01 December 2007

Not Really Back

Well, I see it's been several months since I last wrote anything. The fact of the matter is that I haven't exactly felt like writing much of anything. Plus I haven't had much time, either.

Sometime this summer, it became apparent to me that this making a living at art was burning me out on art, not producing the income I need (in the next year or so), and not likely to improve at anytime in the future. So, I decided, gulp, to give up on being a full-time artist and go be a math teacher. Yep, math. I do have that degree in math/stat and I have taught before (at college level) and they need math teachers, so it fit. It also will give me the freedom to do my art for at least 3 months in the summer.

The bad part of this math idea is that I had to review 4 years of math in 2-3 months so that I could take competency exams. This is college level math with such fun topics as calculus, abstract algebra, and number theory. I will admit it, I haven't had some of the topics and I haven't thought about math in years, so this was a shock to my brain. While I was always good at math, trying to learning abstract algebra on my own after 15 years of not thinking about math as ... well, interesting. Anyway, since about August, I have done 5-10 hours a day of math.

This didn't leave any time or energy to do art, so I ended up refunding commissions and closing my eBay store. Both of these things were difficult to do because I had to admit that my life as an artist (only) was over. I know I'm not suppose to say this, but I felt (and still do) like I failed at 'art'. In my more rational moments (i.e., when I'm not wallowing in self-pity), I understand that I was good at the 'doing art' part, but because of my stubbornness, lack of knowledge, and lack of luck, I failed at the 'selling art' part. (I'll write more on this in a later post.)

Lately, things have calmed down a bit and I'm thinking about painting a bit. (I've passed the hardest exam, feel confident I passed the second exam, and now just waiting for results so I can fill out the actually paperwork to get an internship.) I'm also working on finishing up a couple of stone sculptures -- just so I can have more things to dust in my house!!!

Oh, and in all this mess, Emily, my cranking old cat, is dying from chronic renal failure. Some days she acts fine, and some days I think it's time to make the final trip to the vet. Today has been a good day so far.

Someone recently said to me the Universe doesn't give you more than you can handle. I sometimes wonder about that -- then again, I am still here and it is been fun reviewing/learning all that math, so I guess it's true.

04 July 2007

Excessive Heat Warning!

It's official -- it's hot. Only 109 today. Tomorrow is suppose to be over 112! In fact, I'm in an area with an excessive heat warning. This is what I get for living in a desert. So, no strenuous outdoor activity, lots of water, and a big bowl of ice cream. Okay, the last one is my own idea, but I'm willing to see if it works to make me cooler.

Actually, 109 isn't so bad with a breeze and no humidity. Well, there's a breeze, but.... Unlike normal heat waves, this one came with clouds. Not the big thunderstorms but high wispy clouds. Well, clouds means humidity otherwise the clouds evaporate over the mountains. So, this 109 is like walking out into a sauna. I doubt that this humidity is enough to lower the fire danger, so all it's doing is making life miserable outside. (Hey, even the cactus wrens are walking around with their mouths open.)

While my house does have air-conditioning, my studio still gets plenty warm. If I turned the a/c to cooler, it would be better in here, but then the rest of the house would be too cool. (I keep it about 82-85, so I'm not sweating but I still adjust to the heat.) So, I adjust my schedule. I now am painting in the morning, knitting or reading in the afternoon (in a cooler room), and then back in here at night to work on my web site or draw (doing colors under artificial light is frustrating to me). I can work with this, except for one minor annoyance. There's nothing interesting on the radio at night. (Hey, I said it was minor!) Flexibility is key to an artistic life.

So, what am I working on? There's a dog portrait, a short-eared owl, a warbler, and an alpaca print. The last item I have done, but I just need time to print it. If it ever gets cooler outside, I'll get back to working on a couple of sculptures, but not when it's 105+! If I can get my web site updated, then I'll have even more time to do art.

And now, I think it's time for that bowl of ice cream.

02 July 2007

Too much???

Yes, I know it's been literally weeks since I last wrote anything. The fact of the matter is that I'm just too tired to do everything I want to do so some things, such as this blog, get left behind.

So here's a few of the things I've been upto lately:
  • I've been dealing with a sick cat and 2 cats with food-issues. This means special food and medication at various times throughout the day. I never realised how nice it was when I had 3 cats and they all ate the same food without any other problems.

  • I've had to deal with various troubles with my husband's truck and his business. While this doesn't take up much time, it's an emotional nightmare. A few hours in the shop and he racks up a bill for $3000! There's only so much money, so I have to juggle bills to pay everything.

  • I'm revamping my web site thanks to a friend talking to a big-name decorator. She wants to show him my work, but I'm insisting that she hold off for a week so I can redo some of my web site. (Like this blog, updating my web site is one of those things that I keep putting off.) I probably have 10 portraits and a dozen botanicals to put up!

  • I've just finished a couple of portraits, but I still have 3 or 4 more to do! Every time I think maybe I've caught up, I get further behind.

  • I decided that come Sept, I will get rid of the garbage service, so I've had to work on starting a compost pile. A compost pile in the desert requires almost daily maintenance.

  • I'm trying to get some bookcases built in my studio so I can actually find books. One thing about doing wildlife art is that you need reference material -- books and photos. But if the reference material is hidden away in boxes or piles, it's really frustrating.

  • I am now back to 'professionally' knitting for 2 different people. One contacted me and we settled on terms. Then another lady contacted me and, since we have had a long-term working relationship, I agreed to do some for her. (If I didn't need the money to cover the vet bills, I'd say 'no'.) I guess I will have something useful to do while sitting in front of the fan when it's 106F outside!

  • And finally, I'm desperately trying to get new work done both to sell now and to have ready for the fall.

I know I'm a bit unrealistic, expecting to be able to do everything, but I don't know what to cut. I keep thinking if I could just work a bit longer or figure out how to do something faster, then it all would fit in a day. Maybe, maybe not. I'm just glad that most of my clients understand and are patient with me!

10 June 2007

My Dear Stupid Neighbors

I decided that I needed a day off from doing art, so I took one. Part of the reason had to do with finishing up one portrait, trying to get new stuff done for eBay, and getting ready to start on a new portrait. I basically just needed a break from it all.

And the other part of the reason is my stupid neighbors. Yes, stupid, stupid, and stupid. At about 9:30pm I looked out my window and saw flames shooting up about 20 feet. I looked again and saw no one around. So, I called 911 (as did 5-7 other people). As soon you could hear the sirens on the fire trucks, my dear neighbors rushed out to put out the fire and then turned off all their house lights. As it happened, there was also a house fire about that time so the fire department was diverted.

So, once the fire trucks were gone, they were back out with a roaring fire going. So, I (and several other neighbors) called 911 again. The trucks stopped on their way back from the other fire. According to one neighbor with a scanner, the stupid neighbors had no permit for open burning and were told to have a smaller fire.

And a bit after the firemen left, they were building the fire up again. Since I was told on the previous call to call back if the fire restarted, I called 911 again. And then I got a visit from the fire chief, who was now stationed out here to watch the fire. According to him, they had a valid permit and were cooperative, so nothing would happened to them.

Well, being the paranoid person that I am, I stayed up until 1:30am and watched the goings on, just to be sure. (Hey, I have too many pets to evacuate with 2 minutes notice!) I also spent the time talking to the neighbor with the scanner. According to her, on the next call to 911, the sheriff was to be sent out and the stupid neighbors were to be cited.

This is where the story gets interesting. This morning, scanner-lady talks to a couple of firemen and they say there was no valid burning permit, a permit would allow them to burn things from 11am to 2pm (not 11:30 pm!), and the permit required them to call the fire department before they started any fire.

So, the question I and several others have is why weren't these people cited last night? Why were they allowed to continue until 1:30am?! Who's lying -- the firemen or the fire chief?

