Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Your inspiration can come from many places, music, poetry, faith, love, experiences, nature, or the way light falls across someone reading - whatever it is, it is a reserve that you can tap into to help your art progress forward. Think about what gets you excited, why it gets the creative juices flowing and then nurture it.
For many, producing art is a way to make sense of a emotional state, it could be a therapeutic release from a situation or a way of expressing a thought or theory. Use your inspiration as a tool to guide your viewer and tell them the story you are creating. Your inspiration will allow you to take mark making and infuse it with feeling and liveliness.
One thing I don't recommend is producing art with the end goal of being "rich and famous", which is, in my opinion, one of the most meaningless inspirations in creation. You may get some attention at first, but eventually most people see through the artifice and recognize the lack of raw expression underneath (and if perchance you are one of the few that can become "rich and famous" through this method, kudos to you, I guess.)
Let inspiration guide you, don't be afraid if it takes you in what at first is an ugly or unfamiliar direction - this is where you grow and learn. Just like starting a new type of exercise can be painful at first, if you are diligent about it, eventually your hard work will yield results.
Try new things, attempt to harness and convey that joy in creation, revisit the things that you love in order to become renewed. There is a reason why great artists in history revisit subjects or themes over and over, they are working through something - this gives them energy and a passion that lifts off the canvas and attracts the viewer and allows them in to experience your expression.
Think about your inspiration this week and pursue it - you may find a beautiful new direction.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I am so excited about this green tray. It is an embossed metal and it has a greenish cast to it. I am really into square format right now and this tray appeals to that. Throw in some circles and I am a happy painter!
This painting took a little longer than usual, with all that extra pattern but it was well worth it I think.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
My husband loves to collect special oils, herbs and spices. This tiny tin was purchased at one of those foodie stores where everything is special and tastes so subtle and wonderful. It contained (up until recently) a lovely smoked sweet paprika. The colour of the tin is this rich red and yellow - so evocative of the spice contained within.
I need to find this product locally - I bought it on a trip to Vancouver, a city full of wonderful food.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
To piggyback on last week's post about sketchbooks, I thought I would take a moment to talk about pens to sketch with. While there are all sorts of other things you can use for mark making in a sketchbook, I generally stay away from them. Pencils, charcoal and conte are all beautiful to use, but they tend to smear and smudge and discourage me from leafing through my book to look at other drawings. I tend to feel hesitant to touch the pages, lest I mess something up.
I know I could spray the pages with a fixative, but honestly that is too fussy and careful for my tastes. I would rather give up the ability to erase and live with my mistakes than to have to take an extra step to complete my sketching trips.
I also do not use media that works like paint (pen and ink, watercolour) I really don't like wrinkly pages and I dump enough coffee and rain on these poor books to add more ruin to the edges!
So, what is left are pens. I've blogged before about my love for Micron pens. They are produced by Sakura and I've been using them for years and years. I can look back on old sketches done with these pens and they haven't acquired that greenish spread that some felt tipped fine liners do. (think of what a tattoo looks like on a really old sailor if you are trying to imagine what I'm describing)
I've been mainly using 01 and 03 sized tips, but recently switched to an 05 (nice and thick) and I'll be putting up some sketches this week that feature its dark, strong line. Very fun to experiment with.
When I wear the tips down significantly, I keep the pen around and use it for soft gray shading. I pretty much only throw the pen away after I've worn it down to the metal edge and I can't extract any more ink. Or if my kids get a hold of the pen and leave the lid off.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
I'm not going to go into detail about how to blog in general or how to increase your readership or SEO stuff, there are much better resources than myself for those types of things.
What I do want to touch on is the fact that unlike other types of blogs, artist blogs need to ensure a few things to catch the interest of their readers.
Quality Images: If you haven't already done so, read this article about producing quality images for online selling. Producing these is the single most important thing an artist can do to advance their career for selling art online.
Once you have these, I always recommend that you post these at the top of your entry. People will immediately know that you have updated your blog. If you have struck a chord they will stay to scroll down to find out more about your piece.
Even if you don't always have a fresh image of your artwork, having new photos of your discussion topics can create instant interest for your readers.
