Saturday, May 30, 2015


Trophies is a still life that embodies a common lifestyle in my hometown of Baker City,, Oregon. There are a lot of people here, both men and women, who enjoy hunting. This painting shows the tail feathers of a turkey shot by my son (good eating although somewhat tough), and an elk antler from a kill, from either my son or husband (also good eating!). It was really fun trying to make the feathers soft, the antler bumpy, and the gun shells look like shiny metal.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

In the Spotlight: Lindy Bronson

During the time that I ran The Dancing Elephant Gallery, a friend of mine, Carri Sue Anderson, once suggested that I check out the art of Lindy Bronson of Chopper's Art. I looked him up on Facebook, and I could not believe what I saw. Here were gorgeous, detailed drawings in pen and ink, mainly done with stippling. His subject matter varied, but included a lot of pop culture and celebrities. They were fun and interesting subjects, but what got me was the quality of the art. Lindy really works to make sure the image is accurate and realistic, and the stippling (tiny dots made with an ink pen) was done with amazing precision. I knew I needed to make contact with this man, and get his art into my gallery!

Lindy agreed to be featured artist in my gallery, the month that I closed the physical doors. I wished I could have represented him longer, but I had a feeling that our artistic relationship would not end once we closed up shop.

I don't know about Lindy's point of view, but when I met him, I felt like we really hit it off. I am not one to make friends easily, but Lindy was so easygoing and friendly, it would be hard not to like him and get along with him. I think we really connected. When he brought his art for the show, we had a great visit, and learned a little more about each other, as we waited for his show to begin. Since then, we have both done Art in the Bar in Boise, with our shows set up next to each other, and I hope we will continue to meet up and perhaps collaborate sometime.

Lindy Bronson is a 36 year old truck driver from Caldwell, Idaho. This keeps him very busy, working about 65 hours a week, but in his down time on the road, he does his art. His specialty is ink stippling, although he does mixed media as well. He is married, and has two sons, aged 15 and 11, so when he isn't on the road or drawing, he's a family man. His goals are to get his sons, Sidney and Avry, through school and off to college, and is working on promoting a healthy environment and habits for himself and his family. And he also does Kung Fu. How awesome is that?!

His personal goals are to outdo himself artistically, to blow his mind with his own work. Great goal to have! If an artist isn't pushing himself, his work will end up stagnant. Lindy, surprisingly, is self-taught. He has taken a few art classes in high school, and had a few months of training in college, but for the most part, has learned from hands-on experience and experimentation, discovering techniques on his own through trial and error. However, he has made sure to take constructive criticism and suggestion from his peers, to help improve his skills. (This is very important for any artist---to be teachable and humble, willing to learn and correct one's work).
DaVinci self portrait

Lindy greatly admires Leonardo DaVinci's work---not necessarily his masterpieces of art, but his blueprints and invention plans inspire him, because they show DaVinci's thoughts, ideas, and inspiration. Lindy also appreciates the art of his colleagues, including Carri Sue Anderson, an artist in Idaho, who has helped guide him with her knowledge,  Amy VanGaasbeck, who gave him his first gallery show, and many others that he follows on Facebook.
DaVinci's plans

He seems to work so effortlessly, you wouldn't think that Lindy has any obstacles to overcome, but hair and fabric textures are challenges to him.

Some of Lindy's favorite things include the color blue, tigers, the winter season, superhero and sci-fi movies, eating cheesy potatoes, and alternative music. If you take a look at his art, you can see the influence of many of these, although I haven't seen cheesy potatoes in any of his work yet....

Lindy's favorite piece that he has done so far, is the Noker Express. It's an old train that was put out to pasture in Virginia. It involved a lot of stippling, and creative use of lost and found edges, and negative space.
The Noker Express

He is currently working on a commissioned piece for a friend, of her in-laws.

Currently, you can find Lindy's art at A Cup of Joe, and Gifts Too Go in Nampa, Idaho. You can like his Facebook page, Chopper's Art, or find him on Instagram and Twitter---@choppersart or

Friday, May 22, 2015

Graduation Day

Today is the day that I graduate from college. It is a major milestone for me. It is one of those things that I never believed would happen, yet here I am.

