Monday, March 30, 2009

Motivation Monday

Become a passionate pursuer of knowledge.

Do you have the knowledge you need in order to make your dreams come true? Last week, I asked you to define your ideal employee. Probably one of the characteristics of your ideal employee is that they would be someone who possessed the knowledge, information, training or education needed to allow them to perform their job function well. So let me ask you, how well trained are you for the jobs you need to do?

Perhaps you feel that your progress towards your goals is stalled because you don't know how to do something. Let me encourage you to start seeking the information you need. The good news is that there are many ways to obtain knowledge.

First of all, clearly define what you need to know, then prioritize. For example you don't need to know where to get great giclee reproductions done when you don't have work ready to reproduce. Don't become overwhelmed by everything you don't know. Ask yourself "What do I need to know now?"

While learning by doing is great, don't fall into the trap of having to reinvent the wheel. Many artists end up frustrated when they paint and paint and their art work doesn't seem to improve. What artists often need at that point is new knowledge. Instead of just mastering how to get the pigment onto the surface, perhaps you need to explore colour (temperature, intensity, hue, relationships). You could study hard and soft edges and how to see value changes. Perhaps you need to study more about composition. Maybe you don't need to learn something entirely new, perhaps you just need to refresh what you have already learned.

So whether you have decided to learn how to take better reference photos, or decided to find out where to get a great brochure produced, or you have decided to learn more about the painting process, there are many resources available. You could consider enrolling in a course, you could do research online or you could sign out books from your library. Ask other artists what workshops or books they would recommend. Perhaps you have some books on a shelf waiting to be read! Once you have acquired new knowledge, apply it. You have to go beyond reading a book or taking a course. In order to benefit from what you know, start using this knowledge. You will experience the joy of becoming better at your craft.

The amazing thing is that in the process of learning and acquiring the knowledge you want to have, you will find that your motivation is strengthened and your enthusiasm grows. We exchange the frustration of not knowing how to do something for the satisfaction of mastering new skills.

As we pursue our dreams, all of us find ourselves having to learn new things. Embrace learning. Seek knowledge. Successful people are people who are willing to grow and learn new things. So stir up you passion and start pursuing knowledge...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

wip update and art business ideas

Peony work in progress, detail, coloured pencil on Stonehenge
Copyright Teresa Mallen

It probably doesn't look like I have made much progress, but I have. :-) This is one of my slow pieces. I am choosing to build up the layers of colour using very light pressure. I love the results that this sort of control and patience brings. The transparency of the layers create unique colours. Of course such subtleties are not evident on a computer screen, sigh...I have cropped the image in order to just show the stamens as the rest of the flower is pretty much undeveloped.

I recently read an article in the April issue of 'the Artist's Magazine'. The title of the article is Surviving Tough Economic Times and it lists 12 tips from artists and gallery owners. The ideas are not exactly big revelations. I am sure most artists are already engaged in these activities. Ideas such as being active in your community, creating smaller works to accommodate a lower price point, maintaining our blogs and building a patron list are already in the works for most of us. What I did want to share with you was some information regarding doing commissioned work. Jan Lukens, a North Carolina artist reported that his horse commissions are his cash cow because as he states, "show jumping is the second most expensive amateur sport in the country (USA)". So if animal art is your thing, you might want to consider marketing your skills for equestrian portraits to show jumping enthusiasts.

What is the number one most expensive amateur sport in the USA? You will never guess...yacht racing! So, if boats and ships are your forte, this might be the market to go after.

I believe that staying positive is essential to our success (you can read more on this by clicking here) and I was happy to see that keeping a positive attitude was their twelfth strategy for surviving tough economic times. I hope this quote attributed to Louis M. Salerno will encourage you: "Through the Dark Ages, the great famines, the plagues, world wars and the Great Depression, art has been shown, sold, stolen, collected, criticized, condemned and cherished." They also end the article with this data, "In 2003, worldwide art sales were estimated at $5 billion." Hang in there folks.

One of the reasons my progress has been slow on the peony piece is that I am starting to teach a new session of my Coloured Pencil Basics course this weekend. The location is here, in my studio. That means that that my bohemian, hedonistic lifestyle of being surrounded by all of my treasures has to be set aside and room has to be made for my students. The tables are covered with goodies that need to find another resting spot. Where do I put the wonderful Jade plant that my mother-in-law just gave me? My drafting table will have to be moved out of the way...goodness...

