30 November 2006

Plodding Along

Yep, I'm still here. I'm just a bit busy what with 4 portraits to do by 15 Dec.

And yes, I said 4. I thought it would be 5, but no photo, no check, no commission. As I told you, last Friday I received a phone call from a lady wanting me to do a portrait for Christmas. We talked about it and I agreed to do it. I told her that she needed to send me the photo (and a check) by Priority Mail so that I could get started on it right away. That was on Friday and she said she'd send it on Saturday. So, it should have arrived on Tuesday. But now it's Thursday and still no photo. I guess I'm not terribly surprised as she had called me before to arrange for a portrait only to never send anything that time either. Part of me is kind of annoyed, because I could use the money, but another part of me is a bit relieved since I will have less work to get done by 15 Dec.

As for the other 4, I'm working on 2. I do one in the morning for upto 3 hours and another in the afternoon for upto 3 hours. These 3 hour periods is about my concentration limit on a single piece. Beyond that and I start getting sloppy. So I work on one, eat lunch, and then start fresh on a different portrait. For me, it works well. (Other artists will work on one portrait until it's done -- even if that's 8+ hours in a row.) If I hadn't had to go into town and buy groceries, I would have finished both of them. As it is, I'll get them done tomorrow and then put them away for a couple of days before doing the final touch-ups. In the meantime, I'll start on the next two.

I've basically decided that I need to finish ALL the commissions (except one) by 31 Dec and then after that, I will do portraits as soon as I get them. I'm tired of having so many laying around, although most clients are happy to wait especially after they see the finished product. (I'm slow, but I'm good!) Still, they act like a weight around my neck and cause me stress just knowing they are yet to be done. I may even start having a "by this date or 25% off" policy, just to get me to do them sooner than later.

Now all this makes it sound like I don't like doing portraits. And that's not quite right. I love them and I have them. The love part has to do with the facts I know I can do them well, I get paid a decent amount for them, and I don't have to 'guess' what the public will buy. The hate part is the "I don't want someone else telling me what to do" and with repeet customers, I have a fear of not living up to past expectations. I've been working hard on getting over these negatives, and I'm making good progress.

Still, I'm very anxious to get back to doing work which is totally my own. I have lots of ideas for still lifes, wildlife art, and even some abstracts. And I want to do some more relief prints -- but no one has ever asked for a relief print of their Uncle Bob!

27 November 2006

Thanksgiving Report

Okay, I took a few days off from writing and suddenly several people are worried that I'm all depressed about the holidays. While it was nice to know more than 2 people read my blog, no need to worry. While I spent Thanksgiving alone (hubby was in Ohio to Texas), I enjoyed myself.

One of the things I like about holidays is the chance to cook. Most of the time, I take just enough time to throw something together, whether it's a salad or pasta. Basically, it's a main dish and a vegie. But when the holidays come, I enjoy the cooking part. I know many people dislike the cooking for the holidays, but to me it's a chance to try new recipes and revisit old favorites. So I spent most of Thanksgiving day cooking and created a very nice 4 course meal for myself. Perhaps the best part of the meal was the spiced quince and cranberry compote. Yummy!

Another thing I like about holidays is that I can't do anything (like run errands in town), so I get to work. I'm a coward when it comes to holiday store sales, large crowds, and crammed parking lots. I'd much rather stay home, order from a catalog (or make my gifts), and watch the mess on TV. So, while everyone else was out getting all these bargains, I was working on finishing up some portraits. I finished one, and almost finished the other 2. It was real nice just to work without interruptions or worrying about running to the post office or....

That reminds me -- it was a good thing I was home on Black Friday. I received a call from a lady who wanted me to do a portrait of her parents. Yep, another one for Christmas, but of the 5 I need to do, this one will be the easiest to do. So, Black Friday actually turned out to be profitable even for me!

So, that was my holiday weekend. And now it's Monday, and I feel like I'm back to the chaos. My email stopped working over the weekend. I 'lost' the task bar this morning. I had to run into town for cat food. And my reading light -- with it's special bulb -- burned out last night so now I need a new bulb. Other that all this, I finished emailing the alpaca people, I started on two of the Xmas portraits, and I'm now back to simple, quick meals.

