Art books

Here are some books I’ve read that have helped me on my creative journey. Some have taught me tricks that have saved me years of struggle. Some have made me see the world in new ways. If your local library does not have them, ask for them to get them for you from Inter-library Loan (ILL). Remember, the more money you save from not buying books means more money for art supplies.

When Wanderers Cease to Roam. Vivian Swift

Gardens of Awe and Folly. Vivian Swift

The Art of Expressive Collage. Crystal Neubauer

Graffiti World – Street art from five continents. Nicolas Ganz (

Art Before Breakfast: A zillion ways to be more creative no matter how busy you are. Danny Gregory

The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be The Artist You Truly Are. Danny Gregory

An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers. Danny Gregory

The Trickster’s Hat – a mischievous apprenticeship in creativity. Nick Bantock

Urgent Second Class: Creating Curious Collage, Dubious Documents, and Other Art from Ephemera Nick Bantock

The Art of Cardboard: Big Ideas for Creativity, Collaboration, Storytelling, and Reuse. Lori Zimmer

Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art: sketching tips and tricks drawn from art. Helen Birch

The art of urban sketching: drawing on location around the world. Gabriel Campanario

Urban watercolor sketching: a guide to drawing, painting, and storytelling in color. Felix Scheinberger

Urban sketching: the complete guide to techniques. Thomas Thorspecken

The Art of Whimsical Lettering. Joanne Sharpe

Acrylic Solutions: Exploring Mixed Media Layer by Layer. Chris Cozen

Map Art Lab: 52 Exciting Art Explorations in Mapmaking, Imagination, and Travel. Jill K. Berry

Art Journal Kickstarter: Pages and Prompts to Energize Your Art Journals. Kristy Conlin

Wreck this Journal. Keri Smith

How to be an explorer of the world- portable life museum. Keri Smith

How to avoid making art. Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Julia Cameron

Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. Carla Sonheim

Watercolor Pencil Magic. Cathy Johnson

Collage Discovery Workshop: Make Your Own Collage Creations Using Vintage Photos, Found Objects and Ephemera. Claudine Hellmuth

The Creative Edge: Exercises to Celebrate Your Creative Self Mary Todd Beam

Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media-For Budding Artists of All Ages. Susan Schwake

Watercolor Journeys: Create Your Own Travel Sketchbook. Richard Schilling

Taking Flight: Inspiration and Techniques to Give Your Creative Spirit Wings. Kelly Rae Roberts

How to Make a Journal of Your Life. Dan Price

Art for free, part two.

I once had a problem with ladies who were looking at my beaded jewelry. They asked how long it took to make. Because it didn’t take long, they didn’t appreciate the cost.
I’ve made jewelry for over 20 years. I know what I am doing by now. It doesn’t take long, once I have the idea in mind. But artistry and the cost of the beads (!!!) has to be factored in.
They don’t get it. They are thinking they get paid $15 an hour, and if this takes me 20 minutes to make, it shouldn’t cost $40.
I could lower my prices, but then I feel like I’m being used. I’ve heard that in Arabic countries you can buy gold jewelry for just the price of the gold. The artist gets nothing. The price is based on the type of gold and how much it weighs. Perhaps that is what people expect me to do with my beads. Just charge them the price of the beads, and nothing for the skill or the creativity.
Perhaps I should start telling people that each necklace takes three days. That would factor in the time involved in getting to the bead store, thinking up a design, trying it, and then finding out it doesn’t work the way I thought it would. Then wait a day fuming about it and rethinking it, and try again and discover what comes out.
Some pieces do take forever. Some go fast. Some never sell. Some sell very quickly. I don’t make anywhere near enough money to make a living at this, but I still don’t want to be insulted. I’d rather rip apart a design and reuse the beads than sell it at just the cost of the beads.

Art for free.

There has been a recent discussion on a creative page I’m a member of. It is about trying to get the public to understand why art costs what it does. People aren’t willing to pay the asking price for art. They want it for free.
People think they can make whatever you have made themselves for cheaper. They don’t understand the time and training necessary to create that piece of art. Or, they try to talk you down on the price. They want Tiffany quality work for Wal-Mart prices.
Now, it doesn’t help that there are a lot of people who say they are artists who put out terrible work and charge high prices. Millions of dollars for a Jackson Pollack piece? Really? It is paint, thrown at a canvas. A child could do better.
I once read a story about a jewelry designer who was dealing with a difficult customer. The customer balked at the price of a wire and stone necklace – pointing out that the price of the items was a lot less than the price on the necklace. The artist sent her a box with a spool of wire and the stones. The necklace was reduced to its parts. The customer called and complained. The artist pointed out that if she wanted it to be put together, she could do it herself, since all she was willing to pay for was the materials.
There is a lot more to art than materials. There are the years of learning and polishing the craft. There are all the mistakes and wasted supplies, learning how to perfect a new technique. There’s a lot of time and energy put into being an artist. It isn’t something that just happens. A good artist makes it look easy. It isn’t.
There are also incidental costs to art. Shipping supplies aren’t free. Marketing isn’t free. Display racks aren’t free. The same is true for pop up tents for art shows. Entry fees are rather steep. Then you have to schlep your stuff to the show and back, in containers, that again, aren’t free. There is wear and tear on your vehicle and yourself. It all adds up and has to get factored into the cost of the art.
I have found that I enjoy the transaction more if I’m selling to another creative person. S/he understands value and doesn’t haggle. So maybe that is it. We need to actively teach other people to engage with their artistic side. They will understand how much work is involved, what quality is and isn’t, and they will become artists to boot.
Perhaps some artists won’t like that idea. Perhaps they think there will be competition. Perhaps they think that if everybody can do it, then they won’t have a monopoly on art. But then I think they might make art for the wrong reason. Everybody should make art. It is healing to do.
I honestly think that if more artists taught other people to be artists, then the public would be happier to start off with, and more understanding of what goes into making quality art. Then they’d be willing to pay real prices for real art.