You can click on the pictures to see larger images.

The deer antlers, my snake skin, the logs covered in beautiful fungus, birds nests, the willow branches that are rooting in water, all have to be moved. I wonder what my students will think of my decaying pumpkin and zucchini? Have you ever seen decayed and dried veggie skins? The mold can form the most amazing patterns. I plan on using some of these skin segments in some abstract paintings later this year. I need to find some time to play this summer.

So the studio sort out is underway. I am not keen on my studio becoming so civilized but I guess it is necessary (and thankfully temporary). It has been cold this week and there is still snow left in the forest. Here are some determined daylily shoots. I lifted off frozen leaves for the photo and then placed them back on. It is has been rather chilly here this week.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Motivation Monday

Would you hire yourself?

The answers to this question will hopefully reveal some things you can do to help make your dreams come true.

So here is the exercise: Imagine that you are the owner of a business and you need to hire someone. Think of what your ideal employee would be like. Write down the attributes and characteristics that come to mind.

When I decided to work at my art full time, I realized that in order to succeed I was going to have to give my business my all and my best. I took the time to do the exercise above. I wrote out a list of the attributes I would most want to have in an employee. My ideal employee would:

- be very enthusiastic about their work
- have a positive attitude
- be able to handle change, be adaptable
- have a high standard of personal ethics (honest, operate with integrity)
- be professional and would desire to do excellent work
- have a strong sense of responsibility
- have the ability to plan and manage time, money and resources toward the accomplishment of goals
- be a diligent, productive worker
- be willing to take on new challenges, to learn new skills if necessary
- have a "no problem" attitude, someone who would find a way to get things done
- be passionate about their work and their life
- be a giver, someone who would be concerned about adding value to the lives around them, co-workers and customers
- be interested in making my company a success. Their focus would not be limited to getting a paycheque.

Does your list look a bit like mine?

So how can you make this work for you? Simply ask yourself if you bring these attributes and characteristics to your own personal endeavours. When the going gets a bit rough, do you stay positive and are you open to change? When you need to learn new skills, do you whine and complain or do you roll up your sleeves and start learning? Can you say that you manage your time, money and resources well? Are you willing to work hard? Are you as passionate or enthusiastic as you need to be? Are you honestly giving your dreams your best and your all?

This exercise helped me define exactly who I wanted and needed myself to be in order to make my dreams come true. When I resist learning necessary skills (usually computer stuff), when I hesitate before tackling something completely new for me, or when I am not handling my time as well as I should, I think back to this list. I can readily see that at times like this I am not being my best employee. This knowledge empowers me to make the necessary changes in my attitude and my behaviour.

Remember that motivation is simply the reason for an action. Why not make the decision to be your own best employee the reason and motivation to make whatever changes you need to make?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Peony WIP, goodbye to winter

Peony Center, WIP detail, coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper
copyright Teresa Mallen

Peony Center, WIP, full view, coloured pencil on Stonehenge, 20.5" x 5.5"

This is where I am at now. I didn't get much time to work on it yesterday as I had a day of errands. I was out buying art materials for the students that will be starting my Coloured Pencil Basics course next week. I have students buy their pencils and I have them bring items like masking tape, scissors, etc. Throughout the course students work on various small projects. I give them an opportunity to try different supports and to try different methods of burnishing. I find it less confusing if I purchase the different papers and drafting film myself and I then charge the students a materials fee. Yesterday, I had to do more running around for this than I would have liked. The art supply store closest to me was out of basics such as tracing paper and colorless blenders. So less time in the studio...darn...

I know most people are rejoicing over the arrival of spring. I am one of those odd people that actually enjoys winter. I love the way the exposed rocks and the tree trunks and branches look so sculptural. I enjoy the brisk fresh air on my daily walks. I delight in seeing the fresh tracks in the snow each morning that allow me a glimpse into another world. These tracks tell of the activities in the early daylight hours or perhaps yesterday's dusk. I learn where the fox travelled, whether the coyotes came through the meadow again and up by the house in search of the rabbits, and then the rabbit tracks that let me know that they are still dodging their predators. I love the cosiness of a wood fire and the cocooning that comes with long dark evenings. I find that compared to other times of the year, winter gives me the most hours to spend in my studio.