Personality: As I've mentioned before, I don't really believe that art is autonomous. Meaning, I don't think that it always just stands on its own - I think the artist and the story behind the work plays a critical role in the perception for the viewer.
Show someone a scribbly drawing, then tell them that it was drawn by Picasso - watch how the perception changes. Alternately, take the same scribbly drawing, show someone else and tell them your four year old child drew it - again, watch how the perception changes. Take the same drawing and show someone with no attachment of name or value, then watch how it is received.
People love knowing the person or the story behind the work. Little tidbits of your inspiration or a particular challenge you faced in executing the piece are all valuable to your readers. It gives depth to your development and will help people see the value in what you are working on. They will want to invest in your potential based on what you are sharing with them.
On the flip side to this, remember that your artist blog is there to support your career. Be professional and keep your client details, inside jokes and dirty laundry out of it for the most part. Just like you would keep really personal stuff out of a 9 - 5 job, you should consider keeping it off your blog. Anyone can read it. Including people who may not like details of their interactions with you posted in a very public forum.
Descriptions: The single best piece of advice I ever got about selling my work online is to describe it like you are trying to describe it a blind person. Pick out all the details that makes this piece of art special and write about it. Someone may not notice the tiny Eiffel Tower in the background or how the light is hitting the clouds in the sunset.
Do you think the best part of your piece is the tiny droplet of water trickling down the skin of an apple? Tell your viewers about it! They will feel like you are taking them on a personal tour of your artwork, offering them the perspective of the creator.
Use descriptive language. Vivid words can evoke a higher level of appreciation for elements of your work. Is that blue lush or is it cold? Are those clouds fluffy or are they angry? Is that red more velvet than electric? You decide, then tell your readers about it!
Frequency: Try to commit to a certain regularity in posting (and if you can't stay at that level, tell your readers what you are going to commit to, or why you've been absent) Once a week is a great start and very doable. Even once a month can be successful!
You can also plan on posting certain things on certain days. Currently, my posting looks a little like this (but sometimes life interferes!) :
Monday: Selling Your Art Online (article)
Tuesday: Original Art
Wednesday: Tools of the Trade (article)
Thursday: Original Art
Friday: Why You Should Buy Art (article)
Saturday: No Post or Original Art
Sunday: Sketchbook or Original Art
This can be done day by day or you can plan out your posts beforehand and then set them up to post automatically (on blogger, click "Post Options" on the lower left side, and then enter the date and time you want your post to appear). Personally, I do a mixture depending on how crazy my week ahead looks!
Go ahead and try your hand at posting! Let me know about it and I'll come check out your blog too!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
This little study was done as part of a larger barter/trade I was involved in with a painter friend of mine, Veronica. I have 2 more of these to do to cover my side - in return I received a very nice easel which will accommodate some very large canvases!
This worked out so well because I have wanted a larger easel for some time but I just haven't had that on my priority expense list. Little exchanges like this are a great way to clear out a studio or feather a nest!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
This is the embodiment of a prairie spring. The bare trees, glimpses of lush green to come and the faded snowbanks. The sky out here in the springtime is a fresh vivid blue that can at once be warm in the sunlight and chilly in the shadow. Hopefully our remaining drifts of snow will soon disappear.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I really recommend that artists keep a sketchbook. What you do in that sketchbook is entirely up to you, I do suggest you keep a few things in mind:
Quality: You will want to purchase your sketchbook from a local art supply store or a place that carries decent artist quality products. Look for decent weight paper and that it is acid free. A basic book (I always fancy up my covers by gessoing them and painting a picture) will run for roughly $10.00, depending on the size.
Buying any old journal from a department or dollar store may seem like a cheap option but as you work more and more in your sketchbooks you may be upset in a few years to find yellowed pages with faded ink.
Size: Where are you going to use your sketchbook and for what purpose? I used to get these monster 11" x 14" books when I was in school. They were great to take to galleries to sketch from the masters and make copious notes. I could sprawl ideas of future projects on the pages and never run out of space.
I've gone to the other end of the spectrum now and I carry 6" x 8" book. I like that it fits discretely in my purse and that I can slouch down in a booth while I'm having a coffee and draw my surroundings. I don't jot down as many notes as I used to so I don't require that sort of space anymore.
