Saturday, January 31, 2009

Zazzle Spotlight: Magnets

I've been trying to find a moment to create some special products in my Zazzle store. Here are some low cost cute ways to jazz up your fridge - there are more styles available. Take a peek here.
The reason why I use Zazzle is that I don't have to be an expert at creating quality prints and products. I can upload high resolution digital files and let the professional printers take care of producing a quality item for my customer!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Why You Should Buy Art Friday - Self Representing Artists

Much like the wedding industry, the art world is full of all sorts of preconcieved notions of what you should do, as if you will make a dreadful mistake if you don't buy a particular abstract for your sitting room or have little miniture clay pots filled with organic chocolate for your reception favours.

People have seriously bought into this notion and by doing so, they have become fearful of making some sort of mistake and ending up looking foolish. The solution is that they feel they need consult with an expert and buy from a gallery. This can be a good thing, and galleries definitely have thier place, but it isn't your only option.

Something happened almost 10 years ago that changed the way that artists would work and sell in a huge way - online selling on a self represented basis. This allowed artists to open thier studio to an international marketplace without relying on a third party (an art gallery) to advertise, solicit clients, have showings and ship thier work.

Instead, artists could now take thier own pictures, upload them to thier website, an auction site or an artisan marketplace site and find thier own niche. Relationships were possible in a brand new way between artist and patron leading to a new level of partnership in many cases. Collectors had the opportunity to sit in a boardroom and snipe a prized painting by an up and coming artist at the closing seconds of an auction.

Suddenly all an artist needed was a digital camera, an internet connection and the desire to create. Prices could vary widely from an artist undervaluing the potential of a piece to gross inflations based on the seller's hubris. Add in artists who figured that they could command gallery level pricing without paying a gallery the commission cut. Sometimes these strategies paid off, other times the prices gradually shifted to reflect the audience and environment.

Of course this flooded the new marketplace with a stunning spectrum of quality and marketing styles and for a few years, buyers had to navigate the whole gamut with nothing to compare these artists prices and quality standards with. Things seem to have leveled off in that respect. There are ways one can do some quick research and find a piece they love at a price point they can handle.

One way is the "birds of a feather" approach. Look at an artist's blog, check out thier listings and make note of the price structures on the type and size of item you are looking for. (so, if you are looking at an original painting, 6"x 6" on canvas please ignore everything else) Next, go back to the blog and look at the links bar to the side. These artists will probably be painting in a similar style, selliing in a similar place or painting similar subjects.

Birds of a feather flock together, when these artists post online, they tend to attract similar artists who connect to them on a certain level. Look at the other sites, if the paintings look to be of a similar caliber as opposed to waaaa-aaay better, then this approach will work. Some artists may collect a bunch of links to artists they are a serious fan of whom the wish to emulate... this pricing concept won't work here.

Once you start clicking on these similar artist's sites and exploring their pricing (again, keep the size and type in mind, ignore really different stuff), you will notice that the value of your first artist will either be confirmed or denied. You might also realize that you have found a diamond in the rough if that artist is just starting out and finding thier presence in the online world.

Look at the feedback, you will get fast at scanning comments. Compare your artist to some similar ones who have been selling for a while and see if the comments measure up. This will tell you if the customer experience dealing with an artist is likely to be a good one. Notice whether or not that artist has repeat business - this shows they are doing something right and it brings people back.

If you are ready to purchase, then you simply go back feeling confident in your research and follow that sites purchasing guidelines. A site such as etsy or ebay will have a section where you can view the seller's return and shipping policies. Make note if your artist is located in another country, this may add a small bit to your shipping time and price.

Most importantly, if you have questions, a custom order, or want combined pricing - contact the artist. They LOVE hearing from thier patrons. This is a rare and special priviledge and they really want your feedback. You may be surprised at the ease in which you can build a friendship with an artist you enjoy.

