Diary of a Resident Artist

Kellee Wynne Conrad at work in her Baltimore studio. *photo by Keisha Ransome

Throughout my time in the Thrive Residency Program at Jordan Faye Contemporary I have regularly shared my thoughts about the experience on social media, both Instagram and Facebook. It has been encouraging to have a large audience willing to listen to my rambles and give me feedback. The support of people I have never met has been inspiring and helped me through my excitement and my doubts. I am sharing with you a few of my posts from the last eight months.

Maryland Art Place Building, 
Jordan Faye Contemporary top floor, Baltimore

December 16, 2014

It's happening! So excited to be moved into my new studio! I have the honor of being the first inaugural artist-in-residence of the Thrive program at Jordan Faye Contemporary in Baltimore from now until June 2015. Fifth floor of the Maryland Art Place building in the Bromo Arts District, with a view of the city, lots space and light and a huge world of opportunity. I feel very honored to have been chosen and grateful to my family and friends who have supported me endlessly in my effort to see my dreams realized. This journey is amazing and it's just begun!

Inside the Baltimore studio of Kellee Wynne Conrad

January 25, 2015

I am now about a month into my residency in Baltimore with the Thrive program at Jordan Faye Contemporary. Some days I still think it's a dream! This space has energy and influence on me in ways that are unexpected. I know I found this opportunity at just the right time in my career to help propel me on to greater things. The residency will last until August and I will have a big show in the gallery for culmination of this experience. I have no excuse not to put my whole heart into it! I love my career.

View of Kellee Wynne Conrad's studio looking into the 
Jordan Faye Contemporary Gallery 

January 31, 2015

Another view of my studio, with a peek into the gallery. It's such a gorgeous space and I hope you get a chance to see it!

Artist Kellee Wynne Conrad in the midst of creating.

March 28, 2015

Stayed late in the studio to wait out the rush hour traffic. I love this space, but sometimes I wonder if it's really worth it being outside of the home to paint. Well, the residency only lasts until August, so I'm making the best of it!

Art in Progress, Kellee Wynne Conrad

April 25. 2015

I think this is the most abstract I've ever done. I'm still learning how much to add, how much to take away and when to call it done. I know it's not complete yet, but it's getting there. Whomever thinks abstract is easy is off their rockers!

Studio View, Art in Progress, Kellee Wynne Conrad

May 11, 2015
Just trying hard to find my way today. It's quiet at the studio. I have no deadline. I have a million and one ideas. It's up to me. But it's hard to push the outside world out of my studio door and put my heart into my work. It's what I want to do. It's my dream. But this journey is not as easy at it seems in all the pretty pictures posted to social media.

Studio View, Art in Progress, Kellee Wynne Conrad

May 18, 2015

These paintings are taking me on some kind of wild ride. I know that I must keep exploring whatever "this" is, but the nature of the creative beast is to keep doubting everything I'm doing.

Studio View, Art in Progress, Kellee Wynne Conrad

July 8, 2015

Sitting back and looking at all these works in progress... Deciding which are finished and which need more work, which will make the cut and which will be cut out of the new collection. This residency experience had been all about fear and art and GROWTH. No matter how many times you've been through it, showing your work, especially if it's new, is difficult because you are exposing yourself to the world and you can't help thinking, "What if no one likes anything I've done?" Yep, that's pretty much what it's like being an artist.

"Mindstorm I & II" Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 40 each, Kellee Wynne Conrad

July 15, 2015

Today is the culmination of months of sweat, tears, fear and exhilaration. After ten months as an artist-in-resident at Jordan Faye Contemporary we are doing the final selection for my solo show opening in just over two weeks. It's amazing to see how much my work has evolved and changed over the course of a relatively short time. I put my whole heart and soul into creating work that came from an authentic place and not a place of expectation or financial consideration. It's one of the most important and life changing  experiences I've ever had. Please put July 31st on your calendar and join me in celebration!

Thank you and Enjoy the Journey,

XO Kellee


10 Steps to Start Instagram for Artists

First! Have you joined THE {100} ARTISTS for more creative support or signed up for the newsletter, CREATIVE LAUNCH FOR ARTISTS?

Ok, Now let’s talk about social media for a moment. I love Instagram. It's easy to use and I find people are more generous with their communications than on other social media forums. Many of you are already using Instagram, but I have noticed that you don't have as many followers as you deserve to have. So let me share a few things I have found to work in my Instagram practice, much of which can be applied to all forms of social media, so take note….

1. Pick a username that will quickly identify who you are, preferably some form of your real name and the fact that you are an artist. Often a clever or obscure name leaves the follower asking, “who’s work is this again?” This is your business, so make it separate from your personal life and IG account, make it start by saying “I am an Artist”. Set your account to public and be accessible as possible.

