Monday, July 27, 2009

A Sale and a No-Sale

Funny -- the ACEO on the left sold this week on eBay. But not the ACEO on the right.

I wonder why. True -- they're not identical, but they are similar.

I think I need a marketing research firm to help me figure out collectors' buying patterns!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ain't It Cute?

Even lizard babies are cute!

This one has been hanging out around our front door and runs away from the house whenever we step outside. S/he (don't know the sex or the species at this time) is only about 3.5"/8.9cm nose-to-tip-of-tail. The head is disproportionally large, but I'm sure the body will grow bigger and will catch up in time.

As you may have caught on before -- I really like lizards!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Money Circle

Back in the mid-1970's, I worked for a camera company as a shipping/receiving clerk. Like most companies, this place had its good and bad points. So after a while, I was ready to move on.

But to what? I had no other tangible job skills, I hadn't finished college (where I was majoring in art), and any personnel manager I talked with felt I needed to have more goals in my life (not to mention more employable skills). Plus, I wasn't necessarily good at marketing myself.

All this lit a fire within me that lasted for years. I made arrangements to return to college (leaving my job with the camera company), get a degree in whatever sounded practical that would also interest me, and simply have more options when I re-entered the work force on a career level.

I started in ornamental horticulture but quickly changed to microbiology, medical technology option. This curriculum would have prepared me as much as possible to enter an internship to train as a medical technologist, the folks in clinical labs who run the tests on patient specimens, and then take various state board exams to receive a license.

I got as far as being admitted to the one-year training program at the City of Hope in Duarte, CA. That's when plans changed. It was either because of the overwhelming stress of trying to learn and do so much in so little time, or the fact that I needed dental work done and was taking prescription pain killers as a result.

The point is: I took a multiple-choice written exam and made some really dumb errors, thus failing the test. They allowed me to re-take it, and I tried to be as careful as possible, even to the point of working out math problems in the margins -- but then circling the wrong letter on the test. More dumb stuff -- and I was dismissed from the internship.

Whichever the cause, that was the first time I ever truly bombed out on anything important in my life -- an event I never entirely recovered from. I entered grad school and received a masters degree in microbiology. But the funny thing about science: a masters is not a help but a hindrance. I was overqualified to do what bachelors degrees people do, but not advanced enough to do Ph.D. work. In most fields, a masters degree is considered worthwhile. In the natural sciences, it puts you at a disadvantage.

None of the jobs I found in reserach were actually microbiology-related, although I had skills that worked in other fields (i.e., electron microscopy). Most of those jobs were also grant-funded, which means you can be laid-off if the grant isn't renewed. Which I often was.

So in 1991 I left science altogether, we moved to Colorado Springs and I took a position in a Christian ministry answering letters and sending out resources that I felt could help our constituents deal with their issues. As mentioned in a previous post, I have writing skills, so in some ways, this job was a good fit. Sort of a mix of customer service and light-weight counselor, mostly with teen girls.

The down side: I'm not as conservative as many of the people who were around me. Of the nine years I worked there, I spent at least seven of them trying to get out. The stress and pressure to conform to certain religious expectations and behavior was quite damaging, and to this day I have a difficult time relating to church or Christians.

After deaths in each of our families, we returned to California in late 2000 with the idea that my wife would find a local job and I would paint (and sell) full time. It seemed to be working at first, but wouldn't you know it: the economy started slowing down, and so did the art sales.

And here we are today, where I feel like I've gone a terribly frustrating full circle: no real employable skills (assuming I could even find a job around here); I've been out of the lab for 18 years and am not only rusty, I'm behind the times. And I'm still not sure I know how to sell myself, anyway.

For most artists I know (maybe all -- some of them may be lying!), sales are down or nonexistant. Some artists are speculating art business methodologies that worked in the past may not work anymore -- that buyers' attitudes have changed. Don't know about that -- history shows alternating cycles of parsimony and wanton materialism.

It all certainly puts me in a position where I have to decide what to do next -- and fast. I know it isn't just me -- but that doesn't affect the fullness of my pocketbook. I've been painting smaller lately: rather than lowering prices (which wouldn't be fair to my previous customers), I'm making paintings that I can offer for less.

BUT: do I need to make more changes? Are there enough people out there who want the things that I paint? More decorative? More colorful? More abstract/impressionistic/whatever?

The Money Circle has been a long-lasting, maddening, frustrating and sad situation. I hope I find out what I need to do soon -- before it's too late.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More ACEOs

One nice thing about Art Cards Editions and Originals (ACEOs -- see 17 June 2009's post) -- it doesn't take long to do them. And I'm finding, based on hit counters, more people on eBay seem to be looking for ACEOs than for 8" x 10" / 20cm x 25cm paintings. If it turns out ACEOs are the only items that I sell on eBay, that's fine. It just means I'll have to do about 500-600 pieces a month to pay our bills! But, believe it or not, that's do-able!

I listed the above ACEOs on eBay just tonight. The image on the left is a scene from Joshua Tree National Park, CA (go to eBay); the other painting (go to eBay) shows the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles, also in CA.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lizard of Ahhhs...

Handsome little critter, huh? (Or pretty little critter -- I don't know if this is a male or a female).

This desert spiny lizard showed up in a corner of our patio yesterday. So of course, I just had to take some pictures of him/her.

Need I say s/he will be showing up in a painting in the near future?

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Yes, I admit -- I do get jealous at times. Hopefully not in a negative, destructive way, but it does happen.

