The Art of Robin Baratta

Colourful Contemporary Art

I am a professional artist and art teacher.
I paint the tenacious bits of wild that defy human activity in a manner inspired by
my fascination with fossils and designed to make the viewer look deeper.
Studio visits by luck or by appointment are welcome.



contact info



Monday, August 1, 2016

Artist = Flake

I think I've ranted around this point before, but this is a hot button that keeps getting hit.
When I went through the small business training program 5 years ago I was told point blank by one of the supervising councilors that art was  a hobby, not a business.
I beg to differ.  
When we were applying unsuccessfully to dog adoption agencies I listed my self as self employed/artist, and was told I had to be employed....WTF? I'm sure a self employed plumber wouldn't be told to get a job, grrrr. 
At an art fair a person walking through the tents after enquiring if I was an artist said 'it's a lovely hobby isn't it'. 
Today at the dog park, of all places, during a conversation I told some one that I'm an artist, and was asked 'where do you work?'
I started to talk about my work (art) and got a blank stare. Obviously this isn't what she meant. 
It seems that people see artists as hobbiests at best and unemployed, unprofessional, potentially suspect persons at worst. 
It saddens and amazes me, and makes me wonder how a respected profession, slid so far into disrespect. 
It also stuns me when in our gallery we occasionally have people complain about prices, they can get the same thing at homesense for $60, or less...
Artists, we have some work to do. 
The world seems to have forgotten the value of what we do, and who we are. 
Occasionally I see flashes of hope, the minimalist movement I think works in our favour. 
Only possess that which you must and/or brings you joy is a philosophy we can get behind. 
I get annoyed when I see artists playing the role of flake. If someone must choose a role I wish they would respect themselves enough to to play at being a professional, intelligent creative business person, because isn't that who we are??

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Openings Necessary Evil?

The opening for the Square Foot Show at the Westland Gallery is tomorrow, Wednesday at 7:00pm.

It's one of those common knowledge things, that is  touted as being a truth, in the fine arts business; you have to attend openings to advance your art career. The assumption being that it's all about building a brand and having the 'right people' get to know you.

Is there any truth in that?

At most of the openings I've attended 70% of the crowd are artists, the rest are family, friends, and a few serious art patrons.
The artists talk to each other or their family/friends, the patrons talk to the gallery staff. Occasionally an artist and patron are introduced, but that is not the norm, at lest not at the openings I've attended. People like me hide in a corner and leave as soon as they decently can.

I hate crowds.
Even when I know some or most of the people in the room I feel like snakes are crawling under my skin in a crowded room, and the older I get, the worse it gets. If I have to go to an event I make sure I have a job to do, for example I'll volunteer to serve the refreshments. Being able to focus on a task makes it easier to ignore my discomfort, but it never goes away.
It's the reason I won't go to a mall, and I find every excuse possible to get out of social engagements including...openings.

 This is not a poor me moment intended to elicit a 'there-there' response. The confession is because I think that many artists are to varying degrees in the same boat.

So I ask, is it true, how important is it to attend these things?

Lets get a conversation going, I really want to know what you think.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Who's Calling Whom a Professional?

 I received a 'call for artists' this week that said it was for artists of all levels, and it asked the artists to categorize themselves as student, emerging or professionals.
It gave definitions, which were similar to the ones from CARFAC which for a professional are: 
  • 1-earns a living through art making;
  • I earn much of my living from teaching and selling art, but I could not support myself with it, in any style to which I could get accustomed to. 
  • 2-or possesses a diploma in an area considered to be within the domain of the fine arts;
  • I have very little formal fine art training from a place of 'higher learning', just lots of classes, and experience. 
  • 3-or teaches art in a school of art or applied art;
  • I teach (and have an Artist Educators certificate), but not in an 'Art School', applied or otherwise.
  • 4-or whose work is often seen by the public or is frequently or regularly exhibited;
  • I do exhibit, and my work is definitely seen by the public.
  • 5-or is recognized as an artist by consensus of opinion among professional artists.
  • The last criteria is tricky, frankly I've never asked the art community for a consensus of their opinion, and I couldn't ask most of my art friends, since they are in the same position I'm in, I'd have to find 'professionals' to ask!
  • By this definition I will never be a professional artist. Yet in spite of all of this I do consider myself to be one because;
I get paid for what I do. 
I continually try to better myself, and to learn as much as I can about art, and the business of art. 
I'm very active in the art community, some times too active, when it interferes with the making of art!
I keep regular studio hours, inspiration comes from the work, not work from the inspiration. 
I actively market my work on Facebook, Instagram, mail chimp, and my blog etc
I have a business license, a business bank account, and pay business taxes. 
Most importantly I THINK I am a professional, although this made my imposter syndrome kick in briefly lol. 
Really, isn't it where you are in your heart, head and effort that should matter? 
I'm sure the organizers of the show were trying to keep the competition fair for all levels, but I resist being labeled. 
What do you think?