I married young, and we started our family soon after getting married. We both agreed that I would be a stay at home Mom, to personally raise our children. And I did. I put aside any possibility of working or going to college, and even put aside my paintbrush to focus on the kids. I had no regrets in staying home with them, and I believe my kids turned out great because I invested my life to make sure that I was always there for them. However, the desire to create art and become a better artist always gnawed away at me. I taught myself to do quite a bit, but I always felt my art was missing some quality to make it better. I had talent, but not professionalism, and definitely had no confidence in my art or ability.

My sister, Cathy, decided to go to college in her late 30's, to become a pharmacist. She worked really hard, balancing being a wife and mom with college and a full time job supporting her family. One day as we were talking about college, she looked at me and said, "Amy, you're next. You are going to go to college." That's all she said. At the time, I thought, "Yeah, right. It will never happen. I can't afford it, and I can't afford to travel. There's no way."

Some time later, I was in an Avon meeting, and our district manager had us make a list of four goals. Then she made us choose one goal, and focus on it, writing out just the first step we would have to take to achieve that goal, and a deadline to do it. She probably wanted me to create a goal for selling lipsticks or shower gels, but out of the blue, I came up with ATTEND COLLEGE AND MAJOR IN ART.

For some reason, taking this step made it real to me, possibly doable. I went home and looked up the nearby colleges online, and looked at their art courses. I still had the issue of not being able to travel, so the nearby colleges were out. Then, while reading The Artist Magazine, I found an ad for Academy of Art University, and found that they had online degrees. I could do it all from home, with the help of videos, written work, and professors who would critique my work. I requested information, and jumped into it (sort of), registering for the next year.

I was so nervous that first semester. I felt that my art abilities probably wouldn't even be good enough to get good grades. But I was wrong. What I knew and could do already gave me a good start, and I ended up being an A student throughout each class.

Each class I took helped my skills improve by leaps and bounds, and with each class, I realized that there was so much more that I didn't know, which gave me a desire to learn more and become better.

Along the way, I decided to open an art gallery. It was named in honor of my sister, Cathy. Cathy gave me the first nudge toward college. Sadly, she never finished. She ended up being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare and deadly cancer, and she died two years after diagnosis.

I kept the gallery open for two years, and then decided that running the gallery on my own was keeping me from expanding my own art into other cities and galleries. We closed the gallery in 2014, and now I am freelancing, going to shows and showing in galleries.

It has been a grand adventure, from being accepted into my first gallery, to being featured artist in that same gallery 5 years later. I have been featured on a tv show, been filmed for two television shows, had a few articles written about me, had a gallery, won awards, and have been guest teacher at a public high school.

And now today, I graduate. I graduate a different person than when I began this adventure. Although I will always have more to learn, I am confident in my skills. I am not afraid to try what I have not done before. I can value my art, and I know for a fact that others value it, too.

I haven't traveled this path alone. There are many who gave me support over the years. My husband, Andy, has been a strong support; my kids and my parents; Tom Novak and Brian Vegter, for giving me a chance in their gallery, and for the wonderful advice and encouragement through the years; the galleries that represent me; my instructors including Thomas Marsh, Jennifer Almodova, Anna Nelson, Jason Bowen, and Peter Schifrin, for finding value in me and pushing me to do better, for taking me out of my comfort zone; the artists that I have come to know, my sisters, Kelly, and Cathy, and my business consultant, Kristian Hohenbrink (he's what every artist needs!), and even my former pastor, Monte, who believed in me when I did not believe in myself. And every one of you who has bought a piece of my art, thank you. I am thankful for all of you, and I couldn't have done it without you.

Right now, I am here at The Cow Palace in Daly City, California, in my grey cap and gown, surrounded by a sea of humanity. Feeling the butterflies in my stomach, hoping I don't trip, hoping they don't butcher my name too badly, hoping I just make it through this without making a fool of myself. Walking up on stage and receiving the diploma marks the end of an era, and the beginning of an even greater one. Join me on this adventure, will you? Here I go!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Star Is Born

My strong points are in portraits and still lifes. Last summer I wanted to push myself in weaker areas (weaker meaning areas I don't try too often). I love science fiction, and eventually I want to do a series of sci-fi paintings, so I thought I would try a space scape. This is based on a NASA photo. I call it A Star is Born, because this nebula is a birthplace for stars. It was an interesting and enjoyable experience for me. What's interesting is that in a nebula like this, there is not just one light source, so you can have light and shadow going every which direction. It was fun. I have done a couple others since. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Art Business: Changing the Way You Think

What is the first thing you have to do to pursue art as a business? I have a whole list of first steps to take to get you started, but today, we are going to discuss the very first step. Here we are assuming that your art is at a level that has showmanship and the potential to sell; but this step isn't necessarily about the quality of your art, it's the quality of your mindset.

