Like a lot of artists, I have spent many hours thinking about (worrying about) how to make a living with my talents. I am far from an expert here but, I think that it is generally accepted that best paths are either, get a job that is somewhat related to art, or find a gallery to sell your work. Since my drive to make art is a whole hell of a lot stronger than my drive to stand around talking about it, teaching was out and, those thoughts drifted towards the ideal gallery situation for my art.

For a long time, I always came to the same conclusion. I can do just about everything that any gallery that would take me is offering.

Now, before we go any further with this, let me give a little background on that decision and, for those of you who think that I am foolhardy, stick around until the end. In my relatively short time attempting to be a professional artist, I have done pretty well on my own. For the last few years, most of my income has come from art. I am pretty far from being able to quit my day job but, to the point where I can spend a majority of my time in the studio. Even better, I have managed to get some good press and put my art in front of a lot of peoples eyes. This isn’t written here to brag, just to outline some things that I have been able to do for myself, no gallery required. This isn’t written here to brag, just to let you know what I was thinking when I started asking, for 50% of the money, what am I going to gain?

And there is the problem. When you are relatively unknown, like I am, galleries obviously don’t want to take too much of a risk on you. Most of my talks with galleries have reflected this. They want to try out a few small pieces, which is completely understandable but, at the same time, my ability to sell small pieces has already outpaced my drive to make them. I was not looking for a gallery to dip their toe into the shallow end to see how it felt, I was looking for someone to help me make the leap into consistently selling larger, more elaborate pieces. So, my decision has always been to build the foundation myself. In other words, I wanted to continue keeping all the money until someone noticed how awesome I was and was willing to let me skip past the whole development phase. It should go without saying but, when you have minimal bills and a landlord who gives you a little leeway on the late rent, you can afford take some risks and see what works…

Recently though, I have begun to see the error in my ways. At this point in my life, I have a wife, a house, even a little orange dog. I think it is safe to say I am an grown up and, being a grown up with other living things relying on me means I can not always spend as much time in the studio as I used too. Doing all the work myself was great when I was focused only on being an artist but, it was also a hell of a lot of work and took up most of my time and energy. Like a caveman, or a used car salesman, if you don’t kill, you don’t eat. Sometimes cuddling up on the couch with my wife and little orange dog is just more appealing than hustling out in the studio.

Which brings me to the point when I realize what everyone else already knows.

There are a lot that goes into being an artist. Obviously, you have to create art. But that is really only a small part. If you want to have any chance at supporting yourself, you also have to do all sorts of things that really come down to getting your art in front of an audience. You have to get your work included in shows. You have to write about art. You have go out into the world and meet people who care about art. You have to do a lot of things that are not creating art. If you are someone who has already made the foolish decision to make art as a career I don’t have to tell you this but, when you suddenly find yourself with less time available to devote towards all these aspects of being an artist, there is one thing that is not going to be cut from that list. That is the actual creation of art. For better or worse, everything else is optional.

And this is what I was missing about what galleries were offering me. They were offering my art a place to continue to grow when I was busy living my life. I know this is pretty obvious and seems simple but, it is hugely important. I was looking for someone who could help take my career to the next level, which would have been great but, equally important is someone who could maintain all that I had worked for when my focus had to be elsewhere.

When I started writing this post, I expected the end to feel a lot more dramatic but really, it was a simple lesson that I feel foolish for overlooking for so long. In any case, I am back in the studio, back to hustling and attempting to regain the momentum that I lost this year while I was off being house broken.

Expect a lot more art related rants and stream of conciseness blog posts in the near future (along with some announcements about upcoming shows). For now, be sure to head over to Sloane Merrill Gallery where I have some new small and affordable pieces in their 10×10 show that opens this Saturday.

nick-ward-10x10-sloane-merrill-gallery

It has been an exciting summer at my studio, which has taken its toll on my artwork. I got married, did some traveling, enjoyed the small window of warm weather that Boston offers and now, I am refreshed, ready to hit the ground running in the lead up to Fall. With that in mind, its time for a summertime wrap-up post.

First things first, crucial thanks to a few people that helped make the wedding great. Nathan Fried-Lipski took amazing photographs of the event. Not only did he risk life and limb by laying down in the middle of Atlantic Ave (a very busy three lane road for those of you not familiar with Boston) to get the shot he wanted, he also went above and beyond the call of duty by helping keep Margaux sane and happy during the days stressful moments. I can not recommend him enough, everyone should head straight to his blog to take a look at a few photos from the day, and then go ahead and like his page on Facebook. Seriously, he is a great guy and a talented photographer.

