A Blog about Finding Inspiration

"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)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Stan Sperlak Gogh Box 12'13

Guess what arrived on my door step last night.....

 A Happy New Years gift of a Stan Sperlak Gogh Box
from my  wonderful  husband, Bruce.  

He'd seen me struggling to juggle my pastel equipment  out of doors on our last trip, and read my review of what I needed, then decided it would be easier to buy me a full kit with all the components than for me to try to assemble them. 

Resourceful soul that he is,  he checked through my Facebook  friends  for the equipment that other pastel artists were using (and probably checked my Yahoo bookmarks for art supplies) and decided that the Gogh Box looked perfect.

The only issue was whether I would get it in time.  Stan Sperlak's crew rushed it out on the Monday before Christmas so I would get it before the New Years.   A Huge Thank You to  goes out to  Bruce and to Stan and the Sperlak Office  Staff for going over and beyond.

I am so happy.  I can't wait toload it up with my pastels and do some plein air paintings in 2014

Monday, December 30, 2013

Writing my 2014 Marketing Plan 12'13

 With all the aggravation of the year end accounting behind me, it is finally time to do some business paperwork that I  really enjoy:
Writing my 2014 Business Marketing Plan

That's right I said I actually like writing a business marketing plan.  I can even say look forward to it the way some people look forward to making New Year's Resolutions.
And for me the activity brings with it the sames sense of renewal and hope for the future as I, and many other people, get from making New Years resolutions...
with one difference..... I  set goals for every aspect of my business

 And I really really get into detail on the process

I am a firm believer in it is the  the system and the process of implementing the system you set in place to reach the goal, not the  goal itself which makes one successful or not.  

The process usually starts with a review of last years plan
 There are many ways I could market my art work ,from private &/or guild galleries - street fairs and exhibitions,  from public online auctions - to private websites,  from paid advertising-to pursuing free publicity in the press- or even social media, just to name a few. It can all be overwhelming – and I cannot do everything. So  I review last years plan with written notes of worked and paid off, and what did not.
This gives me the basis for cutting out what is not effective and leaves time, energy, and money to put toward something that might be more effective.

The next step involves tweeking the portions of the plan that seem to be working with even more effective tactics  and scoping out the overall calender of know events so I know there will be no delivery conflicts
After that I researching  new opportunities and sorting them down to a select few that appear to be potentially profitable, will fit within my budget, and still leave me time to produce art.

I have passed up many opportunities that came up throughout the past year, and  stuck to my 2013 marketing plan.. At the same time I collected data on how those opportunities worked out for others and now have a large list of marketing opportunities to review.   Over the course of the next few weeks these will be filtered into the existing plan based upon their compatibility with resources my time budget and skills, and also my own personality. 

 Over the course of the next few weeks these will be filtered into the existing plan based upon their compatibility with resources my time budget and skills, and  my own personality. No matter how profitable Aname is as an art form, I am unlikely to every be able to approach it with the passion that I have for landscapes.  I need to be able to commit passionately to what I do, or I my work will lack luster. And finally, I look to whether new opportunities fits within my five year strategic plan which lays out the big picture of where I would like to see the business be.

We all know that plans are imperfect things. How can I possibly know what's going to happen 12 months or five years from now? Isn't putting together a marketing plan an exercise in futility . . . a waste of time better spent meeting painting more art ? Yes, sometimes but only if you believe you can be 'discovered' on a street corner.  If you don't plan, you're doomed, and an imperfect plan is far better than no plan at all. Airline pilots know that, it's better to be a few degrees off course from their destination airport than to have no destination in mind at all. The point of flying is to get to a specific destination, and without a marketing plan, one  is drifting aimlessly.  Sometimes one might luck out and find an safe airport but I doubt that your passengers would be all that happy.  More often than not pilots without plans make  a forced  landing in some farmers field.  Neither landing is likely to gain positive professional recognition .

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Oh no! It will soon be time to file my tax report 12'13

 "It's not fair", my young friend cried, "I'm an artist, not a CPA."

While I didn't  dissolve into tears, I must admit I felt a distinct knot in the pit of my stomach this morning when I realized that within a week I will need to be filing my taxes.

... No not with the IRS ---that is coming up too...
But first in line is the State of South Carolina's Department of Revenue. 
 Like many states, South Carolina charges a sales tax on items businesses sell .
Fair or not, it is the law of the land that  artwork sold is taxable and yes  even artists are  responsible to ensure our sales are meeting the tax requirements.

