Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Your Greatest Asset...

As artists we are told that our in-house mailing list is our greatest business asset...
yet I've found this to be one of my most difficult things to accomplish. I've shown my art three years now, looking at a fourth season of juried art fairs just around the corner...and again I'm faced with the same question; am I going to be able to get those names and addresses!

The first year that I showed my drawings, I was so darn happy to have a tent and some art to put in it that I didn't even think about a mailing list. Knowing this was important, the second year I had a Guest Book for people to sign. It didn't take long to realize that few people were willing to fill out the information and most of those who did...well, I'll just say this, cat scratches would be complimentary. If you can't read their information, you can't use it.

I finished my '05 season in the fall and set up my website that I really wanted that mailing list because I had something to tell people about. I started publishing my Email Newsletter with only 58 people on my mailing list and I'm embarrassed to say most of those were friends and relatives!! However, it was a start.

In the spring of '06 I went after this illusive mailing list with new gusto. When my art fairs began, I had a plan....simple as it was, it worked. And it had been in front of me all the time.

Since most people paid with check or charge card, it was only logical that I ask for their contact information. I bought a sales book larger than I needed so the top portion had plenty of space to write. If things were slow, I filled in their information myself while we talked... asking permission to add them to my mailing list. If I had other people waiting, I ask them to do it...while I wrapped their purchase. I then compared what they had written with their drivers license, correcting anything I couldn't read, and wrote down their email address. At the end of the season I had a long list of firm, readable, contacts...and the best part, they already owned at least one piece of my art. I was ecstatic!

The downside to this method is the time it took me to enter them into my data base, and copy their information onto a 4x6 note card for the hard file that I keep on each customer...and I have to admit that sometimes when things were really hectic, even my handwriting was difficult to read. And I would occasionally forget to ask for their email address. All in all, I was still miles ahead of where I was the year before.

My last effort was to increase direct sign-ups on my website and blog. This area had been growing...but virtually at a snails pace! I began to think about the guest book I used that second year. Looking through it again, I realized that those who were interested in my drawing classes wrote down their contact information very see, they knew if I couldn't read what they had written, they wouldn't receive my fall class schedule. I had possessed something of value that they wanted!!

My question was this...Could I recreate this situation and this time use it to my advantage? I decided to offer a free "mini print" to everyone who signed up for my email news letter. Yet I really struggled with the word Free and ask myself...Can Free have value? After considerable thought I decided the answer was yes, if presented correctly. Here's how I approached it.

What did I do here? First of all, they aren't just signing up for a newsletter but joining a Newsletter Group that has benefits. The links on my Home Page and Blog create curiosity. The "New Membership Gift" announcement explains what they have to do to get their free print, how often the newsletter is sent, what information will be in it...and finally, I let them know that "I will never share their personal information".

The results after less than two months...close to 30 new "members" have joined my Newsletter Group, and I have both their "snail mail" and email address!

So...Can Free have value? I say, absolutely!

Let me know what you think. What comes to mind when you here the words free print or free original? Is it compromising your standards? Does it lower the perceived value of your art? Does it generate business? What's your opinion...Can Free have value?


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PS...make a "Point"...leave a comment

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Work in Progress Topic

"A Merry Christmas Portrait" in progress
See this Tutorial

I'm excited to be showcasing my latest drawings for you as I'm working on them. You'll be able to learn a little more about the process, and see the drawings progress. However, during the actual development of the drawing you won't see much more than the WIP photos.

I'll come back when the drawing is finished and explain the process in greater detail. I'll be talking about the paper I use, pencils, blending tools...along with other aspects of creating a drawing. As I finish adding the text, each group of photos will be moved to the Tutorial Topic here on my blog.

Please check back later for WIP photos
of my newest works

Who knows, I may even show you my "mistakes." I hope you will return here often to see what new piece I am working on. This new topic is something many of you have requested...enjoy!

Thank you for your constant encouragement.


