Category Archives: art business

pastel of a skeleton carferry captain

Old Carferry Captains Never Die…

Yesterday an older gentleman stopped by while I was out in front of my studio, writing at my little café table. He’d been walking around town all morning and needed to rest for a bit before returning home. He asked if he could sit down. “Sure,” I said.

We got to talking and he told me he’d worked on the carferries for 30 years in the engine room. “20 days on and 8 days off,” he said. “But sometimes the boat would get stuck in the ice and you couldn’t start your time off until they got to the dock. That was hard.”

I liked listening to him and imagining what Ludington looked like when there were seven carferries sailing to three different ports on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan–Milwaukee, Manitowoc and Kewaunee. He listed all the boats on his fingers, “The Pere Marquette 21, the Pere Marquette 22, the Spartan, the Badger, the City of Flint, the City of Saginaw and the City of Midland.”

I thought about how the town harbor must’ve bustled with people and trains and boats. It’s still a little bustly with the Badger running half the year here.

The man that sat down to talk didn’t ask about my skeleton art but I got to thinking about it and I wonder if he’d have liked the commission that I painted early this spring, about a skeleton carferry captain racing back to port. The owner of a local restaurant wanted me to paint a skeleton picture that had Ludington, the carferry and House of Flavors Restaurant in it. Oh, and could I do it in ten days because the giftee was leaving town?

I’m a glutton for punishment so of course I said yes. As it turned out I also had to get the piece printed as a canvas wrap in time for the going away party, but once the original was done that part was easy peasy. I love it when a plan comes together! Bonus, it was a really fun piece to do.

Do you suppose the old guy I was talking to yesterday would appreciate a card with that piece on it? If I see him again I’ll be sure to find out!


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Loon's Moon Studio

Thank you to everyone who came out to Art Ramble!

Art Ramble in the Woods was last week, and truthfully, I wasn’t expecting a lot of traffic. Loon’s Moon Studio, where Deb Albrecht and I were set up, is pretty far out in the pickers. It’s off Stohlberg Road, which is so small that you can’t even call it tertiary, much less secondary, and then 32nd Street is a quarter mile long dirt driveway that goes all the way down to Tallman Lake. It’s absolutely lovely once you get there, and Joan’s gourd art is sublime, of course, but there’s tall grass, a downed tree and mobile home trailers mixed in with the cottages and cabins, so a pretty unusual spot to have an art show.

Deb Albrecht's work

Deb Albrecht’s awesome stuff.

Laurie and Craig’s place, The Art Full Codgers Gallery, is a bit easier to find and Lonni Pratt’s The Art Shack is right around the corner from them. Of course, without Laurie’s terrific signage, we’d all probably still be out there, twiddling our thumbs and wondering where everyone was!

It sure was heartwarming to see how many people came out for the event. They drove in steadily in ones and twos all weekend. I’d ask them, “How did you hear about us?” and they’d say, “Well, we were curious about all those green signs in the neighborhood,” or “We saw the story in the paper,” or “It was all over Facebook,” which was really great to hear, because everyone worked their butts off to advertise this show.

tie dyed shirts

Steve’s tie dyed shirts

Art shows are up against some tough competition any time of the year, but especially in the summer. People are busy. There are reunions, weddings, vacation plans and just a lot of regular ol’ stuff, you know? So it was sweet to see people come out to say hello and even buy some art.

And then this happened: Saturday afternoon we were standing around, talking with some folks who’d come all the way out from Baldwin, when we heard noises coming from the lake. There were loons calling and when they started getting louder and more frantic-sounding, we quickly walked over to the water’s edge to see what all the fuss was about. High over the lake was a bald eagle, which was pretty cool all by itself, but it turned out he was interested in some loon chicks that were out swimming with their parents.

We watched, spellbound, as over and over again, the eagle dove down towards them. One adult loon stayed with the young ones, and whenever the eagle got too close all the chicks would dive under the water.

The other adult loon positioned itself about twenty feet in front of the family, between them and the oncoming eagle. At the last moment he would rise up out of the water, trying to knock the eagle down or off course. (We learned later that if the eagle got his wings in the water, he’d be at the mercy of the loons, because he wouldn’t be able to easily take off again.)

It was pretty intense to watch, and, unlike a television show, we didn’t know how long the loons would be able to fend off the enemy. He was so huge compared to the tiny loons. Eventually though, the eagle called it quits and flew off over the trees. Whew! The loons were safe, but the drama lasted for several minutes and it was truly one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget it.

I guess you just never know how things will turn out. But if you try really hard and work your butt off, sometimes fantastic things happen. I’ll never forget all the love we got last weekend and the drama on Tallman Lake was the perfect capper to a wonderful weekend. Thanks again, from the bottom of my out-in-the-pickers heart.

original pastel art work

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Still not famous…

…but I’m okay with it.

