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Friday, August 14, 2009

Catching Up

Please pardon the mess whilst I try to recover... it's been an amazing few weeks.

I'm back Stateside now, still recovering from jet-lag but much improved. For the last three weeks I've been roaming all over Scotland on a solo trip. Not exactly a tour, more of an adventure. I hired a car, I traveled by train and bus, I stayed in youth hostels and campgrounds, and I wild-camped. This adventure began with Edinburgh's Gathering and concluded with Glasgow's Piping Live festival. I shot well over 1200 photographs, hiked through glens and along ridges, visited castles, met many great friends, and built upon a plethora of experiences from which to develop a new body of work.

I will be posting writings from this adventure very soon, as well as a few select photos. To those who have recently joined my newsletter mailing list, welcome! That newsletter will be rolling along again soon. There will be a lot of new works coming out this late Summer and Fall.

So in the mean time while I get sorted, I'll leave you with a video I found from Edinburgh's Gathering. These fellows are the Red Hot Chilli Pipers - if you haven't seen them before, you'll be amazed at the calibre of music. They were truly phenomenal. Maybe some day we can get them to come out to the Pacific Northwest - one can hope! until a little later - Cheers!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The title applies to both art style and the purpose in my upcoming trip.

The painting at left was an experimentation, in trying to ramp up the detail and fill the whole support... not an easy trick in such an oddly-shaped "canvas". The resulting image is a Bengal tiger coming at you with full intent and purpose. He means business, and seems as though he's going to stride right out of that feather. This painting, "Prowl", a Bengal Tiger on a peahen's tail feather, is available at Fusions Gallery in Ocean Shores WA.

This painting had further purpose. It is the predecessor to another painting of a Scottish Wildcat. I'll be delivering that donation piece to the Scottish Wildcat Association in Edinburgh this summer, for purpose of auction later this year in supporting preservation and breeding programs. More on this later.

These highly elusive untamable creatures are critically endangered in Britain, and without help the purebreds in the wild may be lost forever in another ten years. About half again the size of a domestic cat and similar in appearance to a gray tabby, they are by no means anybody's housecat. Fierce and elusive, they have the reputation of being the only animal that can never be tamed. The pure bloods only number about 400 now, and can only be found in Scotland... they've been extinct from other parts of Britain for over 100 years. Their numbers are dwindling from habitat loss and from crossbreeding with feral domesticated cats. You can read much more about these beautiful felines and watch videos on the Scottish Wildcat Association website.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Preps for UK travel

I am a novice when it comes to travel, let's be honest. The last time I was overseas, I was active-duty in the Army, more than 20 years ago. Now here I am with a flight booked on British Airways, a passport safely tucked away, and counting down the weeks til mid July.

Back then, I was planning on being stationed in Germany. I would not sign until I had it guaranteed in my contract. Preparing for a long-term stay in a foreign country was so different then-- I bought a "Living Language" course on cassette tape to attempt to become at least partly conversational in German. I talked with friends who immigrated from Schwarzwald, and talked with others who were prior-service military, especially those who did a tour in Germany. I got on a penpal club and wrote letters with friends in Germany. I looked at atlases and familiarized myself with the country. This was all done before I even went off to basic training.

Boy, how things change!! Preparations for this trip have very little comparison to last time. The internet makes all that needed information so much quicker, easier, and more thorough. Virtually everything can be booked from the home computer. Itineraries can be plotted out via Google- one can get a sense of drive-time, alternate routes, stops along the way-- it's all pretty amazing when you think about it.

One thing I didn't have to deal with last time because I was active-duty military, was a passport. I did end up applying for one in Frankfurt back then though, and I do remember what a pain in the neck it was. Passport applications have gotten easier though. I do recommend that you fill out your application online and print it out. It'll save you SO much time when you go to your local Government office to turn it in. I showed up at the city hall about the same time as another lady who was applying for hers, but my application was all printed out and ready to go. She was still writing out all her information by the time I had paid and left the premises. If you can save yourself some hassle, it's good to do so. I applied in April, and the passport arrived on my doorstep in the first week of May. It only took four weeks to arrive.

My trip isn't until July, but I don't want to cut it close with anything. My passport's here, my flight is booked, my car is hired, and hostel beds are reserved at the beginning and the end of this journey. It's just the in-between bits I'm still sorting out-- so much to see, so little time! Where to go first!? Backpacking and camping are definitely going to happen, as are castle tours and a trip to Skye, and a whole lot of exploring by car. I'll provide more info on preps as this trip draws nearer. Hopefully I'll be able to post a bit while I'm over there. :)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Where am I at on those 2009 goals?