PS...make a "Point"...leave a comment

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tutorials...moved to my FASO blog

Please visit my Studio Blog at the following link or to see my Drawing Tutorials:

Available Tutorials:
1. The Clubs
2. Portrait of a Young Boy
3. The Clubs
4. The explanation for "My Mysterious Carbon Farm"

Friday, January 11, 2008

My List of Drawing Supplies:

These are the supplies that you will find in my studio. I've included links to retail suppliers for your convenience. This is going to be a rather long post, I will talk more in depth about some of my supplies as I use them in tutorials or in another article.

My Squidoo lens will tell you more about Carbon, Charcoal, and Graphite...why they are different and when it is best to use each.

Graphite: Pencils, Power, and Crayon

Graphite: I've used several brands of Graphite Pencils over the years, the Mars Lumograph has remained my favorite. Graphite Powder...This isn't something I use frequently, but when I do I'm very glad that I have it. I simply put a small amount in the lid and apply it using an artist brush. Graphite Crayons are handy for covering large areas and also perfect for building your "graphite farm".

Charcoal: Pencils, Powder, and Sticks

I have used Generals Charcoal Pencils from the with all charcoal pencils there is some "grittiness". General now has a new charcoal pencil called Premo that is said to be smother but I haven't tried it yet. The Charcoal Powder and Sticks are used in the same manner as for the graphite mentioned above.

Carbon Pencils: I've never been able to find carbon powder...I keep hoping.

Carbon Pencils: Wolf's and Conte: The most influential item on my drawing table is the Wolf's Carbon Pencil. I've tried others but always come back to Wolf' just can't beat it's silky texture or the beautiful deep rich darks it produces. I also use Conte Carbon Pencils once in a while...their color is somewhat warmer than Wolf's and their texture is a little firmer.

Blenders: use anything except your "finger".

Blenders: The ones I use most.
If you don't learn anything else from this segment...I hope it is this! NEVER use your finger as a blending tool. Your finger will leave oil on the paper, making the color 'grab". This will sometimes cause actual finger prints to appear. Stumps: (upper left), are pointed on both ends and have a smooth, felt like covering. I buy these by the box...size 4, 5, and 2. Tortillon: (lower left), are made of rolled paper and come to a point on one end. These are purchased by the dozen...size small, medium, and large. The stump and tortillon may look similar but are really quite different, and used for very different types of blending. Chamois Cloth: Others have said that you must purchase these from an art supply house...I have found the ones from the automotive department work just fine...and much less expensive. In fact their random texture can be to your advantage.

Studio Notes: The stump, tortillon, and chamois are all three used to both blend and to apply color to your drawing. Other blenders I use that are not pictured here are felt squares, artist brushes, non oily tissue, cotton swabs, paper towels, etc., (anything you can think of to create the desired texture "except your finger")

Erasers: as important as your pencils for making marks.

Erasers: I didn't know I had so many but I use each differently as a "marking" tool.

Starting left to right: The Factis...made especially for charcoal and graphite. The Kneaded Eraser...will last forever, can be pulled and shaped to fit the smallest of areas. The Union Eraser...(pencil and ink combo)...when the ink end is cut with a blade it can pull out the skinniest of lines...The Pink stronger than the "pink pearl", I use it the same as the union and factis to make marks. The Sakura Cordless Electric Eraser...used for lifting highlights in the darkest of areas (when nothing else will work). This is a must. The refills come for pencil or ink, I use both. Tuff Stuff Click Eraser...a fresh cut edge on this eraser will again pull nice skinny lines, great for making light hairs. The pencil shape makes for more accurate use. Bostik Blue Tack ...This is not an eraser, but a sticky putty...used in a dabbing motion to pull out highlights. It can be stretched and shaped just like a kneaded eraser. It's also great for picking up that one little speck that wont shake off...and does it without a smear.

Pencil Sharpeners: Oh so many to choose from!

