Saturday, November 29, 2014

Commonly Asked Questions Taking Art Lessons and Our 1st Student Art Show

All of the students share a common 1st step in taking classes.  They began by asking me questions about my classes.  With any upcoming show, I thought this would be a great time to share the most commonly asked questions I get about taking art classes, my instruction and the studio.

- What makes your instruction different?

I teach students realistic drawing and painting and illustration. The art classes are varied to include teaching still-life, the figure, landscape, portraiture, cartooning, animation, clay sculpture and more.  All art lessons are designed around the student’s interests.  Students learn at their own pace.

It is a high quality fine art program offering art instruction that goes far beyond cut and paste, and arts & crafts. It offers art students basic understanding of how to draw and paint and teaches them how to see in a new way.
You will learn skills and techniques and can also learn to break the rules about drawing and painting to create your own style.

- What different art mediums and styles do you teach?

I teach the mediums of acrylic, non-toxic oil, watercolor, color pencil, ink, charcoal, pastels, clay sculpture, mixed media and more.  I teach many styles such as abstract, portraits, realism, still-life, landscapes, and illustration.

- How are classes structured?

 I offer private lessons and small group classes (no more than 5 people).  All art lessons are designed around the student’s interests.  Students learn at their own pace, or if desired, I have step by step classes.

How old is your youngest student, how old is your oldest student?
I teach students of all ages (7 and up kids and adults).  I have young children to retirees.
Children classes are separate from the adult classes. 
I teach all levels of experience and all abilities.

- What days and times do you offer classes?

There are many classes offered nearly every day of the week.  There are morning and evening classes to accommodate most schedules.  It is best to contact me to see what times best fit your schedule and artistic needs.

- How many classes will I need? 

It depends on your level of art, how much you practice, and what your artistic goals are.  I have some students who take painting classes as leisure.  I have other students that are aspiring career artists or are high school students building their portfolio for art school.   Everyone’s learns at their own pace with a program tailored to their needs.

- What is your studio address and by what landmarks are you near?

Vanessa’s Art Studio is in the North Tampa neighborhood of Westchase, near the intersection of Racetrack Road and Country Way Blvd:

12617 Bassbrook Lane
Tampa, FL 33626

- What is your art educational background?

I have an AA from MDCC and from the New World School of the Arts. I have a Fine Arts Bachelor from Florida International University. I am a multi-discipline artist versed in acrylic, oil, watercolor, color pencil, charcoal, pastels, clay sculpture, mixed media and more!   
You can read my extended bio here:

If the land and sea between us is vast, follow me on Facebook for a virtual hello: 

Visit my Website:

Vanessa Montenegro
Copyright © 2014 Vanessa Montenegro

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Do I Frame My Own Artwork?

One of the questions I am frequently asked by my students is how do I frame my own artwork? With so many options these days, you can frame your own artwork for a fraction of what it would cost if you took it to a frame shop. So let's get you started.

You now have so many options to frame your own artwork. You can order your frame online by shopping sites like Amazon or DickBlick. You can go to design and art focused stores like Ikea, Jo-Anns, Michaels, and Ross and buy pre made frames. Or you can be creative and create a simple frame with some materials from Home Depot or Lowes.

Before you go shopping, ask yourself…

What are you framing? Is it a painting or a drawing?
Gallery Wrapped Canvas
Gallery Wrapped Canvas

If your painting is on canvas, it may not need a frame. It depends on how the borders on the canvas are finished. If you have a gallery wrapped canvas, then you do not need to frame it. Gallery wrapped means there are no staples on the side border of the canvas. If you have painted the sides of the canvas, make sure that the sides are clean and have a finished look. Then, you will not need a frame.

What if it is not a gallery wrapped canvas but a regular canvas, with staples on the side? 

Then frame it.

Do I use glass when framing canvas paintings? 

No. But you might want to varnish your artwork before you frame it.  Varnish protects the painting from dirt and dust. It also helps even out painting final appearance. I like to vanish with matt vanish. I don't like glossy because it shines too much. There are varnishes for oils and for acrylics. 

What if the artwork is on paper? 

Then frame it with glass. Anything that is paper should be frame so it is protected from airborne pollutants as well as from people touching them. 

Do I need to use a mat? 

Not all artwork requires a mat, but they do add some elegance to the artwork and the frame. With mediums such as soft pastel and oil pastel, a mat is necessary to separate the art from the glass so the art does not smudge and the glass does not get dirty. 

What mat color should I get?
The one that matches best your artwork and frame. If you want to keep it simple and elegant white is your best choice. 

