Erika Allison's Artastic Blog

Breaking the rules… or not

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Paintinplace gallery

Paint-ins seem to be becoming “the thing” in the Las Vegas arts community.  We had an outdoor group painting session in late spring.  Now, there’s a regular “Third Friday” paint-in at Place Gallery, organized and hosted by Gina Quaranto.  There is a nice, large area that works well for many artists to gather and work.  Many mediums and styles were represented.  There was painting in different media, sculpting, and a number of artists were working on their skate decks for LVSK8IV The Skate Deck Art Show

Creativity fills the air.  You can breathe it in and use it.  Artists are lost in what they are creating.  And, then, they may be wandering around checking out what other artists are doing.  I think the camaraderie is good for all.  An arts community is what keeps a lot, if not all, of us going.  We get support and encouragement, which is always needed.  We build friendships.  We try to give back in the ways that we can.

It takes some effort to haul all the needed supplies for painting somewhere other than your own studio.  But, it can be worth it.  Group painting offers some things we don’t get alone, holed up in our studios, which is our natural habitat.  Aside from the camaraderie, you also get some publicity of sorts.  It may just be word-of-mouth, someone who stopped in to watch mentioning they’d watched you paint.  Or, it may be a possible collector who has seen your work on exhibit, who now gets to see you working.  You’d be surprised how many people are fascinated by seeing an artist at work.  Keep in mind that this is totally foreign to most people who are not artists.  It may seem humdrum and everyday to you because that IS your life.  You do it almost by rote.  But, to the layman it may be magic.  And, don’t forget, collectors and all buyers are buying a piece of the artist.  Meeting you, seeing you in action, talking to you about your work or your methods, all provide fodder for the collector’s interesting story for his friends.  Also, connecting with the other artists can be worthwhile beyond just the friendship and camaraderie.  The artists here in Vegas are generous with their support of each other.  Your name might come up when there’s an exhibition opportunity.  And, last, but not least – it’s good to get out of your studio and participate in life!  You need ideas for your work, life experiences!  You need to fill the well!

Here is my painting after the session at Third Friday Paint-In.  I will work on it more in my studio and post a picture when it’s completed.


Have you painted with a group?  Do you enjoy it?  What benefits or pitfalls do you find in painting with others present?

In the Works

Posted Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

I have several paintings in the works right now.  I have two that I started awhile back, but haven’t put the finishing touches on yet.  The problem seems to be that I don’t know just where I want to go with them yet.  I study them every time I go into the studio.  I rotate them so I can view them from all possible angles.  One of these times a solution will become clear to me… and I’ll proceed.

I also have two paintings that I started last Saturday at our First Annual Outdoor Paint-In.  I really like the starts I got on both.  I’m kind of amazed about that.  It’s a bit of a pain to haul all the supplies needed for oil painting to an outdoor location.  If I were a plein air painter I’d have a french easel and no complaints.  But, I’m a studio painter.  I like all the comforts of my studio.  And, I don’t really need to view subject matter since I’m an abstract painter.  Enough of that.  The camaraderie is worth the effort.  It’s interesting to see other artists at work.  And, it was fun seeing people trying to figure out what was going on!  At any rate,  I got two good starts.  And, this morning I worked on one of the paintings.  I still like it.  I’m not quite sure where I’m going with it.  But, that seems to be how I work.  For now, it’s time to leave it alone for awhile.


After first session of painting



After session 2 in the studio – on the easel

The second painting from last week is still waiting for me.  I could’ve gone right from where I left off on painting number one and started working on the second one.  But, sometimes it’s better to just concentrate on one until it’s finished.  There’s no rule of thumb on that.  It’s my call.  I think by not working on both today there’s a better chance of keeping them very individual.  Sometimes I get in a groove and what I do on one painting gets carried over to the next.  I don’t want to be an assembly line.  I want each painting to have it’s chance of shining on its own.


Painting 2, on the easel

So – this challenge is for another day.  There are plenty of possibilities, as always…

I love Las Vegas artists!  They are so vibrant, enthusiastic, generous, helpful…and full of great ideas.  There’s always a new idea, a new event, something to keep the arts district in motion and in the news. 

This new event, First Annual Open Air Painting Day, should be fun for the artists.  It’s great for camaraderie.  It’s a good opportunity to get to know your fellow artists a little better.  And, it’s always cool to be able to watch other artists at work.  That’s not always something you get to see!  It will be an opportunity to share tips and anecdotes.  Who knows, you may even accomplish something!  And, the public is invited, of course.  Anyone can come watch the artists at work (and play).

