Category: Artist’s studio practice

How to manage emotions as artist, woman and entrepreneur veronica winters

How to manage emotions as artist, woman and entrepreneur

Have you ever struggled managing your emotions? Have you felt rejected, lonely, depressed, fearful or angry? I bet you have! Our feelings make decisions over 90% of the time despite our vast capacity to think logically. Negative emotions bring us pain, often take us to the past, or simply stop us from doing what we really want to. Training my mind, conquering my feelings, and taking control of the situation has become one of my top priorities in life for the past several years.

It’s often said that the time cures everything, pain disappears and we heal, but the expression “some wounds never heal” actually means that we can’t always overcome or let go of our past. I felt riddled and worn out by my past, and went to Thailand back in 2012 to understand the principles of Buddhism that I thought would bring me closer to the truth and would alleviate the pain I felt inside. And the Buddhist truth states that much suffering is caused by our “disturbing emotions.” I wanted to find a cure from emotional pain I suppressed inside me. Buddhism and the idea of mindfulness and meditation didn’t save me alone. What helped me greatly are a few books I list in the end of this post. I used to suppress my feelings because they were considered irrelevant in my family. I’ve suffered from a very low self-esteem most of my life that perpetuated problems and blocked me from doing what I didn’t know I was even capable of doing. Psychology books opened a new world for me where I discovered how truly lost I felt in my own perception of myself. Overtime I uncovered my behavioral patterns and trauma that ‘motivated’ me to act in certain ways, causing emotional upheaval.

The secret of change Socrates quote

Behavioral patterns

As I’m not a psychologist, I simply  want to share and explain some information I’m aware of. What is a pattern? Basically it’s a set of learned patterns you acquire in childhood through positive and negative reinforcements that determine your behavior today. It’s unconscious actions we do that can be compared to a computer program. Our brain gets programmed to behave in certain ways in accordance with our parents’ behavior with and around us. As children we learn to adapt and to get out of situations, forming these patterns. As adults because we’re unconscious about it, we often tend to find excuses or blame someone else for a situation we are in. However, if you’re observant of yourself, you’ll notice that you often end up in similar situations, or attract a certain kind of people into your life. For example, a woman might leave one abusive husband only to find herself in a new relationship with another one. Or you can’t find a job in town, get a new degree, look for another job and still can’t find it. Or you talk to a relative hoping for him or her to respond to you with warmth and care but encounter the same cycle of responses and behavior that are also established patterns of that person. It upsets you and triggers a number of negative emotions in you – this pattern can re-play for decades. You also may experience a conflict situation, and your pattern is to avoid the conflict altogether by appeasing people rather than trying to solve a problem causing that conflict, the same conflict that arises with different people and different situations has a single root – you. You also observe and experience the same emotional reactions that are caused by similar situations or people in your life.  As a result you lose control of yourself and become filled with negative emotions. These are the moments when you are often accused of having “thin skin” or “lack of patience” on your part.

Most people don’t like change and feel happy where they are. We tend to spot problems of others, but we are often unable to either recognize, acknowledge or get rid of our own psychological patterns that keep holding us back and limit our spiritual growth. Once you become aware of your patterns, you can break them to form new ones that serve you today.  Although it’s very difficult to break deeply engraved patterns on your own, it is possible to recognize your cycles of behavior that lead to cycles of actions. One of my cycles was to worry  deeply or to take negative comments, opinions and jealousy very close to my heart. It caused a chain reaction in me where I not only argued with those people constantly, but also degraded myself that made me feel even more worthless. I also attracted selfish personalities who demanded attention for good, yet didn’t reciprocate with emotional support I needed. To turn it around I began building my sense of self-respect inside. This conscious effort transformed my life where uninvited opinions of others became just their opinions with no true value to me. This led me to disengagement with people I didn’t want to be with and to forming new relationships with whom I shared mutual respect.

Another ‘big’ transformation I’ve experienced is self-acceptance. After so many years of struggles I accepted my body, my looks and what I do professionally. This led me to much understanding and acceptance of others. Actions and reactions of people around me (even not the most graceful ones) make sense to me today although I may find it very hard to deal with them. There is also understanding that difficult people come to your life for a reason and are there to teach you a lesson. This process of reclaiming your freedom and trusting yourself first and foremost involves taking a full responsibility for your actions.

our life is what our thoughts make it, quote by marcus aurelius

How to manage emotions

Despite all these breakthroughs and inner work, I still have a very hard time dealing with my intense emotions at times. As artists we are very vulnerable. Affirmations didn’t work and the daily pressures of life cause distress. That’s when I’ve discovered Tony Robbins’ videos.  In his teachings he quickly grabs your attention with his practical approach to changing your emotional state. I  found his emotional management techniques to be so simple, yet profound and applicable to any situation you may have. While I’m including some of his teachings below, you can find plenty of information and listen to his audio on YouTube.