Double mat or one mat?
I like better double mat. It adds to the drawing. 

How do I keep my art work from moving inside the frame or on the mat?

Either glue it to the back board or use Scotch® Removable Mounting Squares. 

What kind of glue do I use?
I prefer the acid free version to insure that nothing turns yellow over time.

What kind of frame should I buy? 

If you are not sure, just keep it simple and clean. A simple black or white frame will go do the job and look good.

What kind of frames should I avoid? 

Plastic frames or fake wood wrap frames. 


First, your artwork might look cheap. Second, once they get scratched you cannot repair them. Third, they brake and warp easily.

What is the preferred material for frames? 

You can always touch up wood. So in my experience, wood is the best choice.

What about glass? 

Plexiglass or glass. For small artwork glass is okay, but for larger artwork use plexiglass. 

What kind of glass?
There are four categories of glass:
  • UV-Blocking/Preservation Glass helps protect artwork from harmful ultraviolet rays.
  • Non-Glare Glass reduce the reflections caused by clear glass and gives artwork a softer look, for work such as watercolors and landscapes.
  • Clear Glass is an affordable framing option protect the artwork from dust but highly reflective and does not protect artwork from UV ray. 
  • Anti-Reflective Glass 
looks "invisible" and enhances the color and clarity of the artwork. Anti-reflective, glass looks especially dramatic over bright colors.
Which glass should I use? 
Which one can you afford? It is more a personal decision and how much you want spend.

All work must have a wire on the back to hang the work. 

Where do I get the picture hanging set?
Walmart, JoAnns, Michels, Lowes, etc. You need the one with the nails and wire. 

How high should the wire be?
Please leave a space between the top of your frame and the middle of the hanging wire.

Space between the wire and frame

Here is the video on how to frame your own picture using a ready made frame. I created this video for my art students.

Okay, for the more adventurous, here is an idea from Lowes on how to frame your artwork. I really like it! It eve gives you the list of materials you will need and also shows you a video on how to do it.

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For more info about the art classes

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to take pictures of your artwork for non photographers

One of the questions students always ask me is "Miss Vanessa, how do I take good pictures of my own artwork?" I thought it would be a great topic to cover before the show and before they frame their artwork. 

Before you start clicking away with your iPhone or Polaroid, there are some questions you should ask yourself...

  • What is my final output (e.g., print, web, Facebook)?

  • Is it for the web? For print? 

  • If it is for the web and you sharing it with friends on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc., then you don’t need a high resolution picture. The resolution doesn't need to be more than 72 dpi. You can just use your iPhone or Android to take the picture.  

  • If you want a better quality picture with more definition, which you can use later for printing, then I will recommend you to take your pictures digital camera or SLR camera that can give you a 300 dpi output.

What is dpi?

DPI stands for dot per inch and it is a measure of printing resolution. For web, you only need 72 dpi since the files have to be light to upload them to the web. For printing purposes you need 300 dpi or higher so the print does not look blurry or pixelated. The higher the resolution of your photograph, the better the quality of print.

How do I figure out the resolution on my camera?

Look at the camera specs. Each camera is different. If you are like me, you probably have no idea where the paperwork that came with the camera is.  No problem, it is most likely online. Just google your camera model and brand.

What camera do you use for your images? 

If my output is for printing, I use my Canon Rebel, which is a SLR. If the outcome is just going to be digital, I use a point and shoot canon or my iPhone. They both give good results.

What setting do you use for taking the pictures? 

The settings will depend on your camera. So if you are not familiar with your manual settings ( M, Av, TV, P), keep it simple and use the auto settings. Usually there are a couple of options on the auto settings. Play around with them under natural light and see which gives you the best outcome.

Okay so I covered the camera information, now let's talk about what are you taking pictures of. 

When I take pictures of my paintings or drawings, I try to make sure that they are centered and flat before taking the picture. I try to use natural light and avoid busy backgrounds or bright sunshine. When I do 3D artwork like sculptures or clay, then I may use my Photo Studio Table Top Box, or I create a white or black setting background for the artwork. This allows me to take photographs from different angles with clean background which will not interfere with the 3D artwork.

What about the light? 
Miss Vanessa, when I take a picture the colors and light looks terrible. 

What light should I use? 
If you are not a photographer and have no idea of how to use fancy light equipment, stay away from indoor lights. My recommendation is to use natural light for taking your pictures. Also, if you are not familiar with the light settings on your camera, just use the auto setting. 