I have been in Las Vegas for three years now.  I felt welcomed from my first venture into the arts district – attending First Friday.  I have found the artists here to be generous in offering opportunities, in helping when help is needed and being generally supportive of each other.  All are interested in growing the arts district.  When there’s a charitable cause, you can count on the artists to pitch in and donate time, talents, paintings.  And, the most enduring quality is their willingness to support and promote each other.  It’s not just ME, ME, ME.  It’s “Check out this artist’s work”.  So, the painting day is yet another opportunity for all artists – and another event to keep the arts district in the news. 

This event is sponsored by Place Gallery and PeaceN’art Studio.  Tents to protect us from Las Vegas’ fierce sun are being provided by The Arts Factory.  What a nice collaboration in the spirit of offering an opportunity for all!  Thank you, Gina, Alex and Wes!


Posted Friday, May 7th, 2010
'Every Day is History in the Making'
"History in the Making"

Tension in a painting can be interesting, as well as useful.  I like tension in a painting.  It can be used by the artist to direct the viewer’s eye where he/she wants it to go.  An example of what the artist does NOT want to do is direct the viewer’s eye OUT of the painting.  For instance, a profile portrait placed too close to the edge where the sitter is looking “out” – actually directs the viewer’s eye out of the painting.  Never to return.  Viewer moves on to next artwork.  You’ve lost your viewer!

In my painting, “Every Day Is History in the Making” it’s pretty easy to see the tension.  I was aware of it while I was working on the piece.  I decided I liked it, so I kept it and used it to my advantage.  It’s easy to spot the darkest dark and the lightest light.  That is my center of interest, which I established right away in the painting.  At some point, while studying my progress, I decided that the lightest light was TOO harsh.  It needed softening.  I felt that additional paint and/or brush strokes was not the answer.  I didn’t want to muck it up, so to speak.  So, I chose to use silver spray paint.  It softened the hard edges that were bothering me.  It kept it light (silver is very reflective).

The next thing I noticed while studying my progress was that there was a large dark area to the right that was competing with my darkest dark.  It had some other marks in it to break it up a bit.  And, it was slightly gradated from solid dark to a little less dark.  But, that was splitting hairs.  The fact is that it was really competing.  My eye kept being pulled from the center of interest (lightest light/darkest dark) to the very dark shape at the right…and, then, back again.  I decided I really liked that.  I liked the tension.  I also liked that it kept the viewer’s eye in the picture.  I wasn’t leading the eye out of the picture and away from my art.  Mission accomplished!

'Don't Suck Me In', 2010
"Don't Suck Me In"

Another good example of tension can be seen in my recently completed work, “Don’t Suck Me In”.  I started that piece with a challenge to myself.  I placed my lightest light and darkest dark as my center of interest.  Both are quite small.  The challenge was to see if it would hold up as the center of interest even though it was  small.  I did also use red right next to it sort of as an insurance policy.  Red will always catch the eye.

If you followed my previous posts about the evolution of “Don’t Suck Me In”, you know that the big sequins were the last addition to the work.  And, they really create some tension.  It’s pretty hard not to catch the eye with big, silvery, glimmering sequins blowing in the wind!  Yet, my intended center of interest is over to the right where the little bitty white and black areas (and some red) are.  Again, I find that my eye goes back and forth from the intended center of interest to the sequins.  This is great!  The whole meaning of the work is tied up in tension.  If you noticed the snakeskin under the paint near the center of interest…tension!  Then, the title suggests getting sucked in.  Sucked in to what?  Well, that’s up to you.  But, the words that are written along the right sight suggest some possibilities.  As long as the eye is kept inside the picture plane, I feel it has been successful.  The more time the viewer is kept inside the painting, the more time he has to find the more nuanced areas that may suggest more nuanced meaning.

So, now  you know some things I think about while working.  I hope you found it interesting.  Feel free to give me some feedback.  I know how the artist thinks.  I’m very curious about what the viewer sees and thinks.  What catches and holds YOUR attention?

The Final Finishing Touch

Posted Monday, May 3rd, 2010


“Don’t Suck Me In”


Now, for the fun!  As I said in the last post, I already had the idea for the coup de grace.  I just needed for the white paint to dry before installing it.  I wanted sequins – big, shiny, tacky sequins.  You’ve seen them before, usually on used car lots or sleazy liquor stores.  Big, shiny sequins blowing in the wind, catching the sunlight and glinting with each flutter.  I hunted for big sequins.  I couldn’t find any ready-made.  So, what’s an artist to do?  Make them, of course!  I cut out circles of metal and punched holes with my paper punch.  I wasn’t sure if the paper punch would be strong enough to do the trick, but I got lucky.  Then, I had to install them.  I used double point tacks.