Thanks for reading this loooong article. For the month of February 2009, if you purchase a painting from my etsy shop, such as the Peach painting pictured above, type in "birds of a feather" in the "message from buyer" line and I will refund your shipping price. Free shipping on a large painting is a great reward for being interested in original art! (this offer is for Canada and US only, if you are from somewhere else, I will definitely give you a shipping discount though. Talk to me and let me know where you are and we'll figure something out!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Love Themes

I have decided that I work better when I have a schtick. This past week of sketches gave me a direct and easy purpose. A topic to discuss.

I think I will be looking at some regular posting themes as well as some new themes in paintings.

Long term followers will know that I love plates, patterns, fruit, goth girls, chairs and whatnot. Lots of little themes I fall back on. I think this is a year for strengthing a few themes and making them a stronger core to my work.

One thing I'd like to start blogging on is "Why You Should Buy Art Fridays". I think I will take a few weeks to explore this subject in the context of buying my art, buying original art in general and why this is important.

So! Keep checking back. I'm on a blogging kick right now and I've figured out how to use that feature that automatically publishes posts on a future date.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sketch Week - Woman Seated Ahead of Me

By now, I hope you notice the hit and miss nature of my sketches. I am not perfectly polished with these, rather using them as a tool to materialize my thoughts into quick snippets I can come back to and build another idea from. I really wanted to show my readers a more vunerable part of my artwork because the flaws are not glossed over with a few layers of opaque paint.

In addition, my intentions here were to also show the self critique process I use when I look at my work. When you blog about pieces you have listed for sale, it can be self defeating to reveal what you see as imperfections to your potential buyers.

I find that often times, I wish I could discuss the developement of a painting with a bit more of a critical voice in order to solicit ideas and raise the bar of my work. I struggle with how that could be done in a blogging environment such as this which artists tend to lend support and affirmation only.

The written word can easily be misunderstood because it lacks the emotion and eye contact that you recieve when you "talk shop" with a fellow artist. Offering an alternative to how something could be depicted may come across as unintentionally harsh - so I also understand why this venue is not usually treated with commentary like that.

Anyways, the sketch above I think turned out accurate and I like the results. This is just an ordinary woman waiting for her child to be done with his sport. She is just sitting and engaging in casual conversation with another mother. I think there is an unspoken movement in this sketch as she looked forward at her child and paused in the conversation, only to turn back to her neighbour a moment later to continue discussing the price of sports equipment and how jam packed a Saturday can be with kids activities.

Thank you for tuning in this whole week - I hope you learned another dimension to my thought processes when working on my art.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sketch Week - Car Keys

This is one of those "force yourself to do it" subjects. An exercise, something to tune up your muscles and make you look. Nothing romantic, not even a lot of personality.

Those things are good to do. Like I mentioned in a previous post, it is something where you draw what is right in front of you with the freedom of not being tempted to "draw what you think you know how to draw".

I kept this drawing loose, not too precise. I think it really works. There is a very accurate read of keys without the painstaking detail that I could be persuaded to do if it were a serious piece rather than a sketch.

In technical subjects I am constantly restraining my desire to draw every perfect angle and detail, instead of trusting the nuance of a brushstroke. I battle this because too much detail gives away the viewer's engagement in trusting that a daub of blue is a shadow of something around the corner. Spelling things out for people can take the vibrancy that comes with suspending one's preconcieved notions of what the world looks like and seeing it through the lense of an artist.

So back to the sketch. I like the outcome. It isn't an interesting subject, however the honesty and accuracy of this depiction balanced against suggestions of detail in the lines is well done I think. My one complaint is that I don't' know if the viewer realizes where the keys are grounded on the surface. I did the shadows as I saw them but I was fighting two light sources (which isn't always apparent). This could have been mitigated with a better, more calculated placement of the keys, but that wasn't my intention - I chucked them down and took out my pen.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on details vs. nuance - please feel free to comment!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sketch Week - Curling Brooms in Rack

Sometimes it is helpful to pick subjects that don't particularily appeal to you. This forces you to just stop and observe. At times you might connect with your subject and make a meaningful image. Other times you get a solid bit of practice in that doesn't rely on "what you think you know how to draw".

