Wednesday, December 31, 2008

my journey to a painting...

It's time to start a new piece. I thought it might be fun to detail the various steps that make up my journey towards a finished work. So here we go...

First I need inspiration for a subject. A few months ago, I was rereading an old art magazine. I came across an image of an oil painting a woman had done. The subject was swiss chard. I was struck by the colours she used in the chard as well as the lighting in the piece. Suddenly I was inspired!

Next came the search for some chard. I wasn't looking for just any chard, I wanted Rhubarb chard as it has red stalks. I finally found a specialty supermarket that carried a a wonderful variety of veggies. I found the variety I wanted but I was disappointed to see that much of the lovely stalks were trimmed off. Nevertheless, I left with a few bags of still life material and/or a vegetable for supper.

After trying to get the oodles of chard home without any tearing or crushing taking place, I now had to set up a place for my photo shoot. The lighting was getting just right on the back deck. I set up a portable table (one that I use at art shows). I needed a white background so I used a sheet of mat board. The mat board was one of several sheets that I purchased for a ridiculously inexpensive price a few years ago. Little did I know that it was on sale because it was flawed. Each sheet had dirty flecks imbedded in the surface fibers. Obviously something had gone wrong during manufacturing. The mat board wasn't suitable for framing paintings but I have found some wonderful uses for it. Here is a picture of my setup.

The next photo gives you a sense of the lighting. You might also notice my husband's hockey equipment getting aired out.

Once things were set up, I had to work fairly fast. My lighting was quickly changing as the sun was moving behind trees and the warm sun was actually wilting the chard. I wasn't sure what exactly I was looking for. Initially I wanted to feature the long stalks. Notice my bit of tape in the next photo? I was trying to piece stalk bits together to create what I was after. Photo shoots aren't as glamour as one might think! :-)

I took lots of photo from different angles. These are just a couple of examples. I am sure you get the idea.

I was busy on other projects so I left the photos on the camera for use at a later date and I cooked up my still life material for supper.

Fast forward to the end of December. I am now ready to revisit these photos. I have just started editing them and the image at the beginning of this post gives you an idea of where I am currently heading. I shall keep you informed of my progress...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From My Family To Yours, Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a holiday filled with love, joy, laughter and peace. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Coloured Pencil Newsletter ready to read...

The December issue of my Coloured Pencil Newsletter is now ready to read. If you are new to my blog, please know that each month I publish a newsletter for coloured pencil enthusiasts. To check it out, click here.

If you would like to become a Newsletter Group Member just contact me. Membership is free!

Comments and feedback on the newsletters are welcome.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Some Christmas Chuckles and an Owl

I'll start with the owl - but don't worry the chuckles are coming...

This beautiful Barred Owl was sitting outside my studio this morning. Once I noticed him, I ran for the binoculars while my husband dashed for the camera. The cedar trees outside my studio windows were getting in the way so we went outside to have a look. Here are a couple of the photos.

The owl finally got tired of us staring at him and he flew to a tree in our backyard. Most of our birdfeeders are in the backyard and seeing as these owls eat birds and rodents I am sure it was looking for a meal. We have lots of red and black squirrels and of course there are small birds too. We dashed back up to the studio as now we could see him better from there. The next photo was taken from a studio window. It is a nice shot of his back view, showing his beautiful feather pattern. I have been fortunate to see many owls but I don't usually have a camera handy. It wasn't long before several blue jays swarmed him. He finally flew off, probably to get some peace and quiet.

Okay, now for your Christmas chuckles...Are you feeling a tad stressed out and overwhelmed these days? If so, head on over to You Tube and listen to Frank Kelly's 'Christmas Countdown'. It only takes five minutes and it will be worth it. Frank tells the story of the experiences of a fellow who receives gifts during the twelve days of Christmas. Here is the link. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hay bales, coloured pencil and ink

Hay Bales, 10" x 4.5"
Coloured Pencil and Ink on Stonehenge
Copyright Teresa Mallen

First, let me say that this looks much better in real life! Taking pictures with late afternoon winter light just doesn't work well. The paper is white not blue! Goodness, it sure looks goofy in this photo. Of course you can't see all the lovely subtle colours either. Oh well, use your imagination - hopefully you get the idea. Adding colour to the ink drawing was a bit like the debate that goes on about whether or not black and white movies should be colourized. Part of me wanted to leave it alone and part of me wanted to go ahead and add the colour. Obviously the colour side won. The good news is that pen and ink is quite a fast way to work so I can always do another ink one if I wish.

I stumbled onto a blog today that I would like to share with you. I saw a comment that Maureen Mitchell made on Steven Chipman's blog. I followed it to her blog. Maureen is a new blogger and I think she is off to a great start. She has a beautiful collograph posted and I especially liked her December 7th post featuring her work entitled "Connundrum", Coloured Pencil with Brulage. Maureen does a great job describing how she created the piece (brulage is a burning technique). Imagine being inspired by the burning Bonanza map! How cool is that? Have you ever wanted to burn some of your cp work?! :-) Click here to hop on over to her blog. From here you can visit her Etsy shop. She has some lovely block prints for sale. Maureen's 'Long Journey Home' was juried into the CPSA exhibition this year. She has it for sale and you can see it at her shop.

Up next in the studio will be a coloured pencil piece of red chard. Hay bales to Swiss chard...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Coloured Pencil and Ink WIP

Hay Bales, Work In Progress
Ink on Stonehenge

I love line and as a result I love drawings done in pen and ink. I haven't done much pen and ink work lately so I thought it was time to do a little something. This is how the drawing looks now. The next step will be to add some colour with my coloured pencils. I wanted this piece to be pared down and simple so I am not including other elements such as trees, etc.

