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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

First in a Series on the Solo Show - THE WHY

Many of us have done it, most of us have considered it, some of us have just dreamt about it: mounting a solo show. This is the first in a series of posts about the nuts, bolts, dos, don'ts, lessons learned, opportunities missed, psychological trauma and euphoria of mounting a solo show; the why, where, when, what and how.


There are many reasons an artist chooses to mount a solo show of their work, and many of them are not good reasons. Making money just might be the worst reason. If you are considering a solo show because you're behind on the the utility bill and want to make some quick cash, the process will not be an enjoyable one. You are automatically putting stress on yourself - a stress that will hinder your creative process as you produce work for "quick sale" rather than for the sheer joy and creativity you would normally bring to it.

All artists have learned throughout their careers that predicting what will sell is a near impossibility. Just when you think you have the art buying public figured out (you've sold 6 of those gorgeous seascapes, or 4 in a row of those cubist masterpieces), suddenly you have a studio full of paintings that aren't moving. You'll never figure out why - it could be that you are cranking these paintings out to sell and they aren't your best work, or that the same buyers are visiting your venues and you've saturated that market. More than likely though, it's a mystery.

So deciding to mount a solo show and assuming - or even hoping - that every piece in the show sells, or half, or a third sells - is setting yourself up for possible disappointment. This is where the psychological trauma comes in; setting goals that might not be possible to meet.

Another reason in the "don't doom yourself to disappointment" category is going into a solo show with the goal of obtaining press attention. The "art press" - if there even is such a thing in this online age - is notoriously fickle. Getting press for your show is based less on your talent and more on a writer or blogger filling space, timing, deadlines, your being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right person, and myriad other factors largely out of your control.

So why do it? The success of your show doesn't have to be measured in dollars or press. The number one reason you should mount a solo show is that you are excited about your current body of work; you want to have all your pieces done around a certain theme shown together to familiarize friends, relations, patrons, contacts - and those who have never seen your work - with what your are currently doing. You want to share your enthusiasm for it.  If this is the attitude you go into a solo show with, then you will not feel you have failed, whether you sell pieces or not. This attitude will translate to the work you produce for your show; your excitement and pride in your current body of work will show in the creativity and energy you bring to the work. You'll spend more time at your reception eagerly talking to guests about your process than mentally counting pennies and the stress involved with that.  Sales and commissions may well result - but they will be the icing on the cake.

For more information about having a solo show at Gallery Underground, please visit our website:

Next in the series: THE WHAT - Developing Your Theme

-- Sandi Parker. Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

From Philosophy to Alkyds: The Stunning Work of George Bowles

Artist George Bowles
George Bowles is known for his highly realistic and meticulously detailed portraits, landscapes and still lifes, in alkyd. His work has a museum quality to it, bringing to mind the classical art of the 18th century. Viewers are frequently stunned at the photorealistic quality of the work, which is painstakingly done over time.

First of all, what is alkyd? 

According to Bowles, who swears by this medium, alkyd resins are composed of complex fatty acids and alcohols which are derived from natural plant origins. These ingredients are heated and combined with oils that are resistant to yellowing to form an extremely stable synthetic material referred to as an oil-modified alkyd resin. Once the oil is combined, it is no longer a free oil, but a completely bonded oil which will not separate from the resin. An alkyd resin is highly adhesive; pale and transparent; soluble, when wet in turpentine or mineral spirits; tough, flexible, and resistant to solvents when dry. Additionally, alkyd resin dries more rapidly than the linseed oil that is used as a binder for most oil colours, but more slowly than the plastic resin that is used as a binder in acrylic colours. Alkyd colours are less prone to darkening, embrittlement, and cracking with age than traditional oil colours. Given the timeless quality of Bowles's work, it is easy to understand his desire to use a medium that does not yellow, or otherwise disintegrate over time.

Roses in a Glass Pitcher by George Bowles (alkyd)
An Iowa native, Bowles trained first as a philosopher, receiving a BA from the University of Denver in 1966, and a PhD from Stanford in 1970; he taught philosophy for over twenty years, publishing several articles on logic.  Having drawn and painted from childhood, and having done several commissioned portraits, animal paintings and landscapes, he has been painting at least since 1958.  After his academic career, he went in 1996 to the Bougie Studio in Minneapolis to get a rigorous four-year art education modeled on the French ateliers of the 19th century. 
Antonios, portrait by George Bowles (alkyd)

In a typical understatement, Bowles says of his work: “I aspire to create well-composed and, when possible, beautiful paintings." Most would agree, mission accomplished!

