Archive for June, 2008

Lambs Framed

Okay, so now that I have framed them up, they have really grown on me. I did them different than my other handmade papers primarily because I used a frame I had in stock since we leave today for Omaha. It’s a perfect fit, just a little larger than I would use had I framed it as the others.

We’ll be back on Monday. Wish me good weather . . . better yet great sales. 🙂

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Art Show Vans

At Least The Cat Looks Dignified
So here is a photo of me and Budda crashed out on the couch in the front room of the gallery, resting after a hard day of packing. Apparently Budda thinks my gut is more squishy soft than the couch.

I am actually threatening my husband Mike not to take the picture. (Perhaps it would have worked better had I not been smiling. Hmmm.) I went ahead and posted it because I thought what the heck, your amusement is worth more than my humiliation.

The Land Whale
So we have yet again packed for another adventurous art fair. This time we are going to Omaha, NE. This fair generally gets anywhere from 60,000+ fair goers.

Here’s a photo of our business van. Isn’t she a sexy beast? Okay it’s a land whale, but it holds an unbelievably huge amount of stuff and gets between 20-21 miles to the gallon, fully loaded for an event. By todays standards that is hardly high recommendations, but for a vehicle of this size, with an 8-cylinder engine and towing 1500 to 2000 lbs. It’s phenomenal. And I love her for it.

Important Van Features

So for those of you thinking about getting into doing artfairs, (with the exclusion of jewelers, they can show up in a compact, if they know how to pack it.) Here’s a few pointers for choosing the right vehicle.

  • Square is good. The boxier the better. Before this van we had a GMC Safari. Also boxy in shape. The reason for this is you can pack more stuff in square than you can in a round type of curvy van, say like a Ford Windstar.
  • Tinted Windows are nice. They not only keep the interior cooler, but they also kinda hide the fact that your vehicle is packed with “stuff.” Unfortunatley this van does not have that feature. Our old van did have tinteds and we really miss that in this one. But this one only had 39,000 miles when we bought it, which makes up for the windows.
  • Measure your interior and the space between your wheel wells. This is really most important when it comes to your display panels. Whatever kind you’ve got, homemade or pre-made, generally they are largish in size. Most pre-made panels run approximately 3’x 6′. Display panels are really the most difficult object to pack and make fit.
  • Note the doors that fully extend open (both on the back and the sides) allowing you the maximum space to put large objects inside.
  • Bigger is better. As I said, our previous van was a Safari which was considerably smaller. We got almost as much in it, but we had to pack it in a specific order, in order to get it all to fit. Which meant we generally had to tear everything completely down so we could put our tents in the bottom, then the display, then artwork, totes, etc. If the weather is nice, this is no big deal. However, if it is driving rain and lightening, having to pack in this way, becomes a noticeably a bigger pain in the arse. Also with the larger size van, we can now do two booths at an event with plenty of inventory for both.
  • This is the typical art fair artist vehicle. This and trucks towing trailers.

Cargo Vans
This is actually a passenger van that we have removed the seats from. It is essentially the same as a cargo van with some important, comfort related distinctions.

  • Cargo van are often an empty shell on the inside. Literally the raw metal of the vehicle make up the interior. This means the van gets colder in the winter and hotter in the summer. Many artists custom build in an interior for comfort.
  • Also often cargo van do not usually come with air conditioning (and possibly cruise control) standard. Be sure to check that out if your looking at one.
  • And lastly most cargo vans have very few windows. This may not be a big deal if you pack it to the ceiling. We pack most of the time so we can see out our windows. This really helps when driving in unfamiliar cities.

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Oil Pastel Lambs on Handmade Paper

Twins – 10 1/2 x 13
Oil Pastel on handmade paper
Copyright by Mona Majorowicz

Okay, so here they are in all their revolting cuteness. They have a rather nasty gray green color in my raw scan (shown here) that doesn’t exist in real life. The painting actually has lovely pastels of yellow, pink, green and blue in the shadow areas. I swear if they got anymore Easteresque, they would have to come with their own bag of candy. At least to my credit, I stopped short by not adding clover and butterflies.

All I can say for myself is apparently I needed a little of the Too Cute, or they wouldn’t have turned out this way. I bravely posted the finished painting to remind myself what can happen when doing baby animals that are too cute by nature. So please, dear readers, when next I say something like . . . I think I’ll do some baby bunnies, little duckies or romping kittens. You’ll remind me of this moment. All you’ll have to say is “remember the lamb incident.”