  1. You can’t change people around you by telling them to change. You can either change your perception of this person/situation, or the way you behave around such people.
  2. Whenever you feel hurt, angry, lonely, depressed – every emotion we normally consider as a negative, Robbins treats it as a neutral and just a signal/ call to action to change something in your life. It’s important to acknowledge your emotion, rather than to suppress it to  see the message that your brain sends you.
  3. According to Robbins it’s important to identify the core emotion first, what you really feel behind the first feeling that arises like anger.
  4. If you ignore your signal the feeling intensifies.  Therefore, to set a new outcome, change your perception (the way you perceive or look at things) or procedure (the way you communicate needs/behave/expect).

If you feel uncomfortable, it’s important to change the state, clarify what you want, and take action to communicate that desire.

If you feel hurt, it means you have an unmet expectation that brings a sense of loss to you that’s very painful. Either change your expectations or communicate your desires differently.

If you feel anger or resentment it means your important standard is not met by you or another person.

Fear (fear of failure, anxiety) arises as a signal asking you to prepare to deal with something.

Frustration – change your approach to achieve your goal.

Disappointment – something that you’ve been expecting is not going to happen.

Guilt or regret– you’ve violated one of your own standards.

If you feel inadequate or unworthy – your mind asks you to get up and do something better, or change rules that are too harsh.

Feelings of hopelessness, depression, overwhelm – decide what’s most important for you to accomplish now, make a list with order and handle the first one. Do something immediately to take control of events. Pick one thing and master it.

Feeling lonely-we need to find a connection with people.

5. We give meaning to everything. But ask yourself what does it really mean? Choose meanings that empower you in life as opposed to assuming things that dis-empower you.


Spiritual growth is an ambiguous sentence, in my opinion. My interpretation is simply learning to become free from emotional and physical constraints we all experience, and I hope my writing helps you find or clarify your path in your journey. These days when I’m in doubt, pain or struggle, I train and force myself to refocus. I used to dwell in my thoughts on re-play. But as soon as I stop thinking that particular thought that upsets me, my day improves. I try to find something, anything to be grateful for around me in that moment. I also open my notebook with goals and ask myself what I’m doing today to get closer to them. It shifts my focus and changes thoughts. Try it and let me know how it goes for you, ok?


Understanding and managing emotions books:
  1. Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Hearby Tara Bennett-Goleman |
  2. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D. |
  3. Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss
  4. Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss |


Get access to my resource library with demonstrations and notes about art by clicking on the image below.

Can you just do? On artistic inspiration, self-doubt and work

As artists we’re able to fall deep in dark pits of self-doubt, uncertainty and melancholy. We question our purpose, hold on to negativity, and doubt our abilities because it’s hard. It’s really hard to work against the grit to pursue our calling-something that has been written within us at our birth. I think the psychological pressure we feel at times maybe tougher to overcome than the financial burden, since it sips through all the facets of our lives.

Artists are also extremely sensitive people, and react to circumstances and opinions more than others. That’s one of the reasons why we see so many talented actors, writers, painters and musicians self-medicating a ‘weakness’ that’s been recorded in the genes and defined as the ‘mental illness.’ I think it’s more complicated than that. I see my feelings mirrored in students who make their first experiences in life. What I can control they can’t yet, and those emotions often arise and confuse them.

Yes, the sensitivity that artists have makes us different, different in having a natural gift that actually keeps on giving, if we nurture it. It can become the artist’s ‘strength.’ We’re able to see something beautiful in mundane places. We are able to move people emotionally. We go down in history as challengers and recorders of new movements. We make the world less ugly and more humane.

So today I’d like to include a couple of motivational readings and some inspirational quotes that make me get up, stand up, and keep going. Enjoy!

On self-limitation

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo


On self-doubt and inspiration


“DO” is the theme of LeWitt’s 1965 letter written to a fellow artist Eva Hesse, who was tormented with self-doubt.  Here Benedict Cumberbatch impresses me with his reading that moves no matter how many times I listen to it.


