Paintbrush Alley


by Written by WAA Members on 05/03/16


Blog by Mary K. Donahoe

Marilyn Pound gave a very informative discussion of Impressionism on April 26 at Ocean Ridge Plantation (soon to be repeated on May 11 at WAA’s Business Meeting, if you missed it.) She fielded questions with good grace. But there was one which always comes up ... is in the back of everyone’s mind... when art is discussed. It was, “How do you determine the price for a piece of art?”

I felt empathy for Marilyn. When I gave a discussion of architecture to my son’s third grade class, there was one kid who only wanted to know how much the buildings cost. There’s one in every crowd.

Money you give to acquire a piece of art is a marker of respect for the artist, their imagination and skill, and their ability to produce a work of art that fits into your living room’s color scheme. Or, if you’re the artist and you’re dead, it’s an investment in a (clearly) limited commodity.

Art pieces and dogs have a lot in common. I can still hear the horror in my son’s voice when he discovered the cold facts: “You mean you can buy dogs? Like dogs, pieces of art have a life of their own, they are loved by their creator, and the concept of offering them on the marketplace block hurts. Especially when they don’t sell.

In an effort to look at this on a less emotional level, I did a market survey of oil paintings at the Wilmington Art Association’s Spring Art Show and Sale, based on their printed booklet. Costs ranged from a low of $.92 per square inch to a high of $12.98 psi. Throwing out high and low, the average was around $2.35 psi. Award winners did not differ. Now the Commerce Department will be on me for price fixing.

I can’t give any insight into the mind of an art buyer. I’m not one, for the most part (although I should be, given all the impressive original art produced around here.) I already have enough of my own. I know few buyers. The ones I do know bought art because they had an emotional attachment to the piece. It seemed to speak to them.

So we can only continue to speak in that original language we use in our art, and hope that someone shares it. We do our honest best, and put our hearts into it. That’s worth more than gold. 

MAKE A PLAN by Mary K Donahoe

by Written by WAA Members on 04/22/16

What makes you get started on an artwork?

Often we hear, “I can’t decide what to paint.” When subject matter becomes a stumbling block to action, a plan to explore a certain concept may shake you loose.

It may be new tools that offer a plan for a piece. Who hasn’t fallen for one of those newfangled art tools then enjoyed the delicious anticipation of trying it out? For acrylic painters it might be texture gels, wire brushes, or glazes. For watercolorists, sponges or yapo paper. For oil painters, linseed stand oil or a palette knife.

 There are other ways to start with a plan in mind. I find it helpful to set some parameters for my painting. If I commit to a certain composition, I can free myself up to use a variety of color or brushstroke.

 Without a starting plan, it seems I end up with total chaos. I know some people who like to start painting and just see what happens. That doesn’t work for me. Of course, the painting I end up with may end up jettisoning the very idea that started it. At least I learn what problems that composition produces.

 I practice figure drawing once a week with a live model. Occasionally I’ll look at the paper in front of me and envision the finished piece before I start. Of course, it changes. But it’s thrilling to me to see how the mind works - seeing what I might draw before it is done.  The pressure of completing a drawing in a short time helps, too. You have no time to be critical of that flash of inspiration. Just go with it!

 Regardless of what method works for you, make a plan, then execute it. Life is short. Express yourself while you can. Your life will be richer for it.


by Written by WAA Members on 03/29/16

By Mary K Donahoe, past WAA president

The North Carolina Arts Council is the organization promoting art in North Carolina. They believe the arts contribute not only to the quality of life here, but also to the local economy.

We’re always, as official starving artists, trying to do more with less. But even our frugal efforts make living in and visiting Southeastern North Carolina more attractive, encouraging people to settle here and to visit the area as tourists. I know before I moved here the notice of WAA paint-ins in the local paper made me want to get here soon!

NC Arts Council is participating in a year-long effort to measure the economic impact of art in our communities. This effort is part of a nationwide survey spearheaded by the Americans for the Arts (AFTA).

The NC Arts Council does offer grants to local arts groups and individuals, some of which have benefitted our members and our organization directly. Providing them with this information allows them to make a stronger case for state and local funding for the arts and to continue their service to the local arts community.

 These surveys are due quarterly. For the first quarter, many of you completed surveys at the March Business Meeting and Art Materials Swap. Thank you!

The next quarter will find me surveying those at our Annual Exhibit in May. Let’s hope many art sales happen and our economic impact is felt. But regardless of the bottom line, we know and value the arts in our lives.

Working with MDF

by Written by WAA Members on 03/10/16

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Have you ever wondered what an MDF painting surface is and whether it is a good support for your artwork?  The following is excerpted from

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is a dry-process type fiberboard panel with a density below that of HDF and hardboard. This lower density makes MDF the most warp-resistant wood panel available. Unlike the very dense hardboard fiberboards, fibers in MDF panels have the necessary room within the internal structure of the board to expand (from moisture or heat) without distorting the panel. While this lower density gives MDF somewhat less structural strength than other fiber boards, it is still very hard and strong, and more than adequate in that regard for use as an artist panel, for which it is very well suited. It is much stronger than particleboard, a product with which it should not be confused. MDF and HDF are very similar panels and share most of the same qualities; they tend to differ only by a small amount in density. The manufacturing process of these products usually results in the thinner panels having slightly higher densities. Panels of a half inch or more are generally MDF; panels of a quarter inch or less usually fall into the category of HDF, though these are generally called "thin MDF" (TMDF) since the public is more familiar with the term "MDF' than "HDF'.



by Written by WAA Members on 02/10/16


The WAA web committee is in the process of developing criteria for submitting photos of your artwork on our website’s ARTIST GALLERY. I couldn’t help but wonder what research has been done about online fine art paintings. Do people actually purchase fine art online as opposed to purchasing from galleries and other brick-and-mortar stores?

I found an online article entitled, THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MURKY ONLINE ART MARKET, that had as its lead sentence, “Online art sales are on the rise.” The article went on to discuss the results of a recent joint study of online art-buying platforms (2014). Some of the key findings were:

  •      Among the 20-30 year olds surveyed who had purchased art online, 22% had never bought from a physical gallery or auction before…
  •      Almost 40% of individuals surveyed have bought art and collectibles through purely online click-and-buy platforms….
  •      Browsing online translates into sales with 55% of the frequent browsers online also being online art buyers….
  •      And, there was a high buyer satisfaction level with 65% of buyers already extremely or very happy with their online art buying experience.

(Excerpts taken from THE HISCOX ONLINE ART TRADE REPORT 2014)


I think the takeaway message for us is that it is worth the time to post our artwork on the web. You can find many pages on the web that tell you how to photograph your painting.

Good luck! Good painting!

Charlotte Ranz, WAA webmaster