Saturday, April 17, 2010

This Blog Has Moved

Due to continued issues with Google Blogger The Extraordinary Pencil has a new address. I am now exclusively using the blog feature integrated into my website. Hope to see you there.

To all of you who have so faithfully followed me over the years I look forward to your visit. As usual 'my door' is always open...I look forward to your comments.

If this blog is listed in your blog roll. it would be great if you could change the address to reflect the change. The Extraordinary Pencils new address is

Want to know more about my reasons for leaving Blogger?
...please read the next article below.
Job 23:11
My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside.
Job 23:10-12 (in Context)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Done With Google Blogger

OK..I'll get it off my chest right up front. Last year, my blog was shut down for over a week during their purging process against spam blogs. I was one of many innocent bloggers caught up in this mess.

The only tech support is a blog where you mainly depend on each other for assistance. There is no contact info what so ever where you can ask why or find a solution.

The past three weeks it has been one issue after another. First I was unable to upload images for 3 days, then I could not 'save' my blog post in draft.

Last week...when viewing my blog only about half the images show up on the computer screen and it is still this way. Apparently for viewers the images are there sometimes and others they are not.

Currently... when I go to 'edit' a previously posted article or a blog draft...the screen has only the HTML text and no way to get to the regular text screen.

If I want to create a new post, like now...there is no way to add links, edit text, or add photos...NO WAY TO EDIT at all.  (this miraculously corrected it's self this evening)

Am I angry? Actually I'm just over it. I'm fed up and I'm done. I guess you just can't expect to get help or resolution of issues from a 'free' service.

I have had two blogs for the last few years. My Google Blog and My FASO Studio Blog...that is integrated into my website.

My FASO Studio Blog has always been the most important as it is a category on the Navigation Bar of my website. It isn't just added to the Navigation is integrated into the website itself. (the two are a unit) Every time I make a new blog post I am updating my website with pages of searchable text....this is pure SEO juice.

I'm not going to remove my Google Blog but will gradually be transferring information to the Studio Blog on my website and I will no longer be updating my Google Blog.


Keeping up two blogs has been a in some ways this is a blessing.

I know many of you follow this blog...and faithfully leave your comments. I hope you will make note of My Studio Blog address and continue with me there.

For future reference...My Studio Blog address is

Thank you for understanding...hope to see you at my new address. I'll keep my eye out for you.

God Bless
Matthew 18:3
And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:2-4 (in Context)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

African Violets

African Violets
Watercolor on 300# Arches
Original Watercolor
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This is one of the latest from my "little paintbox". Yes, I've been splashing the paint around again. My framer is getting ready to do her Spring and Summer window. I paint and she frames and displays...a great relationship.

African Violets always remind me of my Grandmother. I remember how she would start new plants from a single leaf. I found the whole process quite fascinating as a child. When the plants were mature and had blooms...she would carefully wrap the pot in colorful cloth scraps and present them to others as gifts.

She took such care of them...and of course had all these little secret potions. I never learned what she put in the water and certainly did not inherit her green thumb.

1 Corinthians 3:7
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
1 Corinthians 3:6-8 (in Context)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sunlit watercolor

Sunlit Tulips
Watercolor on 300# Arches
17 1/2 x 11 1/2

Original Watercolor
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This is one of my most recent watercolors. Spring is in the air...I know it's a bit early to see tulips in bloom, at least here in central Illinois. Yet, I simply couldn't resist. This photo has been in my files for a couple of years now and I figured it was time to see if I could do it justice with a watercolor painting.

I was particularly attracted to the angle of the photo and the way the light and shadows played around on the petals. I will admit, the colors you see here are a tad more vibrant than my reference...but that is our option as artists isn't it?

I always thought I would use this reference photo for a drawing...I'm glad I held off and chose to do a watercolor instead.

On a different subject...I have a HEALTH UPDATE:

I'm not going into detail...but I have been 'issue free' for 14 days now. I'm believing that I'm on the mend. This has been a long ordeal (almost a year)...I feel like for the first time in months I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

I just want to say thank you for the encouraging emails and prayers. God does listen and does answer if we just believe.

Bless you for caring,

Mark 11:24
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Mark 11:23-25 (in Context)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do You Write Scannable Content

"This article first appeared here in February of 2008...I felt it worth a 'reprint'. Writing for computer reading is different than other writing we might be accustomed to and is read differently by the viewer."

The internet is not a book
and few people, including myself, read it as if it were a book. I don't find a large block of text exciting nor will I read it. I'll move on to a smaller block of text, perhaps one or two sentences...hoping to find out what you are writing about. And many times just leave out of frustration!

