Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring & Indulging in Art

Rose-O-Shannon Progression
Acrylic & Water Soluble Wax Pastel
©
BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2015

With our part of the world being kept in an almost perpetual deep freeze this season, it's easy to let time get away from us. Dark days & cold, miserable temperatures can make one feel depressed, despite our not necessarily suffering from depression. 

It feels as if we've spent months just waiting. Waiting to be inspired, waiting to feel free. Free of layers of clothes & the subsequent piles of laundry. Free of the tedium of clearing & manuevering endless acres of snow. Free of the doldrums and hopeless feeling that spring may never arrive. 

And, while, in theory, this should be the perfect time to hibernate in the studio, it is difficult to do so. The thought of going beyond the radius of the fireplace was more taxing than joyful. 

But, today is astronomically the first day of spring. Over the last week, the snow pack has melted to show saturated greens & browns. Bunnies & deer have emerged, hungry. The birds have started to sing again. Flocks of geese have begun to return to the neighborhood, honking their way across the skyways. Yes, it is still snowing. Lightly & briefly, if the meteorologists are remotely correct. Soon it will stop.
Hibiscus, Rose-O-Shannon & Stella Doro Daylily Progression
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2015

The attempted arrival of spring has helped me to get some hustle going. I've been in the studio. I've taken account of the seemingly gazillion pieces & projects that have lain as dormant as the trees these last 4-5 months. It's overwhelming, in a good way. 


Base Acrylic Painting for Stella Doro Daylily
©
BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2015

This particular project I'm sharing today is for a specific show. The details of the show preclude my sharing the purpose of the exhibit, but I still would like to share the experience with you.

There are 4 pieces started, each with acrylic paint to create a random pattern of greens & sunshine. From there, I sketched the flowers that I'm looking to paint as the subjects. I was excited to be working with acrylics again!

Tiger Lily Progression: Acrylics
©
BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2015

BUT, as soon as I tried to paint the flowers with the acrylics, I remembered why I don't like using acrylics. I'm an alla prima painter which works wonderfully with oils & even watercolors. Not so much with acrylics! I know that you can mix some oil retardant with the acrylics, but, I need the pieces to be ready in a few weeks & that would defeat the purpose of using the actrylics!


Rose-O-Shannon Progression: Acrylic & Water Soluble Wax Pastels
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2015

So what to use? A-ha! Water soluble wax pastels! Great for blending & quick to dry, these beauties are just perfect for this project. I'll keep posting the progress as I go along.

What projects have you rediscovered lately?

And, mostly, Happy Spring, everyone!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Skies of (Painted) Color

Sailing In5x7 Watercolor on 90# Paper©BEDeuel  Bronson Hill Arts 2008


When we see those perfect sunny-day clouds floating above us, we see white puffs moving across the horizon, usually against a bright blue sky. As painters & photographers & poets, we also know that those clouds are never just "white". There are blues, purples, pinks, even greens mingled in the vapor canvases up there. 
Vermont Sunset
11x14 Water Soluble Oils on Gallery Stretched Canvas
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2013



Painting a sky above a landscape is generally easy to capture, largely because it is put into perspective by the foreground. The colors of sky and land intertwine & reflect, but the differences in textures also help to create necessary depth.

Once you're painting upwardly, as if you are in the clouds with your subject, gaining depth, I find, is very different to portray. There are colors & shadows to help, but keeping proportion and perspective is not so easy for me.

This is the 2nd attempt I've made to paint a specific subject. And, even though I'm generally happy with the cloud formations on both pieces as they are, they will not work for the composition I want to create. 

This is what I did with the first attempt:
Start of Balloon...


Balloon Amidst Clouds
20x16 Water Soluble Oils on
Gallery Stretched Canvas
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014
  













And, yes, I am very pleased with the whole piece with setting the hot air balloon against the clouds. However, if you look, you'll see that there is a lack of shadows to create a depth to the clouds. The mix of pink, blue & white definitely gives one the sense of clouds, but, the expanse of the cloud cover is limited. So, technically, this is the first "fail" to paint "in the clouds".


This is the second attempt:
Start of Mystery Blue Skies

Next Step of Mystery Blue Skies













Right now,the clouds are almost monochromatic: Prussian blue mostly, a touch of Cerulean blue, and titanium white. The base is somewhat "starred" with the colors being crosshatched. (I've discovered that I really, really like this effect. Maybe I like it too much!) The next step is to add some "shine" to it with some golden/yellow hues... after I fix the mottled clouds to the right-hand side of the canvas, that is. I like the depth of the shadows as they are, though. So one hurdle overcome since the last attempt. You can also probably tell that the 2 canvases were started from the same template photo. Hmmm....

