Friday, January 30, 2009

Lines and Values, Notan and the Cut-Out Tool

Shoveler - pen and ink study
black and sepia ink on Daler Rowney Antique White mountboard
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately - especially as I drew my very handsome male shoveler duck in pen and ink - about needing to practice line drawing in a two value Notan sense if I'm going to have a go at lino-cutting.

I've decided to practice by reviewing how to convert photos into just two tones using the PS Elements Cut Out Tool so that I can see if I can develop a better "eye" for doing two tone work

First a quick reminder about what Notan is - plus some links to previous posts on this blog for readers not familiar with the concept.
Notan is a Japanese concept involving the placement of lights and darks next to the other to read as flat shapes on the two-dimensional surface. This use of lights and darks differs dramatically from the means by which artists had traditionally manipulated these elements to create seemingly three-dimensional forms on the picture plane.

Line melts into tone through the cluster of many lines. Direct study of tone-intervals begins with composition in two values - the simplest form of Notan.
Arthur Wesley Dow
Some readers will recall I've written about this previously
I noticed that in one of my posts last year as part of the composition and design project, I promised to explain how the cutout function worked - but didn't really do a step by step explanation.

So this post remedies that omission!

How to reduce a photo to a two value image


I'm also going to drop in one or two of the Arthur Wesley Dow's recommendations for how to make Notan work
focus first on ensuring that the line design works before beginning to darken certain shapes within the overall design with black
  1. Locate the cut out tool in PS Elements. This is one of the artistic filters. So the menu selection in PS Elements goes Filter/Artistic/Cutout.
  2. Note how many ways you can vary the cutout. There are three controls Number of Levels, Edge Simplicity and Edge Fidelity. I'll describe each in terms of what happens at the extremes.
    1. Numbers of Levels: There are eight levels. 1= one value/colour. 8 = 8 values and values/shades of grey between black and white
    2. Edge Simplicity: There are ten levels 1= picks up all the tiny marks; 10= extreme simplicity/very abstract/subject is unrecognisable
    3. Edge Fidelity: There are three options. 1 = simplest; 3 = most accurate. 2 looks like it might be a good level for lino-cuts
  3. Select a photo to adapt and create a two value image (for a linocut). (Squint!) Check whether it has interesting lines and whether the big value shapes are distinctive. Basically any mental screening you do is trying to identify pattern and balance and to imagine what it would look like with no colour.
  4. Save the photo with a new file name
  5. Select Image/Mode/Greyscale and convert to greyscale
  6. Start to play around with the three controls. While keeping the other two at mid points, check what happens when you take any of the to the two extremes. Make a note of what you find out and note what each does to value, shape and line.
  7. Repeat for each of the three controls
  8. Now select two levels to produce a two value image. Do a basic check on whether it looks like it still has the potential to be interesting.
  9. Then vary the simplicity of the edge. Find a level which looks like it could be feasible to draw and cut on lino!
  10. Then vary the difference of the fidelity and see what happens.
  11. Try varying fidelity first. Hold simplicity at 5 and then vary fidelity.
The realistic standard always tends to the decay of art
Arthur Wesley Dow, Composition
I've got an example from a photo of my Shoveler. I liked the patterns in the water and thought the duck shape was also quite distinctive - but I wasn't sure how it would work when reduced down to two values and some fiddling with edges!

Here are the results.

Shoveler - Version 1

In version 1, what I did was:
  • Numbers of Levels: 2
  • Edge Simplicity: 5
  • Edge Fidelity: 5

Shoveler - Version 2

In version 2 I increased the simplicity (i.e. made it more faithful to reality) and then reduced the fidelity! It produces more slight lines which are areas of no line on the other two.
  • Numbers of Levels: 2
  • Edge Simplicity: 6
  • Edge Fidelity: 1
This produced a drawing .....with finer lines and clear outlines

Shoveler - Version 3

In version 3 I reduced the simplicity and increased the fidelity
  • Numbers of Levels: 2
  • Edge Simplicity: 4
  • Edge Fidelity: 3
and produced an image which looks like it might be easier for those starting out at lino cutting! It keeps the shape but loses quantity and complexity of line

Now can I do this by eye alone - or do linocutters also look to PS for help?

If you want to take a look at somebody who regularly does linocuts - take a look at Sherrie York's linocut gallery on her website and her blog Brush and Baren. I also recommend taking a look at her Great Crested Grebe Linocut and reading an excellent interview with her on Printsy - which I think one or two other lino cutting students have already spotted - hi Robyn!! ;)

Lino Cutting Note: My information site to store all my bookmarks for lino cutting is already in draft. Inevitable really - as soon as I started to look at equipment and materials! Any recommendations for links to useful sites will be much appreciated. I'll let you know when I start to cut!

and finally......

Please leave a comment below (and a link to your example) if you have a go at using this technique.

Links:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Selling art online - 10 benefits of a recession

Ecology Park Pond #5 - Willow Pond, 21st January 2009
36cm x 26cm, coloured pencils on Arches HP
Ecology Park Pond Series - copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Look at the cheery news that I woke up to on the front page of the Guardian this morning!!!
The International Monetary Fund added to Gordon Brown's woes last night when it warned Britain will be at the bottom of the league table of major developed countries this year, in the weakest year for the global economy since the second world war.