This year I only sold my work through  three galleries, two of which collected the excise tax, and two did not (non-profits).  It's this time of year that makes me glad that Corporate America taught me to appreciate being disciplined  and systematic about record keeping .  A quick print-out of a Quickbook Tax  Report which showed not only the product sales income by gallery, but the sales tax which had been paid ( or not) at each.  Plug this into the South Carolina Dept. of Revenue Form and I have a tentative draft of the excise taxes I  own for 2013.  All I have to do is wait until the year is officially over to make sure there have been no new sales to be added, and I will be ready to file.
Quick books makes it so simple, that I regret every time I rolled by eyes in boredom while doing the record keeping.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

End of the Year Business Accounting Review 12 '13

 The end of the year is near...which means it is  time to make sure my  business accounting records in order.

As with  many artists, the business side of art is always less attractive than the creative. Still the truth is, when it comes to running an art business we all need to get serious about finances. Even artists have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure we’re meeting the legal requirements.
 So I spent the morning going comparing my Quickbook entries to my bank records and receipts. Fortunately, my years in corporate America taught me to keep  an organized set of records, and to be reasonably prompt in my financial  book-keeping, so it is not as painful a task as it seems to be for many of my friends.

Here's some of  business practices that helped make today less stressful.
  1. Be specific: When I get a receipt for a sale or an expense I not on it what it was for ( sales, product supply, office supply postage, etc)and I note how an expense was paid (cash , check, credit, debit)  this makes it a lot easier to reconcile by bank accounts later on.
  2. Be organized:   It saves me a lot of grief having a separate filing system for my business receipts and paper records.  If my business is every really flush I would like to get one of those fancy electronic scanner organizers.  For the moment I find that a unsophisticated a large expandable file folder with twelve separated sections (one section for each month) does the job.  After noting on the receipt what it was for (see above) I place each receipts as I get it into a envelope marked with the month then put it into the appropriate month section of the divided folder.  I find that keeping the receipts in an envelope, as opposed to loose in a manila file folder ensures that they don't fall out of the folder and get mixed up.
  3. Keep accurate records:  You might like to purchase an accounting system like Quickbooks or Xero, or you could use a spreadsheet or ledger book, but you definitely need a system to track your earnings and expenses.  I use a Quickbooks. 
  4. Update often.I  jot my business mileage into a  inexpensive notepad  I keep in my car, then I update my mileage and sales and expenditures into Quickbooks at least once a week. ( I try to keep all my purchases confined to one day a week so I can focus upon the creative side the rest of the time, but during some times of the year, that isn't possible so then I make entries more often. .
  5. Keep business and personal finances separate:  For tax purposed you need to have a dedicated business account and, probably (as I’ve discovered) a credit card. This helps avoid the dreaded tax sin of co-mingling of business funds with your personal  finances.  
  6. Cross check monthly records:  When my bank (and credit card) statement comes in at the end of each month, I check the receipts I have collected for that month against statements. Once all is recoiled on the paper end, I double check the entries into Quickbooks.  Then I file the bank statements in the expandable folder in that months section.  At the end of the year all my tax receipts are in one place
  7. REVIEW AGAIN at the end of the year. I print out all my bank statements and credit card statements and compare them to my Quick book entries.  That's what I was doing this morning.  Since  I've stayed on top of it throughout the year this review worked in my favor.  I found  some  missed entries for expenses in sales taxes paid, bank fees, and  cash expenditures for parking; and some mileage entries that had been missed.  Nothing earth shaking, but it definitely helped clean up some minor accounting discrepancies

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lessons learned from St Augustine 12 '13

While my  travel kit worked well for a road trip, it did have some weaknesses that I will need to correct before I  pack to travel again..Here's what worked and what did not:

1.)  The value range for the mid range of my pastel set worked out well, but I really need to pack  a greater range of darkest dark  and very light  pastel colors.  Many of my dark pastels  are very large rolls which take too much space to travel with and don't break apart into smaller chunks easily.  I thought I could compensate by using dark watercolor under-paintings.  I was wrong. Nor could I use just a fine water color wash for the lightest lights.  I really needed some very a light pastels for the highlights.  Before I travel again  I really need to add  five or six small  very dark  sticks in each of the primary and secondary colors.

