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Narrative Art: What Does That Mean?

Narrative Art

What is narrative art?  Let me start by saying I have a deep love for art, but there is so much for me to learn.  I had no idea there was so much to learn, but hopefully we can learn together.

Let’s start with a basic definition: Narrative art is art that tells a story.  Wikipedia has a much longer description if you want to read more, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_art. Early in world history art was used to tell stories and was used before literacy grew to the masses.

letter pressMy indoctrination into narrative art begins with Ke Francis.  When Ke Francis moved back to Tupelo nearly two years ago, he dropped by the gallery to meet me.  He said that since being back home, he needed to be represented by his hometown art gallery.  I was so honored!  For years I had heard about Ke Francis and his mark on art in our country, not just our state.  Ke had recently retired as the Dean of Art at the University of Central Florida and is an internationally known and collected contemporary narrative artist.  He is also one of the most prolific artist I know.  He works in his studio all day!  I mean all day, not just a couple hours, it’s from dusk to dawn.  He recently mentioned that since he is getting a bit older, he still has so much to create and wants to be sure he doesn’t run out of time before he’s done.

letter press Most of Ke’s work has centered around the 1936 Tupelo Tornado.  Although, he has done quite a bit of collaborative work with other artists and with other themes.  His pieces always have a story to tell or are pieces created from a story he has written.  Ke will typically write a book, illustrate it and print it himself.  When I say print, it’s more then just sending a digital document to the printer and having the pages printed out on copy paper.  And it’s not sending to a publisher where so many eyes review and edit it.  It’s a process I had never seen before.


letter pressThe letterpresses in the studio of Ke Francis are a step back in time when books were first replicated for the masses.  He has about 7 presses and uses them all for different results, some for books and some for printing woodcut prints.  Each letter of a page is hand placed on the press, printed and then changed for the next page.  Then he will print the illustrations to go with the book, make the cover, then bind it.  Talk about a passion for detail and very time consuming, but the results are beyond anything you can find today in bookstores.

Fortunately, Ke prints many of these illustrations on a large format press so we can enjoy them in our homes.  By saying prints, it’s not the commercially produced prints we find in large retail stores.  His prints originate as original paintings, then these images are replicated on wood, in reverse view, and carved out by hand into a woodcut.  These woodcuts are then used to print the images in various inks and often hand colored by the artist.  Everything done by hand.

The process of Ke’s narrative art is so fun to watch. These photos don’t do justice to all that goes on in his studio. To learn more about Ke Francis and the Hoopsnake Press studio, check out his website.  http://www.hoopsnakepress.com/

Installing Artwork

Installing artwork:

Tackling the burden of getting it right the first time.


Installing artwork can be a frustrating endeavor.  After spending so much time selecting an artist, an image and a color palette, the final step is installing artwork in your home.  This last step can often be the most exhausting.  I have spoken to so many people who confess to having artwork sitting in closets or leaning against walls waiting for it to hang itself.  Sometimes it’s the fear of getting it wrong or to put a hole in a freshly painted wall.  I hope I can give you some tips to feel confident the next time your ready to hang your next treasure.

Supplies:  Hammer, hook and nail hangers, step ladder, tape measure, pencil, maybe extra set of hands to juggle supplies and give an opinion

Step 1:

Find the center point of the wall you want to hang the art.  Take into consideration the furniture in the room.  If the piece is being hung over a couch, but its not centered on the wall, then center it over the couch.  Don’t assume you can eye it, that usually doesn’t work out in the end.  Measure the couch, divide in half, but then add the space between the edge of the wall and the couch.  This will allow you to mark the wall from the wall edge and over to find the center point over the couch.  Often, the couch’s longest measurement is not the part of the couch that is just below where you plan to hang the art.  Sometimes, other objects make the artwork install off centered.  It’s always best to have help and hold the image in several locations and heights to be sure if the best position.

Centering the wall hook

Step 2:

Most museums recommend installing art that has the center of the image 60 inches above the floor.  That is a good place to start, but doesn’t always work.  For most of my installations, I will hold the artwork up to a wall and the center is usually just above my sight line.  Then I will ask the client what makes them feel best viewing the image.  It’s usually best to hang a bit higher then you might initially consider.  Nothing is worse then hanging art too low.  It’s best to view with slightly raised eyes.

