30 August 2006

Post Hubby Blues

Okay, I took last week off to spend time with my husband because it was our 20th anniversary. We had a great time doing not much of anything but being together. It was a wonderful week.

But now,....

Well, I should get back to work. Unfortunately, I'm having some mental and physical issues.

First, I like having my hubby around and doing things together. I know that's a bit unusual as most of my married acquaintances would rather have not spend time with their husbands. So, when he heads back on the road (he's an over-the-road trucker), I feel very lonely for a few days.

I'm also fighting against doing some portraits. I need to get these done so that I can do more of my personal art and just to get them off my mind. The problem stems from my fear of screwing them up. They are in oil and I haven't done a lot of oil portraits, especially lately. Add to this stress that one of them is to be a demo, so it's like having people watching me.

And just for kicks, I injured something in my back. It's the muscle under my right shoulder blade. I about screamed when I had to take my t-shirt off last night. It's a bit better this morning -- after 3 ibuprofens -- but all I have to do is reach out for a cup or look down too far to be strongly reminded that it's still there. This makes it hard to both write this blog, paint, do the dishes, etc.

So, after spending most of yesterday reading, I'm bored and frustrated. I really want to get back to work. So, I'm going to pick a portrait and do something on it for 30 minutes. (I think my back can handle that.) Maybe once I get working on something, I'll get motivated.

Or maybe I'll just finish the book.

20 August 2006

Works in Progress and Completed

I decided that Monday's just didn't work for an update on what I'm working on. Since I scan things in on Sunday, both for eBay and for my website, I might as well do this update blog at the same time.

While I have several things planned for this week, I know that I'll be lucky to get anything done. This week my husband (and his d-o-g) will be home for a week for our anniversary. I now people may not consider this professional behaviour, but I'm giving him most of my attention and time and not sitting in my studio and working. But in case I have time to do stuff, such as when he's working on his truck, here are my plans.

Works in Progress and Planned

  • portrait of Pancake -- I have the drawing done, but I'm waiting to hear back from the client about the background. I'm also struggling with getting enough courage up to start the painting -- it's not so much the painting that's the problem, but the fact that I'm doing this as a demo and everyone is watching.
  • portrait of Paca -- I'm still waiting on new photos.
  • a botanical watercolor of an iris -- This was going to be a hybrid Phragmipedium but I decided that this orchid would be better on a larger scale, so I've started on an iris. The reason I didn't just do the orchid larger now is (a) I only have 1 sheet of 7x10 paper left and want to use it and (b) I need to buy another block of 9x12 paper.
  • an artcard of a squash -- This is just going to be a fun little art card with lots of textures.
  • a floral oil painting of an orchid -- Another 5x7 orchard painting in oil. This one will be a purple vanda hybrid.
  • Irises in a Square Vase -- I have this planned out, but it's just a matter of getting started on it.

I would have liked to get more done this last week, but I (stupidly) decided to do this Best Offer Sale on eBay. That has taken most of my time. Well, the problems with the IRS, my auto insurance, and a part for my husband's truck all ate up huge amounts of time. But while I didn't get a lot of stuff done, I'm very pleased with the quality of the 3 pieces I did finish.

Recently Completed Works

Zorro Bunny -- This is an artcard in oil of a domestic rabbit, which I named Zorro because of his mask. I only had one small picture of this bunny, so I used the wild rabbits in my yard for the details on the face.

Pink Passionflower Hybrid -- This is another artcard in oil. I had done a very similar artcard in colored pencil and ink, but I never liked it. So, I redid it in oils. And it came out a whole lot better in my opinion. I did have a little problem with the reddish-pink. At first, it was too pink and too bright, but one of the nice think about oils is that one can correct minor problems easily. So, I glazed a bit of reddish-pink paint over the bright pink and it was exactly the right color. The glazing also added an incredible amount of depth to the flower, so I had to do a bit of glazing on the leaves to make it look right.

