Schwebach Arts

Art That Opens Doors

Saying Goodbye to a Painting

Lynn Schwebach

 

When you sell a painting, an initial surge of adrenaline reminds you that your heart is actually a pump, a motor, and it revs into high gear. After all, we create in order to share our passion with others. And the goal of every painting I create is to add a story to the many rooms of someone's existence, both external and internal. I want people to open doors with my art, to imagine new worlds, to walk into new spaces of light, joy, and sometimes even pain—because we often stuff our hurt into corners and we need to uncover it in order to grow. Selling is standing on stage and having people love the song you are singing.  

But selling also brings about a sense of letting go—a meditative goal. Sometimes a little melancholy sets in as we say goodbye to our creations.

So often two competing emotions arise—joy and sadness.  It's a state of being I find impossible to describe with words, but come closer to with my art. Which is why I paint, Which is why I sell. Which is why we must say goodbye in order to grow as an artist.  Which is why we simply say thank you to our buyers, to the mystery of letting go, to the ethereal world of making art.

I said goodbye to "Spirit of Delight" this week. As I wrapped it, I said a blessing over it asking that the owners sense hope, peace , and renewal through its existence in their home. I said I was grateful. I said goodbye. 

 

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"Art Inc." Explains the Business of Art

Lynn Schwebach

by Lynn S. Schwebach

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I love the internet, but sometimes I get lost clicking several links as I read, getting off topic and into areas that aren’t relevant. This happens a lot when I am seeking business advice on selling art, because I tend to find artists’ works I admire and then I am totally off subject. So sometimes I end up in bookstores—the old-school way—searching for a book that compiles important information in one sequential place.

Lisa Congdon’s “Art Inc.” provides exactly this type of nonfiction, focused brilliance. This beautiful book measures only 5.5” by 8” so it fits in my purse. I always have it handy to read and reread passages from it when standing in line at the grocery store, post office, or traveling by car or plane. As all books should be, this one just feels good to hold and page through. The publishers, Chronicle Books,used paper stock that is delicious to touch.

But what is more delicious is what this small powerhouse of a book contains on its pages. In only 7 chapters, Congdon addresses almost all art business questions I had and touches on topics I hadn’t yet discovered as an entrepreneur. But I love the first chapter the most, because it dispels the inner critic most artists listen to  as they begin their careers—the idea that promoting and selling your art is somehow not the true artist’s way.

As Congdon states early in the book, “being an artist is a viable career choice.” But you first have to wipe out the starving artist mind-set—that making money on what you create somehow degrades your profession.

And what I especially love about this book are the artist profile interviews in each chapter. The book’s designer set off these interviews from the other text by putting them  on orange pages and using white text. Each interview touches on the specific business topic that Congdon discusses in that particular section, and she includes a range of visual artists working in a diverse range of media. Inspiration abounds in the wise words of these working artists.

Here are some invaluable tips from this art business guidebook:

  • Which mind-set do you possess: that of a starving artist or a thriving artist? (pg. 15)
  • Most artists keep journals with both written and visual thoughts, helping work through creative blocks. (pg. 21)
  • Make a vision map of where you want your career to be in 3 to 5 years. (pg. 35)
  • Develop small actionable tasks to help you achieve your vision map. (pg. 38)
  • To protect yourself against copyright infringement, register your artworks with the U.S. Copyright Office. (pg. 45)
  • Send out and hand out postcards of your artwork. Galleries often keep files of these cards. (pg. 70)
  • Prepare a press kit, and promote yourself to blogs, magazines, and newspapers. (pg. 76)
  • Understand the pros and cons of sending your work to a commercial printer or investing in a high-end printer and making your own prints. (pg. 92)
  • To build your resume, apply to juried shows by following certain guidelines. (pg. 112)
  • How to introduce yourself to a gallery. (pg. 121)
  • The ins and outs of illustration and licensing contracts. (all of chaper 6).
  • Take time off to prevent burnout. (pg. 176)

This book was published 3 years ago in 2014. In the techie world, 3 years is a lifetime and for that reason, I felt the social media information in chapter 3, “Promoting Your Work,” to be a bit light. The opportunities for using social media to promote art has exploded, especially using Instagram. See my article,“Six Marketing Tips for Using Instagram,” and my Twitter articles:“Twitter is for Creatives—6 Easy Steps,” and “Tweet Your Way to a Personal Brand.” 

All artists are entrepreneurs. We must accept this fact and get on with the concept of marketing our artworks. if you are at any stage of your art career, and want to go old school and have an invaluable reference book, I suggest “Art Inc.”

For art business advice, I also recommend the online magazine Handmade Seller. 

To see my fine art paintings, visit schwebacharts.com or schwebacharts.etsy.com. 

Finding the Story in the Process: Memories in the Making

Lynn Schwebach
My mom painting in a Memories in the Making Class. 