On work & perseverance

  • It’s one of those rare instances where you can see someone as powerful as Madonna being vulnerable. Her speech explains so many things that underline her internal motivation for the work she has done as a female singer. She talks about sexism, misogyny, and feminism in the music industry receiving the award at Billboard Women In Music 2016.


  • “Be the Hero of your own story” by Judge Judy Sheindlin is a book for every young or young at heart girl to read. It explains the importance of independent thinking, and how you can open yourself up to opportunities. It’s available for free as a digital download at Judy’s website:



“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo


Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. -Stephen King


How long did it take you to paint that? “My whole life.” Jackson Pollock


paintings of women

Magical realism in portraiture: my painting process

Hello friends,

I love painting portraits!  Although I see human anatomy as the most challenging to master, I’m strongly pulled by this subject to depict the beautiful complexity of a human spirit. I paint from real people who hurt, suffer, love, betray, care and ultimately encourage me to become a better person. I’m drawn to faces with enigmatic eyes: I believe in capturing the soul’s essence through my art. I paint in magic realism style that’s sometimes called pop-surrealism. It’s a departure from the surrealism style since I don’t paint dreams, rather I paint the reality with a surreal touch.

With every new artwork I’m presented with a new challenge and a discovery. Although I often work from my photographs, drawing from life is paramount to understanding the human form and the anatomy. That acquired knowledge could be applied to drawing from pictures, not the other way around. I put the information in that is taken out by the photography.

I love color, and I feel I’m finally getting closer to understanding how color mixing works in oil painting. I have more control over my process and I’m able to create color harmonies that resonate within me and help me describe a special atmosphere in my art.

This short video gives an overview of my painting process: how I create an image, work with the model and paint in layers.
The second part of the video shows a quick glazing technique you can start using today, if you paint. 🙂

Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here:
Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here:

Check out my art and tutorials at my website and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE there!



How to paint realistic portraits with oil paint

In this video you’ll see my 5-step process painting a female portrait. I find the female form to be the most beautiful and compelling to paint. Although portrait painting is super challenging for me (I used to paint the stick figures). In my opinion, portrait painting has the potential for high emotional impact in comparison to still life painting.

This surreal artwork is the manifestation of self-acceptance. The theme of self-nurturing is symbolized by a woman’s gentle hand holding the white orchids. Like taking care of flowers, nurturing becomes vital for inner growth.

I use high-quality materials to complete every artwork. I paint several pieces a year because every artwork becomes a long process of planning and painting. What you see in a 20-min. video is a compression of weeks of work.



The miracle of traveling to Nicaragua: how it changed my perception

In June 2012, our group leaders Jeff and Stelli Munnis organised a mission trip to fly to Nicaragua. Through the Seeds of Learning, a non-profit organization supporting the education projects in Latin America,  we worked on the school building project in a small town of San Ramon, situated in the beautiful mountainous area, not far from Matagalpa. Chamba and Mina were the local leaders, responsible for the project’ completion and our well-being. 🙂

Our group arrived to the country to complete the interior and exterior wall painting, the construction of a separate kitchen (Nicaraguan mothers volunteer to cook lunches for their kids daily), and the building of some pathways with benches around the school. I must say that our expectation how the school is supposed to look like has nothing to do with the ones build in Nicaragua. Those are small, simple buildings with few rooms and fenced windows.

Since I came back from Nicaragua, I’ve been asked a number of questions that I’d like to answer here in my blog post.

One of school building projects in Nicaragua organized by the Seeds of

What did I bring from my trip?

I bought a few handmade pieces from the local artisans that included a couple of handbags and some jewelry made of real, colorful seeds. But what I really brought from my trip were the intangible things. Mainly, a change in my attitude about life. It was an intense period in my life when I had to look inward to understand myself and my needs, to clarify my goals and purpose, and to just appreciate life a whole lot more than I used to.

One of Nicaraguan girls in school

How much was it?

In short, $2100 including the ticket … Some questioned my decision to spend my money on this kind of a trip that didn’t include the luxurious accommodations and a beach resort, rather made me look at the incredible level of poverty, made me sleep in a hot and humid room with a bunch of strangers (our group members were the strangers to me at first). I also took cold showers (there was no hot water in the houses), drove over the pitiful roads, had stomach pain, sweated for hours under the blinding sun, inhaled the paint fumes with the dusty, polluted air, missed out on my daily intake of the NPR news, as well as running, baking, drawing, painting, and not drinking the hot Earl Grey tea. I can go on and on.

A beautiful kid Jose

What did I gain?