work in progress,
Work in progress

First step for a commissioned work. 


Robin

Artist, teacher 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Getting ahead. What a feeling!

I'm glad I have my work ready for the Port Stanley Show, I've been able to get some gardening in, and I've got a good start on work for the Westland Squarefoot Show this week! 
Like many artists, I'm an avid gardener, I've used my garden as reference material many times.
This time is the year I usually feel very torn between spending time in the garden, and time in the studio, with the weather usually being the deciding factor. This week has definatly been gardening weather, it's wonderful to be able to indulge without guilt. 
Almost done, a tweek here and there to do and it will be ready to mount on board. 
Elgin County
name to be chosen by contest sign up for my mailing list to participate

I just need a name now...


Monday, May 16, 2016

Ignore The Experts

As an avid reader of all things art I noticed that sometimes I put too much credence in the word of the so called experts.
Case in point, this blog: the experts say 'content is king!' 'Consistency is every thing!' 'Stick to a schedule' Have a theme' too much advise and after years of postings suddenly this blog was in danger of dying. 
By trying to have interesting and informative content for every post it became work. It started to languish and was fast entering the land of the abandoned blogs. 
So, I'm back to blogging for me. I never really cared if anyone else read this, it started as a way for me to record and think through my own progress. Be warned if you do read this blog, it's  all about me....again 😊

The finished results from last post:
Palmato, Hunting Island South Carolina
Sculpted by wind 8x10, $130.00 contact

marsh, Hunting Island South Carolina
The Marsh, 8x10, $130.00 contact


Saturday, April 23, 2016

LAA Show Final Hours

Wow what a show the annual Lambeth Art Association has put on. 
Every year after we hang the work we all comment that it's the 'best one yet'. Patrons have been commenting, agreeing with both words and their pocket books. 
It's always interesting to see how artists evolve. I think it's part of the creative psyche to continue to explore, and push. 
As one of my favorite artists Kim Harrison says, 'artists are problem solvers'. 
Very few true creatives are satisfied with staying the same. 
Solving the 'problem' whether it be composition, colour work, value pushing or any of a number of other issues  makes the work exciting for the artist. 
Sometimes people ask how I can let my work go? The answer is that it's not the end result that interests me, it's the process involved in getting to that end result.
If you have a few hours this afternoon you should pop in to Lambeth United Church and see the show. I'm sure you'll see many examples of creative minds playing, and pushing into new style evolutions. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Letting Go And Starting Over

Tenacity can be a great character trait, unless it descends into stubbornness.
I'm afraid that too often I slip into the latter. So with the Lambeth Art Association Show just days away I've had to look that particular devil in the eye and let go of two paintings that I've spent way too much time and effort on. Since I've entered those painting in the show I've started over with two new paintings, which are going much better.
Most paintings go through an ugly stage, but the 'bones' should be good and pleasing even through the uglies. These two turkeys started out OK, but those good bones didn't survive some experiments gone awry. The learning from the experiments is being applied to the new paintings, and already I can see that they're going to work. So stay tuned and watch them progress.


Work in progress
Works in progress

Friday, December 11, 2015

About v.s. Of: What Is Your Life Statement

There is an exercise that artists are encouraged to do regularly called writing an artist's statement.
At their worst artist's statements are pretentious, jargon filled, meaningless garble, and at their best succinct revelations baring the artist's soul.
Part of the problem is the confusion over 'about' and 'of'.

