Archive for October, 2008

Dances With Horses

Filling the well.
Well I enjoyed my horse filled weekend entirely. I spent a lovely morning at Noble Friesians just ambling around the pastures and enjoying the gorgeous weather. The horses were fantastic and after a cursory snuffle, they found me completely unremarkable (and treat free) so they promptly went back to grazing.

This works well for me because it is notoriously hard to get a good photo of a horse that is in my face and slurbering on my camera. I was hoping for some cavorting (to be clear, I was hoping for some cavorting from the horses, I haven’t “cavorted” in decades) but mostly I got grazing shots, (still an excellent way to spend a morning.) I shot over a dozen rolls of film and will share some pics if I get anything worth looking at.

Rachael, the barn manager let me wander at will among them, which is certainly a testament to the breed that you could let a complete stranger in their pasture and have no worries.

I do love Friesians. To bad they are way out of my price range. These horses are worth anywhere from $35,000 to $150,000 depending on which mare you’re looking at. That’s a lot of $$$ grazing in the backyard. Many thanks to Rachael for showing me around and letting me photograph these stunning horses.

Dances With Horses.
After the friesians and a nice visit with Carol Eilers, editor of Apples ‘N Oats magazine, I returned to Waterloo, IA to attend the Dances With Horses event being held as a fund-raiser for ASPIRE which a non-profit therapeutic riding program for individuals with disabilities. In addition to some headlining acts like the Andalusian stallion, Acierto and his owner Laura Amandis (shown here with the rearing Acierto) they had a few acts including the kids themselves. (bottom photo) Again a totally delightful way to spend the evening.

I was surprised to realize I had seen Laura and Acierto at Kentucky Horse Park earlier this year. I think I was so in love with Alborozo that I wasn’t so very impressed with Acierto then. Also, he was not as cooperative in the intense heat of Kentucky as he was at the “Dances” event. Their’s really is an impressive act and demonstrates the bond they have between them.

It is important for me to take the time to do activities like these, it keeps me motivated. I think of it as “filling the well” (or “feeding the source” . . . “tweaking the muse”. . .) sort of activities. I come back from stuff like this and just want to set right down at the drafting table and create something. Which is exactly what I’m doing.

No more WIP’s of Colton, though. I will post the finished painting . . just as soon as I finish it, that with any luck will be today or tomorrow. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and mumbling over and over to myself, “I think I can . . I think I can . . .”

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Horse Safari

I’ve got big plans today. Though currently I am bleary eyed and staggering around in the wee hours because I need to get on the road to be at a Friesian farm by 11am. Which BTW is like 3 1/2-4 hours away, not including gas or potty breaks. I generally like to get up at the crack of . . . oh say 7:30 or 8am (not including art fairs as most of them I’m up at 5.) This morning is art fair hours. Urgh.

I am not a morning person, just ask my husband. He has learned it is best not to make loud noises, sudden movements or direct eye contact with me until after I’ve had my first caffeine jolt, in the blissful liquid known as Diet Coke. So with tumbler in hand I write this. Urm . . . now you understand the brief nature of this post.

After the Friesian photo extravaganza, I am going to attend the Dances With Horses event held in Waterloo Iowa. I am sure I will have loads of photos from both places when I return which will be Sunday, though I may not get a post up until Monday. See you then.

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In This Economy

Three reasons for slumping art sales.
It is not “new” news that it is getting harder to make a living selling art. Besides my gallery, my primary mode of sales is through art fairs. What once you could have earned in 12 events now takes 35. Overall sales may be going down but expenses are still going up.

“. . . there is something in the mind of a buyer (much like dogs, wild animals and children) they can smell fear. . . and it makes them nervous”

More and more of my artist friends are quiting the art thing and getting “real jobs.” At Riverssance I talked with 2 such artists. One has been earning his living doing the art fair circuit for 26 years. The other also had more than 15 years as an artist and now works as a teacher. Most artists I know are pondering quitting what they do for the comfort of a 9 to 5. And who can blame them.