Don't get me wrong, I love all the seasons and their unique gifts. The spring birds have arrived and we have had some delicious warm weather. My thoughts are turning to the gardening season ahead. Gardening is a passion of mine and these days I find myself looking through books and catalogues planning my projects for 2009. We have moved to the ideal property for gardening. We have areas that get full sun and areas of cool shade. We have lots of room for growing vegetables, flowers, fruit trees, wheat - essentially anything we might desire. There is a former pond area that has silted up such that it is only a stream. This area seems to be just waiting for our attention. The ideas include having the area dug out to have a pond again, adding ornamental rocks (which means moving large rocks from one area of our land to another) and adding more wetland loving flowers and plants. Oh and the little bridge over the stream needs some repairs. I have inherited from the former owner a large walled perennial bed (contained in the foundation of a former stable). This area takes maintenance. The dreams are many but the hands and hours few. No wonder I look out my studio window and enjoy the peacefulness that a frozen winter white landscape brings!

So it is with a bit of wistfulness that I say goodbye to the quiet time of winter. As I enjoy the warm of the sun and the extra hours of daylight, my perspective is gradually shifting. It is time to grab a cup of tea and to have another look at my gardening books. Before I go, should you be interested in prairie grasses for your garden, do check out William Moore Farms by clicking here. There are lovely photos. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

new peony piece and art to share

'Crinkled White' Peony, reference photo
copyright Teresa Mallen

Peony WIP, 20.5" x 5.5", Coloured Pencil on white Stonehenge paper
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is a work in progress image of my newest piece. The photo reference was taken last summer. We moved last year and 2008 was my first summer here. I had no idea what plants would come up in the perennial bed. I had lots of wonderful surprises. Several varieties of peonies appeared much to my delight. I did a quick search online to see if I could determine what variety this one could be. If you like peonies, I recommend a visit to as they have a lovely catalogue you can scroll through. I believe the variety in the photo is 'Crinkled White' (they spell crinkle with a K but that sort of thing bugs me so I am using a C).

As you can see in the lower picture, I am cropping the piece such that only a portion of the peony shows. I am focusing on the lovely yellow stamens. The photo doesn't show much but I feel like someone who has had to run across town in order to get to the starting line of a marathon. My running across town being all the work I have done to create the line drawing - and I haven't even started the marathon! Today I transferred the line drawing and I started finding my way around the stamens. I am placing in my darkest values so that I have a road map of sorts in order to orient myself.

In each piece, I look for something that will be challenging. In this piece my challenge will be to draw the stamens (done) and to colour them in such a way that the individual stamens are distinct and that they have a strong three dimensional quality.

I am delighted to be back working on Stonehenge. My last two pieces were rather large and they were on sanded paper. There was so much pigment flying around that I felt like the Peanuts character Pig-Pen. I am enjoying the subtleties that the layers of colour give on this paper. Downright yummy.

I have art I would like to share with you. One of the nicest benefits of blogging is that I have had the opportunity to see wonderful art and to make friends with other artists. Christine at Creative Life Studio is one these friends and I would love for you to see her latest piece. Click here for the link. To really appreciate the drawing, click on the image in order to see a larger version. For me this piece has that something special that artists hope for. I see a lot of art that is technically well done. I also see a lot of art that I find very enjoyable to look at. But a piece of art that moves me emotionally isn't as common. Christine's piece is technically well done. She knows how to handle graphite! The image is composed well and the subject is appealing. Yet something else is conveyed. The control Christine used in handling the graphite yielded a tender mood to this piece. I sense the preciousness of this infant, his vulnerability and the love with which he is cradled in the hand. So allow me to add beauty to your life today by referring you to this beautiful art. I hope you are as moved by it as I am.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Motivation Monday

Are you waiting for your big break? What is the one big opportunity that you are waiting for? Is it that all important commission, your work being discovered by a major art magazine editor, a wealthy art collector finding your work irresistible or perhaps that oh so prestigious award?

Big breaks are wonderful - but what are you doing while you wait? Are you continuing to stretch and grow? Are you creating and moving forward?