Of: the subject. My art is of.....
The subject seem's like it should be obvious, but artist are strange beasts, and often the subject isn't what you think it is. My friend Kit Cutting paint's wonderful dog portraits (amongst other things) often featuring very old dogs. Her painting of my Rolley is a great example.
Jack Russell Terrier, painting
Rolley, by Kit Cutting

It's a painting of a dog, a very old dog (he was 18 when this was done) but more than that it's a painting of love.
Kit is a dedicated foster parent to rescued dogs, she has a special fondness for old dogs, or geezers as she calls them. She has devoted a considerable amount of her life to finding homes that will love the old ones till the end of their days. The love they give back is guaranteed, and her paintings always are OF this, and of the wisdom of the aged ones.
I paint landscape, seem's simple enough. The funny thing is that for years I resisted painting landscape because 'everybody did it'. I slowly came to the realization that painting landscape didn't necessarily mean 'just' painting pretty pictures, landscape can have a voice. My OF is micro habitats.
I'm a dedicated natural gardener, my property is certified as a backyard habitat. I raise monarch butterflies, rescue salamanders from under the treads of bulldozers, and grow native plants that some think are weeds. This is what my art is also OF.

So what the heck is it ABOUT then?
ABOUT is more the mechanical nuts and bolts kind of stuff.
Many artists work is ABOUT the play of light, or immersion in colour often it's about the tension between light and dark, upright and horizontal, foreground and background, etc etc.
For me the first ABOUT is the abstract patterns that comprise the landscape, the designs found in the fields and wild spaces and those magical places where the two collide. Where the casual observer sees helter skelter  patches I see interwoven pattern.
Secondly I see texture. It's not grass or scrubby shrubs, is bold uprights and lacy caps, intertwining lines, and bursts of textural energy.
Third I see the play of light, fractured as it bounces off textures, becoming colours to delight our eyes.
So that's my OF and ABOUT.

What about you, what are you OF and ABOUT? you don't have to be an artist, all meaningful lives are OF and ABOUT something....
Perhaps writing a life statement is something we all should indulge in from time to time.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Keeping Records

Last night at the St Thomas Elgin Artists' Guild Meeting the talk came around to record keeping, with several artists giving suggestions, there were lots of creative ideas-not surprising considering the group.
Out of the discussion there were a few gems some of which I'll use IE: lining up all of your show submissions and taking a picture, because sometimes after the passage of time a name might not bring the painting to mind. Some were too involved for my taste or too simplistic for my needs, but the point was, keep good records, and back them up.
I pride myself on being organized, but I rely too much on technology, a point that I've learned the hard way when a computer crashed and took all of my files with it. Luckily I printed a hard copy of my business books and forms, but I didn't create a back up file, which I've been kicking myself for.
I also lost all of my pictures. Some are on a stick but others were on a disc and my current computer won't read them. Technology changes mean I may not be able to retrieve them even though they were 'saved'.
The learning; update storage types as things change, and print the pictures and files you most cherish.
So much for my cautionary tale.
There of course is much more to this. 
Artists need to recognize that they are in fact a business. 
Most of us will never get past the hobbiest stage in the eyes of the taxman, but you need to act as if, and be prepared. 
If you do start to make a profit no matter how small, the taxman will want his share, and they can ask for all of your records dating back 7 years. If you don't have the records they can and will assume you lied and penilize you at an amount based on your current year. 
I'm not making this up or trying to scare you this is a fact and I personally know artists this has happened to. 
Even if you think you'll never make a profit, you MUST keep all business related receipts. 
Keep track of household and vehicle expenses, and how much you use them for business. 
The taxman assumes you are guilty and it is up to you to prove youself innocent. 
Talk to an accountant, or the small business centre in your area for more complete information. 
Your record keeping doesn't have to be complicated, just complete. 



