Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Coffee, Cream, Tangerine"

"Coffee, Cream, Tangerine", oil, 14" x 14", SOLD

I love little odd dishes and creamers, and when shopping always have my eye open for new ones to use in paintings.

Okay, retraction here; in April I reported that "Mystic Tangerines" had sold in Boulder, as an email conversation with the very nice gallery owner had led me to believe that. As it turns out, I went up to Boulder to see a friend a couple weeks ago and checked in at the gallery to find that Mystic was still on the wall.... going though my inventory in my mind, it occurred to me that THIS must be the canvas that's found a new home.

Do your galleries list the name of the painting(s) sold when they send you a check? Most of the ones I've been associated with do. In some really good cases, they also provide at least the name and city/state of the buyer, and sometimes the full address. I really appreciate even just having the city and state for my records.

What's your experience been?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Three places to get affordable artist business cards

Artist cards in a series: circa 2004 and 2005.

The relatively recent revolution in printing has had enormous impact on the small business person, and that includes us artists. 20 years ago, just thinking about full color cards could set you back easily $500 or more. These days, you can compete with your peers in brilliant full color for less than the cost of meal out, in some cases.
A bit of detail, for the detail minded: Prior to current methods of modern printing, commercial printers used the Four Color Process (and many high-end houses till do). Recall our earlier discussion on Photoshop Tips about CMYK vs. RGB? CMYK refers to the inks in the four color process: Cyan (blue), Magenta, Yellow, and Black). Artwork had to be mechanically (or photographically) separated into four plates; and each printed sheet had to be run through the press 4 separate times. These are a couple of reasons why it was so costly.

More artist cards I like:

(more fun artists business cards: the one of the left uses a closeup of a large painting; the center one is a nice example of a simple black ink on cream card stock; the right one features on of the artist's sensitive pet portraits)

Modern offset printing, on the other hand, streamlines the color spearation and printing process making it much more cost effective. Here are some things to consider when looking for a printing supplier:
  • What kind of quality do I want? Good enough, pretty good, really great?
  • How much am I willing to spend?
  • Can I have business cards printed and still be environmentally conscious?
  • Am I happy to have one card with one or two images, or do I need lots and lots of variety?
  • Do I have the software I need to set up my own card, or do I need an online template that will help me set it up?
Here's a quick run down of several printers who may meet your needs, based on your criterion above. I'll include a brief bit of information on each one; please refer to their websites for more details. For a fair contrast of pricing, each price mentioned is for a single sided full color card, and includes the least expensive postage, and any other standard charges. Postage may vary according to your location.

VistaPrint.com is the low price leader. If price is your main deciding factor, they will be hard to beat. Like all the other printers, they produce a wide variety of items, including biz cards, post cards, brochures, mailing labels, etc. There is a $5 upload fee for any design or image, but you can use that on multiple items, if you wish. This is currently my printer of choice for postcards.


  • Orders start at about $11 for 250 cards
    (this includes their 'free' business card option, with one image upload charge (about $5) and slowest shipping (about $6). Choices on matte or glossy paper may change from day to day; paper upgrade is about $13)


  • low price
  • some online design capabilities -- also offers a design service for an additional fee
  • often runs specials and price breaks
  • delivers all over the world


  • Slightly lighter card weight than other printers (-- still far superior to print-your-own variety; they do not curl and the ink won't run or rub off)
  • Cards are slightly undersized (1.93" x 3.43"-- standard is 2" x 3.5")
  • The gloss card stock coated is on one side only

is a reliable mid range online printer. One different thing about their process is you place the order and pay first, and upload your artwork later. They do offer an online design tool, Design It!, if you do not have access or skill to design your own card (caveat: I haven't tried this tool, but it looks interesting). PS Print is currently my printer of choice for business cards.


  • With the current special 250 cards start at about $32; the regular price is about $54 (both with with standard shipping).


  • Heavier card stock, gloss on both sides
  • Full size cards
  • Recycled card stock available!
  • Current special: 50% off business cards until May 31


  • Pay first/upload later is confusing to some users
  • a lot of choices to wade through in terms of turnaround (printing and shipping)
  • This both pro and con: Small orders starting at 50 are available, but it is much more cost effective to start at the 250 amount.

Moo.comThis European printer (but now with a plant in the US) is new to me, but both Kim Denise (see her special offer below) and Manon Doyle give it excellent reviews (see their card sets on last Friday's post). The biggest attraction: you can have multiple images printed in a single order.

