July 27, 2010

A Round up of 300 to 30 - what did NOT go well :)

It's been a busy few days that I haven't completed the round up of posts about my project. However, I want to complete all this before I commence a new project. Besides, I am going on vacation in a couple of weeks and I do not want to leave any blog posts pending for after my vacation, when I know my motivation will be zero. :) In this post, I would like to elaborate on the things that did not go as expected, or were screwed up by my own stupidity. These things are aplenty, and every bit is a learning.

Fixing unnecessary restrictions

It was not a great idea on my part to fix the size and price of the paintings as a constant. It was as stupid as it could get. My objective should have been just to complete 300 paintings, which would have made a lot more sense, and not 300 paintings of size 5 by 7 priced at $29. This I say because I did get to complete many more paintings of much bigger size in this period over the last 1 year. If I had committed only 300 paintings without any other restriction, I’d have completed my project itself much earlier. Though I was doing many more paintings, I could not include them in the project because there was no way I could offer them at $29. That was probably the craziest idea I have come up with in recent times! It greatly restricted the subjects I could tackle as well. I was itching to do some figure paintings in between, but I wasn’t very comfortable doing figures in this size. I have a long way to go before that. And while I was interested in painting people, I could not even pick up a slightly bigger canvas, say an 8 by 10. Crazy!

Bad pricing strategy

My pricing was ridiculous that the word "strategy" doesn't fit in at all. Simple, there wasn't any. I just decided in an impulse that I could offer the paintings at $29 and all that jazz. No calculation went into it. Zero. Had I spent a few minutes listing down my costs in detail, I'd have understood that it was a stupid decision. You can offer paintings once in a while at a low price, have a sale of sorts etc. It should be time bound and for a very limited period. Underpricing not a dozen but a whole 300 paintings is a blunder. If any of you plan to venture into anything like this, give the deepest thought to the pricing and make sure you pay yourself well. It is not a luxury, it is a bare necessity.

No marketing strategy

The whole 300 to 30 project was decided in an instant, on an impulse like I usually do with most things. No great level of planning went into it. My only objective was to venture into something that will help me get more consistent and get better at what I do. My focus was not on selling the work. But, when I was offering the paintings for sale, I ought to have had a marketing plan or whatever. What the hell was I thinking ?! I have so many paintings now that I need to build a house to store them. Phew! I never thought of that aspect, which again was quite bad. When I made my plan on how to complete the requisite number of paintings, I should have made a marketing plan side by side. Very costly lesson, this.

Infrequent updates

With me painting for bulk of my time, it became very tedious to update my blog, website, twitter, facebook etc etc. Facebook was the easiest to update and I chose it over the rest. With Facebook, I did not have to write eloquent texts about each painting, I just had to upload the images and most of my friends could get to see them. It was very easy. Maintaining the blog when you are doing upto 5 pieces in a day is a very time consuming process, and it suffered greatly. Same holds good with the website too, my site badly needs an update. I have this bad habit of putting off things that don't excite me much. I would think of updating my blog, but would change my mind to paint one more instead and keep the blogging for later. And so it goes. Even now, my blog has only about 200 paintings I think, or maybe less. All the paintings are there on my facebook profile though. It is available in 2 albums that can be accessed here without even signing into facebook - Album 1 - paintings 1 to 203 and Album 2 - paintings 204 to 300+. When I commence something new next, I must make it a habit to update the blog first and everything else later. Let's see.

So that's about what I messed up with. Don't worry, it wasn't such a black hole as it seems, there were some patches of light here and there. I shall post about them next. :)

July 23, 2010

"Reading by the lake" - Impressions of a European Summer

We had gone for a cycling tour with a couple of friends a few weeks ago, along a picturesque route dotted with small fresh water lakes in the Rhine-Neckar region. Summer is finally truly here and we could go out leaving the jackets/umbrellas at home. Phew! And here I was thinking we are going to go from winter to winter bypassing everything in between :0 Wherever you go in Germany, a water body is never too far away and that's what I love about this country. In my view this holds good for Europe as a whole, the parts that I have visited. Be it a river flowing right in the middle of a bustling city or a lake out of nowhere. We managed to cycle about 40 kms, which is not much but a great deal for us considering how unfit we are! My husband and I rarely put ourselves through any form of exercise and we were quite surprised that we could cycle so much, that too with the daughter sitting behind us alternately. It became too unbearably hot in the afternoon forcing us to call it a day.

