Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Adventures in Selling, Part Three: Dreams and Shadows

Last week was Halloween - a time to bring the skeletons out of the closet and wear them on your skin. For a few brief hours, I became a tiger. It feels good to look and act differently than normal. It's fun to see the beautiful, horrible, and fantastic out on the sidewalks - dancing, collecting treats, and reveling in the night.

Me and Dozer. He wasn't fooled by my cattish-ness.

Which brings me to the subject of dreams and shadows..

It's easy to have a dream and feel longing for it because you "just didn't try" or "life got in the way." The dream can remain glow-y and beautiful in the distance, something that "could have been" but just wasn't. Sometimes it's great to have certain dreams stay in the distance, because maybe they really are more beautiful that way. But some dreams are worth the challenge.

The real question for the unfulfilled dreams is, "What keeps you from trying?"

One thing I've been learning these days is that grasping onto a dream and shaping it into an achievable goal will open a can of worms that may be difficult to face. Achieving your dreams can alter important relationships in your life (for good or ill), make you face personal demons, and reveal parts of yourself and your life that, once inspected, MUST change. Deep down, I think that most people are unconsciously aware that this can happen.

Change is scary. But Change can also be very good.

A Halloween-y display at my friend Sarah Hand's house

In my last posting about how I made a breakthrough with my own attitudes toward money, I mentioned that there were other issues holding me back from being able to make a living. While the dough hasn't been flowing in like a raging river (it's more like a trickling creek, hopefully gathering strength!) I feel relatively more calm and trusting these days that it'll keep growing bit by bit. But my feelings have run the gamut from spazz-y to peaceful.

By the beginning of October, I had contacted over 100 stores asking if they'd like to carry my cards. I added 13 new stores through my efforts (22 total stores so far!) which I am proud of. But after the small slew of orders, there was a dry spell, and I decided to take a break from contacting stores so I could work on other projects. I was frankly sick of thinking about my notecard business.

I have mixed attitudes towards freedom and responsibility. I will never be a 9-5 kind of person - it's just not in my nature. Throughout my life, I have always wanted to be free with my art, to do only what I enjoy. But running my card business is showing me that no one is totally "free." In fact, running my own business is harder in some ways because I face full responsibility for every decision I make. There isn't a boss to manage me. I am still not sure how this business will grow, and sometimes I wonder if I should quit because it can be overwhelming and too hard at times. On the other hand, going back to what I was used to would be frustrating and unsatisfying.

What is freedom? Was I really free when I was barely making enough money and worried about it all the time? Was I free when I was doing what was familiar to me, and my dreams were beautiful and distant? Can I always just do what I want to do, and will that make me happy?

The answer for me is "No." I've got to compromise if I want to be happy. That means bending my brain into different shapes and looking at the long-term. Rather than striving to have all the answers now, I can grow to be the capable person I want to be. This means learning the legalities of running my business (that alone is nerve-wracking!), being adaptable to change, and getting help when I need it.

Hot cider and treats from a Fire Ceremony party that I attended in October.

In the last couple of months, I took a creative writing class called "Writing the Shadow," taught by Douglas Jones at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond. In Jungian terms, the Shadow is the part of ourselves that we find unacceptable, the part that haunts us or that we try to hide from others. Through writing and thinking consciously about how to see and integrate the shadow side of myself, I realized that there is someone in my life who I greatly admire but who haunts me in many ways both positive and negative - my dad. Throughout my life, my dad has demonstrated, through words and actions, a trust in life and in his abilities that I have never fully embodied. Even when he's told me about his struggles, I still see my dad as being magical. But by striving to be like him, I have lived in his shadow.

I can see now that trying to conduct life like my dad doesn't allow me to be the self that I am. I want to free the part of me that never feels good enough for my own standards. I want to accept that I will always be a bit doubtful and fearful, and that's okay. It hasn't kept me from doing things that are brave, if my heart says they're worth doing. I don't have to feel declarative and confident about everything. Sometimes just muddling through is good enough - and I suspect that's how many seemingly-confident people do it, too!