Frequency: The biggest advantage to keeping a sketchbook is that it keeps your hand in practice. Have a busy week? Take your sketchbook out while you are waiting for a meeting to start and do a few loose pictures. On vacation? Bring it to the beach and capture the trees swaying in the wind. Have an idea for a painting? Make a note of what you want to capture and come back to it when you are in the studio.
Use this book. It can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months to fill it up, but if you approach it with the attitude that perfection is not required, just habitual consumption of pages you will get into the routine quite quickly.
It is so interesting to leaf through old books of mine and see how my thinking has changed and what has stayed the same. I can tell when I am well practiced and when I'm struggling to return to the arts. They are a great documentation of my growth as an artist.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Oftentimes, when you take this step and you effectively say "I am here, I am willing to sell my work" friends and acquaintances will approach you saying "I've always loved your stuff - I didn't know you sold it!" If you give them the discreet opportunity to check out your prices (because people close to you are often scared of offending you by asking) you may make some local sales right off the top.
Tax Stuff: Before you begin, remember that selling your work online is essentially being in business for yourself. This is not the same as having a garage sale - it would serve you well to be familiar with your local and federal tax legislations and figure out what you need to do to ensure that you are all clear when tax season comes. Your government websites should point you in the right direction on this. Most selling sites have a component built in that allow you to charge state or provincial tax should you need to (and you don't always have to!)
This should not scare you off. Honestly, you are not going to be raking in the cash the second that you hit "list" on an item. You do need to be aware when you hit certain limits on your profits, what sort of records you need to keep and also what benefits (tax deductions) you may qualify for once you start selling your work.
Pricing: Next, you need to determine your prices. Here are some thoughts on pricing - this is something you need to decide for yourself. Don't let your ego/low self esteem get into this, if you spent 2 hours on the piece, do not compare it to something that someone spent 15 hours on. On the flip side to this - people who work on their craft every single day will probably be really really efficient. If they spent 2 hours and nailed it bang on the first try - they can command the price they do.
Don't charge people for your inefficiencies - if you made a mistake that takes you 4 hours to cover over and redo, that isn't something that builds into the value of your piece (as in a $$$/hour structure) You really should fix glaring issues though, its part of perfecting your craft and your public will see the quality of your stuff because of it.
If you are really hesitant on the issue of pricing your work then I suggest you look into the subject deeper, this book was helpful to me. My rule of thumb is "how badly do I want it hanging around my studio if it doesn't sell vs. will I feel regretful if I sell it for too low"
Online Venues: The number one suggestion I have for people is get a blog. Don't worry about a website yet, don't stress on auction vs. buy it now. A blog is free and you will be able to connect all those other points to it when you are ready to conquer those things. (and we will cover more of this in the coming weeks) Go to a blogging site, register and you can be posting and uploading your quality images and ready to sell in an hour.
Once you have an online "home" it is important to post a little about you (schooling, influences, reasons you create the work you do), post regularly, and put beautiful pictures of your pieces up for people to enjoy. This is just a start, you can build on this in the coming weeks.
I have found that it is really important to keep the "What You See is What You Get" mentality when dealing with your audience. Be upfront. If you have a price for your piece - list it. If there is additional shipping, say so. If you are going to throw in a bonus print or postcard - may as well tell them. All these details are going to build customer confidence in you.
It is also important to take the work off of your customer's hands. They are there to appreciate and purchase, not to do lots of legwork - a lot of people buy impulsively, which is to your advantage. I sell a lot of things in the middle of the night (another advantage to online selling - the store never closes!). Those customers are not always willing to wait around till I get online in the morning to answer questions on my work. They may just go spend their money elsewhere.
If a customer is presented with two choices "email me for details" or "this painting costs: $___US. Shipping to the United States is $____US. Allow 2 weeks for delivery via Canadapost" they will usually go with "What You See is What You Get". If there is an unknown or mystery surrounding your piece, people may be too lazy or scared off to inquire further.
Also, be prompt about inquiries - if your upfront details haven't totally sold them, but built their confidence in you, they will contact you. They might want to know about combining shipping, custom work or using an express shipping company for example.