To people who live outside the West, this may seem to be blown out of proportion. And if I still lived in Iowa, I probably would never have called the fire department. But, here, things are very different. We have not had measurable rain since about March 2006. The vegetation is VERY dry. One tiny ember can start a huge fire in no time. For those that have read this blog last year, you will recall the huge fire (37,000 acres) and my evacuation which started from a few embers. And since my dear neighbors have a record of stupidity (scrape their yard and then complain about the blowing dirt?!), I do not trust them with any fire.

So, after staying up until 1:30am and then getting up at 5:30am (thanks to my cats), I'm not at my best. Even the nap I took doesn't seem to have helped all that much. I just hope I'll be able to get to sleep tonight and we won't have round 2 of stupidity!!! After all, I have lots of art to do tomorrow.

08 June 2007

Father's Day Portrait

Well, here it is -- the portrait for Father's Day that I was working. I'm actually pretty proud of me. Not only did it come out quite well, but I got it done in record time and ahead of schedule. YEAH for me!

As I said, the portrait is one of my better ones. Part of the appeal is the photo -- it's so loving. People sometimes don't think about how a photo really looks -- instead they think only that it is a picture of Uncle Bob. Well, not every photo makes a great portrait. For example, a 3/4 view is better than head on and not using a flash is preferable.

I also think I did a pretty job with it. The photo was lightly blurred since it was digital -- that is, when I got out my hand-lens to see the detail, all I saw was pixels. The hands were especially problematic, but after doing some hand studies in front of the mirror, I think I got them right. I also had to carefully balance the girl's light pink sweater with her father's dark blue shirt. I ended up darkening the former and lightening the latter.

One of the things I recently announced in my newsletter is that I'm only going to work on 1-2 commissions each month. (This will allow me time to do my art and still do some portraits.) I had two lined up for June, but when I saw the photos for one, I told the client I needed better ones. This worked out well, since I got an 'emergency' commission. So, now, I'm taking a day or two off from portraits before I start on the next commission. The next one up is a horse, cowboy, and cow in pastel. This should be quite fun!!!

06 June 2007

New Postal Rates

As everyone knows, the USPS raised their rates recently. Even I knew that. What I didn't know was how screwy they made all the other rates. For example, in March, I mailed an artcard in a padded envelope with a piece of cardboard in it (to prevent them from bending it) for $0.54. I mailed the same thing yesterday for....$1.13. Why? Two reasons. First, any padded envelope is a 'chunky' piece of mail (over 1/4" thick) and so is a parcel. Second, any envelope, padded or not, which contains something rigid, such as heavy cardboard, is a parcel. Thus, a 5x7 padded envelope which weighed 1 oz is now a parcel and ships for $1.13.

But that's not all. The same envelope mailed to Europe or Australia costs.... $0.90. Overseas, it goes as an airmail letter and not a parcel. You don't know how much a relief that is because they have now virtually eliminated air parcels, so parcels mainly have to go by Priority which starts at $20 or so.

Can someone explain this to me???

I have a couple of items to mail and I'll seem how much they cost. I'm really worried about sending cnavses since they are light weight but bulk so there's some new rate just for big, light items. If it starts getting ridiculous (or more so), I'll start shipping things by DHL or UPS.

What I find really interesting is that the USPS recently sponsored a 'class' on how to sell things on eBay at the local community center. I have known there is some connections between USPS and eBay since there are special eBay Priority boxes, but this is getting a bit too cozy for me. I can only imagine how much money eBay sells generate in terms of postage for USPS and now they want more? If they keep raising their rates (just like eBay does), the USPS may be surprised by the number of sellers switching to other shippers.

04 June 2007

It's 100!

The first time each year when the temperature hits 100 is always a bit of a surprise. 100 is hot, even in the shade, and especially when the highs had been 85-90. But give me a month, when it's 110, and I'll be saying how cool 100 is. It's just a matter of getting used to the heat.

While I was a bit hot at times today, I did manage to get a fair amount of work done. I made a few corrections to the dog portrait. I am about half done with the Father's Day portrait. And I finished an oil artcard. I do kind of wish I had time to work on my sculpture, but I've decided to be a bit more disciplined and get all portraits done ASAP. Besides, I'm not used to the heat yet and I would die if I went out and worked in a respirator at 2 pm.

One nice thing about the heat is that oils dry faster! Here's my latest artcard:

This bald eagle has good points and bad points. First the bad. The pose looks awkward eventhough it's really how the bird looked. Then I don't like the white feathers under the beak -- they look off, but I never could figure out why so I couldn't correct them. Now the good. I like the bright sunshiny white head. I did a great job on the eye and beak. I like the textured surface. Overall, it's fine -- not one of my best, but pretty good. It was, afterall, an experiment on using thin 'washes' of oil paints. I usually like a nice thick paint layer, but this was done almost like a watercolor. It came out well enough that I do plan on doing this technique with some larger pieces!

01 June 2007

Show and Tell

Well, I finished a couple more things, including the one portrait commission from way back when, and I actually got them all scanned in. So, tonight we are having show and tell!

First up, is the portrait commission:

This dog was done in oil on canvas as part of a demonstration for my website. I don't know whether it was that or just the problems of doing a black dog, but I had a hard time getting it done. I know I wanted it to be perfect, so I probably was trying too hard. At last, I just to hell with it and finished it off. As you can see, I don't think it turned out too badly. I still have to send it to owner and hope she's not totally pissed off at me!

Next is a pink waterlily:

This is just a small 5x7 oil on canvas of a pink waterlily. What I was more interested in was the water, the highlights on the water, and the lily leaves, but I didn't figure anyone would be interested in just leaves and water. So, I also included a flower. Why did I have to pick a pink flower??? Here's a little secret -- getting certain pink flowers to look realistic is tough, very tough. Normally, you have to mix white, permanent rose, and a bit of yellow to get the light areas. And then to get the dark, ... well, I've never figured that out for sure. If you add blue, you get a dirty purple. If you add black, it turns brownish. If you add purple, it turns brownish. I usually just keep adding layer upon layer until it's right. One of these days, I will figure out pink shadows!

Then a ruddy duck art card:

This is just a quick watercolor painting of a ruddy duck. Again, I was looking more to learn about the water and it's reflection than the duck. Although, I am rather fond of ruddies. The are just so perky. One of these days, when I have nothing else to do, I will do a larger version of this and I may even carve a ruddy duck decoy. (For those that want to see either of these, come back in about a year!)

That's it for now.

29 May 2007

Tree Dreams

Today was a pretty good day -- did an artcard, almost finished a portrait, and transplanted trees -- but I'm tired. I usually take a break now and then for a cup of tea or to read a bit, but not today. As soon as I finished one thing, I moved on to the next. That worked well, except now I'm too tired to scan in the 'just finished' pieces. Oh well, everyone can wait for tomorrow!

Now about these trees. I got the idea to plant some tree seeds from the Chilopsis we have, so that I can have more. Well, of the 12 seeds planted, 11 came up. Today was the day I potted them up in individual pots, so they can grow. They really have healthy roots -- as any good desert tree does -- so they should do well in larger pots. My only problem is where will I eventually plant them? I wanted 2-3 new trees, but 11?! Course, I'll probably kill off one or two before they are big enough to plant in my yard. (Right now they are about 1-1.5 inches tall.)

There's a number of other trees I'd like either more of or some of. So much to the amusement of my husband, when we go places (such as the grocery store or to Palm Springs), I run around picking up seed pods. Okay, I'm a giant bald squirrel! Anyway, I'll be planting mimosa seeds, 3 kinds of mesquite, and if I can figure out how to reach them, sweet gum seeds.

I may plant only 3 or 4 seeds of each, so I don't end up with tons more trees. Then again, I have toyed with the idea of growing larger numbers of these trees and then selling them to the local nurseries. I don't know if they would buy them or what I would get for them. I suppose I should check into it before I plant 100 pots! Hmm, I wonder if they would trade for trees I don't have?

27 May 2007

One Down, One to Go

So far this weekend, I've been very productive. Ignoring all the household tasks I've caught up on, I actually finished one of the two older commissions and I just finished (maybe) a small painting.

