Archive for November, 2009

So When Is It Considered Work?

Recently I was talking with Louise Shimon about my post regarding taking days off from work. And it got me to thinking about a blog post of Ulla Hennig’s a few weeks back about defining what work is. I am very fuzzy on what qualifies as work since what I do for fun is also my business.

I consider a day off as not coming into the gallery and just doing what I want at home. This is extremely rare for much of the year. Technically, I often have Sundays off (unless I’m working an event) but I still go into the gallery pretty much as any other day. (which makes it feel like it’s any other day.) My Sundays are usually reserved for artwork only but often I will blog as well. So is the act of creating art, work?

Or for that matter is blogging considered work?
I mean I started this blog with the intention of helping direct traffic to my website. Well that and hoping all this daily writing would improve my word-smithing abilities when writing for my Apples ‘n Oats column. Though, I think if anything my conversational style of writing has influenced my professional writing. Not the other way around.

So when I force myself to sit down and “work” on a painting that I am not “feeling” at that moment, would that then be considered work?

But then, is it “not work” when I sit down to do something that I’m all inspired and excited to do.

When I apply the parameters of “Would I still do this activity regardless of whether my financial stability was attached to it?” It helps me to get closer to defining work vs. play. I mean I have always drawn and created (for fun) long before the thought of selling entered into it. And if I became a millionaire tomorrow I would still create. But truthfully, I would spend far less time doing it. And I would spend more time doing things that I consider play, like riding horse and traveling.

I would have to say that I probably would never have started a blog if not for my art business. But for the most part blogging doesn’t feel that much like work, despite being surprisingly time consuming.

Oddly enough taking reference photos, though done exclusively for my art business, has never (not once that I can think of) felt like it was work. Totally fun.

It’s confusing for me because I have bundled my way of earning a living with my fun pastime (my art) suddenly everything can be classified as work even when at times it’s play. And the flip side of that is, that something I used to do exclusively for enjoyment alone, has now become my job.

Anyone got any opinions they’d like to share about how they define work in regards to their art versus play, please comment. Actually I would love to hear from anyone who is doing something they enjoy as part of their financial support.

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Spanish Gold work in progress
17 x 22
Watercolor Pencil on suede

Now that I have my background wash in, it looks so totally different I couldn’t help myself but to put up one more work in progress shot.

The suede makes putting in watercolor pencil washes so much easier than using wc paper. I’m not sure why but it’s almost effortless. What would have taken me most of an afternoon took about 20 minutes. Of course it then requires like an hour of dry time. But at least with that I can work on other areas or simply do something else for awhile.

As it’s Sunday I came in a bit late and plan on getting this painting up to the tweaking stage. The big job for this afternoon is to sketch out this year’s Christmas card and get it ready to go. I can see it clearly in my head. Now whether or not I get it out onto paper is a whole other matter.

To quote Angela Finney Happy painting!”

The background, shoulder area and forelock and mane are all just washed in. The finishing work is yet to be done in these areas. The final cropping will be decided at the end of the painting.

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Liberty: Friesian Stallion Prints are now available at Wild Faces Gallery.

Please visit our website for sizes and print information. (Also the website has a much better enlargement of the artwork.)

Honestly, we have a bunch of new images in print to add to the website. But I wanted to get this up before the next issue of Apples ‘n Oats gets out. Which from what I hear will be any day now.

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Blindy McBlind Needs Your Help!

Blindy McBlind is one of my barn cats. (yeah, I know. How politically correct am I?) He is only recently blinded and still learning how to cope. (And no I’m not psychic. Before this he was simply referred to as Young Gingy)

Blindy is a 3 year old ginger tom cat who was perfectly fine up until this Spring when he disappeared for a few months (as toms are want to do.) Sometime in early October he showed up one day walking oddly It was on closer inspection that I could see that his eyes were milky and odd looking. And that’s when I realized he was blind.

Artist Rendering of Blindy (because the artist kept forgetting to take her camera home)

And no Blindy does not wear dark glasses. But I bet he totally would if he realized how awesome he looks with them on.

My first instinct was to neuter him and bring him into the gallery. Mike was all “NO!

So okay, if I really wanted too, an argument would have ensued. But I never really “wanted” to. I mean he has lived outside his whole life, and at 3 (going on 4) he may still spray despite the neutering. Not to mention a blind cat in the gallery. A gallery full of glass and breakables and sharp edges. Yeah, I don’t think so.

