Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ya just gotta love Adobe

Not a whole lot happening today. My husband just informed me this morning that it is labor day weekend and he has 3 days off, so well er, I am being bad and taking a 3 day weekend. This morning I was stumbling the web and found an AMAZING little flash art thing over at Adobe.
Check out : and be inspired people!
I am not a huge flash fan so when I see something that knocks my socks off I have to share even if it has no doggies involved.

I finally stopped lurking and trying out freebie tutorials over at and I signed up for their annual training. So I plan to spend a few hours tonight learning more about video.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Vlog / The Wacom Tablet

Today I want to talk a little about my Wacom tablet and the painterly work I do here at Art Paw. Every day a hundred new digital artists join us on-line and a large percentage of those folks will discover the rewarding niche of Pet Portraiture. About 5 years ago as the digital competition started heating up I quickly realized I needed to do something to separate myself from the pack. Back then I had started smushing pixels around as a method to compensate for low res. images and the pixelation that occurs when you enlarge smaller files. Using my Wacom tablet I quickly dove head first into developing my own painterly style of working that I am becoming well known for today.
About Filter Driven Work:
I am the first to say that there is nothing wrong with Photoshop filters or what I call "filter driven work". Unless you use Photoshop yourself you might never know if a photo has had a filter applied, hand painting, or wacom painting applied. I am going to post a few samples below to illustrate some differences. I am not going to try to boast that digital work that uses a Wacom tablet is far superior to other types of digital work because that is just not necessarily true at all. What I can say however is that it has brought me back to my fine art roots and allowed me to develop a style that stands apart from much of the work that is out there.

The beauty of the Wacom tablet is that no 2 people are going to have the exact same approach or touch with it. It responds like traditional media and if you like to press down hard and get big fat heavy lines in your work you can do that and your work will look totally different from someone with a lighter touch. Oh and if ya want to see today's Vlog scroll past the images to the end of this post. Nothing earth shattering today ... just me & my tablets, oh and I got a new haircut.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Removing unwanted objects from photos

This lovely Saint Bernard is Sadie. Her human asked us to remove the car window from the original photo. I used the clone tool and of course the smudge tool to pull this off. I am happy with the results. The original photo had a lot going for it including high resolution and a lot of crisp detail.

When I first started Art Paw 10 years ago people did not really understand digital art at all. They would look at our canvas prints in disbelief when we told them it was ink on canvas and not oils. Today our clients are a lot more sophisticated about digital art and they often ask us to do challenging things like removing objects in the foreground such as the window. I have even had clients ask me to paint in tongues on closed mouthed dogs before, and I somehow made it work.

While people do understand that a lot is possible with digital art, I often think they still do not quite have their minds around how long it actually takes. Working out an issue like the window above can take me about an hour or so, and then I still have to spend several more hours on the fun part of color & paint strokes. I could charge more for tasks like this and yet the reality is I do not really mind the extra work because stuff like this makes me better at Photoshop.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Cat & Dog Portraits

"Larsson & Bailey from Scotland"

Working hard this week on a handful of new commissions. I have had a few appointments outside of the office lately so I am doing double time to try to stay ahead. I am getting my hair cut later today ... that should make me feel like a new woman.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Pros & Cons to Selling Art On Etsy

Above are my most recent Etsy purchases.
I adore them both.

(Left) "Oliver, a Yeti Sasquatch" by Kraken Mosaics
( Right) " Summer Laundry" by Wild Plum Mosaics

I love Etsy! It is the best place on the web for buying handmade gifts and I often manage to buy gifts for ME. I have not been working Etsy very hard as a seller lately so I am really not the most experienced person to be offering advice. I do hope some of my fellow artist pals will take a moment to offer up their opinions on Etsy by leaving a comment here.

Very easy to use interface
Goodlooking web design.
This is a handmade community so your art will not be listed along side car tires, perfume and gucci handbags.
Great supportive community. Great place to network and support other artists.
Very low listing fees.
Young vibe, lots of talent.

Often feels like artists selling to other artists so prices tend to be on the lower side. This is great for buying, but you may find your bigger pieces and pricier work slow to move.
Ok that is it on Cons.

For Etsy tips and advice visit Timothy Adam's Blog.