  • Fear and the news media. Anyone who listens to the news these days hears frightening stories about rising costs and bail out of major lenders. It seems the global economy is in no better shape than the local one. All of this talk has people scared and rightly so. Who knows what tomorrow’s news story may bring.
  • For Profit Many events are put on as a “for profit” by promoters. This means they tend to “bulk up” on artists whose booth fees help make the profit. While a large size show has more appeal and may draw bigger crowds. It can also mean the sales get split between more artists. A show of 200 artists will draw as much attention as an event of 300, but the larger event may mean most artists go home with less.
  • Too many events in one city. Also, I personally believe that more and more cities are hosting an ever increasing number of art or craft events. What this leads to is the lack of motivation to “buy now.” I mean why should they if there will be another event in a week or so. More art shows, much like too many artists per event, lead to a thinning of the sales because of too much competition.

Ebb and Flow
Now I am not really a “the sky is falling” kind of personality. (I would never have made it this far, if I were.) I believe life is ebb and flow. Things are going to be tight and then eventually they will get easier. And once you are floating along on easy street, undoubtedly they will revert to being tighter again. Being prepared for this means there is less fear when it actually happens.

And now for the good news:
Three things you can do to boost sales

  • Be confident.
    It is especially important in this economy to not buy into all the fear that is being pushed at us from every angle. In order to sell you need to be confident, not desperate. All this angst will not help you be successful one iota. When people start talking fear I usually counter with positives. “Yes, my artfair income is down but my gallery income is up.” People are still buying art. They might be getting smaller or less elaborate work but they are still buying.

    “. . . don’t complain about anything to a potential buyer, ever.”

    Also there is something in the mind of a buyer that (much like dogs, wild animals and children) they can smell fear . . . and it makes them nervous. A possible scenario for a train of thought is “If the artist is struggling, that means their art is not selling . . . and if their not selling, that may mean the work isn’t any good. . . and if no one else thinks their work is good, why should I buy it?” And trust me folks, everyone wants to pick a winner. Everyone wants to buy work from someone who others are collecting. The whole starving artist thing holds no appeal for the majority of buyers.

    One last thought on a positive attitude: There was a study done where people who looked back on conversations they had, would remember it as a negative experience if the conversation was about negative things, even if the topic had nothing to do with the people involved in the conversation. In other words, don’t complain about anything to a potential buyer, ever. And if the potential buyer starts talking negatively about anything, agree subtly (perhaps nod) and discreetly direct the conversation to a more pleasant topic. You want people to remember talking with you as nothing but a pleasant experience.

    You can diversify in two ways.

    • 1. Take a hard, honest look at your art. Figure out what is selling and why, then follow that theory to create new work. I can almost hear the sighing and rolling of eyes. Seriously, if your trying to sell artwork, you need to make art that people want. I’m not saying you need to reinvent yourself. Just look at your art that is selling and make more.
    • 2. The second way to diversify is to create a variety of sizes and price ranges. I do this by selling smaller open edition prints and note cards along with my originals and large canvas and paper prints. Also this year I started doing the small original oil pastels on handmade paper. I sell them at bargain prices of $200-$300 and most are one of a kind, never to have prints or cards done of them. They have been a success and I continue to enjoy creating these little gems.

    Study your craft
    Become better at what you do. Not only in regards to your artwork but also your sales technique and your business management skills. Be brave and analyze every aspect of your business. Seek out information for solutions to improve the areas you think could use assistance. You can take classes, subscribe to magazines or get books. There is loads of information on the web. Just get after it.

    Here are a couple business oriented books reviewed on my blog.

    How To Profit from the Art Print Market

    When Good People Write Bad Sentences

    I will make a concentrated effort to share more business books on this blog in the future, as I have a library full of them.

    Also ArtCalendar magazine is an excellent resource for the beginning and professional artist.

    And once again I will point you at Katherine Tyrrell’s blog Making A Mark. She recently had a post on the art economy with some links that I’ve yet to check out. But plan too, as soon as I have a moment.

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  • Blog Award

    I got a notice from Undaunted last week that she had given me a blog award. How very flattering. Thank you. I would have commented on it sooner but it took me this long to get the image transferred. As you may already know, I am not very computer savvy though I have learned a lot since beginning this blog. In the end, I asked my guru of all things electronic (namely Mike my husband) to do it for me.

    Part of this award is to select 7 of your favorite blogs to “pass along the love” as it were. I am more than a little embarrassed to say that I don’t actually even read seven blogs faithfully, I read 3 blogs (of which one is Undaunted’s) and sporadically at that. Undaunted assured me it was okay to claim my award anyway.