I love the look of gathered up hay - stooked hay, square bales, or round bales. I love them all. Probably the most time consuming part of this piece was working out the composition of the hay bales in various sketches. Which way to turn the bales and where should the light source be? And oh yippee, drawing ellipses! Here is a picture of some of my sketches.

I have used technical pens (Staedtler brand) to create the ink drawing. While I like working with fountain pens and quills, I find it easier to work with technical pens. You just don't get the surprises you get when working with a quill pen and an ink bottle! Quill tips do allow you to change your line width in a single stroke but this requires practice to get consistent results (and I am out of practice) and in this small piece such an effect isn't what I wanted.

If you love pen and ink work, I highly recommend the classic book entitled Rendering In Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill. The original version was published in 1930 and later reissued in 1976 and 1997. This book is the ultimate resource for someone looking to learn pen and ink techniques. I have spent many many hours pouring over the 300 pictures and practicing what is taught. Arthur L. Guptill was an artist, architectural renderer, architect, teacher and writer. If you love architectural renderings then this book is for you. There is lots of other stuff too. I especially like the section on rendering trees in pen and ink. The picture of Thomas Fogarty's pen and ink trees on page 132 is one of my favourites in the book.

In anticipation of this wee pen and ink hay bales piece, I snapped some photos of hay bales in a near by field. I put them on my computer so I could look at them for inspiration and information while I drew. Here are a few of the photos that I used.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Colourd Pencil Portrait Update

Melissa's Portrait
Coloured Pencil on Stonehenge, 8" x 10"
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is how my portrait of Melissa looks needs some tweaking (I just noticed that her top needs to be continued over to the edge, lower left corner and I think from looking at it here that I need to tweak the mouth a wee bit). Melissa is my niece and as I have mentioned, she patiently posed for photos for me to use in my portrait course. Melissa is a talented artist who was fortunate to have good art instruction in classes at her high school. I think she will understand why her goofy Aunt made her face purple and her hair striped. It's all about artistic expression, right?! :-) Melissa is now at Ottawa University enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce program. At this time of year she is busy writing exams. Remember those days? Ugh.

So what have I been up to these past weeks? Well, to start with, my husband and I took some vacation days at the end of November. I was getting over a cold and it was nice to rest, relax, eat out and hike my favourite trails. Then my immune system took a holiday and I got a nasty flu bug. Yuck. Add to that a trip out of town to deal with more financial stuff regarding my Father's estate and of course all of the things that go with Christmas quickly approaching.

Along with finishing Melissa's portrait, I have been a bit creative outside the studio. Every year, in late fall, I start looking around during my forest walks for fallen pine limbs. This year was no exception. I search for pine branches in order to make Christmas decorations. A large limb fell off of our old willow tree so I was able to gather lots of willow branches to include in the arrangements as well. So even though I had the flu, I dragged pine boughs and willows twigs home and made up some swags and such for display.

Here is a picture of a pine and willow swag that I made for our barn door. This barn is actually the original homestead house. We have been told that a father and mother raised a family of eight children in this building! It makes my 700 square foot studio seem opulent and most indulgent. The previous owners restored this building and used it as a barn for their horses.

I am not sure if you can see the pine swag on the front of the barn. The picture is rather dark. I won't bore you with the pine arrangements on the gate posts. You get the idea.

Even though I was still dealing with the flu, my next bright idea was to set a cabinet out on the veranda so I could sand and wash it. Never mind that it was -15 degrees C and very windy. I was a woman with a mission. Like most of you, my husband and I will be having friends and neighbours over this holiday season and I wanted to give this cabinet a makeover before we started decorating.

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that my Dad died at the end of the summer. My sister and I have been scrambling to get the valuables out of the house so we could close it up for the winter. While this cabinet isn't exactly valuable, I couldn't resist it.

My Father used this cabinet to store various tools in. The picture shows the state it was in when he used it. At some point someone must have decided that they needed more storage. Using remnant boards from other furniture (there are latches and hooks still intact from when this wood was serving other purposes) someone put together this cabinet. Somewhere along the line someone stripped off the old paint.

I found it amusing that at some point someone decided they wanted a taller cabinet. From the next picture, you can see that originally the cabinet was several inches shorter and it was on rollers. No problem, just fashion some legs from some white painted lumber and presto, you have a taller cabinet!

I guess when the paint was removed, they also removed the drawer pulls and the door knob. My Dad never did put replacements ones on.

So after some sanding, three coats of paint and less than $10.00 in hardware, here is how the cabinet looks now...(the colour looks rather white in the photo but it really is more of a cream/taupe colour). And it got done before we decorated. :-) Whew!!

If you have hung in with the post this long, can we talk shopping? Do you have people that you are buying gifts for this holiday season? May I make a few suggestions?

First of all, please shop locally. As well, support the artists living in your community. Look to your local artists for pottery, jewelry, hand crafted wooden items, note cards, prints and originals, woven shawls - anything and everything.

Do people find you hard to shop for? Why not stock up on some art supplies? They can wrap them up and give them to you. Some new coloured pencils are not expensive and they fit perfectly in a stocking (okay, not the large tin sets - they can go under the tree.)