After taking my shadow writing class, I learned that the parts of ourselves that we are afraid to look at are the parts that make us human. And these things are beautiful in their own way. They make us complex, layered, imperfect. We cannot have strengths without weaknesses, and we cannot have weaknesses without strengths.

True change occurs within. True change comes from looking at yourself more clearly through a process of heartbreaks and triumphs, and what follows - whether that takes days, months, or years - is a "symptom" of change, not the change itself. It's the fruit that grows from the seed. I look at all that I've done in the past as building towards my dreams and informing what I decide to do each step of the way. Looking at my life as an accumulation of thoughts, actions, and creations is much more healthy than judging whether I have succeeded or failed at any given moment - as if I or anyone else has the right to decide that!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a wonderful "Fire Ceremony" hosted by my artist friends Sarah Hand and Suzanne Vinson. Sarah makes dreamy paper-mache dolls, sculptures and whimsical paper collages. Her work just makes you feel happy.

Shadow box by Sarah Hand

Suzanne is a minister and artist who makes art and hosts art & spiritual retreats and creativity circles. She makes fantastically colorful paintings, mixed media art, and wonderful wisdom cards. During our ceremony, I picked out her "Soar" card to focus my intentions for the night because I am ready for my art, business, and life to truly soar and thrive.

Wisdom card by Suzanne Vinson


For the ceremony, Suzanne helped us focus on the aspects that fire brings to us - it's focus, warmth, and also destructive power. I won't share all of the ceremony here because it just seems more powerful to keep some of it to myself, but it involved thinking about things we wanted to let go of in our lives and other parts that we wanted to bring in. One of my intentions was to make peace with my shadows and to integrate them into my life, among other things. There was percussion, a bonfire, and sparklers involved - such fun! 


Dear Readers, I'm sure you have felt conflicted about your dreams and have faced plenty of shadows mixed in with your sunny days. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Adventures in Selling, Part Two: Where the Money Is

It was 3:30 in the morning a month ago when I first started writing this blog post. I had to split it up because it was so long (see Adventures in Selling, Part One). My cat woke me up scratching on my door, and I couldn't fall asleep after that. For a long time, I had been wanting to express my feelings in written form, but I just felt too busy and overwhelmed to write. A phrase originated in my mind: "Writing puts me in my body." It makes me remember feelings, physical sensations, memories. For awhile, I had been feeling a bit numb. But that is changing.

At different phases of my life I've contemplated changing vocations. I was never sure to what, exactly - maybe teaching art full-time, or book conservation? I would joke to myself that I wished I was an accountant. But the truth is, I have never wanted anything else as much as I've wanted to make a living with my art. As I approached my late 20's and now early 30's, I felt ashamed when I compared myself to friends with full-time careers who were able to live more comfortably and enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of other people my age. I felt like I was staying a child, while they were really growing up.

From "Ask and It Is Given" cards. Text by Esther and Jerry Hicks and illustrations by Kristina Swarner

I am devoted to this thing called Art. It is the thing I am the best at doing and enjoy the most. It feels natural to me. The thought of doing anything else seems boring and sad. Also, any other career I might switch to would require me to go back to school, and that would require a lot of time, energy, and money, too. But, in spite of my passion for art, I've been lingering on the sidelines. Selling art is different than making it.

I've had lots of talks with friends and family about art and money. My sister Olivia Kim, who is an artist, and I were talking on the phone and she said that the upside of not making a lot of money in the beginning is that it proves to you what you've willing to work for. My best friend, Tiffany Navarro, who is an artist and educator (and presented at a Scratch programming conference at MIT in August!), also affirmed that even if things get hard, at least we are making really cool things and having fun with it. What's more awesome than bringing something amazing into the world that never even existed before?