If you are selling online, you need to make the commitment that you will check your email regularly and respond accordingly. Even if you hate email and only check it once a week, you need to stretch yourself here. This is about selling your artwork and when in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you want to sell online, you need to realize that this is the price of doing business.
Accepting Payment: You will also need to sign yourself up for some way to accept money. Personally, I use paypal - mainly because it is so prevalent and that is what was available. If you want to find another option, by all means do your research. Generally the seller pays for each transaction that they accept money on. (Buyers do not pay for transactions, this is why it is an attractive way for people to pay for online purchases) Read the fine print for whatever company you use, paypal will just automatically take their percent off the top when you receive a payment.
"What about skipping the fees associated with paypal and only accepting money orders?" You can offer that option if you want, but honestly, most people who are buying online are set up to pay you instantly. You will want to be aware of the fees that will be charged to process your money transaction and build that into your price.
If you only accept money orders keep in mind that people will likely have to purchase your item, wait till a business day (that is convenient for them), stand in line at the bank, pay a fee for the money order (which may be a turn off all by itself), put it in an envelope, purchase a stamp and mail it. This may scare off a buyer. You will also risk a "where is my artwork" email - people forget that it takes so many days for the letter to arrive at your house, you have to wait for the money order to cash and then shipping time for the piece to arrive at their house. The whole transaction can take weeks.
So, to sum up this post: Get up your nerve + get your quality images + see what record keeping you need to do + figure out your prices + get an online home (blog) + find a way to accept payment = you are in business. Now, this is just the start so don't stress out, now we focus on building the business! Check back next Monday for more on this!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Every year we get a couple dozen eggs and then sit down as a family to transform them into beautiful oval works of art. Easter is a really special time at our house and this is one of those family traditions passed down from my parents that I am thrilled to pass along to my kids.
First I boil the eggs in a large pot for about 20 minutes and then I rinse them under cold water. I set them on a towel and let them dry thoroughly. When they are ready, I boil some water for the dye. I set out a bunch of coffee mugs (one for each colour) and add boiling water about 1" from the rim. I then add about 1 tsp of white vinegar and food colouring (can be purchased in the spice or baking section at the supermarket) I use tablespoons to lift each egg out of the dye.
Don't bother with those pricey egg decorating kits - the dye is cheap and weak and you will at best end up with pastel eggs. Easter happens but once a year - be creative and don't be chintzy with the food colouring (I may put in half a tiny bottle if I want really deeply coloured eggs!
Elastic bands: These are great for wavery lines and thick solid bands of colour (those fat post office ones are great for this) Criss cross a pile over a tiny egg and see the intricate designs you come up with.
Star Stickers (or other shaped stickers): Those little gold stars that teachers use can be had 400 for $1 at my local dollar store - the possibilities are almost endless with that many stars! Place them all over the egg or do some, dye the egg, do some more and dye again - you will end up with a kaleidoscope of colour.
Binder Reinforcements: Those little white circles that people use for three ring binder paper can be put to use here by leaving thick circles on your egg. over lap them or use them as eyes for your little egg people. Add them in with stars and elastic bands and you have some fancy eggs!
Crayons: These resist the dye - you can draw pretty pictures (I like flowers, swirls and stars) or write names of your children on them. White is particularly magical to little kids because it is the super invisible mark maker - watch how excited they get when you pull a seemingly innocent egg out of the dye and it has all sorts of neat designs on it!
After dipping the eggs over and over in the dyes, leaving some to sit a long time to really soak up the pigment you are ready for the last step. Peel off the stickers, remove the elastic bands and then take a paper towel and put some vegetable oil in it. Gently rub the eggs evenly to pick up a glossy shine. The oil will also remove any sticker residue. Display your eggs proudly - make sure to eat a few too!
If you are wondering about the safety of eating Easter eggs, one thing to do is put the bowl in the fridge and set it out only at breakfast time for a short spell. Refrigerated boiled eggs will keep up to a week, peel or no peel.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Today I had an opportunity to wait during another appointment - this room was filled with people. I felt kind of gutsy whipping out my sketchbook, but I didn't have a book and the magazines were nothing that grabbed my attention.
