Saturday, April 29, 2006

break out the cigars

The live eagle cam is now getting 3.3 million hits per day! Yesterday the first egg hatched. More here.

new small art

PS If you're only getting a black screen come back later ~ the system overloads sometimes with so much activity.

Friday, April 28, 2006

illustration friday: under the sea

This theme fits in nicely with the paintings I did last summer called Under the Surface. This small one, 12" x 12", is one of my favourites and is being sent to Erie, PA, with five others today. (Apologies to anyone who's already seen this painting.)

More small ones here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

valuing art

I have been completely fixated lately on figuring out how to market and increase traffic to my new small art blog, to the detriment of everything else. So far it's been a low-key trickle. It hasn't helped that I've had some less-than-ideal experiences with the bricks-and-mortar world lately, making me feel even more like I want to be able to control my own destiny. So, from joining blog directory sites, to begging for button links on my dear blogging friends' blogs, to ordering books and surfing sites on marketing, I've been more than a little obsessed. Meantime, nobody gets fed and no paintings get painted. Time to chill I think. I've always been just a wee bit impatient.

Sunday was one of those days when I tried to de-stress a bit. Zappa and I had a pleasant morning run, then in the afternoon Greg and I headed down to Birch Bay, ostensibly only a 40-minute drive, but since it's a foreign country, and my mind is stuck in pre-9/11 mode, we didn't expect the 1+ hour wait at the Peace Arch border crossing. So we decided to head east for a Sunday drive through south Surrey and Langley: beautiful, rolling estate and equine country.

This is how close we were to the States (those trees are in Washington state). Check out the name of the street.
Just down the road is my uncle's 35 acres where I frequently hung out on horseback in my early teens.

This is the view from the 49th parallel north towards Vancouver.
We eventually ended up at Domaine de Chaberton estate winery and took a little tour. Even though it's a riot of green everywhere else, the grape vines have only just started to bud.

Maria was our tour director and wine-tasting instructor. I couldn't keep my eyes off her as she has that kind of beauty that seems to blur ethnic lines. We liked the Chardonnay enough to buy a bottle for a friend.

It was while in the shop that I got my knickers in a minor twist again. There was a silent charity auction on a Robert Bateman litho print, minimum bid $200, going on. Normally I wouldn't feel the least bit stressed at seeing this because (a) I'm 100% behind artists who use their fame to donate work for charitable purposes, (b) there's a market for all kinds of art out there and somebody has to be the most mainstream, and (c) any way of making people look at fine art, be it through prints or magazines or whatever is a good thing. And there's no question that Bateman is the world master of the wildlife genre.

But when it occurred to me that Mr. Bateman was likely to sell out this edition of 4500 lithographic prints (signed and framed posters, essentially) for more than many artists can get for an original painting, I just felt a bit deflated. It made me depressed to think that this kind of marketing is vague enough to convince the uninitiated that they're buying real art, which therefore effectively siphons them off from the original art-buying market. The thing with original art, though, is that it seems like such a rarefied world that most people never even consider it. After all, they can affordably download their music or purchase CDs, go to the library, buy live theatre or music experiences, go to the cinema and rent movies, etc., so why shouldn't their visual art be also as accessible and affordable? But then, how many chances do you have to own an original manuscript or nail down an Oscar-winning performance to keep in your living room? Visual art is almost the only original art you can own.

In Robert Genn's book The Painter's Keys, he mentions that after family photo albums, beloved paintings are the first things that people grab when their house is on fire. I'm always surprised by just who buys art. It's so often not a measure of education, intelligence, desire for prestige or bank balance. I've noticed that those who desire original artwork come from all walks of life and all socio-economic pigeonholes, but they also possess a kind of sensitivity and appreciation for beauty and originality that you just don't see every day. Hmmm .... Maybe the real secret is to start with the human factor: to recognize and/or create the kinds of people who have that sensitivity dimension to their characters. This sounds like a job for the genetic engineers.

Lecture over. You may now return to your regular programming.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

living with art

In spite of my absence, I'm still here and actually have all kinds of things to talk about (cry about, rant about, etc.), but there just aren't enough hours in the day right now. But to prove I still have a pulse, I have a bunch of quirky new art links to share.

This is an exhibition for big kids, too. I really hope to be able to check out this exhibition, as much for its social irreverence as for seeing how Vancouver's most highly-regarded artists collaborate.