After seeing activity collapse in every continent over the past three months, the Washington-based fund said it expected the UK economy to contract by 2.8% this year – its worst single-year performance since the Great Depression of the 1930s
The Guardian - Britain faces worst year since 1930s, warns IMF
Fortunately I'd already found and saved something that I'd read on another blog for just such an occasion............

10 benefits of a recession

  • It causes you to get more creative.
  • It forces you to make the tough decisions.
  • It thins out the competition.
  • It makes you realize you can’t take anything for granted.
  • It reminds you that real wealth isn’t about the stuff you own.
  • It fosters out-of-the-box thinking.
  • It makes it easier to abandon business-as-usual.
  • It brings you back to the basics.
  • It accelerates change.
  • It causes you to be less wasteful.
Howies Brainfood - 10 Benefits of a Recession
That comes from Howies Brainfood and was posted last November. Do check out the Howies website - it's an excellent example of a creative business which started by selling T shirts to cyclists, is values based and ethically aware and has grown and grown.............

Part of the reason I've been prompted to do this short series of posts on selling art online (other than Anita asking me a question!) is that I genuinely think now is the time to really look long and hard at the way we've been going about things. We need to 'abandon business as usual' thinking and get back to basics - whichever industry we're in.

So just as the recession is going to make sure that the car industry really get to grips with "going green" rather than "gas guzzling" so artists can really focus on their basics too.

For me, it means:
  • drawing the subjects which attract me the most in the way I like to see them. (I think I'm getting there!)
  • taking lessons from other artists but without trying to copy them
  • using coloured pencils the way I find best rather than in the way that somebody else finds best. (lots of structured erasing and dry brushwork in the one at the top of the page!)
  • getting a big flat space with lots of subtle variation into as many drawings as possible somehow!
  • always doing the best I can - in my own unique way
  • only selling art that I'm proud to have my name on
I now need to go and have somebody put drops in my eyes for an examination (have I ever told you all how I have the fastest blink reaction ever known and have had six people holding me down while they to get drops in before now?) before they put machines up far too close to my iris. Then I have to finish off my tax return for online submission before the computers all go down at the weekend when everybody else finally decides to avoid the £100 fine!

So quite a cheery day really............... ;)

What are your 'back to basics' mantras?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to identify and assess value and tone quickly

Just lately I've been pondering on needing to get back into practising 'notan' more if I want to have a go at linocutting.

Which in turn has made me think a lot about "two value" drawings (or "two tone" drawings for those who prefer to use the term "tone" rather than "value"). Here's the definitions for those who get confused as to the meaning of value and tone. I'm going to use 'value' in this post.
Value - An element of art that refers to luminance or luminosity — the lightness or darkness of a color. This is important in any polychromatic image, but it can be more apparent when an image is monochromatic, as in many drawings, woodcuts, lithographs, and photographs. This is commonly the case in much sculpture and architecture too.

tone and tonality - A quality of a color, arising from its saturation (purity and impurity), intensity (brilliance and dimness), luminosity (brightness and dullness), and temperature (warm and cool); or to create such a quality in a color. To tone down is to make a color less vivid, harsh, or violent; moderate. To tone up is to make one become brighter or more vigorous. Tonality can refer to the general effect in painting of light, color, and shade, or the relative range of these qualities in color schemes.

ArtLex

Then I saw Sarah Wimperis's fabulous Training Session post yesterday on Watermarks - which shows how she produces simple value sketches in winter using big pens in black, brown, grey and white on cardboard while sitting on a beach staring at the Atlantic in Cornwall.

Which was then followed this morning by Jeanette Jobson's Frozen Sketches - in which she is drawing the sunrise over the coastline of Newfoundland...........

Its -12C with a windchill of -26 and I'm standing on the edge of a cliff at 7:45am watching the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean.
Jeannette Jobson - Watermarks - Frozen Sketches
Yikes!!! Both Sarah and Jeanette made me think about how to get values down fast when sketching outside in winter. You don't hang about when it's cold. I know my local bit of water is not quite so impressive as the Atlantic but I certainly don't hang around for long when sat on the very cold steel seats at the Ecology Park Pond!

So how to get (a) assess values fast and (b) get them down on paper fast?

A Sketching Value Scale


I've got a Scale and Value Finder which is produced by the The Color Wheel Company. You can see mine above - it's a bit battered! To give you a sense of size it's 4" x 6" which means it's big enough to be useful and small enough to just slip inside the back pocket of a Moleskine sketchbook.

It's excellent for being able to assess the value of different colours which a lot of people find very confusing. I know I certainly do at times!

The advantage of having the cut out bits is that you can sort out what value the different 'big shapes' are.
  • hold it up to a view while sketching plein air
  • surround the area you want to assess with a value (ie look at it 'through the keyhole')
  • squint (which loses colour but shows values) and then decide which value seems to be the same value as the colour
While indoors, you can do the same thing if drawing or painting a still life.

If you trust the values seen in a photograph (which frankly I don't - cameras almost always distort values) then you could place it over a photo and assess the value of colour that way.