Remember that blog post where I quit my job in March in order to have more time to work on children's illustration? Well, I exaggerated a little. I also had a second part-time job at a bookstore that I worked at 10-20 hours a week. I kept that one because I loved the people I worked with and it was fun. It also provided some stress-free financial padding.

In July, I bought a card deck called "Ask and It is Given." I'd first seen the deck in a shop a couple years before but for some reason I felt strongly then that I should own it. The cards have beautiful, dream-like images by Kristina Swarner with inspirational teachings culled from text by Esther and Jerry Hicks based on the teachings of Abraham. The cards speak about how your life is shaped by the energy and thoughts you radiate and invite. I looked through the cards on my lunch break at work. One of the cards said "An empty feeling is telling me something important" and the back of the card explained that feeling negatively is an indicator that you are disconnected with your "Source Energy." Call it God, call it the Universe, whatever you will. I thought about my feelings. A few days before I sent off that big notecard order that I talked about in my last post, I randomly woke up with a new, excited feeling. It was just there, in my body, this wonderful life and hope. Which made me realize how numb I had been feeling. Not anything horrible or even that noticeable, but my underlying anxieties and fears had taken over and crowded out anything else.

From "Ask and It Is Given" cards. Text by Esther and Jerry Hicks and illustrations by Kristina Swarner

When I thought about how I felt at work that day, it wasn't good. I felt blah and unmotivated. As I looked through the cards, I realized that my feelings about the job had to do with me and what I wanted from my life, not about the job itself. I'd been contemplating quitting for awhile because I was really overwhelmed trying to work on my card business and make new art. I thought that gaining back those 10-20 hours a week for myself would make a big difference, and possibly push me to be even more successful with selling my art. But for different reasons it didn't seem to be good timing.

As I sat there, I thought about quitting soon and for real. A scared, exciting feeling passed through my stomach. It was then that I knew I had already made the decision. Because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have felt so scared. Still, I got home and talked to my boyfriend about it. He was surprisingly matter-of-fact about it, and said all I had to do was hustle a bit more to earn the extra money I was currently making at my job, which wasn't really that much. He said I'd been on a roll so far and didn't see why I couldn't do it. I realized that at this point in my life, I am doing better than I ever have before. For the past year I've been actively striving to build an infrastructure for manufacturing my products, explore new venues to sell my art, and implement different ways to give my work exposure. It made me more confident that not only is this my dream, but it has been a part of my reality for awhile.

I gave my two weeks notice last month. It felt great! At the end of August I began to go full-time with my art business. I'll still be teaching and doing a few odd jobs here and there, but for the most part I will be spending my days working on my own business. YAHOO!!!

From "Ask and It Is Given" cards. Text by Esther and Jerry Hicks and illustrations by Kristina Swarner

This all happened because I made a change - inside. This change has been brewing for years, literally. Ever since graduating from college, there has not been a time when I haven't worried about money. During the past few years, I felt anxiety wondering about how I would ever afford my own home or be able to raise children. Did I have to give up having children one day because I could barely support myself? It made me very upset to think about, and I didn't have all the answers.

But I'm ready now to make a comfortable living by doing what excites me. I'm learning that both art and business can be executed creatively. I think a lot of what kept me from making a full living from art in the past was not my lack of artistic skill, but my mixed feelings about money (as well as other things, which I'll get to in future posts).

There's a lot of discomfort about money among, well, anyone. Everyone has different reasons for feeling weird about it. When I started selling my art, I wanted to make my art available to anyone who wanted it. But by offering low prices on all my goods, I just could not make a true living. It was a breakthrough when I realized last year that the amount of time and energy I put into handmade art would never be enough for a career if I kept going the way I was going. But I was also scared to charge more. Charging more was saying that I thought my artwork was worth more money. In a way that felt like saying that I was worth more money, and I was terrified to say that. I didn't want to seem greedy or full of myself. I didn't think I was worth deserving more than I had. I had gotten material value mixed up with true worth, which is priceless.

