Saturday, September 30, 2006

Working Smarter

If you spend a lot of time in photoshop or any software program for that matter you have probably learned a few keyboard shortcuts. Here is a great little quickie tutorial by Dave Cross on setting up your very own shortcuts in photoshop. I spent some time this morning on Planet Photoshop browsing through their terrific photoshop tutorials. This is a terrific site.

I must admit that I have only scratched the surface when it comes to using Photoshop's ease of production tools such as actions, and customizing my keyboard shortcuts. I would like 07 to be all about working smarter and not necessarily harder so I guess I need to set up a few of my own personal keyboard shortcuts today.

Why I Visit On-line Tutorials so much:
As a commercial artist I find it is easy to get into routines in my work and rely on the same techniques or the same habits of doing things that I have always done. I find the challenge in my work at this point is looking at things upside down so to speak or from a new angle to discover new ways of achieving my goals. This is never more true than with Photoshop. There are a gabillion ways of doing one thing in this software program. Those that are not familiar with Photoshop may think that all digital artists have one big "easy button" that we all use to colorize an image in the exact same way. The reality is there are dozens of ways to colorize an image, and different approaches will yield different results. By browsing tutorials you can find new solutions to issues you have been addressing that approach your challenges in different ways. If a new technique saves you even one step then that might be a few extra minutes you can spend at the park with your dog. Yea, my new mantra needs to be work smarter smarter.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dan is Painting

My husband has started painting again and his first piece was a painting of our Scottie boy Tommy. I really love how he captured Big Tommy's crooked tail. This work is thick with paint and this low resolution web image does not really do it justice. Dan paints in oils and usually works pretty large. His new piece is a modest 5 feet by 3.5 feet in size. Dan still works full time in the printing industry so he does not have the time to play that I do here at Art Paw. I am very excited to see him making the time to paint again. He says this new piece is just a sketch to loosen up a bit. I can't wait to see his next painting. My own portrait work is all digital so it is really fun to get to see some old fashion oil painting happening around here. When walking into his paint studio our friends and visitors are immediately hit with the wonderful smell of oils and paint thinner. Dan and I met in college back in the 80's. We did not meet up again until the late 90's. When I was younger I never imagined that I would marry an artist and I feel very blessed to be with someone that approaches all aspects of his life with creativity and an unusual perspective.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Emma The Cape Parrot

Dianne and I worked on Emma the cape parrot today. She looks pretty cool hangin with Mona. She gives Mona a real tropical flair. I sort of want to give Mona an eye patch but I'm sure Emma's human probably gets tired of pirate jokes.

This week I am trying to finalize all of September's projects. Now is the time to start thinking about Christmas orders people. You guys will not be able to procrastinate and order custom artwork 3 days before Christmas and receive it on time so start gathering up those photos now and sending them in. Get your orders placed on the project board now. The holidays are much closer than you think.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Design Mags and Eye Candy

When I was in my early 30's and designing greeting cards for a living my best friend and I use to go to Borders Books once a month to purchase and paw through their stunning design rags and design books for inspiration. While I still love to get my hands on a yummy well designed mag or book printed on quality paper I no longer crave those excursions like I once did. The web is overflowing with inspiration and info for artists and designers so there is really no reason to leave the house any longer just to get an eyeful. I do miss the tactile sensual experience of paper & ink and yea I do still indulge myself at Borders on occasion, however today regardless of my budget or schedule, inspiration is always just a click away.

Today I post just a few favorites from my rather long list of bookmarked sites.
How Design ( I also subscribe)
Design Graphics
Applied Arts
Colors Magazine

Digital Thread

Friday, September 22, 2006

Animal Art in the News

Charging Bull ... watch out Wal-Mart!
Wal-Mart has found itself in trouble over copyright issues involving a Bull. Artist Arturo Di Modica is the sculptor responsible for the famous charging bull statue near Wall Street. Evidently knock off copies of the art are being sold for profit by Wal-Mart Check out the full story at

Australian Petroglyphs in Danger

The world's largest collection of ancient rock art is being threatened by a new gas project. Kangaroos, goannas, porcupines, and emus, are just a few of the animal rock art subjects facing damage by acid rain from petrochemical plants in Dampier Archipelago Australia. The animal art carvings are 6,000 to 30,000 years old and chronicle the cultural heritage of ancient Aboriginal societies.

Rotting Shark and longevity issues around conceptual art
Ok this story from June seems like a good follow up to the last. Artist Damien Hirst is negotiating with his clients to replace the shark in his iconic work, The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living, 1991. The artwork consists of a large dead shark suspended in a huge tank filled with formaldehyde. The shark is "starting to change" shall we say, and the artist is agreeable to changing out the specimen as needed. I don't know, seems as though a rotting shark might be it's own statement, and even more interesting than the original. I also agree with those that posted to complain about killing animals and calling it Art. How many sharks will he have to kill to maintain his conceptual artwork over the course of a lifteime?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Fine Fall Morning

It is really starting to feel like fall here in Dallas. After a triple digit summer the cooler weather has everyone around here feeling young and feisty. The pups have an extra bounce in their steps, and I feel like a kid anxious for Halloween.

