Watercolor close up of Queen Anne's Lace Progess 05 Sep 2018

This month I demonstrated ACEO (Art Card Editions and Originals) painting at the local historical museum (Driftless Historium).   The event was part of an exhibition by the MHAAA.  I had laid out 2.5 x 3.5 inch cards taped to foam board, some with drawings printed on them and some blank.  I also provided watercolor pens, liquid watercolor, and small pan watercolor so they had their choice of medium to try.  

I explained the history of ACEOs and then I asked them if they would like to try their hand at painting, but before they started I explained that there is no white in watercolor.  Technically there are a couple of white opaque paints that are available, but watercolor purists or transparent watercolor painters do not allow the white paint when judging watercolors.  The only true way to have white show up in your paintings is leave the white of paper exposed.  This means you can’t just paint away and come back later and add the white, you have to plan ahead to protect the white spaces.  I call this “Planning for Purity”

When Planning for Purity, there are a few ways to leave white exposed.  One is to put a masking fluid on the white so you can just wash over the surface.  This is a very safe method, but when you remove the gummy material it leaves a hard edge that must be blended back into your other pigments.  

Another way is to wax the surface, but with that method you can’t remove the wax so you better get it right the first time.  The trickiest method is to paint around the white, being very careful not to get any pigment on the white space.  If you do, you can try to lift the pigment off, but it will never be the true white anymore.

Close up of Peony and thistle
Pricks and Petals

I have had a lot of trouble painting white things.  This picture is a peony and I didn’t leave that much white, it is more of an ivory because of trying to get shadows in the folds of the petals, I used a lot more yellow than intended.  I like the results, but just not really white.

I keep trying to improve my use of white, for example, Silas, the Siberian Crane was a big challenge, since he is all white, except for a few black tail feathers. Siberiancranewatercolor

Planning for Purity in life can be even harder.  We start out pretty good but even as small children it is tough to make good choices when we are bombarded with worldly knowledge.  Our canvas gets darker and darker over time and eventually we need intervention to remove the dark pigment.  We can seek help from others, but there is only one source capable of wiping the slate clean and that is our Savior, Christ Jesus.  I am so thankful for His gift, now my heavenly father can look at me and my canvas is as white as snow.

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nana Kate's First Art Show Booth in Aug 2018

It has been more than a year since I set myself up for business.  I started with a website with the allusion that; “If I post it, they will come” via the magic on the inter-web.  That may seem pretty naive and in fact, it was because I had a lot to learn about the internet and especially about how to sell creative works.

I am naturally a curious person so I did some research and found The Abundant Artist Association, which I joined.  They have a lot of marketing courses on “How to sell your Art Online” which I studied, but only implemented a small portion of their suggestions.  I found out that it is hard to sell your art online and that you have to talk to people.  In November of 2017, a guest conference call on art shows with Owen Garratt opened my eyes to the possibilities of art shows, but I wasn’t intending to sit outside in the heat and humidity to sell cards.

I retired in January of 2018 and decided to give this art business a good try, so I started making more paintings and cards.  Well now I have inventory, but I needed customers.  In May, I received an email from my local art association, Mt. Horeb Area Arts Association, that announced the Black Earth, WI Chamber wanted artists for a new art show in August.  I discussed this with my husband and we decided to enter.

After I applied for a booth I remembered the program on art shows and the discounted training materials and purchased the videos from Marketing Tools For Artists .  I found out I had made my first mistake by signing up for a new, unproven art show, but I was going to make the best of it and prepare a booth that would dazzle the visitors.

Dave and I worked out a lot of details with the art booth, a lot of thinking, doing and arguing, but in I think we put together a pretty nice booth for first-time art showers.  The art show in Black Earth wasn’t very good because it was poorly advertised and not very many visitors.  It was a great opportunity to try out our booth and we learned a lot and simplified our signs so the next weekend when we set up for the Bailey’s Run Vineyard show we were more prepared.