My strategy here was to be undetected by my subjects and to not have anyone strike up a conversation (which would effectively end my sketching and my undercover ability) so I plugged in some headphones and crouched in my chair making sure that I was flicking my eyes equally around the room and not making direct eye contact with anyone.
I got a few good sketches once I was warmed up. This lady in particular caught my attention. She had a scarf around her neck and glasses - both of which are lively subject matters to capture with only a few strokes of the pen.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Your Artwork: You have a lot of competition out there. It is to your greatest advantage that you put up really beautiful work. If it looks a little unfinished to you, it will likely look a little unfinished to your potential buyers. Take the time to finish it up right (and also neaten edges, attaching hanging hardware if necessary - all this can be mentioned in your listing and will attract customers)
Using a Camera: If you are using a camera to take a picture you need to ensure that your art is properly lit and in focus. Never ever assume your customer is as visionary as you are - they are coming to purchase artwork with a "What You See Is What You Get" point of view. You will never totally convey what an original piece looks like in real life, but you can really get close with today's technology.
I usually wait till I have a clear, sunny day and take my work out and position it so that there are no glare marks from the sun hitting it. This may take a bit of fiddling but is worth it. Pure daylight is the best way for you to capture the rich hues and depth of your artwork.
If you have a piece that you are going to sell framed, under glass I recommend that you capture your image without the glass to avoid glare and refraction. You can take a second picture to show how nice it is framed and matted and to give the customer an idea of what the purchased work will arrive looking like, but you do need a shot of your work as is, without frame.
If you cannot use daylight, choose ample warm lighting (no cold flourescent lighting) and position the lighting so that you have no glare or shadows falling across your work.
Try to fill up as much of the frame with your image but allow for a little room to crop close. I really recommend that you purchase a digital camera if you do not have one - print film will require scanning later on and you will not get as detailed an image.
Using a Scanner: This is a great way to capture high resolution, well lit and colour balanced image files. It is especially great for non textured paintings and drawings. Some will be small enough to just pop on the scanner bed and go. Before pressing "scan" read the digital file info below - best to start big and go smaller than try to go big from small.
If your image is too big for the scanner bed and you have Adobe Photoshop (not sure what other programs can do this) you can scan your piece in sections (you will have a bunch of separate files then) Make sure they are all open in Photoshop and go to "file" select "automate" and select "photomerge" - follow the prompts and you will end up with a large file that has meshed all the components of your image into one. Just make sure you scan all the parts of your artwork - overlapping a little for each part allows the end result to be seamless.
Digital Master Files: no matter how you obtain your image, you will need to have it in a digital format. I recommend a master copy that is at least 300 dpi. You camera or scanner should have an option to set this and what file type you prefer.
If you can, use a non compression file (ie: TIFF) or save in your editing program as a non compression file as soon as possible so you don't lose the digital information like you would in a compressed format (ie: JPEG) Keep the the TIFF file untouched (except cropped as close to the outer edges as possible) for future reference. Keep a copy burned to disc for your records.
You may one day need this image for a print magazine article, for a licensing project or to compile a book - if you sell your piece and it ships overseas, it would be quite complicated to get the original back to take a quality master copy. Start this habit now and it will become second nature to you for all of your artwork.
Digital Files for Online Selling: Next, you will want to make a duplicate copy of your master and rework it for selling online. Make sure the image is cropped as close to the edges as possible.
In your photo editing program, you will want bring your image as close to real life as possible (this may include adjusting the colour balance if your yellows are a bit underwhelming in the photo, cropping, removing a dust mark) Do not enhance your image or change a detail that is not changed in real life - you can do that later if you are selling the image to license a product, but you cannot do that to sell the original. It needs to be "What You See Is What You Get".
Watermarks: You may want to add a watermark, this is the "© Your Name Year Made" - there are no set rules to this but some things to keep in mind. People theoretically may want to take your image without your authorization - if you post it online, you take that risk.
I feel that by not having too large an image file (you shouldn't for a number of reasons but this is one of them) will prevent someone taking your image to profit from it. Other uses like someone uploading it as a backdrop on their phone just chalk it up as free advertising and that someone loves your work so much, they wanted to upload it to their phone.