So then my next thought was to help him cope. Mike’s like, “You don’t really expect him to live through winter do you?” And I’m all indignant like “I don’t know but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.” while mentally adding “so bite me.”

What this has meant is taking extra time calling to him so he can navigate to me at meal times. Recently he has gotten really good at this. Early on every time he would step into a twig (or a stiff piece of grass) he would alter his direction by 90 degrees. So one or two twigs later he may be halfway across the yard in the opposite direction. I’d call and call and sometimes I’d just have to go over and pick him up and carry him into the barn and plunk him down in the middle of a pile off food. He’s gotten so good now he is almost always at my feet by the time I’m done putting out the food. (Sometimes he’s even purring.)

I had thought about drawing some mice pointing and laughing at Blindy, but I figured I was already pushing my luck (politically correctness-wise) but publicly admitting I called him Blindy McBlind.

This morning I was watching him thinking maybe he has some partial sight restoration because he is so vastly improved in directionals and walking confidence. He then promptly walked into a wall. But I called out and he then came right to me.

I also put down a bowl of water next to him while he’s eating. I splash a little so he hears it. He has yet to drink so he must be getting water somewhere. Year round the only constant water source is the horse water tank (which is heated in winter.) However he would have to jump up to get a drink and Blindy has become quite terrestrial. I can’t picture him jumping up into the unknown, so I still put the water bowl down every day, anyway.

I told Mike I was doing this and he’s all “You can’t do that all winter.” all I say (slightly huffy) “I’m gonna do what I can.” And besides why the heck can’t I?

Okay, so Mike is not usually so negative a guy. (Actually he’s quite positive usually) But we have a dozen barn cats and he’s a little tired of me bringing them in the house and nursing them every time one of them gets a sniffle. But seriously, when he met me I was a vet tech. Even after all these years, it’s like he doesn’t know me at all.

So here’s my question. Does anyone have a blind cat? Particularly a blind barn cat? And if so is there any tips or pointers you can offer for making his life a little easier? At the moment he seems to be doing well. He is fat and has a good coat coming on for winter. His confidence is building so he is far less timid than he was. But I want to give him all the possibilities for a healthy happy life.

UPDATED: So when Mike seen me working on this post, I told him I was asking for tips for taking care of Blindy. He said “Find him a good home. (pause) And of course that doesn’t mean this one.” See what I have to deal with all of the time.

So I say “You know, I’ve been blogging about what you’ve been saying about Blindy.”

And he’s all thoughtful for a moment and then says (with a whole lot less snark) “Well really, the best thing for him would be to find him a new home.”

And I’m thinking “Sure Buddy, you’re trying to look like the humanitarian (catatarian?) now that you know the public eye is upon you. Too late my friend, too freaking late!” Because I know all along what he’s really thinking is “Are we really gonna have to feed this blind cat who is incapable of hunting mice for the next 10 years.”

And my answer. “Yes. Yes we are.”

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I'm Thankful For . . .

I am thankful for a day of excess and rest. My plans are to have too much food. Followed by too much tv/video games and most likely too much sleeping. Oh glorious day.

Besides, I’m pretty sure pumpkin pie qualifies as a serving of vegetables. So I’m really just being extra healthy by having that 2nd piece.

Yes, I know I should be thankful for things like family, friends, freedom and that I’m still alive. But I have (and am thankful for) that everyday.

What I don’t have everyday is gluttony, sloth and ummm . . . Hmmm . . . what other deadly sin qualifies? Extravagance maybe? Ah heck you get my meaning.

So Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating it today.

And now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to go slip into some stretchy pants followed closely by a turkey coma.

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Spanish Gold work in progress
17 x 22
Watercolor Pencil on suede

Probably, notice I said probably
As in, I foresee the background and all his bodacious floaty mane going in quickly and easily (just planting the seed there for my muse) and only taking one more afternoon’s work. We shall see.

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Liberty: Friesian Painting Start To Finish

Forgotten Post
So I was looking through my folder of unfinished blog posts and I realized I forgot to post the Start-To-Finish on my Liberty painting. I would have just deleted it but I thought I kinda went from picture 3 to finished photo without showing the in between steps on the blog. Plus it’s kinda interesting (to me if no one else) to see all the wip shots together..

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Spanish Gold work in progress
17 x 22
Watercolor Pencil on suede

Yippee for Sundays!
I’ve been desperate to get some work done on Big Al all this week. The closest I’ve come is setting my Diet Coke on my table next to the drafting table. Everyday I say “Okay I’ll work until. . . and then I’ll work on my painting.” And everyday we’ve just had too many people come into the gallery to make it happen. I really need to finish him though because I need to do my Christmas cards (as in create the artwork for) and then I have a project for my brother which I said I would try to make happen before Christmas. (Sheesh!)

