Polishing Up: Gallery Matters and Manners

After viewing the OPA’s 28th National Juried Exhibition, albeit via the internet, I was Impressed by the volume and level of talent this organization hosts. Bravo! I am a relatively new member and I imagine many of you have a litany of solo shows on your resume’ and have attended art events that could fill Alladin’s wish list. Whether you have attended a museum exhibit, exhibited in a nationally recognized show such as the OPA, or a local small town venue, you will notice that each show has it’s inherent culture and theme. 

Every art opening deserves a thoughtful respect to the presented art and those who represent it. To make an event run magically I am going to offer a couple of observations on what to do, and what not to do at an art event. While I’m sure a few of us may have unintentionally committed a social blunder or two, as I sure know I have, we could all use a little polishing up on our art manners.  So here are a few pointers to make a show shine:

Late is a FOUR Letter Word.  When hosting an art opening, it is best to arrive at an agreed time prior the opening so that the gallery director can address any final concerns.  This helps build trust and eases the flow of the evening.  Being late also means keeping close to closing time. Don’t linger too long after the show is over. Gallerists have a life too, and may want to retire after a hard day’s work. After all, it is possible the gallery dealers may have been on their feet for nearly twelve hours.

Wear appropriate attire that is a notch above the occasion.

Dress to impress.  An opening is like a job interview. so wear appropriate attire that matches the occasion. With art being displayed in all types of venues from country craft fairs to big city galleries, take mental inventory of the venue and dress a notch up so you take the honor over the venue and customer. Don’t wear a painting smock and stocking cape, nor a ballroom gown and crown, unless it’s a dress themed show. If you are arriving straight from the studio or field, take consideration and pack a change of clothing. Some of us are not fashionistas or GQ models, so when in doubt ask a buddy for an honest opinion.

Decibel Discussions.  Speak at a lower volume than the crowd. A show opening is a joyous event and is a celebration of the art. Yes, I admit that I have had loud outbursts of laughter during a show and have had to tone it down, but be conscious of the room’s volume and allow others to have uninterrupted intellectual conversations. That is not to say that others don’t wish to hear what we have to say about the work, but be conscious of your volume.

Negative Nots.  Don’t openly criticize the show unless you are a professional art critic. While attending an event, it is advised to keep any negative opinions to ourselves. As we all know, art is subjective, yet we may react in unforeseen and unexpected ways. That’s great! The art has spoken through the senses, but let’s play nice. Be aware that the artist’s intent put forth took immense effort, so wait to discuss potentially harming and disappointing opinions…in privacy  on the way home in the car. Just remember that public criticism is itself a display of competition. Or is it individuality?

Allow room for everyone to enjoy the work.

The Consumer:  You’ve seen it before, a guest who consumes a large portion of you or the presenting Artist’s attention and time. Let us all be aware that the show is up and there are several curious collectors at the opening who may want to ask exhibiting artist a question or two.  As an art attendee or supporter we may also unknowingly stand directly in front of a piece while catching up with long-lost friends. Keep in mind that blocking others from taking in the work consumes the guests space and time. Move on to view the show and take it in. Also, how many times have you witnessed a close friend or enthusiast cornering the Artist with personal subjects outside of the show at hand? This behavior puts the Artist in an uncomfortable position. If you witness this, please help the Artist by redirecting the guest to allow the Artist to meet other attendees at hand.

Indulge Yourself...in the art and the collectors, but not in the treats. This includes alcohol. The host often supplies and expenses a spread of morsels and wine to share with the guests. There have been times when a full meal is provided and this is very generous of the host, yet be mindful and step away from the silver trays. Perhaps eat a small snack prior an event, or wait to go out after the event with your new found art admirers. When it comes to the wine, monitor your intake. I know it is easy to take in a little more than needed, but be careful. Sadly, I have witnessed a gallery owner get drunk and it embarrassed me to no end. Sadly that gallerist did not last long in the business and this is true for us artists as well. Also, when finished with your wine cup or small snack plate, place them in the trash receptacle or table and NOT on art pedestals. This gives the 3D art the respect it deserves and keeps the presentation of the room at it’s best.

Misplaced receptacles draw attention away from the art.

No Solicitors Allowed.  Do not promote yourself while attending another artist’s show!  I had once attended a beautiful show and while there, I saw business cards from another artist placed precariously around the gallery. OUCH! This is not a good way to get attention for our art, and will tarnish a hard earned reputation. Neither is it a good time to solicit a portfolio or whip out a cell phone to share some recent work to the gallerist or director. If asked to share, then take the opportunity to set an appointment for another time.