However if you want to use a photo for drawing from, you can adjust the values you see in a photo if you've used a value scale to make a note of the real values 'on the spot' either just before or just after you take the photograph. You really don't have to get an accurate drawing done to be able to create an annotated sketch which tells you what value the key areas/shapes are.

Training your eye - as Sarah says - is another important way of being able to assess values accurately without a scale!

But you do need to draw a lot from life and/or use value scales a lot to be able to do that well. A good way to work out whether you're making progress is to decide what value you think some object or shape is BEFORE you hold up the value scale to the object only - and then you can see if you're making progress with the accuracy of your visual assessment.

I always find it very useful to find the lightest light - and assess how close to pure white that is - and then do the same thing in relation to the relationship between the darkest dark I can see and pure black.

Using a set of greyscale markers is another way of making yourself think about values when sketching. Lindsay Olson (Non Linear Arts), another member of Watermarks, has a useful post on her blog a while ago about How to use markers.

I'm going to do a further post later in the week (probably Friday) about how to use the cutout tool in PS Elements to produce a guide to seeing two values and producing simple two value 'drawings'. All as a preliminary to my learning how to do lino-cutting!

and finally....... a small toot! I'd very much like to thank all my subscribers and regular readers for visiting this blog. This morning saw the arrival of the visitor who pushed the count to over 400,000 unique visitors to this blog in the last three years. Plus the blog has also notched up more than 1,300 subscribers for the first time.

Links:

For those people who weren't following this blog a year ago, you may find
Composition - why tonal values and contrast are important useful in relation to the importance of value to composition and design

Watermarks and blogs:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Selling original art online - auctions, galleries and stores


Etsy: Number of visitors (monthly) in 2008
(scale = millions)

Here's another post in my short series about selling art online. This one concerns the various websites which provide online art auctions, online art galleries and online art stores for selling your art.

I'm also launching yet another(!) new information site - Online Art Galleries and Stores - Resources for Artists - with a difference - which I'll explain a little later.

Any number of services want to help you to get your art online - but do they actually work and which is the best? If you're trying to find out more about online art galleries and print-on demand services this is the site for you!

The basic business model

The basic thing to remember is that many 'online art' sites exist to make money rather than to sell art. If they make money from taking membership subscriptions from artists who then sell no art, then the company concerned may not be too bothered - so long as there are more people queuing up to hand over their subscriptions. You can read more about this in a post I did last July - Selling art - online art websites, tracking marketing data and a new survey for artists!

A successful business enables people to sell their art - and they then recommend it to all their friends who all turn up, sell their art, recommend it to all their friends etc. That might be a recipe for success. However if the buyers are also very happy with what's being sold you can get exponential growth!

This is the story of Etsy. In 2008, they experienced nearly 200% growth in the number of unique visitors and and they now get over 3.6 MILLION visitors each month visiting Etsy - as you can see from the chart at the top of this post.

This chart shows you that every unique visitor to Etsy stays stayed an average (monthly) of between 11 and 14 minutes during 2008



There is no other website solely devoted to handmade art and craft which gets anywhere near to these numbers.

We have no idea how many people visit the art section of eBay and we do know that artists have been closing down stores and deserting eBay in droves since the changes to the fee structure last year. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Etsy got more art and craft oriented traffic than eBay.

Recommendation: I certainly recommend that any artist wanting to sell their original work online should take a serious look around Etsy. I'll be doing a more in-depth review of the site in the future.

Doing the research

If you're considering using an online art auction, gallery or store then doing a bit of research upfront is very worthwhile and can really reduce the prospect of being disappointed later.

Unfortunately, unlike their offline publishing counterparts (who have to provide customers with independently audited data if they want their business), it can be very difficult to get marketing data about the efficiency and effectiveness of these companies from the companies themselves.

However - using the good services of compete.com it is possible to get an insight into the nature of the traffic. I've looked at two key indicators for the last 12 months (2008) - number of unique visitors each month and average stay. I've then charted these and included the charts with the information about the various sites offering artists a way to sell their art using auctions, galleries or stores.

My new information site only summarises online and publicly available information - all I've done is rounded it up and put it all on one site! On this site you can find links which help you to:
- find out what services a site can offer
- identify where you can sell original artwork
- read reviews about different sites
- compare the costs of different packages
- see how effective a website is at attracting traffic and buyers and compare the traffic trends for the sites you're considering

The site is in development and I've got additional sections to add in - notably for those selling daily paintings!

All suggestions about the inclusion of websites for galleries not currently included below should be made by way of a comment (see Comments and Feedback). All suggestions will be reviewed but will only be published if the website is added. (This is to avoid spam).

You can find all the sites in the selling art online series in my new group Resources for Artists - the Art Business

The Future

I'll also be reviewing different types of sites which sell original art during the course of 2009 and you can suggest priorities by leaving a comment below.

So - what do you think of the charts? Any surprises?

Links:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Selling art online - print on demand services for artists

The next post in my series of blog posts about artists selling art online focuses on the various print on demand services - where the technology and the files are all online.
  • Are you interested in having your artwork printed using print on demand technology?
  • Do you want to check out who are the suppliers and what people think of them?
I've collated the information I've got to date about services which are available on my new information site Print Art on Demand - Resources for Artists.

