Meet Artwork Archive artist Teresa Haag. When you look at Teresa’s work, you’ll see cityscapes alive with the hustle and bustle of urban living—the images seem to reverberate with chatter. But, look harder. You’ll see text showing through the blocks of color, as if the paintings themselves have something to say.
Teresa stumbled upon painting on newspaper when she ran out of fresh canvases, and that experience became a turning point in her art career. Menus, newspapers, and book pages have all become ways to imbue her city “portraits” with life and sound.
The chatter quickly grew about Teresa’s pieces themselves. Read on to learn how Teresa’s presence at outdoor shows helped her secure gallery representation and clients, how she balances the business side of being an artist, and her success with reproduction prints.
Want to see more of Teresa Haag’s work? Visit her Artwork Archive Public Page.
Now, take a peek into the creative process of one of our talented artists.
1. YOU FOCUS ON BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES OVER PEOPLE. WHEN DID YOU START PAINTING CITYSCAPES AND WHAT’S YOUR FASCINATION WITH THEM?
The buildings in my pieces are my people. I give them personalities and infuse them with stories. I think I do this because when you paint a person it distracts from what’s going on in the background. People viewing the piece focus on the face or what the subject is wearing. I want the viewer to take in the whole story.
I also just like the feeling of cities more. I like the whole atmosphere and the chatter. I like the hustle and bustle going on in a city piece. I’ve painted cities as far back as I can remember. I grew up in Rochester, NY and my bedroom window looked over the pipes, windowless walls, and smokestacks of Kodak Park. That image has stayed with me.
2. YOU USE A UNIQUE PAINTING STYLE AND PAINT ON NEWSPAPER-COVERED BOARD—AND EVEN BOOK PAGES. TELL US ABOUT IT. HOW DID THAT GET STARTED?
I was a sales rep for a medical company in my past life, and traveled often. On a trip to San Francisco, I’d taken a photograph of Powell Street with its hill full of cable cars, and I couldn’t wait to paint it. When I got home and downloaded the image, I realized I didn’t have any blank canvases—I was only painting for myself at that point. I decided to glue some newspapers on an old canvas to create a new surface.
When I started painting on the newspaper, it was instantly connected to the surface. I loved the texture and the pull of the brush, and the lost-and-found element beneath the paint. It was the moment I found my voice as an artist and was a defining moment for my art career.
Painting on newsprint morphed from liking the way it felt to the thrill of instilling pieces with sound. I can hear the stories of the people, I can hear the cities talking—there is this idea of chatter going on. Starting with chaos and creating order out of it as I paint is immensely satisfying.
3. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A PAINTING IS DONE?
I am notorious for overworking pieces. I think I am done, I step away, and then I come back and add. Then I wish I had an “undo button” to take the new additions away.
I believe it’s about getting to a place of knowing a piece is complete, it’s a feeling in my gut. I now put the piece away, put something else up on the easel, and I live with it. I might find something to tweak, but now I’m not putting large swatches of paint on. Occasionally there are a few pieces that I rework completely, but it rarely happens anymore. I’m trying to honor the feeling versus fighting against it.
I work with a lot of transparent color blocks to let the newspaper text show through, and in the beginning I would paint over too much of the text. Over time, I’ve got more confident leaving it exposed. There’s a piece called “Disrepair” with a light wash of grey over one part which I decided to leave alone. I’m so glad I did, it’s the best part of the piece.
4. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PIECE? DID YOU KEEP IT OR DOES SOMEONE ELSE OWN IT? WHY WAS THAT YOUR FAVORITE?
I do have a favorite piece. It’s the San Francisco piece of Powell Street. It’s the very first piece I used the newspaper technique on. It’s still hanging in my house. It’s the moment I knew who I was going to be as an artist.
Learn art business strategies from Teresa.
5. HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR TIME BETWEEN CREATING ART AND THE BUSINESS AND SELLING ASPECT?
As artists, we have to be as much business people as we do artists. Before pursuing art, I worked in sales for ten years and have a degree in marketing. My experiences have given me an advantage over artists who’ve never had careers and came straight out of art school.
I have to give the same amount of time to both sides of my business. The marketing is fun, but I loathe having to update my books. I reserve the 10th of the month for sales expenses, and reconciliations on my calendar. If you don’t do that, it sucks the creativity out of you because you’re constantly thinking about it.
You also have to get out of your studio and meet people. I enjoy doing outdoor art shows in the summer because it’s a great time to meet new people and really practice tailoring your message and artist statement. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.
Artwork Archive makes it so easy to keep track of all the sales and people you meet and where you met them. I can come home from a show and attach contacts to that particular show. Knowing where I met each contact from makes following up so much easier. I love that feature.
It’s important to have a system in place. When I finish a work, I take photos, put the piece information into Artwork Archive, put the new piece on my website, and publicise it in my newsletter and social media. I know each step I have to do after painting, which makes the business side a lot smoother.
Also, it’s the worst when you sell a painting and you don’t document it properly, because if you want to do a reproduction or do a retrospective show, then you don’t have the images you need.
6. YOU SELL LIMITED EDITION PRINTS ON YOUR WEBSITE. HAS THAT BEEN A GOOD STRATEGY FOR YOU IN BUILDING FANS OF YOUR ORIGINAL WORKS? HOW HAS IT HELPED YOUR SALES?
I was hesitant to do reproductions in the beginning. But, as the price of my originals started to climb, I realized I needed something that people with a smaller budget could take home. The question was, “Am I cannibalizing my originals market?”
“The numbers at the end of the year reinforced that prints are worth it.”-Teresa Haag
I found that people who purchase originals are not the same as print buyers. It does take time to do the matting and keep track of the different editions though. I’m going to hire an assistant to help me with those tasks. The numbers at the end of the year reinforced that prints are worth it.
7. ANY TIPS FOR OTHER PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS ON GETTING INTO AND WORKING WITH GALLERIES?
You have to get your work out there. It’s all about who you know. When I first began showing my work, I did as many shows as possible: outdoor art shows, indoor group shows, fundraisers at the local high school shows, you name it. Through those channels, I was introduced to people who connected me with galleries.
“If galleries have to do actual work to review your work, you’re going to be at the bottom of the pile.” -Teresa Haag
You have to do your homework, don't just send galleries your work. Get to know them and whether you'd be a good fit or not. Make sure you’re having conversations first, and follow their rules. If they have to do actual work to review your work, you’re going to be at the bottom of the pile.
Be consistent in your images too! Some artists think that showing a range is positive, but it’s best to submit consistent and cohesive work. Make sure it looks like it’s in the same series. You want people to tell it all belongs together.
Want to see Teresa’s work in person? Check out her exhibition dates.