It’s Always Good to Give Back


“Spilling Over,” 30″ x 20″, Mixed Media on Deep Wood Panel

Artists are asked several times a year to donate a piece of art to charity. There are different opinions about whether an artist should or should not donate. I believe generosity is particularly important in today’s climate.

But if you are an artist, there are a few things to keep in mind before you decide.

Be Sure You Know the Charity

If the charity is not one you know, use your computer and find more information, their rating—or better yet talk to a friend. You want the charity to be reputable since you will donate a piece you love.  The artwork can certainly be a few years older than the work you display in exhibits, but be certain it is among your best pieces and in your current style.

 Ask How Your Work Will Be Displayed

Will this be a private event, an online auction, or a gala? Will it be in a conference room or a gallery? Will you be allowed to attend and meet the potential buyers? Again, a piece that is good quality will get the attention of more donors.

 Don’t Expect A Large Tax Deduction

The person who buys your artwork gets the large deduction. An artist can only deduct the cost of materials, according to the Center for Art Law, because the IRS considers the art a “self created asset.”

However, there are other benefits: increased exposure, the ability to experiment, and new connections.  Artwork Archive featured artist Anne-Marie Zanetti who basically created her career by donating to charity. According to Zanetti, the ability to experiment without pressure allowed her to develop her skills and make contacts.

You can’t deny that artists thrive on exposure. It is how we get noticed by collectors and galleries. Agora Gallery’s advice blog stressed that if there are good opportunities to connect with collectors, galleries, and other artists, then the donation becomes a “win-win.” I would add that wisest charities understand this and make certain it happens.

Did I forget feedback? Sometimes you will get praise directly from individuals and buyers, but it always helps to keep your eyes and ears open. Is there a crowd around your artwork and much whispering? Is the press asking you to pose in front? Still, all feedback should be considered carefully.

Let Your Heart Guide You

Certainly, be pragmatic because art is a business—and a passion. But there are times to lean toward the heart.  As I said earlier, choose an artwork that’s really good, one that you love. Donate that piece. You can never go wrong.

A Little At the Time

Continuous Thread, detail, 16″ x 20″, Mixed media collage on deep wood panel

It all started with a piece of hand-dyed fabric made during a workshop in Ohio almost 10 years ago. Months ago I pulled out the box of fabrics I had made and was immediately drawn to the pattern—lace-like, cellular-like, web-like. And then in one of my braver moments (since I usually hesitate about everything) I glued it down to a blank surface. From there the beginning, simple unadorned, but already connected.

A little at the time, I added paint, a piece of a torn calendar, and words from a newspaper clipping (remember those) about the weather. I don’t believe I thought about the time factor while I was painting, but subconsciously it must have been there, why else the weather and the calendar, why not Shakespeare. Oh yes, there is a tiny bit of him as well.

I added more paint and more texture to pull these elements together, but then I left it for months before returning to finish it just a week ago. I found some more of the fabric, a little different piece with circles that seem to fit my musing. Lately, I so often find myself wanting to pull everyone and everything together ( as I know they should be) or alternatively, to escape entirely perhaps using those tiny circles to skip away from reality. But no matter, “Continuous Thread,” is finished.

The title of the piece was borrowed from Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. In her book she refers to stories and novels following not chronology but rather “the continuous thread of revelation.”

That seems perfect for visual art as well.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Home Run, 36″ x 12″ x 2.75″, Mixed media collage on deep wood panel

Having spent my recent Saturday night at a minor league baseball game, I have begun thinking that as an artist I am no different than one of those players dressed in a striped uniform. I too must warm up, size up the opposition, determine how to play the game, learn from and correct my mistakes, and still pull off a win before the 9th inning.

Play Ball

Last Saturday we got there a few minutes early and everyone seemed to be frantically throwing balls to each other. But I could tell something else was also happening. I knew that with every throw they were also checking out the opposing players as well. It’s what I do every morning in my studio. I look at what’s on the easel or table and hope I’ve left myself a note as to my thinking the day before. If not, I miss the ball and have to chase the grounder. Do I start by reviewing new art by artists I love? Do I write about the art I am working on? Do I sketch? Do I start with a collage or just random painting? Sometimes it feels pretty frantic, so I imagine it looks that way as well. And yes, at some point during the day, I will definitely check to see what other artists are up to, though they are not opponents since no one is keeping score. Are they?

