Monday, February 29, 2016

Home Décor Trending Natural and Exotic

I love to nurse my morning cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. In the “Home Section” the trending accents are natural and exotic; a way to temper the modern geometric patterns and shapes of the present.

There’s nothing like wood and wood tones to anchor the run-away-dizziness of today’s busy patterns and blockiness. Natural woods and round shapes provide a bold statement while adding an element of curviness and softness to angular designs.

According to Mark Stewart of “The News Press” in Fort Myers, Florida, the perfect wood comes from reclaimed forests where unusual wood grains and shapes are found. This wood inspires unusual shapes for tables and functional furniture.

The “Associated Press” in an article by Beth J. Harpaz discussed the renewed popularity of “Molas,” a unique textile created in the Panama region by the Kuna people. Although China and other countries are trying to duplicate the process, if you want something authentic, look for the Kuna label.

Originally Molas were used as body art. Eventually they were made into cloth squares and turned into clothing. The process is a layering of different colored fabric, which is then cut away in a reverse appliqué technique.

Unlike the appliqué many of our mother’s did in the past to make delicate tablecloths, Kuna appliqué combines many layers rather than one. Little by little fabric is clipped away and the edges stitched to hold them down and to keep them from fraying.

Very much in demand, Molas have a folk art appeal, and are a natural and colorful way to brighten your home.

I’m a big collector of unusual woods and woody seeds and pods. I’ve also painted masks on woody palm fronds. Now I’m thinking I should polish the fronds and leave the wood natural; perhaps painting a delicate scene or using a stain on an all natural mask as the African’s do.

Keep your eyes peeled and reclaim some of the natural woods near your home. It may surprise you what you can restore and turn into something beautiful. So next time you create – think wood; think natural.

Contemporary furniture almost demands wood tones and grains to bring them down to earth and create warmth. Wood floors are not the only way to add this natural appeal. Wall art and furniture are a secondary way to bring the outdoors inside. The addition of color and live green plants are the perfect balance to complement leather furniture and modern creations.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Great Photos are your Doorway to Marketing and Sales

"Cafe' Costa Rica" original acrylic canvas 20 x 20 (SOLD) (Prints available)
Many artists recommend not selling your original artwork. Once they are gone, they’re gone forever. Of course, with permission, you can use the buyer's name as a reference indicating where your painting resides.

I was painfully reminded of this when I sold two original paintings to someone in Minnesota. A few weeks later, Fine Art America (FAA) notified me that someone had ordered a gicleé off of one of the paintings, but the photograph on file was not good enough. Since we were not heading back to Minnesota until a few weeks later, I asked for more time. The buyer refused. Their purchase was for a gift. I lost the sale.
"Skudeneshavn Norway"  20 x 16 oil on canvas (SOLD) (prints available)
When we arrived in Minnesota, I had to call the owner of the original, schedule a visit, and then obtain the needed photo of the painting. I took another photo of the other painting they had purchased just in case. But what if they hadn't given their permission or were unable to accommodate my request?

Hard lesson learned. If you are fortunate enough to sell the original, be sure your photos of it are absolutely perfect. Make sure that your client understands you are going to sell prints from their painting. If they do not approve honor their request.

"Hibiscus Glory" 16 x 20 oil on canvas (SOLD)
I sold two other originals at an art show and regretted later that I had no copy for myself. They were two of my favorite paintings. I went back to FAA and ordered a wrapped canvas gicleé of each. I also wanted a closer look at what my customers were actually getting when they purchased a “wrapped canvas gicleé.”

I was well pleased. The colors were bold and beautiful. Most people think they are originals. The paintings are the size the customer has requested, 9 x 12, 20 x 18, etc. The wrapped portion is 1.5 inches and is black. On the wall, it gives the impression that the painting is framed. The only thing missing is the texture. If the gicleé was prepared by the artist locally, then texture could always be added to enhance the canvas. The cost to the buyer is significantly lower than purchasing an original painting.

Wrapped canvas Giclee' of Cafe' Costa Rica shown above
Since that sad experience of losing a sale because I couldn’t produce a quality photo in time, I work hard to be prepared. I upgraded my camera and make certain that I have adequate lighting. I save my photos online and organize them carefully into folders for paintings, drawings, illustrations, etc. Then when I want to upload them again, I can find them in seconds.

We live in a digital world. These same photos will be entered in online contests, uploaded to secondary web sites, and used on registration forms for other contests either locally or in magazines. They are the main promotion you have of your artwork. Before others see your paintings they will see a digital copy of your work. If your photo is imperfect in anyway, it will reflect on your work as a whole.
"Broken" original 11 x 14 mixed media canvas (SOLD) (Prints available)
I suggest taking a short class on photography so that what represents you is as good as it can get. Quality means everything. Images will be produced from your photo. Time is of the essence. The customer is always right and they may be impatient. Don’t lose a sale as I did because your camera isn’t good enough or your photo is flawed.
(Giclee' of "Broken" with black 1.5 inch wrapped canvas)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ready to Shelve your Dreams and Give Up?