During the ride we stopped by this lake for a while, just to relax for sometime and munch on some snacks. There were hordes of people by the lake, some taking a swim, some just reading a book, introducing little children to the water and so on. A visual delight for the figure painter I'd say. I clicked a few references and this is the first one. I have one more in progress, and hope to do a few more.

Reading by the lake
Acrylics on Canvas, 10 by 10 inches.
© 2010 Nithya Swaminathan
Buy Here

I still have not mustered the courage to do the figure with the knife. Just did an initial layer with the knife for the woman, and later switched to the brush. Makes life a lot simpler that way. The surroundings though are done entirely with the knife and I hope to slowly get to a stage where my figures also are done with the knife.

There are some things that I tried with this one - a square canvas to start with. I haven't painted on a square canvas after my apples series more than a year ago. I felt it would suit this image and just went ahead. Also, usually I paint the sides with a neutral color - black or brown. This time I thought black would look ridiculous with this canvas, as it has such bright colors. So went ahead and continued the painting itself to the sides too. Too bad that I did not take a photo from the side, will do it tomorrow. The painting flows over to the sides too and doesn't look odd even when hung without a frame.

I quite like how it turned out :) Let me know what you think.

July 20, 2010

"A Round up of 300 to 30" - Some challenges faced

A little bit of background about my 300 to 30 project that I just got to complete successfully last week. On my birthday last year, I had taken up this huge task of completing 300 paintings before I turned 30, which was last week by the way. I had a lovely time with family on my birthday which fortunately fell on a Friday, and over the weekend. We were out on a short break in Holland. And just as every trip to Holland triggers, I came back with several ideas for paintings. I simply love that country!

For those of you who were not aware of this project that I had taken up, you can read my announcement around the same time last year. Funnily, that annoucement is titled "about the blog" because I had started this project as a separate blog and then merged it with my regular one. I initially thought I'd post these 300 small paintings in a separate blog and other bigger ones in my regular blog, but it turned out I wasn't painting much outside of this project and so it made sense to merge everything into one.

While one year has flown by as time always does, I surprised myself by completing things on time. I have so many things to blog about – a handful of things that went really well, a bucketful of things that got screwed up royally, what I learned and so on. So without much ado, here we go.

When I started last year on my birthday #29, there was just one challenge in front of me, to do nearly 1 painting a day so that I get to 300 over 365 days. And I started well and completed 24 paintings in as many days. But then, things in my personal life went a little out of control (not because I was painting all the time, you silly!), and the husband had to change jobs etc. When he is around, he manages my daughter so well that I can paint as much as I want. But he started traveling too much and wasn’t around most of the time at home. This arrangement was draining me so much, putting up with my little one's withdrawal symptoms missing dad etc was too much of stress leaving me hardly any time and mood to paint. And so what started as a short break stretched blissfully over 4 months till the year end. I did not pick up a brush for 4 full months.

While I was telling myself that I had not committed to do one a day anyway, I was feeling guilty of not working on the project having committed in public. A few friends even mailed asking me why I wasn't putting up new paintings and what was up on the 300to30 front. And then with the New Year, I kind of started afresh with some renewed enthusiasm and have painted atleast 1 a day this whole year. And there have been days when I've done even 5-6 full paintings.

In between, I got caught up in other work in the real world, I had to complete a huge commission by the end of May which took up most of my April and May. At that time I thought that even if my project gets delayed a bit it's not that bad because I had a valid reason. But the saner side in me insisted that if I managed my time a little better it could all be accomplished. And so I'm rather glad that it all went fine, though I'd have been happier if I could've completed a little earlier. My obsession to have anything done at the last minute continues... :) Stay tuned for more, will write more about my learnings soon..

July 16, 2010

Happy birthday to me :-)

Do you remember the "300 to 30" project that I started a year ago and have been doing over the last 1 year? Well I have completed it successfully just in time before my birthday. And this painting is a piece of cake to celebrate it. This image might be familiar for some, as I had painted cupcakes last year, as Return of the Muse. This image is a part of that reference, with the focus on just one cupcake. Also, this is done with the knife. I chose this image not just because it denoted a celebration of sorts. It was this cupcake painting last year that was the first piece I did on a black support. I have painted over 250 pieces on black after that, it is my most preferred background these days. This image was provided for the DSFDF by Karin and is one of my most favorite references from that challenge. So I chose to paint it. And I wanted to try the same subject in my current style, just to show how much my style has evolved. This was done in less than 20 minutes btw, and is heavily textured. I like the three dimensional feel that there is to the icing that tempts one to touch it. :)

Paint the cake and eat it too
Acrylics on board, 5 by 7 inches
© 2010 Nithya Swaminathan

I have just titled the painting thus, but I don't eat cakes that much. I ain't a fan of anything sweet and cakes are no exception. I just wanted to do one final painting to mark the successful completion of the project, coz I was darn proud of myself. I have loads more to write about the project and learnings and lots of blah. That will follow soon, so just have some cake right now :-) And guess what, this painting is NOT being offered for $29. We are getting into the thirties and no more twenty something prices on paintings. Mail me if you're interested in this one.

