A look into the inspiration behind the work.

Wild Indigo Sunspot

Acrylic on Canvas 20x16

Talk about stepping out of the box. The last painting “Susan on Denim” started a flurry of inspiration and activity. It’s so refreshing to be inspired and productive. The Holiday season kept me so busy it seemed I never had any quietude. No time to sit and contemplate not to mention to act on inspiration.

Today, during a quite moment, I was thinking about my backgrounds, wanting to mix it up bring some energy to my method and “paint roller, in the shed” just popped into my head. “Wow, that would be fun to experiment with,” quickly followed. So I spent the afternoon playing with the paint roller. Mixing it up with the floral work and the new direction of color was fantastic fun. Filling the roller, then only putting paint on a part of the roller, then two colors together, the possibilities seem endless. I am pleased with the final image and I believe I’ll experiment a bit more with the rollers.

This piece shows a single strand of Wild Indigo with several suggestions of the sun set in a patchwork background with blues and purples.

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Susan on Denim

Acrylic on Canvas 20x16

Oh what fun it is to have some closure on a piece that has been bugging me for weeks. Sometimes inspiration comes in spurts and jumps. Like the human that I am not everything I work on is successful and so when I am struggling with a piece it gets put in the “later” box.

Then every once in a while, when I’m feeling courageous, I’ll rummage through the box and pick one to rework. This is one of those pieces and this week I found complete satisfaction, working through a former block.

With this rework also came a bit of experimentation and turning away from a rut. This is also quite freeing. I pulled away from my strong bright colors and allowed the background build with a variety of layers creating a rich denim color behind the bold Black Eyed Susan. I also wove the square through the petals bringing a playful dialogue between foreground and background. Finally, I scrubbed through a few areas of the top layer to reveal the under painting that had given me such trouble in the past. It was a little like taking a victory lap.

I hope you enjoy this piece.

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Sweet Tweets! New Twitter Fan!

A Part of the Crowd

I joined Twitter several months ago. There was some buzz about the application and how cool it was. Well, as I spent a couple of days tweeting the whole business just didn’t make sense. I had 3 followers and didn’t know who to follow myself… it was just so foreign to me. Why does anyone what to hear what an obscure artist is doing during the day? Ok, I just wasn’t getting it.


Then fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with Chad Manspeaker and Joshua Dieker with Mixed Media (a new Topeka company offering their experience with Web 2.0 and website development.) They had worked in our local elections as Nancy Boyda’s campaign management. They used Obama’s campaign model by utilizing social media to enhance her constituency outreach.


What an eye opener. He made it really simple, tweet about yourself, use the search tool to find people in your area to follow or people who have similar interests and watch your circle grow. Also, he introduced me the integration of Twitter and Facebook if they find you on one application they will probably seek you out on the other.


He also explained how it’s changing the entire concept of marketing back to the oldest most original concept of marketing – by word of mouth (or should I say by stroke of the keyboard) and friends recommendations. The only difference is that it goes at light speed rather than plodding along via Pony Express. He wasn’t kidding.


To keep from being intimidated I didn’t want to grow too fast, just a steady growth so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed and this is exactly what I got. It’s amazing! In just a couple of weeks and maybe 3 hrs total of poking around, I have 47 followers on Twitter, many whom I don’t know but have found my tweets interesting and I have found their tweets interesting as well. On Facebook, my friends have grown to more than 42 (and not all from my personal solicitation) from around 5 many local people who have access to the galleries that I show in and many who I know but haven’t been in touch with for years.  My circle includes many from the local media circle as well. The best news of all is that my website gained 171% in activity from last month.  People are starting to find me online and it is literally growing on a daily basis.


Between Twitter and Facebook if used properly can launch your online presence from obscurity to a targeted, interested, friend base. Now, I am not even going to pretend to know all the ins and outs of either application, because I am still learning. My strategy is simple. Use Twitter and Facebook in tandem to enhance my online presence and drive traffic to my site.