Cost: (does not include shipping; I was not able to ascertain this in time for the post)

  • $24.95 for 50 (upload up to 50 images) plus shipping
  • $70 plus shipping for 200
  • 100 mini cards for $19.95 (upload up to 100 images)


  • Great print/color quality
  • Heavy card stock with a smooth matte coating -- nice to touch
  • Environmentally conscious paper available! Choose from 'Moo classic" sourced from sustainable forests OR "Moo Green" 100% Recycled Fibre
  • Multiple images available in a single order
  • Upload is very simple
  • Trial ten-packs available for no cost except shipping


  • A more expensive option than some
  • Shipping was slow (2 weeks) because they came from England, but it should be a lot faster now that they've got a printer in Connecticut.
  • "One more negative about the cards is that everyone loves them so much they want more that one.....lol!" (says Manon)

Kim Denise has put a promotional code in the comments on her blog post. Click here to use it for your first order and get a 20% discount! Thanks, Kim!!!

Other vendors to consider: If this hasn't confused you enough, a couple of other reputable printers are Modern Postcard (Cathyann mentioned she likes them, and I had my first color postcards printed by them years ago) and Overnight Prints (a super-glossy favorite of one of my design clients)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seven Reasons NOT to Print Your Own Business Card

By now I've heard from a number of people anxious to hear about good sources for affordable, professionally printed cards. Fear not; that information is being compiled and will be posted early this week. In the meantime...

(image: Pansy with Two Skies, oil, 20" x 20")

I know that some of you print your own cards from your home or office printer (or are thinking about doing it). That's how I made my very first ones, too, and if you really want to know what I thought of the experience, they were worse than no cards at all (and I spent a lot time and money on them, too). In the end, I threw them out.

It was a good learning experience, and I'd like to give you the benefit of my early disaster.

Seven Reasons NOT to Print Your Own Business Card

  1. COST - Think you're saving money by printing your own cards? Think again. The cost of a pack of Avery Clean Edge Business Card blanks is about $15 at your local office supply store, plus figure in the cost of both a color ink ($20-35) and a black ink cartridge ($12-20), because these take a lot of ink, and you're looking at $47-70 to print 200 cards (IF they all come out, which is doubtful; see #6).
    You can have 250 cards professionally printed starting at about $10 (-- this would include 'free' offers, so this is mostly shipping cost).
    You can have even higher quality cards printed for $25-40, and in a later post I'll lead you to some reliable sources.

  2. PAPER QUALITY - Because the cards need to be thin enough not to jam the printer (which they often will anyway), the paper tends to be on the thin side, and will often curl once you separate them into cards.

  3. PRINT QUALITY - Standard business card blanks are of a somewhat soft paper, which helps it absorb ink. This gives the card a dull appearance. It can also make your type appear fuzzy.

  4. PERMANENCE - Ink jet ink runs if it comes in contact with water (think of an outdoor show, and it begins to sprinkle, or a hot day and sweaty hands). It also tends to fade fairly quickly.

  5. TIME - When printing cards on your printer, you pretty much have to babysit the whole time to make sure they don't jam up or that your cartridge doesn't run out of ink. Wouldn't you rather spend that time painting?

  6. FRUSTRATION - At least half the sheets tend to get stuck in the printer or don't line up correctly.

  7. PROFESSIONALISM - A card printed on your average inkjet printer is never going to have that certain 'je ne sais quoi'. It's going to look, and feel, exactly like what it is: a card you printed yourself. A professional card will enhance your professional status as an artist. You'll look like you really mean business. Plus, you'll feel better about giving them out.

Stay tuned: Sources and tips for getting a professionally printed card coming very soon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Basic Art Marketing Tools: The Art Business Card

The Art Business Card

You've heard that phrase, a picture is worth a thousand words? It's as true today as when Confucius (if it was actually him) first said it circa 500 BC.

Being one to shy away (for many years) from discussing my work, I have found that always carrying a business card, with a image of my artwork on it, has saved me lots of unnecessary chatter. While I fumble for my five word speech, that gives me time to fish out a card. From there, a quick bit of 'Wow!' factor when I'm lucky, and the conversation can proceed.

Here's my current card, 2 sided, one side for each of my two main types of painting, still lifes and botanicals. I do a new card about once a year.

A few more examples of art cards:
(Thank you to all of the artists who emailed me their cards for samples, as well as my local art friends who agreed to let me post their cards.)

Dana Cooper uses a black background which really increase the drama in the lovely full length portrait. Like many artists, she prefers to keep the contact information simple. Especially if your studio is in your home, chances are you don't want people just stopping by.

Chris Beck uses a playful image on a clean white background. Since cards are small, images of a smaller painting or a closeup can often work better than reproducing a really large painting:

Here's another fun card (and yes, Holly does make glazed and fired popsicles, among other objects):

Some artists choose to use a set of images to express their range of work, as does Niels Henricksen:

Some artists like to use a series of cards, with full front reproductions of artwork, and a simple back side of contact information: such as Manon Doyle....