Permission Please.  If you wish to take photos of the art, always ask the artist for permission. A flash may effect the work, and the artist owns copyright on their creations. Many times I have witnessed admirers snapping close ups and have imagined that they might print it out for their enjoyment, or even copy the idea. Here is a great moment to address the admirer that not every artist wants their work photographed. Then again, they may have a potential buyer on the other end. Don’t be afraid to ask what their intention is, and perhaps offer up the gallery directors business card to follow through with the image.

Ask for permission to take photos of art.

There is always more we can do to improve our industry, so I’m hoping that I have cast some light upon a subject that is not often discussed. Whether a small town exhibit, or a national solo show, it is my wish that every one of us can adjust and elevate the sense and value of our work by being mindful of our show manners. We are our best representatives, and genies of our work.



Morning Birches 10x8

Morning Birches 10x8" o/l  

Overlooked, average, and often undiscovered spaces close to home can be the most inspiring places to paint.  Once you slow down and really look around you, you will find all sorts of unsung beauty.  Here is a spot just around the corner from my house that I drive past nearly every day.  It was a chilly Fall morning with the sun rising just behind the rooftops, and there it was...this stand of small birches highlighted by a glowing, rainbow-like mist. I gotta STOP! And so I made a swift U-turn back to my house, picked up my painting gear and returned a few minutes later to paint it.  Now every time I drive past this unnoticed spot of beauty, I will always remember what I saw and what was painted. Art does that. It takes us somewhere else, calms us, and settles our busy lives down.  Take in a moment and look around you while running your next errand. What do you see? 

This piece is headed to the New Visions show at The Mission Gallery in St. George, UT. March 21-22, 2019


Your Hidden Gifts... or Art they?

When I was a littler kid, I was usually found quietly entertaining myself by making something with my hands, and pestering or instigating trouble with my sister. My wild side provided endless curiosity to make things; whether with crayon, pencil, paint, clay, wire, tissue paper, gum wrappers, mud, food...you name it. Sometimes the result was a mess!  Making something out of nothing was pretty much a self-driven therapy. I often thank the heavens I'm not crazy...or am I?  So to all of you creative souls out there, I'm sending you suggestions for a year filled with curiously fun adventures, creative opportunities, artistic possibilities, and hopefully some new art supplies that will keep on giving for years to come...

This Advanced Pastel class is an 8-week series that will cover the finer points of pastel painting and beyond, with the still life as our subject. Designed for the artists who have a solid understanding of pastel painting. Artists will have the choice of painting a still life that is composed and worked on each week over a series of sessions, OR, from a new still life composition each week. The artist must have knowledge of painting vernacular and skills based upon previous lessons, experience and instructor approval.  

In this course we will cover everything pastel that is 'chalk full' of information with plenty of time to practice and finesse your newfound knowledge. We will build upon your skill, understanding, and confidence in the medium through a progression of exercises on the many aspects of pastels.  We will be breaking down the values of pastels, exploring the facets of mark-making, discovering your style with pastels, under-painting techniques, and more. This is a great course for those who wish to discover the medium, learn about pastel on a broader level, or for those who wish to push their pastel work to the next level.  Perfect for Beginner to Intermediate levels.

Wishing you a wonderful, adventurous 2019


5 Simple Tips for Plein Air Painting

“Sun Day Off,” oil, 11 x 14 inches
No-fear plein air painting requires a little planning, a healthy dose of respect for nature and a keen sense of humor. With my five simple tips for painting en plein air, you’ll be able to hit the ground running and make the most of your experience.

1. Practice setting up your easel a few times before your first outing. Navigating an umbrella can be a humorous endeavor for others to observe, so practice where and how to hook it up to avoid frustration and wasted time.
2. Your first mark should be the horizon line. This grounds your painting and immediately navigates the space.
3. When dressing, think thin-to-thick. Wear layers of clothing to avoid colder-than-expected or steaming hot conditions.
4. Be courteous and respectful with nature and your fellow painters while out painting. In that way, painting outdoors is a little like camping. If you are in a very wild area, expect natural things to happen. Bug bites, wildlife, unexpected weather conditions, or a potential angry farmer, as well as the best painting subject matter, are all part of the plein air experience. Leave no trace behind.
5. Have a sense of humor at the easel. This keeps things simple and not overworked — not to mention, the “fun factor” is definitely increased.


Roadmap for a Successful Painting.

Amidst the Lines (36x48" oil on gallery wrapped canvas)

Do you have paintings that have taken several different directions during it's creation? It can be frustrating and is a similar to getting lost in a new city without a map, or worse, getting a flat tire on a freeway.  Well, that is what happens when a plan is not in place before putting paint onto your canvas or paper.