Hey, if you want to feel sorry about me over the holidays, save some for my normal chaotic life!!!

22 November 2006

What a Wonderful Day

Okay, there's bad news and annoying news, but surprisingly I'm not too upset.

First the annoying news. I'm trying to get started on 2 portraits for a lady this Christmas and despite having sent her 3 emails, she has yet to receive one. So, I tried calling her, and got only clicking -- no rings, no busy signal. It's like the Universe is stepping and preventing me from communicating with her. The only way I can 'talk' to her is via eBay. While I'm not quite ready to start on the final drawing, I'm hoping we can get this straightened out soon.

Now the bad news. I had a wonderful idea for the Nibblefest Contest, but I just didn't get to it today. Since all the auctions must end on the 27th, I'd now have to list it for 3-days which would probably be a waste of time and materials. While I have delusions of people being stunned by my work and mad bidding wars ensuing, reality is more like I'd get 1 or 2 bids and it would end at $5. So, I'll skip this month. I'll still do the drawing I had in mind, but it won't be listed at $0.99!

Usually, these two things would upset me, but I'm not. I had a wonderful day. I played with my 2 tame parrots. I read for an hour with 2 cats sleeping on me. I almost finished a pencil portrait. And I picked out several quince and persimmon recipes for tomorrow. It's really interesting how much I enjoy these small 'boring' things. Someone once said I lived a boring life because I just stayed home and worked on my art. Then again, someone else accused me of being a drama queen -- then why do I so enjoy things like reading with 2 cats sleeping on me?

And tomorrow is looking pretty good too. Yep it's a holiday and nope hubby won't be home, but I'm still going to enjoy it. I get to work on art, play with my zoo, and eat lemon glazed persimmon bars. Pretty nice life to me!

20 November 2006

No Time to Relax

Well, I made some good progress over the weekend, so that now I'm only slightly behind. I finished off the knitting I had to do and shipped it off. I redesigned my alpaca art and portrait page on my website and put up some new portraits. (I still have several to put up, but I could only work so long.) I sent a newsletter to about 1/3 of the alpaca owners on my list -- trying to get me some business and helping Absolute Alpacas sell the Xmas cards I designed. I also worked on a pencil portrait and have it about done. (I need to get it done before I start on the Xmas portraits.) And I am almost finished with 2 oil dog portraits -- again, I need to finish these this week.

What I really would like to do is take a day off and just relax. But I don't dare. I need to finish those 3 portraits so I can work on the Xmas portraits and I need to finish emailing the alpaca owners. And sometime this week, I need to work on more knitting -- at least this bunch isn't a "I really need this now" order. It does feel good to be catching up.

Actually, I'd settle for a good night's sleep. The problem is Sammy and his cone. Since I put the cone on him, I don't dare let him sleep with the 2 boys in the spare bathroom because they pester him and want to eat the cloth strip I'm using to hold it on. So, I let him sleep with Emily and me. That's not bad because Sammy wants to snuggle to me. But with that cone, he keeps bumping into me. And then he decides that 3am is perfect time for a snack, so he tries to wake me up in the hope that I will feed him. He either paws at me or sits on my hair or licks my nose -- anything to wake me up. Now I have tried to lock him out of the bedroom -- Emily likes that idea -- but then he sits out in the hall and meows, jiggles the door with his paws, and bangs around with the cone. This just doesn't work for me. Thankfully, the sore is healing nicely and maybe by next weekend I'll be able to de-cone him and let him sleep with the "Boys".

One other annoying thing is that today is the beginning of the November Nibblefest Art Contest. The theme is "purple" and I have a good idea for it. I just don't have it done. If I can work on it some tomorrow and finish it on Wednesday, I can list it for 5 days at least. I would have prefered to list it for 7 days but 5 is better than nothing. My concern right now is what size to do it. I'd like to do it 11x14 but I'm back to being afraid it will sell for $5!

Well, I suppose I should go eat so I can do some knitting and still get to bed early tonight. I'd like to get the pencil portrait and the purple painting done tomorrow, so I need to be awake early and get working.