Let's start with the latter. It's a small oil (5x7) on canvas of a pink waterlily. It's basically done, except... and this is where I get into trouble... I want to make a few corrections. I've done what I can today and am letting it dry a bit over night. Maybe then I'll decide there's nothing to be done or maybe I'll make the corrections. In any case, I can show folks a scan of it now because it's wet!

The one I can show you is this:

It's a western bluebird sitting on a fence post. I think the painting is terrific, but there's a tiny problem. The person wanted a mountain bluebird and had sent me this photo. Well, the more I worked on the piece, the more I realized that (1) the bird in the photo was a juvenile and (2) a mountain bluebird with it's pale blue breast wouldn't look as good as a western bluebird. So, it'll be interesting to see what happens -- either I'll keep this one (to sell on eBay) and paint a new bluebird or not. (Actually, I wouldn't mind doing an actual mountain bluebird, but it won't be on a fence post!)

Speaking of eBay, things sure are slow there. I guess I should email my former buyers and let them know I'm back to listing things. That reminds me, I just put up this art card:

It's a ram's head lady slipper orchid in watercolor. I really like the lady slipper orchids (or lady's slipper, or ladyslipper -- take your pick on the spelling) and am planning on doing a set of 8 small botanicals of them and then 2 or 3 larger paintings of them.

Anyway, since it's a holiday, I'm giving myself the night off and watching a DVD. After I medicate Emily, clean the litter boxes, do the dishes, call hubby, ...

25 May 2007

Memorial Day Weekend Plans

It's a holiday weekend. I'm not sure what that exactly means for me, because I'll do my normal weekend thing.

Okay, one minor thing is the lack of lookers on eBay. I posted my heron last night and so far there's been 2 -- count them, 1, 2 -- total views. I suppose everyone is getting ready for the weekend. Or everyone is saving money to buy gas. Or ... well, there's a whole lot of possibilities. I'm not terribly concerned because if it doesn't sell, then I'll put it in my store which really needs the inventory.

So, other than post another auction on Sunday, the only other thing I have planned is to actually finish the 2 commissions by Tuesday. I have been working on them, off and on -- actually more off than on -- so they are both about 75% done. It really should only take me a few hours each to get them done. I really need to get them done so I can work on another pencil portrait which I recently received.

That's it for my big holiday plans. While some people have suggested that I should get out more or something, I'm rather happy with sitting around my house, doing art, gardening, housework, etc. Years ago, I was more social and used to go to parties, but I guess as I got older I didn't find the drinking and parties so fun. I'd rather sit around discussing philosophy or politics than getting drunk. And since I have yet to find the intelligencia in Yucca Valley, I'll sip my whisky and read my philosopy all by my self.

23 May 2007

Heron Done!

As I said yesterday, I thought I would finish the night heron today. And I did. Heck, I even got it matted and framed. Yah, right. (Looks like I can't even cut electronic mats straight on the left side.)

I think this painting came out pretty good. The bird is very well done. The stump and grass are fine. The only problem I have is with the water -- it's a bit too dark among the grass, but I don't want to try to fix it. (Last time I got a brilliant idea to do something like that, I basically repainted the entire painting!) I really like the composition and am planning on trying this general idea on other pieces.

Over the years, I have resisted using acrylics, because I associate them with plastic. And while it's true that acrylic paint is plastic, if I take the time to build up layers, the finished piece doesn't look like plastic. They also have a distinct advantage over watercolors and over oils. With regards to watercolor, acrylics come with white paint, so any mistake is easily covered up and repainted. And with regards to oils, acrylics just dry so much faster. I think I prefer oils, but I did enjoy working with acrylics enough to use them again.

22 May 2007

Working on a Heron

Well, I finally go back to work. And it feels pretty good.

I'm working on a 12x16 acrylic painting of a black-capped night heron. I have the bird and the stump it's sitting on done, so tomorrow I only have the background and the water to do. I should be able to finish it tomorrow, but I'm sometimes surprised about how long it takes me to do backgrounds. (It's all the individual leaves of grass which take time.)

I must confess that I'm enjoying working on something a bit larger. I usually tend towards the small sizes, but there's only so many small birds plus the details are easier on a larger scale. Right now, I'm contemplating doing some larger birds, such as an eagle or an owl. These still won't be life-sized, but 20x30 or 18x24 is still a decent size for me. There's 2 problems with anything larger -- shipping and my ability to reach the top of the painting. Yes, it's sounds silly, but when you are short, trying to paint large paintings not on an easel is a challenge. I end up doing a lot of the painting upside down!

I think it's time to check on the fire again (large wildfire about 1 mile away) and then relax and watch a DVD.

21 May 2007

What's Next

With a bit of luck, I should be back to 'normal' in a day or two, assuming that I remember what that means!

After I wrote my last installment, Emily has a crisis on Friday night. She went blind and she started to pee every half hour. Then on Saturday, she was very lethargic and still couldn't see. Needless to say, I was a wreck, not just because it was my grumpy old lady cat, but because my vet was gone until Tuesday. Thankfully, by Sunday she was better and then started eating on her own. This blindness was due to high blood pressure, which cats with chronic renal failure often get. She's on medication now, but other than restore a bit of large shape vision, she's blind. She is getting around okay, including jumping up on the bed, so that's good.

Also, last week, hubby came home -- at the time we thought to maybe bury Emily. We had a good time which meant I didn't get much work done. One fun thing we did was go get some more alabaster.

Anyway, with Emily now stable and hubby on the road, I can get back to work. I did yesterday -- I got to work on the stone sculpture I had been working on. Today was more of a problem. My back and arms were a bit sore from working on the rock yesterday, so I didn't want to stress them today. Which meant I should do something else, but what? (Yes, I know I need to get back to those 2 commissions, but I'd rather do something less critical to get my creative juices flowing again.)

I know I have written about doing my own art, but it's been so long since I've done anything for me that I really didn't have a clue as to what I wanted to do. I know I'm more than a bit emotionally tired, but I still wanted to work. But I have so many things I want to do, I don't know which one to start with. Part of the problem is my perfectionism -- I feel like I have to pick the perfect project.

Well, I did decide to get to work on a new woodblock print of alpacas. Maybe while I'm carving the block, I'll be able to figure out what's next.

10 May 2007

Well, I might be back and then again, I might not.

Since I last wrote anything, my life has been one mess after another, and yes, I will admit it that I created some of them. When I last wrote, Sammy had just died. Hubby then came home and his dog upset my older cat so she stopped eating. Then I adopted 2 more cats. Then my older cat started pawing at her mouth so there was an emergency trip to the vet for dental surgery -- she lost 6 teeth. Now she's still not eating and has a cold -- another trip to the vet. She's doing a bit better today, but I'm still having to force feed. These are the messes I admit to creating. Somewhere in all this, we got our $7000(!) IRS bill, hubby's big rig developed a new electrical problem, and diesel fuel is $3/gallon in many location, which really hurts since he fills his 300-gallon tanks about everyday. Those are hubby's messes which I have to deal with. And the final group of messes is the general stuff -- rabbits eating everything green, gas $3.55/gal, I'm getting fat, etc. Oh, and the gallery where I had some sculptures called and asked me to remove them, so now I'm gallery-less!

The one bright spot in this is I'm back to stone sculpting. Love working with stone. It's dusty, dirty, heavy, and somewhat dangerous with the power tools, but it's fun. Right now, it's what I need to do -- I can't think about cat problems while working unless I want to lose a finger or two. I actually finished one piece to the polishing stage and am working on a second, which I should get down in the next day or two. And then I'll probably start another one. I'm on a roll.

I'm also back, somewhat more tentatively, to painting. I'm working on two commissions right now -- a blue bird and a dog portrait. Both in oil and both should be done by Monday, barring anymore cat problems! I'm 'forcing' myself to get these done before launching off on some major projects.