With the weather so flawless I decided I could not sit at my desk this morning so Allison & I packed up the laptops today and went to the Dallas arboretum to work outside this morning. She is finalizing 3 Warhols today and I am working on a few painterly projects. I just finished my 2nd Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. This girl is named Momma Rose, I love that name. She was fun and a bit of a challenge as her eyes were not showing up at all in the original photograph. I am very happy with her final artwork. Now I have to get back to Ding-a-ling the dolphin. I may have her proof ready by late tonight.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Growing Packs & Prides

In the past few months we have been working with a few different repeat clients that are growing their packs or prides as the case may be. Last week we shipped a rather long custom portrait that was 20 x 40 inches. Max & Cooper have a new kitty sister Josie. So what was originally a 4-panel artwork created last year has now become a new 6-panel print to include sister Josie. We worked with our client to come up with a custom size that would work out well above an entertainment center. The new print has even more fun color. Yea, I do sort of love my job.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Swimming with the dolphins

This week I get to swim with the dolphins, at any rate I find myself in the deep end of the pool. I am very excited to be working on a non-furry client. I am posting this piece in progress as I have a feeling this one may take a few days. So far I have just played with colors and filters. I still need to go in and add lots of paint strokes and texture. I love the opportunity to play with unusual subjects and this will be my very first dolphin.

People often ask me what my most unusual request has been. It is hard to say, we have done lizards, frogs, hamsters, horses, all kinds of birds, monkeys, even a gold fish. I can not wait to see how this dolphin evolves. It is always refreshing to break away from my 4-legged subject matter and tackle something new. I'll try and post again soon on this guy.

I started this piece without enough info and I just got an update from this cool dolphin's human. Here is the personal scoop on this clever girl: "The dolphins name that you are working on is "Ding-a-ling." She is the alpha female in charge of a family of 14 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. She is around 30 yrs. old and drop dead georgous!"
Thanks to Sarah for the background info. Now I am really personally attached ... ya just gotta love those old Alpha girls! Wish I could swim with her.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Andy Warhol Silent Spring

On Exhibit now at the National Museum of Wildlife Art is the show Silent Spring: Andy Warhol's Endangered Species and Vanishing Animals. Included in the show are 16 original prints of animals that are facing extinction. The exhibition is organized by The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
Check it out at

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pet Portrait Marketing Guide

A lot of artists have been writing to me just this past month about how to get your work seen. Just today a very nice lady wrote to ask how to get her Mom's custom portraits seen. Art Paw has a pretty strong web presence and many artists may think we are "lucky" or that maybe we know some easy secret to marketing that gives us an edge. The reality is there is no "easy" secret when it comes to marketing artwork. I would be happy to share a few tips that are working for us.

#1 Advertise off-line to drive traffic on-line.
We spend a few thousand dollars a year advertising in a variety of pet oriented national magazines. The cost for print ads can run as low as $200 and can go up into the thousands depending on your budget. We do small marketplace ads and try to keep our costs as low as possible.

#2 Show up at local pet events
National coverage is great, but do not forget to work your local market by showing up at dog and pet related events put on by local charity groups. Be sure and give to those local charities as well. Many rescue groups have yearly auctions and would love to have one of your portraits to auction off for their cause. They will often place your business cards and marketing brochures by your auction item.

#3 Search Engine Optimization
If you have a website make sure the engines can find you. I am always trying to read up on the latest news about optimizing for various web engines. I am not going to go into detail here and give you a step by step guide on how to do this because there are a gazillion web-sites out there that will teach you how. In addition to free information there are companies that will optimize your website for you for a small fee. If someone tries to sell you services for web optimization be sure and check to see how their web site ranks. You do not want to hire the company that is ranking on page 10 for SEO services.

#4 Printed Marketing Materials
The web is great and a well designed on-line portfolio is a good place to start but do not forget about old fashion marketing materials such as full color business cards, flyers, postcards and more. Leave these at your local vets, groomers and doggy daycare places. Slap a bumper sticker on your car with your domain on it ....get aggressive locally in getting your name out there.

#5 Spend almost as much time marketing your artwork as making it.
Yep, it sad but true, you should develop a real joy for selling because your first 5 years in business should be spent with at least 50% of your energies being put into marketing. If you are doing art fulltime and can afford to spend twice as much time selling your artwork as making it then you will succeed twice as fast.

#6 Network with other Artists
There are tons of successful artists on-line and while not everyone that you e-mail is going to feel compelled to give you any help it never hurts to ask. A word of advice in approaching other artists by e-mail, try and include your full name, web address and phone number. Do not try and be sneaky or pretend to be someone else. I have had a handful of portrait artists e-mail with their hotmail accounts to ask how my ad in a specific magazine is doing for me without even identifying themselves. Be totally above board and honest with people and they will usually be glad to help you. If you try to be anonymous it will usually backfire on you. Be willing to share a little of yourself when approaching other artists.

#7 Spend Some Time and Spend Some Money

I have never been shy about spending money on my business. It takes money to make money. I happen to love marketing and see it as a creative art form in itself. I am not afraid to invest time and money into selling because I know my work is good and that it will pay off if I invest in myself.