16 November 2006

Catching Up...Sort Of

Well, I had a pretty good afternoon.

I would have had a good morning too, but I had to run to the vet. Some time ago, my cat Sammy had surgery to remove a wart and to sew up a hole he'd rubbed into his cheek while trying to get the wart off himself. The surgery went fine and so did his recovery. The stitches came out and then the problems started. He started to rub it. The vet suggested a couple of creams to put on it to get him to stop rubbing it. Didn't help. He kept working on and opened the sore up again. So, I sewed up a soft muzzle with padding where the sore was. It worked one night. By the second night, he had messed with it so much that he got the scab off underneath the muzzle. Talked to the not-so-helpful vet tech and she suggested making a collar/cone for him. Over the last few days I tried paper, cardboard, and an over-stuffed sock. Nothing helped. So, today I broke down and went to the vet and got a genuine plastic kitty collar.

And now Sammy hates me. At first he ran madly around the house, but now that plastic cone weighs so much he can't hardly move! He's sitting under a bird cage looking totally pathetic! The only time he perked up was when I got out the kitty treats. I'm hoping he will get used to it shortly and that it will actually prevent him from re-opening the sore. (It's now scabbed over slightly, so fingers crossed.) In the meantime, I have to check him every now and then because he has gotten stuck a couple of times!

So that was the morning. This afternoon I worked on 3 different portraits and made some progress on each. All three are coming out well and should be done -- except for drying -- by the end of next week.

And then I had to watch Dr. Phil with my new bird. Cory (the new bird's name) seems to want attention in the morning and in the late afternoon. I suspect that was before work and when his owner came home from work. So, we watch Dr. Phil. Actually, I watch the show and he explores. He has more fun crawling around on and under my shirt than any parrot I've ever had. He also said "hello" this afternoon -- about 20 times in a row. I just can't get over how tame and trusting he is. Getting this bird may have cost me a commission (something about not being responsible and wasting my time while I have other things to do, so give me my money back), but I'm so glad I got him.

Tonight, it's knitting time. I'm suppose to have 3 small scarves, 2 shawls, and 2 hats done by Monday. It'll be close and I might not make the second hat. Non-knitters don't understand that hats, especially with fine yarn, take a long time to knit or crochet. Take for example the wig hat I just finished. I probably took me 6 hours to do. Part of the problem with it was working with double pointed needles -- 5 needles around a 3" diameter circle is NOT fun! It was fun to do one of, but I don't think I'll be knitting these for everyone on my Christmas list! Anyway, here's a photo of the moi in the wig hat!

And just for the record, it's really tricky to take a photo of yourself from the side with a camera photo!!!

14 November 2006

One Thing Done, 20 Left!

Okay, maybe there's not 20 things left on my to-do list. Maybe there's more, or at least that's how it feels.

But one thing's done. I finished the knitted hat for someone. I'll take pictures of it tomorrow and talk more about it, but it's weird!!!

I still have a long list of things to do, but I did make some progress on several items today, so I feel better. I know I shouldn't let commissions pile up and once I'm done with all of them, I will do them as soon as I get them. It just always seems that something comes up and I get distracted.

Part of the problem is that for most of my artwork, I'm not getting nearly a living wage or even minimum wage. Since hubby's truck had problems a few years ago (blew an engine -- $20,000) and we built up a fair amount of credit card debt, I feel like I can't turn down any opportunity to make money. Hence, I end up doing portraits, logos, websites, knitting, and other art all at once. If I was getting even $10 per hour, then I could pick and choose to some degree. As it is, only on the portraits do I make about $10 per hour. The botanicals come in at about $5/hr, florals at $6-10/hr depending on medium, still lifes at $3-5/hr for the smoothly blended ones, and about $1-3/hr for sculptures. The last item is why I'm not doing any sculptures right now -- I can't work long enough hours to make even a tiny dent in the credit card debt.

On the other hand, I get about $25/hr for logos and websites and about $10-15 /hr for some knitting. (The hat I just finished would be about $2/hr, because it is knitted fairly tightly.) Unfortunately, there are already too many people doing websites and logos to make that the major part of my income. Also, there's my lack of interest in doing either full time.