BUT!

The clouds are too small & distant for the subject I want to paint. So it's time to rethink what subject I can do with this canvas! 
High Clouds
6x9 Watercolor on 140#
Canson Paper
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2011

The encouraging aspect of all of this is that, each time, I see a breakthrough in executing a design. Always learning, learning, learning! Just looking back at this earlier attempt at clouds makes the point for me. I do still love this piece, but the flow of the clouds is not really there.

What discoveries have you uncovered with your artistic techniques of late? 
Ice Fog
7x5 Water Soluble Oil on Gallery Stretched Canvas
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2011
And, yes, it is still colder than any winter in memory around here. Hopefully, not so much where you are!

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Studio Detour

Chatham
9x12 Water Soluble Oils on Stretched Canvas
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014-15
Caught up in so many other "details" of everyday life & other such distractions, I have to force myself to go up the stairs & visit my own studio. 

Realizing that I still haven't done any new pieces (Grrrr!!!), I thought it'd be nice to bring you along on the visit.

When hubby & I designed the house layout, we had his 3 young girls staying with us regularly. We opted to make it a 4 bedroom house. And, in the process, we wound up having an enclosed loft area on the 2nd floor. After the girls moved on into adulthood, we also found that we have 2 oversized spare rooms upstairs.

Somehow, I've managed to fill almost 2/3rds of the entire upper floor with art materials & work areas. 


The loft holds a work table used for mat & paper cutting, an old artist table with a computer & paint supplies for glass painting. In between are rolling carts & Yaffe squares full of supplies & goodies.

The framed picture on the one rolling cart is a print hubby made for me for one Christmas that showcases our original logo design for Bronson Hill Arts! He is my best fan & supporter.

There are 2 large windows that look out over our backyard. This is the best spot for the drafting/painting table. Again, the table is surrounded by carts & tables. If I want to keep something on the tilted table, I attach some rubber feet to the bottom & that generally works. I've been using a small cosmetics holder for tubes of watercolor paints with the sticky feet keeping it nice and steady!
I've got several fluorescent lamps around the area which helps to give me better lighting at night for working & for quick photos.

My favorite part is the easel area, though. I have a large wooden easel on one side & a small metal easel. In between is an old desktop computer table that is great for storing oil paints, brushes, water buckets, & as a working area with its "keyboard" pull-out. 


The next room over is for storage & photographing paintings. After 4+ years of doing this, I'm still struggling with taking a good photograph of a painting. But, I think we're gaining on it! This set up seems to be working better than any other I've tried to date.

So, now that I've taken a solid look at all the fun to be had in these rooms, I have to force myself to enjoy it!

Hope you have a ton of fun, too, this week!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Exploring the Options (During a Deep Freeze)





Frosted Treetops
Letchworth State Park
©Mike Deuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014

Last week, I touched on the difficulty of finding an effective, and cost-effective, method to locate buyers for our works. And, a huge "Thank you!" for all the feedback and information regarding your experiences!

My experience with Etsy, Zazzle, and Fine Arts America was disappointing. I've been "developing" a website for 3+ years and have yet to find my stride with it, but thought that maybe, just maybe, I could fine-tune it & set up a PayPal cart. It would be simpler, right?

A couple of big problems with that: I am not technically proficient when it comes to coding & it is really kind of ugly once you embed the PayPal buttons/options next to your artwork.
Icy Sunrise
From Our Front Porch
©Mike Deuel Bronson Hill Arts 2007

Looonnggg story shorter: came up with as pretty a design as I could for the buttons & the "View Cart" button. Tested them. The cart button worked & the others did not. Ouch. Another couple of days wasted. Apparently, it has something to do with site verification and HTML coding into the site. Yea. I got this. Um, I got not a clue. HTML coding is on my list of things I'd like to learn, but this is needed now. The other probable issue is that, for some reason, despite the copious cost of using GoDaddy, I do not have a hosting service?!? So, back to the beginning. Again.
A Winter Viewing
Letchworth State Park
©Mike Deuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014

Then what is the next move? Do I keep the website & just try to find a different cart platform through a 3rd party site? Do I follow Crystal Allure's lead and upload the site to the blog? Would still need a cart option. So, do I simply drop the website & use a 3rd party site instead? 

This then comes back to being 1-in-a-million artists on any given site & keeping the fees under control, so as to keep the prices of the products under control. Print-on-Demand sites are out, so it also means keeping a steady inventory of inks, papers, mats, envelopes, shipping materials, etc., for any possible orders. And, again, how to reach out to the world?
Frosty Fir Fingers
Our Backyard
©Mike Deuel Bronson Hill Arts 2013

I thought that I'd have had more insight to offer this week, since I thought that the PayPal buttons would solve one major dilemma.