...and Kim Denise:

Are you wondering... Where and How do these artists get these cards? Can I afford them? (The quick answer is YES). That will be the subject of a future post.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How to Answer the Inevitable Question, Part One

(Image: Sidewalk Poppies, oil, 30" x 30")

We're still getting great comments on "13 Things NOT to Say to an Artist". A few painful, but many outrageously funny.
You've also given me an idea for a topic today. Several of you mentioned the discomfort that can ensue when someone asks what you do, and you reply (if you're brave enough!) "I'm an artist", which is usually followed by "Oh, what kind of art?"

As visually oriented people, we often find talking about our work difficult. For obvious reasons, though, we need to find words for these moments. Most non-artists are genuinely fascinated by artistic types; they assume we possess some mystique and super powers (don't you wish??).

Here's some ideas to get you past that tough question:
  • The "Elevator Speech"
  • The art business card
  • The event or informative art card

Above: a simple business card based on 'Sidewalk Poppies' painting

First, the "Elevator Speech".

I first heard this term at an art marketing workshop. The idea was to think of yourself with a stranger in an elevator, and you have the time it takes to go between floors to explain your work. This means sifting through the self doubt, leaving out the extraneous words. (And by extraneous consider this: Did you ever have a kid in your junior high class, who when asked a question (say, "What is the symbolism of the whale in Moby Dick"), would mutter and stall for minutes at a time: "Um, well, I don't like really know, but I think maybe, y'know, it kinda, um, could mean, like, symbolistically, y'know, like DUUUDE!!! WHOAAA! Like an awesome wave or something maybe?" -- or maybe you WERE that kid...?)

What we're shooting for is a short, succinct statement that distills the essence of what you do. Personally I think 5-7 words should do it. At that point, you'll have either caught their interest enough that you can go further, or you'll see that they've heard enough, and were only asking to be polite. Think 5-7 words is too short? Try these:

  • Large-scale contemporary botanicals in oils

  • Hand loomed natural fiber tapestries

  • Portraiture in the tradition of the Old Masters

  • Miniature woodcut prints of exotic animals

  • Plein air seascapes of Coastal Maine
    (or better yet just: "Seascapes of Coastal Maine"
    Thanks to Nancy ,who pointed out that a lot of non-artists draw a blank at 'plein air')

Another way to think of it might be to imagine you're being written up by an art critic (who likes your work)-- what's your best case scenario for a winning headline? (and you can't use this one, it's taken: "Local Artist to be Hung in Famous Gallery and Widely Exhibited!")

Preparation is the key. You're going to get asked, you know it, so you may as well be ready. It can be very helpful to practice this with a friend or friends. They can be artists or not; you may find it helpful to practice with both. Imagine what some followup questions might be, and practice answers to those as well.

In a later post, I'll talk more about business cards, if you like, and also event and promotional postcards: where to get them, how to set them up, etc.

In the meantime, I'm curious, what's YOUR answer when asked what kind of art you do? And do you carry an art business card to hand out? I'd like to post some examples of art business cards, so if you'd like to, send me a .jpg of yours to the email shown on the business card above. Thanks!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Orchids in a Glass Bowl"

Thanks to each of you that left an observation on
"13 Things NOT to Say to an Artist".
(You DO know I didn't write all those, or ever say them? OK.) It was especially great to see that most of us have been able to maintain a sense of humor about it. Knowing that each of us is not the only one to have endured misguided (even if well meaning) comments helps to confirm our sanity (as in, it's THEM, not us).

"Orchids in a Glass Bowl" .......... oil ........... 9" x 12"

These dendrobium orchids were garnishing the lunch plates when I visited my mother-in-law at her independent living residence recently (she's 90). For some reason, each of the three grandmothers at the table picked up their blossom and put it on my plate. No words were spoken about it, and I'm pretty sure they don't know I'm an artist. Anyway, I took them back to the studio and dropped them in one of my blue glass bowls. They held up for a couple weeks.

Ready for a scintillating and intellectual discussion about art?
FROM THE STUDIO, a bold new blog by
incredibly accomplished artist Margery Caggiano.

Don't Miss todays' handy Photoshop Tip on Correcting Contrast.
Very handy for fixing overexposed images.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Some Humor for the Weekend: What NOT to Say to an Artist

(A note on the image: This photo collage was an experiment in 'Uncomfortable Textures', and an obvious play on the fashion industry.) You can click on it to see it larger.

It's the weekend! (Which for many of us artists is just another work day, of course.) Still, even as we gladly slave away at the easel, it's good to always keep a sense of humor. Take the following article as you will. I hope you'll find something amusing here.