And I'm also hoping to be back to listing pieces on eBay this weekend. I don't know for sure because I'm still not clear on the new postal regulations. I think I'll have to go to a calculated postage rather than a set postage because it really is going to depend on the distance. This also means I'll need to change a lot of my store items too!

Anyway, I'm sort of back. I'm definitely not back to where I was before Sammy got really sick, but I'm happy to have moved on a bit.

23 April 2007

Sammy, 1994-2007

Sammy, my beloved tuxedo cat, died on 21 Apr in my arms. As my last post indicated, we were winning the battle against his skin cancer. Unfortunately, his kidneys could not take the strain and they gave out. Thankfully, the end came quickly (about 24 hours from okay to dead) and he was not in pain at any point.

I adopted Sammy from an animal rescue. He had been turned in to them at about age 8 and had been there for 2 years, so he was about 10 when I took him home. I had him for 2 1/2 years and in that time he blossomed into a marvelous cat. When he came home with me, he weighed 20+ pounds, his coat was a dull grey with dandruff, and he didn't like being held. Worst of all, his weight kept him from being a cat. He couldn't walk more than 20 feet without a rest. He couldn't sleep on his side because he couldn't breath. And he couldn't stretch because his back was so sore. Well, after a month of convincing him that raw meat was actually edible, he lost weight, his coat became glossy, and he could do all kinds of cat things!

Then after a few more months, he started to truly trust me and became a love sponge. He learned that hugs were fun, a warm lap was better than even the sofa, and being groomed was pretty darn good! To say he returned my love for him is an understatement -- he returned a whole lot more!

I have a lot of good memories of him, which I will cherish. My top 5 are:

  1. He wagged his tail like a dog. Rarely would he lift his tail above his back, but instead he held his tail low and when he was happy or expecting a treat, he would wagged it slowly back and forth just like a dog. I've never seen another cat do this on such a consistent basis.
  2. He used to "help" me cut up the meat for his food. Whenever I would be standing at the kitchen counter, cutting up meat, he would come and sit next to my feet. Then he started reaching up to the edge of the counter. Then he found if he bumped my hand with his paw, I might drop a piece, accidentally of course. It was a fun game we would play.
  3. He was a great snuggler. If I would take a break from painting and go lay down on the sofa for a nap, he would appear and lay on top of me. If I let him into the bedroom at night, he would lay right next to me, under the covers. And anytime he heard me get out a DVD, he was ready to snuggle some more. All this from a cat who originally wouldn't let me hold him or pet him more than once.
  4. He loved scratching his back on the floor. Once he lost the extra weight, he discovered that he could roll over onto his back and squiggle across the floor, thus scratching his back. It was also a good laugh to see this large (he was 13lbs), distinguished (tuxedo cats look so formal) cat acting so silly!
  5. He used to like me to chase him around and then would hide in the shower. Again, once he lost weight, he became very playful. Sometimes he would follow me to the garage door and wait for me to come back in. When I did, I would reach down to pet him and he would take off running. I, of course, would follow him. His favorite 'hiding' place was the shower. (Black cat in a white tile shower stall -- not the best of hiding places!) What was truly funny was when he would do this right after I had taken a shower. Then he would rocket out of the bathroom, almost knocking me over sometimes, and get to living room to clean himself off! (Sammy wasn't a big water fan!)

I could go on and on about this special cat. He never complained (unless his dinner was late), always was there to give me a hug, and stole my heart. He was truly a wonderful friend who taught me, among many things, that older kitties have a whole lot of love to give.

Sammy, my dear friend, you will be missed beyond words.

19 April 2007

Sammy, Art, and Chaos

I thought I should post an update on Sammy and to let everyone know I'm still alive.

As for Sammy, the new herbal remedies seem to be working. That's good and bad. The good part is the tumors are shrinking and he's feeling a bit better. I'm even beginning to move from hoping this will work to expecting it to work. I'm not sure that's a good idea because he has a long recovery ahead of him, but at least I think the cancer is on it's way out. He still has a number of small and medium tumors, but at least the one in his mouth is now 1/2 the size it was.

The bad part of all this is the damage the cancer has done to his jaw and neck area. I won't go into details, but it's not pretty. This area will never be normal but it should be functional. He stopped eating on his own last weekend, so I've been feeding him with a syringe, but he can eat cat treats on his own. It's just the tumor in his mouth and on his throat has made him hesitant to eat enough to keep him going, hence the forced feeding. I do feel bad about doing it, and if the herbs weren't shrinking the tumors, I wouldn't force feed him -- it's not something I enjoy. But he his acting better and barring complications, he should start healing soon.

Now, all this chaos has meant I haven't done any artwork for a while. Nor have I listed anything on eBay. Nor have I worked on my website. I must have very limited capacity as I can only concentrate on Sammy. I know some artists claim to thrive on chaos and do their best work when their lives are a mess. Maybe they can, but I can't. This doesn't mean that I want to live a boring life -- doing the same thing day after day. No, I like a bit of chaos to spice my life up. I just don't want chaos to be the dominant theme of the month!

Anyway, I am hoping that I'll get back to work tomorrow. (I should be able to get a bit done between feedings and medication.) It won't be easy getting back into doing art after almost a month off, but I do have some paintings that I really want to do, so that's where I'll start. And maybe by the first of May, I'll get back to listing on eBay. And updating my website. And emailing clients. And.... well, all the other art business stuff I have to do. But I need to get working on the art first, before moving onto other things.

10 April 2007

Retooling my Life

I just thought I should check in and let people know that I'm still alive.

So is Sammy, my cat. He's getting his new herbal medicine every 3-4 hours day and night which means I'm exhausted. I don't know how he's doing because it's too soon, but I have my fingers crossed.

One nice thing about taking this time off from doing paintings for eBay is that I've been able to see things better. Fact of the matter is I hate my life. I hate doing quick paintings for eBay just to have things up daily -- there's no time to plan, craft and carefully painting a painting. I hate doing paintings without meaning -- there's no time to put 'soul' into a piece if one is suppose to do a painting a day. I hate having no time to doing anything else except thing about what's next for eBay -- there's little time to take care of my fruit trees, cook nice meals, or just relax. And I hate selling my art for ridiculously low prices -- one recenly sold piece netted me $2/hr.

So, thanks to Sammy, I quit. And I'm rebuilding my life into something I can enjoy and live with. This means I have lots of flowers planted outside and I eat most of my meals outside. This means I'll be doing larger paintings that may take me 3-6 days to complete, plus additional time to do the prep work. And this means that these larger pieces will have larger prices. While I still will be doing some smaller pieces, most will be larger. And I'll be only be listing 2-3 pieces a week -- 1-2 larger ones and then smaller ones.

And now, it's time for a nap.

02 April 2007

Bad News about Sammy

I really don't feel like writing much, but I also feel guilty about not writing. Things haven't been going too well here.

As I wrote some time ago, my cat Sammy had a small growth removed. Well, it came back and spread. It spread to the inside of his mouth, among other areas. Figuring out what he can and cannot eat has been a challenge. My vet, a homeopath, has no more medicines to try on him, so I'm on my own. For the last week or so, I've been using creosote tea on his tumors. This has slowed their growth and spread down and helped make him more comfortable. (He isn't sitting around looking miserable with his tongue hanging out since I started using it.) The problem is the tumors in his mouth -- how does one teach a cat to gargle with a nasty tasting herb tea? There's a couple of other herbs to try but I'm worried about running out of time.

Unless one of these herbs works, there will come a time where I have to choose between euthanizing him or putting in a feeding tube to give him one more chance. Right now, he's active (as much as he ever was), he's interested in eating even though it's painful, and he seems like he wants to live. But if these things change, then I have a decision to make. I'm not thrilled with making this decision alone, as hubby will probably be on the road.

Needless to say, I haven't had much energy left to make art, or list things on eBay, or do anything else. And my attitude is bad as I'm tired of people saying stupid things, when they even bother to talk to me. (It's amazing how people stop talking to you when you have a dying cat!) I'll get thru this somehow and I'll get back to doing art. But there will be changes -- no more daily listing on eBay, no more 'giving' my work away, more important/personal art, and more time for me.

