Saturday, March 18, 2017

Art Challenge: Ritual/ Routine



When lovely Nadine of tinywoolf declared the theme for this art challenge "ritual/ routine", I knew I wanted to participate. It's such an interesting subject, I thought it would be easy to come up with something good. While I find the concept of ritual to be quite fascinating, I found that when I actually sat down to think about what I would do, I had difficulty narrowing it down to a workable size. I mean, it's a BIG concept; it covers a lot of ground. So I thought looking up the definition might help, give me some clues or spark an idea.

Here is Merriam Webster's definition:
  1. :  the established form for a ceremony; specifically :  the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony
  2. 2a :  ritual observance; specifically :  a system of rites
     b :  a ceremonial act or action
     c :  an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner


Humans are creatures of habit, as are all creatures, it seems. My dogs will wake me up at the same time every morning, and expect to be fed at 5:00. We naturally fall into forming patterns, of doing things at the same time in the same way over and over again. I would suggest that this saves some part of our brain to think about working out more complex problems, because we don't have to re-think when we're going to brush our teeth every day. Or maybe not.





Rituals are also important to the formation and continuance of societies; we agree to elect our leaders the same way at repeated intervals, we decide on the guilt or innocence of people who break our laws by using a set, prescribed, series of rituals. If we didn't have rituals in place for these things, no society could survive, but would quickly descend into chaos.



 Weighing of the Heart Ceremony, Book of the Dead, 1285 bCE


Based on the definition above, the word "ritual" covers everything from the sacred burial rites of the ancient Egyptians to the "March Madness" college basketball tournament to brushing our teeth at the same time each day. (Just to amuse myself, I thought about making a shrine with a toothbrush inside of it; I know - weird sense of humor!)  So I'm probably thinking about this way too much, but my ideas for this piece just kept bigger and bigger, and I realized there was no way I could do it justice in the short time I had left. In fact, it's really still in the planning stages; I'll share it here as I work on it.



Invocation of Tara
ingredients: map fragment, magazine cut-outs, image transfers, artist pens, watercolor pencils


So I decided to use a piece I had already been working on, which does relate to the concept of ritual in an obvious way. Tara is the Tibetan Buddhist Goddess of Compassion, and rituals to honor her have been performed since the 6th century and possibly longer. According to Wikipedia, "Tārā became a very popular Vayrayana deity with the rise of Tantra in 8th-century Pala and, with the movement of Indian Buddhism into Tibet through Padmasambhava, the worship and practices of Tārā became incorporated into Tibetan Buddhism as well. She eventually came to be considered the "Mother of all Buddhas," which usually refers to the enlightened wisdom of the Buddhas, while simultaneously echoing the ancient concept of the Mother Goddess in India.... Tārā is also known as a saviouress, as a heavenly deity who hears the cries of beings experiencing misery in samsara."

The image of Tara I used for this piece is based on a centuries-old painting somewhere; I have unfortunately lost track of the source. By the way, she is not always green; different aspects of Tara are different colors. Green Tara is one of the most popular.


Be sure to visit Nadine at tinywoolf to find out what the other participants came up with for the challenge. Happy weekend, everyone!





Sunday, March 12, 2017

Still Undecided...



Okay, I've narrowed down the first lot, chosen my favorites, and added a few more. I'm sure you're beginning to realize that I'm not good at making decisions...  Please feel free to comment or not; you're probably getting as tired of this as I am!


1
After all this trouble, I still like the one I'm using now. I think it's strong graphically, but don't know if it really says, "Spiritual Art Inspired by Nature", which will be the tag line for my sites.




2
This is also a favorite, but I had forgotten to leave room for the corners to be cut off, as they will be on Pinterest, so I rearranged the type. I also changed the type face, but may need to go with a sans-serif font for the sake of readability.



3
This is from one of my favorite pieces, but I'm not sure if it's too visually confusing. I also am afraid the font may be hard to read when re-sized to fit the various sites' profiles.




4
This one is the same as the one above it, but with a different font. So I have made progress, in that there are three basic designs, which could be tweaked in one way or another.


Again, thanks for the help, dear friends! I hope you're enjoying your weekend!