Light and Shade in Arlington Forest by George Bowles (alkyd)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Anya Getter: Wit and Whimsy in Acrylic and Mosaic

Artist Anya Getter

"The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration." Gallery member Anya Getter feels that this quote from Freda Kahlo describes her process, and those who are fans of her colorful, whimsical pieces would agree that the quote is an appropriate description of her creativity.

Woman in Red by Anya Getter (acrylic)
Ever since she was a small child, Getter has been drawn to painting, sculpture, knitting, sewing and many other forms of arts and crafts.The influences and inspirations that brought out Getter's artistic side began early in her life. Her grandfather was her first teacher;  he would sketch and doodle funny drawings for her, and she would try to imitate him. When she was older, Getter and her childhood friends would make tiny sculptures from the clay mud on the banks of a nearby river. Yet her options to further explore her own talents and learn were limited. Having been born and raised in the Soviet Union, she had to chose a more practical path to pursue than the tumultuous world of art. While she had dreamed of attending an art school, she choose instead to enter the world of Information Technology, but never lost her drive and passion for the craft. 

Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Getter immigrated to the United States in 1991, and having majored in Computer Science and Information Technology, found a job as a Software Engineer with Fairfax County Public Schools.Working in the IT field never allowed her talents to blossom, but she always looked for an outlet for her creative energy. 
Is Your Mama a Llama? by Anya Getter (acrylic)
After her twins were born in 2000, Getter first ventured into the world of formal self-expression by decorating kids’ jeans and overalls with colorful  and whimsical appliqu├ęs that became an instant hit among mothers looking for one-of-a-kind outfits for their toddlers. With the help of eBay, her work was selling all over the world.   As her children were getting older, Getter's interests also changed.  She experimented with various media and eventually arrived at collage/mixed media art as a perfect match for her artistic vision. The whimsical appliques would later influence her choice of subject matter, including woman with fanciful hair and all kinds of animals.

Most of Getter's art comes from her feelings and experiences, and is inspired by quotes or sayings that hold a special meaning for her.  Each painting has many layers to it, enticing one to discover new details upon repeated viewings. 

Most recently, Getter has been experimenting with mosaic and some of her recent work is a fusion of mosaic and painting. "I always liked jigsaw puzzles," she says, "and mosaic reminds me of that."  Getter took some classes and workshops from local artists, and finds that mosaic feeds into her love of textural things.

Among the artists Anya cites influences from are Gustav Klimt, Mikhail, Vrubel, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Frida Kahlo. Anya is an avid reader and has always been drawn to a written word, so most of her inspirations come from quotes or poems. But many of her works are also inspired by friends and family. 

Getter has many collectors of her work, who site the humor and fancy of the pieces, as well as her skill in both acrylic and mosaic mediums. She is truly a multi-dimensional artist.

Ride The Waves by Anya Getter (mosaic)

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Friday, February 12, 2016

Artist color palettes: Is Less More?

Every artist has a palette -- not just the physical vessel for holding their paint -- but a group of colors they are invariably drawn to over and over. The reasons they continually return to these colors - and how many colors they use - is as varied as the artists' work. 

Anders Zorn, Mrs. Frances Cleveland, Oil
Some famous painters are known for using a quite limited palette of colors. Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860-1920), for example, was known to have used mainly 4 colors: white, ochre, vermilion and ivory black - which have become known in artist and education circles as the "Zorn palette," with artists and students continually trying their hand with it.

17th Century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632 –1675) apparently used a palette of lead white, yellow ochre, vermilion, madder lake, green earth, raw umber and ivory black. His color selection may have been influenced by what was - and was not - available at the time.

Johannes Vermeer, Girl With a Pearl Earring
According to The Vermeer Newsletter, "In Vermeer's time, each pigment was different in regards to permanence, workability, drying time, and means of production. Moreover, many pigments were not mutually compatible and had to be used separately or in a particular manner...One thorn in the side of the 17th-century painter was the chronic shortage of strong, opaque yellows and reds...The exceptionally brilliant red and yellow cadmiums, now obligatory paints in any contemporary painter’s studio, had not been commercialized until the 1840s." (

Jackie Afram, Ghost of a Coast, Oil
Today's painters have a much wider palette to choose from, but sometimes are limited by the type of paints they are using. Gallery member Jackie Afram's palette is influenced by her use of glazes. "Because I use glazes in my oil paintings, I depend a lot on transparent pigments." she says. "I use ultramarine blue and burnt umber often for grays and shadows.  While my palette varies, I almost always have cerulean blue, ultramarine blue and burnt umber on my palette.  And I don't think I have painted a painting without white."

