"Alchemy" 24 x 36, oil on board, © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2015

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Van Gogh's expense report? Rembrandt's record keeping? Sargent's sales tax exempt form?

As a professional artist, I was expecting a wildly unconventional life of paint slinging, absinthe drinking, bohemian- inspired wanderings, midnight oil burning, and international jet setting.  No, that's not true.  What I anticipated from a career as an artist was a great deal of hard work, some wins and a lot of failures, the ability to professionally present myself and my art, quality contacts, supportive fellow artists, lots of museum visiting and book reading, long nights with tight deadlines, and a moderate level of success.  That's what I studied for, prepared for, and signed up for. Thankfully, due to a stellar college education, some aptitude for art and a lot of support from fellow creatives, it's mostly what I have, and I'm very grateful for it.  But do you know the one thing they don't talk about in art school?  The paperwork.  Creating and running an art business isn't just about putting in the work in front of the easel.  It's not even about the packing and shipping and arranging and contracting and marketing and invoicing.  It's about record keeping.

When did I create that piece?  What are the dimensions?  When did it sell?  Who bought it, and for how much?  When was it last exhibited?  WHERE IS IT???  These are all questions I was confronted with over the past few days.  Thankfully, due to a mostly cobbled together but kinda-sorta quasi effective record keeping system, I was able to answer most of them with a minimum of hand wringing and teeth gnashing.  (The unanswered one is enough to send my blood pressure skyrocketing, so we'll just let that be.)  But as I huddled in front of my computer, poring through excel spreadsheets, old emails, CVs and invoices, that little nagging voice in my ear kept reminding me that this wasn't necessarily what I expected when I decided to pursue a professional art career.
Na├»ve, huh?  Yeah, maybe.  Surprising?  Not really.  I am glad that my college required all Illustration majors to take a semester of art business management, which basically boiled down to
1) don't get screwed on illustration contract negotiations, and 2) always pay your taxes.  Although not terribly in depth, this is still more than many BFA programs offer, and I am grateful for it.  However, I do wish they had devoted a little more attention to setting up an effective record keeping system for the artwork produced over your career, especially if you don't work with a rep or gallery.  (I also wished for a pony most of my life, and I got that, so what's the harm in asking???)

Being a Libra, I'm told I'm keenly sensitive to aesthetics and like for things to be beautifully and artistically organized, but in real life I seem to be perennially accompanied by a miniature hurricane.  My desk is currently covered with receipts (have to file those), reference photos (have to file those too), sketchbooks, various mark making tools, a few tubes of paint, extra computer cables, flash drives (because mine tend to go on walkabout without me), a few semi important banking things (filed in the "to be filed" pile), and a giant stuffed stingray, but he's only there for moral support.  After a few hours of filing, categorizing, searching, and organizing, the desk is cleaner, but my mind is spinning.  There HAS to be a better way to do this, right?

Excel spreadsheets, file folders, a new online invoicing system (thank you, Freshbooks!), a sadly defunct painting inventory software program, digital asset libraries, multiple mailing lists, a pile of press articles, advertising and magazine mentions, print edition records, a few hard drives... it's enough to make any sane person insane.  Part of my goal this year is to once and for all nail down all these disparate items into one cohesive system, one that's devoted to running Moose Pants Studio like a super successful mega company, even if right now we're only a very small, moderately successful company.  Paperwork, digital asset management, and record keeping is not my forte, but I'm coming to realize that it's almost as important as putting paintbrush to canvas and producing the work.  Intelligently managed, your artwork can have a very successful and lucrative life after you create it, but only if you can stay on top of the organization.  Sometimes applying the finishing brushstroke turns out to be just
 the beginning of a piece, and not the end.

Do you have any successful art managing tips you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear from you!

And, because it's been making me smile all week...

Monday, April 4, 2016

LOPE Official Artist! It's all about giving back...

It's all about giving back...
My very own OTTB.  This is Baby B Free, aka Frankie.  Fabulous jumper, failed racehorse, equine model, artistic muse, and part time therapist.

I've always had a thing for Thoroughbreds, and I was delighted to find an awesome organization in Austin, TX, that partners with Texas trainers and owners to retrain and rehome TBs who didn't quite make it as a racehorse (ahem, Frankie, ahem.  Cough cough.)  I've been a supporter of theirs for years, created pieces specifically for their fundraising efforts, and gotten to know the backbone of this incredible organization, Lynn Reardon, author of Beyond the Homestretch.  (Haven't read it?  READ IT!!)  LOPE continues to do lifesaving work, not only for the horses they directly handle off the track, but in helping to dispel the myth of the "crazy, uncontrollable thoroughbred who has no future outside of a racetrack."  I'm beyond honored to be named the official artist for LOPE.  Visit www.Lopetx.org for more information!

