31 January 2006

Alpaca Artwork

First, I should apologize if I'm a bit scatter brained in this entry. I have a ton of things to do today, so I'm eating breakfast, writing this, and checking the weather for hubby. (I'm on a slow dial-up connection and weather.com takes forever to load maps, so I can write this between maps!)

Yesterday was a pretty good day. The truck didn't break down. I got a lot of artwork done. And my newly planted rose is beginning to show signs of life. So, life may be back on a more positive note.

In terms of artwork, I'm in full alpaca mode! Hahaha. I have an arrangement with an alpaca farm (Absolute Alpacas) to supply them with original alpaca artwork. They buy the artwork from me and take it to various alpaca shows to sell. For me this is great. I can concentrate on doing artwork, I'm free to do whatever I want, and I don't have to worry about marketing it or dragging my tent to some art show, plus I get paid upfront. But more than all that, it's like a huge vote of confidence in my artwork. See, I know my artwork is good. Others have told me it's terrific. Then I go to a show, I usually only sell 1 or 2 pieces. It really can shake my confidence to sit there with people walking by and no one buying or even looking at my artwork. These people, however, love my alpaca artwork and they put their money where their mouths are. (And it's a lot easier to pay the mortgage with a check than with compliments!) So when they call and ask for more artwork, they get priority.

For their upcoming alpaca show, they want some pencil drawings (3-4), pastels (3-4), and pastel sketches(15-20). Eventually, I would like to do some oil pastels and oil paintings for them, but I won't get them done by 18 Feb. Also in the work are some wood relief carvings, ceramic sculptures, and original prints. I have ideas for all these, but again, it's time that I'm short of. (Where's my apprentices and the maid?!) Anyway, here's a pencil drawing of a suri alpaca (alpacas come in 2 varieties -- huacaya and suri) which I just finished and I must say it's one of my best alpaca drawings ever:

29 January 2006


What a rollercoaster!!! From elation to sheer panic -- I covered all the emotions!

As I wrote in my last entry, hubby's big rig broke down and had to be towed. Then we got a huge bill for the repairs. Well, since then it started to have the exact same problems again. So, back to another shop it went. And we got another huge bill. This mechanic assured us that he found the problem. Well, he was wrong. Yesterday, the same problem happened and again he had to be towed to another shop. (By the way, if your big rig is towed from Laramie to Cheyenne, it's $610!) Since most shops don't like drivers to sleep in their trucks while the mechanics are working on it, this meant a night in a hotel. Anyway, after working on the fuel system the entire day, at $82/hr, they figured out that it was a pair of clogged screens. I think the parts were about $30 each, but they were the least part of the bill. So, he's back on the road (yes, Salt Lake City will get it's load of beer!), we have basically used up all of our savings, and we have our fingers crossed that this last mechanic was right.

Now, during all this repair crisis, I'm suppose to be working and carrying on like normal. At least that is what several people told me. Back when I worked at a normal 9-5 job, I could go to work even in times of crisis and just go thru the motions of my job. But art is a bit different. I'm not saying I have to be in a special happy mood to do good art, but when my guts are tied in knots and I'm shaking, doing a good drawing or painting is nearly impossible while this upset.

So, with a bit of luck, things should be back to normal tomorrow. And then I can start doing some of this alpaca artwork and make money. (Money that will go into the savings account, instead of towards a new printer. Grump!)

28 January 2006

Repeating Successes

Okay, yesterday I started this installment 4 times and deleted them and finally gave up and postponed writing this until today. Either I didn't feel it was that interesting or I was annoyed at the negative tones, so I kept starting over. Were they that bad? Probably not, but.... The real problem was Thursday's entry just flowed so easily. I barely had to think about anything and it came out well (at least in my mind). But yesterday, I remembered how easy Thursday was and was struggling to repeat the ease. And it doesn't work like that.

This same problem -- repeating successes -- occurs in art too. For example, I do one drawing which comes out excedingly well. The client likes it and then wants another similar piece. If I were to just 'copy' my previous drawing, it will not come out as well. (I've done that before and it just lacks something.) So, the trick is to repeat the drawing while not thinking about or remembering what I did on that first drawing.

But this repeating success problem also occurs on the larger scale too -- not just individual pieces of art but whole days. On Thursday, I had a wonderful day creating art. I finished the horse/rider portrait, almost finished the 4 ink alpaca drawings, and even another small portrait. Things were effortless and everything came out great. Yesterday, my mind was stuck how easy Thursday was, and nothing came out well or easily. I screwed up the final touches on the ink drawings, so I have to redo 2 of them. Then my stomach started to hurt, thanks to all the tv dinners. And then to top if off, my husband's big rig broke down, had to be towed, and then repaired. It took the mechanics several hours to figure out the problem, so we got a nice fat bill, which meant I had to figure out exactly how we could pay for the repairs. (Just in case someone wonders, it cost almost $400 to tow his truck and diesel mechanics get about $100-120 per hour!) By the end of the day I was depressed, grumpy, and frustrated. Had the artwork been 'easy' to do, then these other problems wouldn't have been so bad and I would have felt a lot better.

