Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Shipping Art Internationally

When I first began selling art on the internet in 2005 I was a novice. Hundreds of packages later I think I might qualify as an expert. I stock bubble wrap in rolls, have had to install shelving in my garage to store shipping cartons, and I can estimate the weight of any package under ten pounds pretty accurately by just lifting it.

Many of my recent sales have been international. I've sold three to clients in Japan just this month, when I typically will have 4-5 international sales per year. If you're going to ship art out of the United States you need to know that each country has its own specific rules regarding imports. Some countries charge an additional tax on foreign goods and the buyer should be aware of this. YOU need to be aware of this too in case they question you about it later.

The U.S. Post Office has a lot of information about shipping internationally on their website here.

I only ship art so I am going to talk about that specifically. Protecting your art is important and it has to go even farther than it normally would so be sure to use enough bubble wrap to cushion it. Bubble wrap is lightweight so it will keep your shipping costs, which are based on weight, lower than if you use packing peanuts or paper. Corrugated cartons are heavy. Anything that adds weight to your package drives up the shipping cost. I have found that smaller Amazon boxes are tough yet lightweight so I save them to re-use when I ship small paintings. I order a lot of books and electronics form Amazon so I always have a supply of these on hand. The United States Post Office will also mail you free shipping cartons (see link here) if you use their Priority Mail service. I highly recommend using them for most international shipments, as they are less expensive than FedEx and UPS. I don't ship larger paintings overseas so this may not be true if you are mailing a heavy frame or a bigger piece. I limit my international shipments to anything I can fit into an 18" x 24" x 4" box, because I stock that box size and it's the largest size you can ship before the price escalates.

International shipping with the USPS requires the use of a shipping envelope for your customs forms,  Form 2976E, which can also be acquired for free from the USPS. Print your customs forms on line at the USPS site or using Paypal. You will get four copies. Cut the sheet in half, sign three of the copies and keep the fourth.

I like to use Paypal because it helps me track expenses for my business and the tracking information is automatically sent to the buyer. Here is a link to a page where you can print a PayPal label through Pitney-Bowes for any package if you have a PayPal account. It's nice because you don't share any credit card information and it costs you nothing. 

You can't schedule a normal mail pick up for International shipments as I routinely do for U.S. Priority Mail shipments. You have to hand the package directly to a postal worker, so it usually requires an additional trip to the post office. But I think the benefits of shipping to other countries outweigh the few additional steps you have to make in the shipping process. Who knows-- maybe your work will become highly sought after in another country and they'll invite you over to give a seminar. We can hope! :) 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beach Boys and Girls

Nothing says summer to me more than children playing on the beach. There is something so engaging about the way they mold and scoop and form the grains of sand. These two paintings were commissioned by the father of the children and presented to their mother as a surprise! Dad directed me to some Facebook photos and I created the small impressionistic pieces, keeping in mind they would hang together.

6" x 6" oil on Gessoboard ™

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cottages Paintings

When I stayed at Lakeside this year I did two cottage paintings en plein air. I have painted quite a few cottages over the past few years, several as commissions. I kept them small this year as the days were warm and I didn't want to stand in the sun any longer than necessary.

Shown here is the Peach Cottage, on Fourth Street and a blue cottage at the end of Kenton Row, with a nice view of the lake from its northern windows.

The trick to making a successful composition with a building is to be keenly aware of how the eye enters the painting and where you want the center of interest to be. In the first painting the flowers are the draw and all the planes of the garage 'point' toward  the flowers. The stairs and window are incidental but the color of the house itself will not be ignored so I made sure I modified the peach with a lot of green. I painted this on a gray day so there isn't a lot of contrast between light and shadow. The values are a lower key and the scene is actually quite muted,
The Peach House
 In direct contrast to the painting above this one was painted in strong afternoon sunlight. The shadows are dark and the light is warm. A path (really -- it was right there!) leads us into the painting and the shrubs drive us up to the building where the strong contrasts hold the eye. The flag and doorway become the focus and from there we are (I hope anyway) encouraged to explore the rest of the landscaping.

The challenge with painting landscapes this small is always a question of what to omit. I think the more I leave out the better I like it. Up close the objects are just abstract forms but when they are placed together in an orderly manner they read as a house and a nicely landscaped lot. Red blobs are pots only because we believe them to be, not because they were painted with a great deal of accuracy.