Find out about:
  • what is print on demand / publish on demand
  • suppliers of print on demand services for art - and reviews
  • suppliers of print on demand services for printed publications (eg marketing materials and books)
The site starts by reviewing what is 'print on demand' (POD) and why it has become so popular.

Here are some of the reasons why artists use print on demand.
Print on demand frees up time:
  • no need to spend time making contractual arrangements with a printer; POD is offered 'as is' with a menu of options for additional services at fixed prices
  • no need to spend time on packaging and posting prints
Print on demand reduces risk:
  • no need to sink capital into getting a work printed in the conventional way - which could be a waste of money if you don't know what its sales potential is
Print on demand keeps your space for producing art rather than storing it:
  • no need to find storage which keeps conventional prints in good condition
It then starts to look at the various webware sites which offer to print and market your artwork - on demand - as fine art prints, posters or on various every day items.

Next I look at the options that are available for 'print on demand' when it comes to producing printed publications. Things like: calendars, exhibition catalogues, marketing portfolios, brochures for commission clients, greeting cards and calendars.

I'm aiming to include more reviews - and more sites as I become aware of them. Please do leave a note either on the new site or at the end of this post if you know of a new site or have posted a review of your use of a service on your blog.

What I'd also like to do is a summary post at some point about your experiences with print on demand services do please let me know (leave a comment) what you think about print on demand services for artists and this way of selling art from the perspective of:
  • the services you have used - and what you thought of them
  • the general concept and its impact on your 'business' of being an artist
Send me an email if you'd rather your comments were anonymous!

Note about information collecting

Do you ever feel miffed that I haven't referenced your site? Have you ever thought how easy it is for me to find information on your site?

I look for information all the time on all sorts of different sites. However I don't spend long on sites where it's not easy to dig out the information I want.

This is what I NEED (see below). If you've got all of that (and Empty Easel is an excellent example of a non-standard site which makes it easy to find useful posts about selling art online) then you stand a good chance of getting referenced! If you don't, you won't! So - do you
  • offer a search facility?
  • use a sensible set of categories (which actually deliver) to label your blog posts?
  • tell me fast what the blog post is about (if related to information you want to share and get referenced/linked to)?
Resources for Artists - The Art Business

I also have a new group which will include all my 'resources for artists' information sites which relate to the art business. Check out Resources for Artists - The Art Business

Links - Selling Art Online:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

25th January 2009 - Who's made a mark this week?

Three people have been 'making a mark' in a significant way this week.

I'm starting with Karin Jurick (A Painting Today) because there is nothing quite like getting your work on the cover of a journal! Karin has one of her paintings as the cover of the February 2009 edition of American Artist PLUS she also has a four page feature article about her in the same edition. For a readable view of this article - which includes explanations about use of photographs and how Karin works - click here.



Plus Karin also has an item covering her new blog Different Strokes From Different Folks in Southwest Art (see Good publicity almost by accident ). For a readable view of this article, click here.

Next congratulations to the readers of this blog for voting Zen by Nicole Caulfield (Nicole Caulfield Art Journal) of Keene, New Hampshire the first prize in the The Making A Mark Award for Best Portrait by a female artist for Zen. You obviously spotted a winner....


TheMaking Of Zen by Nicole Caulfield
(coloured pencil)

...because we now need to congratulate Nicole again as this piece has now also won Nicole "Best of Show" ($500) prize at the Biennial Regional Juried Show at the Thorne Sagendorph Gallery! Having noticed last year that her small pieces were not getting looked at by people she decided to go big this year and succeeded in catching the jurors' eyes! You can read about the Private View in her blog post aptly and succiently titled OMG! in which you can also see Nicole with her child models and the paintings.


Left: Quiver by Kirsty Hall
Right: Kirsty Hall with 'Pin Ritual' her performance piece (Quiver is on the left in the window)

Meanwhile Kirsty Hall (Up All Night Again...) has had her first ever London show at Prick Your Finger, which is a haberdashers crossed with an art space, in Bethnal Green. Kirsty had a great PV yesterday afternoon. I love PVs where you get offered cups of tea, banana cake, choccie biccies and also get to sit down! Kirsty is showing some of her pin work including Quiver which is absolutely amazing! (It's the gauze hanging down in the window. The pins are stuck completely through which makes this shape into something akin to a wonderfully soft hedgehog experience. Yesterday she was giving a performance of Pin Ritual.

I got to meet Felix Ford (The Domestic Soundscape) who focuses on sound as art. It's weird when you think about it that everybody takes photos of their home and everyday surroundings - and these are not recognised as an art form - but few people make recordings of their homes and everyday activities. I also met numerous other people who will have to wait for a subsequent blog post! I loved her flier and also No-nonsense knitting commission price guide. All in all it was a very entertaining afternoon!