So, if I don't write anything for another 2 weeks, you can guess as to what happened. Maybe you'll be wrong and the 'voodoo' herbs will work. I hope so.

13 March 2007

Groan and Whine!

Today was just not a good day. I was busy doing stuff most of today, but I didn't get much done. And I really didn't feel like doing anything about that! I guess I do need to take a day or so off and I should have taken today off instead of half doing today.

My big accomplishment is listing my artcard for today:

This the orchid Lemboglossum cordatum. It was done in oil on 100% rag matboard. I really like the way it came out. And it was relatively quick to do. (Go bid! Like that sales pitch?!)

In a number of groups, artists are talking about how art cards are great for marketing and how some people actually are powersellers with just art cards. Others are talking about a new gimmick, OSWOA -- Original Small Works Of Art. (By the way, it's a trademarked term, so you have to belong to the group to use it.) This is art that's original and 4x6 inches, with the idea they can be sent as postcards or put in a photo album. Supposedly this is another great marketing tool.

Well, I suppose both formats are useful in introducing your work to new clients. So I'm toying with the idea of doing some of each on a regular basis. Maybe one each a week? They are a lot of work for little return, although I'm seeing more and more starting at higher prices. (And more and more of thee not ending with bids!) Still, I'd like to expand my active client basis so it may be the price I have to pay.

11 March 2007

March Madness

Yep, this is the time of March madness. But in my case it has nothing to do with basketball. It has to do with all the whackos out there in cyberland!!!

Here's a short list from this week only:

  • someone wants me to end an auction early so they can buy the piece for half the auction price

  • I join a printmaking group and then am thrown out of another group because the latter group says you can't be in the former even though the group leader of the latter is in the former so she can monitor who's in both and throw people out

  • in one eBay group I'm accused of being abusive because I quoted what one person said and then asked a question based on her own words

  • a person offers me $15 for a $250 painting I have in my eBay store

  • I emailed a website asking for the shipping on an item (it's overweight, so there's extra postage) and get no reply until Friday when I get a notice from them that my account is past due. Huh? I never, ever ordered anything from this company and it doesn't look like I will.

Maybe last week was National Whacko Week and no one ever told me! I don't know. But it really makes me suspicious when I do get emails with offers from legitimate people. I then to treat them like they are a whacko too, which really made me feel bad when the one this week turned out to be a serious, realistic offer.

Anyway, I did finish one commission yesterday.

Yep, it's a tree. This is an award-winning bonsai tree named "Sweet Thang". It was done in acrylics, although I would have prefered to do it in oils, but time was an issue. I think it came out fine although the photo above doesn't quite capture all the details and colors. It is 16x20 inches on canvas, so there are a lot of details.

Now, that leaves only 4 older commissions and the one new one from this week! One of these days I'll get caught up -- I hope!

09 March 2007

Maybe This Weekend

What a day. I've worked, mostly on this computer, from 7:30 this morning until now. And I'm tired of it. I'd much rather be doing some art, but nope, I'm stuck dealing with....

No, I won't go there. I'm trying hard to be positive and there's no use in whining on about things or people that I can't change.

Let's talk about something more pleasant.

I have new plans to do some more prints. I really enjoy printmaking, although I'm not as creative as some when it comes to it. I like crisp lines and well defined images, much like the early woodcut prints. I'm planning on using my pickiness to an advantage and try the Japanese method of printmaking. It involves multiply block, watercolor paints, and careful planning. That should fit me!

I also like mezzotint, because of it's dark tones, but I need to buy the mezzotint rocker. They run about $125, so that might be down the road. Although, I think some wonderful mezzotints of horses or alpacas would sell. I'd only need 5 sales to pay for the rocker.

In the meantime, I'll stick with the woodblock print. I do have a new block cut and ready to print, but I never seem to have the time. Well, I have the one commission almost done, so once I finish it up tomorrow, maybe I'll actually print the block up this weekend.

08 March 2007

Just Maybe...

Okay, I took one of my blogging vacations, again. I'm bad and I'll stand in the corner for a while, later.

What I have been doing is trying to finish up some portraits, doing stuff (or at least listing things) on eBay, and, (this is the fun one) diagnosising my husband's truck's electrical problems from 1000 miles away. So, how am I doing?

On the portrait front: I have another one almost done and am ready to start on two more. I think working on portraits in pairs is a lot easier than one at a time. That way, when I get annoyed with one, I can work on another. And with this pair, one is a pencil portrait, so that's very relaxing!

On the eBay front: I have managed to list things about 5 out of 7 days. Although, I'm going to skip a few days now because I need to string out the eBay pieces a bit because I really haven't had a chance to get too much new stuff done. I'm hoping that in a couple of days, I'll be able to get the portraits under control and get back to at least doing artcards.

On the truck front: I'm good!!! Hubby's been having weird electrical problems and he's been spending bunches of money to have it repaired. The problem is the mechanics kept repairing the symptoms and not the underlying problem. I finally got out the electricl schematics, traced the problem circuits, and they all met at the C8 ground stud. Then I spent most of last night (1 am or so) reading up on automotive electrical systems to confirm my diagnosis and learn the lingo. Today, hubby gave his cell phone to the mechanic and I told him exactly what the problem was, how to diagnosis it (if he wasn't convinced), and where the problem was. And I was right!!!

All this has left me tired, beyond my normal tiredness level. But since I'm making some progress in each area, I don't feel down. I'm just getting frustrated that I'm not getting more art done. Or my website redone. Or the bookshelf built. Or.....

02 March 2007

New Auction Format

It's finally the weekend. I'm not sure why that excites me, but for once, I'm glad it's here. Usually it doesn't make any difference -- I work basically 7 days a week until I need a break. Maybe I'm hoping my auctions will pick up?

Speaking of auctions, I'm trying out a few new things with my auction format.

  1. More photos so people can see the details
  2. A 'photo' of the piece framed -- this is a created photo (cut and paste), and supposedly it will encourage people to buy the piece.
  3. Something interesting about about the painting
  4. On large canvas pieces, I'll probably include a side photo and a created 'if the painting was on your wall' photo

All this is suppose to increase sales, but who knows? If you look at the eBay Powersellers, their listings range from nothing but one photo and text to really fancy listing templates. I'm not convinced it will make much difference, but the framed shot does make the piece look nicer.

Here's a northern flicker framed:

I just finished this painting today and then listed it tonight. (Click here to see the auction.) It's watercolor on print paper, 11x15. The original looks pretty good sitting on my drawing table, but it really looks terrific framed. So, okay, maybe it will encourage people to bid.

Speaking of bidding, I should go and check the marsh wren that's ending soon. I'm hoping for a bidding war.

26 February 2007

Rethinking My Web Site

Hey, I'm doing better. It's only been 5 days since I last wrote. That's better than my week or more off at least. I really do need to write daily as I see from my web site stats, this blog does get people to look at my web site.

That is another thing I need to work on -- my web site. I've been trying to figure out what exactly I should do with my site when it comes to sold work. I mean, if I do paintings daily and I sell them regularly on eBay, do I want extra pages on my site for unavailable work? And what should the relationship be between my web site and my eBay store?

Thanks to a couple people on various artist boards, I think I have answers. I don't know if they are THE answers, but they make sense.