You have to decide that you ARE an artist. Not just any artist, but you are a PROFESSIONAL artist. Can you say that? Try it out loud, right now. "I am a professional artist". Or say simply, "I am an artist." Was that hard? I know it was for me, for a long time.

I remember the first time I made a similar statement. I was at my school reunion. We were all asked to stand up individually, and tell everyone who we were, what we did, and what our aspirations are. I said, "My name is Amy VanGaasbeck, I am an art instructor at this school, and I plan to become a professional artist in the next few years."

Immediately upon saying that, my inner voice screamed, "LIAR! You know you aren't professional, and how can you actually say you are an ARTIST? Your art isn't good enough. You are dreaming, and everybody knows it. You just stood up and made a fool out of yourself, as if you stood up and said you were going to be a cowboy astronaut."

I felt really embarrassed upon saying that, although I didn't show it. In reality, nobody laughed at me. Maybe some of them even believed me.  I don't know what their thoughts were, but I am sure I was harder on myself than anybody in that room.

However, saying that out loud made a change in me. Voicing an idea, positive or negative, makes it more real. I had just gone public. I decided that if I was going to say it, that I should start doing something to follow through with it. I started thinking about art school and galleries, and it took a few more years for me to follow through, but eventually I made the jump. Eventually it became easier to say, "I am an artist" without making an apologetic face. It took a lot of practice saying it out loud, though. It took removing excuses and attitudes from my life, and it took removing non-supportive people from my circle of influence.

You have to look at your personal life, and look at the excuses you have made for not pursuing your goal. Some of these excuses may have some validity, but are you hiding behind them? Have you allowed these excuses to make you a victim? My excuses included that I had young children to take care of, I didn't have time, I didn't have money, my art wasn't professional yet, and I didn't know where to start, and could someone really make an income as an artist anyway? Each one seemed valid, but upon looking deeper, they were just excuses. I could work around them or get over them, I just had to be creative and find a way. Excuses will always stop you. So get rid of them. Take responsibility for your actions and where you are in life, and just do it. Don't beat yourself up for waiting so long to start, just go for it.

If you are going to make it as an artist, or with any goal, you are going to have to take a look at your support circle. You need to have people who are willing to encourage you to follow your goal. You need to have people who will give you good advice and honestly criticize your art. Watch out for yes-people who just flatter without giving any real opinion to their comments (these people will always be there, but learn to identify them and not let their flattery spoil you), and you should remove the non-supportive, negative people. This is very important.

If you are like me, it's easy to let your negativity control your inner voice when it comes to your own art. I was overly critical of my art. It's good to be critical, but don't beat yourself up. And when an outside influence starts in with negativity without giving any practical criticism, it just strengthens your own negativity. It will stunt your growth as an artist. You are at a sensitive place, in just making the decision to pursue art as a career or even as a hobby, and making that decision will cause non-supportive people to speak up. They may be jealous that you are following your dream. They may feel threatened that you have some amazing talent. They may be angry at themselves for not following their dream and so they take it out on you. Whatever the reason, it doesn't really matter right now. You have to find a way to create distance from those people. When you do, you will notice a change in your own thinking.

So start telling yourself, and others, that you are an artist. Say it with confidence.And when you do, others will start referring to you as "artist". I you believe, they will, too. Sometimes you have to fake it 'til you make it. I did; and now I can say with confidence that I am an artist. Duh! Yes, I am an artist, and a good one! The quality of my work is professional. I am a professional artist. Of course I am! I have worked hard to get here, and I will continue at it to achieve higher levels of quality. Because that's what we professionals do.

Stay tuned for more business topics. I hope my ideas and insight can help you on your journey. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Nude in Reverie

For a time this year, my nudes were placed in a very tasteful lingerie shop, Lilly's Lingerie. Unfortunately, she just closed her shop this week, so this nude was never displayed there. I call it Nude in Reverie. The idea of nudity in art is a controversial one---some love it, some are uncomfortable with it. So I am working on coming up with figures that celebrate the human form in a tasteful way, that more sensitive viewers can enjoy.