July 15, 2010

"Complementary Colors" - One last iris

This is the last painting in my project 300 to 30. With this, ladies and gentlemen, I am maha-proud to declare that I've completed 300 small paintings while still being 29, as promised last year. There is a funny story about this painting. I had started a poppy on this board, and had left it half done. It got missed when I finished all those poppies, because my little daughter had hidden it somewhere. Oh yeah we play hide and seek with all these :P And after I was done with the poppies this half done painting surfaced out of somewhere and I was taken aback. I was neck deep into the lilies by then and was not in a mood to fix this one, and had left it aside to do in the end. Only to realize that when the end actually came, I could not recognize the painting with the reference. I still have a hundred poppy references and could not figure out which photo was the basis for this one. At one point I got really wild and gessoed over the board to start again. And guess what I felt like starting? Undoubtedly an iris.

Original Palette Knife Iris painting by nithya swaminathan
Complementary Colors
Acrylics on board, 5 by 7 inches
© 2010 Nithya Swaminathan

Over the last one year, the one thing that I’ve realized beyond doubt is that it is the iris that really gets me into the zone. Something magical about these flowers that the pictures seem to paint themselves with no effort from my side. This iris is again a big favorite, as I was running short of time to complete it. I did not want to upload 299 paintings and tell that the last one will be completed later or some crap like that. While I dragged myself out of Himalayan inertia to complete this, the painting did 90% of the job and I just signed it I should say :) It was blissful! The reference for this is an absolutely gorgeous double colored iris from a neighbour's garden. I was completely floored by its beauty. Let me know what you think.

"Facing the Sun" - if you're tired of red that is :-)

How about some yellow for a change? Any other color than red actually? After doing so many paintings with red and exhausting a few tubes of paint, I finally decided to pick up another color. Let me know what you think.

Yellow daisy - palette knife painting by Nithya Swaminathan
Facing the Sun
Acrylics on Canvas, 5 by 7 inches
© Nithya Swaminathan 2010

"Yellow Daisies #3" - Light and Shade

This painting is one of my favorites. It is a pattern that the extent to which I like a painting is inversely proportional to the amount of time spent on it. It has been true wonderfully so far that I will list all my favorite paintings in the end of the project and let you know that all my favorites were completed in less than an hour. This one's no exception, I think I completed it in about 45 mins or so. And I really like it. Let me know what you think.

Original Palette Knife painting by Nithya Swaminathan
Yellow Daisies #3
Acrylics on Board, 5 by 7 inches
© 2010 Nithya Swaminathan

Yellow Daisies #2

Yellow Daisies #2
Acrylics on board, 5 by 7 inches
© 2010 Nithya Swaminathan

"Yellow Daisies #1" - May the sun shine

These little beauties are right from my backyard. I did not even know that they were daisies, how dumb is that. I thought they were some mini versions of the sun flower. And then googled to find out what flowers they were. I took quite a few shots of these flowers but they did not look greatly different from each other, so just stopped with 3 paintings. As a big group of flowers they looked so lovely that they'll make a nice subject for a bigger canvas. Some other day perhaps. Let me know what you think.

Yellow Daisies #1 - Original Palette Knife painting by Nithya Swaminathan
Yellow Daisies #1
Acrylics on Board, 5 by 7 inches
© Nithya Swaminathan

July 10, 2010

"Yellow Coneflowers!" - Do they come in other colors too?

Some time ago I was whining that I had never seen the beautiful coneflower and that all my paintings were only from reference images by others. Looks like someone heard that and planted a flower just along my way. I did not go searching for it at all, like I normally do with the other flowers. Alone my way to the bus stop, I spotted these awesome yellow coneflowers. And my initial reaction was one of immense surprise, as I did not expect them in this color. In any color other than purple so to say. I loved them and clicked quite a few photos. This is why it always helps to carry the camera around at ALL times, irrespective of whether you're on a reference clicking trip. It pays to have it handy at all times.