(Book cover illustration -- "Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog, by Pam Torres)
Have you reached that point in your career where you're ready to put it all behind you? Perhaps your business hasn't taken off as you expected. You may be putting in the time without seeing results. The numbers may not be adding up. Your exposure hasn't brought the sales. It isn't that you're not working your tail off. It's that your emotional and physical stamina may be waning.

Don't give up just yet. This could be the lull before the storm when things begin to pick up. Or it may be that you have more to give than you think.

Examine your initial business plan. Is there something you can tweak? Are you putting in as much time to develop your business as you did in the beginning when you were full of enthusiasm? Is your lack of success a clue that your approach needs to be modified for a changing market?
(Illustration for "Madison Morgan")
Self-examination is imperative. Are you giving it all you've got or are you worn out? Do you simply need some motivation and inspiration? This is why sales conferences and group think were invented. Perhaps you need a "jolt out-of-the-blue" from an uninvolved mentor to take a look at what you can no longer see. Is there something you're missing? What could you do differently?

When we dig in our heels and refuse to seek help either from stubbornness or independence, we may lose the opportunity that could make all the difference. Even an honest appraisal, although brutal, may at least help us in the vital decision making.

There is no shame in defeat if you've done all you can to succeed. Chalk it up to experience and try again. Successful business owners fail many times before they finally succeed. A new product, a new partner, a new approach may provide the winning key that opens the door to success.
(Two mischievous boys get their comeuppance)
If you believe deeply in your own success, even discouragement will not deter your efforts. But if you're teetering on the brink of shelving everything you've worked for you definitely need an objective expert to either confirm or negate that opinion.

I heard the billionaire Mark Cuban say on Shark Tank that the most important component of a successful business was to love what you do. Without that driving force a business may crumble in on itself. But with a fiery passion eventually you're sure to succeed. Even if your first business fails, your vigorous efforts provide the needed steps for your next attempt. Effort and vision are never wasted.
(Back cover of "Madison Morgan")

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Long-Term Effects of Moving, Temperature and Aging

(My mother when she was in her twenties. An inexpensive photo-copy that is discoloring with age)
I often like to sit in a comfortable chair surrounded by old art magazines and browse for ideas, tips, or inspiration. As I peruse and ogle, I hunger for information. I drool over skillful and unusual paintings wanting so much to suck up as much knowledge as I can. My own efforts pale in comparison.

In the June 2013 issue of “the Artist’s Magazine” an article called “Problems with Watered-Down Acrylic” caught my eye. Written by Michael Skalka, Chair of the subcommittee on artist’s materials for ASTM International and framed in a Q. and A. format discussing acrylic paints.

Question: Can I use water as a medium with acrylics? I’ve been told that practice can compromise the archival quality of a painting?

Answer: Water compromises the archival quality of an acrylic painting. Acrylic medium is a substance that has identical or compatible properties with the pigmented material to which it is added so that the medium may modify the colorant without compromising integrity. 

Water is a diluent and a solvent. It has no resins or linking molecules that will support or strengthen an acrylic paint film; instead water places distance between acrylic resin molecules so that they form a weaker film than they would if the paint were not diluted.

Above Skalka demonstrates the differences visually. How he managed such perfect circles is beyond me. The difference between A. and the lighter B. is that the one on the left has used medium and the one on the right has used water as a diluent.

I tried a test of my own, but ended up with the medium and water looking the same which made me wonder if my acrylics were a better quality or if the medium I had purchased from Hobby Lobby was at fault? Since I apply several layers of acrylic in my paintings, perhaps the paint eventually fills in the missing pieces?

1. Burnt Sienna/Ochre w/water.

2. Burnt Sienna/Ochre w/acrylic medium

3. Crimson/raw sienna 2/water

4. Crimson/raw sienna 2/acrylic medium

Later I read the article again and noticed that Michael had suggested a compromise that allows you to use water as a medium and still create quality painting. 

“Mix a fresh solution composed of 50-75% fluid acrylic medium and the remaining percent water. Use this mixture as a medium for painting with acrylics.

"In colder temperatures, this mixture may have to be altered. Acrylic paints become brittle and may crack easily under stress. Finished acrylic paintings may even get hairline cracks over the surface. If you have to move your paintings, be sure they are insulated when you crate them and avoid shock or vibration."

I currently live in Florida. If we ever move back to Minnesota, I will need to take this advice to heart. Currently my paintings are in excellent condition, and I wouldn’t want a move to upset the acrylic paintings currently in my possession.

Many of you have an art studio away from your home. Be sure the climate is controlled or you may compromise “in-progress” works or risk damage to those in storage.

My mother on her 80th birthday (two years before her death). She aged beautifully!
(Newspaper Clipping)
I have some collectibles that I’d hoped to sell, but my moves from a cold to a hot and humid climate have caused the paint on some to crackle. This reduces value and profits. Had I known how fragile some of these objects are, I would have stored them in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

Unfortunately, cross-country moves usually involve a rental truck or moving van where objects are left outside or in cold storage units. An antique sofa was once ruined by the mover’s dog that not only slept on our brocaded pink sofa, but managed to urinate on it. His whole family had used the van and our furniture as their personal motor home.