A lifetime of raw experiences and a change in perception… I saw the pure joy and happiness derived from simple pleasures – the interactions with friends, family and strangers that reminded me of my native country. The Nicaraguans had no access to infinite shopping, the Internet, gaming, or workaholic lifestyle. I didn’t encounter the unspoken, spiritual emptiness often observed in the West. As many choose to live the American dream owning a house, two cars and a dream vacation each year both good and bad comes with it. Owning a house often defines our identity. We work for it. When the house is lost due to fire or other accident, it feels like everything is gone.We feel as a failure. It happens as we often focus on getting the nice things, become the slaves to our endless need to work to support our lifestyle. This is the exact opposite of the Nicaraguan culture. Their focus is family, the cultivation of relationships and friendship.I was never interested in possessions or the accumulation of stuff, coming from the former USSR where everything was rationed, and in this country I found a similar to my culture focus on friendships.

Of course, Nicaraguans also have problems. Poverty is one of them. Yet, diving into a different culture was like breaking out from a shell that guarded my settled world. It was refreshing to look at the sincere enjoyment people had in their daily interactions with each other. It became the time to acknowledge their struggles that often involved hard, manual labor, and to appreciate my lucky existence living in the U.S. It was about seeing the humanity in simple things and actions, finding value in life, and accepting myself and therefore others.

In Nicaragua we all had some rough times that reinforced our gratitude for having the very basic things back home, like warm running water, electricity, air-conditioning, and the rudimentary appliances that cut on our time doing the housework.

But most importantly, I woke up from my sleep, redefined my beliefs and habits, stopped being so self-destructing that settled me on a path to my emotional freedom and peace. If you follow my art @ , you will see some of the artwork that features the Nicaraguan children.

+ Originally published in the summer of 2012.

Nicaraguan landscape

To learn more:

  • Stelli Munnis and Veronica Winters talk about their art installation Eyes to See, filmed by WTAJ TV, State College, PA on Nov.2, 2012
Eyes to see: U.S. Valanteers in Nicaragua

Eyes to See: U.S. Volunteers in Nicaragua, photo book, 160 pages

In this beautifully illustrated book, Stelli Munnis and Veronica Winters share what it’s like for Americans volunteers to travel to Nicaragua with the nonprofit organization, Seeds of Learning. Although volunteers travel to Nicaragua to build or renovate a school building, the real work happens when things are torn down. As the barriers between people are removed, and the walls individuals erect inside themselves are torn down, they become authentic and caring with one another. Volunteers return to the U.S. feeling different about themselves, others, and the world. They can’t help but feel deeply moved and touched by the hearts and spirits of the Nicaraguan children and people. The book contains over 100 full-color photographs that capture the spirit of what it’s like from the perspectives of volunteers, the children and people of Nicaragua.

My pictures represent a journey to a country with little means yet abundant friendliness. It is a place filled with strong women, free-spirited children, and laid-back men. The Nicaraguan way of life is slow-paced, hard labored, and dedicated to familial relations and friendships. It’s also a place where coffee growers, farming communities, and local co-ops harvest the land and live simply.

Images of children take a special part in this book. They had a natural, unspoiled ability to pose for my Nikon without any preconditions or special arrangements that others typically require when being photographed. They were neither rude nor aggressive; rather, they were kind, well behaved, and loving. I was drawn to their natural beauty and eagerness to communicate with our group of strangers and foreigners. This experience was deeply touching and filled my heart with love and gratitude.

The lush tropical landscape, verdant mountains, and blue skies with billowy clouds provide the backdrop to many of my photographs. It was my intent to capture the spirit of the Nicaraguan people and their rustic lifestyle, while also showing the architecture, housing, and utilitarian objects used in everyday life.

My sole purpose for creating this book is to let curious hearts see and understand the country. It’s a powerful and transforming experience to travel to the second poorest country in the western hemisphere and witness how people there live. It my sincere desire that my photographs will inspire many Americans to travel to Nicaragua with Seeds of Learning or donate to their organization. They are committed to providing children and communities with a tangible opportunity to improve their lives by having greater access to education.

Thank you for your interest in our work and for supporting this project!


how to draw a portrait

The importance of daily practice that develops your drawing skills: drawing tips

Drawing daily is essential to advancing artist’s skills. I used to struggle with the depiction of human form, drawing stick figures. Studying in state schools I struggled to receive the classical art education that’s available today in a number of atelier schools popping up throughout the country, which didn’t exist back in 2001. It took me many years to “learn” how to draw, studying here and there without the backbone of a complete system that is now offered by the Grand Central Academy of Art in New York. Over the years I learned several things that I’d like to share with you here.