I didn't think it was possible to combine my two favourite things (art and chocolate) so this is a delightful revelation.

On the other hand, it might be wiser to separate art from food.

It might be hard to bag enough zzz's at this hotel.

This is art I could definitely live with. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. (Seriously, I find these radiators to be things of real beauty.)

Friday, April 21, 2006


This Illustration Friday topic was well suited to my 11 year old son and he has today off school, so here is his illustration, both the original (below) and, because I couldn't keep my hands off it, my interpretation of his vision, so to speak (left).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

illustration for kids

I got notification of this new concept/website from a newsletter in my inbox today. Anette writes:

It can be lonely to work as an illustrator, so it is important to have a network of other people in the same situation. "Illustration for Kids"
is a group of 7 illustrators working with illustrations for children. We share the same passion, but each of us have our own unique style. Take a look at our fresh website!

It's like an illustrators' support group with marketing potential. Maybe there's even a 12-step program in the works:

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over doodling; that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a market greater than ourselves could restore us to solvency.

You get the idea. I love it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

this art stinks

Get your mind out of the gutter! This isn't a gratuitous jab at Bad Art, but a look at a world of undiscovered creativity right under our noses. We've all had those slightly-unbelievable images of sidewalk art floating into our inboxes for years (I hate those, and Bert from Mary Poppins would certainly be holding his nose) but all along, who knew that the true god of road art was in the details?

I am all over these manhole covers. There's everything here from beauty to the beast. They run the gamut from beautiful fish art on sewer covers in Japan (how appropriate) to the ubiquitous manhole covers I grew up with in West Vancouver. After looking at an amazing selection of them from just one burg (yours is probably there, too), this is the one I remember seeing more than any other. I must've spent a lot of time looking for lost change while I was growing up.

Now that Rudy has made me aware of this amazing underworld and I have an actual PayPal account, I am holding myself back from ordering one of these. I especially like the one from London. These don't even have prices on them so they must be the most au courant thing in the ghetto.

But what really stinks is that someone got there before me. Oh well. If I can't become a gutter artist then I guess that means I'll have more time to ponder one of the truly great philosophical questions.

Friday, April 14, 2006

art & criticism

Painting: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.
Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914), The Devil's Dictionary

You're confusing product with process. Most people, when they criticize, whether they like it or hate it, they're talking about product. That's not art, that's the result of art. Art, to whatever degree we can get a handle on (I'm not sure that we really can) is a process. It begins in the heart and the mind with the eyes and the hands.
Jeff Melvoin, Northern Exposure, Fish Story, 1994

day and night painter

A few days ago I was surprised to discover that an artist I know who only lives about five minutes from me has a blog! I first met Barbara when I joined a local artist group a few years ago, and she was one of the executive. Just the act of writing that reminds me that, in my typical clueless fashion, I showed up to my first meeting at her house, never having met anyone, on the wrong night! I always make a good first impression. :)

The formal group dissolved eventually (I believe there are still a few artists who get together informally), and not being the joiner sort, I was a pretty slack-arse sort of member, but the one thing I remember best about the group was that it was Barbara's art that left the strongest impression on me, more than any of the other art ... or even any of the people! (Lousy joiner, remember?) She has been working on a series, With Sturdy Shoes, for a couple of years now and each painting is better than the last. Her use of design and symbolism are really quite powerful, and the work is so much better in person. Visit Barbara's blog to see more.

painting: School Teacher With Sturdy Shoes

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

small art

Well, I've been farting around with this off and on for days, trying to figure out how to add PayPal, etc., and I think I have it started, if not yet completely figured out.

My post last week about marketing generated so many great comments and got me actually focused, so, in the spirit of carpe diem, I ran with it and set up a separate blog for selling my small paintings. While I was playing with the initial set-up, Brian discovered what I was up to through my profile page, and promptly bought the first painting! I'm taking it as a good omen.

Please visit my small art blog and let me know if you have any ideas or feedback.

Monday, April 10, 2006

looking out my kitchen window today

Sunday, April 09, 2006

illustration friday: speed

And check out some not-so-speedy animals here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

anatomy lesson

This is awesomely amazing.