Ah yes, those goals for 2009 - the ones I said I would post, and here it is March and I haven't done that yet - oops! Even though they were not listed here (yet), I've still been doggedly chasing them.

March 1st, can you believe it's already that late in the year? We're in the final month of winter!

Bound and determined not to let all the bad stuff in the news get the better of me, I gave myself a rather ambitious list to try to conquer. Odd thing is, the ones that seemed impossible are pretty well in my pocket, while the ones that seemed rather straight-forward are proving to be more elusive. Time to get more firmly on-track.

Those Goals
1. -4 new Galleries
2. -2 solo exhibitions in 2 major NW cities
3. -75% of art income from online sales
4. -Build studio inventory to 40 pieces and maintain that number
5. -Go to Scotland! (my one high-flying dream-big goal)
6. -Build on ability in oils, increase proficiency

Now - here we are beginning Month 3 of the year, so where am I in all that? Not where I thought I would be, that's for certain! The one I thought would be inaccessible, #5 going to Scotland, is mostly in the bag. Plane tickets purchased, part of the itinerary hashed out, some friends to meet up with, spending 3 glorious weeks exploring the country. I'm not overly worried about this one any longer.

#4 inventory is proving to be a tough one to conquer. Most of what I'm doing, from January til now, is commissioned work. The few pieces that are not commissioned work that I'm working through are destined to galleries - current galleries that carry my work and galleries that have asked to carry my work. a 40-piece inventory could be the one that will remain just out of reach unless I figure out a way to feed that without neglecting galleries and commissioners.

#1 Four New Galleries. I have them in sight, they are ones who approached me. There's one in British Columbia who has the patience of a saint, but she will have her pieces soon. One in Idaho will be receiving 12, and I am struggling to supply those before the close of winter. There's a museum gift shop in New Mexico that will be carrying them as well, this Spring. There's another in Olympia, and I'm shooting for Spring with that one as well.

#2 Shows in NW Cities. I have not pressed forward with this one yet. It is completely reliant on that pesky goal #4 and getting sufficient good work to show. This one comes into play when that one gains some ground. I am scheduled, however, for a local gallery show in December - so although it's not a major city and not a solo (there will be at least two of us) it's a scheduled show.

#3 Sales mostly being from on-line. that one seems a bit sticky, doesn't it? Actually, that one is already achieved. Nearly all the work I'm doing now is commissioned pieces from folks who contact me through my website. I've laid groundwork in inbound marketing and making these visible on the internet, and have been striving to make myself findable online. So far so good. Bricks sales are not doing well right now, but people are shopping online.

#5 was the one I thought would be the most unreachable, so consequently that one's been heaviest on my mind. Because I've been thinking about it, scheming on how to pull it off, working out the steps and details to make it a reality, that is the one that is the closest to fulfillment.

So I think the lesson in that is pretty clear: nothing's unreachable if you're willing to do the work to make it happen. But you will get out of it exactly what you put into it, no more and no less. And that goes for all the goals on my list. So with that, I'm taking my hand-written list and tacking it above my art table. Every single day i will ask myself, "What will you do today to bring each one of these closer to completion?" They don't have to be big moves, even little things will bring you a little bit closer. But you can't do nothing and expect to attain something. It's just that simple.

Time to bring these other things up to par.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

make a video slideshow of your art

I've been neglecting this blog again, but trying to get better at it.

What ways have you been trying to show your artwork? Have you been attempting the social media circles, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter? How about Youtube?

I've been dabbling in all of those, and recently worked up the courage to try creating a video of sorts. I've been seeing my paintings frequently popping up in videos and slideshows, and so thought it necessary to create one so that viewers would know where to find more... many play with creating these, but don't list their image sources so it becomes a dead end for the original artist who created the work.

Shop around. There are a lot of inexpensive programs, and also free ones that do a decent job at putting together a video. I used Photo Story 3 for Windows. Yes, my computer is so old I did not have this or any other already existing on my hard-drive, I had to go out looking for it. It's a little clunky, at least on my machine. Every time I previewed the video within the platform, the playback would run at a slightly different pace and alter the timing between image and music. Once you save the video and play it back in Windows Media Player, then you can see the true timing and pace. The program also comes with a lot of transitions to play with. I only used a few, as I didn't want those to take center-stage. Keep it clean and simple.

Here's my attempt at it. The video runs a bit long, but the music fits the work well and will hopefully carry the interest through. I still have a few timing issues in there, but - it's a start!

