Category Archives: Painting Tips and Tutorials

How to paint, how to become an artist, caring for your paintings, techniques and tutorials, and other helpful hints.

Angry Birds Copyright Violation in Asian Fine Art Paintings?

I just got my first “Cease and Desist” order, in an email claiming to be from a lawyer defending the rights of Angry Birds.

It happened just after I sent the following sketch to some painting companies in Dafen China, in a project aiming to explore whether fine art can be outsourced. Obviously, somebody turned me in. And yet, if you’ve paid attention to the international fine art market for the past several years, especially the Asian fine art market and major trade shows, it seems a painting is hardly complete without a Doraemon, Hello Kitty, or some other international famous pop icon/cartoon figure – this includes the angry birds characters, which I’ve seen a handful of times in fine art paintings, being sold by galleries representing artists from Asian countries. I have to wonder, does everyone get the cease and desist order, or just me? I remember in my first art class in high school, the teacher was very careful and scrupulous about teaching us copyright laws.

And it’s only recently that I’ve begun incorporating pop culture icons – because it seems to be the “thing to do” if you want your art to sell.

I imagine if I sell the painting, it would be infringement – is it also even if I never plan to sell the painting? If I do it as “art for art’s sake”?

Anyway, these are definitely interesting questions for fine artists and fine art galleries.


Anti Piracy Order from Rovio

Here’s the letter:

To whom it may concern

It has been brought to our attention that your business has been marketing, selling or otherwise making available products or services that may infringe Rovio Entertainment Ltd’s copyrights and trademarks in the software game “Angry Birds” and related merchandise.

We have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. We assure that the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that we are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Location of potential infringement:!wp-prettyPhoto[g2470]/1/

The game Angry Birds is developed and published by a Finnish company Rovio Entertainment Ltd. All intellectual property rights to Angry Birds are owned by Rovio Entertainment Ltd, including but not limited to copyright to the game characters and internationally registered trademarks. Rovio Entertainment Ltd’s copyright to the Angry Birds game characters and international trademark registrations of the word “ANGRY BIRDS” and international trademark registration of the graphical representation of the game characters provides Rovio Entertainment Ltd with certain proprietary rights. This includes the right to restrict the use of copyrighted works and/or trademarks, or a confusingly similar works or trademarks, in association with confusingly similar products or services.

Rovio Entertainment Ltd’s trademark registrations include, but are not limited to registration of graphical representation of game character by European Union Community Trademark (no: 009205221) and international trademark registration in several jurisdictions (no: 1052865) including United States (WO 1052865) and China (WO 1052865).

Your use of Rovio Entertainment Ltd’s copyright and/or registered trademarks is likely to confuse consumers and/or lessen the distinctiveness of Rovio Entertainment Ltd’s brand. Your continued use of Rovio Entertainment Ltd’s copyrights and/or registered trademarks will cause significant and irreparable damage to Rovio Entertainment Ltd

Rovio Entertainment Ltd demands that you immediately:

1. cease and desist any further use of images, emblems, logos or similar items infringing Rovio Entertainment Ltd’s copyrights in association with the manufacture, marketing, sale, distribution, or identification of your products or services; and

2. cease and desist any further use of Rovio Entertainment Ltd’s trademarks in association with the manufacture,  marketing, sale, distribution, or identification of your products or services.

This is written without any prejudice. Rovio Entertainment Ltd reserves the right to claim damages as well as any other remedy under applicable copyright and trademark legislation, but we hope this issue may be resolved without any further legal actions

Should you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact us at [email protected].

Respectfully on behalf of Rovio Entertainment Ltd,

What do you think? Obviously, they have the legal right to protect their image. On the other hand, angry birds has become such a ubiquitous element of contemporary international culture that fine art that wants to be true to life can hardly avoid incorporating it into the work. The point of the above painting was to bring the issue to a meta-level, by equating angry birds with religious icons following the “pied piper” of Steve Jobs, deified as Krishna, while also being explicit about the commercial aspect of both religio-cultic-corporations as well as fine art. Is art ever above the law?


How NOT to ship your art and paintings for an exhibition.

I’ve never been one to take care of my things. I studied Buddhism in high school and developed a certain nonchalance to possessions; mostly because it coincided with my general carelessness. And I had a friend in art class in high school who would  flip out if any of her paintings got scratched and I thought it was cool just not to care….