Painting discovery: to make a stunning blue, mix dioxazine violet with pthalo blue.
I'm not actually an axe murderer; this is a very old drawing I did of a dismantled mannequin, not a disembowelled person. I added it to show you how not to draw from life, especially after you've seen the above life drawing lesson.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

marketing and other methods of torture

I've been ruminating for the past few days. Up 'til now I've had various exhibitions, projects, commissions, etc. to keep me occupied this year, but have finally caught up on everything and now I need to make some decisions. Marketing decisions. Administrative decisions. I'd rather stick needles in my eye ... or discuss politics with George W.

To prove how unsavvy I am in these matters, just yesterday I finally set up a PayPal account for both selling and buying. I've never even bought anything on eBay! I set up my website primarily as an online portfolio to supplement bricks-and-mortar galleries and as a record of my work, not as a selling tool -- and it's obvious as I don't provide sales information up-front (though I occasionally have inquiries and kiss the feet of the blogfriends who've purchased work from me). But while I have had some success in the bricks-and-mortar world I'm beginning to realise that I need to make more of an effort on my own behalf if I'm going to do better than break even. I need another higher-profile Vancouver gallery now that I've parted company with the one I used to work with, but I haven't got a new series/body of work available for submission and must spend the next few months painting up a storm. But during this time I'm thinking that I also need to try and break out of the traditional mold and start selling on-line. I've been keeping tabs on Julian Merrow-Smith over the past year and his postcard-sized (approximately 4" x 6") oil landscapes and still lifes on card are selling like Jake Gyllenhaal's used boxers. They now go practically before he gets them up on his site. He charges $100USD for them and is making a tidy little living from it. He has the whole "living in Provence and painting like an Impressionist" thing going for him, too, unlike the rest of us sorry losers. How much of a factor is that, I wonder? There are a couple of other artists out there doing the same thing and doing well at it, so maybe it doesn't matter at all, and I'm wondering if I should try a modified version myself. What if I were to paint 8" x 8" x 1.5" (20 cm x 20 cm x 4 cm) panels, like the one above, and charge a similar price? Any suggestions?

Meanwhile, my exposure is gradually increasing. This mixed media piece is to be used in a print ad for the FCA gallery, and Art for All Of Us is trying the Squidoo lens idea on for size. They've started putting up a lens for me, too. Please go and rate each lens to help increase traffic. Apparently setting yourself up at Squidoo can increase blog traffic, too, so you might want to stay longer. (If you're reading this, powers-that-be at Squidoo, I'm open to kickbacks.)

I knew this day of reckoning had to come, but there were so many shiny objects distracting me up until now that I was able to kid myself that it might happen all by itself, without me ever having to contribute anything to it. If only.

NOTE: For more on this topic, read the comments. They are excellent.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

a literary meme

I got this over at Sultry Painter Woman's Journal to a Muse. I didn't do as well as she did, but it was a fun exercise anyway.

Meme instructions: Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you've read, italicize the ones you might read, cross out the ones you won't, underline the ones on your book shelf, and place parentheses around (or strike through) the ones you've never even heard of.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - ready and waiting
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger - just heard of it recently so not sure if I will or if I won't
(His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling - I've only read the first three so far
Life of Pi - Yann Martel - mustmustmust read
Animal Farm - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon - just got this one out of the library!
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell - I've read most Orwell, was once a huge fan
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - another must-read
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
(The Secret History - Donna Tartt)
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
(Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides)
(Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell)
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Atonement - Ian McEwan - only read one Ian McEwan, always wanted to read more
(The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert

Zulu, who's hoping to go on holiday as a stowaway
(maybe we won't notice that she's in the suitcase)

Monday, April 03, 2006

bald eagle nest

Check out this live streaming video on Hornby Island, British Columbia.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

art education

In the past few days I have discovered two interesting blogs that seem to touch the two ends of the experience spectrum in the art world.

Susan at
Art Esprit is an established artist, curator and gallery owner who is absolutely as passionate as you can get about the visual arts. Her blog is full of variety and visual delights. She regularly profiles other artists and I was lucky enough to get the nod this time. She is someone who has followed her passion.

Brock at Caviar Gallery is an artist and student who is at the initial exploration stage: do I follow my passion? If so, how? He is grappling with a lot of the questions we all face at the start of our creative/work lives. Like Susan, there is plenty to see and think about at his blog.

Happy reading!

This painting is hanging in my living room, but vertically (I can't remember how I painted it and didn't sign it!). It's a 24" x 36" oil painting I did while at university and, amazingly, has survived all my culling raids. Can you see the dead horse sliding downhill?