Today, however, since Thursday is now further out of my mind, things should go okay. Usually, I don't have 2 really bad days in a row. So, once I redo the ink drawings, I'll start on the new priorities, which are:
  • custom cat art card
  • a drawing of an alpaca
  • 2 floral art cards for eBay

26 January 2006

Cutting Down the Pile

Like I've said before, I have way too much to do in a fairly short amount of time. There's things I need to do and things I would like to do. Unfortunately, I can't do everything. So, I'm cutting a couple of things.

Cut 1: Circle of Art Show, Borrego Springs, CA. The application is due soon and since it's a small show, I'm fairly sure I could easily get in again. I've done it several time and sold okay. This year it's on 25-26 March. I had wanted to do it, but unless I take exactly the same stuff I took last time (minus what I've sold in the meantime), I won't have enough to fill a booth. Since the alpaca art is due 18 Feb and then again in March or April, I won't have enough time to do 10-12 larger pieces for this show. If I don't have stuff to sell, it really doesn't make sense to go.

Cut 2: Sudoku during the day. I like doing sudoku puzzles and could sit around for hours a day doing them. Yesterday, I watched to see how much time I spend doing them. And I was appalled! For example, I checked my email at noon and then went off and did 4 or 5 sudokus. If I average 10 minutes each, that's almost an hour gone. I should have been replying to emails, listing things on auctions, doing an art card,.... So, no sudoku during the day while I'm suppose to be working.

I'm not sure these 2 things will make a great deal of difference, but they won't hurt.

Well, I should finish up my coffee, feed the cats, and then get to work. I have the horse/rider almost done, with just a few details here and there to put in, so I'd like to finish it today. Hopefully I'll also get those alpaca ink drawings done too. That would be the end of the priority list and on to the next priority list.

25 January 2006

Still Too Much

Things have improved slightly since I last wrote an entry. Of the 3 things I decided to focus on (a cat, a horse, and 4 ink alpaca drawings), I managed to get the cat done, the horse is about 50% done, and I know what I'm going to do for the ink drawings. Okay, I had hoped I would have had all these done by now, but...

My excuses for not getting the stuff done:

  • I got a cold over the weekend -- I'll survive, but it's hard to concentrate on drawing with a constantly runny nose.
  • I have a part-time job on some weekends and this was one of the weekends.
  • Since hubby was ripped off by a company, I've had to find and deal with lawyers -- maybe we can just skip all the paperwork and go directly to Judge Judy?! LOL!!!
  • I've had to do a few things for eBay -- to keep up the momentum.
  • I spend half of yesterday packaging things up -- drawings I sold on eBay -- and then going to the post office.
  • I also have been trying to get a bit more organized regarding auction info, mailing lists, and my web site.

I still would have liked to get more done, but I need figure out how to work smarter. To that end, I actually brokedown and bought some frozen meals (TV dinners), so I don't have to take time out to cook at night. I don't like doing that as I prefer to do my own cooking, but it is time consuming on my own. And then there is the dishes to be done -- TV dinners just dirty a fork!

Anyway, here's the sketch of the cat I finished:

It's not bad, but also not great. I got the cat a bit too dark. But the client is happy with it, so that's the important part. (Thanks L.N. for your kind comments!) I will confess I had a bit of a problem doing the drawing because the cat has recently died. I couldn't get that fact out of my mind -- kept reminding me of my cats who have died and of my friends with sick cats. (One of these days, I'll explain more about my cats.)

Well, I suppose I should get to work. I would like to get the horse drawing mostly done today. I actually have the hard part completed -- the rider, the rider's hands, and the saddle. This wouldn't have been so hard, but the client insisted on an 11x14 inch portrait. At this size, the hands complete with fingers is only 1/2 inch high and maybe 3/4 inch long. This would not have been a problem with pencil, but with soft pastel (think sticks of chalk) is was a HUGE challenge! But with the rider and saddle done, the horse will be quick and painless in comparison.

19 January 2006

Too Much of a Good Thing

I know I shouldn't complain, as this is what I wanted -- to make a living as an artist -- but this is ridiculous. My to-do list has gone from almost nothing (3-4 things) to overwhelming. It's either feast or famine, I guess.