That being said, however, here's the intended plan, in no particular sequence:

1. Use Pinterest and Facebook for "advertising". Pinterest offers business accounts & I have switched my account over, but, I haven't had an opportunity to explore the details of the features & abilities of the business platform. I will keep you posted.
Winding Winter Way
Letchworth State Park
©Mike Deuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014

Facebook is threatening to become more difficult to use for advertising your products. Rumor has it that if you try to link back to your own commercial site, they will drop the post, unless you want to pay for advertising. I say "rumor" because I haven't tested it per se. However, I do know that if you want to link your page directly to your website, Facebook will charge you an advertising fee. Articles that I've seen indicate that Instagram, as a part of Facebook, will most likely follow suit. 

Pinterest, at this moment, is seemingly not taking this approach. So far.

2. Use a site, such as Square Market, as a 3rd party sales platform. They offer a lower transaction fee than any other, including PayPal, and do not take any other fees for the web storefront or sales. 

And, if I decide to ditch the website, the look of the storefront Square Market offers is clean and simple. They, most likely, do not have the following and exposure Etsy, Zazzle or FAA do, but that really is irrelevant, since those sites are overwhelmingly overloaded.

Alone at Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
©Mike Deuel Bronson Hill Arts 2005
Part of my reasoning for dropping the website is that, while it's paid for the rest of this year, I've hated supporting GoDaddy since the beginning. I dislike their advertising for exploiting the female body and, recently, a tastelessly cruel ad involving a lost puppy and selling him. And, honestly, I haven't gained anything from using them for the basics. Again, like Etsy, I do the work and they reap the fees. Unless, of course, I want to pay for more features. Hmmmm...

3 Inventory: I am obsessive out of the gate. I have so much inventory that I've accumulated over the last 5 years of doing this, I sincerely doubt that I'll need a whole lot of anything for quite a while. But, that's me, the borderline hoarder!

So, for this week, this is the plan. Let me know what you think of it or any of your experiences!
Ice & Fir
Our Backyard
©Mike Deuel Bronson Hill Arts 2013

The next quest is finding my "brand" and what exactly is that?













Friday, January 23, 2015

Finding an Effective Platform



Silhouette in Field
6x8" Acrylic on Canvas Panel
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2010


As artists, the most difficult things are to get enough studio time in our everyday lives and finding a way to get our creations out to the rest of the world.

We can look at other artists' works and truly appreciate all the time, effort, and love that is applied to our artworks. We can realize the value of everything done by any other artist, and are grateful for the reciprocal realization.

But how do we find the audience beyond our (not-so-) little cloister that can also grasp the value of our passion? Especially an audience willing to compensate us for it.

Don't misunderstand me: I'd do this even if I never made a penny on it. I wouldn't trade the tranquility I experience in the studio for the proverbial million dollars. But, it would be nice to make a bit to supplement the income, or even enough to not have to work at the "day job". 

Cardinal
3.5x3.5" Water Soluble Paints on Canvas
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014


There are the Etsys, the Fine Arts Americas, the Zazzles. And a few hundred thousand other artisans on the sites. What I've noticed is that the truly successful shops & sites have the investment of scads of time in both the marketing and the production of items. 

That, unfortunately, is not a commodity that most of us are able to lavish. I learned this the frantic way around the holiday season.

It was so exciting to receive my first orders from the Etsy shop! And, to boot, it was for note cards that would help Another Chance Pet Rescue! Then a couple of more orders followed for large & multiple pieces. Wow!

Kitty Minions
5x7 Watercolor on 140# Canson Paper
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014


And, then reality hit hard: between full shifts at the "day job", I needed to print, assemble, and package the orders. And while I had done some prep work on the items, I just wasn't satisfied with the templates. So of course, I had to redo them. It took the full 3 days to get things done and shipped. And shipping packaging presented a challenge, too: do you have something to ship a flat 16x20" matted print right in your house or studio? I sure didn't! Never even crossed my mind. It's the little things that make you stumble at times. And stumbling can be exhausting.

Kayaks
Digital Photography
©Mike Deuel Bronson Hill Arts 2013


Throw all this together, job & art business, with the holiday season, and try not to feel very overwhelmed. 