Next up, Eli at Alabaster and Chess. He does custom tailored suits for a good price and had me looking better than I probably ever will again. Beyond that, he was also just a really great guy and super easy to do business with, which counts for a lot in my book.

If you want to live vicariously, you can check out some photos from my travels by following me on Instagram.

Okay. On to some art related news. I know I have been talking a lot about the Street Diamonds show but, that’s because it is good. Silva Naci pulled together a nice mix of artists and it really is worth seeing. You’ve already missed the closing party but there is still time to see the show. It will be up through September 7th so, head out to Fourth Wall Project and have a look.

Speaking of the Just Platinum Rings and Street Diamonds closing party, I am told ALLDAYEVERYDAY was there shooting video for an upcoming Cheryl Dunn documentary. It should come as no surprise that I happily ride the coattails of those above me so, I am interested to see what they do with the video they took Saturday night. Keep your eyes open for that and, maybe I will be in the background of some shots, lurking awkwardly behind people, trying to gauge their interest in my paintings.

On to some paintings. I have done a little editing on this piece and plan on dropping it off at Sloane Merrill Gallery tomorrow (there is a good change that a couple new pieces will follow closely behind). I really loved the idea of consistent using four panels for this entire series of paintings but, I have just never thought it worked right for this particular piece. So I have dropped one. It is now a triptych and, since Sloane Merrill is interested in selling paintings, they have convinced me to allow them to split up the series. I still hope to keep all three together but, if you have had your heart set on a single panel from this painting (I know there are some of you out there), this is your chance. Head over to the gallery before I change my mind…

And finally, here is a quick update on my latest, large scale, piece. I lost my way a little bit with this one but, the solution has finally come to me. There will be some moderate editing done on this piece—don’t get used to her red hair—but, it is still turning out to be a pretty good looking painting. Stay tuned for the completed image and, enjoy the final days of summer.

casey_progress_8-26-2013

There is a point, about two thirds through the completion of a piece, where it starts to become clear what painting I am actually working on. As much as I have ideas that I am trying to articulate with each piece, and despite my best efforts to plan everything out before I get started, there is really no telling what is going to happen once paint starts hitting the canvas. Lately, I start every painting with the intention of bringing more abstraction and diversity of marks into my work.

Then I start painting.

I start painting and each piece begins to be tighter and more controlled realism than the one before it. I just can’t seem to help myself. I get sucked into the world that I have created for myself where each tiny brush stroke gets its little load of paint mixed independently of every other tiny brush stroke and details that nobody will ever notice are of the utmost importance. Then I get to that point. The point where I finally step back and remember what I was trying to do. The point where I see what kind of painting I am actually making. The point where I have been looking at the tightly controlled paintings and fantasizing about ways to ruin them.

This is when things like the bright red line in this painting (that everyone loves to hate) start happening.

This tendency is only amplified now that I am preparing pieces for a show that I will be taking part in at Fourth Wall Project. Suddenly I am not bringing the biggest, brightest, freakiest pieces to a show filled with traditional paintings. Instead I am bringing the most traditional paintings to a show of people pushing boundaries. Here is the painting I am currently working on, that I hope to finish for the show, right at the point where I find myself searching for the most interesting way to finish (or ruin) this otherwise lovely piece.

painting in progress

Like this post? Subscribe to my email list.


I like to make big paintings. I like to have plenty of room to work. I like to be able to include a lot of texture and chaos while still painting realistically. I like to incorporate the smallest of details without feeling cramped. Also, big paintings just look impressive on the wall. If you are reading this, those statements are probably not news to you. However, big paintings take a lot of time, money, and energy to create. Big paintings are expensive. Big paintings need to go places with big walls.

The most common thing people say to me when they see my paintings–more often than mentioning the nudity, more often than questioning the strange use of text or bright colors–is the paintings are just too big for their walls. Open studios weekend is coming up at The Distillery (June 2nd) and I expect to be told that my paintings are too large… a lot.

So, I am making a regular sized painting. Here it is after a couple afternoons of work.

Jessica eyeliner portrait, painting in progress

And, next to a big painting for scale.

big painting small painting comparison

Next up will be a sunbather in similar scale so, for everyone who asked for smaller paintings, here is your chance.