Sergio Lopez - North SF Bay Area Fine Artist

Upcoming Shows and Events

-May: "California Light" - Landscapes. Christopher Queen Gallery, Duncans Mills, CA.
May 21-June 29: Paso Robles Art Festival
•June 18-21: Paint San Clemente, Southern California.
-June 29-July 5th: Telluride Plein Air.
-September 2014: Sergio Lopez/Mia Bergeron - Robert Lange Studios, Charleston, SC.
-October 2014: "The Traveling Painters," 3-Person Show - Christopher Queen Gallery, Duncans Mills, CA.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Expectations, Courage, Gratitude, Disappointment

As you can see by the title, this one's going to be a little different than my usual blog posts. I feel like I have more to say than just recapping events. Don't worry, plenty of paintings will be in this post as well.

This summer has been a busy one for me. Not only was I working on two major shows for me this year, but I was trying to do a few plein air events at the same time. I had built up in my mind some notions about the outcomes of each show. Not only expectations, but hopes as well. I think it's OK to let imaginations run wild as far as, you know, having sell-out opening nights, new collectors who wish to whisk you off to their charming French cottages so you can be commissioned to paint their sheep or whatever. If that's what it takes to stay motivated through non-stop 12 hour days juggling between multiple paintings in order to meet the deadline then so be it. As long as you are able to let it go before it becomes permanently attached to your heart.

My Trip To Charleston

After a long day of plane travel I arrived to the destination of my two-person show with Mia Bergeron. The Langes and company let us use the upstairs apartment in the gallery. It was a charming old room that was more than adequate for our stay. 

The day of the show was one of adjusting to the oppressive humidity of the Southeast Coast in August. The ocean is right there! How about a bit more seabreeze, please?? Ok, minor grumbles aside, Charleston is a lovely place with a lot of old-South buildings, texture and mystery. A great place to visit, not to mention all the great galleries in town. Too many to visit in such a short stay.

I finally got to meet Mia for the first time. As I've said before, I've been an admirer of her work for a long time, and connected to it in the way a viewer connects to a painter's work might. So I was glad when I met her it was instantly like we were old friends. When you're able to talk to someone about something you are both deep and passionate about, there's no way you could not feel any sort of kinship. Plus her and her boyfriend John are both incredibly sweet people. I'm really glad to have met them both, it was one of the best parts for sure.
"Heart In Hiding" 15x12 in. oil on linen board. $1150.
The night of the show. A bit slow at the time of the opening, but the trickle got larger as the show went on. As more people come in, the more of a chance that different people are going to be more and more demanding of your time. so you sometimes need a place(or person) to retreat to. I was glad to be there to revel in the admiration of our accomplishments, but at the same I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. There is only so long I can handle before I need to find a familiar face to relieve some of that pressure. I am so grateful to have had one of my best friends in the world Joella present with me for the night. Not only is she so much better than me at meeting people, she is instantly likeable and an all-around great person to hang with. Had it been a solo show with no old friends there, it would have been an entirely different experience, and probably not for the better. Maybe I would have turtled up emotionally to hide nervousness. Lack of courage, perhaps? Hmm.

"Sorrow In Good Light" 14x14 in. oil on linen board. SOLD.
Opening night's sales were less than I was expecting. "Expecting." More on that later, but what were the reasons? There were a lot of shows going on at the same time. If I were a serious collector of art, I would be the type who shops around a lot. Truth is, at this point, I have very few people who are willing and able to follow me around, and buy a painting from me no matter where I exhibit. I'm really grateful for the collectors I have so far. Without them, there's no way I'm getting to the next phase of the career. I'm still in the early stages of building an ardent collector base, but I have the belief that I will get there one day.
"Over Your Sheltered Nest" 30x40 in. oil on linen. $6500
I had a great time with Joella visiting her part of South Carolina near the mountains. A lot of beautiful places to hike and see. Next time I go out there I'll plan on taking my oils out there to do some serious study of the area.