Here's my to-do list for clients:
  • 5 small pastel sketches on handmade paper
  • 1 small pencil portrait
  • 1 custom ACEO card
  • 3 medium soft pastel portraits
  • 2 medium oil pastel portraits
For an alpaca farm (which sells all my artwork with alpacas in it), I just found out I need to have done, by 17 Feb., the following:
  • 3-4 pencil portraits of alpacas
  • 3-4 small to medium pastels
  • 8-12 small sketches on handmade paper
  • 8-12 medium sketches on handmade paper
  • 4 ink drawings for notecards (ASAP)

Now, as I also sell my artwork on eBay, and this is the best time of the year to sell on eBay, I would like to do some new work for that endeavor. Plus, if I want to do the Circle of Art Show in Borrego Springs, CA, towards the last of March, I will need to get working on new pieces for that. And let's not forget the request for several botanical drawings for a local conservation booklet that I agreed to do, or the demo of a pencil portrait that I want to do for my website.

When I have this much to do, I just get overwhelmed and I shut down. I'll go read a book all day (right now that's Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), just to escape thinking about all this. It also doesn't help that some clients seem to believe that their portrait is the only one I have to do and they want it done NOW! (Then there are those clients that are very patient and are willing to wait quite a while for me to finish their portraits -- I can't thank them enough!) I know I need to focus on getting 2-3 things done over the next few days and then another 2-3 things and so on, rather than getting everything done right now. But I don't even know where to begin on my lists.

Okay, here's what I'm going to work on for the next few days:

  • pastel sketch of a cat (because the client has been wonderful to me and this will be quick and easy to get done)
  • pastel portrait of a horse (because I feel like doing it and I promised I would get it done in mid-Jan.)
  • a set of 4 ink drawings alpacas (because that will get me back to doing alpacas, the farm needs them ASAP, and they should be easy to do quickly)

I'll try to post pictures of the artwork when I finish them, but there may be a day or two delay. (I don't like to scan one item at a time, as I figure I can only turn my scanner on so many times.) Hopefully, now that I have told the entire world what I'm going to do, I will guilt myself into getting it done!

15 January 2006

New Year's Resolution

Okay, so the New Year was over 2 weeks ago, but it's never too late for a New Year's Resolution, is it? Actually, I made this resolution on 1 Jan, but it's taken some hits already. The resolution I'm talking about is to do 30 minutes of art per day.

I know, 30 minutes doesn't sound like much, but it works for me. A lot of the time if I can just get started, then I will 'get into' the piece and keep working. Also, it's a lot easier to get working today if I have done something yesterday. There is a tremendous about of inertia to overcome when I go 3 or 4 or even 7 days without picking up a pencil or a brush. That little voice in my mind says, "Hey, you didn't work for the past 3 days and you don't have much time today, why work now? Go do a sudoku." Well, if I worked yesterday, that voice is quieter. Besides, if I'm focused and want to get something done, 30 minutes can be very productive.

Now this brings up the claims of some artists to claim they work 10 or 15 hours per day. While I occassionally will work those kinds of hours, it's VERY rare. And I suspicion that few artists do this consistently. If I had a cook, a maid, a gardener, and a personal assistant, I probably could and would do 8 to 10 hours a day of painting. But I'm on my own in terms of cooking, cleaning, pruning, mailing, etc., so I don't have time unless I try to live on 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night. (Call me lazy, but I need 6 hours of sleep to function well!) If other artists can do this, I sure wish they would tell me their secrets!!!

Anyway, since the D-O-G has left, I have managed to do 30 minutes a day, except for today. (I have a part-time job and I spent today doing that.) Actually, once I got working yesterday, I just finished the still life off. And here it is:

Not the best scan -- it's grainy and too dark in areas, but it gives the general feel of the piece. (BTW, it's oil on canvas, 5x7.) I know it's not my best, but I still like. A lot of it was done with a pallette knife, so it has some interesting textures as opposed to my normal perfectly blended oil paintings.

Hmm, I still have a bit of time before I call it quits for tonight -- I can get my 30 minutes in tonight!!!

12 January 2006

Dealing with Hubby's D-O-G

I'm back. It seems that despite my best intentions, I keep getting distracted. This time it was my husband. My husband drives a big truck and is gone for 3-6 weeks at a time and then home for 2-5 days. After 10 years of this, I'm used to his being gone and then being home. (I still don't like it, but until I start selling $10,000 paintings, I'm stuck with this.) The problem this time is that he got a dog about a month ago. A D-O-G!!! Okay, I'm a confirmed cat person and I have 4 cats. So, to add a dog to the mix is 'interesting'.