Member Deborah Taylor says that her palette is "pretty consistent: titanium white, alizarin crimson, cad red light, cad yellow med, cad lemon yellow and ultramarine and sometimes burnt sienna." She has recently begun experimenting (an artist's greatest joy is in experimentation!) with prussian blue, which she feels may become a staple of her palette, especially for landscapes. "I use it in skies as well as for making greens.  I used it in the far trees in Fort Hunt." 

Debbie Taylor, Fort Hunt, Oil
Gallery member Sandra Hill is a watercolorist, which provides different challenges with the palette, being done on paper rather than canvas. "The watercolors on my palette are winsor yellow, (a very vibrant yellow), burnt umber, yellow ochre, permanent rose, alizarin crimson, winsor newton french ultramarine blue (a sedimentary color), cobalt blue and burnt sienna," she says. "Notice there is no white or black.  Watercolor paper left unpainted serves as the color white.  Greys and deep dark rich watercolors (which approach black) are achieved by mixing colors opposite on the color wheel."

Sandra Hill, Layers of Leaves, Watercolor
Hill says (in contrast to the Zorn method), that as her skills have improved, and her paintings have gotten larger, she has begun to use bigger palettes with larger, and more, paint wells. She says,"There are three ways to alter colors: 1) mixing on the palette, 2) mixing on the paper (wet-in-wet), and 3) glazing (one layer of color is placed over another dried color). And, of course, all rely on using less or more water with less or more paint."

Artists' palettes continue to evolve, with lots of experimentation involved - and the viewers of their art are captivated by their colors, whether they use a little, or a lot of colors.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Friday, January 22, 2016

Calming the Mind: The Watercolors of Lauren Marcott

"Art takes me to a level where I lose myself and time flows easily," says this month's featured artist Lauren Marcott.  "Like yoga, it stills my 'monkey mind.'" 
Watercolor artist Lauren Marcott

 Marcott is noted for her beautiful watercolor landscapes and seascapes. Her subject matter springs from the beautiful places in the world she has lived and visited, such as Japan, coastal areas, Paris and Washington DC,  to name just a few.
"Paris Tribute," watercolor by Lauren Marcott

"I work mostly in transparent watercolor, a medium that refuses to be ordered around, defying my penchant for control and detail," she says of her work. "Watercolor is a portable  medium, amenable to travel, usually worked quickly.  Watercolors can be loose and flowing, deep and rich, sketches or paintings of detail that rival oils.  But to me the true magic of watercolor is how quickly, almost accidentally, it can capture the light in objects."

"Winter in Kyoto," watercolor by Lauren Marcott
 Marcott says she has "sketched since first grade," but only in the last few years has she worked in color. She draws inspiration from many places. She started out at the Bank Street School in Manhattan, where she studied crafts and color and pencil portraits.  She then taught and traveled in Northern Arizona, where she first encountered the unique perspectives and color of the Southwestern desert.

She worked and resided in East Asia and Europe, retiring from the U.S. State Department in 2007, after serving in London, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine, as well as various places in Washington.  
Since then she has studied watercolor under gifted teachers at the Smithsonian, the Arlington Artists Academy, at Arlington Adult Education and most recently at the Art League.  She visits Paris often, as well as the coasts of New England in summer and Florida every winter -  hence the bistros, seashells and lighthouses that populate many of her paintings.

"Weather Change," watercolor by Lauren Marcott

Gallery patrons appreciate Marcott's subtle color palette, her impressionistic style,  and her proficiency for capturing the essence of place and time in her work. Her portfolio reads like a travel documentary, with the many renderings of scenes from all over the world. Additional works by Marcott can be seen here:

"Capitol Autumn," watercolor by Lauren Marcott

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Zen and the Art of Sculpting Trees: Tom Mulczynski

Wire Sculpture Artist Tom Mulczynski

"Wire is an extraordinarily capable sculptural material - it can at once represent the airy weightlessness of a strand of hair or the taught power of a rigid muscle or rope. It's no surprise, then, that so many sculptors find it to be indispensable for their work." (Viktorija G, Bored Panda, "15 Of The Most Beautifully Twisted Wire Sculptures"
"Nirvana," Wire and Mixed Media by Tom Mulczynski
Gallery Underground member and exhibiting artist Tom Mulczynski has always loved the unique form and natural beauty of individual trees - iconic symbols of life and nature. He began making trees from steel wire in 2008, creating bonsai-sized representations of trees that caught his eye. Drawn to the expressive power of trees and drawing inspiration from the simplicity of classical Zen-inspired depictions of nature, he likes to experiment with different styles and materials to express some basic truth or feeling, like freedom or expansiveness.  He often tries to evoke in the observer a sense of kinetic movement, static grace or gentle spirituality.  He occasionally ventures more directly into abstraction, fantasy and whimsy. 