Caron Gallery4

Step 3:

Once the painting is at the height desired, take a pencil and lightly mark just below the edge of the artwork.  Be sure it’s a light mark so you can easily erase once complete.  This is your starting point to hang the artwork.  Hopefully, you have marked directly below your center mark on the wall.

Caron Gallery5

Step 4:

Set the artwork on the floor and measure from the bottom edge to the wire hanger.  Be sure the wire is raised taunt, just as if it was on the wall hook.  With this measurement, mark this amount above the line you marked as the bottom of the image.  You may have to adjust the mark’s placement the appropriate amount from the edge of the wall if you didn’t mark your spot near the center of the wall.

Step 5:

It is very important you use the appropriate hook and nail size for the weight of the artwork.  If the art weighs 50 pounds, the hook should be able to hold 100 pounds.  Always use twice the strength of the art’s weight.  Also, if it is a large painting, I usually use two hooks, about 6 inches apart, level, and placed at the appropriate height.  This helps keep the image from moving if a door is slammed or object in nearby space is dropped, causing a vibration.

FullSizeRender (7)       FullSizeRender (8)

Step 6:

Once you mark the center of the two measurements, using a hook and nail, hammer into the wall with the bottom of the hook sitting one the mark.  This assures you are hanging the artwork on exact spot, not where the nail is place.  The artwork rests in the hook, not the top of the nail.

At this point, you are done installing artwork.  You may have to adjust one or the other corner to level the painting.  Good luck!


Oil Painting or Acrylic Painting?

Oil Painting or Acrylic Painting

Deciphering the Difference

Recently, the gallery’s framing manager asked me recently, “How do I know if this is an oil painting or acrylic painting?”  I shouldn’t have assumed my staff knew the differences.  With my background in business, I too am learning much about paint, art techniques and art mediums.  I knew there were some visual differences, but I owed the staff more then just an uneducated reply.  I also owed it to our customers to be knowledgable about the artwork on display in the gallery.  I have spent a lot of time visually examining images to be sure they are appealing to our customers, but I also need to share other aspects of the artwork with them as well.  So let’s explore some characteristics and differences of acrylic paint and oil paint.



oil painting or acrylic painting

Oil painting close up

Oil Paint

Oil based paint has been around for centuries and has history on it’s side.  What does that mean? The artwork that was created with oil paint is still around, if not damaged by handling or weather.  The oil based paint has a long drying time, letting an artist work with and manipulate the paint during more then one session of painting.  Since oil paint has more history, established artists tend to paint with it out of tradition and security that it will last.  On the negative side, oil paint is more expensive, therefore oil paintings tend to cost more.  Also, it may fade a bit over a very long time and is more toxic.  It is also more difficult to clean from brushes, necessitating mineral spirits or turpentine.




oil painting or acrylic painting

Acrylic painting close up

Acrylic Painting

Acrylic paint has not been used as long as oil paint, but has shown to be very stable.  It drys quickly, allowing artists to finish a piece and have it ready to sale or shipping in a matter of hours.  Acrylic paint is water based, making clean up safe, fast and easy.  Acrylic paint does not fade, keeping its true color.  The costs form acrylic paint is much less then oil paints, so many artists are drawn to the smaller supply costs.  On the negative side, the fast drying doesn’t work well with a slower painter.  The colors do not have as much pigment, so it tends to be more opaque.





So what’s the visual differences between the two types of paint?

When looking at a painting, the first thing to notice is whether or not the paint lies flat on the canvas.  Most oil paintings will have raised paint on the canvas and look very thick from the artist building layers of color to create their image.  Although, this is not always true since skilled painters can lay thin layers of paint so smoothly that you don’t see any paint strokes.  If the oil paints is smooth and flat, you can often see a fading around the edges of an image that blurs into the color behind it but still covers that base color.  With acrylic paint, the edges are more crisp but often you will see other layers of color behind it.  Acrylic paint usually isn’t raised off the canvas, although there are thickening agents artists can use to make it have a raised affect and have more coverage over the base color.  Also, artists who use acrylic paint may also use various other mediums to add dimension to their works.

oil painting or acrylic painting

Acrylic on wood panel

One way artists who use acrylic paint but want the paint to act like oil paint is to use wood panels.  This technique allows the paint to sit on the wood, as opposed to soaking into the canvas threads.  The smooth wood lets them manipulate the paint compared to the canvas grabbing the paint.  The paint still drys faster, but the results are very different then using canvas.  As in this photo, you can see how each paint color lies on top of each other instead of blending together or being being transparent.

