Monday, November 28, 2016

Under The Stars

Under the Stars, 10.5 x 8.5 inches
ingredients: vintage book cover; vintage book parts, ephemera, and sheet music; found objects (antique optical lens), stitching

This one is definitely a maximalist piece. The spell check informs me that this not a real word, but it is because I just made it up! To me, it is the opposite of minimalism; in other words, did I go too far? Everything but the kitchen sink, right? For some reason, however, I think it works. Everything, after all is under the stars.

This piece is available for purchase on my website, here, along with several different-sized prints of the piece. Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Artists For Love

Browsing through the blogs I follow, I have noticed a common theme lately. Many of us are searching for a way to deal with and heal from the images and words of soul-draining discord, hatred, and fear that surrounds us. At times it has just been too difficult to watch the news, to see the mess that humans are making of the world, and the unrest that plagues our country. As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, it can have a negative affect on my health, and I need to disengage from it from time to time. Some friends have said they are taking a break from facebook and/or other social media, or that they're staying offline altogether.

Strategy: Focus on the good things - like this gorgeous sunset.

Ironically, however, I have found much comfort from my blogger and facebook friends, as they share not only their fears and doubts, but also their encouragement, love, and inspiration. There are many wonderful people in the world, whose words of hope and inspiration are like healing drops of wisdom that have washed over my soul. Words do indeed heal; in art there is much power if we choose to see it.

For instance, I found these wise words on Terri Windling's beautiful blog, Myth and Moor: "... Stories do not give instruction, they do not explain how to love a companion or how to find God. They offer, instead, patterns of sound and association, of event and image. Suspended as listeners and readers in these patterns, we might reimagine our lives. It is through story that we embrace the great breadth of memory, that we can distinguish what is true, and that we may glimpse, at least occasionally, how to live without despair in the midst of the horror that dogs and unhinges us."    ~ Barry Lopez

Terri also shares these thoughts from Toni Morrison:
Troubled times, she says, are "precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
"I know the world is bruised and bleeding," she adds, "and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge -- even wisdom. Like art."

Don't forget that the world is still filled with breath-taking beauty.

I found great inspiration in these and other words by Effy Wild, who is a facebook friend, an artist, a teacher, and a wonderfully articulate writer. In a recent blog post, she writes: "I realized, thanks to a few shining lights in my universe, that all I could do in the face of this was *what I already do* but more fiercely. With more love. More compassion. More emphasis on mutual understanding. And better boundaries....
But before I, personally, could do anything, I had to give myself space to feel what I felt. Rage. Mistrust. Deep, feminine wounding. Fear. All of it had to rise up, and all of it needed expressing.
And once I'd done that, I knew that the right answer for me was to do more of the same, but more fiercely.  I knew that the right answer, for me, was to treat everyone like they are God In Drag (thank you, Ram Dass), and to remember, above all else, that We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home (more Ram Dass)."
I agree. More of the same, but more fiercely. Please read the entire post; in fact, you'd be well served to read everything she writes.

The world is still full of random beauty...

 Then, I found this on Seth Apter's blog, The Altered Page.  Seth has always been an artist and blogger who has focused on bringing people together, generously coming up with exciting projects that promote collaboration among members of the art blogging community.  In this blog post, he says, "We are all individuals with complex experiences, unique ideas, personal histories, and our very own baggage. This guarantees that life will be complicated and challenging. However, this post stands as a reminder of the importance of support, love, acceptance and respect. Always. And the rejection of bigotry and intolerance to difference. Always.

For me, this is not about who voted for who -- although I know for many that cannot be dismissed. For me, this is about something bigger than the election. This is about taking an individual step toward a collective healing. Naive? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.

In that vein, a group of artists have created the hashtag #artistsforlove. Use it, embrace it, share it. I first read about it here and then here.  Take the time to click the links and see how you can join this movement and create your own poster that celebrates rather than diminishes inclusivity and love."

Thank you, Seth, Effy, Terri and everyone who promotes tolerance and love.


Monday, November 14, 2016

The Heart Wants What it Wants

The Heart Wants What it Wants
ingredients: vintage ephemera, magazine cut-outs, image transfers

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller
Read more at:
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller
Read more at:
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller
Read more at:
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.”
―  Blaise Pascal

“What should I do about the wild and the tame? The wild heart that wants to be free, and the tame heart that wants to come home. I want to be held. I don't want you to come too close. I want you to scoop me up and bring me home at nights. I don't want to tell you where I am. I want to keep a place among the rocks where no one can find me. I want to be with you.”
― Jeanette Winterson

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wind and Water

I had forgotten all about this, the piece that was in the "Think Square" exhibition over a year ago. Going through photos of my work a few minutes ago, I realized I had never shared it here on my blog, or anywhere online. So, anyway, here it is.

Wind and Water
monotype with mixed media, 5 x 5 inches

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Taking Refuge

Taking Refuge
ingredients: antique handwritten letter fragments, Italian currency, vintage ephemera, image transfers, ginko leaf, monoprint

To take refuge is to commit oneself to the Buddhist path. According to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche:

"In the Buddhist tradition, the purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. Taking refuge is a matter of commitment and acceptance and, at the same time, of openness and freedom. By taking the refuge vow we commit ourselves to freedom.

“I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the dharma.
I take refuge in the sangha.”

So becoming a refugee is acknowledging that we are homeless and groundless, and it is acknowledging that there is really no need for home, or ground. Taking refuge is an expression of freedom, because as refugees we are no longer bounded by the need for security. We are suspended in a no-man’s land in which the only thing to do is to relate with the teachings and with ourselves."

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?"