Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reflections on a daily dog art project

 Today's guest blogger is Christine Throckmorton. I have sent in my photo for her new 30 dogs in 30 days project, hurry and get your photo submitted before her calendar fills up. Read the details of her project below along with what she learned from working in this painting a day format.

Reflections on a daily dog art project
by Christine Throckmorton of i heart dogs studio

In September ’09, I created a project for myself called “30 Dogs in 30 Days/Weeks,” which coincided with my pet portrait business. The motivation behind the project was two-fold: 1) for quite some time, I’d wanted to engage in a disciplined, daily art practice. Many professional artists whom I admire have told me that no matter what is going on in their lives, they draw/paint/etc every day. I wanted to try it for myself. 2) In this economy, it is difficult to make money as an artist. I wanted to continue to create pet portraits that people could afford (I set the price for all 30-in-30 portraits at only $100, regardless of size and medium), and I hoped to keep some steady business coming my way.
There were two phases to the project. Phase 1 involved me drawing one dog per day for 30 days. I accomplished my goal for Phase 1. Sometimes I’d skip a day, then double up the following day, but overall I was on track. In Phase 2, I was to take one of the 30 drawings and translate it into a full-color fine art portrait every week for 30 weeks. Phase 2, however, wasn’t so successful as far as pacing. I painted 30 dogs in roughly 39 weeks. Clearly, no one but me cares about the fact that I was nine weeks over my projected time line, but it bugs me that I didn’t truly accomplish my goal. So I’m now doing it again, determined to finish on time.

© Christine Throckmorton

© Christine Throckmorton

Upon the completion of the first try at the project, and on the cusp of doing it all over again, I’ve been reflecting on the challenge and what it has taught me. This is what I’ve learned:

It is not easy to make art every day. At least not for me.
 Pet portraiture is not my primary job. I’m an art teacher by day, professional artist by whenever-I-can-eek-out-the-time. I constantly struggle to keep all of the aspects of my life balanced. Am I crazy, then, for creating a daily art challenge for myself? Actually, throwing this project into the mix forced me to work hard at the balance. Some days, taking the time to paint meant the dishes were staying in the sink until the morning. Or that my e-mails would remain unanswered for a while. And that was OK.

I got better, but not necessarily faster. 
Without a doubt, I have sharpened my drawing and painting skills. That’s to be expected. I also expected to get faster…but didn’t. Perhaps because I would spread the painting process out over a few days, or maybe I became more detail-oriented with my work, I’m not sure. I just noticed that it seems to take me much longer to finish a portrait now then it did three years ago. At times, this would frustrate me. I’d think, “I’ve spent how many hours on this painting, and I’ll only be asking $100 for it?” But then I‘d remember that the money was not my primary incentive. And I get back to painting, and remind myself to enjoy the process.

If I’m not in the mood to create, I shouldn’t force it.
 Some days, I might have had the time to paint, but wouldn’t have the motivation. I’d often force myself to paint on such days, hoping that midway through I’d get in the mood. It worked sometimes, but if I wasn’t enjoying the process, I’d stop and pick it up again the next day. Perhaps that is why I was nine weeks over my deadline! I don’t think any good art is going to come from an artist who is begrudgingly creating it. So I didn’t force it. But, I had to find a way to do something for the project; otherwise I’d never achieve my goal. On days when I just couldn’t deal with painting fur or eyes, I would tackle backgrounds. Gradations of color—easy! Or I’d prime a bunch of canvases, or paint the sides of canvases, or paper the backs of finished canvas panels, or tape up paper for future watercolor portraits. There were always things to be done that were more menial and less creative, but that still supported the project. Those were the things I’d do when I just couldn’t pick up a paintbrush.

Just because a fine art portrait of someone’s pet exists, I can’t expect the person to purchase the portrait—no matter how much of a bargain it is.
 Of the 30 finished portraits, I sold half of them to the person who contributed the photo and/or owns the dog; I gifted a few; I traded one for a portrait of my dog; and I have several currently for sale in my online shop. To be completely honest, I’d be surprised and a bit disappointed whenever a portrait didn’t sell. I just assumed that the people who contributed the photos did so because they wanted an inexpensive pet portrait. Turns out, a lot of people just wanted to help me out with my project (for which I’m very grateful), but ultimately chose not to purchase the portrait, despite the low price. An instant reaction for any artist in this situation is to feel rejection. A few times, I had to talk myself off of my pity potty. I’d remind myself of a few things: that $100 is a lot of money in this dreadful economy—especially for a luxury item such as an oil painting, that not everyone likes or wants to buy the art I create, and that the primary motivation behind this challenge was the art-making process, not profit. And then I’d consider the silver lining: any unsold portraits might eventually sell in my Etsy shop; and if they don’t, I’ll have inventory for an art fair or gallery show in the future.