Most of the information above I have just learned by talking with our gallery artists over the last few years.  Although, I did learn some great information when I did some research to be sure I was on the right track.  Below are some links for you to read and learn more if interested.  Please feel free to email me if you have other art questions you would like answered, kim@thecarongallery.com.




Commissioning Artwork, Creating a Custom Piece

Commissioning Artwork

Steps to creating a custom piece

Commissioning artwork seems scary but can be a very rewarding experience.  Occasionally, we desire a piece of artwork that hasn’t been created yet.  The image may be of a favorite pet, the first home of a family, or a favorite vacation spot.  Or you may have found the perfect piece, but it’s not the right size.  Whatever it may be, an artist can create your image on a canvas that fits the  space you desire to fill.

Step 1 – Select an artist

It’s important to find an artist whose work you are drawn to.  Regardless of the image or color palette, if you don’t like the artist’s style, you will never be happy with the final results.  Each artist interprets an image in different ways, so be sure this is the top priority before anything else in the process.

Commissioned artwork by Ellen Langford

Step 2 – Select an image

If the image is a specific item, place or person/animal, be sure to provide the artist with photos in multiple views of the desired image.  This will allow the artist to see the varied details of the image.  If you prefer an abstract image similar to one they have previously painted, describe to the artist the elements that are most striking and others you prefer to leave out.

Step 3 – Select a size

Consider the place you want to display the artwork.  Is this to be in a more public space of your home or in the  private spaces of your home?  Is this something that will be a show stopper creation over the mantel?  Some items may not translate well in a big size, where as other images may not translate well as a smaller image.  Be sure the size and image work well together.

Step 4 – Select the color palette

Once you have the image, size and room location selected, it’s time to pick the color palette.  It is very helpful to share with the artist the details of the room decor.  That will include wall paint color, fabric swatches, and the style of the room. Be sure the artist knows if you prefer soft colors or bright colors, or if a certain color should not appear in the image.

Commissioned artwork

Step 5 – Open communication

It is imperative that you have honest discussions with the artist.  The more information you can share about what you want in the artwork, the more the artist can meet your expectations.  Each artist strives to create a piece of work that you are thrilled to display in your home.

Step 6 – Final preview and adjustments

Most artists will give progress reports or previews of the work in progress.  This allows you an opportunity to confirm the artist is creating the correct composition.  Previews allow adjustments to be made before too many hours have been spent in the wrong direction.  Once a composition has been approved, the painting process moves quickly to the end result.  Most artist will allow two adjustments after the final preview.  At this point, only slight adjustments are made to the painting.  Typically, if a good channel of communication insists, changes are not necessary.

Step 7 – Installation

This is the best part!  The gallery representative will typically deliver and install the artwork for you.  Most galleries will also mail you a valuation on the painting for insurance purposes as well as a copy of the artist’s biography for your records.  This can be tucked into the back of the canvas for easy reference.  It’s always a good idea to speak with your insurance company to confirm you have adequate amount to cover the additional expense.

Most galleries will work with you step by step in the process to make the experience a pleasant one.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions during the process, so as to avoid problems and disappointments.  They want you and the artist to be happy with the end results.  Good luck!
Commission by Lauren Dunn        Commission by Mary BuckleyCommissioned artwork


Love, The Greatest of These is Love

Love, The Greatest of These is Love

Last summer, the first vacation my husband and I had planned without our children was to be a new adventure for us.  Being empty nesters, we thought we would take a driving tour of two iconic destinations – Asheville, NC and Charleston, SC.  It was to be my second visit to Asheville, but my first to Charleston.  I was so looking forward to seeing the places I had read and heard about for so many years. On the second night of our stay in Charleston, we had driven over to Isle of Palms to meet some family members for a boat ride.  As we came back into Charleston that night, we were met with police cars and helicopters on almost every street.  It took some time before we made it back to our hotel parking garage, since the road in front was closed and lined with ambulances.  Little did we know, that a horrific event had just occurred around the corner.  Once we learned of the tragic shooting at the Mother Emanuel CME Church, we understood why families were filing into the conference rooms at our hotel.  Sadly, they were joining other families to learn the fate of their loved ones.  We stayed glued to the television the rest of the night and sadly learning the truth.  Never could we have imagined someone acting with such hate for other human beings.  Over the next few days, we were very shocked and sad to learn of the gruesome details of the shootings and the precious lives that were lost.  But we also learned of the great strength, christian love and forgiveness of the family members.  We were deeply moved by the actions of the community as they came together to uplift their fellow citizens during such a life changing event.

