"We have a wonderful world to be inspired by and each new day is like an adventure into the unknown, where things that require a second glance can be captured in time on a canvas for anyone to enjoy forever." (Louise Corke)
Sumter, SC has been hosting and Arts and Crafts Show at its the annual Iris Festival which is held at the local landmark Swan Lake Park. I decided to make the event my Artist Date for this week..
First of all I wanted to see the Iris. The last time I visited the gardens the Iris had not yet begun to bloom. But they should be at their peak of bloom right now and I really wanted to get some reference photos of both the Iris and the swans.
While the iris were definitely in full bloom, we were disappointed in how few blooms there were growing around the lake. The we discovered why. It seems that the Lake's other famous attraction .. i.e. swans have a craving for iris blooms. CC watched the hefty fella below munch down a half dozen just while she was standing there.
No wonder the park has fencing around so many of its flowers.
My second reason for going was to scout out whether I wanted to consider an entry into the Arts and Crafts Show in 2011.
There were a fair number of fine art craft vendors selling .. glass , wearable art, woodwork and a variety of other crafts. There was only one full time painter, and one person who had some paintings and some crafts (below). Both said their low cost reproductions had sold quite well.
While we both enjoyed the day, the Art Craft Show itself did not seem to be the right venue for my art work..
Last March, I applied for a SC State business license to open C Campbell's Fine Art in South Carolina. My initial competitive analysis had turned up only a limited set of outlets for selling my paintings this area, so one of my goals was to broaden my market through selling my paintings over the Internet.
In California, I had had a small website devoted to plein air painting built for me. There were so many outlets for my work in the Southern California market, that my website was primarily for professional image and only secondarily for sales. I had kept up the license for the domain after I moved to South Carolina, so that I didn't lose the right to the CCampbellsFine Art domain name. But I hadn't made a single update to the sites simple design. Clearly I was going to need something more sophisticated if I intended to actively sell over the web.
I began the update project by researching a wide range of other artist websites. Some seemed highly appealing but were so sophisticated that I suspected they were being maintained by the website staff of a commercial galleries representing the artist.. Others were equally attractive but were clearly home grown. I made notes on what I liked and did not like, and what I thought were most effective features of each.
I also read everything I could find posted on sites like Empty Easel about selling on the Internet and comparing that information to what I was finding on the other artists websites. Eventually I came up with a list of things I wanted to include on the website.
That was just the beginning. Next I had come up with a physical design (the easy part) and then choose / learn a software application to implement that design (Aaaarrrrgh). I eventually settled on MS Frontpage web building application. There are more sophisticated applications but (#1) we already have a license (which I've now upgraded to MS Share point) , and (#2) it was similar to other applications that I already know so the learning curve was less steep. I worked on the simple pages first ( Bio, Contact Me etc.) Then began tackling the inserting the pages for the paintings themselves.
Simultaneously, I began photographing all of my new series, scripting each of the paintings descriptions , and finalizing a pricing scheme. One thing I learned from my research is to 'keep it simple and consistent'. By clustering the paintings into related themes, and pricing based upon the low end of what the average painting of that the size is going for in my area, I could sell in both galleries and on the web without channel conflict. Granted, I will have less profit from sales in galleries, but that's my problem.
Last but not least I set up a Pay Pal account and linked each of the paintings on the pages to the Pay Pal Account.
Of course then I had to:
Test it locally on our home intranet.
Remedy any formatting or link errors.
then upload it to the Network Service provider
Repeat steps 1 - 3 on the Service Providers intranet
Pull the site up on the www and test (etc).
Unfortunately, we had some link problems that didn't show up until we went to the Internet, so a third round of corrections were necessary. It took two months of work, but finally my CCampbellsFineArt website is up and running and my paintings are available for you to look at.
You can go to it my clicking on the title of this post.
I ( Cece) belong to a fair number of social organizations: a book club, a gardening group, four local artist guilds, dine around, not to mention the country club, etc. I am constantly being asked for an invitation to view my paintings. I'd love to invite each and every one of them over for dinner. It would be fun, and great word of mouth publicity, but that much entertaining would unquestionably interfere with my painting schedule. Such a dilemma! What to do? What to do?
Then I remembered the popularity of Open Studio Receptions in California to show off one's work. The event is a cross between a social open house, and a art gallery solo exhibit reception. The focus is on the art, and how it is created, without the hard sales pitch.
I sent out 60 invitations in April for a May 23rd 3 - 6 pm Open Studio Reception. This first set of invitations went to people who had expressed an interest in seeing my work. I also mentioned the event at each of my social organizations, and asked anyone who would like to receive an invitation to put their contact information on a list. From this , I followed through with another 15 invites. Frankly, at this point I was getting a little nervous, as there is no street parking where I live (my neighbors came to the rescue and offered their driveways for the event).
I'm not likely to tackle an event that large in my home very often, so I decided to go all out. The paintings were clustered into themes ( e.g. Local Landmark Series, Pawley's Plantation Series, etc.) Below Pawleys Plantation Series and one of State Park Series.
My husband, Bruce helped me hang as many of the paintings from each series as the space on the wall would allow.