I really could have used a deep blue green, a  purples and  a deep reds

2)  My choice of  color selection based upon the web cams was fine for most of the local scenes I painted on the trip, but I really needed to have some medium perm green pastels on hand.  This is especially important for my travel set because I tend to stay at resorts on golf course.  No matter what time of year it is, or what color the native foliage is, golf course greens are always the medium to  lite perm green of early summer.   Three out of the eight paintings I did on this past trip were of scenes on golf courses which required these hues.  Since I did not have with me,. I wound up touching up all three paintings when I got home to make them feel like a real golf course.
 I was also woefully under-supplied on the red/brown earth tones range .

3)  I had gessoed 300 lb  5" x  7" ;" watercolor paper for my support.  While it is strong and durable, and the size worked well for the pure landscapes, I felt the deep dimples of the paper detracted from the paintings with architectural subjects.  In the future I will want to have some smoother textured  paper available as well
Dimples are clearly visible on the plain paper

became equally obvious on this architectural study.
My  Raphael watercolor set is only 4" in diameter

4)  My miniature Raphael watercolor set was the perfect size for this trip. I found that putting down pastel over a watercolor under-painting is much faster  than attempting to work directly on a pure white support.  While my husband loves my painting of the St Augustine Basilica, I found it took me twice as long to paint as the ones which had a water color  under wash.  This is especially important to remember when time is of the essence.

5)  I need to add an alligator clip to hold the pastel paper to the foam core.  The blue tape kept coming loose from the foam core and I would wind up holding the paper with one hand while trying to paint with the other.

6)  I want a more organized travel pack and  lightweight compact easel if I am to do much plein air work.  The set-up I thew together for this trip worked well for a car trip and for painting at the kitchen table, but was awkward to work with on site.  There were just too many separate containers to try to balance on my lap.  I would really like to get a small easel  with a  built in padded pastel case for the road.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Return from St Augustine, Florida - Salt Marsh Vistas 12 '13

Life on the Edge
The trip home from St Augustine, was no  shorter than the trip South had been, but at least we were not fighting rain all the way.  Some portions were even inspiring.   Much of the trip through the Southern end of South Carolina and Georgia takes one through the Salt Marshes of Ace Basin. There, amidst the seemingly endless seas of cord grass and salt creeks little hammock crop up.  Some are only big enough to support a palmetto palm or two; Others are large enough to support oaks and even an isolated home.  Looking at these isolated always sends my imagination spiraling off in wonderment of what it would be like to live  life on the edge of a salt marsh.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

St Augustine, Florida - Last Day 12' 13

Florida Lightening Storm 8" x 10" pastel
 We had wanted to visit  Cape Canaveral and tour the Kennedy Space Center on this visit to Florida, but the mother nature had different plans for us.   All started off well enough in the morning when we headed  south on Florida coastal highway A1A, but the further South we went, the rougher the weather got.  By the time we reached the Palm Coast we were hitting heavy rain, lightening and  were being buffeted about by some very strong wind. gusts.  A police car flagged us down.  He said the storm was predicted to get much worse and advised us to turn around.    It was Good Advice..  We heard later on on the news that a tornado had touched down in the area shortly after we left, and had ripped apart 6 or 7 homes and brought down power lines all over the area.  Needless to say I wasn't going to tempt fate by trying to plein air paint in that weather, but once I got home,  I was able to paint this picture from a composite of  several photos I managed to capture from the car.

Friday, December 13, 2013

St Augustine Florida: The Bear and the King 12'13

Friday  afternoon we decided to tackle the World Golf Resort's other two courses:
 The Bear and The King
The Bear and the King:  Hole 10
 By this time the rain had driven away almost everyone, so  we pretty much had the the course to ourselves.  We started out playing in a light mist, but soon were rewarded with patches of blue sky.  Not only did I capture some really interesting photos of the course , but we managed to get  in a pretty good round of golf.  Later I did this small study from one of the photos I took while I was on the course just when the sky was still gray,  and the  colors of the  foreground foliage were saturated from being so wet.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

St Augustine, Florida - Basilica of St Augustine 12'13

St Augustine Basilica
While windy and cold, the weather  looked like it would remain dry through the evening ,so we decided to do a walking tour of the old city of St Augustine.   I took my plein air equipment along ( just in case) . W e got there well before the golden hour so I had plenty of time to scout out a location.  While I got lots of good reference photos  It was the Bell Tower of the Basilica of St Augustine standing proud against the heavens above that really captured my attention.   
Below is my  rendition of St. Augustine Cathedral  (5" x 7" pastel)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

St Augustine, Florida: Gypsy Cab Company 12'13

I have been breakfast and lunches every day, but every evening we are eating eaten out.  We've found some really good local restaurants.  Tonight we had some fabulous seafood  at the Gypsy Cab Company.