Of course, there was a claim and the sofa was reupholstered, but there are losses that can never be replaced. Is it any wonder I hate to move!
("Happy Habits" hairline cracks formed on the white areas only. I was so disheartened to find them!)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Holiday Art – Lucrative or too Competitive?

Many artists and crafters enjoy creating gifts and cards for each season or celebration. Although sales are high for retailers and wholesalers, the competition is keen. Commercial retailers that mass produce at low prices are difficult to compete with unless the artist can duplicate originals and print them in bulk.

I've experimented, but never been drawn to this arena. Our small local art league thought we had the nearby hospital gift shop locked up for our cards, but later discovered that we were dealing with a power hungry novice pretending to have authority which she didn't.

I had produced a shoe box filled with a variety of my own cards for that appointment. Later they sat in my closet and waited for the right time to sell. All that colored ink for the printer and money for inventory. I learned that it's not wise to spend money in advance of sales. More small businesses lose money by stocking too much inventory than through any other means.

I had a friend some years back who was an avid fire truck collector and admirer. He started selling framed photographs of old firetrucks and was doing a great business for a while.

Then his ego got the better of him and he started advertising in national magazines, taking out full-page ads to display his wares. He not only could not keep up with new demand, but he had spent his capital on advertising and had none left for product or inventory. The business quickly spiraled downward.

If your overhead and advertising costs are greater than your profit, you won't be able to dig yourself out of the hole you've made for yourself.

My husband and I decided to change out our kitchen chandelier, a Tiffany-like lamp that did not match our décor. I put the light fixture on Etsy after it had been weighed. What we hadn't anticipated is the size of the box required after the lamp was secured in bubble wrap to protect it from breakage.

The cost of mailing was almost equal to the cost we had charged for the lamp less $35. Of course, our time and the gas to and from the postal station was also not included. We shipped to our loyal customer and sucked up the rest. Lesson learned!

Some buyers may demean an artist's skill and time as they quibble over price and shipping. The hours devoted to learning a skill are dismissed and the professional expertise of the artist are belittled in an attempt to haggle over price.

Once an artist’s reputation and name are well known, they have reached a point where they can produce more in less time. But this doesn't make the cost go down. The cost of professionalism goes up when the artist's work is more in demand.

Whether you decide to focus on the seasons and holidays in an effort to grow your business or not, the most important element in considering to participate or not is to figure out what it costs you for materials and shipping, and what the competition is charging. 

Undercutting may get you a sale, but does it give you a profit? If you're pushing yourself into a box in order to make a sale, it may not be worth your efforts.

"Parasailing Roseate Spoonbill"

Monday, February 1, 2016

Give your Children the Gifts of Laughter and Light

Art is everywhere! Famous names are on totes, I-pads, smartphones, T-shirts and housewares. No longer is an artist limited to selling wall art. 

A prolific local artist, Leoma Lovegrove, has splashed colorful flowers and local scenes on everything but the kitchen sink. One of her creations became the poster for this year's Art Fest Fort Myers.

You may want to explore the Art Fest Gallery of showing artists for the 2016 Festival or get information on where it’s held or how to register for the show. We’re all hoping that the El Niño rains we’ve had this winter will not spoil this treasured annual event.

Today, the abundant exposure to art has given the public new avenues for their own creativity. Groups are gathering in the afternoons for coloring book parties, but these are not your mother’s coloring books! These babies are created by real artists and made for adults. The detail is exquisite. Pages of natural wonders, Zen, art nouveau, whimsical designs, Mehndi, calming patterns and magnificent creatures adorn their pages.
Using colored pencils or markers, one member described it this way. “It’s so relaxing! By the time we're finished, I feel rested and renewed." The sociability afterward doesn't hurt either.

I gave my 14 year old grandson an adult coloring book from Doodler’s Anonymous. This one was large, but rather expensive. I noticed that smaller and cheaper ones are sold at the Tuesday Morning outlets or online at

If you're a doodler, you will love the variety of fun at Doodler's Anonymous from contests, to featured artists and demonstrations to coloring books and tips. You learn something new every issue.  Doodler's Anonymous

Experimenting with art is fun! My daughter is an art teacher who enjoys creating new projects for her students. She related that a football player came into class snubbing art thinking it was for losers. His sister was a gifted artist in another one of her classes. My daughter was able to grab his interest and pair it with sibling competition creating a level of tension that brought out his latent talents. By the end of the semester he was not only excelling, but enjoying the artistic process.

The purpose of art education is not only to inspire budding artists, but to help everyone gain an appreciation for art through exposure. The earlier this starts the better. Even toddlers can gain insight as they learn about the various colors and shapes that are seen in nature.

Unfortunately, there is a glaring increase in depression and suicidal acts throughout the world. If one life can be saved by brightening their world with color and joy, we should make every effort to do so.

Reading to your children, making them aware of the beauties in nature, exposing them to the arts may save their lives at a future time in life. Focusing on light and laughter makes it almost impossible to be dark and morose. Probably the best gift you could ever give someone.
"Fairy Glen" oil on canvas
Leoma Lovegrove at work: