Mark making

My primary medium for creating art is to paint or draw with pastels, soft chalk-like chunks or sticks of colour. Pastels are a medium that I have been learning to use well for several years and there is still so much to learn. Lately I have been experimenting with my mark making, a way of adding texture and interest to my artwork. It has been a fun yet challenging process, requiring me to resist falling back on old habits of softening edges, blending clouds and overworking the detail. Colour is also something I have been playing with, some of my paintings have no more than five colours in them but this one definitely features more colour.

The source photo for this painting was taken in the Mt Aspiring National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. Initially it was a crisp and clear Autumn day but the weather soon changed and the clouds set in, bringing the occasional shower of rain making the track towards the Rob Roy glacier slippery and a little nerve wracking at times.

New Zealand, Scotland and animals continue to be a great source of inspiration for me. I will be attempting to do more portraits this year, people portraits that is so stay tuned if you want to see how I progress.

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What’s in a name?

I’ve spent the last few months debating whether to start a business focused on offering animal lovers a choice of pastel pet portraits and photographic portraits. The business idea is a possible alternative to full-time work or a side hustle that could supplement part-time employment whilst building up a client base. The latter certainly sounds more sensible.

Either way, one decision I have to make is to decide on a business name. Do I use my full name, a variation of my name, expand on the use of  Two Black Dogs or even come up with something completely different? Two Black Dogs is my handle on Twitter and Instagram as well as being the title of this blog so I would need to have separate social media accounts regardless of what I decide. In researching existing businesses that focus on either pet photography or pet portraits there appears to be a mix of businesses using the artist’s name and those with names that reflect the genre of their art.

My reason for considering the expansion of the use of Two Black Dogs is the same reason for starting this blog, my black dogs Maxi and Bundy. Their antics, those big, brown eyes and my obsession with them inspired me to do pastel pet portraits, and being a crazy dog mum who volunteers in a shelter gave me a focus for my photography. Whilst the name is meaningful to me I realise it may not be meaningful to potential clients, which is often the argument for not using an individual’s name. It is all doing my head in and that is without even starting the business…what hope do I have?

Pastel illustration of Maxi the dog
Princess Maxi immortalised in pastel

 

 

Selling my stuff

No, I’m not having a garage sale nor am I selling all my worldly belongings on eBay in order to fund a life of travel. What I am doing or attempting to do, is to sell products that feature my art and photography. How you might ask? Well, I’m giving the print on demand service Redbubble a test run to see if there is a demand for my style of art and photography. To be honest, the majority of products will feature my photographs because very little of my artwork has been digitised and it will take time for me to build up a digital collection of art with the appropriate resolution for printing.

Redbubble is an online marketplace to which artists can upload their artwork for placement of products such as t-shirts, smartphone cases, tote bags and more.  There are a variety of these services available online, you may have heard of Zazzle, Fine Art America, and  Society6. Why did I choose Redbubble?  For starters, it cost me nothing to set up the site and I don’t have to pay upfront for products to be created, nor do I have to worry about storage or shipping costs. All costs are covered by the commission that Redbubble takes when products are sold, a business model that does not suit everyone however it meets my needs for now. In addition, Redbubble is an Australian based company that was founded in Melbourne back in 2006.

So, if you have the time and the inclination to check out my stuff please let me know what you think. In the future, I would like to add more of my illustrations as well as a few designs that demonstrate my love for dogs. My site https://www.redbubble.com/people/sammijk is in its infancy and constructive feedback is most welcome.

Screen shots of some of my products on Redbubble
Some of my products on Redbubble

Weekly photo challenge: farewell with a favourite (or several)

Blogging has been part of my life for just over seven years and in that time I have dipped in and out of the Weekly Photo Challenge. My blogging is sporadic at best, however, the weekly challenge helped me find the motivation to hit the keyboard and share so I will be sad to see it end.

Although I will still continue to post photos and share stories I fear that I may struggle to find my feet without a bit of a push. Until then please enjoy my farewell to the Weekly Photo Challenge with a few of my favourite photos.

That balance thing…

A while ago I wrote about finding balance. There was too much going on in my head and too many things I wanted to do, something had to give. Your feedback helped, I prioritised the things that were important to me as well as being ones I could realistically accomplish. My health is important, at 45 and with a family history of bowel and breast cancer I am becoming more aware of what I eat. Although I haven’t gone the whole hog in quitting sugar I have reduced my intake and I’m eating more whole foods rather than reaching for what is convenient. This has been a relatively easy step to take and experimenting with new recipes has been fun, plus it makes me feel better.

I put ‘The Artist’s Way’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ aside for now, although with a restructure looming at work I may need the finance advice more than anything else on my bookshelf. The weekly online photography course with David duChemin has also taken a bit of a back seat but not because I’m not interested, I’m just a little distracted and finding it hard to focus (pardon the pun). What I am doing is following David’s advice from the first week of the course which was to care deeply about your subject or be deeply curious. It wasn’t difficult to think of something that I care deeply about and as a result I have been taking my camera to the shelter each weekend and photographing some of the dogs. In doing this, I am becoming more familiar with my camera and thinking about the result I am seeking rather than just taking aim and shooting. Not all dogs make it easy, there are plenty of missed opportunities, blurry faces and lots of close ups of their nose or chest as they jump up at me while taking the shot.

Art class, like volunteering is a non-negotiable and it is 2-3 hours a week where I can work on my drawing and be with like-minded people. It is therapy and it helps to shift my brain from worrying about the pettiness that can make a working day unbearable to worrying about which shade of blue is needed to make those hills recede into the background. My trolley of art materials is fully loaded and I have finished one surprise pet illustration and have two landscapes on the go with a couple of potential commissions waiting in the wings. Meanwhile Hubby and Bundy make the most of the peace and quiet by sharing the floorspace in front of the television for a weekly dose of rugby league.

Have I found balance? Yes, to some degree but there is still more I want to achieve and I’m hoping that the cooler weather will help. The hot and humid weather really wore me down, zapping my energy and my motivation. Thanks again for the helpful advice. Have a great week!

 

Finding balance

Pastel painting of a Tawny Frogmouth.
Pastel painting of a Tawny Frogmouth. His face mirrors my feeling at the moment.

2017 was going to be the year to spend more time on my art and and photography, attend a few workshops and make the effort to ‘just do it’. I even ditched the Master of Marketing I had enrolled in at the end of 2016 because I knew I could not commit to study, do the things I love, stay married and work full time. In November I signed up to do an online photography course with David duChemin which I am slowly progressing through and I recently bought The Artist’s Way because I thought it might be beneficial to my creativity (or lack thereof) once the other program finishes. I have also been looking into the idea of selling some of my work through online shopfronts like Printful or Fine Art America and perhaps offering pet portraits.

That, said I find myself keen to improve my physical and our financial health. On my desk are books supporting those idea’s: Scott Pape’s The Barefoot Investor, Sarah Wilson’s Simplicious and David Gillespie’s Eat Real Food although I know I have no hope of getting hubby to ease up on his favourite sugary beverage, Rum and Coke.

With all of these potential ‘balls in the air’ the following questions have crossed my mind:

  • Am I trying to do too much or is it a case of better managing my time?
  • Can I squeeze more into my weekends and mornings?
  • Is this perfectly normal and others manage it fine, even with children?
  • Am I overthinking it?

The question of moving from full time work to part time isn’t an option at this point hence the interest in online shopfronts and the Barefoot Investor. One day I would love to be able to dedicate more hours to my art and photography than I currently can and possibly make a little money to support my habit. The other things I can’t and won’t give up is Hubby (of course), walks with Bundy and my Sunday mornings at the Animal Welfare League. Spending time at the shelter and giving homeless dogs the love and care that they all deserve feeds my soul and makes me happy.

Unlike my previous posts this post has been more of a brain dump, me trying to get my head together and sharing it with you. No doubt it is going to require more processing, hopefully without experiencing analysis paralysis. Have you experienced something similar? Would love to hear your thoughts and feel free to share your answers to my list of questions.

Cheers!
Sam