In this case, I was waiting for my son to finish up his curling practice. I was looking around to see what I could draw - there weren't many options where I was sitting beyond this little rack.

What I was looking for here were the angles and bends of the ellipses in the rack and labels on the broom handles. The way the bristles were depicted was also important to me.

I got lost a few times with the long lines of the handles meeting the relevant places in the rack, but overall I was watching a lot closer than in previous sketches. Partly because I couldn't fake my way though it like I have a tendency of doing.

I wish I had spent a bit more time on the shadows hitting the wall - that is a tough thing when you are sketching from real life. You have a finite amount of time and either the light changes or you get up and move on. If you aren't finished before this happens, you may be out of luck.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sketch Week - Woman Slouching in Chair

More with the slouch. I tend to fall in love with an idea and then take it through a bit of an evolution. Different angles, different subjects same idea.

This girl did not exist in real life as depicted. Another reason why I chose to put up this drawing. Not for the merits of the sketch, but to discuss what sometimes happens when you are sketching. Especially some of the quirks that come with sketching in public.

I was sitting and scoping out my options for subject matter and I saw a sloucher. The problem was that it was clear that I was sketching something. I wanted to capture some of the slouch, but I was worried about her getting up and looking over my shoulder in passing.

My solution was to have a real good look at her with my pen down. Then I drew it in reverse. Then she left before I could get some good details in so I fell back on "drawing what I think I know how to draw" in order to conclude the sketch. In this case, that was a handy skill. I just needed to fit in the feet and there weren't shadows to worry about.

After I drafted my last details from her posture, I then made note of the surroundings that she had vacated in order to give context to the seated figure.

Great sketch? Not my best, however the story was a fun one!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sketch Week - Woman Reading Scriptures

I really need to do more portrait studies. This is where I just start to feel the pure rush of sketching. I think part of it has to do with being really really covert. People hold themselves differently when they suspect they are being watched. The outcome surprisingly enough is very similar to when you draw "what you think you know how to draw" instead of reality. In this case people "sit how they think they should sit in order to look as attractive and natural so that they will look good in the sketch and become famous". In reality it looks stilted and similar to a school photo.

This woman was sitting near to me, she took out a slim Bible and starting leafing through it looking for a particular chapter. Her fingers were very long and delicate and she paused with her hands on the page when she found what she was looking for.

I love that she had a bit of a slouch. The slope of her body in the chair adds a dimension to the picture that you cannot make up. If had been drawing what I thought I knew how to draw or if she had been sitting how she thought I would want her to sit - there would be no slouch, no breath of relaxation.

I like the eyes here. Just a smudge in the overall picture, but they convey "reading" not "sleeping". A subtle difference, that I'm glad I captured.

The hair and glasses are another part I'm satisfied with. I wish I had caught her arm and shoulder a bit better - but I don't think they are awkward or detract from the image.

I wish I had had coloured pencils with me when I sketched this - I would love to have caught skin tone and turned this into a small painting study.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sketch Week - Chair in Window

Okay, this is not a long laboured over picture. I like drawing chairs in my sketchbook. They usually have some pleasing bends, some solid shadows and some technical angles and such. I can usually loosen up with a chair subject because they sit so nice and still.

I chose this one because it has that 60's modern feel to it. In real life this chair was a deep brick red colour, that invited me to take closer inspection as well.

Unfortunately, this chair met an early doom much like the hand picture. I simply wasn't looking. My first sketch after a few days off tends to meet this fate. Almost as if I have to wade through all my preconcieved art notions in order to get to the meat of pen on paper.

So, I didn't pay attention to the chair angles when laying it out. This meant a lot of backtracking on the the left arm and the lower part of the seat. I find the arm awkward and distracting - I tried to hide it in the shading, but the angle is still a touch off. This is because I didn't pay attention to the left side while drawing the right side - the two never quite connected.