Pencil Sharpeners: Your choice will depend on how much and where you draw.

Pencil Sharpeners can range from the Heavy-duty Work Horse to a simple Sandpaper Block. I'll begin with the work horse (upper left). The X-ACTO Heavy-duty 41...I didn't start out with a work-horse, but I did buy something similar to the one shown above after a year or so, having gone through several smaller, less expensive, ones. When you're ready to make this type of investment just make sure it will take more than one size of pencil. The Panasonic KP 4A...this is what I started with and still carry it in my tote. A good little sharpener, I just like it's size and shape.

The Maped Canister Pencil Sharpener...This would be another good traveler. The Maped is a small hand held sharpener with two holes. The best part is that it catches the shavings and has a metal housing. The Alvin Hand Held Metal Sharpener...this little guy is another great traveler, a little messy, but a small plastic bag can fix that! The Sandpaper Block...I have carried one of these in my art tote for years. It works great to bring your pencil back to "point". On my drawing table I keep a square of sandpaper from the hardware store.

Drawing Papers: your drawing style will always dictate your choice of paper.

Your Drawing paper is very Personal:
J. D. Hillberry says in his book "Don't let the paper be the boss". If you keep this in mind, you will do just fine. The papers shown above are just three from my stash...and I'll admit that I'm a paper junkie. Your paper choice will effect your drawing every bit as much as your technique. My drawing technique requires a paper with some texture or "tooth" to it. If you have a more "photo realistic" style you may want to try a smother textured surface such as bristol vellum. I also happen to prefer a warmer toned paper rather than white. Canson Mi-Teintes...are fun to work with and come in a full range of soft colors. I still often use Strathmore 400...this paper has a soft cream tone, is acid free and comes in a pad with 80# sheets or you can individually order 100# sheets. Arches Hot Press Watercolor Paper...I usually 300#, 140# is fine too, you can purchase it in pads or by the sheet. Experiment, don't be afraid to try a new surface, and most of all have fun!

Miscellaneous Studio Essentials?

Essentials or Extras?
I use most of the items shown here regularly. Yet some could certainly be considered extras for the beginning artist.

The Light Box...I use a light regularly to see greater details in my photos and to occasionally transfer my initial layout drawing onto my good drawing paper. Leather Pencil Case...this was a wonderful find. I restructured the inside a little by cutting the threads holding some of the elastic in place, allowing my larger drawing necessities to fit better, making it perfect for travel. The Drawing Board...I personally use a drawing table now but in the beginning I didn't have a anywhere that I could just walk away from my work and leave it...this allowed for easy mobility. I could just pick up what I was working on and and move.

Frisket Film...this is something that I've not used often, but was glad to have it when I need it. Magnifying Glass on a Stand...mine is a little different than this and less expensive, (mine is no longer available.) The important thing that you need to notice is that it is on a "stand". I hang my photo reference on it with tape, so that my hands are then free to draw. (I don't know how I ever got along with out this.)

Workable Fixitive...the final step for every drawing to help protect it from smudging, I spray two light coats when I'm finished. Compass...I frequently use this to check measurements. Hake Brush...used to gently brush residue off your drawing. Pencil Extender...prevents waste by making short pencils easier to use. Turquoise Clutch Pencil...I use this for indenting, by inserting a darning needle "point first" into the clutch end (where the lead goes), leaving the "eye" of the needle exposed.
Carpet Tape...(the thin double-sided plastic type, not cloth or padded). This is a trick that I learned from J. D. Hillberry. I tear a piece of computer paper just large enough to fit along the side of my hand, (from the tip of the little finger to start of wrist and about 2 1/2 inches wide). You want to cover the side part of your hand that lays on the paper when you draw. I put the carpet tape in the middle of this piece of paper and mold it to the side of my hand...protecting my drawing paper while I work. It can even be
removed and reused.
Artist Tape...this is what I use around the outer edge of my drawing to give it a nice clean straight border when I am finished. The trick is to stick it to your shirt first and remove it, (repeat this several times). Doing this will dull the tackiness of the tape, making it easy to remove later from your drawing paper without causing damage.
Pencil Point Protectors... These are inexpensive little things and great to have when traveling. I keep one on all the pencils in my leather pencil case that I keep in my tote.

