Were you looking for a sign? Here's a sandwich.

The Sandwich Dream

I was talking with a friend about how hard it is to do creative work and make yourself vulnerable by showing your work to the world. My friend said they’d gotten to where they couldn’t make anything for fear of other people thinking it was crap. I sympathized with my friend and said, here’s a symbol in the form of a sandwich. The sandwich was a big juicy corned beef thing on rye with pickles and mustard, a real five-napkin event. I pushed it toward my friend and told them it was okay to eat. They dove in with both hands and open mouth.

My friend was so hungry, and the sandwich was right there. They were just waiting for permission to eat.

End of Sandwich Dream

So if you’re wondering whether you should make / say / do / dance / sing / try the thing because you’re worried people might think it’s crap, here’s a sandwich. You have permission to eat it.

0 sandwich sketchbook edit 1k.jpg

It comes with a pickle.

1 pickle 1 edit 1k.jpg

Can we make the sandwich a symbol for permission to create? It is written. So it must be.

Here’s a bunch more sandwiches. (images linked to sources where available)

p.s. The Cube Rule of sandwich identification

Preparing a Canvas for Acrylic Painting

4x4 canvases 1 edited I work almost exclusively in acrylic on canvas. For larger works I use unstretched canvas hanging it over a dowel rod, much the same way you would display a quilt or tapestry.

But for my smaller works I use Blick Gallery Profile pre-stretched canvases.

Side note: Everyone who's been through art school has learned to build their own stretched canvases. I used to. Now it's more economical for me in terms of time and labor to order pre-made canvases in batches of 4-8. Want to learn to build canvases yourself? YouTube's got you covered.

canvas brand

Why Bother?

When someone buys my painting and takes it home, I want them to know that they have purchased a quality product that will last for decades to come - not something shabby that will fall apart in a year. The value of my work is more than the paint I've put on the canvas; it's in the care I've taken to ensure that my collectors enjoy living with my art. Prepping a canvas before painting is just one way to demonstrate that I care about my client's experience.

The preparatory process also prevents small problems that, added up, can really interfere with the final product.

Step 1: Corners

4x4 canvases 2

I buy these Blick canvases because they are very well-constructed. However, the corners do tend to come loose, and sometimes the canvas has been trimmed unevenly. (Not true of hand-built canvases; see note above re: economy.)

See those flappy edges? Even if I paint over them those are still weak spots that will get worse as the painting ages. I want to nip that in the bud.

I glue down those corners with Golden Heavy Gel.

golden gel

I apply the gel undiluted to the corners of the canvas, both on the sides and the back, and press those flaps down hard. Any gel that squishes out gets smeared over the raw edges to seal them. It doesn't matter how much gel ends up being visible because I'm going to paint over the entire thing. I let them dry about 30 minutes.

canvas corner 1

Step 2: Sizing the Back

The canvases you see pictured here are very small - 4x4" each. This next step is much more important for larger canvases.

In most cases, a pre-stretched canvas will be primed on the front side only. Priming the other side strengthens the canvas and helps ensure its longevity. Also, the tighter your stretched canvas, the less likely you are to bump against the underlying stretchers while painting.

With a stiff brush, I wet down the back of the canvas. I make sure to get that water as far under the stretchers as possible. On a larger canvas, I follow up with diluted gesso. I brush both vertically and horizontally to work the water and gesso into the weave of the canvas. You'll notice right away that the canvas gets tighter. It will loosen a little after drying, but will be stronger for the additional gesso.

Step 3: Gesso Coat

I buy canvases pre-primed, but I like to add an additional thin coat of gesso to front and back before painting. The manufacturer's acrylic primer can sometimes resist initial paint application, causing the paint to bead up on the surface. Gesso is chalkier and will soak that first coat of paint right up.

canvas gesso coat 1

Or maybe a super-fun and interesting thicker coat.

canvas corner gesso 1

A little sanding may be in order on your stretchers. Nobody likes splinters, right?

Step 4: Rock Out

Now she's ready to go.

mckinney underdrawings 2 edited

The Finished Product

three 72 500

Orange, Kiwi and Apple. Acrylic on canvas, 4x4" each, 2014 by Sarah Atlee Private commission

What are your tips for prepping before painting?

Let us know in the comments below.

WordPress Tip: Hire Jason Ormand

LIÁN TYPES »Reina« No.1 | white on black by Flickr user arnoKath. Click image to view source. LIÁN TYPES »Reina« No.1 | white on black by Flickr user arnoKath. Click image to view source. Jason Ormand knows that great design makes the world a better place.

Sarahatlee.com has been on the air for eleven years. It's gone through many design iterations, some that I created myself, more done with the help of web design pros.