A few shops worth a peek:

My Art Paw Shop
Timothy Adams Design
Abby Creek Studios
Dream Dogs Art
Weller Wishes
Erika Jones
Kraken Mosaics
Wild Plum Mosaics

I know I must have left a few of my pals out so if you don't see your name feel free to invite us to your shop by leaving a comment. If you do see your shop name please share the Etsy love and leave a comment with your own insights into Etsy.

Oh one more quick "PRO" on Etsy ... cool widget tools. The thumbnails below are from my favorites list:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Pros & Cons to Selling Art On Ebay

Several years ago I decided to open an ebay account to sell reproduction dog and cat prints at auction. My thinking on this was not that I would get rich selling low-end prints to pet lovers, but instead that I could use ebay as an advertising venue. I saw it as a way to get my artwork out into the world and reach hundreds of web savvy shoppers and devoted animal lovers. If I look at the adventure in those terms I would say it has been successful and I have just about broken even in the money I have spent. In light of yesterday's discovery of copyright infringement on one of my artworks at ebay I thought I would post what I have learned from my years of selling art at ebay.

• Great place to spread your branding.
• Easy to use interface.
• Easy to connect with really kind and wonderful pet lovers and art collectors that may not find you any other way.
• When you are actively selling on Ebay you get to see what is out there and when you have a devoted following they will let you know when they see someone selling your work illegally.
You expose your artwork to people that can easily purchase your artwork, scan and resell. Often these digital rip off printers are located in other countries and can be hard to track.
• You will receive tons of e-mail questions from buyers, no matter how specific your terms are spelled out. Things like: "can I get this in a smaller size", " can you do a custom work of my Lab for $10", "do you have any prints of 3 legged Norwegian Chihuahuas", " can I get this print with a different colored background" , "can I use your art in my child's school newsletter" .... and the list goes on and on. If you have the time to respond and respond "thoughtfully" to these sort of questions you can turn maybe 1 in 100 of these requests into an actual life-long client.
• Ebay raises their selling fees every year making it harder and harder to make a profit.
• Lots of competition in the animal art niche.
• Ebay is like a big garage sale and if your goal as an artist includes breaking into elite and high profile national art galleries you may be watering down and cheapening your brand by selling at auction.
• Then there is the question of if you are watering down the uniqueness of commissioned artwork by adding client work into gift & print lines. That is always a nagging issue commercial pet artists deal with. Many of my clients enjoy seeing their art in our gift lines, but I may not be hearing from the ones that don't.

I would have to add that you have to work very very hard to break even when selling at ebay and yet many independent artists do very well and manage to work out a system that allows them to to turn a profit. I have made very little money on the items I have sold at ebay and yet I would have to say that overall I think the effect on branding for me has been a plus. I can not recommend ebay to artists nor would I say that it is not worth a try.

Will I keep my ebay shop open? I am really not sure at this point. The fraud listings have been quickly removed by the seller after my partner informed them of the infringement. The story goes that they were a part of a large purchase the seller made and they were unaware of the infringement. I suppose we will have to give them the benefit of the doubt, however we will be checking their auctions weekly now.

Resources & additional reading links:
Ebay's veRO program
NPR story: Online Art Fraud Nets Growing Number of Victims
Great Post On Wet Canvas: Being successful on ebay...year long study

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Animal Artists Beware

I know a handful of other animal artists follow this blog and this post is for you. We have all heard about the rampant copyright infringement that happens over at Ebay, but it really stings when it happens to you. Check out this crook's ebay shop and make sure they are not selling your work:

They have 3 listings for one of my Boston Terrier dogs. There is also a cat listing that looks very familiar. I am not sure who the cat artwork belongs to, but I have seen the work before.

I have reported them to ebay through an on-line form. We will be calling them on Monday to make sure those listings are pulled asap.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friday Dog Vlog / My Studio

Today ... A tour of the Art Paw digital studio:

Ok so this last month you guys heard me going on about an on-line class I took on organization. The class was structured in such a way that you really had to do some work, and put some thought into the subject yourself. In other words there was no lesson plan that said "do A,B and C and then boom you will be totally organized".
I learned 3 very important things:
#1 Be kind to yourself and remember, almost everyone feels overwhelmed by paper work at some point.
#2 The key to success is to just stick with a system ... it does not matter what your method is just stick with it.
#3 I am really much more organized than I thought I was.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On My Digital Easel

Pet Portraits, Pet Portraits and yes more Pet Portraits. I am swamped with work this week. The projects above are all under way. You are looking at: Hugs, Kisses, Zoe, Turner, Duke, Holly & Megan. These pets are all adorable and I am having fun with these. I have about 5 more to do after these guys.