Basically, my web site has three parts, so there's three different plans:

  1. The Learning Center -- The purpose of this section is to pass on some of what I have learned. Maybe help some new artists. This section does come up very high in various searches. I probably will add some affiliate banners and maybe Google ads in the hope of getting a bit of revenue. I'll just keep adding to this section and nothing will be removed.
  2. The Portraits -- Since portraits are sold on past work and not on available work, I'll pick out 8-10 of the best in each medium, plus 1 or 2 recent ones. The rest will be removed. The reason to include the recent ones is that people do like to see their portrait on the Internet. (I also need to get back to featuring them on the home page.) Having about 10 excellent examples should be enough for anyone to decide.
  3. The Non-Portrait Art -- This is the section which is a problem. While having lots of sold work is nice because various things come up in search engines and hopefully people visit the rest of my site, I feel the for-sale art is being lost. There's some much sold work that the few pieces which are available are hard to find. So, I'm going to be watching the web stats and check out my Google rankings, and then remove those pages for sold items which get few if any hits. Eventually, I may get down to only available artwork plus 2 or 3 excellent, but sold examples. I can always use the sold pieces in various places across my site.
Now, the one problem I have is with the botanical watercolors. I think of them more as plant portraits, so do I treat them like the other portraits? If I got decorators to come to my site, would they like to see the range of my botanicals or would they just be interested in the available pieces? I wonder if I called a couple decorators if they would talk to me about this?

I'm thinking my site should have a lot more background and info on me and my portraits, plus few exclusive pieces, as opposed to my eBay store. The store will be the main sales location and I will have some links from my site to eBay and any other web sites that I have artwork on. This makes sense, but I'm not totally clear or convinced that I like this. I need to think about this more. (Besides, I'm still trying to figure out how to get my web site back on my computer so I can actually update it!)

In the meantime, I have been working, even though I haven't posted stuff here. This weekend, I finished two pieces.

This is Clara, a cute bulldog. It's oil portrait on canvas and goes to one of a wonderful client. She was VERY patient with me as I struggled with this portrait. Basically the problem was, she took the photo with a flash which washes out colors, gives the dog red-eye, and creates bizarre shadows. So, after doing it once (actually twice because I first screwed up the proportions), I didn't like it because of the shadows and I redid it. They say three's a charm and in this case it was. She loves it! And I'm relieved. In any case, I have to think of some way to make the delay up to her.

This is a marsh wren in acrylics on canvas. I did it as part of the PAAO Theme Week Contest, and the theme was "W-Z" animals. I think it came out fine, although I almost quit on it half way thru it. I didn't like the cattails, in part because there was a big white hole for where the wren was going to go. I kept working on it and then finally put the wren in and, like magic, it all worked. What people don't realize is that the background took about twice as long as the bird, and yet the background is not really important unless it detracts from the bird. It's kind of annoying! Anyway, it's up on auction until Friday, so take a look and bid!

And now, I had better go get back to work! I still have 5 commissions to do plus new stuff for my eBay store.

21 February 2007

Creating My Own Headaches

Okay, I'm insane. I admit it.

If you look over my blogs, one common theme is that I don't have enough time to fit everything in. I'm trying to create stunning artwork daily, make all my food, care for 5 acres of fruit trees, care for cats and birds, read, .... Yes, it's 2 platefuls of stuff to do.

So, what do I do? Instead of scratching something off my list, I add to it. I created a group of artists, Artists2Watch, on eBay with the idea that we can all work together to be successful. It's a sound idea, but I'm finding out how much time running a group takes up. It's not like being a member of a group, where I can not show up for a week. Nope, I have to be there, daily, or twice-daily.

What's really interesting is that since I started the group, I've gotten 3 portraits done, 2 small paintings, and one art card. That's a lot for me, especially when I'm spending hours hunting for quality artists to invite into the group. I'm suspecting that it has to do with being a bit more organized and just doing it now. (I don't have time to sit around and think about what to do next -- I just need to get it done!) Things are still a bit hectic, but I think in a few days, that will settle down, especially when I get all the portraits done.

Maybe this is a key to getting more stuff done? Try doing more? Hey, I never said I was normal.

14 February 2007

Rethinking the Balance

I think it's all the stress of late because I never could really get going. And I'm sleepy already at 6pm.

So, I took most of the day off and finally installed the CD-burner software. Then I burned a couple of CDs with photos of my artwork and, of course, I crashed my computer. Nothing major -- just some warning about the system being unstable. Maybe it has something to do with my system barely being enough to run the software?!

I did work a bit on a dog portrait and a small still life of a gourd. Both are coming along well, and I hope to have them done by Friday. I really will be glad when I get these portraits done, so I can take a break from them for a while. I want to get back sculpting but as long as I have these commissions, I don't feel like I should take the time to pound on a rock!

Then again, maybe I should. There's a book, Coaching the Artist Within by Eric Maisel, which I've been reading. While some of tiredness is physical (the neighbor's dogs barking most of the night doesn't help my sleep at all!), most of it is mental/emotional. According to Maisel, one reason for this lack of energy is a lack of passion and belief that what I'm doing is meaningful. I will admit that I don't see art as very important, but I guess that my art does move people, so okay, it's meaningful. (Yep, I'm trying to convince myself!)

As for the passion, that has kind of been lost in most part. I think it has to do with my focus on making this a profitable business. It's widely accepted and partially true that pieces which an artist finds meaningful often are not commercially successful. If an artist wants to pay the bills, then the choice is a day job or doing saleable artwork. When the saleable artwork is the only thing I do, then I get to feel empty and tired. And since I don't 'allow' myself to do the sculpture or paintings are meaningful to me, I don't recharge my spirit.

Now the problem is balance the needs of portrait commissions and work for eBay against sculpture and paintings for me. Afterall, there is only so many hours in the day and I literally have to do everything by myself around the house. I thought I had this balance figured out, but the business side seems to have taken over again, so I have to rethink the situation.

And while I'm thinking, I'm going to go make supper and then watch a DVD tonight with my cats. (They get a yummy Valentine's Day treat -- raw liver. Yum.)

13 February 2007

Another Day, Another Computer Glitch

Here it is -- 8:18 pm -- and I'm still working. Still not had supper. And still having computer issues!

Today's computer fun involved a floppy disk. I wrote something out, copied it to a floppy, and went into the library to print it out on their nice printers. I put the disk in the computer and it says that it's not formatted. Huh? An hour before, all the data was there. Now it's gone. I came home and tried the disk. Same thing -- no formatting. I don't know what happened, but this has happened before at the library. I suspect that their computers may only allow you to copy stuff to a disk and not copy things from a disk to their computers. Makes sense, but I sure wish they would warn a person! (So I never did get it printed out.)

And my website is still not functioning!

One pleasant thing is that the burrowing owl is getting a decent amount of views, and so is the green pear. I'm rather surprised with the latter, but I'm not complaining.

This green pear was one of the first of a series of palette knife paintings in oils which I did last month. While it's not the most spectacular of the bunch -- the others are more colorful -- it is charming in it's own way. In life, the textures are really nice.

I also put up an older, but very nice botanical watercolor.

I don't know if anyone will bid on it or not, but I do need to get back to listing things daily and to build my store inventory back up. And who knows, it just might sell!

And now, I think I deserve to have something for supper, if only a bowl of cold cereal!!!

12 February 2007

Just About Had It!!!

I can't believe the last 3+ weeks. Between computer meltdowns and hubby's truck problems, I'm just about ready to give up and go flip burgers!

Here's my last 3+ weeks:

  • computer 'smells' -- get new power supply and hard-drive. Small bill.
  • hubby's truck has no turn signals, sometimes -- his truck has intermittent problems with turn signals so he stops and has it worked on for a day. BIG bill.
  • computer stops working -- 2 days out for the shop, the computer decides it doesn't have an operating system, so back to the shop. Tech guy saves most of data, but not my emails, when he reformats the hard-drive. Small bill.
  • hubby's truck still has no turn signals, again -- 50 miles from the repair place, they go out again. Owner says he can't do anything else, so take it to a truck dealer. Stops at dealer and they have no clue either! Medium bill.
  • computer refuses to send or receive photos -- my ISP claims it's software and Microsoft says it's ISP. Take it back to Tech guy and he reformats hard-drive again. I get to install all the software again. Small bill.
  • hubby's truck has no turn signals (while driving in L.A.) and now has a power drain -- he comes home. Truck refuses to start so we charge the batteries (4 of them) with my motorcycle battery charger. Get it started and we take it to our local diesel mechanic. Was in the shop for 3 days -- warns us he's not sure if he fixed it. HUGE bill and, because of a bank problem, we have to pay by check not credit card.
  • computer works fine, but ISP doesn't -- for some reason the ISP keeps not recognizing my dial-up number. Finally, after 2 hours on the phone, my computer doesn't think I'm calling a new number everytime I connect to the internet. No bill.
  • hubby's truck smells -- he gets up one morning to find a battery leaking. Gets a new one ($200+ if you want to know) and everything seems fine. Small bill.
  • computer works, but web site missing -- a friend emails that my site is down. That was on Friday and it's still down. So I spent the weekend moving all my eBay store photos to an independent server and then revising all the listings to point to the new photos. No bill, but 3 days of work!

