27 February 2006

It May Be a Few Days...

Just thought I would let people know -- I haven't fallen off the planet, yet. But with 2 threats on the horizon, I just might disappear for a few days.

First, I'm trying to fight off a cold. I don't really have a cold -- just the sore throat and a slightly runny nose. If I keep warm and take it easy, normally I don't actually get totally sick. If I do get sicker, I can see myself sitting here at my computer wrapped up in a blanket. (Or sitting at my drawing table either.)

Second, and more likely, there's storms coming in tonight and tomorrow. Los Angeles is getting rain now and they say even the Palm Springs will get some rain. Whether that will reach us here (we have mountains on 2 sides), I don't know but the clouds are moving in and it looks like it might be sprinkling now. Well, the phone lines out here are old and buried. If we get enough rain, often the phone lines get crackly so that a dial-up modem tends to discount. Or, if there's any lightning strikes in a 20 miles radius, the lights go out. Or the lights will flicker just for good measure. In any case, I usually avoid using my computer when it's raining up here.

So, I may or may not write an installment tomorrow or Wednesday, but I'll be back!

26 February 2006

Updates: Alpaca Art, the D-O-G, and One Ugly Sofa

Sunday is usually my day to relax, catch up on things I need to do, and get ready for the coming week. So, I have a list of small things to do, in the hopes that my coming week will go more smoothly. For example, I normally make a big pot soup for lunch and a casserole for supper today. This way I have leftovers to reheat quickly during the week and I get more work done. I know this doesn't sound like much, but when I'm working on a portrait, I hate to take an hour off to make lunch because I then loose the 'flow'.

Here's the complete list:
  1. make soup for lunch
  2. make a casserole for supper
  3. do the dishes
  4. clean the birds' cages
  5. sweap and vacuum the floors
  6. varnish an oil painting I sold on Friday
  7. package 2 prints I sold last night from my eBay store
  8. add a bunch of items to my eBay store
  9. check some of the eBay groups I belong to for useful tips
  10. scan in the pencil portrait for the demo and start writing the text
  11. gesso some paper for oil sketches
  12. water the outside shrubs
  13. rewrite the guarantee page on my web site
  14. send out a follow-up email to the AZ alpaca owners
And while I'm catching up on things, I thought I would update a few topics I've mentioned of late.

First, the alpaca art. I finally talked to Absolute Alpacas and I'm sorry to say they had little luck at the alpaca show in Phoenix. They only sold a few of my small sketches, although everyone said they loved my pencil drawings. (Note: my mortgage company will not accept compliments for payment.) They sounded a bit down, but they are also going to the biggest alpaca show on the West Coast in April, so maybe they'll have better luck there. I also know that selling art at animal shows is difficult -- people are there to show their animals, not to shop. I do feel bad for them, not only because they have been a good source of income for me, but because they are nice people who truly believe in quality art. I have a few ideas which might help them, so I'll talk to them again this coming week.

Second, the D-O-G. After my lecture and explanation of dog behavior, my husband is reporting that the dog is now doing better. This week, he only had one accident and seems to be understanding the 'new' rules. I still need to impress on my husband that he must continue with the discipline for at least a few more weeks.

And third, the ugly sofa. It's really not that ugly -- more of a brownish green. I can live with the color for a while. And the cats just love it! We got rid of all our furniture when we move here 5 years ago, so it's pretty nice to have a sofa again. What was even nicer was the wonderful chat I had with the lady who I got the sofa from. I'm just sorry she'll be moving shortly as we have a lot in common and I think we could become friends. Now we will have to make-do with being cyber-friends.

One other update -- I have 2 paid commissions, 4 commissions with checks in the mail, 1 I'm sure will pay on the 1st, and 3 in limbo.

Well, now I need to get started on my split pea soup with leeks for lunch!

25 February 2006

Waiting for My Ugly Sofa

It's 9am on a Saturday and I've already vacuumed the living room, done the dishes, and cleaned the bird cages just because my ugly sofa and matching ugly chair will be arriving today! Yes, I said ugly. I can't tell you exactly how ugly because, well, I haven't seen it yet.


That's right, I'm getting a sofa and chair delivered and I have no clue as to what it looks like.

Could you please explain this? Or have you finally gone off the deep end??

