Saturday, October 22, 2016

This Fall at Shabo-Mekaw

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you may recall that we had a bad storm this Spring, which brought a "micro-burst" (which I believe is like a small tornado) that took down several of our huge oak trees.

 Five or six of them were laying across the drive, and were just too large for my husband and I to handle, so we got a logger to come in and remove them.

Loggers only take the main trunk of the tree, however, so we were left with a lot of this kind of mess to clean up.

Larger branches were cut into firewood, while smaller ones were burned. Let's just say we won't need to cut firewood for a very long time.

 The log cabin looks so strange without the trees that used to frame it. To the left of it were two white oaks and a black oak.One of the white oaks was dead, and they were both very close to the cabin, so we decided to have them both taken down. During this process, the black oak was hit by one of the white oaks - which we knew was unfortunately very likely to happen.

The place looks even more naked because we had them cut a huge pine which was only a few feet from the front door, and had had most of its branches torn off by the fall of a tree across the driveway, which had been blown down in a storm a couple of years ago. Though these were all prudent measures to keep the cabins from being damaged, it still looks to me as if something important is missing. I'm sure I'll get used to it, though, in time.

We haven't had any rain to speak of for a while, and the water level in the Kinniconick is very low.

On this day, the weather was perfect - the sky a clear azure blue with a few puffy clouds, the trees beginning to reveal their fall colors.

These are plentiful down by the creek, and are actually kind of pretty - until you start trying to pull them out of your dogs' fur.

Cardinal flowers always grow near the creek in the late summer to early fall, the brilliance of their color standing out against the grey rocks.

Looking up from the bottom of this huge sycamore tree, I'm struck by the light's effect on the changing leaves.

Here, I'm standing on the island, gazing across the "swirl hole" towards our little "beach". As it rounds the bend  and splits to go around the island, there is very little water in either branch.

Even the flowers that have gone to seed still have their own kind of beauty...

Walking up the creek, I was able to go much further than usual, and even cross it without getting my feet wet.  Normally, the rocks you're seeing here are under water.

Fall flowers are not finished yet, and I'm surprised by all the different kinds growing here so late in the season.

Arlo set up a big ruckus, as he stopped up ahead of me and began barking, growling, and whining at something on the ground. Knowing his hatred of snakes, I was afraid he had found a copperhead, and hurried, though cautiously, to where he was. You'll notice that, in true Arlo fashion, he has already rolled in something black and slimy. What he was barking his head off at was an evil, horrendous, dog-eating box turtle, and a rather small one at that. Sheesh! Apparently his fear extends to all reptiles in general.

Sunny and Arlo have crossed the creek to investigate and are on their way back. You can just barely see Sunny swimming in the distance.

These are a type of lobelia; I've forgotten which species.

A wider shot looking up the creek...

Turning to look down the creek toward the swirl hole...

I hope you enjoyed the sights here at Shabo-Mekaw on this gorgeous fall day. If you're interesting in finding out more about our beautiful country get-away, there are more posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Happy fall (or spring, as the case may be), everyone!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Life of an Artist, part 2

As you may know, I've been posting questions on my blog and on facebook, attempting to get information about selling art online. My goal is that we all share our knowledge in hopes of helping one another. Unfortunately, I didn't get many answers to my questions (not a large enough data base), so I have decided to supplement with my own research.

 website header

Question number 3 in my informal art business survey: What online venues have you used for selling art, and if you have, which one(s) have you found most successful? Some examples include: your website or blog, etsy, Fine Art America, Saatchi, artspan, artsy, ebay, Pinterest, facebook, instagram, Shopify (which apparently can be used with facebook, instagram, twitter, and pinterest), redbubble, zazzle, etc. 

I got two completely opposite opinions about etsy - one who sells a lot on etsy, and one who does not. This corroborates other things I've heard. A friend told me he knows someone who makes a living selling on etsy, but I've also heard that it's not a good place to sell since they opened it up to non-handmade products. I've also been told that it's better now that they've made some changes, though I have no idea what those changes are. Another said she sells mostly from facebook and her website.
To shed some light on the whole etsy question, I found this article, Etsy Pros and Cons by Ariane Foulks on her art business blog, Aeolidia. The article consists mostly of the opinions of people who sell on etsy; it's worth reading because it gives you a feel for what selling on etsy is like, both good and bad, along with a few suggestions from Ariane. One of the biggest pros is apparently that everything is already set up , including the payment process system. Other major advantages seem to be that customers are well-aquainted with etsy, and so are likely to trust the sellers, and there's lots of help available through community boards. Disadvantages are lack of control, limited design choices, and tons of competition, because so many sell their products on etsy that it's easy to get lost among the masses. And, of course, there's the cost: 20 cents to list each item, and etsy takes 3.5 percent of the selling price. An excellent article by Britany Klontz comparing etsy to setting up your own ecommerce site is also worth a read.