The death of Tony Hart
Tony Hart, who has died aged 83, made a substantial and original contribution to art education in Britain by entertaining children at such a breathtaking pace on television that they overlooked the fact that they were being educated at all.
The Guardian Obituary: Tony Hart
This was a slow burn item. I think some of the papers were maybe surprised by the number of people who started blogging about how much their art owed to Tony Hart and how fondly they remembered him. I never knew he was the man who designed the Blue Peter logo! There's Tony Hart: A YouTube tribute plus a slideshow put together by the Guardian

Art Blogs

  • There's a nice piece by M. Stephen Doherty Remembering Andrew Wyeth on the American Artist website.
  • Deborah Paris (A Painting Life) has recently had a couple of blog posts about her "artists statement". In the first she explains why she has not had a good attitude towards them (ie so many of the ones she's read have been both "incomprehensible and pretentious" which is a description I'd very definitely agree with (and I guess I wouldn't be alone!) and in the second Artist Statement Part II she explains why she is revising it, how she went about it and provides the 'before' and 'after' versions.
  • Dan (Empty Easel) has started a series on Overcoming Fear: An Inspirational and Practical Series for Artists. He's planning on doing four articles covering the following topics (and I've included the link to the first):
  • Sarah Wimperis (The Red Shoes) has developed a lovely triptych of the sea at Kennack and is having a wonderful time sketching her local coastline
  • Gesa Helms (Paint and Pastel) has a lovely post about Wolf Kahn and his colour palette - see A bit of learning: Wolf Kahn.
  • Gesa has been lino-printing this week as has been Jeanette Jobson (Illustrated Life) - see Ripples who has also been combining them with coloured pencil. I think lino-printing is going viral!
  • Cindy (Skating on the edge of infinity) is the requisite 'nothing whatsoever to do with art' post this week. She went to The Western States Inaugural Ball eat rubbish food, lost her coat and acquired a very odd looking partner ;) but all in all seems to have had a really good time. She's also decided to split her blog in two and have all the political posts on a new blogspot blog so that this one can be just for her art.
  • Brenda (Serendipity Patchwork ) in Australia has been playing around with online colour generators Different palettes
  • Being creative on Blue Monday was my contribution last Monday to thinking of ways to stay creative when the mid-January blues begin to hit home.
Art Business and Art Marketing
  • Selling art online became a mini theme last week and will be a big theme in the course of this next week (galleries online / print on demand etc). Posts included:
  • users spend an average of 51 seconds reading a newsletter and
  • only 19% read the entire newsletter
Jakob Neilsen
  • Clint Watson responded to my post with this post Do You Want Traffic or Do You Want to Sell Art?
  • Note also Deborah's very clear and transparent statement about pricing in the side column of her sales blog Deborah Paris Fine Art. Note also how Deborah has effectively created a gallery in Blogger by removing all references to dates.
  • Do artists understand what a niche is? Should style come under marketing? Maybe not - on the other hand it might be what makes your work sell. Empty Easel has an article by How to discover your niche and style by Aggie Villanueva who uses computer-manipulated photography - which was then referenced by the Imagekind blog. My main reason for including it here is that I'm afraid I have to take issue with her definition of niche ("your niche is what you know"). The use of 'Niche' in marketing is actually about identifying the market segment you serve - in other words it defines the answer to "who are your customers?"
niche
a small specialized group identified as a market for a particular range of products or services.
Chambers Dictionary
Art Economy
  • Results being reported and overall prospects in the markets as a whole generally continue to be pretty bleak and gloomy. As I've said before, the worst is yet to come............which is what makes the focus on selling online in an efficient and effective way so pertinent and is the reason I'll continue to focus on this next week.
  • The figures have finally been published and in the UK we're now officially in recession
  • Current expectations are that there will be very significant reductions in the prices of contemporary art. For all of us who always said the contemporary art market had been hyper-inflated at the top end this will come as absolutely no surprise at all. According to ArtTactic in its Art Market Confidence Survey there has been an 81% drop in confidence in the art market since May 2008. You can read the summary by clicking the link - it includes an interesting list of what are being termed blue chip contemporary artists. It also provides some parameters for long term planning.
  • Confidence hits rock bottom: US & European Contemporary Art Market Confidence Indicator drops 81% from May 2008.
  • Recovery will take years: 52% of the respondents believe it will take more than 3 years for the market to start picking up, and more than half of these believe it could take more than 5 years.
  • Bottom falls out of the high-end of the market: The confidence has weakened in all of the higher price segments (particularly above 0,000) since the last reading in May 2008
ArtTactic - Art Market Confidence Survey
and
Komala said prices will tumble 30-40 percent this year, partly because auction houses concentrated on promoting a small number of contemporary artists, whose prices became inflated.
Bloomberg: Art Auction Prices May Fall 40% in 2009, Larasati Chief Says
  • On the auction front:
    • After the recent Christies announcement (in this post last Sunday), it appears that Sotheby’s Amsterdam is set to cut two-thirds of its 60 employees.
    • Online auctioneer and aspirational storeowner eBay is struggling to cope with the economic downturn. It reported a significant drop in both revenue (7% decline) and profit (31% drop) for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008 compared to the same period last year. However it beat analysts' estimates of the expected decline. Marketrap announced that that eBay Reports Results and Investors Continue to Sell. The notion is that eBay will continue to be hit so long as merchants continue to go out of business. On the other hand if I were eBay I'd be wondering when Obama is going to get to grips with monopolistic providers like Google and eBay.
Art competitions
Art Exhibitions and Museums
Art Supplies
  • Bullrushes on claybord - work in progress is the beginning of my assessment of the pros and cons of using coloured pencils on Ampersand Claybord
  • Oil Pastels 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Painting with Oil Pastel by Robert Sloan on Empty Easel is really good article on oil pastels
  • Prick Your Finger, where Kirsty has her show and PV has a website (soon to be revised) and a blog called Prick Your Finger. It's an amazing place - they source UK yarns which are produced by small independent producers in an appropriate way (eg Cornish Organic, Blue Faced Leicester and English Alpaca) and also spun in this country rather than being sent away to be spun. No Rowan on the premises. A complete treasure trove for any yarn addict.
  • I also saw buttons produced by The Glass Pingle. It was very weird standing in a shop in Bethnal Green looking at beautiful buttons with an etsy store address on them!
Copyright
Genre Art
Tips and techniques
Websites, webware and blogging
  • This morning I provided an update on Feedburner in Feedburner: Techcrunch and transferring my feeds. (For those having difficulties with feeds you might want to try referencing A Making A Mark Guide: Subscriptions 101 (Feedburner)
  • Flickr is hyping its new uploadr (v.3.1.3) - BUT why oh why didn't I read the forum first where there are huge numbers of complaints about it not working?! I downloaded it and it doesn't work just like the last "improved version so I decided to go back to version 2.5 - the only one what works all the time. Except they're removed it from the site - so at the moment I can't upload anything to Flickr.
  • I don't know about you but I am very decidedly NOT in love with Google's new favicon - and the BBC obviously must think along similar lines because they're inviting people to design a new one!
and finally............