But now that my art is in galleries, nice galleries, and SELLING (people are actually giving away their money in exchange for my paintings) having scratched up, dented or mishandled paintings is just tacky, thoughtless and rude.

The problem is that, especially for really big paintings on canvas, it’s just so hard to protect them. This is what I do: which doesn’t WORK!

How not to treat your artwork:

1) Rush them for exhibitions, slap on a coat of varnish, throw them all together in a truck with no padding or anything.

2) Keep your room dirty so dirt and hair and dust will stick to the paintings forever.

3) If necessary, throw a plastic garbage bag around each painting: especially if the varnish is still wet so it will stick.

4) Carry them 3 or 4 at a time so they are too heavy, crack them into the walls and ceiling.

5) Lean them up against the wall, so the smaller paintings will indent the larger paintings.

Ok, OK – most of you are probably not as bad  as I am….

Canvases do pose unique challenges however, even if I weren’t a slob. If you live in hot or humid area, the paint will stick to any bubble wrap or plastic wrapping you use.

The BEST way to handle/ship your canvases is :

1) Go to the post office/shipping office. Get cardboard boxes that pretty much fit the frame. Put the painting inside, wrapped in a thick cloth like a towel.

2) Bubble wrap the entire thing really well. Wrap each painting separately. Make sure paint/varnish is super dry – and even so, this may not work in a very humid area.

3) Remember – how you treat your canvases is a big part of how much they are WORTH. Paying a couple hundred dollars to do it right may dramatically increase the value of your paintings.

Does size matter? How big should my paintings be?

A few years ago, I’d finish a painting and write “This is HUGE” or “Enormous!”. Those paintings were all about half the size of “One More Cup”… painting it I learned that

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size does matter, for lots of different reasons. There are some of the things to think about when you’re buying canvases.

1) Price: If I remember correctly, a canvas this size in the states would probably cost over $100. Price is a major factor, unless you’ve already got clients throwing money at you. Buy as big as you can afford.

2) Most big, classy galleries like to showcase large works of art. Many of the paintings are around this size (4~6 feet); the rest are usually at least 2~3 feet. Smaller paintings just don’t make it into galleries that often.

3) The size of your painting is a statement about yourself as an artist. Are you committed to your work? (Do you have the space, time, resources, dedication to paint such a big piece?) Big paintings attract far more attention, and show that you’re confident about your work.

The negatives:

1) Big paintings are HARD to finish. You get tired, lose a lot of detail work; they take more time, more paint, more effort.

2) They are hard to take care of; easy to scratch, hard to store.

3) Hard to transport. (You can’t fit this painting in any normal car, or even van. You need a moving truck. Even if you rolled them up to ship, you’d need a 5foot tube). These are all things to think about.

Big painting

How much is my art worth? Increase the value of your paintings.

If you’re an artist an the verge of becoming a ‘professional artist’ (ie selling paintings for $$$), you’ve probably asked yourself the following questions:

How much is my art worth? How much should I charge for my paintings? How much can I get for my art?

This article may help you understand how to charge for your paintings, what gives artworks their value, and what to do to increase the value of your paintings.

A long time ago I set a goal of earning $1000 per painting; this is not so much because my paintings were ‘worth’ $1000 – that number was just a figure strong enough to suggest that I’d ‘made it’ as an artist. A ‘real artist’ selling in a gallery may not make as much; paintings in galleries (by good but relatively unfamous artists) regularly sell for between $1000 ~ $3000. The artist’s cut therefore, usually around %50, could be more like $500.

(*However, if you plan eventually to get into galleries, you don’t want to sell your paintings at $500 because a gallery can’t afford to charge so little. Keep your prices high enough to later enter into good relations with galleries. That said, if you want to negotiate with a buyer and sell for less, do so without advertising it publically.)

Now, $1000 doesn’t seem like enough to me; that’s the price of very many mediocre, pretty, ordinary paintings. Million and millions of them. I don’t want to be in that category of decent enough to sell buy wholly unremarkable. Therefore, I mostly use price as an indicator of my position in the global art market. For my large pieces, I charge as much as $5,000. The reason is that I’m less interested in selling as I am displaying in high class galleries, who need higher prices to justify lending me the exhibition space. Eventually, I hope to charge a lot more.

But what about ME?!

