Friday, November 30, 2007

creative thinking revisited yet again

Yesterday I had the fun of experiencing three examples of creative thinking at work. The first came in the morning post and was the promo kit I ordered from Welsh artist Peter Birch. I raised my hand when he asked if anyone wanted to see what he was up to in promoting his (relatively) newly-hatched career as a visual artist. As an info junkie on all things art marketing I was really curious to see (and steal from) his approach.

First of all, it came neatly packaged in a little 12 cm x 16 cm cellophane envelope -- easy to mail, easy to handle, easy to enjoy. Brilliant! It was like opening a present and included four photos of his work with all the pertinent info on the back, a photo of Peter sketching in Spain, an artist's statement (pithy, unencumbered by 'artspeak' and includes his inspiration and influences) and a business card. But best of all were a personal note and a little original mixed-media pendant that is very reminiscent of his vibrant abstract work. Thanks, Peter.
Next, number one son, Carl, came home from school with a Biology assignment: create a model of two strands of DNA. He took a paper towel tube and toothpicks and, using only a pair of scissors, white glue and paint, produced this awesome little creation. I rarely talk about my kids (two posts in a row now!) but this one is the Social Studies and Science whiz. A+ says this proud mama.
Number two son, Adam ("the one who excels at writing and art," brags that same annoying woman), brought home this amazing creature, a large clay lizard decorated in Australian aboriginal style. All his characters and creatures have this slightly over-the-top personality that I find completely irresistable.
And since we're discussing creativity, have I mentioned ME lately? :) I've been working away on these little archival prints-on-panel, then putting them in my shop as I finish them.

eden left

camel right
The ones I made yesterday are quite small and inexpensive. The materials and printing quality are second-to-none, and since I lost out on that amazing deal on an Epson R2400, I've been having them printed by the Pirate at Prints Ahoy in Glasgow (of all places). Don't you just love doing business in the global village?
Finally, it takes truly creative problem-solving to launch a couple of these without having to throw out the canvas and start again. We're still a work-in-progress but I expect the National Gallery of Canada to come calling in a few years:
carl and adam at nairn falls

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

dear diary

Dear Diary

I'm feeling guilty. There are all these bloggers who are writing a post a day in November whereas I, after 2 1/2 years of blogging, have only managed to post, say, four days in a row on maybe a half dozen occasions. I haven't posted at all this week, and last week only provided pictures.

Okay, I admit it, I'm not really feeling guilty but it has been quiet (though always busy) around here lately. The high point was probably getting an update from the family of Carlos, the first of about a dozen dogs we fostered a few years back. Isn't he a handsome devil? After his early career in highway robbery, I broke him out of a shelter in Bellingham, Washington, and we fled north over the border. All the dogs were hard to give up but he was the hardest.

And we kept this evil-looking creature instead? On Monday night we had a sort-of snowfall (wet and short-lived) ~ perfect for lounging in, of course. Zappa is pretty but not too smart or brave, as he proved last Saturday when he used me as a shield while I kicked and screamed at a vicious Chow Chow who tried to carve him up and eat him for lunch.

Bit by bit the handmade stuff I've bought on Etsy for Christmas has been trickling in, and I got some work back from a gallery last week. I took two of the landscape paintings into town yesterday, so if you're in downtown Vancouver over the next ten days, pop into Royal Centre at 1055 West Georgia Street and have a look.

I also have five of these framed landscape drawings left to find homes for. These frames are so perfect for them that I don't want to sell the drawings by themselves, but shipping glass can be a pain-in-the-arse and finding a new venue also a problem as they're not exactly mainstream landscapes. Because of their reflective quality they do need to be seen by the naked eye. I've decided to put a couple on Etsy anyway, just to test drive the idea.

In other news, Carl was invited to go on the senior concert band trip to Kelowna next spring, even though he only had room for a guitar class and extracurricular jazz band this year. Adam also has a band trip to Seattle with the junior band. These band trips cost money and there seems to be two trips a year these days, either to Quebec with the French Immersion class or somewhere closer with the band. I can't ask the grandparents to help out so I foresee a few bottle drives in our future.

One of those bottle drives might be for me as I really want to go to a Nick Bantock collage workshop (I want to learn more about mixed media) on Saltspring Island at the end of May. Anyone care to join me? I've never read Griffin and Sabine or any of his other novels so I really must do some 'research' first.

Well, Diary, I have some painting to do so must go. What do you think I should do with this strange-looking thing?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

curb appeal

good neighbour home again

Friday, November 23, 2007

toy zoo

small worlds

This drawing fits nicely into Illustration Friday's theme 'the zoo' this week. It reminds me of visiting the now-defunct Stanley Park Zoo and riding on the miniature train when I was a child.