What do I mean by a "plan"?

Roadmap:  Have a compositional sketch or two to see if the elements have a flow, or movement that keeps the viewer in and exploring your painting.  Try out a your plan with a vertical, horizontal or square shape for starts.

Horizontal composition

Vertical composition

 Square composition

City Limits:  Decode your scene with a three or four value structure to keep things general. There is no room for detail, so keep it simple. This is a basic necessity for any painting, much like a map has city limits or borders. use felt markers of 3 or 4 values to keep it simple.

Red Lights:  Where will your focal point be located? Use complimentary colors, detail, high contrast, letters and numbers, and faces or people to attract the eye to stop and take a closer look.

Notes on where the focal point will be with supporting detail to guide the viewers eyes around and throughout the piece.  The road and skyline areas offer light values with little detail, providing a large resting spot.

Rest Stops:  Use negative space to allow the viewer's eyes to rest through the painting. Sometimes pieces have too much detail all over the entire piece, creating a noisy, busy piece that can't stop honking.

Road Conditions:  Decide on a color theme. This creates a mood and gives life to a overcast day or light-filled landscape. Ask yourself "What color is today?" Is it overall a warm sunny day filled with Cad Yellow, or a cool wintry day filled with Ultramarine Blue? Asking these questions help you to zone into a color theme.

I sure hope you liked all my urban inspired descriptions to help you navigate the necessary points for a successful painting journey.

Carry on,


Love me some desert work

This past December, my husband and I thought we'd do something different and take our growing kids on a trip instead of stressing out on buying gifts that perhaps might not be appreciated. Experiences instead of things?  What a concept!  

Well gosh, since I'm there I might as well get some business done while I'm there.  My favorite place to paint is pretty much the California desert, so I took oodles of photos for future work, and while I'm there, I might as well pay my galleryt a visit and hand over a few pieces. So my easel was on fire because I had just given myself one of those self imposed deadlines.  So here is what came out of the deadline.  Check out Brian Marki Fine Art Gallery online to for a peek of what he has to offer. 

The Main Strip (10x24" oil on panel)

Desert Floor (10x24" oil on panel)

This one has yet to be delivered...
Defiant Heat Rising (36x48" Oil on gallery wrapped canvas)


Clip of the Crop 11x14

(11x14" oil on linen)

Being out in the sunshine painting a beautiful scene with bold color like this makes for a fulfilling day. This piece was created with an accompanying 3-part video short in order to share with you an inside look at my process. Jane Bell Meyer of The Mission Gallery has conceptualized the idea of presenting several plein air artists painting for three days in a row.  It's quite a kick to see how each artist conveys what they see, where they are, and how they communicate it in paint. 

Here is my very attempt at trying to tape myself at the easel, not very easy and not an Oscar winning moment either, but you get the gist.  Enjoy!

Watch HERE.


Lloyd via Pearl 16x20"

"Lloyd via Pearl" 16x20" Pastel

Hadn't shared this one yet cuz I've been so busy with family stuff... graduation, and my folks visiting. It's been a fun week of celebrating and more, and now back to work today. Weather is looking too good to be inside, yet much to do that has piled up in the studio. So I'm finally getting this one out there. Worked on it during the rainy months here in Portland. I came upon this scene when I made a wrong turn and ended up with the perfect moment to shoot a pic from my car dashboard as the trolley was stopping. Loved the lights and the atmosphere of the scene. 


I have a new workshop to share with you!

Offering a 2 day "Pastels en Plein Air" workshop. Come join in a fun and highly educational plein air pastel workshop for all levels of painters. Plein air painting has its own challenges and advantages, offering quick studies to beautiful finished works in just a few hours. Get to know the best practices, methods, materials, and how to select a scene that will cement your solid foundation of plein air painting. We will focus on how to build a painting through design, values, shapes, and color to jump start your plein air journey. Brenda will offer a brief demonstration each day to help you focus on the essentials of plein air. Additionally, there will be personal advice at your easel and we will wrap up each day with a group discussion/critique at the San Clemente Art Supply.

Brenda is a Signature Member of LPAPA & the Pastel Society of America, and has been an instructor at the 2nd ,3rd, and 6th Plein Air Conventions.

Dates: 8/26/2017 - 8/27/2017
Pre Demo date: 8/25 at 4:00pm

Tuition:  $275

Register through San Clemente Art Supply and Framing (patience please...class may not yet be listed)
or visit Brenda’s workshop listings at https://brendaboylan.com/workshops

Contact Heather Raposo to register at scaclasses@scartsupply.com


The Fall Line, 24x24"

"The Fall Line" 24x24" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan

Urban scenes continue to inspire me because of the activity, lights, and pops of color. I Portland, OR., where I live we have a metropolitan transit system called the MAX.  There are several routes that travel throughout the various areas of the central region often crossing bridges, and sections of town. Some of the the routes are identified by the color of the trolley.