(note from me: I DID NOT WRITE THIS. I started keeping a binder full of cartoons and humorous art articles years ago. The following magazine article dates back maybe 20 years?)

"Artists would just as soon never have to hear some comments, but the 13 statements below always seem to crop up at one time or another. Feel free to use the responses provided-- or just grit your teeth and think them.

“My kid could do that.”
So where Is this genius--cutting a deal with Sotheby’s?

“I wish I could do that but I can’t draw a straight line.”

Unless you’re Josef Albers, it’s not that important.

“I have a cousin/brother/great-aunt (pick one) who makes art”
Let me guess, on Sundays?

“How long did it take you to make that?”
Since birth.

“That must really be fun to do.”
Yes, it is—If you like poverty, rejection, and working with potentially hazardous materials.

“I’d like to show some of my pictures in a gallery—by the way, what are slides, a résumé and portfolio.”
(No response necessary.)

“I don’t know anything about art but I know what I like.”
A real mental heavyweight.

“If it’s local it couldn’t be good...I buy all my art In New York.”
So move to New York.

“I wish I had time to do that.”
After flossing regularly and rearranging our sock drawer, forget it.

“Did someone make that?”
No, it just fell to earth.

“I’d like to buy some art, but as I look at my Rolex, I realize that I have to jump in my Jag, hop on my jet and fly to my home in the south of France. When I do buy, could I have it for half price since we’re cutting out the gallery?”
Please get out of my life.

“I would like something to go over my couch. Could you do that in mauve, puce and teal?”

No, buy a new couch.

“It’s perfect, I love it! But I’ll have to talk to my decorator first.”
Does he/she hold your hand through all of life’s big decisions?

Note at the bottom: These comments originally appeared In Tower news, the publication of the Watertower Art Association (Louisville, KY)."

I have one of my own to add.
At one of my first shows, a lawyer came with his art enthusiast girlfriend. After a bit of pleasant chatting, he says:"Don't you feel it violates the spirit of your artwork to put a price tag on it?"
It took me six months to come up with a response, which I doubt I'll ever have the chance to use: "Don't you think it's inappropriate for you to charge for your services, since, after all, your only Practising law?" (Don't get me wrong, one of my best friends is a lawyer! Just not that guy!)

What's the oddest art comment you've heard?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Counter Culture"

Thank you to everyone who's stopped by lately, and big apologies to all for not getting around to your blogs this week to say 'Hi' and marvel over what you've done... This week has really gotten away from me. I'll try to catch up with you all soon.

"Counter Culture" .............. oil .............. 14" x14"

Sometimes you have to say to the painting, Enough Already! (even with all the things you'd like to go back and redo, again) ...and get on to the next one. This is a view at my kitchen counter, on the windowsill over the sink.

For those of you saying, why do some of these characters look so familiar, see:
Have you seen the Photoshop Tip on
How to Correct Contrast with Levels?

This is one of most versatile and useful tools in Photoshop.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gallery Leonardo: A peek inside

Gallery Leonardo in Leadville, Colorado was kind enough to email this photo which shows a group of my paintings on display (for scale, please note that the two square paintings, the White Hollyhock and Italian Clementines are 36" x36" each). The gallery is located in the historic Tabor Grand Hotel, built in 1883-85.
The owner of the gallery, Michael LeVine, writes: "The space is amazing, AMAZING - it was originally the lobby of the hotel. It has a great entry way, the ceilings are 15 feet high in the gallery area, and in this area there is a sky light that is 45 feet long and 13 feet wide... if you have been to the Louvre, many of the galleries there have this type of lighted ceiling. When all is said and done - this space, as a gallery, (is) beyond the nicest in gallery Colorado - if not the west. Too many things to list - I could go on and on." It really is a wonderful space, with great art, the owner is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. If you ever pass that way, stop in and say Hi.
A note on Leadville: At an elevation of 10,430 feet, it's the highest city in the United States. The town began as a silver, gold, and lead mining community. Most of the buildings in the 70-square block Leadville National Historic Landmark District were built between 1880 and 1905. It's very popular in the summer with bicyclists and high altitude runners, and hosts the Leadville 100 Race Across the Sky. Map to Leadville

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Painting for the day: "Ham 'n' Egg"

"Ham 'n' Egg" ............... oil ............... 10" x 10"

I have one of those brains that possesses the bad habit of transposing words for its own amusement. Yesterday I passed by a community college near us, which has recently posted a list of studies, in large architectural letters on the facade of the building. What two of the courses of studies read as to me were: "Culinary Justice" and "Criminal Arts". I'm not sure which category this painting would fit into. Perhaps it would be a dual degree.

Are your onscreen colors accurate? Click here to learn How to Calibrate Your Monitor.