This morning on ABC-TV's Good Morning America, they showed an interview with J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books (and which have been made into highly successful movies).

As I understand, she had relatively little writing experience. Yet, after a divorce and no significant employment skills to offer, she turned to writing -- and almost overnight she achieved the kind of notoriety and financial means most of us only dream of.

And then there was the (deceased) Michael Crighton. He received an MD degree and did some postdoctoral work, but as far as I know, he never suffered through a medical residency or practiced medicine.

Now, I do possess some writing skills, although I've never attempted anything as involved as a novel. But I do harbor a dream of doing that. So it is that I'm jealous of both Rowling and Crighton.

I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, but I really should. I know other writers who have, and they claim the writing is very good.

I've only read one of Crighton's books (Jurassic Park: The Lost World). The storyline was fine, but honestly, I believe I'm a better writer than he was. What I seem to lack -- a gift he had -- is knowing how to take a principle of science and turn it into a story. After all, I have a MS degree in microbiology: I could have written The Andromeda Strain. I understand DNA cloning: I could have written Jurassic Park. But I didn't. Stories like those just didn't occur to me at all.

So I have an additional goal in life, over and above making and selling art: to develop my imagination and story-telling abilities so I can be the next Michael Crighton -- or even the next J.K. Rowling.

But until then -- I'll wallow in jealousy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Monument Valley

I actually finished this piece several weeks ago, but I only got around to photographing it recently. This is one of many wonderful views in Monument Valley in Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona. This particular scene is visible right from the dirt road that winds through the place.

I not only like the view, I also liked the small desert lupine (the blue flower) that was really there at the time. It's a little hard to see, but it's near the bottom of the image, right of center.

It's hard to go wrong when painting (or photographing) Monument Valley. Everywhere you look, it's beautiful and magical. No wonder so many western movies were filmed there.

Monday, July 13, 2009

More "eBay Paintings"

By the title, you might gather I make paintings with the intention of listing them on eBay. If you assumed such, you are right!

I've posted another desert painting on eBay tonight, along with a few others I placed there last night. Tonight's piece is entitled "Desert Poppies" which, at least on my monitor, look more brownish than orange-yellow as they appear on the painting. (That's a hazard of trying to sell anything online where color rendition is important).

If you'd like to check it out on eBay, the direct link is here. Remember -- you have only a week! But it's a great way to get some affordable original art.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


This is a painting I finished recently entitled Summer. As you might guess, I thought there might actually be a few people who prefer landscapes that are NOT desert scenes!

Since it is summer (the torrid temperatures here in the Mojave desert prove it), I thought it might be fun to paint a scene that looks like a place I would like to go right now to relax, kick off the shoes, cool off and listen to the sounds of nature. And, of course, there are NO mosquitoes, ants, spiders or other obnoxious critters here at all.

I muted the greens quite a bit for this painting. Art comes first, of course, but I have to be a little practical and remember that green isn't the most saleable color right now. If that ever changes, I'd love to do landscapes with rich, vibrant greens. But for now, I'll keep those colors subtle.

And for one week only, this piece is available on eBay!

It's summer. Take it easy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We're Off to See the Lizard

We're Off to See the Lizard is a portrait of a side-blotched lizard, a very common species here in the Southwest. What I like about them is they have all of the colors of the Southwest: rusty red, earth tones and turquoise blue. This group of color is my favorite combination and explains, in part, what it is I love about the desert so much!

These lizards are small: about 6"/15cm from tip-of-nose to end-of-tail, and are quite prolific. For that reason, they commonly end up in the bellies of roadrunners which, depending on whether you favor the predators or the prey, leaves you feeling either indifferent or sad.

I included some Anasazi pottery shards that a Native American friend collected for me in Arizona. (She tells me these shards are scattered all over the desert floor in certain parts of AZ). The lizard, of course, is entirely unaware of these relics of man's presence, and seeks only to continue its business of searching for food or, possibly, a mate.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

He's Out of My Life

The Michael Jackson memorial service was earlier today. I wasn't able to watch all of it; in fact, I saw only bits and pieces.

I was surprised at how low key the event turned out to be. I almost expected more of a concert with dancing in the aisles, lots of flash photography and other concert activities. Instead, people seemed to display a reverent attitude; that -- indeed -- the fans' hero was gone and wasn't coming back; and the focus was on the man's artistic accomplishments, not on the occasions when Michael had personal and legal battles that seemed to knock him off of his King of Pop throne.

I've always felt Michael Jackson was a phenomenal performer, although -- merely a personal preference -- during his earliest years with the Jackson Five, his voice was a little too shrill for me, kind of like fingernails against a chalkboard. But his voice softened as he grew older, and his singing and dancing evolved into an art form that was truly his own. He was amazing to watch and listen to, and I'm sorry we'll never get to see what he might have accomplished had he lived to launch his comeback tour in the UK.

But -- Michael documented LOTS of CDs and videos, so we're not likely to forget his artistry. And whatever his life was like, tortured or not, I hope he's in a better place today, leading the choirs of heaven in both song and dance.

I'm one of millions who will miss ya, MJ!

(The photo is from this morning's memorial service showing Queen Latifah at the podium. Credit: Mark J. Terrill/AP/MCTMARK J. TERRILL/AP/MC).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July to all!!!

Sorry this isn't a picture of fireworks -- I have some on 35mm slides, but no digital pix of them. However, this is an "experiment" -- an abstract painting I thought I would try. It sort of looks like it's exploding!