Right Off the Bat

It is always important to determine direction—to know what to do next. Am I working on a new painting or finishing one that is not yet complete? If I have made mistakes (never…), can I correct them easily or will it stretch into overtime. Every once in a while, a painting will come together quickly. It is probably because I have carried the image around in my head subconsciously for days or weeks. You would think that such a painting would be my home run.

Out of the Ballpark

But my home runs are different. It not a hit the first time I come up to bat. It’s the third or fourth time with 3 balls and 2 strikes. It’s the painting that I struggle with the most and that finally comes together. The others are just base hits, a double or a triple. When you put hours and hours into a piece and it finally feels right—when you know it’s good, that is the home run. Then you really feel as if you’re floating around the bases to home.

Sometimes I do strike out. And every once and while, I give up on a particular piece. It seems overworked and tired. But I immediately start again, sometimes on the same piece with a different twist. You see just like baseball, art gets into your blood. It becomes essential to your everyday life. There is no season; it’s a year-round pursuit. You are always in training, always playing the game.

So when do I get the striped uniform?

The Color Purple

Leap of Faith, 30″ x 30″, 2014; Riverview II, 15.75″ x 15.75″, 2018; and Fight Song, 36″ x 24″,2017,©Patricia Steele Raible.

One of my favorite books in the 1980s was Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” and I was even more impressed by the movie. In this particular case though I am literally talking about Golden’s liquid violet dark. It isn’t a color I use very often, but I think perhaps I should.

Why Purple

What else can I say about say about the color purple? If it is dark, it is the color of eggplant. If it is pale it is the last wisp of sunlight on a summer evening. Besides the violet dark, you find both a light violet, a medium violet, and a pale (which I quite like). But as you know, it is just as easy to mix it.

So purple is a color that many believe is feminine. But I would counter that purple is also the color of bruises—bruises perhaps gained from athletic endeavors (and yes, plenty of women are athletes).  I would also counter that using purple requires a lot of imagination. 

The Advantages of Purple

Purple is becoming a color I turn to when I am not satisfied with what I see on my easel. When a painting’s too humdrum (For now, humdrum is still in the dictionary, still a word.) I also try to use purple when a painting starts to look too realistic. I am not criticizing realistic, I just don’t do it well. This is pushing me into a new habit: using purple in place of colors on what I call a “messed up painting.” If there is a dark brown or dark blue, I use dark violet. If it’s a neutral gray I mix an amethyst and if it is a light green or gray a light or pale violet.

Purple Has An Attitude

I believe it really helps to change to colors that you aren’t as comfortable using. After all, painting is about experimenting. For me, changing colors can mean that instead of an abstract landscape that leans toward realism (and not good realism), suddenly I will have a completely different painting, one that has a bit of an edge, a slight attitude. It’s smiling, wearing sunglasses, and also has a definite smirk.

Ah, the color purple.

Elevator Speeches for Introverts…Like Me

“Seeking Warmth,” 20″ x 16″ x 2.75″, Mixed media on Deep Wood Panel,
©Patricia Steele Raible 2019

I really don’t like elevators with or without speeches. They make me nervous, and no matter how hard I try to relax I always feel like I’ve left my legs on the floor where I got on. So I tend to smile nervously, face the door, and think there is no way I can turn and talk to another passenger.

No Infomercials

Having read advice in books and blogs from quite a few marketing gurus, I’m always thinking about what I should say when someone asks what I do. If I say, “I’m an artist,” I am usually asked a follow-up question about what kind of artist. If I say mixed media and leave it there, I know I’ve missed out big time. I have learned that this is an opportunity to share myself and to get to know someone if only for a very short time.

If you listen to the experts, they would have you prepare a two-minute statement that tells someone “why you create.” Unfortunately, I have found that doesn’t work for me. As an introvert, I come across as stilted, pompous, or stuffy. What I’m learning to do instead is tell them something about my current work. Chances are I’m excited about it and that comes through in my body language. It doesn’t come across as prepared or memorized.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

I’ve got less than a couple minutes, so I have to keep it really short. Second, if I want this to lead to a look at my website, a visit to my studio, or a possible friendship, then I need to know at least one thing about this person. So after describing my most recent work, I ask a question. “Are you involved in art, who is your favorite artist, what kind of art do you like?” Then I have a real conversation that I can continue briefly when the door opens or I can exchange information for a later date.