That's a lake freighter in the background, along with a few boats. But we only know this because the horizon reads as water.
The End of Kenton Row

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Living the Good Life or Where to Dine at Lakeside

When I'm invited to stay with people and the community is as welcoming as the one at Lakeside is, I develop an appreciation for what it means to be an artist, and more particularly, a plein air artist. When the weather cooperates and the skies are sunny and blue, and the passersby are warm and cheerful the paintings come easily. Sloopy's is a little sports cafe at the corner of Maple and Second Street and they serve awesome pizza. I parked myself on a bench in front of the restaurant Saturday morning and painted a small slice of life painting.

Sloopy's Sports Cafe
8" x 10"

This small piece was painted in just under an hour as I gazed through the foliage at the picturesque umbrellas behind the beachfront cafe. As I was finishing up a group of people sat in the chairs and I couldn't resist adding a little bit of 'life' to the painting.

Lakeside Lunch
6" x 6"


Monday, July 23, 2012

A Plein Air Weekend

I spent a long weekend at the annual Lakeside Wooden Boat Show and Plein Air Festival. After a week of 100 degree heat the temperatures fell on Friday and I was wearing a jacket when I arrived at the gate Friday morning. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds in the afternoon and the jacket came off. Our final day was a breezy but warm Sunday, when the artists were invited to participate in a wet paint sale at the the park.

Jim White and I had decided we would kill some time by drawing people for free prior to the art sale, so we set up our easels and had some fun. Most of our clients were people who worked for Lakeside or children, but we didn't mind. The wind nearly took my paper with it a few times, yet every one seemed happy with their drawings. At least the price was right!

Here's Jim, doing his Sargent imitation.

Here's another friend of mine, Richard Maxfield, who's trying to sell some paintings. Or maybe he's just trying to explain his own unique creative process to them.

After the sale a friend and I took a dip in Lake Erie and THAT was extremely refreshing after being outside in the warm July sun all afternoon.

Here's a picture of my favorite subject from the weekend. I stayed with a great family and I asked one of the boys to pose with his rod and reel at dusk. I thought he would just stand on the dock and toss the line in once in awhile. Instead, he used real worms and he had a bite within minutes. It became an exercise in futility to paint him. The fish, a sheephead, according to my model, was reeled in after a few minutes of drama and it was a big, fat one! Unfortunately, the line broke and the fish swam away with the hook, which resulted in an interesting story about the actual size of the fish when he told his cousin about it later that night. It was getting dark so I took a few pictures, roughed the sketch in and finished it in the morning.

The Fishing Story
16" x 16"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Off to the Lakeside Paintout

Tomorrow morning I will head east to the shores of Lake Erie for the annual Lakeside Paintout and Wooden Boat Show. This will be the fourth time I have done this paintout and I enjoy it because it's generally cooler and there are tons of quaint cottages and flowers to paint. Last year  I stayed with a family who works there during the summer months and they have invited me back this year. They're nice folks and it is wonderful not to have to worry about parking or checking out on time.

The annual Katherine Crampton Art show is up in the Hoover Auditorium during this period, so I usually enter something if I can get someone to deliver it for me. I was thrilled to get a first place ribbon for my painting "A Wonderful Life". It's for sale during the show but if it doesn't sell I have a buyer here at home who I would prefer had it. The man on the bench reminds her of her deceased husband, who took many painting classes with me before he passed away late last year.

Hopefully I will get a lot more paintings done this weekend to share here next week.

24" x 30"
A Wonderful Life

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bad Paintings Can Become...

... Good Paintings! Well, OK, not always, but sometimes.  We've all had bad hair days. I know my hair is so thick and my nights so fitful that I wake up and see one in the mirror every morning. What about a "bad painting day". C'mon, admit it. You've had them. The painting is w\awful but you don't admit it, at least not right away. Gradually you come to realize there's a reason it has been hanging out in the the box with the other questionable paintings and you decide it can be saved. It's a choice between saving or doing a 'paintover.' If you follow this blog you know I'm a big fan of paintovers. This painting was only half bad so I spent a few minutes turning it into a painting I have been wanting to do for a long time: soybean fields!

You might be asking yourself what's so special about soybean fields. Well, my friend, let me tell you! They are gorgeous in the right light and at the right time of year. In September they turn a dusky yellow gold that vibrates nicely against the green foliage. I have clear memories, aided by a few photographs, of what that looks like, so I gave my painting a makeover last night.

The fields around my house may not get a chance to be harvested, due to the severe drought we are experiencing.