Earlier this spring, when I was juried into ArtPrize Nine, I hoped this would be the event that put my skellies on the map. I was gonna get 1,000 new sign ups for my newsletter. I hoped to sell not just one, but all seven original paintings. I imagined being carried through the streets of Grand Rapids by my adoring fans in one of those little tent things on poles.

When I walked into my official venue at the bitter end coffeehouse on the first night of ArtPrize Nine, ostensibly to see how my paintings had been hung, but secretly hoping someone would point at me and yell, “Look! It’s her! The artist who made all these awesome skelly paintings! Oh, please, would you sign my coaster?” there was a huge line out the door and every table was occupied. I held my breath. But as it turned out, everyone there was either doing homework or standing in line for coffee.

I thought, is it possible I have seriously overestimated the importance of skelly paintings in the minds of perfect strangers?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I didn’t win ArtPrize Nine. I also didn’t get a thousand new names on my mailing list. I didn’t sell any of my original skelly paintings. And, adding insult to injury, no one carried me through the streets in a giant palanquin.

Does this mean ArtPrize was a disappointment? Of course not.

Every day that I was there was a great day. Lots of friends and family stopped by to drink coffee with me and chat. My brother and his wife put aside a cold beer with my name on it every evening. My husband picked up my slack so I could be away every weekend during the show. My mom even refrained from telling me how much she doesn’t like skeletons when I’d stop by to give her an update, which was kind of amazing, really. She’s nearly 95 and doesn’t have many governors left.

To everyone who took the time to come and see me, who smiled and encouraged me and told me they were proud of me for participating in the biggest art show in the world, I just want you to know that it was you that made the event worthwhile for me.

Putting my stuff out there for a chance at fame and fortune may have been my original motivation, but friends and family turned it into something way better. Success is not about the quantity of people who love me, it’s about the quality of that love. I’ll never forget how lucky I am to have all of you in my corner. Thank you.

Faces of ArtPrize Nine

Below are some of my favorite pictures from ArtPrize Nine. You guys all rock my world.

Selfies are harder than they look…

Pie!

Just take the freakin’ picture!

That’s better!

Thanks for making me feel like a big deal.

Last, but not least, one of my favorite sculptures from ArtPrize Nine. This crazy bird is just a tiny part of why I was happy to be included in ArtPrize Nine. See you at ArtPrize Ten!

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Now comes the hard part

The smoke cloud fading behind our house.

Summer’s gone now. The trees are starting to turn. I saw a pair of brilliantly colored trees, red and orange, on my way down to Grand Rapids to drop the skelly paintings off for ArtPrize Nine.

I’m sorry summer’s done but I’m enjoying the cool mornings for walking in the woods with my dogs and it’s nice having seasons again. Makes me think of football games, raking leaves and the smell of burning stuff in the air.

Last week one of the neighbors had such a big burn pile going that it made a fog over our entire back yard. The sun was low in the sky and it lit up the smoke, throwing the trees in silhouette.

Part of me was thinking, “I hope I don’t die as a result of all this toxic smoke in the air,” and the other part was thinking, “This is so cool looking!” I ran in to get my phone for a picture but by the time I came out again, most of the smoke had dissipated. I can still picture what it looked like, the branches all backlit and peeking through that huge cloud of smoke.

Signed, sealed and delivered

Pastel spoof of Frida Kahlo self portrait with skeletons

Frida Skelly with Monkeys, 12×18″ pastel on sanded paper.

You’ll be happy to know all seven Old (Dead) Masters paintings are officially delivered to the bitter end coffeehouse and by this time next week lots and lots of people will have a chance to see them up close and personal. I’m excited and nervous and feeling a lot of dread right now.

Kind of like I used to feel right before a particular fundraising auction in my previous life as a Rotarian. Back then I’d have nightmares about nobody showing up and then to add insult to injury, I’d get what I called my “Christmas Cold Sore” on the day of. It never failed.

My contact at the bitter end wasn’t there when I arrived but his father, Mike, was. Mike told me that when he and his son, John, first saw the skellies they knew right away they were perfect for their place.

“We’re on the fringe of ArtPrize so we appreciate art that’s also kind of out there,” he said. “We had another exhibitor a few years ago, and she had twelve pieces featuring the role of underwear during the course of a person’s life. It started out with diapers and it ended with them, too.”

I think I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect place to exhibit skeletons in, don’t you? Meantime, I keep feeling my lip for impending cold soreness. So far, so good.