Finally, please consider using your gift giving to make a difference in the world. In a world obsessed with consumerism and with our homes stuffed with stuff, the perfect solution is to buy items for those in need and let that be a gift for someone. For example, I shop the World Vision catalogue. I buy warm winter clothing for kids who have none and this is my present to my sister and her husband. For my mother-in-law, each year we stock a medical clinic in a developing country. She gives the same gift on behalf of her son and I. This year I asked my husband to give me the gift of helping kids forced into prostitution. Approximately 2 million children each year are sold, trafficked and abused in the global sex trade. My husband's donation on my behalf will help fund trauma centers where the kids find shelter, medical help, counselling and vocational training. I am giving my husband the gift of a wood conserving stove. Families use these stoves to sanitize their water, cook food and warm their homes.

These are just a few of the gifts you can choose from. You can select lots of wonderful things, like educating a girl in need. You can provide fruit trees and animals for farming or you can help a family start a business. There are so many fantastic ideas - you really need to see their catalogue for all the details. The best part is that this can all be done on-line. No driving on busy highways in bad weather, no dealing with crowds at malls with no parking spaces. Another idea is to pool your money together with co-workers, friends, the folks in your book club etc. to make these purchases. Visit this link here, to get inspired.

Most organizations have on-line gifts. For example you can symbolically adopt a wild animal for a loved one at the World Wildlife Fund website. To support those in need in your community, check out your local homeless shelters. We support the Ottawa Mission and at this time of year they require gifts of warm wool socks, boots, gloves, long underwear and so on. If you live in Ottawa and you would like to know what sort of items they would appreciate, click here. What organizations reflect your values and your view of a better world? Why not check them out on-line?

While on the topic of gifts, now would be a good time to thank all of you who purchased kits for gifts for loved ones (and for yourselves). If you haven't yet got your order in, there is still time for shipping but it is getting close. So if you are interested visit here now. May everyone have a wonderful time colouring over the holidays!

Finally, if you are wondering where the December Newsletter is, well oops there isn't one yet. Maybe next week? Next up on the drafting table is a cp and pen and ink piece. I am looking forward to getting back to some pen and ink stuff. I think I will need to do some practising!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

coloured pencil portrait WIP continues...

Melissa's Portrait work in progress
coloured pencil on Stonehenge
copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is how the portrait looks now. Things are moving rather slowly as I haven't spent much time on it. I was teaching Saturday, my portrait course :-) and I spent the rest of the weekend visiting the wonderful artists on the Red Trillium Studio Tour. I wasn't on the tour this time so it was a great opportunity to drive around and see the fantastic art. The terrific news is that the tour was very well attended and sales were good as well. This was somewhat surprising given the doom and gloom in the media regarding the economy. At least the price of gas has come down!

I did have an adventure with Melissa's portrait. While my work tends to look realistic, I do like to stylize my work somewhat. What that translates to is that I tend to create skin tones that are lighter in value than real skin. I also like to edit out some things that are linear in the face, such as smile crinkles at the corner of the eyes - I suggest them with some soft lines and value changes. I also like to edit out light moles and freckles. If a subject had a significant mole or lots of freckles I would include them as this would add character. Melissa has a couple of very small moles. At first I thought I would include them. After putting them in, I found I didn't like the overall effect. They seemed to grab your attention and in real life they don't. My adventure began...

I tried to lift the pigment. It worked somewhat. The final colour in the mole spot was going to be very light so I needed to remove all of the colour. I reached for my electric eraser. I hardly ever use it but I find it can be useful to get the last bit of pigment off if lifting doesn't work. I touched the eraser down, and hit the power button. Just as I did, I remembered that I hadn't checked to see if the tip of the eraser was clean. I lifted the eraser off of the paper but oops not before the eraser had transferred bright red pigment to my paper. Now I didn't have a very faint mole to deal with but a dollop of scarlet pigment ground into the paper. Great.

Plan B...bleach the colour. I haven't had to use this method before but these were desperate times. I had heard of an artist that had a tiny bug crawl onto her paper. The next morning, she whisked the bug off only to discover that it had left a small stain on her paper. Erasing and lifting didn't work. Whatever body fluids the tiny bug had left behind had been absorbed by the paper, creating a permanent stain. She finally tried applying bleach and it worked. So that is what I tried. I poured out a bit of bleach onto a styrofoam plate. Using the small end of a tooth pick, I dropped a tiny bit of bleach directly onto the scarlet stain. I waited a few seconds and then dabbed the spot with a tissue. It seemed to work a bit. I repeated the process. It took a few applications but the stain did disappear. The texture of the paper is fine too. I share this story in case you ever get in a similar situation. My advice is to be very careful - use a teeny tiny bit of bleach - you don't want to soak your paper. I let the paper dry. I have now coloured over the spot and you can't tell where it was. Whew! Actually, lets back things advice is to check the tip of your eraser before you hit the on button!

This WIP may take awhile. My husband and I are on vacation this week, yippee! We can't remember when our last holiday was. My time away from work has been consumed with dealing with my Dad's illness and death as well as moving last this week we rest, recover and play...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Coloured Pencil Portrait WIP continues...

Melissa's Portrait, Work in Progress
Coloured Pencil on Stonehenge
Copyright Teresa Mallen

It's looking a bit better now...the background is a bit dark in this photo. As you can see, I am working on a bit of everything at the moment. I hop about when I work. I work on an eye, then the neck, then a bit on the sweater, then a bit on the hair. Part of this is because I want to start getting a sense of my darkest values. Also, part of it is because I get seduced away from a spot rather easily! I go after the stuff that is fun to draw. I love drawing fabric so the folds on the hood were the first to get worked on.

You can't see it here, but I did fix the drawing errors before going any further.