Somewhere in the future one or more of these products may no longer be available...causing a "dead" link. I would sure appreciate it if you would notify me in this situation. If you have other questions about any of the art supplies listed here, please don't be shy about asking. No question is too small or unimportant.

Thanks for your interest.

PS...make a "Point"...leave a comment

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Tutorials, comming soon

I am in the process of transferring the tutorial section from my Studio Journal to The Extraordinary Pencil...Blogspot, where you are now. When the move is complete my drawing tutorials will all be here in one place

This move could take a little time to complete. So...if you just can't wait, click on the link above and it will take you to my website where you will see WIP's listed under the topics section on the lower left. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Thank You...for your patience.

PS...make a "Point" a comment.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

2008 Literary Contest...1st

2008 First Place Winner: Kelsey Dallas
Learn more about the "Literary Contest."
Kelsey is a Senior at Lincoln Community High School, in Lincoln, Illinois and enjoys participating in soccer, tennis, and band...she is also a member of The National Honor Society, French Club, Fine Arts Club, and Scholastic Bowl. Kelsey is also active in her community as a member of the First Presbyterian Youth Group, LAMS, Community Orchestra, and the local staff of Dairy Queen. Kelsey was named the September Senior Student of the Month and was recently recognized as Scholar-Athlete of the Week by the Springfield State Journal Register. Kelsey hopes to someday be a writer after majoring in English at college.

Kelsey chose "Game, Set, Match" as her subject...because it related to her athletic life this fall. To quote Kelsey, "I was the number one player on the varsity tennis team and came just one set away from making it to state. By writing about this particular drawing I was able to heal emotionally after the heartbreaking loss. Tennis will always be beautiful to me no matter what my win\loss record is."

Congratulations Kelsey...Marsha Robinett
This is Kelsey's winning poem...enjoy

...Game, Set, Match...
She reveled in the almost,
too stubborn to be sad,
because she could cry while smiling,
and throughout the pain be glad.

Glad to have had the chance to hear
her Mom and Dad cheer loud
while all the while she was losing hope,
falling prey to an opposing crowd.

She wasn't one for giving up-
an achiever if ever one lived.
But just this once she couldn't go on,
her soul had no strength left to give.

The sets were played out, the winner declared,
as the night grew colder still.
She offered herself up to history
an opponent just short of the kill.

She perished the thought of losing,
not quite the word to fit the scene.
For everyone who watched that night
knew the true victor was clothed in green.

There is no prize for coming close
and no way to prevent forgetting,
but in the moment she was a star
and the praise would not soon be quitting.

Praise that was given not to the winner
but to the one whose season had ended.
Because she had fought harder than all expected;
her soul needed to be mended.

She heard her coach's praise
as her Mom began to cry,
but most of all she saw the pride
as her Dad looked her in the eyes.

"It was the season of a lifetime
and you most assuredly did your best.
You must never wish for something different
no more or no less."

She'll move on with her life and never regret
as she becomes the next big thing,
while the tennis balls will forever remain
at rest upon her strings.

There's a lesson to be learned from her
though in truth she didn't quite win,
because she walked away happy,
and will someday play tennis again.

The matches won't be for glory.
There'll be no title to gain.
She'll play only for the enjoyment
and move past all the pain.

Yes she always sill remember
that night upon the court,
when from winning that final match,
she fell just achingly short.