I've had a busy week here, nose to the easel and all. Happy American Thanksgiving and Black Friday to those down south. I suggest staying out of the malls and shopping on-line today. May I ever-so-subtley suggest Etsy? :)

And whilst giving thanks, this article, about an artist imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge, is a timely reminder of how many things we can be thankful for. Have a good weekend.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


The best ~ and worst ~ part of these digitally-coloured drawings is the ability to play for hours with colour combinations.

*NOTE* I took 'the handmade pledge' for Christmas this year. See link on sidebar.

Friday, November 16, 2007

art and fundamentalism

Sometimes, when I have a couple of minutes to kill, I pick up Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. A few days ago I hit on his comparison of the artist with the fundamentalist ~ primarily religious though also political. He explains that the main difference is that the core philosophy of the artist requires looking to the future while the core philosophy of the fundamentalist requires looking into the past:

To combat the call of sin ... the fundamentalist plunges either into action or into the study of sacred texts. He loses himself in these, much as the artist does in the process of creation. The difference is that while the one looks forward, hoping to create a better world, the other looks backward, seeking to return to a purer world from which he and all have fallen.

It's an interesting idea that I've been turning over for a few days. There's a simplicity and logic to it. If he were to broaden the search, though, could the opposite be said of the progressive religious person who gets involved in empowerment activities, like job training for the homeless, and the traditional artist who believes the only true art builds on a classical past?

In other news, I've been continuing to play with Etsy but am getting a bit frustrated. (Note: please no lectures on creativity being more important than economics. I know that. I also know that creativity doesn't pay the orthodontist bills.) My recent attempts to understand Etsy success have been interesting and have also revealed that this artist has sold more than any other. 9500+ sales! It's an amazing achievement and would be encouraging but is actually quite sobering because her work is so profoundly different from mine and so sought after that it makes me want to pour a tall Scotch and check out That said, I have decided to test the limits of Cutesy -- er, Etsy -- and see if a series of eight of my photos, called Urban Myth, will make any sort of blip on the radar. It doesn't get less cute. I still have to load the rest of them but I'm taking my cue from Etsy experts and not uploading all at once to ensure higher viewer stats. Sigh. (I'm working on getting my BS from the U of Etsy and am in danger of flunking out.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

art as altered reality

I was hanging out on Etsy forums this long weekend, trying to get some clues on what works and what doesn't, and got sucked into the age-old debate of "what is art?" ~ though I'll admit this particular discussion had a practical application. Whether photographs could be considered art was touched upon, and later on in the day, when I saw these photos that Rudy pointed me towards, I knew in a heartbeat that this is art, the whole art and nothing but the art. The ones that sport unexpected colours are made simply by covering a strobe flash with coloured gel. Brilliantly simple.

While at Etsy I also came across this artist's surprising assemblages. To alter it one step further, I'm feeling inspired to make some drawings from them.

Altering photo reality can be seen on this page of souvenirs-in-their-natural-habitats. The blow-up London bus photos are the ones I like best, though none of them are my London bus (the #73).

And while we're discussing altered reality and 'is it art?' what about words? Do they count? Hell yes, if they're made into artwork by Wayne White. I was fascinated to read that he also directed Peter Gabriel's groundbreaking (to geriatrics like me) video Big Time in the '80s. He picks up old paintings at thrift shops and integrates his 'message' into them. Kind of like Trixie Delicious at Etsy. I lust after her vandalized vintage dishes but my budget won't allow it.
To finish on a why-doesn't-anything-like this-ever-happen-to-me note, this article gives new meaning to the phrase 'found art.'

Friday, November 09, 2007


Well, this was fun. Being a connoisseur of fine fish bones and herringbone-patterned scales I just had to contribute something to Illustration Friday this week. So I took an old painting (to the right), cropped a detail from it, stripped it of all its colour then had a little party in Photoshop. I think it's an improvement.


I made it!

So, I did the draw this morning, all by my lonesome, and I actually did use a hat: my favourite running/standing in the rain at soccer games/hiking, etc., hat. Greg picked it up as a freebie when he ran the 2004 Vancouver Marathon (it was a 2003 Seattle Marathon leftover) and it fit so perfectly that it has become one of those treasured items of clothing that are impossible to give up (for example). I thought I'd lost it when we went hiking at Thanksgiving and oh! The gnashing of teeth!
There were 38 entries from nine countries, but the draw post is nowhere near my most popular in almost 2 1/2 years of blogging. That honour is reserved for this post, the post that never dies. I wish I could take the credit, but it turns out that it comes up first whenever the words 'Andrea needs' are googled, hence its remarkable staying power. We're still shy of the elusive '100 comments by people named Andrea' goal, though. Spread the word to all your Andrea's.