Okay, back to the studio...Do you hop around your work too?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Coloured Pencil Portrait, WIP

Well, this is definitely the beginning - work in progress indeed! I am starting a portrait of my niece Melissa. She was kind enough to pose for tons of photos that were the starting point for my portrait course. I am using coloured pencils on white Stonehenge paper. I have two layers down as a start on the background. It is hard to see but I also have a first layer down for the hooded top. The face has just one layer of colour on it. The drawing needs adjusting - the mouth is off on the right side, her right cheek is too full and she doesn't have a chin. Thank goodness you can't see all of that!

With the start of this new project, I took the opportunity to clean off my drafting table. I gave the Borco a good wash. If you have a vinyl cover (Borco is a common brand name) on your drafting table and you have had trouble cleaning it, I would like to suggest the following. Rubbing alcohol works when soap doesn't and nail polish remover works wonders on tape residue. Just apply these products to a small cotton pad (like a make-up remover pad). I make sure to wash the vinyl well after using these products so there is nothing left that can transfer to my paper. Anyway, my drafting table feels and looks fresh and clean. Not bad for a few minutes work.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Portrait exercises and a mystery bird's nest...

I thought I would show you what I have been up to in the studio these days. Here are some of the portrait course exercises and the reference photos. My students are getting lots of practice in creating skin tones in coloured pencil!

This week I shall be starting a portrait of my neice Melissa. She was the model for the body parts pictures. This time it will be her whole face on the page! I shall post it as a wip, so stay tuned.

As for the next pictures, can someone enlighten me? The pictures are of a simple twig nest on our property. I never saw a bird constructing it or using it. Does anyone know what bird would create such a thing?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Postive news in the arts...

Sterling Silver Functional Sculptural Bowl "Table Jewellery"
28 cm high x 19.5 cm long x 16 cm wide
Artist Myra Tulonen Smith
Bowl copyright of and image property of Myra Tulonen Smith

I recently contacted my friend Myra with a 'lets do lunch' email. Wow, Myra had some news. Look at what she has been up to! And the big news? Myra had been invited to participate in an extraordinary exhibition of metal art. The two works shown are the pieces she created for this special exhibition. Aren't they incredible?

What I find truly wonderful, beyond Myra getting the recognition she so greatly deserves, is that this exhibition flys in the face of current headlines and news reports regarding the economy. In fact the gallery that is holding this exhibition seems to operate on the principal that there are always art collectors willing to buy. Good news for the arts, I say!

So here is the scoop...Jonathon Brancroft-Snell Gallery is the largest contemporary ceramic gallery in Canada and it is located in London, Ontario. This new exhibition, featuring metal art is entitled 'Celebration'. It is a tribute to the legacy of Lois Etherington-Betteridge RCA and is in recognition of her lifetime dedication to the arts as well as in recognition of her 80th birthday.

This incredible exhibition features work by Lois as well as 20 other artists, artists who are are some of the 20th century's most illustrious metal artists. As Jonathon states, "The artists participating in this exhibition represent some of the finest talents in Canada today. Their work is the personification of imagination, innovation and creative excellence. Each has a personal link with Lois."

The exhibition is on now and it runs until November 22nd. If you are a lover of metal or ceramic art do check out the gallery's website for details and start planning your visit.

Sterling Silver Single Malt Cup
6.7cm high x 13 cm long x 9.4 cm wide
Artist Myra Tulonen Smith
Cup copyright of and image property of Myra Tulonen Smith

Here is Myra's description of this exquisite Malt Cup:

"This piece is inspired by the traditional Scottish 'Quaich', which is a multi-handled cup for drinking single malt whiskey. The difference is that my cup does not have handles, rather the handles...influenced in shape by traditional Scottish ram's horn motifs...have become the stand. The stand supports the exquisite simplicity of the cup which draws focus to the singularity of a fine malt scotch. To sip a single malt scotch from a silver cup is in itself a luxurious experience. Pearlescent light reflects from the silver through the golden liquid as the aroma of the scotch envelops the senses. The smooth cool touch of the silver on one's lip enriches anticipation of the fiery warmth promised by the wee dram as it slides along the sensuous curve to be encountered and enjoyed."

Anyone thirsty?! Congratulations Myra on being selected to participate in such a prestigious exhibition. Your work is incredibly beautiful!

But wait, there is more positive news for the arts - Ottawa has a new art gallery! The OWAA Gallery just opened on November 1st and it is located at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex, at 1500 Shea Road in Stittsville. OWAA stands for the Ottawa West Arts Association. I hope to check out this new gallery very soon. I hear the facilities are quite lovely.

So a thriving ceramic gallery hosts an impressive metal art exhibit and there is a new gallery in town. Good news and some more good news!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New issue of coloured pencil newsletter!

Well yippee, the November issue of my newsletter for coloured pencil artists is ready to read.

You can find it by clicking on Newsletter. If you like what you see, why not consider becoming a Newsletter Group Member? Membership is free! Membership gives you the opportunity to submit your art for posting, to ask questions, to get helpful feedback, to submit cp tips and to promote your business.

Interested? Just go to the newsletter link and contact me. You will be on the membership mailing list immediately. If you know someone who would enjoy a coloured pencil newsletter, why not pass along this info? You don't have to be a member to read it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

pumpkins and other blessings...

'Pumpkin' 7" x 10", coloured pencil on Stonehenge
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Aren't pumpkins great? I love pumpkins and all types of gourds. Many artists have been busy this fall drawing and painting pumpkins. Blogs have been full of pumpkins pics. So, not to be left out, and as I love pumpkins and all, I thought I would post my pumpkin.

I am always telling my students to never give up on a piece. (Remember my Jack Pine story? And to think that ol' Jack Pine was juried into the Coloured Pencil Society of America's exhibition this year!)