2. Make sure you have a good profile photo (preferably of you) and a nice description of who you are and what you do in your about section. Be thoughtful about your brand and who you are as an artist. Are you telling the same story with all of your online profiles? Be authentic, but don’t waiver in your assertion that you are an artist. And put a link to your website or public Facebook so people can find out more about you.

3. Bright and light photos get noticed more quickly. Don't use clever filters. Photographing in the shade of a sunny day is ideal, otherwise use the app settings to adjust brightness and contrast to improve the photo quality. Or use another app like Pics Art or VSCO Cam to edit your photos and then post them on your feed. Take dozens of photos to get a few good ones. They don’t have to be posted all at once; save your best and spread them out through the day or week. As “insta” as Instagram seems, you can post when you are ready to tell your story.

4. Be thoughtful about what you share. Think of your feed as a well curated gallery. How do your photos look together? What story are you telling your followers? Have you shared behind the scenes, events and things that inspire your art? Not all artists have the same story to share, but when you think about who you are today as an artist, are you telling that story in photos? The last photos in your feed are the first to be seen. Will these six or twelve be enough to convince someone to follow you?

5. Write a good description for each post. What are people looking at? How are you feeling? Ask a question. Be engaging! I find that the more I share, the better engagement I get. At the very least you should share information about the materials used and the size of the work the viewer is looking at. *Note* Be cautious of over selling. Too many "for sale" posts and you will just come off as spamming your audience.

6. Hashtag your photo to death. I know some people think it's obnoxious but Hashtags = a way to be found. The max is 30 per post and I always use all 30. In fact I often copy and paste from one of my other posts and put it in my comments rather than my description just to make a little space. Use relevant hashtags. If you make a very obscure hashtag that no one uses like #wishicoulddothiseveryday, you won’t have any leads from it and if you pick something so common like #pretty, it will get lost in the feed in seconds. Find a happy middle ground that works for you, like #contemporarylandscape or #mixedmediaart. In time you will see what works for other artists and you can pick the best hashtags for your audience.

7. Follow work and artists you are interested in and leave genuine comments. You will build relationships and other people will want to follow you. You will be amazed that the Instagram community is very supportive and friendly.
8. Respond to your comments to show you care that someone took the time to say something to you. Reply with the @ sign and their user name and they will get your return message.

9. Do Not ask for a follow back or tell a well liked artist to check out your art on your feed. It’s tacky and does not build engaged followers. And paying for or joining any group that guarantees followers will not help your business thrive because the followers you gain from these types of engagements are not actually interested in what you are sharing. Your aim should be genuine involvement in your brand as an artist. Anyone who is happy to see your work everyday has the potential to either be a customer or share your work with more people who will be engaged in you and your work.

10. And finally remember the 90/10 rule. Keep your posts 90% about your business and 10% personal. Too many selfies and cat photos and kids and dinners and you will turn off your followers. Likewise, all work and no play and people will begin to think you are a robot.

**Final Disclaimer** Only you know what will work for your art career. For every word of advice I share here you can find several who will disagree. The only way to really know is through trial and error. Just do the work...and do it with integrity.

Thank you and Enjoy the Journey,
XO Kellee


Discovering Mixed Media

"A Fine Balance" 9x12, Mixed Media by Kellee Wynne Conrad
On exhibit at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Annapolis Maryland,
May 2015

It only seems natural to me to come around full circle to paper. A little known fact: I was a scrapbook artists for over a decade before returning to paint. I was published in national magazines, created trade product for Colorbok, a national company, taught workshops and spent a lot of time on forums like Studio Calico. But my roots in fine art finally pulled me back to my first love of painting. It was a hard switch at first as my youngest was still in diapers, but I was determined. And I am beyond words grateful for the opportunity I've had to come back into the fine art scene when I was ready to make this jump.

Scrapbook artist turned fine art painter Kellee Wynne Conrad,
Originally published in 2009

Taking all the knowledge I learned from my paper arts days,
I am rediscovering the old ideas with new techniques
as I fall in love with mixed media painting.

But here I am again playing with paper. Digging through what is left of my stash from a long lost hobby. Discovering how to put together what I once knew with the passion for paint I have now. I don't want to say it comes naturally, but I think years of practice in the paper arts left me with enough experience to have a good foundation in design and composition. So I am exploring what it means to create without an objective, but rather to play with the parts until they fit together. Not all projects work out, but the more I work through ideas and use the materials, the more I discover what I'm meant to be doing right now. 

Here are a selection of materials to create mixed media.
Many elements from my previous stash of scrapbooking
supplies are revitalized in my new mixed media paintings,
as well as hand painted papers to begin the layering process. 

