Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 in Review

7" x 5" colored pencil on Pastelbord
Stacy L. Rowan

So it's that time of year for looking back and reviewing progress and accomplishments.

I started out the year posting some objectives. I did well with the first objective of having more fun with my art. The VSD was a large part of that. I worked some on clarifying my intentions, but I don't think it was evident on this blog or in discussions I had about my art. I also did more sketching, although I'd stop short of saying I made sketching a regular practice, and I didn't sketch at all on my vacation abroad. In fact I learned that sketching while traveling with a crowd is near impossible, especially when the crowd is relying on you to be their primary translator! Live and learn.

I also had goals which were based off the objectives, but don't think I shared them here. Since you didn't see the original list of goals, I'll limit my review to the highlights.

Overall, my biggest accomplishments for the year all fall under the catagories of visability and frequency. I showed my art eight times locally in addition to entering two juried shows and one competition. I also started a blog for selling my art and announced it to my mailing list by email. I joined the VSD in May and participated every month since. As I mentioned, I did more sketching this year both in graphite and watercolor. I also started my KMBW (Keeping My Brushes Wet) series of simple still lifes which keeps me painting more frequently and allows me to complete works more regularly. Overall I was very pleased with my productivity and progress this year.

For anyone who hasn't taken the time to look back and focus on their accomplishments, I highly recommend the exercise. Most of the year I am so focused on my next project or objective I move on without a thought to what I have finished. When I sat down with a pencil and notebook and thought back over the last 12 months, I was surprised by how much I had actually got done. It's a great feeling to have when setting goals for next year.

Speaking of which, I'll be back in the next few days to post my 2009 goals. Until then, enjoy your New Year's Eve celebrations and have a happy start to 2009!
About the image: I finally finished this colored pencil daffodil a few months ago. Some work in progress shots can be seen here , here and here, but I think this is the first time I posted the completed image. I was really pleased with how this came together on the Pastelbord. So much so that I am currently searching my references with a plan for creating a series of cp flower macros. After spraying and framing, I will put this drawing up on my sales blog. Look for it as we get nearer to Spring.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

2.5" x 3" watercolor on paper
Stacy Rowan

Merry Christmas!
I hope your holiday is filled with love, peace and joy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Marketing my Artwork

I think most artists are constantly looking for new ways to market their art and get their name "out there". I'm no exception. And if I'm honest with myself (and you), I'm not very good at the marketing piece. Improving my marketing plan will again be on my list of goals next year.

So with marketing on my mind as the perfect excuse, I treated myself to a little end-of-year present. I ordered custom postage stamps with my artwork from Zazzle! I love the idea of having my art on the outside of my art related mailings. It's an easy and relatively inexpensive way to expose the receipient to an additional image.

I ordered three sheets of stamps. One of the great things about Zazzle is that their discounts apply even if each sheet is made from a different image. I choose relatively simple images feeling that they would have a better impact. I also added my web address to each stamp, so if the postman sees my art and likes it, he'll know where to find it. Okay, so may be I'm dreamin' there, but it didn't cost extra, so why not?

Zazzle stamps come in three sizes - small, medium and large. All three sizes are offered with both a horizontal and vertical orientation. However, the image aspect ratio changes based on the stamp size, so look at the product details before choosing. I ordered the medium size stamp, because I felt the large size might overwhelm a thank you note envelope.

I found the custom stamp interface very easy to use. It didn't take long at all to complete my three design. And since you are not committed to ordering what you design, you can play to your heart's content.

But I have to say the best part was receiving the stamps in the mail. They arrived a few days after I placed the order and look so much better than I ever imagined. The picture below absolutely does not do them justice! I think the color quality and crispness of the image is excellent and I like the glossy finish.

(I smeared the bar codes in my photo editing software. They don't really look like that.)

So if you are looking for some low cost, no pressure marketing, why not give Zazzle postage stamps a try?

(In case you are wondering, I am not getting paid for this endorsement. I just want to share news of a product I am happy with. Also I did look at another custom postage supplier before ordering from Zazzle, but found Zazzle's prices and delivery to be better.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snowy Farm - Dec VSD

Lehigh Valley Farm
7" x 5" watercolor on Aquabord
Stacy L. Rowan

This month I decided to try something different and paint my Virtual Sketch Date entry on Ampersand Aquabord. I've been wanting to work with this watercolor support for some time, because I am interested in framing watercolors without glass.

I wasn't sure if pencil marks would erase off the board, so I did my preliminary sketch with watercolor pencil. I liked how this worked out and might try it for my next painting on regular watercolor paper.

However, with my first brushstroke of paint, I questioned whether experimenting when I had a deadline was a good idea. The Aquabord doesn't absorb water exactly like paper does, so with a fully loaded round I was leaving puddles on the board. Not the effect I was going for.

I switched to flat brushes which hold less water and found they worked better. Most of the rest of the painting was done using my flats. I did go back to the rounds when I painted the trees. I wanted the paint there to be juicy so my little dabs with the brush would run together and produce interesting shapes.

One of the things I really loved about the Aquabord is how simple it is to make changes. The paint lifts off very easy when you re-wet it. I was able to lift out the windows on the second story of the gray barn and get all the way back to white. (I went back in later with some light gray mix to tone down the white.)

One downside to this is that sometimes I got lifting when I didn't want it. I had to use the flat brush at a shallow angle to avoid lifting paint with it's edge. The same was true for the points of the round brushes. But I thought it was easier to correct the areas where I accidentally lifted paint than it would have been to correct on paper.

My only minor disappointment with the Aquabord I encountered when I painted the back tree line. If I was painting on paper, I would add the trees while the sky was still damp and let the paint flow naturally into that area. This gives a nice diffused and somewhat varied edge. It's one of those cases of letting the paint work for you. With the Aquabord I couldn't get this technique to work, so I had to go in and soften the edge with a damp brush. Like I said, a minor disappointment, and I can't say it wasn't just a result of my inexperience with the surface.

I haven't prepared the painting for framing yet, so I can't comment on that part of the process. I will try to remember to report back and let you know how simple or difficult it is.

Visit the Virtual Sketch Date blog this Sunday and use the posted links to visit all the entries.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Someday is Now

watercolor sketch approx. 8" x 5"

I can't speak for other artists, but I know I constantly carry around paintings in my head. I see things every day that make me think, "Oh, someday I have to paint that!" Normally these "things" aren't unique, for instance aliens landing in my yard. No, the "things" which catch my attention are typically everyday objects which the play of light has turned beautiful. I have so many of these paintings in my head, I should never run out of material.

On the flip side, I have so many paintings in my head that I worry about missing out on one. If I see a beautiful moment and don't have my sketching materials or camera with me, all I have is the memory of it. I wonder how many gigs of memory my brain has and when it will start to overwrite images.

Yesterday morning I woke up and looked out my bedroom window. There I saw one of the "someday" paintings. As the morning light falls on my neighbor's house, it gives their gray siding a fabulous yellow glow. The tree in their side yard lights up to a gorgeous orange as it stretches it limbs to greet the morning sun. Together they can create rich purple shadows using the side of the house as their canvas.

So many days I have seen this and thought "Someday..." I decided someday was now and started my day with a quick watercolor sketch (no drawing!). The sun moves fast in the morning, so I actually put in the finishing touches first thing today during the encore performance.

The sketch may not be perfect, but I captured the essence (in this case color) and got my day off to a satisfying start. And now I have one image that I'm not worried about over-writing.

The time is also now for the December Virtual Sketch Date. The reference is posted here.