Well this piece is one of those ones that almost ended up being torn into bits and tossed into the garbage. You can't see all of the detail in the stalk but I spent a few wonderful hours softly layering colour. And then things got gruesome. I started to work on the body of the pumpkin and no matter what I did, I wasn't happy with the results. I lifted pigment and added pigment. I put aside my pencils and added pastel. Yuck. I removed this and then added oil pastel. Yuck again. I scraped this off with the side of a finger nail file. By this time I had given up on the piece and it now became something to experiment on. Out came the pencils again. I put down lots of pigment and then I got out my bottle of solvent. And wouldn't you know, I liked what I saw! I let the paper dry, and then added more pigment. I used solvent again. I let it dry again and then added a touch more pigment here and there. Suddenly it wasn't heading for the trash but to the framers!

Even when a piece isn't turning out the way you had intended, you may be surprised at what you can make of it. Just keep trying!

So pumpkins are a blessing...I have them outside and inside - adding beauty to my life. Yesterday I added more beauty to my life by opening my studio to wonderful students who are eager to explore creating portraits. I feel blessed and honoured to be a part of their artistic experiences and to play a part in their growth as artists. Sharing my passion for art and coloured pencil is pure bliss. To witness people enthusiastically and fearlessly embracing art and the adventures art making brings is truly beautiful and gives me great joy. So a big thank you to my students...I am really looking forward to the remaining classes we have together.

As the day progressed, wildlife added even more beauty to my life. I had a male cardinal spend quite a bit of time in a lilac tree and on a feeder - both just outside my family room window. I enjoyed watching him up close. Late in the afternoon, I was taking my dog out for a walk. As I stepped out onto our veranda, I saw a beautiful buck in the meadow, just on my right. He lingered and stared at me for quite a while before moving on. It sounds rather trite to say that the best things in life are free, but you know what, many of them are. I sincerely hope your weekend was filled with beauty and blessings too.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A big eye and coloured pencil classes...

Portrait course eye exercise, approx. 5" x 6"
coloured pencil on Stonehenge, copyright Teresa Mallen

Happy Halloween! Did my big eyeball scare you? Hopefully it isn't too ghoulish!

Here at Teresa Mallen Studio, November is portrait month. Over the next four weeks I shall be teaching a course on how to do portraits in coloured pencil. I have been having an absolute blast creating new exercises. I love it when a subject comes to life on paper and it is even more thrilling when it is a face.

This is a real nitty gritty course, chock full of fabulous info on how to avoid common drawing errors. There is also lots of practice in creating skin tones. The big eye is one of the exercises. There are so many mistakes made with the eye. Usually it is because we think we know what an eye looks like, but when it comes to drawing and capturing a likeness, never assume anything!

I shall share some of the other face parts next week. For now I shall leave you will some photos taken two days ago. Mother Nature got in an early Halloween trick as we have had a snow and ice storm. Now before you start thinking that here in Ottawa we must live in igloos and have no sun for nine months of the year - we are not that far north! We never get snow in October and often not in November either. So this snow will melt when it warms up next week.

My husband snapped this picture. I am in our backyard (decked out in one of his old coats) and no I am not raking snow. I was using the rake to get ice off of a lilac tree.

You might wish to scroll down to the October 18th post to see how this tree looked just a week and a half ago.

Remember the picture of one of my favourite spots? Well, here is how it looks now.

Forget the costumes and carved pumpkins...isn't Halloween just an excuse to eat candy? Enjoy! Just adding beauty to my life, right? :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

creating your brand - marketing ideas for artists

The previous post had us visiting the world of reincarnated tea. Here are some more of my thoughts on marketing and some ideas on how artists can set themselves apart.

Before I get started, let me encourage you by saying that you have everything in you that you need to succeed at marketing yourself and your art. How do I know this? Well, as an artist you have already proven that you are creative and good marketing is just using creativity to sell! It really is that simple.

So lets get creative. First of all, what is your brand? Do you have one? Do you even know what I mean by brand?

Brand refers to one's identity.

If I say the following words to you, what comes to mind? Campbell's Soup, The Red Cross, Sara Lee, Betty Crocker, Amnesty International, McDonalds, National Geographic, Neutrogena, Ben and Jerry's, Heinz. Brands are not just for corporations. Think of Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart, Madonna.

Perhaps you immediately pictured a logo. Perhaps certain colours came to mind when you heard a company's name. Did you think of other things? Did you suddenly visualize a hamburger when you read McDonalds? Perhaps you saw golden arches. Did you immediately think of a company's advertising? Perhaps you thought of a slogan or a jingle from a commercial. What sort of photography do you expect when you think of National Geographic images? What sort of work comes to mind when you think of The Red Cross or Amnesty International?

Our brand refers to what people associate with us when they hear our name, our company's name (if you have one) and when they encounter our work. Ben and Jerry's hope that you perceive them as offering very high quality ice cream. Heinz wants you to think that they have such a superior product that when it comes to ketchup "there are no other kinds". National Geographic consistently produces a magazine offering thought provoking articles and world renowned photography. As a consumer, we know what to expect from them and they don't disappoint us. To be a successful humanitarian organization, you must work to build trust. If we do not believe in their strong values then we will not financially support their efforts. So are you getting the idea?