Here's a satellite image of the Capitol - before and after people arrived for the Inauguration this week. Wasn't it really amazing?

I tried to tie into the Inauguration with my post on Tuesday Living the dream - how conscious are you of your own competence?

Feedburner: Techcrunch and transferring my feeds

This post is about:
  • the transfer of your Feedburner feeds to your Google account before they shut down at the end of February
  • criticisms of the Feedburner service by Michael Arrington at TechCrunch
Last one first!

Techcrunch lambasts Google and Feedburner

Google acquired Feedburner on June 1, 2007 for $100M in Cash. Last Thursday, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch made some very serious criticisms of Feedburner - see Feedburner Needs To Get It Together. In 2008, Arrington was identified by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world so it pays to listen to what he has to say!

In essence his criticism is that Google is treating Feedburner as a vehicle for distributing its ads and is just not demonstrating any interest in proving a decent service for all the various web 2.0 activities which rely on feeds. He says:
  • complaints about Feedburner continue
  • the service is becoming unreliable
  • Feedburner problems plague website owners far more than they should
  • Google has taken far too long since acquisition to absorb Feedburner and sort it out
  • Distribution of blog content has slowed down - a killer in the 'breaking news' business
  • Google are far more focused on providing a blog for their AdSense ads than they are in providing a blog which supports Feedburner and addressing questions of performance. The "Burning Questions" Feedburner blog was closed down on 23rd December 2008. (If Michael had looked a little harder he would have noticed a 7 month gap with no posts at all!)
they have to focus on the quality of the service, too, or the ecosystem won’t work. The message they’re sending to everyone is that the service doesn’t deserve a blog, just the advertising they bolt onto it. Imagine if they did the same thing with search.
Feedburner Needs To Get It Together
Now I'd take that as a sign that competition can only be just around the corner. Of course he could just have been really upset that his Feedburner stats figure for TechCrunch read zero rather than 1.7 million.

Transfer of Feedburner Feeds

Google started transferring the feed files recently and having sorted most of the people with adsense accounts they're now moving on to the likes of me (and you!).

Note we all MUST transfer by the end of February. The most important bit of this message is you don't have an option. You need to get your feedburner feeds transferred to a Google account before the end of February.

I transferred mine yesterday - and the transfer of feeds for multiple blogs took about 30 seconds.

There was a warning that your subscriber numbers can go a little bit haywire to start with. My subscriber numbers are fine - but my reach numbers have bombed and gone to zero. However like a lot of other people I did watch my subscriber numbers go haywire temporarily last week on the old feedburner site!

Note that you lose your the stats for site items - you will therefore now need Google Analytics for that. (see Making A Mark Guide - Installing Google Analytics on your Blog which is listed on the website page for Making A Mark Publications.)

You will no longer be able to sign in to feedburner.com. From now on, you may now view and manage your feeds by visiting: http://feedburner.google.com

Your old FeedBurner feeds (at feeds.feedburner.com) will automatically redirect traffic to their new addresses on the feeds2.feedburner.com domain. All of your feeds have been moved into your Google Account, along with your traffic stats. If you see “0” for the most recent day, don’t panic! It may take up to a week for a feed’s full dose of stats to appear in your Google Account.

You can also find the link to Feedburner in your Google Account "My Account" page. If you have any questions, please visit their Transfer FAQ.

When you've got your feeds transferred and start wondering about the new chart it pays to read Los colores bonitos, or how I learned to stop worrying and compare multiple feed metrics from the new blog which explains what the green and blue lines are in the chart.