Last year, my aunt came up with the idea of printing my art on cards and she was invaluable in helping me to start my notecard business. Because I don't have to spend time doing everything handmade, it allows me to offer my art inexpensively and sell my cards in lots of stores. This has been a big shift because I've decided I don't have to worry about tailoring my original art to be sold cheaply by reducing my labor and materials cost. Instead, I will spend the time I need, charge more for the original art I make, and look for the right audience that can afford it. It took a lot of effort for me to take a stand and decide to value my own time, energy, and artistic talent. Maybe not everyone can afford the originals, but I can't afford to make art if I don't charge more. I was literally running myself out of business! Ah, do you see the paradox?

From "Ask and It Is Given" cards. Text by Esther and Jerry Hicks and illustrations by Kristina Swarner

A few weeks ago I got upset at my boyfriend because I asked if he'd like to take a break from work to go for a walk and he said he was too busy. "Even just 20 minutes?" Too busy. It struck a nerve and made me very angry. Because often he gives me the excuse that he is too busy to enjoy simple and brief pleasures. I realized that "too busy" is an easy excuse to give to anything that you don't want to do. Everyone's busy. People deliberately choose what they spend their time and energy on. I've often given the excuse that I'm too busy, and sometimes it's true, but sometimes it's just because I don't want to. My boyfriend and I talked about it and came to some peace, but it stuck in my mind.

A few days later, I came to a weird realization that MONEY has always been my excuse. "I can't afford it." "I can't do ______ because I don't have enough money." A lot of times in my life this has been true. Yet, if I really wanted to do something, I found a way to get the money for it. I never again want to make money my excuse for doing or not doing something. I want to be accountable for the choices I make, not act like a victim who is always broke. There are many countries in the world where true poverty exists, and it is entrenched and debilitating. For those people, the possibility of change is very, very difficult. I've been very fortunate not to experience this kind, but I have experienced how poverty can be a state of mind. In fact, the only way to change true poverty is by first changing your mind, by allowing for the possibility of abundance as a reality. You can see examples of this in people who win the lottery and then squander all their money quickly because they didn't adjust their minds and actions to fit a reality in which abundance was ever-present, not just a chance gift. It's not an easy thing to do.

I feel like I have now unlatched the gates to material prosperity. Maybe it was just one of those U-shaped latches on a chain link fence that you can flip up effortlessly, but I did it. And now there's nothing separating me from the life I want to live. I don't expect huge changes to happen right away because I know that my business will take time to build. But I can already feel and see it happening. While I know I may be scared sometimes about when or how much money will come rolling in, I feel much more flexible and less frightened about it than I ever have in my life. I finally trust that I will have enough. I don't have to haggle about every penny I spend. More will come in when I need it to.

From "Ask and It Is Given" cards. Text by Esther and Jerry Hicks and illustrations by Kristina Swarner

Money is just a physical object/concept that you can exchange for goods or experiences. I want to travel more, I want to go to artist residencies and take more classes, I want to not always order the cheapest item on a restaurant menu. I want to send my parents on a wonderful vacation. I want to set up a scholarship fund for kids who want to go to art college. There is so much I want to do with the money I'll make.

My new attitude toward money is that having enough will allow me to experience the joyful things I desire and enrich me personally. It will allow me more options for doing and creating, as well as getting more art into the world.

To me, that's worth it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Adventures in Selling, Part One: Hitting the Pavement

A few weeks ago, while visiting my boyfriend's family in Kentucky, I took my notecards around to some shops. It's been a bit more difficult than I imagined to get in touch with store owners to purchase my cards. I'll write e-mails, and sometimes I'm lucky enough to hear back that they're interested, or maybe my cards aren't a good fit for their store or it's not good timing. But often, especially when I'm using one of those fill-in-the-blank e-mail forms, I won't hear back at all and I won't know why. So I decided to "take it to the streets" and just drop in on store owners. Which I've heard you're not really supposed to do - it's better to make an appointment. But I did it anyway.