I belong to a group call 29PalmsFreecycle. This group is just one of the many FreeCycle groups located all over the US. The whole purpose of these groups is for people to list items they no longer want so that people who want or need the items will get the items, and thus, unwanted, but still useable items are no longer sent to the landfill. The one catch is that everything must be free.

When I first heard about this, I thought most of the stuff would be junk, but I was wrong. I've seen laptops and office copiers listed, along with plenty of clothes, furniture, exercise equipment, etc. So far, I have received a chair and ottoman for our study, a bunch of binders, some dog magazines, etc. Everything has been in great condition. I've also gotten rid of a number of items that were "too good to throw away" but I couldn't use anymore. (No need for a bug zapper for mosquitos in the desert!) I'm addicted!

If you would like to check this out further, go to http://www.freecycle.org and see if there's a group in your area.

What does this have to do with art?

In one sense, nothing. In another sense, a lot. See, I do art that is inspired by the beauty of nature, whether it's flowers or animals or landscapes. I live in a beautiful area -- yes, deserts are beautiful in their own way. One of the things that hurt me is to see all the junk that's thrown out along the road. In a desert, things don't decay as fast as they do in say Iowa, so the old mattress lays there for along time, making my desert ugly!

And then there's the issue of local landfills filling up. I once took a load of stuff to the dump, and was utterly appalled by all the useable items I could see. Now for liability reasons, they will no allow you to go out and pick thru the junk, so that wooden bookcase which looked useable and which I could have used is now buried and rotting. What a waste!

Since my general life philosophy is to improve our world, this FreeCycle fits right in. It makes me feel like I'm helping our planet. And this then translates into a better mental attitude about life and art.

Ok, but what about the 'ugly' part?

Well, the lady said, "However, they are ugly -- upholstered in army green." I have no idea if I think they are ugly or not, although I'm not thrilled with army green. If they are ugly, this will be my chance to try making slip covers or even re-upholstering. It'll be an adventure!

And now, I get to wait for my new, ugly sofa and chair to arrive!

23 February 2006

How Many Commissions???

How many commissions -- that's a question I asked myself this morning. The answer is somewhere from 2 to 10, take your pick. I know it sounds a bit strange that I don't know how many I have, but I really don't.

Here's the situation. Last week I sent out a newsletter that generated a lot of interest, including some people who were interested in commissions. But -- and there always seems to be one -- only one person actually paid for a commission. 2 people have said they will pay me once they get paid. Since these two people are prior clients, I'm fairly sure they will pay. So in terms of concrete paid for portrait commissions, that's 1-4 commissions, since the one lady wants 2.

Then there's the non-newsletter commissions. For some reason -- maybe it's the alignment of the stars! -- I've received several phones calls about commissions. Two were from an alpaca ranches who won portraits at alpaca shows, but now they want larger sizes or different medium. (They will pay the difference in price.) For one, I have the photo and am only waiting for a decision on size. Then yesterday, I get another call from someone who wants a portrait of her grandparents. And finally, there's another person who wants me to do a portrait of each of her sons, but after I sent her the prices, I haven't heard anything from her. So that's 0-5 commissions.

And right now, I'm working on one portrait commission from last year. (Thank you P.R. for being so patient!) So that's 1 commission.

Add these all up and I get 2-10 commissions. (Why these all have come in a bunch is a mystery to me.) This doesn't include all those commissions which people say they will want sometime. (These are the "gee I love your work and want to have you do my 3 dogs sometime" type of commissions.) If I included those, I would have another 20-30 potential commissions.

But -- another use of that evil word -- I only have 1 commission paid with the photo and 1 commission which has been paid for. These others may just evaporate, just like others in the past. Poof! For example, last month I emailed back and forth with a lady about a portrait commission. I must have sent her 5 or 6 emails, answering all her questions. Then she said, "Okay, put a listing for it up on eBay," which I did. Never heard from her again. Poof!

One might think this is a fairly rare occurance, but it's not. I don't know whether it has something to do with people not wanting to hurt an artist's feelings or their getting caught up in the moment only to reconsider it later, but it's really annoying. As an artist, it gets my hopes up and yes, I even occassionally turn down work so that I could do these commissions, so when they go Poof! I'm left with dashed hopes and nothing to do. If you like an artist's work, just say that -- don't string them along with promises of commissions which never materialize.

