Friday, February 20, 2015

Favorite scenes from my house

Right now I feel like we are living in near squalor. Maybe not squalor just disarray. There are paintings everywhere as I prepare for a show (details to come) and painter's tape on a portion of an upstairs hall. All of the artwork is crammed in my son's bedroom while we paint...which we haven't started yet. Good thing he won't be home for Spring break! In addition to all of our projects, school has been cancelled for the past five days. Let that sink in for a minute. Five...days!
 I thought I would remind myself that it is not always like this by looking at some of the nicer vignettes from my house. I'll share them with you too in no particular order.

Family room

My bedroom

Living room

Son's room

Son's room

Bar in dining room

Daughter's room

Daughter's room

Front door

Doors to my studio
My studio doors and almost all of the doors in our house are now painted black so there has been some progress toward selling this place.
Of course, I could tidy up (for gillionth time) but looking at pretty pictures is so much more fun, don't you think?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Thoughts on becoming a full-time artist

This is literally my first abstract painted when I was about 7
My husband and I were just talking about how things have changed since I have become a full-time artist. It's a question I get asked a lot in many ways; how do you take your art "to the next level", get into galleries, or sell enough work to do it full-time.
I thought I'd broadly answer that question here.

The first thing is that brings most of us to art is the joy and passion we have for the process. As a child I wanted nothing more than to be an artist. Somewhere along the way I decided that I could not do it and did not pursue it but the happiness my painting has brought me is immeasurable. Deciding that this was my path a few years ago meant that I would not reopen my design business that I closed when my daughter was born and we moved to Virginia. So it was a big change of focus for me.
It is odd that I think being a professional artist means that you sometimes have to step away from the need to always be joyful about your work. That doesn't mean that it should suck, just that once it is a business, there are deadlines and requests that mean painting is no longer just a free-for-all of your own desires.

 Developing a regular (or as regular as life will allow) studio practice has been a great thing for me. "Going to work" at 8:30 each weekday has been liberating rather than stifling. It has helped me because having my studio in my home means most people think it's OK to impose on me because "I'm home". I tell people now that I have to go to work even though it's in the other room.  I also know that I work best with a little bit of structure, not too much and not too little. Knowing that I am supposed to work between 8:30 and 4 every weekday plus the freedom to decide that I am not going to work at any given time works for me well. This discipline is a big part of being able to do this as a career and I love this aspect.

After self-discipline I would add that being prepared is most important. Artists need to ask themselves if they are prepared for the workload. After painting you must photograph the work, edit  and organize the images and upload them to a website. Emails need to be answered in a timely manner. Paperwork must be current and the list goes on. This all must be done over and over so that you are prepared when a client or gallery needs images, prices or other information. It is a good idea to put these systems in place before you approach a gallery or decide to make a business of being an artist.

One thing a person needs to "take it to the next level" is a healthy level of confidence. Am I always confident of each thing I paint? No, but it doesn't stop me in my tracks to hear criticism. You need to be able to hear criticism (even if it's mean spirited) and take what you can use from it and keep working.

That brings me to my last bit of advice for those who asked. The criticism that we dish out on ourselves can be the hardest to work through. I can't count how many times I had a painting that was looking promising and one little area took it to a really awful place and then the effort to correct it went even worse. Meanwhile, three days go by and it feels like I have been spinning my wheels with little progress.
Luckily, there are plenty of days when things just fall into place on a canvas exactly how I imagined.

Another aspect that I really love is all of the fascinating, kind and generous people I have met along the way and the friendships that have formed. This was the most surprising benefit to to my work. I doubt many traditional office jobs offer the culture of support and generosity that I enjoy every day.

The freedom to be creative and manage my time as I like really can't be beat. I would not discourage someone who is really passionate about their artwork to continue pursing a career, but rather share what I have experienced so they can consider all of the aspects that it involves.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


No this is not a fashion post but I came by the idea via my teenage daughter and the ultimate fashion insult. The photo above is the "basic" look minus the topknot but including the ubiquitous coffee in hand. Now I think its pulled together, not trashy or sloppy so it gets my OK. When a teenager refers to someone as "basic" it means that they are unimaginative, mostly when it comes to their clothing and hair. It is not a good thing to be called "basic".
I have spent countless hours looking at real estate listings and it appears that everyone is "basic" when it comes to home decor.


Are your eyes bleeding yet?
I think these houses that I am looking at lose a ton of appeal by being "basic". This is not some elitist rant. The photo below shows a very common style sofa with an Ikea hacked coffee table. So why are people so dern unimaginative?

via Apartment Therapy

Friday, February 6, 2015

New artwork

Fat mini #2 HERE

I have been spending a ton of time in my studio lately...way more than usual. I thought I'd show off some of my latest pieces. 
I'll start with abstracts and these "fat minis" so called because the thick, impasto oil paint makes these 6 x 6 pieces of paper heavy for their size.