Sonoma Plein Air

Speaking of being busy, less than a week after returning from South Carolina, it was time to participate in this year's Sonoma Plein Air event. The added pressure of being the "reigning champion" of 2013 added some expectations of "What's he gonna do this year? Will he win again?" Plus it's a bit of a fun competition with yourself to see if you can outdo your previous output.
"Valley View" 6x8 inches. $425
Overall I think I did better this year comparing paintings to last, but I don't think I did one that really stood out over the competition this time around.
"Changing Colors" 8x10 inches. $500
Aimee Erickson did a fantastic job on her prize-winning piece this year. I urge you to look up her work and check it out for yourself. She's been on an award-winning tear; she's unstoppable!
"Golden Angles" 12x9 inches. $700
Also, look up newcomer Jason Sacran if you're not familiar with him yet. He was a newcomer to the event but I've known him since Telluride last year. He's been making great leaps in his work since I met him, and did some dynamite work for the show this year.
"A Slice of Yesterday" 9.5x4.5 inches. Sold.
My quick-draw painting of a young girl in a traditional Mexican costume sold at the evening of the quick draw. A decent amount of quick-draws sold, which is usually a good sign for plein air events. They get your hopes up for a good day of sales for the main show.
"Chasing Away The Pestering Fog" 10x8 inches. $500
"Looking Over The Oaks" 6x8 inches. $425
"Castaway" sold at the night of the opening, although it went for the minimum bid at the silent auction so I didn't get nearly as much for it as I'd hoped. It was my submission for the Artist Choice award. There were a lot of great paintings to choose from for the decision to be made, so I was not expecting a repeat win.

"Castaway" 12x16 inches. Sold.

The Saturday show was pretty lackluster in terms of sales for me. I only sold one $400 painting during the show. From what I could tell, there weren't a ton of sales from anybody near me. However, they told us that this was their best-selling show yet, which leads me to believe that the sales were all spread out evenly. I don't think there were any sell-outs, but everyone sold at least one painting, I think. A good amount of people sold 3 or 4 paintings, which is pretty damn respectable. It's not always pleasing to the individual artist, but for an event organizer, it's pretty great. Overall, you can't really complain if you sell 3-4 paintings in a plein air show. I've come to expect that.

Press On Me

Cool side note: I was interviewed by Sonoma Discoveries, a local lifestyle magazine, as part of a larger article on plein air painting. They focused on myself and Linda Rosso, another local painter. The photographer came out with me to Spring Lake. As I worked on this painting, he took pictures of me, my setup, and the scene. He did a great job.
"Bright Reflections" 10x8 in. oil on linen. SOLD.
The article is nice. I recommend downloading it and reading it. The Christopher Queen Gallery was very happy with the amount of ink they got in the article, because it helped get the word out about the Traveling Painters show this October. Speaking of which...

The Traveling Painters

This was a great show that I was happy to be a part of. The gallery grouped Bart Walker, Paul Kratter, and myself for the main fall show this year. The October show is the biggest deal of the year at Christopher Queen, so there was a lot of faith in us as artists to deliver the goods.
"Worth The Effort" 20x20 in. oil on linen.
"So Close To The Sea" 16x20 in. oil on linen board.
We had close to a year to prepare for the show. It always feels like way more time than it turns out to be. Especially when you factor in every other painting that you have to do for every other show in between. I prefer to work with a little pressure on me anyway.
A lot of these paintings were started as pieces for plein air events, and then later worked on in the studio.
"Needed Nourishment" 16x20 in. oil on linen board.
Out of the twenty paintings I brought to the gallery for the opening, the ones you see here are the new ones I did for the show. A lot of paintings from my Southwest roadtrip ended up in the show, but with some extra work on them just to make sure they're spiffy.
"Solace For Seagulls" 16x20 in. oil on linen board.
I did great on the day of the show. Best single day of sales I've ever done, in fact. I sold eight paintings that day, and another four paintings since. If all of my shows went this well, I'd be doing fantastic. Once you get a taste of the way things could be, it can change your way of thinking, for better or worse.
"Two Soldiers" 24x20 in. oil on linen board.
I have a thing in my head where, after enough time has passed, I can look at a situation for what it is without being too emotionally wrapped up into it. I can do that for a lot of different things. That's why I can sell my paintings without feeling like I'm selling my babies. I think this is a requirement for professional gallery artists. The next stage of detaching from ego is detaching from expectation. It's really hard to do. 
"Pristine Pond" 30x40 in. oil on linen board. $6500
It's a balance you have to strike in your mind between being realistic and being a dreamer. Not only to survive as an artist but to thrive. Dream too much, and you become disappointed when expectations don't go your way. Be realistic, aka. safe, and you become a painting robot, constantly calculating A sales - B cost = C money. Where is the spirit in that? Be smart about things like budgeting, just don't forget the reason you're a creative person.
"Evergreen Giants" 16x8 in. oil on linen board. SOLD.
The outcome of the shows are pretty different than what I was hoping. Somewhere along the line, hope turned into expectation. I was "expecting" to sell a lot more paintings in Charleston. I was "expecting" to sell more paintings at the Sonoma Plein Air show. I was even expecting to sell more than I already did at the "Traveling Painters" show(but I continue to keep selling paintings from that show). I can think about what happened... "why didn't I sell more in Charleston/Sonoma/etc... what could I do better..." and those are important questions to ask, and I continue to search for answers. Those expectations will keep you up at night, though. The more you put yourself out there doing shows, and the more people who find your work and love it, the more people will come to you hoping to get into your circle for their own benefit. Part of what they will do is raise your expectations by promising success, even small success is seductive. There are no sure things in this business; we're not selling widgets. Even commissions fall through all the time. Listen to the nagging voice in your head telling you that "this is too good to be true." Take some risks in your art but be alert in your dealings with business people.
"Old Friends" 14x18 in. oil on linen board. SOLD.
I think it's necessary to have some courage to have longevity in the art business. If all I wanted to do was the "Painted Roses" series, I may paint myself into a corner, literally. Even though I still produce them, and they sell quickly even after four years, it's not the only thing I want to do. I am always looking to find new concepts. If I hit on something inspiring to me, I develop that concept and create paintings for it. Because I feel strongly about it, I want to believe there are people out there who want to own it, and will pay a good amount of money for it. That takes some courage to believe in your ideas enough to put them out there, but having some expectation that your ideas will be well-received is also some sort of courage, right? I am grateful for those people who I can connect with, however.
"Changing Clouds" 8x8 in. oil on linen board. SOLD.
Gratitude could be the antidote to disappointment. There is a lot going in my life that I'm happy for. I would feel like such I whiner if I couldn't see that and could only talk about what I was hoping would happen. Based on the trend, I can only see things getting better as the years progress. Each step on the ladder gets harder and harder to reach, but I'm happy to make it this far. I'm really grateful for you if you helped me make it here, whether you've bought a piece of art, or found the person to make that happen, or helped me find models or props, or gave me a place to stay in my travels, gave encouraging words, or let me complain about whatever negative thing to you. It's not really talked about much, but I don't know if you can go far in the art world without some gratitude. People are less likely to help if you lack gratitude, and you need a lot of help to be successful.