Thursday, March 9, 2017

Choices, Choices



Some of you may be aware that I'm trying to re-boot my (almost nonexistent) art business, and have been researching the best ways of doing so (see my last post for some of the things I've learned). So right now I'm working on branding. I'm not going to try to define branding, as it's a bit of an abstract concept, and not that easy to describe in a few sentences. There are lots of articles that can help you with that; just google "branding for visual artists", and you will find tons of helpful information. I think "Branding 101 for Artists: How to Create a Strong Brand for Yourself and Your Art" by Gregory Peters on emptyeasel.com is one of the best articles I've read on the subject.

Anyway, I digress. Part of creating your brand is using the same "logo" or image on all of your art sites. Right now, the image I have on my facebook business page, my pinterest profile, my twitter profile, and my blog looks like this:



I like the image; I think it stands out and works well compositionally (not a real word, apparently). The problem is, it comes from one of my collages, and I don't think it really represents my work as a whole. Looking at this, people would probably get the idea that all I do is collage. Also, a lot of my work, even the collages, reflect a strong sense of the sacredness ( is that a word?) of nature, which this image really does not.

So I've been working on creating some new ones, and I was hoping I could get the benefit of opinions other than my own. I would appreciate any kind of feedback: which you like best, how any or all could be improved, comments about composition, color, subject, anything. I hope you'll feel free to let me know what you really think; believe me, you're not going to hurt my feelings if the criticism is constructive. So here they are, in no particular order:


 1



 
 2




           3




 4




 5





 6





7



I may do more, but I'm pretty tired of photoshop right now.  Thanks in advance for your help!






Thursday, March 2, 2017

Some Things I've Learned


First of all, I have to apologize for not getting around to reading everyone's blogs, and for not posting anything on my own blog for such a long time. As some of you may know, I've been spending most of my time researching the best ways to sell art online. I have also, after debating for some time, decided to build a new website. There is so much to learn; it can actually be quite overwhelming for someone like me, who didn't grow up in the tech age. But I was determined to do my best to figure it out, so I kept plodding forward.



One thing I discovered is that I wasn't labeling my images correctly for SEO. SEO, which most of you probably already know, is search engine optimization, which basically means making it easier for search engines to find your content and be able to understand what it is. I was surprised to learn that google can't really read images, so this is pretty important. Of course, since I have around a bazillion or so images, re-labeling them took a long time. And that's just one little part of this art business thing. By the way, the best article I've found about SEO for artists is by Tom Dupuis at Online Media Masters.

Here is a comparison chart of print-on-demand sites; here is a good an article about print-on-demand by Christopher Kerry. This article compares and ranks the best website platforms.

I won't go into everything I've learned, because there are lots of people who understand it better than I do, and have written great books and articles, and have made really helpful podcasts and YouTube tutorials that explain things very well. My biggest obstacle is that I wanted to make a new website that combines ecommerce, a blog, and print-on-demand. I had questions like, "Which is the best platform for artist websites?";  "How much technical expertise do you need to be able to use the various platforms?"; "How do I move my domain from my old site?"; "Which ones can have a print-on-demand page embedded in them?"; "How can I use social media to drive traffic?"; "How much does all this stuff cost?", just to name a few. Yikes, right!? And with all this business stuff, will I have time to make art?



I knew I needed to do extensive research, and that there would be a big learning curve. So, here's what I did. First, I was lucky enough to find How to Sell Art Online by Cory Huff of The Abundant Artist. This is the best online art business book I have read; it's clear, concise, and lays out all the basics. He also has podcasts, a blog, classes and videos on just about everything pertaining to art and online business. And no, I don't get anything for saying this (I wish!), I'm just telling you what I think. In fact, I'm about as far from an expert as you can get, which is why I decided to share what information I'm finding helpful with others who, like me, might need a little steering in the right direction.

Then, I started taking all the free webinars and tutorials offered by most of the well-known art business coaches, of which there many: Ann Rea of Artists Who Thrive,  sample webinar here); ART2LIFE with Nicholas Wilton; Alyson Stanfield of ArtBizCoachMake Art That Sells with Lilla Rogers; Robert Brandl's WebsiteToolTester , which is great for comparing website platforms, types of ecommerce, etc., with lots of good YouTube videos; Gary Bolyer; Brainard Carey's yourartmentor.com, which offers free podcasts and webinars; Jason Horejs's Red Dot Blog with links to his extensive offerings of Art 2 Market YouTube videos, often in conjunction with art print and market expert Barney Davey. There is lots more free help out there, as I'm sure you'll find once you start looking around. Most of them offer free information as a teaser for getting you to take their entire online course, but if you take the free introductory ones and then go and watch their other videos on YouTube, you can find a lot of helpful information. Also, many of them offer free pdf instructions or worksheets that go with the webinars. You can print these out or download them onto your computer.


http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-research-and-locate-your-audience-using-social-media/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=FacebookPage&utm_campaign=Evergreen
Learning how to target your audience is another important thing to learn, and one that I have particular trouble with. Click the image above to read the article.