So, back to my original question of how many commissions I have. I'm trying to tell myself that I only have 2 commissions to do, with maybe 3 more on the way. As for these others, I do hope they come thru, but I try notto count my commissions until they hatch (or are paid for)!

And now, I had better get back to working on the one commission, so that when all these others materialize, I will have plenty of time! (Fingers crossed for me!)

21 February 2006

A Busy Day Ahead

I shouldn't really take time out to write this blog, but what the heck -- it probably will make me feel better.

Today is one of those days where I have a bunch of things to do, mostly having nothing to do with art. I would have gotten most of the stuff done yesterday, if it hadn't taken me all afternoon to upload some photos. (The files were huge and every once in a while my ISP would kick me off and I would have to start all over again.) So here's today's to-do list:
  1. balance the checkbook
  2. pay some bills (oh how fun!)
  3. mail a portrait
  4. buy groceries
  5. do the dishes (ok, so I leave them for a few days!)
  6. contact Absolute Alpacas and see how they did at the show over the weekend
  7. make cat food (yes, I make my cats' food)
  8. call the lady who makes handmade paper for me
  9. call the lady who I work for part-time on some weekends and see what's going on
  10. prepare a bunch of paper (gesso it) for oil paintings
  11. finish the drawing for a large pastel portrait (the basic drawing before I start with the pastel)
  12. work for an hour or so on my drawing demo

I know, this isn't that overwhelming a list of things to do, but there's a lot of annoying things, namely the calls. For example, chances are that I'll have to leave messages, so I can't use my computer (only one phone line here) and I need to be home if and when they call back, so this has to be done after the trip into town. If Absolute Alpacas says come get the display panels, that'll be another trip, but I won't know until I get a call back from them. It's going to be a day of phone tag!

I would much prefer to just sit at home and do art.

19 February 2006

That D-O-G Again!

My husband and his d-o-g may be 1000 miles away (he's in Montana heading to Missouri), but that d-o-g can still cause problems. Well, it's more of a problem with hubby than doggie.

See, my husband is a quiet, gentle person, who doesn't like to impose upon anyone nor to create any conflicts. He's had dogs in the past, but all those dogs came from good homes and were well trained to begin with. Most importantly, these other dogs were very passive.

Then we get this dog -- probably a cairn terrier/chichuhua mix. He's been abused, is very intelligent, and is very strong willed. In short, the dog has issues. The main problem being his intermittent housebreaking. At times, for 3-4 days here, he was perfect -- no accidents. In the truck, he's gone weeks being a perfect dog. Then he'll have an accident. At first, it seemed these accidents were our (or hubby's) mistake by not taking him out soon enough. Lately, it's become apparent to me that it's more of a battle for dominance. For example, yesterday hubby stopped his truck to take the dog out. He was putting on his coat, turned around, and the dog was peeing on his driver's seat. The dog didn't show any signs of needing to go that bad that he couldn't hold it 5 minutes more. (Just for the record, the dog can easily go 6-8 hours between visits outside and he had been out only 3 hours before this happened.)

Well, hubby got terribly upset and told me to start finding a new home for him. Now, I really don't want a dog, but it seemed to me the problem was with the owner and not the dog. I gently pointed out that dogs like structure and rules, so that the human is in charge and the dog is a member of the pack. I think I finally got thru to hubby that yes, he has to be the master and in the long run, the dog will be happier. So, until hubby can undo this dominance issue, the dog will be crated for most of the day, walked on a short leash (he does know how to heel), and be praised enthusiastically when he pees outside the truck! I don't know if it will work, but hubby really likes that mutt so it's worth a shot.

As for me, I'll stick to cats. Although, if anyone wants some free advice on dog training, just email me!

18 February 2006

It's Saturday -- Time to Play

It's Saturday!!! Now that I have my website updated, it's time to do some fun artwork.

For some awhile, I tried to basically work with no schedule. The problem with this is that I got very little done because I kept pushing things off or leaving things until the last minute. I would work on what I wanted to and avoid the unfun stuff. While this led to me feeling happy at the time, when I would look back over several months and realized that I had done very little, I would get depressed. And when I'm depressed, I don't work.