Dream big, live realistically. Have fun in your head, just don't let it get too far ahead of you.

p.s., if you make it to the area between now and the end of the year, you can see the show at Christopher Queen all the way through December. More info at their  website:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Vanishing Boundaries

I have been working diligently for months on paintings for a show that I consider one to be of the most important shows in my career yet. I will be showing alongside Mia Bergeron for a two-person figurative show in Charleston at the Robert Lange Studios gallery. Mia Bergeron is one of my favorite portrait painters out there right now, so to be able to show alongside her (and maybe steal some of her clientele ;) ) is such a huge deal to me.

Since so many people have asked me, I thought I'd give the brief story of how I arrived to gallery. I went out to Charleston a couple of years ago. One of the reasons I went was to see a 3-woman show at Robert Lange Studios, of which Mia Bergeron was one of the participants. I chatted with the gallery director at the time, and friended them on Facebook. They started to see my work in their feed, and sent me an email a few months after I visited their gallery. They invited me to send work out, and later on participate in the "North Vs. South" group show. They liked what I sent, and so by the end of the year, they approached Mia and I to be in a two-person show together. Of course I was excited! Imagine, to come out to a gallery you like to see work of an artist you admire, and the gallery takes you in, then the gallery has you show with that same artist you admire! It's one of those pay-offs that being an artist affords you.

In addition to some new paintings from previous series, I am debuting a new series I've been working on. The concept is titled "Proud Birds." Part of the idea behind the concept (which I get into more detail in the latest American Art Collector magazine) is that I don't believe a painting has to have a deep underlying meaning in it to be considered "high art," and the peacock motif is a reflection of that idea.

There are more paintings from this concept that I will slowly reveal after the show opens. For now here are some teasers for the show.
“All Birds Must Have Wings,” 20x20 inch oil on linen mounted on board. $2400
“Black Jade,” 18x16 inch oil on linen mounted on board. $1725
“White Wings,” 30x16 inch oil on linen mounted on board. $2650
“Shedding Selkie,” 24x20 inch oil on linen mounted on board. $2800
“Parhelia,” 30x24 inch oil on linen. $3600
Here are some detail shots of "White Wings," pre-painted pattern.
A detail of a painting entitled "Sorrow In Good Light." 
Be there at the reception to see the entire painting.
A crop of a large painting called "Over Your Sheltered Nest." It was also in-progress at the time of this photo being taken.
There is one more painting called "Heart In Hiding" that you will just have to be there to see it in person!