I realize that this post is getting rather long, and one of the things I've learned through my research is that people don't want to read online. So if you need to know anything more specific and I can point you in the right direction, feel free to comment here or message me on facebook. Oh, I should also say that I've pinned quite a few helpful articles to my Online Biz How-to board on Pinterest, so you might want to check that out.

And lastly, lets not forget the most important part of all this -

Connections II
mixed media collage, 8 x 8 inches

making art!



Addendum: I just found an awesome site that gives you excellent detailed reviews of website builders, how to use them, and tons of really relevant and clear information about anything and everything to do with websites. It's called Website Builder Expert, and it even has a quiz to help you figure out which website builder is best for you. I highly recommend it!






Monday, February 13, 2017

What the Flowers Know



What the Flowers Know
mixed media collage,  11 x 8.5 inches
ingredients: vintage book cover and ephemera, dried plant parts, found objects, image transfers, mica, brads





When I made this piece, I was really thinking about this subject in the poetic sense: personification, metaphor, just to name a couple of literary devices that might apply. But I recently read a very thought-provoking and seemingly incredible article in the the New Yorker called The Intelligent Plant by Michael Pollan.

"The new research, he says, is in a field called plant neurobiology — which is something of a misnomer, because even scientists in the field don't argue that plants have neurons or brains.
'They have analagous structures,' Pollan explains. 'They have ways of taking all the sensory data they gather in their everyday lives ... integrate it and then behave in an appropriate way in response. And they do this without brains, which, in a way, is what's incredible about it, because we automatically assume you need a brain to process information.' "  (PRI Science Friday)




Amazingly, he goes on to explain detailed experiments that show apparent presence of memory by plants, as well as responses to stimuli, such as hearing, and even the ability to learn. To me, this is poetic in itself, because it makes us aware that all living things are more alike than we ever thought possible. How could we not be connected, when we are made of the same stuff?  Life started as a single cell, and grew and differentiated from that cell, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at the commonalities among different forms of life. You can listen to the podcast of Science Friday or read the article by following the links above.






















Tuesday, February 7, 2017

You Never Know



You Never Know
mixed media collage,
ingredients: vintage ephemera, pencil, image transfers, magazine cut-out on multi-media board


It seems I've been saying this a lot lately. The world continues to grow more puzzling by the day; the future seems more uncertain than it has in a very long time. Things you thought could never happen, well - they have, and they are. Still, the world is full of good people; the amazingly selfless things they do often take me by surprise. Perhaps they are angels in disguise. You never know.



One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.”
“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”



Saturday, January 28, 2017

Art Challenge: Sticks




When Tammie of Beauty Flows chose the theme "sticks" for this week's art challenge, I knew I had to jump in! I love sticks - in the woods, on or off of the trees, in art, or laying in a pile in my studio. Here are a few of my favorites.


 Snow and ice accumulated on these sticks in my yard to make a lovely black and white abstract...



 Sticks with seeds overhanging the Kinniconick Creek...



 I used a smooth bleached stick from the creek in this mixed media piece called, "Flight Talismans".





 Sticks outlined in the light of the super moon...



 Weathered, twisted sticks on the sand dunes at Cumberland Island.



 My friend, Mish, trying to hide behind some bamboo sticks.  Not working too well.




Indigenous
Years ago, I used to make sculptures from sticks, grapevines, rocks and copper. This was the only example I could find. The background is a topological map of a region in Kentucky that is very important to me, the rocks, which have seeds or flowers of indigenous plants glued onto them, have holes in them and are hanging on - you guessed it - sticks.



 Sticks from a tree submerged in the Kinniconick Creek...



 Beech sticks still hold onto their leaves in winter...



A redbud tree in bloom...


Do you think that's enough, yet?  Thanks for inviting me, Tammie!  Go to Beauty Flows to see what the other participants came up with!