Saturday, October 27, 2012

Brookville Paint Out 2012

I participated in my first plein air “paint out” this past Oct.18-21 in Brookville, IN.  The Brookville Library hosted this event.  Although the weather was yucky much of the time, I enjoyed the experience and learned so much!

On Thursday, 10/18 at 8 pm, I rolled into Brookville and arrived at the Hermitage Bed & Breakfast. 

Martha Shea is the innkeeper.  She is such a gracious lady.  She offered me some of her leftover chicken and salad for supper, since most restaurants were closing at that hour.  I felt right at home. 

This house, built in 1835, is a historical landmark.  In 1898, noted Indiana artists, J. Ottis Adams and T.C. Steele, purchased this home and split it down the middle, and their two families shared the structure.

They were good friends, and part of the “Hoosier Group” of artists.  Steele and Adams each had a studio on his side of the house.   The studio that I and the other guests were allowed to use was Adams’ old studio.  Currently it is a gallery that Martha runs, so there are framed works all over the walls.  The whole house is lovely and decorated with antiques.

For some reason, there is a slightly creepy stuffed peacock that is mounted on the stair railing.  He was looking rather ragged and dusty.

Okay, so Thursday night I settled in and decided to practice setting up my travel easel  and new lights.  Suddenly a group of artists come back from El Reparo restaurant, and then the fun began.   
Artists Donna Shortt, Kathryn Clark, Kathy Blankenheim, and Pam Newell
These ladies belong to IPAPA and are good friends.  They took a liking to my plein air equipment, and pulled out their iPads to snap photos.  Things got crazy and soon iPads were taking photos of other iPads taking photos.

I do believe margaritas might have been involved!  I was already having fun!

Friday morning, after Martha fed me eggs and ham and coffee, I went out into the town of Brookville for inspiration of something to paint.  I didn’t have to go far.  I spotted a flock of HUGE black turkey buzzards that were lined up all over St. Thomas Lutheran Church and another house.  I would guess there were 75 of them.  I thought, “Now THAT’S a painting!”  I parked my car and set up my gear on the sidewalk.  I decided to take a photo of them in case they decided to leave before I painted them.  As soon as I raised my camera, BOOM! 

Someone had set off a firecracker, and most of the birds flew off.  It was the owner of the house that also had buzzards on it.  He came out and talked to me and said that the buzzards have repeatedly torn up and pecked through his roof.  I did get a photo of some of the buzzards, and that evening I added them into the painting when I was back at the studio.

The weather was not nice to me while I was out there painting.  It was cold, and intermittently raining, and gusts of wind would take down my ground-spiked umbrella.  Then rain was landing on my palette.  You should have seen me try to hang on to that windblown umbrella with one arm and attempt to paint with the other.   I started to wonder what the heck was I out there for?  I told myself to buck up and do this.

A guy named Keith came out and chatted with me for awhile.  He was very nice.  I told him about the paint out and the upcoming sale on Sunday in the library.  He took my card and said he’d try to come.

After about 3 hours out there, I packed up my stuff and went back to the Hermitage.  I took a hot bath and rested in my room because I was exhausted!!!  Later I went down to the studio, and found most of the artists in there painting away.  Kathryn Clark’s husband Howie was also in there, playing his steel guitar and banjo for background music.  In fact, he played his instruments the whole weekend.
(Seated) Innkeeper Martha Shea, (standing, left to right) musician Howie Clark, me w/my eyes closed, Rhonda Bontrager, Dixie Ferrer, Dick Ferrer, Pam Newell, and Kathy Blankenheim.  Also present but not shown, Judy Mason, Kathryn Clark, and Donna Shortt.

That evening some of us went out and ate at the Goldfinch restaurant.  Other visiting artists happened in to the same restaurant, and sat with us.  I was meeting artists right and left, and I loved that.