Now, haven't I had fun? All totalled, these two electron problems cost us about $3000, a week of driving for hubby, and 2 weeks of working time for me.

And somewhere in all this process, I'm suppose to be creating wonderful art, finishing up some portraits, doing some sculptures, and planting fruit trees. Well, the trees aren't going to get planted since I don't have the money to buy them. The sculptures are going to have to wait because I don't have time. The people waiting for the portraits are already pissed at me, so what's a bit longer? And I did do a nice burrowing owl, somehow. (Now if everyone bids huge amounts, maybe it'll pay off the bills from the last 3 weeks?)

Burrowing Owl auction

To say that I'm tired is an understatement of huge proportions! I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted. This is why, despite everything I'm suppose to be doing, I have been taking time out to draw leaves (very meditative activity) and read. I'll get thru this somehow -- I always do -- but I relly would like to take a week off and go pound on a rock.

Instead, I need to go list something else on eBay.

01 February 2007

A Few Tiny Steps Back to Normal

I'm making tiny steps back to having a functioning computer. I spent most of today trying to convince my ISP program that it was me and that I hadn't changed the access numbers. I think I have finally did it. At least I'm convinced enough that I went ahead an installed my website software and the photo editing software. Both work fine, except.... almost as naty a word as but ... I have to go thru all the website files and uncheck the read only box in properties. Once I do that, everything seems to be fine. At least it was for the web I use to create auction templates. For my web site, www.lmhornberger.com, I have to uncheck about 350 files! (Since I'm not planning on doing much website updating in the next 24 hours, I'll leave it for later.) Tomorrow, it's Mr. Scanner's turn to be introduced to Mr. Computer.

I did get an auction listed today -- because I can really use the money! It's a very detailed pencil drawing of an old Mexican lady.

I had planned on listing a series of birds from A-Z, but with the computer problems and with a couple of commissions, that plan is on hold. Besides, I'm still very tired -- okay, depressed -- and I don't really feel like doing much of anything.

As for this depression or blahs, it's a bit better. Once I get back into the habit of doing art, I'll feel better. Hopefully that will happen this weekend, although, with hubby coming home for a few days, I don't know how much artwork I'll get done.

31 January 2007

Lightning Strikes Twice

And they say that lighting doesn't strike twice. Ha! It did!

As I wrote last week, I spent almost a week without a computer thanks to a problem with the hard-drive and power supply. I got it back mid-week and fried it on Saturday. (Or was it Friday? I don't know -- it's all a bit of a blur.)

I had gone to a website that suggested using the latest version of Internet Explorer, which I can't because I have an older computer. Usually this kind of warning only means something won't work or look pretty. Well, in this case, it froze up my browser to the point I had to physically turn the computer off as opposed to shutting it down properly. Then when I turned it back on, no Windows! Well, actually, it had Windows but kept asking for the key code, which if I entered would basically reformat my hard-drive. So, back to a computer store -- I went to a different one because Mike (the guy who fixed it the first time) was off until Tuesday or Wednesday and I didn't want to wait another week. Well, Ted checked everything out, saved some of my data, and reformatted my hard-drive.

So, I'm back to square one. I lost all my email addresses, most of my photos not on my website, and all the software I had installed. I've spent most of today trying to get my computer to talk nicely to the internet. So far, I can browse and get email. One tiny step at a time. Tomorrow, I may introduce my computer to either my scanner or maybe my website software. Such excitement, huh?

I know I really need to buy a new computer and I'll start looking for one. I also will start backing up everything. (That's the ironic part of this tale of woe -- I was going out that afternoon to buy writeable CDs to save my photos when I had the problem in the morning. 24 hours later and things would not have been lost.)

I'm exhausted! I suppose it's just the stress. Not only do I have to deal with computer issues, not being able to list auctions, and figuring out how to get hold of a couple of clients, but hubby's truck has developed a electrical problem and a transmission problem and Sammy (my cat) now has several more growths on his chest. I honestly feel like just going to bed and waking up sometime this summer!

Needless to say, I haven't done much artwork. I know I should be working on several things, but I can't. I'm too tired. Last time I tried doing stuff when I was this tired, I really messed things up. I know getting back to work and doing some art would help me, but it's hard to not feel like the world is falling in on me. Maybe tomorrow will be a brighter day?!

25 January 2007

Back to Cyberland

Well, I'm finally back and my computer is now functioning.

As some of you know, last week I had the wonderful experience of burning up a hard-drive. This is the second one in 6 years. So, for about a week, my computer has been in the shop getting a new hard-drive, a new power supply, a new floppy drive, and a CD burner. The last two things were things I wanted for some time, so while Mike was working on my computer, I had him put them in. What was totally surprising was the bill -- only charged me $30 for the labor. (The hardware was a whole lot more since I have an old and somewhat special computer which takes expensive, non-standard parts.) So, if anyone is near Yucca Valley, CA and needs a computer fixed, go to Computer Zone!

Anyway, it was rather interesting to live without a computer and tv for a week. The only computer I dealt with was one of the public computers in the library to let eBay buyers know that I was computerless. Other than that, nothing. And I'm still refusing to watch tv (I should explain why someday).

At first I was panicky and really agitated about not being able to check my email, auctions, etc. I discoverd that my whole day was structured around reading emails, listing auctions, and checking auctions. Without a computer, this structure was gone. But my mind kept saying, "Time to check the auctions." It was an interesting tug-of-war that left me nervous and confused. And I will admit that I was bored at times.

After a couple of days the panic left and I really began to enjoy the extra time I had. I figure that not having a computer opened up 2-3 hours a day to do other things. I read 2 books, watched dvds, cleaned my house, fixed gourmet meals, and started on a built-in bookcase in my studio. These are things that either needed to be done or I had wanted to do, but never had time to do. It was a shock to me once I realized how much of this other stuff I was getting done. I knew I was on the computer off-and-on during a typical day, but I never realized just how much time (and energy) it took up.

But there was another interesting effect of having no computer or tv. My mind became calmer and I felt more rested. It took a few days for this to really become apparent, but then I noticed that not only was my mood brighter, but I felt physically better. I presume some of this had to do with me eating better and not sitting in front of this keyboard, but I don't think it totally explains it. I also had a minor burst of creativity -- the small palette knife paintings easily happened and I came up with tons of ideas.

And then the computer was back from the shop. I confess, the first day back, I overdosed. Not only did I have to deal with some problems (partial recovery of data from the old hard-drive is NOT fun!), but I had a list of things to check on the internet and about 175 non-spam emails to deal with. I would say within 3 hours, my mind was back to where it had been before the meltdown.

So, what do I do now with this interesting experience? I don't know. I would give myself computer holidays, but I make my money from selling art on the internet, so I can't really say, "This May, I'm not using my computer." (Well, I could say that, but I also like to eat!) I think the best I can do is to become more aware of how much I am using this computer and try not to use it to entertain myself when I'm bored. There's a number of other activities, such as reading, cooking, building shelves, etc, which are more interesting (and useful) than putting puzzles together online or playing solitaire on my computer.

16 January 2007

Better Late, than Never

Yes, I know on Saturday I said that tomorrow (Sunday) I would explain what I had plan for next month. And now it's Tuesday. So, I'm late. Give me the tardy slip and I'll go to the principal's office!