PS...make a "Point"...leave a comment
Let Kelsey know what you think about her poem.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

2008 Literary Contest...2nd

2008 Second Place Winner: Amanda Podbelsek
Learn more about the "Literary Contest."
Amanda is a Senior at Lincoln Community High School in Lincoln, Illinois and participates in girls tennis and softball...she is also a member of Math Club, National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and L.E.A.F. Club. After her completion of the fall tennis season, she received recognition as part of the All-Academic Conference Award. Amanda also holds the record for the most steals in a season for the high school softball program.

Amanda chose "Cracked on Black" as her of my personal favorites. To quote Amanda, "I was immediately drawn to the drawing because of the different textures and dimensions created by the tones of charcoal. When I first viewed the drawing, it actually made me feel calm and peaceful. However, I delved into the state of the egg yolk emerging into a new world and immediately made the connection to a Senior emerging into the world of adulthood."

Congratulations Amanda...Marsha Robinett
This is Amanda's descriptive essay...enjoy

...Cracked on Black...
Dimension, detail, depth-all function together to capture the beauty of a commonplace occurrence in "Cracked on Black". In the work, Marsha Robinett uses charcoal to transform a broken egg into a masterpiece. By using the diagonal lines formed by the broken shell and the round curves of the shell, the artist direct the eye to the focal point of the portrait: the soft, round, vulnerable yoke. From it's white, protective shell, the yoke emerges into a bleak, black world. To me this vulnerable yoke symbolizes a Senior student who has fully emerged from the illusion of childhood and has found himself faced with the challenges of growing up.

A Senior in high school is overcome with fear once it finally sinks in that he will be sent off to college on his own. However, before the realization is accepted, a Senior has already begun to familiarize himself with adulthood. For instance, one has already obtained a driver's license, and extended curfew, and the ability to vote by the age of eighteen. The driver/s license prepares one for living on his own and being independent; the extended curfew teaches one not to abuse privileges; voting sympolizes independence as well, and is a privilege to express yourself. These stepping stones in life are a mere "warm-up" for transitioning from high school to college.

Once a Senior realizes that he will be sent off to college on his own, the first instinct is to freak out. An individual is faced with the question of how to pursue one's future. Also, at college one usually has to start from scratch: new friends, new school, new room-new everything. The realization is simply overwhelming and seems impossible. What most students forget is that others have overcome the same fears and challenges before: parents. Parents will always be there for you and have first hand experience to guide you.

Remember Seniors: don't be intimidated. Parents are not going to throw you, Seniors, to the wolves: they are going to prepare you, and help you along the way during college. Like the yolk in Marsha Robinett's portrait, it is natural for a Senior to feel vulnerable when first emerging from a protective shell into the new world of adulthood. However, with a supportive family, one will see that the new world isn't so bleak and black after all.
PS...make a "Point"...leave a comment
Let Amanda know what you thought about her descriptive essay.

Friday, January 4, 2008

2008 Literary Contest...3rd

2008 Third Place Winner:
Matthew Merreighn

Learn more about the "Literary Contest."
Matthew is a Junior at Lincoln Community High School in Lincoln Illinois and is a member of the Creative Writing Club. He enjoys writing, solving puzzles, reading, TV, and video games. Matthew will graduate high school next year and is still unsure about plans for college.

Matthew chose "Midnight Rose" as his subject...because he likes roses. To quote Matthew, "Midnight Rose was my favorite of your drawings. People usually like roses for their color, and seeing a gray one was unusual, I found this interesting,"

Congratulations Matthew...Marsha Robinett
This is Matthew's descriptive essay...enjoy

...The Gray Rose...
A gray rose is abnormal. To most eyes the gray rose lack beauty. The Gray Rose lacks the love of the Red Rose, the grace of the Pink Rose, the innocence of the White Rose, the passion of the Orange Rose, and the Mystery of the Blue Rose. But all Roses have green stems. Without petals all roses are the same. Even So, The Gray Rose is cast aside, for a more favorable, common color. But to a rare few, the Gray Rose is most desired. Not for it's beauty, but for it's uniqueness. It's gray petals do not wilt like other roses. The other roses will lose their petals, and lose their beauty. But the Grey Rose will be immortalized for it's uncommon color. As time progresses, people will realize the greatness of the Gray Rose, and in doing so the Gray Rose will become most desired. But only those who first recognized it's significance will have a Gray Rose of their own.