Kat with a shell, detail, graphite on paper

What works:

  1. Drawing daily from life, even if it’s a small sketch that looks insignificant.
  2. Studying the great works of art. Yes, studying, not looking at. How does the artist solve a problem of the movement, composition, contrast, and color?
  3. Positive attitude and the acceptance of failure as part of the learning curve.
  4. Mentor’s help. (It’s worth your buck to pay a well-known, practicing artist to learn the tricks of the trade. Don’t expect those artists to guide you for free. There is a reason why they’re successful and their time and knowledge is valuable).
  5. Passion and the work ethic that drives you to work consistently.
  6. Having fun with the subject.
  7. Choosing the right place or school for you to study, if you wish to make a giant leap forward and become a professional. Follow your favorite artists and figure out where they studied or study with them. Some great art schools that give classical education are GCA, Studio Incamminati, Ani Art Academy, the Ryder Studio and many more!
  8. Drawing from plaster casts or classical sculptures at the museums. This is one of the cheapest and best ways to study the human anatomy before actually committing to drawing from a real person.
  9. Study the complex subjects separately. Draw one object at a time before combining them together.
  10. Sign up for free business newsletters /webinars written by practicing artists and crafters that will guide you how to set up and handle the art sales. Here are a couple of examples and
  11. Some good art books to have in your library: Anthony Ryder, “The artist’s complete guide to figure drawing,” J.D.Hillberry “Drawing realistic textures in pencil,” Jane Jones “Classic still life painting,” and you can also check out my art books that vary in subject and medium:
  12. Some good business books that are worth your time are by Jack White who is an amazing marketer and a practicing artist: I also recommend “Making it in the art world” by Brainard Carey. He lists some unconventional strategies he employed to in his art career.
  13. Join groups on Facebook to keep yourself motivated and to receive quality feedback. (The Atelier Movement is one of the groups for oil painters, Colored pencil artist league is one of many colored pencil groups).

What doesn’t work:

  1. A fixed mindset where you believe that you can become great in a couple of lessons. There is no point in starting out on this venture, if you don’t have realistic expectations. It takes at least a year of consistent work to see permanent results.
  2. Inconsistency or a lack of work ethic.
  3. Trying to learn the material from someone whose artwork doesn’t represent your ideal image or a technique.
  4. The absence of motivation. No one will make you successful, unless you work on it!
how to draw a portrait
A study of Kat with a shell, 9×12″ graphite on paper

About this artwork

My art revolves around the beauty of the female form and the ocean. A combination of these subjects provides me with infinite inspiration. Although the idea for the image often comes to me during the photo shoot or long before, I largely rely on my final result – the photographs that captivate me with a sensual line, emotion, light and contrast. Therefore, the “right” model is essential to my artistic success. Usually good models are aware of themselves and know how they look from different angles. They also understand what facial expressions work, or what I want them to express.

The lighting on a model is also essential to my imagery. While the model creates the appearance, I create the atmosphere with the right lighting and the props. The Rembrandt lighting (high contrast, sharp edges) or the north light (low contrast, soft focus) by the window are the two great types of lighting that deliver consistent results.

I make studies before I proceed to painting. Whenever I skip this step, I fail. I end up working on a painting for a really long time with a mixed result. So this graphite drawing is my study for a future oil painting.

Hope this helps on your creative path.

Until then,


What it takes to be an artist

There is no cute formula for success in painting. It’s hard work every day. It’s also keeping a role model in front of me when it gets especially tough. Other artists’ achievements inspire me to move forward, those artists become my guiding stars. That’s why I have no jealousy towards my peers, because I can see what’s possible in due time and practice. We fulfill our dreams with our own work, not the work of others.
Who are my models? Female artists like Tanya Gant, Anne-Marie Kornachuk and Beth Sistrunk to mention a few are tenacious and talented women who push and pull against all odds going upward.
I believe we succeed eventually, because we refuse to quit. Although it often feels like a dead end where there is nothing to go by, when words like ‘nice work’ or ‘good stuff’ can get you only that far. But a strong will, belief in myself, and the internal love for my craft keeps me grounded. And I enjoy the everyday of painting.