I like using the architectural elements surrounding in a slightly abstracted manner. In this case, the chair was in front of a large bank of windows. I just put the window shapes in to block out the area and left out the detail. The floor ended up the same way. I don't mind that. I always have a border on each sketch - it keeps me from going off the page and gives me a secure context to work in. This is just another way to do a border in my opinion.

Check back tomorrow for another sketch - this one I actually quite like!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sketch Week - Micron Pen in Hand

Okay, this sketch looks okay on the surface, its balanced and the subject is identifiable. The pen isn't too bad, a bit underdeveloped on the metallic parts but overall, acceptable.

The hand has a number of things working against it. One thing I constantly fight is "what I know how to draw" vs. "what I see in front of me". This becomes a battle when doing quick sketch. I want to draw a cohesive image, and I'm constantly tempted to take semi convincing shortcuts.

The problem is, the viewer doesn't know what they are missing out on when a sketch is done like that. They see a basic, semi pleasing image and move on. When you stop to really look at your subject, you notice all sorts of subtle visual cues that lend a rich breath of reality to even the most basic of sketches.

Usually, these cues are awkward to look at because they are in the form of wierd angles or shadows. The skill of an artist can transform what in reality is taken for granted into a piece of art that is effortless yet complex and striking.

Anyways, back to the sketch. Where I got derailed was that I stopped looking at the hand when I put the majority of the layout in context to the pen. So, the remainder of my time on this sketch was spent negotiating from "what I thought I could draw" and "what is really there". That sort of tailoring only brings about a patchwork agreement between the two.

Some other things to note -

This is my left hand. I fell in love with the idea of doing the slight edge of nail with the bend of the pad beneath. I got carried away. My nails are never longish like the ones in the picture. I find this outcome to be quite amusing because it is so far from reality. I can't stand having more than a slight tactile edge to them.

My friend surprised me as I was drawing the thumb to wrist area - she startled me so the pen jumped and then I was involved in chatting with her, so I abandoned the sketch. This abrupt ending I thought would be interesting to show instead of some more completed piece. Sometimes life interrupts art and thats okay (especially if the art was kind of mediocre to begin with).

The pen in the picture is my absolute favorite. They cost about $5 and I buy a few at a time because I tend to wear the tips down quickly. I am constantly haranguing my children not to use my special pens. It is a tense day in my house when I find one on the couch with a missing lid. I like 03 or 01 points. I even keep a few almost dead ones so I can sketch in rough grey tones.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Experiment: Sketch Week

Okay, in an attempt to keep my readers in the loop with what I am up to, I've decided to try a little series of blog posts.

Over the course of this week, I will have a post featuring a sketch. The point is not to show you a glossy, pretty drawing but a really rough thought process that I like to go through when I'm in the mood to create but don't have time to work at my easel.

Since these are just my own personal little doodles, (nothing saleable) I'm going to share what sort of visual decisions I had to make, mistakes and little bright points that I found useful in each picture.

These are mostly from life and are not from photographs - this adds to the rustic nature of them. Since I probably spent about 5 minutes tops on each picture they are but a fleeting impression of what was in my surroundings at the time.

I hope you enjoy this and feel free to add your own critique or commentary. Come back tomorrow to see the first one!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sketchbook: Girl with Flowers in Her Hair

I drew this a few days ago while waiting for my kids to get out of school. The night before I drew this, I was reading up on Jeanne Hébuterne and a picture of her got stuck in my head. This isn't exact - in fact it doesn't have much to do with the inspiration at all. With the original, I really liked the part in her hair, her intense gaze and that half smile on her lips.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


So, my mother came over this evening and saw the unfinished shelf painting in my livingroom. Suddenly she got very excited. "Oh SNAP! My dad used to use that stuff all the time!"

I asked her what it was, and she said it was a gritty pumice hand wash that you use to remove car grease.

What was most interesting to me is that her strongest association with this stuff was the nice smell. She was obviously taken back to a childhood moment when she saw the little can in my painting.

That was a pretty cool reaction.