To establish an identity or brand isn't as scary or as difficult as it seems. To get started all you need to do is think of ways to promote what is unique about what you do. Here are some ideas:

  • Perhaps the style of your art is quite distinctive. Ideally, there should be something about your work that makes it different than your peers. This could be something like your stroke technique or the colours you love to work in.
  • Maybe you work in an unusual medium or with unusual methods. For example, perhaps you work in coloured pencil on board instead of paper or perhaps you always use solvents.
  • Do you work in an unusual location? Perhaps you work in a renovated chicken coop and you offer workshops there too. That isn't too common.
  • Perhaps your choice of subject matter is rather unusual.
  • Consistency is an easy way to achieve branding. You might wish to have a certain font used in all of your correspondence - from business cards to your website. Choose colours that reflect you and use them in all of your press - from media cards, advertising, letter head, to mailing labels etc.
  • Use consistent framing so that if someone were to see your work in a show, they would know who the artist is.
  • Display consistent values. Become know for integrity, fairness, and honesty. Display a consistent level of quality in your work. Why not make excellence part of your brand? How about being consistently passionate and enthusiastic?
  • You might wish to create a logo. Or how about coming up with a tagline?

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. Marketing can be fun and creative, in fact I think it should be. For more info you can surf the web, you can look at books at your library or you can check out magazines (yes, there are marketing magazines, you can find them at larger booksellers). If you would like some input from others, why not invite a few friends round? Together, have a look at the product(s) you produce and ask for ideas. What do they think is unique about you and your work? How do they perceive your 'brand'? Do some brainstorming. Don't forget that you can get great ideas from your mentors. Who do you look up to? Think of some local artists that you know and admire (they can be woodcarvers, potters, not just painters). What do their business cards and media cards look like? How do they advertise and promote themselves?

As you can see, this isn't difficult stuff. Maybe you just need to take some time to consider this aspect of being an artist. Why not get creative about selling your work? Maybe all you need to do is to focus on this for a bit. Why not ask more from yourself? Maybe you just need to commit to coming up a bit higher in a few areas - some key areas that will help you perfect your branding. For example maybe you need to commit to having all of your framing look great (no sneaking in some cheap frames, or poorly cut mats hoping people won't notice), maybe you commit to only showing your best work (no sneaking in a few lesser works in the hopes that someone won't notice and will buy them - remember these works reflect on everything else you are showing), and perhaps you commit to being enthusiastic in front of your customers (no more complaining about slow attendance or poor sales).

I hope these posts have started you thinking about your marketing plans. It really doesn't take thousands of dollars and a team of marketing professionals to give your business a boost. You are more than capable of doing this yourself. If any readers have some ideas they would like to share, please start a discussion and write a comment. Are you ready? Get branding!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

marketing outside of the box

If you are an artist that seeks to sell your work, how would you describe your marketing strategy? Is your approach fresh and innovative or are you doing the same things everyone else does? Or yikes, maybe you don't have a marketing strategy. Perhaps you have business cards and media cards...and you're thinking "isn't that enough"? Well today I have a really great example of marketing outside the box. I hope you will be amused and inspired...

Sometimes great business ideas come as easily as observing the best practices of other companies. I have recently been inspired by a tea company. Yes a tea company...not just any tea company though, as you shall see...this is Tazo tea!

I was given a couple of boxes of Tazo tea for Christmas last year. From my first encounter with their product, I have admired their creative approach to marketing. They have done an excellent job in defining their brand. Once you encounter this company, you won't forget it, nor will you confuse it with other tea companies. Basic marketing 101, find a way to set yourself apart from the crowd.

So how does this company set itself apart? Well, primarily they have very creative packaging and text. Think Peterman catalogue from Seinfeld. :-) Their tagline is "Tazo, The Reincarnation of Tea". From here they build on this mystical, new age theme. For example on their website you can return to the "OM Page". You can get a newsletter or as they say "Be Enlightened, Sign Up For Free Tazo Wisdom", or you can contact them, "Enlighten Us Via Email or with Thought Waves". On their package they say that you can write to them but "Allow two weeks of this lifetime for a written response." Their box defines Tazo as "a calming herbal portion able to carry the drinker to a transcendent state of peace", and it also says that "Tazo has surfaced among the more advanced cultures of the day as a solution to the angst of daily life".

Here are two examples of text from the individual tea packets - On the Tazo Chai packet the text reads: "Throughout India, chai wallahs can be found serving up steaming cups of sweetly spiced chai to wandering souls. You're with them now." On the Tazo Calm package it states "A single cup of Tazo Calm has been known to have the same effect as sitting for 45 minutes in a mountain meadow on a sunny day with your shoes off." I confess this is the marketing statement that I like the most. Wow, this is just a chamomile blend and it does all this?! :-) When talking about the ingredients of the Calm blend, the final statement is "There's also a bit of magic involved, but it's really nothing we can talk about."

Whew...are we really just selling tea here? This is a very innovative approach to selling a rather ordinary product. Black tea, green tea, herbal teas, these are not new products and they are available everywhere. So if you were attempting to break into the tea market and you wanted to stand out, how would you do it? You might be interested to know that the company that is selling "reincarnated" tea is not located in Egypt but in Portland Oregon!

So what does this have to do with you? First of all, why not have a look at Tazo's website. What do you think of their approach to selling tea? In tomorrow's post I will share with you some of my thoughts on how you might set yourself apart from the crowd as an artist.

For now, I shall get back to my drafting table but first I think I shall pour myself a cup of Tazo Calm so I can experience that 'sunny mountain meadow with my shoes off' effect.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

stop and look back...

This is one of my favourite spots on our property. Our leaves are falling now but this place is sheltered from the wind and the leaves should last awhile here. Deer liked resting in this spot last winter.