So, I'm left piecing things together to make a living. While I would rather make my living from selling 4 or 5 paintings a year, I still would rather do 20 different things at once than get one of those "real" jobs.

13 November 2006

I've Just about Had It!

What can I say? Last week was a week from Hell! Here's a brief outline of what happened:

  • On Sunday, I tore an abdominal muscle so sitting, standing, lying down, walking, eating, etc... are all very painful. It's better now, as long as I don't sit in one position for over an hour.
  • On Monday, the local internet server stopped working, so the only way to access the internet was via long-distance. Besides auctions, I had bills to pay so I was really counting on the internet to be there. It finally got fixed on Thursday.
  • On Tuesday, one of my parrots died and to say I miss him terribly is an understatement.
  • On Thursday, hubby's dog got out just before sunset so we spent most of the night looking and worrying about him. (We have lots of coyotes that find small dog tasty.) On Friday, the dog came home with only minor scrapes.
  • Also on Friday, I had the opportunity to adopt a new parrot but I had I drive about 3 hours to get him. By the time I got home I was physically unable to stand up straight or eat for fear of vomitting.
  • On Saturday, with great reluctance, hubby headed back on the road.

In the middle of all this, I get 4 portrait commissions and an order for more knitted items (by Thanksgiving). Throw in my sadness about the death my little birdie friend, and I really feel overwhelmed. So, I sent an email out to all those waiting for a portrait, or auction winnings, or knitting, and most people understood.

I said most. One lady replied, "the drama and excuses have run thin. at this point i would accept a full refund...", so I did. I have the portrait of her cat about 1/3 done and I normally don't refund money once I've started, but I did this time. A small voice in the back of my head kept telling me that no matter what I did for her, she wouldn't be happy with the final portrait. I was on drawing #9 or so for her before she approved of the drawing. (Normally it's one or two and that's it.) At this point, with so many portraits to finish, I don't need that kind of aggrevation. So, I cut my losses and refunded the full price. I shouldn't have done that because I'm now out the cost of the canvas and the cost to develop some pictures. (She sent her photos of the cat as one of those disposable cameras and I had to pay to get it developed.) There comes a point when it's better to lose money than deal with headaches.

Needless to say, the painting a day plan is presently way out of the window. I need to get these portraits done and I will -- I might have to stay up some nights, stop taking showers, and eat tv dinners, but they will get done. There's 4 I need to do by Xmas, 2 pastels that should get done by 1 Jan, 2 oils and a pencil portrait that will be done by Thanksgiving, and one oil which will get done in early January (and I'll throw in a bonus for her). I'll be stressed, but I will get everything done. (And then I can get back to painting my stuff!)

And now, off to list something on eBay. It's a pain that I'm so busy now and this is the good time on eBay. Next year, I plan to work hard over the summer and have lots of stuff ready to sell in the winter.

03 November 2006

You Gotta be Kiddin?!

It wasn't the best of days, but I'm feeling slightly better than yesterday. I made a couple of decisions and I bought some cookies! Hey, when I'm blah, baking cookies is just too much trouble, so I bought some.

Decision #1
I need to get these portraits done ASAP. They are hanging around my neck like a huge weight. So, to get them done quickly, I'm suspending the painting a day plan until I get at least 4 of the 7 done. I'm also not going to join another interesting group which does a themed painting on Fridays until the portraits are done. I'm cutting back on listing on eBay for the next week or so. I'll still list 3 or 4 items, but not the 6-7 I have been. I need to be actively painting and producing more stuff to list daily.