So if you are an artist get out there and start selling. Artists should also feel free to leave a comment here and share your own marketing tips. If you are a pet lover please order an Art Paw original today so I can figure out how to pay for my next print ad.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

100 posts

Wow today is a milestone for me with the blog. This is my 100th post. I started my Art Dog Blog back in February of 05. Over a year later I have finally reached 100 posts. I feel like I should have something monumental to talk about today, but I'm afraid this may just be another regular old post. As I mentioned before this September also marks our 8th birthday here at Art Paw. I guess more than anything today I am very aware of my human trait of marking time, and the odd yardsticks we use to measure success. So do I have a successful blog, are people even reading it? I really don't know, all I know is I feel good about reaching that triple digit number.

So what is all this in doggy years?

My furkids don't mark time at all, just lamp posts, trees, and the occasional fence post. Our Scotties go on 2 walks a day every single day of the week so they go on around 730 walks a year. I have never once heard them bragging about reaching 200, 300, 400 or so walks. No, but I do hear from them if the walk is late. It is easy to look at our pups and wish we could be more zen about life. The reality is that simple actions like updating a blog on a regular basis can be viewed as a zen like discipline. All I know for sure is that I do enjoy blogging.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Pixel Chiffon Pie

© Kathy Weller

Portrait artist and illustrator Kathy Weller finished her artwork of my Pixel over the weekend and it looks so great. Our little scottie girl is at that good versus evil, or "id at war with the ego" stage of development. One minute she is an angel and the next she is the devil. Kathy created a fun portrait that captures both sides of her personality. Check out her "What's Cookin Page" to see more. I love the color scheme and the flames on the devil side. I know this piece of art will always make us smile especially once our little girl grows up and becomes a civilized and mature Scott. I am often surprised by how many people commission custom portraits of their wee puppies, but you know it really does make sense to capture them at this unique stage. We send many thanks, wags & sniffs to Kathy for a great piece of art.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Web Design Tools

So Saturday is usually the day I post a link to some clever photoshop tutorial that I have stumbled upon while browsing the web. Not today. Today I have 2 words to share ... Template Monster. Oh my gosh, this last week I have been digging through this resource site and have found at least a dozen web design templates I want to try out. Template Monster makes me feel like a kid in a candy store.

Art Paw and most of my other sites were designed by me from scratch in Dreamweaver. Back in 1998 we started our very first site and my husband actually built it using raw code. We threw it up ( sounds lovely right), we threw it up on to our free member homepage with earthlink. A year or so later we got our own domain and I started tinkering with site design and taught myself Dreamweaver over time. I still have tons to learn and feel like you never stop learning when it comes to the web since it all changes so fast. The cool thing is today there are so many resources out there to help you along.

This month we are celebrating our 8th Birthday here at Art Paw. A few of our early pages can still be found using the way back machine. We had some cool colors working for us, but I made a lot of design mistakes back then, yea, comic sans to start with. At least we can still laugh at ourselves. We still laugh when we think about how hard Dan worked to figure out how to code some silly little moving text sales blurb that ran across your screen when the site loaded. Like most web-animation it was sort of cool "once" then quickly became irritating. Ah well ... live and learn.

With so much on my plate right now I think the next web project I tackle will be created by modifying a pre-existing template ... heck why not. Template Monster is a great resource for any small business owner that wants to try creating or updating their website on their own. You still have to own some sort of web design software program to make any sort of pre-fab web template work well for your own needs.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday so soon?

Wow the days have flown by this week. Today we will stretch around 7 prints and update 3 clients. That leaves only about 4 new projects on my plate for next week. With any luck I may clear my work load completely this month. That would allow me to focus on getting the site ready for Christmas.
Yesterday I worked on Maybelle and Gus. These two handsome Corgis were a blast to play with. I just adore sturdy big headed short legged dogs. Some day I want to have a Corgi of my own.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Habits and Routines

Too often we think of our routines as boring, and habits as things to break. My dogs have taught me to look at routines with a unique perspective I never had when I was younger. Every little daily ritual is celebrated by our Scotties as though it may never come again. They never grow bored with their walks and they never get tired of the same old meal each night.

Lately I have been working on developing habits and routines that feed the soul so to speak. Like half of America I am trying to develop a habit of going to the gym a few times a week. That is going ok and I feel a little healthier. My favorite new routine is to spend one morning a week at our local arboretum garden center. I am taking the laptop and working on one pet portrait in an environment that is overflowing with life and it's own little eco-system. This routine gets me out of my studio and allows me to refresh and work at a slower pace, away from the phone and the constant distractions that seem to characterize any successful business. What type of mini-breaks can you work into your work week that will refresh your spirit and break up your normal routine?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Miss Ruby

This pup sketch is another quick and loose Wacom drawing created on my laptop during a labor day weekend road trip to the hill country. This girl is Ruby and she belongs to my best friend.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bulldog Sketch

This Bulldog sketch was created in the car on a road trip to the Hill country in Texas. I think he turned out pretty good.