So Yippee for Sundays because I can work all day and hopefully get Big Al’s shoulder area in and maybe get the saddle and such washed in. That would only leave the background and all that floaty mane filling up the entire right side of the painting. (I just need to keep repeating to myself, I think I can . . . I think I can)

FITNESS TIP: shoveling a ton of horse poo is an excellent cardio.

Part of the problem

is I took the day off on Thursday . . . and it was glorious. Not that I did anything glorious. Not even close. I envision glorious as laying on the couch with my feet up while someone is rubbing them, and feeding me bon-bons while listening to soothing music. But no, I stayed home and did some yard chores, cleaned the barn (which I am ashamed to say was woefully past due) and watched a few hours of bad TV. It was totally awesome!.

When Mike called to check in, I told him I should take a day off every week! All I heard was . . . . silence. So okay maybe once every two weeks will be enough. I shouldn’t tease him. He was so good to go in and let me have some quiet time. It’s especially generous because he hates working the gallery alone. I’m the talker (yeah, I know. Who knew right?) so I tend to handle the customers.

On the other hand Mike noticed my vastly improved mood so maybe I can get one day off out of . . . oh, let’s shoot for every 10. That sounds fair, right?

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Here’s Part 1 on the collaborative economy post “Real Life Is Not A Competition.” Yes Part 2 has been a longtime coming, but here it is. (finally)

The response both on and off the blog was a resounding
yes to collaboration and
no to other’s artistic success as having any bearing to one’s own success.

It has taken me awhile to get back to this subject because the topic of competition can so easily turn negative. I had several paragraphs pondering the why behind linking success for one means failure the the other. And I promptly deleted them because I wanted to have a positive conversation. So the focus of this post will be ways in which a person can participate in a collaborative economy. If we all do this the “why” is irrelevant.

To begin I will list a few of the things that I have participated in to create and support a collaborative economy in the arts. Also I will continue to Update the post as new ideas come in.

  • I helped to create a studio tour in Northwest Iowa. Many years ago a dozen or so artists got together (myself included) and said “hey, they have a really successful studio tour in MN, why can’t we? And who else can we get to participate?”

    I won’t lie it was a huge undertaking with a mountain of work. The meetings were 1-2 times a week (for well over a year) an hour away from where I live. (though to be fair everything is an hour away from where I live.) the Artisans Road Trip (A.R.T.) is still alive and still struggling to find it’s way. But it is a huge boon for the local artists and allows those who otherwise may not get their work shown, out before an audience.

    When I was part of the process, the gist was everybody was juried and paid a fee, everybody puts in the volunteer hours and everybody had a say in how things progressed. By everybody pulling together, we promoted each other as well as ourselves. The essence of a collaborative economy. The event has changed through the years but this essence remains the same.

  • Partnering Since I actually have a storefront and do what we call “artist services” this may be easier for me to do. As I have said previously I have partnered with interior designers (in both selling my work and custom framing) Photographers and other artists.
  • When you can’t or don’t want to do a job, point the customer to someone who will. I collect business cards (a handful if possible, so I can give them out freely) from many types of artists. Since we meet so many artists as well as those needing the service of artists, I am in a good position to suggest people for the job. I usually offer several possibilities (narrow the field a little) but I personally try not to prejudge who is the right fit. By offering them a selection they can choose. Plus if one artist doesn’t work (for whatever reason) they still have a back-up or two.
  • Be a part of the process. . . If you have any ideas on to help support other artists, please leave a comment.

  • Try not to view success as a competition. We learn from each other. I would be lying if I said that when my booth is plunked next to someone whose work is in direct competition sales-wise with mine, that I don’t care if I sell as well as they do. Of course I do. But the key difference is, I don’t want to see them fail either. Some of my best friends are artists whose work is in direct competition with myself.
  • Offer assistance to those who seek it. For some this may be teaching classes. For us, we offer discounts on framing for artists. But we also offer all the “free” advice you want. In the past I have cleared entire afternoons to talk with budding artists and discuss what they hope to accomplish and how to get there. To be clear the only thing I am very knowledgeable about is the path I took. While I’ve worked in a museum, as well as briefly held a board position for an art center, and had my work in countless galleries, it is representing myself (as in art fairs or wholesale marketing) that I am most comfortable talking about.
  • Don’t participate in negative conversations about other artists. This is pretty self-explanatory.
  • And Lastly . . .