A downside to big breaks is that we don't know when they will happen. Waiting can have an adverse effect on our motivation level. The longer we wait, the greater the chance that we will allow discouragement and doubt to creep in. The antidote for this is to keep in mind that we don't need to passively wait for our big break. As I mentioned, big breaks are wonderful, but they aren't necessary. It is possible to achieve our dreams by just staying the course. The road to achieving our dreams is most often traveled one step at a time. By staying active and doing the work before us, we move closer and closer to realizing our goals. The good news is that by staying active and working while we wait, we actually increase the likelihood that we will get a big break! Either way we win.

Also, keep in mind that your work will continue after your big break. After winning that award, you will strive to win another one. After selling your art to a wealthy collector, you will want to paint even better paintings. Our successes are momentary. Once we have experienced one, we desire another accomplishment. Expect this and embrace this. It is what makes the journey interesting and exciting. There are always fresh challenges and opportunities just around the bend. So don't let waiting for your big chance to shine get you down. Make a decision to enjoy your journey and enjoy doing your work.

Friday, March 13, 2009

'Neptune's Leaves' - finished!

'Neptune's Leaves', Coloured Pencil on Colourfix Paper, 22" x 16"
Copyright Teresa Mallen

'Neptune's Leaves' is finally finished. I redid some veins to improve their placement and I finished the background. When doing the background, I applied pigment and then used a stiff brush to grind the pigment into the paper. This technique gives a look similar to what I would get if I used solvent.

After taking several photos, in different locations, with varying light conditions, using many settings on the camera, this photo is the best I could come up with. Keep in mind that the inside of the leaves are more of a coral colour in real life. I am going to try scanning it to see if I can get a more correct image for my website.

To read about my inspiration for this piece and what I was aiming for, you can click here which will take you to an earlier post. Now I just need to clean up all the pigment that has been flying around while I worked on this sanded surface and I shall be ready to start my next project. For a change of pace, I am returning to Stonehenge paper and I think it is time to do a flower, well at least part of a flower...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Motivation Monday

What do think your greatest asset might be? What do you think you would need in order to achieve your dreams?

Would you be surprised if I said that your greatest asset isn't your bank account, who you know, your natural talent, your studio space, or your education?

Your greatest asset is your positive attitude! Do you doubt how powerful an attitude can be? Consider this - successful people have positive attitudes. Think of all the people that you would define as successful at what they do. Ask yourself if you think they are positive people or negative people. I am sure you would define them as people with positive attitudes.

Your dreams are what you are passionate about but what sort of effect would a negative attitude have on your passion? People who think negatively end up with a "what's the use" perspective. They give up and quit when faced with obstacles and challenges. They fail to use their creativity to solve problems and they lose their energy and their focus. On the other hand, people who are positive, adopt an "I can do this" perspective. They become people who persevere in the face of challenging circumstances. Their positive approach results in commitment and diligence. People who have a positive attitude believe that success is possible. They believe that by working hard and never giving up, it is possible to achieve one's dreams.

So which are you? Do you have a positive attitude? The good news is that you choose your perspective and you can choose to be positive.

Let me challenge you this week by asking you to examine your attitude. Work on developing your greatest asset by becoming as positive and as hope filled as you can be. Changing how you think in this one area, will have a profound impact upon your life. I guarantee it. So what are you waiting for, get positive!

Friday, March 6, 2009

March CP Newsletter and Another Anniversary

"Leah", Coloured Pencil on Colourfix Paper, 9"x 12"
Image used with permission, Copyright Joyce Geleynse

The March issue of my Coloured Pencil Newsletter has been posted. With this issue, the Newsletter turns one year old! Woo- hoo!! I guess I was on some sort of creative, productive streak in February 2008 in order to have a blog and a newsletter ready to launch in the first week of March. My goodness...

Here are some interesting items appearing in the March issue:

- don't miss the wonderful art of featured artist Joyce Geleynse
- announcing an on-line art exhibition
- an update on a new product from Icarus Art

To head on over to the newsletter, click here.

Interested in becoming a Newsletter Group Member? The perks of membership include being notified by email as soon as a new issue is released, as well as opportunities to participate in the newsletter through asking questions, sharing art, volunteering to be featured, sharing info on your business ventures, and getting feedback with your work. The best part is that membership is free! So why not contact me? You membership can become effective immediately!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting into Galleries and Blog Anniversary!

This Blog is One Year Old! Woo-hoo and Yippee!!

First of all I would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read my posts. Thank you for leaving comments, thank you for your support and thank you for your friendship.