"Painted Feathers" on YouTube

Go on - play with making a video yourself! It's a great way to show your art in a different format. Here are some things to keep in mind when doing so:
-Remember to list your pertinent info at the beginning and at the end, so that people wishing to see more can find you. If you're Youtubing it, also put that info in the video description.
-Don't get too crazy with the transitions... remember, the focus should be on your work. Keep it simple and smooth, allow the viewer to enjoy the images.
-If you're doing motions across an image, don't zoom in too tight on one part of the image... you don't want to force the viewer to look at one small part, it may not be the part they wanted to look hard at.
-If you've a wide variety of work, pick out images with a common theme and use only those. You can always make another video with another group of images.
-Select audio that really fits the mood you're trying to create. There's nothing worse than clicking into a video and being bombarded with music that absolutely Does Not Fit what's going on in the video.
-Credit your sources.

Video is becoming more and more prevalent on the internet, and a lot of hosts and platforms are now supporting it. Blogger has a video upload feature now. Homestead web hosting has also incorporated Youtube and video uploading to their website-building software. It's everywhere, and it's a great way to get your work out there. Browse around on Youtube at other artists' videos to get some ideas on presentation; you'll find a wide range of possibilities.

If I can figure out how to do it (cheaply!) I want to do a time-lapse video, showing a painted feather from start to finish. Do you have any suggestions for such a thing? if so, I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inceasing Value and Quality of Studio Time

"Bugle Call" on peacock wing feather, available at Lucas Art Gallery, Graham WA

How do you enable yourself to stay at work for long hours in isolation in your studio? Have you found means through good music, scented candles, maybe a radio show? Do you find your enthusiasm waning after several hours with no one to speak to or listen to?

It's a problem that I'm sure all of us encounter from time to time. One can only take so much isolation at work with our craft before we just have to get out, have someone to talk with, see something different. Breaking up the monotony is most definitely needed with some degree of regularity, lest the very quality of our work stagnate and grow stale.

I try to toss in variety wherever I can. During the cold, gray, dark winter months though, that can be a challenge. When the weather is bright and the days are long, a quick escape into the mountains offers immediate reprieve and refreshes the spirit - the scents on the wind, the bright sun, so many colours in nature around us. When skies turn a cold gray, though, and access to those hiking trails become challenges in their own right, not to mention the short daylight hours keeping us on shorter treks, I've turned to breaking up the monotony within the studio.

Music certainly helps a lot, and adds so much to the working environment. My tastes in music are a little obscure, centering heavily on Scots-Celtic, or Trad. The internet has made obtaining such music so very easy where it would have been nearly impossible without. A cheerful tempo comes through on the other end of one's brush and adds lively strokes to the painting itself. After a while, though, one again feels wanting... for something.

I found all new steam within audio books. This was something my husband had turned to back when he drove long-haul. Books on CD made long hours in a truck much more endurable. I thought I'd try this option in the studio. I began with "The Other Queen" by Philippa Gregory. I'm a sucker for an historic story, and was stuck between this and "Master and Commander". I must say I am amazed at how a good story well read and told can make the studio hours fly by! Even more so, at the end of the book I was amazed at the amount of production that had flown across my table!

Yes, I think I can spend the remainder of these dark months working away, and I don't think "cabin fever" is going to get the better of me as it once had. Now instead of selecting music labels, I'm also selecting book titles for studio time. I am looking forward to trips down to the library to see what sort of history books they might have on CD, or historic fiction- or any sort of adventuresome tale to liven up the work. Hmmm, a fifteen-hour book? Oh yes, I should think I can get a LOT of work done while listening to that!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bracing for Growth

A friend does readings that I have found to be incredibly spot-on. Occasionally she generously offers a free one-card-draw with these Balance cards that she created. The card that [info]haikujaguar drew for me in her one-card draw did come as a bit of a surprise. The Sapling. It's hard to think that business growth may still be very much in its sapling stage, but it very well could be.

This was her interpretation:
Wow, I almost feel sorry for you, because I drew the Sapling and that shows up at the beginning of big and lasting things, indicating that they're about to grow.

I don't know if you can handle much more growth at the rate your growth is growing!

So... um... I will look at this and say, "Please schedule in some rest time for yourself, or you will collapse in the orchard." :)

Being that business and professional pursuits were very much on my mind when I asked for a card, I can't imagine what else it would be, other than business and profession. Though I was hoping for a card that indicated travel and adventure! ;D

The best ways I can think of to be ready for further growth is improving one's workplace and streamlining how things get done.

I think that proper insulation of the studio definitely HAS to be on the must-do list sometime this year. The room is too frigid in winter to work in there, and too expensive to heat. The most I can do in there these days is stain mouldings and join frames. And that's a shame! It's a nice-sized room! Yes, must put some attention to this workspace and make it a better, more comfortable working environment.