Loved the neon lighting on their facade
Actually the Gypsy Cab Company is  on the main drag in Anastasia Island just over the Bridge of Lions.  It features what it calls an Urban Fare menu ,with made-from-scratch items throughout the year.  Whatever it is called the food is fabulous.

The restaurant opened its doors in 1983 and has been winning awards for it's excellent cuisine ever since.    Even tat 4 pm, their parking lot was packed.  We arrived just in time to watch the neon lights come on..  That settled it... I just had to paint this little 5" x 7"  nocturne of  the Gypsy Cab Company.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

St Augustine, Fl: Swilcan Bridge 12 '13

 This morning, we woke to temperature that were 25 degrees lower than yesterday.  Factor in wind and rain, and golf and out of door site seeing was clearly out of the question.  We decided to explore the World Golf Hall of Fame which is within walking distance of our condo.
The World Golf 's Hall of Fame provides an extensive look at the game of golf through stories, artifacts, videos, art and photography of its members within 75,000 square foot exhibition space. Included in the  museums exhibits is a replica of the famous Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews.  Of course we had to have our photo taken on the bridge as a souvenir.
Hall of Fame Swilcan Bridge Replica
Needless to say, the Hall of Fame was not going to allow me to set up  inside the museum to paint the bridge, but I did get some photos of the replica to use as the basis for this little study. 

Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews 5"x 7" pastel
 Initially I had painted the background buildings more realistic, but decided that was too much detail for such a small painting.  All I really wanted was  to convey the sense of age and history, so I made the buildings'  shapes more obscure and emphasized the roughness of the bridge.


Monday, December 9, 2013

St Augustine Fl _ The Slammer & The Squire 12' 13

 We  are staying at the World of Golf Resort, because the resort is conveniently located on their two famous courses: The Slammer and The Squire, and The King and The Bear. 

Hole 17:  The Slammer and The Squire 5" x 7" pastel
My husband could hardly wait to get out on the course today.    We were able to book an afternoon tee time at The Slammer and The Squire.  The courses were crowded, and needless to say I couldn't exactly set up my plein air equipment in the middle of the fairway, but I was able to get some good photos of a few of the holes.  I used one of them to paint this small study of the water hazard near the 17th green.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

St Augustine, Florida: Salt Water Cowboys 12'13

Salt Water Cowboy 5" x 7" pastel
After a very long 6 hour drive to St Augustine, both of us were ready for something to nourish our stomachs and sooth our weary spirits.  We found both when we picked  Salt Water Cowboys out from the long list of restaurants in the Yellow Pages.  This  hidden gem is a small  seafood shack built out over  the salt marsh at the end of a unpaved residential street.   It's very popular with the locals, and for good reason.  The food is delicious and the views are  breathtaking.  We  got there just before dusk and I was able to grab a couple of photos which I used to paint the 5" x 7"  pastel the next morning.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Prepping for painting in St Augustine, Florida 12 '13

As a belated Hanukkah gift to one another, my husband and I are heading to  St Augustine, Florida  tomorrow for a weeks vacation.   Bruce wants to do some golfing at their two famous courses -The Slammer and The Squire, AND The King and the Bear.  I want to find some place warmer than South Carolina and hopefully find something interesting to paint.
Assorted pastels sorted by value and temperature
 I usually bring along  my oil painting equipment on road trips, but often find that it is impossible to fit even a two hour plein air session into our whirl-wind site seeing day schedule,.   So this trip I am taking a cue from the traveling artist guru,  Karen Margulis, on packing light and painting small..
Aceo size, 5" x 7" and 8" x 10" home made pastel paper

After studying  some web cams in the St Augustine area for their current local colors, I chose a small assortment of  pastels that seemed to fit the area.  I snugged the pastels between some foam pads in a cardboard box.  I also took a tiny watercolor kit to use for quick studies or to use as a ground beneath the pastels.  I then cut up some water color paper into 5" x 7" sheets then brushed several coats of clear gesso on the paper  The clear gesso stiffens and waterproofs the paper, while adding some tooth for pastels to grip.  Add a couple of water color brushes, a sheet of foam core and a small role of painters tape ( to attach the  pastel paper to the foam core while painting), a pack of hand wipes, some paper towels and a canvas bag to carry it  all, and I am ready to go.