Saturday, after Martha fed me French toast, I went out with my camera and toured the area.  I took some scenic photos.  My favorite one was of St. Michael Church, with some fall trees in front of it.  I came back that afternoon and painted it in the studio.  Yeah, I know, I was totally wimping out on the plein air thing.  I had lost my desire to fight the outdoor elements, which was again, intermittent rain and wind alternating with sunshine.  However, there were other artists out there toughing it out.
Pam and Kathy had some fly glasses and shared them with other IPAPA people.  What a hoot!

That evening the library hosted a dinner for us, free to the artists.  It was delicious…slaw, mashed potatoes, chicken, dinner rolls, and cake!  I saw artists that I had met at Hamilton County when Qiang Huang gave a workshop.

On Sunday, after Martha fed us her breakfast casserole (delicious!!), I put some final touches on my painting.  I packed up all my gear and luggage, and checked out.  The library fed us a complimentary boxed lunch.  We set up our artwork throughout the library.  Mine were unframed and on little tabletop easels.

Other artists were better prepared, with nice frames on their work, and displayed on bigger easels.  From 1-3 pm, folks came through and were buying art.

Keith, the guy I mentioned earlier who chatted with me while I painted in the rain, came in and purchased my "St. Thomas Lutheran Church, with Visitors" painting!  He said it meant something to him, because he saw me paint it.  It gave me a feeling of happy closure.  As soon as the sale was over, I said goodbye to my new friends, and I hit the road for home.  I already have dibs on my same room for next year.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Our Small Business Venture

Why haven’t I been painting and posting much lately?  Because my husband Jeff and I have been working on a small business venture.  Over the past 5 months, it has been like working 2 jobs, but it’s been interesting and fun.  Here is how it all came about...

David and Carol Marine
It all started when Carol Marine, a very talented and renowned painter, posted on her very popular blog (link) about this “shadow box” that her husband David built for her.  It was made of PVC pipe and hardboard. 

This tool enabled her to control the lighting on her still life subjects.  I noticed a few of her fans commenting that they would love for David to build one for them, and they would pay for it.  Carol said that David was not interested in doing that, so she kindly put together a blog post on how to make one (link).  Her fans responded with enthusiasm and appreciation, yet a few were still asking if her husband would sell them one.  Carol answered that David again declined.  In David’s defense, he is busy being the webmaster for the very successful art marketing site Daily Paintworks (link).  He helps artists promote, sell, and auction their work using the site’s features.  Carol and David have built their business from the ground up, and are an inspiration to many, including me.

I asked Jeff to make a shadow box for me, and he did, with his own design changes to make it even stronger.  I LOVE using it!  It has solved my problems with lighting my still-life subjects.  My south-facing window in my studio had been driving me crazy, because during the course of a painting session, my shadows would move and the colors and contrast would change slowly.  I kept trying to correct my painting.  This box, functioning as a stage, eliminated that problem.  I was very happy.  I saw a little business opportunity…I knew that there are many artists in the world that do not have the desire to obtain pipe and board from a hardware store, then cut and drill those things to make their own, but could still benefit from having that box.  I thought it would be neat if Jeff could help these people by selling them one, and we could make a little money.  Jeff said, “Sure!  Easy enough!”  In March 2012, I wrote to David Marine and made that suggestion and sent him a picture of it.  He said he was intrigued with the idea.  I quickly got to work developing the product and giving myself a crash course on how to be a small business.    This is what I spent my free time learning:

How to choose a business entity and become legal.
How to charge sales tax.
How to place a PayPal button on my website, and form a merchant account with PayPal.  This includes setting up shipping costs per each state.
How to use Quickbooks so I could do my own accounting.

 Jeff figured out a way to break it down so that a customer only has 4 steps to assemble it.  He shopped around and determined where to obtain the supplies he needed to make a yet unknown number of units.  He developed his own tools for quick manufacturing, in case we got hundreds of orders.  He found a local shipping box company, purchased a stack, and figured out how to package and pad the product with as little waste as possible.  Jeff created an assembly instruction page in Autocad as a PDF file, based on sketches we’d made.