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The studio lessons

Last June I moved into a new studio space at 307 S. James Street here in Ludington, Michigan. It’s awesome. There are a lot of new businesses around me so I’m in good company and it’s fun to watch people walk by my big picture window. But there are some things I’ve learned since going from a work-at-home artist to a work-in-the-public-eye artist.

Having lunch at my skellified table…

Are you going to eat that?

Lunches are a challenge. My space is pretty small. No room for a microwave and no windows for ventilation, so there is a whole list of things I can’t eat here, like any kind of hot food (I now eat soup for breakfast), legumes (I hadn’t realized beans would go through me quite that quickly), and anything odiferous like tuna or smoked fish. I use a freezer pack in my lunchbox and eat salads every day. I feel virtuous all the time now plus I’m more regular than I’ve been in years.

Look, rainbow shoes!

What are you wearing?

I have to wear nicer clothes than I did when I worked at home, or at least, matching ones. Also I can’t come to work in shirts with holes in them (mine get holes right where I press up against my work table, at my belt line. It looks I have moths living in my navel), or pajamas, or anything that I wouldn’t want to meet the mayor in (he hasn’t shown up yet, but it’s a small town. You never know). All the tie-dyed dresses my husband Steve made me so long ago are getting a real workout this summer. They’re bright and artsy and you can’t see where I’ve dribbled vinaigrette on them.

I no longer smell like vegetable soup

I can’t tell you how many showers I’ve taken since mid-June, but it’s probably at least four times as many as I did in the last twenty years. But is this is a good thing? I mean, Steve appreciates it, I’m sure, but I find myself wondering if this is how people start losing their hair. Is it possible to wash it too much? Also, if I’m too clean, how will he find me in the dark?

Blankety blank blank

Every once in a while my computer does something really stupid and I yell at it in a not very lady like way. And then I take a quick look around to see if anyone heard me. Recently, I got mad enough to kick a cabinet (that’s better than kicking the computer, right?) and thought I broke my toe. Fortunately, I just stood on the freezer pack from my lunch in my stocking feet for a while (hardly any swelling). I’m learning to curb my tongue better than I used to, but computers never fail to bring out the crazy in me.

Time to do something with this pile!

Have you seen my…?

I am a natural slob. Did I mention the space is small? This means that whenever I do anything at all, I have to finish it and then put away everything that I took out to do it with before moving on to the next thing. I’m not used to this, but it’s starting to grow on me. I used to have piles of projects in various states of doneness all around. Now I can’t let them become piles in the first place. It’s neater, if a little alien to my nature. The big advantage is that I know where everything is now because it’s always put away. The disadvantage is that I’m always putting things away. How did I live with myself before this?

I love my Pilot G-2 gel pens. I should buy stock.

The life of an artist is often misunderstood

Now and again I take some ribbing from the people passing by. My favorite is, “Have you finished my homework yet?” which happens when I’m sitting out front writing in my notebook. I think people don’t associate writing with art making but it’s a fact that you have to write about what you’re doing if you’re planning to share it or sell it. I like to sit at my skellified cafe table and put pen to paper. There’s usually a breeze, occasionally I have company to talk to, and it’s fun to watch all the people go by. Once someone called out that he wished he had my job because it looked so much easier than what he was doing and I nearly told him to go jump in the blankety blank lake, but I thought better of it. After all, he might have been the mayor.

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Another framing disaster averted

1/2 inch screw vs. 1/4 inch frame

So I was pretty proud of myself for ticking “Frame Skelly with a Pearl Earring” off my to-do list, right up until I flipped the framed picture over and discovered that both screws for the hangers had pierced through to the front of the frame. Damn it, Jim!

I screwed up

I screwed up

After a day or two of kicking myself, I went back to the same Goodwill where I’d found the frame in the first place and was delighted to find a second, identical frame!

frame-new-frame

What luck! Another, identical frame was at the same Goodwill. Next time, I’ll save myself a trip and buy all identical frames at once.

After I got it home I found a scratch on the glass, but, since I still had the glass from the first frame, everything ended happily after all. Which just goes to show you, measure twice, screw once.

frame-all-right

All good!

The original Skelly with a Pearl Earring is available in my shop, and also as signed 8×10″ and 11×14″ prints as well as a greeting card.

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My first art show with the Skellies was skeltacular!

Highlights

Best reason to explain to your mom why you’re buying skeleton art:

“You’re dead a lot longer than you’re alive, so you may as well have fun with it.”

Best reaction to working out creative issues with skeletons:

“I am a practicing psychologist, my dear, and I have to tell you, I’ve been coming to the Shrimp Festival for years. I’ve seen mermaids, turtles, seascapes and octopi, but I have never seen dead people dancing on the beach before. Congratulations. Your art is unique.”