Sorry, I forgot you were here. As I mentioned, starting around $1000 (but selling under the counter for $500) is a good strategy. That is, if you paint well and have some interesting pieces (not just one or two) and don’t just paint flowers or portraits or landscapes. Remember that people can buy a fantastic, beautiful, hand pointed oil painting from China for much less than you’re trying to charge, so get a humble and honest evaluation of your self-worth before trying to sell at all. If you’re a hobbyist, use your paintings as a Christmas present, a fundraiser, or give it to a local restaurant for promotion. (Promotion is so much more important than selling! Focus on promoting yourself and painting more, not selling, until people are constantly asking you – “Would you sell the original? How much does it cost?” Unless people are trying to buy your paintings, price doesn’t really matter.

Should I post my prices online?

I have… but I advise against it. For one, I have half a dozen sites I’ve made in the last 10 years online that have wildly different prices. For another, prices may change, due to gallery mark up or whatever. How embarrassing for a gallery to list a price for a painting that is more than the online price!

Does size and material matter?

Yes – oil paintings usually sell for more, regardless of quality (so learn to oil paint!). Larger pictures also sell for much higher prices. However, try to keep your paintings in the same ‘bracket’. I have an exhibition next week and lots of small paintings that I’m selling a little too cheap (it’s a small gallery, with no commission, so I’m charging around $500) however I feel uncomfortable charging more than $1500 for my very large, new paintings, just because the difference in prices would be too great and seem strange. I can either charge more for the little ones, or less for the big ones. Probably I’ll list the big ones ‘not for sale’, so I can find another gallery where I can put a much higher price on them.

How to take an artist/author profile picture

2941471232_f26dc9813b_o This picture (on the left) is one of several I got from a professional photography studio. I was looking for cool, edgy shots to make myself look more like an artist. Unfortunately, they airbrushed my skin so much that I look like a little girl. In this article I’m going to teach you how to take a perfect self-portrait at home to use for your artist bio or author’s jacket cover.

Why you need it – and what is ‘it’?

Come’on, I know you’ve seen them. Every artist or author needs that subtle, classy, professional head shot that they can use in publications and promotional material. While your website should definitely have lots of natural, candid shots of you working, laughing and smiling with your paintings, there will be opportunities where you really just need something clean, but stylish.

A lot of professionals (think TV or movie industry) use clean, bright pictures; colorful shirt, white background, creamy flesh-toned skin. For certain kinds of artists (if you paint bright and happy landscapes) this might suit you just fine – although they are harder than they look. If you want this kind of picture, take it outside on a nice day against a white wall.

But if you want to go for the typical dark, brooding, sensitive and alarmingly charming artist profile picture, follow these steps:

1) It’s all about lighting! Take your picture at night, with a stand up lamp (the kind that you can point the lightbulbs in the direction you want. Lots of light is good – but just from one side. Turn a little less than 90 degrees in either direction so the light hits the side of your face. Hold the camera up above you, near the light. Smile – or don’t, and take LOTS of pictures. (You can choose the best ones later)

2) Editing your pictures. The secret to making a cool, magazine quality photo-portrait is to decrease the saturation. You can do this in most simple photo editors – windows 7’s photo viewer has this feature included. (Fix>Adjust color>Saturation). Decreasing the saturation to somewhere between regular and black and white gives photos a dark, artsy feel. You could also play with hue or contrast but mostly if you desaturate a little, and maybe sharpen a little, it’ll look good.

3) Unsharp Mask. If you want very dramatic pictures, you can use the ‘unsharp mask’ feature (under Filter>Sharpen>) in photoshop. Unsharp mask is different from regular contrast. In this picture – the bottom right is the only one I used unsharp mask on. As you can see, it really stands out. Don’t go too far though, having a photo that is too edited or too sharply detailed is often less appealing than a simpler, softer picture (however – if your photo is for print, I’d recommend making it a little clearer and sharper, because you’ll lose some detail in the printing process.


What do you think of these pictures?

How to promote my art? Get your art noticed with these tips!

If you’re an artist, you’re probably wondering how to get more exposure. There are tons of websites and offerings online claiming to boost your sales, get more fans, and make you internationally famous, but do they really work? In this article, I’ll give you (what I’ve found to be) the most effective way of marketing my paintings.

1) If you want the career of an artist, focus on building your reputation to the point where galleries will deal with you – your online presence is a big part of this. There are many websites that will host your paintings, but very few viewers buy art online! The majority of people who will see your paintings on websites like or are other artists trying to promote their own work. Most galleries deal with local artists who approach them – they aren’t searching online for emerging artists.

