A Thanksgiving Wish (no deals attached)

IMG_3803.JPG

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

That was going to be all I wrote. But this morning as I sat here, reading the barrage of Black Friday emails offering me deals a day early, I started to get frustrated. So many stores are opening early this year, on Thanksgiving. Apparently, all of the online stores are following suit. Couldn’t miss the opportunity to make a dollar or two, now could we? I hate to see this wonderful holiday of gratitude, one of the few days we all celebrate together in this country, regardless of religion or background, taken over by consumerism.

And then I realized, the best way to prevent this from happening is if I don’t spend money today. Don’t browse websites and order from home, don’t visit stores for those early deals. Just don’t engage. If businesses didn’t make money by doing this, they wouldn’t do it.

We, the consumer, can make or break this day for the retailers. Vote with you wallet and don’t shop today if you want to keep Thanksgiving as its own special day. It’s the only way we are going to keep Thanksgiving from becoming the new Black Friday.

So I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of family and friends, good food and safe travel. No strings, or early Black Friday deals, attached.

Forest Explosion (A Mobile Tutorial)

Yesterday I was inspired to experiment. I had seen some Christmas themed graphics made up of triangles, and I thought, Hey, why not try layering triangles cut from my tree images?

Well, the resulting image “Forest Explosion” was far from the starting idea, but it was fun to create. I thought it would be a good tutorial on how to “cut out” shapes from images through blending.

IMG_3736.JPG

First, you have to get a black and white image of a shape. I use the shape frames in the Afterlight app for this. Load in a solid black photograph and then select your frame shape. (To create a solid black image file, take a photo with the lens covered.) You can change the size of the shape with the slider bar along the bottom. You can also change the color of the frame, but for this exercise I wanted to keep it white.

IMG_3723.PNG

Now I have my shape for “cutting out” part of an image. I could have just loaded the image file directly into Afterlight and used the shape frame on it, but in Afterlight you can only change the size of the image you are framing, you can’t tilt or rotate. With blending, the next step, I have more control of how the image overlays the shape.

In Image Blender, load the black and white shape image on bottom and the image you want to cut out on top. Use the “Arrange” function to place the top image where you want it relative to the shape. In this way, you control the part of the image that shows within the shape. In the case of this image, I wanted the trees to repeat the shape of the triangle.

IMG_3742.JPG

Then you blend. In this case, I used Screen mode at 100%. I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with blend modes lately, and will be covering them in more detail in my book. Blending is such a powerful creative tool for editing photographs, it’s something I think everyone should understand.

IMG_3740.JPG

I didn’t end up using that tree image, but here’s the final shape cut out I did use, from an image I created earlier this year.

IMG_3729.JPG

From here, I played with layering the different triangles I had cut out from previous edits. That didn’t go anywhere interesting, so I decided to play with some other shape apps. I pulled the triangle into Fragment, and started experimenting. The white space created interesting results in the fragments, and I loved the way the partial circles seems to explode out of the triangle in this pattern. I edited the fragment to match the original image tones.

IMG_3736-0.JPG

I tried layering some other textures to soften the white background, but didn’t like the effect as much. It needed to stay a bit more stark and graphic with the white, so I left it as is.

There you have it. A way to cut parts of a photograph out, using a shape or any black and white image, and a fun combination of shape apps for an “explosive” result. It’s not necessarily something I will use every day, but it was great fun to experiment. Give it a try!

Lessons from my First Year in Art Fairs

IMG_3687.JPG

My first “art fair” season wrapped up with the close of Philomath Open Studios a couple of weeks ago. You might think I would have a couple of months of downtime, but no, it’s actually time to start applying for art fairs for next year. It is a break from preparing work, but it’s not a break from the business of it.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking stock of this year of events and summarizing what I’ve learned. If you are just getting in to this world, you might be interested too…

On Space

I always thought if I could get more of my work together in front of people, if they could really see a range of what I create, I could connect to an audience and my sales would be better. That proved to be true. A 10×10 booth is a fantastic way to show off enough work to catch the eyes of the people who might love it. For the events where I didn’t have a booth and didn’t have as much space to show, my sales weren’t as good. There are definitely other factors playing into it than space, but I believe having a cohesive space really helps.

I agonized at the beginning about whether or not to spend the money on the booth I really wanted, because it was a big investment and a risk. I am so very glad I did! The tent and display worked beautifully, looked professional and met my needs. I can set it up and take it down by myself, one of my main criteria, yet it’s sturdy and weatherproof enough I don’t have to worry about the safety of my work.

Now that I’ve made this investment, in future years I can play around with my display knowing I’ve got a solid framework to design around. I also know that the booth, this space that is all mine, is one of my best allies in selling my work. It’s my personal gallery. I need to figure out the best use of the space for presenting my work.

On Inventory

Managing that much work — at least 24 large framed pieces, at least 100 matted prints and hundreds of greeting cards for every show — gave me the opportunity to learn a few things about managing inventory.

First, I learned that I need to ruthlessly standardize on sizes. I had mostly square pieces but threw in a few rectangular ones too. Since I have at least three sizes of each shape (framed, large matted and small matted), it’s twice the work to find solutions for storage, transport, packaging and display. It would so much easier to standardize on one format and display them well. Next year, I will focus on square only, which is my primary format, and leave the rectangles at home.

Second, keeping an inventory is vital. My system used simple tables in an excel spreadsheet which listed my stock for each image in each size. I wasn’t able to track exactly which images/sizes sold as I went along, things got too hectic in the booth, so I would do a quick inventory of remaining work at the end of a show. From there I could analyze how much, what format, and which images sold for each show and for the year.