And yes, I'm in a rather happy and therefore totally obnoxious mood.

I can't explain it, but I sold 6 things out of my eBay store, got 2 commissions for bonsai paintings, and someone wants me to build them a website. It really is strange to me that all this is happening at once. Hubby says, "It's about time you get noticed!" (He's a tiny bit biased!) I don't know if it's the listing 3-5 items a week or just that half the country is stuck inside because of nasty weather. Only problem with the latter explanation is that the lady who bought 5 store items is from Australia, where it's summer!

Besides the sales, I also finished a portrait -- well, actually I'm setting it aside until I put in the final details.

And I did another little palette knife painting, which came out quite well. So, needless to say, I'm a happy camper!!!

Okay, back to February. February has 28 days. The alphabet has 26 letters. Hmm.... That got me thinking. What I came up with is this: In February, I'm going to do birds from A to Z. One a day. In a variety of sizes. In a variety of media. It's going to be a lot of work, but why not? The birds have been a good seller. And doing something weird like this might get me a bit more attention. Sometime in the next week or so, I need to send out emails to everyone on my mailing list and promote this project. I'm also going to create a special page in my eBay store to feature this project. It'll have small photos of each with the ones up for auction listed below.

The only problem with this project is I work slowly. When it comes to larger pieces, I'm just going to have to start those a day or two in advance of when I'm doing that letter. Also, I have to think what to do about oil paintings. While I can paint them a day in advance, so they will be dry enough to scan, I can't varnish them for a month. Guess I'll just have to say something in the listing about it either being unvarnished or I'll hold it until it can be varnished.

Oh, then there's the ablatrosses -- the backlog of portraits. This bird project is strong motivation to get those &#^$*$ portraits done NOW! Since I got one done, that's only 3 to go. I'll finish another one by Friday, so that leaves two for next month. I can do it!!!

Hmm, and somewhere in here I have to work on the bonsai commissions. I'll figure it out.

And in the meantime, I'm off to have a cup of warm tea. It's still cold here -- one degree warmer last night. It could do better and warm up at least a couple of degrees more!

13 January 2007

Frost on the Pumpkin... And Then Some

Okay, I live in southern California. And yes, I live in the desert. So, why is there snow on the cactus?!

Yep, snow. Yesterday it snowed and then, unlike normal when it does snow, the temperatures dropped so the snow stayed. I can look out my windows and see snow. It's really weird, since the purple mountains are now white. And the weather people are saying it will stay cold for several more days. Tonight is suppose to be the coldest, although last night it did get down to 17 degrees F. For here, that is VERY cold.

So, I stay inside and drink lots of hot cocoa.

Lately, I've been spending my mornings working on 2 different portraits and I'm almost done with both. Thankfully! They have been like a huge weight around my neck and I would like to finish them off soon. Then finish the next two. Then the final one. And finally I'll be done with my backlog.

One reason I want to get the portraits done is so I can do more of my own stuff. I presently working on a small series of palette knife paintings. So far, they have been all still lifes, but I won't guarantee that forever. (I feel bird and floral paintings coming on!) Just so we know what I'm talking about, here's one:

This is a small oil on masonite. Instead of brushes, it was painted with palette knives, which saves on brush cleaning! It also give the painting a vibrancy because it is only slightly mixed. This Sprouted Onion is one of the better ones. I did ruin a couple pieces of masonite because I just wasn't used to handling knives. But the one I did yesterday, which is still drying, is the best so far, so it looks like I'm learning.

Now the point of doing these palette knife paintings is to get faster. Because I can't add all the tiny details which I tend to want to put in, I have to focus on the main points. I'm hoping that after another 8-10 paintings, I'll actually be a faster painting.

And giving what I have planned for February, I had better be fast! But more on that tomorrow. (Assuming I don't freeze to death!)

08 January 2007


I'm sick. Hubby came home on Tuesday and brought us a present -- a cold. Either that or we picked it up on Wednesday when we went grocery shopping. In any case, both he and I didn't have a nice weekend. He's back on the road and is doing better than I am.

I did manage to do a tiny bit of work. I sent out some emails. I gessoed some masonite for new paintings. And I planned a few paintings. Not exactly what I planned. I had hoped to get one portrait done and then work on another small oil or two.

Although, after this weekend, I'm thinking larger pieces. There are tons of people that are now doing small pieces. In fact, I know of at least 5 eBay groups that are dedicated to small paintings and one dedicated to minature sculptures. This all happened because several people mentioned that they were selling well with small pieces, so everyone ran to do them. This weekend, however, I sold a 16x20 and a 11x15. While these aren't large, even by my standard, they were larger than my normal offerings and larger than a lot of artwork on eBay. I do have another large bird painting planned but I need to stretch some paper, and then there's the landscape with moose, and then... So many ideas, so little time!

Well, I've got a terrible headache and I still need to list something tonight. I'd better get better soon, or I'll run out of older stuff to list!

02 January 2007

PAAO Theme Contest

Like I said yesterday, I've entered the PAAO Theme Contest. Actually I have 2 entries. PAAO stands for Professional Animal Artists Online and is another eBay group. This month's theme is animals which begin with "T".

My first entry is this watercolor of a ruddy turnstone.

I personally think this turnstone turned out to be one of my best watercolors ever. I was a bit surprised that it turned out so well, as it was done on printmaking paper and not watercolor paper. That means the watercolor sinks into the surface a bit and can't be corrected at all. Anyway, the part I like the most is the fading out. It gives the piece a light feeling. I'm just hoping that some birder will buy it and appreciate it. If not, I'll be glad to live with it.

My second entry is this acrylic painting on canvas of a trout in a stream.

I did this one similar to a demo I saw in a book. While I don't normally use acrylics, I'm more than a little intrigued by how well this one turned out and have plans to do several similar pieces. Since this was acrylic on canvas and since I have no idea what to price it at, I put it up for $9.95 with a reserve. This is the first time I ever did a reserve auction, as I personally won't bid on a reserve auction. I just like to have an idea of how much I'm going to have to pay. But since I'm weird, I figured this might be the time to try a reserve auction. So far, so good -- 2 bids and lots of visits.

I'm really a bit disappointed in the quality of the other entries in the contest. Some are truly amateurish and some are okay. I wish the quality was better, so I'd be pushed more. Then again, I'm basically doing this contest (and their other ones) to get a nomination and maybe win a precious Artists Choice Award.

01 January 2007

Another New Year

Well, 2007 is finally here, but, quite frankly, I'm not done with 2006. I had planned on getting all the commissions done, but I didn't quite make. I have several that I am working and these are a priority for this month. I had also wanted to do more experimental stuff, more marketing, more....

But that was last year and this is this year, so I get a clean slate.

And I have big plans for 2007. Here's a few things I'm planning for this year:
  • Start doing some detailed wood carvings for shows and galleries
  • Do some larger pastel pieces with the idea of entering them into pastel shows and perhaps getting some precious initials after my name (I'll explain this some day)
  • Keep doing smaller but quality work for eBay and list 3 pieces minimum a week
  • Contact interior decorators and see if I can find one on the East Coast to represent my botanical watercolors
  • Maybe contact some magazines or book publishers and get some freelance illustration work
  • Blog nearly daily

In terms of artwork itself, here's few things I'm planning to work on, which I never got to last year:

  • Detailed wood sculptures
  • Larger oil paintings of wildlife
  • Highly textured still lifes
  • Maybe a new print every month, but more realistically, one every other month

Yep, it's quite a lot to do. So, I'm planning on major rearrangements in my personal life to give me more time and mental energy. The main two things will be to cut out 95% of all tv and internet surfing and follow the FlyLady routines. (I'll explain the latter some day.)

Anyway, I had better get working on supper. One of my personal resolutions is to eat decent food, rather than whatever is quick and easy. Tonight is winter root gratin! Tomorrow, I'll post the two pieces I list for the PAAO contest.