I adore dog people. 
I’m incredibly grateful to all of the photo contributors for helping me out with my challenge. I couldn’t have done it without them because, for ethical and legal reasons, I only worked from photos that were willingly lent to me by people I knew.  In general, I’m humbled by all of the support and kind words I have received during this process. I got to know a lot of really lovely people who have a deep love for their canine companions. Several of the paintings were of animals that have passed, and I was honored to create memorial portraits of such sweet dogs. 

Good things come to those who work hard at their craft.
 As grueling as this process was at times, it was totally worth it. In a very short amount of time, I added 30 dog portraits to my portfolio (and I love every one). Two of the portraits from this project were chosen for a juried art exhibit. One of the portraits became my submission for a dog-themed wine label contest. While I didn’t win the contest, my art attracted the attention of three women from across the country whose dogs resemble the one in the portrait. All three women bought prints and/or cards featuring the artwork. All in all, I am a better artist as a result of this challenge. And, as hoped, I made a bit of money with my art, a portion of which will be donated to the animal rescue where I adopted my dog.

Mission accomplished, and I can’t wait to do it again, this time a little wiser! I highly recommend creating some sort of disciplined art exercise for yourself. I was certainly not the first to come up with a dog-a-day concept; I just tailored the idea to suit me. A few women have e-mailed me saying that I’ve inspired them to challenge themselves with their art. I hope I have inspired you to challenge yourself in some creative way!

Here is the gallery of the 30 completed portraits from Round 1:

Here is information on how you can participate in Round 2 of “30-in-30”. I’m accepting photos up to the third week in August:

Project Update 8/12/2010: Christine has filled her open slots on this project, and a few of her 30 dogs are Art Dog Blog Readers!  Yay, thanks to all of you guys for supporting one of my web artist pals.

 © Christine Throckmorton

 © Christine Throckmorton

 © Christine Throckmorton

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lena & Ohnie Portrait In Home

"Ohnie and Lena"
© rebecca collins/

Last week I received a note and photo from an old client. Thanks Ann for touching base with this terrific in home photo of your sweet Pugs. I still love the color palette on this pop art portrait project, and I love that great stone fireplace. I was very sad back in 08 to learn that Ohnie and Lena crossed over the rainbow bridge. I remember working with Ann, and her update request actually started a phrase I use all the time now and that is "Popsicle body". When we first cleaned up the background on her original  images and carved out the torsos we erased too much shoulder ( pugs are round chunky-shouldered beings) and when Ann was describing the problem she referred to the fact that their body's looked like Popsicles!  I worked some shoulder back in to their bodies and have always been careful to avoid the Popsicle look, and I always train my assistants to avoid cleaning too much shoulder away now. I learn so much from every pet portrait project, and some pups really leave a lasting impression around here. I loved the colors on this one and the very different expressions on each pup's face, you can tell they were individuals. Pugs do not all look alike to me, each one is so unique.

 Thanks Ann for the sweet note!

Later this week I will have another guest blogger. Christine Humphries Throckmorton from I heart Dogs Studio will be talking about her recent 30 dogs in 30 days project. 
I think you will find her post an inspiring must read for dog artists and dog lovers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mosaic Monday / A Robot Frenzy

Back in the mid 90's I ran a handmade card business. I was single back then and I would often stay awake all night long cutting paper, and designing an entire line of greeting cards to take to market. A line of cards would be along a theme, and the papers would match within one line while the imagery and collage work would change from card to card.  I have not designed this way in ages. Last week I started cutting glass and sketching out robot bodies in much the same way I once tore paper, and made cards. I found myself obsessed and could not stop. The only trouble is now I have well over a dozen robots to create and sadly they will not go together as fast as a greeting card.

A few robots sketched out.

I love this fellow's crystal sword. His main body was created from a piece of mirror, the greek key design cut-out in the center was done in class on the taurus ring saw. The edges got roughed up in the process so I took a stone to the glass and roughed it up more, distressing the silvering on the back of the mirror.

Again, the mirror torso was cut on the taurus ring saw.
I think this fellow may end up flying a kite.  I brainstormed with the hubby on fun and silly things I can have the robots doing. I would like to have more activity happening with these robot stories.
This is Arvin the Avian Robot. His body was created from imagery of vintage transistor radios. Arvin is the name on the main radio image that makes up his torso. The glass on both the head and body is textured.  I am not sure if I am going to glass in the background, I like it at this stage. I am afraid if I glass over the colorful ground then Arvin will not pop out as much.  If I do glass it in I will use large pieces and cut lines into the glass with holes at the end of the lines to mimic the circuit pattern.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Audrey the Jack Russell Terrier

Audrey  ( see all proofs )
© rebecca collins /

Middle of the week and I am working on doggy art and trying to organize my desk a little bit. I'll have more new works on the blog soon.