At the last minute, I coerced Jeff into making a side extension feature, that helps keep drapes off of hot lamps.

My conscience and my nursing need for customer safety required this addition, even if it meant it would cut into our profit a bit.  Jeff made it work, and made it fit perfectly into our packaging.  I named it the “Still Life Stage” and designed a logo for it.  I like the name because I think it describes it's function perfectly.

I took photos of our product and used Photoshop Elements to edit out my messy house.  Then I imported those images into iMovie and created an instructional video for YouTube. 

I sent the link to the video to the Marines.  They liked it and were interested in seeing one in real life.  I sent one, and they said they were very impressed with everything about it.  They wanted to work with us.

I also sent one to my artist friend Janettmarie (link) whose studio is at the Stutz building, so we could test the integrity of the shipping box, and to see if she found the assembly to be easy by following the instructions that Jeff had made.  She said it passed with flying colors.  She has also been very helpful to me in my local promotion of it.   She is such a sweetheart. 
I emailed some images to David Marine, and he made a widget for me (see the side bar on the right side of this blog).  I upgraded my website to allow for e-commerce. I posted the product on my site with the PayPal button.  David sent me a draft of Carol’s blog post that she had written about the product so I could review it.

On July 24, we “went live”.  On that day, Carol posted on her blog (link) about the Still Life Stage and her genuine endorsement of it, with a link to my website for ordering.  She also posted the widget on her right side bar, with rotating images of the Stage, and it is also a link to my site.

Jeff and I were excited as the orders came in that day.  We were a bit nervous about it being a flop, or the other extreme, getting so many orders we would drown.   We had no idea what to expect. God smiled down on us, and we got a manageable number of orders.  Over time, orders have slowed down, as people forget about her glowing review on Go-Live day.  But they still trickle in.  And that’s okay, because we have been busy developing another product, called “Jeff’s Canvas & Panel Gripper”This is another product that I am thrilled with, and use all the time, but I'll save that for another post.

I want to thank the following people for their advice, teaching, and help with promotion: Carol and David Marine, Janettmarie, Randy Marra, Cindy Cradler, Qiang Huang, Betsy Bayne, Roy Rodabaugh, Steve Hetrick and Cathy Nobbe,  Jim Hargitt, Mike Hargitt, Alyssa Nobbe, Randy Williams, Rita Smith.

After this, I think its time for me to start making art again.    

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Early Autumn Trees in Morning Light

In two weeks I will be in Brookville, participating in an outdoor painting event.  The Brookville Library is hosting it.  It goes on for 3 days, ending on Sunday 10/21 with a public sale of the artwork in the Library.  The artists get red carpet treatment which includes a few patron-sponsored complimentary meals.  I have never done this sort of thing before, so I am starting to prepare myself.  One artist I know told me that it can be “stressful.”  I need to figure out ways to minimize the stress. 

This morning I took my Art Box and Panel and did a “refresher” practice run on my back patio again.  It helped me to figure out some things:

--I REALLY don’t like to be cold.
--Fuzzy gloves don’t work very well.  Fuzz kept finding it’s way into the most inconvenient places.
--Gamblin Galkyd Gel makes for great texture, especially when applied with a knife.
--Working with a limited palette somehow simplifies and speeds up the color mixing process.
--Paint gets stiffer when it’s cold outside.  So do I.
--Two hours is about the limit for an outdoor painting or else the shadows move too much and the colors change too much to continue.  Quick work is necessary.
--Creating a portable plexiglass shelter with a built in space heater is not an option, so says my husband.

Here is my little painting for this morning.  I actually did a painting in 2 ½ hours.  For me that’s fast, and it turned out pretty good. :)  I’m encouraged.
Early Autumn Trees in Morning Light   7"x5"  Oil on Gessobord