The artistic life

I’m on vacation, and I just haven’t written as much as I normally do. I’ve taken the time to draw, which is nice. It seems to take just as long to draw as to write. I’m not sure how I’d find the time to do both.
What is more important? Isn’t it just important that I’m engaging in art? Art of any sort is healing. The ideal is to have time to write, sketch, paint, drum… But then there is a job I have to go to.
I have a few friends who essentially have said that art is more important than a job. They have made art their job. They say things like “money is evil”. While I agree that loving money isn’t great, I do like the things that money can buy, like food, shelter, and clothing.
While I don’t live large, I do like to live comfortably. I have a small house. Most of my clothes come from thrift stores. I eat well, in part because I’ve learned how to cook. While I admire the gumption of people who have decided to strike out on their own, I feel a little like they are saying that my path isn’t valid, isn’t authentic. I feel a little like a meat eater versus a vegetarian.
Their way is seen as higher evolved or more mindful. My way is seen as hedging my bets and unwilling to cut loose from the shore. My way is seen as being a slave to “the man”, whoever that is.
They wonder why their friends and relatives don’t support their choice to follow their dreams. The only problem is that “support” means “pay for”. They expect their friends and relatives to buy what they’ve made or go to their seminars. Meanwhile they mock them on social media for staying with their secure job. You know, that job where they earn money to buy their art.
If we all quit our jobs and start making art, then how are we going to pay our bills? Because who is going to come to our our seminars and concerts? Who is going to buy our books and artwork? We will all be starving artists because we won’t have an audience to buy our stuff.
I feel it is very dangerous for an artist to mock her audience, or to make them feel like suckers. If everybody could draw or write or bead or dance then why would they need to see you do it? Why would they need to pay you to do it?
We need gas station attendants. We need janitors. We need garbage truck drivers. We need them the same as we need teachers, doctors, lawyers, and diplomats. Saying that someone is less evolved, less mindful, or is just plain less because they have a “real” job and haven’t cut loose and created a non-profit or live in a commune is thoughtless and cruel, and wrong. It is wrong in the sense of “mean”, but it is also wrong in the sense of “incorrect”.
You can be creative while working for “the man”. It just takes a little figuring out. And to knock down someone else’s lifestyle choice as being less enlightened than yours is, in itself, less enlightened.

“Successful” vs. “Starving” artist.

Notice how unusual it is to say that someone is a “successful” artist. Usually they are a “starving” artist. You never have to say that someone is a successful doctor or successful engineer or a successful plumber. It is assumed that they are successful. But artist? It is assumed that an artist isn’t successful. It is assumed that they are scraping by, just barely making it.
Why don’t we put more value on art? I mean real art. Art that is one of a kind, not mass produced. Art that is so amazing that it doesn’t match your sofa and you don’t even care. Art that is so amazing that maybe you even buy a new sofa to match it instead of the other way around.
Real art is one of a kind, just like the artists. It takes time to make and it takes love. That is worth supporting.
When you buy original art, you aren’t just buying the materials. You are buying the artist’s time and dedication to her craft. In the same way an Olympic athlete has to train many hours to get good at what she does, an artist has to work many long hours to get good at her craft. Good artists, like good athletes just make it look easy. It isn’t.
Notice that very few people get art scholarships, and many people get athletic scholarships. What do we need more of, arts or sports? What lifts our spirits and helps us see beyond ourselves? What shows us how we are all connected? I’m not saying to get rid of sports. I’m saying that arts need to be equally supported.
So go buy some art today. Or better yet – go make some. Art is for everyone, and it makes us better people.

Hide the bad stuff.