Problem #1: The dog came home with ticks. Yuck! Since hubby has to let his dog out for potty breaks and since he went thru parts of California which never freezes, the dog picked up ticks. Now, the dog is on Heartguard which will kill the ticks, but only after the ticks bite him. I ended up brushing the dog several times a day and try to pick the tiny ticks off him, so the ticks don't get onto my cats.

Problem #2: My cats are totally freaked out by the dog's whining. If we go outside without the dog, the dog whines. My cats then go hide and refuse to come out.

Problem #3: The dog must be walked. Not only does this mean we have to take the dog with us when we go somewhere for 6-8 hours, but occassionally he needs to go outside at 3am. Since my husband felt a bit sick for a day or so, this meant I had to get up at 3am with the D-O-G!!! (I personally need my 8 hours of sleep in one solid block!)

So, with this D-O-G around, I didn't really get any art done, nor listed any auctions, nor update my website, nor.... I did have a fun time being with my husband, but I really wish I could have done something more useful than walk the dog at 3 am!

Well, I suppose I should stop whining about not getting anything done and go do something. First thing is to figure out what I need to do first and what I can put off for a few days. Looks like I'll be working all this weekend!

05 January 2006

Where have I been?

I did start the new year off right and then things went downhill from them. Okay, not actually downhill -- more like my normal chaos and weird life. For the last few days, things got in the way of writing this blog. On the 2nd, a huge storm hit southern California. Some of the storm managed to get thru the passes and we had a bit of rain. (I live in a desert so rain is very unusual!) Well, with rain comes problems. Usually, it's the moisture getting in the phone lines and creating major static (until the lines dry out). This time, the electricity went out. So for most of the afternoon and evening, there was no power. That isn't so bad in the summer, but in winter, there's no light and it starts to get cold. On the 3rd, there was the Penn St/Florida St football game which went on and on and on. On the 4th, there was the Rose Bowl. I suppose football games are the best excuse, but it's all I got. So, here I finally am.

I would have liked to get some art done today, but I had to run down to Indio and Palm Desert (about 40 miles away) to buy parrot food. Yucca Valley is a small town. While it does have a small pet store, the store doesn't carry the brand of parrot food my parrot prefers. Prefers! Well, it's the only brand he will eat, so I had to go down the hill. (I'm at 3600 ft of elevation and Indio is at about 300 ft -- so it's referred to as "Down below".)

This is just a perfect example of how my days get eaten up by non-art things. I would love to have 5 days in a row where I don't have to take time off during the day to do 'stuff'. A friend told me that I just need to get better organized, and that's probably true. But there's still problems. For example, since I sell artwork on eBay, I have to go to the post office to ship it. For some things, I have extra postage here, so all I have to do it pack it, stamp it, and then put a note in the mailbox for the mailman to stop for a package. But then for insured, or odd sized, or overseas packages, it's a trip to the post office. I've considered putting "I ship on Wednesdays and Fridays only" in my auction listings, but that seems a bit off putting. I'm not sure I would bit on an item that's aid that?! Actually, this time management issue is a major problem and one that I'm trying to do something about. That's why I write this blog at night -- theoretically AFTER I have worked all day on art.

Speaking of time, I had better answer a few emails and then make some supper.

01 January 2006

Why Am I Blogging?!

I asked myself this when I sat down tonight to write this. Why am I writing this blog? The answer is a bit complicated, but I feel it's important to explain why I'm writing this so that you know my biases. Besides, since I'm a person who likes structure (very polite way to put it), I'll have a better understanding of what I'm suppose to write about in these first few months, while I'm still a bit unsure of this whole blogging stuff.

My altruistic reason is so that my friends, my clients, and any potential artists can see what it really takes to be an artist. I get the impression that many people view the artist's life with rose-colored glasses -- artists happily create and art collectors/patrons give buy their work. There's also the idea that the more talented an artist is, the more successful the artist will be financially. (Oh, I wish the latter was true!) So, I'm going to let everyone in on how tough it is to make a living doing art.

My less-than-altruistic reason (i.e. financial reason) is to hopefully get more people interested in my work and so to sell more. All I can say is that it can't hurt to have yet another place on the internet where people can see my work. Now, don't take this to mean that I will be constantly mentioning my auctions here and there or some special offer, because I won't. I may post a few auction links IF it fits in with what I'm talking about.

My personal reasons are twofold. First, I like to talk and/or write. And despite what my 8th grade teacher told me, others have said that my writings are amusing. Or maybe it was my weird life that was amusing? Second, I have found that by writing things out, issues get clarified, so this will be more like a personal journal for me in spots.

So there's my reasons.