Elgin county, landscape, pastoral painting, Robin Baratta
Just Down the Road, 6x6, $65.00, will be at the ST Thomas Elgin Artists' Guild Show Nov 13-14

Thursday, October 22, 2015

How To Fix a Paint Stiff Brush and other studio tips

It happens.
No matter how hard you try to keep bushes in water (acrylics), one will get left out.  Without fail it's a 'good' one. 
Even though my students are all taught right off the bat to wash brushes properly,  one got missed this week. To make things worse I was teaching off site and wasn't in my studio for a few days, which meant it was REALLY stiff when I found it. 
Not one to throw $30.00 away with out a fight I got to work. 
First I soaked it over night in diluted Murphy's oil soap then used Old Masters brush cleaner to strip the paint off the bristles. There was still some paint in the ferrel so I repeated the process. The brush will never be perfect again but it's usable. 
Usually I have my students wash brushes with a mid grade shampoo the kind with conditioner in it. It helps to keep the bristles in good condition. Please note I'm using a synthetic bristle brush. 
Before brushes even get to the wash up sink I have some simple brush washing buckets that I made. 
These are two recycled containers, I like the wide feta containers, stacked one on top of the other.
The top one has a number of holes drilled into it so that solids collect in the bottom container and the water in the top container stays relatively clean. You can see from the bathtub ring in the top tub that I fill the stacked tubs so that the water comes up about an inch in the top tub. 
I let the dirty water in the bottem tub settle at lest 24hrs. Then I pour off the water and use paper towel to clean out the solids. I know artists who pour their water off outside but I'm on a well and don't want it in my drinking water, so mine goes down the drain. 
I know others who pour their water into a bucket and let it evaporate, but I create it faster that it evaporates so that doesn't work for me either. 
Next week I'll offer some ideas for mounting, and hanging work that won't break the bank. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Don't Wait: Part three

In part one we talked about the dreams that get left on the back burner of our busy lives, and I suggested writing those dreams down, a bucket list if you will.
In part two I suggested that you choose one to start working on, I asked 'What can you do as a first small step? how soon can you do it? What might stop you from doing it? What do you really want? Why is this goal important to you?  How will you know it worked? Create your plan, and work it.'
That last part is the hardest, for example:
Heather Kohl and I are planning on doing a joint show, we've been talking about it forever.
Our work is dis-similar, but we both love rich colour, texture, and glossy deep finishes, and we feel that our work compliments each other. Heather and I have similar goals, work ethics, and drive. We both want to break into new (to us) markets, and are willing to do the work to make it happen.
We met this week to talk about planning, and what we need to do as first steps.
We chose a name 'Omnium Gatherum' meaning a collection or medley, a few simple parameters for the work we'll each be doing and looked at venues and their submission requirements. 
We have each talked to contacts about what we would need to do/know/prepare, we looked at the resulting suggestions and each choose areas that we needed to either brush up on or start.
 We have decided to keep in contact to keep each other encouraged and on track, and get back together in March to check our progress and decide on our next steps. 
If we've both completed the tasks we've set for our selves we can start submitting to the venues on our list.
Our first steps are: creation of (her) and maintenance of (me) newsletter contact lists (I've let mine slide this last year or so, lots of excuses, but no real reasons),  creation of at lest 6 good pieces for portfolio submission, and good photo's of each. We both need to create great web sites, mine sucks, her's is an embryo, and we both need to document our sales history,  show history and any media coverage we've garnered.
A few of those steps are outside of our respective comfort zones, but they need to be done, having each other for support, and a time line will hopefully take some of the pain away, but not entirely. I take solace in knowing that it will be worth facing my fears, and that the bogeyman is mostly imaginary.
And that is the bottom line, most of us don't act on our dreams because we're afraid, but the fear is mostly unfounded.  I've always said to my kids 'what is the worst thing that could happen? and what is the best? don't miss out on the best for fear of the worst.'
It's time to follow my own advice.
How about you? What are the first steps to your dreams? what is the worst that could happen? and the best?
Are YOU prepared to miss out on the best that could be?



Vincent, My hero and inspiration what fears you faced, and overcame. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Don't Wait, part two