2) Rather than spreading your online presence thin, focus on a handful of big websites – go where the people are., Facebook, and Myspace are the heavy hitters. Be consistent; develop your individual pages and link them all to your main website (it’s important to have a website – but nobody will find it unless you direct them there – and to do that you need to be a posting contributor on a big community site where members will automatically see your new uploads.

3) Tag and name all of your works well – with your name, style, medium, and geographic area; this will be helpful for search engines.

4) Organize a contest around your art for a free poster or print – you can also use or to offer products/prints of your work online (a great way to supplement income and increase your exposure). If you find a printer who can do it cheaply – print a few thousand postcards with links to your site and distribute them in coffeeshops around your city. You could also print posters and find places in public where you can put them up (give them away to a restaurant or cafe, etc…)

5) Advertise – but only if you have a product to sell. If you have links on every picture to a site where viewers can buy posters, and you’ve already had some viewers buy prints, then you can crank up the volume with advertising on Google or Facebook. Hopefully you’ll get enough people to your site to buy enough prints to pay for the advertising – getting tons of ‘free’ exposure.

6) Post news on Craigslist about events or updates to your site.

Follow this tips to get an immediate online presence and build up your visitors! Good luck.

Art Deadlines, Competitions and Contests

Here are a few of the links I use to find out about art deadlines, competitions and contests. Be warned, many of these opportunities charge an entry fee – choose wisely and enter categories that you could feasibly win. Don’t worry about the prize, think about the exposure. By entering, who will see your work? What market/area is being addressed? Will there be any media coverage? Will you make valuable contacts?

1. Juried Art Exhibitions: Art Shows and Art Competitions | view site >>
Juried Art Exhibitions, Art Shows, Art Competitions, Juried Art Shows, Juried Art Competitions, Art Contests, Opportunities for Artists, Call for Entries.

2. Art Competitions, Contests, and Juried Exhibitions | view site >>
Art Competitions, Art Contests, Juried Exhibitions, Art Exhibitions, Art Deadlines, Call to Artists, Call for Entries.

3. ART DEADLINES LIST | view site >>
International Online Juried Art Exhibitions: “11th Annual Faces”, EARLY DEADLINE : …. Unlike other juried exhibitions, all participants receive exposure. …

4. Art Contests, Art Competitions, and Opportunities … | view site >>
Unlike other juried exhibitions, all participants receive exposure. … The National Juried Exhibition promotes an appreciation of the visual arts, …

5. Art Deadlines – Art Contests – Juried Art Exhibitions | view site >>
A Singular Creation provides a free list of art deadlines: art contests and competitions, call for entries, juried art exhibitions, art shows, …

Get recognized, exhibited and paid for your art.

smARTist® Telesummit

Do you want to sell your art? Did you just start painting and now have a little collection that you want to capitalize on? Have you decided that you have the ‘soul of an artist’ and want to learn how to promote yourself, gain exposure for your work, get recognized?

In my inbox today is a tip from Smartist-telesummit (if you’d like to get your own tips, join their free mailing list: It warns me against playing “Wizard of Oz”, or creating an overblown sense of self image. This is a great thing to remember, and I need to go through my own site as well. Try to keep it simple, and explain honestly why you paint what you paint. Using a bunch of silly art jargon, while the standard, puts you on a pedestal; that just work in today’s ‘social networking’ environment. People will see right through you. Be yourself, connect with people, be likeable.

I could write a whole post about that and probably will later, but this post is to recommend the smartist-telesummit. Now first off, I don’t recommend going out and spending a lot of money if you’re a beginning artist. Spend about 5 years learning how to paint first! There is serious competition, (Russian and Chinese painters have flawless painting skills) and while you can sell your flower and cat paintings to relatives and neighbors, becoming a professional artist may elude you unless you have a unique and recognizable style.

Nevertheless, it helps to get familiar with the basic rules of self-promotion as an artist, and I recommend you join their free newsletter.

However, if you’re a serious artist, with vision, genius, mad skills, and you still can’t get any recognition, then Smartist is an investment you might want to make. There is definitely a ‘right’ way to do things, and studying and following the Smartist tips on becoming a professional artist can make a huge impact on your career. Sure, you could find similar information spread out over hundreds of websites, but time is money; in my opinion, you should stick with a 20%/80% ratio – 20% promoting, working on your website, etc, and 80% actually painting or doing your art. Smartist will help you make your promotion time much more effective so you can get back to what’s important.