Bailey’s Run was another new show (remember never to go with new shows) and we didn’t sell too much, but I am satisfied that if I were to go to a larger show, I could sell cards.  What I learned from my experience is you need to go to shows that have at least 1000 people to find a few that will like your stuff.  You need a proven show and you have to find the right type of person for your art.  I also learned that I don’t like being outside in the heat and humidity and will try to find shows that are inside, but that is a luxury.  I liked talking to people, and it was fun, but it is not a social event so tell friends to meet you after the show and not try to socialize while you are marketing.

I will continue to look for shows and I will continue to simplify my set up.  It is one of the quickest ways to get new names for the website subscribing by having a show giveaway and hopefully, someday, I will be able to get people to buy cards online too.

Nana Kate handing out cards in a graphic image
Talking by S.M.W.

In January of 2017 after a challenge from my art instructor, David Becker (http://davidrbecker.com)

I thought I would try to sell prints online by signing up with a Print on Demand company.   It sounded so easy and would be a great way to make a little money on my paintings because after a while one just doesn’t have enough friends and family who want your stuff. 

I started to do a little research and found the book “How to sell your Art Online” https://theabundantartist.com/ .  Perfect, that was  all I needed and I would be on my way to greatness.  It would be so much easier to work from home, not to worry about weather with outdoor art fairs.  I would not have to talk to people and be sociable and smile a lot.  I could sit home, paint and put money in the bank.

That kind of naive thinking is the same as finding a pill to make you lose weight.  Oh yes, I am still looking for that pill, but with very low expectations.  But with the sale of art online, I was really thinking this might work, after all, Amazon sells everything online, why couldn’t I do that too.

I read the book, created my web page (it took 6 months for my slow technological learning curve to come up with the most rudimentary website) and then I started to take the Abundant Artist classes.  Well, guess what, the selling online only works if you talk to people.

Selling art anywhere is just like any other business, you actually have to talk to people.  You have to create relationships with people so they get to know you and want to help you grow your business.  Some people like to buy from you just because they like you, Who knew?  Some people actually like your art and your message, but mostly they need to feel comfortable with the person before they will invest in your work.

How disappointing to realize that word of mouth continues to be the best form of sales even in this age of social media that is suppose to increase how we are all connected.  I suppose I should not have been so surprised, Jesus, a pretty good role model, knew that you need to start with a few good men, specifically, eleven, and teach them everything about yourself.  Then when they meet other people they can pass the message along and eventually after a couple thousand years everybody will know your name.  The system works.  I guess I have to start by getting a few good men (or women).

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Leaning In

Leaning In illustration
Leaning In by Granddaughter S.W.

 

One Sunday morning our Pastor was talking about his decision to take on a position in a different church.  The process to move or stay involved a lot prayer, but it also involved “leaning in “ to the decision.  It wasn’t a quick yes and go, it was a process of elimination, checking out the options.  At each step a decision was made and a new door opened or closed until eventually everything fit into place.

I never really thought about creating an art business, I just liked painting and making cards for people.  In the summer of 2016, I took a watercolor workshop put on by Dave Becker.  I had a wonderful time and learned more than I will be able to remember.  During that workshop I was asking the other painters what did they do with all their paintings.  Most of them worked for fun, some placed them in local galleries and some had websites, but not many were actively trying to sell their work. 

I hadn’t sold any of my paintings and I was beginning to have quite a few that looked pretty good.  I had been creating Christmas cards for fifteen years.  I also made cards of encouragement for friends.   I would put a message on the back and people seemed to like these cards for both the painting and the message.  Several people started asking if I sold them and I said they were just for fun, but it started my “leaning in” process.

I am still “leaning in”, still trying to figure our how to start an art business. I am hoping to help others by writing down my process.  I have been leaning since January 2017 and hope to have my business running with some income by my retirement in February of 2018.  In future blogs I will tell you how I started my business and maybe you can help me get it going. 

Thank you for visiting,

Nana Kate

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