All these memories came flooding back as the news agencies reported yesterday of another tragic event.  My mind can not comprehend how someone can carry such hate in their hearts to commit such a horrific act. I at least can cling to the stories that are beginning to be told of the love that is being offered to the victims by the Orlando/Orange County citizens.  This community, I hope, will rally around these families and comfort them, as the healing process will begin.

I will continue to pray for the victims, their families and this community as they try to heal and recover.  I hope that we will not become immune to such violent acts in our world.  I will also pray for our country and ask God to guide us to be more loving to all people.  It’s when we can love each other and root out evil, that these events will not occur.

Fall Art Exhibit by Helene Fielder and Noah Saterstrom

Art Exhibit by Helene Fielder and Noah Saterstrom

We have been so fortunate to showcase our latest art exhibit from Helene Fielder and Noah Saterstrom.  Helene’s clay sculptures and Noah’s figurative oil paintings are very complementary as displayed in the front section of the gallery.  The opening reception was well attended and we were thrilled sales were made for each artist during their show.  Yes, we love when art sells, but it’s also about showcasing art for the pure joy of the creation.

Helene’s collection is based on a goal she set in the spring to make 50 teapots over the summer; a huge endeavor for an artist working in clay and without a studio assistant.  This is the first large body of work Helene has created since her husband Ray, a talented landscape painter, died two years ago.  For Helene, the process began as a time to focus on building sculptures, instead of functional work.   As the summer moved along and she dove deeper into this project, the focus and design of each teapot grew and morphed into a beautiful avenue for her to show love and appreciation to the people in her life.  Many of the pieces were influenced by friends, family and fellow artists and those special relationships are translated in the detailed designs.  The images on our website are beautiful, but nothing compares to seeing them in person.

Noah’s collection focusses on the images inspired from old family photographs found in his grandmother’s attic.  The figurative works showcase the End of Summer many of us can recall from our own upbringing.  They include gardens in full bloom, days at the lake or pool, and family vacations.  He truly captures the moment time stood still for his family.  The figures have vague facial features, so you can imagine your own family during those times.  It’s truly like walking down memory lane.

As we take down the artwork this week and reset the gallery, I feel like I’ve been embraced by the love that was used to create these beautiful pieces.  I struggle to decide what pieces to keep and which to send back to the artists’ studios.  I feel like they should all stay, but that’s not an option.  I have held on to some special pieces I hope you each can stop by soon and take a closer look.  Maybe you can find a small part of their story to take home with you.


Surprise Visit to Grenada

When it’s time to swap or pick up new art, I regularly meet artists half way between Tupelo and their home to help reduce time away from their studio.  Since so many artists live in central and southern portions of the state, it really takes up a lot of the day or more to travel to our corner of  Mississippi.  Usually, if they are from Jackson we meet at a fast food place in Winona, just off Interstate 55.  We will make a quick swap in the middle of parking lot with many strange looks from other travelers who are stopping for a quick bite to eat.  We each head back home within 15 minutes, with a brief exchange of words about how our lives were going.

Last week, I made plans to meet Ellen Langford at our usual spot in Winona.  The day before we planned to meet, Ellen asked if we could meet in Grenada instead, at Robin Whitfield’s studio, about the same distance away from Tupelo as was Winona.  I immediately agreed, since I have been wanting to see Robin’s studio. Presently, Robin is our only artist living in the delta region of Mississippi.  After living in Tupelo for over 30 years, I have only been to the delta region 3 or 4 times, if that much.  My GPS directed me through the scenic route around Grenada Lake and into town from the back roads instead of the interstate.  What a great treat!  I was able to travel over the swamp areas Robin portrays in her paintings.  I saw the cypress knees that occur regularly in her paintings as well as the basis of her color schemes.