Decision #2
I'm not happy with my life being taken over by art, knitting, and websites. I need some time for myself, for my cats, and for my house. Now, I'm not talking 3 or 4 hours per day -- just an hour a day to do non-art stuff. And then I'm taking Saturdays off from business. I have a lot of little household chores, such as weather stripping the windows, which need to be done, so I'm going to do it. I'm also going back to reading more. I kind of got away from that thanks to the knitting, which I tend to do while watching TV. I need to bring my life into a more healthy balance.
Decision #3
This computer has crept back into my life and has taken over. Yes, I know my web site needs updating. Yes, I need to list auctions. Yes, I need to write this blog (a whole lot cheaper than therapy!). And yes, I need to work on this alpaca farm's web site. But that doesn't mean I need to check my email or auctions 4 or 5 or 6 times a day and then check this group or that web site. Starting tomorrow, I 'll check things in the morning and reply to emails and problems, and then the computer stays off until 5pm (blog/auction time). And my web site will be updated on Sunday mornings.
Well, I think these 3 decisions will help me be happier and more productive.
Speaking of happier or not, I recently received a Best Offer on a portrait commission. It was an 8x10 pencil portrait which I had for $80. The offer was for $5!!! I just about fainted. I really would like to ask the person if they thought that was a fair offer. Needless to say, I declined it. Definitely one for the "you gotta be kiddin" file!

02 November 2006

Not a Good Day

This was not a good day. I just couldn't get going this morning or this afternoon. I think it was a combination of not eating decent food, not having slept well last night, and being tired of working on this computer. So, I did my painting and took the rest of the day off.

I might as well get today's painting over:

It's Japanese iris buds in watercolor in front of two leaves done in pencil. Years ago, I did a set of 4 of these and a couple of months ago, someone bought one of them. ONE! So rather than redo the same iris, I did a slightly different iris. Unfortunately, it doesn't loof too good. While it's botanically correct, it's not terribly colorful, it should be moved up higher, and it looks funny since I'm not used to Japanese irises.

I guess I shouldn't paint while blah. Now if my auctions would do well, or someone would buy a couple things from my store, or I'd a check or two in the mail, maybe I'd feel better. If not, tomorrow when I mail a package, I'm buying some cookie fixings. Nothing like a chocolate chip cookie to chear me up!

01 November 2006

Nibblefest Results

While the results aren't officially in concerning the October Nibblefest Contest, I've accepted the fact that I didn't win or even place, in terms of unique bidders. I only had 4 different bidders. Some people had 10+ unique bidders. That's fine, as I know some of the artists involved have large followings.

What I found terribly upsetting is the cheating. Well, I should say suspected cheating. For example, one item had a total of 9 different bidders, of which 4 had zero feedback. 3 of these bidders were also brand new to eBay and had registered on 21 Oct, 22 Oct, and 23 Oct. Could it happen that 3 newbies would fine this auction 2-3 days after they registerd? Yes, but the probability is very low. Or is it more likely that the artist, not pleased with either the price or the number of bidders, created these IDs to help their entry along?! Just in case people don't know, many artists have 2 or 3 IDs so they can sell or buy non-art things and not have the feedback show up. Not only am I upset by people cheating in general, I feel sorry for the real bidders who either paid more than they should have or lost the auction to a fictional person.

Other than this problem, my piece was the 7th highest (out of 58 entries) in terms of price. I'm pleased with the price. Also, I think I have found a tiny niche on eBay which I'll happily fill with a few more similar paintings. And my piece was seen by a lot of people, although much of the traffic was other contestants.

Overall, it was a very good experience and I plan to participate in the monthly event for some time to come. November's theme is a monochromatic painting in purple. I admit, purple isn't exactly my favorite color, but I've got an idea or two on what to do. The only question is just how much am I willing to risk, since the auction will be starting at $0.99. I'd like to do a large closeup of a purple orchid or iris in oil, but I'd be really pissed if I spent $20 on the canvas and had it go for $10! (I suppose I could jack the shipping up to $25 like a couple of people did. $25 on a small painting -- I could send it US Priority Mail for $4.05!)

Anyway, I did sort of get back into the saddle today. So, here's today's painting:

It's a cedar waxwing in watercolor on handmade paper. I'm pleased with it, eventhough I struggled with the colors. It seemed every photo I looked at had the wings and lower back a different color. For example, the wings ranged from blueto pure black to a brown/black. I finally put all the photos away and decided to paint it so that it looked good to me. Afterall, I have an artistic license! (Bad joke!)

Since I had to take a break from painting daily (due to illness, knitting, and website/logo designing) I'm running low on what to list. I don't have any wildlife up, except for a moose art card, so I guess I'll list this waxwing. I don't know what I'll due for tomorrow, but one day at a time.