On a bad day 🙁

Powered by the ruthless force of frustration, I run with a steep incline, at the speed number that meets my level of emotional pain. The soles of my worn, running shoes fly over the rotating black belt; they build endurance, the survival tactic. And I run as my legs ache and they beg to slow down, but I refuse, I flush out my hurt with tears. My heart’s stomps blow my ears, and I override it with trance beat. My face deep red, I run. I track the whooping breath in my lungs. My insides burn like fire, and I run. My skin prickles, and legs are about to cramp. I’m acid perspiration. Unstoppable I become, feel the rise of resistance to my failures, to painful words and encounters, to the insensitive world that drowns, but teaches, teaches me to survive. And that’s how it feels on a bad day. Drenched in sweat, I run on a treadmill of artist’s life.

On a good day 🙂

The joy of painting runs inside me like the cobalt blue river. The snowflakes dance above its glossy surface and trickle down in my limbs. I feel the rise of God-sent energy and melt into another place, the forth dimension. It’s there, there I create. Through the looking glass I fall, where I hear no judgement and see no stop signs. The round clock on my wall quits ticking. Like a sweet fragrance of blooming roses, my joy flourishes and invigorates me. And that’s how it feels on a good day.

Fixing my car: a story before Christmas

A few days ago I hung out at a local auto parts center. My car needed some repair done, and in the end I got stuck at the service center for half a day. I became a witness to some strangers talk. Those were random people from different walks of life, whom I knew I wouldn’t see again.

I attempted to work on my laptop, while most customers entertained themselves by looking at a display of cars and trucks hidden behind a thick window. A few technicians serviced those vehicles separated by glass. The automobiles looked like the quarantined patients that needed some medical isolation fast. My decade old C 230 was lost somewhere in there too, left for a check-up by me.

An elderly man stared at his shiny, white Cadillac and a woman involuntarily copied his actions standing next to him.

“I really enjoy staying with my grand kids now,” he said, “I often ask myself where I was when my kids were little. I have so much fun with my grandchildren now that I’d never had with my own kids.”

A woman looked at him and asked, “Worked?”

“Yes, I worked two jobs, getting up early in the morning and coming home late. I worked, worked, and worked. My whole life passed me by so quickly…”

He shook his silver head with a slight, self-inflicted bitterness. Then he came to the front desk and received a prescription for his Cadillac, like his car was that lonely person who needed antidepressants at the doctor’s office.

A young, pretty woman came by the repair center, asking for an oil change. Her colorful bracelets dangled on her skinny wrists every time she moved her arms up or down, pulling her stuff in and out of her leather purse. She passed her keys to the manager and joined a small group of onlookers. Thin ankles, beaded flip-flops… Positioning herself further away from the rest, she waited for her powder blue Bug to come back nice and healthy.

“I’m having a hard time keeping it afloat,” she whispered into her cell, “I screw it up every time.” She paused for a second, her dark eyes watched someone else’s feet walk by. “I want to be with a guy who likes me for who I am. My thoughts distract me from my work. I often think that I have neither boyfriend nor kids.”

I saw her skinny fingers shake, holding her black phone almost too tight to her lips.

“I’m a slave to my own emotions and thoughts, I suppose. I run in circles thinking that my new relationship will tank before it even gets a chance to develop,” she said, looked at me nervously and turned away…

A tall, handsome man opened the front door. Warm, humid air blew into my face. Confident, he jolted his keys to the manager. Stationed behind the same window, black BMW got raised up to the ceiling in a few minutes. The manager walked by my table, stopped for a second and looked straight at me, gave out a promise to fix my car very soon…

Now the forty-something guy stared at his BMW. He seemed tense. I wondered what bothered him so much, if it were his car or his job, or maybe something else he didn’t want others to know about. I focused my attention on the monitor once again, and zoned out the rest.

“We live to have children at some point. I’m forty four already,” he said to the manager.

“Where was I?” I thought. “Should I work or listen?”

“I must try…but I have no time to call her,” the man said.

I lifted my eyes off of my laptop to see if he was joking or not. His anxious voice distracted me from writing. The skinny woman with dangling bracelets swapped by my nose. This time she had an intention to smoke outside but stalled by the door. Her fingers with a bright pink nail polish searched for a cigarette inside her purse.

“Merry Christmas!” the manager said loud and gave the man his credit card back.

” Thanks…I don’t like this time of the year…There are many expectations,” he replied and put his card back into the wallet’s open mouth.

“Hey, Veronica, can we chat now?” my iPhone buzzed.

“Sure,” I replied and lost track of my work completely.

I saw my car got finally lifted too.