Being able to look at which images sold the best was huge. Now I know my best sellers, which I want to always have in stock, plus extras in my back stock. There are some images which will sell out in every format in every show. I also know which images will not sell in any format. It’s eye opening to get a view of my work this way. Some of my favorite images didn’t sell at all! But no matter how much I love them, there’s no point in dragging the artwork around with me in the future, just for my own edification. I will ruthlessly prune the list of works I showed this year, to make room for new pieces. Thankfully, my tracking tells me which to cut and it’s not a gut decision.

You might ask, has knowing what sells influenced what I create? No, not yet. I create what I create, and then I see what happens with it. I’m not so sophisticated to be able to create a specific type of work.

On Connection

My art business is a connected system, between the fairs, classes and writing, and everything works together to form a cohesive whole. By doing art fairs, I was able to fill more spaces in my workshops. By doing workshops, I get people interested in my art and following my writing. Once I have my book published, I can see that’s going to feed into the fairs and workshops and vice versa.

I didn’t really expect the synergy between all of these different aspects of my business, but now that I’m in it, it makes sense. All of these things are connected to my art. And when other people connect in to one aspect, they are exposed to the rest. It’s an interconnected system.

So the best thing this year for promoting workshops and increasing attendance? Yeah, art fairs. Who knew.

There is one other aspect about connection to comment on here… The selling of art is really about connection. I don’t mean “connections,” as in who you know, although that can play into it too. I mean human connection, one person to another. If people connect with me about my art, we start to form a relationship and they get to know me a little, and that makes the art they already like more meaningful. I want to do things which increase this connection.

So I’ve learned how connection matters, in more ways than one.

What’s next?

I’m taking what I learned and looking at what I want to do next year. Really thinking about how I want to proceed, how I want to change things up, and what I want to keep. It’s a grand experiment, which suits me just fine. I like the idea of trying new things, learning and improving every year.

It was a successful year for me. Not just in the sales, but in the knowledge I’ve gained. I tried something new and learned from it.

It’s time to get those applications for next year in. I hope to see you at an art fair next summer.

The Trouble with Mornings

IMG_3654.JPG

Sometimes my mornings start out slow. I wake up, and snuggle down into the warm covers, drifting off to sleep again. But some mornings, my body, once awake, does not drift off again. It lays there, ready to go, waiting for my mind to catch up and realize it’s time to start the day.

Sometimes my mornings start out quick. Up and at ‘em. Things to do, let’s get started. Sometimes though, I sit in my chair and let my thoughts drift. No motivation to write or to read or to create. Just observing the quiet. Noticing the stitches of my quilt, the tick of the clock, the warmth of the tea cup in my hand.

I had plans for this morning, this blog post. But this morning had other plans for me. No matter. There will be another morning tomorrow, to make good on all of those plans. For now I will sit in the quiet and ponder the personality of mornings. How each one unfolds in its own way.

And that’s ok.

The only trouble with mornings is that they come just once a day.

Creativity and Time

IMG_3614.JPG

I’ve been on a remarkably even keel since the returning from the yoga retreat last weekend. It’s as if I rebooted. Reset everything to a new baseline. It’s wonderful.

It’s allowed me thoughtful space and given me new clarity. I’ve been thinking about how I’m spending my time. I’ve been pondering some little changes to focus myself back in on what’s important. Writing a book, for one. Evaluating what I want to tackle in 2015. And creating new work. Always, always creating new work.

I’ve been realizing a deep truth: As an artist, everything hinges on continual creation. Everything. Self-understanding, renewal, and growth all come from a creative practice. It’s in creating that I understand the direction I want to go. It’s through my artwork that I tease out the signals to follow. I don’t wait for inspiration and then create. I create and then I get insight. And so I create some more.

No matter what else is going on, creating has to be at the core. It has to be a priority for my time. The pace may change, but it can’t go away. If it does, eventually the fuel for everything else that swirls around the art I create… this blog and the book and the workshops and the art events… will slowly, quietly fade away. And you know what else will fade away? An important, even vital, connection to my heart and soul. The connection which provides understanding of who I am and the confidence to seek my own path, no matter the influences around me.

We forget this. Our culture tells us to do otherwise. It tells us to focus on all of the other things that require our time: Work and family and friends and commitments. Things beyond ourselves. Get the work done first, then have fun. Then, with your spare time and energy, with the dregs left over, only then can you create. Everything else, everyone else comes first.

That doesn’t work, for the artist. For the artist to have a thriving creative life, creating art has to be part of the priorities. It has to be the work. You have to give it your best time and energy, on a regular basis. You have to make the right choices for yourself, even if others aren’t happy with you.

So I renew the choice, for myself, to continue creating new work. I don’t do it because I need new images to share or to blog or to show or to sell. I do it because I’m not me if I’m not creating.

I’ve worked long and hard to figure out who I am amidst the clutter. I’m not going to let that knowledge or connection fade away.

Seeking Peace

Where do you find peace?

Is it in the curve of a stone, the reflection of the sky?

IMG_3603.JPG

Is it in the path of the moon, the color of a sunrise?

IMG_3602-0.JPG

Is it in the line of a branch, the light of the evening?

IMG_3608.JPG

I found peace in all of these things, while visiting the Oregon Coast for a yoga retreat this weekend. Of course, four yoga classes, a massage, visiting with friends and yummy food didn’t hurt either. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a relaxing weekend!

Sometimes, when you go seeking peace, you actually do find it. It helps to choose the right place.