Soybean Fields Forever
11" x 14"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset ... more plein air paintings

I don't typically paint sunsets. There's a good reason for this and that is that the moment they live in is so brief it's hard to get the paint down before it passes. I wanted to give it a try though because it was so striking on our evening walks near Lake Ocqueoc. I chose a small canvas (6" x 8") and started at 8:30 pm. I finished by 9:15 pm but during that 45 minute time frame I mixed more colors and observed more changes in light than I ever had before. The final painting is a culmination of those minutes and probably represents the image the way it appeared to me around 9:00 pm. After that I was painting from memory. I couldn't look directly at the sun of course, so I was just glancing in the general direction of where it was slowly sinking behind the horizon.

A lot of artists will tell you they don't "do" sunsets. Their reasoning is that a camera can capture that brilliant color more accurately than paint can and in just a fraction of a second. I used to think like that, but I learned some things from painting this sunset. I discovered that the water can change from a cool blue to a tangerine orange in less than a minute.Ultramarine blues mix nicely with cadmium reds when you don't have a lot of time to be choosy. Violet clouds look more violet when they reside next to pink. In other words, I learned a lot about color and how it affects other color. Valuable information to an artist who is concerned very deeply with color effects.

There will always be artists who take a picture of a sunset and then proceed to try to reproduce the brilliance of their photograph in a painting. I will not be among them. I will be the painter who puts on her polarized sunglasses, sets up her easel in front of what God created, and tries to capture that moment as it actually happens. It's just a lot more exciting for me. And it's more fun. At this stage in my life I've resolved not to paint anything I don't enjoy painting. Why? Because life is short!

6" x 8" oil on canvas over panel (Pintura ™)

A sunrise gives you a bit more time to experiment. This is the same lake viewed in the morning with the sun behind me. Notice how the long  horizontal canvas emphasizes the size of the lake. This is why I love painting outside. It's the same view, but a different time of day and a different format and a completely different viewpoint. Nature is always the best teacher.

6"x12" oil on canvas

Monday, July 16, 2012

Not something you see every day

While we were up in Michigan the opportunity arose to paint this scene. It was a very hot day and I welcomed a little relaxation. I parked myself in a lawn chair and painted the "laundry cabin". Then I changed into my swimsuit and took a dip.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Another try at Samantha

Our lovely (I would not have guessed) 15 year old Samantha modeled for the last time Saturday. This is a small 12" x 9" painting where I focused more on getting the gesture than her face. It was quite a bit easier than trying to do a larger head as i did the first time. Some of the people who attend our weekly portrait group are unable to stand so they sit and they are not willing to move in close so the artists who stand and draw or paint often don't have a good view of the model. I choose to stand most of the time because I don't like looking up the model's nose. Not so attractive. lol

12" x 9" OIL ON LINEN

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Rant About New Business Ventures

I am getting a little behind on posting the plein air pieces from Michigan. There is never enough time to do everything you want to do. Yesterday I worked all day, dropped off paintings to (better leave this unnamed) a new gallery in Swanton, then drove to Bryan for an impromptu art show with the Williams County Art Guild on the courthouse lawn. The initial impression at the gallery was not too pleasant, although the space is lovely and elegant. But I may not be able to do business with them and I'll tell you why. When I arrived at his door with my paintings the owner did not have a consignment agreement ready. In fact, he had absolutely no paperwork on hand. I was sort of prepared for that as I knew this was all new to him, but still.... it made me stop and think about what I was getting into. So I had quickly pulled together a contract of my own that I had copied from the internet and amended a bit. He instantly balked at signing it- calling it "so much legalese". The real issue seemed to be the fact that I wanted to be sure he had insurance to cover my paintings. The contract also stipulated the basics of when and how often I would be paid if a piece sold and that the copyright for the art belonged to  me. That's it... fairly standard stuff. Or at least it seemed pretty standard compared to what I have worked with in the past. Apparently it was not-- to him! Why would I leave thousands of dollars worth of work somewhere without a contract or assurance that I would be compensated if his building burned down? I did a bit of research before writing this agreement and galleries generally have insurance to cover their contents if there is a loss. He did not feel like purchasing any, although he would happily take a commission for allowing my art to decorate his walls.

I left the paintings but I will  pick them up and take them to the Silver Lining Gallery tomorrow if he does not come up with a contract that we can both agree on. Questions I need to have answered include: Is he is willing to treat this as a legitimate business venture? Is this the kind of person I want representing me? Currently he seems to think he is doing artists a favor by allowing them to hang their art on his walls. There is surely a lesson here for me. I think it might be that first impressions do matter. When I first met the owner I was a bit dismayed with his organizational skills. He also didn't seem to have any idea how to judge the quality of professional art. He seriously thought if it had a boat or water in it that was a good painting. One thing I do know is this: you need to be comfortable with the people you do business with and I have not reached that stage with the owner of this gallery yet.