We live in a fast paced society...people want to gather what they need and move on. When I sit down in the morning with my coffee to check my feed updates there's a lot on my mind. I first scan the titles, marking some to read later, opening the most interesting ones first.

If you got me with your title you will loose me if I can't quickly scan your text and acquire a "mental outline" of what your article is about. And while I'm doing this, I'm asking myself "Can I benefit from this information?, Is it worth reading the entire article?".

Wikipedia refers to this style of writing as "Chunking", and described it as the method of presenting information which splits concepts into small pieces or "chunks" of information to make reading and understanding faster and easier. do you write Scannable Content?

1. Make your first paragraph a "Grabber".
By this I mean...tell them what to expect...make it interesting yet concise. You have just a few seconds to grab their attention, pique their curiosity, and make them want to read on.

2. Be sure your text size is readable.
If you're not sure about this, ask your friends. Don't choose a smaller text just to shorten your article...if it's scannable people will scroll down to read your next topic. Readability is a big deal. I know there are ways for viewers to increase the print size on their screen...but they won't tend to do this for one blog or one page.

Page color and text color can make huge difference. Experiment by trying different combinations.

3. Use an appropriate page width.
Again, we are not reading a book...if you have to move your eyes and your head to follow the words across the page, your text area is probably too wide. The eyes get lost and begin to skip a line here and there.

The blog on my website came preset and is the perfect page width...and I specifically chose my blogspot layout style, (where you are now) with this in mind. I know the Bible is a book and I keep saying we're not reading a book...but have you ever tried to read a Bible passage where the text was in a single column that spanned the entire page width? Very difficult indeed!

4. Keep your paragraphs short.
This is not an English class...break your text into smaller paragraphs...sometimes even using a single sentence to make a statement. The separation between text blocks makes your article more scannable and the added white space will give the eye a place to rest, making your page more attractive and inviting.

5. Learn to write in "Speak"
Wow....this has probably been my biggest challenge. We are taught "formal" writing in English class and it's hard to change. Your blog needs to "sound" friendly...even though there is no sound! The printed word can be cold and harsh. For a technical blog this might be fine but for most blogs you need to show your softer, friendlier side...without the need for a "smiley face" icon!

6. Use headers and subheaders liberally.
The use of headers and subheaders will improve your visitors experience. Your readers are now able to get an idea of what the content is about before they read it. This is the "mental outline" I spoke of earlier. When this is in place I can move easily between topics.

7. Lists and bullet points
...this is another method useful for breaking up a long boring block of text. Your page will be more interesting to the eye and readers will find your text more understandable.

8. Incorporate Bold and Italic type faces
...This needs to be done artfully and with some taste. Don't splatter them around haphazardly. Set a standard for your site and stick to it. I use Bold to accent important words or phrases and use Italic for quotes, book titles and the like.

9. Lastly, remember images are your friends.
Images add interest to your articles and they attract your readers attention. Use them wisely. I've always felt the image should relate to the text...when it doesn't I feel somewhat misled.

Let me know what you think...was this article helpful, would you like to see more like this?


Psalm 119:27
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.
Psalm 119:26-28 (in Context)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Importance of Links

Wine Country
carbon and graphite pencil on paper

"I thought since this was my first published article in sometime
a glass of wine might be in order!"

I occasionally submit articles to FineArtViews as a guest author. As most of you know I'm fascinated with marketing and marketing for artists in particular.

I feel strongly about the intelligent use of links and their benefits.

For most artists, the word 'links' refers to the Links Category on their navigation bar. Trust me, there is much more to this little word than what appears on the surface. You need to learn how to use links and how to make links work for you.

You can read "Linking...the mighty little 7 letter word" for more information on creating and using outgoing links, incoming links, and deep linking. Some great, easy to incorporate marketing for artists that will not only increase traffic to your site but encourage your readers to delve deeper and spend more time 'with you'. Isn't that what we all want...well besides chocolate and money.

Be sure to visit FineArtViews Archive for more art marketing articles written by artists just like you.

Proverbs 13:11
Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.
Proverbs 13:10-12 (in Context)

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Bit of Creative Marketing

Barrel Cactus
by Keith Bond
Keith Bond has the natural ability to see beyond the picturesque beauty of a scene to portray the spirit of the of the landscape. He has the gift of capturing the true essence of to the place and paints an emotional response to the scene, rather than the literal depiction.

Keith is not only an acclaimed artist but also writes regularly for the FineArtViews Newsletter. Recently while reading some of the back issues I ran across his article about 'Home Shows', and how they can be a new venue for artist.

We are all looking for ways to sell our art in today's economy. Keith's article, Home Shows, outlines how to use this venue, step by step. I had a small showing in a friends home last year. It went well but had I had Keith's insightful knowledge and instructions I know I could have done better.