With so many eagles and flags being requested, for veterans and for Scouts, I've gotten into the routine of having the mats, glass, and frames all ready to go - several of them - at any given time. It just makes production so much easier, because the formula for those never varies. Red and blue mats, with muted blue mat for the background; bullnose moulding, dark walnut stain. Keep it simple and straightforward, and the work-time will improve. Can't do that with everything else though, because the colours, themes, subject matter, and individual tastes are so varied! There's no buttonholing anything else. But at least with the single most popular, it's a set standard.

I haven't done it yet, but I do plan on charting incoming commissions- orientation, subject matter, customer's stats, need-by date, etc. It will be a tactile thing, hand-done on large paper and tacked to the studio wall. This is to hopefully help streamline things, but even more so to make sure that no one is missed. I'm very much a visual thinker, and if it's all drawn out and in front of me, I can more easily follow.

Email. I must apologize if I have not yet responded to your email! the holidays were overwhelming and I'm still trying to catch up. During all of last year my inbox was admittedly in a constant state of overwhelm- there were so many queries coming in as a result of that wandering painted-feathers email that I just could not get on top of it all and paint too. I'm tackling that problem.

I have divided up business emails in my inbox. I flag any email pertaining to business, from clear queries right on down to a simple friendly "hey, I like your work". All those little red flags greet me and tell me "HEY, you need to get on these!" When I respond to them, I move them to the "answered queries" folder. if I hear back from a person and it turns out that they would like to order, then that email and anything else they sent goes to the "active orders" folder. This way I can follow the conversation and keep up on the little details that they want to include in their commissioned piece.

Admittedly, it's bit cumbersome, but it's a start in organization. :)
Have you come upon any methods and techniques in dealing with business email that you've found extremely useful? If so, I'm all ears! ;D

Monday, January 05, 2009

2009 - Commit

Upon reviewing my goals for this year (which I will post later), I could see that some may be on the ambitious side. Ambitious, but certainly not impossible if the path is clear and the plans are well laid. Most are business related, but some are about personal growth and fun. In the wake of all that happened last year, I've raised the trajectory a bit higher, pushing a little further, and even shooting for something I've never done before.

With some intimidating plans in sight, how do I move forward and put it into action? If I think about one or two of these too hard, a pessimistic little voice nags at me- "What are you thinking? Aim a little lower, it'll be easier!" I start to think of all the reasons why I shouldn't try, things that could prevent any success.

Now aiming higher causes a natural hesitation in people and prevents them from proceeding - it can even cause "fear". Jack White wrote a great e-book for artists on that, called The Malady of Fear. As he has said several times, "water seeks its own level". If you want to move beyond that you have to push yourself. Don't accept "can't" and stay at your current level. As Hannah Moore once said, "Obstacles are those frightful things that you see when you take your eyes off your goal." So recognize them, but see them as hurdles to leap over or find your way around, don't look at them as brick walls preventing you from seeing your goal or from seeing the path ahead that will get you there.

I've summed up my actions on these goals this year in one word: Commit. This is most definitely an action word, one that requires strength and faith and determination. The dictionary defines "commit" in several ways, the relevant ones of which I will list and explain how I'll put them to work:

1. - to give in trust or charge; consign.
2. - to consign for preservation: to commit ideas to writing; to commit a poem to memory.
3. -
to bind or obligate, as by pledge or assurance; pledge: to commit oneself to a promise; to be committed to a course of action.
4. - to do; perform; perpetrate
5. - to pledge or engage oneself: an athlete who commits to the highest standards.

I'm trusting my instincts and committing to these goals for 2009. A lot of thought and planning was put into them, and as long as I am committed to them and don't lose sight of them they can be achieved.

I have committed these ideas to writing to clarify how I'm going to get from "here" to "there". I have a cheap notebook specifically designated for that purpose. All the possibilities are jotted down when the thought occurs - any possible lead, time-frame, challenge, procedure or must-do - anything that pertains to these goals is recorded - whether by writing, drawing, pasting clips, whatever it takes to make it all very clear and to show me that these indeed are attainable.

One of my seemingly too-high-to-reach goals for this year is a trip to Scotland. Thinking on that one too hard definitely dredges up apprehensions. I've never been to the UK before. That's a long way to travel, and an expensive trip! Fear and apprehension make me want to back down, but I won't. I'm committed to it. I've already committed by ordering the event passport to The Gathering in Edinburgh. Where will I go beyond that? We shall see! But I do have a lot of ideas, and I'm building on them all the time. :)