Saturday, January 03, 2009

The other side

I'm still working on this little sketchbook, knowing that my holiday will be over come Monday and I won't have the luxury of time anymore. I get up early and come down to my studio then suddenly its 11am and I'm immersed in drawing or painting and the world around me disappears. I love it.

I wanted something to complete the reverse of this sketchbook as I put the portrait on the front. I thought of many things that spelled closure or the end, then finally came up with a closed door. That evolved into this old door knob and peeling paint that I've just realized took me the morning to fiddle with! I added a little pen and ink to define the peeling paint and now it almost looks pointillistic or jewel like instead of the rusty knob I used. Silk purses out of sow's ears I guess.

Its coloured pencil on the back cover of my little Moleskine cahier sketchbook. Ok, now that's done and I can get down to more contents for the inside!

Shut the door on your way out please...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Making the cover

Just before Christmas I finally received the little Moleskine for The Sketchbook Project. The due date is February 15th for posting it back to Atlanta, so I've been trying to add a couple of sketches a day to fill it up.

As there are so many sketchbooks that will be exhibited, I wanted mine to perhaps standout from the crowd a little, so last night I did a little self-portrait on the cover in coloured pencil. The proportion is wrong, but that somehow adds to the funky feel of the whole little project. I'll figure out what to put on the back cover later. Maybe a back view with some landscape included?

The interior sketches are a mix of graphite and marker right now, some are ok, some I want to trash, but they'll have to stay as they are. The theme of this project is 'Everyone We Know'. that leaves it open to some interpretation, but I mostly want it to reflect images of people or animals.

I'm throwing this open to readers who may like to become part of my sketchbook. If you would like a portrait of you or your pet included in this, email me a photo (email address on the right sidebar) and I'll do a sketch from it in this Moleskine. I'll scan all the images in the sketchbook once its complete and make it available on this blog. In addition, your individual sketch will be scanned and emailed to you, if you request it.

Please provide me with your images by January 15th, so I have enough time to fit them in and get the sketchbook back to Art House by the deadline. If for some reason, I run out of pages for sketches, I will let you know.

Once the sketchbook is returned to Art House it will go on tour along with all the other sketchbooks received to Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Brooklyn and back to Atlanta and Chicago at the moment. The sketchbooks will be exhibited at galleries and museums in these cities, with more venues being added.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jugs to the past

Past Times
5 x 7 oils

This jug is likely similar to those in other houses around the world, but to me it brings memories as it belonged to my grandmother. Its held everything from applesauce or custard to gravy. The spout is chipped but it remains in service still.

I was looking for something to paint today and this was at the front of the cupboard. The apple was the remains of some Christmas ones - or pre-Christmas ones that are ready to be made into applesauce to fill the jug once more.

It was late in the day when I took the photo so its a little out of focus. I'm going to stop apologizing for winter light in my photos. Perhaps its a Canadian thing - saying sorry.


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 - The Three 'Ps'

Driveway - in progress
7 x 9 oils

rom my house to yours, Happy New Year

I have made some progress in 2008 but there is always room to move further ahead. I want to set some general goals for 2009. I don't know if setting time lines makes life easier or harder for me. I know deadlines help me achieve goals but too many cause stress and I have enough of that already! I am choosing some areas that I know I can manage and that I know I need and want to gain experience with.

In my day job (I've always wanted to say that :) I work for a non profit and I have a principle at work that helps me decide the level of participation, human and financial resource input and interaction that I use for various functions, projects, meetings partnerships, etc. I participate in something if it fulfills one of the following purposes for the charity:

1. it provides the organization with recognition
2. it brings in revenue
3. it meets the mandate of the organization

This same principle is easily transferable to my art. My purpose as an artist is three-fold too and is somewhat selfish. But I am a regarding myself as a business as well as an artist.

1. I want recognition for my work
2. I want to be paid for my services
3. I want to achieve my own goals in art

With these three principles in mind, it becomes easier to make decisions about what projects to tackle, what organizations to become involved with, what business plans to make, how to market myself and my art and how to interact with the art community.

I'm calling my goals the three 'P's, If I give fairly equal billing to each P, I should have a good balance on which to move ahead.

The purpose of art is to share it with others. And to share it, I need to market it - and myself. I will do this by working on the following in the form of a loose work plan for the next 12 months which will give me a list of achievables to aim for and to measure progress.

New marketing materials
These will being the form of updated business cards and postcards as well as developing a consistent 'branding' for my blogs and marketing materials.

I want to market the sales blog more effectively and perhaps rehash what it holds and how it works. How I don't know right now. Its still in the thought formation stage.

A website
This has been on my 'to do' list for a couple of years but not happened. Looking at current trends I'm wondering if a static website is an effective use of my time and energy. Will it produce the results I want or will it just become another thing to update?

Right now I can put most of what I want on my blog(s) and can't really justify developing and maintaining a site unless I want to really push the business side of my art through tutorials and teaching.