“I need your advice,” the Iphone said.

“Not sure I’m qualified to advice people,” I thought.

The skinny girl came back from her break, dragging a strong cigarette smoke behind her like a long chiffon skirt. She bumped into an oddly placed stack of tires. A clumsy sign “buy four tires, get one free” lost its balance.

“I keep asking my husband to work less, to be with us more often but he just works and works…I said that I’m fine with less money in exchange for more time spent with us, but he thinks I’m too controlling…” My phone said.

I wanted to reply, but instead I watched the same handsome man catch the flying sign. The girl with the bracelets grinned back at him.

“I want to love him and I ask for it but he just eats and goes to bed to sleep…to sleep only, ya know.” Her messaging through me off for good.

The manager called out my name. My car was ready. I thought of my own relationship. I looked at my cell again, another friend calling.

“Would you like to meet for lunch tomorrow?” a familiar voice said into my ear.

I’m glad she is doing well in her sixteen-year marriage, I thought and drove off the parking lot.

  • Originally published in December 2013.
art of donation

The art of donation: is it worth it?


Over the years I’ve donated close to two dozen pieces, including my donations to CSN (the Community School of Naples), State College high, the Seeds of Learning, the humane society of Naples and many others. They were nice works, the artwork that had the potential to sell, yet I chose to let them go. In this post I’d like to share both sides of the coin for other artists to consider before donating your art.

In my opinion, it all boils down to your motivation, standing behind the very act of donation. Many artists feel sour and often become negative talking about the donations they made in the past. Why?

  • Artists feel used. First, all fundraisers ask artists to donate their art for free. There is absolutely no profit going to the artist, only the promise of “getting your name out there,” or getting “exposure.” In my experience, name recognition or a promise of exposure is not worth it. I had zero contacts coming in from my donations.
  • Second, although it’s said that your donations are tax-deductible, they are, but not for the artist. Say you bought a piece for $100. If you donate it to a charity, you can write $100 off as your tax deduction. If the artist donates his artwork, he or she can deduct only the cost of art supplies used to manufacture the piece. The deduction sum doesn’t include the artist’s labor, level of expertise, tuition loans, years spent learning, etc. Therefore, when the artist donates, he or she gives it away for real, which looks unfair to the artist at times, because the institution seems to “make money” using the artist. Moreover, in my experience only half of organizations that sold my art for their purposes sent a “thank you” note to me. And none of them shared the information on price it went for or the client’s name without me asking about it.
  • Third, many think that your art donation devalues your art because it can sell for any price and you have no control over its pricing. It’s also a sign that you are a “weak” artist since you donate art instead of selling it. Therefore, if you aim to make money via donations, don’t do it not to get disappointed with meager results.


Now I’m going back to my original idea: your inner motivation  is the whole point of donation. I donate because I feel good helping others. It sounds cheesy, but I feel fortunate I live in a place where I can create, and I’m able to share my gift with purpose at heart. I feel that my art can change the world for the better, even if it looks like a drop in the ocean today. Like most artists, I’m proud of the fact that I’m not motivated by greed or a lucrative business to paint. Most artists paint no matter what, walking against the grit of problems, and the financial pursuit via donations is not the right path to take. Let’s become financially successful in other ways, guys! 🙂

How long did it take you to paint that?

“How long did it take you to paint that?

This is the most notorious question all artists receive. Viewers really have no idea what it takes, and artists don’t even know where to begin answering this question, because it involves…Well, it involves the entire explanation how long it takes to become good. I think this quote by Jackson Pollock sums it up perfectly, since the production of a single piece of art doesn’t always look like a lot of work, yet the artwork incorporates years of work leading up to this moment. In general, viewers ask this question because they want to open up a conversation with the artist and they don’t know what else to ask.

In general, viewers try to calculate or connect the objectivity of high pricing with the time artist spends painting a particular work. On the surface it looks expensive or overpriced, and a prospect buyer wants to understand where the number comes from. Artists, however, think of a lifetime of effort, hard work, bills, and many other costs they accrue working in their studios. Often times weeks, months and years can’t be quantified into a certain number of hours spent on one work.

In the beginning of the career many artists have to wrestle with the financial burden and make sacrifices while learning the craft. The costs often include education. Besides the obvious tuition and living costs most students have, artists don’t become artists in four to six years after college graduation. This profession starts with zero job prospects or security, and builds up to something meaningful over a very long period of time of hard work and dedication. For many artists it means a continued struggle, a reconciliation of the need to paint with making money to pay the bills. However, if the artist is good at marketing and understanding of the importance of relationships, the struggles most artists face may be reversed into the opportunities.