Zum Kartoffellager by Michael Sowa

One of the store owners wasn't in town, but I talked to her employees who showed interest in the cards and told me to e-mail her. One store buyer showed a lot of interest and took some samples and an order form. One owner immediately took six of my card designs on consignment! And one owner (who I'd actually e-mailed several months before but hadn't heard back from) anticipated my request before I even asked and told me she was too busy to look at anything (which she was, since there were lots of customers in there), but gave me her direct e-mail.

Kranker Hund by Michael Sowa

The day after my boyfriend and I returned to Richmond, I e-mailed the store owners from Kentucky to follow up. Then my boyfriend and I went to a grocery store to eat lunch and I griped about how, even with the luck I'd had with that one store taking my cards on consignment and a handful of other stores currently selling them, I didn't think it was possible for me to make much money. I felt completely pessimistic. I was tired out from the long drive back and depressed to come back to regular life after having such a fun vacation. I also didn't have enough income to cover the rest of the month and didn't know how I would generate it.

Later that day, I checked my e-mail. One of the store buyers from Kentucky had just placed a huge order! I grabbed a calculator to tally the order - 360 of my cards! I yelped with joy. It was my biggest order from any store so far. Financially, my month was covered.

For awhile, I was so excited. Then I wondered how I would make enough money the next month. Not every buyer was going to order so many of my cards. And then I remembered that I was running out of envelopes and I would have to order more before I could send out the order! I didn't want her to think I was unprofessional and couldn't ship my orders quickly, especially not such a big, important order. That night I slept fitfully and had dream-like worries about envelopes.

But, once I received my envelopes the next week, I packed up the order and felt this new and wonderful energy flow through me. I felt excited, confident, hopeful. It was fun to prepare the order, to neatly stack and wrap up the cards and organize them in the cardboard box. I went to FedEx and opened an account. I told the FedEx employee how I excited I was about it. She kept smiling. I'm sure not too many people come into FedEx excited about sending out packages. I tried to savor it, because one day I may not be excited about packaging and shipping out orders. But at that moment, I was doing exactly what I wanted. One big order had given me the hope I needed.

Mann mit Elefant by Michael Sowa

I now confirm my suspicion that not only do I have to get over my fear of failure, I also have to grapple with my fear of SUCCESS. Ever since I got more serious about selling my art five years ago, I've had this weird feeling that everything that happens to me is only because I want it or truly need it to. Every time I despaired that I couldn't make enough money from my art or just really needed an emotional pick-me-up, lo and behold I would make another sale or someone would offer me an unexpected opportunity. It was never a lot, but always just enough. Throughout my life, my parents instilled a sense in me that I was always supported by the Universe no matter what. But I wondered why it was never a bit more to take the edge off my worries.

Getting more than I expected with that notecard order gave me hope, but also terrified me. I think I've never received more than "just enough" because until now, I didn't feel that I could handle it. This wasn't always a conscious sentiment, but as I now approach the reality of going full-time with my various art businesses, I can see that I was always afraid of the responsibility it would bring. Running my own business takes risk, bravery, a whole lot of accountability, and a pretty steep learning curve. And that is SCARY to me. I guess it was usually easier to feel slightly in the dark, to not ride that crazy beast even though I was already half-gripping the horns and being dragged by it. I've been working through these fears, though, by learning more about business from reading books and online articles, having a meeting with a business mentor from SCORE (a business counseling service in Richmond), and contemplating taking some classes to learn more. At each step, I experienced the initial fear of having to face something new, then the ease of actually feeling like I can deal with potential problems that may arise.