Division of Labor

In recent years I have learned that I am not the person best qualified to design and maintain my own website. I could learn to become so, but I already have a job as a full-time artist.

Turning sarahatlee.com over to professional web designer Jason Ormand is one of the best investments I have ever made. Jason shares my penchant for clean, elegant design, and he has a fine-tuned understanding of how people interact with the web.

I asked Jason to tell us a little more about what he does for a living.

When people ask, "So what do you do?" how do you answer?

I’m a Web Designer and Front End Developer.

How did you get into this business?

In 2007, Windows “automatically fixed” an external hard drive that I used to store all of the photos from my various adventures while I was in the Navy. Windows reformatted my hard drive and I lost 4 years of photos. Later that same day I was installing Linux on my laptop. That snowballed into an insatiable thirst for all things computers. I was building websites within a month.

What do you love about good design?

Clarity. Making a web site aesthetically pleasing while staying laser focused on the primary goal.

What do you hate about bad design?

Failure to communicate. If visitors are confused, it’s very unlikely that they will succeed at their task. If their task was to buy something from you or find your contact page, you lose.

Do you have a dream job, other than this?

This is my dream job. I love what i do.

Dude, are you for hire?

Yes. I’m currently accepting new projects. Interested parties can go to JasonOrmand.com/contact, where they can find the various ways to contact me.

Thanks, Jason.

My Inventory Card System

Sample from my inventory card system.
Here's an example of my inventory card system. Click the image to see full-size, or click here to download a 1-page PDF version.

I keep my complete inventory in a stack of 3x5" index cards. When it comes time for a show, I make inventories for the gallery in spreadsheet form, and also in a document with thumbnail images.

Paper and pen are my preferred medium for most applications, but if you'd rather create a digital database of your work, try the GYST company.

Too many index cards cluttering up your desk drawer? Try putting them together into a Hipster.

End Matter - Finishing Touches on a Gallery Show

Aloe polyphylla Schönland ex Pillans by Flickr user brewbooks. Click image to view source.
Aloe polyphylla Schönland ex Pillans by Flickr user brewbooks. Click image to view source.

End matter or back matter is a book publishing term that describes all the written elements of a book to be dealt with after the author has finished writing the manuscript. These may include indexes, appendices, glossaries, the table of contents, notes, bibliographies, and so on.

As a gallery artist, I have learned to do a lot more legwork besides making the paintings. I have come to think of certain tasks as the end matter -- what remains to be done after the art is finished. The more of this work I do myself, and do well, before delivering my work to a gallery, the better my professional standing.

Following is some end matter I'm faced with before a gallery show.

Sign and date the work. Sometimes, as with the Normal series, I include a story on the back of the piece. Information like this can increase a painting's value and provenance.

Prepare the painting for hanging in the gallery, either by wiring or framing. I highly recommend Downtown Art & Frame in Norman, OK.

Attach a business card or other identifying information to the back of the piece. This is especially important for group shows where your work might be misidentified.

Photograph the piece. That is, take a good photo, not one with uneven lighting, or glare, or out of focus, etc. The digital formats I use most often are: 300 dpi, 1,000 pixels on a side (for print) 300 dpi, 4 x 6 inches or thereabouts (for print or application to juried shows) 72 dpi, 500-800 pixels on a side (for the web) 72 dpi, 150 pixels on a side (for thumbnails)

Make a backup of the photos, on cd, on the home server, etc.

Upload the image to my website, Flickr, Facebook, etc.

Add the piece to my portfolio, if it's among my best works. Add the piece to my inventory. I'll post more on this later.

Register the work with the copyright office. I keep a text file with an ongoing list of all the works I complete, called "Works By Date." When I finish a piece (or scan a batch of sketchbook pages), I add it to the list. I also keep a folder of small images at 72 dpi, which I will submit as a batch with my copyright registration. When I'm on top of things, I register my work four times a year.

Create an inventory for the gallery. This is so underrated. I make the inventory in two formats:

A spreadsheet containing the title and dates of the show, then the title, medium, dimensions, year, and price for each piece. At the bottom of the spreadsheet I list the show drop-off and pick-up dates, with space for my initials and the curator's. I print two copies: one for me, one for them.

A visual inventory with thumbnail images of each work in the show, followed by titles and prices. (Again, I print two or more copies, and file one for my own reference.) This helps whomever hangs and labels the show, and can also facilitate sales. When a potential buyer calls the gallery asking for the price of a piece, they may only remember it as "That yellow one, with the guy, and that thing in the corner." Having a visual inventory on hand can help avoid all sorts of confusion.

I've learned to leave myself a few days before my deadline to tie up these loose ends. When it's time to ship or deliver my work, I feel much better having all these ducks are in a row.

This post is part of NaBloPoMo for July 2009.