Fat mini #1 HERE
 I had a huge backlog of half finished canvases in my studio and, frankly, I think it was depressing to see all of those incomplete thoughts that stacked up everywhere so I got seriously busy making them done. Once I started, it was truly fun.

"Out is through" HERE

This abstract was one of them. I had thought it was done. maybe even photographed it and for some long forgotten reason, I started adding white and immediately hated it. It was all the way against the wall turned in shame and I pulled it out, quickly finding where I wanted to go with it.


I had also been wanting to get a few medium sized nudes done and a few unfinished abstracts were the perfect starting point.

email inquiries to

A few framed linen pieces happened too.

They seem so vastly different from my other work but my flower paintings are a great visual and cognitive break from my usual.

Sunday Flowers HERE
 Lots of paper pieces are in my Etsy shop too.

This is just a fraction of the work I have done but I often post it on Instagram as I go.

Friday, January 30, 2015

4 artists (and their galleries) to follow on Instagram

I have been following more and more artists as I find them on Instagram. I'll share a few with you and the galleries that represent them are worth a follow too.

Brian Coleman (@briancolemanart) was featured on the blog The English Room(@theenglishroom) last week and had a solo show at Anne Irwin fine art (@anneirwinfineart) in Atlanta. That is one show I was sorry to miss.

Ellen Levine Dodd (@ellenlevinedoddart)and I are gallery mates at Anne Neilson fine art in Charlotte NC (@anneneilsonfineart). She is new to Instagram but I bet we will get lots of peeks into her studio and process. Her work is also available on Serena and (@serenaandlily)

Casey Matthews (@casey_matthews_artist) is represented by Gregg Irby gallery (@greggirbygallery) in Atlanta and a new friend now that I am represented by the same gallery.

Tim Hussey (@husseyt) has been on my radar since I began following The George Gallery (@georgegalleryanne) in Charleston, SC. That gallery is a definite stop on my visit next month.

My post with all four artists will be on my Instagram (@kerrysteeleart) today for Follow Friday.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How to build a crate for shipping artwork

I have been asked to do this post so many times. This post will show you every step involved in building a large wood crate for shipping. Its picture heavy and long, so grab a cup of coffee and take notes.

We buy the sheets of plywood at a big box store and have them cut it there. Be sure to know your measurements when you go. This crate is for a 36 x 36 canvas so the crate must be 40 x 40.

We also buy the side pieces (whiteboard) in the desired depth. This crate was for two canvases so its deeper than most.
It is super important to sand all of the edges. Splinters suck and you don't want your clients (or yourself) with a big fat hunk of wood in their hands.

The tools aren't fancy, in fact, our saw horses are employed elsewhere so a large, sturdy box stands in.

We use two drills. One to drill a pilot hole for wood screws and one to screw in the screws but its fine to use just one. Pistols grip clamps are a must too.

These are the simple screws to buy.

Lets get started.

Use the miter box and saw to cut the side pieces. Important: Cut two pieces the full length of a side and two pieces smaller by the thickness of the board times 2. This will make the shorter pieces fit inside of the two longer ones. See photo below.

Remember to sand the edges.
Once the boards are cut place them flush with the edge of plywood and clamp them in place.

Next you will need to drill two pilot holes so that you don't split the sides when you screw them together.

 Be sure to place the hole farther down than the length of the screw because you will be using another vertically later.

When you are finished it should look like this.  Now you are ready to attach the bottom board to the sides.

Make sure the sides line up!

Remember, you are just using the other flat piece to steady the sides, nothing is attached yet.
Clamp all of the pieces together and and drill pilot holes and screws about 12 inches apart.

We like to steer slightly to the side of the other screws just in case.
 You should have one flat side attached to the four side pieces. Flip it over and remove the clamps that held the other flat piece in place.Now you can pack the art.

Start with a single layer of peanuts.

 Add the wrapped artwork. You can see that there is little room around the edges. This allows a tight pack that keeps the work from moving around the the crate.

We pack the space very tightly with paper.

Then we add peanuts until the crate is very full. Important: The goal when packing anything for shipment is to keep it from rattling around during transit. Never skimp on packing material!

Now you are ready to close her up just like you did with the bottom piece.
Update from a question: I ship with UPS or Fedex. There is sometimes an extra fee for the crate as opposed to a cardboard box so it is helpful to call ahead and get a quote for the cost of shipping. Something this size usually costs less than $200 to ship. I often put my company label and an address on the crate but it is not necessary.

I hope this has been helpful. Please ask any questions you have in the comments and I will reply by email (if possible) and update the post to clarify.

Read about shipping smaller pieces in cardboard HERE