I don’t know if you can see the words I have lettered in towards the right side of the painting like you would if it were full resolution:

  • opportunity
  • prosperity
  • Growth
  • possibilities
  • expansion

The painting has meaning to me.  Maybe it does for you, too.

After studying “Don’t Suck Me In” for awhile, I decided it needed some retouch varnish before making any changes.  It had a dead appearance and needed brightening up a bit.  That was a good start.  Now, I could proceed with actual changes or additions, whatever the case may be.  I decided additions were needed.  I zeroed in on what was supposed to be my center of interest.  I used some white spray paint, silver spray paint and white oilstick.  As you can see, I added some writing:  “Open for business”.

I already had a plan in mind for the coup de grace.  But, I’d have to wait for the paint to dry before proceeding.  That was hard because I really wanted to charge in and finish it up and stand back and gloat about adding the perfect final touches.  White paint can take a long time to dry, so patience was required.  The image here shows where I had to leave off.  It may not look that much more exciting than before I started.  You may even wonder if it helped at all.  You may wonder if I’m crazy.  Why would she do THAT?

You’ll have to hold your breath til the final installment.

Don't Suck Me In - intermediate

“Don’t Suck Me In”

….in progress

Jill Of All Trades

Posted Monday, April 19th, 2010


“Can We Get There From Here?”


Oil/Mixed Media on Panel

Yup, JILL.  That would be the feminine for…you got it – jack of all trades.  I suppose I shouldn’t focus on gender.  All of us artists are up against the same thing:  the need to be able to do it all.  It seems that ALL is getting bigger and broader and more demanding.

I wish that being an artist meant that one would CREATE ART.  That’s all.  Times  have changed.  Our needs have changed.  And, there’s more than ever to do as an artist.  There’s so much preparation.  There’s promoting oneself.  Showing the work.  Being a good salesperson.  Keeping accurate records.

Before I can begin a painting I have to come up with a painting surface.  Sure, surfaces are available to buy.  But, there are many things to consider.  What kind of surface do  you want?  Can you afford to buy a prepared surface of the quality you want?  Or, if you want a “custom” surface that isn’t manufactured, you will need to create it yourself.  This is where the “fun” begins.  A knowledge of building materials and tools comes in handy.  Tools needed to build the surface are  needed.  And, a place to work at building is needed.  Time is spent building the painting surfaces.

The best part, for me, is the actual creating of the artwork.  I get the most joy out of painting and whatever else is involved in the creation of my work.  I work rather quickly as far as the actual painting goes.  But, I can spend a lot of time thinking, viewing, coming up with ideas of “what’s next”.  Do I want to include this or that, do I want to add this or that found object, do I want to add marks in pencil, oil stick or spray paint?  This is where I really enjoy the process.  These are the decisions that truly affect the final outcome of the work.  The answers to each of these questions make or break the success of of the work.  I love it when I feel like I’ve made the right decisions.

Now, I need to be able to promote myself.  In the past that meant being able to photograph your work well (or hire a professional photographer), keeping your resume up-to-date and searching for opportunities to show your work.  Opportunities to show your work is still the goal today.  But, there are so many more opportunities for promoting yourself.  Hello, computer!  If one has the skills to create one’s own website and keep it up-to-date and photograph and photoshop one’s work – that One is in good shape!  Hooray for you!  If, on the other hand, one (ME) is a bit of a dinosaur in this area – there is a lot of frustration.  I feel like I’m spending all my time learning how to do everything that needs doing.  And, where is my painting time?

Well, I’m not giving up!  I’m still plugging away at it all.  This painting, “Can We Get There From Here?” shows how making one’s own painting surface contributes to the end result of the painting.  I’ve altered the shape of the rectangular surface by cutting out three semi-circles with my handy-dandy electric jigsaw.   I photographed the finished work.  With help from my fabulous webmaster, Trillian, I’ve come up with an image of the work.  She’s still working with me on how to do all this stuff.

I’m always looking for opportunities to show and sell my work.  I watch for competitions that I feel are worthwhile to enter.  And, when things go well, I have to get down to good record keeping!

I woke up thinking about this painting I did at the end of 2009.  It has been titled and shown already.  But, I’m still thinking about it.  It’s not truly finished.  It’s missing something.  I think I realized that all along.  And, yet, for some reason, I showed it anyway.  Shame on me!

The painting, “Don’t Suck Me In”, is missing pizzaz, the final touch.  It needs that one more thing.  I remember thinking about it as I was “finishing” it.  I just never came up with what that one final touch should be.  There are so many options at this point in a painting.  That final touch could be a paintstroke, a mark of some kind, a found object…  The hard part is figuring out which option will be the coup de grace.  It’s a critical time in the process of making a piece of art.  Is that last touch the coup de grace or the disastrous mark that makes the work OVER worked?  It is critical that an artist knows when a work is done.