UPDATE (after comments) If you find feeds confusing try reading my Subscriptions 101 guide and see if that helps

Links:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Selling art online - email newsletter software

Are you confused by the different software options for generating a newsletter delivered via email? You're certainly not alone - and this site is starting to try and sort out what are the free and paid options and how they compare.
Introduction to Email Newsletter Software - Resources for Artists
A while back I did a review of email newsletter software - see Which is the best e-mail newsletter software?. This has now been converted into a squidoo lens which makes it easier to see all the different types of software - in terms of "free to download" and priced options.

What I've done is taken the review of each item of software which was identified last summer and included both the overview site description (from the website) and also my brief review.

Software is not enough!

I've also included some new material on the new site from Jakob Neilsen of the Neilsen Norman Group and useit.com who specialises in web usability. He has a couple of interesting statistics about email newsletters that it's worth drawing people's attention to:
  • users spend an average of 51 seconds reading a newsletter and
  • only 19% read the entire newsletter
The layout and writing both need superb usability to survive in the high-pressure environment of a crowded inbox.
Jakob Neilsen - Email Newsletter Usability
So thinking about content, design and what goes where is very important! It would be great if there were a brief digest of the salient points of his big report - that price is a bit difficult to digest!

I'm still looking for more suggestions as to good email newsletter software and comments as to experiences. Please leave comments either on this post or on the new site - anybody can comment. Plus if you like the site and/or find it useful please rate it. Thanks! :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bullrushes on claybord - work in progress

Bullrushes #1 - work in progress
14" x 11" coloured pencils on Ampersand Claybord
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'm afraid my eyes can't cope with another session of creating itemised lists in Squidoo (more about selling art online next week) so I'm going to fall back on that old faithful - the work in progress!

This is a start - and is maybe about halfway through - but I've no idea how long it will take to finish. The reason I'm unsure is because this is my first attempt at using an 14" x 11" piece of Ampersand Claybord.

Here's a summary of of what Clayboard is.....
Clayboard (TM)
This museum quality panel is coated with a smooth absorbent clay ground comparable to the clay gesso grounds used during the Renaissance. Archival, lightfast, and acid free, the panels are ideal for acrylics, gouache, tempera, egg tempera, pen and inks as well as for mixed media techniques, airbrush, and collage. The surface is additive and subtractive. Remove paints to add contrast, texture, tonal value and fine details. Perfect for any artwork that requires an extremely smooth surface. Claybord is available in a 1/8" flat panel, a 3/4" cradle or with a 2" Deep Cradle.
...followed by a summary of what I've identified as the Pros and Cons to date when using this as a support for coloured pencils.

I should add I'm using a 1/8" flat panel of Clayboard Smooth

Pros
  • super smooth surface - like the smoothest paper you've ever used. There is absolutely no grain at all. Rather like very fine gesso panel but not so dry. People who really like hot press will probably like this.
  • coloured pencils definitely like it.
  • using a battery powered eraser can work in the same way as when you indent a line into paper. I'm working over the water ripples (towards the bottom) and they stay fairly clean of pencil - and it would be very easy to go over them to spruce them up
  • Possible to frame without glass.
Cons
  • I think there are going to be problems getting a saturated colour - I'm not optimistic (and am just wondering what a judicious use of Zest-It might do). I don't this is a surface where many layers make a difference
  • when I use a battery powered eraser, it removes any coloured pencil mistakes really easily. However it also marks the surface and can leave you with a mark in the wrong place. (A smooth but blunt and larger surface of an eraser seems to present fewer problems in terms of marking the surface unnecessarily.)
Has anybody else used Claybord - and, if so, do you have any tips? This is what Ampersand has to say about using it with graphite and coloured pencils.
Both graphite and colored pencils work well with Claybord (Smooth). The softer the lead and the higher the pigment content, the better. Claybord's (Smooth) rigidity, soft tooth finish, avenues for manipulation, and archival qualities makes it a fresh alternative for pencil work. If you need more texture on your panel, try Claybord Textured which can be used as is or sanded to the tooth desired.
I think I maybe need to start using my softer pencils..........

Ampersand also provide advice on the use of Clayboard with other media
Using Claybord and...
This work will be making its way across to the Watermarks blog in due course.

Links:
  • Ampersand Art Supply Ampersand Art Supply 1500 East Fourth Street Austin, TX 78702; (800)822-1939 toll free; (512) 322-9928 fax

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Selling Art Online - Resources for Artists" (is a WIP)

Selling Art Online - Resources for Artists is my latest information site in the Resources for Artists series.

However after having spent very many hours on it yesterday and today - during which time it also spawned two completely new sites - I can now remember why I've been putting this one off!!!

Here's the introduction..........

Do you want to know how to sell art online - or improve your knowledge of e-commerce for artists? Check out this site to find out about selling your art via your websites, blog, shopping carts, auctions, online galleries, online stores and email marketing.

Whether you are an emerging or experienced artist, this site will provide you with a link to information and advice about:
- driving traffic to your blog or website
- finding out more about tools and webware which can help with ecommerce for artists
- reviewing the various sites offering to help you sell your art online
- ecommerce and payment systems for selling online
- the law and regulations relating to selling online
- other matters relevant to the business of selling art online.