Suppenschwein by Michael Sowa

One thing I've learned thus far is that since I'm running my business, I have to be happy with the way I'm doing things - even if in a parallel universe another me would be working faster, harder, and smarter. I have to deal with my own weaknesses and champion my own strengths. I have to decide when I need to take breaks and when I need to push myself more. I also have to decide whether what I'm doing is worth my own time and energy, and learn to say no to people and activities that sap the energy out of the goals that really matter to me. This last thing, learning to say "no," has been difficult because I hate to disappoint people, but ultimately I was hurting myself by doing things that caused me resentment because they were not really how I wanted to use my energy anymore. I also have to battle with my own rigid thinking and old habits, and re-think decisions in a fresh way that makes more sense in the moment.

After I gained self-confidence with the big card order, I started to visualize how I would direct my card business - what I really wanted from it. I pondered what it would feel like to be someone else stumbling upon my cards for the first time. I suddenly had ideas for new illustrations and different card lines I wanted to experiment with in the future. I thought of it as a long-term venture where I would have fun trying lots of different things and seeing what worked.

The paintings I've been showing throughout this post are by a German artist named Michael Sowa. His work is cute but unusual, absurd and artfully created, and each painting contains an entire world.

Painting by Michael Sowa

I discovered his art at a store in Rochester, NY (my hometown) called Poster Art. Every time I went in, I would find myself attracted to a postcard and then I'd turn the card over and see his name. This is what I want with my cards - to be that thing you discover unexpectedly, that charms you and inspires you to imagine. To be a little peek into a larger world. I hadn't thought of selling my cards in this way before. I thought of them as another outlet for the art I already make, as well as an approach to affordably get my work into the hands of many people while making some revenue. But thinking of the cards in this other way made them magical - elevated them to something that could truly impact people, even in a small way.

Tigerhasse by Michael Sowa

It's wonderful to feel excited about life after a period where you didn't even know you felt a bit numb. I want to follow that excitement and see where it leads. Even if it gets scary sometimes.

Join me for more notecard shenanigans in "Adventures in Selling, Part Two," coming soon!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Behind the Virtual Storefront: Interview with Etsy Seller One Strange Girl

Next up in this series are the lovely vintage finds of Janine Sodano, of One Strange Girl. I found Janine's shop through the Etsy Local search feature for Richmond, VA, and thought she would add an interesting perspective with her fun antique objects. Read on!

Janine Sodano
www.etsy.com/shop/onestrangegirl?ref=si_shop



1. Please describe your Etsy shop and your personal outlook as a seller. 

My Etsy shop focuses on vintage postcards, pictures and ephemera and a few handmade items that are vintage inspired. I am a lover of all things vintage, second hand and good old junk. You can always find something wonderful in them.

2. What is the greatest challenge/strength of selling your category of items on Etsy? 

There are a lot of vintage Etsy sellers, and many that focus on postcards. I am able to acquire mine fairly cheap so that allows me to price them for less than most sellers.


3. What is your most popular item and why do you think it's a bestseller? 

The holiday postcards sell well. Especially the smaller holidays....St. Patrick's Day, Memorial Day. I think they appeal to a wide variety of people. Due to the low price, it's a nice way to have that vintage, shabby, antique style without spending a large amount of money.


4. Are you a full-time Etsy seller, and if not, approximately what percentage of Etsy revenue makes up your total income? 

I am not currently a full time seller, but plan to be this fall. Right now Etsy is only a supplement to my current income allowing me to spoil my children a lit bit more. :) 



5. How do you see your shop growing in the future, and what changes would you make to achieve your goals? 

I would like to expand into more areas of the antique business and I think focusing and promoting my shop will help accomplish that.

6. Where does most of your customer base come from? Do you make targeted efforts to promote your shop? 

Most of my customers are generated directly from Etsy searches. I do have a nice base of repeat customers and I love that :) Lately I have been promoting on Pintrest. I haven't see a huge uptake in traffic, but I'm hopeful.


7. Do you sell your work at other venues online and/or at a physical location? How does Etsy compare to other venues? 

I used to have an antique shop, but the overhead was costly. Now I just sell on Etsy. I like it much better. 