Do you ever stop to look back over your artistic journey? I had the opportunity to do that this week as I redid my resume. I was submitting a resume and a course proposal to a college that offers a summer school program in the arts. I am looking ahead at the possibility of new opportunities for 2009. Anyway, as I prepared to write my resume, I looked back over the last year or so to record my accomplishments. You know what I discovered? I have accomplished more than I thought! Isn't that nice?! If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that my husband and I bought and sold homes in the past year. You will also know that my Dad was sick this summer and that I was out of town staying with him. What surprised me, is that despite all of the upheavals to my life in the past year or so, I have managed to be quite productive. I am so glad I had a reason to look back or I might not have realized this.

So my suggestion for the day is that you find a few minutes to pause and look back over your own life. What have you been doing artistically in the past year or two? Perhaps you have taken a workshop, read some art books or magazines, perhaps you have tried a new technique or two, perhaps some new surfaces, perhaps some new subject matter. No matter what you have done, you are now further ahead on your art journey than you were back in the Fall of 2007 or 2006. Take a moment to celebrate this. We all tend to feel overwhelmed by our ideas for new projects, or overwhelmed by everything we haven't yet tried or don't yet stop for just a bit and savour what you have done. You will probably be surprised like I was.

Now for a few more pictures...

This next picture is of a trail that leads off from our backyard.

The view above...

The view below...

I love this tree. It makes me think of something animated from a children's movie - a talking tree. It also makes me think of a guy in a rubber tree outfit, with the face about three quarters of the way up.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting connected part two - with your help!

In yesterday's post, I was encouraging people to get connected to their local arts community. Rose Welty left a wonderful comment which prompted me to write this post. Rose (her blog is Rose's Art Lines) shares that connecting to an arts community was important to her as it gave her encouragement, advice, technical help and camaraderie. But, Rose's community isn't local, it is on-line. With three young children, Rose finds that the flexibility of the on-line community suits her current needs.

So here is where I need help from the readers. If you have found meaningful community on-line, perhaps at some teaching forum etc. that you would like to recommend to newbies, please leave a comment and provide the web address.

I know of Scribble Talk and WetCanvas. If any readers have feedback on these two, please share. Of course coloured pencil enthusiasts can join my community of Newsletter Group Members! :-) To read a newsletter, click here.

I look forward to reading your suggestions!

For Canadian readers, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. May you have a wonderful weekend and do take an opportunity to be mindful of everything you have to be grateful for. For those of you in the Ottawa area don't forget about the studio tours this weekend - Perth, Westport, Almonte, the Thousand Islands...goodness, see you out on the backroads! The foliage will be spectacular!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Are you connected?

As an artist, are you connected? Are you in some way plugged into your local arts community?

Now, before you start thinking that this doesn't apply to you because a) you don't work full time as an artist, or b) you are just a beginner and you don't even feel comfortable calling yourself an artist or c) there isn't an arts group in your community, give me a chance to convince you otherwise.

What is the value of being connected? Well, for one thing you meet kindred spirits, people who love art and who make art. These kindred spirits can provide you with helpful tips and suggestions - great for beginners - like where they got their fantastic business cards printed and how much they cost or who they know that does beautiful framing. These folks will also provide support. Perhaps your friends and family don't really understand your passion to spend hours creating art, but your new artsy friends will!

So what do I mean by a local arts community...I'm referring to art clubs, art societies, whatever they are called in your area. Art groups will often provide opportunities to get together. For example they may organize a trip to a new art exhibit, they may have regular painting days where people get together at some location to work on their art, they may have monthly meetings with guest speakers and they will probably organize an art show, at least one per year. The good news for beginners or for people who do art as a hobby, is that many arts clubs have open membership, i.e. everyone is welcome. Of course there are art associations whose main focus is holding exhibitions in their gallery space. For these, your work will need to be juried. But I'm not referring to these groups in this post.

You have nothing to lose. If you don't know of an arts group, find a local artist and ask them if there are any such groups in your area. If there isn't one in your area, why not start one? It is as simple as placing a small ad in you local paper asking for interested folks to come out to a meeting at a stated location. Call a few artists and ask them to help get the word out. You can meet in a church hall, a special events room in a restaurant or library, or around a few tables at your local pub. Gather ideas and watch your new group grow and shine!

Where is all of this coming from? Well, last night I attended the October meeting of the Kanata Art Club, an art club located in west Ottawa whose membership is open to any and all. The guest presenter last night spoke on advertising and marketing. Next month, the presenter is scheduled to be a very talented local mixed media artist. I know her and I am really looking forward to learning how she works. Last May they had a wonderful artist presenting on coloured pencil techniques. Okay, it was me :-) See how diverse the topics are?

For another example, a local arts group called The West Carleton Arts Society is holding their annual exhibition this weekend. They also put on an annual arts conference in the spring. Again, membership with this group is open to one and all. They have a fantastic email database and members receive updates on such things as classes being offered, galleries looking for work, artist open houses etc.

So why not consider getting connected? Try out a group, go to their show, attend a meeting, introduce yourself. It will do wonders for your sense of being an artist, you will pick up some useful info, and you will probably make some friends. Go on, just do it...

Hey, my Mud Lake outing yesterday was fantastic! Here are a few photos...thanks Grace for such a wonderful idea!! It is kind of hard to see the ducks in these compressed images but take it from me, they were lovely. :-) And to think that this wonderful spot is just minutes from downtown Ottawa.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tomatoes - finished

Tomatoes, Coloured Pencil on Pastelbord, 8" x 10"
copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is the final image of my tomatoes that has been a work in progress recently. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get an accurate picture although I tried several times. The colours in real life are darker, especially the areas with dark values. Oh well, you get the idea.

Now I just need to think of a name for the piece, spray it and then frame it.