Much of the advice is generic and applicable to all artists no matter where they live. Where information is country-specific, it tends to focus on on the UK. It also provides information relevant to the US market

Plus this is the expanded list of topics covered by the lens.
Options for selling your art online
  • Your options for selling your art online
Selling from your website and/or blog
  • Selling from your own website and/or blog
  • CONTENT TIPS: Getting people to subscribe and visit
  • TECHNICAL TIPS - Driving traffic to your blog or website
  • Blogging for Artists
  • Tools to aid online selling by an artist
  • Useful articles about selling art online
  • The Art Business - book for artists
Auctions, Stores and Online Galleries
  • COMING SOON!!! A brand new information site about selling art via third parties
  • COMING SOON!!!
  • Selling Art Online - Relevant Blogs
  • Art and Business - Resources for Artists
  • TOP TIP: Do you know who buys art?
E-commerce
  • What is E-commerce?
  • TIPS for ecommerce online
  • E-commerce software
  • Reviews of ecommerce software
  • Wikipedia - E-commerce payment systems
  • Ecommerce payment systems
  • News about the ecommerce marketplace
Selling Art Online - Law and regulations
  • Selling Art Online - the Law and Regulation in the USA
  • Selling Art Online - the Law and Regulations in the UK
  • Selling ACEOs online
  • BOOKS: Marketing Art and Selling Art Online
Email Marketing
  • Permission Marketing
  • Email Newsletter Software
  • Find out about e-mail marketing
  • Email marketing for artists
Selling practices to be avoided
  • Bait and switch
and finally......
  • Comments and Feedback
I'm now completely cross-eyed. Partly because I have not been enjoying at all the way that Squidoo lost some of the basic functionality for building sites like this in the last webware update. It's now very difficult to move links around in the link list module and consequently you well find that the order of some of the links is not as logical as it might be.

This is very definitely a work in progress. Please do tell me what you think's missing.

TOMORROW! After I've sorted my number one priority - my borough parking permit - I shall be publishing Online Art Galleries - Resources for Artists

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What do you want to know about selling art online?

This week I was asked whether I had any advice to offer about selling art online - in particular through the various e-commerce gallery sites. It prompted me to try and pull together what I know by way of advice - but it also got me thinking..........

I've now identified a way of responding to the query I received - plus a way in which you could also help out around providing advice.

Coots Study #1
coloured pencils on black Arches cover

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Here's the query
I have come to the font of all blog knowledge to ask for some advice on how to make the next move for my artwork. I begin to feel much more confident and would really like to get my work out there. Really bad year to choose to do it with the recession but you have to start somewhere, right? I'd really like to get more traffic to my blog and website but have no idea how to do it. Any advice you could give me would be really appreciated.

I'm currently very motivated from the business standpoint.

Do you have any recommendations regarding Etsy, ImageKind or any of those sites?
Now what's really good about this query is that first the artist recognizes a need to find out more before she starts trying to market herself online ( "conscious incompetence" - see yesterday's post!). Plus, second, she also recognises that the recession is going to make a difference. She's absolutely right - it will make a major difference!

But that then throws up the issue of whether past advice continues to be relevant given the way that the art economy is changing!

She's asking about two things:
  • how to get more traffic to her blog and website
  • views on various websites which help artists to sell their art online.
It struck me that these issues are the key topics which surface for most artists as they begin to start thinking about selling their art online. I know that when I first started thinking about it, that it took me quite a while to find sites which were helpful.

A new Resources for Artists site

I've got information about ecommerce sites in Art Business - Resources for Artists. However that's a very big information site and I've started to break out specific topics from that one into separate microsites.

What I've decided to do is create a new Resources for Artists site focused purely on ecommerce for artists and selling art online. [Update: In the end I created a number of sites - and you can find them all in Resources for Artists - Selling Art Online Headquarters]

In fact I got it up and running this morning and will be spending today populating it with links to all the sites I know about.

Here's how you can help

My aim is to try and make the new site as relevant as I can to people who want to know about selling art online. So, in terms of checking out the scope of the new site, it struck me that the readers of this blog could provide some useful pointers!

First please let me know what you want to know about. For example, do you want to know more about the law and regulations relating to selling online?

Use the comments to this post to leave a note of your query/queries which you'd like to get an answer to - or, alternatively, those mattters that you try and keep up to date on.

Second, I've got a lot of links to include - but more are always welcome. Please leave a comment with the name and URL if you've got any favourite websites, blogs, blog posts, articles, tools or books which you have found helpful in relation to selling your art online - whether it's ACEOs, daily paintings, small works, original artwork of any size, prints or crafts. That way what has helped you can be shared with other people in the community of artists interested in selling art online.

Tomorrow I'll be publishing the new site and will highlight some of the issues which emerged for me as I was creating it - in terms of:
  • where the gaps in information are
  • where there are now queries over the continuing relevance of past advice.
Note about the Image:
After my mistake around moor hens and coots, I decided I needed to start drawing Coots so I wouldn't forget and make the same mistake. I'm having a fun time with the RSPB database for identifying birds - here's more about the coot. Usually they appear to be all black - except when they're fluffing up their feathers to keep warm because they're standing on ice! They also have the most curious feet and a penchant for standing on one leg.
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