As part of honouring this anniversary, I spent some time yesterday making an addition to the blog. A new section of Featured Writings has been created and it is located in the right hand sidebar. When you click on a category, such as getting into galleries, a page will open up that contains posts that were written over the past year pertaining to that topic. I appreciate the fact that there are so many interesting and diverse blogs for me to read. From them I get inspiration. So credit goes out to Marsha Robinett. I saw her featured articles many months ago and since then it has been on my to do list. Credit also goes to Casey Klahn who had instructions on his blog. His advice on going back into my old posts and creating a single label so they could be gathered up was invaluable. And also, I must mention Rose Welty. From Rose's blog, I was able to click on her 'buttons' and see how to write the code for the hyperlinks.

Another change is that I have created a new blog roll which now appears with all the bells and whistles. It too can be found in the right hand sidebar.

A review of my year as a blogger:

- Biggest surprise My biggest surprise was how much time blogging would take. My husband and I had just moved, I was setting up my new studio and I had a rather ambitious teaching schedule. I am not sure I would have started blogging right then if I had known the amount of time I would spend, not just on creating my own blog but on reading and commenting on the blogs of others. I quickly realized that getting known so that people would visit your site took an investment of time.

- Biggest challenge Just a couple of months after creating the blog we discovered that my Dad was dealing with some sort of health issue. I had just started to develop a readership and so I tried to keep the blog going even though I was now out of town a lot. Finally in the summer, I gave up. I was away more than I was home and given the situation, blogging just wasn't important. I am very grateful to the readers who started reading again once I returned.

- Greatest reward By far, the greatest reward has been the other bloggers I have met during this process of blogging. Wonderful friendships with people around the world have been created and I value you very much.

- Favourite blog post In order to put together the featured writings, I have spent a fair bit of time looking at the posts from the past year. You can reread my favourite post by clicking here. It isn't about art but the post has a picture of my Dad taken just two weeks before he died and in the post I have my thoughts on how to live life, a bit of a tribute to the the incredible man he was.

Thanks again to everyone, whether you are a follower or an occasional reader. I hope you continue to enjoy this blog. I welcome your feedback, I appreciate your comments and if you have been 'lurking', why not say hello? I would love to meet you. You can always drop me an email if you are not signed up to leave comments via blogger.

On to year two!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Motivation Monday

It is time to get inspired!

Inspire: to have an animating effect upon, especially to stimulate or impel to some creative effort

There are lots of ways to get inspired. One that we will explore this week is by identifying people whose lives inspire us.

I want you to think of someone who is living the life you would like to live. Come up with as many examples as you can. Write down their names and then write down what it is about their life that you admire and aspire to. They can be people you know, people who have lived in centuries past, or people living today that you only know about from reading about them. The amazing thing you need to realize is that your dreams are not unattainable or impossible. Someone has or is right now, living the life you dream of.

I made such a list many years ago and I had an eclectic list of dead illustrators, writers, living painters and potters. What inspired me most about their lives was their dedication to their craft, their hard work, their lifestyle, their determination (all had overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams), the quality of their art and the fact that they made a living from their art. Try to get to know as much about their lives as you can. You will be encouraged to see that ordinary folks can achieve the life that you dream of.

Maybe you are the only one in your family or in your circle of friends to have the dreams you do. Looking to real life examples of people who have blazed a trail similar to the one you wish to be on will be an inspiration to you. May this list truly inspire you, as in 'have an animating effect upon you, especially to stimulate or impel you to some creative effort'! Keep this list handy and refer to it often. When you are feeling discouraged, take the time to really soak in the reality that others have done what you wish to do and your dreams are possible.

I also encourage you to use this exercise as a way to gain insight. By reviewing their lives, can you see areas where you could improve? I'll bet the people who inspire you had dogged determination. Do you think that you give up too easily? What about their work ethic? I'll bet that no matter what was going on in their lives, they found a way to do their work. Were they patient? None of the people on my list were overnight successes, they were in it for the long haul. You get the idea.

Bottom line, you are not the only one to aspire to the dreams that you do. Others have shown that it is possible. Remind yourself of this as often as necessary. Such knowledge can be the motivation required to keep pressing on.

That's it for this week. Your feedback is most welcome. Why not write a comment and share whose life inspires you?