that your intended gallery is a "good fit" for your work, then you must be equally sure it is right for your personality. Artists, being easily influenced emotional beings, must consciously respect and protect their psyche. 
     Two art dealers were asked how they feel about their artists visiting the gallery. The first said, " I love it when the artists drops in to the gallery frequently. It is easier to sell a painting when you really know the artist, and they are always on your mind."  The other said, "Artists should deliver the work, and then leave it to me. I will call them if something sells".  Artists should ask the same question of their prospective galleries.
     A good dealer knows that his artists are crucial to his success. The gallery owner and staff will treat the artist with warmth. They want you to know that they welcome you, and are proud to show your art. Nurtured by this environment, your creativity has the best chance of flourishing.
     The worst dealers have personality problems that infect everything and potentially everyone with whom they come in contact. Even if your art sells in that environment, you will be able to find a better gallery. If you feel unwelcome when you visit your gallery, move on. 
     A good gallery presents and handles art in a professional manner. If you find your paintings on the floor, leaning against a wall, or worse, in the storage closet, you need to know why. Does this happen often? Are they getting scratched? Are you finding thumb prints on the tops of your canvas caused by improper carrying? Are you being asked to repair work damaged in the gallery
      Some galleries may sell your art more frequently than others, but if that's done by always discounting your work, you loose. Even if the dealer takes the discount from their own commission, it decreases the retail value of your current works, future sales, and handicaps the other galleries you work with. Make it clear in your in your consignment sheet, that the gallery's commission is a clearly specified percentage of the retail price. This is different from telling them "your price" thereby allowing them to make whatever they want on top. Honor your galleries and your art by keeping your retail prices consistent. Do not undercut your galleries by selling privately at lower prices. And remember, the Internet makes it very easy for collectors to comparison shop the different galleries. There are no secrets.
     The best art dealers will work to sell your art at its full value, promoting and educating the collector about all your strengths. They will help the artist build the value of their work, at the right pace, over time. They are not afraid their artists will out grow them, because they want to grow too.
     Just as good fences make good neighbors, good consignment agreements make good business. In a previous post, I have shown an example of my own contract that is short, and been "good enough" for me in most circumstances. I augment it as I go along, adding or subtracting points that are relevant to each gallery situation. If you can afford an art attorney, it would be wise to have one designed specifically for you and your needs. However, be warned, it is the tendency for lawyers to be so detailed that prospective galleries won't sign it without the advice of their attorney, and that added expense could be a deal breaker before you have had a chance to develop a relationship. Ask your attorney to keep it as simple as possible, adaptable to various galleries, and preferably, one page.

     Next post: part 3 Getting paid.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

ART DEALERS - The Good, the Bad, and the Rare.

"Lipstick & Rhinestones"
©JLicsko oil on canvas 12"x9"

Part 1:   In this post, and the next, I will share with you a few observations and tips culled from nearly forty years experience dealing with dealers. I have worked with a large number of galleries that have represented my work, my husbands work, or both. A few of these relationships have been exceptionally beneficial and enjoyable. 

My definition of an art dealer for the purpose of this writing is an artist's representative, either an independent person with no public viewing space, or a gallery owner who is the active commander of a gallery that exists to sell art to the public.

An art dealer has his feet in two buckets. He must be able to work with strong artistic personalities, speak their language, know where they are coming from, and understand their psychology. Equally important, he must be able to win the trust of collectors. Ideally charismatic, a dealer must be a strong sales force to be effective. It is rare to be fluent in both these worlds, and then add to that, to possess the head for responsible, intelligent, and creative business.

Most dealers own or manage an art gallery in a good location where walk-in traffic is essential. This gallery becomes the headquarters for exhibitions, openings, and day to day sales. This dealer must be proficient at developing a following of collectors, the less glamorous job of maintaining a physical retail space, managing both artists, and a sales staff made up of quirky individuals ranging from those with a seriously admirable arts background, to those who would be equally comfortable selling refrigerators.