Hmmm. Maybe I should make Easter cards with image? Always thinking about marketing.

Personal Note: Since I have spent soooo much time talking about marketing, I thought I should mention the content of this post is NOT how you sell a painting. Never, (ever, ever) talk like this about your own work. I pondered whether I should even write this, but it amused me to do so. Plus, I rarely take myself too seriously.

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Here’s my progress thus far on my lambs. Still not liking the cute thing, but what am gonna do about it? I put down brown paper so when I color the deckled edges I don’t completely mess up my drafting table.

These lambs are from our first year crop of lambs. A few years after we moved to Iowa we decided we needed to raise some livestock and we thought sheep were the critters for us.

We bought about a dozen ewe lambs of mixed heritage and let them mature fully. We like to think of our critters health in terms of the long haul, and waiting a little longer to breed them was they way to go. So when the time finally came, we went shopping for a ram. Since we had so few ewes, and since we intended to keep the ewe lambs, we picked out an older (cheaper) ram, which we would replace the following season.

He was a handsome stately gentleman, whom we named Chester. (why? Mike liked the sound of it. And of course “He just looks like a Chester.”) Chester was gentle, and there was nothing bully-like in his behavior at all. (You know, what you actually picture a ram’s personality to be.)

Well the girls loved him. He was always surrounded by two or three ewes, nuzzling his nose and ears, leaning against him and just in general following him around like a bunch of groupies. They never gave him a moments rest.

A few short weeks later we found him dead in the paddock. No coyotes or anything noticeable as to why he died. So we just surmised it was old age. Chester had done his job though. Every ewe had at least one lamb.

The following season we got a new younger ram. The girls wanted no part of him. He was course where Chester was gentle. He harassed them while Chester just let them come to him. It was then that it dawned on us that perhaps the girls had just sexed Chester to death. I mean he was older, but they really just kept after him the whole time. Nothing rough, just always gently touching him and surrounding him, grinning and winking.

Not sure if there is a moral here. Maybe, guys be kind to the ladies and you’ll get all the nookie you can handle? Hmm. Probably not appropriate comment for my g-rated blog huh? All I know is we never got another ram who the ewes like half as well as Chester. And oddly enough in the many years that followed, we never liked any other ram half as well either.

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Artist Myth #2

Build It And They Will Come.
I have discussed this previously but thought it was worth going over one more time.

In my gallery, I am often dealing with young (as in new to the artworld, age here has no relavance.) aspiring artists who cling to the fantasy that once they have their first print made, get into their first gallery or get their website created, they will get discovered or their path to success will be secure. I am sorry to say this is probably not going to be the reality.

All of these things (getting into the print market, galleries and getting online) are really good steps in the right direction. They have the potential to make you successful. But you must still do the work. They must be marketed as vigorously as if you were marketing the actual artwork. Planning is critical to making your new endeavor meet your expectations.

Here’s a few things to think about:

  • What markets are you trying to reach?
  • How much are you wanting to sell your work for?
  • How much money do you want to earn? (gross/net)
  • What is the time frame to reach your goals?
  • Does this sound like fun?

Something To Try
If you are planning on launching a new website, try Googling a description that you think someone might use as a search term for finding you. So for instance, I would try horse art, equine art, wildlife art, oil pastel artist or any combination there of. The search results for Horse Art is 4,840,000. Wow. The search results for Draft Horse Art has 255,000. At one time my website was 3rd down on that list. Yup, Wild Faces Gallery was listed 3 of 255,000. This took a great deal of work to get that kind of ranking and unless we continued to work it like a part-time job, (which we didn’t) it was lost. I have no idea where we are at now, but it is nowhere near the first 3 pages which is the golden spot for Google searches. Most people won’t look past 3 pages for anything.

My point here is not to make you feel hopeless. My point (as always) is to make you think about what you expect to achieve, plan how to make it happen. And to give you the right amount of nudging and confidence, so you take the first step.

Unless you know what your up against, you are more likely to be disappointed with your results which may leave you feeling disappointed in your work. Success in most areas of the art business have very little to do with the quality of your work. Quality is up to you, business is business, whether it be selling cars or selling paintings. In order for you to achieve any measure of success you need to set yourself up to win it.