I still need to do more research on the effectiveness of this before I make a decision. Stay tuned.

I am fairly consistent in blogging averaging 21 days out of each month. With the addition of several other blogs that I will need to participate in, I may need to look at my blogging schedule or develop some well thought out plans of how to juggle everything.

I will still continue to blog and aim for a minimum of 3 times a week on my personal blog. The other projects are more laid back with monthly or bi-monthly participation depending on how they unfold.

I want to secure more commissions for both people and animals. I know in the current economic conditions luxury items are becoming more a rarity so costs are always an issue. People are consistent in one thing: they want a high end product for a dollar store price. Finding the balance is the challenge.

I will offer some promotional pieces at no cost to individuals with a request to place them in high traffic areas or promote them to give me additional exposure.

I will offer smaller, looser pieces that provide an entry level into personal original art for the new collector or those on limited budgets. Through word of mouth and the desire for stronger, more detailed or colour work, additional commissions should arrives.

I will be contacting local newspapers to see if I can get a dedicated article on purchasing original entry level art and portraiture in the lifestyles section


To be effective at anything, practice is required and sometimes that practice comes with a price. In this case, hard work. I know that to keep my skill levels honed I need to keep drawing and painting over and over on a daily basis.

In December 2008, I became part of the Watermarks project which will allow me to explore water in many forms. This is a new undertaking and I see it helping me form a body of work as well as explore a broader range of mediums and techniques, yet still keeping my style recognizable.

Portrait Study Group
I have also joined two other groups, but both are private at the moment and designed to act as intensive workshops exploring a subject and both giving and receiving critiques that help move us ahead. The first project is a Portrait Study Group. Portraits are my first love and I look forward to this and to the interaction with the other 5 artists involved. We hope to explore a new portrait monthly and look at working with a variety of mediums I hope.

Plein and Simple
The second project is a plein air project. Now this pushes me out of my comfort zone in terms of live landscapes which I've often avoided. I know I can do it and often just need the push to move into this direction, even if winter in Newfoundland may be a challenge with this one! However, there are views from the comfort of home, as I live in the woods, quite literally.

Virtual Sketch Date
I have been involved in the Virtual Sketch Date since April 2008 when Rose Welty asked if I would like to join her in drawing from a single reference. Since then the project has grown tremendously and now has a huge following with many participants each month. With three administrators, myself, Rose and Stacy Rowan, the VSD will continue monthly and have even more success.

A body of work
I need to create a body of work that consists of 15 - 20 plus pieces before I can consider approaching a gallery for representation.

I do have a body of work in terms of pieces but they aren't cohesive enough to provide the makings of an exhibition in my eyes.

I will be concentrating, through the various projects that I am involved with to have this body of work created in 2009. It will need to have the following characteristics:

Similar sized pieces
Consistant theme
Consistant, recognizable style

Dry media are my comfort zone, but the past year I have been redeveloping my skills in oils and watercolours. I want to continue to paint as many of my new projects will demand it, but drawing will always be the backbone of what I do.

Grant funding
Production of a body of work has a lot of other peripherals associated with both production and promotion. Most of which cost money.

There are various local grants available to artists that will help with these costs - travel, framing, materials, etc. I will be applying for a grant in March that will help offset some of the costs for a project in 2009-2010. I want to base this on developing a series of pieces around water. If successful, this will give me some breathing room in terms of paying for framing, marketing materials, etc. It will also be a huge push forward in making me accountable to achieve. Its both scary and exciting at the same time.

If I don't get a grant, life doesn't stop. I will still produce and still move ahead with my plans for the year, perhaps at a less frantic pace.

These are my areas of concentration for 2009. Like everyone making plans, they are ambitious, but achievable as well. It will keep me busy but the results will be worth the effort.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Drawing tutorials

Cloud tutorial (2.5 mb)

Drawing glass tutorial (6.2 mb) (file size reduced 12.31.08)

I promised awhile back to post a drawing tutorial for use by anyone interested. I had some problems linking a pdf file to blogger but now have an offsite file host that is reliable. I originally did some for another teaching site and the graphics in these weren't up to scratch. I had photographed some when I should have scanned them. As I didn't want to do the pieces all over again just for the sake of perfect graphics, I have kept these tutorials and will now make them available here for free.

They are designed for individuals learning to draw and are step by step tutorials to the finished piece. Click on the link and it will take you to an external site ( where you will be able to download the tutorial.

If you do download either of these tutorials, please let me know what you think of them and if you do use them to create the drawing, I'd love to see the finished piece on your blog.

Most of all, enjoy my New Year's gift to you!

Monday, December 29, 2008


This is a bit of a teaser, rather like one of those cropped images where you have to guess what it is. Except that I do give you a link to the answer at the end of the post.

I've been playing with watercolours lately, trying to bring myself up to speed and refresh the old brain cells as how to do this. Drying time illustrates my impatience with the medium and I sometimes rush things and end up with mud. This time I forced myself to set it aside and work on other things while it was drying as I wanted transparent colours to give the delicate appearance of the fish's skin.