About This Project:  
I really love this cute little Jack Russell Terrier! You can tell she is a happy pooch.
Audrey's original photo was very cute but also very low in resolution.  I did send my client back to the drawing board in an attempt to get a higher resolution file, and even though the 2nd image sent was twice as large as the first 50k image  ... at 108 kb it still lacked a lot in terms of ideal resolution.  Not to worry, I spent a few hours smoothing out the pixels and ended up painting in a bit of detail.You can see the pixelation below that occurs when we enlarge a low res, image for printing.

See the almost square like pattern on Audrey above?  That is what happens when you take a low resolution image ( less than 500K) and enlarge it for printing.  You are asking photoshop to fill in data that is not there and it does the best it can, but the quality suffers.
 In situations like this I will patiently spend a few hours smoothing out each and every pixel before I can start playing with color and brush strokes. I use the smudge tool to do this.

In the end I think the artwork turned out really well and there is no trace of the pixelated pattern or texture that I started out with. You can see a detail below.  After the pixels were finally smoothed out I added some detail with the paint tool, threw on the dry brush filter and then painted on top of that a bit more with my electronic stylus.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Dog Art was really on Good Morning Texas!

Behind the Scenes at 
The Good Morning Texas Shoot Today!

Yay ... I think I did pretty good this morning with my 15 seconds of fame.  All of the people at the Good Morning Texas Studio were so nice and so fun. Everybody was very professional and I think the art work showed well.  I will try to post a video embed later this week, sometimes that is easy to do and sometimes not so easy. If it shows up on their site it will be a breeze to share it ... crossing fingers. 

Thanks to show producer Angie Carpenter for contacting us to come out with our pet portraits and to Amy Vanderoef for being such a fun host.  Oh, and thanks to family and friends for rooting for us.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Got Any Tips For TV Interviews?

Tomorrow I get to go on live TV with the Good Morning Texas Show.  I spent the weekend shopping for clothes, and now I am taking the afternoon off to think about my talking points and pack up my display samples. This morning I surfed the web a bit for TV interview tips. A lot of what I have found is the same stuff my publicist friend Kelly Kitchens has told me to do.  Kelly is a sweetheart and she and Lola will both be going with me in the morning to help me carry stuff in and root for me behind the scenes.

When the producer for the show contacted me she said they would want one spokesperson from Art Paw and I would be on with another artist.  I thought to myself how much more natural I would be if I had Lola up there with me under the lights. Oh well ... I figure I can handle it, I know how to tell my story after all. In a passing e-mail with the producer I asked who the other artist was. I then looked the artist up on-line and fell in love with her work and e-mailed her to see if she would like to do coffee.  I knew that if we met and had some sort of connection I would feel a lot more relaxed the day of the shooting. It turns out we are practically neighbors, and we chatted over coffee like old friends. I even went shopping at the mall with Suzy on Sunday. Suzy Moritz-Rawdin strikes me as a real go getter and an artist that does not sit around waiting for stuff to happen, she makes things happen.  She is a talented artist so be sure and check out her website. July is turning out to be a great month...  in addition to having a great PR opportunity I have a fun new artist friend that is heavily involved in the local arts scene.

Here are the top 5 tips I found today For TV Interviews ... crossing fingers I can do them all with ease. Wish me luck! And if you have your own tips or TV stories to share please leave a comment!
• Look at the interviewer (not the camera).
• Move your head, move your hands, and move your body.
• Focus on only three message points, and be conversational ( don't memorize stuff).
• Brainstorm likely questions.
• Kelly told me to just relax and remember not to talk in any sort of sales-pitch speak ... this should sound like a fun lively conversation and not a commercial.

You can follow these links for more tips:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Pet Portrait Marketing Plan

 © rebecca collins /

Ok ... so in getting back to my Saturday posts for artists, today I want to talk about a recent class I took from one of my favorite people, Alyson Stanfield, the Art Biz Coach.  I signed up for yet another one of her blog formatted classes and this one is called Cultivate Collectors. This is the third class I have taken from her and I have to say I have not gotten much from it "yet" and the class just ended.  Hold on, hold on ... this is not a critique on Alyson.  I have not gotten much from the class due to the fact that I failed to keep up with the class assignments and I did not participate at all in the class blog comments etc. The reality is I have been snoozing and dreaming during class just like the sleepy Rottie above surrounded by summer travel brochures. Not to worry ...  I still have 2 weeks to download all the pdf assignment sheets and give all the audio lessons yet another listen.