A special note from Joanna:  "I grew up riding OTTBs sent to us from Arlington Racetrack in Chicago.  You’d think that young TBs recently removed from the track and horse crazy eleven year old girls would be a disastrous combination, but there were surprisingly few problems.  What we found were horses who, despite being in an unfamiliar environment and bombarded with unexpected stimuli (what’s that leg pressure all about?  What do you mean “trot”?  Why are we going in a circle to the right?)  were athletic and willing  to the extreme with good brains, a great work ethic, and a true eagerness to learn something new.  They learned the basics of W-T-C, trot poles, and small jumps, and we learned to be light in our hands, Zen-like in the saddle, safety conscious in the barn, and generous with praise.  We rode in a sales barn, so those horses did not stay with us long, but many of them went on to successful careers in the hunter/jumper world.  While we “barn rats” may not have played a pivotal role in the long-term development and retraining of those horses, they taught us a lifetime of lessons to be applied both in and out of the saddle.  I’m forever grateful to them for introducing me to the world of infinite possibility, incredible resilience, and untapped potential that can be found in the unlikeliest of individuals. I am overjoyed to partner with LOPE and support their lifesaving work devoted to the retraining and rehoming of these incredible equine athletes."

Official LOPE Artist: Joanna Zeller Quentin

LOPE is delighted to announce a partnership with renowned equine artist Joanna Zeller Quentin of Dallas, TX! Joanna’s award-winning artwork has been exhibited internationally and her images have appeared in the Chronicle of the Horse, Southwest Art Magazine, Horseback Magazine, and Horses in Art. Her work has hung at The International Museum of the Horse, LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine, The Arts Castle, the Draft Horse Classic, and many other shows, museums and galleries.

She has been a featured artist for LOPE and Southbound Show Management, and she was the official artist for HITS Thermal Winter Show Circuit in 2012, 2014 and 2015.  Joanna holds juried memberships in the American Academy of Equine Art, Institute of Equine Artists and the International Society of Scratchboard Artists.  Ms. Quentin is also a proud partner of Two Socks Designs, and Dover Saddlery stores nationwide carry her HoofPRINTS™ NoteCard sets.  She is represented by Equis Art Gallery in Red Hook, New York.

As LOPE’s official artist, Joanna will regularly donate a substantial percentage of her art sales to LOPE if the customer mentions LOPE beforehand. She will donate artwork for LOPE’s fundraisers and silent auctions and will be designing a special notecard for LOPE to use in regular correspondence with our fans, supporters and adopters. Best of all, Joanna will offer special rates to LOPE adopters for commission portraits of their LOPE horses!

LOPE’s Executive Director, Lynn Reardon, said, “Joanna’s work is exemplary. She truly captures the dynamic grace of horses in motion, as well as their expressiveness and individuality. As a dedicated equestrian and OTTB owner, Joanna especially understands the unique qualities of these wonderful equine athletes. We are honored to name Joanna as LOPE’s official artist and can’t wait to see her work for 2016.”

Welcome to the LOPE family, Joanna!!



To learn more about Joanna and her work, please visit her online at:





Monday, March 28, 2016

Unlocking the Mystery

For the past few months, I've been working on a commission that's been far outside my comfort level.  I can't say too much about it until it's ready to ship out to the client, but I will readily acknowledge that seldom have I approached a commissioned piece of artwork with such trepidation and determination.  This piece has been a huge challenge, in more ways than one, and I'm proud of myself for accepting the challenge.  <----- SO SCARY!!!
Each painting has a "ta-da!' moment, one color or one brushstroke or one line that suddenly and magically transforms the whole piece from a mess of paint into a living, breathing, flowing thing.  It's like slicing through the Gordian knot, except you aren't sure which tool to use to try and cut it, or what it's made of, or what will happen when it falls to pieces.  (And you're blindfolded.  In a cave.  With a bear.  Wearing Lady Gaga's meat dress.)  While I'd love to say that my paintings are all meticulously planned out with preparatory color studies and thumbnails, this is unfortunately not the case.  Many times, I have a great, wonderful, exciting idea - maybe even a spark from a reference photo or trip to the barn - and I dive right in.  I DO plan a little bit, but probably not quite to the level I should.  I'm working on it.  Really.
But back to this monster challenge.  I've been mucking about with this thing, studying and obsessing and painting and scraping and repainting, and it just wasn't quite coming together as I envisioned it.  More importantly, it wasn't coming together as the client envisioned it.  But, with the discovery last week of the "missing piece", which in this case happened to be the perfect, lovely, soft, lively greyish brownish bluish greenish color that I needed for critical areas, the whole painting pivoted around.  Suddenly, I can see it!  More importantly, I can see the finish line, and (dare I say?) I'm feeling pretty confident about pulling this off.
This year, I've set a few ambitious goals for myself.  One of them is this blog.  (Sigh.)  Another is a log book of every piece of art I complete.  (I have a computer program for the bookkeeping part of this, but nothing that really allows me to get in there and write detail.)  I'm making a list of what works in each piece, what didn't work, and what I would have done differently.  Since I'm aiming to complete one piece a month this year, I hope to have a pretty good little reference book by the time 2017 rolls around.