"The use of metal wire in jewelry dates back to the 2nd Dynasty in Egypt and to the Bronze and Iron Ages in Europe. In the 20th century, the works of Alexander Calder, Ruth Asawa, and other modern practitioners developed the medium of wire sculpture as an art form...Calder’s wire sculptures of this period tended to be portraits, caricatures, and stylized representations of people and animals. While originally believing the medium of wire sculpture to be merely clever and amusing, as his work developed, he began to state that wire sculpture had an important place in the history of art and remarked on the great possibilities that lie within the medium.
"Evergreen," Wire and Mixed Media by Tom Mulczynski
“These new studies in wire, however, did not remain the simple modest little things I had done in New York.[Calder stated]." "They are still simple, more simple than before; and therein lie the great possibilities which I have only recently come to feel for the wire medium... There is one thing, in particular, which connects them with history. One of the canons of the futuristic painters, as propounded by Modigliani, was that objects behind other objects should not be lost to view, but should be shown through the others by making the latter transparent. The wire sculpture accomplishes this in a most decided manner.” (

Mulczynski is a self-trained artist who occasionally dabbles in acrylic paint and other media. While making sure he focuses on having fun and enjoying the process of making art, he nevertheless hopes to inspire in the observer an increased awareness of self and of nature. 

"Contorted Filbert," Wire and Mixed Media by Tom Mulczynski
Mission accomplished - viewers and buyers alike report that Mulczynski's compelling pieces evoke a sense of calm, much the way being present in nature does.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fair Winds and Following Seas: the Art of Patricia Andril

Colored Pencil Artist Patricia Andril
The Summer Race, Colored Pencil by Patricia Andril
“Colored pencil drawing has fascinated me since 1998," says Gallery Underground's Featured Artist Patricia Andril. “At that time, I read a review in the Washington Post about the Colored Pencil Society of America’s annual international juried show being held in the Washington, D.C. area. The glowing review included photos of the art, and it was stunning. I had to see that exhibit. When I did, I found that no two artists used the medium in the same way. Some of the pieces looked like watercolors, others resembled pastels - and for the artists into photo realism, their drawings looked like photographs. That was the beginning of my obsession with colored pencil drawing.” 

Colored pencils work well for Andril’s favorite subject: the Chesapeake Bay. Being part of a family of avid sailors, Andril spends a great deal of time on those waters, having spent over thirty years sailing with her family. Her work reflects her interest in sailing, boats and water scenes. In particular, she tries to capture the effect of the wind and of light on the water.
Windward Mark, Colored Pencil by Patricia Andril

Early history of colored pencils is not too well documented. It is known that Ancient Greeks used wax-based crayons and Pliny the Elder recorded that the Romans also used colored crayons based on wax. The first colored pencils appeared in the 19th century and were used for “checking and marking.” Staedtler, the German company owned by Johann Sebastian Staedtler, invented the colored oil pastel pencil in 1834. Production of colored pencils for art purposes started in the early 20th century. The first art color pencils were invented and produced in 1924 by Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache. Berol started making its color pencils in 1938, followed later by other manufacturers such as Derwent, Progresso, Lyra Rembrandt, and Blick Studio.(
Lanikai Under Sail, Colored Pencil by Patricia Andril
Andril has experience with pastels, watercolor, oil and acrylic painting but using colored pencil is when she is happiest. “You can’t beat the precision of a sharp pencil point!” she says. “Since that first colored pencil exhibition in 1998 I’ve grown significantly as an artist,” she relates. “I now enter that art show annually and have earned my signature status in the organization. When I go to the exhibition I love to hear gallery patrons remark that they are amazed by what you can create with a colored pencil.”

That sharp pencil point creates beautiful scenes of fair winds and following seas, to the delight of the many art patrons who are devotees of her work.  To see more of her work, click here for the gallery's Flickr feed:

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Co-Director