Red Miltonia Hybrid -- This is a 5x7 oil painting of a red hybrid miltonia orchid. I really enjoyed doing this little piece because it was simple to paint, was done in one day, and involved 'pretty' colors.

17 August 2006

Best Offer Sale Update

Well, so far my Best Offer Sale is doing okay. I received 2 reasonable offers, which I accepted. Also, people are watching several items -- hopefully waiting to make an offer when I stop listing new items. I had envisioned a lot more activity but a little bit is still better than none.

The problem I'm having right now is that I said I was going to list 5 items per day. So far, I have basically listed items that I had in my store at one time or another. This means that the pictures and descriptions are already on my computer and/or web site, so I just have to cut and paste. Tomorrow, I'll be listing some new-to-eBay items, which means I'll have to scan them in, upload images, and write descriptions. So, something that I figured would take only an hour to do per day, will now be more like2-3 hours.

And that's not in my schedule!

What I need to figure out is what to put up. So far I've listed prints, animals, still lifes, and botanicals -- my normal mix of eBay stuff. But like I said, I'm running out of previously listed items. I have one more print I could list and a couple of animal pieces. I could list other botanicals, although I'm a bit hesitant because I don't want to give some of these away! I could also list some abstract pieces, but they are sooo different from the realistic stuff, I don't know. I did get one request to list some nudes, but I had planned on listing them when I started listing goddess artwork. And then there's the brand new stuff -- done in the last couple of months -- which I really hate to list now as I'm going to try to list a couple of items per week from Sept thru May. I want to make sure I have enough stuff!

What really annoys me is that I created this problem myself. Why did I say 5 per day?!

16 August 2006

eBay Changes

Just when I think I have figured out eBay, they change the game.

One recent change is to the fees for eBay store items. Instead of 2-cents for a 30-day listing regardless of price, the listing fees will be $0.05 for items $0.01-24.99 and $0.10 for items $25.00 and over. Then the final value fees (fees after you sell something) also will increase from 8% to 10% for itmes under $25, and from 5% to 7% for items $25-100.

While these changes may seem minor, they do add up. For example, if I list 20 items in my store for a year, that used to cost $4.80. Now the listing fees will be $18.00 (if 10 items are under $25 and 10 are over) for the year. That's 375% increase!!! Now, multiply this times the number of eBay stores, say 200,000, and you can see we are talking some serious money for eBay. ($3.6 million/year) This is just the listing fees -- add the final value fees and it's really serious money!

So, rather than put a lot of items in my store and have them continually available, I'm going to have to be a bit more selective. (Okay, I can afford the $18.00/year, but I'm one of many artists who are very upset at eBay's greed!) I'm not sure what I will do -- list things related to what I'm putting on auction, list things that are too expensive to list at auction, list .... I don't know. I'll think about it.

Another possible change has to do with how things are found when one searches for items on eBay. eBay doesn't admit they are tweaking the search methods, but.... well a number of artists insist they are. Everytime they change how search results are found (all itmes listed by ending date, featured items first, no store items,...), it's a lottery as to whether it helps my items be found or not.

Anyway, I've decided not to list anything on auction until at least mid-September, so I can figure out what is going on. Also this will give me a chance to get caught up on portrait commissions. In the meantime, I will be listing about 5 items per day in my store (before 22 Aug when the new fees take effect), all with Best Offer options. Hopefully, I will sell a few items and clean out my store, so I'll have less store inventory.

Now, if eBay just leaves everything alone for a while, I might actually figure out how to make the new changes work for me!

15 August 2006

Mental Yoga

Okay, I have a schedule of when I'm suppose to do stuff daily (so I can get everything done). I was enjoying it and getting things done right up until the time others found out about it and are doing their best to mess it up.

Yep, people have found out and now my schedule is a mess. First one was my neighbor who invited me out for breakfast, which then stretched into mid-morning coffee because she needed to talk. There went that morning's "portrait/eBay artwork" timeslot.