Above: Graphics and Abstract Art
Below: Part of the Local Landmark Series
Power point presentations were run in a loop on two televisions to visually convey things that the visitors might want to know (e.g. On one TV I had a presentation showing a photograph of each painting followed by a photograph of the area each represented. )
In the Carolina room, all of the California Plein Air Series were on display, and Plein air oil painting equipment was set up for guests to inspect.
In the Art Studio Miniature Paintings were on display, and each of the different work areas were set up with the equipment I would use and examples of the results.
Above: Water media work area and paintings.
Below Oil Painting Work area
Above: Still Life set up with miniature still life example
Below: Art Photo stand with illustrated directions
Above: Composition Sketch White Board
Above: Desk and business work area
Below Mobile Media cart
Well you know what they say about the best laid plans. The skies had been clear and beautiful the entire week before the reception. Sunday morning we awoke to dark skies, and warnings flashing the the TV that people should stay home due to the possibility of tornadoes, hail and wind. By the time the Open Studio Reception was to begin there was a torrential downpour coming down. Needless to say we did not get a huge turnout, but given the circumstances, more people came than I would have expected in the storm.
We all had a good time, and all I gave lots of tours. All our guests were very enthusiastic about my work, and took a lot of business cards to spread the word.. And the good news is that I now have all the materials (right down to the Parking signs with my Business logos) ready should I choose to have an Open Studio event of any size.
Neighbor Nancy Susla asked me to take care of her hibiscus when she went North for the summer. When she left it was struggling to survive. Boy is she going to get a surprise when she returns home. It has doubled in size and is full of blooms and become a subject of one of my more recent paintings
This CO-op gallery is housed in a low country bungalow facing Hwy. 17 in Murrell's Inlet. My first reaction when I walked through the door was that I had suddenly been transported to the Hawaii. Many of the galleries on the BIG Island are housed in bungalows, and share the same sense of funk and fun that I found in Ebb and Flow. No snobby pushy salesmen here, or sterile rooms with nothing to do but stare at the walls. Most of the rooms had comfy chairs, or couches, several had tables that invited you to sit and linger; all were filled with interesting objects of art. Twenty-four local artists and craftsmen are showing here. The media includes hand-crafted furniture, silk art, o pottery and glass art, jewelry, traditional paintings on canvas and more..
This funky gallery / coffee house offers an eclectic atmosphere to meet, chat, work and enjoy a great espresso, latte, or cappuccino named after famous artists. On Thursday evenings the place comes alive with folk music. I can't wait to go back.
The activity for the monthly meeting of the Georgetown Water-media Society was plein air painting at Dunn Acres. Out hostess, Pam Dunn, and her husband Max opened their lovely restored rice plantation manor (below) and all of its gardens for us to paint in.
The manor sits on bank of the Black River with beautiful views in each direction
( Above: looking east) ( Below: looking west)
The front of the manor faces a series of aquatic gardens that Max has constructed out of what was once an alligator infested jungle of swampland. Max told me that when they bought the property, the grounds were so overgrown that it took a bulldozer to reach the manor house. He has turned it into a series of aquatic gardens that any public arboretum would be proud to own. (I my eyes, it was more beautiful than most public gardens).
From the manor house, well laid out paths and bridges lead off to the cypress ponds which right now are lined with several colors of blooming iris. At other times of the year, Azalea, and roses bring welcome color and contrast to the dominate green.
In addition to the cypress gardens, there are several beautiful waterlily and lotus ponds.
There were so many beautiful spots it was hard to know what to paint.I finally focused upon a lovely little statue of a little girl sitting on a cypress stump.
You'll be able to see the two finished paintings on my website as soon as the paint dries enough for me to photograph them. (See also follow on posts about plein air pain(t) ing.)
Sunday was a busy day. Last week my friend Becky Sullivan (center above) called to say that she had arranged for a van tour of Yawkey Wildlife Center for herself and 12 other nature lovers. Did I want to come? Of course!
We were not allowed off the van on my last trip there . I was told I could get off if I wanted to on this trip so I had hoped to get some good photos .
But the first time I stepped outside, I was swarmed by mosquitoes; after that I opted to stay inside the van. (Above... lighthouse on North Island.)
Even so I did get some very good photos that I can use in my local landmark series.
Above is a picture of the second oldest AME church in Georgetown ( My collecting photos of churches for a series I am thinking of painting.) And below is my favorite shot ... some purple pitcher plants in bloom.
Well- known low-country artist Danny McLaughlin was the presenter at the May general meeting of The Seacoast Artists Guild. Danny demonstrated how he uses a white board to work out his design before he begins actually painting.
He began with a simple sketch of a baseball player using a photograph as a reference
Danny pointed out that the whiteboard is an excellent tool for learning to sketch quickly as errors don't waste expensive supplies and mistakes can be corrected. It only took him a few seconds to sketch out the entire design.
Danny then proceeded to walk us through step by step what he is considering while creating another sketch
Then he showed us the painted results of some of his sketches from reference photos. It was obvious how helpful working out the design problems before beginning the actual painting could be. Once the design kinks are ironed out, he is free to concentrate on the other aspects of the painting like color and value.
Why didn't I think of this before.
You can see more of Danny's work at http://lowcountrybrushstrokes.posterous.com/