Many times I have made my final mark and been so pleased with myself.  Aha!  The perfect mark that adds just what was needed.  Without that mark, the painting just isn’t finished.  Then, it seems that I will forever remember that final touch that made a particular painting.  Maybe I even get a little too impressed with myself!

Well, I would like to find that perfect mark right about now!  I could use something to gloat over.  The truth is, I’m struggling with this one.  Like I said, I actually woke up thinking about this.  That’s a good start.  I  had the idea of what to do next.  And so….I headed into the studio right after getting the coffee brewing.  The idea I had come up with had many possibilities, as usual.  Now, it’s time to pick one and JUST DO IT!  And, so I did.  I did not have to change the title of the painting.  I have perhaps added some depth to the meaning.  We’ll see.

I’m still not certain that it’s finished.  I will keep it up on the easel and pop in and study it.  At some point I will decide that I’ve come up with a good finish…or not.

“Don’t Suck Me In”, 25″x31″x2″, is still in progress.  The painting posted is the “Before” version.  I never understood why artists sometimes dated their work to include more than one year.  I’d think – it took that long?!  Now, I get it.  I will have to add 2010 to the date on the back.  It says 2009.  So, now, it will read 2009/2010.  It didn’t really take me 2 years.  Well, I’m not done yet.  Who knows?

I will photograph the work and post my progress in another post.  Who knows how long this might go on?


Found Objects

Posted Tuesday, March 16th, 2010



Found objects. What are they? I guess you could say that they are anything that you find! They can be interesting to add to your artwork. It’s not a new concept. Many artists have included found objects in their work. I use them sometimes. Not every painting calls for their use. I don’t want to overdo the practice. I don’t want to be known as the woman who ALWAYS includes found objects in her work! If they add something to the work I like them.

Finding found objects can be fun…or frustrating. I always have my eyes open looking for them. You have to know a good found object when you see it. It can be anything and it can be anywhere. I happen to appreciate old, very used and textural objects. I also appreciate “weird” objects, things one wouldn’t even think of using. Those are the best! One needs to be continuously collecting these found objects. They may not get used for quite some time…or maybe never. But, a good collection is needed. All you neat, tidy, organized people will be cringing about now. But, a good trash pile is like manna! When a work “needs something” you go to your collection of found objects and pick through it, looking for just the right thing.

Sometimes these found objects serve more than one purpose. I have a couple of great finds that have ended up being used for printing textures onto painting surfaces rather than being added to the work. I also have a great piece that I use for a “stencil” of sorts. It has lots of round holes that I use to spray paint through. I also have found objects that I use both for texture on a painting surface and as a stencil. You just need to keep your eyes and your mind open. One of my favorite finds is the plastic netting used on the outside of a Butterball turkey. It’s the perfect example of a find that I’ve used on my surface as texture…AND as a stencil to spray paint through.

It’s time to go on a treasure hunt. I happen to have two paintings in progress that I feel need found objects to complete them. And, sadly, I don’t seem to have the right thing in my treasure pile. It seems like I’m trying too hard to find the perfect found object. The better way is to have found great stuff and have it waiting for the perfect opportunity.

The painting I’m showing, “Downsize” is an example of using found objects. The painting surface itself is a found object: a small pallet. And, there are several found objects added to it at the end.


Posted Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Zoning Permit Required

“Zoning Permit Required”

I love titles! Titles may give me a clue as to what a painting is about, or, at least, the artist’s thoughts on the work. I hate to see untitled w

orks. When I see a painting that really intrigues me and I look for the title I am SO disappointed when I see “untitled’. I feel like the artist hasn’t finished his/her job when it’s left untitled. True, each viewer finds his/her own vision. But, it’s nice to get a clue about the artist’s vision as well. Don’t you wonder WHY an artist created a work of art – or what he/she was thinking while making it?

I work in the abstract so “what it’s about” is really up for grabs! I feel like most of my work is about whatever the viewer thinks it’s about. And, what I think it’s about can often be more than one thing. I actu

ally enjoy coming up with titles. Sometimes they come easy. And, sometimes I really labor over them. I may study the finished work for days on end before I come up with something that I like, that seems to fit, that could work. Usually, when I finally come up with it, it seems to be perfect…for me, anyway. I enjoy titles that make the viewer wonder. It seems to me that if the viewer wonders what the title means, he/she must be thinking about it. That’s great! I like to think I made someone think!

So – what do YOU think? Do you like titles? Or, are they not that important to you?