I don’t know if there is any one magic bullet. If the possibility of being “discovered” without marketing yourself is even possible. Most (if not all) of the big dog artists had to pay their dues. (Bev Doolittle for instance, worked in graphic design and sold small watercolors in Yellowstone for $10-15 before she was “discovered.”) That being said, you may not necessarily have to work like a dog every moment of every day (it is just how I do it.)

The path to “making it” begins by starting with easily attainable goals, (baby steps) then continue to set yourself up to for bigger and bigger challenges that allow you to feel successful, as well as build your confidence. There is no “one” answer or way to success. Try several different things. Experiment, don’t take failure personally and most importantly have fun!

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Artist Myths

As artists we all are desperate to sell our work or have it validated in some way. This allows us to fall prey to certain myths that draw us in and in the end may only leave us feeling frustrated and insecure.

I will post the two most common art myths. The Exposure myth and the Build It and They Will Come myth. These myths tend to have their basis in fact which is why the remain.

Artist Myth #1
Exposing my work to as many people as possible will help me to “make” it.

I can hear some of you already ”But Mona . . . How can exposure be a myth. I can’t sell my work unless it gets seen.”

Yes, artwork must be seen by someone to be sold. But what you need to think about is who are you exposing your work to. I think of this as Qualifying. A subway station (airport, bus station, etc,) may get thousands of people through in a day, but are they going to buy artwork? Probably not. Most are in a hurry to get where their going on time. You are getting your work exposed, but not to the right crowd.

I would think that you will need to find out what works best for you through trial and error. Some non-traditional venues are great and some art shows are . . . not so much. Personally what has worked best for me, is to place my art where people are going to “buy” art. Art fairs (for me in my area) are where that happens. I’ve done all sorts of non-traditional venues, like trendy cafes, Barnes & Noble bookstore, horse expos & zoo conferences, libraries. Most of them were beneficial in one way or the other, but not always financially.

If you have limited time and resources and want to get a monetary return for time and effort invested, you need to qualify whatever event you are thinking about. Heres a few thing to think about:

  • Are the people in this location going to be interested in what you do?
  • Is it a financially upscale area, where people have disposable income?
  • Does the event (store, organization etc.) have a vested interest in your success?
  • Are they promoting the event or your artwork, or are sales dependent on passive selling. (someone just happens to see it and want it, though they are there for unrelated reasons)
  • What are the risks? Do they have insurance against damage or theft? If your outdoors, will weather be a factor?
  • Exactly how many people are we talking about? If the event is promising exposure find out how many. I’ve been approached by events that think 2,500 is a great number. In general I rarely consider anything less than 30,000 people (for a weekend) and thats at an event where they are coming to “buy” art. That being said, I am at a place where my time is at a premium and I do so many events, that unless there is an almost guaranteed payoff, I’ll pass.

In general if some events, cafes, bookstores (insert your non-traditional venue here) use exposure as the major reason why you should participate in their gig, you should perhaps give it more thought. It doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. But you should be clear in your expectations for it and have a firm grasp on what you want to achieve by participating.

On a Personal Note: I apologize for not being my usual perky, (umm. . . no) bubbly, (huh-uh) spunky, charming, chipper? . . .Oh heck lets just say my usual snarkiness. I am feeling a bit over-worked, over-stressed and just in general a malaise. I’m sure I’ll be back to my usual self in a day or two. So please bear (bare?) oh geez . . . have patience.

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Art Horse Magazine

So I just had to tell you about a new magazine I subscribed to called Art Horse Magazine. Whats the magazine about you ask? The name says it all.

I wanted to post a picture of one of their covers in this blog but they didn’t have one available for use. And I am not the type to just take an image off their site, even if it is to promote their mag. So no beautiful horse picture today.

It was one of those things where it kept coming up in conversations, and an artist friend of mine is designing their award medals for the art show they hold and had called me to brainstorm ideas, and Carol Eilers the editor/publisher of Apples ‘N Oats magazine, actually sent me a link to their site. I’m not one to ignore all these not so subtle hints and went to their website. I not only subscribed but purchased all the back issues they had available, (which was like 5.)

It is a lovely magazine with gorgeous art photos (the kind that make me say “Damn, I wish I had painted that!”) In general per issue there appears to be an article on a breed, an equine artist, on 3-dimensional work, equine history and some misc. My only complaint is they are too small (issues need to be bigger as in more pages,) and there’s not near enough issues per year. (only 2 a year) By the time I’ll get the next one, I’ll have forgotten I ordered it.

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