The main thing that I have gotten out of the class, even with my very limited participation is reinforcement that I have got to set up a data base for all of my clients and do that digitally with the help of software. I learned about a software program called Bento for the Mac and I am going to give it a try.  I have wanted to maintain a strong mailing list for years, and if I had started doing this back in 1998 I would probably have well over 3000 names in my contact data base.  Well it is never too late to start.

So My Current Art Marketing Plan includes:
• Setting up a data base, and training Lola to help me keep up with it.
• Printing some thank you cards to start sending out to all pet portrait clients.
• Getting back on track with sending out e-mail newsletters starting this month.
• Work harder to follow up with leads and dropped ball potential clients that for whatever reason fail to follow through with placing their portrait commissions.
• Remind myself every step of the way that having a marketing plan is not just about making more money or more sales, it is also about taking care of my clients after their portrait commission. I like my clients so much, and with the amount of repeat business I am fortunate to have I really need to take much better care of them after I deliver their artwork.

If you would like to keep up with news about sales, and behind the scene studio news sign up for my mailing list today.

For Email Marketing you can trust

Artist Resource Links:
For art marketing help visit the Art Biz Coach  Alyson knows her stuff and even class slackers like myself will walk away with valuable knowledge and resource info.
Bento Data base software for Mac users.
Constant Contact  This is who I use to send my e-mail newsletters. I find their site very easy to use and I like the reporting features.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Own Scottie in Shades

"Cool Shaded Scott"
© rebecca collins /

This is my own Ajax. This week Lola helped me snap some shots of all the pups in shades. I wanted to play around and see just how hard these pics will be for you guys to attempt in case you want to take advantage of our Made In The Shade Promo.

My tips for shooting pets in shades:
#1 Don't worry about hands ...I can clone those out.
#2 Get a helper ... one person to place the shades ... one to shoot
#3 Shoot a lot and shoot fast, most pics will be bad, but you just need one cute one.
#4 Try for a few minutes, then do something else, play ball for a bit. When working with the sunglasses try to be up-beat and make it fun, laugh, applaud, give treats. Don't make your pet feel bad if the glasses fall off ... because they will fall off.  Respect your pet's mood and if they get scared or mad then just stop ... you can try again another day.
#5 Be patient and be careful, don't poke your pet in the eye with the stem of the glasses.
#6 Do not use your $150 Ray-Bans for this photo shoot. Go buy some cheap sunglasses. For really small pets you might pick up a pair of child sunglasses.

Our Photo Rejects:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Really knocked me out ...

"cool cat"
© rebecca collins /

Spied a little thing and I followed her all night
In a funky fine levis and her sweater's kind of tight
She had a west coast strut that was as sweet as molases
But what really knocked me out was her cheap sunglasses
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah - ( ZZ Top)

 50% Off Pets In Sunglasses
Sale Details and Terms:
Photo sent in must have one pet only wearing sunglasses, or other summer gear ( beach hat, Hawaiian shirt, bathing suit... you get the idea). 
 Save 50% by checking out on-line and using promo code: hotdog
Sale ends July 31st.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Made In The Shade : A Summer Sale

"Cool Bullie"  ( photograph by Lola Cash)
© rebecca collins/

"Negillta Ready For the Beach"
© rebecca collins/

I have exciting news to share. I am going to be on Good Morning Texas next Tuesday the 20th as part of their series "The Dog days Of Summer".  I will be sharing the spotlight with artist Suzy Moritz-Rawdin.  I am a little nervous, yet mostly just excited to be able to have this terrific PR opportunity. 

 So ... in celebration of that upcoming show and all things summer, I am offering a 50% discount on any portrait commission sent in if your pet is wearing sunglasses, or other summer attire.  Yep I am asking you guys to get a little silly and get that camera out to take some fun and playful shots of shaded dogs or cats.  If the response is large enough I may even try to compile a book of summer pets that I will produce through  I will be posting projects from this promotion here on the blog during the months of July and August.

 Sale Details and Terms:
Photo sent in must have one pet only wearing sunglasses, or other summer gear ( beach hat, Hawaiian shirt, bathing suit... you get the idea). 
 Save 50% by checking out on-line and using promo code: hotdog
Sale ends July 31st.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


"Bugzy"  ( see proofs)
© rebecca collins /
This sweet pup is one if a handful of memorial projects I have worked on this month. The original photo I had to work with was terrific and Bugzy's smile warms my heart.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mosaic Monday / Large Dog Mosaic

Found this while browsing flickr. Click through to see entire photo stream. Dog was installed hanging over large fence.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Guest Blogger / Lisa Vaughn

Today I have a guest blogger. Lisa writes for the Pet Insurance  Blog.  I  am so pleased that she wanted to share her story with you guys.  Sorry today's post is a bit late, I have a feeling I may be shifting to a later posting time-line this summer.