Obviously, I can't research and report on all these online sales venues, but there is no end to the number of articles on the internet that do. To be honest, I have read so many of them that my head is about to explode, and have come no closer to being able to make sense of it all. There are simply too many variables - what type of art you're selling, whether you sell giclees, how much money you need to make, how many followers you have, whether you want to license your work to be printed on paper, canvas, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc., how much you can afford to spend on promoting your site, and so on.

business card

I'm certainly not an expert on this subject; there is LOTS to learn about selling art online, and I don't have time to wade through even a small part of it. But I will share with you some things that stood out to me and seemed to have the ring of truth.

1. In my investigations, I found that most of the people who claim that you can make a fortune selling art online have courses, webinars, or coaching services they want to sell you after they lure you in with "free" information. The free information is pretty generic and generally just consists of common sense statements with exclamation points. Some of it is helpful, though; many have blogs, newsletters or podcasts that you can take advantage of, and maybe glean some useful information.  I can't speak to whether their trainings are helpful, as I don't have money to spend on them.

2. Almost every art business coach says that the number one most important thing to do is to build a large email list and send out frequent newsletters. Generally, they advise you to collect the email addresses of people who buy your work. The problem with this is, since I have mainly sold through galleries, I have no information about the buyers; gallery owners do not usually share the names of buyers with the artist, for obvious reasons. This one stumps me, as they don't exactly tell you how to build an email list, and I'm not sure what I would put in my newsletter; I don't have that much 'news' to report. But I'm definitely going to look into it, and will share what I find out later if you're interested.

3. Another point which I hadn't really thought much about is finding your niche market. In other words, what sets your work apart from that of the other bazillion artists out there? This does seem a bit counter-intuitive; I'm always being told that I should paint things most people want to buy. I could make lots of money, I'm always being told, if I would paint landscapes, or do pen-and-ink drawings of Cincinnati, or paint pet portraits, for instance. These aren't things I feel passionate about, and I would not be happy doing them; consequently, I don't think they would have that essential quality - whatever that is - that touches people and draws them to an artist's work. The important thing is to develop your own artistic voice, to which certain buyers respond. These buyers become collectors of your work, and will introduce your work to others.

4. Tell stories. People want to know about you as a person, how you make your work, what inspires you and why. They want to feel engaged with you as an artist, which helps them to engage with your work. Initially this seemed a bit surprising. I've always thought that my life was pretty boring, and that people didn't really care about who I am as a person. When I think about it though, it makes sense; I always look at the bio section of an artist's website, and enjoy finding out more about them. It helps me to gain insight into their work, making it richer and more meaningful to me as a viewer. I'm always fascinated to find out about their processes, and to see work in progress.

Lance Rubin, an artist who has spent about ten years exploring this subject, has this to say about selling art online: "To sell successfully, you need to have what people want. You need to have an abundance of the art for sale (choice for your buyers, and I mean 30-100 available pieces), a sales record (your buyers can see that people buy your stuff), it needs to be the size they want, and the color they want, and fit their pricing needs all at the same time. It should also be unique and creative. I have also noticed that a warm palette art sells much better than cool or cold palette. People also prefer credentials of some kind and a backstory or personal information about the artist. Whew! Who can pull all that off at the same time? It ain't easy."

So, after all this I'm afraid that my research has not been very successful. I've found almost no real definitive answers, and my questions have just raised more questions. I will have to leave it at that for now, but I'm continuing to research it, mostly by trial and error at this point. I will keep you apprised of what I find out. Right now, I have set up ecommerce on my artspan website, and am in the process of enabling prints on demand for some of my work. I'm also considering setting up a shop on Fine Art America, and connecting it to my facebook page; I was told by a friend that it wasn't difficult to do.

Oh, yeah, and I need to find another gallery or two to sell my work, since the Promenade Gallery was sold.