I carefully place elements of papers and paint to create a
good foundation for my mixed media painting.
I sketch out ideas and then pay attention to composition
and color theory for a dynamic outcome. 

Examples of how choosing one subject creates an easy
beginning to explore all the possibilities to put together
your mixed media project. In this case I chose circular
shapes and worked around the one subject in various
ways to understand how the mediums of paint,
pencil, paper, oil pastel and glazes all work best together.

One successfully finished mixed media painting out of
several attempts. When I set out to explore a new technique,
I don't expect to nail it every time. Many will be painted
over or thrown out. Giving myself permission to play without
worrying about the end results keeps my work inventive
and a whole lot less serious. 
Thank you for letting me share my passion with you. I realize that these behind the scenes stories of the life of a painting is just as vital as all the other business advice I share with you in my journey as an artist and business entrepreneur. So I will continue to bring you a little more of everything.

In the mean time, sign up for Creative Launch for Artists right HERE and receive exclusive information in your inbox!

Thank you and Enjoy the Journey,
XO Kellee


Artist Q&A: How Should I Price My Art?

Question from Reader: “I have no idea how to price my work? Where should I start?”

**I want to start the answer by asking what is your purpose? We all have different directions as artists and creators, but my focus as I answer the question is on the professional artist - the creative looking to make a career out of art rather than as a side note.**

Some days I can’t believe that my job is to paint and make things for other people to enjoy. What a dream. What a huge undertaking! I may have a moment where I say, wow that painting only took 30 minutes! But then in a blink I realize all the work it took to get there and before I undersell myself I must realize my worth, even as I am so honored to be doing what I love for a profession.

Artist Kellee Wynne Conrad working in her studio on "Circles in Blue"

Let’s put things in perspective: The plumber charged me $300 for an hour of work last week! Yeah, painting is joyous and I can't believe people will pay me to do this, but am I not as valuable as the plumber? Would you pay me more to paint your walls white than to make a work of art that will last you a lifetime?!

When I factor my cost, I don't just think about the one work in front of me. I think about all the costs:

art supplies * office supplies * hanging hardware * business materials * promotional materials * jury and membership fees * framing * scanning fees * print inventory * packing supplies * food for receptions or clients * food for myself when I have to eat out because of an event * gasoline to get all the supplies and take my art places * transportation and hotels for travel * continuing education with books, videos, classes and museum tickets * utilities for my studio * web and program fees * my computer, printer, camera, etc...

And then there is my time....sure some little paintings I can finish in 15 minutes! Once I finished a 4'x4' huge canvas in six hours. But then there were the times I worked and struggled with a painting for months only to rip it up with an exacto knife.

hundreds of hours painting * hundreds of hours practicing * hundreds of hours studying * working on my website * photographing my work * obscene amounts of time on social media * editing, posting, replying to comments * answering emails * driving to drop off/pick up/check on work * driving to the post office or art store * going to get work scanned or pick up prints * hanging work for shows * time at receptions * time talking with clients * and time just planning my next move.

After counting up all that I must do for a successful art career, it is easy to see that I work more than a 40 hour work week and that does not include my first job of being a mother and homemaker. Right now I am feeling like my paintings should all be thousands of dollars! I am exhausted. I am exhilarated. I am an artist.

I can not honestly tell YOU how or what to price your work. There are many methods to calculate a price and many opinions on what a fair price would be. But I can give you a few tips to consider…

Artwork by Kellee Wynne Conrad

  • Value yourself and your time. Don’t undersell yourself. (see above lists!)

  • If you are working with a gallery, they will likely be able to help you find the right price for your work as an emerging artist.

  • If you are not working with a gallery yet, do some research on what artists with similar experience levels and similar work price their art. Be cautious of using Etsy or online only artists or stores as your source. Rather find galleries or established artists that post their prices online so you can make easy comparisons. The world is flooded with people who put their art up for sale at rather low prices, but a true test of value will be those who have a proven market for their work.

  • Seek out reputable local galleries, non-profit artist organizations or art marketing workshops to get more personalized help. Watch out for scams! But a reliable group can give you good insight not only to pricing, but the whole business of art. I've turned to all three for help at various times.

  • Be careful that you don't get sucked into the mentality that your art is worth less in certain areas. Yes, there is some fluctuation in different markets, but we are a global economy and an iPhone is going to cost the same in Green Bay as it will in San Francisco, so shouldn't you put value on something that will last longer?

  • Give yourself room to grow as an artist. It’s ok when you are first starting to start by selling at a lower price (but not too low) so that as your experience grows, so can your prices. When you have established a history of sales at one price for a year or two you can slowly increase the value of your art.

  • Always price your work the same no matter where you sell it. Different styles of your work might be different prices, but once you have established a price, it should be the same online, in a gallery or to your friends. Your reputation depends on it and the value of your art does, too.