As I drove into Grenada, I made my way around the town square typical of so many small towns in Mississippi.   I parked in front Robin’s studio/home as she was unloading supplies from a weekend art festival into a beautiful old building.  She has lived in Grenada for 15 years and her investment has begun to pay off.  All the old buildings around her are finally beginning to be restored.  Citizens are retreating back to small towns and trying to recapture the slow paced life they escaped so many years ago.

5th Anniversary and the Need for More Art

5th Anniversary

Celebrating our fifth anniversary last week was very surreal for me.  It seems like yesterday I was developing the website and wondering if I could find artists who would trust me to represent their art.  Now there are over 5o artists represented in the gallery and every week at least one artist asks to be represented.  I wish I could accept everyone, but that’s not realistic.  Friends and clients often ask me how I decide which artists to add and it’s always the same answer.  Would I want to hang their art in my own home?  My husband and I have been collecting art for over 20 years and it includes so many different styles, colors and price points.  Yes, the budget always comes into play in the decision process.  But it’s not just about price.  There are pieces that we love but we spent very little on.   There are often memories or stories attached to each piece.  Sometimes we would buy art on vacation, hoping it would fit into our carry-on luggage.  Other times we would purchase art at a silent auction fundraiser for one of the kid’s schools.  We love them all for the stories they tell.  Now the kids are young adults and each piece is a memory trigger of our times together.  We continue to collect art and don’t worry where we will put it.  There is always a spot we can squeeze it into or move a few of things around to make space.  I hope it never gets to a point that we feel our home doesn’t need more art.

Ke Francis Art Demo

Ke Francis Art Demo

Last Saturday in the gallery, Ke Francis brought some of his tools to the gallery to demonstrate the process he incorporates into creating one of his wood block prints.  He also invited three of his former art students, who are spending the next year apprenticing under him, to showcase their processes as well.  So I walk into the gallery late that morning and find four artists demonstrating four various techniques.  Ke had a 4×4 foot sheet of plywood and carving out a design, with the younger artists on the opposite side of the space lined up drawing and carving their designs.  It was so interesting to see the balance of age and experience in the dynamics between them all.  Several people had been there since the door opened to watch the demonstration and we had a steady flow of visitors drop by though out the day watching and asking questions.  Many people stayed all day to see the end results.  I was amazed with all the steps Ke takes to make the wood cut prints.  Not only does in draw an initial piece of art.  He then makes a wood cut of the piece, then makes another wood cut to add texture.  He will then use all the different components to layer ink of various colors onto paper.  Each printing will be a slightly different color and texture.  The patience he shows is amazing.

Just before lunch, Ke’s granddaughter arrived to see him.  Ke had brought a small woodcut for visitors to try and print their own paper, so he worked with her to print her own piece.   It was just precious to see them interact.  I could see why he had spent so many years teaching, its natural.  It was also very obvious that artistic genes are passed down generation after generation, Ke’s granddaughter has an artistic mother and two artistic grandparents.  I can’t wait to see how her life unfolds in the art community.

Continuing Education at Southeast Tourism Society, Marketing College

Continuing Education at Marketing College

I am spending a week of continuing education with these wonderful ladies in Dahlonega, GA, at the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College.  It is being held on the beautiful campus of University of North Georgia.  Those attending with me (standing left to right) are Demetra Sherer, Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Emily Mowers, WTVA/WLOV Television Stations, Bev Crossen, Farmhouse Home Interiors Store, Jennie Bradford Curlee, Tupelo CVB, Kylie Boring, Tupelo CVB, Allie West, Airfloat Systems, and myself.

This is my second of a three year program.  I was awarded a scholarship from the Tupelo CVB after participating in the Tourism Leadership Program in 2013/2014.  Even though I have lived in Tupelo since 1977 and thought I knew my town, I was sorely mistaken.  The six month program reminded me of what a beautiful town I live in and its amazing citizens.  It also taught me not to take for granted the many great things to see and do in our town.

Last night, the representatives from all the Mississippi communities participating in the program this year, met for dinner and fellowship.  It was such a pleasure to sit around the table with people who are passionate about their hometowns and their deep desire to share their town’s story with the world.  Yes, we are all here to learn how to better tell our story.  But more than that, we are creating new relationships and fostering old ones.  At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about-relationships.  The ones I have built here will continue to grow over the many years to come and I look forward to seeing how each one’s story blossoms.


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