To quote Alyson Stanfield, "My hope with this lesson is that you understand the value of action.
I give you lots of ideas on my blog and in my newsletter, but there comes a point when you have to stop gathering ideas and information and start taking action.
How about today?"

Saturday, October 15, 2016

"Coversations" exhibit now at University of Kentucky

The "Conversations" printmaking exhibit, previously shown in the Main Gallery at Northern Kentucky University, is currently being exhibited at the University of Kentucky in Lexington until the end of October. I apologize for not getting this information out sooner. This exhibit highlights the work of 31 regional printmakers, showcasing a wide variety of techniques and interpretations of the theme.

"This exhibition will highlight 31 regional printmakers: Mario Barbi, Carola Bell, Joe Bohache, Jesse Byerly, Joline Costello Hartig, Sharmon Davidson, Joan Effertz, Louann Elliot, Mary Farrell, Rick Finn, Sheila Fleischer, Elizabeth Foley, Saad Ghosn, Jay Harriman, Tory Keith, Kurt Mohr, Michelle Lustenberg, Nicci Mechler, Susan Naylor, Kathleen Piercefield, Randel Plowman, Chris Plummer, Jill Ross, Brett Schiezer, Jonpaul Smith, Andy Sohoza, Jan Torrance Thomas,
Carole Winters, David Wischer, Clint Woods, and Mary Woodworth.
A broad range of printmaking techniques are represented including silk screen, etching, chine-collé, lithography, monoprint, collagraph, woodcut and more.
The exhibition was curated by Andrea Knarr, who taught printmaking at Northern Kentucky University for more than 30 years. A retrospective of her work is on display as well." (Tigerlily Press)

I don't have any photos from the NKU show, but I can share some from the UK exhibit, taken by artist David Wischer, who was instrumental in obtaining the space as well as hanging it.

The two pieces on the far left in photo are mine. Here's what they look like close up:

Analogy I, monotype with mixed media

Analogy II, monotype with mixed media

Accompanying text:

                                             I want to tell what the forests                                        
were like.
I will have to speak
in a forgotten language.
                                                                       ~ W. S. Merwin

If you're in or near Lexington, Kentucky, it's well worth checking out the exhibition. It's in the School of Art and Visual Studies:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Listen to the Rain

Listen to the Rain
ingredients: vintage book pages, sheet music, and other ephemera; lace, stitching

"It's In The Rain" by Enya

Every time
The rain comes down,
Close my eyes and listen.
I can hear the lonesome sound
Of the sky as it cries.

Listen to the rain
Here it comes again
Hear it in the rain

Feel the touch
Of tears that fall
...They won't fall forever
In the way the day will flow
All things come,
All things go.

Listen to the rain
...The rain...
Here it comes again...
Hear it in the rain
...The rain...

Late at night
I drift away -
I can hear you calling,
And my name
Is in the rain,
Leaves on trees whispering,
Deep blue sea's mysteries.

Even when
This moment ends,
Can't let go this feeling.
Will come again
In the sound,
Falling down,
Of the sky as it cries.
Hear my name in the rain.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Weekly Quick Collage: Summer Sweetness

Summer Sweetness
collage, 5.5 x 4.75

It's so bitter-sweet, saying goodbye to summer. While fall is truly glorious here, with perfect daytime temperatures, crisp, cool nights, and the riotous colors of the changing leaves, I can't help feeling a sense of loss, and a sadness that comes with knowing that winter is not far away.  Of course, this is the natural way of things, the cycles that are a part of the balance of seasons on Earth. Yet, it's difficult to reconcile myself to the coming darkness, cold, and seemingly colorless landscape. So I remind myself that the trees and plants are not dead, just taking a well-deserved restorative rest until spring, when they will burst forth with life again and continue to grow.

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?
                                                                                                                  ~ John Steinbeck

Happy fall, everyone!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Life of an Artist, part 1

Many people have the idea that being an artist must be fun, and certainly not a "REAL JOB". Because, hey, we just sit around and make art all day. It's not really work, it's play, right?

I wish! Unfortunately, that's far from the truth. Here is a list of some of the art business tasks I have to perfprm, not including actually making the art, or any general "life" stuff (like cooking, laundry, shopping, cleaning, gardening, etc.). Like the general life stuff, almost all of it is ongoing; you don't just do it once and cross it off your list. It's like once you're finished doing it, it's time to do it again.