Last week we were speaking about Dreams, and I suggested that dreaming should be a life long activity.
I teach creativity programs to the elderly, most of whom lived ordinary lives and reminisce about family and friends, experiences and events. Usually there is a gentleness to those memories, as if the memories are in soft focus, the rememberer's eyes see things in the past, focusing inward.
On the other hand the dream chasers eyes light up when they tell their stories, the fire in their belly is still visible all those years later, I've never spoken to someone who regretted chasing those dreams or the work and struggle that being a chaser entails .
Scientists researching animal behaviour say that there are two basic behaviour patterns seen in individuals in the populations of all species, in an experiment David Sloan Wilson called them  sitters and rovers . Sitters wait in cover for food to come to them, the human equivalent of sitters are the rule followers, they go to their jobs, collect their pay, raise their 2.4 children, and retire at 65.
The rovers explore, try new things and take risks. They may be eaten by predators, but they are also more likely to get the best forage.
Interestingly in the animal kingdom approximately 20% of the population are sitters,  The vast majority being rovers.
What happened to us? In the human population the numbers are flipped, with approximately 80% behaving more like sitters.
Sir Ken Robinson has a theory in his TED Talk he says the industrial revolution and the education system are to blame. Industry needed good obedient workers, so creativity and individuality were ground out of students to make them good workers.
In 'The Burning Times'  another theory is presented, during the Inquisition, and several other Purges, including the Holocaust anyone who was different, or non compliant  with the ruling regime was murdered, taking their DNA out of the gene pool, changing the human race.
Garette LoPorto theorizes rovers are actually the bearers of active Neanderthal genes, and calls us up-risers. His theory is interesting, most non African people do have Neanderthal DNA, but there isn't a shred of evidence to support his description of Neanderthal culture. 
So, are you a sitter or a rover?
Do you dare to chase your dreams?
Keep making that list.
Choose one, maybe not the biggest one, lets start with something a bit easier. If you've been lurking in cover, your first step out into the open is going to be difficult.
What can you do as a first small step? how soon can you do it? Make a plan. Do it.

Be a rover.
steps in a painting, Robin Baratta
First Steps in my newest painting, step by step we can accomplish our dreams


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Don't wait

There was a bucolic rural scene, complete with a sagging out building that I've been meaning to take a picture of for ages. The shed is gone, the picture never taken.
 We all do it, I'll wait until ...... before I do..... 
Customers in the gallery frequently say 'when I retire I'm going to learn to paint'. They say that they have a cache of art supplies, all waiting until....
I was in the periphery of that group, I said when the kids were bigger, I'd get serious about my art again.
It took a brush with mortality to focus me and get me started. 
The problem with amorphic deadlines is that with out a clear plan most of our dreams stay just that, dreams.
What are you going to do one day?
The time is going to pass, God willing you'll live each of those days anyway, why not live them working toward your dreams?  
So today, take a few minutes write down your dreams, be it a bucket list, a life style shift (for me art is a lifestyle) something you want to learn, or accomplish, write it down. 
Keep adding to your list, dreaming should be a life long activity. Don't be afraid to dream big. 
Mull over the list and pick one to work on, next week we'll talk about where to go from there.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Lookout Trail
Hubby and the Grands, dreaming big

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Priorities

The weekends I have my grand kids I often don't get to post, they take priority. We wore them out yesterday and they're still sleeping so I have a few minutes to spend with you.
A close friend recently posted on her facebook wall that she would no longer be sharing all of the 'scare posts' about the apocalypse of the day. Instead she was picking one cause, it didn't mean that she didn't care about the others, just that she was setting her priorities.
A common theme in art business advice columns is to find a style and subject matter and stick to it, make it your priority. Multi arting, like multi tasking, doesn't work for most of us, according to the 'experts'.
Priorities.
What a loaded word.
For the last 15 or so years I've had the thread of an environmental message running through my work. My focus has shifted and become less specific, currently habitat loss is my inspiration .
I think with maturity I've realised that one priority can be applied to all of the things that concern me, it doesn't mean I'm less dedicated, I've just distilled my focus to the one common link that all of my concerns share.
What about you, do you have one over riding priority that motivates your behaviour?
Set aside some time this summer to think about the things/people/causes that mean the most to you, define your concerns, hone your focus.
How do you express it?
What actions are you able to take, small things do count.
If you pick up a few pieces of garbage every time you go for a walk, if you inspire someone else  to do the same. and they inspire someone.... it does't take much to start a grass roots movement.
As long as at lest one person makes it a priority.  


painting, Ontario country roads, Elgin County roads, Canadian Art, Robin Baratta
Just Down The Road #6, Helkmara Line, Glazed Acrylic, 12x12, Robin Baratta, $180.00 contact for info



The Lorax, Dr Suess
The Lorax, one of my favourite books, by one of my favourite Authors, the very wise Dr. Suess