I will share with you examples of polar opposites of independent art dealers. The first looks very much like a traveling sales man who will literally knock on doors. He will use one sale to direct him to the next. "Mrs. Jones down the road just bought a piece from you, she thought you might want to see the others I have in the car". (I'm serious). At the other end, is a sophisticated individual, usually with a good arts education, maybe some family connections, perhaps a sexy foreign accent, and the equivalent of a plush condo in New York or Palm Desert. This dealer often has worked out how to live well surrounded by extravagant art. Working at home, with a lower overhead, he is able to write off major portions of his home and elegant lifestyle as business costs.

If your are very lucky, as we once were, you may find the rarest of all, the art dealer who loves art and artists so much that he buys what he loves for his gallery. He sees his role as the conduit. He delights in being able to nurture and support his artists. His personality will have a strong influence on the art exhibited both because his personal taste permeates the gallery, and his choices may effect the artist's work. He will bring out the best in all his artists. If you find one, treat him very very well.

Next post: Part 2

Friday, September 10, 2010


"The Desert Rose" © J. Licsko '10   oil on canvas

I have often said I prefer people look at what I paint rather than how I paint. Frequently, the curse of the realist painter is observers notice the craftsmanship over the content. 

When I started painting many years ago, my first objective was to try to recreate what I saw. There is no better way to develop painting and drawing skills than copying an image from life or from photographs. The goal is to teach oneself to see, while simultaneously developing eye-hand coordination. I chose subjects that had some appeal to me and naively thought that I was making art. It wasn't until much later that I was told by a trusted authority that I had to find my own voice.

That comment threw me into a creative tailspin. We all know that the harder one looks for something the more elusive it becomes. After four years of earnest searching, I started to understand the difference between what I had thought was art, and what my authentic creative self could make as a unique contribution to the general stream of art. Looking back, I now have a respect for the frustratingly painful years of self exploration and doubt, because all the while the craft progressed. When I finally recognized my own voice, I had better skills to express it.

Knowing what to paint starts with knowing oneself. In earlier posts,  Fifteen Rules for Courting the Artist's Muse, The Reluctant Muse, and a Lesson From My MuseI have given methods and examples of how I recognized genuine inspiration that was uniquely important to me. By listening to our inner selves, we find the universal truths that can be appreciated by others, and also the fuel for creativity.

My painting "The Desert Rose" was inspired by a vacation I took earlier this year with my mother. She, being from a northern climate, was searching for warmth and sun. Palm Desert was the place she yearned for. While lounging around the pool, sipping Margaritas, I couldn't help but notice the contrast between the younger and the older woman. Making no conscious attempt, asleep, and oblivious to the attention she was getting from the men at the bar, the young woman was the focal point. At the same time, I admired the mature woman who has made a life long commitment to her femininity. The advantage of fresh skin has been replaced with jewelry, symbols of her lifetime of accumulated personal power. While I am not actually in the image, I discovered while painting it that I am caught somewhere in between my two subjects. I am reminded that the road between the two is a short one.

Friday, July 16, 2010


© J. Licsko 2010
oil o canvas

As mentioned in a previous post "Painting Glass", I live in the Paso Robles wine county, where the win-win collaboration of art and wine is reaching new heights. If you haven't been to Paso Robles in the last couple of years, I encourage you to visit. We have a new annual art festival. The new Studios on the Park, showcases the studios of nearly twenty working artists. The "Studios" building also houses the Paso Robles Art Association's new "Showroom Gallery" where shows change at least every five weeks. The quality of life on the "Central Coast" has pulled many nationally recognized  artists to make their homes here.  Overall, the quality of art is very good, as is the wine. Almost all art events, and fundraisers, are accompanied by an opportunity to taste a local vintner's best wines. Artists hang shows in tasting rooms, vintners pour at art openings. Both groups are frequent donors to fundraising events.