Then there was the problem with my auto insurance, which meant that I had to call during normal working hours. One simple call turned into 3-4 calls and 3-4 call backs, so there went that afternoon's "personal artwork" period.

Today's first mess was the IRS' turn. Seems you send them a check 8 days ago, for a deadline today, and it takes them 2 weeks to process the check before you can find out if the check arrived on time or not. (If not, one can do an electronic payment and avoid the penalty for late payment.) Hey, it only took 45 minutes to get to a person who could tell me,... well,.. nothing because they don't have a clue where my check is until it's fully processed next week.

And today's finally "let's get rid of the schedule" mess is brought to me by eBay. I listed a few items and it seems they can't find my gallery pictures. I checked my website, and the photos are there. I revised the items and eBay still says the photos are fine but they arn't appearing in the listings. So I resubmitted the gallery photos, and I got another notice that the photos weren't available from the host. So, there went the morning with no art done and no gallery photos either.

Just to prove to everyone that I have not gone nuts, here's the photo that according to eBay doesn't exist:

Vulture Pot, oil on canvas

I'm trying to remain calm and just say to myself that things crop up and I need to go with the flow. But it's not easy. I have my schedule planned so I get artwork done, I have time to read/relax, I exercise, and I keep the house clean. I don't have time to deal with the IRS for an hour or to deal with eBay's newest glitch!

So, I get to practice some mental yoga. I do need to learn to be more flexible, as I have a tendency for yes/no thinking. If I miss one or two periods of doing art or I don't take a morning walk, the world doesn't come to an end. I just need to pick up from where I am and go back to my schedule. There's really no point in trying to catch up -- it's really only a way to beat myself up.

Just relax, and go with the flow. Be flexible. Take a deep breath.

And if all else fails, go hug a cat or two!

08 August 2006

Oh ****!!!

Okay, I know I'm not suppose to use certain words in public, so you'll just have to guess at what word I used.

Here's what happened to give you an idea of which section of the dictionary to look in. I was watering plants this morning and decided that I should move a couple of plants. I had these plants sitting in a 1/2 wine barrel, behind chicken wire, so that the rabbits couldn't eat them. When I picked one up, I noticed some small white grains of rice moving along in the moist soil where the pot had been sitting. I quickly picked up another pot, and more white critters. After removing the rest of the pots, I moved the barrel (not easy to do when it's full of soil) and there were more white critters.

One word -- TERMITES!!!

Next words -- Oh ****!!!

A couple of years ago we found them inside our house, so we had the house treated and trenched. In theory, the trenching chemicals should last 5 years, so in theory we have 3 years to go. But I don't like to push our luck. So, I moved that barrel and another one out by the retaining wall. The other one didn't have any termites, so I'm hoping the problem is in one area of the yard.

But this does give me a wake up call on moist soil and the nasty buggers. I was going to put in roses and other perennials up next to our house, but not now -- I'd just be attracting them closer. Instead, I'm going to put in a cactus and succulent bed, which will require less water, so it shouldn't be as attractive to termites.

I really wish that someone had given me a handbook for desert living when I moved in here. Who knew that a whiskey barrel with moist soil in would attract termites?!

07 August 2006

Works in Progress and Completed

I thought I would use my Monday blog to let everyone know what I'm working on for the comming week and what I have finished the prior week. Not only will this assuage people's curiosity (one of the most common questions I get is what am I working on), but it will help me organize what I want to get done each week. Also, this will be a way for me to talk about individual pieces on a more personal level, rather than my "just the facts" descriptions on eBay and my web site.