My mom painting in a Memories in the Making Class. 

As an artist, I thought a painting class with Alzheimer’s patients an appropriate way to apply my skills as a volunteer while spending time with my mom who suffers with dementia, but I quickly discovered that a Memories in the Making class entails much more than simply painting colorful pictures.

Unlike traditional art classes, the Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making (MIM) class does not stress the finished product but the experience the artists have as they create, and the memories that their painted images unlock and bring to the surface.

Sometimes No Words

The underlying reason for MIM, however, does parallel what drives most visual artists: self-expression. Those who suffer with dementia lose the ability to find and use words, so the painting process employed in MIM helps release emotions, frustrations, and memories trapped within dementia patients.

By sitting down once a week with memory care or nursing home residents, those trained in MIM are able to help patients communicate with colors, lines, and symbols. The class does not emphasize traditional drawing skills but emphasizes images—most abstract— as a means for telling others who they were and who they still are. Unlike arts and crafts activities, each MIM painting is unique—an expression of the individual artist.

“Even after people with dementia have lost the ability to use words, they are able to create paintings that reflect their thoughts, emotions, and memories in a manner that is expressive and beautiful,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. “Art can become their voice.”

Over the past 7 months, I have heard participants in MIM classes suddenly talk of their children when they were young, of countries of origin, of barns and tractors that they and family members drove, and the experience of marching in the army during World War II. Because my mom lives with these individuals and I observe them almost daily, I know that these communications are not the norm.

Artist-Grade Supplies

Also during my first months of volunteering, I noticed the impressive quality of the art supplies the MIM facilitator used. This included 140-pound acid-free, cold-press watercolor paper, artist’s watercolor brushes, pencils, and markers and high-quality pan watercolors such as Pelikan, Talons, and Lyra.

After going through training by the Alzheimer’s Association, I learned that MIM care communities only use quality watercolor products because these products give artists the best outcome—often a treasured painting that families or organizations want to save.

The trainer talked of a painting done in the early years (early 1990s) of MIM in Orange County, California, where an artist in a MIM group surprised everyone with a colorful painting in memory of her family’s journey west in a covered wagon when she was 3 years old. She drew her brother and herself under the wagon along with detailed directional signs and symbols. It was a painting they wanted to keep, yet because they used cheap newsprint and construction paper, the artwork faded and yellowed. From that point forward, MIM classes only use artist-quality materials.

Me and my mom enjoying a Memories in the Making Class. 

Me and my mom enjoying a Memories in the Making Class. 

Stories Form Identities

One of my favorite aspects of each class involves hearing stories like the covered wagon journey.  Hearing the stories reminds me why I’m an artist. Stories comprise each of us and our humanity. They inform each of my paintings.

Somewhere toward the middle or end of the painting, I begin asking the MIM artist to share with me what his or her painting means. Sometimes this takes some prodding and creative questions to get responses. It might start with a the simple question of “what should we name the painting?”

If the artist has a story to tell, we write it in pencil on the back of the painting in pencil. In addition, we write his or name, the date, facility where completed and the facilitator’s name, and a directional arrow indicating the top of the painting.

But even if a specific memory isn’t brought to the surface by the painting, MIM initiates so many other benefits, including giving dementia patients an opportunity to socialize, and stimulation that improves mental alertness, visual memory, concentration, and imagination.

Activities like MIM are central to addressing the symptoms of a disease that hasn’t a cure. The Alzheimer’s Association states that Alzheimer’s “is not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal brain disease.”

In the U.S. alone, 5.3 million people live with its debilitating effects. According to the Association, someone develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. It predicts that by 2050, up to 16 million Americans will have the disease.

Most of us will ehave a family member, friend or acquaintance suffer with Alzheimer’s. MIM does not teach but provides a tool for communication for families and professional caregivers to learn more about family members and patients, and how best to treat those suffering with this disease.

It is one of the most rewarding art classes I have taught. And like most volunteer positions, the experience has given me much more than I can possibly offer. It has provided me with education on this disease, which affects my family and which I knew so little about. It affirms my belief that creativity is important to everyone and that its benefits go well beyond completing the perfect piece of art. And it adds to my story, one where connection and listening go hand in hand with a meaningful existence.

To see my paintings, all of which have a story, visit Schwebach Arts. 

Or take a stroll through my Etsy shop.

I took the Memories in the Making training class sponsored by the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. To find a chapter near you, click here.

The Alzheimer Association’s 24-help line is: 1.800.272.3900

 

 

 

 

The Voice Urging Me to Create

Lynn Schwebach

My grandfather Ferdinand F. Vermier painting at his easel in his 80s. 

Some people never leave us—they inspire us even after they have left our reality.

My grandfather passed away when I was 9 years old, yet every time I enter my art studio, he enters with me. I knew my grandfather Ferdinand, or Frenchy as many called him, during the last stretch of his life when he spent every day painting or making frames.