Photo: © Elvis Kokopelli
Thank you - Thank you very much!!!

Perhaps the best loved, and most effective celebration of human generosity is the Central Coast Wine Classic Foundation based nearby in Avila Beach. This non-profit organization raises funds and has bestowed grants totaling $1,370,025 to 62 non-profits in the last six years alone. This year I attended the 26th annual auction. It was fun to watch auction patrons magnanimously bidding for paintings, trips, rare wines, a Lexus, even four places as guests of Emeril Lagasse at his popular Carnivale du Vin. Thanks to superb organization, great volunteers, a good time was had by all, and many worthy projects will get the funding they been hoping for.

"Celebration" is from my series that have been inspired by the social side of wine, the enjoyment of wine. With glass in hand, it is easy to become entranced by the reflections of light on the glass, the elegant shapes of the bottles and stemmed glasses, the rich reds, and subtle tints of the whites. Painting glass and wine together opens up an opportunity for prismatic color, and abstract compositions, seen best when they are painted large. At five feet by five feet, "Celebration" is my largest canvas to date. 

I am very pleased to have had my painting included in CCWC's 2010 auction, and to be invited back for 2011. My experience was gratifying from beginning to end. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Receiving Inspiration

"Girls Night Out"
© J. Licsko 03
12" x 9" oil on canvas
Add Image

Visual artists
often find the inspiration they need by exposing themselves to music, film, dance, literature and other mediums of expression. These different arts can lift us emotionally, and although we may not reflect the source in our work, the exposure often charges our batteries. We return to our work nourished and freshened.

I was invited to vacation with my mother in Las Vegas recently. The purpose was to wind down, do a little shopping, and enjoy our mother-daughter time together relaxing in the sun. I admit to previously judging Vegas as a little too plastic, too make believe. By the fourth day of this trip, I started to see Las Vegas in a different, more positive light, through more open eyes. Las Vegas can teach us a lot about creativity, promotion, and marketing.

We artists, create something of ourselves, for ourselves. We hope that it also will be desired by others. Las Vegas is a highly successful collective creation, and masterful at the art of seduction. Las Vegas knows its identity, makes no apologies, knows its target audience, caters to what it wants, and introduces its audience to new wants. Artists should know themselves, accept themselves, and search for the audience that both wants their work, and will support it.

In successful paintings, the eye is drawn from place to place by line; painters choose and arrange forms, lines, and textures composing the right balance to please the eye, and keep keep the viewer's eye on the painting .

Visualizing "The Strip" as a canvas, the relative ease of travel on the surface streets and freeways, impressed on me that the city designers are artists in what they do. Architectural forms must work within their layout. The Strip architecture ranges from crass midway style, to the sophistication of the Wynn Tower, but it all works together, and when seen from afar, it makes a strong, identifiable statement. A jumble of themes and styles come together on many layers. Shapes and strokes of color create an appealing patina, strengthened by daring compositions.

As if the desert sun alone isn't enough of a light source, it is enhanced by the equally powerful, endlessly moving, advertising light show. The variety, intensity, and volume is almost too much for the senses. These lights call us, offering a pleasing mosaic of images that represent the always changing, yet always distinct identity of Las Vegas.

A+ to famed architect Frank Gehry's design of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health building. I see this as Frank Gehry's gift to the right brained of the world. Best seen during the side-angled light of early morning or sunset, it is absolutely wonderful!

A good place to get a sense of scale, the Hoover Dam itself is worth the trip, but the ongoing construction of the new Hoover Dam Bypass, is truly awesome. The longest concrete arch in North America, the graceful design illustrates "less is more" driving home the painting lesson: "know when to quit". Both structures reinforce reverence for human ability. The two angel statues on the Nevada side of the dam are the strikingly elegant "Winged Figures" by sculptor Oskar Hansen, put in place in 1935. Realists will fully appreciate sculptor Steven Liguori's work "High Scaler" and his ability to make us feel the weight of the man and the tension of the ropes.