Yellow Coneflowers - Original Palette Knife painting by Nithya Swaminathan
Yellow Coneflowers
Acrylics on board, 5 by 7 inches
© 2010 Nithya Swaminathan

And then I had to go out somewhere and what do I see right in front on me on my way? Absolutely gorgeous purple coneflowers as well. It was as if I was destined to enjoy them that day. What a lovely flower! Do I even have to tell you that there are more purple beauties to come?! You know that too well, don't you? :-) Let me know what you think of this one.

July 5, 2010

"Radiance" - Poppy up close

I was in a dilemma whether to do poppies in groups or focus on individual flowers. Then decided that I will do them bigger focussing on the different forms than do a group. I had done poppy fields earlier anyway. One thing that I love about the poppy is that it's texture resembles crumpled paper. And I do not mean the feel of touching it, as I haven't touched one, but the appearance. It oozes texture and screams to be painted up close. Perfect for working with the knife. And do I need to even mention that red mesmerizes me like nothing else can? The various reds give me a high every time I work, no wonder a collection of my work looks like a big mass of red with hardly any other color to see.

Textured poppy painting in palette knife
Acrylics on board, 5 by 7 inches
© Nithya Swaminathan

This entire series of poppies uses the same palette - Cadmium Red, Cadmium Deep Red, Alizarin Crimson, Buff Titanium and Lemon Yellow. A little bit of Titanium white occasionally. So lured I was with the warm palette that I have done about 30 of them in no time. I love how they look together, so much that I was ogling at the collection on my table. Tried to take a combined photo of all paintings together but they did not fit in :) Let me post them one by one and do let me know what you think. There are a lot many more to come!

Summer Tea - Original Still Life

This still life is a part of a monthly challenge in the Floral and Botanical forum in WetCanvas. The “Plant Parade” challenge revolves around a theme each month and the collective reveal date for the paintings is on the 25th of each month. I cannot post it in the site until then. I wanted to share it on my blog however, since I am quite pleased with it :-) It is done entirely with a knife, with some highlights finally tweaked with the brush. Most of the times I do not get the confidence to just stop it after working with the knife alone, I get this obsession to tweak something or the other with the brush too. I am slowly getting there to just call it done when my gut says it's done.

This 8 by 10 canvas was one I had discarded, after an unsuccessful attempt at one of my snow scenes. It did not turn out as I had visualized and I decided to paint over it. This month’s theme in the Plant Parade challenge is Sun flowers. It was a revelation to me last year that sunflowers are seen during fall than in summer. I did not know that. Near where I live, we even saw a sunflower field last year, so beautiful! And I was quite surprised seeing the huge size to which they grow, quite astounding! Some of them are taller than I am!

Summer Tea - Textured Still Life
Summer Tea
Acrylics on canvas, 8 by 10 inches
© Nithya Swaminathan
$100.00 + $20.00 shipping worldwide

I loved all those blues in this image, as I am in general a sucker for blue and yellow. There are some pairs of colors that make me go weak in the knees almost, and this is one of them. I think blue works beautifully with yellow than its complement orange. And given that I had never done a sunflower before, I just had to paint this one. The other references were those of the flowers in fields, or flowers up close. I liked this one better than the others, coz I’ve been meaning to do a floral arrangement still life for a while now. My hydrangeas (still incomplete, sic!) is a step in that direction. WetCanvas has some fabulous references of such still lifes with flowers arranged with vases, fabric etc. I might paint one more of just the flower too. Let me know what you think of this one.

I have done this still life from someone else's reference after a very long time. All my still lifes are from my own set ups, though I did enjoy this one immensely. Looking forward to doing more.

July 4, 2010

July 1, 2010

Summer Flowers - Lily #2

textured painting of lily
Summer Flowers - Lily #2
Acrylics on board, 5 by 7 inches
© 2010 Nithya Swaminathan
Buy here

Summer Flowers - Lily #1

Let's move on to some summer flowers, shall we? Though the poppies themselves are summer blooms, they were kinda bordering spring and summer I would think. Maybe indicating the start of summer. The gorgeous day lilies on the other hand stood for all things summer. What with their fiery hot colors anyway! I was completely smitten by the orange-red lilies and did them in so many variations. At one point my entire neighborhood was full of these lilies that they had to be painted over and over again. Let me know what you think.

textured painting of lily

Summer flowers - Lily #1
Acrylics on board, 5 by 7 inches
© 2010 Nithya Swaminathan
Buy here

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