Happy Holidays
Digital Drawing
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014


I decided at that moment that it was time to go with a POD (print-on-demand) site. I just couldn't keep pace, especially since sites like Etsy are very demanding in regards to timelines. I also realized once the payments hit the bank, the money didn't come close to covering the costs involved. Etsy is in business, too, and knows how to make a profit. Being a newbie, I was naive in how I set things up. POD seemed so much easier since you only need to upload your images, add your margin & their cut to the base price, and they would do all the heavy-lifting. Yea... no. Not only would the cost to the customer be exorbitant for an "unknown" artist, the process of uploading the images would require reshooting all artwork and trying to guess what sizes your work would be printed based on the large number of required pixels. 

What exactly is an 8x5.73" print? Who will want that? I cropped it to a 7x5". And I can print a 7x5". Back to the starting point!

The odd thing is that of the orders I received, only 1 was through Etsy directly. The rest were from connections on Facebook (which is a whole other issue of late!).

So, why am I on Etsy, then? Why am I paying fees to them for minimal exposure & for me to do all the work? Yes, the name of Etsy is a "be-all/end-all" of online markets, but, it's a huge pond with a few large fish and a whole lot of little fish. Pretty sure that I'm just plankton right now.

After a good amount of reading, and contemplation, & consultation with my marketing cohort, I've come up with a plan on how to do this. Will it work any better? I don't know. But, it should create some extra time & money so that I can get back into the studio. 

Which was the whole point of all of this anyway!

What are your experiences with sites like Etsy and PODs? I'd be interested to hear about it.

Covered Bridge
4x6" Water Soluble Pencil on 140# Strathmore Paper
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2011



Friday, January 16, 2015

Another New Year Begun!

Puppy Love
5x7" Watercolor on series 400 Strathmore Watercolor Paper
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2015


I can't believe that it's been 5 weeks since my last post. I dislike letting the blog go unattended that long. It's a great to make contact with others & exercise the writing "muscle". It's also a fun way to not only debut new works but to share failures, solutions and successes.

Which is why I want to share my last commission of 2014. That was finished in 2015. Halfway through January, 2015. 

Yep. A harried end, and a slow start. But, it was a good start!



The customer requesting the pet portrait was preparing to give it as a gift for one of her customers. The original photograph that she gave me to use was a posed portrait. I started to work with it, but, was unsure as to why we would want a painted portrait of a photographic portrait. 
Formal Pose Attempt  #1

The colors and textures were stronger in the photo portrait but she had also texted a really sweet picture of the dogs that was truly perfect for a painting. 

So, the sketch was redone. We liked the more casual pose. 


Casual Pose Attempt #2

From there, my usual process went forward: sketch, scan, print on watercolor paper, paint. Photograph the process along the way to get a truer perspective of the image. And, that was crucial in this case.






Stepping back a moment to the printing on watercolor paper:  I'd been using a more basic watercolor paper for images that were really designed just for note cards. But, I had to be very careful to not overwork the paper, or it pilled too easily. This time I wanted to try to see if a better grade of paper would work to prevent that, especially since the final product was the painting, not a print. Sometimes the marketing is just that: marketing. But it did. I used a 400 series Strathmore watercolor paper vs. a basic Canson paper for watercolor. 

The first few steps went along fairly smoothly. Laid the darker color down, some highlights, and shading. From there, it was time to add the lighter colors and texture.


Dark Underlayment
Shading


Highlights


And, that's when I created ghost dogs. Yikes... This is, also, why I was very happy that I'd used a better paper! I did not want to start over again, since I was satisfied with everything else to that point. Plus, to compound the goof, for some reason, the images became flat.



Ghost Dogs


The camera showed all of that. It helped me to step back and "see" the problems more thoroughly, which in turn made the solutions easier to find.

It really was  simple: mix a light yellow/red brown, lay it down and go back with a more diluted white. The water  that diluted the white paint picked up enough of the brown to eliminate the ghost faces. I also purchased some fine line brushes which made it easier to create the texture around the mouth. My love of chiseled brushes had to be set aside. Then a straightforward "outline" solved the dimension problem. You can see it in the final image at the top & the bottom.


Flat Non-Ghost Dogs

Today, I hope to hear how the recipient likes the final painting. And, I hope she likes it as much as I liked making it. 

P.S.:  Thank you to my customer for her incredible patience! Next week, I'll touch on some of the changes in our systems that had to occur in order to not run into that severe a time-crunch again.




Final Product!


Friday, December 12, 2014

A Simple Thought

Happy Holidays!
Digital Graphic
©BEDeuel Bronson Hill Arts 2014


The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want them to treat you.

That would be the greatest gift of all from each of us to everyone else.

Happy Hannukah! Joyful Kwanza! Merry Christmas! Blessed Winter Solstice!


Happy Holidays!


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