I encourage you...take a few minuets to read Keith's detailed, thought provoking article. It's a great way to get your work in front of people who are collectors and do it in an intimate setting.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
Psalm 28:6-8 (in Context)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Old's Illinois basketball mania time

Old Glory
carbon pencil drawing on paper
11 x 9, double matted

Original Pencil Drawing
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Also available in:
Small edition Giclee Print @ $40
Large edition Giclee Print @ $49

It's basketball tournament time everywhere. The sports casters refer to it as 'Hoops Mania". Our local high school is done but the University of Illinois is still in the game. I don't watch as much basketball as I used to and never did follow the professional teams...but thought this drawing was appropriate and might just stir some good memories.

As I worked on this carbon pencil drawing, memories of my own High School days flooded my head. I remembered the small gyms we played in, cheering until we were hoarse, and the excitement of riding the bus to the game with the team. Things were different then...times more relaxed and definitely more innocent.

On the way to the basketball game the team always sat together in the front of the bus. On the way home...we were allowed to pair off in couples. I still remember holding hands in the dark on the ride home, and my first kiss.

The drawing Old Glory is not just about the game, but also about the 'freedom' to enjoy the game. Despite ALL the negative issues that make the news today. We who are fortunate enough to live in the United Sates and enjoy the freedoms offered by living in a true democracy have much to celebrate.

The American Flag is the symbol of our freedom. Old Glory, as it is referred to, stands for who we are as a nation and a people. Our American Flag has been burned, stomped on, and desecrated by many over the years...yet she still flies strong.

The old basketball and shoes are a reminder of our youth when life was much simpler. School, the Friday night ball game, getting a date for the weekend and cruising the town square...don't we all remember when?

I also took some WIP photos and put together a drawing tutorial when working on Old Glory and would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the techniques used.

Matthew 18:3
And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:2-4 (in Context)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Marketing Is a Must...but where do we start?

I hear it over and over:
"my website has been up for months now and I have no sales and few visitors".

As artists, whether we categorize ourselves as full time or part time, marketing needs to be a part of our everyday creative process.

Look at it like this...if you acquired a new phone number and didn't give it out to anyone do you think you would be receiving calls? How about if you gave it to just 10 people and they each gave it to just one person (and so on) you think that would make a difference? Absolutely.

Your website is no different. If you want traffic you need to let others know you are there.

Now..for the next question. Do you just want traffic or do you want buyers? When it comes to traffic to your website a few good regular followers of your art is much better than several hundred 'occasional lookers'.

So, how do you garner the 'few good followers'? First of all...get that Newsletter Subscribe option on your navigation bar. The people who sign up for your newsletter are saying, "I want to know more about you and your art". They want to hear from you! Clint Watson says send your newsletter once a week...if once a month is all you can handle, then make it once a month, but be consistent.

It isn't necessary to write a long newsletter. In fact your newsletter is more likely to be read if it is short, simple, and offers the reader something they can't get elsewhere. My newsletters include a discounted print each month that only my subscribers have the option to purchase...and I always sell several. This one item more than pays for the time it takes to write my newsletter.

  • You may not want to offer a discounted print but I'm sure you will be featuring at least one of your artworks...provide a link back to your portfolio and make purchasing easy.
  • If you blogged about something of interest...make a short statement and link back to your FASO blog for the complete article. The blog article linked to doesn't need be current this month...just relevant to what you're writing about in this newsletter.

I don't know about you, but a 'live link' peeks my curiosity...I can hardly avoid clicking it to see where it takes me, and once there...well, it's rare that I leave without strolling through at least a couple more pages!

I'm a firm believer that 'live links' in your newsletters teach your subscribers to visit your website. A live link is telling them there is something of interest...something new...something they might want...something you think is important for them to see.

Remember, your subscribers signed up for your newsletter because they want to know more about you...tell them and tell them regularly.

Proverbs 20:14
"It's no good, it's no good!" says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase.
Proverbs 20:13-15 (in Context)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Just Thinking....what can I do next?

"Grandma's Boy"
Watercolor on Paper

This is Wil...the first grandson of one of my friends. I'm not sure this is quite as good as my last watercolor portrait. It seems a tad overworked in a couple of places yet it does resemble him nicely.

Will has the most beautiful little 'pursed' mouth and gorgeous hazel eyes. There was so many colors in his eyes that it was hard to get them all in. I really struggled with his know me and my thing for detail. I almost blew it here!! it is, one more portrait for you to take a look at. Enjoy

Psalm 37:25
I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
Psalm 37:24-26 (in Context)

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