Hello Zazzle, Goodbye Life!

Anyone who wants to make money by selling their art online, let me warn you that it is a deeply formidable task.

When I naively thought it would fun to open an online business little did I realise what I was letting myself in for. Every day sees me investing long hours on activities which do not include painting pretty pictures.  I’ve had to…..

  • Decipher what and how to adhere to the site requirements on setting up the store front.
  • Learn every damned thing alone as Zazzle don’t really offer much advice.
  • Interpret and complete complicated forms to keep the taxman happy.
  • Know what size images are required for each individual product.
  • Be proficient at using imaging software – I’m self-taught on Adobe Fireworks.
  • Think up original ideas.
  • Create new images, not just with paint and inks, but digitally as well.
  • Become a champion at tagging.
  • Delve deeply into my box of descriptive words.
  • Open promotional media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest.

Zazzle©Desk.fw

But still…all I hear is crickets.

It’s going to be a long time before I see any reward for my efforts and I’m realising that it will be necessary to open new stores with other online platforms in order to appeal to a variety of audiences.

The thing I’ve found the most difficult is to not be timid about pushing my Zazzle store on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  It’s not enough to simply upload a few items and sit back waiting for them to sell.  Constant promotion of each item is vital and I’m convinced that I’ve probably irritated my friends and lost a good few followers in the process.

On the plus side, Zazzle do print my designs on good quality merchandise and I am enjoying the process; the novelty hasn’t worn off…yet.

I just saw an article proclaiming that those who succeed with these online stores have been doing it fo approximately fifteen years, (FIFTEEN!!) producing more than one item per day – I’ll probably be dead in fifteen years.

Well, much as I’d like to, I obviously can’t sit here chatting – got to get back to consistently and persistently producing for my Zazzle shop.

Zazzle Dazzle Greetings Cards – Making Art Pay

I don’t have any controversial unmade beds nor hideous dead creatures suspended in formaldehyde to flog – and I don’t want my art just sitting around taking up shelf space – so as passion and creativity won’t generate an income, I’m commercialising; selling (very cheesy) greetings cards and other merchandise on the internet. This allows me to paint and draw what and when I want without pressure.

June-Malones_zazzle©lcards

Initial enthusiastic research rapidly dwindled into bewilderment and I had to enter a darkened room for a little lie down.

I’m currently limited to creating for greetings cards and various items such as t-shirts as my technical ignorance regarding converting images to acceptable vector file formats excludes me from contributing to Stock sites for now.

Being under no illusion, I admit my cards aren’t particularly original and realise that just because I’ve decided to put them out there doesn’t mean people will actually buy them; I’m a small voice in a very crowded room.  So definitely not a “get rich quick” scheme.  Nevertheless, even a few pennies here and there, must be better than a deft boot to the derrière.

Here is a link to the first site – my ** Zazzle store front… which will be regularly replenished.

One benefit of shopping here is that nobody will have to endure “All I want for Christmas” played on a perpetual loop just because it’s November.

Perseverance!  I’ll let you know how I get on.

** I closed my Zazzle shop in March 2017.

More Flowers

I’ve always wanted to paint flowers but held back because for some nebulous reason I feared they would be too difficult.  Sometimes you just have to go for it.  Watercolour is utterly perect for painting flowers!

These Crocosmias (I had to look them up) were painted on dry paper using luscious, raw, thick watercolour paint, straight out of the tube.  Before the paint dried, I went back in with a clean, damp brush to tease out the colour.  A brush handle dipped in the paint became a handy mark maker.

Flowers©Orange-1

Flowers©Orange+Book

One of my biggest challenges is knowing when to stop; I’ve ruined so many paintings at the last minute – although on this occasion I managed to step back in time….just.

Is Summer Over Already?

Where has the sun gone?

This Hydrangea sketch is my attempt to defy indications that the British summer has already bowed out.  It’s still July and I’m not ready to put my sandals and sunglasses away just yet.

Based loosely on the principles of negative painting, I worked around the petals and leaves to define their shapes and bring them forward.

Hydrangea©Watercolouri

Transparent colours were used as several layers of increasingly deeper tone are required to develop the shapes.

For quick reference I use a Winsor & Newton chart of hand-painted professional waercolours which has proved invaluable to me.  It not only clearly demonstrates what each colour looks like from intense to watery pale, but it also lists whether they are transparent, semi-transparent or opaque.  It also saves me the bother of making my own chart.

Colour-Chart-W&N.fw

It is important to allow the paint to dry properly between each glaze…something I’m particularly bad at.

It’s not what you do, it’s what you don’t.

Ta-daa!

It may be possible to detect a whiff of satisfaction since I’ve muffled that chattering inner critical voice.

I’ve realised that in order to appreciate my own work it is imperative that I wait a few days after completion to be able to stand back and look at it with fresh eyes…rather like getting used to a new haircut.

The fear of using watercolours is diminishing.  First using only transparent pigments mixed with plenty of water enables me to lightly ‘map out’ the image.  It allows for painting as many layers as I need to build up the impression of dimension.

Flat brushes instead of round were used in an attempt to introduce spontaneity, with charcoal and pastels for intensity.

I’m persevering with the same subject as before, my youngest step-daughter, Ruth.