Facebook has several perks for artists who participate: just take a look at their Statistics. http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

Specifically for artists, more than half of their 150 million users are outside of college and their fastest growing demographic is people over 30 years old…. This adds up to educated people who have the funds to buy art. Many people who are on twitter own the high end phones with internet services. If they have those kinds of toys, logic follows they can also afford fine art. Just take a look at those stats on the site and see how that plays into a marketing goal for the artist.


Next, not only did I have my profile on Facebook, I also created a “page” about me and my artwork. These can be found at the bottom of the page under “advertising.” Creating a “page” is completely free and then you can add applications to them as well.  With “devices” turned on and the Twitter application added to my Facebook profile, I can update my status on one and catch both systems in one sweep, even from my cell phone.  Also, I discovered that I can RSS (really simple syndication) my blog to pick up my blogs as notes for both my page and my profile. What a time saving applications! No more cutting a pasting my blog so that all of my friends can find it!  


A local group of Twitter fans started to gather in the evenings at “Tweet Ups” where you can actually meet fellow Tweeters in real life. What a fantastic opportunity to rub elbows with those interesting people! I have planned a “Tweet Up” for SouthWind Gallery in Topeka where I work, it is a preview opportunity for the tweeters to get together, enjoy new art (some of which are mine) and get to know each other. All in building bonds across the area. (If you are interested take a look at my events on Facebook “Michelle Leivan” or follow me on twitter @michelle_leivan)


Finally, one final thought – people buy art from artists they connect with, either the art itself connects or they know the artist and therefore enjoy the artwork even more through the relationship connection. The advent of the Web 2.0 creates the “conversation” era for the information age. The web is no longer a simple tool to find or present information, now we can make connections, social interactions! Share and have conversations with people across the world. It’s just simply amazing! Isn’t life Tweet!

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Critiques and “Cutting Edge Subject Matter”

A few months back I applied for Junction City Arts Council’s Premier Artist Search 2009. It was the type of contest that, like every other art contest… subjective. It is healthy to occasionally subject yourself to criticism as an artist and my hope was for the minor entry fee to get feedback from professionals with fresh eyes. I was successful in that endeavor but it has put me in a quandary for the last few days because I received the coveted feedback. Let me start a out telling you what I received.


Three art professionals were asked to critique the work. Two are unidentified and one gracefully put her critique on letterhead. There were 4 categories for the judges to respond to: Professionalism and technical skills, Originality, Clarity of Style and Overall presentation. Each with a scale of 1 to 5 – making it possible for a high score of 20.


The first unnamed juror was extremely lean on their comments… Nothing on Professionalism?? On Creativity “I have seen similar work before.” (I am really wondering if they haven’t see MY work before.)  On Clarity of Style “I see two styles in this body of work & I believe the florals show stronger.” Then Overall: “I see the floral as a much stronger form for marketability. Finally, overall score given 12.5  (Ok so I see their point, did wonder where they had seen bald headed yellow nudes in Kansas though… Maybe just concentrated on the florals. Overall, I am dissatisfied with my feedback from the juror… Money wasted here?)


The second unnamed juror was a bit more insightful. Score marked hand written on top “10” --- oops! “As the artist points out in her statement, the images presented reflect at least three distinct series. While all three have their virtues, the problem is that they are too distinct – so much so that it is hard to see the imprint of one artist on the total body of work. I prefer the simplicity and material usage in the “Kansas Wildflower” series. They are unpretentiously presented, beautifully colored and skillfully rendered. Other than the entire body of work being figurative and brightly colored, it’s hard to discern obvious or even subtle connections. While it isn’t necessarily a weakness to work in such seemingly disparate series, it does make it hard for the viewer to fairly assess or even find the underlying aesthetic of the artist. Some work appears too illustrative, perhaps even appropriate for a children’s book. (Clear concise, constructive. But I’m still wondering if my Tarot series or my nudes are for children’s books, maybe it’s just a right mind type of thing.)


Finally the last critique… worth the entry fee… This one was an identified local gallery owner.


Professionalism and Technical Skills: 4

Comments: Michelle appears to be a really good commercial artist. She has a strong grasp of style, form and function. I am not sure I buy her philosophy, but I am happy to see a strong point of view. In viewing her collectors, I see a list of people that I also respect and have shared as clients through the years. It makes me believe that there is more to Michelle than we are seeing here.