PS...make a "Point"...leave a comment
Let Matthew know what you thought of his descriptive essay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Art Marketing, Materials, and Equipment

Art Business and Marketing:
These websites and blogs are some of the more useful ones that I connect with on a regular basis. websites and blogs are some of the more useful ones that I connect with on a regular basis. The information gleaned from these sites has at times been invaluable... I hope you find them useful as well.

Ancient Artist...developing an art career after 50, very inspiring
Art Biz resources and motivation
Art a large collection of great articles
Art Print and business
Blogging for Artists..."Squidoo Lens" by makingamark
Blog Herald..."The NY Times of Blogging"...latest updates
Copy Blogger...copywriting tips for online marketing success
Empty Easel...realistic art advise for artists of all levels
FineArtStudioOnLine...easy artist websites with marketing help
FineArtViewsBlog...the Art Marketing blog of Clint Watson
FineArtViewsNewsletter...straight talk about art marketing
Lorelle on WordPress...great information about blogging
Making a Mark...I highly recommend this's full of info.
Painters Keys...on line gallery, newsletter, nice"art quote" section tips to help you make money
The Art contests, competitions, and juried art shows

Artist Materials and Equipment:
Living in a small town, most of my art materials are ordered online. The following are some of the resources that I have used in the past.
ASW or Art Supply Warehouse...artist supplies of all types
California Paper Goods...high quality blank paper goods
Cheap Joe's Art Stuff...fine art supplies, good selection and price
Daniel Smith...fine art oil, watercolor, acrylic paints, supports
Dick Blick Art Materials...full line of equipment and materials
Fine Art Store...offers fine art supplies and equipment
Frame Fit...quality discount frames
Clear Bags...acid free crystal clear bags and crystal clear boxes
Mister Art...fine art and craft supplies, books, videos,
Stiffy Bags...designed specifically to protect framed art in travel

Art Fair Display Needs:
Armstrong Products...display panels, display cubes, and desks
Flourish...indoor show frame, outdoor canopy, mesh display walls
Hand Trucks R Us...home of the "Rock'n Roller" convertible hand truck...another highly recommend item!

Hollywood Chairs...high quality director chair, padded of the best purchased that I ever made.
Totally Bamboo...Hollywood Chair accessories
Stiffy Bags...I highly recommend these and could not get along without them. They're, reusable, waterproof.

I have found these listings to be dependable and often use them personally.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

You Can "Squidoo" Too!

So, you ask...What is Squidoo anyway?

Think of it like this. Look closely at the magnifying glass pictured above. When you look through the lens of the magnifying glass, everything you see within the lens is bigger, sharper, and more defined. This is exactly how it is with my Squidoo Lenses... they are about very defined topics and those topics are explored in full detail.

My SQUIDOO lenses:

Will there be more in the future? Most assuredly! Will there be updates? Absolutely!

1. Drawing Techniques: using carbon, charcoal, and graphite

This lens explains what makes these pencils different from each other and how to use each. You will also find a list of the drawing tools I use, and drawing tutorials.

You Can Squidoo Too...Squidoo is a website hosting hundreds of thousands of "lenses", or pages. Your lens is your take or opinion on any subject you like. You are the authority. The lens is easy to build and it's free...yes, I said FREE! You can link back to your website. If you have a blog, Squidoo will even grab your latest postings and display them on your lens. If you are an artist or in business do a squidoo search, see what others are doing. If you simply have an opinion and enjoying can do that too. You can even make a little income while doing it. Check this link to learn more.

The possibilities are endless. You will see why I say there is more to come.

PS...make a "Point" a comment

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