Is it expensive? “Hell yes!” (Says the starving artist mentality). But if it helps you realize your dream of exhibiting frequently, traveling the world, selling paintings for thousands of dollars, being a recognized, successful artist, then isn’t worth every penny? When you’re ready to push you career ahead, give it a shot.

Artists — Balance Your Life. Sell Your Art…so you can get Recognized, Exhibited, and PAID what you deserve!
7-Days of Art-Career Experts & Successful Artists tell all: “Informational GOLD MINE.” L.L.
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Should I varnish my paintings?

Caring for your paintings – should I varnish?

Short Answer: Absa-freaking-lutely!

I’m a big offender in this area… I never got around to varnishing most of my early painting, and in the years since they’ve gotten scratched, dirty, and torn. The biggest reason to varnish your paintings is for PROTECTION. Wait about a month after you’ve painted them to make sure they’re really dry, then put on a heavy coat or two. If you’re paranoid, put on 5 coats and they’ll be practically impenetrable. This way they can get scratched pretty bad without having any effect at all.

The other reason to varnish is that paintings will just look better – they’ll have a shine and consistency, the colors will be brighter and the darks, darker. They will look more finished and thus more valuable.

If you don’t varnish, and they get scratched, you have t0 repaint the spots that look bad which can throw off the whole painting. (I did this today- again- as I do it everytime I take my paintings out of storage).

Where should I store my paintings?

Ideally – your paintings will always be hanging up! Having them anywhere else is dangerous. I usually stack them by size against a wall, and even so they get marked and scratched up (hence, the need to repaint and revarnish). If you’ve varnished well early, and your painting is protected, it’s easy to revarnish. If you can’t find a place to hang them, the safest storage is always to take them off the canvas, roll them up and put them in a tube. I did this once, and years later had them all restretched. Although I recommend it, I probably won’t do it again myself as it’s a major pain.

How to paint a portrait with oil paints

How to paint portraits with oils.

Tip: Oil paintings rarely look smooth and natural up close. Frequently take 4 or 5 big steps back, to see what your piece really looks like.

1) Select a great picture with deep shadows. Painting a person will be so much easier if there are clear blocks of light and shadow. If you select a picture taken by a normal flash camera, the whole face will be lit up and you’ll have no way to depict the nose, eye and mouth areas except by outline, which will look cartoonish at best.

2) Sketch the picture in pencil, and then outline your sketch with a mix of turpentine and raw umber or another dark color. (Use turpentine instead of oil because it is runnier and easier to paint lines with.) If you aren’t a good drawer, you can get a cheap art projector like the “Artograph Tracer”. This will save you tons of time.

3) Next, take some raw or burnt umber and paint in the shadows. They can be pretty rough, but make them as dark as possible; they are always darker than you think they are.

4) Let dry! It is tempting to blend in the light areas and flesh tones right away – I usually make this mistake myself. If you do, you’ll probably go just a little too far somewhere, and make the dark tones weaker than they should be and need to repaint them later. Do yourself a favor and wait until the warm dark browns dry and are there for good.

5) if you have other things to block in – such as clothes, or background, you can do it after the shadows dry. (In this picture, besides adding the dark hair and clothes, I darkened the shadows in the face.) To get your shadows really dark, mix some dark blue in with your brown. Notice how the picture almost looks complete, even though all the highlights in the face are just raw canvas.

6) Add the flesh tones. Start with a warm, creamy color (I used to use yellow ochre, white and cadmium red but you can just buy a tube of flesh tone)… warmer is better, because you’ll mix out a lot of color when you add white. Try not to paint over your shadows: Put your wet brush where the face is the lightest, and pull the paint over to the sides – it should already be pretty dry when you get to the shadows. You can kind of ‘push’ the light over the edge of the shadow a little, but don’t paint over the whole thing.

7) Highlights. Once your flesh tone is blocked in, use white for highlights. Be sparing – put a tiny dab or almost dry brush just where you want it. Highlights are usually well-defined and less blended than the rest: the line on down the nose, the bright part of the forehead…

8) Details. Go back and outline or sharpen the picture. Work over the lines of the eyes, darken the nostrils and the line of the mouth.

9) Finally, add your signature and put it on the wall!