Smart artists hide the bad stuff, like how smart criminals hide the dead bodies. Part of being a good artist (or writer, or musician) is not showing people your false starts. And there are a lot of false starts in being an artist. There is a lot of “I wonder what this does” or “I wonder how this looks”. Those questions are the same as “Hey, watch this” and result in the same number of skinned knees and broken bones. But they also lead to amazing discoveries.
Part of being an artist is trying out new things. Part of it is just being willing to try. Part of being an artist is being willing to make really amazing mistakes. Part of being an artist is learning from those mistakes and not doing them again. Part of being an artist is discovering something entirely new and amazing and wonderful from those mistakes.
Sometimes I’ll show off something that I think is “eh” and others think is “oh yeah!” And other times I’ll put out something that I think is “wow” and others think is “meh”. You really never know. The audience always brings itself to your art.
What you meant to say is never what they hear. Ever. Get used to it. Even of you go out of your way to make what you mean to say as crystal clear as a lake on a still summer’s day, it still won’t mean that to the audience. Because the audience brings its own past and impressions and feelings to the table and sees your art through different eyes.
So just create. Learn to edit. Try. Show off the good stuff. Realize that some of what you think is the bad stuff isn’t that bad. Show it off too.
Artists just make creativity look easy. It isn’t. What the audience sees is the result of many years of work and refining. The audience sees the tip of the iceberg, while the artist sees all that ice. The artist scaled that ice, clawing and scraping to the top, step by agonizing step.
Consider Bruce Lee. He made martial arts look so easy and effortless. It wasn’t effortless or easy. He practiced all day. When he broke his back and was immobile he thought about his practice and had his wife write down his ideas. He was constantly working on his art.
So go make stuff. Make more stuff. Show it off. Make more stuff. But keep practicing your art, no matter what.

Thoughts on jewelry making – price and selling.

It is really hard to price my work. Do I price it based on how much I love it, how much the materials cost, or how much I think I can get for it? Often it is a combination of all of these.
Sometimes I have something I call “the annoyment factor” to deal with. In part that refers to how annoying it was to make. Either it took me a lot of time because the process is fiddly or the materials are hard to work with. Stringing things on Tigertail is easy and cheap. Using the same beads but using copper wire, where I have to hand link is hard. I love making jewelry this way but very few people appreciate the labor involved.
Sometimes the annoying part is the person. The beads might be inexpensive and the process might be easy, but the person might be difficult. Sometimes it costs me a lot of energy to deal with certain people. I want to be reimbursed for that. Sometimes I don’t want to ever deal with that person again and so I put a high price on my work.
Sometimes I have the “don’t blink” price. I’ll have a really high price on something and I know that the people looking at it don’t know what was involved. For instance, I made a bead once that looked like a woman. Because I was working with MAPP gas and not oxy-propane it was even more difficult. I had only 40 minutes to finish it, rather than hours. I could only make it an inch long. There are a lot of limitations working with that medium, but it is a lot safer and cheaper than the other. People tried to bargain down the price I quoted and I didn’t budge. I stood with the price because I knew the amount of effort involved.
I don’t make jewelry as my job. I do it for fun. I’d like to get at least the price of the beads back. I certainly want to get paid for my time and my creativity. I’d also appreciate getting paid for my knowledge too.
I put a lot of energy into making jewelry. I read books about beads and gemstones. I know the hidden meaning and I’m aware of the history and energy behind the beads. I don’t just string beads. I create. I shape. I like to think of it as something like a shaman’s work. When I’m making something for a specific person I match the beads to them not just by color but by intent. For instance, a bead may be black, but it is also made of lava, and as such has deep significance.
One time a guy was asking about the price of some beads I had made. I used to do lampworking, so these were unique beads. He had an assortment of them picked out. I wanted to give him a good price that was fair to both of us. Because I’d made them at work the only investment I had in them was my time and ability. The glass and gas were free to me. I said “How about $23?” He countered with “How about $20? He thought when I said “How about…” that meant that there was wiggle room, but he was wrong. I got very cold and said “How about $25?” That surprised him. I don’t like being insulted about my work. I’d given him a very reasonable price, in fact far too low for the time I’d spent.
I don’t really want to take the time necessary to teach people about beads. I want them to appreciate the value that they have, but they don’t. In order to get the price I’m asking I have to teach them and be patient. I got great prices when I bought necklaces at thrift stores and then redesigned them. A 25¢ necklace could be remade into a $15 necklace with a little time and a few extra beads. But now I’m going to bead shows and getting strands that are imported and sometimes antique, so the prices have to go up. I don’t have a wholesale license, and I really don’t want one. That would take some of the fun out of it.
One person messaged me about a necklace on my Etsy page. She wanted me to either drop the shipping cost or lower the price of the necklace. If the necklace had been full price I would have worked with her, but it was just $5 over the price of the beads as it was. My shopping charge isn’t high. It is the price of the packing material and the average shipping price. I decided that I would rather not sell it at all than feel like I’m being insulted.
Some shops on Etsy offer free shipping but really nothing is free. The cost is always factored in somewhere. I’d rather be honest and charge a fair shipping charge than have to raise my prices to cover it.
Sometimes people want a high price. They think it has more value if it is high. Maybe I should raise all my prices so people value my work. They certainly aren’t buying as is – I might as well get a good price when they do. Perhaps they will take my work seriously if it costs more.
Then sometimes people will want to trade beads for beads. I’ll do this occasionally, but they better be beads I can use. Plastic beads are never considered. Weird shapes, the same. Otherwise I have beads that I can’t use taking up space in my bins.
Consignment is the worst. I understand how it benefits the shop – they don’t have to pay anything for the merchandise until it sells. Too often, I get stuff lost or stolen, and I’m out money. It requires too much effort to keep up with.