My grandfather had many artistic friends and although no one in our family remembered "John Torgo," we are thankful to him for this pencil rendering of our middle-aged grandpa.

He was in his last stretch while I was in my first, and the significance of his influence becomes more apparent to me as I now try to devote most of my days to art making. So when I don’t feel like picking up a brush and “working,” I think of my grandfather’s retirement as a full-time painter. He felt inspired until his last day, and never squandered a moment of this cherished time.

Ferdinand F. Vermier began his life as an artist in Belgium, but an older brother, also an artist, squashed his dreams. The competition between these two tempermental siblings was tough, and there are stories of flying paintbrushes. My grandfather was told by his father to find another profession.

From time to time, I also heard stories of another brother who became a sculptor. A newspaper story I have about my grandfather and his art, dated July 3, 1966, tells me my grandfather was one of 11 children. But my mom and her sister were born in the U.S., and they never knew or met any of their aunts and uncles. He abandoned his artistic goals at the age of 19, and entered college to become an engineer.

He left Belgium somewhere around 1903 (family history is sketchy) for Africa to help design and build a railroad in what was then the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He traveled throughout Africa, and often told us dramatic stories of large snakes, tigers, and a pet monkey from his beloved time on this continent. He sailed for America in 1906 and wrote his wife, Henrietta, in Ghent, Belgium, to follow him. My mom claimed her mother didn’t come for 2 years, but the newspaper article reports 6 years. There are many conflicting stories about my grandfather and the family’s history, and only intense genealogy (some day) will straighten these discrepancies out.

Yet the exact details of my grandfather’s life aren’t integral to my story. It’s the fact that in the last 11 years of his life, after he had retired from his technical jobs, he took up his paintbrush and he painted. He worked every day. He created art. Many of these artworks now hang in my home, framed in his signature gold wooden frames.

I remember walking into his kitchen where pieces of framing supplies covered the table, and sawdust blew across the floor. Passing through this first room, I would enter the living room (art studio) to find him, standing at his easel.

He would pull me close, and wrap an arm around me—a paintbrush still in his other hand. I would stand transfixed at the images starting to take shape on the canvas before him.

I wasn’t a child that spent all my days and nights drawing, but I lived a lot in my head, and I imagined things—stories, scenes and images. He somehow intuited my passion for storytelling and art, and his encouraging words stuck. Even when I was working at jobs not cut out for me, jobs not suited to my creative impulses and passions, I heard his voice and his admonition to pursue a creative life. I remembered how he also worked jobs to pay the bills and raise his family.

And I remember that he lived his last days pursuing his calling to create because a calling cannot be ignored. His spirit is my lodestone, and it keeps me working even on days when forcing myself to sit and put colors to a page seems inconsequential, or nearly impossible. He refuses to let me give in to self pity. He reminds me that beauty is in the process. I tell him it is, and I thank him.

See my paintings here.

Welcome to Schwebach Arts

Lynn Schwebach
This is a photo I took in Australia available on the Shop Photos" page. All photos are copyrighted. 

This is a photo I took in Australia available on the Shop Photos" page. All photos are copyrighted. 

Art That Opens Doors

Through art, I strive to describe emotions that words cannot approach. I believe that some emotional states have yet to be named, because they are too powerful for words. And what about the space between opposing emotions? I often find myself in this abstract, nebulous place. Through my paintings and photography, I create a walkway into a transcendent place where easily defined emotions don't apply. 

Doors that open through my art were either closed, or impossible to open in other ways, or even doors that I did not know existed. Some doors were shut a long time ago and are slowly being reopened.

I often use organic images of the natural world as a way to open and get through these doors. Or I use vibrating colors or abstraction to perceive of a reality that differs from what our finite senses tell us. My paintings often combine realism and abstraction.

New doors often arrive through the viewfinder of my camera. I might be far from my home, sitting in a coffee shop among foreigners, pondering life over coffee, and I connect with something in someone's gaze. Or I could be home in Colorado capturing the beauty of a lighted mountaintop at daybreak. Or perhaps I'm back on Chicago's South Side, trying to understand the complex, diverse, and often dangerous neighborhoods where I grew up. 

Sometimes I reproduce images as a photograph. Sometimes I print the image and paint it. Sometimes I do both. Sometimes I combine photographs and paintings. Creating for me always translates into finding and opening new doors, trying something new, searching for ways to break new ground. I value the freedom to experiment and to find novel ways of expression. Experimenting with expression is what brings me the greatest joy as an artist—although I don't think joy is the most accurate symbol for this feeling—it's simply the word that most closely approximates the intense emotion one senses while creating. 

Perhaps "contemplative" is the best word, for now, to describe my paintings and photographs. I thank you for looking and reading. Please contact me if you have any questions regarding my art. 

I also run at Etsy shop at www.schwebacharts.etsy.com.