  • Be a part of the process. Do what you can. We are all busy with a shortage of free time. But if there is a way you can do something for some other artist . . . do it.

    And here’s an easy opportunity to do just that. If anyone has any other ways to help each other out, please leave a comment or email me. I will update (add it to) this post with your suggestions as they come in.


  • Art Groups & Co-operative galleries
  • Another example of partnering is hanging your work in a cafe or restaurant. Judy Hemphill a photographer friend from Spencer Iowa has recently partnered with a new storefront that shares a common wall with Hemphill Law Office. Judy has turned one room into a gallery that is open from the adjoining business (an antiques/coffee house.) The adjoining business handles the sales, but can pop over if the customer has a question or if she needs Judy to run the place for a moment. Here’s Judy’s blog
  • 11-22-09 (suggested by Undaunted)

  • Support one another at exhibitions This is good for two reasons. It comforts the artist and makes the room look full. Lively conversations going on is so much better than that uncomfortable museum like quiet of any empty room.
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    Waterloo Holiday Art Festival 09

    My Booth at the Waterloo Holiday Art Festival

    So here’s the scoop. As I said it was a mediocre event sales-wise for me. It appears (as so many are) to be turning into a jewelry/pottery show. Yes they had other artworks (like glass) but it was heavy in those things.

    I believe the crowds were also down this year. The Patron Party was amazingly small. (mostly artists) They do have quite a good Patron system and many came on Sunday, just not for the party.

    They had a Carribean theme going with the food and music. They had a wine bar (with glasses for purchase.) And a free buffet was chips with various dips, Jerked chicken, shrimp and fruit kabobs. The food was far less exotic than before but still pretty good. (Though with my hick-a-billy heritage if it’s anything more than pizza rolls or cheese whiz on a cracker I’m impressed.)

    So here’s the up-side and down-low as I see it for this event.

    First the good stuff

  • They have an unbelievable army of helpful volunteers. They whisked everything to my space in 15 minutes. And when it was over and we had gotten everything packed they whisked it out and helped put it in the van. We were actually tore down, packed up and driving away within an hour. (amazing)
  • The booths were a little bigger. Booth sizes vary depending on which room (or hallway) you are located in. But I had (as in, in our room) an extra 2 feet. (10×10) Still tight but a nice surprise.
  • Though with my hick-a-billy heritage if it’s anything more than pizza rolls or cheese whiz on a cracker, I’m impressed.

  • Reasonable rates $10 jury fee $80 booth fee and no additional charge for electricity. I think this is the only event I have ever done that doesn’t charge for electric. (once again a very nice perk)
  • Artist/Patron Party Again it is a pretty good spread with live music. The music was nice and festive but it was a guy on steel drums. Very Carribean. Not really what I’d call holiday. Non-the-less happy music is always a good choice.
  • Free coffee and donuts in the morning
  • The Waterloo Art Center gift shop actually purchases art from the vendors to sell in their shop. Which is great if you’re a jeweler, potter, fiber or glass artist. Walking around their shop there wasn’t much for 2D work to be seen. Once again a really nice and rare perk.
  • A Patron Purchase program This is where they get people to pledge to spend a certain dollar amount on artwork. Clearly a good thing.

  • The Down-Low

  • And yet again I think they may not realize how they are cutting out the painters in their event. By limiting the original to print ratio. And also by supporting (through purchase) the other types of work. I might be sounding bitter, but I’m not in any way. I’m just noting the trend I see.
  • The crowds were thin Not sure how much the economy has to do with that.
  • The event appears to be getting smaller. This may not be a bad thing. Less competition for those in it. But it also has potentially less draw for patrons. Generally I like an event to have a minimum of 75 vendors.

  • The artist/work distribution

    They had around 55-58 artists. (some didn’t show)
    15 jewelers
    13 potters
    6 glass artists
    6 wood (this is anything from pens to tables)
    5 metal
    5 fiber (scarves, clothing etc)
    4 Painters (2 watercolorists, an oil painter and myself)

    As I mentioned in the last post I probably won’t do this event again. We made enough money to make it worth our while. And if I had nothing else going on, I probably would do it again and hope for better sales. But the gallery is busy and while gone I got web orders and email orders. At this point I need to factor in if closing the gallery is worth it. For this event, it was not. Perhaps when the economy really picks up I may try it again. You never know.

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