In the old days of art, the patron was essential, or little great art would have been funded. The combination of the patron, Steve Wynn, and the creator, Franco Dragone, results in Le Reve, a multi-faceted work of art. The synergy created from hundreds of individual artists and technicians elevates and transforms the show's audience. Each performer brings aesthetics, intelligence, perseverance, and the infectious joy of doing what one loves. The nature of the physical work these young artists do, results in truly flawless physical specimens, both male and female. The choreography assembles these perfect forms into ideal compositions, every angle well thought out and executed as in the finest painting. Colors by the millions saturated my cells. The lighting, spectacular beyond description, lit both artist and audience, melding us together. For ninety minutes we were transported, in awe of the vision, the setting, the music. The energy generated by the performers, and their dedication to perfection, is an achievement worth respect, and a testament to teamwork.

If you are thinking there are better shows, you've missed my point. Any show, painting, building, bridge is successful when all the needed elements come together at the right time, in accord with the vision. Though not necessarily painters, Las Vegas is abundant with artists at the top of their game. Their energy feeds me.

I am once again reminded of the heights mankind is capable of, and that it is my duty, my privilege, and to my benefit to support it when I am able. Dipping my psyche into the pool of dreams and illusion, I surfaced feeling revitalized. I return, and like the angel statues at the Hoover Dam, whose toes are polished from continuous human touch, all my nerve endings are polished a little. I am receptive. I am inspired.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Painting to Please Oneself

Watermelon with Grapes

© J.Licsko 2010

0il on canvas


I like to accept commissions occasionally because it offers the opportunity to step out of my self created comfort zone. There is a subtle tension, knowing that a painting could be rejected.

In the middle of October, collectors I had not yet met, had recently purchased a still life of mine from a favorite gallery, and now wanted another. All I was told was that they wanted a still life painting of a watermelon, and that it was intended to be hung in the same room as the first painting. I wanted to please them, and please my gallery too, but the only way I could proceed with confidence was to paint to please myself.

I tried two different watermelons from the farmer's market, both too late in the season for a rich red color inside, neither had seeds. Both were "Heirloom" and therefore small. Organic was not the way to go. I found large watermelons at the big chain supermarket, still not very good color, but the size looked right for a traditional still life. I finally accepted the fact that it would have no seeds, yet the large slice presented the gift of one seed.

The upcoming holiday commitments were adding to the delay in starting. Finding the right composition took much longer than I expected. My preference in a still life is for all the subject parts to be related, a continuity in the theme of the connecting parts. As an example, adding a flower may add the right color, and balance the composition perfectly, but it would seem to me a disconnected addition. I like a scene that appears to be close to a natural occurrence in real life. A watermelon is little more than a big ball until you cut a slice into it, but the slice and the larger part together are still awkward as a composition. It needed more, hence the grapes and the lime, small knife and cloth.

Aligning myself with all the energy of the new year, paint first touched the canvas on January 1, and on the third day, and every day after, I photographed the work hoping to get a more objective view of how I work. I finished the painting January 31, having recorded each day's work with a photo, and a record of the number of the day's hours of painting.

Estimated time working on the composition unknown. I totaled 177 hours of actual painting time in 31 days. All but two of those days were pure pleasure working with colors that make my heart happy. Day 28 and 29 were hard when I reached the inevitable doubts that I was never going to get the painting done in a reasonable time, and maybe the collector had a strong idea in mind, and this wasn't it. Days 30 and 31 were a relief because by then I could see that it was becoming what I had envisioned. The last two days were joyful, all about the highlights and deep shadows. In a recent conversation, artist William B. Eckert and I were in full agreement of how the best part of paintings happen in the last few days. I recommend always taking the last two days to slow down and enjoy the process. It is so nourishing to the creative spirit to take time to play .

The collectors were happy. I learned a lot. I am very pleased with both the experience and most importantly, the finished painting.