If you add a watermark, remember that the more of your image it takes up, the less "What You See Is What You Get" can happen. You do not need to use 72 pt font hot pink letters to convey that you are the copyright owner of your work. (you automatically are even when you sell your piece - but that is another article) Choose a discrete place that is essential to your image (so it can't be cropped off) and do a small watermark.
My favorite way to do a watermark is go into Photoshop, type it in with white and then slide the opacity down to about 15% - that makes it see through and is very subtle and undistracting. I then flatten the layers and proceed with my watermarked image.
If you are stumped on how to do the © sign, have no fear - you can always just highlight that one and cut and paste into your image document OR you can hold down the Alt button and type 0169 - that will give you that little © symbol.
Online File Size: Next you want to reduce the size of your image. You want it small enough so that it is uploadable to sites on the web and isn't easy to steal and blow up to poster size with clear crisp details. The usual is 72 dpi. Next you will want to look at the dimensions. If it is an ACEO (2.5"x3.5") you do not need to reduce the size. If you have photomerged a 2' x 3' painting, that will still be a massive file. You can take down the dimensions by reducing the pixel dimensions (I usually just reduce it so the file is under 500K and is 72 dpi).
One thing to keep in mind is that some sites have specific dimensions that they accept - it would benefit you to find out what they prefer and then get as close to the upper limit as possible. (ie. etsy likes 1000 pixels by 1000 pixels (72 dpi), ebay has similar limits.)
Finally, save in a compressed format, JPEG is pretty standard. This image can now be uploaded to a number of venues and start selling your artwork.
By following these steps, you will now have quality images that you can not only use to sell the original, you can use in the future for promotion, a portfolio or licensing options - you may make a lot of money from a quality image from your original.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
There is something wrong with this sketch that may not be immediately obvious. Give up? Well, I sketched it on Friday and as of then, we still do not have leaves on our trees! I have to say, I'm getting tired of not having anything but bare branches to draw.
I've had a fresh new sketchbook sitting around for a little while now (actually 2 - one for more pure sketching and doodling and another "idea book"). I think I've hesitated on sketching in my new book because I'm not totally happy with the cover painting. I'm still thinking through modifications.
I did however, get over my initial hesitation and now I've started breaking this new book in. Feels good.
Friday, April 03, 2009
Artists are a generous group. For the most part, they are very supportive of one another, they are usually involved in the community and a lot of them donate beautiful pieces to charitable organizations for little or no profit for themselves.
Why do they do it? There are a number of reasons, some may want to give to an organization but do not have the funds themselves to do it. Some realize that a donation of a quality piece of artwork will bring in far more money than just simply giving cash themselves (some give a painting and cash!) Some do it to clean out thier studio, some for publicity or to reach a new audience - the answer is as varied as the artists themselves.
For an art patron, this is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone - support an organization with your purchase and take home a stunning new piece of artwork. You don't usually have to look to far from your own home to find an event that has a key artistic component. You can even go online and find charity art auctions.
Over the past few years, I have had the privilege in supporting a couple organizations, our local Foodbank, a Cambodian orphanage, and missionaries who were attacked in Kenya. These were opportunities that I was really excited about using my artwork to bring change through the charitable work these organizations set out to do.
Currently, I don't have anything that is being sold through a charitable organization, but I urge you to seek out your favorite causes and inquire when thier next silent auction or art sale will be held and then bid generously - your support can make a huge impact!
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Okay, I will admit that this is not an essential item to an artist just purchasing supplies, but man, I have to admit this little thing is handy dandy!
A friend of mine passed this along to me last week. She had upgraded to a very nice stainless steel model (something like this). This one is perfectly servicable and she was kind enough to think of me.
It is fairly simple. A glass jar with a metal coil fit inside it. You put water (if acrylics) in and when you want to clean your brush you just swish it over the coil and the paint is removed down to the ferrule.
I'm thinking this may extend the life of my crunchy brushes somewhat! Part of what was killing them so quickly was small amounts of paint being left in the bristles and the other part was my mashing the brush in the water jar to clean them as best I could.
(PS - my apologies for not posting as regular in the past few days - we had the flu going through our house, hopefully things are back on track now at chez Wiebe)