It takes A LONG time to learn how to paint realistically. There are no cute formulas or shortcuts. No one learns it overnight no matter how much talent you have! It’s a skill that takes the artist’s continuous effort and focus. Until very recently, there were no realist schools available to get the comprehensive education from, which magnified the problem and effort to achieve a certain skill level. Of course, there are exceptions and we can find super talented, self-taught artists, but such instances are rare. Those who have no time to do their art every day don’t become artists. Fear of instability takes their need to paint away from them.

There is a notion that artists just hang out at art festivals, fairs, or their shows enjoying the limelight and attention. Well, maybe for a little bit but… exhibiting at festivals involves a lot of effort, persistence, and investment. On average, a popular festival’s booth fees run around $450-$500/per show, and the artist is responsible for other costs (application fees, hotel, gas, transportation, and the cost of a professional booth itself that runs around $2,500 on average). Many artists hit the road for months, traveling from one state to the next, working way over 8 hours a day. Work at the festivals includes not only the artist’s time present at the booth all day, but also the time and effort to set up and to break down (usually early in the morning and late in the evening,) time to carry, pack, unpack and pack again a number of heavy, framed paintings.

Professional representational  artists also have other costs that include:

  • Custom framing. Artists invest into their frames because it gives them professional presentation that is often required, by the way, to display their work in juried shows.
  • Time to market artwork. E-mails, presentations, social media, research, writing, contacting galleries and editors takes consistent and relentless effort.
  • Artists hire models to paint the figure from life.
  • Art supplies. Artists spend hundreds of dollars on art supplies every year as they keep practicing for years. This is a continuous expense, like going to a grocery store each week. When the time is right, the artist transitions to professional, durable, lightfast materials that cost a lot more that cheaply manufactured canvases and paints. The result is different. Professional art supplies let artists create long lasting, museum-quality pieces, unlike the junk that would fall apart or fade within years. Often times if the artist doesn’t share this information with the buyer, no one can tell visually if the supplies are archival or not.
  • Other office expenses that include professional photo equipment, storage files, a scanner and a printer, camera and video equipment, etc..
  • Some artists chose to advertise online or in magazines.
  • As a surprise to many, the artist’s retail price includes a 50% mark up, sometimes 60-65% that galleries take selling artist’s work. That means that the artist gets only half of his/her money when making a sale.
  • The final cost to the artist is not the financial, but the emotional one. In the U.S. artists don’t have much respect unless they are famous. This leads to stereotypes and generalizations. Often called “lazy artists,” “starving artists,” “stupid artists,” or “flaky artists.” We have become the 2nd class citizens because we often allow it to happen, and because art has become the all encompassing word that incorporates everything into it. Art is everywhere today.

We don’t even pay attention to it, but art is everywhere today: in magazines, book covers, album covers, calendars, and even on plates. This is one of the hardest costs artists encounter. As the society has moved from scarce product production to consumerism, artists get pushed to the side. A lot of work gets devalued by the Chinese manufacturing, cheaply made goods and mass-produced items and reproductions. This trend reinforces the people’s desire to buy a cheap print or new piece of technology rather than a small original artwork. As a result many folks don’t appreciate art, because they simply don’t identify with it, don’t find the emotional connection, and don’t really need it. TV, wall posters, and other goods and entertainment have replaced the enjoyment of looking at a single painting.

In other words, ART has lost or changed its original meaning, evolving into other facets of artful creations that redefined the uniqueness and value of art. Bogus art may receive lots of publicity due to smart marketing campaigns that confuse people, because Quality has nothing to do with Art these days. Those souls who love the arts just get lost trying to understand what’s really valuable and what is not. It’s rare to see someone admitting that he or she doesn’t get art or lacks enough education to have an opinion. And that’s why art appreciation should be taught in schools as a relevant subject along with math and the sciences.

Art is about creating unique experiences. Art is visceral. Art takes care of our emotional life. Often described as healing, art reflects on society and our inner life. Art therapy is a proven technique to make us feel better.

No matter the style or medium, Art makes us human. Art lets us experience joy and see the beauty in ugly circumstances. It also marks the societal change and makes us think of topics we want to ignore. Art can be a protest. Art brings suffering and love to our attention.  When we look at history, we often study it through art. Why is that?

What do you think? Share your thoughts in a comment below. 🙂