Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Success Story: DPW Interviews Erin Dertner

From Erin Dertner's DPW Gallery Page:
She has been exhibiting in galleries for the past 31 years and original works are represented in Mendocino, Napa, Ojai, Sacramento, Sutter Creek, Lahaina and Boulder, as well as in her own gallery and frame shop in Fort Bragg California. Watercolors, oils and acrylics have all made their way into her studio, with her current focus being light-infused, impressionistic landscapes in oil or “open” acrylics.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I’ve painted throughout my life, but took part in joint shows at ages 18 and at 22. I landed my first official gallery in 1982 in Mendocino, California where I now live. I presently show in 7 different galleries around the country and have also had my work licensed for a myriad of gift items over the past 20 years.

(Click here to see original image)
Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

I’ve been steady at it for 32 years now with great success, having raised two (artistic/musical) kids via the art business, along with the help of my husband’s marketing/picture framing expertise. I’ve been pretty energized all along, though the economy has gone up and down. The most recent economic downturn had me pretty discouraged and I’d begun contemplating other ways to make a living.

You've experienced a real uptick in sales lately. To what do you attribute this?

I learned about the Daily Painters movement and attended a workshop with Carol (Marine) in January in San Antonio. Since our finances were truly suffering, I decided I had nothing to lose (other than 3 properties!) and launched my own blog connected to

The little paintings have been selling like wildfire and out of the 28 that I’ve posted, only one doesn’t have at least one bid. I had honestly been thinking about doing a series of smaller pieces before I attended the workshop, because I figured that people always have space in their homes and pocketbooks for those, but had no idea that this many could sell this fast in such a short amount of time!

(Click here to see original image)

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I have painted in watercolor, oils, acrylics and pastels and have discovered open acrylics most recently. I have pretty much let the pastels go because I’m a bit of a neat-nick, but still have them in my cupboard for when the urge strikes again. I love using oils with a palette knife, but with the tiny paintings I am feeling best using brushes.

As far as exploring new avenues, I’d like to do a series of paintings with various values being dominant. I tend to use all the values in proportions that are too similar and would like some of my paintings to have more drama and simplicity.

I have worked in landscape, seascape, still life, floral, interiors, abstracts, figure and portraiture genres.

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

Procrastination is me being my hyper-active self, doing the other 100 things that NEED doing. We have these 3 properties and 2 businesses that all need attention that only I can give them, so I tend to run around like a chicken with my head cut off. We are also involved in the lives of many people, both socially and within our community of faith, so most every night is occupied with visiting, helping, counseling and cooking. This aspect shortens the work day and as a result I have a ‘closet full of hats’ that I wear during different times of the day.

I like to get up early and spend time reading and in prayer, then hit my studio. I get the music cracking and brew a nice a cup of tea, flip through one of the erratic stacks of photos and see which ones speak to me. I narrow them down to one or two, answer a few emails and then hit the easel. My art is my job and though I’ve wondered how a people-person could end up with such a solitary profession, have gratefully come to terms with it. I shake things up with jaunts to the local coffee house across the street, receiving frequent guests and taking brisk walks around town.

(Click here to see original image)

How do you arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I love what I see around me, plus I love to travel, so there is never a lack of inspiration. I am crazy about plein air painting, but when I’m unable due to weather constraints or particular demands, I have umpteen thousands of photos that I’ve taken all over the world. I could honestly spend most of my time organizing my photos so that they’re easier to snag when a certain urge strikes, but that would take up another huge piece of each day. I pretty much just close my eyes and point to a stack or click away within my digital files until a spark flies, then I settle in.

How do you keep art "fresh"? What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

I simply adore this new small format and was ready for a change of some kind. It is a challenge to make strong paintings that are tiny, so I feel like I’m in a ‘fresh’ phase. I’ve always gravitated toward the impressionistic paintings within galleries and museums, so my constant aim is to loosen up and say more with less. Traveling to inspirational places also gives me a change of pace, so I organize painting holidays and take people to various places or just go with another artist friend.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I am learning that selling small original art online is a happening venue. Painting fast and furious on small panels is stretching me to be more intuitive, loose and focused. Since I am pretty hyper, this format and time frame are a perfect fit!

(Click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

Painting images that make people happy is a huge thrill. Connecting with literally hundreds of people this past month via my blog, DPW and Facebook has infused me with a new sense of purpose that I was sorely in need of right now. I truly feel like I have a new lease on life and am grateful that God led me in just the right direction when I hopped that plane to Texas. I almost cancelled the trip due to lack of funds….

Thanks, Erin!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

Jennifer Newcomb Marine is the Marketing and Community Manager of Daily Paintworks. She's an author and blogging and marketing coach.

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