8. What is the best part of running your Etsy shop? Most difficult part? 

I enjoy finding the next great thing. The key to my shop is that I love what I list. It makes me happy. I can't sell anything just to sell. So when I find a buyer who likes it as much as I do - I'm happy.


9. Has running an Etsy shop helped you find other opportunities besides direct Etsy sales? 

Not that I can think of. But honestly I haven't looked,

10. What advice can you offer to first-timers who want to sell on Etsy? 

Do what you love, what interests you. Find your niche. And always, always respond promptly to your customers. Your impression is just as important as your product.


11. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Thank you for this opportunity and I wish something like this was available when I started. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Past Illustration Highlights and Newly-Released Prints

If I don't blog about something right away, sometimes I forget to share it. So, I'd like to peel back history and show you a selection of illustration commissions I worked on since last summer. 


One of the illustrations from a wedding invite I illustrated for my friend last year. She was born in the year of the Dog, and he in the year of the Horse :)


Another commission from a friend - a watercolor picture for his son who was born in the year of the Snake.


CD art I created in pen and ink for Caitlin Currie's "All A Dream" EP. It's a really cute album featuring Currie's melodic folk-pop vocals and guitar and ukele playing. Check her out at "Fallen Love Records," a label "dedicated to friendship and pop songs" based in Ontario, Canada. I just visited the site and her EP is temporarily sold out, but maybe they'd print more if you ask nicely.

A linocut cover and disc art for the band "Hallelujah Hill Quartet," a gospel group from West Virginia. This was commissioned by a couple whose grandparents, led by Ella Hanshaw, had formed the musical group in earlier years. Ella loaned them her old tapes, which they digitized and inventoried, going through hundreds of hours of listening. The result is this special album, showcasing the band's heartfelt spirituals and performances in churches all across West Virginia's hollers. At the moment, it has only been circulating among friends and family, in the hopes that one day it will be picked up and distributed by a record label.


In April I created this map using watercolor and pen and ink for The Visual Arts Center of Richmond. They used it for their spring Open House celebration to highlight the day's events and activities. If you notice, there is a cow flying near a white tower. This is in reference to the building's historical use as a dairy.


A poster I created for a craft show coming up this weekend in Richmond, VA. I used digital coloring for the first time, which was fun.


Here are pieces from my art show "Return" which I exhibited last year at Studio Two Three. You can view all the pieces and their accompanying poems here. Archival reproduction prints of the art are now available through BuyOlympia and I've just listed them in my Etsy shop, Sprout Head

BuyOlympia is an online and retail shop/gallery originally based in Olympia, Washington, but relocated to Portland, Oregon. They started out to help sell the creations of their artist friends online, and have expanded to include artists around the world. BuyOlympia has always been super-supportive and helpful to me ever since I met Pat, one of the owners, when I lived in Portland in 2008/09. I encourage you to check them out and find other cool goodies from their roster of artists. I try to keep my shop stocked with all 20 reproductions of my art that BuyOlympia prints for me, but my inventory may fluctuate. So if you can't find the print you want, please order it from BuyOlympia.


I hope you've enjoyed seeing these past projects! Most of what I've created after June of last year has been commissions for other people, so it's a nice change to be making new art for myself these days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Unmotivation, Gustave Baumann Woodcuts, and the "Bloom" Giveaway Winner!

I must admit that I've been lazy for the last week or so. I hate the word lazy. Okay, I've been in a rut. But that's not exactly true. It's not artist block. I have ideas, I have some direction, I have materials ready.

Unmotivated. That's the word. Whenever I feel lazy or unmotivated it's usually because I feel tired out (probably from travelling to Philly a week ago to do the Punk Rock Flea), or I'm in limbo because I need to decide on something but I'm afraid to or not ready to yet. Also, recently I spent a lot of my time cleaning and organizing my studio and finishing up older projects. I wanted my physical space and my head space to be clear and ready for new things. Now I'm ready but still feel unmotivated. Argh! I blame it on the heat.