In this particular piece, I focused on a triad color scheme of orange, purple and green with a dominant warm color temperature. Because it was a Fall scene, I chose as the dominant hue.  Look closely and you might see hints of orange in the street.  


Afternoon Adagio, 20x16"

It is with great anticipation that I post this new piece "Afternoon Adagio. You see, I will be sending this piece off to Atlanta for the Olmsted Plein Air Invitational. It is a rather new event located in Atlanta, GA. and boasts a large following in a very short period. I will be 1 of thirty plein air artists that will gather from across the US to paint for Olmsted, and as part of the event we are required to send in a piece for the Collector's Preview Gallery. I am so excited to be a part of it! Since the weather has brought us snow I kept inside my studio and created something warm and summery.

The Collector's Preview Exhibit will be at The Booth Wester Museum in the Bergman Gallery, during the month of March, 2017.


Modifying an Open Box M for Simplicity

I don't know about you, but when I go out to paint on location I am all about putting paint down as soon as possible. When a scene calls out to be painted, setting up your gear needs to be quick and streamline. When equipment has more that 4 steps to setting up, it gets nerve-racking. This could include setting up the tripod and attaching the box to a tripod, squeezing out the pigment, and setting out the brushes and turp, The sun is your clock in plein air, and so a simple and speedy set-up is important. 

Many plein air boxes on the market are clam-shell design, and in my opinion are the most efficient type of pochade box available. The clam shell box I like most is the bomb proof Open Box M. I love it's simple design, but over the years have despised it's fussy hinge system that seems to get caught up in my backpack, and it takes 6 wingnut twists to adjust into position. If I could eliminate 6 twists down to a one-knobbed twist, then I could eliminate a bit of fussiness and frustration as well as a quicker set up. It may seem nerdy to have to go through the trouble of changing out the hinge system, but I am all about simplification here.  

Here is what I did to ease the set up of my already well used box:

The Open Box M with the hinge system. Each side has 3 wing nuts to adjust.  As you can see, the wing nuts stick out on the sides of the box and they often get caught up onto other equipment.

All the fussy hardware was impractical, so I removed the hardware and replaced with the two piece system that I picked up from Judson's. 

Guerrilla Painter Replacement Lid Bracket for 102 Series Boxes can be found in the Do It Yourself section HERE. Measures 3 1/2" long, 7/8" wide, 1/4" thick.

Your local hardware store can help if you don't have the tools or the know-how with woodworking and set-up. Most times I have found that the guys in the hardware store love problem solving and this one proved to have a few challenging sessions. One of the challenges was to allow room for the black knob to clear the glass on the inside of the wood wall.  In order to do that, we had to completely replace the old glass mixing surface and install a new piece with a cut-out clearance area for the knob. Use a dremmel tool to cut a notch out for the knob. Finally, we attached the hinge system and now it opens and closes with just one twist.

Have you ever adapted or streamlined your equipment to aid in your production? If so, please share.


Cattails, 14x14

"Cattails" 14x14" Oil on canvas panel (plein air)

Brrrrr. It's winter alright. Here in Oregon we are being treated to the coldest temps in a long time. Makes me wish for the heat of summer, but I think I'd even settle for mild temps of Fall. I painted this scene last October at the edge of a swampy wetland on the property of a horse stable. I went there to paint horses, but came home with a cattail painting.  Subtle greys, inspired with a hint of warm and cool colors.


Winterglow, 9x12

"Winterglow" 9x12" Oil

Winter. Well I tell you, it is either cold outside or raining. Take your pick, Oregon has some crappy weather in the winter for plein air artists. However, if you can find your way outside while the rain stops or the sun shines, then by all means take that opportunity to paint. We recently had a dumping of fresh snow up at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and the snow reports have been nothing short of "perfect".  So my family and I went up for a snow day. They get to ski, and I get to paint, and it was my first time painting in the snow. 

Plein air setup with a sun-shield

The snow is beautiful in the sunlight, with glittering color and shifts of light, however that sunlight can really burn you up with all the reflective light.  I clipped on a car shield to my easel to protect my eyes from the glare and eye fatigue. I think next time I'll bring a black tarp too, to stand upon so that the brightness of the snow is not reflecting back up at me.

Overall, I had a great time painting in the snow and plan on more opportunities to do so again.