I was asked how I could see the colours in the skin. To me, it was quite clear and its difficult to explain to someone who isn't seeing the same colours at all. So what makes me capture these particular colours to use and not others?

For the full image and more details on fish and watercolours, visit my post on Watermarks.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 in review

Fruit Series: Orange II
oils 4 x 6

I'm reviewing my year and seeing what new avenues opened up to me, what I accomplished and where I am going. Its not until I write them down that I realize what I've achieved or not completed in the course of a year. I've asked myself a few questions that help give an overview of my art presence in 2008 and through those I can see where I want to go in 2009.

I am not going to be too ambitious though. I will tackle a few projects and help them move along to fill gaps that I see. The old adage of 'under promise and over deliver' works well in all paths of life. I outlined a few goals in October that I am heading for and will continue to flesh those out when I outline my plans for 2009.

I've analyzed my online presence and watched it grow - double in fact - compared to the previous year.
There are a variety of reasons why an artist becomes more well known, but the main reason is communication. By visiting other artist's blogs, joining projects, both real and virtual, communicating on other blogs and forums as well as being productive all help provide a presence that allows people to know you better. I think the statistics show that I have increased my readership and become more visible in 2008.

I continue to draw or paint on nearly a daily basis. This is a combination of sketches or completion of saleable pieces. I have completed 25 - 30 saleable pieces which include commissions. The rest are practice pieces and pure pleasure for me.

I created a dedicated sales blog - The Starving Artist's Daily Sale. I admit that it hasn't done quite what I anticipated and it needs to be reviewed in terms of visibility, marketing and use. The economic crisis that continues globally makes artists look at pricing and sizes of pieces to attract buyers and I am no different. I will be inviting input to help me look objectively at the realities of selling my art online. Katherine Tyrrell's posts on art and the economy provide good reading on the realities.

I also moved into jewelry creation and sharing some small art pieces in an online Etsy store. Its slowly picking up in sales and provides more exposure and lets me alternate jewelry with art.

As in presence, interaction is a big part of others being aware of your existence. Its karma; you have to give as well as receive. This year, I've stepped into several projects online that keep my skills honed and help me move out of my comfort zone as well as give me an opportunity to meet other artists and share in their world.

Virtual Sketch Date was created by Rose Welty in April as a way to provide a reference for others to practice drawing skills. This grew into a huge success with many people participating monthly. Now Rose, Stacy Rowan and I administer VSD as a separate blog.

On December 1st, Watermarks was launched. Watermarks is a small community of artists who make art from water. They like to sketch, draw and/or paint water - the sea, the coastline, beaches, rivers, streams, waterfalls, fountains - in all contexts, styles, genres and media. The brainchild of Vivien Blackburn, Lindsay Olsen and Katherine Tyrrell, I was one of the additional six artists invited to participate in this project.

For the first year, I decided to participate in WetCanvas annual portrait swap. I got enthusiastic and did two portraits which are now in the hands of their new owners. The experience was unique and good fun. The drawback is that not all the participants move at the same speed so completion may lag in your chosen partner and I am still waiting for portraits from the individuals that I was paired with.

I completed a drawing tutorial for Drawspace, where I volunteer as a moderator and teacher. I haven't had time to do more this year as many other projects have taken my time, but I do have a couple of tutorials in the wings that I will make available once I figure out the logistical side of hosting them to make them available on my blog.

There are other projects that are in the works and will be revealed in the 2009 plans.

Tools of the Trade
I finally set up a dedicated studio that will allow me to be more productive and focused. I have room to spread out and do several projects at once as well as room to teach small groups of people.

I purchased a new 17" laptop that provided speed, clear graphics and consistency for writing my blog and viewing art well. I also get satisfaction knowing that the laptop was paid for purely out of funds received from my art.

I am rediscovering oil paints again after a very long absence. I was determined to get into painting and let it free me from the tight drawing that I had gotten into. While I still love detail and realism, there is also satisfaction from creating almost abstract pieces with paint.

I played with different supports this year, from drafting film to colourfix paper and made a big dent in my 'stash' through my stash diet.

What I didn't do
I didn't
create the website that I planned on and I wonder if it really matters. There are times when I want a dedicated site to host tutorials and other interactive information. I will have to review the benefits once more before deciding which way too go on this.

Marketing is another area that I haven't done a lot of in 2008. And it is something I need to tackle for 2009. I do have marketing pieces such as business cards and postcards available, as well as brochures. Information on these pieces changes over time and needs updating.

Aside from hard marketing pieces, I also need to contact the local public more to develop additional contacts for commission pieces. I also need to build a body of work to enable myself to approach galleries.

I will explore the plans and goals for 2009 in my final post of the year on December 31st. I'd love to hear about how your year unfolded and what you have in store for 2009 too.