Aspen Money, 1929 / 1946, Color woodcut,12 7/8 x 12 13/16" by Gustave Baumann

I have an art show coming up in November, and I've been trying to plan on what I want to create for it. I have two threads of ideas that I'm not sure will mix well in one show, so I tried to choose between them because I only have so much time to work. It was really hard for me to decide! For now, I'm going with the theme of landscapes and city scenes. I've taken lots of photos in the last few years and I want to translate those into linocut prints to reflect the beauty, spaciousness, and colors of the places I've seen.


Plum and Peach Bloom, 1912, Color woodcut, 19 3/4 x 26 5/8" by Gustave Baumann

It feels a bit scary to me because most of what I've created in the past has been infused with more of my own imagination. I wonder if my landscapes will seem devoid of my artistic personality (ha ha, there's my ego creeping in!) I am also feeling a bit daunted by producing this body of work because I will be working with more colors which will take more time and planning. I have to find ways to simplify the images if I'm to finish enough work for my show! I want to get the right amount of detail but also capture the essence of the image. All of these are challenges, but I think that they will stretch my artistic muscles. I'm taking a lot of inspiration from the woodcuts of Gustave Baumann, one of my favorite printmakers. When I look at his work, I am reminded that it doesn't matter whether the image came from my imagination or not - it just matters if it has life in it. An artist's job is choosing what and how to depict something in order to give it that special life. Baumann's work is very recognizable as his own, even though there are lots of landscape artists out there.

Tom A'Hunting, no date, color woodcut, 11" x 13 1/2" by Gustave Baumann

I love the way he captures light, and his subtle overlays of color. I tried to count how many colors he uses, and it's usually at least 7 different colors. Whew! 7 colors in one linocut print is a lot for me. I'm going to try to simplify down to 4 or 5 if I can. But we'll see.

Cherry Bloom, 1917, Color woodcut, 9 5/8 x 11 1/4" by Gustave Baumann

His landscapes are so spacious. They make me feel calm, like I have infinite space to breathe within them.

White Desert, 1930, color woodcut, 9.5 x 11.125" by Gustave Baumann


I also love his artist's seal - the open hand on a heart in the middle of his signature. So cute! Man, I need a seal.

According to my Pomegranate book of Baumann postcards, Gustave Baumann (1881-1971) was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States when he was 10. When he was 16, his dad left and it was his responsibility to support his entire family! He began full-time work at a commercial engraving house and took night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. If I think I have it hard sometimes, it's good to remember that some artists had it WAY harder. I'm also thinking of artist and illustrator Wanda Gag, who was put in a similar position when she was young. I'm just plain wimpy compared to them. Baumann later worked at an advertising studio, and also travelled to Munich to study at the School of Arts and Crafts. In his mid-thirties, he moved to multiple cities on the East coast and then finally settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lived for more than 50 years. I love that even though Baumann had a hard start, he really took his life into his own hands by making a living as an artist, attending school, travelling, and finding the place he could truly call home as an artist and person. And his work is AMAZING.


A Lilac Year, 1949, Color woodcut, 12 1/4" x 13 3/16" by Gustave Baumann 
One of my favorites!

I can only strive for my landscapes to possess a bit of the magic that Baumann's did. It's time for me to get back to work!

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And sorry I took forever with this, but I would like to announce the winner of the "Bloom" print giveaway:


Angela! 

You've won my "Bloom" linocut print! 

Please get in touch with me and let me know which color scheme you prefer: good_old_fashioned_smell (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Thanks everyone for leaving comments. I was inspired and encouraged by all of you, and will take your suggestions into consideration. I already have plans to print on tote bags, make more zines, and do some black and white linocuts! Actually, most of your suggestions were ideas I was considering anyway, but you all gave me a push. Thanks so much!