In my excitement talking about what I am working on, I have to remember not to overwhelm them. They don’t need an artist statement or a curriculum vitae. I try to connect with them by using descriptive language they can understand. If they seem sincerely interested, I invite them to a show or just to my studio.

Being Real

While I believe in being as prepared as possible, a canned elevator speech just doesn’t work for me. I can’t make it sound authentic. I have found it is far more important for me to be genuine—to be myself and talk about something that I am passionate about. That makes me sound…well, like me.

Recycle/Reuse Applies to Art

Having started out with little or no money, I have always known how to stretch a dollar. It never occurs to me not to at least reuse something.  As a painter, mostly on deep wood panels, I do a twice a year survey, determining not just which paintings are sales worthy but which I deem of lasting quality. This means I would hang them on my museum wall if of course I had a museum.

Second Chances

I don’t do this lightly. Normally, I put the ones I have chosen or maybe it is “ not chosen” in a corner of my studio on the floor where the wall is low and they can be seen. That means I will be looking at then a lot before I actually begin my “deconstruction” so to speak. Occasionally, I take paintings out of this pile. But once the day arrives, I begin the work. It’s mostly sanding, something I do a bit of anyway since I like my sides relatively smooth. I look at this as a “second chance” for me and the painting. Many of my paintings, some of the best, are just that—a second chance.

I begin by removing any attached objects, whether a vintage yard stick or just the wire on the back. If there are really thick areas of collages, I might take a paint scraper and attempt to remove a bit of these elements as well. But then the real “fun” begins: sanding, sanding some more, brushing them off, and yeah standing again. For most jobs I use a hand sander, but this requires the belt sander and both rough and smooth surface sandpapers.

Always Take Care

The idea is to take it down almost to the natural wood, removing all the paint and mediums. On mine you may see some matte paint that I have used to seal the wood. But sanding well is the key to ensuring that the surface of your next masterpiece will adhere correctly. I should always wear a mask even though I rarely use highly toxic materials. But I do use adhesives that are labeled “known to the state of California to cause cancer.” Another artist reminded me of just this at an event recently. You just never know.

Does this work with canvas? Yes, but obviously you would not use the heavy belt sander. I haven’t “reused” but a couple of canvas paintings, and those had no collage elements only acrylic paint. Making sure the back was properly supported, I was able to sand the canvas with lightweight sandpaper. I then prepared the new surface with gesso. There are many good instructions on the internet for preparing canvas for reuse.

A Little Work Benefits Everyone

This is only a small step in helping the environment, but it is one I can do gladly knowing that it not only benefits future generations but also my own pocket since buying canvas or building cradles is not inexpensive. I always encourage students to buy the best materials they can afford. Sometimes they are already in your studio.

Front Row Girl

Keeping A Promise, 18″ x 20″, mixed media

So 2019 is upon us, and it is time to make those changes, those new year resolutions. And I have decided to occasionally be a “front row girl.” Now this is a term I heard in yoga class, when I teased another woman about moving up to the front row. She replied, “I’m not a front row girl. I don’t like the attention.” (I go to the front row because I can’t see.)

Wearing A Hoodie Through Life

Now, if you look up “front row girl,” you will get blogs and stories about a Milwaukee Brewer’s fan named Amy Williams who comes to most of their home games and sits…well on the front row. That’s not the front row I’m talking about. I’m talking about a different type of “front row,” one that includes taking more risks and being more involved in the things that matter to me (or to you) whether it is art, education, affordable housing, or fighting those who insist on speeding and running red lights.

Too often I find myself not doing things because it makes me uncomfortable— even though I realize that it’s something that could make a difference in my life or someone else’s.  If it is a problem, I complain, but still take a back seat because I’m an introvert and don’t like making a fuss. And sometimes even when I believe I have a good solution to a problem, I don’t speak up for fear that it can’t really be that good or someone else would have proposed it, or even for fear of rejection. A hoodie is nice when you’re cold, but it may feel good to throw it off once in a while.

Peaking Through

But this is the year. At least once a week I will be doing something I haven’t done on a regular basis—whether it is as simple as introducing myself and talking to someone I haven’t met (but should have), or speaking in a more public forum. Already I am pushing myself to change my paintings, adding more contrast, more color. I am also pushing myself to write more, about art and about life.

While winter is just beginning, I’m going to pretend it’s spring and that I’m always a “front row girl.” Some of us are late bloomers, admittedly very late bloomers. But our flowers are just as beautiful.