Best reason to have a huge canvas print of two skeletons on a motorcycle at the front of the booth:

reaction-shot

Reaction to Bone to be Wild at the Shrimp Festival.

Best use of noodles in a booth (even if it didn’t rain)

steve-noodles

Steve inserting swim noodles in the corners in case of rain, which we didn’t get, but better safe than sorry!

Skelly lovers are the best!

I sold a ton of cards, some prints and one new painting (thank you, Doug!). I met so many nice people, who bought my skellies for gifts and for fun and for giggles. It was a glorious two days. Hard work, but so worth it. Thank you for coming out to the Shrimp Festival. Thanks for buying my art. Thank you for all the compliments and the smiles and the laughter. You all made my weekend.

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Productive day at the Attic

I am really enjoying the longer shifts (11am-6pm) fewer times per month there. I get at least two Saturdays off a month with the new schedule, so that’s great, plus I have more time to put a painting together while I’m working.

Yesterday I got most of the way through this little pin up skelly girl that will be part of the Skeleton Crew I’m bringing to Amelia Island Shrimp Festival this year, April 28-May1, 2016. I’m excited to have new art to show, and I have been busy planning on just how to offer it. I want to have 5-7 original paintings for sale (pin-up, seiner, shoveler, sorter, captain, ship with crew, cook, zombie shrimp), matted and framed prints of each painting that I will take orders for to ship after the show, and one print that I’ll give away at the end of the show. I may also offer cards of each painting, but I’m still deciding about that. It’s nice to have different price points but printing the inventory is a pain, since I do it myself, and it may also keep people from buying the prints instead, which is what I want to sell the most of.

This girl still needs a little more tweaking as well a title, though. I was thinking about “You’re the shrimp in my grits,” or something like that. Any ideas? Put them in the comments!

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Imagining another universe

Skelly Dance at Bougival detail

Skelly Dance at Bougival detail

I am so done with dieting

I wish I were like one of my skellies and had no flesh hanging around my waist, a constant reminder of my love affair with chips and chocolate and laying on the couch reading the day away.

Steve says I make him feel guilty weekends because I am always working — painting, documenting, posting — and he feels like a slacker in comparison.

But the truth is, I screw off during the week. When I’m alone in the house, I have to flog myself to paint most days. There are oh so many distractions — housework, the internet, phone calls from family and friends. Sometimes I make up reasons to resent my lack of ambition, like, “I bet Degas didn’t have to clean his own kitchen or wash clothes or make dog food.” Which is ridiculous because if you think about it, I don’t have to any of those things either.

I could hire it all out, for one. I could just refuse to do it, for two. Eventually, Steve would take it over. Probably.

Making art is harder than I expected it would be. I spent most of my adult life making art for other people via a graphic design business and fantasizing about what it would be like to be a “fine artist.”

I had it all pictured. I’d have long, tangled hair, dirty feet, dozens of admirers. I’d work in a studio full of canvases and sculptures, making stuff all day and into the night, stopping only to dance to jazzy music, smoke thin cigarettes and drink coal black coffee. Every day someone in business casual attire would show up to take away the finished pieces and hand me a check with multiple zeroes on it. I’d sleep with whoever was convenient and do it all again the next day.

You’ll note there is no husband in this daydream, no family, no dogs. All the things that tie me to my present life are nowhere to be found in my alternate life, the life I lived while in another pant leg of time.

I don’t regret my current life. I love my husband, my kids, my dogs. Just sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to live that other life.

Like, would I still be thin?

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Skelly Show Wrap-Up

shrine dedicated to Salvador Dali

My Dali shrine that I set up for my show October 30, 2015. The flowers are from my yard. Would you believe it? One of the names for it is Marigold Tree!

Well, I’m happy to report that my show at The Red Sable through October 2015 was a great success!

I sold two paintings (one even before the show opened! Thank you, Laurel!) and lots of prints and cards. I had more people sign up for my newsletter, Bone Appetit. The Artist Reception/Day of the Dead festival on October 30 was wonderful, too. There weren’t a ton of people that night but the ones that showed were over the moon about a Day of the Dead Festival in St. Augustine, and so I think that next year’s will be bigger and better than ever.

I don’t think I emphasized the fund raising part of the evening enough, but in fact, between booth fees and sales, we made a substantial contribution to a family’s fundraising efforts on behalf of their two kids who have leukemia, and I’m really proud of that.

Melissa, owner of The Red Sable, said I did the most sales of any other artist she’s featured at the store and she’d like me back next October, so hurray! Since Steve and I are planning to be back in Michigan by then, this will call for a long camping trip to Florida in October, but hey, I’m up for it!

I’ve already started thinking of new skellies to have ready for next year and next year’s Day of the Dead Festival in St. Augustine is in my iCal. I hope to see you there, too.


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