1. Organize art photos on the computer, so I can find what I need when I need it.

2. Spray all the small collages, and all the big pieces that haven't been sprayed. (Lots and LOTS!)

3. Update images on my website.

4. Update images on pinterest.

5. Update images on facebook.

6. Make sure all work is labeled and signed.

7. Post something on instagram.

8. Post something on twitter.

9. Write a new blog post.

10. Photograph artwork and edit images with photoshop.

11. Re-photograph everything with my phone, including the small ones that have already been scanned, because you can't post to instagram except with your phone.

12. Spray feathers so they won't be eaten by little bugs.

13. Scan and edit images of small pieces.

14. Look for shows to apply for, and apply for them.

15. Figure out how to sell more work online: etsy? facebook? other sites like Saatchi, or Fine Art America? What?

16. Somehow figure out how to keep all my collage materials organized, and put stuff where it goes - ha!

17. Send out newsletter/e-vites. (This exhibit is now closed; I hope you got to see it.)

18. Frame work for shows.

19. Get more gallery representation.

20. Ship stuff to buyers or exhibits.

21. Figure out how to set shipping costs for ecommerce.

22. Find a good app for inventory/tracking artwork, and implement it.

23. Work on expanding my email list.

24. Set up cart feature and prints on demand feature on my website.

framing (bllecchh!)

I'm sure I could come up with more, but you get the picture, right? It's not all fun and games, there is a lot of hard work involved, and much of it tends to be either: a) things we don't know how to do (these things definitely weren't mentioned in school), b) things we hate to do, because they're boring, tedious, and a pain in the butt, or c) both. And for me, since I have mostly sold through galleries, the "business" parts of this list seem obscure and completely overwhelming.

 Of course, I do realize just how very, very fortunate I am to have time to work on my art, and I'm grateful for that every day. But it seems like there should be some better, easier way to sell it. Right now I'm trying to get serious about figuring all this out.

With that in mind, I posted a kind of survey question on my facebook page.  My question was,
 Have you ever taken courses or read articles by any of the many art business coaches out there, such as Ann Rea (Artists Who Thrive), Alyson Stanfield (Art Biz Coach), Gary Bolyer, Jason Horejs (Red Dot Blog), Renee Phillips (The Artrepreneur Coach), Barney Davey (The Art Marketing News), Kym Dolcimascolo (Creative Visions Rising), etc., etc.... And, if you have, which one(s), and did you find them helpful? Most people who responded to this question had never used an art coach; therefore, I didn't get much information where this is concerned. Of those who did use them, it seemed the cost would be prohibitive, at least for me right now. Though most of them do have blogs or videos where they provide some free coaching, these seem to be an entry into to the whole program, which you must pay for. And who can blame them, this is how they make their living, right? Alyson Stanfield was recommended, and I'm going to see if she is offering any online workshops. Feel free to share here if you have any pertinent information.

artwork waiting to be sprayed

Question # 2: Do you use software to inventory and keep track of information about your work, such as dimensions, price, location, etc.? If so, what program do you use, and how well does it work for you? I was a little surprised to find that no one who answered this used art-tracking software; most artists used either Word documents for invoices, etc., and/or Excel for listing and tracking work.

Artwork Inventory

 I know there are several programs out there that are specifically designed for artists, including Artsala, which is put out by Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery. There are several others listed online, such as Artwork Archive , Art Cloud, Gyst, Artwork Inventory, Tessera, Art Engine, eArtist, Working Artist, Artworkspro, vBook, ArtSystems, Artlook, Artist Organizer Pro, and more. Here is a quick comparison of software that is mobile-device friendly, Art Inventory Software Compared by Andrea Buckland. Another comparison article by Christine Wong Yap is here.  Artpromotivate has a comparison article here. Some of these systems are Cloud-based, and some are not. Also there is a wide range of prices; some have monthly fees, while some have a one time purchase fee. Some of them will also host a website for an additional fee.  However, almost all have a free trial, which would be very important to me, since I'm not at all sure what all of this mumbo-jumbo in the reviews and ads mean.      

I haven't looked at any of them in depth yet, but that will be one of my next chores. If you have used any of these, or know anything about them, please share here; there are probably others trying to figure this out as well.

Also, this post has gotten so long that I've decided to divide it into two separate posts. I will be posting another question on facebook, and investigating answers. Please stay tuned for the next post, where we'll get into some other things you may want to know about.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my art business saga! Happy arting!