Just a reminder, I will be increasing my prices this month so now is the perfect time to order to lock in today's price points.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dogs Rule Mosaic

Dogs Rule Mosaic
Originally uploaded by jillbeninato
I have been needing to blog about a recent Book project I was a part of Called The Dogs Rule Fatbook. I am still needing to shoot some pics for that post. So in the meantime check out the new mosaic work by the organizer of that book project Jill Beninato.

A new member of the mosaic sisterhood, Jill is a talented artist in many medias. I just learned recently that like me she studied jewelry & metalworking in school, and even ran a successful jewelry design business for several years.

The mosaic here is only her 2nd and she is going at this solo with no classes. I love the green & red. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Beetle Mosaic Ideas

Started on the design work for a new bug mosaic this weekend. I do not know why, but I got this idea to use maps & bugs together. Like maybe it is a traveling beetle or something? Heck I really dunno? So anyway, this is the ground for my next piece, once I finish the two bugs that I am working on right now I will start on this violet guy. As a mosaic he will of course loose a lot of this detail. I think the map will be fun peeking through the stain glass. I dodged or lighten the area under the "fig. 4 Bug" because I really like that as a title and main text element on the pieces I started last week.

About the ideas?
I just love it when artists can go on & on about the meaning of their work and what a particular series is all about on a conceptual level. Unfortunately I have never been that sort of artist. I combine images and colors that tickle me, it really is that simple. I find inspiration in all sorts of ephemera. For my mosaic work I enjoy finding subject matter that is, well not so warm & cuddly. Don't get me wrong, I adore my day job and I am the luckiest woman on the planet to get to create pet art for a living, but creepy crawlers and squid really amuse me and speak to the child within. So anyway, that is my art-speak for the day ... not too horribly complex.

You can see most of my Mosaics at Flickr.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Kitty Art


This is Raymi. She belongs to one of my Flickr pals. I have a few minor design tweaks to do on this pretty cat and her portrait will be done. One thing I have not asked Christine yet is if this cat has 6 toes. One of those front paws really seems to be abundant in toes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday Dog Vlog

I hate Goodbyes.
Today we say goodbye to Jamie. I couple of months ago I hired a summer intern and we feel like we just got to know him and now we have to say goodbye as he returns to school. Jamie has done a great job and he will be missed. Big Tommy was not sure about him at first. After a couple of ball throwing sessions Jamie quickly became Tommy's favorite person.
Click play arrow below to see my quick interview with Jamie Gray:

Tech Notes about the Video:
I used a screen capture software called Snapz Pro to create the little hand drawn intro header. It is about 40 seconds too long and is not really the best solution for a header ... it needs work. I need to work on my interviewing skills as well, and the sound is still too low. My advice to anyone wanting to experiment with video is to have fun and go easy on yourself. Video editing is hard. If my attempts do not get a lot better in about 2 months then I will stop ... yea I promise.

A Good Pet Portrait ...

Starts with a good photograph.
Sometimes our clients can get invested in the emotional quality of a photo and not really know if it is indeed a good photo to work from. I have on many occasions had people send me fun special photos of their pups taken on a really special day that are etched in their memories. While these may be great memories they do not always make for the perfect portrait if taken too far away, or if other negatives are present like low resolution or a lack of crisp detail. Sometimes too it is just very hard to know which shot will work best.

See Sable the Cocker Spaniel below as an example:

Comparing these 2 shots you might be tempted to say well obviously the best photo is on the right, Sable looks happy, she is smiling, there is bright light and you can see the coat texture. The reality is that the photo on the left is far superior. To start with this pretty girl has her own eyes on the left. The image on the right required me to create and make up some eyes based on my own imagination. The image on the left also had a lot more detail when blown up.