  • The ink version was all about the lines; a clean, graphic quality being appropriate.
  • Although not exactly a whimper of a painting, I abandoned the watercolour portrait because, despite scribbling on it with pastels, it still felt too flat, rigid-as-a-stick and the edges were too similar.  It didn’t excite me – it lacked those extra ingredients of chaos and energy that I respond to and there was none of the fluidity that only watercolour can deliver.

With this simplified version, the ‘unfinished’ appearance is entirely intentional (assume your “Oh come OFF it” face here).

Ruth©watercolour

Pablo Picasso described art as the eliminiation of the unnecessary and Claude Debussy stated that “music is the space between the notes”.

Simplify, simplify, simplify!  Do more with less!

In this vein, I tried to embrace the blank spaces and make each mark count, obtaining a perfect image being less important than how the paint was applied.  And what was left out.  Yes, you guessed it, I’m making it up as I go along here.

This painting feels complete to me.  And there are edges; some soft, some sharp and I may have even managed to lose some!

Enough?

In keeping with the minimalist theme, I’ll end here and see myself out.

The Art of Wu-Wei & Coloured Pencil Bliss

Isn’t it always the way?  With this drawing of my son I didn’t try.  Really!  It was only a spontaneous sketch with barely any conscious thought…yet somehow, I effortlessly managed to accurately ‘capture’ my son and his mood.  He even likes it enough to use it on his website.

Composer©James

Striving for perfection and overthinking often sabotages creativity.  It’s a paradox!  This was only achieved because I was ‘in the flow’, in a ‘zone’; the usual self-inflicted pressure was off and I didn’t care about the outcome.  I was unleashed!

Composer©zoomDrawing with coloured pencils is extremely satisfying.  It’s just so very simple – all that is required is some paper, pencils and a sharpener.  And the results are gratifyingly fast…no drying time required.

I’ll have to cultivate this – in future, I’ll try not to try.

Improbable Quest

My head frequently bubbles with detailed artistic ideas, but actually accomplishing them isn’t always easy.

I’d like to create a series of paintings portraying likenesses of people I know, with their facial features and hands taking prominence.

You may wonder why I don’t simply call them “portraits”.  Well, have you ever tried to render the essence of an individual onto paper or canvas?  Obtaining a true recognisable likeness is staggeringly difficult.  Formidable, even.  Not least because the sitter is unlikely to view themselves in the same way that the artist does and there are always critics ready to pile huge lumps of vitriol onto the artist.

Clueless but undaunted, the first step was taken; I found a photograph that makes me want to to dust off my paints.

Ruth©InkThis preliminary ink drawing was to make me look hard at her features to familiarise myself with depicting them – also to decide which elements of the photograph to include and which to leave out in the composition.

ruth©pencilThe quick pencil sketch helped me ignore the myriad details and to simplify by considering the tonal values of her face that create form.  Squinting helps with this.

My lofty aspiration is to somehow infuse the painting with more personality than the merely flat one dimensional drawing (although I do quite like flat images).  To cultivate an intimacy that goes deeper than a mere likeness.  Ideally I hope to reveal something of what goes on behind her eyes.

If I manage to fulfil my heady blur of ambitious imagined plans, the next post should be the painting.  Any resemblance to the sitter will be an indescribable relief, but mostly I’m just happy to be doing some art again!

Now if someone could just sprinkle some fairy dust onto my paint brushes…..

Last Squeak of 2013

And so as Christmas creaks into view, with the nation reaching wearily for its winter woolies once again, lo – behold my latest offering before I totally disappear up my own festive fundament.

Portrait©FinalPersonally, I prefer a looser, more spontaneous and drippy effect to this overworked watercolour portrait, but I learned so much; primarily how to conquer my fear of a blank sheet of paper:

  • my pigments are not as translucent as those of the tutor
  • squinting to properly see tone, light, shadow and reflected light
  • identifying warm and cool colours
  • preparation – pre-mix enough paints
  • glazing – how graduated washes create many layers – first time using a mop brush
  • establishing soft and hard edges
  • lifting off damp as well as dried pigment
  • ability to look at watercolour paintings by other artists and decipher which technical aspects were probably used

I enjoyed this online course so much.

Herewith the various stages showing the process…

Portrait©MontagePortrait©Likeness…just don’t ask me to share the technical details – it took me a long time to complete and I am busy preparing for the impending fa-la-laaa fiasco.

Once they have had time to complete the course themselves and IF they decide to publish, I will be adding links here to posts by my good painting buddies, Leslie White and Carol King.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.  Rum pum pum pum!

I’m not a slacker…I’m just surrounded by over-achievers!

I won’t lie.  Sometimes not very much art happens.  (What do you mean, you noticed?)

Yes, it’s been a while but here I am again – and thanks to this great online watercolour portrait tutorial I’m getting a kick out of painting again.

This image is merely an exercise in tonal values which I found compelling.  Agreed, it is undoubtedly overworked for what is supposed to be a simple study.

I find the tutor, Matt Rota, to be exceptional and easy to understand.  I haven’t even started the final portrait yet and I already feel I’ve learned more in a couple of hours watching his tutorials than ever before.

I’d forgotten what it’s like to be this motivated and giddy about painting…I feel like I could throw off sparks from my fingertips.  A new phase in my creativity is opening up and finally giving it some direction.  Seriously, I don’t know if I can take much more excitement!

Despite your suspicions, I’m not getting paid to drool enthusiastically about this course.