Then I tried very strict scheduling, such as from 9-11am on Tuesday I would work on a pencil drawing. Anything I didn't do during the weekends, I had to make up on the weekends. And this worked so well -- ya, right. My life is chaotic at times, so I was always behind or missing things. And then I had to deal with ordinary life, such as buying groceries. I live about 10 miles out of town, so buying a loaf of bread takes a minimum of 45 minutes. As does going to the post office, buying cat litter, etc. Even if I scheduled times for going into town, my cats created problems by eating more food that I planned for them or running out of litter on Thursday, and not Friday! Also, because the whole point was to 'do the time', I would find ways to waste time just to finish off the 3 hours I had scheduled. As you can see, this method didn't work well.

The middle road is what I'm trying now. I have certain things, such as updating my website or sending out my newsletter, scheduled. (Saturday is update day and the 15th is newsletter day.) Then on weekdays, I do commissioned work, trying to get in 4 hours a day. On weekends, I do some fun art -- stuff I may sell on eBay or I may throw away -- or I just rest, if that's what I feel I need. I've used this 'schedule' for quite a while and it seems to work.

I mention all this because this is something that no one ever mentions. A full-time artist needs to find a schedule which fits their personal style and life. I know of artists who constantly complain about not getting anything done -- they actually complain in about 5 or 6 different artist groups. And one artist said I must be very disciplined to get so much done. I'm not disciplined -- I've just found a schedule that fits my personality and allows me to get work done.

And now, I think I'll go paint a bunny!

17 February 2006

Websites: 1, 2, or more?

I was bad -- I did nothing in terms of artwork yesterday. Since I finally finished the alpacas, I decided I should catch-up on paperwork, my website, auctions/eBay store, and get a newsletter out. Oh, and clean up my studio a bit so I can find things!

I did manage to get most of that to-do list done, except for my website which still needs work. My website keeps growing and this means that when I update it, it takes a bit longer each time to do. Several people have suggested that I split the portraits off, or the botanicals, or the sculptures, so that I have 2 or 3 or even 4 websites each with it's own specialization. For example, there would be "PortraitsbyLMH.com" and "BotWCbyLinda.com". Their arguments are that (a) I would look more professional by having a unified body of work and (b) I would be higher up in the search engines. I've toyed with this idea. There's a few problems:
  1. Each website would cost about $5/yr for domain name registration and $30/yr for hosting. Not a huge amount of money, but $35 times say 4, and it's $140/yr. I only sell a little bit via my website (although last year was pretty good), so there would be little chance (in my mind) that these sites would pay for themselves.
  2. I would have to buy new business cards (I have 3 boxes), postcards (4 boxes), and reprint price lists, because all these have "LMHornberger.com" on them.
  3. People that have bookmarked my site for the portraits would be confused to visit my site and not find any portraits. True, I could have a link to the portrait site, but if the sites are all interconnected that seems to defeat the purpose of seperate sites, in my mind.
  4. Also, because my site is fairly well indexed by search engines, if I start to remove pages, it screws that up. I once created a page "art_cards.htm", had it up for about 2 weeks (when I decided the underscore was a pain on eBay), and then changed it to "artcards.htm". That was a year ago, and I still have people looking for "art_cards.htm" because it is in one search engine somewhere.
  5. If I have seperate sites for everything, someone who finds my site when looking for woodblock prints, would never know that I do portraits.

So, for now, I'll stick with one website. If I did get another site, it would be one just for eBay photos. Since all the photos in my auctions and store are hosted on my site, rather than by eBay, the requests for the photos really skew my website statistics. I would like to know how people find my site, but most of that data gets crowded out by the photo requests. Then again, I would have to upload the photos twice -- once to my site and once to a photo site.

Anyway, I still have a number of recent portraits to put up on my website. Putting the pictures on a new page isn't the time consuming part -- it's the writing a blurb about each one. After so many, I kind of run out of interesting things to say. (I've seen some artists' sites where it's just the picture and no text, but that leaves me wondering about the size of the piece, for example, and it really doesn't help for search engine ranking.)

So here's today's to-do list (for art -- I'll skip the house to-do list!):

  • reply to the comments about my recent newsletter
  • put the final touches on cat sketch and package it to mail
  • get the oils out and do a couple of art cards and finish a small oil still life
  • list a few things on www.hometownartgallery.com
  • create (and maybe upload) several more pages

Well, I had better get working then!