Because this was a memorial project I chose to waive our fee for starting over from scratch with a new photo and asked Sable's Mom to send additional photos. I will post both artworks below so you can see the difference. Keep in mind I am still tweaking Sable #2 and will be finalizing this artwork soon.

Sable #2 from new photograph ( below)
In this piece I added a sofa her brother is leaning on in his portrait.
Sable #1 from original photo submission ( below)
Check out our Photo Tips Page to see a few suggestions on taking good pet snapshots.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Pet Portrait


Yesterday I proofed Kelly a husky mix. This is a memorial pet portrait project and so I am anxiously awaiting the approval. I am always so nervous about memorials as I want to get everything just perfect.

(Before detail above)
(After detail above)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dog Mosaic

Fido finished
Originally uploaded by perceptual_enigma
This is not mine. This is from Linda on Flickr. You can click through the photo to her stream. I love her colors on this and the movement in the background. This is one of the best doggy mosaics I have seen in a long time, she has really captured the breed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Etsy Video

I hate to plow my groovy bug mosaic post under with 2 posts in one day but wanted to share this interesting video, I had no idea someone had invested 30 mill in Etsy.

Beetle Mosaic

The weekend flew by way too fast. I did start on two really fun little 5 x 5 Bug Mosaics. This tiny size was a lot of fun, and I was able to totally glass over one piece. Once I finish the yellow one I will go ahead and grout. I think this is the start of a new kick, I want to do more buggies.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Art Dog

Art Dog
Originally uploaded by isophetry
Found this terrific shot on Flickr today. Click on the image to see more from this photographer.

This found image is perfect for my mood today. Today I start on a new mosaic ...been away from it for way too long now. I am going to create a mosaic beetle. Yay! It will probably be a small piece that I can finish quickly and maybe even sell at Etsy.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Studio Vlog


At the very bottom of this post you will find my first Friday Video Vlog. I want to start posting videos on Friday and hopefully soon I will actually get out into the world and start doing some fun interviews with other artists that I think you guys would like. For now, you can see my 2 minute weekly wrap up.

Today we are shipping Milagro, and working on a few other projects. Right now Jamie is cataloging a bunch of image cds for me using a great software called catfinder. This terrific software helps me find old client projects. I just open it up and type in the client name or pet name and it will tell me which cd the project is living on ... saves me tons of time.

Friday Video Vlog:

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Scottish Terrier

Originally uploaded by Algernon_the_Labrat
Stunning Scottish Terrier Photo from one of my flickr contacts.

Jack Russell and French Bulldog

On my digital easel:
Today I am working on Chevy the Jack Russell and Buddy the Frenchie. Both projects need more color and more work. Check out the before and after details on each pup and you will see how important the eyes are.

Above you will see that I slightly tilted Chevy's head and also opened up his eyes a bit, adding some sparkle.


Check out the amount of white showing on the eyeball to our left above. I rounded out the eye's iris on our left so that the white portion was not quite so large and that eye seems to wander just a bit less. I also made the whites brighter to reduce the bloodshot appearance.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Anyone Flocking to Flock?

Yesterday I posted on my current favorite web browser tool i-google. Well of course just when you think you have discovered sliced bread someone clues you in about even more cool stuff out there. Check out Flock!
From the site: " Flock was founded on the vision that the web browser can and should enable the richest user experience possible across information-gathering, sharing, communication, self-expression and interaction."
I want to try this out soon. If any of you guys are using it please post a comment, and tell us if it has changed your life, or at least your web-life.

Ok, I will post some doggy art soon, I promise.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Do you use i-google homepage?

Today I want to talk about i-google. I am taking an on-line course from Alyson Stanfield on decluttering and organization. The other day a conversation came up about calendars and also i-google. A couple of us use i-google to organize our on-line browsing world, while a few others had never heard of it. It is a simple home-page tool, but it really has a lot of great ad-ons that allow me to do things like post to or read from some of my networking sites without even going to those sites ... I can do and see a lot right from my browser. I made a quickie movie about it if you are interested, ok it took me 3 tries and it still is not perfect, but I am going to go ahead and embed it today. I am still learning the screen capture software so please bear with me. If you want to hear more about i-google hit the play arrow below. Or click here to go to youtube.