What is a good natural light? 
Overcast works best.  Bright sunshine does not.  If it too bright, look for a place where the light is not direct.  Direct light on the bright colors might over saturate your artwork.

Best time to take pictures? 
The best light is before 10 am or after 4pm. It is a soft light. 

Do I want you use the flash on my camera? 
It depends. If your painting or artwork is shiny, the answer is no. You will get reflections. I usually avoid auto flashes. But sometimes when I am not doing a close up I might use it. 

Should I take pictures of my artwork before I frame it? 
YES. You don't want to wait until you frame it to take a picture of your artwork, specially if your artwork requires glass. Glass creates reflections,  so it will be impossible to take a good picture of your artwork with it.

Do you use software to edit your pictures? 

Yes I do. On the iPhone, I use the one that comes with it. You can crop, create contrast, etc. I don't go overboard. On my computer, I use iPhoto, Photoshop and and at times Lightroom. Usually I crop, align, sharpen and contrast pictures.

One final note before posting your artwork or printing it or sending it to an art contest, make sure that you only show the artwork itself. Specially if you are sending it to a contest.  Avoid showing the frames or backgrounds. Take the picture and edit it so it only shows the artwork. That said, sometimes you might want to use your background to set up your picture.  I’ll talk about this in another blog post.

The good thing about today's technology is that you can take as many pictures as you want until you get a couple that work.  Go and try different settings on your camera until you find the one that best works for you. Use the tips I gave you above and take a couple of pictures. See how they look, edit them and then you are done.

I hope you find this post useful. Next post will be about affordable framing. Ideas on how to frame your artwork without having to break your piggy bank.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mark Your Calendars! 1st Student Art Show at Vanessa's Art Studio

Big news! I’m thrilled to announce the 1st Student Art Show for Vanessa’s Art Studio.

Mark your calendar for December 5th and come support future emerging artists.  You may even find a holiday gift for a friend.

Friday, Dec. 5th
5:30pm to 7pm

Vanessa's Art Studio
12617 Bassbrook Lane
Tampa FL 33626

All of the students, both young and adult, are excited for the show and filling the studio with radiant energy as they create.  For the majority, this is their first art show and great experience for them to show their work.   

Our studio might be small in size, but our passion and enthusiasm for art and creativity is big!

We look forward to seeing you there!

If the land and sea between us is vast, follow me on Facebook for a virtual hello: 

Visit my Website:

Join me for my next post, where I will address tips on how frame your own artwork. 

Vanessa Montenegro
Copyright © 2014 Vanessa Montenegro

Sunday, November 09, 2014

New Art, New Medium, New Studio

Hello Friends,  

Acrylic painting on clay
"Sailing Free"
Acrylic on Clay
What a full and invigorating year so far!  And after a short pause, I’m delighted to be art blogging again.  It feels refreshing to once again share my art techniques, new paintings and stimulating art news.  I feel boundless like the person in my painting “Sailing Free”!

Body Checking pastel drawing selected for the Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd Annual Celebration of the Arts
"Body Checking"
Pastel on Paper

I have had splendid motivation this year.  Several of my artworks were accepted into quite a few juried art shows, including the Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd Annual Celebration of the Arts at Amelia Arena, and the 39th Annual International Miniature Art Show at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

painting of artist going to work
"Artists Going to Work"
Acrylic on Canvas
In the spring, I discovered a nontoxic, non-smelling oil paint that allowed me to revitalize my love for working in oils (hooray!)  With just the three basic primary colors (red, yellow and blue) and a little bit of titanium white, I created a splendid beachscape painting, glimmering with all the colors of the rainbow.   

Oil on wood painting of a boat
"The Boat"
Oil on wood

Perhaps the most ambitious stride this year was the grand opening of Vanessa’s Art Studio

For 4 years prior, I worked and taught private and small group art classes out of my home.  My small home slowly transformed into a small art studio.  It was very successful!  But by the end of 2013, my personal art and the art students had outgrown the space.

 You can still find me in the Westchase neighborhood of Tampa.  Now a days, Vanessa’s Art Studio and its budding artists are located near the intersection of Racetrack Road and Country Way Blvd at: 

12617 Bassbrook Lane
Tampa, FL 33626

If the land and sea between us is vast, follow me on Facebook for a virtual hello:
Join me for my next post, where I will address the information of our 1st Student Art Show.
taking drawing, painting and sculpture classes.

Finding The Beauty On The Mundane

It was a rainy fall day in Florida. I was working on a portrait commission at my home studio with the patio door open, listening to the rain...