15 February 2006

Last of the Alpacas....for Now

Yes, this is the last installment where I'll whine on about alpacas. For a while, at least. Absolute Alpacas does have another show in April (and May), so be forewarned. This time, however, I plan on doing some alpaca artwork in the meantime so I won't have to do nothing but alpacas for 3 weeks!

One advantage of doing so many alpacas is that I'm getting good at doing them. I can just about draw an alpaca in any position I want. Here's a couple of my favorites (both pencil drawings):

I still have a few things to do for this show -- I need to mat one large drawing of an alpaca and I need to load up and take my display panels down to them. (Professional display panels, like artist use at shows, cost about $1200 for a set, so they are renting mine. ) And while I'm there, I'll get to see their new baby alpaca (called a cria).

After that, I suppose I need to get caught up on some other commissions, finish the demo for my website, send out my newsletter, and try to get a few things done for eBay. Or I may just take tomorrow off and do some experimental painting.

13 February 2006


Blah just about sums up how I feel.

Hubby was home for the weekend and we had some fun times, except for 2 things. First, his d-o-g has lice. Yes, lice. Supposedly they are not communicable to people or cats, but still. So we had to 'dip' the d-o-g. Second, hubby is now gone again -- left this morning at 6am -- and I already miss him.

Then there's the alpaca situation. Since I took the weekend off from the fuzzy buggers, I only will have one larger pastel done. I may get another smaller one done today, but probably not. The problem now is to figure out what she wants matted -- she only told be 3 different things, so I'm confused. I'll have to call her back and hopefully get one answer, not 3! I do feel better about doing alpacas since I had a break, but I really could use a few more days off from them.

I'm also way behind on my website and other marketing ideas. I should have had a drawing demo done already. I needed to get a list of alpaca owners in Arizona, so I can email them about the alpaca show and tell them about my artwork. I also should have my monthly newsletter ready to go. And I won't even mention what a mess my house is.

Perhaps the biggest 'problem' is eBay. I've always been able to sell things there -- not for great sums -- but things did sell. Well, for the last few weeks, I have managed to sell about 1 out of 6 items, for the first and only bid. Not good. I know in part it's because I'm not doing popular pictures, like cats, but still, I would think someone would have bid on a $90 botanical watercolor that I had for $14.95! (I only listed it that low to get attention and because it was one of a pair, but someone bought it's mate and I didnt' want to do another one.) All the eBay 'experts' have told me the same thing -- pick a topic, pick a media, and don't confuse the buyers. I hate to admit it, but they are probably right, so I spent part of this weekend trying to figure out what exactly to do. I'm still thinking about it all, but I don't have to decide what to do until I get done with the alpacas.

Well, I suppose I need to get busy. I have a couple of calls to make. A couple of things to package and mail today. And then I need to try and work on another alpaca.

07 February 2006

More Alpacas, Again

I know, you are probably sick of hearing about me doing all these alpaca drawings, but in another week, I'll move on to another subject. Right now, however, it's alpacas, alpacas, and alpacas.

In terms of my 'alpaca to-do' list, I have the pencil drawings done, most of the small sketches, some of the medium sketches, and the ink drawings done. I still have the soft pastel pieces left to do. And there's the problem. The farm requested:
  • (1) 8x10 soft pastel
  • (2) 11x14 soft pastel

While I can do a nice pastel of an alpaca as an 8x10, it's tricky. Soft pastels are like chunks of chalk and fine details on a small scale are extremely difficult. Not impossible, but extremely difficult. If I do a scene, for example an alpaca in a field, the size of the head will be about an inch high. The alternative is to do a fine, detailed pastel of just the head. But then I'm stuck wondering, "Who will want an alpaca head?"

That's problem no. 1. Problem no. 2 is I have some wonderful pictures of alpacas that would look fantastic as 16x20 pieces -- large pieces that are nearer life-sized. These pictures could be done on an 11x14 paper, but they just wouldn't have the same impact. I would just go ahead and do them larger, but the farm said they didn't want more large pieces (such as 16x20), so I'm stuck.