OK, OK, the draw. I'm using classic narcissist strategy: pique their interest then string them along for as long as possible. (I learned it from a master.) The winner is A KITE RISES, an Irish lass with a lovely blog. (And for the really observant, she left two comments -- not deliberately -- but she still only got one entry.) This was fun and I will probably do it again in a few months. Ms Kite, please email (see profile) and I will give you a choice of prints.
And since we touched on it (we did?), if you ever visit my CafePress store and see something you like and would prefer one of the other images on it, just let me know and I can make a change easily enough. It's not like I give high priority to this shop; it's really just for fun. And the products are excellent quality. I just ordered another large mug because the first one was so great.
Here's to 500 more!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

commercial break

All work and no play is making Andrea a very dull blogger, among other things. It's been grunt work (marketing), not fun work (painting), as I chase down a bunch of leads that I've been putting off until tomorrow for too many todays.

First of all, I've been adding new work to my Etsy shop. Finally. I'm not done yet and I am putting a variety of things there to see what sticks and what doesn't, including a couple of landscape prints.

Next, I decided to test drive ImageKind. ImageKind is a direct-order print company that will make prints on your choice of paper and will also do framing and matting. I must admit that I spent way too long trying different combinations of mats and frames on each painting.
Finally, I checked out what was happening in my almost-forgotten CafePress store. I want to make some calendars for 2008 but in the meantime, I added a few products and changed some images on others. I don't do much with it, but once or twice a year I like to play shopkeeper.

Enough blatant commercialism and back to the important stuff. This is post #499 so next time I'll be drawing for a print. If interested, enter here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

on blogrolls

With post #500 looming I have found myself taking stock of the whole blogging thing. Yesterday I finally followed through with a decision I had a really hard time making: tossing the blogroll. I love blogrolls; it's how I found good blogs when I started and it's how readers have found mine. They are invaluable resources. But the fluid nature of blogging means that I was constantly updating it ~ or so it seemed. That was fine when I was keeping track of 20 blogs but as the numbers increased, so did my apathy. I allowed my blogroll to become so out-of-date that I was procrastinating, and the neurotic in me was getting stressed over the whole thing. I know there are people who choose not to blogroll and I never had anything against them, but I liked to think I was a 'caring, sharing' kind of blogger.

The truth is, I often allow my life to get out of control with over-commitment. Over the years I have learned to stop, analyse and remove the non-essentials before I overload. From a practical point-of-view I wasn't even using my blogroll. I find Bloglines to be a much more efficient way to keep track of the (too many) blogs I like to read. See, that was another problem; I was trying to keep both Bloglines and my blogroll updated and Bloglines was winning. So yesterday I took the leap and hoped nobody would notice. Almost immediately my favourite idler-from-down-under did! Busted!

Anyway, in the finest spirit of "don't try this at home, kids" I hope that nobody thinks I'm on to something and deletes their blogroll after reading this, especially if I'm on it! :)

Friday, November 02, 2007


How's this for a literal translation (in ink and Photoshop) of this week's Illustration Friday theme? A bit of a departure from the loosely interpreted Trick or Treat.

This is one post closer to #500. Check out the print draw here.


I just came to the stunning realization that I'm only four posts away from 500. 500?! I can't believe it. I only know that I started blogging about 10 minutes after I discovered what a blog was, with no idea what I was letting myself in for. To celebrate this momentous event I am having a draw for a print. I'm not sure yet what I'm offering (depends what's available) but there will be a selection of several A4-sized (8.25" x 11.75") prints available to the winner. Stay tuned.

Meantime, to enter all you need to do is leave a comment on this, my 496th post (thanks for the idea, Dinah!). Post #500 will reveal the winner, names drawn from a hat.

As you can see by the image, I have been experimenting. The original of this print is huge: 48" x 48" or 122 cm x 122 cm. What I did here was take a print (306 gsm Hahnemuhle Photo Rag) of the painting and mount it on an 8" x 8" x 1.5" cradled wood panel. I gessoed the panel first and painted the sides raw umber, then attached the print with matte acrylic gel medium. The whole thing is then sealed with the medium, the light texturing on the surface giving it the illusion of an original painting. All materials are the best I could find and completely archival. I was chuffed as all get-out at the results. This one's at Etsy (check out my new shop banner) and I plan to try this with more prints. If there's anything you've seen that you'd like me to do up, I'll be trying the following sizes: 6" x 6" ($25), 6" x 8" ($30), 8" x 8" ($35) and 8" x 10" ($40).