Works in Progress and Planned
  • Portrait of Pancake -- This is a portrait of a border collie in oil, which I'm using for a demo on my web site. Right now, I'm working on getting a good working drawing done. Once that's done and I get a few details cleared up from the owner, I'll start on the actual portrait.
  • Portrait of Paca -- I had planned on working on this oil portrait of a cat, but I ran into difficulty due to the photos or an adequate model (Paca has a shortened face and none of my cats do), so the owner has agreed to take some more photos. I'm hoping that the photos will arrive soon so I can get back to work on this portrait also. (It's easier to do 2 oil portraits at once, since the brushes will only have to be cleaned once.)
  • a botanical watercolor of a hybrid Phragmipedium (orchid) -- I have one sheet of 7x10 watercolor paper left on a watercolor block and I have one gorgeous photo of this orchid, so it seemed perfect to use both at once. Besides, I've been doing a series of small orchids and this will fit in nicely. I will be starting on the drawing for this painting in the next couple of days.
  • an artcard of a bunny -- Once I start listing things on eBay again, I would like to list 2-3 items a week, so I'm planning on using artcards as fillers. This will be of a domestic rabbit and will be done in oil. It's sketched out and just waiting for me to get the oils out.
  • a floral oil painting of an orchid -- This is just a little painting (5x7) of a red Miltonia hybrid. The main reason for this painting, other than the beauty of the flowers, is to give me some practice at working in oils before I start on a portrait. (I've haven't worked with oils since spring.)
  • Irises in a Square Vase -- This will be the last of my floral boutique series.

Well, that should be enough for one week! Actually, I may get a bit more done, depending on how long it takes me to get the photos of Paca and how many distractions happen. If I run out of things to do, I'll just do a couple more small oil paintings.

Recently Completed Works

Pink Trout Lily

Pink Trout Lily -- This is an artcard done in watercolor. While it came out fine, I had hoped for a bit brighter look, so I may redo it in oils on a larger scale. The paper seemed to lack its sizing so the watercolor sunk into the paper more than it should have.

Calypso bulbosa painting

Calypso bulbosa -- This is one of our native orchids and a real gem to find. It's not the most spectacular orchid, but for people that collect paintings of native orchids, it should be appreciated. (It seems that the only native orchids one sees are ladyslipper orchids.) Overall, I think the leaves are too dark, but it's the way the plant looked, so I can't really get too upset. I would have liked to do a close-up of the flowers but this was painted life-sized, so the flowers are only 1.5 inches long.

Anemones in a Crook

Anemones in a Crock --This is one of my boutique series paintings. It was done in pastel and watercolor and came out fine. I had a terrible time trying to figure what color the background should be -- blue, yellow-green, or yellow-brown. After about a dozen small color sketches, I settled on the brown version. What was interesting was I put too much pink in one wash and that really perked the background up. My husband really likes this one, but I still prefer the sunflowers I did in this series.

04 August 2006

Off the Bookshelf

One of the things I'm doing with my new life plan (yikes! I sound like Dr. Phil) is to read more and to read better quality books. And since several readers of my blog have asked what I am reading, I thought I'd write about what I'm reading and why and what I thought of the books when I'm done with them. The latter point is to perhaps help others out when it comes to picking out a good book to read.

Before I get to the books, I should explain one other thing. In the past, I have tried to read 2-3 novels, a couple of non-fiction books, and 1 or 2 self-help books all at once -- basically I had a nice pile of books next to the bed. I know I didn't do any of them justice so I now limit myself to 1 novel and 1 non-fiction book. It's not easy to do, since I'll be doing something and see a book and just want to start reading it. Instead, I now have a pile of books to read in the study, not beside my bed.

Here's what I've finished lately:
  • A Sophisticate's Primer of Relativity, by P.W. Bridgman -- I bought this book on a whim, hoping it would help me begin to understand relativity (which is background to string theory which is what I really want to understand). Despite it's title, this is not a primer on relativity. In fact, the author does state he expects the reader to be familiar with relativity theory and its equations. (The book has 2 equations in it, so the math behind the theory wasn't a problem.) I found the book to be almost useless because it was a reprint of an older book (1962) and still talked about ether, because the author seemed a whole lot more interested in the philosophy of science than in discussing the theory of relativity, and because the author often referred to various experiments and papers which I have no knowledge of.
  • Op-Center: State of Siege, by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik -- I bought this at the library's book sale sometime ago because hubby was reading Clancy's novels and forced me to read them in self-defense. It was entertaining, but not challenging from a literary point of view. Basically, something bad happens, good guys fight to save the day, and there's a lot of technical jargon. This one , however, was more interesting than some of the Op-Center series because of the background given on the League of Nations and the founding of the UN.