The only solution to these problems is to call them and explain the situation. Hopefully, they will understand and let me do what I think is best. In the past, I have run into this problem with other clients -- they want a certain size and I feel it would look better at a different size. Some clients absolutely insist on their size -- they don't want to spend a the extra money to get a larger size, even if I offer them a huge discount. Other clients will listen to my ideas and go along with them, and when they receive the piece they are thrilled with the large sizes. (And yes, on one occassion, I had someone want me to do something too large, and I had to talk them into a smaller piece.)

Well, I had better go make the call, so I don't waste a whole day waiting to know what sizes I'm doing. My deadline is approaching rapidly!

05 February 2006

Too Many Alpacas

Yesterday I had a melt-down. It wasn't pretty, but it was insightful.

Here's the problem. This alpaca farm wants 20 or so sketches of alpacas in addition to the 20 sketches they got last fall. Here's an example of one:
There's only so many different poses that alpacas get into and only so many fleece colors. So, either I repeat myself or I really have to work hard at coming up with new ideas. But -- here's the kicker -- these sketches are suppose to be quick and easy for me to do. This may come as a shock to some, but it takes me almost as much time to do the planning for a small drawing, say 8x10, than it does a larger piece, like a 16x20. These sketches should take only 5-10 minutes to plan out. Unfortunately, since I'm running out of quick and easy sketch ideas, the planning stage for each of them is now getting longer (20+ minutes) and more challenging.

What I figured out yesterday is that it's the planning stage (what to do and how to arrange the alpacas) that is killing me mentally. If I only had to do 2 or 3 sketches a week, then it wouldn't be so bad -- I could work on a larger piece while 'keeping my eyes open' for a sketch idea. But because the farm contacted me only 3 weeks from the show date and they recently told me they want the sketches ASAP (because they want to mat them), this means I need to do 2 or 3 per day. That's a lot of new ideas every day!!!

What I decided to do is give the sketches a rest for at least a few days, and then only do 1 or 2 per day at most. I'll concentrate on doing the larger pieces, and if I happen on an interesting sketch idea, then I'll do it. Now, I know this runs the risk of annoying the client, but if I don't do this, I'll burn out, or the quality of my work will suffer and the client will get annoyed with that. Hopefully, they will understand and want quality rather than quantity.

03 February 2006

Everything's Alpacas

HELP!!! I'm stuck in alpaca mode! Since I have this large commission involving lots of alpaca art, all I seem to be doing is alpacas! Now, I don't mind doing them as they are kind of funky looking, and the money is good, but....

I know some artists do one subject for years and are very happy doing it. In the art world, this is often viewed as a sign of a mature artist. The reasoning goes like this: a mature (deep thinking) artist will want to explore all the nuances of a subject and then capture the transedent message so the public can understand the deeper meanings of the subject. An amateur, on the other hand, will flit from one topic to another and never adequately explore a subject.

So, is this true? Yes and no. I suppose there are some artists who are doing this type of work, but, honestly, I have never met one. Many artists will stumble onto a subject and style that pleases the public (i.e., the paintings sell), so the artist does more of that kind of work. If the artist does enough of this kind of work, the work becomes almost automatic and, to me, it becomes production artwork and not really original artwork. For example, P. Buckley Moss did some original work when she first did her paintings with stylized Amish children. 20+ years later, she's still doing the same thing. The freshness in her work is gone. She has totally explored her subject and there's nothing more to say.

Other artists, like myself, paint or draw whatever subject seems most interesting at the time. For us (and I'll speak for this group), it's the painting/drawing that is important and not the subject. If you were to come to my house and I lined up a bunch of my work, you could easily see that not only was it done by one person, but there does seem to be a progression from one piece to another, even if the subject is radically different. In some people's mind, this makes me a lesser artist, but I'm in good company. Both Picasso and Michelangelo did more than one subect, and they aren't 'minor' artists.

So why is this idea -- explore one subject -- out there? I personally believe it's all because of marketing by galleries. It's so much easier to say, "Here's Mary, she does floral still lifes" than to say, "Here's Linda, she explores textures in a variety of settings, from still lifes to sculptures to alpaca drawings." The problem is if one wants to be 'successful' in a certain part of the art world, one must play this game and only explore one subject.

For years, I have fought against being 'forced' to doing only one subject. But for the next week or so, I will be content with doing only alpacas. Drawings of alpacas. Sketches of alpacas. Pastels of alpacas. Maybe even an oil painting of alpacas.