    Here are the three blogs I most read, though I should say that in my defense, I have visited hundreds.

    1. Undaunted’s (aka Linda) blog Rediscovering Art. I enjoy her blog because she is clever and funny and honest (the three most important reasons I read and return to a blog.) She is just sticking her toe into the waters that are the art world. And it is enjoyable to watch her confidence and style blossom. She’s full of talent, she just need to get out there.

    2. Maggie Stiefvater’s blog Greywaren Art. Way back, when I first starting thinking of starting a blog, I searched for horse art blogs. Surprisingly there were pretty much none out there at the time, other than Maggie’s. Hers was the first blog that I read all the way back to the beginning, which includes her first blog Smiling Horse Art. She made me laugh and her artwork is excellent.

    Her blog recently has turned more into writing than art, because she is a published author with a sweet book deal. Congratulations on that BTW! This has led me to not visit her blog very often of late. She is one of those rare individuals who has creativity and talent in many areas and the drive and determination to see them to their fullest potential.

    3. Katherine Tyrrell’s blog Making a Mark I have mentioned her blog often and it is worth a look to anyone who is in the art business. Nuff said, check it out.

    Comment on Comments
    Truth is, I really want to thank the aforementioned Undaunted and Angela Finney (a fellow critter artist and ummm . . . slightly above average aged gamer, like myself) for their input, comments and interactions. Currently I average between 50 and 100 readers a day, but these two are always asking questions and offering their support. What this means to me is that I stay motivated to blog. Plus they get me to thinking, which in turn leads to new posts.

    Thanks to both of you. Your input is invaluable and has made this whole blogging experience enjoyable. Without you guys, I would truly be writing in the dark.

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    What's That Noise?

    Shh . . . do you hear it? It sounds like a kind of a frantic pitter-patting. No, it’s not Budda trying to catch me unawares. That my friends is the sound of panic . . . (in a hushed voice) and I think it’s gaining on me.

    So I am down to the wire on the Colton painting. I have 2 weeks left (and that includes time for scanning and print making AND shipping. Plus depending on time and just how generous I am feeling, framing as well. YIKES!!!)

    I haven’t done a single thing on the Colton painting since the last time I posted a WIP. And so now that art shows are done (for a little while) and I have met most (there was quite a few) my deadlines with the exception of this one. It is time to chain myself to the drafting table and get after it. I had seriously thought of keeping my gallery doors locked yesterday for a full day of uninterrupted working, but in the end I kept the gallery open. I mean really, that is what I am supposed to do. And yes I had customers. And yes it blew my afternoon with no work getting done on the painting.

    So what’s a girl to do? Come in, in the evenings of course. When I can keep my doors locked completely guilt free. I was at the gallery until 9:30 last night and in by then the following morning. I plan to work non-stop on Colton today, until some framing comes in via SpeeDee delivery, and then I’ll work on framing for awhile. But I’ll be back tonight.

    And to add to the pressure I really want to run wild this weekend. There is a horse event that I really want to see, that I missed last year as it was same weekend as the Octagon. But this year we got separate weekends. Whoo Hoo!

    The best laid plans . . .
    So since I am short on time I had decided to start a new painting using oil pastels. As they are so much quicker. (Let’s call that Plan B as Plan A was my first WCP painting of Colton.) But then as the hours rolled by while I was looking at my reference photos trying to come up with a new composition. I realized that I was wasting time and since the hard part of my watercolor pencil painting of Colton was done (and Karla Siebert of IERAL had already approved it) I’d be farther ahead to just finish it. Besides, I can’t work oil pastels at night because of the whole metamerism thingy that happens.

    But then, late last night as I lay in bed glassy eyed, with images of Colton rolling through my mind, I had an Aha! moment. A composition came to me, that would be simple yet artsy. I thought “Thats it! That’s what I’ll paint. I’ll go in first thing in the morning and (with doors locked mind you) get the new drawing started and with any luck I’ll be able to knock that painting out in 3-5 days.”

    So what do I do? I get up early, run into the gallery and look at the Colton piece I have so far, glance at my stack of reference photos and return to plan A. Finish what I’ve got. It’s a good start and has the potential to be a good painting.

    So thats how I know it is panic gaining on me. Because I am switching my mind back and forth, when what I really need to do is stick with Plan A. And that’s exactly what I’m gonna do . . . I think.

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