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Ilene Skeen is an artist who spent her first career as a business systems designer. She was born in New York City, an early baby-boomer. Her favorite pastimes were coloring and puzzles. This gave Ilene a dual focus from an early age creative and analytical. She graduated from Queens College with a split major: Art and Art Education and earned an MBA (with distinction) from Adelphi University in Management and Operations Research. With the advent of corporate computerization, Ilene recognized the opportunity for creative, analytical and financial rewards in business systems design and embarked on a corporate career.
However, she did not abandon her art. By the mid-1980’s, she was drawing and painting regularly, taking courses at the School of Visual Arts, the New York Academy, and various workshops. She attended life drawing sessions, and in 1989 “discovered” the open studio at the Salmagundi Club, one of the oldest art clubs in the country, founded in 1871, and located on Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village in a beautiful, landmark building.
In 1992, Ilene switched to painting watercolors at these sessions. The challenge was to observe the figure and execute the vision in the limited time of the short pose class. Producing these small watercolor sketches became a fascination. She called her series the “Bare Brush.” In 1998, in the midst of the dotcom craze, Ilene decided to make a website to sell her work the internet.
At that time, “barebrush” was taken, by (of all things) a brush and soap company, so she used iskeen.com as her personal site. In 1999, Ilene was invited to join the Salmagundi Club and became an artist member. She sold her house on Long Island and moved into Manhattan to be closer to the Club.
Ilene entered the online auctions and sold over 1,400 of these small paintings, learning one thing: a dealer is absolutely required if the artist wants to make any real money. With the increase in internet spam and fraud, the ‘blood and bone’ dealer (as opposed to the virtual one), and the dealer’s brick and mortar gallery triumphed over the hype in cyberspace and the market crashed selling art over the internet became uneconomical.
Ilene retired from the corporate life in 2003 at the age of 56. What-to-do? The idea of simply retreating into her art was mundane. Her life-long habit of the dual focus held sway. Wanting to know more about the relationship between art and people, Ilene enrolled in the Hunter College graduate department of Anthropology with a focus on the anthropology of art.
In 2004, she began to review fine art/anthropology books for the Library Journal (a subsidiary of Reed Business Information). In 2005, Ilene was elected serve on the Board of Directors as Chairman of the Curators’ Committee, responsible for the Club’s art collection and historical archives. In 2006, she earned her degree from Hunter completing her thesis: “On the Hook: How Aesthetics Meets Economics for New York Art Dealers.” This research was conducted in on location in Chelsea as a combination of gallery visits, interviews and an intensive internship at Gramercy 32 Fine Arts Gallery. Again, the lesson was clear the absolute centrality of the art dealer to the process of art was confirmed. The confirmation was monetary Brigitte Saint-Ouen, founder and director of Gramercy 32 Fine Arts Gallery was conducting an on-line auction and included a number of Ilene’s watercolor sketches from the “Bare Brush” series (now numbering over 2,300). Eighteen were sold and Brigitte continues to represent Ilene.
Ilene learned another thing: dealers respond to artists who take an active role in promoting their careers, so she decided to be that type of artist. By the summer of 2006, it was time to revamp her website. barebrush.com was available and she grabbed it, realizing that the art of the nude has a far wider constituency and audience than just a personal website.
Barebrush.com was designed and built in 2006 by Ilene Skeen using Adobe GoLive. OpenCrypt of the UK supplied the membership pieces, Spads of Colorado did the art uploader and Google provided the analytics, the bloggers and the webmaster tools. In 2009, Barebrush was redesigned for dynmaic pages using Dreamweaver, MySql and php.
Brigitte Saint-Ouen supplied the incentive and the art dealers of Chelsea, whom she met during her year-long research project, supplied the friendship and inspiration.
Thank you all!