I was up very early this morning to get some work done as I am taking a break later. I am meeting with a friend to go walking and bird watching at Mud Lake. Mud Lake is located on the shores of the Ottawa River, in the west end of the city. I haven't been to this conservation area before and I am looking forward to exploring the forest as well as seeing the birds that gather at this lake. My blog heading says 'add beauty to your life'. This is one of my ways today, what is yours?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Arts, essential to the economy?

If you work in the arts or you support the arts, give yourself a pat on the back. The arts are essential to the economy...and I will give you some numbers to prove it.

First let me say that this post is inspired by the writings of Margaret Atwood in the Globe and Mail, September 24, 2008. This esteemed author asks the reader, "What sort of country do we want to live in? What sort of country do we already live in? What do we like? Who are we?".

Margaret Atwood's article is intended to get Canadians to think about where their elected officials or those running for office stand, with regards to the arts, as we approach our federal election.

What got my attention was her statement that the arts account for as many jobs as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas and utilities combined. Could this be true?

So I did a bit of my own research and here is the wonderful news:

In August of 2008, an economic report was released from the Conference Board of Canada and it estimates that in 2007, arts and culture directly benefited the country by providing over 600,000 jobs, and providing $46 billion of the overall economy or about 3.8% of GDP.

When one looks at the direct and indirect economic benefits in 2007, the report argues that arts and culture generated $84.6 billion, 1.1 million jobs, at 7.4% of total gross domestic product!

The arts are a major contributor to the economic and social well being of our country. Something to think about in these interesting economic times. Do we really need song writers, actors, playwrights, potters, painters, dancers? Yes we do and not just for the feel good stuff of entertainment. Our society needs the arts because it contributes to the financial health of our nation and ensures a strong economy.

So if you support the arts congratulate yourself. If you work in the arts, hold your head up and be proud.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October issue of Coloured Pencil Newsletter is ready!

I can't believe it is October already but as least the October issue of my newsletter is ready to read.

To read my newsletter for coloured pencil artists, click on Newsletter.

Why not become a Newsletter Group Member? Membership entitles you to ask questions, to promote your business, get free critiques, get help with a work in progress and as well it is a forum for you to submit tips, suggestions and work for viewing.

And hey, did I mention that membership is free? Just go to the newsletter link above and contact me. You will be on the mailing list immediately.

Your feedback on the newsletter is most welcome.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

tomatoes WIP continues

Tomatoes WIP, coloured pencil on Pastelbord
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is how it looks now. Sorry the photo isn't straight on. The Pastelbord surface seems to be a bit different somehow on this panel. There seems to be less of a surface coating. My pencils scratch over some spots in an annoying way and there isn't much tooth for layers. Wax built up quickly on the tomato on the left. I haven't experienced this with Pastelbord before. Other areas of the board seem fine. Maybe something happened during the manufacturing process. Anyway, I'm enjoying working on it. I hope to get back to it later today. I'm just finishing my October newsletter.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Inspiration from nature

Remember my fungi piece from last June? I found new subject matter yesterday! After going hiking on conservation land on the Carp Ridge yesterday morning, we returned home and spent the afternoon moving a wood pile. This was a wood pile that was left behind by the previous owners and my husband got busy splitting the wood. I started clearing up a brush pile that I was converting into kindling. And look what I found next to the brush pile. Some wonderful logs with gorgeous fungi. The subtle colours don't come through on the computer screen but they really are lovely. The logs are now in my studio awaiting their turn as still life material.

These two nests found me yesterday. Yes, they found me. If you have been to my studio, you might have noticed my small collection of nests. I started collecting nests many years ago and I soon found that I needed to stop. Where on earth do you store them once you have hauled them home? So, with regret, I have resisted the urge to nab the many, many nests I have seen since then. I walk in various forests and fields at least once a day and I have seen many that tempted me. But yesterday, these two nests found me so I had to bring them home. The one on the left was actually in my back yard and I almost stepped on it. I spied the second one last evening as I walked our meadow with my dog. There it was on the path. I assumed that my husband had seen it on a previous walk and had put it there for me. But no he didn't. This nest just found me. I guess it really needs a new home.This nest is definitely a field nest as it is made up of various grasses and it has no mud. It is surprising light considering its size. So move over turtle shell, wasp hive, chipmunk jaw bones and deer antlers, two new nests are moving in.

I do plan on working on a nest picture this winter...I shall keep you posted.

My outdoor adventures continued today. I took my dog to a local conservation area for a walk. While there are lots of places to walk around here, I wanted to go out in the car so I could see all the gorgeous fall foliage. What I didn't expect to see was a flock of turkey vultures. There were 22 of them alongside the road roosting in a few dead trees. They had been feasting on a dead raccoon. These pictures aren't too great but you get the idea.

I had never seen so many turkey vultures together so when I got home I did some research. Apparently they do roost in large numbers, even as high as several hundred birds. They have a wing span of 68-72" (wow) and they weigh around 3 pounds.

I did know about their defense tactics...they are masters of projectile vomiting. They spew foul smelling semi-digested meat at their predator. This can sting the eyes if the predator is close enough. I didn't know about how they cool themselves. They defecate on their own legs allowing the evaporation of the water in the feces and or urine to provide cooling.

While their diet is repulsive, they do play an important role in the ecosystem as they dispose of carrion which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease.

Perhaps I need to do a turkey vulture painting some day...maybe complete with some gruesome carrion! :-)

And finally here is a picture of me and my dog returning from our outing. My husband gets a kick out of how our dog looks so big next to me in the car.

Okay, time to get grab a slice of that banana bread that just finished in the bread machine and time to get back to my studio. May something in nature inspire you today!