Originality: 4

Comments: Her work is a little trite. I think I would like to see her open herself up to more risk taking. She has a good sense of color and use of color in juxtaposition to design. She pulls both components off seamlessly.


Clarity of Style: 5

Comments: Very clear style and direction; almost too commercial. I would advise her to stay away from the floral work. It has been overdone and there are people that do it much better than she does. If she was in my artist stable I would push her to experiment more with color and form and strive for cutting edge subject matter…. Oh the last sentence, I so much want clarity on that statement.


Overall: 5

Comments: The talent is there. She is a very good artist. But, I would push her to let go of herself and express the miracle that may be inside her. I believe that there is much more she can be doing that may surprise even her… Good News! Overall this critique filled with thoughtful criticism definitely made it worth the fee.


Oh, the quandary…. Florals or no Florals but cutting edge subject matter. Ahhh, I must remember where I am and that these professionals also live where I do and if I was successful and receiving comment from a professional from the east or west coast… I am sure that my critiques would have a completely different feel, not to mention if I ask my neighbor for her opinion.


But my biggest and most haunting statement was “cutting edge subject matter” Surely it’s more than throwing some stuff together and calling it Steve…. I live in Kansas, in the center of the Bible Belt, this is where my current market is. For the most part, as artists our work is a reflection of our inner being, the environment we live in and our various skills.


It is important to meet your market and I fail to do that locally with all of my series except my florals so they are here to stay for the time being. But, I love my other pieces as well. I completely understand that the majority of my local market will not appreciate them and may not even understand them. These scream at me time to time to be created so then to stay sane I must oblige. In order to finance my work with sales and until my market expands beyond the Midwest my work will continue down a few different paths. I don’t believe I am the only artist in history with this quandary.  


I guess what I need to walk away with is the realization that as an artist we are in a regular flux of growth and expansion. Maybe I do need to let go of myself and just let it flow. I am sure in time my work will merge into something that may surprise even me. Who knows where these thoughts may lead… sounds like a new adventure.


I just wish I knew what “cutting edge subject matter” is exactly… Where is Picasso when you want to ask him a question? LOL  If you know the answer please enlighten me… I need to know!


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Tenacious Troika

This piece is from the Kansas Wild Flower Series
original painting by Michelle Leivan

Artist Comments
I am not sure why I chose to paint these Pale Poppy Mallows at this time. Maybe I needed a break from my Echinacea. I remember photographing this set. I took several pictures trying to get the right angle and lighting to capture their character. They are grouped in protection but still hold their own personality. This set makes me think of the closeness of my family of three and individual growth that is safely nurtured in our home. This trio of Pale Poppy Mallows is presented with a blue-green background.

Customer Feedback
"Michelle is a wonderful artist and very professional to work with." - Cheryl Logan
"I love having a Leivan in my entryway, it brightens up the entire space." - Carol Turner
"I enjoy Michelle's wild flower series so much I had to have two!" - Karen Hiller

20" x 16" on 3/4" deep canvas. Gallery wrapped (image extends around edge) this makes it ready to hang without a frame.

This is an original painting; it is not a print or reproduction. This piece was painted with professional grade paints to create a piece that offers cheerful addition to any setting needing a touch of vibrant color.

Professional grade acrylics on quality canvas and it glazed with a UV protectant seal.

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Twining Touch

Twining Touch - Acrylic on Canvas - 20x16

Twining Touch features two pale purple cone flowers (echinacea pallida) depicted in a loving private embrase with their petals and stems. They seem to have found a space of their own that can not be disturbed by the outside world. It remindes me of the longing for my husband's touch while he was deployed and the bliss of his gentle touch when he arrived back home.I think we all need these tender caresses from a loved one just to remind us we are among the living.

This is the second piece that will be place in the "Flower Power 2" show with SouthWind Gallery of Topeka. This show opens January 16th and runs through February 15th the Artist Reception is on February 6th during the First Friday Art Walk.

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