Presently, I'm reading these two books:

  • The Hours, by Michael Cunningham -- I found this novel at the library booksale and bought it because this book and it's author has won numerous awards, so it must be good. (So far as in I'm on chapt 2, it is good.) The basic outline is 3 women, with 3 diferent lives, and somehow they get connected by the end of the book.
  • Regarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag -- Years ago, I saw Sontag on Charlie Rose and thought she sounded interesting, so I bought several of her books. Lately I found this book, so, since the subject is photography and its influence on war perception, I thought it was very appropriate to read now.

I do wish I had a bit more time to read -- I used to take whole afternoons or days off to read a book -- but I have so many other things to do. So, my reading is confined to a half hour or so after lunch, at night (since I don't watch much tv), and on weekends when I'm having my days off. But I'm also finding it nice to be looking forward to reading a bit more everyday.

02 August 2006

Focusing on the Important

I never knew that evacuating from a fire several weeks ago would totally change my way of looking at things, but it did. While it sounds dramatic, it was a life-changing event.

The key part was having a couple of hours (about 3) to pack everything I considered valuable into a small pickup. While this might sound difficult, it really wasn't -- I was on autopilot. First came the pets and their supplies. Then came the "important papers", such as current bills, social security card, passport, insurance policy, etc. After that I packed my CPU, my art business records, and some of the artwork. When it came to the artwork, I took those pieces that I had sold but were waiting to ship, some small "sellable" artwork, a number of sculptures, and a few pieces that I refuse to sell because I like them too much. Most of the latter were abstract pieces and still lifes with wonderful textures. And finally, a few household and personal items that I figured would be hard to replace or which I had strong attachments to. This included my Schaaf knives, a Gesswein, music CD's, an antique Tibetan prayer bowl, and a couple of trash bags full of stuffed animals.

The bottomline was, except for some of the artwork, everything I took was valuable to me. Notice I didn't take clothes, jewelry, books, furniture, a tv, ... or anything that most people take. I doubt that most others would have packed teddy bears instead of clothes, but that's what I did.

After the crisis was over, I unpacked and started to think about what I had taken. I was silently comparing it to how I live my life, what I do for art, and how I view possessions. It took a few weeks for this to soak in and then to blossom into a new insight into what I want in life. And slowly over these weeks I have re-arranged my life to reflect this new insight.

On a personal level, this has meant that I am back to spending time gardening, cleaning my house regularly, reading decent books, etc. All these things I have done sporadically, but now I'm finding time to do them regularly. This is accomplished by understanding for example I don't have to spend an entire afternoon reading (I can read for 30 minutes and then put down the book) -- a little everyday can accomplish a lot over time.

On a physical level, I am doing tai chi, cooking decent food, and trying to lose weight. One of the keys to the latter is a vow not to eat commercial deserts or sweet stuff -- if I'm too lazy to bake something, I don't get to eat it! So far, I've lost 2+ pounds and feel a whole lot better.

In terms of art, this will mean that I will divide my time between "sellable" art and "personal" art. Sellable art includes portraits and art that I intentionally do to sell on eBay. For example, I know irises are well liked, so if I do another botanical watercolor of one, it would be in this category. The personal art is stuff I want to do for me with no real expectation that it will ever sell. Most of my scultpures, abstracts, and "textured" still lifes are personal art. (This is the stuff I took because I wanted it and not because I should.) While this will mean I produce less stuff for eBay, I honestly think that in the long-run, I will end up selling more because I'll be happier.

I'm still working at trying to fit everything in that I want to do, while still having enough time for doing art. It's been an interesting exercise, though. And while I would have prefered not to have been evacuated, I'm glad something positive has come out of the experience.