Why I Write 
by Lisa Vaughn

As a young girl, I knew that the moment my German Shepherd, Jack entered my life that animals were going to inspire me.  When I was four, my mother brought home the cutest puppy in the world.  She adopted him from a local shelter.  From the moment he saw me, he never left my side.  Even at that young age, I could sense an instant bond.  He had this instinct of knowing that I was different.  I was born with severe cerebral palsy.  My parents were told that I would never walk, talk or function at any normal level.  Yet, at age four; I was talking, I was functioning, and my knees were my feet.  There wasn't anywhere my knees couldn't take me that that two feet would have.  And the best part was Jack and I were eye to eye. 
Around five, it was time for kindergarten.  This was the early seventies, long before inclusion.  There were special schools for the disabled but my mother was determined to put me in a regular school.  She found a school that would take me but on the condition that I could walk.  I remember sitting with Jack and my mom telling me that I could not start school until I learned to walk.  I had wished more than anything to start school.  I turned to Jack and said, “We’re going to walk.”  He looked in my eyes with his ears up and licked my face.  I knew with all my heart that he understood.  I know that, because he helped me get on my feet!  As I started to walk, Jack took every step with me.  When I fell, he stood in front of me, braced himself, and allowed me pull his hair with all my might until I was steady.  This continued into my teens until he passed away.

Jack etched a permanent mark in my heart.  He was my friend, my protector, my teacher, and most of all my inspiration to become a writer.  When he was gone, I knew I wanted to share our story with the world.  By using my passion for animals in my writing, I hope to be the voice for all seeking shelter, love, and family.  There are so many homeless animals needing to be adopted or rescued.  Bringing one of those precious souls in your life will give you as much joy as Jack gave me.  It is a beautiful feeling when you can feel the love of those who cannot express their love with words.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vanity, Penny, Zeb

Some of you guys may remember Vanity, admiring Vanity from 08. This year I was fortunate to get to work on Zeb and Penny as well. Here are their at home pics. I really love the way Penny the Jack Russell breaks up the grouping with her tilted head, and patterned background. This is a terrific example of how different colors and backgrounds can work really well together.

Today I am at my desk putting in a few hours on the weekend.  I will be meeting with a client at 1:00 and then I am going to work on the website a bit.  Tomorrow I will have a guest blogger that writes full time and combines her love for dogs with a blogging gig for a pet insurance company.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

New Pet Portraits

"Bella" ( see all proofs)
© rebecca collins /

 "Putty Kat" ( see all proofs)
© rebecca collins /

Bella & Putty Kat were proofed this morning. They are small 12 x 12 portraits that will hang together. My client requested blues, so I made sure I had a few samples with blue in the background.

We are starting to get very busy. Last week I felt totally caught up and  now I am juggling 9 new pet portrait commissions. One more month and it will be back to school time, then Fall will be just around the corner.  Summer time is a great time to order those important holiday pet portraits.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Mosaic Monday/ Rosie The Bull Terrier

Rosie and Mosaic
Originally uploaded by trjcraft
Posting this one for my assistant's Mom to enjoy. Lola comes from a Bull Terrier family, her Mom shows Bullies, and takes ribbons. It is a great breed, and one of the few that my husband has mentioned possibly wanting besides the Scotts.

I do not know much about this mosaic artist ( trjcraft), and just discovered her this morning over at Flickr. She has some great ATC's and quilts in her photo stream as well. Click through on the photo to visit her stream and see more of her art and more of Rosie the Bull Terrier.

Friday, July 02, 2010

New Dog Art Projects

"Curly & Sammy" ( See All Proofs)
© rebecca collins /

© rebecca collins /

June has been a little quiet around here. Work has been steady, but I often find myself feeling caught up, which is such a rare thing here at Art Paw. I will be having a few small promos in July so be sure and follow the blog for news of those sales.  Or you can follow us over at  Face Book and get sale updates that way.

About the Art:
At the top we have Curly and Sammy. This project was commissioned by one of my flickr pals.  I have a few minor updates to do on these two early next week and then I can finalize and ship. We are excited that she included her project on her blog.

Reese was an adorable little pup that shipped out this last week. My assistant was very excited that the client ordered her favorite background option, and I have to say it did print up lovely.