Here is the relevant information to make sure you don't miss the show.

Vanishing Boundaries
Mia Bergeron & Sergio Lopez
September 5-25 2014
Opening Reception: September 5th, 5-8:00

Robert Lange Studios
2 Queen Street, Charleston, SC 29401 
Open Daily 11:00 - 5:00 
 Phone: (843)805-8052 

Drawings For Sale
Prints For Sale

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

2014 Angels Boot Camp with Ray and Peggi Kroll Roberts

Last week I got to sit in for a couple of days at the "Angels Boot Camp". What is this, you ask? Should I send my bad kids there to learn discipline? Will I lose weight? While I can't answer those questions, I can tell you that it is a fairly intense 4-day workshop at Ray and Peggi Kroll Roberts' studio in the Sierra Foothills. 4 different days, with 4 different instructors. The heat was intense, but part of the reason is because of all the friction created with the brushes going across the canvases. The main lessons that were being taught were learning to see simple compositions and using colors and shapes to effectively convey the observed light in your paintings. I took Ray's "plein air to studio" workshop in 2011 so it was nice to revisit some of the lessons.

Day 1: Peggi Kroll Roberts

I arrived halfway through the first day of the workshop, so I missed the first part of Peggi's teaching which focused on a strong two-value composition. This painting was a 40-minute study done completely with a palette knife. I never use a palette knife exclusively. I always reach a point where I want more control than what I can get out of a palette knife. The trade-off is interesting texture in the painting, though.
I was still trying to warm up with this painting. Another 40 minute study. I should have taken a picture of Peggi's painting. She is so good at simplifying things in her painting and nailing the essence of light and color in a scene.
20-minute head study as Peggi demo'ed.
This was a 40-minute study where I was starting to get back into my groove. I can feel how my recent lack of figure painting is affecting my paintings. People liked my teapot though.
There are so many paintings and studies in their studio. It was fun to rifle through them and marvel at them. Here is a really cool portrait study that Ray did.

Day 2: Ray Roberts

The resident cat! She is 16 years old but as spry as a cat 4 times younger.
These were Ray's demos of the morning. He was imparting interesting basic lessons that can benefit anyone who doesn't mind getting back to basics, which is just about anyone. One of them being the "1/3rds, 2/3rds, A Little Bit Rule:" 1/3rds of one value, 2/3rds of another value, and a little bit of a third. It's a good simple rule to keep in mind when designing the light and dark value pattern.
This was a painting I did after watching his first demo. Was trying to apply the "1/3rds, 2/3rds, A Little Bit Rule" to this one. Guess what, it must have worked, because I sold it.
The day was sort of sunny, sort of overcast, and I couldn't find anything worth painting on the ground. Ray suggested that I try painting the clouds instead. Good idea! Not something I would have thought of doing but I'm glad he suggested it. Ray also had a good critique, which was to be mindful of repetitive shapes. It's very unnatural to have repeating shapes in nature. This touches on the "controlled chaos" principle, a lesson he was also teaching.
Ray's afternoon demo! It's interesting to watch them come together. The overall light effect doesn't usually show up until late into the painting. You just have to have faith in your decisions and be patient as you're painting. Another small lesson he shared was a trick for keeping pure color clean where it's needed (like in the flowers here) by laying down the pure color first and then adding the dark shapes around and into the light pure color.

This was a painting that I got a lot of kudos on as I was painting it. It's their old chicken coop. I ended up selling this one as well.
My final painting of the day was of their plum tree. I wanted to do a close-up a bundle of fruit on the tree but the sun was way too hot to set up without much shade around it.  This was another exercise in texture.

Day 3: Carole Gray-Weihman

Here is a photo of Carole doing her demo in the morning. Photo courtesy of Al Tofanelli.
This was a painting I did after being inspired by Carole's demo. I adopted her technique of layering complementary colors with a palette knife. I finished with a brush to refine things that I couldn't quite finesse with the knife.
Peggi's stance! Her signature twist.
I had to go back home at this point, but not before snagging a Ray Roberts to add to my collection! What a beauty!
I wasn't able to get any of my own shots from the 4th day since I wasn't there, but here are some photos courtesy of Al Tofanelli.
 Sweet marker sketches by Peggi Kroll Roberts!

I think the students gained a lot from the teaching. I believe they will be doing it again in 2015 at the end of July, so if you enjoy painting in a lovely setting with some experienced, expert teachers, mark it in your calendars for next year.

Check out Carole's Plein Air Liaison website and maybe sign up for the mailing list.

Drawings For Sale
Prints For Sale
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