Here is a small 8"x10" painting I did last night on the town square in Bryan. They had a bluegrass band playing and some spectators were sitting in lawn chairs listening to the music. I found this guy pretty interesting. Maybe it was the beard or maybe it was the hat. Either way, you have to paint what intrigues you.

He stayed for an hour and I was just finishing the painting when he got up and left. This is a piece I will list in my eBay store for starting bid of $9.95 as a loss leader to get some views. And I won't feel awfully disappointed if it sells for that.

Bluegrass Fan
8" x 10"

Friday, July 06, 2012

Even a boat can be interesting if the light is right

I'll be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about boats or fishing or almost anything to do with water. I can swim. Period. I do like the way light reflects on water and I love old worn things though. There were three of these little rowboats on the shore of Lake Ocqueoc near our cabin. I think all of us painted them at one time or another. I walked down to the beach one morning (not really a beach- more of a boat launching area for which I do not know the name). I loved the early morning light and I got a late start so I had a two hour window to do this painting. The reason for the late start was I did another painting EARLIER that morning. This would be a record-breaking day for me, as I ended up painting four plein air pieces in one day.

This is my favorite painting from our trip to Lake Huron. It seems to capture the "feel" of the northern Michigan climate nicely. Or at least how I perceived it. Paintings are a little bit of shared history and the artist can't help making them personal. That's why everyone's paintings are different, even if they're painting the same thing. I've observed this many times when I set up a still life in a room full of students or go out with friends and paint the same thing and we all end up with completely different paintings. Everyone views a scene in a very personalized way. I think we're wired to do that. If we weren't all the movies ever made would be similar; clothing designers would be out of work and life would be incredibly boring.

So while some people might look at one of my paintings and say-- "Oh- that looks so real!" I've had a lot of people- mostly kids- say that, and yet, when you compare it to what is actually in front of me- it isn't. It is MY VERSION of what is real. I think you have to paint for a long time to really be able to wrap your mind around that concept.

11" x 14" oil on canvas

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Hammond Bay, on Lake Huron plein air

Wednesday we drove to Lake Huron, a short ten minute drive from our cabins. We were thinking about painting the closest lighthouse but when we arrived at the park no one wanted to paint it. The lighthouse was a smaller, square kind and not too interesting. It was also really windy and the best view of the lighthouse  was down on the beach. I did not want to be on the beach with no protection from the sun. It was really too windy for an umbrella.

I did like the arrangement of fir trees in front of the beach so I painted that and I was pretty happy with the piece when I was done. Quite a few visitors stopped to chat and one couple remarked that the turquoise water and whitecaps reminded them of the Fort Lauderdale beaches near their home in Florida. Instead of palms the beach here was lined with evergreens and I'm sure the temperature was a bit cooler too.

11" x 14" oil on canvas
Hammond Bay

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Netta's Greenhouse and Nursery near Alpena

We traveled south to Alpena, Michigan on the second day of our painting adventure. The forecast was for an unseasonably hot day in the nineties so I was looking forward to some painting in the shade. Netta's Greenhouse and Nursery, owned by the wonderful Netta and her family, turned out to be the perfect place to paint.

I settled myself down near some flowers to paint an outdoor still life while some of the others painted Netta's house and her greenhouse. Netta ended up buying two of the paintings but she didn't want to pay enough for mine so it went home with me, where I tweaked it a bit.

I brought three 16" x 16" canvases and I really enjoyed working on the square format. I do a lot of small 6" x 6" paintings but the larger ones have never interested me until now.

Netta's Teapot 16" x 16"

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

More Plein Air Paintings to Post

This week I will be posting some of the better paintings I did on my painting trip to Michigan last week. I completed nine paintings in five days and I was exhausted by the end of the week. What these kind of trips do is really allow the artist to immerse herself in the landscape and geography of a place. I was surprised by how white the Michigan beaches are and the fine quality of the sand. The temperatures are quite cool in the evening even when they reach 90 during the day. A breeze can blow up alarmingly fast and turn into a gale, accompanied by thunderous clouds and developing into gusts that can easily carry away your easel. The birch trees where I stayed were much larger than I'm used to so I focused on one growing near the beach where we stayed. I had not painted many birches before and they are lovely trees.

14" x 11" oil on canvas
Ocquoc Lake Birch