  • It is common practice in galleries and sometimes in online stores to give a small discount. Give yourself some wiggle room to negotiate that 10-20% discount.

  • Never slash your prices in a “super sale”. What does this say to the customer that paid full price about the value of your art? What does this say to the future buyer that will just wait until another big sale day? What does this tell the galleries who are trying to represent you? Just don’t do it. Small discounts are expected...a big half off party is not just bad practice, it's bad business ethics.

  • As a general rule in the art industry, smaller works will cost more for their size than larger works. i.e. If a 12x12 paintings sells for $500, that doesn't mean the 24x24 will sell for $2000, it might be priced closer to $1500 or less. And so on as the paintings get larger.

  • You can charge by square inch (length x height) or linear inch (length plus height) or by how long it took to make at a hourly rate, etc...But whatever you choose, keep the same method for all your work and write it down so that you know the answer when someone asks how much you are selling your work - then the answer is always the same.

  • And finally, what does your gut tell you the right thing is to do. If you feel good about the price you've asked (even if you are splitting it with a gallery) then you know you have ended up with the right answer for yourself.

**Final Disclaimer** Only you know what will work for your art career. For every word of advice I share here you can find several who will disagree. The only way to really know is through trial and error. Just do the work...and do it with integrity.

Do you have a question for me? Leave a comment and your question may be featured in a future Q&A. Thank you!

Oh! And don't forget to sign up for the Creative Launch for Artists Newsletter right HERE!

Enjoy the Journey,


My Art Challenge {100x10}

I started The {100} Artwork Challenge as a side note after talking about finding your voice as an artist. I had no idea it would grow like wildfire! As I've seen so many people respond with a resounding "Yes, I'm in!", I'm determined to make this as successful as possible. 

The idea was born long before The Challenge came about. The idea was really born long before me. Nothing is original. The practice of creating a lot of artwork in a series is not new; it is not revolutionary; it is not something I claim to be my own. But it is something I am passionate about. A practice that I believe changed my method in learning how to create and helps me discover who I am as an artist. So I am going to take the challenge to the next level and create 1000 works of art.

Yes, 1000. My great Uncle Earl told me to put down the books and turn off the internet and do the work. He said paint one hundred paintings and I'll start to get a feel for it. Paint 1000 and I will know. And because I really want to investigate what happens when this challenge is really explored thoroughly, I am committed to finishing 10 sets of 100.

Altered, mixed media, vintage French postcards,
100 Little Secrets by Kellee Wynne Conrad

I officially finished my first set in 2013. And I have painted much more than 100 since then, but I am starting at the beginning. For my first challenge I am doing 100 Little Secrets: mixed media on vintage French postcards. What stories do these hold? What lovely secrets were shared more than a century ago?

Working on a mixed media series of vintage postcards by Kellee Wynne Conrad

I hope you continue to follow my journey to 1000 paintings. Come back often as I share the progress and the in depth process of my methods and madness right here on the blog. 

Also, you can get a few insider tips and heartfelt messages if you sign up for my newsletter: Creative Launch for Artists!

Enjoy the Journey,
XO, Kellee


Artist Q&A: Do you paint in your sleep?

In this continuing series, I'm going to answer an important question that is more about the sub conscience mind of an artist, rather than practical facts of how-to be an artist. Hope you enjoy a peek into my mind!

Question: Do you paint in your sleep?

I think about art a lot. It might be a bit of an obsession. I’m beginning to think that I have allowed it to replace most of my conscience thinking hours. I’m not sure if this is healthy, but at least I know I don’t have room to obsess over unhealthy ideas. So in a way, painting in my sleep has replaced hypochondria or the need for a perfect home or the worry about what tomorrow might bring. Hmmm...some trade off there!

I don’t stop at brush to canvas. I think about the business of art. I think about writing about art. I think about all the masters living and past that have brought art into this world. I think about my children’s laughing as big strokes of colors. I think about how old buildings with paint peeling are really just art. I think about memories and ideas and how they relate to art. I think about using something discarded on the side of the road as art...in fact just yesterday as I was driving home from Baltimore I noticed all the plastic bags stuck in the bare branches of bushes along the median of the highway and thought it was art in the most unexpected form.

I wasn’t born with synesthesia, but I think after years of training my heart and mind I have begun to connect everything back to art. Every memory, every sound, every sunset, every bug that walks the earth...they all become a correlation to the art that’s on continual play in my mind. Sounds become colors and stories become textures. In one way or another everything, absolutely everything, becomes an idea for another work of art, even if I only create it in my head.

So, do I paint in my sleep? Probably. Probably.

Do you paint in your sleep?
XO, Kellee
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