Friday, January 09, 2009

On the Easel: Shelf - step six

Now I have reached my favorite part of any painting. The major details have been laid out, the colours and whatnot are somewhat refined, all that is left is reworking the complete picture.

By this I mean stepping away from the easel and have a really good look. I'll stick this upstairs on my shelf and sit on my couch with a good book tomorrow and then have a look at what sticks out as needing work.

I can see some lettering stuff and some shadows already, I know the longer I look the more little things will become obvious.

After I fix those things then I work to balance things out - some more shadows, upping a highlight here, toning down a colour there. Helping the eye have lots of movement throughout the picture without it seeming too busy or having any dead spots.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Just a Doodle Today.

No time for painting yesterday, so I figured I would post a doodle I did manage to find time for. I was reminded of Alphonse Mucha so I put a reference in with the circle in the background.

I actually don't doodle that often. If I am listening, without having to make eye contact or if I'm stressed out are pretty much the only times. I used to doodle when I had to talk on the phone (partly for the stress of talking on the phone) but since we are no longer tied to the wall with that springy cord, I have not needed to doodle. I do housework or something instead.

As you can see with this, my whole aim with doodling is to fill up the whole space with pattern. The face is usually just a framework for spirals of flowers and an excuse for lavish curls and shadows.

Will be painting tonight though. I'm looking forward to making more progress.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

On the Easel: Shelf - step five

A little more progress today. I like the juxtapostition of the matte "Snap" can next to the shiny "Delta" can. The gloss on the "Delta" can took a lot of my time today. Its funny how the highlights on that one show up only on the silver parts, the red hardly registers the gloss.

Hopefully I will be able to complete this by this weekend. Keep checking back!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

On the Easel: Shelf - step four

It has been fun to recognize the brands captured on this shelf. Some are not quite so antique. It is a real mish mosh of products here.

I like to paint my text freehand. I'm a self confessed font nerd - not particularily knowledgable but I really love the feel of the different styles of lettering. Serif, sans serif... it is all a fun challenge.

I've noticed for some strange reason this painting seems to be coming together from the right to left for me - that is really counter intuitive for me. However, I just go with the next logical step for the piece and this is what came up!

Monday, January 05, 2009

On the Easel: Shelf - step three

Here we have made a lot of progress, every area has been covered over from the initial wash, plus there are some shadows and highlights. I have also started on painting the text on some labels.

I'm trying to keep this painting quite loose - I'm making constant editing decisions as I go along with this - how much is too much detail, how much do I need to put in so that it makes sense to the viewer?

Keep checking back to see what I decide!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

On the Easel: Shelf - step two

So, as you can see, not dramatically different. I did think it was worth posting to show how small the progress can be but the differences it makes. If you look, the outlines are crisper and the shadows have been deepened. I have also started to lay out where the text will go. Keep checking back!

Friday, January 02, 2009

On the Easel: Shelf - step one

This is taken from another one of my cell phone pictures - it is an 18" x 24" canvas. I've roughed in the objects, checked the ellipses and blocked in the colour.

Sometimes, things compose themselves. This past summer, we were wandering through some antique stores on Front Street in New Westminster, BC. I saw this shelf and had to snap a picture, everything was so organically arranged - I didn't touch a thing.

I've always loved arrangements of things, stacks of plates, a row of books - random patterns of colours and shadows speak very strongly to me. Giorgio Morandi was a master of this - his career was built out of the same little objects rearranged on the same little shelf. The trick to that of course is to keep your perspective fresh and not keep painting the same painting.

New Years for me is a little like this. I don't really do New Years Resolutions, I'd prefer to think of them as New Years Recalibrations. I look at the things that I do consistantly, look at how it went last year, think about the mistakes and successes and then plan for the coming year with all that in mind.

I like to try new things, but in the confines of things I do all the time. When I experiment in this small way, each exploration adds to the one before it and eventually I've made a lot of progress. So, instead of making promises I might not be able to keep, I'll just keep plugging away, exploring the things I already do, delving deeper and hopefully improving bit by bit. Have a great 2009!